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6 Activities to Help You Survive Until Thanksgiving Break

  November can be a tricky month. You're exhausted, the honeymoon behavior and excitement of the beginning of the school year has worn off, and your to do list seems to be growing by the day. That's why we put together these fun activities to help you survive until Thanksgiving Break. Make sure to grab a FREE resource from our Thanksgiving Parade Unit as well.

1. Take a Break Outside

Fall is such a beautiful season. Try taking your kids outside for a nature walk! You can even have a science lesson about why the leaves change colors during fall. The fresh air and exercise will be good for both you and your students. While you're out, have your students collect a pine cone for activity #2.

2. Make a Pinecone Turkey Craft

A beautiful table decoration and memento can be made with a pinecone, construction paper or felt and your students' handprints. Students will love presenting this to their parents as a special fall gift. 


To make this turkey follow these steps:
1. First have your students trace their handprint on several different colors of construction paper or felt. 
2. Use glue to attach the handprints to the back of pinecone. 
3. Add a head with a beak and wattle from construction paper or felt. Googly eyes make these turkeys extra fun!

Find more detailed directions for this cute craft here.

3. Try an Escape Room

Let's be honest, it takes a little more excitement to keep kids' attention in November, right? Your students will love the challenge of a Thanksgiving themed escape room challenge and they'll build their collaboration skills at the same time! Your students will love solving the clues to discover who stole the Thanksgiving turkeys. You can grab this resource in our store by clicking the picture below.

4.  Eat a Tasty Turkey Snack

Celebrate the Thanksgiving season with a quick and easy turkey snack. Each student will need a disposable glove, colored candies like M&Ms or Skittles and popcorn. First, separate the candies by color and fill the fingers of the glove. Fill the rest of the glove with popcorn and twist the glove closed. Twist the thumb down to create the turkey's wattle. Your students can even add googly eyes and a triangle beak details. 

5. Read Engaging Picture Books

November is the perfect time to read a ton of amazing picture books. After you have read several, have students vote on their favorite book for Thanksgiving! Below are a few of our favorites:    

1. Turkey Trouble-Wendy Silvano
2. Turk and Runt-Lisa Wheeler
4. Balloons Over Broadway-Melissa Sweet
6. In November-Cynthia Rylant
8. Bear Says Thanks-Karma Wilson

Another great idea is to have your students perform a reader's theater using the lines from a book. Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving by Dav Pilkey is a great book to use. After practicing, each student can get a chance to stand and recite their part.

6. Create a Thanksgiving Parade Float

The annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is a much-loved Thanksgiving tradition that has been around since 1924. Teach your students about the history of the parade and allow them to create a float or balloon of their own! Grab this free activity that has an article with the history of the parade as well as a cut and paste timeline. 

Find this and much more in our Thanksgiving Day Parade Unit by clicking on the picture below. Also, the Macy's website has a ton of  content that would be fun for students to explore!

We hope we have given you some activities that you and your students will enjoy in the last few days before break. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Resolving Conflict in the Classroom

 A kid isn't playing fair at recess.

Two students are arguing over who goes first.

Someone is spreading a hurtful rumor.

Conflict...it's one of the hardest things for kids to navigate during the school day. It can disrupt learning, cause low self-esteem, and affect the overall culture of the classroom. Teaching students how to handle small challenges independently is SO important and empowering! Read on to find out how we work through conflict and grab some FREE resources that you can use with your students.

Conflict in the classroom is pretty much unavoidable. When you have several students interacting with each other day in and day out, challenges are bound to arise. What we realized is that our students didn't know what to do when dealing with issues beyond telling a teacher or handling it in a negative manner. We decided to give them the tools they needed to be able to handle the small everyday challenges. This is why we created our Be a Hero: Conflict Resolution Unit. The posters below show how we use the acronym H.E.R.O to help students work through conflict. 





We practice taking the students through several different scenarios and show them how they can be "super heroes" when solving conflict. Here is an example of how you would walk your students through the problem solving process.

We also realized that a huge part of classroom culture and community is the mindset that students come to school with each day. Having a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset can really guide students to make positive choices when working through conflict. 

Our Growth Mindset Quote Journal has a quote for each week that students reflect on and then they decide on a "superpower" that they will practice. These are qualities such as kindness, compassion, empathy, patience, etc. that are also introduced in the HERO program. 


Check out this FREEBIE with activities from both of the resources mentioned above. 



And if you think you might like to try out either of these in your classroom, click below to find out more!



We hope you can use these ideas to help teach your students how to solve conflicts in your own classroom and in their everyday lives.  

12 Mentor Texts You Need for your Personal Narrative Unit

It’s the beginning of the year and your students sit down to work on writing for the first time. Have you ever heard these words...“I don’t know what to write about!” 


Starting the year with personal narratives is a great way to combat these dreaded words. Not only does this genre allow students to share about their own lives, it also taps into a treasure trove of ideas that they can write about. You can let them know that they already have so many stories to choose from. When students learn to access their memories in order to create detailed small moment stories, they become more confident in their writing ability. 


Below is a list of 12 mentor texts to help with the personal narrative writing process: generating small moments, crafting leads, the heart of the story, “show not tell”, and powerful endings. Also, make sure to grab the FREE anchor chart resource below.


GENERATING SMALL MOMENTS:

The first step of writing personal narratives is for students to come up with ideas from their lives to write about. They don’t need to come up with huge, exciting events that have happened to them, but instead they can find the stories in the small, simple moments. We usually have them generate stories with a special person, special thing, or special place. These books show an example for each.


Special Person:

Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox

Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge lives next door to a nursing home. When he finds out that his special friend, Nancy Alison Delacourt Cooper is losing her memory he sets out to find what a memory is.


Special Thing:

Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts 

All Jeremy wants is a pair of those shoes, the ones everyone at school seems to be wearing. Though Jeremy’s grandma says they don’t have room for “want,” just “need,” when his old shoes fall apart at school, he is more determined than ever to have those shoes, even a thrift-shop pair that are much too small.

 

Special Place:

Rollercoaster by Marla Frazee

The roller coaster car is going up, up, up to the highest spot. And at least one of the people in the car has never ridden on a roller coaster before . . . ever.Wheeeeeeee! Get ready to experience the thrill of riding a coaster for the very first time in this vibrant new adventure from acclaimed picture book creator Marla Frazee.


CRAFTING LEADS:

We teach students that the beginning, or lead, of a story is so important because it should grab the reader’s attention and make them want to continue reading. The three strategies that we share with them use action, dialogue, or snapshot. These books show an example of each type of lead.


Action:

Peter’s Chair by Ezra Jack Keats

Peter has a new baby sister. First his father paints Peter’s old cradle pink, then his crib. Then his parents want to paint Peter’s chair! “Let’s run away, Willie,” he says to his dog. And they do. This is a gentle and reassuring story about sibling rivalry.


Dialogue:

Come on Rain by Karen Hesse

A young girl eagerly awaits a coming rainstorm to bring relief from the oppressive summer heat. "Come on, Rain!" Tess pleads to the sky as listless vines and parched plants droop in the endless heat. Then the clouds roll in and the rain pours. And Tess, her friends, and their mothers join in together in a rain dance to celebrate the shower that renews both body and spirit.


Snapshot:

Thundercake by Patricia Polacco

A loud clap of thunder booms, and rattles the windows of Grandma's old farmhouse. "This is Thunder Cake baking weather," calls Grandma, as she and her granddaughter hurry to gather the ingredients around the farm. A real Thunder Cake must reach the oven before the storm arrives. But the list of ingredients is long and not easy to find . . . and the storm is coming closer all the time!


SHOW, NOT TELL:

One of the strategies that helps a story really come to life is when students focus on painting a picture with their words, instead of just telling what happened. Owl Moon does an amazing job of “showing” the reader what is happening in the story with beautifully descriptive language.


You can use the detailed pictures in the book Blackout to give students an opportunity to practice this strategy. As you read the book, have students provide their own descriptive language to go with the images. 

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen

Late one winter night a little girl and her father go owling. The trees stand still as statues and the world is silent as a dream. Whoo-whoo-whoo, the father calls to the mysterious nighttime bird. But there is no answer. Wordlessly the two companions walk along, for when you go owling you don't need words. You don't need anything but hope. Sometimes there isn't an owl, but sometimes there is.


Blackout by John Rocco

One hot summer night in the city, all the power goes out. What's a family to do? When they go up to the roof to escape the heat, they find the lights--in stars that can be seen for a change--and so many neighbors it's like a block party in the sky! The boy and his family enjoy being not so busy for once. When the electricity is restored, everything can go back to normal . . . but not everyone likes normal. 


HEART OF THE STORY:

The heart of the story is the most important part, or the climax. We stress how this part needs to really be stretched out with lots of great details. In the book, Fireflies, there is a moment when the boy sees the waning lights of the fireflies he caught in a jar and decides to set them free. Julie Brinkloe does a great job of layering this moment with action and emotion. 


Fireflies by Julie Brinkloe

A young boy is proud of having caught a jar full of fireflies, which seems to him like owning a piece of moonlight, but as the light begins to dim he realizes he must set the insects free or they will die.


POWERFUL ENDINGS:

Students tend to think that they can just say “The End” and their story is complete. There is, of course, much more that goes into crafting a powerful ending. There are three different strategies that we discuss with students: a lesson learned, a thought or feeling, or a circular ending. Below are books with examples of each strategy.


Lesson Learned:

Best Story by Eileen Spinelli

The best story is one that comes from the heart. The library is having a contest for the best story, and the quirky narrator of this book just has to win that rollercoaster ride with her favorite author! But what makes a story the best?


Thought/Feeling:

Fireflies by Julie Brinkloe


Circular:

Saturdays and Teacakes by Lester Laminack

A young boy remembers the Saturdays when he was nine or ten and he would ride his bicycle to his Ma'am-maw's house, where they spent the day together mowing the lawn, picking vegetables, eating lunch, and making delicious, sweet teacakes.

The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant

In a rainbow-colored station wagon that smelled like a real car, the relatives came. When they arrived, they hugged and hugged from the kitchen to the front room. All summer they tended the garden and ate up all the strawberries and melons. They plucked banjos and strummed guitars. When they finally had to leave, they were sad, but not for long. They all knew they would be together next summer.


Click here to grab free anchor charts that can be used to teach the elements of a personal narrative that we mentioned above.


These are samples  from our Personal Narrative Unit, where students are taken through the writing process in a step by step way. Check it out below!



Hope this is helpful to you and your students as you begin the year. Happy Writing!

4 Ways to Bring the Excitement of the Olympics to Your Classroom

After being postponed, along with so many other important events last year, the Olympics are finally happening! The excitement is building and the amazing athletes will be watched by kids all over the world. Bringing the excitement of the Summer Games into your classroom is a way to get kids engaged right away! Read on to find out 4 ways that you can bring the fun of the Olympics to your students AND get an awesome freebie that you can use in your classroom.

  1. DIVIDE STUDENTS INTO TEAMS AND HAVE THEM CREATE THEIR OWN COUNTRY They can come up with a name for their country and create a flag. You can even have them come up with a chant or a song that would represent the country.


  1. HAVE AN OPENING CEREMONY Make this a fun event with a parade around the room to music from the Olympics. 

John Williams: "Olympic Fanfare and Theme" - YouTube

Each “country” can hold up their flag and sing their song/chant when it’s their turn. Make a speech about how important it is to work as a team, treat each other with respect, and do their best. You can also show clips from the 2021 opening ceremony or past ceremonies.

Here is the one from 2016:

Rio 2016 Opening Ceremony Full HD Replay | Rio 2016 Olympic Games - YouTube


  1. GO OUTSIDE AND HOLD YOUR OWN CLASSROOM OLYMPIC GAMES There are lots of creative activities that will get kids moving and having a great time. Below is a list of a few outdoor games that you might try out:

    • Beanbag Paper Plate Toss

    • Water Balloon Toss

    • Hula Hoop Contest

    • Frisbee Throw

    • Egg Relay Race


For more fun activities you can do outside, check out:

10 Fun Olympic Game Ideas for Kids - Kid Activities


  1. BUILD TEAMWORK WITH AN OLYMPIC THEMED ESCAPE ROOM Students will work together on 5 teamwork challenges in order to complete each event and earn the gold medal! We are giving away this fun breakout game, normally $4, for FREE! Click below to grab one for your students.



We hope you have blast celebrating the Olympics with your students and we want to leave you with some encouraging words :).


5 Activities to Survive the End of the Year Chaos!

Testing is over and the end of the year is almost here! We know how exciting this time of the year is for you and your students. However, it’s also one of the most hectic times of the year. Between the end of the year events, concerts, field trips, assessments, and preparing your room for the summer; there is always so much to be done! As teachers, we still want to create meaningful memories for our students even in the midst of all of the chaos. 

Here are 5 ideas you can use to help survive the end of the year:


1. Try Out Themed Activities Kids love themes and being able to get into character makes doing work so much more fun. This is also a great way to implement room transformations. There are so many options on TPT. Some possible themes are: camping, beach day, boot camp, circus, etc. We created a week-long, cross-curricular Secret-Agent themed unit that is print and go. Check out our printable and digital versions below.



“My kids loved the activities and asked for more. It was a great non-stressful activity!”


2.
Count Down with a Balloon Pop We all know that the end of the year tends to bring out some of the more...impulsive behaviors in students😉. A balloon pop is a great way to not only count down the number of days of school left, but also encourage good choices. Implementing this classroom management strategy is easy. We usually do it for the last ten days of school. Put a slip with a reward inside of each balloon. After you have blown them up, tape the balloons somewhere around the room. Each morning you will write a word like POP or BALLOON on the board. If the students misbehave they can lose a letter. However, if they have at least one letter left by the end of the day, they get to pop the balloon. Then they will get to do the reward the following day. This is super motivating for students and they will be so excited to see what is inside the balloon each day.


3. Use Technology to Reflect on the Year The end of the year is a great time for students to reflect on things they have learned and ways that they have grown. Kids are so comfortable with technology, especially now that many have experienced distance learning. Using website platforms, such as Flipgrid, is a great way for them to be able to share and reflect. This website and app allows your students to easily record videos to one location that can be accessed by the teacher or other students. Have your students fill out these surveys with information about themselves and the school year.


4. Put on a Talent Show Students love to be the star of the show. Allow them to showcase their talents and amazing abilities with a talent show. This requires no prep on your part. Simply set up a time and have the students sign up with what talent they would like to share. Then enjoy the show! You can even do a digital talent show if you’re doing virtual learning. Use Padlet or Flipgrid for students to record their talent and post for classmates to view. 


5. Create a Memento Have students complete a cute scrapbook to record their memories from their school year. When they are finished, students will have a great memento that they can keep for years to come. They will get to share about their friends, their teacher, favorite memories, etc. This is also an easy virtual activity for students to complete digitally. Click below to grab a FREE copy of our Digital Editable End of the Year Scrapbook.


We hope that these ideas help you to survive the last few days of the school year. Hang on, you’re almost done!!!


Free Escape Room Activity for the Classroom

Have you ever tried doing a breakout challenge with your students using locks, boxes, codes, and blacklights? While all of that sounds fun and engaging for students in theory; in reality, it can be very stressful for the teacher. Setting it up and organizing the tasks, making sure that the locks are set correctly--all of this can be overwhelming. After we experienced this with our students, we decided to simplify the process. We came up with an escape room challenge that didn’t need any complicated props, but still had the same engagement for kids! Read on to find out more about our escape room challenges and get a free one to try out in your classroom!


One of the things that we love about doing our escape rooms with students are that they are quick and easy to set up. All you need is a printer and occasionally a few supplies. Each breakout game starts by setting the stage with the mission or mystery. Then students need to work collaboratively to solve 4 or 5 challenges. These challenges are cross-curricular and allow students to practice many different skills, including critical thinking. Each time they solve a challenge they get closer to “breaking out”. You can feel the energy and excitement in the classroom as the students are working.



See what this educator said about one of our escape room challenges:


“My students LOVED this activity!!! I loved it too because it was a great review of math fact fluency, elapsed time, word problems, and reading a grid with directions.  I think the best part of it was that my kids really had to critically think when doing the activities.  For example the elapsed time clue didn't just tell them who it was they had to determine who had enough time to commit the crime.  Very, very well put together! I'll be looking for more of these types of activities from this seller.



When we switched to remote learning, we wanted to continue the fun of the breakout games that our students loved so much, so we made digital versions. The students can still have the excitement of completing the challenges while working alone, or they can work in virtual groups.



Ready to try an escape room in your classroom? Click below to try our Secret Agent Breakout Game for FREE!




You can also grab the Escape Room Bundle and Digital Escape Room Bundle below.





We hope your students love completing these challenges as much as ours do!


8 Reasons to Try Student Led Conferences



Let’s be honest, do you dread that parent teacher conference time of the year? If so, there is a way to make the whole experience much less nerve wracking, while still being beneficial for all of those involved. Student led conferences are a great way to engage both the parents and the student, instead of putting the spotlight only on the teacher.

We have done student led conferences for years and we love them. They take a little bit of work upfront but it is mostly just guiding the students in their preparation. This type of conference can still be done even if you are teaching virtually this year! 

Read on to find out the top 8 reasons why you should do student led conferences with your class this year and to grab some free resources.


1. The prep is much less time consuming for you as the teacher than with traditional conferences.

Since they are student led, most of the information to be shared is being gathered by students. We start about a week before the conferences and have the students put together a portfolio of work to share using a checklist. They work on a different reflection page each day and gather samples of work from all of the subjects.
 

2. They are a great way for students to really reflect on their progress.


As we said, we have students fill out several reflection pages where they rate their work habits and behavior, share grades, Class Dojo points, etc. They also have many opportunities to set goals for themselves. They are not only thinking about how they have done so far in the year, but they think ahead to what they would like to accomplish in the future.

3. Students are forced to take ownership of their own behavior/work.

As students work on completing their portfolios, we always stress how important it is to really be honest with themselves. When we sit down for a conference with the student and their parents, they know that we can always chime in with a question or bring up any differences between what we have noticed at school versus what they have shared. More often than not, our students are very truthful and many times are harder on themselves than we would have been. 


4. Students can feel a sense of empowerment.

Allowing students to take the lead and be in a position of power during the conference is one of our favorite reasons for doing student led conferences. It’s fun to see them rise to the occasion. It also gets across the message that while their teacher and parents are there to support them, it is really the students themselves that are going to drive their own learning and progress. 


5. Students benefit from receiving their parents’ attention.

Life is so busy and parents, especially those with multiple children, don’t always get to give a lot of focused attention to a child. Taking a few minutes to let their child be the star of the show is really affirming for students and they tend to really benefit from receiving both their parents’ and teacher’s attention. An added bonus is that parents are usually very pleasantly surprised to see their child present in a way that is very different from what they see at home.


6. It builds a strong home-school connection.

Parents are more willing to come in for a conference when they know that their child will be leading it. It may even be a way to get more reluctant or hard to reach parents involved. Sometimes parents are nervous about coming into the school if they are not fluent in English. In these instances in the past, we have either allowed the students to present to their parents in their native language or arranged for an interpreter to be present through the ESL teacher.

7. It can be a fun and enjoyable time for all!

We really play up the student being the star of the show by making it into a “Hollywood” event. We put out a red carpet outside of the classroom door and display Walk of Fame writing assignments in the hallway, where students talk about why they are a superstar. The students dress up for their conference and they get to sit in the teacher chair to share their work. As soon as it is time to start, we allow them to lead the conference and we serve more as a facilitator. After they finish, we take a picture of them with their parents which we send home later as a reminder of their special night.


8. These conferences can be done both virtually and in person!

It’s great to be able to have the in person experience, however it is still very possible to have a student led conference virtually. Students can complete digital slides and share their work through video conferencing apps such as Zoom or Google Meet. We would recommend having a copy of each student’s slides so that you can present them from your computer as they share.  


If you’re ready to try out student led conferences check out our Student Led Conference Resource. It has everything you need to try this with your class. Also, for those that are doing virtual conferences, we have our Student Led Digital Conferences.  

Finally, here is a free resource with the letter we send home and a list of websites that can be passed out at the end of the conference for parents who need resources at home.

So have we convinced you yet? If you decide to try student led conferences this year, comment below and let us know how it goes!