My fourth grade students start the year studying geography and create a state regions mini book in our history class. We review landform definitions first; then we practice map skills. As a culminating activity, students identify the main regions in the United States and design the mini book. The mini book includes a small U.S. map and brief facts about the region. As a group, we try to look for generalizations about United States’ climate, geography, resources, and industry. These facts form a strong foundation to help us later in the school year when we study Native Americans and talk about how cultures developed and adapted to their environment in order to live.
Before students make the mini book, they research general information about a region in the United States. I follow our school history book when identifying the regions and the states that are included in each region. Our textbook names 5 U.S. regions– southeast, northeast, southwest, midwest, west, but I have certainly seen different options for grouping states. The students complete these U.S Regions Project Notes and then are ready to build their booklet.
How do you Make a Mini Book?
- Gather your materials
- 4×6 notecards
- rubberband (medium sized)
- Fold 2+ notecards in half the “hamburger” way making sure the corners line up neatly. That means the 6″ side would be folded. Press down firmly along the fold.
- Once each card is folded, stack the cards, so they are nesting one inside another and line them up evenly. The region mini books use 2 cards, but I think 3-4 cards is is a nice amount if you are making this booklet for a different project.
- Following the center fold, cut a 1/2″ notch from the top and bottom edge of the stack of cards.
- Wrap a rubberband around the stack of cards. Have the rubberband sit down into the cut sections of paper to act as the mini book binding. If the rubberband is too tight and pulling on the paper, cut your notches a little deeper.
- Decorate the cover and add notes, drawings, information… to each page of the booklet. For the states regions booklets, students cut out a small U.S. map and color the states that are in the region they researched. That map is pasted in the center pages. On the cover, the student names the region and adds his/her name. The blank pages before and after the center U.S. map page are for the general region information. The students can add the information and illustrations in any order they would like.
These mini books are great for many projects. CLICK HERE to see other ideas for using this craftivity with students. To view and purchase some of my map skills and geography resources for upper elementary students, CLICK HERE.
Mr. Star Wars finishes 7th grade in two days. He has always been a voracious reader and reads at a high level. It has been a challenge this year to keep books in the pipeline that have (mostly) appropriate content for a middle school kid because he is at a place where he can read books intended for an adult audience. Since he is a boy, he gave the polite pass to some of my standby recommendations for middle and high school students (Celia Garth by Bristow and Life as We Knew It by Pfeffer).
I hesitate to classify books as “boy” or “girl”, but it is just a fact that boys typically read books with boy main characters, and girl readers tend to be less gender specific. We hit on some titles that were highly enjoyable. Most fall in the dystopian category because that is such a hot genre right now. We also found several that are spy/secret mission style books, which are en vogue right now too. All have boy central characters.
High Reading Level
- Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
- The House of the Scorpion and sequel by Nancy Farmer
- The Martian (some bad language) by Andy Weir
- Cherub series by Robert Muchamore
- When the Legends Die by Hal Borland
- Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
- Cloak of the Light series by Chuck Black
Average Reading Level
- Beneath and Above by Roland Smith
- Peak by Roland Smith
- The Bodyguard series by Chris Bradford
- Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz
- Crossover series by Kwame Alexander
- Things Not Seen series by Andrew Clements
- Loot series by Jude Watson
- Ranger’s Apprentice and Brotherband series by John Flanagan
- Conspiracy 365 series by Gabrielle Lord
- The False Prince trilogy by Jennifer Nielsen
- Knightley Academy series by Violet Haberdasher
On our middle school summer “to read” list
- Freakling and Psi Chronicles by Lana Krumwiede
- The Neptune Project by Polly Hollyoke (girl main character!)
- The Ability by M.M. Vaughan
- Ghost and companion books by Jason Reynolds
- The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton (need at least one classic)
The first full week of May is National Teacher Appreciation Week in the United States. It is no secret that I love putting together small gifts or gestures of appreciation for my children’s teachers. Many people work with my kids, so I am always trying to find a gift idea that I can mass produce and is cost effective. When we start counting the various core teachers, special area teachers, and support staff who interact with my 5th and 7th grader on a daily basis, it is over 25 people.
To make sure I do not leave anyone out, I am setting up a beverage bar tomorrow for the entire faculty. I bought 16-oz. Solo cups in a fun color, pretty straws, and a selection of individual sized drinks. My school has an ice machine, but if this is something you are considering for teachers, don’t forget bags of ice too. People can drop in all day to the teacher break area and fix a cold drink to take back to the classroom.
- Provide a variety of sizes and options. I purchased Coke and Diet Coke in 12-oz and 8-oz cans, sparkly flavored waters, Snapples, and a few sodas in bottles with twist off lids. A twist off lid is great if you don’t want to finish the drink in one sitting (or students return and you have to start teaching again). The smaller soda cans work well if you need a little refreshment but don’t have time for a larger drink.
- In place of a beverage bar where people go to a common location and serve themselves, you could print a fun, individual label and attach to the Solo cup. THESE LABELS are Avery 5263, 2″ x 4″. Put a can of soda and straw in the cup and deliver to individual teachers.
- If this is something your school’s PTA or parents’ group is considering for the faculty and staff, they could order Personalized Can Coozies with the school logo to give to teachers. There are many sites that sell party items like this in bulk for groups.
- Depending on how well you know the teachers, you could kick the beverage idea up a level and give individual gift bags with cocktail kits. There are so many airplane sized liquor options at liquor stores now, it can be fun to give a small bottle of alcohol, a mixer, and a lime. This may not be appropriate for your school community– you be the judge. I did put together a little gift like this for the teachers returning from multi-day field trip with my daughter to Williamsburg, VA. I knew the group of teacher chaperones, and I was pretty confident they would love the gift!
I have many great teacher gift ideas. CLICK HERE for more inspiration.
Bookmark this idea for next Christmas. In fact, go buy the clear plastic ornament sets at a major discount at Michael’s Crafts right now, so you are ready to make these next year. That’s what I did. Even two weeks before Christmas, Michael’s had already marked down the ornament sets to 50 cents (originally $1.29). I bought a class set, so my students could make personal Mason jar toppers to take home as gifts for their families. They are fun to make, and you can fill the jars with all kinds of treats.
- plastic ornament in two halves (2.75″ diameter– fits 4 oz. and pint mason jar lids, regular mouth)
- full body photo printed on cardstock that shows above the head and below the feet (printed ~1.75″ and then cut down)
- mini trees, presents, snowmen shapes or other accessories for the scene inside the snow globe (found these at Michael’s in the snow scene section– these materials did sell out close to the holidays)
- fake snow flakes (sold in bags during the holidays– a little different than glitter)
- sparkly pipe cleaners
- hot glue gun
- Elmer’s glue
- Remove the lid pieces from a Mason jar. Separate the ring from the flat lid part. Run a bead of hot glue around the flat edge of one half of the plastic ornament. Quickly and firmly, press the dome to the edges of the lid ring. The hot glue cools quickly, so you have to move fast. If you attach the ornament part off center, carefully pull it apart, remove the cooled glue and start the process over.
- In small sections, run a bead of glue along the line where the plastic ornament half attached to the Mason jar ring. Press the pipe cleaner into the glue. Keep running a small bead of glue and press the pipe cleaner as you move around the edge of the ring. When you have finished the circle, let the glue cool and then snip the extra pipe cleaner length off.
- If you want to personalize the snow globe topper, take a photo of a loved one that shows the full body and has space above the head and below the feet. Pet pictures would work well too. To look more authentic, have the subject look cold in the photo or hold hands up like it is snowing. We added props like scarves and Santa or elf hats when taking our photos. Print the photo on cardstock or another stiff paper. Set the height of the photo to 1.75″. You will cut around the shape of the body and may need to cut the bottom part of the legs off too. Cut around the entire figure and when it is time to attach to the jar lid, you can make adjustments to the height of the picture after testing to see if it stands straight inside the plastic dome.
- Using a hot glue gun, attach the photo and scene accessories like a mini present or mini snowman foam sticker to the flat plate-like part of the Mason jar lid. Attach the objects, so they stand straight, and they should be as close to the center of the jar lid as possible. Test the height of the objects to make sure they will not get squashed down when the ring with the plastic ornament is screwed down. Cut off the the bottom of any little figures as necessary.
- Drizzle Elmer’s glue all over the rest of the flat part of the lid and around the edges of the little figures in the center. This piece of the Mason jar lid has a slightly raised edge, and it makes it easy to fill the center area. Avoid the edges of the plate.
- Scoop fake snow onto the Elmer’s glue and let dry.
- Fill your glass jar with its contents. There are many fun options– cocoa mix, cinnamon sugar, soup mix, spiced nuts, candies…
- Carefully lift the flat part of the lid with the snow scene onto the top of the jar. Gently put the domed ring over the snow scene and carefully screw the ring down to tighten.
It’s the time of year where I like to send a small thank you to all the teachers, coaches, and other caring adults who work with my children. It adds up to more than 20 little gifts, so I am always looking for something that I can make in bulk AND will be something that the receiver might use. I typically go for something consumable meaning the gift receiver can eat the item, or it has a one time use and then is gone.
This year, I made flavored popcorn salts. There are many recipes available and lots of cute ways to package the salts to give as a gift. I found containers that look like French fry boxes at Hobby Lobby. I put one package of microwave popcorn in each container along with a variety of mini bags of flavored salts. Even if our teacher friends don’t use the salts, most people I know will eat popcorn, and it is something that can be a good snack to make at school (although you have to be careful not to pop in a central location because the smell does linger!).
We gave a mix of 3 salt flavors– Bacon Parmesan, Buffalo Ranch, and Mexican Hot Chocolate (my favorite). I read through a handful of recipes by doing a Pinterest search and then clicking through to the websites. I used recipe ideas from THIS WEBSITE and THIS ONE. For our popcorn packets, I bought “light” microwave popcorn because that type usually has the lightest amount of salt and butter flavor. You need the least amount of salt and butter as possible to start because the flavored salts are SALTY, so use sparingly. Of course, you could always pop your own popcorn from scratch and control the salt amounts that way.
I printed THESE LABELS for the mini bags. I used my favorite 3″ x 5″ bead bags that I get from Michael’s Crafts and Avery labels 8160, size 1″ x 2 5/8″.
The salts can be sprinkled on meat, eggs, or anything to which you would normally add salt. Based on the few blog posts I read, it is really easy to create new combinations so think about flavors you enjoy and start mixing! If you want to take this idea and make the gift a little more substantial, add a movie gift card for your local theatre or a gift card for Redbox.