Friday, February 19, 2016


Despite being the shortest month, it always seems to drag on!
There are more indoor recess days than any sane teacher can handle.  Students start slacking. You are literally counting down the days until spring break!

What better way to break routine and whip your students back into shape than BOOT CAMP!

It all started when I saw an army helmet at the dollar store and my mind started racing with all of the possibilities! I decided it would be best to incorporate reading, language arts, and math so the boot camp could be a full day adventure! I ended up continuing boot camp for 2 full days and very easily could have done a third! There are so many possibilities!

I purchased anything and everything camouflage I could find from Amazon, Dollar Tree, Hobby Lobby, and Party City and went to work decorating my classroom! Not going to lie... You could have put a camo umbrella in front of me and I would have bought it!

The camouflage helmets and aviator sunglasses both came from Dollar Tree (I may or may not have visited Dollar Tree stores over 100 miles away to get enough for all my students!) The dog tags, pencils, and table cloths all came from Party City and the canvas bags are available on Amazon.

The camouflage netting and inflatable tires all came from Amazon (thank you Amazon Prime for offering two day shipping!) If you can borrow an air pump from your P.E. teachers, I highly suggest it! Nothing makes you feel out of shape quite like blowing up 8 inflatable tires!

I hate to admit it but dressing like a Drill Sergeant was the most comfortable decision I have ever made! I snagged the green pants super cheap from J Crew (you can't beat $70 pants for $6!) They might have been in the men's department but I'm just going to pretend they were put away in the wrong area.

Anyone can put on a costume but getting into character is an entirely different story. I cannot stress the importance enough! Your kiddos will eat it up! Although my throat is a little rough after yelling "ATTENTION!" for 2 days straight!

Of course I had background music playing throughout the day! Here is one of the links I used:

Now let's talk CONTENT! Enhancing the atmosphere is one thing but teaching rigorous content is what matters! I decided to focus on the skills that my students have been struggling with since the beginning of the school year. They are tired of reviewing them so this was the perfect opportunity to engage them to the max!

For math, we focused on the dreaded WORD PROBLEMS. My kiddos normally cringe when I mention them! But I must say... I didn't hear an ounce of negativity about word problems the entire time! Although I did tell them there's no crying in boot camp so they may have been intimidated!

I used my Word Problem Survival Guide to well, guide my math instruction for the 2 days! This flip book includes examples, guided practice, independent practice, task card practice, and more! Not to mention it can be created with only 3 pieces of paper and no trimming!

My 75 minute math block normally consists of 30 minutes of whole group and 45 minutes of math groups/stations. I have 4 math stations that my students visit (you can see how I organize my math groups here) and my students completed the "DRILLS" and "OBSTACLE COURSE" for 2 of those stations.

I decided to use these binoculars from Hobby Lobby with the task cards so students could focus on taking a "closer look" at each problem. Some times you just need simple props to convince students that the activity is fun (even though they are still doing work!)
For reading, we focused on MAIN IDEA/author's central message/central theme/whatever else you want to call it. This is that one skill that we just can't nail down. So a little extra practice never hurts!

For the first day, I decided to incorporate some hands on practice. I started by showing a Flocabulary video on main idea and then completed a mystery bag activity to help students understand the difference between the subject, details, and main idea. I filled the canvas bags I purchased from Amazon with various items that were all related in some way. Students worked in groups to go through the items in each bag and decide the subject and write a main idea statement about the items.

Here were the items I stuffed my bags with:
BAG 1: Up DVD, Frozen DVD, microwave popcorn, M&M's, Mountain Dew bottle, and remote
BAG 2: scarf, glove, ear muffs, snowboarding goggles, and fuzzy socks
BAG 3: bag of coffee, powdered creamer, sugar packets, coffee mug, and coffee filters
BAG 4: plastic cups, plastic spoon, bottle of water, plastic ice cubes, lemonade packets, and sugar
BAG 5: chocolate chips, cinnamon, measuring cups, measuring spoons, beater, and wisk

We went through one of the bags together as a class as an example (bag 5). We decided the subject was baking, the details were the individual items in the bag, and the main idea was that you need both ingredients and tools to bake.

For the second day, we reviewed the mystery bags from the first day and listed all the main idea statements that students came up with. Then students were given an article on President's Day (hooray for cross curricular!) and worked in partners to write the important parts of the passage on index cards (mostly details). Students "packed" the index cards in a "duffle bag" (AKA a manila envelope... come on people, keep it simple!) Then students were told that their duffle bags were too heavy and they had to unload them! They were only allowed to take the most important index card... the main idea! This activity really helped students differentiate between the details and the main idea! I was so caught up in this activity I forgot to take pictures... oops! #reallife
For language arts, we focused on CAPITALIZATION! Goodness knows we are still struggling to use capital letters correctly in our writing.

Again, I used a Flocabulary video to review what my students already know about capitalization (they know a lot... they just struggle to implement it!) Then of course we needed a cadence to match to since was boot camp after all! I wrote this cadence to identify the main uses of capitalization. If we can remember the lyrics to the whip and nae nae, we should be able to remember the words to this as well! I'm inserting a JPEG that you can use in your own classroom!

Then I broke students into 2 groups for a mini obstacle course relay! I gave each student a sentence with magnets on the back that either had correct or incorrect capitalization. Each team got into a line and had to jump through the inflatable tires one at a time to put their sentence on the board under the correct category (correct or incorrect). Then we reviewed each sentence as a class and identified the capitalization rules!

For the second day, we trained to become Army medics that needed to tend to "wounded soldiers"! Our wounded soldiers were paragraphs that had numerous capitalization mistakes! Students worked in partners to repair the mistakes with bandages and write the capital letter on top. This activity was a BIG hit!

I found a box of 60 bandages at Target for less than $2! Each group of students needed 8 bandages so I used 2 boxes. Super easy!
If you are interested in my Word Problem Boot Camp product, you can click the image below! The product contains the flip book and task cards featured in this blog post along with a pre-assessment, post-assessment, and more!

Here are all the links to the items I used for decorations and the prices!
Canvas bags (6 pack) - $16
Inflatable tires (8 pack) - $37
Camouflage netting (6'x8') - $12
Camouflage table cover - $3.50 each
Dog tags (12 pack) - $6
Pencils (12 pack) - $3
Binoculars (2 pack) - $3
Army helmets - $1 each
Aviator sunglasses - $1
I could not have had more fun with this transformation! My students all learned a TON and had fun while doing it! Best of both worlds! If you have any questions, please leave a comment below and I will be happy to answer them!


  1. WOW! What an awesome way to transform your room. I didn't even make the connection that this was YOUR room until a few minutes ago. We spoke about a month ago about your awesome dinosaur inferences hunt! What meaningful learning. I need to get blogging now too! Haha. :-)

    1. Yes! I totally remember! Hopefully this will jumpstart my blogging and get me back in the groove of things! I'm so happy you enjoyed this post! Time to go creep on your blog... ;)

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. I love the ideas you have posted. I tried getting the word problem boot camp product, but was unsuccessful so far. The link just gives me a bigger picture of it. I would love to have it.

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  6. Great Ideas!! I teach a K-6 Self-Contained Sped Class and am looking forward to borrowing this from you. I feel that I can modify it to my students' level and it will be a big hit when we need a change! Thanks for blogging, your YouTube Channel...Thank you for making teaching fun again!!

  7. Love this! Wondering if there is a link to the paragraphs with the capitalization errors?

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  11. Some information on homework in this article. This could really save you lots of time. Check it out

  12. The ELA portion is not on your TPT site

  13. Michelle,
    How may I get a copy of your bootcamp word problems? I would love a copy!

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  15. Do you sell the sheets they responded to the mystery bags on?

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  17. Hi there!!! I am trying to get access to your bootcamp booklet and any other resources you have for this boot camp. If I click on the picture, it doesn't give me any option to access it or download it. I would love to have this! I would appreciate any help! : )

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  19. Excellent blog. Very interesting to read. I really love to read such a nice article. Thanks! keep rocking.