Top Free TPT Downloads of 2022

Continuing in the theme of Top 10 Lists, I’d like to conclude with the most popular free Teachers Pay Teachers downloads of 2022. I’ll provide you with a direct link to the resource on TPT, as well as to any relevant blog posts, so get ready for a lot of links! If you missed the lists for most popular blog posts, underdog blog posts, or most downloaded free blog resources, you can use the previous links to catch up.

10. Modal Verbs Four in a Row Board Game

Four in a Row games are popular in my classes and we use them to practice quite a few different skills besides modal verbs (including context clues, verb tenses, infinitives, adverbs of manner, and vowel sounds). You can get the modal verb version for free from TPT, or a general game board from the Task Cards: Five Alternative Uses post. More options for practicing modal verbs are described in the Modal Verb Practice post.

9. Playing with Homophones

Homophones require a lot of practice! This card set includes 44 pairs of homophones and two Old Maid cards. Directions for playing three different games are also included in the download. For practice with specific homophone/homonym sets, check out these blog posts: your/you’re, they’re/there/their, two/too/to, are/our/hour.

8. Escape! Games

Moving up from number 10 in 2021, are my Escape! games. There are several varieties, including irregular past tense verbs, question words, irregular plural nouns, and infinitives (and they’re all free!). There are even digital versions of the game for question words and irregular past tense verbs (still free!). You can read more about the irregular verb version in the blog post from October of 2021.

7. Regular Past Tense Verb Pronunciation Packing

Last summer I taught a class that was 100% focused on pronunciation for the first time. It was a big step out of my comfort zone but ended up being a lot of fun (I’m teaching it again this summer!). This game was one of the products of that class, and I guess a lot of other teachers needed to practice the same skill. You can get all the details in this blog post. If you need more free games to practice the pronunciation of the -d/-ed ending, try Spoons and Fishing. I even have a Spoons and an Uno-like game (both free!) for the pronunciation of final -s/-es. If you’re not familiar with my Fishing For… games, check out this post from July of 2021. For more details about how to play Spoons, give this post from April 2021 a read.

6. Operations with Integers Foldable Notes

Another repeat from 2021, and moving up a spot on the list, is this set of foldable notes. Teaching math was a challenge I reluctantly (and with a lot of help from more mathematically gifted colleagues) tackled. These notes were just as big a help to me as my students! I also have a poster/anchor chart we also referenced as well as a partner match up activity and several games. Integer Fishing (nothing like my Fishing for… games, use the link to read about how to make your own physical game or get the Google Sheets digital version in my store) was probably our favorite, though Integer Jeopardy ran a close second. We also played Integer Slap and War, as well as worked on task cards and a digital mystery picture. As an aside, you can learn how to create your own digital mystery pictures in this post.

5. Inferring Dialogue

This activity also made my list of top free blog downloads, though only at number ten. It was only posted in October of 2022, so it became very popular very fast. The download includes both a PDF and a PowerPoint (uploads to Google Slides well) version. You can get all of the details in the original post. I tend to start inference lessons by discussing the difference between an inference and an observation. We then use a set of pictures to practice making both (the pictures were a top blog download last year from this post). From there, I’ll use a variety of activities chosen based on the proficiency of my students and their other needs at the time. Another good inference practice activity that also includes writing practice is Ambivalent Inferences (a Google Slides version is available as well and both versions are free). If you need an activity to practice making inferences with lower proficiency students, I highly recommend Inference Picture Challenge.

4. Compound Word Guessing Activity

Yet another activity improving its top ten standing by one is Compound Word Guessing Activity. You can get all the details about this activity from the May 2021 post. Compound words being another activity I practice a lot with my students, I have quite a few different activities we utilize, from cards for our Match Up Boards to Spoons, to flashcards, and even things specifically focused on open compounds. I have tried to gather them into a single bundle so they can be quickly obtained (and at a discount).

3. Solving Equations Poster/Anchor Chart

Activity number four making a repeat appearance from 2021, and also moving up a spot, is this poster/anchor chart. The steps for solving one and two-step equations got reviewed a lot in my classes! This poster/anchor chart had a permanent home on my math bulletin board as part of my decorations with a purpose philosophy. It, along with a writing expressions scoot activity and a St. Patrick’s Day themed task card set (check out this post for alternative uses of task cards), is in my equations bundle.

2. Lesson Plan/Outline Sets

Maintaining it’s spot on nearly every top ten list (free TPT downloads of 2021, free blog downloads of 2021, top blog posts of 2021, free blog downloads of 2022, and top blog posts of 2022), these lesson plan/outline sets are in very high demand! I’ll link to the various blog posts, where you can find links to TPT and/or direct downloads from the blog. Once again, the available curriculums are: National Geographic Inside (middle school), National Geographic Pathways Reading & Writing (high school and adult), National Geographic Pathways Listening & Speaking (high school and adult), Reading and Writing for Academic Purposes (mostly LLI teal system and Reading A-Z). Also available are bundles of resources to go with levels A & B of Inside and Pathways (all eight books or separate sets for listening/speaking and reading/writing).

1. Claim, Evidence, Reasoning (original blog post)

And taking the number one spot are the resources from the 10th most popular blog post of this year and the 8th most popular TPT download of 2021: CER posters, graphic organizers, news investigation activity, and an advertisement investigation activity–all free! For even more practice with claim, evidence, and reasoning, see the recently expanded board game! You can also get everything in one easy download via the CER Bundle.

While you’re in my TPT store, be sure to check out the other free resources available, there are nearly 90 of them! If you missed any of the other Top 10 posts from the past month, you can use the following links to catch up on the most viewed blog posts, underdog posts, and top free blog downloads. Happy teaching, everyone!

Top Free Blog Downloads of 2022

We are looking back at the best of 2022. We’ve already listed the most popular posts, and the posts that probably should have gotten a bit more attention, so now it’s time to look at everyone’s favorite: free resources! This week we’ll look at the most popular free downloads from my blog and next week we’ll take a look at the most popular free downloads from my TPT store. Besides naming the various resources and linking the original posts, I’ll also provide direct links for most of them under the post images. Many of the posts contain links for other related resources and posts, so don’t skip checking them out just because you were able to download the one specific file.

10. Speech Bubbles Quotes Activity

Though only number ten on this list, this activity makes it to number five on next week’s free TPT downloads list. From the October Inferring Dialogue post, this version of the activity ended up being more popular than its sister version, Writing Dialogue. I provided links to the PowerPoint version of both activities for you under the picture and I encourage you to check out the original post for all the details and the PDF versions.

9. Was/Were Slap Game

Slap! is one of my students’ all time favorite games to play. Though the post this game appeared in wasn’t overly popular, this download was. The original post includes a description of how Slap! works and a bonus noun reference sheets download.

8. Grid Conquest Game Board

This download was actually included with two different posts in 2022, perhaps giving it a bit of an advantage of some others. It first appeared in Grid Conquest, where I described the game in full and explained some of the ways I use it. The download then reappeared a couple of weeks later in Task Cards: Five Alternative Uses. Even if it did have a bit of an advantage of other files, I think it earned its place on the list because it’s a very fun game and has become quite popular amongst my students. I encourage you to give it a try with yours as well.

7. Regular Past Tense Verb Pronunciation Chart

You’ll see the game I made this chart to use with next week on the Top Free TPT Downloads of 2022, though you can get it now in the original post for the chart download. I don’t spend a lot of time on pronunciation in my classes (except the class specifically dedicated to the skill), but the correct pronunciation of the -d/-ed ending is something we practice a fair amount. . If you need more free games to practice the pronunciation of the -d/-ed ending, try Spoons and Fishing.

6. Vocabulary Word Wall Cards

Dropping from their number 2 spot last year, these word wall cards I made for the vocabulary in National Geographic’s Inside (levels A & B) series continue to be popular. The original post describes how I organize our word wall and some ways we use it. For another fun (and free) use of your classroom word wall, check out Word Wall Spinner Challenge!

5. Phrasal Verb Chart

Ah, phrasal verbs! My students use them regularly but still get looks of confusion on their faces when I bring them up. Thankfully it doesn’t take much to wipe those looks from their faces, and I have a lot of activities for practicing phrasal verbs. This chart is one that my students find reassuring to have around though, so it usually gets shared every semester. Be sure to read the details in the original post for some teacher-specific information about the chart.

4. Lesson Plans and Supplemental Materials

These downloads occur on nearly every top ten list (free TPT downloads of 2021, free blog downloads of 2021, top blog posts of 2021, free blog downloads of 2022, and top blog posts of 2022)! There are more files involved than I want to take space for here, but you can get them from the original posts: National Geographic Inside (middle school), National Geographic Pathways Reading & Writing (high school and adult), National Geographic Pathways Listening & Speaking (high school and adult), Reading and Writing for Academic Purposes (mostly LLI teal system and Reading A-Z). Also available are bundles of resources to go with levels A & B of Inside and Pathways (all eight books or separate sets for listening/speaking and reading/writing).

3. 6 Quick and 2 Important Accommodations

Another frequent flier post, Accommodating ELLs was number two on the most popular list for both 2021 and 2022. This year I found and added the handout I used when giving this particular professional development session and I’m happy to say many of you have chosen to download (and hopefully use) it!

2. WIDA Common Core Alignment

The only surprise for me here is that this resource dropped to number two on the list. The file was number one on 2021’s top free blog download list, the original post was number five for views in 2021 and number six in 2022. In the post I talk about how students who are not yet proficient in English can still show mastery of state standards, including the Common Core. I also include this alignment of the old WIDA I Can Statements and the K-8 ELA CCSS.

1. Student Resources

And the top free blog downloads of 2022 were first offered on Helpful Student Resources, the number one most popular post for 2022. They are two PDFs that list ten different helpful free resources for students and eight free websites and apps to practice English. These lists are something I give students every semester and they are always very appreciative of them. I hope they are helpful for your students as well!

Thus ends my next to last Top 10 list for 2022. If you missed the Top 10 Blog Posts or Underdog Posts, you can still catch up. Don’t forget to come back next week for the final list, Top 10 Free TPT Downloads. Happy teaching, everyone.

Underdog Posts of 2022

We live extremely busy lives as teachers and that means we sometimes forget about things that are actually very interesting to us, especially blog posts. Hey, I get it! I’m guilty of it myself. I get an email or see a post I want to read, don’t have time to do it immediately, and by the time I do have a free moment I’ve forgotten about it. Well, consider this your reminder for these ten posts! All of them had low views in 2022, but I think they deserved a lot more attention. So, in no particular order, I would like to remind you to take a look at these posts you may have missed last year.

Task Cards: Five Alternative Uses

This one really surprised me, especially since it’s sister post, Sort Cards: Alternative Uses, came very close to making the top 10 list for 2022. If you didn’t read this post because you thought it would be the same ideas as the sort card post, you were wrong. The five ideas in this post are quite different from the eight previously shared. The post also contains a couple of free downloads of game boards that can be used with any set of task or sort cards.

Connected Vocabulary

This post has actually been getting a little more play since the start of 2023, so possibly it was a victim of timing, but I’m not sure. In the post you’ll find links and downloads for two free vocabulary graphic organizers (not the most exciting activities, I know), a digital vocabulary glossary template, labels to create CD spinners for a word wall game, and links to five other vocabulary practice activity ideas.

What to Wear?

This post may have also been a victim of timing as it too was released right about the time school restarted for the year. It contains the directions and cards for Outfit on a Budget Challenge (free!). This is a speaking or writing activity that is especially popular with female students, though most of my male students enjoy it as well. The activity doesn’t require purchasing any special materials and can even include some cross-curricular practice with percentages (another low view post from 2022).

Getting Perspective

The low number of views on this post really surprised me. It was shared right at the beginning of the school year, which probably had something to do with it, but it includes a free downloadable resource to practice writing from different perspectives and was reshared several times. Usually posts that include free activities (especially writing and speaking activities) and are reshared multiple times end up on or close to my top ten views list, but this one didn’t for some reason. I can’t explain it, but if you missed it the first time around, here’s your reminder!

Alphabet Pizza Pan

I suspect this DIY post didn’t get the attention it deserves because it didn’t get shared until the middle of December. Talk about bad timing, but something has to get written and shared then, and this one just happened to draw the short stick. The post talks about a fun activity you can make and use with students to practice matching lower and uppercase letters. Another teacher on Facebook did have the idea of using a label maker to create very small labels and use the basic idea to practice irregular verbs. I don’t own a label maker as yet, but I might have to buy one just to try this idea out!

Where do I need to go?

This is a fun activity that allows students to practice following and giving directions around town. Students use maps and brochures I get for free from the tourist information center or city maps from the local Chamber of Commerce and business cards from around town. I combine these with whatever game board and pieces I have available at the time and it is the perfect way to get in some unscripted speaking practice as well as good review of community place vocabulary and prepositions of place.

World Poetry Day: Shel Silverstein

OK, so a lot of us may not know about World Poetry Day, but how does the name Shel Silverstein get missed? He is easily my favorite children’s poet, and I suspect many of you feel the same way. I’ll never forget growing up on poems out of Where The Sidewalk Ends, Falling Up, and A Light in the Attic. Then there are all the great stand alone books such as The Missing Piece, A Giraffe and a Half, and The Giving Tree. Please don’t ask me to choose a favorite, because I can’t, and neither can my students–even my adult students love when I bring one of his books to class!

Eggcellent Activities

I’m cheating again with this one and including two posts. I use plastic eggs (the kind you find in stores around Easter) for quite a few different activities. In 2021, I shared about how I use them to practice contractions. In 2022, it was Scrambled Words (spelling/vocabulary) and Coin Eggs (USA coins). Fair warning, another eggcellent activity is coming in 2023, this one focused on the alphabet.

Match Up Boards

Another DIY post, these boards my dad designed and built for me have a lot of uses! The building plans are absolutely free and the cards are easy to design, print, and use. I probably use mine to practice question words the most, but I also have sets to practice academic vocabulary, parts of speech, occupations, USA coins, compound words, etc. They’d also be great for practicing math facts!

Advice for Future Educators

If I had a quarter for every time I have seen a social media post along the lines of, “What’s your best piece of advice for a new teacher?” I could retire! Since this question can’t realistically be answered in a quick Facebook reply, I wrote this post. It’s the five things I wish someone had told me (although if I’m being honest, someone probably did tell me) when I was first starting out.

If you missed it, last week I shared the exact opposite of these posts, Top 10 Blog Posts of 2022. Stay tuned the next couple of weeks for The Top Free Blog Downloads and Top Free TPT Downloads of 2022! Happy teaching, everyone.

Top 10 Blog Posts of 2022

Last January I shared four posts listing out the most viewed blog posts, the most popular free blog downloads, the most downloaded free Teachers Pay Teachers products, and the ten posts I felt didn’t get quite as much attention as they deserved for 2021. This year I’d like to do the same thing, beginning with the most viewed blog posts of 2022.

10. Morning Bell Work

This post described the morning bell work routine I followed when I taught a self-contained middle school class for beginning English language learners. In it I also included links to the various books, programs, and other resources from which I sourced the activities.

9. CER: Claim, Evidence, Reasoning

I’ve used the claim, evidence, reasoning strategy when teaching every subject from science to math and writing to speaking. It’s a great way to help students organize and communicate their thinking and understanding of any topic. Besides briefly describing the strategy, the post also has links to posters, graphic organizers, a couple of activities for practicing the use of it (one of which was a top free TPT download last year), and a board game I use regularly. The paper version of the board game has recently been expanded to include topic card sets for elementary, middle school, high school, and adult students.

8. Vocabulary Word Wall

Coming in at number 8 for the second year in a row, this post is obviously very popular. Our class word wall is one of the most used features of my classroom and so I agree that it deserves a lot of attention. The free vocabulary cards available in the post were among the top five free blog downloads of 2021 and came in number six for 2022.

7. Classroom Supplies

I chose to award this spot to two posts that are similar in focus and finished neck and neck in the rankings: New Teacher Classroom Purchases & Setup (which was #1 in 2021) and Out of the Blue Favorite Classroom “Supplies”. In the post for new teachers, I answer the often asked question, “What are the must haves for my new classroom?” In the second post, I share some of the classroom items that I and my students have particularly enjoyed and I continue to have (and replace as needed) in my classroom.

6. ELLs Can Common Core

Dropping only one spot from the 2021 rankings, this post covers a topic that is very close to this ESOL teacher’s heart. In it I talk about how students who are not yet proficient in English can still show mastery of state standards, including the Common Core. I also include what was the number one free blog download of 2021 (and the number two free download of 2022), an alignment of the old WIDA I Can Statements and the K-8 ELA CCSS.

5. Speaking Practice with a Side of Reading Comprehension

This post surprised me, not because of the topic (I know we all need more speaking activities), but because it didn’t hit the blog until December and it still gained enough views to land in the top five most viewed posts of the year. The post shares seven games my students and I enjoy that elicit less scripted speaking practice.

4. Lesson Plans

I again cheated a bit on my list and awarded this spot to multiple posts. I’ve had four different posts that introduce and offer links to download my teaching outlines for various curriculum I use and like. All of them made the top views list and the lists for top free blog downloads and top free TPT products. The available curriculums are: National Geographic Inside (middle school), National Geographic Pathways Reading & Writing (high school and adult), National Geographic Pathways Listening & Speaking (high school and adult), Reading and Writing for Academic Purposes (mostly LLI teal system and Reading A-Z).

3. Back to School Activities–Ice Breaker Alternatives

I know I’m not alone in my hatred of ice breakers. I also know we teachers are always in search of some fun new way to start off the school year. This post addresses both of these with five fun activities you can use to start off a new year or semester. The best thing is that they’re not specific to any season or time of the year, so they are also great activities for easing into a break or back into routine after a break!

2. Accommodating ELLs

Holding it’s position from 2021, the number two post goes over some quick accommodations classroom teachers can use with their ELL students that are actually reasonable to implement and benefit all students, not just ELLs. This one will also show up again on the top free blog downloads list as I found and added the handout I used when I presented this professional development session.

1. Helpful Resources for Students

Coming in number one on both this list and the top free blog downloads, this post has two PDFs that list ten different helpful free resources for students and eight free websites and apps to practice English. These lists are something I give students every semester and they are always very appreciative of them. I hope they are helpful for your students as well!

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

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!