Greek Myths In Today's Classroom

One of the best ways to engage my students has always been through reading great literature. I have many favorite stories, and I've shared several of them with you.  This month, however, my class is beginning our Greek Myths unit.  This is one of my favorites because from a literature perspective it is an important unit to teach, and it is so engaging for my students.

Greek myths have been around forever - literally!  They are referenced throughout novels, movies, and history.  For students to have a firm understanding of future literature they will need to know the key players of Greek mythology.

Greek myths are also fun.  When taught using age appropriate
resources (like my Greek Myths Bundle Unit), Greek myths are full of so many learning opportunities for elementary students.  I think it's the “black and white” format that kids understand right away: There are often clear heroes and villains in place to teach valuable life lessons. At the same time, Greek myths teach these lessons without being preachy, or predictable.  The other great draw is that the protagonists have innate “superhero appeal” thanks to their supernatural powers.

Greek myths give children a strong literary foundation. Many Greek myths draw heavily on drama and pathos, concepts children will need to have a firm grasp of in order to understand high school-level reading. (Shakespeare in particular refers back to Greek myths on many occasions). Greek myths should be viewed in a prototypical light where Western storytelling is concerned. Even the beloved Harry Potter series gives nods to Greek mythology.

Greek myths were created at a time when people were directly dependent on the land.  As a result, they can help children understand just how connected we really are to the planet. Happy teaching!

Hidden Figures of Black History

It's February, which means many of us are studying black history in our classrooms.  I recently saw the amazing movie Hidden Figures.  If you have not seen this yet, please check it out.  The African American women featured in this movie accomplished so much while working for NASA, and we
never knew about it.  It made me begin thinking about the many hidden figures in African American history.

In light of the movie, I created this free black history word search. It features many important figures in black history. Some are well known, and other names on the word search are less well known.  If nothing else, it's a fun way to get your students thinking about black history.

If you're looking for a way to teach more African American history to your class this month, please look at my
Black History Month Lessons and Pop Up Book bundle.  It is full of rich informational text for your students to learn more about African American history.  Here's hoping you and your class have a wonderful February.

I also have a wonderful giveaway this week for a $75 Teachers Pay Teachers Gift Card. Happy shopping and Enjoy!


Prize: $75 Teachers Pay Teachers Gift Card

Giveaway Organized by: Kelly Malloy (An Apple for the Teacher),

Co-hosts: An Apple for the Teacher, Teach with Hope, Jackie Crews, Amanda's Little Learners, Reading and Writing Redhead, The Literacy Garden, Mickey's Place, Teaching Biilfizzcend, Miss Pentagirl Kinderpuzzle, Teaching Ideas For Those Who Love Teaching, Third Grade Giggles, Sandra Naufal, Heart 2 Heart Teaching, Mrs Hansens Helpfuls, A Place of Story, Kathryn Watts, Kari Hall, Real Life in First Grade, A Plus Kids, Planet Happy Smiles, Jackie Crews, Ms. K, Catch My Products, It's a Teacher Thing, Leah Popinski, Teachers Caravan, The Chocolate Teacher, MM Bilingual, and Digging Deep to Soar Beyond the Text.

Rules: Use the Rafflecopter to enter. Giveaway ends 2/13/17 and is open worldwide.

Are you a Teacher Blogger or Teachers pay Teachers seller who wants to participate in giveaways like these to grow your store and social media? Click here to find out how you can join our totally awesome group of bloggers!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Tech Talk - The Online Subscription Dilemma

It's time for another Tech Talk!

I love using technology with my students.  It makes differentiation so much easier.  I can work with students in small groups, and know that the rest of my students are still getting the targeted practice that they need.  I can even lock the devices, to make sure students stay in exactly the app I need them in.  I LOVE it.

What I don't love, is figuring out how to pay for my classroom's online subscriptions.  I have three choices - wait for my school to release the funds (this year, they were finally released in December), find a generous parent or parents willing to donate an online subscription (that means they have say, over which subscription you purchase), or pay for exactly what you want out of your own pocket (This becomes very expensive, very quickly).  Each of the three options has it's own obstacles.  

In the past, I have envied my colleagues in Kindergarten and First grade, because they are always able to begin the year introducing the curriculum they know they can use all year. They use, because it is always free for teachers.  I have observed the program in their classrooms and their students are ALWAYS engaged in their quality online learning.  Last week, however, I learned that has launched their second grade curriculum!!!  I have always admired the ABCmouse curriculum, and the fact that the company allows teachers to use it for free with their students.  I knew I had to blog about it.

In case you aren't familiar with let me tell you that it is a quality online educational tool.  As a teacher you can pick the lessons that you want your class, or individual students to focus on.  You can even use it for whole class, or small group lessons.  They have a full curriculum for Reading, Math, Science, Social Studies, and even Art and Music. There are no ads, or outside links that students can click on while using it - so it's safer than a lot of other free programs.  It also does not feel like a free program.  You have full access to the curriculum, and your students' learning.  Your students can continue their learning at home, using your links.  There is no trial period - it is truly a free resource. I highly recommend it, and I'm extremely happy that I can now use it in my own classroom.  Here is a link, so you can open a free teacher account for yourself

Homeschoolers can't get a free account, but they do have this Special Offer 38% Off an Annual Membership! Receive 12-Months for Only $59.95!  Enjoy!

Looking for more teaching ideas?  Check out these great January ideas in our monthly blog hop:

Forging Connections By Studying Family

Watching young children's natural curiosity light up as they learn about the world around them is an unforgettable experience for parents and educators alike. As adults, we have fun rediscovering nature through teaching children about plants, animals and insects. We imagine with our students as they learn to read, and we retread the steps of famous explorers as they turn globes. There is, however, one area we all too often overlook while helping children learn about society: The very roots that planted them there - their families.

Encouraging children to explore their family connections through writing, and creating family trees
has a lot of benefits for young children.  Here are just a few.

  • Learning about family creates a stronger sense of identity. We begin forming a sense of individual identity as toddlers and lay most of the groundwork for who we’ll become between the ages of 5-9. (The core aspects of our personality are usually in place by our preteen years.) Learning about where we come from during grades K-3—including the values and traits we share with our close relatives—entwines our individual identity with a sense of permanence, belonging, and stability. This in turn leads to increased confidence and self-esteem.

  • Creating a family tree can help a child begin to understand his or her place in the world. One of the core “journeys” of childhood is the transition from being a completely dependent, self-focused infant to being an independent, generous adult. When a child creates a family tree, he starts to see how he’s connected to something “bigger” than himself. He starts to think about how his relatives have influenced his life and how he’s changed theirs. 

  • Remember that a young child’s capacity for “big picture” thinking is quite limited, so they need to engage with broad concepts like “society” in smaller, more personal way than adults do. Ideally, you should limit a young child’s family tree to just the two most recent generations; filling it with people the child has actually met will help him to visualize and understand the concept of greater connectedness.  Here is a family tree and lesson I created specifically for young students.  This unit not only builds a sense of family, it also helps to create a sense of community. 

Interestingly, the popularity of genealogy in America (where the practice first made the transition from being an occupation of the wealthy to being an everyman pastime) can be attributed to this same need for a “local connection.” In the 1800s, genealogy (then known as “antiquarianism”) became a popular way to study local history and honor the achievements of the community, thereby building a sense of American identity.

  • Thinking and writing about family groups improves a child’s social skills. The sense of interconnectedness described above helps to increase a child’s ability to empathize. When children see how familial interactions have actively shaped their lives, they start to think more deeply about the impact their own actions can have on others. They begin to see that we’re all part of an interdependent web where caring, sharing, and providing assistance factor heavily into everyone’s continued happiness and success. 

  • Studying family history is a great catalyst for developing a general interest in history. For many children, history is a dry and distant subject. The dates, facts, and names contained in history books can easily feel completely irrelevant to a child’s life (and therefore profoundly dull). While teachers try many tactics to make history seem more “alive” to their students, they often overlook the literal “living history” contained in a child’s own immediate family tree. By exploring the world of their parents and grandparents, even young children can forge a personal connection to the past and begin to grow an understanding of how historic events have shaped our current reality.

When a child creates a family tree, that child is in essence creating a map of exactly where he or she belongs. This is both personally empowering and a valuable learning exercise thanks to its
implications of greater context and historical relevance. Better still, children generally enjoy this exercise so much—precisely because it’s so immediately relatable for them—that it feels more like play than work... And what more natural way is there to learn, than through play?

For more great December blog posts, check out the blog posts below:

Real World Math

I love to teach math.  I love working with numbers, and always have.  Sometimes, my students do not share my enthusiasm for numbers, and over the years some have even said "I will never use this in real life".  When I first heard those words, I realized that I needed to begin connecting my everyday uses of math to students' real lives.  Each time I connect math to real life, I find not only are students more engaged, it reassures them (and their parents) that they are in fact learning all of this math for a reason.  Here are five quick tips for incorporating real world math into your daily math lessons.

  • Addition, Subtraction and Money - I'm beginning with this basic math skill because it's one we begin working with in preschool.  Smart number sense begins at a young age, and it's important that children understand that we will always have to add and subtract.  These two math skills are the most important when it comes to managing our daily finances as adults.  We hear about rich celebrities going bankrupt all the time.  Sometimes it's for complicated reasons.  A lot of times, however, it comes down to basic addition and subtraction.  How much money is coming in, and how much money is going out.  My favorite line in math class, is this - If you don't count your money, someone else will count it for you and take it.  This always gets my students' attention.  The truth is, we have to be able to count our own money.  We have to be able to know that we are being billed correctly, and if we're paying in cash - make sure that the computer is showing the correct amount of money that we are owed.  Wells Fargo recently charged customers for fees incurred from debit and credit cards the customers never opened.  Alert customers who knew the amount of money that should have been in their accounts, were able to bring this to the attention of millions of people who were affected.  This is a great example of how basic addition and subtraction are necessary in everyday life.      

  • Restaurants and Tips -  Students can amaze their family and friends by correctly calculating tips in their head. Calculating percentages of numbers used to be one of those skills my students would complain they would never use in real life. Then I began bringing up restaurant tips.  This got their attention, because everyone eats out. The reality is calculating 10% of any number is not that complicated.  If you can calculate 10%, you can divide that in half and add the quotient to the initial 10% for a 15% tip.  For awesome service, just multiply the 10% tip by 2 and you have your 20% tip ready to go. When I taught junior high school, I told my students I expected them to calculate their tip for their families every time they ate out.  They LOVED this.  They would come back and tell me how impressed their parents were, because their parents hated calculating tips.

  • Credit Cards and Negative Numbers - I truly believe in my heart that if more teachers taught negative numbers and related it to credit card debt, we would not have the problem with debt that we have today in our country.  I love teaching students to add and subtract with negative numbers, because we truly use negative numbers each time we pay for anything.  Relating negative numbers to using debit or credit cards, or paying a credit card bill is a must for me.  Connecting any math skill to money is sure to get students' attention, because most students love learning about money. The reason subtracting a negative number makes the number go higher is because you're paying off debt - plain and simple.  That always hit home for my students, and helped them understand adding and subtracting with negative and positive numbers.

  • The Stock Market - Students like learning about the stock market.  They hear about it on the news, and they equate it with wealth.  Students and their families are more engaged when it comes to studying something they feel can bring wealth into their lives.  When I taught junior high school, my students would choose a stock to follow for a month and create a report on it.  If you're interested, you can access my full Understanding the Stock Market lesson here.

  • Cost Benefit Analysis - As adults we compare things in our minds, or on paper all the time.  Is this the right time to move?  Should I pay to repair my car, or buy a new one?  Is this new job actually paying me more money, or am I simply working longer hours?  These are math decisions.  Once a week, I would write up a real world math scenario and simply discuss it as a class.  I always told them there was no right or wrong answer.  In fact, we would even discuss the cost of things like time or worry into our discussions.

I hope you find these tips useful.  Do you have any real world math discussions or activities you use with your class?  Please share them with me in the comments below.

Are You Ready For Your Best School Year Ever?

I remember reading Scholastic's ABC's For a Low Stress School Year year's ago.  The tips are just for teachers, and they are truly fabulous!  A, stands for attitude - "If you think you'll have a great year, you will".  I know it sounds a little bit trite, but years that I remember this bit of advice always go better than years that I don't.  Another favorite letter for me is N - Neutralize "If you can't change the situation, change how you view or respond to it".  Check out the full alphabet of ideas, they're sure to make you smile.

I am heading back to school too, and rereading those ABC's!  In addition to sharing them with all of you, I wanted to wish everyone a Happy New School Year!!

In that light, I have THREE things guaranteed to make you smile.  First, a FREEBIE!!!  These are free calendar headers which you can pop pictures of your students and class directly into.  Print them, laminate them, and you're ready to go.  Personally I like to use pictures of groups of kids, so that between August and June every student is in at least two calendar headings.  I do use a checklist when I select the pictures I'll use to make sure all students are included.

Second, TPT is having a one day only sale - August 21st!  Save up to 28% off on amazing resources for your classroom.  Use the code: OneDay to save an additional 8%.  Seriously, don't check out without typing in that promo code.  I've forgotten to do that in the past, and kicked myself.

The third thing that will make you smile is a gift just for you.  Not for your students.  I know that this time of year is very expensive for teachers.  We are preparing our classrooms and new students for the year ahead, and feel the need to buy so many classroom supplies.  In honor of that, I am participating in a giveaway for a $40 Tieks Gift Card that you can use for a new pair of Tieks shoes!!  Just for you.   Go ahead and enter.


Prize: $40 Tieks Gift Card

Giveaway Organized by: Kelly Malloy (An Apple for the Teacher)

Co-hosts: An Apple for the Teacher, Katie Roltgen, Teaching Ideas For Those Who Love Teaching, Teach with Hope, The Literacy Garden, Sliding into 1st, Mrs Humphries Class, Peas In A Pod, and Mrs Irvins Toolbox.

Rules: Use the Rafflecopter to enter. Giveaway ends 8/29/16 and is open worldwide.

Are you a Teacher Blogger or Teachers pay Teachers seller who wants to participate in giveaways like these to grow your store and social media? Click here to find out how you can join our totally awesome group of bloggers!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tips For Teaching The Presidential Election

Teaching during a Presidential election can be a ton of fun.  It is, however, not without pitfalls.  Here are a few tips to make your election lessons informative for your students, and politics free for you.

  • Never share your personal politics:  This seems pretty obvious, but there are little ways that it can creep into your teaching.  Make sure that your students, and their families, cannot tell which politician you are in favor of.  

  • No class is homogeneous:  You may believe that everyone in your class will have families that support one candidate.  This will NOT be the case.  Make sure that you cover both candidates equally.  Remember that students who do not share the opinions of the majority of the students may not speak up in class.  They will, however, go home and share what was discussed in class.  Make sure that you are not allowing students to trash one particular candidate during political discussions.  It can be wonderful when you have a student who feels strongly about one candidate, and shares appropriate points about that candidate in class.  Simply make sure all discussions in class remain courteous - even if our actual candidates cannot do this.

  • Study the basics:  Students can research details about the politician of their choice at home. Presidential elections bring out a range of emotions in people.  You do not want to upset a family by covering something in class they feel was slanted against their candidate.  I created  the 2016 Presidential Election Bundle to cover the basic history of each candidate.  Whatever material you cover in the classroom, make sure that it is balanced.  

  • Have secure mock elections:  Model any mock elections off of real elections.  Students should have a secure voting area where no one can see their vote.  In my room, we actually appoint "election judges" to handle handing out ballots.  I even have students fold their own ballots and turn them into the election box themselves.  You can even have an election judge hand students "I voted" slips after they have turned in their ballots.  Finally, have students tally the election results.  This makes students understand the entire election process.
  • Remind students not to share their vote:  This one is difficult in a classroom.  Children love to discuss everything with one another.  Voting choices is not something that students should share.  Remind students that the only way anyone will know who they voted for, is if they tell someone.

For More fun tips this month, check out the blogs below:


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