Sink Those Words

Vocabulary is crucial for your students and finding an engaging way to teach it can be hard! 

I use this Vocabulary Curriculum in the classroom to pull my words, activities and assessments! It is engaging, organized and meaningful for the students! However, students also need kinesthetic ways of learning as well! 

Vocabulary Basketball. I saw this idea on 4 The Love of Teaching's Blog and I was sold! 

The idea is, divide the class into two teams and have the words written on the board. Call out the definition and the first team to get the word (or first student) gets to take a shot! 1 point for getting the word and 2 or 3 points for making a basket! 

Here is the Hoop and Ball I purchased! 

Many have asked..."how do you keep students from getting upset if a teammate misses?" Conversation. We have a conversation about how we will treat our team. If they can't handle it, we don't play. Trust me, they learn to handle it! :) 

I hope you will try this in your classroom! The students love it and you will feel great about the students mastering their vocabulary words! 

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Pitfalls and Solutions to Teaching Theme

We have all been there, right? It is time to teach THEME and we bust out Aesop's Fables. Well sure, that does teach the most basic of ways. Now, before you start tuning me out because I have *no doubt* stepped on your toes (figuratively of course)...I am guilty of teaching theme this way too!

My Aesop's Fable book is nice and worn, and the kids love those why not? Well, the problem with ONLY using books with noted morals is, we are putting the students in a box and teaching them that theme will always be that clear. is not.

Today, I want to talk about common pitfalls (notice I already mentioned one above) and solutions to those pitfalls when teaching theme.

This is so true...I wish I paid attention to those life lessons when I was younger.

I really love this picture...theme is built into the shows we watch, the books we read, the people we meet, and the conversations we have.

So many times, we as teachers label theme as one word; such as love, kindness, bravery. Yet another pitfall of teaching theme. Love, kindness and bravery would be examples of theme topics, not entire themes.

First, teach your students the THEME of the story is THE MESSAGE of the story. In this anchor chart, I show students the definition of theme and some pretty common examples. 

Note: Be certain your students know the terms theme, moral, message and lesson are all interchangeable terms (and make sure they know what interchangeable means too.) lol. 

When talking about theme, I emphasis to my students that some themes are very common and some are not so common. Make sure your students understand, themes do not have to be "cliche." We all love the Aesop Fables morals, but themes can come in a variety of answers and be written a variety of ways! Accept many answers from your students and let's try not to "box in" their learning. 

So if I am not a fan of Aesop's Fables, how do I bring in literature?

I use many read alouds to teach theme. Here are a list of a few of my favorites!
Before you read any book to the students though, ask the students to be thinking (while you are reading) about the message of the book. If you do not ask this (before reading) the students will not be thinking about that specific purpose during the story. 

Have students practice writing thematic statements with this FREE bulletin board display called "Hashtag The Theme"

I also LOVE this activity from The Secondary English Coffee Shop! After you read a book, have the students hashtag the theme! Students being too wordy when writing there theme has been a pitfall for years! Have the students write their themes in 140 characters or less (#twitter) and it will keep the themes short and sweet! This activity solved my problem in a snap!

I hope I have offered some solutions to the common pitfalls we make in teaching theme (notice I said WE.) I am just as guilty but I have learned over the years that going deeper with theme pays off big in the end. 

Game Boards for Centers

Hey All! This will not be a fancy or long post...I am completely breaking my DO NOT WORK ON SUNDAY rule. *face palm* But many have been asking where I get my printable game boards. Well, I created them. I have made them completely free for you though!

I have brightly colored ones and of course a black and white version. I cannot take credit for the game board shape though, I bought those from Creative Clips on TpT but then I took and added a border, and the game board words.

 I print the black and white version the most on Astrobrights Colored Paper! Then I laminate them and use them OVER AND OVER every year! They are great to use with math centers, literacy centers, or anything else you might need a game board for during the year!

Like I said, quick post...but I wanted to share these really quick so you could start using them!

Grab the Game Boards HERE.


Spooky Goodies

Halloween is quickly approaching! You may not do things for your students (or you may) but if you don't, hopefully you will still find these useful for your own kiddos, friends, teammates, or administration! 

One of my favorite treat ideas are these little bags! 

These cheesepuffs can be found in bulk at Target, Wal-Mart, Sam's, etc! I use these cellophane bags. Then print these tags and staple! Super cute and kids love them!! 

Another one of my favorite treat tags this time of year is the Twix or Treat Tag! 

I use these every year for my parent volunteers, administration and teammates! I just purchase mason jars and fill them with Twix! I add some ribbon and the tag, then I am done! They are a hit each year!  

Lastly, my students have always loved Pop Rocks (so do my kids!) These Pumpkin Orange Pop Rocks are perfect for these tags! These printables are so easy to use and go great with Pop Rocks! 

I hope these give you some fun ideas for your students, staff and friends! Happy Halloween! 


Literacy Detective

How do you engage readers? There are so many ways this task can be accomplished but we can all agree that making reading interesting is one part of this task! 

Bethany over at Teaching and So Fourth has wonderful ideas for engaging readers! Her Detective Themed Literature Circles is one of my favorite ways to make reading interesting! 

Now, it isn't enough to just hand out the books and jobs...then be done with it. Right? You have to do more! I love her library area and how it is decorated with Keep Out Tape, Police Hats, and Flashlights

She has the books assigned and then moves to assigning jobs! 

Each child, in each group, has their own special job! 

And further more, I love allowing my students to "flashlight read" when they first get their books! I just purchase these flashlights on Amazon and each child will has one. Then turn the lights out and let the students read using their flashlights! The kids love it! 

There are so many great ways to make reading fun. This way doesn't break the bank and will capture the attention of the students! 

In the end, we just want to build a love for reading...this idea not only helps build a love for reading but also a desire for it! 


September means Fall...Right?

I is September 1st and it is technically not fall yet...but...can we pretend? I am thinking about all of the fall things. Pumpkin Spice Latte's, Fall Scented Candles, and all of the fun Fall School Activities! Hey, my son is thinking about it could be worse, right?

I wanted to share a few engaging activities that you can do during the fall months. I also wanted to share them a bit early so you could have time to prep them or buy the things you might need to make these activities happen!

The first activity I want to share is a Fall Poetry Booklet. My students have always loved doing these. While the idea is pretty simple, it takes us a few days to complete these. Really, I spend about a week on these.

We spend time discussing each type of poem that is included in these booklets (acrostic, haiku, cinquain, free verse, and humorous.) I know these are not all of the poetry types students need to learn but I only wanted to cover these for this lesson. There is a blank page though so you can add your own if needed. 

The students fill out the cover of the booklet, then begin working on their different types of poems. 

At this point, we have already started working our way through our Interactive Poetry Journal, so the students are familiar and have a good reference for the different types of poetry. 

I have also had a few requests for a booklet that would work for grades 1 and 2. I do not feel they are quite ready for types of poetry but I think they would love doing these Fall Word Booklets

Each page contains a different word for the students to describe. Then the students use a few of their descriptive words in a sentence. 

These booklets are fun, free and easy to prep! 

Next, I love doing this craft with my students each year. 

Hand prints+Puzzle pieces=Fall tree. This would be cool for the boys to do with the names of all of their cousins!

Now, this is not my picture. I did not have any past pictures of mine that I have done, but I do mine a tad different than this picture (although this picture is ADORABLE.)

When we do ours, we use orange construction paper for the background paper. Then we trace our hands and part of our arms on brown construction paper (similar to this photo but they used felt.)

Then I order Old Mill in October (a puzzle from Amazon).

It is my favorite puzzle to use because the kids have no trouble finding great fall colors to use on their trees. Then have each student choose 20-30 pieces and they can glue them on their tree (as the leaves.)

Now, I always want to tie in writing to activities like these, so we write a Cinquain Poem on an index card describing their tree and attach it below the picture.

Finally, I want to share my FAVORITE book to read this time of year.

The Candy Corn Contest

The students LOVE this book! Let's be honest, it is my favorite time of day when we get to read it! It is a chapter book, but an easy read. I would say it takes us a week to read it. After we are done, I bring a jar of candy corn and have the kids guess how many are in the jar. The winner gets to take the jar of candy home (or share it with the class.) :) I use these Candy Corn Guess Slips to make my job a little easier!

And that's a wrap! I do many more fall activities but these are a few of my favorites!

I hope fall is kind to you and the weather is wonderful! I know I cannot wait to have that very first Pumpkin Spice Latte!

Happy Fall....errr...September. :)


(affiliate links are included for your convenience)


Reward Good Behavior for Free!

As teachers, we are constantly faced with the struggle of spending our own money on our classroom, supplies, and students. We love our students dearly, but spending our hard earned money is not an easy concept for us to accept. After all, do surgeons have to buy their own instruments for surgery? No way, that would be unheard of!

Over the years, I have bought (gladly) many different things for my classroom and for my students. I really do not mind if I know it will make my students happy (and my life easier.) But also through the years, I have realized I was spending money on things that were unnecessary.

Good Behavior Incentives.

Now, we all want our students to behave. First (a bit of a disclaimer) I make sure my students understand they are expected to know right from wrong and do the right thing even when there is no reward. The rewards for good behavior are just bonuses, extras, a little icing on the cake.
Why teach them this? One, it is just a good lesson. Two, I don't have to give out reward incentives for every kind gesture. Be kind because it is the right thing to do, but when a student goes above and beyond to show good behavior...they will absolutely be rewarded.

After the students understand this, we begin implementing our classroom reward system. I used to buy out all of Amazon, Target, Dollar Tree, and raid my kids rooms for fun treasure box items. Not any more! There are a ton a ways that you can reward your students with FREE and fun incentives.

A few years back a created this Reward Choice BINGO Board. It has been a hit every day since then.

See, I need my reward systems to be free, easy to implement, and EASY to explain to parents. Actually, I need it to be basically explanation free...

I give my students 16 different rewards to choose from (see above) and then they follow the directions on the BINGO board. Shading in their choice, and trying to get four in a row. Once they get four in a row, they add a marble to our marble jar. 

Why the marble jar? Because on the day I created this...I had a jar, and some marbles. Yep. I personally think it is brilliant because I am not keeping up with "were we good?? Do we get a marble??" Been there, done that. Now, they just know to show me their four in a row and then go put a marble in the jar. Done.

Now, a few people have asked when do the students get to "do" their reward. It depends. For example, show and tell can be the next day unless it is a testing day. Whereas lunch with me might have to be two or three days from now depending on conferences, etc.

Don't overthink it, just do it when it is convenient.

Notice at the bottom of my Reward Choice BINGO there is a CELEBRATION once the class fills up the jar. DO NOT PANIC. I usually do Popsicles, a dance party, or something else fun and simple.

The bottom line to this system is free, easy and effective. Print out the BINGO cards, pass them out. When a student is rewarded for good behavior, just tell them to choose something off their BINGO board. The students will take it from there. I am most impressed every year with how hard my students work to earn these rewards and fill up their cards. After they are done with a bingo card, we hang it up in the room and start a new card for that person! Talk about pride!

And lastly, I am a firm believer in giving the students a little bit of control over their rewards. If they feel like it is their idea, they will move mountains for you.

Grab the Reward Choice BINGO Board here for free!

For the editable version of this BINGO board, click here. Just make sure to OPEN IN GOOGLE SLIDES, SAVE a copy first, then edit. Otherwise, it will not let you edit. 

Literacy Centers Made Easy

Starting Literacy Centers at the beginning of the year can be challenging but in this blog post I will break down how I do Literacy Centers in my classroom, the mistakes I made, and how to make Literacy Centers run seamlessly in your classroom.

First, make sure your Literacy Centers are well organized and have a good variety for the students. I did not do this during my first two years of teaching and it was extremely chaotic. I live by the philosophy "Do it right at the beginning of the year or keep doing it all year." If you set up a great system at the beginning of the year, you will not have to "manage" it all year.

For my students I do the following Literacy Centers:
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Vocabulary
  • Writing
  • Reading Response
By doing these centers, I can keep them organized and the students always have a variety of activities in their hands. 

One way to keep your Literacy Center organized is by setting up a rotation. I post the following rotation chart in my classroom (with student names obviously instead of letters.) The students can go look at the rotation chart any time they are confused or have forgotten where they need to be. Grab your own copy of an editable version of this rotation chart below the picture.

Just plug in your student's names and if you need to change the center names you can! 

NOTE: Please SAVE a copy of this first before you try editing, otherwise it will make you ask for permission. 

I also keep my centers organized in my classroom. I need the students to be independent when going to get their centers. On Mondays, I spend about 10 minutes going through the centers for the week with the students. If there is a game, we go over the rules and how to play. I believe this step is very important so there are less questions during small group time. (Notice in the rotation above, I am doing small groups during center time.) And I keep all of my centers in this storage tower, in the separate drawers. 

Any storage will work, but I love this one because the colored drawers repeat in pattern, so I have my students TURN IN their centers to the BOTTOM set of drawers. (For example: If Vocabulary is in the top red drawer, they will turn it into the bottom red drawer.) Simple. (And no, I don't grade all of my centers. These are for practice and I just spot check them from time to time!)

Finally, let's talk about the expectation of each center. 

(All of the following pictures are from my 5th Grade Classroom)

Vocabulary Center: 

In the Vocabulary Center, I want the students to be submerged in 20 words each Six Weeks. That's right, for an entire Six Weeks, they are working on the same 20 words. Really, they only go to Vocabulary once a week though...and each week they have a new activity. By the end of the Six Weeks, the students have mastered 20 new Tier Two Words. By the end of the year, 120 new Tier Two Words...just from Literacy Centers!

Reading Response Center:

During the Reading Response Center, I want the students reading a book from a selection of books in the center. (These are shorter books and strictly for the purpose of engaging the students!) I choose about 10 books a week to put in a basket in this center. The students choose a book, then read and do the response. We are encouraging students to think about their independent reading when we do the Reading Response Center and most of the time they partner up to work on their discussion skills.

Reading Comprehension Center:

While in the Reading Comprehension Center, students are reading short passages and answering higher level comprehension questions, or they are completing an activity over a comprehension skill. I don't think students should have a passage each week to read in this center, that doesn't show variety. However, I do think students should be working on those comprehension skills as often as possible! I love giving the students different ways to do this!

Writing Center: 

The writing center allows students to practice multiple types of writing, conventions, and grammar! With a new skill each week, the students are mastering and reviewing important writing concepts that will help during classroom writing.

In the end, making sure your students are engaged, learning and having fun is most important. Making that job easy on YOU (the teacher) is next important! Stay organized, keep a variety going, and meet the standards. If you do these will have mastered Literacy Centers.

To check out my literacy centers that I use for my students, click the link below that matches your grade level!

(affiliate links are provided for your convenience)


B2S Teacher Gift (Procrastinators Unite!)

It is that time! B2S season is in full swing and my 1st grader starts back on Monday! Tonight is Meet the Teacher and we are beyond excited about his teacher this year!

One of my first beliefs as a parent/teacher is....treat your child's teachers like gold. We all know, teachers have one of the hardest jobs in the entire world...and are terribly underpaid (another rant for another day.)

Many times though, we run short on time (procrastinators unite!) and we need a last minute gift idea! In full disclosure, I had this gift planned for a while...but it is perfect for a last minute idea too!

The Target Dollar Spot is my JAM. They always have wonderful things there that are inexpensive ($1-$5) and perfect for teachers! I snagged this adorable jar there about a month ago.

Now, can we do a minute on regrets?? They had a pencil one with a pink glitter lid (for the eraser) and an apple one that was red glitter with a green lid. Why, oh why, did I not get those too?? Anyway, I did grab this one and filled it with candy! (Any jar will work though!)

Then I grabbed this adorable Amazon Gift Tag online and printed it (4x6), it will give you the option to make it a whole page but you don't need that.

I snagged an Amazon Gift Card at Walgreens but you can click the links below to do it all electronically if you want! After that, I just untied the string that was already on the jar, hole punched my tag, then placed the tag on the string and tied it back! Done!

Simple gift that I know Rex's teacher will love! 

To print an Amazon Gift Card from home, click HERE.
To send an Amazon E-Gift Card (to the teacher's e-mail address), click HERE.
To order an Amazon Gift Card to be shipped to your house, click HERE.

(affiliate links are provided for your convenience)


Dice Hacks for Teachers

Dice games in the classroom can be so much fun! Many people think using dice is just for math games and centers but as a reading teacher, I use them all the time!

For Example, this Guided Reading Vocabulary Activity! We use it daily in our Guided Reading Groups! 

So, dice are not just for math! We know though, whether a math or a reading teacher, dice can be annoying. They end up flying all around the classroom (even when the best classroom management practices are in place) and they can also be noisy. 

I follow Chalk It Up Two Teachers on Instagram and saw her post this awesome idea!

These are Cosmetic Containers and on Amazon they are 50 for 10 dollars. Now, you would probably not need 50 but I bet you have some fellow teacher friends that would chip in on the price so they could have a few! You can use vinyl letters or if you aren't handy with the Cricut (that's me) then scrapbook sticker letters work GREAT! Place the dice in the container and have the students shake it to roll! 

Controlled dice - no more flying around the room. Genius!!!

Same concept here but these are small snack containers and you can flip them over to see through them! 

Make these magnetic dice shakers with paper clip holders from the dollar store. Be sure to read this blog post first about using adhesive to strengthen the magnets on the back of the tins.

Next, the Undercover Classroom give a great tutorial on how to make these magnetic dice shakers! Easy for storing too! 

Finally, these are probably my favorite of all! Foam Dice! Yep, they still roll around (unless you put them in one of the containers mentioned above) but no noise! None!

Nasco TB18746T Dot Dice Set, 5/8" Square, Foam, 36-Piece, Yellow with Black, Grades K+

I bought these on Amazon for $12 (36 dice!) I have now used them for 8 years and they are still going strong. 

Now, I know you have seen many (maybe all) of these hacks, but I have a number of student teachers, first year teachers, and aspiring teachers who follow my blog! I want to share valuable (wish someone had told me that) information with them! 

I hope you found some fun ideas that will help with those dice games and activities! 

(affiliate links are included for your convenience)

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