March 19, 2018

3 Whole Group Games

Have you ever planned a lesson with the best technology integration only to have the technology fail as you begin the lesson?  My favorite technology fail story to tell about is the time I was teaching math. I was writing the word "associative" when the Smartboard froze immediately after a particular letter...I'll let you figure out which letter that was! Can you hear those 4th Graders giggling? may be a good idea to have a few games up your sleeve for those times when technology doesn't work or simply when the kids need to get up and move. At other times, you may want to have your kiddos practice some social skills! Here are a few games that require no prep and can be used with multiple levels simply by differentiating your questioning.

7 Up with a Twist

(for any content other than long math problems)

Choose 7 students to go to the front of the room. The remaining students place their heads down on their desks and their thumbs up. The 7 students silently walk around the room and push down a thumb of one of their classmates and return to the front of the room. When all 7 students are back to the front of the room, say "Wake up sleepy heads!" The students who have their thumbs pushed down, stand up. The teacher asks each of the 7 chosen students to answer review questions one at a time. If the student gets the answer right, they get to guess a classmate who may have pushed down their thumb. If the student guesses the classmate correctly, the guesser and thumb pusher trade places.  If the guesser does not correctly answer the review question, he/she sits back down. You can differentiate your questioning based on the needs of your students. Repeat the process as time allows.

Sink or Swim

(for any content other than long math problems)

Split the class in half, and have students face each other on opposite sides of the room. (If you assign your kiddos numbers, you could have evens on one side and odds on the other.) Pose a question to the first member of the first team. If the student answers correctly, he/she gets to sink someone on the opposing team. When sunk, the student sits down. If the student answers their question incorrectly, he/she is sunk and must sit down. Next, pose a question to the first student on the opposing team. If the student is correct, he/she may opt to save a kid on his/her own team, and that student would rejoin the team. Another option for a correct answer is to sink someone on the opposing team. I like to add a rule that a student can only be sunk once until every member of a team has been sunk once, and then everyone is fair game again. Play continues in this manner until one team is completely sunk. The team with members standing wins!

4 in a Row with a Twist

(for vocabulary in any content area)

Write 16+ words on the board from the content being reviewed. Students copy the vocab words in random boxes on their 4 in a Row board. They may not use a word more than once. (Blank board FREE for you below!) Need the game, but forgot to print? No worries, simply have your kiddos fold a blank sheet of paper until they have 16 boxes. Then they can trace over the fold lines and add words in the boxes. While students are preparing their boards, prepare prizes. Prizes for 4 in a row get written individually on sticky notes. Try starting with about 5 low cost or no cost prizes such as erasers, pencils, drawing time, etc. For a twist, add in gag prizes such as pencil shavings, a plastic spoon, etc. Kids love to hear the prize to see if it is real or fake as they call the gag prizes. So many laughs! Pile up the sticky notes listing each prize and keep them up-side-down. Hand out chips, and play. Teacher reads the definition of each review word. Students cover each word that they have on their board. For an added twist, instead of yelling, "Bingo," have students perform an action such as pretend to shoot a basketball, call out something funny such as "Can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street!?", or sing a few lines of a song such as Let is Go.....when they win. Then have each winner call out their winning words. All winners for the round come up to the teacher where the prize is revealed to students from the first sticky note.  Students remove chips from game boards and play again. Continue until you have distributed all of the prizes or run out of time.

Get your FREE blank 4 in a Row board HERE!

Consider writing down these 3 games on an index card for those times when your lesson includes technology that just won't cooperate or you and your kiddos just need to interact!

January 21, 2018

Math Project - Measurement

Check out this winter math project!

This easy to make snow measuring stick is a perfect project for students to make during the winter months.

1. Get some paint sticks from your local hardware store. (They may just donate them!)
2. Students paint them white on one side and allow to dry. Paint the other side, and allow to dry.
3. Using a ruler, have students mark off inch or centimeter marks with a pencil.
4. After the teacher checks the marks for accuracy, have students go over the inch or centimeter marks with a Sharpie.
5. Students add creative details to their snow person stick. We used wiggle eyes, felt, foam, and Sharpie details. Allow to dry again.
6. Wait for it to snow, and measure how deep it is!

Now there is some real world math!

Love the idea, but no time to run to the hardware store? Amazon Prime to the rescue!
Transparency alert: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases with no extra cost to you.

December 28, 2017

Teacher Budget!

This seems to be the time of year when many of us think about revising our budget. Maybe this is because of a blown December budget?! In any case, I have done some of the leg work for you, and I am prepared to share what I have learned. I am not a financial advisor in any sense. Rather, I am a teacher who wishes she would have known a little more about finances some time ago. After all, my idea of a budget was to pay the bills and spend the rest! I now know better after taking a good hard look at my habits. I learned little ways to cut back, how to score better deals, and how to make a little extra for spending and saving.

The first step in getting a budget under control is recording every penny that you spend. I like to write down everything I spend in a pretty notebook with flair pens. However, there are a few Apps out there if you prefer to be more modern. Either way, just get started, and never stop! I actually met the author of Millionaire Teacher, Andrew Hallam. He and his wife still record everything they spend, and he advises others to do the same.

Once you see where your money is going, the next step is to figure out where you can cut back. Here are 10 ways that helped me spend less:

We lowered our cable bill significantly by subscribing to only BASIC cable HD, no long list of channels, just basic TV. Do we really need more than that? Actually, yes, we also need Netflix. Teachers, especially need Netflix on Friday nights. Still, basic cable plus Netflix may lower your monthly bill.

I lowered our cell phone bill by going to my provider's store (Verizon) to have them look at our plan. I am eligible for the educator discount which is a small amount, but every little bit helps. All you have to do is ask about the discount and provide some sort of proof like a pay stub. We also use our phones until they break beyond repair. This means that all 4 of our phones are now out of contract, and we get a significant discount for staying with the same provider. The savings will make you think twice about running out to get the latest iPhone just because.

I canceled all paid subscriptions including newspapers, magazines,  satellite radio, etc. I find that I really don't NEED these subscriptions.

 I think in halves. I use half of everything possible: laundry detergent, shampoo, cleaning supplies. You get the idea. I even cut paper napkins in half! This is a perfect job for little ones, and it will save you money. Even if you save $1 per week, that is $52 per year. It all adds up. Thinking in halves means that you only have to buy the product half the amount of time which saves you money!

Speaking of buying products, I only buy generic products or products that are on sale at the grocery store. Generics often taste or work just as well as name brands, and this strategy has saved me a lot of money each week. Overall, I spend about $200 less per month by shopping generics or the sale. I also make sure that all my digital coupons are loaded onto my card before I go grocery shopping.

We have also cut back by not seeing a hair stylist as often. You can try to get some extra time out of your hair style. Although I refrain from playing hairdresser in my bathroom, we do have special scissors that we only use for hair to cut back bangs now and then. I realize that some people count on their nail salon time for their own sanity, but I do my own nails which saves money.

I pack my lunch. It's healthier because I choose what I am going to eat the night before rather than making a hungry decision after a potentially stressful morning at school. It also saves a lot of money. If I spent about $5 per day on lunch times 181 school days that would add up to be $905! My rough estimate for a packed lunch is about half of that! I do treat myself to a lunch out with coworkers on inservice days as a little treat and a break from packing a lunch.

An oldie, but a goodie....I make sure I turn off lights that I am not using. I turn the thermostat down a degree or two from my perfect comfort zone in the winter and up one or so in the summer. I also wash clothes in cold water most of the time. I preplan errands to make the most of gas mileage.

I cut back on entertainment. I try to plan one recreational event every month or so rather than every weekend. We actually enjoy those times at home when we can just chill with games, a craft, or a movie, and that one event per month is a special treat. I also look for bargains when deciding on recreational activities. I look to see what is offered in my community for free. Perhaps your library offers free museum passes like my library does! We also have a movie theater close by that shows first run movies at a significant discount especially if you choose a morning time. Remember to check for coupons and ask about a teacher/student/senior/military/etc. discount!

I spend less on clothes. I only shop the sale racks at department stores and find many bargains at my local thrift stores. Thrift stores are awesome because you never know what you may find! Have you ever heard of thredUP? I not only shop this online consignment store, but I also send them my clothes that are in great condition to earn cash! Here is a link, but first a transparency alert...I may get some spending money if you sign up through this link!


Maybe some of these strategies will help you with your budget! Once you record all of your spending for a month, you will likely see some other areas where you can cut back! I would love to hear your ideas in the comments!

Once you have located the areas in your budget where you can cut back, it is time to take a look at what you can do to make more money!

Here are the top ways that I have discovered for making money. Transparency Alert! Some of these sites will offer me cash or another reward if you sign up using the referral code.

1. thredUP
As mentioned above, I use this site to buy clothes and to make money selling my gently used clothes that I no longer wear. I love shopping with the "New with Tags" filter, and I get lots of compliments on the clothes I buy from this site! It is super easy to use whether you are buying or selling.
The link includes a referral code which means that I may be compensated if you sign up!

2. ibotta
This is a site where you earn cash back for items you normally shop for. All you need is a smart phone to sign up and to download the app.  Then you will be ready to start earning cash back on your normal shopping trips. You check out the offers before you shop, and unlock the savings on items that you plan to purchase by completing very simple tasks. When you are through shopping, you simply upload your receipt through your cell phone camera. I use it mostly at ShopRite because that is my usual grocery store, but I did notice that Walmart always seems to have great offers! Yep, you can use this app at many of your normal hangouts. If you sign up with this referral code, we will be part of a team which makes it easier for all of us to earn bonuses!
The link includes a referral code which means that I may be compensated if you sign up!

3. Rewards Credit Card
You may already have one of these, but I thought it deserves some mention. I use my cash back rewards credit card for just about everything. I charge big purchases, small purchases, and everything in between. All my purchases are paid for before interest is charged, so I am careful to make sure that I only charge what I can afford to currently pay for. Once a year I cash in my rewards....either to put towards Christmas or towards a vacation.

4. Wellness Bucks
Check with your medical insurance company about this. I use to have a wellness component to my health insurance where I would earn Visa cash cards for healthy habits. For example, I earned cash back for walking for exercise, visiting my dentist, getting my yearly physical, and even for taking a mindfulness class at my local library! My new insurance company doesn't offer this program, but I understand that these programs are still around. It may be worth looking into!

5. Tutor
I have found that private tutoring is a rewarding way to earn some extra money. Our local library offers space for tutoring which is convenient for both the tutor and the student.

6. Loose Change
Roll up your loose coins, and take them to the bank. It's not really making money, but it may feel like it! I complete this task once a year, and have left the bank with as much as $600!

7. Coke Rewards
A coworker told me about the Coke rewards program. We don't drink much soda, but I thought it sounded like fun, so I signed up. I've already won a large soft drink coupon redeemable at a movie theater.
Coke Rewards

8. Mystery Shopper/Surveys
I've looked into a few of the survey companies, and I must admit that they weren't for me! I am not cut out to take part in surveys, but many people use them to make a little extra cash. Mystery shopping sounds like fun, but I have never tried it myself!

9. ebates!
Ebates is by far my favorite money saving resource out there. It is perfect for those of us who shop online because almost any store you can imagine participates. You simply start out at, and then shop like you normally do. Several times per year, you will get your big fat check in the mail!
This link includes a referral code which means that I may be compensated if you sign up!

10. Join Teachers Pay Teachers!
It is so much fun to make resources that are being used all over the world, and you may just earn some money doing it!
This link includes a referral code which means that I may be compensated if you sign up!

Finally, let's talk about discounts. One thing we can do is get into the habit of asking about teacher, senior, military, student, etc discounts whenever we are making a purchase. It doesn't hurt to ask! My absolute favorite place for teacher discounts is A.C.Moore. It has been my experience that I can use my teacher discount on top of any coupons that I have. I have bought premium materials at a fraction of regular cost using this method.

Here are a just a few other companies that offer teacher discounts at the time of this posting:

1. Apple
2. Loft
3. Aerosoles
4. Joann's Fabric
5. New York and Co.
6. Michael's
7. J. Crew
8. Eddie Bauer
9. Easy Spirit
10. Banana Republic

These are just a few of my personal favorites. The list actually goes on and on. I think the best thing to do is just ask about a discount every time we shop or visit a museum or restaurant and keep that school id in our bag at all times!

I hope that these tips will help you as much as they helped me!

November 19, 2017

Kindness Bulletin Board

This kindness bulletin board was very easy! I chose a black background and white border. I cut out the words on our Ellison Machine using pastel colors and white.  Then I had my students write motivational messages on pastel colored sticky notes and stick them all over the board. Finally, I sent out an email to my colleagues asking them to join in by bringing their class to the board where they would take messages to give away. I also invited them to have their kiddos add some of their own motivational messages. Here is just a sampling of what the kids came up with on their own:

All month long students would grab sticky notes to give away, but the board was always full because more sticky notes were added. This board was a fun way to encourage kindness! My heartwarming surprise was when students would take messages to give to me and other teachers. How sweet is that?!

Love the idea but don't have the sticky notes? You may want actual Post It notes for this display!

October 9, 2017

Lining Up Math Problems with Ease!

I don't know which I say more....
"Line up your numbers!" or "Show your work!"

Students who struggle to keep their numbers straight may benefit from this simple solution. Take a plain piece of lined paper, and turn it so that the lines are vertical. Students write each digit in their problems between the lines and solve. TADA!

No need to print out grid paper! As you can see, this little trick works well for the 4 basic operations. Now the kids will be less likely to make errors due to misaligned numbers. Then we can focus on that math talk where students explain their thinking!  Let me know if this hack works for your kiddos!

September 10, 2017

Patriot Day for Kids

The 911 events are not easy to teach to our middle grade students, but at the same time, most of us want to be able to discuss this day in a way that is age appropriate. I searched and came up with few ideas....

I will be showing my kiddos this YouTube video titled: What Happened On September 11, 2001? The site indicates that it is appropriate for ages 9 and above, and I would agree with that rating. However, you know your kids, so be sure to watch it for yourself before you decide to show it to your students!

Open in YouTube:

After we watch this YouTube video, we will complete some of the FREE activities created by Top Floor Teachers on TpT. I am so very grateful for this resource as it will save me an incredible amount of time! I plan to extend the letter writing activity a bit and invite some of our local fire fighters into our class during fire prevention week. The kids can read their letters out loud to the firefighters if they wish.

Here is a link to this wonderful FREEBIE:

Some teachers I know are showing the BrainPop video titled September 11th. I think this video is a little too intense for my kiddos, so I am not going to show this one tomorrow, but if your school has an account, you may want to check it out.

Here is the link to the BrainPop video:

September 11th is a day to remember our heroes of yesterday and today. I am grateful for the police officers and their canines, fire fighters, first responders, the medical community, The US Military, and all the volunteers who put others first. You are appreciated! 

August 12, 2017

The Last Week of Summer

There's one thing I NEVER do the last week of summer....and that is...go into school!

I make it a habit to have my classroom ready or nearly ready before the last week of summer...well you know...Are we ever really 100% ready? There's always something else we could do.

I save the last week for me! Some of the things I do are organizational so that the first few weeks of school go smoother. Some of the things I do are just plain fun!

Here are some things I do the last week of summer.....

1. Stock Up

I stock up on just about everything. You know how it goes. You are getting ready for school or should I say trying to get ready for school when your little one spills,  your other kid drops his toothbrush in the toilet, and you have used the last of the conditioner (even the adding water to the bottle and swishing it around to get the last bit part). You're now running late, and you have to be at 2 soccer games and a meeting after school. You have no time to stop to pick up household items on your way home! But if you stock up the last week of summer, you will breathe a sigh of relief knowing that you have everything you need in the back of the cabinet.

Here are some things I like to stock up on:

Make up and Toiletries

Keep them hidden if you can. That way they won't mysteriously disappear. Your teenagers may find that extra body wash and start using it well before the one currently in the bathroom is used up.

Paper Products

Hide the paper towels. Significant others take lots of these. I have no idea what they use them for, but somehow they have a way of making them disappear. No need to hide anything else. You are the only one who knows how to change the toilet paper anyway.

Cleaning Supplies

No need to hide any of these. If someone in your family decides to use the cleaning products, consider yourself lucky.

Poster Board

And if any of your own kids are in middle school....poster board. Yep, stock up on poster board. Even in this digital world, the night will come when your middle school child declares at 10:00 pm that he/she needs poster board for a project that is due tomorrow.  Take my word on this. If you have a middle schooler, buy poster board.

2. Get the Clothes Ready

You probably already did the back to school clothes shopping thing, but maybe the clothes are still in bags. It's time to get them out, cut off the tags, iron if necessary,  and prepare every outfit for yourself and your own kids for the first week of school. 

Why? Because after that first PD day, you will come home with a headache as you wonder to yourself who thought up these new procedures, how on earth are you ever going to get it all done, and when are they going to fix the laminator? On their first day of school, your own kids will hand you a stack of forms to fill out, and tell you that they will get a prize if they are returned tomorrow. You will be glad that you do not have to worry about clothes. They are in the closet already lined up for the next day. Do this for yourself and your kids.

3. Prepare and Freeze Some Meals

Honestly, I don't go overboard here, but do a little of this to save your sanity.

4. Have Fun!

This is my view from my kayak. My county Parks and Rec runs a program where you can rent a kayak or canoe for $5 an hour, life jackets included. It is incredibly relaxing, not to mention cheap. My kids usually come with me and rent their own kayak. Sometimes we pack a picnic lunch and hang out for awhile in the adjacent park. Our tax dollars at work!

Start a tradition with your kids or even for yourself. Our tradition is a day down the shore, just me and the kids. (Jersey girl here!) We throw a football around, read, walk, chat, and ride the waves. Yep, I'm the oldest one in the ocean on a boogie board! I think I scare the living daylights out of my kids by doing this!

We also do the boardwalk. The Jersey boardwalk is full of shops, games, rides, and places to eat...

Did I mention that on tradition day, there are NO rules about what to eat? That's right! The kids are allowed to eat whatever they want, whenever they want all day! Of course, if one or more of your kiddos has dietary needs, you will need to modify this rule to make it work for you. We eat pretty healthy on a regular basis, so this one day is a fun treat! And's just one day out of the year. Your kids will wonder if you have lost your mind upon hearing this one day rule, but will not question your judgement. My older kids still love this idea, and I actually look forward to this day of pizza, ice cream, cotton candy, and fries!

Those are just two of my fun days. The idea is to do something that you enjoy for fun!

5. Watch To Sir, With Love (or your own favorite teacher movie)

I have watched To Sir, With Love before going back to school for nearly all my teaching years. It's an oldie but a goodie starring Sidney Poitier. You will laugh, you will cry, and most likely be reminded of just why you became a teacher. 

So, as you get ready to go back to school, I want to wish you all the best! May you have understanding administrators, cooperative colleagues, delightful children, and days full of learning and discovery. 

And as the butterflies turn in your stomach as they do each and every year on that first day of school, just remember this.....Summer will be back!