Sunday, April 13, 2014

FLASH BACK: Poetry Month Rewind- (Poetry Tool #1- Rhythm)

Greetings Friends!
I am back with another throw-back posting from last year's "Journey into Poetry Land".  I hope you enjoy reading (or re-reading) about this great lesson I taught my 4th, 5th, and 6th grade writing classes!
Mr. Hughes

Poetry Tool #1- Rhythm

Welcome to Post #2 in a series of posts about my current journey teaching poetry to a group of 60 students composed of 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students. If you missed the intro post to this series, click HERE and check it out. It was posted on All Things Upper Elementary of which I am a contributor.

I was excited to start teaching the tools of poetry because that is where the students would get the chance to actually WRITE some poetry. I also planned to integrate our grammar study into this unit. Having tried to do a grammar lesson and then integrate it into the writing later was a total bust for me. I figured that I would have a longer block to to teach poetry AND it would be more authentic for my students. Turns out I was right!

We started by labeling the top of "the next clean page" in our journal (the next page after our listing of the difference of poetry and prose, and of the 6 tools) with "Tool #1- Rhythm". Student then wrote what they thought the definition of rhythm was . It was an interesting discussion. My musical students could show me examples with clapping and tapping, but couldn't really put it into words. After sharing several ideas, we decided that rhythm is comprised of beat and repetition.

First, for beat, I handed out rhythm sticks (thick dowels cut into thirds) to each student and (after explaining the expectations for use like "When I am talking, both sticks are in one hand", "No drumming on your desk or neighbor", etc.) then I asked them what was something that most people had around them every day that  has rhythm.

It was pretty quickly decided that MUSIC has rhythm. What I did next shocked them. I cranked the music and we practiced finding the rhythm of different genres of music. We played everything from county to heavy metal- (WHOA ON THE HEAVY METAL- more than I can take, I think). But they LOVED it. Whenever they struggled to find the beat of the song, I would have them close their eyes and listen before tapping. It was amazing how fast they were able to find it when they weren't distracted by their neighbors tapping.

After we jammed out for a bit, I  read several poems and had them tap the rhythm. I read some rhyming poems, but also many that were not rhyming because I wanted them to see that more than just rhyming poems have rhythm to them.

Then we studied what was meant by repetition. Both in beat AND in words. I read them the poem "Negro" to them and we discussed possible reasons that Langston Hughes would have repeated the words, "I am a Negro: Black as the night is black, Black like the depths of my Africa." at the end of the poem. I was surprised at their thoughts about this. Many picked up that he wanted to show that, despite the trials and problems his people had faced, they were still a proud people.

I then handed out all the poetry books again and had the students scavenger the pages looking for places where words were repeated. It was great fun to hear what they found and watch as they made connections between what we discussed to what they were reading.

For their homework, I gave them a poem called "Snowflake Souffle" by X. J. Kennedy . The students were to read it to a parent/family member and get it signed, underline common nouns, and circle proper nouns.

It was a wonderful end to a wonderful lesson. Don't miss Post #3 coming soon.


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Bright Ideas: Taming the Classroom Library

I am thrilled to be apart of the Bright Ideas Link Up for April!
If you haven't have a chance to check one of these bad boys out, then now is the time! Up to 150 bloggers join together to share their best teaching ideas and tips. No sale pitches, no "follow" me requirements, just good honest idea sharing. WAHOO! Let's get started!

The idea that I want to share with you today is how to best organize and maintain your personal classroom library. As one who calls himself a book "hoarder", it can be difficult to maintain, organize, and keep track of large amounts of books. (This includes picture books to non-fiction!)

As a 6th grade teacher, I use picture books like crazy as mentor texts in writing, mini-lessons in reading, and to help make in point in science and math. So, with my collection of picture books, I had to find an easy way to organize them. After much discussion with my wife, we decided to alphabetize them and mark each letter of the alphabet with a red card as pictured below. It has worked out super-well!

When it comes to my regular library of fiction, this requires a whole NEW level of taming. It isn't as difficult as one might think. Let me tell you how I organize my books, and hopefully it will inspire YOU with an idea on how to best track and organize YOURS!

I have an old computer that I use in my library. I use software that our school provided, but a quick google search of FREE library software will provide you with lots of options.  I strongly encourage you to look around and find program or online organizer. If you can't find one, no worries- I didn't have one for the first several years of my teaching. I simply typed all my titles in Excel so that I had a record of my books. AND, I could search the spread sheet using the Crtl-F function and find the title I wanted. If you choose to use a program, be sure to get a bar code scanner. I got mine several years ago for $30.00. They make it much easier to enter your books.

Regardless of HOW you track them (and I strongly encourage you to do so!), it is very helpful when ordering new books, so you don't repeatedly order the same books!) So, let me tell you how I organize my books on my shelves! First, I start by taking my unleveled books! These are brand-new from my latest book order.

The first thing I do is write my name on the end of the book (or the class/school if the books belong to them). This ensures a couple of things- 1) it is easy to identify that it is my/classes book and 2) makes it nearly impossible for students to steal my books. My name on the front page can be easily ripped out.

When adding new books, I only write my name with a dash to start with. I will look up the level of each book later, and add that to the top next to my name.

Next, I add a bar code on the inside cover. If you are not using bar codes, you would skip this step. Don't feel overwhelmed. It took me a long time to get all my books into my program. Remember to use your volunteers or even some students can be trusted to enter information correctly. :)

To level a book, I use Scholastic's Book Wizard. All my books are leveled with the Guided Reading Levels (GRL). With my name and the level written on the top of the books, it is very simple to keep the books organized on my shelves.

So, when you look at my rather out of control collection, you can see that organizing is very important. Whether you have a LOT of books or just getting started, organizing your collection is vital. But, what about non-fiction you ask. Let's take a peek at that part of my collection.

I organize my non-fiction by topic. I do NOT level my non-fiction, and it is not allowed to leave my classroom. In fact, students can not check it out to themselves, but are free to read it at their desk, during recess, or any other time as needed. It has worked wonderfully and the students enjoy sharing all the popular books because they can't "lose" them in their desks.

I have found a very simple way to keep topics organized. I bought colored dots at an office supply store. I started by sticking one on the topic label as show below:

Then, any book on that topic also receives the same colored dot as shown:

I have continued to label all the books in my library in the same manner.

The rest of my non-fiction library is organized by topic in tubs. This keeps the covers facing out so the students are exposed to the intriguing and inviting covers! LOVE LOVE LOVE!

I hope that you are feeling inspired in SOME fashion to work on taming that classroom library you have! Here's to adding many more exciting titles to inspire those young minds you work with!

Mr. Hughes

This is just ONE of 150 BRIGHT IDEAS! Check out many more in the link up below! WAHOO!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Spring into Poetry Month!

With April just around the corner, and Poetry Month only 3 days away from starting, I thought it might be fun to do a few Blast from the Past posts with links to my series on poetry! I did 11 posts last year that I felt really captured the activities that I did for poetry month. I hope you enjoy reading (or reading) these little gems!

Post #1 was about the difference between POETRY and PROSE! It was a fun lesson and I really enjoyed teaching my students about it! This post was featured over on All Things Upper Elementary.

-Mr. Hughes

Greetings Dear Readers!

For my first "real" post here, I wanted to share for your reading pleasure the first of a series of posts that will chronicle my current venture in teaching 60 students (4th, 5th, and 6th) a mega unit on poetry. It has been quite the adventure, but I am loving it. Let's get started...

I have set up my classroom this year with a "Genre" board. I love it as it holds mentor texts, anchor charts, and the purpose of the genre.

Like This:
(Anchor charts will be filled out soon!)

Using the book "The Write Genre" by Lori Roq and others I started the unit by having the students write in their journals what they felt the difference was between poetry and prose. It was interesting to hear their responses since most students hadn't ever heard the word "prose" before. They were talking about star basketball and baseball players. Ha ha. It was pretty funny. After I told them what each was, I read them examples of each. For the prose example, I choose to read Byrd Baylor's "The Other Way to Listen". When I showed them the inside text page, they all guessed it was going to be poetry. It was fun to see the look on their faces as I read the story and it didn't rhyme (which is what almost EVERY student defined poetry as in their journals- short, boring, and rhyming).  Then I started to read some poems from Langston Hughes' "The Dream Keeper and Other Poems". I read several different poems from his book, some that rhymed, but many that did not. For homework, I gave the students a poem they had to read to a family member. The students also had to underline all the common nouns and circle the proper nouns. I felt it was an amazing way to start the unit.

For Day 2 of my introduction to poetry, we reviewed what we had learned yesterday about poetry and prose. Then, in our journals, we listed the 6 major differences between poetry and prose. It was a great eye-opener for some, and a total drowning for others. I thought that my 4th graders would struggle a little more than the 5th and 6th graders, but was pleasantly surprised that most of them understood more than I expected. The second part of Day 2 was spent in listing tools that poets might use to write excellent poetry.

With some guidance, we settled on:

1) Rhythm (Beat and Repetition)
2) Musical Language (Onomatopoeia, Invented Words, and Alliteration)
3) Sensory Images (Touch, Taste, Sight, Smell, Hear)
4) Comparisons (Simile and Metaphors)
5) Shape and Form (White Space, Line Breaks, and Major Forms like Diamante, Hiaku, etc.)
6) Rhyme (Not as easy as everyone thinks...ha ha)

To end the class period, I handed out a poetry book to every student (you could have the students read in pairs) and let them read and share and giggle and laugh. Many students found that it wasn't as "horrible" or "boring" or "lame" as they had thought. And the best part for me? It wasn't the rhyming poems that they seemed to enjoy the most. They really latched onto Langston Hughes and found that reading his poems was enjoyable! TOTAL SCORE!

When they had to leave, most students were sad that class had ended. I knew right then and there that this was going to be a successful journey into the land of poetry. WAHOO!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Share the Wealth: SPRING FLING!

     I am so excited that the weather is warming, flowers are starting to grow, and school is nearing its end. To help bring in this fantastic season (even for those of you who forgot what warm is...), I am pleased to bring you a SPRING FLING EVENT where you will find some amazing FREE and PAID resources!


It get's even better! I have both my Teacher's Pay Teachers AND my Teacher's Notebook shops at 10% off on EVERYTHING! AND, I am having ANOTHER GIVEAWAY on Teacher's Notebook! Check that on out HERE! (Starting 3/22/14)


An amazing GIVEAWAY with some AMAZING PRIZES to make your APRIL even better!

So, don't just sit there- get clicking! WAHOO! (And remember to SCROLL down as there is LOTS to see and GRAB!)


a Rafflecopter giveaway

     10% OFF AT THESE STORES (From 3/22 upto 3/24)



Friday, March 07, 2014

Teaching Grammar Just Got Easy!

Hey Friends!

I have had grammar on my mind a lot the past few weeks as I struggle to get my kiddos geared up for our state testing that starts next month (GULP! Did I just type that for real????)

As the writing teacher for over 60 students, I have had a lot of time to think about  grammar resources. I have found that my students LOVE YouTube videos, and I love using them! One of my newest favorites are songs by the Bazillions!

I have printed the lyrics and my kiddos and have gone to town singing away! It is such a fun video AND I will catch them humming or singing the song in the lunch room or on the playground. TOTAL SCORE!

They also have others that they have just released:

They are super catchy and I love how they illustrate each one! Check them out today!

But if you really want good resources than you are going to love this amazing deal over at Educents!  I have teamed up with 4 other amazing sellers to load your classroom with 10 resources to help kids work on grammar!  (Click on ANY picture to check out the deal!)

I have selected two popular and student-loved resources for this great bundle!

First, is one of my 60+ Order UP! sets!
Order Up! sets have been come very popular in my classroom! My students LOVE to complete them and I copy them 1/2 sheet size so that the students can glue them into their writing journals! They are easy to use for assessments and I find myself using these frequently to test student's knowledge! AND, because these are like "I have, Who Has" for one person students can work at their own pace. All this and these are self checking to boot- BONUS!

(Remember-Click on ANY picture to check out the deal!)

My second resource is my hugely popular Mystery Pictures!
           You will get my April Parts of Speech Mystery Picture Set! Mystery pictures have been around for ages, but mystery pictures that use parts of speech are here and I LOVE these. The format is such that the kiddos are told that a given part of speech is a give color and then the students must search the grid finding words that fit the rule. I love that some words (not many as I tried to create these using words that don't have 'double' meanings) create a great conversation about some words playing multiple roles! 

With testing coming up- fun review and creative assessments are a must- and I think these activities will be something you will use year after year! Go ahead- check'em out!!

The Details:
For a limited time you get a great bundle (my two resources above plus EIGHT, yup, 8 more- see below) for only $10.99 from Educents which is about 70% off!  That makes each resource $1.10!!! WOW!

(And if you have never purchased from Educents before NEVER FEAR! Signing up is easy AND they always have a great deal for your first purchase.  Click HERE if you are a first time purchaser to get signed up and ready to go! WAHOO!)

You can also take peek at some of the other products included in the bundle at any of the links below!
Have fun teaching grammar everyone!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Share the Wealth TPT 3 Million Strong LINK-UP

Greeting Friends!
I am excited for the start of the awesome sale! TWO GLORIOUS DAYS (+1 EXTRA DAY from many sellers, like me, Created by MrHughes  (and my wife, the owner of Hughes Doodles!)

Below is a listing of my teaching friends who have a sale going on! Remember to use the PROMO CODE TPT3 at check out to save even EXTRA $$$$$!

Wahoo! So, get to clicking.

Thursday, February 20, 2014


     I LOVE math. I love the rules, the formulas, the exactness. I also appreciate the fun that can be had when math is combined with other subjects! Geometry was a challenging topic for me in high school- after all, who cares about proofs... ha ha. BUT, I love working with shapes. I am a hands-on learner. Hence, when I started designing resources, I fell in love with the idea of turning 3D geometric shapes into objects that helped students excel in other areas of learning- like writing, reading, art, and the like. 
     It has been so fun over the past two years to make about 13 different dodecahedron projects for my students. Do I use all of them every year? Nope. But I have an arsenal of them from which I can pull.
     Why all this information you ask? Well, I am pleased as punch to tell you that I am offering my bundle for an even LOWER price than you see on the picture below. 
     Yup, that right- that $32.99 already represents a 20% discount. But for the next 11 days, you can get all nine of these projects below for 43% OFF! 

Remember- the $32.99 is currently $23.99 for the next 11 days!!!!!!

Don't just take my word for it! Here are blog posts that SHOW and TELL all about these projects!

If you are like me and want your students to experience math concepts with their hands, then you will love this resource. Click HERE to check it out (or on the picture above)! 

Rock on my friends!
-Mr. Hughes

Friday, February 14, 2014

Hughes Doodles-

Greetings Friends!

I am SO excited to announce that my wife has finally started her Hughes Doodles shop. She, along with the rest of the herd (all 8 of us) will be drawing doodle sets that will be added to the Hughes Doodle store on a regular basis! Here, let me show you around...

To get started, you need to visit our Hughes Doodle shop on Teachers Pay Teachers! We would love to have you follow us there. By doing so, you will get notified when a new set is in our shop, you will receive TpT mail that will tell about secret events and such. Click HERE or the picture below:

Your next stop will hopefully be our BLOG! This is a blog that you will want to follow! We have LOTS of surprises and goodies planned for the future, including giveaways and more! Click HERE or on the picture below to visit and join us there!

 AND, if you visit our Hughes Doodle Blog TODAY (2/14/14), you will have access to this LIMITED EDITION DOODLE VALENTINE set! WAHOO!

And, don't forget FACEBOOK! We JUST started our page and would LOVE to have you join us there as well! There will be Facebook ONLY deals, freebies, and more. So, click on over and "LIKE" us there!
It's Easy-Peasy! Just click HERE to get started!

Thanks for your support, both for Created by MrHughes AND, now for our newest adventure, Hughes Doodles!

Mr. Hughes

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Product Review: POP CHEF

Back in October, I was selected to review several items and this is the one we waited on until the last- because my kids were SO excited to use it! In fact, my daughter begged every day for about three weeks before I finally agreed that I had time to video it in use for this post.

With great anticipation she opened the package (which you will see in the video) and started looking at all the fun attachments. My wife cut several different food items into slices for her (bread, kiwi, cheese, and apples). My daughter, seeing the commercial and knowing how it works went right to work. As you will see in the video, it didn't go quite as planned. The cheese didn't pop-out, just a corner did. She moved on to other food items, with a similar result. The one that came the closest to actually "popping" out.

Over all, we were very disappointed with the end results. My daughter was disappointed that it didn't work as shown on the TV, but she still had fun cutting all the food into shapes. Towards the end, the popper part actually broke, so we just use the attachments without it.

The parts are pretty flimsy. They do show that a watermelon rind was cut using it, but I am hard pressed to believe that after holding the pieces in my hand.

Would we buy this? Probably not- but again, my daughter (and 5 other kids) LOVED cutting the food into shapes.

Check out this video review of it in action and have a great day!

-Mr. Hughes

Friday, January 17, 2014

Share the Wealth- January 18, 2014

Howdy Wealthers!
I am so happy to bring Share the Wealth back after a break. There are so many holidays and events coming up that I wanted to find some new activities to use! That is what I love most about Share the Wealth- all the amazing ideas that teacher-authors share so freely! Also, don't miss the link for current giveaways going on at the bottom of this post! Enter a few, win yourself some great prizes!

I want to tell you about an AMAZING resource that you may not know about. Flap-Jack is run by Tabitha Carro and she does some amazing things! One thing that I love is her video share of freebies she does each month. Here is an example:

I think it's great that I can see what they will look like before I download them. Saves me a ton of time. I encourage you to subscribe to her channel so you can be notified of her monthly videos. WAHOO!

Mr. Hughes

January/Winter Freebies 
You may link up to THREE Freebies. They do NOT have to be themed. Anything from MLK Day through "Winter" is great! Please include the grade level! WAHOO!

ONE Link Per Giveaway Only & MUST Include an Ending Date!

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Pin-Tastic Middle School Boards

 Hello Bloggy Readers, TWELVE middle school bloggers have gotten together to share with you their favourite Pinterest boards geared towards 6th-8th grade teachers. We hope you enjoy this variety of ideas. Be sure to check out our other Pinterest boards while you are there. Happy Pinning!

  Kristy from 2 Peas and a Dog recommends this middle school Pinterest board: Middle School Freebies You can find other great things by Kristy by following this link: 2 Peas and Dog Blog

Pam from Desktop Learning Adventures recommends this middle school Pinterest board: Hot off the Presses Latest Middle School Releases You can find other great things by Pam by following this link: Desktop Learning Adventures Blog

  Ellie from Middle School Math Moments recommends this middle school Pinterest board: Middle School Math You can find other great things by Ellie by following this link: Middle School Math Moments Blog

Jennifer from 4mula Fun recommends this middle school Pinterest board: Success in Secondary You can find other great things by Jennifer by following this link: 4mula Fun Blog

Sidney from Teaching is a Gift recommends this middle school Pinterest board: Gifted Teaching Ideas You can find other great things by Sidney by following this link: Teaching is a Gift Blog

Kate from Kate's 6th Grade Classroom Cafe recommends this middle school Pinterest board: Grade 6 Tricks of the Trade You can find other great things by Kate by following this link: Kate's 6th Grade Classroom Cafe Blog

Stephanie from The Creative Classroom recommends this middle school Pinterest board: Anchor Charts You can find other great things by Stephanie by following this link: The Creative Classroom Blog

Jamie from Miss Math Dork recommends this middle school Pinterest board: Math is Real Life You can find other great things by Jamie by following this link: Miss Math Dork Blog

Kim from Teaching Math by Hart recommends this middle school Pinterest board: Number Sense You can find other great things by Kim by following this link: Teaching Math By Hart Blog

  John from An Educator's Life recommends this middle school Pinterest board: Reading Ideas You can find other great things by John by following this link: An Educator's Life Blog

Erin from Miss Lifesaver recommends this middle school Pinterest board: School Stuff You can find other great things by Erin by following this link: Miss Lifesaver Blog

Tammy from Teaching FSL recommends this middle school Pinterest board: Magnificent Middle School You can find other great things by Tammy by following this link: Teaching FSL Blog

Looking for other Middle School ideas? Check out the Middle School Blog Log

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