It all starts with a conversation!

It all starts with a conversation! Third grade teacher Michelle Burrus helped her administrator see how TpT for Schools offered a real solution to their school’s challenges. Read her whole story and learn more here about how to start the conversation with your own administrator:

Clue by Clue Critical Thinking Mystery: The Break-In

I originally wrote The Break-In to use in presentations where I demonstrate how clue by clues work. As such it’s not the most sophisticated Clue by Clue but I really like it. It started with a fun question, “What if someone breaks into a store and doesn’t steal anything?” From there my brain developed a fun narrative. Can your students also follow the clues and figure out what would make someone break into a story without taking a thing? If you have imaginative and clever students, they might be able to figure it out by the third clue!  These are far and away


What’s a Clue by Clue?

A clue by clue is a critical thinking mystery activity that generates a lot of  discussion. Students are given a situation to analyze. They are then given the clue cards, one at a time. In pairs or small groups, students analyze each clue to try to decide if it’s relevant or irrelevant. They also analyze it to figure out how it helps solve the mystery. It’s a great way for students to practice critical thinking skills. Solving a mystery means evaluating evidence, synthesizing information from different clues, and telling truth from lie and fact from opinion. (Check out my post on Why short mysteries make awesome critical thinking activities for more and a list of all my clue by clue activities). Continue reading “Clue by Clue Critical Thinking Mystery: The Break-In”

Culture Role Play: Role Cards

You are a Pandya


  • You prefer to talk to people from your own culture instead of people from other cultures
  • You only speak when spoken to. You do not like to start conversations with outsiders
  • You are always very formal. You say ‘sir’ or ‘madam’ and never use first names only. You always use ‘please’ ‘thank you’ ‘excuse me’ and so on.
  • Women have more status than men. Women should always accompany men
  • Men do not talk directly to women from another culture. They talk through the woman who is with them.
  • Men also do not make eye contact with women from other cultures and if a women touches a man, it is scary. Your woman companion should take you away quickly.
  • It is scary when a woman from another culture tries to talk to you.
  • Men do talk to other men.
  • Among your own people, you can speak to men and women freely.
  • You like to have very short conversations. You do not like to talk for a long time. If someone tries to talk to you for a long time, you will walk away.


You are a Chispa


  • You are an informal and friendly culture. You like to talk to new people.
  • You call everyone by their first name
  • You use a lot of slang and informal expressions.
  • Men and women are equal in your culture and there are no separate roles
  • You are very outgoing. You like making friends and talking to people from other cultures.
  • You like to talk for a very long time. If someone walks away, you follow them and keep talking.
  • You believe it is good for women to talk to men and men to talk to women, especially from outside cultures. That way everyone learns something.
  • You like to touch people, shake hands, touch the shoulder while you are talking to someone.


Process Essay

To my collection of resources for teaching students to write a process essay, I am adding a Process Essay Test. I designed this to test both reading skills and writing skills. It asks students to reverse outline a fairly simple process essay about doing well in college. Then students are given practice applying transition words by rewriting a list of instructions as a process paragraph.

Here are a couple of other resources I use to teach the process essay:

Your Lesson Plan on Culture Shock is Strange to Me

Yet another post just to promote a lesson plan on this site and to reward myself for converting it from html to WordPress post (not as grueling as I pretend it is).

Culture Shock is another topic that all students have something to say about. This lesson plan is accessible to students who have never left their own country because it focuses on different behaviors and asks if they are normal or rude in the students’ cultures. Gets students talking about whether they shake hands or bow to greet someone, and if it changes depending on situation, age or gender. For more advanced students you can get into why we do the things we do, and even if there is any difference between traditional customs and modern customs.

My favorite moment in this lesson is when students say that some behavior is very rude, but normal. Like spitting on the street or swearing in public!


Hanging is not common in the US anymore. Most people, if they are killed by the death penalty, die by electric chair or gas or injection. Hanging brings up memories of the Wild West and cowboy justice where looking at another man’s woman or cheating at cards or insulting someone could mean being strung up.

Hangman is the name of the person who hangs people but it is also the name of a fun word game that most American kids play and know well. It’s a great way to teach spelling and to review vocabulary. Check out how to play and some tips for making the game better on the Hangman lesson plan page.

The Expert Game Lesson Plan

Students learning a new language often have moments of low self-esteem. They make a lot of mistakes, they can’t communicate as well as they would like to, and they are sometimes subjected to humiliation by teachers or fellow students. So one great way to build up that confidence is to remind students that they are accomplished in many areas. The Expert Game is a great lesson plan that makes students discuss a topic they know well or a skill they have mastered. In this way their confidence is boosted, they are motivated to speak and share what they know, and they learn more about their classmates. This makes a great first lesson or last lesson. Sometimes it’s amazing how little we know about our own students. Or how little we know about ourselves.