Top 10 Free Blog Downloads of 2021

Today is the final post in my 2021 reflections series. Thus far I’ve shared the Top 10 Blog Posts of 2021, the Underdog Blog Posts of 2021, and the Top Free Teachers Pay Teachers Downloads of 2021. While I put most of my downloadable materials on Teachers Pay Teachers, I do occasionally prefer to simply add something to a blog post, and that is what we’re going to review today: the most popular downloads from my blog. So as to not take up too much space in this particular post, I’ll give a brief description of each download and link to the original post. You can follow the links to get all of the details, and the download(s) that most interest you. So, without further delay, let’s get to the list!

10. Inferencing Pictures

One of the first activities we do when practicing making inferences is orally make them about pictures. There are actually two sets of pictures in this blog post, and both are great for helping students understand the difference between an observation and an inference.

9. Song Lyrics for You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch

I use this song as part of my lesson on similes and metaphors. Though I have done it at Christmas time, it more often comes up in the spring and the students always love hearing the song again. It provides good practice in identifying, and distinguishing between, similes and metaphors.

8. Genre Posters

There are three things that are fairly standard in my classroom decorations: a word wall, a genre wall, and an author’s purpose poster. After we discuss and determine the genre of a text we write the title on a small shape and attach it to the correct poster on our genre wall. By the end of the year we have a visual record of all the different genres of text we’ve read and students are experts at identifying the genre of any given text.

7. National Geographic’s Inside, Fundamentals, Lesson Plans

This post has been getting a lot of attention this month. It was #4 on my list of most popular blog posts and #2 on my list of free TPT downloads. The reason my plans for Fundamentals aren’t on TPT (as my plans for level A and B are) is because they are kind of a mess. I never taught the entire book, and still haven’t had time to clean up the plans I do have for units 1-6, but you’re welcome to what is there–just scroll to the bottom to find them.

6. Body Parts Magnet Activity

This is a simple and quick activity to practice the most basic body parts–simply print, laminate, and use (attaching magnets or another form of adhesive is helpful but not required). Other activities we do to practice basic, and not so basic, body parts are also included in the post.

5. Count or Non-Count Noun Handout

This is simple question-based handout I give students to help them determine if a noun is count or non-count. The students ask themselves the five questions and, based on the answers, are able to classify nouns as count or non-count. Other practice activities are suggested in the post.

4. Singular-Plural-Collective Noun Reference List

My students tend to do fairly well with recognizing and knowing the plural form of most nouns but struggle with the collective form. This list is a great reference for them and gets a lot of use when we play Spoons–a highly competitive game I explain in the blog post.

3. & 2. Vocabulary Word Wall Cards

I already mentioned how a word wall is standard in my classroom. We keep it up all year and add to it with every unit/text. Besides describing how we use it on an almost daily basis, this post has downloads of the vocabulary cards I made to accompany the texts in National Geographic’s Inside curriculum (levels A & B). Level A’s set was downloaded slightly more times than level B’s set, but it was close!

1. K-8 ELA CCSS and (old) WIDA I Can Statements Alignment

By far the most popular download from my blog, this alignment is also the largest (it’s 200+ pages). The post was #5 on the list of most viewed blog posts from 2021, and I’m only surprised it wasn’t higher. This alignment is very helpful for general education teachers to better understand how students of different proficiency levels can show mastery of various standards.

And that brings me to the end of my review of 2021. It’s been a great exercise and given me a lot to think about for 2022. In fact, it’s been so valuable that I think I’ll make it an annual series! I wonder what posts will make the lists next year… Happy teaching, everyone!

Top Free Teachers Pay Teachers Downloads of 2021

This month I’ve been reflecting on 2021, looking at data to see what went well and what didn’t as far as my blog and shared teaching materials are concerned. I’ve already shared with you the Top 10 Blog Posts of 2021 and the Underdog Blog Posts of 2021. This week and next week I’m turning my attention to something near and dear to every teacher’s heart: free resources! One data point I examined was which of the 60+ free resources on Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT) were downloaded the most in 2021, and I’m going to share that list with you today. One thing to note: TPT does not track the number of “downloads” of free Google Drive products, so I was only able to determine the most popular non-digital free products. If there is a digital version available, I’ll put a link to that as well.

Escape! The Irregular Verb Grid: Paper

10. Escape! The Irregular Verb Grid

This game was featured in an October blog post bearing it’s name: Escape! The Irregular Verb Grid. It’s a fun game for 2-4 students to practice forming irregular past tense verbs. It’s simple to make, simple to play, and has become a favorite among my students. You can check that blog post for all of the details. There’s a digital version as well!

Cause & Effect Pictures: PDF

9. Cause and Effect Pictures

I spend a lot of time teaching cause and effect and this activity is a popular one with my students. I prefer to use the Google Slides version and vary assigning it as homework and doing it in class as group work. You can read all of the details in the January blog post, Cause & Effect, Part 1. If you’re still looking for ideas (and things for more advanced students) don’t forget to check out part 2!

CER & CRAAP News Discernment Investigation

8. CER & CRAAP News Discernment Investigation: Is It Real or Fake News?

This graphic organizer prompts students to choose a news story and then evaluate its claim, evidence, and reasoning. They then continue their investigation to consider the article’s currency, relevance, authority, accuracy, and purpose. The goal is to help students think more critically about the things they hear and read. The activity is one of the four reading activities on my English Skillology Level 4 choice board (also free, but Google Slides so not tracked by TPT) that you can read about in this September blog post.

Operations with Integers Foldable Notes

7. Operations with Integers Foldable Notes

While my main focus is ESL and grammar, I have had to teach more than one math class in the past. These foldable notes have long been a favorite on TPT and once again made the top ten. Once completed, the foldable provides a quick reference sheet for the rules governing adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing integers. While I’ve never blogged about this activity in particular, you can find a description of a fun game we play to practice adding integers (and you can make yourself), in Integer Fishing.

Vocabulary Word Circle Graphic Organizer

6. Vocabulary Word Circle Graphic Organizer

I prefer to avoid teaching vocabulary out of context, but sometimes you just need to really dig into all the different parts of a word. I discussed this last September in Adding to Our Lexicons. The post describes how and when I use this graphic organizer, along with the more detailed Master the Term organizer (also free), to help students get a fuller picture of more crucial vocabulary terms.

Compound Word Guessing Activity

5. Compound Word Guessing Activity

Is there any such thing as too many compound word activities? Not when they are free! This PowerPoint guessing activity is a fun introduction or review to compound words. More activity ideas can be found in the May Compound Words blog post.

Solving Equations Poster/Anchor Chart

4. Solving Equations Poster / Anchor Chart

Another resource from my days as a math teacher, this poster/anchor chart was featured in two different blog posts: Decorations With a Purpose and St. Patrick’s Day Math. If you didn’t get a chance to grab it then, now’s your chance!

Pronoun Snow Person Craftivity

3. Pronoun Snow Person Craftivity

The blog post about this activity (Pronoun Fun) may have made my Underdog Blog Posts list, but the directions sheet / rubric for the activity was certainly a hit. This activity was originally born of a desperate attempt to get my snow crazed new arrivals to focus on something academic but quickly became a yearly favorite. Give it a try–even my middle schoolers like it!

Inside Lesson Plans

2. Inside Lesson Plans

The only thing that surprised me about this resource was the fact that it wasn’t number one (although that’s likely because they are two separate downloads–added together they would be number one). When I posted the lesson plans I used to teach National Geographic’s Inside curriculum back in August everyone responded very favorably (the post was #4 on the list of Top Ten Blog Posts). The plans for level A (blue book) and level B (green book) were downloaded hundreds of times each. If you’re teaching this curriculum, feel free to grab your own copy.

Reading & Writing for Academic Purposes Lesson Plans

1. Reading and Writing for Academic Purposes Lesson Plans

Although this one might technically be number 2 (depending on how you count downloads for the Inside plans), at 530 downloads in less than a year it was certainly popular. These are plans I used to help long-term ELs improve their scores on the reading and writing portions of the WIDA (details in this post). Fair warning: they involve books from LLI’s Teal System and Reading A-Z, so you might want to be sure you have those materials before using them–though the price is right to simply check them out for yourself.

If you missed any of these popular free resources, now is your chance to download them for yourself. While you’re in my TPT store, take a moment and check out all of the free resources available, there are over 60 of them thus far. Next week I’ll wrap up my reflection month by sharing with you the most popular free downloads from my blog. Until then, happy teaching, everyone!

Underdog Blog Posts of 2021

I can’t tell you why, but I always tend to support an underdog. Whether it’s in sports, school, or life in general, it is the one who is behind, or at some sort of disadvantage, that tends to get my attention. Last week I shared with you the Top Ten Blog Posts of 2021, but while examining data from last year I also looked at which blog posts didn’t get much attention. When choosing the posts to include here I considered not just the number of views (these all had less than 200 views) but also the content of the post. I chose posts that included some sort of valuable content: a free activity my students particularly loved, step-by-step directions for creating something I use frequently in my classes, or a truth I learned the hard way. After careful consideration, here are the posts I think deserve a second look:

Favorite Activities

Pronoun Snowperson Craftivity

Pronoun Fun

Maybe it’s the cold of winter, or the amazingly still white snow outside my window, but our Snowy Pronoun People art project is one I remember fondly. I will admit that I’ve never tried it with my adults, but my elementary and middle school students loved it! (The picture is of a middle school student’s project.) The post describes the project and includes a link to download a free rubric for it, as well as a free quick reference sheet my students find helpful.

Text Features Digital Reference Book

Text Features & Literary Elements

These two posts came about due to the switch to online teaching. My students always used paper, markers, magazines, and glue to create reference books for text features and literary elements vocabulary. Each post includes links to the free digital version of these books I created for them to use instead. Descriptions of other practice activities are also included.

Literary Elements Digital Reference Book

Shades of Meaning

This bulletin board (or door, as the case may be) display is one of the many examples of student-participation classroom décor I prefer. It is also, along with French Fry Synonyms and Synonym Graveyard, one of the most popular activities we do to practice identifying and ranking synonyms. The blog post has all of the details for using this free activity in your own classroom.

Paint Can Questions

This very active game is possibly one of my craziest brainstorms ever. It wasn’t enough to have a game to practice adding question words to sentences themed around painting, I had to have a relay race involving actual paint cans! Get all of the directions for making your own game (including the list of questions I used) in the post. This is hands-down my students’ favorite question word practice activity, even more popular than Beach Ball Questions.

Preposition Practice

This is actually a set of three posts, all with fun and free ways to practice prepositions. Mousy Prepositions has links to get a free board game (paper and digital), More Preposition Fun describes three different free activities my students and I enjoy, and Picture Perfect Prepositions is another student-created classroom décor idea that requires only white paper, magazines, markers, and glue.

Paper Game

Adjectives Practice

These last two activity posts are all about using adjectives. Alphabet Adjective Zig-Zag describes and gives links to a free board game (digital and paper). Appetizing Adjectives describes how I taught adjectives when I had a mixed proficiency level group. Details for two different activities (one for each proficiency level) are given. Both are free and neither require anything out of the ordinary to complete.

How To Posts

Digital Task Cards: Three Ways

One of my biggest frustrations when we switched to online learning was not being able to use my task cards. After much experimenting I figured out three different ways to create and use task cards digitally. Each post has step-by-step directions for creating your own sets.

Digital Task Cards–force students to click on an answer, not just random places on the slide.

Self-Grading Digital Task Cards–find out exactly which answer students chose and get a final score calculated for you.

Self-Grading Digital Task Cards with Drop Down Menu–spelling mistakes are no longer a problem when students simply click on the answer from a list of choices.

Digital Mystery Pictures / Pixel Art

During my first attempt at a digital mystery picture I was still thinking with a paper-based mindset. I thought I could only have three colors in the picture because there were three answer choices. I quickly realized my error though and branched out into more colors. This post gives step-by-step directions (text and video) for creating your own mystery picture activities.

A Truth Learned the Hard Way

Authentic Open Book Assessments?

It’s been quite a few years since I made the switch to open book assessments whenever possible (obviously standardized tests still can’t be included in my policy). The switch to online learning brought this debate back to the forefront as there was no good way to prevent students from referencing various materials when taking a test at home. This post details why I prefer open book assessments and how I keep them authentic.

I hope you found something to inspire you in the new year. I know taking stock of last year has reminded me of various things I want to revisit in the coming year. The review of 2021 isn’t over yet though, the next two weeks will include posts about the most popular free Teachers Pay Teachers downloads and most popular free blog downloads from last year. Happy teaching, everyone!

Top 10 Blog Posts of 2021

Reflection is a big part of teaching. As I shared last month, it is important to consider what worked and what didn’t, what to keep and what to jettison or tweak in a lesson. As part of my reflection process for last year I was looking over the stats for my blog and decided that January should be a month to celebrate what went well (and consider why some things might not have gone as well). This week I’d like to review for you the most viewed blog posts of 2021.

#10: Materials Organization

This post, and it’s sister post, Digital Materials Organization (#20), details how I organize my mountain of teaching materials so I’m able to quickly and easily put my hands on anything I have for a given topic/skill at any moment.

#9: Digital Scattergories

How do you play this popular game and prevent cheating when people are in different physical locations? This post details my solution and includes a link to create a free copy of a form we use to play.

#8: Vocabulary Word Wall

One of the most used features of my classroom has always been our word wall. In this post I share how I organize it, how I select the words for it, and some of the ways we use it. The post also includes a free download of the word wall cards I used when teaching National Geographic’s Inside curriculum (see #4 in this list for the lesson plans I used).

#7: Game Smashing: Silly Shorts

The term “game smashing” still hasn’t caught on, but Silly Shorts is still one of my students’ favorite speaking games. I love how easy it is to play and that it uses materials I already have in my classroom.

#6: Phonics Based Vocabulary

If you’re looking for a scripted phonics curriculum, this isn’t it. If you’re looking for a set of activities that can be chosen from to create short lessons each day to help older students (grade 3+) improve their vocabulary and reading, this is what worked for mine. Get all the details in the post.

#5: ELLs Can Common Core

One of the most used, loved, and requested resources I’ve ever developed is the alignment of the K-8 CCSS and old WIDA I Can Statements. The alignment helps teacher to better understand what language learners can do to show mastery of the different standards. This post has all of the details and a link to download the alignment for free.

#4: National Geographic Inside Lesson Plans

Still one of my favorite curriculums to teach, National Geographic’s Inside series is great for middle school. This post shares why I like it (and some aspects I didn’t like) and has links to download the lesson plans I used to teach it for free. (Don’t forget the word wall cards from post #8 in this list.)

#3: Decorations with a Purpose

You will never find pictures of my classroom on Pinterest, it was simply not worthy, but it was always a cheerful place my students and I enjoyed. Most of the decorations were things my students and I made and all of them served a greater purpose. This post details my thought process and has links to download many of the posters I used (most of them free).

#2: Accommodating ELLs

While the #5 post on this list has the most requested and used resource I’ve ever made, this post details the most requested professional development session I’ve ever put together. Get an overview of my best accommodations for the general education classroom, and links to download the presentation slides for yourself (yes, they’re free), in the original post.

#1: New Teacher Classroom Purchases & Setup

Until December I wasn’t sure if this post, or the previous one, would end up as the most popular, but I think the graduating mid-year-hire teachers pushed this one over the top. Check the post for all of my advice, but the short two-part version is: “First, if it doesn’t help you teach, or your students learn, it’s in the wrong place or doesn’t belong there at all. Second, don’t expect or try to have it all right away; it’s ok to start with less and build up slowly.”

Stay tuned for more Top 10 lists this month, including the underdog blog posts, free Teachers Pay Teachers products, and free blog downloads. Happy teaching, everyone!