April Showers Bring May Flowers (and spring fever!)

I don’t know about you, but April always seems to be a crazy month. It is filled with Spring Break, Prep for Testing, Testing and a plethora of other events. We are getting close to the end of the year, but school is not over. Sometimes it is hard to keep my students in that mindset!

I like to change things up at this time and I am sure to add interactive activities. Here are a couple of the ideas coming up in my classroom to try and avoid spring fever!

  • TASK CARD Egg Hunt: Basically regular task cards hidden in eggs around the room!
  • Jenga Review: What a great way to review key concepts with an intense game 🙂
  • Brain Breaks – to break up the monotony! We use dance breaks with baby shark and the cha cha slide. We also play quick games shake it out and Gorilla, Man, Gun!

Something that I have seen other teachers do for test review is a carnival! Check out this youtube video:

What kinds of activities do you do to avoid spring fever?


First Classroom Transformation! – Beach Day

To end our study of the ocean floor and the creatures that lie therein I decided to try a classroom transformation (this is where you make your classroom into a new place i.e. a beach, Jurassic Park, etc). At first I was a bit skeptical, because I had seen things like this done of youtube and on teacher blogs. However, I never thought I would buy into this “madness.” Especially to go through all the work for only one or two days! Ugh!

After trying classroom transformation – I am a firm believer that this brings magic into the classroom and definitely increases student engagement! If you want to see some of the awesome transformations that have inspired some of mine head over to Elementary Shenanigans!

Here’s what I did to transform my room into Isle de OCMS!

First, I told my students to bring a towel on the day of the transformation. I would not tell them why. I just told them to bring a towel. This automatically sparked their interest (Quicknote: if you are ever interested in doing this you may want to specify – BEACH towel or else you end up getting dish towels and so forth).

Next, I gathered all of my beach stuff from my house – beach umbrella, boogie boards, spare beach towels, sand buckets etc.

Then I set out to transform the room. I moved all of my desks behind my back lab table and then set to decorate everything.


On my board I wrote “Welcome to Isle de OCCCMEEESS” and I explained to the students what to do. As they came in I had ocean waves and beach music playing. It is amazing what sound can do to create an ambiance.



Students then traveled around to several beach themed stations to go over information about the ocean floor!

The first station was called BEACHED! – For this station students had to dig in the sand to find different ocean creatures that had washed ashore. They then had to put them back in the zone where they belonged.


The next station was called SEA CREATURE FEATURE. At this station students investigated different sea creatures and had to think of adjectives that would describe them. I had mollusks, sea horses, sea urchins and other preserved creatures for them to look at and feel.


CUP CASTLES was the third stations. This is where students had the opportunity to build sand castles. Each cup had either a word, definition or picture on it. Students had to match the word to its definition and picture in order to build each castle.


Students then had the opportunity to relax on the READING BEACH and read about their chosen sea creature.


The last station was the BOOM GAME. This is an awesome game you can use with any set of task cards. It can be found on Teachers Pay Teachers by Rachel Lynnette  – BOOM GAME FREEBIE!


This was an amazing day for me and my students. They were 100% engaged in the activities, even students who normally cause issues did great! If you are apprehensive, I suggest trying it at least once!! Here are a few pics of my students in action:



Music in the Classroom!

One thing that I noticed (and all my colleagues noticed) was the fact that the moment you walk through the door at RCA it is LOUD. Loud in a very good way. Music is blaring students are on drums and it is an eruption of energy.

In several of the classrooms teachers used music in their lessons and even changed the words to some popular songs and added in their content. 

I have always loved music and singing. I grew up singing solo’s in church, singing in the choir and was even in traveling groups during college. However, actually writing content based songs was a little baffling to me.

I am not sure where I found this information. However, as I was researching where to begin in the process of writing my own songs these are the steps I followed.

  1. Find a song – try looking at Radio Disney for some kid friendly pop songs.
  2. Print out the lyrics.
  3. Pick out the area of concentration – what words, concepts or skills do you want this song to reinforce?
  4. Count the syllables in each line and match the syllables with your content information.
  5. Sing through it to see if it sounds okay.

Here is my first ever song – Ocean Floor to the tune of Thunder by Imagine Dragons!

ocean floor

Ocean Floor Song FREEBIE!

To present this to students you have several options. You can sing acapela (not my forte – my nerves get the best of me). Or you can sing over the original, which I don’t suggest because of the kids singing the normal words. Or you can record your own version.

In order to present this to my students I used the Smule Karaokee App to record my own version of the song. I then played this so that the students could learn the song.

It is posted on my classroom website !

Since this time I have discovered another science teacher who writes songs for his science class – Mr. Parr. He has an entire youtube channel of science songs.

I hope you found some good information in this post that you can use in your own classroom! Until next time!!


Back in October I was fortunate enough to be sent to Ron Clark Academy for professional development. I have wanted to go here for years, so to say I was excited was an understatement. I went to all of my teacher youtube sites and gleaned information about their experience.

Now I know what they mean when they say you have to go there! Wow!

Since I have been back I have been implementing a few of the things that I learned while I was there. Including music, classroom transformations and some technology resources. My students have really noticed a change in me and my energy in the classroom.

My main take-away was getting back to why I began this work – to share my love of learning with students and to make this process fun. I remember being in their shoes and just waiting for a teacher to pull out something spectacular. Sad to say this was a rarity, and that is not what I want for my students!

Over the next few days I am going to post about some of the strategies I am implementing in the classroom. Hope you enjoy!

A “Rock”-ing Autobiography

Recently there has been a push to add more writing in all content areas. Being from an ELA background I have welcomed this with open arms. I love writing and being able to see the creativity of my students through their writing.

We just finished a unit over the rock cycle, and to close our unit I created an assignment. My students had to pretend they were a piece of sand at the bottom of a river and write about how they became a rock and went through the rock cycle. They had an option to write a story or create a comic strip. I am very impressed with what they came up with. I had some stories about the sediment floating by SpongeBob’s pineapple and others about the rock being crushed in Super-Mario.

Here are a couple of examples that I thought really displayed their understanding of the rock cycle!

Story Choice

Comic Choice

If you think you would like to use this in your classroom, I made a downloadable product on TeachersPayTeachers. Just click the picture below:

Rocking Autobiography - Rock Cycle Writing Task


Where do you grade papers?

With the start of a new year comes many new students for this teacher. I thought about it the other day, and for every year I have been teaching the number of students has went up. In China I started with around 60 students, and that went up to 80 in Mississippi. Then my first year back in Georgia it raised up to 100 students. This year I have almost 150. For me it is a huge learning curve in how to grade, what to grade, when to grade, etc.


I came home this weekend with two assignments to grade. One was a quiz, which students self-graded in class. Another was a writing assignment about “What is a Scientist?” I am sure most teachers who grade their papers find a comfy place in their home, perhaps around the kitchen table. However, I am not your typical teacher. This week my papers were graded at the drive-in movies under the light of the moon, meteors, and truck lights. I didn’t get them all done there, but it was nice to be productively relaxing.

SO my question to you is – Where do you grade your papers? Do you take them to exotic locales or stick to home/school?




Independent reading has been something that I have struggled with as an educator. However, this year I am having a break through with my students.

Today was a beautiful day for independent reading. I started my intervention class by announcing the current AR standings (and my classes are leaps and bounds above the others in school #proudreadingteacher). That is when my students erupted and were like “Can I take a test?” “Can I check out a book?” It was a frenzy of excitement. Then we looked at a prezi presentation that talks about the importance of reading. After that students had the opportunity to check out books. They each grabbed three books to preview. I announced to the class to find a comfy place so they could get in the “reading zone.” My students then silently read for 30 minutes!! 30 minutes!! Can you believe it!! At the end of the time they started discussing what page number they were on and what had happened in their book. I even got to read my own book for a few minutes. It was beautiful!!

Later in the day one of my students said, “Are we going to do what we did in intervention again in class?” He was so disappointed when I told him no! Tomorrow my students are bringing in blankets so they can make a comfy place to read. They are literally excited about our reading time. I could not be more thrilled as their reading teacher.

A Field Trip and Farm Animals

Yesterday I had the opportunity to go on my first field trip of the year with my students. It was so much fun. The field trip was an incentive for students who had excellent behavior in December and January. Our first stop on the field trip was the bowling ally. Many of my students had never been bowling before. It was fun teaching them how to bowl and celebrating when they finally scored a strike of a spare!

IMG_20150130_120326 (1)IMG_20150130_114545

After the bowling alley we went to the local mall. The students got to choose what they wanted. A lot of my girls came with me to the chinese place in the food court. We ordered and I spoke Mandarin with the attendant. My students were amazed to say the least.

When we were pleasantly full from lunch a few of us decided to go to build a bear. One of my students started lip-syncing to “Let it Go” They helped me to stuff and wash my build a bear – Olaf. Then we named him William-Olaf-Sullivan after our school. He is now our class mascot!

IMG_20150130_130151 IMG_20150130_130844

~ All in all we had a WONDERFUL field trip!

FARM ANIMALS – This morning my student, who is in 4-h, had a cattle show. Unfortunately I arrived late, but I did get to see him with his cow and his awards. He won first place and I am so proud. Next week he is going to the state competition and I hope he does equally as well.

IMG_20150131_095109 IMG_20150131_094950

So those were just a few of the highlights from another week in Mississippi! It has been exciting and amazing to see my students doing awesome things!


Spring Semester has been a time of many, many breakthroughs for me as an educator. I honestly think that I was in a place of treading water last semester. What I mean by that is, I did not look forward to going to work each day and work felt like work. Now, I have finally come to the place where I am looking forward to going to work each day. Wooowho! (it doesn’t make teaching or managing my classroom any easier at times, but it does make me feel 10x better!)

As I mentioned earlier I have experienced many breakthroughs with my students. We have gotten incredibly close, and some of them call me ‘MA’ – which I equate with Freedom Writers. We have read some Holocaust literature and my students were very empathetic and dove deep into their reading. I was able to get some AMAZING writing from them.

Since spring break (the second week of March) we have been reading The Freedom Writers Diary and each student is required to keep a journal. I thought that this would only be another of my failures to add to my list. Surprisingly my students love their journals. We write about topics we are reading about and they can add their own writing at any time.  The main thing that I keep in mind with journal prompts are the themes we are reading about and how relate-able it is to my students.

A week or so ago we had a journal topic about labels. What labels did people place on Ms. Gruwell and her students? What labels have people placed on you? During our discussion my students were not completely understanding the labels aspect of themselves. So I offered myself up as a guinea pig. I asked them what labels they could place on me. They started listing some personality traits and so forth. I redirected and said, “Okay, I walk into a room and you have never met me.” Silence. “Come on guys, I’m White!” Then one of the most amazing and profound thing happened. A student raised her hand and said, “Nuh-uh, Ms. Caldwell – You’re our color!”

I was and still am speechless. I have went through so much with my students just trying to give them a little taste of my passion for learning. It is nice to see how far we have journeyed! I am looking forward to our final moments of the year as bittersweet as they may be! Until next time…

Dynamic Dioramas

I came back from Chun Jie break to be met with some of the best projects. My students created dioramas and delivered presentations for the different climate zones. I wanted to share some pictures of their amazing work. I am so proud 🙂

Marine West Coast
with white rocks that look like ice because he could not find gray and red redwood trees 🙂
Tropical Wet
Yarn Vines and a cute monkey!
Pyramid with night and day – it can also double as a hat as he demonstrated
Humid Continental
This one had a cute skunk going into a log!