February 10, 2020

5 Easy to Implement Presidents' Day Activities

Presidents' Day is approaching right around the same time as Valentine's Day. For some of us, Presidents' Day may be close to 100 Day as well. So much to fit in!

If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed with all these special days falling around the same time, check out a few quick ways to integrate Presidents' Day into your lessons.

1. Have students write letters to the current president. 

You may even get a response! I have had success with getting a response by placing all student letters in one large envelope and sending them off together to:

President (Trump)
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC  20500

I include a cover letter from me with the school's return address. The kids have enjoyed receiving a letter back and sometimes even a photo from the president!

This friendly letter resource may help your students with their letters to the president. I have used this resource multiple times throughout the school year to write to various people.


2. Make coin rubbings.

You could discuss the names of the presidents on each coin along with the buildings, words, numbers, and symbols. Have students look at newer and older coins still in circulation to gain familiarity. Allow students time to make coin rubbings by placing coins under thin paper and coloring over the coins.

Want to integrate a little math with the coin rubbings? Try this resource where students make coin rubbings, exchange papers, and count the coins. Many kids could use some extra practice with counting money!


3. Read literature about the Presidents. 

My students have liked So You Want To Be President by Judith St. George and David Small. It looks to be updated to include presidents through Barack Obama. You can check your local library for a copy.

4. Take a virtual tour of Mt. Rushmore. 

Here is the link to a virtual tour of Mt. Rushmore from the National Park Service:
Mt. Rushmore Virtual Tour Link

There is also a webcam on the site that you can access once construction is done.

Other websites your kids may find interesting:
Washington Monument
Lincoln Memorial
The White House

5. Make a President's Day Craft with writing. 


Now you can fit in Presidents' Day along with everything else! Do you have any quick and easy suggestions for Presidents' Day? Feel free to leave a comment about an idea that has worked out in your classroom!

January 10, 2020

4 Simple Steps For Valentine Exchange In The Middle Grades

The in-between years can be an opportunity to use Valentine's Day for fun, learning, and kindness!

Students in fourth grade generally still like to exchange valentines and I'm all in. The process of preparing the valentines for exchange enables students to practice a variety of skills such as organization, fine motor, spatial awareness, reading, writing, decision making, personal finance, responsibility, and social skills.

1. Begin With A Discussion.

"Can we exchange valentines?" Usually, the topic is brought up by the students themselves.

I like to make valentines exchange optional with one rule:

"If you choose to prepare valentines, you must give one to every student in the class."

This rule may prevent Valentine's Day drama!

A discussion can continue about how to approach parents or guardians for help and where the best prices can be found. The class can discuss the possibility of making the valentines by hand on construction paper, and paper can be provided for those who want to try this. (Or perhaps a way for students who cannot purchase cards to still participate.) The cost of creating and printing on a computer as opposed to purchasing the cards at the dollar store can be evaluated. Students are practicing decision-making skills and personal finance.

2. Help Students Prepare.

Students can copy a class list. Yep, by hand either for morning work or during a read-a-loud after lunch. Students can also prepare a note home for their grown-ups. These are opportunities to practice fine motor skills, spatial awareness, and responsibility. FREEBIE below to help your students!

If desired, time could be given to decorate small bags to hold valentines. This can be low-key with simple supplies perhaps during indoor recess. Another option is to check with the art teacher to see if this is something that he/she would be able to fit into their schedule. Preparing the bags gives students a chance to practice fine motor skills and spatial awareness.

3. Valentines Get Written.

Students can write their valentines at home and start bringing them in. They are practicing reading, writing, and organization while preparing their cards. Bags can get filled during arrival or students may be allowed to come back during recess to distribute the cards into the bags.

4. Valentine's Day Arrives.

On Valentine's Day, time may be provided to open valentines and enjoy a small treat. I like to bring in those small ice cream cups...so easy! Of course, it's always a good idea to run your plan by your administrator. Students will be reading their valentines, practicing social skills, and expressing kindness.

Although the teacher may set the basic groundwork for the Valentines' Day event, it is beneficial to have students included in the planning as there are multiple skills involved. Here is a freebie to help your students keep track of their valentines. It includes a chart for them to fill in with classmates' names and a fill-in-the-blank note to parents/guardians.
Click HERE!

As for a valentine from their teacher...every student gets a pencil or 2 in their bag because you know what the pencil situation in February is like!

You may also want to include these affordable resources in your lessons to keep with a Valentine's Day theme!

This adjective resource is popular with the kids and works well as a learning station.
Click HERE!

This coordinate grid game is played with candy hearts and is a favorite every year!
Click HERE!

Do you have any special Valentine's Day activities that you enjoy with your students? Feel free to comment below!

December 29, 2019

3 Helpful Strategies For Going Back To School After Winter Break

After overdosing on Christmas cookies and family for over a week, it's almost time to go back to school!

Some teachers will be looking forward to going back to the routine and structure. Some teachers would rather have a few more days with Netflix and slippers! As for the students, they too can have a range of emotions about returning to school. Some will have missed you and their friends while others would be content sleeping in and playing video games all day for another week!

Here are a few strategies to make returning to school stress-free and enjoyable.

1. Have your lesson plans ready a few days in advance.

Waiting until the last minute is bound to cause stress and who wants to spend the last day of the break working? Try getting the plans done and materials prepped a few days before going back so you can chill that last day of winter break.

2. Plan for your students.

Plan some time to review classroom rules and procedures. It probably got crazy before the holidays, so now would be a good time to review the rules. This is also a good idea because it's common for new students to transfer around this time.

Of course, we have the curriculum to teach but do plan some fun interactive activities such as games and scavenger hunts as part of your lessons.

Here is a no-prep back from break activity that gets the kids up and moving!

Click HERE!

Try planning a winter craftivity for a holiday coming up such as Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The kids will like the crafts, and you will have a beautiful hallway display with one of these resources.

Click HERE!

Click HERE!

3. Plan for yourself.

Have your clothes ready the night before. Maybe even splurge on a new outfit at one of those after Christmas sales!

Pack yourself a lunch the night before with your favorite healthy foods!

Get to school a little early to get ready for the day.

Plan a little me time for yourself after school. Maybe it's putting your feet up and sipping hot chocolate on the couch when you get home. Maybe it's a warm bubble bath followed by crisp clean sheets and a good book.

Once you have survived that first day back, the rest of the week will be easier!

Do you have any tricks for surviving that first day back after winter break? If so, feel free to share in the comments below!

December 16, 2019

5 Easy Parent Gifts for Christmas

Making holiday gifts with students can be fun...or a not so fun experience.

Remember when melted crayon ornaments on Pinterest were all the rage? The best part was that the materials were inexpensive and readily available. I purchased the clear plastic ornaments and gathered up unwanted small crayons from our extra supply containers. I made a sample at home, and my co-teacher and I brought our hairdryers to school. We had perfectly planned station activities scheduled for an hour where our students would visit with one of us during the rotations to create their melted crayon ornament with supervision. What could possibly go wrong with all this preplanning? Well...I didn't think about 2 hairdryers being used at once in a classroom with older electrical circuits. I didn't think about these 2 hairdryers being used on 18 ornaments when I created the sample.  The burning smell of the overheated hairdryer on the third ornament was our first indication that things were not going well.  Needless to say, the activity was promptly suspended. Now I'm sure there are teachers out there who have this craft down to a science, but my co-teacher and I decided to rely on a few old stand-bys.

Ornament making was rescheduled with new rotations consisting of 2 ornament stations.


We used a traditional salt dough ornament recipe of flour, salt, and water to make these:


These snowflake ornaments were made with pony beads and chenille stems. This sample was made by twisting 3 chenille stems cut to 6 inches in length. Beads were added to each stem. A little bit of the chenille stem gets folded over to secure the last bead on each stem. These look great hanging in a window!

Here are other crafts that make great parent gifts.


This easy glitter star ornament has been a go-to project since my first year of teaching! Students trace a star shape onto wax paper. Then they spread a thick layer of glue over the star and cover the glue with plenty of glitter. Dry them overnight. The next day quickly lift the wax paper over another empty sheet of wax paper to catch the excess glitter. Dry overnight again. Once completely dried, the star gets gently peeled off of the wax paper. Add a cord to make a shiny ornament to hang!


Students can easily make a snowperson out of a paintbrush. The steps for these ornaments need to be spread out over the course of a few days to allow for drying time. Cheap paintbrushes work just fine for these ornaments. Students dip the bristles into black paint and allow to dry overnight. The next day they paint the handle white. On the third day, they paint details. On the fourth day, they twist a chenille stem around the handle and add a ribbon for a scarf. The samples have a sequin star glued onto the bristles.

Not into crafting? Look no further...


Have students make coupons for the grownups in their lives. Handmade coupons are fine and will be appreciated. Brainstorm helpful chores that your students could write on their coupons such as doing the dishes, vacuuming, dusting, etc. Have students make several coupons and place in a festively designed envelope for gift giving.  Need a printable for this minimalist gift? Grab one here for only $1.00 and save yourself a trip to the craft store!

Get this printable HERE!

Looking back, it was actually a good thing that the melted crayon ornaments didn't work out so well...This way, our students had 2 ornaments to take home. Since families come in all shapes and sizes, the kids didn't have to choose just one grownup in their lives to receive a gift. Rather, they were able to pick 2 grownups!

Do your students make gifts for their parents and guardians? Feel free to comment below with your own ideas!

November 29, 2019

Christmas Gifts For Students

Black Friday is over, but you still may be looking for a quick and easy holiday gift to give to your students. Here are 6 Christmas gift ideas that are sure to bring smiles to your students' faces.

1. Book and Booklight

Book club points can be used to purchase books for students, and booklights can be picked up from the dollar store. Some companies may even offer bulk discounts, so it doesn't hurt to ask. The booklights are a big hit with students, and they just may be encouraged to read over holiday break!

2. Pencils With Students' Names

There are a few companies out there that print students' names on pencils. I still remember the little red plastic pouch that my pencils came in back in first grade! The pencils didn't have our names on them back in the day...Rather they said, "Season's Greetings From Your Teacher." We still were amazed that our teacher was able to do this! Did your teacher ever give you pencils with your name on them?

3. Giftbag of Fun and Useful Items

Add pencils, erasers, a new box of crayons, a shuttle pen, and mini playdoh to a small gift bag. For this holiday gift, head out to the dollar store or order from Oriental Trading. I also try to remember to stock up on the school supply items in August when they are on sale. Then I just need to remember where I put them!

4. Watercolor Set

Kids love these and painting is a great way to practice those fine motor skills while being creative. I have purchased watercolor sets at craft stores (remember your coupon and to ask for a teacher discount!) or at Oriental Trading. If possible, send students home with a few sheets of white paper to paint on over the holidays!

5. Reusable Waterbottle

Perhaps water bottles with your school name or grade on them would be fun! Ask around for recommendations...one year the family of one of my students was in the printing business. The parents were always happy to help with friends and family discounts!

6. Coupons

My kiddos have loved these printable coupons year after year! The coupons sheets can be tied up with curly ribbon and distributed before winter break. Students write their names on all of the coupons and store the sheets in their desks for safekeeping. After break, students cut out one coupon per day to use. This holiday gift lasts throughout the month of January and makes returning to school after winter break a bit more bearable! Click below to get these inexpensive coupons that kids love!


Do you have any ideas for student holiday gifts? Feel free to share your ideas in the comments below!

November 7, 2019

3 Veterans Day Ideas For Middle Grades

Veterans Day activities help your students to recognize and honor our Veterans past and present. If you are teaching about Veterans Day, as the daughter of a Navy Veteran, I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart!

1. Connect With Local Veterans

One of my favorite Veterans Day lessons was when I invited a few members from our local VFW to our classroom.

I ran the idea past my principal, she aproved, and I called the VFW to see if any Veterans would like to visit. I was pleasantly surprised that Mr. Morris said that he would gather up a few guys to visit and details were planned! In preparation, my students wrote thank you letters to the Veterans for their service and prepared a question on an index card. Visiting day arrived and 4 Veterans showed up and took their seats at the front of the room in chairs much too small for them. The students read their letters out loud as these 4 humble men looked on with eyes that brightened with each letter read. After the readings, the students asked their prepared questions as the gentlemen took turns answering. We concluded our morning with students serving our guests cookies and juice and mingling a bit.  Connections that spanned generations were made that day, and we continued to interact with the VFW regularly.

2. Decorate The Halls

I find that the best selections of patriotic decorations at the dollar store are around Memorial Day and The Fourth of July. However, a bit of red, white, and blue crepe paper is an inexpensive way to add accents to a display of students' work. Flag and poppy craftivities are just right to replace those Halloween projects out in the hall!

For this project, students use graphic organizers to plan their writing and make a fun, patriotic flag craft.

Veterans Day Craft

3. Learn About The Branches Of The Military

I like to find video clips to explain the 5 branches of the military. Here is one that is kid-friendly:

Of course, preview the video to make sure that it is appropriate for your class.

Follow with small groups creating posters about each branch of the military (I always remind the kids that images of violence, even against "bad guys" aren't appropriate for school.)

Or...check understanding with this sorting activity:

 Branches of the Military

How will you celebrate Veterans Day? Feel free to drop a line in the comments below to add your own ideas! 

October 20, 2019

8 Tricks To Get Your Students To Pay Attention In October

Sometimes I think teaching in October is more challenging than December! Most kids love Halloween and the excitement that comes with it. I seem to forget this every year until the middle of October when the kids start acting a little crazy  daydreaming more than usual.

Why not fit in a few fun, but educational activities that just may trick the kids into learning?! The kids will look forward to the special October activities and you will too!

Halloween Classroom Ideas For Math

1. Musical Math

Print out any drill worksheet (such as multiplication facts) for each student. Place a worksheet on each student's desk face down. At your signal, students turn the paper over and begin answering the problems. After about 20 seconds, play some October/Halloween music. When students hear the music, they get up and move/dance about the classroom. When the music stops, students sit anywhere and begin working on anyone's worksheet until they hear the music again. Continue until most of the worksheets are finished. Give students time to check answers on their own paper and fix any errors they find.

My favorite songs to play in October for this activity are
One-Eyed Purple People Eater
Adams Family Theme
Monster Mash

2. Graphing With Autumn Mix Candy



Grab some autumn mix candy from the dollar store and help your students make a graph on blank graph paper or grab an inexpensive time-saving printable here: 

Halloween Graphing Activity

Halloween Classroom Ideas For English Language Arts

1. Read The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything

Seriously. I look for any excuse to read a picture book! Students love the repetition, and I pause to let them make the sounds during the story. The kids can break up into small groups and act out their interpretation of the story. They are always so comical and this activity actually covers a few curriculum objectives!

2. Halloween Theme Following Directions Game


Kids can always use reinforcement in following directions, and this game is tons of fun! Use the game during the month of October and keep track of how long it takes the class to finish all the tasks. Challenge the kids to beat their best score throughout the month!

You can get this fun Halloween Following Directions Game HERE!

3. Conjuntion Activity Cards

These simple Halloween themed conjunction activity cards can be used as a scoot, scavenger hunt, or learning station type activity.

Grab these Conjunction Activity Cards HERE!

4. Don't Pick Me! Persuasive Writing Activity


A favorite every year! Students try to convince you NOT to choose them as your Halloween pumpkin. Set your guidelines (I remind the students that their pumpkin may not be violent, etc.) and let the convincing arguments begin! The graphic organizers from this resource get the students going and they love making the corresponding craft. Have a little competition and provide time for reading the final essays out loud. Award small prizes for 2 or 3 pumpkins you would most definitely leave in the pumpkin patch!

You can get Don't Pick Me Writing Craftivity HERE!

Halloween Classroom Idea For Science

1. Static Ghosts

Have students make a graveyard out of cardboard, construction paper, and dollar store trinkets. Next, students cut tissue paper in the shape of ghosts and add details. The ghosts then get attached to the back of the tombstones with tape so that they fall back behind the tombstones. Rub a plastic ruler on a wool scarf, blanket, or sweater for a minute. Bring the plastic ruler close to the ghosts and watch them rise up! Talk about static electricity or watch a video clip that explains the concept.

Here's a quick video explaining static electricity that I found on Youtube:

Static Electricity Video For Kids

Halloween Classroom Idea For Social Studies

1. Make Globe Pumpkins!


Students can each bring in their own pumpkin or you can sometimes get them discounted or even free from local farmers. I find the closer we get to Halloween, the better chance of getting a good deal! Another way to cut costs is to have the kids work in pairs so that you only need half as many pumpkins.

You could make this a multi-day project that works something like this:
Day 1 - Students observe and handle actual globes. Have them find the continents and oceans. Then have students sketch continent forms on paper that will fit well onto their pumpkins. Students cut out the forms and tape them to their pumpkins. Make sure students have their initials somewhere on the pumpkin!
Day 2 - Finalize the continents. Students make any size adjustments and trace around their continent forms onto their pumpkins. Students paint one side of pumpkin continents and allow them to dry overnight.
Day 3 - Students paint the remaining continents and allow them to dry overnight.
Day 4 - Students paint half the oceans and allow them to dry overnight.
Day 5 - Students paint the remaining oceans and allow them to dry overnight.
Day 6 - Students label the continents and oceans. They can make labels on paper and then tape them to the pumpkin. That way, there are no errors that would require you to get out the paint again! Display the pumpkins for all to see!

Need to save time?
Get printable continent outlines and labels here!


Halloween Movement Activity

1. Ghost Ghost Witch

Bring the kiddos outside for this Halloween themed version of Duck Duck Goose! Students form a circle and sit down. One student is IT and walks around the outside of the circle saying "ghost" as he/she gently taps students' heads or shoulders.  IT decides on who will chase him/her by saying "witch!" IT runs around the circle and tries to make it back to the witch's place before the witch tags him/her. Any student tagged sits in the middle for the next round and the witch becomes IT. Not likely to find curriculum objectives with this game unless you're a phys. ed. teacher, but it works well as a brain break!

Hope you found a new idea or 2 to pop into your plans this October! What are your favorite fall or Halloween activities? Feel free to drop an idea into the comments below!