25 May 2016

One Little Thing Wednesday Link Up!

Laura, at Enchanting Elementary, does this fun thing each week called "One Little Thing Wednesday".  She asks a question or offers a topic and asks other bloggers to link up with their responses.  This week's topic is Book Reviews...one of my FAVORITE things to talk about!  So, I linked up with my Book Review tab where I've shared review about Tangerine, Gooney Bird Greene, and But I Read it on the Internet.  Click here or on the "Book Reviews" tab above to read the reviews.

Check back soon for new reviews...now that summer is almost here, I'm stocking up on new books!  Hopefully, there will be a lot of new book blog posts coming from me soon!

Don't forget to check out Enchanting Elementary to read all the reviews posted by many different bloggers!

23 May 2016

Things To Do With Your Tweens This Summer!

Parents, this post is for you!

As a teacher, I'm really excited for the end of the school year!  Summer break for the teacher part of me means sleeping in a bit later, no papers to grade, no plans to do (at least not right away!), and no tween attitudes to put up with for a while...in other words, a much needed break. Yay!

But wait...if I'm on summer vacation, that means my kids are too!  I still have tweens to deal with, the very ones I brought into this world!  We teacher-moms get no breaks!  (Although it must be said that teacher-moms of tweens get more of a break than teacher-moms of babies and toddlers...I've been there and I'm here to tell you it does get easier!  Deep breaths ladies!  You can do it!)

These kids of ours at home are still expecting to be fed everyday.  They still want clean(-ish) clothes. And worst of all...they want to be entertained!

Seriously, I can't handle hearing "I'm bored" or watching kids lay around watching TV or play on their devices, but I'm also not going to be the summer time cruise director!  This is MY vacation, too!

So, in advance preparation, I've come up with a list of things to do with your tweens this summer...and I promise most of them will be a treat for YOU too!

1. Send them outside!

Yep, simple as that.  Remember how we used to go outside and climb a tree or ride a bike to a friend's house?  Let them.  They are old enough.  They can handle it.  They need time to test their wings and learn responsibility in small doses.  Summer is the perfect time for that!  If you are like me, your garage is full of random things that the kids have forgotten about.  Pull out the sidewalk chalk, bikes, scooters, water toys, balls, rollerblades, gardening tools, pogo sticks, hula hoops...whatever toys you've been hoarding since their first birthday.  Then kick your kid outside.  Lock the door if necessary!  Take away the devices!  They'll survive and figure out how to entertain themselves.  Extra bonus for you is PEACE and QUIET inside!  Or , sit out on the patio with a cup of coffee and watch from afar if it makes you feel better.  Let them play...you rest.  You deserve it!

2. Go to a park!  

If your backyard or neighborhood doesn't have much room to roam, find a local park with paths and green spaces to explore and roam.  You can hike or go for a bike ride, so you are getting your exercise in at the same time!  Score for you!  Lots of parks in our area have free fishing docks and nature trails that kids love.  Big kids like mountain biking on the trails, too!

3. Local field trips! 

I'm going to let you in on a secret...even if they won't admit it, tweens still like zoos, science centers, and all the other places you used to take them!  We live in the Detroit area, and The Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village is a big attraction.  My 12- and 10-year-olds still like going there and riding on the train, carousel, and old-fashioned Model T cars.  Sometimes, we even go into the buildings!  They also still love the Hands On Science Museum and Detroit Zoo.  Even if they aren't super excited when we get in the car to go, they are smiling and having fun 5 minutes after we arrive!

4. Let them get a job! 

Yep, a real paying JOB.  Tweens can WORK!  My 12-year-old is a soccer referee for the pre-K and Kindergarten league.  Both my kids are pet sitters!  Older kids can babysit.  They are making their own spending money and learning valuable life skills.  And there's that bonus to you...free time and less handing out money!

5. Join a swim club!

This one costs a bit more, but it is TOTALLY worth it to join a local swim club if you have one nearby!  A few years ago, we tossed down a few hundred bucks..and I got the first relaxing summer of my mom-life!  Swim clubs have so much to do...more than just swimming!  My son isn't much of a swimmer, but he loves the basketball court, wide open grassy area for soccer or football, and of course, the snack bar.  My daughter is basically a mermaid, so she could willingly spend all day, every day in the pool.  For the few minutes of adult swim time...yes they kick the kids out so adults can do laps!...she's happy at the snack bar or on the playground.  For $25 she joins the swim team and basically gets free swim lessons and has meets, which are lots of fun!  Here's the score for moms...if your kids are strong swimmers and since there's plenty of lifeguards, a mama can sit back and read a book, talk with friends, even take a nap!  At night, they often host parties for adults and kids, like baseball game watches, or float-in movies, or game nights.  Our pool club has grills for members to use, or you can order pizza, or bring a picnic aside from the snack bar.  And if you have a kid with a summer birthday, you are really going to love it...our pool charges only $3 per guest for a party!  Seriously, can you beat a birthday party for $3 person?!?  Even when you add in a few Hot and Ready Pizzas to the total, it is a total bargain!

6. Look into classes at community colleges!

I don't know about where you live, but around here, there are a bunch of small community colleges.  The great thing about these colleges (aside from being a great stepping stone for new HS grads!) is that most of them offer summer courses for elementary, middle school, and high school students!  These courses are FUN, like video game programming, cooking, journalism basics, photography, etc.  If your kids (like mine) are too busy all school year with homework and sports to try out a new interest, this is a great time to try something new!  

7. Let them eat cake!  (But teach them to bake it first!)

One thing I love doing with my kids in the summer, is to teach them life skills.  They have chores year-round, but in the summer, I make time to up that game.  In the past, I've taught them how to use the washer and dryer...not just to fold and put clothes away.  They've run garage sales and lemonade stands to earn money and learn about running a business.  I've let them start and maintain a garden and they've learned to try new foods.  One of our favorite life skills to practice over the summer is COOKING!  Yes, things get messy...but then they learn about cleaning the kitchen, too!  My kids especially love baking, probably because I don't do it very often!  When we bake, I let them find the recipe, I take them to the grocery store for ingredients, and I let them do all the mixing and prep work.  I really only oversee and help with the hot oven.  They love baking, and I love seeing my kids work together on a project.  They negotiate who will do what tasks, they plan, they set timers, they clean up, and best of all, they get to eat a yummy treat of their own making!  I promise them that I will relinquish all control of the kitchen any time they want to bake (or make dinner, which they sometimes do), as long as they clean it up to my standards afterward.  That is pretty win-win for us all!

8. Join a Summer Rec League!

Summer is the perfect time to let your kids try out new sports.  If your kids are as busy as mine all year between year-round activities and homework, you are probably as frustrated as I am.  I miss the days of sports having a season...everything is a year-long commitment these days!  My son plays travel soccer and my daughter dances and they are both in Scouts.  That's really all I can squeeze in to a week.  They've tried to add in basketball and swimming, but it became too much for them, and to be honest for me!  So, now I use summer as a time for the kids to test out other interests.  Our city has some great short-season teams, with no pressure, just FUN!  Each summer, my kids take a one week tennis camp.  They also have tried out softball, baseball, basketball, and gymnastics.  Summer rec sports are a great way to give kids a taste of what else is out there!

9. Work together on a house project!

This one is a bit selfish, but having kids at home all summer equals free labor!  Since they are living rent-free, I think it's only fair that they help out on projects to keep the house looking nice!  My kids have helped maintain a small veggie garden, spread yards of mulch, wash the cars...they even used some tools and helped us finish our basement!  They are also great at helping with garage sales and other "purging" projects!  

10. Volunteer together!

I'm also a big believer in giving back.  Summer time is a great time to teach kids to be community minded. Whether it's packing lunches to give to the hungry, picking up litter on the way to the park, or donating books to a Little Free Library (by the way one of the BEST things since sliced bread!), there are lots of ways to involve kids in volunteerism.  One thing we do every summer, is go through all our clothes and toys and donate them to Salvation Army or Goodwill or St. Vincent dePaul.  I take my kids with me when we drop them off and we offer to help sort or do some shopping while we are there.  Many churches offer volunteering options, as do scouting troops.  It doesn't even have to be that formal...just send your kids to a neighbor's house and let them do some weeding or dog walking for free!

Whatever you do this summer, I hope you enjoy it with your family!  I always look at summer as a fresh start and a time to do all the things I've been meaning to do all year...especially spending quality time with my kids and taking in some "me" time!

17 May 2016

Tips for Dealing with Stress!

I want to share a great blog post written by Jewel Pastor!  She asked lots of bloggers for their thoughts on ways to deal with the stress of teaching.  I'm so excited that she chose my tip to include in her Top 10 Ways to Destress for Teachers!

Click on the picture above to read some great ideas to relieve stress and make it to the end of the year without pulling out your hair or screaming!

Remember, kids get stressed at this time of year, too.  Try to relieve their stress by playing learning games and doing calming activities, like coloring!  I've got some great games and coloring activities in my TpT store to keep your kiddos working until the last day!  Click the pics for more info!

Color By Code Activities

Score 4 Games and Task Cards

Math Games for Elementary Kiddos

Grammar Games

14 May 2016

The Countdown to Summer is ON!

 I'm joining up with a few other bloggers to share some end of the year tips and give away some summer goodies!  

If you are new to my blog, thanks for hopping over!

I'm finishing my 16th year of teaching...wow!  In those years, I've taught everything K-8 except 1st and 7th, so I've been through my fair share of goodbyes!  I've also been a part of "graduation" ceremonies with students moving up to middle school or high school.  I've tried a bunch of different things to end my school year on a high, happy note - and some have worked better than others!  Here are my two favorite ways to wrap up the year!

1. Celebrate Your Graduates!

  • I'm not the person who believes in trophies for EVERYTHING, but I do think it is worth celebrating the move from elementary school to middle school, or middle school to high school!  I've been a part of some wonderful "graduation celebrations" at the end of 5th grade and 8th grade.  Here's what I love most: PREDICTIONS.  Yes, this means work on the teacher's end, but the result is so much fun! This works best for 5th grade, because you have one whole group of kids you get to know really well. I write a story, set sometime in the future...mine usually take place at a Michigan State University football tailgate...where I end up running into a former student who tells me all about his or her classmates and what they are doing now.  It is tons of fun to create futures for my students and they love hearing about how one of them is "now" a famous football player, or that one of their own has discovered the cure for cancer, or just finding out how many kids they have!  I always tie their future to something they are currently into.  It makes for a really fun end of the year read aloud!  I print copies for each student as a graduation gift, too.   
  • 8th grade celebrations are a bit tougher to make personal since we share so many kids with so many teachers!  At my school, we do a big presentation whole group, but I like to give my own kids a little something on our last day together.  Thanks to the Target Dollar Spot, I can make mini-diplomas for each student! I use Pirouline rolled wafers and just tie a ribbon around each one.  Then I attach it to a certificate I print out thanking them for their hard work all year or congratulating them on surviving middle school.  Super easy and affordable when you've got 100+ students!

2. Keep Kids Learning All Summer with Summer Fun Packets!

  • When I taught elementary and knew I'd been seeing my students back at the same school the next year, I often made summer fun packets for them to do over the summer.  Doesn't sound much like fun at first, but when they realized that the contents of the packet were really fun and that they could earn a prize from me in September for completing them, they LOVED the idea!  (Parents were big fans, too!)  I'd put in activities like my "Color By Code" grammar practice sheets, a list of board, card, dice, and domino games that practice math skills, a list of my favorite books, and a list of local field trips for families.  Parents would sign off on the activities, then when school started again, my former students would come back to visit my classroom and show me their completed packet.  I always made a big deal about them coming back to visit and congratulating them on their productive summer, then I'd give them some fun dollar store goodie.  This was fun for me, and great motivation for my new students to see that learning can be fun!  Click the picture below to grab a FREE "Color By Code" activity.

If you like that one, I've got many more Color By Code Activities covering many different ELA topics.  You can get them all individually in my store, or save money by buying the bundle! Click on the picture to find out about all the "Color By Code" activities!

You can find a list of fun ways to practice math at home here!  Parents love these activities because they probably have all the materials at home already!  Plus, these games are fun for the whole family! Click the picture to find out more!

Good luck making it through the final stretch of the year!  I hope these ideas get you excited and ready to end your year on a high note!  For more fun tips and freebies, click the picture below to hop to the next blog!

12 May 2016

Secondary Giveaway Time!

It's GIVEAWAY time!

I've joined up with some AWESOME secondary TpT sellers to help celebrate Kim at English Oh My! reaching 50 followers!

Click on this picture to link up to Kim's blog "English Oh My!" and to find out all about this fun giveaway!

I'm giving away one of my favorite products- my Punctuation Color by Code Activity!  This (and all Color By Codes) is a great teaching and reviewing activity for middle grade kids.  These activities would be AWESOME to use as end of the year activities to keep kids learning and engaged until the very last day!  Parents may also like these as summer packets...but don't tell the kids!
When you participate in this giveaway, you'll be eligible via Rafflecopter to win my product, as well as products from 14 other TpT sellers!  Don't miss out!  Click on the link to "English Oh My!" or the giveaway picture above to join in the fun.  Good luck!

06 May 2016

Using Games to Spice Up Your ELA Curriculum!

Use GAMES to keep MIDDLE SCHOOLERS excited about and engaged in learning!

A few weeks ago, I posted about how I jazzed up worksheets to make grammar practice more fun!  This time, I want to tell you about some games I use to keep kids engaged and excited about learning! Here are my Top 10 games to play in the ELA Middle School Classroom!

1. Kahoot

If you don't know about Kahoot yet, click on the link to check it out!  Kahoot is an awesome interactive quizzing game that kids absolutely LOVE!  Every student needs an iPod, iPhone, iPad, Android device, or computer to play.  The teacher can create their own "Kahoot", or choose from the millions of ready-made Kahoots on the site.  The teacher logs in under their own ID and projects their view, then kids log in using a game pin.  Kahoot takes it from there!  Questions are flashed on the projection and kids use their device to answer a multiple choice question.  Kids can then see who is winning, and you can see how many kids answered correctly or incorrectly!  You can even download the data!  Talk about a great formative assessment tool!  This is the PERFECT game for 1:1 technology schools!

2. Quizlet

I love Quizlet for a bunch of reasons! It is super adaptable!  Teachers or students can create flashcards to review vocabulary terms, or just about anything!  There are also tons of ready-made Quizlets out there to choose from!  Once you have a Quizlet set created, students can practice on their own devices in many ways: matching games, races, etc.  I love using Quizlet to play games in the classroom, like the old favorite "around the world", or Trashketball (see #3).  The benefit to Quizlet is that when used in the classroom, students don't need their own devices.

3. Trashketball

There are many versions of Trashketball, but my version is really simple and really effective.  I create a Quizlet, then I describe the rules to Trashketball which applies to any Quizlet set.
1. Break the class into teams. (3 usually works best)
2. Each team takes turns answering a question.  
Students on the team take turns individually.  
If the student answers correctly, they earn 2 points.  
If they need to ask the other team members for help and then answer correctly, they get 1 point.
3.If the team gets the question right, they shoot an extra point basket.
I use a garbage can and a foam ball.  
If the student who answered can make the basket, they get to add a point to their team score.

4. Minute to Win It

This is an absolute FAVORITE of my students!  I do this a few times a year to keep the novelty.  I use my task card sets like Parts of Speech or Verbals.  I make 3 or 4 sets of the cards and break my students into teams.  Each team gets a set of cards. Then I give them one minute to do tasks like "find as many nouns as you can" or "find as many sentences using infinitives as you can".  The team that gets the most wins that round.  I've also used Quizlet flashcards to make term/definition matching tasks!  I often make these more active by having kids move around and sort cards into boxes or something like that.

5. Scoot

This is another great way to use task cards!  Each student gets an answer sheet.  I tape the task cards to desks and tables around the room in numerical order.  Students move from desk to desk writing down the answer to each card on their sheet.  It doesn't matter what number a student starts with, as long as they write in the correct box on the answer sheet.  This activity is great for getting kids up and moving! Here is a sample from my "Types of Sentences" task card set.

6. Score Four

Do you know the card game "Spoons"?  You have to collect 4 of a kind, then grab a spoon from the middle of the table where there is always one fewer than the number of players (like musical chairs).  Well, I use my task cards to play my version of "Spoons" which I call "Score Four".  This is an AWESOME game for small groups.  I always give the groups an answer key so that they can self-check each other.  Rules for "Score Four" are included in each task card set! Click on picture to learn more!

7. Matching

As I mentioned in #4, I like using Quizlet flashcards printed out to have kids work together to match terms and definitions.  I usually make a race out of it!  Nothing motivates middle schoolers like a bit of competition!

8. Timer Games

Enough said...use a timer projected on the whiteboard and watch kids hustle to finish ANY task!  I like to pull out personal whiteboards or have a few students write on my big whiteboard and give tasks like, "write as many sentences using similes as you can before the buzzer", or "list as many adjectives as you can in 30 seconds".

9. Marker Toss

This is whole class fun!  I project a homework assignment on the whiteboard.  Kids take turns correcting their work up at the board (best to do with work that kids have already done once, so no one gets stumped on the spot).  I randomly call on one student to start, then after they circle, underline, or write the answer on the whiteboard, they toss the marker to any student to do the next one.  Kids LOVE being able to throw things, and it keeps all kids paying attention so they don't get bonked in the head with a marker ;)

10.Board Games

I often use board games and adapt them to whatever I'm teaching.  Maybe kids play Scrabble, but can only use verbs.  Or, we play Trivial Pursuit with comprehension questions from the novel we are reading.  You can do this whole group or small group and it is a really easy way to get kids engaged!

There you have it!  My TOP TEN ways to incorporate games in your Middle School and High School Classroom!  You can use these games with any subject!

02 May 2016

Get Your Carts Ready! TpT is Having a SITEWIDE sale!

Did you hear the great news!  Teachers Pay Teachers is showing us some love for Teacher Appreciation Week!  On Tuesday, May 3 and Wednesday, May 4, they are hosting a sitewide sale! This means up to 28% off ALL YOUR PURCHASES for two whole days!  Everything in my store is 20% off, even my bundles! Use code CELEBRATE at checkout for an extra 10% off everything in your cart!

This is a great time to stock up on materials to get you through the end of the year, or to start looking ahead to next year!  Remember, all your purchases are tax-deductible if you are using them in the classroom...BONUS!

To make a great sale even better, I've joined up with Jen at Teaching in the Tongass and a bunch of other great sellers for a LINKY party to introduce some of my favorite sellers! Click on the picture to follow along!

Here are a few of my most wishlisted and top-selling products you might love! Click on the picture to find out all about each product!

This one is so AWESOME because you can use it in a variety of ways! Verbals are really tricky for kids to understand, but with this product you can review in lots of ways!  You can play "Scoot!" with your entire class, play "Score Four!" in small groups, or "Minute to Win It" style games with these task cards.  Directions and game ideas are included, as well as an answer key to make it easy on you!
Here is a preview!

Tangerine by Edward Bloor is my most favorite book to read with middle schoolers!  It is a high-interest novel about a legally-blind 7th grader who loves soccer and fears his older brother.  Girls and boys get sucked into this novel so quickly!  They seriously can't put this novel down.  I've created a novel study that doesn't suck the fun of reading with endless comprehension questions after each chapter.  This novel study also offers end of book assessment essay options.  Click here to read the blog post I wrote about using this book in your classroom! 
Here's a sample of what you get with this product: 

This product is near and dear to my heart as it is one of my first-ever TpT products!  I created this product last summer as a way to get my kids excited about ELA during the first week of school.  It is the very first activity I do with my students, because it not only introduces a key literary term, but lets me get to know them right away!  I learn about who they are and how well they write from the essay, and I quickly see how well they work in groups.  This is my best-selling product, and I know you will love it too!  Here is a pic of my students watching the youtube videos of all the songs included! (Don't they just love getting out of their seats and sprawling on the floor?!?)
Here's a preview of what you'll get!

These are just a few of my favorite products.  Be sure to check out my store for other great ways to make ELA fun!  My "Color By Code" Bundle is a deal you really don't want to miss! The 20% off plus the extra 10% with TpT code makes this a nearly HALF-OFF deal available these 2 days only! 

Don't forget to use the code: CELEBRATE at checkout to get an extra 10% off your purchases!  Also, remember to leave feedback for purchases because every time you do, you earn TpT points.  20 TpT points earns you $1 off your purchase!  

Click here to start shopping!

Happy Shopping!