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5 Fun AND Easy Resources I'm Using During Christmas Week

In Pennsylvania where I live, most  districts go to school the week of Christmas.  Our break usually starts on the 23rd and lasts until January 2nd.  The kids are excited and wild, and teachers are spent!  Here are 5 engaging but easy-to-use resources that I'm using during the three days before Christmas.  

1. Christmas Glyph Ornaments: These turned out so pretty when we made them last year.  I love how the kids can use the embellishments to decorate their ornament however they like while also giving them some boundaries and direction.  

2. Place Value Christmas Trees: This a printable craftivity that makes a perfect review of place value concepts.  It's very easy to differentiate for your kids.  I also have a Place Value Christmas Wreath Craftivity that's very similar and less time-consuming.  

3. December Memory: I love The Sassy Apple's monthly memory games.  I use them in the few minutes before lunch or special, and I've also used them during indoor recess.  They're great for vocabulary and a little friendly competition.  

4. Reindeer Activities: This is such a cute freebie!  I love the different word work and writing options, but my favorite is the reindeer craft.  It is adorable!  We will also make reindeer food, which is always a huge hit.  

5. December Cup Stacking STEM Challenge: FUN but a little noisy!  That's okay!  It's a noisy week.  To cut down on touching, I'll give each kid their own set of Dixie cups and pompoms.  This one is also a freebie.  

If you're teaching this week, too, good luck!  It's a wild one! 

This is Why You Need to Start Using Morning Bins in Your Classroom!

Last year, I began starting our day with morning bins as a paperless replacement for morning work.  It has been such a great move, and I wanted to quickly share why I love them and what I use.

  • There's nothing to make up.  If a kid is absent, late, or eating breakfast, they're not missing anything crucial.  They can jump right in when they get to school.  It's so easy! 
  • Morning bins encourage creativity and socialization- two things our kids need every day! I love to see them building, creating, and playing games together.  They learn to share, to communicate, and to think outside the box.  I often see them using the materials differently than the intended use, and that's okay.  The opportunity to explore new things is SO good for them!  

  • You can include materials to review content. I often put math games in a tub for students to play.  They're games that we've already played in class, so I don't need to reteach them. There's always someone at the table who remembers how to play.  Include the dice, spinners, etc.  
  • No papers to check.  No guilt about piles of papers staring at you.  
  • They can be as involved or as simple as you want.  Work with your students' needs and interests.  This crew of mine this year loves to build and play with Play Doh, so I've gravitated toward different materials to address their interests.  Last year's crew loved puzzles and card games.  

  • You can use the time to do what you need to do- check in with kids, paperwork, attendance, last minute planning🙋, and you don't have to stop to explain morning work over and over.  
  • Morning bins are really easy to clean up and keep organized.  I use plastic shoe box-style containers from Target to organize my materials.  They have lids and can stack easily.  I store them in our cubbies.  The kids know where everything is located and can independently get out and put away all materials.  
  • You can do seasonal activities without taking away from core curriculum.  After holidays, I often pick up the foam craft kits at Michael's to use the following school year in morning bins.  I can easily add simple seasonal elements to bins I already have to make a brand new and exciting bin.  Play Doh example: In December, I make the Play Doh bin into a cookie-making bin.  I put out white, tan, and brown play dough.  I added in small rolling pins, cookie cutters, and pony beads (sprinkles). I can easily change out the colors and tools for different themes.  
  • You can just use stuff that you have around your classroom, or you can buy things.  I use a mix of both.  I use classroom requisition money, Scholastic bonus points, yard sales, and Target dollar bins/Dollar Tree for most of my things.  I also use a ton of stuff from my math closet. In this post, you can see 50 things that I love using in my morning bins.  
It truly is such a great way to start the day.  I have about 25 minutes from the time kids start arriving until we start our ELA block, but it works just as well if you only have 10 minutes.  It's stress-free and really sets a nice tone for the day.  I love not having the mess with morning work papers and getting kids caught up on missing papers.  Try it!  I think you'll love them.

50 Great Ideas for Morning Bins for 2nd Graders

My blog post contains Amazon affiliate links which means that I earn a few cents from anything purchased through my links.   I use that money to purchase items for my classroom. 

Last year, I began starting our day with morning bins as a paperless replacement for morning work.  I love the versatility morning bins. You can get as complicated or simple as you want.  I try really hard to use materials that I already have in my classroom.
Below I've listed over 50 ideas for you, most of which I've used in my bins for my 2nd graders.   I'll add links where I can.  Great places to find morning bin fillers- Amazon, Target Dollar Spot, Dollar Tree, your math closet, Michael's, yard sales.  

STEM/Building Things

  1. LEGOS- I have a big bin of LEGOS, and I try to find them at yard sales.  Yard sales are great places to find a lot of things for morning bins.  I will also say that the off-brand of LEGO-style building blocks is just fine for morning bins.  They're a great budget-friendly option.  
  2. Brain Flakes- You can often find a variety of these at the Dollar Tree.  
  3. Keva planks- So, these are expensive, but Highlights magazine has a set in their classroom rewards catalog, and I've ordered two sets of those for free.  Check those out, for sure.  The rewards program is free and has lots of great stuff.  
  4. Magnatiles/ PicassoTiles- These are an investment but so, so good.  I think they're great for building 3-D shapes during a geometry unit, so I can justify the cost.  I have yet to meet a kid who doesn't like building with magnatiles.  Picasso Tiles are less expensive and just as great.  I have a set at home and at school.  
  5. STEM straws
  6. magnetic sticks
  7. Tumble Trax magnetic marble run- These is so fun!  They're one of the kids favorite items. Also, I have a two sets for bigger runs. The kids love building tracks on the whiteboard.  They come up with such clever ideas.  
  8. PlusPlus/hashtag blocks -Some people are lucky and find these in the Target bins.  I've never found them. I have a big set of mixed blocks, but there are lots of different sets available.  These are an alternative to LEGOS.  
  9. Kid K'nex
  10. Interlox
  11. Snowflake Disks
  12. Bristle Blocks
  13. marble run- This is a tough one to store in a small bin, but it's a great small group activity.  I see these at yard sales. 


  1. basic card games- Go Fish, Old Maid, etc.  - Ask for donations for these! So many families have games that they aren't playing anymore.  
  2. dominoes- Get the foam dominoes!  Your ears will thank you.  I got a set from the Highlights magazine prize magazine a few years ago, and they've held up great.  
  3. puzzles- The Ravensburger jigsaw puzzles are my favorite! The designs and colors are great.  Puzzles are one of those things that kids rarely do anymore, but they always love them.  I always break them out when see that my crew is needing more opportunities for teamwork and communication.  
  4. Uno/ Dos
  5. Pizza Party dice game- This is a really cute, fast game.  It's really only for 2-3 players and uses the included dice and cards.  
  6. Tricky Triangle peg game
  7. Farkle Flip- Just like the dice game but with cards, which make a great visual for kids.  
  8. finger soccer
  9. Kanoodle- This is a great 3-D puzzle game.  It includes a bunch of puzzle cards and is perfect for students to work on spatial relationships.  
  10. decks of playing cards- There are SO many things that kids can do with cards.  I use them in math all of the time.  I like to give kids the freedom to do what they wish with the cards, whether it be playing a game or building.  
  11. brain teaser puzzles

Sensory Play

  1. Play Doh- If you spend $10 on morning bins, please spend it on Play Doh...or have families make it and send it in.  Second graders love Play Doh, and it's so versatile.  I laminate construction paper for the kids to use as mats.  
  2. Play Doh Accessories/Cutters- Plastic silverware, cookie cutters, kids' kitchen tools, and sand molds are all great options here. I try to add seasonal items to the Play Doh bin- cookie cutters, rolling pin, pony bead sprinkles at Christmastime, shades of blue and white, snowflake cutters, and pipe cleaners in the winter, you get the idea.  
  3. Kinetic Sand- You might find yourself playing with the kinetic sand right beside the kids.  It's so relaxing.  I give them small trays to put the sand on, and then I also add the Play Doh accessories to the tub.  
  4. Pompoms with scoops, cups, and plastic tweezers
  5. Fidgets: A few times a year I borrow some of these from our instructional support department to try out with different students.  By putting them in the morning bins, I can see what they gravitate toward and like without calling attention to specific students.  
  6. Rocks, fossils, feathers, sea shells, etc with little magnifying glasses: If your school is ever getting rid of old science kits, go through them and grab stuff for your morning tubs.  
  7. magnetic wands and various metal items like paper clips, magnetic chips, other magnets, etc.  

Art Materials

  1. stencils and paper
  2. Popbeads - I had Popbeads as a kid and got my daughter a set, and she loved them.  I bought another set for school, and the kids really love them, even the boys.  
  3. construction paper scraps, hole punch, and yarn
  4. pipe cleaners and beads- specifically letter beads and pony beads
  5. foam craft kits- I shop for these at Michael's after the holidays for the following year.  You can get class sets for 70% off, which ends up being less than $5.  
  6. coloring books/pages and Twisty crayons- The twisty crayons are special, and they LOVE them!  I make a big deal about them being special, and the kids treat them nicely.  
  7. dicut shapes, doilies, and stickers to make cards around the holidays- Does your school stick have a dicut machine?  I feel like ours rarely gets used anymore, but the kids love those shapes!  
  8. watercolor paints and paper
  9. drawing books and paper- I borrow drawing books from the school library, and the kids love them.  
  10. stamps, ink pads, and paper

Literacy Ideas

  1. letter cubes- You can buy these pre-made, or if you have a huge amount of Unifix cubes, you can easily make your own.  I try to grab extra Unifix cubes if I see them on the discard tables in the faculty room.  
  2. Bananagrams- Bananagrams is so good!  It's like Scrabble without the board.  It's versatile and easy to clean up.  
  3. phonics dominoes- I have the digraph and blend dominoes in my room, and I'd like to add the compound word set.  
  4. Found It! sight word games- Found It! is a sight word game that I created for my students.  It's fast and fun.  Students just need the deck of Found It! cards.  I have a set for each Dolch list, so you can differentiate.  
  5. Squiggle Stories- This is another activity that I created.  Students use a squiggle in the illustration box to create whatever they want, and then they write a story about it.  It's fun to see how different kids use the same squiggle.  
  6. Mad Libs
  7. seasonal stationary and envelopes - I save envelopes from junk mail and ask my families to do the same thing.  When we have a specific purpose for writing, I'll put out the colorful, fancy envelopes for them.  
  8. blank cards and notecards- One of my hacks is to have my friends and family save cards that they receive, and then I chop off the part with writing.  The kids write on the blank side.  Super easy way to reuse cards that would end up in the garbage can.  
  9. magnetic letters
  10. fact flashcards- Target often has these sets of flashcards on different topics, and they all have interesting facts on them.  I have space, dinosaurs, states, and presidents.  They're a dollar a pack, and the kids like them.  
  11. mini white boards and colorful Expo markers- My students each have a black marker, so they love when the colorful markers come out.  I have a set of mini dry erase boards that are about the size of a small sentence strip.  I can't find them to link them, but they're awesome!  I use them in guided reading a lot but like to put them in morning bins a few times a year.  

Math Ideas

  1. hexagon/ Tangram puzzles
  2. printable math games- Pick games that you've played before.  I love this bundle of math games from Games 4 Gains a few years ago, and they're perfect.  
  3. pattern blocks
  4. geoboards and rubberbands
  5. flashcards and task cards- I have flashcards and task cards for pretty much every math unit.  I try to put them in the bins toward the end of the unit when we're reviewing.  
  6. pattern links- To be fair, I kind of hate these!  BUT the kids love them.  They love to make ropes and patterns and whatever their little minds conjure up.  I just hate untangling them.  
  7. play money- They love the play money.  If you have money task cards, toss those in, too.  My own kids have a play cash register, and I always bring it into school around our money unit. Students LOVE playing with this.  
  8. base ten and Cuisenaire rods- They love to build with these.  Again, if you have some task cards for base ten blocks, toss them in with the blocks.  

Abstract Creations- aka: Random Stuff

  1. dixie cups/ plastic cups- They love to stack them! 
  2. index cards, tape, and hole punch
  3. straws of various sizes and modeling clay or Play Doh
  4. foam balls and toothpicks- I love those small foam balls that are out around the holidays.  They're usually sparkly and so fun.  They're usually with the vase fillers at Dollar Tree or Michael's.  
  5. popsicle sticks with Velcro dots- They get so creative with these!  The sticks are a great job for a volunteer to make for you.  
  6. cardboard tubes- Collect them from paper towels, toilet paper, mailers, etc.  They're fun to build with and even use with paint.  

I hope this gives you some good ideas for your own morning bins. If you have any more great ideas, please leave me a comment below.  I'm always looking for new ideas.  You don't have to spend a ton of money!  Look around your classroom.  You probably have a lot of great stuff available that your students don't have the opportunity to use regularly.  I also ask for donations, shop the sales, and use some of my requisition money each year to buy a few new things.  Thanks for reading!

5 Great Sight Word Games for 2nd Graders

This post contains Amazon affiliate links.  

I am a firm believer that almost any content can be turned into a game, and games are a pretty sure way to get and keep kids engaged.  In my classroom, I like having games available to my students to use during the Word Work portion of reading workshop/ Daily 5.  I wanted to share the fan-favorite 5 sight word games from my 2nd grade classroom.  

1. Found It!

This game is so fun!  It's just like the kids' game Spot It, but each set of cards has sight words on it.  The object of the game is to be the first player to find a sight word match between their card and the card on the top of the deck.  The sets or deck are organized by Dolch list, which I love for differentiating.  My students really like this game, and it's easy enough for students of all ability levels to play.  No technology involved, just the game cards.  It's perfect for 2-4 players.  Sometimes I even use this game as a warm up for guided reading.  I keep my card decks stored in those little photo boxes from Michaels that everyone loves.  I love that the cards are color coded and labeled by set.  

2. Sight Word UNO 

This is such a good one, too, because most kids are already familiar with the game UNO.  Instead of number, students match sight words or colors until someone has used all of their cards.  It takes a while.  I actually have the deck split into two decks so that two groups can play at once.  It's a great game for 3-5 players.  
Second Grade Sight Word Card Game

3. BananagramsBananagrams for Kids

The thing I like about Bananagrams is their versatility and the nice little pouch that they come in.  Bananagrams is like a crossword puzzle. I teach my students to play by using their sight words or our vocabulary words as a guide.  In this fun and fast word game, speed wins, not points. Students race to build joined-up words using all of their letter tiles.  When any player uses all of their letters, they shout 'peel!' and every player takes on a new tile - meaning everyone has to quickly rebuild their word grid!  It can get pretty competitive, and I feel like it's a great game for my higher kids.  It's best for groups of 3-6 kids.  I also have Bananagrams, Jr.  (My First Bananagrams), and I love that this version has blends, digraphs, and vowel teams together.  Perfect!  

4. Blend/Digraph Phonics Dominoes

These are great and a favorite in my classroom every year.  Students build as many words as possible, being the first to use all of their tiles.  I pull this one out when I start working on digraphs and blends in our phonics program.  This is also a great warm up activity for guided reading.  Dominoes works best for group 2-4 kids.  

5. Memory and Go Fish 

My students each have a bag of sight words that we add to during our phonics lessons each week.  This makes it so easy for them to play Memory with 2 people.  If they have 3 or 4 people in their game, they can play go fish with their phonics cards. They write their initials on each card, so they're easy to split up and put away when the game is finished.  This is a true no-prep game for me.  The kids are in charge of their cards and keep them in their book boxes.  I teach them how to play, although most already know.  They end up playing this a lot as a fast finisher choice, in addition to playing during Reading Workshop.  

I'd love to know your favorite sight word games for 2nd graders.  Leave a comment below and let me know.  

Think Win-Win with Evie's Field Day

This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which meaning that if you buy through the link in my blog post, I earn a few cents.  

Isn't Field Day one of the most fun days of the school year?  I love it.  I love being outside all day, I love the squeals, and I love the friendly competition.

One thing I don't love about field day is the grumpies that come with kids who don't win or get their way.  Field Day is a perfect time to teach about the idea of Think Win-Win, which is one of the Leader in Me's 7 Habits of Happy Kids.  The idea is to become a problem solver and come up with a solution that benefits all people involved.

Evie's Field Day: More Than One Way to Win by Claire Annettte Noland (Cardinal Press) is a terrific mentor text for teaching Think Win-Win.  In the story, Evie is ready to win it all at her school's field day.  She can't wait to add her to collection of medals and ribbons.  Things don't quite go her way at each field day event.   However, toward the end of the story, Evie becomes a different type of winner when she helps a baby bird.  Evie helps solves a problem She discovers that there are different types of winning.  I LOVE this!

I did a simple read aloud, and then my anchor chart below.  I had students work in pairs after the read aloud to write a sentence or two on a sticky note about how Evie used Think Win-Win during her field day. You can download the anchor chart here.

This was such a great lesson for some of my students who just have to win everything.  I also liked discussing how winning is an attitude and more than just coming in first place.  Being a good sport is better than being the fastest, strongest, etc.  The book has excellent discussion points for good sportsmanship right in the back.

The anchor chart is also available as a free Google SlideEvie's Field Day is available on Kindle and hard cover.  It would be perfect to share with students during their would-have-been field day week this year.

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Teaching Visualization with Identification of Important Text Details

Visualization is an important comprehension strategy to teach growing readers...and it's a fun one! Visualization= drawing, right?  I love teaching visualization, but I always end feeling like it's "to each his own" kind of strategy without any real accountability.

In my second grade curriculum, readers are required to create a visualization drawing from a specified piece of text, and then label the visualization with key words from the text.  Simple enough, but so many were still not getting it.  So this is what I did...

I gave my students a simple non-fiction passage about the animal called an okapi (which you can download here or by clicking on the photo below).  I chose an animal that I knew my students wouldn't be familiar with prior to reading.  This would ensure that they weren't relying simply on prior knowledge.  We read the text together, and discussed it.  I projected the text, using think-alouds to identify key words and interesting facts.
Okapi Passage

Next, students reread the text to themselves (or with me in a small group).  After reading, students drew their visualizations.

Finally, they cut apart the text to label pieces of their visualization.  Students had to find text details and glue them onto their drawings to label the parts of the drawings.  This reinforced identifying important details and held students accountable for the contents of their visualization.  I required my students to label at least 5 parts of their illustration using text details.  They did a fabulous job!  Take a look at some of these examples!

After we finished, students compared visualizations with the other members of their table groups.  They found out that they had a lot of the same things drawn and labeled.  Lightbulb moment!  They were similar because they were using text details and finding important information! Win-win!  It was a pretty simple lesson, but it hit two important reading skills at once.

What's your favorite way to teach visualization and/or identification of important text details?  I'm always looking for new ideas.

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Everything You Need to Teach About Germs!

One of my favorite units to teach is Germs.  I really love teaching any health unit, but germs is such a relatable unit for our kids.  It's perfect to teach at any time of the year, but especially during cold and flu season.

Germs Pacing Guide

I use a lot of Brain Pop, Jr. videos, picture books, and a few paper resources in my unit.  I also have a couple of hands-on, fun activities to add in when we have some extra time.

My favorite germ books are:
A Germ's Journey by Thom Rooke, MD
Sick Simon by Dan Kroll
Do Not Lick This Book by Idan Ben-Barak
Blow Your Nose, Big Bad Wolf by Steve Smallman
Germs Make Me Sick! by Melvin Berger
The Bacteria Book by Steve Mould
Achoo! The Most Interesting Book You'll Ever Read About Germs by Trudee Romanek
There are a lot of really good ones.  I have them all linked on my Amazon page for you.

One my favorite activities to do is a germ experiment to model the importance of washing with soap and water.  Get out the glitter and lotion for this one.
This is basically what I do:
1- Put lotion and glitter (germs) on everyone's hands.
2- Have them all shake hands, give high fives, share pencils, etc.  This shows the spread of germs.
3- Try washing with just water and shaking dry.
4- Wash with soap, water, and dry with a paper towel.
You'll model how to wash hands properly and how easily germs are spread.  It's easy, and the kids always really like it.

Another one of my favorite activities is to make germ models out of Play Doh or modeling clay.  I have them pull up pictures of germs on the iPads, and then choose one to model their germ after.  You can even have the kids do a little bit of writing about that particular germ.  Is it a bacteria?  Is it a virus?  What symptoms does it cause?  Add a little bit of whimsy by adding some googly eyes.

Another crafty idea is to make blow painted germs and then have the students write facts about germs or specifically bacteria/viruses.  Blow painting is so fun, and most of the students will have never done this before. Here's a video to model it.
You'll need: tempera paint, water, straws (1 per student), cups, and white construction paper (1 per student).
1- Add tempera paint to a cup, and mix in about 2 tablespoons of water.  I'm not exact about this.  The consistency needs to be thin enough to pick up and blow but not so thin that it's a watery mess.
2- Students will each get a straw, and they'll use the straw like a medicine dropper to pick up the paint. If you have medicine droppers, use those.  They'll be easier.  I just don't have any of those.
3- Gently blow the paint onto the paper.
4- Add a few different colors, and blow until you like the shape.
5- Once the germs are dry, draw on a little mouth with a Sharpie and add googly eyes.
You can download the writing paper here.

Throughout my unit, my students work in their germs flip books.  We don't do the entire thing at once.  We do a page or two at a time, as they coordinate with the day's lesson.  I love using a flip book, because it's pretty printer friendly and the kids find them engaging.  At the end of the unit, they have something to show their work and study from.  You can find my germs flip book here.

I also created a set of simple worksheets that coordinate with the lessons and the flip book.  I typically make them into a packet, and we work on them with different lessons.  The puzzles are nice for early finishers.  The worksheets are found here.
Germs Worksheets

I always feel like when teaching about germs, it's important to teach about healthy habits and leading a healthy life style- Nutrition, sleep, mindfulness, etc.
Balance Your Lunch Tray Game
Please Don't Pick Your Nose Poem

Here's a list of all of the resources that I use for my germs unit.  Some are in my Google Drive, and some are on TPT.
Germs Flip Book
Germs Worksheets
Please Don't Pick Your Nose poem
Bacteria and Virus writing papers 
Balanced Your Lunch Tray Game
Hand Washing Posters and Song
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