Wake Up Your Brain! (Without Worksheets)

How do you wake up your student's brains first thing in the morning? I have always found the morning routine a bit challenging. The students are sleepy, want to be at home, and we are expected to engage them right after the morning announcements. Now, don't misunderstand, the students should be engaged from the start of our day...but how?

As a teacher, I am juggling parent notes, field trip money that was mysteriously placed on my desk, the spilled milk from the late student that needed to eat breakfast in the classroom, the student who had a rough morning and needs that extra hug, and oh yeah...preparing for the day.

I began incorporating a morning routine that benefited me as well as my students (yes, it is okay to think about yourself!)

Wake Up Your Brain is a friend of the teacher as well as the students! How does it work? Well, it is so simple to implement...in fact, you can start tomorrow!

After downloading the Wake Up Your Brain document, display it on your smartboard, projector, or whatever you have available (they are all called something different!) lol.

You will see a clickable PDF...find a picture (or you can go in order) and click! The PDF will jump to that picture and the activity that will help "wake up" your student's brains!

Want to know a little secret? We don't even use paper. Nope. The students think, then write directly on their desks with dry erase markers. After they are done writing, they share with another person (next to or across from them.) 

Finally, we spend about 3 minutes sharing out in class (I promise this is their favorite part!) It is also my favorite part. The sharing builds such amazing classroom community. The students are really animated about their inferences, their plans, their questions, and how to solve the problems. In fact, now I have to limit our share time to just 3-5 minutes. I used to try to make it to everyone, but it just wasn't possible. I learn so much about their brains during this time though! 

The students really surprise me also. Some mornings I think, "hmmm...I am not sure what I would write on this one." The students are NEVER at a loss though. They use their imagination and problem-solving skills. Amazing! 

The students are sure to get a good laugh out of a some of the pictures too!

Side note, if you know me at all, I am terrified of Kermit...buuuut, it is all for the kids, right? 

Here are what a few other teachers have said about Wake Up Your Brain! 

-Such a simple concept, but SO engaging! We love these...please keep them coming! (Sarah D.)

-These are great. It won't even seem to the kids like they're learning. It's more like a game! Awesome! (Ashley L.)

-Love that this is paperless and gets the kids thinking and working together! (Linda P.)

-This is simple to use and the kids really enjoy it as a warm activity to the day! (Carmichael F.)

There will be a Wake Up Your Brain available for every month! To grab these, simply click the link below! There is also a free month included! 


Enrichment Corner

Enrichment Corner is designed to help your students get the most out of their time in your classroom. Many times students complete work and we may be working at the small group table, talking with a principal, or handling a situation with another student. 

Students are told to sit quietly, read silently, or wait until given further instructions. We also have those fast-finishers that are done before some children write their name and date. Enrichment Corner helps engage students, creates a flawless system of purpose in your classroom, and helps students feel proud and successful of their work.

Setting Enrichment Corner up in your classroom from Day 1 will help keep your students learning, having fun, and hold them accountable to higher level thinking!

The best way to set up Enrichment Corner is with two black crates and hanging file folders. Your school probably has hanging folders, but I have given affiliate links for both the crates and the hanging file folders if needed. See the picture below to see how I used the black crates and the file folders.

One crate will be labeled as Enrichment Corner. The other crate will be labeled as Student Progress Folders. 

The Enrichment Corner crate will have all of the copies for the activities divided into folders. For example, The Water Cycle Enrichment Activities will be run off and placed in one hanging folder. You can do all 30 folders or just a few at a time. 

The student progress crate will have a folder labeled for each student (I do these with numbers) and this is where the students will keep their Enrichment Corner Unfinished Work. Some of the activities for Enrichment Corner will have multiple pieces, if you have to move on before the students complete the activity, they can place their unfinished work in their folder for the next day. The students will use their Student Progress Checklist to check off each activity as their finish it.  

You can choose to grade Enrichment Corner Activities or have the students self-paced and move on when finished with an activity.

If you choose to check the activities, I have provided a rubric for you on Page 1.

When my students are done, I have them turn their activities into a basket in my room. At the end of the day, I check them with the rubric and place them in their Enrichment Corner Student Progress Folders. From there, they can check it off their Student Progress Checklist.

Students can do more than one activity a week as long as they are doing them correctly and not rushing. Once the students have completed all 30 activities (this will take most of the year), they will become a member of the #ECMsquad (Enrichment Corner Mastery Squad) 

After they have their certificate, they are a Squad Recruiter. A Squad Recruiter helps other students finish Enrichment Corner. They are a guide and should not do the activities for another child. 

Finally, each activity comes with a set of standards (TEKS and CCSS) so the administration can see what skills your students are mastering. It also comes with an instruction page so students can be independent. All activity pages are included as well. The Standards and Instructions cards can be laminated.

I would recommend laminated these so you do not have to keep copying them. Then copy a class set of each activity page. While it seems like too many copies, you are making copies for the entire year for all of your children. The organization will pay off big time!

NOTE: Enrichment Corner does USE paper, but is NOT worksheets! The students are creating, writing, and using higher level thinking.

My final recommendation is to make a binder with a set of master copies for all of your Enrichment Corner. I have included a picture of my binder below. Many times students will use the last original. I finally realized it was easier to do this than go back to the file on my computer.

The TEKS included are the NEW adopted Reading and Writing TEKS for 2017. You can start using them now but they are the version that will go into action in 2018!

Also, for your convenience, a CLICKABLE Table of Contents is included!


Student Checklists and Teacher Class Lists are included, as well as an optional Bulletin Board Decor! 

If you are interested in purchasing this curriculum for your classroom, head on over to my TpT Shop. I have them available for 3rd, 4th and 5th grades!

Lastly, I would love to see photos in action. My Instagram name is @hillarykiser and when sharing on Instagram, please use #ecmsquad! J


Thankful for Santa's Helpers! 

Last year, I saw an awesome idea from Cara Carroll! She made a sign (via hand lettering) for her delivery people. With the sign, she paired snacks! Let's face it...USPS, UPS and Fed Ex are so busy this time of year. I know sometimes they stop twice a day at my house! That might be a bit embarrassing...lol.

The only flaw I saw with Cara's awesomeness is....I don't hand letter. Nope. I'm terrible at it. Lol. She is AMAZING! I just am not. So, last year, I threw something together on poster board. The delivery people loved it...but it didn't hold up outdoors. Sad day. So this year, I decided to create my own on the computer (using A Perfect Blend fonts) and send it to Walgreens! I had a wood panel photo made of it! I can now keep this one for the years to come!

Bottom line to my rambling? The people that work so hard to deliver all of our packages on time deserve something special! Whether on poster board or wood paneling...Santa's helpers will appreciate it!

If you want this for your house, just download this google drive link, add in a text box with your family's name, then order on a 20x30 wood panel at Walgreens! It will take 2-3 days to make and ship to your house (or that is how long it took for mine!) Also, always check online for photo coupons. I googled "Walgreens Photo Coupon" and found a 30% off one. There are always coupons floating around out there!

I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving and enjoy prepping for the Christmas season!

Creating and Using Digital Resources

I have had so many teachers, administrators, and TpT authors ask me "How do you create digital resources?"

The thing is, it isn't something I can explain right then. It is a process. I decided to make a step by step video of how to create digital resources. If you are interested in doing this for your students, or just for creating products...I hope you will find this video helpful! Also, below you will find my wording for my instruction page on my products. Feel free to tweak this and add it to your products as well!

Product Instruction Wording:

With this link, you can access a google document with the product.

1. You will need a google account for you and for your students.
2. Open the document from the link below.
3. At the top (in the center) click OPEN IN GOOGLE SLIDES.
4. Click FILE, RENAME. This will be your MASTER COPY. (Name it *activity* MASTER COPY.)
5. Make ANOTHER COPY, this will be the one you share with your students. (Name it *activity* CLASS COPY)
6. Use the SHARE button in the top right corner (blue button) to get the shareable link to send to your students.
7. Share the document with your students. 
8. Once they open the file, the must make a copy (click FILE, RENAME) so they can edit their document and not your master copy. (Name it *activity**student name*)

--insert link here--

This can also be used whole group. In that case, just make a master copy and then another to edit in front of the entire class. 

  • Start with an original product
  • Turn all slides into PNGs to protect clipart, fonts, etc.
  • Turn into Google Document through Google Drive
  • Add Google Drive Link to the product
  • Include instruction page for the teacher/buyer 

In addition to creating Digital Resources, you may have purchased some of mine. Feel free to watch this video to help you use digital resources in your classroom! The following video is a step by step tutorial of how to use the resources in your classroom!

I hope all of this has been beneficial for you! I am not a pro at videoing but I felt that was the best way to show you how to do this process! Please let me know if you have any questions!



Set the Stage to Engage

Short Post Alert! Lol.

Have you seen these stages teachers are having made for their classrooms? We all know it is a brilliant idea for student engagement! It also helps empower students to be confident and proud when sharing their work and using their voices! 

I love this saying on Brittany Root's (Miss 5th's) stage! 

What if you can't have one made though? What if you are looking for a quick solution? Well, I stumbled across @suzannes_plans on Instagram! She bought this Low Coffee Table from Amazon! Isn't this perfect? I'm in love! 


So, if you need a quick fix, grab this one! You can choose your color and it is Prime! 

I have been looking for a quick fix for this "stage" idea, and I think this is perfect! 

(Affiliate links are provided for your convenience.)


Pumpkin Volcano Science Experiment

If I have said it once, I have said it a thousand times....I love fall! All things fall. I decided to take another activity I had previously seen and modify it a bit to make it appropriate for fall! My kids and I did a Pumpkin Volcano! We had the best time and it worked perfectly! You won't believe how simple it is either!

Now, since this is a teaching blog, I am going to apply this to the classroom! I haven't done this with students yet, but I know it will be a hit when I do! So think with me for a moment. Get five small pumpkins and give each group in your classroom a small pumpkin at their table. If you are unable to do this outside, I would recommend putting the pumpkin in a storage container to contain the mess.

First, cut out the top of the pumpkin. Of course, I would recommend doing this before passing the pumpkins off to the students. :) Then, scoop out all of the goodies.



Next, gather the ingredients pictures below!

Scoop in the baking soda first. We used 1/2 a cup of each ingredient but the amount doesn't really matter. The order of the ingredients does matter though. :) I mean, that is Chemical Reactions 101 right?


After the baking soda, add in the dish soap. Dish soap can be omitted but does give it an awesome foamy, frothy look when the reaction happens!


Finally, get ready to have some fun! Add in the vinegar next and watch the reaction occur! I was allowing my kids to take turns so our first dose of vinegar only foamed a bit but the next dose was awesome! Take a look at the video to see! (Sorry it is vertical, I am new to YouTube.) lol. 

The kids obviously had so much fun! Allow the students to touch it, then talk about the chemical reaction that occured. Here is the explanation, feel free to read it to your students!

When you combine baking soda and vinegar a chemical reaction occurs that releases carbon dioxide. The baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is a base while the vinegar (acetic acid) is an acid. When they react together they form carbonic acid, which breaks apart into water and carbon dioxide, and creates fizzing as it escapes. 


After we did it once, we did it a few more times. Simply empty the pumpkin out and repeat the process. Each time, the same thing happened. We knew the chemical reaction would happen but we didn't know if it would still be as strong; it was.

Next time we do this, we will add food coloring! I am excited to see what purple, black or green might look like! And for those of you wondering, yes you can carve the pumpkin after this! It did not mess up the pumpkin!

All in all, the experiment was a huge success! The materials are cheap and the process is simple! I think as a teacher and a parent, we couldn't ask for a much better activity! 

Also, grab this free resource to use with your kids in the classroom! It pairs great with this and will allow you to see what they learned from the experiment. It also includes a materials page, the scientific explanation, and the process instructions!


Desk Fairy Treat Tag

Do your students keep their desks clean? Oh boy, this has been a pet peeve of mine for the longest time. I want my students to be neat and organized, but I want to encourage them to do so in a positive way. I mean, no one wants a nagging teacher about their desks! I wrote a blog post a while back, Avoid the Desk Mess Chaos and it was very popular! I soon understood that this was a common problem among teachers!

I have recently come across (well, saw a photo of) another great idea! I had to create my own because I couldn't find the original template online. It was just too cute to pass up!

Is that poem not the most adorable thing you have ever read? I just love it. I wish I could take credit, but I cannot! I also decided I would try my hand at printing on Post-Its to make this process even easier! I couldn't believe how easy it was to print on Post-Its! First, if you want to do this, you need to go read Mrs. D's Corner blog post about Printing on Post Its. She explains it best and better than I ever could! 

But, when it is done, it is beautiful! I just love it! 

I also included a set of cards in the printable too though! I know those are easier on school printers and with Astrobrights paper...they will look perfect!! 

Anyway, I know this was a short post but I hope you find this printable useful! Click the link below to grab it for free!


The Perfect Fall Non-Candy Treat!

I am always looking for ways to treat students that does not include candy. I'll be honest, it isn't easy to find creative things. I mean there is always a bag of pretzels or a cute craft but let's be honest, most of that is already packaged up and doesn't show a ton of thought.

Last year I tried my hand at crayon molds and they were a huge success! However, they took FOREVER (I did it wrong.) lol. So after baking them last year and realizing what a big moron I was...I tried again this year but took the easy route! Let me just say...perfection!

So, let me quickly fill you in on last year. The crayon molds turned out perfect but the prep was ridiculous. I thought you had to break up the crayons into tiny pieces. When I say tiny, I mean the tiniest pieces in the entire world. I am not sure if I saw that somewhere or dreamed it...but after I baked them I realized it didn't matter. I also thought you had to fill up the silicone mold to the very top. No, nope, no. 

Anyway, lesson learned. Let me take you through our process this year!

On Thursday, (yay Amazon Prime) I ordered this Pumpkin and Leaf Silicone Mold. Any pumpkin mold will do but I did not have any (last year I did ghosts and the tail was easily broken when I pulled them out.) I knew these would be better this year!

We had a ton of old crayons so my son and I started taking off the paper and breaking apart the crayons. I think this took a total of about 10 minutes, very simple this time. I did not break these into small pieces which made the process so much easier!

We also used almost all bright colors. I think there was an eggplant color mixed in but other than that...bright colors (these make the best mixtures!)

Notice these are not filled to the top or all filled the same amount. Guess what? It doesn't matter! :)

Next, we preheated the oven to 250 degrees and placed the molds in the oven for 15 minutes. 

Once they were done, we pulled them out and allowed them to cool for about 20 minutes. 

Not super pretty huh? In my head...I was thinking "Oh boy...those look terrible." Luckily, when I popped them out, the other side (the side that matters) was beautiful!

Silicone is awesome, you can just pop these out no trouble! I did not grease it or anything ahead of time!

Next, just pair them (the pumpkin ones) with these adorable Pumpkin Patch Printables!

Now, you don't have to do the leaf ones if you just want the pumpkin ones to go on the cards for students! I would just break up enough crayons so that when one batch is done, you can quickly throw another batch in. Regardless, it doesn't take long so doing a few batches won't be hard. 

I also love how the leaf ones turned out though! My kids loves coloring with those!

I hope you find this useful! It is great for students, you don't have to worry about allergies and the novelty of the treat is perfect! Also, remember it doesn't have to be for Halloween, it can just be a fall treat!

Happy Fall Y'all!

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