Diary of a Not So Wimpy Teacher

Winter Olympics Activities for the Classroom

Fun academic classroom activities that involve the Winter Olympics!

Are you looking forward to the Olympics?  Aren’t we all?  Nothing like curling up with the family, the TV, and some American pride! πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ

As a teacher, the Olympics are a great chance to unite the troops, so to speak. Not only can they be a great learning tool, but it’s our chance to grab those sports-minded types and reel them in.

Turn your room into Olympic headquarters with these fun ideas!

Opening Ceremonies

Want to get your classroom excited?  Host your own opening ceremonies! You can start by showing clips from past opening ceremonies. They can be found easily on YouTube. 

Then have each student(or group) choose a country to represent that will be in the 2018 games.  Have them make a flag to carry, write a paragraph about their country and team, and do a walk-through to introduce them. Maybe you can get a few classes to team up with you and have a parade around your school!
Fun academic classroom activities that involve the Winter Olympics!

Or you could have each student make their own imaginary country with flag and what talent they have that would be Olympic-medal-worthy – like Legos, Mindcraft, cupcake-making, selfie-taking.  Yes, you will get the ones that say they aren’t good at anything, but that’s why this is a great community-building activity!  (*My little hint: do an interest survey ahead of time to reference for suggestions!) Do those paragraphs and then host a walk-through to introduce your team!

Sports Close Reads

Close reading is not typically a student favorite, but if you give them something interesting to read- it can make all of the difference! 

Fun academic classroom activities that involve the Winter Olympics!

Grab THESE winter sports passages. Students will love learning about some olympic athletes and sports.

Incorporate Technology

Wanting to get those iPads into play?  Have teams race to find facts about the Olympics like when they started having winter games, how many countries are participating this year, what country the Olympics are in, what brand the USA participants will be wearing, which country usually wins the most medals, etc.  You could even ask groups of students to make iMovies about one of the countries participating. Also, be sure to a medal count check each morning and ask for highlights.  Use the Olympic website for all the good stuff! 
Fun academic classroom activities that involve the Winter Olympics!

Need to be more curriculum-driven?  Do geography of the countries participating.  Do probabilities of athletes winning.  Graph medals earned from a handful of countries. Use those language skills to tweet or email US athletes questions – they are expected to interact!

Mix Sports & Competition into your Routine

All those vocab words, spelling tests, and math facts getting monotonous?  This is the perfect time to make a competition out of it.  Every word or math fact right in the review game is a chance to take a shot to shoot a goal with your pool noodle stick and dish sponge puck.  You can even cross-classroom (country) ski with wrapping paper tube poles and pool noodle skates cut to fit and rubber-banded to feet or go the simple route with the Olympic ring toss! 

Cereal Box Craft & Research

Everybody knows the winner goes on the Wheaties box!  Have your class make their own Wheaties boxes by covering empty cereal boxes with paper.  Nothing like an old-school cut and paste project!  Each student researches an athlete that’s competing to put on the cover with a short synopsis about them and a little about the rest of their team on the back.  Use the side panels for having them research places to visit in South Korea, the weather/climate, and population.  Bonus points if you teach the kids a little about advertising in the process, too!  

Fun academic classroom activities that involve the Winter Olympics!

Oh, and don’t worry about getting cereal boxes to cover.  Ask on your school website for empty-box donations, or a swap page, or your own personal social media.  You probably have at least one family that could provide them all in one week!

Gold Medal Behavior

How about a fun behavior management competition?! Grab some medals from a party store or Walmart. Choose one table each day to be your table of the day (based on behavior and participation from the prior day). Give each student at the table a medal to wear for the day. It will be fun to walk down the halls of the school and have people ask why they have medals! Collect them at the end of the day to give to another group tomorrow.

Fun academic classroom activities that involve the Winter Olympics!

Whatever route you prefer, enjoy this opportunity to cultivate patriotism and unity.  Go USA!

Have a Not So Wimpy Day!

Tips for Organizing Task Cards

Hello, I am Jamie and I am addicted to task cards. 

I have dozens of sets. I could not imagine teaching grammar or math without task cards. I even used them during writing workshop!

I am a task card addict, but I am also a self-diagnosed OCD neat freak. I can't have stacks of task cards on every table or counter in my classroom. That would send me over the edge!

Task cards must be organized so that it is easy to find the sets you need!

Let me share some of my favorite ways to store and organize those amazing task cards.

The Cover

Do not assume that you will always remember what skill the task card set assesses. Some sets look very similar and you don't want to waste your time sifting through the set to determine if they are the task cards you need.

Print a cover card for EVERY set of task cards that you print.

Don't worry, this is crazy easy!

All you have to do is use the cover that comes with the task cards. This cover is typically an 8 1/2x11 page. That's just too big. No worries!

Print the resource cover at 50%!

When you go to print the resource, just change the percentage when printing the first page. Then it will print the same size as the majority of task cards (the ones that come four to a page).

Task Card Storage

There are many ways to store task cards. The best way really depends on your needs. How often do you use the task cards? How many sets of cards do you have? Do you have shelf space or wall space in your classroom?

Here are a couple ideas. Choose what works best for you!

Photo Boxes

This is seriously my favorite way to store my cards! These photo boxes can be purchased at Michael's.

The little boxes fit one set of task cards perfectly.

I use a little scotch tape or glue dots to attach the cover to the front.

I have a box for math cards and another for ELA cards. This makes it much easier to find what I am looking for.

CD Boxes

I bought these Sterilite CD boxes from Walmart. I think that you can find them in other similar stores too. 

The boxes fit several sets of task cards. 

You can use rubber bands or binder clips to keep each set of task cards together.

Shoe Hanger

I love using a shoe hanger for task cards because it makes me smile to see all of those beautiful cards  hanging on my wall. It's so yummy. 😍

It's also super easy to see what card sets you have because there is just one set in each pocket.

You can hang these off the back of a door if you have one. You can also use a heavy duty stapler to attach it to a wall.

Push Pins and Binder Rings

If you don't have a ton of task card sets, you might just use push pins to organize them.

You will need to punch a hole in the corner of each task card and then use a binder ring to keep a set together. If you use task cards in a center, this is a great way to keep all of the cards together!

Recording Sheets & Answer Keys

I keep all of my recording sheets and answer keys in a binder that I keep right next to my task cards. Sometimes I don't need recording sheets, such as when we use the cards with games, but it is nice to have them close by for times when I use them for scoots or centers.

I stick the recording sheet and the answer key in a page protector.

I also keep a generic recording sheet in this binder. If I can't find the specific one that came with the task cards I am using, I can just grab the generic one. I hate wasting my time searching for stuff!

Click HERE to grab FREE generic task card recording sheets!

I hope that these tips help you to get those task cards organized!

Have a Not So Wimpy day,

My Daily Classroom Schedule

Creating a classroom schedule that fits in all of the curriculum, specials, pull outs, etc is like cracking the code to a government vault. It's nearly impossible to make it all work. The number one question that I receive from my teacher besties is, "How did you fit this all in?" 

So I decided to show you my schedule.

But first...

Before I share my schedule, I feel like you need to agree to a few things...

  1. I know that every school, every district, every administrator  and every state is different. Plus, every class has very unique needs. My schedule won't work for everyone. Got it?
  2. Yes, I had a very unique start and end time. Most students at my school were in classes with a traditional 8-3 type schedule. There were a few classes in each grade that had this alternative schedule. Parents loved having a choice. Plus, it allowed the school to fit more students in one classroom because they had an AM group and a PM group that shared the same classroom (but had a different teacher.) Please look past the time of day and focus more on the amount of instruction time I used for each subject if you can.
  3. I am not in the classroom anymore. I left the classroom to work on curriculum development and professional development. You can read more about this choice by clicking HERE. I am just sharing what I did when I was teaching third grade. Okeyie-Dokie?
Let's get started!


Whole Group Math- 30 Minutes

My school used Eureka/Engage NY for math. I loved it! During whole group time, I used the curriculum. But I moved fast! I used this time to introduce concepts, but I knew that the real magic would happen when I met with small groups and we used manipulatives. 

We typically did some skip counting and/or a sprint (math facts page). Then we would do one review problem from the day before followed by the new lesson. For the most part, I did a new lesson every day.

Math Centers- 60 Minutes

Math center time was hands-down my favorite hour of the school day! It was the time that I got to watch my kiddos grow by leaps and bounds as mathematicians. 

I would meet with two groups each day for 30 minutes per group rotation. This long amount of time gave us more of a chance to dig in deep and decreased time wasted on transitions. Since I was only meeting with groups every other day, we would tackle skills from the previous day's lesson and the current lesson. Typically they went together and it made sense to practice them together.

While I met with groups, my students completed centers. The center activities were meaningful, but consistent. This meant almost no planning time for me! 

If you want to read more about my math center schedule and grab free signs to display the center schedule, click HERE.

If you want to read more about the types of activities my kiddos did during centers, click HERE.

Snack/Restroom/Read Aloud- 25 Minutes

Since my students were only at school for half of the day, they did not eat lunch at school. Therefore, they were allowed to bring a dry snack to school. Many of the kids would bring sandwiches and treat it like it was lunch! 

Time was crazy limited, so I always read to them during their snack. This was actually how I introduced my reading lessons. 

You can read more about my reading whole group lessons by clicking HERE.

Reading Groups & Centers- 60 minutes

I used a similar routine for my reading groups as I did for my math groups. I would meet with two groups per day for 30 minutes per group. We spent most of our group time practicing our reading skills and standards using book clubs. Having 30 minutes with each group gave us more time to get invested in the book before having to clean up and move on.

You can read more about my book clubs by clicking HERE.

While I met with my groups the rest of my class did center activities. These activities centered around spending lots of time reading text of their choice. That is the best way to increase their love for reading! Kids who love to read will read often!

You can read more about my reading center activities by clicking HERE.

Vocabulary & Language- 20 minutes

After reading groups, I spent ten minutes doing whole group vocabulary instruction. We always discussed new words and context clues when we were reading during book clubs, but I think that it is imperative to teach tier 2 vocabulary words too. My kids grew so much from these ten minutes!

You can read more about my vocabulary routine by clicking HERE.

I also spent about ten minutes doing language (grammar) instruction. My third graders always struggled with grammar. Most of the time they did not even know the basic parts of speech. 

You can read more about my simple grammar lessons by clicking HERE.

Writing Workshop- 45 Minutes

I used the workshop model to teach writing. This means that I would do a very short mini lesson and then students would spend the rest of the time working on their writing. Students generated their own story topics and I did not give assigned writing prompts. 

You can read more about my writing workshop by clicking HERE.

I also have a free writing instruction email course that you can check out by clicking HERE


Brag Tags- 10 Minutes

I used brag tags to reward students for meeting their academic and behavior goals. They LOVED them! To keep it simple for me, and increase the excitement, I only awarded the tags on Fridays. I usually gave about a dozen tags each week. 

You can read more about how I used the brag tags by clicking HERE.

Vocabulary Game- 15 Minutes

My students loved playing a vocabulary game with their words from the week. I usually threw in the previous week's words as well so that students were not forgetting those words. Our Friday game was typically a whole group game.

You can read about our vocabulary games and grab some free ones by clicking HERE.

Assessments- 45 Minutes

Assessments aren't fun, but they have to be done. Each week we had to do a math fact, spelling and grammar assessment. Every other week we did a vocabulary assessment. They were all very short assessments that I could literally grade as they were turning them in! 

We had math assessments from time to time as well. They came straight from our curriculum.

Science & Social Studies- Almost 3 Hours

You may have noticed that I didn't include dedicated science and social studies time in my schedule Monday-Thursday. We might incorporate some science and social studies when we were doing informational reading and writing standards, but the majority of science and social studies was done on Friday. 

I loved having a long block of time on one day so much more than a small block all week. We actually had time to do research, experiments, STEM, projects, presentations, art and more!

My school did not have any science or social studies curriculum. I would just search Pinterest and TpT for activities that fit the units I had to teach.

Have a Not So Wimpy day!

4 Things to Do with Your Class After Winter Break

I'm not trying to be a Debby Downer by talking about going back to school when you are dreaming about winter break. I personally like to have my plans ready for the first week back before leaving for break. This gives me more time to enjoy my break rather than stressing about my plans.

Here are four super simple but very important things that you should include in your plans after winter break! I've included several of freebies!

1. Plan Down Time to Talk and Share

When a family is apart from one another for a couple of weeks, they have lots to talk about the next time they are together! 

Your students have missed their classroom family. They want to tell you what they got for Christmas or that funny thing that happened to their Uncle Frank. Just plan some time first thing in the morning to share stories. Your kids will love having the chance to share and it MIGHT help to get the chatting out now rather than later.

I like to put my class in a circle and go around the circle sharing 1-3 things from their winter break. Be sure to ask questions and laugh appropriately. Your interest will help to build those relationships!

2. Review Classroom Procedures

Don't assume that students will jump right back into the routines and procedures. Some can. However, your routines will be much smoother and effective if you take the time to review.

Fun ways to review:
1. Have student groups present on different classroom routines.
2. Games
3. Find Someone Who

You can read more about these activities and grab the freebies by clicking HERE.

3. Organize

The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to get organized.

Have your students help you to replace broken crayons, dried up markers and nasty glue sticks. Students can dust shelves and make sure that the classroom library is organized. 

Help students to go through their desks, cubbies and binders to get rid of anything that is no longer necessary.

I think that teaching students to be organized is one of those crazy important skills that will never be covered in curriculum.

4. Celebrate the New Year

Coming back from winter break doesn't have to be all work and no play!

I love to end our first day back with a New Years celebration. We make THIS free paper bag book with our goals for the year. 

We also watch a recording of the ball dropping in Times Square and enjoy an apple juice toast. If you are feeling extra crazy- let them blow some horns. 

BAM! Your first day is planned! Students go home feeling very excited and happy to be back with their classroom family! Tomorrow we tackle the curriculum...

Have a Not So Wimpy Day and a magical winter break!

When You Have Students Who Don't Celebrate the Holidays

What do you do when you have students who don't celebrate the holidays?

I almost didn't write this post because I know that it is a sensitive topic. I was a little afraid that I might upset people and get angry mail.

But this conversation needs to be had.

I have seen several Facebook posts where teachers are asking what to do if they have students who do not celebrate the holidays. Some of the responses are helpful and others just make me so sad. I have seen people say things like, "I'm going to celebrate Christmas in my classroom anyway because that one kid's beliefs aren't more important than my own. I'm not going to let him ruin it for everyone." 😳

They are right. The one student's beliefs are not MORE important than her's. But his beliefs are JUST AS important. 

I personally believe that we need to love all of our classroom babies. That means I don't do things in my classroom that make a student feel disrespected or left out. And I don't feel that respecting the differences in my classroom ruins it for the others. I think that it makes them richer.

I still think we can have fun in our classrooms! Here are some tips that have helped me to respect different cultures and beliefs while still making the rest of my class feel like we are celebrating.

1. Talk to the Parents


Before you get all freaked out, have a conversation with the parents. 

Every family is going to feel a little different than the other. Ask what the family is comfortable with. Ask what past teachers have done. Ask what the parents do not want their child to do. Ask if they will be at school the day before break. Ask if it ok for you to put holiday decorations up in the classroom. 

Get the details before you start stressing.

2. Respect the Student

Our beliefs or traditions are no more important than those of this student. Don't make them feel like they are being punished! It breaks my heart when I hear of teachers who send these students out of the classroom or give them busy work. 

Instead, use this opportunity to teach your students about diversity. It is a great opportunity to learn about how different cultures and religions celebrate holidays around the world. We aren't all the same and that is part of our beauty! 

3. Adapt and Get Creative

I know that you want to make the holidays special for your class. I totally get that. And if you get creative (and chat with this student's parents about what they are ok with), you can do lots of fun things together. 

How about focusing on reindeer? You can do animal research papers about reindeer. 

How about focusing on snow? You can learn about states of matter and do some fun art projects.

How about focusing on holidays around the world? You can learn about geography and different cultures.

The rest of your class will feel like you are celebrating the holidays even if they don't have a class elf on the shelf. However, the kiddos who can't celebrate will still be included and not made to feel uncomfortable. It's fun for everyone!

I know that everyone is not going to agree with me. I respect that. I just hope that you will think about ways to make every student in your class feel like they are part of your classroom family during the month of December. Please don't send angry mail! 

Have a Not So Wimpy day,