13 November 2017

5 Tips for Stress Free Holidays in your Classroom

5 Tips for Stress Free Holidays in Your Classroom

The holiday season is very near.  There will be plenty of excitement and activities to go around.  But do you ever find yourself completely worn out from all the festivities at school that by the time you get home you can't enjoy your own family holiday activities?  I have some ideas to share with you that I have learned in my long teaching career that has helped me survive the holiday season.

Don't Try to Do it All

Between Pinterest and what other teachers around you are doing you will feel like you need to be doing it too.  DO.NOT.DO.IT!!!   You will drive yourself crazy and tired trying to squeeze it all in.  Trust me, I have been there and done it.  I suggest to pick 2-3 activities and focus only on those.  Yes, the paper plate Santa is cute, but is there another themed activity you could do that would be more meaningful?  Do you have an activity that would correlate with a standard being taught?  Choose only a few activities and make those meaningful.

Stick to a Schedule

With all the activities and programs going on it is easy for your class to get off schedule.  Remember, kids thrive and love a structure routine.  It is very important during this busy time to stick to your REGULAR routine.  When programs arrive and throw your schedule off just resume back to regular schedule activities once you are back in the classroom.   I have seen a lot of teachers who just stop teaching or do fun activities the rest of the day once a disruption happens.  Usually their class is also being very disruptive.  Trying to keep to a schedule will keep everyone in the classroom sane!:))

Get the Wiggles Out

I know we are sticking to a schedule as much as possible, but don't forget to let them get their wiggles out.  In most places the holiday season bring dreary and cold weather.  If it is not possible for them to go outside and play, then be sure your activities or breaks involve movement.   Maybe during math or reading play a game of scoot that correlates with your lesson.  Also, you could have the students coming up to the board to workout answers more frequently.   A movement break does not always have to involve Go Noodle, although it is a plus to have on dreary days!

Take Care of Yourself

With everything going on during the holiday season it easy to become very exhausted.  Remember to take time for yourself.  I know this is easier said than done! Try to stick to your sleep schedule and if possible try to catch a few extra minutes.  Try to find a few quiet minutes to yourself each day.  Also, remember to stay hydrated.   Dehydration can cause headaches and exhaustion.  If you try to do at least a few of these everyday it will make the hectic schedule much easier to handle.

Don't Spend a Fortune

Save your money!  I know how hard it is not to buy all of those cute cheap items in the Target Dollar Spot for your students at Christmas, but trust me SAVE YOUR MONEY.   All of those dollars add up when buying for an entire class.  Through my teaching career I have seen some kids who love to get a small gift from their teacher, but most children will love you the same whether or not they get a gift.  If you do want give them something how about an inexpensive item such as a picture of you, their favorite teacher, and them together or make cookies for the class.  Just remember the money you could save could be spent on your own family, kids, or saved up to help pay a bill off.   Most children will lose or break those small trinket items in a matter of weeks.   

What are some ways you stay sane in your classroom during the holiday season?  I would love to hear some of your ideas.  Please leave a comment with your best tip for staying sane.  I hope I was able to give you some tips.  Thanks for stopping by and taking a peek!

12 October 2017

Teaching Math with Lego Bricks

I was recently asked by Brick Math: Using Lego™ Bricks to preview their math curriculum using their Teaching Addition manual.

I have to say I was impressed with what I saw and implemented.  Each teacher manual is thin enough to use with ease.  Brick Math also offers student workbooks to correlate with each manual.  Currently there are 6 topics to teach, with more coming in 2018.

Brick Math Series
The 6 topics currently available using Brick Math.

Naturally I wanted to start with something easy, so I chose Teaching Addition.

Using Legos to teach math - Brick Math

The teaching manual is very easy to follow.  It gives you a step by step guide on how to implement Brick Math in your classroom.   You may be wondering how would I teach this in a classroom setting.  You start by SHOWING THEM HOW.   Build the models, show them to the students, and ask questions.  The teacher manual will direct you when it is time for the students to build the same models.  Once they have mastered the modeling process you can then move to Part 2.  Part 2 has the students to show what they know.  Students complete each of the problems using bricks and drawing their models.  If using the student books that correlate with the teacher manual there is room for the students to complete their work.

Teaching Place Value with Legos

I started by teaching what each block represents.  1X1 Lego™ Brick represents the ones, 2X1 Lego™ Brick represents tens, and a 3X1 Lego™ Brick represents the hundreds.  Most students are able to grasp this concept quickly.  From this point we made numbers using Lego™Bricks.

Teaching Place Value with Legos

The last step my class and I worked on is putting the numbers together and adding!

Teaching Addition with Legos

That is it!  Students manipulate the Lego™ Bricks into numbers and practice adding.  If you still need guidance and help you can visit Brick Math website to catch some easy to follow videos!

I think this is a fun, engaging, and interactive way to teach math.  Students who learn by manipulating objects will do very well this curriculum, because it allows them to use objects they already know and love to reach their answer.  Overall I found this to be a fun math curriculum.  In my opinion it works perfectly for learners who may not be grasping a concept the traditional way and need another strategy.  I found it beneficial to use during my small group rotations.   Plus, I used what Legos™ I already had in my classroom.  

If you or your school are looking for a math curriculum to use, you can find more info on it HERE!

Teaching Addition with Legos

Brick Math is currently having a giveaway! From now until October 31st, Brick Math is holding a giveaway for brick sets designed for the program.  They are currently giving away a brick set to three winners.  The sets are worth $60 and are designed for two students to share.  Visit Brick Math Series Giveaway for a chance to enter.  They are also offering Teaching Fractions PDF version for FREE.  If you would like to sample the Teaching Addition manual, you can check it out HERE!

And to make this an even sweeter deal, Brick Math is offering to give one of my lucky followers a FREE teacher manual of their choice.  You can enter for a chance to win by clicking on the Rafflecopter.  

Feel free to share this giveaway with friends!

I would love to hear from you!  In the comments below tell me if you have ever used Brick Math before, and if so what is your favorite part about the curriculum?  Thanks for stopping by and taking a peek!

16 September 2017

Digital Writing Prompts for the Classroom

Do your students complete digital activities in your classroom?  Last year was the first year that I really truly started incorporating digital activities in my classroom.  Yes, in the past we played learning games and such on computers and tablets, but what I mean is incorporating digital assignments through Google Classroom.  My parish just started using Google Classroom a few years ago, so it took me sometime to figure it out.   It actually is not that hard to use, but it was a matter of finding the time to play and learn the ins and outs.  The more I have used it the easier it has become. Now I like to give my students assignments to complete through Google Classroom.

I recently created a Digital Writing Prompt set that can be used the entire school year.   I am really excited about this because now my students can use the computers and tablets to turn in writing assignments.   I am not a 1:1 school, so I designed a set which would allow plenty of time for the class to complete the writing assignment. Plus, let's face it, sometimes it takes a few days to get through the writing process.

There is one writing prompt per week and they are grouped by months.   The prompts are generic, so they can be used for a variety of grade levels.  I recommend second through fifth grade.  What I love about this resource is you don't have to be a technology expert to implement this activity in  your classroom.  However, if you are technology savvy then this set is perfect for you too.  I am using the writing prompts during small group rotations (remember I am not a 1:1).  This way students will work on the assigned prompts throughout the week and it still ensures I have enough tablets or Chromebooks for everyone.

After you download, you will make a copy and save it in your Google Drive.  From there you can send out whichever weekly writing prompt you want to use to your students through Google Classroom.  Because you have saved it as a copy, you can go in and move the Google Slides/Writing Prompts in whichever order you choose.

I hope you see something you could use in your classroom, whether if you are old or new to implementing technology into your classroom.  I would love to hear what other ways you are incorporating technology in your class.  Drop me a comment below.   Thanks for stopping by and taking a peek.

28 July 2017

Supply Caddies: DIY Simple Project

Do you use caddies to help organize your students supplies or to place in the center of a group?   I know a lot of teachers use caddies for various reasons in their classroom.  I wanted to try them out this year, but I could never find the color I needed.   My classroom theme is currently in black and white polka dots with teal.  So, I was in need of solid black caddies.  Sounds simple enough right?  Well, I could not find black caddies anywhere.  I found  a lot of bright or primary colors, but not just a simple black.  The closest thing I found was giant sized industrial caddy on Amazon and that was not going to work because it was way to big.

So, I decided to use Sonic's drink holders and make my own.   I wasn't really sure how they would hold up, but let me tell you, once they are spray painted they are very strong.

Black Supply Caddy

This ended up being one of the most inexpensive items I have ever made for my classroom.   It calls for a limited amount of supplies.  The Sonic drink holders are free, spray paint, duct tape, and plastic cups.

Black Supply Caddy

Black Supply Caddy

First you spray paint the drink holder whatever color you wish.  It took me 2 cans of spray paint to completely coat 6 drink holders.   After you let them dry get printed duct tape or washi tape.  I used a wide Scotch washi tape to wrap around the entire holder.   I made labels on the computer and color coded them to go with my classroom theme.  Last, I tied the labels on with coordinating ribbon.  That is it, you now have a supply caddy that matches your room.  The spray paint helps the cardboard become thicker and sturdier.  The tape not only looks good, but it also acts as an additional reinforcer. I am so happy with how these turned out and I have already received a lot of comments.  I do want to mention, I use black organizers and baskets for everything.  The reason I like black is because it hides dirt/stains, it goes with everything, and you can always use tags and ribbons to coordinate with your theme no matter the color!

I hope you found and idea that you can possibly use.  I would love to hear from you.  Thanks for stopping by and taking a peek.

18 July 2017

What are Formative Assessments and Why You Should be Using Them

                       How to Use Formative Assessment in the Classroom

We all use summative assessment in our classroom in some form or another.   Summative assessment is used after a unit or time of period to assess how much learning has taken place.  We use summative assessments after a chapter or topic has been taught.  We use them on our weekly test.   But how much FORMATIVE ASSESSMENT are you using in your classroom?

I am sure you use some form of formative assessment without realizing you are even doing it.  When we walk around our classroom and monitor learning, when we ask our students higher order thinking questions, or when we have students to give us an explanation to their learning.  These are all types of formative assessment.   But we must ask ourselves as educators is there more we could do to assess the learning taking place in our classroom.

Formative assessments are different in that they are taking place during learning and do not need to be graded.  Formative assessments are used to check for understanding along the way during teaching.  They can be used in all content area and both teachers and students can use formative assessment.  They help us as teachers to see if we need to backtrack and reteach a part of a lesson. Also, it helps us to see which learners in our class are grasping the concepts being taught and which are not.

With the ever growing list of things a teacher has to do, formative assessments should not consume that much time and should not cause a burden on the teacher or the student.  It should be a quick and simple check that is:

          1.  Engaging
          2.  Meaningful
          3.  Provides Feedback to Both Teacher and Student

So, what are some different ways you can provide engaging and meaningful formative assessments in your classroom?  Below are a list of my favorite formative assessments to use in my class.

Exit Cards

I have seen a variety of ways to present these and heard them called different names.  But they all have the same purpose.  The teacher poses a question, the student answers, and gives to the teacher when leaving the room.   They can post it on the door, slip it in a box, write it on an index card, or many other ideas.  The teacher then quickly glances through the answers and sorts the results into two piles, the ones who understood and the ones who need more instruction.

In the image below I posed the question 300-129 to my class.  I wanted to check their regrouping skills.  The exit card/ticket allowed me to clearly see where each child was messing up and where they were performing the skill correctly.

Exit Tickets


Teacher walks around the room whiles students are either working independently or in groups and marks on a clipboard a simple check by each students name.  They put a check in the column for yes if the student seems to have grasp the concept, or put a check in the not column in they need further instruction.

Beach Ball Throw

Students love this activity and it gets the kids moving.   You purchase a cheap beach ball at your local party store.  Write questions on the ball.  Toss the ball to a student.  Where their right hand lands, they answer the question about their learning.   Then, they toss to another student in the class.   This continues until everyone or most everyone has had a turn.

Beach Ball Throw - Formative Assessment

Idea Graffiti

Students are placed into groups of 4-5.  Each group is given a piece of butcher paper.  Each student is given an different colored marker.  They write a complete sentence about something they learned about the lesson.  The different colored markers help identify the students in each group without using names.

The image below shows how my students use the formative assessment of Idea Graffiti when responding to the novel, The War that Saved My Life.

Idea Graffiti Formative Assessment

Yes or No

This is just putting a spin on thumbs up or thumbs down.  Glue yes and no on popsicle sticks.  Have a series of questions ready to ask that pertain to the lesson.  The students will hold up yes or no to answer the question.  Also, if you prefer you could glue true or false.  If this is to time consuming to make, white boards would work just as well.

Four Corners

Assign each corner of the room either A, B, C, D.  Ask a question with four possible answers.  Students then move to the corner they believe to the correct answer.  This is not only a great formative assessment, but works as a brain break too!

Roll the Die

Each student is given a number cube.  They roll the die.  Based on where they land they write their response on a sticky note or index card and turn in when leaving the room.  There response is based on the following:

Roll a 1:  Write a question that someone should be able to answer after this lesson.  Give the answer to the question.

Roll a 2:  Explain the lesson so a preschooler could understand.

Roll a 3:  Draw a picture to represent the main idea of the lesson.

Roll a 4:  List three things that you learned today about this topic.

Roll a 5:  What was the most interesting thing you learned to today?

Roll a 6:  Tell which part was the most confusing.  Why?


Students will quickly draw a picture of the topic learned instead of writing it out in words.

Doodling with Formative Assessment


This is a great tool to use for all you technology lovers!  It provides instant feedback and the students love it!  You will need iPads, Chromebooks, or some form of mobile devices for the students to use. The teacher poses a question and the student answers.  Kahoot will provide immediate feedback to show who is on track.  Don't worry if your not a 1:1 classroom, I am not either.  However, I do currently have 6 iPads.  I place my class into groups of 6, and they rotate the iPad around within their group.  Instead of having names listed in Kahoot, I have it listed as Groups.  It works just as well.


This is another great tool to use to for formative assessment.  What is even better, you are using technology, but not everyone needs it. Only the teacher does.  You print out ahead of time a QR code for each child.  When you are ready ask your question and the kids hold up their sign. You use your device and hold it up to scan their codes.  Just like Kahoot, Plickers will provide instant feedback too! The kids love this just as much!

So, there you have it some of my favorite forms of formative assessments.  I hope you found something you can use in your classroom that will help you assess your students learning along the way.  Remember we want to work smarter, not harder!  Formative assessments should not be more work for you, but something you can easily fit into your lesson.  I would love to hear from you if you have any other neat ideas that you are using in your classroom!   Thanks for stopping by and taking a peek!

31 March 2017

We're All Wonders: Teaching Companion

I was so excited when the book, We're All Wonders showed up at my doorstep a few days ago.  Yes, I preordered my copied early, because I knew it would be a good book and I couldn't wait to share with my class. After reading R.J. Palacio first number one seller, Wonder,  with the beloved character Auggie I was hooked.  (Wonder is geared for fourth grade and up).  So, naturally as a second grade teacher I was so excited when she was coming out with picture book version for young children.

If you are a kindergarten through third grade teacher, then this is a must for your classroom library.   There are so many lessons you can teach with this book and the beloved character Auggie.  Auggie is an ordinary boy who likes to do ordinary things, but the one thing that make him different is he was born with facial deformities.  So, sometimes kids can be mean to Auggie.  They forget just because someone may look different or act different that they still have feelings too.  My favorite quote in the book is, "We are all wonders".

R.J Palacio started the trend #choosekind with her first book, Wonder.  This trend can be continued with this picture book.   How do you teach kindness in your classroom?

I knew as soon as this book arrived I wanted to use it as a center piece for talking about kindness and how we should treat others.  I created a book companion resource to use with this book.  It includes comprehension response questions,  book club for the classroom questions, writing prompts, kindness poetry writing, bookmarks, vocabulary match up, word search, and brag tags!

We're All Wonders:  Book Companion

The writing prompt is my absolute favorite.  In the book Auggie says that everyone is a Wonder. What he means by this is know matter what you look like we are all unique in our on way.   In the writing prompt, I have my students explore why they are "Wonders" ... What makes each one of them unique.  Plus I love the fact I have something awesome to display in the hallway.

We're All Wonders - Book Companion Resource (Writing Prompt)

I wanted to end my lesson with this book with a reminder the students could keep.  I want to encouarage my students to treat ALL people with kindness on daily basis.  I made them bookmarks. I printed the bookmarks on cardstock and tied with cute ribbon.  The resource pack does include brag tags too if this is something you use in your classroom.

We're All Wonders - Book Companion Bookmarks and Brag Tags

If you are looking for a way to teach kindness in your classroom I would highly recommend this book.  Students not only explore what it feels like to be on the outside but on the inside too.

Thanks for stopping by and taking a peek.  Remember to #choosekind!

16 January 2017

Teaching Chinese New Year vs. New Year in America

Teaching Chinese New Year vs. New Year in America

This past week we headed back to school for our first full week after Christmas break.  I had a dilemma, we came back to a full week of Benchmark Testing and I was not 100% prepared for what to do after testing was completed each day.  Benchmark Testing can be long and painful on many levels.  First, we only test for the first half of the day.  Second, my team and I need things to keep the students busy and engaged the rest of the day.  We follow a pacing guide in our parish, so we do not move ahead with our usual teaching.  So, basically during a benchmark week my day starts off with math, then benchmark testing, and then .....  Well you get the idea.  This was the big dilemma.   So, this year I decided to teach my kids a mini unit on New Years in America vs. Chinese New Year.  I know technically it is not Chinese New Year yet, but I knew this was the perfect week to dive into the topic and really teach all about it!  Let me tell you, it was a HIT!

We started off talking about New Years in America and all the traditions we celebrate.  We made resolutions and discussed what the top resolutions in America were.  Did you know the #1 New Year resolution in America is to lose weight?  My students thought this was hilarious.  I told them this is why they will see so many cars in the gym parking lot on their way home. ;))  Then we discussed why so many people (myself included) seem to not be able to keep their resolutions, but how we could really try to work on doing better this year.

Next, I introduced Chinese New Year!  We looked at our maps and located China.  We talked about where it was in the world and compared it to our continent and country (bringing in our map skills). Also, we discussed how New York City and San Francisco  both have big communities called Little China Town were these cultures can be celebrated.  We found these two areas on the map and looked at pictures on Google.  The kids were very intrigued by this point. We googled pictures of people celebrating Chinese New Year in China and the compared it to people who celebrate Chinese New Year in America.  Kids are always fascinated to learn that many traditions and celebrations we have in America are brought to us from other cultures.

After we looked at our maps and pictures we read a closed nonfiction reading passage about Chinese New Year (the passage can be found here).   Next, the students were placed into groups and we used our iPads to look up 4 interesting facts about New Years in America and Chinese New Year.  They wrote these facts in their writing notebooks.  There was not a cute graphic organizer for this, just plain writing notebook paper - remember this unit was done on the fly!  We came back together and we compared and contrast the two cultures and how they celebrate the holidays.  We made a Venn diagram in our notebook comparing and contrasting.   Next, they wrote a two paragraphs about this topic.   I was so impressed with their writings.   They must have really been paying attention, because they had some really great details in their writings.

Teaching Chinese New Year vs. New Year Paragraphs or Writings

By the end of the week we had learned so much.  I had brought in map skills, group work, technology, compare and contrasting, and writing.  We needed something fun to end this mini unit. We learned about the Zodiac Calendar and we made a rooster for, "The Year of the Rooster" (craft can be found here).  The roosters turned out so cute!   My students loved, loved them.   Also, we made Chinese New Year hats that turned out super cute (hats can be found here).

Chinese New Year Rooster Craft

Chinese New Year

Lesson learned for me - Sometimes pulling something together very quickly, but  putting just as much energy and enthusiasm into it can still lead to a great lesson.  I will definitely be teaching this again next year!  Will you be teaching Chinese New Year in your classroom?  I would love to hear what ideas or lessons you will teach.  Thanks for stopping by and taking a peek.

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