Christmas Break Comes Early!

I'm linking up on this ice day morning with Doodle Bugs Teaching for Five For Friday! Today was supposed to be our last day before Christmas break, but we ended up getting an early gift of a day off!  

The students wrote Christmas Pattern Poems this week in writing workshop.  First we reviewed the different types of sentences and then students had to write some of each of those sentence types about the holiday season following the pattern outlined on their rough draft paper.  This is one of the activities included in my Christmas/Holidays Activities Bundle, and here's one of the finished poems.

On Wednesday morning we opened the gifts the students had earned from me since Thanksgiving.  I talked about this behavior incentive in my post "It's Beginning to Sound a Lot Like Christmas (and it's giving me a headache!)".  The students were very excited about all the goodies they had earned!

I drew name sticks, and each student I drew would get to open a gift and read aloud the gift card inside.  I love to hear the cheers when the gifts are announced!

One of the gifts the students earned was making an art project.  Since my students don't have art class, this is a gift they really enjoy.  We made beautiful 3-D snowflakes!

There is a video link showing how to make these great snowflakes in my post "Monday Made It for Christmas". What I love about this project is every student's snowflake turns out fantastic!

Another one of the gifts the students earned was an hour of playing board games.  They brought all kinds of games from home and had a blast playing with each other!  One of the most popular games was Headbanz.  

You wear a headband into which is placed a card that you can't see.  You ask questions of the other players to try and figure out what is on your card.  It was hilarious to see them having so much fun with this!

At our Christmas party I was planning on having the kids make this snowflake ornament.  I got the idea from Pinterest (of course!).  This was the original from  Click on the picture and it will take you to their directions.

These are the materials I bought at JoAnn's:  white pipe cleaners, beads, and ribbon.

My ornament didn't turn out exactly like the original.  I couldn't afford to buy enough beads to cover all of the pipe cleaners, and the weight of the beads I did have kept making the pipe cleaners flop down.  I flattened the whole snowflake, and this made it hang much nicer. Since we didn't end up having our party today we'll just have to make New Year's resolution snowflake ornaments in January!

I am so looking forward to the next seventeen days off!  I'm sure you need a break as much as I do!  Make sure you stop by Doodle Bugs Teaching and check out Five for Friday!

Monday Made It for Christmas!

I'm trying to get back on track with my once a week blogging goal, so I'm linking up with Tara's Monday Made It over at 4th Grade Frolics.  

Is anyone else having trouble getting things checked off the to-do list or keeping up with the blogging world?  A weekend has come and gone again where I have not even removed the contents of my teaching tote!  I knew Monday Made It was coming around, and I had every intention of revealing my newly leveled library...Well, it is still a work in progress as are most of my projects right now. 

So, today I'm going to share one of my Christmas products that I did finish over Thanksgiving weekend, my Christmas/Holiday Activities Bundle.  I'll just share a few of my favorite things that are in the bundle.  Bingo is a fun, easy thing to do at the Christmas party, but I haven't had time to make up a full Bingo board with pictures.  Instead I made up a Bingo board that you can have your students prepare.

Just copy the Bingo board and display the holiday words.  The students fill in their boxes with the words they choose, and you are ready to go!

I love to have my kids make snowflakes this time of year and hang them around the room. Two of my favorites to make are the Martha Stewart paper bag snowflake and another 3D snowflake.  

If you click on the picture above, it will take you to the video where Martha shows you how to make that great snowflake!  The next snowflake is a completely different look.   

I have included the video on how to make the second snowflake below.  I have had my students make them with white cardstock.  I did make a template showing them where to cut to make it a little easier.  (That template is included in my Holiday Activities Bundle along with links to both videos.) After they were finished we sprayed them with glitter spray paint just to give them a little sparkle.  They were beautiful!  (I will be sure to take pictures of them this year!) 

I really love both of these projects, and I'm torn about which one to do this year!  If you are short on time, the Martha Stewart one does take longer due to the cutting of shapes on all the different bags.  This one is also more costly since you have to buy the bags. Gordon Food Service is where I have found the bags in the past for a pretty good price.

Ever find yourself finishing one unit before break but not really having enough time to start a new one?  I am in that boat this year.  We just finished up our personal narrative unit in writing, and we will be moving on to persuasive essays next.  With only a handful of days for teaching before Christmas, I don't really want to start it now, knowing the kids probably won't remember what we had started after the long break this year.  

What better time to throw in a little review of sentence types and creative writing with this Holiday Pattern Poem.  The students follow a given pattern and write specific types of sentences to create their own poem about the holiday season.  You can read my example below, but your students will come up with much better ones I'm sure!

I don't know about you but I always thought prime factorization and factor trees were so much fun!  So, I made up a two-page worksheet of Factor Christmas Trees.  Love it!

Also, included in my bundle is a holiday version of Sudoku.  So far I have created Halloween Boodoku, Thanksgiving Sudoku, and now Holiday Sudoku.  These versions use pictures instead of numbers.  You cut out the missing pictures and place them into the puzzle.  Another great possibility for a party activity or just filling in a math lesson before vacation.  Four different puzzles are included in the bundle.  They are also sold separately.

These are just a few of the activities included in the bundle.  There are many coloring pages, a crossword puzzle, word search, gift certificates for students to give as gifts, other craft ideas, and more!

You can find my Christmas/Holiday Activities Bundle at my TPT Store.  Make sure you check out the other holiday Monday Made Its at 4th Grade Frolics...I'm off to start wrapping!

Five For Black Friday

I'm linking up on this Black Friday with Doodle Bugs Teaching for one of my favorites, Five For Friday!  

We had some fun during this short Thanksgiving week writing persuasive letters.  The students wrote to their families from the perspective of the turkey that was about to be eaten for dinner.  The persuasive task?  Convince your family not to have you for dinner! I wrote about this activity in more detail in my post "Monday Made It-Just in Time for Thanksgiving" if you want to check it out for next year.

I'm so lucky that my mom comes in every week to help me in my classroom!  This week among other things, my mom helped me prepare our Charlie Brown Thanksgiving feast to have while we watched A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.  Anyone remember what Charlie served to all his friends?

Toast, popcorn, pretzels, and jellybeans!  What everyone wants on Thanksgiving, right?  I think my students really enjoyed it, the feast and the movie.  They were cracking up at Snoopy and Woodstock's antics, which made me smile.  I don't think kids watch these anymore, and remember how much we looked forward to the one time they were on tv each year?

We started our Happy Holidays behavior incentive this week, because the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is shorter this year (not that I'm complaining!).  It is my favorite way to give gifts to my students and get them to behave during a crazy time of year.  You can read more about it in my post "It's Beginning to Sound a Lot Like Christmas (and it's giving me a headache!)".  

I've been working all week to put together my Holiday Activities Bundle.  It's not quite done yet, but it's already 34 pages long!  So far it has Holiday Sudoku, coloring pages, Bingo, a word search, a snowflake craft, and gift certificates for kids to do for family gifts.  My goal is to finish it this weekend, along with a million other things!  (I finished it! Yah!)  You can find it at my TPT Store.

Bonny is home from college for a couple days for Thanksgiving, so we got out the Christmas decorations a little early.  It's a tradition that I do the lights and the kids do the ornaments.  I don't know how my husband arranged this deal, but I know it works for him! 

After you are all done shopping out and about this weekend, make sure you hit the big sale at Teachers Pay Teachers starting Monday!  My whole store will be 20% off!

Hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving weekend!  Don't forget to check out Five For Friday at Doodle Bugs Teaching once you are home recovering from the Black Friday crowds!

Spark Student Motivation to Clean!

I'm linking up this morning with Joanne at Head Over Heels for Teaching for Spark Student Motivation Saturday!  

My motivational idea is about getting your students to clean!  I know, I know, it's not in the common core, but it's an important life skill nonetheless. 

Back when I was a teenager, my mom would never have believed I would grow up to be the neat freak that I am today.  My room was forever a disaster area with piles of clean clothes, piles of dirty clothes, books, papers, and even the occasional leftover food item turned science experiment.  So, all you parents of teenage slobs out there...there is hope for your teenager yet!

I begin on the very first day of school instilling in my students an appreciation for a clean work space.  I ask them if they like the way the classroom looks right now, and tell them how long I worked to get it looking this way.  Then I explain that it is now up to them to help me keep it looking so nice.  At the end of the day I announce, "It's time for Mystery Trash!".  I walk around and write down three things that need to be picked up or straightened.  Of course, you have to be sneaky about it, and not write it down right after you look at it.  That would be too easy.  One or two of the items will be something like a piece of paper on the floor, but the third item must be a stumper that my students would probably never notice, like this...

That Pippi Longstocking book is not straight on the book rack.  We can't have that!  After I write down the three things, I tell my students that if they find one of my three things, they get a piece of gum.  I have to make sure they understand there is no running, pushing, etc. or I honestly think that my students looking for garbage would look like shoppers at Walmart on Black Friday! 

And they're off!  Kids are picking up and straightening like their parents would never believe!  

(Okay, not everyone's motivated to clean, but this guy reads like crazy all the time!  He just finished the Lord of the Rings trilogy!)

If they are missing my Mystery Trash, I will announce, "Still two left!", so they know to keep looking.  I try to keep an eye on my Mystery Trash items, so I see who picks it up or straightens it to avoid arguments about who really did it.  On the first day of school, they never get all three items, because they have no idea the level of OCD they are dealing with!   Then I send everyone back to their seats to hear what the Mystery Trash was.  I announce the first couple and give those students their piece of gum.  Then I tell them the one that didn't get done.  "See this kleenex box?  It should be exactly in the corner of the table!"  Or what's wrong with this picture?

Come on!  The pencil cans and sharpener need to be straight and facing out!  You should hear my students groan on that first day when they hear what the third one was!  But then, they get it!  The next day they are straightening everything!  It's a beautiful sight...

I have other things I do instead of Mystery Trash too like, "When I call your group, you need to find three things to pick up or straighten and then get in line."  During afternoon bathroom break I always give them three options...take a bathroom break, sit at your seat and read, or clean!  I have even occasionally given each student a wet wipe and had a contest to see who could get their wipe the dirtiest by cleaning.

Hope these tips help you get your classroom ship shape!  Check out all the other motivational ideas at Head Over Heels for Teaching!

It's Beginning to Sound a Lot Like Christmas (and it's giving me a headache!)

I'm linking up today with the folks over at Blog Hoppin for their We Are Thankful linky party.  

My pile of papers to grade must be growing because this is my third post in five days!  I just couldn't resist getting in on the topic for Tuesday...Helpful Hints, what we do to get through the day without losing it!

I don't believe I am exaggerating when I say that there have been days between Thanksgiving and Christmas when I look like that poor cat by 3:30 (maybe even by 10:30)!  A few years ago I started an incentive specifically for those days counting down to Christmas break, and I am not kidding when I say that it works like a charm!  I honestly believe...It's the most wonderful time of the year!  

So, you're thinking what could possibly calm kids down when all they are thinking about is the gifts to come in the holiday season, right?  Well, that is the!  

This is how it works:

1. Count how many school days you have between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Come up with that many gifts you can give to your entire class.  They can be items you purchase like gum, candy canes, etc.  I always get my entire class mechanical pencils, erasers, things like that.  But most of them can be things that don't cost much if anything like 15 minutes to play a game (Quiet Ball is my class favorite), watching a movie, having a holiday read-in, an extra recess, a homework pass, etc.  Get the idea?

2. Number the gifts in terms of which ones you want them to earn first.  Maybe you want to start with all the freebies first.  I do some gifts that go together.  For instance, I always have "Watch a Holiday Movie".  Another gift is "Have popcorn during the movie", and a third is "Have pop during the movie".  Obviously, I don't want them to get the popcorn or pop before the movie, since that would spoil the surprise.  So, the movie would be before the popcorn and pop on my list.

3. Write each class gift on a small notecard, put it in a box, and wrap it in holiday paper.  Very important!!!  Write the number of the gift on the bottom of the wrapped box, so you will know in which order they should be earned and opened.  Now keep the presents hidden until your class earns them.  Here's how they do it.

4. Every day write HAPPY HOLIDAYS on the board.  Anytime the class is noisy or not following directions (or doing whatever you don't want them to be doing!) erase one letter.  I created a set of letters with magnets on them, because I just can't stand it if it's not cute!  So, I just remove one from the board each time.  The class must have at least one letter remaining at the end of the day.  If they do, they earn a class gift!  Hurray!  Place the gift (remember to start with gift #1) under a tree or in a special spot where all the kids can see it.  (Helpful tip within this helpful tip...I never put letters back up once they are erased.  I think that teaches kids that they can goof off, but if they are quiet for five minutes, they'll get it back.  No way, Jose!)

5. Your class will love to see this pile of presents grow day by day!  And if they don't earn one, that's ok.  I bet they will be extra good the next day.  A couple of days before Christmas break, open the gifts as a class.  I always draw name sticks to choose kids to unwrap a present, and remember to start with gift marked #1.  The student who opens the gift reads it out loud to the class.  I have had years where my whole class cheered after each gift was read!  It's so fun!

6. The last couple of days before break, schedule all the gifts that take class time like your movie, read in, extra recess, etc., and now it's a gift for you too!  Remember you can still do gifts for those last two days before break, just make them something that doesn't take time you need to schedule like a piece of candy.

If you would like to use my letters, gift ideas, mini posters, etc., you can find them at my TPT Store.

Don't forget to hop on over to Blog Hoppin' for all the other helpful hints!

Monday Made It-Just in Time for Thanksgiving!

I'm excited to be linking up again with Tara over at 4th Grade Frolics for Monday Made It, and my project is in honor of Thanksgiving!

I have to say that Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday!  I know many of you out there have to spends hours in the kitchen on Thanksgiving starting at the crack of dawn.  I have thus far in my life been very spoiled on Thanksgiving.  My mom and dad carry the heavy load of providing a wonderful dinner for our family.  

In years past, it was only my parents, my husband and I, and our two kids, but now that my brother has moved back home from the Air Force, our brood has expanded to eleven, still a small number compared to the huge family feasts that I hear about from my friends.  

If I could have someone else cook it and still fit into my jeans, I would eat a Thanksgiving meal every Sunday!  One of my favorite foods in the world is stuffing, but since I discovered my allergy to wheat (and many other things), I rarely have it.  But on Thanksgiving my dad always makes gluten-free stuffing and a gluten-free pecan pie.  Yum! I'm not saying I contribute nothing to the Thanksgiving meal, but my cheesy potatoes and my gluten-free version of Famous Dave's cornbread muffins (ever had em? so good!) are easy compared to the daunting task of preparing the Thanksgiving turkey.

This week I have been working on a Thanksgiving Bundle, and I finally finished it today in between running back and forth to watch the Lions score a big win over the Bears!  How appropriate since the Lions are the originators of the Thanksgiving Day football game.

This post may contain affiliate links to products I recommend.

In my school district we are lucky enough to get a half day of school on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.  So, I have loved dedicating this morning to fun Thanksgiving activities.  I tweaked some of my oldies but goodies and can't wait to try them out myself this year!  I will have to come back and share some pictures with you guys later, but I can give you a heads-up on some of my favorites.

For me no Thanksgiving would ever be complete with watching A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving!  Remember looking forward to all these shows as a kid, only being able to watch them the one time a year they were on?  The good ol' days...  Anyway some of the activities I created for my Thanksgiving Extravaganza are inspired by the feast served by Chef Snoopy in that classic video.

The first thing I do is read aloud The Popcorn Book by Tomie dePaola.

This tells the history of popcorn including how colonists learned to love it from the Native Americans they encountered in the New World.  Then my students and I would do the Popcorn Olympics!  I'm so excited to try out my new and improved version this year with my kids!  I think they will love it!  

Then as a grand finale to our morning we will watch A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, and I am going to serve up a Chef Snoopy feast, including toast, popcorn, pretzel sticks, and jelly beans.  How fun is that?!  

I'm also looking forward to trying out a couple of other fun activities that I have added to my Thanksgiving repertoire for this year.  One is a persuasive writing activity.  One of my favorite picture books to read to my kids around Thanksgiving is Thank You, Sarah by Laurie Halse Anderson.

This humorously written story is about Sarah Hale who wrote persuasive letters to five different presidents trying to convince them to make Thanksgiving a national holiday. Don't you think this is a great book to show students the power of persuasive writing?  (Me too!)

We have already done some persuasive writing with close reading activities, but I wanted to introduce the idea to them of alternative views and refuting them.  Google saved me once again!  I found the books I Wanna Iguana and I Wanna New Room by Karen Kaufman Orloff.  

Both of these books are written as a series of letters from adorable Alex to his parents requesting (you guessed it!) an iguana and a new room and the letters from his parents in response.  They are the perfect way to show all of Alex's reasons he uses to try to convince his parents, their reasons for opposing his requests, and the way he refutes their evidence.  I just read these books for the first time this weekend, and I laughed out loud! I know my kids will too!

So, what I am having my students do is write a letter to their family from the point of view of a turkey, and their task is to convince them not to eat turkey for Thanksgiving. They must provide reasons of their own and then consider alternate views and refute them.  I can't wait to see what they come up with!

At Halloween my students had so much fun with the Boodoku puzzles I created I decided to make a Thanksgiving version.  These are available separately or as a part of my bundle. The only problem was I just couldn't come up with another catchy name...bummer.  Any ideas?

Well, those are just a few of the things in my Thanksgiving Bundle.  Here's a preview of some of the other goodies you can find in it.

If you would like to check it out, you can find it at my TPT Store.  

Have a great week, and make sure you stop by 4th Grade Frolics to see what everyone else has been up to in Monday Made It!