Holiday Ideas

Early Learning

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Fall, freebies, Halloween

Doing Halloween Without Doing Halloween

Boo! Did I scare you? 😉 Halloween can be a tricky time in the classroom. And no, I’m not talking about the extreme increase of “sugar” as the main ingredient during snack time… although that CAN be a problem of its own. But today I’m talking about how we celebrate the holidays in our classrooms while still being careful to include everyone.

When I started teaching 10 years ago {yikes!} we did Halloween Parties. Those have turned into “Fall Parties” now in order to include everyone. It sometimes means revamping old ideas to take the Halloween factor out, as well as rounding up new ones. I personally focus on pumpkins, spiders, and monsters in October. 

I’ve already shared my pumpkin unit ideas recently, so we’ll stick to spiders and monsters this time around. =) 

Here’s a fun spider idea for you– make webs on your student chairs! My students literally became spiders and had to read nonfiction spider texts to learn how spiders weave their webs. Then they wrote from a spider’s perspective about the activity. We do this in conjunction with my spider thematic unit, in case you need more ideas to round out your spider ideas. Here are some of my favorite spider books to go with it:


For monsters, we held adoptions. Students adopt a monster and then write an instruction manual with things you need to know about their new monster baby when it’s your turn to babysit. They do this in the form of a monster shape book. I have four different monster patterns for my students to pick from. Each pattern comes with a face, writing lines, and blank options for creating a book. They absolutely love it and it’s so funny to see the unique personalities they craft for their monsters. It definitely stretches their creativity! Here are the books I use in our unit:

Of course Pinterest is full of ideas too– here’s the link to my fall ideas board over on PinterestAnd here are a few more of my favorite free ideas to help you get through the Halloween season without doing Halloween.




big kid units, Fall, giveaway, science

Speaking of Pumpkins… {giveaway}

Pumpkin spice, pumpkin lattes, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin ice cream, even pumpkin beer. You name it, we’re putting pumpkin in it this time of the year. And I’m okay with that, really. Except I’m more crazy about decorating with pumpkins than eating them. 😉

I’ve always loved this time of year in third grade though. We roll right from Johnny Appleseed to pumpkins. There’s just something about getting all covered in pumpkin guts and listening to your kiddos squeal as they pull seeds out by hand. Do you know how many of your students have never actually had that experience in real life??

We do all kinds of pumpkin activities… plant them, weigh them, measure them, float them, taste them, decorate them, and plant them. The possibilities are endless! We also do creative activities with pumpkins– poems, art, creative writing. You name it! I’ve found that I get so much more “buy in” when we work in themes across the content areas. My students being little walking experts over our unit topics!

I compiled many of my favorites into my Pumpkin Unit for Big Kids. This pictures highlights some of my favorites– my life cycle cut and paste activity, a printable nonfiction book I wrote to use for guided reading, poetry options, types of sentences for language arts, an observation chart for science, and an informational “how to” writing prompt. There’s lots more in my unit though. =)

You can see the entire unit in my TpT Store and also be sure to grab the freebie life cycle here. I also decided to give away my pumpkin unit to one reader, along with mailing you this little Halloween treat pack for your class. The unit is *NOT* Halloween themed though, just pumpkins. 

You can enter this win this week and I’ll draw a winner on Sunday. Tip: be sure the email address you use to enter is up to date so I can contact you if you win. Good luck! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Fall, literacy, reading, social studies

Pumpkin is Everywhere…

Pumpkin is everywhere. This can only mean one thing– fall is here! Fall is my favorite time of the year. The leaves are changing colors, comfort food is returning, sweaters are at the front of my closet, all of the things I’m allergic to are dead… too far? 😉 

This year I was lucky enough to usher fall in while in Park City, Utah. I posted several pictures on Instagram so I won’t put a ton here, but check this out. Seriously?! The mountains are gorgeous. My trip was equal parts work, play, and relaxing. I was able to zip-line, ride the alpine coaster, and take a trip down the alpine slide too. Talk about background-building experiences! 

It really got me thinking about the places we try to take our students in the classroom. There is no way my Indiana students can truly fathom just how difficult the trek west was without seeing the scale of these mountains firsthand. Books, pictures, even videos just don’t do them justice. They need hands on experiences. They need scale. They need models. They need to move and experience their learning. 

It reminded me of an article I read back in my grad school days. I impressed myself by digging it back up {not too rusty at research, after all!}. Even though the article is written from an ELL approach, I firmly believe it holds true for all learners. Here’s the link: Connect Students’ Background Knowledge to Content in the ELL Classroom.

I may not be able to bring the mountains themselves to my classroom, but I can provide hands-on experiences at every chance. Next time I teach about the westward expansion and driving that golden spike into Promontory Point, Utah, you can bet I’ll be that much more impressed having seen it myself. It’s my job, my duty, to convey that to my students too.

What do you do to bring the larger world into your small classroom?

literacy, social studies, writing

Community Project: Remembering September 11th

With the anniversary of 9/11 coming up, I wanted to share a project idea with you that our classroom did last year. It’s always a difficult day for me as a teacher, especially as the years pass and my current students have only heard stories about that day. They have no way to relate to the tragedy that I struggle to teach them about through my own tears. I usually read Fireboat and let the conversation and questions go from there.

But last spring, a new project crossed my desk thanks to a fourth grade teacher in our building. One of her students had a grandfather who was going on an Honor Flight. She asked the school to contribute letters to his specific flight. It was so touching! I immediately thought this would be a project we could do in the future along with 9/11 as we talk about the brave people who serve our country, both in our communities and abroad.

In case you haven’t heard of Honor Flights, the inaugural Honor Flight Tour took place in May of 2005. Six small planes flew out of Springfield, Ohio taking twelve World War II veterans on a visit to the memorial in Washington, DC. In August of 2005, an ever-expanding waiting list of veterans led to the transition to commercial airline carriers with the goal of accommodating as many veterans as possible. They are currently working to expand their programs to other cities across the nation.

The time is especially important because according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, an estimated 640 WWII veterans die each day. Honor Flight Network will continue do whatever it takes to fulfill the dreams of our veterans and help our heroes travel absolutely free. After this, they’ll focus on Korean and Vietnam veterans.

So what can you do in your classroom? You can check this map to find a regional location near you. Then you can have your students write letters and draw pictures to give to these veterans as they return home from their flight. They especially love hearing from children, knowing the sacrifices they made so long ago were for these future generations. You can also make a donation of any size. What if every student brought in a quarter, fifty cents, or even a dollar?

Together, we really can make a difference while teaching our students about tolerance, peace, and responsibility to our communities


Wordless Wednesday: Sale Style

Have you heard the news? TeachersPayTeachers is giving us a one day Back to School Boost bonus sale! Maybe the first one was a little too early and you weren’t in planning mode yet. Or maybe it hit just as soon as school was starting {you know, when you were trying to keep your head above water}. Or maybe you shopped your little heart out, found new stuff you love, and are ready to go back for more. 😉 Whatever the case, today is your day! 

I’m linking up with this week’s special edition of Wordless Wednesday. This time, we’re posting pictures of some of our favorite resources you might want to pick up while they’re on sale. I’m highlighting some of my favorite Big Kid Units. Happy Shopping!