Check out this Sqworl

What is a Sqworl? It is a great way to get a quick view of a lot of webpages all at once. Here is a sqworl of TpT Teacher blog pages from the author of Kindergarten Works.

Making the Most of Student Presentations

At its worst, a student presentation is a nervous, unprepared student  reading note cards to the class in a barely audible voice. No one wants that. But with a little guidance, that same kid can create an interesting, dynamic presentation that will not only hold every one's attention, but actually teach them something.Here are some ideas for improving your students' presentations:

Groups are Good
A group can take on a bigger topic than an individual. Most students enjoy working in groups. In addition, standing in front of the class with your group is less scary for most kids than standing up there all by yourself. If you'd like more tips on groups, here is a post on making group work, work.

Be Clear about Expectations
Students should know what they need to cover, how long their presentation should be and what other elements they need to include such as visual aids, discussions questions, charts or stats, etc. You may even want to give your students a presentation structure for some subjects.

Teach Presentation Skills
Teach and practice presentation skills such as making eye contact, speaking at the appropriate volume and speed, and using visual aids or technology within the presentation.

Make it Interesting
Require some kind of attention-getting opening. Encourage creative approaches such as acting things out, presenting in song, or artwork. Students can  bring in real-life examples, and visual aids. If you have technology - PowerPoint, for example, encourage students to use it.

No Passive Listening 
The rest of the class should be learning from the presentation. Require the presenter(s) to come up with a short quiz about the presentation that the entire class will take. A Q&A session at the end of the presentation is also not a bad idea...after all, the presenters should know their subject well!

Skip the Peer Grading
Some teachers have students fill out grading rubrics for their classmates' presentations. Social hierarchy in school is already complicated enough without having students grade each other. As a parent, I would rather have my child take a test on the content of the presentation than grade the presenter. I am, however, in favor of students evaluating themselves. A self-evaluation and a teacher evaluation is enough.

Practice Makes Perfect
Do presentations often so that students have an opportunity to improve. Consider video taping presentations for students to watch on their own.

Presentations skills are a valuable commodity in today's world. The skills you teach today could be utilized in a riveting board meeting, a heartfelt acceptance speech, or a touching wedding toast tomorrow. Who knows, perhaps someday those skills will be put to use in a brilliant State of the Union Address.


Thursday Round Up #2

For some terrific teaching materials, all at special prices (for 3 days only), check out The Second Thursday Round Up on the Teacher2Teacher blog.

What Would You Do to Change the World?

What's more, we are the first nation to be founded for the sake of an idea — the idea that each of us deserves the chance to shape our own destiny. That is why centuries of pioneers and immigrants have risked everything to come here. It's why our students don't just memorize equations, but answer questions like "What do you think of that idea? What would you change about the world? What do you want to be when you grow up?"

-President Barack Obama, State of the Union Address

Ask your students that question. In a discussion, as a journal prompt, as an essay assignment, in a brainstorming session...ask the question.

Then share the answers. Read them out loud, make them into a bulletin board or a collage, put them in your letter to parents, post them on a blog.

Help your students shape their own destiny.

Valentine's Day Worksheets for Free!

Valentine's Day is Coming soon! 

Get your students to use their heads in this time of the heart with these two

Free Valentine's Day Worksheets.

Check Out the Very First Thursday Round Up!

The Thursday Round Up is a collection of TpT products that have all been put on sale for three days. Each product is from a different seller (so it is not just my stuff) and there is a wide variety of teaching materials for all ages. So, check it out, and while you are there, be sure to follow or bookmark Teacher 2 Teacher.

No More Cupcakes - Alternative Class Birthday Ideas

We have all had our class birthday treats horror stories. Mine was a parent who sent in two dozen dougnuts - all different shapes, sizes, and flavors. That was fun.  One of my friends had to deal with a fancy cake that was clearly not big enough for the class, ice cream, and no plates, spoons, or serving utensils.

On top of logistics, today many children have food allergies or are following special diets. It can't be fun for them to watch the rest of the class indulge while they eat the non-gluten, vegan snack their parents have provided. There is also a good case to be made for less sugar in our children's diets. So, perhaps it is time to let go of the class birthday treat and find a fun alternative. Here are a few ideas:

Class Birthday Book I
Instead of treats, the child brings a special book to add to the class library. The child or the teacher writes who gave the book and what birthday he or she is celebrating on the inside front cover. The child or teacher reads the book to the class (or a favorite part if it is a chapter book).

Class Birthday Book II
Each child in the class makes a page for the birthday child's Birthday Book. A page consists of a picture and a positive statement about the birthday child - something that is admired or appreciated. The birthday child makes the cover. The teacher makes a page too and all the pages are bound in a special book for the birthday child to take home.

Birthday Game
Birthday child gets to choose a game for the whole class to play. For older children, the birthday child could lead the game if he or she chooses.

Birthday Lunch
The birthday child may invite family members to eat with him or her. If possible, there is a special birthday lunch table. The special table could have a table cloth and a vase of flowers to make it a little more special. Another variation is to let the birthday child eat at the birthday table with friends of his or her choice, possibly from other classes.

Almost everyone can eat plain popcorn and it is still a treat. Maybe not as good as cupcakes, but still fun. You could have a couple helpers pop some in an air popper at recess and then have it as a birthday treat.

What special thing do you do for birthdays? Feel free to share your ideas!

You can find more birthday ideas at the Birthday Linky Party at Sunny Days in Second Grade!

Should I Use a Graphic Organizer?

You can get the two Graphic Organizers pictured in this post plus one more for free here.

The graphic organizer pictured to the right could easily be made into a question and answer worksheet format. The assignment would be fine, but the graphic organizer is a much more appealing and possibly more appropriate format.

You probably use graphic organizers with your students all of the time. After all they help students to:
  • organize ideas
  • make connections
  • discover new ways of thinking about things
  • demonstrate knowledge
  • make plans and decicisions
  • explore a subject with more depth
Also, they are generally more fun than a question-and-response format, so students are likely to greet them with more enthusiasm than a worksheet of questions.
Often graphic organizers can be used to replace those very worksheets. Here are some useful questions to ask when deciding if a graphic organizer is a good format for an assignment:

Can my subject be compacted into one page?
Usually, a graphic organizer is on a single page. There may be several related graphic organizers on several pages, but having one overflow onto a second page tends to break the flow. Of course, you could use really big paper...
Does my subject lend itself to connections
Graphic organizers are a great way to show the connections that people, places, things, events etc. have to one another. If you are doing something that has to do with events over a period of time, a graphic organizer could be just what you need.
Would using a pre-made graphic organizer restrict thinking?
I have seen many bubble-type graphic organizers (mind maps) in which the main idea goes in the middle circle and then there are various circles surrounding it. If this is being used for brainstorming or another open-ended applications, why not just have the students make their own? Then they can make as many bubbles as they want, in whatever orientation makes the most sense.
Would a graphic organizer be more motivating?
If writing vocabulary words and their definitions in cool looking shapes rather than on regular lines across the paper is more fun, why not do it? The learning is the same.

You can get the two Graphic Organizers pictured in this post plus one more for free here

Or you can get the whole set of 22 of Any Book Graphic Organizers here

Get one of my Teaching Resources for Free

As you may have noticed, I sell teaching resources on All the blue links on Minds in Bloom get you to those resources. Here is a way you can get one for free. Ratings are super important on TpT, so if you rate and comment on some of my products I'll give you a product of your choice for free! The products you rate can even be ones you have already purchased, so you don't have to buy anything new if you have already bought some, but they cannot be free products. Here is how it works:
  • Rate and comment on 3 products, receive 1 free product priced $3.00 or under.
  • Rate and comment on 5 products, receive 1 free product priced $5.00 or under.
After you have left a ratings and comments on 3 or 5 of my products, simply send me an email at or post a comment to this article. In your email or post, tell me the following things:
  • Your TpT user name 
  • How many products you rated 
  • Which of my products you would like for free.
  • Your email if you are using the comments option 
I will email you back with your free product within a day or two. Remember, you must rate and leave comments for my products and they must be ones that are for sale, not ones that are free. Feedback on any for sale product is great, but I would especially appreciate it if you would leave comments for newer products that have few (or even no) comments yet.

Click this link to get to a list of my store on TpT, or click on any of the blue links in the sidebars, or use the "Teaching Materials" tab.

3 New Years Resolutions for Teachers

Here we are in a brand new year...with the same old challenges. The same kids that drive you crazy, the same administrators that may also be driving you crazy. Too little time, too much to do, and so on and so on. So, here are three New Years Resolutions to help you and your students make it to June.

Resolution #1: Try something new at least once a week
It doesn't have to be a big something. It could be as small as a new attention signal or a change in the schedule. Or it could be big. Revamp you spelling program. Try a teaching strategy that you haven't yet. Learn a new technology. Novelty keeps things interesting, and who knows, the change could be really positive.

Resolution #2:  Say "yes" as often as  you can
Not much creative or worthwhile happens after, "no." But maybe no, doesn't have to be no. Can you find a way for your student to get his or her request granted that works for you too? Sometimes, we are so used to saying "no" we don't even stop to consider what "yes" would mean. Here are 8 Ways Not to say No.

Resolution #3:  Let go
It is so, so easy to get caught up in the drama of it all. Classroom conflicts, school politics, unreasonable parents and so on. Remind yourself that in many cases, you don't have to part of the drama. When you leave the classroom, leave the classroom, as much as is possible, anyway. We all have that thing that works for us. For me, it's a hot bath. For you it may be a cup of coffee, a hug from your SO, or  vegging out in front of the TV. Whatever it is, indulge without guilt. You deserve it after all.

Get Three in a Row with Tic-Tac-Toe Choice Grids!

One of my mentors from my early teaching days said that we should strive to give students "freedom within structure." Tic-Tac-Toe Choice grids are one excellent way to do that.

To make a Tic-Tac-Toe Choice Grid, simply put nine more or less equal projects, assignments, or activities into a 3X3 Grid. Students must then choose three of the projects to complete. However, just like in the game, the three choices must all be in a row.

This forces students to make choices, weighing one option against another. A student may have to complete a project a little outside his or her comfort zone in order to get the one he really wants. However, it is likely that she will be more open to the more challenging assignment if she chooses it, rather than having it forced upon her.

Tic-Tac-Toe Choice Grids can be used in a variety of ways. Certainly, they could be integrated to most science or social study units. Journal prompts are another excellent application. Since students must choose three, you can distribute a new set of prompts at the start of each week. Then students choose three to write about on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. If you journal for five days each week, Tuesday and Thursday can be free choice days.

Another possibility is to use them in your spelling program. Students choose three spelling activities to do during the week before the test. This will work great for individualized spelling programs or if you generate your own lists. Saves on copying as well since students complete their work on notebook paper rather than on worksheets. Because there are nine choices, you could use the same grid several times during the year.

You could also use Tic-Tac-Toe Choice Grids with your literature program. Students could choose three to complete while or after reading. Again, great individualization - can be used with a class book or when everyone is reading different books.

A final added advantage to Tic-Tac-Toe Choice grids is that it makes grading all those activities more interesting for you. Instead of 24 versions of the same activity, you get a little variety.

Don't want to make your own? Try these ones:

Tic-Tac-Toe Journal Prompts

Tic-Tac-Toe Spelling Activities

Tic-Tac-Toe Literature Activities

10 Fun and Creative Thank You Note Ideas

Writing Thank You notes for holiday gifts doesn't have to be a chore. Here are 10 creative ideas to help make writing Thank Yous fun!

  1. Make Thank You notes into an art project  Get out the crayons, the glitter and the glue. Have your child make a picture (ideally incorporating the gift), then write a note underneath or on the back. Mail in a big yellow envelope.
  2. Create a Comic  Have your child write her thank you graphically in comic strip form. She could make a comic about how excited she was to get the gift or about using it.
  3. Write a Looooonnnnnngggg Thank You  Use adding paper (you can buy it in rolls from an office supply store) and have your child write the note in one very long line. Roll it up, tie a ribbon or piece of yarn around it and send. You could send it inside a toiletpaper roll or an old prescription container to keep it from being mushed.
  4. Make a Puzzle  You can buy puzzle cards at the art store, or make your own from cardstock. Just have your child draw a picture and/or write a note and then put the pieces in the envelope and send.
  5. Write a Rebus Thank You  For this Thank You, your child writes the note using small pictures in place of some of the words.
  6. Take a Picture  Take a picture of your child using the gift, add a speech bubble and have your child write a thank you inside it. Great for that handmade sweater.
  7. Make a Video  This can be as simple as filming your child talking about the gift and thanking the giver, or you could video your child using the gift or even do a full on movie complete with script and costumes.
  8. Design a card in Publisher  This has been a favorite of my son's for years. You can buy envelopes to fit these cards. A hand-written note on the card is a nice touch to keep it personal.
  9. Make a PowerPoint Thank You  Your older child could probably make a pretty amazing mutlimedia presentation with "Thank You"s flying in and flashing, spinning etc, sound effects and goodness knows what else. You can put it on a CD and snailmail it or attach it to an email.
  10. The Email Thank You I almost left this one off because it seems like such a cop out. Manners guru Emily Post recommends that you  consider the audience if you are thinking about an email Thank You. People who use email reguarly may be fine with it, while some of the older generation may find it offensive. If you do allow your child to use email, make sure the note is as personal as possible (no group thank yous!) and consider encouraging creativity with fonts, colors and pictures. As for animated ecards, my inclination is to Just Say No.

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