Thursday, August 16, 2012

10 Days of Back to School Frenzy: Day 7

Welcome back to my Back to School Frenzy! It's been quite busy in school but here another great idea for Back to School. :)

One of the things I like to do on the first day of school is read fun poetry to my students. It's important to incorporate poems throughout instruction and this year I would like to make it a point to focus on a poem a week. In this post, I'd like to share two great poems to read the first day of school or even send the poems to your students before school starts, if possible, and then go over them on the first day of class. If you like these poems, just click on them so you can download them for FREE via my Teacher's Notebook shop.

Hope you like these poems. I know I've seen them around before so it's nice to be able to share them again. What types of poems do you like to share with your students during the first week of school? See you next time!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

10 Days of Back to School Frenzy: Day 6

Today's Back to School Frenzy idea is inspired by the book Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes. This is one of my favorite books to read at the beginning of the school year because there are so many things you can do with it.

If you haven't read the book before, here's a brief summary. It's about a little mouse named Chrysanthemum and how she thought her name was beautiful and special until she started school. At school kids would pick on her because her name was so long and she was named after a flower. Chrysanthemum goes from loving her name to wanting a different name. The story goes on until something happens and then Chrysanthemum goes back to loving her unique, special, beautiful name.

This is a great story to help students appreciate and embrace the unique and special differences we each share. I also use this story as one of my bullying prevention lessons. I have a paper with the image of the character Chrysantemum. As I read the story, I tear the page or crumple it every time someone says something hurtful to Chrysanthemum in the story. As Chrysanthemum starts to feel better towards the end of the story, I start flattening the paper and taping it to put it back together. After the story, I start a discussion about why I was tearing the paper. Then I show the students the how the paper looks after I tried to fix it and they will notice that there are still wrinkles on it and no matter how much we try to flatten them out, they are still going to be there. That's when I explain to the students that the words we say have the same affect. Sure we can be sorry and apologize for saying hurtful things, but the wrinkles or scars of those words will stay with us. That's why it's important to respect one another and be careful with what we say.

Well, besides that great bullying prevention lesson, I use Chrysanthemum to have students focus on their own names and what makes them special. Last summer, I found an AWESOME activity from one of Scholastic's Teacher Bloggers, Alycia Zimmerman. She shared her What's in a Name? Back to School Literacy Unit last August and I used it along with Chrysanthemum. Check out her blog post and the great printables she shares there.

In addition to that, this year I thought about using Wordle to further emphasize how unique and wonderful our names are. If you've never used Wordle before, I recommend you go to the Wordle website, play around with it, and see what you can create. Well, I want students to be able to create their own Wordle using their names. Students will include the meaning of their names, where their names came from, and other interesting bits of information about their names. Here's a Wordle I created as a sample using my name:

After students create their Wordle, they can print them out, and then I can give them some construction paper to frame it for display in our classroom. I'm currently working on a printable to go along with this Wordle activity but because I'm busy getting ready for the opening of school I haven't had a chance to finish it yet. No worries...I'll try to have it completed by the end of the week.

By the way...I also wanted to mention that Alycia Zimmerman also states on her post (comments section) that her students prefer using Tagxedo which is similar to Wordle but she says it's more customizable. You can give it a try by visiting

So I hope you have enjoyed today's Back to School Frenzy idea. Come back tomorrow for day 7. Have a wonderful, whimsical, Wednesday!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

10 Days of Back to School Frenzy: Day 5

Today marks our halfway mark in our 10 Days of Back to School Frenzy. I hope you have been enjoying the ideas and activities I've shared so far. Your comments have been wonderful and they motivate me to keep on writing. today I'd like to share a booklet I have my students complete at the beginning of the year to get them to think about how reading has impacted their lives. The booklet is titled My Journey as a Reader.

In this booklet, students jot down:

  • Book they've recently read
  • A book that made the most impact in them and why it's special
  • Books they remember reading when they were much younger
  • A sketch of their favorite place to read and a description of it
  • A "bookography" where they describe three all-time favorite books
If I have a student that just can't think of books they like or books they've read, I just encourage them to think about books or stories that their parents or teachers have read to them in the past. If you happen to have students like this be sure to always encourage them with a positive and loving gesture. These may be the students who haven't had a positive experience with reading in the past and you might be the teacher who could turn that around.

After students complete these booklets, we share them in groups and then have a few share outs. It's a great way to get students revved up for reading and recommend books to one another. Can you tell how crazy I am about reading? I just know that it's life changing and that reading doesn't have to be something kids do in school just because they have to pass a test. Reading stays with you for a lifetime and it's about time more kids have great positive experiences in and out of school with reading. Don't you agree? 

If you would like to use this back to school activity with your kids, you've come to the right place. By clicking on the image below you'll be taken to my Teachers Notebook shop where you can download it for for a small fee.

I hope you like this idea and I can't wait to share with you other ideas in the next few days. Best of luck to you as you get ready for a new school year. Have a magical day!

Monday, August 13, 2012

10 Days of Back to School Frenzy: Day 4

Welcome back to my Back to School Frenzy! Today on Day 4, I'd like to share and talk more about the Student Interest Survey I mentioned back on Day 2. Along with the Classroom Scavenger Hunt and the Grade Level Trivia sheets I have ready on each students' desk, I also provide a Student Interest Survey. This survey goes hand in hand with my 40 Book Challenge as inspired by The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller.

If you haven't read this great professional book, I strongly recommend you get your hands on it. Not only is it truly inspiring but it will have you thinking about your current approach to reading instruction and how to motivate your students to read beyond the classroom. It's just plain AWESOME!

I implemented the 40 Book Challenge last year with my fourth graders. Students were asked to read 40 chapter books from nine different reading genres. So not only did they have to meet the number of chapter books read but also the genre requirement that goes with the challenge. Many of my students met the challenge and some even surpassed the 40 book requirement. One student in my class read over 60 books and his mom was amazed with his progress. I was proud of each and every one of my students, even the ones that only read 10 or 20 books because that was still more chapter books than they had ever read before in a single school year. is the Student Interest Survey related to this 40 Book Challenge? Simple. In order to help students get motivated for reading, our job as teachers is to tap into their interests. We need to learn what they aspire to be when they grow up, what they do for fun, what kind of activities they like to do, what type of TV shows they like to watch, what their favorite subjects are, and so forth. This information will help determine what types of books students will be interested in reading. That's where the magic of awakening the inner reader in every child begins. By tapping into what students are interested in, we then know what books to recommend and how to encourage students to read, read, and READ some more!

The Student Interest Survey is 2 pages.
This is only a sample of  page 1.

Once students fill out this interest survey, I review them carefully and meet with students as needed to talk about what books they have read in the past and what books they'd like to read. If I have a student that's not too interested in reading or doesn't know what books to read, the survey can help me learn more about their interests and what they like so that I can recommend possible books for them to read.

So, if you'd like to use this survey with your students this year to learn more about their interests and tie it into the reading, you don't have to go much further. Click on the image below to be able to download, from my Teachers Notebook store, your own copy of the survey I use with my students.

I hope you will find this idea resourceful. Take care and I hope to see you back tomorrow for Day 5 of my Back to School Frenzy. Have a fabulous day!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

10 Days of Back to School Frenzy: Day 3

On this 3rd day of my Back to School Frenzy, I'd like to piggy-back on something I mentioned on yesterday's post. As you may have noticed from the photo on that post, next to the back to school activity sheets I also placed a small goody bag with a note for each of my students. So for today's Back to School idea I'd like to share with you how I put those together and what's on the note as well.

In my students' back to school goody bags I place a couple of items that are not only useful for the students but also have a special meaning. Here's a list of the items I include and their meanings:

  • Sharpened Pencils: To get you ready for all the writing we'll do
  • Bookmark: To serve as a guide as we travel through the pages of many wonderful books
  • Stickers: Serve as a reminder that we'll always stick together and help each other out
  • Star Eraser: Serves two purposes: (1) It's OK to make mistakes, we learn best from them and (2) To remind you that I believe in you and I already know you are a star!
  • Homework Pass and $50 Sanchez Money (related to my classroom economy): A little gift from me to you!

As you can see from the picture, both the Homework Pass and the Sticker Sheet are camping related which goes together with my overall camping theme in my class. I place all these items in a clear cellophane goody bag and use the bag tie to not only close the bag but also attach the note.

You can also see that I included three pencils. I get my pencils from because they are of great quality, they sharpen well, and have good erasers. I have a Welcome to Ms. Sanchez' Class pencil that I personalized at For Teachers Only, a Fabulous 4th Grader pencil, and an I Love to Write pencil. I got the big star shaped eraser from Oriental Trading. That's where I got my camping stickers too.

If you are interested in creating Back to School Goody Bags like mine, your wish has been granted! I've gone ahead and created a generic version of my goody bag note along with a Homework pass that you can use in case you don't have one. I made my homework pass through Vista Print. So, if you'd like to get your hands on these documents, click on the picture below.

I hope you like this idea. Do you give your students special back to school goody bags too? If so, please share in the comment section below what you include in yours. Take care and see you tomorrow! Have a magical day.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

10 Days of Back to School Frenzy: Day 2

Welcome back! Today is Day 2 of my 10 Days of Back to School Frenzy. I hope you enjoyed yesterday's back to school writing activity. School is about to start in a few days for some and a few more weeks for others. I actually return to work next Tuesday to get my classroom ready for my future 4th graders and to get everything set for a smooth first day of school. Talking about the first day, I would like to share with you some of the activity sheets I have ready for my students once they walk through my classroom door on the first day. Here's what they see on their desks as soon as they walk in:

Besides the back to school goody bag, which I'll talk more about in another post, students find a couple of sheets of activities for them to complete while I'm at the door greeting new students, talking to parents, taking attendance, doing class counts, etc. Phew! Aren't we teachers busy bees on the first day of school? These activities are a great way for students to be engaged in preparation for the first day of learning. Here's a list of the activity sheets seen on this photo:
  • Fours Trivia
  • Classroom Scavenger Hunt
  • Student Interest Survey (which I'll address in another post)
In the Fours Trivia, students try to answer some trivia questions related to the number 4 since they are starting 4th grade. Some questions are easy while others might require a little bit of thinking. For example: What is the 4th month of the year? and What is the 4th batter in a baseball line up called? 

Next up is the Classroom Scavenger Hunt. On this activity sheet, students answer questions and fill in information that will get them better acquainted with our classroom. 

These are just some simple activities that will engage the students at the start of the first day of school. So...what types of activities do you have your students work on as soon as they enter your room on the first day? I would love for you to share in the comments section below.

I hope you find some interest in these activities because I've sprinkled my magical teaching fairy dust to bring these great resources to you for FREE through my Teachers Notebook store. The file is titled First Day of School Trivia. If you like the Fours Trivia, you'll find that I've also provided a Seconds Trivia, Thirds Trivia, and Fifths Trivia as well. I also included the Classroom Scavenger Hunt for your use. Please click on the picture link below to go to my Teachers Notebook so you can download the file.

Thanks for stopping by and be sure to return tomorrow at 10am for Day 3 of my Back to School Frenzy. Have a wonderful day!

Friday, August 10, 2012

10 Days of Back to School Frenzy: Day 1

Day 1 of my 10 Days of Back to School Frenzy begins with a great writing activity I like to do the first week of school. It's called the Summer "Shorts" Story. This activity allows students to practice essential writing skills while at the same time incorporating a touch of kid art. I'm a sucker for kid-created art work. I love to incorporate it into my instruction whenever I can and display it all over my room. Summer Shorts also allows students to get to know one another by sharing what they did during summer vacation.

So what exactly is Summer "Shorts" Story? Well, here are the steps in the activity. Students will:
  1. Brainstorm what they did during summer vacation
  2. Choose their favorite summer activity
  3. Make a list of million dollar words or mature vocabulary related to the activity
  4. Write a first draft one-paragraph "short" story about the activity (the highlight)
  5. Read and revise their writing
  6. Participate in Peer Editing to make more improvements on their writing
  7. Rewrite their final draft on a 3x5 index card
  8. Decorate the shorts template with a summer related theme
  9. Paste their index card on the space provided on the shorts template
  10. Share their "short" stories with the class

Summer "Shorts" Sample:

Here's an example of a finished product:

Example of Finished Summer "Shorts" Story

Please note that students can have the option to illustrate their shorts based on their short stories or just decorate their shorts with other summer related themes or colors.

Materials Needed:

A glipse of materials needed for the Summer "Shorts" Story

So what do you need to implement this idea in your class? Here's a list of materials:
  • 3x5 index cards
  • scissors
  • crayons, markers, and/or color pencils
  • glue sticks
  • Summer "Shorts" Planning Sheet
  • Summer "Shorts" Template
Would you like to get your hands on the Summer "Shorts" Planning Sheet and Template? If so, you are welcomed to download it from my Teachers Notebook shop for a small fee. Just click on the image below which will take you to my Pencils and Magic Wands shop. 

I hope you like this activity and that you'll be able to implement it in your classrooms. Please let me know what you think by replying in the comment section below. If you implement this activity during the school year, please let me know how it went. I look forward to sharing and learning from each other. Take care and be sure to come back tomorrow for Day 2 of my Back to School Frenzy. Have a magical day!

Introducing Pencils and Magic Wands!

Welcome to my new teaching blog Pencils and Magic Wands! I'm beyond excited to officially open this blog to the world. For many years I have been designing and maintaining my personal classroom website Ms. Sanchez' Class and now I've decided to branch out even more. Sure I've dabbled with blogs before here and there but what I have in store for this newest blog is beyond what I've done in the past.

My goal is to share my creative ideas and lessons with other teachers and educators in the online world. It is my desire to join in with other fantastic and fabulous teacher bloggers who have so graciously and generously opened up their classrooms and teaching minds to educators like me. A big THANK YOU to those teachers who go above and beyond! You are truly a great inspiration.

To kick off the official launch of Pencils and Magic Wands on this 10th day of August, 2012, I would like to offer all of my visitors 10 days of Back to School Frenzy! What does that mean? Well, for the next 10 days (including today), I would like to share some of my favorite Back to School ideas and lessons. I hope you'll come back each day to see what's new. The first Back to School Frenzy idea/lesson will be posted at exactly 10am EST today! So come back later to share the wealth. See you then.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Pardon Our Fairy Dust!


I'm really excited to bring to you Pencils and Magic Wands a blog dedicated to creativity, enthusiasm, and magical learning opportunities. Please be patient as fairy dust continues to be sprinkled in preparation for our grand debut. If everything goes as planned, the tentative launch date for my blog will be on August 10, 2012 at 9:00am EST. I look forward to seeing you then! Have a magical week.