December 31, 2014

Top 5 in 2014

I think it's safe for me to say that 2014 has been a productive year in my blogging adventure. This post will be the 196th and last post for this calendar year, an increase over last year's total which was one of my blogging resolutions I made last January. Here are my top 5 posts (minus giveaways and sales notices). Just click on the pic of each post to read more about it.

Which of my top five is your favorite?
Hop on over to Ideas by Jivey to catch up on more Top 5 Posts by Teacher Bloggers.

December 29, 2014

Get Ready, Get Set...FREEBIE


If you are like me, you are already making plans for the return to classes after the holiday break.

The lessons take care of themselves, or so it seems after 35 years of teaching. However, the students do not. Those first few moments of that first day back are so important: Students WANT/need to catch-up with each other while you still want/NEED to get the classroom management things completed (attendance, lunch count, notes, etc.). So, what's a teacher to do to meet both of these wants/needs? It can be mind-BOGGLE-ing!

My solution is going to be to have my students play a round of Boggle. They can be social while still practicing language arts skills and quietly organized in order for me to get required tasks completed.

Here's a board that I created in no time flat using Microsoft Power Point, digital papers from Cutesy Clickables, glittery frames from Glitter Meets Glue, and fonts from I'm Lovin' Lit. The BEST part of this board is that it is editable; I can change the letters as I see fit.

I plan on projecting the board onto my interactive whiteboard so that the entire class can play Boggle at once while I do my "THING". Afterwards we can hunt for words together, circle them and even make a list of words found on the board.

I really like how the board turned out, so much so that I decided to make it available to you as a forever freebie. You can download your own copy HERE or by clicking on the pic above.

To customize your BOGGLE board once you've downloaded it, simply open it in Power Point, then click on each letter. Change the letter, font, size, color as you choose. Display the board on an interactive whiteboard or large screen television and instruct your students to find as many hidden words as possible (see traditional BOGGLE rules online if you are unsure of how to play). Tailor your directions and rules as you see fit. ENJOY!

I'm linking up this idea with Tara's Monday Made It over at 4th Grade Frolics! Be sure to stop by her blog for more great classroom ideas that you can make also.

December 17, 2014

Pinterest Perfect

It's time for Wordless Wednesday with Miss DeCarbo!

I admit it: 
But now, so are my sixers... LOL!

A photo posted by Angela A. Ackley (@teachersdesk6) on

How many of you are Pinterest addicts, too?

December 14, 2014

Sights and Sounds of the Season

For me Christmas is all about the sights and sounds, the songs and the traditions. Teaching in a Catholic school allows me to focus on the religious aspect of the holiday more than my peers who teach in a public school, but we also include the secular side of the holiday in our activities.

For instance, this week before break my sixth graders will play this fun, engaging ZAP game that focuses on Language Arts skills combined with the story of the Nativity. You can read more about and download it HERE.

For those of you who don't know how to play ZAP, here's a quick run down. The game consists of playing cards in a container (generally a Pringle's can). The cards focus on a particular skill.

  1. Divide your class into several teams depending on the number of students. Determine how long you will play or how many rounds you will complete. 
  2. Have a student draw a strip from the container without looking inside. 
  3. The team should read the words on the strip, then confer to determine the answer.
  4. If the team answers correctly, it keeps the strip. If it answers incorrectly the strip is returned to the container.
  5. Teams take turns drawing/collecting the strips. However, there is a twist. If a team draws a ZAP! card, it must return ALL of its strips to the container. 
  6. The winner is the team that collects the most strips. You may want to award them with a simple prize such as a treat, bonus points on an upcoming quiz/test, 5 minutes of free time, etc.

During this last hectic holiday week, we will also play this ZAP game, a brand new addition to my TpT storeThis ZAP! game requires students to identify which of four words is NOT a synonym of the other three. It, too, is available in my TpT Store.

I've included two sizes of playing cards in this product. The smaller size is suitable for use with the 2 to 2.5 ounce Pringle's cans while the larger size works well with the standard to large sized Pringle's cans.
All of the cards carry a QR code, making the game perfect for use as a self-checking literacy center.

Finally, I added something new to this ZAP! game: two additional cards. You'll notice that besides the ZAP! cards there are cards marked ZIP and ZOP. These are optional cards and add a great twist to the typical ZAP! game. My kiddos love to play ZAP! but they went wild for this variation, even my junior highers!
If a team draws a ZIP card, the team draws two cards to answer. If it draws a ZOP card, the team may steal a card from another team. Return the ZIP, ZAP, ZOP cards to the container after each turn and continue playing.

This ZAP! game as well as many more holiday themed games and activities can be found in my TpT Store. All of them are perfect for the last, hectic week before the holiday break.

Since I made a brand new version of an old favorite, I'm linking up this post with Tara over at 4th Grade Frolics for Monday Made It. Be sure to stop by her blog for lots of other great ideas by teacher bloggers.

Remember I did say that the sounds of the seasons are important to me? Although I don't teach music, per se, I do incorporate music into all areas of the curriculum and even teach my sixth graders to play the choir chimes so they can lead the singing at many of our school prayer services and masses. It's a great way to emphasize reading for a purpose and paying very close attention to the text. Throw in listening skills and general music playing skills and you've got a learning activity packed with punch.

Excuse my loud humming (the camera is close to my mouth). By humming, we are able to play together without me actually directing them. During Mass or a prayer service they need to be as independent as possible so that there is no distraction to the others present. My sixers had just learned to play this song. It had taken them three days of copying the music from the board, learning the chords and notes, rehearsing section by section, and following my direction.  Notice how engaged they all are? A teacher can't ask for more. We will be sharing this piece at our final Advent prayer service held directly before dismissal on our final day, the last thing that every K-6 student will experience before they leave for home,  a beautiful and peaceful ending to a tremendously hectic week.

December 11, 2014

Throwback Thursday: More Advent Goodies

Welcome to...

What is Throwback Thursday? How does it work, you might ask? Simply look through your PURR-fect Previous Posts, perhaps a particular favorite of yours, and re-post it! Then add the TBT badge to your post and include your link below! Purr-fectly easy and simple! Your post doesn't have to be from LOOOONNNGGG ago; it can be from last month or even earlier this week. And if you don't have a post to share, perhaps an old photo or two from WAY BACK will do! Even a favorite pin is PURR-fect! Just join in the Throwback fun!

The following post originally appeared on The Teacher's Desk 6 on Dec. 13, 2013.

We are still celebrating Advent, or trying to! It's hard to contain the Christmas spirit, what with all the commercials, TV specials, carols on the radio, and shopping expeditions,  but to wait in patient hope is wonderful! The anticipation of Christmas is tremendous, so to maintain a bit of calm while focusing on the reason for the season is indeed awesome. It is humbling to engage my sixers in conversations about the Advent season. They see its simple beauty and purpose and can talk about their struggles with keeping Christ in Christmas. To help them along, I really try to keep Santa, the elves, and all those kinds of Christmasy things to a bare minimum and focus on Adventish items. Here are a few things I've used this past week. They are yours for the taking just by clicking on each graphic.

Advent Notebook Foldables: The fifth graders and I used these with the popular Christmas novel "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" by Barbara Robinson. It's a great book to accompany our pageant practice time. First we created an anchor chart that helped us focus on how the author used particular words in her writing (verbs and their tense, adjectives, and adverbs). We used post-it notes to record our ideas as a group, then the foldables to record our individual ideas.

Integrated Language Arts/Religion/Music Activity... I used this with my sixers and my eighth graders. The quintessential Advent song is "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel." I used the lyrics to create a language arts worksheet to help my kiddos practice some grammar skills and become a bit more familiar with the hymn.

Each year I add a few new items to my cadre of Advent activities. This year is no different. I recently whipped up two new SCOOT games to accompany the skills we have been learning and practicing in our Language Arts classes and added them to my TpT Store.

First up is an Advent SCOOT game to help students practice Central Idea.

With this set of Scoot cards students will identify which Advent related word/phrase does not belong in the group of four words/phrases (determining a central idea). These 16 cards may also be used as task cards in a literacy center or for a Scatter/Scavenger Hunt activity.

QR codes are provided for self-checking. Two response sheets are provided for differentiation. The first sheet asks only for the word that does not belong, while the second asks for the word and the reason why the word does not belong.

The second Advent SCOOT activity uses the titles of Advent hymns to provide capitalization practice for students.

These 24 cards may also be used as task cards in a literacy center or for a Scatter/Scavenger Hunt activity. QR codes are provided for self-checking with these cards as well. 

Lastly, here is another song to use as a Language Arts practice activity..."Mary, Did You Know?" This is a great song to practice the comma of address. You can download the lyric sheet HERE or by clicking on the pic below.

Now it's your turn for a THROWBACK!

THROWBACK THURSDAY is taking a holiday break. The TBT linky will return on January 15, 2015.
Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year!

December 10, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Christmas Program

This time of the year can be so busy! Sometimes I feel like I am not getting as much done in the classroom as I should. Time is taken away from regularly scheduled classes to squeeze in some extra Christmas program rehearsal. It's all worth it, though! Just look at these beautiful fourth-sixth graders praising the Lord as they sing...

... and listen to their beautiful voices.
A video posted by Angela A. Ackley (@teachersdesk6) on

Would you believe this is the first time the three grades practiced together on stage?

December 9, 2014

Tried It Tuesday: Multi Lens Camera

I hadn't planned on this particular post; it's a spur of the moment thing, but it is something that I HAD TO SHARE so I'm linking it up with Holly over at Fourth Grade Flipper for...

Check out these cool photo collages of some projects my kiddos are working on (The projects are from two items that I purchased during the recent TpT Cyber Sale). Aren't they cool?
Santa's Sleigh of Synonyms by Fancy Free in 4th

There's A Minion Reasons by Fancy Free in 4th
The collages were made using an app on my Smartphone called Multi Lens Camera. I found it in the Google Play Store shortly after getting my phone last spring, downloaded it, and then promptly forgot about it until today.

For whatever reason today I clicked on the app just as I was ready to capture a few shots of student projects. Here's how easy I found the app to use.

Selecting START brought me here.

I had to decide how many frames I wanted in the photo collage.

Selecting four brought me to a screen like this. I simply started snapping shots until I had all four spaces filled.

The arrow in the lower right of the screen started to pulse once all four pics were completed, so I clicked it.

I saved my photo by simply clicking the save button on the next screen. VOILA! Easy, peasy instant photo collage... No more fooling around with power point, pic collage, or to make photo collages. I've found a MUCH easier way.

I still want to explore the app a little further since I noticed there was an EDIT button on the final screen above. I did click it out of curiosity to discover some color, cropping, and size features. I decided to wait for this portion of the app for another day. Right now I'm happy with the simple collages.