Benjamin Michael

Hey there, friends!  I'm going to get a little personal with you for just a second.  I wanted to share with you why I've been kind of MIA the past month.


Resources That Keep On Giving

Happy Thanksgiving!  I hope you had a fabulous holiday celebrating with family and loved ones!  I have been extra busy with the birth of my sweet baby.  So, I'm going to keep this short and sweet!  As a thank you for your love and support my entire store is 20% for Black Friday.  And I've compiled a list of some of my favorite resources that keep on giving.

1. Thankful Mini-Book


Primary Punchbowl: Using Sticky Notes for Interactive Read Alouds

Have you heard of the Primary Punchbowl?  Well, it is a collaborative blog by primary teachers that I am a part of.  It's a great group of ladies who have a wealth of knowledge and lots of resources and expertise to share.   

I was asked to join them this summer and couldn't be more excited that my first blog post was published earlier this month.  I did a post on using sticky notes for interactive read alouds.  

If you follow my TpT Store, FB or this blog, you know how I feel about sticky notes and interactive read alouds, two of my favorite things.  I'd love for you to go check out my post and comment or share your thoughts.

You can read it by clicking {here} or by clicking on the image below.  I hope you enjoy!  There is also a FREEBIE for you too.  Check it out! 

Thanks for your support and for checking out the Primary Punchbowl.  


5 Tips to Getting a Donors Choose Project Funded

Are there things you need to make your classroom run smoothly?  Do you need basic necessities for your students to learn?  Or do you have a special project in mind that requires specific materials? Like you, I have answered yes to all of these questions at some point in my teaching career.  We all know that district and school budgets are tight, but there are other options.  What, you say?  Donors Choose!

Donors Choose is a website set up to allow teachers a safe and easy way to ask the community to help fund classroom necessities or materials for projects.  You, as the teacher, create a request for specific items you need for your classroom from the Donors Choose vendors, write a detailed explanation of what you plan to use the materials for, and donors from all over the United States donate to projects they feel are worthwhile.  Over the past few years, I have had many projects funded and here are my top five tips to help you be successful with a project on Donor’s Choose.

Keep Your Project Under $400
Donors want to feel like they are making a difference by donating.  If donors are giving $25-$100 (which is the average donation), they can make more of an impact with projects under $400. Donors also like to finish projects and that's a lot easier when projects are not so big.

Think of a Catchy Title
Think of a great movie or book titles.  Would you have wasted your time seeing E.T.  The Extraterrestrial had it been called A Boy’s Life? (This was the original title.) Make sure it is catchy but also tells what your project is about.

Be Specific
Tell donors exactly how you plan to use your materials.  Don’t forget to include how the items will directly impact your students and their educational experience.

Keep Your Eye Out for Match Donations
There are businesses, companies, and individual donors who will mass fund or match donations for certain types of projects based on criteria they choose.  Check the page at to see what is available in your state.
For example, several teachers from my school and the whole state of WI had projects funded by Herb Kohl from the Kohl Foundation.  Bill and Melinda Gates are another couple who will often match donations as well.

Let People Know You Have a Project Posted
I know, I know, you don’t want to sound like you are begging for money.  You're not.  I have found that many people want to donate to worthy causes.  People love knowing exactly where and how their money is being spent.  Once your project gets funded on Donors Choose, you write a personal thank you on their website, submit six pictures of the items in use (don’t worry, no student faces or names can be shown), and sometimes six thank you notes written by students are also requested  They know exactly how their donation is being used!  Put it on Facebook or email family and friends, and then don't be surprised when they donate because they want to support you.

Project Examples
Here are some examples of projects that myself and Paige have had funded.  The possibilities are endless.

CD Players to Enhance Our Reading Listening Center included CD players and organizing materials. 
Sweet Seats for Active Learner included wobble stools and balance cushions. 
Markers for Math included materials for math. 
Solar Cars Grand Prix included solar car kits

Work Place, Write Space included materials for our math curriculum 
STEM: A Bundle of Fun included STEM kits
Writing and Story Telling Using Technology included an iPad.
An Organized Room for an Organized Mind included carts and boxes to help organize the classroom

Don't forget to pin this post for Donors Choose examples and to share with others. 

Have some questions?  Leave them in the comments, and I can get back to you!  What items are at the top of your list?  What items have you already asked for?


The Best Read Alouds for Halloween

As you all probably know, I LOVE picture books.  I love reading them and sharing them with my students.  I think October has some of the best seasonal/holiday picture books around.  I'm going to share with you some of my favorite HALLOWEEN books and how I use them in the classroom.

Big Pumpkin by Erica Silverman

My very favorite Halloween book is Big Pumpkin by Erica Silverman.  This book is a play on the Russian tale The Enormous Turnip.  It's a simple book about a witch who tries to get a pumpkin out of the garden but it is too big so she calls on her friends to help her.  

The kids love it and it's great for predicting who will help next.  I use this book as an Interactive Read Aloud and then we act it out after we have read it.  

Click on the image below, or click HERE to be taken to this product!  The kids absolutely love it!

Pumpkin Pumpkin by Jeanne Titherington

Another favorite of mine, known for its simplicity, is Pumpkin Pumpkin by Jeanne Titherington.  I use this book for shared reading.  Around this time in first grade, it's a great book to share and read together.  It goes through the entire pumpkin life cycle.  Simple and easy to understand-perfect for those kinders or firsties. 

Check out this FREE activity from my friend Jessica Plemons from Mrs. Plemon's Kindergarten.   For more on this, check out her blog post HERE

Seed, Spout, Pumpkin, Pie by Jill Esbaum

One of my favorite nonfiction Halloween books is Seed, Sprout, Pumpkin, Pie by Jill Esbaum.  I like this nonfiction book because it gives great information about the pumpkin life cycle, other facts about pumpkins and other uses for pumpkin.  Check out page 9, the kids LOVE it! 

Click on the image below, or click HERE to be taken to this product!  

How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin? by Margaret Mcnamara

My last favorite Halloween book is another nonfiction book.  This time, though, it follows a boy as him and his classmates determine which pumpkin has the most seeds.  Does the biggest pumpkin have the most seeds?  You will have to read it to find out.  I like to use this book to go along with my Pumpkin Investigation.    

Click on the image below or click HERE to see this product in my store. 

So there you have it, my top 4 Halloween Read Alouds.  I hope you have found a new book to try or some activities you may like.  

Click this image to pin it so you can refer back to this post. 
Happy Reading!

This post contains affiliate links for Amazon. By purchasing an item on the Amazon site using these links, I will receive a small commission on your purchase. 


How to Keep Your Students Engaged Before Halloween

It's OCTOBER!  Where did September go?   As I think forward to the end of the month, I'm already thinking about how to keep my students actively learning around the craziness that is Halloween.  Unfortunately, this year, Halloween is on a Monday, so that means I have a full week of keeping them engaged and learning after a late night of trick-or-treating on the first day of the school week.  Fingers crossed that our city schedules trick-or-treating for over the weekend.  Even if they do, it's going to be a LLLOOOONNNNGGGG week.  Well, I'm here to help you! Let me introduce you to the Pumpkin Investigation!
How to keep your students engaged before Halloween with a pumpkin investigation
Doing a pumpkin investigation is one of the best ways to keep your students engaged and learning around Halloween time.  Which, did I mention, is my LEAST favorite holiday?  I'm not one for masks, scary costumes or spooky noises.  My students love it, though, so I embrace it.

The pumpkin investigation brings in math and science while keeping students actively learning and working together.  This product has over 20 pages you can choose from to create your own pumpkin investigation mini-book.  I usually take 3 days to complete this, but you could take more or less time depending on how many activities you want to do.
TpT Product for Pumpkin Investigation
To start your investigation, you need to get pumpkins for your class.  I recommend having enough pumpkins to create groups of 4-5.  I bought a couple and then I had parents donate pumpkins to our class.  Each group had their pumpkin that they worked with for the couple days we did our investigating.

Estimating and Describing

The first thing you're going to want to do is complete all of the estimating for your pumpkin.  A lot of the pages involve measuring or counting and they include a spot for estimating.  I know my firsties are currently working on estimating, and they still definitely need help making appropriate guesses.  Here's a great time to practice.  You will want to estimate the number of ribs, how many cubes tall it is, how much it weighs, how many seeds, etc.  I usually do this on the first day of our investigation.

Also on the first day, I have the students describe the size of the pumpkin and we brainstorm words that describe the outside of the pumpkin.
size of the pumpkin
Before we start our pumpkin investigation I also start reading some of my favorite pumpkin books and we start talking about the life cycle of the pumpkin.

Here are some of my favorite books for teaching the pumpkin life cycle. 
If you are interested in an Interactive Read Aloud for this book, click on the picture above or click HERE to be taken to my store fo rmy newest product! 

Measuring and Cleaning

The next day, we spend most of the time actually measuring our pumpkin.  We use a tape measure, unifix cubes, string, scale and any other tool you need for the pages you choose.

Here the students are working to count the number of ribs on their pumpkin.
We also clean out the pumpkin on this day.  I cut a hole in the top and pull the stem out, and then I let them go at it cleaning it out.  Some kids are all about it and will dig right in, others won't even touch the pulp.  It's interesting to see who likes it and who doesn't.  You can also tell who has carved pumpkins at home and who hasn't.
I have each group put their seeds in a bowl or on a plate and we work to separate the seeds from the pulp.  I keep each group separate so that when we go to count the seeds tomorrow, they have the right set of seeds from their pumpkin.

Carving and Counting

The final day, which I like to do on Halloween in their costumes, includes all things carving and counting.  I have parents come in and work with the groups to help them carve.  They have to decide as a group what they want their pumpkin to look like and I have them draw out what it should look like.  The parents then do most of the carving after the kids have drawn the design.    
Here, a student does her idea for the pumpkin carving.
The afters.  We had some pretty good looking pumpkins!
After the pumpkins are carved, the kids start counting.  It's interesting to see their methods for counting the seeds.  Some groups know to group, others will need support in figuring that out.  
One of my favorite books to read aloud with the counting of the pumpkin seeds is How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin? by Margaret McNamara.   It goes perfectly with this activity as the book is about counting seeds.  The kids have to figure out how to count the seeds and discuss the amount of seeds in different size pumpkins.

Tasting and Graphing

On another day, after carving and counting, I take some time to roast the pumpkin seeds and we taste the seeds.  Some kids have had them, others have not.  Some kids love them, others do not.  Some kids won't even try them.

The very last activity I do is graph the taste test, whether the kids like the roasted seeds or not.  One of the page options is for making pumpkin pie if that's more your jam.  I can typically only handle roasting the seeds, but do whatever works for you and your class.

Top Tips!

Here are some of my tops tips to help make this go smoothly:
  1. Buy the pumpkins or have parents donate the pumpkins.  If a parent donates a pumpkin, that kid gets to take it home.  
  2. Buy plastic tablecloths from the dollar store.  They were a lot easier to use than newspapers and I didn't have to collect enough newspapers for 4 groups of kids.  I covered the tables every day we used the pumpkins.  I was able to cut the large rectangle banquet table clothes in halves to fit my tables. 
  3. If you're having a hard time separating the seeds from the pulp, put the seeds in a bowl of water.  The seeds tend to float and the pulp sinks.  It's also easier to rub the seeds with your hands in the water and get the pulp off of the seeds. 
  4. Buy or have parents who come in to carve donate or bring their own carving supplies.  Be careful about kids bringing in carving knives.  I bought cheap knives from the Dollar Store just to have for this purpose and I can reuse them year after year. 
  5. When making the book, print any of the pages you want and copy front to back.  Then cut in half and staple into a book.  
  6. I typically raffle off the pumpkins I buy to see who gets to take the pumpkin home.  Some kids definitely get upset, but it's a lesson in choosing fairly and not always getting your way. 
  7. Try this with mini-pumpkins.  Being 9 months pregnant this year around Halloween, I'm not quite sure I'm up for the whole thing.  BUT, I thought it would be fun to still do this where everyone gets their own little mini-pumpkin.  You could still do all of the measuring and such and then you could paint the pumpkins or decorate with sharpies. 
How to keep your students engaged before Halloween with a pumpkin investigation
I hope you have as much fun with this as we do.  The kids love it and there is so much learning that happens between math and science, but also cooperation.  

If you do this or have done it, let me know in the comments below.  I'd love to hear about it!

Happy October!

This post contains affiliate links for Amazon. By purchasing an item on the Amazon site using these links, I will receive a small commission on your purchase. 
Back to Top