A Few of My Favorite Things

In the last few weeks, I’ve seen a passel (fun word of the day!) of great FREE or low-cost ideas and thought to myself, I should do a blog post about that.  Hopefully, you’ll find something new and interesting in the potpourri collection I’ve assembled below!

First up, six art projects that caught my eye.  For example, who ever thought of doing “stained glass” Halloween decorations?  These ideas all have a unique twist that makes them stand out.

Falling back in Space Portraits~ Students trace hands and feet, and then fill in their other features. Great anytime project! Check out this and other fun posts at Oodles of Art!

Falling Back in Space Portraits~ Students trace hands and feet, and then fill in their other features. Great anytime project! Check out this and other fun posts at Oodles of Art!

FREE Paper Chipmunk~ This cute critter is made completely from paper! Canon's Creative Park site offers pattern pages and assembly instructions for dogs, cats, insects, vehicles, toys, a sundial, and a whole lot more. The downside is that you'll be using a lot of printer ink and many of the assembly directions are best suited for older children. However, if your kids have some dexterity and patience, the final products are amazingly realistic!

FREE Paper Chipmunk~ This cute critter is made completely from paper! Canon’s Creative Park site offers pattern pages and assembly instructions for dogs, cats, insects, vehicles, toys, a sundial, and a whole lot more. The downside is that you’ll be using a lot of printer ink and many of the assembly directions are best suited for older children. However, if your kids have some dexterity and patience, the final products are amazingly realistic!

FREE Coloring Pages~ This is my new favorite site for coloring pages. Each one has lots of details that make coloring so fun! Check out the ram, gecko, lion, and ocean scenes. Love these!

FREE Coloring Pages~ This is my new favorite site for coloring pages. Each one has lots of details that make coloring so fun! Check out the ram, gecko, lion, and ocean scenes. Love these!

Halloween Stained Glass Creatures~ Make your own, or buy Pink and Green Mama's art ebook ($10) for easy-to-use templates. Looks like she has a lot of other great ideas, too!

Halloween Stained Glass Creatures~ Make your own, or buy Pink and Green Mama’s art ebook ($10) for easy-to-use templates. Looks like she has a lot of other great ideas, too!

Animal Art Lesson~ Start with a magazine clipping and then let the students expand the picture. I thought about using animals from a particular continent and tying the lesson into a science or geography unit.

Animal Art Lesson~ Start with a magazine clipping and then let the students expand the picture. I thought about using animals from a particular continent and tying the lesson into a science or geography unit.

Snowflake Paper Craft~ Perhaps the coolest thing about this project is that the website it came from is in Finnish (I think!) and I was able to click "translate" on the top "Google translate" bar... and it did. At least well enough that I got the gist of this project. Pretty, not-too-challenging, low-cost craft!

Snowflake Paper Craft~ Perhaps the coolest thing about this project is that the website it came from is in Finnish (I think!) and I was able to click “translate” on the top “Google translate” bar… and it did. At least well enough that I got the gist of this project. A pretty, not-too-challenging, low-cost craft!

Next up, a bunch of cool science resources.  These experiments and activities could be used for class demonstrations, science fair projects, or at home– just for fun!

FREE Cloud Guide~ From time to time, everyone watches the clouds roll by.  Now you can use this quick reference to identify (and pronounce) whatever weather comes your way!

FREE Cloud Guide~ From time to time, everyone watches the clouds roll by. Now you can use this quick reference to identify (and pronounce) whatever weather comes your way!

Do-It-Yourself Sundial~ This simple yet effective sundial was made by placing a pencil in a ball of clay. Every hour a stone was placed to mark time. The sundial in the picture goes from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Check out this fun blog post, and more at Otherwise Educating!

Do-It-Yourself Sundial~ This simple yet effective sundial was made by placing a pencil in a ball of clay. Every hour a stone was placed to mark time. The sundial in the picture goes from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Check out this fun blog post, and more, at Otherwise Educating!

FREE Green Planter Idea~ Use recycled pop bottles to make self- watering planters. You'll also need potting soil, seeds, thick string, a Phillips screwdriver, hammer, and a sharp blade to cut the bottle. These are great science projects, craft sale items, or holiday gifts. Cheap, easy, and fun!

FREE Green Planter Idea~ Use recycled pop bottles to make self-watering planters. You’ll also need potting soil, seeds, thick string, a Phillips screwdriver, hammer, and a sharp blade to cut the bottle. These are great science projects, craft sale items, or holiday gifts. Cheap, easy, and fun!

FREE Video~ Learn how to make your own Seven Layer Density Column. Steve Spangler "stacks" liquids using a 9-oz. measuring cup, a tall, glass cylinder, and a turkey baster. Liquids include: light Karo syrup, water, vegetable oil, Dawn dish soap (blue), rubbing alcohol, lamp oil, honey, and food coloring. The preparation's a little cumbersome, but the "WOW" factor makes it all worthwhile! Limited budget? Watch the video together, and then let kids make their own concoctions at home!

FREE Video~ Learn how to make your own Seven Layer Density Column. Steve Spangler “stacks” liquids using a 9-oz. measuring cup, a tall, glass cylinder, and a turkey baster. Liquids include: light Karo syrup, water, vegetable oil, Dawn dish soap (blue), rubbing alcohol, lamp oil, honey, and food coloring. The preparation’s a little cumbersome, but the “WOW” factor makes it all worthwhile! Limited budget? Watch the video together, and then let kids make their own concoctions at home!

Constellation Keychain~ Even if you don't teach science, find a way to weave this project into your curriculum. It's that cool!

Constellation Keychain~ Even if you don’t teach science, find a way to weave this project into your curriculum. It’s that cool!

FREE Science Videos~ Disney presents short, interesting science demonstrations by Bill Nye. Each clip is 1-2 minutes, loads right from the home page, and is kid-friendly! Great resource for students looking for science project ideas or for introducing new science concepts to a whole class. Sample demos include: raw egg floating in salt water, static electricity, how atmospheric pressure works, and making a periscope. Fun, fast, and free!

FREE Science Videos~ Disney presents short, interesting science demonstrations by Bill Nye. Each clip is 1-2 minutes, loads right from the home page, and is kid-friendly.  Great resource for students looking for science project ideas or for introducing new concepts to the whole class. Demos include: floating a raw egg in salt water, static electricity, how atmospheric pressure works, making a periscope, and more. Fun, fast, and free!

Here are some great resources for character education and teaching children about good making appropriate choices.  Included lesson plans, videos, and a great list of kid-friendly, random acts of kindness.

FREE Online Character Education Resource~ This catchy tune teaches children that being kind is the best way to "Fill Your Bucket." Performed by The Learning Station, the video includes lots of examples and pictures that help make the concept concrete. The BIG IDEA: WE "fill our buckets" as well as those around us when we hold hands, share, and help others. A great lesson for all ages!

AMAZING, FREE Character Education Resource~ Westwood-Bale School provides five years worth of lessons and resources for teaching about trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship. If you’re short on time, this “one-stop-shop” will provide multiple lesson ideas, links, and resources for EACH of these six character traits. Information is well-organized, concise, and diverse!

FREE Online Character Education Resource~ This catchy tune teaches children that being kind is the best way to "Fill Your Bucket." Performed by The Learning Station, the video includes lots of examples and pictures that help make the concept concrete. The BIG IDEA: WE "fill our buckets" as well as those around us when we hold hands, share, and help others. A great lesson for all ages!

FREE Online Character Education Resource~ This catchy tune teaches children that being kind is the best way to “Fill Your Bucket.” Performed by The Learning Station, the video includes lots of examples and pictures that help make the concept concrete. The BIG IDEA: WE “fill our buckets” as well as those around us when we hold hands, share, and help others. A great lesson for all ages!

FREE Behavior Bracelets~ Check out this great behavior management freebie, or make your own. The download includes a recipe for an easy lick-and-stick recipe that makes earning these bracelets even cooler. Kids wear them home, and Mom and Dad reinforce their good choices!

FREE Behavior Bracelets~ Check out this great behavior management freebie, or make your own. The download includes a recipe for an easy lick-and-stick recipe that makes earning these bracelets even cooler. Kids wear them home, and Mom and Dad reinforce their good choices!

35 Random Acts of Kindness~ For her 35th birthday, this blogger and her two children performed 35 acts of kindness. Each is explained and includes a picture. My favorite-- leaving dollar bills hidden in the toy section of the local dollar store! Creative and inspiring!

35 Random Acts of Kindness~ For her 35th birthday, this blogger and her two children performed 35 acts of kindness. Each is explained and includes a picture. My favorite– leaving dollar bills hidden in the toy section of the local dollar store! Creative and inspiring!

These are the last, few ideas that recently caught my attention.  If you’re a techy, ELA teacher, make sure you check out the final entry of this post!

Tagless Desk Name Tags~ Sharpie Paint pens are the secret to writing student names right on desks. No picking, peeling, or rubbing off. A dry erase marker and tissue easily removes the name at year's end. Check out this and other interesting blog posts at Timeout and Tootsie Rolls!

Tagless Desk Name Tags~ Sharpie Paint pens are the secret to writing student names right on student desks. No picking, peeling, or rubbing off. A dry erase marker and tissue easily remove names at year’s end. Check out this and other interesting blog posts at Timeout and Tootsie Rolls!

Turn a vintage straw dispenser into a pencil dispenser. Neat idea! This one from etsy is already sold, but you get the idea!

Turn a vintage straw dispenser into a pencil dispenser. Clever idea! This one from etsy is already sold, but you get the idea!

FREE List of Authors Who Skype~  Kate Messner offers a long list of authors willing to make a virtual visit to your school.  Connected via Skype with authors of their favorite books will make literature exciting for even the most relucatant reading.  Best of all, these 15-to-20 minute Q&A sessions are free!

FREE List of Authors Who Skype~ Kate Messner offers a long list of authors willing to make a virtual visit to your school. Connected via Skype with authors of their favorite books will make literature exciting for even the most reluctant reader. Best of all, these 15-to-20 minute Q&A sessions are free!

Hopefully you found a few “favorite things” of your own!

No-Prep Activity Ideas

Whether it’s the end of the year or just another Tuesday, all teachers have days when they need a little time to record grades from the last lesson, gather materials, or talk privately to a student.  Here are a few ways to keep students engaged.

jpg_103005-office-suppliesTo alleviate students’ fears about “getting things right,” tell them they’re only required to participate, work cooperatively, and complete the task without teacher support or intervention.

Even though the work is not graded, collecting papers at the end of an activity encourages appropriate behavior and participation.  The “reward” for students is interactive time with peers, a break from structured right/wrong responses, and/or a chance to share with the group at the end of the activity.

1.  Free Write:  Put three words on the board and have students write a story starter that logically includes all the words, or any form of the words.  Remind students not to worry about spelling or handwriting during this creative time.  Before starting the next lesson, allow one or two volunteers to read their story starters.jpg_hldn041  Collect all papers and keep for possible later use.

►Sample word combinations:toy-magic-snow/shark-treasure-hiccups/invisible-kitten-surprise/boy-recipe-boom.

2.  Brain Energizer:  Students silently walk X number of laps around the desks.  Have children enter the line by row and start walking in the same direction.  Define the “rules of the road.”  EX:  No speeding, no passing.  The line leader keeps track of the laps as they pass a certain “landmark.”  As they go past the landmark the final time, students file back into their rows and follow the written directions on the board.

►When they get good at this, you can add marching, walking in the other direction, or having a leader introduce a different arm motion at the beginning of each lap.

3.  Cooperative Puzzles:  Quickly assign pairs or small groups.  Give students X mjpg_0627IDEAinutes to identify as many ways as possible to solve a problem.  Ask one or two students to share the solutions they came up with at the end.  Collect any papers.

►Sample puzzles: list of ten items for a camping trip/three ways to raise $50 for a charity/create a new classroom seating chart/plan a menu for a week of healthy school lunches/use only hands to form all the vowels/make up at least 12 math problems that have 7 as the answer/create a rhyme that could help teach the importance of one of the classroom rules.

4.  Eye Spy:  Set the timer.  Students will have X number of minutes to silently list all the things they can see that begin with a specific letter of the alphabet.  They must remain seated.  Spelling and handwriting don’t count.  You can quickly glance at lists and reward 2-3 students for their work.

►If you have more time, students can read items from their lists aloud.  Students cross off each item they hear someone else say.  Have the winning student collect all papers.jpg_Education-037-color

5.  The Classic:  Students read silently.  They may choose a book from their desks to read for pleasure, or the teacher can assign a specific reading selection.

►Students can be given a task such as locating six examples of figurative language, identifying 12 words with the long a sound, finding twelve, three-syllable nouns, or whatever.  Require students to write out their answers and provide the appropriate page numbers.

6.  Art Activity:  Turn on some classical music and let students express themselves with drawing.

►Sample ideas: draw a machine with 10+ parts that turns on a light switch/draw a desert (or other) animal in its natural habitat/make an advertisement to sell your favorite book.

FREE Online Resource for Mandalas~ This site offers diverse and interesting mandalas for coloring. Download mandalas from 6 themes (animals, countries, dragons, etc.) and three levels (beginner, advanced, and expert). Designs may be printed in black and white for students to color, or they can be colored online and then printed out. Great for connecting activities to a wide variety of topics!

BONUS IDEA~  Color intricate mandalas with diverse and interesting patterns like this one from Australia.  Downloads include 6 themes (animals, countries, dragons, etc.) and three levels (beginner, advanced, and expert). Designs may be printed in black and white for students to color, or they can be colored online and then printed out.  Great for connecting activities to a wide variety of topics!

Check out another great mandala website, as well as many other great FREE resources on this site and Pinterest!