Monthly Archives: July 2012

FRESH Bulletin Boards for Back-to-School!

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed. and Diane Burdick, M.S. Ed.

Back-to-school time is upon us! Just look around any grocery store and you’ll be reminded that school will be starting up any day. So, we’re here to help you come up with a few new ways to welcome your students into your classroom–and into the new school year–with style and, well, class.

Bulletin Board #1: Getting to Know YOU

As the teacher, you’re interested in getting to know your students, but your students (and their parents) are equally as interested in getting to know all about you. So why not help them learn more about you with a YOU-themed bulletin board?

Title the board “Mrs. Smith welcomes you!” Include a brief biographical paragraph, pictures of yourself and your family, and pictures of you at the age of the students you teach. Create a list of your likes and dislikes, a list of the fun things that you did this summer, a list of your favorite things about school (it’s okay to put recess on there :).

Doing a YOU-themed bulletin board helps the students feel less intimidated by you as the new authority figure in their lives and sets the tone for a cheery new school year.

Bulletin Board #2: Look Whooo’s In Our Nest!

Owls are all the rage currently, and given their tie-in with knowledge and learning, why not incorporate them into a “Look Whooo’s In Our Nest” bulletin board?

Use strips of brown paper to create a large nest at the bottom of the bulletin board, and then fill it with owls. {Download printable owls here or here or here. Or create your own using this printable template from} Write each child’s name on an owl.

To vary this idea with photographs, ask parents to bring a fairly recent picture of their child with them to meet-and-greet or orientation (or the first day of school). Glue a child’s head over each owl face. Can’t you just picture a big brown nest filled with your new lil’ owlets?

Check out some of the great downloadable and purchasable owl items from Teacher Pay Teachers {an online marketplace for educational ideas}, too.

Bulletin Board #3: Heroes of the Class

Since hero-themed movies were so big this year in the box office, consider creating a bulletin board celebrating the different heroes in your classroom: your classroom helpers! Assign fun names and pictures to your different classroom jobs to help invoke a spirit of helpfulness, and post them to the bulletin board for all your students to see.

For example, students might not want to be on trash duty for the week, but they probably wouldn’t mind being called the Royal Rubbish Remover.

Other fun classroom helper names: 

• Inspector Desk Inspector (for the student who inspects desks for cleanliness)

• King/Queen of Calendars (for the student who helps mark things off the calendar)

• Mr. /Mrs. Clean (for the student who helps others at the sink to wash their hands)

• Professor Paper Passer (for the student who helps distribute papers)

• Agua Man/Woman (for the student who waters the classroom plants)

• “Bat” Man (for the student who helps collect sports gear)

The possibilities are almost endless! And if you have the time (and creativity), consider allowing students to wear a special pin or badge that denotes their assignments for the week. For more creative ways to display classroom jobs, check out the free resources at

Have fun planning out your inaugural bulletin boards!


Filed under Academic Success, Bulletin Boards, Classroom Decor, New School Year, Welcome

Four Timely Reminders for all Educators

 by Mary Jane Downs

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box gift card! {winners drawn at the end of the month}

Are you creating a teaching legacy for future generations? What wisdom can you pass down from your experiences?

My daughter graduated as an education major from Converse College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, this past spring. As she is hunting for a teaching position and awaiting her first solo flight, I want to give her some sage advice to ponder as she anticipates the future. Here are four tips from my teaching experience that I will be sharing with my daughter, which are, perhaps, a good reminder for all of us teachers…both young and not-so-young. 

Healthy Fear

A little ‘healthy fear’ at the beginning of each year can be a good thing. You do not have all the answers yet because every class has a different make up. This keeps you willing to seek for the answers…and it can also foster a mutual respect from your students. Don’t fear the fear; embrace it as an opportunity to learn.

The Truth Behind Discipline

Discipline has a lot to do with who you are and how you present yourself. It also has to do with honesty, fairness, your example and what you expect of each student. Bad attitudes and criticism will only aggravate the challenges. Finding the good in each student and telling them so can begin to change even the most hardcore children.

Each New Day is a New Day

Let everyone have a new start each day. Don’t hold grudges against students. It will only bring more friction to a classroom. We all have bad moments, days and periods of time when our behavior reeks. Forgive and move on. Try to find out if there is a reason for a student’s behavior. Then, work to help your student learn to overcome their problems in a more positive way.

Teachable Spirit

The best teachers keep a teachable spirit throughout their career. They never think they have arrived at fully knowing everything. They continually search for the best ways to enhance their students’ learning environment. Then, when all is said and done, your students will honor and respect you for helping them learn to succeed under your watch.

Teaching is a challenge no matter how you look at it. However, starting out with the right kind of wisdom will help you build a rewarding career…and a living legacy.

Mary Jane Downs is an author, speaker and teacher who lives in the foothills of the Asheville Mountains. She loves long walks with her camera in hand, reading, hand quilting, and cooking for friends. Mary Jane has been published in Awe Magazine,, as well as a guest blogger. Mary Jane has found her writing and love of quilting to work well together. Quilting gives her time to think and gain insight for story ideas, and writing helps her to express those ideas and thoughts to others. Read more by Mary Jane at


Filed under Academic Success, Behavior Management, Motivation, School Readiness, Teacher Inspiration, Teaching

Top 10 Educational iPhone/iPad Apps for Your Kids

by Steven Burrell

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 gift card to The School Box! {winners drawn at the end of each month}

The day you came home with your newest iPhone or iPad, you felt like you had won the smartphone lottery. With built in GPS, camera and e-mail, not to mention the endless applications, you thought you had just bought yourself the best present in the whole wide world. Until your kids got ahold of it.

That’s when you realized that you had actually bought your children the best present in the whole wide world, whether you liked it or not.

Instead of letting your kids play hours of Angry Birds, put a few of these educational apps on your iPhone/iPad. Then you can sit back and relax while your children monopolize your favorite gadget. After all, they’re learning something.

1. Simplex Spelling HD is a great app for the spelling test challenged grade school students. It has more than 260 words that have been specially selected because they are the most frequently used in children’s literature. It’s a great way to help your children read better and learn new vocabulary without feeling like school.

2. Boggle is an old classic that you might already have on your phone for yourself. The newest incarnation has three-minute games of basic Boggle, but a whole slew of variations to keep things interesting. You might just find yourself vying with your kid for top scores.

3. Geocoachingis perfect for the Indiana Jones wannabe. The game takes its players on an exciting treasure hunt looking for hidden treasures, called

Geocoaching App

“geocaches,” by leaving clues and utilizing the iPhone’s built-in GPS It’s the safest way to send your adventurer on a wild expedition.

4. Monkey Preschool Lunchbox is perfect for the preschooler set. Using an animated, cuddly little monkey, it captures their attention. Once they’re under the monkey’s trance, they will learn colors, letters and numbers. It has written directions, but playing will also come very naturally to those who don’t know how to read yet.

5. WeetWoo is basically YouTube with a filter. Parents can curate their own children friendly video libraries, weeding out anything inappropriate. There are a lot of educational videos suited for all interests. Nursery Rhymes is good for the toddlers and Mythbusters is perfect for a science lover.

6. Math Ocean is an engaging way for kids to learn skills including addition, subtraction, matching, sorting, and patterns. You can also add fun themes like holidays!

7. Clever Tales makes reading fun. It uses beautiful images and great stories.

8. PUZZINGO is a top puzzle game. It will teach your kids animal names, letters, numbers, and more. And they’ll learn quickly, thanks to PUZZINGO’s reward system which encourages learning with prizes.

9. Cash Cow is a great app for first graders that uses a fun puzzle game to teach math.

10. PlayART is a unique artistic application that adults can play too. It incorporates the work of Van Gogh, Klee, Rousseau, Monet and Cezanne, and is suited for a wide span of ages, beyond the 5-13 range it was designed for.

There you have it: 10 apps that make your phone the best invention since sliced bread…for whoever happens to be monopolizing it.

About the author: Steven Burrell researches and reviews cognitive ability tests that help students measure their growth. His favorite thing in the world is spending rainy days indoors with his family.


Filed under Critical Thinking, Summer Learning, technology

50 Top Twitter Feeds for Readers

Need some money for classroom sprucing or school supplies? Win a $20 gift card to The School Box simply for commenting on this post. A winner will be drawn by the end of the month. 

It’s summer, which not only means time for the kids to read, but it also means time for you, the adult, to dig into a good book. Not sure where to start or which author to go for? Here’s a comprehensive list of top Twitter feeds to keep you in the know on all-things literary, according to Online College Resources. And you thought Twitter was just for teens!

Browse the list, pick a few, and get plugged into a rich online community of fellow bookophiles.

five types of reading-related twitter feeds

Top Twitter Feeds for Readers

top 50 twitter feeds, by type


If you can’t commit to a whole book, check out these author tweets for interesting summer reading.

  1. @neilhimself:Follow Neil Gaiman to learn about his latest work, pop culture, and other fun reads.

    Follow author Jenny Lawson @TheBloggess

  2. @TheBloggess:Newly minted bestselling author Jenny Lawson shares her daily musings and hilarity on Twitter as @TheBloggess.
  3. @jenniferweiner:The author of incredibly popular summer novels, Jennifer Weiner is a great resource for fun summer reading.
  4. @TheAuthorGuy:Christopher Moore brings a daily dose of crazy to Twitter as @TheAuthorGuy.
  5. @doctorow:Check out author Cory Doctorow’s Twitter for insight into books, activism, and interesting reads.

Book News

Stay on top of new releases and book news through these Twitter accounts.

  1. @CoverSpy:Want to know what New Yorkers are reading, right now? @CoverSpy hits the streets, subways, parks, and bars of NYC to tell followers what’s hot in reading.

    Follow @bookninja, the Twitter feed from this relevant top Canadian literary site.

  2. @thebookslut:Follow Jessa Crispin for book recommendations, fun reading resources, and book news.
  3. @bookninja:”The world’s deadliest books site” offers book news, insights, and musings into the summer book world and beyond.
  4. @LiteratureBooks:Follow @LiteratureBooks to learn about new literature and fiction book releases as they are published.

Publications & Publishers

These books columns, publishers, and book bloggers offer plenty of insight into great summer reads.

  1. @PublishersWkly:Check out @PublishersWkly to find reviews, information, and bookselling news, plus picks for new books.
  2. @ChronicleBooks:This independent publisher discusses distinctive books and new releases on Twitter.
  3. @AtYourLibrary:Find out about the excellent resources available at your local library this summer from @AtYourLibrary.
  4. @randomhouse:@randomhouse is on Twitter to chat about books and writing. They often share reading lists, excerpts, and other fun resources for readers.
  5. @RandomHouseCA:Random House’s Canadian branch tweets to help readers find their next great book through recommendations, contests, interviews, and more.
  6. @nytimesbooks:Check out @nytimesbooks for interviews, author profiles, book reviews, and more book news from The New York Times. Highlights include novelist quotes, prize announcements, and timely book happenings.
  7. @torbooks:A publisher of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and other speculative fiction, Tor Books is full of resources for getting your hands on some strange summer reads.
  8. @GalleyCat:Follow the book publishing industry on Twitter through @Galleycat. This account offers news on new adaptations, and even summer reading flowcharts for you to find your next great read.
  9. @littlebrown:Little Brown and Co. offers fun summer reading suggestions, excerpts, and other fun reading resources.
  10. @vintagebooks:Check out @vintagebooks for news, giveaways, and recommendations for summer reading and beyond.
  11. @NYerFiction:@NYerFiction tweets about the latest in fiction, plus, the account will feature Jennifer Egan’s Twitter short storyBlack Box.
  12. @paperhaus:This LA Times staff writer covers books, paper, and pixels.
  13. @GuardianBooks:Follow @GuardianBooks to discover news, reviews, and even author interviews. Recent tweets include insight into reader reviews and obsessive book dedications.
  14. @latimesbooks:Follow @latimesbooks for news and reviews from the LA Times Jacket Copy blog.

Picks & Reviews

Need help finding a great book? These recommendation and review accounts are a great resource for readers.

  1. @flwbooks:@flwbooks recommends books so good, they’re flashlight worthy.
  2. @books:@books shares news and selected books from the Readers Read community.
  3. @BookBrowse:BookBrowse Books offers a guide to exceptional reading with reviews, back stories, and reading lists. Follow this account to find a daily recommended book.
  4. @SelectedShorts:In this series, you’ll get access to selected short readings of classic and contemporary fiction read by acclaimed actors.
  5. @KirkusReviews:Get the straight story on books from @KirkusReviews, the world’s toughest book critics since 1933.
  6. @FanLit:@FanLit believes that life’s too short to read bad books and shares the best of fantasy literature on this Twitter account.
  7. @bookpage:With hundreds of book reviews every month, @bookpage shares the real deal on just about every summer read out there.
  8. @dearauthor:Lovers of romance can find a wealth of romance novel reviews and news through @dearauthor.
  9. @booksin140:Erin Basler shares personal book reviews and insights on @booksin140, plus live-tweeting of important book events.
  10. @booksmugglers:Review mavens and self-proclaimed super dorks @booksmugglers can help guide you to your next great summer read.
  11. @BittenbyBooks:Check out @BittenbyBooks for paranormal fiction reviews, interviews, and even giveaways.
  12. @KindleSurprise:Find some of the most entertaining books on the Kindle through @KindleSurprise.
  13. @hipsterbookclub:Find out what books the hipsters are reading from @hipsterbookclub on Twitter.

Book Lovers & Community 

Follow these book-loving communities to connect with other readers, find recommendations, and even join a book club.

  1. @goodreads:Take part in the @goodreads community to find new books, book recommendations, and even join book clubs.
  2. @inreads:In this reading community, you’ll enjoy a love of books and a new reading experience.
  3. @LitChat:Check in with @LitChat for an always-on discussion of the love of books.
  4. @litblog:@litblog offers a discussion on books, sharing selected author tweets, excerpts, and more.
  5. @shelfari:Get connected to books, book lovers, and book recommendations through @shelfari.
  6. @bookclubgirl:Jennifer Hart shares her love of great books and book clubs on Twitter as @bookclubgirl.
  7. @ReaderIReadIt:Check out the @ReaderIReadIt community for reviews, challenges, trailers, and more.
  8. @1book140:Join in with @1book140 to take part in a Twitter book club picking up a new read each month.
  9. @FridayReads:Check out the @FridayReads team to learn about what other people are reading, and even find weekly book giveaways.
  10. @BookBitch:Follow along as @BookBitch reads, reviews, and gives away books.
  11. @FreshFiction:Find out what @FreshFiction has to say in the world of books for new titles, bestseller lists, contests, and thousands of author profiles.
  12. @bookpatrol:Join @bookpatrol to find a haven for book culture.
  13. @lovereadinguk:Book lovers in the UK will enjoy checking out this Twitter feed for the latest in new books and news updates from the publishing world.
  14. @bookgeeks:Follow along with The Bookgeeks to celebrate the love of books and find some great reviews.

Happy summer reading!

Source: Online College Resources


Filed under Reading, technology