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!


A Hummingbird’s Life

Every Monday, I highlight a book from our school bookroom along with lesson plan suggestions.

A Hummingbird’s Life, by John Himmelman

I’ve been slowly processing the old mentor texts from the SFA Roots series, and I’m pretty excited to add these to our bookroom for several reasons:

  • Many of them are light on the text, making them perfect for primary read alouds.
  • Most sets have three or more copies, so an entire grade level team can plan their read alouds collaboratively if they so choose!
  • Quite a few of the books have a “sister text” pairing fiction with nonfiction, another powerful planning tool.

If you’re looking to celebrate the arrival of spring with a study of nature and/or of poetry, this website is a good place to start for some hummingbird-inspired poems.

There are no lesson plans included with this book. There is a CAFE menu included with this mentor text, and I’ve highlighted these as suggestions:


  • Use text features. Despite being narrative nonfiction and being such a basic book (its AR readability level is 2.3), A Hummingbird’s Life is chock-full of text features. There’s an info box at the front giving background information on the Ruby-throated hummingbird, a glossary, and an About the Author section.
  • Use main idea and supporting details to determine importance. Another great benefit of this text being so short is that you can copy the entire book onto a piece of chart paper, project it using document I’ve typed here, or give each student their own copy to mark what they believe are the main ideas.


  • Trade a word / guess a word that makes sense. Many primary science units (at least in our school district) are about animals, habitats, and ecosystems. Talk with students about how their familiarity with new vocabulary they’ve learned in their science unit can help them read accurately.

Behaviors that Support Reading

  • Increase Stamina. Because of the limited amount of text in this book, this might be a good book for young primary students to practice making it all the way through a read aloud without needing a body break.

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

Comments and constructive criticism are always welcomed! Please leave a comment if you’ve found this helpful!

Japanese Cherry Blossoms

This Friday, we read the section of Hugo Cabret where the automaton dips its pen into ink and draws a startling image. This inspired me to do this art project with our class.

Our results were quite lovely. They brighten up our hallway!

If you’d like to do a similar project, here’s the rubric we used, aligned to Washington state standards.

Japanese Cherry Blossoms rubric


Safety Last!

Tomorrow, we’re going to reach a part in Hugo Cabret that includes a reference to Harold Lloyd’s “Safety Last.” You can watch this silent movie, filmed in 1923, by clicking the link below.

We watched this today during our snack transition from reading to math. We are learning as a class how Ms. Houghton posts to our website so we can make our own posts too!


Heinemann Microgrant: Please Vote!

I’m applying on behalf of Wildwood and Federal Way GATE teachers for a $500 microgrant through Heinemann. Please vote on our project — you will need to create a user name, but I can’t tell you how much this would mean to my students!

Here are the details of our grant:

Your Name: Shannon Houghton

School Name: Wildwood Elementary

Project Description: Our students love music and are fascinated by instruments, yet most of them have never had the opportunity to see these instruments in person, much less have a chance to play them! This grant will fund a school membership to Soundbridge, a popular local field trip that aligns with our third grade science curriculum. The membership can be used by all classrooms in our school, and the grant will cover transportation for one team of students. Additionally, to ensure that we’re making our field trip experiences as meaningful as possible, we’re investing in professional texts on science instruction, which our district is deeply lacking.

How I Will Use the Funds:
$150 transportation costs
$75 Soundbridge membership fee (visit — this membership is valid for a full year and can be used by multiple classes)
$50 additional admission fee / program fee
$170 professional texts (including shipping; prices taken from Heinmann Spring 2011 catalog: The Essentials of Science and Literacy, Writing in Science, Science Notebooks, Science Workshop, The New Science Literacy, Questions, Claims and Evidence, and Doing What Scientists Do)

Why this is important to me: Our district is completely shifting its focus on science toward an inquiry-based approach. There have been few additional resources and professional development opportunities to help teachers and students deepen their understanding. This grant will not only impact me and my 25 students, but the resources will be shared with students and teachers throughout the district (21 elementary schools) to ensure all students have access to high quality science instruction.

You can vote between February 15 and March 14. PLEASE take five minutes to vote. The funding would be HUGE for us!