Thursday, May 2, 2019

Grab their attention with Movement!

Our kids aren't little brains that come rolling in the door each morning, they have bodies attached to those brains!  And those bodies need to MOVE, some more than others!  In fact, movement "turns on" the brain!  Sitting for too long hinders a kid's ability to learn, retain information, and control behavior. There are lots of ways to give kids the movement they need, without stopping the class for a 15 minute movement activity. Movement can be integrated into every part of your lesson to make learning and remembering easier for all kids! How to do it is the key! Below are just a few examples of how to bring movement (plus better focus, faster cognitive processing, and better memory retention) into your lesson plans.

1.  Are you teaching grammar?  Use body movements to represent punctuation marks. For example, when you read along and a period is needed, ask kids to stand up to show it's time for the period, clap hands for a comma and so on.  The movement you choose isn't as important as the fact kids are moving. 

2.  Are you teaching multiplication?  Ask groups of students to show a quick skit to demonstrate how to remember/do the problem.

3.  Use rhymic call backs.  As you may remember in the first installment of this series rhymic call backs are perfect for grabbing your kids' attention. Add clapping, a stand-up, sit-down, and you've got a terrific movement activity.  To see the "Grab Their Attention with Small Celebrations" click here

4.   Any work done in pairs or small groups automatically includes movement.  (get up, find your group, etc.) In fact, working with other kids builds not only on their need for movement, but on their inborn need for social communication.

5.  Bring recess back to your school!  Tying kids to their seats is destructive to learning, and creates behavior problems. A 15 minute break helps kids tackle the rest of the day, plus it builds social skills all kids need.

6.  Try Gallory Walks.  Put paper to write on at different places in the room. Ask students to write what they know or want to learn about an upcoming lesson.  Students can get into groups to answer questions you post around the room about a current topic, etc.

7. Include a midmorning snack.  It's a great way to hold their hunger in check. Hunger is one of the biggest distractions to learning, plus eating is a physical activity.

8. Take a short stretch break.  This can resharpen not only a kid's focus, but our own.

9.  Take a brain break.  There are lots of great websites for quick energizing brain breaks. Here are just a couple:

From Rachel Lynette

To see the other two installments of this series check out:

Happy Moving! (and better learning) to you and your students!

Follow my Pinterest page to get TONS of freebies!

Monday, April 22, 2019

Mother's Day is Coming! Be Ready!

Every year Mother's Day has a way of sneaking up on teachers! Be ready this year with Mother's Day gifts that not only warm any mother's heart, but also use the curriculum standards as a super-duper bonus!  Check out the great websites, projects and resources below, and help your students show their mom how very special they are!

Setting the Stage

A. Preparing students for their Mother's Day effort is half the fun.  There are many Mother's Day books to read to students.  My favorite is The Berenstain Bears and the Mama's Day Surprise, or The Berenstain Bears: Happy Mother's Day.  Scout out your library and you'll find a bunch.  When you are finished reading the book, ask students to make a four picture cartoon to show the most important events in the story.  To make the paper for the cartoon, ask students to fold a sheet of paper in two, then fold it again to get four equal sections. For older students more sections can be added.

B.  There are also many short videos for mother's day that students enjoy. (Again I love those Berenstain Bears!)  If you do use a video, tell students you will be stopping the video at points throughout the presentation. When you stop it, the students are to jot down their prediction about what will happen next.

Now it's time for the gift!


1.  This Website has 25 great ideas to use as Mother's Day gifts.  Bring in language arts by giving directions in writing.  Put the directions on the board, or even a recipe card and tell students to follow the directions carefully.   Make sure you have written the directions so that your students will understand each step.  As you circulate the room, check to make sure students are understanding the directions.

                                                25 Classroom Tested Mother's Day Ideas

2.  This one is FULL of great ideas.  Once students have made their gift for mom, ask them get into groups and write their own directions on how to complete the project. They can draw pictures to help their reader.

Project Activities

1.  If you are short on time (who isn't!) and only have time for students to make a card, combine that card with letter writing.  Ask students to write a letter to his or her mom, telling her what they appreciate most about her.  They could also write about the funniest thing mom ever did.

2.  One of my favorite projects for Mom is the treasure box.  It's made of popsicle sticks.  You can get a box of popsicle sticks at your local craft store or on line.  It takes a good bit of elmer's glue, and  also needs a bead of some sort to glue on top for the handle.  They last for YEARS!  The directions are included in each link below.  I've included both to include different ways of finishing them off, but honestly, just makeing the box with a bead for the handle is cute enough....and takes less time.  Some years students put a letter to Mom in the box as a special surprise.


My Mother's Day resource, for sale in my store, is one I always had Moms thank me for.  It makes them laugh, cry, and sometimes do both at the same time.  It's a peek inside a child's head to see how they see their mom.  Not only that, it includes LOTS of writing, drawing and thinking.  To check out the Mother's Day Book, click below the picture.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Grab Their Attention With MUSIC!

Every teacher I know struggles with getting a rowdy class to quiet down, keeping kids calm when you despirately need them to be calm, and getting through those pesky transitions.  Oh! and remembering all those fantastic lessons we have spend hours preparing!  Me too, until I found my answer in music! In fact, muscic is just the ticket to make any teacher's day go more smoothly, and to help students be happier.  It's a win-win!

Do you:

Want to help your students remember content?
Calm a noisy classroom?
Make transitions smoother?
Keep them quiet in the hallway?
Keep seatwork time quiet and clam?
Enter quietly in the morning and get right to the task at hand?

Music is the answer!


1. Using Music as Pattern Inturupters           

Scenario:  You just turned your back (for a second) and all of a sudden all of that classroom control you worked so hard to achieve goes down the drain, as Katie yells at Jerod to stop touching her foot.  Everyone laughs and the wild ruckus begins.  Sigh. 

SO: If you haven't heard of pattern interrupt, (from Hypnoterapist Milton Erikson) it just means breaking a pattern of behavior with an unexpected stimulus.When kids experience even a small surprise, it breaks their pattern of behavior. It may be for only a few seconds, but those few seconds are a teacher's golden ticket. Think about a rhymic clap in which students respond.  The clap is a small surprise (totally different from the sound of talking) and requires a response from the class.  It doesn't matter that the clap has been done many times before, it is an interruption of the talking sound they were hearing. A sing-song call and response is a sure fire way to bring the class back.  It's important to sing the call, as that breaks through the kid talk. You don't have to be a singer either.  The best ones are short! Below are three that really work well:

(Teacher) Peanut, peanut butter (students) and jelly
Dum Dum Dah Dah   see it at:
(teacher) Who you Gonna Call  (Students"  Ghostbuster

You can take any song that is popular with your kids and use just a line for the call, and the next line for the response.


2.  Using Music for Preparation (hallway, etc)  

Scenario: You had the whole group quiet before going into the hall to P.E., but half-way there (while you lead in the front) the back of the line is going absolutely nuts. The principal just gave you a dirty look.  (Lordy!)

So: The trick is preparation, and having a trick or two up your sleeve if you start to loose them. Music can solve the issue.   Check out this song from Teacher

Teachers of younger kids may find these songs very helpful:


3.  Transitions                                                

Scenario:  You've just finished math.  The kids did a project that involved scissors, paste and lots of paper.  Moving to science means cleaning up the mess first.  The headache starts to build.  You know what's really next.  Kids are all over the place throwing away paper, books thumping, and voices rising to a fever pitch.  Getting out science material?  No, that isn't happening until somehow your voice connects with the distracted brains doing any one of a hundred activities.

So:  A little preparation helps with transitions.  Tell students you are playing a short song for one, two or three minutes, depending on what you feel is needed.  When you stop the song, students must be in their seats with materials out, quiet and ready to go.  Give a one minutes warning,  I have a point system in which students earn points for good behavior.  Students are in groups by tables, rows or however you organize your seats.  I give points for being the quietest during a specific period of time, having homework done, anything you like.  I also give a point for any table (row) in which all students are ready when the music goes off.  At the end of the week there is a special activity for the group with the most points.  Every class likes something a little different. Some years my kids want to come back during Friday lunch and watch a short movie (Reading Rainbow, whatever). Some years they want one homework assignment to just "go away".  At any rate, there needs to be some "carrot" for being ready when the music stops.  I like points because when everyone has done a good job, everyone gets a point.  That puts a smile on their faces.  The following link not only gives you a number of great transition songs to choose from, but includes music to play during writing, for subjects and more.  It's a treasure!! More ideas for using this link below.


4. Calm in the Classroom                             

Scenario:  The morning bell rings and kids come running in the classroom with voices on LOUD.  It takes at least five minutes to calm things down and get them busy.

So:  Change one thing in the morning.  Play restful or classical music in a low tone with the lights dimmed a bit.  Write on the board what you expect students to do once they unpack and get to their desk. It's also is the perfect time to greet students, and make that early connection for the day.  I found it not only amazing, but astounding what a difference having soft music and lighting made the first time I used it in the morning.  I could almost hear the kids let out a sigh as they walked in the door, and calm right down.  I used it every morning from that day on, and it made mornings SOOO much better for all of us!


5. Quiet Seatwork                                      

Scenario:  It's time for kids to work on an assignment (writing, reading silently) but the talking just keeps popping up.  Just when you think you've got it under control, Sam and Eli are at it again.

S0: Add very soft music.  It works the same way as adding music in the morning.  As long as the music is restful and low, it does some kind of weird magic with kids.  It keeps them quiet.  I don't know why, but there won't be any complaining from me.


6. Retaining Information                        

Have you ever noticed that the kid who can't remember anything you teach them, knows the lyrics to more rap songs than you even knew existed?  There's a reason for that.

A study at UC Irvine showed that listening to music helps the memory of Alzeimer's patients. If it can do that, just imagine what it can do for our students! Chris Brewer, writer of Soundtracks for Learning, says music holds our attention, stimulate emotions and help create visual images.  He finds that music helps students focus better on the task at hand, and puts them in a better mood to learn.  Brewer calls the use of music throughout the school day, "Positive modd management". One of the reasons this happens is that stress can stand in the way of learning.  Listening to restful music is very calming, even to kids (and adults) who have chronic stress.  Calm them down, then they can learn.

Gaetan Pappalardo, a consultant at, stresses that pulling out the same ol'  music just won't do with today's kids.  Use lots of genres like movie soundtracks, video game songs as well as what they are hearing on their phone (radio...whatever).

These two researches have a few suggestions for using music to enhanse memory:

1.  Play calm music while you lead your students on an imaginative journay in an academic topic.  For example discuss the solar system while playing music from "2001, a Space Odyssey"

2.  Tie songs to tasks. Kids memorize easily through rhythm and rhyme. Change the words from a favorite song to teach an academic subject. There are a number of these types of songs available for free or to purchase with a quick Google search.  This is one of my favorite ways to use music. Kids just don't forget information learned in a song! Also the link given in the transitions section above has a number of good songs to use with this idea.

Here are a few links to great songs...all are free!

This is just a sampling of what is out there.  A short Google search can give you just what you need!


I hope you find that music makes as much difference in your classroom as it did it mine!
Happy singing!


To read the article #6 is taken from, see:


To read about How to Grab your Students' attention with Small Celebrations check out:

To get tons of great ideas and free resources and lessons, check out my Pinterest page at:

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Grab Their Attention with Small Celebrations!

If you don't have their attention, it's like teaching to the air.  The thing is, getting kid's attention isn't really hard if you know the tricks!  Once you have their attention, it's time for that great lesson you spent all night preparing! How do you do that? My favorite technique is using small celebrations, which means chants and cheers. Chants get everyone on the same page, and eager to learn.  Cheers are used  to celebrate a great answer, or following the rules.  Everyone gets in on the fun, and it's a real ego-booster for the child who receives the celebration.  Both cheers and chants are super quick to do, but dynamite in what they can achieve!  

How do they work?

 Chants are perfect to get kids (all of them) to do something you want done.  It doesn't matter if it's cleaning up, taking out a book or whatever.  Use a chant and everyone gets in on the fun.  A few chant videos are included below. 

Cheers are perfect for celebrating any small achievement. If the class is extra quick following a direction,  have a cheer. If a student answers a difficult question, time for everyone to give him a cheer. It's extra fun if the student gets to choose the cheer the class will do for them.  Trust me, it makes EVERYONE smile.  It's important to have a class list somewhere, and mark off each child as they are chosen for a cheer. You don't want to skip anyone.  It's a very powerful motovator, especially for that problem child who doesn't often get possitive reinforcement.  An added bonus is that kids go home and tell their parents when they get a cheer.  I can't even tell you how many of my parents have mentioned the cheers, and what a great idea they are.  Some cheers can be a little loud ( We will, we will ROCK YOU!)  Nothing like a little Queen added to the curriculum.  But I don't really worry about a loud cheer.  With a little modeling and practice the kids know that once a cheer is done, they quiet down. Now for a list of great cheer/chant sites.  It helps to see them done.

Celebration Cheer and chant Links:

See how cheers work in a real classroom:

Terrific chants demonstrated by a classroom:

Great site with 10 cheer directions and videos: 

This is enough to get you started!  If you want more, just look on Google.  There are LOTS of videos to choose from.  These are just my favorites.  Good luck bringing real joy into your classrooms!

To see how to use Music to grab your students' attention, check out this post!

Want lots of free ideas?  Check out my Pinterest page at:

Monday, January 21, 2019

Discover the Magic of Games in the Classroom

If you want to make learning not only easy, but fun, don't miss out on how games help students learn faster and easier. It's all about the brain!

It about Dopamine baby!

You can think of dopamine as the feel good hormone.  It's involved with falling in love, winning a prize, and eating your favorite food.  Here's the's also a major compont of learning.  Why?  Dopamine is a neurotransmitter.  That means it carries information between different parts of the brain. What does that mean?  It means dopamine cocnverts newly learned information into long-term memory.  No dopamine, much less memory.  

If students are stressed, or unhappy during learning, that learning has a very hard time making it into long-term memory.  Dopamine levels increase when we learn new and pleasureable information. In fact, research shows that Dopamine levels increase motivation and goal-directed behavior. Happy students equal better learning.

That implies that the goal of education, before any education can take place, is to increase dopamine levels!

How do games increase dopamine levels?

Games make kids happy.  They get to socialize (which we all love), and they are constantly hit with dopamine every time they get a question right, or solve a problem.  In fact, in a game-based learning environment kids grow to crave that rewarding moment when they solve a challenging problem.  That builds the motivation to persevere, and seek out that pleasurable problem solving situation again.  That's the golden ticket of education! 

 Does This Actually Work in the Classroom?

A new study from Vanderbilt University shows that students who played educational games outperformed their peers on standardized tests. Teachers in the study said:

1.  Content games helped to foster in-depth learning, developed critical thinking and problem solving skills

2. Quiz-style games reinforced lessons and helped review material

3. Different types of game play stimulated interest and engagement, particularly in students prone to being off-task

4. Games prompted student-led discussions, collaboration and the sharing of knowledge

5. Simple and complex games increased confidence and content mastery 

6. Teachers reported increased engagement

7.  Improved attention spans: students who normally were off-task became more focused on learning

92% of teachers who used educational games said they would do it again because of the impact on student performance and engagement.  To me, number 3 is the key.  




So! To get you started I have four free board games for you.  They are designed to use with any task cards you may already have for reading and math, or with your own questions. Just add dice or a spinner and you're good to go.  I use a dime and a nickel as place holders.

To get 65 full color game boards with themes from the curriculum, holidays and sports, plus 71 black and white boards check out:

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Use Figurative Language to Engage the most Reluctant Learners!

Exaggeration, repeating sounds and playing with language grabs attention.  It just does! That's why people use it.  It's also why teachers use figurative language to dazzle students with listening, speaking, or reading language. So what's the key?  How is it done? Will it really make that totally bored kid in the corner sit up and take notice? You bet it will! Just check out the suggestions below.

Be sure to check out the two free activity sheets on idioms at the bottom of the post. They include grading keys.


Yup! I'm not "pulling your leg" or "spitting into the wind", Poetry can be the super-engaging way to reach even students who are struggling the most, or who think they are bored out of their minds. Start with Shel Silveerstein and you can't go wrong. He uses figurative language that plays with language in every poem. You can't niss it!  Once students learn to recognize the basic forms of figurative language ( idioms, similes, metaphors, onomatopoeia, personification, proverbs, hyperbole, and alliteration) It makes finding them in poetry even more fun.
         a.  Use poetry to have a figurative language hunt in pairs or small groups
         b.  Choose a poem and have groups of students replace language used with figurative language. Read together and enjoy.

2. For Reluctant Writers

Focusing on Figurative language often helps reluctant writers get out of "writer's block" since they have something to focus on.
        a. Give students a well known figurative language saying (When pigs fly, etc) and asks them to write a paragraph using that saying in a way that makes sense. Doing this with a partner offers even more help and support to reluctant writers. Then get together to read the paragraphs and enjoy.
        b.  Challenge students to use as many figurative language examples as possible in one paragraph.  This one works great when done in small groups. It's also a ton of fun.
        c.  Ask students to list something they would like to personify. (desk, pencil, shirt, car etc.) Then ask students to list ten words only a person would normally do. Next ask students to write a paragraph personifying the thing they choose, using words from their list.

3.  To Encourage Fluency

Someetimes it's really hard to get kids to read with better fluency. Often that means they have to learn how to read faster  In cases like that, and to encourage reading in even the most reluctant reader, give students a long sentence filled with alliteration.  Then challenge students to read the sentence as fast as possible and still be understood.  It will get everyone laughing and accomplish the goal at hand.  Some well known examples you might use are below:

1.  Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, where are the peppers that Peter Piper picked?

2.  A big bug bit the little beetle, but the little beetle bit the big bug back.

3.  How much wood would a woodchuck chuck, if a woodchuck would chuck wood?  A woodchuck would chuck all the wood he could chuck, if a woodchuck would chuck wood.

4.  Silly Sally swiftly shooed seven silly sheep.  The seven silly sheep Silly Sally shooed shilly-shallied south.  These sheep shouldn't sleep in a shack.

I Have a fact two freebies complete with grading keys!  Click on the link below the pictures!  If you are interested in the 103 page Figurative language resource the freebies come from, check out: Figurative Language Teaching Pages

Are you interested in resources that teach, and reinforce the different types of figurative language?  If so check out:

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Teaching about Insects and Spiders: 10 Websites Not to Miss

I LOVE teaching about insect and spiders. First, because they are facinating, plus the kids love learning about them! It's such a good time to teach about form and function, adaptations, and about predators and their prey! 
The trick is to make sure to keep the unit exciting and interesting. Kids are natural nature lovers, so this is the perfect unit to use in integrating language arts skills too! As you start preparing for your unit, check out these fun sites that not only teach about bugs, but bring out the entomologist in every student!

1.  All About Spiders from  This site includes spider information, a video, and links to all kinds of spider activities such as building a spider web online,  jigsaw puzzles online and even create your own spider!

2,  You can't do better than National Geographic Kids, and this site about insects with blow their minds! This is a good one to send home....they'll be exploring (and reading) for hours!

3.  I usually don't like sites from businesses (it's advertising after all), but this site from Orkin is absolutely amazing! It includes an insect safari, an insect guidebook filled with downloadable worksheets (or the whole book). It has games and coloring sheets, plus lesson plans! You can't do better than that!

4. I don't know who Mr. Nussbraum is, but he sure has some great information on the Internet! This site has online stories, a virtual butterfly garden and tons of information! It is so engaging even your reluctant readers will be pulled in!

5.  This fun site from "owlcation" and is FULL of great videos from Anansi, to videos of spiders in webs. It is quite extensive, so I advise teachers scope out what they want their students to see on this site.  This is particularly true of younger students. Some videos show spiders hunting, and can be a little scary. There's lots of information and LOTS of videos. The video of a water spider building an air bubble is pretty amazing. These videos woulld be great on a SmartBoard for sure! Be sure and check out the World's Weirdest Spiders from Nat Geo! 

6.  "The Kid Should See This" is an amazing site filled with videos kids will be talking about to their parents at night! From butterflies and bees drinking turtle tears, to watching lightning bugs in the Iowa woods. If you're looking for a "hook" for your unit, it's here!

7.  I love videos of bugs. Kids do too!  Here are a couple that are particularly good. The grasshopper is on You Tube, but with no commercial, the other is a website. 

8.  This site from Kids.xom is filled with insect games and videos. It includes word games, and videos of giant much more! It's a good one to use for centers, or when kids have free time. 

9.  It's always great to find some really good lesson plans...why reinvent the wheel? I love this site from Education World.  It has 10 bug lesson plans for a variety of grade levels.  Lots of hands-on goodies. If a worksheet is needed, it is provided. 

10.  This site from the Honeybee conservancy is really good! The links for Honeybee Conservancy resources and Bee lesson plans is terrific, plus right under that you will find "other resources" that are quite good with great downloads.  Lots of goodies here.

If you would like to check out my resource on TPT that includes task cards plus 25 pages of teaching materials check out:

click Here
This resource is also available as a PowerPoint or as Digital Boom Cards.  The link to these resources is on the page linked above.

I hope you will find the websites helpful, and will save you lots of really hook your students on bugs!