Staying Green During the Holidays + A Freebie

Have you noticed how much waste we accumulate during the month of December?

Our school is eco-friendly and it is such a wonderful value to teach our kids from preschool on up. My kids even compost in the lunchroom- it's pretty cool :)

I thought this quick lesson would be a nice refresher about how they can continue their "green" habits into the holidays, both at home and in the classroom.

First off, there is a super-cute video from the Magic School Bus all about recycling that is set during the holiday season. I think Dolly Parton is even the voice of Miss Frizz's cousin! Here's a nice copy online with no commercials:

I think I will definitely be showing this ASAP because, as it always goes this time of year, I lost my voice this afternoon.... sigh :( Miss Frizz to the rescue!

I made a short and sweet worksheet to go along with this, too:
Fonts and Borders by Jen Jones, Scrappin' Cop, and Kevin & Amanda; Clip Art by Scrappin'  Doodles #58112
I will plan on making a class chart of things we can reduce, reuse, and recycle this time of year using the kids' ideas and some of these resources to help:
Note: Some of the sites above also have some interesting facts about holiday energy/resource consumption this time of year, although I am always cautious about sharing a lot of those stats because I don't want my thirdsters to feel guilty about having their decorations up or lights hanging outside- we instead focus on how we can be kind to our planet by starting new traditions :)

After we brainstorm some ways as a group, I plan on having them fill in their own ideas and color this sheet to take home and share.

If you are interested in this worksheet, I have it on Google Docs HERE. Enjoy!

Do you have eco-friendly systems in your classroom or school? Have any good holiday tips?? Leave a comment below, I'd love to try out some new ideas this season :)


Pinspiration: Snowman Soup for Your Students

I hope that you all had a good day back at school. I am sosososo glad we stared RACK Week in our classroom because it was a perfect connection to a Mr. Rogers quote that's been floating around:

Love :) I think this has really helped my thirdsters feel like they are part of the bigger picture of doing good and they have been sosososo excited to "RACK" this week and spread kindness- yay!!!

I wanted to share a fun treat I will be giving my kids on Friday as a part of their holiday gift: Snowman Soup!

I was inspired by this pin, but couldn't find its original source :(

If someone knows the source, please let me know so I can give proper credit :)

This is seriously the easiest thing to assemble and all of the ingredients are super-cheap and easy to find this time of year, so it's a win all around!

Here's what you'll need:

  • mini-marshmallows 
  • Hershey kisses (I chose the holiday ones to make them colorful)
  • hot chocolate packs
  • candy canes (they were out of mini and these are sort of medium-sized, so they still fit in the bag)
  • clear baggies (I used clear Ziploc and they aren't as cute as the inspiration, but they did the job just fine)
  • Snowman Soup tags 

Into each bag goes:

  • 1 packet of hot chocolate
  • 2 kisses (1 red & 1 green)
  • 1 candy cane
  • 10 mini-marshmallows
After I zipped the bag closed, I stapled the tag to the top and voila, Snowman Soup for each kiddo!

I will be giving these to the kiddos on Friday along with mini-books I received from Scholastic last year in a book order (love Scholastic!). I can only assume the kids will have eaten the candy cane, marshmallows and kisses by the end of the day, but at least they look cute now, right? ;)

You can pick up the Snowman Soup FREE Tags on Google Docs. Enjoy!

I hope your week is going smoothly and I am sending out lots of hugs to each of you, my wonderful teacher friends everywhere!! {{xoxo}}


Silence for Sandy Hook Elementary


Getting Ready for RACK Week!

If you have been reading blogs recently, I know you have seen so many fabulous and inspiring examples of RACK: Random Acts of Christmas Kindness!

Check out Farley at Oh' Boy 4th Grade's post HERE.

Cara Carroll has a beautiful RACK advent calendar for her family HERE.

And my personal favorite, Judy at Kindertastic's HERE.

It is actually Judy's work that I am using this year for our class' RACK Week-we still have a full week to go before Winter Break, so I needed something to keep us kind and in the holiday spirit for the next five days :) Note: I teach in a public school and we have lots of diverse celebrations, so I changed the "Christmas" to "Classroom" :)

We started talking about this today by thinking about each of the words separately and also by brainstorming lots of ways we could practice Random Acts of Classroom Kindness both in and around our school. The kids were awesome at this and we linked it a lot to bucket filling and how, when we fill someone else's bucket, it fills ours up as well!

I then used Judy's awesome Google Docs to not only download her PDF, but to adjust her Word doc to make some that my kids brainstormed- specifically, writing notes and cards to our office staff, school nurse, custodians, bus drivers, principal, and more.

You know me, I love my buckets, so I made a quick bucket label and laminated the slips of paper to make sure they can be used over and over again.

Next week, starting on Monday morning and going through Friday, as soon as Morning Meeting is over, I am going to have kids pull a RACK idea from our bucket to do that day. They will then record it on their "RACK Tracker" and try to complete it by the end of day. Of course, if they want to do more, they absolutely can, and if they pull a duplicate one from a previous day, they can re-choose. I'm not going to be too strict and force them to do a RACK they don't want to do!

Here's a shot of the RACK Tracker that I'm going to copy onto green paper to feel more festive ;) I am having them do this just to keep their RACK in the forefront of their mind throughout the day and really work on intentionally practicing a different form of kindness each day.

Click the image above to download your free copy from Google Docs
It's pretty simple, but it should do the trick and I am so excited to get this underway!

If you are interested in RACK in your classroom, be sure to check out all of the links above and, if you are thinking you may want the "Class RACK" bucket label and RACK Tracker, download them for free from Google Docs HERE.

Happy Friday and I hope you have a wonderful weekend :)

**Update: I posted this morning not knowing how this day would end... who could have ever imagined? My heart goes out to all of the families, teachers, staff, students, and first responders in the Connecticut tragedy :'(


Winner, Editables & Snowy Multiplication Freebie

Happy Saturday!

I have exciting news, especially if you are Erin V. :) You won the Classroom Friendly Pencil Sharpener Giveaway! Check your email and thank you to all who entered- be sure to let Santa know to put this on the top of your list- you will love it :)

I have been working on making some of my products in my TpT Store editable in PowerPoint so you can add cute fonts- I have done this most recently with my Chevron Name Plates & Table Numbers file and my Whole Brain Teaching Lesson Plan Template!

I am still including the PDF in all of the file for those of you who prefer that format or for those of you who may not have PowerPoint, but if you are interested in editing, it's super-duper easy:

  1. Open the PowerPoint file
  2. Go to the slide where you want to add text
  3. Click the "Insert" tab on the top of PowerPoint
  4. Click "Text Box" and click the place where you want to add text
  5. Type away!
  6. You can then change the font, color, size, etc. just like you always do 
  7. Save and Print
Easy-peasy and it makes things so fun and fancy, especially if you have a font addiction like moi :)

I wanted to share a fun freebie that we have been playing with over this past week to help reinforce our times tables. I call it "Snowball Fight!"

It's a snow/winter-themed version of Multiplication Roll & Cover. Directions are simple- kids get two dice and roll them, multiply them, then cover the product.

There are two sheets for this- one that can be used with two regular dice (1-6) and the other that requires higher-numbered dice. Once upon a time, I picked up quite a few of the 10-sided dice (0-9) and holy cow, the kids thought these were the coolest things :) I therefore had them grab one normal (1-6) die and one funky (0-9) die and get to work.

They worked in partnerships and I had these sheets printed front-to-back so they could start on the "easy" side then challenge themselves on the back side. I laminated them so we can reuse them over and over (and over and over), so they used the two-sided red & white foam counters to cover the number when they found it (the white side sorta looks like a snowball, right?). You could also use dry erase markers.

For partnerships who covered all of the snowflakes, I had cute snowflake stickers to give them- fun!- and then I had them work on the other side.

If you'd like to use these in your own class, I have it listed for free in my TpT Store. Enjoy!

Have a wonderful and restful weekend :)


Whole Brain Teaching: Simple Lesson Plan Template

For those of you who have been using some of the Whole Brain Teaching strategies out there, how have they been going this year?

Maybe it's just me, but I feel the bulk of the first trimester is spent doing so much guided practice, setting up routines & procedures, and teaching expectations, it feels good to be in the second trimester and actually getting to the meat and potatoes of teaching & learning :)

I am excited to share this next part that we learned once upon a time at the Whole Brain Conference this summer, but I'm just starting to practice and use regularly now (oops!). To be honest, though, the world of Whole Brain Teaching just seems so vast, I am glad I went nice and slow introducing the many pieces and parts, otherwise I would have run out of steam by now!

One of the ways to keep up momentum and keep interest high is with WBT's "Super Simple Lesson Plan". Chris Biffle explains it beautifully below and it's worth a watch if you have some time:

So many things stick out from this video, as usual!

Some of the most helpful tidbits I took away are:
  • Teachers can often be "talk-a-holics" and the longer we talk, the more kids we lose- guilty!
  • "Practice makes permanent"- I heard this a few years ago and love it, but love Shannon from technology rocks. seriously's even more!! I think this gets kids thinking about the process more than the product.
Click the poster above to be taken to Shannon's AMAZING wealth of talent :)
At the conference this summer, we practiced this a LOT in small groups and it was so helpful! The thing with Whole Brain Teaching is that it isn't only fast-paced and engaging for kids, it is for you as the teacher, too! Being prepared helps keep the lesson moving forward and keeps the energy high- you see lots and lots of smiles when you use this plan!

Here's the basic setup of the WBT Lesson Plan:

There are five simple steps and they go like this:
  1. Start with a question, like "What is a noun?"
  2. Answer the question, give the definition
  3. Give an example
  4. Give another example
  5. Have kids give each other examples

Before each section, have a Class-Yes and use one of three techniques- Scoreboard (smiley/frown), Mirror or Mirror-Words, or Hands & Eyes (for more clarification of each step, click the term to be taken to its definition). I have listed all three as a possibility, but only circle one and that way you can remember to vary it throughout the lesson delivery.

Then, in two-three sentences, go through the step (see the video for great examples). Give the kids some simple directions of how they will teach this to their partner- this is the "BR" section for "Bridge". A good example would be, "I want you to turn to your partner and tell them what a noun is, using gestures, until I call you back." This step is especially crucial at the beginning. Otherwise, many kids have absolutely no idea what to do when you say "Teach!"-- this way, there are clear expectations after each step (yay!). 

You will then clap and say, "Teach!" and the kids will respond by repeating your clap and saying, "Okay!" They will turn to their partner (I have my kids sit knee-knee) and practice doing what I asked them and using gestures until I call them back with "Class."

**Tip: I assign "Teaching Partners" in class- it's pretty much a Turn-and-Talk buddy, but with a fancier name and when it's minilesson time, the kids know they have to sit next to this person so when I say "Teach!" they know who to turn to immediately :)

While the kids are practicing, I can get up and wander around the meeting area. During this time, I am P/P&L-ing- I am Praising ("Great gestures!") or Prompting ("Bigger gestures, please!") and then Leaving (I don't hang around, I move on after my quick P/P). 

This cycle repeats itself through the five steps and holy cow- you will notice the difference in the focused and meaningful energy of your kids.

**Tip: I highly recommend starting this in a subject like math or grammar, where the gestures, the questions and answers, and the examples will be easier to come up with. To me, it is so much easier to thing "What is multiplication?" or "What is a verb?" and develop a lesson from there.

Build up to the harder, more complex lessons and soon you-- and even better, your kids!-- will be thinking of gestures for everything!

If you want a copy of my own version of the WBT Lesson Plans, they are available for FREE both on TpT and Google Docs. I have saved it as both a PDF and a PowerPoint. The PDF is easy-peasy, but hard to edit. If you are interested in adding in text boxes and such, opening the PowerPoint file will be best.

TpT Files HERE
Google Docs PDF HERE
Google Docs Editable PowerPoint HERE

I will be happy to post some examples that I am using, but there are already a handy amount on Whole Brain Teaching's website in their "Lesson Design & Delivery" FREE e-book. I highly recommend reading that cover to cover and exploring more of their videos on WBT TV.

Thanks so much everyone and have a great weekend! On a fun side note, I am working to add more of my freebies to Google Docs (it seems the WBT Rules on TpT sometimes download all funky) and am working to create more editable PowerPoint files- I'll keep you posted on Facebook as I complete these projects.


Using Old Calendars to Practice Descriptive Writing

This is a great time of year for this project, or at least to start planning for it.

One thing I have asked parents for in past Decembers were any old calendars from the previous year- landscape ones, travel ones, and the like. I collect all of them and use most of the photos for this project.

Old calendars have loads of advantages- they are durable (I still mount & laminate them, though), they are high-quality, already printed (yay, no ink on your part!), and are pretty big, so they are perfect for this writing activity.

If you don't have access to old calendars, you can also scoop up new calendars on the cheap this time of year, or you can also search Pinterest under "Travel"- they have some incredibly amazing photos as well!

Once you have a class set of photos, I have kids choose the one that speaks to them and keep a hold of their photo throughout this activity. This year I had kids walk around the room quietly with all of the pictures spread across the five tables. They were to make a mental list of their top 3-5 photos and I then called them up a few at a time to choose one- it went well!

We then begin using our Descriptive Web Plans to write this piece.

In real life, I am scared to death of spiders, but I grin and fake it when it comes to this unit because I think the spider imagery helps the boys get over the touchy-feely that description usually evokes :) And to help me (and other arachnophobes like me), I did try to get the cutest spider clipart I could ;)

We then use the pictures to brainstorm around the web. They imagine themselves in this spot and I will ask them out loud what they see, hear, taste (if possible), smell, feel with their heart and touch with their body. The touch/feel is the hand with the heart in it- I want kids to brainstorm not just what they can feel on the outside (soft grass, warm sun), but the feelings of being in this place (calm, joyful).

I have my students write their photo place in the center circle and 3-5 descriptive branches from each sense. We talk all about including color in the "see" section, feelings on the inside & out in the "touch" section, and comparisons and similes wherever we can.

Some of my strugglers or reluctant writers will only have 3 words coming from each, and that's ok. Some of my more advanced writers will have a web that takes up the whole planing page, and that's more than ok :) The important thing is that they have as much sensory detail as they can from their photo on their plan, since that will make their written piece that much better.

Before we start to write, I have them meet with their Writing Partner (who is assigned by me for this unit and who is on a similar writing ability) to show them the picture they chose and share their descriptive web. They can then work with their partner to help add on to each other's web to make it more comprehensive. We won't always do this for every written piece, but in the beginning, it helps to make the web as full as possible. I will work with some of my strugglers at this time to try and beef up their web and make it more complete.

When it comes to writing the piece, we talk a lot about how this is not a traditional story, but is instead like we are standing in the photo (or walking around in it). We discuss "painting with words" and making our piece as colorful and detailed as the photo. We draft in our Writer's Notebook so we can practicing revising and editing.

One of the challenges that you may come across is that every sentence starts with "I see" or "I (sense)...". A fun minilesson to do as your students revise this piece is to cross off those words at the beginning of every sentence and then use the words that remain as a new sentence starter.

For example:
old: I see the green leaves on the tree.
new: I see The green leaves on the tree are waving in the breeze.

It's amazing how much this enriches their sentences and therefore their entire piece! Plus, it makes it much more interesting for you as the teacher to not have to read a hundred "I see" sentences :)

This quick writing unit allows us to create a nice descriptive base that will help us out in many of our future written pieces. Once they have had this practice using all of the senses in one piece, I can always ask them to refer back to their mini-web in their Writer's Notebook and see if there is a way to incorporate sensory details in their story, their paragraph, their poem, and so on.

If you're interested in this unit, you can pick it up in my TpT Store HERE. I hope this helped and be sure to start collecting those calendars!!

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