Saturday, October 15, 2016

Halloween Made Easy

Looking for some fun, low key activities for Halloween?  Fun and low key are my jam.  I like to keep it simple, but I also like to make sure that my students have a great day. 

I've found that it's best for my own sanity to keep my classroom activities fun, but simple.  The students are riled up because it's Halloween, and they are wearing costumes, and they are looking forward to the school parade.  And, of course, they are pretty psyched about trick or treating later in the day.  So, I like to keep it as mellow as possible because we are cooped up inside a teeny, tiny classroom.

Every year, our school hosts a school wide costume parade.  The parade takes place in the afternoon, so I've found that if I have my students write first thing in the morning I can still get some quality work from them.  By the afternoon, they are too excited about the parade, and asking them to complete tasks that require a great deal of focus just doesn't work.  I love using these Roll a Story boards.

Not only are they easy to prep, but they guide the students' thinking, and encourage my students to get creative with their writing.  I like to photocopy the boards on colored paper, and on special occasions, like Halloween, I also like to copy the writing paper on colored paper too.  It's a simple way to add a little more spice to the activity.

On Halloween, you won't find me teaching the regular math curriculum.  Instead, we review skills by playing math games.  A few of my favorites are  Five in a Row (read all about it HERE) and Boo Bump by SunnyDays. They are both high interest and give extra practice with addition.  

I usually let the students rotate through the games every 15 minutes.  This get us through a good chunk of our math time.

Another fun math activity are these festive characters I purchased from Pink Cat Studio.  I was going to save them for Halloween, but after a big test last week, it actually became the perfect "chill out activity."

Throughout the day, I like to read aloud a various Halloween books. These are a few of my favorites.

Monster Trouble
This is such a cute story!  I don't want to give it away, but the little girl has a sweet, but hilarious solution to her monster problem.  Perfect for problem and solution!
Fright Club
This is such a funny story and the illustrations are great for practicing interpreting character reactions and emotions.
Little Boo 
Just a sweet story all around.   
Creepy Carrots
I read this book for the first time last year.  I love it!  Jasper the rabbit is constantly eating carrots and they are fed up.  Soon, Jasper begins seeing the carrots everywhere.  Again, I don't want to give it away, but it has a great ending!
Room on the Broom
This is a fun read that my students always enjoy.  I'm not usually a fan of witches, but this one is at least nice.  ;)  This book would work well if you wanted to work on sequencing.  
The text in this book is super simple, but it's still high interest.  It's a great way to explore emotions and could be used to facilitate a discussion about controlling and diffusing negative feelings. 

You could easily use any of these books to cover the standards, but I usually read aloud just for the heck of it.  Yep, I'm a rebel like that.

There may not be any Common Core standards that directly address art in the classroom, but we all know that it is valuable.  Maybe even more so on a crazy day like Halloween. Ha!  Directed drawings and craft projects are always my favorite go to projects.

Last year, my students made these adorable Frankenstein faces from First Grade Blue Skies.  It was a quick and easy craft that kept my students engaged.  You could use it after reading Crankenstein and have your students create a face that resembles the character.

This directed drawing is so stinkin' cute and would be a fun follow up to a read aloud about a witch (like Room on the Broom).  Original Source: Art Projects for Kids.

Whether you like Halloween or not, it is a day for kids to have fun. I love to bring out Halloween Bingo. It's a great way to have some fun. It is always a hit with my students.  Always. 

My students always have fun playing this game.  It's the perfect activity to use as we wait for our parade time to roll around.  The students get to make their own Bingo card, and that's half the fun!   You can download this freebie from my TPT store.  :)

Prizes certainly aren't necessary, but handing out privilege cards makes for a super easy prize.  You can grab these for free by clicking HERE.  :) 

I also like using fun game board markers.  You could have your students cover their squares with candy corn, wiggle eyes, creepy felt eyes, mini erasers, or even marshmallows.

Don't worry, math counters work just as well.  There have been many years where mine used those red/yellow counters to mark their spaces.

When Halloween falls on a school night, homework is out of the equation for me.  I usually just don't assign it, but this year, I'll do even better than that.  Not only will I not assign homework, but each student will also get a homework pass to use whenever they want.  No tricks in my class, just treats.  Hehe.  Best of all, it's a treat that costs nothing!

You can grab this freebie by clicking HERE.

I hope you'll be able to use an idea or two from this post!  Happy Halloween!


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Monday, August 15, 2016

10 Tools Every Teacher Needs

Let's talk teacher tools today!  We all have our favorites.  Or, at least ones we can't live without, or need in our lives. With the help of several dear teacher friends, I've compiled a list of 10 different tools that every teacher needs.

1. Markers
There are so many great markers out there, and some markers are better than others, depending upon what you're using them for.

Mr. Sketch markers are great for making anchor charts (and they smell good-bonus!).

Flair pens are perfect for grading and writing comments.  I even use them to record grades in my grade book.  This way, I can alternate the colors in each column which makes it easier for me to keep track of where I am as I transfer my grades to the computer.

Sharpies are great for labeling!

And, let's not forget about dry erase markers. The Expo brand markers are my favorite, but there are other options out there. Let's be honest, if you have a whiteboard, these are a must.  Fun colors are optional, of course, but it never hurts to have a pink marker at your disposal.

2. Stapler
This is seriously my favorite stapler, obviously it cannot be used to staple packets or booklets together, but it serves its purpose.  It is probably one of the cheapest Swingline staplers available, and I didn't buy it in this condition.  A few years ago the bottom broke off as I was stapling stuff to my wall. Turns out that was the greatest thing ever!  I now have the best stapler for hanging stuff on the walls/bulletin boards.

But, what about stapling those packets and booklets?  I'll be honest, a stapler is a stapler to me, but one of my sweet teacher friends who helped compile this list, loves her Paper Pro stapler. She kind of won't staple anything without it.  Bottom line, teachers need staplers, no matter what they look like or what they are used for.

3. Xacto Knife
This nifty little tool is great for so many things.  You can use it to scrape hot glue from surfaces (I've used it to scrape it off of my plastic cubby drawers and the metal frame of my whiteboard).  Along these same lines, the knife is handy when trying to remove sticky objects from surfaces (stickers and labels).  And, of course, you can use it to cut things. ;)

4. Laminator/Lamination Pouches
Now, I realize that your school probably has a laminator.  So does mine, but it is not very reliable, and we aren't allowed to use it.  We turn in our lamination and it gets done twice a week.  But, our machine is old and often times, the lamination peels right off.  And other times, I might need something laminated for tomorrow's lesson but the designated lamination day is still two days away.  Plus, I can easily laminate over the summer from my kitchen counter while binge watching Netflix.  It's a win-win all the way around.

There are lots of brands out there, but my teacher friends and I all use this Scotch Laminator.

As for pouches, Scotch brand is my favorite, but I usually purchase the generic ones.  The quality is good and I've never had a problem with them (and I save a lot this way).

5. Magnetic Tape
This stuff is great for attaching posters or schedule cards to your whiteboard.  I love using it to magnetize my students' log in cards.  I just stick a piece of the magnetic tape to the back and stick them to the side of my filing cabinet where the kids can find their card as needed.

The magnetic tape from the craft store is great quality. This package is from Hobby Lobby.  The teacher stores sell the magnetic tape on little dispensers (like Scotch tape), but I've always found that tape to be weak in comparison to the stuff you can find in the craft store.

6. Flash Drive
Flash drives are a great way to access your files at school and then at home, and vice versa.  Don't worry, I am well aware of services like Dropbox and Google Docs for accessing files, but online network connections aren't always reliable.  If you find that Internet access is not super reliable where you are, the flash drive is a great option because all your files are stored on that little stick, not the cloud.

7. Document Camera/Projector
A few years ago, we all got document cameras and projectors installed in our classrooms.  I don't have much technology in my classroom.  In fact, this is the only tech I have (unless my 9 year old desktop computer counts).  But, I will say, hands down, we all love and use this set up daily.  They are great tools to use during whole group instruction.

I often project an activity page, our math journal page, or even task cards via my document camera/projector set up. I love the ease of projecting things onto the board and then writing on the board as needed with my whiteboard marker (it's a bit of time saver in many cases). Using this set up makes it easier for students to follow along.  And, the students love coming to the board/document camera to share answers/explain things to the class.

If this is something your district doesn't readily provide, Donors Choose might be an option. :)

8. Glue Gun
Glue guns are pretty useful.  You can use them when decorating your classroom. More specifically, they are handy when attaching border to your bulletin board frame, gluing decorative accents to baskets and buckets (like bows), hanging posters and other pieces to cinder block walls or laminate surfaces, and attaching labels to your book bins/centers bins.

My new favorite is the cordless glue gun.  This features is especially helpful when setting up your classroom.  You have the freedom to move around and glue as needed without being limited by the cord. Whichever you prefer, a glue gun is a great tool to have on hand.

9. EZ Grader
This nifty slider makes grading easy. Hence the name, obviously.  But seriously, just slide the insert over to the number of questions you're grading and then look down the window to find the overall score of whatever you're grading. Easy peasy. (Please excuse the old pic.)

Did you know there is an app for that?  I mean, there's an app for everything, right?  There are actually a few grading apps, but I like Groovy Grader. It's free and it is super easy to use.

10. Actual Tools
More specifically, a hammer, a screwdriver, nails, etc. can come in quite handy. These are not everyday tools, of course, but they are useful to have on hand. So, when would you need this?  Most likely, when you're setting up your room.  That's when I use mine.  They are so helpful when hanging things on the wall or building small pieces of furniture.  My friend (who helped compile this list) keeps an actual toolbox in her wardrobe.  It has a hammer, screwdriver, measuring tape, the works.  I like to keep this tool on hand.

It's an all in one hammer/screwdriver.  See how it comes apart and lots of different screwdriver sizes are hidden inside the hammer?  So cool!  It comes in handy when hanging things on the wall, or as mentioned above, building small pieces of furniture. I most recently used this tool to assemble a rolling cart from Ikea. In case you're wondering, I found this hammer gizmo at Michaels several years ago. Definitely worth checking out.

Do you have a tool that you think every teacher needs?  Tell us in the comments!  :)


This post contains affiliate links for Amazon. By purchasing an item on the Amazon site using these links, I will receive a small commission on your purchase. For more information about my Disclosure Policy, please visit this link.


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Monday, August 8, 2016

So Many Great Teaching Resources from Oriental Trading

Hey everyone! Today, I'm sharing some super fun teaching resources from Oriental Trading. That's right, teaching resources!  They offer more than party supplies these days. ;)  And, you can add your favorite teaching resources to a wishlist that can be shared with others.  Keep reading!

This year, we have lots of changes taking place at school.  Our literacy framework is changing, and we're also restructuring our intervention and enrichment time.  I knew that there were going to be some resources that would help me with these changes.  Like these dry erase sleeves.  Sidenote: I love the black edges!  These sleeves will be perfect for use with small groups and in my word work centers.

These read to self phones will also be great for small groups. They will be perfect for encouraging whisper reading during guided reading.

These sight word cards will be a another great guided reading tool.  I love warming up with sight words. I love that you can place these cards on a ring so that you can give each student an individualized set of words to study, if desired.

Last year we piloted a new math program.  It was lacking in hands on activities. So, I was super excited to grab a few resources that will help spice up our math block a bit since we're still using this same program.  Our program references number lines often, but the students only get to use them in the form of a workbook page.  Boring! These dry erase number lines will make our practice a little more fun, a little more engaging, and even more mobile. Now, the kids can work in pairs on the carpet while they practice.

I don't know what it is about dry erase, but students love writing and wiping! So, when I saw these 100 chart puzzles, I couldn't resist.  This is another concept that is revisited often in our program, but again, in the form of a workbook page.  I think these cards will be a nice supplement to the material as they will be able to practice this skill, but will be able to have a little more fun doing so.

I have never had a class set of rulers.  After 12 years, I decided it was time I fix this.  These rulers were too good to pass up. The value is great and I now have enough rulers for a whole class!  Excuse me while I dance the happy dance.

Finally, how cute are these stickers?   I'm a firm believer that teachers can never have too many stickers.  Hehe.

Did you know that you can create a wish list on Oriental Trading?  I love this because now I can keep track of all the things I want to/hope to purchase in the future.  No more hunting for them when I go back to purchase, they are all housed in one convenient area where I can just add them to my cart. Plus, it has a "public view" feature, so you could share the link to your wishlist with friends, family, and your students' parents.

Have you visited Oriental Trading lately?  Head on over and check out all their great teaching resource options, today!

Disclaimer: Oriental Trading sent me the resources featured in this post. Regardless of this, these are 100% my own opinions and ideas for use in my classroom.

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