What Are Boom Cards? Getting Started with Boom Learning℠

Boom Learning and Boom Cards are the trademarks of Boom Learning Inc. Used with permission.

As teachers plan for this new school year, there are so many uncertainties. Whether students will be coming into schools and learning face-to-face or will be learning remotely from home in front of a screen, the new challenges are tremendous. When teachers, students, and families were thrust into distance learning in March, we all realized that "normal" can change in the blink of an eye.


 How Can Boom Learning Help?

Distance learning brought with it a whole bunch of learning management systems and platforms for delivering instruction to students. There are now so many ways to reach students from a distance, it can be quite overwhelming. When I first discovered Boom (which has been around for several years), I was hesitant to try another new system, but I'm so glad I did! Boom Cards are interactive, digital task cards created by teachers for students to use within the Boom Learning platform.


There are many great things about Boom, but what I like best is that it can be used in conjunction with your other learning management system (Google Classroom, Canvas, Microsoft Teams, Seesaw, etc.). This is because Boom Cards are played within their own platform which can easily be linked to whatever method you use to communicate with your students.

Here are some other things I love about Boom Cards:

  • Boom Cards are self-checking, which allows students to be independent.
  • Boom Cards support audio, meaning that creators can embed audio instructions. This makes Boom accessible to pre-readers!
  • Boom Cards can be played on just about any device with a connection to the internet.
  • The Boom platform has thousands of decks, both for sale and for free, that teachers can choose from to meet their students' needs.
  • Teachers can also create their own Boom Cards. Not seeing what you need? You can make your own deck just for your students or to give or sell to other teachers as well.
  • Boom Learning provides teachers with data reports that can help drive instruction.
picture of boy playing Boom Cards Ways to Make Ten with his parent
Child Playing "Ways to Make Ten" Boom Deck


Getting Started with Boom

Teachers must have an account with Boom Learning in order to assign activities (called decks) to students. This requirement keeps the platform secure and safe for students. There are different levels of accounts with different associated costs depending on how you want to use the platform.

You can head over to the Boom homepage to read the most updated membership information, but as of right now, here's a breakdown of the cost and benefits of each level:

Free - Starter Level: At this level, teachers (or parents) can create five student accounts. They can assign decks to those five students and can view reports of those students' progress. At the starter level, users can make five of their own decks, but they cannot add custom sound to those decks. At this level, and all membership levels, teachers can assign unlimited Fastplay links to decks in their library. Fastplay links allow students to play the deck without signing in, but do not provide any reports or data to teachers. Fastplay links expire after five days with free accounts and after 14 days with paid accounts (at which point the teacher can generate a new Fastplay link).

$15/Year - Basic Level: At the basic level, in addition to the benefits of the starter level, teachers can create up to 50 student accounts which they can place in up to three different sections.

$25/Year - Power Level: At the power level, the student number is increased to 150 accounts in up to five sections. Teachers can create an unlimited number of decks to assign to their own students. Teachers also gain a "live monitoring" capability at this level, which allows them to view live progress reports as students play.

$35/Year - Ultimate Level: At this final level, in addition to the benefits of the previous level, teachers can create up to 200 student accounts in up to eight sections, can add custom sounds to their own decks, and can sell their own decks in the Boom store. 

If you join Boom by redeeming a link for a Boom Deck that you accessed through TPT (such as this free sample of my alphabet activities for Boom), you will be automatically be given a free trial of the premium features for three months. Simply click the link in the product download and then follow the prompts to create a new account!



Using Boom Cards with Students

Once you have a Boom account, you will be able to see any Boom Decks that you have purchased (or gotten for free or created) in your library on the Boom Platform. These are decks that you can now assign to your students. Boom has created a very useful collection of tutorials and videos in their help section that you can access if you have trouble when adding students and assigning decks.

Once you have created your roster on Boom (or imported your roster from Google Classroom if that's the system you're already using), you will need decide how you want your students to access the Boom Cards. If you want students to be able to quickly play a game for practice and you aren't interested in collecting data, you can simply have them click a Fastplay link (in your library, click on the blue "action" box next to a deck and select "Fast Pin" to get the link). You can send students this link through whatever LMS or communication system you use.

If you want to collect data (which you probably will at some point!) you have a few student sign-in options that you can explore in depth in this tutorial.

Boom Learning is a robust platform with too much to explore for me to cover in one post, so stay tuned for more! In the meantime, check out my Boom Cards on TPT to see if I have anything perfect for your class!

Boom Cards Bundle of Kindergarten Math Activities    Letter Activities Bundle for Boom Cards Literacy Center


Thanks so much for reading and please leave a comment below if you have any questions about Boom!

Simple and Engaging Leprechaun Traps in the Classroom

A leprechaun stands beside a simple classroom trap on Saint Patrick's Day

Every March I see pictures on social media of absolutely beautiful leprechaun traps that students have made at home as a family project before bringing to school for St. Patrick's Day. While I think there is definite value in that kind of parent-child experience, I have only ever done leprechaun traps as an in-class activity for a few reasons. Planning and constructing simple traps at school can make for an incredibly engaging and educational day that children will remember for the rest of the year (and beyond!). Completing this activity in class is also an excellent opportunity for collaboration and provides a chance for all students to participate equally, regardless of their home environment. Making leprechaun traps in the classroom is less about creating something flashy or cute and more about the meaningful critical thinking and engineering strategies students practice as they plan and construct their creations.

Learning About Leprechauns

Before getting to the trap building, your students will need to build on their background knowledge of leprechauns to come up with a purpose for the activity. After discussing what children already know about leprechauns (you can make a KWL chart if you'd like), reading a book or two about St. Patrick's Day and leprechauns will set the stage for this activity.

A photo of five books that will help prepare students to make leprechaun traps this St. Patrick's Day
Some of my favorite leprechaun books are (affiliate links):

Fiona's Luck: A clever Irish woman is able to trick the leprechauns into returning luck to Ireland. This fun story has a lesson about the importance of wit over luck.

The Night Before St. Patrick's Day: Tim and Maureen attempt to trap a leprechaun but end up getting tricked. This one has simple, rhyming text.

Tim O'Toole and the Wee Folk: This story, which could be compared and contrasted with Jack and the Beanstalk, involves leprechauns (called little ones and wee folk), tricks, and treasures. Just as a heads up--it also includes a little violence (the leprechauns hit peoples' legs with sticks), but it is presented in a silly way.

The Story of the Leprechaun: This cute story gives a lot of background about leprechaun legends and retells a traditional tale of a leprechaun tricking a gold-seeker. 

That's What Leprechauns Do: This story tells of three leprechauns who play a few funny tricks on the way to completing their main job of putting a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

After learning about leprechauns and the legends associated with them, the purpose for building a trap will be clear: catch a leprechaun to get him to tell where the gold is hidden!

Talking About Traps

Photos of a lobster trap, a venus fly trap, and a student-made leprechaun trap
A useful next step is to talk about various kinds of traps and what they are used for in real life. Your students may be able to come up with a few kinds of traps on their own, which you can then discuss (How do they work? Would they be a good option for catching a leprechaun?). Some traps children might be able to think of on their own (depending on their life experiences) are mouse traps, spider webs, or crab or lobster traps. Showing photos of various kinds of traps and talking about how they work (bait? trigger?) will help get the kids' wheels turning. The PowerPoint presentation in my leprechaun set includes photo examples of traps with explanations of how they work.

Making a Plan

When your students have a good understanding of leprechauns and traps, it's time to begin planning! This is such a flexible project--you can have students work independently or in groups to make several traps or just one. One year I had each student draw a trap design and share it with the class. We then made a new plan as a whole group that combined attributes of several of the designs and built that trap together. You can make this project as complicated or as simple as you want to!

Photos of a student planning sheet for a leprechaun trap and a trap made out of a bun, blocks, and paper coins
Before you send your students off to plan, it can help to inventory the supplies that are available for building traps. Some ideas: bins, boxes, tubs, art and craft supplies, books, writing utensils, and toys...

When the children are drawing up their plans, they will need to think about what is going to lure the leprechaun into the trap and how the trap is going to keep the leprechaun from getting away. It helps to have a discussion about these things to brainstorm ideas!

My leprechaun set on TPT has planning forms your students can use, or you can just have them use plain drawing paper.

Building Traps

When it's finally time to build the trap (or traps), reassure your students that it's ok to revise and make changes! When my students were working to build the trap pictured here, they tried a few different bins and boxes before finding one with a lid that worked in the way they wanted it to. A couple of students worked on drawing and cutting out "gold" coins, while others built the staircase out of blocks. A boy even donated his golden chain to use as bait (thankfully the leprechaun didn't get away with it, so he was able to get it back at the end of the day)!

A Leprechaun's Visit

A leprechaun stands beside magic leprechaun rocks made of baking soda and a rhyming note
Once your traps are ready, you will all have to leave the room since leprechauns are far too clever to come into a classroom full of children! When the children are out of the classroom, it's time for some leprechaun mischief. In some stories (and classrooms) the little guys make quite a mess. Bear in mind that while some children will find it silly to come back to find their classroom in disarray, others may find it a little stressful--especially if the classroom is their safe space in a chaotic life. Some simple, but easy to clean up mischief that I find fun is to turn each of the student chairs around backwards, turn a few anchor charts or posters upside down, and to "write" a message (something simple like, "Ha ha ha!") by arranging crayons or pencils on the floor near a trap.

The most important thing, or course, is that the leprechaun must spring the traps, but manage to escape, leaving behind a message and a treat. Some treat ideas: chocolate coins or Rolos, little bags of Skittles, plastic gold coins, or these fun magic leprechaun rocks. The rocks are made out of baking soda, water, and food coloring and each has a plastic gold coin in the center. When dunked in a bowl of vinegar/water for cleaning, the rocks fizz and foam and leave behind the gold. I followed the directions in this post from Gift of Curiosity to make my rocks and left this note in the classroom beside the trap.

I hope these ideas help you plan out a fun St. Patrick's Day experience in your classroom. I'd love to hear from you about your ideas--feel free to post a comment below! Have fun with your traps and Happy St. Patrick's Day! Here are a couple of resources from my TPT store that might interest you:

Leprechauns: PowerPoint and Printables is a TPT resource from My Happy Place     St. Patrick's Day Addition is a TPT resource from My Happy Place



Finding Time for Valentine's Day + a Fine Motor Freebie!

Free Fine Motor Skills Task Box for Valentine's Day

February in kindergarten is always such a busy month with so many potential age-appropriate themes. It can be difficult to fit everything in--especially if, like me, you like to dig deep into themes and spend quality time nurturing curiosity and building understanding. In this post I've compiled some ideas you can use to give the kiddos some Valentine fun without taking time away from the content you need to cover this February.

1. Focus on Friendship with a Kindness Chain

Valentine's Day in kindergarten is all about caring and friendship. It, coincidentally, falls at a time of year when many classes are in need of a classroom management reboot! Making a kindness chain is a great way to put the focus on positive behavior while adding a festive Valentine's Day decoration to your room. To make a kindness chain, pre-cut a bunch of strips of red and pink construction paper. Challenge the children to notice and report their classmates' acts of kindness:1 act of kindness=1 chain link! You might want to add the links during your morning meeting, during snack time, or as you close for the day. Jotting the reason for the link onto the strip before fastening it on will allow you to revisit these acts of kindness as the month goes on. Having the students look for kindness in their peers tends to encourage positive relationships and curtail some of the tattling that seems to crop up this time of year.

Pin and Red Paper Chain


2. Encourage Card-Making in the Writing Center

If you have a writing center as one of your literacy stations, set up a Valentine shop for your students to make and write cards to their friends and family members. Equip the center with red and pink paper and pens/markers. Add a mini-word wall with Valentine's Day words and phrases to get their creative juices flowing. If you throw in some stickers (and teach your expectation of how many materials children should use in one session), they will be begging to go to the writing center! If you want to invest in some print-and-go materials to use year after year in your February writing center, this For the Love of Writing set is available in my TPT store.

3. Slip in Some Valentine's Day Read-Alouds

A great way to bring the fun and friendship of Valentine's Day into your classroom is to read Valentine-themed books to your students during your regular read-aloud time and/or while they are eating snack. (This section contains Amazon affiliate links.) The Biggest Valentine Ever by Steven Kroll (illustrated by Jeni Bassett) is a great story for reinforcing social skills and problem solving. Bird Hugs by Ged Adamson is a sweet story about acceptance and compassion. Children also love listening to Valentine stories about their favorite characters like Pete the Cat, Curious George, and Mouse (from If You Give a Mouse a Cookie).

4. Indoor Recess? Practice Cutting Hearts!

Fold Paper to Cut a Symmetrical HeartIf inclement weather drives your recess inside, have a station set up where kids can practice cutting hearts out of paper scraps. Teach them to fold a piece of paper in half and draw half a heart along the fold. After they cut along their line, they will have a heart shape and a heart-shaped paper frame that they can use in crafting. Children learn a little bit about symmetry this way while building fine motor skills and getting the satisfaction of learning how to do something new!


5. Add some Valentine Fun to Your Fine Motor Boxes

This Valentine's Day fine motor activity is free for my email subscribers! I was inspired to make a spin and cover set when I saw this cute pack of heart table scatter at Dollar Tree, but these cards can just as easily be used with mini-erasers or any other little counters you have on hand. (Read more about my Fine Motor Skills Task Boxes here.)

Dollar Tree Valentine's Day Table Heart Scatter for Fine Motor Activity

If you would like to get this printable download for free, just subscribe to my email list using the form at the bottom of this post (if you're reading this on a mobile device, you'll have to switch to "web view" at the bottom to see the form). Once you have the printables, print them on card stock, laminate them, and cut them out. Your students can use a pencil and a paperclip for their spinner arrow if you don't have a transparent spinner (read more about spinner options in this post). This set includes three printable spinners --number words, ten frames, or addition--choose the one that works best for your class or print all three and let the children pick! To complete this activity, children spin the spinner and then place a Valentine's Day counter on the number that matches their spin. Ultimately, they will have to spin a lot in order to fill their card. This is a great fine motor exercise!

Valentine's Day Fine Motor Spin and Cover PinValentine's Day Fine Motor Spin and Cover Pin

I hope some of these ideas help fill your February with sweet smiling faces!

Sign up below to get the Valentine's Day Fine Motor Skills Task Box. If you are on a mobile device and can't see the sign up form, try switching to "web view" at the very bottom of your screen. When you sign up you will get a confirmation email with a link to the resource. Check your spam folder, but if you can't find the email, feel free to drop me a note at susan@myhappyplaceteaching.com and I will get you signed up manually. Thanks!


Owl Babies by Martin Waddell: Lesson Ideas and Activities

Owl Babies Craft Idea: Painting with Pom Poms

Owl Babies by Martin Waddell (illustrated by Patrick Benson) is an adorable read-aloud that fits perfectly into an owl theme! This book also works well for an animal mothers and babies unit or if you are dealing with separation anxiety in your classroom. Here in this post (which contains a few Amazon affiliate links) I've collected some ideas to help you build lesson plans around this sweet book.

Summary

Owl Babies, which is beautifully illustrated by Patrick Benson using watercolors with black ink crosshatching, tells a story about three baby owls (Sarah, Percy, and Bill) who wake to find that their mother is not home. As the three young owls wait anxiously in the dark woods, they talk each other in and out of worried feelings. The story ends with the babies flapping and dancing and jumping up and down at their mother's return. This book is a quick read with just over 300 words, but it is packed with teaching opportunities!

Before Reading

Because this story is great for making connections, I would recommend accessing prior knowledge before reading. To focus on personal, or text-to-self, connections, you might begin like this, "Owl Babies is a story about three young owls who are missing their mother and wondering when she will come home. Can you think of a time when you were away from the person who usually takes care of you and you felt worried or unhappy?" This type of question is great for a short "turn and talk" time so each child has the opportunity to speak. Have the children think quietly for a moment and then turn to their neighbor to take turns sharing. After each child has had a chance to share with their partner, pull the group back together and call on a few pairs to share with the group.

If you are learning about owls or about animals and their offspring, you might prefer to access prior knowledge about those themes. If you've read nonfiction about owls, you might say, "This story is about three young owls who wake up at night and find that their mother is not home. What do you know about owls that might help us explain why the babies are up at night and where their mother might be?" For an animal babies theme, you might say, "Owl Babies tells the story of three young owls and their mother. What are some things that you think might be different about baby owls and adult owls?"

During Reading

Everyone has their own read-aloud style--some like to hold the book facing the children so they can absorb the pictures while listening to the words. Other read a page and then show the picture (to force the children to visualize). Some like to stop on each page and talk about the pictures and details or to ask comprehension questions while other like to read straight through and then go back for a closer look. You know your style and what works best for your kiddos, so I will just supply you with some teaching points and questions that might be helpful to you during this read-aloud!

The illustrations in Owl Babies give a lot of support to the story. Benson has done a beautiful job of showing emotion in the faces and postures of the owls. When you get to the page where the three owls are sitting in different spots in the tree, you might want to stop and let the children figure out which owl is which. Knowing that Sarah is the biggest and Bill is the littlest adds a depth to these characters. As you go through the book, draw attention to the owl's feelings: How do you think they are feeling here? What detail do you see that make you think that?

The page where the owls close their eyes and wish for their mother is a great place to stop to make a prediction. Have the children close their eyes and imagine what might happen next.


Owl Babies Comprehension Questions for Critical Thinking


After Reading


Here are some comprehension questions that push children to find evidence in the text, access their prior knowledge, and think critically:

-How does the mother owl take care of her babies? (Evidence in the text: the nest description at the beginning, discussion about mother bringing back mice)

-What dangers might owls face in the woods? (Evidence in the text: "Or a fox got her!")

-Why were the owls awake at night? (Connect to prior knowledge of nocturnal animals or to an informational read-aloud)

-Why did Sarah think all three owls should sit on her branch? (Inference: She felt they would be safer together or she was frightened and wanted her siblings close to her...)

-What are some differences between the mother owl and her babies? (Mother has brown feathers, babies have white down; mother hunts for food, babies stay at home; mother can fly, babies cannot fly yet)

-If you were one of the baby owls in this story, what would you have done when you found your mother was not home? (Use information from the book and personal experience to create an alternate plot.)

-Do you think it was a good idea for the baby owls to leave their hole and wait on the branches? Or should they have stayed inside? (Analyze and evaluate the story.)


Owl Babies Writing Prompts

Extension Ideas

Owl babies lends itself to many written response ideas. Here are a few prompts you might want to use with your class:

Narrative Writing - The owl babies had to be brave when their mother wasn't home. Draw and write about a time when you were brave.

Informative Writing - The owl babies were worried when their mother wasn't home. Draw and write about some ways that owl mothers care for their babies.

Opinion Writing - The owl babies were awake at night. Would you rather be awake at night or during the day? Draw and write to tell why.


Your students' writing would make a great bulletin board display when paired with this cute owl baby art project!

Owl Babies Painting Craft, Art Project

For this project you will need: black and brown construction paper, white paint (tempera works well), a clothespin and a craft pom pom (per child painting at the same time), something to hold the paint (a jar lid or paper plate work well), glue, a black crayon (or marker), a white crayon, a pencil, something round to trace for eyes (such as: a milk jug cap, a round attribute block, or a template that you cut out of a file folder)

Here are the steps:

1. Have the children write their name using a white crayon on the back of their paper.

2. Model and have students draw a large oval on their paper. This oval should take up most of the paper. You can have them draw the oval with pencil first and then trace over it with white crayon so they can see it better.

For the painting stage, each child will need access to a small amount of white paint. A little goes a long way in this project and you can always replenish if they need more.

3. Have the students clip their clothespin to their pom pom. Model dipping the pompom into the paint and then dabbing it onto the paint tray (or plate) before dabbing it onto their oval. Show the students the difference between the feathery look of just a little paint and the globby look of too much paint.

4. The students should then fill their entire oval with dabs (or dots) of white paint. This is great finger exercise!

Set the paintings aside to dry while working on the next steps.

5. Give each child a small piece of brown paper (half of a 9"x12" sheet gives them plenty with room for error) and have them trace two circles for eyes. Have them cut the eyes out and use a black crayon or marker to color a black circle in the middle.

6. Show the students how they can easily cut a triangle by snipping in twice from the edge of their paper. Have them snip three triangles --one for the beak and two for the feet.

7. Once the paint is dry, have the students glue their eyes, beak, and feet onto their owls.

(Note: If you wash the pom poms out while the paint is still wet, you can reuse them for other art projects.)

Acting and Dramatic Play

Another way to extend learning with Owl Babies is through acting out. Since this story is very simple and only has four characters and one setting, it is perfect for retelling through dramatization. In groups of four, children can retell the story by acting out each part. This is a great way to reinforce beginning, middle, and end concepts and to practice vocabulary (like swooped, flapped, and bounced).

Incorporating Technology

After reading this story your students may be interested in learning more about owls. The Cornell Lab's All About Birds Online Guide is a reliable place to view pictures and videos of owls and to listen to their calls. I'm not sure what type of owls are represented in Owl Babies, but they look like they could be barred owls

While you're online, here's a short clip from youtube of author Martin Waddell discussing how he came up with the idea for Owl Babies



I hope you find these Owl Babies ideas useful! You might also be interested in these owl resources:

Owl Puzzles Literacy Centers     Bats and Owls Informational Unit

Happy teaching!


8 Engaging Activities for Your Spiders Unit

Spiders Ideas for Kindergarten and First Grade

A spiders unit in a kindergarten or first grade classroom is always a hit! It's a great theme for October because it has lots of educational value, but also fits in nicely with Halloween. In this post, I've compiled eight of my favorite spider-related activities to help you blend science and fun with literacy and math! All of these activities go well with lots of informational reading about spiders. There's also a great Magic School Bus episode (Spins a Web) that is full of interesting information. This post contains affiliate links.

1. Make a Paper Plate Craft

Spiderweb Paper Plate Craft

This craft is always a hit; using black paper plates and spider rings from the dollar store makes it cheap. First, teach students to draw a spider web. I have them start with an X and then draw a third line horizontally through the middle. Teach them to make two concentric rings of gently curved lines to finish the web. Pass out scratch paper (or chalkboards or whiteboards) and let your students have a little practice time with drawing webs. (They tend to love this!)

Prep ahead of time by cutting the ring part off of your spider rings. Pass out paper plates (I use black, but any color will do!)  and have the students write their names on the back and then draw a web on the front of their plate with a white crayon or a pencil. Next, have them trace their web with white glue. If you have an assistant or parent volunteer, you might have them work with the kids on this step in small groups or one-on-one (depending on how much experience your class had had with glue bottles). If not, try to find a time where you can pull them back (even if you only get to a few a day).

Once the webs have been traced with glue, have the kids sprinkle glitter or baking soda (corn starch would probably work well, too) over the glue. A shaker jar like this works well and if you keep baking soda in one, you can also use it as a cleaner for getting stubborn marks off of tables. After shaking off the excess, have the students squeeze a dollop of glue onto their web in the place they want to stick their spider and then gently press the spider down. Then let the web dry undisturbed overnight.

These webs make a great display along with some spider writing, which brings me to our next activity!

2. Make a Can/Have/Are Chart

Spiders Can Have Are Chart

As you read and learn about spiders with your class, work together to fill in a Can/Have/Are chart with them. This framework for organizing facts is a great lead-in to informational sentence writing for beginning writers! You can find informational text and these chart headers in my Spiders Unit on TPT, but you can also make a chart like this to go along with books from the library or your own collection.

Once you have a chart full of spider facts, show students how they can use the information on the chart to write (or dictate) sentences about spiders.

3. Make a Simple Math Craft

Spider Math Craft

This simple math craft reinforces number sense while also exercising little fingers and developing fine motor skills! Prepare ahead by using a die cut machine to cut out a number eight for each of your students. Also pre-cut eight strips of paper (legs) for each student. These strips should be five or six inches long and 1/2 to 3/4 inch wide. (Depending on the size of your eights, you might want to make the legs bigger or smaller. Use any colors that you like!

I start this activity with a little math and movement exercise. Have the children hold up four fingers on each hand. Together, raise one hand and say "four," then repeat with the other hand. Finally, model putting your inner wrists together and wiggling your eight fingers to make a spider while saying "eight." Repeat this a few times, "four, four, eight," adding in the words plus and equal if you're students are at that level in math.

For the craft, have the students accordion fold each of their eight legs and glue them to the back of the eight so they are sticking out to the sides. Tie this into their knowledge of spiders by helping them recognize that the eight has two sections, just as a spider has two body parts. Finally have them add eyes. (You can use self-stick googly eyes, eye stickers, tiny dot stickers, or simply have students draw the eyes with crayon or marker.) This would be a good time to talk about how spiders often have eight eyes, but sometimes have six or fewer--always an even number!

4. Use Nursery Rhymes

Write the words to "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" and/or "Little Miss Muffet" on chart paper. Use these rhymes for shared reading and to look for and recognize phonemic patterns and rules. To add to the fun, hot glue a spider from a spider ring to an unsharpened pencil or dowel rod to make a spider pointer!

5. Make a Spider Graph

Spider Graphing Freebie

Use this freebie from my TPT store to have your students graph whether or not they are afraid of spiders. This can be a fun activity to do before you start your spider unit. You can then make a new graph when you finish learning about spiders and compare the data!

6. Make a Spider Snack

Ingredients: round crackers or cookies, spreadable nut butter, cream cheese, or frosting, pretzel sticks, raisins or chocolate chips or mini-M&Ms

Spider Snack


Making a snack is a meaningful way for students to practice following directions and helps students build background knowledge. This simple snack involves spreading something sticky on a round cookie or cracker, adding pretzel sticks for legs, and raisins or little candies for eyes. If you want to be more scientifically accurate with your students, you can have them overlap two crackers, attaching them with your spread, to show the two body parts of a spider.

7. Write Spider Rhymes and Chants

Spider Chant, Using Rhymes and Poetry to Teach About Spiders

Chants and rhymes hold an important part in children's play, so integrating them into our teaching helps us reach our students in a developmentally-appropriate way. The image above shows a simple chant inspired by the jump rope rhyme, "Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear." Children can recite this while jumping rope, or can use it as a hand-clapping rhyme (great for crossing the midline and developing hand-eye coordination!). 

Try working with your students to make simple rhymes or chants about spiders. This type of language play helps children develop their sense of rhyme and rhythm and helps them hear and isolate syllables and sounds.

Other songs and rhymes you might want to use for inspiration are, "Five Little Ducks" or "Five Green and Speckled Frogs." 

8. Explore Genres by Reading and Writing Fictional Spider Stories

Fictional read-alouds about spiders can inspire great discussions. Children can compare how spiders are portrayed in fantasy stories versus informational books.

Miss Spider's Tea Party by David Kirk, The Spider and the Fly by Mary Howitt, and various versions of Anansi the Spider folktales are some of the read-alouds I like to include.

Allowing students time for creative writing and drawing about spiders helps them synthesize their new knowledge while stretching their imaginations. Consider having them invent and draw their own spider characters, assigning them names and characteristics. They can then build stories around these characters that they can write, dictate, or tell orally.


I hope this post brings some fresh ideas to your spiders unit! I'd love it if you'd drop some of your own ideas in the comments below!

For more spider learning, check out these resources at My Happy Place on TPT:

Spiders Unit: Science, Math, and Literacy        Spiders Fiction and Non-Fiction



Open House Bulletin Board Craft for Kindergarten

School's First Day of School Craft for Open House Bulletin Board

Need an easy (and free!) idea for a bulletin board craft for open house? The beginning of the year in kindergarten can be exhausting and chaotic which sometimes means that parent night (or open house or curriculum night) can sneak up on you! This free printable template goes along with one of my favorite back-to-school read-alouds, School's First Day of School by Adam Rex (affiliate link).

(Read more about this book and other fantastic beginning of the year read-alouds in this post.)

Told from the point of view of a freshly built elementary school, School's First Day of School beautifully works through so many of the concerns and emotions children might have as they begin school. If you read this book a few days into the new school year, it can facilitate a really great discussion about what the children expected their first day of school to be like compared to what happened in reality. You can then follow up with this relatively simple craft. (We all know that nothing is really THAT simple at the beginning of kindergarten, though, so I'm including some ideas to adapt this craft to meet the needs of your class.)

The free printable template for this craft includes two pages: A school building outline to color and cut out and a background page to glue the school building onto. The final product is a school with doors that open to reveal a drawing of the student.

School's First Day of School Craft for Open House Bulletin Board

Printing options:

Print both pages on white paper. Have the students color the school building before cutting it out.
(This requires a lot of coloring. Children with low hand strength may find this tiring which may result in a less-polished looking end result.)

Another idea is to print the background page on white paper, but the school building on colored paper. Students can still color portions of the school building, but do not need to color the whole thing in order for it to look complete. Consider copying the building onto a variety of different colors of paper and letting the children choose their favorite. This can make for a bright and colorful display!

School's First Day of School Craft for Open House Bulletin Board

Teacher tips:

You will definitely want to do this project in steps with a lot of guidance. I suggest first modeling how to complete the background page by writing your name and drawing a picture of yourself in the white box. At this time, show the class a completed sample, so they will understand that their picture has to be contained in the box so it won't be covered by the building.

After they finish the background page, set those aside. (You may even want to do the rest of the project later, in a different session.) Pass out the school building page and guide the children to write the name of your school in the box above the door. Assist as needed--some children may need to trace this--consider writing the school name with highlighter for those who would benefit from a tracing guide. Then allow the children to color the school.

Next, model cutting the building out on the thick outline followed by cutting the T-shaped door lines. Watch for children who are over-zealous in their cutting and have your patience and scotch tape ready! The children will probably need some help in folding the door open. It is best to open the doors before gluing the two parts of the craft together so the doors don't accidentally get glued shut.

Finally, how the students how to put glue on the gray-shaded portion of the background page (glue sticks are useful for this part), Help as necessary in placing the building on the background, lining it up so the doors open over the child's drawing.

School's First Day of School Craft for Open House Bulletin Board

If you'd like to give this project a try, you can download the printable for free, right here. You can find the book School's First Day of School on Amazon by following this affiliate link. Thanks for reading!

DIY Highlighter Strips for Literacy Centers

DIY Highlighter Strips from Page Dividers - Big Books, Charts

If you've been hanging onto big books, chart poems, and old anchor charts, but aren't quite sure how to use them with your students, this simple idea is just for you! When you're out shopping for school supplies, grab some plastic page dividers (I used these, but rather than ordering online, look for deals in stores. You should be able to get them for a dollar or two a pack during back-to-school time!)

These multi-colored translucent plastic dividers are easy to cut with scissors or a paper cutter into a variety of sizes to make these useful highlighter strips! To make the strips, measure the text height in a few of your big books and on your charts and then cut strips in a variety of lengths and colors. (Think about what you might want to ask students to highlight: words, letters, blends, digraphs, punctuation, etc.) Store the strips in a shallow basket or container so students can look for and select the strips that are the size they need.

DIY Highlighter Strips out of Plastic Page Dividers

To use these strips, have your students lay a big book or chart flat on a table or the carpet. Challenge them to find certain words (letters, patterns, etc.) that you have been focusing on in your shared reading or small group instruction. You can give the students a list of items to look for, or you can have them refer to your word wall or class-created anchor charts.

Hint: If you use removable highlighter tape during your shared reading activities, your students will know just what to do with these strips. Wikki Stix are another way to isolate words and letters on a vertical page or chart.

Another way students can use these highlighter strips during literacy centers is to play a simple partner game. This works best with a big book or poem that you've already read together. Have the students take turns highlighting a word for their partner to read. Teach the students to check for accuracy using strategies you've already taught (letter sounds, blending, re-reading the sentence to check the context...).

These DIY highlighter strips made from plastic dividers will add some fun and purpose to a simple read the room center in your early childhood classroom. Preschool, kindergarten, and first grade students will all enjoy and benefit from using this simple tool!

While you're in the DIY frame of mind, you might want to check out this DIY Math Toolkit post.

If you are interested in the poem in the photos above, check out this post all about apples! (The poem is from my Apples Thematic Unit).