Reading Tips: Resources, tips, and more!

Where do you find your inspiration for teaching? One of my favorite places to get ideas is my local thrift store. I never know what I will see when visit it. Some things may be from 50 years ago but perfect for the classroom, today.

Here are a few of my latest finds from a trip to my local thrift store. As you can see the scribbage game is older than me. Yet can be repurposed for the classroom for word work. You are being an Earth friendly model for your students when you do this.
Thrift stores and used book stores are a good place to find cheap books. I have used old readers like these as take home books. I found that not only were my students excited about them, but it really motivated the parents because it brought back fond memories for them.
This is an open-ended activity that you can adapt a bunch of different ways. Glue letters and numbers on popsicle sticks or tongue depressors. You can use die cut letters/numbers, bulletin board letters/numbers - Dollar Tree has them, or fun glittery ones like ones in the picture. I found these at Hobby Lobby. You can use this activity as a sponge activity, wiggles break, inside recess, or any other time that works for you. Suggested idea:


Give students a piece of paper or have them write in their journal.
Each student will draw one letter out of the bucket.
Have student draw 2 lines on their paper to divide the page into 3 parts.
Students will walk around the room looking for words with the letter in either the beginning, middle, or end of the word.
Students will write the word in the correct section of their paper and circle the letter.
Option #2 : Look for words in a book instead of around the classroom.
Option #3: Listen to story or watch a movie. Each time students hear a word that begins with the letter, he/she will write it down.


Give students a piece of paper or have them write in their journal.
Each student will draw one number out of the bucket.
Students will walk around the room looking for words with the number of syllables as their number stick.
Option #2: Write as many words as you can in a given time period with the number that you drew from the bucket.
Option #3: Write your spelling words the number of times that you drew from the bucket.

Are you a fan of multiple intelligence? Syllables is an easy way to incorporate musical rhythmic intelligence. You can integrate this activity with your spelling words, science vocabulary, math vocabulary, or any other words that you are studying. Your students will love to shake or bang to each syllable. I found this drum at a thrift store. The bells are from Michael's.
Do you have limits on the amount of copies you can make? If so, I would recommend trying task cards. Students like them because they don't seem as much like a tradition worksheet. The task card is small so it isn't as overwhelming - especially for your students who have trouble focusing. If you have a large collection of them, students can work at their own pace. Plus, it is easy to differentiate.

The butterflies on the sticks are from Hobby Lobby. You can use these as an extension. Students can take the butterfly and walk around the room looking for compound words. They can write the words on the back of their task card recording sheet. There is something about having something in their hand that makes this extension more fun!

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Behavior Tips: Toys, Integrate, and Documentation

A well-run classroom is a beautiful thing! Teachers work very hard to get their students to the point where their students are working at their potential, both behaviorally and academically.

Documenting behavior or academic issues is often needed to help students reach their potential. This can be cumbersome when you already have too many things on your "to do list".

Documenting for me was taking too much of my time. I knew I needed to work smarter, not harder. I did not want to carry a clipboard with me all of the time or interrupt the flow of my lesson to jot down a tally mark or note.

I remember using a counter when I went to the grocery store. (see picture above) I could not find the same type of counter as I used at the grocery store.

I found one that knitters use (see first picture). It works the same way and is small enough to fit in your hand or pocket. I highly recommend it when you are documenting an issue like self-control. Quick, easy way to document how many times a student blurts in a given time period.

One of my favorite things to do is shop at thrift stores. Thrift stores are a great place to find inspiration! Your students will fondly remember this toy from their toddler years. This toy can be a wonderful visual cue and behavior tool.

Set one on each table to keep track of team points.
Use it as a voice monitor. Colored rings or different amounts of rings can signify different voice levels.
Keep it at your teacher's table. Suggestions:
All rings on the stack = do not interrupt
Four rings on the stack = you may ask a question if the teacher is not helping another student.

Behavior Tip: Integrate Work Work & Classroom Management

Integrate vocabulary, word work, spelling, or seasonal words with the Hangman game. You can use this a variety of ways:

The team that is organized first for a lesson gets to guess a letter.
Let a student who is working quietly guess a letter.
Show your class an example of an assignment that was outstanding. Let this student guess a letter.

You can give different rewards for the student or team that figures out what the word is. Suggestion:

Lunch in the classroom
Shoes off during work time
Extra computer time
Use gel pens for a word work assignment
Positive! Positive! Positive! It is a great way to motivate your students to do their best. One of my favorite reward systems is the B.U.G. system. This stands for Being Unusually Good. The easiest way I found to organize this is to assign each student a number. I made a bulletin board with numbers. Under each number was a pushpin. When students earned a bug, they hung their bug on the pushpin. This is an open-ended type of system. You can adapt it to fit your management style. At the beginning of the year, my students earned a reward when they earned 5 bugs. Each quarter, I increased the number of bugs needed to earn a prize. I gave bugs for a variety of things.

During small group lessons, I would say a sight word. My students wrote the words on a dry erase board that had the dotted lines. Each student who spelled the word correctly, used correct letter formation, lines, and space earned a bug.
Being the first student to clean up at dismissal time
Going above and beyond on a journal assignment

Get a free copy of this positive behavior system.

Do you have any tips to share?

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Student Behavior: Full Moon - teacher stress

Does the full moon affect students' behavior? Ask any teacher and you will get an earful of anecdotal stories. This once a month occurrence adds stress to teachers and administrators. Just look at the long line waiting to visit the principal on the next full moon.

We know the dates of the full moons so why not plan a moon-themed activity? You could do this with your team or make it a school wide event. Planning something fun on this day might make your day a little less stressful.

Dates for future full moons are:

9-16-16   10-16-16   11-14-16

I recently finished a Sunshine Committee packet that includes a freebie in the preview file. How about moonpies in the teachers lounge and playing songs with moon in the title at lunch? The freebie includes a list of songs.

School Climate 101 has luncheon signs, signups, staff recognizing staff system, and other resources for administrators, Sunshine Committees, or other school leaders.

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Women of History Inquiry Lesson

One of my favorite ways to start a new unit is by setting up an interest table. You can set up an interest table with some items like the ones in the picture above.  This is set up when students arrive in the morning.  There are always a few curious students who notice the interest table as soon as they walk in the classroom. 

I tell my class that they will find out later about the items during our social studies lesson.  In the meantime, I ask them to see if they can figure out how the items our related.  Usually they will look at the outer characteristics first.  Do they all have blue on them?  Are they all round?  Are they made of wood?

Later in the day, when I begin the lesson, I ask volunteers to share their conclusions of how these items are related.  Then I give them a clue.  CLUE:  All of these items are about people.

Put them in small groups and assign each group one of the items from the table.  Remind them to check the credibility of their sources if they are using the internet.  Did they look at several different sources?  Do all the sources give the same date?  If not, why do different sources use different dates?

After group research time is over, give your groups time to report their findings.  

One of the things I have found with my students when I use this is this interest carries over to home - - - without ANY ASSIGNED HOMEWORK.  How great is that?!!!    

Students ask if they can add to our interest table with other items about women in history.  Of course, I say yes because this is exactly my intention for setting it up in the first place.  When students bring in items throughout our unit, I let them have a little time to share their findings.  Students researching and continuing their learning at home, isn't that what we all want?

Sometimes because of things beyond you or your students control - students will not add to the interest table.  When that happens, you can take a more structured approach.  Organize a Historical Show 'n Tell with your class.  Take your class to the computer lab, set this up as a center, morning work, or assign this as homework.  There is a form that students can use to record their research about a women in history. They can either print a picture or draw a picture about their finding.  Let your students share their findings.  You can make this into a bulletin board so everyone can learn from each other's research.  Afterward, combine these into a class book.  I love to make enough class books from units we've studied so each students gets one to take home at the end of the year.  These are great keepsakes.

Social studies is one of those subjects that often gets put on the back burner when you have a hectic schedule.  This file has activities you can organize as group lessons like the first idea, computer lab lessons, or you can integrate it with your writing lessons.

There is a list of 45 accomplished women.  The list includes inventors which is a great way to integrate this with science, African American so you can integrate this with your Black History Month unit, and authors such as J. K. Rowling, E. L. Konigsburg, and Margaret Wise Brown - perfect way to enrich an author study.

Every class I have taught has included a few students that need a little extra support with organization.  A research project can be overwhelming to students with A.D.H.D. and / or students with limited organizational skills.  I have found a couple of things that help.

The circle pie organizer in the picture above is what I use with students the first time we do a project.    In the picture with the sign up list is a research wallet.  Students keep their notecards in the different pockets.  All students can benefit from using either one of these.  After we complete writing our biographies, I hang up their circle pie organizer or research wallet next to the paper.  These make great bulletin boards that are interactive.

Timelines are a good tool to use to strengthen sequence.  There are colorful signs like the ones hanging in the picture above.  There is a template of this sign so students can add to your class timeline.  When the unit is over, you can combine the students signs into a class book.

There is also an ink friendly rectangular signs that fit in pocket charts.  Students can make their own timeline of multiple events with a printable included.

These are lessons can be taught at any time of the year.  Or use these lessons to enrich:
  • March is National Women's History Month
  • Biography Unit
  • Black History Month
  • Inventors

I also have another file like this that is called Look Back in History.  It is a great way to enrich your 100th Day of School or Black History Month unit.  It can also be used at any time of the year.

Research: Look Back in History 100 Years Ago.

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FREE Writing Center - Hands On Fun!

Are you looking for new ideas for your writing center?

One of my favorite things to do is to repurpose things.  It is an Earth friendly example to show your students.  If you use objects that students have at home, you will find that students begin to do this same activity at home . . . . . for fun!  What a great way to extend their learning!

Repurpose coloring books in your writing center.  Students can cut pictures out, glue them on the writing page, and then write a story about the pictures.

How many times have you told your students to put away toys they brought from home?  I call them pocket toys because their pockets always seemed to be filled with little toys.  With this writing center, you can do the opposite.  Put small toys in a feely bag.  I used a cleaning mitt from the Dollar Tree.  Tell your students they will reach in the bag and take out X amount of objects.  You decide the amount of objects.  Students will write a story that incorporates all of the objects. 

You will motivate your students by tapping into their love of toys plus this center is hands-on fun!

If you want to add some seasonal fun, repurpose bath or pool toys in your writing center.  I bought these toys for less than a dollar at Wal-Mart.  You can set this up with your animal studies unit, habitat, or ocean unit.

Do you other ideas about repurposing or hands-on ideas?  

I made some writing papers that you can use in your centers.
Download FREE writing papers.

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Stress, Morale Booster

Stress! Stress! Stress! My least favorite time of the year is the time between winter break and spring break. Bad weather means inside recess, preparing for standardized tests, students who are catching every virus that is floating through the air, and teachers too . . . is it any wonder why everyone is feeling extra stress?

If this sounds familiar, why not do a little de-stressing?

To bring a little joy and stress-relief to your school, why not celebrate St. Patrick's Day with a Baked Potato Bar? This is one of the easiest luncheons to plan. You can do this with your grade level team or at the school level. Here's how to do it:

1. You can either collect money so one person can purchase the supplies or you can have a signup. When I was hospitality chairman I did a combination of this. Staff members could either pay $5 or sign up to provide a dessert. Everyone was happy this way! If you use a signup I highly recommend the site

2. For potatoes, I recommend the baked potatoes at Costco. They have 20 lbs. bags of potatoes for $6.99. Each bag has 28-30 potatoes and are fairly uniform in size which will help with the cooking time. Be sure to get the "baked" potatoes. They also carry other types of potatoes.
3. There are different ways to cook baked potatoes. It depends on your school and its resources. At one of my former schools, we had a great cafeteria manager who baked them for us. Here's a website that tells of different ways to cook potatoes: BAKING INSTRUCTIONS. If different grade levels eat at different times, you can put baked potatoes in a cooler to keep them warm.

Another fun stress relief is magical golden nuggets. These are like the stress balls you see at the store - only cheaper!
To make magical golden nuggets you will need:
Supplies needed: Lentils (16 oz. bag makes 8 pouches), funnel, a black pot to add a touch of St. Patrick's Day fun, and balloons. I've tried different brands of balloons. Some brands are thin and break easily. Spritz, sold at Target, is the brand I prefer.

1. Blow into your balloon to open it up. Sometimes the sides of the balloon are stuck together which makes it difficult to fill with lentils. Then attach the balloon to the funnel. I fill the balloon over a bowl to catch any stray lentils.
2. I fill the balloon, then try to get as much trapped air out of the balloon as possible before I tie the balloon.
3. Fill the black pot with the golden pouches and hang the sign near it.

Download the free sign here.

Do you have any fun stress buster ideas?

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