Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wednesday Snow Day and Giveaway Winners!

I love my job. I do. A lot. BUT... there is just something about hearing your phone ring at 5am on a Wednesday morning that adds a little sprinkle of awesomeness to being a teacher. So, here I am with "Will and Grace" in the background, sipping on a coffee out of my mug I got in NYC this summer, while the sun glimmers off a TON of snow outside this morning! I'm not going to lie... I'm loving it! BUT... I am going to go in to school in a little bit. It's amazing how much work I can get done when there aren't 20 1st and 2nd graders who need my attention! Hahaha! :)

Did you see yesterday's blog post? I'm working on compiling a list of Christmas party foods, games, activities/crafts, and ways to do a gift exchange. I would LOVE to add your ideas to the booklet so we have a HUGE resource we can all use to plan for extraordinary holiday parties for our kiddos! A few people commented yesterday and said they plan to use the ideas as a guide for parents who are planning class parties, which I think is an awesome idea! If you didn't share your great ideas yet, please do! If you click the image below, it will take you to that blog post so you can share your ideas and I'll add them to the final product and share it this weekend. And, don't worry Mrs. Cash... I changed your name in the booklet! :)
Anyhow, I wanted to share the winners of my giveaway for the "Nice and Naughty" Christmas party math game that I blogged about earlier this week on my first post about Christmas party ideas.

So, if your lucky number appears below, please e-mail me at so I can send you your free copy! The game will be available on The Teaching Oasis soon if you'd like to purchase it!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Christmas Party Handbook... free for you!

Ok. Earlier this week, I posted to ask for new ideas for Christmas parties and you all shared some GREAT ideas!

I put them together in a little party handbook, but I would really like to grow this into something awesome for all of us to share!

You can click the image to download a copy and get some great ideas for games, food, and activities. If I missed yours or you thought of something new you'd like to contribute, please please please leave me a comment and I'll compile the rest of the ideas into a complete handbook and share it with you this weekend!

I'm so excited about this... though I appear to everyone else to be very organized, I'm really not... as least I don't feel it! I tell my students on a daily basis that if I can ever find everything I need the second I need it, we'll have a party. But it will never happen so...! Anyway, I know this will be so helpful for me to have all these ideas in one place! Now it's just a matter of me keeping track of this document... HA!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Bulletin Board... Cute, Quick, and Easy! AND... the stocking letter!

Today we did our first bulletin board of the holiday season... this one is more "winter" themed as my area is looking forward to some snow flurries this week (and I'm sure my students for a snow day soon too... ok, I'm not going to lie. I wouldn't mind one either!).

I found foam snowflakes in the dollar spot at Target... 10 for $1.00. I also got foam gingerbread people, sparkly trees, sparkly stockings, and sparkly snowmen! I have no big plans yet for those, but here's what we did today...

I gave each student a foam snowflake and sequins, felt snowflake stickers, and glue. They had to create a symmetrical snowflake...

Then I gave them two cupcake liners- a big one with snowflakes on it and a little silver one. They had to flatten them, glue the little one on top of the big, and write their name in the center... sort of snowflake-esque. Here's mine:

And then, one of my kiddos colored this sign that I made (click to get your copy!)...
And we hung them with our foam snowflakes in the hallway!

Yesterday I posted about my Christmas Party and I asked for your ideas and suggestions. You've given some AWESOME ideas! I am definitely going to be trying a "Hot Chocolate Bar"... so thanks, Cassandra! I'll choose four winners from the comments to win a copy of my "Naughty or Nice" party game... so if you have other ideas, please share!

I also shared a little about the Christmas stockings that we do. They are just paper bags with stocking patterns on the front that the kids decorate, but I ask for donations of little items to put inside. It's usually pencils, candy canes, plastic holiday cups, little Slinkies and cups of Play Dough... just little party favor type things. The kids LOVE it and all get to take home a bag full of goodies! Teaching in a high-poverty school, I don't like asking families to do gift exchanges and things like that. This way people who are able to donate can and no one has to know who brought goodies and who didn't because I fill the stockings up the day before the party!

Anyway, here's an editable version of my letter for you to adopt! Let me know what you think and, if you use it, I'd love to hear how it goes over in your classroom too! Once you open it in Google docs, you'll need to download it in WORD so you can add your own information/make changes.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Christmas Party Ideas

Am I the only one who's wheels are already turning about their class Christmas party? I looped up with half of my class, so I need to make sure that I do some different things this year for my kiddos... and I am trying (for the first time this year) to have a parent plan the party so that I can just sort of show-up. It worked out SO well for Halloween. The "party planner" did a fantastic job and the kids had a great time. I still want to have a few ideas in my back pocket, though, in case the Christmas party mom asks.

Here's what we did last year...

I'm pretty controlling routine when it comes to my parties. I like to run stations... a game, snack, craft, and maybe a coloring contest or something. We rotate every 15-minutes or so and I just flit from station to station to take pictures and talk with the kiddos. For Christmas, I do love to do a breakfast which we'll be doing again this year, even though we did it last year. Teaching in a school with over 80% free-and-reduced lunch, it's really important to me to give a good *meal* at my parties. One year when we did breakfast, one of my sweeties said, "Oh my goodness. Meat for breakfast! I can't believe we're having meat for breakfast!"... keep in mind this was a piece or two of bacon and maybe a sausage link. It both warmed my heart and made me so super sad all at the same time!Link
But, anyway, back to the party at hand...

We do a breakfast. Last year we had fruit, pancakes, bacon, and donuts.

We played a game where you had to get presents down a chimney. This was a totally on-the-fly-the-night-before idea that I threw together. I wrapped a box in red paper, drew bricks, and put garland around the top. I went to Dollar General and got little wrapped presents that were ornaments. Each kid had a gift bag with one color of presents inside and they had to throw the gifts down the chimney. They LOVED it! Whoever got the most gifts in the chimney got a prize... the prizes were left overs from our stockings... see the next picture!

I know a lot of people do gift exchanges, but instead of doing that, we do stockings. Each student makes a stocking (a paper stocking pattern, decorated and glued on the front of a brown lunch sack) and we hang them in front of our window. I send a note asking for donations of little items that we put in our stockings. Then, at the end of the Christmas party, we get to open our stockings! If you would be interested in a copy of my letter, let me know and, if there's a ton of interest, I'll make a generic one and post it later in the week!

A craft... last year I got these great paper tree lanterns on clearance from Oriental Trading. We used water color paints to make them at the party, the kids took them home that day, and there is a little clip inside that allows you to clip it on a light and hang from your tree!

And what party is complete without something totally ridiculous fun to eat (at about 3:08 when the bell is going to ring in 2 minutes and they can be crazy at home, right?!)? We always make edible trees! This is just an ice cream cone smothered in green tinted frosting, and then decorated with all sorts of candy!

So, what are your favorite Christmas Party activities? I will be doing the game that I shared at Halloween with the candy passing... if you missed that post, you can see it here.

I have made a new one for Christmas that will be available on The Teaching Oasis soon! This one's called "Naughty or Nice". If you leave a comment with a Christmas party game, craft, or other activity idea, I'll choose 4 winners at random to receive this game first before you can buy it later on this week!

That's it! I can't wait to hear your party ideas and maybe you found something useful from my ideas too! Remember to leave a comment with a party idea to be entered to win a copy of "Naughty of Nice"- a Christmas math party game!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

More Christmas Around the World Goodies for YOU!

First thing's first... Happy 34th Anniversary to my mom and dad! :) My mom sometimes stalks my blog, so here's a little cyber love if you're reading this!

I survived LOVED shopping yesterday on Black Friday! And, aside from a woman who wished death via a terrible car accident and a horrible Christmas upon me because she thought I *cut* her in the line (Yes, I'm serious. Hello! There were a billion people trying to squeeze in to one line... it's just called pandemonium not cutting!), I got some great deals and had a ton of fun with my friends. We left at 10pm on Thursday and I returned home at 10:30am on Friday!

So, I'm keeping that holiday spirit going and have updated two more files for my Christmas Around the World unit.

The first, which I'm totally psyched about, is a re-formatted scrapbook-esque booklet. The cover is just too stinkin' cute! Click the pic to head to my site and get your free copy!
The second file I added today is just an additional version of my Passport Labels after I received a report that the PDF file wasn't lining up correctly on Avery 8160 labels. I just put it up in WORD too, so hopefully you'll have better luck with the printing. Click the picture below to head to my site to download the WORD version if you'd like it!
That's it for Saturday. My hubby is having a guy's night, so I sense a night of DVDs and the couch for me and my dogs!

If you download the scrapbook, I'd love to know what you think. I'm pretty geeked about it! And, I'd also love to hear your Black Friday horror success stories too! Can you beat a wish of death and a horrible holiday? ;)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving and a Holiday FREEBIE for You!

Happy Thanksgiving, bloggy friends!

After this weekend, we'll be getting into the holiday swing at school and one of my favorite feel-good things to do with my students is have them share how other students in the class have helped make our classroom a brighter place... hence... Thanks for LIGHTING Up Our Class!

I would like to share with you the banner you see above and a light pattern so your students can create a bulletin board so celebrate the ways their classmates make your room a happy place to be.

All you have to do is click the image above to download the banner and click the image below to download the light pattern.

So, what I do is copy the light pattern on several colors of paper and then write each students' name and my own at the top of the lights. Then each student (and me too!) gets a light with a classmate's name and they write and/or draw to complete the sentence saying one way their friend has LIT up our classroom! They cut them out and we share what we've written. Then I hang them in the hallway and use green yarn to make the string of lights to all of them.

We love brightening each others' day with the compliments and the kiddos love to hear what their friends say to each other too!

BUT... if you download the files, I would love for you to share the love by leaving a comment about how a bloggy teacher has helped LIGHT up your classroom and then leave that person a comment on their blog to let them know you gave them a shout out! I hope we can LIGHT up the comments of this post to celebrate all the talented, awesome, and generous teachers out there!

And I'll go first in the comments below...

I hope you'll join me in celebrating the kindness of our colleagues!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Christmas Around the World unit outline update and some pics to get you in the Christmas mood!

Wow- thank you so much for your great response yesterday to my request to share your favorite book titles with me! I definitely have some shopping and reading to do! I hope you will enjoy your free Chocolate Touch or My Father's Dragon unit too! If you missed the freebie, the two units are available at The Teaching Oasis. I'm finished getting them all e-mailed out but did get a few bounced back to me... so if you replied yesterday and haven't gotten yours by the end of today... you may be one of the bounce-backers! E-mail me at and I'll make it right for you!

I've been working hard to update and add to my Christmas Around the World materials and so today I'm sharing the updated unit outline with you. I tried to go through a be a little more specific on some things, include authors on the books, and then address some questions too.

If you'd like a copy, click the image to head over to my website and get one! :)

Happy Tuesday... two days until Turkey Day and then... the countdown until Christmas begins!

I'm a little crazy about Christmas. My husband always says our house looks like "Santa puked", which I take as the highest of compliments! I've been working for the last week or so to get everything decorated. Yes, I know it's early... but I love it!

Here's a peek into my decorations...

So, here's our main tree! We have soooo many ornaments and most are unique. I love putting them up and revisiting memories with my husband as we decorate. We went to New York City this summer and acquired a TON of new ornaments there... it was so fun to re-live the trip as we put them on! As a kid, I had a cat tree in my room and my sister had a dog tree. I love pulling my cat ornaments out every year and putting them on the tree. Not to mention the Donald Duck one that my sister and I always vied to be the one to put it on the tree... when I moved out, he became mine and I relish hanging him up every year! ;)

And here he is now! I just love putting him in front of a light! Sorry, Michelle... maybe you didn't know, but he's mine!!!!

Our "fireplace" with mom-made stockings! For us and our dog-sons too! My stocking will have seen 31 Christmases this year! My little nativity is up there too along with my small collection of Christopher Radko ornaments.

Here's my little kitchen tree... love it!

Ahhh... my Santa mice. My husband is not a fan, but my parents have a set of these they got around the year they got married (1977) so they were in my house every year as a kid. They SCREAM "CHRISTMAS" at me. When I moved out, I struck crazy mouse gold when I found my own set on ebay! My sister was able to find a set too... so now the tradition can live on forever!

My snowflake trees!

This is the first "spin-off" tree from having an abundance of ornaments. My mother-in-law has gotten my husband a tin soldier ornament almost every year of his life, so last year we started putting them on this awesome tree that I bought at my school store for a mere $5!

This is my "clippy bird" tree. I LOVE it! I think this is my favorite tree.

I collect Rudolph things so this is a tiny portion of my Christmas village. It's made by Hawthorne Village and is just awesome! I love it!

If you made it through my post and my pics, good for you! :) Enjoy the updated Christmas Around the World unit and, if I don't blog again before then, have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Books, Books, BOOKS!

You guys are awesome! You have kept me forwarding and replying to e-mails all day!

I will send out the last free units when I wake up tomorrow. Since I have the day off from school, it's a toss up of whether I will be able to sleep in or if I'll wake up at my normal time... which, sadly, happens sometimes!

If you don't know what I'm talking about, see the previous blog post about read alouds!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Daily Read Alouds and an Outstanding FREEBIE for One Day Only!

A few years ago when I was working on my Master's degree, we talked about daily read alouds and I was surprised that not everyone just automatically reads aloud every day to their students.

I can get on quite a soapbox about this topic, so I'll try and remain calm (!) but I just wanted to share some of my favorite read alouds, get some from you, and relish in the joy of reading aloud to kids.

I read several times a day. During my Daily Five mini-lessons, I usually read at least one book every day for instructional purposes. I have some favorite book lists for comprehension strategies that you can find here.

I also read during snack. My students eat and I read from a chapter book. Sometimes we do things like draw our visualizations, keep track of good words or characters, or track character development. Other times, we just read to enjoy a good book. Some of my favorite chapter book read alouds are Charlotte's Web, Mr. Popper's Penguins, My Father's Dragon, The Chocolate Touch, Pippi Longstocking, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, Stone Fox, and anything and everything Roald Dahl.

A few summers ago, two reading gurus from New Zealand visited my area and I attended a week long conference with them. Aside from being incredibly fun and entertaining, I learned a ton! They suggested doing 3 read alouds daily... 1 for instruction and 2 just for the heck of it. I have tried to embrace that philosophy since then. My kids LOVE when I read aloud to them and it is one of my favorite times of the day too.

I heard someone say once, "If my students can read to themselves, I don't need to read aloud to them". FALSE! My 8th grade language arts teacher (Mrs. Pinney... who I *love* and who inspired me to be a teacher!) read to us every day and I still remember it. I LOVED it!

Reading aloud helps your students develop important listening comprehension skills, hear fluent reading, and practice important skills like visualizing and predicting. Not to mention all of the instruction you can do on a whim- vocabulary, helping understand jokes, and showing emotion during a book. I love Stone Fox and read it every year even though it's a toughie and I have to help my students think through the story. But, I always cry and have a few students who do too. A few years ago, one of my little boys said in an awe-filled whisper with tears running down his cheeks at the end of the Stone Fox, "Wow. Who knew a book could make you feel something like that?". That was a teacher heaven moment that I will never forget!

So, in the spirit of all things read aloud, and Thanksgiving, and the giddiness I am still feeling after a HUGE Donor's Choose project of mine for tons and tons and TONS of stuff for my math workstations got funded last night, I am giving away my unit for The Chocolate Touch OR My Father's Dragon. Both of these are available for pay on The Teaching Oasis however, if you follow my ridiculous list of demands below, I will shower you with the free unit of your choice!

1.) Leave a comment suggesting a favorite read aloud and why you love it... either a picture book for instruction or enjoyment, or a chapter book. I'm in need of new chapter books because I looped with half of my class!

2.) In the comment, leave your e-mail address and which unit you'd like.

I'm going to be a jerk though and insist that demand #1 is followed! So, please recommend something for me and why. I looooove buying books and adding them to my library. I'm counting on you to help!

That's it! This is for one day only... so I'll start shipping out units on Tuesday (or maybe even tonight if I'm feeling ambitious!)! Marygrove College has a great blog on the importance of reading aloud for older students... if you can, go check it out!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

New File for Christmas Around the World Freebie!

So, I'm not trying to brag (ok... I am a little!) but I am now off of school until Monday, November 28! This gives me lots of time to refresh, refocus, and work on some resources for my kiddos and maybe some things you can use for yours too!

I just added a "Traditions Tree" to my free Christmas Around the World items. We'll create a paper ornament for each place we visit, drawing or writing about how that particular country celebrates. Then we'll each create a Christmas tree with these traditions ornaments!

I included a page of blank ornaments too... if you have any ideas on how you might use those, leave me a comment below! I'd love to see what you're thinking!

When you click on the image, it will take you to my website where you can see this file and many others to help make this unit exciting for your students!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Twas' the Week Before a Week Off...

...and all through the classroom, the teacher was freaking out about doing crafty projects that have some meat to them, wrapping up studies, and then... getting a whole week off! :)

So, it doesn't rhyme, but that's how I'm feeling right now in a nutshell!

This week we've done two little projects... one was inspired by Mrs. Carroll over at The First Grade Parade. When I saw her little scarecrows, I knew I had to do something similar. Since we studied possessive nouns this week, we read lots of scarecrow books and my kids created scarecrows and then wrote sentences containing possessives in them to display with their scarecrows. Take a peek!

Today, we watercolor painted a turkey because I realized I had done very little "fun" stuff for Thanksgiving this year... it just sort of snuck up on me! So, we did this quick activity. As my students were watercolor painting, I called each one up to my computer, typed their quote about what they were thankful for, and compiled everyone's quotes into one document. Then I added a text box and pasted in what each individual student said and they attached that to their painting. I love it! :)

And this last one just made my heart happy! :)

Happy week... tomorrow's our last day for a week!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Christmas Around the World Picture Books

What a week... and it's only TUESDAY!

Yesterday my school's town lost power for almost 2 hours... the first 30-minutes everything in my end of the building was flickering off and on every minute or so, so we just turned the lights off and used one of the only things in my room that was working- my overhead projector, for a light source! We got out a flashlight to use in the bathroom and had just resigned ourselves to an afternoon with limited power when, finally, it just went OUT totally and I taught in the dark for another hour or so! It was actually kind of cute to see my students huddled around the windows to do their writing... :)

Today we made our November "Snazzy Snack" which was pumpkin pie in a bag. WOW. It was so tasty!

I can't even think ahead to tomorrow, but Thursday is a movie in the morning for the kids who tripled or quadded their AR goals for the 1st marking period and Friday we're having a read-in for the day... I'm off all next week! :)

So, today I just wanted to share with you the books that I use for my Christmas Around the World unit. I do get a lot of e-mails about this, and most of them you can easily find by searching for the title, but a few others are a little more un-obvious... so here they are!

Day 1- any The Night Before Christmas. I use this cool pop-up book: 

Day 2- The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie daPaola

Day 5- Wombat Divine by Mem Fox

Day 6- Christmas Tree! by Wendell and Florence Minor- this book doesn't necessarily pertain to Germany, but I love it because it shows all these different "trees" and how each one is special to the people/animals/etc... in the illustrations

I also have the book Christmas Around the World by Mary D. Lankford that I read bits of and use as a great resource. I'd highly recommend it! This author has many other "____ Around the World" books... I'd love to check out her others!

I also have a book I got for Christmas when I was about 6 years old called My Special Christmas. By now, it has been taped together by my mom a million times and the pages are brown and wrinkly, but it stars me, my sister (Michelle), and our dog (Max) as we travel around the world, meeting "Santa" figures from many different countries. At each stop, we get a large letter. At the end of the story, we end up at the North Pole where Santa arranges the letters to spell the word "PEACE", which is his wish for "every boy and girl, and their parents too, in the whole world". I always read that to my kiddos during this too... that book is just CHRISTMAS to me! :)

Ok- I hope that helps! I plan to be back later this week with something useful for your classroom! :)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

New Christmas Around the World Freebie!

Today I'm off in Christmastown (aka- Frankenmuth) so I thought this would be a great day to unveil the newest addition to my Christmas Around the World unit, which is available on my website.

Almost everything for the unit (including the unit plan) are free! I wanted to incorporate more opportunities for writing, so the newest addition is a venn diagram and two different kinds of writing paper for students to write about their own holiday traditions compared to that of another country. The image below will take you to my site where you can see the venn diagram and other other items I've developed for the unit! If you have anything else you'd like to see for the unit, let me know. I really want to make it more comprehensive, so I'd love to hear your thoughts!

I hope you enjoy the resources! Happy Holiday-around-the-world-ing! :)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Fun Brain and Body Breaks

My kiddos are really enjoying these "Action Stories". They are stories you read aloud while students get a chance to take a quick brain and body break to act them out. I was so lucky to come across this laying in the copy room of my school... to the staff member who found it first... THANK YOU!

We've done "Leafy Season" a few times and they always want to do it again as soon as we finish.

If you get a chance, check out the website for the "Action Stories"... I know they will be well-needed breaks for us as the holidays come closer and closer!

PS- Happy 11/11/11... This post got posted at 11:11am just to go along with the theme! :)

Tomorrow I'm headed to Frankenmuth with my girlfriends. I can't wait! Happy weekend, bloggy friends!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Bubble Bubble Blog of Mine... Give Me Some Winners, Nice and Fine!

Hip Hip Hooray! After two nights of parent-teacher conferences (which went super well, I might add!), I am so happy to say that today was a half day and tomorrow we have no school!

I am beside myself with glee as my yearly trip to Frankenmuth with my friends is Saturday! If you don't live in Michigan or haven't heard of Frankenmuth, it's just the most magical place on earth! Ok. Fine. Maybe 2nd to Disney! It has the world's largest Christmas store, the tastiest chicken you can imagine, and just tons of shopping and fun!

But enough about that.

Today is the day my giveaway for my Strega Nona unit ends and I have two winners! My students did the activities for the unit on Monday and Tuesday and LOOOOOOVED them. My favorite is the "Go Fish" style reading game where students make pairs of story elements and then talk about the elements as they play the game. I was in Teacher Heaven when they were playing!

So... by random number generator the winners are...

Ali and Kelly please e-mail me at ASAP so I can get this out to you! I'm not sure when it will be available on The Teaching Oasis, but if you need a copy, just shoot me an e-mail and we'll figure it out!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Attention Pinners: I need help!

Update: It's working now! But if you'd like to see my problem from earlier, read on!

Update on the update! I just went to start looking for some things on Pinterest and now the search box is gone AGAIN! So do feel free to continue reading at this time! I'll continue to do updates on my updates if it starts working again!

Ok. I'm no Pinterest Expert so I need help!

For some reason, I can't search for anything today! What am I doing wrong?! I want to look up some Thanksgiving projects to go with a writing for next week and there's no SEARCH box!

Also... if you didn't enter my Strega Nona giveaway or share your ideas for my Christmas Around the World unit, please do! :)

If you want to follow me on Pinterest, you can click below!

Follow Me on Pinterest

Thanks for your tech support!
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