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Just thinking about morning work makes me sigh. There are too many factors that don't always line up for it to seem feasible. 

Here are my problems with morning work:
  • Not every student arrives to school at the same time. Those students who arrive late regularly, or even right when the bell is about to ring, are starting their day behind. Not cool.
  • Students should be accountable for their work. It's hard to hold students accountable if they don't have time to complete it. And if you just check the morning work without giving all students ample opportunity to work on it, then why was it important enough for students A, B, & C to do, but not students E & F who are late every day?
  • Think about when you arrive at school in the morning. Do you want your coworker or principal to come bursting in with something for you to immediately do before you're even unpacked? Probably not. While I may have been up for a couple hours, some of these kids have just rolled out of bed and are barely awake. And if your school is serving breakfast, then many kids probably haven't even eaten!
Morning work can be stressful to manage. Check out these easy options for your third, fourth, or fifth grade classroom.
This post may contain some affiliate links, which means if you click on one of the links and make a purchase, I'll receive a small commission. You will never incur a fee or charge for this.
 But...wait a minute. This blog post is titled "Morning Work Made Easy." Aren't I supposed to be making your life easier? I am! 

To solve all of the aforementioned problems, I have a few suggestions for morning work.

1. Read a book. Encourage students to read their own books in the morning. There is only one thing more important than reading during the school day (and I'll get to that!). So let them read! I found students really enjoyed that time to read on their own or check out books in my classroom library. They also could use this time to update their reading status. We had this freebie posted near the library. My students loved sharing the books they were reading. 

2. Color. Coloring is a good stress reliever and you can find ways to make it fit your needs. When we're reading aloud Harry Potter, I've simply photocopied some of the Harry Potter Coloring Book pages. When we learn about arctic animals, I put out some of these drawing books. If I don't have anything specific, I've used these growth mindset coloring pages also.

August Morning Journal
3. Write in a morning journal. This is where the MOST important thing in the classroom comes into play. RELATIONSHIPS. Using this simple morning journal, students can write about themselves, get something off of their chests, share a little with their classmates, and help YOU to get to know your students better. You could also use these types of prompts as whiteboard questions or as part of your morning meeting. Putting the prompts up early lets students start to think about them when they come in. Also, these are short questions, so even the student who is running late will have time. (Here's a free set to help you get started!) Whether you use these journals, or come up with your own, the key is to keep them brief, but meaningful. The vary prompt topics to keep students engaged. 

That's it. Keep it simple. Choose one. Or give your students all of these as options for morning work. 

Oh, and putting your head down on your desk and just laying there is also an option in my room. As long as you are ready to begin when our first class bell starts, it's totally okay to have a chill/relaxed routine. That extra time really can help a student to mentally prepare to give their 100% during instruction time.
Morning work can be stressful to manage. Check out these easy options for your third, fourth, or fifth grade classroom.

What are your ideas for morning work?


I'm a solid type B (or C or D) teacher. It's just not in me to be super organized. Knowing myself, I've found four simple systems that help me save time and stay a little more organized. Set these up at the beginning of the year and you'll thank yourself later! 
Four different ways to organize your classroom, whether you're type A or type B. Easy to implement today!

Four different ways to organize your classroom, whether you're type A or type B. Easy to implement today!
These birthday cups were a win! Students loved the candy treats and the books.
1. Birthday Cups: I’m the worst at remembering birthdays. I even had my birthday display right near my desk. Didn’t help. So I decided to make birthday cups. I saw this idea on Pinterest or Instagram (can’t remember where) and made my own. Basically, you buy one cup for each student and fill them with goodies at the beginning of the year. Then you have them ready to give out whenever a student’s birthday pops up. I include: smarties, Laffy Taffy, a tootsie pop, starbursts, and a coupon for a book from Scholastic. Scholastic has an amazing deal where teachers can buy birthday coupons for their students. I buy the coupons, but only give my students these certificates to fill out. That way, no one loses the code and I can put in their order for them. 
    Four different ways to organize your classroom, whether you're type A or type B. Easy to implement today!
    My basket isn't fancy, but it works fabulously!
2. Important Papers Basket: it’s the one basket where ALL papers get turned in. I introduce it on the very first day and hope by May that no one will be asking me where to turn something in (a girl can dream, right?). Personally, I like this system better than multiple bins because, inevitably, someone turns something into the wrong bin and it gets lost. I’d rather quickly sort or organize. 

3. Numbers for Students: Game. Changer. Assign numbers in alphabetical order and then you can number everything! Textbooks, notebooks, novel sets, folders, papers to be turned in, extra supplies...This is very helpful when organizing papers because anyone can put the papers in order and tell you what numbers are missing, whether it’s another student, parent volunteer, or another teacher. 
Four different ways to organize your classroom, whether you're type A or type B. Easy to implement today!
Piles of grading are so much easier to organize with student numbers.

4. Duct Tape Community Supplies: Any supplies that are out for students to borrow or use will inevitably go missing from your collection. They'll drift into a student's pencil case or desk by accident. How can you get them all back? Duct tape! I put duct tape on all of my community supplies and it helps me to get everything back (eventually!). 


    Four different ways to organize your classroom, whether you're type A or type B. Easy to implement today!
    I'm a little obsessed with my dog, so the paw duct tape was perfect.

    The duct tape I bought is no longer available on Amazon, but here's a few other cute designs (affiliate links, so I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you).
    Dog Duct Tape

    Pretty Floral Design

    Rainbow Design Duct Tape

    Hope these organization tips save you time! Have any of your own to share? Let me know in the comments below.

    Four different ways to organize your classroom, whether you're type A or type B. Easy to implement today!
    Pin for later!




    Mysteries are probably my favorite genre (see more about my mystery unit here), but historical fiction is a very close second. Students don't always love learning about history, but historical fiction usually presents the facts in an interesting way. The trick is that I need to get my students excited about historical fiction. So why not turn them into book detectives?
    This post may contain some affiliate links, which means if you click on one of the links and make a purchase, I'll receive a small commission. You will never incur a fee or charge for this.
    While reading historical fiction, there are a few things we need to keep track of:
    • Setting: What is happening in the world during this time and at this particular place?
    • Main Character: Is he/she based on a real person? Does he/she accurately represent someone at that time period?
    • Fiction vs. Non-Fiction Events/People/Places: Are there any specific events that the characters are a part of? Do they meet or interact with any real people? What real places do they go to?
    • Realistic Story: Could this story actually happen during this setting? Is this plot based on historical facts?
    1/4 page anchor charts for students are perfect for reference.
    First, I ask my students what they know about historical fiction. Together, we build an anchor chart about the elements of historical fiction. 

    Afterward, I read The Quickest Kid in Clarksville by Pat Zietlow Miller to use as a model for the group. The story is about the parade for Wilma Rudolph in Clarksville, Tennessee after the Olympics. This story is fantastic and highlights a small snapshot in history. It has fictional main characters who interact with a real person. I LOVE this book. It's a great lead into a discussion about why this book was written. (Historical fiction lends itself to author's purpose easily!)

    Now it's time for our Detective Book Mission! A couple mysterious packages are sitting on our back table. I like to wrap up the picture books I'm planning to use, and I also attempt to disguise my handwriting on the envelope addressed to my students. Everyone volunteers to unwrap our surprise packages (I mean, who doesn't love unwrapping a gift??). 

    Once they are opened, students find picture books and instructions. Sometimes the picture books are the same for everyone and sometimes they are chosen based on my students' reading levels. I've done this with 30 students, ranging from below level to way above level. The beauty of the mission is that everyone is working towards the same goal, simply adjusted for their level. Two of the books I chose for this were Amelia And Eleanor Go For A Ride and Peppe the Lamplighter
    Inside the envelope, I include all of the necessary materials for each group.
    My wonderful detectives now read their books as a group. Then, they search their picture books for the elements of historical fiction, which the secretary will record on their Official Detective Notebook paper. 

    True story: Before I became a wiz at PowerPoint, I would gather up looseleaf and handwrite the outline for the Detective Notebook paper because I wanted it to look "real." Once I could design the paper myself using a typewriter font, I decided photocopying was better than handwriting ten different organizers! Especially because I often would make spelling mistakes and have to start over. 🙈 #timesaver #modernmarvel

    While the groups are working, I walk around the room, facilitating and monitoring. When my students are grouped by ability, I tend to give some extra time to my lower level groups, knowing they might need my guidance. Otherwise, I just pop into the different groups and make sure they're on task. I'm very careful to act as though I know nothing about the mission and encourage my students to read and reread the directions they have been given. This helps to build problem solving (and direction following!) skills. 
    This is an example from my Historical Fiction Elements Book Detective Mission.

    Once everyone is finished, they turn in their Detective Notebook paper with their findings, along with their Detective Mission Report, which lets me know how their group is working together. It's also a way for them to self-evaluate because I ask them what their job was and if they helped their group. They can also write down any problems they had and vote for who was the most respectful. I like compliment those students who receive multiple votes and make sure they know that their behavior was top-notch! 

    This fun Detective Mission ends with an exit ticket, where students tell me at least two of the elements of historial fiction and give an example. I like seeing what details they've latched onto during the mission. 

    These Detective Book Missions are my favorite way to dive deeper into a topic while getting my students to read some amazing picture books. The bonus is that the excitement usually keeps them ready for our next step- diving into a historical fiction novel study! More about that coming in a future blog post!

    Want to try out a Detective Book Mission, but you're not sure where to start? Grab this ready-made Historical Fiction Detective Book Mission with a complete lesson plan and all of the printables you'll need. Just add picture books!
    Introduce historical fiction elements by turning students into book detectives. This upper elementary activity engages students as they dive into this genre study. Perfect for starting a novel study or using with reader's workshop.


    I am 10,000% obsessed with Harry Potter. From the moment I started teaching, I kept looking for ways to incorporate this novel into my classroom. I really wanted to be able to show my students the magic of these books, even though it's now so easy for them to have seen the movie without ever having picked up the books. Besides prior exposure, I was also worried that Harry Potter was a long book, so my students might get tired of it. Two years ago, I finally decided I had the perfect unit to incorporate Harry Potter into...mysteries! {Read more about my mystery unit here.} And I was SO glad that I did! 
    This post may contain some affiliate links, which means if you click on one of the links and make a purchase, I'll receive a small commission. You will never incur a fee or charge for this.
    Here are some of my favorite takeaways about why using Harry Potter was a fantastic choice:
    https://amzn.to/2DFsYAR
    https://amzn.to/2r4pOiD
    1. It's a model for both the fantasy AND mystery genre. Everyone knows that HP is a fantasy series, but the whole series is a mystery also. The first book in particular has its own individual mystery, with all of the elements, from detective to suspects to clues and even a red herring. 
    2. Students love the vivid details. J.K. Rowling really describes her wizarding world so well that students get into every detail. The passages work well for showing students how to visualize what an author presents AND how to create their own visual narratives. 
    3. It's a model for ALL THE THINGS. Besides imagery, this book works for plot, types of conflict, point of view, character development, and more. During and after reading this novel, we used this book as a model time and time again for a variety of our reading skills.
    4. Illustrated Edition = AMAZING. If at all possible, I highly recommend getting your hands on a copy of the illustrated edition. If it's not in your budget, get a copy from your local library. My students loved the pictures. Several of them looked for illustrated copies of the second book to continue reading the series too. Also, I bought a couple of the coloring books and had the pictures available for my students to color while we read.
    5. It's a series. Speaking of continuing the series, isn't that the point? I love picking books that are part of series, or they're by an author with a few books out, so I can get my students hooked. HP checks that box easily!
    6. https://amzn.to/2DTcm9u
    7. Book and movie comparison! After we read the book, we had to watch the movie. Some of my students who had seen it before were now watching with new eyes. *spoiler alert!* They were distraught over Peeves missing (me too!) and the logical potion part of the journey to retrieve the stone, among other things. 

    Are you a Potter fan? Let me know how you have used Harry Potter in your classroom!

    Looking for more specific ways to target comprehension skills with Harry Potter? Try this lapbook, which focuses on monitoring & clarifying (close reading) skills with the mystery clues, track vocabulary words, analyze characters using character traits, and write creatively. 

    I love the Wizard Dictionary where students can write all of the new words they learn. I'll never forget the first time I read the word "muggle" and one of my students (who wasn't usually interested in reading) looked at me with intrigue and said, "What's a muggle?" (Cue me doing a happy dance about the excited reader!) 

    Okay, now I'm ready to go re-read the books. Again. :)







    Often when I see posts and activities about growth mindset, they usually include some amazing picture books. While I love picture books, novels are a huge part of my classroom. My yearlong curriculum is based completely on using novels (with some additional resources, especially for non-fiction). This is when I decided to plan a novel unit based around growth mindset.
    This post may contain some affiliate links, which means if you click on one of the links and make a purchase, I'll receive a small commission. You will never incur a fee or charge for this.
    This unit is planned as the first of the year for my fifth graders, but it can also be used at other points in the year. 

    These three novels are my main focus:
    1. Because of Mr. Terupt: Several of the students go through a mindset change, but my favorite is Jeffrey. He's a quiet character so he can be overlooked, but his mental shift is so powerful.
    2. Fish in a Tree: Ally is in 6th grade but can't read. This is a concept that's foreign to most of our students. And for those that struggle, they will see a kindred spirit in Ally. Her mindset completely changes from beginning to the end. 
    3. Holes: Stanley goes through both mental and physical changes throughout the novel. He learns a lot about himself and grows as a person during his experience at Camp Green Lake.

    Here's a picture of my standards based outline: 
    Grab a printable PDF version of this with links to the pictured resources and YouTube videos at the end of this post!
    During the first two weeks, we'll focus on Because of Mr. Terupt, which my students will have read over the summer.* The book is segmented into months, which works perfectly for our review. Using discussion task cards and our monthly summary booklet, we can focus on important parts of the book. Since my students have already read it, I'm trying to have them review it without having them completely reread the whole book. We'll start using it to model narrative elements, including types of conflict, and discuss character traits. Each of the characters is so unique that it's easy to explore their traits and how they change over the

    course of the book. The last thing we'll discuss is theme. There are several different themes in this book, but my goal is to focus on growth mindset, which will easily segue us into our next books!
    Learning Styles bit.ly/FishinaTree

    We will start Fish in a Tree as our read aloud by the second week. I always save the last 10-15 minutes of my ELA block for read aloud time. (If you don't plan for it, it's easy to run out of time, or never have enough time. I plan for it, my students expect it, and we all know it's an important part of our time together!) 

    Fish in a Tree will serve as point of comparison for Because of Mr. Terupt. Both books feature students struggling to deal with difficult times. Their journeys are different and the way they approach the challenges are different. Growth mindset! And really, fixed mindset at first from Ally as she struggles with reading. Text connections are a huge part of my decision to use this book as a read aloud. Similarly to Because of Mr. Terupt, we will use task cards for discussion and also for writing. We'll also talk about learning styles and how we learn individually. This will help me to know my students better and plan better lessons. As with most of my read alouds, our Fish in a Tree time will be more casual because I want my students to enjoy the book and not think of it as "work." Our writing and discussions are more open-ended and less formal. So now let's talk about the real work with my third book.

    During week 3 of school, we'll start Holes. This is our first full-on, in depth close read together. I love love love this book. This is one of those books that I decided I was going to teach before I even became a teacher. I try to build up the excitement for this book from day 1. {Check out this post to see how I set the stage to engage for Holes and other novels.} 


    Setting the stage to engage for Holes!
    For this book, we'll be looking at those same reading standards- narrative elements, character traits, theme, and text connections- and my students will be doing more of the work on their own. We'll use our lapbook to delve deep into the text. For regular assessments, I'll have my students complete these Quick Checks. My students are assigned chapters to read every couple days as part of their homework. They also can work on their reading during any of their free time. The Quick Checks serve as an assessment for me and for them so that we can both see if they're paying attention to their reading. 

    As we're reading, the theme of growth mindset and the importance of reading will come up through our work and discussions. We'll also use this non-fiction Illiteracy in America piece (from the Caramel Apple Teacher). My students were amazed at the statistics for children and adults who couldn't read. This was a powerful real world connection about reading that connects with both Holes and Fish in a Tree

    By the time we are finished with these three books, students will have a solid understanding of narrative elements, character traits, theme, and text connections in addition to growth mindset. There will be a culminating project where students can choose how they want to show their learning (see the options in the unit outline). As we continue through the year, we can keep reflecting back on these books to make more connections and use these characters as role models for growth mindset. 

    What other novels would you recommend for using growth mindset?

    *NOTE: My school asks us to assign two books for summer reading and I chose Because of Mr. Terupt as one of my reads, knowing it would fit perfectly at the beginning of the year. If you aren't able to have students to read it ahead of time, then it could easily be a read aloud or independent read over a couple weeks. 

    Want to grab that free growth mindset unit plan? Click here to have it delivered to your email.



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