Secret Santa Blog Hop!

 Welcome, Friends!

Here at The Elementary Entourage we are having our first official Secret Santa Blog Hop!
Many of you know we've just become a group family of teacher bloggers circa October 2014. 

All 17 of us will be participating in the Blog Hop this month and will be offering a free product to allow you to get a jump start on your January planning.

How to get in on the fun:
1. Start at Mrs. Plemons' Kindergarten {click on her blog button in the link up}.
2. Visit the blog, read about the freebie and download it.
3. Leave a comment on the blog if you can so we can get to know you too! We love talking with fellow teachers!
4. Come back to the group page {where you are now}.
5. Click on another teacher's blog to read and grab the next freebie!

Helpful Hint:
Inlinkz, the program we are using to link up, will place a small check mark at the top of the blog when you visit the page. If there's some reason you need to stop and come back to the hop, you will know where you left off! 

From all of us here at The Elementary Entourage, we'd like to wish you a very happy holiday!

May Your Students Be Merry and Bright {Amber from The Sunny Side of Second Grade}

This was a tough one for me because I feel like I do this all year. Hehe!

If your December is anything like mine, you are constantly scrambling for time. Between holiday activities, meetings, the hour of code, and field trips I felts like falling over come Friday! On top of that, the month of December is filled with assessing, assessing, and, you got it, more assessing. It is benchmarking season at Northwoods Elementary so it is difficult to keep these little ones merry, bright, engaged, and learning. But I am super woman, right? You got it!

One of the things I do is incorporate the holidays into all my lessons. Students are always wanting to learn about the holidays, and I have found that I get amazing work quality if I follow a holiday themed unit during the month of December. Therefore, all of my opinion writing pieces have a holiday twist, word problems involve elves, Santa, and reindeer, and reading...FORGET ABOUT IT! Reading is the best part!

Reading a new book or two every day is a sure fire way to keep those little sweeties engaged. For our reading assessments, we use mClass. Anyone who uses mClass knows that the most difficult part is the written comprehension. Fortunately I have learned to make this skill a priority and I have made it a mini lesson almost daily. With that said, when you read a holiday book, you can extend that right into a written comprehension lesson.

Take this book, for example:

First of all, if you haven't read this book, it is a season MUST! Have conversations about weather, cause and effect, sound in text, vocabulary and more! For written comprehension, I chose to discuss and model how to answer this question:

The title of this book is Cold Snap. If you could rename this book, what would you name it? Explain your answer and use at least two key details from the story.
Believe it or not, the students do not view this as an agonizing chore anymore. They are all helping look back in the text for key details. They are all recounting the story from beginning to the middle to the end. They are all participating and having conversations about what a good title could be for the book.

As you can see, we look at the question, break it down into parts and then we start answering the questions. My students actually love doing this now. They look forward to our written comprehension mini lessons, and I must say that the evidence is shown in their assessments for middle of the year. *Feeling accomplished*

How do you take something as mundane as written comprehension and keep it interesting?

May Your Students Be Merry and Bright {Brittany from Tickled Pink in Primary}

Hey Friends, it's Brittany from Tickled Pink in Primary again. As we get closer and closer to break, it gets harder and harder to keep students engaged. To keep my students "merry" during this time of year, I do a unit on the Gingerbread Man. It's one of their favorite units because we get to make gingerbread cookies and go on a gingerbread hunt! They also have to have good behavior if they want to participate in our Gingerbread House project at the end of the week. Throughout the week, we read many versions of the story and The Gingerbread Girl always seems to be one of their favorites. It's such a cute story! This unit is a great way to make your students "bright" because you can work on sequencing and comparing/contrasting.
Last year I found some foam Gingerbread Men in the Target dollar spot. The students decorated them and then I wrote the name of their favorite book on them. Can you tell I was being lazy and printed out my title instead of using the die-cut machine like I normally do? :)
At the end of our Gingerbread unit, we have a pajama party and decorate Gingerbread houses. I get so many parents that come in and volunteer for this project and are willing to donated the items needed for these houses. Throughout the week, I collect milk cartons. After they are washed and dried, I staple the top shut. Next, I lay out TONS of candy, icing, and graham crackers. I show the students how to use the icing like glue so everything will stick and they use popsicle sticks as knives. Remind students NOT to lick the popsicle sticks! 
Using his shirt as a napkin...seriously?!? 
Look at the finished Gingerbread houses! We do this project in the morning, so they have plenty of time to dry and harden up before they go home. 
Once finished, we do a writing prompt about our Gingerbread houses. You can grab this writing prompt FREE by clicking the picture below. 
I hope your last few days before Christmas/Winter break are fun and not too stressful! Happy Holidays!!

May Your Students Be Merry & Bright {Lauren from Mrs. Thompson's Treasures}

I love all the ideas that have already been shared about keeping your students merry and bright this holiday season!

One of my favorite activities to do during this crazy time is called, "Snowball Fight." Students get an answer sheet and one math problem to start. After they complete the problem you have given them, they crumple up the paper and throw it across the room when you say, "Snowball fight!"


Now each student picks up another paper and works that problem. When everyone is done, yell "snowball fight," again. Keep going until students have finished most of the problems. If they get a repeat they can just wait, or if there are extra snowballs, you can put them in the middle of the room for a student to pick from.

It can be difficult to make sure each student answer all the questions, so you can just continue the game until they have done most of them and let them know it's ok if they have a few blank spaces.

I've created a free multiplication version of this that you can get HERE if you'd like to try it, but it is simple to make your own if your students are working on a different skill.

You can also do this with spelling words or sight words by writing the words on the snowballs and having students copy them down for writing practice. Or make up questions that go with your science or social studies unit for them to answer.

I guarantee your students will love this and ask to play all the time!

May Your Students Be Merry & Bright { Stephanie @ Mrs. D's Corner }

It took me quite a few days to prep what I wanted to share with you this month because, well, I really got into the holiday spirit this year. It may not have hit me until the beginning of last week, but hey... I'm in the spirit now and that's all that counts, right?! Right! :)

( 1 )
We started elf on the shelf. I was so stinkin' excited for this, I even made a freebie for everyone. I had done my dear elf last year at my last school, but they were 5th grade so only some of my kids really got into it. I was excited for this year because I have kids in grades 1-4 and figured they'd be super into it.

Lesson. Learned.

The first day our elf "Belle" made an appearance she left some glitter Christmas magic all over the table and the floor. My kids were more excited over the glittery floor than they were about the elf. Fail. The next day, "Belle" brought the kids Hershey kisses Christmas kisses. They still were not thrilled. After about 4 days of the elf moving around, she gave up and now just sits at our kidney bean table while we do classwork. They absolutely LOVE our reindeer pet "Sven" though... he's made more of an impact than our poor elf. Maybe it's because they can touch and cuddle him?!

( 2 )
One of my most favorite parts about the holidays in my classroom this year is this beauty:
My kids are so excited to get presents in their "socks," that I wanted to share how I made this DIY project with you!

 I grabbed 5 empty copy paper boxes from the copy room. You could certainly use any size of box.
Tape them all together. One of my paraprofessionals helped me with this part! I'm a perfectionist and this would have taken me hours to get right.
 Then you've got to wrap your boxes up with white butcher paper.
You'll want it to be smoothly wrapped around the boxes, but the seems where you've taped the pieces together isn't too big of a deal.

Before the next step, I cut out a brick-sized piece of construction paper and traced bricks onto the white paper with a pencil. This part took the longest, but really helped when it came to painting.
I started out using a small paintbrush. BIG mistake! It took me at least 10 minutes to finish 4 bricks. I did some digging in my closets and found a 2-3" wide sponge. Saved so much time!
This is what this beauty looked like after I finished painting it.
I needed to make some logs and flames to make it more realistic. I grabbed some red, yellow, and brown butcher paper.

To make the logs, I crumbled up some brown paper. You'll have to un-crumble it, then loosely roll it up to create a log-like look.
To create the flames, I cut out shapes like the picture above. To get it to stay straight up, I glued popsicle sticks to the back. I cut small slits into the "logs" and stuck the popsicle sticks into the slits. And that's it!

( 3 )

Since I teach a Life Skills class, every Friday we do Fun Food Friday. Thursday is the day we sequence the recipe, which I use BoardMaker to create. Friday morning is when we actually make our no bake recipe. December is themed all around Christmas-y foods and drinks. The kids get so excited for Fun Food Friday and really look forward to it. They do awesome with following the steps of the recipe and making the actual food.

The best part is getting to eat or drink the food we've made! Yesterday we made snowman hot cocoa and next Friday we are going to make chocolate covered pretzels during out holiday party with the parents. I'm excited for the parents to be participating with us this coming Friday. They're going to be so proud of their children!

Merry Christmas everyone! Here's to a quick last couple of days before break!

May Your Students be Merry & Bright

It is Christmas time!  This is the crazy time of year where I feel like I can't get anything done, and I am running to the story a million times a week.  Is anyone else having to do that or am I just that unprepared? order to keep my kids happy at this time I gave in and bought an Elf on the Shelf.  I teach second grade, and they LOVE it!  They talk to him each day, get so excited when he moves, and love finding his new spot each morning.   I'm not sure if the kids love it as much as I do, though.  I am having so much fun with it!

This was one of my favorite things our elf has done.  His name is Snoopy.

Also, during the Christmas season we have been learning about Christmas Around the World.  I am teaching a nonfiction unit, so I decided to do this theme due to the holiday season.  The kids are really enjoying it.  We are making various crafts and completing fun activities.  This helps keep the students engaged.

We have learned about Christmas in Germany.  This taught us a lot about where the American traditions came from.  During this unit we learned the difference between fiction and nonfiction books.  We also learned how to pause when we read nonfiction text and use the five-finger rule when retelling.

I fortunately teach at a Catholic School so I can share many things about the Christmas season.  So, to end our unit in Germany, St. Nick visited us!  We had a blast!

The second week we learned about Christmas in Sweden.  Students learned about the St. Lucia tradition and even created the hats to go with the event.  The kids were so cute and felt so special!

The unit focused on looking at the pictures to better understand nonfiction text. 

The third week focuses on Christmas in America.  We will be doing that next week.  You'll have to visit my blog to learn more!

I hope you enjoyed a sneak peak into my classroom during the Christmas season!  If you're interested in the Christmas Around the World unit, click on the image below.  I have it on sale for the next few days!

Have a Merry Christmas!

May Your Students Be Merry and Bright! {Mrs. Grooms' Room}

Hello sweet friends!  

It's Shana Grooms from Mrs. Grooms' Room!!!   How are you these days?  I hope your days at school have been merry and bright!  I know mine have been CUH-RAZY lately!!  

It's always the second week of our holidays at school that seem like ping pong balls my kids are bouncing everywhere.  I try really hard to plan fun activities where students are up and about and learning!!  We play lots of write around the room activities and scoot games, and LOTS of GoNoodle activities.  Did I mention brain breaks?  Oh boy, it keeps the holiday wiggles at bay!! 

One thing that I like to do is keep the incentives gifts coming!  My students are very active in the classroom and they are reward-driven!  I give them about three goals to work on throughout the day.  When I see them achieving these goals,  I give the class a snowman part.  

The number of goals could be more for your students or less. You could also build to a higher number of goals which I will do later as well with possibly a different theme.   

Of course, I like to start with three goals because guess who has three parts?  A SNOWMAN!!  

(You can even add hats, scarves, or gloves to your snowman to give your students more goals.)

Every time my students show me how well they can behave as a class such as walking in line or not talking during work time, I reward them all with a snowman part.  I make an uber-big deal out of it because we all respond to positive reinforcement especially when it is our teacher bragging on us!  

(I am blogging nicely?? Hmmm...why...I am blogging nicely?!!!)   

Once we finally get the third part of the snowman, students get to choose a snowball and on the back of the snowball is a reward!  The reward is not candy (that will not be good...eesh!)  but things they can do like a dance party, drawing, games, centers, GoNoodle time, or crafts.  These rewards can be things you plan on doing anyway for the week or activities that are implemented into your activities and lessons.  That next snowball just might be the activity you planned for your lesson!   

Click here for your own classroom snowman!  

Try it!!  It's a fun way to get through the holidays!!!  And it keeps your students merry and bright!  Ummmm....and less ping-pongy!  :)

Have you wrote Santa yet?  You can try this letter-writing unit called "Dear Santa."  You will love it and the kids will, too!  Just another way to direct that energy!  

Happy Holidays, sweet friends!!