Free Thanksgiving Concept Map!

I love the month of November, Thanksgiving, and all the fun activities and crafts you can do surrounding the holiday.

Here is a fun, free concept map I created to help with writing about the meaning of Thanksgiving. Students then use these maps to help write a paragraph about the topic. I recommend reading a story about Thanksgiving and brainstorming as a class first.

Concept maps are an especially good tool for visual learners. I hope this helps!

Download here: Thanksgiving concept map freebie

Thanksgiving concept map freebie-1



Teaching Writing and a Freebie!

One of my favorite subjects to teach is writing. If you show an enthusiasm for writing, and pick interesting topics, students really begin to enjoy writing as well.

Each morning, all year, I started my class with a writing prompt. I taught a range of abilities that included non-readers to readers, ages 6-9.

Here are the steps and how I did it:

  • I used my overhead (then my smartboard projector once I got one) and wrote the beginning prompt at the top of the screen. For example: My favorite summer activity is
  • I put a line under the prompt, and then one by one, I called on students and wrote their answers under the line. The students copied the prompt and their answer. I would alternate colored markers so the students would copy the correct answer. I would also use the actual whiteboard if I needed more space.
  • Eventually, the students began to write more on their own. I would always do the first sentence for them on the overhead, and then depending on their grade and ability, they had to add one to three more sentences themselves.

It was a slow process, but the students really got the hang of it. I also realized an added bonus–the kids got really good at copying from the whiteboard to their paper! This helped with other subjects as well.

I would always have fun lined paper with a border on it on the desks for the kids when they entered the class in the morning, as well as the overhead turned on.

This was more of a teaching process than free journaling–I love that too, but I wanted to actually teach how to write sentences–it was a guided process.

More and more, state testing is about the short constructed response, and students often do poorly on this; writing daily makes kids comfortable with the process (starting with a capital, ending with an end mark, a complete thought, practicing printing and spacing, etc.).

If your class is too big to work with each student daily, then alternate groups, or have a volunteer work with a small group.

Here is how I started each Monday: This weekend I

Try this on Mondays, and please let me know how it works!

Download: Weekend News

Weekend News-1


Recognizing and Encouraging Positive Behavior: Using Stamp Cards

I have a great teaching tip for you to try.

About five years back, I remember thinking to myself, “I feel like I am neglecting my students who always follow the rules, and am giving way too much time to a particularly difficult student.” This made me feel bad, and I decided to add a new, simple element to my classroom management so as to reward the well behaved/on task students.

I went out and bought blank stamp cards (you don’t have to buy yours because I made some!) and taped them to the corner of the students’ desks. I explained that I wanted to reward all the good behavior in the class, and as a reward, once a student filled up his or her stamp card, he or she got to choose a friend and play a board game in our class library. It worked beautifully!

Here are some of the benefits of using the cards:

  • Super simple–I used an actual stamp pad with a little smiley face or star–sometimes I just used my pen and drew a star in the box.
  • It motivated other students to get stamps and increased positive/on task behavior. For example, if I just handed out a worksheet, and there was a student that got right to work, I would say, “I love how Susie got right to work. Great job,” and give her a stamp. The other kids would pick up their pencils and get right to work too, and then I would give them a stamp.
  • I felt I was acknowledging all the positive things going on in my class–a great shift in focus.
  • Once students learned the system, they would see me grab the stamp pad and get working–I didn’t have to say a word (this saved my voice).

It is important when first implementing any reward system, that you make it very easy for the students to succeed, and that they get the reward almost right away. Then it takes on value. Once the other students see the first couple getting to play a board game, the stamp cards take on a whole new significance. Also, choose whatever reward is the most motivating. It could be free time on the computer, free time in the library, etc. I gave out stamps for all sorts of behavior: kids who lined up quietly, kids who were straight in line, acts of kindness, etc.

I only had one rule: Students were not allowed to ask for a stamp for behavior. I did not want to hear, “Can I have a stamp?”

I hope this helps, and please tell me how it works out in your class or at home!

Click here to download: Rewarding Excellent Behavior

Rewarding Excellent Behavior-1

Free Worksheet on Making Predictions!

Why make predictions about a story?

Making predictions is a great way to assess and teach reading comprehension, as well as engage students in a story. Either read aloud to your students/children or have students read the beginning portion of a story. Be sure to go over the story title, beginning chapter titles, pictures, key vocabulary, etc.

After reading/doing the above, have students make predictions about the story–based on what they have already heard, read, or seen. The predictions do not need to be correct, but they should be logical. Any prediction based on the story should be affirmed as a great prediction!

As always, guide students through for the first few times when introducing a new concept. I recommend doing this as a whole class together or in small guided groups. For the worksheet below, choose the amount of pages you or the student reads that is right for the size of the book–enough to get to a point where you can make a prediction.

(I also ask students to write complete sentences as kids really need a lot of practice with this. You can give them beginning sentence ideas such as, “I predict,”  “I think,” or “My prediction is” to help guide them in writing complete sentences.)

Click here to download: Making Predictions Freebie

Making Predictions Freebie-1


“All About Me” Freebie!

As we prepare to begin a new school year, I would like to offer you a fun freebie!

This worksheet will help you quickly get to know your students (as well as see a snapshot of their printing, writing, spelling abilities, etc.).

Teaching Tip: On the first day of school, I always have a pack of crayons, pencil, eraser, and multiple coloring sheets and worksheets like this one on each student’s desk. It gives those nervous kids something to work on once they enter the classroom and starts school off on the right note.

Download freebie: All About Me

All About Me-1


Free CVC Word List!

I have had so many downloads of my CVCe word list, that I thought I would create a FREE CVC word list (that is, words with consonant-vowel-consonant spelling pattern).

You can use this list in many ways. One way I use it is to make individualized spelling lists for my students (I usually add a couple high frequency sight words as well). Different students work at different paces, and sometimes a student might need more time on a particular concept such as simple short /a/ words.

This is a great resource to use to teach phonics as well–as all the CVC words listed follow the basic phonic rules for letter sounds. I list the words for a, e, i, o, and u.

Hope this helps!

Download list (5 pages): CVC Word List

CVC Short a word List I-1


Spelling Practice Sheets

My spelling practice worksheets were getting a little shabby (having been photocopied repeatedly), so I decided to make some new ones.

These are designed for 15 words or less. The packet includes one page for: writing each word three times, putting words in ABC order, using the words to write sentences, a pre-test, and a test page.

While these practice sheets can be helpful, what really matters is that you review the spelling patterns. Also, if there are new vocabulary words, the best way to help your child/students learn those is by using the words in context.

Free download: Spelling Practice Worksheets



Free Color Words Worksheets!

I love these color worksheets I’ve designed, and I am giving them away for FREE!

There is a separate worksheet for the colors: red, orange, yellow, blue, purple, pink, brown, grey, black, and white. Each page has an animal associated with the color. I have chosen all the animals’ names to be at a beginning reading level as well (e.g. the “cub” is brown). Your students or child can then make this into a book as I have included a cover sheet.

One parent told me that associating the color word with an animal helped her child to remember it better. That was great positive feedback!

Click to download: Color Words Book Updated (Now including the color green–somehow it didn’t make it in the first time around.)