Tag Archives: Language Arts

Awesome Interactive Bulletin Boards, Part I

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

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So, you have this big bulletin board hanging on your wall. And it’s so tempting to cover it with paper, slap up a pre-made bulletin board set and be done with it. But, what if we shared a few EASY (promise) ideas that will turn your generic board into an interactive learning spot.

From reading to writing to social studies, the ideas we will share in our Awesome Interactive Bulletin Boards series combine disciplines and allow students to showcase their learning in a fun, student-centered way.

Literary World Travels

This clever idea, courtesy of hill.troy.k12.mi.us blends reading and social studies.

Here’s how to create one in your room:

  1. Post a large, detailed map of the United States or world on a bulletin board, preferably near your classroom library.
  2. Next to the map, post a map key listing your students’ names, each designated with a different color or style of push pin.
  3. Every time a student reads a book, story or poem that mentions a city, state, or famous landmark, they pinpoint the geographic location on the map with their designated push pin.
  4. To keep the students organized and independent, give each student their own drawer filled with push pins of their designated color or style in an organizer below the bulletin board.
  5. Later in the year, the places “visited” provide an authentic springboard for a research project: Research the favorite city or country you read about this year.

Voila! Literacy meets geography! And, this board can stay up all year– how easy is that?

For more bulletin board materials and idea starters, check out www.schoolbox.com’s online array here.

Stay tuned for Parts II and III in this series on Interactive Bulletin Boards, coming soon to A Learning Experience!



Filed under Centers, Classroom Decor, Geography, Reading, Social Studies

The Little Red Hen {awesome activities!}

by Kelli Lewis

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Here is a fun activity to submerge your kindergarteners or first graders in this memorable story favorite. They’ll participate in their own writing and bring the story to life through an adorable craft. Just in time for spring…and perfect for the classroom or at home with your own kiddos.

Start by reading The Little Red Hen by Paul Galdone.

This is the classic folk tale version most of us are familiar with (and it’s available at The School Box for $5.95 if your library doesn’t have it). Use this time to review concepts you’ve been working on prior to this activity. For instance, ask students to identify the story’s problem and solution, make predictions as you’re reading, point out compound words or proper nouns, etc.

Next, watch The Little Red Hen on video.

I found this on youtube.com, but you may or may not have permission to show this in your classroom. However, I would bet there is a way you can get this from your school media center or the local library, since it’s such a popular video. Here’s the youtube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zr-yQGD9eAA

Connect and write about it.

Have students write sentences about how they help out around their homes: “I help at home when I ________.” Then, they can draw a picture to show them helping.

Bring your story to life with a craft!

This hen is pretty easy to assemble and fun to create. I like using the hen template found here: http://www.first-school.ws/t/craft/hen_c_craft.html. However, by taking a look at it, you could easily get your own ideas for making a hen.

Make it scrapy! Using scrapbook paper for the hen’s feathers/arms makes these little guys absolutely adorable. Check your local Hobby Lobby or any other crafty stores for a variety of scrapbook paper with all different sorts of prints. These places usually have a section of discounted papers you can sort through, if you’d like. Cooking-themed and farm-themed papers repeat the story’s themes, but red-and-white checkered paper is super cute, too.

Who’s down for an extension?

After reading this version of the Little Red Hen, children get really tickled by reading different versions.  Check out The Little Red Hen (Makes a Pizza) by Philomen Sturges, with its modern, wacky twist. Then, talk about how the two stories are similar, and yet also different.

So, who’s going to go try these activities? And none of you had better answer, “Not I”!

For more Little Red Hen ideas, including a felt board set and a Big Book, click here.

Kelli Lewis is a graduate student at The University of Georgia whose creative ideas are always inspiring!


Filed under Activities, Art, comprehension, creative writing, Language Arts, Reading, reading aloud, reluctant readers, Writing

Hop, Skip…Read?? Adding movement to your reading lessons

by Rachel Stepp

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Are you looking for ways to incorporate action into your reading lessons? Sometimes reading and grammar can be dull subjects for students…especially when we ask them to sit and listen to us talk. Here’s an idea to mix it up a bit!

A Book

Recently, I did an activity with a book called Rosie’s Walk by Pat Hutchins. This clever book is about a hen that outsmarts a fox by trickily walking around her farm. The book is filled with prepositions and scenarios that are hidden in the pictures. Your students will enjoy acting out the scenes and looking closely at the pictures to find out how the hen is tricking the fox. The book is fun all by its lonesome, but want to know what’s even more fun? Acting it out!

An Activity

To act out the book, you are going to need to set up your classroom so that students have room to move around. Here is a list of some of the prepositions in the book and a couple of ideas for how students could demonstrate them:


Put a tape line down on the floor and ask your students to “walk across the tape.”

Give a student a pencil and ask her to “pass the pencil across your desk” to another student.

Have your students “walk across the sidewalk” on the way to the playground.

Put a book on the floor and “walk across” the book.


Now, scatter books around on your floor and ask your students to “walk around the books.”

Ask half of your class to pick places on the floor to sit, and then ask the other half of your class to “walk around your classmates.”


Once again, place something on the floor such as a textbook and ask your students to “step over the textbooks.”

Create several parallel tape lines on the floor and ask your students to “hop over the lines.”


Expand student learning even ask you travel around the school building by asking your students to “form a line past the cafeteria” on their way to lunch.

Before your students can start playing at recess, ask them to “walk past the swings” before they start talking or running.


Invite your students to use their brains and ask them things that they can “walk through.” They should come up with ideas such as walking through the door to get into the classroom.


The students will really enjoy “under” if you allow them to “crawl under their desks/tables.” This is something that we usually discourage students from doing, but they will be able to remember prepositions if they are able to act them out!

Your classroom might end up looking like an obstacle course and your students might feel like they are in P.E., but they will really enjoy being active during reading and grammar! And, they’ll be prepared to outsmart a fox…lest they ever meet one.

For more help teaching prepositions, check out these charts and games from The School Box.

Rachel Stepp is a graduate student at The University of Georgia.


Filed under Academic Success, comprehension, Games, Language Arts, Reading

St. Patrick’s Day Interactive Bulletin Board

by Rachel Stepp

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It’s almost that time of the year when tricky little leprechauns visit classrooms all over the world. Why not welcome him into the classroom with a creative and fun bulletin board?

Here’s how to bring a little luck o’ the Irish into your classroom this month:

1. First comes the spring background.

Start by creating a spring scene on the bulletin board. Create a nice blue background with spring flowers blooming in the fresh, green grass.

2. Then let the rainbow shine!

Have your students trace their hands on paper in all the colors of the rainbow (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet). Once students have traced their hands (the more hand prints you have, the bigger your rainbow can be!), have them cut out their tracings. Then, add a rainbow to your bulletin board with all of the hand prints stretching across the spring sky.

3. Next, add a pot o’ gold.

Don’t forget to add a pot of gold at the bottom of rainbow! You can cut out a black pot and add yellow “coins” covered in gold glitter to come out of the pot. The children will be excited to see the sparkling coins, and you could even add American currency to the pot to reinforce coin knowledge.

4. Where’s the tricky leprechaun?

One of the most important parts of the St. Patrick’s Day bulletin board is, of course, the leprechaun! One simple way to get a leprechaun that is large enough for your board is to trace it on large butcher paper. Take a piece of green paper and tape it over your SmartBoard or on your white board. Then, use a SmartBoard projector or overhead projector to shine a picture of a leprechaun on the paper. Trace the picture to the size you want it. It might be easiest to find leprechaun clip art or coloring pages, so that it will be easy to trace. Once you have traced it, go over the lines with dark marker and then cut it out. Put the leprechaun on the bulletin board in various places throughout the month of March. The tricky guy can keep ’em guessing!

5. Now, set it to song!

Add some interaction to your bulletin by adding this short song (to the tune of BINGO):

There was a little leprechaun,

He lived under a rainbow.




He lived under a rainbow.

Teach your students this song and have different students perform it daily. Remember to stay true to BINGO. Each verse, remember to take a later off of ‘rainbow’ and clap in its place.

6. And, finally, read all about it!

St. Patrick’s Day by Gail Gibbons is a great book for Kindergarten through second grade that explains the origins and symbols (shamrock, leprechaun) of the holiday, including the life and works of St. Patrick. The colorful watercolor illustrations are engaging for students of all ages. (The book is available at The School Box for $6.95, by the way. Here’s the link to buy it online: St. Patrick’s Day by Gail Gibbons).

The children will enjoy reading and singing about St. Patrick’s Day during March, under a rainbow of their own hand prints!

Rachel Stepp is a graduate student at The University of Georgia who regularly contributes to A Learning Experience.


Filed under Activities, Art, Centers, Classroom Decor, Math, Music

Rockin’ through the Verbals!

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by Kristin M. Woolums, M. Ed.

When I was a middle school Language Arts teacher, I had to teach a topic about which I (although I’m ashamed to admit) was unfamiliar: verbals.

I can recall reciting the definitions of the three types of verbals to a class that was less than enthused, and I kept thinking, “I’m saying it, so they must be getting it, right?” Wrong! I instantly realized my homework: get creative with teaching verbals.

First thing’s first: What are verbals?

Yeah, I asked myself that, too. In a nutshell, a verbal is a verb that acts like another part of speech such as a noun, adjective, or adverb. There are three types: gerunds, participles, and infinitives:

  • A gerund is a form of a verb that functions as a noun and always ends in –ing.

Gerund Example: Learning can be hard work.

  • A participle is a form of a verb that functions as an adjective and ends in –ing, -en, or –ed.

Participle Example: My school promotes an exciting learning environment.

  • An infinitive is a form of a verb that functions as an adjective, adverb, or noun and includes to plus the base form of the verb.

Infinitive Example: I can’t wait to learn about verbals!

That concludes your grammar lesson for the day….

Sounds pretty dry, huh? So how do you make this grammar lesson more exciting?

Speak to students on their level! I realized that there are so many examples of verbals in music and movies, so I challenged them (and myself!) to seek songs, movie titles, band names, etc that contained a verbal. I first started with my examples, but then the students quickly caught on and added to the list (click here for our list, which I made into a printable activity sheet!). The next thing I knew, we had a pretty good list going, but the best part was… the students were EXCITED about learning!

I have to admit, some of the items on our list are a bit of a stretch. You might have to put them in a complete sentence to make the true gerund or participle technically work (the infinitive is much easier to identify). But there again, that’s how grammar can be… elusive and unclear at times! This too becomes a great teaching moment for the practicality of grammar.

So, I hope this helps you middle school English teachers in your quest to have those learners actually understand (and retain!) these tricky little things we call verbals! By the way, did you catch the verbal in the title of this article? : )

For some easy ways to review grammar skills, check out these activity books from The School Box!

Kristin M. Woolums, M. Ed., teaches fifth grade at a private school in Atlanta, where she was recently named the 2010-2011 Teacher of the Year! Congratulations, Kristin! She also works at The School Box at Southlake during the summer months. We love when she contributes her stellar teaching ideas to A Learning Experience.

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Filed under Activities, grammar, Language Arts, Writing

Educator’s Day!!

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

Okay, so you just have to know about this event: This Saturday, January 29, is the biggest sale at The School Box all year. Did you hear that? ALL YEAR, ladies and gents. I am more than a little excited.

But, wait, don’t tune out if you’re not a teacher. The School Box is also the PERFECT place to get craft supplies, kiddie room decor and furniture, the best book titles for all ages, tutoring & extra practice materials for home…and (my personal fave) birthday and baby shower gifts. Have you seen their awesome toy and game aisles? Quality stuff sans the lead paint (like Melissa & Doug). And now it’ll all be ON SALE!!! “Stock up” is the golden rule for a balanced birthday budget.

The Details:

Date: January 29, 2011

Where: At *every* School Box location. To find one near you, check out www.schoolbox.com.

Discounts: Available for parents, teachers, home-schoolers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, third cousins twice removed…everyone! Draw an apple at checkout, and the apple will determine the discount on your total purchase (10%, 20%, 30%, 40%).

Oh Goody Goody: The first 40 customers will receive special goody bags.  Drawings will also be done for $50 prizes, and one lucky duck will win a $250 Gift Certificate!!!

This is one of the best (and most fun!) sales for quality children’s games, supplies and the like. Just thought you should know about it!

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Filed under Activities, Classroom Community, Classroom Decor, Critical Thinking, Free Stuff!, Games, Geography, History, Holidays, Parenting, Phonics, Reading, Science, Study Skills, Teacher Inspiration

A Wintry Way to Review Patterns!

by Rachel Stepp

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Here’s an imaginative way to create a wintry wonderland in your classroom and also review patterns and counting!

Paper Chains

  1. First start by creating paper chains that you can hang from the ceiling. These chains can be made with different shades of blue and white construction paper.
  2. Mark strips on the paper using a ruler. Place the ruler along the paper and just make the strips as wide as the ruler. (No real measurement is necessary!) Older students can do this themselves. Make enough sheets for each student to have around 20 strips in several different colors of paper.
  3. Once your students have their paper, allow them to cut the strips along the lines.
  4. Now, teach (or review) patterns. Explain and model various patterns such as ABAB or ABBABB. For upper elementary/middle grades, this would also be a great time to get in a little literary integration by whipping out some poetry with various rhyme schemes. You can compare the rhyme schemes with the paper patterns…and students could even copy various lines of poetry onto their strips. For a great list of printable winter-themed rhyming poems, check out Apples 4 the Teacher.
  5. After students have had time to explore different patterns, teach them how to make a paper chain using their strips. Encourage them to hold the glued links for ten seconds to secure the glue. This will also help them count to 10 and review their numbers.
  6. Once your students have made paper chains, connect all of the chains together and hang them across the classroom from the ceiling. The classroom will be filled with snowy skies when you are all done!

(If your county’s fire marshall is anti-ceiling-hanging, you can hang the chains from bulletin boards, white boards, walls and doorways instead. Just as magical!)

Glitter Snowflakes

  1. Add a little extra pizazz to your room with snowflakes from your students. Students just start with a regular piece of white (or light blue) paper. Then have students fold the paper multiple times, until it is a small, folded rectangle. They can fold as many times as they’d like…so long as scissors can still penetrate the folds.
  2. Next, students will cut small snips and shapes out of the edges of their folded rectangle. They can also snip and round out corners. You can review shapes with this lesson (and practice fine motor coordination) by guiding the students in cutting out specific shapes: triangles, circles, squares, rectangles, etc.
  3. Then, when students unfold their snipped paper, voila! A unique snowflake.
  4. Add some glitter so they sparkle in the light.

You can also use the idea of reflection and have students draw half of a snowflake and then reflect their drawing on the other side of their paper.

Then, you could follow up these chilly activities by reading your favorite winter storybook to your class. I love Jan Brett, but if you have another great wintry-themed book suggestion, post it in the comments below! I’d love to hear your favorites!

Rachel Stepp is a graduate student at The University of Georgia and a regular contributor to A Learning Experience.

Photo from http://www.bunchfamily.ca/paper-snowflakes-garlands.


Filed under Classroom Decor, Math, Poetry, Reading, reading aloud, Seasons, Uncategorized

You’ve Got Mail! (Using Letters to Connect with Students)

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by Kelli Lewis

Who doesn’t like getting mail? We all get that junk mail that we dread having to go through, but who doesn’t like getting personal letters in the mailbox for a nice surprise? I think it’d be safe to say that most of us wish we got them more.

Classroom Application:

Why not be that person and write your students daily letters? You may say you don’t have time to write each of your students everyday, and you don’t have to. What about typing up a few sentences to your class each day? I’ve seen this used by a teacher in a first grade classroom, and the students loved it.

What to Write:

The teacher simply wrote the students a letter for them to read each morning when they came into the classroom. This letter could include: something specific you did after school the day before, something specific that happened to you this morning, something specific someone in your family (or your pet) did, something specific you’re doing after school that day, any special school events happening for the day (ie. ceremonies, picture day, assembly, performance, etc.), lunch choices, what ‘special’ they are attending for that day (music, art, P.E., learning lab, etc.), a classmate’s birthday, etc.

Incorporate Grammar Practice:

Here’s the catch… don’t write the letter without any mistakes. Depending on what you are teaching in grammar/language at that point in the year, make specific mistakes to correlate with those standards. “Forget” to do a few things they should be able to catch.

For instance, you could “forget” to capitalize a sentence or proper noun, spell a word correctly, use the correct punctuation, etc. Make mistakes depending on what you expect your students to know. Start out making very few mistakes, to allow your students to get a feel on how this new letter idea is going to work. Then, progressively make mistakes more often.

You may also want to add in a mistake or two that isn’t something you have discussed quite yet. This could serve as a bonus, to see if anyone picks up on it. It would also be a great way to introduce a new concept you are going to be working on soon.

Morning Work:

Let this be your students’ morning work–for them to read the letter waiting on their desks, and then rewrite it the correct way. Get creative, make it interesting, and have fun with it! I have a feeling your students will like it. You could even ask your students to write letters back to you… or even to each other!

Kelli Lewis is an Early Childhood Education graduate student at the University of Georgia who often shares her wonderful ideas on A Learning Experience. (Lucky us!)

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Filed under Academic Success, Behavior Management, Classroom Community, grammar, Spelling, Writing

The Reading Pond: Creating an Enchanting Reading Corner

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by Rachel Stepp

By creatively designing parts of your classroom, you can intrigue students to utilize these areas properly and often. One space that I think is important to put time into designing is the classroom library.

The Reading Pond

  1. PICK A SPOT. Designate one corner of your classroom as the reading area. This area can carry an enchanting theme of the “Reading Pond” by incorporating cool colors (blues & greens), water themes, and maybe even a pet fish or two!
  2. FABRIC. To get started, drape some strips of blue fabric from the ceiling to create fabric swag over the lights. This will add softer lighting to this area. At the end of the fabric, drape blue bead curtains or skinny strips of blue fabric that go all the way to the floor. The curtain of fabric hanging from the ceiling to the floor will create a secluded area where students will feel comfortable reading. The blue fabric can be the “waterfall” that fills the “Reading Pond.”
  3. PAINT. Paint your bookshelves blue as if they are water. Fill your shelves with all kinds of books that students would be interested in reading. Display the books in baskets, so that the covers face forward. When students are able to look at the covers instead of just the spines of books, they are more likely to choose a book they will enjoy.
  4. PEER INVOLVEMENT. Along the wall, give the students an area where they can suggest books to their classmates. Call this area, “Catch a good book!” Draw or cut out a fishing pole and put it on the wall. Also, cut out many blank fish shapes out of construction paper. These paper fish can be stored in a clear fishbowl that is accessible to the students. Students can recommend a good book to their peers by writing the title, author, and their name on a paper fish and then taping it to the wall.
  5. PILLOWS AND STUFFED FRIENDS. Floor space should be comfortable so that students want to spend time in the reading area. You can do this by putting green bean bag chairs or green pillows that represent “lily pads” in the “Reading Pond.” You can also add pond-related stuffed animals such as frogs, fish, and water snakes that students can read to and have as reading companions.

This is just one idea for making your classroom creative and inviting. Remember, it is important to create an environment that makes your students feel safe and comfortable so that they can challenge themselves in the classroom. It would even be possible to carry to water theme throughout your entire classroom!

Rachel Stepp is a graduate student at the University of Georgia, currently working on a Masters in Early Childhood Education.


Filed under Academic Success, Classroom Decor, Reading, reluctant readers

BINGO! A New Twist for a Classic Classroom Game

Want to know a simple twist for Bingo that can be used to reinforce phonological awareness? I call it Rhyming Bingo.

How the Game Works:

  1. In Rhyming Bingo, students are given prepared 4×4 square Bingo cards that contain pictures such as a cat, a bone, and a sock. These pictures can be found in clip art from the Internet or on word processing software (or hand-drawn if you’re crafty!).
  2. Then, the teacher calls out cards that contain rhyming words that would match with the students’ boards such as “bat,” “phone,” and “rock.”
  3. The students then put down a Bingo chip (which can be found at supply stores such as The School Box) on the corresponding rhyming word. For example, the teacher might say, “sail.” Then, the student would respond by putting a Bingo chip on the picture of “mail.”
  4. The students would continue to play until someone covers their entire board. There is so much critical thinking involved in this game, and students LOVE it!

Make it More Challenging:

You can vary this activity for advanced students by choosing words that are difficult or uncommon. You can also add the spelling of the words on the Bingo cards to help students.

Make it More Creative:

  1. Students can draw their own pictures on their Bingo cards according to a preset word list created by the teacher. By doing this, the teacher already knows that he/she has call out cards that will rhyme with the students’ drawings, and he/she knows what the students have drawn on their cards.
  2. Students can draw their own pictures on their Bingo cards based on their own rhyming words. For example, the teacher would give the students a list of words that she will use as call out cards. Then the students would think of words that rhyme with the call out words and draw their pictures based on their new words. This gives the students responsibility and challenges them to think more.

By bringing these ideas into your classroom, the students feel more accomplished, and there will be more variety in the classroom. This game can work in whole class settings and with small groups. It is a great way to mix fun with phonics!

Rachel Stepp is a graduate student at the University of Georgia, currently working on a Masters in Early Childhood Education.

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Filed under Academic Success, Games, Phonics