Literature + Global Connections + Technology– I Love It When It All Comes Together!

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I love it when it all comes together!

I have some wonderful connections to share that integrate my 3 biggest passions in education: literacy, diversity, and technology! I’ve recently found 3 great learning opportunities through my PLC (Professional Learning Community), and I saw a way that they all fit together. I hope you’ll join me in participating in them! Click on each of the pictures below to check out these great opportunities to learn and share.

ramona recommendsCourtney, from Ramona Recommends, is doing a traveling picture book linky for the summer. In this linky, you can share a picture book about where you live or a place that you have visited. The book you blog about should teach us about that place. What a great idea! (I’m not the only one who collects picture books from my travels!)

Pigs over denver

My book recommendation for this linky is a book about where I live. Pigs Over Denver was written by Kerry Lee MacLean in conjunction with school children from the greater Denver area. It names the most popular places to frequent in the Denver Metro area, as told by students! There are more books in this series such as Pigs Over Colorado, and Pigs Over Boulder, but Pigs Over Denver is my personal favorite!


Pernille, creator of the Global Read Aloud, has encouraged a global book exchange this year as part of the Global Read Aloud project. If you haven’t heard of the Global Read Aloud, you have to check it out! It’s a wonderful concept–all over the world, teachers read the same book to their students and then connect with another classroom anywhere in the world to discuss the book. Classrooms can write to each other on blogs, through emails, or even do a google hangout with their global epals. Discussing a common book from different global perspectives will give children a whole new outlook on the similarities and differences they share with people from other places. This year, you are encouraged to share a book with your global buddy about where you live to help them learn more about where you are from.

Screen Shot 2014-07-05 at 4.35.04 PMThinglink is hosting a summer PD set of challenges so that you can get some hands on experience with Thinglink and generate ideas about how you can use it in the classroom. The fourth challenge is to create an interactive map.

Click here to see my interactive map for challenge #4

Here is how I put them altogether . . . Choosing picture books that give information about a place you have visited, as done in Ramona’s Recommendations, is the same idea behind the book exchange with the Global Read Aloud, so I decided to make my interactive map for Thinglink’s 4th challenge a collection of these picture books from around the world. This could be a great resource for learning about other cities, states, and countries through picture books from people who have been there!

This interactive map is open for anyone to edit. I have already added the titles and authors of the books from those who have linked up so far, as well as the link to each blog post, but please continue to add to this map! Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could collaborate and share a resource that acquainted us with the whole world through picture books?

To further redefine a collaborative resource once unimaginable on a global scale such as this, I would love to have students create a book trailer for the book that introduces their city, state, or country and add it to the same Thinglink interactive map. What a great introduction for their global epals, and what a great, authentic learning experience for students to conduct research and determine the most important things to share about where they live. Better yet, students could create their own ABC book about where they live, just like Pigs Over Denver, using their own pictures or illustrations from the places they’ve been in their community and writing about it from personal experience. iMovie or Videolicious would be great tools to use. If small groups of students each created a video about one important place in their community, all the videos could be combined into one ebook using the app Book Creator and then published on iBooks, or Nook!

A project like this could redefine age-old assignments such as “What I Did Over Summer Break” and “Create a Brochure About Your State.” By giving these time-honored traditional assignments a makeover using technology and an authentic global audience, you now have a 21st century learning experience that can help students internalize the value of where they live and share it with the world.

Featured Book Friday: Looking for Guest Authors!


Featured Book Friday: My Penguin Osbert

My Penguin Osbert by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel

Publishers Weekly

In this playful cautionary tale, a boy asks Santa for-and receives-a gift that proves more than he can handle. On Christmas morning, Joe tiptoes downstairs to find just what he wanted under the tree: a real-live penguin named Osbert. But after several very frigid days out in the snow, lots of cold-water baths and meals of creamed herring with his new penguin pal, Joe wonders if he’s made a wise choice. A follow-up letter to Santa gets a response with some thinly veiled advice in the form of two free passes to the grand opening of Antarctic World at the local zoo. Though the predictable ending wraps things up tidily, youngsters will still find much to enjoy in this lighthearted fantasy with realistic holiday roots (and the refrain will likely produce chuckles: “But I had asked for Osbert, and now I had him”). Lewis’s (Can I Have a Stegosaurus, Mom? Can I? Please!?) blend of watercolor, pastel and some digital rendering creates an appropriately dreamy-looking backdrop for Joe’s adventure. A cool blue-white palette is often tempered with the glow and shadow generated by inviting indoor lighting. Ages 4-8. (Oct.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Curriculum Connections: by guest author Marika Gillis
Check out Marika’s blog: Read to Me (click here)

Sequencing Lesson Plan

Objective:  The student will sequence the events in a story. (Knowledge)

DOL: The students will read a story and put the events from the story in order using a graphic organizer.

Anticipatory Set– Tangled: Horsing Around Video

1.    Start by having students try to order the events from the movie without watching it.

2.     Then students will watch the movie clip and order the events that occurred in it on the graphic organizer.


3.    Ask students:  Why was it hard to put the events in order the first time?

What made it easier after watching the video?

Direct Instruction

1. Pass out paper with tips for finding the sequence of events in a story:

-thinking about beginning, middle, and end

-looking for signal words & phrases (i.e. next, finally, before, after)

-think about other clues in the text like times of the day,

days of the week, and dates

2. Explain to students why it is important to understand the events in a story.

3. Read aloud the book My Penguin Osbert by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel

(During the reading, students will need a copy of the phrases that are clues to the sequence of the story.  They will circle the phrases as they hear them throughout the story.  This is to draw attention to the clues in the text that show the sequence of events and keep students engaged during the story reading.)

-while reading, students circle the phrases that are clues to the sequence of the story as they hear them (model the first pages)

-model using the above strategies to put the events from the story into the graphic organizer  (explain thinking!)

Guided Practice

1. Give students a story in pieces and have them use the signal words and other clues to put the events from the story in order, using the same graphic organizer

2. Ask:  What words/phrases helped you decide what order the

paragraphs belonged in?

What would have made this easier?  (reading the whole story first)

Independent Work

Demonstration Of Learning (DOL)- Students work independently to put events from a story into the same graphic organizer

Events from the movie Tangled   (copy and cut apart before lesson):

The bag of jewels flings out of reach and lands on a tree branch.

The tree trunk breaks.

The thief is chased by palace guards.
The thief jumps and lands on the guard’s horse.

The thief quickly climbs the tree, reaching for the bag.



It is important to know the order or sequence that events take place in a story. It helps you understand what you read.

To figure out the sequence or order of a story…

1- Think about what happens at the beginning of the story, in the middle of the story, and at the end of the story.

2- Look for signal words like first, next, last, before, after and finally to help you figure out the sequence.

3- Think about the other clues in the text that indicate the passage of time- time of the day, days of the week, ages, and dates.

after a while                  last year

the next day

next Saturday                        by daybreak

after breakfast

My Penguin Osbert

last year

so this year

when Christmas morning came

that night

after a while

the next morning

after breakfast

that afternoon

a couple of days later

next Saturday

My Penguin Osbert

last year

so this year

when Christmas morning came

that night

after a while

the next morning

after breakfast

that afternoon

a couple of days later

next Saturday

My Penguin Osbert

last year

so this year

when Christmas morning came

that night

after a while

the next morning

after breakfast

that afternoon

a couple of days later

next Saturday


My Penguin Osbert

last year

so this year

when Christmas morning came

that night

after a while

the next morning

after breakfast

that afternoon

a couple of days later

next Saturday



Sequencing DOL

Directions:  Read the passages below.  Then put the events in the correct order.

Wilma Rudolph was born in Tennessee in 1940.  As a young child, Wilma was sick with polio.  Her left leg was so weakened by the sickness that doctors told her she would never walk.  Wilma exercised her leg as hard as she could.  By the time she got to high school, she was able to join the basketball team.  Later, Wilma won several Olympic gold medals for running.  Wilma became one of the fastest women of all time.

The Nile crocodile lays her eggs in the warm sand or mud far away from the river.  Then she listens for the sounds of the young crocodiles inside their shells.  Next, she uncovers the eggs and waits for the young to hatch.  Finally, she carries the newly hatched crocodiles in her mouth to the river, where they learn to swim.

Featured Book Friday(ish): Little House on the Prairie

(oops! I didn’t get the post done on Friday, but it’s the thought that counts, right?)

Grades 1-4 Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

This beloved classic memoir, first published in 1935, is so well written that it is still a childhood favorite today. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s explicit descriptions help the reader see pioneer life through the eyes of a child. Based on her experiences as a child in the 1870s, Little House on the Prairie takes the reader on her  journey to the west as they pack the covered wagon, say goodbye to friends and family that they may never see again, encounter  life-threatening situations in their covered wagon, cook on the prairie, build a new home from scratch, and leave that new home behind once again.

I remember this book as an old favorite from my childhood, but when I reread it recently as an adult and teacher, I appreciated just how impressive the writing is and how detailed her descriptions of prairie life are. The writing is clear and simple, so there is no need to “translate” it for children today. It is truly a timeless adventure.

~Book review written by Emily Stout

Curriculum Connections: -Literacy & Social Studies Connections: This book is absolutely perfect for taking your students on a pioneer adventure! Using drama is a powerful way to let kids “experience” history. You can make history come alive in your classroom by traveling back to the 1800s with your students and becoming pioneers. Here is how to set the stage . . .

We begin by learning about the differences between life in the 1800s compared to life today. I found a reproduction of the book The School of Good Manners by Nathaniel Patten that was first published in 1787 (Click on the book cover for information on buying the book). This authentic little treasure was one of the first known publications that acted as a guide for the conduct of children. Written in language of the time, this little paperback recreation outlines the expectations for children at home, school, in public meeting houses, etc. For example, here are just a few rules on children’s conduct at the table (which we use with our Little House on the Prairie unit outlined later in this post):

  • Come not to the table without having your hands and face washed, and your head combed.
  • Find no fault with any thing that is given thee.
  • Spit not, cough not, nor blow thy nose at table; if it may be avoided.
  • Throw not any thing under the table.
  • Drink not, nor speak with any thing in thy mouth.
  • Pick not thy teeth at the table, unless holding up thy napkin before thy mouth with thine other hand.

The kids get a kick out of trying to follow all the rules of the 1800s! I recently found a great free resource for a Long Ago and Today Social Studies unit from Mrs. Patterson’s Patch. She has 3 parts to this unit: school, transportation, and home, and they’re are all free! I can’t wait to use them with my Little House on the Prairie unit this year! (click here)

Art Connections: We have to have the proper attire to live in the 18oos when we travel back in time, so we learn about how people dressed in that time period and how different it was for men and women. I use the American Family Paper Dolls by Tom Tierney to show students what the clothing of the time period looked like. The clothing in this book is very detailed, so the kids can really see h0w people dressed. There is also a detailed description about the clothing written in the book. Unfortunately these paper dolls and clothing are EXTREMELY time consuming and labor-intensive to cut out. You have to cut on the lines exactly for the clothes to fit. This is a good project for parent helpers to do at home, but it will definitely take some time. I recommend laminating them before cutting because trying to re-cut the clothes and people would be impossible! I have also let students create their own paper doll to represent themselves and the clothing they would wear in this time period by using the paper doll  ellison die-cut (it has bodies, hair for boys and girls, clothing, shoes, etc.). The die-cut clothing is not pioneer clothing, but I let the students use the basic outline to make their own pioneer clothing with construction paper and scrapbook paper scraps. We glue these pioneer paper dolls in the journals we’ll be writing (see Writing Connections), and label the type of clothing that had to be worn. (This is a great place to introduce the non-fiction text feature: labels.)

We are also ‘in character’ when I read aloud a chapter from Little House on the Prairie, so the girls make bonnets to wear and the boys make hats. I found a great resource for activities that go with all the Laura Ingalls Wilder Books (click here). There I found directions for making hats for the boys (click here) and bonnets for the girls (click here). I had the kids make these in the classroom, but this year I think I will have the art teacher help me out. They do require some time to make, but they are perfect! We wear these hats and bonnets to ‘travel back in time’ every time I read a chapter from Little House on the Prairie. When it is read aloud time, the kids put on their hat or bonnet and line up outside the classroom door–girls on one side, boys on the other, just as they would in a one room school house. I ring a cowbell to let the students know that it is time for school (in our one-room school house) to begin. Ladies always get to go in the door first. They remove their bonnets by pushing them off their heads, curtsying, and saying, “Good morning, ma’am” as they walk in the door. Then the boys follow removing their hats, bowing, and giving me the same greeting. The students sit in rows on the carpet with girls on one side and boys on the other while they listen to a new chapter in Little House on the Prairie. We also use the rules from The School of Good Manners during this time. Some of their favorite rules to follow are: stand before speaking, stand and bow if an adult enters the room, and sit quietly facing forward without looking an adult in the eye (yes–it’s true! They LOVED sitting quietly! That makes the whole unit worth trying, doesn’t it?!)

Writing Connections: We make our own classroom book interactively called My School of Good Manners. We use this book to record what we learn about classroom behavior in the 1800s in our own words. We add to this  book throughout the unit as we learn new rules, and we refer back to it whenever necessary. After taking a Kagan class this summer, this year I will use the ‘Team Stand and Share’ structure (see directions below) to brainstorm what we will add to our book.

The students are each responsible for keeping a journal of our “travels” throughout this unit as well. Because things were very gender specific in the 1800s, we keep that theme going by giving the boys one journal and the girls a different journal. (The gender difference is something that the students really notice, and after this unit, they usually appreciate the equality of our time!) After read aloud, the students write in their journals about our adventure on the prairie that day (which is whatever happened in the chapter we read in Little House on the Prairie). In the first chapter of the book, Laura talks about saying goodbye to grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. The students write in their journals as if they are writing a letter to their cousin that they left behind when they began their westward journey. They must use correct letter format as they explain to their cousin what happened to them on the prairie in a letter. At the end of the unit, the students can look back at their journal to remind themselves of life on the prairie, and it’s a great way to introduce writing summaries!

We also do special activities that accompany each chapter in the book. For example, the book talks in great detail about how the Ingalls family cooks and what they eat when they are on the prairie. It mentions making butter, which we do in our classroom with heavy whipping cream and a glass jar with a screw on lid. It also mentions that they ate corn bread and molasses. I have the Little House on the Prairie Cookbook (although the directions on the back of the package of cornmeal works fine too!), and I made cornbread for my students using real ground cornmeal. Using the table manners from  The School of Good Manners (and there are a lot!), the students eat the cornbread, molasses, and the butter that we made in class for an 1800s style snack! This is a great interactive experience that helps the kids relive history. One of the rules (as listed above) is, “Find no fault with any thing that is given thee.” I LOVE watching them try not to make faces as they taste the molasses!

Cross Curricular Connections: This is the perfect unit to collaborate with specials teachers. You can ask the PE teacher to teach your students games that were popular in the 1800s. They can compare them with the games that children play today. We used the book Games from Long Ago by Bobbie Kalman to plan which games they would play. We picked some games that were similar to games that kids play today and some that were very different.

In Little House on the Prairie, Pa loves to play his fiddle and sing. They mention many songs by name in the book, so talk to your music teacher about sharing those songs and some ‘fiddlin’ with your students.

You can ask the art teacher to help you with the art projects listed above. One year, the art teacher also had my students make marbles out of clay, which is what most kids did at the time. Glass marbles were much too expensive for a child’s game, so they played marbles with homemade clay marbles. The kids learned that if the marbles weren’t very round, they didn’t do very well in a game of marbles!

During this unit of study, we go on a field trip to the Littleton Historic Museum. It is a working farm that has several acres with 2 original homesteads–one from the late 1800s and one from the early 1900s. The difference between these houses in just 30-40 years is incredible! There is also a one room school house and a blacksmith shop. There are volunteers who work the farm in clothing of the time period doing daily chores to give students an authentic experience. As the students walk around the farm, the chaperons have a list of old sayings and how they originated from the book Settler Sayings by Bobbie Kalman. As they discuss these saying with the kids, they look for examples around the farm. For example, the saying, “Don’t let the bed bugs bite,” used to have a literal meaning. The mattresses from long ago were made with straw and prairie grass (just like Little House on the Prairie) and there were often bed bugs in the straw or grass that did bite in the night! At the museum, the students would look for the bed in the 1800s homestead to see the mattress that was made of straw.

I am currently working on a Little House on the Prairie unit to sell at the Teacher Stuff store. It will include the journal covers (pictured above),  how to incorporate the journals and special activities (like the activities listed above) into each chapter. Check back to see when this unit will be for sale! Creating a literature study through drama with Little House on the Prairie makes history come alive in a lesson, and experience, your students won’t forget. And it’s not just fun! Both Little House on the Prairie and The School of Good Manners are written firsthand accounts of history. In this unit students compare and contrast various aspects of life in the 1800s to life today. They describe the history and interaction of various people and cultures that migrated to communities, and how events and decisions shaped the the identity of communities today. They get to identify historical artifacts, generate questions about their functions, and they identify history as the story of the past preserved in various sources. When children get to interact with history through drama and literature, true learning happens.

Featured Book Friday: Flat Stanley

Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown


This beloved book has become a classic that is still popular and well loved by many classrooms across the globe today. After Stanley Lambchop was flattened by his bulletin board, he has many exciting adventures that only an inch and a half thick child could have! The most famous adventure in this book is when Stanley is mailed in a giant envelope to his friend. That has inspired many classrooms to send their own Flat Stanley all around the world . . .

~Teacher Stuff blog review written by Emily Stout

Curriculum Connections

Flat Stanley is known for being a favorite character to help teach geography and writing. You can also use Flat Stanley to integrate technology into your classroom too!

Writing/Social Studies: Use Flat Stanley to teach your students to use the letter format. I like to start the year off with Flat Stanley. We have A Community Scavenger Hunt with Flat Stanley book that is made by the class. They take turns taking the book and Flat Stanley home and taking pictures of the community (a unit we study in 2nd grade). Click here for a free download of the class book.

Geography: Sending Flat Stanley to new places is a fun way to study geography. Let students make their own Flat Stanley to send to a friend or relative in another state or another country. There are many Flat Stanley websites out there. The official Flat Stanley website is the one I use to get the template of Flat Stanley and the letter to send to with him. (Click here for the Flat Stanley website.)

As postcards from around the world come back to your classroom, you can learn about new places and keep track of Flat Stanley’s travels. This is an authentic way for students to study geography and map skills. I created a smartboard lesson to make this easier to track. You can watch the video of how this lesson works below. Click here if you’d like to buy it for just $$3!

You can use Flat Stanley to have students record their vacation events,  send him to another grade level to learn more about what to expect in a new grade level, or send him to visit a famous author or celebrity!

How do you use Flat Stanley in your classroom?

Featured Book Friday Contest!

Click on the button to view products at the Teacher Stuff Store!

Featured Book Friday: Owl Moon

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen


If you’ve ever looked forward to a special day with your father, this story will bring back the thrill that only a young child knows. Written in the voice of a girl who is going “owling” with her father late one night, the beautiful pictures and language in this story put you into the forest as you hear your “feet crunch over the crisp snow” with “heat in your mouth from all the words that are not spoken”. You’ll see the “black shadows stain the white snow”, and “feel someone’s icy palm run down (your) back” as you listen for the whoo-whoo-who-who-who-whoooo under an owl moon.

~Teacher Stuff blog review written by Emily Stout

FREEBIE: You can download some lesson resources for this book by clicking here:

Curriculum Connections

by Emily Stout

  • Comprehension strategy: Visualizing
  • Author as Mentor: write using 5 senses

1. Read the story Owl Moon to your class. I recorded myself reading this book ahead of time, and I used sound effects to help the students visualize the story better. For example, the story says, “A farm dog answered the train, and then a second dog joined in.” (Click the sentence and download “Owl Moon snippet” to hear a part of the recording.) I used sound effects to give the story the same eerie feeling of a forest late at night. has a great collection of free sound effects. (I would share my recording with you, but I believe that would break copyright laws.) If you have older students, you can let them make a recording of the book using sound effects. (I recommend Garage Band–it is the easiest way for you or your students to record books.)

2. This story is full of beautiful language that paints a picture in your mind. Use ‘Round Table Consensus‘ (See Kagan Structures below) to sort the words and phrases from this story into 5 senses. The “Visualizing with 5 Senses” cards (print from link above) has sentences and phrases from the story your students can use.

3. Once your students have spent time sorting the language used in Owl Moon, they can use the author, Jane Yolen, as a mentor to write their own poem focusing on the strategy of visualizing. Have students write about a time that they went camping, swimming, or did something outside. Have each team agree on an outdoor event to write about, then use the structure “Jot Thoughts” (see Kagan Structures below) to help students brainstorm good visualizing words and phrases to put in their poem. First have students use their sticky notes from “Jot Thoughts” to create a team poem, then have students write their own individual poem.

  • Kagan Structures

– Round Table Consensus:

1. Each team needs a “Visulizing with 5 Senses” sorting mat and Owl Moon cards.

2. The first person takes one card, reads it aloud, and decides where it goes on the sorting mat.

3. Teammates show a thumbs-up or thumbs-down to show if they agree or disagree. If there are any thumbs-down, the team needs to discuss the answer. If the team cannot agree, everyone raises a hand so the teacher can help.

4. When the team agrees on the answer, it is the next person’s turn to draw a card.

-Jot Thoughts Poem:

1. Each team needs sticky notes for each person.

2. As a team, decide which topic you are going to focus on i.e. camping, swimming, etc.

3. When the teacher starts the timer, write as many visualizing sentences or phrases as your can about your topic. Write one phrase or sentence for each sticky note. Try to cover the table with your ideas. Use all 5 senses.

4. When your time is up, use the ‘Round Robin’ structure to read all the ideas your team came up with.

5. Arrange your sentences in an order that sounds pleasing.

Example: Camping

Crickets chirping

stars sparkling in the sky.

The hot dry smoke

burns my eyes when I

squeeze them shut.

Marshmallows puff out

their cheeks

as the orange fire dances under them

turning their fat white

cheeks brown.

The spongy center doesn’t

always slide off the stick

when I pull the soft, gooey filling

into my mouth. Yum!

Don’t forget to send me your curriculum connections! Click here to share your favorite book.

Featured Book Friday: Not A Box

Not A Box by Antoinette Portis


This delightfully simple book was awarded the Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Award, New York Times Best Illustrated Book of 2007, An ALA Notable Children’s Book, New York Times Bestseller, Publisher Weekly Bestseller, and Nick Jr. Family Magazine “Most Imaginative” picture book 2006. Perfect for beginning readers, this book highlights the creativity of children as an ordinary box is transformed into a race car, a burning building, a pirate ship and much more!

~Teacher Stuff blog review written by Emily Stout

Bonus!! If you send a submission for a featured book by June 24, 2011, I will send you the materials I created for this lesson! That includes cooperative learning roles name plates with what each job does and says, Roam the Room form, Carousel Feedback form, and more! Click here to submit a Featured Book.

Curriculum Connections

by Emily Stout

  • Social Skills/Rules: Use this book to teach children the life skill of creativity. This book is the perfect example of ‘thinking outside the box’–literally!
  • Writing/Kagan Cooperative Project: Use this book to introduce the cooperative learning project “Not A Box” that will become a creative writing prompt.

1. Collect boxes of all different shapes and sizes from refrigerator boxes to ring boxes.

2. With students in cooperative learning groups, they will use the structure ‘Spend-A-Buck‘ to choose a box that they would like to transform into something creative. Use the structure ‘Jot Thoughts‘ so students can generate ideas about how to transform their box. (See ‘Kagan Structures’ below for directions on these cooperative learning structures.)

3. Using the structure ‘Team Project,’ assign cooperative learning roles (see Kagan structures below) to each student in the group. First, the students will plan how they will transform their box. The recorder will sketch the group’s vision for their final product. The materials monitor will make a list of the materials that they need, collect all the supplies on the list and distribute them to the team. Each team member is responsible for creating part of the box design. The designer will decide how each team members’ design will be incorporated into the box design, and the attacher will decide how to attach each design to the box creation.

4. Use the ‘Roam the Room‘ structure (see Kagan Structures below) so each team has an opportunity to see other projects and discuss ideas for additions and improvements to their own projects. When the team is finished with their project, the materials monitor returns all supplies and leads the team clean-up.

5. Use the ‘Carousel Feedback‘ structure (see Kagan Structures below) for teams to share their “Not A Box” projects.

6. Have students write their own “Not A Box” story independently, or use the ‘Continuous Round Table’ structure to have teams write a creative cooperative story about their projects. Teams could “stand on the shoulders” of Antoinette Portis and write a story following the pattern of Not A Box (recommended for beginning writers), or each team could create their own unique story that somehow includes their team box.

  • Kagan Structures

Spend-A-Buck: “To make a team decision, teammates use funny money and “spend a buck” to vote on their top picks. The option with the most bucks is deemed the team decision (p.6.35, Kagan 2009).” Each team member is given 10 fake dollars. The team chooses 4 different sized boxes to vote on for this project and writes or draws them on separate pieces of scratch paper. Each team member puts $1 on each choice to validate all the choices. Then they put their remaining money on their favorite choice(s). For example, one student may put all his/her remaining money on one choice, and another student may split his/her money between 2 or more of the choices. The recorder counts the money, and the choice with the most money is the winner.

Jot Thoughts: “Teammates ‘cover the table,’ writing ideas on slips of paper (p.6.28, Kagan 2009).” Give the students 30 seconds to think about how they might transform their box into something creative. With sticky notes or scratch pieces of paper, the students write down as many ideas as they can (one idea per piece of paper) in 1 minute. As soon as they finish writing an idea, students place their paper (without overlapping) in the middle of the table and try to cover the table with their ideas. When the timer goes off, the team reads all the ideas on the table and decides which one to use for their “Not A Box” project.

Team Project:

1. Project goal: Teams must transform a box into something creative.

2. The students are assigned the following cooperative learning roles:

recorder: The recorder sketches the team’s vision for how their box will look when they are finished, and he/she writes a list of materials the team will need.

materials monitor: The materials monitor is responsible for collecting, distributing, and putting away all materials that the team needs. He/she is also responsible for making sure the team cleans up when they are finished.

designer: The designer decides how each part of the box design created by individual members will fit together in the team “Not A Box” project.

attacher: The attacher decides how to attach the design together once the designer decides how it will look. The attacher will need to determine if he/she needs to use glue, a glue stick, tape, staples, etc. to attach all pieces of the design.

3. Students work in teams to create their “Not A Box” projects.

“Step 2 is what distinguishes Team Projects from group work. The teacher does not just say, ‘Work on this project in your team.’ This would violate the principles of good cooperative learning. There is nothing in unstructured group work that guarantees individual accountability or equal participation. Students could work together in harmony without any structure, each contributing their own fair share. But then again, one student could do most of the work . . . (p.13.5, Kagan 2009).”

Roam the Room: “Once students have made visible progress on their project, the teacher says, ‘Everyone, please stop working and stand up. Roam the room.’ Teammates may go from project to project together, they may break into pairs, or everyone can go their own way. When they return, they discuss what they learned and what they want to integrate into their project (p.13.9, Kagan 2009).”

Carousel Feedback: “Teams rotate from project to project to leave feedback for other teams (p.6.25, Kagan 2009).” When every team has finished their “Not A Box” project, they set it up on their table with a feedback form. The teacher sets the timer as teams rotate to each project, discuss it, and write comments on that teams’ feedback form. When teams have rotated through all the projects, they go back to their table and read the comments that were left on their feedback form.

Continuous Round Table: “Students take turns generating written responses . . . to a project. (p.6.34, Kagan 2009).” One teammate begins with the paper and pencil. When the teacher starts the timer, the first student writes the first sentence in the story, then passes the paper clockwise to the next student. That student writes the next sentence in the story then passes it on. This continues until the timer goes off.

Variation: If you have young students who struggle with writing, you could use the ‘Continuous Round Robin’ structure which works the same way as ‘Continuous Round Table,’ but students share their sentence orally instead of writing it.


Kagan, Spencer, Dr., Kagan, Miguel, 2009. Kagan cooperative learning. Kagan Publishing; San Clemente, CA.

Featured Book Friday

Throughout the summer I will feature one book every Friday that is a great read aloud and has useful curriculum connections.

I need your help! Please send me your book and lesson ideas, and I will publish your creative ideas on this blog. If I post a featured book and you have great lesson ideas to go with it, please submit those, and I will add your lesson to the post. You will get credit for all your wonderful ideas!

Keep your eye out for Featured Book Friday!