abcteach blog



Draw, Write, Color & Create Shapes using abcWorkshop !

abcWorkshop is a new online editor, enabling members to draw, write, color, create, save, print, and share using abcteach pdf documents as their template for creativity.  Now, for the first time all of our pdf documents can be edited through abcWorkshop on your tablet or computer.  Save your creation for another day, print and share with a friend or family member,  teachers can send any document to their students, as long as the link to the document is provided.  Your students will be able to receive a given assignment, edit with the abcWorkshop tools, and send back to you once the assignment is complete.  This is a member feature only, however, free users can demo the abcWorkshop.

Watch the abcWorkshop tutorial video below:


Make a Bunny: Craft Project

March 31st, 2015


Make a Bunny:  Crafts



Here are instructions on how to craft your own bunny.  Click on the link below for printouts.  

Link to document:  Make a Bunny Craft Project



1.  Download the document and print out the patterns to create your bunny.

2.  Cut out the patterns.

3.  Paste the face and ear patterns together.

4.  Add the cheeks, then the nose and mouth of the bunny.

5.  Finish by adding the whiskers.  Optional:  Pipe cleaners can be used for whiskers.  

6.  Be creative !  Color, paint and glitter the bunny to customize your project.  

Have fun and enjoy ! 


March 2nd, 2015

Use the daisy pattern shown below:

Create your own daisy by tracing a CD,  then draw in the petals and stem of the flower.  The daisy pattern can be used for many activities throughout the school year.



Here are some ideas:

• Glue or draw a picture in the center (for example, a picture of a

person), or write words that describe the picture in the petals, or

glue or draw other pictures on the petals that relate to the

center picture (for example, a person’s interests)

• Write a name (your own, or the person for whom you are making the

daisy, or a hero of yours, etc.) and then write information about the

person on the petals

• Write the word “goals” in the center and then decorate the petals with

goals — these could include: schoolwork, sports, behavior, etc.

• Write “Books I Have Read” in the center of the daisy. Write titles and

authors on the petals.

• Write a word (a theme you’re studying) and write facts on the petals

• Write a suffix or prefix in the middle and write words using them in the

petals (PREfix, PREtend, PREvent…)

• Put a multiplication fact in the center and numbers on the outer ring.

Multiply and put the answer in the center of the petal.


Crafts – Woven Valentine

January 26th, 2015


You will need…


Heart pattern

–  White or color of your choice card stock.

–  Colored paper or card stock.

–  Scissors

–  Paste/ glue



1. Cut out a heart pattern.

2. Fold heart in half.

3. Cut across the fold to about ½ to 1 inch from the edge of the heart

4. Weave strips in over/under pattern.  Trim around edges and glue.  













Our abctools section is very popular among our members.  Some of the tools have a very specific purpose: make a word wall, create a shapebook, customize a handwriting worksheet, etc.

But they can have other uses as well.  Throughout the coming year I will be posting ideas for you to try.


This time of the year, our shapebook and border tools make great invitations for holiday celebrations.  Look at a few invitations I made in a couple of minutes. They can be sent by regular mail, but are also in pdf format and can be emailed or texted to those you want to invite.

Some ideas to try:

Go to the Holiday Borders section and pick a border that fits your needs. In minutes you will have a finished invitation, custom to your needs.

Another idea is to go the School Borders section.  These borders are perfect for sending notes home to parents, announcing a school open house, or creating sign-up sheets for conferences.

You aren’t limited to the borders. The shapes make cute invitations for birthday parties.  For example: add the invite information inside a football shape.

Students can make their own invitations; it is a good learning activity.

Check out the abctools section on the free account and member site.

Do you have an idea for using our abctools that you would like to share?  We would love to hear from you. Share your idea in the comment section.


Posted by Sandy Kemsley

Reading Log Activity

November 5th, 2014

Fun Reading Log on a Metal Ring

reading ring


* When I taught 3rd grade I was always trying to come up with a fun way for my students to keep track of what they read.  I also encouraged them to read a variety of genres.  I came up with this idea of making genre strips that they would fill out and put on a metal ring. They loved them.  The directions below are how I used them, but you can adjust the directions to fit your needs.



1.  Cut strips in a variety of colors on card stock.


2.  Members can print pre-made strips


3.  Each color strip represents a genre.   Group the strips by genre and place them in a container. (Included are Fiction and Non-Fiction/Informational dividers.)


4.  When students finish reading a book, they may pick the appropriate reading log strip and fill in the information on the front side of the strip.


5.  Students then turn the strip over and write a sentence or two about their favorite part of the book. (Younger students could draw a picture)


6.  When completed,  students can punch the hole and add their strip to their metal ring.


7.  Periodically, have a student share session.  Students share one of their books from their ring.  Each student can ask one question about the book.


Enjoy!   Sandy Kemsley,





Halloween Fun!

October 27th, 2014


* This week’s fun activity is great for Halloween parties, craft day or for a learning center.  

* Follow the easy instructions and create a Halloween or Autumn lantern.














Step by Step Instructions: 

1.  Leaving a one-inch margin on all sides, cut straight lines from the fold to the opposite side.  The lines should be about a half-inch apart.


2. Open the paper. Make a tall cylinder out of the paper so that the cuts are vertical.


3.  Take a strip of orange or black construction paper. Attach both ends to the top to make a handle.  Add eyes, nose and mouth.


4.  Staple or glue the cylinder together. Make colorful construction paper strips to hang from the bottom of the lantern for additional  decoration.


Fun Ideas and Links:

– For more Halloween craft ideas from abcteach, click on these links:  Halloween Crafts.  Halloween.

– Halloween Ideas: Make a bat, witch, jack o’ lantern, a ghost.

– Autumn Ideas:  Falling leaves, scarecrow, pumpkin with vines









September 18th, 2014

SurveyBill Gates gave a Ted Talk in May 2013 about feedback, and the lack thereof, directed at teachers. Gates cited a study that claims 98% of teachers only get one word of feedback, and that feedback is most often “satisfactory.” While it’s (barely) better than nothing, a single thumbs-up is about as useful for honing one’s craft as a lollipop.

Gates goes on to explain that 11 of the 15 top-ranked countries in reading comprehension have a formal system of teacher feedback– and the U.S. is not one of them.

In the meantime, we have to cobble together some sense of whether we’re doing a good job through test scores, student morale, administrator observations, parental input, and whether we keep getting asked to come back the next year.

There is one contingent of society that’s usually (quite) willing to provide copious feedback–your students. While student feedback must be kept firmly in context, it can be instructive.

One problem with feedback is that it’s typically given at the conclusion of a task or performance. There’s a surprising amount to be gleaned from preemptive feedback. While initial impressions, aspirations, and conjecture aren’t the most solid of foundations, they are psychological factors that impact performance. Giving your students the chance to provide feedback (or “intel”) at the outset of the school year allows you to judge the trajectory of your students’ experience when there’s still time to make adjustments.

In the same spirit as the premortem, traditionally after-the-fact phenomena–marshaled into service early in the year–can have a dramatic impact on goal-setting, expectations, mindset, and performance.

So how does one feed forward? By asking the right questions, early and often. Let’s use a basketball feedback scenario as an example.

Imagine I’m a poor defender. My coach watches my opponent, an adept ball handler, juke by me time after time. After some observation, my coach tells me, “You’re watching the ball. You should watch your opponent’s hips instead. Then he won’t surprise you, and the ball will follow his body.” I do this, and my defense improves. The only “cost” here is that the points scored against me cannot be unscored. (And I may feel silly in front of my teammates.)

If I am a mediocre athlete, but know how to acquire some preemptive feedback, I may ask my coach something like, “Coach, I’m not a very good defender. Do you have any tips for preventing nimble gentlemen from getting past me so readily?” Provided my coach knows a thing or two about b-ball, he can give me the same tip about watching the hips without ever seeing me play. This saves our team a loss at the buzzer, and me some humiliation.

Many teachers distribute a survey at the end of the year, but I suggest doing one toward the beginning. Many teachers also pre-test their students to establish a baseline of academic understanding. Applying this sound logic to a broad range of topics can earn us some much-needed credit and wisdom early in the year. Depending on your comfort level, you may want to ask some bold questions.

Questions like these may not be appropriate for everyone, but you may be glad you asked them later on:

“Is there anyone with whom you absolutely do not want to work?”

“What’s your biggest fear related to this class?”

“What have you heard about me as a teacher, good or bad?”

“Rate your fear of presenting in front of the class on a scale of 1-10. “

What are you hoping to learn from this class specifically?”

You may even want to have a two-part survey, in which the top is personalized, and the bottom anonymous. Anonymous feedback may seem of dubious value, but it can be some of the most potent. There will, of course, be comments that are unhelpful or worse. But knowing that you or your class has a reputation (especially unfounded) may be invaluable early in the year. Are you known as a harsh grader? Is the word on the street that you’re a pushover? Having your ear to the pulse of the student body allows you to leverage information in whatever way may prove helpful. It also lets you address student concerns directly, creating a relaxed, focused environment conducive to learning.

If you’re a new or recently-arrived teacher, knowing about pre-existing tensions between students doesn’t come with your employee handbook. Being tuned into these social problem areas may help you cut off an Incident at the pass. (I can speak to this particular point, as I unwittingly paired up two bitter-but-quiet arch enemies in the 7th grade during the first week of school. Moments later, there was bloodshed and a full-on Incident. It would have been nice to know about their history beforehand.)

Perhaps there is a project or a unit for which your class is infamous. If a student is feeling some trepidation about this, some preemptive feedback gives you a great platform to discuss how to properly prepare. Addressing this early with concerned students demonstrates your genuine concern for their success and helps them pace their learning. Such an approach can replace useless anxiety with pacing and preparation.

It’s likely there are troves of useful information in the heads of your students that will never see the light of day. They’ll be glad to share it with you, free of charge. All you have to do is find the right way to ask.

Post by Greg Teachout, abcteach staff

Don’t Be Letterman

August 21st, 2014

Cleared for release by Joint Staff Public AffairsI didn’t realize I had become Letterman. As in David Letterman, the soon-to-retire host of the Late Show. I did, however, realize that I was tired all the time, and my well of ideas felt close to running dry. There was an uncomfortable air of desperation in my teaching.

That’s when my vice principal revealed to me that I was working too hard. Not working too long, or too often, or planning too much, but simply exerting more energy in the classroom than was ideal.

Frankly, I thought this sounded insane. I prided myself on being an engaging teacher, a hip young guy who wasn’t afraid to use humor, ask tough questions, and be spontaneous. If anything, I thought I wasn’t working hard enough. Hence the desperation. I felt like a traveling comedian who had hit a slump, but was sure to find his groove again soon.

The truth is, I had set students’ expectations at the wrong level from the beginning of the year. In an effort to keep our profession’s mortal enemy, the wolf of boredom, at the door, I had taken too much responsibility for keeping the classroom buzzing with energy. I had morphed from an enthusiastic teacher into a ringmaster. I had become Letterman.

My VP saw this instantly. “You’re too entertaining,” he said with a smile. “You’re doing too much of the work. You need to put the onus on your students.” He couldn’t have been more right.

While being an engaging teacher is necessary to compete with the information onslaught our students are subjected to, being your own personal variety show is not. This wisdom is inherent in modern teaching culture’s embrace of discussion over lecture.

I relay all of this at the outset of the school year for one crucial reason: the pace and style of anything is determined right from the beginning. Veteran teachers may have their planning and routine down to a science, but even they are not immune to this timeless advice: start as you mean to go on.

Perhaps this all seems a bit vague. It is; self-perception is a cloudy, inaccurate affair, and yet it affects every decision we make. Success in the classroom is vague too; it is difficult to measure in numbers, though this is precisely how it is most often measured. The teacher must make her peace with the vague as well as the tangible, because so much of what we do is a matter of intuition.

My intuition was to be as entertaining as possible, reasoning that the respect, the attention, and the grades would come afterward. But this is not a sustainable plan. A single year is a marathon, and a whole career is many marathons, back to back. Burnout eats a lot of great teachers.

I’m not advocating you “take it easy,” in any sense. I’m gently reminding us all that our hearts may be infinite, but our energy is not, and our students have more of it than we do. It is our job to help them burn that energy in the brightest, most sustainable way possible. As much as we may direct the culture of our classroom, we are more stewards than ringmasters. Start as you mean to go on… and don’t start as Letterman, or your retirement may coincide with his.

Post by Greg Teachout, abcteach staff

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

August 13th, 2014

“What could possibly go wrong?” The phrase is rarely deployed without irony, and for good reason; we are all familiar with Murphy and his law. When we ask the question literally, we plan and innovate. “What could possibly go wrong?” has given us seat belts and parachutes. It has given us lifeguards and extra sets of keys hidden beneath conspicuous porch-side rocks.

It’s when we ask the question wryly and move on that the problems often begin. Dwelling on negativity and danger at the outset of an endeavor can make one seem like a real downer. Seeming like a downer often makes us less likely to voice legitimate concerns. What’s more, we’ve all been convinced of the power of positive thinking to a great degree. That’s good; it’s a powerful tool. But in the midst of envisioning success, we sometimes forget the virtues of the alternative.

Enter the premortem.

A postmortem is a procedure that the medical community performs to determine the cause of death. The term “postmortem” has long been used by project managers to signify a process of retrospective analysis. As Gary Klein, a scientist at Applied Research Associates and author of many books on decision-making, explains, a postmortem is useful to everyone except the deceased. (Much as examining the successes and failures of your school year at the end is beneficial for everyone—except the class you just had.)

This is why Klein is an advocate of the premortem. While it’s impossible to see every snag and obstacle that will arise, we often see more problems in advance than we admit—even to ourselves.

Klein’s company walks project teams and individuals through the thought experiment of analyzing a hypothetical future, in which their project has failed project. The focus on failure is not for the sake of dourness—it’s a means of thinking systematically about the weak spots in a plan or project while there’s still time to act.

Whether as a staff, or just by yourself, an honest and thorough premortem can bring the pitfalls of a school year into greater relief. Interview your future self, and don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions.

Did Future You tell you that the tension between Mike and Cory erupted into a confrontation, just like you feared? Is Future You disappointed that she didn’t do that Living Through History project because she just couldn’t find time? Did Future You wish she had chaperoned a field trip, or even gone to a staff picnic, instead of watching Netflix with a bowl of ice cream instead?

You have unique access to knowledge regarding your greatest personal challenges in a given school year. Some of them may be educational, some social, some financial. By allowing yourself the freedom to speak up about what could possibly go wrong, you may be able to ambush your fears.

The strength of the premortem is really evidenced in a collective setting. Social pressure often keeps us from voicing apprehensions. We want to be agreeable and positive. As teachers, we’re asked to do a lot with a little, and being “defeatist” is a serious social offense. Having a staff premortem creates a safe space for voicing concerns and addressing problems. When the entire purpose of the exercise is to outsmart your obstacles, people will open up and offer valuable insight that may otherwise have been suppressed.

Tips for a successful staff premortem:

1. Stress the main idea: looking at prospective problems early is smart. It’s not “being negative.”

2. Encourage people to share their thoughts, since that’s the whole point.

3. Encourage people to bring up concerns later on as well; everyone thinks of something they wish they’d said. Don’t make the end of the exercise a stone door.

4. Kick off the meeting by explaining the concept, then stating that your endeavors have failed completely. Then ask people to explain why, and keep a list.

If you conduct a premortem properly, it can be as fun as it is painful. (Just like any exercise.) Your fellows staffers will get to show off their insights, and you’ll have a collective sense of preparation.

An ounce of prevention still commands a favorable exchange rate, and the initial investment is free. It simply means asking, boldly and honestly—What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

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