Saturday, May 29, 2010

Don't Make Me "Boo-Blay" You!

Think back to the start of your teaching career and surely you can remember some "rookie moves."  What were yours?

My biggest flaw as a newbie was making threats as a form of classroom management without following through on them.  An example would be, "You're all going to stay in and miss recess if you don't stop talking."  But they all went out for recess because I would realize that it wasn't a fair consequence.

I knew this was something I needed to work on and I did.  

Which only meant that my flaw was that I would still make stupid threats and then think, "Damn, now I need to sit here with these kids during recess." But, at least I had mastered the important "if I say it, I mean it" thing.

Time has passed and classroom management is now my greatest strength as a teacher.  

However, once in a while we all regress.

And I did.

We're putting on a play in a few weeks.  It's basically Charlotte's Web, but with lots of cute twists.  Who doesn't love dancing farm animals?  One of the things that I've added in is a singing/dancing duet to Michael Buble's, "Just Haven't Met You Yet" (when Charlotte speaks to Wilbur in the darkness the night before they meet).  Cute, huh?

I burned a CD of our soundtrack and was playing it in the classroom while the kids illustrated their books.  That song came on.  The girls squealed in delight and the boys collectively groaned.  We've talked all year about when it's appropriate to share an opinion and when it is not.  We talk about respecting other people's likes even if they are different from your own. 

I gently reminded them of this.

But it continued.

Maybe it was the heat. (read over 90 degrees in the classroom)

Maybe it was the hunger. (read 3 minutes before lunch)

Maybe it was the time of year. (read "the natives are restless and summer vacation can't come soon enough).

But, I regressed right back into the first year teacher version of myself.  She was a dedicated gal who worked hard and meant well, but she had so much to learn.  

And I suddenly heard an irrational  threat spew from my mouth.

It was perhaps the craziest of all the irrational threats that I had ever bestowed upon a classroom.

"If anyone else makes a rude comment about the music that some people are obviously enjoying then...

(wait for it....)



I threatened to make a class of 8/9 year olds spend the only 15 minutes they get to themselves during the course of a school day sitting indoors listening to the jazzy vocal stylings on Mr. Michael Buble.

Luckily, I have perfected the "if I say it then I mean it" reputation so nobody dared to take the chance that my irrational claim would become their recess destiny.  Which is good because how the heck would I have explained that silly punishment to parents or administration?  I couldn't even justify it to myself seconds after I said it.

I wonder when my Teacher of the Year award will arrive?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Turn Trash into Cash - YARD SALES!

Thrifty Thursday is all about saving money.  Today, I'm going to go one better.  I'm going to make you some money.  Surely, you've heard of a yard sale so I won't claim to have invented the idea, but I will share a couple of tips to help if you plan to have one.
And you should plan to have one.

Because you know you've got clutter hanging around and since I've created a website titled, The Clutter-Free Classrom, I certainly can not endorse anything other than getting rid of the clutter in your classroom.

And basement.

And attic.

And any other nook or cranny where your clutter may be hiding.

Check out my site if you want some motivation and ideas for cleaning out your classroom.  Assuming you already have boxes of crap to unload, um....I mean treasures to pass on to others...the following contributed to the success of our yard sale last weekend.


I went in to the yard sale with the primary goal of getting rid of anything we don't use, want or need.  I was ruthless in the process.  I lead a pretty simple life and we don't appear to have a lot of excess belongings, but as you start opening cupboards and drawers you find there is quite a bit hidden away.  I was ruthless.  I converted my CDs to MP3s.  I pulled out any article of clothing that I hadn't worn in awhile.  I grabbed toys and games that were not being used.  

EVERYTHING had to go.

My secondary goal was to make a little cash.

Time is money and I didn't have the time to individually price everything.

Plus, I despise haggling with people in my driveway.  

So I devised a plan.  Well, it was more of a theory.  Actually, it was a bit of a social experiment.  

I created my very own "dollar store."  It's as simple as it sounds.  Everything was a dollar.

I know when I go to the dollar store I walk up and down the aisles tossing randomness into my cart because it "is only a dollar."  My hypothesis was that people wouldn't hesitate to buy my VHS copy of Cocktail if it was only $1.00.

It worked.

And as a bonus, only two people tried to negotiate prices.  Everyone else just came up and said, "I have __ items" and handed me the equivalent number in singles.

Go to, made a list of departments, and quickly printed signs using those departments (i.e. electronics, toys, health and beauty, etc).  

Staple each to a copy paper box and sort your items accordingly.  People buy more when they don't need to sort through randomness.

Craigslist is a great way to get the message out with little effort and zero cost.

Make signs that are bold and simple.  I used large, black, die-cut letters on yellow background.

I stacked the word YARD on top of the word SALE and placed them on the left side of the sign rather than horizontally across the sign.  This was so that it stood out on the left side of the pole when hung and made it easier for drivers to see.  I added the other details in a black Sharpie.  I didn't want there to be too much text and be distracting.  The info was there if people needed it, but the words "yard sale" and the arrow were really all that was needed to direct people to us.

If you are selling classroom items, hold your yard sale at the start of a new school year.  Hang signs in teacher's rooms or at a local college with an education department.

The extra money is great, but the real goal is to get rid of the clutter.  
I was dedicated to not bringing anything back into my house.  After the yard sale ended at 2:00, I put a post on Craigslist that read, "free yardsale leftovers."  We used sidewalk chalk and write, "FREE" in the driveway.  My 4 year old son had become a shrewd businessman over the course of the morning.  He crossed out the word free and wrote, "money" next to it.
Despite his attempts to rake in some extra dough, we did have several people arrive soon after I posted to Craigslist and clear out a bit more out.  I put everything else into Rubbermaid totes and scheduled a pick-up from a local charity.

Clutter gone.

Extra fun money earned.

My trash became other people's treasures.

Items donated to charity.

All good.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Hand Signals

Today's Whatever Wednesday Topic is: Hand Signals

Also known as, "I've eliminated the need for you to interrupt me" signs!


These cards hang above my door.  I printed the hands from the Discovery Kids website and added my own words to show what they mean underneath.  Here's how things go down in my room.

If I am reading to the class or in the midst of a lesson, they are instructed not to request a beverage and should only ask to pee if the alternative to leaving the room would be a puddle on the floor.

That probably sounds harsh so I will add that my lessons rarely last more than 10 minutes so it's not as if I am putting anyone at risk for a bladder infection.  In the event of a true emergency, they are able to get up, sign "bathroom"  and run just as fast as anyone doing the infamous pee-pee dance can possibly run.  Only once has any child ever used the emergency potty exit sign during a lesson.

They are allowed to get up at anytime for a tissue.

When I am not reading or doing direct instruction, the class utilizes the hand signals shown in the photo above.  They hold up the signal and watch for me to make eye contact with them and nod.

1=I need to use the bathroom.
2=I have a question.
3=I need to trade/sharpen my pencil.
4=I would like a drink.
5=The quiet sign

Next year I'm going to flip flop 2 and 5.
I used to do a thing where I would say, "give me 5" to get their attention.  This sort of went with it, but now seems random.

These signals are ideal when I'm working 1:1 or in a small group.  They are also great in a crowd situation such as an assembly.

This falls into the, "I promise you will love it!" catalog of ideas for classroom management.

Retired Words - Teaching Tuesday

Today's Teaching Tuesday Tip is: Retired Words

If you are a teacher then you have surely read many a journal entry that included such fine phrases as, "It was fun."  One of our many tasks is to improve upon their vocabulary.  This is a "fun", errr, make that an engaging way to do just that. 

We retire the word.

Starting in the fall we retire a word a week.  We have a little retirement party (which involves me in a party hat and a noisemaker) on Fridays and we bid farewell to an overused word.  Words like big, fun, cool, and nice are overworked and need a break.  The children are responsible for bringing a gift to the party.  The gift is a synonym to take it's place.  They are encouraged to brainstorm them at home.  Once a word goes into retirement they are not allowed to use it in their writing.  Instead they must use one of the new words that we brainstormed together.

It's catchy and motivating.  They take it very seriously.  They call me on it when I use a retired word.  I made a silly little display for my words with a retirement theme.  

I did a cowboy/western theme and that year the words were "put out to pasture."  I had cute cows and everything.

I love cute things.

When I did a Hollywood theme I went with "Washed Up Words."  I thought it was very clever, but it may have been lost on the 8 year old demographic before me.  Still, I crack myself up.

Next year I'm leaning towards an adventure/safari theme and will probably use "Extinct Words" to mark words as no longer available for use in the classroom.

I have seen this done as R.I.P. words where the word is written on a gravestone with replacements under it.  To each his own, but that sort of creeps me out.

What words do you feel your kids overuse?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Classroom Inspiration

As one school year winds down I always find myself looking ahead to the next.  I like to get my classroom ready for the fall before I start summer vacation.  These links are mainly for my reference, but hopefully they will benefit my readers as well.

I began using the Daily Five this year.

Love it!

I'm super-psyched for next year because the 2nd grade has used it this year too.  That will make things easier for me in the fall.  

Mrs. Maiolo's Classroom: I heart the way she switched the letters in CAFE around to spell FACE.  I'm totally on that.  However, instead of the little post-its to show what a child is working on, I plan to laminate head shots of all my little friends to mark their spots.

Get it?  FACE.  Their faces.  Cute, huh?

Mrs. Croak's Classroom: Mrs. Croak's Cafe Board is unlike any other I've seen.  It's a creative use of space.  My room is a good size, but wall space is limited so this alternative is really appealing.

Mrs. Kady: Mrs. Kady's Book Nook system is adorable.  This would also be great for pairing reading buddy's for the Read to Someone block.

Days of the Week Boxes: No Mess Monday

Today's No Mess Monday Tip is: Days of the Week Boxes

By now you must be feeling my love for magazine sorters.  Seriously.  What can't you use them for?

Anyhow, here they are again.  This time they are being featured as a method to organize your materials for the week.  You'll notice that I have a box dedicated to each day of the week.  As I plan, prep and copy, I add everything to the box that corresponds to the day on which I will use them.

I heart this system for several reasons.

#1 It's pretty.  I looks good.  It's labeled.  It's neat.  What's not to love?

#2 It's flexible.  If I don't get to something on Tuesday then I simply shift it over to Wednesday's box.

#3 It's self-explanatory.  If I am out for an unexpected absence then it makes it very easy to direct a sub to my daily plans and materials.

A few weeks ago I posted about how I organize my reading program materials.  I prep those materials WAY ahead of time (by unit) and store them in their weekly box.  As the time to use them approaches, I take everything out of it's weekly unit box and sort it into the weekday box for the following week.

In the past I have done something very similar with plastic drawers, but find that this works a tad bit better for me because of the size and the ease of flipping through the contents.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Containerize Within Drawers - Whatever Wednesday

Today's Whatever Wedensday Topic is: Organizing Within a Space
These are my science drawers. I used to keep the science materials in plastic bags within a tub, but this works so much better.  It makes it easy to see everything at a glance.  
These small baskets came in sets of 4 from Walmart.  I've had them for awhile, but they were really cheap.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Trioramas - Teaching Tip Tuesday

Today's Teaching Tip Tuesday Tip is: Trioramas

How's that for a tongue twister?

If you look at the picture below and squint, you will see that my shelf is lined with trioramas.

or you can click on the photo and the image will become bigger and then you won't have to squint as much

This was during Open House in 2007.  As a side note, I ALWAYS cover my open shelving during Open House to prevent little siblings from pulling books and manipulatives off of the shelves.

I highly suggest that.  It also serves as extra display space for more creative works of art. :)

Anyhow, back on topic...

Trioramas are great little projects and can be used as an extension in most subject areas.

They are very easy to create: 

I heart outlining in Sharpie.  It makes everything look super amazing.

I much prefer them to the old showbox diorama for 2 reasons. 1. They can be folded flat which makes storing them until display time very easy. 2. They are all uniform which makes for a nicer display.  If you've been reading along for awhile now, you realize that my obsession with organization would prevent me from looking at mismatched shoeboxes without breaking into hives.

Below is a list of ideas for other triorama projects.  Leave a comment letting me know what you would use them for.  I love new ideas!

 Other trioramas I've created include: significant scene from a book, animal habitats, Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indian homes (I attached two together to create a scene for each), my community (each student made part of our town) and a math project where the students needed to design a house within a budget.

creative classroom ideas, literature extension, project-based learning

Monday, May 17, 2010

An Organized Teacher's Desk = A Happy Teacher

Today's No Mess Monday Topic is: The Teacher Desk

I know that I function best in a clean, organized workspace.

Shocker, huh?

It sounds obvious, but it's easy to let your desk get cluttered.  Taking the time to organize it and to establish methods of maintaining order are well worth it.

I like my desktop to be completely clear.  It gives me room to work when I am planning and it provides a positive model for my students.  To keep it clean I did a few things:

I removed anything that was not a job necessity from the area.  I love my kids and think they are adorable, but I don't keep framed pictures on my desk.  I do have a few tacked to the wall next to my desk (along with some of my son's finer preschool artwork).  I also choose to not store knick-knacks and other cutesy things there.

I took the items that are typically found on a teacher's desktop and relocated them to my top left drawer.  They are still very easy for me to access, but are not cluttering the area.  This includes things like post-its, a stapler, tape, etc.
I like to use small containers within the drawer to keep things organized.  Labeling the baskets is helpful too.  There are some great desk organizer products available, but I prefer to keep everything out of sight.

I use my bottom left drawer to house my extra office supplyish type thingies.

Chances are you will never find yourself in a situation that warrants the immediate use of 3 rolls of tape, 4 boxes of staples and 2.5 bottles of White Out.  I keep all of these items in plastic pencil boxes in the drawer and keep only one of each accessible.

Once your desk is organized, develop routines to make it easy to stay that way.  Get into the habit of always clearing off your desktop at the end of prep, before lunch and before you leave for the day.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

There Ain't Nothing Mini About That Van

First of all, can you stand the cuteness?  Look at those hats! I love me some Baby Gap.

It's a damn good thing they are so stinking cute because otherwise I would be real bitter right now.

Because it is all their fault.

What could I possibly blame those adorable little specimens for you ask?  Well, I'll tell you.  

They are entirely to blame for robbing me of the eensy-weensy, tiny little bit of coolness I had left in me.  

And with it they took my dignity.

Because today was the day we pulled the new Town and Country into the driveway.

That's right.  Mama is rocking a minivan.

When the ultrasound tech hit me with the shocking news that there were two babies taking residence in my uterus my husband danced around the room pumping his fists in the air like he had just won the Showcase Showdown on the Price is Right.

I sat stunned and silent and finally muttered, "But, that means we're going to need to buy a minivan."

And today we did.

Why is it called a minivan?  

I swear I thought I would hit an iceberg on my way home.  My son said it best as he sat in the 3rd row, "It looks like I'm in an airplane."  

At least that's what I think he said.   It was hard to hear what he was saying. There is about 50 yards between the driver's seat and the 3rd row.  

People love them.  I'm sure I will grow to love it too.  Someday.

In the meantime, does anybody need a ride?  I can take 6 of you!

Some Class

I usually start the year with Charlotte's Web.  It's a great way to incorporate a friendship theme at the start of a new school year.  Plus, there is a big County Fair in our area each fall and they offer free admission for field trips.  

#1 I love free.
#2 I find it entertaining that despite all of the sights and sounds at a County Fair, the main thing that they talk about afterwards is animal poop.

This year I was on maternity leave and it messed with my read aloud sequence.

We have our annual Dog and Pony Show (, I mean Open House) in June.  I like to do a theme for Open House and decided that Charlotte's Web would be perfect.  

And the we decided that it would make a great play. 

So we are Charlotte's Web crazed in 3rd grade right now.  I can't wait to post about all of the projects we're working on.  It really shows me how much progress is made in 3rd grade.  

When I taught Kindergarten and 1st grade their progress was very in your face.  In 3rd grade it's subtle, but yet huge.  I'm doing a lot of the activities I would normally have done in September, but the results are so different.  It's amazing.

Yesterday's lesson brought a tear to my eye.  It was TERRIFIC and I was quite BRILLIANT for coming up with it.  As you probably know, Charlotte weaves words into her web that describe Wilbur.  Inspired by this, I did a lesson on adjectives and synonyms with the main objective being to teach them how to use the thesaurus tool in Microsoft Word.

We went to the computer lab and they had 15 minutes to type a list of adjectives that described themselves.  After they typed a word, they used the thesaurus tool to identify and insert synonyms for those adjectives.  It was an impressive lesson on vocabulary on it's own.

But then the real magic happened.

On a whim, I had them stand up.  I instructed them to silently mingle around the lab and add adjectives to other classmate's lists that they felt described the individual.  I watched as they all followed the directions and began to wander around and peck at keyboards.  It was amazing.

I half expected them to rush to their best buddy's computer and type words like: cool, funny or nice.  But they didn't.  They really took the time to think about each other's attributes and character traits.  It was so touching to see them approach the page of a classmate they don't normally socialize with and list a heartfelt descriptive word that truly described the individual.  They used words like: responsible, hard-working, creative, thoughtful, inquisitive, and dedicated.  The completed lists of words REALLY matched it's owner and the anonymous aspect of it made it even more special.

Kids beamed as they read through their own lists.  The lab was buzzing with phrases like, "someone thinks I'm beautiful" and "people say I'm artistic."

It was really touching.

Back in class we made spider webs using a mixture of paint and glue.  On Monday they will write the one word they think best describes them in glue and we'll glitter them.  This is HUGE for me.  I despise glitter.  So you know this project is special.  We'll finish it off by adding a 3D spider with their picture as the head and they will cut and paste all of the other words they printed in the computer lab around it.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Do Lions Live in the Jungle?

So I missed my Whatever Wednesday post, so I'm going to double up today.

While I love to shower you with my tales of wisdom (doesn't that sound nicer than "bombard you with my anal retentive obsession with organization?"), today I come to you with a question.

It's pressing.

Do lions live in the jungle.


Don't answer until you really think about it.

And Google is cheating.

I'll tell you my thoughts and tomorrow I will tell you why I want to know.

My automatic answer would be no.  They live in a habit that consists of semi-arid plants and savannah grasslands. 

So why are they called, "The King of the Jungle?"  And furthermore, why is it well known that, "in the jungle, the mighty jungle the lion sleeps tonight?"

As you all join me in a chorus of, "A weemy wet, a weemy wet, a weemy wet" please share your thoughts.  Do lions live in the jungle?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Organizing a Reading Program - Teacher Tip Tuesday

Today's Teacher Tip is:
Organizing Your Reading Curriculum

We recently adopted Treasures as our reading curriculum.  I like it a lot.  It's comprehensive and our Curriculum Director has let us know that it is a tool in our instruction and that we have some professional flexibility in picking and choosing from it's many components.

This was wonderful news because it is a bit overwhelming at first.

Our district had also looked at Reading Street and way back when I used Scott Foresman.  They are all similar so hopefully these tips will help you organize whichever program you use.

When the materials arrived in the fall of 2008 my head was spinning.  There was so much stuff. Since my focus was on implementing the curriculum, I developed a quick fix to the issue of organizing the books, resources, etc.  The program is broken down to six units at the third grade level.  I sorted all of the leveled readers by unit and stored everything from each unit in a large plastic drawer.  This worked, but I knew I needed something better.

This year I did a complete overhaul and LOVE my system.  Here's what I did.

I gathered 36 sturdy magazine holders and printed a label for each.  I assigned a different color for each unit and printed that unit's labels onto colored cardstock.  My labels include the unit #, week # and the title of the main selection.

I gathered a two pocket folder for each unit as well (try to keep them color-coded to match the label) and included the same info on the outside.

I sorted all of the leveled readers by week and slid them into a large Ziploc bag.

I then printed a master for each of the pages that I use each week.  This became my master.  I draw a line across the top of all my masters using a highlighter.  This lets me know that it is my master and the line doesn't show up on a photocopy.  I place the masters into the left side of the folder so that I can easily make copies.

On the left side of the folder I put my transparencies, vocabulary and spelling cards and the folded up poster.

All of these items go into the box along with any centers or game cards that I create.

I usually have my aide make copies for the entire unit at one time.  To do so, I simply need to give her my folders.  I place all of the copies into the box.  

This system is working great for me.  Everything is well-organized and I always feel prepared.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Big Bad Fad

Over time there have been many fads that I'm quite certain were developed simply to make teachers insane. I apologize to my former educators for my distracted behavior that was a result of the Friendship Pin Craze of the 80s. This is not to be confused with my compulsive sticker-trading tendencies from that same decade. Both rocked my world and in hindsight I'm sure they caused teachers quite a few headaches.

As I began my journey to become a teacher I faced the Great Pog Craze of the 1990s during my student teaching days. As a young college gal, I quickly learned the fine art of confiscating a small object from the fiddling hands of a seven year old without breaking stride in a riveting lesson on nouns.

I had my own real teaching job just in time to be annoyed by Pokemon cards. The children thought they were oh-so-slick as they slid them from the pocket of one child, palmed it to another and into the pocket of another. Only Pokemon was no match for me. By June I had a top desk drawer filled with a collection that would make any Japanese animation loving elementary student drool with jealousy.

If I was really smart, I would be a step ahead of the fad. I myself would invent the next big thing. I would be responsible for teachers nationwide losing their cool over the annoyance of the latest childhood distractor. But, alas I am still on the confiscating side of the fad.

This year it is the Crazy Band.

So simple.

So cheap to manufacture.

So darn annoying.
It took a week for me to "Ban the Bands." At first I let it go. I figured, "It's a bracelet...who am I to interfere with fashion. But soon they became toys. Then they became currency as children traded them for favors and other objects.

There was a great collective moan as I announced the Ban on Bands, but they saw it coming. They agreed they were distracting.

Yesterday, as we walked to the park my son spotted something in the middle of the road that caused him to react in a manner that dangerously resembled the old arcade game of Frogger.

(a reference to Frogger and Friendship pins in one blog entry...such a trip down memory lane)

It was a castle-shaped Crazy Band and he went crazy for it. The silly .05 cent piece of rubber elicited more excitement than the siting of the actual castle in the Magic Kingdom caused just weeks earlier.

How was it possible that my 4 year old knew about these stupid things? Not only did he know about them, but he appears to have been coveting them.

I let him keep it.

Because when your kid is that excited about something you have to overlook your OCD tendencies that prohibit you from picking up litter and keeping it and your knowledge about street safety that prohibits you from letting your kid walk into the middle of the street and just let him have it.

Not like I don't have a top desk drawer full of them :)

So...what makes you crazy as a teacher?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

End of the Year Activties

Do you smell that?

It the perfect combination of sunscreen, iced coffee, grills and ocean air. That my friends is the aroma of summer vacation and it is so close I can smell it.

So close!

But before my toes can go without shoes for 10 consecutive weeks, the school year must wrap up.

Those last few weeks can get tricky. The kids shut down, your to do list grows, the classrooms heat up and schedules get all jumbly which adds to the chaos. It's important to have an arsenal of end-of-the-year activities to balance out the nostalgia for the school year and the anticipation of the vacation. It helps to keep the wee ones engaged.

Below is a thematic kit of activities I've developed to keep the kiddos on task.

Below that is a collection of ideas that I like to use during those last few weeks of school. Hopefully, you'll find something new to try.

The following pictures show my most recent kit designed for the End of the School Year. It includes over 35 reproducible pages that are ideal for grades 1-5 and can easily be adapted for preschool and Kindergarten. Included are a 28 page Memory Book, a Top 10 list and 3 different templates for letters to the child's future teacher.
It's available at my online store in both an emailed PDF version as well as in a hardcopy version that can be sent to you in the mail.

I promise it will make those hectic last weeks easier for you. Wouldn't you rather spend your upcoming nights and weekends picking out new flip flops and browsing Barnes and Noble for beach reads instead of creating end of the year projects on your own.



Fresh Air Reading:

Have the students bring in sheets or beach towels from home. Spend some time outside reading in the fresh air. Give the parents a head’s up so that they may apply bug spray or sunblock.

Sidewalk Chalk:

Use sidewalk chalk to create some outdoor art to enhance a lesson. Anything you would normally do on paper can be done using chalk outside. Some ideas include: webbing stories, character sketches, illustrating scenes from a book, etc.

Water Painting:

Take the kids outside with cups of water and paintbrushes. Let them “paint” their spelling or vocabulary words onto the wall of the school or the playground.

Detail Writing:

Use clipboards and allow the kids to sit outside and journal, compose poems or write descriptive paragraphs about an object that they can observe outside.

So Many Nouns:

Go on a walk around the schoolgrounds and list all of the nouns that can be seen.


Now is a great time to do some safety lessons and activities. Topics such as sun safty, water safety, bike safety and fireworks safety are timely and important.

Have kids write persuasive paragraphs on why bike helmets should be worn.

Research summer safety tips and design posters that can be hung around the school or town.

Contact the local police and fire department. They are often willing to come to schools and do presentations on these topics.


Read and write campfire stories.

Research and write about woodland creatures. Use model magic to create them.

Make “solar s’mores” by wrapping marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers in foil and setting them in the sun.

Tye-Dye tshirts or use watercolors and coffee filters to make pretend shirts.


Give the children posterboards and allow them to create their own board game. Provide them with parameters and guides. They can design the game board, write trivia cards, write out instructions for play, etc.

Do an “in-class game day” where the students bring games from home. Allow them time to teach each other how to play the game and let them enjoy playing together.

Use online programs to create word searches using words that relate to your school year.

Play a whole class game of Pictionary.

Challenge another class to a kickball game.


Make playdough and allow the children to be creative.

Collect recycled items (newspapers, egg cartons, cans, etc) and let the kids create interesting artwork.

Make collages.

Water color murals. Put on some quiet music and see how calm the classroom becomes.

Read the book, It’s Not a Box. Have each child bring in a box from home and use classroom supplies to transform it into something else. Allow time for each student to share with the class.


Print out reader’s theaters scripts and have your students work in small groups to plan a performance. Supply them with some art materials to make props, costumes and scenery.

Hold a “class talent show.” Let kids practice and perform on their own or with a friend.


It’s so tempting to put in a movie during those last few days. Justify it by reading a novel that has been made into a film. My personal favorite is Charlotte’s Web.

Watch SchoolHouse Rocks and then have the kids make up their own songs to teach a concept.