September 28, 2012

Halloween-free October Learning

Halloween-free Resources for Grades 2 - 6

No doubt about it, October is an exciting time of year! Fall colors are in full swing, the air turns cooler, and Halloween is just around the corner. That used to mean Halloween activities, treats, and classroom parties ... no wonder our students had trouble focusing on academics! However, times have changed, and many schools no longer allow Halloween celebrations or even Halloween-themed activities.

The good news is that your students can still have fun this month because there are so many opportunities to engage students in October learning activities. Seasonal activities aren't just for little ones either; it's easy for upper elementary teachers to create fall-themed lessons that are academically rigorous and have true educational value. From math word problems to literacy activities, the learning opportunities are endless!

To make it easy for you to find October Learning lessons, I've shared a favorite activity below and I've invited others to add to this collection by sharing their activities as well. The activities featured in the link up below are not only free, they're "Halloween free." You won't have to worry about finding an alternate activity for students whose families don't celebrate Halloween because these lessons are suitable for all students.

Fire Safety Talk Show
October is National Fire Prevention Month, and October 7 - 13 is National Fire Prevention Month. Even though upper elementary students have reviewed fire safety rules every year they've been in school, the topic is far too important to gloss over. You can find a wealth of resources on this topic including the US Fire Administration Kids Page and

After students have learned basic fire safety guidelines, they need to discuss these ideas and consider what to do in different scenarios. A fun way to do this is to have them take part in  Fire Safety Talk Show. The basic idea is students take turns pretending to be a fire marshal and answer questions about fire safety that are posed by their teammates. I've created a generic set of discussion question cards for the game, but I also included a template where you can write your own. Your class can play this as a whole group or in cooperative learning teams. Remember that this activity not designed to teach fire safety; it's a review activity for wrapping up your fire safety lessons. As your students are working, walk around and monitor the discussions to be sure they are not giving each other incorrect information. At the end of the activity, as an assessment, you can assign two or three of the questions and have your students answer them on paper or in a journal.

You can find other freebies for October on my Seasonal Page on Teaching Resources. In addition, you may enjoy my October Activities from Teaching Resources Mini Pack which is available on that page.

Note: If you have a freebie for grades 2 through 6 for fall or October that does not involve Halloween, feel free to link up your blog post that describes the item. Be sure to grab the October Learning Freebies image from above and include it in your blog post, and make sure that there's a link back to this post. The link up is moderated so you won't see your item right away until I check it to make sure it meets the guidelines. Thanks!

September 20, 2012

How to Find Great Common Core Resources

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) have been adopted by all but 5 states in the U.S., and it seems that nearly every teacher is scrambling to find materials to help them teach these standards. As you may know, one objective of the CCSS is to provide a clear and consistent framework throughout the nation for what students should know and be able to do at each grade level. It’s a worthy objective, but that doesn’t make it any easier for you to create the dozens of lessons you’ll need this year to meet the new standards.

Luckily, you don’t have to create all of your lessons from scratch. You can find a wealth of great digital resources online that are ready for immediate download to use in your lessons right away. Just follow other teachers on Pinterest or do a simple Google search on your lesson topic. However, when you start actively looking for resources, you might be overwhelmed by what’s out there. How can you possibly sift through them all to discover the nuggets of gold buried in the mass of relevant Google search results or appealing items you see all over Pinterest?

Buyer Beware!
First of all, read beyond the words “Common Core” on the cover of a product and look to see if the description lists the specific standards that are covered. Just about any teaching resource can have a connection to the Common Core, but you may be disappointed in your purchase unless the preview shows exactly which standards are covered.

Also, be sure that the product’s preview allows you to see enough of the item to determine if it will meet the specific needs of your students. I’ve always made a point to make complete previews available for my digital resources because I know how frustrating it can be to purchase something that you can’t see in advance. When it comes to math resources in particular, it’s important to be able to see all of the math problems to decide if they are suitable for your students.  

Common Core Aligned Guarantee
One way that you can be sure of finding quality materials to help you teach Common Core Standards is to look for the CCA apple logo when you visit my Mini Pack page on Teaching Resources. Mini Packs are digital lessons and teaching materials designed to teach a lesson or a unit, and many of them fit quite nicely into the new standards. I’ve been placing this Common Core Aligned logo on the corner of each Mini Pack cover that is aligned with at least one standard, and I write the standard number or numbers on the cover as well. Take a look at the cover of my Sentence Go Round Mini Pack to see what I mean. This logo is my personal guarantee that the item includes material that will help you teach a specific Common Core standard at a particular grade level. In fact, I always include a paragraph and sometimes an entire page that outlines the specific Common Core Standards that are addressed by the materials. To make it easy for you to find all of my Common Core Aligned resources in one place, I created a board on Pinterest that includes all of these items. Follow my Common Core Aligned board and check it from time to time to see the new resources I've added.

Common Core Planning Pitfalls
One potential pitfall in searching for Common Core lessons is assuming that you should stick to resources that are specifically labeled for your grade level. While the Common Core does outline the content you are responsible for teaching at your grade level, nowhere does it prohibit you from teaching or reviewing the standards from the previous grade level. Good teachers know that you can’t teach a new skill unless the foundation for learning is solid, and if your students have not mastered basic concepts from the previous year, you may need to back track a bit.

For example, one of the 5th grade Math Standards requires students to round decimals to any place. However, if your students can’t round whole numbers, there’s nothing wrong with dipping into 4th grade teaching resources to find lesson plans to help you build that missing foundation. To show you what I mean, this Place Value Spinner Games Mini Pack is aligned with 4th grade standards, but the games would serve as wonderful math center activities in 5th and 6th grade to review whole number place value. In short, make sure you understand your standards thoroughly, but don’t be afraid to look beyond the CCSS number designations to find the resources you need to help your students become successful.

No Common Core in Your State?
For those of you who live in states that have not adopted the Common Core, I want to reassure you that all of my teaching resources are just as applicable to your curriculum as they are for the Common Core standards. If you have any doubts, just preview each item completely before purchasing. You’ll notice that the directions and student activity pages do not refer to specific Common Core Standards. Mini Packs that have the Common Core Aligned logo are aligned with the Common Core, but they are not exclusively focused on teaching only the Common Core standards listed.

Connect and Collaborate
I’m committed to bringing you great resources and tips for teaching Common Core State Standards, and you can be sure of seeing those resources when you connect with me in any of my social networks. For starters, you can follow this blog by email, follow my Common Core Aligned Pinterest board, and sign up for my Candler’s Classroom Connections newsletter. I also upload my Common Core Resources to my TeachersPayTeachers store, so if you are TpT fan, be sure to follow me there as well. If you have questions or concerns about implementing the Common Core standards, feel free to post them on my Teaching Resources Facebook Wall. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll share your questions with over 50,000 educators who like the Teaching Resources page, and I’m sure someone will be able to help! We’re all in this together, and collaboration is the key to smooth implementation of the Common Core Standards.

September 17, 2012

Favorite Literature Circle Books

Recommend YOUR Favorite Book and Enter to Win!

Have you ever used Literature Circles in your classroom?  If so, you know that it can be quite challenging to find just the right books to use with your students. That’s why I decided to invite teachers to join me in a collaborative effort to create a list of favorite Literature Circle books. Read on to find out how to share your recommendations and enter to win a $25 gift card for!

Choosing Great Books for Literature Circles
Literature Circles are a great way to differentiate instruction by offering students a selection of books on different levels. For example, a 5th grade teacher might include book choices that range from 3rd grade to 7th grade reading levels.

However, it’s definitely a challenge to locate a great selection of books for your program. The number of terrific books for kids is almost overwhelming, but not all children’s books are appropriate for Literature Circles. It’s important to choose a variety of books that your students can read independently as well as books that have meaty content for them to discuss in groups. It’s fine for Literature Circle books to be a bit confusing in parts, as long as your students will have plenty of opportunities to meet and discuss what they’re reading so they don’t get completely lost.

Recommend Your Favorite Literature Circles Book
To help teachers locate just the right texts, I’m creating a comprehensive list of Literature Circle books that I’ll publish on Teaching Resources.  This project is too overwhelming to tackle myself, and that’s where I need your help! Do you have a favorite book that you’ve used successfully with Literature Circles and would like to recommend to others?

If you’d like to share your recommendations with others and enter to win a $25 gift card to, please complete the Google Doc form below. If you want to make more than one book recommendation, please submit a separate form for each book.  The submission deadline is Sunday, September 23rd at midnight. After the submission deadline is over, I’ll select a variety of books recommendations to publish on a special page in the Literature Circles section of Teaching Resources.

Literature Circle Book Recommendation Format
Before you complete the form, it’s helpful to see an example of the final format. Each recommendation will include the book title, the author, the appropriate grade levels, a short recommendation, and the name of the teacher recommending the book.  I’ll also include a link to the book on where those who are interested can read more reviews and preview the book online. To see how your recommendation will actually appear on my website if selected, take a look at the three books listed on my Read Aloud Resources page. For example, one of my favorite books for Literature Circles is Hatchet. Here’s how that review might look on the site:

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
Recommended for 5th grade and up

Hatchet is the exciting story of a young man who is flying in a small plane when the pilot has a heart attack and dies. Brian has to crash-land the plane in the Canadian wilderness and survive alone for many weeks. Great story to engage your boy readers!
Recommended by Laura Candler

Thanks for Sharing!
Thanks so much for your willingness to share and become a part of this collaborative effort. I’m excited to gather the recommendations of teachers from all over the world into one comprehensive list of Literature Circle books, recommended by teachers for teachers. When you submit your entry below, you’ll automatically be signing up for the Candler’s Classroom Connections newsletter, too. Watch the newsletter for an announcement when this list of Favorite Literature Circle Book Recommendations goes live on Teaching Resources!

Note: The contest is now over and the winner will be announced in Candler's Classroom Connections on September 29th. 

September 15, 2012

Making the Social Studies and Literacy Connection

Making the Social Studies and Literacy Connection - Two great informational texts and two freebies to use on Constitution Day!
Free Resources for Constitution Day

September 17th is Constitution Day, and it’s a great time to integrate social studies into your literacy lessons. I discovered two outstanding informational text books to read and discuss with your students, and I couldn’t resist creating some freebies to go with them! Both books are perfect for upper elementary students, and if you only have one copy of each book, you can read it aloud and show the pages so your students can follow along. If you don’t have these books now, you can click the book covers below to order them from Then use the activities later in the year when you are studying the US government or the Constitution. You'll find these freebies in my Constitution Day freebie on TpT during September and on my Social Studies page on Teaching Resources all year round.

What's the Truth? (Sorting Activity)

Author: Christine Taylor-Butler

The Constitution of the United States is a part of the Scholastic "True Book" series, and it's an excellent informational text for upper elementary students. What's the Truth? is a hands-on sorting activity to stimulate thinking before you read the book to your students. Print one set of cards per team, and ask team members to cut the cards apart and stack them in the middle of the team.

Here's what to do:
  1. Before you read the book, ask students in teams to take turns picking up a card, reading it aloud, and discussing whether or not they think the statement is true or false. 
  2. As they decide if each statement is true or false, the card is placed into one of two piles accordingly. 
  3. Optional: Have team members write a T or an F on the back of each card for future reference. 
  4. As you read the book, stop from time to time and ask your students to discuss what you've read so far. If you mentioned a concept that was on one of the cards, they may check to see if they classified it correctly. 
  5. After you finish reading the book, review all the statements to be sure everyone has the correct answers. 

Constitution Discussion Questions

Title: If You Were There When They Signed the Constitution 
Author: Elizabeth Levy

If You Were There When They Signed the Constitution is a longer book and will take several days to read. I've created a set of Constitution Discussion Questions that you can use when you finish reading the book or where appropriate during the book. Because the questions are quite challenging, I suggest using the Talking Sticks discussion strategy in small guided reading groups or as a whole class.

The book is most appropriate for upper elementary students, but you may be able to use it with middle school students as well. You’ll need to preview the book to decide. The discussion questions are fairly generic and can be used with any in-depth discussion or study of the Constitution. After you’ve discussed all of them as a class, you may want to have your students choose one to write about in a journal entry.

Where to Find These Free Resources

These sorting cards and discussion cards are available for free in several places. During the month of September, you can download them from my TpT when you click over to my free Constitution Day Literacy Lessons. You can also find them on the Social Studies page on Teaching Resources. Additional activities on that page include a Branches of Government sorting activity, a cooperative learning lesson to learn the meaning of the Preamble, and a printable you can use to create your own Classroom Bill of Rights. 

With limited time in the elementary school day, it's important to be able to sneak in a little social studies with your literacy lessons. These activities can be used on Constitution Day or any time when your class is studying U.S. Government or the Constitution. What are some ways that you connect social studies and literature in your classroom?

September 13, 2012

Awakened: Hope for the Year Ahead

The first few weeks of school often whip by in a blur of activity, but around the middle of September things slow down considerably. This time of year is also when educators face the reality of their current teaching situations. The glow of excitement about the new school year may be fading, and many feel overwhelmed by the challenges ahead. They may begin to experience feelings of stress and even helplessness in response to a challenging class, difficult students, uncooperative parents, or a less-than-supportive administration.

If you're experiencing those feelings, I highly recommend Awakened: Change Your Mindset to Transform Your Teaching. It was written by Angela Watson of The Cornerstone for Teachers, and it definitely makes good on the promise of its title.

As soon as I first saw this book on Angela’s website, I was intrigued by the title and the book’s description. I had recently been reading a number of personal growth books about the impact of positive thinking on one’s life, but I had never seen those concepts applied to the teaching practice.

When the book arrived, I devoured it in a matter of days. Actually, I had to force myself to slow down while reading it, because there was so much wisdom on every single page that I wanted time to savor each new chapter. Angela’s basic premise is that it’s not our circumstances that determine our happiness, but rather our mindset and our responses to those events. We often face circumstances beyond our control, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we are powerless. In Angela’s words,
"The only factor that you have complete control over is your mindset: the way YOU think and perceive things, and the way YOU choose to respond. If you want to create meaningful and lasting change in your job satisfaction, the best place to start is with your own thought patterns and attitudes." 
You might read those words and think, “I’ll bet she’s never been in a situation like mine.” However, when you read the book, you’ll find that assumption to be absolutely unfounded. In fact, she titled her introduction, “How I Learned Everything the Hard Way,” which speaks volumes on its own. In Part One of Awakened, Angela shares many stories of her day-to-day experiences as a new teacher, and it’s clear that her situation was extremely stressful. She then traces her own path from being overwhelmed and discouraged to becoming happy and fulfilled as a classroom teacher. Angela is very candid about how her journey was founded on her Christian faith, but the methods and advice she offers are practical, down-to-earth, and applicable to people of all faiths. As she explains, her recommendations are based on “personal experience, scientific research, and a range of spiritual and psychological principles.” She explores the physical and emotional toll that stress takes on us as well as how to identify sources of stress in your life and deal with them effectively.

One of my favorite parts of Awakened is Part Two, “Breaking Free of Destructive Habits.” If you’re like me, you may recognize many of those 10 bad habits as practices you unconsciously adopted without realizing how they can destroy your chances for happiness. In each chapter, she examines one negative habit, shedding light on how it manifests itself in our lives as well as practical strategies for overcoming that habit. What I love about Angela’s approach is how she focuses on replacing negative self-talk with a more positive way of thinking. Many self-help books tell you to think more positively or look for the good in everything, but they seldom give you specific words to help you reframe your thoughts.

Part Three is titled, “Cultivating a Positive Frame of Reference,” and this part is where Angela shows you how to examine your assumptions about your thinking to alleviate stress in the future. This section includes taking a close look at our unrealistic expectations for ourselves, valuing peace above control, and separating practical problems from emotional ones. Everything in this section resonated with me, and her advice is rock-solid. I love how she ends the chapter by outlining a typical teacher’s day and showing exactly how someone would apply positive self-talk to difficult situations.

Awakened is not just for new teachers; it’s for any teacher who feels overwhelmed and helpless in the face of the crushing demands of the teaching profession.  When we find ourselves in circumstances we can’t change, we need to remind ourselves that the only path to happiness is to look for the good in everything and use life’s challenges as learning opportunities. However, it’s important to remember that becoming “awakened” is a process that takes time. Angela herself says it best,
"Being awakened is the initial realization of truth, the moment when the light illuminates a situation and you can see it clearly for the first time. Growth begins there, but a true awakening is a process."
By now you may be thinking, “Where do I sign up? I want that book!  I NEED that book!”  Yes, you can purchase it from, but I would recommend buying it directly from Angela herself on the Cornerstone for Teachers website. First of all, Angela sends her orders out by priority mail within 24 hours so you’ll get it right away. Also, every copy you order from her is autographed! If you want a digital copy of Awakened, you can purchase that from Angela as well. She has several different formats available.

I know this has been a long blog post, but Angela's amazing book deserves a thorough review.  If you’re experiencing any stress or feelings of discouragement right now, please consider reading Awakened: Change Your Mindset to Transform Your Teaching. Not only will Angela’s methods transform your teaching, her words of wisdom may very well change your life. You’ll also become awakened to the true potential within yourself, your own vast potential to make a significant difference in the lives of your students.

September 10, 2012

Honoring 9/11 - A Delicate Balance

September 11th is a day when many of us will reflect on a series of events that made a lasting impression on our lives. If you are like many teachers, you may be struggling with whether or not you should discuss 9/11 with your students. If you are an elementary teacher, your students weren't even born back in 2001, but you may feel a need to  recognize the events of that significant day. Last year I discovered a great book to read aloud on September 11th, The Man Who Walked Between the Towers. I'd like to share a few ideas for using this book in your classroom.

Read aloud the The Man Who Walked Between the Towers, the amazing true story of Philippe Petit who walked on a high wire between the two towers right after they were constructed. The story focuses on his daring feat and simply mentions at the end that the towers are gone and only live on in our memories. Be ready for the question that is sure to arise, "What happened to the towers?" How you answer that will depend on your students' ages and what you feel is appropriate to share.

Discuss the The Man Who Walked Between the Towers
You can use this set of question cards I created for the book to discuss it with your students. These questions would work will with the Talking Stick discussion method, but because of the sensitive nature of the topic, I suggest discussing these questions as a whole class or in small guided reading groups rather than in cooperative learning groups. These questions deal specifically with Philippe Petit's daring feat and do not deal with the events of 9/11.

Compare and Contrast Literature and Informational Text
Start by reading The Man Who Walked Between the Towers aloud and telling your students that it's based on a true event. Ask them to help you create a list of questions about the event that include additional information they wonder about what happened. Then ask them to read a news account or an encyclopedia article about Petit's walk between the towers. I found a description of his walk in an article about Petit on, and I edited it to create a shorter PDF version to use with students. Please remember that this is intended for use with during a reading activity, and the details in the Wikipedia article may not be 100% accurate. As a class, create a Venn diagram or other graphic organizer to compare and contrast the two versions of the event. What was left out in the story? Why did the author leave out these details? Are any of the details different between the two versions?

Explore Numbers and Measurements
The Man Who Walked Between the Towers includes many references to lengths, heights, and widths. I created a page of task cards showing those amounts that you can use with your students. After reading and discussing the story, show all 8 cards to your students and ask them to try to remember what each amount referred to in the story. You could even give each team or pair one set of cards and have the students write that information on the back of each card. For example, on the back of the "Quarter of a mile" card, they might write "height of the towers." After they work through the deck and make their guesses from memory, reread the story aloud to check and discuss answers.

Experiment with center of gravity
One thing that amazes me about this story is the way Petit can be so confident about his ability to walk across the wire without falling. The story does not get into the scientific aspects of how he's able to do this, but it has to do with that 28-foot balance pole he carries. This is a perfect opportunity to have your students explore center of gravity concepts. Rachel Lynette's book Gravity: Forces and Motion has some excellent discovery activities for this concept. One of them involves trying to balance an orange on a pencil, which is nearly impossible, and then adding forks to the sides as shown. Add a lump of modeling clay to each fork handle, and you can balance the orange easily. The lumps of clay move the center of gravity to a point lower than the orange, allowing it to balance. You can find a more complete explanation in this book or other science books about force and motion. 

Discuss Events of 9/11
I realize that none of these suggestions deals with the events of 9/11. If you want to talk to your students about what happened on that day, I would suggest starting with the free BrainPOP video titled September 11th. I showed it to my 5th graders, and it was very really helpful as a foundation for a discussion about what happened. The 6-minute video explains why these events occurred without going into unnecessary detail. Be sure you watch the video yourself before showing it to your students so you'll know how to answer their questions.

September 11th will be a difficult day for many of us. We remember that day with sadness, and also with an awareness of how quickly our lives can change. It was a day when we discovered that our sense of security about our own lives can evaporate in a flash. However, I don't believe we should allow our feelings about those events to negatively impact our children. Children need to feel a sense of security in order to grow and thrive, and we should be mindful of this tomorrow. That's one reason I love the book, The Man Who Walked Between the Towers. Reading this story to our students allows us to honor the memory of the day the twin towers went down in a gentle way without instilling a sense of fear and insecurity in our children.

September 5, 2012

Tips for Teaching Informational Text

About the only thing we can count on in education is that something is always changing! Our society changes, technology changes, our students are changing, and as a result, the curriculum is constantly evolving. Change can be exciting, but often it’s frustrating as well. This is especially true when it comes to the Common Core Reading Standards and the new emphasis on informational text. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to explore this aspect of the CCSS while writing Graphic Organizers for Reading: Teaching Tools Aligned with the Common Core. Now I’d like to share some of those tips and strategies for teaching informational text with you.

Comparing and Contrasting Text Types
One of the best ways to get started is to have your students compare informational text with literature. Sounds like the perfect time for a Venn diagram, doesn’t it?  Show your students several examples of both types of books, and ask them to help you brainstorm how those text types are alike and different. Record their ideas on a class Venn diagram. If you have a document camera, use it to display the pages of the book so that everyone can see all of the features on each page clearly. If you don’t have a document camera, ask the students at the back of the room to move closer and have a seat on the floor near you.

Choosing the Right Informational Text
Most students are very familiar with fiction, but they may not be nearly as familiar with nonfiction. That’s why it’s important to select just the right informational text to use for this lesson, something that includes a variety of nonfiction text features. Last year I discovered the perfect book for this activity. Did you know that Rachel Lynette of the Minds in Bloom blog is the author of over 70 nonfiction books for kids? In fact, she has a nice Informational Text Structures freebie that you'll want to check out. Rachel sent me a copy of Gravity: Forces and Motion, and it turned out to be just what I needed as an anchor text for my Informational Text Features Search lesson. If force and motion are not a part of your curriculum, take a look at Rachel Lynette's other nonfiction books on I'm sure you'll find something that fits in with what you are teaching now or will be teaching later in the year.

When you display a nonfiction book like Gravity: Forces and Motion, your students will see at a glance that informational texts look quite different from literary ones. Within a few minutes, they will identify many details to add to your class Venn diagram. As you can see from this snapshot of Rachel’s book, informational text elements often include numbered steps, headings and subheadings, illustrations with captions, and so on. Explain to your students that these items are referred to as “text features,” and the author includes them to help make the text easier to understand. As you discuss each feature, ask your students how it helps them to comprehend, or understand, the text.

Informational Text Features Search Freebie
After your students become aware that informational texts are different from literary ones, they can apply their knowledge to text of their own choosing. Because I included this lesson in Graphic Organizers for Reading, the easiest way for me to share it with you is to give you the directions and graphic organizer as a freebie. Click the image or this link to download your copy. Before teaching the lesson, gather a collection of books on a variety of topics that include many different informational text features. If you don’t have enough of these types of texts in the classroom, it’s worth a visit to the school library to hand pick books on a variety of topics and reading levels. Or you can schedule a class visit to the library and ask your students to find informational books on topics that interest them.

Spending a bit of time introducing informational text features will help your students feel more comfortable with these types of texts. Before you know it, your students will discover that nonfiction books can open doors to worlds they never knew existed!

Note: This blog post originally included a giveaway, but it end at 9 p.m. EST on September 10th. 

September 3, 2012

Drum Roll, Please . . . Meet the Amazing Hat!

I discovered The Hat a few years ago, and now I'd like to share this amazing free tool with you. Let me start with a quick overview of how to get started, and I'll finish by sharing a few hat tricks - classroom-tested ideas for using it with your students!

The Hat is a tool for randomly choosing students, partners, or teams in the classroom. You don’t have to have an interactive whiteboard to use it, but a projector is nice. If you have a PC, you can download and install this small "exe" file from the Teaching Resources Interactive Whiteboard Page. I suggest placing a link to the program on your desktop so you can find it easily when you need it. Unfortunately, there’s not a version for Mac users.

Getting Started with the Hat
When you first open The Hat program file, it won’t look exactly like this picture. The Hat has several modes of operation, and it opens in the user mode where you can add names and set up your user preferences. To add student names, click the + sign and add the names one at a time. Then click "Done." After you add the names, your list will be saved and you can click the hat icon to draw individual names or partners. Play with the program a bit, and explore the other options in the user mode such as font size, animation speed, etc.

What can you do with the Hat?
After you've entered your students' names and tested out the program, read on for some suggestions about how to use the Hat in your classroom.
  • Pick Individuals - Click on the Hat icon at the top to start selecting students randomly. Your students will love the drum roll and dramatic visual effects that accompany this step! (If you aren't so fond of the sound effects, you can disable sound in the user mode.) You can even print the list when you finish.
  • Pick Partners - Click on File and then Pick Pairs of Names. Amazing! My students never argue with who the Hat picks for a partner. (Note: Only use the Hat to pick partners when it doesn't matter who is paired with whom. However, if students will be working on content-specific assignments like math, reading, science, or social studies, assign partners yoursefl to be sure the students are compatible and working at a similar level.)
  • Save Class Lists - If you have more than one class, you can save the list of names as a text file by clicking File -> Save Text to File. Save each class list under a different name and you can easily import them at the start of class. Just be sure to remember where you save each list.
  • Pick Teams - The Hat can even pick teams to respond in addition to individuals. Instead of entering individual names, enter team names or numbers. For example, enter Team 1 or The Whiz Kids. Then save that list to a file. When you want to pick teams to present a report or tell the class an idea, open the Team File.
  • Create Semi-Random Teams - If you want to allow your students to have some choice in who is on their team, try this strategy. Have all your students clear their desktops and stand around the back of the room. Click on the Hat to start picking names. When their  name is called, students may sit anywhere in the room, but they may not move after they are seated. Also, they may not save seats or behave in an unwelcoming way towards any student who wants to sit with them.
What other uses can you think of for the Hat? Share your ideas below! I hope your students enjoy using the Hat as much as mine did!