Who Was…? A Biography Project

Happy Monday!! It has been a productive one around here Smile  As I write these words, I also realize some of the events of today.  I was very excited to be off today and have the morning to myself to complete at least ONE new product.  The way I work tends to be 20 things going at the same time.  (Anybody with me?)  However, I really needed the feeling of accomplishing SOMETHING! As teachers, I think we have high ambitions for our breaks from school.  I know I do!  So, I woke up early, started the coffee, and got my Netflix going for some background noise while I worked.  It never really feels like work when you’re “watching TV.”

Well, Titan wasn’t having it.  After about an hour of working, Titan knocked over a water bottle and it landed on my laptop.  It’s hard to be mad at him when I did leave the cap off…

So, that computer is being drained for the next few days after I did some high quality research on you tube and google.  (If you have any other suggestions, please let me know!)  I then began working on my personal laptop to finish the following project.  Then, I did some yoga in our living room.  I wish I had a video camera set up to record how that went with Titan in the house! He thought it was playtime! Smile

Without further ado, I am going to tell you about my latest project.  This is my very first blog post about a product I have on Teachers Pay Teachers, so here goes!!! Smile


This product came as a result of my 3rd grade students last year (2013).  In our district, we have an additional 30 minutes for Reading Intervention outside of the regular 90-120 minute block.  During this time, students are either pulled out if they are ESE/ESOL or they work in a small group with me.  What to do about those other students?  We have computers and I rotate students through those as well as rotations through a group with me.  However, I wanted something more engaging than simply reading independently.  I love to read and they do too (it is a requirement in my class that you love to read Winking smile

I had a handful of higher level boys who seemed to really enjoy the Who Was.. ? series.  It was adorable how excited they got to learn about different people! Seriously, I had to special order Who Were the Beatles?


After seeking out multiple copies from my beloved teacher friends, I partnered students up with the books and gave them this sheet to keep track of what they learned. I started a small Biography Unit (which is another incomplete project)  and after reading a couple of these books. (2 hours each-easy reads for adults) I noticed a pattern with these books.  I used the pattern of the books to create questions which would keep my kids focused on events, the characters/subjects, and why this person was important-what they learned.  This was the end result.  I have tweaked it since I used it, but the questions are still the same.


Students completed this sheet as they read.  I explained to them what they were to do.  1) Read the book 2) As they read, look for the answers to these questions 3)  Write an essay telling all about this person, using the graphic organizer as a guide to their writing  4)  Create a poster about their person

This was really all the guidance I gave my students last year.  I wanted to learn from them and see what they would do.  Students are OUR greatest teachers.  They did amazing.  When we did these projects toward the end of the year, we had already worked on Informational Essays.  So, it was nice to see them use some of these strategies.  As for the posters-some were better than others, but they all put forth tremendous effortSmile  What amazed me the most was the enthusiasm and engagement.  If you look at the first student’s poster with his essay attached, this was a child that had already been retained twice,  had MANY home issues, and way too many absences.  He took this project to heart and worked harder on this than anything I had seen all year.  Melted. My. Heart.



I wanted to use these again this year, so I updated the format and added a template because my students needed a little more guidance.  Also, it would be nice to have a smaller version of these so they could do these more often with different people.  This is the poster template included in the product.


And because it is a Writing Project I included some publishing paper.  Two versions because I couldn’t decide!!!



If you like this writing paper, you should check out my Planned, Polished, & Published Writing Paper Pack here.

So there it is, folks!  My first attempt at a Product Post! Lol! Smile I hope you are having a fabulous Monday night.  If you are a teacher, I am sure you are because you do not have to teach in the morning! Cheers to vacation!

Thanks for stopping by!




The Power of a Writer

So, I’ve been slacking on the writing part of my life.  And every time I do, I just want to kick myself.  I am currently working on several Writing Units for my TPT store.  They just take so long because I am meticulous, yet scatterbrained.  A deathly combination.  I am too darn passionate about too many things.  I care about EVERYTHING.  I have tried to calmy  explain this to Ryan.  Alas, it doesn’t make sense to a lot of people.  Anyhoo- as I am working tonight on one of my 478 projects, I came across something I wrote 4 years ago at the Poynter Institute Writers Camp.  This was a camp run for 4th-8th grade students and teachers at the Poynter Institute for Journalism and Media Studies in St. Petersburg by Roy Peter Clark.  AMAZING.  That is a whole other blog post!

One of the benefits of this 3 week camp was the visitors or presenters.  One day, the author and journalist Tom French spoke to us- the teachers and students.  At the time, I was enthralled and obsessed with Harry Potter.  I would like to say I got over that, but it’s not true.  Well, he told us how his newborn had some issues when she was born and he read Harry Potter to her at the hospital.  Before I say more, I am including below what I wrote after this presentation.  If it makes you tear up, please know this is how I felt as his story touched my heart and reminded me why I read, more importantly, why I write.

The Power of a Writer

By Jessica Bullock

Mildred Helms Elementary, 5th Grade Teacher

“The power of a writer.  Stories matter.”  When Tom French tells a story, people listen.  He creates a sound that grabs you and captivates your attention.  The stories are detailed and heartwarming.  They leave you hanging on to every word, wondering what will happen next, and hungry (actually starving) for more.  Writers have an eye for a good story.  They can elicit a story wherever they go. In their home, in a school, or even in a zoo finding a way to develop characters.

Tom wanted to be a writer since he was 10.  Slapping his notebook in his hands, he was inspired daily by Mrs. Bell as she read to him each and every day.   One day that teacher, who he would forever remember, announced they would be writing a story.  In Tom’s words, this was when a lightning storm came over his head because he was ready.  He was ready to write his own story after years of listening to other writers tell their story.  That storm is never-ending because he continues to constantly tell stories today.  Stories that matter.

In his book, Zoo Story, he tells stories of Lowry Park Zoo, bringing the animals to life and helping us to understand their individual personalities.  On that hot, summer day in July at Writers Camp, every child (and adult) hung onto his words as he told us these stories. Enshalla, a ferocious tiger. 11 elephants on 1 airplane.  Herman, the chimp, who thought he was human.  And the one story that stuck out to us all was Junebug- his daughter.

At 3 months old, Juniper August weighs 3 pounds, which is tripling her birth weight.  She fights to make it through one more day.  One more night.  This is where her father comes in to help wage her war.  Each day, Junebug listens as her father tells the story of Harry Potter, The Boy Who Lived.  She listens as his story unfolds.  She listens to his losses, his tragedies, and his battle for the good vs. evil.

She listens as he continues to lose people that matter most to him, yet he never gives up.   Junebug may not be able to understand every word J.K. Rowling has written, but her father’s voice, calm, tells her a story. Makes her happy.  Soothes her.  Tom French knows this makes her happy because her monitors go up to show that more oxygen is saturating her blood as he reads the story.

He knows which characters are her favorite. Dobby, who doesn’t love Dobby? He know which characters scare her (so many…).    He knows that he had to change Hagrid’s rough voice. Not because he is a villain, but because she needs to hear the sweet soothing sound of her father’s voice that reassures her everything will be okay.

Scientific proof is in front of him, revealing that his storytelling is making a difference and that the writer of those books, J.K.Rowling has power.  She has power as a writer.  Tom knows this because he is a writer.  His beliefs are confirmed by his daughter.  Junebug receives her strength from the sweet calm of her father’s voice telling a story.  And she continues the fight.  Fighting hard because she wants to know what her father is going to say next in his stories.

With three books published and the luxury of hearing him tell a story- we know the power of Tom French, the Writer.  But now…after hearing the beginning of Junebug’s story, The Girl Who Lived, we know also that one more thing is for certain.

Stories matter.



Oh, how I love Pinterest! Sometimes it’s like picking up a favorite book off of your bookshelf to hear exactly what you need hear.  Or should I say read.  Today was one of those days when you question your career choice.  I truly LOVE teaching.  I love sharing my passion for reading and writing, then seeing how my students catch that bug like it’s contagious.  For example, today we finished The Tiger Rising.  Let me pause and just reminisce on that for a moment.  I think this may be my favorite children’s book.  Somehow, Kate DiCamillo topped my love for Harry Potter.  Congratulations, Kate!  You win! I don’t know why or how this book hasn’t been turned into a movie.

As we were reading the book, I kept telling my students I was going to tear up.  They didn’t believe me. Today, they saw it.  Those last few chapters are a doozy! She is a powerful writer.  So powerful.  I’ve come to realize this is how a book makes it to my favorites list- makes me cry.  (i.e. Mockingjay, Because of Winn-Dixie, Harry Potter)Isn’t that what we want?  To read a book that tugs at our hearts?  Keeps us on the edge of our seats? Makes us feel the emotions our characters are feeling?  It sure doesn’t feel like fiction to me-we’ve come to know these characters and journeyed alongside them as they face obstacles and turmoil.

Back to the point of today’s post. Motivation.  Clearly as you can see above, my motivation every day is watching my students experience what it means to be a reader and a writer.  Dare I say, these things matter more to me than Math or Science. Because I know how Reading and Writing have helped me to deal with life.  Not just my job or my career, but life.  I know that when I have a day like today, I can come home and find a wonderful quote or insight. Or I can pick up the book I’ve been reading and hope something finally happens even though I am halfway through! Or I can go back to one of my favorites on the bookshelf.  Either way, I am escaping into a world that enthralls me and embraces me.  I feel a sense of calm in a world chaotic, crazy, and sometimes crippling.

Motivation.  What motivates us at work?  I found the above photo on Pinterest and of course it is from TEDBlog and is linked to the full blog post which analyzes, “What motivates us at work?” If you would like to see the full blog, you can find it here.

The one that speaks to me the most is:

“Positive reinforcement about our abilities may increase our performance.”

Isn’t this true? Especially for teachers.  Just as our students need to hear that they are doing something (ANYTHING)  well-so do teachers.  Not just from our kids, who probably love us the most and matter the most, but from our colleagues, parents, and administrators.

What are your thoughts?  What motivates you at work?  Is it different for you every day?  I think it is for me.  Tomorrow, I might be motivated by “positive images.”  Or maybe they all matter every day?  Points to Ponder 🙂

Happy Tuesday! I hope you are having a merry week!


Book Clubs

Hello December! The holidays are flying by! Thanksgiving came and went.  Now, I am feeling the pressure to get my holiday shopping completed. Dare I say, I have not even started.  (Shocking, I know!)

Moving right along to a fascinating topic-Book Clubs!

Using Book Clubs in the classroom can be one of the most fascinating projects, but also an overwhelming force to be reckoned with.  We started Book Clubs in my 4th grade classroom before Thanksgiving Break.  I am working on a Book Club bundle right now, but I wanted to keep a record and ongoing chronicle of how it’s going in my classroom.  This is the beginning of that journey.  So far, we have done the following:

Day 1:  Organized our Book Clubs, I assigned the books and groups.  Students unpacked their Book Club folders and gave themselves a name.  They set goals for finishing  the book, how long it would take them, how many pages per day.

Day 2:  We had a fishbowl Book Club conversation so students could see what the Book Club conversation should look like & sound like.

Day 3-4:  Book Clubs met and I circulated the room and helped guide the conversations.

Day 5:  We are here:)

So, my next post will provide more details & pictures about what I have found works and doesn’t work:)  Stay tuned!