Test Prep Ideas & Freebies!

Monday, March 20, 2017 / Leave a Comment
Like it or not, it's that time of year again for many of us- time for the dreaded test prep.  If you're like me, I was always looking for new ideas for review to incorporate along with my tried and true strategies and activities.  This is a compilation of some great posts and freebies that might be useful to you this year (or something you can plan on using next year)!

Test prep posts, resources and freebies!

Motivational notes are one thing that I used every year!  Each day of our testing my kiddos would get a cute themed note with a matching snack or little prize.  It would be on their desk in the morning when they walked it.  Our testing is usually around Easter time so those bunny peeps were in good supply, so I used these cute notes along with a bunny peep or two on their desks.  Grab this freebie in my store and then get some peeps!

Grab some bunny peeps and get this testing motivational note FREEBIE!

Need some more motivational ideas?

  • More Time 2 Teach has a FANTASTIC motivational notes idea that includes parent involvement!  
  • Hanging With Mrs. Hulsey has some great motivational ways to prep for testing in this post.
  • Teaching in Stripes has some super cute ideas for testing treats for students and teachers.

Are you looking for some ideas or resources for Reading test prep?

  • Stress Free Teaching has a great post about using the R.A.C.E.S strategy for writing responses to questions in reading.  I wish I would have known about this earlier! Putting it on my "future ideas" list for sure.  
  • Use these great Reading Test Prep Task Cards from The Brighter Rewriter.  You could use these as a fun Scoot game review!
  • You can get your students thinking and generalizing the design of reading test questions using this Answering Reading Test Questions Sort from Tarheelstate Teacher.

Looking for a fun overview of test taking strategies?

  • This cute iStrategies activity from Rock & Teach will help you review all of the test taking strategies.  It can be personalized for the strategies you teach in class!

Want to incorporate technology into your test prep?

  • Check out this awesome post from The Techie Teacher all about free Technology Enhanced Items (TEI) practice sites.  Perfect if you are in a state or grade level that requires students to take their standardized tests on the computer!
  • Dirt Road Teacher has some free DIGITAL math test prep task cards for 3rd grade that look great!

Teaching a higher grade level or needing some more secondary resources?

  • This is a great post from Secondary English Coffee Shop with tons of tips for preparing students for standardized tests.  She includes strategies for reading, writing, listening and academic vocabulary that students should know!
  • Check out this free Poetry Analysis Worksheet from The Owl Spot that you can use with any poem to analyze and gain a deeper understanding of the author's use of poetry to communicate his/her ideas.





Natural, Capital, and Human Resources Freebie

Tuesday, March 7, 2017 / Leave a Comment
Hello darlings!  Amy here from That Teaching Spark!  How do you make social studies come alive in your classroom?  It can be boring and stuffy, especially if you have to teach it using a terrible text book.  Thankfully Economics is one of those concepts that you can spice up!  There are so many real world applications!  Checkout Cassandra Hathaway's Lemonade Stand for example!

In my school, my entire grade level teaches Economics using a Carnival Theme.  At the end of our unit, students work in groups to create a real carnival booth in which they provide a good or service. My students absolutely LOVE it and it is something that they talk about when they come visit me.

Check out some booths below!








Teaching the Economics concepts to get students to this point is half the fun!  I'm including two free lesson ideas for teaching Natural, Capital, and Human Resources!  

To teach this concept, we talk about ice cream and all the food, tools, and work needed to create it.  My kiddos love using the Interactive Smartboard Lesson because they get to manipulate the screen to find the answer! 

Don't have smartnotebook?  No problem!  You can still use it on your projector with a mouse if you download the free Interactive Viewer Software from Smart Interactive Viewer
 Next students use their knowledge to determine the Natural, Capital, and Human Resources needed to make a Hamburger!



If you would like to try the ECON CARNIVAL or just need some awesome lessons to teach your economics unit, go grab the unit below!


Have fun teaching social studies!


Lemonade Stand Economics

Saturday, February 25, 2017 / Leave a Comment
Economics is such a hard task for third graders to understand, that by bringing it to life students are able to explore and understand key vocabulary easier!

Economics can be such a hard task for third graders to comprehend, so I found a way to bring it to life! Bringing units to life like this gives students more of a hands on approach, and then they are able to explore and learn even more about real world opportunities!

Working on a budget is a great way for students to get real life practice on a skill they will need throughout their whole life!

Budgets are a real world example of something that they will use ALL THE TIME! I love pointing out how students will use what we are doing in class in their real life! It helps them know that we are covering concepts that are important, and that they can carry on in to the real world.  This lemonade unit has a great budget that they have to keep track of.  They are keeping track of not only the product that they have on hand, but also the cost of the product. Then they have to keep track of how many customers they have, and in turn how many sales they will have each day.

Students need to explore and see that there is more than ONE correct way to solve an answer!

Showing students that it is okay to order differently, or set different goals for yourself too! Not every business is ran the same way, or has the same expectations for themselves each day. By giving students the opportunity to explore with their numbers, and make decisions for themselves, you are allowing them the chance to explore what it could be like in the real world running their own business.

My students were very excited to do these activities for the week during our social studies unit.  We would work on one part each day, and I would help check their math for them. This was then a cross curricular activity as working on a budget is very math friendly.  It also helped break up the unit so after we learned about more vocabulary or out of our text books they knew that they were going to have something hands on to explore and check out!

If you are interested in checking out this amazing lemonade stand math unit it is FREE!!  You can grab it from my TPT store and look into how you can have your students explore their economic choices!


Art & Activities with Ancient Egypt

Thursday, February 23, 2017 / 1 comment

One social studies topic I loved teaching my 3rd graders was ancient civilizations. Their favorite was always Ancient Egypt.  Obviously, the history of this period was so interesting- pyramids, mummies, pharaohs and hieroglyphics- it sucks kids in!  Sometimes, just sometimes, I like to take the opportunity to bring in some engaging crafts and activities and this unit was always perfect for that. Here are some of my favorite ideas to bring in some fun art and activities with ancient Egypt:

This is something that I did every year with my students and they loved it!  I usually just projected all the hieroglyphs for the alphabet on my white board and everyone drew their own names and decorated however they wished.  Click here for a special freebie that includes the hieroglyphic alphabet and some other fun activities.

Ancient Egyptians used hieroglyphics to write and decorate pyramids.  Now your students can write their own names using hieroglyphics with this fun FREEBIE!

These are both fun and easy to make! All you for the cat mummies are paper tubes (toilet paper or paper towel rolls cut in half, some metallic colored paint and a black marker.  Simply squash in the top of your paper tubes to make the ears of the cat.  Then paint the tube with any metallic color paint. After the paint dries you can use a black permanent marker to draw and decorate the cat design for your mummy.
Paper tube Egyptian cat mummies are a fun and easy craft activity to supplement your unit about Ancient Egypt!


Okay, kids love building things and this is one that everyone will like.  Your students can build pyramids with legos, duplos, blocks, and even geoblocks! Break out those math manipulatives for social studies. :)
Add a little something to your study of ancient Egypt by building pyramids with legos or blocks!

You can directed drawing with anything! This directed drawing from Art Projects for Kids is a great addition to your Egyptian unit.  They give directions for how to draw King Tut- perfect for painting or coloring.
Picture via Art Projects for Kids
If you are looking for some reading practice (or test prep- EEK!) you might want to check out my All About Egyptian Mummies non fiction article.  It comes with an original article, comprehension questions, language editing practice and graphic organizers. 

Get some reading test prep in with this engaging article about ancient Egyptians mummies.


Teaching History: The U.S. Constitution

Friday, February 17, 2017 / Leave a Comment
Hey Friends!  It's Rachel, A Tall Drink of Water here.  Teaching history has to be one of my favorite things to teach especially American History!  The part about teaching history in 3rd grade is that it's usually the first time they've studied it in school (at least here in South Carolina) and they are always so eager to learn more!
Ideas for teaching about the US Constitution plus a free printable readers theater
I usually teach about the Constitution and our Government right after we finish our unit on the American Revolutionary War.  So when I talk about why the Founding Fathers decided to create the Constitution, I like to show them this 3 part video series from www.mountvernon.org Each video is about 6 minutes long.  It's nice that it's in 3 parts in case you need to split it to different days.
Ideas for teaching about the US Constitution plus a free printable readers theater
Another thing I love to do during our unit is this FREE Reader's Theater!
It's great because it not only helps your students learn the Preamble, but it explains the meaning!  Always a win-win!  I usually like to have my students "perform" it for another class to give them a purpose for reading.
Ideas for teaching about the US Constitution plus a free printable readers theater
I also show this Liberty Kids video about the Constitution Convention.  We watch quite a few of these episodes during our American Revolution unit and students love them!
This usually leads us right into our discussion on the branches and levels of government!
Do you have any great resources for teaching about the Constitution?


The Must Do May Do List: A Classroom Game Changer

Sunday, February 12, 2017 / Leave a Comment


Since I started teaching last January, I have struggled with how to manage both my Reading and Math Centers. For a long time, I just went with your typical center rotations that were timed for 15-20 minutes each and the students rotated through them over 2 days, but I was never truly happy with how they were working.  I felt like I wasn't getting enough time with some of lower groups and that some students (who really need the practice that center activities offer) just were not getting enough time to finish the work at each center. I spent months trying to come up with alternatives that would work with my group of students, who had a hard time getting assignments done. 

What is Must Do May Do?


Finally one day I was scrolling through my Instagram feed and saw a post from Peppy Zesty Teacherista about how she uses an idea known as "Must Do, May Do" for her centers. After reading her initial post about it, I was hooked (You can find the post I am referencing here). It sounded and looked like the perfect solution for my classroom. It would allow the students to work at a pace that worked for them and gave me the freedom to meet with my different levels of groups for different amounts of time!

I introduced and implemented this idea the next week in just Language Arts to see how it would go. For the most part it went wonderfully and exactly as I had envisioned it going. The only problem I had was with a few friends who seemed to be unable to get started at all because they really needed to be told to do an exact assignment each day. I realized they needed to use more then the template from Peppy Zesty Teacherista to be successful during center work. So I created a Modified Must Do, May Do List. It has all of the same assignments on it as the general students list does, but tells them specifically which one to do on each day. It also does not show them the may do tasks, so they stay focused on what I actually want turned in. I also strategically have them all on different activities each day, so they are not all together (because these students are typically distracting each other from working). The sheet is personalized with their name on top, so they know it belongs to them. 

After two weeks of using this in Language Arts, I implemented it into my Math Block as well and it went very smoothly as well. I just love the flexibility I have to meet with groups and individual students now. The one adjustment I have made is now also posting all of the Must Do assignments as a list on the board. I do this because I was getting tired of reprinting so many copies of the Must Do May Do lists, because my students would constantly misplace their copy of the list for the week. Now if they loose it, they can just reference the board to see what all they can be working on. I project these lists using Teach Create Motivate's timer slides. In the next section, I will let you know why I use slides that have timers on them. 

How does Must Do May Do Fit Into My Schedule

So you may be wondering how I fit and use the Must Do May Do concept in my day. I now use it for both Language Arts and Math. For Math I have about an hour total for my block. I will use the first 10-15 minutes introducing a new concept or reviewing new content that is being taught throughout the week. On Mondays, I use the next 10 minutes introducing the tasks on the Must Do, May Do list and giving directions on where to find the supplies and where to complete and turn assignments in (i.e on paper, in our online classroom notebook, their math journal, etc). After that the students get to work on the first assignment that they choose. On Mondays they have about 35 minutes to work on their tasks and then Tuesday-Friday they have between 45-50 minutes each day to work on the tasks. During that time I try and fit in at least 2 groups of students each day for about 20 minutes each, but the number varies dependent on the skill level of the groups I am meeting with. 

It is a similar set up for Language Arts. For my L.A block I have about 75 minutes. I use the 1st 10-15 minutes to do a read aloud/introduce a new concept/review content that we are going to continue working on. Then just like Math I take about 10 minutes on Monday's to introduce and give directions for each task on the Must Do List. Then they use the 50 minutes we have left to get started on their tasks. On Tuesdays-Friday's they have about 60 minutes to work during Language Arts. 

For both Math and L.A I have slides (that have all assignments listed on them) with timers projected. I have the timers running for 20 minutes and then starting over again. I do this to give the students a heads up about how much time has passed and that it may be about time that they should be working on another task. No task I give to them should really take them more then 20 minutes to finish unless they are a very low student. The timers make a quick chime signally that it has been 20 minutes. 

If we have a lot of testing or something else going on during the week, I will give the students extra time to work on their tasks during our RTI time if they are not being pulled for a group. 

What are my students doing during Must Do, May Do time?

You may be wondering what my students are doing during this time. My students have many different tasks they can be working on. Listed below are the typical assignments I give to them each week. Every once in awhile I will add in a different assignment if it goes along with the content, but for the most part I like to keep the same types of assignments each week and just change the topic, so my students know how to complete the assignments and what is expected of them. In Math I typically give 5 tasks and I typically give 6 in L.A since we have more time in our L.A block then Math. 

Math Tasks

*IXL Assignments
*Task Cards( Typically focused on the current topic or most recently taught one)
*Spiral Review Center Activities (Topic is based on needs of class)
*Math Journal Prompt
*Math Games
*Current Concept Practice Sheet

Language Arts Tasks

*MyOn Reading Assignments (This site is similar to RazKids)
*Writing Prompts
*Task Cards (Typically do a grammar concept or review of something that may need more practice)
*Read for 20 Minutes and Respond (I have them do this 2-3 times a week)
*Response to Class Read Aloud
*Assignment that Goes Along with Current Content
*Word Work Activities

For the May Do Assignments, I typically have more content based game sites available along with extra reading time, IXL time etc. I pick things that my students think are fun and really enjoy doing in the classroom since it is like an incentive to get all of the required work done first, so they can do what they really like to work on. 

What am I doing durning Must Do, May Do Time?

As a teacher, I really love Must Do, May Do time because of the flexibility it gives me with my time to get done what I need to get done. The majority of my time during it is spent meeting with my groups in Math and Reading. Some groups that are higher I may only meet with for a few minutes to check in and see how they are doing, while I may meet with my lower groups who need more intense interaction and instruction for 20-25 minutes at a time. These lists really give me the freedom to do what needs to get done and doesn't hold me to the amount of time on the center rotation timer. Here is a list of a few other things I do during this time to work with students. 

*DRA Progress Monitoring
*One on One Math Lessons
*Reading Intervention Lessons
*Individual Reading Conferences
*Remediation Strategy Groups based on Previous Data

What do I expect from my students during this time

From day one of starting our Must Do lists, I have laid out a list of expectations for my students that is posted for them to see on the slides while they are working to remind them at all times of the high expectations I have for them. If I see a student who is not meeting the behavior expectations during the Must Do time, I will call their name and ask them to go and take a moment to go reread the bottom of the board to remind themselves of how they should be acting. Below is a list of the expectations I have for my students when they are working. 

*Get started on an assignment right away
*Work Independently
*Work Silently 
*Do not mess around on the computers
*Ask the Direction Director and 2 others before interrupting the teacher.
*If the teacher calls you to come work with her, go straight to her.

Hopefully this post has given you some insight onto how a Must Do list works and why they can be a great benefit to your students and to your teaching. You can find a link below to the individualized Must Do template listed in my store as a freebie. If you are looking for the general Must Do list template I have shown in pictures, it was from the Peppy Zesty Teacherista's post I linked to a few paragraphs up in the post. It is listed as an editable freebie in her post. If you have any other questions   about the specifics of using a Must Do list in your classroom, feel free to email me at annahines@creativeteacherresources.com.









Anna Hines is a 3rd Grade Teacher in Northern Virginia. She is author of Creative Teacher Resources. You can find her at the following links. 


Teaching Author's Purpose & Viewpoint

Friday, February 10, 2017 / Leave a Comment

Hey everyone! It's Anna from Hanging with Mrs. Hulsey! Today I'm going to give a few suggestions for teaching author's purpose and viewpoint!

First, I like to lump these 2 topics together-- I teach them separately-- but when I check for understanding I question students over both topics.

I usually start with author's purpose because it's something they (hopefully) have heard before. We discuss the idea that author's purpose is "as easy as PIE". Then we work to create a basic definition for an anchor chart. Some fun activities for author's purpose include an actual book sort (bring lots from the library or have them help you sort your classroom library) OR a scholastic book order sort.
This one is really easy and quick-- you just need construction paper, book order catalogs, and scissors/glue. Students cut and paste book titles onto their papers.

After we spend a day or 2 on author's purpose we switch over to author's viewpoint. This can be a little more tricky-- but students tend to enjoy it because they can share their own opinions over topics. I begin by teaching about 3 possible viewpoints: positive, negative, and neutral.

Sometimes I read short passages and quickly ask-- what was the author's viewpoint? How do you know? Can you compare and contrast your own viewpoint over the topic?

This is a great topic to lump in with opinion writing! Give each student a controversial topic and let them write a paragraph. Then, have them switch with someone else and write about the viewpoints.

One quick activity I came up with this week involved our Scholastic News magazine! I gave the students a copy-- had them read the articles-- and then gave them this paper:
They chose an article and filled out the news review! It was quick, easy, and a great way for me to judge who was understanding the topic and who was struggling.

You can grab the news review HERE in my TPT store for free!

Do you have any suggestions I can add to my bag of tricks for next year? If so, I'd love to hear it! Thanks for reading!

Spice Up Your Spelling!

Sunday, February 5, 2017 / Leave a Comment


Hello darlings!  Amy here from That Teaching SparkWhen I teach spelling, I am often on the hunt for fun, yet practical activities for my students to practice their spelling pattern for the week. 

This  year, I am meeting with my students in small groups to work on differentiated spelling lists.  One of my rotations is called Choice.  

This is where students get the “Choice” of the activity they would like to complete.  They are allowed to choose from a list of activities on their Choice Board.  We glue these boards onto the inside cover of our Word Study Journals so students have them all year. (Freebie at the end of post!)




 At the beginning of the year, I introduce each activity choice and have students practice it.  That way when rotations come along, I have a well oiled machine with students working independently. 

While I completely agree that activities such as these are NOT effective in long term application of spelling words, research shows that adding kinesthetic activities helps with memorization. I teach the understanding and the word pattern “rules” during my Teacher Rotation. 

A few Favorites….


I created the Michelangelo Spelling activity after our art teacher did a project with my kiddos about the Sistine Chapel.  My kiddos LOVE taping their paper to the underside of their desks and “painting” like Michelangelo. Of course, they are just writing their spelling words, but it is incredibly motivating. 




My kiddos also love Ghost Spelling.  They write their words on paper with a white crayon and then color over the crayon with a marker.  It “magically” shows up. 



Another favorite of mine is Context Clues.  Students must write a sentence with the word that is so detailed, that another student could figure out the word if the word was covered up.  I use the little sticky flags for this activity.    


I wanted to give this Choice Board to you FREE!

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