Wednesday, August 29, 2012

What's Mr. Giso Making "Room to Read?" Pick #1

The Boy of the Three-Year Nap
By:  Dianne Snyder
Illustrated By:  Allen Say

I teach children's literature at the university level.  Anyone that knows me would be able to testify that it's a huge interest of mine.  In particular, but not exclusively, I LOVE the art of the picture book.  Three out of the four walls in my classroom are lined with them.  The fourth wall has storage cubbies which houses what?  MORE books!  It's no wonder why "Room to Read" was the obvious choice in naming by blog.

I came up with this new idea from a colleague to blog about my newest acquisitions in children's literature from time to time.  This is my newest book that arrived at my doorstep today.  By the way, I definitely recommend signing up for an credit card for all your book purchases.  You get money back to buy more books!  Totally worth it.  This one was free for me with points.  You can easily scroll down to the waaaaaaaaay bottom of my blog for a link to, and the book is a click away.

This charming picture book for my first pick, is a Japanese folktale.  To no surprise, it's a Caldecott Honor book.  The story can be told by simply "reading" the illustrations.  One of my undergrads chose it in her oral presentation on character--it was the perfect choice, so I just had to buy it to add to my library.  This book is about a very hard working widowed mother who has a lazy son Taro.  He could sleep for "three years at a stretch" if no one woke him, hence his name "The Boy of the Three-Year Nap.

One may think that this boy is good for nothing.  When a wealthy rice merchant, his wife and his daughter move to town and build a mansion next to Taro's shack, we soon realize what Taro is capable of doing to help his poor mother and to help bring food on the table.  The villagers by the river Nagara soon have a visit from the god ujigami which leads to this book's climax.  My favorite part of this book is when we learn that Taro is not the only one who has a trick or two "up his sleeve." 

Remember to sign up for updates and become a Mr. Giso's Room to Read" © blog member for updated "Bright Ideas" and "Book Picks."  All of my "Book Picks" should be linked at the bottom of my blog.  Happy reading!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Mr. Giso's Room to Read's Bright Idea #5

ME BAG First Week of School Activity

I've been asked to blog about this great idea I have been doing the first week of school for years, so here it goes!  As a fun way to welcome students back to school, they get a ME BAG on their desks.  It's filled with a few school supplies (pencils, eraser toppers, maybe a small notebook, etc.) as well as some fun things like a bracelet, puzzle, etc).  I also add some easy activities the children can do the first morning as I collect supplies, figure out bus routes, etc.

The students take the bag home and fill it with pictures, stickers and magazine cutouts that tell me all about them.  In school the third day, the bag returns and we cover the outside of the bag with these items brought from home.  It returns home from school a second time and comes back filled with five special artifacts about themselves.  On the fourth day of school, my students get a buddy where they examine artifacts and record and share what they have discovered about their new friends.

Check out my ME BAG!

My artifacts include these.
•Boston College mug:  I went there for undergrad.
•Shell:  I love to vacation anywhere there is a beach.
 •Dunkin' Donuts coffee:  I'm addicted. 
•Orange whistle:  Orange is my favorite color. 
• Photograph of my Christmas tree:  I collect ornaments.

The ME BAGS stay in my classroom until Back to School Night--they make a great display for families and friends.  Just click here to download this item from my store, free all week long!  I hope you enjoy this back to school activity as much as I do.  

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

All Week Freebie!

Have a shoebox from your Back to School shopping?  
It's time to turn it into a Compliment Box!

For the rest of this week just click here to download my compliment slips and brief directions free from my TpT store.  Here is my Compliment Box I made by just covering a shoebox with some fun wrapping paper.

All you need to do is to copy a bunch of compliment slips and model for your students how to give appropriate compliments.  I practice this several times, whole class, before we do the "real deal"--especially with the young ones.

Once a month, we sit in a circle and share compliments.  We are taught to receive a compliment with eye contact and a polite "thank you."  It's a great way to promote a sense of community which is key to effective classroom management!  Plus, who doesn't enjoy a good compliment every now and then?

On another note, I am up to 74 likes on my facebook page.  If you haven't liked Mr. Giso's Room to Read©, please do so.  I'm ready to get 100 likes by September.  Spread the word to all of your teaching friends too.  Your support is much appreciated!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Grab This New Item!

Why not make a Class Time Capsule for Back to School?

Students fill out this three page packet and take in a personal artifact from home.   When all questions are answered and when all items from home arrive, hold a class meeting.  Students share their answers and personal artifact and put both in a Time Capsule (make one out of a box--get creative).

The Time Capsule stays closed until the last day of school.  This fun project is community building for Back to School and offers great End of the Year closure for your students.  Get this in my store by clicking here.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Mr. Giso's Room to Read's Bright Idea #4

Make Your Own Fidget Basket and Get a Set of Brain Break Sticks!

This post is about two great ideas in one!  The best ideas are often the ones borrowed.  I came across the concept of a Fidget Basket from reading the blog by the Lesson Plan SOS Teachers this weekend.  The whole idea is to provide students with a chance to hold something in order to get out their "fidgets" in an appropriate manner instead of playing with their pencils, erasers, rulers and all the other fun stuff we take away from them during the school day!  I think this will work perfectly for my fist graders this year.  The Lesson Plan SOS Teachers explain how to model the basket's use and how to set the appropriate parameters.  This year, this neat tool will provide my wigglers the outlet they need to deal with a sensory overload and a case of the fidgets.  

I took my two dogs, Winston and Toby, on a hunt this Saturday to find things for my basket.  They love a good car ride--especially when it means they are not left home in their crates!  Check out my finds.

Here you see some eye masks with fun beads and jelly to squish around, baby teething rings, those squishy creatures, balls filled with glitter, pool toys, some neglected dog toys (cleaned of course) and bath sponges--all of different textures.  I hit up every dollar store in the Northshore.

Here is the complete Fidget Basket, and here is me getting out my Back to School anxiety by using one of the Fidgets--it really works!

The next idea I got was to make a set of Brain Breaks.  These were very easy to do.  I just printed them out, cut them and glued them to Popsicle sticks.  When my students need a Brain Break, I will just grab a stick and do the quick activity the stick names.  This item comes with directions for completing each of the Brain Breaks like "Tickle Torture," "Fold it Up," and "Crab Roll."  When we need to make a transition from one activity to the next, or when I look out and I have half of my first graders attention, I plan to put a Brain Break to work!  

To read about the blog entry on both of these "Bright Ideas" simply click here.  To get your hands on the materials and directions to make both of these new additions to my classroom visit the Lesson Plan SOS Teacher's TpT store by clicking here.  Here's one last pic of the sticks I was able to make from this great resource!

Let me know how these work out in your classroom.  I look forward to sending an update about using them once my school year starts.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Mr. Giso's Room to Read's Bright Idea #3

Make an Author Throne for Your Classroom!

Here's a fun idea to get ready for the new school year.  I decided to retire my old Author Throne and make a new one.  It was all chipped from years of use.  First, get a plastic lawn chair--they are pretty cheap the end of summer.  I found this one hanging around in Walmart, Inc.  It was really asking to come home to my classroom!

"Take me home, please!"
Second, spray paint it gold.  I used a can of Bright Coat Metallic Finish by RUST-OLEUM® and gave the chair a few coats.

Lastly, I used a hot glue gun to apply some acrylic jewels--I only burned my thumb once.  I had this sparkly pillow from my old Author Throne, so I decided to recycle it.  Here's the finished product--with a little glimpse of my new basement office.

I use the Author Throne for students to use when sharing their writing aloud from a journal or Writer's Workshop, finished product.  It inspires even the most reluctant students to share their writing in front of the class.  After sharing, the author gets a round of applause from my Classroom Clap Card of the day.  Be sure to download them while you're at it if you haven't yet.

Just Uploaded--Read and Write the Room Search Bundle!

It's definitely past my bedtime, but I have just managed to complete uploading my collection of Read and Write the Room Searches.  Just click here to be linked to them.  These include over 40 templates that follow the scope and sequence of your typical first-third grade phonics programs.  Students will search around your busy classroom for words with

•digraphs:  th, ch, sh, tch
•endings:  le, ng, er
•chunks/ word families:  -an, -ell, -ip, -ump, -ote, -ail, -ame, etc.
•compound words
•vowel teams:  oi, ai, ou, etc.
•and much, much, more!

I have these searches copied and placed in labeled file folders in a large tub.  My students love to grab a magnifying glass, pair of glasses, clipboard and word pointer and "go to town" in my classroom detecting as may words as possible.  These activities are perfect for a center, review, or as "What to Do When I am Done" projects.  For my next project, I will be getting ready to upload the second bundle that goes along with these searches--"Word Hunts."  

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Ever wonder if there is anything else you can say to your reader(s) besides "Sound it Out?"

One of the most popular questions I get from parents is, "What do I tell my child when s/he asks me what a word says?"  Often teachers realize "Sound it out!" does not make much sense...especially for the many "rule-breakers" in text.  You can't sound out words with silent letters for example--they don't make a "sound!"  

My advice to this common concern is to explicitly teach and model for readers strategies they can pull from their Good Reader's Toolbox--one at a time of course!  It's not good enough to expect them to remember these strategies (chunking, skipping and rereading, getting your mouth ready, etc.) at first.  Here's where my tool comes in handy.  With these visual reminders, student will not only be able to recall strategies they can use, but will become skilled at articulating their thinking.  

Click here to get your copy of my Stuck on an Unfamiliar Word cards and template.  They are appropriate for teachers, interventionists, tutors, after school homework helpers and parents.

Oh, and as you have probably noticed, my blog is sporting a new look by Emily White Designs.  Grab my new button from the right hand sidebar.  Let me know what you think!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Two New Items!

Check out this Freebie Lab Report Template I have created, perfect for your young scientists!  Send me an email at and I will be happy to attach back the Word document so that you can adjust it, with my permission to fit any science investigation.

Also added to my TpT store is my Mystery Bag, take home activity.  My students love guessing what's inside, and so do I.  For those who know me, I get quite competitive--even with the first graders!  Here's a photo of what this great activity looks like.  Get it made before school starts (if it hasn't for you already).

Mr. Giso's Room to Read's Bright Idea #2

"I'm done..."

When asked how I keep such a well-managed classroom, my first response is that I keep my kids busy all day long.  There is no down-time in my classroom.  I offer no free choice, work/ homework passes, free time earned by filling a marble jar, or even a time when my students eat snack without being engaged in instruction.  If you keep your students engaged in quality instruction from the beginning of the day to the end, I guarantee you will notice a difference in you classroom immediately. Behavior problems occur in classrooms when downtime is offered.

One thing my first graders will learn quick is there is always something to do in Mr. Giso's classroom.  The words "I'm done" are banned from the first day of school, as there is always the next project to start.  As a visual, I simply have a "What to Do When I'm Done..." sign.

I simply add projects with sticky notes as the year goes on, and as I introduce them.  On the first week, there is one sticky "Enjoy Your Books," because that is all that has been explained.  Next, I add "Finish Ups" once projects accumulate that students have not been able to finish.  In the past I had a board with Velcro, etc., but this way is quite easier and serves its purpose well.  This visual is key to keeping students busy, thus keeping them from having the time to misbehave!  Be sure to become a follower of my TpT store for updates which include some of the items you see in the photograph above.  

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Classroom Cheers

The end of the school day can be pretty chaotic!  After all, there is homework to gather, backpacks to pack, lunchboxes to remember and a whole lot more.  Throw in winter, and there's scarves, gloves and boots upon other things.  I don't want the last impression my students get of leaving me to be running out of my classroom community frantically trying to catch a bus.  So, I utilize a "Cheer of the Day" to bring a structured day to a peaceful and consistent end.  Each cheer description is written on a card that gets pulled out of an actual Cheer detergent box that I have emptied out.  I go over the cheer directions and we do the cheer, together, for a total of three times.  The used chair gets placed in a separate basket so it does not get repeated.  Here's one of my favorite cheer cards, the Cheese and Grater.

Then, students are dismissed by coming up to me to get their Homework Folder.  Lastly, they go to their locker.  That's not all!  Each student must give me a high five before I dismiss them to the bus lines, after school program, or to their families.  This is my way of providing my students with an appropriate and fun closure to our busy day.  Children (and adults) of all ages love these cheers!

A number of teachers have asked how to get the cheer cards used at the end of each day.  Thanks to the talented Dr. Jean, you can print them out, in color, for free from her June, 2004 newsletter by clicking here.  There are over 30 cheers for your students to enjoy. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Mr. Giso's Room to Read's Bright Idea #1

Here's how I keep my leveled book bins organized in my classroom library.  For larger tubs, I place a rectangular-sized tissue box in the back of my books.  For smaller bins, I recycle my square-shaped tissue boxes and do the same.  
This tip will keep your books facing forward and upright--the best way for your readers to make their appropriate selections.  Doing this not only adds order to your classroom library, but also keeps your books from bending.  It's the perfect way to prop your books up when you may not have enough of any given level.  Check out this before and after shot!

Introducing Poetry Power!

I have just finished adding a new item to my store. It's an excellent resource for you upper elementary teachers to use when teaching poetry.  It includes a handy glossary of poetry terms with an aligning blank template.  Just take any poem and have your young poets interpret it based upon the template.  This tool can be used whole class, for homework, as an assessment or in a literacy center.  It can be used over and over again.  Just keep a tub of laminated poems and blank templates and you are ready to go for September.  As a bonus, you will also get seven fun and interactive ways to share poetry to promote both fluency and an appreciation of the spoken word.  Click here to spice up your poetry unit this coming year!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Two of my favorite management tools.

Here is my Noise Gauge.  Shhh!

Check out my Noise-O-Meter!  It's Just Right!

My Behavior Management Survival Kit

Here's a new upload, teachers!  
It's all that I do to successfully manage my classroom all in one pdf!  Let me know what techniques work for you.
Just click here and print. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Classroom Clap Cards August Freebie!

Happy Thursday, which for me means the end of my summer program work week.  To celebrate, I have just finished my "Classroom Clap" Cards.  This is a quick and fun idea to give both you and your students a round of applause throughout the day.  Just click here, download, print and laminate.  

You can have your students of all ages do a different applause to celebrate a job well done each day of the month!  This is a favorite among all my students.  This freebie will be up all of August.  Be sure to check out my other items and like me on facebook.  Enjoy.

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