Sun & Moon partners in the classroom: a freebie

Just posted a new freebie over at my TPT store! I use partners in my classroom for lots of things, including turn & talks on the carpet and buddy reading in Reader’s Workshop. In my effort to bring more nature into my classroom (even in the form of clipart), I made up a list for Sun & Moon partners. You can print it out and post it somewhere. Then when you ask your kiddos to turn and talk to their partner, you can say “Sun partners go first,” or vice versa!

Click on the image below to download the freebie, or find it at my TPT store here.

Sun Moon partners

Scientist of the Month!


Seriously, how did teachers do it before the invention of Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers? If you are a teacher that has not discovered the wonders of these two websites, I urge you to go explore them! You will probably develop a ruthless addiction to both sites, because they offer endless ideas and teacher-made resources, often for free!  There have been so many times that I think “man, it would be so cool if I had {insert awesome idea} for my classroom, but I’ll never have time to make it!” And then, I type the words into Pinterest and voila! Another brilliant teacher has already made the exact thing I was hoping to have. Amazing.

Here’s an example. This spring I talked to my kindergarteners a lot about being a scientist when they grow up, but I realized that I never really explained what that meant. So in a frantic attempt to give them a better understanding of what it means to “be a scientist,” I read them a book by Jane Goodall. Well then for several weeks they thought that being a scientist meant living in the jungle with chimpanzees! While that is certainly one option for scientists, there are obviously many more routes that science-inclined people can take.

So, I decided the best thing to do next year would be to have a featured “Scientist of the Month.” During the first week of each month, we could read books and watch clips about this scientist. This will be a great way to get more nonfiction books in my kids’ hands (you’re welcome, Common Core) as well as get them exposed to all kinds of scientists – including female ones!

Well, it’s not enough to have a brilliant idea like Scientist of the Month. Turns out you actually have to make a plan for which scientists will be featured, and put together some info for the kids on each one. Thus, “make Scientist of the Month packet” got added to the bottom of my supremely long list of summer projects.

But wait! Thanks to the miracle that is Pinterest, I learned that another teacher had the same brilliant idea, and is giving away her Scientist of the Month stuff for free! She did all the work of choosing scientists, finding pictures of them, and putting together biographical information on each one. So awesome.

Scientist bios

So if you want to do the Scientist of the Month idea too, go on over to The Teacher Garden to get pictures and bios on each scientist. And for a lovely title poster for your bulletin board, click on the image below to download it (or click here if the link doesn’t work). Hooray for the internet, and teachers who make my workload easier!

Scientist of Month

50 Ways to Bring Wonder: Mystery Bag Monday

50 Ways to Bring Wonder into the ClassroomIn an effort to bring curiosity and joy back into the elementary school classroom, I decided to start a series called 50 Ways to Bring Wonder into the Classroom. I hope to keep these ideas simple and easy to implement for the time-crunched teacher. Most of these ideas come from other teachers, blogs, and books – so I don’t claim credit for them! Click here to see previous posts in the series. And without further ado, here is the next idea!

4. Have Mystery Bag Monday.

Mystery Bag Monday is such a fun way to introduce a new topic or review an old one, and kids LOVE it. I just took a simple brown bag, glued a Mystery Bag picture on it, and voila! Instant Wonder And Mystery. Here’s how I do it:

When I’m starting a new unit, I choose something that represents the topic, such as a leaf for a Trees unit, a mini pumpkin for a Pumpkins unit, you get the idea. Then I pass the bag around the circle and let each student touch, hold and smell the bag. Just don’t peek inside! I write one clue at a time on the board, and call on a few kids to make predictions after I reveal each clue. Then, after all three clues are given, they take their science journal back to their tables and draw or write what they think is in the bag. We each share our predictions, and then I do the big reveal!

mystery bag

This is so much fun, takes very little time, and is a great way to gauge your kids’ understanding of the new topic. You could do the same thing as an assessment, giving them three clues about something you’ve already studied. And most importantly, it brings a little bit of curiosity and wonder into any unit of study!

How to bring more movement into your classroom (free printable)

So this year my school was told it would be taking on a Master Schedule (I capitalize these words to emphasize the Seriousness of The Master Schedule). It was a really huge deal, and most of the teachers at my school were against it. To be completely honest, at first I didn’t fully understand the gravity of the situation. Mostly, I was glad that we would have specials (gym, art, music) at the same time every day. I have to admit it made scheduling my week easier.

But now that we are two months into the Year of the Master Schedule, I’m beginning to see what everyone was upset about. I could write a whole separate blog post about the issues that come with the higher-ups deciding what’s best for an individual teacher’s classroom schedule. But I’ll just focus on the one that gets me the most so far this year: LESS RECESS!

I teach kindergarten, so that means I have a class of 20 wiggly, energetic, can’t-sit-still-for-more-than-five-minutes, attention-span-of-the-dog-in-Up kids. If they had their choice, they would spend their entire day playing games and running around on the playground. I am of the opinion, actually, that this would be very good for them. Kids learn through play.

But instead of free play, here is a partial list of what I am expected to have them do in one day:

  • Morning alphabet worksheet
  • Calendar math
  • Computer lab
  • Four different math centers
  • Snack
  • Readers workshop minilesson and independent reading
  • Literacy workstations
  • Guided reading
  • Art
  • Science
  • Interactive read-aloud
  • End of the day wrap up

The only things I’m leaving out there are lunch, recess, and free choice.

Now, I think each of these things is important, and my kids are amazing at staying engaged in what I ask them to do. But just look at that list – that is a LOT for a little five-year-old body to handle in one day! And since we need to cram all that in each day, we have very little time for lunch, recess, and free choice. As a matter of fact, my district cut down recess by ten minutes a day, and lunch by five minutes!

I could go on forever about why taking away recess and free time is bad for kids. Childhood obesity, nature-deficit disorder, an increase in ADD diagnoses, proliferation of video games and technology, overscheduling of childhood, lack of unstructured outdoor play at home. All these are reasons why we need MORE recess and unstructured time at school, not less.

But since I know it’ll take forever to get politicians and administrators to give us more recess time, I realized I need to take matters into my own hands. One of my goals this year is to incorporate more movement into my students’ day at school. I’m always looking for an excuse for the kids to get up and get moving, and I’ve accumulated a good bunch of ideas.

So, I wanted to share some of the things I do as a teacher in order to get more movement into my already-jam-packed day at school. Kindergarteners (and kids of all ages) need to move, move, move. It helps them learn, and it helps them stay healthy. Without further ado, here are eight tips for incorporating movement into your classroom. If your district is like many around the country (including mine), recess is an endangered species, so we teachers need to get our students moving whenever we can!

Feel free to download and share with other teachers!