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My Favorite Martin Luther King, Jr. Read Alouds

January is the perfect time of year to delve into the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Not only is his birthday celebrated, but with the school year halfway done, it's the perfect time to positively refocus your class by teaching about his powerful work and teachings. I have found children are a bit older and wiser this time of year, and with your routines already set in place, this is a wonderful, and very relevant, topic to dive into, especially in recognizing the "why" behind our day off of school.

One thing I love about this list is the first-person storytelling, both from his sister and his son. Each book provides a unique insight, at a kid-appropriate level, that can allow your students to get to know Dr. King as a child and a dad.

For an overview of his life's work in engaging narrative, I highly recommend the "I am" book by Meltzer. His books are always  hit for any biography project you do. He focuses on the character of Dr. King, as well as his works, and the comic-style illustrations make this a popular choice in class.

One of the reasons I use the National Geographic book is that it includes photos from the actual events mentioned. The rest of the books have stunning. beautiful illustrations, but if you are looking for more of a strictly nonfiction approach, this book includes many of the text features you will want to cover.

All of these books have important and essential teachings of Dr. King and the impact of his work, both then and now. Even picking up just one of these to share with your class will create some important conversations and questions that students need to be talking about.

To read more about these books, simply click on any of the titles below. Each will link you directly to its page on Amazon where you can preview the inside, read the reviews, and find similar titles.

I hope this list gives you lots of ideas for read alouds for this important time of year as you study Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Be sure to let me know of any additional titles in the comments. I would love to add to this collection!

Monthly Thoughts: January

Happy New Year and welcome to January's "Monthly Thoughts"!

Over the past year, I have been uploading a clickable PDF themed around that month. There are twenty ideas on the page that link you to a post, idea, resource, freebie, quote, etc. from my blog or store. Each month has a unique collection of ideas, both old and new, and I hope it will help make planning for the school year easier to navigate.

Be sure to download the calendar page from my TpT Store HERE each month when it's released. It's a clickable PDF, so you will be redirected to my blog, TpT Store, or another website for all of the information when you click the small image.

While I have themed many of the months around holiday items, there are also plenty of ideas geared towards other academic areas, like nonfiction, getting ready for state tests, and more. And if these don't align with your own scope and sequence, hopefully a few can add to your bag of tricks when you do cover those topics in your own classroom.

Today I'm offering the calendar of January, which you can find in my TpT Store HERE.

Monthly Thoughts: January

As the weather gets colder this time of year, you can find many winter-themed Word Work and Writing Prompts, as well as QR Codes for math computation practice, and Brain Breaks. There is also a Martin Luther King-themed Word Work and Writing Prompt packets and Tech Resources to celebrate this treasured civil rights leader.

There's plenty more, so take your pick and click away to find more information on any and all of the images you see.

Download HERE and enjoy! I hope these ideas will get you excited for the first month of the new year!

Teacher-Approved Holiday Gift Ideas + Giveaway

It's getting close to Winter Break and, chances are, you have some favorite teachers to buy gifts for. While any gift is never expected and always appreciated, there are definitely some gifts that make our teacher hearts go pitter-patter!

I've compiled a list of my favorites below with links to Amazon and other retailers that can help get these into your hands, or your teacher's classroom, as soon as possible before the holidays!

Classroom Supplies

We teachers are a weird breed and actually *love* things that we can use in our classrooms! Not many professions can say that, but any of the top teacher-favorites below will definitely be a hit.

Writing supplies are not just a favorite, but a daily necessity, so getting the type your teacher prefers is always a hit. Flair Pens are always a go-to, along with color Sharpies and Mr. Sketch scented markers. Plus, if they have a whiteboard, Expo markers in many colors are a must. If your teacher is in need of pencils, and all teachers always are, Ticonderoga are the best, and bonus points for buying the pre-sharpened variety!

If you're looking to spend a little more and purchase some favorite workhorses for the classroom, you can never, ever go wrong with a personal laminator. Chances are, if you live with a teacher, you are all too familiar with the mountain of plastic-covered task cards, signs, game pieces, and more that you have seen your teacher cutting into all hours of the night. These personal laminators are thicker than regular laminating film and allow your teacher to watch Netflix and laminate, maybe with a glass of wine or hot tea, so you will score major bonus points! Remember to pick up extra pouches, since suddenly everything will need to be laminated, trust me.

After all of the laminating is done, how cool would it be for your teacher to have their very own paper cutter? This little guy lives in my office and gets a workout every new unit when I am on a laminating and cutting spree. It saves me from trying to cut a straight line, and it is very zen to hear the slicing sound through the stacks of task cards. This particular style is slim and slides into a cabinet when I'm not using it, so it's also not a safety hazard with my daughter in the house.

Although it may seem dorky, a pencil sharpener (that works!) is a miracle tool in the classroom. This has been my version for the past two years and it's still sharpening strong. And this tape dispenser, although a random supply, is so incredibly useful! Your teacher probably uses a lot of large, clear tape for hanging things or rebinding books, so to have it at-the-ready is a pleasant convenience.

Gift Cards

If you aren't too sure about investing in classroom supplies, gift cards are always a welcome treat for any teacher in your life. We tend to forget to treat ourselves to movies, sit-down restaurants, or even fancy cups of coffee throughout the school year, so these always give us the perfect excuse to get out of the house on a Friday night and have some grown-up fun.

Target and Amazon are favorite store cards, although depending on your teacher, spicing it up with an iTunes, Sephora, or even Lowe's card can be an unexpected treat. The year I bought my first house, parents in my classroom surprised me with a home improvement gift card and it helped relieve the stress with all that a new house entails. Even though gift cards can get a bad rap for being "impersonal", they can really both a thoughtful and useful gift, and very much appreciated to any teacher in you or your child's life.

Fun & Functional Finds

It can be hard to think about personal items that a teacher may or may not have in their collection already, but I've gathered some fail-proof ideas that will always be a welcome surprise.

If your teacher is a beverage-drinker, you can't go wrong with these two vessels. They keep drinks both hot or cold for hours. My personal favorite for my coffee is the Zojirushi mug. It will truthfully keep coffee piping hot all day long, it's crazy! If you know your teacher prefers cold water or iced tea, the Hydroflask is an amazing design that will keep the drink so cold, ice cubes stay inside all day long.

Maybe your teacher is in need of a teacher bag or lunch tote? Why not get coordinating and personalized options from Erin Condren? These are what I use on a daily basis and I love how sturdy and roomy they both are. Plus, their fun designs add some flair into the day.

Teachers these days have to carry around a lot: an ID card, keys, whistle, and sometimes a key fob. A great gift that can always help them keep organized is a wristlet, lanyard, or zip. These are not just decorative, but functional, so they will be put to good use right away.

I'm sharing some of my favorite Erin Condren goodies below. These are always add an amazing touch to items that are already needed, like clipboards, file folders, notepads, and more. Personalizing the designs and names make these gifts go above and beyond. Even if you find there isn't enough time for Christmas gifts, keep these in mind for the end of the year.

Personal Touch

If you are a parent reading this to get ideas for your child's teacher, always remember that nothing, seriously, nothing is more meaningful to receive as a teacher than a thoughtful note or card from your child. Even better if it's homemade and illustrated! 

Gift cards, pens, and lanyards are all nice, but they certainly are not the reason we do what we do, nor are they even expected. This season, please know that your child's teacher is including each and every student in their reasons to be grateful for this year. Your kids are our family for nine months each year, and there is no better present than that. 


I hope these ideas gave you some guidance when it comes to gift-giving this holiday season. I want to make sure that you get the chance to experience some of these goodies, so I am giving away two teacher bags full of goodies! Keep it for yourself or gift it to a teacher friend, up to you! Enter below and I will choose a winner on December 20th. While it may not arrive in time for Christmas-proper, I know your recipient will love it nonetheless. This giveaway is open to US residents only.

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Best of luck and happy holidays!

Countdown Timers for Your Classroom

While I may not use countdown timers every day in our class, it can be fun to mix them in throughout the week. I find I use them for clean-up times in the classroom at the end of the day, when energy and focus are at their all-time lows!

There are several helpful sites I wanted to share, as well as some tutorials I found for creating and inserting timers into your PowerPoint presentations.

Online Stopwatch 


First, my favorite site is easily Online Stopwatch . Not only do they have a multitude of timer choices, they are all very classroom-friendly and can be set up in no time. Some of our class favorites include the racers, since it gives something fun for the finished kids to enjoy as others hustle to clean up and root for their favorite runner.

Other timers on this site are less energetic, which provides a better atmosphere when you're using a countdown for think time or work time. My personal favorite is the candle timer that burns down and has a nice chime sound at the end.

One of my recent discoveries these past few months was their Holiday Timer section. What a hoot! The Snowman Race is our new favorite and the winner is always random, so it always keeps the kids' attention. All of these timers switch easily to full screen so they can be the primary focus during the countdown.

Online Clock 


Another festive option is found here, with calming backgrounds and the timer counting down digitally in the foreground. You can choose the size of the numbers, which I really like so I can make them a focus if I need to, or keep them smaller to enjoy the background more.

One thing to note, there are ads that show up on the end page when the alarm is finished. Your district may block them, but I always like to point out when that may be an issue.

YouTube Favorites

One of the easiest things to do is to search YouTube for the length of time you require. I did five minutes and found this cool one:

And ten minutes to find this:

I like this one because there is a gentle cricket sound at the end, so it's good for quiet work time. There are so many choices, you just need to know how long you'll need and you're all set!

And if you're concerned about pop-up ads, you can submit the video to ViewPure HERE to get them removed. I always use this site when I'm showing a video in class to remove any possible distractions.

Embedding into PowerPoint

If you use PowerPoint, I found two amazing step-by-step tutorials to help you create and/or insert your own countdown timers to go inside of your presentation.

To learn how to create a countdown on PowerPoint, click HERE.

To learn how to insert a countdown on PowerPoint, click HERE.

Both will take you to Tekhnologic's site where you will find a ton of resources for your presentations, including a Bingo and Jeopardy game, even a spinning wheel to download! It's a great site to bookmark and come back to any time you need some engaging tools for your PowerPoint!

I hope these resources can help mix your countdowns up a bit. Whether it's for think time, partner time, clean-up time, or more, these can fit into your schedule easily and provide some fun for your students at the same time.

Monthly Thoughts: December

Happy Holidays and welcome to December's "Monthly Thoughts"!

Over the past year, I have been uploading a clickable PDF themed around that month. There are twenty ideas on that page that link you to a post, idea, resource, freebie, quote, etc. from my blog or store. Each month has a unique collection of ideas, both old and new, and I hope it will help make the school year and planning easier to navigate.

Be sure to download the calendar page from my TpT Store HERE each month when it's released. It's a clickable PDF, so you will be redirected to my blog, TpT Store, or another website for all of the information when you click the small image.

While I have themed many of the months around holiday items, there are also plenty of ideas geared towards other academic areas, like nonfiction, getting ready for state tests, and more. And if these don't align with your own scope and sequence, hopefully a few can add to your bag of tricks when you do cover those topics in your own classroom.

Today I'm offering the calendar of December, which you can find in my TpT Store HERE.

Monthly Thoughts: December

If you're looking for some great holiday activities, I've compiled a list of my favorite read alouds and my RACK class activity. I'm also sharing some fun gift ideas for students.

As with many of the holidays throughout the year, you can find many holiday-themed Word Work and Writing Prompts, as well as QR Codes for math computation practice, and Brain Breaks. There is also a Polar Express-themed Word Work packet and Tech Resources to celebrate this treasured holiday story.

There's plenty more, so take your pick and click away to find more information on any and all of the images you see.

Download HERE and enjoy! I hope these ideas will get you excited for the festive month ahead!

Helpful Mnemonic Devices for the "eigh" Spelling Pattern

We use a very pattern-based spelling program (Primary Spelling by Pattern) in our school, which has been a huge help for many of my struggling spellers over the years.

This past week's words were all based on the "eigh" spelling pattern and included words like weigh, eighty, neighbor, and so on. Although it was a short list, remembering the order and all of the letters proved to be quite a challenge for several of my students.

To help them remember this funky pattern, we came up with the following two mnemonic devices:

and, for some of my kids who felt bad for the green horses:

You get the idea. I made these silly posters and projected them in our classroom during spelling and throughout the day. Kids enjoyed coming up with these and it helped all of them stay organized when it came to this pattern.

To pick up these freebies, click HERE and you can download them directly from Dropbox.

What are some of your go-to mnemonic devices? Please share in the comments below.

Happy spelling!

Word Work: Fast & Free Ideas to Use Tomorrow

We use Word Work activities every day in our classroom to practice spelling in our Daily 5. It has become an invaluable part of our work time, not only to practice our spelling words for the week, but to incorporate a variety of cross-curricular skills and to just have fun with our words whenever we can.

The practice of copying words over and over is a tedious and monotonous task, so we've used a variety of alternatives over the years to help:
  • Word Worth- Students will need to determine how much their word is worth in coins and/or dollars. Be sure to check out Version 1, 2, and 3 as well as the bundled set.
  • Place Value- Students will figure out the amount each word is worth, using ones, tens, hundreds, and even thousands place value blocks. There are Versions 1, 2, and 3, as well as a bundled set.
  • Letter Tiles- Students use the popular letter tiles to count up their word's worth
  • Braille & Sign Language- Students practice alternative forms of communication to spell their word
  • ... and more!

I have a complete set of these tried-and-true classroom favorites HERE, but I was looking for other ways to spruce up Word Work this year, both in-class and for at-home practice.

We use a Bingo Board over the course of a month or so, where in each Word Work session, students need to focus on one activity and practice as many words as they can in that one activity. Our sessions are only about twenty minutes long, and at the end, I take a look at their work and initial one of the boxes. After five of these activities, they get a Bingo and work towards a second, maybe even third Bingo before I collect the boards.

This year, many of my students need repeated practice writing the words, both for spelling as well as for fine-motor practice. I felt I needed to incorporate activities where they could get more words down in the twenty minutes, as many of them were struggling to complete more than five in that time. Each class is different, which is why I love teaching, so I pulled together some ideas and made these options available:

Each of these are easy to understand, involve no prep (or low-prep with making color pencils, crayons, or markers available), and will allow kids to work on quite a few words, all while mixing it up a bit.

If you're interested in these fast and free Word Work Centers, they are available as a freebie in my TpT Store HERE. Just print and go- your students can start working with these ideas tomorrow!

I hope you and your students have as much fun with these new activities as mine do!

Glow and Grow Goal-Setting

It's parent-teacher conference time, and I always like to include students' input whenever possible. They do not attend our conferences, and without their voice, it always seems a bit too one-dimensional. I have used goal-setting sheets in the past (HERE), but wanted to mix it up a bit this year.

Working with Growth Mindset, I created a "Glow & Grow" form for students to fill out. The "Glow" side contains what they are most proud of in that subject, while the "Grow" side contains their goals, what they are working towards, or where they would like to dig deeper.

This coincidentally coincided with our science unit that included growing pea plants! Love when that works out!

We began by charting some thinking questions to get them started for each section. On their "Glow", I wanted them to move beyond the outward signs of success (like 100%, or a "high" reading level), and think more about what made them feel proud so far this year.

Along with that, I didn't want their "Grow" to be something they feel they failed, or are the perceived "worst at" in the class. I instead used it as an opportunity to create goals and think about their future in our room. This worked out especially well for some kids who only focus on the previously mentioned signs of "success". It changed the language for them, which allowed for more growth opportunities in other directions than they may have thought prior to this activity. For example, a high-level reader thought about it, and realized they were in a genre-rut. They decided to expand their genre choices to include more nonfiction and mystery. On the other side, a struggling student focused on tackling more of a familiar series instead of rushing on to a "higher level" that may have been too challenging. It was a win-win on both sides.

I encouraged students to use bullet points or complete sentences, whichever they felt most comfortable with, and I was surprised to get about a 50/50 split. On the back side, they wrote and drew their favorite part of the day, which was predominately P.E., but what else is new!?

I'm excited to share these with parents as we talk about the start of the year and the direction(s) we want to head this year as a class, and with their student. It will give us some great talking points about the student, even though they won't be there in person.

Plus, now that we've gone over the "Glow & Grow" format as a class, it can become a part of our regular feedback and goal-setting conversations.

If you're interested in this form, it can be found on TpT HERE. It is available as a PDF with my headings, or as an editable Powerpoint, where you can type in your own headings.

I hope you have fun with this and get the chance to launch into some great goal-setting behavior this year!

For more on Growth Mindset and goal-setting, click HERE.

Practicing Map Skills: Scavenger Hunt Map Walk Activity

I like to begin our year in Social Studies by looking at the big-picture, specifically at maps and globes, before we start to delve into regions of the United States. This has helped my students be able to read and understand the variety of maps that they later see in our regions unit and beyond.

I wanted something interactive and easy to get them up and moving in the classroom, so I designed some posters and a coordinating "Map Walk" scavenger hunt to help expose them to as many different variations on five simple terms as possible.

We narrowed our focus to looking for each map's:
  1. Title
  2. Compass Rose
  3. Grid
  4. Scale
  5. Legend/Key

When they looked at the posters (shown above and found in my Map Skills packet HERE), it was helpful, but I challenged them to bring in a map from home to kick it up a notch.

Most of my students were able to bring in a map (I assigned it as "Extra Credit") and some brought in more than one. I left it very open-ended and I'm glad I did, because the variety surprised me!

Kids brought in maps from the zoo, state, city, world, USGS, other countries, ski resorts, and more! Some printed them off of Google, which is always a great choice if you or your students don't have easy access to maps. You may also want to check with libraries for additional options.

I printed off the sticky notes so that each child had all six notes at their disposal. I used a variety of colors to keep it visually interesting as they worked. Their job was to find and label a map with one of their sticky notes, each labeled with one of the parts of a map. They had to go to at least five different maps and try to label something that had not yet been labeled on that map.

Their last sticky note had a ? ! on it. They were to circle one of the symbols and be ready to explain what question they had about that part of the map (?) or what they found new, exciting, interesting, etc. (!). This turned into one of the most interesting parts of the process since there were so many varieties of maps, and they often centered around interesting compass designs or even asking what the lines meant on a topographic map.

Interesting discussions arose around mislabeled parts, or even not-so-obvious placement of titles, scales, and compasses. It was a great lesson that extended much longer than I had anticipated!

We wrapped up with a quick assessment and I felt that students not only knew these standard parts of a map, but could be true detectives when it came to looking for them in any map they come across in the future.

To pick up this packet for all of these resources, including the Map Walk observation pages, head over to my Teachers Pay Teachers Store.

Happy exploring!

Trainers Warehouse: Product Reviews & Giveaways

As with most teachers, I love using the summer to shop for all of the unique and "teachery" items I can use in my classroom during the upcoming year. From stores, to catalogs, to websites, I always seem to have teaching on my mind and can't wait to see what new and exciting item I can bring to my next group of students.

Imagine my delight when I was approached my Trainers Warehouse to review some products and share a giveaway with you!? I was immediately drawn into their resources that I will highlight below, and be sure to enter the giveaway at the end for your chance to win one of two $25 gift certificates to their site!

Trainers Warehouse may sound like it's geared more for adults, but I was blown away by how many classroom-friendly resources they have. The first product that caught my eye was the Thumball, and I am not sure I need to explain how many hundreds of uses there will be for this in the classroom: from back-to-school icebreakers, to Morning Meeting, to greeting new incoming students, to buddies, and more, this is a great and durable little tool (it's 6" across and plush) that's built to last. There are several versions of Thumballs available, so be sure to read more about them HERE to see which one will suit your classroom's needs best.

I am an advocate for kids using hand fidgets if and when they need them. I posted about a few easy-to-find fidgets on my blog HERE and was impressed by Trainers Warehouse's selection, all priced under $6. They sent me three and each of them was a new design we don't already have in our Fidget Bin. I also found they were not loud or distracting, especially the SwingOs, which was my favorite. Check out all of their fidget designs HERE.

Last, I am *obsessed* with their handheld white boards! The neon colors are so fun and are perfect for group responses, but the quality is what I love the most. These are solid plastic, with a smooth, glossy finish that makes writing on them easy and wiping them off a breeze. You can use either side and they also come in plain white. I look forward to replacing my old Dollar Spot version in my Teacher Time Bin with these snazzy guys!

Be sure to check out all of Trainers Warehouse's wide selection on their website or on Amazon.

And be sure to enter the giveaway below! I will be emailing two winners a $25 gift certificate to Trainers Warehouse to start your new school year off with some fun finds of your choice! Winners will be selected on July 19, so enter soon!

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