Tiny Books

Kids love to self-publish and there are so many fun ways to make booklets with materials you already have in your classroom or at home. One easy booklet I like to make with students uses one piece of copy paper and scissors. I call it a Tiny Book. After it is finished, the book will have six interior pages.

There are many ways students can fill the Tiny Books. I have students use these little books to practice procedural writing and make “How To” instructional manuals. When we read Danny, the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl, the students create a step-by-step guide for one of the poaching methods.

While practicing Helping Verbs and Verb Tenses, the students re-write and illustrate nursery rhymes in past, present, and future tense using a Tiny Book.

When we study colonial life, students research a specific role in the settlement and describe the colonist’s life in a tiny book. They write about clothing, food, housing, and jobs for a specific person and add illustrations with captions. It does not take too much time to complete and reinforces non-fiction text features.

For back to school, you could have students create a Tiny Book that shares facts about the student as a way to introduce each other to the group. Students could create a Tiny Book promoting any favorite summer reading they completed. I love the books because they do not involve a lot of prep and can be used for many different lessons… and they are mini, and I am a sucker for anything mini.

Materials:

  • basic white copy paper, 8 1/2″ x 11″, (one per student)
  • scissors

Directions:

  • Step 1: Gather your paper and scissors.
  • Step 2: Fold one piece of paper in half the hamburger way. Repeat two more times. Unfold the paper and make sure you have 8 rectangles on the paper.
  • Step 3: Fold the paper the hamburger way again, one time. Your paper will be 5 1/2″ x 8 1/2″ with 4 rectangles showing. From the folded edge of the paper, cut down the middle along the fold line to the center of the paper.

  • Step 4: Open the paper flat. Fold it one time the hot dog way. Hold each side with one hand and push towards the center until your fingers meet. The center of the paper will push out creating 4 flaps.

  • Step 5: Press down, so pages line up into the booklet shape. The finished booklet is 6 pages.

Sharpie Paint Pen Teacher Hack

Even though I did not want to do it, I returned to my 4th grade classroom for some final clean up from the school year. My main objective today was to remove the semi-permanent names on the corners of the desks.

In the past, this has been a little bit of a chore because I use Sharpie Paint Markers, medium point, to write student names on each desk, and it does not wipe off easily. That was the point when I started using the Sharpie Paint Markers– they did not wipe off easily. I was so frustrated with laminated paper name tags that were torn, bent, doodled on, and peeled apart by the third week in August. The Sharpie Paint Marker names hold no interest for the students. They can’t wipe them off. They can’t wrinkle or peel them apart. The names are smooth and flush with the desk surface, so students papers don’t rumple, bend, or tear them. They are practically perfect except when you need to remove or change the name.

I tried a few paint pen removal methods, and Goof Off really works the best. Unfortunately, you practically asphyxiate yourself by the end of the job because of the fumes. However, TheRoomDad came through on this one (accidentally) because when I sent him to Lowe’s for a new can of basic-original-classic Goof Off, he returned with a spray bottle of Goof Off Adhesive Remover Gel. The smell is not as deadly, and it worked as well as regular Goof Off to get the paint pen off the desks.

I have two groups of students who move through my room every day, so I color code my desk names. Blue is one class group; red is the second class group. The names are easy to read and stay bright and clear even when I wipe the desks down. When I do need to change names on the desks, I can wipe one name away or both names using the Goof Off. The paint pen names have been a great teacher organizational tool that reduce mess in my classroom.

To Remove Sharpie Paint Marker Names:

  • Spray Goof Off Adhesive Remover Gel on dried paint pen and wait a minute.
  • Wipe in circles (scrubbing motion) with a dry paper towel.
  • Wipe up the gel off the desk.
  • Wipe the entire desk with a Clorox wipe or other cleaning solution (or even a wet paper towel).
  • Repeat if necessary.

   

When You Don’t Have Goof Off:

  • Scribble over the dried Sharpie paint pen with Expo marker.
  • With a damp paper towel or Clorox-type wipe, rub the Expo and Sharpie paint pen away. This method takes longer.
  • Repeat as necessary.

    

 

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.

 

If Montezuma had an Instagram Account

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If Montezuma had an Instagram account, what would he say when Cortez arrived in 1519? My fourth graders have some ideas. We are finishing our study of the conquests of the Inca and Aztec empires and have been reading about Cortez, Pizarro and the events that took place in the 1500s when the Spanish arrived in Mexico and Peru. Students took the information they had about Cortez’s encounter with the Aztecs and Pizarro’s contact with the Incas and created Instagram posts from the point of view of the leader, the conquistador, and a common citizen or soldier. The students wrote comments that shared knowledge of the time period as well as demonstrated point of view and perspective.

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In order to create the Instagram posts, I shared a template with the students in PowerPoint. It had a permanent background with text boxes layered on top. The students clicked in the text boxes to create the usernames and three comments. The first comment was from the Inca or Aztec leader. The second comment was from the conqueror, and the last comment was from a person who would have been at the scene. The students were also allowed to create related hashtags.

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After students typed their comments, they printed the Instagram post. I set up the template, so the Instagram post filled the left side of the paper only.

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Using a paper cutter, I cut the paper into a strip about 4 1/4 inches wide. I also trimmed about 1/2 inch off the top. I cut colorful construction paper into strips that were 4 3/4 x 11 inches. With scissors, the students rounded the corners of the construction paper. They also had the option of rounding the corners of the printed Instagram post. They glued the Instagram post to the construction paper centering the white strip closer to the top of the paper. With a Sharpie, the students drew a circle for a home button at the bottom of the construction paper to complete the effect of an iPhone.

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Students colored a profile picture and drew a scene that matched the comments. The details in the drawing were based on information from the readings and unit of study.

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The finished Instagram posts have been so much fun to read and have made the material much more personal for the students. The activity idea is great because it can be adapted for almost any historical figure or time period you may be studying. CLICK HERE to make a copy of the electronic template via Google Docs. If you would like a PDF version of the template and have students handwrite their Instagram posts, CLICK HERE.