Favorite Read Alouds for 4th Grade

I love reading, and honestly, our read aloud is my favorite part of the day. I love to read to my students and see the wonder on their faces as the story unfolds before them. There is just something magical that takes place during this time, and I don’t know what I would do without it. Somehow during a read aloud all the behaviors go away, the worries of the world disappear, and we just read. Magic right?
I have a few characteristics that I look for in read alouds.
  1. Engagement-they have to hook my students from the very beginning
  2. Author-I love to stick to authors that have written multiple books, because I want students to want to read more by them when we are done, and that doesn’t work if there aren’t more. 
  3. A series-series are wonderful for the same reason mentioned above. Sometimes we might read several books in a series, but often I will just read the first one and then make sure that the rest are readily available for students to read themselves. 
  4. Relatable-I want students to have access to the characters and be able to connect in one way or another.

Without further adieu I bring you my list of absolute favorites. Now keep in mind that I can find redeeming qualities in just about any book, so these are truly my absolute favorites. I had to limit myself, because really I could go on for days!
Roald Dahl is a real crowd pleaser, and everyone can identify with a little boy with mean aunts. This story is so imaginative that students can’t help but get caught up in it from the very beginning. As a bonus, the chapters are very short, so it is easy to plan out time for reading. I especially love to work on visualizing and character traits with this book, but any reading skill is more fun with giant insects and James.This read aloud fits the bill for being engaging, an author with many books, and being relatable. A triple threat!

I read this one for the first time last year, and then consequently read the whole series. Homer the main character is so average, that students love him, and Dog his dog is perfect for comedic relief. This series is very relatable, and we had a hard time keeping the books in stock!

This is another series that my students became basically obsessed with. I have been reading them to my students for the last five years, and can’t imagine a year not. Pseudomonyous Bosch fascinates them as an author and it leads into a great discussion on pen names. The characters in this story have just enough of a touch of whimsy that they are relatable, but still fantastic! With this being said, the books in this series are a little on the longer side, so you have to be willing to go the distance, because once you start you won’t want to stop!

Neil Gaiman is amazing. His author’s craft is amazing. His word choice is amazing. Are you catching my drift?
This book about ghouls, ghosts, and murder is all in for instant engagement. It is a little high for students to read independently, but with the support of a read aloud I still think it is perfect for this age group, especially later in the year.

Kate DiCamillo is my hero. Seriously, not even kidding. I love everything that she has written, but Edward is my favorite of favorites. I have on multiple occasions sat down and read the book cover to cover in one sitting, I’m not ashamed. Kate DiCamillo has tons of awesome books, and my students always latch on to her as an author they love to read!

Judy Blume. Need I say more? I absolutely love all of the Fudge series, and my students think that they are laugh out loud funny. These books are also so relatable whether you are the older or younger sibling, or just a friend. This book always has my students rolling with laughter and ready to pick up the next one after we are done reading. My struggling readers always seem to have a particular attachment to this series as well which is another amazing aspect!

Barbara Park is another crowd pleaser and Skinny Bones is such a silly and relatable book that students are always hooked! Alex Frankovitch is the class clown that so many students want to be, or be friends with. His antics are believable too, so don’t be surprised when someone comes down with the Booga Boogas!

As I said before, these books are by no means a complete list, but they are my favorites!

My Annexation Notebook

Welcome back for the Annexation edition of a peek inside my Texas History INB. If you would like to check out previous entries on setting up your notebookmapsregions of TexasNative AmericansEuropean explorersSpanish MissionsColonization, the Texas Revolution, or Republic of Texas just click on the title. 
Annexation is kind of a foreign language for fourth graders. I admit that it is a tough thing to teach. The idea that one country would WANT to be taken over and included in another is a bit tricky, but it can also be really fun!

I start the unit out by reviewing what we learned about the Republic of Texas and we go back over the Successes and Challenges Sort that we completed.
We use this information to complete a fold-up detailing the pros and cons of annexation. From here, students split up into those for annexation and those against for a debate. We usually spend about one history period practicing our arguments and then hold the debate the next day.

If you aren't one for a debate, this freebie is a great way for students to decide on their own whether they think Texas should be annexed or not with this Letterman style Top Ten List.

Then we have the big reveal... Texas gets annexed into the United States. It never ceases to amaze me that even though students know that we are now part of the U.S. they are shocked to find out that we were annexed. Really, every year at least half the class is surprised. It makes me giggle a little.
From there we talk about the conditions that Texas laid out to the United States in order to be annexed. I use this PowerPoint to lead this discussion. I love that it provides a framework for our discussion and keeps us on track.

For more activities and information on the Annexation of Texas check out this bundle of activities

Music in the Classroom

I don't know about you, but I don't do silence. It makes me anxious. Seriously anxious. I know that many people picture a classroom with students working independently and silently, but that was never what our classroom looked like. Unless of course it was state testing time, and then again, there was the anxiety. 
Our classroom was always full of talking, movement, and music. I ALWAYS had it playing in the background or integrated it into an activity. I would like to share some of my favorite music sources as well as a few way that I used it. 

First, a few things that I know about music:

  • I have never met anyone that wasn't affected by music. 
  • Music can change your mood in a split second. 
  • A resting heartbeat is 60 beats per minute and music can match that. 
  • Hearing the same song, at the same time is an AMAZING way to build routine. 
  • There is countless research linking music to academic achievement. 

Now, my favorite music for the classroom.

I LOVE YouTube playlists. They let you build your own list of music that you would like to listen to, or find playlists from others. 
My absolute favorite channel for the classroom is Vitamin String Quartet. They play instrumental versions of popular songs. I love this for a couple of reasons. The first being that sometimes you, and your students, just want to listen to a song that you have stuck in your head. The second being that students love current music, and don't like the instrumental versions any less. I feel much safer playing an instrumental version of a pop song than the original, even if the lyrics are completely clean. I think the best part may be hearing my students sing along to their favorite songs.

This music is perfect for when you are working on something that is going to be a little on the noisy side. I will turn it on and let students know that if we can't hear the music we will have to have some volume control. It works like a charm every time!

This one is my favorite! 
Here's a great Buzzfeed Article with more greats by Vitamin String Quartet!

There are several other great instrumental artists, so I would recommend looking around for one that suits your taste best!

Music for Independent Work

Resting heart beat is sixty beats per minute, so in order to bring a calming mood to the classroom playing music that is also sixty beats per minute will do the trick. I would again recommend going with instrumental over something with lyrics, but that is really up to you. 
A simple search of "60 beats per minute music" on YouTube yields thousands of results of quality music. This is really nice, because it provides a great variety. If you wanted to, you could listen to a different one each day and never hear the same music again.

Music to Build Routine

I love to use music to build routine within the classroom as well. For example. I would play the same song every day after recess. It gave students about three minutes to get a drink, put anything they need to away, and be ready to get to work. In the beginning, it took some structure to make sure that this happened, but by about week three it was automatic. 

Another example is packing up at the end of the day. I played the the song above, Home, each day while students packed up, cleaned up, and lined up to go home. It brought such serenity to the end of the day which is usually a very hectic time. BONUS: I got to hear 22 fourth graders sing and whistle along each afternoon, how could I not smile. 

Music to Reward 

Oh my goodness what a student will do to hear their favorite song! I had one friend last year that would do just about anything to listen to Shake It Off, and I was more than happy to oblige him. We also use music to have "3 Minute Dance Parties" for whole class rewards. I usually have a list of songs (Vitamin String Quartet and Kidz Bop) that they can choose from for either an individual reward or class reward. Not going to lie, I loved dancing right along with them! 

***I know what some of you are thinking, I can't get to YouTube at school. I hope that more districts are realizing the academic advantages of access to YouTube, but if not, I would recommend selecting a few of your favorites and saving them as MP3s to your computer from home to bring in. I have also purchased a few CDs at second hand shops of music with 60 beats per minute, just so that I would always have them on hand.

Halloween Idea Round-Up

I love, love, love Halloween! I know what you are thinking, "Where in the world do I find time to celebrate a holiday and still keep rigor high?" I've been there, and thought that, so without further adieu I bring you a round-up of some of my favorite ideas that I have found from around the internet. 
The number one way that I know to incorporate a holiday in the classroom is to bring it in through read alouds. Fantastic Fun and Learning has this GREAT list of monster books that are not scary.
I love this list of books, especially for younger students! They are also all monster themed as opposed to Halloween themed, so if you are not able to celebrate holidays at your school, you can still include a little seasonal flair!
Rachel's Book Nook has another AMAZING list of spooky books! This list has a mix of Halloween and generally spooky books that make it impossible to not find one that you are your students will love! 
If you are looking to up the rigor with your read alouds, then this collection of TicTacToe Choice Menus is the perfect way to keep students engaged. 
While teaching, one of my favorite parts of Halloween was dressing up as my favorite book characters. If you are anything like me, you have FANTASTIC ideas in January, but come October you draw a blank. Never fear, Buzzfeed has an awesome list of easily replicable costumes that will sure to awe your students. 
If these costumes aren't quite your style then here is another list of modest costumes from Mint of My Life. I love the classic look of so many of these, and know that they would be easily adaptable to book characters. 

 Now who doesn't love creepy science experiments? Talk about high engagement!!
Buzzfeed strikes again with this brilliant list of STEM projects that relate to Halloween. Not going to lie, I may be breaking these out in the kitchen this evening.  I wonder if my family will be impressed or think that I have officially lost it!
This STEM Challenge from Lemon Lime is my absolute favorite. I despise candy pumpkins, but must admit that they are the perfect tool to build with!
Another annual activity that I look forward to are these Candy Labs from The Science Penguin. Students get so pumped about using candy, and I even let them eat a little when we are done!
If you are looking for a way to get your students writing, then look no further than this Ghost Haunt Dice Simulation with writing connection. Students complete an engaging dice simulation that gives them the bare bones that they need to create a mind-blowing narrative from the point of view of a ghost on Halloween. 
If you want to build a revising lesson in, Burying Dead Words is an engaging and fun way to get students to take a closer look at overused words. 
If art integration is your thing, then here are a few ideas that look like a blast and would make great bulletin boards leading up to Halloween.
These zentangle pumpkins from The Panicked Teacher always turn out so amazing, and work beautifully on a bulletin board along with a halloween writing project!
These Yarn Pumpkins from Enchanted Homeschooling Mom are also adorable! If you have students who need to work on fine motor skills, this would be a great way of sneaking in some extra practice and they will have a perfect product afterwards!
If you can provide snacks in your room or have a Halloween party this article on Hub Pages has twenty super cute snacks, many of which are very healthy options. I may just make some of these for around the house this month!
If you would like an engaging way for students to stretch themselves this month than this Halloween TicTacToe Activity Board is the perfect way to keep their brains going. 
What did I miss? Leave some love in the comments below with your favorite Halloween classroom activities.

My Republic of Texas Notebook

Welcome back for the Republic of Texas edition of a peek inside my Texas History INB. If you would like to check out previous entries on setting up your notebookmapsregions of TexasNative AmericansEuropean explorersSpanish MissionsColonization, or the Texas Revolution just click on the title. 
The Republic of Texas is usually a really quick unit in our classroom that, if I'm being honest, I was usually trying to squeeze in before winter break. Texas was only it's own nation for just shy of ten years, but a lot happened during that time. 

As we still do today, the Republic of Texas was decidedly for doing things their own way. They did model their constitution after the Constitution of the United States, and you can still see the similarities there which is where I usually start. I like to have my students read this article on the constitution, which is admittedly a tough read for fourth graders, but with some help they can do it. I think of it as a close read with historical context. 
From there we move onto discussing the Republic of Texas itself with this fold-up. It details four main attributes of the Republic; the flag, the government, the capital, and the relationship with Native Americans. I have given this information to students lecture style through this PowerPoint. We stop and discuss each point, and then students write under each tab in their own words.

One thing that my students have found very interesting about the Republic of Texas is that in those ten years there were three different capitals. Living just south of Austin they all thought that Austin had always been the capital, and it blows their minds to find out that it just isn't so.

Another hot topic during this unit is the Texas Rangers, and no I'm not talking Dallas baseball here, but instead the law enforcement agency. 

They have a long and storied past within the culture and security of Texas, along with a celebrity face that no one can forget. Yes, I am talking Chuck Norris. 

Yes, even fourth graders know Chuck Norris, and I usually tell them that they have one minute to get out all their Chuck Norris jokes before we move onto the real information. 

During the unit, especially since it is usually right before the break, we complete a couple of student projects like Designing Your Own Flag and Designing Your Own Money which get students into the spirit of starting a new country. 

To assess the unit I use a couple of sorts. The first sort is between Presidents Lamar and Houston. The second, which is a great lead into the unit on annexation, is distinguishing the Successes and Challenges that faced the Republic. 

I have not been able to find any literature that holds it's weight for this unit, but would love to hear from you in the comments if you have! 

Even More Vocabulary Games

It's me again, and I a back with even more vocabulary games! Are you excited?
If you missed the first and second edition of my students' favorites then click on back and check them out.

Just as with the first two sets of games we use the box of word cards with these games that have an index card with each word that also has a definition, the word used in context, synonyms, and antonyms written on the back. Some games these cards are necessary for, and other they aren't, but some of my students use them even when they don't need to so I always leave them there.

Word Toss

This game can be played with three or more players. The first player draws a card and "tosses it up" by reading it out loud. The other students then "toss back" as many attributes of that word as possible including prefixes, suffixes, roots, definitions, using it in a sentence, you get the idea. 
The student who tossed up the word then chooses the student who they feel best described the word to award the card to. Game play continues with students switching roles. 
The goal of the game is to have the most cards in the end. 
Management tip: It is vital that students understand that they need to award the word to the player who best described the word, not their best friend. This is poor sportsmanship and should be called out and corrected immediately. 

Making Sentences

This game can be played with four or more players and requires one white board and marker for each pair. Students draw a word card and work together to make the best sentence that they can in thirty seconds. Then students share their sentences. 
This one sounds pretty dull when written out, but I promise my students get into it! 


This game can be played with two or more players. The first student draws ten cards and arranges them in a pyramid shape (4-3-2-1) behind a barrier (a file folder on its side works great) with the word side up. A timer is set for one minute. The student then starts at the bottom and tries to explain each word to the other players until they can guess it. I encourage my students to remember what they know about the word, but they can also use the other side of the card as well. Students try to work their way to the top of the pyramid within the time allowed. 
Play continues with a new player drawing ten cards and roles switching. 
Management Tip: This one is another one that students tend to get quite boisterous over. Precise modeling of examples and non-examples works wonders! 

My Texas Revolution Notebook

Welcome back for the Texas Revolution edition of a peek inside my Texas History INB. If you would like to check out previous entries on setting up your notebookmapsregions of TexasNative AmericansEuropean explorers, Spanish Missions, or Colonization just click on the title. 
The Texas Revolution is one of my students' most favorite units of the year, I think it is only beat out by Texas Symbols, because it has become such legend in Texas culture. Everyone has heard of The Battle of the Alamo and has seen the Come and Take It flag. I think John Steinbeck said it best, when he said that Texas is a state of mind, and we certainly do feel that way.
I like to start the unit by comparing what life was like in Texas prior to the Revolution. We create a quick and easy anchor chart comparing Texas under Spanish rule and then under Mexican rule. We have a little discussion on if things were getting better or worse, and why students think that.
Then we move into the Decree of April 6th. I start with another anchor chart where we list the major point and discuss what it meant for people already living in Texas in addition to people who were trying to come to Texas from the United States.
Students also complete their own fold-up with the information of the Decree of April 6th in their own words. At this point we usually take some time to read up on the war and people involved. I have listed some of my "usual suspects" below at the end of the post.
Next we start the comparisons. It is really important to me that students understand how lopsided the war was. Three big areas that we look at are the leaders of each side, the size of their armies, and the experience that each side brought to battle. 
We go a bit further into the details of the leaders of each side of the revolution in addition to the causes and effects of different stages of the war. After we have focused on the people of the revolution my class loves to play this review game
We also create a map of where the different battles of the Revolution took place. My students are always fascinated with how close we are to so many of the battle sites and I often hear from families later that they were inspired to visit them.
To wrap things up we do some more comparisons between the two sides of the war and end the unit with an anchor chart about the Treaty of Velasco which actually ended the way. My students always love to hear about how Santa Anna was actually captured. 
Of course you can find all of these items and more in this Texas Revolution Unit or each of the individual items in my store.

My favorite books for this unit include:

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