Low-Prep Grammar Fun

It's Deb Hanson here from Crafting Connections. It has always been my opinion that grammar can be fun! However, if you were to ask my husband, he would say that grammar and fun do not belong in the same sentence. Unfortunately, it seems that many of our students' feelings parallel my husband's opinion. The frequently-mundane drill-and-kill grammar exercises found in English textbooks do nothing to improve grammar's "bad rap". In an effort to combat grammar's negative image, I try to plan plenty of time for fun grammar activities. Today I'm going to share some of my favorite grammar games/activities that take little or no time to prepare. (Plus, some freebies will be sprinkled in along the way!)
Grammar CAN be fun! Check out this blog post featuring five fun grammar games and activities! Freebies are included!


This version of Hangman begins with a student drawing a part of speech card from a bowl. After she reads her card aloud to the class, she thinks of a word that matches the part of speech card drawn. She draws the lines representing the placement of each letter on the board.

Now play continues as a normal Hangman game would, where students in the audience take turns guessing letters. Any time a student correctly guesses a letter that lands in the mystery word, that student get an opportunity to guess the mystery word. At the beginning, it is usually necessary to remind that student to guess a word that matches the part of speech, though! (For example, sister would not be a good guess to make in a game where it was announced that the mystery word would be an adverb.)
Review the parts of speech by playing Hangman! Check out this grammar activity plus four more engaging grammar games for upper elementary students! This blog post contains FREEBIES, too!


As I write this post, May is right around the corner! I can't speak for those of you who live where warm weather is common year-round, but I definitely know that students who live in areas with frigid winters are eager for any opportunity to move their classroom activities outdoors! Facilitating an outdoor chalk challenge is a highly-anticipated event for my students.

Chalk challenges are quite simple, but kids love them. I divide my students into pairs, and give each pair a piece of chalk. There are many variations to this game, but I'll use a possessive noun chalk challenge as an example. When partners are situated on the ground, you announce a noun. Student A writes a sentence with the singular form of that possessive noun, while Student B writes a sentence with the plural form of that possessive noun. The next time a noun is announced, Student B gets to write first.
Review grammar rules with chalk challenges! Check out this grammar activity plus four more engaging grammar games for upper elementary students! This blog post contains FREEBIES, too!
  • Announce multiple meaning words (like bat), and students are challenged to write two sentences that show the contrasting meanings of the word.
  • Announce homophones (like bear and bare, but don't reveal the two spellings). Students are challenged to write two sentences that use each correctly-spelled form of the word.
  • Announce parts of speech (adjectives that begin with c for example), and challenge students to list as many as they can.
(Obviously, if the weather isn't cooperating, this game can be played indoors, too, with a dry-erase marker and a white board.)


This is another outdoor favorite! Although not technically a grammar topic, I'm going to share pictures of affix hopscotch. As you can see, you draw a traditional hopscotch pattern with chalk, but rather than filling the squares with numbers, you write various affixes in each square.
Affix Hopscotch! Check out this grammar activity plus four more engaging grammar games for upper elementary students! This blog post contains FREEBIES, too!
Proceed as normal, where a student tosses a small rock onto the hopscotch surface, hops along, and when he arrives at the square his rock landed on, he must pick it up, state a word with that affix and its meaning, and then continue along the board.

  • Fill the squares with literary devices (simile, metaphor, idiom, alliteration, personification, onomatopoeia, & hyperbole). The student must state an example of the one upon which his rock landed.
  • Fill the squares with parts of speech.


When my students are learning about the 4 types of sentences, this is a favorite activity in my classroom. Each students is given a classmate's name and a fun-size bag of Skittles or M&M's (you could use colored marshmallows or colored cereal, too), and they write sentences for that person, depending upon the colors of their candy. Before they begin writing, I model how to write kind imperatives (Don't forget to sharpen your pencil or Wear a helmet when you ride your bike.). I also tell them that their exclamatory sentences can be complimentary (You're the best goalie ever!) or silly (Watch out for that bear!). After students have finished their bag of candy (and writing their candy gram), they deliver their note to their classmate, and their classmate is challenged with labeling each type of sentence.
Candy Grams to review the 4 types of sentences! Check out this grammar activity plus four more engaging grammar games for upper elementary students! This blog post contains FREEBIES, too!

Review the 4 types of sentences with candy grams! Check out this grammar activity plus four more engaging grammar games for upper elementary students! This blog post contains FREEBIES, too!
Click HERE to download this. (A Skittles version is also included.)


Again, this has many variations, and it can be as simple as having partners draw a tic tac toe board, announcing to the class a random grammar topic (irregular plurals nouns, for example), and when it's his or her turn, each student must provide a correct example of the grammar topic before he or she can mark an X or O on the board.

There are also a variety of pre-made Tic Tac Toe printables you can print for your students. Check out Not So Wimpy Teacher's FREE Parts of Speech Tic Tac Toe games or click HERE or on the image below to download a Comma Tic Tac Toe board.

Comma Usage Tic Tac Toe! Check out this grammar activity plus four more engaging grammar games for upper elementary students! A FREE download!


Doing a craftivity is a great way to spice up a rather mundane topic! When I create craftivities related to grammar, I usually include some sort of analogy to help students understand the concept. For example, did you know that adjectives are like magnets? Just a few of my favorite grammar craftivites are shown below!
     Plural Nouns Craftivity- this also makes a fun bulletin board or hall display! Includes two worksheets and the craftivity patterns.

Possessive Nouns Craftivity- Students need lots of practice opportunities in order to internalize apostrophe rules! Why not make it fun with an engaging craftivity?     Help students understand the various functions of action verbs, linking verbs, and helping verbs with the rock band analogy! Your upper elementary and middle school students will enjoy this types of verbs craftivity!

If you'd like a few more printable grammar games, head over to my personal blog, where I've linked up a few additional freebies!

Do you have a favorite low-prep grammar game? Feel free to share in the comments below!

End of the School Year: 5 Things You MUST Do!

It's the End of the School Year! Now What? There are a few things every teacher MUST do at the End of the School Year. Read this blog post to find out! Classroom Organization is just the beginning.

The end of the school year is my FAVORITE time of the year! Not just because "it's the end of the school year", or summer fun is so close.  I love this time of year because it is a very satisfying time for my type-A personality.  This is my time to start getting myself ready for next year.  By getting myself set-up for success NOW, I can enjoy my summer and come back to school refreshed and ready to go.  Sounds good, right?  Well, it is! There is no better feeling than walking out the last day of school knowing that you have nothing to worry about when you return in August.  Here are my 5 "Must-Do" tips for the end of the school year.

1. Time to Reflect

Right after standardized testing is over, I begin my "Must-Do" list.  My first step is to reflect.  This isn't some super-formal process.  I literally grab a notebook (see my favorite notebook below), and I write about all the things I loved and hated about the school year.  What worked and what didn't work.  I think about all the new routines and activities I definitely want to do again and those that I'd rather forget.  I find this is a very important part of my end-of-the-year process.  It helps me stay focused and develop a strong plan for next school year.  Plus, if I wait to reflect, I forget!

It's the End of the School Year! Now What? There are a few things every teacher MUST do at the End of the School Year. Read this blog post to find out! Classroom Organization is just the beginning.

2. Purge, Purge, Purge

Purge like you are on an episode of Hoarders.  You know that show where people collect stuff and NEVER get rid of anything?  Pretend like you are on that show and you must throw away everything you didn't use this past school year.  I go through every closet, cabinet, filing cabinet, and shelf in my classroom throughout the last few weeks of school.  I get rid of random bins I thought I would need, resources I never use, and files I haven't touched all year.  When this is all done, I feel like a weight has been lifted and boy does it feel great!  If you have a hard time throwing things away, get a friend to help you.  This step is a must!

It's the End of the School Year! Now What? There are a few things every teacher MUST do at the End of the School Year. Read this blog post to find out! Classroom Organization is just the beginning.

3. Organize Important Papers

Do you have a Teacher Binder?  Well, you should!  My teacher binder is attached to my hip all year long.  It's where I keep all of my important papers organized!  Plus, it looks adorable.

Each year I start my year off with a nearly empty teacher binder and slowly fill it up with tons of forms, resources, and random papers throughout the year.  This is the perfect time of year to empty out everything that won't be relevant for next year and make your Teacher Binder look like new again.

Here are a few pics of my teacher binder.  I made this one myself and sell it, along with a ton of goodies and designs in my Teachers Pay Teachers shop. Plus, I include FREE updates for life so you never have to buy another Teacher Binder again! Click HERE to check it out.  If you want to learn more about it, you can check out my blog post Putting Together the Ultimate Teacher Binder.

It's the End of the School Year! Now What? There are a few things every teacher MUST do at the End of the School Year. Read this blog post to find out! Classroom Organization is just the beginning.

4. Copy and Laminate

Oh, this is my favorite! You know all those awful lines that form at the beginning of the school year outside the copy room?  You know the ones! It seems as though EVERY teacher needs to copy and/or laminate during that pre-planning week after summer vacation.  Well, don't be one of them.  Think about the papers you know you will need for the first week of school and get copies NOW.  Yes, this will take some pre-planning and thinking ahead, but it beats waiting in those horrible lines or waiting forever to get your copies/laminating back.  Plus, if your school is anything like mine, they limit the number of copies you can get each year.  This plan allows you to use this year's copies for next year.
It's the End of the School Year! Now What? There are a few things every teacher MUST do at the End of the School Year. Read this blog post to find out! Classroom Organization is just the beginning.

5. Inventory Your Supplies

Let me explain. If you are like me, or any teacher for that matter, you probably purchase your own school supplies each year.  You wait for those amazing school supply deals to begin in July and grab all you can.  It is easy to get carried away in all the deals and sales forgetting what you REALLY need.  If you have a list, or inventory, of the supplies you already have in your classroom, you won't spend money unnecessarily.   If you already have 150 packs of notebook paper, you probably don't need 100 more.

It's the End of the School Year! Now What? There are a few things every teacher MUST do at the End of the School Year. Read this blog post to find out! Classroom Organization is just the beginning.

I sure do hope my list of "Must-Dos" for the end of the school year will help you in the upcoming weeks.  Putting in the extra effort now will save you tons of time and stress in the future.
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Elapsed Time Strategies, Activities, & Online Resources

Hi everyone :)  It's Mariela from Math Tech Connections.  Today I'm going to talk about how I teach elapsed time in my classroom.  Elapsed time has always been a difficult skill for students to master.  I hope you will find some helpful ideas that you can use in your classroom! 

Start Early!

If I followed the math book, students wouldn't be introduced to elapsed time until after December.  That would be a huge problem!  Some students come to third grade without knowing how to tell basic time and quit a few need a refresher. There are a few things you can do at the beginning of the year to make sure your students are ready for elapsed time. 

> Morning Work

I make it a priority to give my students a daily morning work sheet that reviews math & grammar. It’s important to choose a morning work that builds on the standards. You don’t want to give them morning work that covers multiplication or elapsed time in the first weeks of school. I have used this morning work bundle for 3 years with great success. It reviews ALL second grade standards and then slowly introduces the 3rd grade standards. 

> Math Centers

I start introducing math stations literally the first week of school. I teach using a math workshop model all year, so it’s important for my students to start learning the routines as soon as possible. When you start introducing centers you want to add math stations that students feel comfortable completing independently. This is a perfect time to add a basic telling time game to a math station. You will be glad to have done this when you get to elapsed time.  

 > Online Math Games 

Sometimes you will find a few extra minutes in the day. This is a perfect time to complete a quick online math game with the class. This website has a lot of basic time games that you can use. You can even make it a competition and see who can get the best time. Students love this friendly competition :) 

Elapsed Time Strategies

It’s important to show students different strategies for solving elapsed time problems and then let them pick which one they feel most comfortable with. 

> Strategy #1: Use a Number Line 

I personally like this strategy the best. I am a very visual person and like how on a number line I can show if I know the start time or the end time. Some students however get very confused with this strategy and do not draw/label correctly.

Below is a picture of a math tri-fold that focuses on time.  When working with a small group, I can quickly see when students are confused and can help them correct their mistakes. Teaching math in small groups is the way to go for sure!

> Strategy #2: Create a T-Chart 

I learned about using a T-Chart when I searched the internet in hopes of finding a different way to teach elapsed time. Some students just don’t like the use a number line strategy. A T-Chart helps students organize their information, and I’ve found most students like this strategy best.

Download The Free Resources

More Online Resources

Related Resources

If you find the free resources helpful, please take a look at some of my bundles on TPT :)

Thank you for reading!

3 Boxes Teachers Should Pack Before Summer Vacation

Are you starting to feel like the school year is winding down but your responsibilities are amping up? With summer vacation on the horizon there are always so many things a teacher needs to check off the to do list before trading in the oversized teacher bag for a beach bag. By the time everything gets crossed off and all the tasks are completed all you want to do is shove everything into closets, drawers and containers.

You tell yourself you will "deal with it" when you come back in the fall, but always regret the hasty decision when the time comes.

One of the best things I did to make going back to school easier was to spend some time each spring before the year ended getting organized for the new year. Not only did this make me feel so much more effecitve and prepared in the fall, but also enabled me to truly enjoy my summer vacation!

This post will explain how I saved my sanity and made it easy to jump into the new year by packing 3 special boxes before I left in June.  Today on my blog, The Clutter-Free Classroom I've written a companion post to this one titled, Five Things Teachers Can Do Now to Prepare for Next Year. My hope is that the combined tips shared will allow you to enjoy your vacation, recharge your teacher batteries, spend time with family and friends and then hit the ground running for the new year.

Gather three boxes and find a safe place to store them for the summer that will be easy to get to when you return. (I placed mine on shelves in my closet.) Fill and label them as follows.

Spend some time before the school year ends planning out the upcoming school year. In addition to drafting a curriculum map for the entire year, figure out exactly what lessons, games and activities you will want to have the students do during those first few weeks of school. Make your copies, sharpen a class set of pencils, make folders for the kids for home and school communication and place everything together in a box.

Classroom Set Up Box:
When you come into school on a hot summer day the last thing you want to be doing is searching through containers and drawers for a stapler or a pair of scissors. Instead put the following into a box so you are ready to get to work:
  • scissors
  • stapler
  • staples
  • glue gun
  • hot glue sticks
  • tape (scotch, electrical and/or painter’s)
  • bulletin board trim
  • folded fabric for your bulletin boards
  • die cut letters

If you are required to clean out your desk or teacher workspace for summer cleaning or if you need to move classrooms, you'll want to get that important space up and running as soon as possible. My suggestion is to follow these steps.

  1. Remove all the contents from the desk one drawer at a time. 
  2. Purge any unnecessary or broken items.
  3. Sort the remaining items into like categories and store them together in large plastic bags.
  4. Position books and files on the bottom to form a sturdy base.
  5. Place the bags into the box.
  6. Wrap any breakable items such as photo frames and place them on top.
Share what you do before the school year ends to make things easier for the next year in the comments below and stop by my blog to read about 5 things I have found to be extremely helpful in my own classroom...

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How can you make poetry analysis REALLY fun?  Use lyrics!   Yes, songs and raps are forms of poetry!  Students love to listen to the songs and analyze them.  They will beg you for more!  

Keep in mind that all words in a poem have some kind of meaning to poets.  They choose words very strategically to not only include evident meaning, but also implied meaning.  This is the same with song lyrics. Make your lyrics analysis fun by turning it into a detective game!  Give your students magnifying glasses while they examine lyrics!  Give them a copy of lyrics to a favorite song and supply highlighters and colored pens!


1.  Predict the meaning of the song.

2.  What is the meaning of the lyrics?

3.  What does the title have to do with the song?

4.  What message is the song/lyric trying to convey to the listener?

5.  Who do you think wrote this poem/lyric? Describe him or her.

6.  What is the mood/tone of this poem/lyric?

7.  How do the rhythm and/or music affect the mood/tone?

8.  What is the setting of this poem? What words or evidence from the writing supports your ideas?

9.  Visualizing: What part of the song can you create a picture in your mind?

10. Make a connection:  Text-to-Self, Text-to-Text, Text-to-World

11. Compare and Contrast

12. Make inferences

13. What is the author's purpose?

14. Is there a theme or lesson?

15. Create your own questions about the song.

16. Identify the rhyme scheme.

17. Identify repetition.

18. Identify figurative language.


Write your own lyric/music. Put a rhythm to it.

Explore historical lyrics.

Compare two or more lyrics centered around the same theme.

Study the background of the musician.

Act out a part of the lyrics.

Illustrate a part of the lyrics.


Grab this free lyrical analysis PAGE!


Poetry Slam- Loaded with Anchor Charts for Poetry Types, Elements, and Analyzing!
Poetry Lyrics- Includes lyrics for a variety of genres with questions for analyzing!
Poetry Portfolio- A student booklet with poetry types- including directions!
Poetry Elements Cards- Great for studying!
Test-  Assess student knowledge!

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6 Review Games for the Classroom

I think one of the most effective ways to reinforce learning in the classroom is to play games. Games are great for test prep and really for any time of the year. The great thing about games is that for most kids, you've got instant buy in, as well as engagement. They love playing games and when kids are having fun in the classroom, I think they're often learning whether they know it or not!

So, here are six of my tried and true favorite review games:
1. Stump the Expert
I start by placing five chairs in the front of the classroom facing the class, while I go and stand in the back of the room, facing the front of the room. Everyone takes out whiteboards (Home Depot shower board that was cut for a class set for $14.00), expo markers and their erasers (small carpet scraps). I randomly choose 5 kids to be the first experts and then I ask a question from whatever subject we're working on. Everyone writes down the answer but holds it to their chests so no one can see. Then I ask the experts to reveal their answers. If the expert is correct, he/she may remain an expert for the next round. If an expert is incorrect, that person goes back to his/her desk and the rest of the class shows me their answers. I choose a student with a correct answer to be one of the new experts.

2. Tic Tac Toe
Whenever we have a social studies or science test, I always prepare a study guide with questions for the kids to fill out. This makes it easy for them to study for the tests and to test each other for a quick review too! For the tic tac toe game, you can play with small groups of 2 or 3. With small groups of three, one child would be the teacher, and the other two would answer questions. If a child gets an answer right, he/she gets to place an X or an O on the tic tac toe board (whiteboard or scratch paper). When the game is over, players may rotate so everyone gets a chance to answer questions. With groups of two, students simply ask each other questions. 

3. Nerf Hoop Shoot
This is a game that my kids love!!! I set up a nerf basketball hoop in the classroom (with dire consequences to anyone who touches it when we're not playing the game but you might be able to put it down when not in use if you can figure that out)! Actually, my classes have been really good about this for the most part, over the years. Anyway, the idea is to divide the class into teams, I usually do 2 - 3, and then ask a question. I ask questions in a systematic order for each team, so all kids have a chance to play. If the team member gets the question right, the team gets one point and a try for some bonus points too. The person who is correct then stands behind one of two taped lines on the floor and tries for either a 2 point shot (closer to the net) or a 3 pointer (farther from the net). If that person misses, he/she still keeps the original point scored and the game continues.

4. Relay Race
For this game, I place two desks in the front of the classroom and each has a bell, not the kind with a handle but the one you press to ding. These are our game buzzers. Then, we make sure there is a clear path to the front of the room and stress keeping hands and feet in, so no one gets hurt. The class is divided into two teams and the first three players from each team, line up to play in the back of the room. I read a question and the first person from each team takes off to the front of the room to ring in and answer (if he/she is first to ring in) or the first person tags the next person in line to go up and answer. If the second person doesn't know the answer, the third person is tagged. If that person doesn't know the answer (oh dear!!!) then the question is "dead" and I call on someone to answer but no point is given. The next question, we re-load the players with whomever has not had a chance to answer or has been tagged and the game continues.

5. Deal or No Deal
For this game, you'll need to do some quick prep ahead of time. Write a number using marker/sharpie on the front of each post it. You need #1 - 30, so that means 30 post its. On the back of each post it, using pencil (very important so it doesn't show through) write either positive or negative game events such as:
  • Add 5 points
  • Lose 3 points
  • Take an extra turn
  • Free ask a friend card
  • Lose a turn
  • Free team vote card (you give a multiple choice question and whole team votes for the answer)
  • Change scores with the other team
  • Pass on a question card...
You can repeat these with minor variations to add more variety. Here's how you play: Divide the class into two teams. Ask a question of one team (I go in a very systematic order so everyone can participate) and if the question is answered correctly, the team has a chance to get a point and keep it or to give up the point and take a chance on the Deal or No Deal board. If the child chooses the board, he/she will tell you a number and you read the "prize" to the team. Once a post it number is selected, I take it down, so it won't be chosen again. Then it is the next team's turn, and the process is repeated.

6. Jeopardy
I do love to play Jeopardy with my students but I won't lie to you...this one takes some time to prepare questions in advance. I actually usually make a jeopardy for each of the main social studies or science units we do and then keep it in my file for the next year. That way, once it's done, you are golden for at least a few years, until the standards change again...ugh! Generally, I make up about 6 categories and have one question for each dollar amount from 100 (easiest) to 500 (hardest) for each category. I also have a tiebreaker question because ties happens more than I ever expect them too. To play, divide the class into teams and the first team member I call on (again, in order so everyone plays) tells me the category and the amount. I teach them to say the phrase, "Ecosystems for 100," or "Colonial Times for 300." We play until the board is cleared or until time runs out. 

Hope these games have given you some new ideas to use in your classroom. There are lots of other games though. Which games do you like to play as a review? I would love to hear from you!

If you'd like to read about some of my games for grammar, check them out here:

Here's a fun post about creating random groups, which I think are great for reviewing:

I'd love to connect with you!




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Improving the Quality of Student Work in Centers

I love centers. And so do my students. We do math and reading centers every day. Centers can be an incredibly valuable time in your classroom- or it can just be a time filler. If students are not producing quality independent work, then it is not a good use of time. Here are a few tips for improving the quality of student work in centers.

Too often I see teachers rush into centers. They don't take nearly enough time showing students what they expect. Show students how you want the center to look. Show students where materials are stored. Show them how they should read the directions. And, most importantly, show them what a quality answer will look like. Show them where work should be turned in and what they should do if they finish early. Model how transitions will happen. Show students how to clean up their materials. It takes me a couple of weeks to properly train students to do centers independently. But the rest of the year, I don't have to worry about using class time to reprimand students about behavior during centers. They are doing quality work while I am meeting with guided groups for much needed differentiation. It is worth every bit of effort from the start!

If the centers and the expectations for the centers are changing every week, students are far less likely to be successful. I keep my reading centers the same all year! Once I teach the expectations, I rarely have to revisit them. (My reading centers are: Read to Self, Reading Response Menus, Technology and Meet the Teacher.) My math center topics will change, but the overall center does not. They might do fraction centers one month and measurement the next- but the overall expectations and directions are the same every month. (My math centers are Technology, Math Facts, Independent Work and Meet the Teacher.)

There is the temptation to make centers coordinate with the skills a teacher is currently teaching. I discourage this. If students are just learning a skill, they are less likely to be successful with it in an independent center. Instead, I like to use independent centers for spiral review. My students might be doing the measurement centers while we are working on fractions. This is ok! They need the review and they are more likely to be successful on their own. 

We all do better on a task when we have some choice! If you really want students to be invested in their center work, make certain that centers have a certain amount of choice. For example, my students can read ANY book that they want during their Read to Self center. They can choose between 9 prompts for their Reading Menu center and they can do their independent math centers in any order that they choose. A little choice can go a long way!

I have found that when I allow students to work together, the quality of their work increases dramatically. I don't allow students to work together on every assignment, but I do encourage collaboration often. Before allowing students to work together on a center, you must model the expectations. This is done similarly to the way I model expectations for each center. What will the group work sound like? How will students participate? What will happen if students disagree? Take plenty of time going over these expectations. Ask students to model correct and incorrect group behaviors for the class. This takes time! But working together is a life skill that needs to be taught and practiced! And once the class is able to properly collaborate, you will see improvements in their overall center work and you will know that the time was well worth it.

You might want to grab these FREE posters to help remind students of ways they can independently solve differences when working with a partner.

Giving students a visual reminder of your expectations will help them to check their work. The rubric can be a simple checklist or a bulletin board with examples. This will depend on your student needs and the grade you teach. 

Time in the classroom is so precious that it can be difficult to allow time for students to correct their mistakes. However, mistakes are only worth making if we can learn from them. When you hand back work, can you allow students one day to make corrections? Can they take it home to correct? Can you go over the answers as a whole group? You don't have to change their grade in the grade book if you don't want to. But, students will be more motivated if they think they can get extra points or another incentive. The most important thing is that students are spending time analyzing their mistakes. 

I have found that students will work ten times harder if they know they will be rewarded for their hard work. This reward can be as simple as stickers on their papers or a quick note home to Mom and Dad. My students are also obsessed with brag tags and they work so hard for the opportunity to earn one. You can read more about how I use brag tags in my classroom by clicking HERE.

What other tips do you have for improving the quality of the work students produce during centers?