FREE Task Cards to Make Lesson Planning Easier in October

I hate purchasing something and only having one way to use it, don’t you? 

Don’t get me wrong; there are some things that ONLY have one way to use it.  For others, however, there is often more than one way to utilize it.

I like knowing that I am getting a lot of “bang for my buck”.

Today I am sharing a forever freebie in my store that is perfect for the month of October.

Ideas to use: Free October early finishers task cards

Click here to download these October Early Finisher Task Cards, and then come back here to read different ways to use them in your classroom during the month of October.


Print and prepare your free task cards by printing on cardstock, laminating for durability, and then cutting them out.


You can store them in a Ziploc bag.  My favorite way to store all of the months is by using the little expandable plastic pockets you can purchase at Dollar Tree for only one dollar.

Pink, blue, orange folders

I purchased a few of these, and I stored all of my task cards for the year in these. 

I placed these in a plastic basket in my cabinet.  I used task cards weekly in my classroom, so this is a great storage organization that worked well through the years.

Early Finisher Activities

Place these task cards in a small basket on a shelf that is easily accessible to students.  When a student finishes his or her work, instead of asking you what to do next, the student will get a piece of paper and a task card. 

Morning Work

Display one of the task cards using a projector system.  When students arrive in your classroom, all students will complete the same activity.  If the activity is longer than time allows, have students complete the work during any free time throughout the day.  Students can use spiral notebooks labeled “Morning Work” and complete one activity each day.


There are many opportunities to get your students to write creatively.  Use a card during your writing segment, and have all students use the same writing prompt.  Encourage students to read their finished products with the class, in small groups of students, or with partners.  Make it really fun for the students by completing the writing prompt also and then reading yours to the entire class!

Center Work

Choose one of the task cards for a center activity.  Copy the card by making it large and displaying it so that all of the students in the center can see it.  Provide needed materials to complete.  For instance, if you use the spiders facts and opinions, add some nonfiction books to the center for students to read and use for facts.

Art Activity

Choose a task card that includes an art activity.  Provide art materials for students to use.  Display the finished product on a bulletin board, your door, or in the hallway to share with others.


No matter how you use these task cards in your classroom, your students will be using their creative juices to write, draw, create, list, design, complete math, learn a little about special days of the month, and so much more!

 I hope these free task cards inspire you for several different activities in your own classroom.

If you love these task cards, you can find the rest of the months for ONLY $1 each!

Early finishers task cards

How do you plan on using them in your own classroom?  I would love to know!  Just comment below!

Finding "Extra" Time in an Already Busy Day

The school day is hectic. Teachers have very little time for themselves. Finding enough time to plan and stay ahead of everything without staying late and taking a ton of work home in the afternoon or on weekends might seem impossible, but it’s not!

How to find extra time in your day

The trick is to find the time when there is no extra time. 

 What? That doesn’t make sense…but it will!

There are little pockets of time spread throughout your day, but you don’t even realize that they are there!

• Make a habit of carrying a notepad and pen with you ALL. Day. Long! If you’re walking down the hallway and think of something you need to include in your lesson plans for next week, jot it down! Having a place to record all of your random thoughts during the day can save you so much time later!

• While it’s enjoyable and a stress reliever to visit with coworkers during planning time during the day, before school, or after school, it’s genuinely a time-sucker! Instead, spend your time visiting at lunch and recess duty. Those are perfect times to unwind and destress during the school day. It’s truly astonishing how much time you lose when talking to others.

Set a timer

• Set a timer for 15 minutes during your planning time. When you are laser-focused for even 15 minutes, you will be amazed at how much you can get done. Use this time exclusively for writing lesson plans, getting materials together, etc.

• Use the year-long monthly calendars you prepared for your year to stay on track. Choose one day out of the month when you can stay late at school. Even if you have to spend an extra 2-3 hours to plan out the following month in-depth, it is better than being late every day for thirty minutes or longer. Doing this will help you get out the door on time the rest of the month and is so worth it!

• Make all of your copies for an entire week (or even better, the entire month) at one time. Cutting down on trips to the copier will save you so much time during the day.

• Make sure that you have something to work on and complete, such as grading, lesson planning, etc., while waiting for student programs, faculty meetings, and more to begin. Even five minutes will save you time later.

Try to be thoughtful and a good steward of your time. When you can find a few extra minutes in your day, it’s a big win. Doing so will help you more than you realize to leave school on time each day.

Helping you to get out the door and home to your family is just...

Ideas for the First Day of School

It's time for school to begin.  It's a wonderful yet anxious time for you, your students, and parents alike. 

Ideas for the first day of school

 Here are ten ideas for the first day of school to help you have a wonderful beginning to the new school year.

1) Have something ready for them to do immediately upon walking into the classroom.

  • A coloring page works but quickly gets boring, and some students need more than one to keep them occupied.
  • Playdough and a laminated piece of construction paper work really well also. Add a few cookie cutters, and your students will be happily engaged. Have Ziploc baggies labeled with students' name to store the playdough in their backpacks when play is finished.
  • Another great option is a hands-on activity, such as Legos and other building materials or morning tub activities. (You'll be a ROCK star on the first day of school with this option.)

2) Get to know each other.

  • Students are anxious to know more about their new teacher and also make sure that they will have friends.  Help students get to know more about each other with this freebie.  
  • Use these PowerPoint activities throughout the first week of school to build a community and help students realize that they have many things in common.  Click to see these in my TpT store.  "Find a Friend", "This or That", and "Stand Up/Sit Down" will help you and your students learn more about each other.

3) Write down EVERYTHING.

  • The new schedule will be unfamiliar to both you and your students.  Write down every tiny detail along with the times.  Carry these plans around on a clipboard along with a list of your students all day long.  It will be your best friend for the first day of school and save your sanity!

4) Take a tour of the school.

  • Take your students on a tour of the school.  Even if they were in the same school last year, they are now in a different location, and things will look different.  Encourage your students to complete this fun freebie scavenger hunt as they learn more about their school.

5) Complete an art project.

  • Students can complete an "All About Me" art project or any other kind of art activity.  These completed art projects will leave your first day of school with a decorated bulletin board or decorations for your hallway.  These NO-PREP second grade or third and fourth grades units for the first week of school include an art project that would be perfect for the first day of school. 

6) Learn about your students' learning styles and classroom preferences.

  • Have your students complete this free learning questionnaire to help you understand more about their learning styles and how they feel about school.  It will give you some great insights!

7) Complete a little math and a little reading.

  • Read a first-day-of-school book to your students for a relaxed reading time while they eat a small snack.  (Students are always too nervous to eat enough on the first morning, so providing a small snack is a great idea.)
  • Begin a back-to-school chapter book as a read-aloud or as a novel study for the first couple of weeks of school.  My favorite book to begin the school year with is Judy Moody Was in a Mood. Not a Good Mood. A Bad Mood.  Your students will be laughing about Judy's first week of school antics as they relate to her with their own feelings about beginning school.
  • Have your students complete this freebie place value coloring sheet to see how well they understand place value and then play this fun place value game.

8) Take pictures...LOTS of pictures.

  • Take individual pictures of each student, and do this on the first day of each month for an end-of-the-year gift to the parents to show the growth of the students throughout the year.
  • Take candid shots throughout the day.  Add these to your private Facebook group for your class for the year.  This will relieve the anxiety for your parents throughout the day as you add quick posts to the group and they can see the fun the students are having.

9) Teach rules and procedures.

  • Go over the rules for the classroom, lunchroom, recess, hall, etc.  Have your students model incorrect behavior and then the correct behavior.  
  • Discuss the classroom and school procedures.
  • Be prepared to review this every day (multiple times) for the first couple of weeks of school to make sure that your students remember and understand them.

10)  Move...don't sit!

  • Keep your students moving throughout the day.  Movement is a great stress reliever.  Have a YouTube playlist prepared for some fun brain break videos.
  • Use this free literacy activity like a scavenger hunt around the classroom.
There you have top ten favorite ideas to have a successful first day of school for you and your students.

Remember to smile, laugh, and enjoy your day and your new group of students!  

It's a great day to have a great first day of school, and that's just...

Fun Back-to-School Writing Activities

Back-to-school time is just around the corner.

It's an exciting time for all, but walking into a new classroom or a new school and not seeing many familiar faces can be scary!

These fun back-to-school icebreakers and writing activities are the perfect solution for getting to know your students and for your students to get to know each other.

When students realize that there are commonalities with everyone in the room, it helps build a classroom community.

There is almost always another person who answers or feels the same way.  Letting students see and understand this is important!

These questions can be shown using your projector system.  As common questions are asked, students will stand up if the answer is yes or sit down if the answer is no.

These Google Slides can be assigned to Google Classroom.  All students will be able to participate by dragging hands under the pictures to show which they prefer.

This fun activity can be shown to your entire class as a discussion activity.  It can also be assigned to each student via Google Classroom as a fun writing activity.  These fun "Blast from the Past" pictures will bring a lot of laughs and disbelief as students learn about things from the past.

Give your students practice with captions by having them write captions for these pictures.

These questions can be shown using your projector system.  As common questions are asked, students will stand up if the answer is yes or sit down if the answer is no.

These questions can be shown using your projector system by showing the PowerPoint version, or the Google Slides can be assigned for students to complete individually.  There are no wrong answers as long as the student can justify his or her answer.

For the picture shown above, it could be answered as any of these:
1)  The bear doesn't belong because it is larger than the others.
2)  The cardinal doesn't belong because it is red and all of the others are black.
3)  The scorpion doesn't belong because there is nothing green in the picture.
4)  The berries don't belong because they are not animals.

What is It?

These questions can be shown using your projector system or assigned on Google Classroom.

The students will try to figure out what common object is shown in the close-up picture.

Each of these units can be purchased individually or together in a money-saving bundle.

Creating fun activities as icebreakers to help you get to know your students and fun writing prompts is just...

Four Steps for Fast and Easy Lesson Planning

Lesson Planning...

It can seem so simple, yet it can be so incredibly hard.

It takes up soooooo much time, yet the time spent on the actual lessons passes way too quickly.

Before you know it, it's time to plan for the next week or the next month.

Personally, I like to plan for a month at a time.  By "batching" an entire month of lesson plans at one time, it frees up so much of my afternoons, evenings, and weekends.

Here are some ideas to help you plan strategically.  

Time management tip. Four steps for fast and easy lesson planning

1)  Plan Lessons for the Entire Month

Planning for the entire month is a time management tip that can help you get things done and get out the door in a timely manner each day.

Taking the time one or two days at the end of the month to plan out your entire upcoming month is a great way to stay organized.  

While it might mean that you have to stay late at school for a couple of afternoons now, you will be so glad that you did as the month rolls on and you find that you can actually get out the door on time most afternoons.  

First, ask yourself these questions:

  • What standards and concepts are listed on the curriculum map for the upcoming month?
  • What holidays, special days, and school events are taking place during the month?
  • What activities have I included in past years that were successful that I want to repeat?

Keep all of the answers to these three questions in mind as you plan out your month.

2)  Plan for Math and Literacy Centers

Not only are math and literacy centers an important part of the day for students to practice concepts and skills, but they are also an integral part of the day for you to get more things done.

I'm not talking about things like cleaning, prepping, or planning.

I'm talking about double- and triple-dipping to fit everything required into your day.

Use the time while your students are working independently in centers to work with intervention groups.

In fact, it's an excellent time to spend time with your on-level students and your high-achieving students who would benefit from enrichment activities.

How do you plan your centers?  Keep it simple.  Using only five weekly centers for students to rotate through each week means easy planning and prepping for you.  

Read this blog post for more information for literacy centers: Keep your centers easy, simple, and fun!

Read this blog post for your math centers: Math Centers that are Easy to Plan, Organize, and Prepare

Planning centers for the entire month using activities to both practice and review concepts will take care of a lot of your lesson plans.

3)  Planning for Core Academic Subjects

After planning your center activities, plan out your core academic subjects.  

If your district uses a curriculum map, this should be fairly easy to fill in the days for the month of what subjects, skills, concepts, and standards you will be using.  

Keeping a fall theme can help keep things fun and interesting for your students.

Don't forget to add activities for math fluency in your classroom.  Helping your students become fluent with addition/subtraction or multiplication/division facts just makes teaching all other math concepts so much easier!

4)  Plan for the Other Parts of Your Day

After you have planned for your core subjects and your centers, it's time to fill in the remainder of your lesson plans.

Keep activities ready for students to use immediately upon arrival.  Students will be engaged and excited to come to your classroom each and every morning.  It's a great way to start your day and sets the tone for success for your students.

Having some easy activities at your fingertips for your early finishers will help keep your classroom moving smoothly during the entire month.  

If you have other items for the month, collect them together, and plug those in.  Make your copies, and organize them in a way that works best for you.  

There you have it!  You now know the four quick strategies to help you focus on planning and preparing your lesson plans.

Isn't it better to stay late at school one or two days of the month in order to make it home on time the rest of the month?

Keeping things real, keeping your personal life a priority, and helping you whenever I can is just...


Frequently Asked Questions About Morning Tubs

Why should you be using morning tubs in your second-grade, third-grade, or fourth-grade classrooms?
That is a GREAT question!

Many early elementary teachers use morning tubs in their classrooms, but many teachers after kindergarten or first grade think that they do not work in higher grades.  I'm here to tell you that there is nothing further from the truth!

I created these morning tubs to give teachers and students an alternative to morning work that consists of just another boring worksheet.

Maybe you've not tried them simply because you don't know the answers to your questions, or maybe you don't even realize that you have questions!

FAQ about morning tubs. Classroom tips

I'm here today to answer some frequently asked questions about the morning tubs I've created.

If you want to try out a few morning tub activities for absolutely FREE, just click here!  These are more on a second-grade level for the math activities, but the other activities will work great for third or fourth grades, as well.

Now, let's continue on to learn more about these morning tubs.

Q: What are morning tubs?

A: Morning tubs are fun activities to begin your day.  They are most commonly placed in small baskets or tubs (hence the name).  They are hands-on and engaging activities that will have students excited about coming to school each morning.  They are independent activities students can use to practice needed skills without completing boring worksheets.

Q: What grade(s) are these morning tub units designed for?

A: I have created three different grade levels of morning tubs. 

You can find the second-grade units here.

You can see my third-grade units here. 

Find my fourth-grade units here. 

**Please note - The ONLY activities that change from grade level to grade level are the math activities.

Q: Are these units aligned with any state standards?

A: No, these units are not aligned with any state standards or curriculum.  The units are designed to cover the skills most commonly taught in the listed grade, so most teachers find these units helpful.

Q: Is there an answer key included?

A: There is not an answer key.

Q: How long does it take to complete these activities?

A: Some activities might take a little longer than other activities, but most can be completed within 30 minutes (or less), which is a perfect amount of time for bell work.

Q: Will students have work to turn in after using these morning tub activities?

A: No, these activities are meant to be stress-free for the teacher.  Once the prep work is done upfront when preparing the units, you will be able to use these over and over.  There are no additional worksheets to grade, as these are fun and meaningful practice activities.

Q: How do I store these units?  Will they take up a lot of space?

A: I store these units in pocket folders for full pages.  I place the individual activity pieces into Ziploc baggies.  I place these in clear shoeboxes I purchased at Dollar Tree.  I use the provided labels in the unit to place them on the pocket folders and the shoeboxes.  They take up very little space on my shelf.

Q: What other supplies do I need for these units?

A: Items commonly found in your classroom will be used, such as clothespins, magnets, playdough, paper clips, cubes, small blocks, etc.  A suggested supply list is included for each month.  Of course, you can use what you already have on hand or what works best in your classroom.

Q: What about printing options?

A: Most of the items use color ink for printing.  However, some of the activities are available in black and white in addition to the color pages for more options. Bring the color to these black and white options by printing on colored paper or colored cardstock.

Q: Will each activity only be used for one month?

A: While skills will progress from month to month, many of the activities found in each monthly unit can be used at any point during the school year.  Many items will have monthly themes, while others do not.  Students find it a real treat to play a Halloween game in March, so use these whenever you need a review of a skill or concept.

Q: Can these activities be used at other times during the day?

A: Absolutely!  Keep these activities within easy reach on a shelf.  Students can use these for math centers, literacy centers, early finishers, indoor recess, and more.  They are also perfect for you, the teacher, to use during intervention or enrichment when working with small groups.

Q: How will these morning tubs help ME?

A: Using morning tubs to begin your day will give you time to greet your students, complete necessary morning chores, and see what activities interest individual students.  Best of all...there are NO worksheets to copy, store, and then lug home to grade! Easy setup means that you are out the door quicker each afternoon!

Have you used morning tubs before, or are you interested in using them?  I would love to hear your experience and/or questions in the comments below.  Let's chat about them!

If you would like to see the morning tubs in my classroom, click below.

Answering your questions and having meaningful conversations is just...

How to Have Your Best School Year EVER!

How to have your best school year ever

Imagine this...

It's the first day of school. The day has been close to perfection. You are already in love with your students and you're feeling great about the year before you. The clock strikes 3:45 (or whatever time signals the end of the day for teachers). You look around your room one last time and with a big smile, you turn off the lights, close the door, and head home.

At home, you walk in the door, take a deep smell of the delicious aroma emanating from your crock pot. Dinner tonight is going to be delicious!

You continue to your bedroom, where you change into your bathing suit and head for the pool. You've got a couple of hours that you can swim, float, and work on your tan.

After the delicious dinner, you relax on the couch and have a few laughs while watching your favorite comedy show. You are rested and relaxed...not tired at all.

Sounds like a dream, right?

This is a TRUE story. This was my first day of school for several of my last years.

How was it possible?

I would like to share my tips, tricks, and information with you. Through the years, I perfected them and the result was a great first day, first week, first month... okay. I think you get the picture!

I'm sharing all of this with you for FREE!

Yes, that's right. My heart's desire is to help others and I want to help you have your very BEST. YEAR. EVER!

Sign up here for 30 days of emails where I walk you through every area of the school year so that you can enjoy the rest of your summer knowing that you are going to have it all under control from day one of your year!

And did I mention the freebies?  Oh, the freebies. I have a TON of exclusive freebies included for you as well!

You will get one email per day. I'm breaking it all down into manageable increments so that while you are learning and getting ready, you also have plenty of time to enjoy the rest of the summer.

There are no sales tactics or gimmicks. It's just me, sharing information that I hope you will find beneficial and will help you to have YOUR best school year EVER!  These ideas and tips have been tried and tested.  You can use them immediately in your classroom.

WARNING: Implementing all of these ideas in your classroom will have the following side effects:

  • leaving your classroom on time each day
  • staying prepared and “on top of things” all year
  • your classroom running like a well-oiled machine
  • stress-free days
  • more time for yourself and your family
  • free time in the evenings and on weekends
  • time to do the things you enjoy out of school
  • restful sleep

Sharing my years of experience with you so that you can have your BEST. YEAR. EVER!!! is just...

My Kind of Teaching