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Just For Smiles

How Do You Engage Everyone in a Lesson

  1. Allow children to use their imagination especially through role play.
  2. Add challenge.
  3. Add secrecy.
  4. Include some mysterious searching.

These are some things I did recently with my students at the end of the school year. I gave them some background on World War II, told them they were secret spies, and that their spy skills were going to save millions of lives.

I further explained about the enigma machine in which Nazis used to send secret messages which we call cryptograms or ciphers. This set the stage for them to stay actively engaged enough to finish a cryptogram. Even students who normally struggle to figure out normal assignments had a renewed interest in solving a puzzle! For the second lesson, the solving of their second puzzle led them to find a location for their next clue. I have never had a more engaged group of students!

Even the teachers of these classrooms I taught were engaged with figuring out the cryptogram. I included the school secretary as one of the clue givers, and students enjoyed leaving the classroom for a moment to find the next clue. When proud students returned from the secretary with their “Secret Agent” badge, this encouraged others to keep working to figure out the puzzle.

These lessons were some of the highlights of my year, and I hope you enjoy them, too. Here is a link to this critical thinking resource on TPT.

Happy Independence Day!

Small Acts of Kindness Make a BIG Difference

Sometimes, when you’re a teacher, you have a really bad week. Such as the last week of school for me. I thought I had broken my toe when I hit it against a rock on the playground. I found out I was going to have to share my room next year with another teacher–not that I mind sharing with her at all..it’s just that I like to have space to teach. Also, a few other things happened throughout the week that made the week less than pleasant. And once in a very little while, you have a precious student that you have poured your heart into for the last several years bring you a note that expresses all you meant to her, and suddenly all the kinks you have to work through in a school year seem worth it just to be able to touch the life of a single child. Happy end of the school year to you!

The good news–I didn’t actually break my toe! The doctor said I just had badly jammed and bruised it. (for your sake, I will not include a picture of my bruised toe.)

I hope you, too, know how much of a difference you make in the life of a child. Congratulations on making it to the end of another year of making a difference!

GIVEAWAY DETAILS:  

Prize: $100 Teachers Pay Teachers Gift Card

Giveaway Organized by: Kelly Malloy

Kelly Malloy Browse over 140 educational resources created by Kelly Malloy in the official Teachers Pay Teachers store.

 (An Apple for the Teacher)

Co-hosts:  An Apple for the TeacherKelly McCownThe Cozy Crafty ClassroomChocolate 4 TeachersJackie CrewsStar KidsThe Fun FactoryThe Best Days by Julie SantelloRoots and WingsMrs Wenning’s ClassroomGlobe Trottin’ Kids1stgradefireworksPriscilla Woodard – Tasked 2 TeachMs. KA Plus KidsJosie’s PlaceMickey’s PlaceTheBeezyTeacherLIVIN’ IN A VAN DOWN BY THE RIVERThe Chocolate TeacherTeacher GameroomThe Butterfly Room- Stacy Ryan, and Kamp Kindergarten.

Rules: Use the Rafflecopter to enter.  Giveaway ends 6/13/19 and is open worldwide.

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Giveaways To Grow Your Blog Classroom tips,teaching ideas, and resources for the upper elementary classroom. Teacher Giveaways
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Fun Hands-On Geometry Lesson for Kinder and First

At this time of year attention spans are short so it is always good to bring in a fun hands on activity. Why not use shapes to make new figures? I used this for an enrichment unit to see which of my students could demonstrate different perspectives in an enrichment class, but you could easily use it to meet these common core standards for kinder and first graders.


Kinder: CC KB6: Compose simple shapes to form larger shapes.

1st: CC standard 1GA2: Compose two-dimensional shapes (rectangles, squares, trapezoids, triangles, … to create a composite shape, and compose new shapes from the composite shape.1

This will take a little preparation because you will need four right triangles cut out of card stock. Each triangle needs to be of a different color. I used the Ellison die cutter at school and cut out squares. Then with a sharp pair of scissors, I cut down the middle of the square to make 2 triangles. Of course remind students to take care of the triangles so you can use them over and over. I chose not to laminate because I felt the plastic edges would probably make the shapes not fit together very well.

Next, you pose several different figures for the students to make. Students have to use all four triangles for each figure.

  1. build a square.
  2. build a triangle.
  3. build a rectangle.
  4. build mountains.
  5. build a diamond (really just the same as a square but turned differently. See if your students know to do this.
  6. build a house
  7. build a pinwheel (if you attempt this one be prepared to show students a picture of a pinwheel. This one proved to be most difficult for students because even after they had built it, they had the triangles turned the wrong direction and thought they were correct.)

Solutions are below.

I had my students sit on a circle around the carpet and build their figures. Some of them looked at others work to help them. If you really want to know who knows what, then this configuration wouldn’t work well, but at times, I think it was helpful for students to see their peers work. I liked sitting in a circle around the carpet because I wanted to see the students closely during this time.

Alternately, you could tell the students to build as many different figures as possible with four right triangles and record them as they find each solution. This could be done on a separate day. Heres a link that shows the ways and other activities to do with right triangles.

The four triangles

A Cute Funny & Giveaway Time!

So this week I had students write some “I Wonder” poetry. I did this for an enrichment class (totally unrelated to math here). I showed students two examples of I wonder poetry. Then I presented them with a paper to write their I wonder statements. To my surprise I had one very “clever” second grader write an amusing line to his poem. See the story below for your own giggle moment.

GIVEAWAY DETAILS:  

Prize: $100 Teachers Pay Teachers Gift Card

Giveaway Organized by: Kelly Malloy (An Apple for the Teacher)

Co-hosts:  An Apple for the TeacherChocolate 4 TeachersMrs Wenning’s ClassroomTeacher Gone DigitalKamp KindergartenTheBeezyTeacherSimoneA Plus KidsThe Literacy GardenJackie CrewsResource Room RelevanceIt’s a Teacher ThingThe Fun FactoryStar Kids by NaomiThe Chocolate TeacherSamsons ShoppeMs. K,The Froggy Factory, and The Cozy Crafty Classroom.

Rules: Use the Rafflecopter to enter.  Giveaway ends 3/13/19 and is open worldwide.

Are you a Teacher Blogger or Teachers pay Teachers seller who wants to participate in giveaways like these to grow your store and social media?  Click here to find out how you can join our totally awesome group of bloggers! 


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Share Your Life with Your Kids

This is a very random post, but I must share this because I am rather excited about it. The other evening my dog who is an AH-dorable fuzzy 12 pounds would not come inside when I called her. This is not normally a problem, however this night it was! I finally went outside to see what she was distracted with and took my flashlight. I heard something squeak as she was pouncing in the leaves. I looked closer and saw something gray. I was like…WHAT IN THE WORLD!? I thought she had found a mole or something. Then I got closer and picked up the small gray animal. As I looked I realized she had found a tiny, baby rabbit. The eyes were still closed and the umbilical cord was visible. I picked it up so she wouldn’t damage its warm body. My dog fussed at me for taking her potential chew toy. My dog continued sniffing the leaves. It was then I realized that there were two more babies. I picked the others up, snapped some pictures and panicked about what to do with them. I called my veterinary technician friend. She said the mother was probably nearby watching us and may not want anything to do with her babies since we had touched them. I put the bunnies back down and went back inside. The next morning they were gone without a sign of harm.

I ended up sharing this story and the picture with my students who were equally excited about them…especially the younger students. I even was able to use a little deductive reasoning about what type of animal I found since I didn’t initially tell the students that they were bunnies. I say all this to say when something fun and exciting like this happens in your life, take the time to share it with your students. Chances are they will remember it more than other things you teach them…and sometimes these are the most important moments! (Hello?! life science!)

Fun Christmas Lesson While Learning a Little History!

This year just for fun I let my students experience the “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” song during a 30 minute enrichment lesson. First, I let the students watch this video in which Gayla Peevey sings the song.

Then I give the students a copy of the words, and I rewind it to the beginning so the students can sing it with the words. At about 2:34 I stop the song and ask the students to tell me what they think happened to Gayla later in her life. I’ve heard students say several things ranging from Gayla became famous all the way to Gayla died. Then I ask them how old they think Gayla is today. I give students a few minutes to figure out how old she is (Gayla’s age and the date of the video show on the video). Then I play the remainder of the video for students to see Gayla all grown up at 73 years old.

Next, I read students a little history of Gayla’s life from this website. Then I follow up with having the students write an acrostic poem with the word hippopotamus. Students were so proud of their acrostic poems! If time, sing the song again! I always like singing the song because it makes me happy and makes the kids happy, too. Here are a few of the student’s acrostic poems. Enjoy!

Try this Fun Activity for Your Promoted Fifth Graders!



We always have a big ceremony for our 5th graders who are being promoted to 6th grade every year.  In fact it rivals many high school graduations in its attention to detail and classiness.  This year, I wanted to add little something to it, so at the prompting of my students, we made these cute profile images of their faces.  The students put quotes on them that meant something to them.  In some cases students made up their own quotes, and I let them.

I had students make up the rubric for what a good profile image would look like. Most of them agreed that a quality profile had to have no white spaces, at least two colors, and at least one quote.  They turned out SO well, and I’m so proud of them! 🙂  You will notice that some profiles look similar to others.  That is because when one student had a good idea, other students tended to copy the good ideas.

First you must know that I work next door to the art teacher (HOW convenient!).  The art teacher let me borrow these spotlights that make the perfect shadow on a large sheet of white construction paper.  I outlined the students’s shadow and had them trace their shadow in black Sharpie.  If you don’t do this first, it turns out disastrous because then students end up coloring over the pencil lines and then when they cut out their profile, their lips and nose look somewhat deformed. I had them make their colored design first, and then AT THE END they can cut out their profile.  I allowed students to be able to use oil pastels, water color, black Sharpie, and crayons to make their images.  I emphasized the fact that they must NOT use Sharpie over the top of oil pastels or crayons because the wax will ruin the Sharpie.  I had them use the oil pastels, crayons, or Sharpie first and THEN they could paint over it with water color.  The wax in the crayons and oil pastels will cause the water color to resist causing a nice effect.

Parents and students took much pride in these as they lined the hall after their “graduation ceremony”.

Happy New Year 2018!

I Wish You the Merriest Christmas Ever!

To all my followers and visitors alike:

I wish you the Merriest Christmas Ever from this Christmas moose compliments of Teaching in the Tongas ! 🙂


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