Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Found the Gold! Freebie Hop

I don’t know about you, but I can’t believe St. Patrick’s Day has already come and gone! The members of A Spark of Inspiration have found the gold at the end of the St. Paddy’s day rainbow- and by gold, we mean FREEBIES!

Thanks to Sarah for sending you this way!

I’m sharing a little sample of a little-known pack in my store that’s actually one of my FAVORITES! Last year when I was teaching intervention, my kids would learn their short vowel sounds… and then the moment we learned about long vowel sounds, they forgot about the short vowels!

I designed a pack specifically for teaching long AND short vowel “o” sounds together- so students can practice deciding when to say each sound while decoding. You can try out a sample of it here!



Check it out by clicking here or on the image above!

Next, you’re headed to Megan from Mrs. Wheeler’s First Grade- where she’ll be sharing another freebie! Be sure you hop through before the leprechaun finds his gold again on the 21st!

Thanks for stopping by my blog! Hope you enjoy our springy surprises!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

EdExpo 2015 Top Ten

Last weekend, I had the awesome opportunity to work with EdMarket! Every year, they host an EdExpo full of hundreds of educational products.

This year, they invited about 50 bloggers to browse and give teachers’ perspectives!

Believe me when I say this room went on… and on… and on. It was a whirlwind, but I found some amazing things you’ll want for your classroom! I’ll share MY top ten with you soon, but all of the 2015 EdExpo bloggers compiled our Top Ten lists, and today I’m going to share them with you!

(Okay, to be fair- there were two ties. So there are actually TWELVE products!)


KAPLA Blocks from Kapla Tom’s Toys

I have to say- I was pleasantly surprised to see a number of companies aiming to give kids creative outlets and hands-on, play-based learning! These blocks are great in that they can be used simply- or, as you can see, used for some intensely innovative designs.


Cool Circuits from ScienceWiz


Electricity is always so fun to teach- but sometimes getting materials that are safe, fun, and durable can get to be very expensive. This set from Science Wiz teaches kids about circuits through puzzles, and the light-up factor makes them super engaging!


Circuit Sticker Books from Chibitronics


I was completely and totally in love with this set. The inventor took her love of paper crafting and combined it with her science and engineering passions, and came up with THIS. Using LED stickers (yes, STICKERS!)  and copper tape, kids can create nearly flat circuits. It was so unlike anything I’d ever seen, and so perfect for learning about electricity!


Pencil Grip series from The Pencil Grip

The wide array of grips this company had just blew me away. I loved seeing the different fun, squishy, sensory-friendly grips they had for every stage of writer!


Fiddle Focus Busy Fingers from Creative Educational Strategies & Services


If you’ve ever had a student who needs to fidget or has any kind of sensory needs, this is a thin foam block covered in four fabrics of different textures- perfect for velcro-ing under a student’s desk for a quiet, satisfying way to get the sensory wiggles out. (I’m super thrilled to be trying this out with some of my students already!)


Math Bands from Learn  In Style


Don’t you love finding a product created BY a teacher? These math bands help your students with skip-counting and multiplication. They simply start at the star and count around. Working on 7’s? Touch the star and then count 4 times to get to 7x4.


The F.U.N. Empty Number Line System from Learning Advantage

Have you ever struggled to get your students to connect one unit of math to the next? This open number line allows you to add to it through the year so students can see that 1/2 is the same as 0.5 and also the same as a visual fraction. I love that there are versions for different grade levels, too!


Education Kit from GoldiBlox

Known for making engineering girl-friendly, GoldieBlox makes a ton of innovative, creative kids’ toys with an engaging literacy component and LOTS of hands-on fun! The class set would be perfect for getting your kids creating and engineering- I would LOVE to have this in my science classroom!

Boinks Fidgets from Endless Possibilities, Inc.


You can see from the booth (and the host’s amazing earrings!) just how much FUN this company is. What I loved most were the fidgets (see the close-up top right). The woven plastic tube is sealed on both ends with a marble inside. I found myself fiddling with it the whole time we talked- without even thinking about it!


Say It! Game from FeliX Fun


I love games that you can explain quickly and get kids playing right away. This is a great game for building language skills- kids have to find a way to add their word in a sentence that adds on to the story the class is telling. My kids are already playing at indoor recess (and they don’t even realize they’re learning!)


The Reading Game

From the makers of Wordly Wise, a program for early vocabulary development. The game element keeps kids motivated, but the way this game fosters success with a few words at a time would make it especially powerful for those struggling readers in your room.



Touchtronic Letters (and Numbers) by Junior Learning

Have you ever wished iPad learning didn’t outright replace hands-on learning? These letters are an amazing way to do BOTH. These magnetic letters work hand-in-hand with the Touchtronic app, and as kids place the letters on the iPad screen, they can hear the sounds they make. Self-checking? Yes. Independent? Yes. Surprisingly affordable? YES!


So, where can you find these awesome products? Many of them can be found in local teacher stores near you- especially those that are part of EdMarket. You can search HERE to find a teacher store near you – perfect for checking it out in person before you buy!

I am really grateful to EdMarket for letting me see some of the fantastic new products in education today, and I can’t wait to share more with you about my favorites!

Which product would you be most excited to try in YOUR classroom?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

My Teacher Hero

I think most teachers can look back and remember at least one teacher who led them to where they are today. Can you?

my teacher hero logo

When I was in elementary school, I hated math. It was this series of random steps, it wasn’t creative, and I just plain had to work harder at it than any other subject.

Looking back, I wasn’t “bad” at math- but I thought I was.

In 7th grade, I started pre-algebra… and I was worried. To a math-hater, algebra is a scary word- and my teacher was pretty old-school.

We had timed tests to learn decimal equivalents of fractions. He taught mainly through lecture at the board. But Mr. Wall was more than that.

He pushed us to think and to see math as a puzzle. We weren’t following rote steps, but we were using what we knew and trying to problem solve. And it was okay if we weren’t getting it right so long as we were THINKING.

Maybe the best thing about Mr. Wall was that he knew us, and he made it clear he was there for us. If we were stuck or wanted help studying for a test, all we had to do was ask- and he would come early or stay late to help us study.

By the middle of the year, he had me- this previously math-shy kid who is NOT a morning person- arriving at school an hour early every Friday morning to work on math problems that felt near-impossible as part of MathCounts. I did it by CHOICE- because he’d made tackling a difficult problem and struggling through to get to an answer FUN.

The donuts (which I’m sure he bought with his own money) helped, too.  : )

He changed my view of math. I went on to learn math as high as calculus, and probably would’ve gone further if I had stayed a science major. And even better? I didn’t hate it anymore. I saw math completely differently- and I saw myself differently. I didn’t believe I was “bad at math” anymore, and learned that it was okay for something to feel difficult at first. And now when I teach math… I teach it so differently than I was taught.

And it’s all thanks to Mr. Wall.


I had MANY great teachers as a child, and I firmly believe that TEACHERS ARE HEROES. Does it mean we’re all perfect, or even all good? No. But I’ve known many, many teachers- and the vast, vast majority give so much more than they’re given in return. If you’re reading this (a teacher blog, most likely on your own time)- you are one of those heroes who goes above and beyond for kids.

my teacher hero logo 2

Thank you…

for giving hugs and encouragement and love to kids who might not otherwise get it.

for going in even when you’re sick because you don’t want to do sub plans.

for doing grading and planning on your weekends and snow days.

for thinking about your students when you’re off the clock.

for teaching so much more than academics.

for everything you do for the kids.

Someday, at least one of those students is going to remember you as their teacher hero. And even if they never write a blog post about you, you will be part of the reason they are who they are- and that, my friend, means you have absolutely made a difference.


TpT wants to thank you today- and I’m joining in. All items in my TeachersPayTeachers store Luckeyfrog  (including March’s Text Detectives Jr.) are 20% off.

You can save an extra 10% in any TpT store with the code HEROES.

It’s not enough- but I know this money usually comes out of your own pocket, and I hope this sale helps you pick out something to make your life a little easier!


For a little more inspiration, read about some of my friends’ teacher heroes- and share the inspiration with your teacher friends who need a little reminder of how awesome they are!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Spark of Inspiration Blog Hop

Happy weekend, teacher friends! If you’re new here, I’m Jenny, a 4th grade science and social studies teacher who loves integrating language arts across the curriculum. Thanks to Sarah from Sarah’s First Grade Snippets for sending you here!

Sarah's First Grade Snippets!

While I was in college, I started reading teacher blogs. I discovered a new world of learning and inspiration- and I quickly realized I wanted to be a part of this world.

Now that I’ve been blogging for a few years, I feel so fortunate to also collaborate with some of those amazing teachers from around the country.

If you’ve been a reader of our blog A Class*y Collaboration, we’ve updated the look and name to match exactly what we want to give you- A Spark of Inspiration!

A Spark of Inspriation

I know you may be thinking that reading another blog takes time- but this is a good one! To give you a taste of what you’ll find over there, here are photos from just a few recent posts:

Plus, if you live anywhere near me in Ohio, the weather is cold and snowy enough that staying in to read teaching ideas is pretty ideal! (Can you say wind chill of –20? Brr!)

2015-02-18 10.33.20

To thank you for checking out the new blog and to help ring in spring weather, each one of our authors is offering a quick freebie- and the chance to win some serious gift cards!

I’m sharing a sample of my newest resource that’s juuuust about ready for TpT- Text Detectives Jr.! Like my original Super Text Detectives series, your students color-code text evidence to answer comprehension questions… but the original set is written at about 3rd grade level (independent) , and the new Text Detectives Jr. sets are about a 2nd grade level! March’s full Super Text Detectives Jr. pack should be posted in my store by early next week- but you get a sneak preview!

Luckeyfrog's Lilypad- Text Detectives JR- March Sampler

The passages in TD and TD Jr. have similar content and similar questions so that you can use the two packs together for differentiation in your 2nd or 3rd grade class, too! Click on the picture to download your free sample passages!

You can read more about how I use them to teach my kids how to find text evidence here. When I was a reading specialist last year, my students LOVED these- and they really helped them learn, too!

2014-03-26 22.44.43

Thanks for stopping by my little corner of the Internet  : ) Be sure to check out each blog to grab some freebies and enter our giveaway… starting with Megan from Mrs. Wheeler’s First Grade!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Valentine’s Party K.I.S.S. -Keep the Party Sweet & Simple!

For our Valentine’s party, one of the other teachers on my team begged us. “Please,” she said, “ALL THEY WANT is to open their Valentines and look through them. Can we keep this one simple?”

As someone who doesn’t have a room mom (like a lot of teachers- but somewhat unusual for my school) and generally plans a craft, snack, and game for each party myself, I agreed immediately.

Here’s what we did!

For years, my team has done this. Send home a letter with student names, and a white bag. Ask each child to decorate their bag as much or as little as they want, but make sure their name is on it.

2015-02-06 18.44.50

As kids bring them in, hang the bags on the tray beneath the board. (Next year, I’ll do this in some kind of order, but this year we just randomly put them up with masking tape.)

After they’ve had about a week and a half to bring bags back, let kids start bringing in Valentines. The only rule is that they bring one for everyone. We also gave them the option of only filling out the “from” side to make them quicker to pass out : )

During the morning work time or when kids have finished work, they pass out their Valentines for the week or so until the party.

2015-02-13 18.51.18

Flash forward to the Valentine’s Party- when the valentines are already passed out. I sent one group at a time to go get their bag, and one group at a time to get snacks (a couple of kinds of fruit sent in by parents- because they’d have plenty of sweets!).

Once everyone had both, we put on Charlie Brown’s Valentine’s Day on the 3M board and let them eat and open their Valentine’s bags.

We ended the party by playing a little GoNoodle (our first time, and the kids LOVED it!) and then playing the old school hand-clap game “Down By The Banks,” which a lot of my kids had never played. They did a great job, even when they got “out”- and they roared with laughter when they got ME out of the game!

This party was less work, less chaos… and my kids had a lot of fun anyway. I think they really enjoyed just hanging out together. There isn’t a lot of downtime or “just because” fun in 4th grade- especially when we’re departmentalized- and it was a good reminder to me to let that unstructured time happen once in awhile. I really do think it helps with classroom community- and lets you get more learning in later!

What about you- hyper-organized party planner, or keep-it-simple planner?

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Reading Skills in Science Class

So, I may teach mostly science now- but I also look for ways to squeeze in a little language arts. I’m excited to be starting a new series about “The Language of Science.”


Now, a disclaimer- I don’t mean just reading in science class. It’s okay to do that sometimes, and I am as big a fan of integration as just about anyone- but I am strongly against “reading about science” as students’ only exposure to science. (And no, making Oobleck once a year doesn’t count.)

Science still needs to involve DOING science- demonstrations, experimentation, modeling, etc. But you can still include language arts skills.

When we learn vocabulary, I rarely just tell students what a word means. I love to let them try to figure out the meaning themselves, often through context clues or known word parts.

For example- as we learned the word biotic, I wrote it on the board and underlined “bio.” I asked the kids what other words they knew with “bio”- and the kids were amazed that Bioshock (a video game) and Bionicles (a show) actually had something to do with our science vocabulary. After we made a list of other words, we talked about what they meant and looked for a common thread in the meanings. It wasn’t long before they were able to point out that “bio” must mean life or living.

Language of Science- Vocab Strategies- bio

From there, they were able to make the jump to what “biotic” meant. And abiotic? Well, now we’re talking prefixes- as well as strategies for figuring out an unknown word.

Root words and prefixes/ suffixes are also great for talking abut different areas of science- geology, biology, thermodynamics, etc.

Whenever we are learning new vocabulary in science class, we talk about the word parts in part to help us remember meaning. I also love to use vocabulary cards, and sometimes I add visuals to them (like in the graphic above) to help the meaning stick.

Once we know the meanings, I love to add motions and do some Whole Brain Teaching-style mirroring and teaching to really cement the words and meanings in our memory.

And that doesn’t even get into all of the speaking and writing we do in science class!  Language is SUCH a big part of what we do- and I can’t wait to share it with you!  : )

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Winter Wonders Freebie Blog Hop

Whew! Today was my first day back, and I have to say that I was not ready for an alarm before 7:00… but I got up, got ready, and after enduring some sad faces from my dog and a frozen-shut car door, I got to school.

I was having a hard time getting in the groove, and then the kids came in… and I remembered why I do this!

The winter blahs are tough sometimes, but my friends from the Adventures in Literacy Land blog are here to cheer you up with some Winter Wonders freebies to celebrate our one year blogiversary together!

Today our group of reading specialists, literacy coaches, and Title I teachers are sharing some short posts and free literacy resources for you- so be sure to follow the link at the end of my post to the next one! At the end of our “hop,” you can enter to win a Barnes and Noble gift card!

When a struggling reader is told to go back in the text, you can see their face fall. They JUST pushed themselves, and maybe embarrassed themselves, to make it through the text- and you are asking them to go BACK? Are you kidding?


Telling kids to go back in the text with no extra guidance is a surefire way to make sure that they ONLY do it when you’re watching. Struggling readers need a method to the madness!

Last year as a reading specialist, I worked with so many kids who didn’t want to stop in the middle of the reading, because it slowed them down even more- but without me slowing them down, they were thinking about the next word, and not about how that word fit into a sentence, how that sentence fit into a paragraph, and so on. They couldn’t build meaning as they read.

We practiced stopping after each paragraph to write the topic off to the side. It wasn’t even a summary, really- just a few words to answer, “What was this paragraph about?” By jotting it down, my students had an easy reference- almost like a table of contents for their passage.


Then, when we finished it, we glanced back at the topics. It’s a quick way to recap the text’s main ideas.

By the time we get to the questions, we know what each PART of the text is about- which makes it so much easier for kids to predict where to look for the answers to the questions. Oh, it's talking about where George Washington was born? That's probably in the paragraph about his childhood- and now I know where to look first.

Of course, our predictions aren’t always right- and it’s important to model that for kids- but stopping as students read to really get them thinking about the big ideas of the text helps give them somewhere to start.

When you’re not a strong enough reader to scan and quickly find the answer in a large piece of text, a strategy that gives you somewhere to start drastically increases the likelihood that you’ll even try looking back in the text.

And while this is a great test prep strategy, it’s also fantastic for real-life applications like research that require looking up specific pieces of information and even deciding which Google result to click on in a search.

Want to try it out? I’m sharing a free snow-themed sampler of my Text Detectives series for finding text evidence!


download here }


It’s my students’ favorite way to practice finding answers for “right there” questions in text, because they get to color! I aim for about 3rd grade reading level, although it works well in 2nd –4th. You can read more about how I use them in my classroom here.

Next, hop over to Deniece at This Little Piggy Reads for the next Winter Wonder!

Thanks for stopping by!  Don't forget to hop all the way to Adventures in Literacy Land to enter our giveaway and welcome our new members! Happy Winter!

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