Monday, October 15, 2012

The Easiest, Most Delicious Bread Ever!

This has got to be the easiest bread I've ever made in my life.  It's just four ingredients and about 10 minutes of actual work.  The original recipe is from  http://simplysogood.blogspot.com/2010/03/crusty-bread.html, but I'm going to break it down into a clear recipe and share a few of the mix-in's that I've tried thus far.  You'll make bread this pretty too!

Ingredients:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
Optional Mix-In's (see below)

Directions
1.  Mix flour, salt, and yeast in a large bowl.  Add the water and mix again. It will probably look like a gloppy mess, and this is okay.
2.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.  Let it sit in the bowl for 12-18 hours WITHOUT refrigerating it.
3.  Take a large pot with a lid and place it in the oven.
4.  Preheat the oven to 450 F.  Let the pot heat for about 30 minutes.  While your container is heating, knead the dough a few times on a well-floured surface.  Then let it sit for the rest of the time.
5.  Carefully remove your hot dish and plop your well-floured dough into the middle of it.  Put the lid on, and bake it for 30 minutes.
6.  Remove from the oven, take a peek inside to admire your handiwork, and then let it continue to bake with the lid on for another 15 minutes (or until you can't stand the delicious smell of home-made bread you've just created, and you burn your fingers getting it out of the pot while it's still very hot, only to smother it in butter and devour it!).  Enjoy!

Above is a little loaf of Parmesan & rosemary bread.  Our house smelled much akin to Heaven! My cast iron pot after baking- very little mess to clean up! Actually, when you cook with cast iron, you mostly just wipe it cleanish and call the rest "seasoning!"

As for the container, I use my cast iron pot & lid, but the the insert to a crock pot, an enamel-covered cast iron pot, Pyrex dish with lid, or anything else that can stand 450F will work too.  I haven't tried it uncovered yet, so let me know if you use a dish without a lid and it still works.  I'm going to try it in my cast iron on top of the woodstove to see if it works.  If it doesn't work on the stovetop, I'll try it inside the woodstove!  Maybe I'll leave the extracting of red-hot cast iron to my pyro-hubby!

Now for the mix-ins.  Add whatever sounds good to you during step 1.  I added 1 cup of Parmesan and about 2 Tablespoons of finely grated rosemary from our garden, and it turned out DELICIOUS!  Throw in a few Tablespoons of brown sugar and sprinkle it on the top in step 5 for a sugary treat, or add in a few tablespoons of your favorite nuts- sunflower seeds and flax taste wonderful.  I'm going to try some cranberries and lemon zest along with some Stevia in my next batch.  The knife in the very top picture is actually my favorite knife of all time- the cheese knife from Cutco!  My husband sells them, so let me know if you're in need of a good knife that is guaranteed for life (free sharpening for life too!).  Please leave a comment below to let us all know what mix-ins you've tried!  Happy Baking & Eating! :)


*Update- Try these mix ins for a unique loaf:
*1 tablespoon of flax, 2 tablespoons crushed walnuts, and 1 tablespoon of almonds makes a great, nutty bread. 
*Add 2 tablespoons of garlic and a few dashes of garlic salt for a delicious loaf of garlic bread too! 
*2 tablespoons of crushed walnuts and 3 tablespoons of brown sugar mixed in along with a dusting of brown sugar on the top will make for a scrumptious dessert bread.
*Mix in a cup (not packed down) of cranberries and a heaping tablespoon of orange zest for a sweet and tart loaf.
*With a 1/2 cup of cranberries and a 1/2 cup of apples mixed in, you'll have a scrumptious loaf of cranberry apple bread! 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Fourth Grade Year Long Plan- ALL Subject Areas!


I just thought I would share this scope & sequence/ year-long plan.  For anyone teaching in Oregon, this plan covers all of your standards for math, social studies, science, reading, & writing for the year.  It will change a bit next year as we transition to the CCSS.  This is all you need for Oregon, but I'm hoping that bits and pieces of it will be helpful for those teaching in other states & countries too.  Let me know if you have questions or want clarification on things, as this is just the basic guidelines that we developed at our school for the 4 fourth grade classrooms.


4th Grade Year Long Plan

            Science & Social Studies
September      Oregon Government/ Oregon Natives
October          Oregon Natives/ Immigrants / Pumpkin work sample
November      Immigrants/ Modern Oregon
December       Modern Oregon
January          Mapping
February        Energy/ Matter/ Changes
March             Daffodils/ Seed work sample
April               Temperate Rainforest
May                Inventions work sample
June                Inventions work sample (boat with buddies?)

            Math
September      Place Value & Math Workshop Intro
October          Multiplication
November      Division
December       Math work sample
January          Geometry-Area
February
March             Fractions & Decimals
April
May                Review
June

            Writing
September      Begin Dictado, Writer’s Workshop, Word Work, Personal Narratives
October          Scary Story/ Pseudo Test 1
November      Intervention Groups 1 & 2
December       Expository
January          Persuasive
February        Pseudo Test 2  & Interventions
March             Interventions/ Poetry
April               District Writing Test/ Poetry
May                Collaborative/ Imaginative
June

            Reading
September      CAFÉ/ Daily 5 / Parts of Speech
October          Predicting/ Connections/ Summarize-Story Elements
November      Theme
December       Conflict-Resolution
January          Non-Fiction Locate & Interpret Info/ Main Idea/ Summarize
February        Inferences-Confirmation/ Cause & Effect/ Fact & Opinion
March             Generate Questions/ Interpret Text & Support
April               Poetry- Onomatopoeia, vocabulary, structural elements
May                Main idea/ Compare & Contrast themes/ Connection between forms of lit
June

And now, for your viewing pleasure, a picture of our class pet, Chubbs!  This is her, "I am not amused" look.

The Basics of Writer's Workshop

I've had a number of people find my organization of the Writer's Notebook to be very helpful; hooray!  However, many need more information on how to actually implement the Writer's Workshop (also called Writers' Workshop & Writing Workshop).  When I found this visual today (and repinned it on Pinterest-  Stephanie Madison) I knew I had to get it up here.  It didn't have the creator, but the original graphic can be found at: http://media-cache-ec3.pinterest.com/upload/173670129351766770_LI9UQzFs.jpg  It's a perfect visual for the basic breakdown of Writer's Workshop:
 
 That pretty much sums it up!  You start with a mini-lesson about whatever you are working on in writing.  This can be guided by the standards that you're working through and the curriculum you have.  We don't really have a writing curriculum in our district, so I mostly make stuff up based on the standards and what I see the kids need.  See my post on dictation ( http://applesofyoureye.blogspot.com/2012/09/dictation-dictado.html ) for more on how to focus in on what your kids need practice with on writing.  You can use this 5-15 minutes for any mini-lesson your students need.  Your students can take notes on what you taught them/copy down information from your mini lesson, draw the graphic organizer you used, etc, in the Writing Notes of their Writer's Notebooks, like this:

Then, students have time to do independent writing in the My Writing section of their Writer's Notebooks.  In a beautiful world that did not have high-stakes, standardized testing, you could always let your students "free write" during this time, which is to say they can write about any topic in any form, and never complete an edited or published copy of anything ever.  However, since we're teaching in the real world, this independent writing time is a balance between free writing and writing to a prompt/general theme.  For me, it is probably about 30% free writing and 70% writing with some sort of guidelines, although even they can be very loose.  It is my understanding that the "official" Writer's Workshop model does not ever "make" a student write about a prompt, but rather offers prompts for them to write about.  In Oregon, we have a district assessment (which for 4th grade is reported to the state as well) for all of our students in which they must write to a prompt in essay form and take their writing all the way through the writing process.  This is why I make sure that my students practice what they will be graded on (and what I will be judged on) so that they are successful.  I try to do fun & flexible prompts so they are always interested; I'm planning a post on our personal narrative unit and our scary story/fall story unit, so check back for those soon!
While your students are writing independently, you get to pull small groups (for advancement or for interventions) or conference with individual students.  I look for students who have writing skills that are above and beyond fourth grade, and I'll pull that small group of students to work with so I can help them take their writing further.  For every writing worksample we do (I try and do one about every other month but I'm constantly scanning their classwork, dictados, etc) I also form intervention groups.  Some examples include students who are still struggling to capitalize the starts of their sentences, trouble identifying misspelled words, breaking writing into coherent paragraphs, staying on topic, adding sensory & descriptive words, capitalizing "I," etc.  While the rest of the class is silently and independently writing, I pull these intervention students and do a mini-lesson/activity with them to help them develop the writing skills their missing. 

 
I also conference with every one of my students about every other month.  After each work sample they do (as in a formal writing piece to a prompt or theme that they have not had outside help with), I grade them according to the 6 writing traits.  Then, I meet with each student individually and discuss all the greatness in their writing.  Next, I tell them a few things that they can work on, and they choose one of them to be their writing goal, and they record it in their Writing Goals section of their Writer's Notebook.  They take a tiny sticky note and write their name on the front of it.  On the back, they write their new writing goal.  Then, they stick that goal to the writing trait that it falls under (like, "split writing into paragraphs with one main idea" would go under Organization).  Until next month when we meet again, they will work on that goal.  I usually have them tell someone else their goal, write it on a slip of paper to take home, read it to themselves with a whisper phone, etc about once a week to keep it fresh in their minds.  The next time we meet, we see how they're doing with that goal; if they've got that one, we set a new one.  Here are some examples of writing goals:
 Next, students share their work with others.  This can be broken into two separate sections, as suggested in the top visual, with the first being time for students to share with a partner and then the whole class.  I usually just leave 5-10 minutes for them to share, and I mix it up.  Some days they share to a partner, some days to their table group, some days a few students share to the whole class, some days everyone shares to the whole class.  I think this helps in keeping things interesting and helping them stay motivated; sometimes I tell them who they'll be sharing to, and other times I don't, so they always have to be doing their best work, and it makes it more exciting to share.  Note: this is the easiest part to leave out of the Writer's Workshop process, but LET THEM SHARE!  This is a great motivator for some students and what makes it fun too.  This gives them an audience and a chance to get feedback from peers and you on a daily basis. Based on your findings from what you saw in students' writing that day, you can plan for tomorrow's/next week's mini-lesson and go from there. 

All that being said, I usually don't have a full hour of Writer's Workshop every day.  Because I incorporate writing throughout the subject areas and do dictado, I simply don't have enough hours in the school day to fit in a full 60 minute Writer's Workshop time too.  My writing time is usually about 30-40 minutes.  I do a 5-10 minute lesson, 20-30 minute independent writing/conferencing time, and then a 5-10 minute share time.  I don't think workshops, writing, math, reading, or otherwise, should be inflexible molds that are followed to a T.  You know your students and what they need.  You get to decide how to best meet their needs.  Writer's Workshop is just an awesome way to organize your writing time, to help your students become better writers, and to ENJOY writing!  That's why I've been using it ever since I found out about it around six years ago.  My students love it, and I do too.

Questions?  What isn't working in your writing time?  What's going well?  Leave a comment to let me know what future blogs you'd like to see too.  Happy Writing!

Contraction Mansion!

 
Our dictado for the last two weeks has been focusing on contractions, and I wanted to do something fun and craftsy with my students.  I had seen a similar project on Pinterest, but of course I adapted it so that I wouldn't have to print anything and that it would be slightly more educational and still fit within the time frame of an hour.  I have the complete instructions for the teacher, examples of each step, step-by-step student instructions, and the fun bulletin board we made from it on my site http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Stephanie-Madison  This is just a sneak peak for my blog friends to share a fun idea!

 Some students did a scary, haunted Contraction Mansion, while others did a pleasant autumn-themed mansion.  I have a number of students who don't celebrate Halloween, so I always leave it open for the students to decide what they'd like to do.  Above is a picture of the completed bulletin board, and here's a little more detail of a finished product:




What fun, fall-themed activities are you doing in your class?  Are you doing anything special for Halloween in your room?  Leave a comment, repin, share on facebook, etc so others can create creepy contraction mansions as they practice their spelling skills too.  Happy Autumn!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Organizing Your Classroom Library


Hopefully your biggest problem in your classroom library is how to organize the hundreds of books you have.  If you're still needing more books for your class library, head to my Finding Great Books on a Dime blog ( http://applesofyoureye.blogspot.com/2012/10/finding-great-books-on-dime.html ).  I was very lucky as a first year teacher because I started teaching the same year that my uncle retired from 25 years of dedicated service to the education profession and bequeathed to me boxes full of amazing books (he chose carefully for his class library and had some great titles perfect for late elementary school age students).  I also had a few dozen books from my own childhood and a couple of boxes from garage sales.  There were even dozens of books left for me by my amazing mentor teacher, Jaqui Forney, who I had student taught with in the same classroom two years before!  I was very blessed in terms of a starting classroom library, and I've added a few hundred books to our collection thanks to DonorsChoose.Org grants and Scholastic Book Club orders.  Above is a glimpse of part of our classroom library; the green bookshelf to the left houses our class set of dictionaries as well as the first and second grade level books (each get their own shelf) and our third grade level books (which take up the two bottom shelves).  Without fail, I have had a kindergarten/first grade level reader every year as well as high school level readers, so a good variety of books is essential!

There are many ways to organize a classroom library, and each grade level and teacher will be a little different.  The way I organize my books probably works best for 3-12 grade, but some teachers prefer to have their libraries organized by genre, especially in the younger grades.There are a few reasons why I organize my books by reading level.  The first is research.  If a child is reading a book where they don't comprehend at least 90% of what they're reading, they will be at the frustration level and will get very little out of the text, let alone build a life-long love of reading.  Some research puts the percentage of required comprehension as low as 80% to reach frustration, but anyone who has tried learning another language and attempts to read something that's beyond their current comprehension level will know this frustration first hand.  Research has also shown that a student's independent reading level should include books for which they comprehend about 95% of the words on each page, and that only for the instructional level should we bring them down to only knowing 90% of the words (At least I got that much from my Reading Endorsement, although I am too lazy to actually cite my sources since I'm not being graded! :).  This is one reason that I level nearly all of my books and organize them by reading level- so that students will find a "just right" book that will build their vocabulary while increasing their love of reading and building their comprehension.  Here are some of the titles on one of our fifth grade level shelves:

Another reason I can get away with this is that I know the books in my library.  No, I don't have them all memorized in alphabetical order or anything, but I have a general idea of what books I have in my library and could probably rattle off a few hundred titles.  When a student is struggling to find a good book, I can ask them about what type of book they like (funny books, mysteries, animal books, adventure, etc).  With that in mind, we go to the shelves that have their book level on them, and I can pick out about 5 books that suit their reading interests and have them excited to bring their favorite three back to their desk to put inside their book bag within 5 minutes (I use a gallon sized Ziploc bag instead of book boxes to save space and have them easily accessible).

We use the STAR Reading Test to get a general feel for each student's reading level.  I also do a quick vocab test (I'll have to save that for another post) with each student within the first few weeks of school.  Using an average of those two scores and what I've seen from their classwork, I tell them a grade equivalent reading level.  If they are at a 4.2, they record that number in their "My Reading Level" of their Literacy Journal (see http://applesofyoureye.blogspot.com/2012/08/literacy-journal-organization-sections.html ) and they also write 3.2-5.2.  This means that they can get any book in our classroom library that is within a grade level of their scores (between a 3.2 and a 5.2) to do the "Five Finger Test" with to see if it is a just right book.  As you can see in the picture below, I just use a tiny piece of a label to hand write the book's level and stick it to the spine.



All my students are trained on the "Five Finger Test."  I don't know who made up this little method of finding a good fit book, but it mostly assures students that they'll get a book that will be at their independent reading level.  A student turns to a full page of text in the book they're interested in and starts reading.  As soon as they get to a word that they're not sure about (they couldn't give a definition or use it in a novel sentence) they put a finger up, preferably their pointer finger.  They continue reading until they reach the end of the page (usually about 100 words in an average chapter book).  If they knew every single word on the page well, the book is too easy; they find a different book that will help them build their vocabulary a bit more.  If there were one or two words that they weren't sure about on the page, it's a just right book and they can keep it in their book bag.  If, after reading the page, they had three or more fingers up, it is probably not quite at their level yet, and they should look for a book just a titch lower.  Generally speaking, I find that some students will claim they know all the words until you have them read it aloud to you and you help them keep track of words they can't decode/define/use in a sentence.  This seems to be especially true for lower level readers who are eager to read harder books but are still building their reading skills.  If students are complaining about not having much in the way of reading material, or that they can't find a book that's at their reading level because they never find any new words, a quick read aloud by them will almost always find some words that they may have missed when reading it independently!

I have leveled all of my chapter books by grade level equivalent (find the conversions for DRA, AR, and so forth with a quick internet search for charts like this one: http://www.thecurriculumcorner.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/readinconversiontitle.jpg ).  For example, most of the Amelia Bedelia books are around 1.9, 2.5, 2.7 grade level equivalents.  Scholastic's http://www.scholastic.com/bookwizard/ will help you level your books, but for older books or random ones, you'll have to use your best judgement as to what level they are.  My books are organized by whole number (like all the 2's together on one shelf, all the 3's on another, etc.)  The tall white bookshelf below is for all my fifth grade level books (between 5.0-5.9). To the left is the white book shelf where all the books from 4.0-4.9 are shelved, and the brown bookcase to the right holds all the 6.0+ books.  Once my students get above the 6th grade reading level, they can choose any of the books on the brown bookshelf because there will always be new words in them.

Here is a better view of the brown bookshelf:

 Our fourth grade level books:


 Below is a picture of my bookshelf with the group book sets.  I collected these mostly from Scholastic and they range from Kindergarten to high school reading levels on a variety of subjects.  Most of the reading my students do is from a book they've chosen from the shelves, but I group them homogeneously for the book group.  Each group has a set of three books that are at their level to choose from, and they read the book together and do a variety of projects with each one.

  The only books that I don't label are the huge/non-fiction/class-created books/comics/random ones that I keep in these bins as "Everybody" books.  I mostly just pull them out if they pertain to a particular topic we are covering in class, but other than that, my students only read these during a "read any book to self" time or our buddy reading with a younger class.  They also won't fit on my regular little shelves that are chapter book height or are tricky to level.  I also have about 100 books in separate bins that are from the school district, so I keep them separate from my own books.


 How is your classroom library organized?  What have you found to be helpful when you're guiding students in book selection?  What are you still struggling with in your library, and what's working well?  Leave a comment below, share this with a friend.  Here's to great books!

Classroom Jobs


Want to build the kind of responsibility that sticks with kids for the rest of their lives?  Do you want kids to learn hard lessons the easy way?  Could you use a few less hours of work around your classroom each week so you can get other important things done to provide the highest quality education possible for your students?  Then CLASS JOBS ARE FOR YOU!

You can find my complete class jobs starter set at www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Classroom-Jobs-Starter-Pack for only $2, but I'm going to give you a sneak peak here! In my Class Job Starter Pack, you will find a complete list of jobs that are adaptable to your own classroom, a student-friendly job description of each job, further details about each job for the teacher to consider, and a job application that students complete.  There is also a class job list that you can print and laminate, and then use on the wall to write the name of each student next to the job they have.  The complete set will explain pretty much everything to a teacher who wants to hand some responsibility over to her students to make the classroom run like a well-oiled machine!


Sample Job Explanations for the Teacher
Librarian 1- These students make sure all of the books in our classroom library are organized, facing the correct way and on the right shelf.  They also bring to my attention any broken or ill-used books, and check our library check-out list to make sure people are returning our classroom library books from home.
Lights-Turn the lights on and off.
Doorperson- This person holds the door open for our classroom and shuts the doors when things get noisy in the hallway.
Mail Carrier 1 These two students pass out all the papers/bulletins/graded homework/etc to each student’s little mailbox, which are emptied by the students at the end of each day.

Student-Friendly Job Descriptions-
Pencil Sharpener- Sharpen the class pencils so there is always a good supply of sharp pencils and we don’t waste our learning time sharpening them!
Office Runner- Bring things down to the office when the teacher needs you to do so.
Line Caboose- This student stands at the end of our line as we’re walking though the hallways and waits with someone if they have to step out of line to tie their shoe or return to the classroom for a forgotten item.
  
Ready to print job applications, the complete job list ready to post with your students’ names, and complete explanations are included in this set.  Of course, with your purchase, you get to pick my brain and I can help you adapt it to your classroom too! Also, when you buy things from my TeachersPayTeachers store, a teacher’s request on DonorsChoose.org will be a little closer to being funded, and great new supplies will soon be in the hands of our youth.  Your purchase will also help provide food, clothing, shelter, medicine, or the start to a new small business for the world’s most impoverished people through Food for the Poor.  (I give 20% of my profits to charity).  I greatly appreciate your support.

 
A teacher’s job is hard enough as it is without worrying about the dozens of small things that need to be taken care of every day in the classroom.  Leave time for more important things in your schedule while helping your students build responsibility- try class jobs today! Have you tried class jobs in your room?  What positions do you have available to your students?  Which student job has alleviated the most work from your schedule so that you're free to help your students with more important things?  What difficulties are you still having with class jobs? Leave a comment below.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Finding Great Books on a Dime!

Do you need more books for your classroom library?  Have you already spent gobs of money on your classroom, and you don't have hundreds more to spend at Scholastic?  Here are some great ways to expand your classroom library without breaking the bank. 

DonorsChoose.org  If you don't have a teacher account on this site yet, MAKE ONE NOW!  I've won ten different grants and thousands of dollars worth of materials for my school spending just a few hours pleading my case to the public (If you want to donate towards my two current ones, they can be found here- http://www.donorschoose.org/project/multiply-the-fun-math-resources-that-en/823437/ and here- http://www.donorschoose.org/project/write-away-spicing-up-our-writing-with/823421/ ).  There are lots of people out there who want to support you and your students, and this is a great way to increase the scope of your classroom library.  For example, one of the grants that I wrote on Donors Choose was for a set of a few DOZEN books for boys!  While I certainly expect my female students to happily devour titles like The Hardy Boys & Encyclopedia Brown (and they do), I was able to add a set of sports chapter books, the recommended "Best for Boys" set, and a general 4-5 grade set of books to my classroom at no cost to me.  Another grant I wrote earned our classroom a whole set of lower-level reading books to support my below-grade-level readers.  I've also written two different grants for books that my grade alike team shares as we work through the related science units.  Donors Choose is a great way to let the public bless your classroom with the exact books you and your students want, and it takes about an hour of work total (choosing the materials you want, writing the description, and writing thank you notes after you get all the resources!).  This site is also great for a plethora of other products, but this post is about books, so we'll stick to mentioning only the literary goodness for now.  Here's a few of the Hardy Boys set I got from Donors Choose:

It's a good thing we teachers have the summers "off" so that we can get all the work we want to accomplish during the school year done!  Summer is the season of garage sales, and these are fantastic sources for great books.  Especially if you are a new teacher and you don't have much of anything in your classroom library, rummage sales are a great place to pick up a good quantity of books for very inexpensively or free. In my first few years of teaching, I would ask garage sale hosts if I could have the left-over books for my classroom.  Most of the time they were planning on giving the books that didn't sell to charity anyways, and many of them let me just take the boxes of books right then and there!  Garage sales, church sales, and rummage sales are great to pick through, and you can often get books for free from them if you offer to pick them up when the sale is over.

Do you have any friends with kids?  As their children grow out of books, scoop those texts right up!  Ask your friends to put aside any books that they're done with so they can be enjoyed by other kids.  If you have kids of your own, you might go through your own family library and see which books haven't been read in a while.  Get them into the hands of your students!  Examine the following picture to see how even Frederick Jr. the Plant loves books, and your students will appreciate a huge variety too!
 
A number of my favorite childhood books are included in my classroom library.  The ones that are important to me or have sentimental value sit on a special shelf behind my desk and are only available for "teacher permission reading" so I know who has them and know they won't be ruined.  A few of my childhood books weren't all that interesting to my sister and me, so they are interspersed amongst the other texts on the general classroom library shelves.  If you can't bare the thought of losing the book, don't bring it into your classroom, but if you have a few boxes of old books sitting in your attic (or your parent's basement), dust them off and get them into your classroom!

Check with your school library and with local public libraries (or private school libraries) towards the end of the year.  This is usually when they discard books that aren't checked out as frequently or have minor wear or tear on them.  I've gotten some great books from our church's private school and our own school library that have nothing more than a scribble on one page!  Library discards are another great way to expand your book collection.

Once you've gone through the above, you should have a pretty stellar start to a solid classroom library.  Now you can augment it with actual new, nice books from scholastic book orders.  Yes, passing out the little book flyers is kind of a pain, collecting the money and organizing the orders does take a few minutes out of your schedule each month, but it pays off.  Literally.  I've gotten hundreds of dollars worth of free books and products thanks to Scholastic.  Between promotions they run for a free book every monthly order of $20+, using the $10 to Spend Right Now coupons, and buying things with bonus points, Scholastic is a very teacher-friendly way to expand your library with great selections.  Probably about 100 of my classroom library books are from Scholastic, and nearly all of my literature circle book sets (I get 6 of each title, and I'll have to do a whole new blog post on literature circles) are from Scholastic.  The nicest pencil sharpener I've ever had in my life came from Scholastic bonus points, and the little wipeable clear folders I put my math workshop worksheets in for two of my centers are thanks to bonus points too.  Scholastic also has one of the best customer service policies I've ever come across- they will always make things right, and they are very professional and polite on the phone.  Plus, if you ever had the joy of looking through a Scholastic Book Club Magazine when you were little, you know how fun it is to pour over the new books, examine the brilliant covers, and dream about which books you would buy if you had a million dollars.  I still do! Here are some of the book sets that I've gotten through Scholastic:

Whether your hunting down new books at garage sales, earning grants to get new texts into your students' hands, raiding your own home library (and those of your friends and families), searching library discards, or getting pretty new books from Scholastic, remember to choose wisely.  An inappropriate book that is free is still not something that you want for your classroom!  While we'll never have enough time to read every awesome book that is out there, we can give a quick glance to the blurb on the back of each book we're unfamiliar with to make sure that it will be a good fit for our students (yes, I'm encouraging you to judge a book by its cover).  Once you have a good class library of 1,000 books or so, you can start the difficult task of culling your book population and giving the books away to students, or another new teacher who is just starting to build their own library!

 Where have you found your classroom library books?  How do you know what kind of books your children need?  What are your favorite series, authors, and books for your grade? What questions do you still have about classroom libraries? Leave a comment or question below, and, of course, share with friends, follow my blog, and find me on Pinterest!  Happy Reading!