Letters From Space: Book Review

Letters from Space: Picture Book Review

If you have a kid who is fascinated by space, they will adore this fun, fact-filled picture book! Written by Clayton Anderson, an astronaut who spent 152 days aboard the International Space Station, this quirky book is fun and funny! Susan Batori's illustrations bring Clayton's letters alive as he lets the readers know about day-to-day goings on as well as interesting tidbits along the way.

This is probably my favorite illustration below, as Clayton flies around:

The book is a series of letters written by Clayton, and ends with a special author's note with even more interesting facts about astronauts, living in space, and NASA. Here are a few of the quotes from the book that really stood out for me:

I thought this book was really cute! The illustrations are quirky and the information is often presented in a humorous or silly way, which always makes it more fun for kids to engage with.

Find the book on Amazon (affiliate link, read our disclosure) at:

NASA Kids Club

If you haven't already, you'll also want to check out the NASA Kids' Club, which has missions, photo galleries, tons of facts, and downloads for kids!

About the Author

Clayton Anderson is the author of A is for Astronaut: Blasting Through the Alphabet, The Ordinary Spaceman, and It’s a Question of Space: An Ordinary Astronaut’s Answers to Sometimes Extraordinary Questions. He spent 30 years working for NASA, 15 as an engineer and 15 as an astronaut. You can watch a short video about him on YouTube.

To learn more about the author visit You can follow him on Facebook @AstroClay, Twitter @Astro_Clay, or Instagram @astro_clay.

Zoom Tips for Teachers

Tips for Using Zoom with Your Students

A member of the STEM Teachers Group asked for everyone's best tips for using Zoom with their students. The tips were so awesome and useful that I compiled them in this post (and downloadable graphic) so that everyone could benefit!

If you have additional tips please be sure to let me know via email so I can add them in!

1. Set Expectations

Set out expectations clearly at the beginning of your meeting on a slide, or keep a poster propped up behind you with expectations and procedures. Build community by having your students help come up with expectations and procedures!

2. Use the Waiting Room Feature

Use the virtual waiting room feature and enable the doorbell sound/chime when
someone enters. Not only will it alert you if someone enters late, it will help keep your meeting more secure. Once all students arrive, lock the meeting.

3. Make Sure to Mute

Make sure your meeting is set to "mute upon entry" and encourage your
students to mute themselves after speaking.

As a backup option, learn where the "mute all" button is in the event they
forget to mute themselves!

4. Set a Meeting ID

Set up a meeting ID and password so it's always the same for a particular group.

Beware, though that if the link gets shared with others you may need to change it.

5. Use Breakout Rooms

For small group collaboration, utilize the breakout room feature. Rotate through to pop in and check on each group. *Breakout rooms may need adult supervision, so ask for volunteer helpers if possible.

6. No Annotation, Chat, OR Screen Share

Turn OFF annotation and screen share, or students will be able to draw on the screen or share their own screen with everyone.

Turn OFF chat for everyone but the host.

7. Basic Requirements

Consider having basic requirements for your meetings for your meetings, such as:
  • Students must use their real name when logging in.
  • Cameras must remain on.
  • Students must virtually raise their hand to speak.

8. Headset Quality

Built-in microphones are often not clear. Your voice should be clear for the
students and you want your ears to be comfortable, too! Invest in a good headset or mic.

9. Try New Things

Not only can you keep your meetings more interesting, you can make them run more efficiently if you keep tabs on what your students see as a student participant, using keyboard shortcuts to not have to constantly search in menus for what you need, and having a variety of ways to interact to keep students engaged.
  • Backgrounds
  • Split screens
  • A document camera
  • Using two computers/devices (one as yourself and one as a student)
  • Learn keyboard shortcuts

10. Pre-record

Pre-record video lessons for your students to watch prior to your meeting, or find a suitable YouTube video on the topic you are teaching. Give students tasks before the meeting, so that when you do meet, you are following up with them and addressing issues or questions.

11. Take Breaks

Have a fun activity like scavenger hunt while students are waiting to join. Try quick brain breaks, stretching exercises, or mindfulness activities to help your students stay focused.

12. Be Willing to Learn

If you have a meeting that didn't go well, take a deep breath and try again next
time. There will be kinks to work out, but enlist your students to help brainstorm
ways to make your meetings work for everyone!

Download the tips! You can download this graphic to keep a copy of the tips:

Do you like STEM? Try Elementary STEM Club!

You may have noticed that little logo at the bottom left corner of the image for Elementary STEM Club. If you are a K-5 teacher and incorporate STEM, or a dedicated STEM teacher, I would love for you to check out Elementary STEM Club!

What is it?
Elementary STEM Club is a 3-month experience to kickstart your back to school months with support, activities, and tips for navigating the year, whether you are in person, distance teaching, hybrid teaching, or mobile.

Each month, you will gain access to:
    • A tried and true STEM resource with a video walk-through of what you need to get started, how to use it, and tips for success.
    • A LIVE panel discussion, featuring educators chatting about a timely topic in STEM.
    • A book chat: a focus on K-5 picture books to enhance your STEM lessons and learning.
    • Some surprise bonuses along the way (from our hosts, presenters, and guests)!
    • Interaction with other STEM educators in the private Facebook group and club site - you may even find your new STEM teacher bestie!

      Most of all, you will receive a solid foundation and the support you need this fall to start your school year off right.

Find out more about Elementary STEM Club:

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STEM Challenge for Summer with Buoyancy - Design a Submersible

STEM Challenge for Summer: Design a Submersible!

This is one of the more challenge STEM activities I have done with kids over the years! It's also perfect for summer because you will get wet!

Warning: You WILL Get Wet with this STEM Challenge

Why try this challenge? I can't even tell you how many boat challenges I have done with kids, asking for a simple craft that floats, something that can be propelled with wind (sailboat), and so on.

You have probably also done "Does it sink or float?" activities with your students over the years.

This challenge is a combination of all those!

What if we want an object to not sink,

but to float,

but not at the surface and rather about halfway between the bottom of a body of water and the top?

Gather Materials for Submersible STEM

First, gather all materials needed for the challenge:

For the water:
You will need a tub, storage bin, kiddie pool, etc. for this challenge. You will also need to fill the bin with water.

Students can create their submersibles with aluminum foil, popsicle sticks, plastic egg carton pieces, balloons, rubber bands, recyclables, pennies or small weights, etc.

Your students can start in one of two ways:
  • With an object that floats, that they will need to make LESS buoyant.
  • With an object that sinks, that they will need to make MORE buoyant.

Go Deeper with Science in this STEM Challenge

Have your students research density and buoyancy. Ask:

How does the density of an object affect its buoyancy?

When might you want a water vessel to NOT be completely buoyant?

What skills do students work on? In addition to following the Engineering Design Process to complete this challenge, students will need to work together and may need to make several modifications to improve their sail designs.

Add more rigor into this activity and download printables for students to use with the STEM challenge resource (or get the pack of Summer STEM challenges) on Teachers pay Teachers (also includes sand castle STEM and a squirrel proof bird feeder):

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Virtual PD for Elementary Teachers

WHOLE Teacher Training and Nurturing

Fill in the Blank

I am a ___________ teacher.

Whatever blank you filled in, you probably also have a missing piece.

Do you want to be prepared whether you are teaching in the classroom or in a distance learning environment?

Do you want to be a culturally responsive teacher who meets the needs of ALL your students?

Do you want to be a ROCK STAR in every subject area, not just the ones you already LOVE to teach?

Whole-Teacher EclecticCon to the Rescue!

We often talk about educating the whole child, but what about whole teacher PD?

Most PD focuses solely on academic content, but we KNOW great teaching is about



than that.

There’s a LOT to explore and learn about the art of teaching, and now there’s one easy place to start: Whole-Teacher EclecticCon!

This online conference is chock-full of trainings, free resources, and more!

While the academic sessions are geared for upper elementary (grade 3-5), there are a LOT of sessions that apply to any grade level. Even if you aren’t teaching those grade levels, you’re welcome to join us if the sessions resonate with you.

All The Awesome Virtual Teacher Conference Details

60+ session
s presented by a group of master educators, authors, and subject matter experts

Topics include: best practices and tips & tricks for all academic content areas (grades 3-5), culturally responsive teaching, arts integration, social-emotional learning, special education, educational technology, avoiding burnout, tools to help you in the regular classroom and with distance learning, and more!

Private pop-up Facebook group where you can interact with presenters, get your questions answered and win daily raffles during the conference

Live panel discussions, special presentations, and interviews

Revisit all the conference content as often as you’d like for a full year

Bonus Bundle with teaching resources (yes, STEM activities are also included -- this conference pays for itself!)

Opportunities to earn PD credits (see site FAQ for details)
Check out all the details here: Whole Teacher Conference

20+ Awesome Games for At Home Learning

Our Favorite Educational Games

Games are one of my favorite ways to learn and reinforce skills with kids. My own kids, especially when younger, wanted to play game after game. Why not play games that aid in education?

For convenience, I have added links to all of commercially-produced games in one location! You can browse for them here:
Disclaimer: I may earn a small commission for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial, and/or link to any products or services from this website. Your purchase helps support my work in bringing you downloads of value and information about educational resources. The link below is an Amazon affiliate link. You can read my full disclosure here.

Print-at-Home games are listed at the end of this post.

Math Skills

You can turn ANY game that uses dice or spinners for game advancement into a math-centric game by simply adding more dice. If you've ever played Chutes and Ladders, you know the game can go on ...and on. Solve this problem and make it more exciting. Instead of using the spinner, use dice (lots of them). It will take a few tries but eventually your kids will be adding up the numbers on dice faster than you can!

Yahtzee is one of the best games to play with multiple dice. I made a set of scorecards you can use while playing with 10 dice that you are welcome to try out (scroll to end of post for link).

Math Card Games: Rat a Tat Cat, Sleeping Queens, Frog Juice, Zeus on the Loose These are all games for early math learning from Gamewright. They work in addition, rounding, and basic number sense. Fair warning - reading the instructions for some of these the first time can feel overwhelming but the games are really not difficult. I suggest the play and read approach - play a bit as you read the directions, or find a YouTube video that explains the play.

Sumoku or Math Dice (intermediate): For Sumoku, you create a grid much like you would in Qwirkle (see below), but instead of shapes, there are numbers, and each row must sum to a multiple of a specific number. If it sounds complicated, well, it can be. However, it's also a TON of fun if you have math-minded kiddos. Math dice is another one where you will only want to play if your kids won't get frustrated by the math involved.

Equate (advanced learners only): If you have a kid that LOVES math, this is the game for them. If math is a struggle, avoid this game as it's quite a taxing one mentally (even for those who love it!).

24! If you haven't played this game before, it's simple to learn but challenging to master. All you need is a sharp mind and a deck of cards! Find the rules here.

Logic, STEM, and more

Qwirkle and Rummikub are both great for logic and pattern recognition! For Qwirkle, watch a video on how to get started but you are basically looking to match either color or pattern (with no repeats in a given row or column). Completing a set of 6 earns you a Qwirkle for bonus points! Rummikub is another tile game that is even easier to learn, but much more difficult to master. You need to keep a constant eye on the board and awareness of your current tiles.

Or pick one of these: Gravity Maze, Laser Maze, Rush Hour Traffic Jam, Solitaire Chess, Sequence The first four of these games are all ones that can be played independently, from Thinkfun. They have tasks of increasing difficulty and provide solutions for self-checking. Sequence has a variety of options to choose from, so be sure to check out all the options to find an appropriate set for your family.

Advanced Learners: Set. This is a game that can be frustrating for kids who aren't ready, but once they are ready, there is no upper age limit on this game. It's one I truly love playing with my kids! There is also a junior version available! You can also play a version of this game online every day at the New York Times Crossword Puzzle site (just scroll down and select "Set")!

Robot Turtles A great precursor to coding game, this is a fun one to check out with your kids! It's also from Thinkfun.

and Ion (science): these are for upper elementary and middle school kiddos. If you have kids with an inkling toward Chemistry, these are sure to delight!


The Scrambled States of America Game This game helped my kids learn all the names of the states!

Ticket to Ride (multiple versions): This is a very popular game among board game enthusiasts and probably one of the longest games to play on this list. If you love board games, you have to try this one!

Flag Frenzy Kids will gain awareness of different flags wiht this matching game.

Apps to Try: Stack the States and Seterra (also their website is great for practicing geography skills) - check out the App Store or Google Play for these!

Literacy Skills

While traditionalists like myself will enjoy playing games such as Boggle, Scrabble, and Bananagrams, they aren't for everyone. If you do have those games but they aren't quite right for your kids, use the tiles to spell out words together that you find around the house, or create a "crossword" with the tiles, building words together of things they love (sports, food, activities, etc.)!

Engage reluctant writers with Rory's Story Cubes. This is less of a game and more of a story generator.

Practice sight words and more literacy skills with Pair Stare (see below).

Just for Toddlers and Preschoolers!

Toddlers don't have to miss out on games! Some of my favorite games for little ones are cooperative games like Busytown and Hoot Owl Hoot.

Other games for this age

Pengaloo A game that challenges memory and reinforces color awareness! I love the feel of this game, its wooden piece are very satisfying to play with!

Uno Moo A simple game of matching that is also just so fun to play! This one never gets old.

The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Perfect for color learning, memory, and more!

Print at Home Games

I have created a number of print-at-home learning games for elementary and middle school learners:

Free Games:
Crazy Yahtzy
Pair Stare Sample
Nature Bingo

Other Games:
Pair Stare Games
Alphabet Game

Sight Words Games: Fry Sight Words or Dolch Sight Words
Blends Games
Math Games
Vocabulary Synonyms Game
Greek and Latin Roots Games: Set 1 and Set 2

Money Games
Money Games Bundle
Gnome or Money a silly and punny coin game (No More Money)

Barter, Trade, Create!

Math and Number Systems
Mayan Number Games
Multiplication War

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Bingo Games in the Math Classroom

BINGO - It's not just for old people

When you think of BINGO, do you think of a room full of senior citizens with their daubers ready to go?

I'm going to let you in a secret.




Whether you are playing for 5 in a row or blackout bingo (complete the whole card), there is just something in the anticipation of whether or not YOUR NUMBER is going to be called next.

Most kids already know how to play this game, and even if they don't, it's so easy you don't need to take a lot of time explaining the rules (unlike a lot of strategy games that come with a tome of rules that make no sense until you have played a few times!).

Practice and Review Math Facts with Bingo

This bingo game is perfect for kids learning their multiplication facts or for review, even up through middle school grades! There is no shame in reviewing the basic multiplication tables, particularly before standardized testing. It solidifies fluency, which allows students to work on the problem solving and not make an avoidable multiplication error when under pressure.

Create Your Own Bingo Math Games

There are a number of websites you can use for personal use to create your own BINGO games. It does get a little tricky when you are creating games for math instead of with words, particularly if you are working with fractions, which can be difficult to format correctly.

Bingo Baker

Print-Bingo Custom Cards Creator (generate multiple times for enough cards)

My Free Bingo Cards

Osric Bingo Generator - Simple but gets the job done!

Purchase Pre-Made Math Games

I have made several math bingo games and am open to requests on making more (just contact me).

All Bingo Games

Or find these popular math bingo games on Teachers pay Teachers

Equivalent Fractions Bingo

Mixed Number & Improper Fractions Bingo

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9 Ways to Use Task Cards in the Classroom

Task Cards Can Be Used a Variety of Ways

Task cards have become a staple in the elementary classroom. They are so versatile for reinforcing learning; if you haven't tried them yet, I highly recommend them. They reusable year after year, so after you prep them once you are good to go storing them for the next year.

1. Use Task Cards at Your Centers

This is definitely one of the more obvious ways to use task cards. Prep your task cards on card stock, laminating if desired, and store in pouches or small containers. Provide blank paper for recording or use recording sheets that come with your task card resource. Students can work through the appropriate task cards to reinforce whichever concept you are currently working on.

2. Use Task Cards in Your Interactive Notebooks

This method will require that you print out multiple copies of your task cards, however then students can review them at any time! This is particularly helpful if you have ELA or Math INBs because students can then return to the cards to study for standardized testing. For a more detailed look at using task cards in interactive notebooks, visit this post.

3. Use Task Cards as a Whole Class Activity 

Use a document camera and work through the problems concurrently or together!

4. Use Task Cards to Host a Mini Quiz Bowl

Most task card resources come with a number of task cards. Split your class into teams of 3-4, use a document camera or project one card. Have a team "buzz in" to answer the question and keep score. Winning team gets bragging rights!

5. Use Task Cards to Play Scoot

If you haven't played SCOOT, Jenny has written a great post about it! Check it out here.

6. Use Task Cards for Homework

Assign 1-4 task cards, depending on difficulty and have students complete the cards at home.

7. Use Task Cards as Exit Slips

Do a quick check on student understanding and learning by using task cards as exit slips.

8. Use Task Cards for Early Finishers

Keep a variety of task card sets available, including ones that are at a "challenge" level for your students. If they have finished their work and could use a challenge, this is a great way to provide enrichment. If you are using task cards with QR code answers, these will even be self-checking. Read more about QR codes and task cards.

9. Use Task Cards as Sub Tubs or Sub Plans

You can have a variety of task cards in different subjects saved for a sub. When the inevitable stomach bug or flu rolls through the school (or through your own child's school), your sub plans will be ready to go!

Free Task Card Download

To get you started, this is one of my most popular free downloads! There are 16 task cards to get you started with a fun animal theme! These have been designed for 4th grade but will also work in 5th or as challenge cards in 3rd:

Quick Links to Other Popular Task Card Resources

All Task Cards

Task Cards for 1st Grade
Task Cards for 2nd Grade
Task Cards for 3rd Grade
Task Cards for 4th Grade
Task Cards for 5th Grade

Best Selling Task Cards! This is by far my most popular set of Fractions task cards:

Yet another topic that seems to be difficult for students to master is equivalent fractions, but you can find those task cards here:

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