May 31, 2014

15 Tips for Lining Up Your Class

Advice from Real Teachers

Each Wednesday at 8:30 pm EST, I post the Question Connection announcement on the Teaching Resources Facebook Page, and teachers ask questions to be shared with the fans of the page. Through the week, I choose a few to feature on Facebook each day, where you're invited to chime in with your advice. When I see a post that receives a large number of responses, I compile the best answers to create a helpful blog post.

Today’s Question

Today's question actually comes from me instead of from a Facebook fan! I remember the trials and tribulations of having to get kids in a line and out the door, quickly and in an orderly manner. So I asked “What strategies do you use for getting kids to line up in an orderly fashion when you are going to lunch or to a special class like art or music?”

Apparently I was not the only one with this problem because there were almost 150 responses! Many of the responses were similar, such as the "mystery walker" idea you'll read about below, but there were some really unique ones, too. I compiled 15 of the best responses in this blog post.

Here are the top 15 responses in no particular order. If you would like to read ALL of the responses, click this link to see them on Facebook.
  1. Jess Bowman:  We go into Ninja Stealth Mode. I explain to the kids that the best ninjas are quiet and never detected. We "sneak" past other classrooms along the way, not disturbing others. They love doing Ninja Stealth Mode. Any kids that get too excited and start making fight moves are reminded that a ninja is disciplined. If we happen to walk past someone in the hallway, I pretend that they can't see us moving because we are so stealthy.
  2. Jackie Hutslar: I choose a "mystery walker" each day. The kids don't know who it is until I reveal it at the end of the day. If that person has used good hallway procedure every time we traveled somewhere, he/she gets a treat like a skittle or sticker. If not, they don't get it. Since the students don't know who it is, they ALL have to follow procedures in case it's them!!
  3. Laura Grover: Best idea I heard that I actually use is this. I challenged my students to line up perfectly. Straight, eyes forward, no crowding, etc. I used my laptop camera to take a picture. Next, make an 8x10 color print. Mount on construction paper, laminate and attach a ruler for a handle. Now all I do is hold up the picture and say "I'm waiting for this." AND THEY DO IT!! In very little time, too. I have title 1 sixth graders which makes this all the more impressive. They have a visual of exactly what I expect. :-)
  4. Jillyn Theresa: Hands on hips, zip up lips, standing tall, ready for the hall! We walk down the hall with a hand on hip and the other finger on lips. I usually call them to line by table, ladies first, by birthday month, by color shirt, etcetera...
  5. Kathy McDonald: One student has a weekly job 'tapper.' If a student is wiggling or talking, the tapper taps their shoulder gently and they go to the back of the line. We don't leave the room until the tapper gives a thumbs up. If the same students end up at the back, i speak with them privately about expectations. If all goes well traveling, then the class can earn a marble. I teach 4th grade. They love it!
  6. Karen Brown: We line up using the 4S 's - Single file, (looking) Straight Ahead, Silent and Settled. At this time of year I can just hold up 4 fingers.
  7. Jamie Doffing: Three of my classroom jobs are line leader, door holder and caboose.  Every one else falls in line between those positions. I don't leave the room until I have a straight line, voices off and heads forward.  
  8. Magali Tuke: Mine line up but can be unfocused or chatty. I do an action eg make bunny ears, the whole class need to copy and most quickly do and the few chatters quickly realise it's all quiet and do it too. Fun to mix up the actions - hands on head, arms crossed, silly face, stick tongue out etc. If they are having a particularly bad day though they may have to sit down and try again to ensure all are quiet before we set off.
  9. Ana Duran: I play a freeze game. They have to follow me in a line and do whatever I tell them to do, in Spanish. When I say, parem, they all freeze. The kid who is out of the line has to go to the back of the line. They love this game plus it keeps them in line, and learning Spanish.
  10. Terra Hailey: I make fun of how sloppy it is and tell them I need to have a talk with their math teacher about their line...then they make me feel like an idiot because it's "actually a line segment..."
  11. Cheryl Hamm: We are students not grapes. We walk lines not bunches.
  12. Sarah Roach: Practice, practice, practice. We take for granted that kids will remember procedures, but taking time to have them line up, wait for quiet, and then walk. Sometimes we need to go back, but not often!  The kids do want to do well, and they do want to get to the fun class or recess!
  13. Barbara Wilkins: I used to use that opportunity to put them in line by various categories. I might put them in line by the first letter of their parent's names, the student's middle names, favorite foods, vacation destinations, etc.
  14. Chasity Sherrill: I always use something different every day!! Some example would be what months there birthday is, or line up if their favorite color is red, green, blue, etc. I also use clothing items like if they have on long sleeves, a jacket, jeans or shorts that day!! The kids love it and it helps them with self-awareness skills!
  15. Karen Young: Alpha by last name, alpha by first name, month of birth, table number (prime, composite, factors of x number, multiple of y number), rows, columns, how far they got on assignments, uniform colored shirts, if they love me, if they want to go home, LOL!
Do you have a favorite way of lining up your class or a tip to to share? Please post it in a comment below. If you would like to submit a teacher question, be sure to watch for the announcement on Wednesday evenings at 8:30 pm ET on the Teaching Resources Facebook page. Even if you don't have a question, please follow me on Facebook and offer your advice when you see the questions come through!

Great Questions + Advice from Real Teachers = The Question Connection! Enjoy!

May 29, 2014

Out with Answer Keys - In with QR Codes!

Try QR Codes with this Task Card Freebie!

You know what QR codes are ... those black and white patterned squares you scan with your smartphone to be taken to a webpage with more information about, well, anything! They've been popping up everywhere, from restaurant menus to PTA flyers. QR stands for "Quick Response" because scanning the code takes you to a new location instantly.

But did you know that QR codes are super useful in the classroom, too? QR codes can send the student to a webpage, a Dropbox file, a Google Maps location, or even a word or number in plain text format. This opens up all kinds of possibilities, but the one I want to address  is how QR codes can solve the answer key problem.

What's the answer key problem? Imagine this scenario. Your students are playing a math game in centers or cooperative learning teams, and they have to consult an answer key on every move to see if they solved the problem correctly. While looking at a whole page of answers to find the one they need, they end up seeing answers to other problems, too. Even if you put the answers on the backs of the task cards, it's easy for kids to peek at the answer (accidentally or on purpose) when they select a game card.

What if you were able to put the answers on the backs of the task cards using a secret code, a code that could only be deciphered AFTER the problem was solved? Guess what? QR codes can do just that!

How To Scan a QR Code
You can make your own codes, but before I walk you through that process, let me show you how they work. Students solve the problem on the front of each task card, and then scan the QR code on the back of the card with a device like an iPad, tablet, or phone. When they do, they will automatically be taken to the written answer that YOU programmed in when you created the code!

Susanna from Whimsy Workshop Teaching used my free Telling Time Task cards (shown above) with her second graders, and she asked one of her students to demonstrate how to scan the QR code on the back of the task card. Just watch as Ashley explains in less than 30 seconds what to do! It's adorable, and informative, too!

Ashley doesn't tell you which app she used, but there are many free QR Code Reader apps for every device. Here's a link to a free QR Code Reader for an iPhone. Just download the app on your mobile device and touch it to open it. Hold the camera lens over the QR code, scan it, and the answer pops up! How cool is that?

Creating Your Own QR Codes
You can create your own codes using a free QR code generator like, print out the codes, and glue them to the backs of your cards.

Don't let this talk of "coding"scare you. I'm not talking about computer coding or anything technical. Just go to and select the "Plain Text" option in the sidebar on the right. Type the answer into the box at the top and choose a color if you want something other than black. Your new QR code will be generated automatically, and you can copy and paste it to another document.

Test Out QR Codes with this Freebie!

If you don't want to create your own QR codes for task cards, many task card products and games now include QR codes. I created this set of Telling Time Task Cards and QR Code Answers that I'm offering for free because I want you to be able to try out QR codes without spending a cent! You can download both of them from my TpT store.

Where to Find More Task Cards with QR Codes
If you would like to find more task cards with QR codes, you can visit the Task Card section of my TpT store. I also created a Pinterest board just for Task Cards. Just click the image below to find it on Pinterest, and follow it to be sure you see new resources as they are added.

QR codes not only solve the answer key problem, but they add a little fun and excitement to your task card lessons. Whether students use them alone, in partner activities, or in cooperative learning groups, QR codes will motivate your students to do their best work. Everyone wants the answer that pops up on their device to be THEIR solution to the problem!

May 27, 2014

Bucket Seats... Made Easy!

Guest post by Katie at Kindergarten Craftiness

My favorite things to share with fellow crafters are crafty how-to’s that are also super practical (especially to teachers). Today I’m sharing a super easy tutorial on how to make bucket seats from those cheap 5-gallon paint buckets that you can get from pretty much any home improvement store. I actually got mine for about $3 each from Walmart. I think they were cheap because they didn’t come with lids but who needs lids when you’re going to make seats for them?

Anyway, for each seat you will need the following materials:
  • 5-gallon bucket
  • About 16” square fabric of your choice (I used fleece because it doesn’t fray, it’s kind of stretchy, and it’s super soft!)
  • Quilt batting or foam padding, both available at a craft store or even Walmart (the thicker the padding, the softer the cushion)
  • 2 wooden circles, one about an inch wider in diameter than your bucket top, one about an inch smaller
  • An electric drill with drill bit and 2-3 screws
  • An upholstery stapler with staples

First thing’s first: lay out your batting and place the larger wooden circle on top. Use the circle as a template to trim the batting.

Next, lay the same large wooden circle on top of your fabric. Trim your fabric into a circle that is slightly larger than the wooden circle. You want to have enough extra fabric all the way around so it can be pulled up over all the edges to be stapled later. Depending on how thick your wood circle is, the amount of extra fabric will vary. With my circle, I only needed to leave about an inch extra on all sides.

At this point, you should have padding about the same size as your circle and fabric slightly larger. I was making a set of 8 seats, so I went ahead and cut all the fabric and batting for all the seats.

Next, you need to attach the small wooden circle to the large wooden circle. I pre-drilled holes in the large circle. Then I added the screws when I had the larger circle centered on the smaller circle. NOTE: I purposely screwed in from the top towards the bottom because, if my screws were a bit too long, I didn’t want them to go through the wood and eventually poke the children in the bum when they went to sit on the seat. This way the top of the screw is on the top of the seat and it is pointy side down.

Once your circles are attached, you can get ready to do the final assembly. Lay the pieces down on a hard surface with the fabric on the bottom, then the padding, with the wooden circles on top (smaller circle facing up).

This is the fun part… the stapling! Start by stapling any side and then stapling the exact opposite side. This helps to ensure the consistent look of the upholstery job along with helping to make sure you have enough fabric for stapling on all the sides. Then do the two spots directly between the first two. At this point you will have sort of created 4 “corners.”

Next, fold up each of the 4 “corners” one at a time and staple those in place creating a sort of octagon shape.

Continue stapling around and securing areas between already secured spots. Your seat should end up looking like this:

If you want to give your seat a really finished look, you can do a fold and secure technique. Simply pinch one of the unsecured spots between your fingers, fold it over to the side, and staple. This helps to provide a much cleaner, more polished look to the seats.

When finished, the bottom of the seat should look like this:

Then all you need to do is place the seat on top of the bucket and you’re done!

I love how the finished bucket seats look and my students love them too because they are a couple inches higher than the crate seats. Plus they provide a lot more storage than regular chairs!

I hope you found this tutorial super easy. For more great crafty ideas, be sure to check out my blog over at Kindergarten Craftiness!

As a teacher, Katie knows it's always great to have easy and practical projects. After teaching Pre-K for years, she has learned to seek out projects that are affordable, easy, and useful in the classroom. She loves to show her creativity in her home and classroom. For more great crafty ideas, check out her blog, Kindergarten Craftiness.

May 22, 2014

Team Scoot - A New Twist on an Old Favorite

Have you heard of the review game Scoot? It's a whole class activity that gets kids up and moving from one seat to another as they solve problems. Team Scoot is a fun variation that allows students to work in cooperative learning teams which gives them an opportunity to discuss their answers and stretch their thinking.
What's Scoot?
Have you heard of the review game Scoot? It's a whole class activity that gets kids up and moving from one seat to another as they solve problems. You give each student a different task card and a recording page, and allow time for everyone to solve the first problem. When everyone is ready, say, "Scoot!" and everyone stands up and moves to the next desk. Students leave their task cards in place and take their recording pages with them. The activity is repeated until every student has finished all the task cards.

How Effective is Scoot? 
When I first learned about Scoot, I thought it sounded fun and educational. Kids are up and moving while they learn! Yay! But my cooperative learning training kicked in and I started to analyze the activity. The more I thought about it, the more I questioned Scoot as a learning activity. Kids are moving, but they aren't interacting. I wondered ...

  • What if a student has no idea how to solve the problems?
  • Where's the discussion and interaction that leads to higher level thinking and processing? 
  • When do the answers get checked? 
  • Does the teacher take the student papers home to check? 
  • If so, when do students who had trouble with the concept actually get help with it? 
  • If not and students are checking their own answers after each task card, when do they get to ask for help if they miss a problem?
Have you had any of these concerns? I love the basic concept, but this version of the game leaves a lot to be desired in terms of Scoot being an effective learning activity.

Team Scoot
I decided to modify the basic Scoot directions to create a cooperative learning version called Team Scoot. In this version, the kids "scoot" around their teams rather than the whole class and only solve four problems at a time. Then they stop to check and discuss their answers as a team before completing four more task cards. Adding time to check and discuss answers allows students to experience those "ah ha" moments of understanding that happen when you learn from a mistake. Students can see how others solve the same problem, and they experience the feeling of being an "expert" when they can help a classmate. Another benefit is that the teacher doesn't have any papers to grade at the end of the activity because the students check them after every four task cards. No papers to grade and kids are learning? What more could you ask?!

I typed up the directions for Team Scoot and added some recording pages for different types of problems. If you subscribe to my email newsletters, you can download the entire packet for free from Laura's Best Freebies, a private page on Teaching Resources. Sign up here!

Kid Tested and Approved!
As confident as I felt about the activity, I didn't want to share it on my blog until it had been tested with kids. So I asked a few teachers to test it out with their students. Fifth grade teacher Lori Tanner tried it with her class, and they loved it! They are shown in the image at the top of the post and in the two below.

Lori explained, "I tried out your Team Scoot activity with my fifth graders using some math task cards that I already had on hand. The directions were clear and my students seemed to understand them without much issue. I loved the level of engagement. Something as simple as being able to 'scoot' within the group kept kids engaged as they were anxious to make their way around their table group.  My students enjoyed having the opportunity to discuss/defend their answers.  I can see using this across content areas with short answer response questions as well."

Lori also asked her students what they liked about Team Scoot, and here are a few of the responses:
  • Annika:  I loved the way we got to talk together as a team at the end. I think it was a great way to check our answers after we finished our four problems.
  • Jesse:  I liked that we were able to talk about how we got our answers with each other. Even though we had the same answers, we didn't always do the problems in the same way.  
  • Heaven:  This is faster and much more fun than doing review from our book. I like it because it challenged me mentally and got me moving too.
  • Nailea:  I like that you get to move around. That made doing the work more fun than doing an independent worksheet.  I also like how you get to help other students who need help and you can get help from others if you need it.
  • Lisved:  I liked it at the end when we got to discuss our answers and check what was wrong and what was right.  I also liked the part when we had to rotate and move. In fact, I liked everything about this activity and I had a lot of fun the whole entire time.

Task Cards for Team Scoot
If you need task cards for this activity, visit my new Task Card Resources Pinterest Board. You'll find links to sets of task cards as well as games that include task cards you can use with Team Scoot. I just created a set of free task cards for telling time that you'll find pinned to that board. You'll also find information about organizing and storing task cards.

I hope you and your students this new twist on an old favorite. If you try Team Scoot, leave me a comment and let me know how it goes! Thanks to Lori Tanner's class for testing out Scoot and giving it a big thumbs up!

May 20, 2014

PE Resources and Ideas for Regular Ed Teachers

Advice from Real Teachers

Each Wednesday at 8:30 pm EST, I post the Question Connection announcement and teachers ask questions to be shared with the fans of the page. Through the week, I choose a few to feature on Facebook each day, where you're invited to chime in with your advice. When I see a post that receives a large number of responses, I compile the best answers to create a helpful blog post.

Today’s Question

Today's question comes from Nikole, who is wondering, "I teach 4th grade at a school where we have to teach all specials too. I'm running out of fun P.E. ideas and my students are very tired of dodgeball and kick ball. Any ideas or resources (web links) where I could pull P.E. ideas?"

Free PE Website Resources
I was thrilled with the number of teachers who responded to this post (over 100), and I noticed that many of the responses were recommendations for helpful free websites. A number of websites were recommended over and over, so I checked them out. I was so impressed with the wealth of free online resources that I decided to compile a list of the best ones. Check out these great finds:




Spark PE

Mr. Gym


Move to Learn

Terrific Teaching Tips and Ideas from Educators
In addition to the website recommendations, there were dozens of creative and interesting ideas to help the regular ed teacher with physical education classes. Take a look:

1. Kristal Hart Shanahan: My daughter's elementary PE teacher does stations. She does shoot hoops, jump rope, Frisbee, skate/crab walk, floor ladders, scooters, and has the students switch every 2-3 minutes so all groups get to all stations. They love it!

2. Aimee Viramontes: If you have a Smartboard, hook up a Wii and do some Just Dance or Mario Kart Olympics.

3. Aliesha Maddy: We used to play Jump the River. You use two jump ropes and place them close together and everyone jumps over. After every one completes the round you move the ropes further apart. If a student falls in the river they are out.

4. Melinda Strecker-Cales: Tie it in to SS and have the kids research different sports from other cultures. Then they can teach the sport or vote on one to play during PE. Or you can have them design their own sports in small groups then play them in PE.

5. Cassie Winner: Our PE teacher has the students "lesson plan" different activities that they want to do each week. She asks them to brainstorm what sports, activities, or games they want to do. They she asks them to decide why it is healthy and beneficial, etc. Then she selects from their "lesson plans" what to do each day. I'm in highschool, so this concept might be hard for 4th graders. But kids tend to like being able to make a choice so give it a try!

6. Faye Cunningham: Check out the National Council on Physical Fitness. Get information and get started packet from them. Work on students achieving those skills. You can reward with certificates and other incentives available by the organization. Good luck and have fun!

7. Stephanie Sams: I invented a game called Circle Soccer. Make a big circle, using a kick or soccer ball kick the ball to each other. Each person has to let the ball come to them, stop it with only their foot. Kick to someone else. Control is the key and keeping ball in circle. Continue to encourage them to make a have fast pace. Increase gap between students to make it harder. I have used this with 1st and 5th and they enjoyed it.Try it!

8. Betsy Acklin Ross: As a change of pace, you could see about having "experts" come to demonstrate and/or help you teach lessons. I had great success with inviting junior college athletes to come help teach skills. Another hit were a group of folks who taught my 5th graders square dance basics.

9. Michelle Hurst: Maybe look into games and physical activities children around the globe play? Gives the children some diversity education as well as exercise.

10. Diane Sears: Teach them how to bowl. It's a great math and science concept. You can then bowl in the class or at a bowling alley. I teach Newton 's laws during bowling.

11. Britt Critters: Parachute games, noodle games, a GIANT beach ball to throw back and forth with actions/questions/steps (jump, dance, everyone do a jumping jack, what's our favorite color?) written on it, team building: hold hands in a circle and pass hula hoops without using hands, pass a ball without using hands, hold a rope and pass hula hoops without the hoops touching the rope, balloon play, scooters, bubbles, water relays on hot days, lots of different bean bag games can incorporate different curriculum components.

12. Jen Leone: Go to the NASA website and they have "space training" pe resources for teachers with short videos by astronauts and printouts with recording sheets and directions, I made little books out of them as training manuals and my small group of 2nd-4th graders loved it at the end of both years I had to teach all specials. You don’t need many resources and I always added in a few other space or astronomy videos and articles in the training guide. So simple but fun!!

Thanks to everyone on Facebook who shared their tips and resources. Do you have to teach PE to your students? What are some of your favorite resources for teaching PE?

May 17, 2014

Learning Goals in Workstations

Guest post by Brenda Frady

“Cat: Where are you going?
Alice: Which way should I go?
Cat: That depends on where you are going.
Alice: I don’t know.
Cat: Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Yep. Those goals and expectations are pretty important! As Yogi Berra said, “If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else.”

Learning goals, I Can Statements, Learning Outcomes, Objective Statements, Learning Expectations…..they’re known by many titles, but they all mean the same thing: brief statements that tell what students are expected to learn.

I know that many, many teachers post Learning Goals in the classroom for the week’s or the unit’s skills. And it’s important that students know what it is they’re supposed to be learning. But the REAL power in those learning goals comes when students are able to articulate their goals!

Being able to articulate goals increases student engagement, shows them the value in the activity, and moves students toward metacognition.

Of course, in whole group settings, we can talk about those learning goals together. But what happens when kiddos are in workstations or in centers? Using learning goals in workstations is very powerful.

When you think about it, the work that kiddos do in workstations or centers is really kind of intimate; it’s close, personal work. How perfect to tie articulating learning goals in that setting!

For them to be meaningful, the learning goals need to be written in kid-friendly language. Use concrete, student-centered language. They’ve got to be able to understand what the goal means, after all. The objective can be included as part of the supplies needed for that workstation. It can be as simple as a piece of paper on which the goal is written. I like to use frames for the learning goals; it makes them more durable, and puts them ‘on display’ for students. The goals might be posted long-term in a workstation area, or they might be part of the supplies for a particular center.

The power truly lies in students being able to articulate the goals, though. It’s not enough to see and read them… they need to say them aloud. When they get to a workstation, each child reads aloud the learning goal for that activity. In my room, we use lots of games to support our learning. I think it’s especially important for kiddos to be able to articulate learning goals when the activity is a game. It’s sometimes easy to get caught up in the fun of the game and forget we’re even learning at all!

I hope you’ve been inspired add learning goals to your workstations/centers. I really see the power it’s had in my classroom. Thanks to Laura for the opportunity to share these ideas with you!

Brenda Frady has been teaching primary grades for 9 years, and currently teaches a 1st & 3rd grade multi-age classroom. She loves using teaching methods that focus on real-life applications, incorporating games, and project-based learning. She is a Teacher-Author who blogs at Primary Inspired.

May 14, 2014

Solve 'n Switch - Task Card Partner Fun!

Fun Freebie to Use with Math Task Cards!

Cooperative learning activities are often designed for teams of four students. However, sometimes a team is just too big, especially in math. Sometimes the perfect number of students for a practice activity is just two. Partners tend to cooperate more and argue less, and kids are usually more actively engaged when working with a partner as opposed to a large team.

With that in mind, I developed a new cooperative learning partner activity that I've named Solve 'n Switch. You can download it for free from my Math Stations page on Teaching Resources. Just add task cards that are appropriate for your unit of study, and you'll have an engaging and fun review activity!

In a nutshell, Solve 'n Switch includes these basic steps:
  1. Each partner takes a task card from the top of the deck.
  2. Simultaneously, they each solve the problem on their own card. 
  3. Next, they switch task cards and solve the new problem.
  4. Finally, they share, check, and discuss their answers. 
  5. They repeat the steps with two new cards.
The free Solve 'n Switch packet includes three sets of directions so that you can modify it as needed. This activity is intended for practice and is not meant to be graded. After students play Solve ’n Switch, you can follow up with an independent assignment or quiz for assessment. I would not recommend allowing students to choose their own partners for this activity. Instead, I would plan out the partners in advance and pair students of similar abilities. If your class is set up in cooperative learning teams, you can split each team of four in half or pair students with someone from an entirely different team. You might even want to differentiate the activity by providing different sets of tasks cards for each pair according to their needs.

Where to Find Task Cards
If you need task cards for this activity, visit my Task Cards Pinterest Board. You'll find links to sets of task cards as well as games that include task cards that would work well with Solve 'n Switch. You'll also find posts with information about organizing and storing task cards.

What I love about Solve 'n Switch is that it's so versatile. You can use it in math centers, small groups, or even in a whole group setting with students divided into pairs. All you really need is a set of task cards and either dry erase boards and markers or the recording pages in the packet. Have fun with this!