Primary Chalkboard: 2 brainy apples
Showing posts with label 2 brainy apples. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 2 brainy apples. Show all posts

Content Integration and Close Reads

Hey y'all! I hope everyone has gotten off to a fab new school year. I have been in school for about 2 months already. But I can't complain because tomorrow starts my first fall break ever! A whole week off after 7 weeks of school. I really hope our calendar for next year keeps this break because kids and adults definitely needed it!

Today I wanted to do a throw back post to one of my own more popular posts about integrating Close Reads and Social Studies. I know there isn't enough time in the day to really set aside time to teach all subjects the way they should be taught, so I decided to pull my literacy standards into my Social Studies time....or my Social Studies standards into my literacy time.....either way works! I hope you are able to snag a few tips from my post that you can read by clicking {here}. Now that I am only teaching middle grades social studies, I find myself pulling in literacy standards left and right. It not only helps reinforce important reading and writing skills, but it also helps out my fellow literacy teachers.

And because it's getting to be my favorite time of year, I just have to say, "Happy Fall, Y'all!"

Heather- 2 Brainy Apples
Follow on Bloglovin

Engaging Strategies for Integrating Reading in Social Studies

Hi everyone! I am so excited today is my blogging day at Primary Chalkboard! I am Heather from 2 Brainy Apples, and I am so excited to be teaching middle grades social studies this year! There is a LOT of content in our 6th grade SS curriculum. Lots of facts, lots of geography, lots of everything! And being an ex-elementary teacher, I believe that integration of reading into social studies is a non-negotiable. But reading passage after passage can get downright BORING. Even if the content is interesting, my students are sitting through 7 55-minute classes a day. If they are with me first thing in the morning, they may not mind sitting and reading....but, if they are with me at the end of the day, this is the last thing they want to do. And I totally understand how they feel. How do we feel after an all day professional development or meeting where we sit most of the time? I am ready for a nap! Or I am so focused on how much my bum hurts, I don't pay much attention. Knowing that reading is necessary, I decided to mix things up a little bit for my kiddos to keep them engaged and attentive to what they are reading, as well as having them look forward to reading about social studies content.

Engaging Reading Strategies for Social Studies- 2 Brainy Apples Primary Chalkboard
Photo courtesy of umjanedoan CC license

I like to write my own passages for the social studies content I have to teach. It allows me to make sure I include everything my students should know, I can leave out unneeded info, and I can add in fun facts that they may not have to learn, but it sure does make reading it a whole lot more fun! Even though I write the passages, I do get that my students may not be as excited about reading them as I would like. We do a lot of close reading, too, and this can be exhausting on their minds! I am on the team that doesn't believe in making my students close read everything I put in front of them. OVERLOAD. Some days my students might close read a paragraph. Other days they may close read half of the passage. Some days they will close read all of the passage. The goal is to get students to close read all on their OWN, without me having to tell them to do it. Easing them into, not forcing it will help them see how much close reading does help them understand the text, which will result in students choosing to close read the entire text without prompting be me. Lofty goal? Yes. Totally realistic? Absolutely! Has this happened in the past? Yep! 

Movement Reading
One way I bring novelty into reading is by taking the passage my students need to read and cutting apart the paragraph. Then I hang each paragraph in a different place in our hallway for them to find.
They are still reading the passage, completing the activities that go along with it, but they are moving about the hallway. There's something about just being up and moving, reading one paragraph at a time that really engages them! I do this with passages that have paragraphs that don't need to be read in chronological order. Otherwise it would be very difficult for the students to glean the meaning from the text. One passage I did this with was the passage I wrote about air pollution in the United Kingdom (one of our standards addresses environmental issues). I wrote the passage with 4 headings: overview of air pollution, sources of air pollution, effects of air pollution, what the UK is trying to do to solve the issue of air pollution. There ended up being 3 paragraphs about the effects, 2 paragraphs about the solutions, 1 paragraph about the sources, 1 paragraph about what air pollution is, and a conclusion paragraph. Students did not need to read the paragraphs in order to be able to complete the activity pages I gave to them because it was not a chronological text structure. Students were free to wander the hallway looking for each paragraph that would help them complete the activity pages. I gave students activity pages because I wanted them to be accountable for what they were reading. One activity page was about how smog is formed, one activity page was about the solutions the UK is implementing, and they had to create a foldable with the sources and effects of air pollution. My students were totally engaged the entire 55 minutes because they were able to move at their own pace. They read in chunks, moved, read some more, completed an activity page, moved again, etc. The movement really helped my kiddos I teach at the very end of the day keep from being bored and kept them focused.

Jigsaw Reading
Another strategy I use is the jigsaw method to integrate reading. The next passage I had my students read was about the acid rain issue in Germany. Instead of having my students read the entire passage, I broke them into 8 learning groups because I had 8 paragraphs (each group had about 3-4 students).
Again, because the paragraphs did not need to be read in chronological order, I did not have to worry about students reading a paragraph out of order. If the text structure was chronological, I would have had my students read more than just 1 paragraph of the text in their learning groups to prevent confusion. The headings of the passage were similar to the air pollution passage: what is acid rain, sources of acid rain, effects of acid rain, and solutions Germany is implementing to decrease acid rain. Each learning group had the same paragraph to close read. After they read their paragraph, they then discussed the ideas presented and took notes to ensure they were experts on their information. Once they were comfortable with the information they read, I reassigned them into expert groups. I took one student from each learning group to make 3 or 4 8-person groups, depending on how many students I had in my class for that particular period. Yes, these groups were larger than the first grouping, and sometimes having a large group can be a problem because each student's voice won't be heard. However, since only 1 student (or at the most 2) in each group was an expert on his/her particular paragraph, this wasn't an issue. Students also had 2 activity pages and a foldable they needed to complete while these discussions were taking place, so they knew they needed to be attentive and participate. Each student took time to share his/her information, answering questions the other students may have had about the particular aspect presented. I loved this! I was able to walk around and listen to the conversations taking place, making notes on which students understood the reading and which ones did not. Students having to answer questions to clarify to their classmates is such a powerful learning tool! And the best part? I did not have to teach my students anything about acid rain because they did it themselves. And I guarantee they were more engaged and interested in the topic than if I had led the discussion after they had read every paragraph by themselves. 

I know I am going to be using these 2 strategies a lot more often in my social studies classroom because they kept my students engaged, and they told me that they enjoyed the activities because they weren't sitting at their desks doing it. Sometimes it's the little things in life! Have you tried these strategies in your classroom? I would love to hear about your experiences! 'Till next time!


2 Brainy Apples blog
Follow on Bloglovin

Middle Grades Classroom Set Up and Organization

Well, hey y'all! It's so good to be back blogging here at Primary Chalkboard! I'm Heather from Brainy Apples, and today I am going to share how I set up my classroom for the new school year. I officially go back tomorrow, but I went in every day this week to get my room ready. Please don't throw tomatoes! I know you elementary peeps go in MANY more days than just 3, and, on those days, you spend close to 8 hours each day. I know. I was elementary for 13 years. I don't even know how many days and hours in the summer I would spend setting up my classroom. This will be my 2nd year in middle school, and I spend way less time getting my classroom ready. It's a lot easier when you teach just one subject. Last year I taught ELA. This year I get to teach social studies, and I can't tell you how stinkin' excited I am about that! So, when you see my classroom, you will definitely be able to tell I am a one-subject-kinda-gal now. 
  I wanted to write my blog post about middle grades classroom set up and organization because last year was my first year in middle school....and I was so worried I wasn't doing something I needed to be doing because I had my room set up in less than a week. Going from spending probably 80+hours setting up a room to less than 15 hours was weird. Definitely weird, but weird in a good way (well, weird is always good). There are some things I do the same, but there are many more that I do differently.

First Things First

Before I even begin decorating my room, I still write down every function I need my classroom to perform. I want to make sure I have a designated area for everything. AND that everything will actually fit. Nothing makes me a sad panda more than decorating most of my room, and then realizing that all I wanted to include won't be possible because I have run out of space. Even though I am still a rookie when it comes to middle school, I know I will definitely need the following:

A place for students to turn in (and store) their work 
Since I am teaching social studies, I know my students will be working on a lot of projects. These will most likely stay in my room, so not only do I need a place for students to turn in their work, I need space for them to store their work. Did I mention I teach 5 classes? So about 150 students...I need to have space for their work...ALL of them...during projects. 

Supply corner
My students will be coming to me with all the needed school supplies (pencils, pens, highlighters, markers, scissors, glue, etc.). However, there are always a handful who somehow forgets their supplies. Um, yeah. So instead of wasting time having them go to their lockers to get said needed supplies, I want to have a corner of my room with everything they need, so they can quickly get a loaner (and I know most will go missing because loaners become theirs. That's why I have tubs of extras in my closet. And I have been known to ask students for a shoe when they borrow a pencil from me because they give it back every single time...sometimes sticky...sometimes not).

Storage for extra supplies
Since I will be needing to replenish my "I forgot my supplies" corner, I know I will need adequate space to keep all the extras that will eventually make their way to that corner...and I need storage for my own supplies.

Absent work
This is a biggie. One reason why I love middle school is because the responsibility of completing classwork, getting work missed, etc. falls on the STUDENT. Not me. The STUDENT. So when someone is absent, it is his/her responsibility to get missing work. We use ItsLearning, which is an on-line platform, and I post what we are doing in class. However, if a student does not have access to a printer or a computer at home (which families can actually check out a laptop from our media center and get a broadband card for FREE so they do have the needed technology at home), or their Internet broke (which is an excuse I hear...a lot....) I need a place to neatly keep missing assignments so students can get it on their own without asking me. HEAVEN.

Word Wall
Even though I teach middle school, I am going to have a word wall in my room. It's non-negotiable. This year my word wall will consist of social studies vocabulary because there is a LOT of content-specific words in the curriculum. I am going to create my own word cards, and I will be putting a visual representation on each card to help students make connections. This will be an on-going project for me this year.  *Update! I finished my Social Studies Word Wall and you can get it by clicking {HERE}*

When I taught ELA, I had a Greek and Latin roots/affixes word wall. There are SO many students are responsible for learning, and I found that they were forgetting already learned ones. I created a word wall specifically for students to refer to all year long. I put this word wall on a bulletin board. During the year, students would write words that contained a specific root/affix on a notecard and then tack onto the board under the word wall card. Students were on the lookout for roots/affixes without me having to ask! You can also use this word wall during science because several vocabulary terms have these roots/affixes. My students were referring to my word wall to remember key science terms! You can see this word wall by clicking {HERE}.

Maps, maps, maps.....and more maps. I will be teaching Europe, Canada, Australia, Latin America, and islands in the Caribbean. We are literally all over the world. So I will be hanging up a lot of maps in my room. Good thing I love maps :)

A place to display student work 
Even middle schoolers like to have their work hanging on the wall! I don't have wall space outside my classroom (darn those lockers!), nor do I have wall space for 150 kiddos. I can, though, have a dedicated space on my wall and rotate out student work, so they know I appreciate and respect what they create. And, even though they may not admit it, they are proud when they know their work is important enough to display.

I love quotes. Wen I coached basketball years ago, there were 2 girls responsible for finding a quote to read to the team before our game. They had to explain the significance of the quote and how it pertained to our team and the upcoming game. It was amazing to hear the message my players heard from those quotes and the impact it made on them. So I knew I wanted a wall space for quotes for my middle schoolers. I also decided that since there are specific people I will be teaching, most of the quotes will be said by those people (yet another on-going project for myself this year!). Not only will these quotes hopefully give my students something to think about, but the quotes will also help my students remember the significance of each person.

Interactive notebook table of contents
I will be using an interactive notebook this year. There is SO much content I will be teaching, I have to make the material engaging for my students. I will do this through INB and projects. I need a place where I can display our INB table of contents so if students are absent or get behind, they can see what they missed and what they need to make up. This won't take up much space at all either...thank goodness!

Word Splash
I love word splashes. I consider a word splash to be a group of words associated with one term. Because we will be studying 5 different areas, I want to help my students recognize key terms associated with each area. I need a large enough area to display the current splash as well as previous splashes (and I really need to think of a cuter name). I am going to color code each region's splash because color can help some students with remembering word associations. 

Fun social media board
We are a Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) district. Our kids come to school with different types of devices. I know they use Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I am going to bring those social media platforms to my classroom. I need a space where I can have an interactive bulletin board that they students will be responsible for updating. I have several ideas floating around in my head, but until the school year gets going, I am not sure which path I will take. As soon as I figure it out though, I will be blogging about it on my blog, so be sure to check in with me regularly!

This day in history...
I love trivia. And I love to know what happened today in history. This will be another interactive display my students will be responsible for updating. It won't need much room, but I do want a space where students can easily switch out events that happened in history, and I hope they find really obscure or interesting, little known facts! I just want them to become fascinated by history because I did NOT like social studies when I was in school. AT ALL. I am trying to think of things that would have helped pique my interest in hopes that it carries over to my students.

A place for students to sit
I guess this is important :) I do not like desks. Nope nope nope. These are the adjoined chair and desk, and they are so cumbersome! I like to have my students sit in groups, and those desks would move all over the room! They drove me crazy. I wasn't keen on the idea at the beginning of last year, but thought I would give them a try. I nixed that the 3rd week of school. So, over the span of several months, I replaced desks with tables. Now I have 5 rectangular tables and 1 circle table for my students. Not only do these tables not migrate, I have way more space than if I had 30 desks. I want my students to get on the floor and spread out, and easily do group work without having gaps between the desks. 

Once I knew what all needed to be in my room, I could begin moving furniture and decorating! Did I mention I love how I teach just one subject? I don't remember how in the world I fit everything 5 needed for multiple subjects in one room! I am going to eventually need storage space for social studies games and centers that I will be making this year (add some more projects to my ever-growing on-going to do list!), and I made sure to leave some blank space in my room for my new creations (and now I have Taylor Swift singing in my head).

Get Your Decorating (and Furniture Moving) On

Here's the fun part! Now, my room is not totally complete. I know there will be things I didn't think of that I need to add to my room. I learned in years past to NOT decorate every square inch of my room. Not only do ideas hit me out of nowhere, but I also want students to feel like it's THEIR room, too. It does make it look a little blah at the beginning of the year, but by the 3rd month (if not sooner), it becomes more colorful with the help of my students!

So, here we go with my classroom set up! I will address each item on my "Must Have" list:

A place for students to turn in (and store) their work 

Supply corner

Storage for extra supplies

Absent work
(the absent work display is behind my door)

A place to display student work, Interactive notebook table of contents, & This day in history...

Word Splash, Fun social media board, & Word Wall


Quotes & A place for students to sit

My quotes will go above my board, and I didn't take pics of the tables because there is still a lot of crap supplies on them :) 

I am going to be doing another blog post towards the end of August/beginning of September about how I have tweaked my classroom to fit the needs of my class (because you know it happens.EVERY.SINGLE.YEAR.) Be sure to head on over to my blog in a few weeks to check it out! I am also going to be blogging a lot more this year because, in case I haven't already said it, I am SO excited to be teaching social studies! I would love to share my journey with you! 'Till next time! -XOXO


Why I Love Authentic Performance Tasks

Hey everyone! It's Heather from 2 Brainy Apples, and I am so excited to be blogging on PC today! I wanted to share with you all one of my favorite activities to do in my classroom ---> authentic performance tasks. I think sometimes the idea of performance tasks can get a little cloudy, so I wrote an entire blog post about why I love them, what they are, example ideas, and example photos.

I love using the GRASPS model, and I include a link to a helpful site if you are interested in using it, too. In short, the G is for goal for the student, R is the role of the student, A is the audience of the student, S is the scenario that is real world, P is the product or performance the student will create or product, and S is the scoring rubric you give to students before hand so they know your expectations.

Here are a couple of pics from one of my performance tasks so you can get an idea of how unique the products are, and you can imagine how engaged students were! Same performance task. Totally different outcome. Want to know what their task was? Head on over to my blog post! These are great for allowing students to express their creativity and get away from mindless worksheets ---> "Worksheets don't grow dendrites." -Marcia Tate. One of my favorite sayings!

I hope you will hop on over to my blog and share some of your ideas and thoughts!


Getting Your Students to Not Dread Testing!

We've all been there….standardized testing. Yuck! Who likes it? Certainly not me nor my students. But it is a necessary evil. A while back I wrote a blog post on how to help your students not dread standardized testing and actually even look forward to it a little bit. I thought it would be timely to revisit this blog post because I know that glorious stressful time of year is quickly approaching. If you want to find out how I help my students wake up ready to roll on those testing days, head on over to my blog at 2 Brainy Apples and maybe my trick will help you and your students!

Until next time!


Advent Calendar Day 2 from 2 Brainy Apples!

Hey hey hey! It's Heather from 2 Brainy Apples, and I just have to ask….."Are y'all ready for Day #2 of The Primary Chalkboard's Advent calendar?????"

Who doesn't love goodies? Today I am stoked to be bringing you one of my favorite writing RAFT tasks for the month of December FREE, but ONLY for today! My students absolutely love love love this task. It's my Candy Cane Taste Tester prompt.
All you have to provide is a small assortment of candy cane flavors. Students take on the role of taste testers to decide which of 2 flavors they think the owner of a candy cane factory should produce this season. My students are always so engaged with this writing project (which takes about a week), that I don't even have to remind them to stay on track. Engaged students means less stress for you! And who doesn't love a little peace and quite during the school day?

My other goodie for you is that I am offering one of my most popular seasonal products HALF off today, but ONLY for today! It's my Geo Journey New Year's Celebrations Around the World Interactive Notebook. You can snag it for only $2.25! But hurry because tomorrow it goes back to its regular price!
Most of my students had studied different winter holidays around the world, but I found out that the majority hadn't studied New Year's celebrations. Oh My Sweetness! My students are always so enthralled with these celebrations because some of them are SO different from ours. Not only will they learn about the celebrations, they will also be practicing geography skills, Close Reads, writing, and more! This product has it all for a cross-curricular unit! No fluff here. Just good old learning, with a lot of student interest. Perfect for keeping the natives under control until winter break.

I really hope you enjoy these items. I wanted to show my appreciation for each of you! Be sure to come back here tomorrow to find out which Chalkie is sharing next!

Until next time!

**Please excuse any typos as I don't have the super power of being perfect :)

Follow on Bloglovin

Bring History to Life for Your Students… And Integrate Reading into Social Studies!!!

Hey everyone! It feels good to be back blogging again with the most supporting, amazing, and caring collaborative group: The Primary Chalkboard! It's November, and while you shouldn't give thanks only during this time of year, I do want to give a huge shout out to my Chalkies because I am SO thankful for each and everyone one of them. Love y'all!!!!!

Now, onto business :) If you know me, I am a huge proponent of content integration. There just isn't enough time in the day to separate every subject in isolation, and students learn better when they can see the relationship between the various concepts they are learning. I also love using authentic documents to teach social studies. Which is going to engage a child more? Reading an informational text about the Declaration of Independence, or reading from the actual Declaration of Independence? (Ok, so I know they may have a hard time with the cursive handwriting but that was just an "off the top of my head" example). Which brings me to the meat of my post: 2 amazing resources you can use to find some authentic documents that will keep your students engaged and help you integrate reading and social studies. DocTeach and Digital Archives. Head on over to my blog to read up on how I use these 2 resources, and how they can help you, too!

I wish everyone a very happy Thanksgiving, and a SMOOTH last week/days with your students before the break! Good luck, y'all! 


Anchor Charts for ELA

Hello everyone! I am so excited to be back again blogging for The Primary Chalkboard! I feel like things are FINALLY becoming manageable again after the Back-to-School season…well, manageable at school. Definitely NOT manageable at home! With a football coaching hubby and 3 kiddos who are involved in after school activities 6 days a week, let's just say I am in dire need of a housekeeping and chef :)

But I digress. Today I wanted to talk about anchor charts. Anchor charts have been around a LONG time, before they had that cute name. I think the beauty of anchor charts is that they help kids remember things after the lesson. They are a constant reminder of past lessons and skills you want students to be able to use successfully and consistently. The problem, though, is that kids have to learn HOW to use these wonderful instructional tools. Simply placing them on the walls doesn't mean a transfer to your kiddos.

Bare Walls Do Not Equal Unprepared
I always start off my school year with pretty bare walls. Yes, it does pain me when I walk by and see beautifully decorated rooms all around me. And I do feel totally unprepared.  BUT, I do know that eventually my walls will be full and just as beautiful. It will just take some time. When I first began teaching, I would put so many charts on the wall that I wanted my kids to refer to, but the problem was that they weren't using the charts. I finally realized that in order to get my kids to USE the charts, we needed to create them TOGETHER. Otherwise the kids really don't have any idea what is on those charts, and what they are supposed to do with the information. And I realized that I could put EXACTLY what my kids needed on those charts. Bonus!

This year I am teaching 6th grade advanced ELA. So, it's really weird to only be focusing on ELA (even though I am pulling in science and social studies topics), but I have also found I am able to put so much more ELA info on my walls, I love it! We have been in school for about 6 weeks now, and my walls are slowly getting decorated. I decided that with my 6th graders, I want THEM to create the anchor charts….which is going very slowly! But I think it will be worth it in the end because they will have a sense of ownership.

Figurative Language Anchor Charts
Our focus the first few weeks of school was figurative language. We spent about 3 weeks learning about the different types of figurative language and practiced revising our writing to include figurative language. I also had my students make this FREEBIE flapbook to put in their writing notebooks so they had a good reminder of each type of figurative language we studied. I also felt like my kiddos needed some visuals on the walls to serve as reminders to include figurative language in their own writing. I always tell my kiddos that one of the few times it's OK to steal is in writing. Not plagiarize, but the best way to improve as a writer is to read and model your own writing after those authors whom you admire and love. So instead of having creating a chart for each type of figurative language and writing examples of that type on it, I decided to leave the anchor charts bare except for the figurative language type.

I told my students that whenever they read a text and came across an AMAZING example of figurative language, they needed to write that example on the corresponding chart. This way they have a grab-bag of model sentences they can use in their own writing. They can snag an idea from these charts and tweak them for their own writing. I tell my students all the time that they need to take risks in writing, but usually it's not that they don't want to take a risk. It's just that they don't know HOW. I am hoping these charts will encourage my students to take a risk with using figurative language in their own writing. I will admit, the anchor charts are pretty bare still, but I am hoping that my kiddos will add to them as time passes.

I am also planning on adding an anchor chart for Grabber Leads, too, so that when students read an AMAZING grabber lead, they can write it on the chart. They can then write a similar grabber lead using the examples on the chart, if they need to borrow one. So many anchor charts, so little time!

Thanks for stopping by and reading my post. I would love to hear how you involve students in creating your classroom anchor charts! Until next time, happy teaching!


Why Not Give Close Reads a Try This Year?

Hey guys! I am so excited to be posting today for Primary Chalkboard! I just started school a couple of weeks ago, and am teaching a new grade level, so I am super busy right now with so many different things. Sigh, summer, where did you go?!

One thing, though, I am not too busy for is to make sure I am implementing Close Reads in my classroom. I am actually teaching 6th grade ELA this year, but I am STILL Close Reading with my students. A while back I posted this tidbit about what to do when you finally decide to try Close Reads with your students, so I hope you will head on over to check it out on my blog, 2 Brainy Apples. I share some tips for getting started such as how often and when, what your students can read, how long does it take, questioning, and more! I would love to hear your experience with Close Reads, so please feel free to leave a comment!

2 Brainy Apples

Whatcha Doin' This Summer????

Oh, the confused feelings of summer…..couple of months away from a classroom full of kids, only to be stuck in a house full of kids (for some of us). Don't get me wrong, though. I LOVE summer break. I LOVE being able to spend a couple of months with my own 3, lovely, lively, energetic children, who somehow suck more energy out of me than a room full of 25 kids. How does that happen?! And my classroom full of 25 kids seem to be better behaved than my own 3 kids…again, how does THAT happen?! I am determined that this summer will not beat me. I will be victorious, and by victorious I mean that I will not be tired by my own 3 children (who are 11, 10, and 8) and my house will not become a disaster zone. Who else is with me?!

This post I am going to focus on some pretty fun, and, in most cases, FREE things to do this summer with kids. And they don't have to be your own kids. The "kids" can be nieces, nephews, cousins, little brothers/sisters, or friends' kids. As I was browsing the internet the other day, trying to think of ways to beat the summer boredom (we live in Georgia and after, oh, say about 10am, it becomes extremely hot to do just about any outside activity aside from swimming, and in which case our pool water becomes more like warm bath water, so it isn't overly refreshing. Hence, why we end up spending a lot of time in our house. Praise the AC unit!). We then venture outside around 6pm when it begins to cool off some. But I really needed some ideas of what to do the majority of the day. It seems if we actually GO somewhere, then my kids are more tolerable of the heat versus, say, just locking them outside our house (yes, I admit it. I lock out my kids sometimes. But I always make sure the garage freezer is stocked with popsicles and they have water bottles…but there is also a water hose next to our garage just in case. I lock them out because I get tired of hearing the door open umpteen times in 5 minutes. Parents, you feel me, right?!).

So I made a list of things I am definitely taking my kids to do this summer while we are on our staycation at home. My hubby also is a teacher, but being a football coach, his summer is full of football workouts all morning, so he doesn't get home until the afternoon each day, so he may or may not partake in some of these fun activities with us :) Hopefully you will be able to snag some ideas from this list to create your own "Summer To-Do List to Keep the Kids From Driving Me Bonkers." You could also reference this list to the parents of your students in hopes to keep their children from driving them bonkers this summer.

#5- Free Movies (or extremely cheap, as in $2 or less per person)
Around where we live, we are lucky enough to have a variety of movie theaters. A couple of movie theaters offers free movies during the summer. Granted, the movies have already been released, but what kid doesn't love watching a movie, and in some cases the movies are shown on a large screen outside. Fun for adults, too!

Regal is one theater that offers $1 admission to movies on Tue and Thur mornings at 10am all summer long. You can head here to see which theaters are offering this deal in your state/town.

Carmike is offering free admission to movies on Tue and Thur mornings at 10am, and for $4 you can get a small popcorn and drink. But if you bring in a canned good, you can get that popcorn and drink for just $2. Head here to plug in your local info to find a theater near you offering this deal.

Google "free outdoor movies" in your city and see what pops up. I know around us there are usually a few free outdoor movies in the summer, and there is nothing like drinking hot cocoa, eating Crunch 'n Munch, all snuggled up together in the back of my hubby's truck watching a movie together (of course laying on a blow-up air mattress).

#4- Reading for a Free Book
Barnes and Noble is heading up a summer reading program where you read 8 books, and you get to pick a free book from their reading journal list. This is for kiddos in grades 1-6. There is nothing I love more than to wake up in the morning, head out to our back screened porch, and read the news (or catch up on FB, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest…), and now I will be encouraging my kids to join me as I sip my morning coffee and they sip their morning hot cocoa where we can all listen to the birds (before the scorching sun drives them away) and read. Hopefully this will help my kids continue reading this summer and not dive down so far on that typical summer slide! And, of course, your local library will be sure to have summer programs you might want to check out.

#3- Farmer's Markets & U-Pick Farms
Ok, this is more for me than my kids, but when we were in St. Croix one summer, one of my kids' most memorable experiences was when we went to the local Farmer's Market on Saturday morning. Local Harvest allows you to search for local farms and markets. My kids balked the first time we took them when we got home, but there is something magical to a kid about picking out fresh fruits and veggies and even picking their own. My kids eat more healthy stuff when they have a hand in bringing it home. Granted, if you are doing a pick-your-own, you'll want to head out early, but my kids love it so much they have their own pumpkin patch in our backyard now that they planted all on their own. And they take care of it without prompting, which I thought would never happen. Now they even have a tommy toe (what we call grape tomatoes) plant and pepper plants on our back porch they take care of. I think next spring we will plant our own mini-garden and see how that goes. When we visit nanny and pappy, my kids LOVE taking care of the garden and harvesting the crops. And it doesn't matter for how many days or weeks we are there, they never grow tired of it. Here's to hoping some of that magic rubs off on our soon-to-be garden at home!

#2- Geocaching
Ok, so this one may not be for everyone, but for my 11 and 8 year olds, this will be perfect. All you have to do is download one of the many free geocaching apps, make sure you have a GPS device or GOS on your smartphone, and start searching! I haven't done this one yet, but we will be later this week. From my understanding, you can look up nearby geocaches, and then you use the coordinates to find the hidden stash. Here is the official geocaching website, and I will be creating our new profile today. I must say I am excited, too. I mean, who doesn't love a good treasure hunt? Once you find the treasure, you log into a virtual logbook and fill in your find. If you take something, you must replace it with an item of equal or greater value. And there are trackers. I hope we find one of the trackers. A tracker is a small item that is meant to be taken from its current location and placed in another. Each tracker has its own log book so the original owner can see how it is traveling across the land :) We will probably buy our own tracker and watch its adventures!

#1- Be a Pilot
Yes, you heard me, your kid can be a pilot! And on a REAL airplane! How, you say? Well, for kids aged 8-17, EAA offers a free introductory flight lesson. The actual flight lasts about 20 minutes, and for a portion of the flight, your child will get to actually take the controls. Could be scary for you, but seeing how there is an experienced pilot in the next seat, incredibly exciting for your child! You can find a flight near you by clicking here. I remember doing this when I was 16, and it was awesome! I don't know if it was through this program or not (it was a LONG time ago), but I still remember seeing the horizon and land from a front row seat and getting to control the airplane. Best of all, this is FREE!

These are some of the things I am hoping will keep my kids entertained AND my sanity :) What are you planning on doing this summer to keep your family happy?


**Clip Art from Ashley HughesTeacher LauraSassy Designs
**Font from Kimberly Geswein