Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Need a Holiday Present for Parents?

Problem: Don't have a lot of money to spend? Want something useful? Want the students to do the work? Want something really cute that will get saved?

Solution: Make a directed drawing 12 month calendar!
1. Pick a picture to draw. I choose Rhinos who Surf since it matches our Southern California vibe and is a good picture to keep up all year. I use 9x12 white construction paper.
2. Do a directed drawing with kids. If you are not comfortable drawing on the fly then pre-draw it with yellow colored pencil so kids think you are drawing it off the cuff. I always draw with no pre-drawing because I want the kids to know that mistakes are ok. I use black Sharpies and colored pencils. In this drawing I drew the rhino first, then parking meter, then car, then fence and last the waves. I never let students draw with pencil, we always use Sharpies. It's good for the spatial part of the brain.
3. I teach them to do "color power" and demo coloring a nice solid layer.
4. Print a 12 month calendar off of Microsoft templates.
5. Glue onto a 12 x 18 black construction paper background.
6. Laminate.

Results: Parents love them and I hear about them years later. They are easy to store when you are done with the year. Students are really proud of their work! I haven't spent any money and everyone is happy!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

What to Get Your Students for Christmas

Problem: What to give to your students as a holiday gift that is meaningful yet won’t break the bank?

Solution: Each year I make coupons for my students. These twelve coupons attached to a candy cane are a huge hit with my 4th graders.  You choose, use some or all.

Result: The students love them! I haven’t spent a ton of money, and I still have shown my students that I care about them with a thoughtful gift!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Freebie How to Annotate Bookmarks

Problem: Annotating text is a key part of Common Core and a skill that needs to be developed with my students. They don't always remember all the annotating "tools" in their "toolbox." I needed a helpful reminder that is close at hand for kids to refer to while reading the text.

Solution: Bookmarks are a fast and easy way to keep annotation tips right where they are needed-near the text! These reinforce and remind students of skills they are learning.  

Results:  My students love them. They want several! I've found that fiction and non-fiction annotation tips may vary, so included are two sets.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Need a Fun Review?

Problem:   You've taught the unit and want to review for the test but how can you make it memorable?

Solution: Make it a Family Feud Game! My class loves these! It takes about 30 minutes and everyone is totally engaged.

Results: Content is not only remembered but students have to classify the information by importance to gain points and their team advantage!

Games Available:

Geography Family Feud
California Native American Food
California Explorers
California Missions

Give them a try and save at the upcoming TPT cybersale!

<a href=""><img src="" alt="250 × 120" /></a>

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Problem: If you teach 4th grade in California you know that resources are difficult to find about the California Native American tribes and if you do find them they are usually not written at an engaging appropriate reading level for upper elementary students.

Solution: We have created this series about Native American Tribes in California. These short expository texts are aligned to the Common Core can be used as guided reading resources, close reading texts, and resource information that you can make digitally available for your students.

Color copy on cardstock and laminate for multiple years of use!

Text, photos and comprehension questions are included as well as a full preview! Please follow us to be updated when we add new tribes. Email us if you want a particular tribe and we will do that one next!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Veterans Day Free Activity

Problem: How to get students to understand the real meaning of Veterans Day and to make the day personal to them.

Solution: Students will ask their parents to help them compile a list of Veterans in their family and group of friends. They can go back as far in history as they know. They copy each Veteran's info down on a star, then decorate and display at school.

Results: Students are astounded by how many friends and relatives, both past and present, have served in the Armed Forces. The sheer number of stars on the classroom door or windows sends a visual message that this holiday is one where students get to honor their own military heroes.


Twice a year we celebrate the United States Armed Forces. Do you know the names of the two holidays? Do you know the difference between the two?

If you said Memorial Day and Veterans Day, you were right! Memorial Day is a day to honor the men and women who died while serving in the military. It is always observed on the last Monday in May, so the actual date changes from year to year.

Veterans Day honors all people who served in the Armed Forces. It originally marked the anniversary of the end of World War I which ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the year 1918. That is why we observe Veterans Day on November 11th.

You may notice that Veterans Day is sometimes spelled with an apostrophe and sometimes not. Even though there should be an apostrophe in "Veterans," most sources skip it!


Have students take home the stars and fill out a star with the name and branch for any family member or friend, past or present. If they know more information, they can add it.

For example:      (Basic Info)  Joe Smith       Air Force

 (Added Info) Joe Smith, Air Force; WWII/Korean War; Radar Operator; Good Conduct Medal

 Students can decorate their stars however they wish. Hang stars on classroom doors. If you want to do as a school-wide activity, have students tape up their stars at the front of the school or another visible spot. Students will get a visual image of how personal this holiday really is for all of us and how important it is to honor all military veterans' service to our country.
While you are there follow us for more freebies and fabulous curriculum!

Friday, November 1, 2013

My Favorite Clean Up Game Freebie

Problem: How to get students to clean up after themselves?

Solution: Secret Trash Game

The object of the game is for the students to clean up the classroom quickly! 
How to Play: I identify something that is trash, or needs to be put away. Sometimes I pick one thing and sometimes it is several. I don't tell the students what it is. I give them a 1-2 minute time limit and tell them to GO! They will come up to me and say, "Is this it?" but I never tell until the room is clean.
I remind them that it isn't just trash! It can be a chair that needs to be put up or a glue bottle put away. I gather everyone around and announce the winners! In the past I've given a prize from my prize box but I've started doing brag tags this year.

Brag tags are laminated cardstock tags that student collect for rewards. I give them for academic achievements, good citizenship, special events, and celebrations. The students are given a metal bead necklace and collect these all year long.

Results: The classroom is clean without complaint, and they even ask to play Secret Trash! The students love the brag tags! I love them because they are not candy, are inexpensive and easy to make. I'm giving away the "Secret Trash" Freebie on my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Find the Mistake: Embarrassing But Entertaining Real World Grammar Mistakes

Problem: How do you get students to buy in to the importance of proofreading when it is so deadly dull?

Solution: By making proofreading text a hands-on fun competition and real world relevant, students can't resist finding adults' embarrassing errors and gleefully fixing them!

Results: I collected photos of real life places and situations (thank you, Internet!) that had text with errors in grammar, usage, spelling, and punctuation and more. After creating a PowerPoint presentation, I divided the class into two teams and gave each team a fly swatter. New ones are nice, but that is entirely up to you! I showed a slide and one student from each team held a flyswatter. The first of the two kids to run up and "swat" the error on the screen and corrects it correctly wins a point. The fly swatters are handed off to two more kids. Show a few slides or dozens depending on time.

Extra-credit: Ask students to find errors on signs, billboards, menus, posters...anywhere out in the real world...and take a digital photo, send it to you, with an explanation of the error and how to fix it.

Teacher Freebie!!!!

We are offering weekly freebies to build your collection of Embarrassing But Entertaining Errors! Download them now at our TeachersPayTeachers store and take a look at the great products we have to offer. Fun games, vivid vocab, and tons more. We are twin sisters who not surprisingly both love to teach. We so love curriculum that is engaging, interesting, and a great value that we decided to create it ourselves. We think you will like it too!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Top Ten Ways to Make Our "I Have...Who Has? Games Even More Fun!

My students love a game. I do too, but a game's got to earn its keep in my classroom. A great classroom game is fun, challenging and curriculum-based. A perfect game is all that times ten! So here are my top ten ways I take a hard-working "I have...Who has...?"" game and make it my multi-tasking classroom star!  

10. Tisket-Tasket              Students use game cards as task cards. They can write their  
                                             answers on a worksheet.

9.   Jeopardy Style           Start the cards and do it backwards. Students read the  
                                            answer and the students look to their card for the correct     

8.   Exit Slip                       Better than a Group A boarding pass, students line up or 
                                            leave a few seconds early according to correct answers. Do 
                                            just a few for maximum interest.

7.  Kid Version                  Students make their own short game choosing 5-10 vocab 
                                            words, writing definitions and illustrating. Laminate and         
                                            keep the good ones for the archives.

6.  Whole Group-Off      Follow the usual rules, keeping track of time. Instead of trying
                                           to beat your own class CR (classroom record), compete
                                           against another classroom for bragging rights. Got an old
                                           trophy in the garage? Pass it from class to class as the 
                                           students jockey for first place.

5. Memory Game           A small group of students lay the cards face down, then flip 
                                           the first card. They turn over cards looking for the correct
                                           answer. The student who finds the answer reads the next
                                           question. Student with the most cards wins.

4. Ducks in a Row           Great for individuals, partners, small groups and OCD types.
                                           Take the mixed up cards and put them all in order.

3. Poster Child                Each student makes a poster for their vocab term. The term,
                                          definition, example or use in a sentence, and illustration must
                                          be included. Hang all over the classroom.

2. World Series               Kids play the game as partners or small groups. Get sporty
                                           and have team names and play-offs, etc.

1. Secret Word                Find a word in the cards that repeats 3-5 times like   
                                           ecosystem or globe. When ever someone says that word   
                                           everyone has to do a special action. It could be to quack like 
                                           a  duck, do the Dougie, play rock, paper scissors with their 
                                           neighbor. It’s up to you the funnier the better!

Have fun and learn! Jody & LeAnn

Follow us and check out all our “I Have…Who Has?” cards available in all subject areas at our Tpt store: 
These are just a few of our games available!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

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Saturday, September 28, 2013

How to Make Your Own Student Tech Team

Problem: Teachers at my elementary school sometimes needed assistance with computer and tech issues during class time.

Solution: I started a Tech Team Club last year with my 4th graders. We met weekly at lunch in my classroom for 20 minutes, ate and discussed how to troubleshoot common technology problems teachers encountered at school. Each student kept notes in a composition notebook on how to solve an issue. Students meet with the teachers right after our weekly meeting to check in. Teachers also have a tech request form that they can put in my mailbox.

Our school has netbooks, thin client computers, old PCs and Promethean Boards. Students help get frozen computers back on track, help keep computer carts organized, help any students with programs, help them save files properly, help get pens to work on the smart board. Whenever a problem occurs we discuss it and add it to our notebooks. Then the students have a reference to look at when they are in the classroom.

I also kept the notes on the Promethen board while we had lunch and added those to our digital file that students could access if they missed a lunch meeting. I have last year's notebooks so we don't have to start all over. I assigned each student to a particular teacher. They meet with them with their notebook and forms to fill out if the problem went beyond their expertise. I created a form that has the information I need to call in the problem to our district help desk. I can also use these forms to keep track of what has been fixed and what is still pending.

Only teachers who requested help received it. We didn't want to bother teachers! Because students might need to leave their class to help, students on the Tech Team needed permission from their own teacher to participate. The Tech Team kids enjoyed troubleshooting so much that they would often go on their own time to help their teacher.

To identify students who would be working around the school, I bought yellow traffic vests in kid sizes from Ikea and wrote titles and slogans on the back: These cost about $3 a piece and I bought 3. This year I want everyone to have their own club tshirt. It turned out that students didn't miss much class because they were always checking in with their assigned classroom during their recess breaks. The students were so professional and it really became their club. I called in things we couldn't fix to the help desk, but that was only because they wouldn't allow the students to call.

Here is an example of our vests:

Hearst Tech Team
Hearst Tech Team to the Rescue!
Students loved wearing them. They felt proud and professional!

I allowed any student in my class to participate on the condition they came to the weekly meeting. What I found was that I had some real gems. The students who just wanted to play quickly stopped coming. One of my best students was actually very low academically in class, but this gave her an area to shine! I love technology and I enthusiastically encourage girls to join.

The results were fantastic!
  • Equipment was getting fixed, thus making it useful.
  • Netbooks were repaired before the warranty expired.
  • Teachers raved about the helpfulness of the students.
  • Students loved the confident feeling of being an expert for an adult. 
  • Students were solving real world problems in creative and challenging ways.
  • I now had a core of tech helpers in my class!
  • All technology was cleaned and repaired before the end of the school year.
  • It was a great bonding experience.
  • School start-up will be smoother when getting all the computers back up and running.
  • We problem-solved together and shared our experiences to create a trouble-shooting notebook we can add to next year.
Next Steps!

This year I am going to add a fundraising component. I want to obtain funds for special equipment and came up with an idea that is fun, cheap and easy!

Cell Phone Cleaning and Disinfecting $1.00

Students, I'd like to have 2 each morning if possible will set up a table before school to catch parents dropping off their children. Wearing plastic gloves, the kids will clean phones with antibacterial computer/phone wipes from Fry's Electronics. The wipes cost $5.00 for 100, a profit of 95%! Phones are always getting dirty, so it is a built-in repeat fundraiser that is easy to set-up and run. At only a dollar, parents and students both win! Parents get a clean phone and a good feeling about benefiting the school and the kids are getting satisfaction and new tech equipment.
Follow up: We made $40 in two days. Students are running it themselves and the parents love it! We practiced answering questions such as what the money was used for and how to thank the customer.

Last, I will be making t-shirts for the students to wear on meeting days. I want the students to feel proud to help their school!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Heroes of 9/11: Thanking Our First Responders

Problem: How to commemorate 9/11 with elementary age children without focusing on frightening elements.

Solution: I have created a thank you letter template for students to show appreciation to their neighborhood First Responders.  Jody wrote the included student friendly article that details the important role First Responders play in protecting our communities. Students can use ideas from the article to be a spring board for larger projects beyond the classroom.
If you liked this product please follow this blog and our store at
Thanks LeAnn & Jody

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Cursive Joke Book: 35 weeks of Cursive

Students will learn D’Nealian cursive by tracing, practicing and then writing their best sample. The top half of the worksheet is for learning the proper technique. The letters show direction arrows. The bottom half has a frame can be cut out and glued into a journal or spiral bound to create a personal Cursive Joke Book. Students can then share their jokes with friends and family.

These jokes practice all the lower and upper case letters. Students will trace the letters first then copy the words on the lines. Finally, they will write the joke in their best handwriting. These worksheets focus on letter formation, letter size, alignment , and spacing.

This Cursive Joke Book can be used as a center, whole class
lesson, or for homework. Great for Homeschoolers or just extra practice.

Enjoy cursive made fun! Available for $5 at Teachers Pay Teachers

Monday, August 26, 2013

Lining up


When the morning bell rings, students group up instead of line up.

With the principal's permission, I spray painted dots on our line up area. I made a stencil and sprayed the dots about 18 inches apart. I used white spray paint but could have used a color like black or gray that blends in better. I also would make the dots smaller, about the size of a quarter. Before painting, tape down a length of string to keep the dots straight.

RESULT: The students loved it because there was no arguing over who was there first. If a foot was on a dot, the spot was taken. Kids learned quickly to find an empty dot. Not only did it solve the "grouping" problem, tardies were reduced because students began to arrive early to nab a premium spot!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Island of the Blue Dolphins Visual Vocabulary: Seeing is Understanding A Common Core Close Reading Resource

Problem: Students sometimes have a hard time relating to--and consequently, comprehending--a historical novel. Much of the book may be foreign to a 4th or 5th grader: the era, the culture, and the setting. As teachers, we sometimes assume kids will "get" more than they actually do.

Solution: I created a visual vocabulary PowerPoint slide show for Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell. My purpose was to generate excitement for the text before reading and offer mental pictures for students to use when introduced to the unfamiliar terms.

Results:  This 67 slide PowerPoint made a huge difference in my students' engagement with the text and understanding of the story. It has been a flexible teaching tool that has proven to be an excellent way to scaffold the text for ELL students, while all students benefited from the enriched historical background.

Friday, August 9, 2013

How to Keep Your Classroom Library Organized (Without You Lifting a Finger)!

This week I'd like to join the Monday Made It Linky Party and explain how I solved a problem many  teachers have!

 Problem: My nonfiction library was beautifully sorted and ready for students the first day of school, but within days it was a disaster! Once our first grade reading buddies made their appearance and dived into my book bins, I knew something had to change.

First: Students would forget which bucket the book came from and return it to any empty spot.
Second: I needed something easy to keep updated as new books came into the class.
Third: I wanted something that could be a classroom job: keeping bins organized and labeling new books.
Last: With a very limited print ink budget, I didn't want to print labels for each book, especially when I only needed one.

Solution: Contact Paper Hole Punched Shapes!

Why it works:
First: I put a sticker on the book bin label and a sticker at the top left corner of each book.
Second: I made an envelope with the sticker on it and made extra stickers for future books. I keep the envelope in the back of the book bin.
Third: If I run out of stickers, a student can make more. In fact, I would make that a reward to get to make more stickers. Everyone will beg to be the class librarian!

Here is my set of hole punch shapes. Because I have many more topic bins in Non-fiction than fiction genres, the variety of shapes is really useful. These are available at scrapbook stores.
I happened to have a variety of colors of contact paper. You don't need a lot. You don't even have to have different colors. Target, Walmart and discount stores sell contact paper or you can order it on
Start hole punching! I would turn the hole punch upside down; then I could see exactly where to place the punch to get the most out of my contact paper. Just trim the edge off after punching and start another row. I found that placing the contact paper with the plastic on top and the paper on the bottom made a cleaner cut.

The more basic shapes turned out the best. Apples, stars, and feet worked well. I had a harder time punching out palm trees, etc. You can coordinate your shapes with your book topics if you want to be super organized. I use people shapes for biographies and houses for the how-things-are-made bin. If I couldn't match a shape, I just chose one.
So this is how I organize my non-fiction library. It makes it easy for any 4th grader to maintain and keep updated. View my previous post to see how I organize my fiction library.

Thanks everyone for letting me share my ideas with the Monday Made-it Linky Party!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Library Labels

My wonderful friend Molly from Lessons with Laughter just made some really cute labels on TPT.  I really thought about doing book baskets again,  but I have some problems with either too many books in a basket or not enough of genre or topic in a basket. To solve that problem I created a way of organizing my books without baskets.

Color Coded Genre Tape

1. I sorted my books into 9 categories: realistic fiction, sports, biography, award winners, fantasy, animal fiction, historical fiction, mystery, humor.
2. Next I assigned each color a genre. I picked blue for realistic fiction since that was one of my bigger catagories. I have the most blue tape.
3. I used multiple colors of painters' tape that I got at Lakeshore. It isn't cheap but for the future I wanted something that was easily accessable to add to books as I get them through book orders etc. I could have used duct tape but I find that difficult to cut.

3. I cut a piece about 1 inch long and put it on the base of the spine.
Now the books are easy to replace and sort on the bookshelf. Students won't be putting them in the wrong baskets and I can display more books.

I will be posting a reference sheet in several places so students can check the color against the genres. Just another way to organize your library!