First Friday Freebie: A World of Pure Imagination

I love using visual prompts with my writing students. Pictures help to spark their imagination and get the creative juices flowing.

This month’s freebie is a visual prompt I was inspired to create as I saw a rainbow while driving home one day.

rainbow prompt

In addition to creating my own, I have also found the Write About site to be a wonderful resource for visual writing prompts, especially for free-writing and journaling purposes. There are so many categories to choose from (such as Adventure & Fantasy, Culture, Hobbies & Fun, Places, Seasonal, and Technology) that I can almost always find something that fits my purpose. Prompts can easily be sorted by category and grade, and many offer an added auditory option as well.

I would love to hear about other sources for visual writing prompts. Do you ever have your students create these or take/find their own pictures to write about? That could be a fun part of the creative process too!

First Friday Freebie: Lending a Helping Hand

Each year as September 11 nears, I begin thinking about the best ways to honor this day, to help people’s sacrifices never be forgotten. For young students who did not live through this day in 2001, it can have little, if any, meaning, but all children can understand the importance of lending others a helping hand. So that has become my focus for this year.

One creative way to help students begin to see the positive effects even seemingly small acts of kindness can have on others is through a study of the life of John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed. Born September 26, 1774, his legacy lives on centuries later and can be explored through texts and resources like these:

Johnny Appleseed by Steven Kellogg


Johnny Appleseed by Reeve Lindbergh


Johnny Appleseed by Jodie Shepherd

Johnny Appleseed Enchanted Learning activities

Johnny Appleseed biography


Seeing Johnny Appleseed’s impact on the world can help inspire your students to make a difference in the lives of those around them. Even small deeds can make a difference… just like planting one apple seed at a time.

Using this month’s freebie, the Helping Hands activity, students can share ways they plan to use their hands to help others.

helping hands


Need more inspiration? Here are ten other stories that show the power of a helping hand:

Always Copycub by Richard Edwards

A Chair for My Mother by Vera Williams

Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Lynn Williams

A Frog Thing by Eric Drachman

The Giant Jam Sandwich by John Vernon Lord

The Lady in the Box by Ann McGovern and Marni Backer

Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney

New York’s Bravest by Mary Pope Osborne

Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts and Noah Jones

The Three Questions by Jon Muth

Lift Off to Literacy: to the ISS and Beyond

Happy International Literacy Day!🙂

How do you plan on adding an extra minute of literacy today?

What about tweeting an astronaut?  You can connect with them here (astronauts in space now) and here (NASA astronauts).

Your students just might…










  • or get one of their own questions answered!

Plus learning to communicate in 140 characters or less could lead to some lessons in creativity and clarity.

The sky really isn’t the limit with this as students read and send messages to the ISS and beyond.😉


Picture Book 10 for 10: My Top Ten Favorite Books About Community

I am excited to participate in this year’s Picture Book 10 for 10 hosted by Mandy Robek of Enjoy and Embrace Learning and Cathy Mere of Reflect & Refine: Building a Learning Community.

Here’s my list of ten books to share with students as you work to build and strengthen your classroom community throughout the year:


One of my new favorite picture books is Because You Are My Teacher written by Sherry North and illustrated by Marcellus Hall. Throughout this story, the students experience wondrous adventures together as they learn about the world – a learning community at its finest.


Hooray for Diffendoofer Day by Dr. Seuss, Jack Prelusky, & Lane Smith also helps to reinforce the idea of community and its importance in our learning as students and teachers work together to meet their goals.


Each time I read the book Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney, I am inspired by Alice’s dedication to her dreams and her quest to make the world more beautiful. She learns the meaning and value of community in her travels and at home.


The Mitten by Jan Brett is a fun reminder that community members need to share and look out for one another.


The Giant Jam Sandwich by John Vernon Lord is another book that helps students focus on the idea of what a community is. In this story it takes a village to succeed, through cooperation and each person using his/her unique abilities and resources.


Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes illustrates what can happen when there are problems in communities as well as what can happen when those differences are resolved. Communities are strongest when everyone feels valued.


Nora the Nonapus, written and illustrated by fifth-grade students of Estes Hills Elementary in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, provides some unique insights into the feelings various members in our community may have. It covers the insecurities and embarrassment that often come from being “different,” how bullying hurts others, and the bravery it takes to stand up and do what is right.


Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox is another favorite. In this story, community is created as a young boy takes time to listen and learn about the people around him, building friendships and sharing memories along the way.


Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin is another story that illustrates the importance of sharing our skills and talents with those around us. Just like snowflakes, we are all different. Bentley’s community (and the world!) was blessed by his love of snowflakes through the research and pictures he shared.


The Impossible Patriotism Project by Linda Skeers is a favorite book to share around President’s Day. However, its message is fitting during any time of year. It’s important to remember those missing from our communities. Communication is key to keeping those bonds strong.

And there you have it, my (current) top ten, which I am sure will change the next time I discover a new favorite book.🙂

What stories do you like to share with your students to help the community building process in your classroom?

Prepare for Launch: International Literacy Day is coming!

“Lift Off to Literacy” is the International Reading Association‘s theme for this year’s International Literacy Day, September 8, 2014.

Chosen to help inspire students to reach for the stars, this theme is also a challenge for teachers to help launch students’ literacy habits “by devoting an additional 60 seconds of literacy activities each day for 60 days. Celebrate ILD and share the message that developing a habit of reading, writing, listening, and speaking leads to lifelong literacy success.”

The IRA is offering free printables, an activity kit, and more. Check out the resources here and prepare for “Lift Off!”

How will you include an additional 60 seconds of literacy activities in your class each day?

Here are a few of my ideas:

  • See how fast your students can alphabetize the class list – on paper or by physically standing/sitting in alphabetical order.
  • Collect food labels and have students do a quick sort by brand, certain ingredients, or number of servings.
  • Share a poem.
  • Make lists of rhyming words.
  • Post a picture and have a “Caption this!” contest.
  • Try out some tongue twisters.

Exploring the World from Our Classrooms

One of my new favorite picture books is Because You Are My Teacher written by Sherry North and illustrated by Marcellus Hall.

In addition to the catchy lines and beautiful illustrations which kids love, this story shares a great message of what true learning is all about.

When we bring creativity and opportunities for observation, imagination, and “destinations” into the classroom, our students’ learning is enhanced through curiosity and deepened engagement.

So let them…

What creative things have enhanced your students’ learning because you are their teacher?

We Had No Idea What Alexander Graham Bell Sounded Like. Until NowRead more:
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We Had No Idea What Alexander Graham Bell Sounded Like. Until NowRead more:
Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12!
Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter
We Had No Idea What Alexander Graham Bell Sounded Like. Until NowRead more:
Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12!
Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter

First Friday Freebie: Oh the Places You’ll Go…

with GeoGuessr! (or try its newest version here)

This fun geography game has you guessing world-wide locations using clues from photographs. You can scroll and zoom to look for signs, view the landscape, explore the skyline, travel down the road, and more.

Each game is made up of five rounds. The closer your guess is to the actual location, the more points you earn. Maps are also provided during the rounds to help you see how close (or far off!) your guess is.

As you can expect, some places are easier to guess than others, depending upon your knowledge of the various climates, landscapes, languages, building styles, and such around the world.

This month’s freebie is a two-page GeoGuessr Record Sheet.WhereInTheWorld

Your students can use it to record their observations, guesses, and points to compare and track the growth of their critical thinking skills and geography knowledge.

For a fun challenge, they could also see if they can beat me!🙂 Click here for my game results.