Little Extras

Each year I try to add some things to my classroom that stir things up and make things a little more fun.  I'm inspired by fellow bloggers, Pinterest, coworkers, and of course my students.  So, I wanted to share a post about things I call "little extras".....none of these are things I HAVE to have in the classroom, they are just fun extras.  I have blogged about most of these in the past but wanted to do a post with them all in one place:)

One thing I do (and I'm sure lots of you do as well) is throw some colored gel pens into the mix when we are writing.
It's like they're magical or something.  Poof!  Kids that were only writing a tiny bit, write whole pages.....or kids that don't want to write at all suddenly want to write a  They seriously get excited about it!  I buy a big set of new, colorful gels pens every year to have handy to spark some fantastic writing:)  I am currently on the hunt for Scentos candy gel pen set!!!  Saw them on Instagram and have been searching but have not found them yet:/

 I posted this on FB last week.
This is an acrylic straw dispenser I got from Amazon.  Game changer people.  The kids LOVE to get a pencil from there.  It's like a really big deal and never seems to get old.  I fill this with all kinds of colorful pencils and then just randomly choose a student or 2 a day to "pick a pencil".  I usually choose students for something I have noticed throughout the day (but not always) maybe someone that helped another student, or a student who did their class job and more, or someone who gave exceptional effort.  You can use it how ever you want...that's just some ideas for what I do:)

Like I said in my intro, I am constantly finding inspiration and ideas from all kinds of people and places.  This idea was from a co-worker a few years ago. 
I found these wonderful little critter cages a few years ago, thanks to that same co-worker.  My husband thought we were was quite a  We got them at a beach shop.  Each year I buy a few hermit crabs to put in the cages and they become reading buddies for the students during Read to Self time.
Hermit crabs are SUPER low maintenance.  I just keep a little list of students names and rotate them through my reading rotations (so 8 kids get to read with them a day)  Usually at the end of the year I draw names from students who have permission notes from their parents and 2 of the students get to take them home to keep.  Last year we had unusually bad luck with keeping them alive...not sure what the problem was....hoping that's not the case this year.
This picture leads me to my next "extra"!

This was a BRILLIANT idea I got from my sweet friend Joanne at Head Over Heels for Teaching.  
I finally got to meet this gem in Vegas!!!  I remember the first time I read about her "Flashlight Friday", I could not get to the Dollar Store fast enough to grab up some flashlights and try it!!
The kids LOVE this, can't wait for this, beg for this!  Every kiddo grabs a flashlight, their book luggage and finds a cozy spot to curl up and read.  When everyone is in place, lights off and flashlights on!
You could hear a pin drop!  They are sooo quiet and soooo into their reading!  Something fun to look forward to at the end of the week:)

I started doing this also a few years ago.  It started with adopting a sea turtle that we could track.  That was super cool.  The next year I read The One and Only Ivan as a read aloud and when we got done, decided to "adopt" a silver back gorilla in honor of reading that book:)
I adopted him from the World Wildlife Fund.  They are wonderful!  The kids were so excited to get our "new classroom member" and read more about him:)
Last year I tried something different.  I get catalogs from World Wildlife Fund showing all the endangered animals and the areas they live in.
I have my classroom set up in groups, so I let each group choose one animal...that was quite the team synergy  Then we listed the 5 chosen and wrote them on the board and voted and here's who won last year!
They loved this little guy....confession......I thought they were already extinct....shows what I know:/  
At the end of the year as a big final project, each student picked one endangered animal from the catalog and then wrote an informational text book about it.  That's a whole other blog post!  They really did such an AMAZING job with this and learned so much!  I need to get some pics and I promise I will post about it soon;)

I got these Kanoodle games from Educational Insights.
I started with the "regular" Kanoodle and then last year was able to add Kanoodle Genius.  It is basically mind puzzles and making all the pieces fit.....NOT EASY!!!  It has several different levels which is great for differentiation!  
Every single kid in my classroom begged to "play" this.  I would pull it out for math rotations sometimes or for early finishers, sometimes even before school.  The Kanoodle Genius drove some of my little geniuses NUTS!!!  I was so impressed with how they would work and work and not give up...and work together!!!  Great for teamwork and synergy;)  

Finally to the  My Smuddles:)
I started these a few years ago...they were one of my Monday Made Its...go figure.  What's a Smuddle you ask?  Well, after I made them, they were so cute they had to have a name.
Smile + Puddle = Smuddle
Puddles are the little glass things;)  
I just made a fresh new batch of these for this year.  They can be used for anything you want.  I give them out for all sorts of reasons BUT they are hard to get;)  I don't hand them out daily so when I do, the kids get so excited. 

Well, that does it for me today.  Sorry for such a lengthy post but I really wanted to share some of the "little extras" I do in my room.  I hope you can find one or 2 things to add to your classroom this year!  Also, if you have some "little extras" that you already do, please share!!!!  I would love to hear about them.  Leave me a comment:)  I am always adding to my list:)


  1. Love!!! I've got a list of new things to try - and a trip to Dollar Tree in my future. :) Thank you SO much for sharing!!

    1. You are so welcome Cathy! Thanks for the sweet comment!!

    2. Your stuff is SOOOO darling. I'm am purchasing ALL of your kids and colors stuff! What is the font that you use on your website??

  2. And among all your awesome teaching, these types of things will also stick in your students' mind! It's those little touches that create fond memories... looks like I've got some looking to do! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Love the idea of adopting an endangered animal! The "little touches" are often what push you through when things get difficult :)

  4. Great ideas, Tara... thanks for sharing. Dollar Tree has Scentos - - as does Amazon.... Have a great year!

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  6. I have been wanting to adopt an animal with my class for quite sometime now. We are definitely doing it this year! I love the flashlight Friday too!

  7. I have had Kanoodle in my classroom for the last 3 years, and my students love it! I just bought the Kanoodle Genius to add to my collection for this year. I can't wait to see how my classes do with the new game.

  8. How cool! I definitely need to get a Kanoodle and I'll have to try out the Flashlight Friday! Thank you so much for sharing!

    Life As I Know It

  9. I absolutely love the idea of adopting an endangered animal! How did you get the catalogs for your students to look through? I am browsing the website but can't seem to find it!

  10. What a great post. I adopt sea turtles. My little extras are smellies( chapstick stickers), behavior beads, class auctions with bee bucks, seeds of happiness, etc. I think I have mentioned most in your awesome Monday Made its :)

  11. This is so inspirational! I'm just a parent, not a teacher and it's great to see that so many teachers are putting so much effort into taking care of their classes and making it so much fun. I want to be in your class!

  12. I love the idea of adopting an animal from WWF. That would be a great opportunity for the kiddos to work on persuasive writing and collaboration with team members. I think I'll have to try that this year! Thank you as always for sharing such great inspiration!!
    Are We There Yet?

  13. Please consider googling information about hermit crabs. They breathe through gills as fish do and need a HIGH humidity environment to survive. They slowly suffocate in those wire cages because there is no way to keep the humidity up. They live much longer in an enclosed environment such as a covered fish tank where you can use a hygrometer (inexpensive at a pet store) to maintain appropriate humidity. Please set a good example by providing the correct environment - great science lesson.

    1. Meant to tell you I love all your ideas (just FYI as to why the hermit crabs weren't surviving).

    2. Linda, thank you so much for the insight. I have had hermit crabs for several years in those cages and never, ever had a problem before. They also have wet sponges in their cage at all times. I will definitely be looking I to this. Thank you.

  14. Wow, these are some great ideas!! I absolutely LOVE the reading buddies and have been looking for a class pet that is not a lot of work. Thanks for sharing :)

  15. I've done Flashlight Friday with my middle schoolers. They enjoyed it. The gel pens incentive sounds great. I think my kids might like that. Thanks.

  16. Really awesome ideas. I am so inspired. Thank you for sharing.

  17. I love all your "little extras"! I do Flashlight Friday after reading about Joanne doing that with her kiddos. They love that. We have a shop down the road that sells hermit crabs, but it's right next to Walmart, so I don't think I should implement that, but I could adopt some animals!!! I also need to check out this Kanoodle stuff!! XO
    Rockin' and Lovin' Learnin'

  18. Amazon has scentos sugar rush gel pens a five pack for five dollars and a fifteen pack for about 13 dollars. Very cute ideas... no wonder we are all broke! Even if they give us raises we just dump them back into our classrooms.

  19. I'm so glad I read your post– now I'm off for those scented GEL pens. And you reminded me about again about the Smuddles. I have the clear little rocks already, so I just added them to the before school starts to-do list! See you Monday, Tara. Kathleen Kidpeople Classroom


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