Monday, November 23, 2015

6 Reasons to Use Reader's Theatre in Your Classroom

Reader's Theatre: not just for beginning readers! 

I just love using reader's theatre in my classroom! Reader's theatre is defined as a group of readers who "perform" a grade-level text for an audience, usually without scenery, props, costumes, and most importantly, without the stress and pressure of students memorizing their lines.

Here are 6 reasons why you should be using reader's theatre in your classroom too!

1. Increases Reading Fluency

Research shows that students who read with fluency have better comprehension of the texts they read. Reader's theatre scripts help increase oral reading fluency as students need to practice their parts numerous times before they perform them to their audience.

2. Encourages Reluctant Readers

You will find that reader's theatre is a great motivation for your lowest readers. Mine tend to choose to take on major roles (narrator, main characters) and have truly risen to the occasion. Seeing their faces when they perform in front of their peers and their grown ups makes my teacher heart soar! I've even had a few parents come up to me after the performance, thanking me for helping to build their child's confidence.

3. Encourages Fluent Readers

Fluent readers benefit too, as they can focus on the expression in their dialogue and are able to dig deeper when exploring the genre and their characters.

4. Allows Students to Perform and Practice Public Speaking Skills

Do you have any actors and actresses in your class? Or maybe you do, but they just haven't been discovered yet! Reader's theatre allows students to be dramatic and "ham it up" in front of their classmates and grown ups. We also used our performances as an opportunity for students to practice projecting their voices and not holding their scripts in front of their faces!

5. Increases Student Focus and Engagement

In order for reader's theatre to be successful, all readers in the group need to be paying attention, ready to read when it's their turn. Nobody wants to be put on the spot when they aren't ready to say their lines.

6. It's Easy and Fun!

OK, so I know that sounds like a weak reason, but really it's not. Who has time to create scenery, costumes and props for a play? I sure don't! Reader's theatre is super easy to implement. You'll also find your students are so excited to perform their script in front of their audience. It's so fun to watch your class take ownership and lead their groups through the performances.

Now that we know why, let's talk about how.

I typically take about a week and a half for our reader's theatre unit. I like to use reader's theatre at the end of the school year (when teaching seems more like crowd control) due to reason number 5 above :) Here's a brief breakdown on how I implement it:


I first start by introducing the drama genre and the characteristics of the genre. I consulted a friend of mine, who is a theatre director at my local high school for a list of characteristics. I was also fortunate to have a student this year who performs in the plays at the local chidren's playhouse, so I let her do most of the talking :)


Then we talk about the difference between a play and reader's theatre. I introduced the four scripts we were going to use and gave a brief synopsis of each. Then I picked names at random for students to choose their parts.


We discuss the importance of fluency and expression and using a loud, sharing voice (level 4 voice in my room). We also talk about making sure you're following along when it's not your turn to speak, so that you are ready when it IS your turn.

DAYS 4-8ish

Then it's time to practice! I assigned each group a corner of the room. We practiced two times a day for 5 days. I also let them read their parts in the script during Read to Self. Gauge your class to see if you need more or fewer days to practice.

A few days before the performance, we sent out invitations. We invited our families to come in to see us perform.
Click HERE if you want a freebie copy of the invite


On the day of the performance, we decided on the order in which the plays would be performed. I just picked student names at random, and if I picked a group member's name, then that whole group would go. I set up the chairs at the front of my classroom. Students picked a chair ahead of time, so that there wouldn't be any confusion or two kids going for the same chair. Before our families came, I pushed all the desks to the back of my classroom and pulled as many chairs as I could for the grown ups. Then my students sat on the floor in front of them.

The trickiest part of implementing reader's theatre... finding reader's theatre scripts that are appropriate for your readers. I've found that most reader's theatre scripts are meant for beginning readers (K-1) who are working on fluency and expression. And the ones that are written at the 2nd-3rd grade reading levels are ridiculously long! I bought a 2-3 grade reader's theatre kit and each script was about 10-15 minutes to perform. Multiply that by the 4-5 groups I have.... #aintnobodygottimeforthat And not only that, but the scripts were super boring.

So last year I decided to write my own!
I love that these scripts take approximately 4-5 minutes to perform, are funny and engaging, and the storylines are relevant to what our students are experiencing and are interested in. You can see all my reader's theatre scripts in my TpT store HERE!

Do you use reader's theatre in your classroom? Tell me about your experiences in the comments below!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

12 Books of Christmas: Freebies, Blog Hop & Giveaway!

I'm excited to be teaming up with 11 other AMAZING bloggers to share some of our favorite Christmas and holiday books in a fun 12 Books of Christmas Blog Hop!
Along with FREEBIES for each book, we are also giving away a copy of each book. Make sure you read all the way to the end of this post to find out how to WIN!
For my book, I chose The Smallest Gift of Christmas by Peter H. Reynolds. I just LOVE Peter H. Reynolds' books: Going Places, Ish, The Dot, The North Star... the list goes on and on! I love that his storytelling is simplistic, yet the messages are so meaningful and easy for children to relate to. So when I saw he had a Christmas book, of course I had to jump on it!
The Smallest Gift of Christmas is about a boy named Roland who is so excited for Christmas! He races downstairs on Christmas morning to find a gift that is, in his opinion, too small. He wishes for a something bigger, and bigger, and BIGGER! He eventually blasts off in a rocket ship, looking for his BIG gift in outer space. As he looks out the window, he sees the Earth getting smaller and smaller, and realizes that the best gift is not actually a gift; it's his home.

One of my favorite things about this book is its size. It measures about 5 inches by 5.5 inches. It's like a small gift in itself :) I put the book under my document camera to make sure my students are able to see the amazing illustrations while I read it.
I use an interactive read aloud daily in my classroom, so my freebie includes questions and discussion prompts you can use while you're reading the book. You can either write them on your own sticky notes or attach sticky notes to a piece of copy paper, run in through your printer, and VOILA! You'll have the prompts printed right on the sticky notes!

Understanding character traits and how characters change throughout a text is HUGE in the Common Core, so I've also included an activity for students to write their thinking about how Roland changes in the story, as well as the theme/message and author's craft. ENJOY!!
 Thanks so much for stopping by! Before you hop onto see my sweet friend, Amanda over at Teaching Maddeness, don't forget to grab my number! Each blogger will have a number at the end of his/her post. Collect all the numbers along the way, and when you're done, add them all up and enter the total number in the Rafflecopter below!
Click on the image above to head over to Amanda's blog!

Happy hopping!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

I'm a Third Grade Teacher!!

If you follow me on Instagram, this isn't news to you. But I figured I should probably make this "blog official," seeing as we're 50 days into my school year. <<sarcasm intended>>

Back in July, my husband was offered and accepted a new position as the head principal of a high school of 1,600 students. While this was an amazing opportunity for all of us, it also came with some sad news: I would have to quit my job and we'd have to move. All of these life changes were unfolding right around the TpT conference in Vegas, so I apologize to anyone who was stuck listening to my sob story!! I'm normally not that emotional in real life! HA!

At first, I resigned to the fact I probably wouldn't be teaching this school year. I can't imagine many schools are looking for teachers six weeks before school starts. I had been in my previous position for 10 years, so I had no resume, cover letter, letters of reference, or anything else I'd need to get a new job. But after about 2 weeks of feeling like I had no identity without my classroom, I knew I had to at least try to get a job.

Well, it took about 3 weeks, but I got job! I am teaching third grade at an amazing school in the same district as my husband. I'm still unpacking boxes in my classroom and trying to figure out my new space (hence the lack of a "classroom reveal" blog post this year). But here are a few photos of my new classroom:
So far I'm loving third grade! Although, when people ask me what I teach, I have to make a conscious effort to say "third grade." In fact, it still sounds a little weird coming out of my mouth. And I may have sent my kids out to recess at the wrong time on the first day of school because I was looking at the second grade schedule :)

Hippo Hooray for Third Grade?!

Nope! My blog name is going to be staying the same. I always felt I was a more intermediate second grade teacher, rather than a primary second grade teacher anyway. My content will still be applicable to second grade, but I'll also be able to put a third grade spin on it. I'm really excited to begin blogging again. My new school is a Teacher's College Lab School, so trainers from New York come to my school to coach us and we get a first peek at the new reader's and writer's workshop Units of Study. I am learning SO much about workshop and learning how I can make it my own, and I can't wait to share it all with you.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

RECAP: Wisconsin Teacher Blogger Back to School BASH

A few weeks ago, Jessica from Mrs. Plemons' Kindergarten and I hosted a meet up for Wisconsin bloggers and TpT authors. Honestly, we were just hoping we wouldn't be the only ones in attendance! Haha!! So you can imagine how thrilled we were when we were joined by over 20 other amazing bloggers/TpTers at our event!
After introductions, we got our craft on! Everyone received a bottle of hand sanitizer, and we decorated the bottle with sharpies and ribbon. It was such a sweet and practical gift to take back to our classroom. Take that, Cold and Flu Season!
Along with all the fun and socializing, Jess and I wanted to make sure the event was worthwhile to our blogging and TpT lives. So we created a list of our Top 5 Blogging/TpT Tips and Top 5 Social Media Tips. It was so awesome to have conversations and collaborate with our peers!

Of course there was food:
And we even took a brain break with a Name that GoNoodle Champ contest, sponsored by our friends at GoNoodle!
  Jess and I were so fortunate to be supported by MANY generous donors for our giveaways!

We also had SIX grand prizes, thanks to our amazing donors: Tailwind, Kendra Scott, Teaching in the Tongass, and ESGI.
All in all, we had over $15,000 in giveaway prizes and swag! Everyone left a winner! It was truly an AMAZING outpouring of support for our event!

Our phenomenal group!

Knowing that not all of our friends would be able to join us, we want to give YOU, our awesome readers, to win something as well! We have TWO $25 gift certificates to Teacher Created Resources to give away! Enter through the Rafflecopter below. Giveaway ends at 11:59PM on Friday, September 11th.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

We truly had a blast connecting, collaborating, and sharing with each other. This is definitely going to be an annual event. Will you be joining us next year? We sure hope so!!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Independent Reading Routines: The Reading Spot

I'm struggling to stay above water at my new school and in my new grade level (YES! Many changes around here, but we'll have to save that story for another day!), but I just HAD to put my school work on hold for a few minutes to share this nugget of AWESOMENESS with you!

My new school is a Teacher's College Reading and Writing Workshop lab school. I am amazed by the amount of trainings and resources we have at our fingertips, and I am beyond excited to jump into the deep end of that pool! But coming from a Daily 5 mindset, there are a few new routines I need to wrap my head around.

I've been meeting with my instructional coach, and we've been discussing establishing routines for independent reading time. Yesterday she suggested that my students choose a "reading spot" and sit that spot for the whole month.

My first thought was, WHAT?! When I did Daily 5, my students chose a new spot for Read to Self every day. Wouldn't I be taking away student choice and ownership?? Besides, everyone needs a change of scenery every now and then. What if they didn't want to sit in that spot the next day? Also I don't have enough reading pillows and carpet squares for everyone to have one. So how will I make the use of those fun reading materials fair?

But, I went along with her suggestion despite my reservations. She's an expert after all, right?

Well, it didn't take me more that 3 minutes of my instructional coach teaching my mini lesson to realize that this idea is GENIUS!
Think about where you read/work at home. I'm usually parked in the same spot on the couch in my living room when I'm reading. Do I find a new spot every time I sit down to read? Usually not... unless one of my kids is being distracting!

We picked students' names at random, they grabbed a reading pillow or carpet square if desired and available, and then chose their spots. I wrote down everyone's spot, even down to what color pillow they will be using. This will be especially helpful if there is a sub in my room and someone tries to pull a fast one :) We practiced several times setting up and cleaning up. My students were able to get ready for reading and clean up in less than 45 seconds for each transition!
There was no arguing over the pillows. There was no racing to sit by certain people. There wasn't any wandering around the room, wondering where to sit. No more wasting time "getting started right away."

They got their book boxes and pillow/carpet square, went to their spots, and got down to business.

In less than 45 seconds.


We were focused on reading during independent reading time. Not trying to hide behind a bookshelf for the 37th time and then me having to talk to the student like it's the first time I've had to tell them that.
I did tell my students that if there was a day that they wanted to sit in their desks instead of their spots, that's fine. So their options are their reading spot or their desks. That's it.

I wrote down the names of the last three students that chose spots. They will go first next month. Each month we will choose a new reading spot.

Semi-permanent reading spots are here to STAY in my classroom! What do you think? Will you give it a try?

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Daily Lesson Objectives: More Than Just Wallpaper in your Classroom

How many of you display your daily objectives/learning targets in your class?

I'm thinking many of you do. Here's a snippet of my Goals Board. I sectioned off part of my front board with washi tape and put up these cute subject cards. Yes, normally I have goals written on it, but this photo was taken before my Open House last year.
So you have your objectives displayed. But then what? Maybe before your lesson, you read the objective aloud to your students?

I used to do that. And then one day, I took a hard look at my students while I was reading my objective. Guess what I saw?

A whole lot of blank faces. 
Maybe there were two or three kids really listening. You know those few kids. The ones who are angels and are always listening no matter what. But two or three out of 22 students is NOT a good percentage. This was not going to work!

How can I make my lesson objectives board more than just wallpaper in my classroom?

I made a change. I still read my objective to my students. Sometimes I have them read with me. But before I dive into my lesson, I make my students interact with the lesson objective. This makes them active, engaged learners right from the get-go. It also gets them thinking about what they'll be learning during the lesson. Here are some strategies I use when introducing my learning target at the beginning my lesson:
This works great for third grade and up. I tried this with my second graders one year, and while they could do it, it did take them longer than I would've liked. When we are interacting with the goal, I try to keep it short and sweet. But writing the goal helps to solidify it in your students' brains. You can have your students write the goal in their notebooks.

We do a lot of this in my second grade class.  I type up all my unit objectives, and my students glue them their notebooks. We read the learning target together, and then we work to pick out the important words to either highlight or underline. Underlining is faster, but highlighting stands out more. If your kids don't have highlighters (or they lose them like a few of my friends always do), I tell them to use a yellow marker.

This is a great strategy for getting students to think about what they already know about the objective. You can do this a few ways: Thumb up, thumb to the side, thumb down; holding up fingers, or writing in their notebooks. When we use our interactive notebooks, my students give themselves a before learning rating right on the table of contents page in their notebooks. We use a 3, 2, 1 scale, with 3 being "I know many things about the learning target and could teach a friend."

My students are all assigned a "pair share buddy" that sits near them. That way, when it's time to turn and talk, they aren't spending the whole time looking for someone to talk to. Some things partnerships can talk about:
---Read the objective to each other
---Restate the objective in your own words
---What do you already know about the objective?
---What words don't you know? Maybe your partner can tell you what they mean!

These strategies are meant to be a spring board into the rest of your lesson. There are SO many other ways you can activate your students' prior knowledge and prime them for learning after you introduce your learning target. I try to keep this part of my lesson to less than three minutes.

Do your students interact with your learning goals? If not, I encourage you to give it a try this upcoming year!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Back to School GIVEAWAY!!

I hope you've all been enjoying the lazy days of summer! All good things must come to an end, though, but the GOOD NEWS is that the end of summer means the excitement of going back to school! I truly love Back to School season and getting everything ready for my new group of kiddos! I'm teaming up with some of my sweet friends to make going back to school even more exciting with a GIVEAWAY! Here's what's up for grabs:
Among all the great prizes, the lucky winner will receive the first quarter of my Mighty Math weekly formative assessments. You can choose the first, second, or third grade version. Here's what the second grade version looks like:

Check out who's all participating!

Enter the giveaway through the rafflecopter below. Giveaway ends on Friday!! Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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