November 29, 2015


As I sat down to plan out my holiday run with my firsties, my head started to spin a bit.  Even though planning for this fun season is exciting, it can be a bit overwhelming.  I found myself asking, "With only three weeks until Christmas Break, how am I going to get it all in this year?"  

Anyone else have this feeling?  There are SO many stellar projects to get in this time of year and you can leverage learning in the classroom like NO OTHER. Not only do you have those all time favorite lessons, but you also want to fit some new ditties into the mix. However, with holiday performance practice, mandatory planning days, specials, classroom assistant schedules, minimum days, a district evaluation, and other required additions this month, it ain't easy to schedule things out. It's enough to make your head spin and jack up that heart rate . . . especially when you are on a new team and they want you to take the lead this year. GULP! 

After backing away last weekend, I was able to take a deep breath and figure out a method that helped me get my planning angst under control. With just a few simple steps, I feel like I am ready to rock the next 15 days!

I was trying to figure out how to share my big plans without having to map out every detail in the plan book.  Then it hit me.  DUH . . . make a calendar and long range plan the month.  Just hit the highlights.  Not only will this give a good snapshot for you (and anyone you are sharing with), but it also allows you to figure out the "bigger ticket" items that will drive the theme or overall learning from day to day.  Here's a look at my chicken scratch . . . it proved to be the perfect start to my holiday planning process.  

Most of you probably already do this, but it always helps to pull out past planbooks.  I suggest going back more than one year as different things make it into the mix depending on your schedule.  Now . . . if I could just decipher my cryptic notes :P  

I find that planbooks don't tell the whole story. After nine years in the classroom, I don't always take the most detailed notes in these.  In addition, I may see a new idea the night before and not add it to the book. (I am horrible about updating my plans if I take a detour . . . probably because I do it ALL of the time.)  With this said, looking back at photos is a stellar way to remember all of the cool projects you hit within a certain time frame.  Go back and look at EVERY December run of photos . . . I bet something is hiding in there that you forgot ALL about :)  

The Gingerbread Fact Family Houses were already on the list.
So were the fun Christmas "Sunnies."
However, I forgot all about Ms. Lemons BME Light Craftivity.
This one made the best display two years ago . . . I put it back in this year!

Although most of my schedule is set for Christmas, new ideas are a must every year. It keeps things interesting for you and allows you to target new concepts and standards.  This year I added a few awesome ideas to the mix.  Sure, the themes are pretty much the same as it has been every year for little old me (gingerbread and into Christmas Around the World), but I found/came up with some killer additions for this season!  Case and point . . . 

The perfect addition to my GB unit.
It incorporates all of my favorite versions!
CLICK HERE to check it out.

Can you tell I am on a Gingerbread kick?
Love this packet from Ms. Simmons :)
CLICK HERE to check it out.

Sentence Writing Warm-Ups have become a daily must for me.
In less than 10 minutes a day, you can mold stronger writers :)
CLICK HERE to check it out.

Here's my latest creation
This packet takes Christmas Around the World into your math block!
CLICK HERE to check this new EDITABLE product out :)

Now that you have done all of your research, you are ready to pencil in your plans.  When I did this yesterday, I placed all of my MUST DO and FAVORITES first.  I did all three weeks worth.  Then, I went back and filled in the holes with my extras.  It worked like a charm.

Next week (and the week after) I will be able to roll through quickly.
All the main items have been placed and I can plug the holes.
It's a messy process . . . well, at least for me.
However, for the first time in FOREVER, I feel like I'm dialed.
Alright, there you have it.  A little outline on how to create amazing December plans that strive to get ALL those beloved projects and activites into the mix.  If you have any additional tips regarding holiday lesson planning, I would love to hear them.  

Before you go, here are a few freebies you might want to cram into your books as you plan today. 

On that note, I am out.  It's tome to start preppin' those plans of mine. Have a wonderful week . . . I'll see you again soon :)

November 15, 2015


How in the world are we already at the end of the first trimester and rollin' into Turkey Break? I know I ask similar questions quite a bit on here (it must be my old age), but time just seems to be zooming by these days.  Despite the lack of time left in the classroom before vacation, we are going to make the most of it in Room 18.  Not only do I like to celebrate Thanksgiving and turkey fun, but I also like to do a little prep for the Christmas season.  By this I mean that I like the kids to complete one or two slightly holiday flavored activities.  Over break, I can sneak in and hang a few student created boards . . . empty bulletin boards make me cringe.  With this said, here are a few of my Turkey Week Favorites . . . and some ideas and freebies too.  

Who Will Carve Write
Now that my firsties are getting good in the sentence department, it is time to add a little creative fun to the mix.  The week before Thanksgiving I always read, Who Will Carve the Turkey This Thanksgiving, by Jerry Pallotta.  If you haven't heard of this sweet story, it talks about different animals carving the turkey and what would happen.  The kids always crack up when they hear this one (and let's face it . . . so do I).  We use this model to come up with our own animal carving scenarios. A close sentence gets thrown up on the board and we brainstorm a bit.  Then, it's off to the races.  The kids always come up with the most outlandish things and they barely know that they are even doing work. Now that's my kind of lesson :)  

Interested in trying this with your crew?  You're in luck . . . I have it as a FREEBIE right HERE.  Three levels are included.    

A Plate Full of Thanks
This craft is always a parent favorite (and it's one of mine too).  It is a new twist on a Thankful Write and it isn't a TURKEY :) The sweetest things come out of this activity.  I always tear up a little when I hear some of the things that come out of kids' mouths.  I have to catch myself and go to my "happy place," so I don't start bawling their faces. Sigh . . . I'm such a sap.   

The fun thing about this craft is you get to teach the kids how to set the table too.  Quite a few of the kids already know all about this as they are in charge of this chore nightly.  However, there are a handful of kids who have NO IDEA what you're talking about.  Check out this mini pack HERE.

The Turkey Trot
If you have a performance or feast event or even if you don't . . . this tune is a doozie.  It's a Freebie from Ron Brown's Intelli-Tunes and an instant classic. My kids always used sing and dance to this one during our big Turkey Play. Now that I am at a new school, I can't pass up the chance to learn this one.  We will still boogie to this ditty . . . for our own enjoyment.  

Getting ready to perform last year.
CLICK HERE to snag this tune for free (just scroll down a bit).
Yes, you get to SHAKE those TAIL FEATHERS with all your might :)
How To Cook A Turkey
I found this on a blog YEARS ago and I absolutely love to save this write for Turkey Week.  The kids say the funniest things and these writes make a great backdrop for any Thanksgiving Performance.  You can find all sorts of fun versions of this on TPT.  

TH Wreaths
Alright, so I don't want to just focus on Thanksgiving activities this week as all of these items will go home on Friday.  I need a little somethin' - somethin' to hold on to . . . that is relevant for the upcoming season.  Well, here's a little idea I always run with during Turkey Week (usually that Friday before break).  We always seem to be working on digraphs this time of year . . . TH to be a little more specific.  So, I like to have the kids make TH Wreaths as a fun word work activity.  It isn't too Christmasy out of context . . . but they fit right in after the vacation with all the holiday cheer that will be kicking into high gear.  Here are the quick and low-prep steps for this one.

  1. Give your kiddos a regular old while paper plate with the center circle cut out.  You can either pre-prep these or just make slits so the kids can get started easily (I have done it both ways)".  
  2. Have your kids color the plate green.  
  3. Trace their hands on green paper.  I suggest doubling up the paper so that they only have to cut four times.  They need 7-8 total hands.  I also suggest that you do this ahead of time.  
  4. Brainstorm a list of TH words on the board.
  5. Invite your students to write one TH word on the palm of each hand. 
  6. Staple the hands around the edge of the plate to create a wreath.
  7. Put out red paper for the kids to cut circles and add "berries."
  8. Hang over Turkey Break for some standards-based HOLIDAY CHEER :)
Class Christmas Tree
I have blogged about this one before, but it is a pre-Turkey Break fave for sure. The best part is that the kids don't even know that they are doing something for Christmas.  It's just a strange project that the teacher asked me to do . . . sneaky . . . sneaky :)  Here are the steps for this one.

  1. Give each student an equilateral triangle (I like 8-9" sides).  I STRONGLY suggest that YOU cut these out . . . otherwise your "tree" won't fit together neatly.  
  2. Ask your kids to decorate their triangles using scraps of paper.  Give them a few ideas - cut shapes, hearts, and zig-zags.  Make stripes or polkadots.  They sky is the limit.
  3. Pull your students to add a little glitter to these creations.  They can make dots, lines, or swirls. 
  4. Over the vacation, use these triangles to create a Group Christmas Tree.  They fit together in an alternating pattern . . . one point up  . . . the next point down.  
  5. I like to hang a writing assignment in the "sky" around the tree.  It varies from year to year, but no matter which one I choose, it makes for the best student-created bulletin board.
  6. NOTE - Be sure you do the math on this one and draw it out based on the number of triangles you have from your class.  I have botched the hanging job on more than one occasion and had to start over.  You will most likely have extra triangles.  I just use these to make single Christmas trees off to the sides.  
Alright, so there you have it my friends.  A few ideas to help get you through the week and jump start the next season (without going too Christmas crazy just yet).  I hope you have a wonderful Sunday. I'll see you again soon.

November 8, 2015


We all know that lengthy periods with immobile kiddos spells trouble in the classroom - decreased engagement, behavior problems, heads on desks, and countless other undesirable outcomes.  Well, with the wet weather coming and the standards kicking into high gear, here are a few movement/transition ideas that just may be the ticket for you and your crew.

We all have standards to cover . . . why not mix it up with a little movement while you are at it?  This one is pretty easy to implement if you think outside of the box just a bit. 

Here's my backstory on this one. At my old school, I had to teach my own PE period . . . and I REALLY DISLIKE TO TEACH PE.  I know.  I know.  Such strong language.  I am sorry, but I have to be honest here.  PE and I just don't get along.  I always feel like I should be pushing through another lesson. I know that kids need to get out, but this block just ain't for me.  Physical Education is so important, but it is getting harder and harder to get through all of the core curriculum. Well, a few years ago, I realized that you could easily combine the two.  You can still teach standards and work in PE at the same time. Whoa . . . what??!!!  Yep. You can turn just about any concept into an organized team game via relay races.  Not only do these activities get the kids out and cover the PE time, but they also promote teamwork and put smiles on our students' faces.  

Begin by picking a concept you want to target . . . math facts, complete sentences, vowel teams, alphabet, vocab, etc.  Now, all you need is some kind of labeled manipulative.  (By labeled I mean that you mark them with words, facts, sentences, etc.)  You can use laminated cards, foam pieces, bean bags, tennis balls . . . anything the kids can collect.  Next, create a course (simply place the item to be collected at the end of a large grassy patch).  You may choose to add cones and other obstacles to the course. Finally, place your kids into relay teams (I like about 5 kids per group) and line them up on an "end line" before your course.  On your signal, the first kid on each team will run the course and grab an item.  Depending on the desired outcome, you can have them run back and simply read the word, define the word, solve the math equation, etc.  You may also choose to have them sort the item collected (greater than 10/less than 10, CVC or CVCe words, odd/even, complete sentence/incomplete sentence - make sense?)  This one is hard to put into words, so let me show you a few examples from over the years . . . 

Hula Hoops held a digit card.
The related place value cards were face down at mid-course.
The kids ran the course, snagged a card, and sorted it into the correct hula hoop.
A great way to break up the LONG math block.
The kids collected a ball at the end of the course.
On the way back to their line, they calculated the sum or difference.
Before the next teammate could jet, they screamed out the correct answer :)
The kids collected a card and read the sentence to me.
They determined if it was complete or incomplete and returned to their line.
The next student in line repeated the steps.
No problem . . . this can work for you too.
Start with MOB RACES - line everyone up on the end line (no teams to start).
Have them collect an item and bring it back - you just need more items for this version.
This photo shows an upper vs. lower case collection activity.
No problem . . . just set up an obstacle course inside.
This gal was zig-zaggin' her way through Short I words.
Engagement was through the roof and my kinders loved taking their shoes off!
The possibilities are endless with this one.  They absolutely love getting out and they don't even know that they are learning . . . can you say teacher WIN??!!

**A quick disclaimer here . . . there is still a place for awesome PE games such as kickball and number soccer, but relay races with embedded standards can easily fit into the PE rotation.  

I am all about using music in the classroom to help further understanding and break up lessons.  There are oodles of resources out there and, in my opinion, you just have to make time for it.  In addition to concept-based songs (that’s a post for another day), I love movement songs.  Ron Brown’s Intelli-Tunes has the most engaging tunes that help get those wiggles out.  I have actually partnered up with this awesome guy to offer some great new song packets.  I’m not talking about songs that you have to sing to your kids.  These sets include professionally recorded MP3s with embedded movement ideas.  All you have to do is push play to start your next brain break! 

I’ll spill the beans a little here.  Ron is my dad.  He is the music man in my eyes.  When I taught K for one VERY long year, I begged him to create me some tunes to help me keep a handle on those little guys.  He did just that for me.  These tunes proved to be life saving YEAR AFTER YEAR.  I still use them in first grade and the kids eat them up. 

This may sound stupid, but I pull these out in a pinch on more than occasion each year.  I keep them in an easy to access location and quickly break them out when need be.  I run this one of two ways . . . teacher directions given on the fly (bounce it on your head, toss it from hand to hand, tap it on your toes, etc.) or mirroring the helper of the day.  Both are quick and easy and the kids dig getting to play with these for a bit.  There is just something special about those little bags of beans :)

Most of us have heard of GoNoodle by now.  For those of you who signed up last year and didn’t get around to using it, put this in your teaching arsenal.  It is a must have teaching tool and the kids will beg to play. And lets face it . . . I’ll be able to get some cardio in too (it's a good thing since the gym hasn't seen my face since August).  GoNoodle is one of my favorite classroom resources and they are always updating the site.  The best thing is that it is FREE!!!! 

Body Spelling . . . um, yes please!
Those Koo Koo guys had as at hello.
We love Cat Party!

Okay, so we all have those moments when we need to liven things up or eliminate wiggles without ANY sort of prep.  Here’s an easy solution  . . . JANE FONDA IT.  (Yes, I am dating myself with that title, but the concept works.)  All you need for this one is to be able to think on your feet.  Have your kids stand and do some workout moves attached to standards.  For example, lead your kiddos in some jumping jacks while skip counting by 5s.  You could do some squats while saying the months of the year.  Um . . . have your babes do some yoga moves while reciting the facts to ten.  The possibilities are endless and you don’t have to prepare anything! 

No, I haven't been drinking.  I am just a dork.
I use this picture in various presentations when I talk about this stuff.
It seemed fitting as a dippy "close" today.
Well, there you have it.  A handful of ideas on using brain breaks to create seamless transitions and boost student engagement.  If you have any other ideas, please feel free to comment below . . . I’d love to hear 'em. Thanks so much for visiting me today.  I’ll be back again soon.

October 18, 2015


I see a pattern emerging in these posts. It seems that I can't make it to the party on time . . . I guess I am a Sunday share kind of a gal :)  I'm not going to fight it.  Instead, I will just blog on and not look back!

Here's a little peek at last week.  The class and I found ourselves mixed up in all sorts of different things.  Just see for yourself . . . 

This is one of my favorite fall craftivities.  Not only does it teach students about the power of adjectives, but it also produces some of the best kid art a teacher could ask for.  These look stellar up on our wall . . . love seeing the imagination that was poured into these.
The kids selected an adjective to build their pumpkin around.
Up top we have little, adorable, and pretty.
Down below we have fancy and spooky.
This week we will follow up with oodles of related adjective activities.  This craft is part of my Adjective Pumpkins Pack.  

Math centers have been a must in the afternoon.  Rotations are the perfect way to in more standards and spiral review . . . and let's face it . . . some days they are kinda sick of hearing my voice by the time 1:15 rolls around :)  With this said, we rolled, spun, graphed, and teamed up to work our way through some tricky concepts.

Pumpkin Graph & Spin
Going Batty for Missing Addends 
Falling Into Subtraction
(A little pumpkin seed snack helps the math flow.)

If you are looking for some October Themed Math Centers for firsties, I have a collection.  They are aligned to the CCSS and incorporate many of the concepts found in Module One of Engage NY.  

Oh, and while I am on the subject of fall flavored goodies, be sure you check out the Haunted Hop that I am participating in this week.  There are tons of fun FREEBIES up for grabs to get you through the rest of this month and part of November!
and magically transport to this blog hop!

Doubles facts are no match for the kids in Room 18. To help us master these fun facts, we sang Ron Brown's Doubles Song, made some doubles flash cards to keep in our desks, and completed Latoya Reed's awesome Doubles Mini-Book.  It's a freebie in her shop . . . SCORE!

Doubles Flash Cards
The perfect 3-5 minute transition :)
This Doubles Mini-Book was a hit!
Thanks, Ms. Reed!

After focusing on the 3 Kinds of Sentences last week, we narrowed our scope to take an in depth look at questions.  The kids met Captain Question Mark and I have yet to see a backwards "hook" since this fancy introduction (read all about the Captain in last year's post . . . HERE).

In addition to our Oscar-worthy acting, the kids sorted and wrote oodles of questions this week.  We even used the whole mystery box concept in a new way.  The crew knocked it out of the park!

Sorting questions and statements.
Of course the question mark looks like a hook . . . themed learning rocks! 
 We used topic cards to generate oodles of questions this week.  
I this in conjunction with Primarily Speaking's Leaf Craft.
These look amazing in our window :)

Fall is in full force around here!
(Even though it was in the 90s all last week . . . sigh.)
We used the mystery box in a new way.
It had to be a treasure box to go with my Captain Question Mark theme :)
Instead of writing a guess as to what was inside, the kids wrote questions.
I answered all of them and the crew had the chance to guess what was hiding inside!

These activities are pretty easy to put together on your own, but if you are looking for a themed packet that has every base covered, check out my Captain Question Mark collection.  It's a fun one :)

Speaking of writing, I finally finished part two of my Writing Series.  I poured my heart and soul into this post as writing is my absolute favorite thing to teach.  There are oodles of unique ideas up for grabs that have proven to work wonders for first and second graders.  I promise that it's worth the CLICK :)

Alright, I am out of here. It's time for me to finish prepping for the week . . . we are rollin' into spiders. Eeek!!!  Big hugs and happy Sunday to you!

October 17, 2015


Fall is in full swing and maybe your planning could use a little pick me up?  I know that I have been jonesing for some new material :)

Well, you're in luck.  Some of your favorite TPT sellers have joined forces to make your fall just a tad bit easier via the Haunted Halloween Hop!

You can coare all of these AMAZING goodies . . . 

Now, here's what you need to do . . .

1.  Visit each blog on the loop for directions to snag their Secret Word.  Make sure to follow each seller pretty please.

2.  Write down each seller's Secret Word on this handy-dandy Cheat Sheet.

3.  Submit all of your secret words on the Google Form (the prize pack will be emailed to you shortly thereafter).

**PLEASE NOTE - because some of the sellers have secret words waiting for you on their TPT banner, you will need to visit their store using a computer - not a mobile device.**

Are you ready to get started??  I thought you might be ;)

Okay, so from my store, you can score my October Sentence Writing Warm-Ups Packet.  It contains 75 pages of LEVELIZED writing warm ups for K-1 kiddos and 2nd grade intervention.  

Want a copy?  All you have to do is pop over and "follow" me on my Facebook Page (if you don't do so already).  Be sure to write down my Secret Word as you'll need that for your cheat sheet.    

Don't stop here!  Be sure to head over to the always amazing A Burst of First to see which amazing goody she is sharing.  Thanks for visiting and happy Saturday to you!!!


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