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6 Activities to Keep Your Students Engaged Until Winter Break

While the holiday season is one of our favorite times of year, we know that the weeks before winter break can be super hectic and stressful, especially that last week. The closer it gets to break, the CRAZIER kids become and we know from experience that crazy kids = a stressed out teacher. Here are 6 ideas to help you engage and excite students even as they are dreaming of winter vacation! Make sure to grab our gift to you-two FREE resources that you can use with your students.

1. Learn About Holidays Around the World

This is a great time to teach students about how people all over the world celebrate winter holidays. They get an opportunity to find out about similarities and differences that they might have with other cultures. This video shows several different winter holidays around the world. After watching, students can reflect and share their own holiday traditions. 

We created a fun Holidays Around the World Breakout Game where students can collect stamps in their passport as they learn about different holidays and complete challenges. Check out the printable and digital versions below:


2. Create a Homemade Gift

Looking for an easy gift that your students can make and parents will actually use throughout the year? This super cute calendar is a great idea. Just take a picture of each student holding out their arms with their hands down. Print and cut out the images. Glue mini clothespins to the back of their hands and insert a calendar. 

Check out @happilyeverafter here on Instagram for a full tutorial.

3. Make a Gingerbread House

One of our students' favorite activities of the year is making gingerbread houses. Kids have a blast designing, creating, and decorating their own house. Get parents to send in materials and use resources that are available to you, such as milk cartons. Tip: Make the gingerbread houses and allow them to dry overnight. Then they will be ready to decorate the following day. The smell of your classroom will be amazing! 

If you are looking for some gingerbread-themed resources, take a look at our Gingerbread Area and Perimeter Unit. This unit includes math activities and directions for creating gingerbread houses, as well as a parent letter requesting supplies. 

4. Have a Grinch Day

If you have never had a Grinch Day with your students, you definitely need to try it! It's so much fun and your class will absolutely love it. Throughout the day, we do grinch themed activities, such as STEM challenges, games, math activities, and more!  We even watch the old school version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. You can find it here on Youtube. Check out some of the pictures from our Grinch Day below, including the "Pin the Heart on the Grinch" game. 


5. Earn Class Rewards            

This is a great idea that could be used for the last week of school when behavior is at its craziest! Put 5 gift bags out on the Friday before the last week. After reminding them about the expectations, tell them that each day they will start with the word GIFTS on the board. Any time they as a class don’t meet those expectations, they will lose a letter. But if by the end of the day, if they still have at least one letter left, they will get to open a gift bag and receive a class reward! Our students absolutely loved being able to earn rewards and it SAVED our sanity! Hopefully you can use these reward cards to set up your own gift system and help you survive the last week before break. Click on the picture below to download your FREE set of Holiday Reward Cards.

6. Read Picture Books (not Featuring Santa)

As much as we love Santa, it can be tricky to read books about him at school. We are always on the lookout for great winter books that don't mention Santa. Check out a few great books below. You can also find the links to the books being read aloud on Youtube.

Snowmen at Christmas by Caralyn Buehner

The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie daPaola

How to Catch a Snowman by Adam Wallace

Snow Day! by Lester L. Laminack

Sneezy the Snowman by Maureen Wright

One Winter's Day by M. Christina Butler

The Gingerbread Kid Goes to School by Joan Holub

This last book is featured in our Gingerbread Activities Unit. You will find all kinds of engaging activities for your students to complete, like a paper bag gingerbread house, plus this FREE History of Gingerbread Flipbook Activity!



 You can grab the bundle of both of our Gingerbread activities below.


Hopefully we have given you lots of ideas to help get you through to winter break. We wish you a very relaxing and joy filled holiday season!

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.'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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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. 


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.


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?


Fireflies by Julie Brinkloe


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 :).