Interactive Notebooks

Interactive Notebooks
Interactive Notebooks



Take the Stress Out of Test Prep

It's my least favorite time of the year. I've taught all my skills and now I need to start reviewing for the BIG test. Ugh! It's a really important time, but it's also too easy to stress out the kiddies. I work hard during this time so that my students can feel a sense of accomplishment and can feel good about themselves when they do well on the test.

I alleviate some of the test pressure by reviewing with games. I love using PowerPoint games to review concepts all year long. These games are powerful. There are so many valuable teachable moments when we play these games. Many of the games I use are in test format so I can discuss test taking strategies while reviewing concepts. My kids love playing in teams and put forth more effort than if I were to give them a worksheet with the same skills.

I've been working on a set of Boot Camp review games that are played similar to Jeopardy. Because I teach in Texas, these review games are centered around the TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills). I want each Boot Camp game to have a narrow focus so that I can focus on a specific set of skills at a time.

If you're interested in giving PowerPoint games a try but aren't sure if they are right for you, click here to download a fully functioning preview file. You'll need PowerPoint or PowerPoint viewer to use the file. Because this is a preview, only the 100 point value questions are available in the demo. The full game can be found in my TpT store.

Another of my favorite review games is to play "trashketball" with task cards. This is a great game that requires very little preparation - just use the task cards you already have on hand. My favorite test prep task cards are these by Schoolhouse Diva. Her STAAR prep materials are fantastic!

If you've never played trashketball, you HAVE to give it a try! Your students will LOVE you for it! You can divide your class into teams, but you don't have to. To play, display a task card on your overhead or data projector and have your students work out the problem on their dry erase boards. Call on a student to give the answer. If the student is correct, he or she gets the opportunity to shoot a ball into your classroom trash can for extra points. This game keeps them totally engaged!

I would love to hear how you keep your students motivated during test prep.

St. Patrick's Day Math

St. Patrick’s Day is coming! This is not always a great time to be a teacher. It’s a fun holiday, but the whole pinching thing can be troublesome. 

Since I’m always looking for ways to sneak in more multiplication fact practice, I created some St. Patrick’s Day themed worksheets. To make the whole "pinching thing" less painful for you, I'm offering this resource for free in my TpT store.

Engaging Multiplication Practice

Learning multiplication facts is a huge deal for 3rd grade! I like to make the process as painless as possible. In addition to teaching the basic concepts of multiplication with lots of practice with manipulatives, I like to use music. Kids really enjoy learning with music and music has a way of putting facts into long term memory.

I begin with this CD of skip counting songs from Melody House. I start playing these songs long before my kids are introduced to multiplication. Even though the title says multiplication, these songs do not include multiplication - skip counting only. These songs have been around for a very long time. As a matter of fact, I first started using these songs 17 years ago. The songs are not very modern, but they are extremely catchy. I’ve been told from other teachers that my kids sing them years after they leave my class. That’s a win in my book!
Once my kids have mastered skip counting, I move on to videos by Music Notes Online. This music set comes in CD (audio only) and DVD with music videos. I would definitely recommend getting the videos. These songs are very catchy and my kids love dancing to them.

Having Fun with Christmas Stories

Hey, everyone! Happy December! Can you believe the holidays are so close? December is a fun, crazy, busy time of year, but there are so many ways to make things exciting in your classroom. I like to have fun with my kids but I also want to make the most of every educational opportunity. One way I do this is by reading 'Twas the Night Before Christmas with my class.

One of the big things in 3rd grade is studying poetry and I use this unit and my kids' love for Christmas to review a ton of poetry elements. I begin the unit with a good old fashioned read aloud. There are a lot of versions of this story by different publishers. I opted to go with the original that is no longer in print. Luckily, this version is in the public domain and can be found on Project Gutenburg. I converted the book into Google Slides to make it easier to share with my class. You can download it here if you would like to use it with your class.

Once we've read the story together for enjoyment, I give my students their booklets that include the poem plus comprehension pages. We go through and discuss poetry elements. I allow my students to use markers or color pencils to take notes with to help keep them engaged. Here's an example of some of the notes we take.


I’m back to tell you about some ways I try to keep my students motivated while preparing for STAAR (Texas state assessment).

One of the tools I use in my classroom is punch cards. We do A LOT of practice leading up to the STAAR test and it is important that the practice be meaningful. Unless students are working to their full potential and using the strategies I have taught them, time is being wasted. To help keep them focused and motivated I use punch cards. This year I’ve changed the punch cards to fit our STAAR Wars theme.

In order to receive punches, students MUST show their work. They have the opportunity to earn the following punches:

  • 3 punches – 100
  • 2 punches – A
  • 1 punch – B

Once they fill up the entire card, I offer them money from our classroom economy.

If you think your students would benefit from using these free punch cards, you can download them from here.


Using too many worksheets during review time is boring for ME, so I know the kids are bored too! I like to change things up a bit by playing a variety of different games. PowerPoint games are my favorite because we can play as a whole class and there are plenty of opportunities for meaningful discussions. Here’s a game I created to review fractions that fits our STAAR Wars theme. *For some reason the image for the video looks crummy! When I click on it to start the video, the resolution improves.*

STAAR Wars–3rd Grade Fraction Review

This PowerPoint game can be found on TpT.


I hope I have given you some ideas that you can use in your classroom. I’ll be back with more STAAR Wars ideas soon.

It’s That Time of Year…Again

It’s that time of year again when I start thinking about the upcoming state test. Ugh! I’ve taught everything I need to teach and now I’m going to spend the next few weeks reviewing like crazy. The problem is I need to push the kids to do the best they can without crushing their spirit.

In Texas, our state test is the STAAR, so my team decided to have a STAAR Wars theme to help us stay motivated. We’re not the first ones to do this, so Pinterest has a wealth of ideas. We started off by creating our own Pinterest board and we got busy pinning away.

Next, we bought shirts. We have 2 days of testing so I figured I needed 2 shirts. This one came from a wonderful seller on Etsy who worked with us to place a HUGE order.

This one came from Spirit Bling. Both shirts are sparkly to keep our spirits bright!

Some how I ended up with another 3 Star Wars shirts thanks to Wal-mart and Kohl’s. I think I may have gone overboard. Winking smile

We’ve begun the decorating process. We started out by hanging clear Christmas tree lights from the ceiling in the hallway. We added silver stars and some tie fighters. If we wouldn’t have had help from some wonderful parents, I think we would still be hanging those silly lights now. Even with their help, this is a work in progress and we’re not finished.

Here’s a poster I plan to hang in our hallway. If any of you other Texas teachers are thinking of having a STAAR Wars theme, click on the picture to download your own copy.

I like the idea of “The Students Strike Back.” I’m hoping it will empower the kids and let them know they can take charge of this overwhelming situation. As we get more accomplished, I’ll add more posts so you can follow along with the process. I’m hoping this theme will go a long way to keeping students (and teachers) motivated.

A Grinchy Christmas

One of my favorite Christmas activities is reading How the Grinch Stole Christmas with my class and creating a lapbook.  The kids are so familiar with the story that it’s easy to apply the comprehension skills we have been learning.

Here’s an example of a completed lapbook.

If you would like a FREE copy, click on the picture above to download the file from Google Drive.  The font I used is called Grinched and I got it from  You can get it by clicking here.

I have a similar product for sale on TpT.  The TpT version is customizable to use with any picture book.  So, if you want the FREE Grouch version, click on the picture above.  If you want to make a lapbook for the story you’re currently reading, click below.

Happy reading!