June 16, 2016

The PERFECT Activities to Leave for Substitutes


There is no doubt that it can be difficult to leave content-focused, engaging activities for your students when you will be out. You wonder if the topics will be taught effectively or if you will have to reteach when you get back. You wonder if the students will be on task without you being there to redirect them. Regardless of the reason, when we are out we need content-rich, meaningful activities/lessons for our students so that we don’t lose precious time. We all know time is limited and we need to use it wisely.
I’m also going to guess that you are like me and we usually need to pull something together quickly.
When I need focused, engaging, purposeful activities, I pull out science and social studies scavenger hunts, review BINGO, and “I Have, Who Has?” games.

Easy prep. Full of content. Completely fun and engaging for students. Win-win-win. They even go seamlessly together if you want to combine them.



Using these activities has given me confidence that my students are still learning the content they need to know while I’m away and they are super easy to prep. Side note: The holiday activities are PERFECT for parties!
Check out some of the most popular ones!





And so many more!!!
Check out Animal Groups Bingo FREE!


Clipart by Ron Leishman
Cover Photo by Z is for Zebra

June 14, 2016

5 Perks When Your Children Attend Your Elementary School

Let’s be honest. Many of us became teachers partially because it is a career that allows us some perks with our own offspring. We love teaching "other people's kids," but our own children are our world. I don’t even care when people give me grief for having holidays and summers off because, DUH!... I knew what I was doing when I chose this career! I fully intended on having summers off with my kids and soaking up as much fun as possible with them. My internal (and sometimes external) response to the negative comments is, “Don’t be mad because you didn’t think of it too!” J
I can’t wait until my kids actually attend the school in which I teach 5th grade. My oldest is almost there! Many of my teacher friends are greatly enjoying watching their kids progress through the elementary years under their personal supervision. Of course there are also some downsides to having your kids at work, but I’ll just focus on the positives for today.
Perk #1: Coverage
Depending on your team (mine is incredible), you can cover for each other when something comes up. When your child has a special presentation, they want you to come to their Valentine’s Day party, or they are having a meltdown because they lost their favorite pencil… okay maybe not so much the last one.

Perk #2: Their Teachers
You have a “behind-the-scenes” look at your children’s future teachers AND you can usually pick them. We know our kids’ best and worst attributes, and we can generally tell which teacher is going to suit them best.
Perk #3: Forgetfulness
Our children will forget things. Important things. Like the field trip form they forgot to give you and it is due TODAY. No biggie… you can save the day without having to get permission to leave work and haul across town to get to your kid’s school with the slip in hand.

Perk #4: Being a Chaperone
You know your kid’s teacher will let you have your pick of the best trip of the year….

Perk #5: What’s my kid eating?
Walk through the cafeteria at any given time and you’ll see it. Kids go through the lunch line, get a hot dog, chips, and ice cream. Their parents have no idea that’s what they are eating every day. Or, they come with a fabulous home lunch, eat 3 bites, and then throw the rest away. I’m TOTALLY going to find ways to spy on my kids eating lunch every now and then. Or at least ask the aides in the cafeteria if my kids are eating the food I give them!
Perhaps your kids are currently or have previously attended your school? Please comment and share some of the other perks you’ve experienced OR some downsides!

Clipart by Ron Leishman
Cover Photo by Z is for Zebra

June 4, 2016

The GREATEST Website for Highly Engaging Current Event Articles (IMO)

Many teachers have an interest in getting their students to read and respond to current event articles. I think that’s why Studies Weekly magazines are so popular. But what if you could engage your students by letting them choose topics of their own interests, while still accomplishing the goals of getting them to read carefully and respond appropriately?

When I created science and social studies templates for current event articles, I needed a great kid-friendly source with articles that would peak their interest. I wanted my students to be able to choose articles that they were excited to read and write about.


A website called, DOGO News, was just what I was looking for. The website continuously produces high interest articles that even I find fascinating. The best part is that it is geared toward kids, so you don’t have to worry about the content. Please know that I discovered this website on my own and have not been asked to promote them. I just genuinely think it rocks and so do my students.

Seriously though, go to DOGO News and briefly scan the articles. I can just about guarantee you will be excited to share this with your students.

June 3, 2016

Start your test prep ASAP!

Testing overload. No doubt about it. Between district testing for some, in addition to state testing, it feels difficult to justify giving our poor students a chapter test too… and it just doesn’t seem to be getting any better. Perhaps some aren’t feeling the stress, but most teachers and students I know are just flat burnt out on testing. Teaching 5th grade for 6 years has given me a heavy dose of this reality.

As if the number of tests aren't enough, math and science questions are usually embedded in a sea of reading. If a child struggles to read and understand what the question is asking, how can they solve the math problem buried in it? It is so important to help students learn to problem solve and think critically, with or without high-stakes testing. I start helping my students prepare from about the third week of school. You may be thinking that is overkill and too early… but not when done properly. If anything, it has helped my students to become confident test takers with far less stress. We work on specific routines that don’t actually feel much like test prep, and we practice all year long. I feel that it is about helping students to form good habits long term, not slamming strategies in shortly before, which can add to the stress of the test. 

I would like to share with you how I help my students prepare all year, with low anxiety and great success. The guided toolkit I will refer to is a collection of strategies and procedures that I have put together to increase my students’ success in problem solving multiple choice word problems. They may seem like common sense, and they probably are! However, I believe that many teachers are looking for help in implementing test-taking strategies at a variety of grade levels. 

***So how do I do it? Through a Question of the Day routine with specific critical-thinking, problem solving strategies. Oh, and you will see that this becomes STUDENT-LED, so the focus is on keeping students on track while letting them do the thinking!***

Imagine this: one of your students is standing at the front of the room with the projector displaying the Question of the Day. The students have already worked the problem out on their own paper. Today’s student leader is calling on students and leading the class through each strategy while discussing the “how” and “why” for each decision they make. You have a backseat role as you observe how awesome your students really are as they work together to problem-solve. Occasionally you throw in the assist and do what a teacher does best, but overall, they are running the show. I LOVE watching my students get better at this all throughout the year and they LOVE when it is their turn to be the “teacher.”

* First, I introduce students to the critical thinking, problem-solving strategies that students can rely on and use all year long. Click here to get my test-taking strategies posters FREE!!! I have created a gradual release PowerPoint presentation to guide both teacher and students through this process (YOU learn along with your kiddos!) 


* Students receive a strategies guide card (laminate them to use over and over with an Expo marker!) they use to mark off each strategy as they work through their Question of the Day problem. Eventually they won’t need this anymore, but they like to be able to follow step-by-step at the beginning. 

* Use the first two weeks of questions in my toolkit (or any questions you find beneficial) and work through one each day using the student guide card. You lead for the first day or two, and then gradually let students begin to take over. The two-week set (10 days) of questions are focused on “Making Inferences in Science.” The questions are based on my Making Inferences in Science Task Cards.

Of course, this is just a very brief overview of how it works, so check out the PREVIEW HERE to see more!

Please note, these strategies are intended for multiple-choice questions, but as I will mention later, can also be adapted to fit other types of questions as well. This resource is intended to be a GUIDE, not a perfect to-do list. It is NOT research-based. It is simply a resource I created to share what has worked for me in MY classroom with MUCH practice throughout the year. 
(I make no claims that you will see increased test scores by using this resource, but if you read feedback from teachers that have purchased my toolkit, you’ll see they love it!) 

The most important piece of advice is to start as soon as you can and PRACTICE every day if possible, or at least most days. This lends itself perfectly to morning work time. The idea is to develop habits so that come test time, students are ready to tackle the challenge and hopefully won’t feel nearly as anxious.  It takes a bit of the edge off for you too. J