Friday, April 29, 2016

5 Practical Mother's Day Gifts for Mom

Happy Friday Teacher Friend!

So Mother's Day is coming up, along with pages and pages of Pinterest posts about Mother's Day gifts for your students to make.  It's difficult to decide what's best, not to mention difficult to find the time to search, am I right?  So, to make your life SO much easier, here are 5 fun, totally different gifts for your kiddos' mothers:

1. Mother's Day Photo Booth
This is a fantastic and fun idea by Soaring Through Second.  Create a backdrop, have kiddos write why they love mom on a white board, and take pictures.  You can add goofy props, costumes, or maybe a craft.  If you have extra cash, have it printed on something to create a longer lasting memory for mom.

2. Washi Tape Clothespins

What better way to say "I love you" than a practical gift made with love?  This idea from Life with Lovebugs is adorable, quick, and relatively inexpensive.  Not to mention, you can differentiate based on age.  For example, use washi tape for young ones, or stickers, or other adhesive.  You can write their name and date in thin Sharpie on the side as a mom keepsake.  For older kids, get some thin markers and have them decorate the clothespins themselves.  You can get 100 from Michael's for about $3.  Divide them accordingly and here's the best part: rather than wrap the clothespins, have kiddos clip them to a Mother's Day card.  Cute right?  In case you're wondering why clothespins are a good idea, think about all the ways you could use some.  One use in particular is to keep snack bags closed as pictured on the Life with Lovebugs website.

3.   STEAM for Mother's Day

We posted this one last week on our blog.  You can combine Earth Day awareness with a cute Mother's Day gift.  Read more HERE.

4.  Button Flowers

These are fun and great for mom to add to greenery that's lying around the house.  They will never die and they're easy to display!  Check out the tutorial from Jones Design Company.  For a pop of extra color, use pipe cleaners instead of plain wire.

5.  Crayon Candles

You can make this a STEAM activity with chaosensued, or opt for the quicker version with  Obviously you will have to nix the exacto knife and you don't need the plate stand unless you want the diagonal look in the photos.  There are multiple tutorials and some use extra wax.  Some do not.  I'm not sure which is best so if you've done this before, please enlighten us in the comments below.  The sun melted version from chaosensued will look a little mushy.  If you want a layered look, is the best way to go.  Now, if you want to add an art lesson to the STEAM lesson and make it a triple threat, have kids choose only two colors to combine.  When they melt together they will form a new color!

And of course, no Mother's Day is complete without a card.  Click the image below for a fun piggy back song that you can print on cardstock or glue on construction paper.  Have kids decorate for a unique Mother's Day craft.

Get the book for some vocabulary fun in the classroom!

Sign up for our email list and receive a recorded guide of the song for your classroom.

All of these images are owned and copyrighted by S.O.L. Train Learning and other featured bloggers.  Please do not copy without a link back to this post, or the original blog post.  Thank you!

Like this Post?

Have an awesome weekend!

Monday, April 25, 2016

A Monday Apology

Hello sweet wonderful reader!

I'm afraid I must apologize for the absence of blog post today.  We are working very diligently on giving you some brand new May resources and uploading resources to a brand new site!  It is for this reason that we will be postponing our post on differentiating centers.  Much obliged in advance for your forgiveness and I look forward to meeting again really soon.

Have a great week!

Friday, April 22, 2016

An Earth Day Activity Just For Mom

Why hello there!

Happy Fun Friday to you.  Today we will be sharing a fun activity for both Earth Day and Mother's Day.  We are all about maximizing the little time you have in the classroom, so here it is:

First of all, you will be using milk cartons that students have saved from lunch, so you are reusing them.  Remind students that these can also be recycled, and there is no need to throw them away.  Also, planting something and watching it grow year after year is another way to protect the Earth.  When their plants grow big enough, they can be transplanted into their gardens outside at home.

Step 1

Wash out the carton and have students cut off the top(or you can).  Then put soil and seeds into a plastic cup.  The cup will eventually be placed into the milk carton.  You can also plant directly into the carton if you like.  Just wait until the end of the project to do so.  Y'all can also buy a potted flower to put into the carton if you need to have something quick.

Step 2

Have students choose a color of construction paper for their Mother's Day planter.  The paper itself needs to be 9X12.  We used pink, but you can provide other colors.  Students will be drawing on them, so stick to lighter colors like yellow, orange, light blue, etc.  You will cut strips that are 3" by 12" so each piece of paper will make 3 strips.

Students will fold their paper around the empty carton to create drawing spaces.  Draw a dot on the edge of each strip to designate the space they are not to decorate.  This space will be covered when they attach their covers to the carton.

Step 3

Students will decorate their strips, writing the message to their mothers in the center square.  Make sure each student writes his or her name on the strip and keep them for a later date.

Step 4

Water the plants in the undecorated milk cartons until students take home their Mother's Day gifts.  The plastic cups help keep water from damaging the paper.  Each popsicle stick has the name of the student to whom the plant belongs.

Step 5

On take-home day, have students glue their covers to the milk cartons and voila!  A beautiful Mother's Day gift that is friendly to the Earth.

We hope you enjoyed this lovely multi-holiday activity.  Tune in Monday for tips on differentiating centers.

Like this post?

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Tests: The Silent Killer

I write to you outside the normal schedule today because I am outraged.  I'm at the brink of tears because I'm sad, and angry.  I ache for these children, yes children, and what they have to endure so that some company can make $44 million.  Yes, that's right folks, that's how much you are paying in tax dollars so someone can torture, belittle, and crush your kids.  I read this inspiring and devastating post by a Brooklyn public school teacher about how valuable play is to learning.  As I read, I felt the warmth of sunshine on my face after days of being chained to a desk.  I felt the students' overwhelming joy as they were released from their desks.  Now, all of this information is specific to NYC, but I'm sure you will have no problem sharing your personal experience in the comments section.  I hear story after story of teachers who are defeated, children who hate learning, and for what?  $44 million?  These tests are killing our students.  At least, they are killing the part of our students that wants to learn.

I empathize with the school system and their desire to hold teachers accountable.  After all, I've met good teachers and bad teachers, and the bad ones do just as much damage as these tests.  That being said, the good ones are struggling, and many are just giving up.  According to several studies, teacher attrition has gone from 10% in 2007-2008 to 17% in 2012-2013.  That's almost 10% increase in only 5 years!

I'd like to cite another article that lists a successful low-income school and how it retained its teachers.  Leadership took a new accountability approach that involved support and motivation over threats and intimidation.  I refer you to the article I wrote about motivating rather than dictating.  It's a trickle-down effect.  If teachers are motivated, they will motivate students.  Pressured teachers produce pressured students and that's not good for anyone.

So what's the answer?  Honestly, I'm not sure.  My guess is it will involve more one-on-one accountability, where student progress is measured rather than student performance.  One thing I can promise is that we will strive every day to give you guides and resources that equip you to educate students rather than teach them a test.  Reach out if you have questions or suggestions.  This battle will not be won by individuals, but rather a collective that is focused on the betterment of our children's education.

Thank you for listening.  Soap box moment over.  On to Fun Friday :)

Monday, April 18, 2016

How to Get More Out of Your Earth Day Centers

Hello There!

As it is the middle of Spring, I'm guessing you're in one of two places: 1)  Dear Lord, will this testing ever end?? 2)  Dear Lord, how many days until summer again?  Either way, you're exhausted, doing 1000 things at once, and praying your students don't drive you into the looney bin.  Wanna know one of the best things you can do to curb this insanity? Centers.  It's true.  The more independently your students work, the more it frees time for you to either work on your never-ending to-do list, or focus on students who need extra support.  In my previous post Who, What, When, Where, Why and How of Learning Centers, I address three different center elements: Enrichment, Skill, and Exploratory.  The best way to enhance your students' learning experience, is to focus on a primary element and incorporate the other two as secondary elements.  In this post, I'm addressing Skill as the primary element because I know many of you focus on standards-based learning.

According to, a Skill-based center is exactly as it sounds.  It is a center that focuses on a particular learning skill.  For example, a reading skill center might involve leveled readers, or a certain reading skill process.  A writing center might involve a prompt or journal of some kind.  Here are some skill-based centers and tips for stepping up your game with Enrichment and Exploratory elements:

English Language Arts(ELA)

Read It, Build It, Write It: This activity involves a space for reading the word, building the word with either magnets, stamps, stickers, etc, and writing the word on lined paper.  You can purchase sheets like this on various teacher websites or make your own.  Here's one by one of my esteemed teaching associate's:

CVC Word Building Cards Bundle

Enrichment:  We will use Earth Day as an example.  Rather than using sight words, use vocabulary that focuses on Earth Day.  We have numerous Daily Concept Builders™ resources that do this very thing.  You can use the cards from our calendar or memory game, or write your own Earth Day vocabulary.

Pam also uses our Daily Concept Builders ELA Books in a center.  Her students highlight words that are introduced from our Calendar. The books are also a song so they love to sing the words! There are also questions to answer in the back of the books.

                                                 This is the Earth Day book that she is using:

Exploratory:  Rather than just writing the word, encourage students to use it in a sentence.  You can differentiate according to each student's level.  Encourage your struggling writers to draw a picture.

Read the Room:  Students walk around the room with pointers of some kind, finding words they recognize and writing them on a piece of paper.  This bundle by Jennifer Drake, allows you to edit your words, and it contains different themes!  You can also use the cards from our calendar or memory game.

Enrichment:  Again, use Earth Day vocabulary words.

Exploratory:  Have students look purposefully for a handful of words that go together.  This works great with our Daily Concept Builders™ resources at the end of the month, because each month contains words that surround a theme.  Students can look for 3-5 related words, then use them in a sentence.

Writing:  This one is pretty self-explanatory.  Students write, either in a notebook, on writing paper, printer paper, or any other type of paper, either freely or using a prompt.

Enrichment:  Provide open assignments or writing prompts based on your theme.

Exploratory:  Give students a variety of options regarding final writing product.  You can encourage them to publish their books or do something out of the box like a scrapbook page or greeting card.  Maybe they can write a letter or if you have the means, encourage them to type a blog post.  Provide different writing materials like pens, markers, colored pencils, and different embellishments like stamps and stickers.

Earth Day Sight Words:  This is a center we've created that incorporates all three elements.  Students match letter manipulatives to each letter in each sight word.  It is Earth Day themed, so you can talk about how the cards relate to Earth Day.  For example:

As you can see, the children in the pictures are holding recycling bins.  Ask your students what the children are holding.  Then ask them to recall what recycling is.  Ask them why the letters are on plastic jugs.  It is because we recycle plastic jugs.  What are some other things we do to preserve the Earth?

To incorporate the exploratory element, simply have them choose one or two sight words and write a sentence about Earth Day.


Real Life Problem:  Create a problem that students have to solve.  The problem should have multiple components that not only require group thinking, but provide for multiple outcomes and incorporate multiple math skills.

Enrichment:  Make the problem Earth-Day themed.  Place two pieces of computer paper on the table.  Tell students that each of them must use the paper given to answer the questions you've provided.  In order to reduce waste, they are not allowed to ask for any additional paper.

Exploratory:  Let's say there are 5 students.  They can decide to tear the paper or maybe they'll share the space.  This part will be completely individualized because you give your students the opportunity to solve the problem in their own way.  Here are some questions you can ask:

1)  How many pieces of paper are there? Skill-Counting
2)  How many students are there? Skill-Counting
3)  How many more pieces of paper do you need? Skill-Subtraction
4)  How will you use the paper on the table so everyone gets to write on it? Skill-Problem Solving

If you want to incorporate addition, ask them to answer questions 1-4 given the stipulation that 2 friends join their group.

Computer:  There are a number of great Math games on the computer.

Enrichment: has some great Earth-Day themed games

Exploratory:  They choose which game they want to play.

Themed games:  There are a number of games you can purchase on various teacher websites that focus on math skills with a fun theme.  While we don't have any Earth Day themed Math games, we do have a number of other themed Math games.  Using the same discussion method I outlined in the Earth Day Sight Words example, you can incorporate your unit focus into any of these games.  Earth Day Math Centers by First Grade Kate has some cute themed games.

Blocks or Legos:  Have students create something out of shape blocks (like Tangrams) or legos that accompanies your Earth Day theme.  Here are some creations Pam's kiddos have come up with.  They are not related to the theme, but still very cool.

Math centers are definitely trickier when it comes to incorporating multiple elements.  A great way to incorporate the Exploratory element into a Math center is to encourage students to represent their learning using their own method.  I outline this a little more clearly in the post 3 Steps to Easy Comprehension for All Learners.  Ask them to represent equations with their media of choice.  They can draw, use playdough, use blocks, whatever they like.  You can make it Earth Day themed by providing silk flowers or globe erasers to use.

So, the next time you do centers, think about how you can incorporate multiple elements to make them as productive as possible.  Your students are maximizing each learning moment and you get to take a step back to watch them succeed.  Stay tuned for a Fun Friday Earth Day activity!

Like this post?

Have a great week,

Friday, April 15, 2016

Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How of Learning Centers

Hey there you Friday party person!

So it's Fun Friday again and what could be more fun than centers??  Maybe you disagree, so let me shed some light on how fun they are.  Kids have fun, work independently, and free you up to be more effective as an educator.  When done correctly, centers give you the ultimate autonomy you so desperately need and desire, plus it gives students autonomy, which prepares them for the self-driven challenges of the "real world."  Not having fun yet?  Let's continue!  

Why the heck should I have centers?

I am so glad you asked.  There are numerous reasons to have centers in your classroom.  I listed a few above and here's a more comprehensive list from
  • They provide an outlet for wiggles(yes, even the big kids have wiggles.  Shoot, I have wiggles!)
  • They provide relaxation- obviously 1 and 2 aren't the same center.
  • Provide a safe learning environment where students feel comfortable making mistakes- for more on this, read our post on failure.
  • They allow for self-expression
  • They teach self-discipline
  • They provide intrinsic motivation
  • They provide choice
  • They offer opportunities for multiple modalities
  • They teach collaboration through group activity
  • They feel successful as they complete tasks independently
That is quite the list.  Convinced?  Great!  Step into my office...

How on Earth do I make centers?

If you are a Pre-K or Early Elementary teacher, this is probably a no-brainer.  You do centers all the time.  You got this.  The question is, do you feel your centers are working to effectively teach or are your centers more like down time for your students?  I have another question: Did you know that your students can have down time while learning?  BOOM! That was your mind being blown.  Here are the 3 types of centers says are typically set up in a classroom.  We will call these your center elements:
  • Enrichment- These centers are designed to accompany your unit or units for an extended time period.  Their secondary purpose is to serve multiple modalities and ensure all your students an equal opportunity to learn.
  • Skill- These centers are as their name suggests; designed as an outlet for your students to practice a certain skill or skills.  They can have unit connections to incorporate the enrichment element, or be totally separate.  My advice, though, is to make them as relevant as possible.  Our Daily Concept Builders™ program provides center activities that incorporate a word per day.  They focus on certain ELA skills while reminding students of the relevance of the vocabulary.
  • Exploratory- Again as the name suggests, these centers are designed to be completely open for students to explore their interests.  Once again, I recommend incorporating the Enrichment component to reinforce material they are learning or have already learned.  You can make this a Project-Based Learning opportunity where students work collectively and independently on a project of interest related to the subject matter.  Read more about the basics of PBL here.  You can also give them the option of doing an assignment based on a subject they've learned earlier in the year that is of interest.  Obviously, the key to this is that the student is excited about what he or she is doing and it is personally relevant.
Teachervision has also provided a list of thoughts for each center that you may look at if you desire:
  • Title. Provide an interesting title that identifies the center as separate from other classroom activities.
  • Furniture. Arrange necessary furniture in a pleasing and productive manner. Decide how you will set up chairs, tables, storage facilities, and the like.
  • Storage. Keep materials in a safe place where they are easily accessible by students.
  • Space. Consider the use of space within the center. Where will the activities take place? Is there a need for independent study? Will large- or small-group instruction take place within the center?
  • Materials. Determine how you will obtain materials. You might be able to obtain materials from parents or the school. You may also want to consider other sources such as local businesses, catalog supply houses, or community agencies.
  • Location. Consider the physical placement and arrangement of centers in your room. Students need to be able to move to and among centers with minimal disruption and time.
  • Responsibility. An important consideration in the development of any center pertains to the responsibilities of students and teacher to the center. For example, students need to know who is responsible for cleaning up, who will be sure there's an adequate supply of consumable materials (paper, paint, soil, water, etc.), who will be in charge of evaluation, and so on.
  • Learning alternatives. Include a variety of learning alternatives within any center. For example, include a variety of tasks ranging from difficult to easy. Also include activities that relate to various students' interests.
  • Instructions. Post a set of directions in each center. Plan time to share and discuss each set of directions and/or routines with students as part of one or more introductory lessons.
  • Sequence of activities. It may be important to consider how activities within a center will be sequenced. That is, will students need to complete one or more specific activities before moving on to more complex activities later?
  • Number of centers. You will need to decide on the number of centers you want to establish in your classroom. Base your decision on your management skills as well as the needs of your students. You might want to start with a single center and, as you and your students gain more competence in designing and using the center, develop additional centers later in the school year.
  • Assignment. Consider assigning students to selected centers as well as offering students opportunities to select centers on their own.
  • Duration of centers. Decide how long a center or group of centers will remain in existence. As a rule of thumb, keep a center in operation only as long as students' interests are high and it meets your program's instructional goals.
  • Management system. You can assure the success of your centers by teaching your students familiar routines (how to move between centers, how to work cooperatively). Devote several weeks at the beginning of the year to teach these routines.
    • This should include some type of signal that students understand as the cue to rotate, or move to another center.  You can use a clapping pattern, chant, whatever you like.
  • Time. Talk with students about the amount of time necessary to engage in or complete the activities within a center. It is not critical for students to complete all the activities within a center.
  • Help! Establish a procedure or routine that will allow students to signal when they are having difficulty with a specific center activity.
  • Assessment. Decide on the nature and form of assessment for the center(s). Will assessment be the responsibility of the students or the teacher? How will it be accomplished—informally (discussions, observations) or formally (skills test, chapter exam)?
    • Make sure you include some type of collection bin, basket, folder, etc. at each center that yields a product to make sure you keep track of all assignments
Some of these will be based on your own personal preference and how your classroom works.

Ok, now you have the why and the how.  Like any good 5Ws and H, we need the what:

What do I put in my centers?

So we've talked about how to design centers, now for the specifics.  As I said before, I think incorporating multiple elements as part of your centers is a great idea.  You don't have to have any center with just one focus.  Some simple center ideas to get you started include games, task cards, art, legos(or other building materials), computer, and reading.  Here are a couple links with more detail.

List of suggested learning centers by age group: This list is less detailed, but incorporates suggestions for older kids

To make things easy, it's best that you plan your centers at the beginning of the year.  Have similar types of centers so that students can establish a pattern and familiarity with each center.  If they understand the process, the path to independence will be a lot smoother.  Think about which units would be best accompanied by centers.  Preplan your materials, directions, assignments, etc. for each center and put them in a folder or bin(depending on materials).  Keep these bins labeled and that way you just pull out the bin you need when it's time to switch out the center.  No wasted time trying to find materials!

Where do I put my centers?

This is a great question.  Center organization can make or break the dynamic in your classroom.  A good rule of thumb is to keep quiet centers together and loud centers together.  This way, students who need to focus aren't distracted.  Another benefit to this, is that it trains students to learn which behaviors are appropriate for which centers.

Also, you can put centers anywhere.  Any empty space is a blank canvas for your creative genius.  The best way to utilize an ugly shelf top or back is to turn it into a center.  This is win-win-win.  Win for your classroom because that eyesore is gone, win for your students because it's a fun new location for learning, win for you because it makes you look super smart and amazing.

For other ideas on center organization, read this article from aboutEducation.

When am I supposed to do centers?

There are different schools of thought on this.  The traditional format for Kindergarten is to have a designated center time of 45-60 minutes, wherein students rotate from center to center.  Many preschools have centers dominate the majority of the day, with small class instruction in between.  I personally think the best way for students to have differentiated, individualized learning opportunities is through centers.  I don't see why you couldn't have centers all day.  If the purpose of the center is to learn, you are merely replacing class lecture or an activity with small group learning environments that allow you more personal time with each student.  At minimum, I encourage you to have one center block in the morning and one in the afternoon.  See how it changes your students' engagement level.

Who does centers?

If you are not a Kindergarten or Preschool teacher, you may be thinking, "how is this for me?"  There are older grades that also incorporate centers successfully.  Again, centers have so many benefits.  Why limit those benefits to younger kids?  The reality is, very few times will one of your students have a job where he or she spends the majority of the time listening to lecture or working in a large group setting.  Most jobs require independent and small group cooperation.  What better time to start practicing that than now?  Here is an article from one of my favorite sites,, about how a secondary teacher incorporates learning centers.  Even if you have young ones, it's still worth a look.  His assessment method is quite insightful.

Some extras

  • Mrs. McDowell has a blog that is almost entirely dedicated to centers.  It is a great read.  The link is for a post specifically about centers.
  • Quirky idea, have a homework center.  Students can either choose to complete homework early or finish homework they weren't able to complete the night before.  Discourage procrastination habits by limiting the number of times the homework center is allowed per student.  You can limit it to once a day, every other day, or once a week.  Assignments wouldn't be deemed late until the following week.
  • Include a tape recorder with your writing center.  For students who have trouble writing, encourage them to record their answer to the prompt, or assignment.  This way, you can determine whether or not they understand the material without having to sift through developing writing skills.  Students could even use the recorder to get their thoughts out, then organize into a piece of writing.
  • We have a little blurb about centers in our post about the 5 Teaching Habits Hurting Your Students.  Scroll down to habit #5.
Now, in true Fun Friday style, we are offering all of our Daily Concept Builders™ games for only $1 this weekend!  Get a solid head start on those centers.  Monday, I will be expanding on this post as I list more specific ideas for centers in your classroom.

-April Daily Concept Builders™ Memory Game
-April Daily Concept Builders™ Brain Bounce Game
-April Daily Concept Builders™ Sight Words

This is a picture of our lovely ELL teacher using the Brain Bounce with one of her students. She said, "I just love these games for my ELL students because they teach my students basic vocabulary in a fun way!"

 This is a picture of one of my students using the sight word center or as we call it: The Snap Word Center because we want to learn these words in a "snap" :) This month we have a recycling theme for Earth Day. We always have a fun monthly theme on our cards. My kiddos always comment on this!
 One of my students' favorite centers is the Memory Game Center! We have added cards with real pictures so students will have picture support with the daily calendar words.  We have included a teacher guide with differentiated ideas for the centers.
We hope that y'all will check these centers out while they are just a $1 and that your kiddos will have fun learning these words! We also have a monthly calendar that introduce these daily words.

Like this post?

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!

Monday, April 11, 2016

5 Tips to Curb the Chaos of Indoor Recess

Hello There!

Happy Monday to y'all!  After our long, thinking-intensive How to Be an Educational Superhero series, I think we both need a little break.  Today I want to share with you some practical ways to keep from pulling your hair out on those rainy indoor recess days.

1. Get those wiggles out 

Your students want to be outside, right?  They want to be running, screaming, chasing, climbing, you name it.  Obviously this isn't appropriate behavior inside.  That being said, you can give them a little taste of organized chaos before they begin their indoor activities.  Start with having them dance it out.  There are a number of kid-friendly and even educational songs you can use.  Of course, there are our S.O.L. Train Learning Social Studies songs.  You can find them on TPT, or buy them directly on CDBaby.  Lyrics can be found on our website.  There are also songs by Jack Hartmann, Dr. Jean, and a number of other artists.

2.  Get that noise out

Once your students have danced it out, have them shout it out.  They will want to be noisy, so give them an indoor-appropriate opportunity.  You can even tell them this is their opportunity to be loud before they have to use inside voices.  You can use the song "Shout" and encourage them to be really loud when the song gets louder or choose from this list of camp songs.  "Boom Chicka Boom" has proved very popular for me in the past.

3.  Give your students responsibility

Encourage students to empathize with one another.  Just as we talked about in 10 Ways to Stop Sending Kids to the Principal, it is extremely important for students to understand why there are rules, and more importantly, have their own personal reasons to follow the rules.  I ran across another great article the other day that illustrates a similar point.  So, if you are following the "Must-Haves" method, remind your students of the must-haves for the classroom.  Ask them what actions need to be taken to ensure these must-haves are met.

4.  Engage your students

You may have some students who struggle with quiet activities.  This is their only outlet to decompress and maybe move a little.  (Although side note, we recommend movement throughout the day.  You will find that theme in our store and throughout the blog.)  You have 2 options:

1) You facilitate a movement activity for your wiggly friends:  It can be something as simple as Follow the Leader, or We're Going on a Bear Hunt.  You can have them copy clap patterns, play Simon Says, Hokie Pokie, etc.  This is a picture of Pam engaging with her students.  They are doing an alternate version of the Hokie Pokie.  There are a ton of options.  Your students can play outdoor games and replace running with fast walking, tip-toeing, or galloping(depending on your space).  I've played a game with my kids called "Energy Overload."  This has a Science component to it as well.  Explain that each student is a light bulb, and all the furniture is energy.  A light bulb, or any other energy source, can only hold so much energy before it "overloads" and shorts out.  Have students move around the room, trying not to touch anyone or anything.  The second a student does, he or she "overloads" and has to sit down to "recharge."  This way you are teaching your students about personal space and they are practicing agility.  Add in different types of movement like galloping, tip-toeing, side-stepping, etc, and they are also practicing different types of movement.

2)  Have wiggly students play on their own:  Understandably, this may be your only planning time, and you don't want to give that up.  Present a couple more easily controlled games for students to choose from.  Here's a pretty good list.  Some are a little trickier for students to do independently, but it's a nice change of pace from typical indoor games.

5.  Set up stations and limits

To keep students from thinking your room is a free-for-all, set up stations within the classroom for
indoor recess.  If you limit the number of students per station, you will alleviate some of the chaos.  The more students grouped together at once, the more noise you will potentially have.  Also, keep the noise together and keep the quiet together.  Noisier activities on one side of the room and quieter activities on the other.  This will train students' brains to compartmentalize.  You might even want to have students rotate and have one rotation be quiet, and the other noisy.

Pam has found a lot of success with Legos and other building materials.  This is a great way to incorporate STEM as they play.

There are many options for you of which these are just a few.  Indoor recess doesn't have to be something you dread.  As long as students understand expectations, and there is assumed order within the classroom.  Their behavior should follow.  Another good note, try not to be completely disengaged as you are doing your planning.  Maybe you can find a way to walk around the room, or sit at a student's desk to do your work.  The more visible you are, the less chaos there is, because students see you as an example of composure.  If the example is off in a corner, they are more tempted to act out, either for attention, or because they know they can.  Obviously, I wish you many beautiful, warm, sunny days where your kiddos can run around with reckless abandon.  Hopefully this will help on those rare days when they can't.  Now that I've just reached the bottom of this post, I recall that I promised you a post on centers!  Well shoot, I do apologize.  I will cook up something about centers for Fun Friday so stay tuned.

Have an awesome week!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Fun Friday: All About Plants!

We want to share this awesome craftivity with you and then a little bit about our fun Math and English Language Arts bundle!  It's over 100 pages of plant fun that will integrate perfectly with your Plants lesson.  Sign up for our newsletter and you can get our upbeat plant dance song absolutely free.  We are sharing on Thursday in case you want to do some of this tomorrow.

Thank you to our wonderful ELL teacher Jen Posgai for sharing this fun craft with us:)

1.  First you fold a large piece of blue construction paper at the bottom so your kiddos will know where to glue tissue paper and brown construction paper for the soil.  We just had the kids tear it to give it a textured look.

2. Then you give them a stem to glue or ya'll can just have them cut one out themselves.  

3. Give them a rectangular green piece of paper the width of the blue paper and show them how to cut it to make grass.  remind them not to cut all the way to the top.  Next they can curl the pieces with their fingers.  This makes it look more like grass.  Then they will glue the grass at the top of the brown paper.

4. Give your kiddos a folded piece of green paper to make the leaves.  Show them how to cut on the fold to make 2 leaves.
5. We talked about the seed's coat and how it splits  and showed them how to split a sunflower seed with their teeth so they could see the seed in the middle.  They loved doing that!  Then they glued the pieces at the bottom of the stem.
6. We gave the students a piece of yarn they cut into 3 pieces and glued for the roots.
This was all Day 1.  You will need to let dry before moving on.  

Day 2, let's begin!
 7. We gave the kiddos a folded piece of yellow and orange paper and this petal pattern to trace.  They traced it two times on the folded paper.  Then cut them out.  This gave each student 8 orange petals and 8 yellow ones.

8. Then they glued the petals in a pattern on the stem.  We gave them a black circle to glue in the middle and sunflower seeds on the black circle.
Then we labeled the parts and the needs of the plants.

Day 3,
10. This was the final thing we added to our sunflower.  We added a 3-D butterfly or bee.  You just have your kiddos tape a pipe cleaner on the back of the butterfly or bee and poke it through the paper and tape it on the back.  My students thought this was awesome!:)

Now to write about what we learned. 
 We are done! Yay!
For some Math and English Language Arts integration for your plant unit, check out this awesome bundle!  Sign up for our newsletter and get the song for free.  Click the image below to preview and purchase.

We are so excited to share this plant bundle of activities! Over 100 pages!  Lots of ELA and Math print and go sheets, 2 scoot games, word sorts, and read around the room cards.  We have included a recording of our Plant Song and our kiddos love it! It is a fun and upbeat song that teaches the plant cycle. There is a book with colored pages that has the words to it and a coloring book for your kiddos to color and follow right along with you.
I just cut the pages and made a Plant Song Big Book because my kiddos love big books.  The kiddos got a black and white copy to color.  This student is working on the fill-in-the-blank response sheet.  My students loved coloring the book that has the words to the rocking plant song!
These are math sheets that are in this plant bundle. I love them because we included sheets that provide a review of math skills for our kiddos! They are great at math time or as a morning sheet.

We have 5 vowel sheets.  We also have a vowel sort, Read Around the Room, and task cards to name a few ELA resources.  Our Read Around the Room also features our mascot Quentin. The kids love Quentin!
That's all we have on plants for now.  Remember, if you want the song, either buy the bundle or sign up for our newsletter and you can get it free.  Tune in next week for more Friday fun!  If you're interested in something with a more serious nature, check out our Monday blog posts with innovative ideas for the classroom.

Have an awesome weekend!