Wednesday, April 16, 2014

5 Ways to PREPARE and MOTIVATE your students for testing


Although many teachers (myself included) disagree with the amount of pressure surrounding high stakes testing, one thing is for certain… these tests are here to STAY!

So what can you do to prepare and motivate your own class?

Just keep on reading and I’ll share with you a few ideas that I’ve used with my own 3rd graders. I believe that each of these resources have helped to motivate and calm those pesky pre-test jitters.

1. THINKING MAPS- Break students up into groups and have them brainstorm everything they’ve learned this year in regards to reading or math. (Those are the two subject areas my students test in). What I LOVE about this activity is that it jogs children’s memories, helps them realize exactly how much information they actually DO know/have learned, and is a great self esteem booster as well. Watch your children beam with pride as they turn in their “busy” thinking maps highlighting everything they “know”. Take a look at some maps my students created this year…



2. Read Aloud- Read a few funny and kid friendly stories that help students realize that they are not the only ones that worry or suffer anxiety, especially before the BIG TEST! I think it’s important to get our kiddos to laugh and smile at a time when many of them are suffering the dreaded butterflies in the stomach syndrome. Here are a few books that I absolutely adore for this time of the year…

Read Aloud JPEG

Testing Read Alouds JPEG

3. Motivating Mottos- During this time of year, many children begin to doubt their abilities and all too often we begin to hear “I can’t…”, “I don’t remember”, or “I don’t know how!” Why not turn that negativity around and have children illustrate positive phrases. Then post them up around the classroom during testing days to remind your students that they ARE super readers and that they CAN succeed!



4. Write About It- Students spends way too much time talking and thinking about what might happen if they DON’T pass the “Big Test”. Why not have them turn that negativity around by having them write about what happened the day that they DID PASS.


5. Love Notes- This last idea is one of my favorites… Every year, right before testing, I send home a Top Secret envelope with instructions for parents and loved ones to write words of encouragement for their children. If we test for 4 days then I include 4 different note cards for parents to decorate and personalize. I even include a sheet with sample phrases that they can get ideas from. Then on each morning of testing, before students arrive, I place their love notes on their desks. As they walk in, I get to sit back and watch the magic happen…

My kiddos faces beam with joy as they read and share how much their loved ones believe in them. Take  a peak…









I hope you find these tips useful with your own students and that they help bring a little bit of sunshine to your own classroom during those dreaded testing days. If you have any other tips or ideas that you’ve found to be beneficial with your own class I’d love to hear about them. I’m always on the look out for new ways to motivate my babies.

Good luck and happy testing!


Thursday, February 27, 2014

3 Million Teachers Strong TPT Sale

If you’re looking for some wonderful resources for your classroom then now’s the time to take advantage of a HUGE sale going on over at Teachers Pay Teachers. Simply click on the image below to be taken to my store where everything is reduced 28%. Then stop on by  all the other fabulous stores while you’re there.


Happy Shopping!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Animal Classification Craft-ivity

animal craftivity JPEG

A few weeks ago, Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Store contacted me about taking part in their #teachercreativity Blog Hop. That’s when I got an idea about creating a craft-ivity to add to my upcoming animal unit.

You see every year my 3rd graders and I spend some time learning about the different animal groups. We read books, watch videos, play animal classification games online, (click here, and here to see some of those games) and talk about unique animal characteristics.

But this year I wanted to include something for my visual and kinesthetic learners…especially since this is how my group tends to learn best. I understand where they’re coming from being a HUGE visual learner myself.

(You know you’re visual when your husband grabs napkins at a restaurant to draw pictures for you.)


To get started, I used a few basic craft supplies that I found at one of my favorite stores, Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores. The best part is that they have a Teacher Rewards program where you can save 15% on every purchase in store or online. {To register simply click on the image below. When you enroll, you will also get a 20% bonus coupon sent to your email.}

joann teacher rewards


Getting back on track with the Animal Craft-ivity… The goal of the first project was to help my students  remember that fish have skin made up of scales, they lay millions of tiny eggs, breathe through gills, live in the water, and are cold blooded. Wow, that’s A LOT of information… so let’s get started.


In order to create a scaly texture on the fish, I first traced a body for my fish onto aluminum foil. I then used 1 inch circles that were cut in half and glued them to the BACK side of the fish.


(In the picture above, the scales are glued onto white paper, but for this project remember to use aluminum foil. See the picture below)


Next, flip the body of the fish over so that you cannot see the scales and use your fingers (NOT nails) to rub on the foil until the scales begin to appear like so…


Pretty cool huh?

Next, I added the tail, fin, and eye. I also used Tulip fabric paint (like puffy paint) to make dots representing the million of tiny eggs fish lay.

The following craft-ivity was actually one of my favorites and the trickiest to come up with. It’s not easy recreating smooth, wet animal skin…


When it comes to amphibians and reptiles, kids tend to get a bit confused. They can’t quite remember if it’s the amphibian or the reptile with smooth, moist skin.

To create a moist, smooth skin texture, I used a ziploc bag with a few drops of green paint. You can see the green baggie below.


To make the smooth, skinned frog, simply tape the baggie down to the brown construction paper and place the frog body with the midsection cut out on top. (You can download this template and templates for each of these projects for FREE by clicking here.)

animal craftivity poster pattern JPEG

I think that after this project, when my students think of amphibians, they’re going to quickly remember that moist, green baggie. Don’t you think so?

tadpoles JPEGBy the way, I can’t forget to mention the tadpoles made of Tulip fabric paint swimming around in the pond. Aren’t they just adorable? I think they’ll remind my students that frogs begin in the water as tadpoles with gills, and develop into frogs with lungs living on the land.

Craft-ivity #3 was less complex and involved R-E-P-T-I-L-E-S. I recreated reptile skin with this FABULOUS Gauze Paper I found at JoAnn. It had the perfect texture to remind kids that reptiles have dry, scaly skin. If you look closely at Reptile JPEGthe picture you can see the texture… Imagine what it feels like when you touch it! Rough and dry…perfect for reptiles!

I also included a baby hatching from an egg in the bottom since MOST reptiles lay eggs.

(NOT all though… Did you know that Pythons are born live?)Slide14

If your students would like, they can even add a small Python in the corner giving birth to live young…

Also, notice how I included water and land. I wanted to emphasize that some reptiles live on land and others in water.Slide11

Birds was next… pretty straight forward though. I made a mama bird with its baby bird hatching from an egg and glued a feather to the body to show that birds have feathers. (You could also have your students use construction paper to make a tree branch to show the habitat birds belong in.) I love craft-ivities… I think they’re so much fun…sorry can’t help myself :0)


And last but not least, was mammals. I made this adorable, furry mama bear with it’s baby bear hiding in the grass. Aren’t they too cute? To remind students that mammals have fur/hair, I traced the bear’s body onto brown felt. Now students can “pet” their bear and remember what kind of skin mammals have.

There you have it, a FUN, & INTERACTIVE Animal Craft-ivity to help your students remember the characteristics of each of the 5 animal groups! I hope you’ve been able to get a few ideas from this post that you can use in your own classroom.

If you’d like to checkout a few other projects to help foster creativity in the classroom, these four other teachers will be sharing their ideas during the week. Stop on by and get your creative juices flowing… and let them know I sent you their way :0)

Tuesday: Beach Sand and Lesson Plans

Thursday: Learning in the Little Apple

Friday: Ms. Fultz’sCorner

Here’s a coupon to help you out…

Just print it out and shop ‘til you drop:0)MLKcoupon

  Thanks so much for stopping by…


(This post includes a review for craft supplies purchased at Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores and is part of a Jo-Ann campaign. I did receive compensation for this review; however, this is my personal and honest feelings based on my experience.)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Stop…Jot.. and Think!

For the past few weeks I’ve been contemplating how to get my students more involved with what they’re reading. How do I get them to think, question, feel, or react to text WHILE they’re reading, and not just wait until the very end of a text 2 pages long, to realize that they don’t understand. It’s as if they’ve been programmed to read… read… read… read some more…stop when you reach the end…ok now answer questions.

I mean does that make any sense? Do any of your kids do the same?

Stop and Jot Poster JPEG Well, in order to tackle this task, I decided to introduce “Stop and Jot”. Basically, I gave everyone a yellow post it note.  We then read Slide6an  article from our Scholastic Storywork’s magazine. (I absolutely l-o-v-e this magazine… some of the articles are a bit difficult, but then again Common Core is rigorous!) I paused throughout the reading and asked students questions such as “how do you think the character was feeling, how does that make you feel”, etc… Students recorded their responses on the post it. I let them respond with a picture, a few words, or a sentence… whatever they felt comfortable doing. We shared our responses and then added our post its to our Team Tweets Chart.


Take a look at some of our responses after reading a Narrative Nonfiction about the experience of Jack Thayer, a young boy who survived the Titanic’s disastrous voyage.Slide1





Did you notice that some of them have that Jack was happy and then later on write he was horrified or scared. They’re absolutely correct… his feelings change throughout the story. I think that pausing and having my class Stop and Jot helped some of them pick up on this.

The next day we took our post its and used it to help us respond to the reading. I asked them to write about how Jack’s feelings had changed throughout the passage and to provide details and evidence.

Criticial Thinking Pics final jianna JPEG

I was thrilled at the progress we had made…

The following day we used a new story, but this time we jotted right alongside the text.


Here’s a closeup of some of the thinking going on…



Why the red pen you may ask… just because it’s DIFFERENT and FUN! The kids loved being able to write with their red pens. Such simple things can make learning so much fun :0)

After reading, jotting, discussing, and analyzing, I felt we were ready to complete our Somebody, Wanted, But, So, Then organizer.

Criticial Thinking Pics final REVISED JPEG

The students did a GREAT job!

The past few days did take time, and every day when I ended the lesson I found myself wishing that I had more time 2 teach… However, I felt that because we paused and thought about the text WHILE reading, my students were able to comprehend a little bit better.

In the end, my goal is not to have to prompt them to stop and jot/think, but that they will do it automatically in their heads.

Stay tuned for later on this week, when I show you what we ended up doing with our Somebody Wanted But So Then organizers. (Oh and by the way, if you’re looking for a FREE copy of this fabulous organizer, you can visit Storie’s store by clicking here.)

Thanks for stopping by…


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