Monthly Archives: January 2013

10 Fun Snow Day Ideas for Parents

By Zemen Marrugi, M.Ed.


Everyone loves an unexpected Snow Day every now and then. However, it is easy to run out of ideas on how to keep your children busy throughout the cold day, while at the same time keeping the content educational. Here are some fun activities to do with your children on the next unexpected Snow Day.

Crafts Corner
Take some construction paper, glue and markers and get creative with your child. If you are short on supplies, recycle old newspapers and make a papier-mâché project. Another inexpensive project would be to make a snowflake banner out of copy paper. Have a conversation on why it is important to recycle.

Couch Potato Movie
Get a couple of blankets and enjoy a movie of their choice. If you have more than one child, have them each add a movie title in a cup and randomly pick one for the whole family to enjoy. Use this moment to review their elapsed time skills. If we start the movie at 3:00PM and it will last an hour and a half, then when will the movie finish? Also, if we only have three hours before dinner, then how many movies can we watch?

Baker’s Delight
Nothing says snow day like the smell of freshly baked cookies. Have your child help you make breakfast, lunch or prepare the table for dinner. Utilize this time to review their measuring skills by using related vocabulary throughout the whole process like cups, quarts, gallons, etc. Do fun things like encouraging them to figure out how many cups are in a quart by pouring liquids from one into the other.

Write a Letter
Help your child write a friendly letter to their grandparents or a friend that moved away. This will help them practice what a friendly letter includes and also give them a great opportunity to keep in touch with a loved one. FYI-A friendly letter includes the date, heading, greeting, body, closing and signature.

Virtual Museums Tours
Some museums have virtual tours on their websites. Take a tour and learn something new with your child. Parents should also monitor local museums for any special exhibits coming to town regarding their child’s area of interest and grade level content.

Spelling Word Games
Keep a folder of your child’s spelling words for the whole year and review them throughout the school year. On days like this, take out the words and make a game out of them. For every word spelled correctly, they can earn a minute towards an incentive of their choice like playing their video games. Also, you can also place each word on an index card and have them practice putting them all in alphabetical order.

Make a Snow Man
Bundle up and let Frosty greet all of your neighbors with his corncob pipe and button nose. Have fun making a snow man and snow angels with your children and remember to take lots of picture because these are the moments they will cherish for many years to come.

Snow Candy
Growing up, my siblings and I loved eating the snow. Drizzle some syrup on the white snow and have fun comparing old fashion candy with today’s traditions. This can be a great lesson on discussing how modern technology has changed the way candy is made today. You can also take this time to add a quick Science lesson by analyzing the tiny snowflakes. Get a magnify glass and have your children critique different snowflakes and before you know it, they will realize that no two snowflakes are alike.

Flash Cards
Flashcards are easy and inexpensive to make and can be used for review of alphabets, vocabulary, colors, and shapes. Regardless of your child’s age, flash cards are a great way to review grade level content material. Place a vocabulary word on one side and the definition on the other side.

Educational Websites
Most schools are purchasing online subscriptions for their students to websites like, Accelerated Reader, Accelerated Math, etc. These websites provide personalized assignments to students based on grade level. A personal record is kept of each student’s completed assignments so parents can monitor growth and give their child an opportunity to complete additional work for much rigorous instruction.

Snow Days can be unexpected, but if you prepare some of these projects in advance, then it can also be a great opportunity to teach your child something new.  I recommend you complete some of these items in advance and store them in small plastic bags. These activities can also be fun during the weekends. Remember, above all things, keep it fun, keep it educational and keep taking those pictures because these are priceless childhood memories that they will love to look back on when they get older.

About Zemen Marrugi

Zemen Marrugi is the Founder/President of Those Who Can, Teach! and an experienced teacher and national presenter.  Marrugi has worked as a classroom teacher and has presented workshops on topics like differentiated instruction and the writing process.  In addition to working with elementary/middle school teachers, Marrugi has also presented workshops for college activities personnel at the Council for Advancement and Support of Education’s Association for Student Advancement and the National Association for Campus Activities.  Click here for more information on Zemen Marrugi.

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Filed under Classroom Curriculum, Classroom Resources, Classroom Teachers, Curriculum, Education, Elementary, Middle School, Parental Partnership, Parents, Snow Day, Snow Day Ideas, Teaching

Different Types of Genres

By Zemen Marrugi, M.Ed.

A story’s genre identifies what type of story you are reading, all based on who the characters are and their actions. With that being said, teaching students about the different type of genres can be very confusing. I recommend breaking down the genre categories by Fiction and Non-Fiction. First, I like to teach all of the fiction subgenres since most students will be familiar with the examples I will use like fairytale, mystery, and science fiction. The scaffolding aspect of teaching is always important so since the students are able to connect the new information to prior knowledge, the lesson will run smoother if you start with something they have already mastered.

After the students learn the fiction subgenres, you can then move on to the non-fiction subgenres. Remember to go back and re-teach the previous information throughout the year to make sure they have learned the content and are able to retain the information.

Here are other ways of teaching genres:

1) Book Excerpt Sample: Use excerpts from a variety of different books and have students guess what genre each entry represents. Most importantly, students should be able to example why each book belongs to a specific genre.

2) Book Categories: Students can organize the classroom library by genres.

3) Book Reports: Students can be assigned to do book reports on themed genres. You can assign a different genre every week.

Feel free to print the attached Genre Poster I created for my students as an additional classroom resource.  This post includes a list of all fictional and non-fictional subgenres, along with a desciption of each genres.

Zemen Marrugi Genre Poster


Realistic Fiction

Science Fiction

Historical Fiction




  • Tragedies
  • Comedies

Folklore (Traditional Literature)

  • Fable
  • Fairytale
  • Tall tale
  • Myth
  • Legend


Information Text

  • Pamphlets
  • Brochures
  • Flyers
  • School textbooks/workbooks
  • Guides
  • Booklets
  • Notes
  • Advice column
  • Newspaper  Editorials




Persuasive Writing


Genre Descriptions

1)    Genre: A genre is the type of story you are reading, all based on who the characters are, the setting, and the characters’ actions during the story.

2)    Realistic Fiction: A realistic fiction story is one that can actually happened in real life, but the characters are make-believe.

Ex: Junie B. Jones

3)    Historical Fiction: A historical fiction story is one that is set during a historical event from the past, but the characters are not real. The characters of historical fiction stories behave and dress just as people would have from that time period.

Ex: Number the Stars

4)    Autobiography: An autobiography is a personal narrative that a person writes about his/her life. Note that the prefix ‘auto’ means self.

Ex: Diary of Anne Frank

5)    Biography: A biography is a story about a person’s life written by another person.

Ex: The Life of Frederick Douglas

6)    Science Fiction (Sci-Fi):  Science fictional stories are based on the just that-science! These are stories that take place on other planets, involve futuristic weapons, aliens, and advanced machinery.

Ex: The movie ‘Back to the Future’

7)    Mystery: The genre of mystery is fictional and revolves around solving some type of crime where the reader is encouraged to put together clues based on what is being read.

Ex: Sherlock Holmes

8)    Fairytale: Fairytale are stories that are told to younger children that include magical creatures and fairies. The Brothers Grimm were two German brothers that collected a ton of different folklore stories centuries ago and recorded stories that were only shared verbally. The theme of number three sometimes reappears throughout fairytales. (3 sisters, 3 pigs, 3 musketeers, etc.)

Ex: Cinderella

9)    Legend: A legend is a story that explains why certain things have come to be the way they are today, all based on information that is passed down by generations. At times, these stories can revolve on a folklore hero.

Ex: Robin Hood

10) Myth: Mythology is a symbolic genre that uses gods and goddess to deliver the meaning behind natural events. Some characters are based on real historical figures.

Ex: Hercules

11) Poetry: Poetry is a form of rhythmic writing that is meant to be represented artistically and draws a passionate response from the audience. Examples can include slam poetry, comedy, drama, epic, sonnet, erotic, nonsense, lyric, mythopoeia, romance, satire, tragedy and tragicomedy.

Ex: Works by Maya Angelo

12) Drama: The genre of drama includes plays that are made to be performed in front of a live audience with the use of dialogue between characters.

Ex: Shakespeare Plays

13) Fable: Fables are stories that are meant to teach a moral lesson, highlighting the difference between right and wrong.

Ex: The Ugly Duckling

14) Horror: Horror stories are fictional and are meant to scare the reader through suspense and creepy scenes.

Ex: Freddy vs. Jason

15) Humor: Stories that fall in the humor genre are fictional and are meant to make the reader laugh. This genre can also be a subgenre in all of the other genres. For example, a character in a mystery book can say a joke that is meant to make the reader laugh.

Ex: Diary of a Wimpy Kid

16) Tall Tale: Tall tales are funny stories that include exaggerated behavior where the character becomes a hero without really trying because the powers come naturally.

Ex: Paul Bunyan

17) Speech: A speech is a public address meant to be recited in front of a live audience.

Ex: “I have a dream” by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

18) Essay: An essay is a short fictional or non-fictional writing that mirrors the author’s outlook or point of view on an issue.

Ex: “Self-Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson

19) Folklore: The reasons behind the everyday norm that people have come to expect to be a part of their lives. Folklore explains why people do the tings they do because it is the study of people and their everyday lives.

Ex: Detroit’s folklore about hanging shoes from street lights

2o) Fantasy: A fantasy is a story that cannot take place in the real world because in most cases, the location does not exist in the real world. These examples include Middle Earth and Narnia. The problems the characters go through are sometimes not similar to issues people go through in the real world like rescuing a princess.

Ex: The Lord of the Rings

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The Faberge of Today’s Educational System

Faberge Egg

Faberge Egg

By Zemen Marrugi, M.Ed.

As an art enthusiast, going to the Faberge exhibit at the Detroit Institution of the Arts was a no- brainer. Walking through the sections, taking in all of the detail on the precious objects that have mesmerized millions over the past century was exciting. From the Easter egg inspired containers to the delicate crystal vase miniature floral pieces, each item was creatively handcrafted and continues to be admired today. However, it was not until midway through the exhibit that I realized the similarity between the House of Faberge and what should be today’s educational system.

What amazed me most about the House of Faberge was the emphasis on teamwork. Due to their delicate and excessive amount of work, no Faberge item was ever created by one person from start to finish. The company stood strong because each master craftsman had his specific role in contributing to the “masterpieces,” treasures that attracted the attention of the Russian aristocracy.

Just like the Faberge master craftsmen, teachers today need to work together because a success educational career does not happen by just having an accomplished fourth grade teacher. If the overall goal is to have a successful school, then the same amount of commitment to excellence needs to be emphasized by every classroom in a school building.

As a teacher, I know that every individual in a school plays a significant role in developing a student into becoming a respectful, responsible and educated young person. Everyone! From the classroom teacher to the lunch lady, office staff and administration team-every adult in a school system plays a vital role in “crafting” a successful learning environment. More importantly, all of these different entities must have a common ground for expectation in regards to behavior, homework, classroom, instruction, rigor, participation and parental involvement.

The idea of teachers closing their classroom doors and taking care of their own students is a thing of the past because our educational system is not measured by individual classroom performance but a school as whole. Just like the craftsmen as the House of Faberge shared the secrets to their craft with their fellow craftsmen, teachers need to do the same when it comes to sharing best practices with their fellow educators. After all, teaching is an art of its own and there are a lot of great educators out there so let us stop reinventing the wheel and begin leaning on each other for advice, feedback, and resources. The day teachers actually begin seeing the importance of team effort in a school’s overall performance is the day the entire school will succeed in educating every child in the building.

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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Lesson Plans and Bulletin Board

This is the Martin Luther King, Jr. Quiz Bulletin Board I created in front of my class. Students were encouraged to text their knowledge of the content we had learned all week.

This is the Martin Luther King, Jr. Quiz Bulletin Board I created in front of my class. Students were encouraged to text their knowledge of the content we had learned all week.

By Zemen Marrugi, M.Ed.

This week, we will celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As a classroom teacher, I am always passionate to speak about Dr. King’s past and of his contribution to the Civil Rights Movment because he not only paved way for African Americans, but stood as a wonderful example of peace and brotherhood amongst all American.  I put together this lesson plan for my sixth graders and I think the rest of you might enjoy. Feel free to use the information below and my bulletin board design to teach our young people of the significant role Dr. King played to making our great nation what it is today.

Approximate Length of Time: 50-70 minutes

Students will be able to understand the important role Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had on the Civil Rights Movement and why he is still celebrated as one of the most influential people in American history.

1. Students will be able to reflect on the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
2. Students will be able to identify why Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life mission for peace and equality is celebrated today.

MLK Lesson Plans by Zemen Marrugi martin luther king jr
Book: Martin’s Big Words, The life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. By Doreen Rappaport
Movie: The Witness from the Balcony of Room 306
The Witness Quiz
Construction paper
Bulletin Board Boarder
Colored envelopes
Favorite MLK Photos
Favorite MLK Quote
Glue Sticks

Anticipatory Set/Hook:
A great way to start this lesson would be to dress up as MLK and begin reciting the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. Ask questions like who was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? What role did he play in the Civil Rights movement? Why was the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech so significant?

1) Hook the students’ attention by performing the ‘I have a dream’ speech to them.
2) Read the book Martin’s Big Words, the Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport.
3) Watch the movie, The Witness from the Balcony of Room 306 and discuss the role MLK played in the Civil Rights Movement.
4) Give the students an opportunity to complete The Witness quiz.
5) Set up the MLK Quiz Bulletin Board and encourage students to quiz their knowledge.

Why is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. remembered today as an important figure of the Civil Rights Movement? What can we do to commemorate the life of MLK?

1) Encourage the students to take the MLK quiz on the bulletin board.
2) Assign the students to complete the Witness worksheet after watching movie, The Witness.

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Filed under Bulletin Board, Classroom Teachers, Education, Politics, Social Studies, Teaching, Uncategorized