Back-to-School Freebies

I know.  I’m not done with summer, either.  But, if you’re like me, when you think about the new school year there is a little thrill of anticipation.

When you’re ready for some great new lessons, activities, and teaching materials– all FREE– you’ll want to check out the resources below.

Download your own free Scrambled Paragraph lesson. This fun, print-and-go activity contains a scrambled paragraph with eight (8) sentences that can be put together only one way. Students assemble these paragraphs using transitions and inferential clues. Like training wheels on a bicycle, working with scrambled paragraphs helps students understand how to write logical, organized paragraphs! This is just one of many great freebies available in the Common Core English Language Arts: Free Back-to-School eBook Grades 3-5. Check it out here!back to school snipTo see the complete Common Core English Language Arts: Free Back-to-School eBook Grades 3-5, click here.  To see the Common Core English Language Arts Free Back-to-School eBook for Grades k-2, click here.

Have you found any other great Back-to-School resources?  If so, please leave a comment so we’ll know where to check them out!

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!

The Power of Prepositions!

Prepositions are underrated.  Even adverbs, one of the most enigmatic parts of speech, gets more attention than prepositions.

What difference does it make?

Consider this.  Emerging writers often fail to use complete sentences.  Students who can identify prepositions and prepositional phrases are better able to identify the subject and verb of a sentence.  Once this skill is mastered, students’ writing is clearer and more complete.

To understand how to find subjects, students first need to learn about nouns and pronouns.  Once students have a handle on nouns and pronouns, teachers might want to consider moving on to prepositions.  Here’s why.  Many sentences have prepositional phrases.  The nouns and pronouns that end these propositional phrases are called objects of the preposition.  Students often incorrectly mistake the nouns and pronouns in these prepositional phrases as the subject of the sentence.

I love prepositions

Phrases like these can seem like sentences.  Along the slippery trail.  Stuck between two pages.  When the bus arrived.

Even when students seem to have mastered the ability to identify subjects and verbs, sentences with several nouns or pronouns can be confusing.  Check out this sentence:

Down the hill, past the grove of orange trees, Linda turned onto the shady, dirt road by the new school.

Students who have learned to identify prepositions and objects of the preposition are able to eliminate all the prepositional phrases in sentences, even one this long.  Let’s try it.  If we eliminate all the prepositional phrases– down the hill, past the grove, of orange trees, onto the shady, dirt road, and by the new school– that only leaves two words:  Linda and turned.

Down the hill, past the grove of orange trees, Linda turned onto the shady, dirt road by the new school.

Given two words to choose from, most students will be able to identify the noun (Linda) as the subject, and the remaining word (turned) as the verb.

Eliminating large chunks of wording from sentences makes it much easier for students to pick the correct noun or nouns that are acting as the subject, as well as the verb or verbs that make up the complete verb phrase.

SubjectVerbAgreementGraphicMy

After searching for materials that use this approach to teaching grammar and writing,  I discovered there was little to be had.  Below are the resources I’ve discovered, as well as those I’ve created for my own use.

There are many free worksheets at Super Teacher Worksheets.  However, it’s important to review all handouts carefully to avoid sentences that include infinitives such as to be, to go, or to see, that might confuse students just beginning to learn this skill.

There are several free preposition videos available through WatchKnowLearn.   Since most are geared toward a wide age range, you may need to check out two or three before finding one best suited to a specific grade.  Here’s a link to a short preposition SMART Board lesson on SMART Exchange.  And, this link at CafeTechno has some definitions and examples that might help clarify lesson content.

Here’s an 88-slide PowerPoint that introduces prepositions and prepositional phrases, as well as showing how to eliminate them to identify the subject and verb of a sentence.  For a limited time, purchase this product and receive a FREE copy of the companion product, Identifying Subjects & Verbs; Easy Mastery Using Prepositions & Prep. Phrases .

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This engaging PowerPoint is designed to teach students to easily identify the subject and verb of a sentence. The entertaining lesson contains animations, cartoon characters, and humorous dialogue. Students learn about a “trick” for identifying subjects and verbs. The key to the “trick” is learning how to eliminate prepositional phrases from the sentence. Any student with a basic understanding of nouns and verbs will enjoy success with this approach.

Check it out!

This resource contains 43 reproducible pages (plus answer keys) designed to teach students to easily identify the subject and verb of any sentence.  Using these materials students will learn to: identify up to 48 common prepositions, locate and cross out all prepositional phrases in a sentence, and scan the remaining words to identify the subject and verb.

Identifying Subjects & Verbs~ These handouts, printables, and assessments help students eliminate prepositional phrases to easily identify the subject and verb. Includes preposition handouts, step-by-step introduction, practice worksheets, and quick, easy-to-grade assessments.

Identifying Subjects & Verbs~ These handouts, printables, and assessments help students eliminate prepositional phrases to easily identify the subject and verb. Includes preposition handouts, step-by-step introduction, practice worksheets, and quick, easy-to-grade assessments.

Check it out!

If you know of any other free or low-cost resources that use prepositions and prepositional phrases to identify subjects and verbs of sentences, please leave a comment and share!

Embrace Your Inner Warren Buffet

Kids deal with economics every day.  There are four friends, but only three cookies.  Scarcity.  Janie wears the blue shirt instead of the red one.  Opportunity cost.  Athan completes all his chores and gets an allowance.  Income in exchange for labor.

jpg_0744-Pig-bankStudents may be surprised to learn that their economic decisions have a huge impact on the economy.  Children’s buying habits impact major industries within the free market including clothing, technology, and food.  There are so many choices it’s often difficult to make good consumer decisions.

As adults our students will have many more economic decisions to make.  They’ll need to know about getting credit, buying a car, selecting a phone plan, and securing a mortgage.  Imagine the future.  It’s likely there will be even more fiscal challenges as society continues to change.  Today’s kids may have to choose which satellite to subscribe to, or how much they’re willing to pay for controlled air space rights when buying a property.jpg_Crisis5

Teaching students about fiscal literacy is important, but it can also be a lot of fun!  Once students understand the basic language of economics, it’s easy to demonstrate how these concepts apply to their everyday lives.

Not sure where to start?  Check out these FREE resources.

FREE activity book from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland that makes finances fun. Great Minds Think: A Kid’s Guide to Money is filled with engaging exercises to help students make thoughtful decisions about money.  Activities introduce concepts such as earning, spending, budgeting, and saving.  Click here to check it out.

a kids guide to money booklet picture coverFREE printables to introduce, review, and/or assess understanding of goods and services.  Download contains two (2) ready-to-use economics activities with teaching suggestions and a full-sized answer keys. Click here to check it out.

CoverWithMoneyBorderGoodsServices

FREE online resource that teaches what the stock market is and how it works.  Activities include tutorials on how to pick good stocks and a 20 minute delayed Stock market simulation.  Click here to check it out.

Library Quest PictureFREE Economics 101 for Kids is a great online resource where students can read and learn about important concepts at their own pace.  Key terms link to definitions.  An online quiz is provided for students to check their understanding.  Click here to check it out.

Economics 101 website pic

FREE Social Studies and Language Arts Printables

I’m always amazed at how much free stuff there is on-line… if you just have time to look.  Ah-h, there’s the rub.  Who has time?  Here are a few resources that are ready for immediate use.

FREE Emancipation Proclamation Commemorative Coloring Book with text provides an overview of the history of the Emancipation Proclamation.  The coloring pages feature Abraham Lincoln and notable African Americans, including Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, and Barack Obama.  One of many free  government resources at Federal Resources for Educational Excellence.  Click here to see this coloring book.

FREE Word Box Worksheet Generator available at SchoolExpresss.  You can also make spelling, word search, and alphabetizing worksheets for your kids!  Click here to make a page like the one below.

Click here to check out this FREE list of transition words.  This is a great writing tool to share this students.  You’ll find a wealth of similar, print-and-go resources at Busy Teacher’s Cafe.

Transition Words PrintableClick here to check out this FREE KWL Chart with an engaging visual with lines for writing.  The easy-to-understand design brings home the point behind this common exercise.  Your students will love this lesson by Teachers Pay Teachers seller, Rebekah Benson.

KLW chart with brainClick here to check out this FREE Custom Writing Paper.  Design your own with images like Sponge Bob, Curious George, and Thomas the Tank.  Select other themes, too, such as animals, seasons, and holidays.  All writing paper can be printed in color or B/W, and with or without lines. Fun way to create writing paper for all occasions.  DLTK.com also has links for creating awards, bookmarks, and greeting cards!