Monthly Archives: April 2013

Main Idea and Supporting Details



If you search Google for “Main Idea Table”, this image will come up. Today I was subbing for a teacher in a resource room.  The 5th grade students were working on reading/writing. The main lesson for the day was to explain “summarizing” and how to find main ideas and supporting details in a reading section.

I had seen this image on Pinterest the day before this assignment, so when I read the assignment, I instantly wanted to implement a version of this table.

The tables were created by folding a sheet of paper into quarters and cutting out a makeshift table, folding the legs in, and voila! I made a first demonstration stating that I will be writing about myself. I am the main idea, so my name will go on the “table top”. The supporting details will be about me and what things I like (such as favorite food, color, season, etc.)

The students had one minute to do this task. After discussing it, they seemed to grasp the concept and we moved on to the main assignment where they read the passage and located the main idea with supporting details.

Great little hands-on approach to this comprehension strategy.

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Finally Subbing

So I’m finally subbing! And I love it! I am having such a blast that I can hardly believe it myself.

I’ve been subbing for almost two weeks now: 1st grade, kinders, 2nd grade, 4th grade, 7th grade, and 5th grade! I have to say my absolute favorite so far was 5th grade, but all the others are quite incredible experiences as well. One point that makes it tough for a sub is when majority of the class leaves for a few hours for some reading group elsewhere and that amount of kids come in from other classes. No clue who’s from your class and who isn’t, and makes it more challenging to manage.

Learned a few things right off the top:

  • Always introduce myself and let students know that one person talks at a time: either me, or somebody who raised his/her hand.
  • I ask students to tell me about the attention getting strategy their teacher uses, how do restroom passes work, and good/bad behavior. Since they are the ones who tell me about it, they are more inclined to follow it. The best management technique I’ve used which worked wonders was making a T-chart:

my name | class

  • If class is on track, working well, and focused, they receive a tally mark. If they’re misbehaving, off track, or using inappropriate voice level for activity, I get a point. By the time it’s recess time, if class has more points than I do, they get to go a few minutes early. If I have more points, they owe a few minutes of their recess time.
  • Seating charts are amazing. So far about half the teachers have provided one; other times I’ve drawn my own. Today I tried to have a tally system next to each student who I’ve called on, because I realized it’s too hard to keep track of it in my mind especially with students whose names I’m still learning.
  • A smart restroom break idea I saw was kids signing out (next to where the pass is hanging) and signing back in with the time indicated upon return. This held students accountable.
  • If students have a card-pulling system, I try to provide opportunities for them to redeem themselves (show extra diligence, help clean up extra, etc.)
  • Math review that works wonders: find flashcards that the teacher has and have students answer them. If correctly answered, you move a step forward to designated “end” spot, and if incorrect, or takes longer than 3 seconds, move a step backward. So far most of the classes were in groups, so either one person at a time would answer, or each group had a chance to answer several times.
  • Mad Libs are a lifesaver. Helps review what nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc. are, while giving them a break from serious studying, and hearing a hilarious story at the end which they helped create.

My middle school experience was challenging in one period; the other two were great (it was half day). It was at a resource room, where I didn’t see too many behavior issues except for the challenging class, but otherwise some evident below level performance. I tried to make it fun by preparing the students to an acrostic poem assignment by having them make an acrostic poem of their names. Most students overall seemed alright and were curious and talkative. I asked them about positive/negative experiences with subs (obviously to increase my knowledge in what to do or NOT do). With middle schoolers, there isn’t much of a reward system to use. I can’t take away recess or make some points on the board; they’ll be gone within an hour and new students will arrive. So still struggling how to figure this one out. Meanwhile, I’ll continue subbing for non-middle schoolers at this time 🙂

Today I told the 5th graders that if they complete their math packets, we could do a little art project. Oh boy! Watching them rush through the assignment without any complaints was fantastic! The project was making origami tulips to create a bouquet for their teacher. It took longer than I anticipated, but they loved it!



One other main point: always arrive earlier than the assignment. If students arrive at 8:30 and the assignment begins at 8:05, arrive at the VERY LATEST at 7:45. Those few extra minutes to figure out abbreviations or what is necessary for the lesson and to draw up the seating chart is oh so helpful. That’s all for now. Another week will bring more tips I suppose.

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First Day of Class Activities

I imagine I can adapt these and use for subbing.

Taken from:

Best and Worst Classes – On one section of the blackboard I write: “The best class I’ve ever had” and underneath it “What the teacher did” and below that “What the students did.” On another section I write “The worst class I’ve ever had” (well, actually I write, “The class from hell”) and then the same two items beneath. I ask students to share their experiences, without naming the course, department or teacher, and I begin filling in the grid based on what they call out. If there’s a lull or not many comments about what the students did in these classes, I add some descriptors based on my experience with some of my best and worst classes. In 10 minutes or less, two very different class portraits emerge. I move to the best class section of the board and tell students that this is the class I want to teach, but I can’t do it alone. Together we have the power to make this one of those “best class” experiences.

First Day Graffiti – This is an adaptation of an activity proposed by Barbara Goza in the Journal of Management Education in 1993. Flip charts with markers beneath are placed around the classroom. Each chart has a different sentence stem. Here are a few examples:

“I learn best in classes where the teacher ___”
“Students in courses help me learn when they ___”
“I am most likely to participate in classes when ___”
“Here’s something that makes it hard to learn in a course: ___”
“Here’s something that makes it easy to learn in a course: ___”

Students are invited to walk around the room and write responses, chatting with each other and the teacher as they do. After there are comments on every flip chart, the teacher walks to each one and talks a bit about one or two of the responses. If you run out of time, you can conduct the debriefing during the next session.

Syllabus Speed Dating – Karen Eifler, an education professor at the University of Portland, designed this activity. Two rows of chairs face each other (multiple rows of two can be used in larger classes). Students sit across from each other, each with a copy of the syllabus that they’ve briefly reviewed. Eifler asks two questions: one about something in the syllabus and one of a more personal nature. The pair has a short period of time to answer both questions. Eifler checks to make sure the syllabus question has been answered correctly. Then students in one of the rows move down one seat and Eifler asks the new pair two different questions. Not only does this activity get students acquainted with each other, it’s a great way to get them reading the syllabus and finding out for themselves what they need to know about the course.

Irritating Behaviors: Theirs and Ours – This activity grows out of research done by D. Appleton in 1990 (The Journal of Staff, Program and Organizational Development). His findings are a bit dated now, but the idea is not. Appleton asked students to list faculty behaviors that most irritate them. He had faculty do the same for student behaviors. I’d put students in groups and have them respond to a slightly different question: “What are the five things faculty do that make learning hard?” Or, asked positively, “What are the five things faculty do that make it easy to learn?” Collect the lists and make a master list to share in class or online. Below the five things faculty do, you can also list the five things students do that make it hard or easy to teach. The follow-up conversation is about how the teacher and students can each commit to not doing what appears on their respective “hard” list and have a better class experience as a result.

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True Easter with Eggs

So the real reason for Easter isn’t the bunny or eggs or chocolate but the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. However, since there are so many eggs and items associated with the true Easter, I thought why not utilize those items and still talk about the true Easter? I found a site ( mentioning Resurrection Eggs, so I used ideas from there: bought plastic eggs, numbered them, and placed them in a carton.


The kids were in rotating groups in my class, so when they arrived at my station, they sat in a circle and I introduced the eggs. Beginning with the first egg, I would open it, let them look at the item, pass it around in the circle, and discuss what it represents.


  • 1- brown pompom – donkey’s fur that Jesus rode into Jerusalem
  • 2- cracker – bread at the Last Supper
  • 3- sanitizing wipe – washing feet at the Last Supper
  • 4- 3 dimes – silver that Judas betrayed Jesus for
  • 5- feather – rooster that crowed
  • 6- piece of rose stem w/ thorns – crown of thorns
  • 7- dice – lots that soldiers cast for Jesus’ garments
  • 8- nail- being nailed to the cross
  • 9- black streamer – sky turning to darkness
  • 10- piece of white cloth – linens Jesus was wrapped in
  • 11- pebble – rock placed in front of the tomb
  • 12- nothing – empty tomb

I was very surprised how captivated the 4th/5th graders were with this activity. Some of the regularly misbehaved kids actually sat until the very end, even when their parents had arrived, to finish seeing what was in the last egg!


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My Version of Borscht

The reason I say “my version” is that it’s not quite like how my mom used to make borscht, or my mother-in-law, or anybody else for that matter. Borscht can be quite versatile since ingredients can be increased or decreased depending on your tastebuds. Since I like to take shortcuts in cooking, I created my version of borscht!

  • 4 medium potatoes, peeled and diced, added to pot of cold water. Bring to a boil and then add
  • 4 cups of cabbage cole slaw mix (or you can slice up 1/2 a cabbage).
  • 1 beet, peeled and grated – add to pot

photo 2


Heat up frying pan and add

  • 3 Tbs olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, diced. Keep on medium heat until golden, then add
  • 1/2 cup grated carrots (I use baby carrots since they’re already peeled)

photo 1



Mix it up, let it simmer for ~5 minutes, and add

  • 4 Tbs tomato paste, mixed in with 1/2 cup water (or use tomato sauce; I didn’t have any)

Simmer for several more minutes.

Meanwhile, add to the pot

photo 3

  • 1 can (12 oz) roast beef
  • 1 can (15 oz) red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 1/2 Tbs salt
  • 1 tsp pepper

Pour in the onion/tomato paste mix into the pot, mix, allow to boil, and add

  • a sprinkling of parsley 
  • a dash of Montreal Steak Seasoning (I add this to everything)

And that’s it! By this point potatoes should be cooked through so turn off heat and enjoy a bowl of borscht!

photo 4


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