2016 | Teaching in the Tongass

Friday, September 30, 2016

halloween in the classroom

It's the time of year that everything "pumpkin spice" turns up. Like it or not, it's here! So, I thought I'd get a head start and share some of my favorite Halloween read-alouds, Halloween activities and some tips and tricks I've learned over the last few years that might help the day go a little smoother! If you don't celebrate holidays in the classroom for whatever reason (hey, I've been there myself!), feel free to skip this post and I promise not to have hard feelings ;)

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.
halloween classroom activities

Like most teachers, I begin a month/holiday/theme by pulling out my collection of favorite read-alouds.  My October tub happens to be pretty large (not as large as Christmas/Winter...but that's another post coming soon...). I am a book hoarder and I'm not ashamed to admit it. I peruse the used book store children's section on a regular basis, make good use of my Amazon Prime account on the regular and use Scholastic book points to grow my collection. These titles are the select few that I absolutely love, and a few are new to me this year and will be in the read-aloud rotation from now on! 
halloween books read-alouds

I usually only have time for 1 "just for fun" (i.e. not part of our reading program) read-aloud per day, and it's my absolute favorite part of my day when I really do love the book. If a child has never heard that particular story before, I feel so honored and privileged to be the one reading it to them for the first time! I have such wonderful memories of my own teachers reading books that I now love as an adult, and it just reiterates the important part that we should remember to teach children to love books.  It's hard to remember sometimes when you're focusing on teaching students how to read that I often forget that there isn't always an innate love of reading in every child. So, here's my reminder (and yours if you need it!).

One of my favorite things to do when I celebrate Halloween in the classroom is to use "spooky" music whenever I can. Whether it's a cue to start cleaning up, during an activity or just to play quietly in the background while we read Halloween books with reading buddies, it's nice to change things up a bit and add some FUN to our routine!  I LOVE to use Kidz Bop Halloween because I know there won't be any language I have to worry about (if you have Prime, you can stream it FREE). 
I'm going to start with my most loved activity. We make these guys and hang them in the hall for a couple of weeks and they are just so darn CUTE. I have done Q-tip skeletons since my first year teaching and after using a Sharpie-drawn skull template for all of those years, I decided to make it a little more presentable and share it with you! 

You can grab the FREE template by clicking below.
halloween classroom activities
And a super easy and quick art project is oil pastel and watercolor pumpkins! I like to cut up the watercolor paper into quarters so kids have a few pieces to draw on. You can really use any color oil pastel, but I love to use the white one!
halloween art activities
Another fun activity I LOVE to do actually comes after the big day, but you'll need to prepare for it by sending a note home ahead of time so it's good to be ready for it. I've included a parent letter in this freebie, so that's one less thing to worry about. Basically, kids save their candy until the next day of school (alternatively you can just get some candy to do this) and then collect data on the type of candy they got while trick-or-treating.  Lots of parents have no problem making sure the candy isn't all eaten on Halloween, but I always keep a bag of surplus candy all year  for this occasion in case someone doesn't remember or just doesn't have any. 

Grab the FREE parent letter and sorting and graphing printables below.
halloween classroom activities
I also have these EDITABLE Strip Puzzles that you can use for words or numbers...whatever you're class is working on! I've pulled one of the Halloween pages from the main set for you to try out...I'd love to hear how it goes when you try it! Download the PREVIEW to grab this freebie.
halloween activities
Candy corn footprints are such an easy and ADORABLE craft that any age can do! Really! The trick to doing these with anyone that's not a baby is to use a fist and not the actual foot :) A fun little keepsake that's quick and easy! Just brush paint on as seen below and "stamp" onto paper. 

Grab the little printable tag to attach to the footprints below.
halloween classroom activities
These have been a class hit for many years and parents are even sending them in now! It has to be because they are so easy to make!  Just draw a bunch of different jack-o-lantern faces on fruit cups and you're done!
halloween activities

And I made these fun little Halloween treat bag printable tags that are really easy to put together (we're making them for my son's preschool class this year) and they are perfect for a fun little snack to send home with your kiddos. I bought ghost "Peeps" to make a s'mores treat bag and a few other snacks to make a "Witch Brew" (gummy worms-rat tail, boston baked beans-rat eyes, chocolate covered raisins-shriveled lizard feet, chocolate eyeballs-crow eyes, candy corn-old witch nails). If you're a food-free school, see my post about treat alternatives here. Click below to grab the tag printable.
halloween treat tags
So that's it! What do you do to celebrate Halloween in the classroom? 
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Monday, September 5, 2016

powerpoint tips and tricks

I have a love/hate relationship with Powerpoint. Personally, I can't stand a presentation when someone reads the Powerpoint slides. It's not engaging and I hate it. So, for a long time I had an aversion to Powerpoint and cringed at the thought of it. Now, I use it every. single. day. So, this question gets asked a lot. Why do TpT authors use Powerpoint? If you're just getting started on TpT and you use Microsoft Word, this tutorial is for YOU. There are a couple of other software choices out there, but this is by far the most popular one so that's why this tutorial will be with Powerpoint. I am using a Mac, so if you have options that look a little different, that could be why. 
powerpoint tutorial
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Monday, August 8, 2016

anchor chart alternatives

Over the past 2 years I've worked on covering as many topics as we address in reading and writing in various anchor charts. So, what is an anchor chart you may ask? Well, really it is a poster that students can use to reference while they are working. My favorite kind are the ones we create together. I print and glue down the foundation pieces (like the title and decorative pieces) and and the students fill in (I hold the marker though) with the information that we come up with together (and more realistically, in some instances, that I prompt them like crazy to come up with haha!). In that process, I've created over 50 different anchor charts to use in various ways (for individual students and for whole class viewing) throughout the year. So, here are 11 different ways you can use reading and writing anchor charts in your classroom (I'm using the same one throughout this post so you can see the multiple ways you can use them).  

(this post contains affiliate links)
Anchor Chart ideas for any classroom

 First, all of these anchor charts are the same. I did this intentionally to show you how you can use the same information in various ways. You can download the FREE Writing Hooks Anchor Chart here. You can see the whole collection of reading and writing anchor charts here.
1.) This is my favorite method of displaying a whole class anchor chart. Basically, it's 4 pages cut and taped together to make a poster. You can watch how easy it is to assemble here.
reading and writing anchor chart ideas
2.) Another FANTASTIC way to display these is with my new best friend, MAGNETIC PAPER. Whaaaatt?! If you have a magnetic white board, this is a MUST. You can find it here.
reading and writing anchor chart ideas
3-5.) I'm sure you've seen these displays before, but just in case you haven't...the clear plexiglass ones are for 8.5x11 print sizes and 5x7 print sizes. You can find them here and here. My crafty husband whipped up the pvc pipe stand in 10 minutes and I added some book rings...voila! Perfect for a writing center or for students to carry to their desk! Just print at a reduced size (use the percentage tool when you open the PDF to print) to fit however big you make it (these small ones are printed at 70%).
reading and writing anchor chart ideas

 6-7.) And if your students use composition or spiral notebooks, just print at a reduced size and have them cut/glue in--they'll have no excuse NOT to use them as a reference tool if they're right where they are working!
reading and writing anchor chart ideas
8.) Another binder ring favorite. Just print 4/page, double-side them, laminate and hole-punch! I love this because you can keep it in your teacher binder to use when you are conferencing and need to remind a student of a concept--or, even better, you can leave it somewhere for them to take to their desk.
reading and writing anchor chart ideas
9.) Create a mobile using the provided bigger pieces to cut out! I used fishing line to make this one, but any sort of ribbon or string would work. You can hang it against a wall or from your ceiling.
reading and writing anchor chart ideas
10.) This is probably the easiest way to provide them to your students (if you use binders like me). Slip them into a page protector and you're set! Easy peasy!
reading and writing anchor chart ideas
11.) Using the provided cut apart pieces, pop into your favorite anchor chart (you can find this black pocket chart here) and you're set!
reading and writing anchor chart ideas
12.) And because ALL of my sets come with the pieces to build your own, you can still create them WITH your class and not have to worry about the drawing or your writing not fitting on the page/slanting towards one side!


You can grab this FREE binder cover/spine if you want to keep all of your anchor charts in one place.
And here they all are on one Pinterest friendly image for you if you want to pin and come back later!
reading and writing anchor chart ideas
So that's it! I hope you enjoyed these different ways and are inspired to have a little fun with your anchor charts! You can purchase the Writing Workshop Anchor Chart Bundle here and the Reading Anchor Chart Bundle here.
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teaching about the election

Teaching about Election Day!
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Wednesday, July 6, 2016

fine motor fun

Fine motor control is the ability to coordinate and control the small movements we use every day, such as holding a pencil or picking something up with our fingers.  It's using those little tiny muscles. It can be the hands, the feet or the face, but usually in education we're using our hands. We don't often think about them until we see a student that lacks the ability to do things with increased functionality (like when your child uses his fist to tie his shoes and has trouble with holding the laces with his fingers). This is a pretty comprehensive list of milestones by age for both fine and gross motor.
Fine motor skills are what help children button and zip, hold a pencil, turn a page, dip a french fry, type on a keyboard, and the list goes on. Children need a lot of practice to develop these skills. The more practice a child gets doing an activity, the more likely they'll develop muscle memory and they won't have to think too hard about coordinating them (this automaticity is how I can type and not think about each letter I need to press on my keyboard). 
Practice, practice, practice. There are a variety of things you can do to improve fine motor control, and the majority of them are actually fun. You can find a list of free ideas here. I've compiled a little list of things we use at home (there are a whole lot more I didn't even include!). These are just our favorites. I keep #11 in the car at all times for my toddler boys!


I also like to use these pin-it activities I made with my toddler. I bought this corkboard (I prefer the sheets over the roll so I don't have to clamp it down to prevent the roll from curling) and a clipboard. I used tacky glue to secure it to the clipboard, but you don't even really need to. I have a few Jumbo tack sets and he likes to alternate which colors he uses (hey, whatever floats your fine motor control boat, buddy).  Loads of fun practice for him, and bonus, it's a quiet activity we can work on while his brother naps! We sometimes like to hang them on the window to see the light through the holes :) 
You can grab the whole bundle at a discount by clicking below.
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Sunday, June 12, 2016

how to flatten

So, depending on how long you've been creating resources on either sharing or selling online, you may have heard the term "flatten." Friends, I'm here to help with this quick and easy tutorial. It's easier for me to explain with visuals, so please read on if you a.) have no idea what I'm talking about, or b.) think you have an idea and want to see if you're doing it right. Either way, it's minutes that could potentially save you hours upon hours.
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Monday, May 2, 2016

is your wishlist or cart ready?

In case you haven't heard, TpT is having a SITEWIDE SALE on Tuesday and Wednesday!!! These don't happen often, so it's no surprise that we all go a little bit bonkers when it happens, and for good reason! That means 28% off on everything in my store, including my BIG bundles! This is a great time to save on anything in your wishlist, and, even BETTER...if it's a teacher resource and you're a teacher, it's tax deductible! If you're a seller and it's clipart, it's tax deductible!  Feel free to shop guilt-free while you're saving!

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Sunday, April 10, 2016

spring into reading giveaway

Hi friends! I'm teaming up with some fabulous teacher blogger friends to bring you another fun giveaway!

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Friday, February 19, 2016

pump, pump pump it up

So, you had a baby. You (maybe reluctantly, possibly excitedly) are going back to work.  If you're still breastfeeding and want to continue, there are a few things you can do to make this transition a bit easier. So, time to get real and talk about the logistics of making it work.

Note: This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which provide a small income to me and allow me to continue writing posts like this one on my blog. If you enjoy this post or others, please consider using the links if they're something you think you can use. 
Pumping at school (tips for teachers that are going to pump at work)

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Sunday, January 17, 2016

so in love with books giveaway

Hi friends! I'm teaming up with some fabulous blog friends to host a giveaway of our favorite Valentine's Day books!

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