3 Resources for Paperless Parent-Teacher Communication

Hi everyone! I'm Princess Netherly from Teaching, Love, Cupcakes and I'm excited to be a guest blogger today!

Today I'm going to give you a quick tutorial with screen shots of three resources I use for parent-teacher communication that will help keep you organized. If you're like me the last thing you want is more paper to keep up with. I don't know any teacher who wants MORE paperwork!

Both you and your parents will love how easy it can be to schedule conferences and volunteer opportunities in the classroom. The best part is less paper to keep up with. Say goodbye to lost papers in backpacks or left behind on the floor after dismissal!
First up is Doodle. Doodle is a website that makes scheduling conferences easy. Simply click schedule an event on the homepage and start filling in your details.

The best part of Doodle is choosing what days and times are most convenient for you. For example, I can schedule conferences for Wednesday after school but not Wednesday afternoon since that's my team planning day while students are in specials. 
When you're finished you will have the option to choose your settings. I always choose to make the poll hidden and only one participant per option. These options give you and parents some confidentiality. Sometimes it's not everyone's business to see what others are doing, know what I mean? 

Doodle will send you an administration link. Keep this link saved to make any changes to your poll. You may send out the participation link as many times as needed. Voila! Once parents enter their name and hit submit, their preferred date and time are saved; so much easier on us teachers so we don't spend time juggling paper notes trying to fit it all in. 
If you're not using Volunteer Spot for your room helpers bookmark it to start with next school year. I've been blessed to have a supportive group of parents this year who are always ready to jump in and help when needed. Volunteer Spot lets you schedule classroom help when you need it. Parents then view what dates and times you have available choosing what works best with their schedule. 

I already have an account, so I just need to create a new sign up. Please note when you create a sign up, volunteers will need to give their name, email address, and phone number. 
On the calendar you can choose any days you need.

See the option for repeated pattern? Click on it if you plan to repeat anything in the month. I didn't pay attention to this the first couple of months I started on Volunteer Spot and ended up taking longer than necessary to finish my sign ups.

One of the strengths of using Volunteer Spot is the different ways you can share with parents. How cool would the button be for a class website?

Both you and parents will be sent reminder emails before the date and time of volunteering. 
My last tool for easy parent-teacher communication is Class Dojo. If you've considered Class Dojo before now is a great time to start using it since new features have been added.
Let me start by saying I don't use Class Dojo all year. I start with Class Dojo after spring break when the kids need something new for classroom management.

I've created a "mini me" as an example for this blog post. Of course I had to pick a pink monster!
Did you know that now you can connect parents and students on Class Dojo? Any parent or student connected can log in at any time from the app or website to check their points. They access their account with a special code you have the option to give them.

Once parents are invited and connect, teachers can see their last date to login. Want to send a private or group message to parents? Well, now you can and even check when it was read. Isn't that a lovely feature for when we sometimes are told no message was received? 

Definitely bookmark these ideas so you can become familiar with them for next year. You'll love how much time you can save yourself and parents with these quick and easy communication tools. 

More about me:
I'm a second grade teacher from Texas wrapping up my fifth year of teaching. I enjoy learning about new technology to use in my classroom while still setting the foundations of learning with basic skills my students need. When I'm not teaching/creating products/blogging I enjoy traveling, exercise, and watching my favorite shows on Bravo.

Tips for Decorating Your Classroom

Hello! I'm Patti, Rachel's guest blogger from Primary Wonderland. I'm grateful to her to be sharing today!

        Have you noticed that the time to take care of your physical classroom has gone by the wayside?  By physical, I mean the walls, the bulletin boards, and those ceiling hooks that cry out for something new to be hung up each month. It takes a lot of time to make a room look inviting, but that very time has been swallowed up by curriculum-heavy schedules. So, where DO you find this so called time to take care of your ever evolving classroom? You have to get creative and share the load!  I have some tips that can help.

  • As much as you like it to, a bulletin board does not have to go up complete. REALLY! Don't wait for a whole pile of writing or projects to be staring up from your desk at the end of your long day! As children finish a project, hang it up while the others continue to work.  You save time and once the first few students have their work up, it motivates the rest to finish! You can even grade those projects right from the board!
  • Teach your students where and how to hang projects.  Make sure that your children can use staplers or hole punches safely. Train them how to put tape on the back of their work. Think about it...no more wasting time making hundreds of tape squares after school! To make this easy for small hands, teach children to tear or cut off strips of tape and hang them off the sides of their desks. Then have them loop each piece back over itself, sticky side out. They just overlap the ends a little, stick them together, and place them on their projects.  Even if you will eventually hang the projects yourself, just having the tape already on the back will really speed things up! If the items will be hung from paper clips hanging down from strings, teach children where and how to hole punch their projects before handing them to you. Hang them up as you continue to monitor the rest of the class. An even faster tip is to switch out the paper clips for binder clips.
  • Make one of your class jobs a Bulletin Board Helper.  Older students especially LOVE this! They can arrange, staple, tape, and even hang borders or titles.  They can take down the old items off of the wall or bulletin board and put them into mailboxes.  Show them how and where you store titles and borders and let them put them away for you. What a time saver!
  • If your students cannot manage the suggestions above, get parent volunteers to come in and hang things. Parents who drop children off in the morning may be willing to stay for 20 minutes to get your bulletin board done or hang projects in the hall before the first bell.


  • If something will be hung on paper clips, punch them as you prep OR mark them with an 'x' where students will hole punch them BEFORE you do any copying.
  • Think about each bulletin board and how you will be changing it throughout the year.  As you prepare your room before school starts, layer up the paper or material so that you can remove the current layer and the next one is underneath ready to go.

  • This is one of my favorites! Stop hanging individual letters for the titles. Just type the title on your computer using a COOL, BOLD font and print it out. You can use the banner setting and print that way or print as an  8 1/2 x 11 inch sheet in color with cute clip art added. Quickly mount on top of a couple of coordinating construction paper sheets and you are ready to go!  Laminate it to make it even faster for the next year!
  • Choose bulletin board borders that are neutral instead of decorated and leave them up all year. Then use small seasonal decorations that can be stapled on top of the border. These are faster to switch out then measuring and cutting new borders.
      So, don't give up the look that you want in your room or spend countless hours before and after school every month. Take notice of your habits and see where you can share the load or take a shortcut. The result will be a classroom that you are proud of when you switch the lights on every morning! 

http://primarywonderland.blogspot.com/A little about me-I have 9 years of experience teaching 2nd graders and several years as webmaster and technology coach.Visit me on my new blog Primary Wonderland for more tips and ideas or at my teacherspayteachers store!

5 Tips for Setting Up Math Workshop

Do you use math workshop in your classroom?  A few years ago, I was just venturing out into the world of math workshop after successfully using the workshop format for reading and writing.  At the time, there was very little written about it and most of what I knew, I learned from other teachers in my school district. 

At the most basic level, math workshop involves a mini-lesson, independent practice and a share time.  The independent practice part goes by many different names: centers, rotations, math tubs, stations, guided math, etc.  No matter what you call it, small groups rotate through a variety of activities to reinforce the concepts you are covering.  During this time, the teacher can work with small groups in order to better meet the needs of each student. 

Setting up a math workshop format can be overwhelming if you have never done it before.  I simply did not know where to start and had very few resources to help except for my friends, trial and error.  I adjusted and reworked my set-up multiple times until I finally found something that not only worked for me, but worked for my students as well.  They were loving math in a way I had never seen with past classes.  The format that I used went a little something like this.

Monday – longer math lesson, teach games and activities that students will use during math centers that week
Tuesday - longer math lesson, teach games and activities that students will use during math centers that week
Wednesday – math workshop – students rotate to 2 of the 6 stations
Thursday – math workshop – students rotate to 2 more of the 6 stations
Friday – math workshop – students rotate to their final 2 stations

My students were divided into 5 groups (not always equal in size but usually divided by ability level based on a pre-assessment for the unit) and they rotated through different stations during the course of a week.  Now that you have an idea of the math workshop format that I used, here are my top five tips for setting up math workshop in your classroom.

If the way you have math workshop set up in your classroom isn’t working, give yourself permission to change it.  I know your gut instinct is to wait until next school year because your students are already used to the routine and you don’t want to throw them for a loop.  I promise…your students will figure it out and rise to the occasion.  There is no point in continuing on with something that isn’t working for you or your students.  I completely changed how many groups and rotations I had in the middle of the year.  I am not even talking about after we returned from a break.  I am talking Friday it was not working and I was miserable, Monday we changed it all up. 

Between math workshop becoming more popular and the explosion of teacher ideas on blogs and Pinterest, I have seen a lot of different ways to set up math workshop.  There are many ideas out there, but every idea isn’t for you.  When I first tried math workshop, I did what I had seen a few other people do – divide the class into 3 groups (high, medium, low) and have them rotate through three stations (teacher, practice, game) every day.  It just didn’t work for me.  AT ALL.  I loved that I saw every student every day but it was crazy.  It was overwhelming to plan that many activities daily.  My other issue was that dividing 28 students into three groups didn’t really give me “small groups.”  There wasn’t a table that we could all fit at comfortably and I really wasn’t giving each child the attention they needed.  Don’t get me wrong, this format works for some teachers.  Just don’t feel like you have to make it work if it just doesn’t fit you and your students’ needs.

I also tried doing workshop/centers five days a week.  I just assumed you were supposed to, but I was having problems fitting all of my instruction into a mini lesson.  Not to mention the amount I had to prep to have new centers every single day.  That is why I finally settled on the format that I did.  Monday and Tuesday gave me the chance to teach longer lessons in more detail and have time to teach any games or activities that the students would use later that week.  That way I wasn't spending our workshop days explaining each station.  They already knew what to do and could get right to work.

I think a key to the success of math workshop is planning and having everything prepped ahead of time.  Before, when I was just teaching a lesson and giving them a worksheet, I could easily wing it and change if something wasn't copied or ready.  With math workshop, it caused me to be better at planning in advance.  Here is how I prepped:

·         Plan out the unit roughly – what you want to cover, how long it will last, etc.
·         Plan one week at a time – I found that if I planned too far in advance my students would throw me for a loop and need extra time on a concept or catch onto a concept really quickly and then my plans would be off for several weeks.
An example of one week's worth of math workshop plans
·         Copy ahead of time – I planned on Thursday nights and had a copy mom copy for me on Friday.  Then, I had Friday afternoon and the weekend to pull and prep anything needed for the following week. 
·         Set up on Monday – on Monday I would put all of the activities into the bins for the week, down to the manipulatives or supplies that they might need.  That way, I wasn’t scrambling for anything on Wednesday when we started our rotations.

This might be a good time to mention that you do not need to plan 6 new activities every week.  That is overwhelming.  Get the most out of your activities and games.  Students can use them more than once.  I also usually had a review station where we practiced a concept we’d already learned to keep it fresh for them.  Use what you have over and over again.  Math workshop is a great way to spiral the curriculum and make sure students are practicing topics all year long.

Also, being organized does not mean it has to be a lot of extra work.  It has to be functional and that is exactly what my math bins were.  Of course, I now drool over the cute color coordinated math bins with matching labels that I see online, but that was not what my bins looked like at all.  I needed something that worked for me, grabbed whatever bins I had on hand, wrote out labels (I know...gasp...they weren't typed and cute) and taped them on.  But you know what?  It worked!  The bins were organized with any papers, supplies and manipulatives they would need.  I even included little laminated signs to remind them what to do with their finished product from that station.  Then the next week, I would just trade out what was in the bin for the new activities for the week.  Functional!  It needs to work for you!

When I would be looking ahead and planning out the following week, I would check to see how many interruptions we had coming up – assemblies, field trips, testing, meetings for me, substitute teacher, etc.   If they fell during math workshop time, I would first try to see if we could do math workshop at a different time during the day.  If that was not possible, we would cancel math workshop for the week.  Instead, all five days would look like a normal Monday or Tuesday – a lesson and activity, then some math games.  If you skip a day of math workshop with the way that I did my rotations, each student would miss out on two stations and you would miss out on seeing two small groups.  That DID NOT work for me.  Each rotation was too important for the students to just skip so it was all or nothing.  Now, I only had to do this a few times during the year.  Usually, I could figure out a way to move things around and make it work because my kiddos LOVED math workshop days and did not like if I changed things up.

I think one of the biggest reasons math workshop was a success in my class was all of the practice we did when we first started.  When we first started, we would spend several weeks just practicing what rotations would look like – where to go, how to act, how it should sound, what they should do, when they could go to the bathroom, what it they needed help, where do they get supplies, what do they do if they finish early, etc.  At the beginning of the year, I taught them 6 easy games and these were our six rotations.  We would practice and practice and practice and at each station they would play a game with which they were already familiar.  It was not smooth sailing.  I wanted to hit my head against the wall on multiple occasions, but the more we practiced, the better it got and the smoother the rest of the year went.  Even if you are making changes in the middle of the year, I still suggest practicing and having math workshop boot camp before you release the responsibility and let them try it on their own.  I also found it helpful to create anchor charts so that the expectations were written in black and white (or whatever color Mr. Sketch I happened to grab).
An anchor chart of the expectations for everyone, teacher included!

If you need more information about setting up math workshop in your classroom, I have blogged about it HERE and also have created a product with my tried and true tips, as well as, organization and planning sheets for math workshop.  You can find that by clicking the picture below.
I created a free sample to help you get started with planning math workshop.  It includes 3 planning sheets (weekly plan, unit plan and small group planning) to get you started.  Click the picture below to download your free copy.
Sara is a former second grade teacher turned stay at home mom to two little girls.  She creates activities (many for math workshop) that she did not have time to create while in the classroom to sell in her TpT store, Sara J Creations.  She also blogs about teaching, parenthood and crafting on her blog, Sara J Creations: Confessions of a teacher turned stay at home mom.  You can also connect with Sara on Pinterest, Instagram or Twitter.     

Effective Classroom Managers Do These 5 Things

I'll never forget my first teaching job. It was at a troubled urban school. I was a 23 year-old grad student with absolutely no teaching experience and absolutely no teaching certificate. I replaced a teacher in the second semester of the school year who had been fired for incompetence.

At the end of that first semester in the classroom, the principal confided in me the reason she had hired me. She claimed that experienced teachers had applied for the position, but that she had given it to me because when asked for one word that described me, I responded, "Tenacity."

When she told me that, I immediately wished I had said, "Flightiness...I'm incredibly flighty." Or, "Laid back...whatever." But I didn't have the foresight, and I had to go and label myself "Tenacious."

That was perhaps the single most brutal semester of my working life. But I survived, and in hindsight, I'm really glad that I went through it. I think student teaching is an invaluable experience, and I would never recommend that prospective teachers forgo it, but I learned so many lessons in that one semester that have carried me through 13 years (and counting) in the classroom. I had to--it was "sink or swim," "do or die." It felt like I was fighting for my life everyday.

Years later, when I had my own student teacher, she asked me, "What makes an effective teacher?" And because of that harrowing first teaching job experience, I think the most important characteristic of an effective teacher is solid classroom management. Without that, nothing gets done.

But "solid classroom management" is a very broad statement. When pressed, I was able to narrow it down to five characteristics. I have observed these characteristics in truly remarkable teachers, and I continue to observe them to this day in colleagues that I would argue surpass the effective marker and have entered the realm of remarkable.

The Five Characteristics of an Effective Classroom Manager (According to Me)

Effective classroom managers know that they are in charge. They expect to be listened to. They respect students and command respect in turn. 

I had a student move in with her father a few weeks ago. As a result, she had to transfer school systems. She came back last week. I told her I was sorry it didn't work out with her dad. She said, "No, I liked living with him. It was the school. The teachers all talk over the students and nobody listens." She couldn't even tell me what they had been studying. 

Sometimes, a class gets away from all of us, but attempting to teach over the raucous is a big mistake. It may mean taking a deep breath and waiting for calm. It may mean assigning book work until they appreciate "class as usual." Whatever their methods, effective classroom managers always keep in mind that they are in charge of the classroom.  

Effective classroom managers plan from bell to bell a series of engaging lessons. But they are also flexible. They don't sweat when students finish early or the projector stops working. They are ready to roll with plan B. Stations, broad vocabulary activities, task cards...they have 'em ready!

My current department head has a knack for using a variety of activities in the classroom. I don't think he spends longer than 15 minutes on any one thing, and he never has any down time. When students walk into class, they pick up all of their materials for the day right away, so there is no wasted time. A typical class for him may be a 5 minute bellringer, followed by a quick review, followed by a geography game on the IPads, a 10 minute visually-engaging lecture, a short film clip, a quick review....You get the idea.

He uses a stopwatch, his class is always moving, and he seldom has behavior issues.

Effective classroom managers see the humor in everyday situations and just don't take the punches every teacher encounters so seriously.

During my first harrowing days in the classroom, teachers were still offering the advice, "Don't let them see you smile until after Christmas." That used to work, but it is bad advice with today's students.

I remember my first classroom observation. My mentor from the university said, "You look so serious all the time. Try smiling." Once I did that, I actually started building relationships with the students. And really, how can you lead someone you don't have a relationship with? Kids just don't blindly follow you because you're an adult anymore.

I'm not saying you should wink and smile at bad behavior--you should never do that. But if students see that you enjoy your job, they appreciate it. Laugh when you can, and keep a journal of funny things that happen in the classroom.

Effective classroom managers expect good behavior and follow through with consequences equitably when it is not displayed.

This is a tough one for me, and this goes back to having a sense of humor. I'm a sucker for funny, and if a student is being disruptive, and it happens to be funny, well....That's why I know I have to have a behavior plan in place. Some teachers have the same one year after year, and that's great. Mine is always based on the personality of the class.

My expectations don't change, but the ways I implement warnings do. I've had classes that all I have to do is tell them what I expect and they comply, but that is oh so rare. Some classes need a quiet area--a place to send students to cool down and reflect. Tangible warning cards handed to students work better with others...1=a cease and desist, 2=a phone call home, 3=removal from the classroom. It just depends on the class.

Effective classroom managers structure their classrooms so that students know what to expect--that's reassuring to them. They also structure the class in such a way that each student has specific responsibilities.

Students like to know that the first five minutes of a class will be bellwork or that vocabulary quizzes will be every Friday. All of the most effective classroom managers I've ever observed have a basic outline around which they frame all of their classes.

But great advice I got early on was to assign each student responsibilities each day. Whole class responsibilities involve putting "minutes" of the class into the absentee notebook, handing out materials, keeping the time for activities....I draw names out of a deck of index cards that students fill out on the first day of school for these responsibilities.

My students sit at tables in groups of four. When I first moved to this structure, I realized that students were not taking care of materials on their tables and they were leaving a mess everyday. This changed when I began to assign each group member a specific task. These tasks rotate weekly. The students know what their responsibility entails because I hang a poster in my classroom that describes each job. You can get the poster for free here, in color and black and white.

Here it Is!
Excellent teaching doesn't matter without effective classroom management. It takes time--it takes trial and error, but these are the characteristics that I've been able to pinpoint in some of the most effective classroom managers that I've had the privilege to work with and observe.

What did I miss? Leave a comment, and let me know what else makes an effective classroom manager.

Leah Cleary is a secondary social studies and English teacher in Newnan, Georgia where she lives with her husband and 9 year-old son.
Leah's Blog
Leah on TPT
photo credit: Ledbury Public School - Imagining My Sustainable City via photopin (license)

End of the Year Task Cards - FREE!

Grab these Free End of the Year Task Cards to keep you kids thinking right to the end. These cards are a great way to reflect on the year. Each one features a different prompt for discussion or writing! There are 20 prompt cards, plus four bonus cards that go a little deeper and require students to write a letter. You are sure to learn a lot about your students and their experience over the course of the year with these cards!

If you have been using these cards, I would love to know how it is going! Please reply with a comment.

Teaching Students Creative and Critical Thinking

Life is full of adventures! You never know what wonderful twists or turns lie ahead.  A few weeks ago, I had applied to be a guest writer on Rachel Lynette's blog, Minds in Bloom. With so many other applicants, I never thought I would even be considered! I was absolutely floored when I received an email from Maggie, Rachel's assistant, letting me know that they were ready for me to submit my post! Whaaat??  So cool!  So, here I am...writing as a guest blogger for Rachel Lynette!  

One of my greatest passions, as a teacher, is to create an excitement...a buzz...a quest for
learning in students.  There is nothing more exciting than to see that "AHA" moment in a child's eyes; the realization that he/she "gets it" and now knows how to share it with others.  Thinking critically and creatively enables the student to better understand the world around them.  The concepts taught, combined with different kinds of thinking strategies can create a fabulous feast for the mind, while training the brain to have the know-how to fearlessly meet real-world problems head on!

What is Critical Thinking?

Critical Thinking requires fluidity!  It is divergent AND convergent. It is finding a solution to a problem; a solution that works best for that particular situation, time, and experience.  Critical thinking is active, not passive.  It engages the student in complex thinking, wherein they are forced to make choices, defend their choices, and harder yet, change their choices, as needed, when better or more complete information is found and understood.  Critical Thinking is essential for solving complex problems as logic and reasoning skills are put to the test.

What is Creative Thinking?

Creative Thinking is very similar to Critical Thinking in that it also requires fluidity and is essential for problem solving.  Creative Thinking can be taught with practice and typically produces something unique, original, and fresh.  SCAMPER is a mnemonic device I use quite frequently with my students and stands for substitute, combine, adapt, minify/modify/magnify, put to other uses, eliminate, and rearrange. SCAMPER is a great way to help a student understand what is needed to spark creativity from within.

How to Teach Your Students to Think…About Thinking

Just so you know…I get it!  I really do!  There just doesn't seem to be enough time in the day to teach this kind of thinking!  Right?   Testing is sucking the very life out of us all!  I know…I get it!  But, WAIT! Maimonides, the ancient philosopher once said, "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."  The same could be said about thinking!  If we teach our students how to be critical and creative thinkers, we teach them how to be successful far longer than just till the end of the school year.  So...how do we do this AND complete the curriculum for math, reading, language arts, science, social studies, history, etc...????  I believe the trick is not seeing these thinking skills as something MORE to teach...but merely as a different WAY to teach that enhances the curriculum already being taught in your classroom. Here are a few ideas:
Teaching with Webb's Depth of Knowledge

Ask Good Questions 

Using Bloom's Taxonomy and Webb's Depth of Knowledge higher-level question stems, students can better understand and eventually master inquiry-based questioning skills.  Incorporate these kinds of questions stems when discussing a wide variety of concepts with your students. 

Questioning Activities:  Try them out!

1.  Bubble Gum vs. Cotton Candy Questioning Grabber
Treat your students to a ‘taste” of questions!  Give each student a piece of gum and a serving of cotton candy.  Talk about the properties of each and how they relate to questioning strategies.  Cotton candy questions are lower level thinking questions and can usually be answered with a "yes" or a "no."  On the other hand, bubble gum questions require the student to consider different kinds of answers; a mulling or “chewing” of answers.  These questions simply require more work! Just as your jaws get tired from chewing gum, your brain gets a workout when using just the right kind of questions!
2.  Mystery Objects
Bring a “mystery” object for the class to see, feel, smell.  Students ask questions about the object and try to identify what the object is, where it came from, how it is made, how it is used, etc…  I had a friend bring a piece of sea glass to class one day.  Being from Utah, we don’t get a lot of sea glass, so this was something I had never seen or felt.  Believe me, I had a lot of questions about this object. Really fun!!

Tips, Tricks and Ideas

The following list of ideas can be used across the curriculum, as well as with team or class building.  Try just a couple of these in one of your lessons and see how it goes!

Go Noodle

The Learning Station

Be Physically Active

Get your students moving around the classroom when working on projects.  Have them take a break and stretch or move to pre-made workouts found on different websites like  The Learning Station and Go Noodle.

Brainstorm/List Ideas

Take time to have your students generate solutions, ideas, reasons, etc...  Be careful not to judge!  Accept everything, then have your students apply what fits or works for the given situation.

Make Connections...Create Extensions...Welcome Challenges

Encourage your students to make connections to the topic.  They should always be looking for how the conversation, topic, concept affects them personally.  Create learning environments that extend their thinking.  Have them interview, create, decide, judge, combine, research, examine, re-examine, tweak!  Empower the students to welcome challenges with an "I GOT THIS!" type of attitude.  No wimps allowed!!

Consider the Opinion of Others

Lost at Sea!  A Critical Thinking Adventure
Students can be very territorial of their opinions and answers to a question.  It's important that they learn to consider what others are saying, as well.  One of my favorite activities to practice this skill is called "Lost at Sea!  A Critical Thinking Adventure".  Students are given the task of choosing 20 items to take with them as they swim to a deserted island for safety.  Once they choose, they must compare their list with their partner's list. If the items match, great! If they don't match, students must try to convince each other why their choice is better for the situation at hand, or they must change their mind and agree with their partner's choice. FREEBIE ALERT!!  I love this activity, so... it is my gift to you!  This resource will be free for you to download until August 1st, 2015.  Yay!!  Prizes!!

Establish a Positive Classroom Community

Students will be more likely to participate in discussions, class projects, activities and assignments if they feel they play an active role and are an important element in their classroom.  Team building and class building activities are essential!  

Communicate and Collaborate

I have yet to meet someone who is a master of everything! But, I have met several who are masters of at least something! Communication and collaboration will spur on critical and creative thinking.  Students are more successful by sharing their ideas and talents with a group.  Give your students time to work together.  Encourage them to find the solution to a problem together...as a team of workers.  There is nothing better than a classroom involved in "controlled chaos".

Invite Students to Question their Thinking and Reflect Often on Their Learning

Einstein thought questioning and curiosity were the key elements to learning.  He constantly questioned his own thinking and was eager to find those cracks, those mistakes in his theories because it was one step closer to proving what didn't work and finding the solution for what did.  Students should  question their thinking often; welcome the mistakes and celebrate the successes.  Find time for critical, reflective learning moments.  Take time for students to soak in learning, as well as recognize what still needs to be done better.

Help Students Learn How to Justify Beliefs, or Be Willing to Change Them

The way we think, including how we think, is largely based upon our personal experience.  It stems from the environment in which we live.  Guide students to recognize their beliefs and whether or not those beliefs are based on facts or emotions.  Students need to understand that it is okay to change their minds about previously held notions.  To think critically and creatively requires great flexibility.

Activities to Enhance Critical and Creative Thinking

Here are a few sites and activities I've used with my students to increase and enhance critical and creative thinking skills.  Although these activities may not align exactly to your curriculum, they are fabulous for teaching these important skills to your students! I hope you find them very helpful!!
Hour or Code
Teach Critical and Creative Thinking
Skills with Coding Activities
Actively Learn
Add your own questions to enhance
your student's reading experience!

Graphite from Common Sense
One of my favorite sites...ever!  Great
for finding lesson plans, apps,
sites, and game-based activities
perfect for developing
critical and creative thinking.

Pamela Moeai is an Educational Technology Specialist, a Trainer, a Coach, a Teacher, a Mom, Grammy Pammy, and a Baker of Pies!  She is passionate about critical and creative thinking and loves to bring out the very best in students and teachers.  She received her B.A. in Elementary Education, and her M.Ed in Instructional Technology.

Connect with Pamela... 

For more resources by Pamela Moeai,
please visit her Teachers Pay Teachers Store
Grow Wise with Pamela Moeai.

Teaching Resources

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