Monday, October 31, 2011

Technology or Tradition? Here's Some "Middle" Ground

By Beth Hammett

Teaching tools have evolved as technology has increased, and, in today’s classrooms, students can easily attend lectures, create movies, take virtual tours, and so much more; therefore, it’s no surprise that so many of today’s best teaching tools, such as Teachers Pay Teachers, are tied to technology. Yet, there are some traditional, hands-on resources that make the list for middle grades resources. Here are a few of my favorites, both with and without technology.

Educational Books:
  • Tried and True: Time Tested Activities for Middle School Students by Inez Liftig (hands-on learning activities)
  • The Ten Minute Trainer and Training from the Back of the Room by Sharon Bowman (How to turn lectures into interactive learning sessions; see PowerPoint at
  • Fires in the Middle School Bathroom by Kathleen Cushman (student perspectives on education /getting to know students) Lesson plans and instructional information at:
  • Classroom Assessment Techniques by Thomas Angelo and Patricia Cross (marketed to college professors but easily adapted for middle school learner)
  • Three Minute Motivators by Kathy Paterson (ice breakers, connectors, and more to engage students in learning)
  • Classroom Activators: More than 100 Ways to Energize Learners by Jerry Evanski (more ice breakers/ connectors)


Virtual Field Trips:

Lesson Plans: (of course!)




There are so many fabulous resources available for teachers, and these are just a few to get started with! In addition, many companies offer free merchandise, so have fun browsing the list to find materials that engage and educate students. Make the upcoming school year a memorable one by using the list of Best Teaching Tools for Middle School Educators.

Related Products at Teachers Pay Teachers:

Accuplacer Testing: Hints and Tips $3.00
100 Drama/Improv Acting Scenarios $3.49
Grammar Fail Bulletin Board Literacy Center $5.00 
UTIL Web Based Writing Activities  $24.95
Diving Deep for Synonyms and Antonyms   Free!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Featured Teacher: Kim Collingwood

1.   How long have you been on Teachers Pay Teachers?  What made you decide to be a part of it?
I have been a part of Teachers Pay Teachers for 6 months.  I decided to become a part of it when I started downloading the free lessons in the newsletter.  They were wonderful.

2.   When did you know that you wanted to be in education?
I went to school to be a geologist but I had my first child and had to put off getting my masters for awhile so I went back to school and got my teaching certificate instead.  I was about 27 when I did this.  I am glad I did.

3. How are you currently involved in education?
I am a 6th and 7th grade science teacher and a 7th grade reading teacher.  I am also part of a group at my district which promotes science.

4.   What would be your advice to people who are considering joining Teachers Pay Teachers?
 I would say that patience pays off.  Don't think people will find you right away.  You will have to create amazing products and wait.  People rarely do well for themselves overnight.

5.   What has been a highlight, thus far, about being on Teachers Pay Teachers?
Really the community has been wonderful.  They are generous with advice and praise.  I really look forward to reading posts on the forum.  I also was amazed that my products actually sold and people liked them.  You never know when you put your work out there if people will find it as useful as you do.

6. What is something fun about you that other teachers don’t know?
I am a real Lord of the Rings fan. I love the characters in the book and also how they were portrayed in the movie.  I am looking forward to The Hobbit which will come out in 2012.

7.   Do you participate in education outside of the classroom?  In what type of role?
I tutor reading to dyslexic students outside of the classroom.  My daughter is severely dyslexic and I started with her and kind of branched out to others that can't crack the code of reading.

8.   What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?
I would really like to be a paleontologist.  I majored in geology to learn all about past life but didn't go as far as becoming a paleontologist.  I don't know if I would stick with vertebrates or invertebrates, however.

9.   What profession would you not like to do?
I don't think I could be a person in the medical field.  I could deal with the schooling but I don't know if I could deal with sick people too well.

10.                 Who is your favorite author?  Favorite educational author?  And why?
My favorite author is J.R.R Tolkien of course.  Being a geologist at heart I really loved the maps that went with the journey.  An author I have used in the classroom this year is Suzanne Collins who wrote The Hunger Games.  Her books are will motivate even your least bookish kid.


Kimberly Collingwood (Science Etc.) Science Etc.'s Teachers Pay Teachers Store

I really had a hard time teaching lunar phases with flash cards because my students would cut them apart and then the phases would be completely messed up and not with the name of the phase at all.  I devised a system for lunar flash cards that has a symbol that matches the phase with a description so they don't get disorganized.  The phases were taken with my telescope.

Probably the other is my Mars Rover Project.  I created it to keep my students motivated at the end of school last year.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Teachers Pay Teachers Link Up: FREEBIES for Secondary!

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Power of PowerPoints

Interested in actively engaging your students?  What about mastering key content standards?  Then, think about opening up your Microsoft Office tab and taking another look at PowerPoint.
Powerpoints provide visual stimulus that students crave.  When used correctly, the presentations bring engagement to difficult to master standards, and they can provide fun to dull concepts.  PowerPoints are worth the time because they will be enjoyed and reused over and over again.

Here are some tips when using pre-made PowerPoints in the classroom:

            Is it BORING?  Does it teach what it needs to? 
            Are there errors in grammar/spelling?
            Is there enough guided practice? 

            Does the presentation go far enough—does it provide tricky
            problems/common student errors and give solutions?

            Make sure the presentation's answers are correct!

Here are some tips for making great PowerPoints for your classroom:

Begin with the essentials:  standard being taught, explanations, examples, guided practice, and independent practice.  The content of the presentation is the key!

                 If you’re using graphic organizers, provide students         
                 visual representations to they know exactly what is expected.

                       Minimal text is best. You don’t want to overpower your students 
                too much on the screen.
                  Stick with Windows fonts.  Increase the font size.  Bigger is better!

Get a clicker!  You want to be able to roam your classroom and see how your students are progressing.  These are available for under $20.00 at your local office supply store.

Don’t use the pre-created text boxes and bullets.  They are set up for business presentations not teaching.  Find the “insert text box” button…and use it!

Use clip art and animations sparingly, and make sure your students can relate to them.

When it comes to video, sounds, and eye popping words, keep it simple!  For instance, the typewriter animation where words come out one letter at a time is cool, once, and then it becomes annoying.

When choosing colors of background and font, use as much contrast as possible, and keep it the same throughout.

Edit, edit, edit! Check your Powerpoint for errors several times before you use it.  You don’t want a student calling you out in class, but, if they do…reward them!

Be thematic. Students gravitate towards thematic Powerpoints.  It makes them cohesive and memorable.

When finished with your lesson, take a moment to write yourself a note on how the presentation went.  List any mistakes and add any needed practice.  As you close, rename your presentation and use the revised date.

Powerpoints aren’t rocket science, and they are easy to do, so go out there and impress your students and yourself!

Teachers Pay Teachers Related Products:

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Featured Teacher: Addie Williams

1.   How long have you been on Teachers Pay Teachers?  What made you decide to be a part of it?
I joined about a year and a half ago after stumbling upon them during a Google search.  I saw some great ideas and thought I would throw some of mine in and see how they did.  I was so thrilled when I had my first sale within a few days... I'be been hooked ever since.

2.   When did you know that you wanted to be in education?
I've always had jobs in education as a National Park Ranger, aquarium naturalist, interpreter at a historical site, and as a naturalist on a cruise ship. However, I'd never thought about teaching until I went for a hike with a friend and spent the entire time talking her ear off about the volcanoes and glaciers in the area!  It was like I was struck by a bolt of lightening and I suddenly realized I wanted to be a teacher! I registered for "Teacher School" the following morning at the ripe old age of 29, and began teaching in the classroom at 30.  I've loved it ever since!

3.   How are you currently involved in education?
Currently I split my time in a high-school as teacher-librarian and as a Science teacher.  I love wearing two hats and getting to know students through the classroom and through books. I'm unique in that I've spent many years teaching English, Social Studies, and Science and I love the combination of the three.

4.   What would be your advice to people who are considering joining Teachers Pay Teachers?
Just take the plunge and do it!  However, I'd spend some time really making your products look spiffy - a cover page, list of what's included and some great graphics go a long way.  I'd also suggest reading through the Seller's Forum to see the great suggestions and awesome support that people give one another.

5.   What has been a highlight, thus far, about being on Teachers Pay Teachers?
Watching my sales steadily climb.  Reaching little milestones I've set for my self along the way has also been fun.  I still get excited with every "Product Sold" e-mail that comes my way.

6.   What is something fun about you that other teachers don’t know?
I love to be outside in the great outdoors - hiking, mountain biking, snowshoeing, snowboarding and gardening. I also love to travel and will take any opportunity I get to hit the open road or fly the friendly skies!

7.   Do you participate in education outside of the classroom?  In what type of role?
I am involved in the Geological Association of Canada and often present a workshop for Science / Geography teachers as part of EdGeo.  I also often present around the subject of Geography / Earth Science at a large provincial conference.

8.   What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?
Hmm... tough question!  I'd love to be a tour guide and travel the world sharing it with others.  Kind of like being a "traveling teacher", I guess.

9.   What profession would you not like to do?
I wouldn't like a job where I didn't get to interact with other people.  Sitting in an office in a cubicle in front of a computer holds little appeal to me.

10. Who is your favorite author?  Favorite educational author?  And why?
YA Authors - Patrick Ness, Gordon Korman, Suzanne Collins, Sarah Dessen, Ellen Hopkins, some of Jodie Piccoult's...
For me - Elin Hilderbrand, Jodie Piccoult, Marian Keyes, Catherine Alliot, Ann Patchet, Barbara Kingsolver
Educational - Barry MacDonald's ""Mentoring for Boys"" was great!  I try to stay current by reading online, watching TED Talks (esp. Ken Robinson!)


Addie's Pick Products

I love the Middle Ages and I think the students do as well... there's so much neat stuff to talk about and share with them.  Here's a package of 5 fun and engaging assignments / projects for students who are studying the Middle Ages.

On the flip side, I also teach English and I know that writing can be a challenge for many students.  I've just recently added this package of writing organizers and templates to help students with the process.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Teachers Pay Teachers Link Up: Halloween on Sale!

Monday, October 17, 2011

This Isn't Your Grandma's Social Studies Class!

by Michele Luck

Each year, I interview my students on the first day of school. I ask them what they think of Social Studies (History, Geography…) and what their classes have been like in the past. I usually receive groans and many complaints about the “boring” classes they have endured with lecturing teachers and tired, old content about “dead people.” Sounds like a bad horror film, but for many students, this is still Social Studies reality. However, this does not have to be the case.

Every Social Studies classroom can be exciting and fun! Kids can be on the edges of their seats in anticipation of the next facts, and they can be ready on a moment’s notice to fire off their thoughts and ideas about the changes and major events of our world.

To start, the old materials and old ways of teaching Social Studies have got to go. This would include many textbooks, or at least the dependency to use textbooks as main sources of information. With the many activities available on TpT, you can have great content instruction. Create, or buy, ready-made placard kits with graphic visuals and easy directions for students to gather information through investigations. Set up games or adventures for students for critical thinking while learning the content needed. Most importantly, add technology and allow your students some choices in materials used in your classroom.

Here are a few other ideas:

· Turn your classroom into an archeological site. Let students “dig” for facts or clues to materials you want them to know. For example, let students crawl through trenches made from desks and form plastic tunnels to simulate trenches of WWI.
· Use scavenger hunts and other exploratory games to provide students opportunities to get them up and moving. This also helps them remember what they read or see.

· Allow students chances to become content “experts” and share their knowledge with the next group in a Jigsaw activities.
· Let students create content products to assess their learning, such as skits, songs, or board games. These engage students while offering opportunities to practice content.
· Let them act! Assign students historical figures and encourage them to “meet and greet” one another in an information exchange activity.
· Use visuals to help students picture what they are learning about: character collages drawn by the students, images provided through an internet field trip... Visuals make learning real!
· Provide for freedom of speech in your classroom. Give students forums to express their thoughts on topics. Hang up “Big Paper” for written comments or place a “Soap Box” (a small crate will do) in the front of your classroom to create a public square.
Social Studies classrooms can be the most fun (and most learning) your students can have each day. Take a little time to prepare to make your lessons more engaging and more interesting for your students. In the end, your class will be the one they remember, and appreciate, for a lifetime!

Visit Michele’s Blog at:

Related Teachers Pay Teachers Products:

Candadian Scavenger Hunt Free!

Exchange Trade Route Activity Age of Exploration $4.00

Renaissance People Meet-and-Greet Activity $4.00

WWI Trench Warfare All Quiet on Western Front PPT $3.00

Olympic Games Class Group Competitions $4.00

A Walking Tour of Renaissance Florence $5.00

American Symbols PPT Free!

Go West Young Man! Western Expansion PPT $2.00

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Featured Teacher: Heidi Raki

How long have you been on Teachers Pay Teachers?  What made you decide to be a part of it?
I have been on TPT for 3 years - in October.  I remember the month because that is the month my mom got diagnosed with lung cancer.  I took a leave of absence to take care of here and was looking for extra income to make it possible, so I Googled and found TPT.  I posted 3 items that day.  The next day mom had seizures and went to ICU for a week.  She died 5 days later.  Needless to say I forgot about TPT.  About 2 months later, I got an email saying I had made 50 cents.  I though, hmmmmm, and posted some more.  The next quarter I made $30.  I have steadily gained since and started blogging this summer at  I have seen a spike in my sales and should make enough to pay for my grandma's ticket to visit us in Morocco this Christmas.

When did you know that you wanted to be in education?
I knew I wanted to be a teacher in 10th grade.  I started doing volunteer work at a preschool for special needs students.  I loved it and decided it was what I wanted to do forever.

How are you currently involved in education?
I teach 1st grade at the American Academy of Casablanca.  I have 19 students - 3 of which are native English speakers.  All of the rest of my students speak French and/or Arabic at home with their parents and friends (and on the street and on tv), so they are truly EFL students - they are learning English as a Foreign Language.  I teach in English all day, and they are making a lot of growth, even in a short time.

What would be your advice to people who are considering joining Teachers Pay Teachers?
Teachers Pay Teachers is a great way to take what you would do anyway and make a little extra cash from it.  I take items that I make from my classroom and "format" them; then I put them on Teachers Pay Teachers.  It is very rare that anything in my store is not used in my classroom (except maybe some of my husband's clipart - although those make super cute calendar number cards).  So, my best advice is to sell the quality items you use in your classroom.  Don't worry so much about it being cute (although fonts and cliparts help to sell - they are part of my "formatting") - if you have a quality product, people will buy and come back for more.
What has been a highlight, thus far, about being on Teachers Pay Teachers?
Getting those emails that say "Product Sold" is probably the highlight for me of being on TPT.  Even if I made 50 cents - it still makes me smile at the end of a rough day.

What is something fun about you that other teachers don’t know?
I am a big fan of yoga.  I don't always get to do it each morning, but it's a great way to start the day.  I've even starting using kid's yoga with my students!

Do you participate in education outside of the classroom?  In what type of role?
The only way I participate in education outside of the classroom is as a parent.  I have 3 boys that I work with on a regular basis.  Now that we are in Morocco, I do a kind of "homeschool" with them to maintain their English skills, while they go to school in French and Arabic.  I would love to be involved in political groups that are involved in education, but can never find the time to squeeze it in to my schedule with teaching all day and being mommy all night.

What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?
I never want to stop teaching.  However, I talk all the time about opening my own school some day.  Right now, my only goal is to teach in many different levels, positions and schools, so that I can have a lot of experience and know-how before I decide to buckle down and open that school.  :)

What profession would you not like to do?
Medicine.  My husband is training to practice medicine, and he sees sick kids (like really sick with AIDS and Cancer) all day - I couldn't do it.

Who is your favorite author?  Favorite educational author?  And why?
My favorite author for me (pleasure reading) is John Grisham.  My favorite author(s) for kids are Dr. Seuss, Shel Silverstein and Mary Pope Osborne.  I love reading kid's books and it's hard to pick just one.  Both of my older sons (aged 4 & 7) are obsessed with the Magic Tree House books though, and they are so well written that I enjoy reading them too - so Mary Pope Osborne would have to be the family favorite.

By Heidi Raki

Reading comprehension is such an important skill.  I am a big fan of the book Strategies that Work and I developed this reading journal to help me teach them.  It allows me to see what the kids are thinking while they are listening and compare it to what they are thinking while they are reading independently.

With a class of EFL students, graphics are VERY important - so these word wall cards that I created are crucial.  I hate to tell my kids pan and fan are in the an family, but they don't know what a pan or a fan is!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Teachers Pay Teachers Link Up: Halloween Freebies!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Halloween Fun in Kindergarten: You Can Count On It!

Hello friends,

It is hard to believe that fall is already here upon us. The air is a little cooler, and we are starting to notice that even our school landscape seems to be changing. It is hard not to get into the spirit of “all things fall” when we see pumpkins and gourds in the grocery store, and images of spiders, colored leaves, and jack o’ lanterns aglow. All of these images remind me of being a kindergarten child myself.

Remembering my own childhood has given me great inspiration to create resources and manipulatives for my classroom. As a young child I loved counting, and I counted everything I could! I still have that natural curiosity that I held within as a child, and the desire to know just “how many” of something there really is. As part of our kindergarten curriculum, we learn to count “how many” of many different things. One of my favorite counting activities is The Counting Jar.

The Counting Jar can be so much fun around the holidays, because you can fill it with seasonal items just at the time when you might need a change. Using the contents of the jar, you can teach so many concepts, including developing strategies for counting accurately, comparing quantities, making equivalent sets, and even learning if order matters when we count. Counting jars can be found anywhere and filled with anything--that is what makes them so much fun! You can even have several counting jars around the classroom, and the children can choose which jar to use and record their findings in pictures, numbers, and words.

If you needed more counting fun, these ten frames are hard to resist! They are actually pumpkin ice trays with seasonal erasers as counters. These are perfect for small math groups. You can use these with dice or number cards to represent quantities. You could easily cut these to make five frames, or double them up for double ten frame fun. All items have recently been purchased at my local Dollar Tree--even those fun little counting eyeballs in my counting jar!

Remember those fun spider rings? There was just something magical about those spider rings when you were a child. When you are five, it is the smallest of things that can make you smile. I made counting mats to use with the spider rings in my class. There are so many cool things you can do with counting mats: make a class book, work with scented play dough, and even use stamps and markers!

As I began to wrap up my seasonal walk down my childhood memory lane, I had to remember the very best part: coming home from school and being greeted by my great-grandmother with homemade jumbles cookies with orange frosting. It is still so vivid in my mind, and just like it was yesterday, I can still see the plate of those orange frosted cookies. It's funny how food stimulates the five senses and helps us to remember! One way I've incorporated this memory into my fall studies in the kindergarten classroom is to use seasonal cookie counting mats to work on equivalent sets and the concept of "one more.' Again, we use them with stickers, tiny seasonal cookie cutters, stamps or seasonal manipulatives to vary the activities and keep it fun.

Finally, if you are looking for a little inspiration to reinforce positive behavior this time of year, then you just have to try reading How Full Is Your Bucket for Kids. When you get ready to look for a bucket to fill with your kids… make it fun! Just think of how all of the children will feel when their buckets are filled! How about working on a team goal? I am so fortunate to have my bucket filled each day in Kindergarten. I have recently been known to say that I am the teacher walking around with the invisible bucket over her head, and my bucket is not only full but…simply overflowing! 

Everybody Deserves a Childhood,
Little Miss Kindergarten

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Featured Teachers: Wise Guys

1.   How long have you been on Teachers Pay Teachers?  What made you decide to be a part of it?
We have been on TpT for 2 years. We decided to become members to help other teachers.

2.   When did you know that you wanted to be in education?
We knew we wanted to be in education through our experiences with awesome teachers who cared about the students they taught.

3.   How are you currently involved in education?
We are elementary teachers who currently teach fifth grade. We are also involved in many other school activities.

4.   What would be your advice to people who are considering joining Teachers Pay Teachers?
Our advice would be to put out products that are classroom tested and are of the highest quality.

5.   What has been a highlight, thus far, about being on Teachers Pay Teachers?
The biggest highlight for us is to hear from others about how we have helped them with being a successful teacher.

6.   What is something fun about you that other teachers don’t know?
We golf and play cards together to get our minds off of the busy lives that we live. We both have wonderful families with great kids and spouses who support our efforts.

7.   Do you participate in education outside of the classroom?  In what type of role?
We are involved in union issues, safety patrol, and coaching.

8.   What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?
We would enjoy being professional golfers.

9.   What profession would you not like to do?
We would not like to be street sweepers in New York.

10. Who is your favorite author?  Favorite educational author?  And why?
Our favorite authors are Roald Dahl and Kate DiCamillo because they write in the best interests of the kids.

By Wise Guys

Wise Guy's Prized Picks

We are proud of our reading comprehension packets and guides, along with some creative math activities:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...