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STAR Cards for Positive Classroom Behavior

Over the years, I have tried many classroom rewards for students who go above and beyond during the school day. I try to avoid picking from the Treasure Box or doling out candy, mostly because that's not sustainable, for the kids or myself.

I was looking for a way for kids to earn their way to a reward, but in so doing, making something that was motivating for them, and easy for me. I am not a great record keeper, so it needed to be something we could all track with ease.


For the past couple of years, we have had STAR Cards to fill this need and they have really done the trick! I picked up star hole punches on Amazon (I bought two so they would be in strategic places around my classroom), and each student is given a STAR Card at the beginning of the year. I just copy them on cardstock and write their names on the back in Sharpie.

In our classroom, STAR stands for Students Taking Academic Responsibility, but I am going to be changing that over to Amazing Responsibility, since I want the focus to shift off of just academic deeds and more on their whole character.

These cards are small, just 2 x 3 inches, so they fit well inside of their bins. Students are responsible for keeping track of them throughout the year. If they lose one, they will get a new one, but have to start all over. It's amazing how even my most organizationally-challenged kiddos still usually know where their STAR Cards are.

Whenever I see a student going above and beyond, they will get a star punch in one of the stars on their STAR Card. After ten punches, these cards can be redeemed at Friday Free Choice for a reward of their choosing. They then get a new card and start the process over again. I avoid color-coding cards or any way to distinguish who is on their first card from who is on their second or third. I want this to be a system where all kids can excitedly come up for a star punch and stay motivated throughout the year.

As I introduce these cards, there are two important lists we have to make: How to get a star punch and what rewards did they want when they filled their card?

How to Get a Star Punch?

Similar to clipping up or giving tokens, the STAR Card is just a small and quick way to acknowledge good behavior in class. At the beginning of the year, I am a card-punching crazy lady! I want to recognize the positive actions and choices immediately, to get our year off to a great start. I then calm down, but am still keeping my eyes peeled each and every day for kids who are doing the kind and right thing.

Sometimes I will give a punch to a table group that is focused and working hard. Sometimes I will give one to the whole class after a group compliment. There really are are no hard-and-fast rules about how you choose to dole out punches, except to keep it up and to not be stingy about them. Ten can be quite a bit for some kids to get through, and I want all of my students to feel success with this.

These cards have also been a good challenge for me to look for the positives each day, and reward students accordingly, instead of dwelling on the negative, the misbehavior, or the ones that aren't doing what they should. I have found that dedicating the majority of my energy to the majority of my students who are doing the right thing is so much more powerful for everyone, me included, than when I spend that same amount of energy on just a handful, or less, of students that are off-task or misbehaving. That unbalance is what drains me, so this has been a great system to help me shift my focus and stay supportive!

We brainstorm a list as a class about kind, respectful things that we can all do throughout the school to earn a star punch. This list is then posted for the first few weeks of school until kids get the hang of it. Ours has been down for many months now, but the energy around punches remains.

* One lesson I do want to strongly encourage you to include is being sure to teach them when to come to you for a punch. Transition times, independent work times, etc. are ideal. Whole-class, small-group or one-on-one teaching times are not! This also took some brainstorming and practice, on both of our parts! They had to be respectful of my time, and I needed to be respectful of theirs by having a star hole puncher ready to go (thus my second one in a different spot). I love that they have yellow handles so I can find them easily during the day!

Rewards for a Full STAR Card

This was another fun list to brainstorm with the kids as soon as we passed out the cards. The only time they can redeem them is during Friday Free Choice, which is about 20-25 minutes every Friday.

Many actually did like the typical Treasure Box trinkets: stickers, stamps, bracelets, fun erasers, etc. and I was able to secure some parent donations to help fill my box. Those items are also easy to find on Amazon HERE.

Another popular choice was to be able to use Chromebooks during choice time. We're a 1:1 Chromebook school and use them quite a bit during the day. Because of that, I don't allow Chromebooks during free time, since I want to encourage board/ strategy game-playing, building, and camaraderie with one another. However, with a full punch card, I will acquiesce.

A big surprise for me was that most kids are choosing the Treasure Box items over the Chromebooks, so it all works out in the end.

Some students choose to keep their full punch cards in their bin, collecting them for a rainy day, and some will turn them in the second free choice time starts. It's an easy system since I am not constantly filling a Treasure Box for every little good thing I notice a student doing. This is quick, easy, and discrete, although I do sometimes like to make a big deal out of it to give them some pride in a job well done.

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If you're interested in these STAR Cards, I have them available for a FREE download in my TpT Store. I did include two versions: one with Academic and the other with Amazing, so you can choose what works best for your class' needs. Download them HERE.

Be sure to pick up the star punches HERE if you'd like to add that special touch. The punch is the exact size of the star on the card, too! Of course, a regular punch or even your initials would also be a great way to track the progress on the card.

Enjoy these cards and I'd love to hear how you're using them with your students!



Monthly Thoughts: February


Welcome to February'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 February, which you can find in my TpT Store HERE.

Monthly Thoughts: February


Even though February is short, there's actually quite a bit happening in these twenty-eight days. You can find activities for Presidents' Day, Valentine's Day, Anti-Bullying, even Groundhog Day! Be sure to check out the read aloud lists to support your in-class work. We dive into idioms this time of year and work on strengthening our story starters and endings, too. All in all, a very busy month!

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!

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I have also compiled all of my Monthly Thoughts into a year-long bundle for free HERE. Now you can have access to the 200 ideas, blog posts, products, freebies, quotes, and more from August to May, right at your fingertips in one clickable PDF!





Click HERE to download this huge collection. I hope these ideas can help keep you inspired all year long!


My Favorite Presidents' Day Read Alouds


February is a short month, but is filled with many holidays and notable events. One of these is Presidents' Day and I am excited to be sharing some of my favorite read alouds to have your students become more familiar with the big names behind this holiday, as well as the overall job.

If you've seen any of my previous collections, you know that I always highly recommend the "I am" books by Meltzer, both for Lincoln and Washington. His books are always a hit for any biography project you do. He focuses on the defining character traits of these presidents, as well as their works, and the comic-style illustrations make these a popular choice in class.

Some of these books delve into the roles and responsibilities of the Commander-in-Chief, but through the lens of a child, so they make very relatable, yet informative, read alouds. If I Were President tops my list of choices for this purpose.

The Who Was? biographies for both Lincoln and Washington are a part of a great biographical series, and the picture book about George Washington's birthday is the perfect intro into the life and childhood of our first president.

I like to include the role of the First Ladies, beyond their role as presidential spouse, so be sure to check out the Smart About and Big Deal books for some very cool contributions from these women throughout the history of our country.

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

Click away here: 
Image Map


I hope this list gives you lots of ideas for read alouds for this time of year, or any time of the year you study government and the presidency. Be sure to let me know of any additional titles in the comments. I would love to add to this collection!

To find my complete collection of read aloud suggestions, see my growing list here:


Happy reading!

The Peace Process for Conflict Resolution & Freebie


We have a lovely school counselor this year who came to visit each of our classrooms and explain a common "Peace Process" for conflict resolution. I loved this for so many reasons and can't wait to share it with you!

For one, common language across all grades is invaluable, especially when kids experience conflict at recess, in the lunch room, or even in the hallway when they are away from their classroom teacher and intermixed with other grades.

Also, the fact that this process is broken down into such simple and manageable parts gives kids the confidence to go through it themselves, complete with sentence starters and all.

I want to share this Peace Process with you in case you are looking for a way to help manage conflict and empower your students to problem-solve with one another. Feel free to download the freebie to share with others in your school, or even send home to parents... this can work with anyone in any situation!


Step 1: Breathe

The first step is the most important: make sure your body is calm enough to engage in the process of making peace. In the heat of the moment, the "fight or flight" response is in high gear, anger may be driving the show, and there is no way the rest of the process can be successful. By stopping to breathe, everyone can get back into a more calm state.

How you breathe is just as important. Start by "smelling a flower" by breathing in through your nose and counting to three slowly. Then, hold for one count, and exhale our your mouth as if you're "blowing out a candle" for four counts. Practice this with your students and see how it changes the feel in the classroom. Some may be silly for the first breath or two, but after practicing for several breaths, the whole tone of the class will be calmer and more subdued. It's a good practice to keep on hand for other times during the day, too!

Remind kids to take as many breaths as they need. This process can't be rushed, so even if they need some time alone to compose themselves, that's a-okay. I would still encourage a few common breaths together at the start of the process to be sure there's lots of fresh oxygen in the brain!

Step 2: "I" Statements

This is the first back-and-forth conversation that takes place. The person who feels harmed begins with a statement about how they felt. The framework of: "I feel ____ because ____" always gives kids a good place to start. During this time, the other person must stay silent and practice listening. This is important, because the second part of this step is to repeat what that person said.

When the first person is done with their "I" Statement, the second person repeats what they heard, including all of the important parts, not just generalities. "I heard you say you felt ___ because ___" is a perfect launching point.

At the end of their retell, they need to ask if they got it right. Person 1 needs to feel confident enough to say no, if needed, and retell the parts that were left out. This may need to happen a few times, especially at the beginning. The inclusion of "I heard you say..." is also crucial because it reinforces the idea that this is a listening exercise, not just an airing of grievances.

Step 3: Repairing the Harm

We want to encourage kids repair the harm, and sometimes "sorry" is enough. Other times, they may need an apology and an additional follow-up about what will happen if this occurs again. There may be something that they need or can do for one another, like get an ice pack or take turns with the item in question. There are other alternatives, too, and usually two or three actions are needed to repair the harm that was done. The important part is to make sure they are reasonable, and that both are agreeable to the ideas. Person 1 should feel that the harm is indeed repaired, or on the way to being repaired as best as possible.

Step 4: Moving Forward

While a physical touch may not always be appropriate, it is often a useful and effective starting point for moving forward. A handshake, high five, or fist bump can be powerful "wrap up" gestures that solidify the discussion and resolutions discussed. The important part, like the rest of the steps, is that both parties agree on the common gesture. Even a thumbs-up or peace sign can work.

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Always be sure to offer your presence and guidance, especially at at the beginning, as kids are working on practicing and internalizing these steps. After a while, you will not need to be as present, although you should always need to be available to help. Some conflicts go beyond the Peace Process and will need additional intervention by you or others to be truly effective and safe. However, I think you will find that this can be an excellent tool for navigating issues throughout the day.

* As you introduce this to your classroom, have kids role-play through the Peace Process with common conflicts and/or issues that you have been hearing about. Extend the areas beyond the classroom and onto the playground, bus, neighborhood, and lunchroom. This activity will also get them more familiar with the steps and language in real-life scenarios.

* An even more powerful way of incorporating this schoolwide is to have older student be "Peace Aides" and help younger students work through the process. How powerful for all parties involved!


If you're interested in the freebie, click HERE to find it in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store.

Have you used a process like this at your school? Do you have additional steps or any feedback? Please leave a comment and share your experiences!

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. 

Giveaway 


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.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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 

{{www.online-stopwatch.com}}


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 

{{onlineclock.net}}


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!


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