Valentine's Day Party Snack Ideas

Our district allows us a certain number of holiday parties each year. Valentine's Day is one of those approved "party" days. Rather than have the students bring in way too many packages of cookies, cupcakes, and other sugary foods they tend to over consume, I provide the party snack. Over the years, I've settled on a few go to snack ideas. Ideas that are always a hit with my students.

Before I share the snacks themselves, I will point out that I do reach out to families and ask them to send in the items we need for our snack. This saves me from doing a bunch of running around town, and it saves money.

I highly suggest you reach out to families and ask for donations. You could easily send a message out via Remind/Dojo/Bloomz, etc. Or, you could create a SignUpGenius form and send that out to families.

On to the snack ideas!

Strawberry Floats

These are by far, my all time favorite. It's basically a root beer float made with strawberry soda. Oh, and instead of a straw, we use licorice. Fun, right?

Here's what you'll need:

  • vanilla ice cream
  • strawberry soda
  • licorice
  • ice cream scoop
  • plastic spoons
  • cups

To serve:

  • Scoop 1-2 scoops of vanilla ice cream into the cup (this will depend on how big your cups are).
  • Pour some strawberry soda over the ice cream.
  • Add a piece of licorice and spoon.
  • Enjoy!
  • If you have a parent helper available, have them help you scoop the ice cream. It's a huge time saver when you have over 20 students.
  • If you have a student with a dairy allergy, check with the parents to see what kind of alternative ice cream works for him/her. There have been years when I've had an alternative non-dairy ice cream available for the student(s) that needed it. 

Ice Cream Sandwich Sundae

This is another super easy snack idea. I set up a sundae bar at our reading table and have the kids come over a few at a time. They tell me what they want on their sundae and I make it to order. 

You'll need:
  • ice cream sandwiches (1 per student)
  • whipped cream
  • chocolate syrup
  • sprinkles
  • chocolate chips
  • marshmallows
  • any other fun topping you can think of
  • paper plates

To serve:
  • Place an ice cream sandwich on a paper plate.
  • Put some whipped cream on top (some kids may not want this).
  • Drizzle with chocolate syrup (again, some kids may not want this). 
  • Sprinkle toppings on top.
  • Enjoy!
  • Again, a parent helper would be an amazing help. With a second pair of hands, the kids get their snack a bit quicker. So, if you have a parent that is willing to help, let them.
  • Don't try and get these started without the kids present. If you unwrap a bunch of ice cream sandwiches and top them with whipped cream and chocolate syrup, you'll find that some of your kids only want whipped cream and some only want chocolate syrup. It's an easy snack to make and you can easily customize each sundae by calling them over in groups of 2-3.
  • Again, if you have a student with a dairy allergy, be prepared to offer a dairy free alternative.

Decorated Sugar Cookies

This is actually what I do at my Winter Holiday party, but it would definitely be a fun Valentine's Day party snack too! 

Sadly, I do not  have any pictures of the cookies we decorated this past year. Sorry about that! But, I think you'll get the idea.

Basically, your students will decorate a plain sugar cookie with frosting and sprinkles. Get it? I knew you would!

You'll need:
  • 1-2 sugar cookies per student (get the kind they sell in the grocery store bakeries-the size is generous and they taste homemade)
  • frosting (the same kind you use to frost a cake)
  • sprinkles
  • plastic knives

To serve:
  • Put some cookies, frosting, sprinkles, plates, and plastic knives on a tray.
  • Place a tray at each table group/work area.
  • Students will take 1-2 cookies and put them on their plate.
  • They'll use the knives to spread frosting on their cookies.
  • Last, they'll add sprinkles and enjoy!
I hope that one of these snack ideas works for you! It really is so much nicer to serve one fun snack than offering a mismatched party spread. Feel free to share your favorite Valentine's Day snack idea in the comments. :)


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13 Funny Read Alouds

I think most teachers would agree that read aloud time is a magical time. Books that are read aloud can be used to work on listening comprehension, engage reluctant or struggling readers, facilitate discussion about sensitive and/or important topics, introduce new content, and to promote a love of reading. This post will focus on one of my favorite types of read alouds...funny (silly) picture books.

silly picture books

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Often times read alouds are purposeful. We're told to choose books with intent and that serve a purpose tied to the curriculum. I definitely do this. Often. BUT, sometimes, I just read with the purpose of sharing a fun book. A story that is read and simply enjoyed. It isn't discussed in detail, I don't model any thinking as I read, I simply read and we all enjoy a great book. So, what's the purpose? To promote a love of reading. And, if you ask me, that counts as a purposeful read aloud.

What follows is a list of some of my favorite silly read alouds. I say some because I'm pretty sure I've left some titles off the list. So, don't be surprised if a part 2 to this blog post gets published soon. ;)

Again, these are books that I typically share with no other purpose than to promote a love of books, but it's OK if you use them to talk about other things, or to practice important comprehension skills, because many of them can be used to do just that!

The Serious Goose is about, you guess it, a goose that is very serious. The reader is challenged to change the goose's mood, even though it's pretty unlikely that would ever happen. Turns out, perseverance pays off and by the end, the reader has succeeded and turned the serious goose into a silly goose (spoiler alert-the goose sports his undies in the end).

The Book With No Pictures always makes kids laugh. A lot. There are no pictures, obviously, but the reader has to read everything printed on each page. The things the reader has to read out loud are hilariously odd. Kids will laugh out loud. Guaranteed.

Moo Moo in a Tutu is about a cow that wants to be a ballerina. Moo Moo is pretty ambitious and willing to do whatever idea comes to mind, but her friend, Mr. Quackers is always more realistic about things. This story could be used to talk about friendship, but honestly, it works on it's own as a fun and silly book because of the interactions between the characters and the silly things that Moo Moo does.

Be sure to check out What's Cooking Moo Moo? as well. More silliness from Moo Moo as she and Mr. Quackers decide to open a fancy restaurant.

Llama Destroys the World is a whirlwind of craziness. Llama basically creates a giant black hole that destroys the world when he eats too much cake and has to squeeze into his pants. Crazy story line? Indeed. And your students will laugh and laugh as you read it to them.

I Will Chomp You! is great because it not only features a monster, but it's also centered around cake! I mean, c'mon. The monster in this story threatens the reader not to go any further in the book. This is so he can protect his cakes. He doesn't want to share them. There is room for discussion about greed and sharing with this book, but it's also a super silly story line that's worth just enjoying.

Frog on a Log? is full of rhyming text. As in, every page has a rhyme, so I felt it necessary to point this out from the get go in case you wanted to use it to practice recognizing words that rhyme. Rhyming aside, the frog in this story does not want to sit on a log, so he sets out to find new place to rest. Only, he finds out, with the help of a cat, that every animal's special resting spot rhymes with their animal name. The illustrations and text are both humorous and enjoyable.

Don't forget to check out the follow up book Dog on a Frog? Frog is at it again. He does not want to sit on that log. So he decides to give all the animals a new resting spot. Don't worry they rhyme with the animals' names, but they are definitely ridiculous places for animals to sit.

I Yam a Donkey! is a wacky story. Yam is all about proper grammar and pronunciation, which makes for some silly interactions between Yam and Donkey. Yam gets quite worked up when he isn't able to get through to Donkey who keeps misusing words. It's reminiscent of the Who's on First bit.

You Loves Ewe! is a follow up book to I Yam a Donkey! and it's just as wacky. Donkey just doesn't get it and Yam has to do a lot of explaining. This book could be used to talk about homonyms (homophones), for sure. I mean, it literally explains homonyms in the book. So maybe you'd save it as a fun read aloud when you're learning about these sorts of words. Or, it could be a funny read aloud for any time.

Mo's Pigeon books must be included on any list of silly books. I don't think much else needs to be said here. There are lots of titles in this series these days, so I won't link all of them here. But, if you use the link in the first sentence, you can explore other titles from there.

Unicorn Thinks He's Pretty Great is a clever story about friendship, uniqueness, and envy. Goat compares himself to Unicorn, who appears to think he's pretty great and seems to always be showing off his skills. Despite the significant content here, it's filled with funny scenarios and illustrations. It's enjoyable to read and kids love hearing it read to them. It might be hard to ignore the content with this one though. Friendship, uniqueness, and envy may be too important to skip over entirely.

Narwhal Unicorn of the Sea is basically a beginner level graphic novel, but I haven't let that stop me from reading it to my students. I'm a big supporter of graphic novels, but they aren't always the easiest to read aloud. Thankfully, Narwhal is a pretty easy one to read aloud.

There are a few books in the series and they are all laugh out loud funny. Narwhal is the happy-go-lucky type. Whereas his loyal friend Jelly is very grounded. Their interactions are just plain funny. They love waffles (I mean sea creatures eating waffles? C'mon!) and adventures. If you don't read these to your students, at least add them to your library. Your students will thank you.

Well, there you have it. A list of some of my favorite silly read alouds. As mentioned before, don't be surprised if a part 2 comes out because I'm pretty sure I left a few books off the list.

Share your favorite silly read aloud in the comments.


silly picture books

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Classroom Management: Movement Code Word

Hey everyone! Do you wish there was a way to get your students to stop and listen before they start moving around? Well, I'm about to blow your mind, there is!

I've been using a movement code word for several years now, and while I've shared this trick before, I thought I would dedicate a whole post to it because whenever I share this on Instagram, I get lots of questions.

What is a movement code word?
In short, a movement code word is a word that you say when you are ready for kids to start moving.

classroom management transitions

It's a way to ensure that students sit still and listen to your directions before they are allowed to follow them. It helps make sure they don't begin transitioning until it is time to.

Picture this, you're trying to give directions, but as you give them, the kids are busy moving around trying to follow them, as you're giving them. We all know that never works and it's very distracting. By using a movement code word, you give your directions, but the students are not allowed to move until you say the word.

It turns the act of listening and getting ready to transition into a game of sorts. Something that resonates with most kids.

So, how does this look in the classroom?
Here's a sample of how I use the movement code word with my students. In this scenario, the movement code word is "taco." I might say something like this:

"When you hear the code word, you need to take out your whiteboard, marker, and eraser. Then, sit with 'hands and eyes.' Remember, we transition at a level zero. Ready, set, TACO!"

At this point, the students take out their materials and then sit with "hands and eyes" (our way of showing that we are ready to get started).

Why does it work?
It works because it turns transitioning into a game. Students are listening for that one word and once they hear it, they know they get to move.  Once they do hear it, they are excited to move. Excited to get started.

What kind of word do I use?
When using a movement code word, use any word you want. I tend to choose silly, random words. I do prefer 2-3 syllable words. Sometimes, I choose two words. Couldn't tell you why, I just do.

classroom management transitions

I like to have fun with my code words so I tend to choose words like:
-Hello Kitty
-cactus pants
-pumpkin guts
-candy cane

Some teachers may prefer to use sight words or vocabulary words. That's just not my thing.

Using silly words is one way that I can mix in a bit of fun to our day. The kids love the words and I like to think that these kinds of words help create more student buy in.

Who chooses the words?
I do. But, that's not to say that you couldn't involve your students. Do what works for you. :)

Where do I display the word?
I keep it simple (my life's mantra). No fancy signs, no magnetic cards with words typed in designer fonts. I take an Expo marker and write the word in the corner of my whiteboard as shown below. That's it.

transitions classroom management tip

How often should I change my word?
I change my word once a week. I know myself too well and trying to change the word daily would never, ever work for me. After school on Friday, I change the word so it's ready to go on Monday morning.

How long does it take for kids to learn this procedure?
Like any procedure you teach, there might be some trial and error at first. I say might because each year is different. This was the first year where my students needed a bit more time to get used to a movement code word.

As with any procedure, you need to practice it. More than once. Don't expect to introduce it and have your students follow it without fail from that point forward. Be patient, review the procedure, practice the procedure.

Do the kids get in trouble if they don't wait for the code word?
No. That would be a silly thing to discipline a student over.

If a student (or a few students) forget to wait for the code word (which can be normal when you first introduce this strategy), I simply point out that they are trying to get started without waiting and then initiate a "do over." I stop the students and have them sit with "hands and eyes" (whole brain teaching), repeat the directions, restate the code word, and then we move on from there. Like any procedure, you might need to repeat it several times before kids are able to do it correctly.

Is it too late to start using a code word?
Nope. When it comes to classroom management, you implement strategies as needed.

It may be the middle of the school year, but if your students are still struggling to wait for you to finish talking before they start moving, try this strategy.

Whenever I bring in a new strategy mid year, I just tell my students that it's something I tend to start doing "this time of year." You don't have to tell them that it's a new strategy and that you're curious to see how it goes. Act as if you've always used it and it's now that time of year to get it going in your classroom.

Add a bit of fun.
Once you've established your movement code word routine and the kids have really got it down, have a little fun with it. I like to psych my kids out by calling out fake code words. This keeps the kids on their toes and adds a bit of fun to the procedure.

The fake code words that I call out always sound like the code word of the week. For example. I recently used the code word "stinky socks." I called out "stinky Socrates" and "stinky salami." Doing this makes the kids laugh, and of course they know that I'm trying to "trick" them but it gets them focused on waiting to hear the actual code word.

I don't do this daily, nor do I do it all day long. Most days, I stick with the code word itself. But 1-2 times a week, at one point in the day, I might call out fake words. I'm never opposed to adding some fun and humor to our procedures when I know the kids can handle it.

Final Thoughts
I hope this post has answered any questions you had about using a movement code word. I have found that this strategy has been effective in my classroom over the years. But remember, we all have different teaching styles. This idea may not appeal to you in the least, and that's OK. You may like the idea but see some aspects you'd like to modify to better match your teaching style. Go for it!

If you have any fun code words to share, we'd love to hear them. Be sure to comment below with your ideas.


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Color by Code

Color by code activities are a must. This post is all about why I love them so much. Oh, and I want you to love color by code as much as I do so this post also includes a FREEBIE!

So, color by code...what's the big deal? The big deal is, they are perfect for practicing skills that might not otherwise be all that interesting. More specifically, when they are used to practice skills that require a great deal of repetition (like math facts, multi-digit addition and subtraction, and identifying parts of speech) kids get excited to practice their skills.

Let's take a look at why color by code is (in my opinion) a must:
  • They are non-threatening. Students look at it as a fun activity that they want to do. 
  • They can be used to offer students repetitive practice with specific skills.
  • They incorporate art, which often times gets pushed to the side.
  • They give students some much needed fine motor skill practice. 
  • When coloring one space at a time, students are more likely to color neatly (and if you set up expectations ahead of time, this helps too).
  • They require students to pay attention to detail. 
  • They foster independence in students as they continue to practice their skills over and over in a non-threatening way.

We do a lot of multi-digit addition and subtraction color by code pages in my classroom. I love bringing out seasonal pages.

You can find these color by code pages in my store.

Winter Two and Three-Digit Addition and Subtraction Color by Code
Valentine Two and Three-Digit Addition and Subtraction Color by Code
Spring Two and Three-Digit Addition and Subtraction Color by Code

We also regularly do parts of speech color by code pages. Again, I like to use seasonal ones. A lot. ;)

You can find these parts of speech color by code sets in my store.

Fall Parts of Speech Color by Code
Winter Parts of Speech Color by Code

Now I have some color by code FREEBIES for you! You'll get 6 color by code pages. And, don't worry, they aren't seasonal, so you can use them all year long!

Your freebie includes:
  • Addition to 20
  • Subtraction within 20
  • Two-Digit addition with/without regrouping
  • Two-Digit subtraction with/without regrouping
  • Three-Digit addition with/without regrouping
  • Three-Digit subtraction with/without regrouping

You can grab them by signing up for my newsletter. Just click the picture below. After signing up, check your inbox for your freebie. Easy peasy.


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Favorite Read Alouds of 2019

Teaching and read alouds go together like peanut butter and jelly. There's nothing like finding and falling in love with a new picture book and then sharing it with your students. Year after year, I add new books to my read aloud collection. And, every year, my list of favorite books gets longer and longer.

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Here are all my favorite read alouds from this year (2019). Please note, I may have added these books to my collection this year, but that doesn't mean they were published this year. Some are older, but they were new to me so I happily added them to my collection.

This collection features a variety of titles and are listed in no particular order.

The Cool Bean is a fun read that proves that being kind is cool.

The Good Egg reminds the reader (you too, teachers) of the importance of self-care.

The Bad Seed is perfect for teaching students about self-acceptance. I added this to my collection a few years ago, but had to mention it in this post in case you don't own it. It's by the same author of the The Cool Bean and The Good Egg. This trio of books is so great for discussing big ideas and concepts.

Tiny T. Rex is probably the cutest story about kindness and overcoming obstacles.

We Don't Eat Our Classmates is a great book for the first few weeks back to school, or any time your kids need a refresher. It's a funny story, but also a great tool for talking about how to treat others. I hesitated for the longest time with this book, but I am so glad I finally got it. My students thought it was funny and we were able to have a great conversation about how to treat our classmates.

Llama Destroys the World is a crazy read aloud. It's truly just a silly story, but kids love it. Mine laughed out loud throughout the read aloud. If there's a special teachable moment in this book, I missed it because I was too busy laughing right alongside my students.

Sick Simon is THE perfect read aloud when talking about germs and how they are spread. The illustrations are super gross (look closely at that cover), but that's a good thing. Kids can really see just how yucky germs are.

Puppy Mind has quickly become a favorite book for talking about being present. I find that this is a topic that we come back to often and using picture books is an effective way to revisit this conversation.
Do you have any favorite read alouds you found this year? Share them in the comments! We'd love to learn about more great books.


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New Year's Picture Books

New Year's is a fun holiday, but it's often overlooked in the classroom. And, I get it. We come back from break tired and maybe even a bit frazzled. But, it is a big tradition here in America, and other countries around the world too.

New Year's Picture Books and Classroom Activities

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We always return to school a week after the new year begins, but that doesn't mean we can't talk about the traditions, customs, and goal setting. I like to share how people around the world celebrate this day in their cultures. And, of course, picture books are one of my favorite ways to do all this.

Can I just say that there are not enough books on this topic? With that said, at least the selection that is available isn't overwhelming.

Here's a peek at some great books you might want to use in your classroom. Oh, and if you keep on reading, there are a few ideas for you too!

New Year's Picture Books and Classroom Activities

Celebrations Around the World (Great illustrations and lots of info-you can use this book year round!)
Squirrel's New Year's Resolution (Keep reading for an idea to go with this book.)
The Night Before New Year's (This is a fun series.)
Happy New Year Around the World (This is actually a coloring book! You could copy certain pages for your class to color, or just read it as is.)
New Year's Day (Great info about traditions students may be familiar with.)
Shante Keys and the New Year's Peas (A fun story about New Year's customs from different traditions.)

Classroom Ideas

Have a Mini Celebration
At noon, on the day you return, have a mini celebration. Give your students some noise makers, like these, and let them shout out "Happy New Year!" You can add some flair by putting up some simple decorations. You could serve a snack, but then your mini celebration may turn into much more than that.
I have some fun gold garland that I drape across the top of the whiteboard along with a fun polka dot banner and matching balloons from the Target Dollar Spot (or whatever it's called these days-ha!). It isn't much, and it's easy to put up and take down, But, it also doesn't go unnoticed.

Make Some Resolutions
I like to read the books shared above throughout the week. They are great for facilitating discussions about the customs we read about. I encourage the students to make connections, compare and contrast, share what they think is interesting, and to ask questions.

But, I also like to do a simple goal setting activity. Simple is my cup of tea, and it doesn't get any easier than making a class book.

First, I read Squirrel's New Year's Resolution. It's great for talking about what a resolution is (a big word that is often unfamiliar to many of my second graders).

Then, I let the students talk with a partner about a goal they might have (this also helps them get an idea for a goal if they can't think of one).

Finally, they write about their goal. I take all the pages and bind them together to make a class book that the kids can read over and over. This allows them to revisit this idea often so they don't forget about those goals.

You can grab these free class book templates here. 

I hope you enjoy these activities and books with your students. Happy New Year!

New Year's Picture Books and Classroom Activities

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