July 2015 - momgineer

MUST HAVE Back to School Resources with FREEBIES!

Are you ready to get back to school? I know, me either...but since it is inevitable I thought I'd share some great resources to get you started.

1. Set your CLASSROOM up for success - organize, label, and decorate!
You have to check out this adorable chalkboard decor pack from Cupcakes & Curriculum! Did I mention it has editable pages?

 You can download a FREE sample here:


2. Set your students up for MATH success with this free Math Menu from Schoolhouse Diva.

Once you try it, I know you will want to head on over to this bundle of math menu activities!

3. Set your students up for TECHNOLOGY success with these free computer
lab rules posters from Brittany Washburn:
and don't miss her I Can Statements bundle for K-5!

4. Set your students up for READING success with this free short vowels pack from Teacher Gems:
and find more short vowel activities in this bundle!

5. Last, but not least, set YOURSELF up for success! Use the editable planner pages to look at your week or month ahead! You can even use the templates to create your classroom newsletter (examples provided).

Like the colors used in the planner? Spruce up your binders with coordinating editable pages:

Wishing you a successful and wonderful school year!

*Graphics and fonts by EduClips Design and Kimberly Geswein.

momgineer Meredith Anderson

STEM education is my passion!

STEM Activity - Cantilever beam challenge!

Beam STEM Activity for Kids

Explore cross sections, design a beam, and then test the design for strength with a cantilever beam challenge. Here is a snapshot of what this activity looks like:

Engineers need to pick the best design for the application. Different cross sections provide different benefits. Some look like they would be strong, but during testing you will find out which design works best. Wall thickness also plays a part!

Get Started with the STEM Challenge

Try using cardboard tubes and boxes and come up with as many designs as you can. Things to consider and questions to ask:
  • How long is the beam?
  • How thick should the material be?
  • Would another material work better?
  • Where does the beam fail?
  • Where have you seen a cantilever beam in real life?
  • Which are the weakest and strongest beams? 
  • How much stronger is the strongest beam than the weakest one?
  • What could you change to make the strongest beam even stronger?
While you can set this up from the images and questions above, I hope you will visit this STEM challenge activity pack:


There are more details for this challenge, including relevant vocabulary, as well as 9 other STEM challenges you can do with your students!
momgineer Meredith Anderson

STEM education is my passion!

Nature Week FREE Resource Roundup

Are you trying camp with Google this summer? Week 3 is Nature Week, and here are a few extra freebies for you!
Links to the resources shown above, starting from the top:
Nature Grab Box Freebie from Green Garden Grubs Club
Landforms Dictionary by Miss Martin's Classroom
Habitats of the World by Fluttering Through First Grade
Animal Adaptations by Tarheelstate Teacher 
Parts of a Plant by Promoting Success

Other ways to support the Nature Week theme:
Craft: Paint bark, rocks, or pine cones!

Movie: March of the Penguins, Up
Field Trip: Nature hike, zoo.
Meal:Go berry picking (or find some locally grown food at your local farmer's market)!

Game: Try Nature BINGO (free)! 

Online learning: 
Listen to the calls and songs of various birds!


Learn about volcanoes at National Geographic.

Watch a time-lapse video of a seedling growing:


Please note, while the above resources are free at the time I'm posting this, sometimes they don't stay that way. Apologies in advance if any of the above links are either not working or are no longer free.

momgineer Meredith Anderson

STEM education is my passion!

Emotionally Connect with your Child through Physical Play

This is a re-post of an earlier post, but I thought it was worth sharing again.

We were fortunate enough to attend a workshop last week led by Larry Cohen (of Playful Parenting). When he released his book The Art of Roughhousing, he did a series of workshops to explore this fun topic. It is definitely worth a read! Some kids need to connect physically in order to connect emotionally. If your child is sensory-seeking, he may respond to some of these ideas. You may find you enjoy the games as much as your child does, and you will be sure to have lots of belly laughs and smiles. Sometimes a child that may seem defiant, just needs to feel like their voice is meaningful and is being heard. When a child is occasionally given a "powerful" role, they may become more cooperative at other times. Why not give it a try?

Some fun roughhousing games we have played in the past:

The wriggle game:
This is also called "You can't get away from me!" but I like the term wriggling. Basically you encircle your child with your arms (but don't hold them tightly) and say something like "I bet you can't wriggle out of here!" If it is their first time, make sure you don't make it too difficult to get out. It will help build up their confidence. As they get better at it, try moving all around with them as they are wriggling to make it more difficult for them to get out from your arms.

The push down game:
This game is fun from the toddler years on. For a toddler, squat down to their level and tell them to try to push you over. If you're squatting, it will probably not take much effort for them to throw you off balance. Fall back and elaborately groan about how they pushed you over, and then ask if they want to do it again. They will most likely get a big kick out of seeing an adult fall over for a change, instead of themselves. For older kids, kneel but keep your body tall so you are close to their height and tell them to push your shoulders, or hold up your hands like you are going to high-ten them and tell them to push your hands.

The bridge game:
This is best played with another adult around, though it can be done solo as well. Lie down on your back with your feet and the other person's feet touching sole to sole. Lift your legs up (while keeping your feet touching) to make an inverted V. Tell the child(ren) to run under the bridge without getting crushed (legs lowered). For older kids, you can open your legs to "catch" them in the bridge and dare them to escape. They will most likely delight in running and crawling under the bridge over and over.

Feats of strength:
It's a far cry from the Festivus feats of strength, but this is a lower-energy way to encourage body awareness and strength. If you've had a long day and need to sit on furniture instead of the floor, or you're nursing your little one and the older one needs attention, this can work for that.  Put your arms up like you are going to clap them, but spread them a little further apart. Ask if they can push your hands together. Resist. Repeat!

These never seem to get old with H&F. A few things to be mindful of:
  • Check in with your child periodically to make sure they are still having fun.
  • If your child tends to get riled up easily and has a hard time re-centering, take breaks every so often to make sure they don't feel out of control of themselves. One way we do this is by slow deep breathing and counting slowly backwards from 10.
  • Try to reserve time for roughhousing as a parent-child activity and you may spare yourself issues that arise from child-child roughhousing. If there is an outlet for this kind of energy, children will be less likely to unleash on their sibling or friend.
We played some other fun physical games at the workshop, including pillow fighting, which I'm sure will be detailed in the book. Do you have favorite roughhousing games you play with your kids?

The Art of Roughhousing

This is a physical extension of playful parenting. It takes conscious action to not immediately react in times of frustration with your child, especially if you are tired yourself. However, being goofy and playful is one of my best parenting tools, even as my children grow older.
momgineer Meredith Anderson

STEM education is my passion!

Space Week FREE Resource Roundup

Are you trying camp with Google this summer? Week 2 is Space Week, and here are a few extra freebies you can use to support the theme. We are studying the moon, but you could study about the planets, space travel, rockets, or stars!

Links to the resources shown above, starting from the top:
Science Books for Beginning Readers by Teacher Tam
Space FREEBIE by More Time to Teach
The Solar System by Denise Hill
Getting to Know the Planets by Room 29
Comparing the Sun, the Earth, and the Moon by Elementary Ali

Other ways to support the Space Week theme:
Craft: Try making moon rocks! Make straw rockets with the free template over at Buggy and Bunny, or find 20 ways to build a rocket at Inspiration Laboratories!
Movie: WALL-E, E.T.
Field Trip: A planetarium, or go outside at night or early morning to count the stars or see the moon. Don't want to stay up too late? Print out this photo from about.com, poke holes where the dots are, and attach to a toilet paper roll. Look through the roll to see the constellation.
Meal: Astronaut food? No thanks.
Game: Try my free number line games!


Online learning: 
Learning about the Planets
Popular Mechanics for Kids - Spaceships
Constellations - Connect the dots in the Sky

Please note, while the above resources are free at the time I'm posting this, sometimes they don't stay that way. Apologies in advance if any of the above links are either not working or are no longer free.

momgineer Meredith Anderson

STEM education is my passion!

Ocean Week FREE Resource Roundup

Are you trying camp with Google this summer? Week 1 is Ocean Week, and here are a few extra freebies you can use to support the theme! We are focusing mostly on sharks, but you could pick another type of ocean animal to study, or learn about the different oceans' sizes, depths, and locations.

Links to the resources shown above, starting from the top:
Ocean Animals by Nicole Walters
Shark Attack  by Luckeyfrog
Sharks and Whales by Kennedy's Korner
Continents and Oceans by Erin Zaleski
Read Aloud Books SHARKS by Digital Divide and Conquer

Other ways to extend the Ocean Week theme:
Craft: There are thousands.
Books: Look who Lives in the Ocean by Alan Baker and Flotsam by David Weisner were favorites when my kids were little; for older kids try  the Magic Schoolbus On the Ocean Floor or 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Our local library has a great selection of nonfiction books as well, but if yours doesn't visit YouTube for some great videos, like this one about great white sharks or this one about dolphins (or maybe a dolphin giving birth)!
Movie: Finding Nemo, the Little Mermaid.
Field Trip: An aquarium or the beach! Don't have any nearby? Try the pet store, or peruse yours or a friend's seashell collection:

Meal: Fish!
Game: Go fish? =) Sushi go?
Online learning: Kratt's Kreatures Ocean Habitats
ARKive's cards and game Dinner at the Reef (we just use the species cards but you can use the activities as well):
 Please note, while the above resources are free at the time I'm posting this, sometimes they don't stay that way. Apologies in advance if any of the above links are either not working or are no longer free.

If you are looking for even more ocean activities, try my Ocean Flip Books ($) and Ocean Create-a-Book($) resources!

momgineer Meredith Anderson

STEM education is my passion!

Using task cards in interactive math notebooks

Do you use task cards in your classroom? While they are great for math centers, you may not have a math station in your classroom. While they are fun for a game of Scoot, if you have a lot of students or a wide range in math abilities, a game might not be the best thing for your kids. Interactive notebooks are a great way to build your own textbook. You can use task cards as homework (glue in 4 on Monday morning, and you have a problem for each night Mon-Thursday!) or begin your morning that way. If you are using INBs for morning work, you can give your students 5-10 minutes to complete their problem, and then swap notebooks with a neighbor and have them check their work.

I have created a set of Little Red Riding Hood word problem task cards that are sure to delight even your math phobic kiddos. Word problems are absolutely essential to practice. While it's important to understand math facts and concepts, you need to be able to apply them. This is why most of my task cards are word problems. Using a familiar story with a bit of humor goes a long way to connect mathematics with kids. They will also be practicing reading comprehension with word problems, which is why it might make sense to work in pairs: try a strong reader with a student who is strong in math!
If your students still need a lot of space to write out their ideas, try it out with one task card per page. Make sure they show their thought process and don't just take a guess!
If you print task cards smaller (these are at 2 pages per sheet, so you get 8 task cards on a page), you can fit two of them on a notebook page. They are glued at the top, and then the page is creased down the center. Each problem gets a column. All of the steps are labeled in the margin, with the answer circled or boxed in at the bottom (don't forget the label!).
A variation on using two task cards per page is to make them a lift-the-flap tab. Using the outer margin as the flap to glue down, your students can then perform their calculations underneath the flap. I personally prefer the previous method because then you can refer to the problem easily while you work on it instead of flipping back and forth, but use whichever style works best for you!

All of the problems shown above are from the following resource Little Red Riding Hood Word Problem Task Cards for grades 2 & 3:


momgineer Meredith Anderson

STEM education is my passion!

Starting a Mastermind group (for TpT Teacher-Authors)!

Hi all! I know there has been some buzz about Mastermind groups with the recent TpT conference, and I just thought I would give a quick overview about participating in a Mastermind group for anyone who is looking to find out more about it. You can download everything in this blog post in this e-guide!


What a mastermind group is:
  •    a group of individuals (in this case, TpT teacher-authors)
  •    with a common goal
  •    that meets regularly (think weekly or every other week),
  •    holds each other accountable,
  •    and inspires each other!
Learn from each other. Support each other. Grow with each other.
What a mastermind group is not:
  • a "follow me, I'll follow you" group 
  • a get rich quick or pyramid scheme
  • a passive commitment. You need to show up and be present. Mastermind is really what you want it to be. Everyone has to participate and contribute in some way. Each person will have their own strengths so try to split up responsibilities based on those strengths.A Mastermind group can be a great way to help you improve your educational resources for thousands of teachers and students. It's not about competing with each other, but by rising each other up! Together we ARE better!
Starting a Mastermind group
1. Find your tribe. Use hashtags on social media to find your tribe! Try #findyourtribe.

2. Find your group! Within that tribe, reach out to several individuals until you have 4-5 members.

You may not find your whole group right away. Some may decide it's not for them. Don't worry! You will find and solidify your group in time.

3. Get the ball rolling.
This is when you really need to up the connections. Start a Google docs spreadsheet and link up your name, blog, email address, phone (if texting), and all social media sites. Find a way to meet that makes sense. If you are nearby, you can meet in person. Otherwise, try Google hangouts. Set ground rules (read more about these in the links at the end of this post). Most importantly, schedule an initial meeting where you can all be present!

4. Start Masterminding!

Who will lead your first meeting? What do you want to talk about? Have every member give a brief intro (5-10 minutes) and have someone be a time keeper. During the meeting:
  • Take notes!
  • Don't interrupt!
  • Keep to your time limit.
  • Pick a topic for the next meeting.
  • Decide where you will connect in between meetings (this is very important!). You can use a secret Facebook group, Google groups, text, email, etc.

Here are some topics specific to teacher-bloggers to get you started:

Here are some additional links to get you started on your Mastermind journey:

TpT Goals free chart

Thanks to EduClips for the graphics used in this post.

Do you have a blog post about mastermind tips or how your found your tribe? Let me know in the comments!
momgineer Meredith Anderson

STEM education is my passion!

Wordless Wednesday: Gearing up for a Mario-themed birthday party

(All of these ideas were found on Pinterest)
momgineer Meredith Anderson

STEM education is my passion!

Why I create a homeschooling yearbook

There are two photo books I create each year: one at the end of the calendar year to share photos with the grandparents, and one at the end of the school year as a way to remember our homeschooling activities. I am in the process of creating one right now (which is late for me) and I thought I'd share a little about it.

A homeschooling photo book particularly makes sense in the early years, especially if your kids aren't that into writing like mine were. I didn't have tons of work samples to share. We did a lot of hands-on learning and that doesn't always shine through an end of year progress report. I submit a progress report to the superintendent, but the photo book is for us. I often don't remember to take photos while we are working on stuff, but if I do, those photos usually make it into the book. As I go through the photos, it helps me summarize our year for the end of year report.

Here are a few pages from our last year's book (from top to bottom: art, farm school, museum visits, science & engineering). I use Shutterfly hardcover books and usually wait for a nice coupon code, but you can choose softcover or shop around for a better deal. You may also want to check out Picaboo.


Sometimes I write about what is in the pictures, and sometimes I just include photos. In talking about the photos, we remember what we did. Since we tend toward unschooling, I sometimes get stressed and think we haven't done enough. When looking back over our school year in photos, it's easier to see just how far we have come. I always include a page at the end where I list current favorites.
When there was just one homeschooled kid, I ordered only one book. I considered making two separate books (one for each kid) but it's way easier to make one book and order two copies. It's still fairly time consuming to go through all of the photos and then arrange them all, but the kids will both have a book to remember our learning adventures as they get older so I know it is worth my time. I will try to share some photos when I finish this year's book...which will hopefully happen in the next week. The old saying really is true for us: A picture is worth a thousand words. Do you make a homeschooling photo book or do you have another fun way to review your year?
momgineer Meredith Anderson

STEM education is my passion!