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Stone Soup

A few weeks back, we had a "Stone Soup" week in my classroom.  This was leading up to Thanksgiving (which, of course, occurs in October in Canada).  I really wanted to tie in the ideals of "thankfulness" and "gratitude" throughout the week.  


I started the lesson by introducing some vocabulary from the Marcia Brown version of "Stone Soup".  The class  did not know what book we were reading.  There were 4 words - one per chart paper.  Students were split into 4 groups and rotated carousel style, brainstorming ideas on each word.  Once we had discussed as a class, we moved on to a new task: Text Graffiti.  I saw a video about this on someone's blog recently, and can't remember where.  If you know the video, please let me know.  In this task - I selected 22 (one per student) lines from the story that didn't give away the "big idea".  Each line was taped to the centre of a paper.  Students sat down at a desk and read the line.  They then wrote any ideas about vocabulary, characters, setting, big idea or questions they had around the text.  They were not to put their name.  We did 4 rotations.  Looking back, I probably did not need to find 22 lines, but it did work well to provide everyone with different context clues.

Then, using the vocab words, and the text they had read students had to create a prediction of the story we were reading with justification.  Some thought we were reading "Shrek" (because of the term village), others invented stories about kings and soldiers.

Throughout the story, we paused to discuss story elements.  Afterward, students had to provide their thoughts about the "big idea" of the story.  Again, with justification.  To the right is a list of my favourites, which I typed up and shared with the class the next day.  We also worked on reflecting on goals of the lesson.  That part was a bit tricky for them.   


On Tuesday, we repeated the activity.  Again, I gave vocabulary words and we did the text graffiti activity.  This time, I used the "Stone Soup" version from Ann McGovern.  Student predictions were more accurate today as they had heard this version in a previous year, and they also were expecting the "Stone Soup" theme.   Below is my favourite piece of thinking from the text graffiti activity.  Student connections are so hilarious sometimes!


We had a big assembly with a special guest this day so no "Stone Soup" activities!


We read a third version of the story today: "Bone Button Borscht".  I really like these spin off books - shows so much creativity!  I hadn't ever heard of this version before.  I found a copy in our Public Library.  This story has a longer text and beautiful illustrations.  It's a nice combination of the two stories I had already read.  A stranger comes to town and tricks the towns people into creating the soup.  The entire town works together to make something delicious and has a huge celebration.

We didn't repeat the activity of previous days as we were short on time.  I think next year "Stone Soup Week" might become "Stone Soup 2 Weeks". 


On Friday, I read "Cactus Soup".  This Mexican version of the story is very similar to the Marcia Brown version.  Again, we just read the story.

Friday was the culmination of the activities.  Of course we had to make soup!  I had two wonderful parents come in to help out.  Students all brought in items for the soup.  I made pumpkin biscuits (with a pumpkin grown in a student's field) and another brought in homemade buns.  Yum!  We had so much food we ended up making two kinds: beef barley and cream of potato.  Throughout the morning 5 or 6 students at a time went to the foods room to help the moms peel, cut, stir and season.  The smells through the school were amazing!  We had so much extra soup, we shared with some of the other adults in the building.  There is currently 10 large Ziploc bags of soup in the freezer waiting for us on a cold winter day.  I think we will go skating on the school rink and then warm up with the soup leftovers.  I am so happy we made the soup - it brought us all together as classroom family.  Parents came in to eat as well.  It was a great event. 

Mrs. Nowell texted me this picture of her bowl of soup.  She got a stone!  Lucky lady.

A student had her cousin spend a few days with us that week.  Her cousin was from Switzerland.  We shared some amazing Swiss chocolate for desert.

Mrs. Holland, our principal, wrote us this thank you note.  Seriously, she has the best teacher printing ever.  I'm really jealous.

What did you do for Thanksgiving?
Check out my Pinterest Board for more great Stone Soup ideas!
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Using the 6+1 Traits of Writing

Today I'm talking about using the 6+1 Traits of Writing.  Why do I teach with the Traits?

  • It works perfectly with the B.C. Curriculum.  
  • Students get it.  
  • It breaks the writing process down into steps we can layer up all year.  

That means writing doesn't seem like such a large task.  And that means, kids will usually write more because they feel a whole lot less overwhelmed.  Sounds pretty good to me!

Here is the writing board in my classroom.  A large portion of it is taken up by my 6 Traits checklist.  As the year goes on, and we introduce new pieces, it fills up and serves as a giant criteria list.  The blank space to the left is where I add pieces specific to a current focus (figurative language, punctuation, etc.)

You don't need to have a board dedicated to the Traits if you teach with the Traits.  I do for two reasons:
1) I have the space.
2) It serves a giant checklist students can self assess their writing on that builds through the year as we learn new elements.
You'll often hear me say "just because we are working on -----, don't forget all the other pieces we already know".  A quick scan of the board and students know exactly what I'm looking for in their writing.


Why does it say "Use your writing VOICES?".  Well, VOICES is an acronym for the Traits.
V- Voice
O- Organization
I - Ideas
C- Conventions
E- Excellent Word Choice
S- Sentence Fluency
They are now promoting 6+1 Traits and the +1 is Presentation.  That didn't make it to my board.... but we do discuss it often.

When I was starting out with the Traits, I wasn't sure where to go for resources.  Here are some of my favourites to help you out:

"Using Picture Books to Teach Writing With the Traits" is an excellent resource.  Even though I teach grade 4, I still use it.  They give you a scripted lesson plan for every trait as well as several other picture books that fit the trait and how you could use them to inspire writing.  I use their examples and then extend on it for my bigger kids.
Here are my favourite picture book for for each trait:


The story of the 3 Little Pigs told through the Wolf's perspective.  Gives students a chance to think about the other side of things, and, it's funny.


Or any of the "If you Give a..." books.  I love how they are cyclic.  You really have to think ahead to write one of these stories.  Good cause and effect too.

Okay, I picked two for organization.  Scaredy books are organized in a different way.  I love all the charts and diagrams.  


This book is a favourite for many reasons.  It is so touching.  The boy in this story is searching for the answer to what a memory is.  So many beautiful answers are given to him.



This book uses two words.  Yo! and Yes?  You can talk about how the punctuation helps imply more language than is given.  I also like to teach inferring with this book.

Excellent Word Choice

Max collects words.  Although some of his words are basic, he collects some powerful ones as well.  The author uses descriptive language throughout this book.

Sentence Fluency

I like to teach sentence fluency with poetry, because Jack's poems have such a good flow.  They just roll off your tongue when you read them.  And, they are hilarious.

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Helping to inspire,

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Chalkboard Classroom Reveal!

Finally! Crystal and I have spent so much time in each others classrooms working to get them ready.  School starts on Tuesday and we are finally finished!  It's been so many hours of hard work, but they are beautiful.  I'm excited to share hers with you.  I'll post mine in a few days. 


Okay, I warned you.

Full Classroom View

 Crystal is going to be teaching grade 3 this year.  Her room is very much her style.  Clean lines.  Lots of primary colours.  Nothing cutesy.  Chalkboard.  I am very jealous of her large window.  She ordered the banner hanging in the window off Amazon.  We weren't expecting it to be so large.  It's seriously car lot banner.  Worked out well anyway.  It's hanging up with 3M clips.

Above the window is her word wall.  No words up yet.  You can also see her teacher area in the back.  She snagged the green chalkboard above her desk from a friend and turned it into a calendar.

View standing from the back.  You can see her chalkboards and a bit of her computer station.  She created her alphabet.  The pocket chart on the left has her schedule cards in it ready to go for the first day.  The chart on the right has her math and literacy station headers in it.  The schedule cards and station rotation cards can all be found in my TpT store.

 Literacy Area

This is her literacy board.  She has the CAFE headings up and ready to go.  She's also added chart paper to the board so that she can make and instantly display anchor charts.  The blank space is for a Good Writing poster I need to enlarge for her.

Boot Room Sign

 This is a Martha Stewart cork board from Staples.   Crystal busted into her stash and scrapbooked it up.  Looks awesome.

Supply Storage

Supply bins are from Really Good Stuff.  I've convinced her to go with group supplies like I do.  I hope she likes it.  Bins are stocked with markers, pencil crayons, scissors, and glue.

The grey Sterlite bins were stacked in the corner of her room where the reading corner now is.  They were PACKED full of manipulatives.  We pulled them all out, washed everything, and organized.  They are now safely seated on these shelves under her window.  

I love all the matching labels.  These are also Martha Stewart from Staples.  They are chalkboard, so you can just erase and rewrite if the contents changes.

Inside one bin.  Looks so pretty.  I love organization.

Reading Nook

Her reading corner.  I believe she has her eye on some red lawn chairs at Walmart to finish this off.  The "READ" letters are chipboard and covered in scrapbook paper.  The Dr. Seuss quote is cardstock and I cut it out on my Cricut.  These bins are also labeled with the erasable chalkboard Martha labels.

These foam clocks are from Michaels.  Crystal cut the headings out of cardstock on her Cricut.  I think these are great for grade 3 kids learning to tell time.  I find that there is so many digital things out there, it's becoming pretty difficult for kids to read analog.  Great reference!

Other Details

Have you filled a bucket today? This book is so popular!  We made this little nook in the corner of her room.  She is going to let her kids pin up bucket filling slips around the board.  The pieces are all cut out on the Cricut.  I created the clouds for her by cutting out several of the same cloud shape and gluing together.  They were initially going to hang from the ceiling, but they were a bit floppy for that.

Crystal's pencil wreath and handmade "Welcome" banner.  These are hanging just outside her classroom.  How welcoming!

And lastly, her hallway board.  This was completely Pinterest inspired.  People thought we were a crazy creating a board using velcro, hot glue and tin snips.  I say, they are the crazy ones for not doing one also.

Do you want to add the chalkboard theme to your classroom? Do this easily by picking up my chalkboard products today.   The image links to my mega bundle, but you can follow links from there to pick and choose individual items.

Chalkboard Mega Bundle from Fun in Fourth

Want more? I share some more of my chalkboard themed resources here as well.  Check it out.

Are you interested in even more bulletin board ideas? Do you want to save time by finding them all in one place? Follow the image or button below to grab your copy of my free bulletin board inspiration guide. 

Take me to the guide!

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Things to Do with Receipt Tape in the Classoom

Today I came across an unexpected find.  A local grocery store had ordered the wrong size of till tape, so they were throwing it away.  I scored a box of 50 rolls!  Immediately, I thought about using it for number lines, comic strips, and flip books.  But, I have 50 rolls.  What else shall I use it for?

After a Pinterest search, I came up with these ideas:

Breaking apart numbers. You could use the till tape for one portion, and construction paper for the other.

This is a crafty one! It would look lovely on the front of a poetry book or Mother's Day card.

Have you seen all those large quote of the day boards? This might be cute for a mini version!

Art journals or bookmarks.

This run on sentences activity looks like a ton of fun!

Teaching space? The pin uses toilet paper, but receipt tape would be the same.

Even the centers have a use! Great for a clay unit in the art room.

I also found this blog post.... no pictures though.  They suggest using it for timelines (duh!).  I can't believe I didn't think about that.  Adding to my explorers unit for sure!  They also suggest making roads for cars - cute!

Have another idea that isn't listed?  Leave it in the comments.  I'll be using this stuff for a while!

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Sub/TOC Binder

I'm slowly working on things to get ready for next year.  Yesterday, I printed out labels for the front of all student duotangs/notebooks.  Today, it's updating TOC folder.  (Teacher on Call.... you call them Sub's in the States).  Of course, before I could update my own, I decided to make a generic one to put on TpT.  So many teachers I speak to don't have one of these binders.  It makes my life so much easier and I'd like to think it makes the TOCs life easier too!

An easy, customizable way to keep your subtitute teacher informed.

This package includes colour and blackline masters of:
* Sub Binder Cover
* TOC Binder Cover
* Thank you for Coming
* People You May Need to Know
* School Procedures and Places
* Class Procedures
* Class List
*Students with Allergies or Medications
* IEP at a Glance
* Discipline
* Where to Find it
* Help!
* Schedule
* Contact Me
* Sub Notes
* TOC Notes

Teaching about British Columbia


A few months back I was asked by Mrs. D from "Reading with Mrs. D" to participate in her Booking Across Canada project. I, of course, gladly accepted!  Participants from nearly all provinces and territories have signed up to share a book featuring their province/territory and a lesson they've created inspired by that book.  

I immediately knew which book I would choose!

 "Combining evocative haiku, informative text and luminous illustrations, The West Is Calling is a celebration, for our youngest readers, of one hundred and fifty years of British Columbia's history. Each detail-rich illustration depicts a particular moment in the province's dynamic saga, from pre-contact Haida culture, to the natural resources-fueled economic boom in the 1960s and beyond, to Expo 86, to the opening up of the North and the growing appreciation of First Nations' traditions."
~Good Reads

 I've created the following lesson plan, which can be found on my TpT store.  This lesson sells for $2.50, but the first 3 people who comment here with their email address will receive it for free!




I wanted to leave you with a free resource as well..... this ties into the Social Studies mapping Prescribed Learning Outcomes for British Columbia in Grade 4.  

Last year, when reviewing the Canada map and exploring the Atlas's my students asked me what elevation was.  I tried to explain as best I could in several different ways, even bringing in a "bumpy globe", but they all seemed to think that B.C. went higher and higher up, to a point in the middle of the province.  To help with this misunderstanding, I decided we would make elevation maps of B.C. with playdough!

Here's the recipe I used:
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1 packet unsweetened Koolaid (more if you want a more vibrant color)
  • 3 TBSP oil
  • 1 cup boiling water
Combine flour, salt, oil and Kool-Aid powder. Add boiling water. Stir together. Knead mixture until it forms a soft dough. If dough is too sticky, add more flour. Mix well and play! Store in a sealed container.  
I love this recipe because it smells great (especially the orange) and doesn't stain hands or desks.  You'll have to make several batches.  I used the same colours as were shown in the elevation map in our school's Atlas for ease.  The top layer is brown, so I used cocoa powder instead here.  As for exact number of batches, it depends on the number of students you have.  I created 7 batches for the lowest elevation (as you'll use the most) and reduced by a batch for each layer from there.  This is A LOT of playdough. (I have 29 students.) Ask parents to help you out - I had many that were willing!  Any extras were donated to the kindergarten classes.

 I photocopied an outline of British Columbia onto blue cardstock.  Students followed the elevation map in the Atlas layering as accurately as they could.  As they progressed through the layers, the differences in elevations were very easy to see. Students found it best to flatten with their fingers, as this was a bit sticky to rolling pins.  They used plastic knives to help them shape.

 Lastly, I had them use toothpicks and paper flags to label the province, capital, our hometown, and another place of their choice!  You could get them to draw on the Alberta border, USA and Pacific ocean if you desire.

Barbara Reid Inspired Art

If you haven't heard of Barbara Reid before, you need to!  She writes and illustrates picture books.  The unique thing, is that she uses clay for all the pictures.  I had read her book "The Party" earlier in the year, because it's great for teaching students to make connections.

I started the lesson by reading another one of Barbara's books.  Then, I flipped through the pages of several under the document camera.  We paused here and there to discuss how she likely created a certain element, and the tools she probably used.

Check out that bunny! #adorable
Next, students were each given a blank paper and a CD case.  We created our clay designs inside the case so they could be closed up and taken home easily.  I had everyone trace the case size on the paper.  They then knew what area they had to work with.  A quick sketch of their plan was completed and quickly coloured.  This way, when they came to me at the rainbow table I knew exactly which colours of clay to give them, and how much of each.  We talked here about how to create colours that weren't available.  I saw some awesome lime greens, peaches and light blues!  

(A note - a sharp knife and cutting board will make your life so much happier when handing out clay!)


Proudly showing off his finished piece.

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