Greek Salad

I live in South Carolina where the weather changed from almost uncomfortably warm to hot and humid some time last week. During the oppressive heat season, the only foods that appeal to me are fresh and crunchy and light. As a result, we have been eating variations of a Greek salad quite a bit lately.

The reason I love the Greek salad so much is because of the dressing. When you search Greek salad dressing recipes, there are many options. I took a few recipes that were similar and combined parts using the herb combination I liked best. The finished dressing is tart and tastes great with steak or chicken. If you are looking for a light summer meal, put together a chopped Greek salad. Leave the dressing off and make some individual portions to bring to school or the office for your teacher or work lunch. Add the dressing when you are ready to eat.

Dressing Ingredients

  • 2 fresh garlic cloves, minced
  • ~1 t. salt (or to taste)
  • 1/2 t. freshly ground pepper
  • 1 t. Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 c. olive oil
  • 2 T. fresh lemon juice
  • 5 T. red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 t. dried basil leaves
  • 1 t. dried oregano leaves

Salad Ingredients

  • Romaine lettuce, chopped (enough for people you will be serving)
  • peeled cucumber, seeded and chopped
  • grape tomatoes halved or quartered
  • thinly sliced purple onion
  • crumbled feta cheese
  • grilled steak or chicken, thinly sliced
  • pita chips

Directions

  • Mix together dressing ingredients and shake in a jar or use a whisk to combine. Set aside.
  • Put chopped lettuce in a serving bowl. Top with cucumbers, tomatoes, and purple onion.
  • Mix salad dressing again if it has separated and pour over salad. Toss well until ingredients are covered evenly with dressing.
  • Sprinkle feta crumbles on top.
  • Serve with sliced meat and pita chips.

Notes

  • Other ingredients you could add are calamata olives or mild banana peppers.
  • I like my lettuce chopped into small pieces because I think it tastes better that way. The dressing really covers well.
  • This makes a great teacher lunch. Assemble in individually sized tupperware with the dressing on the side. Pour the dressing over when ready to serve, put the lid on firmly, and shake.

For more great salad options, read about my favorite FRIED CHICKEN SALAD or TACO SALAD.

Writing Tall Tale Short Stories

It’s the end of the school year. I don’t have time to start and finish a quality novel with my students and complete reading comprehension and writing activities to support good “thinking” about the book. We get interrupted often during the last few weeks of school, and I don’t have reliable blocks of time. To maintain continued reading instruction, I switched over to short stories. Tall tale short stories to be specific. They are hilarious, and we have loved every minute of it.

One of the key traits in a tall tale is the use of exaggeration or hyperbole. Hyperbole is used to solve the story problem in a funny way. To really cement the tall tale characteristics in the students’ minds, they are writing their own tall tales. We will add their creative stories to our end of year writing portfolio as the final writing piece. It will be the perfect fourth grade writing finale!

To get the students started, we brainstormed everyday problems students might have. The students had lots of ideas. There is the common problem of not wanting to do weekly chores at your house (inspired by Sarah Cynthia Silvia Stout by Shel Silverstein and Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books). We have school problems such as bookbags that are too heavy or teachers who give too much homework (inspired by A Fine, Fine School by Creech). We also discussed pet problems (inspired by Those Darn Squirrels! by Rubin).

Once students had a place to start, they completed THIS BRAINSTORMING PAGE to gather their ideas and map their story plot. Students identified key events in their story and then made choices about how they could exaggerate the events to create humor. Using a side by side chart to outline the story plot helped the students maintain a believable “voice” while writing. It reduced the likelihood of a story that was so ridiculous that the reader lost the meaning. I’ve been conferencing with the students, and while there are some stories that are more successful than others, most make me laugh out loud.

To download my tall tale creative story brainstorming page, a rubric, and lined paper that could be used to handwrite the story, CLICK HERE.

To see the tall tale stories we used and to purchase activity ideas for tall tales, CLICK HERE to visit my teacher store.

Extension Idea

  • We typed our essays in MS Word, so I was also able to incorporate a lesson on formatting a document. Students changed font and font size. They centered the title and changed the spacing to double space. They also added images and learned about wrapping text around an image.

Sentence Strip Timelines

 

Sentence strips have so many good classroom uses that go beyond simply practicing handwriting and beginning sentences. I use sentence strips in my classroom to create timelines. The paper Sentence Strips are a great length and width, and they already have a straight line printed on them.

One type of timeline we complete shows the years the various explorers reached the New World. Our textbook organizes the explorers by country, so students read about Marco Polo (Italy) first. Then, move over to Portugal, followed by lots of Spanish guys, and end with England, France, and the Netherlands. The format of the book makes it seem like Spain did all of this conquering and then other people sailed across the Atlantic and explored the northeast coast of North America and Canada last. I had my students create an explorer timeline, so we could see that after Marco Polo’s great journey, the explorers of the Americas were actually all sailing and conquering at about the same time.

Another type of timeline we made showed the span of events in a story. A few books we read take place over a short amount of time with a lot of action built in. In the sample above, students used clues in the novel, Danny the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl, to identify the exact time from the beginning of the story to the great pheasant hunt party at the end. It is nice for the students to visualize how quickly or slowly characters are solving a problem.

Story timelines are also a great tool when a story has a flashback element or the narrative order is different than the time order. The students can see the actual time of events and compare it to their reading. The Odyssey is a great example of a story that is told out of time order (in medias res), and it is easy to confuse the reader. I used the sentence strip timeline with 9th graders to summarize key events in time order of The Odyssey, and it was really helpful.

Building a Timeline

  • Gather your information in notes or a chart like this EXPLORER TIMELINE NOTES PAGE. Identify the first date and the last date that will appear on the timeline. Determine the time span and then add a few years before the first date and after the last date, so there will be space at the beginning and end of the timeline.

  • The sentence strips are 24″ in length. The next step is to determine the increments of time along the strip. This is the part that can confuse kids. Their first reaction is to list each event in order on evenly spaced lines, but the point of a timeline is to show how close or far apart events happened from each other. Your group will need to add, subtract, divide, and measure to determine the spacing and increments of time on your timeline. Creating the spacing on the timeline is great measuring and counting practice.
  • If you note that there is a break in activity for many years, you can jump over years using a dividing line. Create a “broken timeline” by drawing a wavy line indicating a jump over years. In the image below, you can see a break near the beginning and end of the strips where we had a span of years with no events. It allowed more space in the middle years to add information we needed.

The finished timelines give a great overview of a topic in history or key events in a story. It allows students to make generalizations about a topic and synthesize several pieces of information as well as incorporate math skills. Students need more practice reading charts, tables, and graphs, so they can draw conclusions about any data presented. When students are reviewing big chunks of information at the end of a unit of study, have them create a chart or table of some kind to help visualize similarities, differences, and recall big ideas.

 

Simple Teacher Appreciation Gift Idea

Next week is National Teacher Appreciation Week! Mark your calendars and shout out a thank you as you head through carpool line. If you want to do a little more to show some appreciation, you can borrow my idea. I always try to put together a small thank you gift for all of my children’s teachers, so they know that I do recognize the work they do each day. This year’s teacher appreciation sirsee is not too grand but remember that it does not have to be big or showy (or expensive) to be enjoyed. The purpose is to let educators know that their work is noticed.

My kids and I made mini clipboards for Post-it notes and added Papermate Flair Pens in fun colors. Teachers go nuts for the Flair felt tip pens and even if they don’t have a pen preference, all teachers use marking pens and Post-it notes, so I am fairly confident the gift won’t end up in the trash.

Materials

  • 3″ x 3″ Post-it notepads (colors that match your coasters)
  • 3 1/2″ x 3 1/2″ cardboard drink coasters (see notes below)
  • 1″ binder clips (or one size bigger)
  • Papermate Flair pens, assorted colors

Directions

  • Remove the back paper from a Post-it notepad. Center the Post-it to the top edge of the coaster. Press the Post-it and attach.
  • Add binder clip to the top of the coaster and Post-it notepad to secure. Leave the “handles” folded up.
  • Print a message for the top page. It is possible to print on Post-it notes and attach as the top sheet of your notepad gift. Use THIS TEMPLATE for a Post-it message. For complete directions for printing on Post-it notes, CLICK HERE.
  • Tie curly ribbon around the middle and slide a pen under the curly ribbon to complete the gift set.

Notes

  • You can use coasters with cork backing too. I had a really hard time finding coasters that were not made of stone and super thick. They can be ordered online, or you can visit your local watering hole and ask if they will donate to your teacher appreciation cause. The cardboard coasters are easy to cover with scrapbook paper, and then you can choose your color scheme.
  • While we were on the coaster hunt, Miss Priss found mini clipboards with attached notepads and a magnet back at Michael’s Crafts for $2 a piece. We bought every one they had and supplemented with the few pink cardboard coasters I did find.

For more teacher gift ideas I have used in the past, CLICK HERE.

Orphans in Children’s Literature

Have you noticed how many favorite characters in children’s literature are orphans or have absent parents or missing parents or neglectful parents? What is the draw? If a book character does not have a parent, then he or she does not need to follow certain rules that a parent might put into place. The characters can take off on an adventure at a moment’s notice. They can try something risky without fear of parental punishment. It’s attractive for young readers because they can follow an imaginary character who has total independence and freedom.

Imagine Harry Potter hunting down Voldemort had James and Lily Potter been alive. Without a parent imposing rules, the book character is free to take risks, and readers can join the adventure from the safety of their homes. Even though the stories may be sad or scary (or both), young readers love to read about a character who is close to their age and triumphs over adversity.

There are so many great children’s books with protagonists who are true orphans or close to it. In addition to Harry Potter, here are a few more orphans-in-literature suggestions.

  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • Mandy by Julie Andrews Edwards
  • Molly Moon series by Georgia Byng
  • The BFG by Roald Dahl (and many other books by Dahl)
  • Loot by Jude Watson
  • The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events series by Lemony Snicket
  • The Ranger’s Apprentice series by John A. Flanagan
  • The Boxcar Children series by Gertrude Chandler Warner
  • Ballet Shoes series by Noel Streatfeild
  • Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
  • Ms. Rapscott’s Girls series by Elise Primavera
  • Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters by Lesley M. M. Blume
  • Shades of Gray by Carolyn Reeder
  • Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald
  • The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
  • The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
  • Anne of Green Gables series by L. M. Montgomery
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society series by Trenton Lee Stewart