You all, I was searching for some ideas to teach students about the famous Thanksgiving Day Parade when I found the book, Balloons Over Broadway. This story is based on a true story about Tony Sarg who invented the “upside-down puppets.” When I was young, our whole family would gather around the television to see the parade while my mom was in the kitchen cooking a Butterball turkey!
The Great Puppeteer
Tony Sarg was born in 1880. He was a German American puppeteer and illustrator. He was raised around puppets and inherited his grandmother’s collection. Once he watched a marionette show and wanted to know how the puppets were moving. They would not tell him, so he sat in the front row, attended many shows and drew pictures of the movement until he could figure it out on his own. Tony moved to New York. Macy’s contacted him about his amazing animated puppets. They wanted him to put his puppets in their store windows for Christmas. The windows were a huge success. Thousands of people would gather around the windows to watch the amazing puppets.
Then, Macy’s asked him if he would put his puppets in their first parade. He quickly realized after the parade that the puppets were too small for everyone to see. He worked with a couple others to design the large “upside-down puppets” that we all love to watch today in the parade!
Reading about Tony was fascinating. He had a great sense of humor. One time he floated a monster puppet in the ocean at Nantucket. The joke made national news. You can see a great video capturing the event here. He loved to make toys, illustrate books and made games.
An Idea Born
Learning about his life and reading the book Balloons Over Broadway, inspired me to design a digital escape room for kids to accompany the book. If you wanted to extend the activity you could have kids use permanent markers to color and create their own balloon for a “Hallway Parade” at school. If you wanted to do this lesson during Christmas, you could have students design a puppet window for a department store.
Games are an important part of childhood. From sports to board games, children all over the world play together to learn social skills and have fun. However, games haven’t always been a welcome strategy in the classroom. In the schools of the not-so-distant past, they were something kids were to do on the playground or at home- but not in their classrooms. Fortunately, thoughts have changed. We now know that games can teach important skills while students have fun!
If you’re ready to get your students more excited about learning, pull out some classroom games. Students will be more motivated to pay attention to the subject matter, and will be more engaged. They will positively associate learning the subject matter with having fun. This will increase their success with the material, and make your job a little easier!
Your kids will also develop stronger critical thinking skills while playing games. Depending on the object of the game, they might have to try new strategies, think ahead, or switch plans. In addition to content mastery, students learn social skills while playing classroom games. They experience winning and losing, taking turns, and co-operating. These skills are necessary for working with other people even in adulthood.
One of my favorite classroom game sets is Kindergarten Math Games. It is designed for pre-k and kindergarten classrooms to make practicing important math skills more fun (check out my Kindergarten Math Salad Bar here)! It includes several options for single players to complete on their own as well as games for two players to take turns. Students will learn to count and recognize numbers 1-6 while playing the games. You can simply print the game boards out, give students a 6-sided die, and let the fun begin!
Another resource available for FREE right now is the 10 More Or Less Game. It is ideal for students in grades K-2. This activity helps students understand the number concepts of 10 more and 10 less. It can be played as a whole group so you can help students understand how it works. Then students can play with small groups or partners. Your kids will love learning math skills while having fun with their peers!
What games do you like to play in the classroom? Let me know in the comments!
As we approach the holiday season, your students might be growing weary of the usual classroom activities. Are you detecting a little bit of restlessness when you assign a reading comprehension passage? Don’t worry, I have the perfect activity to inject some life into your reading practice- escape rooms!
Students will have a blast using their reading skills to solve the puzzles and escape the room. Trust me, it will be one of the most memorable activities of the year!
To successfully complete this activity, students have to “break the box” to “escape the room”. As they try to solve the mystery, they will practice their reading skills as well as using teamwork and critical thinking skills.
Your students will be having so much fun trying to escape, they might not even notice that they are developing higher level comprehension skills. Application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation are all necessary to open the box. Rather than using simple worksheets, you will be letting your students develop their higher order thinking skills while having fun!
The Thanksgiving Escape the Room resource includes all the steps you need to engage your students in the Thanksgiving Mystery. After a little bit of preparation following the easy checklist, you’ll be ready to guide your students through their adventure.
The escape room can be used if your children are in the classroom, or easily adapted for at home learners. Your kids are going to have a blast exploring the different steps including a corn maze!
There are so many things to love about fall besides the pumpkin spice and fall scented candles, it is also so fun to bring fall and Halloween themes into the classroom. Integrating seasons and holidays gets your students excited to learn, and what teacher doesn’t love that?
One topic that my students love to learn about is bats! They only come out at night, they’re spooky, and might just share some qualities with vampires. They make a great science topic for fall or Halloween! Teaching facts about bats to your kiddos is exciting and will help increase engagement and retention.
Here are some bat facts to include in your lessons:
Bats are flying mammals
There are over 1000 different species of bat
They are nocturnal or active at night
They feed on insects, fruit, fish, and some even on blood
To help you take your bats unit up to the next level, I created a special Bat Facts Escape Room! This game is so fun, your students will be learning without even realizing it.
This escape room requires no prep and is super easy to use. It is great for in person learning or distance learning.
During the escape, students will be tasked with solving 4 lock clues in order to escape the bizarre bats buzzing around their building. 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 activity takes about 20 to 30 minutes to complete.
Listen to short audio directions and a YouTube video
Solve 5 Comprehension Questions
Solve a Jigsaw Puzzle
Work on problem solving as a group or individually
Learn about echolocation, colonies, different types of bats, vampire bats, and nocturnal animals
Do you have any tips for teaching students about these nocturnal animals? Let me know in the comments!