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100 Educational Pumpkin Activities

100 Educational Pumpkin Activities
It’s fall and that means it’s time for… pumpkin everything. Pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin bread, visiting the pumpkin patch, carving pumpkins, and more. Since pumpkins are already all around you, why not make them a part of your lesson plans too? We’ve rounded up 100 activities you can use to bring pumpkins into the classroom.

Math

  1. Bring a set of pumpkins into the classroom and have students order the pumpkins from smallest to largest by size, stem height, weight, or another attribute.
  2. Give each student a pumpkin and have students measure the pumpkin. How tall is it? How wide is it? What is its diameter? How much does it weigh? Practice estimation skills by having students how much it will weigh before they weigh it.
  3. Use a balance to compare the weight of a pumpkin to other objects in the classroom. For example, how many counting bears does it take to equal the weight of the pumpkin?
  4. Practice counting skills by counting pumpkins. You can count the number of pumpkins you see at the pumpkin patch or bring in small pumpkin candies for children to count and group.
  5. Sing the “Five Little Pumpkins” song (“Five little pumpkins sitting on a gate, the first one said, ‘Oh my, it’s getting late…’”)
  6. Most pumpkins have seeds inside. Place students in groups and give each group a small pumpkin. Cut open the pumpkins and have students count the number of seeds inside. Then each group can add their results to a graph. Practice estimation skills by having students predict how many seeds they will find before they look in the pumpkin.
  7. Make a pumpkin seeds counting book. Wash and dry pumpkin seeds and have students glue the correct number of seeds to each page of a counting book. You can also use dried pumpkin parts to make a book about the life cycle of a pumpkin.
  8. Did you know that the largest pumpkin ever grown weighed over 2,000 pounds? Research the largest pumpkins in history, compare their characteristics, or create a graph to see how much they would have to grow a day to reach that size.
  9. Turn a pumpkin into a geoboard. Add push pins to the pumpkin and stretch rubber bands around the pins to make different shapes.
  10. Bake a pumpkin pie (or something else with pumpkin in it) or make a no-bake pumpkin recipe to help students work on measuring and reading directions.
  11. Make a shape-o-lantern. Cut out different shapes (circles, triangles, rectangles, etc.) in different colors of construction paper and have students glue them together to make their own shape-o-lantern.
  12. Play an online pumpkin math game, such as Farmer Fred’s Pumpkin Patch or Pumpkin Multiples.
  13. Determine how much a pumpkin will cost by setting a price per weight, weighing a pumpkin, and determining the final total.
  14. Find two sets of three pumpkins that are nearly identical in size and color. Make a grid on a large piece of cardboard or by placing tape on the ground and play a game of pumpkin tic-tac-toe.

Science

  1. Study the life cycle of a pumpkin. How does a pumpkin grow from a seed to a full-grown pumpkin?
  2. Create a diagram of a pumpkin and label the different parts (stem, seed, vine, etc.)
  3. Conduct a pumpkin investigation. Have students analyze the pumpkin and describe the outside, the inside, how many seeds it has, how many lines it has, and other important features.
  4. Discover what happens to a pumpkin when you drop it from different heights. Does it break apart more when dropped from higher heights? What factors cause it to break apart or stay together?
  5. Use candy pumpkins and toothpicks to create bridges and other amazing structures. Talk with students about what makes one structure sturdier than others.
  6. Get a large tub of water and predict whether a pumpkin will sink or float. Place it in the water and see what it does. Try different sizes, shapes, and varieties of pumpkins. You could also empty out a pumpkin or poke holes in it to see if that changes the results.
  7. How long does it take a pumpkin to decompose? Place a piece of pumpkin into a container of dirt and regular monitor it. How long does it take the pumpkin to completely disappear?
  8. Monitor a rotting pumpkin by having students keep a pumpkin outdoors. Have students regularly go outside to observe the pumpkin. In a journal, students can draw a picture of the pumpkin and write a brief description.
  9. Grow a plant inside a pumpkin. Open it up and leave some of the guts inside, add some soil and a few plant seeds, and wait for your plant to sprout. Discuss with students what elements of the pumpkin might help a plant grow inside it.
  10. Create a pumpkin elevator. Challenge students to build a structure they can use to lift a heavy pumpkin. Reward students who can lift the heaviest pumpkin and lift a pumpkin the highest.
  11. Make a pumpkin volcano. Scoop out a pumpkin, put in some baking soda, add a bit of vinegar, and watch the pumpkin erupt. To make it more fun, add a few small holes for the foam to seep out of.
  12. Roast some pumpkin seeds with students. Have them look at the seeds before they are roasted and after they are roasted and note how they change.
  13. Dissolve candy pumpkins in different liquids (water, oil, vinegar, and soda). See how long it takes the pumpkin to completely dissolve.
  14. Empty a pumpkin, light a candle, and put it inside. Then put the lid on the pumpkin. Talk to students about why the candle goes out. Carve the pumpkin, light a candle, and put it inside. Talk to students about why the candle stays lit.

Language Arts

  1. Write an acrostic using the word PUMPKIN. Have students come up with a word or sentence related to pumpkins for each letter.
  2. How many words can you make from the letters in the word PUMPKIN? Challenge students to come up with as many words as possible. To make it easier you could add another word, such as PUMPKIN PATCH or PUMPKIN PIE.
  3. Have students draw and write a description of the ultimate jack-o-lantern. How big would it be? How would they decorate it?
  4. If a pumpkin could talk, what would it say? Have students write a short story about a talking pumpkin.
  5. Read a fiction book about pumpkins. Good books to start with include Spookley the Square Pumpkin and Too Many Pumpkins.
  6. Have students look at the inside and outside of the pumpkin and describe both with adjectives. Is it slimy on the inside? Bumpy on the outside?
  7. Create a recipe for a sweet treat using pumpkins or pumpkin candy. Students’ recipes could be something they could actually try to make or something crazy.
  8. Write pumpkin metaphors and similes, where students compare themselves or other objects to a pumpkin. For example, I am like a pumpkin because sometimes I feel bumpy.
  9. Write a poem on a pumpkin. Give each student a pumpkin and a permanent marker and let them write poems about fall or pumpkins right on the outside of the pumpkin.
  10. Create an advertisement for a pumpkin. Have students try to persuade others to buy their pumpkins (or pumpkins from their pumpkin patch) by creating a poster to advertise them or create a make-believe commercial.
  11. Research the largest pumpkins in history, pumpkin festivals around the world, or another element related to pumpkins and write an informational report.
  12. Organize nouns related to pumpkins based on whether they are a person, place, or thing. For example, “farmer (person), pumpkin patch (place), seed (thing).”
  13. Learn vocabulary words related to a pumpkin patch. Some words include: vine, seed, tractor, pulp, tendril, hay, pick.
  14. Write the letters of the alphabet around the edge of a construction paper pumpkin. Call out a letter of the alphabet. Using a hole punch or dot marker, have students find and mark the letter.

Social Studies

  1. Visit a pumpkin patch and talk about the role the pumpkin patch plays in your community.
  2. Create a map that shows how to get to a local pumpkin patch or have students create a map after they visit the pumpkin patch. Students can also follow a map through a corn maze at the pumpkin patch.
  3. Discuss with students the path a pumpkin takes to get from a seed to a pumpkin pie on the dinner table.
  4. Did you know that 90% of pumpkins grown in the United States come from a 90-mile radius around Peoria, Illinois? Do some research on the state of Illinois and its pumpkin crop.
  5. Do some research to figure out the top 5-10 pumpkin producing countries in the world.
  6. Decorate pumpkins to represent different flags of the world or different states in the United States.
  7. Paint a world globe onto a pumpkin. Use it to talk about concepts such as the equator, longitude, and latitude.
  8. Why do people put out jack-o-lanterns on Halloween? Do some research to figure out the reason behind the tradition.
  9. How have pumpkins been used throughout history? Have each student find one use and write a report on it.
  10. Eat pumpkin like the Native Americans by cutting it and roasting it over a fire.
  11. Read the book The Pumpkin People and talk about different personalities and types of people that exist in the world.
  12. Play a game of pumpkin trivia. Put together a set of historical questions about pumpkins and see how much students know.

Music

  1. Sing the song “5 Little Pumpkins.”
  2. Sing the “I’m a Little Pumpkin” song to the tune of “I’m a Little Teapot.” (I’m a little pumpkin, orange and round)
  3. Use two paper plates taped together with beans inside and painted orange to create pumpkin tambourines.
  4. Use soft mallets to tap on pumpkins and see what sounds they make. Do they make different sounds once they have been cut open?
  5. Replace the black dots on music notes with tiny pumpkin pictures on a silly tune about fall or Halloween for beginning learners to play.
  6. Make up a clapping or stomping rhythm as kids spell out the word pumpkin.
  7. Fill a plastic tube with dried pumpkin seeds to make a musical shaker.
  8. Play a game of musical pass the pumpkin. Have students stand in a circle and pass around the pumpkin while music plays. Whoever is holding the pumpkin when the music stops is out.
  9. Say a rhyme such as “Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater” while having students clap along. Try to say the rhyme faster and slower.
  10. Have students make up a pumpkin dance, a dance that they think a big, round pumpkin might do or a dance they can do while holding a pumpkin.
  11. Play students part of the soundtrack from “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” and talk about the different sounds you hear.
  12. Sing the song “Where is Thumbkin?” but insert pumpkin and pull out a pumpkin or two as you say the lines.

Physical Education

  1. Play a game of PUMPKIN instead of HORSE. Students shoot baskets and try to avoid getting the letters in “PUMPKIN,” earning one letter for each missed shot.
  2. Set up a hopscotch game using construction paper cutouts of pumpkins instead of squares.
  3. Create a pumpkin workout where each letter of the word PUMPKIN stands for a different activity. For example, “P” could stand for 10 push ups.
  4. Hold a pumpkin rolling challenge. Give each student a pumpkin to roll from one end of the room to the other. See who can roll his/her pumpkin first.
  5. Hold a pumpkin lifting challenge. See which student can lift the heaviest pumpkin or carry the most pumpkins at once.
  6. Play a game of “Steal from the Pumpkin Patch.” Give each student two flags to hang out of their pockets and have students try to steal the other team’s pumpkin from the patch without getting their flags stolen.
  7. Play a round of pumpkin bowling. Set up empty soda bottles and roll a pumpkin to try and knock them down.
  8. Follow the pumpkin path by laying down construction paper pumpkins around the room. Challenge students to walk around the room by only stepping on the pumpkins.
  9. Have students try to walk around the room while balancing a pumpkin on their heads.
  10. Pass a pumpkin around the room, but don’t let students use their hands. A smaller pumpkin works best for this game.
  11. Go on a walk through a pumpkin patch.
  12. Play pumpkin ring toss and have students try to land a cardboard ring on a pumpkin’s stem.
  13. Hold a pumpkin relay race, where students must race while holding a pumpkin, and pass the pumpkin to a different team member at certain points in the race.
  14. Have a pumpkin toss. Let two students toss a small pumpkin back and forth. With each successful toss, they take a step back. The pair of students who toss the pumpkin back and forth the longest win.

Art

  1. Get out the finger paints and let students paint their pumpkins however they want.
  2. Use yarn or string and have students wrap their pumpkins to create fun designs.
  3. Blow up an orange balloon and wrap it in yarn coated in glue. Once the glue dries, pop the balloon and remove it. Add a stem and leaf to complete the pumpkin.
  4. Cut an apple in half, dip it in orange paint, and stamp it on paper. Add faces and stems to create pumpkin faces.
  5. Tear up pieces of orange tissue paper or construction paper. Have students glue them onto a pumpkin shape.
  6. Remove and dry the seeds from a pumpkin. Have students glue the seeds to construction paper to create patterns or fun pictures.
  7. Place a piece of construction paper on a pumpkin paper and rub a crayon on it to create a fun pumpkin rubbing.
  8. Make construction paper pumpkins with a variety of different faces which will also help students learn about emotions.
  9. Cut out construction paper shapes and tape them to pumpkins to make different pumpkin animals.
  10. Cut strips of orange paper and arrange them to create a pumpkin shape (gluing them at the top and bottom of the pumpkin. Add a construction paper stem and leaf.
  11. Make a thumbprint pumpkin patch, by having students put orange thumbprints on a piece of paper, and then drawing in stems and leaves.
  12. Sponge paint a white paper plate with orange paint. Add a construction paper stem and let students draw or glue on construction paper shapes to make a face.
  13. Practice mixing red and yellow paint to make orange, and then use the orange paint to paint a picture of a pumpkin.
  14. Glue googly eyes and stems onto orange pom poms to make a pom pom pumpkin patch.
  15. Have students make construction paper pumpkins and cut out pictures from magazines to glue on for the facial features.
  16. Have students make a fence out of construction paper strips and glue on five construction paper pumpkins to accompany the song “Five Little Pumpkins.”
  17. Have students create a square pumpkin to go along with the story Spookley the Square Pumpkin.
  18. Paint rocks orange and paint on faces with black paint to make small jack-o-lanterns.
  19. Make pumpkin sculptures by stacking pumpkins in unique ways and gluing them together with hot glue (used with teacher supervision).
  20. Let kids use a hammer and a nail or a drill (with supervision) to make holes in a pumpkin. Add a candle to see how the light shines through.

Have more pumpkin ideas? We’d love to hear them. Share them in comments. Visit Help Teaching for more fun fall activities and printables. Happy Fall from Help Teaching!

5 Parent Tips for a Successful School Conference


Parent-teacher conferences can make parents, students, and even veteran teachers feel like they are on pins and needles. As parents, we want our children to be successful and happy. We love to hear about their accomplishments and it can be challenging to accept feedback on areas needing improvement. Developing a strong partnership with your children’s teachers is essential to ensuring academic progress. Enter your next parent-teacher conference prepared, with an open mind, and ready to collaborate with these five tips.

Involve Your Child

While some teachers invite students to sit in on parent meetings and some schools have moved to student-led models, many still offer traditional parent-teacher only conferences. Yet, this doesn’t mean your child shouldn’t be part of the conversation. After all, the meeting is about her success! Chances are your child will have some apprehension and curiosity about what goes on during the meeting. Alleviate the stress by talking with her beforehand. Ask your child if there is anything she would like you to share with the teacher. Maybe there is something she has enjoyed about being in class that the teacher would appreciate hearing. Or, if there is a concern she isn’t comfortable voicing on her own, this is an opportunity to bring it up. This is also a good chance to look over student work together. After the conference, reassure your child that you and her teacher as working as a team to help her succeed. Emphasize the positives that came out of the meeting as well as share any strategies that will be implemented going forward.

Do Your Homework

Your child has been working away at school and doing her homework. The teacher has pulled together student work samples, gathered data, and discussed your child’s progress with other teachers and specialists involved in her education. Now, it is your time to prepare for parent-teacher conferences! Start by looking over some of your child’s work. Read a writing sample. Try a few of the math questions from the last test. Develop a solid sense of the work your child is doing.

Next, write a list of questions you want to ask during the conference. The teacher may answer many of your questions during the natural progression of the meeting, but having a checklist will help prevent you from wishing you had remembered to ask about something. Some questions to consider include:

  • Is my child performing at grade level?
  • Is my child making sufficient academic progress?
  • Where does my child sit?
  • How is my child’s individualized education plan (IEP) being followed?
  • Do you have any concerns about my child’s social-emotional development?
  • How much time should my child spend on homework?
  • What can I do at home to better support my child’s learning?
  • Does my child show strong interest in any topic or subject?
  • Is there anything I should share with next year’s teacher?

Finally, jot down about what you would like to share about your child with her teacher. Perhaps your child is passionate about a particular sport or book series. Sharing this information may help the teacher better connect with the student. If there are changes in the home environment or medical concerns that may impact your child’s performance at school, let the teacher know. Include information from last year’s teacher on strategies that helped your child succeed in class.

Respect Time Limits

Whether your conference time is set for ten minutes or thirty minutes, be mindful of time limitations.  Show up ten minutes before your allotted meeting time. Use that time to look over your prepared questions. Spend a few minutes admiring the student work displayed in the hallway. During the conference, the teacher will most likely have an agenda and keep the conversation moving forward. If a topic comes up that needs to be discussed in more detail, make a note, but allow the conversation to progress. While discussing your child’s academic progress is the purpose of having a parent-teacher conference, it should not be at the expense of another family’s conference time. When you reach the end of your time, leave things on a positive note and exit the room. Doing so allows the teacher to make her own notes about the conference, prepare for the next meeting, and keeps things running on schedule.

Have a Conversation

A parent-teacher conference should be a conversation rather than a confrontation. Both of you share a common goal, the academic success and well-being of your child.  View the meeting as a collaborative session between teammates. Like any productive conversat5 Tips for a Successful School Conference Listion, a good conference should involve both participants listening and speaking. The teacher will most likely lead the flow of the conversation. Listen actively to what the teacher says. Take notes that you can refer to later and record actions items that you need to follow through on after the conference ends. Ask questions and share information about your child where they naturally fit in the conversation. Towards the end of the conference, read through the notes you prepared ahead of time and bring up any items that were not mentioned. Don’t forgot to discuss anything your child asked you to share with her teacher!

Make a Plan

The final couple minutes of the conference should be spent developing an action plan for how you and the teacher will best support your child going forward. This may include scheduling a follow-up meeting to further discuss anything that came up during the conference which couldn’t be fully covered in the allotted time. Review the things that you and the teacher will do to support your child as well as any expectations that need to be communicated with your child. Make sure you know the best method of contacting the teacher and determine a timeframe for when you will next check-in on your child’s progress.

Family engagement is vital to student success. Your parent-teacher conference attendance shows your child that you care about them and what goes on at school, as well as opens a dialog with the teacher. Share your tips on how to have a successful conference in the comments.

If you enjoyed this article, read 7 Tips for Learning with Kids. HelpTeaching.com also offers free, printable study skills worksheets to help promote effective learning strategies.

A to Z: The Best Books for Teens

A to Z: The Best Books for Teens
Step into the young adult section of your local library or bookstore and you’ll find hundreds, if not thousands, of books written just for teens. From paranormal romance and dystopian tales to stories of identity and social justice, there are plenty of options. The problem is, most teens aren’t reading them. To help teens wade through the masses, we’ve rounded up some of our top picks.

How’d we choose the books on our list? We looked for books that were exciting, books that teens could connect with emotionally, books that told about real-life teens, and books that would encourage teens to think a little deeper about the world. Some are fun, some are serious, and all are great reads.

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang is a graphic novel that focuses on Jin Wang, a Chinese-American student who just wants to be an American boy. It’s a quirky story that deals with identity, disaster, and The Monkey King.

Blubber by Judy Blume is one of those classic novels teens have loved to read for decades. It takes on bullying and asks teens to consider how far is too far when it comes to making fun of someone.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon is a slightly odd, but enjoyable book about a character name
Christopher John Francis Boone. He is intelligent, but very little, and has no real understanding of human emotions. The novel was recently adapted into a Broadway musical.

Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick is one of Amazon’s 100 Young Adult Books to Read in a Lifetime. The book tells the story of Steven, whose younger brother is diagnosed with leukemia, and how he and his family navigate life in the wake of the diagnosis.

The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler has a humorous title, but it takes on very important issues that teens face, such as eating disorders, self-esteem, and rape.

Feed by M.T. Anderson, which is set in the future, imagines what would happen if televisions and computers were implanted into everyone’s brain. Teens will be able to connect many of the novel’s events with today’s focus on technology.

The Gospel According to Larry by Janet Tashjian introduces readers to a teen prophet, Larry. In a humorous way, this book discusses issues of self-identity, popularity, and what it takes to conquer the masses.

Hoops by Walter Dean Myers is a great book for teen boys. It follows Lonnie Jackson who dreams of being a big-time basketball player one day, but must deal with the pressures of life that get in the way.

For a bonus H pick, check out The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas which tells the story of an African-American girl who witnesses the shooting of her childhood best friend.

If I Stay by Gayle Foreman shows a teen standing outside her body and considering her life up until that moment. It’s a powerful story that will encourage teens to consider what makes their lives worth living.

Just as Long as We’re Together by Judy Blume is a story of friendship. Stephanie and Rachel have been friends forever, but their friendship is altered by the addition of a new friend, Alison, and by life changes, but they learn to navigate it all together.

The Kill Order by James Dashner is part of the popular Maze Runner series. This prequel provides teens with a welcome introduction to the events of the series and helps them learn more about Mark, Thomas, and Teresa.

Looking for Alaska by John Green is an award-winning book from one of young adult literature’s hottest authors. This particular story deals with sexuality, fitting in, grief, and controversial life choices.

Monster by Walter Dean Myers is written as a screenplay mixed with journal entries that detail Steve Harmon’s life in prison. Is he really he monster he sees himself as?

New Moon by Stephanie Meyer is part of the infamous Twilight series. Like it or not, many teens love Twilight, so that earned this book a place on our list.

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton is one of those classic novels that every teen, especially teen boys, should read. It tells the story of the Greasers and the Socs and shows how they navigate some of life’s toughest moments.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky is a coming-of-age story that was turned into a major motion picture. It is written as a series of letters from a character named Charlie who must handle a whole host of social and psychological problems.

The Quiet Sky by Joanne Bischof tells the story of two teenagers, one with a fatal illness, who learn major lessons about life and about love.

Romiette and Julio by Sharon Draper takes the classic tale of Romeo and Juliet and sets it in Cincinnati, Ohio. The couple, from two different cultural backgrounds, must fight their families and their friends to maintain their relationship.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson follows Melinda, a formerly popular girl who has become an outcast. Readers will learn a lot about high school, the power of rumors, and what it means to stand up for yourself.

Tears of a Tiger by Sharon Draper is part of the Hazelwood High Trilogy, a series of books about a group of African-American teenagers and the struggles they face. In this book, Andy deals with guilt after his best friend is killed in a drunk-driving accident.

For a bonus T title, check out To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, a story about a teen girl whose high school existence is turned upside down when letters are secretly mailed to her five crushes. It was also made into a movie for Netflix.

Uprising: Three Young Women Caught in the Fire that Changed America by Margaret Peterson Haddix is a historical fiction novel that centers around a fire at the Triangle Waist Company in New York City. The book helps teens learn about the Industrial Revolution and its effects on many different types of Americans.

Very Far Away from Anywhere Else by Ursula K. Le Guin focuses on two friends, Owen and Natalie. Near the end of their senior year in high school. Owen narrates the novel as he figures out what their friendship means and whether he really knows as much as he thinks he does.

WTF by Peter Lerangis is an edgy book that tells of two parties from six different points of view. It’s a high energy, action-packed story that focuses on some of the worst-case scenarios that can happen to real teens.

X: A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon that tells about Malcolm Little’s younger years. The book, which was co-written by Malcolm X’s daughter, helps explain the life decisions that he made before becoming the famed civil rights leader.

YOLO Juliet by Brett Wright and William Shakespeare takes the tale of Romeo and Juliet and puts it into terms teens today can understand. While it may seem a bit crazy, it’s actually a very clever take on classic literature that can help get teens hooked on the Bard.

Zac and Mia by A.J. Betts shares the story of two teens who meet in the pediatric cancer ward of a hospital. Both have very different personalities and perspectives on their illness, which means they each have something to offer the other.

We’re sure many of your favorites didn’t make this list. What do the teens you know love to read? Share them in the comments and encourage teens to pick up a book and get reading this week! Also don’t forget to check our our printable worksheets based on popular young adult novels or create your own literature quizzes using our Test Maker and Online Testing options.

Fun Daily Activities for Earth Science Week

Fun Daily Activities for Earth Science Week (Oct. 13-19). Some contests deadlines are coming up!
Earth Science Week is October 13-19, and it is the perfect time to show our appreciation for our home planet! Each day of the week focuses on specific geoscience-themed celebrations. To help you and your students partake in this year’s events, we have put together a list of activities for each day of Earth Science Week.

Contests

STEM contests and competitions are a fun way to engage students in learning. The American Geosciences Institute offers several contests as part of Earth Science Week. Students in kindergarten through fifth grade may enter a visual arts contest, while an essay contest is open to students in sixth through ninth grade, and a photography contest and a video contest are open to all ages.

International EarthCache Day – Sunday

What better way to kick of Earth Science Week than with a scavenger hunt? EarthCaching is geocaching with a geoscience twist. Gather the kids, their phones or any portable devise with GPS technology, and head outdoors to find some educational treasures.

EarthCaching – An Educator’s Guide
The EarthCaching Educator’s Guide, put out by the Geological Society of America, provides all the background information, tips, and lesson plans required for parents and teachers to get their students started with earthcaching.

EarthCache Listings
Ready to find an earthcache? Consult this searchable list to locate a nearby earthcache.

Earth Science Literacy Day – Monday

Earth Science Literacy Day focuses on the “Big Ideas” that we should all understand about earth science. Start by watching the Big Idea videos by the American Geosciences Institute. Then, why not take the opportunity to hook children on learning about our planet through reading? Below are a few of our favorite fiction books that feature geoscience themes. Most of these books complement Big Idea 6: Life Evolves on Earth and Big Idea 8: Natural Hazards Affect Humans!

Saturday Night at the Dinosaur Stomp by Carol Diggory Shields
Young children will enjoy the creative rhyming and variety of dinosaurs dancing it up at the dinosaur stomp. Adults will enjoy the way geologic time is interwoven throughout this rollicking story.

Dinosaurs Before Dark by Mary Pope Osborne
The beloved Magic Tree House series begins in the prehistoric past with Dinosaurs Before Dark. Early readers that have already started the series can skip the later geo-themed books, Vacation Under the Volcano or Earthquake in the Early Morning.

I Survived the Destruction of Pompeii, AD 79 by Lauren Tarshis
Older elementary students who are fans of adventure and historical fiction will flip through the pages of this story about the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Related books in this series include, I Survived the San Francisco Earthquake, 1906 and I Survived the Joplin Tornado, 2011.

The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
What better way to appreciate what the earth’s surface offers us than to take it away? Middle school readers will want to keep the lights on and find out what happens when the power goes out in the underground city of Ember.

Ashfall by Mike Mullin
High school students who enjoy disaster fiction will be drawn into the post-apocalyptic world of Ashfall. However, in this novel, the force that destroys the earth as we know isn’t aliens or governments, it’s our very own Yellowstone supervolcano.

No Child Left Inside Day – Tuesday

Time to go outside! Geoscience happens outdoors, so take advantage of this day and get your students and children outside with these activities.

Outdoor Education Stations
Coordinate an outdoor geoscience activity with a local earth science organization or setup education stations in your own backyard or school grounds.

Every Kid in a Park
If you teach or know any fourth grade students, take this day to get them signed up for the Every Kid in a Park program. The pass allows all U.S. fourth grade and home-school equivalent students and their families to visit hundreds of national parks, forests, and wildlife refuges for free. Bonus, the pass is good through the end of August, making it the perfect motivational tool for getting outside all year long!

Earth Observation Day – Tuesday

Take advantage of Earth Observation Day by engaging your students in practical applications of Earth Science data. Introduce your students to remote sensing with one of these lessons or activities or connect with a remote sensing scientist. Visit the Earth Observation Day website to get started!

National Fossil Day – Wednesday

If you are fortunate enough to have fossils on-hand for students to examine, then today is the day to do so! If not, don’t worry, students can still participate in National Fossil Day with these activities.

Online Fossil Activities
Take students on an interactive adventure to the past without leaving the classroom with the Fossil Mysteries interactive. View fossils on exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History with the NMNH virtual tour. Explore online paleontology games and activities from the American Museum of Natural History. Try our free Fossils online lesson too.

Art and Photography Contest
Get creative by entering the National Fossil Day Art Content. The winning submission for each age group will be featured on the official National Fossil Day website.

Geoscience for Everyone Day – Thursday

How do we manage our mineral resources? Can we predict natural hazards? Could we survive on Mars? These are all issues geoscientists grapple with on a daily basis. Geoscience for Everyone Day is set aside for students to learn about geoscience careers.

Career Exploration
Allow your student to explore future career paths today. Science Buddies offers a great collection of job overviews and education and training information for those interested in Earth and Environmental Science careers.  PBS’ Dragonfly TV features videos about Real Scientists, including an ocean scientist, meteorologist, marine geologist, and paleontologist.

Geologic Map Day – Friday

Geologic Map Day is dedicated to the important role geologic mapping plays in society. Geologic maps tell us much more than the location of roads and landmarks. Instead, they tell us about the history of the earth below our feet – the types of rocks and their ages, fault lines, and folds, all essential information for land-use planning.

Learn About Geologic Maps
For those unfamiliar with geologic maps, a primer is in order. Start by reading the Geologic Maps site by the US Geological Survey and the National Parks Service, then, explore the One Geology Portal.

Interpret a Geologic Map
Get hands-on and try interpreting a geologic map. Okay, it’s not quite that simple, but there are some excellent tools and lessons available. Start with the Visible Geology interactive, What’s Under My Feet, Geologic Maps and Groundwater, or Geologic Maps & Earthquakes.

International Archaeology Day – Saturday

Earth Science Week wraps up with International Archaeology Day, the perfect opportunity for families to experience the real-world intersection of geoscience and history.

Attend an Archaeology Day Event
The Archaeological Institute of America’s website has an interactive map and searchable database of Archaeology Day events happening around the world. Chances are there is a family-friendly tour, open house, fair, or exhibit near you.

Join a Dig!
Some archaeological sites allow volunteers to join in the dig free of charge. Search for potential volunteer opportunities here. If you and your students can’t participate in a dig, then go virtual with InteractiveDigs.com.

Looking for more ways to learn about planet Earth? Visit HelpTeaching.com and try our free Earth Science printables and lessons.

15 Engaging and Educational Activities for Fall

The words “fall” or “autumn” may bring visions of colorful leaves, falling temperatures, and apple picking, but many students are still lamenting the loss of summer and the beginning of the school year. The fall season is perfect for getting students out of the back-to-school slump and engaging them in themed learning activities that span the curriculum. Whether you are a teacher looking to enliven your fall curriculum or a parent wanting to spend quality time with your children, these activities will help you and your students celebrate the season and hopefully learn something new along the way.

Language Arts Activities

1. Write about Fall. Writing about fall is a great way for students to get back in the habit of writing every day while developing sensory writing skills. Take your students outside and encourage them to write about the sounds and sights of fall. Challenge them to describe the tastes and smells of their favorite fall foods. Use our fall writing prompts, fall haiku, or autumn acrostic to get started.

2. Fall into Reading. Summer reading has passed, but that doesn’t mean that students shouldn’t continue to read throughout fall! Younger students will enjoy autumn-themed picture books like Fall is Not Easy, Leaf Man, and The Little Yellow Leaf. Students of all ages should read at least one piece of literature honoring Hispanic Heritage Month which begins on September 15. Help Teaching offers fall reading resources including this rebus story and fall reading comprehension passages.

Social Studies Activities

3. Recognize Constitution and Citizen Day. The United States Constitution was signed on September 17, 1787. Use this important date in history to discuss civics and citizenship with your students. Get started with these activities for Constitution and Citizen Day.

4. Contemplate Columbus Day. Columbus Day is a federal holiday that doesn’t come without controversy. Take the opportunity to broaden your students’ knowledge of the holiday beyond the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria with one of these Columbus Day activities.

5. Be a Historical Detective. Autumn is harvest time. What better way to celebrate the harvest, than to step back in time and learn about what happened during the first Thanksgiving with this historical interactive by Plimoth Plantation.

Math Activities

6. Measure Earth’s Tilt. The Earth’s 23.5o tilt is largely responsible for the changing seasons and offers a perfect opportunity to connect geometry and measurement concepts with real-world learning.  Elementary students can first learn about measuring angles with protractors then use their new skills to measure shadows on the fall equinox with this lesson. Middle and high school students can further investigate the impacts of Earth’s angular tilt on the seasons with the PBS LearningMedia lesson, Seasons on Earth.

7. Tell a Math Story. Once upon a time there was a lonely even prime number named Two. Math Storytelling Day falls each fall on September 25 and is a great way to combine math and literacy skills. Read a math-themed story to your students or have them write and share their own stories. Find more ideas for Math Storytelling Day in this article on celebrating math holidays.

8. Collect Fall Data. From kindergarten on, today’s math students must learn how to collect, represent, and interpret data. Take advantage the autumn’s offerings and have your students work with real data that comes with the season. Count and graph the number of acorns that fall off an oak tree each week. Plot and track hurricane paths. Measure morning air temperature at the same time each day and calculated changes in temperature over the season. Estimate then measure pumpkin weights. Ask your students to brainstorm ideas of fall data they would like to collect, represent, and interpret!

Science Activities

9. Dispel Student Misconceptions. The seasons are caused by the changing distance of the Earth from the sun. It is the same season everywhere on Earth. These are a couple common misconceptions about the seasons. Take a few minutes to watch ‘Tis the Season for a Reason by the Smithsonian Science Education Center to learn more on student misconceptions about the changing seasons and tips on improving instruction.

10. Learn about the Autumnal Equinox. The official first day of any season is an astronomical event. The autumnal equinox falls around September 22-23 each year and is one of two days a year with almost equal amounts of daylight and darkness. Assign students this self-paced lesson on Solstices and Equinoxes so they can explore the astronomical science behind the changing seasons.

11. Keep a Weather Journal. Recognizing patterns in the natural world is an essential skill for today’s science student. Young students can keep a daily weather journal by drawing pictures of the weather they see each day. Have elementary students make qualitative observations in weather patterns during the fall and draw connections between daily and seasonal changes in temperature. Try our printable on investigating daily temperature changes. Middle school students can take quantitative weather measurements and analyze patterns in data.

12. Observe the Night Sky.  Clear, cool fall nights are ideal for getting children outside to observe the sky. Folklore names each full moon, so make an effort to get out and see the Harvest Moon, the full moon closest to fall equinox. Students can learn about the moon’s surface features before going out, then try to locate maria, highlands, and craters. Be sure to also encourage students to watch one of the fall meteor showers.

General Activities

13. Compose a Fall Song. What sounds do you associate with fall? Maybe you think of rustling leaves, rumbling harvesting machinery, or honking geese migrating. Challenge your students to work in groups to compose original songs featuring the sounds of fall. Encourage them to use not only instruments, but also leaves, acorns, and other natural materials of the season. Use this lesson on parts of a song to help get students started.

14. Go to a Fair. Each fall, farmers and artisans gather at traditional fairs to display their best produce, animals, and creations and to participate in good-natured competition. Take your children and see how large a pumpkin really can grow, watch a livestock show, and see modern and antique agricultural machinery in action. Kick off your trip by having your child complete this lesson on fair vocabulary words.

15. Get Crafty with Nature. Mother nature supplies an abundance of nature materials to create with in the fall. Try one of these nature crafts using pinecones, apples, leaves and other fall finds. Explore our Ultimate Guide to Crafts for Kids for more crafty ideas.

What are your favorite fall learning activities enjoyed by your students and children? Share them in the comments! Be sure to visit Help Teaching and check our library of seasons worksheets.

Top 100 Free Education Sites

Top 100 Free Education Sites of 2017

Since 2013, Help Teaching has brought you our Top 100 Free Education Sites. We’re continually updating our list to provide you with the best resources. Not only can you find the top free sites for teaching math, science, English, and social studies, but we’ve also added some of our favorite computer science and coding sites, language sites, and this year we’ve also added our favorite homeschooling sites.

No time to go through the whole list? Just use “Quick Links” section to jump straight to the section that interests you and bookmark this article for a reference later.

QUICK LINKS:
10 Awesome Sites Lesson Planning Reading Science Arts
Classroom Management Social Studies Writing Math Music
Educating Yourself Health and Safety Educational Games Coding Homeschool
Early Education Education News Homework Help and Study Skills Language Life Skills

10 Awesome Education Sites

Whatever the grade-level or subject area, these websites have something to offer. From high-quality lesson plans to entertaining games and educational videos, they represent some of the best educational websites in existence.

Code.org has gained recognition with its Hour of Code initiative. The website offers free, easy lessons to help kids learn some of the basics of coding. The lessons also help teach critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Google is something most teachers know about, but many haven’t taken the time to explore all of their awesome free resources for education. There are some fun activities too, such as Google Experiments where kids can create all kinds of unique simulations and games online.

FunBrain helps students learn through fun games related to math and reading. They’ll also find books and other entertaining resources.

Scholastic has developed a reputation for its high-quality educational books and materials and its website does not disappoint, offering lesson plans, interactive activities, and articles designed to help teachers and parents.

Gooru helps students take control of their own learning by providing them with information about how they learn best.

Edutopia focuses on helping educators grow. From articles and blogs from those working in the field to informational videos and classroom guides, educators in all areas of education will stay on top of the latest trends and find tips to help them improve.

DIY.org encourages kids to learn new skills. Teachers and parents can challenge them to set goals and complete tasks on the site.

Science Bob gets kids interested in science by providing experiments, research, Q&A, and other info all focused on science.

Teachers Pay Teachers isn’t technically a free site since teachers sell materials. However, there are plenty of free downloads on the site. You may find the perfect free worksheet, lesson lan, or classroom time-filler.

Ted-Ed goes beyond traditional Ted Talks by offering lessons to accompany many of those videos. In addition, you’ll find animated videos and resources for elementary,middle, and high school students too.

Coding

Every day, in classrooms around the world, kids are learning how to code. Coding is a valuable skill that helps teach kids to think logically and develop the critical thinking and reasoning skills they need for our increasingly technological world. These resources offer free coding activities for kids.

Our Top Pick

Code.org is home to the Hour of Code. In just an hour, kids can complete a fun coding game. There are many games to choose from, including those that feature popular characters kids love.

Tynker offers its own free Hour of Code activities and games for kids to enjoy.

CodeCombat is an online, multiplayer game that requires kids to write code to play.

Kodu Game Lab is a visual programming tool that kids can download to create games of their own.

CS Unplugged teaches the principles of coding, but not in the traditional way. The site offers a large selection of offline activities designed to help kids develop these critical thinking skills.

Reading

Find games and activities for early readers, as well as texts for advanced readers, in this collection of high-quality reading websites. In addition to these sites, Help Teaching offers a large collection of public domain and original reading passages organized by grade-level, word count, and Lexile level.

CommonLit contains a wealth of free fiction and non-fiction texts for use in the classroom. Texts are organized by grade-level and theme.

Our Top Pick

Media Literacy Clearinghouse introduces students to a new type of literacy – media literacy. With all of the new technology and messages appearing every day, it’s important for kids to be media literate.

Awesome Stories uses non-traditional reading materials, such as biographies and primary source texts, to get students learning through reading. Students can use the site to help with research and teachers can use the texts as part of lesson plans. Creating an account allows users to access audio versions of many of the titles as well, making it an ideal site for auditory learners and those with learning disabilities.

ReadWriteThink gets students to participate in critical thinking and reading activities through its lesson plans and interactive student resources.

Book Adventure is a free online reading program that provides students with incentives for reading.

Bookopolis is essentially a GoodReads for kids. The site allows students to read reviews written by their peers and helps them find the perfect book.

Writing

Whether students need an outlet for their creative writing or want to brush up on their grammar skills, one of these resources will get the job done.

Our Top Pick

ToonDoo gives kids a place to create their own cartoons and store them online. It features tons of clipart and other artistic effects to make the comics visually appealing.

Voki features animated characters that students can customize and manipulate to speak their words. It’s a great tool to help with creative thinking, writing, and storytelling.

Grammar Bytes tests students’ knowledge of grammar through simple multiple-choice activities and rewards them with cheesy virtual prizes.

Purdue OWL is an online writing lab from Purdue University that provides students, particularly those in high school and college, with everything they need to know about writing a paper, including grammar advice and paper formatting guides.

Social Studies

Teachers can find primary source documents and high-quality lesson plans, as well as discover ways to connect students to history, geography, government, and other areas of social studies online.

Our Top Pick

GeoGuessr tests kids’ geography skills. Using images from Google’s Street View, it plops players down in the middle of the street and asks them to figure out where they are.

National Archives: DocsTeach allows teachers to incorporate primary source documents and other historical texts into a variety of critical thinking and thought-mapping activities. Pre-made activities are also provided. Students can complete the activities online or through the DocsTeach app available for the iPad.

iCivics offers high-quality and engaging games for students to play while they learn about civics. Lesson plans help teachers incorporate the games in the classroom.

Sutori gives students the chance to create free interactive timelines and engage in collaborative learning.

What Was There? allows students to type in any city, state, or country to view an archive of historical photographs and other documents. It’s a unique way to help them learn about history.

Math

Not all websites focus on elementary math skills. While many of these games do work well for elementary-age students, they also offer games and lesson plans for students tackling subjects such as algebra, geometry, and calculus.

Our Top Pick

Math is Fun is full of math resources for kids and teachers. It also includes an illustrated dictionary of math terms to help students understand difficult concepts.

Numberphile features short videos about numbers. They help kids explore complex math topics and make math more fun.

Math Games offers a large collection of math games and questions organized by grade-level and skill. It also includes a progress-tracking feature so teachers and parents can see what kids know.

AAA Math features online interactive math lessons for students in kindergarten through 8th grade.

Yummy Math connects math with the real world through timely news stories and other reading passages.

Math Forum offers online professional development opportunities and other resources to help math teachers improve their skills.

Science

Help students understand science with this collection of videos, games, experiments, and creative science activities.

Our Top Pick

PhET features many engaging simulations to help kids learn difficult concepts in science and math.

Wonderopolis shows kids a wonder of the day, and then gives them a chance to test their knowledge or join in on a discussion related to that wonder. Kids will be surprised by all of the cool facts that they learn and they may spark some interesting discussions in the classroom.

Molecular Workbench contains hundreds of simulations, curriculum models, and assessments designed to improve the teaching of science.

Science Made Simple gives kids science experiment ideas and other science project topics. It also offers help when preparing for a science fair.

The Science Spot offers lesson plans, activities, and student examples from one teacher’s science classroom, as well as daily science trivia challenges and daily science starters.

BioDigital is a human visualization platform that allows students to explore the human body in really cool ways.

For even more science-specific resources, check out the Ultimate Guide to Teaching Science.

Art

Art museums around the world have made it their mission to teach students about art. These websites introduce students to art theory, let them explore classic works of art, and even give them the chance to create art of their own.

Our Top Pick

Artsonia bills itself as the world’s largest kids art museum. All of the artwork has been created by kids and, while the site is free, parents can also purchase products featuring their kids’ artwork.

Artsology helps kids learn to appreciate the arts by providing them with the opportunity to play games, conduct investigations, and explore different forms of art.

NGAKids Art Zone allows kids to explore popular art movements, themes, and artists and offers guides to help teachers as well.

Tate Kids gives kids a chance to explore famous works of art, play art-related games, and even create their own works of art to add to their online gallery.

Music

Encourage kids to think beyond One Direction and their other favorite artists and experience new types of music. Kids can learn about the symphony and classical music or even build their own musical skills by learning through ear training or playing instruments online.

Our Top Pick

Andrew & Polly is an indie children’s music duo that has created a podcast called Ear Snacks designed to help kids learn through music, sound, and unique experiences.

Classics for Kids regularly highlights famous composers and provides teachers with activities to use in the classroom.

KIDiddles has lyrics and audio files for over 2,000 kids songs for music teachers, or any teachers, to use in their classrooms.

Good Ear may not look like an awesome site, but it contains a lot in its simple design. This website provides virtual ear training to help serious student musicians learn to recognize the differences between notes.

Virtual Musical Instruments lets kids play instruments online. Instruments include the guitar, piano, pan flute, drums, and bongos.

Health and Safety

Health and safety are important to kids. Whether kids want to know more about keeping their bodies healthy or staying safe online, these websites have them covered.

Our Top Pick

KidsHealth is the top website for kids to learn about their bodies and their health. It features easy-to-read articles and kid-friendly graphics to help kids learn about a whole host of topics related to health and safety.

CDC BAM! focuses on teaching kids about their bodies. BAM stands for body and mind and all of the resources on the site help kids learn more about their bodies and keeping their minds sharp.

NetSmartzKidz and its sister site, Netsmartz, promotes online safety. Kids and adults can learn all about staying safe online and avoiding dangers such as cyber bullying.

StopBullying.gov helps prevent bullying in all forms by providing teachers, parents, and students with resources to educate them about bullying and let them know what to do when bullying occurs.

PE Central is a physical education teacher’s ultimate resource. It includes lesson plans, assessment ideas, and other resources.

Early Education

Don’t forget about your younger learners too. Many websites, including our own Early Education collection, offer games and activities designed to help toddlers and preschoolers build their basic skills.

Our Top Pick

Preschool Express is full of crafts, activities, bulletin board designs, and finger plays for early education teachers and parents to use with kids.

Starfall promotes beginning reading and number skills with fun stories and activities.

Funbrain Jr. brings the fun and quality of Funbrain to a younger audience with its early learning games.

Songs for Teaching offers a large selection of fun songs to help teach preschool students.

Super Simple Learning’s resource section includes free flashcards, coloring pages, worksheets, and other resources for children, teachers, and parents.

Educational Games

Kids love to play games online. Why not encourage the practice by introducing them to some fun educational games websites? They’ll have fun and you’ll know they’re learning.

Our Top Pick
Arcademic Skill Builders offers a series of racing games for kids focused on math and ELA skills. Best of all, many of the games are multiplayer so kids can create rooms and play against their friends.

Quizalize lets teachers turn content into fun quiz games for students. It’s free to create quizzes, but teachers can also buy inexpensive quizzes from other teachers in the marketplace.

Cool Math Games is the ultimate site for kids who want to play math-oriented games. These arcade-style games are a lot of fun and many accompany the lessons found on the site.

Primary Games has a lot of educational games for kids to play mixed in with some “just for fun” games too. All of the games are kid-friendly.

Games for Change gets kids thinking about problem-solving and social issues by providing them with unique games to play. Many of the games help kids solve world problems or introduce them to social issues.

Educational News

It’s important to keep up with the news. These websites cover the latest education news and also provide kid-friendly news sites to use with students.

Our Top Pick
Education World’s main page highlights the latest news in the world of education, including interesting research and controversy.

Education Week publishes a weekly newspaper all about education. Its website highlights many of those stories so you can access them for free.

Smithsonian TweenTribune features unique news stories for kids. Stories are organized by Lexile level and cover topics related to kids’ interests.

Time for Kids gives students and teachers access to many of the articles from Time for Kids magazine, even if they don’t subscribe. Stories focuses on world news stories and pop culture.

DOGO News promotes “fodder for young minds” by sharing unique news stories, including stories of people doing good around the world.

Educating Yourself

With the introduction of open courseware and TED talks, educating yourself online has never been easier. Find access to actual college courses and learn what you want to know from the experts in the field. At HelpTeaching, we have launched our own line of online K-12 lessons that students can use for self-directed learning.

Our Top Pick
TED features videos and other resources from some of the world’s greatest leaders, innovators, and thinkers. If you want to learn more about a particular field, chances are there’s an expert talking about it.

Khan Academy offers free online courses in a wide variety of subjects. It offers the most content in math, but also has courses in science, economics, test prep, and more.

Open Education Consortium allows you to search for open courses around the world. It also provides news on the open courseware movement.

MIT OpenCourseWare gives you access to courses from one of the nation’s most prestigious colleges.

Coursera helps you find and sign up to take free online courses from some of the world’s top universities and other experts.

Youtube has been around for a long time, but that only supports its awesomeness. You’ll find a lot of video tutorials on everything from fixing a car to learning how to beat a difficult level on Angry Birds. Don’t forget to check out Help Teaching’s YouTube channel with online lessons too.

For more resources, don’t forget to check out the Ultimate Guide to Self-Learning for Kids and the Ultimate Guide to Self-Learning for Teens and Adults.

Homework Help and Study Skills

For general homework questions and help studying for that big test, students should check out this collection of websites. Teachers will also find study skills lessons to go over with students in class.

Our Top Pick

HomeworkSpot provides students with links, resources, games, and reference materials to help them build their skills and complete their homework.

Fact Monster Homework Center connects kids with reference materials and tools to help them successfully complete their homework.

Shmoop offers homework help, literature guides, and a ton of other resources for students. The site’s writers incorporate a lot of humor in their writing too, making the site incredibly entertaining.

Howtostudy.org features articles on different study skills and test-taking strategies. There’s even a subject-based “How to Write” section to help students learn how to write all kinds of informational texts.

Don’t forget Help Teaching’s Study Skills and Strategies worksheets either!

Lesson Planning

Lesson planning can be time consuming, but with high-quality pre-created lesson plans, lesson plan templates, and a place to store their lesson plans, teachers can simplify the process.

Our Top Pick

The Differentiator provides teachers with lesson plan ideas to help them incorporate higher-order thinking skills, change up the products students create, and add to the resources they use. This helps ensure teachers aren’t presenting the same lessons all the time and that they reach students in many different ways.

ShareMyLesson offers lesson plans and other resources shared by teachers, educators, and educational companies around the world.

Classroom Management

If teachers want students to learn, they must have good classroom management. These resources help keep students in control and encourage behavior that promotes learning.

Our Top Pick

ClassDojo is a classroom management system that allows teachers to set goals for students, track their progress, and reward them for that progress. Parents can also access reports to see how their children are doing.

Remind gives teachers a free, easy, and safe way to share important information with parents and students via text message. All phone numbers are kept private and parents must opt-in to receive messages.

BouncyBalls is an online game where the noise level makes the balls bounce. The more balls bouncing, the noisier the classroom is, reminding students to quiet down and focus on their work.

NEA Classroom Management offers a classroom management survival guide, as well as articles and resources to help with specific areas of classroom management.

Super Teachers Tools contains free resources such as seating chart makers and countdown timers that can help teachers implement solid classroom management strategies.

Language

Whether students are looking to learn a foreign language or improve their English language skills, these sites are designed to help.

Our Top Pick

Internet Polyglot offers free videos, games, and other resources to help language learners memorize words in a new language. It also offers over 4,000 vocabulary lessons.

Busy Teacher features thousands of articles, worksheets, slideshow presentations, and other resources designed to help English language learners and teachers. All resources are available to view and download for free.

Google Translate is a free translation service provided by Google. You can translate a few words at a time or a whole document. While not 100% accurate, it can be a good place for language learners to start.

Open Culture contains a collection of the best free language learning courses and resources online.

Homeschool

Homeschool curriculum can be expensive. Thankfully, there are plenty of free resources out there to help offset the cost. You’ll also find lots of tips, tricks, and other resources to help make your hoeschooling journey successful.

Our Top Pick

Homeschool.com bills itself as the #1 resource for homeschooling and with good reason. The website is full or articles about homeschooling, local homeschooler groups and even free curriculum and homeschool mom planner.

Beestar offers online elementary math and reading exercises. With a free account, kids can access a set number of free worksheets a day. There are also competitions kids can enter for a small fee.

Brainly gives students a place to ask questions and get answers. Think of it as a moderated Reddit or Yahoo! Answers for kids and teens. Most of the content on the site is free, although some verified answers require a subscription.

CK-12 is a platform that offers free online textbooks and resources for students and teachers. Why pay for curriculum when you can get free, customized resources online?

Hillsdale College provides free online courses to help people learn more about the principles of American democracy and study some of the authors and artists who were part of America’s foundation.

Life Skills

There are some skills that aren’t taught in high school, but they’re extremely important for students to learn. These sites help students gain these essential skills.

Our Top Pick
Practical Money Skills bills itself as a site that offers financial education for everyone. The site includes free articles and learning modules for students, lesson plans for teachers, and a host of fun games, including many related to athletics.

Gen i Revolution offers free personal finance and economics education for students through the form of a game. Students go through real-life scenarios and use the selection of characters and skills available to them to set things right in the financial world of the game.

Everyday Life from GCF Learn Free features multiple interactive tutorials designed to take students through everyday life activities, including work shills and getting around town.

Overcoming Obstacles is a free life skills curriculum for students in grades K-12. Their resources include strategies for teaching social and emotional skills. Teachers and parents must register for a free account to access the curriculum.

For more resources, check out Help Teaching’s selection of free life and money skills worksheets.

Did you favorite sites make the list? If not, share them in the comments. Maybe they’ll make 2019’s list of the 100 Best Free Education Sites. Remember to check out Help Teaching for all of your worksheet and printable needs too.

Time-Saving Tips for Teachers

Time-Saving Tips for TeachersTeachers work a lot. In fact, many teachers work well beyond their contracted hours grading papers, planning lessons, and overseeing extracurricular activities. Add in trying to spend time with a spouse or raise children and it becomes clear that there just aren’t enough hours in the day. For teachers, anything that can save a little time can be life-changing. If you find yourself giving up sleep or foregoing fun activities to get classroom work done, try some of the tips below to gain a little more margin in your life.

Embrace the 40 Hour Workweek

Many teachers have taken on Angela Watson’s 40 Hour Teacher Workweek which focuses on strategies to help keep school at school and allows teachers to spend more time with their families and friends. There’s always a waitlist to join the latest cohort, but you don’t have to officially join the movement to try it out. Look for Facebook groups and blogs from teachers who have taken on the challenge and start by implementing some of their strategies.

Develop Routines 

The more routines you have in place in your classroom and at home, the less time you have to spend planning. For example, maybe you always teacher grammar on Wednesdays or your students spend every Friday brushing up on their math facts. At home, you can plan to eat pizza every Friday or tacos every Tuesday and be sure to always have the ingredients on hand (or a delivery app on your phone) ready to go.

Stop Reinventing the Wheel

While it’s true that every group of students has different needs, that doesn’t mean that you need to write an entirely new curriculum every year. If you have lessons that have consistently worked well, keep using them rather than trying to come up with something fun and new. And remember that you don’t have to have an exciting, fun lesson every day. In fact, spacing out the exciting lessons and filling the time in between with practice opportunities and reinforcement can help improve student retention.

Additionally, don’t feel like you have to create everything yourself. Did you see the perfect rubric or slideshow presentation online? Use it. If you find the perfect resource on TeachersPayTeachers, buy it. You don’t have to feel bad because you didn’t create it yourself. Sites like HelpTeaching.com exist to help teachers save time by providing worksheets, video lessons, and other activities for their classrooms.

Get Digital Assistance

In today’s digital world there are tons of resources designed to save teachers time. You can keep up with an entire class of parents at once by using a service like Remind or quickly log behavior issues (positive and negative) with Class Dojo. There are also numerous Word, Excel, and Google templates designed to make record-keeping easier.

If you teach online for a service like VIPKid or have to keep detailed notes about your students and their performance, consider signing up for a service like Feedback Panda. Their templates make it easy to record student progress, write detailed course notes, and quickly review critical information about students.

Pay Attention to When and What You Grade

How many times have you brought a bag of papers home to grade only to take it back the next day with the papers ungraded? Even when teachers don’t look at the work they bring home, they spend a lot of time thinking about it. If you’re feeling stressed or have other things to get done, just leave the work at school. Then you don’t have to spend time worrying that you should be grading them because it’s not an option. Additionally, try to set due dates for larger assignments at times when you know you’ll be able to get the grading done and don’t be afraid to extend a due date if your week is filling up. Your students likely won’t complain about the extra time to get the work done.

Along with looking at when you grade, think about what you grade. Do you really need to grade every paper? If the students’ quality of work wasn’t up to par, consider chucking the assignment and trying again. If something was just for practice or participation, slap a check mark on it and hand it back, only adding comments if there are serious issues.  If you give a writing assignment, rather than marking every error, provide more general feedback at the end. You can also look for ways to give students feedback on their work in class rather than offering a formal grade or implement peer grading for assignments that carry a lower weight.

Learn to Say No

It’s definitely easier said than done, but knowing your limits and learning how to say no can help you free up time in your schedule. Does a parent want you to tutor a student after school? Maybe you can suggest some resources for the student to review at home instead. Does your principal need someone to chair another committee? Maybe you can suggest a colleague who’d be better suited for the job. Do your kids want you to cart them around to activity after activity? Maybe you can have them choose one activity every 6 weeks or ask their friends’ parents to help carpool so you don’t have to be responsible for drop off and pick up every time.

Take Care of Yourself 

Even though self-care takes time, taking time to take care of yourself can actually add more time to your schedule. When you are tired and stressed, you work at a slower pace and likely don’t think as clearly. Taking a few hours every week to focus on relaxing and recharging can make it easier to get everything on your list done without feeling overwhelmed.

Embrace Imperfection

The problem with Instagram and Pinterest is they can make teachers feel like they have to have the perfect classroom, the perfect lesson, the perfect… everything. At the end of the day, your students and loved ones don’t care if you had a Pinterest-worthy lesson or the most Instagrammable classroom decor. They just want someone who loves and cares about them. So if you don’t have a classroom full of color-coordinated flexible seating, your walls aren’t covered with your professionally designed anchor charts, and you don’t have a Cricut-made t-shirt for every occasion, it’s okay.* That’s probably not what your students will remember anyway.

*And if you can maintain that Pinterest-worthy classroom, have a Cricut-made t-shirt for every occasion, or create anchor charts that show amazing graphic design skill, there’s nothing wrong with that either as long as it doesn’t come at the expense of taking care of you.

5 Development Goals for Teachers to Set for the New School Year

5 Development Goals for TeachersWhether you’re a new teacher entering the classroom for the first time or a veteran teacher with experience to spare, we’re all looking for ways to improve our performance and better serve our students. Setting goals for development before the year begins enables you to track your evolution and share your progress with colleagues.

1. Keep a reflective journal

All teachers grudgingly completed reflections while studying in college and most have long since stopped the practice. Reflecting on a method, assignment, or lesson can do wonders for how you handle a similar situation later in the year or in your career. Even though we think we’ve seen it all, a written account of your thoughts at that precise moment carries more weight than you think.

2. Share best practices

Professional development never gives us enough time to network with colleagues, but sharing best practices can be the best way to develop your talent and skill for teaching. Sharing worksheets, methods, or projects can have an immediate impact on how you deliver your information and how your students respond to it.

3. Observe colleagues

Sometimes you just have to be there. Sitting and watching another teacher deliver a lesson is the best way to see what other methods work and how you can adapt them to fit your style.

4. Use social media for new ideas

Social media isn’t just for sharing your vacation pictures; it can also connect you to teachers and ideas from around the world. Services like Diigo, Classroom 2.0, and TeachAde provide a platform for sharing methods, links, and advice with qualified colleagues.

5. Go for training

With budgets shrinking all over, opportunities for training have decreased, but if you’re offered the chance to spend a day learning new methods or receiving new – and often free – resources, take it! The one day of teaching you miss will be repaid tenfold by the experience and wisdom you gain.

Taking the time to be a better teacher isn’t as hard as it seems. Use these suggestions as a guide to starting the year off on a good note.

5 Rules for the First Day of School

5 Rules for the First Day of School
Typically, it’s the students who receive the rules on the first day of school. However, there are some rules teachers should follow too. Following these rules on the first day of school and throughout the school year can help ensure success.

1. Be Welcoming

Many veteran teachers live by outdated axioms, such as “Don’t smile until Thanksgiving!” and “It’s easier to go from mean to nice than from nice to mean!” While these nuggets of wisdom contain some truth, experience has shown that most students – even those with behavior issues – benefit from a warm, welcoming environment, not one based on obsolete clichés. Greet your students as they come into your classroom. Make them feel comfortable in their new, unfamiliar surroundings. Allow them to take ownership of the setting by referring to it as “our classroom.” A strong presence in the classroom can take back momentum at a moment’s notice, even if you smile at your class before the leaves on the trees change color.

2. Be Specific

Many students won’t remember much of what you say on the first day of school and parents will sign your contract without giving it a second look. Despite those unfortunate truths, it is imperative that you design your syllabus or contract with specific information and properly enforce whatever you distribute to students and parents. If you weigh your grading components differently, break it down on paper. If there are stages to your behavior modification plan, list the steps you will take to correct misbehavior. If you give formal assessments on regular days, create a calendar. These simple steps will keep your students and their parents informed, and serve as evidence should your methods be questioned by an administrator or parent.

3. Be Prepared

Just because it’s the first day of school, it doesn’t mean you should improvise your lesson. Have the entire period planned out with ice breakers, activities, and, yes, even class work. Setting the tone on the first day doesn’t mean being strict and insensitive (see rule #1), but it does mean being consistent and organized. Students will remember if you ended class too early, and that can set a precedent that is hard to shake.

4. Be Collegial

Teachers often share the same students. These teachers likely meet as part of a team or to informally compare notes. If your schedule allows, it would be helpful to make an appearance in your colleague’s classroom during the first few days of school. This is a special show of support for someone whose skills you will rely upon for the next nine months. This united front of solidarity also help students see your educational interdependence. You will know the excuses, explanations, and issues from their other classes and you can use that information to better educate them.

5. Be Ready for Anything

A new school year and new students means a new set of unknowns. Never be surprised when something happens for the first time and always be prepared with a rational response to problems.

Whether it’s your first day of teaching or you’re a veteran of the back to school grind, following these five simple rules can make your first day a walk in the park and set the tone for a prosperous year of learning. Read Back to School Tips for Teachers for more advice on a great start of the new school year.

Back-to-School Tips for Teachers

10 Back-to-School Tips for Teachers

It’s back-to-school time and we know you’re determined to start the year off right. But whether you’re a new or veteran teacher, you still need some time to stop and get back into the back-to-school frame of mind. Armed with these 10 tips, the new school year is bound to be a success.

1. This Year is Not Last Year

Whether your last year of teaching was great or terrible, head into this school year knowing that it will be different. That doesn’t mean that if you had a great year last year, you won’t have a great year this year. It just means you need to look at the year with fresh eyes. You will have different students with different interests and unique personalities. What worked for your students last year may not work this year and ideas that flopped last year may be this year’s biggest successes.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking, “This year will be a breeze. I’ll just use the same lesson plans, same activities and same materials I used last year.” Instead, keep what you did last year as a backup, but go into the school year prepared to start over focused on a new group of students and their individual needs.

2. Get to Know Your Students

It takes time to get to know your students. Plan to spend a lot of time getting to know your students during the first week of school. This involves more than just learning their names. Find out their learning styles, what their interests are, and how they feel about the subject you teach. Create a few short tests or tasks to figure out where students are at so you know where to start the curriculum and to make sure no students are left behind if you’d planned to start much further ahead in the curriculum.

3. Make Students Feel Welcome

As you get to know your students, you should also make them feel welcome in your classroom. If you receive class rosters in advance, welcome students before they even step through your door by sending them a short letter or calling them and letting them know how excited you are to have them in your class. For a smaller class, post students’ names around the room or give students a special gift on the first day of school. Greet every student with a smile and a handshake as they walk in the door and let them know that it is going to be a great year.

4. Communicate with Parents

The beginning of the school year is the perfect time to get parents on your side. You may not have many discipline problems during the first week of school, but you can still make phone calls or send e-mails to parents. During the first two weeks of school, make it a point to contact every student’s parent at least once to share something positive. This will let parents know that you truly care about their children and that not every phone call from the school will be for something bad. Once students get wind that you contact parents for positives, they may be more motivated to behave in the hopes that they get another good phone call home.

5. Set the Tone

The first few days of school are usually a little more relaxed, but they are also important days for teachers to use to set the tone for the rest of the school year. In the midst of ice-breakers and administrative tasks, make sure students are clear about the rules and expectations for your classroom and start following those rules from day one. While you may not want to give homework on the first day, students should also start learning on day one. Plan an activity to introduce students to what you will be teaching and help them understand that learning is the main focus of your classroom.

6. Be Organized

If you are not organized at the beginning of the school year, it will be hard to get organized once the school year begins. Set up any folders, bins and other systems of organization you plan to use during the school year. Figure out how you will take attendance, collect and hand back student work, store extra copies of handouts and organize forms and other professional papers.

You can also get organized digitally. Create folders on your computer for each class period or to hold lesson plans and resources for specific units. Set up accounts for students on any websites you plan to use and make sure you remember your passwords for any accounts you plan to access regularly. Clean up your website and make sure your gradebook is ready to go. If you already have student and parent e-mail addresses, you can also make sure they are easily accessible in the computer.

7. Stock Up on Supplies

Even though students have school supply lists, chances are many of them will forget their supplies. Back-to-school time is the perfect time to stock up on pencils, paper, notebooks, markers and other materials you may need throughout the school year. Many large discount stores offer deep discounts on these items during the weeks leading up to the start of school. While it may seem crazy to buy 100 notebooks or 1000 pencils at once, in the middle of the school year you will love that you do not have to pay full-price to restock these items in your classroom.

8. Get Ahead While You Have Time

The beginning of the school year is the perfect time to get ahead. While you cannot plan detailed lessons before you get to know your students, you can determine the general sequence of what you plan to teach and do some lesson planning in advance. You can also start to fill out the paperwork for a grant you know you’ll want to apply for, and make initial contacts for any field trips you know you are going to take. As you are going through your to-do list or organizing your classroom, if you start to set something aside to do later, stop and ask yourself if there is any part of it you can do now in order to make it easier to finish up later.

9. Ease into It

Don’t throw yourself into the new school year. Instead, ease into it. If you can, gradually start setting your alarm earlier and earlier so it’s not so much of a shock on the first day of school. Instead of rushing to get everything done two or three days before school starts, take a few hours each day a week or two before school starts and get a little bit of prepping done here and there. That large essay or massive homework assignment you want to give students can wait too. Instead of arming yourself with loads of papers to grade the first week of school, give a smaller assignment that you can check in class or have students take online. If students had a summer assignment to complete, check off those who brought it in and then give them a week to polish it, giving you some time to adjust to the new school year before being swamped with projects to grade.

10. Think Positive

Maybe you have to teach seven out of eight periods a day. Maybe you were saddled with multiple preps. Maybe your class roster contains some of the most notorious discipline problems in the school. Maybe your school performed poorly last year and the pressure is on to do well this year. Whatever issues you may face this school year, you must go into the year thinking positive.

Yes, you may have a full load of classes, but you get to influence that many more students. Prepping for multiple classes is hard, but at least you don’t have to teach the same thing all day. Those discipline problems are going to test your patience, but you’re guaranteed not to have a dull moment and maybe you’ll actually turn them around. And those test scores? With your amazing teaching skills, of course they’re going to go up.

You can be organized, have a cabinet full of supplies, and know exactly what to do during the first week of school, but if you have a negative attitude, none of it will matter. Whether this is your first year of teaching or your last year before you get to enjoy retirement, think positive. This school year will be successful and, if it’s not, it’ll be over in around 180 days. Then you’ll get to start again.

You can always ease students into the learning process with Back-to-School worksheets from HelpTeaching.

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