I was inspired by Cult of Pedagogy to keep my classroom a rigorous, engaging, meaningful classroom environment EVEN on the last week of school.

We usually do theme days during the last week. I stuck with the idea of theme days, but put a little more effort into them so that students' time was valued AND I was still able to wrk on packing up my classroom.

One of our theme days was Art Day, and I think it was one of my favorites!!

I decided to do the most structured activity first before students got too fatigued. This is a project that third grade has done for years, so I adopted it from my wonderful teammates!

First, students trace their hand. I modeled to show them how I wanted it to look so that their hand and wrist took up a large amount of space on the page. Next, students created a border of some kind. Then, they decorated the border and their hand. Some designs were realistic, while others were more abstract. Last, they filled in the white space with writing all about third grade: favorite memories, what they learned, what future third graders need to know, etc.

I kept these, and I'll be displaying them when my new third graders and their families come for Sneak Peek in August!

There's ALWAYS a book to match your topic, right?! Both of these books are from my diverse books collection, and I pulled them out to go with Art Day. Both were hits, and were perfect for reviewing those basic reading skills like main idea, character traits, and making connections!

Amazon affiliate links:
Magic Trash
Fancy Party Gowns 

After we read together, students got to do some research on their own. I chose 6 artists that represented diverse backgrounds and that I was also able to find lots of information on using school-provided online resources. Students were given about half an hour to explore and write down any interesting facts that they discovered.

Artists we researched: 
Georgia O'Keefe
Pablo Picasso
Maurice Sendak
Frida Kahlo
Kadir Nelson
Maya Lin

Resources we used: 
BrainPop & BrainPop Junior (subscription required)
PebbleGo (subscription required)
Epic! (free for educators but must create an account)
KidRex (kid-friendly search engine)

At the end of the day, we did some paper engineering inspired by Ashley over at Talkin' PiƱata Teaching.

This activity allowed students to socialize with their friends and explore art while also problem-solving and stretching their creativity.

At the end of the day, students who had finished their paper engineering projects had the option to continue reading and research OR make a thank you card for a staff member.

Like I said, I think Art Day was my favorite. Students had a great time and learned a ton, but I was still able to get lots of end-of-year work done.

It was even better than Movie Day!

Try it out, then let me know how it goes.

Happy teaching!

**This post contains Amazon affiliate links. By purchasing an item from Amazon using these links,  I will receive a small commission on your purchase. I use that commission to keep my blog up and running. Thank you!**

I did it!

I survived my fifth year teaching, and I can genuinely say that I did my best to make every last moment count.

I was totally inspired (and convicted) by The Cult of Pedagogy's article about the last week of school: What To Do On Lame Duck School Days. In her post, Jennifer provides a categorized list of low-prep, medium-prep, and high-prep ideas for the last week of school, standardized testing days, or really any time that you are tempted to show a movie.

Of course, videos have their time and place. And the last day of school - at my school at least - is always "movie day." Jennifer's article got me thinking: How can I do better?

I wanted my students to feel challenged - even on the last day of school - and get excited about learning something new. I wanted them to put into practice all of those skills they mastered throughout the year one last time before the potential summer slide. I wanted my students to have something meaningful to say when their parents asked what they did that day. 

I present to you my twist on movie day. Take it or leave it, tweak it as you see fit.

For morning work, students were asked to work on the K and W sections of the KWL. I had already covered my bulletin boards for the summer, so I decided to put that paper to use. 

I allowed the kids to choose partners, then split the students into 2 groups due to technology constraints. For our first rotations, groups had 20 minutes for each task: making movies and researching movies. 

If you've never used Telestory, download the free app now! It's always a hit. Students laughed all the way through recaps of our favorite books!

We briefly talked about the walk of fame and why people were recognized with starts on the famous street. Students were excited to have a mini walk of fame in our own classroom.

The stars were a sentimental keepsake for students to take home with them. Hello, character trait and adjective practice!

Chatterpix is another class favorite, and it's free too! We use Chatterpix all the time, especially with historical figures in social studies, but we had never done book characters. Students loved making mini movies about their favorite book of the year. 

Notice that both activities were posted on Seesaw, that way parents could see what we were up to on the last day! 

We made time for some game time by playing movie Kahoots. 

As you can see, our KWL chart filled up quite a bit! We even made some time for some short movies  featuring behind the scenes production secrets. Two favorites from YouTube were The Magic of Making Sound (hi, science standards!) and Zootopia: Character Animation (integration of art). 

I have to admit, it was the BEST last day of school I've ever had. Kids were engaged and laughing while practicing academic skills all day long. They learned a lot and were able to make memories with their classmates, and I will still able to work on cleaning my room for the majority of the day.

What do you think? Any other ideas? Share your thoughts in a comment below! 

I've taught economics every year that I've been a teacher. (See my second grade plans here.)

This year, however, I'm teaching third grade, and the standards are much deeper than what I've covered in the past!

First, and foremost...


I'm doing my best to keep my classroom a print-rich environment for my students. I'm trying to keep my personal spending down by using my local public library as a resource. At the start of each new unit, I fill my car (then my bookshelf) with related texts!

Check out my economics finds:

Nonfiction books are always valuable!

These books are fictional, but related!

I found a few books about entrepreneurs who created brands that are popular with kids. (If you use Epic! as a resource, there are a TON on there, like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates!)

Lastly, my favorite find was What Does It Mean to be an Entrepreneur? I'll be purchasing a copy for myself. LOVE IT.

Now for our culminating project:


Essentially, students became entrepreneurs. They had a production budget of $5 and were asked to create a unique homemade product to sell to their classmates. The big event at the end of the project was "Market Day" when all desktop stores were open for business!

Students were encouraged to offer incentives in order to increase demand like a special gift bag...

and free stamping!

As the supply and demand fluctuating, producers had to change their princes in order to increase their profit!

Each students began with $10 (play money), and they were allowed to spend the money that they earned from selling their product.

We had so much FUN and the students learned a lot!

Students were graded using a performance task rubric, which we used as a test grade instead of a pencil and paper test.

I don't currently have any resources to offer you for desktop stores, but if you search "Market Day" on TPT, there are a ton of options that are already out there.

Have fun!!

I was very lucky to get a Donors Choose project funded recently. I titled my project "Diverse Books for Diverse Readers," which I totally copied from my friend Erin over at The Elementary Darling! Erin created a list using suggestions from Vera, who has tons of suggestions over on her blog, The Tutu Teacher. Make sure to check out their posts, and see the list below of books I scored for my classroom!

  • Paiute Princess: The Story of Sarah Winnemucca
  • The Girl Who Could Dance in Outer Space: An Inspirational Tale About Mae Jemison (The Girls Who Could)
  • Fancy Party Gowns: The Story of Fashion Designer Ann Cole Lowe
  • Going Places
  • King for a Day
  • Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker 
  • The Water Princess
  • I Got the Rhythm
  • Beautiful
  • Daniel Finds a Poem 
  • Ron's Big Mission
  • She Persisted Around the World: 13 Women Who Changed History
  • It's Back To School We Go!: First Day Stories from Around The World
  • I Am Enough
  • A Piece of Home
  • Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race
  • Islandborn
  • Malala's Magic Pencil
  • Before She was Harriet 
  • The Legendary Miss Lena Horne 
  • The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist 
  • One Green Apple
  • Firebird
  • Pashmina
  • Ming Goes to School
  • Yo Soy Muslim: A Father's Letter to His Daughter
  • The Quickest Kid in Clarksville
  • Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez 
  • Noodle Magic
  • Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters: An African Tale
  • Last Stop on Market Street
  • Martina the Beautiful Cockroach: A Cuban Folktale
  • Max and the Tag-Along Moon 
  • The Rough-Face Girl 
  • Happy in Our Skin
  • Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story from China
  • The Name Jar
  • Around the World We Go
  • When I Was Eight
  • Those Shoes
  • Looking for Bongo
  • Abuela (English Edition with Spanish Phrases) 
  • My Name Is Yoon
  • I'm Like You, You're Like Me: A Book About Understanding and Appreciating Each Other
  • This Is the Way We Go to School: A Book About Children Around the World 

See my Amazon list for links to many of these diverse books and many of my other favorites! 

Am I missing any of your favorite books featuring diverse characters? Let me know in a comment below so I can add it to my wish list!

Maria Dismondy has done it again!

Her newest release, The Fruit Salad Friend, is just as adorable and touching as the rest of her books. (Trust me - I own them all!)

All of Maria's books aim to teach children lifelong lessons. This one in particular shows kids how to appropriately handle things that may go wrong in a friendship, and how to find "the recipe" for a lasting friendship.

Maria Dismondy and Emily from Third and Hollywood have worked together to provide you with some amazing freebies that you can use along with this book! It's perfect for the beginning of the year or any time your students need a refresher lesson about how to problem solve and speak respectfully to each other.

Click HERE to purchase the book on Amazon (affiliate link).

Click HERE to download the FREE coloring pages.

Click HERE to download the FREE printable reading guide.

Happy reading!!

Hey teacher friends!

I am so excited to show you my new tool for goal setting and data tracking in my classroom.

But first, let's rewind to August.

During the first week of school, students filled out these goal sheets. They wrote in one goal for each category. It made for a gorgeous, colorful, and meaningful bulletin board for the first half of the year! 

A few weeks ago, I pulled my students in small groups to revisit their goals from the beginning of the year. I took them off the bulletin board so we could look at them carefully. They put check marks in the boxes of goal they had achieved, and wrote "not yet" in the boxes that they were still working on.

They loved seeing how many goals they had already achieved, and they loved seeing how their handwriting had changed since the beginning of the year! I encouraged my students to use their slips as bookmarks to be a constant reminder of their goals.

You can grab a few variations of these goal sheets and the #GoalGetters header for FREE right here!

*               *               *              *               *

Since I took our goals off of the bulletin board, I needed something new.

I decided to come up with 8 goals that I want my third graders to meet by the end of the school year, which is only a few months away!

I printed the goals on colored paper to match my classroom, then hung them up on my #GoalGetters board.

When students achieve a goal, they get to put their initials on a label, which I stick on the board. It's a quick and easy was the celebrate with the students, and it serves as a data wall for me. Additionally, it does not draw attention to students who have not yet met goals.

You can find these labels on Amazon here for less than $3.00.

If you decide to try this method, let me know how it goes for you!

I teach in a great area of Metro Atlanta that is a true melting pot. The diversity in my classroom is truly amazing. I have learned so much about other cultures and languages from my students. 

That being said, I can't do Christmas in my classroom anymore, so I thought I'd share an activity that I did a few years ago. 

After Thanksgiving break, I chose Flat Stanley's Christmas Adventure as our read aloud. It's short and sweet, and the kids were thrilled to hear that they would get to take Stanley home!

We were working on letter writing, and I thought it would be a fun way to learn more about my students and differing holiday traditions. It went so well! 

I chose to use two notebooks, since I had 25 students and I didn't have 25 school days until Christmas. Split in half, it took a little over two weeks to get the project done. 

I had a schedule taped inside the notebook, along with instructions and a pocket for Flat Stanley. 
(I had to take Flat Stanley out when I added these notebooks to our classroom library. As you can see from these pictures, these notebooks have been LOVED!)

You can find the introduction/instructions here

I created the first entry to be an example for my students and their parents, then glued it on the first pages in both of the notebooks. 

As I said, it was a HIT and these notebooks are still popular in my classroom library.

You can find templates for the old Stanley on FlatStanleyProject.com and the new Stanley (like I used) at FlatStanleyBooks.com.

You can find the Christmas Adventure book here. The paperback is a STEAL - only $2.88 right now!

Lastly, you can find a writing template for an extension/research activity here.


As you may know, I was "promoted" to third grade this year. Because of that, I'm not using Words Their Way anymore (GASP - shocker, I know!).

My students have a new spelling list each week, and after a few weeks, I realized I HAD to do something to make spelling practice more engaging for them.

I decided to shop with Oriental Trading because they offer a TON of fun alphabet things! I was impressed with the selection and was excited that I could purchase everything in one place.

First, I looked for some letter tiles. I had some plastic tiles that my students loved using at the beginning of the year, but I confiscated them because they made so much noise while other students were trying to read or write. These tiles are colorful and QUIET! They are just thin pieces of cardboard, but I think they'll last a while if my students treat them correctly. Plus, it came with so many pieces, I put many pages aside in storage to pull out later if I need to.

Find the letter tiles here ($6.99 for 2000 letters).

I saw the dough cutters and knew my third graders would go crazy for this spelling bin! I already had plenty of PlayDough in my classroom, so prepping this bin was simple for me and has already proven to be so engaging. I think the rollers are unnecessary but add an extra touch of fun.

Find the alphabet dough cutters here ($5.97 per set) and the rollers here.

These stampers are already a hit! They are quick, colorful, and - here comes that E word again - engaging. The stamps were a little more expensive, but the reviews are good and I'm hoping they'll last me for at least a few years. Also, I figured we could use these stamps for things other than spelling...

Find the stamps here ($9.49 per set).

Stencils are simple, yet I hardly ever see them anymore, so I thought stenciling would be something new for my students to try. The set comes will all sorts of colors and fonts, but each durable page contains every letter, so students only need one page. Simple! The only downside is that the stencils do not fit into my pretty spelling bins!

Find the stencils here ($16.99 for 12).

I pulled out some of my STEM materials for the additional bins. One has popsicle sticks, and the other has pipe cleaners. Although these materials may not be as engaging, they are a little more challenging and work on those motor skills!

I store my word work supplies (along with all of my other Daily 5 materials) in some sort of shelf that is probably older than I am, so I had a hard time finding bins that would fit inside it. After lots of searching, I found these Iris bins on Amazon. I have a couple of other supplies made by Iris, and I love how high-quality they are. I hope these will last me for years!

Obviously I bought the blue ones to match my room... aren't they pretty?!

Grab an 8-pack of the bins here. (Watch the price, though, as it will fluctuate... I snagged the set for $31.68!)

*          *          *          *          *

Please let me know if you do any shopping or add any of these ideas to your spelling routine! Additionally, I'd love to know if you have any other simple, engaging activities that I could add to my routine.

Let me know in a comment below!

DISCLAIMER: Oriental Trading sent these items to me at no cost in exchange for an honest review. THANK YOU, Learn 365! 

Please note that this blog post contains affiliate links. Purchasing through these links comes at no extra cost to you, but I do get a small percentage back that I use for the upkeep of this blog and other School and the City communications.

Yes, even you, upper elementary teachers!

Earlier this month, my third graders took the ITBS. Before the testing week began, I had to completely cover or take down anything "academic" in my classroom that students could possibly glean answers from... even my alphabet.

I decided that since I was taking down the alphabet anyways, it'd be the perfect opportunity for my students to make their own alphabet. I'd seen this done in younger grades before, but never in upper grades, so I spun the idea to make it work in my classroom. I did this by tying it in with our content, involving writing, and using cursive letters.

I just posted an anchor chart with the alphabet written on it. I told students that as they were learning about and researching Georgia, they could add something to the chart if they found a noun that started with one of the letters. (We were studying Georgia habitats AND working on nouns!) I told them that when we filled the alphabet, we would do something exciting.

I explained the task and assigned letters. Students who found words got first dibs on them! Students researched their topics and wrote about it. I displayed their writing underneath the alphabet!

After the writing was completed,
students were given their letter, which I printed on cardstock for durability. They did SUCH a nice job decorating! I could not believe how much time and effort students put into both their writing and pictures. It just goes to show that if you empower and motivate students by giving them choice and a sense of ownership, they'll really do their best work!

I definitely catch myself staring at our beautiful alphabet at least once a day!

You can make your own alphabet, too, with this simple print-and-go kit, that you can find here

To assist you in meeting the needs of your classroom, I gave you the option of a print or cursive alphabet. I also have two different options for the writing page, depending on the age of your students.

If you do allow your class to make their own alphabet, be sure you tag me on Instagram @schoolandthecity... I can't wait to see how yours turns out!