Teacher Tools & a FREEBIE


Do you have a collection of Rubbermaid or Gladware containers?  If you are like me, you have more lids than containers.  My containers never last as long as the lids.  I hate to throw away the lids in case I need one some day.

These lids make handy dandy teacher tools.  When I make large Venn diagrams for a class lesson or my small group, I was always hunting for a large round object to use as a tracer.  Then one day the clouds parted when my eyes landed on one of my lids because it seems like there is always one of these containers sitting around, right?  They are just so useful!  I love how the lids come in different colors and  sizes.  If you want  your students to make a Venn diagram with a partner or small group, you can give them a smaller lid and large sheet of construction paper.  It doesn't matter if the marker gets on the lid because it wipes right off.


Would you like to try it?  I have a freebie that would be perfect for this time of the year.  Students compare Christmas and winter.


There are other assignments included with this file.  Plus, there is a Smartboard file if you'd like to add a techy touch to your lesson.


Click for FREE Christmas vs. Winter download. 
Don't forget to leave feedback. 

Looking for more ideas?











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Readers Theater and more to Love


One of my favorite strategies for dealing with a chatty class is readers theater.  I guess you could call it "guided chatting" because the script dictates what the students are saying.  There are certain times of the year, when even the most well-behaved students will discover his or her voice.  When those time occur, I pull out the readers theater scripts.  My students are strengthening their reading fluency and working cooperatively as a group. Readers theater are the brain breaks for talkative students!

Jen @ Teaching in Tongass is hosting a linky party called Top Wishlisted Items.  I thought it looked like a fun party to join.  I love to see what other people like when it is time for the TPT's site wide sale.


Obviously, other teachers have discovered the same thing as me - that readers theater helps with more than reading skills.  Jan Brett is one of my favorite authors.  It must be others teachers favorite authors because this Readers Theater & More: Jan Brett - Annie and the Wild Animals and The Three Snow Bears is one of my top wishlisted items.


Behavior 101 is another popular packet of mine.  Not only is it one of my top wishlisted items, it is my #2 best seller.  I think this file has been popular because it includes a variety of behavior forms that can be used to motivate your students in a positive way to "get back on track".  There are also forms to communicate with parents - great for conferences and R.T.I.  The happy notes are a great way to build relationships with your students and parents.


I've always said that having emergency sub plans is like buying car insurance.  It is not fun to buy (or make), but if you ever need it, you'll be really glad that you have it.  I taught 17 years before I needed my emergency sub plans.  But, I was glad I made them, when that time came.

The advantage of setting up the sub binder system is when you have an absence that is planned, all of the procedural details are already done for you.  Those are the nitty-gritty details that take so long.  Your planned absences will no longer seem so cumbersome.  

My Sub Resource Binder is my number #1 seller and one of top wishlisted item.  Read some of the feedbacks so you can see why it has been so popular.






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Diphthongs - OY: Morning Messages FREEBIE & Toys R Us

Morning messages are lessons that I have seen worked its magic - for all academic levels of students. Yet, many times I either wrote a quick message at the last minute or I skipped it altogether. It seemed like there were more pressing things I needed to do. I knew that morning messages are a spiral review that strengthen my students' skills who are below and on grade level. It is also easy to extend the message to enrich my strong students. What is a busy teacher to do?

It wasn't until I planning for my maternity leave that I stumbled across a perfect morning message system for me. I wrote about the system with this post, which includes freebies.
I made a new Morning Message free packet that you can check out to see if you like this system as much as I do. The theme for my new packet is: Dipthong - OY.


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Motivation, Risk Taking, & Achievement


Do you reflect on your lessons?  You can jot notes in the margins, add a post-it, keep a journal, or find your own system.  Reflecting will save you time when you plan next year and will improve the quality of your lessons.

From time-to-time, I will have an "ah-ha" moment.  You know those times when you think, why didn't someone clue me into this teachery tidbit months or years ago?

When I began teaching, I ---- for lack of a better word --- seemed to work under the "mud philosophy".  You know, when you "throw mud on a wall and see how much is going to stick" philosophy.  I took this approach when introducing important skills like letter sounds or sight words.  My poor students were overwhelmed which resulted in less-than-stellar academic results from the "mud philosophy". It wasn't that my students weren't capable of learning letter sounds or sight words.  This was not the right approach.

Then I tried a more structured approach with small "bite size" goals.  Students who did not know letter sounds began a program called Popcorn Sounds.  Their weekly goal was to learn 3 letters sounds per week.  Of course, they were welcome to learn more, but the minimum was 3 per week.  Students who knew all of the letter sounds began the Bubble Gum Word Program (sight words).  Their weekly goal was 3 words.  They were welcome to learn more, but 3 was the minimum goal.

Over time what I noticed was my students' confidence was soaring as they met their weekly goals. The more confident they became, the more risks they began to take when they came to an unknown word or other new skill.  They were more motivated and engaged.  They no longer just gave up.  They began using strategies which made my teacher's heart pitter-pat!

I wish someone would have told me about bite size goals sooner.  Is there something that you wished someone would have told you sooner?



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Mixed Ability Class


If you asked a teacher to name the top five stresses of his or her job, not able to meet the needs of all of the students is sure to make the list.  No matter how much time and effort is spent making the class lists, there is never a perfectly balanced class.  Whether it is the late enrollee, moving students from one class to another because of personality conflicts . . . .  a wide variety of skills is something that teachers face each year.  What is a busy, stressed-out teacher to do?

I have seen morning messages work magic with my students when I used them consistently.  The spiral review builds confidence with young readers.  The only problem with this for me was, I often was busy and either wrote a half-hearted morning message or skipped it.  I knew the value of them, yet I wasn't making it a priority.  It took quite a bit of time to write a quality message.

When I was making my maternity leave plans, I knew I wanted my students to be in a routine each day.  I wanted morning message to be a part of their day but I didn't want to make my long term sub responsible for writing them.  I came up with a new system that made it easier for me to write my messages, while still getting the same results academically with my students.  You can read my post 

If you have a wide range of abilities in your class this year, you can set it up as as writing center.


Put the levels of morning messages that you need in different colored folders.  In the picture above are levels Kindergarten - 3rd grade.  Each morning message packet includes an answer key so students can check their answers.  I put the answer key in a page protector along with a sheet of paper that is the same color as the folder.

I just added a December Mega Bundle: Kindergarten - 3rd grade.  This would be good bundle for special education teachers.  The bundle is sold at a 25% discount.  Some of these messages could also be used in other winter months.


Kindergarten - 3rd Grade

Do you only need a couple of grades levels or other months? If so, you can find links here.








   about my system.





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Work Habits Tip & Crayon Giveaway

Are work habits an issue with your class right now? It seems like this happens at certain times of the year. At times, it seems like everything is going as smooth as you can expect for the grade that you teach. Then cabin fever strikes or a cold virus hits your class and everyone is grumpy. When this happens, you find assignments that are turned in are incomplete, messy handwriting, careless errors, or not turned in at all!
I keep fun supplies like the ones in the picture to use when my students catch the work doldrums I will walk around my classroom looking for an individual or a team that is working quietly or someone with top quality work. I will show the class the student's assignment so they have an example of what I am looking for or point out how this student or team is working quietly and efficiently.

Then I will tell the class that this team or student gets to use my special supplies for the next 10-15 minutes. Set a timer. I tell my class that I will be watching for more examples of good work habits: working quietly, efficiently, high quality work, neat handwriting, etc. When the buzzer rings, I will choose a new team or student to use the special supplies.
I have found it helps to have several special supply boxes. Fill each box with different supplies to keep your students motivated. Variety is key!
Show your students how to outline by markers and color the inside of the picture with crayons. You can introduce it with the FREE color by code like the one in the picture. Color by code is a good activity when you are testing your students and need your class quiet and engaged. This is the perfect time to bring out the special supplies.
My friend Fern and I are having a special Crayon Goodie Box giveaway. Two lucky teachers will receive a box in the mail of special crayons that would be perfect if you want to try the "special supplies" tip that I shared.

Fern has a Color by Code freebies on her post about this giveaway so be sure to visit her blog, too.


The 2 winners will also receive the Color by Code & Task Card packets below. Each file below includes 24 task cards and 2 Color by Code worksheets.
Native American Facts: Task Cards & Color by Code
Plural Nouns - Regular & Irregular

Christmas: Task Cards & Color by Code
Figurative Language * Adjectives * Adverbs

a Rafflecopter giveaway




Sources to make my blog post graphics can be found HERE. Click HERE to read my blog's disclosure statement.
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