Win this Book: Let's Throw a Halloween Party + Five Great Halloween Resources!

Congratulations to Debbie Ingalls who won the contest. But I didn't want anyone to leave empty handed, so you can get this 

You Could Win this Book and a Whole Lot More!

Let's Throw a Halloween Party by Rachel Lynette (that's me!) is geared for children grades one to three. Halloween party tips, fun activities, recipes, and even a little Halloween history. This book was published by Rosen/Powerkids Press copyright 2011. It is a hardback edition that I will autograph to the winner's class if desired.

But, that's not all! Some of  my awesome teacher friends are generously contributing some of their amazing Halloween resources to this giveaway. So the winner not only gets this book, but also these great products:

This is a CD by the always delightful Debbie Clement of Rainbows Within Reach. There are sixteen songs for little ones on this CD including "Monster Spray" which is how it is connected to this Halloween Giveaway. Better yet, Debbie will autograph it to the winner! Debbie is not only a singer and composer, she is also a wonderful children's author and school presenter. You can find more from Debbie at her terrific Rainbows within Reach Blog.

This is a terrific set of 30 October Writing Center Task Cards by Sunny Days. You could use these at a center or choose one each day as a writing prompt for the entire class. You can find even more great ideas, not to mention some terrific freebies at the Sunny in Second Grade blog. Those Synonym Shakers look like a blast!

Here are some terrific Halloween Color Word Cards to use on your word wall or in a colors matching game. These were created by Nyla's Crafty Teaching.  There are more great resources where this one came from so be sure and check out the Nyla's Crafty Teaching for more great stuff for the little ones including plenty of freebies. I especially appreciated her tips for laminating printables.

These adorable Halloween Coloring Pages come from Carolyn of  Wise Owl Factory.  What better way to calm your sugar-overdosed, crazy-excited little monsters than with some quiet coloring? Did you know that Carolyn has three amazing blogs that are all full of freebies for teachers? Start with Wise Owl Book A Day where she highlights favorite children's books and creates free resources to go with them.

For the slightly older set, here is a wonderful set of October Activities from Laura Candler at Teaching Resources! You will find word games, Math activities, Writing, Science, even Halloween themed homework passes. If you have never visited Teaching Resources, you are really missing out. Laura has compiled a huge collection of terrific free resources (look in the "file cabinet") and of course she has a bunch of terrific products as well. Don't forget to sign up for the Candler's Classroom Connections Newsletter while you are there!

So, how do you enter to get all this great stuff? It is super easy. There are two ways to enter and you can do one or both.
  • Sign up for the short, fun, and highly useful Minds in Bloom Newsletter (you can enter the contest even if you are already a subscriber) 
  • Comment on this post with a fun Halloween activity. 
Then just be sure to click "I did this" on the form  below to enter.  A winner will be selected randomly on Monday evening, October 3. 

Facebook Recap 1

It seems that facebook is making some changes and as a result, if you interact with a page (like posts, comment, repost etc.), the page will drop off your news feed never to be heard of again. So, just in case that has happened to my posts and you haven't been seeing the freebies, teaching tips, links and other good stuff, I have decided to do a recap every week or so of some of the highlights of my facebook posts.

You can learn more about this change and how to keep seeing the pages you want to see from this video by Charity Preston.

Recent Highlights from Rachel Lynette's Facebook Page:

Secondary Solutions is having a sale in honor of Banned Books Week - 20% off! She has some amazing literature resources for grades 5-12. -- 120,000 free and priced teacher-created materials for download including lesson plans, unit plans, novel studies, worksheets, printables, PowerPoint Presentations, quizzes, exams, workbooks, projects and more. Buy and sell used classroom resources. Ebooks from major 

Another terrific freebie from Lesson Plan DIva-Teaching Resources, this one on shapes!
I made my very first video today! It is only 3 minutes long...I'd love to know what you think.
Make your own Get to Know You Jenga!

These emergency sub plans are totally free from Sub Hub!

You is kind. You is smart. You is important"
-Aibileen Clark (from The Help)

Just in case you didn't get your copy of the short, fun, and always useful Minds in Bloom Newsletter, you can get one here. Don't forget to subscribe while you are there...the next one comes out in about three weeks!

Margaret Whisnaut of Taking Grades for Teachers has chosen to spotlight five freebies. They look great!

Free "I Read Banned Books" bookmarks with a list of books that are frequently challenged from Tracee Orman!
To celebrate the freedom to read, this free download has four pages of original bookmarks with "I read banned books" printings.
Get this poster free from Fabulous 4th Grade Froggies!
Fabulous 4th Grade Froggies - A great place for teachers to get ideas, tips, and more!

Just a reminder that if you have purchased 15 or more products from my TpT store, I will give you a product of your choice ($5 or under) for free as a little thank you. Just write me at, tell me your TpT user name and what product you would like and I will send it out to you!
This is from Carolyn at Wise Owl Factory, so you know it will be great!

Win a whole bunch of great stuff from the Dollar Tree for primary from Denise at SunnyDays Curriculum Connection! (ends Sept 30)

Check it out...Charity Preston from The Organized Classroom Blog interviews Debbie Clement from RainbowsWithinReach on the radio about her books, music, and work with children!
So loving this simple way to let kids know what is expected at any given time. And the best part? The signs are free and there are three different versions!
Nifty post on TpT and its #1 seller.
Teacher Makes $230,000 on Lesson Plans - Teaching Now - Education Week Teacher
This is quite a collection of optical illusions. I'm not sure how you would use it in the classroom...but it sure is cool!
This is a collection of optical illusions put into a 28 slide Power Point.  

You can print on sticky notes? Who knew? Looks really neat!

Check out this new blog from Carolyn of Wise Owl Factory. Use it to find great resources from some of the best teaching blogs on the web.

If you are looking for a fun and original way to assess your students, this article from The Organized Classroom Blog is exactly what you need - great ideas applicable to nearly every grade!
When people think of assessment, pencils and bubble sheets may be the first things that come to mind. Assessment does not always have to involve paper and pencil, but can instead be a project, an observation, or a task that shows a student has learned the material.  

If you want to be sure and stay in the loop when these things are posted, be sure to interact! Not just for my page, but for every page you want to keep seeing on your news feed.

Also, I would love to know, is this facebook recap helpful? Please comment and let me know.

The Help

Picture Credit:

Win this Book: Gravity - Forces in Motion by Rachel Lynette

You could win this book for your class or school library just by doing one or both of the things below. You can do them now, or if you already have in the past, just go directly to, "I did this" on the entry form. I would be happy to autograph this book to you or your class if you should win.

About this book:
Grade Range: 3-6
Number of pages: 48
Publisher: Heinemann Library, copyright 2009

Binding: Reinforced Library (Hardback)
Accelerated Reader: Yes

Retail Price: $24.00

Free Jenga Multiplication and Addition Games

Why use flashcards or worksheets to practice basic facts when you can use a game instead? You can use these free fact strips to make Jenga into a game students will love to play again and again. If you don't have a class Jenga set already, you can probably find one for a dollar or two at a thrift store.

The game requires a little prep since you must cut the strips and tape them to the Jenga blocks (but this would also be a swell job for a parent volunteer). But once the game is ready, it can be played all year long. Perfect for any math center!

Find more great Math Center ideas at Laura Candler's Corkboard Connections!

Encouraging Children to Explore: Five Tips to Foster Curiosity

Minds in Bloom is pleased to welcome guest blogger Natalie Hunter who offers some ideas about how to encourage curiosity. I especially appreciate the tips under, "Expect More."

Teachers everywhere from little red schoolhouses to the top online schools often struggle to motivate young students to learn from various situations. The answer is not found in a formula of do's and don't's, but is cultivated in a relationship. Kids always learn; that's not at issue here. The question is how to foster curiosity and enthusiasm to motivate students to answer their own questions.

Talk With Children, Not Just To Them 
Real conversation grows vocabulary, interest in the world, and even the brain itself. According to Sean Brotherson of North Dakota State University, "Healthy development of a child's brain is built on the small moments that parents and caregivers experience as they interact with a child." In other words, talking with children is one of the best ways to foster learning.
Create opportunities for kids to discuss the world around them and how they can make a difference. As children are empowered to make decisions and express their own ideas, they discover and establish their own interests. They develop the sense that their opinions and actions count.
Encourage parents to talk with their kids at home. If adults remain friendly and don't talk down to children, they will ask questions when they don't understand. This creates opportunity to spur their exploratory instincts rather than timidly keep to themselves. Everything around them becomes an opportunity to grow and learn.
Don't praise, Discuss 
It may sound strange, but praise can be the opposite of encouragement. Praise can set a false standard of achievement and inadvertently cultivate a fear of failure. This can stymie children's efforts, making them afraid to make any mistake.
Instead of praising an achievement, it's better to encourage effort and persistence, says a recent study by the University of Pittsburgh. This is what helps children develop a "growth mindset" instead of a "fixed mindset."
Parents and teachers need to learn to praise the steps toward learning rather than any single achievement itself, and to support children while they're making the effort instead of only praising at the end. Just as learning to walk involves lots of falling, so does learning math, reading, or any other subject.
Take Kids to Interesting Places, Do Interesting Things 
Schools and museums aren't the only places to encourage learning. A trip to the community garden can spark discussions about how food is grown, harvested, and cooked. This can be followed by tasting unusual vegetables or different varieties of a favorite fruit. Let children compare the tastes and textures of fresh fruits and vegetables with canned produce, and talk about the connection between food and nutrition.
Teachers can foster learning by participating in the activities they want students to do. If an adult is engaged, kids will pay attention. They learn science is fun because the grown-ups like science. They learn reading is great because adults like to read. They learn the farm is a great place because someone took them there to explore. Modeling participation in an activity is much more effective than simply assigning one and then watching over students as if waiting for them to do something wrong.
Ask Open-Ended Questions 
Questions that don't lead to a particular answer encourage exploration and curiosity. Instead of looking for the "right" answer, kids learn to tackle ideas creatively. Don't fake it. If the adult isn't really interested or curious about what's being asked, this will be obvious to the students. Don't be surprised when they feel insulted or misled if they pick up on hidden disinterest.
Social situations are opportunities for a different kind of learning. Help children explore solutions to problems that come up in the classroom. Let them try out ideas and see for themselves what works. If lesson plans need to change or something routine needs to be done differently, ask the students how they think it should be handled.
Expect More 
If the adults in their lives expect children to keep trying, they'll do just that. If adults expect them to give up easily, that's what will happen. Encouraging children to keep trying isn't the same as brow-beating them. It means knowing effort will pay off.
"Try it another way" is encouraging. "That's OK" means he should quit. "Good job" means he has reached the goal and doesn't need to go farther.
Encouragement is an art best learned through practice. The adults in children's lives will make mistakes, but that doesn't have to result in permanent failure. Encouragement means adults also trip, fall, and persist.
Learning is never easy. Embracing the adventure is what it is all about. As Jason Piccone of California State University puts it: "children who learn that they can explore successfully want to continue to explore." Fostering learning truly is child's and adult's play.
Natalie Hunter grew up wanting to be a teacher, and is addicted to learning and research. As a result she is grateful for the invention of the internet because it allows her to spend some time outside, rather than just poring through books in a library. She is fascinated by the different methodologies for education at large today, and particularly by the advent of online education

Frame Games Lateral Thinking Freebie

You've probably seen these kinds of puzzles for years. They are fun to solve and great for practicing lateral thinking! Here is a free page of puzzles to use with your students.

Peer Teaching from the Students' Point of View

Imagine that you are in third grade. You have been struggling over a page of math word problems for the better part of half an hour. You really tried to understand when the teacher was explaining it, but she went through it so fast! You look around and can see that almost everyone else in the class has already finished. You raise your hand in hopes of getting some help from the teacher. The teacher sees you, but instead of coming over to help, she scans the room, and spots Ashley reading at her desk.

"Ashley," she says, "Can you please help Todd with his math?" Ashley looks annoyed as she puts her book face down on her desk and comes over to help.

Ashley quickly explains how to do the problem. When you still don't get it, she starts talking to you like you are a kindergartner. She obviously thinks you are a complete idiot. At recess she will probably tell all her friends just how stupid you are. You can't concentrate on what she is saying because you are feeling so ashamed and embarrassed by the whole situation. Finally she just gives you the answers. Why couldn't the teacher have just helped you herself?

Imagine you are in third grade. After sitting through the teacher's long and boring explanation of how to do math word problems you already know how to do, you have whipped through the assignment. It was so easy! The good part is now you have almost twenty minutes to read! Harry and Ron are fighting a giant troll to save Hermione when you hear your name being called across the room.

"Ashley, can you please help Todd with his math?"  

"Again," you think. "Can't that kid do anything by himself?" You sigh, put down your book and go over to help. Maybe if you do it quickly, you can finish the chapter before recess. No such luck of course, Todd is not getting it even when you try to go slow. It's easier just to give him the answers. You wonder why the teacher can't just help him herself. It's her job after all. 

As a student, I was often Todd (until around fifth grade when I learned to compensate for whatever undiagnosed learning disability I have), as a teacher of gifted students, my class was full of Ashleys. In my opinion, most elementary children do not have the maturity or the sensitivity to be kind and effective peer teachers. In most cases, the teaching student is given no instruction on how to teach. Further, a gifted student's time in class should be spent exploring new and challenging material, not teaching other kids what she knows inside and out.

I really, really don't like peer teaching, when one student is clearly struggling (I love partner and group work, or programs that pair a much older student with a younger one, this situation is different)  Agree? Disagree? What are your thoughts?

Win this Book: Bluntnose Six Gill Sharks by Rachel Lynette

The winner of this book is
Paige O'Kelley! 

Thanks so much to everyone who participated. I will be doing another book giveaway in a couple weeks. If you are totally bummed about not winning, you can buy the softback version of Bluntnose Sixgill Sharks and Other Strange Sharks (Creatures of the Deep) from Amazon for just $8.00 and you can purchase the Shark Unit from Monica Schroeder.

Doesn't he look friendly? There are even creepier pictures inside!

You could win this book for your class or school library just by doing one or both of the things below.  This is a new, hardback edition that I would be happy to autograph to you or your class if you should win. It is geared for grades 3-5. Retail value $21.95. You can find more information about this book at the Capstone site right here.

New Addition: Winner will also get a Shark Unit by Monica Schroeder! So now the winner will not only have the book, but also have activities to use with it! If you have never visited the Schroeder Page, you totally should. She has a ton of great stuff there!

Fact Swap Freebie!

Here is a fun game you can play with your class to review a unit you are studying, or maybe to debrief after a guest speaker, field trip, or a lesson in which a lot of information has been presented. You could actually play this game on notebook paper or by having students draw a nine-square grid on their papers, or you could download this free game sheet here.

To play, have each student write down three facts about the subject at hand. The more original the fact the better- you don't want everyone to have the same facts for this game.

Once everyone has three, allow students to mill around the room trading facts with their classmates in order to get six more facts. In order to get a new fact, a student must trade one from the top of his or her sheet. Students can only trade one fact with each person, so each fact must come from a different classmate.You might want to have students write the name of the student the fact came from under the fact.

When you are done, each student should have nine different facts.

Here are some ways to extend the activity:
  • Allow everyone to share one fact
  • Graph the facts to see how many are duplicates, which is the most popular, how many are completely original etc.
  • Have each student write one neatly on a fact circle (basically a round piece of construction paper) and post them on a bulletin board.
  • Turn the facts into questions and give a quick quiz to the class. 

Sharing the Love...

Top 10 TBA I seem to have been blessed with two awards this week, the Versatile Blogger award from Karla over at Life in Special Education and a nomination to for the Top Ten Award from Jen over at Runde's Room. Thank you both so much!

Both of these have rules attached to them, which I am going to blatantly disregard (here are the ones for Versatile Blogger and here are the ones for Top Ten)

The main gist is that you are supposed to pass the award onto other blogs that you like. I like lots of blogs, but for this post, I picked blogs that I feel offer real value to their readers and/or relatively new blogs that are off to a great start.

Free Incredible Ideas Ebook!

Looking for some terrific ideas to use in your classroom? This ebook is a compilation of the forty best ideas that came from the Incredible Ideas contest that I was lucky enough to participate in, along with Shelley Gray (who hosted and put this great book together), Laura Candler, and Denise Boehm

Inside this 21 page ebook you will find:

  • Ideas for building community in your classroom
  • Ideas for encouraging creativity
  • Icebreaker tips and ideas
  • Ideas for facilitating cooperative learning.

Congratulations to Eileen Snover who won the contest and received a $100 dollar shopping spree in our TpT stores.

Win This Book: River Food Chains by Rachel Lynette

The lucky winner of this book (autographed is she wishes) is Donna with comment number 36! Thanks to everyone who entered. I really appreciate your kind words about the upcoming newsletter and also learned that a lot of you do Ecology/Food Chain Units, so clearly, I need to create one!

Win this book, autographed to you or your class for your classroom!

In addition to writing this Minds in Bloom and creating teaching resources, I also write nonfiction books for children. I get a few extras with each contract. So, rather than having them pile up in my office, I have decided to give them away to teachers so they can be used in classrooms. If this first contest goes well, I will probably do one a week.

Teaching Resources

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