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Saturday, December 21, 2013

A Nostalgia Tree

Many years ago, when my grown children were little kids, we started a tradition that resulted in a nostalgia tree. Of course, the tree is now a perfect reminder of Christmas' past. The nostalgia tree brings lots of smiles every Christmas!

Each year, the Christmas tree is brought down from the attic. It's covered in two black trash bags. When the bags are removed, the tree is finished! The ornaments and lights are left on from year to year. The angel is placed on the top, and the tree is ready to go. The small tree sits upon a round table nestled in the corner of the living room. A red skirt trimmed in white fur covers the plastic base of the artificial tree. There's nothing fancy about it. One strand of multi-colored lights is wrapped beneath the ornaments. Because, after, all, it's the ornaments that are the most important.

At one time, the tree was covered with ornaments from all our children. But, as each moved on and established their own homes, the ornaments were given to their makers. Now, most of the handmade pieces that are remain on the tree's branches belong to our youngest child, who is twenty-four and is to be married in May. Then, many of the ornaments will disappear once again. It will be time to fill the nostalgia tree with homemade ornaments from grandchildren!

FREE!  Make your own ornaments to start your nostalgia tree!

Ornaments on the Nostalgia Tree


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Fun Christmas Activities

Ho! Ho! Ho! Santa's on his way! If you're tracking Santa and his reindeers, then you know he's a busy guy. Therefore, it's important to keep kids busy, too, so that Santa can get all his work done before he arrives at your home.
Here are some fun Christmas and winter activities that can keep hands and minds busy while enjoying festive atmospheres--and tracking Santa:

Top Ten Christmas Movies Inferencing and Logic Puzzles
Winter Holiday Coloring Sheets

Christmas/Winter Activities:
Get Fit Action Story: Santa's Missing Suit 

Santa's Fill-in-the-Blank Christmas LettersPre-k-2
Santa's North Pole Bingo
Wacky Waynes' Winter Holiday I-Spy
Santa's Holiday Headlines: Write News Stories and Headlines
Rudolph's Red Nose: The Facts
Christmas Tales to Write and Publish
Santa's Silly Saying and Figurative Language Activities
Holiday Comic Books for Student Writers 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Educator Helper

Friday, November 8, 2013

Creating Holiday Memories

What holiday traditions does your family celebrate? We gather with family and friends, eat scrumptious foods, play games, and watch football. 

We've baked turkeys, fried turkeys, and smoked turkeys. We've had green bean casserole and sweet potato casserole. We've fixed cream style and whole kernel corn mixed together. We've made fried and mashed potatoes. The dressing, oh, the boxed stuff will do--it's my grandma's homemade recipe: cornbread and light bread, celery and onions, boiled and raw eggs, and lots of pepper, sage, and salt. Of course, a great cook never gives away her recipes, so the secret ingredients will remain just that...

For years, there was an "Oldies" versus "Kids" football game. Then, the "Kids" became "Oldies". Now, there's games for all ages: cards, dominoes, and board games, such as Candy Land, Jenga, and Trivial Pursuit. Plus, Get Fit Action Stories: Tom the Turkey Takes a Break to burn off all those calories from Thanksgiving dinner, and seconds.

Some years, weather kept us inside. Ice and snow covered trees and roads,
and we were stuck at relatives' homes for days. There was the year a tornado watch kept us on our toes for the first half of the day then the north wind barreled across the plains and dropped snow for the last half of Thanksgiving Day. The weather in Oklahoma can be compared to flipping a coin. 

However, Thanksgiving is about one thing--giving "thanks" while with family and friends. A "thank you" for friendship and good cheer, for being there when needed, and for being able to help when asked.  

Happy Thanksgiving to family, friends, and patrons!
Educator Helper

Thanksgiving Teacher Pay Teacher Products:

Free! Thanksgiving Writing Prompts
Get Fit Action Story: Tom the Turkey Takes a Break 
I'm Thankful For...Thanksgiving Mobile 
Thanksgiving Coloring Sheets 
Thanksgiving "Thank You" Cards in English and Spanish
Wacky Wayne's Fall I-Spy
Talkin' Turkey TImes: A Thanksgiving Newspaper Writing Activity 
My Thanksgiving Tale Storybook to Make and Share


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Trick or Treat! It's Halloween...

 20% off ALL items on Oct. 13-15, 2013, for 100,000 likes on TpT Facebook page!

It's all treats for Halloween! Below you'll find some  goodies to share and use for October fun. 

One of my all-time favorites for Halloween is Word Bank Creative Writing
1. Download free Halloween music
2. Ask students to write down sounds heard inside the music (word banks). For example, door creaking, rattling chains, screams... 
3. Play Halloween music (no lyrics!) for 2-3 minutes. 
4. Have students use their own word banks, or exchange word banks with a peer. 
5. Give students time to compose an essay with _____ words from their word banks. 
6. Underline the words from the word bank. 
7. Set the scene for read arounds. Bring blankets for the floor. Use decorations, such as flashlights, fake pumpkins with light kits, flameless candles, that give enough light for students to read by. 
8. Set up stations for students to share their stories, or do a whole group reading. Be sure to write your own story to share with students!
Whatever unit you are working on with your class, be sure to set the scene.  For example, my class was reading Treasure Island, and I came dressed as a pirate the first day of the unit. We discussed the lives of pirates. In small groups, students made timelines on butcher paper. Each group chose specific areas: books,fashion, inventions, music, sports... The groups gave a 3-5 minute talk about what life was like during the setting of the book. We
wrote poems on parchment paper (brown paper towels from the school's restrooms). We put the final copy on our parchment paper, wadded it up, and then smoothed it out to age it. We designed pirates' flags using a symbolism chart. We drew maps based on textual evidence, and we chose sides then wrote diaries (again we used brown paper towels, wrote, then wadded these up, and when finished we laced the pages together with yarn) as if we were characters inside the book. Finally, we had a pirate party complete with school appropriate pirate clothing and pirate snacks from Oriental Trading Company while we shared what we learned during the unit.

It's about building prior knowledge so students understand societies' rules and different time periods. Then, students are ready to delve into texts and to relate to characters and their problems and solutions. Plus, it makes learning fun! 

Give it a try, and build background knowledge by using some of the ideas above. You'll be amazed at the interest in learning it generates from students.

Happy Halloween!

Other Halloween Products:

Write a Halloween Story with Word Bank
Halloween Coloring Sheets
Wacky Wayne's Halloween I-Spy
Get Fit Action Story: Frank N. Stein's Haunted House

Sunday, September 29, 2013


Ever run across a product you couldn't wait to tell others about? Educreations! First, credit must be given to blogger Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources. She previews technology, and Educreations was tops on her list. Thanks, Heidi!

Click to view an Educreations presentation on narrative writing for developmental college students. Another example to view is Road of Life Maps. Having already moved to a flipped classroom format, Educreations added supplemental instruction for students who needed extra reinforcement or missed daily class information. Students like it because it is personalized with their instructor's voice, allows for multiple playbacks, and is available 24 hours a day. 

Educreations works by holding created lessons in a folder within its program. From there, users have many choices: upload to social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter; share with others through email; create student accounts; create multiple classes accounts; share links; and more...

How user-friendly is Educreation? Anyone can do it! Download the program to an IPad, Iphone, PC, or Mac. Sorry, Android use is in development phase. Then, think about what images, pictures, presentations, want to use in your lesson. If your device has a camera, pictures can be taken and used. If no camera feature is available, Educreations can still be used much like a Whiteboard. Store images as jpegs for easy integration. Finally, click on "Record" and begin. 

The Whiteboard has great features! Touch the colors on the toolbar, touch your finger to the screen, and write in colored ink. Touch the text box and type away. Use the graph paper or coordinate paper for math courses. Scroll up and down or left and right with your fingertips to add more pages. The program pauses when you leave the screen to find an image, so hit "Record" to resume your lesson. A cheap mic headset (like those compatible with Iphones) works perfectly--no need for an expensive, external mic. Recording sessions can be up to 30 minutes. It's that simple!

Currently, I'm in practice mode with Educreations, and as I become more familiar with it I'll become more professional. However, the program is doing exactly what I need it to do--reinforce concepts and skills for students once classroom sessions have ended. And, it's free!

Use these interactive presentations with Educreations:

Homographs and Context Clues 

FREE! Parallelism

Monday, September 16, 2013

It's Time for Homecoming

Parades, marching bands, floats, costumes...these bring back memories of Homecoming Day. As an elementary  student, homecoming meant a half-day of school. But, we were much too excited to learn, and, try as they might, teachers often gave in and celebrated homecoming within their classes. There were games and party favors then we were dismissed to line up to participate or to watch the Homecoming Day parade. 

In the town I lived in, junior high and high school shared one building. Therefore, once elementary students entered seventh grade, Homecoming Day took on new meaning. The morning was spent putting final touches on floats, which took all week to build in secretive places. The element of surprise might ensure a first place win in the float contest. Trailers were secured early in the school year, and themes were voted on by students. Then, board frames were built on the trailers. These were covered with chicken wire, and the holes were stuffed with colored toilet paper squares. Not one public restroom in town could keep toilet paper during Homecoming week. Streamers were made from crepe paper and hung on the floats. Students in themed costumes were chosen by their peers to ride on the floats. The floats were pulled by farm tractors, lawn mowers, or large vehicles down Main Street, which was lined with spectators of all ages. Some of the floats' riders threw candy to children as the parade moved slowly toward the opposite end of town.

As a member of the high school band, we practiced daily for weeks in advance to put on a great Homecoming half-time show. These often featured twirlers with fire batons that lit up the night sky. Queen candidates rode atop back seats of convertibles as the sports cars circled the field then stopped in front of the hometown crowd. Sweaty football players, called kings, escorted girls in beautiful formals to the center of the field then waited for the winners to be announced. Within minutes, the excitement was over, and the king ran back to the sideline to join his team mates while the queen took a seat on the fifty-yard line with her royal court members to await the outcome of the game. 

After the football game, whether win or lose, a pigskin party was held at one of the local churches that took turns hosting after-parties. Desserts, drinks, finger foods, and music provided great Friday night fun! Without a doubt, Homecoming Day was greatly anticipated, and memories were made that have lasted a lifetime. And, there are pictures stored away in boxes that are proof  Homecoming Day was full of excitement and fun.

To help your students create their own Homecoming Day memories, try the  Homecoming Activities packet at my TpT storefront. 

Happy Homecoming!

Homecoming Activities Packet


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Swimming Upstream: Using Personal Devices in the Classroom

Go ahead...Jump right in! A new school year can be like watching fish in a stream--some go with the flow of the water while others swim upstream against the current.

Over the years, fashions have come and gone: bouffant hairdos, Daisy Dukes, parachute pants... As teachers, we've seen many fads, and tried most of them. Yet, there's a trend that has many of us shaking our heads and wondering what to do--the use of cellphones and other personal devices in classrooms. Finally, I thought, "if you can't beat them, join them!" I've decided to incorporate cellphones and other personal devices, such as laptops and tablets, into my classroom lessons. 

The "ah-ha!" moment came during this summer's McGraw Hill Connect/LearnSmart training. The presenter introduced us to Poll Everywhere. In the past, I've thought about using clickers, but they require perfect planning and timely set-up, which excludes spontaneous discussions and feedback. Plus, where I teach, there is one set of clickers between four instructors--that turns the "plus" into a minus. Also, checking the clickers in and out devours precious class minutes. But, with Poll Everywhere, students use laptops, PCs, tablets, or smartphones to text in their answers to different modes of questions: multiple choice, open-ended, yes/no formats. I was hooked! The presenter asked questions, "What was unclear in today's presentation?" "What would you like to know more about?" "Was your time well-spent this morning?" The audience responded on their personal devices, and we were hypnotized as answers popped up on the large screen. Many of us had the same questions, and we would not have known this without Poll Everywhere!


The program is free for first time use with up to 40 students. It can be packaged with McGraw Hill products for a small student fee, or it can be purchased by schools as a stand-alone component. 

The McGraw Hill event changed my attitude toward using personal devices in my classroom. Also, I'm going to try new strategies for notetaking by incorporating the use of personal devices.If you're seeing this in your classes:

It's time to re-think using technology in lesson plans. Using apps and websites that turn classroom materials into flashcards is another way to incorporate personal devices into lesson plans. Two of the best blogs for using technology in the classroom is Raki's Rad Resources, which reviews many student/teacher friendly, often free websites, and Smart Apps, which has a free educational app per day.

Go ahead...swim upstream, and try using personal devices in your classroom!

Have a great school year!
Beth, Educator Helper

Click the links to check out these resources for incorporating personal devices and technology:

Synonyms "Who am I?"

Comic Book Writing

Multigenre Assignments (Getting to Know Students)

Road of Life Maps (Narrative Writing)