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End of year countdowns begin. The countdown to summer makes us smile! The countdown to end of year testing – not so much! Use these strategies to cover it all, and keep it organized and fresh when reviewing for end of year testing.


Cover it all and keep it organized:

  • Jot down a list of the topics you want to review with your students before end of the year testing begins.
  • Keep that list in Google or somewhere else online so that you can keep adding to it each year and throughout the year
  • Be sure to include academic and content vocabulary in your review. Sometimes kids can get hung up on one word and not be able to truly show what they know.
  • Once you have your list, print it out and cross items off as you review the concept with your kiddos. We love crossing things off our “to do” lists so paper and pencil work for us. If you prefer tech, keep track of the concepts you’ve covered by highlighting them.

 The countdown to summer makes us smile! The countdown to end of year testing - not so much! Tips for reviewing for end of year testing that keep it fresh.

Keep it fresh and fun:

  • Play games! Reviewing while playing games makes the work motivating and fun. Which also increases the likelihood that the concepts will stick. Add the nicer weather into the mix when everyone gets spring fever and playing games can become a game changer for test review.
  • Quizlet or Kahoot or Quizizz all have pre-made games in several areas so hopefully, they have what your kids need. Another option is to have your kids make the games – that helps kids cement the concepts as they make the game and also as they play the game.
  • Have your kids prepare short review lessons. Let them work in small groups, keep their focus narrow and their prep time to about an hour so they stay focused. Encourage them to include short videos or make presentations to explain a concept. If they make a video, be sure to save it for next year. The younger kids will get a kick out of seeing the “big” kids’ creations. Voila – teachers in the making!
  • Sing! We love songs to learn and to review concepts. Check out the selection on The Bazillions, Numberocks, and Schoolhouse Rock.

Reviewing for end of year testing doesn’t have to be drudgery!

End of year testing may be a fact of life but it can be meaningful and fun. Got more tips to share? Please do! Together, we can do this!

Reading news makes for a great nonfiction read! It’s real stories about real people in real time. Here There Everywhere (HTE) is a great source of news for kids.


What makes HTE a source of news for kids that you can count on?

HTE presents news aimed at students in elementary and older grades. Claudia David Heitler created the site to help kids learn about people and events shaping the world and to see their own connection to it. Her experience at NBC Network News’ Today show, then reading and sharing news with her own kids, evolved into HTE as it is today. She describes news as a kind of story telling. The kids in Marti’s classroom would tell you there are some pretty amazing stories out there! This is a great source for many of them.

Ways to use HTE in your classroom as a source of news for kids

  • As self selected nonfiction reading
    We love that HTE is a site with content we can trust. That’s great because it allows us to let kids explore independently and decide what they’d like to read and learn more about.
  • As a mentor text for a nonfiction read aloud or mini-lesson
    Marti’s kids were a combination of intrigued and horrified to read that spiders make up the group eating the largest amount on the planet. This article provided a great format for using the reading strategies of asking questions and tracking their thinking as we read the article. Kids were totally into paired discussions and had plenty to share with the class. It was an enthralling read aloud – kind of like a train wreck you just can’t look away from but very motivating to discuss. It was also great for giving practice using context clues to determine the meanings of words.


HTE has news for everyone – some serious, some funny, some just bizarre – pretty much reflects our world. We’ll keep coming back to see what we can discover next. Got sources of news that work well for the kids in your class? If so, please share! Together, we can do this!


Crayons in short supply? Need more and different books for your classroom library? And feeling short on personal funds? No worries! There are organizations ready to help teachers with donated and reusable supplies. In fact, they have a two-fold mission – to supply reusable resources for classrooms and to help the earth with less stuff added to landfills. It’s a win for everyone!

Reusable resources for classrooms

We’re fortunate to have SCARCE closeby in the Chicago area to help with an amazing variety of classroom supplies. Marti’s found:

  • the ordinary – markers, rulers, scissors
  • organization – bins for books, 3-ring binders
  • the unusual – a wooden set of simple machines including a working pulley
  • amazing books – all kinds of picture books!! Love finding Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey and Mouse Match by Ed Young
  • stuff she never knew she needed – elevated land forms to help kids learn what a delta, a plateau and other land forms are
  • stuff for differentiation – science books leveled for lower readers
  • math stuff – place value blocks, Tangram sets, a fraction game

Find a source close to you

The Reusable Resources Association provides contact information for sites in several states. Hopefully you’ll find one near you. All organizations are committed to reducing stuff ending up in landfills but they vary in terms of who they’re open to – some are open to public school teachers, others are open to the public at large. Please check to find the details.

Continuing the cycle

Many of these centers can work for you when you’re spring cleaning your classroom. Marti has taken 20+ boxes of books and other supplies to SCARCE. That means other teachers can find treasures for their kids and the cycle continues. It’s been so much easier for us to move things along when we know they’re going to a good home. Need help moving things along? Check out Marie Kondo’s books.

Got tips?

Got tips for finding reusable resources for classrooms? Please share – it’s great for the Earth and for keeping teachers’ costs down. Together, we can do this!

Are the books in your classroom library sitting hodge-podge, willy-nilly, in absolute random order? Stop! Don’t even think of straightening. Let your students take on the task of reorganizing the classroom library. They can take leopards out of the history bin and put them where they belong with the animals because, thankfully, they are still around. It’s time to spring clean the classroom library. Yes, all those hastily, shelved books need to be straightened and set back with their kind.

It’s a Do-Over!

Yup, you had the kids shelve the books at the beginning of the school year but, face it, things are looking raggedy. Good thing – that means it’s well used. Easy fix – means it’s time to tidy up and the kids can take charge!

Get the kids to clean the classroom library

  • Friday afternoon – perfect time to put heavy-duty academics on pause and spring clean. Especially in the middle of testing season, taking on a physical task can give everyone a welcome break. Plus, it makes for a fresh start on Monday. Umm! Organization!
  • Ownership – we’ve all heard it before. Many times. So it’s got to be true. When kids do the work organizing and cleaning, they become zealous protectors of their efforts. Protecting with vigilance and energy that lets teachers focus their energies on… so many other things!
  • It’s not you doing the work! Yahoo! In this case delegating the task is a win-win for everyone. The kids get to work together on what is essentially a community project. You get out of the task – face it, cleaning the classroom at 3:00ish on a Friday is not a good idea!

Setting aside a time to tidy helps everyone take care of and have pride in their space. We think Marie Kondo has it right when she says “tidying orders the mind”.

Got tips for tidying? Please share. Together, we can do this!

Each Monday, the New York Times posts one of their images, inviting students to discuss what they see. Posted without any text attached, students rely on their inferencing skills to make meaning about what they see. That’s right – there are no headlines or captions. Which means kids draw solely on clues from the New York Times picture when they build their evidence.

Ideas for using “What’s going on in this picture?

  • Class discussion
    Check out this Monday’s post to find a picture sure to get kids involved.     Without the clues words usually provide, it’s a great opportunity for kids to get clues from the New York Times picture then use their inferencing skills. Discussion questions are also posted to get conversations started.
  • Be part of a bigger discussion.
    Visual Thinking Strategies collaborates with The Times to facilitate a discussion about the picture. This happens on Mondays between 9:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Eastern time. With their help making connections and paraphrasing, kids get the support they may need to have deeper discussions.
  • Writing prompt
    Encourage kids to build their observation skills by looking closely to discover something more in the picture. Then, write to explain what’s happening. Change up the writing by participating in blogging sponsored on Mondays. The VTS facilitators are gentle persuaders urging kids to tell more.
  • Check back on Thursdays to get the background info not posted on Monday. Checking back and discovering how closely the class discussions did or didn’t align to the actual news story could make for some deep discussions. Information posted on Thursdays includes the source of the image as well as when and why it was published by The Times. Then, your kiddos can have a follow-up discussion that includes how having the background information to the image might change their perspective or even their opinion of it.

Want to find out more?

The Times offers an information page to help you get started. Have tips to share? Please write! Together, we can do this!

Come with a plan Stan! Start with a plan to maximize what you can get done.

So many things to do… sometimes makes our heads spin! What to do first? Start with a plan and you’ll have more to show for it. Not all that different from the idea behind learning targets for our kiddos. You can aim for a goal if you have a clear target – in our case, the tasks that will most help us do our jobs. Plan. Organize. Instruct. Facilitate. Assess. You get the idea – the list goes on so come to your plan time with a plan and get the important stuff done!

Teacher's plan time goes so quickly! Poof! It seems to disappear. Come with a plan Stan! Start with a plan to maximize what you can get done.

Ready. Set. Go!

  • Short plan time – one of those, I drop kids off then, blink. It’s time to pick them up again!
    These plan times are stinkers because they’re gone so fast. But the time can still be helpful if you’re ready with a plan to accomplish short jobs.

    • Like copying. Bring the masters with you when you’re walking the kids to music. That way, you’re spending your time doing a task that gets you ahead instead of doubling back to the classroom to grab what you need.
    • Email
  • See it all at your finger tips – Our Icon Lesson Planner has spaces to organize teacher’s plan time.


icon lesson planner – refer to plan time, have scheduled to work on 2-3 or more 🙂 days when we’ll be doing it

Teacher’s plan time goes so quickly!

Poof! It seems to disappear. What tips do you have for maximizing yours? Please share. Together, we can do this!

Family vacation! Does that conjure up memories or what? Whether or not your images closely match those of the Griswold family, there is NOTHING like a road trip! We’ve got ideas for settling back. Enjoy the ride!

Grab Audible!

Books on tape that is! Yes, you can go for the heady stuff; dive into documentaries on ancient civilizations or learn a new language. But, nah! We’re just up for some fun listens. Try these series:   A Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen and The Fox and O’Hare Series by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg.

Snacks for the road!

We’re breaking snacks down into categories because there are some must haves that just don’t fit into the healthy category but no matter. They’re a definite must! And, then there are the healthy ones to include because after all, your destination is the beach!

  • Healthy options:
    • When you want to keep snacking, we suggest lots of raw veggie strips with hummus for scooping. Red, yellow and orange peppers are a fav of ours. Snap peas, zucchini strips, carrots, and celery are also good. Apples too, of course.
    • Healthy but don’t go crazy – roasted almonds, trail mixes. Check out Sahale. We can personally tell you that the Raspberry Crumble Cashew Trail Mix is delish!
  • Must haves that are in no way healthy:
    • Salty snacking mixes like Gardetto’s and, our personal fav, Synder’s of Hanover!
    • Sour gummy worms, m&ms, snack mixes with mini peanut butter cups – you get the picture!

So most of our plans revolve around food. Figures! Got road trip favorites? Please share your family vacation faves!

There are so many ways to start and to end each school day and we thought we’d share ours.

Each day begins with a question

We love starting each day with a question for the class. They seem to get into answering them too since there’s such a variety. Some that:

  • set the tone for learning, like, “Why is it important to do your best?”
  • focus on friendships, like, “What makes a really good friend?”
  • build self-confidence, like, “What is a unique talent you have?”
  • are just for fun, like, “If you had to eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?”

Some of the questions we thought would be a breeze for kiddos have been stumpers. Funny thing, though, they hurry over to see what the question will be, then, some know immediately what they’d like to say whereas others seem perplexed. Marti posts the question on a paper on the board and keeps a small container with little sticky notes underneath so kids can easily jot their response and add it to the paper. So far, she’s been keeping a growing pile of each day’s mini question poster – still deciding if she’ll make them into a class book. It could be fun to read through kids’ ideas! Like when they were asked what they’d like to be when they grow up. One girl wrote that she’d like to be a nurse while a boy in the class wrote that he’d like to be his older brother! And that totally fits him! We’ve noticed our kids’ responses getting more specific and moving past “fun” and “nice” – at least on occasion. Yep, they’re still the go-to responses but overall they’re getting more creative and reflective of themselves.

There are so many ways to start and end each day and we thought we'd share ours. Each day begins with a question. Each day ends with a launch.

Each day ends with a launch

Anna’s been ending each day with a launch – a final thought that makes a positive send off to each day. Anna’s comes from Aibileen, a wise woman, in The Help: “We are smart. We are kind. We are important.” It’s a close version to what Aibileen knew Mae Mobley needed to hear. Again and again! Us too!

What ideas do you have for ways to start and to end each school day? Please share your ideas. Together, we can do this!

Wonderopolis is a site we discovered and have to share! Why? Because it’s got the answers to all our questions – even the ones we didn’t know we had!

Wonderopolis is a site we discovered and have to share! Why? Because it's got the answers to all our questions - even the ones we didn't know we have yet!

Wonderopolis is Kid-Driven

No wonder our kiddos love it! Each day features a new question and the questions are all coming from kids who are checking in often to discover what curiosity other kids have wondered about. And, to get the answers too! We recently checked out Wonderopolis to find out where leather backed sea turtles live. We were really hooked when we discovered a link included in the copy that took us to a conservancy where we were amazed to find the treks of several turtles tracked via satellites. The distance was amazing! Our theory on Wonderopolis is that we will be enthralled with a new discovery each time we visit.

Wonderopolis is a site we discovered and have to share! Why? Because it's got the answers to all our questions - even the ones we didn't know we have yet!

Summer Camp too!

Could it get any better? Wonderopolis offers an online summer camp with projects that are STEM focused and great for building critical thinking skills in fun ways. Checking out past summer camps got us excited to sign up for camp this summer. This summer promises construction and engineering focused on a variety of topics from submarines to skyscrapers. All we need is a hard hat! We’re there.

Last year’s summer camp was focused on fitness. One activity taught campers how to take their pulse. It also included a maker activity that had campers use a straw, a plastic bottle, two balloons and a few other common supplies to make something that replicates lungs breathing. It follows up the instructions with a direction and a question, then an explanation. And for those budding scientists who still want more info, a link to find more.

Could this get any better? Yes, it’s free which means access for anyone who can get time on a computer. That makes it a great resource for teachers and parents as well as kids. Have you checked out Wonderopolis? If you have, please share your thoughts! If you haven’t, do! We think you’ll love it!



Feel like you should be checking your email during the day but don’t have time to respond with the kids in the room and worry that you’ll forget? We’ve been there! Here’s our plan to make it work:

Flag em!

  • Flag emails that need action or that need replies.
  • Those important emails that you’ll need quick access to again soon are good ones to flag too.
  • Flagging emails is just a quick way to ensure they don’t get buried. For us, that has helped avoid those woulda-coulda-shoulda moments!

Then, Unflag em!

  • We set our goal is to try and keep “flagged emails” at 0. Great goal which we somewhat do by checking, responding and unflagging them often.
  • It’s like wash, rinse, repeat – except with emails it’s respond, unflag and undo. There’ll be another email coming in shortly – never fails!

Feel like you should be checking your email but don't have time to respond and worry that you'll forget? Here's our plan for managing emails:

Delete emails? Nah!

Do you delete your emails?  We don’t so our numbers are high but really they take up very little space so we’re not worried that we’ll run out of storage space. Spending time clearing out the inbox doesn’t compete with… well, so many other daily and weekly mini-jobs that keep our classrooms and lives running. Plus, having past emails has been a bonus a few times when we’ve searched back through them and found information we needed. That wouldn’t have been possible if we’d been email neat freaks. What we are neat freaks about is keeping the flagged emails to a minimum so we know what needs attention.

Managing emails

Got tips to share on managing emails? Please share, because some days it can feel like the mountain of letters to Santa on Miracle on 34th Street – although that was a sweet moment that makes us smile every time and seeing a growing list of emails in our inbox does not!

Together, we can do this!