Monday, August 11, 2014

Tracking Down Star Students With Mystery Clue Bags


Thanks for stopping in to take a peek at my newest back-to-school resource!   In the eight months that I've been blogging and creating for Teachers Pay Teachers, I've learned to share what works well in my classroom and hope that my ideas help other teachers "work smarter not harder."

In honor of my first post here on this fabulous collaborative blog, I've given my 22-year-old Star Student activity a much-needed makeover!

Yep.  You read that right.  TWENTY. TWO. YEARS.  I've been an educator for a LONG time--investing the majority of it in the land of the "little people" or K, 1, 2, and 3.  Over that period of time, I've always embraced a thematic approach to instruction, and try to integrate literature, music, and movement across all curricular areas.  I am "that guitar-playing lady" whom my principal often introduces to new families as "our artsy teacher."   Nurturing second graders is really the right place for me at this point in my journey, and our days together in Room #2 are filled with humor and purposeful, positive lessons about both school and real life.

I spend a lot of time during the months of August and September getting acquainted with the children in my care and establishing a strong sense of "family" in our classroom.  We read stories and watch videos about cooperating, caring, being kind, and respecting the unique and individual differences and abilities.  I invest a lot of time in talking WITH my students, playing question-and-answer games, and helping them feel comfortable with me and each other in our classroom during the first month of school.  One activity that helps "break the ice" and establish a sense of familiarity and trust between us is.....

It is a simple activity to prepare and the only materials needed are brown paper lunch bags!

I fill my bag with "top secret" items that I think will give my students good hints about me, and then share 2-3 each day at circle time, either at the beginning of our day, after lunch, or right before bus time.

The children take turns guessing why each object or picture is important to me or what it means, and we have just a grand old time!  Some of their ideas send us all into fits of laughter, like the time I held up my son's baby blanket and one student shouted out....."Are you a grandma?"  I burst into a fit of giggles, reminded him to raise his hand the next time he had something to share, and explained that although I was old enough to be a grandma, I was not one yet!

This activity is also a great way to reinforce and practice desired group discussion behaviors, as well as oral language skills.  Students have to wait their turn to be called on by the Star Student sitting in our Share Chair, phrase their idea in the form of a question, remember not to interrupt the speaker, and listen to the others who are participating so that they don't repeat what was just asked.  It also helps them learn how to speak comfortably in front of a large group.

I've included everything you'll need to begin using the Mystery Clue Bag activity in this 21-page pack!  I tried to make them  "kid-friendly" and easy-to-prepare!  If you like what you see, grab it before Thursday morning when the price goes back up to $2.00!

As I mentioned above, sharing the magic of books with children is my passion! I always include excerpts from these Barbara Parks books when it is my turn to reveal my "secret mystery clues."  Junie B. is notorious for wishing she could hide in her teacher's bathroom laundry hamper and spy on her, and my students always love wondering what it would be like if they could live with me at my condo for a day!  Energetic and amusing discussions always ensue when I ask what they think they'd see me doing if they tried spying on me! 

One of the first songs I share on the first day of school with my second graders  is "Getting To Know You" from the musical, The King & I.  The acoustic version that James Taylor sings on this wonderful CD is just delightful, and sets the perfect tone and musical background (and gently eases everyone's anxieties) while they unpack, greet their table neighbors, and begin their morning worksheet. It makes me smile when suddenly the majority of them start humming or singing happily along.....

Getting to know you,
getting to know all about you.
Getting to like you,
getting to hope you like me. 

Haven't you noticed,
suddenly I'm bright and breezy?
Because of all the beautiful and new
things I'm learning about you,
day by day....

Another resource that can be used at the beginning of the year to help students get to know and appreciate each other more, is my lift-the-flap interactive notebook pack!  It is currently my "best seller!"  You can read all about this creative writing resource {HERE}.

Know that I appreciate the privilege of guest posting here at Teacher Deals and Dollar Steals, and look forward to coming back on the 11th of each month!  Your readership means the world to me, and your comments keep me inspired!

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Click {HERE} to visit my personal blog!  While you are there, be sure to find the icons in the upper right corner of the page so that you can follow me on Pinterest, Facebook, Bloglovin', and Instagram! 
Thanks in advance for your time and interest!


  1. Loved reading this post. Going to check out the sweet deal on your bts product!

    1. Thanks for your kind comments, Sebrina! I appreciate them!