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Music in the Classroom

I play a lot of music for a lot of reasons. Sometimes I play "fun music", just to lift the spirits of my students. I find I need to do this a lot in the morning, since they come into the classroom sleepy. Fun music usually brings smiles to their faces, and that's a great way to start the day, isn't it? (Click any image for a link to Amazon.)

I have loads of collections of Party Music just for this purpose. I don't yet have these yet, but I'm looking to add them to my collection!

I also like to play quieter music, for those other times when they really need to concentrate on their work. I bought Music for Concentration years ago, and I play it often. Sometimes I even play it when the kids are gone, during my planning time. It really helps. This company has several others along the same lines, including Music for Productivity (Which I have, and love!). Music for Learning (which I want!), and Music for Thinking (which I also want!) 

 I also like to play music connected to what's going on in the world, or connected to what we're learning. 

Around every patriotic holiday, I play patriotic music. I have loads of great music for those days! 

When I was celebrating the Olympics, this CD came in handy. The children loved listening to the National Anthems of other countries. Of course, when our own national anthem played, we always stood up, no matter what we were doing! 

I play this around St. Patrick's Day. 

I play this around Cinco de Mayo. 

Music helps make a real connection to whatever children are learning.
What music do you play in your classroom?

For the 35th Time, Ending on a Monday

I just finished my 35th year of teaching, and I am proud to say I enjoyed another year.  I not only survived, but I'm happy about how it went!

I'm kind of glad our last day turned out to be on a Monday. I know it seems silly to come back to school for just a Monday (especially since it's a half day) but I really liked the way it turned out.

The week before school got out was crazy.  My report cards were due for inspection at the beginning of the week, so I worked all the previous weekend on those.  (The report cards we use are quite complicated, and really do take that long!)  Then I spent my afternoons planning my End of Year Academic Olympics activities, and tried to find some time to get ahead on end of the year packing. At home, in the evenings, I was typing up this year's Memory book.

I was determined to stay Friday evening until the custodians kicked me out at 11:00.  I had dreams of having the whole room completely packed up except for the few things I'd need on Monday.  My "gentleman friend" (I'm far too old to have a "boyfriend") came to help at about 4:45, and I was pretty wiped out by then.  Most of the school supplies were in boxes, and I had set aside the few things I'd need for the last day, but the place was a mess, with a lot to be done.  He was amazing, piling boxes, carrying stuff to my car, and keeping my spirits up.  We finally called it quits at 6:15, when I was pretty much a vegetable.  But my room was in good shape.

Our last story for the year!
I had no school work to do all weekend... that was a very strange feeling!  My report cards were done, printed, folded and packed.  My cumulative folders were stuffed and marked.  I was all planned for Monday, and my only paper work - the Memory books - were run off and waiting.

By the time Monday came, I was rested! I wasn't stressed about finishing the packing, since I really got a lot done on Friday.  So I got to enjoy the last day with my students!!!!  I honestly don't remember a "last day" where I wasn't overtired and stressed about finishing.

It's a quick day, so I didn't want to waste any time with the children.  As they came in, I had them work with partners on individual whiteboards.  Some played hangman, some played Tic-tac-toe.  As long as they were thinking, I was fine!

We had our morning meeting, and I read them one last story, then showed them their Memory books.  After choosing a gel pen color of their choice (I bought a selection of 24 colors) I gave them 15 minutes of Independent Reading time. I insisted they spend some time alone reading the memory book before the conversations/ autographing began. They were fun to watch when it came to autographing each Memory book.  I also got to autograph most of them, which I was glad to do.

What's in the memory books? A couple of weeks ago, I asked the children to write a comment about each of their classmates.  I also asked them for their favorite things about second grade, favorite things about the school, and ideas for things to do during summer vacation.  Since not all children were allowed to be photographed, I took the photo for the cover of their hands (idea from Pinterest!) And I took a picture of each child holding their favorite book... in front of their face.  I wasn't about to have all the children's pictures except one!  Here's my picture from the Memory book, with their comments for me beside it.

This is my "picture", and what the children had to say about me.

At 10:00, our PTA has a tradition for the last day of school:  ice cream sundaes!  We lined up for the last day of school tradition (Thank you PTA!) and enjoyed our last recess together.  I gave the children some time for centers when we got back.  I had a few books still out so they could have partner reading time.  I kept out the math cards so they could play math games, and the white boards were still out for playing Hangman.  No brilliant skills were discovered on this last day, but they were involved in activities to practice the skills they've learned, and I got to enjoy them for one last day.  At 11:45, we all lined up for our 5th graders' final walk, then they went off on their buses for the last time this school year.

It was completely a fabulous day.  I eventually finished packing my room, and checked out for the school year.  I've done a lot of sleeping since, and I'm starting to catch up on the housework I haven't done in months.  But it was a very good day.

I thought you'd like a little freebie from my kids.  Here's a copy of their "Things to do during summer vacation so the TV won't suck out your brain" list!  Enjoy!

Let the Games Begin!

We had the first day of our Academic Olympics today, and we all had a great time!
Let the games begin! This post tells about a great way to maintain academics at the end of the school year and have some fun by adding an Olympics theme. (It also works well in summer school.) Plus, there's a freebie!

We started with our Opening Ceremony first thing in the morning. The children were dressed in their country's color, and carried their banners and flags. I also had my teacher assistant carry the Olympic Torch and an Olympic flag. The countries lined up in alphabetical order, just like they will in July in London. I carried the American flag at the end of our parade, after all, that's where the "host nation" always goes. We marched up and down all the hallways. Many of the other students and teachers peeked out of their classrooms to wish us well.

When we got back to the room, we made a big circle with all the countries. Each academic athlete touched the Olympic flag while they recited the Olympic Oath and the Olympic Creed. (I copied these almost word for word from what they use at the Olympics, with a few slight changes. I added the word "academic" in front of sports, and I left out the part about performance enhancing drugs.)

After the Oath and the Creed, I had all academic athletes shake hands with each other and say the words: Let the games begin!

We held several contests today! The team events we had:
  • brainstorming
  • math puzzle 
  • banner design
  • reading endurance (they earned points for the team if they were focused on reading when I checked)
  • Group phonics scoot
Then we also had a couple of individual events:
  • reading with expression (Judged in 4 categories... volume, expression, clarity, and presentation)
  • math facts (both addition and subtraction)

Then we had medal ceremonies! I let the first place winners stand on chairs, and as that country's national anthem played, I placed medals around their necks. I still get all goose bumpy when I think of their faces as I placed the ribbons around their necks... they even did that little "head dip" to allow me to get the ribbon around them, and they picked it up and looked at it proudly, just as I've seen Olympic athletes do! (I'm a sucker for ritual, and the kids really loved it!)

Well, it was a VERY busy day, and we still have more tomorrow! I wanted to share a couple of papers I made up for my Olympics, just in case you get any inspiration for end of the year activities, or summer fun! Explore the image or HERE for your freebie!
Let the games begin! This post tells about a great way to maintain academics at the end of the school year and have some fun by adding an Olympics theme. (It also works well in summer school.) Plus, there's a freebie!
For a more complete resource, explore HERE.
Let the games begin! This post tells about a great way to maintain academics at the end of the school year and have some fun by adding an Olympics theme. (It also works well in summer school.) Plus, there's a freebie!

Looking for a little more Academic/ Olympic fun? Try these No Prep activities with a Summer Games theme!
Let the games begin! This post tells about a great way to maintain academics at the end of the school year and have some fun by adding an Olympics theme. (It also works well in summer school.) Plus, there's a freebie!

How do you keep the excitement going while keeping academics in focus?

Let the games begin! This post tells about a great way to maintain academics at the end of the school year and have some fun by adding an Olympics theme. (It also works well in summer school.) Plus, there's a freebie!

A Proper Farewell

We have a lovely tradition on our last day of school.

Since our school is K - 5, we get ready to say goodbye to our fifth graders. Just before it's time to leave, all K - 4 students and teachers line the hallways.  We do collect quite a few parents as well.  When everyone is in place, the fifth grade teachers walk their students down the hall for the very last time.  We give them plenty of applause.  After all, they worked hard for their 6 years at our school, they deserve the applause.  Many are emotional.  They know this is a place where they were loved.  Who knows what will happen when they get to middle school?

After the fifth graders have made their final walk, all the other classes walk down the hallway for the final time of the year.  Everyone goes out to wave goodbye.  None of the buses leave until everyone is ready.  The children hang out the window waving, many are crying.  They are chanting all the naughty chants they know they shouldn't do, but can get away with on the last day.  Finally, the buses start to drive away, with the bus drivers beeping, the kids chanting, the teachers waving.  It's a little crazy, but it's definitely a happy/ sad/ sentimental time for us all!

I've been teaching in this school for 27 years now, and we've had our "Grade Five Send Off" for close to 20 of those years.  I can honestly say I haven't had one "Grade Five Send Off" where I wasn't in tears.

One nice thing about being a teacher in the lower grades is that you get to watch the kids grow up, even when they are no longer in your class. By the time they make that final walk down the hall, most of them are taller than I am, and have grown in many ways!  It's hard to say goodbye.

I also find it's hard to say goodbye to their families as well.  After all, by the end of 5th grade, I've known them for 4 years! If I've had siblings, I've known them longer than that!

I'm lucky to work where I work!

What's your last day of school like?

Learn About the World with Flat Stanley!

My students learned about Flat Stanley this year! 

Learn About the World with Flat Stanley! This post contains ideas, books, information, links, and a freebie about getting Flat Stanley to help your students learn about Geography!

It's a great project. We send tagboard copies of Flat Stanley home, and the families either take Stanley someplace, or they send him to someone somewhere in the world.


In case you've never heard the story, Flat Stanley had a bulletin board fall on him. He wasn't hurt at all, but ended up quite flat. Luckily for us, he was flat enough to put himself in an envelope and send himself anywhere he wants! 

Children can make their own Flat Stanley, and send him to various places around the globe. I've seen pictures of Flat Stanley near a variety of landmarks with a variety of famous people. In fact, I've even seen Flat Stanley with the President and on the Golden Gate Bridge!

So we made our Flat Stanleys and sent them out. Stanley was due back in town by June 1st, so we started sharing stories Friday during Social Studies.

It was a great project. Children came back with pictures and notes from Stanley from a variety of places. Flat Stanley has been fishing in the Adirondacks, playing in North Carolina, touring in Disney, even exploring forts in Puerto Rico! We haven't seen all the responses yet, as we just started sharing on Friday, but there are a few more to share on Monday, and I suspect there are a few more coming in. (Rumor has it Stanley was seen somewhere in Asia, and was running late for our June 1st deadline!)


Being the reflective person that I am, I've been wondering how I can make the project better for next year. I started by retyping the letter I used. I added more information and attached a website with samples, ideas, and activities for the kids. I made a point to mention that this was a geography project, which I neglected the first time, and it let to a couple of "mystery adventures." Luckily, we solved the mysteries. I've attached the letter with blanks for you to fill in as a freebie here or see the image below.

Learn About the World with Flat Stanley! This post contains ideas, books, information, links, and a freebie about getting Flat Stanley to help your students learn about Geography!
 Be sure to visit this website  (www.flatstanleybooks.com/) to learn more about what you can do with Flat Stanley. You can even download your own Flat Stanley from this website! Plus, there are plenty of great photos of Flat Stanley. All images of Flat Stanley books on this page are affiliate links to Amazon.


Learn About the World with Flat Stanley! This post contains ideas, books, information, links, and a freebie about getting Flat Stanley to help your students learn about Geography!

When Bad Things Happen, Make Lemonade!

Two years ago today I had a stroke. It really didn't seem like much, and I didn't even go to the hospital right away.

I felt a tingling in my left arm while I was in the shower. At first I thought I might be having a heart attack, since one of the symptoms is tingling in the left arm. So naturally I did what any mother would do. I quietly got out of the shower and got dressed. My biggest fear was embarrassing my teenage daughter by being naked when the EMTs arrived. When I started walking around, I noticed my left leg was also tingling.

I really didn't want to go to the hospital, since it was Saturday of the holiday weekend. But finally, I realized that tingling wasn't going away, so I went.

It's a good thing I went. I was there for hours, drifting in and out of sleep. They gave me all the necessary tests, and sent me off in the wee hours. It wasn't until about a week later that I realized that tingling was pretty much on my entire left side... my scalp and my torso in addition to my arm and leg. It was the most intense in my arm and leg.

I went back to school a week later for the last 2 weeks of school marathon. Somehow I had to pack my room, yet I was so tired I couldn't see straight, and I'd lost control of much of my left side. Lifting heavy boxes wasn't an option, yet I got very little help packing my classroom. I do remember falling off my ladder hard, which is probably what messed up my alignment, but I didn't find that out for another year. I did something nasty to my shoulder which makes it pretty useless for anything more than 5 pounds.

It wasn't for a couple of months that I realized the full impact of the stroke. I went to occupational and  physical therapy to develop the muscles in my arm and hand that weren't working, and work to restore my balance. I had gone as far as they could bring me on the OT, but the insurance was withdrawn before I could "graduate" from the PT.

I think one of the toughest things is that I "look fine". That may sound silly, but I think if I were looking less than fine some of my colleagues might be a tad more compassionate.

Two years later:  I still struggle with fatigue. It's gotten better than it was when I first had the stroke, but I still have trouble making it through the day, and I'm useless on evenings and weekends. I still struggle with my left arm with things like opening water bottles, ATMs, and holding onto things. I still have trouble with balance. I'm OK if I'm on a flat surface and I can watch where I'm going. That's not always easy while teaching second graders. I still have trouble lifting things, too. Much of the tingling is gone, but it's still there, especially in my arm and leg. I try to give the illusion that I'm fine, because I just don't like to be pitied or treated like I'm less than whole. But the fact is, I'm far less than what I was before the stroke.

The bad news? After 2 years, I've probably progressed about as far as I can go. I've known all along that the further away from the stroke, the less chance of getting those skills back.

But, I've chosen to make lemonade out of this. Luckily, my daughter is off in college now, so I'm back to living alone. It sounds terribly lonely, but it's not at all. It's just less responsibility after school. I like that! I do minimal cooking and cleaning during the week, since I'm usually far too tired, especially as it gets near the weekend. 

So I had to take up a hobby that didn't need me to be up and walking around. (Or dancing... like my previous hobby of musical theatre!) So I took up blogging!

In a way, I feel like blogging has given me back my life! It gives me something to look forward to every day when I drag myself out of school. I try to finish all my work at school so I'll be free and can blog, pin, tweet, and post on my facebook page. I spend a lot of time at my laptop, reading about brain research, and making materials to help students learn. It's a good life!

Pay it Forward for Evan

My community is in shock due to the loss of one of its gems.
The untimely loss of a young man makes me want to pay it forward.
Evan in the musical Chicago. My daughter is in the foreground.

Evan had just finished his freshman year in college and was on an archaeological dig in Scotland when he collapsed. Attempts at resuscitation were unsuccessful, and he was pronounced dead at the local hospital.

I am stunned by this event. Not only because it's a local kid, but because I knew the family. Evan's dad teaches Social Studies in my school district. Evan's mom is my acupuncturist. (I had a stroke in 2010, and acupuncture has been an amazing help in my recovery.) Evan and his twin brother were friends with my daughter, and graduated from high school together in 2011. Evan and my daughter starred in the school's musical, Chicago, last spring.

My whole body aches for Evan's family. Having a daughter the same age, I just don't know how anyone can deal with the loss of a child.

I ache for his brother. The boys were twins and rarely left each others' sides until college.

All those high school classmates who just finished their freshman year of college are in shock. This was one of their finest: an honor student, active in many activities: debate club, theatre, president of the honor society, and an all around good kid. Everyone liked him. He even spoke at their graduation. What a horrible loss!


Evan's Dad, the Social Studies teacher at our local high school asked people to Find a way to "Pay Something Forward" in Evan's honor. I recently posted this end of the year Social Studies review Scoot game on Teachers Pay Teachers. I thought, in honor of Evan's memory, I would offer this item for free to teachers who will Pay it Forward in honor of a great young man.

See THIS LINK to obtain the Social Studies Review Task Cards free, in honor of Evan. Of course, this means you will Pay it Forward in some way to honor Evan.

Thanks so much!

Memorial Day: A Day To Remember

Memorial Day in America is a day to remember those who gave their lives for our freedom. Many people also enjoy the day with a long weekend, parades, cook outs, and the beginning of summer.

Memorial Day: A Day to Remember - Ideas, Resources, and 3 different freebies for honoring Memorial Day in the Primary Classroom
When I grew up, Patriotism was strong in this country. Most of our parents remembered World War II, and it was clear how lucky we are to be Americans. Our parents taught us the importance of being Americans. We learned all the words to all the patriotic songs, and sang them proudly. We knew how to care for our flag, and we knew we were lucky to be born Americans.

It seem that many Americans have forgotten the joys, privileges, and responsibilities of living in a free country. So many Americans are angry, and are blaming our government. Many Americans don't even know the words to The Star Spangled Banner, or even how to show respect for the American flag. I try to teach my own students to be proud of their country. I teach them what freedom means, and how they live in a land where they can choose what they want to be! I read Patriotic books and I cry.



Especially with this one.
patriotic book

Although I'd say we are definitely due for a long, relaxing weekend, you'll bet I'll be reading these books and showing videos like this one I found which explains Memorial Day to children, with pictures of American Memorials and just enough history for little ones to understand.


I'll also be singing Patriotic Songs with the children, as I do on most holidays. I found this great website that has lyrics and background music for most of the favorites, and it's all free!

I found some great ideas for celebrating patriotic holidays on the Scholastic Website. These ideas would work for any of the patriotic holidays, not just Memorial Day. 

Since my little ones sometimes struggle to remember the differences in many patriotic holidays, I made up these lists to help remember the importance of each occasion as well as some ideas for celebrating each. See the image or HERE for your freebie.


Planning on doing some patriotic writing this Memorial Day? You can download this writing paper freebie HERE!


Here's one more freebie that can be used for any patriotic holiday: Patriotic Brain Breaks!


I also have a "Reading Comprehension for Active Learners" Resource which is perfect for Memorial Day. It has informational text, text questions, sketching, and brain breaks, all related to the USA. Check it out here: Freedom Isn't Free: Learning About the USA for Active Learners.

Here's a little video to help you see this resource.

Want a resource with plenty of ideas for patriotic holidays? Try this bundle with 7 different resources PLUS 7 different freebies: Learning About the USA!

Enjoy your Memorial Day weekend, have a steak, or a hot dog, or even a veggie burger, but don't forget to remember the reason for the holiday, and that FREEDOM ISN'T FREE!

Memorial Day: A Day to Remember - Ideas, Resources, and 3 different freebies for honoring Memorial Day in the Primary Classroom

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