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Friday, May 22, 2015

Summer Learning Ideas

If you are a teacher looking for some activities for your students to do this summer, OR if you are a parent who wants to keep your child from the dreaded "summer slide" - this post is for you! 

  • Find out if there is a local reading program. Or maybe your state has one. Do some checking and see what you can find!
  • Set aside a little bit of time each day to read! Even as little as 15-20 minutes will do wonders to keep your child from regressing over the summer!
  • Your child does NOT have to read books! Find them magazines, newspapers, or even informational websites to read. The students absolutely ate up the magazines in my classroom this year! (Even the cartoon section of the newspaper counts!) 
  • For every book your child finishes, agree to do a "fun" activity with them at the end of the book. I will never forget getting to carve a duck out of a bar of soap in 3rd grade after reading a book about a boy who carved ducks into wood. Pinterest has a TON of ideas or a simple Google idea would work as well. (Many of these are inexpensive or FREE ideas!) 
  • If possible, read the book with your child. Discuss the story with them at the end of each chapter. Ask them basic questions about who, what, where, and when. How and why questions are even better!

  • Have a ride in the car? Ask your kiddos their basic multiplication and division facts. My brother knew his multiplication facts before he even got to third grade because my mom drilled them with my sister and I so many times in the car! :)
  • This website has a daily math story problem - Check it out on a daily basis if you can - they update daily! (No worries - the answers are there as well!)
  • Play some board games or card games with your child. Many of these games require critical thinking skills, but oftentimes they use some math or language skills too! :)
  • Let your child be part of your everyday math routine. Have them estimate what the groceries are going to cost as you put them in the shopping cart. Have them calculate the gas mileage the next time you fill up.
  • Let your child throw a "summer bash"! The catch - give them a budget and they HAVE to stick to it! It will teach them some great bargain shopping skills (along with some sneaky math along the way). 

  • See if your child can find a penpal. Maybe your child has a cousin in another state? Or perhaps there's another parent in the community or the next community who wants their child to write also. 
  • Keep a journal of your summer activities. Let your child take pictures too and they can turn it into a scrapbook! 
  • Write to your child! Ask your child to write you a basic note each day or several times a week. It can be as short as 2-3 sentences. And if you respond you're showing your child that writing is important! (Or have them help write the grocery list, shopping list, camping list, etc.)
  • Have your child help you write the grocery list!
  • Ask your child to write a letter to their elderly relatives or people in a local nursing home. (Bonus points if you are able to hand deliver these!) 

Please work with your child over the summer. Numerous studies have shown children regress, or lose, about two months of their skills each summer. You can help prevent this!

Here are some websites that might be beneficial to your child! 

Match the antonyms -

Reading Ring (put comic strips in the correct order - comprehension practice) -

If you are looking for further math activities, go here -

Have a WONDERUL summer!!

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Friday, May 15, 2015

FREE Printable to Show Your Coworkers How Much You Care!

I work with some amazing people! Showing them how much I appreciate them has been something I've tried to do throughout the year. {Can educators ever be shown too much appreciation?!} I made these Subway Art photo frames for Christmas, did a "chip" activity earlier in the year, and thanked them for their "Extra" help when school started. I thought it was only fitting to end the year with something else. :)

Simply click here or either picture to download your free copy. 

Affix a lottery ticket, or "scratchie", and give away!

Maybe your colleagues will get lucky and win! =)

Enjoy the end of the year everyone!

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Thursday, May 7, 2015

Context Clues: Let the Search Begin!

Context Clues - Let the Search Begin!  Ideas for introducing context with pictures and for teaching three types of context clues.   

 At first, kids learn that one word goes with one thing. “Dog” goes with their furry pet. “Walk” means to slow down. But eventually they come to realize that words can have more than one meaning, and later still they learn that they can search for the exact meaning of a word by using its context. That is when language becomes really interesting! As kids learn to use context clues, they get their first glimpse into the complexities of our language.   Take another look at this image.  

  Context Clues - rock   

 According to the picture, which sentence correctly uses the word rock

A) I found a piece of purple quartz to add to my rock collection. 
B) You can rock the baby in his bouncy seat until he falls asleep. 
C) Classic rock is my favorite kind of music.   

The picture tells you that Answer C is correct. The background (the context) shows a guitarist playing and jumping in the air. He is not hunting for rocks, and he is not rocking a baby. Here is another picture with plenty of context clues.  

  Context clues - fishing   

 According to the picture, which sentence correctly used the word line? 

A) Line the baking pan with parchment paper. 
B) The fish keep stealing the bait from my line
C) Start from the third line in scene four, please.     

Pictures of words with multiple meanings are great for introducing the concept of context clues, but with a little practice, students can learn to find clues to the meanings of all types of words in written text just as easily as in pictures. They just need to know what to look for. It may help them to know that, generally, there are three types of context clues to be on the lookout for: explanation clues, example clues, and contrast clues.   Explanation clues are the easiest type; they tell what the word means. Text books often have explanation clues after key words in the text. Example clues are frequently found in informational texts, too. Reading an example also makes it easy for students to infer the meaning of a word. Contrast clues tell what a word is not. These can be trickier for students to deal with because the students have to be sure to notice that the clue is telling them the opposite of the word’s meaning.   

Both of my context clues PowerPoint presentations provide clear explanations to introduce this skill along with interactive practice for reinforcement. With Context Clues , students practice choosing the correct word based on the context, defining a word from context, and using the context to choose among multiple meanings of words. With Context Clues – Three Types , students practice finding all three types of context clues and then using them to understand the meanings of the words.    

  Context Clues Three Types ppt Context Clues ppt   

Classroon Middle ThumbnailSharon Fabian, from the Classroom in the Middle blog, has spent over 20 years teaching English, reading, and other subjects to middle school students. She loves having more time now to create and write about resources for teachers – especially materials for teaching reading, vocabulary, and writing to students in grades 4 through 8. Here is the link to her store, also called Classroom in the Middle.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

End of Year Candy Ball FUN

Here's an activity I did last year with my 6th graders. It was a LOT of fun! I can't remember exactly where I originally saw it, but I'm guessing it was from a pin on Pinterest.

Anyway, here's how I did it ---

Get some candy. Anything will do! Keep in mind your students' allergies.

Take one piece of candy and put plastic wrap around it.

Continue to put 1-3 pieces of candy inside each layer of plastic wrap. 

Just for fun, throw in a layer of packaging tape every so often. :) 

There's really no right or wrong way to make this! 

I'm guessing it took me about an hour to do this. And it was fun!
It's the perfect DIY project for sitting in front of the TV some evening. 

Were the directions above not clear enough for you?
Watch this video to help you out!

Now for the rules when playing.

Get all players in a circle. I had three pairs of gloves (just the thin $1 type). The person trying to get the candy, and the next two students had gloves. You also need two dice.

Choose a student to start with the candyball. That person and the next two put gloves on. (This is only so they waste less time getting the gloves on when it's their turn. Gloves make the candyball harder to get into!)

Student one gets to keep any candy they can retrieve during their turn. Student two is trying to roll doubles on the dice. Student three (and probably everyone else in the room) is cheering to hurry! As soon as student two rolls doubles, they get the ball. Student one then gives the gloves to the next person. It keeps going around the circle as long as their still candy left in the ball - which should be until the very end if you made it right. :)

I wish I could show you the video I took of this.! The students were screaming, laughing, and just having a great time!

This ball lasted us about an hour.

As you can see from the blurred photo above, things get pretty intense!

This was a great deal of fun, and something I plan to do with every age level I teach going forward! It can be a little spendy for the candy, but nothing compared to what I spend on books in a year. :)

Let me know if you have any questions. Hopefully I've explained the game well enough for you to understand.

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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Sight Words Games

What is the point of sight words games? Are the kids actually learning anything, or just playing?
First, a brief explanation of sight words. These are words that kids need to be able to recognize at a glance—by sight—as part of learning to read fluently. These are words that occur very frequently in written English (words like can, will, and), some of which are also phonetically irregular (for example, buy, come, talk). Once a child is able to read these high-frequency words quickly, he can focus his attention on the more advanced words and on understanding the meaning of what he’s reading.

The way to learn sight words is basically to memorize them one by one through repetition—seeing the word, hearing the word, saying the word, spelling the word, and even writing the word. But how to do this without boring the pants off your active, fidgety kid and without driving yourself crazy? I recommend short, straightforward lessons, reinforced with plenty of game time.

A word of caution: sight words games are a great way to reinforce and practice a sight words lesson, but games are not the way to introduce new words. A child should have a pretty decent grasp of a word before you use it in a game. Especially if you are working with a group of children—the last thing you want is to embarrass a struggling reader in front of his classmates by stumping him with a word he’s not yet familiar with. Games are for reinforcement, not for introducing new material.

At, we have developed twelve great sight words games for you to play with your children or students. All the materials are free and fully customizable. Just print out a game board and/or set of cards, and start playing (and learning)!

One of my favorites is Book Land, a sight words version of the classic board game Candy Land. In Candy Land, a player moves forward according to the number and color of the squares on the card they draw. In Book Land, each card has a sight word on it, and the player must read the word correctly (and quickly) before they can move their game piece. A child can play with a parent, or 2-4 children can play on their own with a teacher just checking in as needed.

One set of Book Land cards can contain up to 54 different words. You can use this game to review a bunch of already-learned words, or customize the cards to focus on just a handful of words with lots of repetition. We also provide pre-made cards using the two most-used sight words lists: Dolch and Fry.

One feature that parents love about Book Land is that younger, non-reading siblings can join in the fun! They just play according to the traditional game rules, while Big Brother has to read the cards. (Some parents also like that our game board graphics reference different types of literature instead of different types of sugar!)

If your child isn’t a big fan of Candy Land, try Bingo, Fly Swat, or Dominoes instead. Just find a game they like and start practicing those sight words!

Margo Edwards is the Director of Content Development at, a website dedicated to the promotion of child literacy through a variety of free online resources. is proud to be sponsored by the Georgia Preschool Association. 
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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Magic Square Puzzles -- Telling Time, Four Syllable Words, & a FREEBIE

I finally got some new Magic Square Puzzles created!
Read below to learn about each one!
(And make sure to stick around for the FREEBIE!)

Here is a Magic Square for students to practice their four syllable words.

This Magic Square contains 60 pages of puzzles! There are five puzzles for hours 1-12. You can get it by clicking here or on the picture below!
(This puzzle helps teach CCSS 3.MD.A.1)

Not wanting to commit to 60 pages just yet? Then try out this FREEBIE!

What Magic Square Puzzles do you want to see in YOUR classroom?
I'm always looking for new puzzles to create!

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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Teacher Loan Forgiveness vs. PSLF: Which to choose?

Thanks for joining us for the last installment of Heath enlightening all of us about teacher loan forgiveness options. This entire three part series started because of my blog post about my experience with loan forgiveness. Then Heath wrote Part 1 and Part 2. Make sure to check them all out to get the most information you can! (And potentially save yourself some money in the process!!)

Hello, Heath from Student Loan Insider again. So far we’ve covered both Public Service and Teacher Loan Forgiveness programs. However as it doesn’t make sense to do both, which do you choose?

Honestly, there are 3 things that will affect your decision on which to choose.

Your loan to forgiveness ratio. How much your forgiveness is for your Teacher Loan Forgiveness versus your overall loan amount can sometimes make your decision a no brainer. Here are 3 examples:

-If your account is A LOT more than your TLF forgiveness amount. If you have $60,000 in debt, it would make more sense to go for complete forgiveness after 120 payments than $5,000 after 5 years, right?

- If your loan debt is less than your TLF forgiveness amount. If you can get it taken care of in 5 years, why wait 10? If your interest and principal combined are less than your forgiveness at the end of five years, go with the Teacher Loan Forgiveness.

-Your loan can be paid off in 10 years or less. While basing your payment can save you some money and stretch it to say 11 or 12 years, it probably makes more sense to just do the five years of forgiveness and then take care of it. I mean you don’t want to keep it around like a pet if you don’t have to right?

Your marital status. This is the thing that can really make the decision hard. Because as we may recall, if you file Married Filing Jointly you must include you and your spouse’s income in determining your payment. While you can have it based on just yours if you file Married Filing Separately, there are a lot of tax benefits you miss out on while doing so and it may not make sense. 

So if you enter into this then meet Mr. or Ms. Right and they make a lot of money, your payment can change by a lot. There are worse problems to have but it may make PSLF no longer make sense.

Your career aspirations. Or perhaps you will be the one bringing in the money. What if you go from a teaching job to an administrative one with a 20k pay raise. This will not only severely change your payment amount (or make you ineligible possibly) but would make you ineligible for TLF because you are no longer a classroom teacher.

However don’t let this deter you. A $20,000 raise with no change in lifestyle is better for you in one year than either forgiveness program. So go for that job and love it, just beware of the consequences. 

You may also want to move closer to home. If this new job is not a Title I school, you will no longer be eligible for TLF. So this would be a case where PSLF is the way to go. 

So what should you do? Well if your situation isn’t obvious, then I have a couple of suggestions for you.

First off, set up your loan like you doing Public Service Loan Forgiveness. You can still go back and apply for TLF later if it doesn’t work. So get on an income plan and act like you are going to 120 qualifying payments. If it works out great. If something changes, then you have something to fall back on.

But remember that life does change. You don’t want handcuffed to your job in either situation just because you decided you need forgiveness. So if you are able to save some money and make payments to yourself as if you are paying for your loans, I would suggest you do this. What this allows you to do is have the freedom to pursue other opportunities and still be able to pay your loans. You can earn this money through extra jobs such as tutoring. It’s a bit of a rogue way of looking at it, but it will certainly give you some freedom. Also if you do achieve forgiveness, now you have a huge funds to do whatever else you want with! While I realize this is easier to do for say $30k in debt vs $70k, it is a plan to consider if feasible.

So it appears we have reached the end of our student loan journey together. If you have any other questions, we can talk about them in the comments. I really appreciate Heather giving me a chance to give you some tips on common student loan assistance programs and hope it has been helping to you too.

As a final thank you, I want to give you one more offer. I offer a complete analysis of your student loans where I help you from beginning to end figure out how to achieve student loan success. But I realize this can be cost prohibitive at just under $200.00. So through May 5, 2015 I am offering 60% off this service. That will take it to under $80! If you are interested, just use the coupon code HOJO60 at checkout. You can find the Hojo’s Teaching Adventures exclusive page here.

Again it has been my pleasure to assist each and every one of you. If you need anything else ever you can contact me, leave a note in the comments, or let Heather know if there is another pressing issue I can be of assistance with. Have a great day and here is to student loan success!