Summer Projects for Teachers and Their Kids

Laid Back Summer Projects for Teachers and Their Kids - Summer projects for you and your own kids to do at home.
One summer, a project of mine was to learn to make pizza dough from scratch. Another summer, it was to learn to use Photoshop (Years later, that project is still in the works!) To me the difference between summer projects and school-year projects was that, in the summer, I didn’t feel like I needed to accomplish a goal. I could just to take my time and enjoy working on the projects.

Of course, with school out, summer is also prime time for new kids’ projects at home with your own kids. Projects like trying something new or repurposing something found around the house. Projects like learning more about a favorite topic or expanding on a favorite hobby. Projects that kids can just enjoy doing. And, not a big surprise, those kinds of projects often turn out to be very educational as well!  

If you are looking for some project ideas for yourself and your kids this summer, here are a few ideas. I’ve also added a few teacher shortcuts, since even in the summer, time can fly by.    

An Old Game:

An old game might not be what they have in mind when your kids are asking for something to do or the first thing that comes to your mind when you’re thinking about fun classroom activities for next year, but some of these oldies but goodies are still as much fun as ever once you give them a try. Kids Project – Try out a game that was played thousands of years ago. Both marbles and jacks fit that category and can still be found in toy stores, Both are fun to play with friends and to practice on your own. Teacher Project – Create a new twist on an old game such as the traditional spelling bee. Can you come up with a way to make it more appealing to modern-day kids or a way to get more kids actively involved? Shortcut – ProTeacher had a collection of articles describing active spelling games submitted by teachers.

A Fabric Project:

 Even if you don’t often sew, an occasional DIY project can be a fun activity, especially in the summer months when there is more time to try something new. Kids Project – Make and embellish a no-sew fabric accessory such as a fabric-covered headband or bracelet. Simple materials including fabric strips and glue are the basic materials for this project, and you can find plenty of examples and ideas on Pinterest. Teacher Project – Sew a pocket chart. The Artisan des Arts website has directions for a really nice looking one that you make from fabric and vinyl. Shortcut – Go on a little shopping spree with your kids for some fun new (and ready-made!) accessories and back-to-school organizers. 


A New Tool:

 Finding out that your computer can do something you never knew it could do is always fun. Why not spend a little time finding out what helpful features are going to waste on your computer? Kids Project – Find a feature on a computer or tablet game or app that you know more about that your parents do and that you think they would enjoy learning about. Then, teach your mom or dad how to use it. Teacher Project – Try out a feature that you haven’t tried yet on a program that you use often such as PowerPoint or Word, or try out a new tool for your computer. Shortcut – Here is one that I just learned about. It’s called Instant Eyedropper, and you can use it to pick up a color from most any picture to easily coordinate the colors on your presentations and other projects. It’s a big help if you are still using an older version of PowerPoint like I am.


A New Game:

Making your own games is always fun, and reusing old items makes it an earth-friendly project. Kids and Teacher Project – Create a new game using leftover pieces form an old game or toy, or use some recyclables to build a game from scratch. For example, you can make a Mancala game from an egg carton. Shortcut – Need some ideas to get started? Activity Village has some good suggestions.    

Best Foot Foot Forward - Free


A Mobile:

One nice thing about mobiles is that they make use of that often-overlooked space overhead. Whether it’s in a kid’s bedroom or in a classroom, a mobile can be an eye-catcher. Kids Project – Design and build a mobile for your room with paper models or cutouts of a favorite subject. Teacher Project – Design a mobile to use in class. Prepare just the directions for this project so that your students can work in groups to build it in class. Shortcut – Download this freebie, called Best Foot Forward from my Teachers Pay Teachers Store. It includes cutouts for a shoe mobile with directions for using it as part of a goal setting activity for the beginning of the school year.    


A Recipe:

A summer recipe project can be as simple as selecting a few ingredients and mixing together a new combination. Kids Project – Help mom or dad with their project, and then help eat the results! Teacher Project – Find and try out a recipe for a simple and inexpensive treat that you could make for your class on a special occasion, maybe a cereal-based snack mix or some flavored popcorn. Shortcut – Make a mental note to ask parents to bring in some snacks next year, and then head out for ice cream with your own kids!  

Classroom in the Middle ThumbnailSharon Fabian, from the Classroom in the Middle blog, has spent over 20 years teaching English, reading, and other subjects to middle school students. She loves having more time now to create and write about resources for teachers – especially materials for teaching reading, vocabulary, and writing to students in grades four through eight. Here is the link to her store, also called Classroom in the Middle.

Turning Bulletin Boards into Classroom Games

Hello!  My name is Rachael from The Classroom Game Nook Blog.  Thanks to Rachel Lynette for allowing me to share some tips with her readers today!

As you might guess by the title of my blog, I'm a big fan of classroom games to promote a meaningful and engaging learning environment.  I'm sure I don't have to tell you that most students would much prefer playing a game with their friends to review an important concept, than to review using a textbook or a worksheet.

Now, you might think that bulletin boards and games have nothing to do with each other, but I'm here today to tell you that they have EVERYTHING to do with each other.  When I taught in the classroom full time, I loved putting up a beautiful bulletin board display.  After stapling up the final piece, I'd stand back and admire my work (ok, and maybe call in a colleague or two into my room to validate my work with their "ooos" and "ahhhs"...).  The only problem:   my students could care less that I spent 2 hours after school putting it up.  In fact, they hardly noticed. (womp, womp...)

That all changed when I started using my bulletin boards for games!  And now, you can too!

The first step: Don't just put up your completed unit bulletin board at the beginning of the unit and leave it there hoping your students would notice ("Mrs. ____, you are soooo talented at creating meaningful and beautiful bulletin boards for us!" <---not going to happen!).  Instead, put up the pieces WITH your students.  Begin the unit by putting up only the topic headings:

Step 2:  Continue to add pieces to your bulletin board as you learn about your unit.  Be sure to refer to your bulletin board often so that students get in the habit of using it as a resource.  By the time your unit is complete, students will be very aware of everything on the bulletin board:
{Find this bulletin board set as part of my Getting Started in Writer's Workshop unit.}

Step 3:  Use your bulletin board to play a review game!  This is where you check how well your students have paid attention to your bulletin board throughout the unit!  Check out these fun ways to use completed bulletin boards to engage your students in review games.  These games can be played with bulletin boards for any concept or grade level.
{Find this bulletin board set as part of my Sun, Earth, and Moon unit}
{Find this bulletin board set as part of my Teaching Science Through Non-Fiction Texts unit}

{Find this bulletin board set as part of my Early Explorers unit}

{This bulletin board set it part of my Force and Motion unit}

So many options!  If you've got a bulletin board, then you've got a game waiting to happen!  I'd love for you to pop over to the Classroom Game Nook blog for even more game ideas, tips, and freebies!

The Classroom Game Nook

Rachael Parlett is the teacher-author behind the Classroom Game Nook Blog.  She is blessed to be a stay-at-home to her 1-year old daughter while still maintaining her Teachers Pay Teachers store and collaborating with other teachers.  You can stay in touch with Rachael on facebook, twitter, or pinterest!

4 Tips for Writing Emergency Substitute Plans

Hey, everyone! I'm Kelsey from Wife Teacher Mommy. I am so excited to be featured on Minds in Bloom! Rachel is such an inspiration to me and I'm honored to write a guest post for her blog. Today I'll be sharing some tips for you about planning ahead for your next sub day.

Teaching is a very rewarding career, but it is also very demanding. How many other jobs do you need to spend hours planning just to take a day off? Not too many! However, a classroom full of kids are depending on you to be there to do your job every day,. If you need to take a day off, you need to find a sub AND have lesson plans ready for that sub to use during the day.

Having been both a classroom teacher and a substitute teacher, I have seen both sides of this situation. I've been the teacher who needed to have lesson plans ready last minute when I was sick. I've also been the sub who was left with NO plans whatsoever. Needless to say, neither of these scenarios make for an ideal sub day- not for the substitute, not for you, and not even for your students! One way you can prevent this is to have your sub plans complete ahead of time and ready to go. Here 4 tips for writing emergency sub plans to make taking an unexpected sub day as painless as possible.

1) Have sub plans ready to go in advance. Sort your ready to go sub plans by subject, in the order they will be taught in. This will help everything run smoothly for your substitute. It is ideal to have these lesson plans typed. When I was subbing, I had some handwritten plans that were difficult to read. If your plans are handwritten, please make sure they are legible. And last, but not least, make sure you keep these sub plans somewhere that you will remember where they are. They should also be easily accessible for a substitute or coworker to find if you are unable to come into the classroom ahead of time.

2) Include a classroom schedule. At a minimum, the substitute should know when school begins, beginning/ending times for recess and lunch, and the time the final bell rings for the day. A substitute can get by with this information. You can also include the order subjects are typically taught throughout the day. It is also important to include any special times during the day library time, computer lab, P.E., etc. if they will be a part of the sub day. Information about the school is nice to have as well.

3) Include basic classroom management procedures. Include some basic classroom management procedures you use with your students. This includes attention prompts, classroom routines, discipline procedures, etc. Keep it short and sweet, because the sub only has so much time to look over the plans before they jump right in to teaching your class. However, it is very helpful for the substitute to know a little bit about how to run your classroom. It will help keep the routine going for your students as well!

4) Keep lessons simple for the substitute, yet engaging for your students. As stated before, a substitute only has a short amount of time to look over lessons before the day begins. A good idea is to have one of the first lessons of the day include some silent reading time for the students so the substitute has some time to look over the lessons for the rest of the day. Write up a short lesson plan for each subject that goes over the basics of what a sub will need to know. Make sure that these lessons keep the students minds engaged and learning. Don't just leave a stack of coloring pages for the whole day! Students should learn something every day, even on a sub day!

To get you started on your own ready to go sub plans, you can check out this Sub Plan Mini Lesson Freebie. Download the free lesson and just like that, you're off to a good start on your emergency sub plans! It also includes a substitute notes form so you can know how the day went while you are away. Keep this with your emergency plans!

If you'd like to skip the lesson writing and download a full day of plans that are already done for you, you can check out the Ready to Go Sub Plans in my Teachers pay Teachers store. I hope this post has helped you get your emergency sub plans ready to go for the upcoming school year! Thanks for reading! :)

Kelsey Sorenson is a wife, licensed teacher, and a stay-at-home mom. She enjoys using her talents to write for her blog Wife Teacher Mommy and create fun, engaging resources for her Teachers pay Teachers store. She loves sharing her resources and ideas with others! In addition to her passion for teaching and learning, she enjoys music, spending time with her family, and doing Zumba classes. 

Hobbies for Kinesthetic Learners: What Do I Do With My Hands During Read Aloud Time?

Hobbies for Kinesthetic Learners:
  • Archery
  • Target Shooting
  • Knife Sharpening
  • Tomahawk Throwing
  • Knitting
Wait. What?
Boys Don't knit!
I bet when you think of knitting you think of a little old granny in her rocking chair. But do you know who dominate the history of the art of knitting?
Men. Macho men in fact. 
Knitting is a perfect quiet activity during read aloud time. Your boys, however, may need some convincing.
One story tells of some Arabian fishermen who were trying to catch fish, but had no way to catch more than one fish at once. That is not a fun way to feed a family when there are no grocery stores!
One day, a fisherman was messing around with some yarn. He made a few loops and viola! The fishing net was born. The men tried the net in the water and caught a bunch of fish.
That's right. Manly fishermen made a net out of yarn.
Soon, they tested other uses for the yarn and created something like a sweater. When these men traded with neighboring lands these sweaters were highly prized. They asked to be taught the craft of knitting.
During the Middle Ages knitting became even more popular and knitting guilds were formed. There was incredible job security in the knitting field. Teenage boys wanted to become apprentices and learn the trade. They would leave their homes to live with master knitters. After many years, the boy would have to knit something incredibly complicated in order to “pass his test”.
During World War I and II boys in school began knitting again. The U.S. And British governments asked everyone to knit socks, bandages, helmet liners and mittens for their troops. Schools even held contests to inspire the young knitters. A favorite contest for boys was, “Who can make the most noise with their knitting needles?”
In this day of advanced technology, a skill like knitting has become lost in all the noise. If boys have free time they are more likely to be found playing a video game rather than knitting and purling.
Maybe it is time for a change? 
Knitting can be a very rewarding hobby for boys, especially those Kinestetic learners!
Here is our kinestetic son teaching you how to cast on and knit!
Casting on
Knit Stitch (He is so cute when he tells you WHY he knits!
Can Your Boys Knit?


Fine Motor Skills FREEBIE: Circle Time Activities  I Know My "5" Multiplication Facts :Math Fact Literacy ***  

Rebekah Sayler is a veteran homeschool mom of five boys, specializing in customizing education to inspire a love for lifetime learning. She authors A Better Way to Homeschool and shares her creative learning packets on Teachers Pay Teachers. When she is not homeschooling her children or mentoring new homeschooling moms you can find her walking, enjoying a cup of coffee with a friend, or shooting archery with her husband and boys. 
You can also find her resources and wisdom on facebook, twitter, and Pinterest.

The Most Valuable Part of the School Day: The Morning Meeting

If you are like me at all, you might be thinking about August already. Isn't it fun to have new, fresh faces coming to us- to join together in a brand new school year!

After many, many years of seeing those new groups coming, I can tell you that the one thing that brought us together quickly and proved over and over to be the heart of our classroom was one small thing.

The Morning Meeting.
When I taught a regular self-contained third grade classroom we always had a morning meeting. Even on the first day of school! Starting the day with this community time is what will get you and your students through your year together and this few minutes every morning is the best time to convene, catch up with one another, embrace one another.

There are so many ways to do this! Some key things to remember will get you started with your own version of a morning meeting time.

A space for your morning meeting is important and easy. You probably already have a space where you gather to read aloud or have a mini lesson. It is essential to have a designated space. When you gather your students together it lends importance to the meeting. The space shows the meeting has value. I had a friend that allowed her students to sit at their desks during morning meeting. The kids worked on their morning work, read, or drew while the meeting was held. To me this lessens the impact of the special time together. I always had my kids come to our carpet. I sat on a little low stool so that I was among the students. I also think that's important. The whole attitude of the meeting is casual and being almost on the floor with the kids made us feel like family. 

I always started the meeting by just greeting everyone. Make eye contact. Notice a new haircut, new pair of shoes, cute bow. Have the kids turn to a friend and say hello, high five, shake hands, whatever works for you.  Then begin with your message time.
 I used my easel for our morning meeting routine. The message that I wrote on my easel started us off officially. I always wrote something short like a brainteaser, a sentence with writer's craft in it, a sentence to make us think, a quote to talk about. My favorite activity was a fun sentence to work on homophones. I would write a sentence like this one: "The refuse on the side of the road was a mess for my brother to refuse to clean up." I would ask volunteers to try to read the sentence to us and pronounce the word "refuse" correctly as it is used. We had a great time with this and later we would add some writing to our Writer's Notebooks using homophones. See how cleverly I opened our meeting time with a super quick little lesson!

After the greeting and opening message I would move on to a sharing from myself. A magazine photo, a picture book, a cartoon, something I learned the day before, just anything to share. My students especially always loved to hear stories about my two children or my cats. This goes back to something I already said- it's about community and letting students see a personal side of myself was a big part of our morning meeting.

Next it's talk time for the students. We called it Share Time. Sharing Time is crucial for your morning meeting! In my classroom four to five students would share each day. There were some rules about sharing. It was optional. It could be a story or something brought in for us to see. A reasonable amount of time was given to each student. From the very beginning you must establish some audience guidelines as well. Attentiveness is required, comments or questions can be spoken. I rarely had to enforce these rules after we got going with our morning meetings. Lead by example! I always made eye contact with students that shared. I asked thoughtful questions and showed a genuine interest. I listened!
Of course, you will have students that want to share everyday! To make the share time fair we had assigned days. Each student knew what day was his or hers and this way students could prepare ahead of time if need be. But what if a student had an emergency to share? I mean one day I had a student who was in a car accident on the way to school. Of course, he needed to share that! So, we added an emergency share rule.
What kinds of things did we share? I had a student bring in duck calls her grandfather had made  and proceed to demonstrate how they worked. Yes, you could hear this all the way down the hall! Then I had a student tell us he had six toes on one foot. Yes, we asked to see! He removed shoes and socks to prove it. One day I had a student tell us about the argument his parents had the night before and that his father left saying he was never going to come back.
Sharing time, for me,  is the most important part of the morning meeting. Here's why I feel so strongly about this. Nothing brings a group together faster or most genuinely than crying together, hugging a friend whose dad said he was never coming back, or laughing because a duck call sounds like a bodily function noise. Want to bring your kids together? Let them talk. You learn about each other this way. You see life from another point of view. You find out you like each other. Kids begin to feel like your classroom is their safe place, their place to trust and love. That is why they will open up and talk and for some of them our classroom may be the only place they can do this.
If you are not convinced yet - I need to tell you one more story. My students knew that if they had an emergency story when it was not their share day they could ask to be added to the share list. However, I asked them to tell me a little about their emergency first. This gave me a chance to decide if the story was a true emergency or not. One morning a boy came to me as all the students were arriving. He told me he had an emergency to share.
He said, "Today while I am at school...." and then he began to tremble and tears welled up in his eyes and then began to stream down his face, but he continued, "my dog is going to be put to sleep." And he laid his head on my shoulder and wept. And I added his name to the share list.
Moments later he stood before his friends, still with red eyes, and I put my hand on his back, and he told them. And we all cried. Every one of us. And the children touched him and hugged him, and let him know how sorry they were. They knew, you see, all about this dog because the boy had shared stories with us all year. This dog and this boy were our family and he needed to tell us.
If you don't have morning meetings you really need to consider it. It's a powerful community building time. It was always my favorite part of the day.
Thank you for letting me share this with you. I am Carol Davis from Teachers are Terrific and I have been teaching for a really long time- a little over 30 years. I taught third grade for 17 of those years. For the last two years I have been the STEM teacher at my school, seeing all the students in grades three to five each week.  I spend my days experimenting, designing, building, and solving problems. It's truly amazing! There are many things I miss about the regular classroom since my switch to STEM. Reading books to students is tops on that list. The morning meeting and the community I shared with so many boys and girls is also on that list.

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3 Best Apps for Spelling Practice

Hi!  My name is Amy from 180 Days of Reading.   I am a Reading Specialist, former Kindergarten Teacher, with a First Grader at home. Some days I feel like I eat, sleep, and breath spelling patterns.  I hit a wall at home with my First Grader and spelling homework this year. I was tired of the write your words three times each homework every week and wanted to make things more interesting.  My son also has an obsession  interest in our IPAD, so I tried to find a way to bring the two together. Here are some of the apps that I found that are GREAT for practicing writing spelling words, without any fighting or tears!  Some I am sure were not designed for spelling practice, but I found quickly if you could write with the app, it could easily be used for spelling practice!

Here are three of our favorites:

Heat Pad:
This is one of my son's favorites.  It reminds me of those mood rings I used to have. It is easy to write on, the only downfall was that they letters disappeared pretty quickly so it was hard to actually see the whole word.  But, on a night when we needed homework motivation it did the trick!

Sand Draw:
This is all the fun of writing words in sand without the mess!  I liked this one because the word stayed in the sand.  There is even a cool wave that comes and washes the words away when you are done.  I also liked the option of taking a photo so kids can save their work.

Hello Crayon
 I LOVED this one!  You can use it for rainbow writing!  There is also Hello Chalk and Colored Pencil that work the same.  There is a save option and lots of colors to choose from.  I think it would be a great center activity if you have IPADS in the classroom.

It has been my life passion this year to find super fun apps to write spelling words.  I compiled a list and made it into a freebie you can get HERE to share with parents or teachers.


My name is Amy, but I can be found on most media as 180 Days of Reading.  I am currently a Reading Specialist and work with intervention groups in grades K-2.   I live in a small town in Pennsylvania with my two sons, and my husband.  My husband is also a teacher, and we are all looking forward to summer vacation when life slows down!

I have lots of other spelling ideas on my BLOG and in my STORE

Handwriting Tips for Lower Grades

Hi everyone!  I'd like to thank Rachel for allowing me to guest post on her blog today.  What an honor!

I'm Amy from Cahill's Creations.  I've been a teacher for 11 years with the last 6 spent in kindergarten.  I'm always searching for new ideas, tips, tricks, and resources to help my kinder kids achieve their goals.  I also LOVE creating fresh new resources that are useful in the classroom.
I'm here today to share my experience with handwriting this year.

At the beginning of kindergarten,  I spend a lot of time making hands-on activities to help strengthen their fine motor skills.  Here are some things that have helped get warmed up for beginning handwriting:

*Hole punch exercises - I had a whole bunch of hole punchers and the kids practiced using them by squeezing.  We used these in reading and math centers. You can hole punch letters/numbers, identify rhyming words, beginning sounds, shapes, or just about anything you can think of!
*Tweezers - We used tweezers in math centers.  Kids had to use these to pick up fuzzies and place them in an empty water bottle.
*Shaving cream - Kids LOVE getting messy with shaving cream.  Spread it out on tables & kids practice writing letters/numbers/words through the shaving cream.
*Play dough - roll it out and use to make your name or other words.
*Clothes pins - So many different uses!  Make math games to match the number to the quantity, match beginning sounds to letters, etc.
*Beads & Pipe Cleaners - This is perfect for math centers.  Kids have to put beads on pipe cleaners to match number and quantity.
*Tear art - kids have to tear construction paper into little pieces and clue on their name.  It looks beautiful and it helps with their fine motor skills.
*Q-Tip Painting - Use q-tips to paint your name, letters/numbers, sight words
*Cutting/Gluing - We always have a bunch of cutting and gluing practice worksheets at the beginning of the year.  I love using these because I can see who needs the extra support and how they are performing these skills.  I find it extremely sad that some schools in my district do not allow ANY cutting and gluing because it is not academic.  We are doing a disservice to our kids if we do not allow them to develop these skills.

I'm going to be honest here and say that, unfortunately, handwriting is one of those areas that doesn't get enough attention in my classroom.  It's not built into our schedule nor do we have a handwriting curriculum.  There are so many content areas/standards that we're responsible for teaching that handwriting is put to the side.  Since kindergarten is the foundation year, I knew I had to really concentrate on handwriting more.
At the beginning of the year, I highlight for the kids who need the extra support.  This helps them to trace what they want to say and fosters their confidence while making them feel successful.  I've also used all different kinds of pencil grips, but I've never seen any dramatic results with those.  Maybe I'm the only one who hasn't found these helpful?!

This year, I ran into some cases where the kids handwriting was not developing and I needed to find different, more creative ways to help them.

Here's what I did:

I created these ABC handwriting pages to help reinforce letter formation.  Some of my kinder kiddos were having difficulty with this skill.  These have helped tremendously!  You can put them in page protectors to save paper and practice on a daily basis.  Send them home and have parents work on handwriting.  I hope you find them useful.

I also discovered this lined highlighted paper that was very helpful for my kids.  I found this paper on Amazon Prime.  I checked with our Occupational Therapist to make sure this was  a good resource and she approved!  She loves this paper.  You can find it {HERE}.  I had some kids that were writing their letters so big and out of control that it wasn't even legible.  This paper helped to show where the letters should be formed.  It also allowed my kids to really slow down and think about the formation of the letters.  After buying this paper on Amazon, I sent a bunch home with some kids to practice with their parents.  The extra support helped!

I hope you found this post helpful and can use some of these pages for your kids. If you have any other tips/tricks/resources that have helped your kids with handwriting, I'd love to hear them! 

Thanks so much for stopping by!

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