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Smartie Pants Freebie

Are you in need of some hump day help!?  You've come to the right place...welcome to my newest edition of:

It's nearing the end of the school year, you need a quick, inexpensive gift for your students...what to do?!!  Maybe you are tackling state testing soon and you want a little something special for your students...well I have something I'm sure they'll love.  I've been making this fun little treat for my students for a few years now and it's always been a big hit.
Honestly I've used it mostly for the end of the year but this year I'm prepping it to encourage them for state testing.

So all you need for this is:

blue construction paper or fun astro bright paper.
Smarties candy
raffia or other cute twine
card stock for tag

This is a cheap, easily prepped treat you can give to your students.  It's a way of saying: "Hey great job this year, you are so smart!" OR "I know you'll rock the state test, you are incredibly smart!"

These are different versions I've done over the years.  If you want to try it out you can get the template and pack FREE in my store 
( here )
Give it a try and tell me what you think!  Happy { almost } end of the year my teacher friends!

Desert Habitat Ideas Wait for it Wednesday

Happy Hump Day !!!  Welcome to another edition of my Wait for it Wednesday!  I'm here to talk to you about teaching on the desert habitat.  When I taught first grade we taught about all the habitats, I enjoyed all of them for different reasons.  Today I want to share about the desert habitat ~ ideas and crafts that we incorporate to make it engaging and memorable for our students.

One of the crafts we always did was the desert scene with a coyote!  First we had the kids paint a beautiful, desert sunset after talking about the colors that would be found in the sky.  I loved how they all turned out so differently.  Some with lots of orange, others with more red or purple.  These always stood out hanging up in our classroom!  Next they would add a black silhouette that we prepared beforehand so all they had to do was glue it down.

The cactus was always a fun touch, the kids enjoyed making it but it also added texture to our display.  The cactus was made with Epsom salt mixed into the tempura which created a bumpy texture that the kids loved.  They painted that right onto card stock which was pre cut and then when all dry we added a tissue flower to the side.

We also made snakes and camels.  The pictures haven't been added yet to this pic but we would have the kids pose like they were riding the camel and wave with sunglasses and a big hat on.  We then cut them out carefully and had them 'wave' at the camera.  Here's a sample:

It's hard to tell from the desert scene photo above but on the snakes we had pre cute triangles and we had them make patterns with the triangles on their snakes too.

Another idea for the cactus is breaking pieces of toothpick and sticking them on the cactus or using a plastic fork which would give it this type of look:

Of course sprinkle in some writingm comprehension, studying lots of different types of animals and their adaptions and brace maps and you are all set to have a special unit on deserts.  You can check mine out here if you want an easy to use pack:  You can get it          ( here )

Hope you can use some of these ideas when you teach on deserts.
Happy teaching, 

It's all about relationships...

I was asked years ago by a new teacher what matters most in teaching?  I didn't even flinch - relationships I said a little louder than I intended.  The new teacher said, but the piles of work and grading and understanding curriculum and... and...  I stopped her gently and told her - no - relationships matter first and always.
I explained that no matter what you have looming over you, test scores, observations, parent conferences, none of that even matters one bit if you don't have relationships with your students.  Real, authentic relationships.  I know that all too well because my mama was a teacher - saying that seems so trivial.  But she was so much more... an innovator before her time, a relationship builder, an encourager, her students knew she was their BIGGEST FAN!

She would come home at night often with big bags - not of grading or school work.  NO, of laundry of some of her students that came to school dirty.  She would talk to the parents and let them know she would be happy to do their laundry - granted there were 6 people in our home growing up. 

 Little did she realize that I was always watching, absorbing all of this.  She would really reach out to the most unloved and make them feel like a million bucks.  Years after she retired I was visiting her church.  She sang in the choir so I didn't really get to sit with her at services but I did enjoy watching her sing ( a talent I didn't inherit ).  One day after the sermon I saw her get up like she was on a mission.  She wasn't headed my way which was unusual.  She walked over to a girl with down syndrome that looked alone and overwhelmed.  She sat with her and talked with her and introduced the girl to her friends and others within the church.  The young girl had the BIGGEST smile on her face the entire time.  That's what I'm talking about.
I had a student that was definitely not among the 'loved' on campus.  His teacher unfortunately treated him poorly and his self confidence continued to plummet.  I had him years before and reached out to him asking him if he would eat lunch with me once a week.  I wasn't so sure he would as he was a troubled kid and older now.  Guess what?!?  He jumped on the opportunity!  He told everyone that would listen that he was eating lunch with his first grade teacher.  He came in each Wednesday with a smile ready to tell me all kinds of stories.  I listened - - guys, did you get that?  I listened!  Sometimes that's all a child needs.  Maybe they aren't being heard at home and I knew he wasn't being heard at school in the room he was in...sad but true.  I offered encouragement and validated some things he shared.  We talked about his future, his goals, his home life.  If you have never had a lunch bunch consider it, it creates a less structured environment for your kids to talk to you and you get to know them better.  I had one child that didn't say boo most days but in lunch bunch she would talk my ear off.  Lunch bunch is just a coupon that kids can pick for a reward to have lunch with me.

I've had several students that have lost a parent to cancer, well so have I sadly.  I know the good Lord put them in my class so I could be there for them.  Sometimes a loud outburst of tears in class was what they needed when they wanted their mama and she had just passed away.  I got it!  I understood, I knew and still know the pain all to well.  Those kids knew they could do that in my classroom.  They are forever etched on my heart just like the Josiah's from my mom's class were forever etched on her heart.
One of the first things I do in my classroom each year is sit in a circle and do a Me bag, I do one too.  We get to know each other and share things in our bag that describe us and what's important to us.  I then tell them we are a FAMILY.  We look out for one another and have each other's backs.  Sometimes we will have disagreements but we vow to talk them out like families do.  We don't tolerate unkind, hateful words and certainly don't put one another down.  Sometimes we need to revisit that talk during the year - - as emotions get the best of situations for a 9 year old brain.  But we do and we talk and we remember that we are family in my room.  I haven't brought home laundry yet but I have attended funeral services for lost parents, baseball games and have shed tears for my students late at night when no one was watching.  In fact last year in August a sweet girl I had two times lost her dad to a motorcycle accident.  She saw me at the funeral service and smiled...I came with a small group from our campus.  Later she said, you guys took off work to come?  I said there's no where else I'd be than supporting her on that day.

There was a girl in my combo class years ago, in fact it was the hardest year of my life.  It was the year my mom's cancer diagnosis and death happened.  This girl was a first grader and was drawing a self portrait on the first day of school.  A second grader made a comment that her drawing was bad.  I leaned down and first rubbed her back and told her that her drawing was amazing and I especially liked the eyes.  Then I leaned down next to the older child and told them how in my classroom we use uplifting kind words with one another.  Well about 4 years ago I received a letter in the intra district mail from a middle school teacher.  She sent me the essay this girl wrote about her hero.  Really , me!?!?  I'm not a hero...she remembered that exact incident and wrote about how special she felt from the very first day and knew without a doubt I would always have her back.  She shared how she was so nervous to be in a combo class with bigger kids and how I eased her fears on that first day and throughout the year.  Little did I know at the time that would be so impactful for her...guys ~ you never know... what you do or say can stay with a child forever.
If there isn't a strong, loving relationship with your students guess what?  They won't perform for you...it will be virtually impossible.  But once you have that strong bond which encourages taking risks and not being judged, then you will see the trickle effect of a well run classroom.  Getting things done, hitting benchmarks along the way and building memories to last a lifetime. They just need  encouragement with a big smile from their biggest fan, then my friends you can watch them soar.  That's when the magic happens.  They will want to work for themselves but to also please you their teacher, their hero.  Nothing works without relationships.  Go out there and make your students feel like a million bucks my friends, continue to do what you are doing even on the days you are low on coffee and patience which will happen.  But trust me there will be so many more days of joyful magic than the days that seem discouraging.  Hang in there and continue to be someone's hero! Happy teaching! 

Interactive Task Cards for Scoot

Lego pieces would also work to build shapes...

Have you ever tried to switch your Scoot game up?  I just started using Scoot this year and my students love it!  If you are still unfamiliar with the game Scoot you can read more about it ( here ) They are engaged, moving around and it's great for me to check for their understanding of a topic/skill we've been working on.  But, I tried something new this past week and it was AWESOME!

 My students loved this new version of scoot and I will for sure use it again.  Why not take away the 'pencil and paper' part of it and make it more interactive?  I created regular and irregular polygons with washi tape, pipe cleaner and unifex cubes that they had to find the perimeter or unknown x on.  It didn't take that much time to create before school and they really enjoyed it.  They had actual unifex cubes to look at and touch instead of just looking at a shape printed out on a card.  You can use this for so many topics.  Think about it...you can use it for ELA too!
How about in first or kinder ( more as a center in K than scoot though ) with sight words.  When they are moving around to answer questions - why not have their tasks be more engaging instead of just looking at the cards.  For instance, what about putting a ball of play doh next to a card and have a sight word on a mat...they can re create the word by manipulating the play doh to spell the word.  If you still choose to use a recording sheet you can have them write the word on the sheet after creating it with play doh.  

You can have unifex cubes set up and they have to show a number sentence with different colored cubes.  So they would put 5 red and 6 blue to show 11.  The options are endless and there are so many choices~
My mind is always thinking of ways to cut down on worksheets and make things more hands on for my students.  This came to mind and my students really enjoyed it.  Think outside the box when it comes to some regular, mundane activities and see what you come up with.  Here is a sample of the first grade one I'm working on this weekend.

Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.  Happy Teaching! xo,

Quotation Mark Help

Spring Break is right around the corner my friends...you are almost there or maybe just came back in from break. I'm happy to share some ideas on teaching quotation marks for my newest edition of Wait for it Wednesday.

We have a lot going on right now...state testing is just around the corner so we are reviewing and finishing up covering anything we may have ahem skimmed over.  We have Spring Break in a few days and Open House almost right when we get back.  So I'm flying in over drive right now.  I've been really trying to think of fun, creative ways... WAYS to get things to stick in their brains lately to really have things stay with them.  So if you follow me on Instagram - you've seen my stories where I'm getting them outside, having them move around and create or manipulate things with partners.  Anything to help get things to stay.  HEY, I've even rapped a perimeter song and I DO NOT sing. LOL
So, with that being said, I knew I needed to get my students up and moving and thinking when it came to quotation marks.  Paper and pencil just doesn't cut it anymore!
I first created 3 sentences and made them into word puzzles.  So they were all scrambled when I presented them to the group I was working with the other day.  They had to first work together to unscramble the words and find what made sense.  

Here they are trying to figure out what order the words go in to make sentences and then decide who might say those sentences.  After that I handed out 2 quotation mark sticks and had kids stand up holding the words to form the sentence.  The quotation mark kids had to find their spot in the sentence.  It was very engaging and fun to watch the rest of the class when they noticed someone heading for the wrong spot.  They were quick to point out - oops, try again or don't go there.  They were like little teachers making me proud.
They kids with the word cards lined up in order at the front of the room and the kids with the quotation marks on a stick had to squeeze in where they thought they should go.

Give it a try, just write 3 sentences out with word cards let them unscramble which is fun PLUS it gives you some insight on their thinking.  If they are realizing someone is 'speaking'/dialogue is happening then you can see how they put the sentences together.  For instance, who is buying lunch would make the most sense if the teacher asked that question.  So they need to make an inference and put Mrs. Moore said with that sentence etc.
Let me know how it goes if you try it out.  I know my kids really enjoyed this activity and I know it 'stuck' with them because they did well on a follow up quiz. =)
Happy Teaching! xo,

SPRING time activities

I LOVE Day Light Savings people - no so much the dark in the am but the longer daylight in the afternoon for sure...this sunshine out at 7 pm is bringing a big, HUGE smile across my face.  I love the outdoors and the longer days give me more time to do my trail runs and squeeze in a bunch of other activities I enjoy!  Along with Spring times comes Spring Fever which I did my best to tackle        ( here ) if you want to read more about that.  But I'm here today to share some fun art ideas and activities you can use in your classroom this time of year.

Welcome to my newest edition of ....

Learning about life on the farm is perfect this time of year.  I have a couple fun art projects in my farm unit that would be fun to display and have up while teaching your farm unit.

It's also a great time to teach about lifecycles ~

So sad I couldn't find my picture from several years back when we did this...but take your students outside as a reward if it's nice out.  Give them buckets of water and paintbrushes and let them paint the playground.  They love this...they can create images on the ground that will disappear quickly but they still enjoy it.

Sometimes all you need to do is give children some empty Easter eggs and play doh - it's amazing what can happen when their imagination goes wild.

Or have them do an activity where they can make some predictions with what might happen if you put a carnation or celery stick in water with dye in it...

There are so many fun activities that you can do with kids in the springtime of all ages.  If you are interested in any of the ideas and want more information on them you can find them by clicking the pictures below:

The most important thing you can do is get your kid or students outside, exploring their world.  They can lay down and look at clouds and record what shapes they look like, look for leaves and then do a leaf rubbing.  Have fun with your kids and let them be little.  Happy Teaching! xo,

Class Reward - Flashlight Friday

Hello, hello, hello ~ welcome to another edition of...

Friends, I have to share how much fun we had last week when we earned our class reward!  Oh my gosh it was the best day ever!

I love thinking of new and creative way to have rewards in my classroom - if  you need some ideas visit my Facebook Live for behavior ideas for Spring Fever here.
 I do several class incentives each month for behavior and really try to switch things up which I talked about in my Facebook Live video.  I relate it to metabolism...and how sometimes we need to switch up our workouts to get better results and shock our system.  Well guess what!?!?  Our students need a bit of that too, it sounds funny but trust me it's so true.  Offering the same ol', same ol' incentives every day gets OLD really fast.  To keep your students on their toes and wanting to earn rewards you need to switch up what you are offering them if that makes sense.  
So, I try really hard to do just that.  In March I bring in what I like to call the Leprechaun on the Ledge....very similar to the Elf on the Shelf.  This Leprechaun is a plush one, I got mine about 8 years ago at a Hallmark store but you can also get one at Amazon.com
Here is one for under $12

He can leave notes to the students, get into trouble or be found doing silly things like switch up your schedule or drink a bowl of Lucky Charms, etc.  You decide what works for you and your students.  Even if you just want to use one of the notes I created in this pack and have him literally sitting on a ledge all through March you can do that...I tell my students he's watching and he's an extra set of eyes - especially if I have a sub.  You can grab my pack with lots of Leprechaun notes here

Another thing I love to do for behavior is a mystery word or sentence.  They earn letters until they spell it out, which is great - I love watching them 'guess' what something says.  This last week we earned a Flashlight Friday I called it.  It was ahh mazing!  We actually ended up doing it on a Thursday which happened to be Dr. Seuss Day and they had earned it on Wednesday so we just went for it.  In 23 years of teaching this was my FAVORITE class reward YET!  My students were beside themselves, engaged, reading and enjoying every minute.  I send a remind note to the parents through Remind which helped to have them bring in books, blankets and small flashlights.  They also had small flashlights and head lights at Walmart for only $1 so I bought some of those too.  
They had a blast and it was a favorite, we'll be sure to do it again before June.

I really try to stay away from 'food' related rewards so I spell out words like: 
Extra Recess
Mystery Reader
Stuffed Animal Day
What are some class rewards you like to do?  I'd love to hear about it.

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