All posts by margauxlangenhoven

Winter and Christmas Brain Breaks

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If you are a teacher, no matter what age group, you will know the frustrations of the time leading up to the Christmas break! Yes, it is a time of festivities and excitement and these are the exact reasons for the frustrations. Teaching ANYTHING during this time is difficult challenging impossible. Students are so busy day dreaming about the magical happenings going on in The North Pole, or whether the marshmallow they left in their mom’s bed by accident constitutes as being “naughty” or whether or not to give Tommy a Christmas gift without it being too obvious of the feelings involved.

Winter and Christmas Brain Breaks

These last few weeks can give even the coolest, calmest and most collected teachers a few extra grey hairs. It’s not exactly the right thing to give in to the excitement and proclaim that the two weeks leading up to Christmas break is  “Movie Time,” (although I do know some teachers who did *frown*).

To help to prevent you from falling into ‘that’ group, I have compiled a list of fun Christmas/Winter brain breaks that can be used as soon as you see your students drifting off into a world of elves, tinsel and cookies.

These YouTube videos offer lots of fun with movement to music. To me there is nothing better that jumping up and moving to a catchy tune to get the blood pumping and the brain juices working! Have a look at the links provided below:
Just Dance Kids 2 – Jingle Bells is a simple yet effective dance routine for younger students. The same movements are repeated so students will catch on quickly.

Winter and Christmas Brain Breaks - Teaching 2 Step

The Dancing Christmas Tree is also perfect for young children. The words are simple and repetition gives students an opportunity to learn them quickly and easily to sing along with the movements.

The dancing Christmas Tree

Jingle Bell Dance. This version of Jingle Bells has such a catchy beat! Students will be very excited to jump up and join in the moves. I have to admit… my favorite part is “Weeeeee.”

Jingle Bells

Just Dance 3 Santa Clone is a more vigorous dance where students need to copy Santa’s dance moves. These moves are more complicated and vary quite a bit and change frequently so I would recommend it for slightly older students, maybe Upper Elementary. The movements are fun and not your average swaying of the arms. The dancing only starts 30 seconds into the 3 minute video, so you might want to avoid students standing around waiting for the dancing to start by forwarding to the exciting bit.

Santa Clone

Let’s not forget about The Sid Shuffle or Continental Drift. Sid, from Ice Age, talks students through his fun and energetic dance.

Sid Shuffle

I would recommend watching YouTube videos in Safe Share. This site requires you to paste the desired video URL onto their page in order to generate a safe, ad-free video. There is a grey frame around the video which blocks out surrounding images and videos. You can also still enlarge the screen to full screen mode.

Safe Share image

For those who don’t have facilities to show a video for a brain break or want to vary the activities, I also loved using this Snowball Fight brain break with my 5th graders, but it can be used for older students as well. This one does not involve following dance moves. I also used it as an informal assessment to check if students grasped the concept I was teaching (while they were thinking of presents and Christmas trees). This is how it works:

After completing an explanation, let’s use ‘properties of quadrilaterals’ as an example, have students draw a quadrilateral on one side of a page. Then on the other side they write down the properties of that quadrilateral. Students then scrunch the page into a “snowball.” I would then tell them to stand up and throw three “snowballs” at one another. Once they had done that (and had a good break) they would each pick up a “snowball,” flatten it out and then write down the properties of the shape on the page. It is a self correcting activity as the answers are on the back of the page.

I’m sure that you (yes, you should also get involved in the fun) and your students are going to love these little brain breaks and they make the time up until Christmas productive and frustration free!

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5 Minutes of Daily Mental Math

5 Minutes of Daily Mental Math

At my previous school we implemented a 5 minute basic operations section to each Math lesson. Each Math lesson would begin with 5 minutes of basic number concept development. The reason for this is that we noticed a decline in basic mental math and number concept knowledge. This forms an integral part of Mathematics and it is vital that students have a good grasp of their mental math.

Now, with limited time as it was, I needed to make sure that limited time was wasted in setting up these activities and then making a smooth transition into the lesson. You might wonder how I did this… Well, each week I allocated a ‘group leader’ to each group. This student would then be responsible for collecting the game at the beginning of the lesson and then returning it to the box at the end of the 5 minutes (I rang a bell). There was also a group member responsible for white boards, so they would also be handed out immediately.

This new section to the lesson encouraged teachers to be creative and inventive when it came to the 5 minutes. Doing the same activity or worksheet after worksheet would not prove to be fun and therefore not beneficial (as we all know, the more you enjoy something, the more meaning it has). Below I shall discuss some of the activities I used:

The dominoes pictured below were designed by our Math coordinator and they worked well in identifying exactly how weak the students were at their mental math (especially division – any surprises there?). At a glance, it was clear which groups could divide and which couldn’t based on the number of dominoes laid out.

Dominoes Teaching2step

These addition cards offered a variety of game options, such as Go Fish, Snap, Rummy etc. I would explain to students before the 5 minutes started which game they would be playing.

Addition Teaching2step

I purchased this ‘String and Learn’ game while I was studying, and the students absolutely loved playing with it.  They used a string to wrap around the tile (if you can call it that), connecting the fact to the answer.  When it is turned around, the back has grooves depicting where the string should be, therefore making it self correcting.  I wished they had this in division as well!  It was rather good for fine motor coordination as well.  Holding the one end and maneuvering the other end of the string can be quite tricky until you get the hang of it.

String n Learn
I also created a Magic Number 48 set of cards. This moved away from only using one operation, but rather all of them. Students needed to use the numbers on the cards to get to 48. They could add, subtract, multiply or divide the numbers any order to reach the total. Each number, however, was only to be used once.  Students had access to whiteboards, if they were needed, and would race each other to solve the card first. I would try to group students differently so that they competed against different students. This game was used in pairs, groups and even as an individual activity – especially when students came from drama or gym and needed to settle down before starting with a new lesson.

Magic Number 48 Teaching2Step

This game comes in the form of task cards (pictured above) and a booklet and is also a wonderful critical thinking activity.  A memorandum is also included.

Magic Number 48 Teaching2steps

Grab a sample of this product here for free.  Or grab the full product here.  (If you find this product useful, please don’t forget to leave some feedback.

This Free Daily Math Number Practice PowerPoint by Lindy Du Plessis also worked wonders. I chose a suitable number and students completed the instruction on their white boards as they entered into the class and took their seats.

There are also so many lovely online games which can be used with an interactive whiteboard, but that is for another post.

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Sight Words: 4 Interactive, Fun Ideas

To type “sight words” into Pinterest will result in hundreds of ideas on how to teach this important subject. I have, however, got my own list of Sight Word activities which I love to use for remediation and practice…

Sight words

An active activity…
Treasure Hunt Sight Words is a lovely outdoor game. It can be done in the garden or on the school field. If the weather does not play along, the school gym would also work. I printed full sets of sight words onto different colored stockcard. (I use these for various other games as well – meaning the sets don’t get mixed up.) Decide on the desired words and take some from each colored pack (so you would have maybe 10 green, 10 yellow and 10 blue words – all of which are different, although, you might decide to have some words repeated but in different colors). Strategically hide these words around the garden. Students then need to race to find a word. Once a word is found, the student returns to the teacher and reads the word. They then need to complete a task in order to move on to find the next word. For example, if they return with a yellow card, they need to do walk to the wall with a bean bag on their head, if they return with a green card they need to hula with a Hula hoop and if they return with a blue card they need to bounce a ball on a racket three times. The aim is to get as many cards as possible.

Treasure hunt

This is such a fun, active activity which is sure to burn off some energy AND get the heart pumping!

A thinking activity…
Astronaut and Aliens: The aim is for Astronaut to try and catch Alien and Alien needs to avoid Astronaut. Astronaut rolls the die and reads the sight word at the top of the pile. If he gets it correct, he moves the number indicated on the die towards Alien. Alien, in turn, moves away from Astronaut when it is her turn to read and roll. Watch out though… there are obstacles along the way which need to be avoided!

Astronauts and Aliens

This is a great activity for thinking and planning as well as practicing sight words!  Click on the picture or here to download the game board for FREE.

A speedy activity…
Race Time is a fun, competitive game that can be played at home or in pairs in the classroom. Students have their own set of words, either those prescribed by the teacher to the whole class or a set of words suited to each individual’s needs. These words are then written in the race track with a dry wipe marker (if the race track is laminated it can be used a number of times with different words). A partner or parent then times the student, using a stopwatch, as they make their way through the words by reading them one at a time as fast as they can. As soon as they get to the end, and read the last word, the timer is stopped. The time is then recorded on the record sheet. The aim is to try to improve on the previous time. Set an attainable goal (time) for students to aim towards. Once this time has been achieved, the next set of words can be written on the board.  Grab this game for FREE by clicking here or on the image.

Race time


A drilling activity…
Stop by my store to for a Christmas Sight Word PowerPoint. This PowerPoint automatically flashes sight words in 1, 3 and 5 second intervals. It can be used as a whole class activity to drill the necessary sight words.



I’d love to know how your students took to these activities!

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