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Sensory/Calm Down Bottles

Rainbow water beads and blue, green, and purple glitter sensory bottles
As the summer is winding down, I'm finishing up a few easy projects. These sensory bottles were really fun to make (even though I detest glitter) and relaxing to watch. (Note: Affiliate links will be used in this post. Using my affiliate link will not cost you anything, but it will give me a few cents to use towards maintaining this website.)
Blue, green, and purple "mermaid tail" sensory bottle
For the mermaid tail bottle, I used the following:
- VOSS plastic water bottle (I used 330mL bottles because everyone in the free world, or at least the people who shop at my Target, uses the 850mL size. I actually like how the smaller size fits in my hand. Peel off the labels.)
- boiling water
- blue glitter glue
- various sizes of glitter in greens, blues, and purples (I bought this body glitter and it was the perfect size for one bottle. In retrospect, it made for a moderately expensive sensory bottle. Oops.)
- blue food coloring
- super glue

For the 330mL size, whisk together 3/4 cup boiling hot water with about an ounce of the blue glitter glue in a large measuring cup. Pour the mixture into the water bottle. Using a funnel, pour in the glitter into the bottle. Add 1-2 drops of blue food coloring. Add blue glitter glue, water, and more glitter until satisfied with the look and the bottle is full. More glue will make the glitter settle more slowly. Leave very little air. After testing it out with the lid on, use super glue on the threads of the lid to make it permanent.

This is how much glue was left in my new 6 oz. bottle.
Blue glitter glue

Water bottle containing rainbow colored water beads
For the rainbow bottle, I used the following:
VOSS plastic water bottle
- water beads in assorted colors

Soak the water beads according to the directions. Fill the bottle as desired. Add water. Easy peasy!
Water beads sorted by color
Note: I saw someone say that it was easier to sort the colors out of the package rather than after they were full-size. I tried both ways and I thought that it was easier after soaking. It was also easier to see the difference in color.
Rainbow water beads and blue, green, and purple glitter sensory bottles

Tic Tac Booyah

Tic Tac Booyah is a fun and engaging review game!
I will start off by saying that this was NOT my original idea. A member of one of the fifth grade/upper elementary Facebook groups I'm in shared it with us, and many in the group had success with it!

I'm sure that there are many variations of it, but here is how I adapted it for my class.

Object of the Game
Students compete as teams to answer questions. When they answer a question correctly, they claim a square. Teams try to get as many three-in-a-row groupings as possible.

Set Up
I decided to make teams of 3 students. I wanted to do this for math, so I printed off multiple sets of fraction word problems so that there was one set per team. Task cards were perfect for this because the groups answer one question at a time. I quickly color-coded each set so that I knew which group got which questions. (This will make more sense later.) Finally, I cut apart the problems.
Tic Tac Booyah is a fun and engaging review game!
Since this was something that I felt like I would probably do again, I created a game board to be projected on my white board. You can get a copy of the Google Slide by clicking the image below. (NOTE: It isn't editable because the text and grid are pictures. If you want to change things, you'll have to delete the picture and add your own text boxes. Or cover up rows and columns with white boxes.)
Tic Tac Booyah is a fun and engaging review game!
Each team will also need something to write their answers on to bring to you, like a whiteboard or scratch paper.

How to Play
After dividing students into their teams of 3, I gave each team a question face-down. I gave Team 1 a question from the red stack, Team 2 from the orange stack, and so on. When I give the signal, all teams flip over the problem and work on solving it.

When they have a solution, one team member brings their question slip and answer and stands in line for me to check it. If they get it right, they get to mark a square with their team number. I give them a new problem from their color stack to solve. If they don't get it right, I give them the option to either take it back to their team to revise or trade it in for a new problem.
Tic Tac Booyah is a fun and engaging review game!
When a team gets three in a row, they circle their tic-tac-toe. After a predetermined amount of time, whoever has the most tic-tac-toes wins!
Tic Tac Booyah is a fun and engaging review game!

Recycled Chihuly-Inspired Wall Art

Recycled Chihuly-inspired art using water bottles and markers
I'm just fascinated by the work of Dale Chihuly. I think that the first piece of his that I saw was in the lobby of the Bellagio in Vegas.
When I was putzing around Pinterest, I saw some cool projects that others did with coloring plastics to get the Chihuly look. Since I'm also into recycling, I had to figure out how I could do something similar for my classroom.

During testing week, I gave my students single-use water bottles with this project in mind. Our art teacher is collecting caps for a school-wide mural, so we were able to use both parts of the bottle for art.

This is an interesting video that I showed my students prior to the project so that they would know the "look".
Then I divided my permanent markers into a warm color basket and a cool color basket. I told my students that they could do any pattern they chose but only use markers from one basket.

Then we took the bottles and cut off the bottoms along the seam. If you buy the water bottles with the really thin plastic, i.e. the store brand water, then the students should be able to cut the plastic okay. If the plastic is too thick, then you'll have to start it for them. You could reuse the bottoms to make into flowers. My {saved Insta stories} have some of the in-progress shots since I forgot to take actual pictures during that part.

Starting from the bottom, spiral cut the bottle. Thicker spirals create a more rigid shape, which I ended up preferring for a wall installation. If you want to do a chandelier or something hanging from above, you might want a thinner spiral so they're longer.

Next, I took a rectangle of chicken wire and started feeding the bottle openings through the holes. I used hot glue to keep them in place since the chicken wire holes were slightly larger that the bottle openings.
Recycled Chihuly-inspired art using water bottles and markers Recycled Chihuly-inspired art using water bottles and markers
Now this step is optional. Some of the spirals were kind of floppy, so I used a heat gun to make them melt and twist a bit to make them a little more rigid. This is the heat gun I used (affiliate link):
I ended up trimming some of the longer ones and hot-gluing the pieces to fill in holes to make it look more full. The final step was to trim off all of the extra chicken wire and hang it!
Recycled Chihuly-inspired art using water bottles and markers Recycled Chihuly-inspired art using water bottles and markersRecycled Chihuly-inspired art using water bottles and markers

Here's a peek at some suncatchers that we also made by coloring on clear Solo cups and putting them in a 350˚F oven for less than a minute until they just start to collapse. Then I quick pulled them out and used an oven mitt to crush them down the rest of the way. If you leave them in longer, then the clear plastic turns white. (Melting plastic probably isn't the most eco-friendly thing in the world, in retrospect.) Then I hot-glued them to a very thin fishing line to hang in the window.
Recycled Chihuly-inspired art using clear Solo cups and markers
Recycled Chihuly-inspired art using water bottles and markers

Audiobook Groups and Doodling

Free doodle notes for listening to read-alouds or audiobooks
My grade-level partner came up with a new idea to mix up our book groups this spring. We had several Playaways and book CDs available, so we decided to try audiobook groups. (Side note: This is a perfect example why veteran teachers should always be willing to try suggestions of less-experienced teachers. Always keep trying new things!)

I knew that the students would probably need something to do while listening. When I do read-alouds, many of them draw or do other quiet things at their desks. I made a simple page of story element doodles that they used while listening. You can download your copy by clicking the image.
Free doodle notes for listening to read-alouds or audiobooks
We ordered a few things from Amazon (affiliate links) to set these up. First of all, these groups were interest-based, and we knew that we could have groups of up to eight kids. We bought these splitters so that everyone could listen at the same time. Since we were able to chain them together, we could adjust for every group size.
We also decided to let the kids use gel pens to immediately up the buy-in. These are the packs we bought. I decided to only put out a third of them, though. In retrospect, I should have emphasized that they were to DOODLE and DRAW, not COLOR. Many of the pens ran out since some kids were coloring everything.
So now we were ready to listen. Since I had never read any of the books that were chosen, I listened along. I discovered that it was kind of hard for me. I've always been the one reading aloud and having the words in front of me. Or when I'm listening to an audiobook, it's while I'm doing something else. I'm glad that I decided to make the doodle pages because I needed something to do while listening.

While we were listening, the kids tended to watch what I did on my paper since they weren't sure what to do. It didn't take them long to get the idea and soon they were able to add their own thoughts to their papers. Many ended up going onto the back of the paper or onto another black paper when they ran out of room on the front. Here are the examples of my sheets from the groups:
Free doodle notes for listening to read-alouds or audiobooksFree doodle notes for listening to read-alouds or audiobooks

Free doodle notes for listening to read-alouds or audiobooksFree doodle notes for listening to read-alouds or audiobooks
Free doodle notes for listening to read-alouds or audiobooks

Using a Factor Table for Fractions

Using a Factor Table for Fractions with Freebie
After 19 years of teaching fraction skills to fifth graders, there are some things that I'm willing to give my students for the sake of a smoother lesson when they don't have the needed prerequisite skills. One thing is a multiplication chart for finding the least common denominator for more common fractions.

Another tool that I provide is a table of all factor pairs of numbers 1-100. Not only is it a good tool to see prime and composite numbers, it's great for finding the greatest common factor for simplifying fractions.

Is this something that your students could use? Click on either image in this post to download your own. It's free!
Using a Factor Table for Fractions with Freebie

The Comprehensive Pen Experiement

Which purple pen is best? Read my reviews and see if you agree!
I am guessing that a decent number of you are like me in that you are on the constant search for the best writing instrument for all of the teachery things that you need to do. And for your planner. And for your doodling. And if they come in purple, that's even better!

I decided to test drive write a dozen different types of pens to find the one(s) that I absolutely cannot live without. My "official scientific" results may (or may not) surprise you! Although these come in different colors, I used purple exclusively. Because honestly, I really don't care about the other colors.

NOTE: This post contains affiliate links. I get a few cents if you purchase, but using these links doesn't add to what you would pay.

Pilot FriXion
Ink: Gel
Thoughts: My students thought that I was committing some sort of sorcery when I was writing a math problem and erased a mistake. It is not 100% erasable, but it's close enough to be a really awesome thing. Doesn't always have the smoothest ink flow with the ball point, especially when you start writing.

Pilot B2P
Ink: Gel
Thoughts: I like how this is made from recycled water bottles. Purple ink is more of a violet. The textured barrel gives you somewhat of a grip, but I found my hand still slipping a bit after a lot of use. I will probably gift these to our social worker since they're her favorite.

Pilot Precise V5 RT
Ink: Ink
Thoughts: This particular pen might be a little too fine for my everyday writing. Ink flow seems to be decent. I like it for doodle notes and other detailed doodling.

Bic Intensity
Ink: Marker
Thoughts: I love how this pen writes. However, the barrel is too slick in my opinion.

Sharpie Pen
Ink: Marker
Thoughts: This used to be my favorite pen, but I don't find myself reaching for it as much anymore. They are thin and don't have a grip. They aren't as comfortable for writing over a longer period of time. But I really do love the smooth writing and color.

Pentel EnerGel
Ink: Gel
Thoughts: Purple color is more violet. Nice grip. Also fun for doodling. Another one I reach for regularly.

uni-ball Signo
Ink: Gel
Thoughts: Nice grip. Ink flow isn't as smooth with the ballpoint. Not in my regular rotation at the moment.

uni-ball Vision Elite
Ink: Ink
Thoughts: Very deep purple... almost hard to tell that it is purple. Lots of ink comes out to make a wider line. It takes a while to dry. Overall, not a fan.

Paper Mate Flair
Ink: Water-based ink
Thoughts: You can't go wrong with a Flair.

Paper Mate InkJoy
Ink: Gel
Thoughts: Smooth writing (although sometimes a little globby), pretty deep purple color. It makes me want to doodle and add swirls to my writing. I find myself reaching for it the majority of the time... even over my Flairs!

Paper Mate InkJoy
Ink: Ink
Thoughts: Triangular barrel with no grip makes it a little tricky to keep from sliding around in my hand. Another ball point that is just okay.

Paper Mate Profile
Ink: Ink
Thoughts: Violet color and standard ink ballpoint, which means that the ink flow isn't as smooth. I put these out for my students to "borrow".

How did I do? Did I try your favorite? Let me know in the comments!
Which purple pen is best? Read my reviews and see if you agree!

How to Create Bitmoji Brag Tags

How to Create Bitmoji Brag Tags
First of all, I need to give credit to littlemissfiesta_ on Instagram for her idea of making Bitmoji stickers. While I was making those, I got an idea to make Bitmoji brag tags for our upcoming Valentine's Day celebration.

I started by opening the Bitmoji app on my phone and selected one to use. I will also be doing birthday ones and other holidays when those are added. They would also be great for the Bitmojis I made into stickers.
How to Create Bitmoji Brag Tags
Then I shared it with my laptop using AirDrop.
How to Create Bitmoji Brag Tags
I opened the single tag template from my {brag tag template} and dropped in the Bitmoji from my Downloads folder. I also decided to make it larger and crop it (although you really don't have to crop it). Make sure to align it to the bottom of the template so you don't get a hole punched in your head ;)
How to Create Bitmoji Brag Tags
Save your template as a picture.
How to Create Bitmoji Brag Tags
Open the sheet of brag tags and select all of the rectangles.
How to Create Bitmoji Brag Tags
Insert your single tag template.
How to Create Bitmoji Brag Tags
How to Create Bitmoji Brag Tags
Now you have a full sheet of tags ready to laminate, cut, and hand out!
How to Create Bitmoji Brag Tags

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