Thursday, December 26, 2013

‘Twas the week before Christmas…

Hi, Friends! I hope this post finds you snuggling under a warm blanket enjoying some much deserved rest. It’s the morning after Christmas here. Breakfast has been cooked and served. The kids are all busy enjoying their newest gadgets, so I thought I’d sneak in a post before we head out for a little while.

Every year we look forward to the few weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Is it just me or have you noticed too how these few days pass by faster then any others of the year?! There’s always tons of cuteness to prep, fun to be had, assessing to be completed, but every year it seems to get tougher and tougher to fit it all in!


Soooo, this year my crew and I focused a little less on the “stuff” of Christmas and more on the spirit of kindness. We decided to focus on performing RAKs (random acts of kindness) throughout the last week of school leading up to Christmas. I thought it might be a hard concept for them to grasp, but NOPE! They loved being little elves and getting a turn to spread some Christmas cheer.

It was nothing fancy. We made a simple card for each person the kid’s wanted to surprise and two elves that modeled wise choices got to go make the delivery. They also delivered a little bag of hugs and kisses with each card. Everyone needs a hug or kiss, don’t they? I wish you could’ve seen the smiles on their faces as they returned to the classroom! They were so excited about making others smile and worked really hard to be chosen as an elf!

Along with the random acts of kindness, each day of our week leading up to Christmas had a different theme. Monday was Gingerbread Day!

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We read different versions of the Gingerbread Man story and compared and contrasted them. We couldn’t read about those feisty little characters without doing a little faux baking! We connected to the story by creating cinnamon dough ornaments for our families. The recipe only requires equal parts of two ingredients…..applesauce and cinnamon. I’m a pretty `ish kinda person, so we measured by filling two identical cups to the same point to make sure we had equal amounts, poured them into a bowl, and mixed it until dough formed. I spared you that picture, because…..well, the dough looks a little like a big bowl of p**p! Ha!

It smelled heavenly though! Everyone that came into our classroom throughout the week, left with a big of whiff of Christmas up their nose!

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Our ornaments took the entire week to dry out, so next year, I’ll have to remember to make them just a little thinner. We also sprinkled them with a little glitter while they were still moist to add a little touch of cutesy. Glitter makes everything better right?


That afternoon, we had some sweet mamas stop by to help us create our gingerbread houses. What were plain old milk cartons days before became festive treats by the day’s end. We used icing as glue to attach the graham crackers to the milk cartons, so they would be edible, if desired. Each student had a house that started out as just blank graham crackers and icing. They were given a popsicle stick and a selection of candies to decorate their houses however they liked. I’m sure a candy or two got nibbled in the process, but it was ok. It was Christmas and they had a ball! We also prepared these as a gift, so when they were all done….they got wrapped in decorative cellophane and topped off with a bow and gift tag.


We left them at school for a couple of days to make sure they were good and dry too before sending them home. Lined atop our lockers, they made for pretty hallway decor too! Sweet, sweet, sweet….fun, fun, fun!


We began the week in a very sweet way, but the Grinch showed up the very next day! And do you know that mean old Grinch, kidnapped our cute little elf on the shelf!?!! The horror! The agony! And, oh my…did he ever leave us a big surprise!

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve seen a little of our adventures with Lloyd {our elf}. Well, my kids were in utter shock to see him taped to the easel by that naughty Grinch and kept a close eye on him all day to make sure he was ok….{and didn’t fall off}! We also committed extra random acts of kindness to make sure his meanness didn’t spread…

We got the idea for these little guys from Cara Caroll at The First Grade Parade. I love the wonkiness of kid’s work! They listened and followed directions to cut out each of the pieces. After the craft was completed, they responded to the prompt…What would YOU do to make the Grinch grin?  We also had tons of candy left over from the gingerbread houses so I promised each student that I’d leave a chocolate hug or kiss on their desk if they used their neatest, best handwriting. Let me tell, you….they made every pencil stroke with the precision of a typed font! I’ve never seen such neatly written work! Lol! Is that the secret? Promise them goodies?


After watching the original version of this fun Christmas story, we also viewed one of the clips that explained how animators create their characters. I *L*O*V*E* to doodle and draw, so we used this as a springboard to complete a little drawing and writing during writer’s workshop later that afternoon. Each student completed the same drawing…that all came out differently and added details to recall the story. Writer’s workshop quickly turned into animation station and the kids began adding details to their little creations! =P

On Wednesday, we traveled around the world to learn how different winter holiday customs are celebrated. We did it round robin style…by having the kids complete a rotation through each of our six classrooms. I’m not sure I want to relive that day. Round robins are a little beyond even my scope of wonkiness…….


Thursday was all about the big man….S-A-N-T-A and his little helpers. The kid’s favorite project of the day was creating Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I always keep a little scrapbook paper on hand, so our Rudolph’s nose had a little chevron flair. Ha! We also used a resource we’d never tried before. I had heard about it from a coworker, but hadn’t signed up for it yet.

Have you used It’s a great website that features books for you to project and read aloud. If you don’t have a huge supply of big books {like me}, it’s perfect for shared reading opportunities! Signing up to use it, will take you all of 60 seconds! You have to try it!


By Friday, our ornaments had finally dried and were ready for curling ribbon and wrapping. We prepped them throughout the day, as time allowed, because Friday was a busy day! We have an annual campus sing-along that is simply UH-mazing!!!!

ANNNNNd of course, we enjoyed it and The Polar Express in our PJs. Our party was on Thursday, so ending the week with the campus event and movie were absolutely perfect!



…..and that’s a wrap, Jack! From my A+ Firsties to you and yours, we wish you a very happy holiday season!


Saturday, December 14, 2013

We Remember

As educators, we remember and honor our fallen colleagues and their students from Sandy Hook.  We honor them each day in our classrooms in which we continue their dream of teaching our children.  We honor their memory with our service. Join with teachers everywhere in committing random acts of kindness to show our love for Sandy Hook.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Five for Friday~Smart Art

Hi, peeps! How are ya? It’s an UN-TX-like 20 something degrees in our neck of the woods today! Brrrrrr…….What’s the temperature like where you are? Please send warm thoughts our way! It actually FEELS like winter and I’m not quite sure what to make of it, but I know I don’t like it! Ha! Bring on the sunshine! While we wish for warmer weather, I thought I’d catch up with the awesome Kacey over at DoodleBugs Teaching for a Five for Friday {..ahem, late Saturday} post!


Our Daily 5 routines usually run Monday – Thursday. Fridays are run a little differently. We give numerical grades on our students report cards, which require assessments. We collect grades in a number of different ways. This quick post will outline what a typical Friday in our room looks like.

Just after our morning recess, students gather at the carpet and begin selecting partners to ‘Read to Someone’. They find a place in the room with a copy of our story of the week to read and discuss. After they have completed their individual discussions throughout the room, we meet together and discuss the comprehension strategy we practiced throughout the week. Our main story, generally, comes from our reading series. Sometimes we pull stories for Reading A-Z. Other pieces of authentic literature are pulled in throughout the week and used to make connections to it or replace it, if the selection in our book isn’t a good one for the skill we’re focusing on.

Once this discussion is complete, we complete a comprehension and related phonics assessment.

Afterwards,……it’s time for Smart Art! We work together to extend what we’ve learned. This is also the time that requires students to have completed their ‘Must Do’ stations activity for the week. No ‘Must Do’, No Smart Art… can read about our ‘Must Do/Can Do’s’ HERE.


This week, students were separated into mixed ability groups to read and identify examples of cause and effect for a specific season of the year. Each group was led by a student. I explained the requirements of the group work to the 4 leaders. The 4 leaders explained it to each of their groups.


After the groups met and completed their discussions, we moved to our desks to prepare our smart art. Each student labeled the front of their foldable. We discussed cause and effect as one event that causes another to happen. Why it happened and what happened.

….then the leader of each group selected two friends to present for their group. 1 friend gave the cause, the other presented the effect and I recorded it on the board. Students then returned to their groups to write the example agreed upon by their group. They also created a symbol to represent their respective season.


Still learning…(always learning)….but in a way that’s interactive, fun and creative. We don’t use our desks a whole lot either. You’ll notice, we work on the floor quite a bit. Why be cooped up in a chair all day, when you can stretch out and get comfy? And because, we generally do this after completing assessments, we’ve already been sitting for long enough.


Here’s what our finished smart art for the week looked like! Like? Winter. Spring. Summer. Fall. I love them ALL! Do you think my kids have picked up on the fact that I like doodle frames? Ha!

Could I use this for a grade too? Yep! Sure could did!  =)


After grabbing the FREEBIE to mark must do’s in her stations, my sister from another mother asked for a cupcake to mark her remaining  tubs as ‘desserts’. I thought you might be able to use them too, so here ya go! If you like 'em, click 'em…they’re all yours!

What creative ways do you use to assess student understanding? Do tell…..=)


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