Not too long ago, I found pictures of Gift Holding Cards made with scrapbook paper. I filed the idea away knowing I could do something along the same lines in the near future. Miss Priss and Mr. Star Wars wanted to give scratch off lottery tickets as end of year teacher gifts again (mostly because they know they get to scratch any leftovers), and I have spent three days engineering my own gift holding cards to hold the lottery tickets.
I used scrapbook paper and located all of the various trim, ribbon, sequins, and embellishments I have from American Girl projects. I dug out craft scissors with the decorative edges and my fancy hole punchers. You can really use any kind of decorative materials you have on hand (stamps, stickers…).
Cut two coordinating pieces of paper to 4″ x 6″. Fold one piece over about 2/3 of the way along the 4″ side and press firmly to crease. I first sewed the folded piece and any front trim together along the folded edge before attaching to the back piece. I then stacked the two pieces together, lining up the edges, and sewed around the outside to attach the folded piece of paper to the back leaving the top of the pocket open. If you don’t sew, double sided adhesive roller tape along the edges would work too, but I must tell you, sewing paper is super fun.
We filled our gift pockets with the lottery tickets and slipped a small handwritten note in the front of the pocket. The pockets also fit gift cards. I think they would be a pretty way to deliver a thoughtful note too. The Original Blog Post with the pocket idea had single fancy tea bags in the pocket.
One of TheRoomDad’s best friends, affectionately known as Uncle Burrito at our house, visited a few months back and asked me about book recommendations for his 2nd grader. His daughter is a crazy good reader and not only finishes books at mock speed, she also reads at a level that is much higher than an average 8 year old. He said that she finishes books on the ride home from the library or book store, and the book never even makes it into the house. He wanted book ideas that might slow her pace a little but also have content that is suitable for a 2nd grader.
How do you help your child pick a book when they are reading at a higher level than their age?
First of all, it is OK to read below reading level. It increases fluency, supports comprehension, and minimizes frustration. In fact, I often encourage reading at the low end of a child’s reading range when reading for pleasure or during “free reading” time.
Think about books you loved as a child and recommend those titles. I find that classic books stand the test of time very well, and I think the content is not nearly as “edgy” as some literature that is published today.
Find a series that your child loves. This is a great way to buy some time before you have to come up with more titles. If you can find a series with a good first book, chances are the content will stay at about the same level in all of the books.
Not only can you follow a series, you can also follow an author. But, some authors write for a young and older audience, so pay attention. Think about Judy Blume’s Forever versus Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing.
Read the book jacket or online summary of a book. If the synopsis mentions death, destruction, or “coming of age” (translation = puberty or romance), that is a red flag that the content may be for an older child.
Our library has a new eReader service. You can check out books through your iPad, and they download to your device. The book is deleted from your iPad on the due date. This won’t slow down your speedy reader, but it will reduce your visits to the book store and library.
Here are a few book options that are high reading level for the grade but “clean” content.
Advanced 1st/2nd Grade Reader:
All of a Kind Family by Sydney Taylor, 4.9
The Black Stallion by Walter Farley, 6.5
The Candy Shop War by Brandon Mull, 4.6
Cricket in Times Square by George Selden, 5.9
The Doll People by Ann M. Martin, 3.8
Henry Huggins series by Beverly Cleary, 4.1-5.7
The Indian in the Cupboard series, 5.5-6.1
The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie Edwards, 7.3
The Lemonade War series, 3.4-4.5
Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, 4.3-5.3
The Million Dollar Putt by Dan Gutman, 4.5
No Talking (5.0) and School Story (4.7) by Andrew Clements
Poppy and Friends series by Avi, 3.5-5.8
Ramona series by Beverly Cleary, 3.5-5.9
The Secret Garden (6.8) and The Little Princess (4.0) by Frances Hodges Burnett
The Sherlock Files series by Tracy Barrett, 4.3
Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica George, 3.0
Who Was series by various authors, 3.0-4.0
Advanced 3rd/4th Grade Reader:
Far North by Will Hobbs, 6.8
How to Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell, 5.7-7.4
The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford, 8.1
My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George, 6.1
The Mysterious Benedict Society series by Trenton Lee Stewart, 6.3
Urchin of the Riding Stars by M.I. McAllister, not leveled
Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, 6.2
Princess Academy by Shannon Hale (sequel has a little romance), 5.0
Remarkable by Lizzie K.. Foley, not leveled
The Secret Series by Pseudonymous Bosch, 5.3
The White Mountains series, 6.1
The Wizard of Oz series by Frank Baum, 6.9
I included a reading level for each book/series on the list. This is a guideline only. 4.3 is roughly where a typical student would be in the 3rd month of 4th grade. For more information on leveling books you can read this article on the Scholastic website. Not only are books leveled by content, they also look at the length of words and sentences. More words with lots of syllables might bump up the reading level. So, The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles, which has words like Papilionaceous, earns a higher level.
In honor of National Teacher Appreciation Week, I am sharing some insider information about the teacher world. Teachers have limited access to water or other beverages during the day. There are water fountains, faucets, and other drink sources at the school, but teachers just can’t get to them. Here is what happens. During the school day, teachers can’t leave the students unattended. Ever. One year, I taught in the 10th row of trailers at a growing high school and needed a 15 minute window to make it into the building and back for access to water.
With that in mind, I picked up some double insulated cups with lids and straws I happened to see at the Dollar Store. I filled the cup with ingredients for a fruit iced tea mix and a $5 Starbucks gift card then tied Citrus Tea Labels to the cup with the recipe for the iced tea. The tea contents will probably be tossed, but the Starbucks card and insulated cup will be enjoyed. Every teacher I know needs/wants/uses a water bottle of some kind. The double insulated Tervis tumbler style are the best because they don’t sweat all over the papers on the teacher’s desk and keep drinks colder longer.
If you are working on an end of year teacher gift or a teacher appreciation gift of some kind, the cup is low cost and teacher approved. If you happen to know that your child’s teacher is addicted to Diet Coke or Dunkin Donuts coffee, those are good appreciation beverage gifts too.
I know you might be tempted by cutesy notes attached to 2-liter bottles of A&W Root Beer or Mountain Dew that you may have seen on Pinterest but do not give in to the dark side. A 2-liter bottle is impractical and goes flat before a teacher could drink it. And besides, A&W root beer or Mountain Dew?? Who drinks that? Unless you have heard straight from the source that these are soft drinks of choice, DO NOT purchase.
Several months ago I submitted my name to guest post on the teaching blog, All Things Upper Elementary. Today’s the day that my post goes live! In my guest post, I share one of my favorite teaching projects of the year. My students always create an end of year writing portfolio to showcase their writing (and growth in writing) from the school year.
Whether you are a parent or a teacher (or a writer) being able to look back through a year’s worth of work is always a thrill. In the case of my students, there are obvious changes in handwriting, sentence structure, word choice, and style. Since I am with my students every day, I am not always aware of how much they improve over the course of nine months. As soon as my students complete their portfolios, and I can compare writing from August to the writing from April, it is immediately obvious how much a child’s writing can progress in a school year.
My students use a 3-ring binder and select favorite writing from the year based on a checklist I give them. They organize the writing with a table of contents. Since we complete this project at the beginning of May, these portfolios often end up as Mother’s Day presents (hint, hint).
With my own children, I keep *significant* project and writing samples that come home. I deposit these special items in a big pile on a shelf in my closet (and secretly throw away school work that does not make the cut when THEY are not looking). At some point during the summer, I sort the stack and organize the work into a storage box with Miss Priss and Mr. Star Wars’ name/year on the front. Then, I am ready to start over again in the fall.
Last year, the school librarian where I work sent an e-mail to all parents suggesting we start a book journal with our kids. When our librarian’s son was in the first grade, she started recording every book title her son read in a basic black and white composition journal. Her son is now a 9th grader and is still adding to his book journal.
My niece started her book journal when she was in the 4th grade. When I visited last summer, I asked her if she had any new book recommendations for me. She could not think of any suggestions immediately, so she handed me her book journal. I paged through all of the titles dating back 4 years. When I would ask about specific titles, it immediately sparked discussion. Without her yearly lists, she would not have been able to recall nearly as much.
The book journal is a great tool for several reasons. To begin with, it shows how much your reading improves by looking at the book choices from year to year. My son moved from the Jigsaw Jones series (2nd grade range) to Henry Huggins (4th grade range) last year alone.
There is a sense of accomplishment when you see a list of completed books. It is fun to be able to announce that you read 49 books during the school year!
The list prompts memories of books you might have forgotten. It also shows if you followed one author or style of book during a certain period. If you need some new book choices, it is easy to return to the list to help jog your memory for author names or book series. What are other good ways to log book lists?
What To Do: List the grade level at the top of each new page. List the date the book is completed in the left column. List title then author name. In addition, you could add reading level, page count, a rating scale of some kind. Keep it simple so it is not a chore to complete.