Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Circus Classroom Ideas and Supplies

Welcome to the Big Top of Classroom Decoration!  These fun and whimsical circus decoration ideas will make your circus themed classroom pop.

This resource will make it easy to theme your classroom circus!  It includes name plates, calendar pieces, word wall headers/alphabet cards, classroom job cards, and labels.

I think this door display would bring the WOW to you Open House and/or First Day of School!

This is another eye-catching door decoration!

This bulletin board border will work for any theme but I think it would be great in a circus!

It looks like this is in a Media Center, but it could be anywhere in the school!

What a fun way to display sight words your students need to know!

Let your classroom clock be the Ringmaster!

These seats were actually created for a movie theme, but I think they would work well with a circus theme too!

Not really a DIY kinda person?  You can find these things already made or amazon!  (The links that follow are Amazon affiliate links.  This means, I may receive a small commission, from Amazon-not you, if you purchase any of these materials. I cross my teacher heart that I ONLY recommend products I know, love and use!)

Your classroom would be the main event if you passed these red noses out!
I think this would make an AMAZING Book Nook or Reading Corner!
You could use these to make a photo booth!

Pin this for later here!
Do you have any ideas for a Circus Themed Classroom?  I would love to hear about them!

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Are Nonsense Words more Than Just Nonsense?

I'm going to be honest here, I'm not 100% sure I have a definitive answer to that question.  This is one of those items that I truly see both sides to the argument.

On one hand, being able to decode words according to phonics rules and to recognize chunks inside of words are both important skills.  Sometimes it's hard to tell if a student is decoding correctly when they have a high vocabulary and have a lot of sight words.

I have recently learned another reason that teaching nonsense words is important.  The words that we think of as nonsense, often become syllables within multi-syllabic words.  With that added information, I lean a little more on the side of nonsense words being important, but not so important that they need to be skilled and drilled into every child.

On the other hand, reading is all about making meaning out of the text and there just isn't any meaning in the words dop, lum and vab.

However, with my new knowledge- dop is the first syllable of dopple and lum is the first syllable of lumber.

I've discovered that nonsense words is something that people tend to feel very passionate about.

For me, the argument is moot because assessing students on nonsense words is a state mandated assessment for me.  I may not like it, but I have to do it.

Since I have to do it, I need to prepare my students for it.  That means lots of phonics instruction and teaching how to decode words and chunk parts of words.

I choose to do this through word families.  When I teach and practice word families, I use real words and nonsense words. This gives students practice decoding, practice chunking AND practice with nonsense words.

When I taught Kindergarten, I started working on word families around November or December, based on where my students were.  I created this CVC Fluency packet to use in small groups.  Every week, students would work on one word family.  We would practice blending the words and sorting them into Real Word or Nonsense Word categories.  Then we would play the board game to practice chunking the words.

As a Second Grade teacher, my needs have changed, but not completely.  I still have students who struggle with decoding CVC words.  Since they have learned, but not mastered, the concept of a closed syllable, I still use this activity.  Depending on the needs, sometimes I use multiple word families with the same middle vowel or sometimes I mix them up.  

The great news is that my Second Graders have as much fun as my Kindergarteners did!

You can find this activity at my TPT store by clicking here or on any of the pictures!

Want to save it for later?  Pin it here!

Do you have to work with nonsense words? Where do you fall on the argument? I would love to hear your thoughts!  Drop me a line and let me know!

Saturday, September 15, 2018

5 Podcasts for Teachers: Listen, Learn and Renew Your Spirit

Did you know that there is an International Podcast Day on September 30th?  Or a set of awards for podcasts?  

I did not know this information until I started doing a little research for this blog post.  All I knew, is that listening to podcasts let me enjoy learning new things while I was doing others.

image of woman with headphones


My favorite time to listen to podcasts is while I'm walking.  It keeps my brain from fighting me on the exercise!

I've listed 5 of my favorite podcasts (in no particular order) for your enjoyment!

blackboard with word Chalk Full of Life

Chalk Full of Life is a podcast produced by Kelli Alaina Wise.  Her goal is to help you find more time, more energy and more happiness.  Kelli is a former teacher turned business coach and life coach.  I listen because she really gets the #teacherstruggle.  She has extremely practical advice and is always around to help.  There is also a facebook group you can join.  Kelli's focus is all about managing yourself.

Kelli does have a paid course called The Balanced Teacher Life that you can join, but it isn't necessary.  She talks about it in her podcasts and Facebook group sometimes.

Cornerstone of a building with words Cornerstone for Teachers

The Cornerstone for Teachers podcast is produced by Angela Watson.  Angela is a former teacher and instructional coach turned publisher.  Along with the podcast, she also has published books and runs a paid course called the 40 Hour Teacher Work Week (which I have also taken.)  Where Chalf Full of Life focuses on the teacher, The Cornerstone for Teachers talks about the classroom.  I listen for the tips on classroom management, differentiation and assessment.

picture of google colors in an eye with words Google Teacher Tribe

The Google Teacher Tribe  is a podcast by Matt Miller and Kasey Bell.  Both of them are serious about shaking up your classroom and making it the place to be. Last year, my district went Google.  I've always considered myself tech savvy, but exploring ALL the parts to Google was overwhelming.  This podcast helps me organize my thinking and take it one step at a time.

picture of a clock with words 10 minute teacher

The Ten Minute Teacher  by Vicki Davis.
Let's be honest.  I rarely have a large amount of time to do much of anything.  I see people talk about listening to podcasts while they do the dishes or fix dinner, but I'm usually barking out orders to my son and guarding things from the cats!  That's why I love the Ten Minute Teacher!  I can take ten minutes to zone out and listen.  I also really enjoy the variety in her episodes.

image of 2 girls walking with the words The Early Childhood Research podcast on it

The Early Childhood Research podcast by Liz's Early Learning Spot is great for teachers of small children.  Although the episodes are infrequent, I think she takes a lot of time thinking and researching before creating and posting.  Her topics are important and range from why scribbling is important to addition strategies that matter.  I listen because her focus is on children, not teachers.

These are 5 of my favorites but it really was hard to choose just 5 because there are lots of great podcasts out there!  Do you have a favorite?  Drop me a note and tell me what it is!

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Teacher Tip: How To Make Your Own Letters

I have to tell you a secret.  A deep, dark secret that will make most teacher souls clutch their pearls and gasp.

I hate bulletin boards.  For real.  Can NOT stand them.  They are a constant bane to my existence. 

At the same time, mine MUST be phenomenal! (Mostly because once it goes up it stays up all year because- I hate bulletin boards.)

The one in the hall is the one I worry about.  EVERYBODY sees it.  So it has to be amazing.  

In the past, I have cut letters out on the Ellison machine or bought pre-punched letters.  They tended to stress me out.  

The pre-punched letters always had either too many or not enough.  And what am I supposed to do with all those other letters?  I don't need more junk in my closet!  

The Ellison machine works well enough, but the largest letters we have at school are 4 inches.  Sometimes, you just need something.... bigger.  Or cuter. #fontmatters

The secret to my bulletin board happiness is making my own letters!  It is really quite easy.  I really love that I can make EXACTLY what I need without any waste.

In this example, I used KG Happy Solid.  I LOVE KG Fonts and have purchased several for my products.  One of the things that I love is that teachers are free to use them for their own personal use for free.  (Just make sure you respect her TOU and purchase a license if you want to create with it for commercial use!)

Here is a picture of my board from last year.  I think all the letters are KG Happy Solid, except for the 3.  It is KG Geronimo Blocks.  I printed most of the letters on red paper.  For the football letters, I used brown paper and then traced an outline on to white paper to back it and added the white stripes to make it look like a football.

Have you made your own letters? I would love to see pictures of how you used them!  Drop me a line below or send at email to!

Want to Pin it for later? Find it here!

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Teacher Tip: How to Make Award Tags Work

For the past few years, I have been using award tags in my classroom with a huge amount of success. In my room, we call them Bulldog Tags because students wear them around their neck like a dog tag and our school mascot is the bulldog. The first year was rough and there were a lot of flops. Through trial and error, I have found the 3 key points that have made using award tags a hit! I'm going to share those with you as well as the materials I use and how I prep the tags.

 1. Prepare them ahead of time

If I had to say there was ONE secret to success, I would say it was this one. Having your tags printed, laminated and hole punched BEFORE the year starts, makes the process smooth. When they are all ready to go, it is simple to grab it and hand it out.

 I keep my tags behind my desk. I have a hardware and craft storage container that I keep academic tags in and a small basket that I keep behavior tags. When I need one, I take it from behind my desk and hand it out. During the summer, I spend some time printing, laminating, cutting and hole punching the tags. It's something that is pretty easy to do while your binging Netflix shows.

 2. Be picky about what you give them out for

I don't hand out a bulldog tag just for existing. I use them mostly to encourage academic skills and growth.

Here are some examples:
-mastering math facts
-passing reading levels
-scoring 100% on a test
-mastering a concept they have been struggling with

 I do have a few non-academic ones.
 -at different stages on Class Dojo
-maxing out a character on Go Noodle
-special days like the 2nd day of Second Grade

 3. Make a big deal out of it with a celebration

When I give students a bulldog tag, I do it one of 2 ways. If it is an academic tag, I hand it out during morning meeting. This allows me to share their success with the whole class and allows others to be proud of them.

 If it is a Class Dojo tag, I make a big deal by making all kinds of fanfare trumpet noises. Dun dun duh duh! It may seem like a bit much, but it helps the kids get excited.

Resources I Use 
(The links that follow are Amazon affiliate links.  This means, I may receive a small commission, from Amazon-not you, if you purchase any of these materials. I cross my teacher heart that I ONLY recommend products I know, love and use!)

I use a 64 drawer hardware and craft storage unit.

For student wear, I buy lanyards and three inch rings.  I have tried smaller rings and other lanyards, but these have worked best.

Need some Award Tags?  Check these out from my TPT store!

How I Prepare
First, I print and laminate sheets of tags.

Second, I cut and hole punch

I have found 2 different ways to cut and hold punch.

One way is to cut around the edge and then cut into long strips of 5 tags.  Use a hand held hole punch to punch down the strip of 5 tags.  After the holes are punched, cut the individual tags apart.

I have found that I can line up 2 rows of tags and cut them at the same time, but any more than that and they start slipping.  This causes the cuts to be uneven.

The other way is to cut the tags apart and place a small stack in a large hole punch.  

That's it!  A few hours over the summer and my bulldog tags are ready to go for the year!

Want to Pin It for later?

Do you use award tags? I would love to hear how you prep and store.  Drop me a line in the comments or shoot me an email!

Sunday, August 5, 2018

5 Tips for Teachers: Taking Care of Your Feet

Over here at Primary on the Prowl, we are all about self-care.  One of the best ways I know to practice self-care is to take care of your feet!  Teachers- you are on your feet ALL day, and they deserve the best! 

Look- I get it... some people HATE feet.  They are kinda funny looking and they stink.  Your feet work hard though so they need a little love.

(Disclaimer- Just an FYI, these are affiliate links.  I may make money, from Amazon-not you, if you follow my link and make a purchase.  I cross my teacher-heart that I only recommend things I have used and love!)

#1- Wash, Dry, Moisturize
Really, I shouldn't have to say this.  Wash them.  With soap.  Dry them.  With a towel, not your bath mat.  Once your feet are clean and dry, add some lotion to keep them soft.  I love this Gold Bond lotion!

If you have trouble balancing on one foot or bending over, this mat will help keep your feet nice and clean!

#2- Alternate comfortable shoes
I'm guilty of not doing this!  Alternating the shoes you wear every day allows the shoes to dry out and can help avoid odor and infections.  If you LOVE your high heels, make sure you are wearing some flats in between to avoid damaging your foot and leg muscles.  Side note- I just learned that your feet have over 100,000 sweat glands... ummm, let those babies dry!

#3- Get a pedicure or massage
A pedicure is my guilty pleasure.  It's the one thing I do for myself that I do not apologize for or give up.  Not up for a pedi?  Get a massage!  

Before I started treating myself to a monthly pedicure, I gave my feet a DIY pedicure with a foot spa.

#4- Get to a doctor if you feel pain.
Bunions, hammertoes, blisters and heel spurs are painful.  If you feel pain for any reason, make a doctors appointment and get it checked out.  

#5-Wear Socks!
Besides being cute, socks have a purpose!  They wick sweat away from your feet, which keeps them dry.  They provide some shock absorbency and protect your feet.

I love fuzzy socks!  I like to sleep in these!

Remember, take care of your feet and they will take care of you!

Sunday, March 4, 2018

4 Ways to Find Balance by Taming Dinner Chaos

Recently, I have been talking with some friends and colleagues about end of the day struggles.  There is ONE thing that comes up repeatedly, with almost everyone I talk to regardless of age, gender, family structure or profession.  That struggle, my friends, is dinner.

And I get it.  It's the end of the day.  Everyone is tired.  Everyone is hungry.  Personally, I just want to get food out to the family and sit down!

I have done some trial and error research and have some tips to make it easier.

1.  Keep it simple.

Leonardo da Vinci said "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." and I think it's perfection when it comes to weeknight dinners.  This is not the day to break out the rack of lamb or Coq au Vin.  A grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup or bowl of chili is perfect for a cold night.  A big salad or a tortilla wrap make a great hot weather meal.
simple meals

2.  Think long term.

No, I don't mean your 401K.  I mean tomorrow's lunch or next weeks dinner.  I have a pretty small family of 2, but I cook for 4 (or more).  I can cook once and feed us dinner, lunch the next day and dinner in a week or two because I have frozen half.

3.  Make a plan.

And stick to it.  Every week, I take a look at our activities and decide which day or two I'll actually have time to cook.  Those are the days I plan something simple to prepare, like tacos.  I'll look at the busy days and choose something from the freezer and put it in the fridge to thaw.

4.  Let someone else do the hard work!

Not too long ago, a friend gave me a free referral to Hello Fresh.  I had wanted to try one of the meal delivery systems, but the price was a little high.  When I got the free sample though, I jumped on the bandwagon. 

I am completely SOLD on the convenience!  A cold box full of fresh ingredients arrived at my door with a complete plan for 2 delicious meals.  I am not in the position of paying for a Hello Fresh box every week (#futuregoals) BUT once a month or so is doable! 

I don't know about you, but my time is as valuable as my money-- and depending on the week, sometimes MORE valuable!

Want to try Hello Fresh for yourself?  Click here to get $40.00 off your first week! (No secrets!  I get a $20.00 credit if you try!)

Which one of these four tips is helping you tame the dinner chaos?

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