Top 3 Animations for Sparking Imagination


It's Pixie Anne from Growing Little Learners here today to share with you my Top 3 short animations for Sparking Creativity when writing.

I love using short animations as a starting point when writing and as we have weekly creative/extended writing sessions which are largely independent - a chance to build writing stamina and for us to see how much of what we have taught is embedded (and because creative writing can be fun!), I am always on the lookout for new ideas. 

Animations are an obvious choice as they are rich visually, fun to watch and offer a lot of support when combined with plenty of talk and drama to help struggling writers and give reluctant writers a bit more inspiration!

Here are my Top 3 (at the moment!). It just so happens that all 3 are wordless which, in my opinion, is even better as it allows for more imagination and creativity.

 Click on the pictures to link to Vimeo where you can watch them all. 


This is my newest find. A sweet story of a girl who stumbles upon a bottle of bubbles and finds herself transported on an adventure! We blew bubbles and went on our own adventures this week. We wrote a letter  the little girl in the clip thanking her and telling her all about where we had been.


This poor little bird has no whistle! He finds so many people who do have a whistle on his journey to find one and eventually finds his own. We did a simple retelling following watching this in class.

What Goes on Above the Shelves in a Supermarket?

I love this animation and have used in as a starting point for so many types of writing: newspaper articles, character and setting descriptions, writing the dialogue and letters amongst others. The boy is in the candy aisle at the supermarket when he climbs the shelves. At the top he discovers a land made of candy! There is a great adventure with lots of action which the boys love.

I loved the worlds made of bread, computer games, vegetables, ice-creams, electronics and clothes that mine created and wrote about after watching this...

Which shelf would you climb?!

Do watch these clips and let me know if and how you use them in the classroom. They are all great for teaching other topics such as loneliness, friendship, perseverance, bravery etc. 

Please also let me know if you know of any other great animations I can share with my class!

Thanks for stopping by today!


Cause and Effect with Poetry

Happy National Poetry Month! It's Jen here from An Adventure in Literacy. There are just a few days left of Poetry Month. As quality educators, we know that poetry should be celebrated all year- not just in April. However, I thought I would end poetry month with some tips on using poetry to teach cause and effect.

Poems are short and simple. That makes them perfect for practicing cause and effect. Two of my favorite poets for elementary students are Jack Prelutsky and Shel Silverstein. They are classic poets that I enjoyed as a child and my students continue to love their poems each year. Kids enjoy and appreciate the humor and silliness in their poems.

In Jack Prelutsky's books there are a lot of short, four line poems. Many of these have a cause and effect that young readers can figure out easily. We create a chart of poetry cause and effect and add to it as we're reading the poems. Most of these poems are silly, so students really enjoy the fictional cause and effect scenarios.

You can also use longer poems to analyze different causes for one effect . "I Should Have Stayed in Bed Today" by Jack Prelutsky is a great poem to discuss the causes of why the boy thinks he should have stayed in bed.

If you're interested in more great teaching ideas for cause and effect be sure to check out Bex's post on Literacy Land. Do you have a favorite poem to use for cause and effect? Leave us a comment and let us know. 


Word Work Without Worksheets!


It's Jennifer from Stories and Songs in Second here to share one of those "fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants" lessons that worked wonders yesterday when the copier was broken and my SmartBoard light bulb blew out!

When technology decided not to be my best friend--on a Monday morning no less--I had to pull out my "old school" supplies and improvise our Word Work lesson using the format of a party game that I'd recently seen played on Ellen and had enjoyed with friends a few weeks back.

If you've never experienced Heads Up, it is well worth a ninety-nine cent app download on your phone!  There is also another free app called Charades Kids that has many school-appropriate categories like Dr. Seuss, Fairy Tales, Animal Kingdom, and Countries.

My paper version of the game was easy and quick to make, and provided a new and engaging way for my second graders to meet our new list of Spelling words for the week!  No pencils or worksheets were required, but lots of oral language, phonemic awareness, and word meaning skills were still reviewed and reinforced!

It took me about fifteen minutes to make my word cards from index cards, staple two sentence strips together to make a headband, and cut and attach a sandwich-size Ziploc bag "word pocket" to the front. Once I explained the rules to my group, we had a grand time playing the game together!  Some students even asked to use the materials during indoor recess!

I've pulled together a quick FREEBIE for you {HERE} in case you want to try your own version of this activity!  I've included a 8.5 x 11 template as well as smaller blank word templates that you can print and laminate multiple copies for reuse with dry erase markers!  I hope your students enjoy it!

As always, thanks for sharing my story!  Know that I wish you all the best as your school year winds to a close.  May you continue to teach your children well and share the
wonder of words without worksheets with them!


Reading Logs: A Parent's Perspective

Hi Literacy Land readers!  It is Lauren from Teacher Mom of Three.  Today I am going to try and take off my teacher hat and talk about reading logs from a parent point of view.   This post is an opinion post to generate thinking and discussion. 

The reading logs that I am discussing are the ones sent home to document a child's reading at home.  They usually are in chart or calendar form and require the parent or child to record the book title, pages read, and/or minutes read, as well as requiring a parent signature. Sometimes they are counted toward a reading grade or homework grade.

Now, a little preface to my post so you know from where I am come.  I have been a teacher for twenty-six years and a mom for twenty-two years.  Throughout my teaching career, I have utilized a reader's log in various forms over all grade levels as a classroom teacher and as a reading specialist.  As well, my oldest son is now twenty-two, and he was required to complete a reader's log throughout most of his school career.

There is no disputing that students of all ages need to read at home to become better readers.  You can call it reading practice, independent, or recreational reading.  We all know that to be a better reader, kids need to read.  A lot.  And they need to read both at school and at home.

Ok, now that I have put my parent hat back on, I will say that from my family's perspective, the reading log does not promote authentic reading, nor does it create life-long readers. But let me get to the why.

Why Reading Logs Should Not be Emphasized
  •  First, many times the completion of reading logs is tied to a reward, whether it is a grade or a prize.  Sometimes students are rewarded for the total number of minutes read.  In this case, the incentive is extrinsic, not intrinsic.  Intrinsic motivation creates lifelong reading,  Extrinsic motivation is short-term and the motivation to read becomes not about reading for enjoyment, but rather to earn an ice cream party or a good grade.
  • The log is usually a form of accountability to document whether students are reading at home for the required daily or weekly minutes.  I understand that teachers need some sort of accountability.  I also understand that not all students will complete the reading or have a log completed. Sometimes even teacher-moms forget.  At least this one does.  We get so caught up in the reading, that many days pass and no one can remember how many minutes Noah read last Tuesday.  All that Noah knows is that he finished his book and he can't wait to read the next one in the series.

        Donalyn Miller, author of The Book Whisperer, believes that students will read if you give them great books. She doesn't require her students to keep a log for at-home reading. Teachers must help students to find books that they can get totally engrossed in.  Books that the students want to take home.  Books that are of interest to the students and books that the student has chosen herself.  There's two points here that I want to make. 
  •  First, when students must document the minutes read or pages read, this can and does interfere with reading.  It sets up an artificial reading experience. not an authentic one.  Students and parents have to remember to set the timer, reading magically stops when the timer goes off, and someone has to document the minutes.  The reading experience can become tedious and frustrating.

  • Second, many researchers, including Miller and Kelly Gallagher, author of Readicide, emphasize that teachers must, must allow time for reading in the classroom throughout the day.  Both understand that for many students they may not have a support system at home to encourage reading or a parent available to sign the log.  When I taught middle school, many of the students came from single family homes with the parent working night shift.  The students had to remember to make arrangements for parents to sign the log before the due date. Seems like they should be responsible, but these same students were the ones caring for younger siblings and in charge of making dinner and other chores.  Sadly, reading was not a priority in the home.  Staying safe in high-crime neighborhoods and caring for younger siblings was the priority.  Reading logs aren't going to change that.

  • The goal of education is to create life-long learners and readers.  The log isn't going to do that either.  For my sons, they read because they find it interesting and enjoyable.  The reader's log gets in the way.  We end up estimating exactly how many minutes they read because I will not have them or me running to the timer.  I do not want to communicate to them that reading stops when the timer goes off or when you have read 10 pages.  It's unnatural in this setting.  Real readers don't set the timer.  Real readers read in bits and chunks throughout the day. I don't document every time my boys read.  I can't.
  • And the reason I can't is because very early in the school year, they got the impression that reading is about completing the log and racking up the minutes.  "I want to go the ice cream party".  "I want the special tickets".  No, I had to gently remind them.  This is not what reading is all about.  I want my discussions with my kids to be about the book, not how many minutes or pages they read.  We read for enjoyment and to learn not for recording minutes.

So in my house, the boys logs are completed each month, but I don't emphasize them.  My boys read much more than the required 15 minutes a night.  They read at breakfast, when they are bored, in their beds at night, in the car, and when their Lego magazines arrive in the mail.  The reader's log did not create these "wild" readers.  No, not at all.

Stay tuned for a second part to this topic where I will discuss my ideas for alternatives.

What are your thoughts as a parent and/or as a teacher?


Building Fluency for Struggling Readers with Reader's Theater

Hi everyone! It's Bex here from Reading and Writing Redhead!  I am here to share some information about how you can support your struggling readers and help them improve their fluency with Reader's Theater.

I mentioned Reader's Theater in a blog post last year called No More Robot Reading. Check it out here. Are you wondering -what is Reader's Theater?  In Reader's Theater, students do not memorize lines. They use scripts and practice using vocal expression to get the audience (or imagined audience) understanding the story rather then by using visuals like props and costumes. There are so many Reader's Theater resources out there, and many are free! I will share some with you at the end of this post.

Reader's Theater is a  great vehicle to get students to improve their  intonation, pausing, and inflection and to read with expression. I love using this with my RTI Tier 1 reading groups and there is such a wide variety of reading levels available in reader's theater scripts that I can use it with all readers-from struggling readers to those who need a challenge.

I found some great advice over at  Reading Rockets for using it. Some of Susan Finney's advice includes: Starting out with fun scripts (limit boring dialogue), you can model each character's part and match the character to which student would be best to read it (OR my thought is, after your students are comfortable with the concept of Reader's Theater, challenge your students by assigning them a part that they may not have gravitated to), and provide teacher support for vocabulary and understanding characters.

You can do so much with reader's theater - as the title of this post states,  it is terrific for practicing fluency, but you can do a TON with vocabulary and comprehension too!

Here are some resources for Reader's Theater.

Aaron Shepard has some amazing resources on his blog!
      Aaron's Tips for Using Reader's Theater
      Aaron's Free Reader's Theater Scripts
Timeless Teacher Tips' Links to Reader's Theater Scripts - an old site but useful: scroll down for links  to scripts
Giggle Poetry's Poetry Themed Reader Theater Scripts
Joanne Griffin's Reader's Theater Scripts
PBS Kids'  Scripts
A post from an elementary teacher with her tips on using Reader's Theater
Using Reader's Theater Scripts for Homework
Ideas from a New York Times Post if you would like to adapt prose yourself for RT


A Lesson with Tanny McGregor

Throughout the life of our Literacy Land blog we have posted several times about the lessons within the Comprehension Connections book by Tanny McGregor.  Her lessons have proven to make comprehension strategies "come alive" for my students.

Several months ago Tanny asked to do a lesson with my students....ummmm....YES!!!!

Her lesson centered around theme and my students left with a strong foundation of the meaning and purpose behind theme.  I go into great detail about the lesson and everything that took place over at Curious Firsties.

Within the lesson, Tanny used three different texts.  She called them "text cousins."
They were text cousins because they were each different but share the same possible or similar theme (much like cousins).  She explained this visually with a triangle and a heart.  The three texts make up the triangle and the heart is the "deeper" piece that they share.

She started with the poem.  The students heard the poem, read the poem about 2-3 times.  Then they had a quick discussion about the theme.  When Tanny moved on to the second text, Each Kindness, she used only the illustrations.  And not even all the illustrations.  Just a few of them.  Then students had a discussion about theme.  The third text used was Red.  Tanny read this story aloud and stopped briefly at certain points to discuss what was happening.  Then there was a discussion about the theme.

Now, there was much, much more to the lesson than this.  But the WAY that she used the texts sent me a powerful message.  And it got me thinking...

The lesson was probably 45ish minutes long (I was not watching the clock). Tanny used three different types of texts in one lesson within that time frame.  Each piece of text was provided so much meaning and connected well to the lesson.

The poem by Jeff Moss was short but immediately the students understood that someone was being left out, someone was being picked on, and someone was being mean.

I have no idea about the actual story from, Each Kindness, but we gathered quite a bit of information from the illustrations.  A quick discussion and some "turn and talk" time was completely sufficient for the students to make connections between the poem and illustrations.

The third text was read in its entirety.  Red was a beautiful story about the strength that children can have and it served as an excellent way to bring all three texts together.  But Tanny did not have to stop on each page and have a discussion for these connections to be made.  The story was powerful and clear enough on its own.

As I reflected on the lesson, materials, and pacing, I realized that I would not have thought to use multiple texts in one sitting, in one lesson.  I tend to use multiple sources over a period of days.  And I would never look at only a few illustrations from a picture book.  No way!! I would read the whole story, of course.

This lesson opened my eyes.

When planning lessons, I need to think outside my comfort zone.  Look at how I can make these text to text connections stronger for students by using multiple sources of information.  My teammate, Karen, decided that she could pair some nonfiction texts with fiction texts by merely using certain aspects of books (such as photographs, maps, or diagrams).  I will be sitting on this new learning for a little while.  I have a good feeling that it will be changing the way I approach lessons.

What are your thoughts?  Do any book pairs come to mind right away?


Centers for Upper Elementary Classrooms

Hi, it's Melissa from Don't Let the Teacher Stay Up Late! I know many of you are winding down your school year at this point. We are in full review mode here in Virginia with state tests right around the corner (3 weeks away - yikes!). With review time, I like to pull out centers for students to rotate through where we can touch on a variety of skills at different times. Here are a few tips for centers that don't take a ton of prep time and are valuable to the students at the same time.

1. Don't underestimate the value of a simple "Read to Self" station. I know it may seem like a cop-out, but studies have proven time and time again that having students read and make their own choices on what books they select is the most effective way to create life-long learners! Maybe have a nice, cozy reading area (if you have that luxury), or just get a few pillows. I just let them choose a place around the classroom. You'd be surprised how excited 4th graders get about reading under their desk. No money spent, and everyone is happy! I would say this is a MUST station, whether you have all children do it at once or include it in your rotations or both.

2. Games are okay! I have some fantastic Reading Comprehension board games from Edupress, and my students love them. We pull them out frequently. Each game includes a set of cards with short passages and multiple choice answers (so basically test-prep). I make the students hold on to cards that they answer correctly to see how well they are doing with the skill. This is an ideal center for this time of year when many students (and teachers) are burnt out on regular test prep passages and practice sets. I actually pull them out even more at this point.

3. Find Reading Centers on TPT or create your own. I have created centers for almost every month, and I print and laminate them to put in colorful folders for students to grab and use throughout the year. Yes, it takes a lot of prep at first (whether it's actually creating them or just putting them together after purchasing), but these are great ways to practice different skills that you are working on throughout the year, and there are TONS of great options online! I like to include a graphic organizer with my centers so I can monitor their progress.

4. Computers/Listen to Reading. It may sound "babyish" to have students listen to reading at this age, but they still love it and can benefit. See if your school has Tumblebooks or check with your local library. I also have used, which has popular picture books read by celebrities. You can also use this time for one of the MANY great websites (free or paid). We just recently started using Raz-Kids, which is well worth the money in my opinion! It has a great selection of short, leveled books for students to read (or even have read to them), and then they answer a few questions about the book at the end. Students can earn points for completing books and questions, and then they get to use the points for fun activities on the website!

5. Last, but not least, make wise choices with your teacher station. You may choose to do small groups or individual conferences. I would do a mix. My station almost never looks the same. During individual conferences, I am usually listening to a student read a book they selected, and then we discuss what they need to work on. However, I also pull students or groups to work on specific areas of weakness. We may go through a reading passage (I like to use, which is free) or read a book together and discuss it. Just make sure it is meaningful!

Of course, there are many other ways to run centers, but I like to stick with a few staples. I would recommend creating a pattern that your students are familiar with so they can settle into a routine quickly and easily!


Kindergarten Word Building...the Foundation That Never Fails!

Hello, this is Cathy from The W.I.S.E Owl.  As you know from my previous posts, I love Kindergarten.  It's the best!  There has been some request for some Kindergarten Word Building Ideas.  I have 3 for you today.

I'm not trying to start an argument, but I believe Kindergarten is the MOST IMPORTANT GRADE!  Tools provided to the student in Kindergarten are invaluable.  They are truly the foundation for all other skills to be built on.  With this in mind, each lesson is important.  Word Building is the culmination of letters and sounds and their relationship.  Here are 3 ideas for word building that can be done in whole group, small group, and even independent learning centers.
Vowel Posters

We use vowel posters in classroom with yellow backgrounds.  Not only is this visually easy for children to see, it will help with a future activity for word building (you'l see in number 3).

The first, and most supported activity is word building with CVC mats.  These mats are designed to help the earliest learner. These seasonal cards have the CVC picture with the letters at the top of the card.  Students need to rearrange the letters to spell the CVC words with magnet letters, letter tiles, or dry erase markers.  The emphasis is practicing the order of the sounds:  beginning, middle, and end.

Another idea for word building, is practice with CVC word puzzles. This CVC activity supports the student with choice.  The students are still asked to stretch the word and color the beginning, the middle, and the ending sounds.  The colored boxes spell the picture.  To create a clear connection to the classroom vowel posters, students are asked to color the vowel yellow.

Finally, the last activity includes a stoplight.  Students know about a stoplight.  Ask any kindergartner, "What does a red light mean?"  They will confidently tell you "STOP!"  Using that background knowledge, teach them to build words.  When stretching words, make sure you allow them to hear the beginning, middle, and end of the word.  When writing the sound representations, they will write the beginning, middle, and end.  BUT, the true value in Stoplight Writing is the yellow light. Just like we "slow down" for a yellow light, we need to "go slow" with our vowels.  "We have to go slow...they can really trick us."  Once we practice this in a whole group situation, it is put in a CVC center for independent practice.  Stoplight Cards can be laminated or put in pockets to be used with dry erase markers or magnet letters for mastery.

If you are interested in a FREEBIE of all 3 Word Building Activities, Click Here!

If you would like FREE Vowel Poster Set, CLICK HERE!


The Big Day....Testing

Hello Literacy Land Friends!  I'm Deniece from This Little Piggy Reads.  Is your school in Test Prep Mode, yet?  In Texas we have another round of testing next week.  

Personally, I believe that when testing season gets close, kids get anxious and begin to have testing anxiety.  Here are a few tips you, the classroom teacher can do to alleviate your student's stress.  

First and foremost, STAY CALM!  If the kids see you stressed out for the weeks leading up to the big test, they will be too.  

Another thing that my students enjoyed was when I brought in snacks the day prior to our test day and we just had a little down time.  Many of them spoke about their anxiety freely and I was able to reassure them.   

If you still have a week or two before the test, I would suggest having students complete a "2 Stars and a Wish" paper.  This would include 2 things they are sure they know and 1 thing they wish they understood better.  This might also give you an idea of what to cover right before the test to give that extra boost of confidence.

Of course you should do the normal a good breakfast, bring 2 pencils and get a good night's sleep.  But, I also reminded my students to take frequent breaks and if their hands got tired or sweaty to take a minute and grab onto the leg of their chair. The metal is cool and calms them down.   

If you would like some good luck notes for your kiddos, I have some free in my TpT Store, This Little Piggy Reads.