{Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon} and other Books Teachers Love

Books Teachers Love is back! We took a break for the summer but, my awesome teacher blogger friends and I have all teamed up to bring you 12 perfect read alouds each month. We will be sharing books for the upcoming month on the 15th so that you have at least 2 weeks after reading to get all your books and ideas together to try out in your room. So here we go with our top picks for September!

Everyone has their favorite back to school read alouds, and so many people use the same books. I didn't want to pick a book that you likely already have a thousand ideas and activities planned for, so picking a book this month was really tough! I finally decided on Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell.

If you haven't heard of this book, it is absolutely adorable and has a GREAT message so I guarantee you will not be disappointed.  Molly is a quirky little first grader who is full of spunk. Thanks to her grandmother, she is proud to be unique and confident enough to handle any challenges thrown at her.  It's a perfect intro to talking about a wide range of topics such as getting to know your classmates, bullying, and building confidence.

One way I like to use this book as a get to know you activity is to have students work on a Venn Diagram comparing themselves to Molly Lou and then sharing the ways they are the same and different from her. This is my sneaky way to get students to work on compare/contrast while at the same time fitting in a getting to know you activity. There's never enough time in the day, so anytime I can combine activities is a bonus.
Another great concept to work on with this book is character traits. Molly Lou is such an interesting little girl so there are definitely LOTS of unique character traits to discuss. Young students don't often have great vocabulary for the traits they notice in characters yet, so I have them draw and/or write what they are thinking about the character first. For example a student might notice that Molly Lou is not afraid of bullies. We talk about words that we could use to describe that quality such as "confident," "courageous," or "brave." Then we make a character trait anchor chart that we can add to throughout the year. This is great for building vocabulary and comprehension skills at the same time.
Finally, I always like to find a way to incorporate a written response. After reading this book and discussing Molly Lou's character traits, students write about ways that they can "stand tall" like her, which is a great lead in to bucket fillers and anti-bullying programs as well.

Want to try out these activities? You can grab the printables for FREE here!

But wait, that's not all! Each month, the Books Teachers Love Crew is giving away 4 of the books that we blogged about, and YOU get to choose the books you want! So scope out all 12 blog posts below, pick your favorites, and enter to win!

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WI Blogger Meet Up in Review

Summer, glorious summer. If you are reading this, I hope that you have TRIED to relax and recharge from all those long hours put in at school and prepping/planning at home. But I know if you are like most teachers, your mind never strays too far from the classroom. (I see all your dollar spot pics on IG!) I think its in our blood to just live and breathe teaching most of the time.  We love to collaborate, and teacher bloggers are no different! Just over a week ago teacher bloggers from all over WI (and the Midwest!) jumped at the opportunity to meet and collaborate.
Angela from Hippo Hooray for Second Grade, Paige from Our Elementary Lives, and I hosted the 2nd annual meet up for Wisconsin bloggers and TpT authors. This year was all about reconnecting with people we met last year and making new connections.  We were thrilled that over 30 amazing bloggers/TpTers came out to join us for food, collaboration, and fun!

Here's a little recap of our fun filled day! We met up at this adorable little restaurant in Madison, WI called Erin's Snug Irish Pub. And I have to say the food and service was FABULOUS! 

Okay seriously how cute are those cookies? Almost too cute to eat! (I say *almost* because I may have devoured one...or two) 

First up, time to mingle and chat for our attendees while we got everything set up, including these amazing swag bags for everyone that came!

Then it was time to get our craft on! Everyone received a clipboard and decorated them with washi tape, ribbon and sharpies for a unique and practical gift to take back to their classroom.

Next up we enjoyed lunch and played a name that font game with fonts from the fabulous Kimberly Geswein.  Along with all the fun and socializing, we wanted to make sure the event was full of collaboration and learning. We decided to hold round table discussions so that not only our discussion leaders could share their expertise, but also to give the opportunity for our attendees to share their ideas and tips on various topics. It was so awesome to have conversations and collaborate with our peers!

Throughout all of the chit chat we stopped for these awesome giveaways.  We are so grateful to all of these generous donors for supporting teachers!

  SDEPlanbookThe Wright StuffClassroom Friendly SuppliesL Paull Designs for AllSit Spots

Between the swag bags and giveaways everyone left a winner! It was truly AMAZING to see all the support for our event!

But we weren't done yet! The hghlight of our event was our video chat Q & A with Nicole from Teachers Pay Teachers. She was so fabulous to take time out of her Saturday to talk with all of us. Just another example of why TpT is so amazing!
 And of course they surprised 3 of our lucky attendees with gift cards! Thanks TpT!

And we ended the day with more chatting and a big group photo with these adorable shirts that A+ images generously donated for our entire group!

We really loved hosting this event again to bring so many phenomenal people together. This is going to continue to be an annual event, but we have BIG plans for next year (with a few changes too). So stay tuned! We sure hope to see you there!!

3 Creative Ways to Use Chalk Blocks in Small Groups

Spice up your small group activities with these super versatile chalk blocks! If you've been to the Target dollar spot lately you may have seen these lovely little teaching tools.
As soon as I saw them I was brainstorming all kinds of fun ways to use them. I thought I'd share a few of my ideas here although the possibilities are endless!

I am always working on CVC words in small groups with my students in one way or another.  Sometimes we are working on just saying the sounds of the letters, other times we are working on blending the sounds, and when we get even more advanced we work on changing a sound. No matter which skill we are working on, I love that I can easily erase and write letters that I want to target with different groups of students.

Roll it, Say it -  
When students are still working on letters/sounds, write the letters you want to target on the blocks. Then have each student roll and say the letter and/or sound for their letter.  You could begin to model blending the sounds together to read the word as students are ready.

Real/Nonsense Words
As students are beginning to read and sound out words, use the blocks to practice blending sounds. Have students each roll 3 blocks (2 consonants and a vowel). Then each child should blend the sounds, read the word and decide if it is a real or nonsense word. Keep tallies as a group to see which type of word comes up most, and ask students to guess which one will "win."

Change a Word
This game is definitely for your more advanced students that are proficient at blending sounds to form words.  Start with 3 dice for each student again. Students roll the dice and read their word.  They then choose one letter to erase and change to make a different real word. (ex. 1st roll student gets "JEK", they change the "K" to "T" to make "JET")

Working with word families is so important for building fluent readers. I teach my students that once they can read one word  they can read the whole family. Again these blocks are great for differentiating the word family endings and beginning sounds for different levels of students.

Roll it, Read it -  
Roll both the beginning sound and phonogram (word family ending) blocks. All students read the word together. Leave the phonogram block in place and pass the beginning sound block from student to student to roll. As each child takes a turn rolling, they say the  new word they've made. Repeat with a new word family each time.

Word Family Race -  
Using just a phonogram (word family) block, one student rolls and then everyone tries to think of and write as many words as they can think of that fit in that word family. 

This last idea is a real $$$ saver. Have you ever had a great game that needed dice with shapes, money,  2 digit numbers, etc. and wondered where on earth to buy and store all of these crazy variations? Well don't worry anymore...chalkboard dice to the rescue!! You can just erase and write whatever you need for that game on each of the sides.  Now of course this may not be ideal if you are sending students off to practice independently in centers...you know they won't be able to resist erasing each side...but you could use chalk marker pens which are much more difficult to erase! I envision using them more for small group games however where I can quickly change the options on each side of the dice as needed.

Hopefully you can find these fabulous blocks in your Target Dollar spot, but if not I found this awesome DIY Chalkboard Block tutorial from Ada Lou Vintage that you can use to make them yourself!
I'd love to hear more creative ideas for using these blocks in the classroom. Please share your ideas in the comments!

Books Teachers Love: Last Day Hooray

Wow, I can't believe that we are talking about June read alouds already! If you are busy wrapping up your school year and looking for great books to keep your class engaged, my bloggy friends and I are sharing our favorite read alouds for the end of the year before we take a little break from our book sharing blog series or the summer.
Lets be real, there are so many exciting things going on at the end of the year it is easy to get wrapped up in all the fun activities and let learning take a back seat. But if you plan ahead you can keep your kiddos working on all of the skills they need while celebrating a great year together.  One of the books I use at the end of the year to engage my students in writing activities is Last Day, Hooray! by Nancy Poydar.
The students and school staff in the story are busy cleaning and wrapping up their school year, dreaming about the summer ahead and planning a celebration for their teacher.  
It is both exciting and a little bit sad to take everything down at the end of the year, so this book is perfect to read on the day that we start packing up our own classroom. While I like to have students help with a lot of the work I need to get done it can get pretty chaotic with 18 students all trying to help clean and pack up at the same time.  So I like to have lots of writing activities for students to work on while I have a few students at a time completing end of the year assessments, and helping me with different projects.

The biggest writing project my students work on is their memory book.  

If I have time I like to print out pictures of my students for the first few pages.

It's fun to see what they remember about their year in kindergarten.

I love seeing students reflect on everything they've done throughout the year.
We also complete a few writing projects to share with parents at the Kindergarten Celebration. Students start by writing the top 10 things they learned and memories they made.
Then they choose one special memory to illustrate and read aloud during our ceremony.
And last they use their top ten lists to help them write a letter to the incoming kindergartners about what they will learn and do in kindergarten.
You can find these printable writing activities, and more end of the year fun, in my Kindergarten Celebration Pack.

Don't forget to enter to win 4 awesome June Read Alouds! And you get to choose any 4 you'd like!