Shark Week Freebies Blog Hop

All teachers know that kids learn more when they’re excited and engaged. Today a team of bloggers come together to help your students take a BITE out of learning with a theme your students are sure to love! Get ready for a feeding frenzy of FREE activities relating to sharks!


I am always looking for ways to get my students engaged in writing and research activities. These two content areas are the least favorite of many kids. In order to change kids from feeling these important activities are boring, make them more engaging! Just changing the way the information is presented can get kids excited about it! Using trading cards is a highly engaging activity in my classroom. The students love to make them and they go crazy when they get to actually trade them! They write and research with a lot of excitement when we are creating trading cards, no matter the subject. Of course, picking topics the students are interested in (like sharks) always helps, too!

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My Shark Week inspired freebie are Shark Trading Cards! The file contains everything you need to complete this exciting activity! Be sure to grab your Shark Trading Cards download! Slide1 Slide3 Slide4 Click HERE to try it out!

Don’t forget to go through the rest of the linky. You do not want to miss the chance to take a BITE out of these shark freebies!  Get ready for a feeding frenzy of your own in the classroom because your students will gobble these lessons up! Be sure to go for a swim in the linky party below. Every blog in the Shark Week Blog Hop features a fishy freebie for you and your students- but hurry! Shark Week only lasts until Sunday, August 17th  : )

Time to Talk about Assessments

The next part of the 10 week back to school linky party involves assessment.  Once again, everyone is linking up with Mrs. D’s Corner and Miss V.’s Busy Bees!


Assessments are one of those things that we all do all the time, but when you try to explain what it is you are doing…well, it gets really difficult, doesn’t it?  My school district (and I am sure most others) has teachers working with TBTs, or Teacher Based Teams.  These are weekly meetings which involve sharing assessment data, coming up with interventions, and sharing strategies that work well in our own classrooms.

We use short-cycle assessments in our classrooms for reading and math.  These are designed to span about three weeks of instructional time and they are focused in on just a few standards that we are teaching at that time.  We give a pre-test at the beginning of the three week span and share the results, plan some projects,  lessons and interventions based on the results, and  begin thinking about how to group students most effectively.

Here is an example of a reading short cycle test.  We used this one during a unit on Space and while we were reading the novel, “Neil Armstrong is my Uncle and Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me”, by Nan Marino.  It is a work of historical fiction.
















The assessment pack includes a prompt, a variety of questions, an answer key and a way to record the data for students.




We keep data folders and students track their own progress from pre-test to post-test.   The students get really excited to see their growth.  Meeting with my TBT keeps me on track with my grading and the work I need to be doing.  It really is a great system for assessment!

In math, we also do pre-tests and post-tests in short-cycle time periods.  We also add in benchmark check sheets so we can see how students are mastering the individual concepts needed in order to be able to do the higher level, multi-step problems required of our grade level.





These pictures show what a benchmark quiz looks like (top right) as well as what the pre/post tests look like (there are two versions in the pack).  Here are the data sheets we use:

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You can find this fractions pack here!  It is only $3!

What do you do to assess your students?  Share your ideas in the comments section!

I just created a FREE Student Data Notebook pack for intermediate grades to keep track of those assessments for reading and math!  Click here to grab your free pack!


Good luck!


Back to School ~ 10 Week Link-Up

Hey there!  I am participating in a great link-up with Mrs. D’s Corner and Miss V.’s Busy Bees for 10 weeks all about back to school!


The first topic is Behavior Management.  I have been teaching for 18 years and I feel like I have tried just about every behavior management system out there at least once!  I have never been able to keep up with the clip chart system (in any form) and I hate to obsess about rules.

We establish a set of class rules at the beginning of every year during the first week of school.  These are posted in the room.  I have the students get into groups and they create mini-posters for each of the rules.  Since I have 6 tables, there are usually 6 rules.

I have to say that I work really hard to form a relationship with each and every student.  Because of this, I have minimal behavior issues in my classroom.

My students earn paws (mini cut-outs I got at the teacher store) as a whole class when their behavior is excellent in the classroom or in the other areas of our school building.   I have used different themes throughout the years (cookies, shells, stars, popcorn, paw prints, owls, etc.) depending on my class theme at the beginning of the year.

You can find these on-line from Trend.  Here are the paw prints I will be using this year!


Once the students have earned a certain number of paws (we usually do 30), they earn a class reward.  This could be an extra recess, lunch with me, etc.

I also use Weekly Behavior Reports as a way to communicate with parents, about good behavior as well as behavior that may need to be corrected.  This form also contains a place to record how much homework was turned in for the week.  Parents just have to sign the form and students return them on Monday.  If they turn the form in on time, they get a ticket which is entered into a weekly drawing for a trip to the treasure chest.


Click here to download the FREE Weekly Behavior Report form!  It takes only about 10 minutes to fill in the form for my class of 30 students and the parents and students really like the communication every week!

My advice:  Try a lot of different things and find what works for you!  Click on the other participants in this linky and I am sure you will get loads of ideas!

Good luck!


The BEST Common Core Standards Resource for ELA!

This is the BEST Common Core Standards resource I have EVER found!  Kristen Bowers of Secondary Solutions has developed the easiest to use CCSS resource book for ELA that I have ever seen!  I just got my hands on this amazing resource and I know I will use it every day!  Secondary Solutions has one of these for each of these grades: 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th-10th, and 11th-12th.



This resource will be in my teacher binder for sure!  It is a great resource to have for planning!  Not only does it have the standards, but it has TONS of question stems/prompts for each standard!   There are questions for peer-teaching and peer-assessment as well as for teaching and assessment.  We all know that some of the standards are pretty complicated, but this resource makes them easy to understand and to thoroughly teach to students!

You NEED this resource if you teach ELA in grades 3-12!

Click here to go to the Secondary Solutions site!  


Earthworm Dissection

We dissected earthworms and it was quite a memorable experience!  I ordered the preserved worms through a company called, BioCorp.  Click here for the link to their site.  They are really inexpensive and the kids get crazy excited about it!

This whole lab started with a few unexpected questions from my students:

Why do worms come out when it rains in the spring?  Why do so many of these worms dry out and die?  Can we do anything to help these worms?

We decided to write questions, research earthworms, and make observations.  We used live earthworms (from the bait store) for some of the labs.  Don’t worry, no live earthworms were harmed!  After the live worm labs we released them to the garden!  We observed the live earthworms so we could understand how they move, what they prefer (light or dark, dry or wet, etc.), and how they react to stimuli (like gently blowing on them).   Here is a link to the live worm packet in case you need or want it!

We wrote informational reports about worms and then we dissected them to learn about their internal anatomy.

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Why not ask your students to ask their own questions about ANYTHING?  It may lead you to some great class activities and projects based on the interests and questions of your students!


School ALL Summer

As a teacher and a mother of three school-age children, I am a firm believer in keeping the learning, and especially the exploring going on throughout the summer.   Kids need to by engaged and interested in things other than video games and the Internet.  Not that my own kids don’t spend anytime on-line and building worlds in Minecraft, but just like everything else, moderation is the key! Personal Creations is trying to encourage parents to work with their children throughout summer to keep them sharp and mentally engaged and that has sparked the idea for this post.


We spend a lot of summer days and evenings exploring the areas in and around our city.  We have an amazing zoo, a conservatory, a science center, an art museum, and more!  We also are lucky to have a lot of fabulous MetroParks.   As a mom to three kids, it is important to keep them thinking, questioning and exploring as much as possible!  I have to find activities that will keep my 9th, 7th, and 2nd grader all engaged and interested, which can be a little challenging.

Here are some of our favorite summer activities:

Keeping a Nature Notebook or Field Guide

My kids love to sketch, so I tap into that interest and we all (myself included) keep a nature notebook.  When we go on hikes, or even if we are in our own yard, we all try to record things in our nature notebooks.  My boys were huge fans of the Spiderwick book series and there is an amazing nature log that is a companion to the book.  My kids try to make their nature notebooks look similar to this one.  We have nylon backpacks that hold the notebook, colored pencils, baggies, regular pencils, a pencil sharpener, tape and lightweight plastic containers with lids.  We got the notebooks from the scrapbook section of the Michael’s near our house.  It has heavier weight pages.  If you have not read the Spiderwick series, you may want to try it!  Click here for the link to the set!


Do Some Grave Rubbings and Researching

We are lucky to have quite a few historic cemeteries in our general area.  We even have a Confederate Prison Camp cemetery called Camp Chase from the Civil War.  All you need is a SmartPhone, paper, and crayons!  We choose a grave or two, complete the grave rubbing and then try to do research in order to find out as much as we can about the person.  My kids love a challenge, and this really gets them researching!


Visit the Zoo and Make Fact Files

We are members of the zoo in our area, so we can go anytime we want.  We like to go for short periods of time and we tend to focus on one or two areas.  Once in the area, we create fact files.  I let the kids take pictures and write down facts about the animals we see.  Once we are home, the kids continue to research the animals, we print the pictures and they create informational books about the trip!  They love to go back and read these books!  My daughter loves to make her own zoo exhibits with plastic animals as well.  She gets very creative and she usually uses things she finds outside and around the house.



Open a Lemonade Stand or have a Toy Sale

I am always trying to find ways to get my kids to de-clutter their  toys!  We have a toy garage sale every summer.  I let my kids choose the items they want to include, they set the prices, and when it is all over, they get to decide where to DONATE the money they made during the sale.  There is a cat rescue place near our house and the kids often choose to donate the money to them!  They also volunteer their time at the cat rescue place about twice a month.


No matter what you do this summer, spend quality time with your kids!  Exploring, observing, questioning, and learning should continue throughout the summer months, just like they do during the school year.  Have fun and enjoy your kids this summer!






SUMMER PD Workshop Opportunity

Are you looking for a great workshop focused on STEM??? If you live in (or near) central Ohio, this may be for you!

Monsters and Bridges and Towers, Oh My! – A Venture in Engaging Students


2014-past-graham-monsters-headerWhat is the greatest challenge in the classroom today? Teaching content? No. Theoretical practice? No. It is engaging students! If you cannot engage your students, how do you expect them to learn?

Come to our 1-day workshop which features two local extraordinary teachers from Columbus City Schools, Tracey Graham, Westgate 5th grade teacher and author of “Smart Chick Teaching Resources” and Lori Mohre, Westgate 4th grade teacher – both STEM problem-based learning experts.

This power-packed day will provide you with resources, forms, materials AND the know-how to take these projects directly back into your classroom. The components of this course-work are appropriate for all teachers but especially, grades 3-8. All

PAST Innovation Lab Workshops are for teachers looking for new, exciting ways to bring TPBL (transdisciplinary problem-based learning) to their students. To make this even more fun, we encourage you to bring a buddy. When two teachers register together, each will receive a $25 discount on their workshop! Just use code BUDDY to receive your discount.

Date: Tuesday, June 24th from 9am to 3pm

Location: PAST Innovation Lab, Columbus, OH

Cost Per Teacher: $100 (or $75 when 2 teachers register together)

CEU Credits: 1