Spook Your Space

With Halloween just a week away, it's time to kick your spooky spirit into full gear. If you are teaching about or celebrating the haunted holiday this week, check out these easy thematic ideas to put on the finishing touches.
Tricia-Rennae is sharing these adorable candy corn place cards courtesy of Shy Socialittles party shop.  Although these are intended to clarify where guests should sit at dinner, without the little feet, these smiling candies would be great as name tags.  Punch holes in the tops, and these could be strung into a fun and festive garland.  Also, you could cut each candy shape in half to create any sort of matching game.  One side could be a capital letter while the other shows the lower case, or one side could have a word beginning while the other has an ending.

Once the scene is set, enjoy Dav Pilkey's The Hallo-Weiner, a story about making friends and Halloween fun.
This story is silly and fun, and it makes a great read-aloud.  While the moral unfolds, students will enjoy Pilkey's colorful and comical illustrations.  Adult readers may also enjoy this story which includes a classroom full of dog students whose tie-wearing dog teacher is reading a book called "Dogs Who Hate Fleas and the Fleas Who Love Them." 

After the story, visit The Hallo-Wiener page at Pilkey.com where you can find a quiz for the book as well as a coloring page, a word find, a crossword puzzle, and a promise that two more books featuring Oscar the dachshund will be coming out soon.

Images from Tricia-Rennea and Pilkey.com.


Xtranormal Fun

As a teacher, I have spent lots of time being frustrated about last-minute software incompatibilities that have turned a lesson I spent nights preparing at home into a huge waste of time. When the computers at work don't have the same programs or versions I use at home, all my hard work becomes worthless. For this reason, I am a huge fan of all the cool new free web-based tools that can replace (and often improve on) tried-and-true for-purchase software.

Today, my favorite tool is Xtranormal. This program lets you make a cartoon with customizable characters, scenery, sound effects, camera angles and more. Just type in the text your want the characters to recite, add in gestures and expressions, and click Publish.

Check out my very first movie! It's a book fair promotion.

This would be a fun tool to freshen up an otherwise less-than-thrilling lecture. Students could use this tool to create book reports or presentations. Once you publish, you can just copy the link to your movie and paste it anywhere you want to share.

The only downer with this program is that users have access to other people's movies. Students could easily meander onto the Watch Movies page and view whatever content other users have posted. Students' use of this site may need to be monitored closely.


Monster Bowling

If you are preparing for a fall carnival or looking for a fun physical activity for this time of year, monster bowling is the perfect solution.

Start by rounding up empty 2-liter bottles. You'll need 9 bottles to play, but we made a few extra to have ready in case one rolls across the room during a game. Next wrap each bottle with construction paper and draw on their monster faces. Get creative. We made ghosts, vampires, skulls, Frankenstein and other monster-y creatures.

Once the monsters are decorated, you need to set up your bowling alley. We used a long sheet of butcher paper and cardboard boxes to lay out a lane.
To make this event extra festive, let students use small pumpkins as bowling balls. Have an extra on hand in case an excited bowler tosses a pumpkin with too much force and busts it open.

This activity is good exercise for the bowlers, but boy is it a workout for the person resetting the pins after each turn. Notice the look of exhaustion.
Avoid this phenomenon by allowing student helpers to round up and reset the pins after each turn.

You can bring this activity back for repeat appearances in other parts of the year by modifying the theme...Cupid Bowling, Leprechaun Bowling, the possibilities are endless.


Columbus Day

On August 3, 1492, Christopher Columbus and his crew of 87 men set sail from the coast of Spain to explore the ocean to the west and attempt a journey to India.

In the U.S., the second Monday in October is Columbus Day, a celebration of the landfall in the Americas by Columbus' famous Santa Maria, Pinta and Niña. This holiday provides the perfect opportunity to teach about perspectives, cultural diffusion, and navigation tools.

Explore the background of this holiday by visiting the Library of Congress' Hispanic Exploration in America page which features documents like The First Voyage which depicts Columbus' farewell to Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand. Find a guide to analyzing primary sources in the LOC teacher tools section.

Also visit the Library of Congress' 1492: An Ongoing Voyage to see Columbus' coat of arms, which was printed in Christopher Columbus: His Book Of Privileges. This 1502 book outlined the rewards Columbus was granted by Isabella and Ferdinand for his successful first journey. Then explore the exhibit to see other primary documents related to the discovery of the Americas.

Explore the geography of Columbus' first voyage starting with Palos de la Frontera, Spain. Continue on Columbus' route through the Canary Islands and then to San Salvador and other islands of the Bahamas, as well as Cuba and Haiti.
Finally, check out the Columbus Monument in Barcelona, which marks the place where Columbus returned in the Niña to Spain. These photos of the monument and the port are from my trip this past summer. Seeing this spot brought new clarity to a story I've heard my whole life.

After studying all of that history and geography, let students practice map-making by drawing a map of the classroom or their route to school. Discuss navigation tools such as the compass, star charts, and the telescope. Then visit Kaboose's Columbus Day crafts page to find tutorials for telescopes and binoculars made of cardboard tubes.

Images from my collection and from the LOC.


Classroom Organization Printables

One of the most important keys to a well-run class is organization. Activities happen according to a schedule, students follow routines, and everything has a place to be neatly stored. But, all those systems take lots of time, resourcefulness and ingenuity. To get started organizing your classroom or rehaul some of your old systems check out these resources for printable signs and organizers.

Instant Display has bunches of printable poster sets for all kinds of situations. You can get a whole set of palindrome posters, like the ones above, as well as continents, idioms, contraction cards, synonyms, world flags, foreign language and sign language tools, and much more.

Then visit author and illustrator Jan Brett's site which is loaded with classroom printables. Go to the printable games page to get the beautifully illustrated animal matching cards above and lots of other flash cards sets, boards games, and puzzles. Hop over to Brett's classroom signs page to get posters for learning centers. Librarians can also print Brett's illustrated Dewey decimal system posters from the library signs page. Then check out her days of the week cards, field trip name tags, and incentive charts.

Images from Instant Display and Jan Brett.