25 Amazing Chrome Extensions Every Teacher Should Use

If you're new to using the Chrome web browser or a veteran user, here's a round-up of 25 Chrome Extensions that will help teachers save time and their sanity.  Rather than make a list, here are some informative videos to get you started with adding these amazing Chrome Extensions.  


Not sure what Chrome Extensions are or how to add them? No problem!  These videos will walk you through the process.  Just open up Chrome and get started!




CHROME EXTENSION ROUND-UP VIDEO #1


In this 20 minute video, you'll be introduced to a variety of powerful and useful extensions every teacher should be using.  The extensions in this video are perfect if you're just now making the switch to Chrome.

Here are the extensions presented:
  • G Suite Training - great for learning everything Google
  • Google Tone - instantly share links with your class
  • Goo.gl - URL shortener
  • Bitly- another URL shortener with more options
  • Print Friendly  PDF - stop wasting paper and ink!
  • Extensity - turn extensions on and off as needed
  • Auto Text Expander - create shortcuts for oft repeated text
  • Awesome Screenshot - more than just a screenshot, lots of options including annotation!





CHROME EXTENSION ROUND-UP VIDEO #2


In this 5 minute video made by a teacher, you'll be introduced to some handy Chrome Extensions that will help you be more productive.

Here are the extensions presented:
  • Save to Google Drive - You know you want to!
  • Eye Dropper - what color is that?
  • One Tab - get those opened tabs organized






CHROME EXTENSION ROUND-UP VIDEO #3


Need even more Chrome Extensions? Then watch this 11-minute video for some more awesome and time-saving Chrome Extensions.

Here are the extensions presented:
  • Click Time - need a timer for your class? Get this one!
  • Google Dictionary - click on any word and instant definition
  • Tab Resize - want side by side tabs open? This will resize and split your screen.
  • Pin it Button - save all those great ideas to Pinterest



CHROME EXTENSION ROUND-UP VIDEO #4


Can it get even more awesome? Yes, it can!  Here are five more incredible Chrome Extensions to add as explained in this 3-minute video.  

Here are the extensions presented:
  • Readability - Get rid of all the things you don't want to read on a page.
  • Tab Cloud - Save all your open tabs as a session to open again later
  • Edpuzzle - Integrate Edpuzzle.com right into Chrome!
  • World Data Finder - Need more statistics and charts? Then this for you.
  • Tab Scissors - Another tab resizer



CHROME EXTENSION ROUND-UP VIDEO #5


This final round-up video will not disappoint.  Take a look at this 9-minute video and add these Chrome Extensions as well.

Here are the extensions presented:
  • Grammarly - Check your grammar and spelling 
  • Tab Glue - Glue all those tabs back together
  • YouTube Adblock - Get rid of those sometimes inappropriate ads on YouTube
  • Kami - Open and Annotate PDFs 
  • Drive Quick Create - Shortcut to create a Google Docs, Slides or Sheets




If those Chrome Extensions aren't enough, make sure you check out the Chrome Web Store accessible from Chrome (or just Google it).

Share your amazing Chrome Extensions for teachers below in the comments!

5 Tools That Will Make Your Students Google Docs Pros

Do your students use Google Docs® for writing and publishing? That's great! But now let's make them a Power User or Pro when working with Google Docs.  


Here are five Pro tools to teach your students so they can increase their efficiency and work when using Google Docs.

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If you're unfamiliar with Google Docs, it is part of Google's free online apps which also include Google Slides and Google Sheets.  Think of it as the web version of Microsoft Office, but with one big difference! It's free!  All you and your students need to get going on using these apps is a Google Account.

I am fortunate to work in a 1:1 district and I have a cart full of Chromebooks.  Each of my students and myself have a district issued Google Account which we use to log into anything Google.  So what are these Pro tools?  I believe that these five tools are often overlooked, underused or teachers and students don't know they exist! 


#1 USE THE DEFINE TOOL



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If your class make up is anything like mine, you will have many English Language Learners, Resource students, and students with limited vocabulary.  In a 1:1 classroom, I can not be everywhere.  So if a student sees a word that is not understood, teach the student to use the Define Tool.  Directly to go to Tools, scroll down to Define.  Then type the word or term in the box.


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Instantly you will get the definition AND synonyms if available.   Get students into the habit of using online dictionaries. Why? I'm here in California.  In our version of the Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBAC), students have the ability to use the built-in glossary when working on the reading portion of the test.  How cool is that! But if you don't use it to your advantage, it's a wasted opportunity to improve your score.  So if you get students into this habit of using online dictionaries or glossaries, it will help them later while increasing their vocabulary.  They're also using technology as a tool, just like they would in college or in the workforce.


#2 USE THE DOCUMENT OUTLINE TOOL



A critical Common Core Standard for English Language Arts in third grade is RI.3.5 which is about using text features.  Headers in an informational piece are crucial and used to locate information more efficiently.  When students use the Document Outline Tool, they create their own headers, and it helps them organize their writing.  At the same time, it's an added bonus that they learn how to use headers and how they are used in not only organizing information but helping the reader to find it.


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While they are making headers, they are also learning basic word processing tools and skills that they will need for college and the workforce.



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#3 USE GOOGLE KEEP TO STORE NOTES AND RESEARCH



How many times do we tell our students now:  cite evidence!  Well, first you have to collect the evidence.  That's where Google Keep is handy.  If you're familiar with EverNote, then you'll be familiar with Google Keep.  They work in similar ways to capture information in one place that can then be accessed at a later time.  But the best part is that you can access your Google Keep notes DIRECTLY from Google Docs.


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As with all Google sites, you will need to already have an account for Google Keep to save your information.  Google Keep is a website (keep.google.com), but you can also add the Google Keep Extension to your Chrome browser.  Click on the extension button anytime to bring up something to save. You can also highlight something and then right-click to bring up a contextual menu to let you save it to Google Keep.


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You can see all your notes and organize them any way your want from the Google Keep website.  The key is to organize your notes by using labels. Create a label around a topic, and then anything you save related to that topic should be given that label.  That way, if you have a multitude of notes, you can search for the notes you need by the label.  Organization skills are valuable skills for college and the workforce.



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How do you access your notes in Google Docs? Very simple! Go to Tools, then scroll down to Keep Notepad.  Now you can just drag text to your document.  It will automatically paste anything in that note, including web links.  But we don't want students to plagiarize! So Google Keep should be used as a research tool to gather information for which the student will rewrite in his/her own words.  This brings up the opportunity to discuss being a good digital citizen, plagiarism, and copyright infringement.


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#4 USE THE VOICE TYPING TOOL



This past year I had two RSP students who really HATED to write.  I also had a few other non-RSP students who felt the same way about writing....even typing!  So that's why you want to use this handy tool with select students.  To access the Voice Typing tool, go to Tools then scroll down to Voice Typing.  You might have to test this feature to see if it actually works on the device the student is using.  Though it worked on my MacBook Pro, sometimes I could not get it to work on the Chromebooks.  You should speak to your Tech Department about how to make sure it will work.


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By the way, a workaround for this is the iPad. If you have access to iPads, all the Google Apps are available for the iPad. iPads have built-in dictation, so all the student has to do is open a new Google Docs, then bring up the keyboard.  On the screen keyboard, click on the microphone key, and it will take dictation. Dictation on the iPad or Chromebook can be tricky as ambient noise can mess things up.  Also, you have to say PERIOD or QUESTION MARK or EXCLAMATION POINT if you want punctuation.  It's a nice feature to have for those students who struggle with just writing or typing.


#5 USE THE PUBLISH TO THE WEB FEATURE



This is not so much a tool as a feature of Google Docs.  With this feature, you can turn any Google Docs document into an online web page.  Why would this be important?  As I discovered when I went 1:1, a lot of my students' writing was not up on our writing wall but stored on their Google Drive. So how is anyone going to see it (especially district officials when they come on their yearly tours)?  So here's a way for anyone to see their published writing that's stored in their Google Drive.


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First, go to File and then scroll down to Publish to the Web.  From there you will be presented with a window to ask how you want it posted (link or embed).  Choose link.

Then, click on Start Publishing.  Then you'll be given the link (which you can store on Google Keep).  You will have to have a Google Slide presentation template already set up to receive the link.


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In Google Slides, you will create a small text box.  You will write a title such as, My Statue of Liberty Opinion Piece or whatever is the title of the writing.  Then you will insert a link in the text box.  This is where you paste in the link you already saved.  Now a student can keep adding text boxes with links to this Google Slide, and it can act as a homepage with links to all their writing.  Much more convenient than retrieving it from their Google Drive.  Even better, create a QR code for a link to the Google Slides presentation.  That way, anyone can scan the QR code with a phone or other device and quickly get to the slide and the links.


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If you can teach your students to use these tools, not only do they become a Power User, but learn valuable tech skills and are becoming prepared for college and the workforce.  If you have a PRO or POWER USE tip, submit it below in the comments!



Think You Know all About California History? Surprise!


Could Southern California have been split off to join the Confederacy during the early part of California's history? Almost!  That's just one surprising fact I learned on my recent road trip with my kids to explore the history of California (and do some sightseeing!).  Since my youngest son is about to start the fourth grade here in California, I wanted to make sure he learned about and saw some important places in California (the fourth-grade history curriculum in California focuses only on California's history).  


California History is an amazing and sad story all at once.  Read about my road trip to Northern California to explore California's History from the original inhabitants to the Gold Rush.


Road Trip to Northern California


We drove to Northern California up Highway 101, which is the original path the Spanish established as El Camino Real (The Royal Road).  It was along this path that the Spanish, early in California's history, built 21 missions and four Presidios (forts).  Our first stop was the San Luis Obispo Mission which was Founded by Father Junípero Serra in 1772 as the fifth mission.  Learning about the Spanish Mission Era is an essential part of the curriculum in fourth grade.


California History is an amazing and sad story all at once.  Read about my road trip to Northern California to explore California's History from the original inhabitants to the Gold Rush.


For us, this was the sixth Spanish mission we have visited.  If you ever visit California, I highly recommend visiting at least one of the missions, including the missions at San Juan Capistrano and Santa Barbara.  They offer a detailed look into life before statehood while the Spanish colonized Alta California.  

Here's another surprising fact about California history.  Who was the President who signed the document to return the missions back to the Catholic Church?  After México became the ruler of Alta California, the missions were either abandoned or sold off.  Believe it or not, it was Abraham Lincoln!  Yes, after California achieved statehood and fought on the side of the Union during the Civil War, Lincoln wanted to actually visit California but was assassinated before he got the chance.  In one of the last documents he signed before his death, he upheld the 1855 decision by the US Land Commission to return the missions to the Catholic Church.


California History is an amazing and sad story all at once.  Read about my road trip to Northern California to explore California's History from the original inhabitants to the Gold Rush.


Capital of Spanish California


Monterey, located on the bay by the same name, was discovered by the Spanish explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo in 1542.  He and other early California explorers mapped California for later expeditions.  Father Serra actually established a mission and presidio in Monterey.  The mission was moved to Carmel, but the Presidio stayed.  Monterey was also the capital of Mexican Alta California.  

California History is an amazing and sad story all at once.  Read about my road trip to Northern California to explore California's History from the original inhabitants to the Gold Rush.


Of course, you can't go to Monterey without visiting the world famous aquarium!  Monterey Bay was important to the Spanish, and later the Russians who started building forts and outposts in California.  Why were the Russians in Alta California?  Sea otter furs!  That is one reason the sea otter almost became extinct in California.  But with the help of the aquarium, their numbers are roaring back! We also visited Cannery Row made famous by the California Pulitzer Prize winner, John Steinbeck, who was born in nearby Salinas, California.  

San Francisco or Boomtown, California!


Did you know that after gold was discovered in California in 1848, San Francisco (originally called Yerba Buena by the Spanish), went from about 800 people in 1847 to 25,000 in 1849!  Talk about unrestricted growth.  But San Francisco has also played many other roles in California History. Did you know that San Francisco is home to the Ellis Island of the west coast?  Yes!  Angel Island, now a California State Park, was the place immigrants from China and many other nations passed through to a new life in the United States.  


California History is an amazing and sad story all at once.  Read about my road trip to Northern California to explore California's History from the original inhabitants to the Gold Rush.



San Francisco is also home to one the four Presidios the Spanish built to control Alta California.  The Presidio is now a national park with lots to see.  Though we didn't visit The Presidio on this visit, we did go to Chinatown, climb all they up Coit Tower and took a bay cruise under the Golden Gate Bridge.  By the way, the Spanish did NOT discover San Francisco Bay during the explorer period, but two hundred years later during the colonization period. Why? Fog of course!  The entrance to the bay was shrouded by fog each time the Spanish initially sailed by it.

California State Capital and Capitol


It was now time to head northwest towards Gold Country and the capital of California, Sacramento.  We stayed in nearby Folsom, which is about 20 minutes east of Sacramento.  This is where I learned something new about California History.


California History is an amazing and sad story all at once.  Read about my road trip to Northern California to explore California's History from the original inhabitants to the Gold Rush.


During a tour of the State Capitol Building, our tour guide had many interesting stories not only about the building but about early California History.  It seems that after California became a state, the two California senators (Gwin and Broderick) who served California before the Civil War, were on opposite sides of the slavery issue!  It had gotten to the point, in which Senator Gwin, who was pro-slavery and a southern sympathizer, thought it a good idea to split the state between the north and the south.  The north would continue as a free state, while the south would allow slavery.  Of course, it never came to fruition though it was surprising to me that this was even considered!  If that doesn't surprise you, then did you know the other Senator from California, Senator Broderick was killed in a duel with the California Chief Justice, David Terry!


California History is an amazing and sad story all at once.  Read about my road trip to Northern California to explore California's History from the original inhabitants to the Gold Rush.


In the State Capitol Building, we were also given a tour of both the Assembly and Senator rooms.  They are completely different.  Surprisingly, they are modeled after the British Parliament.  The State Assembly room is green like the House of Commons, while the State Senate room is red like the House of Lords.  Also, the State Assembly is wired for the digital age with microphones, laptops and electronic voting screens.  The State Senate is a little more formal and does not have an electronic voting screen nor buttons for voting.  A State Assembly Person votes by touching a button on their desk which immediately shows up on the electronic voting screen.  A State Senator still has to vote with Yay or No and someone records the votes.   


California History is an amazing and sad story all at once.  Read about my road trip to Northern California to explore California's History from the original inhabitants to the Gold Rush.


In the State Assembly room hangs a portrait of Abraham Lincoln, who was very popular in California which helped elect him to the presidency.  In the State Senate room, hangs a picture of George Washington (a copy of a famous portrait and the oldest painting hanging in the Capitol building.  There's also a very interesting portrait of Governor Brown.  It is a state law that every California Governor must have his portrait painted after leaving office.  All the portraits hang in the building.  By modern times, the governors broke from tradition, including Governor Brown.  The tour guide said it took five sitting of three hours each for the artist, Don Bachardy, to get this expression.


California History is an amazing and sad story all at once.  Read about my road trip to Northern California to explore California's History from the original inhabitants to the Gold Rush.


By the way, here's another surprising fact about California's move to be split to support slavery.  One of California's earliest governors, John Bigler, later became a Southern sympathizer.  California's deepest lake was named in his honor while he served as governor for two terms.  But with his support for slavery and the South, Lake Bigler was erased from history and renamed Lake Tahoe. Surprise!

The California Gold Rush!


It's 1848 and gold is discovered in California (which had not attained statehood yet until 1850) near Sutter's Mill on the American River.  This area is about 45 minutes east of Sacramento up in the hills in what is the town of Coloma.   Coloma is not a Spanish name but was named after a southern Maidu village.   The Maidu were one of California's earliest inhabitants.


California History is an amazing and sad story all at once.  Read about my road trip to Northern California to explore California's History from the original inhabitants to the Gold Rush.


You can not talk about the Gold Rush without talking about the impact on California's Indians.  When the Spanish arrived in 1542, California was home to about 300,000 California Indians living very differently from each other.  California is divided into four regions:  Coastal, Central Valley, Mountain and Desert Regions.  Based on the region, California's Native Americans lived off the land and its resources.  California's Indians were for the most part hunters and gatherers, except for the desert tribes who were also farmers. 

California History is an amazing and sad story all at once.  Read about my road trip to Northern California to explore California's History from the original inhabitants to the Gold Rush.


When the Spanish began building the missions, they used Indian labor.  It was very much slave labor. The Spanish Mission Era and the Mexican Rancho Era (the time in which México owned California) contributed to the demise of 100,000 California Native Americans.  However, it was the Gold Rush that triggered a genocide of California's Tribes.  

In the first two years of the Gold Rush, over 100,000 California Indians were killed.  The survivors fought back and tried to hang on but with over 100,000 settlers and gold seekers, there was little chance of surviving.  


California History is an amazing and sad story all at once.  Read about my road trip to Northern California to explore California's History from the original inhabitants to the Gold Rush.


"A war of extermination will continue to be waged between the two races until the Indian race becomes extinct." - California Governor Peter H. Burnett, January 1851.

If these are the official words of our elected officials, I believe that we teachers who teach about California History must present these historical facts to our students.  The Gold Rush always invokes a feeling of excitement, but it must also be presented as something more serious for the original inhabitants of California. 

California History is an amazing and sad story all at once.  Read about my road trip to Northern California to explore California's History from the original inhabitants to the Gold Rush.


In Coloma is located California's Marshall Gold Discovery Site State Park. There you will see a replica of the sawmill James Marshall was building for John Sutter.  There are lots of other buildings and artifacts that show who came to find the gold:  there's a Chinese Store, the Chilean Mill, and the Mexican arrastre.  Most people think the mining was done with panning.  Not true.  Hydraulic mining was used in which a high-pressure hose literally tore off mountain tops (can you say strip mining). 



California History is an amazing and sad story all at once.  Read about my road trip to Northern California to explore California's History from the original inhabitants to the Gold Rush.


If you ever go to see this site, don't forget to see the Blacksmith. He will show you his skills and explain how blacksmithing was done back in the Gold Rush days.


California History is an amazing and sad story all at once.  Read about my road trip to Northern California to explore California's History from the original inhabitants to the Gold Rush.

California's Symbols


Finally, one of the most important details I pointed out to my soon to be fourth grader was California's symbols.  From the Golden Poppy to the Roman goddess Minerva, symbols of the state were all over the State Capitol building.  The symbols on the state seal represent all of the histories of California.  Fourth graders learn all about California's symbols as they learn about its history.  


California History is an amazing and sad story all at once.  Read about my road trip to Northern California to explore California's History from the original inhabitants to the Gold Rush.



Check out this Digital Interactive Notebook for Google Slides that helps students research the most iconic of California's symbols.  



https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/California-State-Symbols-Interactive-Digital-Notebook-for-Google-Slides-2937163?utm_source=www.twoboysandadad.com&utm_campaign=BlogCAHistory



The Digital Interactive Notebook for Google Slides is composed of 20 slides.  Students research using the web and video links embedded on the slides.  Students learn when the symbol was adopted, what it symbolizes and interesting facts about the symbols.  They also have an opportunity to write an opinion piece of which symbol best represents California.


If you're interested in more California History, follow my Pinterest Board,



Summer's Here! Reflect, Relax and Most of all Enjoy!

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If you're like me, you just ended another school year.  It's now time to relax, reflect and enjoy this time off.  But wait, let's make one thing clear.  For those of you who don't know, public school teachers ARE NOT PAID during the summer.  It is NOT paid time off.  We just do not work.  Since we don't work, we don't get paid.  Now, that that's out of the way, let's do some reflecting.


Time to Reflect.  What Worked, What Didn't?




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This has been my second full year teaching in a 1:1 classroom.  I learned a lot that first year, which made the second year much easier.  This year, students were able to do a lot more with the technology.  I continued to make and use Interactive Digital Notebooks for Google Slides.  The students learned a great deal about America's landmark and symbols and animal adaptations to name a few.  I also started using Edpuzzle.com, which is a wonderful way to integrate visual media and note-taking and answering questions using videos.  This next year, I'm fine tuning what I did and will probably add some more paperless resources to go along with our curriculum


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The thorn in the side has been writing instruction.  Though I believe I was effective in teaching the students the three genres that they needed to master (expository/explanatory, narrative and opinion), I felt the students actually became confused between the genres.  It was hard to get them out of writing in one genre into another.  They would use writing structures particular to one genre to write in another genre (such as including facts but no opinions or not writing from a narrator perspective when writing narrative).  So next year, I plan to make several anchor charts so students can clearly see structural differences between genre types. I also want to experiment with genre to genre writing in which a student takes a piece of writing written in one genre and transforms it into another type. For example, writing a fairy tale type story and turning it into an opinion piece.


Vacation!



Last year my boys and I did not get to travel anywhere for a vacation.  This year we are planning to take a trip up to Northern California (we live in Southern California).  We will be driving to San Luis Obispo then heading over to Highway 1 (Pacific Coast Highway) to drive up to Big Sur and see some California Redwoods!  From there we will drive to Monterrey, California.  There we will, of course, visit the Monterrey Bay Aquarium.


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Then we will head north to San Francisco.  In the City by the Bay, we will ride cable cars, visit Ghiradelli's and Fisherman's Wharf, drive across the Golden Gate Bridge and visit the San Francisco Presidio and Golden Gate Park.

Our next stop is the state Capital, Sacramento.  We hope to take a tour of the state house while also taking a day trip over to Coloma and Placerville to see Sutter's Mill, where gold was discovered.  From there it's back home.


Relax and do Some Window Shopping!  So Many Updates!!!



If you haven't visited my Teachers Pay Teachers store recently, please do.  I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at all the updates to my resources.  Over 25 resources have been updated.  Some have been major, while some just needed a face-lift.  Click on THIS LINK to see all the updates, or click individually below.

Here are some highlights of the English Language Arts resources updates:


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  1. Hot Seat!  Major update with a whole new look.  I've added character description printables for each of the characters included (20 fairy tale characters).  Each Hot Seat character card has more information and instructions for use are included.
  2. 4 Character Trait Activities. Major update with a whole new look.  The Character Trait Printables have been expanded and included activities such as Photo Booth, Play Date, Character Text Chat, and Riddle Me This!
  3. Point of View Comparisons PowerPoint. Major update with a whole new look.  Expanded with photos and new sound effects. The included printables have also been expanded with new activities to examine point of view.
  4. Point of View Examining Perspectives.  Major update with a whole new look.  Added more printables and non-color versions of posters.  Also added comparing and contrasting printables.
  5. All of the ELA games have now been updated to include non-color versions for non-color printing.  They've also gotten a whole new "wooden game board" look!

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Here are some highlights of the Math resources updates:

  1. Multiplication Tic-Tac-Toe.  Big update with updated look.  Also added some more resources such as QR codes to help your students master those multiplication facts.
  2. The Concept of Multiplication PowerPoint.  Major update with all new look expanded lessons and an added lesson using number lines to multiply.  Lots more printables added!
  3. Geometry Games and Area and Perimeter Games.  These math games have been updated with non-color versions for easier printing as well as, a whole new "wooden game board" look.

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Plan Ahead for Next Year!



If you're a teacher, you're already planning for next year.  Take a look at these resources for Back to School.  I developed these resources as not only fun activities to get to know the students, but also as a way to gauge student abilities at the beginning of the year. Can students cut? Color? Follow directions? Listen to a story and retell it?  Write a description of themselves?  With these resources which have undergone updates and expansion, you'll get this and more!

The Diary of a Back to School Kid is a book students make during the first week of school.  They fill it with the rules, procedures, ideas, and some memories.  There's even a parent page for parents to ask questions.  I like having the students make this book because it helps them remember all the information given to them at the beginning of the year.  Use it as a resource all year long!


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A Fine, Fine School Literature Support Pages is a companion pack designed to support the introduction and teaching of the Common Core Standards for Literature. This is a funny story of how a principal keeps adding days to the school year until the students have to come every day of the year!  The printables help the students identify the central message of the story, infer answers to some questions about the story, analyze the main characters and more.

I use the Back to School iPortraits as a get-to-know-you activity during those first weeks of school. Students get to know each other better using the student's character traits.  Each student has to identify a positive, negative and neutral character traits about himself/herself.  Students also draw a selfie portrait.  The template has the appearance of a tablet and can make a great project to send home, leave out at Back to School Night or even an Open House project.  This resource has been significantly expanded to now include more tablet templates such as, Who's That Cute Baby, 
Put Yourself in the Spotlight, If My Life Were a Movie and My Favorite Vacation Book to name a few.

Enjoy Your Break!



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Summer is a time for teachers to recharge and reflect.  I've planned some exciting blog posts this summer so please do come back and check for updates.  Follow my Teachers Pay Teachers store for updates on new resources that are added as well as, updates to existing resources.  Have a great summer!


Fun End of the Year School Activities

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The end of the school year approaches, and it's now time to celebrate and have fun!  State testing on the Smarter Balanced Assessment is complete.  Grading work is complete. Report cards are finished and printed.  The end of the year awards are ready to be handed out. Desks are cleaned out. Textbooks returned.  Bulletin boards cleared.  Materials packed and put away.  What's left to do when you have 6 more days of school left? It's time to have fun!

Over the years, our end of year activities have evolved, and we reward our third graders with many fun activities for all their hard work during the year.

Here's a breakdown of our end of the year activities:

  • Field Trip to San Juan Capistrano Mission
  • Game Day
  • Field Day
  • Pizza Party Picnic and Yearbook Signing
  • Movie and Popcorn

FIELD TRIP


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For the past four years, we have raised enough through fundraisers to take the entire third grade to the San Juan Capistrano Mission in San Juan Capistrano.  Instead of a school bus, we take the Metrolink train!  There is a train station about 5 minutes from the school.  The students and parents meet us at the train station.  From there, we board the train for a one hour ride to the San Juan Capistrano train station.  Once there, we walk about 3 blocks to the mission.


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We spend the entire day at the mission and do not return home until 5:00 pm!  During our visit, we take a docent tour, watch an amazing assembly on Native Americans and participate in an adobe brick making activity!  We also have pizza and chips for lunch, ordered from the local Dominos Pizza.



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GAME DAY


The next day is Game Day!  During the entire morning, students play games with their classmates. Initially, we asked the students to bring a board game from home.  I also had some board games that I would put out as well as, dominoes and puzzles.  But then we made it even better because for the last two years we've also let students bring electronic games from home!  This year we also let the students use the Chromebooks to play online games.  I set up a unique Google Classroom with links to kid-friendly sites with online games.


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If you do this, make sure the students understand that they can only play games that do NOT require an internet connection.  This is because we can not add their devices to our network.  So any App or game used must be a stand-alone App.  Also, we do not allow students to bring cell phones as one of the devices (we don't want them accessing cell service to download Apps or take phone calls!).  They may only bring tablets and DS2 type devices.  They may play alone or share with a friend.  At recess time and lunch times and after Game Day is over, the students leave their devices on my desk with a sticky note with their name on it.  That way, they are secured and kept safe.


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FIELD DAY


Since there are usually three third grade classes, we have three to four activities for the students to participate in during Field Day.  The activities really depend on what P. E. equipment is available.  My school is fortunate in that we have itinerant P. E. teachers who come to our school weekly.  So we have lots of cool P. E. equipment including hockey sticks, cones, portable goalie nets, all kinds of balls, jump ropes, and even more.


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The students rotate between the three to four activities during the morning.  One teacher supervises each activity area.  Depending on the weather (it can be June Gloom cloudy or scorching hot in SoCal), we play all morning until recess.


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PIZZA PICNIC


Even though we are an elementary school, we do have a yearbook.  So each year, we have a pizza picnic out on the lawn outside our classrooms.  The students bring blankets and their cameras.  Instead of eating in the cafeteria that day, we provide them with a picnic of pizza, chips, and juice.   After lunch, they now have time to take pictures and have their yearbook signed by their friends.  Those who do not have a yearbook, have made a memory book that their friends can sign.


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MOVIE DAY AND SNACK


It's the last day of school.  We watch a movie and have some popcorn.  I pick the movie and it is usually WALL-E.  Why that movie?  Because I also teach a unit called "The Future" which is all about the students' future.  What will life be like in 2035?  I show them how technology has progressed from the first phones to cell phones.  How quickly the world is changing.  We talk about what kinds of jobs they may hold in the future (robots will be taking over a lot of them!).  This movie has a timely message about protecting our planet (WE MUST NOT WITHDRAW FROM THE CLIMATE TREATY!!!), and the overreliance on technology.

What are your end of the year activities? Share them in the comments!

Fun Times! Watch Out! Shark Sighting at my School!

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A Great White Shark was spotted at my school recently!  We recently had an interactive science assembly at my school sponsored by our PTO.  The Aquarium of the Pacific, located in Long Beach, California, brought their mobile assembly to the delight of our students.


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The assembly was done in two parts.  The first part was an assembly in our multipurpose room in which we met some marine biologists who recounted their scientific exploration trip around the Pacific Ocean. The presentation focused on animal adaptations, which was perfect for my third graders who had learned that back at the beginning of the year.  The biologists visited Alaska and Palau, before returning to California.  The students were shown videos of the animals encountered on the trips, including the walrus.


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But wait, they brought a walrus with them! Not really, it was an inflatable walrus. But first, the students had to guess which animal it was from the clues the biologists gave.  The biologist gave adaptation clues until the students guessed it was the walrus.  Then, they inflated the walrus.  It is actually life size, and those animals are huge!

When the biologists returned to California, more studying of California's ocean coastal animals, including the Great White Shark.  Did you know these animals have a sixth sense?  The inflatable Great White was also life size!


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The second part of the experience was a 20-minute activity touching tide pool sea creatures brought on their mobile tide pool truck.  It is a specially designed vehicle that holds tide pool tanks, keeping them oxygenated with moving water that simulates a tide pool.


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Students went in in groups of four to dip their hands in the water and touch starfish, anemones and even baby sharks!


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