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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Classbuilding Activity: Think Fast!

Hello everyone.  My website for teachers,, is all about providing engaging games and activities for elementary school teachers.  On it you will find morning meeting activities and ways to excite your students in their learning.  The following is a great activity to get your day started in morning meeting called, “Think Fast.”  This is a game that gets kids warmed up for the day and that they clamor to play again and again.  One of the strengths of the game is how it gives all the students a chance to be recognized in a positive way by the class.  It is also helpful at the beginning of the year for children to learn each other’s names.
What the students will learn
·         To be attentive
·         To learn self-control
·         To build a positive classroom culture

When and with who to play this game

·         Can be used with Grade 1 – Adult!
·         This game takes 5-10 minutes to play
·         It is a perfect morning meeting activity but could be used at other times that students need a movement break

How to play


·         The object of the game is to be the champion by being the only player not to get “out”


·         Start the game by having the children stand in the circle, the teacher is the referee who stands in the middle of the circle
·         The teacher will need a small ball that bounces well (A tennis ball, racquetball or mini basketball all will work well)

Playing the Game

·         The teacher bounces the ball and calls out a student’s name, “JOHN!”
·         The named student needs to run into the center of the circle and catch the ball before it hits the ground a second time.
·         If they manage to catch the ball the class gives them a round of applause
·         If they drop the ball or do not get to the ball in time the class should encourage the student, such as saying, “Good try John!” or “You were close”
·         That student is then out and sits down.
·         Warmup: Give everyone a try to get used to the game and go around in a circle so that they will know that it is their turn next
·         First round: Bounce the ball high in the middle of the circle so that it is easier for students to catch the ball and continue to go around in a circle
·         A student who is successful in the first round crosses their arms to signal that they have passed that round
·         When all students pass round one have them uncross their arms for round two!
·         Second round:  Start to call on students in random order to make the students have to be more attentive as well as bounce the ball I little bit lower to give them less time to run in and catch it
·         Third and following rounds: Bounce the ball in different parts of the circle as well as faster or slower, you may call on students multiple times in a row to catch them off guard
·         Continue the game until there is only one player remaining, that student is treated to a big round of applause from the entire class

Teaching Notes about this game:

This is a great game to teach about empathy: Be sure to model how the class is supposed to react when a student catches the ball or does not catch the ball. Immediately pause the game and discuss any reactions or comments a student gives that is inappropriate.
Being respectful to classmates when you are out: Discuss the importance of being respectful to the other classmates once you are out.  Emphasize how they should pay attention to the game, not talk and continue to encourage their classmates. 

Other Ways to Play:

Other ways to “Think Fast”:  After students are familiar with the game, in the later rounds I will start to give other signals other than just their first name.  I may use the student’s last name instead.  I may start saying things like, “The person who is wearing a green T-Shirt” or “Has sandals on” or “Has a brother in 2nd grade” to get them to really get their brains working.
Basketball “Think Fast”: I keep a mini basketball hoop in my classroom for various games.  After students are familiar with the game I include the basketball element into the game.  After the students catch the ball, wherever they catch it they must turn and shoot the ball in the basket.  If they miss they are also out.  In the first rounds I bounce the ball very close to the net and in later rounds I start bouncing the ball further and further away.

Want a printable version of this activity? Click here!

Check out more great activities and lessons at

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Fruity Battery! {A Quick, Easy Science Fair Project}

A Quick and Easy Science Fair Project Idea – Fruity Battery
Most of our favorite things like toys, cars, phones, watches and speakers need batteries to survive! The devices stop working and are termed dead when their batteries exhaust. So, why don’t you learn to make a battery at home with a few simple supplies and understand its functionality with this cool science fair project idea?

Photo Courtesy: Richard Heaven
Functionality of a battery

An orange
18 gauge copper wire
Steel paper clip
A piece of zinc
Adult’s assistance

Use a clipper to take off about 2 1/2 inches of plastic insulation that’s found on the copper wire. Now, clip the loose piece off the main roll.
Use all your strength to straighten the steel paper clip. Ask an adult for assistance to help you straighten it. Measure it at 2 1/2 inches and cut off the remaining.
Rub off any rough spots in the wire or the paperclip with sandpaper. Make sure it’s smoothened perfectly.
Now, roll the orange in your hand to loosen up the juice inside. You can also roll it on a flat surface to break the cell walls as you will need the juice to form the foundation of this science fair project.
Stick the copper wire about 1 inch into the orange. Moisten your tongue with saliva and lightly touch the wire. Do you notice any distinct taste?
Now, carefully stick the paper clip and zinc strip into the orange about 1/4 inch next to the wire making sure no metal touches another. Again, touch the wire ends with your tongue. What do you notice this time?

There must have been a distinct difference in taste when you touched your tongue to the copper wire and then all the metals and alloys. While just the copper wire was plain, the metals and alloy were metallic to taste.
Why did you feel the metallic taste?
The orange battery was generating electricity which means the electrons from the wire were travelling to your tongue. The electrons moved across the surface of the tongue and hence you got the metallic taste. Electrons are smaller breakdowns of an atom and are electrically charged.
The kind of battery that you made is called a voltaic battery. It is made of two different metals which act as electrodes, passages from where any current is transferred. Since electrolytes(sour acid from the orange and the saliva) transfer electricity when dissolved in water, you felt the tingling taste because your mouth was moist, as was the orange. Batteries stop working when there aren’t enough electrolytes to react with metals or not enough metals to react with the electrolytes.
Experimenting with the science fair project idea
·         Connect multiple orange batteries to generate more electrical current. Use a copper wire to connect the two as a bridge.
Photo Courtesy: Micah Sittig

·         Use variables and repeat the science fair project idea with a variety of acidic fruits and vegetables and measure which one generates most current.

Author Bio:
Catherine Ross is a full-time stay-at-home-mum who believes learning should be enjoyable for young minds. An erstwhile elementary school teacher, Catherine loves coming up with creative ways through which kids can grasp the seemingly difficult concepts of learning easily. She believes that a ‘fun factor’ can go a long way in enhancing kids’ understanding and blogs at

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Six Magic Square Products Updated & a Brand New FREEBIE

The other day I seriously received some of the BEST feedback on TpT that a seller could ask for. The comments were heartfelt, honest, and extremely constructive! Due to this, I took the time to update six of my Magic Square Puzzles - doubling and tripling some of them in size! If you have purchased any of these items from me in the past - go to your "My Purchases" tab and re-download them.

Tens (10-120) Words and Numbers Magic Square Puzzles

2D Shapes Magic Square Puzzles

Geometric Shapes Magic Square Puzzles

Rhyming Words Magic Square Puzzles

Money Magic Square Puzzles

Beginning Sounds Magic Square Puzzles

Also - when one of the products went from six pages to 18, I decided that I could easily make a three page freebie out of it! Click on the picture below to get your freebie directly from Teachers Pay Teachers!
Beginning Sounds Magic Square Puzzles FREEBIE

Now for the best part! You know I don't like bragging up new or revised products without thanking a few of you who stuck around until the end of the post! The first six people to comment with their e-mail address will receive all six revised products mentioned in this blog post!

What are you waiting for?! Comment away! :)

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Teachers As Readers

The title probably seems more than obvious to many of us, but do you really show your students that you are a reader? How, exactly?

Let me say that I was guilty of not doing this. Yes, I would have occasional conversations with students and tell them what I loved about a book. However, these conversations often seemed to take place with small groups of students. And I can remember the first time I told a class that I didn't like the Harry Potter series. You would have thought their world was coming to an end! (That one actually ended up working in my favor because many of my students who had read it started defending it. Then students who had never touched the books decided they might be worth a try.)

Anyway - off track - my point is that I needed to get better about showing students that I read. So I started a "Look What the Teacher's Reading" spotlight.

The kids love looking at what I'm reading. AND - they hold me accountable. They all know that I track their book and what page they're on each time we conference, so they've started looking at what I'm reading. (fyi - start using a sticky bookmark, as regular ones may accidentally be knocked out as students look at the book *just some experience talking*)

One student noticed that I'd read 2-3 of the same genre. She said, "You tell us to try different genres. Do you?" Darn. Caught at my own game. That's when I knew it was time to switch it up a bit. I'm not a big fan of fantasy books, but I grabbed one out of my library and read it. The students were so excited! Kiddos who had never read a fantasy book before decided to try it since I had. And when I read a biography, many of them did too! I know I shouldn't be amazed at the "power" I have in my students' reading, but I am. And I love that I am impacting them in such a powerful way!

Another thing I make sure to do is really show them the types of books I'm reading. This school year I read everything from Junie B. Jones (to show my 4th/5th/6th graders that sometimes our brains want to read something easier for a break) to professional teacher books to the books my students are currently raving about (sometimes I even had a magazine or two for good measure!). Showing the students that I'm actually a reader, and that even I forget to take my book home some nights, made them better readers as well!

My ultimate goal was to create a fancy little shelf in the classroom to highlight the book/s I was reading. As you can see, that didn't happen. However, it was still effective! =)

Hopefully this simple trick works for you. I know how hard it can be to take the time to read during the school year with the other 1,001 things going on at any given moment, but I hope that doesn't stop you! Pick up a book and read to motivate your students (and possibly your own children as well)!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Five Back to School Classroom Management Tips

 If only I could sit and wait for my students to get their behavior back on track.  Imagine how nice it would be.  I could just sit back, prop my feet up on the desk, and get lost in a book.  Even more perfect, but just as unrealistic, is the thought of having a perfect class with no troubles whatsoever. 

Photo credit:

The reality is your class’ behavior will range from year to year and so it is best to have a classroom management plan in place for even the toughest of classes. 

I remember all the advice I was given during my college experiences.  While some of it was beneficial, all of my real learning came from being in the classroom itself.   So what tips do I have for excellent classroom management so you do not turn into the skeleton above while waiting?  

Rule #1- Don’t Make Assumptions.  Every school has a method of notifying the next year’s teacher of each individual student’s behavior and academics.  Avoid looking at each individual’s file until well after school has begun.  You don’t want to make a judgment and label any student right away.  A child may mature over the summer.  Further, we all have different teaching styles.  Ours just might be the one style that specific student needed to have a great year!   Instead, watch.  Observe student’s behaviors and see what you notice.  (Just remember, the first few days back they tend to respond a bit more appropriately.  I always believed it was the shock element of actually having to be at school again!)  

Rule #2- Devise a Behavioral System Children Can Follow.  There are many effective behavioral plans out there.  You could easily have a student move their clip up or down for choices made or have a classroom economy.  While the method is important, the actual rules are what counts.  I have seen classrooms with many, many rules listed.  The poor kids wouldn’t be able to keep up!  Keep the rules simple- but make sure they are also clear.  The rule, Be Respectful, is a fabulous rule, but do children fully comprehend it?  I can tell you from my experience as a mother, I’m still always teaching my 16 year old daughter what respectful means.  Each day she presents new challenges and each day I have to reteach.  I’m not saying do not use the rule, be respectful, just make sure students understand it.  Take time out at the beginning of the year (and revisit them often) to explain explicitly what each means and looks like.  Model, Model, Model.  

Rule #3- Be Consistent with Consequences.  Out of all the rules listed here, this is the most important!  One of the biggest mistakes teachers make is being inconsistent.  Students in grades kindergarten on up will watch for any little wiggle room you will allow.  And by being inconsistent, guess what?!?  You are allowing it!  Not only does it send mixed signals for the students, but it’s also unfair.  

Rule #4- Communicate!  I have a binder that contains a section for each student. This is where I record important information that I have observed throughout the day, including behavior.  I record everything, no matter how minor, just because you never know when you are going to need to refer to it again in the future.  In addition to recording it in my student binder, I also make sure I have a method of keeping parents informed of student behavior throughout the day.  Parents do NOT like to be “blindsided” at conferences with anything.  Further, something we may think is minor, may actually be something very big to a parent and she or he would like to nip it immediately.  

Rule #5- Focus on the Positive.   I know this is much easier said than done, but it is important.  There is not a single human being that enjoys negativity.  Who doesn’t smile inside when they hear something great about themselves?  Reward students for excellent behavior.  Rewards doesn’t have to be an elaborate thing.  It can be something simple like spending a lunch with you or pun tickets (see below- click on the picture to download it free!).  Students need to hear that they are on the right track and doing great!  Not only do students need to hear it, but so do parents.  I have sent emails, notes, postcards, and made phone calls to parents letting them know the great accomplishments their child has made.  I can tell you as a parent, I LOVE hearing positive things from my children’s teachers!  It’s encouraging!  Just make sure it’s genuine.

With these few simple rules, you will be able to focus on the things that matter mostHelping each child grow!  

Wishing you the best year ever,


The Owl Teacher is a new blogger from  She has a total of 9 years of experience ranging from third to fifth grade.