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Celebrate Nebraska’s Birthday with a State Study!

Celebrate Nebraska’s Birthday with a State Study!

March 1st is Statehood Day in the state of Nebraska. We will be celebrating 152 years since officially becoming the 37th state on March 1, 1867!

I moved to Omaha, NE, for my first teaching job back in 1995. My assignment was 4th grade. The biggest part of the Social Studies curriculum for 4th grade is to teach Nebraska History. I had just moved to Nebraska, living here for only 2 months. Omaha was the only part of Nebraska I had ever been in! If you are familiar with a Nebraska map you will see that Omaha is on the extreme east side of the state, you don’t even need to drive through other areas of Nebraska to arrive in Omaha. You head over the Missouri River (Iowa border) on I-80 or I-29 and go directly into Omaha. So needless to say I did not have one bit of background knowledge of the state of Nebraska or its history!

In addition to a lack of personal experience, the district gave me ZERO resources to use to teach this curriculum, no textbooks, no informational books, no teachers manuals, nothing, zero, zip! So to say I really was not qualified or prepared to teach this required Social Studies curriculum is an understatement!

I made it through that first year, how I’m not quite sure? I learned about Nebraska right along with my students. The second year I was able to start to refine resources that I created and by the third year, it was looking even better. The silver lining of the experience is that by being given nothing I was able to refine my creating skills and have been able to utilize those skills with my The Teaching Bank adventures!

When my son was in 4th-grade his teacher contacted me asking if I had any resources to help with her Nebraska Unit. I enjoy sharing my resources with my children’s’ teachers and her email sparked an idea to create a product line using the materials I had created for my own classroom. I would have been in heaven to have something like this available my first year teaching! So with that my Complete Nebraska State Study Interactive Notebook Unit, was born!

I do understand that this product doesn’t have the widest audience, mainly Nebraska teachers! I created it with 11 distinct sections so that can be used in isolation or as a full year curriculum so that teachers can pick and choose to fit their needs. This also gave me the opportunity to offer the Lewis & Clark section and The Oregon Trail section as separate, stand-alone items to market to the wider US audience. You don’t have to be a Nebraska teacher to use either of those!

The unit is broken into the following sections:

Section 1: Nebraska Maps, covers Nebraska’s location within the United States, surrounding states, populous cities, regions, waterways/aquifer, and weather.

Section 2: Nebraska State Symbols & Government, covers Nebraska’s flag, seal, state symbols (bird, tree, etc), federal government representatives, state representatives, introduction to the Unicameral Legislature, and the steps of how a Bill becomes a law.

Section 3: Nebraska’s Notable People, Places, & Facts,  covers Nebraska’s notable people, places of interest, and fun facts about the state.

Section 4: Prehistoric Nebraska, covers Nebraska during the Prehistoric times. Activities include vocabulary, Ashfall Fossil Beds, animals in Nebraska during the Ice Age, and first humans in Nebraska.

Section 5: Native Americans of Nebraska, covers the tribes of Nebraska, the study of an Earthlodge, Earthlodge vs. Tipi comparison, and investigate the many uses of the bison.

Section 6: Lewis and Clark, covers the location and exploration of the Louisiana Purchase, map the journey of Lewis & Clark, investigate supplies needed for the journey, a timeline of the journey, journal the journey, and impact of the exploration. *This section is not Nebraska specific and can be used nationwide!

Section 7: The Oregon Trail, covers the first pioneer settlers, mapping the Oregon Trail, investigate reasons for traveling the Oregon Trail, research supplies needed for the journey, hardships endured, journal the journey, and the Mormon Trail. *This section is not Nebraska specific and can be used nationwide!

Section 8: Nebraska’s Road to Statehood, covers Nebraska’s road to statehood, including activities for the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the Homestead Act, housing on the prairie, life of a pioneer child, the impact of the railroad to NE, and NE becomes a state.

Section 9: The Age of Progressivism, covers how the issues (suffrage, prohibition, race relations, Native Americans, child labor, worker’s rights, election reforms, political reforms, and anti-monopoly reforms) during this time period affected the people of Nebraska.

Section 10: WWII and the Cold War, includes 2 informational articles along with activities touching on Nebraska’s role in World War II, the Cold War and the role of SAC and STRATCOM.

Section 11: Nebraska’s Major Industries, includes activities dealing with Nebraska’s major industries: crops, livestock, and other important NE industries.

All sections come in a printable Interactive Notebook format, a quick IntelliNotes™ format, and a digital Google Drive™ format.










Also included in each section is an informational slideshow to aid in instruction.


Click here to try out a sample activity from the unit.

All of these sections are available on their own so you can tailor it to your own classroom needs. You can also buy the entire unit together as one bundle at a reduced cost.

This can save you money and it includes everything you need to teach your entire state study for Nebraska. The alignment to the Nebraska 4th Grade Social Studies State Standards is included with every section to make planning even easier!

In creating my resources I made a conscious effort to use only historical images and clip art. I know there are a lot of resources out there that utilize cutesy type clip art in their history products with a goal to entice children into thinking it is “fun”.  I don’t subscribe to that line of thinking, especially when dealing with topics such as war, slavery, or genocide or in the depiction of indigenous people, enslaved people, or immigrants. I feel very strongly that using cartoonish imagery sends the wrong message to students preventing them from seeing the people and events as real and serious in nature.

You don’t have to make these topics “fun”, but you can very easily make these topics interesting through deep discussions.  Children are naturally empathetic and tolerant. It is a perfect time to tap into that empathy and tolerance as they learn of the atrocities of the past. This doesn’t need to be sensationalized or cutesy, these discussions of the events of the past taught in an honest and real depiction will engage the student interest. The deep discussions you have as you learn together will spark an understanding and appreciation for what has come before and hopefully will lead to the goal of learning this uncomfortable history, which is not to repeat it.

I hope this product can be the lifesaver for you that it would have been for me back in that first year of teaching! This covers everything that you need for the Nebraska study in an interactive way. Your students will be motivated, involved, and at the end have their very own Nebraska State Guide!

Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover with Because of Winn-Dixie

Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover with Because of Winn-Dixie

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo, is a sweet story about friendship and looking deeper than just the cover to see the true soul of a person. The story is a beautiful tale exploring the themes of loneliness, loss, grief, forgiveness, and acceptance. This is a wonderful book to use for a novel study, literature circles, book clubs, or individual study in the classroom or home school.

Because of Winn-Dixie was first published in 2000. The novel has been honored with numerous awards over the years including the 2001 Newbery Medal, the 2000 Josette Frank Award, and the 2003 Mark Twain Award.  In 2007, the National Education Association names Because of Winn-Dixie as one of its “Teachers’ Top 100 Books for Children”, and has been named in the top 20 of all-time children’s books by the School Library Journal.

Summary of Because of Winn-Dixie:

*From the book jacket

Making friends in a new town is never easy, but when Opal adopts a stray dog she names after the grocery store where she found him, she learns that friendship-and forgiveness-can sneak up on you like a sudden storm.



This is a great novel to accompany a study of:

  • The Civil War.
  • The problem of pet overpopulation.
  • Animal behavior.

I offer a complete novel study to accompany Because of Winn-Dixie for use in the classroom or homeschool. The unit includes both a printable format and a Google Drive™ format for use in a paperless classroom or with Google Classroom.

Because of Winn-Dixie is a warmhearted tale that combines humor, poignancy, sadness, friendship, and most of all, acceptance beyond what is skin-deep.

Setting up for a Sub in a Pinch!

Setting up for a Sub in a Pinch!

It’s the heart of winter here in Nebraska and with winter comes illness. You get sick, your students are sick, your own children are sick!  It is the season for a sub! We all know that it is almost more difficult to prepare for a sub and get everything back on track rather than just come to school sick and push through. 

For the health of the community, I ask you to please stay home, take care of yourself, yet be prepared for that inevitable day so that you can focus on getting well, not stressing about your classroom!

A little planning will do you and your sub a world of good, not to mention that classroom full of kids!

• One great thing to do for prep is to make sure you’ve stocked your classroom with games, puzzles, and stories for students and subs to read for a short quick lesson. Click here for some ideas for a “sub bag”. Have these items right there for your sub to have if he/she didn’t come as prepared as you’d hope.

• Leave a list of game ideas and writing prompts that the sub can pull from to fill the time. Click here for some quick time-filler activities.

Click here for some “No Lesson Plan” activities for your sub to utilize.

• Finally, one of the best places to go for a quick, no-cost lesson and prep for a sub is Teachers Pay Teachers. Click here to find FREE downloads for all your sub planning needs!

A little prep when you’re healthy can save you a lot of stress, frustration, and time when you’re not feeling 100%. Plus, your sub will thank you for taking that time to make their day as smooth as possible for your students!

Master Point of View with Because of Mr. Terupt

Master Point of View with Because of Mr. Terupt

Because of Mr. Terupt is Rob Buyea’s debut novel published in 2010. Buyea has skillfully conveyed the impact that an inspiring new teacher has on his fifth-grade class told through the individual voices of seven students.  This is a wonderful book to use when discussing the literary tool of point of view for a novel study, literature circles, book clubs, or individual study in the classroom or home school.

Mr. Terupt, a first-year teacher, utilizes an unconventional teaching style that reaches the most difficult students while also inspiring lessons about tolerance, self-advocacy, and responsibility. The book is written in clear, modern language and Buyea’s perception of each of the seven key personalities of the students shines through giving any reader a character to relate to and evolve with.

Summary of Because of Mr. Terupt:

*From the book jacket

It’s the start of fifth grade at Snow Hill School, and seven students find themselves thrown together in Mr. Terupt’s class.

  • Peter, the class clown
  • Jessica, the new girl
  • Luke, the brain
  • Alexia, the queen bee
  • Jeffrey, the slacker
  • Danielle, the pushover
  • Anna, the shy one

They don’t have much in common, and they’ve never gotten along. Not until a certain new teacher arrives and helps them to find the strength inside themselves-and in each other. But when Mr. Terupt suffers a terrible accident, will his students be able to remember the lessons he taught them? Or will their lives go back to the way they were before-before fifth grade and Mr. Terupt?


This is a great novel to spur deep emotional discussions from different points of view and lends itself to deep dive in the analysis of the text and the characters with lessons students can apply to their real lives in the murky life of fifth grade and middle school.

I offer a complete novel study to accompany Because of Mr. Terupt for use in the classroom or homeschool with a strong focus on point of view analysis. The unit includes both a printable format and a Google Drive™ format for use in a paperless classroom or with Google Classroom.

Because of Mr. Terupt is a thought-provoking, powerful story that will move even the most reluctant of readers to a place where they can relate, learn, and grow along with the characters.

How to Teach Novel Studies Part 5: Assessment

How to Teach Novel Studies Part 5: Assessment

Some of my most vivid childhood memories of school were the novel studies that we read for various subjects. It was my most favorite way to learn skills, history, any topic really! I am a lover of books and getting to read an entire book from cover to cover as a school assignment put me in heaven! I am sure this is a major reason why as a teacher my passion is to create and teach is novel studies! I love to introduce new books to students and as a community, get immersed in the book together. I love for a student to pull us off the schedule with a question or comment from something they read that leads the class in a lively discussion. That’s where the real memorable learning takes place after all!

Novel studies are my largest product line simply because I like to focus on what I love. I want to work with my passion! I often get questions from readers asking how I would set up novel studies in my classroom. I decided to write a small series explaining my methods.  For the most part, all of my novel studies include comprehension questions, vocabulary/grammar skill work, extension activities, and assessments.

Today’s post, part 5, is the conclusion of the series dealing with the assessment aspect of using novel studies. You can read part 1Part 2,  Part 3, and Part 4 here.

Novel Studies Part 5: Assessment

Assessment of a novel study can be a tricky thing to handle. My main objective, in addition to hitting skills, is to hook the student on the enjoyment of reading a good book. Too much assessment can kill that joy, but we need some way to assess that the skills have been met. It’s a delicate balance.

I often get questions from potential buyers asking if there are assessments after every chapter of my novel studies. I kind of cringe when I get these questions because I can only imagine the dread the students have if they are tested after every chapter! Testing is not the only way to assess if a student has read and understood. In my experience, class discussions and the writing in the comprehension answers is more than sufficient evidence of learning and understanding by the student. It is imperative when using novel studies not to lose focus and kill the joy of reading for your students! You want them to voluntarily choose to pick up another book to read when a novel study is over, not run as far as they can from books!

I do understand that assessments can be helpful and needed, but they need to be appropriate. For many of my novel studies, I only offer assessments at the end of the book for comprehension, vocabulary, and a writing essay question. I offer an end of the novel quiz in both a multiple choice or a short answer format for comprehension, a multiple choice format for vocabulary, and a writing assessment so that the teacher can choose which is most appropriate for their students. You can see an example of this from my Hatchet Novel Study.


I’ve switched up the format a little in other units such as Where the Red Fern Grows Novel Study that incorporates the comprehension and writing assessments into one format.



In some of my other novel studies, I have split the book into logical sections and have a comprehensive assessment after each particular section. My Wonder and Tuck Everlasting Novel Studies are created in this format.



All of my novel studies offer a Google Drive™ format to use with your students in addition to the printable format that is shown above. This allows you to use novel studies in a 1:1 classroom, to save paper, and to easily engage students that are absent. The assessments are included as multiple-choice questions in a Google Forms™ format so that they are self-grading. Here’s an example page from the Google Drive™ format of my A Wrinkle in Time Novel Study.



The key, in my opinion, is not to overdo the testing. You just need to be able to assess if the students are understanding what they are reading and that can easily be done in so many different ways that aren’t paper and pencil testing. Don’t kill the love the student is developing for the book you are reading!

I hope this series has been helpful to you in the planning to use novels in your classroom. I promise you will not be sorry and you may just be the spark that takes your student on a lifetime love of reading!

You can find  Where the Red Fern Grows Novel StudyWonder Novel Study, Hatchet Novel Study, Tuck Everlasting Novel Study, and A Wrinkle in Time Novel Study that are mentioned above in my store. I also offer over 90 titles ranging from grades 1 to 8 where I am sure you’ll find something to engage your class in some deep reading.









To read Part 1: Comprehension

To read Part 2: Vocabulary

Part 3: Pacing

Part 4: Extras!