Have you all heard that Read Across America has rebranded? There will always be a special place in my heart for Dr. Seuss books. I grew up with his books and used them to teach rhyming words to students for 20 years. The staff would dress up like Thing 1 and Thing 2, The Cat in the Hat and we even had the Lorax one year. His books make it easy to have fun while learning like eating green eggs and ham and growing truffula trees. I even created lots of resources for teachers to use during the Dr. Seuss week. (Resources to use with Seuss HERE) But, “things” change. So when I heard they are changing to celebrate by encouraging a nation of diverse readers with resources that represent lots of experiences and cultures for students, I thought how can I have fun with this new direction?
THIS IS THE MOMENT I HAD BIRTHED AN IDEA!
Have you ever heard of a “Book Tasting?” A book tasting is where students choose from books they might not normally read and skim or just read the first few pages of a book. Then they write a review in a “Book Tasting” menu. Teachers and librarians decorate the room to look like a restaurant by using table cloths, paper plates (or real, if you dare), books on silver platters and really get the kids to feel excited about the books they are about to get a “taste” of during the activity. You could have a medieval theme, Harry Potter, pizza themed, StarBOOKS Cafe… the possibilities are endless!
I also thought about how much I love creating escape rooms, so I decided to combine the two! Students watch a video (2 min.) to hook them by seeing a restaurant owner who needs their help with book tastings to earn money (Federal Funding) to open his doors. They do 4 book tastings to beat the clock. Completing the tastings will grant them keys or codes to a box that the owner left something special in for those who accept the challenge. Opening the box lets them escape the room to recess or to the library. This would be a great activity for Read Across America because you can use any books. What student doesn’t love to help someone and receive a reward? Check out he Book Tasting Escape Room to see what all the buzz is about this year!
Athletes from all over the world gather to compete in the Summer Olympic Games every four years. In 2016, they were held in Rio De Janeiro in Brazil. The 2020 Summer Olympic sports activities will be held in Tokyo, Japan. 2020 will mark fifty-six years after having organised the Olympic Games at the Japanese capital for the second time. This is an exciting topic to bring into your classroom with lots of opportunities to create classroom discussions about summer sports. As a result, families like to watch the games with their children, so your lessons and discussions can easily be reinforced at home.
Summer Sports Activities
The 2020 Olympic Agenda will use many existing competitions such as judo, equestrian events, gymnastics, archery, swimming, baseball, boxing, surfing, field hockey and volleyball just to name a few. There are 47 sports being represented. You can check them out on their web site. The Tokyo National Stadium will be revamped and replaced by a new area for the opening and closing Ceremonies. You can find a great video about Olympic Facts for Kids on YouTube. Why not have an entire unit on Summer Sports during this special time in history? Students can get some physical fitness, learn about the history of sports and have fun while incorporating all subject areas.
Summer Olympic Activities to do with Kids
Teaching young students about history can be difficult. However, it’s not that hard. Here are some summer Olympic IDEAS:
Compare and Contrast Summer and Winter Olympics
Make Shadow Puppets for Students to Guess the Activity
Write About Being a Sponsor
Write to Persuading Parents to Attend The Games
Create a Torch and Discuss the History of the Flame
Love using Interactive notebook in your classroom? I do too! There are some great printables to support teaching about Summer Sports. Don’t just cover the sports, but add the rich history of the Summer Olympic Sports. These lessons can lead to easily fitting in adjectives during activities. Let students describe the sports. Lead students to writing activities about various summer sports by keeping data in a daily journal with your students.
Have fun sharing the Summer Olympics with your class! It is an exciting sporting even that doesn’t happen often. Summer Olympic sports activities will provide a lot of great experiences for your kids!
Sight words are words that appear frequently in reading and writing. Most of the words are learned by sight and cannot be easily sounded out. When students automatically know these words, they can focus on more difficult words that can be decoded. The more students see the words and use the words in activities, the more successful they will feel and be at reading. The words begin simple and get more difficult the older students get or as their knowledge advances. Provide students with both home and school activities to get the words to create automaticity. These engaging activities will help students recognize the words, improve reading skills and show students how much fun they can have while learning to read.
This one is easy, helps clean desks and the students LOVE it! Add some shaving cream to a table for students to spread around. Call out sight words or have students pull sight words out of a bag to have students write the words in the shaving cream. You can do this in small reading groups as well.
When parents ask what they can do at home, consider having them add pudding to a sheet pan. The parent calls the words out. The child will write the words in the pudding. If they get it correct, they get to lick their finger! YUM!
If you have a word wall that is low enough for students to reach, this is a great game for your students. Word walls are a MUST in elementary classrooms because there are so many great activities a teacher can do with words. Create two teams. Each team gets a fly swatter. Call the word out and the “swatters” have to go swat the word on the word wall. The team who swatted the correct word first, gets a point. Play to 10 or 20 points.
Sight Word Necklace
My students loved to have sight word necklaces. Basically they would have a ball chain necklace that could open easily. Once they knew a sight word, they would add the word to their necklace to share with their family at home that weekend. Students would use the necklace during writing activities too. Have them use the necklace to find their words in books during center time or small reading group time.
Have students work pull sight words out of a box. They would write the word. Then, they would paint the word next to the word they wrote on paper. They could use watercolors. You can even use chalk instead of paint. Want to have students think a little deeper about patterns? Tell them they have to do every other letter a different color to create an AB pattern. Grab the FREE Sight Word Download Here.
Find some letter stamps for students to work on spelling sight words using the stamps. This will help with fine motor as well as spelling. Provide some different color stamp pads for students to use during this activity to keep it interesting.
This is a great way for students to build some comprehension while working with sight words. Students will first write the word. Next, they will have to use it in a sentence. This way you can check to see if they understand what they are reading or see if they make need to be taught the meaning of the words.
Print out the sight words you want students to learn for the week. Scatter them on the floor. Another student calls out a word while their partner STOMPS on it. This is a great activities to do at home or in small groups. Need more activities? Click HERE
Hopefully these activities will give you some ideas when planning for future lessons using sight words. I can’t wait to hear about your favorite activities for teaching high frequency words in your classroom!
The holidays are a really busy time for everyone, but ESPECIALLY teachers! This is why I teamed up with some great TpT authors to give you FREE TEACHING CHRISTMAS Resources at you fingertips! Click the photo of what you want to download from TpT! Don’t forget to let the author know how much you appreciate their hard work in your feedback or blog comments so we are encouraged to keep the freebies flowing! Have a great holiday season!
One of many fantastic topics to teach in kindergarten is the alphabet! Students are like sponges in the classroom ready to absorb anything you put a song to when it comes to letters. As a kindergarten teacher, I was always looking for the most engaging ways to energize my students, so they would quickly learn their letters.
Letter Identification Activities
Sometimes I couldn’t find what I needed, so I would design it myself. I wanted students to have a lot of practice with each letter. In centers, it is not enough for students to write a letter. I wanted to help create a hands-on experience. So, we would use play doh to form letters, trace them on each other’s backs, and use rice or pudding in a pan to form a letter with our fingers. The class’ favorite way to learn about letter identification was to solve mysteries. It could be escape rooms, puzzles, or problems to solve as a classroom to find missing letters from the word wall. Anything that seemed “secret” was a hit!
Every morning my students would get a morning work tub with different activities. This would provide extra reinforcement with the letter for the week. They could choose a hands-on activity or their Morning Work Journal. Students played games, looked around the room for the hidden letters, and had to find all the letters for the week that were in a large pile mixed with other letters. They loved morning work!
The Next Step
Once students grasp letter identification, it’s time to work on the letter sounds. This is much more difficult than letter identification, but so rewarding!
Teachers are resigning from teaching in droves! I’m ONE of them. I loved teaching in the classroom. Being in the classroom for 20 years is one of my greatest life treasures. Now, like many teachers, I resigned and work full time out of the classroom, leaving my tenure behind. My field is still in education, but I’m out of the classroom.
WHY ARE THEY LEAVING?
While I can never talk on behalf of all teachers, I can share why I left the classroom. After meeting lots of other teachers who left the classroom, I found that we all had similar stories. The student behaviors are getting worse. You would think that would be the reason we left, but it is not. Helping troubled students was part of our vision. There’s an amount of pride in being able to help a student through their grief, anger, or loss. The reward it high. Some students we never think we reach, but years later, we receive letters of appreciation from them for our hard work.
So why? It is not about the behaviors, it’s about the lack of support from the administration and the district. There are many administrators who don’t have the best interest of the children in mind. Some have used a behavior situation to encourage a teacher to leave who they might not like, or they see that one teacher is talented with behavior problems and overload them with too many. The district doesn’t provide proper training for teachers to deal with severe problems. School counselors are busy doing lunch duty, testing or some other activity that has nothing to do with their job description. With many evaluations today, the teacher gets written up for not being able to handle behavior problems. How is writing a teacher up helping them learn how to handle a future behavior problem?
The lack of support is a helpless feeling for a teacher. Many teachers have had nervous breakdowns from being physically abused from the students and emotionally abused by their district who provide not support to the teacher. When you have to weigh teaching in a classroom with your own personal health, there is really only one option.
Yes, this can be prevented to where we can retain our most experienced and qualified teachers. Teachers need to gain the respect of being the professional in the classroom. They need to be taken seriously when they inform administration about behaviors. There should be a plan in place that EMPOWERS the teacher. The plan needs to provide the teacher with the knowledge of how to handle problems, insurance that they are not alone while dealing with severe behaviors, and real training prior to getting in the classroom that is on-going. Our students are in crisis! Our dedicated teachers are leaving! It’s time to fix the problem.
I am so thankful for everything that is part of my life right now including you! My life is drastically different than it was a couple years ago! I’ve never talked about it openly because I was fearful, insecure, and riddled with anxiety.
A couple years ago, it was my 20th year of teaching. My son was in 5th grade at our school. For me, it was a year of H-E (double hockey sticks!) For the first time in my career, I had a principal who hated me. Still not sure why. Not only did she hate me, but she got the rest of the staff, who I considered my family for 18 years, to pretty much dislike and/or avoid me too. I was threatened with my evaluation, lied to, challenged with impossible tasks, given 5 MAJOR behavior problem students who physically hurt me and the other children regularly, and faced life-threatening health problems because of the stress. Prior to the last year, I had been a well-liked and highly effective teacher who loved her career path.
Without going into a lot of detail, I suffered from depression, high blood pressure, and anxiety/panic attacks. For the first time, I had been broken. My mind, my spirit, and my body were broken! I consider myself lucky that prior to that difficult year, I had never been on any kind of prescription drugs. But I knew after waking up in fetal position next to my husband, crying that I didn’t want to go to school, and losing 16 lbs. in one week due to stress, that I had to give in to what my Dr. suggested… A good therapist and drugs. I was on anti-depressants, blood pressure medicine, cholesterol medication, and XANAX! So basically, I was drugging myself to go to work. I even developed an eye twitch. If I wasn’t at work, I was fine, but the thought of going every morning would begin a cycle that was dangerous to my health. I fought it because I wanted to stay in the classroom. I loved the students and figured I could transfer the next school year. It was important to me to be there for my own son who was in 5th grade. But, even on the medication, I continued to be harassed.
After getting beat with a chair again, punched in the stomach, calling the front office for help, and realizing no one was coming to help me, I knew I had to leave the classroom. Seeing the scared faces and hearing the ear-piercing screams of the other kindergarten students as they watched their teacher get hit repeatedly, shook me to the core. I knew the only reason they were in this situation was because the principal didn’t like me. So, I had to remove myself. Now, if you question, why didn’t you report it? Why didn’t you collect data on the principal? etc.… Let me tell you, I did. On doctors orders, I left two months before the school year was over. I still had to pick up my son at school, so Xanax to the rescue. I dealt with a staff who wanted to know what was wrong with me, and because I wasn’t ready to tell them, they made up their own inaccurate stories of why I left my dream career.
My husband planned several mini vacations because I was told to relax. I know he was thinking this was the end of the wife he knew when we married. These getaways were frowned upon by staff (according to the county investigator’s report) because I was on sick leave. Little did everyone know the pain I was suffered from because WHY would I post that on Facebook? In hindsight, I should have never posted pictures of me relaxing on social media. But, in my defense, at the time I was on medication. Maybe it was also the need to let people know that I wasn’t completely broken too.
The LAST STRAW
It wasn’t until my son’s 5th grade graduation where his Certificate of Completion was conveniently removed from the pile that I pushed for a harassment investigation with the school board. Seeing her smirking face as my son sat alone in a row as his friends got their certificate knowing she was behind it as my son signaled to us that he was okay was a total mind-blowing experience. I had to beg my husband to leave before he made a scene as anger filled his “un-Xanaxed” body. Other parents were stunned, taking video and making noises to get staff’s attention that a student was forgotten. I had to stand up to tell them they forgot my son. Anyway, an investigation was done which amounted to nothing even though 9 other teachers came forward with their painful stories of harassment they endured from the principal.
The New Chapter
After that experience, even though I was offered other jobs, I decided I could not go back to teaching in this district. I took me about 6 months to wane by body off all the medication that was mandatory for my survival. Crazy how stress can mess up your entire body! I tell you this story for two reasons. One is if you are experiencing anything like this, you can know that you can come out of it stronger than you were prior to the experience. That you can find confidence, security, and begin a new beautiful chapter to your life. I found a love and passion for making educational resources that I didn’t know existed. Through this experience, I developed strategies to build my confidence back up and to become healthy again. Keep up with this blog in the future, and I will share some of the strategies that helped me. I would have never left the classroom to discover this passion without that crazy experience. The second reason is I want you to know that YOU are part of my new chapter. I love making teaching resources and helping teachers like you save time and money. This is one reason why I offer freebies and discounts regularly. Thank you for being there for me and for your students! My heart will always be in education. I value you!
I don’t know if you like or LOVE themed days in your classroom, but I LIVED for them! Themes get kids excited, which can be exhausting, BUT they get them engaged. Don’t get upset when your kids are loud and jumping with excitement. When they are excited to learn, especially when they are having so much fun they don’t even know your academic objectives, is when you can pat yourself on the back knowing you are Teacher OF THE YEAR! My favorite theme that I used most of my career was The Polar Express. The story is perfect for squashing any “non-Santa believers” verbal language with other students who want the magic still. I’ve also used a Winter Frozen theme and a Movie Theater themed day.
The Polar Express
I’ll walk you through my typical Polar Express Day. Parents are asked to send in hot chocolate, marshmallows, and dress the kiddos in their school appropriate PJs. (Make sure you get your principal’s permission first.) In the morning, students arrive to a chalk or taped train track on the floor leading to my classroom door. At the door, they are greeted by a crazy conductor (ME), who wants to collect money or items in exchange for a golden ticket. This is really fun! It is also the time I tell parents to come and take photos. I joke around telling kids to get some money from their parents, and then settle for a shoe or pencil in exchange for a ticket.
Polar Express Ideas
When the students enter the room, they hear train sounds, see the chairs in rows (like a train), smell hot chocolate in the air, and are instructed to stay on in their train seats with their
golden ticket. After they settle, we review rules for the day. I take out a hole punch to ask for each person’s golden ticket. I pretend to punch holes in the ticket by excitedly putting the tickets under my leg, over my head or behind my back making the clicking sound. You can either collect the tickets and reuse them every year, or allow them to take them home for a keepsake.
Make a Text Connection
We read the book first. I tell them that the movie came out after the book. Students are encouraged to find differences when they watch the movie. We talk about characters, settings, problem and solutions. Next we discuss the author’s purpose. During the week they do various writing activities, but the main themed day is about keeping the excitement all day, so focus on the fun. I tell students they are going on the imagination express to take their seats on the train. After beginning the movie, I have a little cart that I keep the hot cocoa on that has wheels. When the part of the movie comes on where the kids get cocoa, I roll out the cart, I DANCE, yes, DANCE around like crazy. Before I got to old, I did cartwheels! This is always the part of the day that the kids go home telling their parents about. I have a hot cocoa maker that I use every year that makes a whole pot of cocoa. I make it really strong and mix it with water so it is not too hot. You can also just buy chocolate milk by the gallon and keep it heated in a crock pot.
After The Movie
After the kids watch the movie, we do a Venn Diagram to compare the book and the movie. I hold a bell up and ring it. I pretend like I can’t hear it, because I must be too old or not a believer. (Sniff Sniff) The rest of the day we make crafts, sing holiday songs, and usually write a letter to Santa. This way I can send the letters home to help the parents out with some gift ideas. If you are looking for a fun themes holiday day, The Polar Express just may be your ticket!
If you struggle with figuring out how to teach science to young students when you have little time in the classroom, I have some strategies to help you achieve a positive learning experience for your students. I know for me, finding time to squeeze in science and social studies in my jam-packed plans was a struggle. The first thing I do to alleviate the stress is to integrate my reading, writing or math into a science lesson. By utilizing the other subjects during science lessons, it is a real time-saver.
If having students being engaged in your lessons is a problem, integrating science into a boring math lesson can help to produce 100% engagement with the students. For example, if you are teaching addition in math and matter in science. Why not have students collect types of matter, write about the properties of matter and then create addition problems with the matter they collected. Which brings me to the most important way to teach science. Kids need to have their hands actually on physical items in order to help retain information, especially after a long morning of learning. Encourage students to set up experiments or participate in science discussions to help boost their confidence and critical thinking skills.
Providing a Science Data Notebook helps student develop writing skills while exploring science concepts. Encourage them to collect information and drawings about their observations. Have students record steps they need to take to create a science experiment. Have them think of a burning question they want answered. Then, develop a safe plan to test something in order to answer the question. You can pick one out of all of them to actually do with the whole group. This will help them understand the scientific method.
I like to always refer to my students as scientists during science class. I want them to know that everyone can be a scientist. On Fridays, I would have Science Investigation Stations. Students could wear their father’s white button up shirt, and goggles to feel more like a scientist. Then, they get to explore at different stations. I incorporate reading and writing in the lessons to ensure I’m hitting all my academic targets. Each station has posters with vocabulary words that go with the unit we are focusing on that week. Learning science vocabulary is essential for helping students to think and communicate in future science lessons.
Make It FUN!
Most importantly, be excited for science. Students feed off of your energy. Making learning fun is simple when you use science lessons!
Here is a FREE Energy Sample for Kindergarten and 1st Grade, if you are looking for some ideas.
I love teaching in November! I know that I have so much to be thankful for this time of year! Young students should learn about Thanksgiving by focusing on being thankful, spending time with family, the First Thanksgiving, and the Mayflower Voyage. You can even teach about teamwork of how the pilgrims had to work together to build a common house. Every year I would perform a Thankful Festival for parents. The performance focuses on being thankful, family and the feast. I use music by Jack Hartmann. He is my favorite children’s musical artist! We invite the families in to see us sing songs, and eat together. Sometimes we do traditional food, but I’ve done breakfast instead, if the timing of the show was early in the morning.
I use this time of year as an opportunity to talk about family traditions, sharing, cooking together, and teaching where food comes from. Of course there is always the traditional turkey hand print that goes home every year and other turkey crafts. I like to invite guest readers during this time too. The holidays can make students a little excited, so a fresh new voice reading a book usually is just what the Dr. ordered to keep their attention.
Turkey in Disguise Family Project
By far my favorite home project all year is Operation Disguise Turkey! We send a letter home with a turkey printable for the family to help disguise the turkey so it is not on the table for Thanksgiving. Students also have to write a few sentences about the disguise. The families are always creative! My son made his into a dog. My daughter made hers into a vampire. Yes, a vampire. I guess she still had Halloween on her mind. The projects make a great conversational piece during the celebration with the family.
Great Turkey Stories
I have two favorite turkey stories I read during Thanksgiving. Turkey Trouble and A Plump and Perky Turkey. Students compare and contrast food, write about how to trick a turkey, summarize, practice comprehension, and learn new vocabulary words with these stories. If you have not read these adorable books, I suggest you buy the books or find it at your local library. They are my “Must Haves” for November.