We made turkeys out of Ring Dings for Tasty Tuesday this month. (Ok, it's past Thanksgiving and it's technically Wednesday, but these things happen) This recipe (?) varies a bit from the one in my book for a few unimportant reasons, but it ended up super cute and VERY yum! We cut about a third of the Ring Ding off and then stood up the bigger part (the turkey butt, if you will) up against the smaller part. Then we added a Whopper for the head. We squeezed a bit of chocolate frosting on the Whopper to attach the white chocolate chip eyes and candy corn beak. Now, I was contemplating pretzel sticks for the feathers, when I thought, hey there's not really enough sugar here. So, I opted for toothpicks and Froot Loops. The funniest thing is that most of my kids never had a Ring Ding! They were all about the filling in the middle. It was funny to me, but probably will be horrifying to the moms who send organic dried apple snacks in their kids' lunchbox. oops. my bad. I've made my peace with it. It's a once a month treat and these kids will remember today for a long time to come. Today was one of those days when I felt like I was really making a difference. I introduced a whole new generation to Ring Dings. Ah, it's days like these my friends... 

After we sent off November with our 4,000 calorie turkey, we firmly planted our feet in December with our Grinch project. I've seen this one floating around Pinterest and then I bought Deanna Jump's Grinch Mini unit from TpT in which she supplied the patterns. Now she did a cute "Make a Grinch Grin" writing assignment in the mouth, but I changed it up a bit. We wrote about things that make us feel "Grinchy". It's important for them to get out all of their feelings, right? I gave them some examples: Running out of coffee, waking up early on a Saturday, kids who talk too much and don't follow directions... They came up with some pretty hysterical things. I think they liked being able to vent!

Now most teachers would call it a day after our Ring Ding sugar high, trace, cut and glue-a-thon, but  not me. Oh no. I know how to push it just a little bit too far. We added homemade puffy paint to the rim of the Grinch's hat. Blame Pinterest. Again. According to the directions, you are to mix equal parts shaving cream and glue. That's like saying mix equal parts cotton candy and water. I did the best I could and tried not to be annoyed at how many of my kids felt the need to tell me that their fathers shave (imagine that!) and tried not to think about my father shaving without bursting into tears. So I just poofed some shaving cream and poured some glue and mixed until I was tired of figuring it out.

 And here's one of my charmers carefully following my directions to use ONE finger to spread it around.

Tomorrow we will see if the paint is dry and puffy (fingers crossed!) and... our elf on a shelf will be making his first appearance! I'm planning on snapping a picture of my elf every day and posting it to my Facebook page. If you're elfing too - please join me! I'd love to see all of our elves in action!

Tomorrow also kicks off my Holiday Giveaway Days! Starting tomorrow I'll be posting a new freebie or two for you each and every day for five days! The giveaway days will end with one big contest that I'll announce tomorrow and I promise will be super simple to enter (like leave a comment simple). But if you pin my reindeer below or add it to your blog starting today, it will be good for an extra entry. I just want to spread the word so my freebies make it into the hands of as many teachers as possible. So feel free to pin or post this little guy here. See you tomorrow with details my friends!
Makes me happy...  If you're now singing along in your head. THANK YOU for being old enough to know that song. If not, Google John Denver and try not to laugh. That song was a biggie when I was a little girl. Plus, JD was on Sesame Street a lot and you know I loves me some Sesame Street. The Sunshine on my Shoulders today is  from this little beauty:
I have been awarded the Sunshine Award, not once, but FOUR times. Four blog buddies thought enough to to include me on their top 10. Wow, I mean. wow. Thank you bunches to Heidi at GlobicateJen at The Teachers' Cauldron, Tara at 4th Grade Frolics and Charity at The Organized Classroom BlogStop by and visit my friends, they are quite amazing!

Here are the rules for accepting this award:
1.  Thank the person who gave this award and write a post about it.
2.  Answer the following questions below.
3.  And pass the award to 10-12 fabulous bloggers, link their blogs, and let them know you awarded them.

So, here are my answers to the questions:
1.  Favorite Color?  Does glitter count as a color? No? I'll go with pink. 

2.  Favorite animal?  Otter. 

3.  Favorite number?  Any combination that will someday win the lottery. 

4.  Favorite drink?  Iced Venti 4 pump Vanilla Latte w/ light ice <--Hey, I'm just being honest.

5.  Facebook or Twitter? Facebook. I try to tweet, but I have to force it. I think we might break up.

6.  Your passion? Teaching, creating things for my kids and other teachers, traveling with my husband. (Although we both hate to fly, so we are partial to road trips)

7.  Giving or getting presents? I'm supposed to say giving here, right?

8.  Favorite day? I have a 30 minute window that is my absolute favorite. It's just me and the hubs so we tend to spoil each other. I love Christmas morning when it's just the two of us in front of the tree with Christmas music on exchanging gifts with the fake yule-log on TV (it is South Florida remember).
( I have no idea why the font is getting bigger and smaller. I'm not purposely trying to drive you for an early eye exam. I tried copying, pasting, choosing a new font, resizing...but this is the way the blog gods seem to want it to be)

This is the crazy hard part. I tried to search out some of my faves that have not already been awarded. I hate this part because I so don't want to hurt anyone's feelings...ugh. K, here:

I know I probably left off someone I'll feel terrible that I didn't include. So, in case that was you, I'll leave you with this funny story.  I've told you all before that I don't love cleaning. I do like cooking (well I like watching Food Network). I don't cook nearly as often as I should. This story proves it. Last year, my mother in law insisted on bringing baked sweet potatoes to Thanksgiving after I reminded her that somehow no one reached past the mountain of buttery mashed potatoes or marshmallow gooped sweet potato casserole to get to the plain ol' spuds. Did she listen? No. She brought a plate of them anyway. Being the dutiful daughter in law that I am, I smiled and put them in the oven to keep them warm. We went on to enjoy a great dinner and everyone was happy. Flash forward about 3 weeks. I pre-heated the oven (probably to make my world famous slice and bake cookies). After about twenty minutes the most foul smell had invaded my entire house. I finally opened the oven to investigate and there was the plate of  rotten sweet potatoes! Time had reduced them to a pile of semi-potato shaped orange lumps covered with mold and I had COOKED them. I don't know about you, but that was the first time I had cooked rotten, moldy potatoes. The stench was unbearable. I ended up holding my breath and running outside with the hot pan and throwing it in the front lawn. My plan was to leave it there to ward off the neighborhood moose dog that uses my front lawn as his personal crapper, but eventually the hubs disposed of the mess for me. This year I double checked the oven. We're all clear.

I've discussed my need for a picture book 12-step program, but I am not yet ready to admit that I have a problem, so we will proceed with my monthly five favorite book post! Onward to my obsession collection!

I'm counting these two as one choice. In my opinion, you can't have one without the other and really you need to have both. Snowflake Bentley is about the first man to actually photograph an individual snowflake. His whole life was dedicated to this quest and his results are remarkable and documented in the second book, Snowflakes in Photographs. Once your kids actually comprehend that the pictures are the real photographs from the man in the book, they'll be mesmerized by them.

This next one is hilarious and as much as your kids will love it,  you are going to want to bring it home to read to the other grow-ups in your life. A man named Murray who runs a Jewish deli finds himself in the odd position of having to take over for Santa on Christmas Eve! A few years ago I was co-teaching with a great friend and we ended up turning this book into a reader's theater script that we had the kids preform for the parents. It remains one of the most memorable holiday projects I've ever done. Fresh, original and super funny. Don't miss this one!

This next book, The Amazing Christmas Extravaganza is by the beloved David Shannon. The incredibly detailed illustrations in this book really help tell the story of a neighbor who goes a *teensy* bit overboard trying to do outdo another neighbor's holiday decorations. Sound familiar? When I saw the movie Deck the Halls I  kept poking my husband telling him - that's in the book, that's in the book, that's just like the book! I swear, that movie has to be based on this book - but I didn't see any credit anywhere. The book itself remains one of my holiday season must-reads. It's funny, poignant (don't be impressed, I had to look up the spelling for that one!), a little sad and dazzling all at once. There are many opportunities to predict, infer and talk about cause and effect during a read aloud of this one - and just try to keep it out of the kids' hands after you show it to them once!

Speaking of keeping a book out of kids' hands, this has me a little freaked out! First of all, the story idea is adorable. It basically goes through the changes Santa makes each month of the year in a quest to improve himself. He changes his hair color, clothing, even trades in the reindeer for a red rocket-copter! (Can you say midlife crisis?) I love the idea of the story because it lends itself really well to having the children write about New Year's resolutions. Now, here's the freaky part. If you click on the picture of the book cover, you will see that it is selling for almost $300 from some Amazon sellers! Uh, what?? I like the story, but in all honesty it's not like a holiday classic or anything. I'm not even sure how many people even know about this book! I was temped to sell my copy until I saw that I'd be offered a whopping $4.78 for it. Guess I'll keep it, but I'm still wondering why the heck this book is so popular and expensive all of sudden!!

 I was actually considering doing a whole separate post on my favorite Hanukkah books, but then I started to get confused about where I'd include Murray, and could I do Hanukkah without Kwanzaa or Chinese New Year and it turned into a whole thing, so I just added this book here. I'm working on a free lesson for this book, so I'm hoping some of you have it or can get your hands on it in the next week or so. This book is one of my all time favorite for December.  Bubba Brayna is 97 years old and making latkes for her Rabbi when a bear gets a whiff of her delicious cooking and follows the scent right into her house! Her 97 year-old eyes can't tell that this bear is not the Rabbi (which leads me to wonder who is still letting her live alone and fry with hot oil at her age! And exactly how hairy is the real Rabbi?). Aside from my over-thinking, it's a sweet, simple, funny story to share with the kids. Love this one.

Bonus Time! I've already been wearing down my iphone battery playing Christmas music whenever I get in my car. So I thought I'd share some of my favorite music this month too. Now before you go calling me a claymate or anything, this is one of my all-time favorite Christmas albums. I know he has kind of weirded out and fallen off the radar, but this guy can S-I-N-G! It wouldn't be the holiday season without "Mary Did You Know" and "Don't Save it All for Christmas Day" by this guy. (Uh oh, Maybe I am a member of the Claynation after all!)

There is just something about Harry Connick, Jr. He can sing, act, play instruments and he's awesome at all of them! I was so hoping he'd be the new American Idol judge. But now we have Steven Tyler who graced us with the ever popular phrase "Sh*t fire, save matches, fu** a duck and see what hatches!"  Knowing the youth of America has such wonderful role models on T.V. is just heartwarming. ha!  Anyway, I especially love this Christmas album of Harry's because it has songs that are a bit different from the standards that are played over and over. There is just something about his voice that I can't explain...kind of the same way I feel about Eric Clapton's voice. Ever listen to EC sing Bell Bottom Blues? That song just melts me.  (Man I'm all over the place today!)

And last, but not least, is a relatively new find - an acapella group called Straight, No Chaser. If you haven't heard their 12 Days of Christmas you're missing out (especially if you're old enough to remember Toto from the 80's!)

Here's the video!

I apologize in advance because I know that song is going to be stuck in your head, and for the fact that you're probably going to have to google that Steven Tyler phrase to see what the heck he's talking about or if I offended you with my self-censored version of that Steven Tyler phrase or for anything I may have said, written or implied in this present Christmas post,  posts of Christmas past or posts of the future. (Can you tell I just watched A Christmas Carol?)

For more great seasonal literature, stop by this fun linky at First Grade Found Me!

As you gobble up your turkey day leftovers and think ahead to the holidays, I'm seriously considering checking into a hotel until December 23, or so. Between all the deep cleaning to get ready for Thanksgiving and the cleaning up after Thanksgiving, I don't want to clean another floor tile, dish, toilet, window or piece of furniture for a looooooong time. I hate to clean in the first place, so all of this cleaning compacted into a small space of time kind of pushed me over the edge. If any family members are reading this, the #1 item on my Christmas list: gift certificates to a cleaning service!! As much as I love a clean house, I really hate to be the one cleaning it.  Who's with me?

To break out of my Grinchy mood, I will now tell you some cool things unrelated to housecleaning. I feel my zen returning (btw, did you know zen is not an acceptable word on Words with Friends? I think they did that on purpose just to be un-zenlike!)

1. TeachersPayTeachers is having an incredible Cyber Monday sale on, you guessed it, Monday! TpT is discounting all purchases 10% and many sellers will be offering additional discounts on top of that. Individual sellers may be discounting different amounts, but the highest you'll see is a total of 30% off. My entire store will be 30% off on Monday only. Just enter the following code for any purchases that day to automatically receive your discount: CMS28

2. I have decided that Cyber-Monday isn't always the most convenient for people who actually have real jobs in the non-cyber world to attend on Monday and can't be tethered to a computer to save precious pennies, so I'm also having a Black Friday sale today! I hope that either way, you can find some helpful teacher created resources. My entire store is 15% off today only, no special code necessary.

3. I have a very special holiday giveaway for you starting December 1. Five days of fun, free, no-strings attached classroom activities for you every single day. There will also be a contest to win a serious bundle of prizes from me to end the giveaway days and all you will have to do to enter is leave a comment  (not now...on December 1)  I even made a cute little graphic to help spread the word about the giveaway days! More info on him coming soon, but feel free to pin him (but please be gentle).

Here's one freebie for you now, just for reading this far! I'm doing this one with my kids Monday to start decorating our room! Just click on the picture to download it from TpT.

And finally, the winner of the Gobble Gobble giveaway hosted by Sassy in Second is Ali! Congrats Ali, Yvonne will be contacting you with details shortly.
Enjoy your weekend my friends. I'm off to see the Muppet Movie today and I am so stinkin excited! Manah Manah, do do do do-do....Manah Manah do do do do...

Well, my friends, the time has come to raise the roof and have some fun to give thanks for our blessings and stuff our faces with turkey and pie. And as I am so sure that you've read enough "Things I'm Thankful For" essays from your students, I'll spare you the monotony joy of hearing yet another one from me. Suffice it to say, I am thankful in many ways on all days for the blessings in my life, both big and small, real and virtual and I count every single one of you among them.

Have a fantastic Thanksgiving with your family and friends. Check back tomorrow after your tryptophan coma has subsided for some special announcements. Big squishy virtual hugs to you all!

Growing up, we had these elves in our house around Christmastime. To tell you the truth, I always thought they were a little creepy! So a couple of years ago when I saw them in the stores packaged with a book, I was intrigued. The story is that the elf is a scout sent by Santa to keep an eye on you and report back to the big guy whether you should be on the naughty or nice list. Still a little creepy to me, but I can see how parents must dig this! I know if I had kids of my own, I'd probably be putting up shelves in every room around this time of year!

Not actually having children, I figured this was a tradition I wouldn't take part in. That is until I stumbled upon the coolest teachers in the universe who brought this tradition into their classrooms! Why hadn't I thought of that? So this year I am ready. My little elf is hiding in the closet now, but he's ready to come out and zipline from the projector to the whiteboard, play cards with Barbie and Ken and make snow-angels in the pencil shavings (this is Florida after all). Check out my Elf Pinterest board for some more ideas.

I have quite a large Jewish population in my school and specifically my class, but to be honest, most of them actually partake in some form of Christmas festivities. I will explain of course, that this is just for fun and if you believe that the elf goes to Santa, then he absolutely does. If you don't believe, that's your choice, but it doesn't mean we can't have some fun together!

I also created some resources to use to make this more of a learning experience. I made two journals, one for primary kids and one for intermediate to draw a picture of how the elf was found that day and what they think he did the night before. The one for the older kids is set up like an investigation into the elf's mischief. I think I'm going to go with that one myself.

Edited on 11/23/13: The unit listed below is back in my shop with a new name and a new look!
See it here!

There are also some skill pages and writing response activities as well:

Take a peek at them in my TpT store if you'll have an elf on your shelf this year by clicking on the picture below:
I woke up this morning at 5:00 with so many ideas swirling around in my brain for a fun way to celebrate the holidays with you guys and I think I finally figured it out. I had to quickly write some things down with my eyes half open so I didn't forget them as my husband observed, "That little brain of yours never stops!" Nope, sure doesn't. And for that I'm forever grateful!
Hey Friends!
First of all, I must say I was completely and totally overwhelmed by the response to my Thankful Things writing activity. Guess I'm not only one who was ready to change up that traditional ol' essay! I have to tell you the best part though. Today I got a call from another teacher in my school who asked if she could send over her nephew to show me something. This little guy is the cutest thing. He could seriously jump into the Small World background and fit right in. However, he has some serious learning difficulties and is has some real trouble with writing. So in walks super-cutie and he hands me, you guessed it, his published writing piece explaining why he was so thankful for fire drills! It was an entire page full with so many awesome ideas! He was so proud of himself and I was equally proud of him and piled on the praise accordingly.

Then I called his aunt and suffered through a few minutes of misunderstanding - she had no idea that that was MY lesson! Here I thought she was showing me because she knew it came from me, but she was just so proud of his writing that she was showing it off! Funny right? (don't worry, she's on my list of people to question about why they don't follow my every keystroke obsessively -geesh!).  I can't even describe the feeling that gave me <--the feeling about reaching the little cutie, not of having to chastise his aunt for not following my blog, of course.

Another funny thing that happened this week was with a different teacher (yes, she's on the list too) who called excitedly to tell me about something so cool she just found on Pinterest. She started going on about my Turkey Trivia Scoot game and then realized out loud - oh, that's from you!  Yeah, I'm kinda feeling like a secret celebrity now.

So while I bask in my teachery accomplishments and savor my upcoming NINE day weekend (hee-haw!) I'm going to send you off to enter one awesome contest. I've partnered with Sassy in Second and Lory's Page for this fun little Gobble Gobble Giveaway! You have a chance to win some cool stuff.

I donated set 1 and 2 of my Word Wizard activities (if you already have them you can get 3&4 instead)

To read more about the contest and to enter, click on the picture below to head over to Sassy in Second. All contest entries are being left on her blog to make it easier to keep track and pick a winner.
So you guys head over there and enter and I'm going to attempt to do some laundry so my poor hubby doesn't have to go on his morning scavenger hunt to find clean boxers tomorrow. When I get ahold of that laundry fairy, she's going to get an ear full from me...
Raise your hand if you could live the rest of your life without hearing one more essay about your students being thankful for their family and toys!  Peeps, my hand is WAY up! Now, as sweet and endearing as those writings may be, after 18 years of teaching I'm about over them. (Does that sound mean?) In my own school I see the concept starting in Pre-K with cute turkeys and scribbly handwriting telling the world they're thankful for their Famalee or some such cuteness. This year, I did the obligatory turkey project with the same ol' same ol' thankful things, but as I was doing it, it occurred to me that it was time to kick it up a notch. I decided to stretch their little imaginations a bit and ask them to think of ways they're thankful for some unusual things that are totally worth being thankful for, but never make it into one darn Thanksgiving project!

I started by reading one of my favorite seasonal books - We Gather Together, Now Please Get Lost by Diane DeGroat. In the book Gilbert learns to be thankful for Phillip even though Phillip is not exactly one of his favorite people geese. That inspired this writing project. I listed some everyday items on little slips of paper and put them in a cup. Then I had each student pull a slip from the cup and announce what they had. Here are some of the can imagine the puzzled looks on their seven year-old faces when they pulled "band-aid" out of a cup that was supposed to hold a cool topic for a Thanksgiving project! (Don't click yet, but there is a link at the end for a free copy of everything you'll need to do this lesson if you'd like)

After sufficient giggle time passed, I started with a think-aloud on my topic. I chose baby wipes. I talked about how I'm thankful that they make cleaning the classroom easier, that they smell nice and how some of them even kill germs! That got the ball rolling. I gave them a few minutes to talk things over with their partner and then asked for some volunteers to share. It was a little slow going, but eventually, the ideas were flying! We did a lot of talking and sharing ideas before I gave them this frame to help them organize their ideas. <--This may or may not be how you teach writing. Personally, I rarely use a frame like this, but it was very helpful with this concept which was a bit more abstract. I'd love to hear your thoughts on that. Do you all use frames like this often? It actually worked out pretty well.

After they wrote, I edited with them and they published it on this little turkey peek-over pattern I've had in my files for at least a hundred years.

They grumbled a bit at the beginning, but their finished products were so incredible! This really helped them look at things in a whole new light. The ideas they came up with were things I hadn't even thought of. Here are some more examples:

If this looks like something you'd like to try, click {HERE} to get a free copy of the lesson steps, word cards and pre-writing frame. I put it together pretty quickly, so if you spot any mistakes, let me know. Sorry I can't share the peek-over turkey, I don't have the rights for that. Boo, Hiss Copyright Police!!  

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