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My Favorite Teachers in Children's Literature

We have recently started our second read aloud this year and I was reminded about the sometimes funny, frequently encouraging and oftentimes powerful role that teachers play in the books we share with our students. Especially in reading aloud, I love finding the humor with my students in the silly ways teachers are portrayed, or finding the compassion and kindness in the way other teachers influence a character.

This got me thinking about my most favorite teachers in children's literature. This list is by no means extensive, and I am sure I could come up with ten different ones tomorrow, but these were the first characters that came to mind when I pictured fictional teachers.

Some of these are inspirational, some are kind, and some are downright awful... which is always memorable and creates some fun class jokes for the remainder of the year. I have always loved to refer back to the Trunchbull after we've read Matilda because her character is just so over-the-top and we always can laugh about her as a class.

So, here are my top teachers, in no particular order, that can be found in some wonderful children's books:

1. Miss Nelson

Miss Nelson, from Miss Nelson is Missing, is probably the first book I remember reading about a teacher as a child. I still share this book with my daughter and we laugh as we discover some of Miss Viola Swamp's costume in Miss Nelson's closet at the end. I am so grateful this book has stood the test of time because there really is no other teacher as memorable. Plus, this makes a great beginning of the year book since it displays both the right and the wrong ways to behave in a classroom.

2. Ms. Frizzle

Who could be a more enthusiastic and energetic educator than Ms. Frizzle? She is the famed teacher from the Magic School Bus series and even has her own cartoons and new Netflix show (although I am partial to the original version of her from when I was growing up!). Not only does she live and breathe science, but she demonstrates what great teachers do: get their students excited about learning and solving real-world challenges. Her outfits are on my list of future Halloween costumes, too.

3. Ms. Trunchbull

Okay, I know, she is a nightmare of a teacher, or rather, headmistress, but Roald Dahl's description of her antics and her dialogue make her a favorite part of Matilda. I love to read this book aloud each year and saying her lines in a deep and angry voice is just so much fun. She embodies everything awful about an educator, but in a humorous and hyperbolic way. Roald Dahl is the master of characters and storytelling and she is such a memorable character because of it!

4. Miss Honey

The real hero teacher of Matilda is, of course, Miss Honey. She exemplifies what it means to be kind, compassionate, caring, responsible... you name it. She is humble and loving and you are rooting for her the entire story. She provides the perfect character to compare and contract with the Trunchbull, since there are so many stark differences.

5. Professor McGonagall

While there are a host of amazing teachers from the Harry Potter series, and some that are purely awful, Professor McGonagall had my heart from Book One. I am rereading the series with my daughter now and I just love how her character is written: serious, but caring; disciplined, but with a spark of excitement. I love following her journey through the seven books and beyond. She is one exemplary teacher.

6. Mr. Daniels

Mr. Daniels comes in as a substitute in Fish in a Tree and is one of the first people to ever realize that Ally has a learning disability. His gentle and encouraging teaching allow the once angry and misunderstood Ally to forge friendships and realize that she does have talents and gifts to share. This is a fantastic read-aloud that I like to share later in the year with my students, as it does a very good job of describing dyslexia from a student's point of view. A similar thread is found in the picture book, Thank You, Mr. Falker.

7. Miss Stretchberry

The talented Sharon Creech's poetry book, Love That Dog is not only a true tear-jerker, but a powerful story of how gentle nudges from teachers can make a huge difference. This book is written as a poetry journal from Jack's perspective, and he hates poetry. Through his poems, we learn of the different strategies Miss Stretchberry tries and, in so doing, we see his confidence grow and his poems take on powerful topics in deeply-feeling ways. If you are looking for a similar story of teacher inspiration, I can also recommend The Dot, by Peter H. Reynolds.

8. Mrs. Granger

Frindle, by Andrew Clements, is a perennial classic in our grade and that is in large part to Mrs. Granger. Nick's plan to replace the word "pen" with "frindle" would have been dead in the water had she not stepped in and made it such a huge deal. Near the end, we learn what was written in her letter to Nick, and the final chapter always makes me tear up as she remembers the lasting influence she has had as a teacher for so many years.

9. Ms. Jewls

I like to start the year with the oldie-but-goodie Sideways Stories from Wayside School. The chapters are short, silly, and always allow us to end our day with a smile on our face. Mrs. Gorf is the original teacher, but she turns into an apple and Ms. Jewls is brought in for the rest of the year. She has some great dialogue and is one of the reasons this makes such a great read aloud: she is so "teachery" in her tone, yet her words and ideas often make no sense. Have fun with this one!

Who would you add to the list? Importantly, who is your favorite teacher from the Harry Potter series? I am already thinking of that list in my head...

Happy reading!

Quick-Assembly Brain Breaks You Can Use Tomorrow!

As a teacher, time is always at a premium! There are always so many things to do, lists to check off, and ideas swirling around in our brains.

Over the years, several of you have reached out to me and mentioned that assembling Brain Breaks was tough, especially if you don't have a circle punch. I totally get it! I created a how-to to make assembly easier, and you can find that HERE.

That being said, there's an even *easier* way to create these little Brain Breaks, although it will take the Poster PDF version of my packet and look slightly different. The good news is that you can use a paper cutter and get these guys up and running quickly! Plus, this packet includes the posters and PowerPoint versions, so you end up with several options for these in your classrooms.

For comparison, here is a picture of my original Brain Breaks set:

The picture and title are on the front and the description is on the back. I mount them on paper and laminate them to make them extra-sturdy and I know from personal experience that they last for years and years!

Here are what these quick-assembly Poster Brain Breaks will look like:

These are smaller versions of the poster, so they are one-sided and include the title, picture, and description all on one side. You can easily laminate these and hot glue them to a popsicle stick in no time flat. They offer all of the same information, just in a more compact form.

Interested in creating these? Here's a simple step-by-step guide to help.

What you will need:
  • Brain Breaks PDF & PowerPoint from TpT HERE
  • Cardstock (optional, but highly recommended)
  • Printer
  • Laminator
  • Scissors or paper cutter
  • Popsicle sticks
  • Hot glue

The first thing you will need to do is open the PDF of the Poster Brain Breaks and get ready to print. I recommend full-color on cardstock for added durability.

On your print screen, be sure to make the following adjustments:

  • Click "Multiple"
  • Change the "Pages per sheet" to 16
  • Be sure it is in "Landscape" Orientation
  • Print on one side only
  • Do not print page borders
  • Optional: You can adjust the pages that will print to take out the cover, directions, credit pages, etc. 

I have made a short walkthrough video here to help:

There is also a post HERE that can help as well. You can make these larger by only printing 2, 4 or 9 per page. Nine per page may be a good choice for younger grades, especially if you have a "Brain Breaks Leader" as a part of your Classroom Jobs-- the text is slightly larger to help. The examples are all done with 16 per page, which is the size I found to be the most convenient.

After these have printed, you can laminate them right away.

I cannot cut a straight line to save my life, so I get out my handy-dandy paper cutter to trim off the borders, then just cut these Brain Breaks by rows and columns.

Start heating up the glue gun and get your popsicle sticks or tongue depressors ready.

I have heard of a few ideas when it comes to assembling:

  • Glue one Brain Break onto each popsicle stick
  • Pair these breaks up-- glue one "energizing" break on one side and one "calming" break on the other
  • Different popsicle stick colors can be used to differentiate the types of breaks: energizing, calming, partnerships, etc.
However you choose to assemble them, they are easy-peasy to glue right on and go. I store mine in a bucket so they are ready to pull at any time. With the purchase of the Poster PDF and PowerPoint set, you have so many options when it comes to sizes and formats, so there really are endless possibilities.

I hope that you can use these tips to create Brain Breaks for your classroom. If you have been on the fence about adding these to your classroom repertoire because of the assembly required, don't let that be a factor anymore-- you can get these done in one evening and be ready to share them with your students tomorrow!

Happy Brain Breaking!

Welcoming Students Back with Bunny Snacks and Tags

In years past, I have put out a wide variety of goodies to welcome students back to school. The first time they step into the classroom, typically during Open House the day before school starts, I want them to be able to find their table spot and have something fun already waiting for them.

There are so many possibilities-- from pencils, to glow sticks, to food-- and this year I am choosing my most favorite snack (and what has basically been a food group for me this summer), bunny crackers and gummy bunnies from Annie's!

Review: 2018 Erin Condren Academic Planner & Back to School Goodies

I cannot tell you how excited I am to share these new back to school goodies with you from Erin Condren!

This year, the Academic Calendar been updated to include a coil, making it possible to now use all of those great interchangeable covers! There are more notes pages and no dated calendar or weeks, so you can adjust this to fit any school schedule. I found that it's a good size, in that it's not as thick as a Teacher or Life Planner, but thicker than a Deluxe Monthly Planner... a happy medium.

My Go-To Instant Pot Recipes

I posted about my most favorite kitchen appliance, the Instant Pot, the other day on my Facebook page and wanted to talk about it in a bit more detail. With the school year approaching, I want to share some of my go-to helpers, both in the classroom and my home, to help support your transition into August and beyond.

If you haven't tried an Instant Pot, I am hoping you'll see how helpful this little workhorse is in the kitchen, especially during the chaos of the school year. And if you already have one of these, you can try some of my favorite recipes and share yours below in the comments! Prices on Instant Pots vary greatly, so keep your eyes peeled for good deals (and I'll try to feature them on social media when I find one!). I recommend the 6-quart one HERE. I purchased mine over four years ago and it's still going strong.

Reviewing the *NEW* 2018-2019 Erin Condren Teacher Lesson Planner

School just ended a few days ago, but I am already excited for planning next year. If you know me and this blog, you can easily guess why: The *NEW* 2018-2019 Erin Condren Teacher Lesson Planner is launching May 29th!

This planner has been my go-to for the past few many years, and each year, it gets better and better. Last year, the thicker paper made it so much more durable. This year, there are now pre-printed dates on every lesson planning page! No more date stickers on the monthly spreads and no more worrying about filling in each and every week of dates when you first get this planner!

STAR Cards for Positive Classroom Behavior

Over the years, I have tried many classroom rewards for students who go above and beyond during the school day. I try to avoid picking from the Treasure Box or doling out candy, mostly because that's not sustainable, for the kids or myself.

I was looking for a way for kids to earn their way to a reward, but in so doing, making something that was motivating for them, and easy for me. I am not a great record keeper, so it needed to be something we could all track with ease.

For the past couple of years, we have had STAR Cards to fill this need and they have really done the trick! I picked up star hole punches on Amazon (I bought two so they would be in strategic places around my classroom), and each student is given a STAR Card at the beginning of the year. I just copy them on cardstock and write their names on the back in Sharpie.

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