Monster Mailboxes

This Valentine's Day, let students embrace the spirit of friendship by creating handmade mailboxes. Students will personalize and embellish their own mailboxes using crafty supplies from around the classroom. Follow the instructions below and watch the fun monster mailboxes gobble up notes of love and kindness.

Materials: Empty tissue boxes (for the mailboxes), scissors, glue, colorful paper, cardstock (for the name tags), pipe cleaners, and any other decorative materials

How to Make It
Step 1. Pass around empty tissue boxes to students. Invite them to wrap their tissue box in colorful paper, as they would a present. Use glue or tape to adhere the paper to the box.  
Step 2. Once the glue has dried, to make the "monster mouth" of the mailbox, show students how to cut a wide hole in the paper, one that matches the hole in the top of the tissue box. This is where students will deposit their valentines.
Step 3. Encourage students to lay the box on its side and decorate it with monster themes or any other desired embellishments.
Step 4. Instruct students to write their names on one heart-shaped piece of cardstock and glue it to the top of their mailbox to finish.

100 Day Mosaics

Let the countdown begin! Mark the 100 days left of school with this hands-on math activity. Students will practice identifying groups of 10 by making beautiful mosaics out of natural objects. Hang the finished products for a classroom gallery of unique patterns and designs.  Ann Wolff, Windsor, CT

Materials: Foam core (8 by 10 inches), glue, dried beans, popcorn kernels, pasta, lentils, and any other circular dried goods you have available

How to Make It
Step 1. Review with students how to work with groups of 10. Invite them to make groups of 10 with the dried materials by combining like materials (example: 10 red beans, 10 popcorn kernels, and so on).
Step 2. Give each student a piece of foam core and instruct them to make patterns on the foam — spirals, diamond shapes, squares, and stripes — using their groups of 10. They can sketch an outline of the pattern with pencil if they'd like.
Step 3. Once students have found a pattern they like, have them glue down their materials in that pattern. Remind them that they should have 10 groups of 10 to equal 100!

3 Ideas to Celebrate Presidents' Day

Teach students about America's presidents with three interactive activities.

"Guess My President" Video Project
After a unit on presidents, we conduct a short video project. First, each student chooses a different ‘secret' president. They look up facts about their president and then, one by one, I record each student giving hints (facts) about their president, like what years he was in office, a famous event that happened during his presidency, his great accomplishments, character traits, and more. I then mix the videos together and we watch them as a class, guessing who has which president. Laura Ketcham, Aventura, FL

First Ladies Podcasts
On Presidents' Day, we honor not only the presidents, but the first ladies, too! First we take a virtual tour of the National First Ladies' Library ( to learn how these women played an integral role. I ask each student to perform a biographical investigation on a chosen first lady from the site. They read, take notes, and record their findings on a class podcast. We love podcasts over the usual oral report because they're fun to produce, easily distributed to parents over the Internet, and can be saved and later added to. Nanette Avery, Miami, FL

Our Washington Monument
My students built a replica of the Washington Monument out of gift wrap and empty paper towel and toilet paper rolls. Once they assembled the basic structure, they used papier-mâché to mold the shape, then painted over it. They made the 50 flags that surround the actual monument, and even the blinking red light at the top! Many of my students traveled to D.C. so they could see the real thing up close! Elizabeth Kennedy, New York, NY

Take a Trip to... a local cemetery

Teacher Jane Williams took third- and fourth-grade students on a walking field trip to a local cemetery in Independence, Ohio. They dressed for the weather, and brought along hot chocolate in thermoses. At the cemetery, or what her class calls "Tombstone Territory," students worked with a partner to explore the plots. They identified and sketched geometric shapes, searched for unusual and historical names (some stones date back to the 1700s!), and calculated short, long, and average life spans. Students compared epitaphs and practiced writing one, and made their own tombstone rubbings. "It's a great way to incorporate math, language arts, and social studies. We also learned about the important history of our town," says Williams.

Other activities to try at a cemetery:

1. Call Out Veterans
Teach a mini lesson on war veterans and review the special markers on gravesites of those who have served in a war.

2. Trace Back Through Time
Learn about family trees and the importance of heritage, family connections, and how lineage is represented in a cemetery.

3. Spooky Shapes
Compare and contrast geometric shapes and sizes of tombstones. How many sides, edges, and corners can students find?

4. Go Global
Research the history of national cemeteries, such as Arlington cemetery, and learn the burial traditions of other world cultures.

Tech Talk: The iPad

Using them for everything from audio books to handwriting games, teachers love their tablets.

"The speech recognition software and touch-screen technology are helpful for special needs students who can't communicate verbally. It encourages small-motor skills and hand-eye coordination as well." Janet Rhodes, via Facebook

"We use the iPad in my preschool class for virtual field trips, and read-alouds, and the story and music apps are great for our listening center. It's a perfect incentive for good behavior, too." Luanne Tillery Waldow, Culbertson, MT

"My iPad is perfect for basic music education. Students can mix music, record, and practice playing digital instruments." Linda F. Kilkenny, Haw River, NC

"We use the iPad to read graphic novels and get a picture-perfect view of historical documents. Students are hooked!" Valerie Tuck, Norfolk, VA