Teacher’s Brain

Ugly Christmas Sweaters For Elementary

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Christmas trees, tinsel, ornaments, and my favorite trend, ugly Christmas sweaters! 

These are becoming more and more popular every year and I always loved it when my students would wear their own to school. Nothing brings the holiday spirit to school quite like a garish holiday sweater. The students think it’s hilarious! 

As any teacher knows, when we include things students love in our lesson plans, engagement in classwork goes up. That being said, I knew it would be perfect if I combined that love of Ugly Christmas sweaters with learning.

So I created this Ugly Christmas Sweater Writing Activity! 

ugly christmas sweater

This activity is guaranteed to be a huge hit at Christmas time. Students get to design their very own ugly Christmas sweaters. They get to let their silliness and creativity fly with this creative activity which always brings lots of smiles and giggles. 

This activity is completely digital. Which makes it so easy to do! Students can complete it at school on their computers or at home while distance learning. These interactive Google Slides are editable so you and your students can customize it however you like. 

ugly christmas sweater

Once they are ready to design, just copy and paste the movable parts to create their sweater. It comes with 14 backgrounds to choose from. 

After that, use the 6 included slides to allow students to brainstorm, organize their thoughts, and write a story about their Christmas sweater. This can be a narrative, persuasive, or opinion paper about their sweater. 

ugly christmas sweater

You can even make it extra fun by organizing a vote to pick the ugliest Christmas sweater! 

If you don’t have the ability to do this activity digitally with your students, don’t worry. It comes with a print version so you can easily adapt it to your needs. 

Check it out here! 

Do you love ugly Christmas sweaters? Let me know in the comments! 

ugly christmas sweater


An Exciting Digital Escape Room For High School Students!

I know it is not normal for this elementary teacher to produce a high school product, but I have high school children who were bored because of the pandemic!

 My daughter and her friends all asked me to make a fun digital escape room for them like I do for kindergarten. So, I thought no problem!

 Well, let me tell you, since I have no clue about high school curriculum, this took me a lot of painful research and time to create for these high school students to enjoy for about 30 minutes. 

But, it is one of my favorite resources because of the research and seeing the joy on the kids faces while they solved the clues together.  

This one is an extension activity to the short story The Lottery by Shirley Jackson.  I can’t believe I never read this story before or that it is something they read regularly in high school, but it is a great piece of literature! 

The escape room I created is great for high school students because it is digital.

digital escape

 So students can do it in the classroom or from home while distance learning or as homework. 

To get started, students will read the short story. When they start the escape, they will be tasked with helping Mrs. Hutchinson to escape The Lottery to change her fate. 

There is a pdf included in this download with directions, the link to the site, an answer key and an optional note taking worksheet for students. This extension activity takes about 30 to 45 minutes to complete.

digital escape

To complete this escape room, students will: 

  • Read about Shirley Jackson and answer questions
  • Solve a Jigsaw Puzzle
  • Watch a YouTube video and answer questions about The Lottery
  • Complete a slide puzzle
  • Solve clues to unlock 4 locks

digital escape

You can easily share the link in Google Classroom. Students can complete this activity on Chromebooks, laptops, on an iPad or in a computer lab. They can work individually or together for a fun group activity! 

Check it out here!

digital escape

For more escape room ideas, check out my post here! 


Desk Pets for the Classroom: a Behavior Management Tool

I’m obsessed with how Desk Pets improve classroom behavior!

Desk Pets for the Classroom

All over the internet, in the teacher’s lounge, on TikTok, and on educational blogs, the latest buzz is about Desk Pets! The original idea came from Marissa Begay. Buying cute erasers is nothing new for teachers regarding classroom rewards, but Desk Pets take it to a new level!  I can’t stop creating new ideas for these mini erasers! Just like students, teachers love to be part of the fun! This is why I suggest teachers have their own Desk Pet Pal! Also, students see that even adults have rules to follow.  Clearly, the principal would give you your Desk Pet Dollars. lol

What are Desk Pets?

Desk pets are adorable small erasers students can adopt in the classroom. Undoubtedly, I found mine on Amazon. Students keep their pets at their desks.  If you don’t want them at their desks all day, you can have a designated time for them to be at their desk.  Not only can they write with them, but they can also read to their Desk Pet.  Students fill out classroom adoption papers.  It reminds me of Build-a-Bear workshops.  To turn these amazing pets into a reward system, students earn Desk Pet Dollars to purchase accessories or habitats for their pets.  They can even adopt pet friends if they earn enough points.  You decide on the points students have to earn to get a Desk Pet Dollar.  Teachers track points with Class Dojo or a simple, portable tally chart.

Desk Pet Adoption

How do Desk Pets work?

First, the rules need to be made clear. To make sure these Desk Pets don’t drive you crazy, set the ground rules, or better yet, have the students create the rules to help them take ownership.  Honestly, I don’t think it’s a great idea to begin the year by introducing this classroom management system.  I would wait until the classroom rules are being followed, and students have developed a respect for your classroom. Additionally, I  begin with using them as math manipulatives rarely, so students get a little familiar with the erasers before teaching the expectations. Before the holidays is a perfect time to introduce this system.

Desk Pets for Math

After students fill out the adoption application and adopt their pet, send home information to families to get them to reinforce the excitement and responsibility of having a Desk Pet Pal. Definitely, encourage parents to ask about the pets, earning points, and dollars.

There’s more…

Set up a way that students can achieve a Permanent Home Adoption Certificate later in the year if they acquire a large number of points. Every time students earn maybe 10 points, they get a dollar. Furthermore, create a pet store where they can buy food, treats, toys, beds, bowls, or habitats.  These can be felt pieces, simple construction paper, cotton balls for a bed, and bottle caps as bowls. Additionally, allow students each week to buy their pet something.

Desk Pet Habitat

Every day you should set time aside, even if it’s 5 minutes of quiet reading time with their pet.  This is “free time” that they don’t have to earn with points. Furthermore, have an Adoption Center where you display the pets in a safe area.

Desk Pets make great writing prompts! Students enjoy writing about their pets. If having them all day at their desk is a problem, decide on a place to store them until the appropriate designated Pet Playtime.  Teachers have pet daycares, hotels, or simple plastic bins for this purpose.  Another idea is to use the hotel to store the animals daily. It prevents lost pets. Even more, teachers create a class goal to have a pet party.

What are students most excited about?

Students get excited by spending dollars at the pet store and building new habitats for their pets.  Furthermore, students are learning about science, math skills with counting dollars, responsibility, writing, and rules. My own kids who are past elementary age loved these little erasers, so use them at any age. Without a doubt, students will remember you for the fun, engaging way you helped them to stay on task. I know as a parent, I love the idea of Desk Pet Pals!

Desk Pet Pals for Kids

I teach virtual school. Can Desk Pets work for me?

YES! Google slides make it easy to use digital desk pets. Also, digital clipart can be sent to the students. And, have students use writing prompts with their pets. It should be noted that you can offer clipart of accessories, food, or toys in exchange for Virtual Pet Points.

What happens if they get lost or stolen?

Great question! Without a doubt, you will experience cute erasers going missing. I have a Pet Detective form students can fill out and reward posters for students to create for missing pets.  Then, I tell the student their adoption contract is voided and they can adopt a new pet until the other one is found. Certainly, if someone gets caught stealing, remove points from their data log.  I like to track behavior points for difficult behaviors and use the data charts in meetings.

Desk Pets Data

I love that the mini erasers can be used for other educational purposes too! Here are some ideas:

  • Math Manipulatives
  • Creative Writing Prompts
  • Opinion Writing
  • Design Posters or Write a Book About the Pet
  • Hide them in the room to play I Spy or Write the Room
  • Sort by Colors
  • Create a Report on the Animal
  • Learn How to Care for a Pet
  • Design a Pet Habitat

Desk Pet Ideas

Check out these pre-made PowerPoints and Digital Google Slides that will save you time coming up with Desk Pet ideas and activities.

Try this FREE Sample to get started on your Desk Pet Journey!

How To Set Up Your Virtual Classroom

The end of summer is rapidly approaching! With the pandemic ongoing, many teachers may be preparing for another year in a virtual classroom instead of in person. For teachers used to teaching face to face in the classroom, things are different and you have to come up with new ways to do pretty much everything. This could either be exciting, or overwhelming. If you are feeling overwhelmed about it, don’t worry! I am here to help. 

While teaching virtually is a learning curve at first, you will soon learn that it can actually be fun! Going digital gives you so many more teaching resources to choose from. You can use Boom Cards, videos, audio, Google Slides, games, and last but most certainly not least, self-grading resources! 

Teaching virtually saves you valuable time grading, prepping, printing, and more. Furthermore, Google Slides make it so easier than ever to personalize your teaching resources and make them your own. What’s not to love! 

If you are just getting started with virtual learning and need some help getting your virtual classroom set up, I have you covered! 

My Virtual Classroom Templates will have you set for distance learning. 

virtual classroom

These editable templates are made with Google Slides so they are quick and so easy to use. They make it simple to decide which slides you want to use with your class, and delete what you don’t want. You can add clickable links, forms, images, a quiz, or videos of you to personalize your classroom.

Feeling nervous about how to use them? Don’t worry! I created a YouTube video instructing you on how to use it and make it your own. 

Included with this virtual classroom resource, you’ll get: 

  • 15 Google Slide Templates for Home Room, Reading, Writing, Math, Science, Social Studies, Art, Music, PE, Centers and a Brain Break. These include home buttons of the slides so students can use presentation mode and easily find their schedule on the Home Room slide.
  • 18 Google Slides with links for a DEMO. There are extra slides from my own digital resources for you to use as a demo or in your own presentation or if you are K-2, you can use the demo for an emergency sub plan if needed.
  • 3 Page PDF with Directions

Slides are 11 x 8.5 so you can add other slides that can be printed out by the students at home if needed.

virtual classroom

This will make teaching in a virtual classroom a breeze, guaranteed! 

virtual classroom

If you are looking for more digital resources, check out my post here on how to create a virtual All About Me presentation for Back To School night. Or, if you are looking for a way to do calendar time virtually, check out my virtual calendar resource here!  

Are you teaching in person or virtually this year? Let me know in the comments!

virtual classroom