Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Restoring Hope: Love 4 Louisiana Teachers


On August 11th, 2016, a stationary weather system resulted in torrential downpours with upwards of two feet of rain that devastated several parishes across South Louisiana. The extreme amount of rainwater, close to 7.1 trillion gallons of water, caused rivers, lake, and other bodies of water to reach and exceed flood stages in the following days. In the blink of an eye, the water began rising and encroaching upon not just areas that typically flood, but the flooding waters found their way to places that had never even had the threat of flooding before. The widespread devastation of the rising water quickly destroyed countless homes, businesses, and schools.

As the water began to recede and people were allowed into the areas that were flooded, the full extent of the damage was visible. For many people, they lost an entire lifetime of memories and personal treasures. While the loss of personal property and people's livelihood were tragic, an equally tragic loss was the impact that the flood waters had on area schools. There are over 30 schools, both public and private, across several parishes that suffered significant water damage to their campuses. Livingston Parish alone had 15 public schools that suffered water damage with at least 8 schools that experienced extensive damage that will take months to repair. While the school buildings will have to be repaired to be safe for students and staff to return, this work will be done and funded through the individual school systems, but what can be done to help the individual teachers replace their classroom materials, personal items, and everything else that made their classrooms whole?

I'm pleased to announce that The Teaching Bank has joined forces with an amazing group of Teacher Authors from Teachers Pay Teachers to create a fundraiser, Restoring Hope: Love for Louisiana Teachers. The core team behind Restoring Hope is comprised of Kristen from Teacher Playground, Andrea from This Literacy Life, Shannon from OCD in First, and Stephanie from The Creative Classroom. They came together and created the fundraiser as a way to help our fellow Louisiana teachers rise up and rebuild their classrooms. The fundraiser has been made possible by the generous donations that we have received from 90+ TPT sellers that include high-quality products ranging from Kindergarten to High School. In total, there are six product bundles available and four donation options. The TPT store will go live on Tuesday, September 6th, 2016 and will remain open for at least 30 days. You can click the banner below to visit our store and support Louisiana teachers by buying product bundles or simply donating money to the fundraiser.












Where will we be donating the proceeds raised from the fundraiser?

One of the biggest pieces of this fundraiser was trying to decide where we would donate the money we raised for Louisiana teachers to ensure that it would be fairly and equally distributed to those in need.100% of the proceeds that are made through our TPT store will be donated to the Associated Professional Educators of Louisiana's Disaster Relief Fund. This organization is donating 100% of all money that they receive to public and private schools teachers who lost some or all of their classroom materials due to the flooding.









Our team knew that we wanted to say THANK YOU to all of the amazing teachers who have supported our fundraiser by purchasing a bundle or donating money. Shannon from Blogs Fit For A Queen has graciously donated a FREE BLOG DESIGN. When you purchase one of the bundles from the Restoring Hope: Love for Louisiana Teachers TPT Store, you can enter for a chance to win! All you have to do is complete the form that is attached in the product bundle or donation page by October 15th, 2016.


We would like to take this opportunity to send out a huge THANK YOU to our sponsors who have donated resources to the fundraiser bundles. Without your help and generosity, none of this would have been possible. 

Monday, September 19, 2016

Where the Red Fern Grows in the Classroom

Where the Red Fern Grows, written by Wilson Rawls, is a wonderful book to use for a novel study or for literature circles in the classroom. Where the Red Fern Grows, was first published in 1961, and has become a classic favorite to use in the classroom amongst both teachers and students.





Summary of Where the Red Fern Grows:
(from the book jacket)

Billy, Old Dan, and Little Ann -  a boy and his two dogs.

A loving threesome, they ranged the dark hills and river bottoms of Cherokee country. Old Dan had the brawn, Little Ann had the brains - and Billy had the will to train them to be the finest hunting team in the valley. Glory and victory were coming to them, but sadness waited too. And close by was the strange and wonderful power that's only found...

Where the Red Fern Grows.

An exciting tale of love and adventure you'll never forget.

This is a great novel to use in the classroom to help show students the power of setting a goal and working with all your might toward achieving it. A touching story to see how perseverance will overcome adversity.

This is a great novel to accompany a study of:
  • The Cherokee Native American tribe, including the geographic region where the tribe was predominantly found.
  • Dog training and/or Redbone Coonhound breed
I offer a complete novel study to accompany Where the Red Fern Grows for use in the classroom or homeschool. The unit includes both a printable format and a Google Drive™ format for use in a paperless classroom or with Google Classroom.




Here's a preview sample of my Where the Red Fern Grows Novel Study:



Please go to my TpT store to see this free preview as well as the complete CCSS alignment checklist for grades 4-6 in its entirety. Please email with any questions you may have!


Sunday, August 28, 2016

Esperanza Rising in the Classroom

Esperanza Rising, written by Pam Muñoz Ryan, is a wonderful book to use for a novel study or for literature circles in the classroom. Esperanza Rising, was published in 2000, and has received numerous awards, including the Pura Belpré Award, an award honoring the excellent portrayal of Latino experience in children's literature.




Summary of Esperanza Rising:
(from the book jacket)

Esperanza believed her life would be wonderful forever. She would always live on her family's ranch in Mexico. She would always have fancy dresses and a beautiful home filled with servants. papa and Abuelita would always be with her.

But a sudden tragedy shatters her world and forces Esperanza and Mama to flee to California, where they settle in a camp for Mexican farm workers. Esperanza isn't ready for hard labor,  financial struggles brought on by the Great Depression, and lack of acceptance she now faces. When Mama gets sick, and a strike for better working conditions threatens to uproot their new life, Esperanza must find a way to rise above her difficult circumstances - because Mama's life and her own depend on it.

This is a great Depression Era novel to use in the classroom to help students understand the struggles of the era, especially the plight of the Mexican farm workers as they struggle to adapt and survive in the United States. A great novel that shows how perseverance will overcome adversity.
This is a great novel to accompany a study of:
  • Mexican Repatriation and how the Mexican Immigration Policy has been dealt with by the U.S. government in the past and present day.
  • The Dust Bowl and migrant workers.
  • The role of unions on the American economy
  • Incorporate with a unit during Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15-October 15)
I offer a complete novel study to accompany Esperanza Rising for use in the classroom or homeschool. The unit includes both a printable format and a Google Drive™ format for use in a paperless classroom or with Google Classroom.




Here's a preview sample of my Esperanza Rising Novel Study:





Please go to my TpT store to see this free preview as well as the complete CCSS alignment checklist for grades 4-6 in its entirety. Please email with any questions you may have!


Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Hoot in the Classroom

Hoot, written by Carl Hiaasen, is a wonderful book to use for a novel study or for literature circles in the classroom. Hoot, was published in 2002, and received the Newberry Honor Award for children's literature in 2003. 



Summary of Hoot:
(from the book jacket)

Roy Eberhart has recently, and unhappily, arrived in Florida. "Disney World is an armpit," he states flatly, "compared to Montana."

Roy's family moves a lot, so he's used to the new-kid drill. Florida bullies are pretty much like bullies everywhere. But Roy finds himself oddly indebted to the hulking Dana Matherson. If Dana hadn't been sinking his thumbs into Roy's temples and mashing his face against the school-bus window, Roy might never have spotted the running boy. And the running boy is the first interesting thing Roy's seen in Florida.

The boy was about Roy's age, but he was running away from the school bus. He had no books, no backpack, and here's the odd part, no shoes.

Sensing a mystery, Roy sets himself on the boy's trail. The chase will introduce him to some other intriguing Floridian creatures; potty-trained alligators, a beleaguered construction foreman, some burrowing owls, a fake-fart champion, a renegade eco-avenger, some slippery fish, a sinister pancake PR man, and several extremely poisonous snakes with unnaturally sparkling tails.

Life in Florida is looking up.

This is a great novel with themes of friendship, teamwork, adolescence, corporate corruption, environmentalism, and integrity all told in a writing style that tweens and teens can relate to and enjoy.

This is a great novel to accompany a study of:
  • Florida geography and wildlife
  • Montana geography and wildlife
  • Research the role of the US Department of Justice
  • Research the Environmental Protection Agency
I offer a complete novel study to accompany Hoot for use in the classroom or homeschool. The unit includes both a printable format and a Google Drive™ format for use in a paperless classroom or with Google Classroom.




Here's a preview sample of my Hoot Novel Study:





Please go to my TpT store to see this free preview as well as the complete CCSS alignment checklist for grades 4-6 in its entirety. Please email with any questions you may have!


Sunday, July 31, 2016

Make this the Best Year EVER!

The community at Teachers Pay Teachers wants to help you make this school year the best year ever! For a thrifty shopper like me the best way to start off the year is to save money! Now is your chance to save as well with the big TpT Back to School Sale, August 1-2, 2016.





Everything in my store, The Teaching Bank, will be marked 20% off. In addition to that use code: BESTYEAR at checkout to take an additional 10% off everything in your cart!



This is a fantastic way to stock up for the upcoming year at a significant discount!  Complete novel studies and bundles in my store are already marked down 20% or more everyday so add the additional 20% and the 10% coupon code and you can get some substantial products at a deeply discounted price!

Another great way to save is to earn TpT credits for leaving feedback! Head to your "My Purchases" page and leave feedback for all products that you've purchased. Use the credits that you earn to help pay for your cart full of goodies during the sale!

Special thanks to Thrifty in Third Grade for allowing me to share her great video!

So get your credits all earned and your wishlist stocked and get ready to save big bucks at the sale starting tomorrow, August 1st and Tuesday, August 2nd! Don't forget to use code: BESTYEAR at checkout to receive that extra 10% off of everything in your cart!




Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Bud, Not Buddy in the Classroom

Bud, Not Buddy written by Christopher Paul Curtis, is a wonderful book to use for a novel study or literature circles in the classroom. Bud, Not Buddy, was published in 1999 and received the Newberry Medal for children's literature in 2000. Author, Christopher Paul Curtis, was also recognized with the 2000 Coretta Scott King Award, an award given to outstanding African American authors.



Summary of Bud, Not Buddy:
(from the book jacket)

It's 1936, in Flint, Michigan. Times may be hard, and ten-year-old Bud may be a motherless boy on the run, but Bud's got a few things going for him:
  1. He has his own suitcase full of special things.
  2. He's the author of Bud Caldwell's Rules and Things for Having a Funner Life and Making a Better Liar Out of Yourself.
  3. His momma never told him who his father was, but she left a clue; flyers advertising Herman E. Calloway and his famous band, the Dusky Devastators of the Depression!!!
Bud's got an idea that those flyers will lead him to his father. Once he decides to hit the road and find his mystery man, nothing can stop him - not hunger, not fear, not vampires, not even Herman E. Calloway himself.

This is a great Depression Era novel to use in the classroom to help students understand the struggles of the era, especially as an African-American youth, and to see how perseverance will overcome adversity.

This is a great novel to accompany a study of:
  • The Depression Era
  • The foster care system during the Depression versus today
  • The role of unions on the American economy
  • Race relations and discrimination during the Depression Era.
I offer a complete novel study to accompany Bud, Not Buddy for use in the classroom or homeschool. The unit includes both a printable format and a Google Drive™ format for use in a paperless classroom or with Google Classroom.



Here's a preview sample of my Bud, Not Buddy Novel Study:





Please go to my TpT store to see this free preview as well as the complete CCSS alignment checklist for grades 4-6 in its entirety. Please email with any questions you may have!


Friday, June 24, 2016

Multiple Choice or No Multiple Choice, that is the Question!

To use multiple choice questioning or not, that is the question!


I have a strong feeling about multiple choice. It's more of a hate/love relationship really. In certain instances (a few) I like the option, but in many ways I try to avoid it. I find it encourages far too much guessing, and not enough valid data on what a student has truly learned. I saw this a lot in my classroom, usually with the students that are struggling the most.


The students who were secure in their knowledge of the subject area were going to do just fine no matter the questioning format. I see this so much with my own son, who has some struggles in school. If he is given a multiple choice test more often than not he'll just guess, sometimes not even bothering to really read the questions! In creating work for him I always avoid using multiple choice, except in certain types of situations. He has an IEP, and unfortunately more often than not the teachers have turned to M/C for him as an accommodation and then express frustration at his effort and guessing. If he is dealt a short answer question he is much more apt to look for the answer in the work or work the problem out for himself. If the option to guess it there, he'll always guess and he'll keep guessing until he's eliminated the 3 wrong answers. Yes, he'll eventually get the correct answer, but does that show he knows it or retained it?

I know multiple choice can be a huge time saver for the teacher. It is much quicker and easier to correct papers with multiple choice rather than written answers. I get it, but is it the right choice? What is our ultimate goal? To know the student understood and learned what we were teaching right? How can we be sure with a M/C that it is retained knowledge and not a lucky guess we got?

There are some cases (when done correctly) where I think M/C is fine. In a math problem for instance:


The reason the problem on the left is the wrong way is because the most common mistake a student will make in this instance is the misuse of PEDMA. They will just work the problem from left to right and end up with 6 for the answer. If this is one of the options in the M/C they will choose that and move on, not having any idea that they made a mistake.  Instead, if they worked the problem in this manner and the 6 was not an option they would know they did something wrong and go back and check their work. Of course the guesser, who doesn't even work out the problem could happen in either case, but the majority of the time the student will stop and take a closer look. I am not an advocate for tricking the student, and in this case that is exactly what you do when you give them a problem like the one on the left. It's much less discouraging to a child to have to rework to find a correct answer than to get a test back that they failed due to being tricked!

One of the main resources I offer is novel studies. In my novel studies there are only two places where you will find multiple choice options. First, there is an end of the book vocabulary quiz. A sentence with the word is offered and then there are 4 choices of a definition. Again, there are the guessers who just guess, but most students will be able to know the true definition when used in context after the successful completion of the novel study activities.

The other M/C option I added based on buyer requests is an end of the unit comprehension quiz. I have an identical quiz in a short answer format, this is what I prefer and use with my students. I have had many buyers ask for a M/C option so I have provided that, but I personally don't use it for the reasons that I have mentioned above.

Where I have not changed my product based on buyer requests is in the comprehension portion of the novel study itself, and I won't be adding it. I feel very strongly that while reading the book the student should be thinking about what they're reading in a deeper way. Using multiple choice for comprehension during the reading of the novel encourages the student to skim the text for the answer. It also means most of your questioning will be of the lower order of Bloom's Taxonomy. I use novels to get away from the M/C type skimming that you encounter in a basal series. My goal for using novel studies is to get my student engaged in a novel and to think deeply about the character's motives, make inferences, etc.  I just don't think this can be done properly using multiple choice questions. To maintain the integrity and rigor of my novel studies, I just won't be changing this. I know there are some buyers who are disappointed in this stance and I know that some buy from my competitors due to this stance, and I apologize to them, but it's something that I feel very strongly about.



Another reason I stay away from M/C is because it is far too much like the standardized testing that I am not a fan of. Mainly for all the reasons stated above. I want my students to be deep thinkers, not guessers. Of course the whole topic of standardized testing is a post for another day! ;)