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. TeachersPayTeachers.com





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 TeachersPayTeachers.com