Category Archives: Learning is Fun Lessons/Activities

Author Websites with Games and Activities… Think Eragon, Reading Rainbow and The Ranger’s Apprentice

Some great author websites with games and activities for all ages this summer!

Oceanhouse Media Great educational book apps and so much more. Check out often for FREE downloads to help your child learn letters, phonics & math!

Christopher Paolini’s “Eragon” Series Games and Activities for Tweens and Teens…Great Teacher Resource Too
John Flannagan’s “Ranger’s Apprentice” Series Games and Activities for Tweens and Teens…Great Teacher Resource Too (one of my favorite series)

The 39 Clues Website A fun clue hunt!

The Mysterious Benedict Society Top Secret Adventures, Passwords and Amazing FUN!

Remember Reading Rainbow…check out this great reading resource for FREE!

Think classroom IPad or whiteboard resource

May we continue ot seek knowledge in all things~


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Filed under Curriculum Resources, Educational Resources, Educational Websites and Resources, Educational Websites that are FREE, Favorite Sites, Learning is Fun Lessons/Activities, Promoting Literacy, Recommended Book from Teens for Teens, Recommended Books for Ages 8-15, Recommended Learning Apps, Resources for Writers Young and Old, Summer Learning Tips

Themed Lessons Online for F-R-E-E…When we Share the Good in Education, we ALL Benefit

Given all the many online resources available to both educators and parents alike, one can spend a whole week educating our youth on days like today…President’s Day and answering the who, what, where and why questions that arise.

The Teacher’s Guide is a fabulous resource site, that provides lesson plans, tips on integrating technology, White Board lessons and so much more.

Hot Chalk is another amazing online resource.  This site is broken down by Classroom, Community and Lesson Plans. One can even sign up for a free eNewsletter too.

A to Z Teacher Stuff is a neat site that has theme-based puzzles, lesson plans and great educational resources to utilize at home or in the classroom.

Education World is one of our favorite online resources.  This site offers lessons broken down by discipline and has a wealth of lessons to choose from.

Here are four of our favorite online resources.  We would love to hear from you, what sites you find valuable when planning your lessons at home and in the classroom.  When we share the good in education, we all benefit!


May we continue to see knowledge in all things,


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Recommended Dolch Phonetic System for Emerging Readers

Example of Teacher-Generated Sound Chart to Help Emerging Readers with Phonics

Dolch Phonetic System Classroom Materials Organization

  1. Use a plastic file cube to store materials.  One hanging folder for each Dolch list will hold all of the game and practice materials. Add a 2nd hanging files for each Dolch list to hold flashcard sheets to give to a student when he/she moves to a new Dolch list.  The student takes this list home for practice. Keep your record binder in the cube too.
  2. It might be helpful to print the materials for each list in a particular color.  This makes it easy to get stray flashcards and other materials back into the correct folder.
  3.  laminate or use clear contact paper on the flashcards.  Laminate or contact the whole sheet before cutting. This helps, because the students love to review with them and they can go home once completed for additional review.
  4. Game boards, bingo cards etc. can be laminated or placed in plastic sleeves. Three hole punched plastic sleeves are very cheap at Costco.  They are actually a much cheaper and a faster way to protect the game boards. (I hole punch the cards to and put on ring sometimes for the students.)
  5. Give each student a practice booklet to keep.  The student brings the booklet to testing sessions.  The teacher can write helpful hints in the booklet for the student and “stamp, star or sticker” completed lists.


Record Keeping:Maintain a pocketed binder for student and class records.Store testing lists and or testing flashcards in the pocket of the binder.Maintain  individual records, a class graph, and a status of the class.

Test each student every week or two.  They will “bug” you to test them. As a teacher, you will begin to see their confidence rise.  In a regular classroom setting, teachers can grab a couple of minutes here and there for testing: during SSR, during an art project, while at the computer lab or library etc.  Regular testing does not have to be
built into the schedule.

I prefer to do my own testing, so I can observe errors and help the student by giving little individual mini-lessons.  If you use an aide or volunteer to test, make sure you demonstrate to them how you want your testing done.  You are seeking automatically with the words.  If the student takes more than a count to 5 to read the word, he/she doesn’t know the word well enough.

Dolch List 1

the to and hea I you it ofin was said his thatshe for on they but had

List 2

at him with up all looks her there some out as be have go weak then little down

List 3





















List 4





















List 5





















List 6





















List 7





















List 8





















List 9





















List 10





















List 11





















The blends are: bl cl, fl, gl, pl, br, cr, dr, fr, gr, pr, tr, sk, sl, sp, st, sw, spr, cr, str

The vowels are: a, e, i, o, u,



The students will read word cards with accuracy.


• Word cards with words that contain familiar spelling patterns (or blends, rimes, digraphs, etc.)


Tell the students that they will be reading cards with familiar word patterns. Then,

1. Ask a student to read the first word card. Give the student no more than three seconds to answer.

2. If the student reads the card correctly, place it face down on the table. If the student cannot read
the card, tell him or her what the word is, emphasizing the pattern, and place the unread or misread card in front of the student.

3. Show the following word card to the next student, repeating step 2. Repeat until all word cards have been read or given to students.

4. Have the students who have cards in front of them attempt to read those words again. If they are able to read the card quickly and easily, take it back.

5. If a student misreads any words again, have the student keep the card and ask him or her to practice reading it.


To check for comprehension, ask students to use each word in a complete sentence.

Instead of using word patterns, use cards with sight words written on them, and have the students use the words in sentences.

This is a great activity for parents to use with their emerging readers at home too.  There are many weeks left to summer, Happy Reading!

May we seek knowledge in all things,

Denise 🙂

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Filed under Dolch Phonetic System and Sight Words to use with Emerging Readers, Interesting Topics, Learning is Fun Lessons/Activities, Promoting Literacy, Recommended Learning Blogs

From Basic Facts to Fractions…Great Online Learning Math Games for All Learning Styles


Online flashcards and games for math practice.

Cool Math Games
Fun math games. Baseball

Fun game teaches addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and elementary algebra.

Math Fact Cafe-Flashcards

Online flashcards for the elementary grades.  *** I really like this one!

Math Magician Games

More online flashcards, but in a timed setting and a progress report can be printed when finished.

Factor Game

Play this online version of the “Factor Captor” game in 5th Grade Everyday Mathematics.


AAA Math 

Covers all fraction topics.  NOTE:  I think this is a fabulous site for scaffolding the learning process for all things fractions!

FUNBRAIN-Fresh Baked Fractions

A game for simplifying fractions.

Learning Frenzy

Use a game to practice matching equivalent fractions.

Visual Fractions

Practice identifying fractions and operating with fractions.  **This is my learning style 🙂

These are some great math sites I found while conducting research this morning.  The fractions sites are SO good, that I had to share.  I hope these sight help make the learning process fun for your math learner!

May we seek knowledge in all things,

Denise 🙂


Filed under Educational Websites and Resources, Educational Websites that are FREE, Learning is Fun Lessons/Activities, Student or Industry

We Have Found an Amazing 7 Year-Old Writer and Her Mom Writes Too…Check out Her Blog

In one of our Writing Workshops in May, I was thrilled to spend time with Amy Foret.  She is a young mom who is a wife and a mother of two. Her articulate and well-read daughter is 7 and she has an amazing son who is 5.

Her daughter started reading when she was only 3 1/2, and has been writing stories since she started kindergarten. Now she is in second grade. She reads about a book a night, and writes at least one short story a week.

Please check out and welcome these new writers to WordPress and the writing arena.

For all of our readers who love to get great ideas on books to utilize in classroom or read to your child, we highly recommend Amy’s blog MY Garden Patch of Books.

Please check it our and share your thoughts here on your great reading finds 🙂

I am on my way to VA to meet with Trisha and conduct some Unlock the Teacher LLC “How to ePublish” Workshops…

Stay tuned as the next Katie’s Adventure eBook is almost ready to hit Barnes and  The OLQM first graders who wrote and illustrated the book did an amazing job!

You learn something every day if you pay attention.  ~Ray LeBlond

May we seek knowledge in all things,

Denise 🙂

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We Have Added Many Great Educational Resources and Games…Check it Out!

From Flannagan’s Ranger’s Apprentice awesome site for tweens, teens and educators, to Christopher Paolini‘s Eragon site with games galore, we have tried to add some great educational resources for all to enjoy.

We have tried to add more educational resources to help our home school parents that write-in and ask us for resources.  We will continue to research and add.  Our goal is to have a great library of resources for everyone to utilize come summer.

Have a wonderful time exploring these fabulous sites.

P.S. The Ranger’s Apprentice site has a contest going on  now!

May we continue to see knowledge in all things,


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Professor at the University of Detroit Mercy, A Director of Family Medicine at a Beaumont Hospital and a Seasoned Teacher=Great Collaborative Team

Hello World,

Stay tuned as Unlock the Teacher LLC has some great news to share about an upcoming project we will be launching this summer.  We are collaborating with an Education Professor at the University of Detroit Mercy, a Director of Family Medicine at a William Beaumont Hospital. We have completed a needs assessment, we are working with groups of educators and parents, and we have listened to all the wonderful input given.  We cannot wait to share with you.

More details will be coming soon…

May your weekend be filled with adventure,

Denise, Trisha and Sue

Unlock the Teacher LLC Team

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A Review of “The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig” by Eugene Trivizas and Helen Oxenbury

Once they got past their differences, they could be friends...imagine!

Given that my little people are on Spring break, we made the most of it today.  We had a playdate and visited our local library.  Our family just loves the library and views it as a magical place, full of many adventures, just waiting to be explored.  While at the library we discovered that we could check out Wii games…for free and for a few days at a time.  At the same time, I found myself amazed and grateful.

What a wonderful way for audiences young and old to try out new games and new yoga poses for the Wii 🙂 I was so thrilled by this awesome discovery, I felt the need to share it with all of you. 

The other treasure we found while at the library, was a book called, The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig, written by Eugene Trivizas and Helen Oxenbury.  My daughter and I shared so many laughs over this tonight.  The vocabulary is excellent; some words were challenging for my daughter to sound out and there were a couple of words she did not know meaning. I utilized these words as great teachable moment tools.

Scholastic offers a free lesson plan for parents and teachers to use with children provided by Michelle Higgens, a third grade teacher.  Given the lexicon used in this book, I would recommend for grades 1-3.  This would be a great resource to use when teaching/discussing bullying and differences with child/student.

I hope everyone runs out to their local library and reads this book…funny, cute and a tool to learn from.

Have a great night and happy reading! 

May we continue to seek knowledge in all things,


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“Mysteries of the Beach” on Sale Now at Barnes and Noble,Written by Educators to Promote literacy and Enhancing the Learning Process

 Mysteries of the Beach is on sale now at Barnes and Noble and can be downloaded for your child’s enjoyment and to utilize as an educational tool.  This is a complete science unit (k-2) on the ocean, all inside one book.

We have included hyper links throughout, which make it an ideal teaching tool for classrooms with Smartboards.  Regardless if you are teaching a class, small groups or an individual student, this book is a great resource.

We have recommended additional websites and resources to enrich both the academic and enjoyment areas.

Check out  Mysteries of the Beach at Barnes and Noble and let the learning fun begin!

Barnes and Noble ~FREE~ Nook Apps to Download and Read all eBooks:

Nook Kids ipad app ; Nook App for iPad ; Nook App for iPhone ; Nook App for Android Cell Phones ; Nook App for PC (Personal Computer)

Thank you to everyone for the outpouring of support!   For those who have already purchased the book, please share your experiences and/or children’s comments about Mysteries of the Beach.  We will be publishing the coloring book attachment piece for 99 cents soon.

We are excited to share with you the books being launched March 1st for our Unlock the Teacher LLC Promoting Literacy Campaign.  We appreciate and look forward to all comments.

As many have already requested, we will donate any of our eBooks to schools, libraries, hospitals or any facility that helps children and promotes literacy.  Our goal is to share knowldege and promote all that is good in education!

May we seek knowledge in all things,

Denise & the whole Unlock the Teacher, LLC team 🙂

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Filed under Achievement Gap Blogs, Common Core State Standards "Nuts & Bolts", Educational Websites that are FREE, Grants and Funding Resources, Hot Topics in Education, Learning is Fun Lessons/Activities, March 2011 Promoting Literacy Campaign, Promoting Literacy

Celebrating “Harriet the Hero” for Black History Month with Harriet Tubman Activity Unit

Harriet Tubman Activity Unit

Created by Denise Ball

Activity 1

Harriet Tubman Timeline Activity

Objective:  Evaluate timeline; recognize significance of the Under Ground Railroad and the important role Harriet Tubman played in this movement

Possible Activities

  • Students can utilize facts to create a timeline on construction paper with words and personal sketches
  • Students can work in groups to illustrate events happening in history at periods on this timeline (groups could also create skits as well, giving their interpretations of these historical events)

1619 The first African slaves are brought to Virginia

1808 The US bans the import of slaves

1820 Araminta Harriet Greene (Tubman) born in Maryland

1844 Harriet marries John Tubman, a free black man

1849 Harriet Tubman escapes to the North

1850 Harriet Tubman starts rescuing slaves via the Underground Railroad

1857 Dred Scott Supreme Court decision – slaves did not have the right to bring a case to court

1858 Harriet Tubman buys a farm near Auburn, New York

1859 John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry

1861 Abraham Lincoln elected President of the US; Civil War starts

1863 Lincoln issues Emancipation Proclamation

1865 Civil War ends; Lincoln is assassinated; 13th amendment to Constitution abolishes slavery

1868 14th amendment to Constitution grants citizenship to former slaves

1870 15th amendment to Constitution prohibits states from denying the right to vote because of race

1913 Harriet Tubman dies on March 10, 1913, Auburn, N.Y

Class discussion/reflection is recommended to complete lesson.

Activity 2 

“Harriet the Hero”

Written by Denise Ball

Reading Level: Grade 5.9

Intended Audience: Grades 3-5

Note:   I have tried to keep the dialogue as authentic as possible, or as I see it in my mind’s eye.  I utilize the dialogue pieces as teachable moments on the importance of education, equality etc.  When using with a class, I assign new character parts per scene to allow everyone to participate. 

This lesson has also been modified and used with 8th graders.  Students were divided into three groups, they created scene prompts and added to skits as they saw fit.

“Harriet the Hero” is a children’s skit written on my interpretation of Harriet’s journey to freedom.  This skit has been utilized to enhance social studies curriculum in classrooms (3-5th grade) and can be modified to fit the needs of any class really between grades 3-8 to enhance and awareness of historical events in the United States. 

This is a lesson that looks at the courageous acts of Harriet Tubman and the role she played in ending slavery in the United States.

Narrator 1:

Harriet Tubman was born in Dorchester County, Maryland, in 1820.  She died March 10, 1913, in Auburn, New York.

Harriet Tubman was a runaway slave from Maryland who many called the “Moses of her people.” Over a span of ten years, with great personal risk, she led hundreds of slaves to freedom along the Underground Railroad, a secret network of safe houses where runaway slaves could stay on their journey north to freedom. Once free, she became a leader in the abolitionist movement. During the Civil War, she was a spy for the federal forces in South Carolina.

Narrator 2:

Harriet Tubman’s name at birth was Araminta Ross. She was one of eleven children born into slavery in Dorchester County, Maryland. As a child, Ross was “hired out” by her master as a nursemaid for a small baby. Harriet had to stay awake all night so that the baby would not cry and wake the mother. If she fell asleep, the baby’s mother whipped her.

Scene 1 Presenter-

On a plantation in Dorchester, Maryland, it is dusk and all the slaves have come in from the fields.  As the plantation owner goes home for the night, we overhear a group of slaves in conversation, worried about Johnny being caught as he sneaks back onto the plantation.  Johnny is a young slave teen that has left the plantation to go to the store, an act that could get them all in trouble if he is caught.

Arminta Ross: 

“I can’t believe that there Johnny would do something so foolish!  He knows that we will get a beat’on if he gets himself caught.”

Nana Grace: 

“Oh dear, he is young and can out run any, who comes a chasing.”

John Tubman: 

“That’s not Arminta’s point Nana; they’ll know it was him, even if he ain’t caught.  This makes the third time this month that he has wondered off.”

Nana Grace: 

“He is young, does not feel he should be told what to do and how to do it.  He will learn that he must obey.”

John Tubman: 

“He has more beatings coming before he learns to obey and follow the rules.  They be good to us here, two meals a day and a cot to sleep on.  He needs to realize that we be doing ok here and we should be thankful for what we are given.”

Arminta Ross: 

“You call this good John?  Are we not human?  Does the color of our skin mean we can’t wash or sleep, or eat in a house?”  “Johnny will be fine and I will help him.”

John Tubman: 

“You better, before we are all punished for his foolishness.”

Nana Grace: 

“Hush, the both of ya! I am trying to rest.  Tomorrow, Bill said we best be ready at 4AM to pick the field.  He done made plans to go over to next plantation for some big gathering and he don’t have no time to see we get our work done.”

Scene 2 Presenter-

The plantation overseer disrupts Nana Grace, John Tubman and Arminta Ross’s peaceful night, as he burst through the door with holding Johnny up in the air, kicking and screaming.

Plantation Overseer, Mr. Bill: 

“Get up!” “Get up, all ya’ll and deal with this here boy who fails to understand or appreciate all the things I do for you here.”

Nana Grace: 

“Mr. Bill sir, what be the problem sir?”

Arminta Ross: 

“Let him go, he is only a boy!”


“John help me!” “You knows I just wanted some of that orange soda.”  “It ain’t right that I have to be kept up like this, I am thirteen and I need to sometimes go.”

John Tubman: 

“I ain’t helping you boy!”  “You been warned and you know you need to be here grateful for all Mr. Bill and this plantation has done for you.” 


“Done for me?”  “What have they done for me?” “I am told to sleep on dirt, go hungry, don’t sing, and that I can’t go for a walk, if I want to walk.”

John Tubman: 

“You are alive boy!”


Arminta Ross: 

“Sometimes that ain’t enough!”  “What are we walking on this Earth for?” “Did not God play a part in our birth?  Did He not want us to live free?”

Plantation Overseer, Mr. Bill: 

“Be quite you (to Arminta), and get over here and whip this boy!”

Arminta Ross: 

“I ain’t gonna!”  “You wrong Mr. Bill, he don’t deserve this meanness from you.”

Narrator 3: 

Johnny sees an opportunity to get away… he breaks free and tries to run off.

Mr. Bill picks up an iron weight to throw and misses Johnny.  The weight hits Arminta in the head.  Arminta falls immediately and Nana Grace screams! John Tubman runs to Arminta, wraps his shirt around her head and prays.  Arminta was unconscious for days, and suffered from seizures for the rest of her life.

Scene 3 Presenter-

Harriet, John, Johnny, Sarah, and Nana Grace are discussing rumors traveling around the plantation about some of them being sold.

Narrator Four: 

In 1844, Ross married a free black named John Tubman and took his last name. She also changed her first name, taking her mother’s name, Harriet. In 1849, worried that she and the other slaves on the plantation were going to be sold, Tubman decided to run away.

Harriet Tubman: 

“We need to go now, if we go at night fall, we can make it to the next county by morning.”

John Tubman:

“Harriet you are being foolish again.  We ain’t going anywhere!  You are my wife and if you try to escape, I will tell Mr. Bill.  The be good to us, ya hear me girl?”

Harriet Tubman: 

“John, you will never understand, you CHOOSE to be here.  You are a FREE black man and could leave if you wanted to.  We are stuck here with these invisible chains, with no hope for a better tomorrow.”

John Tubman:

“You ain’t going and that is that!”  “Mr. Bill done told me, that he would not put you on the slave auction truck tomorrow.”

Harriet Tubman: 

“And you trust him?”  “You take the side of a man who holds your people captive…over me?”

John Tubman:

“Harriet, I will not stand for this, you will not go against me on this.”

Narrator Five: 

Her husband refused to go with her.  She escaped with her two brothers.  She followed the North Star in the sky to guide her north to freedom. Her brothers became frightened and turned back, but she continued on and reached Philadelphia. In Philadelphia, she found work as a household servant and saved her money so she could return to help others escape.

Narrator Six: 

Harriet saved enough money and developed relationships with farmers and business owners along the route, who helped her hide slaves, feed them, provide them clothes and offered assistance until the journey through the slave states ended.

Narrator Seven:  

During the Civil War, Tubman worked for the Union army as a nurse, a cook, and a spy. Her experience leading slaves along the Underground Railroad was especially helpful because she knew the land well. She recruited a group of former slaves to hunt for rebel camps and report on the movement of the Confederate troops. In 1863, she went with Colonel James Montgomery and about 150 black soldiers on a gunboat raid in South Carolina.

Narrator Eight: 

As the Union Army came through and burned plantations slaves hid in the woods. However, when they realized that the gunboats could take them behind Union lines to freedom, they came running from all directions, bringing as many of their belongings as they could carry. Tubman later said, “I never saw such a sight.”

Narrator Nine: 

Tubman worked as a nurse during the war. Many people died from dysentery, a disease associated with terrible diarrhea. Tubman was sure she could help cure the sickness, so one night she searched the woods until she found water lilies and crane’s bill (geranium). She boiled the water lily roots and the herbs and made a bitter-tasting brew that she gave to a man who was dying and it worked; he recovered slowly. Tubman saved many people in her lifetime. On her grave her tombstone reads, “Servant of God, Well Done.”

Underground Railroad Review

Wrap up Narrator 1:  In Conclusion…

  • After Harriet Tubman escaped from slavery, she returned to slave-holding states many times to help other slaves escape.
  • She led them safely to the northern Free states and to Canada. It was very dangerous to be a runaway slave.
  • There were rewards for their capture, and ads like you see here described slaves in detail. Whenever Tubman led a group of slaves to freedom, she placed herself in great danger.

Wrap up Narrator 2:  

  • If anyone ever wanted to change his or her mind during the journey to freedom and return, Tubman pulled out a gun and said, “You’ll be free or die a slave!” Tubman knew that if anyone turned back, it would put her and the other escaping slaves in danger of discovery, capture or even death.
  • She became so well known for leading slaves to freedom that Tubman became known as the “Moses of Her People.” Many slaves dreaming of freedom sang the spiritual song, “Go Down Moses.” Slaves hoped a savior would deliver them from slavery just as Moses had delivered the Israelites from slavery.

Wrap up Narrator 3: 

  • Tubman made nineteen trips to Maryland and helped three hundred people to freedom.
  • During these dangerous journeys, she helped rescue members of her own family, including her 70-year-old parents.
  • At one point, rewards for Tubman’s capture totaled $40,000.  

Why was Harriet a hero?  She had faith that God would guide her through…and He did!  Her act of bravery is a testament to how strong we can be, even at times when all seems lost.

 ~The End~

Activity 3

Have student(s) write their own acrostic about Harriet Tubman, based on what they have learned about her.








For more resources on creating poetry:

 Recommended Parent/Teacher Resources

“Professor Johnston often said that if you didn’t know history, you didn’t know anything.  You were a leaf that didn’t know it was part of a tree.”

  ~Michael Crichton, Timeline

May we continue to seek knowledge in all things,

Denise 🙂


Filed under Educational Websites that are FREE, Learning is Fun Lessons/Activities, Promoting Literacy, Recommended Books to Read, to Learn, to Inspire, Video Clips