Let’s Take a Braincation!

brain break pinSometimes we all just need a vacation. Unfortunately, there is this thing called an attendance policy, and oh yeah, a job. So maybe you can’t take a vacation anytime you wish, but why not take a BRAINCATION? That’s right, people, a vacation for your brain. Sometimes referred to as a brain break.

I know sometimes it is hard to add one more thing to your already packed teaching schedule, so I compiled a list of ideas to help you incorporate a much needed brain break into your day. Your students, and your brain, will thank you! Here are some brain break ideas that are quick and easy to implement:

1. Verbs and Adverb Practice: Choose a verb and adverb combo to act out. For example/ march quickly, jump slowly, dance happily, etc… Call on volunteers to think of a verb and adverb pair, and have the class do the activity for 30 seconds.

2. Spelling Review: Do jumping jacks, lunges, or other quick exercises for each letter as you spell the word together.

3. Charades: Have students act out vocab words, actions from various stories, or other content related things.

4. Division: Hop 36/6 times, Do 20/5 jumping jacks, etc…

5. Multiplication: Run in place for 9 x 3 seconds, Do 2 x 4 toe touches, etc…

6. Art: Show pictures of various statues, and have students imitate the statues and hold for 10 seconds.

7. Animals: Have students pretend to be various animals i.e. gallop like a horse, stretch like a cat, etc…

8. Sports Star: Have students act out different sports moves i.e. swing a baseball bat, throw a football, spike the volleyball, etc…

9. Things with Wheels: Pretend to drive a car, ride a skateboard, roller-skate, etc…

10. Marching Band: Have students pretend to play various musical instruments while marching to a beat.

11. Good old fashioned dance party. Play music and have students dance. Go crazy and teach them cool moves like the sprinkler or the swim.

12. Geography: Show a map, and have students create an alliterative move for a country or city i.e. Jump in Jacksonville, Twist in Texas, etc…

13. Keep the Beat: March in place to a rhythm while reading aloud poetry or songs.

14. Yoga: Teach students simple standing balance poses like the tree pose or warrior pose.

15: Braincation PowerPoint: Here is a fun freebie that I created using some pictures of various primates. The concept is simple. Students see the primate and imitate it. Monkey See, Monkey Do! You can grab it for FREE from my TPT Store or you can click here to pick it up free from Google Docs. You can see some of the slides below. There are 22 slides in all.

Braincation Primates

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And if you are looking for some more FREE activities to help you get back to school, you should check out the FREE Back to School E-books on TPT. Lots of Sellers got together to compile them, and they are loaded with tips and links to free products.

K-2 Resources

Math and Science Grades 3-5

ELA Grades 3-5

Math Grades 6-12

ELA Grades 6-12

Social Studies 6-12

Science 6-12

Have a great Braincation!


More Than a Worksheet

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Smelly Smiley: The SIMPLEST class reward ever!


smelly smile pin

Well, according to Wal-Mart and Target, it’s time to start thinking about back to school. At this time every year, I was always racking my brain for ideas for a class reward that a) is cheap (hello, no paycheck since June) and b) doesn’t pump kids full of sugar.

One year, I accidentally came up with the best reward ever. (Hyperbole much?)

Here’s the back story: I’ve loved Mr. Sketch markers ever since I was a fourth grader, and our teacher let us create a poster using her precious markers, and the delicious flavors wafted up from the group work into my nose, and I somehow had little dots of marker on my nose from sniffing so much, but I digress. As a teacher, they remained my favorite marker, and my favorite of the favorites is the orange. It smells like orange Tic-Tacs. What’s not to love?!

So I always carry around my orange marker, just in case I have to spontaneously make an anchor chart, you know. Anyway, the end of the day rolls around, and it’s time for me to sign student agendas. (By sign student agendas, I just did a quick check to make sure that students wrote their homework and colored their behavior strip correctly.) On that particular day, I found myself short on time and pens, so I just used my trusty orange marker. And students LOVED it so much that they begged for me to sign their agenda with the smelly markers every day. Voila! A reward system was born.

When students stay on blue or green all day, they get a smiley face in their agenda with a smelly marker. Told you it was SIMPLE! If not, then I would write a note in boring ol’ non smelly ink pen. It eventually morphed into the Spotlight Student choosing the marker each day, which they loved, too.

Now, I’m not saying that this is going to curb misbehavior necessarily. But when students have a great day, this is a fun (and cheap and easy) way to show them you appreciate their efforts. An unintended consequence is that I would often get laughs from parents saying how their child’s backpacks smelled like a candy store.

So if you’re looking for a daily reward that doesn’t break the bank or require a dental cleaning, try Smelly Smileys!

Oh, and if you haven’t seen the Mr. Sketch commercial, you should check it out. If you’re into potty humor. I have a two year old, so I am. Not suitable for all audiences!

“How Mr. Sketch Markers Get Their Smell” Commercial.

Hee hee.

For more activities that are More Than a Worksheet, visit my TPT Store!

More Than a Worksheet

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Hello Poetry Month!

Happy Poetry Month everyone! I like to read and write poetry year round with students, but it is nice to have a month that focuses on it, too. Below are some resources you can use for Poetry Month or really any month.

Here are some Poetry Quotes. I love these. You can download them  from google docs. Quotes are fun to use and discuss and make a great introduction to a poetry unit. You could use them as class or group discussion prompts. You could even have students respond in writing to them: What does the author mean? Do you agree or disagree? Some of the quotes are poetic themselves! You could also have students decorate them and use for a bulletin board. Then, at the end of your unit, have students write their own quotes about poetry to add to the board. Use them however you choose! There are suggestions for use included and they are also included in task card format so you can cut them out and keep them handy. Oh, and they’re free 🙂

Poetry Quotes

lovely frame from Biology Roots!


Here are some of my favorite poetry websites, specifically for kids:

Kenn Nesbitt’s Poetry for Kids–lots of funny poems and tips for writing different poems

Giggle Poetry–more fun poems and writing lessons! My students particularly loved the “Fill-in-the-Blank” poems in the Poetry Fun section

Shel Silverstein–yes this poet great has his own website. Many poems to read and other fun features for students plus printable lesson ideas for teachers.

Jack Prelutsky–lots of poems and interactive fun for students

Children’s Poetry Archive–there are lots of poems and bios of different poets, lots of fun to explore!

Poems Kids Like –Poets.org has compiled a list of poems from around the Internet that are fun for kids.

Scholastic’s Resources–Scholastic has a ton of poetry month resources here.

Poetry Ideas on Pinterest–this is my Pinterest board where I like to collect pictures and ideas. Lots of freebies from around TPT are included, too.

Milestone News

I have exciting news to share! I have reached my first TPT sales milestone and will be featured in the TPT blog this weekend! Woohoo! To celebrate, all of my poetry resources will be 20% off in my store from Sunday through Wednesday.

More Than a Worksheet Poetry Resources

And it’s Friday, so I’m linking up with Freebie Friday over at Teaching Blog Addict. Click the icon to check out other freebies!


Happy Friday!
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talk like a leprechaun

Top o’ the mornin’ to ya. Here are some St. Patrick’s Day activities that are more than a worksheet! Enjoy!

Talk Like a Leprechaun

Above is a fun list of Irish slang. There are tons of ways you can use it for a quick, easy, and fun way to get kids thinking creatively. Perhaps you can encourage students to use the phrases as they talk today, or you can use them when you speak to the kids. “Pull your socks up!” (i.e. get busy) is a great teacher-y thing to say! Below is list of fun creative writing prompts that you may use with the list, too. Makes a great center or morning work, and it’s FREE! Just click here to grab it, or you can click on any of the images.

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Here are some other ideas and activities I’ve found from around the web. Reader’s Theater: “St. Patrick’s Day Shamrock” Radio Show (FUN!!! from Readers Theater All Year) St. Patrick’s Day (This one is a historical take on the holiday from Mrs. McGowan’s Class) Freebies: Leprechaun Luck Probability Game from Laura Candler St. Patrick’s Day Would You Rather Questions from Rachel Lynette St. Patrick’s Day Limericks from Addie Williams St. Patrick’s Day Research Scavenger Hunt from me! (More Than a Worksheet) Poetry Links: How to Write a Limerick from Poetry4Kids Poetry Class Limericks from Giggle Poetry Paid Products: And if you feel like shopping, check out: St. Paddy’s Day Coin Bridge (STEM Engineering Activity) Freebie Friday: For more freebies, St. Paddy’s and others, check out Freebie Friday over at Teaching Blog Addict! freebie-friday-TBA

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Common Core Ideas for The Treasure by Uri Shulevitz

The Common Core Standards Initiative has identified several picture books to use as mentor texts for teaching common core standards in the classroom. I decided to start working on a product based on these books, and in doing so, I have been introduced to some excellent picture books! Here is a link to the list. It is sorted by grade level and type of text.

The first one I will share with you is The Treasure by Uri Shulevitz.

the treasure

Do you know it? I had never read it, but I love it now! My first impression was that it is pretty simple, and there are not many words. I thought maybe it is too easy for third grade. Once I got into it, though, and really looked at the standards, I realized there is so much you can do with this simple book.

The story is about Isaac who has a dream that there is treasure under the bridge by the Royal Palace in the capital city. After having the dream three times, he decides to travel there to look. He travels on a long journey, over mountains and through forests, but when he arrives, he learns the bridge is guarded day and night. He is unable to look for the treasure, so he wanders around. The captain of the guards asks him what he is doing, and he tells about his dream. The captain laughs at him and tells him about a dream of his own, a dream that there is a treasure under Isaac’s stove. Isaac travels home and finds the treasure under his own stove. He is so thankful he builds a house of prayer with the inscription: “Sometimes one must travel far to discover what is near.”

The story is great, and the illustrations are excellent for making inferences about Isaac, his journey, and the capital city. Here is a sample chart I made that you can make with your students after reading this book. This is a simple activity to practice RL.3.7.


Another Common Core Standard that can be easily addressed with this story is RL.3.3. This is a great story to practice determining character action and motivation. Here is a chart for that:

character motivations

Here is a simplified version of the interpreting illustrations activity. This may be better for RL.2.7. bubble mapI definitely recommend checking out this excellent book! Happy Reading!

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STEM Ideas that are More Than a Worksheet


What do YOU know about STEM? Me, I am learning more about it because I love the idea of it. When I was in the classroom, I had never heard about it, although I did STEM-like activities. They weren’t called STEM. Hands-on science, engineering, investigations, things like that. You know, a rose by any other name… I like STEM because it integrates science, technology, engineering, and math, and by its nature it demands critical thinking, problem solving, teamwork, and all of those other things that aren’t on the big test. Here is an article that describes STEM.  

There is also a movement headed by the Rhode Island School of Design to move from STEM to STEAM, and I like this too. The extra A stands for Arts including language arts, visual arts, performance arts, etc… Here is a website devoted to STEAM if you want to learn more. 

In an education world where our curriculum is so specific and our timeline is rigid to get everything in before the test, it is hard to add anything new to your teaching plate. I wonder, though, if we did more hands-on, critical thinking, problem solving, creative activities…would we need less test prep? There has to be something said for teaching kids how to think, not just how to choose the right bubble to fill in. Stepping off soapbox now.

I have compiled a list of resources if you are interested in learning more about STEM and STEAM.

Articles and Websites: 

PBS Teachers: STEM Education Resource Center

10 STEM Teaching Practice from MiddleWeb

The 10 Best STEM Resources from NEA

Freebies and Printables:

STEM Engineering Starter Kit an excellent freebie from Ivy Taul

Color Changing Carnations from Get Caught Engineering

Gumdrop Engineering Challenge from STEM Mom

STEM Project Egg Car from Kim Repking

Leprechaun Trap: Engineering Challenge Project from Smart Chick

Jack and the Parachute (Fairy Tale Themed STEM) from yours truly aka More Than a Worksheet

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Other Resources:

Pinterest (This is my STEM board. If you do a general search on Pinterest, you will find tons more!)

STEM Books for Elementary School (an Amazon list compiled by STEM Mom)

Resources to Purchase:

STEVE Spangler: He has a ton of activities, kits, and ideas on his site.

AIMS: I love AIMS resources and have used many of their science activities. They are typically aligned to various state science standard.

More Than a Worksheet on TPT: I have several STEM engineering units I have created based on fairy tales, nursery rhymes, holidays, and seasons.

So, do you STEM?

Happy Tuesday!

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More Dr. Seuss for Big Kids Fun

Still looking for some upper elementary activities to use to celebrate Dr. Seuss’s birthday? Pull out your pile of Dr. Seuss books and have your students work on one of these scavenger hunts that will make them think! These are simple activities where students scour Dr. Seuss books to find different things that start with each letter of the alphabet. Categories include: Creative Characters, Alliterative Phrases, Fantasy Places, and Nonsense Words. (I included an answer key that I created, but I couldn’t find everything for every letter. Maybe your students will?!)

Take your pick:

(Download them all FREE here or click on the images!)

dr seuss for big kids 4

Have students search through Dr. Seuss books to find a character that starts with each letter of the alphabet.

dr seuss for big kids 3

Have students search through Dr. Seuss books to find alliterative phrases for each letter of the alphabet.

dr seuss for big kids 2

Have students search through Dr. Seuss books to find fantasy places for each letter of the alphabet.

dr seuss for big kids

Have students search through Dr. Seuss books to find nonsense for each letter of the alphabet.

Here are some other FREE activities from a couple of my favorite teacher authors:

Lorax Discussion Questions from Laura Candler’s (scroll down to get to the link. You will also find tons of other great seasonal freebies. If you haven’t discovered her file cabinet, you need to raid it ASAP!)

Dr. Seuss Writing Prompts from Rachel Lynette.

Name that Dr. Seuss Book from Rachel Lynette.

The local bounce house is having a birthday party for Dr. Seuss including a story time. That’s where I’ll be with my 2 year old. How will you wish the good Dr. a happy birthday?

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PS–If you haven’t heard, TPT is having a GIANT “3 Million Teacher Strong” SALE today and tomorrow. All of my (and many other great sellers’) products will be 20% off, and then if you enter the code TPT3, you will receive an additional 10% off. Why not check it out?! It’s free to set up a buyer’s account!! Click my logo below to visit my store!

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Dr. Seuss book lists

There is so much I love about Dr. Seuss. He was so creative, and he wasn’t afraid to be strange or make a statement. And even with the silliness, his books are smart. My love for him as an author mixed my propensity to hoard books, well, you can imagine. Let’s just say I have a lot of Dr. Seuss books. I don’t have them all yet, but between Goodwill, the library used books sale, and the buy 2 get one free deals at my local book store, I’m working on it.

My 2 year old loves Dr. Seuss, too. In fact, he went through a stage when the only book that we could read to him before a nap or bedtime was Fox in Socks. That meant reading it out loud 2-3 times a day. It’s a great book, just loooong and full of tongue twisters, and I was getting quite tired of it! He’s mercifully since moved on, and if I’m in the right mood, I can recite the entire thing. But that’s beside the point.

I thought I would share with you a couple of book lists I’ve compiled. Click here or click on the images below to get the lists FREE.  (No I haven’t printed it and highlighted the ones that I own so I know which ones I have left to buy. Ahem. Who does that?!)

The first one is just all of the Dr. Seuss books in ABC order. This may be fun to use in your class for Read Across America Day. Maybe you could have a Dr. Seuss read-a-thon. Or you can keep it as a challenge for the entire class throughout the year.

Printable list Dr. Seuss books

The next one is sorted by reading level. Dr. Seuss books by reading level 1

Notice all of the books that are on a 3rd and 4th reading level! Dr. Seuss is not just for the younger grades. There is something for everyone.

Dr. Seuss books by reading level 2If you’re looking for more ideas, here are some of my past blog posts about Dr. Seuss:

Lesser Known But Lovable Dr. Seuss Books

Dr. Seuss for Big Kids (and a FREE and simple printable game!)

Happy Tuesday!
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black history month


black history monthFebruary is Black History Month. Read on to find a collection of Black History teaching ideas that are more than just a worksheet!

Black History Who AM I?

a simple research idea

a simple research idea

Here is a simple idea for black history month. Have students research a black hero and find three little known or unique facts. Have students write the facts, and write the name of the person underneath an index card. Create an interactive bulletin board by hanging these up for others to read and try to guess. You might even put a list of the people nearby so students have a bank of names to choose from.

Here are some research resources where students can find various black history biographies:

Biography.com Black History Biographies

Enchanted Learning Black History Biographies

Britannica Black History Biographies

Another Research Idea

Cute Project from Scholastic

Read Alouds

The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles–a narrative story that teaches students about Ruby Bridges and her experience attending a previously all white school.

If a Bus Could Talk by Faith Ringgold–a creative story that teaches Rosa Parks through beautiful illustrations and a magical tale.

Dinner at Aunt Connie’s House by Faith Ringgold–another of Faith Ringgold’s magical tales. This one introduces students to several famous black women from history.

My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers Growing Up with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  by Christine King Farris–a poetic tale written by Martin Luther King Jr.’s own sister.

Here are some lists of picture books from various sources:

Underground Railroad Read Alouds

Black History Books from PBS 

Black History Month Picture Books

Online Stories–Read these books for free online. (You do know about Storyline Online and We Give Books, right? Right?! They are two of my favorite resources for online stories. Great to project on the Smartboard!)

White Socks Only by Evelyn Coleman (Storyline Online)

The Hallelujah Flight by Phil Bildner (We Give Books)

Back of the Bus by Aaron Reynolds (We Give Books)

Free at Last: The Story of Martin Luther King Jr. from DK Publishing (We Give Books)

Riding with Rosa Parks by Ellen Forrest (an app from Reading A-Z)

Games & Interactive Sites

African American World from PBS Kids

Underground Railroad from Scholastic


Jessie Owens Reading Passage and Comprehension Questions from The Inspired Pencil

Ruby Bridges Mini Unit from Jessica Lawler

Thurgood Marshall Folding Fun from Susan Morrow

Reader’s Theater Script: Negro League Baseball Stars from Mister Wigg

Black History Character Bios–a free & simple research assignment from Laura Candler

Harriet Tubman Unit from Debbie Musiek

Who Said That? Black Heroes an activity examining quotes from famous black heroes from me (a.k.a. More Than a Worksheet!)

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Paid Products

…and if you feel like shopping, you can pick up my Civil Rights Timeline Task Cards  or my Picture Book Task Cards: The Story of Ruby Bridges from my TPT Store.

Happy Tuesday Everyone!

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presidents day fun

Presidents Day is coming up. Did you know it originally began as a day to honor George Washington’s birthday? Today, Washington and Lincoln are most commonly honored for Presidents Day since both have birthdays in February. However, it can also be a time to think of all of our great leaders and the contributions they have made to our country. Here are some activities for Presidents Day that are more than just a worksheet.

1. Presidential Character Traits–with this simple activity, just brainstorm with students the traits of a good president.

traits of a good president

2. Presidential Journal Ideas:

  • Write a letter to the President.
  • If I were president for a day….
  • One day, I visited the White House…
  • I would make a good president because…
  • If I could meet any president past or present, I would like to meet…
  • Write a dialogue between you and a president of your choice.
  • Write a text message conversation you would like to have with President Obama.

3. Simple Art Ideas:

  • Design a commemorative stamp for a president.
  • Design a coin for a president who is not currently on a coin.

4. President Ideas from National Geographic for Kids:

5. Two of my favorite President books:

  • What Presidents Are Made Of by Hanoch Piven–The art in this books is so fun to look at. A portrait of each president is made of different household items. It also teaches various interesting facts about the Presidents.
  • So You Want to Be President? by Judith St. George–This book is full of fun and interesting facts. In fact, it has helped me get some questions right when my husband and I play Jeopardy! Students will learn about Taft and the bathtub incident, presidential pets, and other fun information. It is written in a narrative form that makes it easy to read aloud (although it is pretty long so you might have to break it up.)

6. Presidential Geography:

  • Have students label a map with the birth places of different presidents.
  • Have students scan an atlas and list all of the places they can find named after a president. (Washington State and DC; Mt. McKinley; Jacksonville, FL; Jackson, MS; Lincoln, NE; Madison, WI; Polk County FL, etc…)

7. Some Presidents Day freebies. All of these are great for upper elementary and are more than just a worksheet!

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Have a good week everyone!

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