April 15, 2014


Hey friends . . . long time no see :)  Although it's been far too long since we've "chatted," I am going to keep this post short and sweet today as I had a minor setback in the computer department.  About two weeks ago, this suddenly happened . . . 

It started out as a little burn, but I pushed through.  Well, that wasn't the brightest idea as the "burn" moved down into my hand AND traveled up my forearm and into my elbow.  Needless to say, the seriousness of the whole sitch settled in and I "powered down" the electronic box.  Sure, I got the cold sweats and the "shakes" by the time this past weekend rolled around, but I managed and, go figure, I am doing a little better.  I have an appointment with the bone doc next week and I ordered a new slick mouse (thanks A Year of Many Firsts - it will be here tomorrow). Hopefully, we can find a permanent fix soon.  

Just look at this thing . . . meet the Evoluent Vertical Mouse.
It's gonna be a huge learning curve, but it'll be like driving a spaceship :)
Lynds said it saved her hand . . . my fingers are crossed.

With that lengthy intro out of the way, let's get down to business.  Testing. BLARG!  Our school is taking the Smarter Balance test this week.  I guess it's a prep for the CCSS tests to come.  I have only had to stomach state testing one of my seven years in the business, but I swear I was a basket case.  I was worse than the little kiddies.  Classic Dolling move.  Well, I quickly figured out that the LONG mornings took their toll on my sweet crew and the afternoons were a hot mess unless I went way "out of the box" with my lessons/activities. I had to find new ways to keep the learning meter pegged and hold their interest as these cuties were tapped.  Have you been here?  Here are a few ideas that worked oh so well for me in the past.  Oh . . . they also work really well during that final end of the year push too {i.e. the last two weeks of school}!!!

Mini White Board or Table Work 
This one ain't new, but just in case you forgot, I am putting it down. Break out the individual white boards.  Let 'em draw for a couple of minutes before you begin (it gets a lot of that "play" out of their system).  Call out oral problems, questions, etc.  Have them write the answer on their mini white boards and flash you.  The ultimate hook here is to let them award points to themselves for getting the correct answers.  They mark little tallies, stars, or smiles in the bottom corner of their boards.  Wanna spice it up even more??  Let 'em use white board markers on their desks . . . sans white boards.  Kids always get a thrill out of writing on the tables.   

Divide your crew into two teams.  Have one player from each side go up to the board and face off on a question {this can be used for reading, math, spelling, vocab . . . you name it}.  The first kiddo to get the correct response wins a point for his/her team.  The key is to have the rest of your students {in the audience} work out the problem too.  They keep the answers to themselves - boards go face down - when they have recorded their response.  If the players at the board get the incorrect answers, play bounces out into the audience.  Call on a kid to provide the answer (show his/her board) and they can earn the point for their team if they have completed the work correctly.  This game and many others like it (Home Run Review, Team Television, etc.) are part of my Summer Countdown Survival Kit.  

Scavenger Hunts
This active activity can be used to review just about anything.  Simply pin cards loaded with questions around campus {I usually do it around the quad right outside my room}.  Place your kids into teams of 3 and give each crew an answer sheet and a clip board.  The teams roam around hunting for cards. When they locate one, they work together to solve the problem.  They then write a response to the question in the correct slot on their game sheet.  Play continues until all of the cards have been found or time is called.  I always go back into my room and correct the game sheets as a class.  This is also part of my Survival Packet :)

Game Shows
Everyone knows about Jeopardy in the classroom, but what about, "Let's Make a Deal?"  Oh my word, people!  This one is always a class fave.  All you need for this fun game is a homemade question deck, prizes (quite a few small items, a handful of silly items, and a couple of really good items), and "doors" (I use garbage cans or boxes placed upside down over the item). 

Here's how I play . . . 
  1. Create a question deck.  I pick four categories or skills that need reviewing and come up with five question cards per category.  Place these in a pocket chart at the front of your room.
  2. Split your class into two teams.  Two children (one from each team) square-off at a time.  I have the kids each roll a die to determine who gets to pick the category.  It just creates a little more "sizzle."
  3. When a category is selected, read the question aloud and have the two answer on mini-white boards.  For example, I make them write out the quote or re-write a sentence to include the pronoun instead of the noun.
  4. Whoever gets the right answer first is the winner.  It's just like the TV show.  I offer this child a prize and it is his/her decision to keep it or trade if for something under one of my "doors."  There is a chance for something really awesome (new lunchbox, games, toys . . . Dollar Store delights), but their is also a chance for something stinky (cans of peas, used batteries . . . anything I find in my desk that I don't want).  Most of the time they will trade even though they know they might get stuck with something icky.
  5. I have the rest of the class attempt to answer on their white boards while they are at their seats.  This keeps everyone working.  If both kiddos answer incorrectly then I hit up students in the audience.  Sometimes I reward correct answers from the crowd with a little treat. 

Standards-Based Relay Races
I use relay races for EVERYTHING.  If I can stick a standard into an active team game . . . I am ALL about it :)  All you need is a large grassy area and something to put questions on - you can use laminated index or paper cards, balls, foam pieces, etc.  Scatter these objects at the end of your "course" and place your kiddos into teams of 5-6.  On your signal, the first kiddo in each team runs, skips, gallops, or flails (have fun with this) down the course.  When they get to the objects, they are to pick one up and run it back to their team. They must provide the answer before they can complete their turn and the next player from their team attempts the course.  I just have 'em yell it to me before they slap their teammate's hand.

Brain Breaks
During my testing run, I would stop and do little dances and other movements to help calm and refocus my kids.  Well, now there is something so much easier to implement and it's AMAZING.  GoNoOdle has done it again.  They just came out with a relaxation brain break series to help during testing periods.  Man, oh man!!!  I would have loved to have had this resource at my fingertips during those tough testing windows!  The best part about it . . .  it's FREE :) 

Well, you don't have to be a testing grade to benefit from this new activity.  I tried Flow with my babes last week and it was mind blowing.  It's all about a little balloon that the kids control in their minds.  You could hear a pin drop in my room and the kids were totally sucked in.  


My kids were holding onto that imaginary string and many of them were watching the ceiling rather than the screen.  They were looking up at "their balloon."  It was so magical.  I was so into it that I started to tear up. Seriously. I almost started bawling sitting on the floor of my classroom.  This exercise is that moving.  When we finished the kids were so chill and I was too. It was just what we needed after lunch to re-focus and plow through another important writing activity for the rapidly approaching Open House.  

If you haven't checked out GoNoOdle yet, you really must.  It is the most amazing classroom resource and I can't imagine teaching without it.  

Alright all you alls.  I am off to ice my wrist.  Thanks for visiting today.  I will be back soon with something extra good.  Hugs y'all :)

Oh, and now that it's nearly 5 pm in Cali I can let the cat out of the bag.  In honor of tax day, I am trowing a sale from 5pm today until midnight tomorrow (April 15-16th).  A little savings on a day that you hand over way too much cash to Uncle Sam is a great thing :)

Big thanks to Traci @ Dragonflies in First - I love the sale button :)



  1. Thanks so much for all the great ideas- we are in the midst of our 3 weeks of testing (yes, 3 weeks) and so I really needed this post! :)

  2. We just finished SBAC testing at our school last week so I know exactly how you feel! I love the relay race and Let's Make a Deal ideas! I'm definitely going to use those in the coming weeks. I started using GoNoodle with my kiddos a few weeks back but hadn't come across the balloon activity yet - I can't wait to try it! Thanks for sharing an I hope your hand feels better! ~ Lisa

  3. A post full of helpful tips! We just started state testing for reading....Oregon hasn't switched to Smarter Balance yet.....
    Chickadee Jubilee

  4. We're so sorry for your owie :( That mouse is pretty fabulous. Had no idea that something like that even existed! Our kids are going NUTS over GoNoodle thanks to you. They BEG for it. It has become a great bargaining tool in our lil room...
    You are fabulous. That is all.
    ~Christy & Tammy

  5. Thanks for sharing Gonoodle! My students love it. This is their new favorite activity. I also love how it greatly expands my brain breaks.
    Confessions of a Frazzled Teacher

  6. I feel your pain. I've been suffering from cubital tunnel.

    Like that mouse!

  7. Almost giving effecting details which are said to be so evident when you go to test anything with regards to your writing and many such like other skills. personal statement proofreading



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