Thursday, August 11, 2016

Math About Me

 Math About Me

I want to tell you about a really easy and fun get to know you activity. This can also be used for a fun math activity throughout the year. What's even better is that your students will love to create these and they make FABULOUS hallway displays. 

First, you print off the math page that is most appropriate for your classroom. Have your students fill out the different sections by creating math sentence, models, or pictures to represent information about themselves. This is a great review of place value concepts, fact families, and more. 
 Math About Me

 Then the students can color or decorate the pages to really brighten them up.

Print out the different faces, hands, and feet and let the students pick the face that is closest to them. They then color and cut out those pieces.
 Math About Me

 Finally, glue the head on the top, the feet on the bottom, and the hands on the sides. Easy peasy!

 Math About Me

To download the FREE templates, click here or on any of the pictures.

Monday, June 27, 2016

How to Handle No Name Papers in Your Classroom

No Name Papers Board
No name papers can be really frustrating to deal with. It affects our grading, how we handle missing assignments, and more. Sometimes we can identify the handwriting of our students and pass them back their paper or sometimes there is only one no name paper and we know exactly who it belongs to. However, for those moments (cough **beginning of the year** cough) where you have multiple papers without names, or you can't recognize (or read) the handwriting, I want to show you about the No Name Board.

The No Name Board is a place to keep track of all the papers that don't have a name on them. It is a designated space in the classroom where students know they can look if they have a missing assignment and where you can put all the papers that need attention in one place.

Start by gluing pushpins onto clothespins with hot glue.
Glue Pushpins on Clothespins
You can also use magnets or even tape depending on the kind of surface you are attaching the poster to. I used push pins because I was putting my on cork board.

No Name Board
Attach the poster to the bulletin board or wall space. Then, push the clothes pins on the bottom.

 Clothes Pins on No Name Board

The clothes pins help keep everything nice and neat while helping you put all your no name papers in one place. You can also layer the papers if you happen to have that many.

 No Name Board With Papers

Clothes pins with push pins glued on the back also work great if you have tack strips in your hallway. It becomes extremely easy to hang up papers for hallway displays if you have the clothes pins already attached to the wall!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Ways To Use Fidgets To Keep Students Focused

Using Fidgets In Your Classroom

As teachers, we have long known about the benefits of letting our students move in the classroom. The research backs us up. But what are some ways that we can encourage students to move while they work?

In a 2008 study done at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, researchers found that children actually need to physically move during a complicated task to be able to focus. They found that all children (and especially those with ADHD) moved more when a problem or task required them to work through complicated problems. They noted that this is why students tend to move more during reading and math than when they are watching a movie.

Educator and researcher Aleta Margolis said:
"Movement is a powerful teaching tool, and when we as teachers thoughtfully incorporate physical elements into instruction, we elevate the learning experience."

Angela Hanscom, a pediatric occupational therapist, wrote a powerful article in the Washington Post. She writes:
"Children naturally start fidgeting in order to get the movement their body so desperately needs and is not getting enough of to "turn their brain on." What happens when the children start fidgeting? We ask them to sit still and pay attention; therefore, their brain goes back to sleep." 

I know that it is hard for me to sit through a day in a desk, so I know it is difficult for our students as well. I have already written about Alternative Seating in the Classroom and how I used Yoga Balls. Both of these solutions greatly improved the student learning and behavior in my room. However, for some students, this isn't enough. Some of our kids need a constant outlet for their fidgeting that can help them move, which helps them focus.

I really believe in giving students choice and I also believe in not driving teachers crazy. So I found some engaging and SILENT fidget ideas that you can use in your room.


fidget tote

I highly recommend gathering together the fidgets that you want to use and storing them in one place. Then, allow the students who need to move the opportunity to come grab a tool to help them focus. This tote could be only for certain students or open to everyone because let's face it, all students benefit from movement.

What I put in my tote:

There are many things in your house or classroom that would work great as fidgets for different students. The figure 8 toy in the tote is actually a baby toy that can be twisted and turned. The blue spiky ball is a dryer ball that my son loves to play with. The yellow ring is a piece of a pool noodle that was cut into a 2 inch strip. It can be squished and squeezed without making noise or a mess.

massage ball fidget

I had these massage balls that I added to my tote. They are a gel-like substance that lets kids squeeze the ball without destroying it.

I know that if you look around your room, you will find things that you can use. If you are stuck,
ask your students to look around your room and pick up one thing they like to play with. You might be surprised what they choose.


 Koosh Ball
I found a Koosh ball that my kids love playing with. It is very relaxing to play with a Koosh ball and could even be used to help upset students calm down.

Tangle Toy Fidget
I love this Tangle Relax Therapy toy that I found on Amazon. I could literally play with this all day. This toy can be twisted and turned into many different shapes without being intrusive. It is very calming and helps keep a student's hands busy.

 Fidget Pencil Toppers
Another great fidget I found are these pencil toppers. These allow the student to fidget in between writing or working on problems. When the pencil becomes too small to use, you can just transfer the fidget to a new pencil.

Bike Chain Fidget
This Bike Chain Fidget is really small but effective. As soon as I opened the package I could immediately picture several students who would love to use this. The rings twist around each other and again. It's so small, it's barely noticeable.
elastic rubber bands fidget
So students need to move more than just their hands. I found these large rubber bands that fit around the bottom of the chair legs. Your students can kick, flick, or bounce the rubber bands without too much distraction. This also lets them move more than if they were just using their hands.

There are SO many more options. Just Google "fidget toys" or search on Amazon to find the best tools for your classroom.


  • Build in movement throughout the day as much as you can. Doing things like active brain breaks, simple exercises, singing songs with actions, standing while working, and more can get your kids moving. 
  • Try alternative seating in the classroom. Don't worry about buying fancy new desks, just give your students options of sitting on the floor, laying on a rug, or standing near a table. These can help kids focus and fidget at the same time! 
  • Let students come up to the board to answer a question instead of answering from their seat. Pass students a white board marker and let them come up and show their work. Not only will you get more insight into a student's thought process, you will also get the blood flowing for a minute. 
  • Use Whole Brain Teaching techniques to get your students involved and moving in every lesson. 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Classroom Library Organization Made Easy

 Classroom Library Labels

Are you tired of classroom library chaos? I was too. If you're like me you want to manage all the books that come in and out of your classroom library in an easy and efficient manner. You are sick of messy shelves, torn books, and general chaos when looking for or returning a book. I was too. That's why I completely redid my classroom library.

When I first started teaching I had two shelves from Walmart that I stacked books on. I separated each shelf into a different genre. That gave me six different genres to work within. I quickly realized that between my hoarding of free stuff and the Scholastic points system that I was in trouble. Not only did I lack space, I also had many different genres, authors, and topics that needed to be organized and systematically separated. I also wanted to make popular books easy to access. Finally, I didn't want to have to worry about whether my kids were putting back the books in the correct space. Or, more accurately, how many times books actually got put back in the correct spot.

Enter my library labels.
 Nonfiction Library Labels
My first thought was to provide as much information on each label as I could. I wanted my kids to have a variety of genres, but I also wanted them to understand what those genres were. That way, if they were having a difficult time choosing a book, they could read the definitions to find out more information about it. The genres that I had more books for, like realistic fiction and non-fiction, had multiple labels with different colors.
 Classroom Library Labels Topics

I didn't put descriptions on the labels that had topics because I felt it would be redundant (i.e. Pumpkins: Books about pumpkins). I thought about something like "Pumpkins: Books on the rounded orange-yellow fruit with a thick rind, edible flesh, and many seeds that is part of the gourd family." But I figured that might be going a little too far. ;)

I wanted to keep the books more organized than just placing them all on a shelf and crossing my fingers that they ended up back where they belonged. I went to Walmart and purchased the cheapest bins I could find. They were less than one dollar apiece, which helped with cost. I purchased a few more shelves giving me six shelves total.

 Classroom Library Shelves

I printed off each label, laminated it (because lamination=happiness) and used packaging tape to attach them to the front. The bright colors really stood out on the bins and the kids loved having an easier way to find and return their books. 

One of my favorite things that I did on each specific author or series was to put a quote on the bottom of each label. 

 Mo Willems Book Label

This was a fun and easy way to introduce, even in a small way, the style or tone of the books that would be found inside the bin. 

I also had the cardboard book boxes (I think they were once called magazine holders) that were smaller. I needed labels to fit onto the smaller size too. 
 Smaller Library Labels

The smaller labels didn't give me adequate space to use definitions or quotes, but I still think they stand out and are easy to read. 

Now here comes the best part. The most dreaded part of a classroom library is books being returned in the wrong location. Not only is it difficult to find something if you need it, but your students can't find what they want and can get discouraged. Books being returned to the wrong place can cause a huge mess inside your library. My solution? Individual book labels with clip art that MATCHES the larger labels. 

 Individual Book Labels
These labels can be printed right onto Avery 5160 labels (affiliate link) and placed directly onto the book. This really, really, REALLY helped my kids put their books away in the right place. It also helped my really low/non-readers return their books. I'm telling you, this will change your life. 

I would put my labels in the bottom right corner to avoid covering up too much of the book description on the back. 
 Dr. Seuss Library Label
 I started having students help me take a small piece of transparent tape to put over the top of the labels for extra protection, but found I didn't really need it. Plus the stickers come 30 to a sheet so you can easily get more if one falls off. 
 Nonfiction Book Labels
This system made my books more organized, easier to find, and easier to put away. My Classroom Librarian was basically out of a job after I set up this system. 

I also created a way for students to "Check-out" and "Return" the books. This also gave them practice correctly writing a book title and the date. 
 Horizontal Library Check Out

 Vertical Library Check Out
You can download these sheets for FREE here or by clicking on the two pictures above. 

I promise you that this system will simply your life and make your job a little bit easier. If you are interested in using the library labels that I created, you can check them out here: Classroom Library Labels EDITABLE. There is almost 500 pages to choose from including genres, authors, topics, guided reading levels, Lexile, DRA, and more. 
 Guided Reading Level labels


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Unique End of Year Student Gifts

Unique End Of Year Student Gifts
Do you struggle with finding the perfect end of year gift for your students? I know I did. I always wanted something fun and meaningful. I found two different gifts that act as yearbooks AND gifts. It's a win-win.

I have seen some people using white shirts. I think that's a cute idea too. However, these two gifts give them something to play with immediately.

All I did was go to the dollar store and buy Frisbees and beach balls. Then, using a permanent marker (the washable kinds just rub off), have each student sign their name.

Beach Ball Size

The 20 inch size gives you plenty of space for students to write their names and a short message if you want them to.

Writing on the Beach Ball
I wrote on mine while it was flat. It seemed a lot easier to write on a flat surface than a round one.

I also used the front and the back of the Frisbee for more space.
 End of Year Student Gift Tags FREE
(If you like the tag, you can grab it for FREE here: End of Year Student Gift Tags.)

I think they turn out really cute and I know your kids will love this unique keepsake!
Beach Ball Gift

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Differentiated Grouping Cards: An Easy Way To Mix It Up

Differentiated Grouping Cards
I am always looking for ways to change up my groups. I really believe that flexible grouping can be a powerful way to help students learn and to make their thinking visible. One easy way to implement flexible grouping is with grouping cards.

I started by making thirty-two cards with different numbers, letters, shapes, and colors. This means that you can group them at least FOUR different ways with ONE card.

30 Different Grouping Cards

The different ways that students can be grouped:
1. Numbers: The numbers can give you class groups of odd and even. You can also do groups like numbers 1-4, 5-8, etc.

2. Shapes: The shapes give you groups of four students. This works nicely for student projects, math tasks, presentations, and more.

3. Colors: The colors give you a DIFFERENT group of four. Meaning that this group of four will be different than the shape group of four. This group arrangement can work well for jigsaws or other group projects.

4. Letters: The letters give you pairs. This is great for think-pair-shares, partner reading, and more.

Grouping Cards

These groups can be strategically arranged to ensure that you have high, medium, and low kids in each grouping of four. You can also adjust the pairs to have a high/low, high/medium, high/high, etc. This helps you really meet the needs of your individual students in SO many ways.

I laminated each card on cardstock because lamination is my life. It also makes the cards durable so they can be used from year to year. Then I attached a Velcro dot on the corner of each desk and on the back of each card. This helped me secure the cards in a visible way so students wouldn't lose them in the black hole that is their desk. It also helped me easily switch students around.

Velcro Dots on Grouping Cards

The only challenge I ever had with these was the year I had 32 students and 13 of those were students with IEP's. They left the room frequently at different times for different services and that would mess up my groups. Make sure you have a back-up plan if your room is similar.

You can download my FREE grouping cards for you room here or by clicking on any picture.


Wednesday, May 4, 2016

End of Year Student Gifts

 12 End of Year Student Gifts

If you are like me, you enjoy giving your kiddos a little something on the last day of school. However, with everything else going on, things can get a little hectic. The end of the school year means testing, final report cards, room cleaning, and general chaos and stress. It also means saying goodbye to those little cute faces we got to look at every day. Send them off with something they'll remember and enjoy! I've tried to take some of the pain and stress out of getting student gifts ready by creating 12 Cute and Easy Printables you can use for student gifts. The best part? They are FREE!

Most of these things can be purchased at the dollar store or grocery store for very cheap. You can also buy in bulk from places like Amazon or Oriental Trading Company.
 Frisbee, Bucket, and Candy Gift

I went to the dollar store and grabbed a few things. We always gave each student a book to take home so they would have something to read over the summer, but it was fun to give them something less "school-ish".

 Bubbles and Glow Sticks Gift
You can also use Otter Pops or other popsicle treats for the "Kool summer" card.

I know that my kids always loved food. This candy gift is really cute and easy. Plus, the kids get a snack which is an added bonus.
 Cookie Gift

Sunglasses would be fun to give each student before taking a class picture!
 Sunglasses Student Gift

Hopefully you can find one of these to use in your room. Just click on any of the pictures or here to grab the free download!
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