December Round Up

I'm back with another monthly round up of ideas, activities, and freebies!

Be sure to pin your favorite ideas!

Every month, my students do some thematic or seasonal writing to display on our hallway bulletin board. To spruce up the display, I also have them create some sort of craft to display next to their writing.

Trying to display process writing each month can be a challenge, so one way I like to make sure our work gets switched out quickly is by having my students write a poem.  It gives them some great exposure to poetry, and we are able to put together a great display in almost no time!

This month, my students will be writing a cinquain about Rudolph and creating this super cute craft to display next to their writing. 

I've done this project for the past few years, and the kids really enjoy it.  To prepare them for writing the poem, I first read Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer to them.  Then, we brainstorm words and phrases that they could use in their poems.  From there, the students choose their favorites and use them in their poems.  Then, we make Rudolph! #glitterynoseisoptional

Click here to grab the FREE poetry template.
Click here to grab the FREE craft templates.

Last year, my students participated in a winter card exchange.  Each student made a winter themed card at home.  Then, they exchanged cards in class. It was lots of fun, and the creativity was just amazing.  You can read all about this idea, and grab a freebie, here.

In December, I love taking a break from our basal for a bit and reading different versions of The Gingerbread Man.


I don't know what it is about this story, but it is just so fun to read and it lends itself to so many important skills, like retelling.  These retell flap books are a fun way to practice this skill.

And, so is this retell hat!

Using adjectives to identify character traits is another great skill that can be practiced with this story.  This cut and paste activity is always a hit with my students! We usually complete one about the fox too!

I also love using these books to practice our compare and contrast skills. The kids are always so successful at identifying similarities and differences between the different versions.

As an extension activity, this Disguise a Gingerbread Man project is lots of fun!  The students create a disguise for the Gingerbread Man and then write about it.  Best of all, they can do the disguise project at home, or in class. 

You can find these activities, plus so many more, in my Gingerbread Man unit. It is perfect for use with any version of the story!  :)

Five in a Row is a classic in my classroom.  My students always love this game!

Students play in pairs.  They need two number cubes and some game pieces (I use the red and yellow counters).  Player A rolls two number cubes and adds them up.  Then, he/she covers the sum on the board.  Player B does the same.  This goes back and forth until one player manages to get five of their markers in a row.

You can grab this game for FREE by clicking here.  And, you can download other seasonal Five in a Row boards here.

Note: My students play the "Sums of 10-20" version of the game which is played with number cubes, but the freebie also includes a "Sums of 2-12" game board which is played with dice.


Happy December!

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Holiday Gift Ideas {Weekend Warriors}

Can you believe that the holidays are just around the corner?  You know what that means, time for gifts!  

If you're starting to think about gifts for students, colleagues, or parents, then read on because my fellow Weekend Warriors and I are sharing some of our favorite holiday gift ideas!

While I know that giving my students a gift isn't a must, it is certainly something I like to do. :)  But, of course, it can be a bit challenging when you have so many people to shop for!  So, like many teachers, I turn to Scholastic.  Kids love getting new books, and I can use my bonus points to purchase all of the books I need.  It's a win-win!

Depending upon the group of students, and what Scholastic has available, I may choose books that meet each student's reading level, or I might just choose a fun holiday book that would appeal to most second graders.  

I like to wrap the books and then top them with a bow and a bookmark.  These adorable bookmarks are from First Class in 4th Grade, and they are free!

Every year, I have my students make a gift for their parents.  I have a few "go to" projects. The first is this super adorable tin can snowman that a dear friend shared with me years ago. You can read more about it here.

My second go to project is another snowman themed creation.  How cute is this snowman pot?

This is super easy to make!  Here's what you'll need:
  • terracotta pots (any size)
  • acrylic paint: white, blue, black, and orang
  • wooden furniture buttons (in the wood section of the craft store)
  • sponge brushes
  • paint brushes
  • Hersey's Kisses (optional)
Here's what you need to do:
  1. Use a sponge brush to paint the outside of the terracotta pot
  2. Paint the rim of the pot blue (you could use a sponge brush or a paint brush)
  3. Use the end of a paintbrush (the non-brush end) to paint white polka dots on the blue rim
  4. Use the end of a paintbrush (the non-brush end) to create the mouth and eyes
  5. Paint the wooden furniture button with orange paint and attach it to the pot with a hot glue gun 
  6. Fill the pot with Hersey's Kisses!  
TIP #1: I fill the bottom half of the pot with tissue paper so that I end up using fewer Kisses.

TIP #2: To help cover the cost of parent gifts, I ask families to send in small donations, usually $1-2.  I tell them we are working on a super secret project.  It helps to cover/supplement the cost of materials.

And, finally, here is a quick and easy gift to share with your colleagues (I've also used it as a student gift in the past).

Here's what you'll need:

Once it's all bagged up, attach a label and a bow.  You can grab this FREE label here.

I hope you've been able to take an idea or two away with you today!


Don't forget to visit these lovely ladies for more great ideas!

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Owls at Night {A Directed Drawing}

I think it is safe to say that I have a new classroom obsession...directed drawings.  While they aren't completely new to me, I have certainly been doing more and more of them lately.  We recently made these super cute Owls at Night drawings.

I love how directed drawings require the students to stop, listen, and think.  There is nothing impulsive about a directed drawing.  I always tell my kids to watch me carefully as I model the drawing, one step at a time. Then, I tell them to think about what they just saw and how that should look on their own paper.  I encourage them to visualize what it should look like on their paper before they start drawing, and as they draw it.

Aside from working on listening skills and attention to detail, I also love how directed drawings give my students the confidence to try new things in their own drawings.

Here's a look at our latest batch of drawings.  They are so darn cute! 

I used these steps to walk students through the drawing process.  I had them draw with pencil first, and then they traced their lines with a Sharpie.  You can grab a free copy of the steps by clicking HERE.

Once we drew the owl, the students used a white crayon to create a night sky. Some students drew stars.

Others drew asterisks.  Drawing stars is still tough for some second graders, so I showed them both options and let them choose the style they were most comfortable with.

Then, it was time to paint!  We used watercolors, and the kids thought it was pretty cool when the stars "magically" appeared once they painted their skies.  #crayonresistforthewin

Since we were painting owls at night, we discussed the types of colors we might want to use for the background.  We agreed that black or dark blue would work best, but sometimes, watercolors aren't always as dark as we'd like them to be (and, that's OK).  They look great hanging on our wall and the kids are so proud!



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A Class Book with a Twist

I love class books.  We make them all the time in my classroom, and they are always a student favorite.  But, this week, I decided to make a different kind of class book...a coloring book!

I have used this idea in the past, but it was just one of those ideas that got lost in the filing cabinet the past few years.  I really need to dig around in there more often!  #toomanydigitalfiles

With Thanksgiving being only 13 days away, I thought it would be fun to make a Thanksgiving coloring book that the students could take home with them over the holiday and color.  Turns out I wasn't wrong.  My students were pretty excited about the idea of making a coloring book!

**Note: You could make a coloring book for any holiday, and in the past, I've used the idea with various units of study!

Each student completed a page for the coloring book.  I gave them the following sentence starter: "Thanksgiving is...."  We brainstormed ideas as a whole group and I wrote them on the board (and, in typical fashion, forgot to take a picture).   From there, the students chose an idea from the board (or used their own idea) to complete the sentence starter.

Then, they drew a picture to match their sentence.

This does take a bit of coaching.  Since they are making a coloring book, the images need to be an outline drawing that is easy for others to color.  I spent some time talking about how their pictures needed to be simple, emphasizing that they should try to eliminate small details (this can still be difficult for some).  We talked about the kinds of pictures we see in coloring books, and I even showed them an example (from a coloring book, and my own example below).

They drew their picture with pencil first.  Then, they traced their writing and picture with a Sharpie and erased any pencil lines that could still be seen.

When they finished their pages, I copied them, and stapled them into coloring books.  Easy peasy!  The kids are super excited to take their coloring books home, and they were so proud to send a set to their Pen Pals too!

You can grab the FREE template and cover page for this coloring book here.  :)


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