View Fun Stuff Archive

This "fun stuff" section will be a changing page, offering you games, activities, and ideas to try in your school and classroom. Hope you'll enjoy experimenting!
  • For those of you looking for ideas for displaying student work, here's 5th grade teacher Dana Amaker's room at Webber Elementary School, Eastover, SC in Richland District One. She has created this whimsical display in a corner of her room. Students take pride in their work when they know others will view what they've written. Teachers at this school have all pledged to have their publishing centers up and running after the winter holidays. I can't wait to return to see them!

  • Automatic Clout - I love the name that Sierra Jackson, a super principal at Custer Hill Elementary School in Ft. Riley, KS, has for her school's substitutes. She calls them "guest teachers" rather than substitutes. This gives the substitutes some additional clout and encourages greater respect among the students. Such a simple idea! Hope you'll give it a try in your school.

  • Kindergarten teacher and consultant, Marian Hodge shares, "My class has a lot of fun with Environmental Print. Each child feels so successful when reading it. They also love to use this skill at home. In preparation for our Environmental Print activities, I ask the school's student body to collect samples for us. I give each teacher a bag and tell her that I will come by to collect it in a few days. This way I have plenty of samples in a wide variety. I use the samples to make games like concentration, lotto, bingo and tic-tac-toe. I involve the children by having them participate in making a class scrapbook and individual books."

    For some environmental print samples to get started, you'll love this great web site:

    Click here for blank lotto, bingo and tic-tac-toe boards to use with the environmental print.

  • Brand Name Cards for primary and upper grades activities - Use the website that Marian suggests above ( and download all of the environmental print cards. When you use "Brand Name Phonics," take 3 of the cards (They are pictures of the products.) and tape or glue them to the top of a sheet of copy paper. Make black and white copies for your students. Now when you call out words that they should match to the product names (for example, "smart" would be written under "Wal-martŪ", they'll have neat product pictures as headings. Also, you might shuffle the deck of cards (all have product names on them) and give each cooperative group a card. Set the timer and give them a specified amount of time to come up with all of the words they can make using the rime pattern on the product. The team with the most correct words will be the winners!

  • Tic-Tac-Toe - Barb Hirschy, at Horace Mann Elem. in Huntington, IN, has a quick and easy way to have her students practice the Word Wall words. She has them draw Tic-Tac-Toe grids. Instead of placing X's and O's on the grid, she has them write Word Wall words. Each student works with a different color crayon or pen to clearly identify which player has written which words. So simple, and so much fun!

  • The 911 Rule
    Teacher Jamie Pinckard from Southlawn Elementary in Liberal, KS, has established rules for her Self-Selected Reading conference time. She wears this fireman's hat and tells her students, "Unless it's a 911 emergency, you need to stay in your desk and read during this time!" That way her conference time is far more productive with each student. (I've misplaced this teacher's name. If you are this teacher or you know this teacher, please let me know!)

  • Magic Chewing Gum!
    Teacher Cathy Best from Ripley Primary School in Ripley, TN. has a simple but GREAT idea that has motivated her students during the Writing Block. She gives her students (with permission from parents!) some Magic Chewing Gum to help with their writing. She tells students it helps prevent Writer's Block and helps them to concentrate on their good ideas. She says she's been pretty amazed at how magical the gum really seems to be. If nothing else, it keeps them quiet as they write! Abuses mean losing this priviledge that students truly enjoy. Happy quiet writing!

  • Star Swat
    Never have I had so much fun with teachers in workshops as when I've had them playing this great activity created by Shannon Hardin from Sevierville, TN. This activity can be used for any grade 1-6. You'll need 2 sheets of pastel colored poster board. Use your die-cut machine to make about 24 lightweight card-stock figures for each poster. Shannon used star shapes that were about 4" X 4" (shown above). Glue the figures on the posters and laminate the whole poster. Then, using a transparency marker (permanent or wipe-off), write Word Wall words that your students need to review on each star. Use the same words on both charts, but place them in different positions. Tack up the posters on your classroom wall several feet apart and at a height that your students can reach. Divide your students into two teams and line up the teams in front of the two charts. Provide the first team member in each team with a fly swatter. As you call out one of the WW words, the team member who finds it on his/her chart and swats it first wins a point for that team. (Remember that the same words are on both charts.) Then, the members pass their fly swatters to the next team members. Repeat calling out words until all team members have had a chance or two. The team with the most points wins. Since you can wipe off the Word Wall words on these charts, here are other great options: 1) Use this with math facts. 2) Use this with vocabulary words and definitions from Guided Reading or from content areas. 3) Use this to have students identify rhyming words. Thanks for this fun game, Shannon! Teachers are having a ball with it!

  • Writing Status Chart
    Here's one product of the huge Make-and-Take Session this summer in Liberal, KS. This chart will be used for students to show daily where they are in the writing and publishing cycles. Students' names are written on the popsicle sticks. Students will move their sticks to the pocket that tells what they plan to do that day. (More pictures from this session are shown in the About Cheryl section. Click on Oh, the Places You'll Go!)

  • 2003 / 2004 Grant Winners share their winning ideas with you

  • North Miami Elementary School in Denver, IN, hosted a Wild about Writing Family Night where parents and students shared in many different writing activities. One of their favorites was an activity which involved composing an appropriate caption for an amusing wild animal photograph. They generated plenty of free publicity for next year's event by posting some of the captions and photos near their building entrance. Website contributor, Rhonda Reed, orchestrated this wonderful event.

  • This idea comes from Deena Fuller, a teacher at Southlawn Elementary School in Liberal, Kansas:

    Evaporation - Each cooperative group of kids has one sheet of lined paper and all kids have pencils at their disposal. The teacher stands at the chalkboard and chooses a word from the WW. Students can clap, snap, and stomp the word. Then the teacher writes the word in very large letters in good handwriting. Given a signal, the first kid in each cooperative group writes the word neatly and passes it as quickly as possible to the next student. The kids write and pass the paper as many times as possible, while the teacher and the class sing/hum the song aloud that Jeopardy uses for the "daily double" round. As this is happening, the teacher is very slowly erasing the word on the board, moving the Eraser back and forth along the letters until the word totally "evaporates" and the song stops. At this point, the kids must stop writing. The teacher checks the groups' papers, giving a point for each time the group has the word written legibly and correctly spelled. An extra point can be given for groups that have written very neatly or a point can be deducted if the words are "borderline." Kids love it!

  • This idea comes from Kristen Campbell, a teacher at Southlawn Elementary School in Liberal, Kansas:

    Word Wall Snowball - This activity has to be briskly paced. All students need a piece of paper and a pencil. The teacher calls out a word from the WW. Kids spell the word aloud and write it correctly and legibly on the paper. Then they ball up their papers and throw them snowball-style towards classmates or into the air (whatever you feel is best). Each student scrambles for a snowball, unfolds it and checks the spelling. If the word needs to be corrected, they correct it. Then, the teacher calls out another wall quickly. Students write the new word on the same paper they just checked, and the whole process is repeated-------many times. Fun!

  • New Use For Fortune Tellers - Kay Burgett, a teacher at Custer Hill Elementary School at Ft. Riley, Kansas, shares two great ideas using the fortune teller template in my Handouts section. She used a brightly colored heavy weight paper and made one fortune teller for herself. She put decorative stickers on the panels and special scratch-and-sniff stickers on the inside panels. She uses the fortune teller during her SSR conferences to get students to focus on one literary element as they share with her. They also get to scratch-and-sniff the one they choose! She says it's great, too, for the informal conferences you have with students as you stroll around during SSR.

    Her students love the fortune tellers so much that Kay's making each student one with the heavy weight paper and stickers to carry home this summer! What a wonderful way to encourage them to think about literary elements in their summer reading!

  • Sticky Notes for Sharing Time - Pam Cucco, a teacher at Glenwood Elementary School, Short Hills, New Jersey, shares this great idea, "Sticky notes have worked well for our share chair in first grade. It always bothered me that the audience was less than participatory in the large group share. The kids' focus in my first grade was to get into the chair and read. We developed the following plan. Each member of the audience receives one sticky note. After the author reads his piece, every member of the group has the option to choose one of three ways to share:
    1. "I noticed....." statements are meant to alert the author to the strengths of the piece.
    2. "I was confused......." statements are meant to help the author edit or revise the piece in some way.
    3. "The author's writing reminded me of ...." statements are meant as reminders for the listener to add a skill, craft technique, or entry to his or her personal writing.
    After the sticky notes are written, the author gets the first two sets of sticky note statements and adds them to his writing journal. Next session he reads and acts upon them. The last sets of statements are kept by audience members in their journals. Next session they act on their "prescription".