Morning Routines!

We recently took a course from Tabitha Carro at FlapJack Factory. Our friend and colleague, Kristen, at Easy Teaching Tools recommended that we try it out and we were not disappointed! One of the templates we loved was the morning work and morning routines slides.  We usually have the same morning routine each morning, but still get asked daily, “What do I do now?” or “What do I do next?”.  For days where we have lots going on (you know those days with field trip permission forms, money collection, etc…) these slides are helpful in giving our students a visual!

The middle box on the template is nice as a morning review.  We like to spiral different subjects we have taught as a quick check in and it makes great daily practice.  We choose whatever it may be that the kids need to do.  It could be a quick math problem, or even a quick question from Social Studies or Science.  The kids do this in a morning routines composition book and can check with a friend or you can go over it after you take attendance.

Speaking of attendance, these slides are sure to help us remember to take attendance! We are guilty of forgetting and that is usually because we are answering questions about what to do in the morning!

The last little box we added to our template is a small section in the upper right hand corner that allows for fun facts.  It could be a student’s birthday or a fun day such as “National Hot Dog Day”.  It could also be an open ended question such as, “How will you be kind today?”.  This little box is meant to be used for whatever your heart desires!

If you want to try it out, click the link below for a FREE sample slide!

We have created over 50 slides and 6 themes to use year round! You can find these in our TpT store or by clicking HERE.

Kindness Week Book Reflection

Have you ever read The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig? It is a heartwarming picture book about the power of kindness. Brian is a kid who feels invisible at school. Always being left out and looked over has taken its toll on the little guy. When a new kid moves to school and starts paying attention to Brian and his talents, Brian’s world becomes a bit more colorful. Reading a quick blurb online made us quickly realize this was a must-have read aloud for our classes.

Our school is participating in a two-week Kindness Challenge, during which students are inspired to partake in various acts of kindness. On top of this, our school has had a particular focus on kindness throughout the year in hopes to create a positive school culture of mutual respect for one another. This book just seemed to lend itself so perfectly to our discussions of empathy and kindness, so we had to try it out and see how our kiddos responded to its message.

We invited our 2nd Grade Buddies over to our classroom for the read aloud. The discussions we were able to have during and after the reading were awesome. So many of the students, 5th and 2nd graders alike, could relate to the feelings Brian had throughout the book. And it was so clear to the students that all it took was one person’s kindness to turn his world around.


We wanted to take this discussion a step further so that the students could really visualize how others’ kind words and actions can positively impact our lives. To do this, we gave each child a black and white image of a child and had them write down when they felt invisible themselves. Examples ranged from not being invited to a birthday party, to friends not waiting for them at recess, to parents giving more attention to a brother or sister. Not only was this a good reflection for the students to get in touch with their own feelings, but it gave us as teachers an insight into what is going on in our students’ worlds emotionally. But the truly powerful part of this activity is what came next.

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Each child then took their paper and read it to someone else. In response, the other student would use their colored pencil to write a word of encouragement or a kind deed to help the student feel more visible. Then using the same colored pencil, they would color in a piece of their picture. Students walked around from peer to peer, gaining words of encouragement and quickly getting their pictures completely colored in. The final product was a colorful page full of kind words all directed to each individual student. What a great personal keepsake for the kids to look back on whenever they start to feel invisible in the future. We can’t wait to do this activity again next school year!

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If you’d like to try it out, here is a free sample of our Invisible Boy Worksheet. To download the entire pack with a variety of kids to meet the needs of the students in your class, visit our TPT store here or visit

Let us know how else you have incorporated this book into your classroom. We would love to hear about it!

Super Bowl Activities for the Classroom!

Each year, when the NFL season starts up, we both get very excited for a variety of reasons.  We have been San Diego Charger fans since we’ve been born (although their move to Los Angeles may have broken our hearts).  We also enjoy playing fantasy football with friends, so when it comes time for the Super Bowl we look forward to the culmination of one of our favorite sports.  

We wanted to bring the excitement into the class and share some fun activities with our students.  We came up with some activities that could be used with real stats for the Super Bowl and it was a hit with our students.  We love that we can use it each year since it isn’t year specific.  

This was a particularly high interest activity for some of our kids that normally may be harder to motivate.  It was exciting to see them thrive and dive into the activities.  For the kids that aren't football fans, they gained a lot of knowledge too.  We wanted to show the kids that what we are doing in the classroom can translate to anywhere in the real world!  If you are interested in checking out a sample of these activities, click the link below to download a free copy.

The full product is available in our Teachers Pay Teachers store.  Activities in the full packet include:

Research activities for pregame, during the game, and post game
Roman Numerals
Math Word Problems
Word Search
Performance Task (adding, subtracting, multiplying)
Writing with football themed paper
Fantasy Football Activity
Helpful Keys

We hope you can bring the joy of football into your classroom with these engaging activities! Click the image below to go to the product!

GEMS is the new PEMDAS

When we both moved to 5th grade, one of our team members shared with us the idea of using GEMS rather than PEMDAS for Order of Operations and simplifying expressions.  Our minds were blown! It was so much more effective.  Here's why:
We all probably grew up learning the common acronym for order of operations: PEMDAS or "Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally" or "Parenthesis, Exponents, Multiply, Divide, Add, Subtract".  Although it does help remember the order, we found that our students were confused because they would follow the acronym too closely forgetting that you multiply and divide and add and subtract going from left to right. Also, they would get confused if they saw brackets or other types of groupings. It seemed like a common mistake that they forgot the left to right groupings. 
So, in comes GEMS! GEMS stands for "Groupings, Exponents, Multiply/Divide, Subtract/Add".  Why do we like it better?
The G stands for groupings so it includes parentheses, brackets, braces, and fraction bars.

The E stands for exponents just like in the old PEMDAS acronym.
The M stands for both multiplication and division, in order from left to right.
And the S stands fro subtraction and addition, in order from left to right.

By grouping the M/D and A/S into single letters, it solidifies the idea that either operation can be performed first. It depends solely on which comes first in the expression.

We love incorporating music into our instruction, but we couldn't find any songs online using the GEMS acronym.  When in doubt, create your own!  Feel free to use this fun song with your class! Click the image for a printable file.

Reach for the Stars!

Do you incorporate growth mindset discussions in your classroom? We have made a concerted effort to keep students motivated by talking about how our mindset determines our ability to achieve success. And we have seen results! Our students are continuously putting forth effort and showing great determination. The sighs and choruses of "I can't" slowly but surely faded into 'a-has' and chants of "I'll keep trying!" One way to ensure that this becomes a central part of our classrooms is to make it a focus from Day 1.

Enter our Growth Mindset Collaborative Craftivity! The first days of school are typically filled with many get-to-know-you activities and teambuilding exercises. This activity is all that and includes a growth mindset twist! Students work independently to think about how they can work on their growth mindset throughout the year, and then work together to build a dodecahedron with their classmates. Each student has a point that is only a portion of what will become a star. This provides the visual that when we have a positive mindset AND work together, we can reach the stars!

So, what's the activity and how does it work? It is simple, ready to print, and includes little prep on the part of the teacher. Score! First, you will need to download the template from our store. The file includes a blank editable version of the template as well as our growth mindset version, so it is really a steal! Once you have it downloaded, print out a page for each student. The finished project looks great on either colored or white paper. Either way, this works best when printed on sturdy paper like cardstock.

This activity is particularly great because it is really open to interpretation. The spaces provided allow the teacher and/or student to choose how they would like it filled in.  For example, the "This is me" section can be a spot for the student to write their name or draw a self-portrait. Similarly, the "Growth Mindset Vision" panel can be a spot for the student to draw a picture of how they will be using a growth mindset, something they hope to accomplish through using a growth mindset, or what a growth mindset looks like to them. The possibilities are truly endless. Let the students run wild as they think about how their own mindset will set them up for future successes.

Once the sheet is filled out, students will cut on the solid lines. It is VERY IMPORTANT to remind students not to cut on the dotted lines. Those will be for folding in the next step!

Now we are ready for those dotted lines. Students need to fold on each of the dotted lines. This will separate the panels from the tabs that will be used for gluing.

Start by folding over one panel at a time.
Fold the tabs down and away from the triangle panels.
To turn each sheet of panels into a point, glue the long tab behind the triangle panel on the opposite end (the 'This is me' panel).

Here you can see the 'This is me' panel and 'Reach for the stars' panel are now side by side.
Now that each of the students has created a star point, the collaborative portion of the project is ready to begin. Students now begin to connect the star points to one another. A total of 12 points will create one star. Begin by placing two star points next to each other. Glue one tab from point A to one tab from point B.
Point A on the left is now glued to Point B on the right.

Students will continue gluing in this fashion until there are 12 points. The 12th point is the most difficult to attach, as it will have five points to connect to. This is when a little helping hand from the teacher or another adult might come in handy. When all 12 points are glued together, you will have a star full of positive thoughts ready to be hung in the classroom!

We hope your students enjoy this fun activity for the beginning of the school year and that they continue to see its value to their education. Let us know in the comments how else you plan to use the star template in your classroom!

First Day of School Balloon Activity

The story behind this first day of school activity is actually when we both discovered we were teaching in the same district! When we both got hired, our district offered a literacy training for all new teachers.  We were super surprised to see each other because it had been some time since high school.  Our instructor started the training with a really fun get to know you activity that we have both incorporated into our classrooms for the last decade! It's great for building classroom community and you can make variations to make it the best fit for your class. 

Here's how it works!

First, each student receives a balloon and a small piece of paper on their desk. We just cut up scratch paper, you don't have to be fancy! :) 

Then, they write down 3 interesting true facts.  In order for this activity to be successful, ask students to write down facts that are not too common.  Give them some examples as we have shown above. They need to keep these facts private and not share them with their classmates.

Finally, have the students fold up their paper, place in the balloon, and blow it up.  DISCLAIMER: When we did this in 4th grade, about half the students knew how to tie a balloon and the other half asked us.  That led to tying some spitty balloons (gross, we know).  Ask ahead of time if anyone needs help for you to blow it up.

Once the balloons are done, place them in a corner of the class.  Now, the fun begins! Explain to the kids that this activity is going to show them interesting things about their classmates and they are going to see how much they have in common with each other.  Ask all students to stand up.  Take a balloon and pop it (another disclaimer, some kids want a heads up because the sound might startle them).  As you read each fact aloud, tell the kids that if they agree with that statement they remain standing.  For example, if the first fact says, "I like the color blue" then they remain standing if they also like blue.  If they don't agree with that particular fact, they sit down.  Now, once they sit down they can't stand back up.  So, if the next fact is, "I went to Disneyland this summer" and they are sitting down, they can't stand up.  We hope that makes sense? Eventually, after all 3 facts are read, the student who wrote those facts should be the only one remaining standing.  BUT! The great thing is sometimes more than one student is standing because those three students might share the same interesting facts.  If that is the case, ask the person to reveal themselves and everyone else to sit down.  Then, we ask the student to tell us more about one of those facts.  If they wrote that they had a dog, we ask about the name and type.  If they write about a vacation spot, we ask them to share more about it. 

We do this throughout the day so it's not 30 something balloons popping at once.  It keeps the kids excited to learn about each other and the little "pop" wakes everyone up :).  Don't forget to include yourself.  The kids love it when everyone sits down and they realize the facts were about the teacher.  Also, you don't have to read the facts in order.  Try to pick facts that are more common at first.  We always learn so much about the kids through this simple activity.

The past few years, we have made variations with this activity and given them an index card to write down the three facts.  We then shuffle them up and just pull them out of a box.  Not as fun without the pop, but if you forgot to buy balloons or don't want to deal with them, it still works and the kids still have fun.  

We'd love to hear if you try this out in your class!

Main Character iPad Template

We are always looking for fun and meaningful extensions after our novel studies.  The idea to use an iPad came from the fact that we have seen the power of technology grow over the past few years.  When we both first started teaching, many students didn't have their own device but now it seems like every single student has at least one device in their house and if they don't, they sure know how to use one! This activity is a fun one that can be used with any novel.  The best part was not really giving detailed instructions because it allowed the students to be creative! We read My Brother Sam is Dead in class (which the students absolutely loved!) and asked them to think of this question: "If Tim had an iPad, what types of made up apps do you think he would have on there?" It's important to emphasize that most should be made up.  Of course, they can choose an app today if they can make connections to the book but we highly doubt a young boy during the Revolutionary War would be interested in Angry Birds! The pictures below show what one student came up with.  We were blown away with their creativity!

Students cut and glue iPad down in notebook or piece of paper.
On a separate piece of page, students redraw the apps and add a short description about the app.

This template isn't on our TpT page but it is free here to you! If you are interested in using the book, My Brother Sam is Dead, please check out our Interactive Notebook Unit Study at our store.  Enjoy the template by clicking the link below and leave us some comments of how you used it in your classrooms! 

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