Sunday, September 27, 2020

The Perfect Science/ELA/CARES Book

Anytime I find a quality science picture book that I can immediately use and easily intergrate into my ELA lessons, I do a little happy dance! 

I was dancing last year at B&N when I discovered the perfect STEM / STEAM / COOPERATION / TEAMWORK Strong Female characters book...  (REALLY!)

Boxitects!  It's written and illustrated by Kim Smith. After reading it in the store, I had to buy my own copy.

Yep!  One of those must-have books!  

A little bit about the book:

Meg, the Boxitect, goes off to Maker School. She's quite the creative girl! ⁣

She loves meeting all the Blanketeers, Tin-Foilers, and Egg-Cartoners (Tee hee hee!) who admire her over-the-top creations. 

She was the only Boxitect in class until...⁣ Simone shows up. Another Boxitect.

You know what's going to happen next!  Luckily for teachers, this book is the perfect springborad for discussing TEAMWORK and COOPERATION without being didactic. A fun read! 

(We teach CARES at our school and this is the perfect book to jump into a Cooperation Unit.  Read my top 3 CARES books in each category here.

Over the summer, I made a packet to go along with Boxitects becuase I knew I HAD to do a unit with my kiddos when I returned.  (Not sure when that will be!)  

Since Teamwork and Cooperation are highlighted, I made this cute craft with writing prompt activity to go along with the book. The prompt fits perfectly under the box. Print on white paper and have kids color in or print on colored paper.
Differentiate these activities. Most kids in my First Grade class would use plain paper to complete these tasks but I have a few who would be able to fold the 3D papers (included) and create.

I use Poetry Binders so I had to add a poem!  Never having enough bookmarks, I focused on teamwork and cooperation here.  Black and white included.

Take a peek at the family letter below.  I would send this home on a Thursday (for Monday return) after I have made it clear that ONLY boxes that fit inside backpacks can come in to school.  

These are perfect to use, too!  The kids always floor me with responses!  A time for them to "Show What They Know" for sure!

Do I ever miss an opportunity to get a little phonics in?


This can easily be used throughout the year as you differentiate for your class.

If you haven't read it, reserve in the library. You'll be glad you did!


Friday, September 25, 2020

Distance Learning: Sending Home My Products

I've been recovering from surgery this last month but wanted to jump on and let you know that I just got an email from a 1/2 teacher asking if she could share this with families via email since they are remote.

She especially wanted the clipcards and craft to send home today.

I told her she can send home all 89 pages if she wants!

ANYTHING you've purchased from my store can be shared via email with your families during remote learning.


These are such difficult times and if I can make your life easier, I'm thrilled to do it.

Hope your year is off to a smooth start.

Monday, August 10, 2020

FREE September Poems for Distance Learning

Hey, Friends! Good news!  I used the TpT Digital Overlay for all of my poems and you can use them for Distance Learning.  I am patting myself on the back for figuring it out!  A win/win for both of us!

You can continue to use as you've been doing to reinforce your daily lessons but if you want to use for Distance Learning, here's the scoop:

Using this resource during distance learning
  • Assign poems to your students through Google Classroom. Assign as many or as few as you'd like. YOU have control!
  • Students can use the highlighter or pen tool to highlight, circle, underline, or cross out words you ask for: compound words, short vowel words, rhyming words, etc.
  • You can still add overlays and directions yourself with the TEXT tool.  SO EASY!

On the product page, simply download under TpT Digital Activity: Use As Buyer to access it.

I hope it helps!  

Would you like all of my Bucket Filling activities for FREE? Sign up for my newsletter here and get lots of tips and freebies to help strengthen your classroom community.

Have a great day!

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

The MUST-HAVE Book for the 2020-2021 School Year

You're going to fall in love with One Little Bag An Amazing Journey written and illustrated by the MAGNIFICENT and Oh, So TALENTED Henry Cole.

Why do I think this wordless picture book is AMAZING and Caldecott worthy???

Because I can't stop reading it.

Thinking about it. 

It got me through some tough quarantine days. Seriously. Marie Kondo would be thrilled to know how much JOY it brought me. No other way to say it.

I marvel at the gorgeous illustrations and wonder how Henry Cole could tell such a powerful epic generational love story with NO WORDS.  GENIUS!  Simply GENIUS!  Think about that!

Times a milllion. kazillion.

And I'm not the only one who thinks so:

* "Beautifully effective." -- Kirkus Reviews, starred review

* "Deeply profound... compelling... emotionally resonant." -- School Library Journal, starred review

* "Elevating the life of an ephemeral object to the time scale of love across generations." -- Publishers Weekly, starred review

NOTE: Until I started writing this Blog post last night, I had no idea what others were saying about the book!  To know it's garnered so many well-deserved STARRED REVIEWS makes my heart just want to burst!

The story was inspired by Henry's childhood experience celebrating the first Earth Day. He brought his lunch to school in a brown bag and decided to reuse that same bag for three years. THREE!

The story starts on the endpapers...5 black and white spreads. (The only color in the book is the bag.)

These first pages show the steps taken from tree to bag. Who thought of that?  Really? My full and complete admiration!

When the "official" story begins, you see Dad making a sandwich and placing it in the bag for his son to bring to school. A heart is drawn on the bag. You feel the love.

The bag is ever present in his life: from providing comfort whether it be from the dark or leaving for college (Dad's hand on his son's shoulder just has me feeling all sorts of things as Matthew prepares to leave for college once again!) to comforting / entertaining a baby in his crib.

The bag's use each time is a nod to the power of love and family. Creating special bonds and memories.

I don't want to spoil all the awesomeness of the book for you so I won't.  But oh, my. Pass the tissues.


And his Author's Note is just full of all sorts of goodness.  

We are a huge book family and over the last few years, we had to scale back our purchasing of picture books and turn to our fantastic library instead.  But, friends...  

This is a MUST purchase.

I'm sad it arrived at my house after the lockdown and didn't get to share it with my kids this year.

But next year???

It's the perfect book to use to launch a beginning of the year class activity and promote class community. Grab it by clicking on the book above.

Challenge your students to use a recyclable brown bag for their snacks and to try to make it last all year...aim for Earth Day and keep on going. (If distance learning, I still think this works. Enjoy your snack/break together.)

Who knows, maybe the challenge could be extended into the next school year. And the year after that. And then the next.

Henry kept his bag for 3 years before gifting it to a friend. His way to honor our natural resources.

Can't you just hear one of your kids saying, "See? One person CAN make a difference!"

It really is a must-read! Grab the activity by clicking on the pic above and consider implementing in your classroom the first week of school. Easy breezy!

Worried you'll have kids who will want to join in but parents don't have a bag? Buy 100 brown bags at the Dollar Store.  Enough for 4 years of classes and some left over to replace bags that might be ruined by those ever occurring juice and yogurt spills.

Let me know if you read this lovely book and use the activity and how it goes. 

And of course tell me if you're also predicting One Little Bag for a Caldecott win!

If interested, here is Henry's Reading Rockets interview.

Since we're speaking of the first week of school, check out my New Teacher Tips.  Not a new teacher? I think you can still find a gem or two listed!  

Have a great day, my friends!

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Ten Tips for New Teachers

So many of my friends' kids will be having their own classroom for the first time in just a month.  Lots of awesomness entering our profession makes me feel all sort of goodness!

I love new teachers. I'm their biggest cheerleader and will always do my best to make sure they succeed. If you're about to start soon, maybe some of my tips will speak to you.

Ten Tips for New Teachers

1. Love, Honor, and Cherish...Your STUDENTS! do that already, right? But you must let parents know that as soon as you send out your Welcome Letter that you are well aware that they are entrusting you with their PRIDE and JOY each day and that you take that responsibility seriously.  (It's true, isn't it?)

Then tell them again during Back-to-School Night. Live the words. Believe them.

You are the keeper of their most prized possession for 6-8 hours a day. That is an awesome responsibility. Let them know that you teach as if YOUR OWN child is a student in front of you.

2. Ask and You Shall Receive

You're going to need a lot of things from your principal and administrators. Speak up. Ask!

But don't make it easy for them to simply say, "No."

In the video I made about this very topic on IG, I speak about getting a new globe twice (in two different districts) when my colleagues didn't.

In the first case, my principal said, "Nope," until I whipped out the outdated globe and pointed to U.S.S.R  which had ceased to even exist years prior.

She was mortified and immediately ordered new globes for anyone who needed it. (This included my colleague who failed to mention that fact.)

So come ready (facts, figures, prices) to JUSTIFY your requests. I've had a very high success rate of getting items FOR MY STUDENTS (not me!) and teachers have pushed me into the Principal's door more than once to request items needed for the school.

3. Prepare for Spirit and Theme Days...NOW!

I wish I would have gotten a handle on this my first year. Know you will have a TON of Spirit Days and often the same ones are recycled year after year: Crazy Hat Day, Crazy Sock Day, Crazy Hair Day, Favorite Book Character, Disney Day, Inspirational T-Shirt get the idea.

Start your collection NOW instead of buying it the day before from Amazon.

No need to switch up your theme day hats/shirts, etc., each year. That gets expensive. Get a really cool hat and only wear it that one day of the year and it will bring back fun memories.

NOTE: Keep items at school so you always have them there! No forgetting at home! (I know I rather take up some school space than my personal closet for all of this junk. fun stuff,

4. Use Parent Volunteers

Don't be shy!

Volunteers have been instrumental in allowing me to deliver my instruction successfully without a million interruptions. I have had so many amazing volunteers who are on the ball. (One even brought her TWO iPads to use during Reading Workshop and had our apps downloaded.  How amazing is that??? )

You might be thinking, "If only I could be sure they'd be a GOOD volunteer!" Well, you can. Sort of!  First off, you must TRAIN your volunteers. Tell them exactly what you need/expect from them. (I go as far as saying (nicely, of course!)  that if they're standing around with their arms folded, it isn't helping.)

Dip your toes in by trying this:  Ask for volunteers for 1-2 sessions ONLY.  Get a feel for them.  If awesome, ask them to extend their help.  If a clunker, no hard feelings because you only asked for an hour or two in the first place!  No hard feelings because they'll never know! (Learn more how I use volunteers here.)

5. Secretaries (and Custodians) Rock!  (But Know Their Allegiance!)

My dad was a Principal/Superintendent for many years. He loved his custodians and secretaries and admitted that they often were his eyes and ears and practically ran the school. You know it's true!

They have the Principal's ear.  As they should!

Example: In my old school, one prospective teacher was so rude on the phone to our sweet secretary and know how that turned out for the new graduate. No job!

So here is my point: You may LOVE your secretary. Be good friends with her. Share personal info.  BUT, at the end of the day, her allegiance is WITH THE PRINCIPAL as it should be.

This is a true story that might provide more insight:

Teacher excited because she's taking a trip to Disney and will miss two days of school. Calling out sick.

She tells close friends. Secretary is one of them. After school, principal excited but worried about Field Day coming up. "I wish I knew if anyone was going to be out because I'm worried about subs.  If I need one and can't get one last minute, it will cause such a problem.

Secretary:  (Not being malicious!) Well I shouldn't say this but (insert name!) if going to be out."  See the problem? Proceed with caution.

Honestly, I cannot tell you how much this happens.  I can give you at least a dozen of examples!  

Image result for school secretary memes"

6. Prepare Kids for Volunteers

Whether they're party helpers or volunteering for centers, you MUST prepare the kids!

SET EXPECTATIONS especially for the ones whose parents are coming. Want to now how a sweet, well-behaved child can turn into a monster? Invite her parent in to help out!

Seriously, this happens often unless you prepare them. Don't let it happen.

Go over expectations and review them often ESPECIALLY right before the parents arrive. I like to tell my kids that it's "Business as Usual" and tell them that I am still in charge. We act out scenarios so we don't get a glimpse of the whiny, clingy child who wants all of the their parent's attention.

I also don't allow kids to run up to parents when they arrive (a simple wave is good) because usually we're in the middle of something. A hug good-bye is always a good thing, though!

NOTE: Be sure to discuss/set expectations for the parent leaving, too. Some kids will ask parents if they can LEAVE with them. This could be after a 9am volunteer session. Some parents will cave and be like, "Okay."  Um...NO WAY!

Be clear with parents and students at all times and your kids will be on their usual good behavior when parents visit. (Pre-arranged leaving after afternoon party?  Sure!  But again, I discuss with child because sometimes they don't want to leave.  So if I know it's happening, I make sure the child knows the expectations.)

7. Keep A Stash of Supplies for YOU

Advil, lotion, deodorant, extra clothes...whatever you may need! It took me about 10 years and many "Oops, I forgot to ..." moments to do this!

Keep a bag, box...whatever you need. True story: Once I was driving to school with my kids with me (went to my school) and I happen to glance in the rear view mirror and realized I forgot to put on makeup!

Who FORGETS to do this? (Me.  TWICE)  I quickly pulled into a Walgreens, got the kids out of the car, and dropped 20-30 bucks on makeup.  I've also had to borrow extra socks, a sweatshirt after spilling tea, and once left at lunch on BTSN because I forgot deodorant.

While there, picked up a toothbrush and toothpaste so I could use before my presentation.  Wasted time and money.  So, be prepared!

8. Don't Discuss Other Students with Parents

This is surely a no-no but some parents are pretty crafty at trying to get you to spill the beans.

If a child had a problem with another child, they often want to hear how the other child was punished. I simple say, "I can assure you that it has been addressed" or "Our administration is handling this and they'll be in touch."

Some parents can be nosy when they simply make an observation: "I was surprised when Jimmy was at my house. I did homework with the boys and was so surprised when he couldn't read the book you sent home."

UGH. This has happened! This burns my toast.

Feel free to use my reply that shuts them right down: "I would never discuss your child with another parent so, respectfully, please don't ask me to share private information about another child with you."

Harsh? Nope. Pure truth.

Image result for confidential"

9. Find Your Marigold

Positivity is a must BUT we all need to vent from time to time.

I am a firm believer in finding your ONE person to share YOUR ALL with. Your ride and die.

You might be thinking, "Well my whole team is great!" or "My entire staff is trustworthy."

I am sure they are. But sharing ALL with EVERYONE never ends up well.

It eventually leads to gossip. (And if you share something and it gets out, you will have no idea who the blabbermouth is.)

Read the article, Find Your Marigold, by Jennifer Gonzales.  Awesome. Beautifully said. TRUE is every way!

Find Your Marigold

10. Welcome Parents into Your Classroom Community

Not to volunteer but to participate! Why not? Let them see ALL THE AWESOMENESS you possess.

You rock it, friend. Let them see it!

I have an open invitation to join us for Morning Meeting. Morning Meeting is an intentional invite. It has a definite start time and finish time and at 15-20 minutes, is a good amount of time to have them in. Easy in and out!

I tell kids when they arrive, it's BUSINESS AS USUAL. Besides having an extra member in our circle (sitting with their child, of course.) I don't change a thing.

I do my meeting as usual: Greeting, Share (usually academic), Activity, and Message.  I do allow the child to pick the activity that day. It happens so fast, parents love it, and it's GREAT PR for you.

They will seriously go home and tell everyone they know how impressed they are that their child has a ROCK STAR teacher. YOU!

Seriously, we manage 20-25 kids and whip seamlessly through our Morning Meeting each and every day. But to see it in action is VERY IMPRESSIVE and guess what??? Remember when you told them that you are well aware that they are sending their PRIDE and JOY to YOU each day? And that you TEACH like it's your own child in the classroom?  Well they will now SEE IT.  BELIEVE it.

Sprinkle that Fairy Dust, friend! You create magic each and every day. Show the world. And if that doesn't gain you serious heaps of respect and strengthen the Home-School connection, nothing else will!
Image result for home school connection"
Were you able to take away a few tips here? I sure hope so! 

Leave a comment if you have any other tips and please share this post with any new teachers in your school. We're all in this TOGETHER!

Interested in receiving tips, freebies, and some real teacher talk in your mailbox? Sign up for my newsletter and receive Bucket Filling Activities for FREE.  

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Simple Activities to Boost Kindness and Respect In Your Classroom (FREEBIE ALERT!)

Bucket Filling is a great way to teach students that their words and actions matter.

We can lift someone with a kind word (fill their bucket) or use words and actions to hurt someone and make them sad. (Dipping in their bucket.)

When you help your students focus on filling someone's bucket, you're creating a respectful, caring, and kind climate.  When you have such a positive environment, it's natural that disruptive behaviors are reduced.

A win-win situation for all of us!  I am such a huge fan of bucket filling, that I'm giving all of the activities away for free.  Sign up for my newsletter and get them all today!

We talk about the "POWER" in my class. The power to knock the wind out of someone or put the wind in their sails.  I tell them they have to be brave and use their power for GOOD.

Here are some of the books I read to kick off our Bucket Filling year-long activities.

We love this video in our class and I often hear kids singing it on their own.

I like to play it during snack time and play it often.

One of the year-long Bucket Filling activities I do in my class is to have kids write compliments to each other and place them inside of the buckets. Once I set up the buckets and run off copies of slips, it practically runs itself. (I don't use the Pom Pom system I often see. It's great but my focus is to have the kids to steer this activity...not me.)

How I Implement Bucket Filling:

1. I spend the first few weeks modeling writing compliments for all of my students. They get to see at least 20 examples before they start writing their own.

2. While not an easy concept, I work on teaching them to compliment kind actions...things the person does or says rather then the physical attributes of their friends.

"You helped me tie my shoes so I didn't trip." vs. "You are pretty."
3. The first few times we write our own compliments, I have them write one for a specific person: the person sitting next to you, your math partner, etc. This way, everyone is guaranteed to get one.

Once we're into a month of school, I let the kids write compliments whenever they have free time. I assign for a Do-Now from time to time.

NOTE: The first year I did this, I didn't monitor the notes until I happened to pick one off the floor by the buckets: "Stop picking your nose." Eek!

So now, once a day, I randomly pull out a note and read it to myself in front of the kids, smile, touch my heart if especially meaningful, and put back in all without saying a word. Keeps them focused on PURPOSE of the notes.

As the year progresses, compliments become more meaningful and heartfelt. Such an easy activity to implement and one that parents, kids, and I all love!

I bought my buckets in Michael's about 10 years ago. You can use beach buckets, baggies, lunch doesn't matter what you use as long as the kids fill them up!


Included in my FREE packet are these posters. Which one is your favorite? Mine? Be the Nice Kid.


Here are a few books focusing on Kindness which I love to share with my class.

Here's an anchor chart I made with my kids about a month after introducing Bucket Filling. I want them to have a good sense of what Filling Buckets looks, sounds, and feels like. I like to wait a bit before making this with the class to be sure they understand the concepts presented. Plus, I want these words to be theirs...not mine. (Headers included in free packet!)


Who doesn't love a good headband?


Are You a Bucket Filler is a short book for the kids that also follows a pattern.

Do you share with your friends? You do? Then you are a bucket filler!
Do you help others when they need it? You do? Then you are a bucket filler!

Class books like "We Are Bucket Fillers" are fun for the kids to contribute to and so easy to do! In this book, kids simply fill in their name at the top: ___ is a Bucket Filler. Then they draw and write about how they fill a bucket. (Also a version with no writing included.) Because of the repetitive phrase, kids can at least read half of the book independently.


The below activity can be done at any time. I tend to wait until the second half of the year and have the kids work in small groups to read and complete. Why do kids love little flaps so much?


Another way I keep my Bucket Fillers motivated is to leave one of these certificates on their desks. Kids bring them home and parents have a great visual as a conversation starter. Anything to strengthen the home-school connection is another win.

I've had kids come back from lunch, specials, assemblies, etc. and ask if they can bring one to someone that THEY caught being kind and caring. LOVE IT!


Bookmarks, bookmarks! I never have enough in my room! Very popular in my class!

I run off two colored bookmarks for each child in the beginning of the year. One for school, one for home. Then I have lots of BW bookmarks available that kids can color in school during free time.

Bracelets are huge motivators too!  A badge of honor!


I wrote a little song , BUCKET FILLER, to the tune of Mary Had a Little Lamb that often becomes a song we sing for transitions. By the time we finish, desks cleared, cleaned up, snacks done, etc. are over. Just another way to keep the Bucket Filling message front and center each day.

Each time we use this Chit Chat, I send it home hoping parents can also have a chit chat about it!

Is there a child you never gets compliments?
Short answer: No.
But in reality, yes.

I have a rule that EVERYONE must get at least one in their bucket before we can take home on Friday. If there are empty buckets, the compliments stay in buckets until following week when we'll check again.

We have some deeper conversations about this:

1. Looking for the good in someone.

2. If you are not getting many, why could that be?

This is hard for First Graders BUT it can be done.

I had a child recently who wasn't kind. To me. To his peers. To teachers. To himself.

Did he get compliments? Yes. But not many. Not deep ones. Not nearly as many as others.

Did he care? Yes. A lot. More about NOT GETTING them than concern about his behavior.

BUT the dialogue started. It helped. His behavior started- slowly- to change.


It's a start, right?


Would you like all of my Bucket Filling activities for FREE? Sign up for my newsletter here and get lots of tips and freebies to help strengthen your classroom community.

Keep on filling those buckets!