Mindfulness in the Classroom

MINDFULNESS is a way of life. Many school districts (including my own) have adopted mindfulness as a powerful tool and approach to combat toxic stress. Research has shown that a mindful mindset can help students become less anxious and more confident in the face of adversity. 

Mindfulness can be introduced to students in elementary school and fully embraced as they move up into high school. There are tons of kids-centered mindfulness apps to out there, including these notable ones curated by Common Sense Media.

I have created several Mindfulness visuals that work well in the classroom, including coloring pages, posters, pennant banners, sticky notes, and bookmarks. 

Any of these Mindfulness resources could be used in a variety of ways:

•Create an eye-catching “Mindfulness” bulletin board to remind students and staff to stay in the present moment

•Use them as visual references during counseling sessions

•Display them in your classroom to reinforce Mindfulness and serenity

•Utilize them as journal prompts during morning meetings

MINDFULNESS Quotes Included in These Products:

• Approach everyday things with curiosity – and savor them. - Dr. Elisha Goldstein

• When stressed out…or in doubt…look within. – Francois Lange

• Feelings are just visitors, just let them come and go. – Mooji

• You cannot stop the sea. You cannot stop the waves, but you can learn how to surf on them. – Eline Snel

• Wherever you are, be all there. – Jim Elliot

• It’s a nice feeling to just be. – Pema Chodron

• The body benefits from movement, and the mind benefits from stillness. – Sakyong Mipham

• May I quiet my words & listen. May I calm my thoughts & be. – Mary Davis

• I listen to my body. I show kindness to myself.

• Don’t let yesterday take up too much of today. – Will Rogers

• Appreciate everything, even the ordinary. Especially the ordinary. – Pema Chodron

• The more present you are, the less you miss. – Eline Snel

Yours in Literacy,

Sheila :) 

Izzy Gizmo to the Rescue!

There's been a movement in our society to recognize more women in the sciences. Luckily, this much-needed recognition has also migrated into the world of children's literature. One book, Izzy Gizmo to the Rescue, aims to do just that.

Izzy Gizmo is a creative inventor who likes to solve problems using a combination of everyday items.


Just like any other inventor, Izzy gets frustrated when her designs malfunction. Luckily, her grandpa encourages her to try again, echoing Thomas Edison's famous quote: “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.” 


One day, she comes across an injured crow and has to go through various iterations of an invention to help the crow fly again.

This is a fabulous book to reinforce STEM, females in science, and the importance of perseverance. 

If you're interested, you can find my Izzy Gizmo to the Rescue BOOK STUDY here.

Yours in Literacy,


Izzy Gizmo
By Pip Jones

ESCAPE ROOMS for Novels? Why, yes!

Escape Rooms have become all the rage…and for good reason! They are highly-engaging activities that allow students to deepen their understanding of content. It’s a win-win situation for all!

I have been OBSESSED with creating and implementing Escape Rooms for my TpT store and teachers at my school, respectively.  The Escape Rooms that I have created are designed to be used after reading novels and go like this:

  • It assesses students’ knowledge of major story events (Task #1), characters (Task #2), vocabulary (Task #3), and theme (Task #4 with the Quote Reflection) through the use of 4 coded stations. This product also allows students to reflect on themselves as learners (Escape Room Reflection).

An Escape Room can be used after a whole class read (or read aloud), novel study, or even independent reading. The beauty of an Escape Room is that students work collaboratively to solve puzzles; however, it could be completed by individual students as well.

How It Works:

→ Station 1: Students sort through Plot Cards to determine which events actually occurred in the text and put them in plot order. Doing so will reveal a hidden code.

→ Station 2: Students match characters to distinct character descriptions to reveal a hidden code.

→ Station 3: Students match vocabulary words extracted from the text to their respective definitions in order to reveal a hidden code.

→ Station 4: Retrieving clues in the previous stations, students work to decipher a secret message related to the text.

If you’re interested in trying out an Escape Room, come on over to my TpT store, That Book Life. If it’s your first time implementing an Escape Room, rest assured that my goal is to make this as painless as possible!  As such, I have included VERY detailed teacher guides to walk you through every step of the process.






A sampling of students' reflections on their Escape Room.

Each Comprehensive ESCAPE ROOM Product Contains:

  • background information on the novel a 3-page, step-by-step How-It Works Teacher Guide

  • a 3-page Station Details: Teacher Guide

  • a Frequently Asked Questions tip sheet

  • Station Set-Up Instructions

  • an Escape Room Print Checklist

  • an Escape Room Student/Group Completion Checklist

  • a Certificate of Achievement for students

  • 4 Station Signs

  • 4 Clue Card Envelopes

  • 4 pages of Clue Cards

  • Task Card Directions

  • a Student Answer Book

  • an Answer Key

  • 2 Different Student Reflection Sheets

I hope your kids enjoy working with them as much as I love creating them! ♥

Yours in Literacy,

Sheila ☺

Another One About Islandborn!

I just can't seem to quit Islandborn, the fantastic picture book written by a local NJ hero, Junot Diaz. Even though I've already created an Interactive Read Aloud for the text, I just had to go back and tackle it some more.

This time, I decided to approach Islandborn through a Close Reading lens. Using Frey and Fisher's practical approach to Close Reading, I developed 3 days of lesson plans to dive deeper into the text.

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♦ Day 1 – What Does the Text Say?
General Understanding
Key Ideas and Details

♦ Day 2 – How Does the Text Work?
Author’s Craft

♦ Day 3 - What Does the Text Mean?
Author’s Purpose


Creating this Close Reading Unit was an amazing experience. 

It's incredible how many layers of meaning are embedded within the text and illustrations of this gorgeous picture book. I am in awe of Junot Diaz's craft; each reading produces a deeper sense of understanding that surpasses the previous one. For instance, after reading the book multiple times, I began to understand that Junot Diaz uses parentheses at various points to add more details about a character. (Nelson was a frequent target!) This is similar to what Mr. Diaz does in Oscar Wao, where footnotes could be found throughout the book.

What's more, combining Junot Diaz's words with Leo Espinosa's vivid illustrations elevated the meaning beyond my greatest expectations. These two geniuses make a fantastic team. I cannot wait to see what they create next. (I heard another book featuring Lola is in the works!)

Yours in Literacy,


By Junot Díaz
Text-Dependent Questions, Grades K-5: Pathways to Close and Critical Reading (Corwin Literacy)
By Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey, Heather L. Anderson, Marisol Thayre

An Interactive Read Aloud with Islandborn by Junot Diaz

Yesterday, I fell in love. 

Islandborn, a new picture book by the fantastic Junot Diaz, tells the story of Lola, a young girl who was born on an Island that she cannot remember. After being assigned a class project where she has to draw a picture of her "first country," Lola feels a great disconnect from the Island she emigrated from. To address this, Lola sets off to interview her family and neighbors, who recall extraordinary memories (both good and bad) of the Island. After gathering all of these memories for her sketchbook, she soon realizes that "just because you don't remember a place doesn't mean it's not in you."


Gorgeous message, right?!

After devouring the book, I immediately set off to create an Interactive Read Aloud for Islandborn. It's a story that just BEGS to be read aloud to young ears.  I decided to focus on the theme of belonging and began noting pages that support this theme. After coming up with some good read aloud stopping points, I transferred them to Sticky Notes.

I love using sticky notes on pages designated as stopping points in an Interactive Read Aloud. It helps me stay accountable and on target for where to stop, especially with a book like Islandborn, which has so many wonderful teaching points. I know that this particular Interactive Read Aloud is focused on theme, so I have to be careful not to go off the read aloud rails!




After we finish the story, I have students write a response to reading centered upon the teaching point (theme). This allows me to formatively assess whether or not students understood the teaching point.

I hope you pick up Islandborn. I guarantee it will warm your (and your students') hearts!

Yours in Literacy,


Want More?

  • Pick up this Interactive Read Aloud resource at my TpT store
  • An interview with Junot Diaz about Islandborn
By Junot Díaz