Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Summer Learning & Having a Blast

1.  Loyal Books
All set for summer reading here with audio and text children's books with classics such as, Anne of Green Gables, The Secret Garden, Aesop's Fables, and hundreds of other books to search for.

2. Story Jumper
It's free to create and share a story with Story Jumper. Have your student make a book and read it to the class. There are a variety of publishing fees available.

Download a free Investigator's log book, and experience science file games and activities. Would you like a career in science? Take a career quiz and find out the best job for you.

4. Rhymes
Want help creating a song or poem? Try for help in writing lyrics and poetry.

5. Splash Math
Do your students need some extra help with basic math facts? Try some fun math games for elementary grade levels.

6. Mr Nussbaum Social Studies Games
Where is Mr. N? What Country is the Computer Thinking of? Delivering Pizzas on Time and College America are just some of the interesting learning game activities here.

7. Science Kids
Science & technology experiments, facts, games, free activities, quizzes, videos & more.

8. No Time for Flash Cards 
Outdoor activities that encourage physical and imagination skills.

9. Best Summer Books for Kids 2018
Need some new summer reading material? Find out here what might interest your students.

10. Let the Games Begin
Get some really great ideas for activity games in the yard that you can create and play all summer. Use with trivia questions before each move and there it is, you have a learning game!

11. Activity Village
Printable, crafts, puzzles and more for rainy summer days.

12. Nourish Interactive
Students can learn about the food groups to keep healthy with these free printables and games.

13. Summer Crafts for Kids
Exciting, inexpensive crafts for all ages to do indoors or out.

Imagery supplied by

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Flash Freebie for Friendly Followers On TN * 2 Days Only*

Adages and Proverbs will be gone in a flash! Remember the old adage, "The grass is always greener on the other side of the hill."? In Adages and Proverbs, learners begin to understand time honored advice after reading and participating in lesson plan activities. Adages and Proverbs Learning Game Board sold separately. 
Adages and Proverbs includes: 
lesson plans for 4-5 days and game time,
46 task cards,
game instructions,
and two awards cards

Your feedback is very much appreciated. Thank you.

Imagery supplied by glitter

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Ideal Schools & Ingenuity

    As we know, the US obesity level for children is very high. Children are sitting for six hours or more each day at a desk. What can be done to encourage more activity and creativity at school?

1. Create larger classrooms when building new schools.

If the classrooms are large to begin with, more centers can be made and more ideas can be carried out. I have seen brand new primary schools costing taxpayers two to four million dollars with very small, cramped quarters for a class of 15 or more children. Students and teachers could barely move around, and the room ambiance was akin to sardines in a can.

2. Classroom Furniture

Unfortunately, classroom furniture has stayed the same throughout history with desks, chairs and a podium for the teacher. Back in the day when children had to walk to school five or ten miles, seating might have been a very welcoming beginning to studies. Now, however, children are waiting to board busses with virtually no walking. Some ideas to increase activity might be an assortment of balance ball chairs, adjustable standup desks, couches, activity centers, and bean bag chairs. I have seen one teacher have her husband build risers for a small corner of her class, where students could stand up or sit down. Well, I hear Google has slides in the workplace. Hint.

3. Daily OPT

My brother, formerly in the army, told me about OPT, or Overall Physical Training. After I'd been sitting creating graduate papers for days on end, it was easy, at least for me, to pile on the poundage. He suggested daily OPT, which is walking. Now I walk.

What I noticed about being a walker is that the same daily scene can get very monotonous. Headphones with music can help. But, what might even be better is a pathway that changes with the seasons.

4. Pathways

This may sound like a wild idea to some. But, believe it or not, plans for gorgeous outdoor/indoor school environments have been out there for years, and are very rarely used. They can even be changed, much like a set design. When I think of nice walking areas, I think about botanical gardens. I think of trails that diverge in varying directions, not knowing what is beyond, and secrets. The flora all changes with the seasons. What a great place to be walking and seeing growth and changes in nature. A great thing for kids to be experiencing. 

I've studied outdoor/indoor school environments. The same experience could be replicated in an indoor conservatory. Children could be experiencing changes in a more temperate and safe environment in the city or cold climates. Although infrequently used in schools, the designs for these surroundings can fluctuate and are absolutely s-t-u-n-n-i-n-g.

5. Play Area Expansions

"We have a play area."

Okay, there is a slide, a swing set and some monkey bars set in a fenced in area with mostly dirt, some unkempt grass and cement. I've always thought that not enough reasoning is given to the play area. Slides and swings are just deposited in any area, without regard to the question, "Why are they there?". Some children are bored and sit on the pavement. Design plans might be drawn up to make the most out of the playground, giving thought to flora, different activities and what children like to do.

6. A Child's Work

 "Play is the work of children (Piaget)." Children who have imaginations might bring new inventions never thought about into their adult life's work. In one study, children were asked what they'd wanted in a playground. Surprisingly, they liked natural materials, such as wood, as opposed to plastics.

How about asking the children what they'd like on the playground? Children's voices should be heard. The playground should be a much more inviting area that looks pleasing to all, and has a great deal more to do, and discover. 

7. All About Money

Wow, this sounds all too expensive. Yet, schools are given millions of dollars by the state and federal governments. In other words, you, the taxpayer. Where does the money go? Much of it might go to textbooks and associated materials, such as workbooks. A good idea might be to look over your school district's fiscal budget. You might be surprised.

The math... 15 children in a classroom with say, $200 worth of workbook materials each, equals $3,000 per year per class. Let's say there are 25 classrooms in one school equaling $ 75, 000 per year. Multiple that by the amount of district wide schools, and there you have it, a huge sum.

, teachers have been trained, and many are qualified to create their own instructional materials. Many instructors hold graduate degrees and beyond.

8. Ingenuity

Much of the text book stuff  I've noticed that many teachers are directed to follow verbatim, doesn't do a great deal for students. If so, then US would not have a genuine problem with school report card failure, and so on. Remember, some of these textbook writers might rarely deal with children and if ever on a daily learning basis. 

Some teachers have complained about the age appropriateness of some text and activities, such as students memorizing difficult spelling lists of 20 words at the age of  7, and other problems, such as the lack of differentiating instruction for low and high levels of students. In my experience, far too many ways of approaching basic skills practice cloud children's thinking... making them insecure in their abilities to learn.

Memorizing is an important skill. But, developing a child's imagination should be supported, as it is hard to encourage later, as an adult. Many teachers are required to follow district purchased materials word for word. But, allowing those teachers who are capable to make their own materials for classes might encourage ingenuity and eliminate monotony.

If skilled teachers were able to use their originality to create their own classroom materials, students might be encouraged to use their imaginations. More activity would naturally follow, as many children learn best when doing.

 The principle goal of education in the schools should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done. `Piaget

Imagery supplied by  

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Best Internet Teacher Freebies

   What teacher doesn't like free teaching supplies? Even though most of us have been trained to make our own teaching materials, it's great not having to spend extra time finding them on the Internet, or creating them ourselves. 

Instead, we can spend more time on planning fun learning activities for students. These last few weeks, I have been out there searching for freebies to add to my repertoire. Here are some of the top teaching materials and videos that I've found.

1. Sleeping Bear Press Teachers Guides

Pre-k level alphabet book teaching guides for many Sleeping Bear Press books. 

2. Space Based Teacher's Guide

 Space-Based Astronomy—An Educator Guide with Activities for Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education is intended for grades 5-8. This work has 103 pages involving Liquid Crystal IR Detector, Telescope Performance, Visible Light Collectors, Resonating Atmosphere, binary numbers, paint by the numbers, deep space astronomy websites, a glossary, and more.

3. Pygmalion Teacher's Guide

Synopsis of Pygmalion, pre-reading, during and after reading activities for high school students.

4. Great Paper Airplane

Curriculum based activities using paper airplanes involving forces of aerodynamics. 

5. Beaverly Cleary Teaching Guide

This packet, with activities for elementary students, includes an interview with re-known author, Beverly Cleary.

6. Old Yeller Study Guide

7. Growing Up Online A Study Guide for Teachers

This lesson about the online generation has discussion questions corresponding to the chapters of the film. The lessons and activities can be used without watching the movie.

8. Picturing America

The National Endowment for the Humanities and with the American Library Association offers reproductions of American art to school classrooms and public libraries. This packet includes twenty reproductions, a teachers resource book, and other resources.

9. Helping Your Child Learn Mathematics: Parent Math Toolkit

Print out activities for parents to do with their children this summer. A 43 paged booklet for parents to encourage their children to learn math in everyday life and for the future.

10. Reading and Writing with your Child: Parent Toolkit.

Literacy tips for parents.

11. Congress for Kids

Congress for Kids helps students learn about our federal government and how its actions affect the people.  

12. Circle of Stories

Circle of Stories includes lesson plans and Native American stories.

13. Pathways to Freedom: Maryland and the Underground Railroad.

Pathways to Freedom takes students back to the past through the Underground Railroad. A classroom resources link provides materials for this unit.

14. Kid's Castle

Have fun learning about castle structures with this virtual castle. There are also learning activities in this tour.

15. Growth of a Nation

This short 10 minute movie shows the history of American territory.

Graphics supplied by

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Please Welcome Charles Kastens

About Charles

Charles Kastens is completing his 20th year as an elementary classroom teacher in Aurora,CO. He earned his Masters in Administration in 2003, and became a National Board Certified Teacher in 2012.  He has served in a variety of Personal Financial Literacy leadership roles at the building, district, and state level.  He has recently been involved in helping revise the Colorado state social studies standards (emphasis on K-5 PFL standards) with the Colorado Department of Education. His store on Teachers Pay Teacher offers elementary teachers a wide range of resources in reading, writing, math, science, and of course, Personal Financial Literacy! He is married to his beautiful and amazing wife of almost 19 years, Christine.  They have three children, ages 15, 14, and 12. They all love the amazing Colorado nature and rooting for the hometown Broncos!

   If you were asked the question, “What do you believe are the most important standards you teach your students?” How would you answer?  Some might say language arts, a large number would proclaim math, while others would make their case for science, technology, or fine arts. For me, the answer is easy...Personal Financial Literacy.

The Power Of Economy

   Personal Financial Literacy (PFL) standards, fall under the economics (ECON) branch of social studies.  While ECON standards teach students how money works within our country and around the world, PFL focuses on helping students understand how to use their financial resources.

   No matter what our students grow up to be...a doctor, construction worker, teacher, computer scientist, or stay-at-home-mom, each and every one of our students is going to have money they will have to manage as an adult.  This is a fact that cannot be overlooked.

Hitting Home

   The reason these standards are so near and dear to me are because of my own financial struggles as a young adult.  Being raised by a single-mom, money was tight.  We lived paycheck-to-paycheck, and saving was never modeled.

   Upon graduation from college, I was staring at what seemed an insurmountable amount of student loan, car payment, and credit card debt.  Fortunately, I eventually married a wonderful woman who possessed the financial skills that I lacked.  After realizing that what I had been doing wasn’t working, I committed to learning what I needed to know from her.

   We dug in during our first few years of marriage, and were able to conquer my debt before our first child arrived.  I am happy and proud to say that we have been debt free for over 15 years!
   Because of my story, and so many like it, Personal Financial Literacy standards have become a passion of mine.  Debt is crushing our young people and families, alike. 
 #PowerOfEcon Day
   Thursday, April 26th is #PowerOfEcon day sponsored by Econ Essentials.  It is a nation-wide event that brings educators together from all over the country to discuss the power of economics in our lives and schools.  Throughout the day, you will have the opportunity to find content and interact with economic experts on Twitter (#powerofecon).
   If you are looking to involve your classroom in this day, or are looking for an end of year project to engage your students in, I encourage you to check out my Operation: Shark Tank resource.  It is an opportunity for you to introduce the concept of entrepreneurship to your students through reading groups, an occupation interest inventory, a human capital study, and other fun activities.  
   Students conclude the unit by developing their own small business plan and create a Shark Tank type of presentation.  
Difficulty at the Elementary Level
   As an elementary classroom teacher for the past 20 years, I understand the almost impossible task of trying to fit everything we need to do in any given day.  When most teachers hear about the PFL standards, their response is typically, “What, you want me to fit in ANOTHER thing into my jam packed schedule?” or “Don’t they learn that stuff in high school?” My response is helping my colleagues realize that PFL is not something that should be separated as an individual thing that needs to be done. The key to teaching the PFL standards is integration.  
   For example, there are a growing number of children’s books that have Personal Financial Literacy concepts woven within the text.  I have created several Literature Circle resources that utilize these wonderful children’s literature titles, including One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference, A Chair for Mama, and Uncle Jed’s Barbershop.

   These resources which can be found at my Teachers Pay Teachers store (, enable teachers to teach PFL standards within a language arts lesson...what a deal!

Elementary school is not too young to start teaching students these necessary life skills.  In fact, it is the perfect time to start!


Thursday, April 12, 2018

Pros and Cons of K-12 Public Virtual School

     Public K-12 Internet schools are definitely on the rise and many claim to be free. So, I have been doing some investigating. I have always loved the idea of K-12 Internet school, but it looks like there could be many improvements. Some of these virtual schools have won very prestigious technology awards, and are highly funded. There are some naturally great components, too, that go along with students learning in a cyber territory.

    My grandfather was a businessman. He always made a list of the pros and cons before he made any decisions. I'll use his practice now, as I fill you in on some of the issues that I've come across. Would you like to hear the good news or the bad news first? After this, I have some proposals that might help the future of public Internet schools.

Good News

1. Flexibility

   K-12 public virtual school gives students and parents the ability to create a schedule that they like. Let's say math and bike riding in the morning, English language arts on the patio after lunch, art and music in the afternoons after softball practice or ballet, and science and social studies after morning cartoons on the weekends.

2. Ability to Focus

  Students have a better capability to study on the concepts at hand without the worry of fitting in,wearing the latest fashions, or being the smartest. That is, if they are intrinsically motivated to do well in their studies. But, this mainly self-guided, independent approach helps children to learn to focus on their studies.

3. Adaptable Programs

   If your kid is a math whiz, or having difficulties with certain subjects, the content can be adjusted to his or her level. This is more difficult to do in a brick and mortar class, where there are 25 to 30 other students. Students that are above or below grade levels could get left out, and bored.

4. Field Trips

   Virtual schools sometimes have field trips scheduled throughout the year, which makes the experience both educational and social.

5. Flaws Corrected Daily

   Be assured by administrators that any problems with the curriculum are being dealt with 24-7. Designers work around the clock to fix any issues with the program. Sounds good.

Bad News

1. Socialization

  Although there are some field trips and even on line social clubs, it is really difficult for most kids to socialize in this manner. Especially after working all day on the computer. Who wants to be on the computer yet again? Instead, students may feel left out and become very desperate for friends. A few field trips just won't do it. There might be play group sign-ups, but students might be located too far apart to make driving around feasible.

2. Caregiver Teachers

  It is wonderful to have your mom or dad teaching you. But, for some online public schools, the instruction is carried out all day, by you or a caregiver. There may be little time spent with an actual teacher. One I know of has a one hour, one session lesson per week for the student. Other class times might be scheduled with the teacher, and are considered "extra help", if they need it. There is far too much work on behalf of the caregivers, who have to go to classes, too, to learn how to instruct. Beside that, the daily work often exceeds six or even 8 hours per day depending on grade level.

3. Curriculum Alignment

   Sometimes what is learned in class is not what is assessed on the computerized test. Newly introduced vocabulary and new ways of presenting ideas on the test might leave your student confused. Poorly aligned assessments could lead to bad grades, even if your student knew the content. Children often begin to doubt themselves academically. "Am I really a good student? But, I just failed this test." Worse yet, these kinds of assessments could lead your student to repeat a grade.

4. Cabin Fever

  It is generally nice to be at home. But, day after day in the same place with the same old routine, some kids might feel the need to go somewhere else or do something new. But, if the assignments take over 6- 8 hours a day to complete, with caregiver coaching all the way, this might not be a possibility. Kind of like brick and mortal school.

5.  Learning Remotely or Remotely Learning?

    Let's play the cello on a keyboard. Yes, that is right- learn how to play virtual instruments using a keyboard.  It can be fun. But, what is the connection to the real instrument? Very little. Team sports or even any kind of team spirit? Not even happening. By the way, that music program glitch I spoke of never got fixed, even with designers working around the clock.

6.  One Program Suits All?
   No way. But, I have run across required courses that were the same exact content for both my children ages 8 and 9 and my middle school child. Well, my little ones didn't understand it too well, and began to fail until I complained. My middle schooler did very well. Why? The programs were geared for a middle school level, and were not meant for elementary children at all. But, I was told that this was how this virtual school got funding, so all students must take a certain class created for all children. Really? Hum. There were several classes geared for all children, too.

Proposals for Better K-12 Internet Schools

1. Teachers Should Educate

      Teaching professionals have trained specifically, and some for many years, like graduate studies and more, to instruct students. My guess is the popular opinion of  "anyone can teach" follows its way to public virtual school. So, maybe everyone can teach, but not everyone can teach well. There is so much learning, training and talent that goes into teaching properly. I've found that true teaching experts have been reduced to grading portfolio papers and truancy officiating. A gifted teacher has so much more to give!
     Caregivers might help with homework. But, for a caregiver to be given nearly all responsibility for a child's education? That is just plain wrong. However, in some K-12 Public Internet schools, this is what might be happening.
    A college degree from an accredited school is necessary in US public schools. All educators are required by law to have a teaching license in brick and mortar public schools. It seems that far too much "follow through" instruction is left to caregivers, or teacher's aids on some public K-12 Internet schools for most all of the school day. Let's  see........6  hours in one school day, one teacher led class a week, that leaves 29 hours for a "coach". What?  

2. Leisure & Learn Centers

   Have subjects that need interaction, such as PE, art, science experiments, music and others meet collectively at a Leisure and Learn Center. The center would not be like a brick and mortar school, but set up to be more like a community center. That is, students would participate not because they had to, but because they wanted to take part and have signed up because of their interest. What about a softball team? No problem at the center. Extra tutoring, recreational activities, dinner-theater productions, chorus, bands and other special learning can take place here. 

3. Curriculum Excellence

     One of the basic principals in curriculum design is to have tests and quizzes which match up to what the students are learning. No new vocabulary, no new questions, and no new ways of saying things on quizzes and tests. Otherwise, the students are being tested unfairly.

    Age appropriate curriculum is also at the top of the list. An elementary child should not be using the same exact course materials as a middle school child, unless an exceptional child. The teaching tools need to be more kid friendly and, with vocabulary that they can easily understand or have learned already.

   Learning tools that can replicate in real life goes without saying, I hope. What good does learning the flute on a virtual keyboard do? Can a child now qualify for band? Not really.

   Real curriculum designers would know all of this. I wonder how many of these Internet companies employ true educational designers. Just how and why did these fabulous Internet awards even happen for this particular virtual public school? I propose that actual educational designers create curriculum.

Graphics supplied by

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Free Earth Day Vocabulary Word Search

                     FREE Earth Day Vocabulary Word Search Worksheet and Key

April 22nd is Earth Day

Ecology, recycle, sustainable... a free Earth Day worksheet. This word search contains 21 Earth Day vocabulary words plus a teacher's key. Happy Earth Day.

Your feedback is very much appreciated. Thank you.

For more word search freebies, try...

Back to School Word Search Freebie

Black History Word Search Freebie

Veterans Word Search Freebie

Halloween Word Search Freebie

Christmas Word Search Freebie

Teach 100