St. Patrick's Day Games

I love Minute-to-Win-It games.  A few years ago, I even planned a whole "Christmas Minute-to-Win-It Day" where each adult came over with a game idea of their own and a small amount for the Prize Pot.  We didn't exchange gifts that year (except for the lucky person... my sister... who won the prize money).  Instead, our gifts were memories... it was so fun! 

These short games are fun in the classroom, too, and you only need a few supplies for each.  Consider asking your students' parents for donations. Many parents love to help out in this way!

Rainbow Relay

For this game you will need rainbow-colored candy, paper plates, straws, and plastic cups.  In my classroom, children sit in small teams of 4-5 students, so we play this game in our small groups.  Give each team one plate of candy and one plastic cup per color of candy.  (In the example above, each team needs five cups because there are five different  colors of candy.)  Separate the empty cups and place them in the center of each group.  Put one different colored candy in each cup so there is a cup for each color.  Give each child one straw and decide which child in each group will go first.  On "Go!," the first player uses their straw to suck one piece of candy to the end of their straw.  They have to maintain suction through the straw and drop the candy into the plastic cup that matches that color. If it drops too soon or is dropped into the wrong cup, the child has to keep trying and put it into the correct cup.  Players cannot move the candy or the cups with their hands.  The game continues to the left until the minute is over.  The team with the most pieces of candy in the plastic cups wins.

• lengthen the time limit
• play in pairs to increase student engagement
• use plastic tweezers instead of straws

The Lucky Charm Challenge

This game has simple directions, but it's challenging for little hands.  Place a bucket of Lucky Charms™ cereal in the middle of each group of kids and give each child a clothespin.  In one minute, how many lucky marshmallow charms can they stack on top of each other?  Although they're sharing the bucket of cereal, this is a solo game... player against player.  They may not touch the cereal with their hands and if their stack falls down before a minute is called, they need to start over. The player with the tallest stack of charms at the end is the winner. Have more time? Put them back in the bucket and play again!

• use fingers to make it simpler for young children
• or use chopsticks to increase the level of difficulty 
• pick a flatter object to stack, such as gold Rolo™ candies or gold coins

Shamrock Shuffle

Disclaimer:  This game takes more than a minute, but it's so fun... and smart!  

In this game, the children will be shuffling from one side of the room to the other, so you may need to move a little bit of furniture (or play outside).  You will need one large sturdy shamrock and a set of letter cards per group.  The letter cards should be the same for each group and should spell a secret holiday-themed word when arranged correctly.  In the example above, the cards spell out shamrock, but you could also do clover, leprechaun, gold, rainbow, etc.  Choose a word that's developmentally appropriate for your age group.  Line children up in teams at the starting line.  On the other side of the room (opposite each team), place the mixed up cards in a pile.  There should be one set of cards for each team.  Give the first child in each line a large shamrock.  On "Go!," the first person in each line puts the shamrock between their knees and shuffles to their pile to get one card.  If the shamrock falls, the child has to stop and put it back between their knees without moving forward.  When they're back at the starting line, they have to pass the shamrock to the next person in line WITHOUT using their hands... the challenge is to pass it knees-to-knees.  If it falls, the first child puts it back between his knees and tries to pass it again.  After it has been passed, the first child goes to the back of the line and the next child shuffles to get another letter for the secret word. When all the letter cards have been retrieved, the group works together to figure out the secret holiday word.  The first team to do this is the winner.

• increase the time limit
• shorten the walk
• pass off the shamrock using hands
• spell known sight words instead of holiday words

Pots of Gold

This is a game where blindfolded students use their sense of touch to fill their team's pot with "gold."  Ahead of time, prepare a small paper or plastic bag for each team.  Place 20 pieces of one kind of gold-wrapped candy, such as Kisses™ or Rolo™ candies, into each bag.  (Please be aware of student allergies in your classroom.)  Then fill the rest of each bag with "distractors," such as pom poms, marbles, coins, etc.  On the day of the game, you will need a blindfold for each student.  Each team will need one empty pot and their bag of candy & "stuff." To play, have small groups of 3-4 students sit in tight circles on the floor.  Show them the contents of the bags so they're familiar with the items inside.  Then have them place their blindfolds securely over their eyes.  Give an empty bucket and a bag of candy to one child in each group.  On "Go!," the first child in each group reaches inside the bag, feels around for one piece of the gold candy, and places it in the empty bucket. When it's in the bucket, the child says, "I got it!  I'm passing it!," and then passes the bucket and bag to the player on the left.  Play continues in this manner until time is called.  At the end of the game, the kids can take off their blindfolds and count the number of gold candies in their team's bucket.  The team with the most pieces of candy in their bucket is the winner.

• increase the playing time
• put tougher distractors in each bag, such as other types of wrapped candy
• use dark bags and skip the blindfolds
• or pass the bags behind backs and skip the blindfolds

Happy teaching!  :)

(And playing!)


Open-Ended Flip Books

Flip books are popular.  I've made flip books about activists, presidents, mothers, even groundhogs. (Speaking of which, I'm so ready for spring.)  I've also seen flip books for specific book titles, but sometimes you need a template for a different book.  And that's when it happened... an idea for blank flip books... templates I could use with any book... fiction or nonfiction... and open-ended so the work is differentiated.

The flip book templates are standards-based and provide multiple opportunities for children to:

• read closely and think deeply about text
• comprehend complex ideas and brainstorm new ones
• develop written responses
• share their opinions with clarity and support
• express some of their thoughts through art

You can even mix-and-match the templates as long as you switch pages of the same length.  (Otherwise you'll be covering up one of the flaps.)

Fiction Samples


I love how the children can express themselves individually through these templates.  They're great for reading workshop, small group instruction, informal assessments, or even as homework activities.  You can see more about the templates here.

I'd love to send a free set to the first five who leave a comment below.  Don't forget to leave me your email address so I know where to send the file.

Happy teaching!  :)


Valentine's Day Pinterest Boards

There are SO many sweet ideas from amazing teachers and parents on Pinterest to help you plan a really memorable Valentine's Day... everything from literature suggestions, to art activities, to holiday-themed science investigations, to candy-free Valentine ideas, and more!  

(I don't know who'd want a candy-free idea on a day when you're officially allowed to eat candy, but that's just me.)

These are MY TOP 5 PICKS for must-see Valentine boards on Pinterest.  They're loaded with hundreds of fun ideas for a fun holiday!  (See LINK underneath each board image.)

Happy planning!  :)


Memoirs of an Elf

Oh my goodness... how did I miss this book last year?!?  It's almost too late for this year (school is out tomorrow), but if you have kids of your own at home you could read it with them.  I don't have it yet, but if it's anything like Memoirs of a Goldfish and Memoirs of a Hamster, which my students and I LOVED, I know it'll be a favorite of mine.

This elf texts Santa and snaps "elfies" to chronicle his adventures.  If you have a classroom Elf-on-the-Shelf, think of all the possibilities you can have connecting back to this book!  How fun would it be to have your elf snapping "elfies" of himself at night while the kids are home?  You could use the photos to inspire a daily whole-class writing project:  Diary of a Classroom Elf.  Use it as a modeled (or share-the-pen) writing activity each morning... collaborate on a diary entry for each photo and then bind all the pages into one big book at the end to share in the classroom library.  What a great (and educational) way to remember all the Christmas fun!

Here's an editorial review from Publishers Weekly:
Publishers Weekly
Scillian and Bowers return to the format they introduced in Memoirs of a Goldfish, delivering a tech-savvy elf’s by-the-minute chronicle of Santa’s Christmas Eve journey around the world, which involves texting with Santa (“Time to fly, big guy!”) and snapping multiple “elfies” to commemorate the occasion. Bowers’s high-energy illustrations show the sleigh soaring above snow-covered neighborhood, as well as scenes of a rather dotty, dilly-dallying Santa: “Starting to worry about falling behind,” reports the elf. “Santa always wants to stop and pet every dog.” A canine stowaway presents an amusing quandary and a light message about the meaning of the holiday. It’s a lighthearted diversion with a few modern twists for readers who wonder if Santa uses GPS.


Texting About Texts

I wasn't actually looking for these cool sticky notes... they found me while I was aimlessly walking around Target looking for brass paper fasteners... which I never found, by the way.  (Why aren't things where they would make sense to be?  Some grocery stores are like that, too.  Like the other day, in a store I don't usually go to, I finally found macaroni and cheese over by the applesauce instead of on the aisle clearly marked "Pasta."  What?)

So I bought the sticky notes, since I was saving money on the brass paper fasteners, and I thought they'd be really neat for written partner conversations about texts. Instead of sending a text message to someone, why don't we share messages with each other about a text?

The only problem is, they're sticky-note-size and that's not really big enough for big ideas.  Big ideas need big spaces (especially when little kids make big letters).  So I made some open-ended conversation templates... texting style!  There's a variety of templates in the set.  Some have 4 bubbles, some have 6.  Some are lined, some are unlined.  Some even have a conversation starter in the first bubble to help get the ball rolling, if needed.  And  then I realized they aren't just for reading.  Kids could have back-and-forth conversations about any subject area, including science and math.


I'd love to give TEN of these away!  Be one of the first ten readers to respond to this question in a comment below and I'll send you the set, Real Text Messages. Make sure you leave me your email address so I know where to send it.  Here's the question:

Who's the one person you text the most often?

Happy teaching!  :)


Happy New Year Fun!


I haven't even finished my Christmas shopping yet and I'm already thinking about ringing in the new year.  I cannot believe it's almost 2016!  (Remember how weird it was to say the year 2000 after all those decades of 19's?  That took me a long time to get used to.)

In between all of my shopping and thinking-about-shopping, I finished putting together a set of my favorite classroom activities for celebrating the new year with the children.  It's a collection of ideas we do on the first day when we return back to school in January.  We spend the whole day locked in the theme of "Happy New Year!"  There's an idea for each subject area (reading, writing, math, science, and social studies).  Plus, I head over to Pinterest and fill in the rest of the day with 1 or 2 art projects (like DIY noise makers) and a few holiday read-alouds.  You can find out more at this post:  Celebrating the New Year.

You can schedule the day in any way that suits your needs the best, but I recommend starting by making this Countdown Clock & Ball Drop because you'll need to use it throughout the day.  It's a fun way to count down to dismissal (just like you count down to midnight on New Year's Eve).  I've also included some really fun holiday-themed brain breaks for your class to do each hour, on the hour, as you continue to move the hands on your clocks.  It culminates in a "Ball Drop" near the end of the day... just before dismissal... with everyone shouting, "Happy New Year!" and hugging each other. 

 (The templates and directions for the Countdown Clock are provided.)

Don't forget to do a brain break each hour when you move your clock hands... it really helps the students stay aware of the time and they learn to gauge how long an hour is.  You can do your favorite brain breaks or try some of the holiday ideas in the set:

• Rock Around the Clock
• "BE" Baby New Year
• The "NOT YET" Ball Drop
• Hoppin' Johns
• Boom Sizzle Fireworks  (our favorite!)
• Kickin' It with Auld Lang Syne

There are also opportunities to read and write as children learn vocabulary words like resolution, traditions, symbols, and goals while thinking critically about their own plans for the new year.



And you know how much I love science.  The day wouldn't be complete without an investigation of some kind.  We make Cotton Candy Punch and then use it to make a toast to whole-class goals we wrote earlier in the day.  


It looks a little something like this.
(They're amazed at how the cotton candy disappears... and SO quickly!)


If you'd like to see more about these ideas, you can check it out HERE

Happy teaching!



Celebrating the New Year!

Ringing in the new year isn't just a celebration for adults, but it can be hard to find age-appropriate ideas for helping children enjoy the festivities, too.  So I've been on Pinterest this morning, looking for fun, family-friendly ways to include kids in the excitement of welcoming in a brand new year... and there are some AMAZING ideas out there from really creative bloggers.  (Honestly, how can you not love Pinterest?  It's such a great way for people to share ideas with each other... and thank goodness for that!)

I collected dozens of ideas on my Pinterest board, Happy New Year.  You can look through them here, but scroll down to see some of my favorites.  They'd work well in your home with your own children and in your classroom with your students when you return in January.

(From The 36th Avenue)

(From Sugar Aunts)

(From Pink Stripey Socks)

(From Smashed Peas and Carrots)

(From Plastiquem)

Happy planning!  :)