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Welcoming Students Back with Bunny Snacks and Tags


In years past, I have put out a wide variety of goodies to welcome students back to school. The first time they step into the classroom, typically during Open House the day before school starts, I want them to be able to find their table spot and have something fun already waiting for them.

There are so many possibilities-- from pencils, to glow sticks, to food-- and this year I am choosing my most favorite snack (and what has basically been a food group for me this summer), bunny crackers and gummy bunnies from Annie's!


I had never really gotten into these before, since the smaller size boxes at our grocery store were so expensive. However, our local Costco started carrying them and I also found them on Amazon HERE and HERE. Do any of you use their Subscribe & Save feature? I use it each month and it gives me even more of a discount.

       

So, once I found these discounted options, I have become a devoted cheddar bunny lover and knew these would be the perfect treats to pass out to this year's students. I also picked up some of the gummy bunnies for my students who have sensitivities with gluten.

These tags are super-easy because nothing is worse than complex work in August and September.... there's enough on the to-do list already! They are available in Kindergarten through Fifth Grade, with four on a page for less paper use.


You can easily print them and sign your name, but, as you can see, I am looking for even less work than that, so I have included a PowerPoint version that allows you to add your name in a text box to the bottom in the size, color, and font of your choice!

All that is left is to cut and tape down onto the snack bag-- I used double-sided tape because it was all I could find at my house at the time-- but packing tape, Scotch tape and even staples would work well.

These would be a fun find during Open House, Back to School Night, on their spots when they walk in on the first day of school, or even as a treat during your first snack time!


You can find these in my TpT Store HERE. I hope these can help your back to school transition and give you a quick and easy way to add a sweet treat to your students' first meeting with you!

Review: 2018 Erin Condren Academic Planner & Back to School Goodies

I cannot tell you how excited I am to share these new back to school goodies with you from Erin Condren!


This year, the Academic Calendar been updated to include a coil, making it possible to now use all of those great interchangeable covers! There are more notes pages and no dated calendar or weeks, so you can adjust this to fit any school schedule. I found that it's a good size, in that it's not as thick as a Teacher or Life Planner, but thicker than a Deluxe Monthly Planner... a happy medium.

All of the other new releases will make planning so much more motivating, too. From stickers to markers to improved lunch totes-- you'll want to keep your eyes on her site these next few weeks as these items are released.

I'm doing a walkthrough of the Academic Planner and the goodies on YouTube, so watch below or head to my channel to subscribe and be the first to hear when new videos are posted.


Happy planning!

My Go-To Instant Pot Recipes

I posted about my most favorite kitchen appliance, the Instant Pot, the other day on my Facebook page and wanted to talk about it in a bit more detail. With the school year approaching, I want to share some of my go-to helpers, both in the classroom and my home, to help support your transition into August and beyond.


If you haven't tried an Instant Pot, I am hoping you'll see how helpful this little workhorse is in the kitchen, especially during the chaos of the school year. And if you already have one of these, you can try some of my favorite recipes and share yours below in the comments! Prices on Instant Pots vary greatly, so keep your eyes peeled for good deals (and I'll try to feature them on social media when I find one!). I recommend the 6-quart one HERE. I purchased mine over four years ago and it's still going strong.

In short, an Instant Pot is an electric pressure cooker. Don't let the "pressure cooker" title scare you, as it did me!-- this is not going to explode and cover your kitchen in food! I think I left this in the box for the first three months I had it because I was still thinking of it like the stovetop version my grandma had. And while this can be used for all of those recipes and more, it is a "set it and forget it" kind of machine. These types of appliances are invaluable, especially in the months of August and September, when the only energy I have is to dump something into a pot and press a button!

Besides pressure cooking, this can also be used as a slow cooker and rice cooker. There are functions for soup, meat, poultry, chili, and more. You can also manually adjust the pressure (high/low) and cook time to fit your needs. I use Manual when I make hard-boiled eggs and they turn out perfectly!

If you have a favorite recipe for a pressure cooker or slow cooker, there are loads of resources to help guide you through the conversion, but the one I typically rely on is THIS SITE. If your food isn't listed, a Google search will help-- these have become so popular in recent years, it's much easier to find information than when I first got mine back in 2014!

Because liquid doesn't escape from an Instant Pot, like it does in a slow cooker, you won't need as much when you're putting your meals together. A general guideline is 1 cup, although that depends on other ingredients you have. My favorite feature is the Saute function, which allows you to get some nice crust on your meats before they cook, but doesn't dirty an extra pan (because who has time for that?!).

I want to share some of my favorite Instant Pot recipes with you-- these are my go-to's when school is crazy and I want good food in minimal time. It's just my daughter and I, and she's only 7, so all of these recipes yield delicious leftovers that I bring to lunch for the next several days. There's something about food that is pressure or slow cooked that makes it even more tasty when reheated the next day, right?


All-Time Favorite: 

Kalua Pig from Nom Nom Paleo


My all-time favorite Instant Pot recipe is the Kalua Pig from Nom Nom Paleo. I can never, ever, ever get tired of this recipe. It is so simple and easy, you almost question if it can taste good, or at least I did! Let me assure you, it is deliciousness and is very versatile-- you can add various sauces as you serve it and cover nearly every cuisine! Our favorite is teriyaki with some broccoli and rice (which I make in the IP after this is done), but we've served it with tacos, BBQ sauce, and even with eggs for breakfast and it is yummy across the board.

*Michelle at Nom Nom Paleo has a huge collection of Instant Pot meals that are all worth a try. She was the one who introduced me to Instant Pots via her tasty blog and I've been a devoted follower ever since-- she doesn't disappoint!

Lemon Chicken with Garlic from Life Made Sweeter


I love the freshness of this Lemon Chicken and Garlic recipe, especially with the real lemons. It just makes me feel fancier to serve with those slices. I never liked chicken thighs and always defaulted to chicken breasts, and while this meal works well with either, I hope you'll try the thighs to see how amazing they can taste in an Instant Pot! I serve this with asparagus and rice and it's a hit every time.


Honey Mustard Chicken from Paleo Running Momma


This Honey Mustard Chicken is another recipe that is stellar with chicken thighs. I usually buy the organic packages from Costco and keep them in the freezer until the night before, when I defrost them in the refrigerator.

This recipe is also a great example of the Saute function being a time and energy saver. The crispiness paired with the honey is finger-licking good, and a huge hit with my daughter. I've served this with rice (see a theme here?) and any vegetable we have on hand. It's also great to shred later and make sandwiches or wraps with.... if there's any left over for that long.

*This does use Paleo ingredients, but if you don't have coconut aminos, just use soy sauce and flour is the perfect substitute for arrowroot starch.

Mexican Tortilla Soup from Chelsea's Messy Apron


If you know me at all, you know I love Mexican food, so this Tortilla Soup is one of my favorites, especially in the cold Colorado winter. I find the flavors are even more profound when using an Instant Pot, and this is definitely one that gets better as leftovers. On that note, be careful how much chili powder you add, especially if you're trying to feed picky eaters. My daughter and I differ in our spice preferences, a LOT, so I tend to make this pretty mild and add my own spices to my bowl. Even without my extra spices, I find there's plenty of taste.

The reason I love this recipe is because it involves opening cans and sauteing chicken. Some soups require so much prep work, it's just not feasible in the busy school week. This is a great one to stock up for in your pantry and, if you have chicken breasts and are out of meal ideas that night, this one can save the day! I also love that you can add all sorts of toppings to it-- my favorites are avocados and Fritos instead of tortilla chips. Growing up, my grandparents always had Fritos in their house as a snack, so it takes me back and puts a smile on my face.

Tacos Al Pastor by Evolving Table


See? I told you I love Mexican, and Tacos Al Pastor is my default order whenever we go to a restaurant. This recipe is great in that you can prep the night before or day of and marinate the pork so it's ready to go for dinner.

I also recommend prepping the pineapple at the same time. It's honestly so easy to cut a whole pineapple, I couldn't believe I was spending so much money for the pre-cut spears before! Take a look at this VIDEO for a quick tutorial and hopefully you'll agree.

*This recipe does take more time than some of the others, but I just had to share my favorite dish. The sweet and savory together makes this a delicious break from the traditional.

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I love sharing recipes, so be sure to leave links to some of your favorite Instant Pot meals if you have any to add. Cooking these meals is quick and easy, plus the leftovers for lunch or future dinners really helps relieve stress during these busy back-to-school months. I have found that when I rely on my Instant Pot, I eat out much less and can enjoy a home-cooked meal with my daughter without dirtying up the entire kitchen. This is just the very tip of the iceberg when it comes to IP recipes-- take some time to look on Pinterest or Google to see just how many thousands of ideas are out there! Happy cooking!





Reviewing the *NEW* 2018-2019 Erin Condren Teacher Lesson Planner

School just ended a few days ago, but I am already excited for planning next year. If you know me and this blog, you can easily guess why: The *NEW* 2018-2019 Erin Condren Teacher Lesson Planner is launching May 29th!


This planner has been my go-to for the past few many years, and each year, it gets better and better. Last year, the thicker paper made it so much more durable. This year, there are now pre-printed dates on every lesson planning page! No more date stickers on the monthly spreads and no more worrying about filling in each and every week of dates when you first get this planner!

Another thing I love is that it more closely resembles the Life Planner, in that after each monthly spread, you will find that month's lesson planning pages. This is a big change from the past when the calendars were all in one section, and every lesson page was in the large middle section.

I also find there are more lined pages and sections, which makes my list-maker heart go pitter-patter. Towards the end of the video, there is a preview of even more ways to jot your thoughts on the new accessories, but I am grateful that there are pages of lined paper for each month, both before and after the monthly sections.

Be sure to watch to the end to see the new Sticker Pad (it's beautiful!) and the Planner Folios to keep everything nice and safe throughout the day. 



If you're new to Erin Condren, you can get $10 off your first order by signing up here: http://3rd.gr/erin_condren

I hope you're as excited as I am! Mark your calendars for the May 29th launch date and find all of the info HERE

Also, to help celebrate, I'm hosting a giveaway on my Instagram, @3rdgrthoughts, so be sure to swing by and enter for the chance for you and a friend to each win a $50 gift card to Erin Condren!

Happy planning!

STAR Cards for Positive Classroom Behavior

Over the years, I have tried many classroom rewards for students who go above and beyond during the school day. I try to avoid picking from the Treasure Box or doling out candy, mostly because that's not sustainable, for the kids or myself.

I was looking for a way for kids to earn their way to a reward, but in so doing, making something that was motivating for them, and easy for me. I am not a great record keeper, so it needed to be something we could all track with ease.


For the past couple of years, we have had STAR Cards to fill this need and they have really done the trick! I picked up star hole punches on Amazon (I bought two so they would be in strategic places around my classroom), and each student is given a STAR Card at the beginning of the year. I just copy them on cardstock and write their names on the back in Sharpie.

In our classroom, STAR stands for Students Taking Academic Responsibility, but I am going to be changing that over to Amazing Responsibility, since I want the focus to shift off of just academic deeds and more on their whole character.

These cards are small, just 2 x 3 inches, so they fit well inside of their bins. Students are responsible for keeping track of them throughout the year. If they lose one, they will get a new one, but have to start all over. It's amazing how even my most organizationally-challenged kiddos still usually know where their STAR Cards are.

Whenever I see a student going above and beyond, they will get a star punch in one of the stars on their STAR Card. After ten punches, these cards can be redeemed at Friday Free Choice for a reward of their choosing. They then get a new card and start the process over again. I avoid color-coding cards or any way to distinguish who is on their first card from who is on their second or third. I want this to be a system where all kids can excitedly come up for a star punch and stay motivated throughout the year.

As I introduce these cards, there are two important lists we have to make: How to get a star punch and what rewards did they want when they filled their card?

How to Get a Star Punch?

Similar to clipping up or giving tokens, the STAR Card is just a small and quick way to acknowledge good behavior in class. At the beginning of the year, I am a card-punching crazy lady! I want to recognize the positive actions and choices immediately, to get our year off to a great start. I then calm down, but am still keeping my eyes peeled each and every day for kids who are doing the kind and right thing.

Sometimes I will give a punch to a table group that is focused and working hard. Sometimes I will give one to the whole class after a group compliment. There really are are no hard-and-fast rules about how you choose to dole out punches, except to keep it up and to not be stingy about them. Ten can be quite a bit for some kids to get through, and I want all of my students to feel success with this.

These cards have also been a good challenge for me to look for the positives each day, and reward students accordingly, instead of dwelling on the negative, the misbehavior, or the ones that aren't doing what they should. I have found that dedicating the majority of my energy to the majority of my students who are doing the right thing is so much more powerful for everyone, me included, than when I spend that same amount of energy on just a handful, or less, of students that are off-task or misbehaving. That unbalance is what drains me, so this has been a great system to help me shift my focus and stay supportive!

We brainstorm a list as a class about kind, respectful things that we can all do throughout the school to earn a star punch. This list is then posted for the first few weeks of school until kids get the hang of it. Ours has been down for many months now, but the energy around punches remains.

* One lesson I do want to strongly encourage you to include is being sure to teach them when to come to you for a punch. Transition times, independent work times, etc. are ideal. Whole-class, small-group or one-on-one teaching times are not! This also took some brainstorming and practice, on both of our parts! They had to be respectful of my time, and I needed to be respectful of theirs by having a star hole puncher ready to go (thus my second one in a different spot). I love that they have yellow handles so I can find them easily during the day!

Rewards for a Full STAR Card

This was another fun list to brainstorm with the kids as soon as we passed out the cards. The only time they can redeem them is during Friday Free Choice, which is about 20-25 minutes every Friday.

Many actually did like the typical Treasure Box trinkets: stickers, stamps, bracelets, fun erasers, etc. and I was able to secure some parent donations to help fill my box. Those items are also easy to find on Amazon HERE.

Another popular choice was to be able to use Chromebooks during choice time. We're a 1:1 Chromebook school and use them quite a bit during the day. Because of that, I don't allow Chromebooks during free time, since I want to encourage board/ strategy game-playing, building, and camaraderie with one another. However, with a full punch card, I will acquiesce.

A big surprise for me was that most kids are choosing the Treasure Box items over the Chromebooks, so it all works out in the end.

Some students choose to keep their full punch cards in their bin, collecting them for a rainy day, and some will turn them in the second free choice time starts. It's an easy system since I am not constantly filling a Treasure Box for every little good thing I notice a student doing. This is quick, easy, and discrete, although I do sometimes like to make a big deal out of it to give them some pride in a job well done.

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If you're interested in these STAR Cards, I have them available for a FREE download in my TpT Store. I did include two versions: one with Academic and the other with Amazing, so you can choose what works best for your class' needs. Download them HERE.

Be sure to pick up the star punches HERE if you'd like to add that special touch. The punch is the exact size of the star on the card, too! Of course, a regular punch or even your initials would also be a great way to track the progress on the card.

Enjoy these cards and I'd love to hear how you're using them with your students!



Monthly Thoughts: February


Welcome to February's "Monthly Thoughts"!

Over the past year, I have been uploading a clickable PDF themed around that month. There are twenty ideas on the page that link you to a post, idea, resource, freebie, quote, etc. from my blog or store. Each month has a unique collection of ideas, both old and new, and I hope it will help make planning for the school year 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 February, which you can find in my TpT Store HERE.

Monthly Thoughts: February


Even though February is short, there's actually quite a bit happening in these twenty-eight days. You can find activities for Presidents' Day, Valentine's Day, Anti-Bullying, even Groundhog Day! Be sure to check out the read aloud lists to support your in-class work. We dive into idioms this time of year and work on strengthening our story starters and endings, too. All in all, a very busy month!

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!

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I have also compiled all of my Monthly Thoughts into a year-long bundle for free HERE. Now you can have access to the 200 ideas, blog posts, products, freebies, quotes, and more from August to May, right at your fingertips in one clickable PDF!





Click HERE to download this huge collection. I hope these ideas can help keep you inspired all year long!


My Favorite Presidents' Day Read Alouds


February is a short month, but is filled with many holidays and notable events. One of these is Presidents' Day and I am excited to be sharing some of my favorite read alouds to have your students become more familiar with the big names behind this holiday, as well as the overall job.

If you've seen any of my previous collections, you know that I always highly recommend the "I am" books by Meltzer, both for Lincoln and Washington. His books are always a hit for any biography project you do. He focuses on the defining character traits of these presidents, as well as their works, and the comic-style illustrations make these a popular choice in class.

Some of these books delve into the roles and responsibilities of the Commander-in-Chief, but through the lens of a child, so they make very relatable, yet informative, read alouds. If I Were President tops my list of choices for this purpose.

The Who Was? biographies for both Lincoln and Washington are a part of a great biographical series, and the picture book about George Washington's birthday is the perfect intro into the life and childhood of our first president.

I like to include the role of the First Ladies, beyond their role as presidential spouse, so be sure to check out the Smart About and Big Deal books for some very cool contributions from these women throughout the history of our country.

To read more about these books, simply click on any of the covers below. Each will link you directly to its page on Amazon where you can preview the 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 time of year, or any time of the year you study government and the presidency. Be sure to let me know of any additional titles in the comments. I would love to add to this collection!

To find my complete collection of read aloud suggestions, see my growing list here:


Happy reading!

The Peace Process for Conflict Resolution & Freebie


We have a lovely school counselor this year who came to visit each of our classrooms and explain a common "Peace Process" for conflict resolution. I loved this for so many reasons and can't wait to share it with you!

For one, common language across all grades is invaluable, especially when kids experience conflict at recess, in the lunch room, or even in the hallway when they are away from their classroom teacher and intermixed with other grades.

Also, the fact that this process is broken down into such simple and manageable parts gives kids the confidence to go through it themselves, complete with sentence starters and all.

I want to share this Peace Process with you in case you are looking for a way to help manage conflict and empower your students to problem-solve with one another. Feel free to download the freebie to share with others in your school, or even send home to parents... this can work with anyone in any situation!


Step 1: Breathe

The first step is the most important: make sure your body is calm enough to engage in the process of making peace. In the heat of the moment, the "fight or flight" response is in high gear, anger may be driving the show, and there is no way the rest of the process can be successful. By stopping to breathe, everyone can get back into a more calm state.

How you breathe is just as important. Start by "smelling a flower" by breathing in through your nose and counting to three slowly. Then, hold for one count, and exhale our your mouth as if you're "blowing out a candle" for four counts. Practice this with your students and see how it changes the feel in the classroom. Some may be silly for the first breath or two, but after practicing for several breaths, the whole tone of the class will be calmer and more subdued. It's a good practice to keep on hand for other times during the day, too!

Remind kids to take as many breaths as they need. This process can't be rushed, so even if they need some time alone to compose themselves, that's a-okay. I would still encourage a few common breaths together at the start of the process to be sure there's lots of fresh oxygen in the brain!

Step 2: "I" Statements

This is the first back-and-forth conversation that takes place. The person who feels harmed begins with a statement about how they felt. The framework of: "I feel ____ because ____" always gives kids a good place to start. During this time, the other person must stay silent and practice listening. This is important, because the second part of this step is to repeat what that person said.

When the first person is done with their "I" Statement, the second person repeats what they heard, including all of the important parts, not just generalities. "I heard you say you felt ___ because ___" is a perfect launching point.

At the end of their retell, they need to ask if they got it right. Person 1 needs to feel confident enough to say no, if needed, and retell the parts that were left out. This may need to happen a few times, especially at the beginning. The inclusion of "I heard you say..." is also crucial because it reinforces the idea that this is a listening exercise, not just an airing of grievances.

Step 3: Repairing the Harm

We want to encourage kids repair the harm, and sometimes "sorry" is enough. Other times, they may need an apology and an additional follow-up about what will happen if this occurs again. There may be something that they need or can do for one another, like get an ice pack or take turns with the item in question. There are other alternatives, too, and usually two or three actions are needed to repair the harm that was done. The important part is to make sure they are reasonable, and that both are agreeable to the ideas. Person 1 should feel that the harm is indeed repaired, or on the way to being repaired as best as possible.

Step 4: Moving Forward

While a physical touch may not always be appropriate, it is often a useful and effective starting point for moving forward. A handshake, high five, or fist bump can be powerful "wrap up" gestures that solidify the discussion and resolutions discussed. The important part, like the rest of the steps, is that both parties agree on the common gesture. Even a thumbs-up or peace sign can work.

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Always be sure to offer your presence and guidance, especially at at the beginning, as kids are working on practicing and internalizing these steps. After a while, you will not need to be as present, although you should always need to be available to help. Some conflicts go beyond the Peace Process and will need additional intervention by you or others to be truly effective and safe. However, I think you will find that this can be an excellent tool for navigating issues throughout the day.

* As you introduce this to your classroom, have kids role-play through the Peace Process with common conflicts and/or issues that you have been hearing about. Extend the areas beyond the classroom and onto the playground, bus, neighborhood, and lunchroom. This activity will also get them more familiar with the steps and language in real-life scenarios.

* An even more powerful way of incorporating this schoolwide is to have older student be "Peace Aides" and help younger students work through the process. How powerful for all parties involved!


If you're interested in the freebie, click HERE to find it in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store.

Have you used a process like this at your school? Do you have additional steps or any feedback? Please leave a comment and share your experiences!

My Favorite Martin Luther King, Jr. Read Alouds


January is the perfect time of year to delve into the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Not only is his birthday celebrated, but with the school year halfway done, it's the perfect time to positively refocus your class by teaching about his powerful work and teachings. I have found children are a bit older and wiser this time of year, and with your routines already set in place, this is a wonderful, and very relevant, topic to dive into, especially in recognizing the "why" behind our day off of school.

One thing I love about this list is the first-person storytelling, both from his sister and his son. Each book provides a unique insight, at a kid-appropriate level, that can allow your students to get to know Dr. King as a child and a dad.

For an overview of his life's work in engaging narrative, I highly recommend the "I am" book by Meltzer. His books are always  hit for any biography project you do. He focuses on the character of Dr. King, as well as his works, and the comic-style illustrations make this a popular choice in class.

One of the reasons I use the National Geographic book is that it includes photos from the actual events mentioned. The rest of the books have stunning. beautiful illustrations, but if you are looking for more of a strictly nonfiction approach, this book includes many of the text features you will want to cover.

All of these books have important and essential teachings of Dr. King and the impact of his work, both then and now. Even picking up just one of these to share with your class will create some important conversations and questions that students need to be talking about.

To read more about these books, simply click on any of the titles below. Each will link you directly to its page on Amazon where you can preview the inside, read the reviews, and find similar titles.



I hope this list gives you lots of ideas for read alouds for this important time of year as you study Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Be sure to let me know of any additional titles in the comments. I would love to add to this collection!

Monthly Thoughts: January


Happy New Year and welcome to January's "Monthly Thoughts"!

Over the past year, I have been uploading a clickable PDF themed around that month. There are twenty ideas on the page that link you to a post, idea, resource, freebie, quote, etc. from my blog or store. Each month has a unique collection of ideas, both old and new, and I hope it will help make planning for the school year 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 January, which you can find in my TpT Store HERE.

Monthly Thoughts: January


As the weather gets colder this time of year, you can find many winter-themed Word Work and Writing Prompts, as well as QR Codes for math computation practice, and Brain Breaks. There is also a Martin Luther King-themed Word Work and Writing Prompt packets and Tech Resources to celebrate this treasured civil rights leader.

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 first month of the new year!


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