How to get students to write their name on their paper EVERY TIME

I used to feel like a broken record. "Put-your-name-on-your-paper. Put-your-name-on-your-paper. Put-your-name-on-your-paper." Yet somehow, I would go through that stack of papers to grade, and find 4 papers that didn't have names on them.
Does anyone else have this problem? I couldn't be the only one! But then I tried something that actually worked. I learned it from this awesome lady named Salonna.

She was my mentor when I started teaching, and I have to admit, at first I was a little scared of her. She was one of those teachers with a really stern face, and when I was interviewing for the job, I thought for sure she hated me. If a student got sent to her office, it was bad news. She was not afraid to tell it like it was. But after working with her for a few weeks, I discovered she was a lot of fun, and she was a very kind, very passionate, very talented teacher. She had so many tricks up her sleeve from years of teaching. 

I had been teaching for a few weeks and was having trouble getting my students to write their names on their papers. Over and over again I would remind them, but it was no use. I asked Salonna, and she had the most simple trick. It was a song, and it was to the tune of "If You're Happy and You Know it." She told me to sing the song every time I passed out papers to the class. As they got their paper, we would be singing the song and they would write their names. It goes like this:

The first thing on your paper is your name.
The first thing on your paper is your name.
Mrs. Beckstrand needs to know if you did your work and so,
The first thing on your paper is your name.

Sometimes the simplest things can be the biggest life-savers. My students loved to sing this song with me, and it really helped cut down on no-name papers. 

However, sometimes you have a super stubborn class that just cannot seem to remember. If this sounds like your class, here is another trick you can try:

I thought this was a great idea, too! When students turn in their paper, they have to highlight their name. This is a surefire way to get them to write their name if the song didn't work. 

Try these ideas out in your classroom and let me know how they worked out for you! Hopefully you will now be able to toss out that broken record and get on with class. : )

Valentine's Day Activities for Music Class

This was my twin 3-year-olds’ first year of preschool, and we were all so excited! The second week of school, there was a note sent home saying they needed a new music teacher. My initial thought was that I would love to take that job! Before the twins were born, I taught second grade, and absolutely loved it. I had missed being in the classroom, and this sounded like a great opportunity. But on the other hand, I was so excited to finally have a few hours a week to myself. Did I really want to give up some of those hours? It would only be one day a week for a couple hours, but my time without kids is so precious!

Ultimately, I decided that I would enjoy being back in a classroom for a few hours a week, and it would be a fun way to be involved in my girls’ preschool experience.

Fast forward a few months, and I am really enjoying teaching music. It’s so fun to see those little 3 and 4-year-olds dancing and singing. It’s especially fun when there is a holiday and we get to sing festive songs to go along with the holiday.

Last week we celebrated Valentine’s Day. I found some great activities that I tweaked to fit the needs of my cute little preschoolers.

If you haven’t heard of Jbrary, you need to check them out. I have used a lot of their songs in my music class. Here is a little Valentine rhyme to do:

But I added a tune to it; you can hear it here:

Then we sang Valentine words to the song, Bluebird, Bluebird Through My Window.***** 

Valentine, Valentine, through my window,
Valentine, Valentine, through my window,
Valentine, Valentine, through my window,
Will you be my Valentine?

Find a friend and give them a Valentine,
Find a friend and give them a Valentine,
Find a friend and give them a Valentine,
Happy Valentine's Day!

Here's one of my 3-year-old classes:


I cut out a heart for each child and put tape on the back of it. On each child's turn, they pick up a heart and weave in and out of the windows as the class sings. When the song is done, they put the heart on the shirt of a person they end near. Then trade places with that kid, and it is the new kid's turn.

FOR OLDER CHILDREN: Instead of trading places with the kid they give the Valentine to, they take their hand and lead them through the windows as they sing the next verse. Eventually everyone in the class will be in the train of kids going through windows. If you do this way, you probably want to be the leader; it can get a little crazy:

(credit: Deborah K. Oates)

The last activity we did was a matching game to the tune of Mary Had a Little Lamb:

Who will be my Valentine, Valentine, Valentine,
Who will be my Valentine, be my Valentine

I cut out enough hearts for each child to have one, so that there were two hearts of every color. The students stood in a big circle with their hands behind their back. I put a heart in each child's hand and told them not to look or let anyone else see their heart. Then they sang the song and showed everyone their hearts. When they saw someone with the same color heart as them they went over to that person, gave them a high five and said, "Happy Valentine's Day!"

FOR OLDER CHILDREN: Instead of cutting the hearts out by color, make the hearts all the same color. Then you can write anything you want to on the hearts. You could write sight words, a number problem with an answer on the matching heart, money (pics of the coins on one heart and the total value on the other heart)

We had a blast with these Valentine's Day songs, and I hope your class will too!

Books and Beyond: Dragons Love Tacos

Have you read this book? I heard about it and just thought it sounded so fun! Here's the summary from Amazon:

Dragons love tacos. They love chicken tacos, beef tacos, great big tacos, and teeny tiny tacos. So if you want to lure a bunch of dragons to your party, you should definitely serve tacos. Buckets and buckets of tacos. Unfortunately, where there are tacos, there is also salsa. And if a dragon accidentally eats spicy salsa . . . oh, boy. You're in red-hot trouble.

This is such a great book that your students are sure to love! Here are a few ideas you can use in your classroom to go along with the theme:


You can do this as a class, or even as a center. Just have all the supplies out with an example, and the kids can make their own puppets and then retell the story. Click on the image for directions:

 I found this cute song online called Dragons Love Tacos. It has movements with it, and it's a great way to get your kids up and moving. You can find it here.

After reading the book, let the students try samples of salsa. If they're really brave, they could even try spicy salsa. Discuss which they liked best, and why.

Use soda pop and Mentos to do a fun science experiment. Click the picture below for details.

So many fun hands-on activities! I have also created a book study to go along with the book, that has lots of math and language arts activities. Here is some info about it:

One of my favorite activities for this book is the shapes dragon. Print the shapes on different colored paper, and have your students cut them out. Instructions are included to put the dragon together, so students follow the instructions and then answer questions about the shapes they used. 

I also included 2 mini lessons to introduce persuasive writing to the class, and a graphic organizer to model how to write a persuasive letter. In the first lesson, students give their opinion about a certain topic, and then work as groups to try and persuade other students to agree with them. This helps demonstrate that trying to persuade someone of something is different than just stating your opinion. Then in lesson 2, you work together as a class to write a persuasive letter. The students need to try and persuade the teacher to send them to recess 5 minutes early. 

Students will then write their own persuasive letter. They need to decide what their favorite type of party is, and try and persuade the teacher that their next class party should be that type of party.

There are different math worksheets included, like telling time, graphing, and skip counting. 

Other activities included are: 

Writing about your favorite part
Shades of meaning
Long vowel sounds worksheet
Adjectives worksheet
Asking questions teacher instructions and worksheet

Your students will love this book, and will learn so much with these supplementary activities. This is a great packet to do around Cinco de Mayo, or to keep in your substitute binder for when you have a sub.

Enter to win the book and/or the book study below!
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It's Music Time!

My twin girls started preschool this year, and they have absolutely been loving it! The school sent home a note last week that they need a new music teacher, so I decided to go for it! I have only taught second graders, so it is a bit of a change for me, but I am excited to get involved with teaching again. It's only once a week for a couple hours, and today was my first day! Here's an outline of what we did: (click on the pictures to go to the link for the song)

Materials needed:
Two egg shakers, each with a different sound. I used one filled with popcorn kernels and one with oats.
Egg shakers for each student
Play microphone
Fall leaves (real leaves, or cut out of construction paper)
Vivaldi's Four Seasons, "Autumn"

Welcome Song (I will share this later)

"I brought some special instruments today. These are called egg shakers. Touch your nose if you have ever used egg shakers. We are all going to have a chance to use them today. Listen to these egg shakers. Do they sound the same or different? Listen to the pink one, and listen to the green one. I am going to hide them and when I shake it I want to see if you can tell by the noise which color I am shaking. (do that a couple times)

Hickety Ticketee bumblebee, can you say your name to me? 
Dallin, Dallin, that’s a very good name.
(loud, soft, fast, slow)

Go over the rules of the egg shakers (keep on the floor until I say pick up your egg shakers. We wait until everyone has their shakers to start, because that is the polite thing to do.

While you pass out the shakers, sing a song (maybe a repeat song?)

Pick up your shakers. 

Everyone can shake shake shake, everyone can shake shake shake,
Everyone can shake shake shake, and now everybody stop.
Everyone can tap, clap, wave

Shake your shaker, shake shake shake, shake shake shake, shake shake shake
Shake your shaker, shake shake shake, shake your shaker.
Shake your shakers high high high,
Low low low,
Fast fast fast
Slow slow slow  

Egg shakers up, and egg shakers down.
Egg shakers dancing all around the town.
Dance them on your shoulders, and dance them on your head.
Dance them on your knees and tuck them into bed.


Talk about autumn/fall, and if they have noticed the leaves falling down.
Do you like fall? Tell me about fall. There was a man named Antonio Vivaldi, who lived a very long time ago. He decided to write songs for each season of the year. He thought about how the seasons made him feel, and how they would sound. We are going to listen to his song called autumn and pretend to be leaves falling from the trees.
Drop the leaves and notice how they fall. Can we make our bodies move like that?

Put arms up in the air, attached to the tree, and during the song, we dance around the room like we are leaves. When the music stops, head back to your spot and fall on the ground like leaves.

Vivaldi Four Seasons (Autumn)

Sometimes we help our parents rake the leaves, then jump in a big pile, or a heap of leaves. Practice doing motions with the kids, then sing song:

(London bridge)
Autumn leaves are falling down, falling down, falling down,
Autumn leaves are falling down, it is fall.

Find a rake and rake them up, rake them up, rake them up, find a rake and rake them up, it is fall.

Make a pile and jump right in, jump right in, jump right in, make a pile and jump right in, it is fall.

Here comes the wind to blow them round, blow them round, blow them round,
Here comes the wind to blow them round, on the it is fall.

The classes went really well! I ended up doing the Hickety Tickety Bumblebee song first with each class, because they all really wanted to tell me their names. 

Teacher to Teacher: Tips for Enjoying Your Summer Break

Ok, so I am not a teacher anymore, but I used to be, and oh boy, did I love summer break. But I found that some summers it just seemed to fly by, and I hadn't done anything I said I was going to! Has that ever happened to you? I have thought about it, and I have some ideas to help you have the best summer ever.

1. Keep a calendar
Does it ever seem like the school year sneaks up on you suddenly, without warning? If you keep a calendar, you can avoid this problem. It is a visual countdown of how much summer you have left. I always had so many fun activities I wanted to do, but then the school year grew closer, and I found myself trying to fit them all in. Write down the things you want to do, and make a tentative plan on your calendar. That way you won't run out of time.

2. Don't completely forget about school.
When that final bell rings for summer break, I know it is tempting to want to forget about school until the end of August. But if you do that, then you will spend your last few weeks of vacation in your classroom, trying to get everything ready. When you are planning out your fun activities for the summer, be sure to plan in some school time too. I always thought it would be great (although I never did it!) to schedule in two days a week at the school. Those would be my working days (or half days), so I would be sure to get things done over the summer too.

3. Spend time with your kids and family during the day.
During the school year, you don't get to spend family time together during the day, because you are working. Use the summer to do fun things with your kids and really enjoy them and get to know them. Also, if you have family members (sisters, parents, etc) who live close and don't work, use this time to go out to lunch or have picnics with them too.

4. Get Outside.
If you love being outdoors like me, summer is the perfect time! Unless you live in Arizona. ; ) But otherwise, take advantage of the time you have during the day, and the extra time in the evening when you don't have to be planning lessons. Get a hammock and relax, go on a hike, go swimming. This is why I love summer.

5. Sleep in. (or don't!)
It seems like when you are talking about summer break, people always tell you to enjoy it and sleep in. When I was growing up, I was notorious for sleeping in LATE. Like, I remember sleeping in till 11 or 12 sometimes. I loved to stay up late and sleep in late. So when I started teaching and got summers off, I was so excited to be able to sleep in! Hallelujah! My first summer teaching, I did just that. (although, by then, 9:00 was late to me).  I slept in and loved it. If that is what you like to do, do it.

But then I started to feel like I was wasting my day, and I felt like I was more sluggish when I slept in. So the next summer I decided to just sleep in a little bit. I still got up fairly early, but not as early as when school was in session. This worked great for me. I would wake up with the sun shining, feeling happy and able to get a head start on the day. So if you don't feel like sleeping in, don't. Do what suits you. That is what's great about summer break! (Until you have kids. Then you probably have to get up early.)

Whatever you end up doing, I hope you have an AMAZING summer break! What tips do you have for enjoying summer break? Leave a comment below!

St. Patrick's Day Classroom Activities

This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

St. Patrick's Day is quickly approaching! Do you have fun plans for your class or kids? I love St. Patrick's Day, and there are so many great activities you could do with your students. Here is a quick roundup of a bunch of activities that you might want to try out:

St. Patrick's Day Mosaic Shamrock. I think these are super cute. You could use scrapbook paper or paint chips. You could read your class about the origins of St. Patrick's Day, or read a fun book while they work on these.

 Shamrock Number Line. Write numbers on shamrocks, and hide them around the classroom. Students then find them and put them in order on the number line. You could even do skip counting numbers.

Sight Word Matching.This is a super simple activity your students could do as part of a center, or a fast finisher activity. They just look for matching sight words and get some extra practice!

Shamrock Family. Send a shamrock home for your students to decorate with their families. They decorate the shamrock about why they are lucky to be a family. So sweet!

Prefix Rainbows. Add some color to your classroom with this rainbow activity, and help your students practice their prefixes!

Well, I hope you can use some of these fun ideas in your classroom. If you are looking for a cute little gift for your students, here are some pencil toppers you can download. Just get some cute St. Patrick's Day pencils like these or these, print and cut the toppers, and pass them out to your students.

Click Here to download
You can also download and print these cute bookmarks for your students to color.

Click Here to download

Happy St. Patrick's Day!!

Five of My Favorite Children's Books for the Classroom

I love, love, love children's books! This love started in college with my children's literature class and my amazing teacher, Dr. Elaine Byrd. She had a love for books, and shared that love with her students. She spent time during each class reading aloud to us. Through this I was introduced to so many fun children's books. Today I am linking up with Busy Bee's Activities to share some of my favorites that I used in my second grade classroom.

When Stephanie's classmates start copying her hairstyles, she starts wearing her hair in crazy ways and finally outsmarts the copycats. What a hilarious book. I love Robert Munsch.

This is a great book for the beginning of the year and talking about students' names. Chrysanthemum goes to school and gets embarrassed about her unique, long, name. In the end she realizes to be proud of who she is.

This is such an amazing, touching story about the importance of telling the truth. Ping is a young Chinese boy who tells the truth in a difficult situation and is rewarded for his honesty. One of my favorites!

There are so many kids who feel like they have to be perfect in everything they do. In this story by Peter Reynolds, Ramon learns a valuable lesson that his artwork does not have to be perfect. It is such a cute story. I also love The Dot, also by Peter Reynolds.

Alex really wants an iguana, so he writes a letter to his mom. They negotiate back and forth, until a decision is made. This makes a great intro to persuasive writing.

Some of my other favorites you should check out:
A Bad Case of Stripes
Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon
The Paperbag Princess
Enemy Pie