Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Christmas Party Prize Fun

If you read my blog about the classroom Christmas prize tree, you may have already thought of this idea, but, if on!

Students like to play Christmas games almost as much as they like to win a prize for winning the games. Instead of handing out prizes, create a Christmas tree out of paper lunch bags. Decorate them with Christmas stamps, stickers or bows. Inside of each bag, put prizes ranging from pencils and pens, cute erasers, Christmas candy, mini-staples, gift cards to a fast food restaurant-anything you can thing of that you can buy locally. (If you plan ahead, check out Oriental Trading for great prizes!) Tape the bags up on your wall or white board on the day of the party. You can make the tree as big as you need it to be.

Play a game. If you need ideas, check here or here or here! Let the winner choose her own bag or start at the bottom and move up the tree. Make sure the prizes have variety to keep the winners and the to-be-winners guessing!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Free or Inexpensive Classroom Party Ideas

The classic, last day of school Christmas party can be a lot of fun without a lot of money. In fact, the games can be full of fun and free!  Here are a few ideas:

1) Talent Show-Tell your students to group together or go it alone and do a talent show. Let the kids sing, do skits or tell funny jokes. Tell them they have to register with you. Set a time limit, like 3 minutes, on the performance. Encourage them to clap and encourage their classmates.

2) Candy Cane Hunt-Before the kids get to school, hid a bunch of candy canes around the classroom or the school yard. This activity works the same way an Easter egg hunt works; the kids fan out and try to find as many candy canes as they can. Save a few back in case some kids don't find any. If candy canes are too big to hide in your room, use Hershey Kisses instead.

3) Musical Chairs-Push the desks over to the wall. Put on the Christmas music and play the traditional musical chairs. If you have a large class, run two musical chairs circles at the same time. Remove one chair each time the music stops.

4) Giant cards for helpers-Use large construction paper. Working in groups, have students make cards for school workers who do not always feel appreciated. Examples would be the school cafeteria workers, office workers and janitorial staff.

5) Draw the Christmas Ornament-Put several unusual Christmas ornaments in a bag. Have a student (or the teacher) draw out one ornament; make sure no one sees it. Give detailed directions on how to draw the ornament. Compare pictures to the actual item.

6) Guess the tune-Give students a numbered paper. Play snippets of Christmas songs. As the student guesses the song, they write their choice on the correct number. Check the answers at the end to see who had the most correct answers.

Dollar Store Christmas Craft for Kids-Snowmen

Who doesn't love the dollar store when it comes to holiday crafting? Classroom teachers who supplement their classroom budgets are always looking for a deal and this one provides up to 12 crafts for little more than one dollar!

You are going to need to buy bright, single-color Christmas balls, white acrylic paint, a sponge brush and a black fine-point marker. Make sure you also have soap, water and towels on hand.

This is a great project to do when you have a parent or two who really wants to help out in the classroom available. Here's how to make your snowman ornament:

1) Get white acrylic paint on the sponge brush and paint the palm and fingers of a child.

2) Have them wrap the child fingers around the bulb with his fingers pointing up.

3) Wash off the child's hands and let the ornament dry.

4) Use a thin-point marker to draw buttons, hat, mouth and eyes on the snowmen. Then add some stick hands. Use a thin orange marker to add the snowman's carrot nose.

5) Add a colorful Christmas string to hang it on the tree.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Christmas Party Game for Groups

Christmas party fun will include school activities like spelling and cooperative learning if you play this fun Christmas party game. All you need are teams with at least one good speller on each time and one card for each letter of the words CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY-one set for each team. It will also help to have a little list of possible clues-so keep reading until you get to the end.

I cut 8 1/2 inch by 11 inch card stock in half because there are 16 letters. I spelled out the words by putting one letter on each card. It looked like this:

At our party, I will give the groups the same clue at the same time. The winning team is the team that spells a work that works first. Here are some examples:

1) What does almost every child hope to get for Christmas?

is what the correct answer would look like-but allow for others answers that work!

2) What do people send to each other?             Cards

3) What are Christmas songs called?                 Carols

4) What shines in the sky?                                Stars

5) What do people do to the tree?                    Trim

6) We all look forward to Christmas____.        Day

These will get you started....think of more if you need them. For my group, 6 is about all they can handle before they will be ready to the next game.  For more classroom Christmas game ideas, check out my other blog posts. 


Easy Classroom Christmas Games Based on Santa and Crew

Christmas party games for kids need to be simple and fast-paced to keep the wiggliest of students engaged. Try some of these fun Christmas games for your class party this year.

Santa Says is based on the old game, "Simon Says," the person who is it tells everyone what to do by saying, "Santa says to..." The leader tries to trick the others by not including "Santa says" but following through with the action his or herself. Elimination games can be fun, but those who are out early miss out on the fun. If you have a large class, allow the person who is the leader to be leader for a specific time. Then, choose the next leader from those who remain standing. Make the game fun by letting "Santa" where a hat!

Candy Cane Toss: See the directions for making and playing the game at Classroom Christmas Party Game from the Dollar Store.

Santa's Helper Relay: Divide the room up into teams. If there are uneven teams, have a player go twice. You will need Christmas wrapping paper, tape, scissors and bows. At the sound of "go," the first student in each group rushes to the other side of the room where a box and all the necessary wrapping supplies are located. He wraps the present, puts on the bow and rushes back to his group. The second student rushes to the table, unwraps the present and then wraps it again. The winning team is the first team to have everyone wrap the present and return to their group.

Pin the Nose of Rudolph, the Red-nosed Reindeer is a simple-to-make game based on Pin the Tail on the Donkey. On a piece of white foam board, project and trace a picture of Rudolph. Click here for a template that is free. Color it with markers. Cut out a strip of sticky adhesive Velcro and color it red with a marker. Stick it on Rudolph's nose. Make red nosed from cardstock or felt. Add the soft side of the Velcro to the noses. Color and add more sticky Velcro to Rudolph's body. Blind-fold each child and let them try to pin the nose in the correct place.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Inexpensive Christmas Craft

Never let an end of the year sale at a craft store get away from you. Because I went to a Michael's at the end of the season, I was able to purchase molds for Plaster of Paris Christmas ornaments, but the truth is, they weren't very expensive full-price! Those little molds help make a great, inexpensive Christmas craft!

Buy the molds and a box of Plaster of Paris. Mix it according to the directions on the box. Because I pour so many individual ornaments, I usually mix my plaster in Styrofoam cups. (If you mix plaster on top of plaster, it hardens too fast. I switch cups each time.) This time, I used an empty Almond Breeze box.

Carefully pour the mold and tap it gently to work out the air bubbles. Set it so it is flat-not at a slant.Let it set for about 10 minutes; then poke it with a toothpick to make an opening for the hook if you want to hang them on the tree. (Skip that step if you plan to turn them into magnets.) Let them set for about one hour. Carefully pop the ornament out of the mold and let it continue drying in a warm place for at least two days. In the meantime, with a free mold, you can make even more projects.

Buy both traditional Christmas paint and more modern colors, like purple and blue. Using smaller brushes, let the kids paint the ornaments any way they wish. Let them dry overnight and spary them with a coat of shellac. After they air dry, they are ready to be hung on the tree.

Monday, December 9, 2013

10 Minute Christmas Tree for the 10 Days Before School Break

Kids love advent calendars and there is an easy way you can incorporate one into your classroom. It is easy, fun and motivating all at once! The wonderful fact about the 10 minute, 10 day Christmas tree is that it truly only takes 10 minutes and doesn't have to be expensive.

To create the tree, all you need is a package of paper lunch sacks. You can use brown or white. Bows, stickers and/or Christmas stamps and tape finish the tree. Then, you will need goodies for the inside. This can be anything from Christmas candy to pencils. You decide what you want to put in it.

Open up 10 sacks and fill them with your goodies. You can draw one name a day or draw multiple names each day. For my tree, I put enough for two students in each bag because I have 20 students.

Then, fold over the top of the bag. Tape them shut. Add stickers and bows. (If you use stamps, you will want to stamp the design on the bags before you fill them.) Now you are ready to attach them to the wall. I used tape to hold my bags on the wall.

Decide what motivating factor you will use. For my students, two things we are working on is completing homework and being at school on time. Both requirements must be met the day your name is drawn. If the student didn't qualify, another name is drawn, but the original name is returned to the pot as a motivation for the next day. Others I know are using memorization work or homework for their motivation. Explain the advent calendar to the kids and begin opening a bag each day.

A special thank you to Suzy and Sandy, two of my greatest inspirations!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Classroom Christmas Party Game from the Dollar Store

If you are looking for ideas for classroom games, crafts and presents kids can make, you might want to become a follower because I will be adding several ideas this month. I say this for a reason!!!!!

Every year, I look all over for Christmas ideas for my classroom. This year, I decided to make up some of my own using items I actually bought at the 99 cent Store, but most, if not all are also available at The Dollar Tree. Christmas party games make the party more interactive than watching a I like playing games. This year, we are going to play a game that is simple to make, easy to play, but fun. 

The game is:


First, you will need to visit your local dollar store and buy the following items, unless you have them on hand:

1) Hard plastic candy canes
2) Votive candles (I bought vanilla scented
3) Holiday colored crafting pipe cleaners

Then, follow these steps and you will be ready to play!

STEP ONE: Remove the wick from the candle and hollow out a hole. I used a paint brush tip to hollow out mine. Test and make sure your hard plastic candy cane will fit inside. 

STEP TWO: Put a few drops of white school glue into the candle and press the candy cane into place. Set it aside and let it dry.

STEP THREE: Use three different colors of pipe cleaners to make the rings. Twist two pipe cleaners together by laying one color halfway up a second color and begin twisting. When you reach the end, hook a third color to the short pipe cleaner and continue twisting it with the remaining long piece. At the end of the shorter pipe cleaner, twist all three pieces together. Fluff it out into a circle. Now, make more. 

Once the glue is dry and the rings are made, your game is ready for action. My idea is to make five candy cane stands and give each child three rings. The winner is the one who get the most rings. Candy canes, in my mind, are the perfect prizes. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Renaissance in 3-D - Weapons

Attend a Renaissance Festival and watch your students. Many areas of interest are divided along gender lines. While one group tends to love the fairies and castles, the other is drawn like a moth to a flame to the ancient tools of war.

Do you want to catch your boys' interest when you study the Renaissance period? Throw in information about the weapons of the day and their ears may just perk up! The best part is that the students can make their own weapons with very little cost and no danger.

The Renaissance included weapons like knives, the mace, long sword and axes. Your students will make replicas using heavy cardboard, aluminum foil, faux gems, tubes, tape, rubber bands and glue.Let each student choose his or her own weapon. Have them sketch it out on a piece of cardboard. If the students are old enough and responsible enough, they can be cut out with Exacto knives. If they are not, have each student put their name on their art work and cut it out after class.

Place a thin layer of glue on the sword or knife cardboard and cover it with aluminum foil. On fancy pieces, like the sword, add glue and place faux gems along the handle. 

The mace takes the longest to create. Make a short chain from rubber bands. Poke holes in a thin cardboard tube and attach the rubber bands. Cover with with gray duct tape. Wrap the bands around a Styrofoam ball. Add aluminum foil, but bunch out little 'spikes as you add it. Put a thin line of glue along the last edge.

All of my students, male or female, introvert or extrovert, history buff or history hater-all of them enjoyed making the weapons. Two years later, a group of us were together and I noticed the kids discussing their weapons, calling them by name. Hands-on projects do make good connections!


Monday, August 26, 2013

Simple Tools for Assessment-Toothpicks

Last year, around Christmas time, I gave each of my students a small handful of toothpicks. I gave them directions to show me what Christmas made them think of-I can do that at my school. Then I started thinking, what else can I do with toothpicks.

Math: Toothpicks can be used to demonstrate any flat-sided figure. For example, squares, rectangles, triangles, hexagons, octagons and more. Numbers can also be formed with toothpicks because rounded numbers can be squared.

Toothpicks can also be used to make 3-D shapes like triangles, prisms, and other geometric figures. All you need to add are marshmallow. The marshmallows will be used to make the joints.

Geography: Use toothpicks to demonstrate a knowledge of various land forms, such as mountains, mesa or peninsula.

Spelling: Spell words using the toothpicks. Again, rounded letters can be squared.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Dinosaurs...How to dig for them in the classroom

Kids love learning about dinosaurs. The idea of discovering their own dinosaur was exciting to our 1-2 grade students. We didn't have a place to bury them, so we made our own dinosaur dig that can be used inside (if you cover the floor) or outside. Not telling the kids what they will find adds an element of suspense and fun to the activity.

First, buy plastic dinosaurs from a dollar store. They should be 2- to 3-inches in length. The hard plastic dinosaurs work the best. You will also need Plaster of Paris, sand, a disposable plastic container (like a large cottage cheese container) and Styrofoam cups.

Then, you will need to mix the Plaster of Paris with water. Add sand until you have a thick, grainy mixture that still pours. Pour the mixture into a Styrofoam cup until it is half full. Wiggle a dinosaur into the mixture, making it sure it doesn't reach the bottom. Finish filling the cup. Make one cup for each student. Allow them to sit for two days.

Peel the cup off of the mixture. Give the children plastic knives or use sticks. Let each child excavate his own dig. The fun grows once the first child finds his or her dinosaur. Now that they know they each have one, the others dig with more intensity to discover which dinosaur they will discover.

The expression on his face expresses how much fun he had. This is a fun way to introduce or conclude a unit on dinosaurs.

Friday, August 23, 2013

What do plastic bags have to do with science inquiry?

The first week of school, I like to think outside of the textbook. That isn't always easy when you have diverse ages and grades...sometimes it isn't easy if they are just alike. Well, science can be a challenge, so I went to a book I have about science and plastic bags. I gave everyone what they needed, a large book, a straw and a baggie. As I was about to describe the experiment procedure to them, something overcame my mind and a whole new thought came out. Instead of saying, "Try to raise this book using the materials you have?", I said, "Use what you have and create an experiment." Those were my total directions.

What fun it was to watch them put their heads together and come up with their own ideas! They create experiments that demonstrated air pressure that would lift a book (the original idea), force air out of the bag, open the book and, some even added another piece of equipment and made their books look like lungs as they inhaled and exhaled.

There are a few great things about open-ended science inquiry projects. First, the students discover the joy of investigation. Because I was not telling what to do, they were free to use their own inquiries and their own imaginations. Second, ability was not important. Experiments that are simple, yet open-ended, allow students who do not excel in science to enjoy the subject and gain confidence in the subject. Finally, the only thing I, the teacher, had to do was rotate around the room and answer any questions they had. Because they were so involved, there was no need for discipline.

You can see by the smile that, while science was happening, fun was also a part of the experiments.

As you can see from the picture, once they had done all they could with what they had, they added to the experiments by using a ruler. 

When they were done, they each explained their own experiments and what they had learned. Watching them take ownership of their learning was fun!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Back to School Fun

We all headed back-to-school today. The kids-and I-had a great day! We laughed; we played. They had fun; I learned lots. After a busy, busy day...I took a few moments to review!

One of the things that they did was fill out an interest survey about reading.

Now, I not only have the information to get books for my classroom that will be read but I also have ideas to make my lessons more interesting for my students. 

We played a game that involved group work. This is where you find out who your leaders are, who doesn't "play well with others," and who let's everyone else do all the work. It was fun watching them figure out the clues. 

First, I put name cards on their desks using colored note cards. The color of the card determined each child's group. Then, as you can see in the picture, I sat out one table for each group. On each table was a white page, colored their shade in the corner. The bag included everything they needed, except the clues. 

I handed out envelopes for each team and they were off and running. The first thing they had to do involved squirt guns (you could use spray bottles) and one sign per group with washable markers on it. 

They had to read something for each clue, figure out what they needed, find it and check with the teacher to make sure they were right. The game was based on The Amazing Race, complete with challenges. All of the materials they needed were easy to find in nature.

Because we are doing whole brain activities in our class, we gave the winning team a 10 finger woo. If you don't know what I am talking about, check out Whole Brain Teaching's website by clicking here.

We watched a video. After the video was over, they worked in groups to bring out the main teaching points of the video. This was a fun assignment because two of my students had never worked in groups before and they couldn't understand why everyone didn't get a white board and marker. They got an extra is cooperative education as they learned that the group, not they, were responsible for the answers. 

What is your favorite back-to-school activity?

Saturday, August 10, 2013

We have a winner!

Congratulations to Laura Mullane! You are the winner of the set of magnets, the science center and the reading stamps. Here they are-but, of course, you get the real thing! I hope you enjoy them!

Friday, August 2, 2013

FREE classes for teachers!

While perusing the web to help a friend in need of online professional growth, I came upon a wonderful site. I know I was looking for her, but I ended up signing up for a class that began on Monday! Imagine combining inquiry learning and art to teach critical thinking. I am loving the class, so I wanted to share the program with you! 

If you sign up, you won't look like this:

That's because class materials are online-mostly articles that you are required to read. You read, watch a video and participate on a group board to answer the question of the week. You even have a weekly quiz. The class I am taking, "Art and Inquiry: Museum Teaching Strategies For Your Classroom," only lasts for 4 weeks. If you hurry, I don't think it is too late for you to sign up and catch up!

To get to the site where you can sign up for classes, click on Coursera. They will take you to their site where you can sign up and get started. I have to tell you that I am loving my first course. I am not sure how it will be when I add more, because I signed up for about nine of them! Head over and check out what they have to offer. I would like to say that you may want to check with your district to find out if they will accept them for professional development hours! If they don't, look anyway. Some of them sound like a lot of fun!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

First Day Frenzy-Free on TpT

Free is always good...but especially at the beginning of the school year! As you know, it is almost time to head back to school and I know you are busy planning what you are going to do on the first day of school. In my classes, I like to include cooperative activities that get the kids working together. One of the things that my kids have loved is a game that I call, "First Day Frenzy."

Head over to my TeachersPayTeachers store, Porcupine Press by clicking here. It is a great activity that makes the first day fun, but it can be used for any subject as a review tool. First Day Frenzy is also a great way to fill in unexpected time lapses in your classroom.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Filing Cabinet Make-Over

We've all had them-ugly filing cabinets sitting around. I had an especially ugly, tan two-drawer cabinet sitting behind my desk. With a sudden burst of inspiration, I decided that the ugly cabinet would benefit from a total make-over. It was easy, especially when I had my super-handy husband giving me advice.

The first thing I had to do was to prepare the filing cabinet to be painted. My husband taught me how to use wet sanding paper. I thought you got the paper wet. Seems that wasn't the total story. Here is my first lesson in picture form.

Notice the hose; keep the water flowing while you rub the filing cabinet with a special sandpaper that is meant to use wet. Rough up all the sides and the top. 

Tape the metal on the front. Because I planned to use a fancy paper, I covered up the enter square. 

Then it was time to spray the filing cabinet with a self-etching primer. When you are done, it shouldn't look like this: 

It should look like this:

Let it dry overnight. Wipe it down to brush off any excess primer.

I decided I wanted a pattern on my drawers, I spray painted them pink. 

After they dried completely, I taped them with painter's tape. Then I painted everything dark purple.

This time I didn't wait for the paint to dry completely. I slowly removed the painter's tape. Then I let it dry. Once it dried, my sweet husband helped me put the drawers back into the filing cabinet. 

This is the finished product!

I put it in my classroom today. I love the way it looks!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

I Love TeachersPayTeachers: Here's Why!

A few days ago, I read a well-written article by a kindergarten teacher stating why he didn't care for TeachersPayTeachers. The article was thought-provoking and he made his point quite well. I cannot disagree with his reasons. I started to thing about TpT and came to the realization that I really like the site. I will qualify my feelings with the fact, though I do have a store, that I have made zero dollars off of the site. If fact, I only have two freebies on there right now. So, why do I like it? Well...

I teach in a multi-grade classroom. Sometimes our lessons overlap and we are studying the same thing. I may need a little bit more than I have for one or more levels. A quick on-line check and I almost always find what I want at the appropriate level on TeachersPayTeachers.

My classroom is on a very limited budget. TeachersPayTeachers had a plethora of free downloads in just about any genre you might need. I have downloaded many of them.

Sometimes, my kids just don't get a concept and I am so busy teaching and grading papers for my six grade levels that the idea that I can find materials on TpT is invigorating to a certain degree.

Most of the sellers on TpT are not trying to become millionaires overnight. They price their materials in a range my personal budget can afford. Since I change my curriculum every year because of a rotating schedule, and because I like my ideas to be fresh and new, I am always looking for ideas. The prices really work for me.

It gives teachers an opportunity to earn a little extra (or for some a lot of extra) money. Everyone knows that teachers are worth more than they are paid but budgets at schools are tight. TeachersPayTeachers gives teachers an opportunity to put their hard work to work for them. The idea that teachers must always help each other and give everything away for free is dispelled by other brick and mortar companies who have producing "teacher created" materials for years.

Back to School Ideas, Links and Freebies

It is time to get back into the swing of things at school. Decorating the classroom is a fun activity, especially if you have free resources to us when you start decorating. Here are a few links that will provide you with fun, free materials.

1) Visit Confessions of a Teaching Junkie on Facebook and hit like. You will be able to download a pdf file with fun, colorful door art. Once you hit like, click on Fan Freebies and download the material! If you want to look at it first, visit her blog by clicking here.

2) Avery has some really cute school designs that you can use for free. Click over here and you will find everything from dinosaurs to pencils...Follow the directions to make your classroom labels, complete with words. Save them and copy them off when you are ready.

3) Free ideas that someone else has worked to collect is a wonderful thing. Conversations in Literacy (click here) has collected some great ideas from Pinterest for decorating the classroom.

4) Cute directions for a personalized wreath for your classroom door brought to you by designing my home on a project at a time. Click here for a how-to!

Win free supplies for your classroom by checking out these sites.

1) Teacher Created Resources has a great giveaway. Click here to sign up to win a free iPad. Recommend your friends and, if a friend wins, you will win a mini iPad. It is a win/win deal.

2) Edutopia is an excellent education site that will help you keep up with everything happening in education. They also have weekly giveaways. Click here to check them out. 

3) Porcupine Press is giving away Reading Stampers, a Science Center and Magnet Rings. Check the give-away out here

Sunday, July 21, 2013


I love getting something free! I am also enjoying the increased activity on my blog. I decided to share two free things with readers over the next two weeks. All my readers have to do is:

1) Follow my blog.
2) Leave a comment on any post on my blog.
3) Email me your address.
4) Like on my Facebook page.

WIN this:

Magnets on rings: great for classroom experiments or student prizes.

AND this:

Critical Thinking Science flip center for grades 3+

AND this:
Cute stampers for reading. 

Entries are easy! Just sign up for my blog using Network Blogs or Google Friends. Visit my Facebook page and click like. Presto! You are entered. Winners will be announced and I will have you email me your address to get the prizes off to you!

Deadline to enter: Friday, August 9 at 12 o'clock noon Pacific Time!!!

#backtoschool #win #freesupplies