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Indoor Recess Activities When It's Too Rainy To Go Outside

By Julieann Samayoa
on January 17, 2019
Indoor Recess Activities When It's Too Rainy To Go Outside

Guest Post by Jenny Wise from Special Home Educator

No one likes being stuck inside, especially kids. To keep them occupied, it’s good to have some plans in your pocket to keep them from climbing up the walls. Not being able to go outside and run around and play to burn off energy can negatively impact attention spans. Here are some ideas to help everyone enjoy staying inside during recess.

Have Fun with Science

Sometimes, science can get a bad rap with kids. They think it’s boring or dry, and may not be motivated to experiment themselves. Thankfully, there are lots of entertaining activities that you can do indoors when the weather is poor. Even something simple like playing with building blocks can teach them spatial awareness and problem-solving. You can get a set of magnets for the kids to play with and teach them about magnetism. Another fun experiment is to create geode crystals. It’s a good opportunity for them to create something and for you to teach them about igneous and sedimentary rock formations.

Make Math a Blast

Unfortunately, math is similar to science in that many kids do not want to learn it. It can seem complicated and be difficult for them to relate to their own experiences. That’s why it’s important to show them how math can be used in everyday life, and a rainy day is a perfect time to do so. Use coins to solve math problems and teach budgeting skills, or even play games online together with math apps.

Rainy Day Activities for Kids

Do Something Offline

There are plenty of activities that stir creativity we can do without relying on the internet. The art of oral storytelling is one that should be preserved. Storytelling can develop students’ language abilities and vocabulary, as well as get children thinking creatively to develop characters. You can start with historical figures or folklore that you’re interested in. Have students come up with a new take on fables or something similar. You could also host a scavenger hunt around the classroom. If you do, make sure that the clues are guessable for young minds, but not too easy. To make things more fun, transform your clue lists into cryptogram, word scrambles or word searches. It’s a good idea to have these prepped and ready to go so you don’t have to rush at the last moment to create them when they’re needed. If your kids are extra restless, you could play some games together. Teach them a classic card game, like Go Fish, or get a giant game of hide and seek going.

Get Active with the Internet

Many of us associate the internet with lethargy, but it can actually inspire kids to be active. If you want to help your classroom burn through some of their energy and get the wiggles out, consider putting on an exercise or dance video. Everyone can follow along together, which can encourage camaraderie between the little ones. Not only that, but it’s fun to get up and move, especially if everyone is doing so together. By following along to a video, your classroom can practice hand-eye coordination and work on following directions at the same time. If your students need to get some wildness out of their systems, you may want to simply put on some child-appropriate dance music and let them move as they feel. Classic Disney songs are always a good choice but think of other musicals for kids or movies that strongly feature music, like Shrek.

Don’t let the bad weather get you and your class down. With a bit of planning and some smart preparation in advance, you and the kids can have a blast despite the rain. It’s the perfect time to experiment with math and science, to develop language skills, and to let your class shake out their wiggles with a bit of dancing. After all, recess should be about fun, not just learning.

5 Ways for Teachers to Save Money On Back to School Supplies

By Julieann Samayoa
on January 17, 2019
5 Ways for Teachers to Save Money On Back to School Supplies

Back to school time means empty your wallet time. But, it doesn’t have to! While times may be tight and pennies may be pinched in school buildings across the country, buying your own supplies doesn’t mean going bankrupt! Read on to learn about five easy ways you can save money when picking up some of your back to school supplies!

1. Take Advantage of Teachers Pay Teachers

If you haven’t visited this site yet, you’re missing out! Teachers Pay Teachers is a site created by teachers for teachers. They share their most effective ideas and make products for you to purchase (inexpensive) or download for free! If you find yourself purchasing name tags each year or even borders to decorate your bulletin board-think again. You can choose from at least twenty designs of name tags and print them out in color, in a flash! Simply click on the ones that you like, print them, laminate them, and label them! It’s that easy!

When I started teaching fourth grade for the first time, I was shocked how much time I was spending getting ready for school on the weekends. I had to learn the curriculum, create activities, grade papers, and more. I even had my husband shopping and laminating for me. After a few months of spending all my time working on school stuff, my husband and I had a discussion. He told me he was worried about me and about “us”! He confessed that he didn’t want me working all weekend every weekend and we needed to find a balance between work and home. I looked to Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT) and I’m
so glad I did. I found an Ecosystems Unit that followed the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) exactly! It was just what I was looking for! Absolutely Perfect. And it only cost $8.95 with over 50 pages and a week worth of activities for my students! I downloaded it, printed it, and showed my husband. The bottom line is I got my weekends back, precious time with my family, time to relax, time for myself, all for under $10! It's a true time saver and lifesaver!

2. Shop Consignment Stores

If you are an Early Childhood Educator (K-3), don’t turn your nose up at consignment shops or Goodwill. They are the perfect place to visit if you are in need of some toys for your indoor recess
center. You can also use them as inspiration for writing prompts, or even a motivator for a lesson. You can also find cute playhouses, art tables, and even puzzles and books for an unbelievably affordable price.

3. Dollar Store Pit Stop

The dollar stop should be a teacher’s best friend. You don’t need to go to expensive department stores to stock up on crayons, glue, and other school essentials. You can literally find everything you need to start the year off right all in one place. You can also pick up toys and candy to put in your prize box. Sometimes the store will boast a sale around back to school time so you could end up getting supplies priced two for a dollar!

4. Create a Giving Tree for the Classroom

For more expensive items like hand sanitizer, construction paper, pencil boxes, and tissues; consider
constructing a giving tree on your chalkboard during Meet the Teacher or Open House
night. Make a bunch of leaves and attach them to the body and branches of a tree you make out of chalk (or construction paper). Tell parents if they are interested in donating any items, they can take a leaf off of the tree and return the item the first week of school! I attach these donations to a Homework Pass that students can use for a donated item. Parents love this idea, many times, I’ve had parents hang on the homework passes until the holidays so they can use it during the busiest time of the year. What a great give back! Get the FREE "Giving Tree" template and donation idea list here!

 Giving Tree Freebie for Meet the Teacher and Open House Night

5. Save from the Year Before

Send a letter home the last week of school asking if parents would be interested in donating their child’s used school items for students next year. Children can leave behind their rulers, scissors, notebooks, and folders. You can even take their stray crayons and toss them in a giant art bin. Every little item counts, so take what you can get! This is a wise collection to start for when students misplace their supplies during the school year.

Being a modern-day teacher means being clever and thrifty. Consider the five tips above to ensure that you don’t break the bank when buying supplies this fall! Wishing you a great start to your school year!


Role Playing is an Awesome Strategy for Group Work

By Julieann Samayoa
on January 17, 2019
Role Playing is an Awesome Strategy for Group Work

Group work is been proven to improve student retention and enhance student learning. In fact, our whole culture is based on team work and working together to solve problems. It makes sense that when people work together (more brainpower) they come up with more ideas, suggestions, and solutions to a problem. But the question remains how do we get children to work together effectively? How do we make sure they are actually working and not talking about what they did last weekend? The answer: We teach them.

The method I have found to be extremely effective is through role playing. Role playing to teach how you expect groups to work together can be a fun yet powerful strategy. Kids loves role playing and what better way to teach such an important life skill as working together. Setting up skit cards for each role is recommended.

First and foremost, we set up structured procedures for group work. We teach the students, model it, and have them practice it over and over until they have it down.

The Task: you want groups to take turns reading an article, stopping after each paragraph to highlight the key ideas. Then using those key ideas to figure out the main idea of each paragraph and then of the entire article.

The Performance:

Prepare the scenario or skit in advance. Set up your student actors and actresses ahead of time
who you know will be charismatic as they perform this important skit. Set up the Skit Cards with what you want them to say.

Scene 1: Have the student actors come up the front of the class so you can introduce each student actor. You might want to give yourself a role (as a student) also. The class will get a kick out of the
performance and you acting as a student. Now, run through the group work scenario. For our specific task it might go something like this:

Read an article out loud, stopping after each paragraph.

Now the acting or role playing begins…

“Ok, we read the paragraph so what do you think is the main idea of this paragraph?”

Tamara: “I don’t know.”

Braden: “What did Mrs. Smart say about finding the main idea?”

Marta: “I can’t remember do you?”

Bob: “I think she said to ask ourselves, what is the author trying to tell us?”

Braden: “Oh yeah, that’s right." 

Marta: “Then we are supposed to look for key details that support that."

Tamara: “Yeah. So let’s see what do you think the author is trying to tell us in this paragraph?”

Braden: “I’m not sure.”

Tamara: “Maybe we should read it again.”

Bob: “Good idea! I’ll go first.”

Then read the article again and go through the whole process while modeling it for the class. Afterwards, ask the class “What did you notice about what our group just did?”

Have the students come up with strategies or things they noticed that made this group work effectively together. For instance, they took turns reading, they reminded each other how to complete the task, they treated each other nicely, they used their quiet inside voices, they focused on the assignment, everyone had a turn to speak and read, they listened to everyone’s thoughts and ideas, etc.

Quick Steps:

  • Set up the Scenario
  • Role play to model it
  • Practice it
  • Give feedback
  • Pick the most productive group or best working team

Before we start any group activity, I always tell the class that I’m going to be looking for the most productive group or the group with the best team work. As groups are working and I circulate around the classroom, I look and listen—jotting down notes about what I saw or heard from different groups.

At the end of the activity, I give feedback to all the groups and share my findings. Then I announce which group was the most productive or best working team for the day.

What are the benefits of group work?

Group projects can help students develop a host of skills that are increasingly important in the professional world (Caruso & Woolley, 2008; Mannix & Neale, 2005). Positive group experiences, moreover, have been shown to contribute to student learning, retention and overall success
(Austin, 1997; Tinto, 1998; National Survey of Student Engagement, 2006).

Properly structured, group projects can reinforce skills that are relevant to both group and individual work, including the ability to:

  • Break complex tasks into parts and steps
  •   Obtain deeper understanding through group discussions
  • Give and receive feedback on performance
  • Develop stronger communication skills
  • Learn how to delegate roles and responsibilities
  • Share and learn from different perspectives and opinions
  • Pool their knowledge and skills
  • Receive social support and encouragement to take risks 
  •  Develop a new approach to solving problems or tasks
  • Establish a shared identity with other group members.
  • Develop their own voice and perspectives in relation to their peers.
Once students learned how to work productively in groups, try to resist the temptation to jump in too 

early and put the students on the right path. Part of effective group work is learning how to work together to solve a problem, perform a task, or create a project in collaboration with others.


Make History Come Alive with Discussion Partners

By Julieann Samayoa
on January 17, 2019
Make History Come Alive with Discussion Partners

"Discussion Partners" are partners that work on an activity, reading assignment, project, or other assignment together and then discuss what they've learned or complete a written activity.

Why use Discussion Partners?

Research has shown that students not only need to read and write but also need to discuss (or talk) about a new concept or skill to really learn and fully understand it. According to the University of Washington, "A well-planned discussion can encourage and stimulate student learning and add variety to your class.  While “good” discussions can be a powerful tool for encouraging student learning if done correctly."

Students in a classroom working together

In My Classroom:

At the start of each unit, I have students set up their "Discussion Partners" for the entire unit. It's a quick 15 minute activity that will make our transitions into partner work seamless for the next 4 to 6 weeks. Setting it up takes a little practice for the students but by the second unit they've got it down and look forward to it (as much as I do!)

What it Looks Like:

It consists of a map with 3-5 cities or countries listed below the map where the students will write the name of their Discussion Partner at each destination. However, it's not as simple as that! There are guidelines that students must follow in order to pick their Discussion Partners and this must be taught and practiced like every other classroom procedures. For example, look at the working partner example below for ancient Rome. Below the map, list 5 cities where students will meet with their chosen partners.

How it Works:

Give the students specific guidelines they must follow when setting up their "Discussion Partners." I write the 5 requirements on the board. For example, I might say, "For Rome you will need to find someone in this class who is born in a different month than you. In Florence, you must work with the opposite sex (boy-girl). In Venice, you must find someone who gets to school by a different mode of transportation than you. In Naples, you must work with someone who you've never worked with before in this class. In Milan, you may work with a friend. (I always let them have one friend partner for each unit.) Each unit it's a different set of guidelines, except for the friend and working with someone different. I tell them that by the end of the year, they will have worked with everyone in the class. I also tell them that you don't have to like everyone but you do have to work with them in a courteous and team-like manner just like in the real work world.

Other Rules:

I let the students know that they will have 6-8 minutes to find all five discussion partners and then sit back down at their desk. I tell the students that, "When I call time, if you don't  have a partner for one or two of the cities then I will choose your partners for you." This helps to encourage them to get it done themselves. Also, if you have an odd number of students in that class, then tell them that you have the last say in deciding who the group of 3 will be or if you want someone to work alone.
Lastly, practice it. Don't expect the first time to go perfectly. This is work in progress so to speak! It's probably new to them so give them feedback on how to make it go smoother. Then practice it again. I use it for all my units in social studies throughout the year. I have found it's well worth the extra time in the start of each unit because at any point during the unit, I can just say, "It's time to meet with your Naples Discussion Partner to read the article about the Roman Republic and answer the questions that follow. You have fifteen minutes to complete the reading and questions together...go!"
Next, model for them how to ask someone nicely to be their partner.

5 Fun Ways to Celebrate Earth Day

By Julieann Samayoa
on January 17, 2019
5 Fun Ways to Celebrate Earth Day

Earth Day is a day to celebrate planet Earth. The very first Earth Day was celebrated on April 22, 1970. Over 20 million people participated in events to support environmental protection. Cities and schools planned educational presentations, recycling events, and cleanups at their local parks, beaches, and other outdoor areas. Today, over 141 nations around the world celebrate Earth Day.

Here are 5 quick and creative ways to celebrate Earth Day in the classroom:

1. Go on an Earth Day Scavenger Hunt!

Enjoy Earth Day by going on an Earth Day Scavenger Hunt! Have students grab a clipboard and the Earth Day Scavenger Hunt that's part of my FREE Earth Day Activity Pack. Instruct them to be on the lookout for all that Planet Earth has to offer. Use their senses by asking the following questions:

  •  What do they see? Do they see any creepy crawly insects, birds gliding overhead, new buds or leaves on trees, a clear blue sky, or gray rain clouds?  Have students draw or sketch and color their findings in the boxes on their sheet.
  • What do they smell? Have students focus on smelling. Can they smell any sweet fragrant flowers, fresh cut grass, or someone grilling in the distance?
  • What do they feel? Have students close their eyes and touch the ground. Can they feel the soft grass, or the rough rock, bark on a twig, the warmth of the sun, or even a light breeze?
  • What do they hear? Listen closely. Do they hear a bird chirping, other children playing outside, zipping cars in the distance, a school bell, or plants swaying in the breeze?
  • What do they taste? This one will have to wait for a later Earth Day Snack!

The other purpose of this Scavenger Hunt is for students pick up any litter or trash they find on our mini field trip. Remember to bring a couple of trash bags.

Go on a nature scavenger hunt

2.  Learn About Ways We Can Save the Earth!

In our Earth Day Activity Pack there are three high-interest kid-friendly informational articles and activities to teach about:
*What is Earth Day?
*Ways to Save Our Earth
*The Natural Cycles of the Earth


Save Our Earth Activities

3.  Plant a Flower Sponge

Have students bring in one small new clean sponge from home. Purchase some flower seeds. Have students wet the sponge so that it's really damp. Next, they plant their seeds inside the sponge. Have them push the seeds down into the sponge just enough so the seeds won't’ fall off when the sponge is picked up. Place the sponges on a Styrofoam plate that has each student’s name written in permanent marker. Place the plates in a sunny window. Have students water their sponges each day. *Don’t let the sponge dry out completely. Place a clear plastic container over sponges at night to keep it moist.

4. Spring Clean the Classroom

Earth Day is also about cleaning up our Earth. So why not have the students do some spring cleaning? Buy some Green Wise disinfectant wipes or make your own solution with Baking Soda, Lemon Juice, and water in a pail. Dip in a paper towel and it’s ready to go. Have students clean bookshelves, cupboards, supply bins, sinks, counters, and door handles. It’s also a perfect time to clean their desks and cubbies inside and out.

Kids cleaning up

5. Create an Earth Day Flip Book

Everything you need to learn more about Earth Day, ways to save and protect our Earth, and lots of engaging student activities are included in this Free Earth Day Activity Pack. This Earth Day Activity Pack includes kid-friendly articles and fun activities including:
*Flip Book
*Earth Day Mystery Flaps for Flip Book
*Earth Day Poster
*Acrostic Poem Template
*Earth Day-Themed Papers
*Two Earth Day Writing Prompts
*Vocabulary Flip Flaps
*Vocabulary Posters- perfect for bulletin boards


 Make Everyday Earth Day

5 Ways to Build Self-Esteem in the Classroom

By Julieann Samayoa
on January 17, 2019
5 Ways to Build Self-Esteem in the Classroom

The Awesome Project

Self-esteem is the one of the most valuable tools for students to succeed in school. As
teachers we are instrumental in making this happen. But how do we make it happen? Teachers have a lot of power! Do you remember your favorite teachers? The ones who made a difference in your life?

It’s the little things that make a BIG difference! Start small by starting an “Awesome” Book!

  •  Set up your “Awesome” Book: First, find a large notebook that lies flat when I open it. I prefer to use a one subject spiral notebook with pocket folders, not composition, because then I can open it up and flip it around. Label the top of each page in the notebook with the name of each student.
  •  Decorate the Notebook Over the Top! Cover it with the word “AWESOME” with either colorful permanent markers, stickers, or even fancy duct tape that you know the students will recognize. Be creative and have fun to make it look colorful and extraordinary.
  •  Introduce the “AWESOME notebook” and ritual to students. Make a big deal out of it! Explain to them that you will be walking around the classroom at different times during the day and observing them. So if they see you carrying around this notebook or clipboard and taking notes, it’s because you are looking for “Awesome” things to write in your notebook.

Awesome Job

  • Set Expectations & Give Examples: Explain that you know that they will be doing tons of awesome things like helping out a partner, highlighting details in an article, sharing a pencil with a student who needs one, taking detailed notes on their sticky note during reading time, being a good leader by handing in your homework every day, keeping a group on task, or whatever your specific classroom expectations are.
  •  Model it: I might say to the students, “For instance, today I noticed that Meggen volunteered to read the poem to the class. And did you notice the way she read it? She read it expression and proper rhythm. She did an “Awesome” job of reading that poem. I was very proud of her. How many of you noticed that after she read it to us, I jotted down a note in my “Awesome” notebook? Here’s what I wrote down, “September 22. Meggen volunteered to read “title of poem” aloud to the class. She read it loudly and with lots of expression.”
  •  Get the students Involved! Ask the class what do they think I will be doing with these notes of awesomeness? Call on students to hear what they think. You might even get some new awesome ideas.

Classroom Management

  • Show them the power of the “Awesome” book & sell it to your students!I often tell the students, “I love all your ideas and I will keep them mind for the future. But for now, here’s what I plan to do with these notes. Inside this notebook is a page dedicated for each of you (show them a few pages with names). At the end of each day and week, I am going to look through my “Awesome” book and chose a few students to recognize. I might share my observations with the class and sometimes I might share it with your families at home. I might send home a positive (good) note home, it looks like this. Everyone say, “Oooh! Ahhh!” Do you know how much you’re your parents and grandparents are going to love to get these good notes home? They will absolutely love it! Or I might even send a note to the principal of our school, so she knows how awesome you’re doing in this class. Who knows I might even do all these things. The most important thing is that you continue doing awesome things all the time because you never know when or who I am watching. But know this. . . I am watching all the time.”


    Practice it right then! Tell them you’re going to practice it. Begin on the next lesson of the day. Take some notes in your “awesome” notebook. Show the students the front of the notebook so they see that you’re taking down some notes. After the lesson is over, share a note or two with the students. It’s very important to continue practicing this everyday so it become a routine. Pick a time that works well with your classroom schedule. Maybe right after recess or at the end of the day. But always hold up the “awesome” notebook many times throughout the day so they see that you’re following through on your word and that you’re watching and taking notes. You will probably see or hear students whisper, “Look Ms. Smart has the “awesome” book out. Let’s do our best on this project. Maybe she’ll notice us.” 

  • Weekly Recognition: At the end of each week, draw a line across the page under where the notes end for each student’s name. This makes it easier to figure out where to start the next week. It also helps you to notice who you haven’t taken notes on recently.  Then pick out a few students that you want to recognize and write a positive (good) note home. Put a star next to those student notes. It’ll help you remember who you've recognized and how many times as the
    weeks fly by. Set a goal of how many students you want to recognize each day and/or week. I announce 1 or 2 students and good deeds at the end of each day. Weekly I send home 2-3 positive notes home at the end of the week. I set a goal of doing this on Friday afternoons and won’t let myself leave for the weekend until it’s finished.
  • What’s the Purpose? Now, what the students don’t know is that you’re using this notebook for several purposes. First, as a way to reinforce positive behavior and build self-esteem in each student. However, you can make any kind of note in this notebook that also helps you because the students will never get to read it.

The more ways you use it, the more valuable it becomes!

  1. This notebook is a way to record anecdotal notes such as strengths or weaknesses of a student, what students need extra help on a specific concept or skill, or what you need to reteach or practice more.
  2. In the back of the notebook where there’s some extra pages, I have a “Miscellaneous” Section where I can write down notes to myself.
  3. It also becomes a classroom management tool. The more you use it the more the students will follow your class procedures and be better behaved.
  4. For reflection notes not only about each student but also about the class as a whole. For example, I might note that Miguel was struggling with his multiplication facts so I need to send home some fact cards or extra practice sheets for him.
  5. Another great way to use this strategy is you could jot down behavior or social issues that arise too. Maybe you notice that Sam and Sophia had a hard time working together during centers today. Then you can have a talk with both them and see how if it gets better. If not, maybe they shouldn't be in the same group for a bit.
  6. It also serves as a record for Parent Teacher Conferences, important meetings, and report cards. 


6 Creative Ways to Celebrate St. Patrick's Day

By Julieann Samayoa
on January 17, 2019
6 Creative Ways to Celebrate St. Patrick's Day

 St. Patrick’s Day is such a fun holiday to share with students. They love “being green” for a day and learning about this unique holiday. There are many creative and inexpensive ways to celebrate St. Patrick's Day in the classroom.

Here’s a list of my top 6!

1. In the spirit of the mischievous leprechauns everywhere, early in the morning before students arrive turn a few things upside down or sideways. The calendar or posters on bulletin boards are great things they will notice. I also flip my computer chair over, leave a few dry erase markers on the floor, tip over a box of rulers, and pull out a few books from the bookshelf left open with a bookmark to look like someone was reading!

2. I love haphazardly spilling a handful of lucky charms on all the desks. Adding a dash of gold or green
glitter around the classroom (on counter tops, in the sink, on bookshelves, or on an empty desk) gives it an extra element of surprise. I love seeing the students eyes light up when they enter the classroom and see it.

3. Share a great read aloud.

Here are my favorites:

  • How to Catch a Leprechaun by Adam Wallace is an awesome best-selling book that is sure to delight your students. The author sets up the scene by creating the perfect trap! Now all you need to do is wait. Is this the year you'll finally catch the leprechaun? Start a St. Patrick's Day tradition with this fun and lively children's book.
  • St. Patrick's Day By Gail Gibbons tells the history behind Saint Patrick. A perfect introduction to the customs surrounding the holiday-- parades, special meals, and of course wearing lots of green.
  • Jamie O'Rourke and the Big Potato By Tomie dePaola tells an old Irish story that dates back to 200 years ago. It's a fun story with some "good" luck that offers an opportunity to have discussions on a number of issues that make everyone think.

4. Enjoy a GREEN snack. I usually buy a couple of gallons of milk and add green food coloring to make it green. Or you could buy some green fruit juice. When the students are gone to lunch, I hide some chocolate gold coins in their desks. 

5. Looking for a fun hands-on activity with some built in character education? Have students learn about the history of Saint Patrick and this special holiday. Our St. Patrick's Day Activity Pack comes with reading passages, hands-on activities, writing activities, and a flip book.

Check out our St. Patrick's Day Activity Pack that has many interactive activities and learning opportunities about:
✔Saint Patrick
✔Symbols of Ireland
✔St. Patrick’s Day Traditions
✔Comprehension Questions
✔Map and Flag of Ireland
✔It's Your Holiday! Writing Activity
✔St. Patrick's Day Mystery Flaps
✔St. Patrick’s Day Organizers (2)
✔St. Patrick's Day Flip Book
✔Vocabulary Posters
✔Spotlight on Vocabulary
✔Give a Good Luck Charm

6. Check out our St. Patrick's Day Scavenger Hunt Freebie! Post the posters around the classroom and have students travel around to find the answers to the questions on the scavenger hunt. Students will learn about the traditions of this fun holiday as they search for clues. 


However you decide to celebrate the day, stay green and have fun!

6 Creative Ways to Celebrate St. Patrick's Day

3 Brilliant Ways to Use Yoga in the Classroom

By Julieann Samayoa
on January 09, 2019
3 Brilliant Ways to Use Yoga in the Classroom

 Yoga is a state of mind. It helps relax and still the body. In this relaxed and focused state, you can direct the mind toward a particular goal or outcome with little distractions. Setting the stage with an “I can do it!” attitude helps inspire and motivate your students to work toward a specific goal. Best of all, you don’t have to be a yogi master to bring some of these benefits to your students.

For hundreds of years, people have reaped the benefits of yoga. Research has proven that yoga can offer the following benefits:

  • Improved concentration
  • Perfect for goal-setting (intentions)
  • Overcoming fears
  • Relaxation
  • Living and focusing on the present
  • Greater self-acceptance
  • Improved strength & flexibility

Three Brilliant Ways to Use Yoga in the Classroom

1. Just Breathe

Just like with any other new skill, start slow and build on from there. First, teach your students how to breathe. Sounds simple enough, but building awareness of breathing is an important skill. Since breathing and mind are connected, awareness of breathing will help students calm their thoughts and focus.

Practice this by having students sit criss-cross applesauce on the floor. Tell them to close their eyes with their palms together at heart center. Have them take a deep breath in through their nose and hold it for a count of three. Then slowly breathe out through their mouth. Exhales should sound like the waves of an ocean or Darth Vader’s breathing. Model for students how to use your breath to fog up a mirror. This is how they should practice breathing for these deep cleansing breaths. Practice 3-5 deep cleansing breaths with your students each day.

After the deep breaths, have students continue breathing in and out quietly through their noses at their regular breathing pace. Hint: I tell my students to count their breaths on the inhale, this helps them to focus on their breathing and not let their minds wander.

When is the best time to just breathe?
Use breathing exercises when you want to help your students relax or focus on a difficult task. I have used this strategy with my students each morning to start the day and after recess to calm their minds and bodies. It works wonders by giving them a few minutes to relax and reset their minds so we can refocus on a new task.

3 Brilliant Ways to Use Yoga in the Classroom

2. Set A Goal (Intention)

After taking some deep breaths to quiet and still the mind, then I have students set their daily goals. This procedure works best in the early morning or right before a particular task like a writing activity, math lesson, or a test.

Seriously, this is one of the best teaching strategies I have ever discovered. I’ve used this with great success right before a specific task. It works wonders to calm down and reset their brains after recess, before starting a new task or activity, or before taking a test. After 5-10 minutes of breathing exercises, it’s time to set the stage.

While students are focusing on their breathing, guide them to think about the day ahead. You might say, “Everyday we get to start new. We can choose to make this day GREAT. We can choose to work hard to be the BEST we can be.  We can choose not to give up when something gets hard for us. We CAN focus our minds on anything we want to accomplish. So I ask you, what is your goal for today? What do YOU want to do better? What will you FOCUS on improving today? Take three more breaths. After I release you, I want you to go back to your desk and write down your goal for today.”

Each day after our morning meeting, the students wrote down their daily goal on a “Weekly Goal Chart.” That sticky note sat on their desk all day. It served as a constant reminder. At the end of the day, I had the students put the sticky note in their journals. Underneath it, they had to write a mini-reflection about their day. They wrote 2-3 sentences about their day.

They must answer one of the following questions:
1.    Did you meet your goal for today? If not, what could you do differently next time? If you did, explain how it made you feel.
2.    Write down something new you learned today.
3.    What was your favorite classroom activity or lesson today? Why?
4.    Write down a new word you learned. Use it in a complete sentence.
5.    Write down something new you learned about YOURSELF as a student today.
6.    What was your favorite part of today? Why?
7.    What was the best thing you read today? Why?

For intermediate students, it helps to have them write down their daily goals in a notebook or on a sticky note each day. That way it keeps the goal in the forefront of their minds and they can refer to it and see how they are progressing over time.

3 Brilliant Ways to Use Yoga in the Classroom

3. Focused Goal-Setting

Give students some examples of goals for a particular task. For example, I might say, “I want you to set a goal in your mind for our writing lesson today. Maybe your goal for today is to do your best even if writing is not your favorite subject. Maybe your goal is to write at least 200 words in your journal. Perhaps you will work on adding ten more descriptive words to your writing. Whatever your goal is for today it must include you being the best YOU! Believe in yourself and know that you can do anything you set your mind to. After you’ve set your goal for today, take five more breaths. Then quietly go back to your seats and take out your writer’s notebooks and begin.”

The key is setting a goal for today or for that particular lesson. We all have daily goals usually in the form of a list. But think of the potential of our students when we teach them and encourage them to set a daily goal or a target for a specific lesson or task. Not only are we giving them the power to succeed, but we are also building their self-esteem and teaching them the power of positive thinking. On average, it takes 20-30 days of practicing a skill before it becomes a habit. So, imagine if we do breathing exercises and goal-setting each day of the school year. Students will have done it about 180 times. In essence, these strategies and practices could become life-long habits for students. Now that’s powerful!

When is it best to use this focused goal-setting strategy?
*First thing in the morning
*After Morning Meeting
*After Recess
*Before Writer’s Workshop
*Before a Test

3. Take a Yoga Break

We’ve all heard of brain breaks, but have you heard of a yoga break? I use brain breaks in my classroom as part of my reward system. If we have an excellent lesson, extra time, or if I can tell that the students are getting restless, I have the star student pull a card from the box. Since I’ve started doing yoga in the classroom, the students are completely into having a yoga break. Most of the time during our yoga time we don’t have time to just explore different poses so instead we doing it during a yoga break. For our yoga break, we might try one of the poses that they learned and practiced. I challenge the students to hold that pose. Then I give them a couple of minutes to explore. The Eagle Pose is perfect for this! The Eagle Pose is where students twist one leg around the other, so they are standing on only one leg. Then wrapped your arms around each other, so they are intertwined. While standing on one leg, start to sit down into chair position to see how far they can go. It’s amazing what they’ll come up with when yo tell them to explore this pose or have fun with it.

Just like any other classroom activity, make sure to set up and practice “Yoga Rules” and procedures before starting yoga in the classroom. Safety always comes first.

Check out my Yoga in the Classroom Starter Kit to get started Today!

Why not take a chance and try out some of these yoga practices this school year. It’s a win-win for everyone. Even if you choose to practice only breathing exercises this year, I promise, you and your students will find it refreshing, beneficial, and fun!

This post is also featured on the TpT blog!

3 Brilliant Ways to Use Yoga in the Classroom

4 Awesomely Creepy Creatures to Learn About This Fall

By Julieann Samayoa
on January 09, 2019
4 Awesomely Creepy Creatures to Learn About This Fall

It's time for cooler weather, field trips to the apple orchard, watching football, carving pumpkins, and enjoying the beauty of the changing landscapes. Autumn may bring the return of school and fun holidays like Halloween and Thanksgiving, but many other things make this season the best one of all!

I am excited to kick off the fall season with some creative and hands-on resources. After several requests to bundle our Autumn resources, we have released the Fall Activities Bundle! Students will love the many activities in this bundle as they learn about spiders, pumpkins, owls, and bats! This resource has 4 separate units rolled into one huge pack with more than 150 pages in all!! These activities are designed to be fun, interactive, and engaging!

These units are a super easy way to integrate science standards and literacy skills across the curriculum.

Give a Hoot for Owls

Owls are amazing birds! Did you know that owls are one of the oldest species in existence? Fossils of owls have been found dating back over 60 million years ago. People in countries from all over the world have always had a fascination with owls. Many cultures have made up stories or myths about owls for thousands of years. In this activity pack students will learn all about Barn Owls, Snowy Owls, Life Cycle of an Owl, Body Parts, and how owls help humans. Inside this unit you will find reading passages to learn all about owls and many hands-on activities to reinforce learning.

Posters Make an Attractive Bulletin Board in a Snap!

Introduce the eight vocabulary words with the real-life photo posters included. You could post these posters around the classroom and have students travel around to match up and define the words in their flip flaps or use as a center activity.

Students can read the informational articles all about owls and the life cycle of an owl to give them a clear understanding. They will love the fun character studies where they will Meet Hoot, a barn owl and Meet Snowy, a snowy owl. The informational articles are written in the form of a mini-booklet with questions and scenes for students to connect, color, and assemble. Pages can be stapled at the top to make a full-sized booklet or be cut in half to create a half-page mini-book.

Lots of Hands-on Activities Allow for Differentiation

Students can complete the Barn Owl Mini-booklet and writing activities to complete their study on owls. These make excellent activities to do independently at centers. They can use the articles as a reference source to help them complete the pages of the Mini-booklet. Lastly, they cut, color, and assemble the Mini-booklet. Mini-booklets can be glued or stapled inside their interactive notebooks, file folder, or a 12 x 18 piece of construction paper folded like a book cover. Students could then decorate the cover of the booklet. Hoot! Hoot!

Plus students will love meeting two owl characters:

  • Meet Hoot (a barn owl)
  • Meet Snowy (a snowy owl)

What's Inside:

✔Reading Passages (4)
✔Mini-booklet all about owls
✔Compare/Contrast Activity
✔Life cycle of a barn owl
✔A Life Cycle Chart
✔Color the Owls with True Facts
✔Create an Owl Mini-booklet
✔Owl Organizer
✔Vocabulary Posters (8)
✔Spotlight on Vocabulary
✔Owl Writing Project
✔Great for the Fall Season
✔Common Core Aligned

Click Here to See the Unit on Owls

Go Batty for Bats!

Bats are amazing little creatures that are very helpful to people! Bats are mammals just like us! But the one thing that makes bats unique from all other mammals is that they can fly! Students will love learning all about bats with these high-interest informational articles, creative character bats, and fictional bat story.

Informational and Fictional Passages to Compare and Contrast

Start off the unit with three fun and factual character bats: Buddy Boo (a megabat), Berry Boo (a fruit bat), and Bitty Boo (a microbat). Students will love learning about them.

Read a fictional story about a bat called “An Uninvited Guest” and answer the questions to pique their interest and build background knowledge. These are perfect for guided reading groups with two sets of skill-based questions. This is also a great discussion starter for real life situations.

Students will learn all about bats with informational articles on:
✔Body parts
✔Ways bats help people

Reading passages and activities are great for centers too. One of the activities to complete is a accordion book. This unit was updated in 2016 to include a flip booklet. They will color, cut, and build their batty books. Once completed these can be glued inside their interactive notebooks.

Your students will go batty for this creative hands-on resource! This non-fiction unit focuses on 1st and 2nd Grade Common Core ELA Standards with lots of fun activities that are perfect for interactive notebooks, too!

This unit has been newly updated and now includes the Life Cycle of a Bat and a Bat Flip Book!

Shine a Spotlight on Vocabulary

Introduce the 6 vocabulary words with the real-life photo posters included. You could post these posters around the classroom and have students travel around to match up and define the words in their flip flaps or use as a center activity. In addition, the vocabulary flip flaps are a great hands-on activity that works well in their interactive notebooks. Shine a spotlight on vocabulary!

Click Here to See the Bats Unit

Pumpkins, Pumpkins Everywhere

Pumpkins come in all different shapes, colors, and sizes just perfect for students observation and exploration. In this unit students will predict, explore, and estimate all about their chosen pumpkin. In this unit, they will combine a variety of reading, math skills, and scientific observation skills to learn all about pumpkins. Just in time for Halloween!

Start the Unit by Reading the Kid-Friendly Passages

Have students read the passages and complete the different activities. You could have students work with a partner or in small groups. Putting one article and a related activity at each center or station works well with intermediate students.

Students will learn all about pumpkins including:

✔Life cycle of a Pumpkin

✔Parts of a Pumpkin

✔Fruit or Vegetable Activity

✔Homemade Pumpkin Treats

Pumpkin Activities are Perfect for Science Centers

There are lots of activities included in this pack including a 6-page flip book. Have students complete the flip booklet and build it page by page. I usually have them do one page at each center or station. They can use the articles as a reference source to help them complete the pages of the booklet. Lastly, cut, color, and assemble the booklet. Flip up books can be glued or stapled inside their interactive notebooks, file folder, or a 12x18 piece of construction paper folded like a book cover.

This unit includes many interactive activities including:

✔Meet Alexander - a young botanist

✔Summarize How to Grow a Gigantic Pumpkin

✔Create a Pumpkin Facts Mini-booklet

✔Math Task Cards

✔Fruit & Veggie Pocket Sort

✔All About Pumpkins---Fact and Opinion

✔Mystery Flaps

✔Vocabulary Posters

✔Spotlight on Vocabulary

✔Vocabulary Flip Flaps

✔PLUS 6 page Flip Booklet

Vocabulary Posters with Real-Life Photos

Life cycle information and diagrams are included in all four of these units. At the end of the unit, students will be able to compare and contrast the life cycle of pumpkin to bats, owls, and spiders.

Click Here to See the Unit on Pumpkins

Who Doesn't Love Those Awesome Arachnids?

Learning about spiders can be fun! This unit includes informational articles, hands-on activities, and vocabulary posters for those creepy, crawly creatures. This unit focuses on Arachnids, Life Cycle of a Spider, Black Widow Spiders, Wolf Spiders, and Tarantulas. There are lots of hands-on activities and organizers for students to show what they know. This pack can be set up as five fun activities for centers for a week long investigation.

High Interest Informational Articles Highlight 3 Types of Spiders

✔Black Widows
✔ Wolf Spiders

Use the Fact Sort to Compare and Contrast

Compare these three types of spiders with a fun cut-n-sort activity with hidden words. Students can use the articles and their newly acquired knowledge to sort the facts and put them under the correct spider. After sorting all the facts, students can move them around to spell out a hidden word. This a fun comparison alternative to the usual Venn diagram.

What’s inside At a Glance:

✔Informational Articles About Awesome Arachnids, Black Widows, Wolf Spiders, Tarantulas and Life Cycle of a Spider
✔Black Widows Close Up
✔Spotlight on Wolf Spiders
✔Tarantulas Uncovered
✔Compare & Contrast All Three Spiders--Cut-n-Sort Activity with Hidden Words
✔Black Widows Fact Wheel
✔Wolf Spider Fact Wheel
✔Tarantulas Fact Wheel
✔Labels the Parts of a Spider
✔All about Spiders Fact or Opinion
✔Life Cycle of a Spider Diagram
✔Spiders Flip Booklet (5-pages)
✔Vocabulary Flip Flaps
✔Spotlight on Vocabulary
✔Spider Vocabulary Posters

Click here to See the Unit on Spiders

The standards addressed in these 4 units:

  • Ask and answer questions to demonstrate the understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers.
  • Describe the relationship between a series of historical events, scientific ideas or concepts, or steps in technical procedures in a text.
  • Determine the meaning of words and phrases in a text relevant to a grade 2 topic or subject area.
  • Identify the main purpose of a text, including what the author wants to answer, explain, or describe.
  • Summarize the life cycle of animals including birth and developing into an adult.
  • Describe how the structures of plants and animals complement the environment of the plant or animal.
  • Describe different animal adaptations including camouflage, defense mechanisms, movement, hibernation, and migration.

How to Use Flip Books as a Learning Tool

Have students complete the flip book and build it page by page. I usually have them do one page at each center or learning station. They can use the articles as a reference source to help them complete the pages of the booklet. Lastly, they cut, color, and assemble the booklet. Flip books can be glued or stapled inside their interactive notebooks, file folder, or a 12 x 18 piece of construction paper folded like a book cover. They could also decorate the outside of the folder with a colorful design of their own.

Click Here to See the Fall Activities Bundle with All FOUR Units

This bundle has 4 AWESOME units all rolled into one! The best part is you can rest easy knowing that your students will be excited and motivated as they learn about these favorite fall creatures!

Fall Activities Bundle for Kids Pin 

How to Throw a Spooktacular Halloween Party

By Julieann Samayoa
on January 09, 2019
How to Throw a Spooktacular Halloween Party

Kids young and old adore Halloween. It’s a fun chance to dress up as someone else, enjoy the fall weather, and have a scary good time. Hosting a frightfully fun kids’ party in the classroom can be simple and enjoyable with these creative ideas for homemade games, snacks, and decorations.

Three Bone-Rattling Games

No kids’ party would be complete without a few games to keep things active. Depending on the ages of the students, there are lots of Halloween-themed activities that can be played right in the classroom. Ask your room mother or other parent volunteers to come in and help with these fun activities. Gather all the supplies for the games and divide the students up into groups. Then organize the classroom into stations where students have space to play different games.


Instead of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, try the fun and festive pin-the-face-on-the-pumpkin. First, purchase an extra-large pumpkin, and place it on a stool or bench. Cut eyes, noses, and mouths out of black construction paper and affix masking tape or double-sided tape to the backside. To play the game, blindfold the kids and have them take turns trying to put on the jack-o-lantern’s facial features.

Monster Bowling

For monster bowling, make ghostly pins by putting beans or sand in empty plastic bottles and draping them with white fabric. Secure the fabric on the empty bottles with rubber bands and draw on faces with permanent markers. Add stick-on eyes, mouth, and teeth to make your bowling ball look like a monster’s head. Another quieter version of this game uses rolls of toilet paper as the pins. If you chose this option, you might want to wrap the toilet paper with a piece of fabric and tuck in the ends to keep it from falling apart too quickly. You can use a small round pumpkin or a tennis ball in place of the bowling ball.

Mummy Wrapping Contest

This fun game only requires a few rolls of toilet paper. Divide the class into 4-6 stations. Instruct the students to pick one person to be the "mummy." The designated mummy is to hold very still while the other students carefully wrap him or her in toilet paper. The object of the game is to see which team is the fastest at wrapping their mummy. This is a team-oriented game where the students work together to pass the roll of toilet paper to each other. On your command, the game begins. The team to use all their toilet paper and wrap their mummy the best wins!

Three Spellbinding Snacks

Ghastly Ghostly Punch

Regular snacks and beverages can take on a frightful theme with a little creativity. To turn your favorite punch or juice into witches’ brew, place a metal bowl inside a large cauldron-like pot. Make ghostly ice by filling a plastic mask and rubber gloves with water. Be sure to tape over the eye, nose, and mouth holes with duck tape before filling it with water. Then place them in the freezer overnight. The next morning, just remove the ice from the mask and gloves, and you’ve got a frozen face and hands for punch with a surprising punch.

Mummy Mini-Pizzas

For a quick and easy snack try some mummy mini pizzas. This is a fun snack that students can prepare on their own. Have parents donate the ingredients for this healthy filling treat and you are set to go. Students top English muffins with pizza sauce shredded mozzarella and black olives for eyes. Then devour!

Creepy Crawling Cupcakes

Cupcakes are always a bit hit with youngsters. Decorate cooled cupcakes with orange frosting and cobweb design. Wash and add a few plastic black spiders from the dollar store. If you prefer, decorate the cupcakes with facial features cut from black licorice to make festive-looking jack-o-lanterns.

Read a Spooktacular Story

Take a trip to your school or community library to gather a few spooktacular Halloween books to read to your class. You'll find lots to choose from but here are a few favorite books that can be used as an activity during the party.

Here are few of my favorites tales:

Halloween Hustle by Charlotte Gunnufson. In the dark with a funky beat. Something white with bony feet. Skeleton dancing up the street and doing the Halloween Hustle. Your students will love this catchy rhyming story about Skeleton is dancing his way to a Halloween party.As he grooves across town, he keeps stumbling, tumbling, and falling apart! Can Skeleton stay in one piece long enough to make it to the party?

The Runaway Pumpkin by Kevin Lewis is a story about two brothers and their little sister, who see the biggest pumpkin they've ever seen in their lives. They try to roll the pumpkin down the hill to show everyone, but it's too big! Before long, it's bumping and thumping and rolling down the hillside out of control. This is a catchy and repetitive story to read aloud in the classroom.

Pumpkin Jack by Will Hubbel. The first pumpkin Tim ever carved was fierce and funny, and he named it Jack. When Halloween was over and the pumpkin was beginning to rot, Tim set it out in the garden and throughout the weeks he watched it change.

Dreadful Classroom Decorations

Turn your classroom into a haunted scene with fake cobwebs and floating jack-o-lanterns. Draw faces on a few orange helium-inflated balloons with a permanent marker for floating jack-o-lanterns.

For your reading chair, use a white pillowcase to turn it into ghostly chair cover. Simply cut out eye and mouth shapes from black felt and attach with fabric glue.

Be sure to set the mood with spooky sounds. Make a playlist with hits like Flying Purple People Eater, Monster Mash, and don’t forget Thriller.

There is something about Halloween which really catches the imaginations of children maybe it’s all the sweets, games, tales, and dressing up! This year throw a spooktacular party for some downright thrilling fun! Happy Halloween!


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