Cinquain Poetry with Third Grade

I tried something new this year with third grades for National Poetry Month. We tackled writing cinquain poems.  I read poetry to students during April, having all grades involved with poetry in some way.  April is also the time when third through fifth grades take part in state standardized testing, so I need flexible and fun activities for the students.  I think poetry doesn’t get enough time in the classroom (I heard somewhere that we value what we can test….) so I like putting the spotlight on poetry for all students.

Cinquain Poems-Shape Poetry

A cinquain poem is a type of shape poetry consisting of five lines which forms a symmetrical shape as the writer follows a formula of a certain number of words per line.  I was inspired by a post on the WriteShop website (  I created a graphic organizer so students could follow the directions, brainstorm and be successful.

After explaining what a cinquain poem was, I had a graphic organizer for each student and dictionaries and thesauri on hand at each table.  We worked on the poems for three library visits.  During the first two sessions the students used the graphic organizer to brainstorm and refine their writing.


Final Product

At the last session they rewrote their poem on a new sheet of paper and added art work. They were proud of their poems!









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Found Poetry Using Magazines – Fifth Grade


During National Poetry Month in April I have each grade level write some type of poetry.  Our state standardized tests are also during April so things have to be flexible and not stressful!  This year I decided to try something different and had the fifth grade students create found poetry using cut out words from magazines.

I must admit, I got a little obsessive about cutting out words.  It was a great activity watching television at night hunting for words.  I almost couldn’t stop and now I have to make myself just recycle that magazine without searching for cool words!

Found Poetry-Words from Magazines

Found poems, according to the website,, take existing texts and refashion them, reorder them, and present them as poems.

Anyway…..I cut out a lot of words for the students.  I created a Google Slide with examples of found poems created using cut out words and showed the students.  We discussed what they thought poetry was and how found poems fit into that literary form.

Then I turned them loose with a sheet of copy paper, a glue stick and a whole bunch of words on the tables.  I told them to just start looking for interesting words or words they found exciting.  They were timid at first but after a couple of minutes they got into the hunt.  Then when I said they could get up from their table and walk around to other tables, it really got fun.

Fifth grade students in April can be so blase and cool, but boy, did they get excited. They really seemed to be having a good time. It was an opportunity to be creative, be free, no right or wrong answer and just have fun.  And they did.


Sharing with Padlet

I took a photo of each one and uploaded each classes’ poems to Padlet.  I emailed the link to the teacher (or the students if they asked).  This way they could read their classmates’ poems.

Made with Padlet

Made with Padlet

Made with Padlet

Some of the poems were quite touching.  Some were funny and a few were head scratchers.  I will definitely do this again next year.  In the meantime, I think I see some magazines sitting on the coffee table…..

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Summer Gig-Storytime at ESOL Camp

One of my teacher colleagues asked me to be a guest reader at the ESOL summer camp where she is teaching.  I jumped at the chance.  One, I love to read books to children and two, I would get to see some of our ESOL (or ELL-English Language Learner) students.

Their theme was underwater things, so that opened up all sorts of possibilities.  I had to plan for two groups, K-Grade 2 and Gr. 3-5.  So many books to choose from!


I am rarely in any photos as I’m usually the one taking them!

A House for Hermit Crab and More


I settled on A House for Hermit Crab for both groups and filled in a couple extra books depending on the age group.  I designed an activity for the K-Gr. 2 group to go along with the theme in Eric Carle’s book about the hermit crab.  His house is too plain.


Showing my example of my decorated shell.


So after reading the book, I asked the children to decorate their shell with things they liked or however they wanted to make it less plain and boring.  I drew a shell resembling Hermit Crab’s and made copies for everyone.  I also asked them to add themselves inside the shell.  IMG_1512

I also read, Somewhere in the Ocean by Jennifer Ward and T. J. Marsh.  I love Kenneth J. Spengler’s illustrations (as did the children) and it was good for this age group because of the rhyming words.


Shark Lady and Plankton is Pushy-Grades 3-5

I wanted to hook this older group right away so I started with Jonathan Fenske’s Plankton is Pushy.  I thought they would enjoy the humor and they did!


I followed up with Jess Keating’s biography of Eugenie Clark, Shark Lady.  This short, but engaging story of Clark’s passion for sharks was just right for this age group and setting.


I ended with A House for Hermit Crab, which was also a hit.  I had planned to have them build a house with LEGOS, but time did not permit.

I am definitely going to use these books and activities in the upcoming school year.

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Pre-K Visit, Three Little Pigs and Makerspace Activity

IMG_1056We invite all of the county Pre-K classes to attend out International Parade each year.  This year we had about 320 pre-K students watch the parade then visit the school, rotating through kindergarten classrooms, music room, art class, our makerspace and the library.  I decided this year I would include an activity in addtion to reading them a book.

The Three Little Pigs-Paul Galdone version

I really like the Galdone versions of traditional folk tales, especially the Three Little Pigs.  He doesn’t sugar coat the story line; yes, the first and second pigs get eaten (they took the easy way out)!  After reading the book we discussed differences in this book and other versions they may have heard before.

KEVA Planks

I borrowed some KEVA Planks from our school’s makerspace for this activity.  After reading the story, I asked the students to build a house for one of the pigs.  I had them work in pairs and I also invited a couple of third grade students to come to the library to be helping hands.  I instructed the third grade students to only step in if the pre-K children seemed to be struggling.  They were great helpers.

The pre-K children really enjoyed building with the planks.  Some struggled to get things to balance and stay upright, others had more developed fine motor skills.  They were not discouraged if their house fell and they had to start over.  A lot of collaboration and sharing took place while building.

I will definitely repeat this activity with my kindergarten classes in the fall and maybe even first grades as well.IMG_1016IMG_1017IMG_1020

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After the Fall

I knew I wanted to do some makerspace type activity after reading After the Fall :How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again by Dan Santat.  Obviously paper airplanes would be the activity, but that wasn’t enough.  Santat takes the familiar rhyme and let’s us know what happened to Humpty Dumpty after his great fall, although in this case, all the kings horses and men (the name of the hospital in the book) did put him back together again.  But he can’t bird watch from his favorite high perch because he is now afraid of heights. So will he conquer his fear and get back up there again? And the story involves him making paper airplanes.IMG_9414

After reading the book to the fourth grade class we discussed what they thought the themes of the book were.  They decided it was about having courage and not giving up even if you fail once.

Paper Airplanes and Reflection

I asked the students to think about a time they struggled and how they resolved that situation. They drew and wrote about a situation where they struggled but kept on trying.  They then made an airplane out of their paper and flew them.  We flew them in the library, which they thought was great.  Some made adjustments to their plane design for a better flight.

My Reflection on this Activity: YouTube Instructions

I was very surprised after doing this with the first fourth grade class how few students knew how to make a paper airplane!  So, for the next class I had a few YouTube videos and websites pulled up on the library computers if students wanted to watch those.  After trying this method, I would definitely include sites with only VERY simple airplanes.  Students still struggled while attempting to follow the directions and videos.

Lesson learned: these students need to have more activities to develop fine motor skills!



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World Read Aloud Day 2019

Our school once again participated in World Read Aloud Day; this year celebrating it on Friday, February 1st.  I asked for volunteers from the Fourth Grade and about one third of each class decided that they wanted to be a reader.  I pull books ahead of time and let them choose from these.  A few already had a book in mind and that’s what they chose.  I used art work supplied by World Lit and created special name tags so that everyone knows who are official WRAD readers.

Lunch Time Read Aloud

The students read their book aloud during their lunch time, eliminating instructional time disruption.  It also makes the readers visible to anyone who is in the lunch room, third grade classes who are finishing up their lunch time and fifth grades who are entering the cafeteria as the fourth grade is ending their time.  I instruct the students to eat their lunch first and then ask students on either side of them if they can read to them.  After that they can move around to other students or to staff.  Some take a bit of time to build up their courage and I even persuaded one student to ask a fifth grader (gasp!) if the could read to them.  I suggested a fifth grade student who I knew would be encouraging and it worked!

Classroom Teacher and Spanish Teacher

This year I had several classroom teachers read aloud to their classes and though they usually do read aloud to them, they drew attention to the fact that we, as a school, were participating in the world wide event.  This made that particular read aloud more special.

Our Spanish teacher had some of the older students read books in Spanish to the kindergarten classes.  She chose large editions of very simple books so that our kindergarteners would be familiar with the words.

I really like World Read Aloud Day as we make it a student focused event; giving students the opportunity to step outside their comfort zone and sharing a good story at the same time.


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Galimoto, Makerspace and Third Grade

I was searching for an idea for a makerspace activity when I thought of Karen Lynn Williams’ book, Galimoto.  I also have a galimoto I purchased years ago and figured the children could create one using pipe cleaners (I know, they’re called chenille stems…but I can’t break the habit of 50 years of saying “pipe cleaners”).

I decided that third grade would probably be able to think three dimensionally and have the motor skill development to do this. And, they did (although some really struggled).

Read the Book

After reading the book to the class, I showed them my galimoto.  They were amazed and intrigued by this simple toy.img_4904.jpg

Design the Galimoto

I had the teacher group the students into pairs and each pair was given a sheet of paper and a pencil and instructed to decide what wheeled creation they were going to create.  They drew their design and that is all we accomplished in the first session.  Some used non-fiction books if they were stumped as to what their vehicle really looked like. They had to work well as a team to decide on what they were going to do and then how to draw it out.

The Construction

At the beginning of our second session, I handed each student a copy of the IB Transdisciplinary Skills-Social Skills.  They took turns reading aloud so that everyone was familiar with what good team work looks like. Each group was given ten pipe cleaners and some scissors along with their drawing.  I did make a couple of suggestions, for instance, to create shapes with the pipe cleaner and then cut off excess.  I reminded them that they only had ten pipe cleaners so to plan wisely.

Motor Skills and Hands-on Experience

Some students do not have highly developed fine motor skills (their thumbs are probably very developed!) and had a difficult time figuring out how to twist the pipe cleaners together or around.  Lack of experience mostly.  They were getting the hang of it by the end.  Many of our students don’t seem to have a wide range of experience of making things with their hands and also seem awkward using scissors.  All the more reason to provide more opportunities for makerspace type activities.

Many students created an outline of their design, ie. a two dimensional obect, and thought they were done!  With further support they figured out it had to be three dimensional, just like the galimoto I had.


The Final Product

Pretty much each group completed their galimoto after about thirty minutes.  Success.  They were very proud of their accomplishment.




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