Ideas to help your students get their classwork done!


The idea for the green pen comes from Amy Green.
  1. Teacher roams around with some green pens. 
  2. Completed work gets a green star. (In my class we do hearts.)
  3. Author of completed and accurate work can go on to other things of interest or take another green pen and go help/ look over the work of other friends in class!!!
  4. Kids become captivated by the idea of getting their hands on a greeen pen, so they start to work harder and faster. PLUS the kids work with more accuracy.  They know their FRIENDS are roaming the room, so they want to get their work done right.   ((((Teacher heaven- Am I right???? ))))
(((purchase a box of green pens from Office Max {here}))))

Want more amazing ideas and these freebies?



Head over to Teacher to the Core and grab up some goodies!



TAKE IT OUTSIDE - 8 Educational Ideas with Sidewalk Chalk

Hi Friends!  This is Autumn from The Primary Techie.  Today I am blogging to you from my backyard.  It is the first day of spring, and I am loving the beautiful weather in Arizona.  Where I live, the temps get into the mid 120's in the summer and winter is very cold and breezy.  My kiddos don't get lots of beautiful-outside-weather days, so when we have them, I take full advantage.  One of my favorite things about spring is taking our learning outdoors.  Here are eight of my favorite outdoor activities the just require a little sidewalk chalk.


 1.  From Worksheets to the Sidewalk - I have the kids work with a partner and give each pair a piece of chalk and a clipboard with a worksheet or workbook page.  One student is the "teacher" with the clipboard and worksheet.  The other is the "student" with the sidewalk chalk.  The teacher tells the student what to write and solve from the worksheet.  The teacher is responsible for checking the work.  They take turns being the student and the teacher.  This is a WONDERFUL activity for differentiation because each set of partners can have unique worksheets.  They are spread out across the playground so they are not really comparing work or answers.  This is a great way to review skills.

2.  Walking Club Obstacle Course - I started "Walking Club" several years ago when I was trying to get fit.  During recess, I just started walking laps.  I quickly gained a group of students who wanted to join me in my laps around the playground.  We took our walking club to the next level by adding fun challenges with sidewalk chalk.  Usually, I let the kids draw obstacles on the side walk with chalk and we do the challenges as we walk our laps. They might draw tight ropes that we have to stay on, creaky bridges that cause us to lose our balance, bombs to avoid, or stones paths that we must hop on as we do the laps.  This is so much fun and I highly recommend it.  I have had some kids come up with REALLY cool challenges.  To make this activity more academic, I have them write sight words that we can read as we walk, math facts that we must answer along our path, skip count challenges (count by 2's from one green line to the next, count by 5's from one purple line to the next, etc.)  This is such a fun way to be active and practice some of our classroom skills. You can read more about my Walking Club on The Primary Techie.  Click here.

3.  The Illustration Challenge - Students use sidewalk chalk or sidewalk paint and I assign them a block of concrete along the sidewalk.  They have to create an illustration from their favorite story.  When they are finished, we guess what story they illustrated.  This is also a fun follow-up to a class writing project.  They can write their own stories in the classroom and then illustrate them outside.  I read the stories to the class and they choose which story goes with each illustration.

4.  Meet My Friend - I LOVE celebrating the kids in my classroom.  Everybody loves to be recognized and get a little pat on the back.  I have my kids work with a partner on this one.  They trace their friend's body on the sidewalk then draw details on their outline.  If it is too hot to lay on the sidewalk, we just trace shadows.  Next, they title their work "Meet ______" and they write sentences about what makes their partner special.  More advanced writers can write a paragraph.  Beginning writers can make a list of words.

5.  Make a Map - Kids always love creating maps!  I have them make a floor plan of their homes, their dream home, or our school.  They can plan their own city or amusement park.  I love to see how excited and creative my kiddos get with these projects.  We also include map features like compasses and legends.

6.  Geometry City - Divide the kids into groups and have them create two cities - one where each building has a line of symmetry and the other where no buildings have a line of symmetry.  You could also have one group make a city using specific shapes or attributes of shapes that you are learning about.

7. Measure It - Have the kids draw lines or shapes on the sidewalk and then have their friends measure the lines with their feet.  They can record their measurements on the sidewalk.  This is a great way to introduce non-standard measurement and discuss why we might have different answers.

8.  Life Size Board Games - Take your favorite games and make a giant version.  You can make a board game and let your students be the pieces.  This is fun to play with big foam dice.  Roll the dice to see how many spots you get to move, answer the question correctly to move forward.  You can use this to review ANY subject.  Work with other teachers to take turns drawing the giant board game that each of your classes can use.

I hope that you find some of these ideas fun and useful with your own group of students.  I encourage you to look at your classwork this spring and try to think of ways to take it outside.  Your students will love the change of environment and the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors.  Please share your ideas and comments below.

Until next time,

Creating a Bibliography

Hello everybody!  Terry here from Terry's Teaching Tidbits.  My 5th graders and I have been hard at work on a Power Point project where they are researching important people from the 1920s.  They are creating phenomenal Power Points and I am currently in the process of showing them how to cite their sources and include them in a bibliography.
Back in my day, a bibliography was a headache.  I had to continuously try to either memorize the MLA format for a citation or consult my book that showed which aspects of the sources went where.  It was dreadful.  Now, citing a source is a breeze!  I am showing my students with Easybib.

Check out this video I made to see exactly how to use it.  I have also shared this with the parents from my class so that they are able to assist their children when working at home.


I hope this video is helpful and will be useful in teaching your students how to cite their sources as well!

STEAM & STEM Activities For Kids: STEAM BREAK

Hey, it's Matt from D:D&C, and I'm sharing some simple STEM and STEAM activities for your kids to complete.  Get 'em up, get 'em thinking, and get them creating.


STEAM and STEM--so much buzz (doge voice). Science, math, and the arts--joining forces like the Avengers. I love it. All this playing, creating, building, and imagining are crucial components for kids in their skill development and love of learning. It's what I want my kids to do.  It's what I want my students to become immersed in.

But how do I push kids into it without becoming the overbearing and obsessive teacher/father? Because we know that could easily happen.  How else do you think I get them to love Jurassic Park.



My two girls love to build and create, but I've found that they get stuck when it comes to expanding on their ideas. It also turns into a race, and races end. And then they get bored. And boredoms best friend is a tv or video game. (Side note: my kids are 7 and 9, which is prime time for crazy-thinking age.)

It got me running this question through my head, "How could I give them the nudge without making myself seem crazy?" 


The answer came in the form of a BINGO board.  I created a couple of boards based on the STEM and STEAM principles: Art, science, engineering, yada, yada, yada. I call them STEAM Breaks. Each board has nine activities for them to complete when they need that little push to explore. They're indoor and outdoor activities that don't have time restraints and are virtually opened-ended.

Each board (or piece of paper) has 9 activities to choose from. Right now, the sections include: In The Yard, Get Artistic, and Build-It. That's right--27 simple activities for kids to devour.


Simple STE(A)M Activities ideas include: 

-Build a River
-Create a log cabin from sticks
-Build a working crane
-Build a bridge
-Draw a picture using only geometric shapes
-Find a famous painting, recreate it in miniature form
-Design a Catapult
Download the STEAM BREAK: IN THE YARD page here.

These STEAM activities should be simple.  Use materials you have surrounding you. No spending money. Recycle bin, check. Craft closet, check. Mud and dirt, check.  Problem solve and create.  

Last week they went in the backyard and built a river. It was tough (at first) but they realized the possibilities. Soon dams appeared along with rivers dividing, then figuring out how to build a waterfall (or at least try).  A simple challenge turned into a two hour adventure.




I'm passing out copies to my students for Spring Break. It's not a challenge or a competition, just a chance for kids to get creative and not say "I'm bored."  


Grab yourself the full copy of STEAM Break (completely free).

CLICK HERE or on the image.



I'm off to build a catapult.


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Test Prep Without Sacrificing Teaching Time!

It's coming for many of our upper elementary teachers and students.  They have thought about it.  Worried about it. 

The. Test.

This is something that I have thought about a great deal.  I hear so many stories about teachers, schools and districts who set aside real teaching and learning to prepare for tests that are simply supposed to be a "dipstick" to  measure the state of affairs in our classrooms.  I am a believer (to a degree) in some forms of standardized testing.  Districts need to get some feedback on how their students and programs are performing.  That being said, the evolution of testing into high stakes, pressure-riddled experiences for teachers and students about sends me over the edge.  Because I think this is so important, I have revisited a post I wrote last year about this time to make sure that we continue to think about what is important about testing--and the number one thing we need to remember is our students.

Teachers around the country are worried about if they are preparing their students well enough.  If they have given them enough practice opportunities. If they have spent their instructional minutes providing them with EXACTLY the right amount of exposure to what they will see on the test.

I don't.

I don't make pages of practice questions. I don't do a "real" test preparation unit.  I don't provide ongoing practice on key skills I know will be on the test.  It's not worth my time.  I'm not preparing a group of students to be test takers.  I am teaching them how to think and how to learn and how to tackle ANY problem they encounter--with energy, with perseverance, and with an "I can do this!" attitude.

In my heart of hearts, I truly believe that students who can read, who can think, who are willing to try will do as well or BETTER than students who are given hours of fill in the blank practice.  I want students to learn how to do well on these tests without me telling them what to do and spending hours of their precious time drilling.  I want them to DISCOVER how to be successful by putting them in situations where they can learn this genre in a meaningful way.  Now--before you accuse me of doing my students a disservice, let me tell you what I DO do!  Hopefully you might find a little morsel of information or inspiration below!

1.  I do teach my students about multiple choice questions.  In fact, I try to get them in the minds of a test writer by teaching them about distractors and even having them try writing questions with a right answer, a distractor, and two other relevant answers. We even talk about the art of "coloring the bubble".

2.  I do teach my students about healthy testing behaviors like getting sleep, eating well, and relaxing for best performance.
3.  I do teach my students about reading critically, about going back into texts to find answers, about thinking about what authors are trying to tell us.

4.  I do teach my students about staying focused and checking over their work.

5.  I do teach my students about answering questions fully and providing evidence found in the texts.

6.  I do teach my students about what to do when they encounter a challenging problem.  We learn all sorts of strategies that gives us POWER...how to reread directions. How to find key words.  How to "give it a try" on scratch paper.  Even how to SKIP it if it is interfering--and then we come back later.

7.  I teach my students about problem solving and looking for patterns.

8.  I teach my students to read all sorts of materials...stories...poems...articles...graphs...infographics.

9.  I teach my students how to work with stamina so they can sit and complete a task that might take them an hour or so--without losing focus.

10.  I teach my students how to be ok with doing their best and having an "I can do it!" attitude.  I want them to treat everything they do with that spirit...and to walk away knowing that they did their best--and that's all they can do.  I want my students to walk out after the test feeling great--that they did their job...even when the questions were tough.

Do I do this with packets?  Nope.  Do I do this for 3 weeks straight?  Nope.  I do this all year long, when it's relevant...and BECAUSE it's relevant.  

Now--don't get me wrong--we DO a practice test or two.  In fact, we take it, study it, and break it apart.  I have my students hunt for terms they think are tricky like "passage" or "synonym".  We make anchor charts and lists of "things to know" about taking tests.  We practice this in a quiet room to mimic testing situations.  We talk about filling in the bubbles neatly and checking over our work so we don't miss questions.  If I taught third grade, I would have to do even more of this because the test is so new.  That being said, if we can teach our students to have a great attitude about trying, if they can stay focused and apply what they know, and if they can be successful at whatever task they are handed!

How are my test scores, you might ask?  My principal called me in several years ago to ask what I do...because my scores were SO much higher than the average.  It was hard for me to explain.  I told her, "I teach students how to learn, how to work, and how to try."  

One resource that has been super helpful to me is the book "Test Talk" by Amy Greene and Glennon Melton.  It gives some GREAT suggestions for how to incorporate test taking strategies into your reading workshop.  Check out the link below for more details.  

One final thing I do is ask my students to talk and write about all the ideas mentioned above.  It needs to be more than me TELLING them these things...they need to be able to process them and construct their own meaning.  I have put a lot of this together in an unusual test prep resource--in case you are interested!  Thanks for stopping by--and good luck on the tests.  Make sure you keep it positive and give your students the power to do well AND feel good about it!

Want to see more about what I do in my fourth grade class?  Visit my blog!

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Quiet Day

Aloha friends! Corinna here from Surfin' Through Second.  Just a quick post today on a fun activity I plan to do this week.

The calendar at the Teacher's Corner says that February 25th is Quiet Day.  What is Quiet Day? According to Webster it is a special day (religious) set aside for devotions, meditations and instructions.

Well I just love the sound of Quiet Day.  If you were to meet me in person one thing you would notice right away is that I am an extremely quiet person.  I am soft-spoken and rarely speak up in a group.  I've always tried to be more social, but it's just not in me.  After years of thinking I was just an odd duck, I have discovered I am a true introvert.


A colleague recommended that I read the book Quiet.  So far I am loving it and feeling not so odd anymore. Did you know that 1/3 of Americans are introverts?  This book has tons of info and I will share a bit more about it when I am done.

We also have students that are introverts.  They don't necessarily love working in large groups, but like working alone or with a preferred partner.  Introverts are also sensitive to loud noises. They enjoy quiet and comfortable surroundings.  

So I have decided that we will use February 25th as a Quiet Day in my classroom.  I plan to speak in my usual soft voice, but I will be the only one who can speak all morning!  I am going to see if we can make it through with total silence in our classroom until recess.


To ensure that students are a bit quieter I plan to give them 5 Quiet points each.(5 tally marks on their desk with dry erase marker).  If they speak above a whisper or disrupt our time they will lose a point. If they can make it through the morning and still have tally marks on their desk, then they will receive a Quiet Award (a bookmark and a pencil). Click on pic to download.



Activities I have planned include a read aloud, silent sustained reading, a review sheet, writing activity and a guided direction activity.  Basically I will be reviewing our weekly skills and teaching as usual, without the students talking.

I already know which students will have 5 tally marks and which ones will have difficulty keeping even one.  My poor extroverts! It will be tough for them, but it will be fun to see if they can do it. I'm sure they will be up for the challenge.

What do you think? Could you make it through a Quiet Day?










Tips, Tools and Routines that Encourage Independence During Writing Workshop

Happy Monday & Presidents' Day! Mondays at home are the best, right?!!

Today, I am talking about Writing Workshop and how to avoid teacher burnout (as well as, retain your sanity). Nothing can make a teacher more crazy than a room full of second graders demanding help, feedback, praise, and encouragement during each step of the writing process.  Am I right?

Click on the image below to find out how to encourage independence, and problem-solving routines and practices that will lead your students to becoming self-managing, confident writers.


Nicole