Wood Slice Snowman Ornaments {Tutorial}

Every year I have my students make a holiday gift for their families. What they make seems to change every few years. I like to try new things, apparently. Hehe.

thumbprint snowman ornaments tutorial

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Last year, my students made some adorable snowman canvas ornaments. But this year, I switched it up, and simplified the project by using wood slices to make these fun thumbprint ornaments.

snowman ornaments tutorial

These were pretty easy to make. Keep reading!

What You'll Need
  • wood slices (with holes at the top)
  • blue acrylic paint
  • white acrylic paint
  • black paint markers (at least two)
  • orange paint markers (at least two)
  • q-tips

You can find the wood slices on Amazon.

You can find Mod Podge at your local craft store, but for ease, you can also find it on Amazon.

Here's What You Need to Do
Paint the wood slices blue. Depending upon the amount of time you have available to devote to this, you may want to paint the blue yourself. You will need to paint two coats.

Pull one or two students at a time to make the snowman. To create the snowman, paint your students' thumbs. They will make three thumbprints stacked on top of each other to create the three parts of the snowman. Be sure to apply fresh paint to their thumb before each thumbprint. Let dry.

Pull two students at a time to add details. Paint markers are easy to use and create bold lines and accents. Have students use the black paint marker to draw a hat, eyes, mouth, buttons, and arms. They will use the orange paint marker to draw a carrot nose.

*Pulling kids for these last two steps means you don't have to carve out time for the project at the expense of instruction. It also allows you to closely monitor and help students with the task (they get nervous about doing it wrong sometimes). If it seems overwhelming to pull them in small numbers, shake that feeling, it will go by much faster than you think. Chances are you have several opportunities each day to pull a few kids for 3 minutes at a time.

Use a q-tip dipped in white acrylic paint to create snowflakes. You can do this when you call students over to add their details, or you can call them over at a different time.

snowman ornament tutorial

Next, you'll want to seal the ornament with some Mod Podge. Use a foam brush to apply, it's much faster.

Finally, tie a piece of ribbon or jute through the hole. If you order the wood slices linked in this post, you'll also get the jute that is shown below.

snowman ornament tutorial

That's it!

Some of the wooden slices may crack when you paint them (see pic below). The paint dries out the wood causing any fairly significant pre-existing cracks to really open up. Have a few extra slices on hand in case this happens.

If you notice a teeny tiny crack in the slice (see below), no worries, when you seal the ornament with Mod Podge, it will be protected. In this case, simply put a coat or two of Mod Podge over the small crack, on the front and back. It's those big cracks (shown above) that you want to avoid.

Kids love to create things, and they always enjoy making something special for their families. I hope you can use this idea, or modify it to meet your needs this holiday season. :)


thumbprint snowman ornaments tutorial

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Winter Tree Pop Art Tutorial

Quick and easy bulletin board ideas are my favorite. If you're a fan of quick and easy too, then this is the post for you.

winter bulletin board idea

I recently made these winter trees with my students to display in our hallway alongside some winter themed writing. It took us no more than 30 minutes to complete from start to finish!

I just love the contrast of the black and white with the blue backgrounds (other colors would be fun too).
winter bulletin board idea

What You'll Need:
  • tree template
  • Sharpies
  • colored card stock or construction paper
  • scissors
  • glue

How to Make Your Own Winter Trees (Pop Art Style)
Give each student a tree template and a piece of card stock or construction paper.

easy winter bulletin board tutorial

Display some pattern suggestions for decorating the different sections of the tree. You could project some pattern ideas, or you could draw them on the board for students to pick from as they decorate their tree.
easy bulletin board idea

Students will choose one pattern at a time and fill in each section of the tree, one at a time. No need to use pencils, just give each student a Sharpie and have them create their bold pattern that way. This also helps them slow down and pay more attention to what they are doing.

Be sure to remind your students to use a different pattern each time (no repeats within any of the sections of the tree). You might want to model this for your students, one section at a time to make sure they completely understand what to do.

Cut out the tree.

Glue the tree to card stock or construction paper. Trim the card stock or construction paper, if desired.

Hang them up for all to see!

pop art tutorial

That's it. So easy. You can grab the FREE tree template, and pattern suggestions by clicking here. Have fun!


easy winter bulletin board idea and tutorial

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A Flicker of Hope: Teaching Children How to Have Hope and to Ask for Help

There are two kinds of books that I am constantly seeking out. They include books about individuality and books that help teach resilience and perseverance. So, when the National Center for Youth Issues reached out and asked if I would like to review A Flicker of Hope by Julia Cook, I jumped at the chance.

Teaching Students to Ask for Help

I received this book for free to provide an honest review. All opinions expressed within this post are genuinely my own and impartial.

This post contains affiliate links for your shopping convenience. I earn a small commission each time someone makes a purchase through one of my links. For more information about my Disclosure Policy, please visit this link.

What's it about?
A Flicker of Hope is Julia Cook's newest book. If you aren't familiar with Julia's work, do yourself a favor and get familiar with it. Her books are perfect for addressing a myriad of issues relating to kids' well-being and development.

A Flicker of Hope is about a little candle whose flame isn't burning as bright as it once was. She constantly finds herself beneath a canopy of black clouds, which is dulling her flame. Little candle feels like giving up. This all changes when another candle approaches her and offers her words of encouragement, or hope. Little candle is reminded that she is important, that she has a special role to play in this world, and that she matters. She's also reminded that she isn't the only one who feels bogged down by troubles and that it's alright to ask for help. As her new friend gives her hope, little candle's flame begins to grow brighter, and eventually, she is able to share hope with others.

Why is this message important?
Having hope is a part of life. In fact, it's a necessary part of life. Without hope we have don't have perseverance, determination, or a sense of accomplishment. Our world is filled with high expectations, unkind people, naysayers, and other pressures. Hope helps us to overcome these adversities. Having hope can take us from a place of darkness to a place of light. It can free us and empower us to believe that better days are ahead.

Sometimes, as a part of having hope and coping with the challenges of everyday life, we have to ask for help. While this may seem basic and obvious to many, the reality is, many kids struggle with this. Seeking help is interpreted as being weak or lacking knowledge. Or, it's downright scary. Kids need to know that reaching out to others is an important life skill. One that will benefit them more than they could ever imagine.

Fostering the psychological and emotional development in children is important. If you haven't heard of the The National Center for Youth Issues, be sure to visit their site. They create resources that address the developmental needs noted above. They also provide adults with effective tools to help kids as they develop in these areas. What they do is important.  Please visit their website to learn more.

How will this book benefit me?
Picture books are a classroom teacher's most powerful tool. Kids love to be read to. Even the bigger kids (this book is perfect for this age group). This book offers a means to facilitate important conversations about asking for help, valuing your strengths, and helping others to do the same.

How can I use the book?
  • Read it to your class and lead them in a discussion about having hope and asking others for help. You might create an anchor chart with them. Brainstorm a list of people they can turn to and how those people can help.
  • Turn the book into an interactive read aloud. Meaning, you read the book and in doing so, engage your students in meaningful discussion about the text by asking questions. Be sure to plan this out ahead of time to maximize the effectiveness of your read aloud.
  • After reading the book, have your students complete a reading response journal entry. They could write about a time when they reached out to someone for help, or a time they helped someone find hope. Or, they could write about why they think having hope is important.
  • After reading the book, discuss the points noted on the organizer pictured below. Then, have students complete the organizer. Use this organizer to help students identify what hope is and what they can do to when they need hope.
Teaching students to ask for help freebie

You can grab this free organizer by clicking here.

Click here to see this book on Amazon.

Teaching students to ask for help

This book is a wonderful tool to have on hand. Sometimes it can be difficult to have conversations about psychological and emotional needs when your expertise is in differentiating math, or creating engaging reading lessons. However, more and more, our students need us to be able to address these needs, and a book like A Flicker of Hope, is a great way to help you facilitate this process. For more wonderful Julia Cook books, click here.


Teaching students to ask for help

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5 Benefits of Coloring in the Primary Classroom

Coloring is an every day occurrence in most elementary school classrooms. Sometimes, coloring is looked at as a filler (especially from outside eyes), but it is so much more.

This post contains affiliate links for your shopping convenience.  I earn a small commission each time someone makes a purchase through one of my links.  For more information about my Disclosure Policy, please visit this link.

With the academic demands placed on teachers and students these days, it can be easy to second guess coloring in the classroom. But, there are so many benefits to coloring. So, please stop feeling guilty when your students color a picture to go with their writing or reading response. Or, when they complete a color by code assignment, and so on. Chances are, the act of coloring is secondary to the academic tasks you assign, and it's very unlikely that it is cutting into your instructional time.

And, if anyone ever asks, here are five benefits of coloring in the classroom.

It Requires Focus
Coloring is a task that requires you to be mindful of what you are doing at that moment. It requires focus, and being present. Coloring is a nonthreatening way to give students a chance to strengthen their ability to focus.

It Contributes to Stamina
This goes closely with the benefit noted above, but stamina is something that must be learned. Stamina means you stick with something for a period of time. In the case of coloring, it means you stick with the project until it is done. Stamina requires focus, of course, but as the ability to focus increases, so does stamina.

It Improves Fine Motor Skills and Hand-Eye Coordination
The actions, motions, and grip involved with coloring help build hand muscles. Stronger hand muscles helps with handwriting, and down the road, will help with other skills that require hand strength and dexterity. As students use their hands to color and their eyes to navigate what they are coloring, they are learning to be more spatially aware.

It Helps with Stress Relief
Students work hard all day long. The expectations placed on kids these days is a lot. Chances are they are feeling some level of stress throughout the school day, much like you do. Coloring something at the end of an assignment is a great way to give students a break from the demands of the day.

It Helps with Self-Confidence
Coloring is a nonthreatening activity compared to lengthy reading or writing assignments. For students who struggle in these content areas, coloring is one way in which they can feel more successful and confident.

There are so many ways to incorporate coloring into your day.
  • Use drawing/coloring as a prewriting activity (brainstorming the parts and details of a story before actually writing them).
  • Let students illustrate their published writing, including a cover page.
  • When responding to reading, let students use illustrations as part of their response (i.e. draw their favorite part, or illustrate the cause and effect in a story).
  • Have students color pictures of the main characters in a story. Cut them out, tape to craft sticks, and use them to retell a story.
  • Set out coloring pages as a fast finisher activity. Or, if you have digital devices, download a digital coloring app.
  • Lead your students in a directed drawing that relates to a unit of study and let them color it in.
  • Make a class coloring book for students to take home over an extended break. Read more about this process here.

Coloring Resources for the Primary Classroom

I love making class coloring books. They are a great way to encourage students to color, and it helps build classroom community. I have a set of class coloring book templates that can be used throughout the year. To purchase, click here.

Class Coloring Book Templates

If you like the idea of adding coloring books (or coloring pages) to your collection of fast finisher activities, don't forget to check your local craft store, or Dollar Tree. You can't beat the $1 price tag. If you prefer a different style of coloring (more detailed, but not overly detailed), you might consider a coloring book like this.

And, you might consider making coloring even more fun and meaningful for your students by setting out fun gel pens like these.

Or, some pencils likes these. Students are so used to using crayons, but they get so excited when given the opportunity to use something different from time to time.


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4 Things To Do After a School Break

I think we'd all agree that extended school breaks are the best. I know that for me, the fall, winter, and spring breaks tend to roll around when I need them most. But, being out of the classroom routine for an extended length of time means I need to spend a bit of time getting my kids back into the groove of things when classes resume.


Whenever we come back from a long break, there are four things I like to do to make sure our transition back is as smooth as possible.

Review our classroom rules/expectations. 
Our rules are actually our school wide expectations. There are 10 expectations. Which is a lot. We spent two weeks at the beginning of the school year discussing, thinking, and writing about each expectations in depth, but again, 10 expectations is a lot. After a long break, it's super important to review them. Whether you have 5 classroom rules, or 10, be sure to spend a bit of time reviewing them.

Set a goal.
Once I've reviewed the rules (or expectations), I like to set daily goals during our morning meeting. This is a good way to focus on each expectation rather than just quickly read through them as a group.

What do I mean by set a goal? Our first school wide expectation is to "Use Good Manners." So, on our first day back, we'll read through the expectations and then I'll tell students that as a class we will really focus on expectation #1. We'll talk about using polite words and actions. The next day, students can share examples of what they did to meet the goal before a new goal is set for the next expectation.

Review our procedures.
I know, I know, you have about 347 classroom procedures. So do I, but reviewing the ones that can have the biggest impact on your day is a good idea. Especially if you teach the little ones. I like to review the following procedures:

Let students tell about their break.
Our students love their breaks just as much as we do. There's a pretty good chance that they experienced something they'd like to share with you, or the class. There are a few ways to do this. You could let your students share them during your morning meeting time. Let students share one at a time. This is not only fun for the student sharing, but it's also fun for everyone else. Students like hearing what their friends were up to when they were apart. Plus, it's a great way to practice speaking in complete sentences and taking turns.

Another way to let students share is the traditional writing prompt approach. Have your students write about what they did. Once finished, they can share their writing and ideas with a partner, their table group, or the whole class.

Have a tip to add to the list? Leave a comment below! :)



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Classroom Gift Guide {2018}

Student gifts are great, but, what if you were able to give a gift that benefited your classroom for years to come?

Classroom Gifts for Teachers and Students

This post contains affiliate links for your shopping convenience.  I earn a small commission each time someone makes a purchase through one of my links.  For more information about my Disclosure Policy, please visit this link.

Last year I shared some gift ideas for the classroom. Purchasing a classroom gift benefits your current students, but doubles as an investment in your classroom for years to come. Read on for this year's classroom gift suggestions.

Class Microphone
A class microphone is a great way to foster student participation. My kids love our fancy microphone. The student of the week uses the microphone throughout the week to share various information with the class. We also use it during the share time portion of our morning meeting. Click HERE to take a look at the microphone I purchased.

Classroom Gifts for Teachers and Students

Building/Morning Tub Materials
Adding to your morning tub collection is a great classroom gift idea. Your current students get to enjoy a new addition to their morning routine, and you get to build your collection of hands-on materials. Or, if you don't do morning tubs, then add some building materials like these to your free choice area, STEM bins, or Fun Friday collection.

A tall stacking peg set or log building set are sure to be a hit with students. Mine can't seem to get enough of toys that allow them to build and be creative.

I started using morning tubs this year. They are a great way to start the day, but more importantly, they give students practice with working together, sharing materials, and working on their fine motor skills. You can read all about my morning tub routine here.

Click HERE for more morning tub ideas.

Reading Buddies (Stuffed Animals)
Get a new stuffed animal (we call them Reading Buddies in my classroom because the students read with/to them), or two, for your classroom. They'll get snuggled and loved on by this year's class, and after a quick wash, they'll be loved by your next group of students too.

My favorite are the TY Beanie Boos with the big eyes. My students always comment on how cute they are. They love them. A lot. I never thought I'd accumulate a collection of stuffed animals for my students to use during "read to self" time. I used to worry about how yucky they'd get from all the touching, and I worried that they would be a distraction. When they do start to get yucky, I just throw them in the wash. And, they are rarely a distraction.

My students seem to find comfort in snuggling the small animals as they read. Sometimes, they show the pages to their reading buddy (so cute). Beanie Boos (or any stuffed animals, really) are sure to be a hit with your students.

Whisper Phones
Whisper phones are not only good for use during guided reading, they are also great for your "read to self " time too. Even better, they are durable (and washable) and can be used year after year.

My students love reading into the phones. They are also handy for those students who read out loud during tests. The whisper phones actually help them regulate the volume of their voice. I keep my whisper phones out where the kids can get to them quickly and easily (see below).

New Read Aloud Books
New books to read aloud make the perfect classroom gift. Your students get to enjoy a wonderful story, but you get to keep the book and reread it for years to come.

Also, don't feel like the books you gift to your classroom need to be holiday themed. They certainly could be, but maybe there are some other titles out there that you think your class (and future classes) may benefit from.

Puppy Mind is a great book to discuss being present. Kids' minds are often in 25 different places at once, making it hard for them to be good listeners and/or fully commit to a task. I love reading books like this to help facilitate discussions and strategies for being present, for being mindful of what's happening in the now. Best of all, books like this can be read anytime of year.

I discovered Most People last year, and it quickly became a favorite. We are frequently bombarded with imagery and stories of people that focuses on wrongdoing. This can lead us to believe that people are the worst, that no one is kind, that we can't trust anyone. But, this book reminds the reader that there are lots of good people in our world.

If you are looking for a fun holiday book, I discovered this version of The 12 Days of Christmas at Target last year. I just love the illustrations, and it's fun to read because the students are familiar with the song.

You can find more read aloud gift ideas HERE.

Before you feel like you need to purchase individual gifts for each of your students, consider investing in a classroom gift that benefits your current students, as well as your future students. It's a win-win!

You can check out last year's Classroom Gift Guide HERE.


Classroom Gifts for Teachers and Students

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