Birdseed Ornaments


For several years now, my teaching teammate and I have organized a class business around the holidays. My fourth grade students develop, produce, and sell a product to our school community, and we donate any profits to charity. In the past, we manufactured and sold one product (like these Mason Jar Cookie Mixes) that families pre-ordered, and we had a limited production. Since I had clearly blacked out the incredible amount of work it takes to source the supplies and organize this little venture, I spearheaded an expansion of the business into a full holiday market with six products to sell.

Students filled out job applications at the beginning of the school year, and we have been running workshops every week to make all of the products. They have been calculating our costs to date and determining product prices. On the day of the market, students will man a booth where they will provide sales help and handle cash.


This week, we are making birdseed ornaments. This is a good low cost holiday gift. The ornaments are easy to make in bulk, and after we bag and label them, they will be the perfect gift for a party host, a neighbor, a teacher, or a co-worker.


  • 3/4 c. flour
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
  • 3 T. light corn syrup
  • 4 c. birdseed (finch bird feed packs better into the molds)
  • molds (cookie cutters, muffin tins, chocolate or soap molds, etc.)
  • nonstick cooking spray like Pam
  • drinking straws cut into 2-inch pieces
  • waxed paper
  • cookie sheet, sheet pan, baking pan, tray
  • ribbon or twine
  • clear plastic bags
  • labels


  • Put a sheet of waxed paper on a cookie sheet, tray, or baking pan. Fill the tray with the cookie cutters or molds you will be using. If you are using cookie cutters, and there is a sharp edge and a protected edge, put the cookie cutter sharp edge up. Spray the insides of the molds with the cooking spray.


  • Combine flour, water, gelatin, and corn syrup in a large mixing bowl until it is well-combined and turns into a paste.


  • Add the birdseed to the paste mixture and stir until well-coated.


  • Spoon birdseed mixture into each mold. Pack the mixture down well and make the top smooth. The back of a spoon or the bottom of a measuring cup work well for smoothing the top of the birdseed.


  • Poke a hole near the top of each birdseed mold using a drinking straw piece. Even though the straw will be near the top of the ornament, make sure you do not have the straw too close to any edge, or it will break apart later when you add the ribbon. Make sure the straw goes all the way through to the bottom. Leave the straw in place.


  • Leave the birdseed mixture in the mold for 2-3 hours. Then, remove the straws and gently remove the ornaments from the mold. Place the ornaments on a new piece of waxed paper and let dry an additional 2-3 hours or overnight.
  • Thread a string or ribbon through the hole and tie, so the ornament can hang from a tree branch. I liked the natural look of twine rather than a colorful ribbon.


Longitude and Latitude Battleship


While I know this generation of students will simply pull out a phone to find a location, I still like to spend time teaching map skills. I want my students to have a mental map of the United States and the world in general. I want them to have a general sense of north and south, and I think the math aspect of calculating distances between two points and understanding the way maps work reinforces many thinking skills. My students were not really getting the coordinate grid system for longitude and latitude, so I compared it to the game of Battleship. Hands suddenly shot up. “I play that game!”

If you can play Battleship and pinpoint a location on a grid, you can understand longitude and latitude. I converted a U.S. map into Battleship size and attached it to Battleship game boards. My students agreed to bring more games from home, and we had a few game days in class. It was a hit (pun intended)!



  • Battleship game boards
  • 6″ x 6″ maps with longitude and latitude lines (2 per game board). CLICK HERE for the map gameboard.
  • a ballpoint pen to help poke holes

Setting Up the Game

  • Print and cut U.S. maps and place them on the Battleship game boards. You need 2 copies of the map per board for a total of 4 maps per pair of players. To fix the maps to the game boards, we used 2-3 white pegs at the corners of the maps (the outermost hole on the Battleship grid board).


  • Getting the pegs to poke through the paper is tricky. I poked holes in one game board and photocopied that game board with a dark piece of paper behind it. The copies showed faint hole marks that lined up with the grid underneath. Students could then take a ballpoint pen and gently poke through the paper, so they knew where the pegs should go. Because the Battleship grid is fixed, the holes do not line up exactly on the center of each state, so the students marked locations that were as close as possible to the center of a state.


Playing the Game

  • Students placed 3 red pegs on their game board (the one that rests on the tabletop).
  • One student begins by calling out a pair of coordinates that represents the location of a state. The opposing student names the state that they think the coordinates represent to confirm the location and announces “hit” or “miss”.
  • The guess is logged with a white (miss) or red (hit) peg on the upright part of the game board for the person making the guess. The location is logged on the bottom game board for the student receiving the guess. White indicates a miss. If it is a hit, the red peg is already there, and the player can push an additional red peg on top of the first peg as a reminder that the location has been guessed.


  • The students do not have the benefit of being able to hone in on a location they way you can when you play with the battleships that contain multiple pegs, so it is blind guessing, but they have to match coordinates with state names.
  • They have to estimate numbers between given coordinates since the longitude and latitude lines count by 10s and 5s. Students need practice with figuring out the halfway mark between new numbers when you do NOT start at 0.
  • The map I used had the postal state abbreviations, so the students were practicing state abbreviations too, which is something I consider to be a lifeskill.

For more practice with U.S. Map Skills, visit my teacher store to purchase practice activity pages by CLICKING HERE.


DIY Flashcard Pouch


Almost every teacher I know has the uncanny ability to take common household supplies and turn them into some sort of classroom supply. I do not go to the extremes of some of the teachers that I know, but I will admit, I get the DIY classroom supply itch now and again.

Over the past few years, I manufactured DIY Ziploc flashcard pouches for back to school. Using quart-sized Ziploc bags and some duct tape, I make a pouch that clips into student binders to hold loose materials. At the beginning of the year, I give each student a pouch to hold vocabulary and grammar flashcard rings in their binders. The pouches also work well for math facts flashcards, sight word flashcards, username/PW information for school apps, and a variety of other everyday classroom items.



  • quart-sized Ziploc bags (go for heavy duty, so they don’t rip before the end of the school year)
  • duct tape in a fun color/pattern (I like Duck tape brand that has the crazy patterns)
  • single hole punch
  • sharp scissors
  • one piece of notebook paper to measure the distance to punch holes



  • Put one Ziploc bag on a flat surface, front of the bag facing up.
  • Eyeball the length of a piece of duct tape that reaches from the bottom of the Ziploc bag to the “collar” or area where the bag snaps together.


  • Cut the length of duct tape you need and place the duct tape on the flat surface, sticky side up.
  • Place Ziploc bag on top of the sticky side of the duct tape only covering half of the width of the tape strip.


  • Fold the remaining exposed part of the duct tape strip over the top of the plastic bag, so the left edge is covered with a strip of duct tape.
  • Hold the notebook paper with the bottom two holes over the duct taped edge of the bag. Line up the bottom of the piece of notebook paper with the bottom edge of the Ziploc bag.


  • Hole punch two holes into the Ziploc bag.
  • Clip into binder.


Discipline Dollars


discipline dollars with name and bonus money

Classroom management (the fancy teacher phrase for behavior) is my least favorite part of teaching. My main plan of attack is to keep students so busy they really don’t have time to get off task and stir up trouble. Unfortunately, that does not always work, so I have to have some sort of monitoring system in place. This year, my teacher teammate and I implemented a classroom economy to keep students motivated to make positive decisions and (hopefully) reduce disruptive behavior.

Many classrooms have a similar plan. It’s like pulling a ticket or a bear or a penguin or a turtle… The beauty of this system is that incorporates math skills and financial literacy. Students are paid a set amount on Monday mornings. The goal is to keep the money throughout the week. Students “pay” the teacher for repeated class disruption, organizational issues, or any behaviors that stop the classroom from running efficiently. On the flip side, students can EARN extra money for positive choices that help keep the classroom community running smoothly.

discipline dollars and library pocket

At the end of the week, the students total their earnings and keep a balance sheet of withdrawals and deposits. After a designated amount of time, the students buy a class reward if they have saved enough money. For kids with a surplus of money, they can purchase bonus rewards.

sample balance sheet

Adapt for Home: Not only does this system work in a classroom, it is a system that works at home for weekly allowances. Children have their weekly amount of allowance money and can keep it if they complete all chores. If they forget to feed the dog for several days in a row, they could have their pay reduced. If they do extra chores like wash the car without being prompted, they could be rewarded with extra money. At school, I use fake Monopoly-like money, at my home, I would pay my children real money.

My students are most excited about the individual rewards. We have tangible items for a lower price that I am getting at Oriental Trading. Our first group reward will be the first of October, so I am stocking the prize box with Halloween themed items LIKE THESE and THESE. But, we are also offering more costly items that are specific to our school. Students can save over several months to cash in for experiences that are considered a “coup” at our school.

halloween treasure chest

School Bonus Reward Ideas

  • $10 – $25: Prize Box (erasers, pencils, stickers, bookmarks, key chains, fidgets, fun school supplies)
  • $25 – $50: Shoes off in the classroom, sit at the teacher desk, pick your seat at lunch, homework pass, be first in the lunch line
  • $50 – $100: Hold the flag at school assembly, pick the game at PE class, wear jeans to school (if you have school uniforms)
  • $100+: Design the school lunch menu for a day, make the school announcements over the speaker, pull the fire alarm during a fire drill, give a homework-free night to the whole class

At Home Allowance Reward Ideas

  • Go to the movies or pick the movie for family movie night
  • Go to an indoor bounce/trampoline park for an afternoon
  • Pick the restaurant for a family dinner out
  • Extra TV, iPad, game time

CLICK HERE to visit my TeachersPayTeachers store to purchase the Discipline Dollars Product with editable money templates.

discipline dollars pin

How to Write a Letter an Author Will Love

secret destiny of pixie piper

In This Recent Fractured Fairy Tale Book List Post, I highlighted a sweet book Miss Priss and I found this summer called The Secret Destiny of Pixie Piper. Because of the post, a real live book author contacted ME! She offered to author a guest post at TheRoomMom and include a giveaway for an autographed copy of her book. Ms. Fisher offers great tips for contacting book authors and writing letters that authors love to read. If you would like to win an autographed copy of her book, share this blog post on social media using the hashtag, #readpixiepiper. After sharing, add your information to This Rafflecopter Link to be entered to win! Contest ends Friday, September 2, 2016.

annabelle fisher letter

A Guest Post by Annabelle Fisher

Author of The Secret Destiny of Pixie Piper

Have you ever written to an author before? Have you imagined her (or him!) reading your letter while drinking a cup of coffee? Was this author smiling, laughing, or wishing she could give you a comforting hug?

The letters we authors like to receive best are a bit like conversations. The one I posted above is one of my favorites because I could picture the letter-writer’s class laughing or shouting as the teacher read. It included details about exactly what was funny. I also liked hearing how my book let the class “get the laughs out” after reading a sad book. I loved knowing that my story made those kids feel better.

I asked some author friends of mine what questions and comments they like to see in the letters they receive. Here are their answers:

Donna Galanti, author of Joshua and the Lightning Road, wrote that she’d had a young reader (who actually reviews books) tell her that he liked how she used scents and smells in her book. He quoted the line “He smelled like a wet dog that had been swimming in sour milk.” He said he knew “exactly how revolting is.”

Author Susan Lynn Meyer wrote that one of her favorite things was hearing from a young reader in Austria who had read the English edition of her novel, Black Radishes, although German was his first language and it had been translated into German.  Ms. Meyer said, “It’s exciting the book is traveling around the world, including to places I’ve never been.”

Jeannie Mobley, author of Silver Heels, says, “I commonly have kids tell me what they think should happen to my main characters after the story ends, and I always like that.”

Author Susan Ross says, “I was very moved by thank you letters in a blog from an inner city class…that read Kiki and Jacques prior to my author visit. One student’s favorite part was the father getting help with alcoholism; another said he could face up to a bully now….Meant so much to me!”

These caring authors are curious about what you think – and so am I. We enjoy knowing not just what our readers liked, but why. We want to know not only where you’re from, but what you would show us if we came to visit your city or town.  We like to hear if the main character or another character reminds you of yourself, a friend, or a frenemy. And we absolutely want to know if our books inspired you and how.

Your questions and comments remind us that our readers care about what we write. So keep those letters coming!

Annabelle Fisher is the author of The Secret Destiny of Pixie Piper, which reviewers have called, “entertaining,” “fresh,” “creative,” and “pretty darn charming.” Visit her website at for info about author talks and writers’ workshops. Or email her at

fisher author letter tips pin

For more help writing author letters, CLICK HERE to download a Free Author Letter Resource on TpT.