Reflections and Resources from Tarheelstate Teacher: 2016
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Snowman Creative Writing Project - Perfect for December or January

Today I'm jumping in with a winter idea that you can print and implement in an instant for some winter/holiday snowman fun. It's my snowman creative writing project.

Over the years, I've used this writing project for different holidays--Halloween/fall, winter, and Valentines--to provide something educational, worthwhile, and fun for my 4th and 5th graders.
This snowman creative writing project is a great way to let your upper elementary students have some fun before or after the holiday break. You can use it in December during the week before Christmas vacation, or use it to dive back into learning in January. Either way your 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th grade students are going to have a strong focus on reading, writing, vocabulary, and character traits. It's a great, individualized project that you can differentiate to meet ALL students needs!

If you knew me in real life, you'd know we don't ever "party" in my classroom. But, we do have fun educational celebrations {wink}. Over the years, I've come to realize that there's nothing wrong with letting your hair down a few times a year and having a little fun.

Whether you are a big classroom reveler or you are still in the "we don't have parties camp," I think this snowman creative writing project will be perfect for your classroom.

If you want to squeeze it in before holiday break, 1-2 weeks to prepare the stories should be sufficient. If you need something for your return in January, well, this is all about snowpeople, and in my neck of the woods, it will be getting even colder in January ;) 

In this writing unit, students write an imaginative narrative about a snowman with a given character trait. You could also focus on writing poetry or let students decide.

Students do a craft or art component by creating a 3D snowman or just illustrating their snowman on paper to go along with their story (depending on how much time I have to allot for this mini-unit).

Here's what I do:

This snowman creative writing project is a great way to let your upper elementary students have some fun before or after the holiday break. You can use it in December during the week before Christmas vacation, or use it to dive back into learning in January. Either way your 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th grade students are going to have a strong focus on reading, writing, vocabulary, and character traits. It's a great, individualized project that you can differentiate to meet ALL students needs!

Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. Read my full disclosure here.

1. Launch the Mini-Writing Unit

I do this with a picturebook like Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner.  I usually read just one, but it would be absolutely perfect to read 3-4 different snowman books prior to launching this unit.

Most of the snowman-themed books I have found are very short, so this wouldn't be hard to do. Snowman Magic by Katherine Tegen, All you Need for a Snowman by Alice Schertle, Snowmen at Playand Snowmen at Work (both also by Caralyn Buehner) are some other great reads.

This snowman creative writing project is a great way to let your upper elementary students have some fun before or after the holiday break. You can use it in December during the week before Christmas vacation, or use it to dive back into learning in January. Either way your 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th grade students are going to have a strong focus on reading, writing, vocabulary, and character traits. It's a great, individualized project that you can differentiate to meet ALL students needs!

2. Choose Character Traits

Next, I have each student choose a snowman trait from a set of adjectives I have generated for the project. Each student receives a different trait so that students learn about as many different words as possible during this project.

This snowman creative writing project is a great way to let your upper elementary students have some fun before or after the holiday break. You can use it in December during the week before Christmas vacation, or use it to dive back into learning in January. Either way your 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th grade students are going to have a strong focus on reading, writing, vocabulary, and character traits. It's a great, individualized project that you can differentiate to meet ALL students needs!


This snowman creative writing project is a great way to let your upper elementary students have some fun before or after the holiday break. You can use it in December during the week before Christmas vacation, or use it to dive back into learning in January. Either way your 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th grade students are going to have a strong focus on reading, writing, vocabulary, and character traits. It's a great, individualized project that you can differentiate to meet ALL students needs!

3. Use Graphic Organizers

I created different graphic organizers for students to use in exploring their word. Students use dictionaries, thesauruses, and other resources to learn definitions, synonyms, and antonyms of their word and complete the graphic organizer. Word exploration takes at least 1-2 writing workshop periods. We love to use wordhippo to help us in our research, but thesauruses are also necessary.


This snowman creative writing project is a great way to let your upper elementary students have some fun before or after the holiday break. You can use it in December during the week before Christmas vacation, or use it to dive back into learning in January. Either way your 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th grade students are going to have a strong focus on reading, writing, vocabulary, and character traits. It's a great, individualized project that you can differentiate to meet ALL students needs!

4. Start Writing!

As students finish up their word research, they move into their actual snowman creative writing project. They use a "character questionnaire" to explore their character to deepen their understanding of the trait,  and to brainstorm and plan their stories. As students plan their stories, I am sure to check their ideas and talk to them about whether or not their character's actions represent the character trait they are supposed to.

Sometimes students incorporate character change into their story--for example, a jubilant snowman could be cantankerous or grumpy at the beginning of the story, but along the way, he found the holiday spirit and became the most jubilant snowman in all the land. :)

Some of your writing lessons could even aim for teaching students to create character change in their stories and this would allow them to utilize their synonyms and antonyms more easily. A simple "beginning, middle, and end" graphic organizer is perfect for having students describe the character at the beginning, think about events that could happen to cause the character to change, then describe the character at the end.

This snowman creative writing project is a great way to let your upper elementary students have some fun before or after the holiday break. You can use it in December during the week before Christmas vacation, or use it to dive back into learning in January. Either way your 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th grade students are going to have a strong focus on reading, writing, vocabulary, and character traits. It's a great, individualized project that you can differentiate to meet ALL students needs!

5. Draft & Publish

Next, students draft and publish their story. They also sketch out and plan what their character looks like by drawing him/her on a sheet of paper. I give students a sheet of facial expressions to help guide their artwork.

6. Decorate!!!

THIS IS WHERE YOU GO ALL OUT! YOU PARTY ANIMAL ;) The next step is snowman decoration day! I gather tons of craft items that students can use to decorate a 3D snowman (using paper plates, Styrofoam balls, tea lights, marshmallows and pretzels, or any other snazzy idea you can find on pinterest). I invite a few parents to come help us. If you do not want to make 3D snowmen, students can simply complete their snowman character on the snowman design template.

This snowman creative writing project is a great way to let your upper elementary students have some fun before or after the holiday break. You can use it in December during the week before Christmas vacation, or use it to dive back into learning in January. Either way your 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th grade students are going to have a strong focus on reading, writing, vocabulary, and character traits. It's a great, individualized project that you can differentiate to meet ALL students needs!

7. Celebrate!

And the very last step is to CELEBRATE! To prepare for the celebration, you can have students' snowman designs and stories set up around the classroom. Readers move from story to story leaving “Snowman Shout Outs” (aka positive feedback) for the writer. My students love to celebrate this way AND the room is always quiet with everyone reading happily.

This snowman creative writing project is a great way to let your upper elementary students have some fun before or after the holiday break. You can use it in December during the week before Christmas vacation, or use it to dive back into learning in January. Either way your 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th grade students are going to have a strong focus on reading, writing, vocabulary, and character traits. It's a great, individualized project that you can differentiate to meet ALL students needs!This writing celebration is PERFECT for the last day you have before winter break. I mean, what could be better than your students rotating the room, reading one another's stories in near silence, and checking out each other's art work? Not to mention, having students write compliments to each writer on a sticky note is pretty heartwarming as students express kind words to one another.

Take the Learning Deeper

One last thing I do for the celebration is have students complete a word chart after reading each story. They simply fill in a definition, synonyms, and antonyms for the word that was the focus on their classmate's story. This is a great way to reinforce vocabulary learning!

Add Some Sweetness

To make this celebration even SWEETER, serve hot chocolate and candy canes and you will be making MEMORIES for your students! {low prep, low stress, educationally worthwhile memories :)} Don't forget to invite your principal to stop by during your celebration!


No matter the activity or idea you choose, I do hope you take some time to let your hair down and let loose with your students. I truly believe that while my job is to create passionate readers, competent and joyful math students, and all-around good children in my classroom, a little part of my job is also helping to add memories to their childhood. I hope my students look back fondly on our snowman, valentine, and pumpkin personality units!

Click over to grab your snowman creative writing project resource now!

This snowman creative writing project is a great way to let your upper elementary students have some fun before or after the holiday break. You can use it in December during the week before Christmas vacation, or use it to dive back into learning in January. Either way your 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th grade students are going to have a strong focus on reading, writing, vocabulary, and character traits. It's a great, individualized project that you can differentiate to meet ALL students needs!

Why Your Students May NOT Like Task Cards

Having trouble harnessing the magic of task cards and getting students to fall in love with them? Read for 5 reasons why your students may not enjoy task card activities and pick up some tips for using task cards in your classroom. I also share how to use task cards, how to manage task cards in whole group instruction, and how to use task cards to differentiate in math class! Perfect for 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade but others may benefit too!

I once had a teacher friend say to me, "My students don't like task cards." After picking my jaw up off the floor and wracking my brain for a single student that didn't respond positively to task cards in my past 5 years of using them, I realized that this response may have come from differences in the way task cards are implemented and used in the classroom.

So, today, I'd like to describe how I use task cards in my math class. I'd love to know if I share anything with you here that is a new way of looking at task cards.

HOW I PREP TASK CARDS
I know many teachers use task cards for math stations or centers, but I almost always launch a set of task cards by using them in whole group first. If the task card set has been designed with levels of difficulty or in sets of tasks that increase in challenge, I print the task cards on different colors of card stock. I print the answer keys and write the color the task cards were printed on on the top of each one. (So, if I printed the task cards on lovely neon green cardstock, I write GREEN on the top of the answer key). I place each answer key in a plastic sheet protector to keep it clean.

WORK TIME: Whole Group using the same set of cards
Now, depending on where my students are in their learning of the skills and objectives, I may have 2-3 sets of task cards in use OR I may be using one set of task cards with the whole group.

If I'm using one set of task cards for whole group, I place cards all around the room, 1-2 per desk and then put a few at the carpet, the kidney table, on top of reachable bookshelves and sometimes in the whiteboard tray. (If you think you have to tape all of your task cards up around the room and in the hallway like a scavenger hunt to get students to enjoy them--you don't! Save yourself some prep time and just train students in how to spread them around the room.)

After task cards are spread out, students move around the room as they wish, solving card after card. I either stand at my bookshelf, grab a student desk where I can easily monitor everyone, or sit at my back table to help students who ask for it and check their answer sheets. I expect students to check in with me throughout their task card work and sometimes have an extra adult in the room who also has an answer key (ummmm #lifesaver #thankyouUareAWESOME!) I ask students who are struggling to come check in with me after every problem solved (or we just grab a seat next to each other with them working while students come to me to get checked). It works like a well-oiled machine, I promise.

WORK TIME: Multiple Sets of Cards for Differentiation
If I am using multiple sets of task cards {because my students have shown that they need me to differentiate their practice, see these subtracting fractions task cards for an example}, I create a chart to display on the smartboard showing each student where they will be working. I can have students working on three different task card sets at the front of the room, at my carpet, and at a table or at their own desks. {One year, I figured out how to get TWO CARPETS into my classroom. It was glorious!} Now that I've got students in 2-3 differentiated groups, I bet you can guess who I'll sit down by and who I'll spend most of my time with. My higher kids will come to me to ask questions about what they don't understand. Often, when I've gone over a tough question with one student, I then make them the go-to person for that question. {works like a charm and ensures that I didn't do the work for them without them truly understanding}.

Note: I also get into times where I have 2-3 sets of task cards going because some students have finished a set of task cards and were ready to move on to the next level. {I always have the next-harder set of task cards prepped and ready to go for occasions like this!}

CLEAN UP
When clean up time comes, my students know to search the room for task cards. Usually, a few students take responsibility for collecting task cards and a few students take the answer sheets. (I make it clear that I do NOT want materials brought to me). Either myself or a few students organize all of the materials at our small group table. The task cards go in a plastic bag. The student answer sheets, task card answer keys, and the bag of task cards get clipped together for easy clean up.

Now that you know how I implement task cards, let's get back to why your students may not like task cards...here are some reasons I thought of:
Having trouble harnessing the magic of task cards and getting students to fall in love with them? Read for 5 reasons why your students may not enjoy task card activities and pick up some tips for using task cards in your classroom. I also share how to use task cards, how to manage task cards in whole group instruction, and how to use task cards to differentiate in math class! Perfect for 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade but others may benefit too!

1) You put your task cards in a center before introducing the cards or the concepts. Some students may feel uncomfortable or unprepared for working on the cards independently--even if you feel you have differentiated your stations.

2) You always expect students to be silent or work completely independent when working on task cards. Task cards are not worksheets! The beauty of task cards is that they can be used to get students on their feet. They may want to socialize from time to time (or they may talk to help one another), but it's not necessary that they are completely silent during task card work.

3) You are not rotating the room and checking their work to give instant feedback (gratification) and encouragement. Maybe you are tied down to a small group or to 1-2 students who need more help. Be sure you take a break from them from time to time and check on the rest of the class. Better yet, set your students who need one on one attention up with a partner that can provide them the support they need so that you will be available to work with everyone. I find INSTANT FEEDBACK is part of the magic of task cards versus worksheets.

4)  Your students are unmotivated or stressed because they have to finish all of the task cards before they can do something else. When I implement a set of task cards, I rarely expect students to complete every single problem. Some task card sets have 30-40 questions and some students work more slowly than others. Expect an appropriate amount of questions to be answered, but don't make students feel punished just because a task card creator gave you more cards to work with than your students can complete in 1-2 sittings.

5) Your students see the cards as busy work because they are not challenging enough for their learning needs. Once a student has shown mastery of the concepts, I often go ahead and move them on to more challenging task cards or math projects. No need to keep working on something that you already know how to do well.

If you have felt unsuccessful using task cards in the past, I encourage you to think about why they didn't feel successful. What wasn't working? (I'd really love to hear about it in the comments or in an email @ tarheelstateteacher@gmail.com). Make sure that you are not using task cards like "glorified worksheets" (click to read that post to learn more about why I think task cards are magical if you haven't already!) and give it another shot!

Need some task cards? I'm here to help because I am madly in love with task cards as a differentiation and teaching strategy!
Grab your 4th and 5th grade task cards aligned to the common core math standards and other important upper elementary math content.

 Check out the mega bundle of all of my 4th and 5th fractions task cards; lots of real-world themes incorporated in these task cards to help students connect fraction concepts to real-world concepts.

Task Cards are just Glorified Worksheets!

Task cards are an engaging, fun classroom activity and allow for easy differentiation, even in whole group instruction. Find out why I think they are awesome for whole group math instruction and differentiation. 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th grade math teachers, you won't want to miss this post! Know the reasons why task cards ARE NOT just glorified worksheets!
Are you using task cards in your classroom, yet?

Today, I want to share my experiences with using task cards for math instruction and all the reasons why I believe they are BETTER THAN WORKSHEETS. I think it was around 5 years ago that I really embraced task cards and it's never too late for you to start harnessing the magic that I think they are!

That year, we had a math textbook that I thought was decent, but that relied heavily upon activity workbooks and whole group instruction (#notmystyle). As I was planning one day, staring at a workbook page of word problems that I thought would be beneficial for my students but hating the idea of them just sitting and doing desk work for another day, I decided to type up the word problems and cut them out so that students could move around the room working on questions {instant task cards!}. Later, I began making my own math task cards with word problems focused around the concepts I was teaching and using "real-world" themes that I thought would be fun for my students.

I know many teachers use task cards as a math station or center activity, but I always launch a set of task cards by using them in whole group first and then move students into differentiated stations as needed.

I think a lot of the magic comes from using task cards as a whole-group teaching method, so as I share some reasons why I think task cards are absolutely MAGICAL in math class and more than a worksheet, keep the image of all students working on a set of task cards at the same time in your mind.

1) Students think we are doing something fun because they get to move around the classroom. Sometimes, you'd think we were having a party in math class! (For End of Year math review, we actually DO throw a low-key summer-themed party with our Slide into Summer task cards!)

2) Students are more willing to ask questions and seek out help. I find that when students are up and moving around the room, I've created a safe place for students to feel more comfortable asking me for help. Task cards can also provide so much variety in the way questions are presented that any student may encounter a problem that they have a question about.

3) Task Cards encourage a growth mindset (if growth mindset is already a part of your classroom environment). I often use task cards for two days in a row. Students are able to see their growth from their initial exposure to the task cards to the following day. I am certain to compliment, "Doesn't today seem a little easier? You guys are getting the hang of it!"

4) ANSWER KEYS allow for EASY CHECKING! I print at least two answer keys for my task card sets because sometimes I have an AIG or inclusion teacher in the room with me. When it makes sense, I've also allowed students to use the answer key to check themselves. I walk around the room, sit at a desk in the middle of the room, or stand at a shelf where I can check papers while students are working. Students know to come check in with me regularly and I ask some students to check in with me more often, or have them sit beside of me so that I can give them instant feedback on each problem. If I have lag time, I call students over who have not checked in with me yet. With my answer key in hand, I can give students super fast feedback. When math class is over, I can also check over students work in a matter of minutes and see who needs more assistance and who is ready to move on. Workbooks, worksheets, and packets don't seem to have this same quick grading speed and I RARELY TAKE TASK CARD ANSWER SHEETS HOME TO GRADE because it's so easy to get them checked before I head out.


5) Task cards allow for easy differentiation. Many task card sets are organized by levels of difficulty and get increasingly more challenging. Task cards that are not organized this way can be sorted by the teacher and you can send groups of students to the cards that you want them to work on first. I've also purchased task cards on specific skills (like rounding or multiplication, for example) in varying levels so that I could use different cards with different students. (I've organized my Subtracting Fractions with Unlike Denominators and Regrouping and my Comparing and Ordering Fractions Task Cards into increasing levels of difficulty so that I could easily move my students from one version of the concept to the next layer of the concept).

6) Task card answer sheets make it easy to create small groups. This piggybacks on #5, but when I use a set of task cards for two days, I am easily able to use students' performance on the first day to create small groups or partnerships that will better support students' learning on the following day. I jot down groups of students that I want to focus my attention on and sometimes even sort the answer sheets based on performance to either modify the students' assignment or make plans to provide them more direct instruction.

7) Task cards are a LOW PREP, high engagement, worthwhile instructional method. I can have a set of task cards, answer keys, and student answer sheets ready to go in a matter of minutes during planning. (Yes, this is easier when you have been using task cards for a while and know the ones you used in previous years that you want to use again, but task cards are also easy to find on teacherspayteachers, and I hope you look around my store to see what's available for your 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders.) After the first day of introducing task cards, I may have to seek out a set of easier or more challenging cards to help me differentiate, but often, I've already got the next level of cards prepared for my students who are ready.

8) After I've used a set of task cards with the whole class, it's easy to move them into a station rotation for review, extra practice, as an intervention, or to differentiate for students who still need to work on the concept.

Task cards are an engaging, fun classroom activity and allow for easy differentiation, even in whole group instruction. Find out why I think they are awesome for whole group math instruction and differentiation. 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th grade math teachers, you won't want to miss this post! Know the reasons why task cards ARE NOT just glorified worksheets!9) Students seem more willing to persevere when I'm using task cards. Ever have a student shut down when working on a worksheet? Well, this seems to be a little more difficult to do when working on task cards. Students have to get up and move, they have others around them who are working busily, and they have teachers and friends who are willing to help when they are stuck. When a student gets frustrated with a card or I realize that they are just not ready for it, I guide them to another card that can help them feel more successful.

10) Self-motivated students have the opportunity to push themselves. Some students are less likely to push themselves to see what more they can do when the instructional mode is to listen to a whole group lesson, complete a textbook page, wait for others to finish, listen to more whole group instruction, complete a textbook page, yawn, wait a little longer. There's very little waiting with task cards. Students can just keep moving along at their own pace, which is especially FREEING for those students' whose pace is usually faster than most of their classmates.

11) I am able to create student "math leaders." Often within a set of task cards, 1-2 problems are really tricky, even for my gifted students. After I work through a problem with one student, I can ask that student to be the expert on that question and assist other  students as they have questions about it.

12) Most magically, students LOVE task cards. They beg me for them. When it is time to head to lunch or go to recess, my students often yell, "No! I don't want math to be over!" It's so rewarding! I offer to skip recess and keep doing math, but they never take me up on the offer. At least they will be happy when we pull the cards out again on the following day!

If you have tried using task cards in your classroom and just didn't get the results or engagement that you expected, I'm sharing a few reasons why your students may not respond well to task cards in my next post.

Need some task cards? I'm here to help because I am madly in love with task cards as a differentiation and teaching strategy! I really can't say it enough about how much I love task cards--if you haven't tried task cards in your math classroom, I highly recommend them! If you already love them for a reason I left off of this list, let us know why in the comments!
Grab your 4th and 5th grade task cards aligned to the common core math standards and other important upper elementary math content.

 Check out the mega bundle of all of my 4th and 5th fractions task cards; lots of real-world themes incorporated in these task cards to help students connect fraction concepts to real-world concepts.

October Flew By on a Witch's Broom!

We just wrapped up a month of October festivities in my family. My daughter's birthday is in October and somehow she gets spoiled all.month.long. Seriously, it feels busier than December! We spent a weekend in Busch Gardens for Hallowscream, took her out to dinner on her birthday (complete with unnecessary chocolate ice cream), and invited her entire class and all the neighborhood kids over for a Monster Mash, Birthday Bash!
I made 42 witch hat cupcakes, 64 mummy dogs, and a dozen monster and Halloween themed carnival games for all of the kids to play in our back yard. I used pinterest inspiration more than I ever have in my life!

Needless to say, being the party planner in my family, my blog has been much neglected this month. I'm going to replace my feelings of guilt with the satisfaction that I pulled off a pretty amazing birthday party and made tons of memories with my family this month. I hope you did too!

If you didn't catch my last post, you might have missed that I did accomplish one big thing in October. I finally have a REAL-LIVE email up and running for my subscribers. In my first few emails, I decided to take the opportunity to introduce myself, talk about a few of the teaching topics I get passionate about {developing a love of reading, all things math instruction, using morning meeting to give our students a chance for personal development and to improve our classroom communities, and tips for fabulous science instruction--could you have guessed any of these?!?}, and share some pretty awesome freebies in each one of those intro emails. These are freebies that are exclusive to those who sign up for my email newsletter.  You can sign up here to grab your goodies and learn more about me!

Join my email list and receive 4 exclusive freebies!

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Grab your free resources and talk all things teacher with me, Tarheelstate Teacher!


I've continued working on revising the resources in my tpt store. After creating a Growth Mindset freebie for my newsletter subscribers, I decided all of my morning meeting themes could use an update. Right now, I am about halfway through with the 10 themes. I have updated the individual listings for my belonging, kindness, perseverance, conflict, and compassion theme sets and will update Morning Meeting Set 1 with the new pages by Thursday. So, you are going to want to re-download these themes if you have purchased them. I will work on updating the other 5 themes {all of Set 2} next week. You can find all of the themes here. And if you haven't read about my take on Morning Meetings, I wrote a 10 part blog series last summer that covers most aspects of implementing morning/community meetings into your classrooms. I LOVE my take on morning meetings because I get to integrate literacy and the common core standards for Themes in Literature. Community building and teaching my standards = win-win!


Another update I made in order to provide a special freebie to my newsletter subscribers was to freshen up my Ecosystems Vocabulary Mats resource. If you have not tried my Vocabulary Mats study strategy for science vocabulary, you might want to check these out. I developed them years ago to help my 5th graders practice and master science vocabulary for our end of grade science test. {It's a little secret, but these vocabulary mats are next on the list for resources that will be getting updates and improvements. I have plans to expand what's included in these resources. The price will go up, but not until I get to them, so if you grab them in the next month, you will receive MORE for free later!} I have vocabulary mats for Weather Words (and tools), Energy and Matter, Force and Motion, Rocks and Minerals, Landforms, and Phases of the Moon.

Standards Based Math Assessments for Number and Operations in Base 10 5th Grade Common Core all operationsIn the world of all things differentiated math assessments, I finally got my assessments for 5th Grade Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, and Division for Decimals finished. It includes themed word problem assessment sets that I am just so in love with!

What's included in the 5th Grade ALL Operations Set? 

3 Test Versions for each of the Following Concepts:
ADDITION AND SUBTRACTION ♦ whole numbers and decimals
♦ Addition and Subtraction Multi-Step Word Problems with reference sheets and real-world data

MULTIPLICATION
♦ Multiplying with Whole Numbers
♦ Multiplying with Decimals
♦ Multiplication Multi-Step Word Problems with reference sheets and real-world data

DIVISION
♦ Dividing with Whole Numbers
♦ Dividing with Decimals
♦ Division Multi-Step Word Problems with reference sheets and real-world data

The three (so exciting!) themes for the word problems include:
♦ Movie Time (theater tickets and concessions)
♦ Grocery Store/Bagged Lunch Items
♦ Planets in Our Solar System
5th Grade Number and Operations in Base 10 Word Problems, Standards Based Assessments for Adding, Subtracting, Multiplying, and Dividing Whole Numbers and Decimals
Although I didn't get to blog as much as I would have liked, I did write about the 11 Things I think Teachers Should Stop Doing {all things I'm guilty of, of course!}. If you haven't read it yet, it might give you a laugh and help you reset your sanity as you go about trying to be the very best teacher you can be.
Advice for New Teachers 11 Things to Stop Doing
I also shared an update to a post that I wrote a long time ago about How I Run Student-Led Report Card Conferences. If you have not held your conferences yet and are looking for something fresh and exciting (that will probably get your adrenaline rushing too), you might check my approach out and give it a try.
Tips for Student Led Report Card Conferences {goal setting with parents, report cards}
Growth Mindset and quotations to inspire hard work and perseverance were a big theme for me on Instagram this month. Follow me on Instagram for your daily dose of teacher inspiration! 


Until next time!

My Newsletter is Finally up and RUNNING!

Have you ever wanted to get something new going in your classroom but you just can’t seem to find the time to do it? You know how awesome it would be for the kids and yourself, but when is that next teacher workday?!?!

Well, I know that feeling all too well because I spent my whole teaching life reflecting and tweaking and of course, dropping the ball from time to time. And that experience of not knowing when I’d get the time to really focus in and get to the important things is a lot like getting my Tarheelstate Teacher newsletter going.

I am so thankful and appreciative each time I get a notification that a teacher like you has shared their email with me. So, this past month, I finally said to myself “Girl, it is time. Stop letting yourself (and your people) down and get this thing going!” My subscriber newsletter is finally up and running and the freebies are flowing for reading, math, morning meeting, and science!

So, let’s get on with it!

In my last blog post {about 11 things teachers should stop doing}, I shared a short little internet history. Way back to 2005 when I first started teaching! My point was that because of the internet and our ability to connect with one another, the teaching profession is no longer such a lonely place.

Today I am thankful for what the internet has done for the teaching profession. It gives me hope for new teachers just starting out and it makes me smile at the inspiration it provides for veteran teachers to keep themselves energized and on the cutting edge of classroom practices.

And yes, I know that all of the ideas can also cause #ideaoverwhelm. If you can learn to take the up side with the down side, you can tap into those amazing ideas when you need them, but guard your time and energy {from Pinterest ;)} when you are chugging along on your own. It’s okay not to do everything all the time.

I know that if you are here visiting my blog, you are a passionate teacher who puts her heart into her classroom. Welcome, friend! This is going to be inspiring and fun!

If you choose to subscribe to my newsletter today, I will be in touch over the next few weeks with a quick introduction of myself and my teaching passions. I’ve even included a freebie with each email to let you know how much I appreciate you waiting on me to get my act together! Make sure you open those future emails for resources that I believe you can use in your classroom right away!

Just so you know how special you are for subscribing, most of my future freebies will be exclusive to you, my BTF's (best teacher friends :), who have chosen to be on my email list. A lot of heart goes into my teaching resources and my blog posts and I am truly in awe at you for wanting to hang out with me and for wanting more!

Click here to subscribe and join me in a cozy chat in your inbox about all things elementary teacher!

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11 Things New Teachers Should Stop Doing

I'm sharing some of the big (sometimes funny and sometimes heartbreaking) mistakes I made in my first years of teaching.

Before I tell you what you should stop doing, I want to take you back to 2005 when I first began teaching (am I old? #idontthinksofriends). Pinterest would not arrive on the www for 5 more years. Teachers Pay Teachers did not come along until 2006 and really didn't gain momentum or hit its stride until 2014. I didn't post my first resource there until 2010 and most all of the resources available on tpt were plain word documents that were straight up what a teacher made just for their classroom. When I googled ideas for my classroom, I was sure to find some pdf's and helpful resources, but nowhere near the images, ideas, and lesson recaps written by a teacher blogger like we have available to us today. The world was different then. Today, you are no longer alone on your teacher journey and it is now so much easier for you, young teachers, to learn from your fellow teachers who have walked down that road before you.

Now, if you are like me, you are headstrong and stubborn, and you might not want to listen to me. In my first few years of teaching, I especially blocked out the advice of people who were just negative and burned out. You have to protect your heart and your mindset from negativity. I knew many older teachers looked at me as a beginner and I wasn't open to their ideas or advice. If you are feeling stubborn about the content of this post, I promise this is different. You are our future. And I want you to last. Read on and try to listen :)

1) Stop holding your pee. Did that make you laugh? Don't laugh too hard or you might wet your pants. I know you are holding it right now as you are reading this because you are just SO used to it. STOP. STOP. If you have a bathroom close by your classroom, train your students to be actively engaged and working hard while you step out of the room. {Independent reading time was always a good time for me to sneak out}. I preached and preached to my students about the injustice in the fact that they could basically go to the restroom whenever they asked and that I deserved that same exact right as a person. This meant that I should be able to trust them when I leave the room. {I'm going to admit that almost all of my students have enjoyed watching me do the potty dance a time or two! #notproud}

Now, leaving the room might not work for everyone, so get a plan in place that allows you to STOP HOLDING YOUR PEE. Grab the teacher next door to step into the hall and monitor your classroom. Grab a special area teacher or volunteer or just start calling down to the office saying "I've got to go, can you come watch my room?!?!?!" Another way to get around this {maybe obviously} is to make sure you go to the rest room during your planning time, as you are dropping your students off or picking them up and then go during lunchtime. I know I often skipped those opportunities to take a bathroom break because I wanted to get something done, but don't. Take a minute and let it all out!

2) Stop NOT drinking enough water. I know that you actually drink less water because of #1. You don't want to have to go pee all the time; well, do you plan to teach 25+ years without drinking enough water? You will shrivel up like a grape and become a raisin. No one wants to be a raisin. Drink water. Tell yourself and your principal that your priority is taking care of YOUR health so that you can be there for you students. Drink water, go pee, rinse and repeat!

3) Stop reserving your weekends for planning. Have you heard of Parkinson's Law? It states that "Work expands so as to fill the time available for it's completion."

Word, Mr. Parkinson.

This means that if you say you are spending the weekend planning and maybe you will have time for other things (like hobbies, eating, and taking care of yourself), then planning will eat up all the time in your weekend. Planning will extend itself into the wee hours of the night and the early mornings, and you, my friend, will end up having the Sunday blues, the "I'm a teacher, I can't have a real life" resentment, and will be on the road to burn out. The weekends this happened to me were usually when I had a new unit starting in the upcoming week in science or social studies. I put SO much pressure on myself to plan a complete, engaging, fun, meaningful unit that sometimes I just spun my wheels, when really, sometimes I should have just figured out the first step first and let the rest of the week take care of itself.

I can remember the weekends where I had plans to go out of town  and it just felt like I had to do so much to prepare--grade papers, think about everything that I needed to do and planned to teach the in the upcoming week, read some science info to get a better grasp on what I'm teaching, review the math book and outline my sequence of lessons, read all the books I'd be using for guided reading, and on and on.

I'm stressed just thinking about all of that.

4) Stop going at this thing all willy-nilly. You need to compartmentalize. You need to develop a planning routine. You need to decide specific days and times that you will take care of each aspect of your teaching responsibilities. For example, I had the luxury of duty free recess the past two years. That was my time to get my math homework ready for the week. If I hadn't had this time, printing math homework would have been a priority in my first planning block. My teacher friend always liked to use Friday afternoons to type up her newsletter for the next week. She could get it ready in about 30 minutes and she loved how it helped her think about the upcoming week before she left for the weekend. Last year, I started using this awesome to-do list template from Kristen at Easy Teaching Tools that allowed me to organize my to-do list by which day of the week that item would really be important AND which time of the day I would need to work on it--morning before school and morning planning or afternoon/after school. With this organization, I could see my to-do's and worry about my tasks when they were really a priority. This broke me from the "never-ending" to do list and to consider my tasks based on priority, not preference, which I talk about more in #11.

5) Stop considering not having children as an option. (I'm not joking!) Deciding that you won't have children because you put all of your energy and passion into teaching other people's children is just too much of a sacrifice.

Ouch.

Did that hurt anyone? I truly had myself convinced for a few years that I would just not have children. I could not see myself having a baby and teaching at the same time. Now, I've shared that I am taking time off this year because that is just what is right for me, and I do think a little one is in the near future, so I hopefully won't have to try to be all things to everyone, but if you are teacher, I know that you began your career planning to change the world, planning to make an impact.

I also know that your babies will make one heck of an impact on this world. I know mine will, so we owe it to ourselves to put ourselves first when it comes to hopes and dreams of having a family of our own some day. You have to trust that all of the other stuff will work out. I've seen plenty of amazing teachers balance family and not having children because you are a teacher is a sacrifice that you will eventually come to resent about your chosen career. You are not a martyr. You don't have to be. You are a person. You deserve a life, a path, and an identity outside of teaching. It's okay to admit that. I'm not saying it's easy or it doesn't hurt or it isn't hard, I'm just encouraging you to care MORE about yourself and what you deserve than you do about those children. {And I know that statement was not politically correct, but someone that you hopefully respect, admire, and appreciate needs to tell you that. And if you don't have someone like that in your corner, #letitbemeletitbe.}

6) Stop making exercise your last priority. It's important. We both know it. And it's so hard to make time for, but we need to make regular exercise a part of our lives so that we are healthy for ourselves, our family, and our students.

7) Stop feeling guilty that you had an idea that you didn't have time to implement (get used to it!). We have tons of creative BIG ideas as teachers. Jot them down for next year and just be okay with the fact that you are human and you can't always do every cool idea you come up with right away.

8) Stop staying late every single day. Decide on two days a week that you will stay late. We always had our staff meetings on Tuesdays and another day of the week was reserved for PLC's with my grade level team. Both of those days were already going to be late ones. So, I began to plan to stay late on those days and leave by 4 pm on other days. (That's still staying 45 minutes after being finished with car rider.) How do you make this work? Mentally plan that ONE thing you will get done before you leave. Try your best to get it done, near completion, and leave at 4 pm no matter what. Hey, this even means that you have to be packing up your things before 4 pm to get out of the door on time. Do IT!

9) Stop skipping snack time! I went through a pretty intense personal training program and the biggest thing I changed (next to three days a week of consistent exercise) was my diet! I started making sure that I ate a snack in the morning and a snack in the afternoon. Your body needs food every 2.5-3 hours. This is how you train your metabolism to stop hoarding food (as fat) in your body and to trust that YOU will feed it consistently, regularly, and routinely. Now your metabolism can burn fat for you and your blood sugar (and all the other good things) will stay stable.

If you are worried about your principal walking in when you are grabbing your snack, have a designated snack time (5 or so minutes with your students to give yourself a chance to eat.) My snacks were always a yogurt or cottage cheese with fruit in the morning around 9:30 and a peanut butter/banana in the afternoons around 2 pm. This allowed me to space out my meals and snack and follow the 2.5-3 hour rule. My students knew I'd be breaking out a banana and spoonful of peanut butter towards the end of the day. I chose to stop starving myself!

10) Stop waiting until summer vacation, a scheduled day off, an intersession or break to schedule your doctor and dentist appointments. Do you have students that leave early or check out to go to the doctor? #iknowitissoannoyingsometimes but you know what, I went for 3 years paying for dental insurance through my district and did not go to the dentist. (Embarrassing I know. Why do we think 20+ somethings can take care of themselves?!?!) This goes back to #8 and throwing all of my energy into all things teacher and not putting myself as a priority. Let's just stop doing that. Make your appointments for when they are convenient for you. Leave a little early or come in a little late. You really won't miss a beat doing this twice a year, you won't have to interrupt your vacations for these appointments, and you can grab a Starbucks on the way back to school. #winwin

11) Stop spending hours doing what you want to do and start with what you need to doFor so many years in the beginning of my career, I managed my time based on what I wanted to do for my classroom. I had no life (really) and I was truly doing what I had ALWAYS wanted to do, so I wanted to do things my way. I wanted to create, I wanted to design lessons, I wanted to spend hours searching for the perfect ideas. But, this doesn't always make common sense, especially when you are not completely ready for the next day. I think my attitude was that it would all get done anyway and I did not really have a grasp on how finite time really is for a teacher.

To tell the truth, I really did teach in an environment where everyone pretty much left us alone, at least for my first two years. We rarely had staff meetings, my grade level only met to discuss field trips and give feedback to the school improvement team or the PTA, you know, stuff we had to talk about, but never about our classroom instruction. Our school had not yet been blessed with the onslaught of so much training and so many committees. Really, if things had kept on going that way (not saying it was the best for teachers or students), I maybe could have kept up the "I just work on whatever I want and all of it will get done" attitude. But, we all know that what education was 11 years ago (yes, I know) is not what it is today. A teacher's time is never really our own #andthatissodamnsad.

Some of the mistakes I made set me up to resent teaching after years and years of working under these circumstances. New teachers, hard-headed, stubborn, change-the-world (and yes you are AMAZING) teachers, I hope you listen to me.

I hope you start taking care of your kind heart, guarding your personal time, prioritizing your health, and creating routines that help you plan faster and leave work at work more often. This might just be what helps you make it to the end and you will still be a rock star if all-the-things in your classroom are not perfect.

I'm rooting for you!

And I'm sure I've left some important things off this list because really, I could go on and on and on! Did something really important come to mind as you read this? Drop it in the comments and help out other teachers with your advice!

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