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Character Education

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Digital Learning

One Word Resolution

 A new linky and a new idea just caught my eye: The One Word Resolution. Just.One.Word.  Sounds doable! No more lists and checklists of soon to be forgotten lofty goals. I think I can do this!

My word: BREATHE!  That's it.

The secret to long life: Just keep breathing!
The key to controlling impulsive decisions (my downfall!): Take a deep breath, stand back, and think.
The best stress reducer: Deep calming yoga breaths.
The way to more easily get through a long or challenging assignment: Give yourself a breather and
       come back to it later, feeling refreshed.

Just breathe.....

Yep, that's how I'll be entering 2015. Breathing my way through it all.


The Gift of Time

How many times have our students heard, “Someday” when they ask, “When”? Max, a little anthropomorphic beaver in the picture book by Denise Brennan-Nelson, wants to spend some special times with different members of his family, but keeps hearing, “Someday”. He checks his calendar to sadly find no “Someday” anywhere. 

Here's a lesson that I loved writing, loved teaching, and loved even more when I saw the results of the student responses! This lesson is perfect for grades 3 through 6.  My friend Cindy and I, two newly retired elementary teachers, are so lucky to still have contact with kids every week, thanks to our wonderful teaching friends who invite us into their classrooms. We used this lesson with fourth graders. It met the standard for Writing: Text Types and Purposes (3. Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, 
and clear event sequences.) It met a much higher standard too - absolutely melted our hearts when the responses were shared!

The plan:
 1. Read and discuss the book Someday Is Not A Day of the Week

2. Talk about the special people in our lives and some of the special moments we've shared with them.  Encourage students to discuss in groups, adding lots of description and details about how that special time felt to each of them.

3. Use a graphic organizer for each student to brainstorm for the narrative writing piece. We compared that special time together to a gift that can be wrapped up and saved forever (the gift of time!). Here's the organizer we used, but your students can also draw  their own:

4. Using the graphic organizer as a guide, students write a narrative about that special time with that special person. The narrative can be between one and three paragraphs. It's meant to be a "snapshot" of a time, not a long writing piece. The most important part to stress here is the way the child felt during this time, demonstrating how much the experience meant to him/her. 

5. Students cut, decorate, and fold a little box to contain the memory writing piece. Here's our template, but actually any small cardboard box from home would work. Students can decorate the box or wrap with actual wrapping paper and ribbons. (When you see our results below, I think you'll want to use a card stock template and let students decorate with their own drawings!)

6. Students fold the writing piece small enough to fit in the box, holding the top closed with a sticker or very small piece of tape. 

7. If you decide to share responses in class, have some tissues ready! (for you!) 

Tissue Alert:
In two of the three fourth grade classes we visited, a child told us that the story was about a special time with Grandpa, who has since passed away, and the box containing the story was going to be a gift for Grandma! (Are you crying yet?) Melted my Grandma Heart!!! 
Cindy and I looked at each other, and our eyes filled with tears. We told each of those sweet grandchildren that we could imagine how that is going to be the best gift in the world for their grandmas. 

Some pictures from our lesson:


 This lesson is a small part of a Bullyproof Rainbow unit called "Gratitude Rocks". The amazing song "Gift in This Present" by the gifted Lessia Bonn is part of the unit. You might want to take a look at the unit if you loved this lesson!
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March 29: Linked up with Story Sunday. Click here for some other great ideas for motivating your readers!


Readers Gonna Read

Teachers, can we talk? What is the last really great book you have read? I know, I know... Who has time for reading? I have lesson plans to write, standards to justify, and piles of papers to grade! Not to mention shopping and cooking for my family, driving to my own kids'after-school activities.... And the list goes on and on. Actually, we could substitute "exercise" for "reading" and use this same all-purpose list! Do you wish you could find time for reading in your life? Here's why you should, and how to carve out a little time in each day to actually do it:  

Why should a teacher read?
*You should read because you deserve it! (Most important reason!) Reading is an escape from stress and daily duties - a chance to renew, relax, and perhaps even learn something new!
*You want to get your students to love reading and become lifelong readers. You do want that, right? Of course you do! Students learn much more from what they see us doing than from what we tell them they should do. If you are not a lifelong reader yourself, your lessons about the love of reading will not resonate the way they would if you already are the kind of reader you are asking your students to become.

 How to find time to live your life as a reader
*Look at reading as the pure pleasure that it can be, and promise yourself some reading time when another "must do" task is complete. Do one load of laundry and then read. Mark one set of papers and then read for 15 minutes, finish entering ALL your report card grades or online data and then grab an hour of guilt-free reading.
*Pull the shades or close the blinds in your classroom for 15 minutes of your "duty-free" lunch time. Put your feet up and sink into a good book. You know that if you venture out into the staff lounge or workroom, someone will find you with something for you to do.
*Give up one email checkpoint during the day and choose to read instead. The emails will still be there later. Read a professional book and call it "PD" if you're feeling even the tiniest bit guilty. *Read a book that you may be interested in as a read-aloud or as a recommendation for your students. Thoroughly enjoy it yourself first so that you can talk about it with passion and delight! Oh, and call it lesson planning if you need an excuse, because that's exactly what it is. Your having read it first will enrich that lesson immeasurably!
*Mark up your lesson plan book with formative assessment stopping points that you know kids can peer correct or self-correct and then reflect on. You do not have to let EVERY. SINGLE. PAPER pass through your golden hands. Students will retain information better if they have to actually think about why they have responded the way they did, and what they know about the concept. Use your paper-marking time at home (or on your prep period if you have one) that very day to read! You will be amazed at how much time can actually be freed up by putting some of the responsibility for assessment in the hands of your students!
*Join a book club in your class. Each time you switch book club units, randomly select a group that you will officially join. You need to prepare for that group in the same way that you have asked students to prepare, so of course you need to read that book! You may find yourself magically switching up some of the expectations too, once you experience them from the "other side"!
*Join a real-life book club with your "friends on the outside" - real, breathing grownups who enjoy reading. If you can't find an existing book club, start one! The conversation, laughter, and fun will become just an important part of your life as reading.'s a great excuse to eat chocolate and maybe even a little (just a little) wine.
*Start a professional book club at work, within your school or within your district. Ditto on the laughter and stimulation found in any adult book club!
*If you must, join an online book club. I've tried this a couple of times with professional reads, but couldn't type fast enough while eating chocolate and drinking wine. For book clubs, I prefer to be in the same room with my friends. Your choice, though...could you please pass the caramels?
*Book Clubs, no matter where or how you participate, keep you accountable. We're teachers! We never want to seem as though we aren't prepared, so of course we'll keep reading that book before the club meets!  

MOST IMPORTANT TAKE-AWAY Never ever ever ever ever keep reading a book you don't like. Never. Ever. Never ever ever....etc...ask a student to keep reading a book he/she does not like. There are far too many books and far too little time for that. In my opinion, reading a book that you do not like is the surest way to kill a love of reading, or to make sure that a love never grows in the first place!

Enough blog reading! Go grab a book! I am currently reading EVERYTHING Liane Moriarty has ever written. As she says, "I am meant to do this!" Love!

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For more blog posts about what real teachers really do, click here:


The Importance of Ameliaizing

I like to stay in touch with my students and their families after they leave my classroom. It's really a natural thing since we spend so much time together during our journey through the school year. What a pleasure it is to continue to watch the kids grow and to see the amazing teenagers and adults they become! I always love to hear from former students and their parents and share in the news of their transitions and milestones.  

Last year, I got a message from a mom just as the school year was getting started that her daughter had decorated all of her notebooks for her new school (a 5-6 upper elementary) in the style of Amelia's Notebook that we had come to refer to as "Ameliaizing". Although the notebooks looked beautiful, Mom was a bit concerned because, as she correctly pointed out, "Maybe they don't decorate their notebooks at your new school." Her daughter's confident answer: "Well, they should!"
Of course they should! Ameliaizing makes learning more fun and makes it stick in much the same way that the pages and responses in an interactive notebook make it stick.  Actually, a journal done with "Ameliaizing" is the ultimate Interactive Notebook, in my opinion!

What is "Ameliaizing", and how did I begin this journey?
While browsing in the bookstore one day (in the days before eBooks),I happened upon the very first Amelia's Notebook. I fell in love with the style of the amazing author immediately. Marissa Moss wrote that book as if it were written by a nine year old girl who was about to leave her home, school, and friends following her parents' divorce. The printing and the drawings, diagrams, arrows, highlights, and comments interlaced throughout the pages looked fourth-grade authentic to me.
       Of course, I had to buy the book along with copies for several of my friends. What a great model for journal writing! My brain was buzzing with ideas the more I read, and the more I thought about the  great connections and possibilities between the covers. Why not encourage kids to doodle, draw, and highlight in their journals? Why not make journaling a fun activity to  continue throughout life? 

       I started right away to use Amelia's Notebook as an example for journaling. Adding the color, drawings, and highlighting became a way of personalizing the assignment and making it more pleasant for all students. 

Some tips to make Ameliaizing work for you: 
  • Introduce the Amelia's Notebook series of books to your students as soon as possible!
  • Notice the way "Amelia" decorates her pages and discuss what the "Ameliaizing" does for the text. Does it draw the reader in? Does it help to further explain? Does it make reading more fun?
  • Decorate a notebook of your own and give students time to decorate theirs. I like to use the marble composition books for this, but spiral ones work just as well. 
  • Make sure that you inform parents of the new way your students will be creating their journals this year. 
  • Create a very simple rubric with your students to describe what each notebook page should look like.
  • Use the rubric as a grading tool if you must, but try to avoid grading at first. Instead, just comment on pages with sticky notes. Keep a checklist of whether the notebook assignment was completed each day or every other day or on whatever time schedule you prefer.
  • Scan, print, and post as many outstanding examples of great journal pages as your students create. Change your examples often so students always have great peer examples to guide them.
  • Don't require a whole page at first. It's a great relief to kids at first to know that they only need to write a couple of sentences or a half page at first, and can fill the rest of the page with drawings and diagrams.
  • As your students grow as writers, slowly increase the expectations of length up to a whole page. Many students will write two or three pages at a time before long, but don't make it a requirement.

    Here's a photo of my grown up student, now a sixth grader, with two of the notebooks she's designed for this year!

    If you just can't wait to get started on those notebooks, here's a freebie for you! Just click on the cover!

You may also want to click here for a look at my complete journal resource for the year:

To visit Marissa Moss's amazing website and find out what Amelia is up to lately, click on the image of her site map below!


Let's Have Some Fun

Anyone out there feeling nervous/ scared/ 
overwhelmed/ excited/ confused/ distressed/ insecure, 
and downright STRESSED about going back to school?  

Well, you're not alone!

Research proves that a good way to release some stress is to 

Here's a Rainbow City story that I hope will make you laugh:
     We had been listening to Bullyproof Music's song "Monkey in 
My Head" as we transitioned from class meeting time to math. After 
the mini-lesson, kids were working on problem solving in groups. 
A particularly energetic student could clearly be seen from across the 
room as not participating with his group. He appeared to be talking 
and laughing, disrupting his group and the one next to his. No one 
around him was able to get started on their task. As I approached him, 
he just flashed his amazing smile, pointed to his head, said, 
"Monkeys!"and shrugged. (Got right to work after that!)

To add some fun and humor to your math class, why not try 
CeeCee Math, a series of lessons about a little girl who is writing 
letters to your kids from her math class, asking for help with 

To get your own copy of that amazing Monkey Song, visit I Am Bullyproof Music on TpT!

The TpT Conference in Vegas

“Great with glitter, but takes the world’s worst pictures!” (My daughter’s latest description of me!)  My selfies are particularly bad, but I just can’t resist sharing some of  the fun I had last week at the first ever TpT Conference in Las Vegas!

Facebook and forums were buzzing for weeks before the conference with “What are you wearing?”, “What are you taking?”, “Want to meet up for dinner/drinks?”, and “Which sessions are you signed up for?”

As it turned out, the correct answers were: “Anything you like!”, “A paper notebook and a phone/camera.”, “Sure!”, and, “You can’t possibly make a bad choice!”. (Just in case you decide to attend next year - all answers provided way ahead of time!)

There were amazing celebrity sightings to be found wherever you turned, but the truly amazing part was that the TpT celebrities would stop for hugs and pictures over and over again. They never stopped smiling either, and those smiles came from the heart. How amazing also to meet in person formerly “imaginary friends”. People I had come to know from forum and Facebook conversations for the past two years were suddenly there and real! Making so many new friends was also exciting!

I have always attended teacher conferences with my BFF. We travel together, room together, attend sessions together, and process how we’ll use all we’ve learned together. We often present sessions together. (Wrote a book together awhile ago, too!) Although my wonderful hubby went to Vegas with me for this conference, I couldn’t take him to the sessions with me. Naturally, I felt a little alone and nervous walking into the keynote alone. That lasted about 5 seconds! Everyone in that room was a friend! Found a seat right away with an old FB friend and six brand new friends. This was repeated in every session. What a warm and welcoming group to be part of!

I did find that my decision to wear running shoes on conference day was the right one for me! Although the meeting rooms were fairly close together, it was a long walk through the hotel to get there!

Highlights for me:
Being able to thank Paul in person for the organization that he founded, making it possible for me to reach farther beyond my classroom than I could have ever imagined.

Meeting Amy in person, and watching her stop for endless hugs all day!

Dinner with TpT friends who now are friends for real.

Sessions packed with more fun and more valuable information than my brain can hold.

Some extra fun time in Vegas with hubby when the conference was over.

If you’re a seller and thinking about whether you should attend next year, the correct answer is YES!
Suggested footwear:

My shoes are the cool yellow ones! They go with everything!

Don’t hesitate for a minute.
If you’d like to be a seller on TpT, just follow this link:
Become a seller on Teachers pay Teachers!

See you at next year's conference!


A Great Deal for the New School Year

I have teamed up with Educents with some instant downloads for you! It includes a full years worth of activities for your 4th, 5th, and 6th classroom!  So exciting because it's stuff for now, in a few months from now, and all the way through the end of the school year!  Check it out below!  

My two products included will surely be loved by your students!  

For a limited time it is $15.99 from Educents, which is about 78% off - if purchased separately would be $74!  21 instant downloads with 38 different products sold separately! And almost 600 pages of materials you can use all year... it's hard to go wrong!


Memories of Lessons Learned

     It all started at the end of the school year. My students were helping me take down our posters and displays, and they were clamoring for the quote posters that were hanging over my desk.

      I have quoted Maya Angelou to my students for more years than I can remember.  Her unique perspective on life has so often described to perfection exactly what I was trying to encourage in my students.  Just about anyone who has ever spent time in my classroom, upon hearing, "When you know better..." will respond with, "You do better!"  This year, I made some colorful posters of some of her wisdom to share on the bulletin board above my desk, to inspire my students and myself.  The huge demand for those posters in particular took me by surprise as I divvied up the memories with my kids during the biggest cleanup of all! I retired at the end of this year, so everything was up for grabs!     

      I couldn’t decide how to fairly share the posters. I could place them in my end of year auction, I could pull student names or numbers at random, or…. Wait! I had an idea! I would make all of the Maya Angelou quotes (the most popular) into miniposters. I came home and got to work. Since there were three Angelou quotes on the board, I added a fourth and this product was born!

      I was so excited to share the miniposters with all who wanted them to display in their bedrooms or scrapbooks. While printing the posters, I remembered that I needed thank you notes for all of the end of year teacher gifts that I had received, and decided to make note cards out of my favorite quote.

      Then I started to think that all of the quotes would make great note cards to use throughout the year to let a student know that a change in attitude or behavior, an act of kindness, or reaching for a goal was noticed. This is how my little overnight miniposter project grew to include full size posters, miniposters, and notecards, both printed and blank, in full color and grayscale.

      I hope you will love sharing this resource with your class as much as I have loved sharing it with mine!  For a FREE sample of this newest resource from Rainbow City Learning, click here:

Maya Angelou Miniposters

     As you prepare for a bright and shiny new school year, click here to add the full resource to your toolkit:

 Maya Angelou Notes, Quotes, Posters, and Cards

For more free ideas as you stock up this summer weekend, click here!
The Primary Gal

And teachers, remember that you are always a rainbow in someone's cloud!

A Rock Star Finish

      It was a star-studded week during the final week of class in Rainbow City! Rock Star Students walked the red carpet to receive praise for a job well done! Rock Star Students are those who live up their promise in academics and behavior every day in school. I used my Rock Star Student Reward Cards all year in class to reinforce the positive behaviors that lead to success as a student. Students collected these cute little cards on a special page in their data folders.
    As the year wound down, it was time to reward students with a red carpet event! The total rock stars who earned every card, spelling out ROCK STAR, received handmade trophy awards, while every student in my class received a certificate and a compliment card. It wasn’t hard to think of a reason to recognize every student in my class this year.

    Here’s how I did it:

    To prep for the big event:
      *Purchased balloon weights and star wire garlands (available in  
       craft stores, dollar stores, and card shops).      
    *I printed, laminated, and cut the star awards.
       *I Cut one garland of star wire into nine inch lengths for each 
        award. Next I twisted each strand around the top of
        the balloon weight and attached the star award to the star  
        wire with clear tape.
       * I printed and personalized a certificate for every child in my 
       * I printed and cut apart a class set of compliment fan cards.
      On the big day:
    I had each student in my class randomly select another student  
       to write a compliment fan card for.
    To get the party started:
        *Decided to forgo snacks for this one because kids were already
         getting sugared up by all the other extracurricular clubs and 
         summer birthday kids offering ice cream, pizza, cookies,  
         cupcakes, and candy.

     *I rolled out the red carpet! (I used red roll craft paper. Fabric  
        can also be used.)
      *I first called each Rock Star Student in turn to walk the red   
       carpet and receive an award and a certificate. I made a short
       impromptu speech about something specific that makes this
       student a rock star and then had the holder of the compliment card
       for that student add their sweet comment.
      *Snapped a picture of the awardee to send to parents.
      *Awarded certificates and compliment cards to all remaining  
       students. Everyone had at least one shining
        moment to recall!

    It was a perfect finish to a close to perfect year! My students really were motivated to work for those Rock Star Student cards all year, and our reward ceremony provided the grand finale. I am so excited to share the awards resource with you for free this weekend, and hope you will take a look at my Rock Star Students Resource as you stock up for the new school year ahead!

                                          Click to get your free Awards resource!          

                         To get a head start on next year's positive behavior plan, Click here:

                                                  Rock Star Students

Rock on, teachers!   

Celebrating the End of the Year

So excited to be included in the Teachers pay Teachers blog post this week! Lots of great end-of-year stories! Celebrate the Good in Goodbye with us!

May The 4th Be With You!

I'm joining up with some blogging buddies to share some special surprises with you just on May 4th!  Each of these popular items from Rainbow City Learning on TpT will be reduced by 1/4 (25%) on May 4th only.

The first gift for you to unwrap comes just in time for Mother’s Day!
Mother’s Day Moments is a sweet collection of template poetry, free verse, craftivity, and coloring page all designed to honor Mom, Grandma, or that special caregiver in the life of each of your students.
My students like to fold a large sheet of construction paper, select two of the writing pieces or poems or a coloring page and a writing page to make a giant Mother’s Day card.

The second special surprise is my STEM Journal, which can be used with any STEM activity. It keeps students focused and accountable while working on the fun hands-on activities of STEM. Here you see one of my groups of little engineers leaning in to collaborate on a page in their journals.



The third resource selected for you is my Performance Assessment for Adventure Book Clubs, a rigorous yet fun way for students to enjoy a great book together and show what they have learned. Here are some pics of student work in progress.


And finally, a great way to reward your students for having a year with rockin’ behavior and achievement! My Rock Star Students resource will also be on sale for the 4th of May! Catch your students being good and reward them with a red carpet year-end party! We haven't had the party yet, but come back to see photos of my little rock stars in June!