Sunday, February 19, 2017

Use Music to Engage and Energize

It's that time of year when school holidays are scarce. The weather is yucky, which prevents outside recess. How do you manage those wiggly, squiggly students who need to move? Use these suggestions and resources for using music and music videos to engage and energize your students.

Music is important in our culture. It moves us, makes us want to shake our booty, and evokes great memories. Why not take advantage of the shaking booty part with your students? There are endless options for helping students burn off those wiggles and get the oxygen surging to their brains to improve focus. Here are a few of the best ones.

Pandora -- You can search and set up your own playlists on this free site. One of my favorites is KIDZ BOP Kids on a channel called Children's Dance Radio. My second graders love it, too! 

YouTube -- There are boundless possibilities here! One that is kooky and gets kids moving is The Hamster Dance. My kiddos love the hamster voice. There's also I'm Gonna Catch You. There are cute actions to go with this one. 

**Important Note -- Pop your YouTube link into ViewPure and it will "purify" it. That is, it will take off the advertisements. No more sprinting across the room to hide ads that are not appropriate for kiddos. Follow the instructions on the ViewPure page to learn a shortcut for the process.







Go Noodle -- I'm sure you've heard of this one. It's probably my students' favorite. There are so many options -- not just for wiggling, but also focus, and academics. The site is searchable by category, duration, energy level, and favorites. One of my students' favorites is Moose Don't Allow. It's 2 minutes, 40 seconds long, which is perfect for a transitional wiggle break. There are longer movement videos that are perfect for inside recess. Moose on the Loose is an example. It's about ten minutes long.

iPad/iPhone -- I have an old iPod Touch. I use it solely for music in my classroom. I bought a speaker base for it and I downloaded songs and created playlists for transitions, wiggle breaks, calm times, and special songs for unique classroom activities. 


How I Use These in My Classroom

One unique classroom activity is when my students take their Friday Mad Minute timed test. I play the theme from Fox Sports. It's a little over one minute long, which is just long enough for that straggler to find his pencil or return from the restroom. When they hear the music, they know it's time to focus. It helps get them pumped up for this test and creates a classroom tradition that my students remember for years. They'll ask if I still do it when they pop in to visit me in later years. It's a small thing that makes a big difference with the children. 



Another example is Pachelbel's canons for calm, study time. The music is beautiful and the children are exposed to classical -- sometimes for the first time. I do this for the calming effect but also to present different genres of music to my children. I turn off most of the lights (I have lamps scattered about my room) and put it on when my students are writing or during reading block. It helps me to calm down, too! I have it on my iPod Touch, but it's also on YouTube. The linked one below is a one-hour version of Pachelbel's Canon in D -- you may recognize it from some popular movies and from weddings. It's beautiful!



Clean-up is definitely a time to have a signature clean-up song. Somehow, through all my years of teaching, I never learned the Clean-Up Song! Not to worry -- I found one that is the signal for cleaning up in my classroom. This Tidy Up Rhumba has a great beat and fun lyrics. Give it a listen. I think you'll like it! My second graders do!



In addition to the YouTube videos referenced above, I love to find music or videos to fit special themes in our classroom. For example, when we are studying animals and their habitats, I'll play this forests sounds one. It has a peaceful forest scene and sounds of nature. I use it when students are reading and researching or working in groups. I tell them, "If you can hear the music/sounds, your voice level is perfect." 



If we're doing our snow dance, I'll put on this one during read to self time. We rarely get snow here, so seeing it on the ACTIV board is the next best thing.


Finally, during December, I'll use this one when we're learning about holiday customs around the world. What's more relaxing than reading and learning with a warm and toasty fire burning in the fireplace? 


How do YOU use music to engage and energize in your classroom? Leave a comment below! I'd love to hear your ideas.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

No Valentine's Party? No Problem!

I love the enthusiasm of children when Valentine's Day rolls around. They *love* to love their friends, their teachers, and just about everyone else. Not kissy-face love, mind you. It's a bigger love, one that is pure and unconditional. Have you noticed how excited they get when you read their valentine? Precious!

In the spirit of love and Valentine's Day, I have created a set of Valentine's Day Math activities just for second and third graders. Even if your school says no to having a Valentine's Day party, these rigorous subtraction with regrouping, data collection and graphing activities will give your students a workout! The corny riddles are fun, too!


Valentine's Day math activities for second graders.


It's not difficult to integrate Valentine's Day activities into the day. It is important to make sure parents and administrators (even fellow coworkers) know there is an academic foundation to your activities. Two to three weeks before February 14, I send an email to parents letting them know the children may bring valentines; that we will be using our valentines enhance our learning activities. I also send home a class roster. The passing out of cards is easier if kiddos simply write the 'from' part on each one, but I think they enjoy writing their friends' names on each card. I am not going to discourage them from anything that gives them penmanship practice.

I use the valentine riddles as morning work on the days leading up to Valentine's Day. I like for my students to try it independently. Once they have tried it, I go over it and demonstrate how to crack the code. I model with think-alouds,  trial and error, and calling on my math toolbox skills (in my head).  It's important for students to learn to read directions and make mistakes. I believe this is one of the big learning hurdles in second grade -- growing more independent.

I follow up with the I Have, Who Has...? game. It gets my second graders up and moving. It also gets them thinking! Paying attention and processing the information on the card is brain-building! The children usually beg to play I Have, Who Has...? more than once. Who am I to deny them a chance to have fun and engage in problem solving! 

We wrap up our morning of math with the Valentine Treat. I give them a Little Debbie Iced Brownie and they begin data collection. (I found the Little Debbie Iced Brownies at Dollar General. [no affiliation]) Students create a replica of the brownie, tally-mark them, and answer problem solving questions about the number of sprinkles. Talk about sweet engagement! Our math lesson has been filled with love, learning, and sprinkles! 


2nd grade Valentine's Day Activities

How do you integrate Valentine's Day into your day? Leave a comment! I am always curious to know what other teachers do on this fun day.

Here's hoping your Valentine's Day is filled with love, kindness, and sweet treats!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

One More Week

Hello and happy holidays! I get so stressed out with wrapping up the calendar year that I sometimes forget to enjoy these last 7.5 days with my kiddos. So, I am taking a deep breath and working hard to take each day as it comes. You know, one day at a time, plus a lot of cleansing breaths. We. Can. Do. This!

In an effort to heighten the holiday spirit, I have joined with over sixty (60!!) other creative teachers to bring you Jolly Good Deals. It begins tomorrow! How is that for ramping up everyone's holiday spirit?

Check out the exciting special offers for each day this week. Psst... did you will see that we are giving away SIX (6!) Teachers Pay Teachers gift cards! You'll want to enter, for sure! The winners will be announced Friday. Each day, search for the hashtag phrases to find great deals on high quality products for your classroom.


Jolly Good Holiday Deals for Teachers - 2016
Visit my Facebook page for the daily hashtag deals!

We even have a holiday gift guide for you. Hop over to my TPT shop to download the FREE gift guide and mark your choices. There are going to be opportunities to grab some GREAT products at super prices.


Holiday giveaway



Be sure to enter to win one of the $50 TPT gift cards! Check out the Rafflecopter entry below.




Thanks for popping by my blog. This week, we're making parent presents. I'll share those soon!


May the force of patience and deep breathing be with you this week.  

Friday, November 25, 2016

Holiday Rush Tips, A Freebie & Giveaway!


Oh, can you feel it coming? The December rush of activities, programs, crafts, and... um... teaching has to fit in there somewhere? I get a little tense just thinking about it. However, I want to ENJOY the activities, programs, crafts and lessons with my kiddos. So, here are a few tips, a FREEBIE, and a chance to win a $25 gift to Target! All this is to help you prepare for the sprint (this one isn't a marathon like some say) that is December in elementary school.


Win a $25 gift for teachers
Win a $25 Gift Card! Enter Below.

In the spirit of giving, and to show you how much I care for you, dear teacher blog reader, I am participating in a blog hop sponsored by Keeping Up with Mrs. Harris and Notes from the Portable. Try these tips, grab the Solve It, Santa! freebie, and enter to win a $25 Target gift card!

First of all --

Take care of Yourself. 


  1. I call it putting my own oxygen mask on first as they say on flights. If you aren't healthy and well-rested, how can you be at your best? Harder said than done, isn't it? I suggest you make two promises to yourself.
  2. I promise to approach plans for December with a mindset of reasonableness. Yes, reasonableness applies to planning (not just strategies in math)! Do you have time to create 24 adorable sock snowmen complete with pompom ear muffs? Probably, but maybe a smaller (and less time intensive and expensive) gift is more reasonable for your students, not to mention presents for room parents and coworkers, and office staff and TA's and, and, and... 
  3. I promise to take time for myself. Give yourself the night off at least once each week in December. Weekends don't count! Yes, you CAN do it. Whatever is on your to-do list CAN wait. Find the time to go to your real or imaginary happy place. My imaginary one is below -- Belize! 
Teachers find time to relax during the holiday rush
Take time to find your happy place during the holiday rush!

Enlist Help.

  1. In my school, parent volunteers are plentiful. However, I have been in schools where there was little to no parent involvement. Do you need construction paper cut into certain sizes for those reindeer, Santas, menorahs, or snowmen crafts you have planned? Create an example of exactly how you'd pieces cut  and write EXAMPLE on it. Add notes to them if there are any complicated parts.  Email your parents to ask for volunteers to cut them at home. Maybe there is an older sibling in the home who would love to do it. Even if you have very little parent involvement, if there is one parent you can call on, you might build a great relationship with her/him. It could spark others to offer to help. You won't know unless you try.
  2. Have you considered creating tracers for those craft projects? I love using tracers with my second graders. It helps with fine motor skills, and all I have to do is have the construction paper laid out for them to grab. If you use tracers (use card stock), it is important to teach your students to place the tracer near the edges of the paper. I demonstrate how plopping that teeny tracer in the center of the paper is wasteful. I also teach my kiddos to flip over the piece they have traced, so that the pencil tracing lines don't show in the final product. (Yes, I'm a little OCD about these things!)
Teacher Time Saving Tips
Clearly, these tracers have been used many times. Print once, use many times!


Tracers help teachers save time
My students used tracers to create these turkey glyphs. 

     3. Finally, I find a big basket or box and put a label on it -- PAPER SCRAPS. That way, if children need a piece of black for Santa's boots, they should look in that box before taking a new piece of black paper. This is a lifesaver when one of your littles comes to you asking for a red piece of paper when you're involved with a small group or in the middle of helping someone else. Train them to look in the scrap paper box first! 

Start early. (like NOW)

  1. Are you traveling for Thanksgiving or Christmas? Do you have a personal laminator? Print your items needing to be laminated and take them along with you. No personal laminator? Laminate at school before you go. While everyone is letting that huge holiday dinner settle, pass out a few pieces and have them help you. I plan to do this at my parents' home! I have nieces, nephews, and sisters-in-law who are going to be helping me trim during Thanksgiving and Christmas! Don't forget to bring along a few extra pairs of scissors. I'll be printing this Solve It, Santa! set of 26 addition and subtraction with regrouping story problems. 
Santa Math
Click on this image to get this free product!
  1. Almost every year, I look back and realize I forgot to do a neat craft or lesson for a particular holiday. Go through your files and make sure you haven't forgotten something you love to have your students do for the holidays. Do it NOW. While you're at it, grab this holiday 
  2. Gather your holiday books. Put a sticky note on the top of things you need for the lesson. It will help with prep. Can't find that one special book that is a must-have? Put those sweet eagle-eyed students to work searching for it. I pull up a picture of the book cover, show the children, and off they go to find it. Usually, in a minute or two, the book has been found. Do this during a transition time and make a game of it. I use my announcer voice and announce that it is time for "Let's Find this Book" and they're off!

Finally, if you've read all of these tips, thanks! I hope you've grabbed my thank-you freebie in the spirit of giving during the holidays. It's my thanks to you. I know how hard you work and I appreciate you stopping by my blog and my TPT shop! As a BONUS, grab this limited-time freebie as my second thanks to you! 



Enter to win a $25 Target Gift Card below:
a Rafflecopter giveaway



Wishing you the happiest of holidays!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Five for Friday - 10.23.16






This week has been all about CHICKS and DUCKLINGS! It was a perfect wrap-up to our life cycles studies for the first quarter. Here are a few pictures from the excitement:
hatching chicken eggs in the classroom


candling eggs in second grade

hatching chicks in second grade

ducklings in second grade
This guy just had a cracker. He's so cute I don't mind the mess!



Our math lessons, the past few days, have been all about strategies for adding and subtracting. I love teaching math, and by using number talks and story problems, I believe my students are building their repertoire of skills. I recently gave my students a story problem. 

Below is one example that I thought was a great product. There was an error in the student's final answer; however, I see plenty of evidence to show the student's ability to write and illustrate the solution to the problem. A quick chat about checking final answers is all I needed to do with this child as the child is usually very thorough. I was especially impressed with some of my lower functioning students' responses. They weren't as sophisticated, but they demonstrated they were correct. Do you give your students these performance task type challenges? 



October is one of my favorite months of school! We are beginning to have cooler weather down here in Tennessee. The leaves are changing, and pumpkins and gourds are popping up everywhere. Next week is going to be a thematic week. Our second grade team is planning a 'What is Fall?' theme.  We're doing pumpkin math using 'How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin?'. 

We're also going to make button catchers to use during our science block. These nifty button catcher toys are going to be a hit with my kiddos! We are going to wrap up the week with some spiced apple cider and a reading of sensory leaf poems. 

Photo Credit -- ThinkStretch


I love, love, LOVE children's literature. I cannot pass up a great book. In my last Scholastic Book Club order, I bought a couple of books that I think I am going to really like for mentor texts in writing and reading. The first is The Monsters' Monster by Patrick McDonnell. It's a fun read, and it has a straightforward narrative structure. I plan to use it as a read aloud and 'dig into' book during writer's workshop. We'll follow up with my Monster in a Jar writing activities. The students always love creating their own monster story, and I think this book will be a great example and inspiration for them.

The Monsters' Monster and Monster in a Jar

Second Grader Narrative Writing for October




Another great children's literature find is Hoot Owl: Master of Disguise by Sean Taylor and illustrated by Jean Jullien. I am really excited to use this book as one of my read-alouds next week. It has great language with some suspenseful build-up that has no blood or guts in it. (We recently wrote scary stories and there were a few that were too "blood and gutsy" for me.)

I am introducing different books to show how the writer uses metaphors and similes to build suspense and give the reader great visualizing opportunities. This is a book I am really eager to share with my students! Do you have suggestions for other great children's literature for use in language arts lessons? Math lessons?



Saturday, September 17, 2016

9-16-16 Five for Friday


TGIF! Right?

It's time for Five for Friday. Here is a recap from.



Whew! This week has been a whirlwind of fun, but also it was lots of hard work. I needed a clone to help me with a lot of things. No clone. Just me. I am sure you can relate. 

We have been finishing up social studies timeline projects. The children created cut paper scenes for the Mississippian Period, the Pilgrims coming to the New World, life in the colonies, and George Washington's crossing the Delaware. I added a lesson on centuries as we worked on them. I was amazed by how quickly they understood this not-so-easy concept for second graders! They were totally into it, and I was thrilled with their timelines. Here are a couple of illustrations:

We added crayon details and labels.


second grade timelines
Not sure where this child got the idea that George Washington crossed at Christmastime.



I love our science focus during this time of year. It's life cycles and habitats. For several years, I have been incubating duck and chicken eggs. I ordered a dozen duck eggs. The post office delivered them on Labor Day (!!!). The box sat out in the 95 degree weather that day and until late afternoon when our secretary found the box outside the building. I called the shipper and explained what had happened. He said it was unlikely they would develop, but to try it. So this week, we candled them. Not one was fertile! Thankfully, the shipper is sending a replacement order! They should arrive Monday. I am also getting chicken eggs this weekend, so we'll be in full incubation mode come Monday. In addition to that, we have caterpillars eating their way to chrysalis stage!


hatching duck eggs in a second grade classroom


To top it off, as I was candling one egg, this one rolled off the table and went SPLAT!

I hate eggs. The smell. The texture. So, cleaning up this mess was near gag-inducing. This time of year, I go strictly vegetarian! No kidding!



Another learning adventure focused on the honey bee and how it interacts with plants for survival. I read The Beeman, by Laurie Krebs and Valeria Cis. We spent two days reading and researching interesting facts. The children made a cut paper illustration of a honey bee mimicking the illustration of a bee in the book. I modeled how to look at the different shapes in the bee's body, and then cut the pieces. Afterwards, we used oil pastels to add details to the bees. The students wrote facts on the bee's body and added wings (not shown here). They turned out really cute!

Second grade book study of The Beeman by Laurie Krebs




Here's a happy from a sweet student. While everyone is getting ready for their Mad Minute math facts test, I suggest that they write me a note on the back (to keep it face down and discourage peeking). I get such a variety and they're all sweet or amusing. This one cracked me up! Apparently, this child thinks I am "hlaris." This one certainly boosted my self-esteem. What is the funniest note you've received? Leave a note in the comments!

second grade notes to the teacher


Finally, with today being Constitution Day at school, our K-5 student body created a living flag. I suggested the idea last year, and my principal loved it. Our grade got to be the blue section with stars. We used large poster board stars for kids to hold on top of their heads. Here's a picture from a drone our tech department used to video the 700+ human flag. The children recited the Preamble once everyone was in place. It was a very moving event!

Living flag create by 700 students  in an elementary school


That's a peek into my week. How was your week? I hope it was GREAT! I'm going to visit my parents this weekend. I'm looking forward to home cooked meals and spending time with my mom and pop!

Friday, July 15, 2016

5 for Friday: July 15



Happy Friday!

I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching's Five for Friday linky party.

second grade blog

second grade blog
Have you heard of Hollar? It's similar to Dollar Tree. Most of their items are $2 or more, but I have seen a few things for a dollar. You know how you get to searching for one particular thing and end up on a tangent that is opposite of the original search? That's how I discovered Hollar. (I'm not affiliated with it.) I looked over their website and found a few things, so, I ordered. My order came today! Here is what I got:
back to school supplies
Those cute butterfly notepads are going to be a part of introducing simple note-taking to my students. We begin the year studying life cycles. We observe caterpillars progress through their life cycle, so as the children observe the changes, they will write brief notes and draw a simple pencil sketch. From their "rough" notes, they will write more detailed sentences in their science notebook. We'll also use them for 'ticket out the door' in math or quick-checks for spelling patterns. These were in 4-packs for $2. 

The dotted and heart designed items are iPhone cases. These were $3! They aren't Kate Spade quality, like the one I have now, but they are a silicone-like material that will cushion a bit if when I drop my phone. I like them because I have a thing for polka dots and hearts. The selfie stick was a whim. I am not of the era to take a lot of selfies -- too self conscious -- but I can see my students using it. I might even get up the nerve to take a selfie or two. :-) The last item -- the lime green thingy with the propeller -- is a mini USB fan! How fun is that? I am a sucker for gadgets! This little baby will stir up some wind during our hot recess days. It plugs into the power opening on the phone and stirs up a decent breeze. I am wishing I had ordered more for fun gifts for my coworkers. 
back to school gadgets
I have loved my summer mainly because I didn't have to hold to any set schedule. That pressure that is always present, even on weekends during the school year, just fades away. It's pure bliss! However, when July 4th rolls around, my summer vacation begins its downward slope. It makes a bit sad, but I am starting to get antsy. I mean, there are only so many seasons (not episodes -- seasons) of Criminal Minds one can watch before complete paranoia sets in. WHY do they always get up to investigate that noise in the night??? For what it's worth,  I think it was a mistake for them to get rid of JJ, but I am only on season 6, so she might return! The real question is whether I will finish all eleven seasons before I go back to school! Talk about lofty goals! 

what teachers do in the summer

One other thing, or I should say two things, Walter Bishop  and SkippyJack, manage to keep me company. It's usually when I am trying to work. I love these guys. They are great friends and a couple of nutty playmates. Their favorite time to wrestle is first thing in the morning, when they realize I am awake, and at night when I go to bed. As you can see in the second picture, they sometimes decide they're BOTH going to hop into my lap. If you're a cat owner, you know that when a cat wants something, it is going to bug you until it gets it. 

Are you a cat person? Does your kitty insist on sitting in your lap when you're trying to work? Isn't it frustrating, but oh, so sweet? As the saying goes, "Dogs have masters. Cats have staff."  FYI -- Walter Bishop is the orange tabby. SkippyJack is the mixed-breed Ragdoll and Siamese.


teacher's summer activities
You may be asking, "HOW can she binge watch all those episodes?" I ask myself that, too, sometimes.  I need background noise while I work. I've been creating new products for my Teachers Pay Teachers shop. So far, Drop Dead Diva and Criminal Minds have kept me company while I created an informational product on the life cycle of apples, salmon, butterflies, chickens and pumpkins. It has some super-cute craftivities in it. I'm really pleased with it, because it requires students to apply what they have read and experienced with apples. I have finished the one on apples. The others are coming very soon!

informational texts about apples, second grade


I have also created an August-September Narrative Journal Writing product. It has writing prompts and extension activities for monthly celebrations. I love the way it turned out. I created assessment tools, graphic organizers and informational texts explaining what a paragraph is and what a personal narrative is. Everything gets copied and stapled into a monthly journal. Yep, I included the journal covers, writer's checklist and a writing survey for each month. 

narrative writing journals


opinion writing journal



It's fitting that I put this next thing with two in my Five for Friday. This year, my teammates and I are getting two new teammates. One of our original teammates moved to a different grade and the other retired. Our administrators asked us to be involved in the interview process, which is an awesome thing! We interviewed four candidates (out of over 200 resumes my principal received). They were all awesome, but we narrowed it down to the two we thought would bring the best talents and fit well with our personalities. Great news! They accepted the jobs! I'm looking forward to working with these two ladies. I think our team is going to rock it this year! 


teacher sunflowers
Finally, I'll leave you with a bit of happiness. These beauties were grown in my parents' garden. Wherever you are in your summer journey, I hope you are happy, rested, and spending time with people and fur babies who love you.