Friday, March 31, 2017

Brown Bag It Healthy Foods

This is a great Earth Day nutrition/healthy food activity. 

Discuss healthy foods with your students and what choices they should make in order to fill up a bag lunch.  

Show them how to read food labels and what to look for that's nutritional and what's not good to consume.  

Working in small groups they can makes list of the foods on the mini poster or draw pictures of them.  

Ask them to save cereal boxes and to bring them to school to compare the ingredients. 

This is a free download!

Brown Bag It Healthy Foods

This activity can be found in my complete
FREE Earth Day resource!

Have fun!



Monday, March 27, 2017

Poetry Activity Cards

I used to have a hard time motivating my students to write poetry. I tried everything! That's when I came up with the idea of poetry cards. 

These 27 Poetry Activity Task Cards can be used to create poetry packets, at centers or to model different types of poetry. Each card has a definition and example of a particular poem. Included are traditional types of poems such as couplets, cinquains, odes and more. Humorous and serious poems are included. These cards will even motivate those students who say they dont like poetry, to join in the fun! 

This is also a time to blend poetry with art. Have your students select the poems they would like to illustrate, then display them around the room. Suggestions are given of how to use these cards and how to develop a poetry packet that is a great family keepsake! Laminate and cut out for future use.

Have fun!!

photo of children's poems, poetry activity cards, task cards, couplets, haiku, poems, poetry

Sunday, March 26, 2017

101 Book Activities Kids Love!

When I was in elementary school, my teachers always gave us the same kinds of book reports to do. They were VERY boring and that's when I decided that when I became a teacher I'd NEVER give those kinds of book reports. 

Typical assignment:  Write a report about the book. Remember to include the main characters and setting as you write the plot. 

WHAT?? UH?? 
I wanted to write a short skit about the book, or a poem, or write lyrics for a song. I did NOT want to write a boring old report without pictures or something creative. 

So, when I was in fifth grade, the first book report was....yes you guessed it! The same boring assignment to explain what the story was about and where it took place. 

What did I do? I drew an original cover for the book. I spent hours cutting pictures from magazines that would tie in with the plot. I laid it all out, and pasted everything on colorful construction paper. To me the bright colors livened up the plot, and was visually appealing.  On the last page, I wrote my opinion of the book and recommended that everyone should read it. 

As my teacher walked around, collecting the book reports, I handed it to her with a huge smile on my face. She took it from me, flipped through it quickly and said


I remember it like it was yesterday. I cringed, slumped down in my seat and mumbled something and thought to myself, I did follow the directions, I just presented it differently. 

Did my teacher understand that there are kids who like to express themselves using art or music? No.

Did my teacher understand that creating a report with hand drawn pictures and presenting it in a colorful way is a lot of work and demonstrates that I'm artistic? No. 

Would she see that I followed her directions? Probably not. 

When I first started teaching, I decided to give my students book report choices. Over the many years I've been teaching I've been collecting ideas and creating new ones. It was a year or so ago I decided to compile them and offer them for free on TeachersPayTeachers. 

Why? Because I want teachers to have this list at their fingertips, so they can offer their students many different ways to report about books. 

Give them a list of two or three to choose from and you'll feel their excitement as they talk about which ones they really, really, really want to do!

photo of 101 Book Activities Kids Love, FREE, PDF, Ruth S. book reports, Ruth S. TeachersPayTeachers

Have fun!


Monday, March 20, 2017

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Vocabulary Detectives 2

This is the second set of my FREE Vocabulary Detective Cards that I created when teachers told me how excited they were about my first set. Using these cards is a great way to motivate students to learn new vocabulary words and to be able to find synonyms, antonyms and homonyms when they read books in class.

Here's how I do it..

Make a Detective Jar. A Mason jar with a wide opening is the best to use.  Print a label for it on a large piece of white paper that says "Detective Jar".

Make copies of the cards for your students. Explain that you'll be running a weekly contest and that you'll pull three cards from the jar at the end of the week.  Be sure to have prizes for the winners. I order them online in bulk from the Oriental Trading Company.

Explain that there must be correct answers on the cards in order to win a prize.

Tell them they shouldn't cut the cards until they've entered the information on all cards. When they're finished they can cut the cards and fold them in half, then put them in the jar.

Hope you and your students enjoy these contests! Thanks for stopping by!


Vocabulary Detectives 2, Ruth S, antonyms, synonyms, homonyms, vocabulary, free, detective jar, word study,

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Common Core Standards Worksheets to Use with Any Book or Story!

When the Common Core was adopted, I decided teachers would need Common Core worksheets they could use with any story or book. 

To make sets of these worksheets, would take more time than teachers have on hand, so I've developed some that will make teachers' lives easier. 

Don't you find that students often confuse main ideas with themes? Mine do! These first two resources will help them understand the differences!

photo of Common Core Standards Reading Themes PDF Teacher Park

photo of Common Core Reading Standards Main Idea PDF Teacher Park

Each year, I discover that many of my students don't know the "basics" thus I created foundational skills task cards that can be used as informal assessments to find out who's mastered the skills and who needs a gentle review. :)

photo of Common Core Task Cards Foundational Skills PDF Teacher Park



Friday, March 17, 2017

Tony Danza's book "I'd like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had"

Once in a blue moon, a book comes along that makes me want to jump up and down, reach for the stars, sing and dance, laugh and cry, and share with the world. This is a book dedicated to teachers but should be read by everyone. 

So often I've told people they just don't understand what it's like to be a teacher. The joy, the sorrow, the frustration, the hope, the thrill. I usually end the conversation that centers around "teachers have their summers off" with the statement, "You have to walk in my shoes to understand".  If only they would. They might understand.

I was at a book signing event last week to hear author, Tony Danza's presentation about his new book "I'd Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had". Some might remember Danza on the television shows "Who's the Boss" and "Taxi". I really expected him to appear on stage playing one of those roles, but the minute he stepped out from behind the curtain, my assumptions were dashed.

The Danza event was so huge, it had to be moved from our wonderful local book store, "R.J Julia's, who sponsored this event, to a middle school auditorium. 

When we arrived, the school parking lot was packed. There were lines of people waiting to get inside and as we joined the long line, I felt like I was waiting in line to see a rock concert. 

We all had a common mission that night.. To hear Danza talk about his one year teaching experience at Northeast High School in Philadelphia after being an actor for so many years. We all remember our first year and how difficult it was. Did he have the same feelings? Was he treated differently at the school because he was a "star"? Was he given preferential treatment?

When he walked out on stage, he started by telling us he had many, many regrets in life, but the biggest regret was that he never became a teacher. Teachers cheered and applauded. I felt tears well up and it was all I could do, to keep them from streaming down my face.

Danza's presentation was endearing, humorous and it was very obvious that things he was saying touched the hearts of everyone in the audience. He spoke of the educational crisis in the U.S, the kids of yesterday and today, those kids who seemed unapproachable, and other issues that today's teachers face. 

Danza mentioned how teachers' roles have changed. We're teachers in a complex world and we face complex day to day situations. How many times have I been asked for parenting suggestions at student conferences? Parents are facing tremendous challenges at home. They ask us for advice about how to motivate their kids, what to do to get their kids to do homework and more. I've even been asked how I'd discipline their kids. I know my parents never asked those kinds of questions when they met with my teachers. They were there to ask about my grades and progress in school.  

As Danza's presentation continued, there were people smiling and nodding as they connected with his experiences of being a first year tenth grade English teacher. His descriptions of the staff were very easy to relate to. I only wish he had talked for another couple of hours.

His book "I'd Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had" was taped by A&E and was called "TEACH".  I wish I had seen even one episode of it but my usual evening schedule, when the show was aired, was to correct papers, write up new lesson plans and then fall into bed thinking of my next day... of teaching. 

When I handed him the book to autograph, I told him I grew up with Ron Palillo who played Horshak in "Welcome Back, Kotter".  Ron passed away suddenly, a few months ago, and Tony told me he knew Ron and they had done some theater work together. I felt his sincerity and was going to tell him he should be back in the classroom, but I had taken enough of his time, so I moved on. 

After chatting with some high school teachers, we walked into the parking lot and you know what? I HAD been to a rock concert. Tony Danza ROCKS!

If you read his book,  you'll laugh, cry and constantly shout out "YES! YES! THAT happened to me". 

But most importantly, you'll feel extremely proud to be a teacher! 

I wish Tony had stayed in the classroom because he's a natural born teacher. His ability to sense what kids will respond to and how to connect with them without being their "friend" is usually only what seasoned teachers know and understand. 

His heartfelt attempts to reach the unapproachable kids was deja vu for me. One of my former students is on death row and I have to keep reminding myself that I tried. I spent sleepless nights trying to figure out how to reach him. If only that boy had been mine, I kept thinking, things might be different for him  today. 

Tony Danza walked in our shoes and understands what it's like to be a teacher.

See an excerpt

Listen to Tony talk about his experience and feelings about education. 

Tony: For me, teaching was the road not taken. If you look at my acting work, so many of the roles involve being a teacher. Tony in “Who’s the Boss?” becomes a teacher. I studied history education in college. I wanted to be a teacher. Teaching always appealed to me. Arthur Miller once said, “The best thing you can hope for is that you end up with the right regrets.” I didn’t want to regret not trying this.  ~from Amazon

Click on the cover and listen to Danza talk about his book.

photo of Tony Danza, I'd Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had

Friday, March 10, 2017

Connections Text to Self, Text to Text, Text to World

Kids need reminders to connect what they read and write, to themselves, to other text and the world.
Writing about themselves is easy. Ask students to express their feelings about pets or sports they play or family vacations and you'll hear connections immediately.

Making connections to other books, articles or magazines they've read is a bit easier too. If you ask them to connect two characters in different stories they're usually able to do so. I use character personality trait charts for this connection.

From my experiences, teaching writing for many years, the most difficult of all is making connections to the world. I usually model this connection by selecting a short story or book we've read, as a whole group, and have them think of the problems that had to be solved.

An example I use is the novel Hoot and the middle school kids who decide to fight "city hall" because construction at a restaurant is going to endanger some burrowing owls on the property. I ask if anyone knows what endangered means and if they've read any books about endangered animals and the problems they face. As we brainstorm for connections, I record their responses for everyone to see.

As a culminating activity, we write a good solid paragraph together explaining the connections of two problems from two sources.

Displayed is the cover of the packet of three different mini posters and one of them that's included in the free download. Click on the cover to get all three posters! Thanks for stopping by!

photo of Text to Self, Text to Text, Text to World, free pdf Teacher Park Ruth S.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

A Special Way to Say Happy Birthday!


Kids love to choose what they want to do on their birthdays! 

Print this free page and keep it handy with a birthday calendar nearby. 

It's your special way of saying "Happy Birthday" to your students!

Please note: More birthday cards have been added to the packet. 

If you already downloaded, please download it again for FREE!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Trifold Book Report

I'm always thinking of new ideas for book reports, so the kids can have fun yet demonstrate to me that they understand strategies and skills. I also love giving kids choices. 

I remember doing book reports when I was in elementary school and it was always the same. No creativity. Nothing fun. We never had choices of what we could do. Write a book report for the book you're reading. That was it! BLAH!

When I became a teacher, I told everyone that I would NEVER teach like some of the teachers I had. I'm from a very musical and artistic family so I was always creating something new and different. Playing the piano, writing miniature symphonies when I was ten, poetry, pen and ink drawings, designing terrariums for the salamanders I caught, knitting... just to name a few. 

Not all of my teachers were like that, though. I had one very special high school English teacher who rocked my world! He taught us grammar by using lyrics to songs. He got us out of our seats and we could have rocked and rolled 'til the sun went down! When I run into him, I always tell him that he inspired me to become a teacher. He beams! So do I!!

My trifold book report can be done using any fiction book. There are three trifold pages and a "bonus" page with all kinds of activities that the kids can choose from in order to earn bonus points.  Have a share day so that all of your students can read their friends' reports, then put them on display! It's also a great way to expose kids to new titles that they might want to read!

photo of trifold book report, reading, Teacher Park

Sunday, March 5, 2017

How to Spell Plural Nouns

Over the years, I've noticed that kids can't spell. Plain and simple. It started a couple of decades ago, when there was a lack of phonics instruction in primary grades because of education reform. We were told that kids would figure out how to read by just reading a book. I disagreed then, and I still disagree.

The people who thought up this brilliant plan didn't understand that kids have to know the sounds of letters, blends, etc. in order to decode words. Short, long vowel sounds. What sound does "CH" make?
What happens if you put an "E" on the end of HOT? We, who had phonics instruction and were taught spelling rules, know that an "E"added to the end of a CVC (consonant, vowel, consonant) word, gives the vowel "O" a long sound. If kids don't know the CVC rules, how are they going to master spelling at a young age?  What about two vowels together? We learned "When two vowels, going walking, the first does the talking".  Isn't this true of the word BOAT?  What vowel do you hear? Right! "O". Any child that isn't taught the "rule" might have no idea of how to pronounce it.  

One year, when I was teaching fifth grade, a boy pronounced "boat" as "BO- AT".  It really didn't shock me because I knew that he had little or no phonics instruction up to fifth grade. That's a perfect example of why we need to stress spelling and pronunciations of words. 

Another year, I was giving a "Back to School" presentation and told the parents that even though we weren't "allowed" to teach phonics, I teach it. I got a HUGE round of applause! One parent told me that she had been frustrated because it wasn't being taught, and she was teaching her daughter, phonics and spelling rules at home, the best she could. 

That's a long story about why I created this "How to Spell Plural Nouns chart and activity!  Why is it free? I'm hoping that MANY teachers download it and use it with their students, then hopefully, future generations will know how to spell!

photo of How to Spell Plural Nouns PDF work page by Teacher Park

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Shiloh Student Worksheets

I don't know about you, but as a child, I loved dog and horse stories.  It seems that when I was growing up, girls loved animal stories and boys loved mysteries and adventure stories. 

The Call of the Wild by Jack London, Old Yeller, Sounder, The Black Stallion by Walter Farley and so many more were on my "must read" lists in fifth grade. It may sound a little strange, but I always selected library books that had the shabbiest covers, figuring they had been read by thousands. 

I was always drawn to animals stories when animals were saved from terrible circumstances.

I used to help my sister save baby animals that had strayed from the burrow or nest. How could we leave a poor baby robin on the ground when it had fallen out of its nest? A neighborhood cat would have it as a snack if we didn't.

We took our lives in our hands as the mother robins would screech and dive bomb us as we chased the little bird around the yard. It usually couldn't fly, so the chase always ended quickly. We always placed those little birds in a high bush or shrub close to where the nest was. 

Then we'd run inside and peek out the window to see if the mother would fly down to her fluff ball baby. We were never disappointed because mama robins will try to coax their little chirpers up to the nests and if that's not successful, they'll fly down and feed them big fat juicy worms. Yum!

When I first read Shiloh I immediately loved Marty for trying to save the little beagle, Shiloh, from his mean tempered owner. I knew it would be a great read aloud and the girls in my class would be wiping tears from their eyes as they, too, wanted Marty to save Shiloh.

When I introduce a book to my students, I always explain that authors have reasons or purposes for writing stories. Many times they have an experience that sparks an idea for a story. Mrs. Naylor had an experience with an abandoned dog during one of her vacations. The dog never left her thoughts so a few years later, she wrote "Shiloh".

My 54 page packet, with ready to print worksheets, is aligned with the Common Core for grades 4 an 5 but can be used with grade 6, too!

Click on the cover to learn much more about the packet. 

photo of Shiloh Student Worksheets, PDF, student worksheets,  ELA, writing,  Ruth S.

NonFiction Bingo

Kids will learn nonfiction elements as they have fun playing Bingo! Run a weekly Bingo contest! Winners put their Bingo coupons in the Bingo Jar and win prizes! Laminate and use year to year!

Included in the packet are:
Call out card
4 pages of creative design markers
6 different bingo cards
Bingo winner coupons
Bingo labels for the Bingo Jar

Click on the cover for more!

photo of nonfiction, bingo, games, Language Arts, Ruth S.

nonfiction, games, Language Arts, Ruth S.


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

NonFiction Find It, Check It

When I first started teaching nonfiction, I wanted to model a lesson for my students that would be fun. That week, we brainstormed for topics they like reading about. I asked them to give me topics and not specific genre. Before I knew it, my board was covered with topics I never knew interested them. Some listed hobbies, others listed sports, and games they enjoy, but the topic that won, when we voted, was animals.

I think back to when I was in school and my all time favorite topic was horses. I lived, breathed and dreamed about black stallions, prancing pintos and buttermilk colored mares with dark manes. I was sure that if I asked the girls what specific animals they loved, it would be horses.

This was the perfect time to write TOPIC on  the board and under it, the word SUBTOPIC. I then asked for a volunteer to give me the name of a specific animal.

One of my eager girls was oooo'ing and almost fell off her chair as she waved her hand wildly. 

"Call on me, call on me!" she moaned.  I was sure she was going to say "HORSE" so when she yelled "CAPYBARA" I was stunned. Capybara are in the rodent family and are, from what I've read, the largest rodents in the world. They live in South America and are quite vocal! From her response, I realized that times sure have changed. I wondered what the rest of the kids would say....

Here's a little video of a capybara being petted at the Explorarama Lodge on the Napo River in the Amazon. Listen to the chitter chatter of this cute critter!
I showed this video to the kids and they were all crying out "I WANT ONE! I WANT ONE! I told them I wasn't sure if their parents would really like it if they brought one home and told them my two dachshunds would definitely NOT like it at all.

Capybara - YouTube

Back to Nonfiction....

I told my capybara girl that I didn't think we could think of a lot of details about the capybara, so we had to select another animal on the board. I praised her for knowing about capybara and she beamed.

The kids added many subtopic animals to our list on the board. Some were giraffes, dolphins, lions, tigers, hamsters, guinea pigs, hippos and more. I found it strange that most were wild animals instead of domesticated pets like kittens, puppies, canaries and HORSES!

At that point, I had them vote for one so I could continue my lesson, which by this time, had the kids really interested and on task. They selected dolphins. I kidded with them and told them dolphins would be too big for their home aquariums. Immediately, I had one boy blurt out that he'd build a HUGE aquarium for it. I grinned and told him I'd like to be in on that project.

We then listed details about dolphins... mammals, live in water, eat other fish, intelligent, etc. Right after that I handed them one of my worksheets that I created and broke them into small groups. They were to do some research about other animals and had to have all the same answers on their worksheets which means they'd have to agree about what was important and what wasn't.

I recently put this Nonfiction Find It, Check It packet together to share with everyone. You'll find worksheets that can be used with any Nonfiction text, a poster, bookmarks with NonFiction features and more.

I also included a detailed animal lesson with excellent kid friendly websites. The Smithsonian National Zoo has animal cams the kids can watch. There's a NASA site with facts about the sun. The National Geographic animal site is another excellent website I included.

This is a great packet that teaches kids the features of nonfiction and motivates them to find the features in any nonfiction text.

I'm still wondering why kids don't like black stallions or pinto ponies.  Times sure have changed...

photo of Nonfiction Find It Check It, PDF, Teacher Park, student worksheets

Have fun!


Ireland mini report for St. Patrick's Day FREE

Your students will love working on this mini report about Ireland as a St. Patrick's Day activity. Included are writing, drawing, map making and researching topics. These ready to print, creatively designed worksheets can be used in both social studies and Language Arts classes. Click on the cover page for this FREE download! :)

photo of Ireland Minir eport for St. Patrick's Day ruth s, ireland, St. Patrick's Day, maps, research, social studies, write, draw