Classroom Freebies

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The end of the year is fast approaching and one of my things to do over the summer is prep ahead of time for August /September planning.   Who are we kidding.... those months are very busy for teachers.  Right?  I am going to my favorite dollar store or Target dollar spot and grab some cute pencils and print these classroom items out on colorful paper and tape them to my pencils.  Parents will be able to grab a pencil and hopefully help me get started setting up my room come Open House time.  I can easily place these in a container and set them aside until August or September.  One thing checked off my list and best part you get them FREE and they are editable.  :)  Enjoy!  



Celebrating Spring with Synonyms

Teaching synonyms is a fun way for building vocabulary and allowing for more concise writing skills. You can use worksheets, anchor charts, manipulatives, bingo, or read alouds to introduce the concepts to your children. 

Being able to identify synonyms - and their opposite partner words - antonyms - are super fun topics for any grade level 2nd-4th English class! Sentence structure becomes immediately better when students are exposed to variations of common words they use regularly. 


What if your teacher lesson plans taught synonyms like a word detective? The class needs to find the clues that lead to a hidden mystery word. 

 Each day, you share another synonym for a common word and place it on a word wall or anchor chart. The master lists of synonyms grows each day, as does the student guesses as their ideas are eliminated when a new word is added. 

The look of excitement in their faces is so pleasing to watch. The thrill of hearing their guesses while realizing that their word choice is suddenly so much larger than it has been before. Learning has never been more fun!

Why teach synonyms?


The best reason to teach synonyms is honestly for a wider variety of word choice that expands the vocabulary library. Isn't our goal to grow students into better readers and thinkers? 

 By doing specific activities in school where students use their knowledge or skill to create more complex sentences, it enhances their ability to communicate with others and learn better. 

After working on a classroom brainstorming list to pool together various words that can mean the same thing, make a master list of the words and photocopy one for each child to keep within his or her writing folder for easy reference while writing. 

I guarantee if you ask students to swap out just one word from their writing this week for another option in their vocabulary book, you will start to see students using better words more often. The bonus is that you will start to hear it in their speaking skills as well.

How do you teach synonyms and antonyms?


Usually teaching synonyms and antonyms goes hand in hand, much like peanut butter and jelly. It doesn't always have to be taught simultaneously, but they are certainly two pieces of the grammar pie that go together very well. 

Anchor charts are a great way to teach this strategy too! 

This one is super cute and shows how to connect the S in synonym with the word same.

    

Love that these are petals of flowers! It would go great with the free synonyms worksheets I have for you below!

   

You just can't have an education post about teaching synonyms without seeing cinnamon rolls - haha! 

 

Another way I have always taught synonyms in the past is through literature. A few great choices are:
 
Pitch and Throw, Grasp, and Know: What Is a Synonym? by Brian P. Cleary
If You Were a Synonym (Word Fun) by Michael Dahl
Stroll and Walk, Babble and Talk: More About Synonyms by Brian P. Cleary

Need something more hands-on? How about a free pdf printable pack? I have created a fun version of a color-by-number activity: Spring Color-By-Synonyms! Super fun, right?

   

This completely free pack of printables includes 6 worksheets - 3 that are simple synonym choices for the K-2 crowd and 3 that are of a higher difficulty level. {Did someone use the word rigorous?} 

 

Of course, they are all included in the free set to use interchangeably with your students' needs. I know how you probably have a classroom full of students that could use either version, so they will all be at your fingertips for the taking! 

 

A word of warning: the higher difficulty versions do include some words not regularly used as synonyms as I specifically wanted to make it challenging. Many students will need a thesaurus or dictionary to look up the meanings of the word in question. 

This can be done in traditional book form, my personal favorite way to teach referencing skills in addition to the synonym unit, but students could also feasibly find help by using an online version such as dictionary.com or thesaurus.com to assist them in working through the words. 

These free worksheets for synonym practice can be used during your lesson, as a homework assignment, morning work, centers, or even as an extension activity for your gifted students who might be ready to tackle something a bit harder. 

All the answer keys are also included in the packet so you can check it in a flash. 

 Make sure to download your free Spring Color by Synonyms Printable Pack below right now! 

 


How do you usually cover synonyms and/or antonyms in your classroom? We love ideas around here! 

 Leave your ideas in a comment below!  #sharingiscaring 

~Charity 

This post originally appeared at Organized Classroom

Most Comfortable Teacher Shoes Reference Guide

What are the best school shoes for teachers? Although it seems like an unusual topic for a blog post, I noticed that when a fan at the Facebook Fan Page posed the question to other fans, the response was overwhelming and I realized that obviously it IS an important topic since teachers are on their feet all day

I know too many teachers who have had foot and back problems later in life from standing and teaching all day for years. Plantar fasciitis is pretty common for veteran teachers. 


How can we combat that? Well I have two little things that might assist you on your way: check out the very short video below and under that, I have compiled all the comfortable shoe suggestion answers from fellow teachers from the fan page. Hopefully new and veteran teachers alike will find some of the suggestions helpful and be able to save those aches and pains from happening.
What kind of shoes do school teachers wear?

Comfortable and attractive shoes for teachers don't always go hand in hand. You can find a super cute shoe to match your outfit, but find that you can't stand on your feet longer than 30 minutes because they are pinching your toes or rubbing your heels. Or on the opposite end of the spectrum are the shoes that feel like clouds on your feet, but look like they were issues by the military. While that might not matter to some (which is fine too by the way), it does matter to other teachers. Finding the balance between function and style for a new pair of shoes can be tough at times.

Where do teachers shop for shoes?


Finding comfy shoes online can be tough, but if you read the reviews, you can usually tell whether the product will meet your needs. Of course, trying on your new ballet flats in person is the best to check for things like a high arch support or if you have wide feet. 

Amazon is great for purchasing because you can easily see thousands of dress shoe styles in one place, including the popular mary janes or lace ups. Just make sure to double check your dress code so you know whether you are permitted to wear anything other than closed toe options. 

When I taught in Florida, pretty much anything went. In fact, I am pretty sure I didn't wear a single pair of socks the entire three years I lived there due to always wearing some sort of sandals every single day. 

But when I moved back to Ohio, that district required closed toe options that were not tennis shoes. {We weren't permitted to wear jeans ever either, but that's for another post...} You want your feet to feel great and look good. 

If you order from Amazon, they do have a really great return process, so if they aren't what you need, you can return them easily - though always check the return policy before purchasing from anywhere. 

Some teacher shared favorite brands include Dansko and Vionic so that may be a good place to start your search.

Foot Care Tips for Teachers:


This topic got me wondering what teachers can do for our feet because we do work standing up. We're talking. It's very rare that we're sitting down. Maybe we know a few teachers like that do, but you're probably not one of them. 

What can we do without having to wear sneakers every day because some school districts don't even allow sneakers in the classroom unless you teach PE?


Tip 1: 

One thing that I've done, and you can ask anyone who's taught with me, is as soon as those students leave the building, I have right underneath my desk a pair of slippers. I pop them on and that's what I wear for the remainder of the work day. 

Of course, that is contingent upon not having a parent or staff meeting and I don't have to walk down the hall to see the administrator or anything like that. If I know I'm going to be in my classroom after school working and confined to my classroom - or maybe popping next door to see a colleague, the slippers or the flip flops come out immediately. 

 I can sit at my desk and just relax my feet out. I was always known for wearing a small or a chunky heel but a smaller one. I'm short, so it's rare that I wear flats anyway. I hated to wear flats because I was already short enough as it was. 

Now, you can even use this tip during planning periods during the day, as long as you don't have students, but the only thing to consider is if your feet tend to swell, then you're going to have a really hard time getting your shoes back on when you have to go pick up the kids from specials. I usually waited until the end of the school day after they had left so I didn't have to worry about it so much. 

Tip 2: 

Look for a cheaper version of a kitchen gel mats that you can find in the big box stores or bedding/kitchen stores. Go and see what you can find. 

The ones that I've seen are kind of expensive so maybe try to look for a discounted version. There are usually one or two spots in the classroom where you tend to stand when you're teaching, when you're standing up by the interactive whiteboard or your bulletin board, or even during center time or at your carpet. 

Wherever you're going to be standing most often during the day, grab one of those mats and at least be able to stand on the gel. That will help your feet a little bit as well. 

Now, of course, if it's a more expensive item, you want to make sure that the students are not getting their hands on it. If it's just a small mat that you can pick up and carry with you, keep it behind your desk. 

Tip 3: 

Then, the last suggestion (which may be a little too far out for most), would be bringing in a big flat foot bucket and fill it up with hot water. You could soak your feet while you're sitting at the desk doing your work as long as you don't have to get up if you're just going to be sitting at the desk anyway. 

Does everyone on your grade level team have achy feet after a full day of standing and teaching? 

Have a grade level meeting planned after school? Make it a team spa planning meeting once a week or once a month just for something fun. Rest your feet, put some hot water in there, let them soak a little bit. Everyone brings their own Epsom salts and lotion. 

It's not an idea for everyone or even every team obviously, but I know I have worked on some teams that would have loved this idea. It would be something fun and different and it's kind of like getting a little pedicure at school. 

Perfect for team building and when you get some work done in the process it's a double bonus! 

Anyway, take care of those feet friends. I've heard so many teachers that have so many foot problems later in life because they're on their feet all day long. Do what you can to salvage them and as long as you can, and look at the ebook down below for other suggestions of types of shoes to get which may even help with back pain. 

Take care of you so that you can take care of the students. 



How do you save your feet and back from hurting at the end of the day? We would love to see your suggestions in a comment below! 

~Charity


This post originally appeared at Organized Classroom.

Let's Do Some Adult Coloring

Teachers have so much stress, they need solutions to relieve that stress before teacher burnout occurs. Free adult coloring pages might be just the ticket to help out.

I personally love coloring inspirational quotes as a way to unwind throughout the day. There's just something soothing about using coloring pencils to make a previously black and white image vivid with all the colors of the rainbow. 

And don't even bother to interrupt me if I have been lucky enough to grab a new mega box of crayons. 
 

By the end of the school day, teachers' minds are fried. 

A "typical" day might involve:
  • Forgetting your lunch on your kitchen counter after running around grabbing things to toss in a lunchbox for your own children before rushing out the door 
  • Parents that stop by right at the start of the day just to talk about their child's last behavior note that was sent home - and by talk I mean yelling loudly 
  • A child throwing up on the carpet
  • Another unannounced assembly in the gym - during your math time when you have been struggling to teach fractions to glazed over eyes 
  • Your SmartBoard crashes during your reading lesson, which was the "fun" and "interactive" portion of the lesson the students were most looking forward to 
  • A teamie needs to go home sick and there are no subs, so her class is split up and you now have an extra 5 students to squeeze into your already cramped classroom 
  • One of your students come to you sobbing because his dog died last night and you are currently reading Shiloh (PS - this really happened to me) 
  • Indoor recess. And no recess monitor means you will be monitoring in your classroom. 
  • Staff meeting? Again? You swear you just had one last month. 
You drag yourself home after school and just need a FEW (hundred) minutes - or glasses of wine - before you pass out on the sofa just to start over and do it all again the next day.

Teacher morale is low because you can't feel anything but be in survival mode all day and night. Perhaps a few quiet minutes of free printable coloring pages for adults will help to take you to a quiet place when you just "can't" anymore today.


Online coloring pages


If you prefer to do your coloring virtually, you'll definitely want to check out some of the following websites. They range from easy to more advanced complex options and could be a great option if you just need a quick break during your planning period at school. 

There are tons of phone apps out there now too for digital coloring, but I found several free sites that won't cost you a penny. 


While this particular site has more simple coloring templates, I thought the teacher seemed appropriate. How to "color"? Click on the color you wish to use and then click on the image where you want the color to fill. 

I added a couple colors so you can see how easy it is. It's quite satisfying to go from a black and white blank slate to a fully colored picture.

   

This site has to be one of my favorites. Instead of choosing your own colors (you can still if you want), but it is more like a color by number painting. 

Each piece has a number in the space and then once you "color" it, the number disappears and is filled in with the chosen color instead. It's a lot of fun.

   

If you are looking for an online coloring page that's more intricate, you'll want to check out the one below. I adore how it has a HEX code box do you can choose any custom color you can dream up. 

It is amazing to me how advanced the coloring image is, plus you can download your image and save it since it will definitely take a bit longer than your normal coloring time.
 

If you love mandalas and geometric designs, here are some fun choices. 

The only drawback (for me anyway) is that the color is not "filled" in to the picture when you click on it, but instead actually allows you to manually color it in. Or erase it or use different writing tools. 

I personally don't have very steady hands, so this would not be a good choice for me, but I am betting there are plenty out there that would prefer the freehand option of this website instead. 


Printable coloring pages


Now, if you love the tactile experience of manually adding color to the page with crayons or colored pencils, then you'll want to print off some of the following PDF choices. 

You can also find lots of unique adult coloring books for sale online, including choices with scenery, fairies, flowers, mandalas, or even swear words - ha! There really is something out there for everyone. 

Make sure to click on the images below to find all the following freebie handouts. 

Download this super cute coloring sheet with an inspired quote to lead the way. 

 

Another quote in the middle, I love the floral arrangement around the edges of this choice.

   

Look at the intricate designs in the one below! You would be able to use colored pencils, crayons, or even markers in all the colors of the rainbow.

 

Geometric designs make this a fun option.

   

So many fun nooks and crannies to color!

   

I love the design just on the top of this page. Reminds me of when I played with a Spirograph as a child.

   

If you love mandalas the best, then this freebie printable will be perfect. 

 

What a fun fall choice! 


No need to go too far away. I pulled together a handful of teacher destress coloring pages just for you too! They each include a quote in the first person so you remember to repeat it to yourself as you are relaxing. Grab them below! 

 

How do you de-stress from your job? We would love to hear your suggestions in the comments below too. 

~Charity 






This post originally appeared at Organized Classroom.

Lowercase letter B and D/ P and Q craft

  My students really look forward to making these fun little masks and wearing them around the classroom.  I love that they use them when we are working with lowercase letters b and d and p and q.  Distinguishing between these two sets of letters can be really difficult for some of my learners so this was an easy and fun way to help reinforce those letters.  You can grab them here.



DIY Learning Menus

Giving students a choice board option, such as a spelling menu for homework, encourages a "buy-in" from that student. Anytime you are given a choice, you are more likely to want to follow through on the selection you made.

The best part about learning menus is that you are still structuring the content you wish to see in math, reading comprehension, vocabulary, or even for science. But students get to choose how they will learn which creates ownership of that learning and a much better user experience for everyone involved.



In my third grade classroom, I loved differentiating the instruction to include choice boards. And students loved the projects they created from their student choices. Each week I would introduce a new centers activity grid. There were 2-3 choices each for reading, math, writing, character building, and science/social studies.

I tried to incorporate different learning modalities into the options. I also created a general rubric for which to base my assessment. This was center work, so additional practice, which meant I didn’t have to be super picky about what was turned in as long as the work was complete and legible.

Honestly, it helped me to have invested students who were working instead of tugging at my sleeve while I was working with small groups. Students were freely given the time to complete 1 activity in each category.

We did review each assignment as a whole group - and I recorded myself explaining those choices and saved to a student computer.

That way, when you have the child who says “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do,” you can send him or her straight off to watch the replay. The work wasn’t always their very best, but sometimes their creativity really shines through. The love for learning was really my reasoning for using the choice boards - and that was always presented at the end of the week.

Menus are not hard work to put together, and can actually be used from year to year. Once you have created a menu for a certain topic area, make sure to keep it safe (or print it on cardstock and laminate) and you will have a resource that is even easier to implement the next year!

DIY Choice Boards

When creating your assignment, you’ll first want to decide whether you prefer a digital version or a printable hard copy. Either will work, so go with your preference.

You can create your template example right within google slides or on a google doc. That’s free and translates well for any system.

Menus can found in all sorts of formats, including a tic-tac-toe style, a list style, a choice board, extension menus, and/or learning contracts. When I use the term menus I am referring to all of the preceding.

In my opinion, menus offer choices for students to interact with a given topic by varying the content, process, and/or product (which is DI 101). While the format may look different, in essence, they are just a DI lesson plan in a different template.

The key with menus is not to force a specific choice, but rather give lots of options so that the student sees this as a learning opportunity, rather than “boring work that we are being forced to do.”

Now that you have a graphic organizer chosen, fill in the options for activities, making sure to include some items that are art-based (draw a movie poster for our story of the week) or even kinesthetic in nature (create a jump rope rhyme that explains how to add fractions with unlike denominators).

You can also reference different multiple intelligences options. It is nice to celebrate differences in our students and not just assign worksheets and reading al the time. Producing a short commercial with a classmate to showcase a new science invention is definitely way more fun.

One last bonus tip: I love using a free choice option on all of my menus and boards. Why? Perhaps the learning topic is one that a particular students is suoer passionate about. By giving the student an option to create his own option, the work that turns out is usually phenomenal. Of course, the child has to tell me explicitly what the learning task involves and how it will be assessed. We jot those notes down on the learning contract and away he goes.

Differentiation Menu Best Practices


  • Many teachers are unsure of how to structure the learning time so it's not just students playing in the classroom and then having poor quality work to be shown for it. I personally have found this to be a legit concern when you first introduce the concept of menus.


Explicit directions and going over rubrics with students is imperative. Even better: Have examples of previous student work that showcases what you are looking for when scoring a completed project (or make your own examples). Again - this will be easier to do after you have completed your first year of prepping weekly choice boards. Start collecting exemplary pieces of work to be shown to the next round of students.


  • Make sure the work students are to complete can be completed in the given time. If you have 5 categories of centers and only 3 days of actual center time of 40 minutes each time, you will want to make sure students can complete each activity in about 20 minutes. That’s not really much time for a very involved project.
  • Also - you can adjust the work for different learning abilities and age ranges. If you have a child who has autism and is limited in her ability to write out 6 new word problems for math, then adapt it to recording a video or an audio version.


Same with smaller students, such as kindergarten or first grade who aren’t able to document a lot of work, especially in the beginning of the year. You can still use this idea. Simply record the directions in short video clips on tech devices that are placed around the round.

When a child goes to that spot, he or she plays the message from you (trust me, they know how to use those tech devices), and then completes the activity you have just explained. That might be coloring something or reading a picture book with a partner.

You know your students best.


  • Last tip: I always, always, always introduce my center menus with only 2 activities. That allows students to get used to the routine and workflow.


The next week, if that goes well, I will add a third activity for the same amount of time. I gradually increase the workload to what I feel the class should be able to reasonably accomplish in the given time. And once in a while - I add in “bonus” options just to push them a little beyond their comfort zone. It amazes me how some teachers underestimate what our students are really capable of and never push those boundaries. Try it a few times. They just might surprise you.

Need more ideas for your gifted students and early finishers?


At Organized Classroom's Facebook page, we were previously discussing the book series “Differentiating Instruction With Menus” and I have to say, I love this set of books!

They have them for LA, Math, Science, and Social Studies for the middle school grades, as well as one for each in grades 3-5.

When I have a teacher I am working with that is teaching to the middle (average ability), I try to assist by suggesting pre-assessment (which will verify whether or not any student already has mastery of the upcoming subject material), and then trying to find (or create, if necessary) a corresponding menu that is of the same topic.

In this way, the students who have already mastered the required material can still be working on the same concepts and ideas, but at a higher level.

This really is a win-win for all because the student will be busy, hopefully engaged, and will be less disruptive to the rest of the class if he or she is not sitting and twiddling thumbs during your very exciting lesson about the American Revolution. 

 

 PS - menus are great for ALL students, not just your high functioning! Choice can really be a strong motivator for many children! Would you like a free Spelling Menu Homework Packet? Silly me, that is an obvious answer. Grab it below.

   

How could you use menus in your classroom this year or next? Sound off in the comments below! 

~Charity



This article originally appeared at Organized Classroom.

Metric System Posters

These are a set of seven posters (kilometer, hectometer, dekameter, meters, decimeter, centimeter, and millimeter) - one set in color, the other in black and white.
click image to go to freebie
click image to go to freebie

Print, laminate and hang. These are a great reference for your students when they are tackling metric conversions.