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How to Keep Students Focused and Accountable During Literature Circle Discussions

Every teacher has something they do really well, for me it’s my Literature Circle and Guided Reading Rotation set-up. This isn’t something that just happens. In order for both my Literature Circles and Guided Reading Rotations to work coincide with each other like a well-oiled machine, a lot of thought, practice, clearly stated expectations, and resources were required… The result, a differentiated system that basically runs itself for 6 weeks.

For the next few blog posts, I am going to focus on breaking down my Literature Circles|Book Clubs, so that you too can have a clear plan for how to implement an effective system in your own classroom. If you are wondering what literature Circles or Book Clubs look like in a Hybrid, or Distance Learning Classroom, don’t go anywhere, the ideas and resources I’m going to share with you implement perfectly.

This blog post will be dedicated to exploring how to better hold students accountable during peer or teacher-led literature circle discussions, book talks, novel studies, or book-club meet-ups. 

Strategy Focused Roll & Respond Discussion Sheets

To learn more about how I set up and organize my Literature Circles|Book Clubs|Novel Studies make sure to read this post first!

Allowing students the opportunity to discuss a book they are reading with their peers is motivating and for lack of a better word… powerful. When done correctly with the right supports, the discussion, participation, and passion found in a peer-led book talk will always outweigh a class-discussion led by the teacher. There is trust necessary between teacher and students in order to allow for this type of flexibility and freedom to happen in the classroom.

I quickly learned that simply telling my students that they had 10 minutes to talk about the book they were reading with their group despite my clearly stated expectations was ineffective, and often led to chaos and disappointment on my end. Depending on your class or the group of students asked, this won’t always be the case. However, I found that by adding supports and restraints to their discussion greatly increased the overall effectiveness of the group’s discussion.

My students would meet weekly with their group to discuss the previous week’s reading. I allow anywhere from 8-20 minutes of discussion time, depending on the conversations being had. Clear expectations are important, however, they weren’t enough in this scenario.

Expectations Stated:

  1. Only one person in the group is speaking at a time. ***This is one of the reasons I will never do a Literature Circle Group with more than 6 students. 4-5 is the sweet spot, any more and expecting only 1 student to share during a book talk is like setting them up for failure from the beginning.
  2. Discussion must be focused or related to the book.*** No side stories, tangents, or clear off-topic talk.
  3. Everyone needs to share or participate in some way.***Listening to a speaker is just as must a participation role as sharing to the group is.
  4. Do not do anything that will distract from the discussion, or a group member’s ability to learn or listen. *** Tapping pencils, doodling, side stories…etc

Once students knew the expectations depending on the maturity and ability of the class I would allow anywhere from 3-8 minutes for the students to have what I would call Free Talk. Free Talk is exactly how it sounds, students lead the discussion. They talk about, share, and discuss whatever they would like to, so long as it has to do with what they are reading. I would set an actual timer, and allow the students to discuss.

After Free Talk is over, students would then grab a Roll and Respond Sheet. I developed these “Roll and Respond,” sheets as a fun way for students to stay focused and to make sure their Literature Circle Discussions were supported and focused. This way if I wanted students to talk about their predictions or the conflict of the story, I had more control in that instead of just hoping their discussion would get to the place I would like it to. By using Strategy Focused Roll and Respond sheets to guide the second part of their discussion repetitiveness is also prevented.

To use the Roll and Respond Sheets, I would send one person from each group to grab the Strategy Focused Sheet we were using for the week, as well as a set of dice 0r a 12 sided die. The student would take this back to the group and everyone would take turns rolling the dice to determine which question they would be answering. Once everyone had a strategy focused question, I would then state the expectations for the second part of their Book Discussion.

Expectations Stated:

  1. Student Answer needs to be around 30 seconds ***Not too much more, not too much less. It helps to actually set a timer for 30 seconds to give a realistic idea of what 30 seconds looks like.
  2. Student Answer needs to be supported by evidence from the text ***Encourage students to go back to the text, to use examples from the text, to explain their thinking as often as possible.
  3. Students will be given 3 minutes to thoughtfully prepare their response. ***There is no talking with peers during this time.
  4. At the end of the 3-minute timer, decide who will begin the Roll & Respond Responses, students will sit in a circle and proceed in responses clockwise.
  5. Once everyone has shared their response, start silently reading the next chapter in your novel until all groups have concluded. We will know that all groups have concluded once the classroom is silent and everyone is reading.
  6. Collectively as a group, rate your group discussion 1-5. Show by holding the number of fingers in the air.
    • 1: Off-Topic, Ineffective Group Discussion
    • 2: Briefly Talked about the book, Discussion was Off-Topic, multiple people talking…etc.
    • 3: Good Discussion, Good Participation, Got off-topic and struggled to refocus
    • 4: Great Discussion, Great Participation, Met expectations, Got off-topic 1-2 times BRIEFLY
    • 5: Great Discussion, Great Participation, Met Expectations, Stayed on Topic the entire Time

As mentioned in my expectations above for the second part of their book discussions, students would be asked to give a 3o second response, and a timed 3 minutes to prepare their response. At the sound of the timer students knew to begin sharing, and who would follow. Once everyone had shared they would begin reading the next chapter of their book until every group in the class had finished. From that point, I would have students decide as a group how THEY would rate their discussion.

I am a big proponent of not grading everything, but not letting your students know it. As far as they were concerned I would take down their group score and it would go in the grade book. In reality, this wasn’t always the case. I would, however, reward any group that honestly felt they met a 5. Rewards could be they leave an extra 5 minutes early for recess, a small treat…etc. This tiny motivation was a huge proponent and motivator in group discussions.

If you are looking for a way to easily take a group score and hold groups more accountable, click here to see my Group Work Evaluation Rate & Reflection Sheets. These are great and can be used again and again with any Group Project.

Setting Up Book Talks, Literature Circle Discussions, or Roll and Respond Questions for Distance Learning: 

If you are reading this and thinking this all sounds great for a general classroom set-up but things are different now… Don’t stress, these can be implemented easily and effectively in a Digital or even Hybrid Classroom.

I’ve created Roll and Respond Sheets that go over every Active Reading Strategy, as well as every Element of Fiction, allowing you to better Focus your student’s peer-led discussions. Each page is editable through google slides, and perfect for Distance Learning. They work with any text (Novel),  Fiction or Reading Passage. The Roll and Respond pages are great for Literature Circles, Guided Reading Groups, Literacy Centers…etc. Students Roll a die, (literal or DIGITAL) and then respond to the text! Below I will share a couple of different Distance Learning Friendly Response Options.

When using the Roll & Respond sheets in Google Classroom, you would begin by creating a student version of the slides you want to assign to your students. Open the Google slide file, then hold down the [control] or [command] key while you click on the slides your students will use.*** Only click on the slides you want students to see/use. Next, click on [File] then, [Make a Copy]. From there click on the [Selected Slides] option. Rename the file to include [Student Version] or something to that effect in the title. Then click OK. This will create a new copy of only the slides you selected and add it to your Google Drive. Making it EASY to assign these pages digitally.

Each Roll and Respond Product includes the Strategy Focused Question sheet, as well as a Student Response page. On the digital version of the student response page, I’ve included a link to a digital dice that students can use to roll and select the question they are going to answer. From there you can decide how you would like students to respond to their question.

Distance Learning Friendly Options for Student Responses

  • Use Zoom or Google Meet to host each group’s book talk. If for any reason students in the group can’t participate. These videos can be recorded and saved to Google Classroom for other members of the group to participate and respond. Students would have a discussion very similar to what was described above. The only difference is that a digital Roll and Respond page would be assigned, and students would use a digital dice to select their response.
  • Use FlipGrid for students to complete the Roll and Respond Page. FlipGrid, is a wonderful resource that allows students to record brief videos in response to a question or assignment you choose. This is a great, FREE option for students to complete at their own time and pace. You can also add that students are required to watch and respond to one or more of their peer’s videos. Again students would use the digital dice, and digital timer included on the response page to prepare their response.
  • Use the Digital Copy of the Student Response Page Included in the Roll and Respond. Each Roll and Respond Product includes a Digital Response Page, ideal for the Google Classroom or digital classroom setting. Simply have students use the digital dice and timer to set and prepare their response, then answer the page’s prompts accordingly. All text is editable so you can edit this page to your classroom’s or student’s needs.

Don’t be afraid to mix up how the students respond. Again if using for distance learning, these work really well, you can use FlipGrid, Google Meet, or Zoom Calls to facilitate these discussions or responses. All have the option to save the recorded video and post it to Google Classroom. This is a wonderful way for students to feel connected to their peers and classroom community despite the limitations or distance. This also allows you to create a simple standard that can be repeated for weeks to come, making your planning a breeze and keeping student confusion at an all-time low. If I have one tip for distance learning it would be to keep it simple, this will prevent students from getting overwhelmed and a lot of anxiety.  That being said a mix of the 3 responses is still simple in my mind (So long as students have had experience with these options and responding in that way)  The variation will keep things light and avoid being too repetitive in this type of set-up. These pages and response options work great with an actual book where students do a Literature Circle Run for around 6 weeks, or you can assign different digital reading passages or novels through sites like Read Works, CommonLit, Epic, or Freckle! I personally like students to have a hard copy of a book Literature Circles, Novel Studies, or Book Clubs… However, if you plan to use these for Guided Reading, or a literacy center, the digital reading passages make the perfect companion!

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Benefits to Using the Roll and Respond Questions for Reading Comprehension:

  1. Editable through Google Drive.
  2. Digital Version is included, ideal for Distance Learning.
  3. Text is editable
  4. Additional Strategy Focused Questions are included allowing you to easily customize and switch out responses
  5. Use again and again and again with different text or questions
  6. By Adding a Dice or Element of Chance Student Engagement Increases.
  7. Questions can be used with any book or novel.
  8. Literature Circle Discussions, Book Clubs, Guided Reading Groups, Literacy Rotations… are more structured & stay focused on the topic at hand.
  9. Each Page is focused on an Active Reading Strategy or Element of Fiction such as:

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This product can be used and implemented in grades as young as elementary looking to study chapter books or novels, to your middle school upper grades and High School Students.

***Something to keep in mind, if you like the idea of using the Roll and Respond pages in your classroom, hard copies or Digital Versions, MAKE SURE TO CHECK OUT THIS BLOG POST. These Roll & Respond pages are great on their own but are taken to a whole other level when used in partnership with my Strategy Focused Bookmarks or Activities. Each Roll and Respond Page has an Activity Page that was meant to be used in conjunction with each other! Click Here to Learn more, as well as how to SAVE BIG by bundling the two activities. 

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If you liked this, make sure to check out these related posts! (Freebies Included)

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Achieving true ward or branch unity may be as difficult as it is rare. But great progress can be made in each ward and branch of the Church as leaders and members apply the following principles: (1) learn the doctrine, (2) eliminate contention, (3) forgive others, (4) watch over and strengthen each other, and (5) sacrifice for the kingdom of God. […] Our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, are one, even as we must become one. Let us, therefore, be fully committed as disciples of the Lord to become united as a church and as a people.

-Be Ye One: By Elder H. Aldridge Gillespie
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Loved these thoughts from the Strength of Youth magazine:
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“There’s a style of painting called pointillism where artists apply small colored dots all over a surface to create an image instead of mixing colors together on a palette and using large brush strokes. When you stand close to these paintings, all you can see are individual dots of color.
However, when you take a step back, the dots blend together to reveal a picture.
The individual colored dots all work together to create something beautiful. Just like the dots, we are all unique individuals. Heavenly Father sees the “full picture.” He sees us all as His sons and daughters, “heirs to the kingdom of God” (4 Nephi 1:17). If we can also learn how to step back and see the bigger picture, we can learn how to love and work with people who are different from us. Here are some things we can do to work at being unified.
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As you work to build unity with others, you might see we’re not as different from each other as we think. As we learn to see each other as Heavenly Father sees us, we will come to understand that everyone is needed and belongs in the kingdom of God. We are each a wonderful dot of color in a beautiful mural. And let’s face it, it just wouldn’t be the same without you.”
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Not sure about you, but while reading through the suggested activities to try with your class or family in Come Follow Me, the activities dealing with the idea of being one… felt EXTREMELY relevant to my little family, and my little children, and their little rivalries. I thought I would make a quick printable to go along with this suggested activity:
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“To teach children what it means to “be one,” you could help them count the members of your family and talk about why each person is important to your family. Emphasize that together you are one family. You could help your children draw a large 1 on a poster and decorate it with names and drawings or pictures of each family member. You could also write on the poster things you will do to be more united as a family. You might also watch the video “Love in Our Hearts” (ChurchofJesusChrist.org) or read Moses 7:18.”
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Head to the website to learn more about this FREE resources and others 💛
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PSA 📣📣📣 4TH & 5TH GRADE TEACHERS.
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“I opened it with eagerness, and read its title page. I then read the testimony of several witnesses in relation to the manner of its being found and translated. After this I commenced its contents by course. I read all day; eating was a burden, I had no desire for food; sleep was a burden when the night came, for I preferred reading to sleep. “As I read, the spirit of the Lord was upon me, and I knew and comprehended that the book was true, as plainly and manifestly as a man comprehends and knows that he exists” (Autobiography of Parley Parker Pratt, ed. Parley P. Pratt Jr. [1938], 37). ...

On Easter Sunday we celebrate the most long-awaited and glorious event in the history of the world.

It is the day that changed everything.

On that day, my life changed.

Your life changed.

The destiny of all God’s children changed.

On that blessed day, the Savior of mankind, who had taken upon Himself the chains of sin and death that held us captive, burst those chains and set us free.

Because of the sacrifice of our beloved Redeemer, death has no sting, the grave has no victory,1 Satan has no lasting power, and we are “begotten … again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
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LOVED the @followhimpodcast this week with guest @brotheranthonysweat their discussion on spiritual and temporal matters was something everyone should listen to! @johngbytheway also recited this quote, and I knew I wanted to share it with all of you....💛
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“Just as a man does not really desire food until he is hungry, so he does not desire the salvation of Christ until he knows why he needs Christ.

No one adequately and properly knows why he needs Christ until he understands and accepts the doctrine of the Fall and its effect upon all mankind. And no other book in the world explains this vital doctrine nearly as well as the Book of Mormon.”

Ezra Taft Benson
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Looking to make Easter a little more meaningful? This is one of my favorite FREE Downloads for members 💛Celebrate the WHY of Easter with this FREE Paper Chain countdown. Use the strips to create a paper chain, or roll them up and hide them in plastic Easter Eggs. This countdown comes in 3 different and editable versions and follows the Holy Week’s events. Use the QR code’s to watch inspirational videos about Jesus Christ, His atonement, and His resurrection. Read the scriptures that correlate with Holy Week. There’s a differentiated countdown for everyone including toddlers, young children, youth and families. #hearhim #easteractivities #easteractivitiesforkids ...

Keep reading to see how our little family is doing “Scripture Study” and for more information on this FREE DOWNLOAD!
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This idea came after watching this week’s Drawn In episode by @davidbowmanart💛 See two posts back for more info!
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If you are like me and ready to “repent” or my favorite repentance synonym... to “turn around” and become more commited to scripture study and family prayer each morning, I’ve created the following printable to help stay on track. This printable works as a visual reminder as well a place to keep track of your progress. Color in a letter each day and see if you can keep up the habit for 34days!

I also want to note that our “scipture study” may not look like your traditional scripture study… and that’s ok! The Lord LOVES effort. So no… At the moment we are not sitting down and opening our scriptures for a formal study, we aren’t even reading a children’s version of the scriptures. Instead, thanks to my husband, we are simply working on memorizing a SINGLE VERSE of scripture each morning. We will use that same verse of scripture until my kiddos have it mastered. This feels doable. This feels obtainable. This is currently working for us. I’m hoping we can do a single verse each week, a verse that can be found in the assigned Come Follow Me reading!
What are you doing in your family that is working? Please share below! To track your progress, Head to the website to download this FREEBIE!
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“I like to think of this spiritual armor not as a solid piece of metal molded to fit the body, but more like chain mail. Chain mail consists of dozens of tiny pieces of steel fastened together to allow the user greater flexibility without losing protection. I say that because it has been my experience, covering many more years than you have yet been privileged to live, that there is not one great and grand thing we can do to arm ourselves spiritually. True spiritual power lies in numerous smaller acts woven together in a fabric of spiritual fortification that protects and shields from all evil.”
-Elder M. Russel Ballard
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We LOVED following along and learning to draw the Armor of God for this week’s #comefollowme @davidbowmanart Drawn In Subscription is the only paid resource I use for Come Follow Me at this time💛 my kids love the videos and each week I’m blown away by David’s creativity and focus on the principles of the scriptures and how they apply instead of just the story. (Plus it doesn’t get much easier than pushing play on a Sunday) 🙈😬🥴
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My kiddos and I especially loved the insight about putting on the armor of God in the morning... I’m paraphrasing:
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“Does a warrior put on his armor before he goes to bed? No it’s the first thing he does before going to battle.”
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Like a warrior we need our spiritual armor at the start of the day!
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“Scripture Study and Pray to start the day!”
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So here’s to tomorrow and creating the habit of starting the day off clothed in spiritual armor... wish us luck!
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If you’re interested in trying the Drawn In subscription, make sure to use the promo code: LEMONLANE10 for 10% off your yearly subscription!
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Need #bulletinboardideas for March.... I’ve got you👊 like almost all of my Bulletin Board Kits, they center around student work and are made up of EASY TO CUT, Editable 🙊, ready to print and assemble slides!
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Make sure to check out the Lucky Because Bulletin Board BUNDLE get ALL this for only $3.99☘️☘️☘️☘️ The Clover craft is the PERFECT craft for tomorrow!
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If you’ve followed me for long you know I love all things March and Irish ☘️ it’s in my blood 🙃
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My love of March shows in my resources, of all the months to have the most projects... March (of all the months???) is at the top of the list!
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I just added this CELTIC KNOT inspired Lucky Clover Craft and it turned out so fun! Use either the DIGITAL version and insert pictures into the leaves that represent why you’re lucky, or pick from one of the 18 different top layer options to create a beautiful clover like the one shown above! If you do go this route make sure to check out the EDITABLE bulletin board kit to really put these beauties on display!
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Do you love March? Why or why not? Drop a comment below 💛💛
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Emma Smith. Call me a cynic, but if you put value on the fact that none of the witnesses ever recounted their testimony of the Book of Mormon, I put 10 fold that value on Emma.
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My heart swells and breaks a little when I think of dear Emma. She is someone that I can not wait to meet, to hug, and to cry with. She endured SO much, and loved Joseph with a depth that seems unobtainable.
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I know we need to be careful putting early Saints on a pedestal, but that’s just it, much of the pedestal I place her on is grounded in how “human” she is to me.
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Emma often doesn’t get the credit she is due based on other’s quick assumptions. I used to be one of them.... What I do know is that the more I learn about Emma, the more I love and look up to her. If ever there was a model of strength, courage and endurance, it would be her.
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What do you think? Comment below 💛
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This beautiful depiction of Emma and Joseph is by the incredibly talented @rosedatocdall I dare say it’s my favorite to date. 💛💛💛
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“I have never seen a woman in my life, who would endure every species of fatigue and hardship, from month to month, and from year to year, with that unflinching courage, zeal and patience, which she has always done; for I know that which she has had to endure; that she has been tossed upon the ocean of uncertainty; that she has breasted the storm of persecution, and buffeted the rage of men and devils, until she has been swallowed up in a sea of trouble which [would] have borne down almost any other woman.”3

-Lucy Mack Smith
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Art that stops you in your tracks... If ever there was a picture that perfectly illustrated the scripture, D&C 25:12, “For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart...” I think it would be this one?
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What’s your favorite hymn? Drop it in the comments below!
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I loved reading @comefollowmemusic thoughts on this and had to share! Do you follow @comefollowmemusic ? Each week they share a FREE schedule based on music that correlates with what we are learning in #comefollowme
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What’s a song that you feel in your soul? Tell me in the comments💛
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🎨 @pattic.art (one of my absolute FAVORITES)
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Had to share this caption from one of my new FAVORITE accounts to follow while studying Doctrine and Covenants for #comefollowme @saintsofhistory takes an early saint and posts a brief but extremely entertaining biography about each individual. I’ve been waiting not so patiently for the post dedicated to Emma! Read an excerpt of @saintsofhistory post below. Also check out this early artwork by @emilyshayart another one of my favorite artists/ illustrators 😭😍
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In 1825, 21-year-old Emma met 19-year-old Joseph Smith when a guy named Josiah Stowell hired Joseph to help him dig for purported lost silver near Harmony, PA. The Smiths often took random jobs like this to help provide for the family, but Joseph’s current living + all the rumors about him still didn’t impress Emma’s dad. But she was done being with all the single ladies, so she put her hand up and Joseph liked it so he put a ring on it—they eloped and were married on Jan. 18, 1827 in South Bainbridge, NY.
Fast forward to June 15, 1828: At the same time Martin Harris was losing 116 pages of The Book of Mormon, Emma nearly died. After an agonizing labor, she gave birth to her first child, but the baby was very frail and died soon afterward. Little did she know that her first three children would not live beyond a day, and of the nine children she bore, only four would grow to adulthood. Emma and Joseph named this first baby Alvin.
Now let’s jump to July 1830: Soon after Emma’s “memorable” baptism day (see Joseph Knight Sr. post), the Lord sent a revelation just for her, now known as Doctrine & Covenants 25. (Go read p.36-38 in “Revelations in Context”—good stuff.) Among other things, Emma is assigned to “make a selection of sacred hymns.” Today, 26 of Emma’s original selections are still in our hymn book. Zero came from Beyonce.
Of course, Emma later became the first president of the Relief Society, fulfilling, at least in part, her designation by the Lord as an “elect lady” according to Joseph in 1842.
Emma was a leader in public and in private—often left to face life’s challenges alone when her husband was falsely accused and imprisoned.
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Selection Sunday and PI Day falling on the same day... Somebody pinch me. Two of my very favorites because of the projects you can start in your classroom 😍 Take for instance my March Math Madness PBL
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Think March Madness + Fantasy Basketball + Lots of Math + A sprinkle of ELA = Engagement & Excitement & Learning 💛🏀💛
Students are separated into the 4 divisions then work together to put together a new starting 5 from players in their division. #dreamteam Each round their individual players are awards point values for how they played. At the end of each round students will calculate their team’s total points and decide which dream team comes out victorious! There are some really great opportunities to see Math in action. There’s opportunity for measurement conversion, converting fractions to decimals, ordering decimals, ratios, mean-median-mode, adding and subtracting decimals, multiplying decimals...etc. This is quickly becoming another tried and true favorite in the classroom!
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Also if you think your too late to the table, the only thing you are late for is brackets! The dream team activity can be started before any round! Second round would actually be ideal 👊🏻👊🏻 LOTS of FREEBIE extensions for this product that can stand on their own! Head to the website for more details!
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📚 Adding a Little Zest to your Teaching!
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💕Detail Oriented Products
🍋 Everything’s Better with a Little Lemon