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My Favorite Winter Holiday Read Alouds

I think this is, by far, the hardest collection to narrow down to just nine books. There are so many amazing read alouds centered around this time of year, and on every holiday and tradition, that you are rarely at a loss for good literature!

I have tried to narrow this down to some of my favorites you may not have heard of in hopes of giving you even more meaningful moments with your classroom this month. My favorites remain the Grinch and Polar Express, but by third grade, these are familiar favorites and I like to branch out a bit to keep these read alouds fresh.

I am fortunate to work in a school where we teach about the many holidays that are celebrated this time of year, starting in Kindergarten. It has been so heartwarming to hear my daughter come home and share some of the details with me, so I know she'll be a fan of some of these titles as well, especially Olive, the Other Reindeer.

Because I teach third, I tried branching out to incorporate some longer pieces (An Orange for Frankie), as well as a thought-provoking piece about Hanukkah that blends humor with the important fact that is is not a "Jewish Christmas"; The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming is a hoot, but also teaches a lot about this unique holiday and its lessons in a highly-engaging way!

To extend these read alouds, be sure to see my holiday Word Work, Brain Breaks, Writing Prompts, QR Math activities and more in my TpT Store HERE.  There are also some great technology links for Winter Holidays HERE, and be sure to check the additional links at the bottom for even more holiday-themed tech ideas!

To check out these books, simply click on any of the book covers below. Each book cover will link you directly to its page on Amazon where you can look inside, read the reviews, and find similar titles. 

Click away here: 

Image Map


I hope this list gives you lots of ideas for read alouds for these diverse holidays. Here's wishing you a wonderful December and holiday season. Be sure to let me know of any additional titles in the comments below. I would love to add to this collection!

Monthly Thoughts: November


As we head into the busy holiday season, I'm excited to be continuing this series on my blog called "Monthly Thoughts".

Each month this school year, I will be uploading a clickable PDF themed around that month. There will be twenty ideas on that page that will link you to a post, idea, resource, freebie, quote, etc. from my blog or store. Each month will be a new collection of ideas, both old and new, and I hope it will help make the school year and planning easier to navigate.

Be sure to download the calendar page from my TpT Store HERE each month when it's released. It's a clickable PDF, so you will be redirected to my blog, TpT Store, or another website for all of the information when you click the small image.

While I have themed many of the months around holiday items, there are also plenty of ideas geared towards other academic areas, like nonfiction, getting ready for state tests, and more. And if these don't align with your own scope and sequence, hopefully a few can add to your bag of tricks when you do cover those topics in your own classroom.

Today I'm offering the calendar of November, which you can find in my TpT Store HERE.

Monthly Thoughts: November

Click the image to be taken to the free download on TpT HERE.

As with many of the holidays throughout the year, you can find coordinating Word Work and Writing Prompts, as well as QR Codes for math computation practice, Brain Breaks and Technology Resources for the season, and thought-provoking Did You Know? Facts.

You can also find the link to some of my favorite read alouds for this time of year, especially for the middle-elementary grades who may be looking for a new twist on a classic holiday.

I start delving into nonfiction in November every year, so I have linked up some of my favorite go-to resources to help including my Nonfiction Text Features packet, QR Code questions, and Strategy Posters and Brochures to help address as many angles of nonfiction as possible.

It's also a great time to get kids up and moving around, especially with the darker mornings and cooler temperatures. Try my Monster Math activities to keep kids moving,  thinking, and solving, all at the same time!

There's plenty more, so take your pick and click away to find more information on any and all of the images you see.

Download HERE and enjoy! I hope these ideas will get you excited for the school year ahead!


My Favorite Thanksgiving Read Alouds


It's hard to believe that Thanksgiving is already around the corner! It has been unseasonably warm and exceptionally beautiful this fall here in Colorado. I'm definitely looking forward to celebrating this holiday with family and good food.

November is such a choppy month when it comes to schoolwork. We're off to honor Veterans Day, then we have a week off for Thanksgiving, so I like to have small, mini-units to help keep the energy and momentum up. Try my Thanksgiving Word Work, Writing Prompts, Technology Resources, QR Critters and more if you're looking for ways to incorporate this day into your month. I also love sharing these great picture books that cover a variety of topics and include both fiction and nonfiction.

Thanksgiving can be about both about the feelings of gratitude and the actual historical account of what happened. By third grade, I am willing and wanting to explore the myths surrounding the holiday, all in an age-appropriate way, of course. It's important to share some of these truths and they prompt some great class discussions. Thankfully, authors have done the important work, so I can just grab some great texts and get to work!

To check out these books, simply click on any of the book covers below. Each book cover will link you directly to its page on Amazon where you can look inside, read the reviews, and find similar titles. 

Click away here: 

< Image Map


I hope this list gives you lots of ideas for read alouds for this exciting holiday. Here's wishing you a wonderful November and entry into the holiday season. Be sure to let me know of any additional titles in the comments below. I would love to add to this collection!

#SmartTeachingTips with Scholastic's Storyworks Jr.

I am excited to be sharing some great resources with you today, all brought to you by Scholastic and their Storyworks Jr. magazine!

As you know, I am a fan of Scholastic News magazines for incorporating easy, quick, and purposeful nonfiction lessons throughout the year. Not only are the kids engaged with the photos, articles, and videos, I'm able to cover a lot of standards in small, manageable chunks.

So imagine my excitement when Scholastic reached out to me to help them spread the word about their language arts magazine, Storyworks Jr.!

From Scholastic:
Turn your growing readers into fluent readers with the exciting multi-genre language arts magazine made for grades 2 & 3! Every issue features thrilling nonfiction, fiction, read-aloud plays, quizzes, skills sheets, and more to help third graders go from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” Go online for even more exceptional support including dazzling videos and differentiation tools. Grades 2–3, Monthly.

I was amazed by the sheer quantity of pieces in this magazine! Everything from fiction to nonfiction (even narrative nonfiction!) and plays, to paired texts, opinion pieces, vocabulary, and more. 

While I do love delving into authentic literature in Reader's Workshop, the standards require that students utilize more than just the skills learned in chapter books, so this was a welcome resource in my class. 

Paired Text Lesson Plan


Paired texts are huge in third grade, both in standards and testing. But, wow, are they challenging to find in unique and engaging formats. What I loved about the paired text in this month's edition was the Then & Now focus on exploration; both the dangers of ship exploration (and the gross difficulties they encountered!) and today's current space exploration. 

I have a range of readers in my classroom, but I found that my kids were all engaged equally, thanks to the high-interest facts and detailed photos and text features that accompanied this text. There was also a host on online resources we used later to write about our thinking, but to begin, we read this as a class while each student had their copy and I used our projector to show the full image.


I had students head back to their seats after we did a read aloud and underline the key words and phrases that defined each "then" and "now" section. 


I then passed out plain notecards, and two images I printed from the computer for each student: one of Magellan's ship and the other of Mars. They glued one image on each side of the card and we came back to the rug to share our key words.


On the rug together, a student would share out a key word, like "rover", and students would need to show me the image on the card that matched the word. Other key words included hardtack, sawdust, astronauts, and more. 



Some words and phrases, like "took many years" or "discovery" made us stop and pause. Some kids flipped their cards back and forth to show both and it was a good intro into our class-made chart. Since I can't make two circles for a Venn Diagram to save my life, we completed this one instead:


And of course, the final question was, "Which type of explorer would you rather be?" which yielded a mixed bag, although most sided with current space exploration. Our conversations were lively around who wouldn't mind eating sawdust and sailing on an ocean for years, too. The kids were hooked!

After this whole-class experience, I was grateful to have so many online resources provided at the Storyworks Jr. website to use to delve even deeper with my students. Close Reading, vocabulary, and reading responses are all important skills that we need to practice all year long, so to have these ready-made not just for this article, but for every piece in the magazine, was a huge bonus.


Even though this lesson is over, my kids still love this magazine. A group of students took it outside at recess one day to read through the play, we used the narrative nonfiction (which is always a challenging genre for me to find on-level) to discuss a different style of nonfiction, and we even looked at their infographic on tails when we discussed animal adaptations for our research project. 

I highly recommend this magazine for your classroom if you're looking for a variety of texts in different genres, all with supporting audio, video, and writing activities. 

Smart Teaching Tips Contest


Scholastic Magazines is hosting a #SmartTeachingTips contest for teachers to develop your own creative ideas on how to incorporate Scholastic Magazines into the classroom!

You could win a $200 gift card from the Scholastic Teacher Store!
Share your #SmartTeachingTips for how you use Scholastic magazines creatively in your classroom. Tell us about it on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram, and include a photo or video. Be sure to use #SmartTeachingTips. 

Three winners will be chosen based on outstanding creativity. Each winner will receive a $200 gift card to the Scholastic Teacher store. We’re excited to see your ideas! Follow Scholastic Teachers on social media to learn more.

More Exciting Offers from Scholastic


Printables – 30 Day Free Trial

Scholastic Printables offer teachers full access to our online database of over 20,000 amazing activities, engaging lesson plans, and other incredible teacher-created resources for grades PreK-6. Try it free for 30 days by clicking here.

Scholastic Magazines - Promotional Code
Scholastic Magazines are the most affordable and exciting way to bring current, curriculum connected nonfiction into your classroom. To save 40%, mention code “2905” when ordering. Call 1-800-SCHOLASTIC or visit www.scholastic.com/magazines.

Good luck on the contest and enjoy these great offers from Scholastic!


{Disclosure: This post was done in partnership with Scholastic Magazines and I only share what I use and love in my own classroom.} 

Monthly Thoughts: October

Being knee-deep in the first trimester of this school year as well as trying to keep up with my passion of teacher-blogging, I'm realizing that the posts and ideas I have are so scattered across my blog and TpT Store, it's sometimes hard to find information. I'm excited to be continuing this series on the blog called "Monthly Thoughts" to help solve this dilemma.

At the end of each month this school year, I will be uploading a clickable PDF themed around the upcoming month. There will be twenty ideas on that page that will link you to a post, idea, resource, freebie, quote, etc. from my blog or store. Each month will be a new collection of ideas, both old and new, and I hope it will help make the school year and summertime planning easier to navigate.

Be sure to download the calendar page from my TpT Store HERE each month when it's released. It's a clickable PDF, so you will be redirected to my blog, TpT Store, or another website for all of the information when you click the small image.

While I have themed many of the months around holiday items, there are also plenty of ideas geared towards other academic areas, like nonfiction, getting ready for state tests, and more. And if these don't align with your own scope and sequence, hopefully a few can add to your bag of tricks when you do cover those topics in your own classroom.

Today I'm offering the calendar of one of my most favorite months, October, which you can find in my TpT Store HERE.

Monthly Thoughts: October

Be sure to click the image to be taken to this free download in my TpT Store.

My favorite holiday, Halloween, is all over this calendar and I can't WAIT to celebrate it again this year! As with many of the holidays throughout the year, you can find coordinating Word Work and Writing Prompts, as well as QR Codes for math computation practice, Brain Breaks and Technology Resources for the season, and thought-provoking Did You Know? Facts.

You can also find the link to some of my favorite read alouds for this time of year, especially for the middle-elementary grades who may be looking for a new twist on old favorites.

Management is still developing in my classroom, but there's always a need to mix things up a bit, so
Ready, Set, Learn and Exit Slips help keep ideas fresh. My Mountain Climbers for formative assessment can also help your students track where they are in the process of learning a new concept.

I think you'll really enjoy my popular Growth Mindset Resource Round-Up and Bosses vs. Leader freebie lesson to encourage the students in your class to make mistakes and step up as leaders in however they feel comfortable.

There's plenty more, so take your pick and click away to find more information on any and all of the images you see.

Download HERE and enjoy! I hope these ideas will get you excited for the school year ahead!


My Favorite Halloween Read Alouds


I have to admit that Halloween has grown to become my most favorite holiday! I love the costumes, the decorating, and especially trick-or-treating with my little girl. 

We are still able to celebrate this holiday at our school, and I am so thankful! We have an all-school parade and then classroom parties before we send them home all sugared-up to go trick-or-treating that night.... Although with that all happening on a Monday this year, it's going to be a rough week!

Nonetheless, I love getting into the Halloween spirit early with things like my Word Work, Writing Prompts, Technology Resources, QR Critters and more. I also love incorporating these great picture books throughout the month leading up to the big day.

So many Halloween books are geared towards younger kids, and rightfully so. I have found that these books below are perfect for third graders. There are some old familiar favorites, nothing is too scary (I find that many students are still sensitive to some aspects of this holiday), and they encourage the fun, magic, and mystery of this day.

Plus, I can also incorporate quite a bit of character education with these titles. I love the lessons of Spookley, Hallo-wiener, and Bone Soup (a Halloween-take on Stone Soup) and they prompt some great class discussions. 

To check out these books, simply click on any of the book covers below. Each book cover will link you directly to its page on Amazon where you can look inside, read the reviews, and find similar titles. 

Click away here: 

Image Map


I hope this list gives you lots of ideas for read alouds for this exciting holiday. Here's wishing you a spooky October! Be sure to let me know of any additional titles in the comments below. I would love to add to this collection!

Monthly Thoughts: September

Thank you so much for your positive feedback to this new monthly project of mine I like to call "Monthly Thoughts". As I enter my fourth year of teacher-blogging, I'm realizing that the posts and ideas I have are so scattered across my blog and TpT Store, it's sometimes hard to find information. You can find August's Thoughts HERE and today I'm continuing with September.

Just like last month, there are twenty images that link you to a post, resource, freebie, quote, etc. from my blog or store. Each month will be a new collection of ideas, both old and new, and I hope it will help make the school year's planning easier to navigate.

Be sure to download the calendar page from my TpT Store HERE each month when it's released. It's a clickable PDF, so you will be redirected to my blog, TpT Store, or another website for all of the information when you click the small image.

While I have themed many of the months around holiday items, there are also plenty of ideas geared towards other academic areas, like nonfiction, getting ready for state tests, and more. And if these don't align with your own scope and sequence, hopefully a few can add to your bag of tricks when you do cover those topics in your own classroom.

I'm continuing with the September calendar today, which you can find in my TpT Store HERE.

Monthly Thoughts: September

Click the link to be taken to the free download on TpT

Once August is behind us, I love setting up routines and procedures in writing and reading that will set the stage for a successful year. See how we set up our Writer's Notebook and Book Bins to make them feel personalized from the start.

Classroom ambiance is important during independent work time and you can see some of my ideas for music HERE. I also love to get myself set up with my Teacher Time Bin and Google Forms to start my year off on an organized foot.

I love having fun with unexpected twists in the day, and my Monster Partner Cards are a creative way to group kids, especially during this important getting-to-know you time. We also love reading the many Did You Know? Facts that I hang near the door to the classroom and switch out each day.

Transitions are also made easier with our Word of the Day, allowing us to utilize vocabulary from across the curriculum throughout the day.

Anchor charts also go up around the room, like Just Right books and Soda vs. Water Reactions to help students remember all year long about these important conversations.

Autumn starts here in Colorado, so our Word Work, Writing Prompts, and Math Centers all center on the changing leaves and cooler temperatures.

There's plenty more, so take your pick and click away to find more information on any and all of the images you see.

Download HERE and enjoy! I hope these ideas will get you excited for the school year ahead!


Working on Work-Life Balance


This is my first year back in the classroom full-time now that my daughter is in Kindergarten and whew, this year won't leave much wiggle room, especially in the mornings.

I have tried to be strategic about how in the world I will manage my time, energy, and focus so that I don't get too burned out at school, start bringing too much work home, eventually forgetting my boundaries between work and home, and ending up a frazzled, stressed, and not-fun-to-be-around mama.

Several words have been guiding me that have helped me keep my eyes on the prize: being intentional, setting boundaries, and "Stop, Look & Listen".... I'll explain!

Being Intentional


Being intentional is a very big shift for me. I used to be a multi-tasker, and would have several spinning plates going at any given time, none of which were related to the other. I would skip from grading papers, to laminating something, to going to Facebook, to scheduling an appointment for the car or my daughter, to being reminded that I had an upcoming meeting, to emailing a parent.... it was no wonder I often forgot important deadlines or let the truly important things (like experiences with my daughter) fall through the cracks.

I read an article over the summer from Clean Mama that taught me all about Block Scheduling and I immediately knew this was a system I could get behind. Instead of doing a hundred random things, I would set aside blocks of time to focus only on one thing until it was finished, or until the time was up (and yes, I set timers on my iPhone all of the time!), and then I would move on to the next thing.

This shift of thinking was often painful (especially when the timer when off and I was nowhere near done), but the payoff was so much greater! All of a sudden, things were finished, crossed off of the list, and ready when I needed them! I was no longer trying to play a catch-up game with myself and my to-do list, I was prioritizing and found I had energy to enjoy time at the end of the day with my daughter.

Here are some things I am extra intentional about:

  • Setting my clothes out for the week ahead: All five days, ironing, and including shoes and accessories (I do this for my daughter, too)
  • Packing lunches & snacks the night before
  • Prepping the coffee (a non-negotiable!)
  • Prepping breakfast & dog food 
  • Prepping dinners for the week ahead: I meal plan and use an Instapot (amazing, but look for it on sale!) to cook meats quickly. I also prep my veggies and meats and leave them in plastic baggies marinating, ready to be tossed on a baking sheet at a moment's notice.
  • Clean sink: I read somewhere to never go to bed with a dirty sink and it's amazing how this simple act makes my morning so happy!


Setting & Keeping Boundaries


This is also new for me, but my time and energy are far too important to give away to anyone and everyone who demands my attention. At the end of the day, I want my daughter to have a happy mama who can walk the puppy, laugh, have chats about school and life, and who is available, not stressed and buried in other people's problems (as I have been known to do for years and years).

I highly recommend Rachel Lee Stafford's books Hands Free Mama and Hands Free Life. I saw her speak and read both of these this summer and wow-- they are food for my tired soul! The simple act of saying no to what you don't need (and yes to what you do!) is so hard, but so important, especially as a mother. Focusing on love, and on loving yourself, has been empowering and has allowed me to create boundaries out of this love, not out of spite or anger or hurt.

Some of my new boundaries include:

  • Not checking school email after 5pm (I let parents know this at Back to School Night): I want and need to be a parent at that time and nothing is so pressing that it can't be addressed in the morning when I get to school.
  • Being in bed by 10pm: I have to get sleep or I am a grumpy bear, no matter how much caffeine I consume. When I set strict bedtimes, I usually miss it by a few minutes, but being in bed by 10? No problem! In fact, it's usually well before, but I end the night feeling victorious around 9:30! 
  • Planning Time & Quiet Time: These times are carved into my day and are appointments with myself (and with God), that I cannot miss. My planning time at school was created for just that: time for planning my lessons and upcoming week. When I use it for social media, chatting with everyone, reading tabloid articles online, I am not filling myself up and I end the day playing catch-up with a tired daughter.... no fun! While I love to socialize, it's now a treat when my planning is done, not something I mindlessly wander and do when I'm trying to avoid work. Quiet Time with God at the end of the day is another non-negotiable. I need that time and always feel better for it. 
  • Prioritizing physical fitness: Why is it that this is always the first thing to get tossed off of the plate when life gets busy? I am so guilty of this! I love and adore CrossFit-- I have a great gym with wonderful coaches and it's become a huge part of my life. Things get busy? Bye gym! By creating this as a priority for myself and by setting aside three times a week to get to the gym, I will no longer let random wants and distractions take me away from something so important. If it really needs to get done, it will have to happen before or after my class.


Stop, Look & Listen


We live across the street from a huge park and my daughter and I take our puppy there at least once a day. When we get to the edge of the sidewalk, she reminds me to "Stop, Look, and Listen" and it has really resonated with me this year.

No matter how hard I try and how many things I attempt to do right, my mind seems to be my own worst enemy. If I get derailed, have a bad day in class, yell when I should listen, experience mom guilt... you name it, I am reminded to Stop, Look, and Listen.

  • Stop: Take a breath, quiet my mind for a second, and get off the crazy train that it's riding.
  • Look: Take another deep breath and look around. Is anything in serious danger? (Probably not, it never is!) What can I notice at that moment that I can be thankful or grateful for? What is my actual reality, not the craziness I am stirring up in my mind?
  • Listen: What do I know to be true? What is the still, small voice of God telling me? What is actually being said, and is there hurt, anger, loneliness, or tiredness that could be coming into play?

Taking this little breather in the chaos helps me to recenter and to get back on track and away from the black hole my mind tends to send me down when I feel things get too overwhelming. It's also helping me be transparent with my daughter when I may find myself in a tired and stressed-out place. Even though she's five, I know she's watching and learning from what I do, not just what I say, so modeling how to work through this in a positive way is so important.

What are some ways you are all managing your own work-life balance? Please share any strategies in the comments below!


My Favorite Back to School Read Alouds


School starts on Thursday and I am beginning to compile my stack of Back to School read alouds. I'm excited to be sharing some of my favorites with you!

Since independent reading stamina isn't high these first few weeks, I like to have a lot of these books ready to go to during our normal reading blocks. I will also pull them out during snack time and after a recess to bring us back together, cool down (since it's still in the 90s!) and start to introduce some important concepts that we will continue to cover all year long (like Growth Mindset).

At the beginning of the year, I don't tend to do a lot of heavy-duty "teaching" when I first read these books. When we are more into the swing of things, I will bring them back out and we can then do another read aloud as I pause along the way, ask questions, model thinking aloud, we turn and talk, and more. But for these first few days of school , I want to show my class that reading is community building, it's a chance to relax and escape into a story, and that a book can be enjoyed just because. We'll get to all of the deeper stuff soon enough!

Most of my Back to School Read Alouds center on community, uniqueness, risk, not being afraid to fail, and self-confidence. My hope is that by setting these priorities in the first few weeks of school through reading aloud, students will all know they are welcomed just as they are.... and that our classroom would not be the same without them! 

To check out these books, simply click on any of the book covers below. Each book cover will link you directly to its page on Amazon where you can look inside, read the reviews, and find similar titles. 

Click away here: 

Image Map

I hope this list gives you lots of ideas for read alouds these first few weeks back. Here's wishing you a successful back to school season!

Using Sign-Up Genius to Help with Mystery Readers

One of my favorite parent volunteer opportunities I use each year is Mystery Reader. You can read more about the program HERE and find a packet to get you started on TpT HERE.


One part of the program that I always have to keep up with throughout the year is the sign-up and sending reminder emails, since parents usually have only one slot a year. It can be tricky to rearrange readers, too, when scheduling conflicts come up either at school or with a parent's schedule.

Our school uses SignUpGenius.com for Parent-Teacher Conferences, so I wanted to try it for Mystery Readers this year to see how it goes. So far, I am really excited about it!

I signed up for the free version, which has ads, but still has plenty of features to make it work for this program. Here's a finished look at my sign-up site:


I created this sign up as a "Recurring" event since we host Mystery Readers after Friday morning recess each week. 


One of the new features they have is the "Calendar View" when you are on the "Slots" page. I love this since it gives a great visual to parents (and to me!) of the month. Because we only host parents once a week, I really like how this looks instead of the default list view.

Some of the other features I liked was encouraging parents to write their picture book of choice when they sign up so that others can see and not make the same selection later. I also added a request in the Advanced Settings in "Settings" tab to have parents email or send their clues to me as soon as they could. This is a great way to get a lot of clues upfront.


Sign-Up Genius will also email the parents a few days in advance (I selected 5 days) to remind them of their date. Again, this saves me an email and having to remember myself. I get notified when someone signs up, so I don't have to worry about constantly checking the calendar throughout the month.

At the end, I have the option of sending out invites by entering in emails, or I can publish it and copy the link to add it to our class website, Open House materials, Back to School Night presentation, an email, and more!

I am really excited about this setup this year and I hope that if you're using my Mystery Readers packet, you can try this system out for your own class schedule and feel the relief of getting these items off of your checklist!

Do you use Sign-Up Genius in your classroom? What other uses have you found?


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