Diary of a Not So Wimpy Teacher: March 2016

Test Prep Fun!


Our state testing begins tomorrow. Which means that today was our last day to review before testing. I believe that quality instruction all year is the best test prep. However, I still think some spiral review is good. Especially since our testing is just 3 days after coming back from a  2+ week break!

My kids had so much fun reviewing today that they groaned when I told them it was time to clean up and pack up! They had been working on this activity for over three hours! I had no idea they would stay so engaged for so long. Since I had such an amazing day and my teacher heart is so full, I wanted to share this activity right away with my best teacher friends- YOU! 

I called our day "Work Hard. Play Hard." And that is just what we did!


I put together four reading centers and four math centers. I pulled a couple Scholastic magazines that we had not used and some other activities that we had not gotten to yet during the year. This included a stack of task cards, some reading test prep centers and some math test prep centers. It was easy to prep because it was activities that I had wanted to do, but had run out of time to finish. 

I stuck each activity in a basket. Then I added some fun games to each basket. I picked games that I knew my kiddos loved. (Their favorites are Multiplication War and Headbanz.) I added some directions to the front of the baskets so that students would know what to do without coming to me. (I have had some requests for my directions sheets, however they are very specific to the magazines, worksheets and task cards that I used. You will probably want to make your own directions so that they are more useful for your class.)


I divided students into groups of four. Groups chose a center. They needed to complete the work together. They brought the work to myself or my parent volunteer to be checked. When everything was correct, they got 15 minutes to play the game in the basket. I bought timers from Dollar Tree and students used them to time themselves for the 15 minutes. When the play time was up, they returned their basket and chose a new one. 


The promise of being able to play a game kept my students working hard!


A couple of the baskets had work that was more challenging than others. In those baskets, I put even more engaging play activities! Things like Play-Doh, Legos and directed drawings, encouraged my students to choose even the toughest work!


The kid who made this creation said that it is emoji poop! I laughed so hard that I almost wet my pants! 

I grouped my lower students together. I had an amazing parent who did the centers with this particular group. This made the activity more meaningful for these kiddos. 

I knew that every student would not complete every center. I just wanted them to get a variety of activities that reviewed some of the toughest concepts. I was pleased that most groups completed 5 of the 8 centers! 


Here are some of my tips:

  • Make answer keys so that you can quickly check work. 
  • Ask students to rotate back and forth between math and reading centers.
  • Make more center baskets than you have groups so that there is always a choice of centers. This way students are more likely to have a center available to them that they have not yet completed.
  • Put games in the basket that students already know how to play.
  • Ask if any parents are willing to help. 
  • You could add even more excitement by rewarding students with a piece of candy or a sticker for every completed center. 

A fun day of review has me all pumped up for our first day of testing! We've got this!

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FREE Testing Brag Tags


My students love earning new brag tags. They have been working very hard to meet goals and grow this year. With testing right around the corning, I wanted to create a brag tag to show my students just how proud I am. They are going to love it! 

You can grab them for FREE by clicking HERE.



Now I just have to decide if I am going to give them the baseball themed ones to match our class test prep theme of the rock ones to match our school theme! 

Click on the pictures below to learn more about how I use brag tags in my classroom and find additional sets of brag tags in my store.











St. Patrick's Day Minute To Win It Activities for the Classroom

Fun minute to win it challenges with a St. Patrick's Day theme!

I wanted to have some fun with my class because I feel so darn lucky to be their teacher! A minute to win it challenge seemed like the perfect activity. It's fun and encourages teamwork. Mostly, I just like to hear them laugh. Warms my teacher heart!

I started by splitting my class into six teams:
Team Leprechaun
Team Clover
Team Rainbow
Team Green
Team Gold
Team Lucky

For each of the challenges, one person from each team would complete. By the end, each student would have an opportunity to compete for their team and opportunities to cheer for their teammates. You could allow every student to get a turn at each activity but I was a little low on time and supplies. I found this way to be lots of fun and a tad bit easier to run.

Here is a look at our challenges....

Marshmallow Stack



Students were given a set of chopsticks and a pile of marshmallows from Lucky Charms cereal. They had one minute to see how many marshmallows they could stack. They couldn't use their fingers- only the chopsticks. If the tower fell over, they had to start over. The team with the highest tower at the end of the minute was the winner. It is challenging!

Color Sort



Each team was given a bag of Cap'n Crunch's All Berries cereal. (I was going to use Trix but it didn't have as many different colors. It would still work though. Fruit Loops or Skittles would also work.) They had to sort the cereal by color into cups. The first team to have all of their cereal properly sorted was the winner.

Threading Loops



For this challenge, students were given a pile of Fruit Loops and a pipe cleaner. They had one minute to thread the fruit loops onto the pipe cleaner. The real challenge though? They can only use one hand! The team with the most loops on their pipe cleaner at the end of one minute was the winner.

Inhaling Skittles



For this challenge, teams were given a pile of Skittles, a cup and a straw. The student had to use the straw to move the Skittles from the pile and into their cup. The team with the most candies in their cup after a minute was the winner.

Rainbow Balancing Act



For this competition, students get a popsicle stick and a pile of Fruit Loops. Students put the popsicle stick in their mouth and use their hands to make a stack of Fruit Loops on the end of the stick. The team with the highest stack after one minute is the winner. They will drop their whole stack a couple times! It is not easy. But it is lots of fun!

Piles of Treasure


For this final challenge, the student will need a large pile of pennies. They will have one minute to stack the pennies. The team with the largest stack at the end of one minute is the winner. 


For each competition the winning team (or teams if their is a tie) gets a point. At the end of all six challenges, the points are added up. The winning team receives a gold medal! It is just a gold candy that is hot glued to ribbon. Use a rainbow of ribbon colors to carry on the St. Patrick's Day theme!

My students had a blast and I am glad that we took a break from test prep to just enjoy each other. Sometimes you have to do that! 





Fun Ways to Practice Geometry in the Elementary Classroom

Lots of fun activities and freebies for teaching geometry!

My third graders are knee deep into a geometry math unit. We are having a blast learning about shapes and their attributes! I thought I would share some of the fun activities that have my class begging for more math.

Books About Geometry

I like to begin our geometry unit by reading the book The Greedy Triangle


It is an adorable book about a triangle who decides to become a plethora of other shapes before realizing that he likes being a triangle. The book has excellent vocabulary and reviews lots of 2-D shapes.

Another fun book to share with your students is If You Were a Quadrilateral.


This book does a great job of introducing attributes of quadrilaterals but still being interesting enough to engage our students. Plus, it has a fun activity at the end of the book!

Polygon Scavenger Hunt


A polygon scavenger hunt is a really fun way to get kids up and out of their seats while they notice shapes all around them. Take your class on a walk around the school and see how many different shapes they can find by looking at the floor, walls, doors, etc. 

Play-Doh Shapes

I have lots of students who are very kinesthetic. They need to play with the shapes in order to really commit them to memory. Give students some Play-doh and ask them to make different shapes. They can make 2-D or 3-D shapes with the doh! THESE small Play-dohs are perfect for this activity!


Shapes Hedbanz

Our absolute favorite way to practice shapes is with a game of Shapes HedBanz ! The game is very inexpensive (and great for indoor recess or fun Friday). All you need are the headbands for this version. Give students cards with shapes on them, or increase the rigor by just giving them cards with shape names. Students take turns asking yes or no questions to guess their shape. 


I encourage my students to use their good math vocabulary. So they ask questions like: "Am I a quadrilateral?" "Do I have any right angles?" "Do I have any parallel lines?" The rest of the group has to answer their questions. It is  great practice form everyone and they kids LOVE to play!


Shape Riddles

I also like to mix a little creativity with a little writing. Students are secretly given a shape and they must write three clues that become a riddle about what shape they are. Again, I encourage them to show off their math vocabulary when they write their clues. 



Students love to write them and they really love to read the riddles written by their classmates. You can grab this riddle activity for FREE by clicking HERE.

Geometry Centers

Once we have finished our geometry lessons, students will complete geometry centers to review the skills that we learned. You can read more about how I organize my centers by clicking HERE.


These geometry math centers have the same format as all of my other math centers which makes it easier for my students. And they are FREE! Yup! You can try out this mini set of geometry centers in your classroom for free! Click HERE to download your free centers.


What geometry activities get your students excited to learn?

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