FREE Winter Holiday Ebook from 50 TpT Sellers!

Those of us who sell on TpT appreciate those of you who buy our products so very much! Some of us wanted to say thank you by giving you all a special holiday gift. Fifty of us collaborated on this ebook! Each page was contributed by a different TpT seller and each one includes a holiday tip or activity idea and at least one link to a free holiday product. Some of the sellers are well known - names you will recognize, while others are fairly new.

We hope you will enjoy this book and share it with your friends and colleagues!

Wishing you a joyful holiday season,

I'm in the News!

Yesterday I was interviewed by the Everett Herald about how I sell teaching products on Teachers Pay Teachers and today I am in the paper! The article is called New Role for Teacher: Selling Lesson Plans. It is mostly accurate, though Deanna Jump has actually made much more than the number given.

If you are interested in giving it a try yourself, you can sign up to sell right here.

Free Winter Holidays Ebook Coming Tomorrow
One of the wonderful things about selling on TpT is that when you do, you join a very supportive community of sellers. 49 of these wonderful folks have joined me in creating a free Winter Holiday ebook full of teaching tips and freebies. I am just putting the finishing touches on it now and will be publishing it on TpT tomorrow.  I will of course, post the link here.

FREE Elf Hunt Christmas Week Activity!

Here is a fun game to play with your students during that last week before the holiday break. Just print and cut out the twelve numbered elves and hide them around your classroom. Tell your students that twelves elves are hiding in the classroom and it is their job to find them. During the week, students can search for the elves whenever they have a few spare moments and record the hiding places on the recording sheet. For younger students there is a separate recording sheet that does not require writing. Be sure students know that they must keep the hiding places secret! Another option is to play this game in one session, perhaps at your holiday party.

I have about a dozen holiday freebies and I will try to get them all posted in the next few days, but you can find them right now in the Holiday section of my TpT store.

Teachers Pay Teachers Cyber Monday Sale!

Thank You So Very Much

Dear Reader,
I just wanted to take moment to thank you for spending some of your super-valuable time here at Minds in Bloom. I love writing this blog and I love creating teaching materials. Those of you who have purchased my products have made it possible for me to make most of my living doing what I love and I can't tell you how much that means to me.
One of the ways that I show my appreciation is by creating free products. You will 65 of them in my Teachers Pay Teachers store currently (and the number is always growing), over a dozen of which are focused on the Winter Holidays. It is my hope that they will make your teaching journey just a little bit easier - and a little more fun!
Wishing you and yours a wonderful and restful Thanksgiving,

The Importance of Arts in Children's Development

Budding Artists Create Holiday Masterpieces
Minds in Bloom is happy to welcome guest blogger Elaine Hirsch! Elaine's article on art in education is an important reminder why we should not let art go by the wayside, even in the current environment of strict adherence to academic standards and over-testing.

Arts education is an important component of any child's development because it teaches  teamwork, analytic, and creative skills. These skills are often left out of traditional curricula that emphasize technical skills such as math and science to prepare students for undergraduate degrees, master's degrees, and even PhDs in a rewarding field of study. This leaves children little room for individual expression and a chance to work on personal development and concentration. Art can also help children work out any frustrations in their lives by offering a healthy, expressive medium. In addition, exposure to art and the chance to develop their own art provides children with a more diversified experience that can help them in the classroom as well, allowing them for more opportunities for an enhanced learning experience.

In the classroom, art education is a crucial component for a child's personal development. Several studies have concluded that
art education is very important at a young age because children are still developing their critical thinking and problem solving skills. Students also have the opportunity to fine-tune their motor skills through art. The cognitive processes involved in learning to draw accurately, choose the right colors and shapes, and create detailed work help children develop the motor skills associated with these tasks. In terms of musical arts, students are able to use their knowledge of musical notes and translate that into math skills. Musical rhythms can provide a way for students to learn fractions, counting, and patterns in a way that traditional classrooms cannot.

Studies have also shown that there is a direct correlation between arts education at a young age and academic achievement later in life. It is much easier for children to learn about the arts and integrate their studies into their daily lives than it is for adults. This is because of the way the brain develops. The
child's brain is able to absorb more material and adjust accordingly than the adult brain, which is less dynamic and less able to accommodate for new information. As a result, children who studied arts at a young age achieve more academic success later in life than those who did not.

Arts education for young children is also a way to get students more involved in the learning process. Classes that have hands-on activities such as painting, drawing, building, or designing projects provide students for an outlet for their feelings and thoughts and keep them interested in learning. This is especially true for young students, who often have trouble focusing in the classroom when teachers give lectures or lessons that are not interactive. Through art and other applicable teaching tools that allow students to work on a project hands-on, students are more excited about learning and often take home a more clear lesson than they would otherwise. As a result, students who participate in their own creative art projects are able to focus more and take pride in their work, which motivates them to work harder to achieve their goal.

The importance of art in a child's development is undeniable. Especially for young children who are still developing key cognitive and motor skills, art enables them to work on their own projects that are applicable to daily life. Students who study art at a young age tend to have higher test scores and have more academic success later in life. Art provides students an outlet for emotional troubles as well and helps them to deal with stress and difficult feelings. These benefits clearly show the value of art education and call for its increased inclusion in school curricula for children.
Elaine Hirsch is a kind of  jack-of-all-interests, from education and history to medicine and videogames. This makes it difficult to choose just one life path, so she is currently working as a writer for various education-related sites.

More Thanksgiving Freebies!

A little creative and critical thinking mixed in with all that turkey is a good thing! Here are some freebies for you to use with your students! Just click on the image to download.

More Thanksgiving Freebies!

A little creative and critical thinking mixed in with all that turkey is a good thing! Here are some freebies for you to use with your students! Just click on the image to download.

Thanksgiving Challenge! Fun and FREE

I was surprised and delighted to see how popular the 11-11-11 Challenge was last week, so I decided to create a similar activity for Thanksgiving. Your students will love this fun combination of creative thinking, trivia/research and math. You can use it in class as bell work or enrichment, or send it home for the long weekend. Perfect for grades 3-6.

Find more FREE Thanksgiving activities 
in my TpT store!

Six Tips for Making the Most of Pinterest

So why is everyone so crazy about Pinterest? Basically, it is a really easy way to share stuff you find or create yourself online. If you have no idea what I am talking about, here is a beginners guide from Megan at SortaCrunchy that will tell you everything you need to know. If you are already pinning, here are some thoughts about how to get the most out of your Pinterest experience.

Get Ideas.
You don't even have to pin to use Pinterest for ideas. Just type your keywords into the search field and suddenly your screen will fill with tons of great ideas! Sometimes a picture is all you need, but if you want more information, just follow the link to the source. You can get ideas on classroom decor, grade specific or subject specific activities, holidays etc. I am even starting to use Pinterest instead of google for some types of searches. If you find a board with lots of ideas, follow it. If you find a person with lots of great ideas, follow her. Then when you log into Pinterest, the latest pins from the boards and people you follow will pop right up. If you decide you don't like a board, just unfollow it.

Share Ideas
Creating a board and adding pins is sooooo easy. The easiest way to add pins is just to repin ideas you find on other people's Pinterest boards. You can also get the the "Pin it" tool for your toolbar so that you can pin almost anything you find on the web. You can also pin your own stuff - pictures of your classroom, blog posts, teaching products, whatever. Just remember that Pinterest etiquette requires that you not use the site entirely for self promotion. A little is fine, a lot isn't.

Be Specific
One of my first boards was called "Teacher Ideas." While everyone loves a good tip or idea, this category proved to be too broad. Consider creating boards devoted to specific subjects such as math or social studies.  You could even get more specific. Today I started a board on "Prefixes, Suffixes and Roots." Don't worry about creating too many boards, you can have as many as you want. A specific board will help followers and browsers find exactly what they need.

Go Beyond the Classroom
Teaching Boards are great and you will probably want to have a lot of them, but your life encompasses more than teaching, so your pins can too. It is fine to start a board with pictures of place you want to visit, favorite books, things that make you laugh etc. In fact, Pinterest is a great place to collect ideas. Maybe you need ideas for your child's next birthday party or are suddenly obsessed with crocheting brightly colored socks, or have a strange fascination with hugging salt and pepper shakers. With Pinterest you can keep all of those great ideas in one place - kind of like a visual bookmark.

Keep it Clean
Yes, sometimes something that is really funny has off color language or a picture that is maybe not quite ready for prime time. And yes you are an adult. But Pinterest is very public and you are a teacher. So I would highly suggest that you not pin anything you would not want your students or their parents to see. If your alter-ego, off-duty self really needs to head in this direction, open a new account with a fake profile. Shel Silverstein could write children's books at the same time he was writing for Playboy (true fact) but we live in a different world. Be smart with your pins.

And Finally, Follow Me!
I have a constantly growing set of very useful boards, including several collaborative boards with many amazing contributors. You are sure to get some terrific ideas for your classroom. You can Follow me here.

You can find more teachers who pin and link up your own blog at the Pinterest Link Up Party at Michelle's Math in the Middle!

FREE: Five Suffix, Prefix and Word Root Worksheets

Here are five free worksheets (with answer keys) to use with your class to help reinforce affixes and to introduce word roots. These five worksheets will work fine as stand-alone activities, but are actually part of a much larger, 40 page prefixes, suffixes, and roots product.

Beyond the Raised Hand: 10 More Engaging Ways to Respond

Teacher talks.
Teacher asks a question.
Students raise their hands.
Teacher calls on students until the correct answer is given.

100 years ago students stood up when they gave their answers. That is about the only way this formula has changed. Here are some more engaging alternatives.
  1. Call on students randomly. Popsicle sticks with the students names written on them work well for this. You could also number your students and use an online random number generator to select students.

  2. Have students share the answer with the student next to them. This works especially well for open-ended questions. 

  3. Have student answer with individual white board, and then hold the board up for you to check. This is great for math problems or short answers. You could also do this with Ipads if you are blessed enough to have them.

  4. Have  students answer "yes" or "no" using sign language.

  5. Have students answer multiple choice questions with sign language letters: a, b, c, and d. Be sure the question and the possible answers are displayed on the board. This would be great with PowerPoint.

  6. Have students answer mental math problems that have single digit answers with their fingers. For example "Start with the number 8. Multiply that number by itself. Add the digits. Subtract 3."

  7. Have students agree or disagree with a statement using thumbs up, thumbs down. You can use this to gauge how students are feeling about something. For example "That last math problem was really challenging." or you can use it to test knowledge, "Water is a poor conductor of electricity." 

  8. After you have called on a student ask other students if they agree or disagree and why.

  9. Make a game out of it. There are any number of game show style  games that use PowerPoint or SmartBoards. BINGO is fun too. It can be as easy as allowing a child who gets a correct answer to try and make a basket with a soft Nerf ball. 

  10. Add a little novelty: Give students little flags to wave instead of raising their hands. Students must spell their answers (for one-word answers, of course). Student must say the answer in a high squeaky voice. Students must pat their head and rub their tummies while giving the answer. Students must clap the syllables as they give the answer etc.

Whether you apply these ideas or not, make sure you frequently remind your students that it is more important to risk giving the wrong answer than not to give any answer at all. Talk about how we learn from mistakes. Here are some good lines to try:

"Thanks for making that mistake, you are helping us all to learn."
"Not quite, but you got us all closer to the correct answer!"
"One step closer, keep thinking!"

11-11-11 Challenge - Free Scavenger Hunt Activity!

This year, November 11 is rather a special date...three elevens! 11-11-11 is considered by many to be a particularly lucky number, so this date is considered to be lucky as well - some would say extremely lucky.

11-11-11 also happens to be my birthday, so I made a fun little birthday present for you and your students. This activity is perfect for grades 3-8 and will make a great homework assignment (because you probably have 11-11-11 off since it is also Veterans Day)

I would of course, love to get a few more followers and newsletter subscribers for my birthday, so please do check out the right sidebar for ample opportunities and feel free to pass this along to your friends and colleagues.

Are your students true—or practiced—extraverts?

Today Minds in Bloom is thrilled to welcome guest blogger Jen Lilienstein, founder of, a website devoted to making learning fun by meeting the needs of every learner.  

One of the things I come across most often in my interactions with both parents and teachers is a misunderstanding of what an introvert truly is. Parents will say things like “my child is extraverted—she just takes awhile to draw out” or teachers will report, “that child is clearly an extravert—he has lively interactions with a few of the other boys in class and is by no means a loner at lunchtime.”

The challenge with this is that, because of our society's perception that it's better to have an extraverted personality type, many kids have been trained at home or at school to practice appear extraverted... even if their true nature leans more toward the introverted side. I, myself, am a “practiced extravert”. I can play the part of an extravert when it's required of me...but I am, at heart, an introvert.

I recharge my batteries with alone time. My heart beats faster and faster as the group in which I'm interacting grows larger. I like to think through a problem in my head before volunteering an answer. (The reason I prefer email dialogues to phone calls!) But, I can get up the gumption to introduce myself or talk about my business with strangers on the phone or in person when it's necessary. And, if you see me with a group of friends or colleagues whom I know very well, I will look every bit an extravert to an outsider.

Why is it important to be able to distinguish between an extravert and an introvert in your classroom? It's because our children's blooming minds flourish under different conditions. Your introverted students may “scorch” under the class spotlight if called upon too quickly take a guess at the answer to a problem in front of the class. Similarly, your extraverted students—because they talk through solutions to problems—run the risk of withering if you ask them to FOCUS before volunteering an answer and neglect their need to work through problems aloud.

Both extraverts, who like to direct their energy toward the outer environment and introverts, who prefer to spend time reflecting on inner experience have made major contributions to society. One preference is not better than the other.

But, in order to allow these minds to blossom to their fullest potential, both teachers and parents need to respect, embrace and even celebrate our kids' and students' energetic orientations.

5 tips for embracing extraversion and introversion in your classroom:
1.      Employ techniques like conversation sticks and red/green question cards when managing group discussions and honoring both the introverts and extraverts in your classroom.
2.      Remind extraverts during breakout groups that silence can sometimes mean that their classmates are still thinking—not that they have nothing to say.
3.      Allotting teacher “quiet time” during the day can make your introverted students more comfortable asking a question one-on-one vs. being spotlighted during a lecture.
4.      Personality type assessments at the beginning of the year can help ensure that an introvert that may be a practiced extravert isn't inadvertently placed in breakout groups with true extraverts that don't let their classmate get a word in edgewise after reflecting upon the problem and reaching a conclusion.
5.      Most importantly, there's often a parent-child attitude dichotomy that hinders the progress of their schoolwork because a well-meaning parent is trying to employ tactics that were successful when s/he was young. Remind parents during teacher conferences of their kids' energy preference in order to more effectively help with homework and schedule out-of-school-time activities—but try not to “label” the child as one or the other to the parent because of an energetic prejudice that may exist. Encourage parents of introverts to not force their child into a variety of activities to “draw them out” because they'll lack the alone time they need to recharge and center themselves. Encourage the parents of your extraverts to form study groups versus leaving the child left alone during homework so that they can “focus” since talking out their studies helps them to contextualize and cement the new information.

Acknowledging the different learning preferences of your students can help them learn how to play to their unique strengths and develop an awareness of and respect for the individual ways that their fellow classmates prefer to learn.

Ms. Lilienstein is the Founder of and co-author of At Home for Multiple Intelligences, a new course offered by the MI Institute. To find out more about Kidzmet's Student Snapshots and Pairing Portraits, which can help teachers and parents better understand how their unique kids are wired to learn, click here.. To find out more about the eight personality types of children under 12, click here.

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