Exciting lesson ideas, classroom strategies, book lists, videos, and reproducibles in a daily blog by teachers

Alycia

I live in New York

I teach third grade

I am an almost-digital-native and Ms. Frizzle wannabe

Rhonda

I live in New Jersey

I teach sixth grade literacy

I am passionate about my students becoming lifelong readers and writers

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Genia

I live in Michigan

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I live in North Carolina

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I am a kindergarten teacher who takes creating a fun, engaging classroom seriously

Lindsey

I live in Illinois

I teach fourth grade

I am a theme-weaving, bargain-hunting, creative public educator

Meet Beth Newingham

By Beth Newingham on August 25, 2009

Welcome to Teaching Matters! I’m Beth Newingham, and this is my 10th year of teaching. I had the pleasure of serving as the Scholastic Grades 3–5 Teacher Advisor two years ago, and I’m so excited to be back on the site this year!

I’ve lived my entire life in Michigan and currently teach in Troy, Michigan, at Hill Elementary School. The City of Troy is a suburban community located about 25 minutes from downtown Detroit. Troy is rich in cultural diversity, and that is certainly reflected in our student population. Among the 350 students in my building, over 30 different languages are spoken. Teachers, parents, and students celebrate this diversity and take great pride in the unique differences we all bring to our school and our community.

Education has always been a very important part of my life. I guess that was inevitable as I am the child of two teachers. I earned my undergraduate degree from Albion College, a small liberal arts school, and went on to earn a master's degree in the Art of Teaching. Since then, I have focused on the teaching of reading and writing. I've spent time with both 5th and 2nd grades, and this marks my seventh year as a 3rd grade teacher. I’ve found that teaching a variety of grades has helped me to better understand and appreciate the full spectrum of learning that takes place in elementary school.

In my classroom, reading, writing, and math workshops are at the heart of the learning that takes place every day. I also strive to weave technology into my curriculum and work hard to make my lessons applicable to the real world. Whether we are “traveling” around the United States on our "region tour" or examining economic principles through our classroom economy, I want to make learning in my classroom purposeful and authentic. 

I see education as the main tool that we have to prepare children for their futures. Since it’s our students who will become the future leaders and citizens of this world, I feel nothing is more important than a quality education. Teachers have a unique and daunting responsibility to shape the future through their students. Because of this responsibility, I try to take each opportunity I can to shape the world around me for the better and to instill the same desire within the children I teach.

To achieve my goals, I see myself as having many different jobs in my classroom.

  • Teacher as Academic Enthusiast: The root of education is a love of the content. I am passionate about literacy and want my students to leave my classroom with the same excitement that I have for reading and writing. I work hard to make this enthusiasm infectious and to foster a love of learning in my students, even those who come to me with little or no interest in school.
  • Teacher as Cheerleader: It’s my job to encourage my “team.” I provide them with constant motivation to try new things and push them to reach their potential. I realize that learning does not come easily to all students and that I must endow my students with the belief that they can be successful.
  • Teacher as Feedback Provider: In order to be successful and confident, students need positive reinforcement. I give my students praise for things they do well and provide extra assistance on skills with which they need more help. Each student’s journey in my classroom is one of progress and growth. 
  • Teacher as Constructivist: While I am a presenter of knowledge, I certainly do not see myself as the sole source of knowledge in my classroom. I provide many opportunities for my students to seek knowledge for themselves through hands-on activities and open-ended assignments.
  • Teacher as Learner:  Education is constantly changing and shifting the ways that teachers think. I am never satisfied with what I already know; I strive to continuously learn more and to continuously improve my own teaching.


I’ve been married for nearly six years and give much credit to my husband, who has learned that being married to a teacher sometimes calls for the additional tasks of cutting, pasting, and labeling supplies for student projects and lessons. I also welcomed my wonderful son Luke into the world in March of 2008. He has certainly changed my outlook on life and has strengthened my will to make each child who enters my classroom feel safe and special.

Although teaching is not an easy job, I feel lucky that there is nothing I would rather do. Making learning both engaging and purposeful for my students is my ultimate goal when creating the ideas and activities I have chosen to share with you. 

Comments (46)

HI Beth - I love your website! Thanks so much for sharing your amazing ideas! I wanted to use some of your literacy centers, so I purchased the print shop, but for some reason it won't let me open SIG files. Is there a certain kind of print shop that you use? Thanks for your help and have a great day!
Lisa ( 2nd grade teacher )

Hi Beth,

I've been trying to click on several of your links for your blogs on Scholastic. I love your resources and use them often. I'm trying to find the "headers" that you use to sort books by character attributes (responsibility, etc.), but that link, along with many others, is now not working. Is there a bug with the site? Or does this content no longer exist?

Hi Beth, Thank you so much for all your hard work that you've put into creating this website! It has been so helpful! As a first-year teacher, though, I confess that while this website has been incredibly inspirational, it has also been quite overwhelming in terms of where to begin. I'm assuming that you did not have all of these units, workshops and your classroom organization up and running in your first few years of teaching? I would love to get to the point of running my classroom the way you run yours, but as this is my first year teaching, where would you suggest getting started? I'm also curious how your manage your time to be able to create all these beautiful resources, detailed and intricate units, and setting up your classroom bulletin boards in such an inviting manner, as I find it difficult just to keep up with regular activities right now. Thanks again for all your hard work, it really has been incredibly helpful!

Rachel,

It's good to hear from a former "Michigander!" Feel free to use my genre posters in your library!

-Beth

Hi Beth. What wonderful information you share with other teachers on your site! I am an elementary library media specialist in South Carolina...I am also a former Michigander. I came across your genre posters and think they are absolutely fabulous!!! Is it okay to print and use these posters in my library? Thank you so much for sharing your wealth of information!

Rebecca,

It's great to hear from another teacher in Michigan!

For word study instruction, I teach a mini-lesson each Monday to introduce students to the new pattern or skill they will be studying. The lesson lasts for 25-30 minutes with teacher-modeling and time for active engagement.

We then have word study center time on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Center time lasts for 25 minutes each day. During this time, I divide my 20 students into 5 groups of 4. They rotate through three different centers during the 3 days of center time each week. We usually study a pattern for 2 weeks at a time, so my teaching partner and I create 6 centers for each pattern. This allows each group to rotate through all of the centers in the two-week time period since we do centers three times each week.

On Friday, students are assessed on the pattern words.

I hope this makes sense! If not, there is more information on my class website.

-Beth

Hi Beth, I am also a 3rd grade teacher in Michigan and I'm always looking for new ways to make learning fun. I absolutely love your website and I ofter refer to it for ideas. I am interested in using the word study centers. I wondered how many word study centers do you do each day and how many students do you have at each center?

Hi Beth- I previously wrote to you asking how I can possibly integrate a readers workshop with my requirements to use a basal reader. I did find the same question asked by another teacher and your response was very helpful. I do have another question about the mini-lessons. I know that you mention teaching strategies and skills during this time of the workshop and I have viewed some of your sample lessons on genre and "talking to your book". What I would like to know, are you also using these mini-lessons to teach strategies such as cause and effect, author's purpose, inferencing, etc. These are the focus skills that are "dictated" by our reading program. Thank you again for all of you help-I am looking forward to working towards a "modified" readers workshop next year.

I absolutely love your website. I have gotten so many ideas from looking at it. I try to do some of the things you are doing with reading and writing workshop however, it is so hard because we are forced to use the basal at my school. I am very interested in how you do the word study. Is there anyway you could go into more detail of a long range plan of how to do this? I would even buy a book if you would make one of all your ideas and games.

Amanda,

In our Word Study program, the students have 10 pattern words they study each week. Students who do well (1 or less wrong) on the pretest at the beginning of the week get the challenge list, and all other students get the regular list of 10 patterns words. Before the spelling test, I put a 1 or a 2 on each student's blank test. I then go back and forth giving the first word for list 1 (regular) followed by the first word for list 2 (challenge). That is the first part of the test and takes about 5-7 minutes.

For the second part of the test, all students in the class are tested on 10 new words (words they were not able to study) that follow the pattern we are practing for the week. I give those ten words to the whole class at the same time in about 5 minutes.

Finally, the last 5 words on the test are the students' individualized high frequency words. Since these words are based on words they got wrong on their high frequency inventories at the beginning of the year, each students has 5 different high frequency words they are studying each week. The words are written in their spelling notebooks at school, and each student has a spelling buddy who administers the last five words on test by swapping notebooks. This part takes an additional 5-7 minutes.

Overall, our 25 word spelling test takes about 20 minutes. It may sound complicated, but it really becomes very quick and efficient once the students get the hang of the process.

-Beth

Hi Beth,

I just recently discovered your website and am so glad I did! Your resources, ideas and organization suggestions have been incredibly helpful. My question has to do with organization. Do you have a lesson planning template that you could share that could help give an example of how you fit it all in? I noticed the links for the lesson planning and sample lesson planning templates on your website, but they will not open. I've been able to download the Reading Workshop Planning Sheet, but was wondering about the template you use for the rest of the subject areas. Thanks for your help!

Jan

Hi Beth,

I love the idea of your Word Study program. I am curious as to how you do the Friday Spelling Test. If each student has individualized High Frequency Words, how do you give a spelling test without giving 25 different tests for each student? Do all of the students have the same pattern words too? Thanks so much!

Amanda

I really enjoyed viewing you U.S. Regions Tour. I teach 2nd grade in SC and one of our standards incoperates U.S. regions, cultural contributions and Tall/Folk Tales. How long does it take you to move through your unit? Do you have any suggestions on how to intergrate the unit into our ELA block with the Tall Tales (our reading focus for the year is non-fiction/ informational reading with some fiction standards to reinforce).

Pam,

It's great to hear from a fellow Michigan teacher!

You will be able to find a link to my reading conference labels in my upcoming post on Assessment in the Reading Workshop. Check out Teaching Matters (this blog) on Wednesday to read the post and download the labels!

-Beth

Hi Beth! I love your website and am excited about your being featured on this one. :) I tell everyone about your stuff! (and org. being from Macomb County, I feel even more inclined to share the info from a fellow Michigander).

I am wondering if you have a link to the great reading conference sticker you refer to in your video? I would love to use it myself but it is hard to see all of the things you include on it just from the video.

Thanks and keep up the GREAT work! Pam Steckman 3rd Grade Teacher Tampa, FL

Beth-

I think you are absolutely amazing.

You are the computer guru so I was wondering if you had a format that you use for your lesson plans. I love everything you do and am really curious how you format them for ease of use and keeping yourself organized.

Thanks for sharing your classroom with us!

Connie

Your classroom website is amazing! A colleague sent me there to get ideas for centers for my reading period. I am inspired by all of your hard work!

Elizabeth,

I will add a link on the theme page of my website to the old theme posters as soon as I can. Check back in a couple of days! I'm glad you found them useful!

-Beth

Beth, I love your website. This is my first year teaching third grade gifted and your website has helped me so much. I was wondering if there was a place where I could locate your original theme posters (believing in yourself, accepting others differences, etc.). I looked on your website but couldn't fund them. Thank you for your wonderful ideas, Elizabeth Davis

dbaer,

As much as I would love to help you out, it would be very difficult for me to give you step-by-step instructions for making a movie using Pinnacle Software. Did you receive a user's guide with your software? If so, you should find very detailed instructions for making the final movie once your project has been created in edit mode. The directions are also different depending on how you plan to output your final movie (DVD, Mpeg, Windows Media, etc.) and what version of Pinnacle you are using. If you do not have a User's Guide, you can find outstanding tech support at this link: http://www.pinnaclesys.com/PublicSite/us/Support/Consumer+Support/

Here you will find a knowledge base with directions for common Pinnacle functions, a user forum to post specific questions, online chat with tech support via, and even a phone number to call for live help.

Dear Beth, I too have pinnacle studio for making movies. I wondered if you can give step by step directions, once you have all of your transitions, music, and pics in...Where do you go next? What are the steps to do a final movie? I have struggled with this part and haven't completed a movie because I know I am doing something wrong or missing a step. I am sure others would benefit also. Thanks for any advice! Diann

Hi Kala,

Thanks for your thoughtful comments! I am definitely a constructivist when it comes to my teaching style. I am glad that my website reflects that!

While I have too many favorite books to list here, you can check the "Teacher Resources" section of my website to learn about my favorite professional books.

Hi Bev!

You mentioned two things in your comment that relate to some videos I am currently creating. I will soon be posting a video that shows more specfically how I organize my library and how I use it to improve my students' reading. I will also be posting a video that shows "A Typical Day of Reading Workshop" that will give you a better idea of what it actually looks like in our classroom.

Check back later this week for a new video tour of our classroom this school year!

Beth- I can't tell you how valuable your classroom web page has been to me. Your ideas have helped breathe new life into me and my classroom. I am currently trying to set up my own classroom library using yours as a model. I love the concept of reader's workshop and I am trying it in my class. Are there any videos available to show Reader's Workshop taking place? I just feel mine is a bit fragmented. Thanks-

Angela,

I use Print Shop Deluxe Version 23 and love it! However, I have noticed very few differences between the different versions of the program as I have upgraded in the past few years. Good luck with your future Print Shop projects!

-Beth

Karin,

I use Pinnacle Studio Versions 11 and 12. I just upgraded to version 12, but I still work on projects in version 11 as well.

As much as I love Pinnacle Studio, it definitely can be frustrating and unexplainable at times. I have had many projects hang on transitions during rendering. Sometimes just removing or replacing the transition on which it keeps hanging will allow the project to finish rendering successfully. If that doesn't work, Pinnacle has great tech support.

Here is a link to the tech support section of the Pinnacle website: http://www.pinnaclesys.com/PublicSite/us/Support/Consumer+Support/

Beth,

Thank you for all of the great ideas! On your website you mention that you use Print Shop to create a lot of your resources. I am looking to purchase the software for myself. I was thinking the Print Shop 23 Deluxe. Which version do you recommend?

Hi Beth, I love all that you do! What version of Pinnacle do you have? I have 11. I'm having trouble making the final movie. It just hangs when it gets to the transitions. I'm wondering if the version makesa difference. Thanks!

Hi Joanie,

Sharing a class with another teacher can be tricky at times, but my teaching partner and I have really been able to make it work. One thing that we did the summer before we began teaching together was to create curriculum maps for each subject area. It took a lot of work, but we wrote yearly plans for reading and writing workshops based on the units of study we teach in third grade. We first created “Units at a Glance” and then wrote up the lessons for each day. After doing this, we both knew exactly what we should be teaching each day, and we knew exactly what our partner was teaching on our days off. Math was easier because we just follow the lessons in our program. We also decided to split up science and social studies so that I teach social studies on my days, and my partner teaches science on her days.

The schedule you see on my website gives you a look at a typical week in my classroom. We follow that schedule very closely. While there are many programs and activities that you see on my website, nearly all of them are related to a specific lesson or unit we are studying in a certain subject area. There are very few times when we interrupt our academic plan to do an unrelated activity. For example, the International Festival is a culminating activity that takes place at the end of our research unit. The students practice for the festival in music class, and the costumes and food are created at home. In social studies we do lots of exciting activities that relate the places we are visiting on our region tour. For example, students make cookies in Hershey, PA as a way to compare assembly lines production to mass production.

There are some activities, however, that do not relate directly to our academic curriculum. Grandparents and Special Person Day, for example, is just a fun way for students to share their learning with relatives from a different generation. We do tie it to writing after the guests leave, as the students write articles about the day and publish them in a class newspaper. Typing is another activity that is separate from our academic curriculum but is a district-wide requirement in third grade. Students are supposed to learn how to type by completing an intensive typing program for a solid week. To make it more fun for the kids, we turn it into a typing camp. My goal is always to make learning both fun and purposeful for my students, so I am always looking for ways to “spice up” the curriculum we are required to teach.

Thanks for your comment! I hope my answer gave you some clarity!

Ms. Newingham, Going into my second year of teaching, I have been truly inspired by your classroom's website as well as the information that you have put on Scholastic's website. I have already begun implementing some of your strategies in my own classroom, and plan on gradually implementing more and more over time. Your lessons all appear to be quite engaging and rooted in Constructivism--do you have a favorite resource from which you have drawn in order to create such fun, enriching, student-based lessons?

Hi Sherry,

My teaching partner and I are very pleased with the word study program we have implemented in our classroom. The mix of daily lessons and word study activities/games really helps students apply the patterns they learn each week.

Last year we created our own lists each week. Each week a challenge list and a regular list was sent home based in students' performance on a pre-test. Students also had individualized words to study based on spelling inventories give at the beginning of the year. On the final test, students were given ten additional words that they were not able to study so that we were able to determine if they have mastered the application of the pattern taught for the week.

After implementing the program for one year, my teaching partner and I have been spending time reviewing each list and making some changes each week. Since the program continues to be a work in progress, we are not posting the lists online until I feel that they are "perfect."

The books/programs we use to help us create the lists and determine our sequential teaching of specific patterns for our third graders are Words their Way by Donald R. Bear and Word Study Lessons (Grade 3) by Fountas and Pinnell

Words their Way: http://wps.prenhall.com/chet_bear_words_3/

Word Study Lesssons: http://www.heinemann.com/products/002132.aspx

Shari,

I am so glad you enjoy watching the class movies we make. It is a favorite activity for my students and requires that to put many important academic and social skills to use. I am currently putting finishing touches a new class movie that I will post on my class website later this week.

I find Pinnacle Studio to be very user friendly! There are also many online tutorials to help you learn to use the software.

The backdrop that I use is simply a large turquoise fleece blanket that I purchased at Bed, Bath, and Beyond years ago. Some of the newest verions of Pinnacle Studio actually come with a green fabric that can be used as a green screen, but I find it too small to tape scenes with more than one student or scenes in which full-body shots are necessary. You can also purchase actual green screen fabric online, but you will likely pay quite a bit of money.

I will be posting more information about movie making in the classroom in weeks to come. Stay tuned!

Hi Beth, Love your website. I have two questions. I team teach a third grade inclusion class. How do you plan with another teacher? Love your mini lessons but can't seem to get my team teacher to limit her lessons which leads to my next question. Every year I have picked one program from your site to do. I would like to do much more but not sure how to fit them into a school week. Your schedule on your site is a generic schedule we all put up in our classes. Please tell us a more detailed schedule on how you fit all that is offered on your website. Do you do it daily,weekly, semester? Thanks, Joanie

Beth: I have been a fan for years and I really want to make some movies. Can you tell me if your software suggestion is easy to use? Where did you buy your backdrop? You are an awesome inspiration. Shari

Hi Beth,

I have really learned a great deal from your website and articles here on Scholastic. Thank you very much for sharing so many great ideas and strategies. I have re-vamped my spelling program this year. I am using your model and am now in the second week. I think it will be much more beneficial to my students. I see that you have taken down your lists. Is there any chance I could still get them?(I only have one and two) Also which teacher books do you recommend on spelling? Thank you very much, Sherry

Samantha, Thanks for your thoughtful comments. I am so excited to work with Angela this year and to add new and exciting ideas to Teaching Matters!

Taylor, You can definitely use your Mac to make movies. I have always used a Windows-based computer because that is what I am most comfortable with in terms of video editing. However, I have heard that iMovie is very user-friendly and fairly easy to learn. Good luck with your last semester!

Hi Beth! I am a student and am in my last semester in Elementary Education. I love your website! I am so excited that you have a blog on Scholastic now! You have some amazing ideas...... I can't wait to see your post on how to make classroom videos. I have a Mac, which has the imovie- can you use that to do classroom movies too?

Lindsay,

One of the first books I read when I first started delving into Reading Workshop is Revisiting the Reading Workshop. Of course there are many other books about reading workshop, most of which are very lengthy and take a while to get through. One reason I was drawn to this book is that is very thorough while also being a quick, easy-to-follow read. This book will provide you with a clear idea of what reading workshop looks like, how it is managed, and how to launch it successfully with the students in your classroom. I also have a list of my favorite professional books about reading workshop in the Teacher Resource section of my classroom website.

Here is a link to purchase Revisiting the Reading Workshop: http://shop.scholastic.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay_20655_-1_10001_10002

WOW! I have been following both of your websites for a few years now and I am always so inspired! I can't believe I see you in a picture together, that is just about the best! I am so happy that both of you will be advisors this year!!!

Hi Beth!

We are teaching neighbors! I teach 3rd grade in Lamphere. Our district is currently implementing Readers Workshop in our elementary buildings. I am not familiar with readers workshop very much. Can you tell me good ideas for lessons and where I may get lesson plans for them?

Thank you!

Do you have teachers come and observe you ever? I would love to have the opportunity to see your readers workshop????!!!!!

Hi Erin! I'm glad you are finding my website useful.

I use the greenscreen effect when making class movies. This means scenes are filmed in front of a large green blanket in my classroom. Then I just use pictures from Google images or from my own camera and insert them behind the student when editing the scene on my computer. I will be adding more information about movie making to Teaching Matters in the upcoming months!

Hi Beth!

First, thanks for posting such great information on your website. I've adopted some ideas into my class and the students are having a blast while learning.

I was wondering where you were able to locate your backdrops for your class movies?

Thanks!

I'm looking so forward to working with Scholastic again and also partnering with Angela! We are excited to share lots of new ideas this year!

Hi Beth, I am so glad to see you back at Scholastic. I have always followed your web pages and I look forward to your posts with Angela. Hope you have a great start to the school year! Diann

Hello Beth,

Welcome back to Scholastic! I so agree with you that its our job as educators to help prepare children for their futures as leaders and citizens of our world. And I think its essential to have great teachers willing -- to learn about learning and willing to change and adapt their practice -- to meet the needs of students. Your role here helps teachers learn new techniques and strategies that can only help pave that road to providing a quality education for all.

I'm very excited to have the opportunity to learn more from you this year.

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