Diary of a Not So Wimpy Teacher

10 Tips for Implementing Book Clubs

Do you use book clubs during guided reading or your reading centers? If not, you need to check out THIS post to read about why book clubs are the bomb digity.

Are you ready to implement book clubs? I have ten tips that will transform you into the book club guru! Let's get started...

1. Differentiate
Differentiate your book clubs by choosing different books for each group. The book should be a good fit for the the group's reading level. Even your lowest level of readers can participate in book clubs if you find the right book!

2. Get Books
Make sure that every student has a copy of the book to read from. When you ask students to share a book, it is very easy for students to get distracted. Since every group is doing a different book, you probably only need 5-6 copies of each book. Check your school and public library. I also suggest stalking the Scholastic book club order fliers. If you are 1:1 or have enough technology for one group, you can get the Kindle form of the book and share across multiple devices.

3. Base Clubs on Standards
Be sure to choose the book club books based on the standards you will be teaching. If you will be teaching informational text standards, then you will want all of your book club groups to be reading a nonfiction book. If you are teaching literature standards, then your clubs should be reading a fiction book.

4. Capitalize on Student Interests
Choose books based on student interest! This is the easiest way to get student buy-in and excitement. When students are excited, they will give you more effort. So if you have a group that loves baseball, maybe they need to read a book about Babe Ruth.

5. Introduce New Books
Use book clubs to introduce books by different authors or from a different series than books that have been read already. This is your chance to expand your students' reading interests. Don't give them an I Survived book if you notice they already read them a lot independently. Also, if you read a book as a full class read aloud, try not to do the next book in the series in book clubs. You already got them excited about that series! Let them read it independently and use book club as another opportunity to expose them to good authors.

6. Read More Than You Talk
Make sure that you and your students are using the majority of the book club time to read. I kinda seriously love to talk. It is easy for me to get preaching and reading time to get sucked down the drain. I am not saying that you shouldn't discuss the book, but keep the chat short and focused so that lots of reading is happening. We usually read for 2/3 of the time and write for the other 1/3. Sometimes we skip the writing and just read the entire time!

7. Read Together
Choral read during book clubs. Having students choral read will increase focus and engagement. Reading together helps students to have a shared reading experience and makes it seem less like work. When you popcorn read, you will have lots of kids who will get nervous to read and distracted when others read. When you have students read the book club book silently, they are able to skip all of the words they don't know and every kids reads at a different speed. This makes the planning difficult. 

8. Ditch the Traditional Book Club Jobs
Asign the same task to every student in the book club group to ensure that each student is practicing the current teaching point. Rather than assigning one student to write the summary, assign the whole group to write a summary. When you are working on context clues, have all of the group member find words and use clues to determine the definition. When all students are practicing the current standard, it makes book club time more valuable.

9. Meet Regularly
Have book clubs meet regularly so that students can get invested in the story and finish it in a reasonable amount of time. I meet with my book clubs as our meet the teacher guided reading group. I meet with each group for 30 minutes every other day. You can read more about my schedule HERE.

10. Get Raffling 
Keep students pumped to read by raffling off the rights to read the next book in the series. If you just read The Lemonade War in book club, raffle off the right to read The Lemonade Crime.

It feels good to have students begging to read a book! You can read more about book raffles HERE.

Now that you are a book. club expert, you are ready to lead the troops! 

If you need some book club graphic organizers, I highly recommend these ones because they cover so many standards and reading skills!

Happy clubbing!

5 Reasons to Use Book Clubs During Reading Groups

Book clubs are a great way to teach the standards while helping students to develop a love for reading!

Book clubs are the bees knees! No really! My students loved book clubs and were excited to read. That is a major teacher win! (I never had a kid get excited to get out their reading text book.)

I use book clubs during my guided reading groups. My students are ability grouped and come to meet with me for 30 minutes every other day. (You can read more about my reading centers by clicking HERE.) When they come to meet with me, we choral read from their book club book. We generally read for about 20 minutes and write for the last 10 minutes. 

Let me tell you all of the reasons that book clubs rock!

1. Easy to Practice and Spiral Standards
What standard or skill are you focusing on this week in reading? Instead of printing worksheets and passages just for that skill, you can use the book club text to practice. If you are working on summarizing, have students summarize the chapter. If you are working on main idea, have students find the main idea and supporting details of a chapter. When we are working on literature standards, we will read fiction books in clubs. When we are working on informational standards, the book clubs will read expository books. You are not having to come up with all new activities for every standard. 

Book clubs are a great way to teach the standards while helping students to develop a love for reading!

2. Increased Student Interest
Students are almost always more engaged and interested in chapter books than they are interested in stories from the basal. You are able to pick books that you think will be interesting to a particular group of readers. The book club is customized to their interests rather than everyone reading the same stories. If I have a group of students who are really interested in mysteries, they can read a mystery for their book club. Another group might prefer something comical. 

3. Introducing New Authors and Series
My biggest goal as a reading teacher is to have my students love to read. I do not believe that third graders do not like to read. Some of them just haven't found the book that they love to read. #challengeaccepted During book clubs I can introduce students to authors, series and genres that they may not be familiar with. Now students will be more willing to try new books on their own! They are one step closer to finding the books that they love.

4. Easy to Differentiate
We all have diverse reading levels in our classes. I used to think that I needed to plan completely different lessons for my leveled readers. #iwaswrong Everyone can do book clubs! I just choose books that are ideal for the group's reading level. Now all four of my groups are doing the same activity, but it is differentiated to their level. My lower level students are so happy to be doing the same book clubs with everyone else!

Book clubs are a great way to teach the standards while helping students to develop a love for reading!

5. Simple Planning and Prep
Book clubs take me almost no time to plan and prep! That is a huge bonus! At the beginning of the quarter, I chose a book for each reading group. (You can learn more about how I pick books by clicking HERE.) Then I make a list of the standards or skills that I need to teach and/or practice during the quarter. I print book club graphic organizers for those skills. I make copies for each group and put them in tubs near my reading table. Done. I am prepped for an entire quarter of reading groups!

Book clubs are a great way to teach the standards while helping students to develop a love for reading!

Are you convinced that book clubs will rock your world? I knew you would be. You probably have some questions though. And I have good news...I wrote a post with tips to get those book clubs up and running in your classroom!

Click on the picture below to get started!

Have a Not So Wimpy Day!

Tips for Using Brag Tags Without Losing Your Mind!

Lots of ideas for making brag tags simple and meaningful!

Are you looking for a positive classroom behavior incentive? Brag tags are my go to way to reward students for their behavior and for meeting academic goals. They are the bomb digity!

Isn't it funny that kids will work their butt off just to earn a small piece of paper? #lol I think what they love most might actually be getting recognized. Plus, they kind of like collecting things. 

I often hear about people who make brag tags too difficult. Then they end up giving up on them half way through the year. I am here to give you tips that will make your brag tag experience simple and effective. 

Brag Tag Prep
Prepping brag tags is super easy. It takes some time, but can be done in front of the TV. I recommend prepping for the whole year all at once so that you don't have to think about it again. 

Decide on the tags that you want to have available. Print the tags on cardstock for extra durability. I choose to print from home, but if you print at an office supply store- bring your own cardstock and they will charge less. I HIGHLY recommend laminating your tags. I use THIS laminator and love it. Cut the tags out. I bribe ask my own children to do the cutting. The last step is to use a hole punch to make one hole at the top of the tags. Done! 

Awarding Tags
You don't need to hand tags out every day! I prefer to have one day per week that I award all tags earned that week. I plug the brag tag ceremony into my Friday lesson plans and then I don't forget! 

If you see a brag tag worthy behavior during the week, jot it down on a sticky note or put the student's name on the back of the earned tag. But no need to interrupt the class to hand it out that very moment.  

If you do have some students that need immediate feedback (or if students around them will be motivated to improve because of the feedback), give them a hint to get them excited. Say something like, "You are doing so awesome that I bet you get something special at our next brag tag ceremony!" 

Be the Brag Tag Boss
My most important brag tag rule is that I am the only one who decides when a brag tag will be awarded. You cannot ask for a brag tag or ask why you didn't get a brag tag. That gets annoying! 

But the big reason for this rule is that I differentiate brag tags. What earns one kiddo a brag tag may be different than one earns another kid a tag. It just makes them more meaningful.

Keeping Track
I often have people ask me, "How do you keep track of who has earned which tag?" My answer is simple. I don't I am all about making this system simple! It is OK for a student to receive the same tag more than once! They won't care! It's like collecting baseball cards. Collectors don't mind getting several of a card that they love. 

So maybe your kiddo got a teamwork tag a few weeks ago and then another this week. No biggie! They earned it and they will still love it! If you are giving tags for homework completion, AR points, or math facts mastery- you might need to keep track, but my guess is that you are already keeping track of that kind of stuff.

Limit the Tags
If you have a million tags available at all times, you will most definitely lose your mind trying to keep up with the system. I would suggest choosing 10-12 tags that are available for students during a given month. You can switch some or all of the available tags the next month. Having a limited number of tags helps students to focus in on the skills that are most important to you during that time period. 

You might even have a special "tag of the month." You can talk to students about the types of behaviors that will help them to earn that tag and post it somewhere where students can see it every day. 

It's Not Fair
Here's the deal- in my class brag tags must be EARNED. That means that every kid will not receive the tag and every kid will not get a tag every week. That's ok! If they have to work for the reward, it will be more meaningful. Don't GIVE them away! 

Also, keep in mind that every student doesn't have to be working towards the same tag. One kiddo may be working on sight words, while other has them mastered. The ones that don't need to work on sight words, will work towards a different goal instead of being given a tag for something they didn't have to work for in my class. 

The moral of the story is that brag tags aren't fair in my class and that's exactly the way I want it. 

The Necklaces
I get asked all the time about where to get the necklaces. I have seen the ball chain necklaces at craft stores such as Michael's and JoAnn's. You can also by them on Amazon by clicking HERE

Brag Tag necklaces

Some people make a big display board where student necklaces are hung. That's fine. I keep it extra simple and just have students keep their necklaces in their pencil box in their desk. 

They only wear them on Fridays. At the end of the year, they will take them home as a keepsake of their hard work.

Brag Tag Resources
Are you ready to get started with brag tags? I have a couple of bundles that are full of tags to help you implement the brag tag program.

These brag tags are perfect for kindergarten and first grade. They include letter sounds, phonograms, and much more!

This large bundle of tags includes tags for academics, character traits, holidays and even editable tags!

I hope that these tips help you to keep from losing your mind while using brag tags. Keep it simple!

Have a Not So Wimpy Day!

Tips for Choosing the Right Math Centers

Have you ever ordered something at a restaurant and after just one bite, you knew you had ordered the wrong meal? It's a major letdown! #foodisabigdeal

Choosing the wrong math centers is also a major letdown. It can be a huge waste of money, time and patience. We don't have any of those to spare, so we need to choose wisely! I have some tips for you to keep in mind that might save you from being disappointed by purchasing the WRONG MATH CENTERS!

1. Choose centers made specifically for your grade level.
Every grade has different standards and ability levels. Whenever you see math centers that say they are ideal for grades 1-4, you need to run. Those aren't the centers for you! You want centers that will help your students to practice the skills they are learning in their curriculum. If the centers are too easy, they are a waste of time. If the centers are too hard, students will be frustrated and not able to work independently.

2. Choose centers that can be used any time of the year.
I love holidays and I love themed resources with cutesy clip art. But, we don't all teach the same skill during the same month! Someone's February centers won't necessarily match up with my February content needs.

My school taught multiplication in July while lots of schools don't even start classes until September. I found that when I bought monthly math center sets, the skills did not really match the skills my students were learning or needed to practice. Seasonal centers just make it hard to mix them in with your curriculum and curriculum map.

Even if the seasonal centers do match the skills you need students to practice during the month, they may not match if your school changes curriculum or you move to a different school.

Instead, choose centers that are skill based so that they can be used any time of the year. I can use multiplication centers in July and other teachers can use the same centers in October! They won't have cute little pumpkins on them, but that's ok! 

3. Choose centers that stay consistent all year.
When I first started using math centers, I had a new game or activity for my students to do every week. This meant that I spent valuable class time explaining all of these centers. Not cool! #rookiemistake

Instead, choose centers that have similar activities and directions for the entire year. Now you can teach your students how to use the centers at the beginning of the year and not waste much class time with directions each week.

4. Choose centers that allow for rigorous practice of your standards.
Center time is not just a way too entertain students while you work with small groups! Center time needs to be valuable. Always giving students simple games and activities will not help them to grow. Instead, choose centers that include problem solving, math vocabulary, math journaling and other activities that require students to think critically.

5. Choose centers that are simple enough for students to complete independently.
This tip may seem like a contradiction to the last tip, but give me a chance to explain. It is important that students are thinking critically, but the centers still need to be simple enough to complete independently. They should contain student friendly directions with a simple format. 

Also, consider giving students centers that focus on a skill that you have already covered in class. The center is then a great way to spiral review and students are more likely to be successful independently.

6. Choose centers that are fun.
Yes, it is possible to have centers that are rigorous and still fun! Look for math centers that have hands-on activities such as sorting, matching, rolling dice, using spinners, coloring, etc. Avoid worksheets! They are super boring. Students don't enjoy them and are likely to rush through them and not do their very best. When centers are fun, students will look forward to them!

The Good News
I made the perfect centers. I admit that they won't be perfect for everyone. Remember you should choose centers specific to your grade level. But if you teach third or fourth grade- today is your lucky day! #happydance

I have created skill based math centers for 3rd grade and a set for 4th grade. They are rigorous, but super fun. They include student friendly directions and the format stays consistent all year. I told you it was good news!

Click on the photos to take a look for yourself.

My last tip...when you go to a restaurant, always order tacos and you will never be letdown. #lifelesson

Have a Not So Wimpy Day!

My Favorite Third Grade Books

Book recommendations for 3rd grade read alouds and book clubs

I get asked all of the time on Facebook what books I recommend for third grade read alouds or classroom libraries. I keep typing out my list of favorites and then it occurred to me- I should make this list a blog post! Duh! #alwayslearning

So here are some of my favorite books for third graders:

This is a short and cute book about a boy just starting the third grade. He wants to be cool, but how can he do that when his mom kisses him at the bus stop? He doesn't even have the cool clothes! I like this book because it is funny and helps kids to see that coolness isn't a matter of what you wear or what school supplies you have. This is perfect for the beginning of the year.

This is another short book that is perfect for the first month of school. It is about a third grade teacher that awards one student with the title of Third Grade Angel. Students are competing to be the best behaved and have the best character. They quickly learn how challenging it is to always do the right thing! It has a great message and will make your students giggle.

Oh my! I big puffy heart love this book! I like to read it towards the beginning of the year when we are starting writing workshop. Gooney is a new student in class and she has some crazy stories to tell. They all sound far fetched, but she insists that she only tells absolutely true stories. When telling her stories, Gooney teaches the class some great lessons about personal narratives and figurative speech. You have to get this one!

4. Miss Daisy is Crazy (from the Weird School series)
My lower level readers especially love this series, but rarely come to me knowing about the series. I often use this book in a book club early in the year. This book is about a teacher who convinces her class that she doesn't know anything. The students end up teaching her math and spelling. Isn't she one smart teacher?!

I read this book aloud to every single one of my classes. It is such a great story. The book is told from the point of view of a hamster, Humphrey. He is a class pet and goes home with a different student each weekend. You get a glimpse into the home life of the students in the class and it helps you to understand why they act the way they do in class. This book will make you laugh and still has a fun message. The series has several other books that my kids can't wait to independently read after this read aloud. 

I remember this book from when I was a kid. It is still just as fun. The stories are super funny and a little strange! I use this book as a read aloud. I love that every chapter is its own story. If you go a few days without reading (which I don't know what you would!), you can pick right back up without having to review. There are several more Wayside School books that my kids get excited to read after we finish this one.

This book is AMAZING. I can read it every year and it never gets old and I am never able to finish it with dry eyes. The writing is incredible and you get so attached to the characters. It is the story of animals that are in a mall circus. They are not well cared for and dream about living in a zoo with other animals. Get this book. Like right now. I'll wait....

Who decided that a pen would be called a pen? In this book, a boy decides to rename the pen. He calls it a Frindle and starts a huge school controversy. The book is funny, but also very thought provoking. It really shows the power that one student can have. I often use this as a book club book with my highest readers. 

The Who Was/Who Is series is excellent! I always have a group of students who love informational text. There are so many of these books that cover so many different topics. You can probably find some that fit in with student interests and science/social studies skills. I keep lots of these in our classroom library and use them for our informational text book clubs too.

My third graders LOVED the I Survived series! The books are historical fiction. Each book takes place during a different historical disaster. Students learn some facts about the time in history, but it is fiction and very engaging to my readers. I highly recommend putting some of these in your classroom library.

Let me start by saying that, despite my blog name, I am not crazy about these books. But, who cares! My third graders love them and that is all that really matters. I firmly believe that kids should be aloud to read anything that gets them excited to read. The books are graphic novels and they deal with typical family and school problems that kids face. You need to have these in your class library. They will probably be the most loved books in your library!

This is an adorable book about sibling rivalry. A brother and sister are competing to see who can raise the most money. My students always laugh at the fights these two have. They also learn a little about doing what is right when no one is watching. This book has lots of math in it! I love that! I recommend using this one as a book club so that everyone can see the math equations. There are more books in the series and my students are anxious to read them as soon as we finish!

I hope these recommendations help you to add amazing titles to your third grade library!

Are you new to teaching third grade? I wrote a blog post just for you with extra tips and resource suggestions! 

ook recommendations for 3rd grade read alouds and book clubs

Have a Not So Wimpy Day!

How to Prepare for Back to School Over Summer Break

Tips that will help you prepare for next year!

Teachers are the funniest people. We count down the days until summer break. Then, as soon as summer break starts, we begin to think about how we want to prep and prepare for back to school! 

I have ten pretty easy things that you can do over summer break that will make back to school a whole lot easier. (The best part is that most of these things can be done in a swim suit or pajamas!) Grab a summer beverage and let's get started!

1. Relax

First, prepare yourself. You cannot be a phenomenal teacher if you do not take time to unwind and recharge. Spend a couple weeks reading an adult book, laying by the pool, watching Netflix and being with friends and family. You deserve the break! 

2. Reflect and Set Goals

Now that you have had a little time to relax, you are ready to reflect and set new goals. Get a pretty notebook and new pens and jot down some notes. What went well last year? What did you struggle with last year? What area would you like to grow in? What new thing would you like to try this year?

3. Read Professional Development Books

Now that you have some goals, choose a couple PD books that you can enjoy (poolside with an adult beverage). Professional Development books always give me great ideas and get me pumped up to try new things. If you are looking for some great books, check out THIS post.

4. Pin and Read Blogs

Pinterest and teacher blogs are a wealth of knowledge and ideas. Take some time perusing the web for ideas and strategies that you would like to try. Now raise your right hand and repeat after me. "I will not go on to Pinterest and get completely overwhelmed. I know that I can't do it all. I will just look for a few ideas that will solve a problem in my classroom." Click HERE to check out my Pinterest boards. 

5. Clean and Organize

You're probably going to want to get dressed for this one. Schedule one or two days to go into your classroom and really get organized. Get rid of anything you have not used in the past 1-2 years. Don't be a crazy hoarder! 

Go label happy so that it will be easy for you and and your students to find supplies next year. This step is easier if you are playing some happy tunes! The louder, the better. 

Then quickly get home and back into your pajamas. After all, you are on break!!!

6. Garage Sale Shop

Depending on where you live, summer can be a great time to hit up the garage sales. I like to buy books for the classroom library. You can also find games and book shelves. But books are really my jam. 

7. Purchase and Prep Classroom Decor

How will you be decorating your classroom? If you are doing any redecorating, now is a great time to hit the teaching store or purchase a classroom decor kit on TpT. Get things printed, cut and laminated if necessary. Click HERE to take a look at my favorite classroom themes.

I am currently obsessed with this game board theme!

8. Print and Laminate 

Summer is the perfect time to print, cut and laminate any centers that you plan to use during the year. This will save you so much time during the year. 

I also like to prep the brag tags that I will need. If you have older children, nieces, nephews or neighbors- I highly recommend bribing asking them to do all of the cutting for you. This will give you more time to nap and watch Netflix. #youarewelcome

9. Plan the First Two Weeks

It's time to get activities and lessons planned and prepped for those first two weeks. You know those weeks are exhausting and you will kiss yourself for not having to stay up late writing plans. Do it now while you are rested and excited. Click HERE for some first day of school activity ideas.

10. Prepare for Open House

Does your school have some kind of open house, curriculum night or meet the teacher day? Now is a great time to prepare any paperwork that you will need students and/or parents to fill out. Do you need to create a PowerPoint to share classroom policies with parents? Or do you want to make a document? Get it done now! All of your coworkers will be jealous. 

Tips that will help you to prepare for next school year!

If you are a fast finisher, your assignment is to get back to the pool!

Have a not so wimpy day!