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.

 

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

Discipline Dollars

 

discipline dollars with name and bonus money

Classroom management (the fancy teacher phrase for behavior) is my least favorite part of teaching. My main plan of attack is to keep students so busy they really don’t have time to get off task and stir up trouble. Unfortunately, that does not always work, so I have to have some sort of monitoring system in place. This year, my teacher teammate and I implemented a classroom economy to keep students motivated to make positive decisions and (hopefully) reduce disruptive behavior.

Many classrooms have a similar plan. It’s like pulling a ticket or a bear or a penguin or a turtle… The beauty of this system is that incorporates math skills and financial literacy. Students are paid a set amount on Monday mornings. The goal is to keep the money throughout the week. Students “pay” the teacher for repeated class disruption, organizational issues, or any behaviors that stop the classroom from running efficiently. On the flip side, students can EARN extra money for positive choices that help keep the classroom community running smoothly.

discipline dollars and library pocket

At the end of the week, the students total their earnings and keep a balance sheet of withdrawals and deposits. After a designated amount of time, the students buy a class reward if they have saved enough money. For kids with a surplus of money, they can purchase bonus rewards.

sample balance sheet

Adapt for Home: Not only does this system work in a classroom, it is a system that works at home for weekly allowances. Children have their weekly amount of allowance money and can keep it if they complete all chores. If they forget to feed the dog for several days in a row, they could have their pay reduced. If they do extra chores like wash the car without being prompted, they could be rewarded with extra money. At school, I use fake Monopoly-like money, at my home, I would pay my children real money.

My students are most excited about the individual rewards. We have tangible items for a lower price that I am getting at Oriental Trading. Our first group reward will be the first of October, so I am stocking the prize box with Halloween themed items LIKE THESE and THESE. But, we are also offering more costly items that are specific to our school. Students can save over several months to cash in for experiences that are considered a “coup” at our school.

halloween treasure chest

School Bonus Reward Ideas

  • $10 – $25: Prize Box (erasers, pencils, stickers, bookmarks, key chains, fidgets, fun school supplies)
  • $25 – $50: Shoes off in the classroom, sit at the teacher desk, pick your seat at lunch, homework pass, be first in the lunch line
  • $50 – $100: Hold the flag at school assembly, pick the game at PE class, wear jeans to school (if you have school uniforms)
  • $100+: Design the school lunch menu for a day, make the school announcements over the speaker, pull the fire alarm during a fire drill, give a homework-free night to the whole class

At Home Allowance Reward Ideas

  • Go to the movies or pick the movie for family movie night
  • Go to an indoor bounce/trampoline park for an afternoon
  • Pick the restaurant for a family dinner out
  • Extra TV, iPad, game time

CLICK HERE to visit my TeachersPayTeachers store to purchase the Discipline Dollars Product with editable money templates.

discipline dollars pin

Mother’s Day Writing

mothers day pocket folders

I just finished reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe with my students, and we spent some time discussing C.S. Lewis’ descriptive sentences. I wanted my students to mimic Lewis’ style in a writing assignment, but I needed a vehicle to make their word choice meaningful. I pulled two passages out of the book and removed key words. I replaced the key words with a blank line and labelled the space with the type of word or part of speech that should go in the blank. Basically, I built a literary Mad Lib.

mothers day mad lib

The students spent some time thinking about their mothers (or another loved one) and brainstormed words to describe that person. Following the brainstorming, they re-read the original passages in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and then plugged words into the frame I gave them to create their own beautiful description with a C.S. Lewis vibe.

We typed the paragraphs, and students added small images that corresponded to details in the descriptive writing. We printed the text and pictures on a piece of cardstock and cut them apart. The students folded a small pocket folder using colored cardstock and decorated the cover. The pictures and small paragraph were no bigger than 3″ x 3″ each and fit nicely in the small pocket card.mothers day writing sample 2Not all of my students are quite finished with this project, but the ones I have read so far make me tear up because they capture such sweet thoughts about a loved one. If you need a thoughtful card or gift for a mother, father, grandparent, sibling… pull a favorite passage from a story and use the basic structure to write a special message.

Pocket Card Materials

  • 8 3/4″ x 7 1/4″ colored cardstock
  • 4″ x 3 1/2″ white cardstock (optional)

mini pocket folder

Pocket Card Directions

  • Place the colored cardstock on a flat surface in the landscape direction.
  • Fold the bottom edge (8 3/4″ edge) up about 2″, match the corners carefully, and press firmly to fold the crease.
  • Open the flap and fold the paper in half, so the two 7 1/4″ edges meet. Match the corners carefully and press firmly to fold the crease.
  • Open the paper flat and fold the 2″ section up creating the pocket. The pocket sides will be open but create a little “shelf” to hold the small pieces of paper. Fold the paper in half down the center fold.
  • If you would like, glue the 4″ x 3 1/2″ white rectangle to the front of the folder as a cover for writing a title or salutation.

Want to try your own literary Mad Lib? Click Author Mad Libs to download a free copy of my activity page. To purchase other Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe activities, CLICK HERE.

mothers day writing sample

 

Parent Help

cell project complete

Mr. Star Wars just completed a science cell project– at home. While he could have completed the entire project on his own, this is one of those projects that a parent is probably going to have to offer help in some way. In our case, I drove to the grocery store to buy supplies and helped with formatting his written explanations on the computer. How much help is too much? As a teacher, if I send a multi-day 3-D project home like this, I know parents will be involved. The key is to provide only enough support that you do not “compromise the integrity” of the student project.

cell project close up

Parent Dos

  • Read through the project assignment sheet and directions with your child.
  • Brainstorm a list of supplies and tentative “plan” for completing the project with your child (what to complete each day, so you finish by the deadline). This is a conversation that can happen at the dinner table or in the car on the way home from school.
  • Source supplies (make a trip to the grocery store, Michael’s crafts, hardware store, your pantry/junk closet at home).
  • Reread the directions with your student when the project is finished to make sure the student has completed all of the requirements.

Parent Don’ts

  • Write anything.
  • Rewrite anything.
  • Build anything while a child stands to the side and watches.

Good Project Supplies

If you have class projects come home more than twice a year, I would recommend investing in some common project supplies and saving a few items that can be hard to get when you need it at the last minute. I love having these items on hand at the 11th hour!

  • shoeboxes
  • paper cutter
  • cardstock– assorted colors (Astrobrights are great!)
  • Avery labels– small and large size
  • one set of Sharpie markers in bright colors

cell project