Benjamin Michael

Hey there, friends!  I'm going to get a little personal with you for just a second.  I wanted to share with you why I've been kind of MIA the past month.


Resources That Keep On Giving

Happy Thanksgiving!  I hope you had a fabulous holiday celebrating with family and loved ones!  I have been extra busy with the birth of my sweet baby.  So, I'm going to keep this short and sweet!  As a thank you for your love and support my entire store is 20% for Black Friday.  And I've compiled a list of some of my favorite resources that keep on giving.

1. Thankful Mini-Book


Primary Punchbowl: Using Sticky Notes for Interactive Read Alouds

Have you heard of the Primary Punchbowl?  Well, it is a collaborative blog by primary teachers that I am a part of.  It's a great group of ladies who have a wealth of knowledge and lots of resources and expertise to share.   

I was asked to join them this summer and couldn't be more excited that my first blog post was published earlier this month.  I did a post on using sticky notes for interactive read alouds.  

If you follow my TpT Store, FB or this blog, you know how I feel about sticky notes and interactive read alouds, two of my favorite things.  I'd love for you to go check out my post and comment or share your thoughts.

You can read it by clicking {here} or by clicking on the image below.  I hope you enjoy!  There is also a FREEBIE for you too.  Check it out! 

Thanks for your support and for checking out the Primary Punchbowl.  


5 Tips to Getting a Donors Choose Project Funded

Are there things you need to make your classroom run smoothly?  Do you need basic necessities for your students to learn?  Or do you have a special project in mind that requires specific materials? Like you, I have answered yes to all of these questions at some point in my teaching career.  We all know that district and school budgets are tight, but there are other options.  What, you say?  Donors Choose!

The Best Read Alouds for Halloween

As you all probably know, I LOVE picture books.  I love reading them and sharing them with my students.  I think October has some of the best seasonal/holiday picture books around.  I'm going to share with you some of my favorite HALLOWEEN books and how I use them in the classroom.


How to Keep Your Students Engaged Before Halloween

It's OCTOBER!  Where did September go?   As I think forward to the end of the month, I'm already thinking about how to keep my students actively learning around the craziness that is Halloween.  Unfortunately, this year, Halloween is on a Monday, so that means I have a full week of keeping them engaged and learning after a late night of trick-or-treating on the first day of the school week.  Fingers crossed that our city schedules trick-or-treating for over the weekend.  Even if they do, it's going to be a LLLOOOONNNNGGGG week.  Well, I'm here to help you! Let me introduce you to the Pumpkin Investigation!
How to keep your students engaged before Halloween with a pumpkin investigation


How To Print On Sticky Notes In 3 Easy Steps

Have you ever wondered how people print on sticky notes?  Well, it is one of my favorite things and I'm going to give you step-by-step directions.  Ready for your life to be changed forever?  Then keep reading, it's really very simple. 


Make Your Own Reading Expectations Anchor Chart

Do you do independent reading or read to self in your classroom?  I do and I love it!  As you may know, I use the Units of Study Reader's Workshop curriculum and the heart of the curriculum is independent reading.  I'm not going to get too much into it, that's for another day, but essentially, the idea, is that if you want kids to improve their reading, they need to be READING!  Because it is such a large part of our day, I decided to create an easy-to-make reading expectations anchor chart.


Tech Happens...What to do when you have technical difficulties?

Hello!  This is Tina here.  I have been absent for some time when it comes to blogging.  I have set a goal for the upcoming school year to blog more often.  To refresh people's memories, I am a fifth grade teacher in Milton, WI.  I have been teaching 5th Grade for 19 years now.  Wow, time has flown by!

I have been working with iPads with my students for almost four years now.  Every student in my classroom has an iPad Air 2.  We are very fortunate to have this technology in our classrooms.  My upcoming blogs will be about how I integrate technology into the classroom and various apps or web 2.0 programs I use.  In addition, I will share some advice to make the transition from a traditional classroom setting into a 21st Century learning environment.  Feel free to use my resources.  If you have any ideas to enhance my suggestions, I'm willing to listen!

Troubleshooting Tech Issues...

At the beginning of the school year, I experience some issues with students when they begin using technology in the classroom.  When students enter my classroom, many students come with various skill levels in the area of technology.  I have students who are "afraid" of technology, I have the "happy clickers," and everything else in between.  My goal as an educator is to get everyone onto the same page.  This takes time.  By the end of the first quarter, every student has the same level of skills in the area of technology.  To speed up the process this year, I created a poster called "Tech Happens." When I experience technology issues in the classroom I am calm and relaxed.  I often use the phrase, "Tech Happens" which I adopted from the phrase, "Life Happens."  This poster will be on display in my classroom for students to use as a resource.  I will also be sharing it out with my parents.

For the second quarter of fifth grade, my students are required to take their iPads home and return them daily to school for classroom and homework usage. I realize many parents struggle with assisting their child with tech issues at home. Hopefully, this resource will assist both students and parents.

Embracing Tech Problems

We are working with 21st Century Learners, as a result, how we instruct students and educate them has evolved over time.  One skill as educators we know we need to teach is problem-solving. When we have technology issues and we ask students to try to solve the problems on their own, they are learning real world problem-solving at its very core!  In my classroom, we use the phrase "work around."  When we have a technology problem, what "work around" can we use to solve our problem? This is why one of my suggestions on the poster is to place the learning into the hands of my students and have them solve their own tech issue.  The students who solve their tech problems share their "work around" with the class.  I also cannot stress the importance of modeling how YOU as an educator solve tech problems.  I do it all the time in my classroom, but never realized I did it until one day a student made a comment to me.  She said, "Mrs. Nording, you always find a way to solve your problem!" Wow, what a powerful statement!  

Lastly, in my classroom, we like to use the phrase, "When in doubt, shutdown and restart."  It is a catchy phrase my fifth graders leave my classroom with.  I have overheard them sharing the phrase with their friends in other classes.  Feel free to use the phrase and see if your students like it!

Creating the Poster

I thought I would share with you quickly the program I used to create the poster.  It is called Piktochart.  I have used this program to make many posters for my students.  I created the poster using the free version.  Click onto their logo and you will be directed to the website.

Until next time...happy creating!


3 Reasons Why You NEED to be Doing Interactive Read Alouds

Interactive Read Alouds are one of my favorite things to do with my students.  If you follow me on social media or you know my TpT products, you might already know that.  I love to talk about them.  Do you know what they are?  Do you do them with your students?  I'm here to help!  Read on to learn more about them. 
I am going to share with you 3 VERY important reasons why you NEED to be doing Interactive Read Alouds with your students.

"When read-alouds are understood as powerful tools for teaching literary elements, building analytical ability, and addressing the standards, they can bring both joy and accelerated learning into the lives of our students." ~Linda Hoyt

Interactive read aloud (IRA) is a time set aside by teachers to orally read, think about and discuss a book at a student’s listening level.  These books are often above the independent reading level of students, but they are able to listen and comprehend. It is a purposeful read aloud time.  It is a time to demonstrate to students how to actively engage with texts by showing them how to search for meaning, introduce reading strategies and create meaningful discussion.  They often include asking questions and discussions before, during and after reading to improve comprehension and understanding.  

IRA activities include:
  • Taking a sneak peak and previewing the book
  • Building background knowledge
  • Discussing key vocabulary words
  • Modeling thinking aloud
  • Asking meaningful questions throughout the book
  • Retelling and summarizing the book
No matter what grade you teach, you should be reading aloud to your students EVERY DAY! Depending on your grade, you can take almost any book at your student's listening level and create grade-level appropriate questions and discussion points.  While not every read aloud you do should be interactive, it is important to do them several times a week.  Many times it is a repeated reading of a book you have already completed an IRA for.  Repeated readings really help your students gain comprehension and understanding.     
So let's get to the point of this blog post:   
I'm going to share with you 4 (you get a bonus) important reasons. I will explain how I plan and implement them in another post.  Today's focus is on WHY you need to do them.

The first reason you NEED to be doing Interactive Read Alouds is because it supports the curriculum.  You can do an IRA with any book you want and that includes books that support reading, writing, math, science, social studies or any other subject you teach.  You name a subject, you can complete an IRA to support it. 

For example, if you're studying rocks in science, you may want to choose a nonfiction book about rocks.  Nonfiction books are great for introducing vocabulary and identifying key points and details.  

Another example would be using a fiction book as a mentor text to teach reading.  When you choose a quality mentor text to teach reading, you can demonstrate fluency, thinking aloud and how to use reading strategies.  

The possibilities are endless when it comes to IRAs and curriculum needs.  One of my favorite books that support the curriculum in first grade is How to Read A Story by Kate Messner.  It is perfect for reading and how to teach students what it looks like to independently read. It is also great for teaching "how-to" books in writing.  I love this book because it does double duty and can be used to teach reading AND writing.

The second reason you need to be doing Interactive Read Alouds is because it meets SO MANY standards.  I teach first grade, so I'm going to mention those, but as you will see, it will meet many of the same standards at other grades as well. 

Key Ideas and Details
•Ask and answer questions about key details in a text.
•Retell stories, including key details, and demonstrate understanding of their central message or lesson.
•Describe characters, settings, and major events in a story, using key details.
Integration of Knowledge and Ideas
•Use illustrations and details in a story to describe its characters, setting, or events.
•Compare and contrast the adventures and experiences of characters in stories.

Vocabulary Acquisition and Use
Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grade 1 reading and content, choosing flexibly from an array of strategies.

Comprehension & Collaboration
•Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about grade 1 topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.
•Build on others' talk in conversations by responding to the comments of others through multiple exchanges.
•Ask questions to clear up any confusion about the topics and texts under discussion.
•Ask and answer questions about key details in a text read aloud or information presented orally or through other media.
•Ask and answer questions about what a speaker says in order to gather additional information or clarify something that is not understood

Just look at all of those.  Are you doing anything else in your classroom that has the possibility of meeting ALL of those standards in one activity?  I DON'T THINK SO.  This is probably the biggest reason you need to be doing IRAs consistently.  You will find that as you continue to do IRAs, you can make the questions harder and your students become better at discussing and answering questions.  Seriously, it is such a great activity!

Another reason you need to be doing Interactive Read Alouds is because of how much it helps comprehension.  Especially at first grade, so much of what we teach our students is figuring out tricky words.  If you use Lucy Calkin's Units of Study for Reading, you know what I'm talking about.  So many of the lessons are geared towards figuring out tricky words. Of course, you throw in some reading strategies, but the books my students are reading at levels D-J just don't have a lot of meat to them and deeper comprehension can be tricky to get at.  

That's why when you're planning and doing IRAs, it's important to take into account the LISTENING level of your students.  They will probably be able to understand books levels K-M or even higher towards the end of the year.  To really teach comprehension and the strategies involved with understanding a book, you need to have more of a plot line than Biscuit books.  Don't get me wrong, I love me some Biscuit! But to really dig deep in comprehension AND touch on the standards as mentioned above, you need books with a deeper plot line like Clifford or Kevin Henke's books.

And your BONUS reason for why you NEED to do Interactive Read Alouds is engagement.  Plain and simple, Interactive Read Alouds are FUN!  Like I said before, they are one of my favorite things to do and that is partly because the kids enjoy them so much!  Who doesn't love having a book read to them and getting to talk about it in the middle?  Gone are the days where teachers read aloud and kids are silent.  To get the most out of a book, the students need to be interacting and that means providing opportunities for engagement.

Some things you can do to promote engagement are:

  • Turn and talks
  • Stop and jot or draw
  • Act it out
  • Imagine
And don't forget about the constant thinking aloud and discussion you are having throughout the entire book as well.  

So there you have it.  The 4 reasons why you NEED to be doing Interactive Read Alouds.  If I haven't convinced you, then maybe some research will:

From: A Guide to the Reading Workshop-Primary Grades by Lucy Calkins. Chapter 3: What Does Research Say that All Readers Need? 

Essentials for Reading Instruction: Learners need opportunities to talk in response to texts.

“...teaching reading is teaching thinking, it is not surprising that social relationships are critical to a reading workshop. Conversations are especially crucial because data suggests that not enough American students are growing up to be thoughtfully literate.”

Remember the book I mentioned above as being one of my favorites for IRA?  You can find it below.  You can find my other Interactive Read Aloud Product by clicking HERE or the images below.

You can also get more information about Interactive Read Alouds from this FREEBIE!  Click HERE or on the picture below.

If you liked this post, please make sure to pin it so others can see it too!
So, I hope I have convinced you on why you NEED to be doing Interactive Read Alouds.  If you are already doing them, please share with me some of your favorite books.  If you are not, can you share with me why you have been apprehensive about it?

Stay tuned for another post about how I plan and implement Interactive Read Alouds in my classroom.

Until then, happy reading.


The Best Resources for Back to School

Are you ready for your BEST YEAR EVER?!?!  If you want to make it a great year, check out these top selling products you're going to want for your classroom.

Here are some of my products that I count on to start the year.

Do you know the book Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud?  It's a great book to teach being respectful.  These activities are great to go along with that book!

Starting the year with reading surveys is a GREAT way to get to know your students.  This includes one for K-2 and 3-5.  
Teaching partner reading from the very beginning is KEY to a year of quality partnerships.  Use this product to help you get started. 
Use this to teach or review all of the letter sounds.  Great interactive activity. 
Start the year off with a routine for teaching phonics.  Use this short a pack, or the rest of the short vowel packs in my store to teach these important phonics skills. 

There you have it!  These are my favorite products for starting my BEST YEAR EVER!!  If you're an avid TpT shopper to begin with, don't forget to give feedback on your purchases to earn you credits so you can buy more.

Please pin and share if you found this helpful.

I hope you have a great beginning of the year!


School Wide Tournament of Books for K-5

Do you want to do something awesome for literacy week?  Check this out!  Your students are going to love it and everyone is going to be pumped for your school wide book tournament. 
Hi!  I’m Jeanette, a second grade teacher!  I am so excited to be guest blogging to share with you all about our School Wide Tournament of Books for K-5. Our school has done this the last three years during literacy week and it quickly became an all school favorite.    
I usually start planning for the tournament in early February to be ready for Literacy Week at the beginning of March.  It begins with talking to the school librarian to help with book selection.  She pulls around 30 newer picture books from our school library that she knows will be popular with kids but haven’t been discovered yet.  This year we asked her to include some award winners and culturally representative books as well. She always includes a few wordless books too.  Then I work with the reading specialist to narrow the books down to our Sweet 16 that will begin the competition.  We consider titles that will appeal to students K-5, the time it will take teachers to read them aloud, the number of copies we can get of each title and good match-ups.  Our librarian then reserves multiple copies from around the district and we rubber band the competing match-ups on a special cart in the library for teachers to grab from.  

Now the fun begins! I share the list of books with teachers the week before Literacy Week. Sixteen extra read alouds is a lot to fit in around books you may already be reading to support curriculum so we want to make sure to give plenty of time.  Our librarian is always willing to help out classroom teachers by reading a title or two during her time with students as well.  
This is also the time we put up our school-wide bulletin board to promote the Tournament with students. We put it on a wall near the office in the middle of the school so it can be viewed by everyone.  The bulletin board looks like a March Madness bracket and displays each set of competing books with a copy of their book cover.  The conversations we hear kids having around this bulletin board discussing their predictions is one of the best parts of the Tournament of Books!  

Here's the bulletin board ready to go. We have used the same materials for all 3 years, which makes it really easy. All we have to do is copy the book covers.

Each classroom teacher gets a Sweet 16 ballot during Literacy Week.  In my classroom I read a competing matchup (2 picture books in the same part of the bracket) and we have a class discussion about what we liked about each.  I love hearing my students talk about their opinions of each book and encourage them to support them with details from the book (It’s great practice for our upcoming persuasive review writing unit!). Finally I take a traditional eyes closed, hands up vote on their favorite.  I circle my classroom winner on our ballot and continue this process throughout the week until students have heard all 16 books and have voted on their 8 favorites.  At the end of Literacy Week the Sweet 16 ballots are due.  The favorites from all of the classrooms are tallied and the Elite 8 books moving on to the next round are revealed on the school announcements and on the bracket bulletin board.  

The Tournament of Books continues through March with the champion book revealed right before Spring Break.  Since teachers have less books to read and don’t necessarily need to reread all the remaining books (although most of the time the kids beg for it), there is a shorter turnaround between the remaining rounds.  About 4 days to vote on the Elite 8, 3 days for the Final 4, 2 days to narrow it down to the 2 books in the Championship Round and then 1 day to vote on the Champion book.  It wouldn’t have to be exactly that time frame but that has worked for us trying to finish before Spring Break.  Before each new round teachers are given a new ballot with new match-ups.  The books moving on in the Tournament of Books remain on the special cart in the library but I update the competing matchups and remove the titles that didn’t win.   If teachers don’t want to reread all the remaining books or just don’t have time, I send out a document with pictures of the competing titles for teachers to show kids before voting to make it easier to remember each book.  This is the process we have used the past 3 years but next year we are planning to try voting through Google forms to streamline the voting and reduce the number of paper ballots to keep track of.

Another fun addition we do to foster excitement about the Tournament of Books is a picture book raffle.  We purchase many of the Sweet 16 titles competing in the Tournament and each day a classroom is picked to choose one of the books to keep in their classroom library!  This year I Yam a Donkey by Cece Bell was our champion!  A Perfectly Messed-Up Story by Patrick McDonnell and The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt were the winners from previous years.  At our school the funny ones always seem to be the favorites!  I would love to hear how this goes at your school and which book your students pick as the champion!

I also just came across this website, where you can create your own bracket.  All you have to do is type in the book titles.  That would be a lot easier than putting in the book images like we did.  Although ours is geared to K-5, so the images were great for our younger students.  Check out the website!  

Here are pictures of our school-wide bracket bulletin board throughout the process. 


For easy pinning, I've created the image below.  Click on the picture to repin.

Thank you so much for stopping by.  Have you done this in your school or with your class?  I'd love to hear, please share in the comments below.  


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