2016 - Amber from TGIF (Third Grade is Fun)

Do you use Bean Bags in the Classroom? Must read!

Replacing all those little styrofoam balls in bean bags is major $$$! My bean bags were getting flat and so I went to Staples to purchase a bag of packing peanuts to fill them up.  I promptly walked away.  Ummmm, no thank you!  It was over $20 for one bag!  I could have purchased new bean bags for that price!!!!

One of my coworkers came up with the idea of using plastic shopping bags! I just save up lots of my plastic bags after grocery shopping and bring them to school.  Ask parents for them too as I am sure many of them would LOVE to get rid of some of those plastic bags and feel like they went to great use.  It's free and it makes the bean bags so cushiony without the noise.  I just zip the bean bags open and add my piles of plastic bags.  Easy peasy!  My students sure appreciate the extra padding, and I appreciate the savings in my pocket!


Christmas Gifts for Students

It is a dilemma we teachers have every single year.  What do we purchase our students for Christmas (that we can afford)?  I have searched around for some of the best ideas from some amazing teachers.  Here are some fabulous ideas!

1.  $1.00 Books from Scholastic
Every month Scholastic offers a dollar deal in their flyer.  Order several every month and you will have a great assortment by the time Christmas rolls around or just order all the same books for the whole class.  You can also use your Bonus Points toward the books.

2.  Scholastic $5 Book Coupons 
I actually make a purchase of Scholastic $5 Book Coupons at the beginning of the school year and even though the coupons state that they are Birthday Coupons, I use them to purchase my student's Christmas books.  Why?  It costs me $34 to purchase 32 coupons, so each coupon basically costs $1.00, but I am able to purchase $5 books with each coupon!  With my upfront purchase of $34, I can buy $160 worth of books.  Mad Libs is always a fun activity at the party.   

3.  Coloring books and crayons
You can pick up some amazing coloring books for $1.00 or less at stores like Dollar Tree and if you purchase crayons at Back to School time, you can get some pretty amazing deals.  You could also create your own coloring book and staple it together.  There are 3 cute (and free) coloring sheets available on ClassDojo.  Just scroll down to the Classroom Decoration Pack available on the ClassDojo Resources page and download for free.  

4.  Snowman Soup
Assemble items for Snowman Soup!  It's like a mini hot chocolate kit for kids!

5. Homework Pass and Candy Canes  
Print some free editable homework passes and give each child a candy cane!  

6.  Personalized Bookmarks
Print and laminate bookmarks for your students.  Here is a printable bookmark freebie for you.  You can edit the to and from section! 

7.  Pack of Gum with a Gum Pass
Gum has been banned from school since the beginning of time, so allowing your students to chew the gum you bought them during class time is almost downright scandalous!  Telling them, "Don't tell the  principal!" makes it that much more fun.  Download the free printable and editable gum pass here.

8. Make an ornament
Purchase supplies for your class as a present and enjoy an afternoon of art with your students.  You could make a Snowman Handprint Ornament.  

9.  Build a gingerbread house
Purchase graham crackers, white icing, mini candy canes, gum drops, colored chocolate chips (yes, there is such a thing), m&m's or Skittles, and other small candies.  Let the students construct gingerbread houses with the supplies.  Turn on some Christmas music and display a fireplace or Christmas tree on the projector.  Have a fun afternoon together!

10.  Plan a special day
Pajama day, Grinch Day, North Pole Express Day, Game Day, Frozen Theme or visit the arctic.  Make it a day to look forward to and give the gift of fun!

11.  Personalized Pencils
Purchase Personalized Pencils for each of your students with their own name.  They receive 3 pencils in a pouch for less than a $1.00 per student.  Bonus!  When your students lose their pencils, you will know who it belongs to.  Win-Win!

12. Fun pair of gloves or socks
You can find lots of fun and silly Christmas themed socks for $1 at stores like Dollar Tree this time of the year.  $1 gloves would also make a great gift!  Both of these are fun and yet practical because many of our students are in need of these items.  

13. Filled Stocking
Dollar Tree always has $1 stockings available and I have also seen the mini-stockings for less than 50 cents each.  You can fill them with wrapped candies, stickers, candy canes, bookmarks, a hot chocolate package, a homework pass or classroom coupon.  

14.  Personalized Ornament
Purchase plastic ornaments and a metallic sharpie marker.  Write the student's name, grade, and year on the ornament and of course who it is from.  

15.  A donation in their name to a charity
Make a donation in honor of your students.  Print out a certificate stating where the donation was made to and put each student's name on the certificate.  St. Jude's is one great cause you could donate to.

Keeping Students Accountable while using the EPIC app

More of us are engaging our students by using technology in our classrooms.  But how do we keep them accountable?  I use the EPIC app for independent and group reading in my classroom.  It is also a wonderful resource for research. An EPIC account is available free for all educators.  Students can access EPIC on tablets and computers.  You can check out one of the research projects we completed in my classroom below using EPIC.

My friend, Kami from Teaching with APPitude, is such a wonderful resource for all things iPads.  In this video, she teaches how she keeps her students accountable using the EPIC app.  I love how she show step by step how she assigns books in her classroom and how she keeps her students on track in such a simple way.

I have learned so many wonderful easy technology tips from Kami.  You can find her on Facebook and check out many of her videos. She does such an excellent job of explaining, and she is fun to watch too!

Last year, my class created animal report posters and we exclusively used the EPIC app for our research. (Check out our posters below.)  My students were able to gather multiple sources to cite their research, and it was such a blessing because they were able to find books on their level.  

Each of my students picked an animal.  If some students wanted to pick the same animal, I was fine with that.  It actually turned out to be a blessing because they were able to help each other out a bit.  Each of them were able to find several books that were on topic and on level.  Some books were even read aloud books so my students who needed support, had it. Since research for 2nd-4th Graders is such a new concept, having all of the books in one place is so helpful.

I find using the poster display is makes it very possible for my students because it doubles as a graphic organizer for them to gather all of their information.

You can see some more examples below and also a timeline for my lesson plan for the week.

These animal report posters are available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store along with many other research posters.


Teaching Common, Proper and Abstract Nouns with Engaging Activities

I love teaching grammar when I can get my students involved and active!  This week we were studying common and proper nouns (with a bit of abstract nouns thrown in there too).  If you have to cover the Common Core Standards it covers L.3.1C and L.3.2A.  I am not a worksheet type of teacher and so when it can be more interactive and engaging I am all about it!

Some weeks I make my own activities, but I was short on time.  I was saved by Hanging with Mrs. Hulsey, a 3rd Grade teacher from my neighboring state.  At our school, our mascot is the Bulldogs, and I have a dog theme in my classroom, so when I saw her "Paws-itively Perfect Proper Nouns activities, I knew I had to use it in my classroom!

On Monday we started our mini-books.  The kids love stapling them together (why I am not sure, but it is such a treat for them),  I enjoy giving them 5-10 minutes to take ownership of their book by coloring the cover.  I use this time to remember to submit my attendance (which I always forget) and to make sure I have my supplies ready for the next few subjects or bring up the website that I may be using in the next subject.  A lot of times we feel guilty as teachers giving the students time to color when it isn't a "state standard" we have to cover, but I feel like this allows me to get totally organized so I don't waste any teaching time later in the day.

Mini books can be homemade.  Just staple a few index cards together and have the students write a rule on each page with examples for proper nouns, common nouns and abstract nouns.

The mini-book introduces the students to Butch the Bulldog as he takes them through the rules of nouns.  I love that Butch doesn't just "tell" the students the rules, but makes them infer from examples.  On these pages, there are several different ways to practice the concepts of common, proper and abstract nouns.  Check out the quick check practice on the back of the mini-book.  >>>

With a homemade mini book, you could also have students write several words on one of the pages and color code them.

Throughout the week, we had different centers.  The correct/incorrect proper nouns center is one of my favorites because I love having my students sort.  First, they sort by whether or not the proper nouns are written correctly.  Afterward, I had my students rewrite the incorrect sentences.  

I like this type of sorting activity and use it often.  This is where I put those worksheets that I have a dislike for into practice.  I cut up parts of the worksheet and have the kids sort them!  Just like this correct/incorrect sorting activity and then we correct some of the sentences on our white boards.  I find that the kids are more invested and engaged even though they are truly doing the same work.

We use IXL at my school, so another one of my centers involved working toward earning a medal for completing the skills that we were covering:  common and proper nouns and abstract nouns.  IXL is free for the first 10 questions, but it is worth every penny for the subscription!  This is the 3rd year that our school has purchased it.  

The Color-a-Noun center was probably the most popular.  Who doesn't enjoy coloring with dry erase markers?  I laminated this center so I could use it over and over.  However, I tell you one way to get those kids motivated to do this activity would be to let them use the sheet without lamination and allow them to use the smelly markers!  My kids go ape over using those.  

After using this Color-a Noun activity, I was inspired to make a few homemade sorting activities similar to this for my classroom.  It was so easy.  All you have to do is make several shapes (circles "polka dots" are super easy) all over the page and write a word in each one.  Then at the bottom add a code.

The Paws-itively Perfect Proper nouns activity pack has even more print and go activities.  If you love these hands-on type activities as much as I do, you may want to check out similar resources here >>> Grammar resources by Hanging with Mrs. Hulsey <<< 


How to Solve, "I can't find my ...." syndrome in the classroom

We teachers would seriously be rich if we earned a quarter every time one of our students said, "I can't find my pencil." or "My scissors are gone."  Since we have student desks in our classroom, my students' supplies would get buried in their desks.  I had to come up with a solution.  Dollar Tree to the rescue!

I wanted my students to have a few of their main supplies ON their desk so they could quickly grab it.  I purchased these colorful plastic cups from Dollar Tree (4 cups for $1.00), and velcro with sticky back tape in long strips.  I cut the velcro to the size of the bottom of the cups and put the rougher velcro on the bottom of the cup and the softer velcro on the corner of their desk.  Done!  They now have a removable supply holder that holds a few of their pencils, a glue stick, scissors, ruler and pen. No more searching around for their glue stick when they need it.  I also love that I can eye what is in the cup quickly.

What is even more amazing is how these $0.25 cups have held up.  I have used them for two years now and they are going to last for year number three!  Since it was the end of the school year, I just took the cups home and washed them in my dishwasher.  After they dried out, I stacked them up and put them in storage for the summer.  They have been an amazing investment.

You can see how I velcro them onto the corner of each students' desk with the essential supplies they will need for a typical day.  They do still keep a box (or pencil bag) of crayons and colored pencils in their desk.  

Wondering where we keep the rest of our school supplies?  Hop on over to All About 3rd Grade and scroll down to tip #3!

Looking for a Printer? Bonus - Never Go to the Store for Ink Again!

Oh man!  I ran out of printer ink again!  This used to be me, and then I would forget to buy ink the next time I was at the store.  That is until I found the HP Instant Ink program.  When you purchase a HP (instant ink compatible) printer, you never EVER have to buy your ink at the store again!  It is shipped to your house and it is WAY less than purchasing it at the store!

There are different monthly programs you can sign up for.  For example, I purchased 100 pages (color or b&w) printed per month for $4.99 + tax.  You can sign up for less or more pages printed per month.  It seems too good to be true, but this is one of the best decisions I have ever made!  It saves me so much time and hassle.

What do I love about my HP printer?
1.  I don't have to go to the store to buy ink EVER again.
2.  The ink is shipped to my house automatically.  I don't even have to order it because your printer knows how much ink you have remaining and it orders it for you!
3.  It is so much more economical!  When I purchased ink at the store I spent around $65 -$75 just to have ink for 6 months. I personally pay $4.99 + tax now per month.  That is only around $60 for the whole year!
4.  I can change my printing plan when I need to.  I currently pay $4.99 + tax for 100 sheets printed for the month.  If I think I am going to print more or less for the following months, I can change that plan.
5.  Did I mention I never EVER have to purchase ink at the store again?!?!?!

(This post contains Amazon affiliate links.  I am compensated for sharing my recommendations.)

Would you like a month's printing for free?  Use this referral link.

Here are some great printers you can order through Amazon!


How to Get Started with Brag Tags

What are Brag Tags?
Brag Tags are an incentive program for the classroom.  It allows the teacher to "brag" on a student for their exemplary behavior, project, teamwork or academics.  It also allows the teacher to find outstanding qualities in each and every student.  These qualities are displayed on their brag tag necklace and encourage students and celebrate their successes.

Where do I hang the Brag Tags?
I have my Brag Tags hanging on a bulletin board using thumb tacks.  This system worked for me all last year.  I didn't lose any thumb tacks from the students getting their necklaces off and on.  I am going to add one addition next year though.  Name tags!  Sometimes it was hard for my students to find their necklace in the sea of Brag Tags necklaces. 

Here are two other different methods.  

Lori (left pic) from Live Laugh Love Second uses command hooks on a narrow section of her classroom wall. Brooke (right pic) from Teach Outside the Box uses library book pockets to have her students store their brag tags.  I have also seen teachers use pocket charts.  The calendar pocket charts would work perfectly.  

How do I store the Brag Tags?  

I store my Brag Tags in a large index card box and I just put Post-It notes at the top of each so I can easily find them.  It takes up so very little space that I actually keep them out on my desk.  

My friend, Anna from Hanging with Mrs. Hulsey, uses this organizer.  She bought it from Lowe's for less than $20.  She also has a blog post about how she uses Brag Tags in her classroom.  Check it out here >> Brags Tags:  How to Use, Store, and Manage Your Tags.

Where can I buy the chains to hang the necklace on?

How often do the students wear the necklaces?
I allow my students to wear their necklaces anytime they want during class.  However, I don't let them take them home or wear them during P.E./recess.  I want them to take pride in them and display their positive attributes for all to see.  
When do I hand out Brag Tags?
This is something that you will have to decide based on what works for you and your classroom. Each teacher needs to do what works best for their classroom.  I honestly do a bit of all of these methods.  I don't have a set "time" to hand out brag tags because I want it to be random and unexpected.

* Hand out brag tags right as soon as you see a behavior you want to commend and reinforce.  (I personally use this method as often as possible, as I feel it should be something the kids see and not just hear about days later.)  If we are having a Science STEM challenge, I will award a Super Scientist brag tag as soon as we tally up the results.

* Hand out brag tags at the end of the week.  Have a little awards ceremony at the end of the day on Friday.  I think this method works well for certain brag tags.  For example, if I am looking for someone that exemplifies a certain quality all week long, I will write in my lesson plan book initials of kids that have shown those qualities and see if they keep it up.  I may give out a "Helpful Hound" Brag Tag to a student that I saw being helpful to classmates throughout the week.  

*Hand out brag tags at the end of the day.  If I am handing out report cards, I also hand out brag tags at the same time.  I award a lot of character brag tags, but I also award academic brag tags too.  I give honor roll brag tags and perfect attendance brag tags for each quarter.  

*There are a few Brag Tags that ALL of my students earn.  For example, we have all earned the "100 Days of School" Brag Tag because well, we SURVIVED!  My students also all get ONE field trip tag and we write the places we went on the back.

* Special occasions - I award a brag tag to each of my students on their birthday (or half birthday if they have it during the summer months) instead of giving them a certificate.  There is a free birthday brag tag you can download.  

Do the students take them home?
Not until the very last day do I let my students take their Brag Tag necklaces home.  It is like taking home a mini-scrapbook.

How often do I hand out Brag Tags?

I don't lavish my students with Brag Tags.  Some weeks I may hand out just a few 3-5 (and that means very few students receive one that week).  Other weeks I hand out a lot (and most of the students receive one).  It just depends on what is going on.  Sometimes we may have a science STEM project going on and I may award a few for that.  I just try to "catch" my students displaying certain qualities (perseverance, kindness, positive attitude) and so each week is different.  My students know that receiving a Brag Tag is special.  They are not expected, therefore I don't give them everyday. 

The truth is here:  There are no rules, but your own when it comes to Brag Tags.  Make it work for you and your classroom!

Click here >>> BRAG TAGS <<< to check out the brag tags in my store.

Brag on!

Art Ideas for the Busy Classroom Teacher

Win these beautiful Kwik Stix paint sticks in the giveaway below!  

I LOVE having art in my classroom, however with the demands we have these days, it is hard to plan for art and find time for it.  I am sharing a few ideas that have helped me integrate art in my classroom without a lot of prep.  My students love these activities and I know that art motivates my students and helps them become creative thinkers.

I fell in love with directed drawings this year and so did my students.  They loved that they were getting creative time.  I loved that all I needed to have on hand was white paper, black Sharpie markers, the Art for Kids Hub on my computer or Smartboard, and something to color with.  The Kwik Stix paint sticks are a dream come true for teachers!  (Check out the giveaway below! They are a hot commodity because they paint beautifully with no mess.)

Some of my other favorite reasons why I love directed drawings are that it helps improve my students' focus (since they have to stay on task during the video) and they learn techniques such as blending, shading and symmetry. Here is a link to the parrot directed drawing video that was used in this picture and in the video below.

Collaborative posters were something totally new to me this school year, but I was simply blown away by how fun they were.  Each student completes a small section of a poster even though they do not know what the end result will be.  It is fun to hear them chatter about what they think the final poster will be. When assembling the poster, the students have to display it according to the grid pattern.  Grab a free end of the year collaborative poster from Art with Jenny K and a free flip flops coloring sheet. This is the mini version of the collaborative poster you see in the short 1 minute video below.

Did you see the Kwik Stix Solid Tempra Paint Sticks in the video? They are amazing!  No water, no paint cups, no brushes, just amazingness!  They glide on the paper so easily, and if your students know how to use a glue stick, they are set and ready!  The paint dries in 90 seconds and the paints can be layered when the first layer dries.  We were also able to use them with black Sharpie marker and the paint did not smear the black marker.  My students always want to use markers to color a page, but I can't stand it when the markers bleed together.  With the Kwik Stix paint sticks, you don't have to worry about the colors bleeding together or it smearing the black marker outline of an art project.  

They are also super easy for all hands (especially little hands) to hold.  The wide design of the tube makes it easy for little ones to grip.  The Kwik Stix are available just about anywhere including Amazon and Wal-Mart.  Win a set for your classroom with the giveaway below!  Thank you to The Pencil Grip, Inc. for sponsoring the giveaway!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Honestly, sometimes the best art activities are the ones we don't teach.  When we let the kids discover ideas through creativity and collaboration, we learn a lot about our students, and we are allowing them to think outside the box, which is the whole purpose of education!

I hope you found some ways to integrate art into your classroom without a lot of fuss.  Art should be fun and creative (not frustrating and lots of work for the teacher).  Paint on!


Star Wars Theme

Recently during our standardized testing week, our school hosted a Star Wars Themed week.  There are lots of variations on the following activities, so adapt away and make it work for you.

Light Saber Bubbles

What Jedi doesn't want a Light Saber to protect and defend?  These bubble wands are available at Wal-Mart for $3.88 for a 6 pack (65 cents each).  If you would like to order in bulk, they are available online here.  We took our students outside quite a bit because the weather was amazing!  Blowing bubbles seems like it is something that only little ones will enjoy, but our junior high students enjoyed it just as much!

Art Time!

Picture drawn by Allie
I found out about directed drawings this year and fell in love!  I am not artsy at all, so I am so ever grateful for what my students have learned about symmetry, blending techniques and perspective through Rob from Art for Kids Hub.  We chose to draw one of the latest characters from the Star Wars series, BB-8.  We drew BB-8 one day and colored him the next.  I am so proud of how well they turned out!  If you think little ones can't follow these directions, think again.  Our Knd - 8th Graders participated in drawing.  The YouTube video by Rob of the BB-9 is here.  

Picture colored by Evan
For those that didn't want to draw, I had coloring sheets available.  Click here for loads of free Star Wars coloring pages.  We personally chose the Star Wars Lego printable for our students to color, but there are lots to choose from.

Star Wars Dodgeball

One of our teachers, Joni,  led the kids in a Star Wars themed Dodgeball game.  The kids begged to do it again for 4 days in a row!  I have found lots of variations on this activity. but I really felt like Core of a Living Heart did a great job explaining it plainly without a lot of fuss.  You can find the Star Wars Dodgeball link here.  

One of the variations on the game we included was a Death Star.  We used a gray ball for the Death Star and if you were hit by the Death Star you were out for the game and could not be brought back into the game by the Jedi.

Image from The Star Wars Mom

Star Wars Snacks

Two teachers from our school, Shannon and Nancy, took care of snack and drinks for the week.  They did such an amazing job and do you think I took one single picture?  Of course not!  Here are a few of their ideas:

Princess Leia Buns

We used prepackaged Honey Buns from Little Debbie or from Wal-mart, but Star Wars Mom has a really cute free Princess Leia Buns printable available here.

Image from I Should Be Mopping the Floor

Jedi Juice and Wookie Water

We totally found this idea from Pinterest from Kristi at I Should Be Mopping the Floor.  She held a Star Wars themed birthday party with many of the snack and drink ideas.  Thanks Kristi!  Click here to see all of her ideas.

Padawan Potatoes

Sorry, no cute picture here, but the teachers bought prepackaged mini bags of potato chips for easy servings. This idea also came from Kristi at the link above.

Movie Time!

We concluded our week by showing a Star Wars movie in the gym on a large projector screen complete with popcorn and drinks.  There are plenty to choose from in the series (just make sure that the rating lines up with your school rules or get a special permission slip for that particular movie) and there are also Star Wars Lego movies available so you don't have to worry about the Younglings!  

I hope this inspired you to put a spin on a Star Wars celebration in your classroom, school, or birthday party.  

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