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Descriptive Writing with Room on the Broom

In case you can’t tell I’m in the mood for fall and Halloween books. When I was in the classroom, fall was our time for teaching narrative writing. I was always looking for fun ways to incorporate seasonal literature into my lessons in meaningful ways.

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Room on the Broom by Axel Scheffler is a cute story about a generous witch who gets help from her animal friends. Sheffler uses tons of descriptive language in this story, so I thought it would be a great mentor text for narrative writing. 

I created this foldable to go along with the story to have students record the author’s use of descriptive writing in each scene.
Room on the Broom Foldable

Hope you enjoy!

Which Witch is Which? Teaching Homophones

Happy October! As the weather is cooling off, you are probably beginning to pull out fall decorations and think about how to integrate the fun seasonal spirit of Halloween into your lessons.
The book Which Witch is Witch? By Judi Barrett is a cute story you can incorporate into your October lessons that teaches the difference between the homophones which and witch. It is a comical rhyming story your kids will love!

This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. If you order from one of my links, Amazon gives me a small percentage of the sale at no extra expense to you. This helps me maintain my blog. 

In this fun homophone accordion book, you can type in your class list, and the book will populate fun homophone sentences with your student’s names. Have your students illustrate their silly books and their memory of homophones should stick!

1. Print the homophone book.
2. Fold the book like an accordion. 
Click here to grab the free Homophone Accordion Book

Why Independent Morning Work Is Best for My Class

Morning work time was essential to my classroom management routines. For classroom management, it was important to start each day with the same routines and keep my students calm and engaged. It was also important students can work independently for the first fifteen minutes of the day, so I could get attendance done, check parent notes, or address any issues that may have arisen with individual students before school.

Throughout the day, I always stressed the importance of using our time wisely. The morning routine is no exception! Students should be engaged in meaningful learning from the start!

Here is what I considered when planning my student’s morning work:
  •  Can students complete the activity independently?
  • Can students complete the activity quietly?
  • Can I assess student work quickly?

I usually chose to assign routine assignments. Especially at the beginning of the year. Number of the Day was a great morning work activity that my students needed to practice building number sense. It also was easy to correct quickly whole class and required no prep on my part! Students followed the "rainbow format" in their journals. Plus, it was a major bonus they had the opportunity to write with crayons or colored pencils. You can grab my Number of the Day anchor chart I used with my second graders here:
As the year went on, I would do more review for skills my students had learned earlier in the year. Usually, I would create a quick half-sheet of problems and questions that reviewed various skills. I would usually correct these and review any questions students got incorrect. I would then add more questions on skills many students struggled with.

Students who finished their morning work early were able to pick a quiet activity to focus on. Their choices included helping a classmate, independent reading, studying facts, writing, unfinished work, changing out books, or computers.

For me, quiet and independent work was important to set the stage for our day. There were many opportunities for hands-on activities and collaboration throughout the day, but I wanted students to enter a calm and quiet room.

Other teachers have more success with more hands-on morning activities such as morning tubs. If this is more your speed, check out these posts for some tips!


I'd love to hear what works best for you. Comment below!

Student Bag of Books

I like to have students have a bag of books they keep at their seats at all times. This cuts down on wasted time. Students have a selection of books they can grab at any downtime, which cuts down on constant library browsing.

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For independent book bags, I really like to use the 2.5 jumbo plastic bags. I like them because they are clear so you can see student book choices. They are also pretty sturdy and will hold about 5 books ranging in sizes.

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I teach students how to fill their bag of books in the first or second week of school.

  1.  First, I do a whole class lesson on how we care for our library books.
  2.  Second, I teach students how to search for books by level, genre, or interest. I have books sorted all of these ways in my library. I don’t want students to be limited to one means of search! I also model and have students practice putting books back in the proper place.
  3. After I assess each student’s reading level and confer with them, they are sent to the library, one at a time, to select about five books for their bag of books.

Students are allowed to switch out their bag of books at down times. NOT during independent reading. I reinforce that independent reading time is too precious to waste. The only exception to this is, if I am conferencing with students during independent reading and their reading level changes, I allow them to change their books then because they are usually eager to switch books.

Students usually switch books:

  • before class starts, after their morning work is complete
  • at the end of the day during dismissal
  • other times when they are finished with work early

Building Reading Stamina

In my previous post I discussed the importance of independent daily reading; however, it is important that if students are independently reading for a chunk of their reading block, they are actually reading! We all know what “pretend” reading looks like. You are teaching your small groups, and you hear the noise volume gradually increase to a level that becomes disruptive. You remind your students that they shouldn’t be talking. Students quickly dive into their books, flipping through pages at a rapid pace and constantly glancing up at you to see if you are still watching.

The bottom line is, this is bound to happen at times in all classrooms at certain times, but this should not be the norm. We want to teach students to use time wisely and treasure their IDR time. But, we can’t expect students to just dive into reading for 20+ minute blocks of time without training them how. Just like runners need to work up to running long distances, readers need to work up to reading for extended amounts of time.

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How I Help my Students Build Stamina

At the beginning of the year, usually on the first day of school, I teach my students the rituals and routines for independent reading in my classroom. I stress how this is the most valuable and important time of our day because it is time for us to enjoy the books we choose, which will help us grow as readers.

Selecting Seats

Right from the start, I allow students to choose comfy places for their independent reading. They can sit anywhere, as long as they are focused. If they are not focused, or if they distract others around them, they temporarily lose the privilege to choose their spot. They sit in their seat, or by my guided reading table, where I can help them.

Building Stamina

On day one, I tell students we are going to see how long they can read for. I set a goal of 5-10 minutes. I have not yet taught my students how to navigate and care for our classroom library or how to build their independent reading book bags. Therefore, I fill bins of books that vary in levels and genres and place them around the room. Students bring their bag of books to their chosen spot. I explain that I will be seated at my guided reading table because usually, I will be with a group during IDR. I tell them that I will be rotating around the room watching them read.

We review IDR expectations today, and every single day before IDR time. My expectations are the same as The Daily 5.

I set a timer and sit at my guided reading table, giving students a few minutes to settle and get started. After everyone has time to get started, I make my first rotation around the room. With younger grades, I would notice what books they are reading and if they are engaged in their book. With older kids who read longer chapter books, I created a chart with their names and wrote down the page number they were on during each rotation I made. This chart would help me notate students who were possibly not truly engaged in reading because they were flipping pages too quickly, or on the same page the entire block of time. 

Grab my editable class chart for free here

As I rotated through the room, I would notate on my class chart students that were no longer engaged in reading. I would notate the time on the timer that they lost focus.

⏲️ Every five minutes, I would rotate through the room again. 

📈 After day one, you can either decide to make a class graph showing how long the majority of the class read for, or have students begin independent reading stamina graphs. I prefer students keep track of their individual reading stamina in a graph in their data notebooks. This way, students can see how they grow as the year goes on and make personal goals. Some students will be able to read independently for a longer chunk of time than you can provide, and you will likely have students who are not able to sustain independent reading for longer than ten minutes.

Each day, I continue to extend the independent reading block by 2-3 minutes, depending on how long the majority of my students can sustain their reading for. I do not keep the same extensive records I did on day one. I chart each student’s reading time for my data notebook and for student’s data notebooks each month.

As students are reading independently for at least 10 minutes, I use this time to assess my students reading levels each day.

I continue to complete stamina building each day, until most of my class can read for their center rotation time, which was 20-25 minutes in my class, and until all of my individual reading assessments are complete. I don’t even think about starting guided reading groups or other “centers” until they have stamina, and assessments are complete.


In my inclusion classes, there were always a group of students who were unable to build their stamina as quickly as the rest of the class. I always stressed the importance of using our time wisely, and I certainly didn’t want these children sitting there pretending to read. I would have a frank conversation with them and let them know this is something we will keep practicing. If they or I notice they are unable to focus on IDR anymore, I would move them to something else. Often, these were my students who were drastically below grade level so I would allow them to listen to a book on tape. Of course, you will have students that prefer this, so I would encourage them to meet or beat their previous days’ time, then move them to a listening center.

The Importance of Independent Reading

Of course, all teachers want their students to improve in reading. We also strive to grow a love of reading in our students. One of the most crucial ways to improve student reading levels is to get students hooked on reading.

One of the best was to improve student reading skills is through independent reading. Of course, the more someone practices something, the better they get! Giving students ownership over their reading materials gets them to “buy-in”. When students have a choice, they will be much more apt to enjoy their reading. Be sure you have an abundance of books of all genres, levels, and on a variety of topics for your students.

Many teachers say they don’t have time to provide independent reading time in class. This is where they are going wrong! Independent reading time SHOULD be how your students spend most of their reading period. Some teachers say, students can read independently at home, so they spend class time doing other skills and centers. The fact of the matter is, most students don’t read independently at home. For those that do, it is not enough!

Some teachers worry their administrators and coaches won’t be happy if they walk into a class of students reading independently. To some, this looks like the “easy” way out because it requires little work on the teacher’s part. Some districts, schools, and administrators expect students to be working in skills-based centers. The fact of the matter is, having students read independently is EASIER on the teacher and his or her planning time, but it is also WHAT IS BEST FOR KIDS!

It is also important to note, that while students are reading independently, the teacher should also be engaged in guided reading, small groups, or one-on-one reading conferences, which are other crucial components of advancing readers.

If you have an administrator who is a naysayer, show them the research!
A study on first through fifth graders found,  “Among all the ways children spent their time, reading books was the best predictor of measures of reading achievement reading comprehension, vocabulary, and reading speed, including gains in reading comprehension between second and fifth grade.”
Independent Reading Study

But isn’t this common sense? If someone wants to become a better soccer player, they practice. If someone wants to become a better flute player, they practice. 

Stop spending your time planning and changing meaningless centers. Work on building your classes’ reading stamina. Implement independent reading in your class.

While independent reading should be most of the independent work time for your students, you can’t expect your students to jump into reading for extended amounts of time. Check out next week’s post for some tips to help build reading stamina.

Five Ways to Celebrate Birthdays in the Classroom

There are many creative ways to acknowledge and celebrate student birthdays. Here are five creative ways that do not take much teacher prep or class time! 

     1. Birthday Sundae Cups: From Teaching Maddness 

2. Birthday Balloons: Print out the attached balloons and tape them to a swirly straw, pixie stick, or fun pencil. Keep them in a bucket for kids. Easy to prepare at the beginning of the year! 
Birthday Balloon Bouquet

3. Birthday Chair: Decorate a metal or wooden chair with paint or stickers. On a student’s birthday, they get to sit in the special chair all day!

4. Birthday Book: Allow your students to bring in one of their favorite books to share. I let students decide if they wanted to read it, or if I would read it.

5. Birthday Homework Pass: Since kids tend to be busy celebrating on their birthdays, allow them to use a birthday homework pass to have the night off. 
Birthday Homework Pass
I'd love to hear how you celebrate birthdays in your classroom! Comment below with ideas and pictures!

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