• Reading Accountability: Status of the Class

    I have found over the years that reading accountability is so important. Over the next month I am going to share ways that I keep students accountable AND engaged.

    What is it?

    Status of the class is a quick and easy way to track and monitor students progress with reading.

    Why use it?

    It is a simple and efficient strategy for teachers to hold students accountable. It takes away the need for students to waste time with reading logs, but still tells students teachers are watching and want to know their progress. It helps teachers figure out what students are faking or passively reading. Students can set reading goals and use this to help track it.

    How do you do it?

    Status of the class can be conducted orally, on paper or digitally. I had tried doing it orally and keeping a checklist, but it didn’t work for me. The last couple of years I have given my students a Google Form once a week. This has become part of the classroom routine. I do it as part of my Friday Do-Now.

    What do you include on your status of the class?

    I ask students to tell me book title, page number, pick an emoji about their thoughts of the book and then let me know if they need help finding a new book.

    Look no further

    If you are looking for a digital Google Form to use for status of the class look no further. I have a full editable Google Form available on my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

    Status of the class has allowed me to keep track of my students reading progress, set goals, and find out who has been lying to me about reading. It has been a game changer for me!

  • Review Game: That’s Not Cool

    I am all about engagement and getting kids excited about learning. If they can be reviewing important concepts all while having fun that is a win-win in my book.

    I finally played That’s Not Fair with my students recently. I don’t know about you, but my students say “that’s not fair” constantly. We used it to review important ELA concepts before state testing. It was fabulous. 100% engagement from even my most reluctant students.

    There are two ways to play it. I played it both ways. Both classes loved it and had fun. I wouldn’t say one is better than the other.


    Version 1:

    1. You will be grouped into teams.
    2. One group will choose a question. Rotate groups so every group has a chance to select the question.
    3. Each team writes the answer to the question on the mini whiteboard. I require every group to do this even if they didn’t pick the question.
    4. If the team is correct, they get to choose to give the points to another team or keep them for themselves. Teams can’t see the points until after.
    5. The team that gets the most points wins.

    Version 2:

    1. You will be grouped into teams.
    2. One group will choose a question. Rotate groups so every group has a chance to select the question.
    3. Each team writes the answer to the question on the mini whiteboard. I require every group to do this even if they didn’t pick the question.
    4. If the team is correct, they get to choose to give the points to another team or keep them for themselves. Teams can’t see the points until after.
    5. The team that gets the closest to zero in the positive numbers wins.

    Additional Information

    You can tweak the rules however you see fit or in a way that works for you. I had groups of three, but any amount could work.

    This would work in ANY subject area and with ANY grade.

    Do you want to try it? I have created a FREE ELA Test PrepThat’s Not Cool Game on Google Slides. This is 100% editable and includes directions on how to play. I would love if you end up trying it in your classroom.

  • Whole Class Behavior Management Strategy

    It is that time of year where behaviors are increasing. I don’t know about you, but everything is getting harder. My students aren’t listening as well, they are testing boundaries and pushing limits. All year I’ve had an individual behavior system in place for all students, but now I needed the next step. 

    Last week, I started classroom BINGO.  I have two different sections, so have two different BINGO sheets. My students have been super engaged and excited about it! It is adaptable and can work in any classroom.

    I chose to focus on blurting and talking when I am teaching. That has been the biggest struggle for us lately. You can focus on as many skills/tasks as you want. I put three checkmarks on the board next to the BINGO board. Every time the class is talking, I erase a checkmark. At the end of the period, I color in a box for each checkmark left. You can use however many checkmarks you want!

    To determine what box is colored in, I use a digital spinner online. I then color in the boxes. The kids are so excited when it is time to color in a box.

    This system is totally flexible, can be tweaked however you see fit. Students are invested and takes very little from teacher. In my mind it is a win-win-win.

    To make it even more engaging, I have created monthly theme BINGO boards with some images related to the month. I have made February FREE for you! Click here to try it out. I can’t wait to hear how it goes.

    What is your favorite classroom management system?

  • Review Game: Stump the Expert

    I don’t know about you, but engaging my students is getting harder and harder. It is the time o the year, when behaviors are increasing, they are getting tired of the same old activities, students are feeling done with the year and nothing is working as well as it once did.

    We are also starting to review for our state tests. I love to use review games to engage and excite my students while ensuring they are focused and learning.

    Over the next few weeks, I will share some of my favorite review games with you.

    Stump the Expert

    This is a game I tried for the first time this year. I am so glad I did. Anytime my students can be the expert, I have them hooked. Let’s be honest, they all think they are experts on everything, right?


    The teacher chooses five “experts” to go to the front of the room. They can eat sit or stand at the front of the room facing the class. Every student in the class has a whiteboard and marker.

    The teacher asks a question. This game works in any subject, on any topic and in any grade. It is easily adaptable.

    ALL students write the answer to the question on the white board.

    After a set period of time, the teacher asks the experts to show their board. If the expert got the answer correct, they can remain an expert. If they got it incorrect, they now sit down.

    The teacher then chooses someone else who got it right from the class to become an expert.

    Additional Information

    To help avoid having one student be an expert for the entire game, you could set it that someone can only be an expert for 3 or 5 turns. Whatever you want.

    You can post the questions on the board so all students can access them.

    You could change the number of experts to best fit your class.

    So tell me….have you played this game? Are you going to try it? I have created a FREE ELA Test Prep Stump the Expert Game on Google Slides. This is 100% editable and includes directions on how to play. I would love to hear if you end up trying it in your classroom!

  • Must Teach Spring Skills

    It is that time of the year. State testing is looming. As teachers, we start to think about: what have we taught this year? What do we still need to teach? What do we need to circle back to?

    While I am not fan of state tests, they aren’t going away anytime soon. I do find it important to prepare my students so that they are not overwhelmed. I hope that by preparing them, they are less anxious.

    I brainstormed a list of my must-teach ELA skills. It was hard to narrow it down to just six, but I tried.

    Main Idea

    Students must be able to identify the most important point of a text. There will be questions that ask them to do this. Also, if students are not able to explain what the text is about, the more difficult skills become even harder.


    Students need to think beyond the text and use their background knowledge coupled with the text to answer the questions. The answer to an inference will not be explicitly stated in a text. This is a very difficult skill for students. Inferencing is also one that students use for a variety of other skills as well.

    Text Structure

    I don’t know about your state, but there is ALWAYS a compare and contrast question for my students. This requires them to read two passages and identify the similarities and differences. This can be difficult, but it is important. I try to start small with topics that interest them, then move into shorter texts before doing full passages. Students must also have an understanding of the other text structures as well for state tests: problem and solution, cause and effect, sequencing and description. I find that every year, there are questions about these structures in some form or another.


     I always stress to my students that if they can support their thinking with evidence their answer is correct. Students MUST be able to go back into a text and select the BEST piece of evidence. This takes a lot of practice.


    This year, my students are having a harder time with theme than in previous years. This is another skill where inferencing plays a role. Themes are not usually stated in the text; they have to be inferred. Some students also confuse the theme and main idea. I try to stress that a theme can be applied to several books, movies, poems while a main idea is specific to just one book. When students struggle with theme, I have them use the sentence starter “The author is trying to teach me…” to begin. We eventually cross it out, but it helps them frame their thinking.

    Context Clues

    One of the most common types of questions I see is context clue questions. I find that my students want to just select a meaning, but don’t try to actually figure out the unknown word. I really try to hammer home the different types of context clues: inference, synonym, antoynm, definition and example. By making them identify what type of clue is given in the text, it makes them take the time needed to come up with the meaning of the unknown word.

    My list could keep going. There are so many important skills, but when I narrowed it down to six this is what I got. 

    Would you take any off? Add any?

  • Add a Little Spice to Your Classroom

    Last post, I talked all about my favorite Amazon purchases. These were items that I use on the regular in my classroom. Today, I am going to chat a little about some “nice to have” items. These are by no means items that you NEED to have in your classroom. But if you are looking to add some new items to shake it up here you go!

    Spinning Wheel

    I don’t know what it is about a spinning wheel, but my students always get so excited when I bring out the spinning wheel. Sometimes I put questions on each color of the spinning wheel and let students spin the wheel. Two of my favorite types of questions are constructed responses about a text and they write a RACES (restate, answer, cite evidence, explain & elaborate, sum it up) response or I put a theme on it and they have to write a short story.

    Another way I use it is to put different prizes on it and they spin to find out what prize they get. Some sample prizes might be: wear a hat, walk around the school, no homework, lunch in the classroom or chew gum for a period.

    Both ways to use the spinning wheel are fun and engaging!


    Anytime I can turn something into a game, I will do it. I love games and so do my students. I find my students are instantly engaged and excited about the assignment. These buzzers turn a regular game up a notch. Who doesn’t love pushing a buzzer? They get so excited when it is their turn. I use one per table group or pair, but if you really want you could get one per person!

    Prize Drop

    Sometimes to turn a rather boring assignment interesting, I will add in a prize drop. I used this a lot especially at the end of the year to keep students interested in the task at hand. After students answer a certain amount of questions, I let them come up to the prize drop. I have a few different prizes as options. These usually include: homework pass, prize box, sit wherever you want for a period and 10 minutes of free Chromebook time. I didn’t get this until the third trimester last year. I can’t wait to find new ways to use this.

    Jumbo Playing Cards

    When I pulled out these jumbo playing cards for the first time, my students faces LIT up! They were so excited. It was as if they had never seen anything like this.

    Carnival Games Set

    I love the carnival and apparently so do my students. I used this carnival set in a variety of ways. One way was I set up a relay style game and at the end they had to throw rings on the cones and we saw who got the most.

    Another game was as students answered questions right, they threw a coin. Hidden under every cone was a set amount of points. At the end students added up their points.

    So tell me…what items do you use in your classroom that are nice to have but not necessary?

  • Prime Day is Coming!

    Prime Day is approaching! To help you get ready, here is a list of some of my favorite classroom items from Amazon.


    I promote a classroom of teamwork and collaboration. This often causes my room to be a little noisy. The doorbell is a great way to bring my class back together in a timely and orderly fashion.

    Book Stands

    I love to display books all around my room. I want books to be on the forefront of my students mind. I also love having kids help me choose which books to display. These book stands work perfectly. I probably own 25 of these.

    Mesh Zipper Pouches

    These zipper pouches can be used for absolutely anything! I love using them to hold books, task cards, games, or supplies for groups. They are thin and easy to store. The zipper is also very durable and doesn’t break even when I stuff it full. These are also versatile and great for toys as well.

    Magnetic Dots

    Magnetic dots have been LIFE changing! I have a big white board in the front of my classroom. I like to hang things up on it including a schedule, reminders, games, and anchor charts. Everything is easier to hang with these magnetic dots! They just stick right on and are very heavy duty. I highly recommend.

    A Heavy Duty Pencil Sharpener

    I don’t know about you, my students used to destroy my pencil sharpeners. I would end up buying at least a handful of pencil sharpeners a year. Then I splurged and bought a nicer pencil sharpener. Even when my students put tiny pencil pieces, if you know you know, it still lasts. If you are in the market for a pencil sharpener, look no further!


    Everything is better in color! I love copying task cards, directions and other important paper on bright color. This way it is easy to spot and can’t be missed. My motto is the brighter the better! This AstroBright paper is my favorite.

    Supply Storage Containers

    I used to have community supplies that I kept out all the time. My students couldn’t handle this and I would lose glue sticks and markers galore. A few years ago I found an alternative. Best part…these supply storage containers are stackable!

    Wireless Presenter

    I love to move around the classroom so that I can keep track of what everyone is doing and make sure kids are on task. This wireless presenter allows me to move freely while still ensuring that the screen is projecting the right information.

    So we would all love to know…what are your favorite teacher Amazon finds. Help us fill out carts!

  • How to Survive Until Summer Break

    Ahh the sweet sweet smell of summer is so close. We can almost taste it. We just need to survive these last few days or weeks. My last day isn’t until June 21 so I still have a ways to go. But I can feel it. The end is coming. 

    Are your kids as crazy and wild as mine? Are you thinking to yourself: how am I going to survive the madness to the end? I have a few ideas to help you get to the finish line!

    Let Students be the Teacher:

    Every year this is always a favorite! I ask my students to select a topic that they either enjoyed or feel like they are proficient in. I then ask them to put together a short mini-lesson and activity to share with the class. I leave it pretty open ended and the creativity is unreal.

    Book Talks:

     Let students pick a book to read. Ask them to write a summary (without giving away the ending) and a book recommendation. Students can share this with the class. Sometimes, I have them do a book trailer or slideshow to go along with it. You could also have them record a FlipGrid if you don’t have time for presentations. This will help students find new books they want to read.

    Top 9:

    I ask students to write or draw 9 of their favorite memories from the year. It is a nice way to reflect and look back on the year together. It also brings lots of laughter and joy. Freebie included.

    Self-Checking Resources-Spiral Review:

    These are a great way to spiral back to important skills but don’t require grading or prep from the teacher. Some of my favorite ones include: end of year matching, magic word search, sink the ship, and summer trivia just to name a few.

    Book Besties:

    Every fall, I do a Find Someone Who…but in June I always do a Book Besties Find Someone Who edition. Students walk around the room and get book recommendations from peers. They need to find book suggestions in different genres. Again, this helps them build a summer reading list.

    Book Suggestion Posters:

    I have my students share book suggestions with their peers. I ask them to create If you liked…then you might like…posters. This is another way for my students to find new book suggestions and build a summer reading list. I have included a link to a freebie. Do you see a pattern yet? I try to get my students excited about reading!

    Games or Competitions:

    I don’t know about your students, but mine love a good game or competition. This is a perfect way to review concepts from the year and spiral back to important topics in a fun and engaging way. Some of my favorites include: Jeopardy, Try Your Luck, Stinky Feet, trashketball, Jenga or board games.

    Spirit Week Theme Days:

    Choose some of your students’ favorites and add a little pep to the last few days. Some examples include: decades day, hat day, pajama day, sports day, etc.

    Chalk Affirmations:

    It is so nice outside…take your students outside and let them draw/write positive affirmations around the school. This will be a good morale boosting activity for your students and school.

    Letter to New Students

    This might be one of my students favorites each year. They LOVE LOVE LOVE being the wise 5th grade giving advice to the young 4th graders. Not to mention they always give me a good chuckle. I love hearing what they have to say about the year.

    When do you get out of school? How do you plan on surviving to the end? What are your favorite activities? Let me know below!

  • Make Test Day Fun!

    Test season is officially upon us. While I am sure many of you are like me and not a fan of forcing our students to take standardized tests, we also are not given much of a choice. 

    If our students have to take these tests, then I want to make sure I set up the most positive environment for them on test day. Today, I am going to share a few ways to set your students up for success the morning of test day. 

    Personalized notes go a long way.

    Write Personalized Notes:

    Yes, I know this takes time. Yes, I know your hand will hurt. Regardless, I can promise you this will mean a lot to your students. I have written my students notes for the last five years and I have received so many positive emails from parents thanking me. They don’t have to be long or wordy; keep it simple, but make it personalized. You could also print them out on the computer if your handwriting isn’t legible. 😉 

    Printed notes are also appreciated. Little gifts if you choose are always a winner as well.

    Ask Families to Write Notes

    You could also give your families the option to write their child a personalized note for them to read the morning of the test. Just be sure to give families enough time to do this. Also, keep track of which families haven’t sent in notes so you can follow up and/or write one for that student. 

    Utilize Positive Self Talk

     Our students need to believe in themselves and know that we believe in them. Post positive affirmations around the room that students can look up and read. This will bring a smile to their face and remind them that they can do it.

    Set up a Fun Environment

    The morning of state testing, I had a whole class note posted on the front board with some pump up music blasting. On each desk, I had a personalized note. My students walked into school that morning with a smile on their face. It was a very positive way to start the day.

    Some song ideas include: Eye of the Tiger, I Gotta Good Feeling, We will Rock You, Happy, The Fight Song, Shake it Off and so many more.

    Be Extra

    You will soon learn that I can be extra sometimes. One last suggestion would be to wear a cute shirt to pump your students up. I wore my “Go Little Rockstars” shirt and my students loved it.

    So tell me…how do you like to support your students on test taking day? I would love to hear!

My name is Jen! I am a wife, girl mom and teacher. I love creating engaging ELA lessons that make my students excited about reading and writing. More