An Anchor Chart Guest Post!

July 3, 2013
Hey folks! Today I am super lucky and crazy excited to have Tina from Crofts’ Classroom guest posting for me…all about anchor charts! Check it out!

Hey everyone! This is Tina from

I am SO excited to be here at Nichole’s blog today! Nichole has been around since I started my blog last summer and I just love her.
Today I am going to be sharing some of my anchor chart love with you! If you use anchor charts then you and I should be friends. If you don’t use anchor charts then we can still be friends, but we need to have a serious talk 🙂
This past year was my first year to incorporate my beloved anchor charts. I kept seeing them all over pinterest last summer and finally started looking into what they were. What I found changed my teaching! When the school year started and I ordered my supplies I made sure to get me a huge poster paper pad and some 
Oh how I love Mr. Sketch markers! Except the black one…Blah!
As I began making anchor charts I realized how beneficial they were to ME and my students. My lessons were more focused and I reiterated what was taught again and again because I kept referring back to the anchor chart.
As colleagues noticed my anchor charts they started asking questions or my students would ask them to make an anchor chart in their room for a certain topic. Gradually anchor charts started popping up around my school and the students would come and tell me when another teacher created one. It was great!
I was so lucky last year because I had an AMAZING room with lots of wall space. (I am going to the elementary this year to teach 4th grade so I will have a different room) I was able to store my anchor charts on a bulletin board in the back of my room.
It was perfect! My students were able to refer to all the anchor charts easily and had quick access. This year I plan on doing the same thing but over my windows with the commander hooks. I highly suggest posting your anchor charts or taking pictures and putting the pic in a binder. I never had a class when a student didn’t refer to one of my anchor charts.

Here are a few of my favorite anchor charts! Click any pic to take you to my blog and from there you can go to the original source if there is one. 

I love using a 25 word summary. It makes the students REALLY weed out the details. When teaching/practicing summarizing I always do an activity where we read the first paragraph of an informational text and the students write a 25 word summary. Then we read the next paragraph and they write another summary of the two paragraphs together. We keep going until the entire text is summarized using 25 words. It is so great. Here is a FREEBIE of the paper I use when practicing summarizing. 

Such a fun anchor chart! When I had extra time I would pull this chart off the board and we would play charades with verbs!

This Complete Sentences anchor chart is one that I have visible ALL YEAR! I can’t count the number of times I asked students to refer to this anchor chart when they were writing. I kept it front and center on my anchor chart board.
I am constantly pinning anchor charts and would love to have you follow me on pinterest! I mainly want you to follow me so I can follow you back and see all your great ideas!
A BIG thanks to Tina for a great post! Make sure to head over and check out her blog! Have a great day!

Where Have You Been All My Life,

June 25, 2013

Ok, seriously. Has the whole entire internet been keeping this gigantic secret from me this whole darn time?

In, oh, I don’t know, about APRIL I saw a fleeting post about an online planbook.

“Wha???” I thought to myself. “How can this be? I HATE lugging that stupid planbook everywhere I go. I’m getting back problems! Can I truly plan on the internet??”

Well of course the answer is YES. And it’s easy. And CHEAP. And there’s no more aching yuckiness right between my shoulders. (Except for carrying my laptop. But that’s a whole ‘nother story.)

I am linking up with Sabra from Teaching with a Touch of Twang for

because I seriously HAVE TO HAVE my account on

It’s possible I am the last person in the whole teaching world to know about this, but just in case there’s someone else out there who hates lugging a planbook on top of everything else in their overstuffed teaching bag, I will tell you all about it!

First things first. You can try it for a WHOLE MONTH for free. FREE. That’s what really caught my attention. “Ok,” I thought. “I’ll give this a try. If I hate it, no harm done.” (HAH! I loved it!) And after the FREE trial period? IT’S TWELVE DOLLARS. For the WHOLE YEAR. About the same cost as the aforementioned lugged around paper planbook.

PS I am not being paid or cajoled into writing this. I seriously just love it THAT MUCH.

This is what it looks like when you go to

You can learn all about it from the first page, and sign up to get your free-for-30-days account. They don’t even ask for a credit card or anything when you sign up. You only have to give them that information if you want to keep using it after the 30 days.

After signing up (easy-peasy-mac-and-cheesy style) you fill in a few items to get you started. The only part that confused me was the “Class Name” field. I read the little description and figured out that these will be the names of all your subjects. (For elementary anyway. Class periods for middle and high school?)

Once you have added your first class/subject it brings you to the screen above. From here you can edit your settings, add or change the subjects and click on the subjects to create lessons.

To create all your subjects or classes, you click on the drop down menu that says “Go To” and then click on classes. Then it takes you here:

You can add all you subjects, color code them and choose which days they will be taught. Eventually, yours will look like this!

If you want to add the time you teach each subject, you click the little gear on the right hand side and choose “edit.”

Once you have your schedule laid out, it will have every subject at the time you teach it and it will be just waiting for you to add what you want to teach!


Then you just click on the subject name on your screen and you can type what you will do in the lesson AND you can even add standards from your state or Common Core.

Ok, ok. This is turning into the longest blog post EVER. So I will just say this. Usually my paper planbook has almost nothing written in it for the last few weeks of school. But since is so easy AND I can access it from any computer (or my iPad) with an internet connection, I was able to keep up with recording my plans for most of the school year.

For me, this is a MUST HAVE. Go link up and share your must-haves today!

Oh, and if you stuck with it till the end, leave a comment telling me your favorite way to plan (book, online, sticky notes, whatever!) and I will choose a random winner by midnight tonight (Tuesday) for a $5 Starbucks card…you deserve it!

PS I know this post was super long. Would anyone be interested in a video on all the features of the planbook? It might make it easier to see everything it can do? If you are interested, leave a comment or email me!

Snow Day and Mentor Texts!

April 10, 2013

Guess what? We actually did have a snow day today! It’s April-freakin-9th…yet I got to stay home all day today.

“How much snow did you get?” I can hear you asking…so let me show you.

From my bedroom window…

Notice how you can still see the street? And the grass? And the neighbor’s driveway? We really didn’t get that much snow. But I’m not complaining! A snow day is always appreciated.

But it’s back to the real world tomorrow. So, since I am back on the work train tomorrow, I want to link up with Amanda and Stacia for the Must Read Mentor Text linky!

This week’s theme is Language Arts!

Our district has really been highlighting mentor texts in many of our PDs about writing. In fact, they highly encourage us to use mentor texts at the beginning of each writing unit we start. When I started teaching, that wasn’t something I had ever thought of.

But when I learned about mentor texts and how to use them, it made perfect sense! So now we start out each unit learning from published authors about how to write…

We usually start with an anchor chart like this:

This is our anchor chart for Slice of Life writing – we also call it Personal Narrative. The 3 texts I like to use for mentor texts are:

by Jane Yolen
by Julie Brinckloe
by Patricia Polacco

I love all three of these books because they are great examples of Slice of Life writing – they tell a small story with lots of detail and amazing descriptions. Each one is a memory (or memory-like) from the author’s childhood. I usually do this in the beginning of the year…and the kids are riveted to the stories because they are so well-written.

Plus, the kids get a great example of how their Slice of Life writing will look when they are done. 🙂 It really helps them to write with a product in mind and to have a great example to learn from!

Make sure you head over to share your top picks for mentor texts!

Quadrilateral Fun!

April 7, 2013

This is my favorite activity for teaching quadrilateral attributes! I look forward to using it every year. I have used this activity (or one like it) to introduce quadrilaterals to my class and help them to start determining the attributes of certain quadrilaterals.

Teaching Quadrilateral Attributes

First, each team gets a bag with the shape cards inside. The directions are to sort the shapes in some way (any way) that makes sense to them. (I cut them apart ahead of time.)

They could sort in any way they wanted, as long as they could explain it to me. (Except a category that was “shapes with 4 sides.” Because they all had 4 sides. But you know I still had to say that to several teams…”A group won’t work if ALL the shapes are in it, right?” Anyway…I digress.)

They sorted their shapes and then recorded their ideas on the graphic organizer. Each shape is numbered, so they can just record the number on their graphic organizer.

Most of the categories focused on names of the shapes that they knew, like rectangles and squares. But some teams dug a little deeper and found shapes with parallel sides, different types of angles and some started looking for shapes with sides that were all the same length, all different lengths and some sides the same.

After they sorted on their own, I asked them to sort using the names of different quadrilaterals. This would be a good activity to do after students learn the names and attributes, or as a preassessment to see what they already know.

Overall, this activity is a great way to assess what they already know, and help plan for instruction on quadrilaterals and their attributes.

Resources for Your Classroom

If you are looking for a resource to help you teach quadrilaterals to your class, I have what you need! This activity pack includes all the shape cards you will need for the sort above, as well as sorting mats, reference sheets, differentiated note catchers, vocabulary posters, practice pages, and a quiz.

Check out the quadrilaterals resource here or by clicking the picture below. If you are also teaching about triangles, you can grab a money saving bundle right here!

Do you love the idea of using sorts as an instructional strategy? Check out this post about using sentence sorts in your classroom!

If you use this activity in your classroom, I would love to hear about it! Happy sorting!

I Super Shopped-Till-I-Dropped!

February 4, 2013

The Super Bowl is over. I can’t say I’m happy, because I would have liked to see the 49ers win. Now I can start to get ready for next year when my Broncos will go all the way!

Since the game was pretty boring (at least in the beginning until the lights went out!) I did some Super Sunday TPT shopping. Even the commercials weren’t that great, so I took my time and found some things I really wanted off my wish list! (Except the pistachio commercial. That was hilarious.)

Luckily for me, Julie at My Journey to 5th Grade is hosting a Show and Tell Linky Party, so I can share my purchases and do a linky at the same time!

I’m also linking up with Karen at Blog Hoppin’ and Denise at Sunny Days in Second Grade for their show-and-tell linkys!


Here we go!

First, I picked something that has been on my wishlist for quite a while. These Reading Response sentence starters and tic-tac-toe boards will be a great addition to my Daily 5! These are from Mrs. O at Mrs. O Knows…I can’t wait to use them! She even has a very informative blog post about them {here}.

Soon we will be starting a unit on 2D Geometry and Measurement. I found these awesome measurement math stations from Krista at Stellar Students. They look like so much fun and I know my kiddos will love them! You can read her blog post about them {here}.

Last week, we used this awesome resource from Mercedes at Surfing to Success…it’s her Compound Word Super Star Skills freebie! It was a great resource to see what the kids already knew and a great way for some to review! {Here} is her blog post about it…remember…this one is FREE!

I loved it so much that today I bought TWO more of her Super Star Skills packs! I purchased the pack about plurals and the pack about synonyms and antonyms! Her post about the plurals pack is {here}. Synonyms and antonyms are {here}!


We are also approaching our state testing window. Even though the 4th graders don’t have an assessment for science (the first time they do is in 5th) it never hurts to start getting ready! I found this great packet of Science Process Skills Questions from The Science Penguin and I can’t wait to use them. Check out her blog post {here}.

Last, but not least, I’ve been using these great winter-themed nonfiction passages from Tracy at Creekside Teacher Tales this week…they are a huge hit! They have been fabulous in my guided reading groups. Find her blog post {here}.

So when she came out with her new Main Idea, Prediction and Inferences pack, I knew I needed it! I can’t wait to practice some great reading skills and strategies with her fantastic passages. 🙂


If you want to purchase any of the products above, just click the pictures!

Ok folks, that’s it! I had a blast shopping, and the best part? Between the sale and TPT credits, I only spent $18!! I call that a win, even if the 49ers lost. Have a great Monday!

A Place for Everything…

January 5, 2013

You know that old saying, right? “A place for everything, and everything in its place?”

I kept hearing that as I worked in my room yesterday. Boy, oh boy. It was a disaster! I knew something had to be done. It wasn’t even a work day, but I went in with one goal in mind.


This is the counter behind my reading table.

A lot of times it ends up being the put-it-here-because-I-don’t-know-what-to-do-with-it counter/bookshelf. Everything in a red pouch is for math intervention and I also had these piles over there:

What is in those piles, you ask? WHO KNOWS. That is why they had to go. Somewhere. Anywhere. Maybe even ~gasp~ the trash circular file that sits on the floor next to my reading table.

This was on that counter too, you know.

Except for the unpainted salt dough map. That wasn’t on my counter. BUT THE REST WAS.

As you can imagine, every day I would look at that giant mess and think terrible, terrible thoughts about a giant sweeping arm motion and a LARGE trash can. But, luckily, winter break rolled around, and I started to get my wits about me again.

So, I buckled down. I mean no Facebook, no Pinterest, no email, no TpT, no blog-stalking.


If it was trash, away it went. If it belonged in a binder or folder, by golly it went in the right one. If it needed a bucket for organization, I grabbed an old one and re-purposed it.

No pile was left unturned. And this is what happened:

Clean counter part 1. No messy piles. No unwanted papers or books or JUNK. Reading group materials organized.

Clean counter part 2. Math intervention organized. Old papers tossed. Stuffed animals still looking on.

People, I felt GOOD. I felt so good I even tackled a bookshelf in some serious need. Did I take a picture? NO. But I promise you, the bookshelf looks great too and I feel like I could actually find something on it!

Just for fun, I took a picture of this little gem too. Because I still love it. Every day I love it.

One little bit of organization in an otherwise chaotic world!

Now, the key will be to KEEP it this way. On that note…

The Clutter-Free Classroom is starting the Clutter-Free Classroom Project for 2013. This sounds like the perfect way to get organized a bit at a time and have help from everyone else who’s trying to get organized too! Head over to Clutter-Free Classroom to check out the details and how to participate.

Happy Friday!

New Year’s Goal Setting Freebie

January 2, 2013

It’s time to head back to school! Last night, I was up late thinking, “Uh-oh. What are we doing when the students come back?????” This gets my stomach all jittery and my mind all jumpy. Even though I know that it’s still a few days away, I like to start getting my game plan together so at least it’s not a punt-o-rama when their smiling faces walk through the door. 

So, I thought about my first day back with kids. What are we going to do? 

I usually like to start out with something familiar and routine so that everyone can ease back into their days. Every year, I introduce my class to the 3-2-1 Graphic Organizer in the first few days of school. This is certainly NOT an original idea, but I have no idea where it came from. (Maybe someone can enlighten me, so I can give credit where credit is due?) 

The idea is to organize everything into a simple structure so students can quickly think of a few ideas! In this case, 3 things they are looking forward to in the new year, 2 books they want to read, and 1 goal they can achieve. Most of the time, my students ask if they can add more goals, and I always say yes. They can add them on the back! 
On this particular assignment, I’m not super picky about what they write. They can be looking forward to school things, or things outside of school. If they want to choose an outside of school goal, I just ask that they also think of a school goal. The whole process takes about 15-20 minutes, and I always collect them to see what my students are thinking. 

If you think it would be useful to you, you can click the picture and grab it for FREE!

Enjoy your first day back with students!

Owl Craft and Reading For Information

October 27, 2012

I think I’ve mentioned a million few times that I. Love. Fall. I love the weather, the leaves changing and even the fun activities that can go along with Halloween and Thanksgiving.

This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. These commissions help support the blog. All opinions are my own.

I mentioned in a previous post {here} that my mom comes about once a month to do fun crafty activities with my class. 🙂 Hooray for amazing moms! This week, she came again for a fun owl craft.

We do live in the age of standards and pacing guides, however, so I worked out a way to help it connect to our learning!

For read aloud that day, I picked Owls by Gail Gibbons. She’s a great nonfiction author…I love her books!

Before we read, we used sticky notes to write down facts we already knew about owls. We have been discussing making connections to background knowledge as a reading strategy! 

As we read, they wrote down facts they learned about owls from the book. They used the small stickies again. I used the Sharing Board from Laura Candler’s Graphic Organizers for Reading to help them organize and keep track of their sticky notes.

As a class we had a great discussion about how new information links to old information in your brain and that’s how it sticks!

Later that day, we used our sticky notes and transferred them onto a “Just the Facts” graphic organizer that I downloaded from Christina at Bunting, Books and Bainbridge. It was perfect…the first part asked them to write what they already knew. The second part asked them to write what they learned! And the last part was to write a question they still had. It fit perfectly with this activity. 🙂

After we got all the research and reading strategies out of the way, the really fun part could begin. (Although who can argue that reading strategies with awesome graphic organizers aren’t fun?)

We made walnut owls! 🙂

When they finished their owls, they put finishing touches on their graphic organizers. I taped the graphic organizer to the owl…

I added a very boring title…

and we have our Owl Bulletin Board!

We had a great time…my kids love when my mom visits! 🙂 A happy (and successful) day in 4th grade.

Poetry Detectives

October 17, 2012

This week, we have started a short unit on poetry. My absolute favorite! I love it because I like to see how creative kids get when they are given the freedom to put their ideas down any way they like. (You can see some of their apple-inspired poems {here}.)

At the beginning of every new unit, we start an anchor chart to analyze some mentor texts. I usually put a picture of the title (or poem, in this case), the author’s name and what we notice about the author’s technique.

The trouble with poetry is that there’s just SO DARN MUCH of it. All different kinds, authors, lengths…you name it. So, I planned on sharing 3 poems as class mentor texts. Which didn’t seem like enough. At all.

They really needed to see more examples than just 3. And notice more things than 3 poems could provide.

So….I sifted through my poetry books and pulled several poems that I thought had a lot of elements of poetry sprinkled throughout. I made color copies (shhhhhhh! Don’t tell!) and put them all together in a little packet.

After we worked on the poems for the chart together, they took a packet with their partner and used this graphic organizer –

– to record what they noticed. We have been focusing on what the author does as a writer, so I asked them to try and notice things about the writing, NOT the topic.

After they worked with their partners, we had a discussion as a class about things they noticed in a lot of the poems or all of them.

Our goal was to have a list of elements that can guide our study of poetry and tell us what we need to include in our poems! I think the lesson went pretty well and the kids enjoyed reading all the different poems. I totally forgot to take a picture of the list….but I will try to remember to add it in!

Tomorrow, it’s on to figurative language and similes! 🙂

If you think the graphic organizer would be useful to your study of poetry, you can download it for FREE at my TpT store! Just click the picture below to take you there!

 Do you use mentor texts in your classroom? Leave a comment below to tell me how!