Student Motivation Activity: #Real World

How many times have you heard, "when will I use this?" when you introduce a new skill to your class? When you hear this, you know a change of mindset is in order so your students will be encouraged to do their best.

Showing your students #RealWorld application for the skills you are teaching will increase their motivation.

One activity that you can implement at any time of the year is a #Real World bulletin board.
You can introduce this activity by sharing math and grammar mistakes.

  • Let your class find the mistake(s).
  • Discuss the school and real world connection: using fractions or percentages when shopping, not editing signs before posting them, etc.
  • Discuss what happens when adults make mistakes in the real world.
  • Discuss the advantages of paying attention to details.  Smart shoppers will notice math mistakes which helps them spend their money wisely.
You can find some examples on my Pinterest board.

Encourage your students to become detail-oriented by making #RealWorld an ongoing extra credit assignment throughout the year. Tell your students to be on the lookout for mistakes when they are in public places. If they spot a mistake, ask them to take a picture of themselves standing next to the sign. Print a copy of the sign for your #RealWorld bulletin board.

The next time you begin a lesson and one of your students ask "when will I ever use this?" point to the bulletin board. It is the perfect reminder!

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Behavior Management Tool - Take a Break form

Do you have a student that has extra energy, has trouble focusing, or a short attention span?  Sometimes a short break from the classroom can help. A change in scenery and movement can help the student focus better when he or she returns.

What do you do if you don't have any errands to send your student on? 

This is when it pays to be prepared.  Ahead of time ask a co-worker if you can send a student from time-to-time that needs a quick break.  You will send an envelope with a note with the student so the co-worker is aware of what is happening.
Do you have more than one student that needs to take a break?  Copy forms on colorful paper and put each form in a different envelope.  

Your co-worker will circle yes or no letting you know if your student entered their room without being disruptive.  There is also room that your co-worker can add comments.  

Don't forget to add a pen to the envelope.  Your teacher friend may be in the middle of lesson and not have a pen handy.

Keep this form for parent-teacher conferences.

Class Break Form

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Leveled Book List, fairy tales, April birthdays of Children's Authors

Hans Christian Andersen's birthday is April 2nd.  He is the author of many fairy tales.  April is the perfect month to integrate fairy tales with your other Spring lessons.  

Include The Ugly Duckling with your pond life lessons.  Science and literature is a perfect combination!
  • The Ugly Duckling (retold - original version is a higher reading level) Guided Reading level - G
Read fractured fairy tales and compare texts.  Let students write their own version of one of the fairy tales that you share.
Grab a copy of the Happy Birthday author forms from my September file.  
Martin Waddell was born on April 10th.  Some of his books that you might be familiar with are:
Let's go home little bear would be a good text to compare to Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
Eileen Christelow was born on April 22nd.  You probably have a copy or two of one of her Five Little Monkeys books.
Her book, Where's the Big Bad Wolf, would be a nice addition to a fairy tale unit. Police Detective Phineas T. Doggedly is looking for the Big Bad Wolf after the pigs' house of straw and house of sticks was blown down.
Guided Reading level - L

Amy Hest was born on April 28th.  She is the author of books about ducks and weather.  Perfect topics for your April lessons.
Guided Reading level - J
Guided Reading level - I
Looking for new fairy tale ideas?  I just added a fairy tale themed file.  Students read the directions and either color the pictures or draw a picture.  Then write about the picture.

Grab a copy of the FREE April leveled book list.

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Fairy Tales Inquiry, Reading Comprehension, and Classroom Management

If you follow me on social media, you know I love books. I love to mail boxes of books to teachers that follow my Facebook page. I love to read books to children and read books in my free time. My house looks like I could open a book store. Can you relate?

Fairy tales is my favorite genre to read to students. These books can be read at any time of the school year.  Before you begin a fairy tale unit, set up a table or center with a few objects like the ones in the picture above.  I'm sure your students will spot it as soon as they walk in your classroom.  Tell your class the objects are clues about the new unit they will begin studying.  Ask them to look at the objects to see if they can figure out the objects have in common.  What is the theme?  This is a great way to build interest in a unit and an easy inquiry lesson.  You will hear your students brainstorming with each other if you wait until later in the day to introduce the new unit.

Through the years, I read The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka during the first week of school to my students. It is the perfect story to share before discussing conflict resolution, tattling, and other behavior expectations. It is helpful to share this story at the beginning of the year before one of your students want to report an issue. You can remind your student that just like Alexander T. Wolf and the 3 pigs had different points of view, you need to hear both points of view.
Three Billy Goats Gruff is a fun story to act out. Give your students some materials to construct their own bridge. Let them draw and write about their construction in their journals. It might inspire their future career path.
Beanie babies can be a classroom management tools when you are reading a fairy tale. Give a beanie baby to a student that is a good listener. After you read a few pages, let the student pass the beanie baby to another good listener.

Integrate this story with the following lessons:
  • Word family: -ig 
  • Farm unit 
  • Skip counting: by 3's 
Read*Color*Write and Read*Draw*Write printables can be used as reading comprehension quick checks.  You can read the feedbacks from other files with this format to see why busy teachers love these.

Fairy tale themed quick comprehension checks.

Would you like to try a sample?
FREE Fairy Tale - Princess & the Pea
Read & Follow Direction comprehension check
Read * Color * Write
Read * Draw * Write

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Famous African Americans: Book List, Word Work and Word Wall

What's on your bookshelf? Do you have a front facing bookshelf like the one in the picture? I found this one at a thrift store. Most of my schools have had one like this. Use this shelf to feature weekly or monthly themes. Your students will be more engaged with reading when you change books frequently.

February is Black History or African American History month. You can easily incorporate lessons about the contributions by famous African American into your plans.
Girls and boys enjoy reading about Bessie Coleman.  She was the first African American to earn a pilot's license. Many classrooms have a word wall.  Have you set up a separate word wall for the themes or units that you are teaching?  For this word wall, I like to add a picture of the book cover next to the word.  Before I read a book to my class, I will choose a few words from the book to discuss.

Whole Group:
Discuss vocabulary words (word cards) - meaning of words, how these words might apply to the book, and use word in a sentence.
Read: Fly High! The Story of Bessie Coleman by Louise Borden and Mary Kay Kroeger to your class.

Word Work - Compound Words:
Hold up "tailspin" word card
Students will write it on dry erase board
Students will draw a line dividing 2 words
Students will think and write other compound words with "tail"
A fabric map like the one in the picture above is an easy way to connect social studies to your read alouds.  Students can find the setting of the book on the map.
Is your schedule hectic this month?  Begin your day with morning messages about African Americans.  There is a sample in the preview file that you can try.
I compiled a list of books that have African and African American characters.  You can get a FREE copy of the booklist.

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Staff Morale Boosters & Random Acts of Kindness + Freebie

The end of January is the best time to plan a few morale boosters. Cold and flu season, dreary weather, and upcoming tests can impact the school's climate.
Add a staff morale booster to your faculty meeting. A Sunshine Committee or principal can organize this activity.

You will need prizes. Parents and local businesses are good sources to ask for prizes. There is a parent note that you can send home asking for donations in this FREE download.

Next, put the prizes in bags so staff members cannot see the prizes.

Ask staff members to write their name on a piece of paper and put it in a basket when they arrive for the faculty meeting.
Take a white elephant approach to the prizes.  Example, if you have six prizes, the first winner can choose a prize.  The second winner can steal the first winner's prize or select a new prize.  If he or she steals a prize, the first winner will select a new prize.  To save time, you may want to set a limit for how many times a prize can be stolen.  This is one of the few times when people do not want to be chosen first because it is fun to steal another person's prize.
Did one of your teammates get "that class"?  A little treat or note in the mailbox can make a big difference.  I found this sound effects box at the clearance section at Marshall's this week.  Wouldn't that be a fun attention getter? 
A warm drink is a perfect random act of kindness for this time of the year.  Drop of the supplies in the faculty lounge with a note and soon you will see smiles on your colleagues faces.

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February Compound Words, Inquiry Lesson and a FREEBIE

February is the perfect month to incorporate compound words with your lessons.  "Groundhog" and "mailbox" are two seasonal words that students will see in February lessons.  
Do you incorporate inquiry activities with your lesson plans? If you have some stuffed animals like the ones in the picture, you could use them for an inquiry lesson. This is an activity for students with prior knowledge of compound words.

Set the stuffed animals on a small table where you will teach the lesson later in the day. Stuffed animals are a kid magnet. Great tool for building interest and getting your students' interest. Your students will notice the stuffed animals as soon as they walk in the classroom. Tell your class that they can look but not touch your "little friends".

If you save this lesson until the afternoon, your students will begin the inquiry process on their own. At recess and lunch, you may overhear your students trying to figure out how something that they play with could be used by a teacher for a lesson. What are they studying (skills) that is like the animals? How are the animals alike?

Ask you students to jot down their ideas about how the animals are alike in their journals or a white board when you begin the lesson. Next, put your class in small groups and let them discuss their thoughts with each other.
Let one person from each group share the findings of the group. Then write the names of the stuffed animals on your white board or a chart tablet. Tell them to LOOK at the words to see if the WORDS have something in common. Discuss with their group. Let one person from each group share the findings of the group again.

"Hummingbird" was not one of the first few words that I wrote on the list. Some of my classes in the past have confused a 2 syllable word with a compound word. With a lesson like this, some students will begin to count syllables when they see the list and assume syllables is how the words are alike. That works until they get to the word "hummingbird". Going through this process solves the syllable-compound word problem.

After the lesson, you can continue using the stuffed animals:
  • Team mascots
  • Classroom management tool: pass out a stuffed animal who is working quietly, turned in high quality work, listening attentively during lessons, or any other behavior you want to reward.
  • Tell your students that they will pretend to become one of the stuffed animal. Then your students will:
    • Name the animal character - i.e. Bessie Bluebird, Gideon Groundhog, Buddy Bumblebee,Huxley Hummingbird, Sachi Seahorse, and Liona Ladybug
    • Write pen pal letters to the animal characters
If you don't have stuffed animals or have the time to gather them, you can do the same type of lesson with books. The following books have a compound word in the title:
You can click on the (affiliate) link for more information
Give your students extra practice with compound words.  Students can either look for compound words in books (like the books above) or you can give students a topic and see how many compound words they can make about the topic.  The picture above are compound words about Valentine's Day.

If you want to make the making words more hands on and engaging for your students, cut the cover of a folder in 3 parts.  To do this flip folder activity:

  1. Students lift the first flap and write the first word of the compound word.  
  2. Close the first flap.
  3. Lift the second flap and write the second word of the compound word.
  4. Close the second flap.
  5. Lift the third flap and write the compound word.
  6. Close the third flap.
  7. Go to the next line and continue making compound words.
  8. Write a sentence using at least one of the compound above.
Let's Make Compound Words can be found here.
Do your students need more practice?  Let's Edit: Compound Words is an activity that students practice identifying compound words, grammar and writing skills.  This is perfect for morning work or homework.  You can get a free copy of a Valentine themed page in the preview file here.

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Handwriting, Numbers, and Valentine's Day

Once upon in the world of teaching, students were sent to the chalkboard to practice what they were studying. Writing on the chalkboard was a useful tool. Teachers could watch students work math problems before they began their assignments. Mini reteach lessons would happen before students began their assignment. Students learned from other students when they watched other students work on the chalkboard. One fringe benefit of sending students to the chalkboard that teachers may not have realized was the handwriting benefit. Students use different muscles when they write on a vertical surface.


You can set up a handwriting center with your easel. Students can pull up a chair and practice writing word wall words, spelling words, numbers, or math facts. Students are writing on a vertical surface and practicing academic skills at the same time. Win! Win!
Do you incorporate music with your lessons? You can use songs like the one in the picture above as a brain break or part of a math lesson. Want to involve your students a little more? Either cut out hearts or use ones like the felt ones in the picture above. I found them at the Target Dollar Spot.
Glue small hearts or put stickers on each big heart.
You can put the hearts on a ring to store them or flip through the ring of hearts when your class sings the song.

You can also pass out the hearts to ten volunteers and let them stand in front of the class holding a heart.  Each time the class sings the number on their heart, students will lift their heart.
Students can trace the songs for handwriting practice. You can get a FREE copy the song plus the heart number flipbook.

Happy Valentine's Day!

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GOT STRESS? Not enough time in your day?

Are you feeling stressed?  Do you feel like there is never enough time in your day?

The expression, "don't work harder, work smarter", can help with alleviate some of your stress. One of the tasks that took up a lot of my prep time each was writing morning messages.  I saw the impact of a quality message and its impact on my students' academic achievement.  Unfortunately, I was guilty of not always writing the best quality message when time was limited.

One of my favorite ways to begin my day is with morning messages.  But, morning messages are TIME CONSUMING to write each day.  I have done it a variety of ways through the years.  I began my morning message system when I was preparing for my maternity leave. You can read about the system HERE.  At that time, I was writing my morning messages on chart tablet paper each day.  I didn't want my long term sub to have to do that each day.  I wanted to simplify things for her.  When I returned I continued this system because I really liked it.  The system is a HUGE TEACHER TIME SAVER!
Each class is a little different - with different needs.  With this system, there are task cards like the ones in the picture above that you can use to differentiate or extend the morning message.
There are a variety of morning message files available for grades Kindergarten - 3rd grade.  Some are seasonal and others have a topic or skill theme.  There are several files that are free so you can check out the system with your class.  

Phonics / Early Readers:

Early Readers #1 (20 messages)

Digraph - CH (10 messages)

Digraph - SH (10 messages)

Digraph Bundle - CH, SH (20 messages)

Diphthong - OY - FREE

Themed packets:

Back to School - K/1 (10 messages)
Back to School - 2/3 (10 messages)
Fall Fun - K (can be used in September, October, and November) (10 messages)
Fall Fun - K/1 (can be used in September, October, and November) (10 messages)
Fall Fun - 1st (can be used in September, October, and November) (10 messages)
Martin Luther King Jr.
Winter Olympics - FREE
Black History Month (10 messages)
Chinese New Year - FREE
Father's Day FREE
Cinco de Mayo - FREE
Memorial Day - FREE
Time (Combo with task cards)
Money (plus game, passages)
Spiders (plus QR Code, Reading Response) - FREE
Sharks (plus Reading Passage, Digraph Activity) - FREE
February (plus Leap Day, Time, Skip Counting) - FREE 
Henry & Mudge - FREE

Each of the grade level packets include ten morning messages.
1st Grade
2nd Grade
3rd Grade

By request, I bundled my September - May grade level packets (links above) into bundles with 90 messages.
1st Grade
2nd Grade
3rd Grade

By request, I bundled two grade levels together. There are 10 messages of each grade level in these packets (20 messages per packet).

Kindergarten - 1st grade

1st and 2nd grade

2nd and 3rd grade

By request, I am adding more grade level packets for teachers who do morning message daily. You can follow my store or Facebook page if you want to be notified when I add more of these packets. I am selling Volume 2 (10 messages) separately and as a combo with Volume 1 (10 messages) so teachers have the option of having 20 messages. Below are the ones I've finished so far.

April - Volume 2 (10 messages)
April - Combo (20 messages)

1st Grade
April - Volume 2 (10 messages)
April - Combo (20 messages)

2nd Grade
April - Volume 2 (10 messages)
April - Combo (20 messages)

Morning Messages are also included with my Sub Plans:

Sub Resource Binder


Teacher from the Black Lagoon

Early Reader - K/1

March - K/1 - this file includes more than just sub plans.

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FREE Early Finisher Reteach Digraph Sight Words High Frequency Words

Is "ck" a digraph?  I was recently working on a new file that includes digraph printables. When I was shopping for digraph clipart, I noticed that some of the files included "ck" clipart.  
I was taught that a digraph was two letters that make a new sound. You do not hear the individual sound of "c" or "h" with a "ch" digraph.  The two letters make a new sound.

Teacher Facebook groups are good sources for new and veteran teachers. One of my FB groups includes teachers from different location and wide variety of experiences. The "ck" question seemed like the perfect topic for this group. Sure enough, there was more than one definition for a digraph.
Melissa Lee Bates, a member of the group, shared the second definition. She said this definition is from Saxon Phonics curriculum. Using this definition, "ck" would be digraph.
When you are grading students' work, do you find that some of your students need more practice?  In a perfect world, you would pull this student and that student for specific skill work to fill in the gaps. Time to pull materials, time to meet with students, and other issues get in the way when you are in the trenches.

You can set up a early finisher, reteach center or personalize your morning work.  If you are like me, you need to clean out your files.  Does a teacher really need 12 copies of a specific worksheet?  Purge your files for your New Years professional resolution.  After purging your files, sort the pages by skills that students typically need to extra practice. Make files by skills (short vowels, long vowels, digraphs, addition, addition with regrouping, etc.) and add pages to the files.  You will have more than one type of worksheet in each file.
Students will select an assignment from the skill file that he or she needs to work on.  This is an easy way to differentiate your morning work or early finishers. To provide extra motivation for your students:
  • Let students choose the worksheet from the file.
  • Set up the center with special supplies like gel pens, 64 count crayons, smelly markers, etc. 

Would you like some freebies to set up your reteach center?  These printables also work great with your early finishers.

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