Hi there, and welcome to our class blog!

We are a second and third grade split class in Federal Way, Washington, and we’re excited to share our hard work with you. We will post class work, tips on how our classroom works, and anything else we think you might find interesting!

Carpet Spots

Our carpet spots for the 2008-09 school year (before all the books were unpacked)

Update, 5/13/09
NOTE: All of our students’ families have completed district-approved Internet release forms for any photos or classwork that appears on these pages. We strive for full compliance with district, state, and national standards. Please contact Ms. Houghton with any concerns or questions.

Thanks for visiting!


The Three Billy Goats Gruff

Every Monday, I highlight a book from our school bookroom along with lesson plan suggestions. Feel free to use anything you find useful, but comments are always appreciated!

The Three Billy Goats Gruff, by Paul Galdone

We talk a lot about filling in background knowledge of our high-poverty and ELL students. Lucky for us, we have a whole bunch of Paul Galdone’s traditional stories in our bookroom. I’ve seen The Three Billy Goats Gruff, obviously (it’s currently in the bucket of former SFA Roots books), The Little Red Hen, The Three Bears, and The Gingerbread Man. Combine this with all the James Marshall fairy tale books we have, and we’ve got a pretty solid collection. You might also want to talk with our Kindergarten team, as I know a few teachers did a fairy tale unit last year.

You can learn more about Galdone here, in a neat Seattle Times profile. Information on the Austrian-born artist and his work can also be found here, here, and here. You know I’m more than wary about Wikipedia, but I’m perplexed that I can’t find any “official” biographies. Holy COW, look at all the books he illustrated (scroll down to the bottom).

1958 book review in the St. Petersburg Times

Children’s book historian Leonard S. Marcus had this to say about Galdone’s works: “Knowing that copies of his books were bound for use in preschool and elementary school classrooms and public libraries, he planned his illustrations with the child in the last row at story hour in mind.” I love learning the thinking behind books, particularly picture books, which are so often dismissed by grown-ups as easy to write. You can see his illustration style in this sample of The Little Red Hen.

There is a CAFE menu included with this mentor text, and I’ve highlighted these as suggestions:


  • Use prior knowledge to connect with text. This goes along with asking questions, below. Ask (or chart) what traditional stories students have heard or seen. This will help you gauge familiarity with patterns such as the rule of three, etc.
  • Ask questions throughout the reading process. Before: What are some characteristics of traditional or enduring stories? During: What patterns do you notice in the structure of the story? Does it remind you of any other children’s stories? After: Why do you think the author says the troll was “as mean as he was ugy”? Do you often notice that the evil characters are ugly while the heroes are pretty or handsome? Why do you think many authors do this?


  • Use punctuation to enhance phrasing and prosody. For primary students, talk about the all-caps words and the different tones the billy goats and troll might use. This would be a great shared reading opportunity to start with, because everybody will probably wind up sounding pretty silly. For older students, you could contrast the all-caps approach of conveying mood with more modern books like Geronimo Stilton, which uses multicolored, crazily-shaped text. How does technology impact the way books are written, published, and ultimately interpreted? How do these interpretations change over time?
Speaking of different interpretations of the Three Billy Goats, this is a tremendous resource.

Please add any lessons or supplemental materials to the book bag so future teachers can utilize your good thinking!

Comments and constructive feedback are always welcomed. Please let me know if these lessons were useful in your class!


Clipboard Prospects

The summer is time for reflection. Unfortunately, I reflect an awful lot during the school year too, which means I often wind up reflecting on absolutely frivolous things. Enjoy this example.

I know that one day soon, my beloved pink-and-black fleur-de-lis clipboard will bite the dust. It’s served me well the past four years, and the only real panic I’ve ever had over losing it was when I left it in the cafeteria on top of the piano during a family math night.

Lalala, Miz Houghton misplaced something again.


I wish I could share a picture of it with you, but I can’t because it’s nestled on my (SIGNIFICANTLY CLEANER) countertop at school where it always stays (when I’m organized). I bought it at some exorbitant price at City People’s Mercantile shortly into my first year of teaching because I was feeling disorganized and wanted a pick-me-up. When you tap it, it sounds like metal, but a corner of it has chipped, revealing that it’s actually wood.

Important people use clipboards.


I’ve been pondering my clipboard’s untimely demise for several years now (“hope for the best, but plan for the worst,” my daddy taught me), but most of the options I’ve seen have this inferior shove-it-open-with-your-thumb closure rather than the alligator clip style. I’ve had clipboards in the former style in my classroom clipboard stock, and they’re always the first to break.

Lovely, but short-lived


I’ve noticed that Etsy has started to carry more alligator-style clipboards, but I fret the acrylic ones will crack (this also happens to a lot of my students) and that the paper-covered ones will become sticky or disintegrate with use.

Acrylic Clipboard

Paper-and-Mod-Podged Clipboard


So what’s a super-picky girl to do? Goodness knows I’ve a bit of a thing for vintage…

But I feel like vintage for clipboards just means "old."


Having whipped myself up into a totally unjustifiable fit of frustration, I finally happened upon THE PERFECT CLIPBOARD.



ISN’T IT AMAZING? Feel free to send it to me posthaste.


Weather Site AND Potential Field Trip!!!

Hey there!

I’ve been continuing to plan our first science unit, and I’m uncovering some neat stuff!

Take a look at this website! In addition to great information on weather, it actually tells you how you can improve your skills at predicting the weather!

I’ve also discovered there’s an atmospheric research department at the University of Washington, and I’ve contacted them for information on perhaps visiting them this October! Ahhh, so exciting! The trip should be about $5 to cover the cost of the bus. Start saving!


Field Trip Photos!

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you SO MUCH for making Friday’s trip to the Point Defiance Zoo such an amazing experience. It seemed like you had fun and learned a lot, based on the facts you rattled off when we returned to Wildwood.🙂 Here are some photos I took of the creatures we encountered. As you know, no student faces are to be included in these pictures.

The weather held for us all day! We were so fortunate!

Sea cucumber! Larger and a different color than I thought it'd be. Just like the one featured in Dragonbreath!

It was Bali's 13th birthday, so we sang "Happy Birthday" to him!

Porcupines! Ereth would be so proud. We were all astonished at how HUGE they were. I pictured them as guinea pig-sized...

Puffins! Their wings look like bat wings when they dive into the water.

Along with cats and owls, otters are my favorite animals!

These prawns made me think of the crawdads Tom and Reg ate in Leepike Ridge.

The peacock bids us farewell.


What a fantastic experience. I can’t wait to debrief with you more next week. Enjoy the sun this weekend, and remember that there IS SCHOOL on TUESDAY (we originally had it off, but we need to use it as a snow makeup day). Be well, do good things, and keep in touch!