Saturday, March 7, 2020

Healthy Eating for Kids: Tummy Ninjas vs. The Stomach Virus

Healthy Eating for Kids:  
Tummy Ninjas vs. The Stomach Virus

I'm so excited about having my dear friend, Melisa, as a guest.  She and I taught 2nd grade together and then a few years later we taught 4th grade together.  She is one of the most awesome people I know!  Melisa is passionate about teaching kids all about eating healthy!

Melisa has written a book, Tummy Ninjas vs. the Stomach Virus, and she's here to tell us all about it!


Hi, Melisa!  Thank you so much for being a guest.  Can you tell us a little about your background and who you are?

Hi!  My name is Melisa West and I am the author of Tummy Ninjas vs. the Stomach Virus.  I have been an elementary school teacher for 17 years, and I LOVE it. My husband Brandon and I have two amazingly adorable children of our own.  I have a bachelor's degree in health and physical education and a master's degree in special education.  I am a NESTA certified Childhood Nutrition Specialist and a NESTA certified Fitness Nutrition Coach. It is a blessing to use my skills as an educator and my passion for health to teach, motivate, and encourage young people and families to lead healthy lifestyles. 


 My daughter, Ava, looking at her copy of the Tummy Ninjas book.

Can you tell us how you encourage a healthy lifestyle in your classroom?

 As a teacher, I have worked with thousands of children.  It has been exciting to observe how easy it is to be a positive role model and set a good example for them.  I have had countless parents send me messages thanking me for motivating their children to drink more water or try a new fruit.  Yes, I am THAT teacher who doesn't give candy.  I do make fruit salad for my students several times per year, and I encourage healthy snacks.  I have found that my students appreciate this. Plus, the students feel better throughout the day and are ready to learn.

How did you first develop the idea of your Tummy Ninja story?

It is in the classroom that I first created the Tummy Ninja story 7+ years ago.  I had a group of adorable 2nd graders pulling out their snacks for the day.  To my astonishment, most students had a bag of candy as their snack (it was the day after Halloween).  I always eat snacks with my students.  This is just a very subtle way that I like to inspire them to make healthy choices.  On this special day, I was eating egg salad wrapped in a Romaine lettuce leaf.  We had a very brief talk about how the candy would make them feel after they ate it.  The students all agreed that they would feel "kind of yucky".  We then discussed how apples, bananas, or something with less sugar would make them feel.  They all agreed that those foods would give them more energy and make them feel great.  From there, I told them that when we feed our Tummy Ninjas fresh fruits and vegetables, they get strong and can fight off germs.

How did the students react to this?

This really made an impact on the students.  The most exciting part of this story is that on the very next day, the students brought apples, bananas, carrot sticks, and even egg salad for snack.  They were all talking about the Tummy Ninjas and how they were feeding them to make them strong.  How cool and simple was that?

That's amazing!  I remember all of the work you and Brandon put into writing and illustrating this book.  Can you tell us more about your book?



We used our two children as the stars of our books.  Miles is the hero of the book, and Ava has her own character.  My husband did all of the illustrations using both of them as models.  Here's a synopsis of the book:


What is your next step of utilizing your book to reach more children and encourage healthy eating for kids?

After publishing my book, I have designed several health lessons using my Tummy Ninja theme. The health lessons strongly incorporate reading and writing skills.  These lessons can be found in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  To find these fun lessons, click here.

I have also created a website dedicated to teaching children and parents about healthy options.

Melisa has generously offered to give away one of her books and a unit from her store to TWO lucky winners.  For a chance to win visit this simple giveaway to enter.  This contest will run from Sunday, March 8, 2020 to Sunday, March 15, 2020.

To purchase your own copy of Tummy Ninjas vs. the Stomach Virus, click here.

Ava admiring her father's drawing of her.

Spreading news about great happenings in the classroom. 

That's just...  

My Kind of Teaching!



Sunday, March 1, 2020

Using Games to Learn: The Importance of Games in Your Classroom


Using Games to Learn:

The Importance of Games in Your Classroom



Do you use games in your classroom?

I mean, like ALL. THE. GAMES?


Card Games 

Board Games 
Whole Class Games 
Partner Games 
Individual Games 
Small Group Games

Do you incorporate games into ALL subjects?


If your answer is no, you are missing out on a virtual GOLDMINE of learning in your classroom!




Today, I’d like to talk about the importance of incorporating more games into your classroom routine.


Games are a great way to introduce a concept, practice and reinforce skills, review before a test, build confidence, and so many more benefits.



Using games instead of workbooks, homework, drill and kill is a FUN way to incorporate learning in a non-threatening way.  It feels rebellious and like you are "cheating" and not fully teaching, but that couldn't be further from the truth! 
Those of you that know me, know that my philosophy in both a traditional brick and mortar school setting as well as in homeschooling involves learning through play.
If this is not your mindset, it is never too late to change and to begin to think of play and games as part of your curriculum.  
Games ARE learning!

In addition to learning and practicing specific skills and concepts, playing games develop and encompass many other skills:
  • verbal skills
  • following directions
  • social skills
  • cooperation
  • critical thinking
  • problem-solving
  • focus

Your students will be THRILLED to come to your classroom when you put away the workbooks and worksheets and instead play a game.
You will be THRILLED because your load will become lighter with adding games to your day and week.  The benefits for you include:
  • less prep time (ALWAYS a win-win!)
  • nothing to grade
  • set-up is minimal
  • engagement is maximum
  • informal observations and assessments

There are many different ways you can add games to your day.
  • Add a game to your morning routine for "bell work"
  • Add games for early finishers
  • Add games to centers
  • BEGIN with a game in any subject
  • Complete other work and END with a game
  • End your day on a high-note with a game
  • Add games for enrichment or remediation

One of the easiest and most fun ways I used games in my classroom for a whole group was so very simple and involved absolutely NO PREP on my part. I call this game "Four Corners".  Here's how to play:
Designate each corner of your classroom as a letter.  You can even add the letters like I did.  One corner is A, another is B, and the other two are C and D.  Ask your students a question with four answers.  When you say, "move" the students all move to the corner they feel is the correct answer.
(When you first begin playing this game, students do not want to be "wrong" and will usually follow the kids that they think know the answer.  One way to stop this is to give each student a write/wipe board along with a dry-erase marker and eraser.  Before saying "move" the students must write the answer on the board.  When they move they take the board only with them and hold that board up so that you can see that they have written the same letter as where they are standing.)

As students become more confident with this game, they will be able to move to a letter with confidence, even if they are the only student.  It really becomes empowering when students realize that sometimes the majority of students actually move to the wrong answer!





Through many, MANY years of teaching, I have witnessed the power of using games in my classroom (and now our homeschool).  While it does take a little planning and gathering of materials on your part, it is still vastly less than printing worksheets, grading those worksheets, and more.  Use those worksheets sparingly as a way to have paper proof (if you must) that the students have learned the concept.  We all know that you know which students have it and which students don't without seeing it on that piece of paper!

You can add games to your classroom without a lot of money:

  • thrift stores
  • ask family members and friends
  • post on social media asking for donations to your classroom
  • yard sales
  • clearance
  • online printables
  • online digital

If you are interested, I have several printable games in my Teachers pay Teachers store.

Here is a FREE printable in my store.


Sign up for my weekly emails and get eleven FREE No Prep Centers and Games.


Giving your students time to learn in this format can and will transform your classroom environment and your students' confidence in their abilities. 



Try it.

Then, watch the magic happen.


Fun combined with learning.  That's just...
My Kind of Teaching


Friday, February 21, 2020

March Morning Tubs: A Great Alternative to Morning Worksheets

March Morning Tubs

Using morning tubs are a great alternative for morning worksheets! 

Who says that fun has to stop after kindergarten?  It’s certainly not me!  I am a big believer that children learn best through play and exploration.  With that philosophy in mind, I developed these morning tubs using many of the “play” components that younger children love and combined that with basic skills and standards necessary for success in second, third, and fourth grades.

Here's a closer look at the March Morning Tubs.

March Morning Tubs - ELA

All of the tubs whether 2nd, 3rd, or 4th contain the same activities for ELA.

Students will read the clues in the squares on each white board and find the puzzle pieces with the answers.  When all of the pieces are placed on the correct clues, a picture will be revealed.

The students will choose picture cards and write stories, including rich details about the pictures.
Optional: Use the document camera to reflect the picture onto the big screen.  Use as a writing assignment for the entire class.



Students will use the magnetic letters to spell the vocabulary words.  Two levels are included: with words and without.  Students can copy the words, or they can use the blank cards to spell the words.  This can be used with a cookie sheet (I bought mine for only $1 at the Dollar Tree) or with any magnetic surface including the side of a filing cabinet.

The students will walk around the room quietly and look at the animal cards.  The students will write the animals under the correct habitats.

The student will read the passage about an unusual animal and then complete the activities.
Optional: This activity could be used as a whole-group activity by showing the passage on your overhead projector and then having students complete a different activity daily.  (I have also included a link to a video about Mountain Chickens.)



Students will put the mini puzzles together by putting the words in alphabetical order.

Students will connect the words together to make compound words.
The first part of the compound word can be copied on a different color from the second word if you would like.
Extra supplies needed:  plastic links

This game can be played with 2-4 players.  Turn all letter tiles upside down.  Each student will begin with five letter tiles.  The student will place two letters at a time on the board and then draw two tiles so that he/she always has five letters.  The student who completes a word gets a block.  The person with the most blocks when all of the words have been completed is the winner.
Extra supplies needed:  small blocks


Place each stack of cards on the game board face down.  The students will take turns rolling a die.  The first student will take a card from the stack with the number shown on the die.  If the student can give an answer, he/she can keep the card.  If the student can’t give an answer, it is returned to the bottom of the stack.  The winner is the person with the most cards at the end of the game.
Extra supplies needed:  a die

March Morning Tubs - Math

The student will choose an answer by poking a hole with a straw or a pencil.  When the card is turned over, the student will check to see if the straw or pencil is through the hole with the circle.
Extra supplies needed:  a straw or pencil



For 2nd & 3rd grade: 
The students will draw four flowers from the bag or basket and place the numbers on the flowerpot.  The students will add the four numbers in order to “grow” the flowers.

Option: Students can use place value blocks if needed.
For 4th grade: 
The students will choose only two numbers and will multiply.
Extra supplies needed:  dry-erase marker and eraser


Students will clip the answers with clothespins.
Optional: Students can use dry-erase markers to circle the answers.
Extra supplies needed:  clothespins

 2nd Grade: Students will put the puzzles together by counting within 1,000.
3rd Grade: Puzzles to 100,000
4th Grade: Puzzles within millions
Optional: Add a small magnetic strip to the back of each puzzle strip.  Students can then use magnetic surfaces for completing the puzzles.

  2nd Grade: 
Students will turn all coins face down.  The students will take turns turning over a card.  If the answer is on the board, the coin will be placed on top of it.  The winner is the first person who finds all of the gold at the end of the rainbow and fills up the page.
 3rd and 4th Grade:
Products and Quotients



2nd and 3rd Grade:
The students will draw the shapes in sand.
4th Grade: Students will draw items such as parallel lines and different kinds of angles.

This game can be used for 2-4 players.  Print each board on a different color of cardstock.  The students will take turns rolling the dice, adding them together and covering that number on their board.  If the number is already covered, the student’s turn is over.  The winner is the student who covers his/her board first.
Two gameboards are included for adding two or three numbers.
*The third gameboard can be used for students working on multiplication.  Use two dice for this board.
Extra supplies needed:  small seasonal erasers or small blocks; dice

The students will use mental math to find six different equations that show the answers on the pots of gold.

The student will spin the spinner using a paper clip and a pencil.  The student will then take that color of Skittle and add it to his/her mat.  The student will continue until he/she has collected ten Skittles.  The student will then make fractions with the information. 
Extra supplies needed:  Skittles candy

March Morning Tubs - Fine Motor Skills


Laminate the word cards. The students will trace the spring words written in cursive.
Extra supplies needed:  dry-erase marker and eraser


Laminate.  The students will trace the pictures with dry-erase markers.
Optional: Print on regular copy paper.


Laminate.  The students will complete the pictures by drawing the mirror images of the parts shown.
Extra supplies needed:  dry-erase marker and eraser

March Morning Tubs - Critical Thinking Skills




Students will read the clues to find the tangled paths and place all of the pictures in the correct places.

Laminate.  The student will complete each grid square to draw a complete picture.
Optional: Print on regular copy paper.
Extra supplies needed:  dry-erase marker and eraser

Not only does morning tubs help set the tone for the day, but they get students excited about coming to school each and every day.  Who wouldn’t LOVE beginning the day with some play?  Students enjoy playing the activities so much, that they don’t even realize that they are actually practicing needed skills to be successful in school.

Find these March Morning Tubs in my Teachers Pay Teachers store by clicking on the pictures below.  Feel free to pin also.  You can get one for free by subscribing to my email letters.  See below for the info.





Click on the picture below to receive free morning tubs when you sign up for my newsletter.


Keeping learning fun and engaging for students with morning tubs. That's just...

My Kind of Teaching!

Monday, February 17, 2020

Leap Into Learning Blog Hop

I'm so excited to have you join me and my blogging friends today!  We're doing something a little different and we're so excited!  We have joined up for a FREEBIE Blog Hop.  Not familiar with a blog hop?  Here's how it works...




Each blogger has a freebie to offer you.  This freebie will forever be a freebie and will help you at any time of the year and in any season.  The freebies range from grades K-5.  You can "hop" to each freebie in order starting with mine, and end back at mine.  Just like a giant circle!  Hop to them all and you'll have 22 awesome freebies!

Along the way, you'll read about the freebies and see the pictures of them in action.  You can download only the activities you need now, or download them all in case you ever change grade levels.  

Don't have time to read about each one or download them all?  You can click on these buttons to start at the beginning of the hop for just these grade levels.



(You're in luck!  My blog is the first one for grades 3-5)

NO PREP Literacy Center FREEBIE!

Is prepping and planning, planning and prepping getting you down?  Make your life easier with this NO PREP Literacy Center.



This literacy center is a fun true/false activity.  There are four pages to print.
  • Page 1 - Center Directions - Add a pop of color by printing on color copy paper or just print on regular white paper.
  • Page 2 & 3 - True/False Task cards - Again, print on color copy paper or regular white.  Straight lines make the cutting minimum and ready to go in just a few snips!
  • Page 4 - Student Response Page - Print a class set on white copy paper.
  • An answer guide is also included.

This center can be used for 2nd-4th grades.  Click here or on the picture below to download this freebie.  You can also save this pin to your favorite Pinterest board so that you can revisit this blog hop at anytime!





Would you love to get ELEVEN free No Prep Centers for math and literacy?  Sign up here to receive my emails to receive these.




After you've downloaded this freebie, hop to the next blog to find another fantastic product to use in your classroom.  


Working with other teachers in the real world and virtually, that's just...

My Kind of Teaching!