Letters to Inanimate Objects

Why not?


Dear Bamboo Plant,
     I love you so much!  You are so independent and, most importantly, still alive.  You aren’t like other plants that throw hissy fits and die when I go on vacation for two weeks, leaving no water. And even though I am gone again, I know that I will come home to find you alive and well.  Thank you.
                                  With gratitude,

Dear Tractor, 
     I am sure that it is a spactacular feat to pull those weights all that way, the stands are full after all.  However, I just don’t understand.  I don’t understand what is so fascinating  about watching you pull stuff in a straight line down a track.  Not to mention the noise! Jeez it’s deafening.   I wish you lots of luck in your future endeavours,  but I hope that I only have to be witness to it once a year. 


Dear Pretzel Wagon Pretzel,
      It has been years since we last met. I have missed you and was ecstatic that we met again at the Elkhart County Fair this year.  The fair may not be my favorite place, but you make it worth the crowds.  You are so sweet and soft, covered in melted butter and salt.  I shall see you again my friend. Same time, same place next summer. 
                                     With love,

My son and his father think I am insane right now for writing to a pretzel, but it was fun. Thanks for the letter writing idea Michelle!

Sleepless nights begin…

The sleepless nights have come early this back to school season.  (You have those the week or so before school starts too, right?)  Why so early you ask?  It is still July you say?  Well, it could be the cup of coffee I drank around five o’clock.  However, I think it is because I will be speaking at my district’s board meeting tomorrow tonight.  My son is in a dual language program (English/ Spanish) in his school district and I will be speaking during the open forum part about my experience as a parent.  I love what my son is getting from dual language and I would love other kids to benefit from a similar experience as well, but I absolutely, positively, HATE public speaking.  Give me a room full of kids – no problem.  Add one adult, the stress sweat begins.  A full room full of adults? No sleep, lots of stress sweat, butterflies, panic, anxiety…  I love my job because I get to spend the day with kids and, for the most part, do not need to speak in front of rooms full of adults.

Back to School DIY Begins…

I just realized I use the … a lot…

Last year we went with the Hollywood theme.  We wanted to change it up for the new year, but had to figure out how to keep our awesome classroom library. So….Superheroes!  There are ton of superhero movies after all and we are going to be VERY boy heavy this year.

I found this perfect fabric for a bulletin board…Score!


The first DIY I finished is for the birthdays.  Each kid will have a star with their name and birthday.  The star will be hot glued under the month they were born.  I did this last year too (A Star is Born), not an original idea.   I found it somewhere online.

20140722_181920Second, I painted new Popsicle sticks. (Also not an original idea!)  These are much better than the traditional Popsicle sticks.  We used these last year for our morning meeting and they worked great when we remembered what color we were picking.  🙂  During the days that we do an open share for morning meeting, we pick a stick and then turn it to the other color.  This way we can make sure everyone gets a turn over the course of the week.


I’m also working on the fairy throne/garden that I wrote about here.  What next?  Hmmm…..


Monitoring Understanding

I think that one of the most common reading struggles that third graders have is monitoring their understanding.  Although the students can read the words and comprehend the words, they don’t stop to make sure that they are comprehending. (Which is the whole purpose for reading!)  Sometimes A lot of times the kids just keep on reading and reading without paying attention to the fact they have no idea what they are reading!

How can we help kids monitor their understanding?

  • Teach kids to ask themselves these questions:  Do I know what I read?  What do I not understand?  How do I figure out what it means?
  • Think aloud:  We need to model reading, asking ourselves questions, and applying strategies when we don’t understand.
  • Stop and Jot:  Teach kids to stop every so often (each page, each chapter) and jot something down about what they read.
  • Notice and Note is a great resource for teaching students to monitor their understanding of narrative texts.17188285
  • Post-its!  They are fun for the kids and a great way to record thinking.  And check out what I found at Barnes and Noble for $1.95.


If I could take my students anywhere…

Today’s topic for Big Time Literacy’s July Blogging Challenge is….If money were no object, what experiences would you give your students?

When Michelle first showed me the topics, this one immediately became my favorite!

This last year we studied many different continents and countries in Social Studies.  We started with a study of Canada.  The kids were so interested in this country that was so close, yet they knew almost nothing about.  One of their favorite parts was Niagara Falls.  One girls asked me if I would take them to Niagra Falls for a field trip.  I said, “If I ever win the lottery, I will take the whole class!”  And that became the question…

We were studying Mexico…  “Ms. Bless, if you win the lottery, will you take us on a field trip to Mexico?”

Studying U.S.A… “Ms. Bless, if you win the lottery, will you take us on a field trip to the Grand Canyon?”

Studying South America…”Ms. Bless, if you win the lottery, will you take us on a field trip to the Galapagos Islands?”

With this post I have to decide where I would want decide to take the kids if this day every really came.  After my family’s road trip this summer, I would have to say it would definitely be a road trip  across our beautiful country.


I would rent a bus and take them west through Wyoming, Montana, and South Dakota. We would be able to learn about landforms, plants, history, and more!  We would visit Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Memorial, do some hiking, see some animals up close…





FYI I do not know the lady that got out of her car and way to close to this elk!

I really need to start playing the lottery!

Día de los Muertos

Today’s topic for Big Time Literacy’s July Blogging challenge: What is your favorite holiday to celebrate with your students?

This last year we studied Día de los Muertos in Social Studies.   Then, after the school wide Halloween parade we created an altar.  A few parents came to help and many sent in supplies. We made marigolds, Papel Picado (the flags), and skulls.  One mom even sent in fresh pan de muertos!  Students brought in pictures of family members who have passed away to add to the altar.  It turned out fabulous!  By far my favorite holiday with them because the students learned so much about the Mexican culture.  I can’t wait for this October!


Road Trip Reading

In our family, a road trip doesn’t mean a lull in reading.   My brother is reading the first Harry Potter and my son is reading the Lego Movie junior novel. I have finished multiple books including Sure Signs of Crazy. 


I won this book with Two Writing Teachers March SOL Challenge, but I haven’t had time to read it until now.  It was a great YA read.  The narrator is going through all of the normal chaos of growing up with the added concern that she may be crazy like her mother.  The book takes you through the summer leading up to her seventh grade year with an entertaining and relatable voice – perfect for middle school girls.

When I saw this book in the gift shop I had to get it.

It is a collection of stories and we have been reading it around the campfire and  in the tent before going to bed.  As my brother says, “These stories aren’t scary, they are just interesting.” He is disappointed, but this means no nightmares for my eight year old!  The stories contain historical facts of Yellowstone that relate to ghosts or spirits.  Perfect family read for our trip! 

I also found two books that I HAVE to buy for our classroom library.



Science (Sort Of) Over the Campfire

Camping in Yellowstone, we saw this popcorn at the general store.  I wanted to see how it worked.



Too cool!  It started popping and then it slowed before all of the tin foil had popped up. Since we didn’t want it to burn we took it off of the fire.  Would it be done?


Sort of…a good number of kernels hadn’t popped.  (And according to my son, it didn’t taste that good.) But it wasn’t a total loss because this brought  about an impromptu science experiment.   It started with a question: Would the kernels pop if we put it back over the fire? 



It worked!  This experimenting and redesigning of the tin foil contraptions kept the boys busy for quite a while. 

Five for Friday

We are currently on an amazing road trip across this beautiful country of ours.  I have learned so much in the last week, so today I will share five things…

5. People on the Oregon Trail used bison scat for their fires. Those fires must have smelled fantastic!

4. Horses are one of the few animals that can’t burp or vomit.  Everything that goes in must come out the other end.  (This is a fun fact we learned on a horseback ride yesterday.)

3.    When Andrew says, “Look at that view!” while driving… he means, “Jennie, stop whatever you are doing and take a picture of this! Pronto!”

2.  When you have two boys constantly fighting,  take them on a 2.9 mile hike and you will get some peace.  (Until they get back in the car.)

1.  Finally, roasters really do make a cock-a-doodle-do sort of sound in the morning. The place we are staying has chickens running around outside and this is morning two of waking up to a rooster’s call. (I know this may not be a huge revelation for some of you, but I grew up and live in the suburbs of Chicago. No chickens around!)

Magic, Fairies, and Other Girly Thoughts

I read The Never Girls: In a Blink the other day on our road trip.  Being in a car with three males means lots of talk about butts, gas, etc. This children’s chapter book was a nice temporary mental shift to all things girly.


I originally picked up the book because I love magic and it looked like a fun read for third graders.  (I’m always on the look out for high interest series for the kids.) I didn’t realize it was a Disney book about Neverland and Tinkerbell.  Since I had my son and started teaching I read mostly “boy” books because I didn’t read anything that would interest boys as a kid.

This book is about four human girls getting “blinked” into Pixie Hollow with all the fairies. I love the idea of fairies and a world of tiny things. When the girls in the book were exploring the new world and looking in all the windows, wishing they were small enough to go in, it reminded me of that fairy doll house at the Museum of Science and Industry.

This us why I need a daughter, or at least a niece – fairies!  Jill (my friend and co-teacher) is right when she says I can put cute bows and dresses on a dog, but the dog couldn’t join in the fairy love!

I saw this tiny fairy garden throne made with a coffee mug on Pinterest.  I really want to make one when I get home! Maybe I can display it at the beginning of the year with the book series?