Thanks to Education World for use of my Mrs. Waffenschmidt illustration.

Thanks to Education World for use of my Mrs. Waffenschmidt illustration.
Click on icon to go to my website:

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Importance of decorating your classroom

I truly believe that a classroom should be an inviting place. Yes, we have lots and lots of responsibilities placed upon, and it seems more and more each year but  I think "bare" walls are not something you should have in your classroom.So, especially for new teachers....I say decorate your room, even if you teach high school!!! It's your home away from home, make it inviting with lots for students to see about what you will be teaching, current events,inspirational quotes, pictures of places in the world,hanging works of students, having personal things(in my case-bears, sunflowers and almost anything purple, my 6th grade report card and picture, etc).

I found this decorating tip to be very helpful to me and wanted to share: During study hall the last week of school with testing done, and less assignments for the students to work on, I often asked if anyone wished to cut out "fresh" letters for next year's bulletin boards. Students helped me take down all my boards.After the room was bare, and can remember a major echo in the room, it didn't stay that way for long. I would begin decorating my room for the fall. Then, students offered to cover the boards with newspaper so the construction paper didn't fade over the summer. When I came down the end of August to set up my room, I just removed the paper and could move to other tasks needing to be done for the first day of school. At first, I used to get a confused look from staff but eventually, I found many other teachers using this "pre" readiness idea.



Thursday, December 20, 2012

Review Games for Upper Elementary/Middle School

Heree are some popular review activities I found successful to use in the classroom.

1. HISTO: A vocabulary review game which is like bingo. Students use a word list and fill in a bingo grid(six box for a short review or 16 for a larger review). The game board can be used for several games. I usually have them place the letter H for my name for the first round, perhaps, an X, a smiley face, etc. The teacher gives a definition and if they have the word on their board(usually have one or two extras on the world list), they place the appropriate marker. The student(students) with 3(or 4 if using 16 boxes) across, down or diagonally, stand saying “Histo”. In order to “win” the round, the student (s) must say the word and give a definition.

2. Hot Potato: This is like musical chairs. Have an alarm that can be set to go off in a couple of seconds or wind up a music box or anything that can make a noise. Have the students stand or sit in a row and continue to pass the item that is making the noise. When the noise stops, the student with the item is asked a question about the lesson. If they don’t know the answer, they are out of the round. Continue until there is a winner.

3. History Bee: Have the students stand by their desks. Begin by asking questions. If the student doesn’t know the answer they are to sit down. Continue asking the question until the answer is correct. Ask another question. Continue the same pattern. The student still standing at the end of the round wins. * If, you ask a question which no student can answer correctly, all the students who sat down for the particular question get to stand back up and another question is asked.

4. WHO, WHAT, WHERE am I : Before class, place different terms for the unit of study on index cards. The terms can be famous people for the unit, places and things(terms). With masking tape, place an index card onto each of the students’ backs. Explain they can only ask questions that can be answered with a yes or no. Have the students circulate amongst the class trying to figure out the term on their back. Once they have identified the card, give them a point and ANOTHER index card on their back. Continue with the students with the most identified cards, the winners.

5. Concentration: Make cards( or have groups of students make their own cards of a term on one index card and the definition on another card). Shuffle the cards when done and place on the floor or a desktop. Groups of students take turns trying to find pairs(term/meaning), taking the pairs for each they have correctly identified. Play the round until the cards have all been identified.

6. Bluff: Divide the class into two or three teams. Explain that you will ask the students a question. All the students in the group being asked the question that know the answer are to quietly stand. Anyone that wants to “bluff” they know the answer, can stand as well. The teacher picks a standing student. If the student knows the answer, the team is awarded the number of points for the amount of students standing. If, incorrect, the team loses the number of points for the amount of students standing. The team with the most point wins the round.

7. Play the game show Jeopardy:

8. Play a game based on HangMan: Instead of hanging a person, make a pumpkin, snowman, or some other picture which you add parts as the answers are correct, making it a positive drawing. *Before playing, show a picture of a completed drawing.

9. Play a variation of Deal or No Deal: Place 10-15 large index cards on the chalkboard with various points for 5-100. Also place a couple of cards which say double points, triple points or take away half your points. Divide the students into two or three teams. Have the students on each team take turns answering a question. After they answer, have the student pick the amount of points they have earned for a correct answer. If they have earned one of the special cards, they can use on another turn.

10. GRIDLOCK: This activity is a fun research activity. Make a grid of 5 topics( for example: Country of the World, Famous scientist, capital of the world, famous place to visit, River of the world). Then, make a list going downward with 5-7 letters. Students using reference materials with a partner try and find as many topics that start with the letters given.
See example
Country of the World /Famous Scientist/ Capital of the World/ Famous Place River

Gail Hennessey

Using News for Creative Writing-Monarch Butterfly Carried to Great Britain by Hurricane Isaac!

Using the news for creative writing.

A monarch butterfly migrating from North America to Mexico made an unexpected detour-to Great Britain. It is believed that Hurricane Isaac caused the tiny butterfly to be carried 3500 miles across the Atlantic Ocean!
The left wing of the orange, white and black monarch butterfly is damaged. It was spotted near the Portland Bird Observatory on the Isle of Portland,Dorset, Great Britain. Butterfly enthusiasts are coming to the facility to catch a glimpse of monarch butterfly.Some do not believe a monarch could have made such an amazing trek and say that it may be a monarch butterfly raised in Great Britain that flew the coop. Only the tiny butterfly ,with its four inch wingspan,knows its true origins!

Word of the day:lepidopterist-a scientist who studies of butterflies, moths and similar insects. Write 3 sentences using the word lepidopterist.

Helpful link: Learn about monarch butterflies:

•Draw/color a picture of a monarch butterfly. Write a haiku poem(or other type of poem) about the monarch.
•Make a list of  descriptive phrases to describe the monarch butterfly. Using similes and metaphors to describe the coloring of the monarch butterfly, its fluttering and how it gathers nectar, etc.
•Pretend you are a monarch butterfly. Describe your adventure being caught up in the winds that carried you across the Atlantic to Great Britain. What do you see? Hear? Feel? What are you thinking about as thousands of people with cameras are trying to catch a glimpse of you as you rest on some plants gathering nectar?
• Do an interview with another student with one being the reporter and the other the monarch butterfly. Tell about your adventure.

Hope you find this of value to use with your students.
Gail Hennessey

Friday, December 14, 2012


Today, 28 were killed,20 of those children,at Connecticut Elementary School in Newtown.After such horrible violence against innocent people,the cry for gun control laws always goes out-to no avail. Maybe, this time...change WILL happen. NO one(in my opinion) needs such killing weapons! Little kindergarteners, in their classroom gunned down..such sadness in my heart!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Photograph from

Check out my website to download these plays based on the To Tell the Truth Game Show:

Abigail Adams
Florence Harding
Lady Bird Johnson
Mary Todd Lincoln
Eleanor Roosevelt
Dolly Madison
Edith Wilson
Hillary Clinton
Michelle Obama

Fun Facts about First Ladies:
Lucy Webb Hayes was the first wife of a president to be called "First Lady".

Only Abigail Adams and Barbara Bush were a spouse and mother to Presidents of the United States.

Florence Harding was the first woman to vote for her husband in a presidential election.

Frances Cleveland was the first to have a baby born in the White House while her husband was president.The popular candy, Baby Ruth ,was named for their child.

Dolly Madison was the first American to answer a telegraph message sent by Samuel Morse.

Pat Nixon was the first First Lady to wear pants in public.

Caroline Harrison was the first First Lady to have a Christmas tree in the White House.

Hillary Rodham Clinton was the first First Lady to become a senator of the United States,was a candidate for President and became Secretary of State under President Obama's administration.

Try this Webquest on First Ladies:

Monday, December 3, 2012

Did you know that the Wright Brothers' plans for their Wright Flyer airplane was turned down by the U.S. Army? Did you know that the distance of the Wright Flyer was less than that of the wingspan of today's 747 Jet? Did you know that only 7 people came to witness the December 17,1903 flight(and TWO of these people were Wilbur and Orville)? I've developed a fun and informative webquest which you may find of value to use with your students. Additionally, I have included some activities which you might find of use.Go to this link:
Have a wonderful holiday season!

Photograph of the December 17,1903 flight from
Gail Hennessey

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Using the News:

Graham Hughes, of Great Britain, has accomplished something no one has ever done. He has visited all 201 countries of the world AND without taking an airplane!  It took Hughes four years to complete his journey beginning in the country of Uruguay,on January 1,2009. He just completed his trek in Juba, South Sudan. Hughes traveled an estimated 160,000 miles in his 1426 days relying on boats, trains, buses, taxis and his feet. In addition to a no fly rule, Hughes didn't drive his own vehicle, took only scheduled transportation and said that a visit to a country must involve actually stepping on land.Along the way, Hughes had some difficulties such as being arrested for being a spy in the Congo and accused of entering Russia without proper permission. High points of his trip included dancing with natives in Papua New Guinea and swimming in a lake filled with jellyfish in Palau.He spent four days aboard a leaky fishing canoe traveling from Senegal to Cape Verde and said probably the most difficult part of his journey was getting from some of the island such as Tuvalu, Samoa and Nauru without flying in an airplane. He said that he loves to travel and wanted to show people that the world is "not some big, scary place,but in fact is full of people who want to help you even if you are a stranger." Living on $100 per day, Hughes' trip also raised money for Water Aid, a British organization that works to provide clean water and sanitation to the world's poorest  people.

Sources: to contact Graham Hughes(his website)

If you could travel to any country of the world, where might you wish to visit and why. Research the country and make a travel poster. Include: 3 geography facts, 3 places to visit(specific place like a mountain, museum, landmark, etc), 3 souvenirs(things the country is famous for), 3 historical facts, 3 facts about the 
government of the country.

Obviously, you would need to travel light for a trip to visit all the countries of the world. Draw a large backpack. What would be 10 things you'd pack in your backpack?

Find a train table(perhaps use for a trip between 3 nearby countries(perhaps in Europe) From which city could you leave/arrival time/ leave time to get to 3 countries in 24 hours.

Write a one day diary entry about your travels. What did you do? Hear? See?

Learn about WaterAid. Activities for kids:  Make posters to share a fact about water and sanitation issues in parts of the world.

Use a map of the world. Have small groups of students make 7 mapwork questions. Exchange with another group to answer.

As of 2012,the  United Nations recognizes 193 countries .Use the world map to locate those places Graham Hughes visited that are not included in this list:Taiwan, Vatican City, Kosovo,Palestine and Western Sahara. South Sudan is the newest country(July 9,2011), find this country on a world map,too.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Do you have the Time?
by Gail Skroback Hennessey

People have long wanted to “remember” important events...that’s why time recording developed. Time was recorded based on ruler’s reigns, the Olympic Games and the movement of the earth, sun and moon. Use the activities to help discuss time recording and timelines. Hope you find this resource of value! 

Using the website on the Food timeline, make a time line of 5 foods before you were born and 5 foods since you were born.Research one food and write a paragraph using 4 facts learned about the history of that food.  timeline on the history of food-lots of fun!

Make a self time line with 4 events before your birth and 4 events since your birth. The events must be things in history, science, literature and not “family” events.

Use a time line and make 5 questions for another group to find the answers.  Timeline on the history of comics might be a great one to use for this activity!

Discuss BC and AD and BCE and CE

Timeline on the history of transportation from 3500BC to 1981 AD:   Have students draw/color 4 events on each side of a time line starting with 1816.

Additional Resources:

Fun Facts:
Did you know that there are at least 40 calendars used today? 

Most  people use the Gregorian calendar(based on the earth’s movement around the sun). There is also the Islamic calendar which is based on the movements of the moon and the Jewish calendar which uses both the movements of the earth around the sun and the movements of the moon.
What year is it? On the Islamic calendar,2012 is the year 1434.The Muslims started counting again(622AD) when Muhammad left Mecca for Medina. This  was a period of time called the Hijra.On the Jewish calendar, 2012 is the year 5772. On the Chinese calendar, 2012 is the year 4710.

AD doesn’t stand for After death of Christ, instead it stands for Anno domini(in the year of our Lord)

The word calendar comes from the Latin word, Kalends,the first day of each new month.
Dionysius Exiguus is created with inventing the AD/BC time recording concept back in 525 AD. He based events prior to the birth of Christ as BC and anything since his birth,as AD. 
CE and BCE are used by some historians instead of AD and BC as they are not religious based. CE stands for Common Era and BCE stands for Before Common Era.
Circa (ca or C.)means we don’t know the exact’s an approximate date.
Thank the ancient Egyptians for the 24 hour day...they were the first to use this idea! They also started the 365 days in a year.

The ancient  Mayans of Central America used the sun and moon and the planet VENUS to create their calendar.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

As a classroom teacher I always tried to incorporate art, music and yes....foods of different cultures into units of study. Students would make the foods during study hall and the school cafeteria was very kind to cook those recipes needing an oven. The foods we made were always something the students remembered from a unit of study! Here are some ideas for you to try for your your students to Eat THEIR Way Through History!

1.Researchers say that prehistoric people may have been the first to have a type of LOLLYPOPS. After collecting honey, the sweet honey remains on the stick were licked clean. 

2. Studying the Middle East? If, so, this sweet candy treat called marzipan is easy to make. Just make sure you give the students a “small” piece” as it is very, very sweet. It is thought that marzipan originated in Persia(Iran) and then introduced to Europe through the Turks. Eating this almond paste sweet is mentioned in The Book of One Thousand and One Nights.Also when studying the Middle East, I go to the grocery store and purchase matzo for the students to sample. Also called Matzo and Matzah, this cracker-like bread is made of flour and water. I give the students two crackers(one plain and one(if they desire) with margarine). Since dates and pistachio nuts originated in this part of the world as well, I usually bring these into class for students to sample. 

3. Studying the Egyptians? Make Semit, sesame bread rings.

4. When studying China, I’ve tried making fortune cookies(even though they were INVENTED in the USA). 

5. Studying American history, making butter is a simple and fun activity to try with your students. 

6. A popular activity during a unit of study on the Middle Ages includes making pretzels. It is thought that the idea of pretzels dates back to 600AD the Middle Ages when priests made treats, in the shape of hands in prayer, to give to children who learned their religions lessons. They were called “pretiola”.

7. A flat bread,lucchi, from India has been tried in my classroom during a short unit on India. 

8. Study the Greeks? Baklava is a popular dessert which would be easier to purchase at a Greek restaurant than make in a classroom. 

9. Studying Mexico? People since the ancient Aztecs and Mayans have been drinking hot chocolate. In fact, in the early history of chocolate, this was the only way to eat chocolate, a word that comes from choco(foam) and lat(water). Archaeologists say that the first users of chocolate dates back to the Olmecs, 1500-400 BC). The original hot chocolate of the ancients included hot chiles! 

At my website for teachers/young people, I give links to recipes. Go here:

Monday, November 19, 2012

Banning Homework? What do you think?

France's President Francois Hollande recently announced he'd like to ban it in France.Why the ban? Hollande doesn't think it is fair that some kids have parents that help them with homework and others do not. Kids in France currently go to school Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday(usually 8:30-4:30). President Hollande would like to add half day classes on Wednesday.  He'd require time at the end of the school day for students to do their homework assignments in school.What do you think of this idea?
Is homework of value? Do you assign it as reinforcement of the lesson, a preview of what the next lesson will be,or perhaps, as an exercise for the students to share what they did in school with their parents?
Would love to hear your thoughts!


How do I get my son/daughter to do their homework?
As a teacher, you probably get this question often from parents.
Perhaps, the following might be of interest to you as a classroom teacher or parent.

Parents are an integral component in the success of their children in school and the issue of homework is a perfect example of this.  As the parent, you must make school and doing homework a top priority in the course of a day, over sporting practice, lessons, etc. I like to think of the issue  of homework with PRAISE ..

1. Have a PLACE for your son/daughter to do their homework. It should be a central area(ie-kitchen if you are making dinner) and not a bedroom away from your supervision where they perhaps have a computer, TV, telephone, CD player, etc . to distract them from successfully completing their task.

2. Establish a ROUTINE, an established time when homework is to be done.  Personally, I think young people need a break after school to unwind so I think starting about 5 might be good(before dinner).  This routine time should be kept even on "no homework days".  Use the time like a study hall at home where they could read for the time, do research on the computer on a topic of interest, write you a letter explaining things covered in class during the day,etc.

3. Have a positive ATTITUDE toward school as the parent.  Even if you yourself didn't have a positive experience toward school, you as the parent must foster a positive attitude so kids pick up positive vibes from you. If your son/daughter thinks YOU don't value school and the homework that goes with it, they will easily see this and develop negative attitudes.

4.Have INVOLVEMENT in your son/daughter's studies.  Don't DO the homework , but check on their progress, ask if they need help AND ask to see the completed assignments when they say they have finished. So many parents tell me that homework takes HOURS because they admit they don't monitor their son/daughter's on task progress. Show you value what they have completed by reviewing their work.

5.SELF RELIANCE and SUPPORT your son/daughter. Homework is the responsibility of your son/daughter to come home with their materials and assignments. Teach them self- reliance to suffer the consequences from their teacher AND from you if they don't complete the daily assignment. Support your son/daughter. If they are having difficulties with the assignments by offering help and by  contact their teacher to ask for suggestions if they are having difficulty with the math or the reading materials.

6.ESTABLISH CONSEQUENCES for failure of your son/daughter to follow through to complete their homework or to be responsible for coming home with materials to complete the assignments.
Place all these components together and you get PRAISE something parents must do each day to foster a positive attitude toward school and being successful. Hang a good comment or paper on the refrigerator, tell your son/daughter that you are proud of them for being prepared for the entire week.

Do you have any ideas to share?


Friday, November 16, 2012

The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded each year to someone deemed to have made an important contribution to world peace. A petition has started to consider 15 year old Malala Yousafzai for this award.The Pakistani teen spoke out for girls to be allowed to go to school. You may remember that Malala was shot by Taliban members who do not want girls to get an education. Teachers around the world, perhaps,signing the petition to have Malala considered for the Nobel Peace Prize, is something you may wish to do. In my opinion, Malala is an inspiration and her courage and hope should to be recognized by the world. She has shown that no matter one's age, we CAN make a different.Please consider passing this information along... as Nelson Mandela once said,"Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world." If interested in signing the petition, go to this link:

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Pumpkin Fun...

I have a resource where kids can learn some fun and informative facts about pumpkins, just the thing for this time of year. I wanted to update that a record has again been broken for the biggest pumpkin!
October 2012:
Ron Wallace of Greene, Rhode Island, has grown a pumpkin that weighed in at 2010 pounds!The first pumpkin to ever weigh over a ton, crushes the previous record set in 2001 by Chris Stevens. His pumpkin tipped the scales at 1820. 8 ounces. Wallace said that at one point, his whopper of a pumpkin was growing about 35 pounds per day. Each seed from his record pumpkin will be worth between $300 and $1000 dollars-wow!

Check out this fun and informative webquest on pumpkins:

Hope you find it of value!


Resources to use with students:

  • PBS KidsBeat the Bully activity
  • Using Literature to discuss the issue of bullying:

  • Read the story, the Ugly Duckling to start a discussion on bullying.
  • Best Children's Books

  • Another story to read is Goose Girl by the Brothers Grimm. Find the story

  • Still another story is Cinderella.Find the story online at this link:
  • Together We Teach

    There are also many contemporary books that deal with bullying. Here is a small sampling for elementary and middle school student.

  • The Berenstain Bears and the Bully by Stan Berenstain

  • Blubber by Judy Blume

  • The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes

  • Thank you, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco

  • Bullies Are a Pain in the Brain by Trevor Romain and Elizabeth Vedick.

  • The Bully from the Black Lagoon by Mike Thaler with Jared Lee.

  • My Secret Bully by Trudy Ludwig

  • Roxie and the Hooligans by Phillis Reynolds Naylor

    Find more books on bullying and read summaries at this link:

    Read and listen to a short story about bullying online at this link:

  • Newspapers in Education. Comic book story about bullying might lead to a good follow up discussion.


  • Teaching Tips A-Z

    A-Always exhibit an interest in what you are teaching. If you think it’s important , your students will, too. Have an assessment for how to grade your students.

    B- Be prepared with your lesson. Have “bell ringers” to keep students on task when you are collecting papers, etc. It’s better to have MORE than not enough for each day’s lesson.

    C-Try to make connections with other areas of study with cross curricular activities whenever possible. Critique your lessons each day for what you liked and what needs improvement.

    D- Dress for success, your “teacher uniform” should not be too casual, Decorate your room.(It’s your “home away from home for 7 hours each day). Don’t READ your with the students.

    E-Establish expectations and a class climate which students will come to expect each class. Keep an “emergency folder” with activities for a couple of days which a sub can do should you be called away and not have time to leave detailed lesson plans.

    F-Try and Focus on the positive each day. Negatives will only get you down. Fire drill procedures and emergency Z Schedule procedures should be learned immediately and reviewed with the students.

    G- Set up a Grading system. How many grades will you give a week, what will the different assignments be weighed for importance, etc.

    H- Have consequences for students not meeting your requirement and follow through with parent telephone calls, after school or lunch detention, etc. HANG students’ work around the room. State and post your Homework policy.

    I- Offer incentive especially for younger learners such as “praise” for good work, less homework passes or bonus point, etc. REWARD positive behavior. Make sporadic “positive” telephone calls home.

    J-Just try your best and realize you won’t always have a successful lesson.

    K-Keep note paper in your desk(or Thank you notes) and distribute to students who show improvement, responsibility, citizenship, helpfulness ,etc.

    L-Try and laugh each day!

    M- “Menu” of what will be covered in the class-write it on the chalkboard so students know what is to be covered. Mark your papers. If you give an assignment, look at what is done. (My feeling is students shouldn’t mark students’ work....that’s(in my opinion) your job. Peer review doesn’t count as I believe this can be a useful learning tool).Motivate your students by “acting” and performing.

    N- Never be alone with a student.

    O- Be Organize. Keep folders of lessons developed, websites used so you have them for future reference.

    P-Use Primary sources to help to enhance the lesson and foster DBQ essay writing, Gather Personal information on each student (birthday, telephone, address, study buddy to send work if ill, etc.) Proof read any work that is distributed to students for spelling and grammar(a recent news story told of a 3rd grade teacher that sent packets home with a font which was of people in inappropriate positions!) Speak professionally.

    Q- Ask lots of questions to keep your students on task.

    R- Review often all terms and concepts throughout your unit. (Have the students HEAR, SEE , READ and WRITE , more than one method to help retain materials covered in class)Have a daily routine. 
    How will you arrange your room? What works best for the particular students, rows, groups, assigned seats,etc.) *** Personally, I allow the students to sit with whom they’d like thus already finding “Friends” and allow them to stay where they selected unless they show that they can’t work well during class where they are sitting. Create a RUBIC for student assessment.

    S-Share some personal self interests with your students(favorite color, favorite author or sports team, etc.). Set an example, for some, you may be their only positive role model! Smile!(it’s a great stress reducer) Shake hands with the students on the first day and during the school year.

    T- Ask experienced Teachers for ideas on classroom management and other issues. Be open to suggestions.

    U- Use the chalkboard, overhead, flash cards, etc. to give different learners ways to absorb the material presented.

    V- Have variety of teaching styles and activities in your lesson. Use overheads, audio visuals, computers, chalkboards,etc.

    W-Wrap up each lesson by reviewing the key concepts, vocabulary and any assignment to be given. 
    WALK around the room during the presentation of your lesson . Have students WRITE in journals, their notes(interactive notebooks), etc.

    X- Do “xtras” such as chaperoning a dance, going to a sporting event, having students come for lunch.

    Y- “You” set the tone of your classroom. Someone needs to be in charge of your classroom, make sure it is you!

    Z- Get enough ZZZZZZZZZZ each night so you are well rested for the next day.

    Gail Hennessey