The case for Chess as a tool to develop our children’s minds

Just in case you don’t remember all the great things about teaching chess to your students…

Moves for Life Blog

2015-02-10 08.23.59Is chess an art? A science? Some claim it’s both. Yet let’s be honest, it’s really just a game. Fun, challenging, creative: but still a game, not much different from tennis, cricket, football, or golf.

But there is one striking difference to these other popular games. While learning to play almost any game can help build self-esteem and confidence, chess is one of the few that fully exercises our minds.

Many of us could probably use this exercise, although it may be a bit late for some. (At least for those of us old enough to read an article like this voluntarily!) It’s not, however, too late for our children.

Chess is one of the most powerful educational tools available to strengthen a child’s mind. It’s fairly easy to learn how to play. Most six or seven year olds can follow the basic rules. Some kids as young as four…

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Save Big For Back to School!

Wow, it’s been a busy summer and I have not had time to post anything lately. I’ve stocked my store with lots of new classroom décor products just in time for back to school! I have had so much fun with the Ocean and Superhero themes. Luckily for you they are on sale along with everything else in my store on August 4th and 5th for 28% off when you use the promo code BTS2014!  Just click on the picture below to take you to my store!


Unfortunately, I didn’t get everything I wanted completed and uploaded to my store, but don’t despair!  If you follow me on TpT you will be notified when I upload something new and I have a big surprise!  For the month of August, every product I upload will be discounted 50% for the first 48 hours!  Wahoo!!!!!

I hope all of you enjoy the sale and fill your shopping carts with tons of goodies!

Remember to always….  Keep ’em Thinking!


An Ocean Theme Classroom

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When I was in the classroom, my favorite theme was the ocean. I loved teaching marine biology, so of course everything in my classroom revolved around the ocean. I think one of the things I like best about an ocean theme is the color. Blue is definitely my favorite color, and the ocean is filled with so many different shades of blue. I love to scuba dive and my favorite blue is the turquoise waters in Cozumel. It’s the most beautiful blue I have ever seen. Since I love the ocean so much, I decided to create an Ocean Theme Classroom Décor when the new stuff is added and you won’t have to pay a dime more! I thought I’d show you some of the things you will find in this bundle.Watch the slide show of some of the items I have finished.  You can check them out in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

I love the clipart and all the patterns in this set!  Everything coordinates so well, and many of the items are editable to meet your individual needs!  I created a set of banners which spell out Welcome to 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade, along with kindergarten.  But best of all, there are blank banners which you can edit in PowerPoint and have your banners say anything you want!  These banners come both with and without the crab image.  They are so versatile.  There are so many things you can do with these banners – hang them over your whiteboard, doorway, or even make a banner for the front of your teacher’s desk!  If you want a mini banner, just adjust the size of your printing or print two pages on one page – that’s four banners per page!

I also have a calendar set, a huge set of classroom book bin labels with individual book labels, classroom supply labels, alphabet, number, and color charts, schedule cards which are editable, table signs, word wall banner and labels,  and hall passes. I should have up the classroom helpers, desk name plates, name tags, shapes posters, and a set of editable labels and cover sheets for your notebooks!  If there is anything else you can think of for me to add, just let me know!

Well, I’ve got to get busy and finish those last few items!

Remember to always….  Keep ’em Thinking!


Keep ’em Thinking With Biographies!

I love to incorporate biographies into lessons! It seems that no matter what unit the students are studying, there’s a great biography to go with it. Why is it so important to teach biographies? you might ask. For one thing, it teaches a little something about the history of a subject, but more importantly, biographies provide students with great role models to study. So many of our kiddos are influenced by media, and when you ask them who they admire, they will name a sports star, film or TV star, or a music idol. While they may be famous, not all of those folks are admirable.

I like to provide students with stories about people I believe have made great contributions to the world and have demonstrated character traits like persistence, compassion, and overcoming obstacles. Almost all eminent individuals have had to overcome great obstacles and had to deal with failure. These are great lessons to teach our children because so many of them think that to be good at something it must come easy. Teaching biographies is teaching the lessons of life.

Keep 'em Thinking With Biographies!

Of course, I have my favorite biographies I like to use. Probably my favorite biography is Snowflake Bentley by Catherine Briggs Martin. Talk about persistence. Wilson Bentley spent his entire life studying and photographing snowflakes. That was his passion. Paul Torrance, the father of creativity once said, “Fall in love with something and pursue it with intensity.” That is exactly what Wilson Bentley did. He developed a way to attach a microscope to a camera so he could take the beautiful up-close photographs of snowflakes we can enjoy today. Did he get rich? No. Did he become famous? Not really. In fact, during his lifetime, he spent more money on his photographs than he ever made from selling them. It wasn’t until the book Snowflake Bentley was published and earned a Caldecott Medal that many teachers or kids had even heard of him.

When I teach about ancient Egypt, I always include the picture book Seeker of Knowledge: The Man Who Deciphered Egyptian Hieroglyphs which is the story of Jean-Francois Champollion who studied the Rosetta Stone to learn the key to Egyptian hieroglyphs. Like Snowflake Bentley, Jean-Francois had a passion which began at a young age. By age 11, he vowed to be the first person to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphs.

In school, we often read biographies of the most famous folks in history like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, etc. I enjoy reading about them, but I also like to expand the kiddos’ knowledge and incorporate some of the men and women the kids are not typically introduced to in school like Jacques Cousteau, the famous French oceanographer; Nellie Bly, a female reporter; Marian Anderson, the famous African American opera singer; and Jane Goodall, the conservationist and environmentalist who spent her life studying chimpanzees.

Today, many of our brightest children fail because they never learned the correlation between effort and achievement. Our highest achievers start out in school at the top. They make straight A’s with little or no effort. Then when they hit the middle years where the work becomes more rigorous, we see a pattern of underachievement often begin. So many of our brightest students have failed to learn that even bright students must work to achieve. Teaching biographies is one way for students to learn about people who have achieved and how they had to work hard to achieve their goals even though they were bright or talented. It helps students understand that we are not born knowing how to invent the light bulb, paint the Mona Lisa, or compose a symphony. It is only through persistence and effort and learning from failure that we can achieve greatness.

I have several biography units on my TPT store which you might wish to check out!  Just click on the links below to go to the individual products.

Slide1Sarah Hale Saves Thanksgivingsnowflake bentley literature guide tpt2PDFFINAL_Page_001

Booker T. Washington Biography Mini PackSarah Breedlove Walker Biography Mini PackBessie Coleman Biography Mini Pack

Women's History Folding Fun and Graphic OrganizersFamous African American MenFamous African American Women






Next time you are about to begin a new unit of study, do some research for some great biographies of experts in that field to use with your students.

That’s all for today, but remember to always…  Keep ’em Thinking!


TPT Spring Cleaning Sale

Hello all! Since my spring break is almost over, I’m teaming up with a a bunch of other folks from Teachers Pay Teachers for a huge spring cleaning sale! I’ve cleaned out drawers and closets wall week, and now it’s time to clean out my TpT Wish list!  Thanks to Valerie at Georgia Grown Kiddos for organizing this sale and Beth Ann at Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah Design for the cute graphics.

spring sale

I’ve been super busy the last could of weeks trying to get some products ready for spring.  I just finished this little fella last night and posted it.


spring math logic cover Get ready for spring testing and challenge your students to become mathematical problems solvers with this fun set of 24 addition and subtraction puzzlers task cards.  Each card contains a set of 4 problems using pictures and numbers. The students must figure out the value of each picture. Students are using addition and subtraction within 20 to solve problems with unknowns in all positions.   They are solving equations with a symbol for the unknown number to represent the problem. It’s such a fun way to challenge your high achievers and is perfect in a center or for early finishers. These activities lay the foundation for problems in which students use variables in mathematical expressions in later grades which will help them succeed in algebra.

All task cards are available in both color and black and white. There are answer keys and recording sheets included.

The whole pack of 48 task cards (24 color and 24 b/w) are on sale for 20% off!  That’s a bargain!


You can use the cards several ways:

1.  Project one each morning on the SmartBoard or whiteboard and use them as a daily morning challenge

2.  Use them in a math center for students to solve during small group

3.  Use them for those early finishers and those kiddos who always come up to you and say, “I’m done, now what?”

spring logic task card

I love these cards!  They’re actually harder than you think.  Try this one!

Next, I want to give you a sneak peak of a unit I’ve almost finished and hope to have up this weekend!  It’s my Chicken Sunday unit!  Here’s the cover, what do you think?

chicken sunday cover 2

I have been having so much fun creating this unit!  This book is one of my all time favorites!  Of course I love everything by Patricia Polacco.  On the surface it looks like a cute little story about some children who want to buy their grandmother a new hat for Easter, but there is so much more to it!  The big ideas or themes that are presented really make you want to think.  It’s also great for character analysis and seeing how a character changes.  I always want to link this story up to Rachenka’s Eggs by Patricia Polacco.  I have even included some information about Pysanky eggs and a fun activity to design a Pysanky egg.  Hope to have it ready by Sunday!

Thanks for stopping by and remember to always…. Keep ’em Thinking!






Huge Sale at Teachers Pay Teachers!

Teachers Pay Teachers is having a huge sale starting Thursday and Friday, February 27th and 28th! My entire store will be on sale for 20% off and if you enter the Promo Code TPT3, you will receive an additional 10% off your entire purchase!   Just click on the button below to go to my Teachers Pay Teachers Store!  What a great deal! Now is the time for you to stock up! I know my basket is already full of great items to buy! A great big Thanks goes out to Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah for the adorable button.  She has fantastic clip art if you are looking to buy some.  Be sure to check out her store here!


Got to run and shop!  Hope to see you tomorrow and Friday!  Remember to always…. Keep ’em Thinking!






Huge Cyber Monday Sale (and Tuesday Too)!

Wow!  I’ve been so busy creating new products that I have really neglected my blogging.  Right now my Teachers Pay Teachers store is on sale for 20% off, and starting tomorrow, it is the site-wide sale, so you get an extra 8% off for a total of 28% off!  You can’t do better than that!  Everything in my store is on sale, including my bundles, so you will get some fantastic savings. Just click on the ad below to get to my store!  Also a big Thank YOU!  to Krista Wallden from Creative Clips who made the adorable button!


I love this time of year and I have been super busy creating some fun Christmas items to teach logical and critical thinking.  Be sure to check them out in my store!  I even bundled them together so you can get extra savings!



I’ve also created a product on the life of Martin Luther King, Jr.  Since I’m from Montgomery, Alabama, this was a product that was dear to my heart.  I grew up during the Civil Rights Movement here in the South, so this product is pretty special to me.  There are tons of great reading response activities to do with the biography I created called Martin Has a Dream which is included in the unit, but there are also materials to go along with the picture book Martin’s Big Words.


Well,  I must go for now.  I’m super busy trying to get as much Christmas shopping done as possible this week.  I hope to start blogging more and have some great new products to share with you soon!

Remember to always… Keep ’em Thinking!


No Tricks! Just a Treat!

Hey  all!  To celebrate the end of the month  and Halloween I’m giving out treats with a flash one day only sale in my TpT store tomorrow only!  Everything in my store is on sale for 20% off, so click on the image and come on down!  The talented Krista Lyn Wallden from Creative Clips created this amazing graphic, so be sure to check out her store too!

tpt halloween sale


That’s all for now!  Remember to always…. Keep ’em Thinking!


Turn Your Students into Compound Word Wizards! and a Surprise Flash Freebie!

I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything, but I have been busy with school getting starting and creating!  I had some folks ask for some materials to teach compound words, and I got a little carried away.  I had already created my I Spy Compound Words product, but I wanted to create some materials that included more differentiation and higher level thinking skills while teaching how to create and sort compound words.  I love the wizard theme to use for products.  It’s great for this time of year, but it is also good to use all year long.  Sooooo, I decided to create my Compound Word Wizards packs.  In the first pack, Compound Word Wizards:  Brewing Up Some Compound Words, students are creating potions or formulas for compound words.  There are also some matching activities, and one activity in which you supply the first and last words in two different compound words and the students supply the one word that when added to the end of the first word and the beginning of the second word, will create two different compound words!  This one really has the kiddos using their critical thinking skills.  Another activity in this packet has students looking into crystal balls and reading the clue to decide what the compound word is.  All of these activities are great for centers or small group instruction.  I made the cards so that they would fit into a tabletop pocket chart.  All of the compound word picture cards come with just pictures or with the pictures and words.  Here is a picture of some of the materials I laid out on my kitchen table.


In the second product, Compound Word Wizards: Sorting, Classifying, and Which One Doesn’t Belong,  I have students sorting and classifying compound words.  They also have task cards with four compound words and they must decide which one doesn’t belong, but there’s a catch….  there may be more than one right answer, depending on your rationale.  I love this activity because it really requires higher level thinking skills.  In another activity, the wizards are in the compound word lab and they have to decide which words are compound words and which are not.  But be careful, because the words that are not compound words are likely to explode!  There are a whopping 204 compound word cards in this packet, so you have a great assortment to choose from.  For those higher achievers in your class, you can give them compound word cards that they don’t regularly encounter in most products.  Here’s a picture of some of the materials in this product spread out on my kitchen table.

Compound Word Wizards: Sorting, Classifying, and Which One Doesn't Belong

And my last creation is Compound Word Wizards:  I Have Who Has? which is a set of 5 I Have Who Has? games to use to teach compound words.  I have a fall set, a spring/summer set, an everyday compound words set, an animals set, and a food set, so you have games to last you all year long!

Now, here’s the exciting news!  Since I just posted these products today, I have bundled them along with my I Spy Compound Words products into one huge mega pack Compound Words Wizards Mega Pack Bundle. This bundle is 50% off the price if you bought all these products individually.  But here’s the best part!  I am offering the bundle as a FLASH FREEBIE! for the next two hours!  That’s right! from 7:00 PM Central time to 9:00 PM Eastern time, it is yours for free!   Just click on the picture below and download your free copy.  And please leave some feedback and feel free to pin! 

Well,  I must go now, but am almost finished with some other great stuff to share with you!

Remember to always….  Keep ’em Thinking!

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I Spy Compound Words! Flash Freebie

It’s 8:30 Central time, and I am going to make my new I Spy Compound Words!  FREE for the next two hours until 10:30 Central Time!  Hurry over to my Teachers Pay Teachers store to download your free copy now.
I have had so much fun with compound words this week!  I found some fantastic new clip art by Kate Hadfield, and just had to use it to make some great new products!  The first thing I have finished is my I Spy Compound Words!  unit.
I know how much kids love to search and find objects in pictures, and I Spy Compound Words! has children having fun while searching for pictures of compound words in a set of 8 different scenes.  There are between 12 and 17 compound words to be found in each scene.  Aren’t they cute?  I just love how they turned out!  I have 8 different scenes I created:  School Days, Life on the Farm, It’s Apple Picking Time!, Snowy Days, Springtime, Fun in the Sun, Under the Sea, and Under the Stars.

I Spy Compound Words!

These can be used with children as young as Kindergarten and they are great for students in grades 1-3.  If you have ELL students, they are a great way to help them with vocabulary.

You may project the scenes on your Smartboard  or whiteboard for a whole class activity. Wouldn’t this be a fun way to start your morning each day you study compound words?  They’re also great to use in a center.   You simply print out the 8 scenes and the accompanying compound word cords for each scene.  Laminate the scenes or put them in sheet protectors for the kiddos to use overhead markers to circle the compound words they find.

There are accompany compound words cards with just words, or words and pictures so you can differentiate based on the needs of your students.  For advanced students, have them find the compound words without using any cards. There is even a recording sheet for the kiddos to record the compound words they find.

compound word scenes2_Page_03

compound word scenes2_Page_26compound word scenes2_Page_28

Understanding and knowing compound words is an integral skills in the new CCSS.  I Spy Compound Words!  Addresses the following Common Core Standards:
Kindergarten : K.L.6 and K.RFS.3.c
1st: 1.L.6 and 1.RFS.3
2nd: 2.L.4.d
3rd: 3.RFS.3, 3.L.2.e, 3.L.4 and 3.L.6
4th: 4.L.4.c and 4.L.6
5th: 5.L.4

Click on the pictures above to go to my Teachers Pay Teachers store to check them out!

I have another really cool product for Compound Words that should be finished this week!

That’s all for today!  Remember to always…. Keep ’em Thinking!


Best and Most Linky Party

I am linking up with Christina Bainbridge over at Bunting, Books and Bainbridge for her Best and Most Linky Party!snowflake bentley framed

My first product is my Teacher’s Pet.  Every teacher has a pet and my pet product is my Snowflake Bentley Literature Guide.  This is one of the first products I made at Teachers Pay Teachers and it is still my baby.  Snowflake Bentley was such an amazing guy and boy was he ever persistent!  He spent his entire life studying and photographing snow crystals.   In fact, he was the first person to ever successfully photograph snow crystals using a process  called photomicrography.  This  unit includes activities for vocabulary and language arts skills, great comprehension questions, science activities, and so much  more! Just click on the picture to go to these products on my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

analogy safari framed

My next product is my Most Likely to Help Students Succeed which happens to be one of my newest products.  This is my Analogy Safari product which teaches students how to do beginning analogies.  This product is just toooo cute!  All of the analogies on the task cards are animal analogies and they are so much fun!  The product also includes a PowerPoint  show which introduces the students to what an analogy is and how to solve them and an animal analogy game.  If you want to improve your students’ critical thinking, then this is the product for you!  Analogies are one of the instructional strategies you use to teach similarities and  differences.  According to Robert Marzano, teaching similarities and differences can increase student achievement over 40%!

rock around the clock and watch me tell time framed


My third and last is Best Couple.  These are two of my products that work best together.  I love teaching kids about time, and my two favorite time products are  my Watch Me Tell Time for 2nd grade and  my Rock Around the Clock product.  Both of these products focus on  teaching time to 5 minute intervals and they work so well together!  They are two of the best sellers in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store.  The individual students watches the  kids wear in the Watch Me Tell Time unit are just too cute!  I use Velcro to attach them around the kiddo’s wrists, and they can be used over and over year after year.  There are tons of games and activities in the packet to do with the students wearing the watches.  Of course, if you want a new take on the traditional Bingo, you’ve got to have your kiddos play Rock Around the Clock!  Instead of a traditional Bingo card, everyone has an  individual Rock Around the Clock card.  Just look at the picture to see how cute they are!  I love the guitar handles as the hands of the clock on the board.  There are three different games you can play using these boards and they can be used with the whole group, or with small groups in  a center.  How great is that!  Both of these products work well together to reinforce telling time to 5 minute intervals, so they are my pick for the Best Couple in my store!

I hope you had fun seeing my Best and Most!

Remember to always… Keep ’em Thinking!

susan signature

500 Follower Giveaway

Jeanne over at The 2nd Grade Surprise is having a fantastic giveaway just in time for back to school. She has the cutest blog that I am sure you will want to check out! Just click on the image below to get to the giveaway!

500 Follower Giveaway 2nd grade surprise


That’s all for now folks!  I will be back this weekend with some other great deals and ideas for your classroom!

Remember to always… Keep ’em Thinking!

susan signature

A Fun Giveaway to Celebrate 500 Followers!

Miss Mathis over at Mrs. Mathis’ Homeroom is celebrating 500 Followers with a fantastic giveaway!  Be sure to check it out!  You might even win my Watch Me Tell Time to the Nearest Hour and Half Hour unit along with some other fantastic resources.  The giveaway is up and running and will run though Friday at 9:00 PM Eastern Time.  While you’re there, also check out her blog.  She has lots of cute ideas to share!  Just click on the button below to get to this great giveaway!

giveaway button mISS mATHIS

That’s all for now!  Remember to always…. Keep ’em Thinking!

susan signature

Vocabulary Fun with Sorting, Classifying, and Which One Doesn’t Belong? Flash Freebie!

I am excited to announce that I have finished my Vocabulary Fun with Sorting, Classifying, and Which One Doesn’t Belong? product and it is FREE for the next 4 hours! Please feel free to download and provide feedback! Just click on the link or the preview below.

This unit is a fun way to teach the Common Core Standard: Vocabulary Acquisition and Use to primary students. The product includes all the materials needed to teach primary students to sort, classify and categorize vocabulary words and to explain how items are classified and categorized and relationships between objects. Activities begin at the lowest level – sorting, and move to classifying, and finally to identifying words or objects that do not belong to a class or set. These activities may be done as a whole class, with small groups or individually in a center. They are great for early finishers, gifted,  and ELL students!

As students create categories using words and pictures, they develop analysis, discrimination, comparison, and logical thinking skills. Identifying similarities and differences helps students see patterns and make connections. Students develop logical reasoning skills when they analyze a group of items and observe their characteristics. They must be able to see patterns and make connections as they sort, group, and classify through comparing things that are similar and contrasting things that display differences.

I particularly like the Which One Doesn’t Belong?  task cards.  These cards are great to place in a vocabulary center and the students love them!  There are three different levels of recording sheets for the students to use which allows you to differentiate according to the needs of your students. The first level simply has the student record the letter for the picture that doesn’t belong. The next level has the student record the letter for the picture that doesn’t belong and tell why it doesn’t belong. The highest level has the student record the letter for the picture that doesn’t belong, tell why it doesn’t belong, and supply another word or item that would fit the group.  This level adds depth and complexity and is more of a challenge for your high achieving students.

This 140 page product includes:
Fry 100 noun picture cards with words
Fry 100 noun picture cards without words
126 common noun picture cards with words
126 common noun picture cards without words
28 category sorting mats
2 blank sorting mats
Directions for Go Fish
Directions for Memory/Solitaire
Directions for Old Pirate (Played like Old Maid)
Directions for List, Label, Sort
Directions for Guess My Sort
10 Worksheets for Which One Doesn’t Belong?
Answer Key for Which One Doesn’t Belong worksheets
60 task cards with pictures – Which One Doesn’t Belong?
60 task cards with words only – Which One Doesn’t Belong?
Answer Keys and Recording Sheets for Which One Doesn’t Belong task cards

Of course this unit aligns perfectly with the Common Core Standard of Language Acquisition and Use:
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.K.5 With guidance and support from adults, explore word relationships and nuances in word meanings.
• CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.K.5a Sort common objects into categories (e.g., shapes, foods) to gain a sense of the concepts the categories represent.

Language Standards First Grade  Vocabulary Acquisition and Use
• CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.1.5 With guidance and support from adults, demonstrate understanding of word relationships and nuances in word meanings.
• CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.1.5a Sort words into categories (e.g., colors, clothing) to gain a sense of the concepts the categories represent.
• CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.1.5b Define words by category and by one or more key attributes (e.g., a duck is a bird that swims; a tiger is a large cat with stripes).

Language Arts Standards for Second Grade Vocabulary Acquisition and Use
• CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.2.5 Demonstrate understanding of word relationships and nuances in word meanings.
• CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.2.5a Identify real-life connections between words and their use (e.g., describe foods that are spicy or juicy).


vocabulary fun preview

Alabama Blogger Meet Up

I had absolutely one of the best times this past Saturday meeting up with a bunch of Alabama Teacher bloggers for my very first Alabama Blogger Meet Up. We met at the delicious Chuy’s Restaurant at the Summit in Birmingham and their food is so yummy! They have this incredible jalapeno ranch dip that is to die for. I ate so much that when my meal came I wasn’t even hungry. Jennifer White from First Grade Blue Skies put the whole thing together and she even had some goodies for each of us when we got there!

Jennifer White had these goodies for each of us!

Jennifer White had these goodies for each of us!

I got to meet some incredible gals.  Their enthusiasm for teaching and children was so obvious.  Now of course, I was the oldest one there.  In fact, I could have been the mother of each of them, but that didn’t take away from the great time I had.  We talked blogging, families, teaching, the children, and everything else under the sun.  I was amazed at how talented and obviously organized these gals are!

Here is a pic of the whole group except me ’cause I was taking the pictures and having a bad hair day.

Back row: Vickie, Linda, Dana, and Katie. Seated: Jennifer, Angela, and Sarah

Back row: Vickie, Linda, Dana, and Katie.
Seated: Jennifer, Angela, and Sarah


These gals all have amazing blogs.  Please check them out below and be sure to follow their blogs and Facebook pages!  I follow them because I don’t want to miss out on a thing they have to share!

first grade blue skies button

Jennifer White from First Grade Blue Skies is absolutely awesome!  She teaches first grade and you can tell she loves her classroom kids  besides the three of her own.  Her blog is incredible and you have got to check out all the creative things she does with her students.  It makes me want to be back in first grade!

first grader at lastSarah Cooley from First Grader At Last sat next to me during lunch and I had a blast getting to know her.  She has the cutest little girl!  I love all her ideas for the kids in her classroom.  Sarah’s  eyes sparkle when she talks and it is so much fun to listen to her.  I can see why all the kiddos fall in love with her.

the daily alphabet

Angela Griffith from The Daily Alphabet  is a hoot!  That gal always has a smile on her face!  I bet she would be so much fun to hang out with!

mrs. plant's press

Vickie from Mrs. Plant’s Press has one of the cutest blogs I have seen!  I need to get lessons on blog design from her.  Her blog is so bright and colorful and so are all the ideas she shares!

adventures of ms. smith

Katie from Adventures of Ms. Smith is a third grade teacher and she has incredible ideas she shares on her blog which BTW is having a giveaway for a Target Gift Card, so you need to be sure to check her out!

polka dots checks and stripes

Dana from Polka Dots, Checks & Stripes sat on the other side of me and she  was so much fun to get to know!  She and her hubby have just moved to Auburn and are expecting!  What an exciting time.  Dana actually taught in Montgomery at one time, but I never met her.  She is so much fun and has so  many wonderful ideas!

down the learning road

Finally there’s Linda from Down the Learning Road.  She is one of the sweetest people you will ever meet.  You’ve got to check out her blog!  She loves ladybugs and has some awesome ideas to share!

I had to leave early to get back home for company so I missed out on the trip to Hobby Lobby.  It’s just as well though because I would have spent too much money, but I hated to leave this awesome group of ladies!

That’s all for now, but remember to always… Keep ’em Thinking!

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The weather here in Alabama is scorching hot, so I’ve decided to have a scorching hot sale at my Teachers Pay Teachers store. Everything in my entire store is 20% off today through Sunday, so head on over to get some cool deals! Just click on the link to get there!
My Teachers Pay Teachers Store

Remember to always… Keep ’em Thinking!


Do you have trouble putting things off? I know I do! Last week I was at a workshop and they gave each of us a little round disk called a TUIT. A Round Tuit is a play on words, from the idiom “to get around to it.” Round TUITs first appeared at the 1964 World’s Fair which was held in Queens (Flushing), New York. No one knows where TUITs originated, but in the 20th century, a poem appeared which used the play on words. The poem read:
This is a round tuit. Guard it with your life! Tuits are hard to come by, especially the round ones. It will help you become a much more efficient worker. For years you’ve heard people say “I’ll do that when I get a round tuit.” So now that you have one, you can accomplish all those things you put aside until you got a Round Tuit.

Everyone at the workshop thought they were so neat, and I thought they were a great idea to give to our students and to give out to teachers at workshops, so I made my own version of a Round Tuit which I thought was cuter and much more economical.

I made a number of Round TUIT designs to give to your students or colleagues. Just print them out, laminate, cut them out, and they are ready to go! You will need to print the poem on the back side of the paper.  I  made the background on the backs larger than the front so that if your printer printed the back page slightly off, you would still have the poem perfectly centered. I notice that in the preview, some of the words don’t appear to be spaced correctly, but they are perfect in the printed out version.  I think compressing the photo made the spacing appear off.   The ones I printed out came out perfectly and I gave them to some friends last week who have had a blast with them! All designs have a black/white version so you can print them out on colored paper instead of using color ink. There is a generic design and designs for students, teachers, and homework. I put a different poem on the back of my TUITs which you can see in the pictures below. My TUITs are available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. You can click on the picture below to purchase them if you wish.  I did made the background on the backs larger than the front so that if your printer printed the back page slightly off, you would still have the poem perfectly centered. The ones I printed out came out perfect and I gave them to some friends last week who have had a blast with them!

I hope you and your friends have fun with these little TUITS!

Remember to always…  Keep ’em Thinking!


Tomorrow’s Alphabet Lesson Freebie

tomorrow's alphabetI have been so busy I haven’t had time to blog lately.  I promised you a freebie and here it is!  I love teaching with children’s picture books and sophisticated alphabet books are one of my favorites to use.  If you haven’t seen the picture book Tomorrow’s Alphabet by George Shannon, you simply must get it.  It starts out with A is for seed….. tomorrow’s apple, and follows that pattern throughout the book.  It’s great for talking about change,  making predictions of what the next page will be, and even bringing in cause and effect.  I like to read the book to my students, and then I give it a new twist.  I tell them we’re going to create a Yesterday’s Alphabet book!  Sounds simple, right?  Well, it’s much harder than  you think!  This activity is designed for students in grades 3-5.  I have tried it with younger students, and it really is too difficult.  The kids have to think backwards and that is difficult for some of them.  Brainstorm with a class the different ideas you could represent for each letter.  To do this, you  have to think about what that object could have been earlier in time.  For example with the letter A, you could say  A is for calculator, yesterday’s abacus,  or A is for oak tree, yesterday’s acorn.  Certain letters are going to give them  difficulty.  I have included in this freebie a copy of a completed Yesterday’s Alphabet book, two planning pages, and templates for each letter of the alphabet for your students to create their own Yesterday’s Alphabet book.   I let one student illustrate a letter to make a class book.  Here are some sample images from the download.  Each page is actually 2 pages so that kids have to turn the page to see the answer.  I love to have them try to guess!  This is a 57 page download that I hope you’ll love! Just click on the image below to download it from Google Docs!  I’d love it if you would send me some pictures of your students’ books!

yesterday's alphabet collage

Enjoy and remember to always… Keep ’em Thinking!

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500 Follower Giveaway! and My Newest Products

500 follower giveawayDon’t you must love giveaways? My friend, Mrs. D over at Thinking About 3rd grade is having a huge 500 follower giveaway and it is a whopper of a giveaway! There will be 4 prize packs: K-1, 2-3, 4-5, and 6th grade and up. The grade 2-3 prize pack is the largest with 25 products! My brand new It’s Time to Rock Around the Clock game is in there as well. Boy would I love to win this giveaway! The giveaway is running from today through May 7th, so hop on over and check it out! Just click on the image to get there!

I have been so busy the past month that I have neglected my blog. I posted a new product a couple of weeks ago that I am really excited to tell you about! I had several teachers whose students were struggling with time to 5 minute intervals, so I really gave some hard thought to ways you could make time interesting and fun at the same time. I thought of all the different games I could create, and I had an inspiration while trying to think of sayings that had to do with time.

coverI thought about that rock and roll oldie Rock Around the Clock and I had the idea to make a record into a clock with guitars for the hour and minute hands and small clocks going around the record where the numbers would be. That was the birth of my game It’s Time to Rock Around the Clock! Rock Around the Clock is a set of 3 games to be used with the whole class or small groups in centers to help students tell time to 5 minute intervals and to tell starting or ending times when given the elapsed time. These games align with the Common Core Standards CC.2MD.7 and CC.3MD.1. so it’s perfect for second and third grade.

The kiddos have had a blast with these games! We even played the song Rock Around the Clock while the kids were playing the game. Played like Bingo, the students use individual Rock Around the Clock cards and markers to mark times shown on their Rock Around the Clock cards as they are called out. The times are in the corresponding area on the board, so the kids don’t have to look all over their boards. For example, if 2:15 is called out, students look at the clock at the 2:00 position to see if it matches. There are 4 different times for each hour for a total of 48 so the game doesn’t take too long to play. When a student has a marker on all 12 clocks on his/her board, he/she calls out Rock Around the Clock! It has been a real fun game and the kids love playing it during center time.

Each of the 30 individual Rock Around the Clock cards has a different combination of clocks so no two are alike. Also, there is a color and a black and white version of each Rock Around the Clock card because I know how expensive that colored ink gets! Here are the three games you can play using the game boards:

Game 1: students place markers on the board to match the times called out. – includes directions for playing with the whole group or with small groups in a center
Game 2: students place markers on the board to match the time clue cards. – includes directions for playing with the whole group or with small groups in a center
Game 3: students place markers on the board to match the starting or ending time when given the elapsed time. – includes directions for playing with the whole group or with small groups in a center preview for rock around the clockpreview final tptOne of the things I really love about this game is that it can be played with both the whole class or with small groups in a center. Because there are three different variations of the game – i.e. digital calling cards, verbal clues calling cards, and elapsed time problem calling cards, you are able to differentiate according to the needs of the students in your class.
This product includes:
30 individual Rock Around the Clock Cards – color and b/w versions to save ink!
Rock Around the Clock master board to keep up with times called
Rock Around the Clock time cards to choose from when calling out times
Answer key for each Rock Around the Clock card
48 digital clock cards to play the game in small groups – students draw a card and place the marker on the corresponding analog clock on their board. The first player to fill up their card wins.
48 time clue cards – students draw a card, read the clue, and place the marker on the corresponding clock on their board.
48 elapsed time cards – students draw a card read the clues, and cover the clock which shows the starting or ending time when given the elapsed time.
Answer key for time clue cards and elapsed time cards

Just click on the picture and it will take you to my Rock Around the Clock game at my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

I also have a new product which I will be posting about hopefully tonight and a great freebie I am sure you are gonna love, so check back in a few days! That’s all I have time for today! Remember to always… Keep ’em Thinking!

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A Gigantic Giveaway!

Slide1To celebrate 100 followers on her Teachers Pay Teachers store, Christina Mauro over at Mrs. Mauro’s Kinderverse has a huge giveaway going on right now!  There are about 30 great products bundled together for the winner, so be sure to go over to her blog at  and enter for your chance to win.  Click on the picture to get there.   My Making Sense of Dollars and Cents unit is one of the prizes in the giveaway, but there are tons of great products.  Also, check out Christina’s blog while you’re there.  She  is a kindergarten teacher and she does some super cute stuff with her kids.  Makes me wish I was back in kindergarten!

That’s all for today.  Remember to always… Keep ’em Thinking!

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A Fun Activity to Describe Characters

amazing graceAre you looking for a fun way to teach describing characters and character traits?  Try this!  Fold each side of a horizontal sheet of paper to the middle.  Have the kids draw a picture of the character on the front.  Put words to describe the outward appearance of the character on the outside.  This can be things that are obvious from the text.  Next, open the page up and write character traits and words to describe the character’s emotions on the inside.  These are things you have to infer about the character’s traits based on the evidence from the text.  It’s pretty fun and these make a great display!

I have a little template you can use to make these if you would like.  Just click on it to download it from Google Docs!

face foldable

That’s all for today!  Remember to always… Keep ’em Thinking!

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Create Flip Books with your students to understand Optical Illusions!

When we were teaching the students about the brain this year, one of the things that fascinated them the most was Optical Illusions!  I think all kids love optical illusions.  What exactly is an optical illusion?  All the information that your eyes gather is processed by the brain.  Your eyes processes color, light, and patterns and send that information to your brain which  interprets the information we take in through our eyes.  Sometimes the colors, light and patterns trick our brains into seeing things that may not be real.  Do you like to see animated movies or cartoons?  If so, you are seeing a series of images that create an illusion called apparent motion.  The pictures flashed on the screen move so rapidly that your brain fills in the gaps and actually blends the pictures together giving the illusion of motion.

A fun way to illustrate that concept is to have your students make a flip book.  This is the one I made to use with my students.  Just follow the directions on the sheet and you will see an illusion of a dog moving his head and wagging his tail!  Now this is just the introduction to the concept! Do not tell them why they see the motion before they make the flip books!  It is best to make them and then have the kids brainstorm ideas about why they think their eyes are tricking their brains.  Then explain about the rapid movement making their brain fill in the gaps.  Actually, this also happens every time you blink your eyes!

I like to have my students then create their own flip books.  No art skills are necessary.  They can create stick figures which do jumping jacks,  a bouncing ball, etc.  If they’re really industrious, they can use index cards to create a series of pictures which are then stapled together and flipped like you would flip the pages in a book.  But for young students in the primary grades, just a two page flip book is sufficient.  If you click on the image of the flip book below, it will take you to my Google Docs page where you can download a free copy of the picture and directions.

the friendly dog flip book directions

What are some ideas your kids could use for flip books in your class?

That’s all for today!  Remember to always…  Keep ’em Thinking! 

susan signature

Teaching Primary Students Ordinal Positions, Sequence, and Logic

paper doll chains coverI absolutely love to incorporate logic into math whenever possible, so when a friend told me she was teaching ordinal positions and sequencing, I couldn’t resist creating something for her to use with her students!  What better way to teach ordinal positions and sequence than paper doll chains!  I had so much fun creating this packet of 28 paper doll chain puzzlers.  They range from three doll chains to five doll chains.  The kids use the clues on the task cards and colored paper doll cards to create the paper doll chain in the correct sequence.  The cards require the kids to use some logic to figure them out which makes it all the more fun! The task cards come in two versions, one with the ordinal position under each paper doll, and one without the ordinal position.  This allows you to differentiate the activity according to the needs of the students in your class.  You can also start the kids out doing the puzzles with the ordinal positions on them, and then once they are proficient, they can move to the task cards without the ordinal positions.

Because I’m so conscious of the cost of colored ink, I made the task cards in black and white and only the individual paper doll cards are in color. There is a recording sheet for kids to color in or just write the color letters for each paper doll chain.    These puzzles are great for your math center.    They’re  designed for kids in grades 1-3, but I do know one 4th grade teacher who wanted to use them and her kiddos loved them.  They’re especially great for those early finishers in your classroom!

Here are a couple of pictures of what the center and cards would actually look like

You can find this packet at my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  If you click on the cover graphic, it will take you directly to the product page.

Well, that is all for now!  I have a fun new product which should be ready next week, so check back!  I also have a couple of freebies I will be posting this weekend which I hope you can use with your students!

Remember to always…  Keep ’em thinking! 

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Fixing Up Your Classroom

I’ve been out of the classroom for 5 years now, and sometimes it makes me a little sad.  Don’t get me wrong,  I love being a gifted coordinator, but sometimes I miss interacting with the students and fixing up a classroom.  Today I was looking at old pictures of when I taught, and I came across some pictures of my old classroom.  I used to really get into fixing up my classroom to match the theme of the units I was teaching.  I suppose my favorite two classroom designs were for my marine biology unit and my unit on Ancient Egypt.  I must have spent a fortune fixing up those classrooms, but it was worth every penny.  Whenever I decorated my classroom, I wanted the kids to feel they were immersed  in the unit, so I kinda went all out.  I thought I’d share a few of my classroom pictures with you.  These were taken in 2000-2001 and 2001-2oo2 school years.  You can tell by the computers!  Everyone always asks me how I made the murals on the walls and ceilings.  Well, the murals on the ceilings were actually pieces of tagboard cut to the exact dimensions of the ceiling tiles.  I copied the designs onto each one and painted them with acrylic paint.  When they were dry, I just slipped them into the dropped ceiling frame.  Now I was a lot younger then, so I don’t know if I would get on a ladder to do it today.  The murals on the walls were ecru sheets that I draped over some closets and using an overhead projector, I traced the designs from a coloring book about ancient Egypt onto the sheets using a sharpie pen  and then I painted them using acrylic paints.  I had an old mattress box I laid the sheets out on to paint them.  Believe it or not, they still look as good and vibrant today as they did back then.  The gifted program taught a unit on ancient civilizations last year and four of the gifted specialists used the murals in their classrooms.  We had to have a drawing because everyone wanted one and I didn’t have enough to go around.




The next set of pictures was from my unit on marine biology.  I hung shower curtains over the windows so it looked like you were in an aquarium when you entered the classroom.


It’s fun looking at old photos.  What old classroom photos are your favorites that you like to pull out?

Well,  that is all I have for today!  Remember to always…  Keep ’em Thinking!

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Beginning Logic Puzzles and Activities – Spring Themed for Grades 1-3

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone!  If you know anything about me, you know how much I love to teach kids to think and use logic and deductive reasoning.  Well, I combined that with my love of all things spring and created a huge pack of spring themed logic puzzles which I just put up on  my TpT store!  This pack has 48 puzzles in all – 24 matrix logic puzzles, 12 magic square puzzles, and 12 Sudoku type picture puzzles.  That’s enough to keep your kiddos busy until the end of the year.  Like everything else I create, there are different levels of complexity to  all the puzzles so you can differentiate according to the needs of your students.  I am so excited about this new product!  The clip art is fantastic.  I found a great new clip art source at Lisa’s Country Clipart – You’ll have to check her out.  I love all the kid faces I can use in my logic puzzles.  It makes them so much more colorful.  Here’s a great preview of the puzzles which you can also check out if you go to my Teachers Pay Teachers Store by clicking on the picture below!



That’s all I have time for today!  Remember to always…  Keep ’em Thinking!




kenkenI have discovered an absolutely wonderful website called KenKen.  People say KenKen’s are like Suduko puzzles on  steroids.  So exactly what is a KenKen?  It’s a numerical puzzles that uses the four basic math operations – addition, subtraction, multiplication,  and division.  The puzzle is laid out on a grid  ranging from 3 by 3 to 9 by 9.  Also, they are available for different levels of complexity.  The most basic use only one operation (addition) and then they add subtraction, and the number of grids can also change.   The great thing about using these puzzles with your students is that it helps improve their math and  logic skills.

If you go to the website, you will find  lots of KenKen puzzles ready for you to download for your kids.  They even have a version that can be played online, a mobile app, and if that isn’t enough, you can sign up to have a new sets of KenKen puzzles delivered to you by email each week!  Many of the gifted teachers in my system have a KenKen center in  their classroom.  But be careful, they’re addicting!  The kiddos can’t seem to get enough of them.  If you click under the section for teachers, they have a pdf file you can send home to teach your kiddo’s parents how to KenKen as well.  So check it out and have fun while challenging your mind and boosting your brain power!

That’s all  for  now!  Remember to always… Keep ’em Thinking!

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Making Sense of Dollars and Sense: A Unit on Money for 2nd Graders

I have been working with some 2nd grade teachers to give them  ideas and resources to challenge their high achievers.  Since money is always such a fun unit to study in math, I decided to create some materials for a study of money.  Of course, I made sure it was aligned to the new Common Core Standards for Math we adopted this year.  This was such a fun unit to create!  I think I got carried away because it ended up being 147 pages long!  Every time I thought I was finished I would have a new idea.  I really tried to create activities that could be differentiated to  meet the needs of all the students, yet challenge the high achievers.    Here are some of the things I included in the unit:

•I Have Who Has game – counting quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies.  Cards in both color and black and white and includes an answer key
•Race for the Money game – students practice adding groups of coins up to $1.00 – includes a game board, player pieces, and spinners
•Give me the Loot game – played like the card game War with 38 cards with values less than $1.00 – Sets of cards in both color and black and white.
•Hunt for Buried Treasure game – played like Bump, students add two different collections of coins to cover treasure chests on a treasure map.
•Trade ‘em Up to Make a Buck game – students trade in coins to make $1.00 – in both color and black and white – includes game board and spinners.
•Same Amount, Different Ways – Students are given a card with an amount of money and must use coins to represent that amount in different ways – black and white.  Includes cards and 2 graphic organizers.  Demonstrates multiple ways to solve a problem.  May be differentiated!
•Mitzi’s Candy Shop – Students use a menu to solve money problems.  Includes menu and  20 question cards.  The cards are in three levels of difficulty so you can differentiate. Includes answer key.
•Mimi’s Diner – This is for your advanced students. Students use a menu to solve money problems greater than $1.00. Includes menu, order cards, and food cards.  Allows for real world application of skills.
•Mystery Money – students are given clues and must use the clues to determine the mystery coins – black and white and includes an answer key.
•Three in a Row game – Challenging!  A game in which students determine how much more money is needed from a given amount to make one dollar.  Includes game board in black and white to be printed out on colored card stock and spinners.
•Spin a Problem – students spin two spinners.  They must then use the amounts on each spinner and the sum of the two amounts to create a word problem which can include either addition or subtraction.
•Math Journal Prompts – 14 different prompts – students are given word problems involving money and must use a math journal page to draw a picture and then write how they solved the problem.  Some prompts involve money amounts greater than $1.00  and two step problems – includes an answer key. Prompts are available as 7 different prompts per page or 7 of the same prompt per page.  Also includes a  math journal graphic organizer.
•Money Fairy Tales – students are given money amounts and must create a fairy tale using those amounts.  Great for incorporating money and writing! – Includes booklet cover and money cards.
I’m really excited about how the unit turned out.  The teachers in the system who are using it say they love it and that the kids are asking for more!  And now they’re asking for me to create more things for them!  I think I am going to be really busy!  Here’s a sneak peak to let you see some of the material in the  unit.
Click on the image and you can download a preview at my Teachers Pay Teachers store!
That’s all for today!  Remember to always Keep ’em Thinking!
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Teaching Logic to Primary Students

I believe teaching students how to think logically is so very important.  Logical thinking developes skills in problem solving, making inferences, drawing conclusions, recognizing similarities and differences, and comparing and contrasting.  I have always used matrix logic puzzles with my students to introduce them to logical thinking.  I think matric puzzles are one of the easiest ways to introduce logic problems.  I have seen many resources that simply give the problem and clues, but there is no matrix.  The matrix is critical to helping students understand the reasoning involved in solving the problems.   For example, if you answer “yes” on a column or row, all the other squares on the column or row should have “no” answers.

To help primary students learn how to develop logical reasoning, I have developed a set of 25 logic problems around a Christmas theme. What better way to get kids excited about logic! There are different levels of difficulty, to provide opportunities to differentiate for the varying ability levels in your classroom.  The matrix logic puzzles begin with 2 X 2 grid puzzles and progress to 3 X 3 grid puzzles; however, once the students are exposed to the puzzles, everyone should be able to complete all of them.  I suggest beginning with the easiest puzzles as a group activity to develop practice and confidence in solving matrix logic puzzles.  They print out beautifully in grayscale so you don’t use color ink.

There are so many ways you can use these in your classroom – as a group activity in the morning for a problem of the day activity, in a center, or activities for those earlier finishers.

Here’s what you will get:

  • 25 puzzles in all (6 Christmas Sudoku picture puzzles and 19 matrix logic puzzles)
  • Candy cards for Sudoku picture puzzles
  • Yes/no cards for logic puzzles
  • Answer keys
  • Sheets to record responses

Click on the preview below to see these puzzles and to download a preview!

primarily christmas logic preview

Remember to always Keep ’em Thinking! – Susan Morrow

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