How To Organize Your Daily Multiplication Fluency Testing

Every third grade teacher (at least those of us using Common Core State Standards) must deal with the fluency and memorization of multiplication facts.  There's no way to avoid it!  So let's make it organized, less painful, and add some fun. =)

I call it the multiplication train.  It's silly, but it saves time, and keeps me organized.  Here's how it works.

Multiplication Fact Fluency Assessment - Light Bulbs and Laughter Blog
1. Put each of your assessments in a separate, labeled folder.

2. Print the answer key for each assessment, and tape it in the folder on the left side.
Tracking Multiplication Fluency - Light Bulbs and Laughter Blog
3. Put sticky notes on the front of each folder to write student names.

4. Now you are ready to assess.  At first, you give every student the same page (for me, the zeros and ones).

5. Start a timer going up from zero, and have students write down the time it took them to complete the page.  I use the online stopwatch HERE.

6. Stop the clock when you believe they have had enough time.  I start with six minutes on these pages.  Students who do not finish simply stop writing when you stop the clock.

7. Have a student pick up the papers and set them on top of the folders, ready to be graded.

I like to grade these myself at the beginning, to get a feel for how each student is doing.  As students pass (which for me means that every answer is correct), cross their name off of the first folder sticky notes, and write it on the next one.

Multiplication Memorization Tracking - Light Bulbs and Laughter BlogWithin two weeks, I will be handing out as many as ten different tests.  Here is how I handle this.  I show the results from the day before under my document camera, then call the names from the front of the first folder.  Students must make a "train" as they come to the front of the room.  This means that they come around one side of the room and I give them their paper when they quickly walk by.  I then call the names from the second folder, and so on.

They go back to their desk, write their name, and turn the paper over when they are ready.  No one is allowed to go backwards on the train tracks, or there will be a collision.  Our goal is to do this as quickly and quietly as possible (Once, the superintendent walked in during this process and was quite impressed).  A stray train choo-choo sound can be heard here and there, but they have to keep it quiet enough to hear their names called!

Multiplication Memorization Tracking - Light Bulbs and  Laughter BlogNow when the student in charge picks up the papers, he or she will need to arrange them in order, to prep them for  grading.  To make the process more streamlined, I don't always grade the pages that are not completed.

Once we get going, I look for other people who can grade these for me.  If you have help of any kind in your classroom (Aide, older student, or parent), use them!  If not, the best thing that you can do regarding grading is to make it a reward in your classroom.  If you have students who are careful and trustworthy, you can have them grade the tests when they finish their other work.  I have a table with bright colored markers set up for this purpose.  After they are graded, it only takes a minute or two to change the names on the folders.

Then I make sure to keep track in a document in my grade book.   In order to accommodate the tests and flash cards, I make this word document in ledger size (11x14) and keep it folded when not in use.

There you have it, my multiplication fact fluency train.  This process should work with whatever fluency tests you are currently using.  If you are interested in these specific products, you can find them in my Multiplication Memorization Tool Kit on Teachers Pay Teachers.

For the blog post explaining my whole memorization process, see  Unlocking the "Secret Code" of Multiplication Memorization.

Happy Teaching,

How to Play Sparkle in the Classroom

How To Play Sparkle in the Classroom - Light Bulbs and Laughter Blog
I've been blogging about teaching multiplication lately, and have mentioned playing a game called Sparkle as part of our memorization process.  Today I thought I would explain how we do this in my classroom.

Basically we are skip counting by ones, twos, etc.  We call this "Secret Code Sparkle," because we're just cool like that. =) 

This is a cooperative practice game that requires listening skills.  If a student is talking, they will not know the answer.  Uh-oh.  They learn pretty quickly to pay close attention to what is going on.  It also teaches students how to handle the frustration of being out of the game, whether they have made a mistake, or through no fault of their own.  (I have students model good and bad ways to respond when they get "sparkled".  I have found that third graders also need to learn how to be gracious winners,  so we model that, too.)

Here are the basic rules:

1. Have your students stand in a large circle around the outside of the classroom.

2. The teacher stands in the middle.

3. NO moving once you have found your spot!

4. The teacher chooses a number from 1 - 10 and points to a random student, saying, for example, "Count by twos to twenty, GO!"  (The teacher holds up two fingers while always facing the student who is speaking, in case they forget the factor being used.)  Be careful at this point!  If they get going really fast, you could get very dizzy!

5. The first student repeats the number, the next student (going clockwise) says the next skip counting number, and so on, until the original number has been multiplied by ten.

6.  When the last number is stated, the next student says, "Sparkle!"

7. The student after the sparkle student sits down.  They are out of the game.

8. If a student says the wrong number, or takes too long to answer, they must sit down.  (Because of Whole Brain Teaching, the entire class says, "It's cool!" when someone makes a mistake - making it much easier for students to handle!)

9. The last student (or students - you decide when to stop) standing get a reward.  This can be anything: first choice for centers, an extra minute of recess, first in line to lunch, a reading buddy (stuffed animal) on their desk during quiet reading, a lollipop, etc.  Whatever is a reward in your classroom.

(I know that many of us have special needs students in our classroom.  I have found that my students naturally give more wait time when it's needed, and extra positive feedback for a correct answer, etc.  I do allow certain students to "sit out" the game, if they are having a bad day.)

There are many variations on this theme:

A. Use spelling words every Friday before the test.

B. Use vocabulary words, but instead of spelling them, the first student defines the word, and the second must use it in a sentence.  (This works best with smaller groups during centers.)

C. Use parts of speech.  Say, "Give me 5 verbs, GO!",  "Give me seven nouns, GO!", etc.

We have a lot of fun practicing what we have learned with this game, while learning important listening skills, speaking skills, and social skills.  Do you use this game in your classroom?  I would love to hear other ways that it is used!  Please let me know in the comments.

Happy Teaching With Sparkle,

Metacognition: Helping Students Assess Their Own Learning

FREE posters for elementary teachers - Light Bulbs and Laughter Blog
Click on the picture for free download from TpT.
I've been thinking a lot about formative assessments lately.  Formative assessments are all about gathering information from your students - during instruction - in order to inform your teaching.  The most obvious place to gather that information is from student work (click HERE to see a post about that), and it can be a lot of fun.

Another place to gather information is also from your students.  But now you have to get inside their brains, and find out how they assess their own learning.  How in the world are we supposed to do this?  And why is it important?

Let's tackle the importance question first.  Studies show that students who are partners in their own assessment show increased engagement in all subject areas, and are more likely to become life-long learners.  Also, students who are taught to analyze their own learning show increased motivation to learn.

Well, that's enough to convince me.  It just makes sense, and I think we can agree that this is important.  So the next question is, how do we do this?  Here's the bad news.  Most students don't walk into your classroom knowing how to assess themselves.  In fact, many adults have trouble with metacognition.

metacognition definition - Light Bulbs and Laughter Blog

Here's the good news.  Metacognition can be explicitly taught.  In fact, every teacher I know is already doing this (though perhaps we are not always aware of the fact that we are teaching metacognition.  haha).  We model reading strategies such as activating prior knowledge, summarizing, finding the meaning of a word through context, and stopping and rereading, just to name a few.
Teacher Tap Light Pin on Pinterest - Light Bulbs and Laughter Blog
Click on picture to see Pin.

Here's another great Pinterest idea.  If you have not invested in a tap light, it is fabulous for modeling reading strategies!  Just tap the light on when you stop reading to model what you are thinking.  Run to Walmart and get one.  You won't be sorry.  The only downside is that students will remind you to use it every time you interrupt your read aloud.  So if the phone rings in the middle of the book, be prepared for 26 voices to yell, "Turn on the light first!" when you go to pick up the phone.

When it comes to math, those of us teaching the Common Core State Standards are modeling the 8 Math Practice Standards (see that post, HERE).  These practices are vital to teaching students to monitor their own mathematical thinking.  We model ourselves not giving up, even when something is difficult to master (MP1), or looking for a shortcut (MP8), etc.  (I have to share this... the other day, one of my students was struggling with a math concept.  I asked him if he could find a shortcut to use.  He looked up at me and said, "I'm going to use the long cut, because I really want to learn this.")

So what about metacognition as it relates to self assessment?  Well, we have to model that, too.  And here is where it gets fun.  We get to model for our students that we make mistakes.  All.  The.  Time.  Then we walk them through the thought processes involved in fixing the mistakes.  I want my students to see mistakes as something positive - as the poster says, mistakes are proof that you are trying!  Here are some ideas:
  • Model mispronouncing a word, catching yourself, and then correcting it.
  • Make a mistake on a math problem.  Model how to find the correct answer.
  • Revise something.  Decide (out loud) in the middle that it is not quite right.  Then fix it.
  • Stop in the middle of a sentence and ask, "What am I doing right now?  Am I on task?  What is my strategy for learning?"
stop light halloween costume from Flickr via Wylio
© 2011 woodleywonderworks, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio
In the past I have used the idea of Marzano's levels of understanding for the process of self assessment.  I gave each student the "stoplight" colors to keep on their desks (red - I need help, yellow - I'm trying, green - I can do this), but I felt as though I needed more than color coded paper.  I've also used the number system (A student who holds up one finger needs help, and so on), but I wanted to use them together, with the addition of light bulbs to signify learning.  I checked on Teachers Pay Teachers, and there are many excellent versions, but nothing quite matched the picture in my mind.  So I made my own.
Student Self Assessment Posters - Light Bulbs and Laughter Blog
    (So here you can see my own version of self assessment posters, a rubric, and cards for students to keep in/on their desks.  There's also a notebook page.  Click on the picture to take you to my TpT store and see for yourself, if you like.) 

    This process of going from 'not knowing' to 'trying' to 'understanding' to 'explaining' also has to be modeled for students.  Here are some ideas:
  • Model those mistakes, and why they are a good thing.
  • Model that it's okay to ask for help.
  • Model that everyone is different, and some people need more practice than others. (I use drawing for this one, because I'm terrible at it, but I still try.  And I need lots of practice!)
  • Model that being on #1 is not a bad thing.  It just means that you haven't learned something yet.  (I use the Spanish language for this example.  Sometimes I don't even want to try, because I know I will make mistakes.  About half of my third graders are bilingual, and when I mispronounce something, they let me know!)
  • Model the difference between explaining how to do something and simply giving the answer.
Thank you for reading along as I think about my thinking (and teaching).  I truly believe that writing this blog is helping me to become a better teacher.  I'm sure that most of you are light years beyond me in this journey, and I'm humbled by the fact that you choose to read my meanderings.  

I hope you can use the free posters at the beginning of this post, and I hope you will come back again to read some more.  Next time, I'll show you my new KWL charts.  And KWHL charts, too.

Happy Self Assessment and Metacognition,

What is a Formative Assessment, Anyway?

What is a Formative Assessment, Anyway? - Light Bulbs and Laughter Blog
Let's say that your principal called you into his office and sat you down.  Then he said these words: "What formative assessments are you performing for your current math unit?"  Would you know what to say?  I didn't.  All that came to my mind in that moment were quizzes (which I had not made for a while) and exit slips (which I made, but kept forgetting to use).  Luckily, he got an important phone call and said that he would talk to me later.

My new number one goal in life became finding out exactly what the words "formative assessment" really mean.  Because if it was really quizzes and exit slips, I wasn't doing much of it at all.

Now the word assessment tends to stress some people out.  It sounds so formal, like a test, but more scary.  Then, when you get your teaching credential you find out how many kinds of assessments there are.  Really?  We learn words like criterion-referenced and norm-referenced and interim and benchmark.  We all know about the BIG assessment at the end of the school year, the one that shows whether we are a good teacher or a lousy one, right?  (Let's save that debate for another time.)

But I'm talking about me.  In the classroom.  With my students every day.  My teacher ed classes taught me that there's one assessment at the beginning of a unit of study (diagnostic), and one at the end (summative).  You compare those to find out how much your students have learned.  What falls in between are formative assessments.  That's what I understood.  So, off I went to look up the words:

Definition of formative assessment - Light Bulbs and Laughter Blog

Hmmm.  So it can be any method that gives the teacher information about a student's needs and progress toward a particular goal.  Okay.  Further reading led me to understand that what makes it formative is not what you do, but how you USE the information that you gather.  If you use it to inform instruction - that is, changing how you teach, then you have given a formative assessment.

I pondered for a while.  This was sounding good to me.  So they don't have to be formal.  Or scary.  Or even use pencil and paper.   I decided to look back at what we had been doing in math for the last several weeks.  Our focus was on multiplication.  My lesson plans did not show any quizzes.  So how was I gathering information to inform my instruction?  I went back through the pictures I had been taking.

Multiplication Formative Assessment - Light Bulbs and Laughter Blog
Look at this lovely young lady to the left.  We were working with our white boards (a piece of printer paper inside of a plastic page protector).  I asked her to show me everything she knew about 5 x 4.  That's all I said.  She drew what she knew, and called me over when she was done.  We had a 30 second conversation, and I walked away, informed about what she understood about multiplication at that time.  I made a note on my clipboard, sent her to partner up with a struggling student, and moved on.

Could this really be a formative assessment?  Where's the scary part?  Look at that face... she's not nervous, she's having fun!  And did I use the information I gathered?  Yup, sure did.  I noted it and sent her to help someone who wasn't as far along as she.

Multiplication games as formative assessments - Light Bulbs and Laughter Blog So what about partner formative assessments?  (Of course, I really mean games.  I make a lot of math games for my students.)  So I asked myself some questions.  Do I walk around and listen to my students when they play these particular games?  Check.  Do I get an idea of where they are in their multiplication fluency?  Check.  Do I then group them accordingly, and reteach the group that is struggling?  Check.  That's a formative assessment.  This was getting fun!
Multiplication formative assessment on white board - Light Bulbs and Laughter Blog
iPad math game: tape diagrams - Light Bulbs and Laughter BlogHow about when students come up to the white board to work a problem?  Is that a formative assessment?  Let's find out.  Am I gathering information?  Yep.  Do I know who did what?  You betcha.  (They love putting their name by their work.)  Do I use this data to decide if I can move on to the next lesson tomorrow?  Uh huh.  There you go.  Formative assessment.

Unfortunately, here's one that doesn't count.  I'm working on getting a set of seven iPads for my classroom, so that we can use them when we do groups.  (We are up to 5 now, but that's another post!)

This student is doing a fabulous activity using tape diagrams - something we were studying that week.  The problem is, I have no way to track what she is doing at this time.  Did she get it right?  Probably.  But I don't know for sure.  And if you look really closely?  You will see that she switched from multiplication to addition.  Sneaky girl!  So this activity cannot be considered a formative assessment.

There are many other math activities in my classroom that qualify as formative assessments under this criteria.  Here are just a few:
  • Going over homework together
  • Playing Multiplication Sparkle - a whole class game
  • Daily multiplication fluency tests
  • Using computer based standards practice such as IXL (our district has an account)
  • Small group activities
  • Practicing flash cards
There are many more, even quizzes and exit tickets (if I ever remember to use them!).

So, the next time my principal calls me in to ask me that question about formative assessments?  I'll be ready to answer.  And it's nice to know I was doing them all along!

Happy Teaching,

Unlocking the "Secret Code" of Multiplication Memorization

Unlocking the "Secret Code" of Multiplication Memorization - Light Bulbs and Laughter
Multiplication is so important for third grade.  It is imperative that students know the facts so that they can focus on higher level math tasks in fourth grade and beyond.  

We've already discussed some of the key ways to ensure that students understand how multiplication works (see the post and get a freebie HERE).  Now the question is... how do we get them to memorize 8 x 7 = 56?  See how I used the word memorize?  Some educators will tell you that this is the wrong word.  They like to use fluency instead, or maybe automaticity.  Memorization connotes, to some, a type of rote learning that the Common Core State Standards are trying to move us away from.  But here is what the standards say:

Fluently multiply and divide within 100, using strategies such as the relationship between multiplication and division (e.g., knowing that 8 × 5 = 40, one knows 40 ÷ 5 = 8) or properties of operations. By the end of Grade 3, know from memory all products of two one-digit numbers. (3.OA.7) 

If the understanding comes first, as it should, then memorizing is what the students need to do, so that they can become fluent, and have automaticity.  There.  See how they can all come together?  I particularly like this definition from the online psychology dictionary:

Think about riding a bike.  It took work to learn how, and a lot of practice to do it well.  You had to think about balance, and steering straight, and moving your feet on the pedals.  Those training wheels really helped!  And when you finally got everything working together, it took practice to get to the point where it no longer required conscious effort.  (And it was wonderful!)  This is what we want to do with multiplication facts.

So what does this mean for the classroom?  It means that students must be given time, in class, to practice their multiplication facts.  In more than one way!  They should also be practicing at home.  And then we need a way to assess their _______________ (insert your favorite word here: fluency, automaticity, or memorization).  But let's give them some training wheels (scaffolds) - like the "Secret Code" to begin with.  Finally, let's give them an incentive, something that keeps them engaged and excited in the learning process.

Click on the picture to download for FREE from TpT
Step 1: Tell students about the "Secret Codes" that will help them learn their facts.  Eight-year-olds love secrets!  (Some of them will know that it's only skip-counting... but they'll still have fun with it.)  Study them closely, decipher them, and look for patterns together.  Then practice them!  Write them down, say them together, get in a circle and have each person say a number in order (We play a game called "Sparkle" with them).  Write them in a multiplication chart, so students can see how many they already know.  You can even sing them... but that's another post.

Step 2: Practice, Practice, Practice!  Practice the multiplication facts in many different ways.  We use regular flash cards, which they take home to practice every night.  There are tons of computer games, iPad apps, card games, multiplication charts, dice games, free worksheet generators, etc.  Find the ones you like.  Here are a few of my favorites:
Find this product on
These can be purchased on Amazon.  

 These are fabulous cards for practicing and understanding fact families!  Cover the top number for multiplication practice, and one of the bottom numbers for division.  (I bought these from

© Copyright 2002, Oswego City School District  
Click the picture to try this computer game!
Math Magician Games - put a link on your student computers.  Click on multiplication or division to practice any set of facts from ones to tens.  Students try to answer 20 questions in one minute.  (My students love this one, and it's free!)  They can print a certificate when they pass.

Show a video!  Here's a student explaining multiplication memorization, and why it's not so hard (3:49)

Click on the picture to see this paid product on TpT

The following pages are from my Multiplication Memorization Tool Kit.  Click on any picture to see the kit in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store.  It has over 100 pages of multiplication memorization magic!  (There is a cost for this product, since it took me eight years to make...)

Multiplication Fluency Practice - Light Bulbs and Laughter Multiplication Tool Kit

Ice Cream Cone Fluency Practice
  My students love to practice with dry erase markers.  We put these ice cream cones into page protectors, and they use them at a math station.  These can be differentiated by having students work with different factors in the middle.  One version has the factors in order, the other has them mixed up.

Secret Code Mazes
My students love these!  They have to follow the code (x1 to x10) four times in a row to get to the end.

Partner Dice Games - Light Bulbs and Laughter Multiplication Tool Kit

Partner Dice Games 
This is one of the games in my Multiplication kit.  They use two dice and go up to 6x6.  These make a great math center when placed inside a plastic page protector and played with dry erase markers or game tokens.

Multiplication Homework - Light Bulbs and Laughter Multiplication Tool Kit

Multiplication Homework
I have three different pages of practice that are easily differentiated.  Perfect for students who need extra practice or have not quite mastered certain multiplication facts.
Multiplication Timed Test with "Secret Code" - Light Bulbs and Laughter
Step 3: Assess with scaffoldsMake sure
 students have a strategy for the facts you are testing! Van de Walle states that a drill without an efficient strategy is a waste of time, but an effective drill strengthens memory and retrieval capabilities.  Let them take a practice timed test, but have them write the "Secret Code" down the side.  Set the timer to count up from zero, and have them write the time it took to finish.  When they do it again the next day, they can try to beat their previous time.  (I use the online timer HERE)
Multiplication Memorization Kit - Timed Tests - Light Bulbs and Laughter

Step 4:  Finally, assess with a timed test.  By this time the hope is that they will have memorized the set of facts you are working on.  I use my own timed tests from my Multiplication Tool Kit, because they have a built in review section at the bottom of the page.  (What good is remembering the fours if you have forgotten all of the threes?)  There are also many that you can find for free, on TpT or using a Google search.

I give my students a week to memorize each set of facts (we have already been working on understanding multiplication for at least a month by the time we start this process).  I keep track of the class on a word document that shows when they have passed the test and the regular flash cards.

Ice Cream Shop incentive program on TpT from Light Bulbs and Laughter
Click on the picture to see my Ice Cream Incentive Program on TpT
Step 5: Whew!  If you've made it this far, thanks!  Now comes the reward.  When students pass the timed test and the flash cards, they earn a part of their ice cream sundae.  I have the pieces copied onto colored construction paper, and they cut it out and glue it onto their sundae on the wall.  They LOVE to glue each part on - and to show it to their parents at conference time! 

Ice cream sundae multiplication celebration from Light Bulbs and LaughterWhen the ten (or more) weeks of multiplication memorization are completed, we have a huge party.  I invite parents to provide the goodies, and to help scoop ice cream, squirt syrup, sprinkle sprinkles, spray whipped cream, etc.  I work in a high poverty district, but we have always had parents willing to help their children celebrate this milestone.

My teaching partner and I have had considerable success with variations on this process for the last eight years.  I'm sure there are many other (and maybe better) ways to lead students to multiplication fluency, automaticity, and memorization... but this has worked well for us.  Plus, we get ice cream!

p.s. 8x7 used to be difficult for me to remember, until I thought about the order of the digits: 56 = 7x8.  Now it's my favorite fact to teach =)

Happy Multiplication Fact Teaching,
Denise from Light Bulbs and Laughter


"Teacher, Your Penguin is Too Fat!"

"Teacher, Your Penguin is Too Fat!" from Light Bulbs and Laughter
Allow me to introduce you to my Emperor Penguin.  Her name is Penelope.  I made her in one of those incredibly rare and much beloved moments in teacher time, twenty minutes spent student-less in the classroom.  

I gathered my butcher paper, scissors, and heavy duty glue stick, looked at my inspiration picture from Pinterest (click HERE for the original pin), and began to cut.  I had to give up my lunch for this... but it was worth it.  Or so I thought.

When the students walked in after lunch, Penelope was attached to the cabinets in the back of the room.  Immediate chaos ensued (they're eight years old and they get excited, which is part of why I love teaching), as all 26 students needed to see her and touch her.  We have been studying about penguins for a few weeks, and she was to be a part of our culminating activity.

Finally, all the students were sitting down and quiet.  We were preparing to do our math fluency test when a hand went up in the middle of the room.  I called on this student, who said, "Teacher, your penguin is too fat!"  

Now my signature way of dealing with kids who do not use my name is to smile and call them "Student".  They usually smile back and use my name.  Not this kid.  It's November, and he still calls me teacher.  But I digress.

So I said, "Student, why do you think Penelope is too fat?"  He said, "Penelope is too fat because she should only weigh 66 pounds."  Be still my heart!  He can't remember my name, but he remembered what we read about penguins!  AND he answered in a complete sentence!  I asked one more question, "Student, what evidence do you have to support this statement?"  He then opened his penguin folder and removed the research page he had filled out, showing me the average weight of an adult Emperor Penguin.  

Well.  I would have done the happy teacher dance if I were not hobbled by a bad knee.  We went together to look at Penelope more closely.  I asked the class whether they agreed that she was too fat to look as though she weighed 66 pounds.  They all agreed (which third graders tend to do, no matter what question you are asking), so we put Penelope on a diet.

And here she is, newly svelte and waiting outside so that the younger students can see if they are taller than an Emperor Penguin.  We looked up the meaning of svelte, and chose the first definition.  Penelope is now slender, and while I doubt she is graceful while walking on the ice, we choose to believe that she is very graceful in the water!

Normally I do not recommend a diet that relies on scissors for results, but in this case, it worked out well. =) 

Riley the Cat and His Penguin from Light Bulbs and Laughter

Before I go I must share with you this picture of my cat.  His name is Riley, and he looks a bit like a penguin.  Riley loves to stand up on his back feet and be petted on the back of his neck.  This is what I imagine might happen if a penguin came to visit.  Can you tell which one is Riley?  

One more quick penguin item... here's a freebie from my TpT store.  It's the same multiplication game in color and black and white.  Click on either picture to download.
FREE Penguin Multiplication Game from Light Bulbs and Laughter
FREE Penguin Multiplication Game from Light Bulbs and Laughter
 I also have a Pinterest board with lots of links to penguin activities, freebies, art projects, and videos.  You can find it HERE.

Happy teaching with penguins,

Classroom Conundrum: I Don't Like Halloween

Classroom Conumdrum - I Don't Like Halloween - Light Bulbs and Laughter
© Krisdog @Wavebreakmedia

I have a confession to make.  I'm an elementary teacher who does not like Halloween.  Honestly, I find the whole thing kind of distasteful.  The focus on evil/scary/ugly things is just not something I can appreciate.

For a lot of teachers, this is not an issue, because so many schools do not celebrate the holiday.  Mine does.  We make a Halloween craft.  We read Halloween books.  We allow students to wear their costumes to school and celebrate with a parade through the classrooms.  Parents send candy and cupcakes and all sorts of goodies for their kids to hand out to their classmates.  Our Principal even wears a costume, and teachers are expected to wear costumes, as well.

After all that, we try to teach, when all the kids can focus on is the candy waiting for them at the end-of-the-day party. Seriously, what are the chances that any learning will take place that day?  For several years, I had a BAD attitude about Halloween.  Yes, I wore a costume.  But I didn't have to like it!  Once, I got the flu, and I was almost happy to be throwing up, because I could avoid the whole day!

Then I started really paying attention to my students during October.  Their little faces would simply light up when they described their costume to me.  They didn't want to be evil, they just wanted to be a ladybug.  Or a Superhero.  How could I dislike something that brought them so much joy?

Superhero Kids - Light Bulbs and Laughter
© Malchev
So here's what I do.  I do my best to turn Halloween into something more positive.  I tell my third graders not to be anything too evil or scary, because I'm too young for scary stuff (this always makes them laugh, because they're sure I'm at least a hundred years old).  I pull out my Cat in the Hat costume and paint on some whiskers, and I do my best to appreciate their joy in the day.  

I take their picture and have them write about their costume.  I look on Teachers Pay Teachers for non-scary activities that address the standards we happen to be learning.  And when it's over, I give a BIG sigh of relief, wash off my whiskers, and put my hat away until next year.
Say Boo to Drugs door - Red Ribbon Week - Light Bulbs and Laughter

I also try to incorporate Halloween into other things that are happening in October, like Red Ribbon Week.  So we say "Boo" to drugs, and make ghosts (cute ghosts, not scary ones!) with our hand prints and some googly eyes.  I found this ghost craft idea on Pinterest, of course.  You can find the original pin here.

Now that I'm routinely sharing things on Teachers Pay Teachers (many for free), I decided to go ahead and make monthly calendars with seasonal and holiday clip art, so teachers can have a choice of which to use.  For October, I have two choices: an Autumn theme, and a Halloween theme with happy jack-o-lanterns.  Nothing too evil or scary =)  Click on either picture if you would like these free calendars to use with your students.

October Calendars FREE from Light Bulbs and Laughter
You can find the entire year of calendars, with and without Holidays (27 in all) for sale HERE.

Happy Teaching at Halloween,

Classroom Posters For Every Teacher

Classroom Posters For Every Teacher from Light Bulbs and Laughter
Oh. My. Word.  This is THAT year.  You know what I mean.  Every teacher has had at least one.  This year is really going to help me grow as a teacher.  That's all I can say.  Well, I can say a lot more, but I'm going to let my students' words speak for themselves.

In my classroom, we make a habit of talking out the negative things that happen.  We come up with alternate ways that a person could react to a situation.  We help each other get along.  We apologize when we've hurt someone.  We write a pledge together and recite it every day.  In it we promise to work as a team and follow the Golden Rule.  We learn about the Pillars of Character.  You get the drift.

Here's a list of some things I've heard from my students this year.  We wrote them on the board.  Then we talked about how a person could respond to these words.  Here's what we came up with.  If these are posters that you can use, please download them from Teachers Pay Teachers.  Use them with my blessing!  And have a wonderful year.  (Click on  any picture to download.  They come in two versions: paint splatters and black and white.)

  • "He made me do it."
  • "She did it first!" 
  • "I wouldn't have kicked him if he hadn't hit me."
Classroom Posters For Every Teacher - Light Bulbs and Laughter

  • "My dog peed on it and I had to throw it away."  (Checked with mom.  She said, "We don't have a dog.")
    Classroom Posters For Every Teacher - Light Bulbs and Laughter

  • "Nobody gave me my homework."
  • "Why do I have to?  It's not fair!" 
    Classroom Posters For Every Teacher - Light Bulbs and Laughter
  • "I had to erase her name and put mine.  You didn't give me one."
Classroom Posters For Every Teacher - Light Bulbs and Laughter
  • "I didn't do it."  (Oh, yes, you really did.)
    Classroom Posters For Every Teacher - Light Bulbs and Laughter
  • "I don't like purple.  I want the black ones."

    Classroom Posters For Every Teacher - Light Bulbs and Laughter
    I hope that you do not need these as much as I do this year!  The good news is, I think they're already helping. =)
Happy Teaching,