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Elementary Teacher Resources, Issue #010 -- Ideas That Work
December 26, 2007

Welcome to
Elementary Teacher Resources

Today is a big day for me… No, I’m not pregnant!

But I feel like this website is a baby to me, and this is the first newsletter that is going out to over 1,000 subscribers! This is the best Christmas gift I could ever ask for. Thank you for being part of this with me!

Ideas that Work

I am always looking for fun, fast ideas that work. There are a million teaching ideas out there, but half are just too complicated, take too much time, or cost too much.

In this newsletter I am going to share some of my ideas that work that are cheap (or free), and take little or no time from your already busy day.

I am always looking for something exciting to put in my science center. I want to expose my students to more than just books about science, I want them to touch, hear and breathe science.

My husband had some old computer hard-drives (not the monitors – they are not safe to open) laying in our garage and was going to throw them out. I snagged them and put them in the science center with some screw drivers, goggles and clip boards and let the kids explore.

I thought that this would be a quick one week activity, but it turned out to be a month long center for the kids.

They loved unscrewing parts, putting them into new places, testing if things were magnetic, and working together.

They also loved to draw pictures and label the parts, write stories about the computer, use the parts as stencils and trace them, and so much more.

I let the kids decide what to do with it, and they kept coming up with great ideas.

This was by far the coolest center I have ever had for my kids and it didn’t cost me a penny!

Getting Students to Read

I am passionate about reading. I want my kids to read - a lot! But, sometimes getting books into hands is costly and difficult.

I went to go hear speaker Dr. Danny Brassell and he recommended putting yourself or your students on mailing lists. Really. Use junk mail to get kids to read. It’s so obvious, yet I’d never thought of it before!

Catalogs are free, have great pictures to attract buyers and easy to read text. All of these things make for great reading material in an Elementary classroom.

I hunted around for a website that I could just sign up for a million catalogs at once and found

I signed up for several catalogs and they arrived quickly. I put them in a Shoe Organizer so the kids could look through them, pick out what they liked and read!

My kids look forward to independent reading because they know that there will always be something new to look at!

Once the holder gets full, I send home the catalogs with the kids and we start filling it up again.

Getting “print” into students hands is key, if they have it, they will read it.


In the book Strategies that Work, there is a discussion on ideas that promote comprehension of books. I use many of the strategies, but one of my favorites to use with young children is sticky-notes. When I’m reading a book, I will write notes about it, so that the next person to read it knows what I was thinking about.

I model this when I’m doing shared reading with my class all the time. We focus on "I noticed..."…and "I wonder..." at the beginning.

For example, if we are reading The Very Lazy Ladybug, I might write, "I noticed that the ladybug needs to get up and move."

I also use sticky-notes during independent reading so the children can see what I actually do with them. I was just reading Readers for Life as part of a book study with my teammate.

So, while we were doing independent reading in my classroom, I was marking down ideas that I would use in my classroom, quotes I thought we should discuss at the book study and words I did not understand.

While I’m writing my sticky-note, I "think aloud". Even if there isn’t a student sitting by me I think aloud”because you never know who is listening.

I have found that my kids have become quite skilled at using the sticky-notes. They love to write about books. If you came to see my classroom library, it is a mess because of all of the notes. But, I love it, the kids love it, and it gets them reading!

Independent Reading = Quiet Reading?

Nope. Not in my room. Independent means that I can go read a book too.

So, my students might be "Oooh-ing" over a new motorcycle catalog, comparing notes on their favorite book, rocking in a chair together laughing about a picture, whatever.

My basic rule is, "If it sounds like reading, it's reading." My kids know that I can hear talking, giggling, laughing, sobbing, anything that is a response to a book.

They also know if I hear running, screaming or other "non-reading" noises they have to go to another part of the room and chill-out for a minute.

It takes a while to get parents and administrators to understand that Elementary students don't do anything quiet, so quiet reading is just a crazy thought.

But, once they see your students becoming passionate about reading, a little talking becomes a natural consequence of reading!

Getting Parents to Read

I also try to promote parents to model reading by inviting them into my classroom to read while the children are reading. I’ve had several parents come in and read everything from “People” magazine, the morning paper, or Clive Cussler's newest novel.

When students see you reading, they want to read.

I send home sticky-notes to any parents that come visit our room. That way they can continue to read and write at home.

I hope that you can take these ideas and use them in your classroom!

There is a huge 50% off sale going on now at! All of my downloadable teaching books are on sale. So, if you’ve been thinking about ordering something, now’s the time to do it!

I hope that you have enjoyed this newsletter. Please feel free to email it to friends and family who are teachers!

Also, don't forget to get your copy of my free new teacher handbook! It's full of great tips and tricks to make your year go great.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

See you next month!

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