Thursday, May 31, 2012

Great Websites for Teachers to Bookmark: Part I

There are so many online resources for teachers to use.  A lot of the quality stuff comes with a price tag, but if you search around, you'll find that there is also a lot of quality stuff absolutely free.  As we approach summer vacation, we find ourselves with time to sit back, reflect and begin planning for the fall.  Why not surf the web a bit?  Today and Friday I will post links to websites that I keep bookmarked.

This is a website you can go to and quickly generate bingo cards for your class.  I have used this to teach sight words and vocabulary.  


ToonDoo is a website students can sign up for at no cost and create their own cartoons.  Students find it very engaging.  I've used it to have them present short stories using a web 2.0 tool.  


At the risk of being redundant (there are already links to our Teachers Pay Teachers (TpT) stores on our blog) this site has a lot of free teacher made materials.  Just type in a topic you are searching for and narrow your search to the materials that are free.  There are thousands!

This is for the teachers of younger students.  This website allows you to generate worksheets that help students learn to write their letters.

I use this site to create stations with vocabulary words all the time.  It will quickly generate a wide variety of word puzzles custom made using your lists.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Summer Reading Programs

Most teachers have either heard about or experienced the summer slide first hand as students' knowledge drops after only a few short months. One way to prevent or help this is to encourage your students to join a summer reading program. Let your students' parents know about summer reading programs as well so they can encourage their children when you are not around.

Here is a list I have gathered of some great summer reading programs:

1. Scholastic Summer Challenge - Scholastic has a summer reading program where students log their minutes of reading and can win prizes. Teachers can also register their students before the school year is up which I think is a great feature and parents can log on also to check how many minutes their children have read.

2. Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Program - Barnes and Noble will let students get a new book for free after reading 8 books. All they have to do is simply record their books on Barnes and Noble's PDF sheet and turn it in when they are done. Check out the link to see the selection of free books children can select from.

3. TD Bank's Summer Reading Program - TD Bank will deposit $10 into a new young saver's account after they have read 10 books this summer. Students simply read 10 books, record those books onto TD Bank's sheet and bring it into any local branch. This could be a great way to encourage reading and help students learn how to save money.

4. Book Adventure by Sylvan - Students read books and then take a simple comprehension quiz over the material to make sure they have understood it. Students earn points on these quizzes and can cash in their points for prizes! Any students K-8 can participate in this program.

5. Chuck E Cheese Reading Rewards - Students record their daily reading on a printable calendar and turn in into their local Chuck E Cheese. Two weeks of daily reading results in 10 free tokens. There is a catch: food must be purchased for free token redemption.

 6. Pottery Barn's Summer Reading Challenge - Pottery Barn Kids is offering a free book to children who complete the reading of one of their summer reading lists. Simply select a book list to follow and upon completion receive one free book at your local Pottery Barn Kids store. You can also register to win prizes.

7. Half Price Books Feed Your Brain - Students can earn a $5 gift certificate to Half Price Books by participating in their summer reading program. Simply read and log at least 15 minutes each day. When children reach 300 minutes, they will earn their gift certificate. Top readers in each age group can also win larger amounts.

8. Your local library - Almost all local libraries have summer reading programs for kids. My local library even has a summer reading program for adults! It's always worth it to participate.

Please let me know if I missed any great summer reading programs.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Spring Literacy, Math, and Art Lessons on Sale!

For those that are looking for something to keep their kiddos busy the last week (or more) of school, here is a fun collection of spring themed math and literacy centers. All spring centers now are about 20% off until June 1st and all centers that have been rated and reviewed have been given a perfect 4/4 star rating!

This spring themed math, literacy and art packet is an enormous 99 page packet that includes all of the centers listed below in this post. Total, it has 16 math and literacy centers and 22 pages of spring themed fast finishers art. Since this bundles all of my spring products together, it is listed at an overall cheaper price.

This spring themed literacy center packet contains six literacy centers that focus on prefixes, suffixes, synonyms, antonyms and more. It is focused on activities perfect for grades 3-6 and has a variety of colorful spring images.

My spring math packet contains 10 math centers with both open ended and direct answer questions. Math worksheets focus on skills such as multiplication, division, rounding, simple decimals, money, addition, subtraction, and place value.

Lastly, my spring fast finishers art packet contains 22 printable fast finishers spring themed activities. These pages encourage students to use their creativity and imagination in a variety of ways. Please download the preview to assure that your students will enjoy these products!

Enjoy the savings on these fun centers and lessons!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Fabulous Friday Freebies: End of the Year Freebies

For this week's Fabulous Friday Freebies post I selected freebies that will help you out during this last stretch of the school year. I know the end of the school year is always a busy time so hopefully these freebies can make your day a little bit easier.

This first is this adorable and fun End of the Year Memory Book. This book contains many pages for your students to think through the year and record the special moments that happened to them. This would make a great memory keeper for the future and has a variety of things to record. I also like that the grade level is blank so you can adapt it to your needs.

Next up is this End of the Year Memory Book and Activity Printable. It contains two sections. One section contains a memory book that would work better for older kids and the other section contains a fun idea for an end of the year balloon activity. The balloon activity sounds very interesting as you pop one balloon each day for the last X amount of days of school and each balloon contains an interesting topic or class suggestion. It sounded like something fun that I might want to try!

For older kids or middle schoolers, creating an end of the year cootie catcher is a fun and unique idea and all you need is a sheet of paper! Instead of having students put fortunes on the inside, have students write questions about the end of the year such as what their favorite school lunch was or what lesson do they remember the most. Students can play with each other and answer the questions as part of a fun activity.

This link also has some nice end of the year freebies including memory writing, reflections, and a find a student game that uses movement in the classroom.

Feel free to share your end of the year freebies!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Summer Enrichment

Our minds are working every day, all the time.  We are constantly learning, growing and changing.  Our interactions with the world around us are forming our realities of how the world operates.  New books and people bring us new vocabulary and perspectives.  This is especially true of children.  They don't stop learning because they are on summer vacation.  So, why not encourage parents to use that time to enrich the academic side of summer learning?

Here are a few ideas....

#1-Check out this Scholastics article on ways to keep kids busy while learning.

#2-Send kids home with a summer reading log.

#3-Give them a project to do about the summer Olympics.  They can learn about the Ancient Olympics.  They can learn about unusual olympic sports.  Or, check out the London 2012 Olympics teaching resource page.  

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Final Message to the Parents...

Whenever my brother tells me he is concerned that his son is not being challenged enough in school, I respond by telling him his son's education is up to him.  While I do believe a child's experiences in school are very important to their social, emotional and physical growth, the most important teachers they will ever have are their parents.  This is something I learned from my mother.  If you were to pass along one final message to your students' parents, perhaps it should be how important they are.  If you'd like to add in some practical tips, here are my top ten "What My Mother Did to Support My Education"....

#1: She talked to us every day about school.

She always asked what we had done, how our tests had gone, and if we were doing our homework.  One word answers were not sufficient.  Through this she conveyed to us that our education was important to her.

#2: She was involved.  

She always found a way to get involved in the school from kindergarten through my high school graduation.  Through this she conveyed to our teachers that our education was important to her.

#3: She created a literature rich home.

 She took us to the library to check out books and purchased every age appropriate novel she could find at thrift stores for 50 cents or less.  Through this she taught us that books were a valuable and readily available resource.

#4: She believed in us.

Like her uncle (who tried to teach my brother calculus in third grade) she always pushed us to perform at a higher level.  Unlike my uncle (who told my parents to have my brother tested for learning disabilities) she never made her opinion of us contingent upon our success.  Through it, though, she communicated to us that she believed in us, often more than we believed in ourselves.

#5: She was always helping us to set goals and create plans.  

If the summer was coming, we had to plan out what we were going to do to stay busy.  We had to learn to swim, but beyond that the one rule was that we stay busy.  When it came to schooling, she started talking to us about college early.  She instilled in us a belief that education was one of the few things in life that was not an option.  Today all of her children have a college degree and two thirds have a graduate degree.

#6: She made sure education was not all about the common core standards. 

 She encouraged us to play sports, play instruments, appreciate the arts, and do "things that matter."  Through this learning became fun and important.

#7: She took us on vacations to see new places, people and things.  

One of her rules was that we always had to try something new.  Her love to travel broadened our horizons.  We weren't world travelers.  We drove everywhere we ever went together, but if we learned to fly, it is because of my mother.

#8: She always invested in us.  

She was always there giving time and savings.  Parents who prioritize their children over their careers are often disrespected, but in my opinion, she always had her priorities straight.

#9: She didn't test us or put our successes on display.  

She was always proud of our successes, but I don't ever remember her going around bragging or comparing her kids to other people's kids.  Through this she taught us that she cared how we did, but not because we needed to impress anyone.

#10: She taught us to be our own person.  

She taught us to talk to our teachers about problems ourself.  When it came time for graduation, she insisted we learn to stand on our own two feet and walk away from home base.

I say all this to make a point: parents are important.  Take the time to say this.  If you think it would help to throw in some practical tips for how parents can support their kids, the above list has my ten best ones.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

End of the Year Elementary Art Lessons

If you are looking for some fun elementary art lessons or projects to keep your kiddos busy and have a great time at the end of the year, here are some suggestions of some of my favorite projects.

The first is a FREE Andy Warhol hand print lesson. Andy Warhol was a Pop Artist that is famous for his prints of popular and common objects. This lesson gives some examples of Warhol's work and helps your students create a memory with their hands that they can use to compare from year to year as they grow. I also think that it would be fun to do a hand print project at the beginning and end of each year to compare how their hands grew!

This Frida Kahlo fruit collage lesson could also be tied into this time of year as the fresh fruits come more in season. Students learn about Frida Kahlo and create a fruit collage similar to her own still life paintings.

Last up, this Benin mask lesson helps students create leopard style masks. Any age of students love creating masks and these works of art are always a hit. I'm sure your students will enjoy finishing off the school year with some hands on projects!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Fabulous Friday Freebies

Summer is about to start, and there are a few holidays left to squeeze in!  The first is a holiday formerly known as Decoration Day: Memorial Day.  This day is more than just one last day off for those of us who teach until June.  Below is a list of free resources to use to teach your students what the day is all about.

#1- TeacherVision is a site with Memorial Day printables for all grades.  It is easy to navigate, and can be a useful site for a number of other themes in the future, as well.

#2-For a reading comprehension activity that shares some quick facts about the day click here.  (Note: this is best for grammar school age readers.)

#3-Let them do a craft.  Create a Patriotic Pinwheel.

#4-Click here for a reading on Memorial Day.  There are also some activities on this site that you can use to supplement your lesson.

#5-Play patriotic bump with this free game.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Bring a Little Drama into Your Classroom

There are so many ways to bring a little drama into your classroom.  I've used role plays, Shakespeare and  Reader's Theater.  I find that performances appeal to all learners: visual, auditory and kinesthetic.  More specifically, performing a text incorporates several excellent fluency and comprehension strategies.  The rehearsing and rereading that go into preparing to perform improve fluency.  The time students spend studying the text in order to know what is going on and how to deliver their lines require students to make inferences, define vocabulary, monitor for understanding, etc.

Another way to add a little drama is through simple dramatic readings.  Click on the cover page above to  see a lesson I've used to bring performances into the classroom. It is designed to have students choose ten lines from one of their favorite poems to perform and break down for the class. There are handouts for them to go through beforehand that include activities in several reading strategies: visualizing, summarizing, monitoring, making connections, etc. There is a graphic organizer to helps them break down the tone and theme. There is a simple checklist rubric at the end for grading. It is designed for poetry, but can be easily adapted for any dramatic text.  Get it now for only $2!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Fun Cross Curricular Lessons to End the Year

As the school days dwindle, so does the attention span of most of my students. They are looking outside and thinking about the warm summer vacation days ahead of them and planning what to do. When their attention is waning, it is the perfect time to excite and bring them back to the classroom with some unexpected cross-curricular lessons.

Even though I teach art, I brought some science into the classroom first with my elementary students ranging from kindergarten to fifth grade. Then, seeing how enamored they were by the lesson I decided to try them with my high school students who also enjoyed it greatly. Here are the lessons I used and some other suggestions of unique cross curricular lessons you can use in your classroom.

This color mixing explosion lesson is a great fun and makes students very shocked and amazed at what happens. You pour a thin layer of milk in a dish and put drops of four food coloring colors around a circle in the dish. Then, dip a Q-tip into some dish soap and put it in the middle of the colors. They appear to explode away from the center of the dish and begin swirling around.

With my class I discussed the types of colors we were using (which were the primary colors) and what types of colors the colors might make as they mixed together. The science behind it is that the soap breaks away from the fat in the milk which causes the colors to swirl.

Another thing we did in class is to make oobleck. We made oobleck as a texture experiment since it is something that can have two different textures. It can be easily made with only cornstarch and water. When it is sitting in a bowl it is firm and rubber-like. When it is picked up it seems like liquid and drips from your fingers. It was amazing for students to see something that appeared as one texture but could easily become another.

We also made silly putty during our texture experiments. We chose the option to make it with glue and liquid starch, which I found very cheaply at my local grocery store. Students had a lot of fun making the glue change texture with the starch and enjoyed playing with it. We kept it in plastic bins so they could take it home at the end of our experimenting.

Lastly, I created my own experiment and had my students invent their own colors. First we talked about how colors could be invented and I used art companies as examples of people that 'invented' new colors each year. Each student received a paint tray with the primary colors, white, and black to create their own colors. They really enjoyed mixing up paint and swirling it around on their tray while trying to create something unique. When they found a color they deemed as inventive, they painted the name of their color with their paint on their paper.

I hope you enjoyed these fun ways to bring some excitement into your classroom these last few weeks. If you enjoy these ideas, find out even more unique art and science craft lessons on my Pinterest board.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Art Projects to End the Year

If you are looking for something fun to end the year, nothing grabs students' attention and excitement more than a fun art project! Although I teach art throughout the entire year, I do try to save some of my favorite and most exciting projects for the end of the school year when they are needed the most. Most all of my art projects can also be tied into other subjects as well and would make a great cross curricular lesson.

This PowerPoint lesson on How to Make a Rain Stick is a wonderful attention grabbing lesson. I have created rain sticks with students from elementary to the high school level and no matter the age, they were all very excited about this process. It uses very simple materials included old paper towel or wrapping paper tubes, rice, and masking tape. The only specialty item that you will need is quilting pins which are easily found at a craft store like the ones shown here.

This lesson could be tied into the study of another culture that greatly values rain or discuss the importance rain plays in the world. Rain legends or myths could also be discussed.

Another lesson that has always been successful and would definitely grab students' attention during the last couple of weeks is this three dimensional letter sculpture lesson. This lesson begins with students viewing the artwork of Robert Indiana and creating their own three dimensional letter sculpture. This lesson uses easy to obtain materials such as empty cereal/cracker boxes, tape, paper mache and paint.

This lesson could also help student's visualization of a two dimensional drawing into a three dimensional object as their letter transforms.

Enjoy these last few weeks of school and be sure to include some hands on projects!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Fabulous Friday Freebies!

Fabulous Friday Freebies have arrived and just in time to help you celebrate Mother's Day with your students. I have gathered a selection of freebies for Mother's Day that you can use in your classroom!

For older kids, this origami heart may fit the bill for a fun Mother's Day activity and I have found that origami really engages students. The website with this instruction is one of my favorite resources for origami since they have detailed step by step photos and often videos so it is easy to tell what to do. They also have several origami flower instructions that would also work well for the holiday.

Origami can also be incorporated into other subject areas including math and language arts. For math, ask students questions about the angles and shapes they create as they fold their forms. Are the angles obtuse or acute? What types of triangles are being created? For language arts, students could write their own written instructions for someone to make an origami heart or have them write a poem on the surface of the heart.

For younger kids, this is a great All About Mom Packet that includes a free Mother's Day questionnaire, survey, and poem. I downloaded this lesson and thought the graphics were adorable and the lesson would be easy to incorporate into your day.

This ten page packet of Mother's Day Coloring Pages is also a great resource for younger kids. You could turn the coloring page into a color by number or math problem or have students write a poem or sentences in the empty space and color the rest of the page. Or, use this fun and free activity for students that have finished their work early.

I hope you enjoy this collection of fun and free Mother's Day activities! If you would like to have a craft project for Mother's Day, check out my fun crafts board on Pinterest for a collection of fun and easy crafts.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Planning Ahead--A Simple Syllabus Template

This is for veteran teachers who would like to create a document that gives an overview of the courses they are teaching next year and new teachers who will be asked to create many documents for the first time, including a syllabus.  For just $1 you can download a template and sample syllabus to make creating your own a breeze.  To see more, just click on the link above.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Wrapping Up the Year

I have 23 school days left before this year is over for me and my students.  I don't know this because I'm just so anxious to start my summer break that I've started counting.  I'm just that close so it took me about 30 seconds to find a calendar and count them up.  For many of my readers, it will be even less than that.  So, the question is: How do you want your year to end?  How do your students want their year to end?  To borrow T. S. Elliot's wording in The Hollow Men, "Not with a bang but a whimper"...? Hopefully not.

As I think back on endings in my life, there are two things that are important.  One is seeing it as the opportunity for something new to begin.  The other is being able to wrap up and find closure on what is coming to an end.  Some of the most memorable endings included parties, dinners, poems, yearbooks, memory t-shirts, and song.  (Below is the Muppet version of a song that my dance class performed with the entire dance troupe at the end of every year end recital.  Enjoy!)

Anyway, here are a few ideas if you are looking for some:

1) Look at these online printables that are useful for younger kids.

2) Check out these activity ideas that are useful for a variety of ages and events.

3) Write letters.  Have students write to themselves about goals they want to accomplish during the next school year.  Have students write encouraging letters to each other about what they appreciate about each other and possibly see each other doing in the future.  Write encouraging letters to your students and lamenate them so they become keepsakes and future sources of encouragement.

Enjoy your final few days with your students!  Make them count!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

One Day Only Teacher Appreciation Jackpot Freebies! - Ended

Hello all! Feel the love and appreciation by getting a free +$3.00 item from our TPT stores! Today, May 6th, the following two freebies will be offered:

Update: The Jackpot has ended but these two items will be on sale for 28% off until Tuesday, May 8th. Use code TAD12 for savings.

From Etc's Store:

Spanish Packet: Unit One - (Grades 6-12) This is a packet with 35+ pages of activities I have used with my Spanish students over the past twelve years. It practices numbers, time, calendar, greetings, and school vocabulary. What it lacks in pretty pictures, it makes up for in accuracy and practicality. I use it for homework, in-class written exercises, tests, centers, etc. Normally costs $4.50!

From Lesson Lady's Store:

Zoo Animal Math Center Worksheets & Activities -  (Grades 3-6) Includes 15 fun math zoo themed centers. Students will use multiplication, division, money, time, and decimal skills to complete these interactive worksheets! One pie chart is also included. Normally costs $3.50!

Enjoy the freebies! Only available May 6th.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Fabulous Friday Freebies!

As the end of the school year approaches, my schedule seems busier than ever.  My apologies for another Saturday post of Fabulous Friday Freebies, but I'm sure many of you can empathize.  Here are the freebies I'm most excited about right now....

#1-This is a site one of my colleagues found.  It has a lot of great pdf's to download and use in middle and high school English langauge arts classrooms.

#2) There will be a fabulous give away party for Teacher Appreciation Week tomorrow!  I could mention other freebies, but what is better than that???  Go to our stores and let us know asap what you would like us to make free for you!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Save big during Teacher Appreciation Week!

Join us in celebrating Teacher Appreciation Week! Sunday, along with the Teacher Appreciation Jackpot you will also be able to feel the appreciation by saving 28% off most stores on TPT! Most sellers are offering 20% off their products from May 6th - 8th and by using code TAD12 you can save an additional 8%!

Check out my store and Etc's store to see all our items, which will all be on sale!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Writing With Imagery

Recently I took some of the best pictures I have from my travels around the globe and created a creative writing lesson that asks students to describe a scene without using some of the most obvious vocabulary.  Instead, they must find creative ways to describe pictures of Mexican markets, fjords in New Zealand, butterflies, etc.  It's an easy, fun lesson for just $1. Check it out!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Win it Big: Teacher Appreciation Jackpot! - Ended

Teacher Appreciation Week is coming up on May 6th and as we all know sometimes teachers just don't get enough appreciation. Instead of a card or small token, we at One Less Headache will be participating in something that will really help you win big during Teacher Appreciation Week. Join us in celebrating with the Teacher Appreciation Jackpot!

Over 130 teacher blogs are participating in this exciting event and each blogger will be giving away one FREE product from their Teachers Pay Teachers store on Sunday, May 6th! Each free product that is being given away normally costs between $3-$8. That means that if you hop to each blog, you could get more than $600 worth of free teaching products!

Update: The Jackpot has ended but the sales continue! These two items and our entire TPT stores of more than 80 items total will be on sale for 28% off until Tuesday, May 8th. Use code TAD12. Check out all the blogs below for more great teaching resources, most of which are participating in the big Teacher Appreciation sale.

The item we will be giving away... (drumroll please)....

From Lesson Lady's Store:

Zoo Animal Math Center Worksheets & Activities -  (Grades 3-6) Includes 15 fun math zoo themed centers. Students will use multiplication, division, money, time, and decimal skills to complete these interactive worksheets! One pie chart is also included. Normally costs $3.50!

From Etc.'s Store:
Spanish Packet Unit One: (Grades 6-12) This is a packet with 35+ pages of activities I have used with my Spanish students over the past twelve years. It practices numbers, time, calendar, greetings, and school vocabulary. What it lacks in pretty pictures, it makes up for in accuracy and practicality. I use it for homework, in-class written exercises, tests, centers, etc.

The event is divided into three grade levels to make it easy to find the products you are looking for and need.

- April McNair of A Modern Teacher is coordinating freebies for Pre-K-2

- Laura Candler of Corkboard Connections is coordinating freebies for grades 3-6

- Adrianne Meldrum of The Tutor House is coordinating freebies for grades 7-12.

If you enjoy these free items please check out my TPT Store or Etc's TPT Store for more useful lessons.

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