Tag Archives: When Zachary Beaver Came to Town


We are finally wrapping up When Zachary Beaver Came to Town by the end of the day Tuesday.

Oh my goodness, does anyone else feel like novels can drag on forever?

This was actually the fastest I’ve gotten through a novel (5 weeks), but I am glad to be done and moving on.

I am also really excited for the activities I have planned for the next two weeks. Yesterday things just sort of fell in place as I was planning and I came up with not one, but TWO, weeks’ worth of plans with a variety of new activities. I love the idea of NEW ideas.

Things I have on tap that I am really anticipating:

In an effort to be current and real, we will be brainstorming, Instagram-style, on Schoology in an activity I am simply calling #zacharybeaver.  Ian and Dee loved practicing this activity the other day. (#guineapigs)

To differentiate and get kids engaged with the informational text unit, we will be trying out the .99¢ app called ReadNRespond.

To get everyone involved in discussion and control the conversation dominators, I am going to try a strategy called “Two Chips”. (I think it was originally  called “Three Chips,” but I only have 8 students in my class so I needed to adjust.)

To get a feel for my students’ use of Quizlet for studying, we will be using the quiz feature to assess vocabulary.

To push the writing (because, honestly, we don’t do enough) , I am going to try a book that I bought two weekends ago called “Writing Frames for the Interactive Whiteboard” by Scholastic. Based on the concept of modeling, I think this will help my students organize their thoughts and write structured, organized paragraphs for a variety of purposes.

To move away from Language worksheets (blech!), students will be using the Explain Everything app in groups to work on combining simple sentences.

To teach Theme and Author’s Purpose, I am going to use the lessons from my favorite Interactive Notebook collection.

To fulfill my SLO duties,  we will also be completing our pre-assessment for writing/language this week…not looking forward to that quite as much!

I know this is just a teaser post, so stop back soon to hear more about the things that interest you!

First Impression of Quizlet


It’s almost the end of the 1st nine weeks and I am wrapping up our first novel, When Zachary Beaver Came to Town, and moving into an informational text unit.

I wanted to do a review game/activity on the iPads but couldn’t choose an app. I decided this was a good time to try Quizlet, which has been on my “Want to Learn About” list since July.

I created these two set of cards this morning:

Character and Conflict Quizlet

Literature Terms Review

I haven’t upgraded to the $15/year or the $25/year option yet. I want to see how it goes with the class week, but I am optimistic.

First impression: I love how easy Quizlet is to use.

  • You type in the terms and choose from a list of “auto-definitions”  or type your own. I am a very fast typist so I had them done in no time. Actually, after I got started, I realized I could copy and paste from the PDFs I already have.
  • You can switch the terms and the definitions with one click.  Sometimes it is better to present the definition first and ask students to recall the term. Other times, it’s more appropriate to do it the other way around.  I
  • Quizlet has a “Speak Text” option, which will be great for my class. (I just picked up cheap headphones for the iPads. I have issues with a lot of noise and this should help. A few students also have ear buds of their own.)
  • There are hundreds/thousands of sets already created on Quizlet and I spent some time a few weeks ago searching for something that would work.

Now that I’ve realized Quizlet is so easy to use, I shouldn’t have wasted my time searching for an almost-perfect fit, and should have gone this route.  Now I have exactly what I want for my class based on what we have studied. (I used the exact definitions we used in our Interactive Notebooks to be consistent)

I was able to quickly link the two card sets to my Schoology course and I will introduce Quizlet tomorrow after our reading quiz (also on Schoology).

The real trick will be if the kids can remember their logins for Schoology!!

What are your thoughts on Quizlet?

How do you use Quizlet in your classroom? 

Would you/Did you pay the extra $15 or $25 to upgrade?

Maybe most importantly, how do you get kids to learn their usernames and passwords to multiple online accounts? Our students building-wide are dealing with our new g-mail, Schoology, Chrome books, Khan academy and online text books and it’s been quite a challenge!

Making Reader’s Theater Scripts with Excel

Last year I took a few chapters of our novel, Stargirl, and turned them into a script so my students could do some Reader’s Theater.  You can read more about that here. 

I wanted to do something similar this year for When Zachary Beaver Came to Town, but was feeling a little overwhelmed and just didn’t have the time to make a script. And quite honestly, I think a script is a really big pain to type up.

Today it hit me that I could possibly use Excel and type it up in a spreadsheet.

The autofill feature let me enter the names “Sheriff”, “Zachary”, and “Toby” over and over again rather quickly. Typing the dialogue still takes awhile, but the layout is much easier to read.

I just ran the copies and think it looks pretty good (and it was definitely easier!)  Next time I will change the formatting a little bit, but for the first time I think it’s fine. It took my whole Prep period but it will be worth it tomorrow when they read it!

Here’s a peek at what I made.

All text is taken from the novel by Kimberly Willis Holt.

All text is taken from the novel by Kimberly Willis Holt.

Using Quotations from a Novel

The first novel we will read, starting in Week 3, will be When Zachary Beaver Came to Town by Kimberly Willis Holt.

I skimmed the book again this afternoon and decided to make these speech/thought bubbles with quotations from the text.  (It’s hard to tell but they are pretty large – I used 12 x 12 cardstock.) I will hang them up around the room before school starts and not say a whole lot about them. (Kids are so observant.) I am hoping it might spark their interest and act as an anticipatory set.


I can already see the lightbulbs turning on as we actually read these quotes in the context of the book.

Ideas on how I might use these quotations:

1. Make predictions based on what we have read and one of the selected quotes.

2. Locate the quote in the novel and practice writing responses with citations.

3. Identify the speaker and the situation in which the quotation occurred.

4. Retell and/or explain the portion of the story that each quote is related to.

5.  Write any of the above responses in journals (or interactive notebooks) or using the iPads.

6.  Draw the scene for each quote on drawing paper and post near the quotes.

7.  Act out the scene for each quote.

8.  Attach each quote to a large sheet of bulletin board or chart paper before hanging up around the room.  Students could write any thoughts or ideas as they come to them.

Any other ideas on how you might use quotations from novels?

Share your ideas in the comments!

Starting out Big ~ World Record Unit

You know how you get coupons online or via text and they burn a hole in your pocket?  A few weeks ago I had a 50% off for Joann‘s.  Our local Joann’s is small and lacking in everything. However, there is a larger store up north and my friend and I often make a stop there when we get together.

How excited I was to find this bulletin board display in the teacher aisle! Cool motivational posters based on Guinness World Records. Each poster has a brief blurb at the bottom about the record.  Having just finished up my iPad training, it all hit me super fast!


I wish I could show you these actually hanging up in my room, but we don’t get our keys for a few more weeks.

This will be a great kick-off to the year.  I have a huge bulletin board in the back of the room and these posters are definitely conversation starters.  I can introduce the iPads with some QR codes and simple writing prompts with Show Me or Explain Everything.

And….the best part?  It naturally leads right into our first novel, When Zachary Beaver Came to Town. The whole story revolves around the “fattest boy in the world”, Zachary Beaver, and the effect he has on two young boys one summer.

While I am just starting to put a plan in place, I thought I would share some of the ideas I have come across.  As we know all too well, the first few weeks of school never go exactly like you think they will.

Writing and Language

  • Use these images for great journal prompts or story starters.
  • Adapt these lesson ideas created for ESL learners to meet the needs of your students. (Reading, grammar, speaking, and writing activities – I plan to use them all!)


For use with the iPads

  • Check out the Augmented Reality feature in the 2013 edition (I know my students will love this.)
  • This web quest isn’t quite updated to the current Guinness site but the activities are still good.

Teamwork and Cooperative Learning

  • This Goal-Makers, Record-Breakers lesson plan has students plan for their own sports related record-breaking ideas.  (I feel like there needs to be a disclaimer like “Don’t try this at home!”)
  • Maybe geared a little more towards STEM courses, this Strong Structures lesson plan would be another good cooperative activity.

Lastly, a short promo for the book:

Bracketing My Time

School starts on Aug. 21st, which means I start even sooner than that!

The past week has been a blur with the flu hitting us hard (Ian was hit the hardest due to the added bonus of diabetes.)

Today the heat seems to have let up, everyone is feeling pretty much back to normal, and we are going to get out of the house! Hooray for that!

This week the kids will be with their dad for several days and I have a lot of downtime.  I decided that I need to come up with some sort of schedule (with a little flexibility of course). I know I need to start thinking about school a bit and I need to catch up on blogging and I want to finish a book and this house is a mess and I want to do some back-to-school shopping and I would like to lay out a bit and catch up on my DVR…..Oh so many goals!

I’ve been advised to bracket my time so I don’t get too overwhelmed or consumed by any one thing.

So here is what I came up with:

7:00-8:00 Rise and shine, Breakfast, Coffee and Words with Friends

8:00-9:00 Shower and clean up the kitchen/bedroom/bathroom – One room per day.

9-10:30 Work on school work.  We will be reading all new reading selections this year since I have the same students as last year.  I am also doing two new novels (When Zachary Beaver Came to Town and Crispin).  I won’t be reading Crispin until the 3rd nine weeks and will do so in conjunction with the other 7th grade teachers I’ll be doing inclusion with, so that can wait.  I already read both books but I need to come up with a general plan and start a file. If you have any great ideas or links, please leave a comment!

10:30-11:30 Run any errands and/or take care of weeding and the garden.

11:30-3:30 (Nice solid chunk of time, huh?) Read, eat lunch, lay out,

3:30-4:15 Work with the new iPads!  I get to pick them up on Monday and then the fun begins!

4:15-5:30 Dinner outside while catching up on blogs

5:30-8:30 Whatever I feel like doing….bike ride, walking, more reading, shopping, calling my sister…..

8:30 – Probably gonna need to shower again!

9:00 – DVR time. I ‘ll shamelessly admit to my three guilty pleasures: Big Brother, The Bachelorette, and Days of Our Lives

11:00 – LIGHTS OUT, PHONE AWAY!  If I am getting up at 7:00, I’m going to need to be strict with my bedtime.

Do you think I can stick to this plan? I’m going to try. I don’t have another chunk of time like this the rest of the summer. I need to make the most of it.

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