by Shelley | Assessment, Copyright/Trademark, English/Language Arts, Financial Literacy for Teens, Google Classroom, Math, Novel Studies, Organization, Science, Social Studies
Here are a few of the most frequent questions that I am asked from buyers, and potential buyers, about my resources. Hopefully, you will find these answers helpful.
If you cannot find the answer to your question. Please email me directly.
If you still have questions, please email me directly.
by Shelley | Novel Studies, Organization
The funny thing about educational research is if you look hard enough you can usually find studies to support both sides of an issue. Very rarely do you find a straight yes or no answer to what is a good or bad theory or practice. Generally, it boils down to the common sense of the teacher in regards to his/her individual students and the level of freedom the teacher is given by the administration.
Sadly in today’s standardized test-heavy climate teachers are given less and less freedom to choose what is best for their students. So many curriculum guidelines have become so rigid that teachers are not able to modify or enrich with their own lessons and materials.
I struggled with this myself while teaching 4th grade. I taught in a high-poverty, low-scoring school. Most of my 4th graders could read at a 1st-2nd-grade level. Very few came to me over the years reading on grade level. The biggest challenge I had as a reading teacher was to get kids excited about reading. They saw it as such a challenge and our district used a basal series for reading instruction that was unrelatable and very boring! The students saw no reward for their challenge of getting through a story because the stories were so uninspiring and they had no emotional connection. I knew if I could “turn them on” to a book they would see more value in reading and see a “payback” so to speak.
Fortunately, I was blessed with a principal that valued my knowledge as a teacher and let me teach as I saw best for my students. I started with a read aloud time where the kids would get comfortable and I would read to them. Kids in the upper elementary grades don’t get read to enough in my opinion. It is reserved for the emergent readers of the primary grades. I chose high-interest, generally humorous books that the kids could just enjoy. I didn’t strive for any deep thinking for this activity. I just wanted the kids to experience reading as enjoyable. This turned into a favorite part of the school day for the students and for me.
Once I got my feet wet a bit in the classroom I started to develop novel studies for books where a short excerpt had been made in the basal. It is only common sense that reading the whole book is more enjoyable and leads to a much greater understanding by the student. Of course, I was careful to incorporate the skills taught in the basal in my units. I started teaching these novel units alongside the basal stories and the change between reading the basal versus the novel was amazing. I had kids who were reading at a 2nd-grade level actually focused and challenging themselves reading the chapter books that were at a 4th-grade reading level. They actually wanted to read them versus just getting through some worksheet assignment from the basal. More and more these lower-level readers were chiming in on class discussions about the books and picking up age-appropriate books by choice in their free time. As a teacher, I found it easier to use Bloom’s higher-order questions using a novel instead of a short excerpt because you could really dive so much farther into the story and the characters.
I see similar experiences with my own children when they are allowed to read a “real” book vs. a text-based short story. They’ve never come home from school excited about something they read in a basal, but they have many times come home and we’ve had lengthy discussions about novels that they are reading!
As for the sought-after test scores, I didn’t do any formal research on the subject but my student’s scores certainly did not drop and their love of reading soared! Sadly this is not a statistic that is looked at often enough.
Another huge benefit to novel study-based reading instruction is the ability to really enhance the student’s critical thinking skills by diving deep into character and plot development. Sadly, we are seeing fewer and less critical thinking-focused activities in the current “test-prep” atmosphere in schools today.
Maybe the most beneficial reason of all to use novels in the classroom is to really tap into the empathy and awareness that books can bring to students. By reading books, like Wonder and El Deafo students can learn about different disabilities and how people learn to live with and excel despite their disabilities. Books such as Number the Stars and Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes can be a great introduction to the Holocaust and the bombing of Hiroshima for elementary students. Hatchet and Esperanza Rising are great books to dive in with a character that faces and survives insurmountable odds. The One and Only Ivan helps students empathize and think about the impact that we humans have on the planet as a whole. These are just a few examples of how a novel can get students thinking deeply about issues that can motivate them to enact positive change in our world.
Using novel studies in the classroom can provide numerous benefits for students and can be a great way to enhance their learning experiences. The benefits of incorporating novel studies into your curriculum are:
- Improved Reading Skills: By reading and analyzing a novel, students can develop and improve their reading skills, including comprehension, critical thinking, and vocabulary.
- Cultural Awareness: Novels often reflect the culture and values of a specific time and place, allowing students to gain a better understanding of different perspectives and worldviews.
- Enhance Writing Skills: By writing essays and participating in class discussions, students can improve their writing and speaking skills.
- Encourage Empathy: By reading about and analyzing characters, students can develop empathy and learn to understand and relate to the experiences and perspectives of others.
- Promote Engagement: Novel studies can be a fun and engaging way for students to learn and can help foster a love of reading.
Incorporating novel studies into your curriculum can provide a multitude of benefits for your students and can enhance their learning experiences in many ways.
Are you interested in reading about and sharing ideas with other educators on using children’s literature in your classroom? My goal is to bring together teachers and homeschoolers who teach grades 3-8 and use novels with their students. I’d love for you to join me to learn, share, and grow together!
Click here or the image below to join my Facebook group, Book Talk with The Teaching Bank!
by Shelley | Assessment, English/Language Arts, Financial Literacy for Teens, Google Classroom, Novel Studies, Organization, Social Studies
Having your students there in front of you is obviously the ideal way to monitor their understanding of a topic, to see the need for differentiating the instruction, etc. There are days, however, where this just might not be possible. With more and more students having access to laptops and other devices the “free” snow-days of the past are being turned into E-Learning days more frequently in order to avoid adding days to the end of the school year.
Natural disasters are causing schools to close for short periods of time, for example, here in Nebraska many schools had to deal with flooding issues last spring and again in the fall which got a bit chaotic with school closings. Sometimes, it’s just the individual student missing out due to a short illness, to a student with an extended illness that prevents them from being in the classroom for a long period of time.
Another example is, homeschoolers might be using e-learning in their co-op groups/classes. There are many different reasons that we might not be able to be in front of our students in a literal way, but thanks to technology we can be in front of them in a virtual way during times of need.
As a curriculum writer, I try and incorporate as many choices and options as possible in my products. I know when I was teaching so many different things would come up and a simple textbook is just not designed to handle the changes and issues that come at you every day. My philosophy holds that ideally, a student will have that book in hand and be using as many of their senses to fully move that information from learning to knowledge. All of my products have a hands-on component that is printable and tangible that the student and teacher can work with together.
I also am a practical person and know that this ideal is not always possible so I have also added to almost all of my products a Google Drive format so the teacher has options. The Google Drive format covers all the same areas but can be done in a paperless environment using Google Drive (Slides and Forms).
The majority of my printable & Google format products are a mix of novel studies, social studies, and financial literacy materials. I also have a few ELA and Math centers that are interactive for Google Drive in addition to printable. In every download, you will find the full printable content as well as a page like this that contains links to add the Google format files to your Google Drive along with directions on how to do it.
Once you click that link your file will now appear in your Google Drive account. It is named “Copy of File Name”. You can easily change that to whatever you want it to be simply by clicking on the name box. From there you can assign the files to your students using Google Classroom.
How to use Novel Studies in an E-Learning Format?
For novel studies, your students will still need a copy of the novel to accompany the printable or Google Drive format of the novel study. With that copy, they can move through the novel study answering the comprehension questions, vocabulary activities, and extended writing activities all in the Google Slides, just as they can with the printable version. The teacher can monitor their progress in Google Classroom and I would suggest check-ins with small groups of students using platforms such as Google Talk (also known as Google Hangouts or Google Chat) or Zoom, to touch base with your students with a discussion of what they’ve read to make sure they are understanding the content and help them dig deeper in their understanding of the novel. This would be the same thing you would do with class discussions in the classroom, just using technology to cover the distance between you.
All of my novel studies contain assessments that can be completed in Google Forms. All of the multiple-choice comprehension and vocabulary assessments are self-grading which saves you a ton of time! The writing assessments can’t be in a self-grading format since they are not multiple choice in nature, but there are generally only one to two questions per assessment and can be turned in via Google Classroom for you to read and grade.
How to use Social Studies and Financial Literacy Activities in an E-Learning Format?
My social studies and financial literacy formats are very similar to the novel studies in Google format, however, there is no book or textbook needed to complete them. I include Webquest links for learning content and include slideshow presentations in all of my social studies materials to help the student gain the knowledge to complete the activities.
Again, Google Slides is used for the slideshows and for the completion of activities. Google Forms is incorporated in some of the financial literacy activities in the Escape Room activities to explore the content in addition to the Google Slides.
How to use ELA and Math Centers in an E-Learning Format?
All of the interactive ELA and Math Centers are completed in Google Slides. Students will manipulate the components to practice the skills. This can be monitored by the teacher in Google Classroom.
What can I do if my student doesn’t have access to equipment or the internet?
Most of us take for granted that we have access to computers/laptops and internet access at home. We know that there are some students where it is simply not accessible to them. In public schools, we have the obligation to provide equity for our students. If your school doesn’t have 1:1 capability or you have a student who does not have access at home again, all of my materials are also provided in a printable format within the same product download. All these activities are the same, just on paper instead of the computer. You can send these packets home with your students. To touch base you could try phone calls with those students or maybe something like Facetime or Skype if they have access to that via a parent cell phone. Again, the same content, just a different format.
Technology has given us so many options on how to work with our students. I am not an advocate for screentime for all learning as I feel very strongly that using all of our senses through reading, writing, manipulating, and discussing is the optimal way to learn, but there are times when this is not possible and I hope that my materials can help provide you with different options to utilize at various times when e-learning is called for.
Take a look at these free samples available in my store that contain both a printable and Google Drive™ format to help you get a feel for how it all works.
Sample from my Wonder Novel Study
Sample Social Studies Activity
You can find some tips in this post, Tips for Using Google Drive in Your Classroom, about how to more easily customize Google Drive products to better fit your individual needs.
by Shelley | Organization
Spring is in the air, the weather is changing and I know I am antsy to get outside so I can just imagine how antsy students cooped up in the classroom are feeling! Spring is not a time to sit inside and watch the world through the window! We all want to get out there and smell the lilacs! Alas, school is still in session so how do you keep your students still learning as their focus wanes?
• Allow students to earn additional free time outside. Join in! Play a class game of kickball and get in there and play with them!
• Take the class outside and find a quiet spot for silent or read aloud time. Some of my favorite teaching memories are sitting under the giant tree on the front lawn of the school and reading with my students.
Add more “get up and move activities” to your day.
These could include review games that allow the children to move.
Have students choose and set a goal for themselves to meet by the end of the school year to give them something individual to focus on and achieve.
Bring a focus on science by creating a community garden for your school.
Based on the resources, especially over the summer, this could consist of spring annuals for beauty or possibly vegetables for nourishment if the resources allow for it.
Some great sites to help come up with outdoor class ideas can be found here:
A community space that they beautify gives the students a sense of pride that they are leaving a legacy behind at their school.
Summer will be here before you know it, but take a little time to smell the spring flowers, enjoy nature, and play with your class to alleviate those antsy spring fever symptoms for all of you.
by Shelley | Google Classroom, Organization
There are many advantages to using technology in our classrooms today. Along with the pros, there are also the cons of glitches and user frustrations. I offer all of my novel studies and social studies products in a Google Drive format in addition to the printable format to help make it easier for teachers to use the technology that is available to them without having to develop all their own files.
Due to the newness of these formats, I often get technical questions from buyers. I decided to put together this blog post to answer the most frequent questions I get and provide a tutorial for how to manipulate the files to best fit individual needs.
How do I get the file into my Google Drive?
I do offer an instruction guide within each of my products. However, there are still some issues from time to time. The key thing that is missed is that the teacher is not logged into the Google Drive account where they want to house their newly purchased file. If an attempt to click the link within the product is made without being logged in often a message stating that they “need to request access to the file”. You should not need to request access from me at all after you’ve purchased your file, nor should your students need to request access if the directions have been followed. Usually, the fix for this is to simply make sure you are properly logged into your Google Drive and then click the file link. From there you can share via Google Classroom in the normal manner with no access request needed.
Make sure you are logged into your Google Drive and then click the link found in your resource on that page that looks like this:
A new tab will open with the force copy prompt.
Your file will now appear in your Google Drive account. It is named “Copy of File Name”. You can easily change that to whatever you want it to be simply by clicking into the name box.
How can I assign individual chapters or activities to students instead of the whole file?
I strive to create and share this work in the most efficient fashion that I can. For every Google file, I create there is a unique link. If I were to separate these out by chapters or activities you would have a PDF with so many links that it would cause a lot of confusion which is why for each unit there is generally only a single file link or a few for larger files broken into larger sections.
It is understandable that teachers would want the ability to tweak these files to best fit their needs when assigning to students. I get asked a lot about how to share just a single chapter with students for example. There is an easy way for you to create custom pieces to assign to your students from your master file. Below I have included the steps to follow to help guide you in customizing to meet your needs in a quick manner.
Once your master file has been placed into your Google Drive follow these steps:
The size dimensions shared above are for all of my novel study products. My social studies size dimensions can vary, with 12×12 being the most common. You can see what dimension your master file is set at (look at page setup) to know the right size for the file you are creating to avoid any distortion.
Hopefully, you will find these clarifications and tips helpful so that you can customize your files to best fit the needs of your students and classroom. If you have additional questions please reach out as I am happy to share tips and clarify anything that may be confusing. You can find my email address on the first page of every file you have downloaded from my store.
by Shelley | Organization
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!