New Years Activities

Happy New Years Everybody!

Start the kids off right with a New Years resolution activity with this cute Resolutions to Ring in the New Year printable. This is what I did, first I explained what a resolution is. Next, I modeled it for them and showed them my example. Since I live in China now, I used the following example, “I want to improve my Chinese.”  I put the sentence pattern on the board, “I want to improve my _______.” Each student was required to write the sentence (with the blank filled in) on the bell and draw colorful designs on it.

I followed it up with this cute little bear worksheet to reinforce sentence structure. On the drum, the students had to complete the sentence, “This year, I will…” using the two resolutions from the bells. For example, “This year, I will… improve my Chinese and English.

For more fabulous New Years printables, check out Activity Village’s New Years page, abcteach’s page, and apples4teacher’s page.

Mom’s Break has some nice resources, such as a New Year’s trivia printable and more.

Parent’s Magazine has some printable New Years Cards.

The Teacher’s Corner has a loads of New Years thematic paper with lines to choose from.

Throwing a New Years party? Check out these elegant printables over at Living Locurto. Or these classy looking party invitations over at Love The Day.

Suite101 has a whole page of printable New Years links and Kaboose has loads of crafts that you can do on a budget with the kids.

Posted in Holidays, New Years, Winter Themes | Leave a comment

Penguin Thematic Unit

Janruary is the perfect time to start a penguin themaic unit.

Since Christmas is over, it’s time to move on to Winter themes…Woo-Hoo! It’s penguin time!

First School has some cute preschool stuff. Check out the heart shaped penguins and the phonics worksheets.

Story It has penguin shaped writing paper with lines, A Kids Heart has penguin themed report paper, and DLTK has one too. Or you can mosey on over to abcteach and type in the text to create your own penguin shape book.

Reader’s Theater is always a treat for the kids. has a cute Tacky the Penguin Reader’s Theater script that I’m sure will be a hit with the kids. Click here for a Tacky the Penguin lesson plan. If you want to mix it up a bit, you can print out the Little Blue Penguins Reader’s Theater Script, but beware – the students have to write the ending!

Literacy based penguin themed lesson plans can be found here, here, and here. If you are not in an English speaking country, the books mentioned may be difficult to find, but with a little planing ahead, you can always order them from Amazon. Or cherry pick some of the activities and incorporate them into learning stations or as classroom experiments.

Follow this link to a primary science reading activity with three comprehension questions.

Check out what other teacher’s have found that worked in their classroom. You’ll find some really cute ideas posted. One teacher posted the lyrics to a song that you can sing to the tune of I’m a Little Tea Pot!

Vickie Blackwell has compiled an extensive list of penguin links, but some of them require membership to access the pages.

Scholastic offers a professional PDF document that has cute penguin templates that the kids cut out and tape to a base. Directions are included.

If you sign up for the free newsletter at The Mailbox you will get access to a tubular penguin craft,  an egg carton penguin craft, Sno-Kiddin’ award templates, a reading comprehension worksheet and penguin paper craft templates. That is, if you type “penguin” into the search box.

DLTK has a cute color penguin counting book and quite a few  penguin crafts and worksheets.

I found this cute little Penguin Paper Chain somewhere, but I have no idea where.

Kinderkorner has some Penguin Prose that you can turn into a sequencing sentence strip activity. For example, take a look at this sentence strip activity for first grade – I’m at Little Penguin Sentence Strips. Read the poem, pair the students up and then have the students arrange the sentences in sequential order. You’ll probably have to repeat it several times.

You can also make a booklet for first grade, (1 I’m a Penguin Booklet) and a cloze booklet for second and third grade (2 I’m a Penguin Booklet.) Cut the page into fourths and staple together. Then let the kids illustrate the pages themselves.

If you have way too much time on your hands, you can record a penguin poem with authentic penguin sounds in the background. You can download Audacity and then go to Partners in Rhyme for royalty free penguin sound effects. Or you can just download the penguin sounds and turn it into a loop that you can play while you read or to motivate the kids while they are working in their seats.

In the meantime, you can try downloading – Penguin Sound Bites to play as an introduction. Let the students listen to it and then have them try to guess what kind of animal it is.

Posted in Penguins, Winter Themes | Leave a comment

Gingerbread Man Thematic Unit

"Run, run as fast as you can, you can't catch me I'm the gingerbread man!"

I’m kind of picky when it comes to Christmas stuff. I don’t go for the usual Santa Claus fare, but I do like gingerbread and in particular, I like the story, The Gingerbread Man.

If you teach emergent readers DLTK has a nice little Gingerbread booklet that you can print out. The focus is on I can… sentences. I copied and print it out and then stapled it together in order to save time in the classroom. On the first day, I read it to the kids and let them start coloring it, then the bell rang. The next day, I read it to them again and made them follow along, broke them up into pairs and then they had to take turns reading the booklet to each other. Once they were done, I let them finish coloring it.

Family Fun Magazine offers a PDF download that I’m using to create a gingerbread man booklet. There are two sizes of gingerbread men. I picked the littlest size and then fooled around with the copier to make 4 men to a page. You will need seven men for the following activity.

I’ve condensed the story down, so just write the following on the board:

Title Page – The Gingerbread Man

Page 1 – There once was a little old woman who decided to bake gingerbread cookies.

Page 2 –  When the cookies were done baking, out jumped the little gingerbread man!

Page 3 – “Run, run as fast as you can, you can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread man!”

Page 4 -  he called as he dashed out the kitchen door. No one could catch him, until…

Page 5 – he came to a river and was outsmarted by a fox.

First, read the story to the students, most of them are already familiar with it. Then show them your sample. Be sure to write the procedures on the board (1. cut 2. staple 3. write sentences 4. draw 5. color.) Otherwise, a whole lot of class time may be wasted. I try to stick to the same general procedures every time I do this sort of activity so the kids know what to expect. Plan on stapling the hands and feet, but make sure that there are 7 men for each booklet and that the hands and feet aren’t too short, otherwise one of the men may try to get loose!

Kidzone has a whole page devoted to a gingerbread man thematic unit and  little giraffes has a nice page on the gingerbread man too and don’t forget to check out virtual vine’s gingerbread page.

Posted in Christmas, First Grade, Grade 2, Holidays, Reading, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Literature Circles

Literature Circles have a built in accountability factor that encourages the students to interact with the text.

The first time I encountered a literature circle was when I went back to college after taking a rather long hiatus. Actually, I had to pick up some classes because I needed to get my teaching certification updated. I can’t remember which class it was, but I do remember the instructor, Dr. Smolen. I had actually had Dr. Smolen when she first came to The University of Akron. That was right about the time I was warping up my bachelors degree. At first, I thought it was a dumb idea, but I started to warm up to the idea after a few classes. Now I see the value, richness and meaning that literature circles can bring to text.

The big question is… “Is this something you can do with second language learners?” I believe the answer to that is ,”Yes, you can!” but only if the students are at an intermediate level. Typically, the average second language learner can read English pretty well and probably knows English grammar better than most native speakers, but some times their writing skills may be a little week. Literature circles incorporate all four areas of language acquisition into one nice little package – reading, writing, listening and speaking.

What is a literature circle? If you haven’t any idea what a literature circle is, then check out Ohio Resource Center’s video page. There is a two part video that you can watch online. In the video, the students authentically model the literature circle roles. Also, you can find a good explanation of literature circles roles over at seems to be the website with the biggest presence on the web at the time of this writing. It certainly seems to be a fantastic resource. There is a page devoted entirely to literature circle structure, which in my opinion is a good place to start. If you are going to do literature circles with your class, it is important to be well organized and have your procedures and expectations nailed down before starting such an endeavor, that way if there is any deviation, it will be easy to redirect the students and get them back on track.

The beauty of literature circles are that there is an accountability factor built into the literature circle group process. Each student is responsible for fulfilling their role within the group. The links provided below will take you to PDF documents that you can use in the classroom.

The Literature Circle Planner the Discussion Debriefing Sheet, the Daily Study Record, the Self Evaluation Guide and the Assessment Form for Study Groups are for evaluation and assesment, before and after the literature circle process.

The links below should take you directly to the role sheets. Most of them are in PDF format, so you can print them out and make copies for your class. The ones that aren’t in PDF format can easily be converted to Word documents and if you are going to take the time to create a Word document, you might as well customize it for your class.

Literary Luminary

Discussion Director





Vocabulary Enricher

Travel Tracer

Word Smith

Line Lighter

Book Mark


Vocabulary Extender

For additional literature circle role sheets try to pick up a copy of Literature Circle Role Sheets for Fiction and Nonfiction Books, by Christine Boardman Moen.

Laura Candler has a few ideas on how to “mix it up” in the classroom with literature circles. She offers six different variations or flavors of literature circles. My favorite one is the Talking Sticks model. In this model, the students fill out a response bookmark each day and jot down questions through out the week in preparation for when the group meets on Friday. Another favorite of mine, is the non-fiction literature circle. In this model, the students meet on reading days and meeting days. On reading days they meet together to read together and jot down notes. After they finish reading the book, the students have a meeting day. Use the discussion cards to guide the students when they meet. She provides an example of what the discussion cards should look like here.  Laura has also graciously provided a reading response question PDF and  a non-fiction journal prompt PDF too.

While were at it, why not take it a step farther? ReadWriteThink has a fabulous resource that uses media literacy. It dovetails perfectly with ESL standards. It’s called Literature Circle Roles Reframed: Reading as a Film Crew. The role sheets and lesson plans are provided. Also, check out the comment section for important feedback from other teachers who have tried it.

Posted in Literature Circles, Reading | 4 Comments

How to Create a Graphic Organizer

Family Members + Rooms in a House

Several times a week I find myself creating custom graphic organizers for my class. This is partly because I have to stretch out the curriculum and partly because I want to reinforce a concept or grammatical point.

I usually take my cue from the text book and focus on a specific skill.

I don’t consider myself especially tech savvy, but I do know my way around Word 2007. That is what I use to create the custom graphic organizers. I use the insert option a lot and try to liven it up a bit by using shapes with text inserted in the shape.

The graphic organizer below reinforces family members and rooms in a house. I used these family flash cards and these rooms in a house flash cards to reinforce the lesson from the text book. First, I had them practice their English conversation skills by having the students pick a family card. Then they had to ask their partner, “Where is your _____ ?” and the partner would pick up a room card and say “(He’s/She’s/They’re) in the _____ .”

The following graphic organizers were created for my second grade class in order to reinforce this skill.

G2 Where’s your…

G2 family.rooms

The following two graphic organizers are meant to go together. The students must match and paste the family relationship vocabulary to the correct definitions.  Detailed instructions can be found on p2.

family relationships p1

family relationships p2

Posted in Grade 2, Graphic Organizers | Leave a comment

Graphic Organizers for First Grade

Here are some graphic organizers I made for my first grade class. They are designed to go with The Story Box first grade curriculum which is published by the Wright Group/McGraw-Hill, copyright 2001.

If you don’t have access to these books,you can still use these graphic organizers to teach sentence patterns to the students. Just throw the sentence patterns up on the board and then plug in all the different choices that they can put into the blanks. This exercise is great for teaching adjectives, verbs, nouns and grammar.

I like to brainstorm the vocabulary with the class before I choose about five to focus on. This helps the exercise be more authentic and memorable.

The three graphic organizers below go with the book, The Monster’s Party. The sentence pattern is, I can _____ . Teach about the difference between nouns and verbs and how action verbs are different.

Have you ever been to a party

My monster can…

What is something you can really do well?

The group below is tailored to go with the book, To Town. The sentence pattern is,  I will go to _______ on my _______ , my ______ _______ .

I will go…

I will go quiz

This graphic organizer goes with the book, The Farm Concert. The sentence pattern is, “________ , _________ ” went the  ________ .

G1 farm concert baby animals

Once you understand how to create these type of graphic organizers, it is easy to do for just about any literacy related activity.

Posted in First Grade, Graphic Organizers, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

American Thanksgiving

Genki English just put out a new Thanksgiving song. Download it while you can. You don’t want to miss out on any Genki English jewels, trust me. The kids love Genki English.

Click here for some funny Thanksgiving flash cards.

I am into doing “sentence patterns” with the kids, so I tend to throw a “sentence pattern” up on the board, while one student asks a question and the other student answers it using the proper “sentence pattern.” It is critical that you circulate around the room and correct any bad habits or laziness on the students part.

This is what I’m doing with the Thanksgiving flash cards provided in the link above – the question is, “What is the ___ doing?” The answer is based on this sentence pattern, “The ___ is ___.” For example, “The pilgrim is hunting the turkey.” The flash cards say, “hunt the turkey” so you will have to modify it.

Reader’s Theater is always fun for the kids and helps improve fluency and confidence.  Here is a sample of three Reader’s Theater scripts –  The Meal Must Go On, A Turkey Takes a Stand, and Turkey Trotten,

Posted in Holidays, Thanksgiving | Leave a comment

Free Music For Kids

I found this fantastic site that offers free MP3 songs to download. Lots of good stuff there. The kids will love it. Some of the pages have the lyrics posted.Very professional productions.

I love these gals. They are from my hometown area in Ohio.
I used to be able to get their stuff free online through Alta Vista.  th_m

This is a podcast site. It only has one song, but the descriptions he has about the listening activities sound like fun.

Here is one that may be useful. ttp://

If you scroll down and you will find the link to this page. and this page I listened to a few short clips. The music and lyrics are slow and pronunciation is clear.

Have you guys seen these videos? and this one

Here is a really adorable video. Quite a bit of choreography went into this production.

Here is a good one to do with older students. The teacher had the students listen to Yellow Submarine several times and then had them fill out the close activity. Here is the link to the cloze activity that goes with it. There is link to the movie right next to it. 

If you go to you can scroll down and find links to more cloze activities using music.

Posted in Music | 3 Comments

Free Graphic Organizers

Freeology has a bunch of very useful graphic organizers. I use them with my classes all the time. For example, in the curriculum we use (Backpack by Mario Herrera & Diane Pinkley)  there is a 4 page pull out story called Backwards Betty.

Of course, Backpack has some great ideas on how to use the story in the class, like writing Betty’s activities backwards, but I wanted to take it a little farther and give the students a taste of what it is like in a real American school. I went to Freeology and downloaded the 8 event graphic organizer . Then the students had to re-read the story and pick out two events from each paragraph on each page, but first, I made sure to do a before reading activity.

I decided to use the reading short stories chart with a special emphasis on predicting what the story was about just by looking at the pictures. The bottom half asks them about the characters and the setting.

Next, I created a custom graphic organizer. I took short snippets from the story and inserted blank text boxes below, so the students could draw pictures of what Betty should be doing instead.

Finally, the students used the hamburger graphic organizer to create a paragraph based on the pictures they drew. First I modeled how to write the sentences and I scaffolded the sentences for the lower level ESL students by writing starter sentences on the board. At the same time, I introduced the concept of topic sentences which probably should have another post just devoted to that subject.

Posted in Graphic Organizers | 1 Comment

Take a Happiness Test

"The price of greatness is responsibility over each of your thoughts" - Winston Churchill

Here are a few sites that are designed to test your level of happiness:

The Happiness Test: How Happy Are You?

Authentic Happiness: Using The New Positive Psychology – Looks like you will have to register to access the quizzes.

BBC Happiness Test

Stress and Happiness Test

Oprah’s Satisfaction With Life Scale

Personal Alchemy’s Happiness Test

This is how I would use it in the classroom:

1. Print it out and test the students take the test. Then break them up into pairs and let them discuss each question, what they chose and why.

2. Cut and paste the quiz questions to Powerpoint slides. On each slide put the question and the choices. Then have the students number the questions on a sheet of paper where they will put their choices. After everyone has made their choices, put the scoring index on the screen and give them a few moments to score their results. After everyone is finished, you can flip back to the first question and ask them what they put down as their score. Additionally, you can assign someone to add up all the scores and divide it by the number of students in the class for an overall happiness score for the entire class.

Posted in Happiness, Quizzes, Reading | Leave a comment