Monday, August 31, 2015

Snowballs - Start of Year Fun!

Hi, it's Roisin from Little Learner Toolbox! Did I really say snowball fun in fall? Yes! Well, in your classroom at least. One great way to get students on their feet, mingling and meeting new friends, is to have some snowball fun in your classroom. I love snowball fights, or general snowball fun in the classroom. There is something about writing down your thoughts and then throwing your ideas around the classroom (quite literally), that students just love! It is perfect as an icebreaker and a way to get students mingling and sharing ideas at the start of the year (Snowball fights are also a great tool for reflection throughout the year).  

What to do:
The general idea for snowball fun or a snowball fight is pretty simple. You provide your students with  blank pieces of paper and pencils.  Students then write down answers to questions or prompts that you ask them, on pieces of paper. They scrunch up the paper into a small ‘snowball’. When everyone is ready they throw their snowball across the classroom.  Students then reach down and pick up a snowball that had landed near them. They throw that snowball. They repeat this several times, until the snowballs are well and truly mixed up, and your students are laughing and generally having a good time. When you feel your class are ready, ask your students to pick up a snowball near to them and look at it. 

Questions or prompts you could ask at the start of the year include:
1. Write 3 fun facts about yourself
2.. One thing people might not know about you is….
3. One thing you are looking forward to this year is…..
4. One thing that helps you to learn is when……
5. One burning question you would like to ask about this year is…..

One fun thing to do, when you ask students to share fun facts about themselves, or something people might not know about them, is to have students find the author of the snowball, and then introduce them to the class. You may or may not ask your students to write their name on their snowball before they throw it. The snowballs could be signed (making it easy to find them), or the snowballs could be unsigned, and then students have to hunt for the original author before they can introduce them.  

Snowball fun in the classroom can also be used as an opportunity for students to share their questions or thoughts about the  start of the new year anonymously. This can be a nice way to begin establishing a culture where students feel that their opinions and questions are valued. 

Have a wonderful start of the year with your classes! If you are looking for more start of the year activities you might like:

Saturday, August 29, 2015
I just love teaching about Fall - apples, pumpkins, scarecrows and more!  And my firsties love it too!  I created this fun pack - little ones love to write when there is a project involved.  So here they create themselves and then write about their favorite apple.  There are different writing prompts so you can use the prompt best suited for your students needs.  Click here (or on the picture) to get this pack!

Also I love to use some printables for various purposes - morning work, homework, small groups, centers, reteach or enrichment....the list is endless.  I created this fun pack with 25 Fall themed activities all Common Core aligned!  Click here for the pack!
Happy Teaching!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

How I Became a More Positive Teacher

Hey everyone! I'm Amy from Cahill's Creations. 
I'm here to share my insights on being a more positive teacher.
*This is also one of my goals this year as a mom, wife, and friend too.*

Okay, so, my teacher partner and I decided that we would be sending more positive notes home this year.  We still do the Clip Chart system, despite all the talk about it not being a good tool to use for behavior management.  I actually really like this system.  I focus mostly on the positive behaviors in the classroom and those kids get to clip up.  It's very visual and the kids are motivated by the immediate attention they get from me when they get to clip up.  When kids are SUPER good then they're "Off the Charts" and they get to clip on my lanyard.  The whole class goes crazy when someone clips off the charts.
When I have an extreme behavior in my class, I do not use the clip chart.  It just doesn't work for them.  I've done different things in the past, depending on the student.  Here's an example of one that worked for a challenging student.  I turned it into a positive.

I decided that I was done spending all of my energy on the negative behaviors.  The kids who were always on task, following directions, and respectful were not getting any of my attention.  That was when I decided to change my behaviors.  I began clipping them off the chart like crazy!  And as a result, I was feeling better and I was seeing happier faces in my classroom.

So, my goal for the new school year is to send 3-5 positive notes home a day.  

You can find more communication notes here:
These work great for the upper grades:

How do you stay positive in your classroom?

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

How to Earn FREE Scholastic Books

Hey Ya'll! It's Marcy from Saddle Up For 2nd Grade

Saddle Up for 2nd Grade

As teachers we tend to have a fascination for children's books. We are always looking for a good deal. What if I told you that you could earn FREE Scholastic books by going grocery shopping? It's true!

When you are out grocery shopping look for marked Kellogg's products that have FREE BOOK  on them. 

Inside these boxes there is a 16 digit code. For every code you collect, you can earn a FREE book! How cool is that?!?

Here is what you need to do. Go to and create an account if you don't already have one. From there you can enter the 16 digit code found inside your Kellogg's product and start shopping from there! 

You can also use your codes to donate books to classrooms in need. I contacted some of my family and friends and had them send me their codes to use. I've been doing this the past few months and have gotten several great books for my classroom library. They are constantly getting new books so you can also save your codes to use for later. 

Now go check your pantry to see if you have a FREE book waiting for you! 

Monday, August 24, 2015

How to Use T Charts in Math Class

Are you ready for some more more strategies for integrating math and reading?  It's Greg from Mr Elementary Math, and I am back with more ideas about how to incorporate reading and writing during math instruction.

Read about how to use T-charts in math class. This is a great strategy for compare and contrast, main idea and detail and note taking.

T-Charts are not just for the reading block!  They can be used during math class to help students visually organize their thoughts and ideas.   T-Charts are graphic organizers that are made up of two or more columns. T-Charts are very versatile, making it one of the more popular graphic organizers.    They can be used to take notes, compare ideas and list main ideas and details.

Use this 2 column T-Chart to get students to take notes in your class.

Since there are many different ways to use T-Charts, I wanted to focus on note taking. According to research by Robert Marzano, note-taking is one of the 9 instructional strategies for effective teaching and learning. This skill helps students with comprehension. When students take notes, they are forced to put the materials in their own words.   

This graphic organizer can be used when teaching any topic in the classroom.  Here are some examples of how T-Charts can be used in math class.

View this example of how to use a 2 column T-Chart for taking notes using main idea and detail.
Use a 2 column T-Chart for taking notes using main idea and detail.
View this example of how to use a 3 column T-Chart to compare and contrast math concepts.
Use a 3 column T-Chart to compare and contrast math concepts.

Here is a simple lesson cycle that can be used when introducing T-Charts in your classroom. Click on the image to get a printable copy.  If you are a primary teacher I would recommend creating and filling out a T-Chart on oversized chart paper or on an interactive whiteboard. 

Print this simple lesson plan to use when you first introduce t charts during your math class.

There are many benefits to using T-Charts during instruction. Check out some of the benefits below:

- A great tool for collecting and organizing thoughts
- Provides a model for visual learners
- A powerful note taking strategy
- Integration of writing, reading and math (main idea and detail, compare and contrast)
- This strategy can be used across content areas
- This strategy is effective in all grade levels

Click Here to Download the Free T-Chart Template
If you like this blog post about using T Charts in the math classroom, check out my post about using concept maps HERE.  Find even more great math resources at Mr Elementary Math TpT.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Why I used to hate the first day of school...

Why I hate the first day of school and how I learned to enjoy it.

Personally I used to hate the first day of school. Other teachers loved it, I hated it. It was awkward, I didn't know my students, they didn't know was just icky. When I first started teaching I would go through my rules and procedures and watch as my students would fall asleep, get intimidated, or just look miserable. What they didn't know is that I was even more miserable. Ick. 

I had to figure out a way to make it more enjoyable. I was tired of being in tears, literally, at the end of every first day. So I decided to bag the rules and procedures. We could go through that stuff later. I wanted to have fun. I wanted my students to have fun and I wanted to set a creative atmosphere in my room without losing control.

Here are some activities that saved me from hating that first day.

5 Circles and 10 Lines Activity:

I hand out 10" x 10" squares of drawing paper, and show this powerpoint presentation to the students.

I tell them to turn their paper over and I say: 
"We are going to start this class with a creative exercise, because that is what art is all about. Creativity. This should be fun, so try not to stress too much about it, but carefully consider your options and try to come up with a fun or interesting solution to the following prompt. "

Stop there and let the students ask questions.
(I love to see which students will ask questions
and which will just dive in.)

I choose some designs that show examples of the
Elements of Art and show them under the
document camera. We discuss them as a class.
What makes them interesting?

Here is an example of one of my students designs.

This presentation is free on my store, 

Finish the Drawing Worksheets
I pass out these fun worksheets and get my
students doodling right out of the gate. I found
these by a new seller called iworksheets It looks
like they have a ton of fun stuff to choose from!

What is this frog going to catch?
 Draw what is happening to the cat

It looks like that same seller has some bigger workbooks that can be used throughout the year. Very cool printables and creativity boosters!

Doodle Activity

Think outside the line!
Your assignment is to draw a doodle incorporating the pre-existing line into your doodle. There is no right or wrong, good or bad, just have fun and allow yourself to be creative. Don’t look for the easy way out, make your brain explore all the possibilities! Any orientation whether vertical, horizontal, upside down or sideways is acceptable!

Here is that lesson if you want to grab it.

 Drawing Doodles

Truly these lessons helped me to turn the first day of school from a chore, to an enjoyable experience for both me and my students. I hope you find something that works well for you and your students. Have a wonderful year!

Sabrina Wingren
A Space to Create

Friday, August 21, 2015

Start the School Year with the 3 R's!

What do "The 3 R's" mean to you?

This school year I challenge you 
to look at this set of 3 R's!  
In doing some research for a school leadership project I have been searching for books, articles and videos that address...
Check out this video!

Relationships could be the single most important factor in helping students reach goals in academics and in life.  It's up to us to build positive relationships with students and it starts on day 1!  Take time to learn about students' lives, likes, and dislikes... and don't forget to share your own!

Relevance in curriculum is difficult!  At a time when standards seem to be in limbo and test scores are the predominant focus it is becoming increasingly difficult to bring relevance to the forefront of our teaching.  It is up to us to help students learn to engage and connect to learning.  Take time to communicate the why and not just the what when it comes to learning targets.

Rigor is more than just more difficult or deeper content.  It means setting high expectations for all students.  It's up to us to help students set goals and reach success.  Take time to let students know you believe in them and that they should believe in themselves!

I'm eager to get this school year off to a great start and implement these 3 R's for all students... 
and for myself!  
Have a great school year!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Teaching Letter Identification

This week is the first week of school. The students will spend the beginning few weeks getting to know each other, learning classroom and school procedures and rules, and engaging in activities with classroom materials while learning expectations and routines.

It’s a time for me to get to know the students.

I do some informal assessments during this time. Our first grade teachers begin formal assessments in a few weeks.

During this time, I prepare materials for guided reading assessments and guided reading groups.

Our first grade teachers use The Next Step in GuidedReading Assessment kit. 

We also use Jan Richardson’s book, The Next Step in Guided Reading.

Most of our students enter first grade ready for traditional guided reading groups. But, I may get a few students each year that cannot identify most of the capital and lowercase letters.

Jan Richardson gives a procedure for helping those students learn the letters of the alphabet. She advises using it when students cannot identify at least 40 lower and uppercase letters of the alphabet.

Use letter cards or an alphabet book with alphabet letters and familiar beginning sound pictures. The student traces the lowercase and uppercase letters of the alphabet with his/her finger and says the name of each picture.

Have the child do this daily with a tutor or volunteer. The tutor helps the child when needed.

Jan Richardson has found this to be an easy and effective way to help students with letter identification.

I created a booklet for those students who need practice identifying the letters of the alphabet.

The pages can be cut and stapled together to make a booklet.

I added an alphabet letter card that can be laminated and used at a literacy center for reference. It can also be stapled inside a student's reading and/or writing folder.

You can preview and purchase it here. I hope you find it useful.