Making Play Dough for Back To School Fun

I love to have scented play dough for my kids. I use these little Rubbermaid containers and give each student a hunk of clay or playdough the first day of school. We call it “Fast Finisher Playdough” and it helps the first few weeks of school when I am doing lots of ability assessments.

Here is a fun recipe for a Kool-aid Play Dough that is colored AND scented a yummy flavor! Just tell the kids it is NOT for EATING. (Especially if you have little kinder kids….lol)

I’m making some Koolaid Playdough for Back to School Fun! 

The KOOL-AID comes in so many colors and flavors now it will be fun to pick up a package of each one. Then I can split the recipe between two colors and make a half batch of all 6 of the colors of the rainbow!

All these colors and flavors of Classroom Playdough would be a lot of fun to choose from! 

 It’s so delicious smelling! You actually could eat it….but don’t……just play with it…’s pretty cool…..Here’s how I make it:

2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup salt
2 pkg kool-aid (unsweetened)                           
2 tablespoons cream of tarter
Mix together then add in:
2 cups boiling water
3 tablespoons oil

Mix 3-4 minutes or until cool. Then knead and store in an airtight container in refrigerator.

I think I’ll try  making purple and yellow Playdough  for Back to School Play Dough fun too!

I think my class kids will love this for the first day of school and I KNOW my grandkids will love making it with me! I’m going to make a batch of each color. Mmmm!


I just found a huge list of 2nd grade blogs. How fun is that!  I will have a lot of fun perusing each one for ideas. I just love bloggers!

Redoing the Classroom Bulletin Board

I repainted a bulletin board that used to be bright red. I LOVE how it turned out. It will be pretty in the classroom too! Don’t you think? Or I could put it in my craft room. I wish I had 2 of them!! 

And I covered it with fabric and ribbons and glittery butterfly pins….
Taping up the bulletin board with paper, trash bags, anything will do to cover  up the cork portion. …not too bad for prep! 

It use to be a dull gray when my husband used it. Then he brought it home for me and I tried a fire engine red for my grandkids’ play room….But I ran out of walls when I made a giant chalk board for them to play with.
 Now I want it for my classroom, since my new book box colors are blue, lime green and hot pink. I got all new classroom library bins from Hobby Lobby last spring! So this will match! 
Here is my painted bulletin board after I sprayed 2 coats of the  Rustoleum spraypaint on  it….You can see how I taped the edges with a trash bag and masking tape….
KILZ primer and Valspar are the best primers…they go on smooth and don’t take too many coats. I think I only used one coat of primer for this project. 
Valspar and Rustoleum are good spray paints too….I liked this light blue color. It will match my little book boxes in my classroom library. 
All done spray painting.  I did it on the front lawn in the shade. So next time the hubs mows, all evidence will be GONE! 
Here were my 2 fabrics and my ribbon I wanted to use for the top of the cork section of the bulletin board redo.
I sewed the glittery, striped fabric onto 2 sides of the butterfly fabric….and cut it to fit the bulletin board cork outline….
Then I just glue gunned it all around the edges of the cork after letting the paint dry overnight. Lookin good!  (too bad I couldn’t just wrap the fabric around the backing. I couldn’t get it to come off it was GLUED DOWN for keeps!) 
Then I added a butterfly to each corner….then I just had to go buy some cute push pins from Hobby Lobby! 
Check out my 6 tips for using spray paint at Patties Place, my other blog. 
I bought some glittery, giant push pins at Hobby Lobby for my painted bulletin board redo.  I pushed one into the center of each of the cute flowers. It turned out so sweet.  
I really like how it turned out.  I think it will brighten up a cute corner of my classroom, won’t it?  
And it’s a great improvement.  A LOT better looking  than the plain red one. I love spray paint! 

Writing Topics for the Year (January to June)

I love writing. I think it has such reciprocal properties. Kids learn to spell, handwrite and understand what they are reading through the synthesis of writing and responding to literature and non fiction books. I already posted August to December last week, so here is my writing topics linked to my core for January through June. 
Happy New Year Goal Writing for kids….


 We do a journal on Friday, and a Weekend News every Monday. So these writing topics take place Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. The project starts on a Tuesday, and goes through the entire writing process by Thursday at lunchtime.  Fast finishers can go to learning centers.

New Years Goal Writing….

So if you are just starting out with a writing program, here is the way I like to do my yearly PROCESS WRITING (going through all the stages, prewrite, sloppy copy, edit, final copy, illustration, publish). I have topics I do each month. It is not a complete list. But it is the bones of my yearly writing plan.

Hilarious penguin stories like “Katy the Rock Star Penguin” 

Check out these January Penguin Stories HERE. They really turned out funny. And the tear art project was cool and easy to do!

Graphic Organizer of penguin facts….just for fun….notice the quotation marks? That was my mini lesson. 

In January we do New Year’s Goals writing, Snowmen Stories, Winter Acrostic Poetry, Penguin stories with a character, setting, problem and solution, Weather Facts Reports on Clouds and Tornadoes,  and Martin Luther King biographies. We also do a Chinese New Year Parade and write about it for Social Studies. (and make the cool dragons of course!) We write what we’d do with $100 for hundred’s Day.

We read about arctic  mammals as part of our animals unit, on the snowy fox and the polar bear, and we did a pretty watercolor and wrote Winter poems 

Arctic Animals watercoloring….to go with Winter Acrostic Poetry….

We start by doing a literature book, a weekly reader, and maybe even a Basal story in text sets. Then we do a mini lesson using the 6 traits of writing, then kids go start their sloppy copies.

 The next day they get a teacher edit and begin their art project. The last day the rewrite the edited copy and finish the art. We share that day and Friday, and anybody not done finishes while the rest are sharing in the author’s chair.

Winter Acrostic Poetry….

 I probably have 5 kids share their stuff each week. I keep track with a little magnetic “face” on the board of all who have shared that month to see who is left to share. Some won’t ever volunteer. This is my way to be sure all have an opportunity to share orally. 

We start by doing a class brainstorm.with a list of words for each letter of WINTER……..Then the kids pick their own word and  write it on sloppy copy paper. I go around and edit, and they write their final copies on the cute stationary! 

Check out the arctic animal watercolors and winter acrostic poems Right HERE.

100s Day Writing….What would YOU do with a hundred bucks? Kids think they can plan a trip to Disneyworld.  Don’t burst their bubble yet!  

Why we love ourselves too on Valentines Day!!! 

In February we make Valentine Cards and write letters for parents, We write about Why we Love Ourselves on keyboards typing, we Write letters to the Tooth Fairy for dental health, and write mammal reports for animal study. In social studies we write short biographies about the Presidents Washington and Lincoln as part of President’s Day.

January Snowman Stories and Snowflake Snowmen art….

Snowman Stories….Probably my favorite writing and art activity of the season!  

Here’s the dimensions if you want to make a cute snowman too! 

We used snowflake stamps with paint and glitter for the snowflakes….

February Letters to the tooth fairy….she answers them the next Monday with tiny little letters in envelopes with a tiny tooth stamped on the back. 

Watercolor Tooth Fairies with glitter….gotta love some glitter! 

Presidents Day biography writing in February

 Check it out HERE if you’d like to know how we did our President’s Day reports and also 2 more art projects that are really cool for Washington and Lincoln.

Our President’s Day Activities were a lot of fun and the kids learn all about National Monuments like the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial too!

George Washington and Abraham Lincoln writing in Social Studies

Cute Georgie art project uses doilies for the ruffled shirt! Super cute cotton ball hair too! 

In March we study Reptiles and do a reptile report, We also write about A Person I Treasure, and we create leprechaun metaphor poems, We start an individual book in social studies on the 7 continents and we are world traveler “Tour Guides” across the 4 oceans and 7 continents. It is called Student Treasures, a white bound book.

We studied reptiles all month and made snakes, turtles and alligators…..

We make stuffed turtles with dot painters and long paper snakes with colored masking tape and dot stickers and read poems we stick on the backs. 

 Link to the report writing to see how we did it…….HERE.

A funny innovation poem on Alligator Pie

The kids love the stationary I give them and coloring covers, because when they are done writing and get teacher editing, they can color before they do their rewrites of their sloppy copies. 

We study all kinds of reptiles throughout the month and then the kids choose one to write a report on from a library book and other books from my classroom, and also internet sources. We also do a family tree writing a page for each parent and grandma and grandpa as well as our siblings. It is a fun “bare book”, one of those white bound books. 

St. Patrick’s Day handprint cards for mom and dad….

St. Patrick’s Day Cards…

Friendly letter writing to mom and dad….

Leprechaun art and Poetry….
I usually have 3 choices of stationary for them to choose from…..VERY MOTIVATING!

In April we write about Spring, we do Diamonte Kite poetry, retell of Peter Rabbit in pop up books, We write Easter Cards for parents/grandparents and do Earth Day reports for Social Studies. In Science we write stories about plants (Jack and the Beanstalk retell, Little Red Hen retell/innovation) using reader’s theaters as a springboard. We also do Butterfly larva in science so we do a rewrite of The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

Earth Day art and writing….

Earth Day projects….We read lots of books and weekly readers to teach about how  we must take care of our earth, use ecology and recycle and to promote keeping lakes and parks clean of litter. 

Earth Day art and writing…

Spring Diamonte Poetry on Kites…..we do spelling chains with our spelling words in rainbow colors for the tail. 

Our animal reports Table of Contents….
All month I keep their 4 reports; mammal, reptile, bird, ocean  animal . Then we staple them into a book and add the table of contents. They really know how to write a report when we are done!! Check them out HERE.
Mammal reports…
 In May we study Cinco de Mayo and write about it. We also do Mother’s Day Cards and Insect Reports in Science. We study fossils and rocks and write a dinosaur story. We do a summer fun writing too. 

Dinosaur fossils made from plaster of paris….Then we wrote about our dinos! 
Mariachi guitars art for Cinco de Mayo Day……
Cinco de Mayo marraccas out of tin cans and popcorn…..

Kids’ Cinco de Mayo writing and activities were lots of fun….
Cinco de Mayo writing project and art…
The kids loved dancing the Mexican Hat Dance….
In JUNE we do Father’s Day cards, and Dinosaur Stories as we study rocks and fossils. 
 In social Studies in May and June we make a Me on the Map project and write about all the continents in the world. We also write about Why our Summer will be so Fun! Check it out HERE.
Fun Summer Scene art….check out my blogpost on how to find these cute sticker scenes and
how we did them. 

Summer fun writing project…..It is fun to read all the vacation plans each student has!!  gives me lots of ideas…..Snap! 
Doing weekly writing prompts and going through the whole writing process EACH AND EVERY WEEK, makes my kids go up much more than a grade level in writing by year’s end. Also I get so many chances to individually edit for each child, that I can help them more often, 1 on 1 to improve, whatever their problems in writing are. They become better spellers, handwriters and learners through the writing program I plan for the year. 
 Leave me a question if you’d like,  and I’ll try to answer them! 

My Writing Topics and Program for the Year

Reading books and writing are the backbone of what I do in my classroom. What we are reading drives what we are writing. And we use the core in science and social studies to drive what we are reading about. I teach this way,in themes. All my mini lessons are taught under the CORE umbrella. 
What did YOU do on your SUMMER VACATION?  We wrote about ours….

My Science and Social Studies and my writing in those topics, drives my art projects and music.  And occasionally I can integrate math into a topic.   So it is VERY important to me that I choose really good literature, use the basal literature book each week, have chapter and great books as read alouds and as independent reading, and have student book talks, and series book talks so kids get “hooked” on reading really early on in the year. The more they read, the better they can write about it.

Then did some watermelon tissue paper art. 

I am lucky to have a class of pretty good readers walking in the door because I teach a gifted class. But before teaching this, the 8 years previous, I taught at Title 1 Schools. This was still my program. .

My reading and writing drives everything I’m doing during the day.  So I am always looking at my CORE topics, and the Literature in our curriculum, to figure out what we are going to write about on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

 I am always looking for a writing project/prompt for those days. The kids rarely, if ever, write about anything they want to, except on Monday and Friday, weekend news and journal days.

 Although they do have choice within the theme to write the way they want to, I choose a topic and art to go with that topic, (usually linked to Science or Social Studies Core) and we go through the entire writing process from Tuesday through Thursday. Kids not  done can finish Friday while others go to L.A. centers. I usually only have 1 or 2 not finished by Thursday at lunchtime.

Our first bulletin board of the year……really cute! 
This little guy did nothing but read books all summer! Woo Hoo! 


On Monday I have the kids write a journal called “The Weekend News”.  Link HERE  for a complete explanation on that.
On Friday they write in a classroom/school journal all about what we learned and accomplished that week, and what the school events for the week were.  I keep the “Weekend News” and use it as part of their writing portfolios at the end of the year.  It ends up being about 1 1/2 inches thick because I add the weekly writing and art projects to their file each week.

Owl reports…these owls turned out so pretty using scrapbook paper in the kids’ choices. 

So there are 2 products a week for their Student writing portfolio, and 1 journal entry, and some of those products are 3 page reports on a science or social studies topic. But we write every single day.

Here are a few that I have done throughout the year….both the writing and art is placed in the writing portfolio for the year.

We did a lot of reading, then listed facts about owls, then we wrote sloppy copies. 
Owl Reports in September with teacher edit, and rewrite, they were glad to get to do a cool art project after all that! 
Owl Reports in September…with a cool bulletin board….

In August/September I always do something with Summer Vacations, Owls, Johnny Appleseed, Space Travel, as Jr. Astronauts, Moon poems, Write a letter on School Safety to Officer Buckle.  We also write Fall/Autumn acrostic poetry.

Spiders and Skeletons bullletin board…
Spider Reports in October 

Spider Reports….

In October I try to use the icons of Halloween in an integrated way, doing reports on Bats and Spiders and the kids love it!  I am doing the common core, just choosing fun topics to teach the mini lessons with.

Pumpkin Word Problems in October
Fun integration of writing and math and art here….
Halloween scene from cut paper art….
I’d never tried these curled paper art or the spiderwebs (Martha Stewart’s website) but they turned out super cute! 

In October we write about Chris Columbus, Our Halloween costumes or do a Halloween Mad Lib, Bat and Spider reports too.  Some years we write The ABCs of Halloween or a story about a Friendly Witch or Ghost,  or Spider and Pumpkin word problems!! As you can see above, I link art with the writing to motivate kids to finish their writing projects.

I got the cute Football subway art from Pinterest of all places!!  

Favorite Football Teams in November! Rah, Rah!! We graphed who we thought would win the Super Bowl as it got closer… team lost and I had to do 10 pushups! Go check it out HERE.

Favorite Football Teams, with jerseys and all the right colors too! I took their pictures for this activity. 

Here is our finished bulletin board on Veterans Day 11-11-11

In November we write about Veterans Day, What we are Thankful for, Pilgrims and Immigrants to America, and Indians and their homes, food and clothing,for social studies. And we write, also, about our Favorite Football Teams! There is a fun rivalry in Utah where the 2 main colleges play each other in “the big game” in November. So they pick their teams from college or professional leagues. It’s lots of fun.

Christmas letters to parents

Karo Syrup and NEON food coloring glass window art card….

Christmas letters to parents….we do these for almost every holiday in proper friendly-letter format. 
Cereal Box Fairy Tale puppet show….how to be a dragon, a princess, a fairy, a monster… etc. 
These  Cereal Box Fairy Tales turned out to be the highlight of writing workshop for the year. They had so much fun reading their stories to each other and doing the puppeteering too. I will do this again!  Check it out HERE.
Covers for our pop up books in December…..We read lots of books on  the animals of the ocean….as part of our Core unit on animals and their adaptations. 
Ocean Animal Pop Up Books…kids choose 8 little animals to write facts about…2 on a page……super fun! 

In December we write Christmas Letters to parents, Write about What we want for Christmas, We  make a Cereal Box Puppet show on a Fairy Tale theme, and we write about Christmas Customs around the world with Oral Reports on our culture’s customs.  In Science we do Ocean Animal Pop Up Books.

I’ve almost got January through June finished and will blog about that next. So keep checking back!


Math Workstations and Differentiation,

I have a classroom of gifted kids. I have from age 6 to age 8 in my class. I have students who can do division and know mostly all of their multiplication facts, and I have some kids who still don’t know their addition facts.

We do a Weekly Graph in a pocket chart on a variety of topics. Then they all sit down and  take
a turn telling me something about the graph using “math words”. 

So I have to group kids in math like I group them in reading.  IT IS NOT EASY!  Let me repeat, doing any kind of differentiation is NOT EASY.  I rarely have time to come up with individual lessons for my high kids because I’m helping my low kids get the basic lesson.  But I can do it once a week. Any teacher can with some preparation time on Friday afternoon.

CHECK OUT PINTEREST FOR THE PAGE ON MATH GAMES. THE LINK IS HERE! Many of them can be purchased cheaply or made at home.

Here are a few things that help me differentiate in Math

1. Having Flexible Math Groupings
2. Having multiple and changing learning stations and centers for math
3. Doing timed tests in math facts as far as the kids can go at their own level.
4. I do every page of the student workbook and finish it by year’s end. I don’t skip concepts.
5. We do a writing project in math probably 6 times a year.
6. I have many purchased games and math manipulatives to use with games to make math more fun!

 HERE at Printable Math Worksheets are charts and worksheets for learning math facts.  This also needs to be a part of any good math program.  The kids need timed tests to master and drill their facts into memory. We could spend 5 minutes three times a week taking and correcting timed tests and have the whole class mastering math facts all year.

Learning Centers are up every day, all day, and they are really the favorites of my students. I  have 2 centers out at each table all day; one center is a language arts station, and the other is a math station.  The kids are told in the mornings, when they are done with their writing work, that they go to the L.A. center, and in the afternoons, when they are done with their independent work, they can choose a math center.

Inching Along Measurement Game
A fun game to teach inches and measuring. 
I copied this free printable to go on the upper inside flap of each page from Enchanted Learning.

 I have 5 centers of each at 5 areas
1. The rug. Math puzzles, matching games, flip overs, etc.
2. The round game table. (a small shelf next to it has board games, Bingo games, file folder games)
3. The long, mom-helper table (RUBBER STAMPS) It  has rubber stamp clocks, money, base 10 etc. so kids can make their own problems up and answer their own rubber stamped problems.
4. The filing cabinets (MAGNET CENTER) I’ve made lots of games magnetic and I also have magnetic ABCs and Numbers so it is always a popular one.
5. Listening Post/Weekly Graph. I always have a math book on tape as well as a weekly graphing assignment to do. The kids get their graphing done by Friday.

These are good games for a math center. They are played independently and kids love the  MATCH UPS!

Some are just purchased games such as SUM SWAMP. IT IS ALWAYS A FAVORITE math game. It includes addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. The kids choose which operation to play.

Sum Swamp Addition and Subtraction Game
This game is in my STORE in the BUTTON ABOVE.  Please  go  take a look! 

 Most of the kids loved my math games and centers, and it would be a motivation to get their work done so they could go play a math game afterwards.  Morning fast finishers do the Language Arts activity at one of the 5 centers.. Afternoons they would do the math activity at the same center.  I don’t change centers very often, maybe every 2 weeks or so. I am lazy. And with 5 centers, most kids would only go twice to each center in a 2 week period.  😀

The MATH CENTER in the background is a math game in a pocket chart. It is like Jeopardy  in that it has catergories of math and amounts for difficulty of question. Kids play it with a few partners. 


I find that on Mondays, I don’t have any specials (P.E. Library or Computer), so I have an extra half hour of the day that isn’t really integrated with anything else.  And I’m usually starting on a new topic in Social Studies, Science and sometimes Math.  So it’s a good time to start something new.  So that was the day I decided to plan and prepare for a special lesson in math for those high kids in my class.  We named them “THE MATHEMATICALS”. They LOVE being called that.

 I call them over as soon as I’m done with my math lesson for the day, knowing they will complete the independent work quickly and can be ready for something much more challenging. I found stuff in the next grade up and further that was simple to teach, yet would be new information; such as multiplying double digits, or simple division, quadruple addition or subtraction, brain teasers etc.

I have a bingo game on almost every topic I teach. I think it is a good use of  money. The kids love them, they teach each other how to run the games, and they learn as they play at centers. Some years I have had to assign a “game caller” to run the game. It would be a high student who could help others play the game. Kids love to be in charge!! 

The Mathematicals group would meet with me on Monday after the regular math lesson.  They each have a folder and I will give them a page with higher level work on it with the same theme or math strand if possible. If not they got a brain teaser or word problems or simple multiplication. You’d be surprised how many kids can do it even in first grade. I got the worksheets online or from the above grade level old series of math…. so I wasn’t copying anything current that they would do the next year.  They would usually finish the worksheet by the end of the week doing a little bit each day on their own. Then they still had time to go to centers.

Here are my “foam feet” I use to teach inches, feet and yards. Check out ordering a set from my estore in the button above. 

The week we were doing measurement for differentiation I had them do a “yardstick” by tracing my 1 foot “foam feet” in sets of 3, making the inch increments and totalling the 36 inches. You can see the final product hanging from the ceiling. They then had to measure 3 things in the room in feet using tools such as rulers and measuring tape. They loved it! And some of the other fast finishers did it too.

 They had to list inches, centimeters, and feet for totals measured. It was fun and challenging for my first graders that year. And everybody learned the vocabulary for inches, feet and yards.this way, by actually doing a silly art project!!! They would also have done some paper and pencil measurement pages that were higher level that week.

Sometimes it would be a page on 2 step word problems with triple digits or quantities of money or 2 step operations in telling elapsed time. Other times it would be writing out in words numbers in the 100 thousands. Stuff like that. It wasn’t too far developmentally that they couldn’t do it, and they thought it was fun.

Here a group doing differentiated math using “foam feet”….it would be some project above and beyond the regular assignment for the day.


My low kids would get me every day at the kidney shaped table, after the whole group lesson is done and nobody else has questions. At this time all are working on their independent work. The high group, The mathematicals, would have had their weekly meeting with me already.

 I  meet almost daily with the low group to help them understand and do the regular daily work. I send them back to their desk individually when they had more than half the work done. The other kids in the class are finishing at their own pace and then going to one of the 5 centers.

I have a few store bought games on each math strand. Some I have made up myself, some I use games I have made in file folders and put inside a baggie.

The faces would change at the kidney table (low math group), depending on the strand of math. Some kids would volunteer to come back to me. Some I would call back because of what errors I’d seen on yesterday’s corrected work. That always told me who didn’t “get it” yet.

 Some were low in money counting. Some were low in understanding word problems, some were low in fractions, etc. The math hour would be complete when everybody got that day’s work done and had a little time for center games/workstations.

Extra activity we do every day for 10 minutes…ADD MATH…..I like the “word problem” a day and the math facts practice.

My measurement unit has a lot of hands on activities. The kids really learn the different vocabulary by using the tools of measurement. (inches, feet, yards, yardstick, meter stick, centimeters, etc.)

  I HATE to hear teachers say, “well we don’t have to teach that, because it’s not in our core!” It just makes me cringe!!! 

Why not do some higher level stuff? Or stuff in the math book that is not required at your grade? What does it hurt? You will be addressing those high kids in your class that WANT and NEED more challenge!! That is a way to differentiate. Let those who are easily bored do a different project once in awhile, even if you only challenge yourself to do a differentiation project once a month, you are helping high level kids learn something they are ready for.

 It’s kinda my mantra. My kids were often bored in elementary school. And everybody has kids in their class like that. So address it. Give it some of your planning time. If you only make up one extra activity a month this year and add another one next year (per month) you will soon have something once a week for the entire year for high level kids. 

And then won’t you be proud of yourself.  

Yes, you will! I PROMISE!