Monday, March 28, 2016

Spring Break Sale!

I'm on spring break this week.  That makes me very excited.  To share in the excitement I have decided to throw a sale.  10% off my entire store on TPT today through Thursday.  Happy shopping!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Bring back the fun! - Updated to add pictures

     This is our last week before spring break.  When we return from spring break we have 1 week to review before we start our state mandated standardized testing.  I have been so focused on making sure my students are ready for testing that somehow the funny has slowly left our classroom.  The funny thing is that I hadn't even noticed it.

     This morning I was going through some old files from last year.  I found all sorts of fun projects I did with my kids.  Suddenly it hit me.  Learning used to be fun! I used to be a fun teacher! My students used to be happier! So naturally I did what any good teacher would do.  I scrapped what was in my plans and we had fun with our learning today.  We made posters of the shapes we have been learning in geometry.  Students used string, foam rectangles, and markers to display their knowledge.  I allowed them to work in groups and talk while they worked.  I was pleasantly surprised that there was way more working than talking.

     For our afternoon fun we did a book report in a bag.  Students used note cards to write the characters, setting, problem & solution, main idea and their review of the book.  They then wrote the title, author and illustrator on the outside of the paper bag.  They also drew pictures to match what the book was about and "decorate" their bag.  The cards went inside each bag.  I plan to hang all the bags up and allow students to check out their classmates' reports.

     Many amazing things happened when I scrapped my lesson plans today.  First of all the students were actually on task all day long.  Even though I allowed them to talk while working their voice level was very low and it was a pleasant environment.  Actual learning took place without worksheets or text books (I know this can happen.  It happens all the time in my room.  It just hasn't been happening lately due to test prep craziness.)  Students enjoyed themselves and took more ownership of their learning.  Everyone seemed happier today, including me.

     The moral of this story, friends, is that when we make learning fun and engaging it benefits us all.  I felt a deep love for teaching today that I haven't felt in a while.  My students seemed happier today than they have been in weeks.  Students learned and took ownership of that learning.  My advice to all of you is scrap the lesson plans and insert the fun back in to learning.  State test or not kids just learn better when they are enjoying themselves.

Because we were having so much fun today I forgot to get pictures of my kiddos' projects.  I promise to post pictures tomorrow.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Saying goodbye to vocabulary flash cards

If you are like me you are always looking for more exciting ways to help your students learn their vocabulary words.  I find it even more difficult to help them learn their vocabulary in Science and Social Studies than in reading.  One fun game we have begun playing to practice vocabulary in the content  areas is vocab charades.  I give one student an index card with the vocab word on it and he or she has to act out the word without talking.  This game can actually get silly and the kids love it.  You will really see who knows the words and who doesn’t.

  Another way I’ve developed for students to practice their vocabulary is through vocabulary puzzles.  I use these puzzles for early finishers, in centers, and as formative assessments to see where each student is in their vocabulary mastery.  Students will match each vocabulary word puzzle piece to its matching definition puzzle piece.  So far I created vocabulary puzzles for all of our 4th grade Science units.  You can get a free download of my Water Cycle Vocabulary Puzzles HERE  to try them out and see how you like them. 
Water Cycle Vocabulary Puzzles - 4th Grade GPS   

I plan to make some puzzles for our Social Studies units over the summer and I promise that as soon as I get those up I will include a freebie and let you know. 

Since I’m always looking for new ideas I would love your input.  What strategies are you using to help your students with their vocabulary?

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Workstation FREEBIE!

I am excited to share with you the 100th activity that I upload on my Teachers Pay Teacher store! I hope you find it useful in your class.
It has been two years since I started my little store and it has been growing steadily thanks to you. As a thank you, this is a forever freebie. If there are things you need in your classroom but you don’t have the time to create, please e-mail me and let me know. I would love to know what you need/want in your classroom, and will try my best to create or direct you to the right resource. 
Here are two free resources for your young readers:
How to make independent reading meaningful?
How often do your students say: “I’m done reading” while reading independently? You really want to ask them comprehension questions, tell them to read it one more time before taking a test on the computer, but how do you really know they have consciously read the book? This story map is a great way to get students thinking about what they read.
Click here or on the picture to download
How to integrate reading and writing?
What activities do youse to practice the letter and/or color of the week? How about the high frequency words and/or vocabulary words? Integrate reading and writing by using this activity where students have to find all this information while reading a book. Download to read how you can differentiate this activity for your students.
Click here or on the picture to download

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Struggle is Real!!!

     For the past 5 weeks I have been in a brutal war.  The majority of the time I felt like multiplication was winning the battle.  Just this week I realized that I was going to be victorious in this fight.  In the interest of full disclosure I will tell you that during this war I doubted my abilities as a teacher on more than one occasion.  Many a day I went home ready to pull my hair out.  If you are having the same troubles as me I know you are dying to know how I got (most of) my kids to successfully multiply multi-digit numbers.  The answer is: a plethora of ways.

     The first thing I tried with my kiddos was popsicle sticks. When working with my small group students told me that having so many numbers was confusing.  I showed students how to use a popsicle stick to cover the bottom number in the tens place while they multiplied the number in the ones column.  Next, students used the stick to cover the bottom number, and answer in the ones column while they multiplied by the tens column.  This also helped them line up the answer from the tens column since the popsicle stick served as a place holder.  Luckily, about 1/3 of my class had success with this method.

For the rest of my class I had to try another method.  We moved on from popsicle sticks to color coded multiplication.  I found this idea on pinterest and a few of my kids really seemed to understand better when they used the colored pencils.  Rather than try to explain it and confuse you, here is a self explanatory picture.

Also included in the picture(on the right) is the expanded form method I used.  I had students break the problem down into expanded form and multiply from there.  This method helped those who still hadn't learned all their facts, but were good at multiplying by 10s.  For others they started with this method, and once they fully grasped the process they were able to move on to the "old fashioned" way.
This week we have moved on to division (shoot me now!!!), and all the success I felt with the multiplication is gone.  I already have a few tricks up my sleeve to help students find "their way" that makes the most sense to them.  Check back next month to see how my students do with the division.

Monday, December 1, 2014


Looking for a way to practice boring grammar skills? Tired of boring worksheets that your students dread?  Then you have to try Roll and Rewrite Grammar Cubes. I made these a couple months ago and they have been a permanent staple of my literacy/writing centers.  The full product has over 21 different cubes that you can put together. Once you build them you can use the cubes all year long.  I mix up the cubes to keep them fun, and I add in new ones as I introduce new skills.  Student roll the cubes and then they rewrite the sentence that they roll on their answer sheets. Grammar Cubes are a fun twist to the boring test "drill and kill."
Whole Group Instruction/Independent Practice:
They can also be used as a way to master a new skill. After teaching or reviewing a concept, I will give these to my students to see if they understand how to apply the new skill. Pass out dice and have students assemble and then roll to practice their newly learned skill. I do this and have them practice with a partner.  If you have the kiddos assemble ,then you can use the dice they put together later centers.  Great time saver!!

Download a freebie of this product here:


Wednesday, October 29, 2014


Teaching students to compare and order decimals can be a very challenging task, but over the past few years I have found a few activities that help to reinforce the initial instruction of these skills.  I often begin my instruction by introducing my students to our new friend “Al E Gator” which is just an alligator head cut out of paper.   I always tell the student to imagine that the numbers they are comparing are pieces of alligator food and point out that Al E Gator doesn’t have a stomach, so when he eats, he never gets full.  Because he is never full, his mouth will always open to the bigger number.  I then teach them my basic rules for how to work out a comparing decimals question.  These rules are:

1.       Stack your numbers while lining up the decimals

2.       Count the number of place value positions to the left and right of the decimal point

3.       Add zeros to each side of the decimal point (if needed) so that there are the same amount of digits to the right and left of the decimal point
Check out a FREEBIE notes page that you can give your students:
Comparing and Ordering Decimals-Student Note Page (FREEBIE)

Once my students understand these basic rules, I provide two groups of students with large numbers and a decimal point.  I then tell them the number I want them to create and I have them arrange themselves to form the numbers.  Once both groups form their numbers, I have them “Stack” themselves to work out the problem.  To do this, I have one group of students stand and hold their cards under their chins.  Then I have the other group kneel in front of the first group while holding their cards under their chins.  Once the students “Stack” themselves correctly, I provide other students in the classroom with “zero” cards and have them go to the front of the room and place these cards where they need to be so that there are the same number of digits before and after the decimal.  The kids enjoy moving around the room and love this activity!


Comparing Decimals Math Center - Decimal War...Greater Tha
This activity will provide the students in your classroom the opportunity to work with a partner to review the concept of comparing decimals.  The game is played with a stack of “Decimal” cards, which are divided equally among the two students.  Each student flips one of their cards over and both students write the numbers on their work-mat.  The students follow the basic rules I have set forth for them to compare the numbers and then write the appropriate sign between the two numbers on their work-mat.  Whoever has the largest number collects the cards and play is repeated.  The student with the most cards at the end of the game wins.
I Have, Who Has Cards...Decimals Between Whole Numbers
Another way I reinforce the concept of decimals is with a whole class active listening game. The interaction in this activity provides a motivating and entertaining way for students to reinforce their knowledge of decimals as part of a whole number. The game starts when a student reads the first card. The student who has the card with the answer reads his or her card. The game continues in this manner until the last card is read. Students love this game. The first time around is always a little slow, but then I love to let them play two or three times and try to beat their time.Can also be played during center time with a smaller group of students. Also, it help improve the listening skills of your students, which is always a bonus


Ordering Decimals Math Project or Center Activity
After I have taught the concept of comparing, I expand upon it by teaching my students how to place decimals in order from greatest to least and least to greatest.  If the students have a good grasp of comparing decimals, then this concept can be taught fairly quickly.  I spend a few minutes introducing the concept and then go directly into having the students place 4-5 decimals in order following the same basic rules that I set forth for comparing decimals.  This can be done in many ways, but I choose to place my students into groups of 3-4 students and provide them with a set of cards to place in a certain order.  They are instructed to follow the rules for comparing and work together to complete the set.  By placing the students in groups I am providing the students the opportunity to learn from their peers while freeing myself up to walk around and work with struggling groups.  After the students complete several packs of cards together, I then provide them with an Ordering Decimals Packet to complete individually.