In between baking cookies, trying to figure out how to use this thing, and enjoying megatons of coffee in a real cup for a change, I've been busy creating things in my little teacher resource workshop! That whole Santa thing must be rubbing off on me.

After I made my Weekly Word Wizard packs which are mostly aimed at second graders, I started to get lots of requests for other grade levels, especially first grade. These packs take a ton of time to create, partly because I'm a freaky perfectionist and partly because they are completely common core aligned. Some of the first grade skills are tough! Like teaching shades of meaning among verbs and adjectives, for example. I started off in the first packet by having them eliminate a choice that wouldn't fit the group and I'll start to work on understanding intensity through the other packets. I have set one finished and uploaded on tpt, but I'm sharing a sample with you all here that I'm not sharing anywhere else. Just click on the picture to download week one to see if you like it and if it's something you'd like to use with your kids. If you do, you can see the whole set here on tpt. I have the other 3 nine-week sets all sketched out, I just have to type them up so I'm hoping to have them all listed in a week or so.

I also created this fun bingo game. I often find that my kids don't know some things that seem to be common sense, like how many things come in a standard set, like 12 cookies in a dozen or 52 weeks in a year. So to help them learn some of these important numbers, I created a bingo game. It has 32 calling cards, 30 printable bingo cards and some ideas for play. After you play it a couple of times as a group, you can even leave this as a math center. We do partner activities with older classes, this could be fun for that too.  I'm thinking I might tuck it into my emergency sub tub. This would be perfect for that! Click {HERE} to see it on tpt.
And finally, my calendar center task cards for January are ready. The set comes with calendars from 2013-2015 so you're set for 3 years. I'll update them in 2016 :) My kids dig this center and they are getting so much better at understanding a calendar. I was shocked at how much they didn't know abou the calendar, even after having calendar activities every stinking morning since pre-k! Now with these cards, they're really using the calendar more than just repeating rote facts that they've memorized.
Click {HERE} to see them on tpt.

I've been getting questions about if I have a product for this or that, or when certain things like Word Wizard or my calendar cards would be ready, so I figured I'd share them with you this way for a change. See you soon, friends!

December was a whirlwind, as usual. Here's a little recap of what went down in our little corner of the world. It's a little late for you to do most of these this year, but thankfully Pinterest makes it easy to save for next year!
The awesome melted snowman craftivity is from Tanja at Journey of a Substitute Teacher  
and the gingerbread cuties were from Alisha from The Bubbly Blonde.
Our class adopted a less fortunate family this year. The kids brought in gifts and we wrapped them and sent them off with big smiles before we started our party. Upper right: trying to fan an ornament across the rug as a minute to win it game and an impromptu conga line. Bottom row: our ice cream cone candy trees, mini doughnut reindeer and our newest obsession: Factory Balls on
The kids were busting to open the stockings that we made. Original post here. They were so cute! The notes they wrote to each other were priceless!

I had out some puzzles that I made last year (original post here). Then a couple of my little nuggets asked if they could make their own puzzle! I told them to write the questions and answers they would use and gave them just a little guidance, but they pretty much did it all themselves. They were so excited about it and they just couldn't wait for one of their friends to try it out. I just thought that was so cool. Good thing I had some extra puzzles!
I realized late in the week that I didn't have a parent gift to send home with the kids. We're talking really late, like Thursday late. Luckily a friend suggested this awesome craft from Yvonne Dixon's gingerbread unit! I had never seen this before and they came out a-maaaa-zing! I cut the big circle out on Thursday night, laminated them and then the kids traced and colored the design onto the laminated circle. Then they cut out the whole thing and added a string. This is definitely going to be a yearly tradition!
You know you have a great class when you actually miss them over the break! I had one little guy a bit confused over whether or not he'd still be in 2nd grade when we came back and if I was still going to be his teacher. When I reassured him that I would be, he was pretty excited. Me too, little guy, me too.


I'm joining Christina's linky over at Bunting, Books, and Bainbridge as a fun send off to 2012. The idea is to recall some of my best and brightest moments of this year and share a bit about my favorite bloggers, too.

It was tough coming up with my favorite post of the year. Immediately, I thought about this post I wrote about how to go back to our classrooms after the Newtown tragedy. Since the news sank in, I've been in a strange state of mind. I have literally found myself sitting back in my room watching my kids and getting teary eyed. I can't pass a first grade classroom without thinking of those lost little angels. I really think that this one event has had more of an impact on me as a teacher than any other I can remember. I think in some ways, like most of you, I'm still processing the enormity of it all.

Another meaningful post for me was this one about standardized testing. I also really like this one about how our actions as teachers are reflected in our students' behavior.

I'm surprised that none of these posts that immediately popped into my mind were fun activities, freebies or pictures of things we've done in class. All of those things are wonderful and amazing and what most of us want to see when we visit a blog, but to me, posting a glimpse into what I really feel in my heart about our chosen profession is the most meaningful thing I can share with you.

On to happier teacher stuff. Looking back over my freebies, I'd have to say this group from October would have to be my favorite. There's a lot of good stuff there, if I do say so myself! ;) I'm pretty good about using the labels on my posts, so you can always go down to the very, very bottom of the blog where it says "Find it Fast" and click on Freebies. All the posts with freebies will pop up that way. Hopefully you'll find some stuff you can use.

There is no way to answer this one. I have become friends, like real friends, with the writers of some of blogs that inspire me daily. Through blogging I've met the most amazingly creative, generous, funny and warm-hearted people I've ever known. I've started this Pinterest board so I could round them all up on one place. It's not done yet, but feel free to follow it so you can meet all of my friends!

This one was easy. Last year my friend Jenaya from Lesson Plan Diva asked me if I would like to collaborate with her to create CCSS assessment packs for Math and ELA like the ones she created. I was so flattered that she even asked and I jumped in with both feet (a bad habit of mine). Making those two units consumed just about every single second of my summer. I'm totally not the queen of self-esteem, but I have to say I'm pretty proud of my work on these babies.

When I first started blogging, I did it because I needed a way to reconnect to my passion for teaching. I needed to find a way to focus on what's still good about teaching. For me, that's a big mission accomplished. Going on my 20th year in the classroom, I feel the enthusiasm I did way back in year one. That's due in large part to connecting with you all. I have some big plans for this little ol' blog of mine for next year and I hope all of you will come along for the ride!

Over the past several days, I had a holiday open house of sorts here on the blog. I hope you all had a chance to to enjoy the ideas and activities my friends shared with all of you! In case you missed any, here's a little wrap up. Just click on the pictures to visit the post!

First, my friend Jen from The Teacher's Caldron shared a great Christmas in Sweden activity:

Then, to continue the Christmas around the world theme, Amber from Adventures of a Third Grade Teacher stopped by to tell us all about Christmas in Australia and share this super cute surfin' Santa snow globe activity:

Next the sweet Deana from Primary Punch dropped in to share a great vowel team game:

Heather from HoJo's Teaching Adventures visited next with a two awesome freebies - a Christmas around the world reflective journal and a magic square puzzle:

Next up was Arlene from LMN Tree with a super fun holiday edition of Don't Get Skunked:
Then my real life bestie Gina from Beach Sand and Lesson Plans shared one of the most touching holiday writing activities ever:

And finally, Gina from Third Grade Tidbits shared another touching activity asking students to think about a gift they could give the world:

As fun as it was to have my friends visit, I'm itching to get back to blogging myself! I've got some big plans and surprises in store for the new year, assuming the Mayans were wrong...

Today is the last visit from my guests for this holiday season. It's been great having so many of my friends stop by and it was just awesome that they all brought a gift for you! Today  I'm welcoming a new friend, Gina from Third Grade Tidbits. She's got a fantastic lesson for you today that I know you're going to love!

I am so glad to be here spending time on Denise's blog! She has so many great ideas (as I am sure you know)and I feel honored to be able to share with you here! Today I am going to share a way to get your kids to think about Christmas outside of their box!

Do your kids get wrapped up in the Christmas chaos? Always thinking about what gifts they might get, are they on the nice list, what will they do over break? Or even worried about what Christmas will be like (for the less fortunate)? Each year I try to take the time to get my students to think outside of their world and think about the rest of the world. Where there are people that may not get to celebrate like they do. Where these people might just want a warm place to spend Christmas eve and maybe a meal to eat on Christmas. The people who have loved ones overseas fighting in war and just want them home. I have my kids think about what ONE gift they would give to the world if they could.

It starts off with a whole group activity, completing a circle map of gifts we would give the world if we could. Students have come up with things such as: money, housing, jobs, ending war, peace, toys for kids that don't have any, shoes/clothes for people who need new ones, etc. Afterwards, students do individual bubble maps, followed by flow maps. Finally they work through the rest of the writing process. The packet includes all of the pre-writing pages (I included two different flow maps, the one seen below and another type that we have used in my class) as well as "fancy paper" for your kids to write their final copies on. My class just loves having "fancy paper"!

Once students finish, you can turn this into a display by covering the writing with some wrapping paper. I usually use wrapping paper but have not done this activity yet this year with my kids and wanted to give an idea of how to put it together. If you don't want to use wrapping paper, you can easily use construction paper like I did below (don't mind the messed up bow... I never said I was an artist). Of course their writing will be on the fancy paper, not plain paper, but I didn't have it printed at the time. (This is why I am now taking pictures of everything we do in class just in case I ever need it again! Before this year I hardly took pictures of work... so I have no pictures of former displays of this-sad face).

Any way you choose to use this idea (with or without my pages), it will be great to get kids thinking outside of the little part of the world they live in. A lot of kids have no idea what it is like outside of their town. And some kids, sadly know all too well what it is like to be less fortunate. But this way, instead of writing a wishlist for all the material things they want (and some that some kids may never get) they can think about how they could spread their love and joy to the world.

You can download this FREE writing activity on Teachers Pay Teachers. Thanks for letting me visit!
Photobucket -- Third Grade Tidbits
On some level it feels wrong to go forward, to start blogging again as though things are back to normal and the world has resumed spinning as it should. While we all know that the world has been forever altered, what would be wrong is for us NOT to go forward. The best way to honor the brave teachers and souls lost at Sandy Hook is to return to our classrooms with the vow to be the best teachers we can be to the students entrusted to us. So, with that, I can't think of a better way to start moving forward than to welcome one of my very best friends to the blog today. She has an incredibly touching book and activity to share with you. Please welcome my friend Gina from Beach Sand and Lesson Plans.

I am BEYOND thrilled to be a guest blogger today!! Denise is one of my very best friends, as well as one of the best teachers I know.  Denise and I have known each other for almost 20 years....I just figured that out and I'm shocked. LOL!  We are currently not teaching in the same school,  but we did teach together for many years. We have collaborated on many lessons and activities and shared lots of laughs along the way! Denise is my bloggy mentor and my TpT cheerleader. For that, I owe you, Denise, a debt of gratitude. ♥

Thinking about Denise and gratitude leads me to one of my most favorite holiday activities. Using the mentor text, Silver Packages by Cynthia Rylant, students get a chance to think about who they might "owe a debt of gratitude" to and then create their own silver package.
This beautifully written story tells about the Christmas train that travels through Appalachia every year. A wealthy stranger, who was helped by one of the townspeople years before, repays the people by delivering silver packages to the children each Christmas. Frankie wishes for a doctor's kit each year, but instead gets things he needs. Mittens. Socks. Hats. Scarves and a few little toys.  Frankie grows up,  moves away, and becomes a doctor. He goes back to Appalachia to "repay his debt" to the town that gave him so much. I can not make it to the end of this touching story without a few tears.

After reading the story, I have a class discussion about what it means to "owe a debt".  (For 3rd graders, this can take some time.) We discuss gratitude and being thankful for not just "things" we are given, but for what people do for us. I ask the children to think of someone they "owe a debt" of gratitude. We use our writer's notebooks for preplanning by making a list of people and what we want to thank them for (I'm saying "we" because I write with the students).  We narrow it down to one person and draft letters. I  guide students towards writing from the heart.  I do help them edit their work as well. When the letters are published, they simply fold them in half twice and wrap them in tin foil. I give them a bow to place on top and a To/From label. A Silver Package.  It is a simple, truly heartfelt gift!

Here are some my 3rd graders wrote this year. I was so impressed.

 This one is my personal favorite. It's the first one that a student wrote to me! I was touched!

A few years back my now 12 year old son, Dane, was in my class and we did this activity.  Dane put his silver package under the tree and gave it to his dad on Christmas morning who cried when he read it. Dane's letter is simple, and doesn't seem like much, but to his dad it meant the world!

I used to give the kids printed winter stationery for publishing their letters. Recently, I created lined paper for them. Click ❅here❅ to download a copy of the papers and some simple gift tags to add to your silver packages.

Enjoy the season and think about someone YOU might owe a debt of gratitude!
Happy Holidays!

image credit

What do we do today? We open our doors and smile and hug our students - our children.  We teach them. We guide them. We temper our day with a little more tolerance and patience, compassion and understanding. We value their strengths and challenges. We make them feel safe, happy and loved. We remember that they are truly innocent and just finding their place in this world and we value that, even when they frustrate us.

We remember that they are more than just our students. We remember, at the very forefront of our minds, that they light up the life of a parent, a grandmother, a sister or brother, aunt or uncle. They are someone's best friend. They have a favorite toy. They can't wait to go home and hug their dog, pet their cat or grab their hamster out of their cage.

We remember that they need time to paint, even though it's messy. They deserve to dance and sing, even though it's noisy. They deserve to go outside and play, even when it's too cold or too hot for us. They deserve time to play games with a thousand little pieces that they never put back in the box. They are children who deserve to be children.

We remember that they deserve our best. They deserve to be given what we know they need. They deserve to be seen as individuals, not test scores, not a name in a data binder, not another RTI packet to be filled out. They deserve the benefit of our experience. They deserve the best education that we can provide for them, in the way that we know they need it, on the timeline we know they will grasp it.

I, for one, am taking back my classroom. My students. I will be the teacher they need. I will do my best to prepare them for the assessments they must take. I will be sure to do what I'm supposed to do for this new wave of teacher evaluations. But I will no longer allow those things to dictate how I behave as a teacher. I will keep those things in the back of my mind, but I will keep the true needs of my students in my heart. Because at the end of the day, that's what really matters.


The words of this poem give me some peace at times like these. I hope they do the same for you.

Death is nothing at all.
I have only slipped away to the next room.
I am I and you are you.
Whatever we were to each other, 
That, we still are.

Call me by my old familiar name.
Speak to me in the easy way
which you always used.
Put no difference into your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.

Laugh as we always laughed
at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me. Pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word
that it always was.
Let it be spoken without effect.
Without the trace of a shadow on it.

Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same that it ever was.
There is absolute unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind
because I am out of sight? 

I am but waiting for you.
For an interval.
Somewhere. Very near.
Just around the corner.

All is well. 

Henry Scott Holland

Part of the fun of the holidays is when friends stop by for a visit. It's even better when they stop by with a little gift! Well, that's exactly what's happening this week on my blog. I've invited a few of my friends to come over and visit with us and they all brought a gift to share! I have some great friends, right? 

Today I'm welcoming Lisa from Fourth & Ten. I was so excited when Lisa said she would like to share these adorable author's purpose activities with us. I'm sure you're going to love them as much as I do! Help me welcome Lisa!

Hello, Sunny Days readers! I am so excited that Denise has invited me to guest post on her blog.  My name is Lisa and I blog over at Fourth and Ten.  Where I blog about my adventures teaching my fourth graders and occasionally my love of Ohio State Football. :)

Last year,  when I taught second grade, Denise's blog was a lifesaver for me and I am so thankful for the friendship that we share.  So I am over the moon excited to take over her blog for a bit and share a fun activity that I did with my fourth graders to practice author's purpose a few weeks ago.  

My school has a big push on student engagement this year, which I am thrilled about because it gives us a little bit more freedom than normal to stray from our adopted curriculums.    A few weeks ago, instead of using a lesson from our Treasures reading series to review author's purpose, I decided to review author's purpose with two sweet and furry things that are close my heart.  

Aren't they precious? My students LOVE when I talk about my two dogs, Moss and Maddie.    So I had Moss and Maddie, plus my parent's dog, Daisy, dictate letters to me addressed to my class to use to use in a lesson.  
I shared these letters with my students on my Smartboard and we went through each one and discussed what the author's purpose could be and then looked for keys words and evidence as to why the purpose could be to persuade, inform, or entertain.  Then they recording their thinking on the accompanying graphic organizer.

Oh my gosh, my bigger kids LOVED this! They were so engaged and into the lesson that I was kinda hoping one of my adminstrators  would walk into the room for a pop in observation! :)  Since the lesson was so memorable, they used the doggie's letters throughout the week when determining the purpose of other texts that we read!  I overheard things like "Well, Maddie's letter was to inform and she taught us all about making her favorite treat, so this book must be to inform too because we learned something," and "Moss' letter shared a story that made us laugh, this book is also funny, so the author must have wrote it to entertain."  

If you would like to do this activity with your class, I have shared it with you as a freebie at my Teachers Pay Teachers store. 

Just click on the picture above to check it out! :)  If you use it with your class, I'd love to know what you think!

Thanks Denise, for sharing your reader's with me today! I'd love to have some of you click over to Fourth and Ten sometime!
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