Monday, December 2, 2013

Polar Express Games

When I first read "The Polar Express" I was smitten with the visuals of the dark woods, the wolves that lurked along the train tracks and just the thought of a North Pole train on Christmas Eve.  When the book packet and cassette tape was on the market, in 2008, I couldn't wait to buy it. AND to have actor Liam Neeson read the story? I've always admired him in movies, so I figured his voice would be a perfect fit. 

Every time I read the story to my students, I set the stage. Close the blinds, turn on a small lamp on one of the tables, and have students bring their teddy bears or other favorite stuffed animals to school that day.  

Prior to listening to the tape, I tell them that the best way to "see" the setting of a story, when they listen to someone read it, is to close their eyes and visualize it. What do you see? How do you feel? What do you hear? 

As we listen to the story, there's not a sound to be heard, except the voice of Mr. Neeson, who has my students' complete and undivided attention. 

When he mentions the bell, I reach in my pocket and ring a little jingle bell. Kids gasp and look around with "who did that" looks on their faces. 

 I look up at the ceiling and smile. They know. They know I rang the bell... 

They hug their stuffed animals and smile back at me. It's a special moment, one that remains just as special, each year when I ring that little bell.

Consider doing my "ring the bell" lesson with your children and students, so that you may too, have a very special time that will be a fond remembrance.

I just had to make Polar Express board games after loving the story for so long.  

Kids and adults will take a ride on the Polar Express as they play these board games! There are 3 game boards that can be printed, glued to pieces of light cardboard and laminated for future use. Questions and answers are included.

Keep a silver bell hidden in your pocket and when you read the words "silver bell" or "bell" give the bell a shake. Give little bells to your kids so they can ring them when you read the story a second time!

Game boards have different questions. Can be printed in color or black and white. Good for small groups. Rotate the boards among the groups so that everyone can answer all the questions.  The train graphic appears blurry, but it's not! :)

Have fun!

Click on the cover 
photo of Polar Express, PDF Teacher Park

Saturday, November 30, 2013

TeachersPayTeachers is having a HUGE Cyber Monday sale. 

The sale will be both Monday and Tuesday.  

Monday, December 2, 2013
Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The checkout pass code is

All of my lessons, novel packets, grammar, Common Core and more will be on sale.  
Don't forget! You can add to your wish list to save time.
I also have custom categories that will save you time from having to scroll through everything.
Click on the sale sign to see my store.
photo of TeachersPayTeachers Monday and Tuesday Cyber Sale, Dec. 2, Dec. 3 2013, Ruth S.

My Custom Categories save teachers time!
These are some of the categories at my store. 
I also have many free products. :)

My 210 Journal Prompts now have a WHOPPING
48,002 downloads and they're
By the time I'm finished writing this post there will be more downloads!
Check out the comments teachers have made about them.
Download them for your students.
They're kid friendly! 
Even students who say they don't like to write, will join in the fun! 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Thanksgiving Five Kernels of Corn and Thanksgiving Word Art Poster

It's hard to believe Thanksgiving is just around the corner. It seems like just yesterday the kids were outside until 8:30 p.m riding their bikes, wearing shorts and T-shirts. The older I get, the faster time flies. Like warp speed on the Starship Enterprise. That show still has such a following...

I reflect back to childhood, when my mother started Thanksgiving preparations days ahead of time. My sister and I learned how to make perfect gravy, cranberry sauce from scratch, REAL stuffing and so much more. 

Making all the fixings were part of our "homemaker" education at that age. And we absolutely loved it! I recorded all of her instructions when I was about ten. At that time, index cards were our recipe cards; not the decorative gorgeous cards that can be purchased today. Those cards have stayed with me all these years and definitely show proof they were used year after year. A spot of gravy that was wiped off, a slight tear on one of the corners, faded words due to their age. 

Words on index cards might fade, but those memorable Thanksgiving dinners never fade.  We always gave thanks to God and to those who risked their lives in order to worship freely and to create a place where people weren't arrested for their beliefs.

Shouldn't we remind our students about the reasons we celebrate Thanksgiving? Yes, it's fun to made construction paper turkeys and to do turkey math worksheets, and do ELA Thanksgiving activities but it's a must to remind students why this holiday is so important to us and our history. 

Remind students of that time in England when people no longer could tolerate a leader who wouldn't allow personal freedoms and how they took a stand against his intolerable laws.

Remind them the Pilgrims boarded tiny boats to flee from the religious persecution happening in England to travel to a New World. Ask them why the Northeast states are called "NEW" England.

Ask them if they can imagine packing up their entire family because the King wanted everyone to worship in the church he did.

Remind them that those who fled England, were actually having secret church services in homes where there were people keeping watch for the King's men who were searching for people who didn't follow the King's faith.

Remind them that those who were caught worshipping freely, were often imprisoned or killed.

Ask them if their convictions would have been so strong, that they'd actually put their families in danger and cross the wild north Atlantic Ocean in order to be able to worship freely in an unknown land where there were no cities, paved roads, sky scraper building, no phones, no grocery stores, no airports, nothing..

Ask them if they'd give up everything, everything.

Ask them what freedom means. Explain to them, they live in a country where the laws were written to protect their personal freedoms and that they'll never be as free in any other country. 

Ask them to make mention of the Pilgrims at their Thanksgiving dinners and to jot down three things they talked about.

Once I talk about all of the above with my students, I then read one of the most interesting books about Thanksgiving that I've ever read. Filled with fascinating facts about Pilgrims' food and their ways of cooking and serving the food is incredible. You won't be able to put  this book down.  AND it's very kid friendly. I read it over a period of a couple days to my students and they never want it to end.

Here's "Eating the Plates" was written by Lucille Recht Penner. Click on the cover to see more... The title alone intrigues students.They say..Eat a plate? What???

And to give your students a greater understanding about the hardships the Pilgrims endured, they can read "Five Kernels of Corn", the title that refers to the "Starving Time" when they were each given only five kernels of corn a day to eat because food was scarce. The story I wrote is based on the authentic Pilgrims' journals. See my full description by clicking on the cover. 

photo of Thanksgiving Five Kernels of Corn, PDF, Ruth S. TeachersPayTeachers. grades 3 - 6com

To encourage students to write a Thanksgiving story, I created this FREE word art poster. 
Give your students copies of this poster and have them work in small groups to write Thanksgiving stories using the words on the poster. 

Click on the poster to get the free download.

Wishing you a warm, memorable Thanksgiving!


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Halloween Task Cards and Writing Activities

I have so much fun creating autumn and Halloween activities! 

This packet of task cards and writing activities are great for small and large groups to encourage creative thinking, brainstorming and collaboration.  Not only do students have fun working on the cards, but the story starters and other cards reinforce important skills and concepts. 
38 pages - Click on the cover to learn much more about this packet. 
There's a free preview!

photo of Halloween Task Cards and Writing Activities, PDF, Ruth S.





Have fun!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Madame Periwinkle's Halloween Brew

Madame Periwinkle needs your students'' help! 

Her favorite Halloween Brew recipe card was torn into strips
 and she needs your students to help her 
put them back in the correct
sequential order!!
Great for small groups!
Download this fun freebie 
watch your students have fun!

photo of Madame Periwinkle's Halloween Brew, PDF, Halloween Teacher Park
Madame Periwinkles Halloween Brew

Look for more of my sequence and Common Core activities at my TeachersPayTeachers store!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Cursive A Dying Art?

A friend of mine monitored a standardized test at a high school last spring and said that one of the activities required the kids to write one of their responses in cursive. I won't divulge the name of the test due to privacy issues, but it's one that many high school students take. My friend said she saw almost all of the students struggling to write in cursive. One boy kept erasing, rewriting, erasing and finally gave up.

I've posted about students not knowing how to spell and how they so often use prepositions incorrectly, but I haven't touched on the subject of cursive writing. Yes, I'm back up on the soapbox! This is yet another subject that I could talk about for hours.

A number of years ago, I recall being told that kids didn't have to know how to write in cursive. I questioned why. The answers went something like this. Some kids will never be successful cursive writers. Okay.. so that means we just stop teaching it?

Other responses centered around technology. Kids will have computers, so why should we waste time teaching them to write in cursive? Waste time? Certainly, we educators know that some children will have difficulty writing in cursive, but is that reason for not teaching it? Those children who are unable to master it, surely can be given an alternative method. Printing, using the keyboard or even oral language like speaking into a computer are some of those alternatives.

My next thought centers around the "signature" space on certain documents. One space requires a person to print his or her name. The next space requires a signature. Will a large "X" do the trick? Isn't that reverting to the "old" days, when people were never taught how to write? The Middle Ages? Will we now have generations of adults who will write a large "X" on legal documents? Is a printed name where it asks for a signature, truly legal?

We love a town in Germany called Rotenburg ob der Tauber. It's a medieval town, surrounded by high walls to protect it from invaders during that period of history.. Rotenburg was bombed during WWII and the people rebuilt it with every original piece of wood and stone so that it would exactly like it was before the War.

We were really amazed when we saw signs for shops that had pictures instead of words as names of the stores.

The bakery had a lovely picture on a sign hanging over the door of a baker wearing his large white hat.
Most people didn't know how to read in those days, so symbols and pictures were used as a means of communication.

A few years ago, one of my great aunts sent me a poem written by her mother.  As I slipped the poem from the large envelope and laid it on the table, I was in awe by the beautiful handwriting or script as they used to call it. Each letter was perfectly formed, and some had beautiful flourishes, the tips of which, looped below the invisible line. Her writing was art work. I could almost feel how proud she was when she was writing the poem.

My ancestor, the poetess, passed away giving birth to the last of ten children. Over night, my great aunt, Rosalind, fourteen years old, became a parent, taking on her mother's role as caregiver to all her younger siblings. They lived on a huge farm in Pennsylvania and even though the kids worked on the farm, education was at the top of the list. Rosalind taught her brothers and sisters how to print and write in cursive. She had attended school, yes, a one room school house, and had learned the basics then passed her knowledge to her siblings.

Aunt Rosalind not only raised all her younger siblings but she went on to become the first woman Superintendent of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania schools, something unheard of for a woman of that time. Later, she became a Professor of Mathematics at Temple University and also taught at Moravian College. 

The poem, from the late 1800's, is framed and sits on my computer desk.

It's a sad reminder that cursive is a dying art.

Halloween Costumes Over the Years

It's hard to believe it's already October. Being a native New Englander, I've always loved the change from hot sizzling, muggy, humid summers to the crisp, cool, chilly days and nights of autumn.

We kids would start planning our Halloween costumes as soon as school started in September. We'd start taking about it at recess, in the cafeteria and walking home from school. The first ideas were never the costumes we created though because we'd get other ideas from our friends.

When we were little our parents decided what we'd be and usually would make our costumes. There were costumes that could be purchased in stores but for the most part, our parents created them using things they found around the house.. 

As we kids grew older, we didn't want to be the typical pirate or princess. Our Halloween costumes were works of art. We made pirate swords out of folded pieces of aluminum foil. Mom would help transform a  piece of black shiny cloth into a vampire cape. No fancy store bought Halloween bags for candy collecting for us! We used pillow cases or paper bags. 

It amazed me that many times the costume fit the personality of the person who created it. It's kind of like when people say dog owners look like their dogs.. Really? I hope I don't look like my dachshunds! 

Some, however, didn't want to be different.

A boy in my class decided to be a hobo. As I look back on it, he was always a little disheveled looking and wore patched jeans to school. His make up was a smudge of charcoal on each of his cheeks (not the cheeks you're thinking of! LOL) and he wore a bag over his shoulder, that was a cloth table napkin. He found a black birch stick in the woods and carved it down so it would be the exact size he wanted. Anyone would have recognized him. His fashion statement wasn't to hide behind a mask or costume; it was to emphasize he liked being scruffy and was just enhancing himself to the MAX.

Another boy down the street dressed as a plumber. It was an easy costume because his father was a plumber so he borrowed a wrench, put on a pair of coveralls and a flannel shirt. No make up or smudges, just a baseball cap.


Then there were those who wanted to create totally different personas.  Secret, silent. The costumes took forever to create.
Total face masks and costumes that completely covered their bodies. Being behind a mask was more mysterious and gave a person a feeling of power in a way. People would ask "Who are you?" and would take guesses that were always wrong. The costumed kid wouldn't say a word and would silently slip away after he gathered up the candy.  His satisfaction being, that he fooled everyone. Sometimes even his best friends couldn't guess who he was.

Girls loved getting into their mothers' make up cases. They smeared red lipstick all over their lips but usually it ended up on their chins ...Dabs of red rouge, and dazzling mascara'd eyes. Gypsies! Dancers!  Long skirts and beads. Scarves wrapped from the front to back and tied. Ballet type slippers!

Their dreams of becoming actresses and models came true on Halloween night.

What do kids want to be on Halloween night these days! Zombies? Aliens? Super Heros? The costumes I've seen recently in the stores seem to be based on movies and books. Prepackaged, ready-to-wear costumes that require no creativity.

I'm glad I grew up in the creative Halloween costume era...

Those memories will never fade.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Common Core Reading Themes

Common Core Alert!! Some teachers are scrambling to find worksheets that align with the Common Core and with good reason. Most states have now adopted the Common Core that requires teachers to offer lessons and worksheets in order to meet the required alignments.

I worked on a Language Arts curriculum committee a couple of years ago to review and rewrite our district's K - 12 curriculum and now that the Core's been published, we've found that our state standards were more strenuous than the Core. This means teachers in my district and probably around the state, won't have any difficulty aligning with it.

I created this Core Reading theme sheet that can be used with any story or book. It's for grades 4 and 5, however, it can be used with any other grade that includes themes as part of their Core requirements.

I also added a student self assessment that can be used once the kids have completed the theme worksheet. Teachers and students love them!


photo of Common Core Reading Themes

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Michael Dooling Author/Artist/Teacher/Historian on TeachersPayTeachers!

I'm baaaack! What a crazy summer it's been! And of course, much too short. The days seemed very long with the sun setting around 8:30 on the longest day. Now, I hear the crickets' August chirps that always remind me of autumn. When we were kids, summers seemed endless!

Awhile ago, I introduced Michael Dooling, a well known author/artist/historian and teacher. He's had over 60 books published and has illustrated MANY books by other authors. What's really great is he has a TeachersPayTeachers store!  His books are very well known and you'll probably recognize the titles. What I love are the themes woven throughout the books. Courage, strength, determination, honesty, hard work and more. 

Michael created a FREE packet of activities aligned with the Common Core Standards (Informational and Literature) based on his book Young Thomas Edison. 

The packet has an article about the book with activities based on the article.

The activities are aligned with grades 4 and 5, but can be used with third and sixth grade students. Teachers, today, have wide ranges of reading levels in their classes and must have materials to meet their students' needs.

The student worksheets have images of Michael's original paintings that are so real looking, I thought they were photos at first. What's really amazing is the children and people in his paintings are his daughters and neighborhood children. 

Young Thomas Edison is about challenges young Edison faced when he was growing up. Did you know Edison had a hearing impairment? Yes! But despite his handicap, he persevered!

His teacher called him "addled" so his mother took him out of school and home-schooled him. I bet he was ADD or ADHD, but that long ago, there was no diagnosis or assistance in the classroom.

With hard work and determination, Edison reached for the stars and his dream of turning on lights around the world came true. I'm glad the lightbulb was invented because I really can't see myself reading by oil lamp lights.  :)

The article's ready to print worksheets also have pictures of his inventions. Kids today have no idea that many of the inventions they use are sophisticated updates of Edison's early inventions. The Kinectoscope is the ancestor of movies today. Can you imagine watching a movie by looking down into a wooden box? I'd end up wearing a neck brace!

Why am I excited about this free packet of ready to print student worksheets?

1) The youth of today, should be aware of Americans who set goals and worked hard to attain them.

2) Young people need good role models.

3) It will encourage young people to read other biographies and autobiographies.

4) Young people might relate to the challenges Edison faced as a young boy and learn there are ways to overcome them.

5) It encourages a love of history and science.

6)  It encourages young people to use their imaginations to create and build things. 

Click on the cover for this incredible FREE packet of activities. 

photo of Young Thomas Edison by Michael Dooling,, historical fiction, Common Core,  science, author

Michael's  latest packet, also aligned with the Common Core, is called George Washington's Army and  Me.  I must admit I'm very partial to stories about George Washington because I've taught the American Revolution for a number of years. My sister also lives in Washington Crossing, PA, a mile from where Washington crossed the Delaware River, on Christmas Eve, to attack the Hessian troops in Trenton, New Jersey.The Hessians were hired by the British to bolster their troops.

I've stood in the spot where Washington and his soldiers crossed the river and it takes my breath away. I close my eyes and see his exhausted troops struggling as they attempt to march in blizzard conditions. They had little food and didn't have the clothing we wear when there are severe weather conditions.

It makes me very proud and grateful to think they made the dangerous crossing because they were true to the cause and believed in freedom. What was it that made them so very brave that they were willing to lay down their lives for this country?

If only we could take a time machine ride back to that very day. To experience it, to hear the sounds of the sleet pummeling the trees, the raging river and the ice blanketing the soldiers who looked like ghostly apparitions. They barely had the energy to slip silently aboard the Durham boats, to make the crossing with the raging icy river growling and snarling at them. Did they they think about their fate or were they too numb mentally and physically?

This is the reason I was enthralled when I saw Michael's George Washington's Army and Me article on TeachersPayTeachers. Not only that, I learned something new!

Who would have thought the wives and children of the soldiers followed Washington's Army during the American Revolutionary War? It's unimaginable to think they just up and left their homes. The soldiers' wives were afraid of being left alone and feared they and their children might starve to death or be killed by the enemy.

Did they follow them to the Delaware and witness the crossing? What was it like to tell your children their father was marching off to war and they were going to follow the army? How does one feel about holding their children's fate in their hands, not knowing if they'd be injured or killed? 

The book centers around a young boy, Elijah, who brings the story alive! Kids connect with him as the story unfolds.

Just like Young Thomas Edison, the article about George Washington's Army and Me has activities  aligned with the Common Core. 

The pictures magnificently tell the story and are featured on the student worksheets. The 30 page packet also provides lessons to encourage students to examine the illustrations for details. It's great practice for students who are new to working with nonfiction text features.

What else does it offer? A map of The Thirteen Colonies with questions. This is a perfect way to integrate social studies with ELA. 

Little did I know that the children who lived during that time, played a game called "Draughts". Today we know the game as "Checkers" . 

Included in the packet is a ready to print checkerboard AND the checkers are King George III coins and George Washington Coins! Just cut out the checkerboard, paste to cardboard, laminate and students can play "Draughts".

Even if a state has opted out of the Common Core, the articles are aligned with the majority of state ELA and social studies curricula.

Click on the cover to see this great article and packet of activities! :)

photo of George Washington's Army and Me, PDF, Michael Dooliing,, Common Core Informational text

Thursday, August 15, 2013


Hi Everyone! 
 I wanted to let everyone know about the upcoming TeachersPayTeachers Back to School Sale. 

It will be Sunday and Monday! August 18th and 19th!  There will be huge discounts. To get the extra discounts don't forget to use the PROMO CODE on the banner.  BTS13 
Don't forget you can add lessons to your TpT wish list so you'll remember what you like prior to the sale. 

photo of Back to School Sale on PDF Ruth S.,

I always look forward to this event because it's a time when we TeachersPayTeachers can share all kinds of lessons with other teachers. TeachersPayTeachers was first started to provide teachers with FREE and affordable lessons and teaching ideas because nowadays many teachers are paying out of their own pockets for materials they need for their classrooms. 

I know myself that when I've purchased from published catalogs those materials, reproducibles and all are expensive and many of the pages I don't even use. 

The materials and lesson plans we share on TpT are classroom tested and work!  

I've been a part of the TeachersPayTeachers family for a number of years and am in awe of the quality lesson plans, book packets and more that are available at very low prices. There is also an abundance of FREE things!

What I really like about it, is I feel I'm helping other teachers save time from having to create everything. Who has the time?  I also love sharing fun educational ideas and lessons with new and experienced teachers. 

With the Common Core Standards, that have now been accepted by most of the states, teachers are looking for lessons they can actually USE in their classrooms. Most of the information about it, given at workshops, isn't what actually is needed to implement the Core. 

I'm sharing some of my links that will help teachers save precious time. Custom Categories on TpT is a fantastic feature so teachers don't have to scroll through pages and pages to find just the right thing they need.  

Here are some of my custom categories if you'd like to browse through any of the materials I offer. 

Back to School  Store: Ruth-S -

COMMON CORE  Store: Ruth-S - Don't forget to turn the pages at the bottom of the page. These are Common Core lessons and other things to prepare students for the Common Core. Many of my Core packets are ready to print student worksheets that can be used with any book or story. 

One of my newest Common Core packets is FREE.  It's an informational text packet about the cheetah. Download this to your Common Core desktop folder and use year to year. Even those teachers, whose states aren't aligned with the Common Core, should download this packet so their students have experience working with nonfiction text. The article is high interest. Kids love animals and this gives them interesting facts about the big cat. After they're finished reading the article and answering the questions, it's fun to have them draw pictures of the cheetah in its environment that can be displayed in the classroom. I have them write one fact at the bottom of the picture they think is the most important. It's interesting to see if some of them draw a picture of a cheetah in a tree because the article states that cheetahs can't climb trees!! :)


Behavior Management Store: Ruth-S -  This is a HUGE concern in many of our classrooms today. I have a FREE behavior reward system that works! Punch/stamp cards are listed in this category and I've had tremendous success using the cards. 

My "Student Report Card for Encouragement" is a little report card that encourages home/school communication in an informal way. Parents love it because it keeps them well informed about their children's progress socially and educationally. 

There are also behavior forms for teachers to use that is more formal and is geared for upper elementary, middle school and secondary teachers. 

Novel Packets and ready to print worksheets are some of my most popular products. The one teachers love the most are my Novel Response Task Cards that can be used with any fiction book. Teachers of grades 4 - 11 have used them with their students. This is taking into account the WIDE range of learners we have in our classes these days. BE SURE to read the comments teachers have made about these cards. :)

NOVEL PACKETS  Store: Ruth-S -

There are three pages in this category. Be sure to turn the pages at the bottom of the page. My Number the Stars packet is 69 pages and includes everything needed to teach this novel including websites, and ready to print student worksheets. I love integrating social studies into my ELA classes, so there's an article that provides students with background information they need before they read the book. Also there are two maps, one of Europe and one of Denmark with questions about each. All activities are aligned with the Common Core. 


TASK CARDS Store: Ruth-S -  I created task cards that can be used in so many ways. Activities at centers, small groups, independent work, and more. My poetry activity cards encourage reluctant student poets to join in the fun! Each card has an example of the poem with an illustration. I've included the classic poetry forms and humorous  poems. It's fun for students to work together in small groups to write their poems. They collaborate about the types of poems and sometimes write them together. This is a GREAT keepsake if you turn them into a booklet. Parents love them.

Another really popular download are my Maniac Magee Task Cards. What a GREAT story this is! Maniac is an example of a bigger than life character who is described as a "legend". This book teaches students valuable lessons about caring, hope and friendship.  There are 100 activities with five per card. These are great to have when students are working on my 32 page Maniac Magee activity packet. 

Remember to look for my Vocabulary Detectives Task Cards that are used for weekly contests. Students find the required words/terms  as they read in class then fill out the coupons and put them in the Detective Jar for the weekly drawing!  There are six sets of them that require they find different things in the books.  Figurative language, homonyms, synonyms, antonyms, parts of speech and more! Fun!

I've listed only a few of my Custom Categories here. To see more, look on the left side of my store page and you'll see them all. :)

Wishing everyone the best!  

Have a wonderful new school year! 

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

101 Book Activities Kids Love

As I look back on the teachers I had in elementary school, I wonder if their jobs were as difficult as ours are, today. Why was I thinking about this? I guess it's because this time of year, teachers are scrambling to find the best of the best for our students. We stay awake nights wondering if the lessons are creative, exciting and encourage a true love of learning. We remind each other of the great sales where we can find free or inexpensive supplies for our classrooms. It's also the time of year when we're looking for new clothing for the new school year.

Tonight, I was thinking about book reports in particular. When I was in school, we were told to read a book and do a report about it. I blogged about this on an earlier post so as you can see, this topic really intrigues me.

We had a school librarian who was a volunteer, not a paid employee. She was a kind, sweet woman who worked her tail off to make sure the books were always in the correct Dewey Decimal section and displayed at kids' eye levels. 

That kind woman was my mother who was set up the entire library when I was in kindergarten. The school was new and had no library, so mom devoted her entire summer to setting it up for us. 

A vivid recollection was the metal stamp she used to stamp the date the book was due, on the card in the front cover. It made sort of a CLICK/THUMP sound and I always noticed she had ink stains all over her fingers from stamping hundreds of books kids were taking out of her library. 

Years later when I began teaching, we had "ditto" machines, that had purplish, permanent ink Get it on your hands, and the stains wouldn't come off for days. Get it on a shirt and it wouldn't wash away.  Don't take a swipe at your nose if you have an itch or you'll have a bloomin' purple nose the rest of the week. 

I'll never forget the time I stopped at a toll booth driving home from school one day, and there was a cute guy collecting toll money. I handed him my money and he said "So you're a teacher uh?" I looked at his big grin and said, "How do you know that?" 

 I'll never forget his next words..... "Because you have DITTO MACHINE INK on your HAND"  Talk about being embarrassed.. I must have scrubbed my hands for two hours when I got home. Did the stain disappear? NO.. :)

Getting back on topic.. When I became a teacher I swore I'd give my students choices of what kinds of book reports they'd do. This is the list I came up with and honestly, I'm still jotting down ideas.

Download this FREE packet of 101 book report ideas to the book report folder on your computer for easy access and just be glad it wasn't created on a ditto machine or your hands might have turned purple. :)

photo of 101 Book Activities Kids Love, PDF, books, reading, ELA, book reports

Friday, July 26, 2013

Back to School with the BlogLovin Blog Hop


Bloggers share lessons, teaching ideas and more, then link up and travel on blog hops to see what other teachers are offering. 

What I really like is that each blog is very uniquely designed. Reading the posts provides me with new ideas. The best part of all, is you can easily move from one blog to another with just a click of your mouse. 

The most recent blog hop I joined was a Back to School blog hop. There are so many wonderful back to school lessons created by very talented teachers who love sharing their ideas. 

Take a minute to hop from one blog to another to see what's being offered. I guarantee you'll find many things you'll want to start the new school year!

photo of Back to School with the BlogLovin Blog Hop lesson plans, teaching materials

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

In Your Hands (Song for My Teacher)

We teachers sometimes don't know what becomes of our students years down the road.  

I think a lot about them, wondering what they're doing now...

I just happened to find this song while doing research for something else.  I hit the play button and before I knew it, these questions popped into my mind...

Did I make a difference in their lives? 

Was I a good role model? 

 Did I keep the "bar high"? 

Were my expectations consistent?

Did I expect things from my students that I'd expect of my own children?

Did they realize that my purpose was to lead them down a path to help them become productive, responsible adults?

One of the most important questions that I think about is....

Do they know how MUCH I care about them?

The minute I heard the song and really listened to the words,  I pinned it on Pinterest and put it on my Facebook page. 

I must have played it 20 times and each time I thought about those who've passed through my classes and all the students around the world, who will soon start a new school year. 

As I listened to it, tears streamed down my face..... very happy tears. 

So, of course, I set out to find other videos about teachers.

With the beginning of a new school year approaching...

How are YOU feeling?

I know you're busy, but take a few minutes to watch these videos.

Good teachers need to be UPLIFTED

Good teachers need A PAT ON THE BACK

Good teachers need to know they make a difference in children's lives,  
but it's sometimes 
not apparent ...

Take a few minutes and watch these videos. :)

"Once a teacher, ALWAYS a teacher"....

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Horse Stories and a Teacher Brain Break

Horses have always held a special place in my heart. I remember reading The Black Stallion by Walter Farley, Black Beauty and any other horse book I could get my hands on.

These are wonderful summer break books for kids and adults. 

First published in 1941, Walter Farley's best-selling novel for young readers is the triumphant tale of a boy and a wild horse. From Alec Ramsay and the Black's first meeting on an ill-fated ship to their adventures on a desert island and their eventual rescue, this beloved story will hold the rapt attention of readers new and old.
Young Alec Ramsay is shipwrecked on a desert island with a horse destined to play an important part in his life. 

photo of The Black Stallion by Walter Farley, summer reading, books for kids, Teacher Park, Ruth S.

I wondered if this next book was written by the daughter of Walter Farley who wrote The Black Stallion but I couldn't find the connection. 

When 13-year-old Samantha returns home to her family's cattle ranch in Nevada, she's worried. She moved away two years ago to recover from a bad fall off her beloved mustang, Blackie, and she's still not sure she can get back in the saddle. Her new colt doesn't seem to like her, and the other ranchers treat her like the boss's spoiled daughter, and Blackie has been missing since that fateful day.
But that's just the beginning.

photo of Phantom Stallion, Farley, summer reading, horse books, Teacher Park, Ruth S.

Nobody could capture the Phantom. She was the wildest mare on Assateague Island. They said she was like the wind, that the white "map" on her shoulders was her mark of freedom.

Paul and Maureen Beebe had their hearts set on owning her. They were itching to buy and tame her, and worked hard to earn the money that she would cost. But the roundup men had tried to capture her and for two years she had escaped them....

photo of Horse  Books, Misty of Chincoteqgue, Marguerite Henry, Teacher Park, Ruth S.

Relax and enjoy!

This video is breathtaking! 
Poetry in Motion!

              The KFPS Royal Friesian Horse

These are the horses of the Knights of old .. Have your sound on... 

photo of Friesian horses, Teacher Park, Ruth S.


The first time I heard the phrase "brain breaks" I had a good idea what they were. After a bit of investigating, I concluded that brain breaks have been around for years. Do a Google search and you'll find all kinds of brain breaks. What's interesting is that brain breaks usually take place inside a school, and not outside. Note I said usually.  

In my opinion, recess was the first official brain break. Teachers can always sense when it's almost time for recess.  Joe keeps looking at the clock, Mary and Susan are fidgeting in their seats, Maria and Joshua are putting their books and materials away before class is over and Robert and Matthew are whispering to their friends about what they're going to do at recess. The focus on assignments has flown out the window at that point and all they can think about is running, playing, games, sports, playing on the playground equipment and who will be the first in line. Can we blame them? Of course not. 

Recess is a time to socialize and play in a "free zone". What I mean by free zone is that walking out the door to the outside, no matter what kind of environment it is, the kids feel a sense of "escape" from the day to day schedule and routine. It's like the line in Martin Luther King, Jr's speech "FREE AT LAST, WE'RE FREE AT LAST!   Isn't it the same for adults?

When things become too stressful or overwhelming, what do we do? Take a walk in a park? Read a good book? Horseback ride? Go to the gym? Work on something we enjoy doing? 

When I was in school, brain breaks had no specific name. When we finished our work we were told to "find something to do". 

Read a book
Draw a picture
Play a game (board game, card game)
Work on puzzles 
Write a creative story
Take a walk to the school library to get a new book
Help the teacher put up a new bulletin board
Clean out our desks
Organize our notebooks

If we were really lucky, Friday afternoons we could play Simon Says, Twenty Questions, board games,  
Heads Down, Thumbs UP  We had no idea what future "brain breaks" would be.

Today, with the evolution of technology, today's brain breaks often include dancing and singing videos. We now have the "Cha Cha Slide", 'The Gummy Bear Song", "The Hamster Dance", "The Chicken Dance", "The Shimmy Shimmy Shake" BUT WAIT! Do these sound familiar?

I'm glad kids have singing and dancing brain breaks!  See if you recognize any of these songs or dances. Chances are....YOU WILL! 

(I must admit. I danced to all of them after a stressful morning of chasing one of my dachshunds around the yard! He slipped his collar, picked up the scent of some kind of critter and raced to the back stream, leaped over it and was gone. I found him about 15 minutes later. He was down a rabbit hole. Just his tail was visible and puffs of dirt were flying everywhere as he dug furiously to find that "wascally wabbit".)

Fortunately for the WABBIT, I caught my little rascal! 

Have fun!!

                                                          THE SHIMMIE SHAKE

                                                        THE LION SLEEPS TONIGHT