Category Archives: Strategies

A Pedometer for a Roaming Student


I once had a student.  Let’s call him Toby.  Toby was the classroom roamer explorer.  He would get up in the middle of a 5 minute mini-lesson and begin “exploring” the room.  He was rarely aware that he was off task until I called him back to the carpet–he was just taking a walk!  I needed a way to make him aware and put him in control of his adventuring feet.

I tried everything, until one day I walked by the pedometers while doing some classroom shopping at the Dollar Store and half-seriously thought, “I bet Toby could really burn out one of those things!”  And the thought came to me, “What if I challenged him to get the FEWEST steps possible?”

It.  Totally.  Worked.  Man, I love the Dollar Store!

$2.12 plus these 4 sentences made all the difference: “Toby, here are 2 pedometers.  They keep track of how many steps you take each day.  You get to wear one, and you can choose a friend to challenge with the other one.  The person with the FEWEST steps at the end of the day WINS.”  I didn’t even attach a tangible award to it, just the pride of being the winner.  Toby’s roaming went almost to nonexistent in a DAY.  Each day, he chose a new friend to challenge.  Sometimes he even won.  The best part?  After a couple weeks, his roaming was drastically reduced, even when he forgot to put on the pedometer! 

Do you have an explorer?  Try this out and let me know how it goes!  I hope it’s just as successful for you!


Text Structure Bookmark Freebie


It seems to me that text structure questions come up an awful lot on standardized tests.  I prepare my students with these bookmarks.  Students use them to identify the text structure in their book (or a stack of books that I dump on their group’s table during whole class activities).

Print, cut apart, and give each student or group their own set.  Laminate for longer life and reuse again and again!

Make it a game!  Students love the challenge of finding one of each type of structure.

Ace to King Review Game Freebie

Ace to King Review Game Freebie

Lately, to mix things up, I’ve been making a lot of my classroom activities more game like by using playing cards.  “Ace to King Review” is something I’ve been using for vocabulary review.  The idea is basic, and students pick up on the game quickly.  All you need is a projector, playing cards, and a key for your students to check each other’s verbal responses.  I’ve used parts of speech vocabulary words for fourth grade, but you can use any vocabulary words you want.

Rules (also listed on the slide show below): Students work in pairs.  Give them a partial deck of cards (Hand out the same number to everyone, but don’t worry if everyone has different face values.  If you play this a few times, eventually, every student will be asked for every definition at least once.)  Partner 1 draws a card, which corresponds to a word projected on the board.  They attempt to define the word, and Partner 2 agrees, disagrees, or checks the printed answer key (found after the question slide).  Partner 1 gets to keep all the cards that they answered correctly, and gives back the wrong answers to try again.  There is no question for the “Joker” card, so students can choose any word they want when they draw this card!

The Google Docs slide show is below, and you can download it using the little gear icon below the presentation box.  Feel free to try it out, adapt it, and let me know how it goes!

(I notice that the above frame seems to cut off the bottom of some slides–don’t worry, the downloaded version works fine!)

Sentence Frame Freebies


I first made these sentence frames (AKA sentence starters) in my classroom last year after hearing about their benefits with ESOL students during a TESOL grad class.  I began posting and referring to simple frames around my room during Shurley English lessons.  At this part of the day, students analyze and identify parts of speech and patterns in sentences.  The students were giving me one word answers, and I knew my fourth graders could do more.  I modeled how to use the sentence frames and required the students use a full sentence (like the example in the frame) EVERY time they gave me an answer.

3 examples from student responses:

  1. “I know ‘shiny’ is an adjective because it describes the plane in the sentence.”
  2. “I know ‘on his face’ is a prepositional phrase because it tells the position of fly.  Also, ‘on’ is a preposition, so it signaled that a prepositional phrase was coming!”
  3. “I know this sentence is an imperative sentence because someone is telling someone else what to do.  We talked about how ‘imperative’ sounds like ‘parent’, and parents tell us what to do!”

Their level of their articulation soared!  And by “their” I mean the whole class’ thinking, not just the ESOL students!  They were forced to provide reasoning for their answer, but also given scaffolding to formulate their response.  After a few weeks, most of the students didn’t need to look at the sentence frames for assistance, the sentence flow became second nature.  Try them out, and let me know how it goes!  (Access the Google Document link by clicking on any of the pictures, or use the PDF version: Sentence Frames Freebie)