I'm not so good with the whole sending out Christmas cards thing. I buy them. I just don't actually send them. I need to work on that. BUT I do have a fun Thanksgiving card to share with you!

That's most of my crazy family doing what we do most Thanksgivings.
My husband made that with an app called Comic Life. Fun, right? 

I hope you all are having a terrific Thanksgiving filled with family, friends, food, love, and laughter.
Know that you are among the blessings I'm counting this year. 
Lots of love to you all!

Don't throw yellow snowballs at me, but yes - I'm one of *those* teachers. This will be the third year I'll host my little hollow-legged felt elf.  I'm not sure who likes it more, me or the kids!

I'm often asked how I handle the kids who don't celebrate Christmas or just plain don't believe. That is definitely a sticky situation. This year I already had one little stinker announce super loud to the rest of the class that Santa doesn't exist. I knew it was coming because the question of the week seemed to be "Are you Christian or Hanukkah?" <--lots of misconceptions to clear up there...  My second graders are at a vulnerable point where they might be questioning things, so I had to stop what were were doing right then and there and have an impromptu class meeting. I always tell them that Santa is real, if you believe that he is. I also tell them that it's ok not to believe, but it's not ok to tell someone else that their beliefs are wrong. We make a pact to let everyone have the right to believe what they believe and for everyone, Christians or "Hanukkahs", to just enjoy the fun of the season. I usually have a pretty split class with close to half of my kids celebrating Hanukkah, half Christmas, and some who celebrate both and this little discussion always helps. I just like clearing the air and getting it all out there. If I hear any other chatter, I usually pull aside the child and have a one on one about it. I do whatever I can not to let the magic of the season be ruined by one little buster. Oh, and when the kids ask me, of course I tell them I believe! I do. {Hear me, Santa?}

I devote lots of time to both holidays so all of the kids feel equally included. I also make a special effort to include any other holiday my kids might celebrate. Once in a while I do have a child who doesn't celebrate anything, but I usually have a talk with the parents to find out how much their child can participate. In 20 years, I've only had 2 kids whose parents would not allow them to participate in anything seasonal. Usually, once I explain that we're just learning about how other people celebrate, not actually forcing their child to celebrate or believe a certain thing, they're pretty tolerant. 

So, if you're hosting a visiting elf this year, you might want to follow this Pinterest board of mine. I've added lots of pictures from my own adventures along with lots of other great ideas I've found online.

I used to have an Elf on the Shelf unit on tpt, but there were some copyright conflicts, so it's been unavailable for about a year. After getting several sweet emails asking me where it is, I decided to revamp it and list it again. If you already own it, be sure to download the newest version.

It includes two different journal ideas to write about the mischief created by your elf, as well as some other printables you can use to tie in the visit with your academic focus.

You can check it out here on tpt if you want to join in on the fun!

If you read last week's My Truth Monday you'll understand why I'm a bit hesitant to start preparing for Thanksgiving this week. You might recall my great potato peel battle of 2012? Well, guess what? I think the disposal got the last laugh because it decided to bust some screws and leak alllllll inside my sink cabinet. It's been doing it slowly behind my back for quite a while, because by the time it was a big enough mess to notice, every can was rusty, every sponge was soaked, everything was a giant mess. Yup. Right about now when I should be starting to make some things ahead of time, my sink is out of commission. Do you think somebody is trying to tell me something? I'm starting to think so! Know what I want to make for Thanksgiving right about now?? RESERVATIONS!

To take my mind off things, let's think about something much more peaceful - vacation. Who doesn't love a great vacation. {random fact: I kind of hate the word "vacay" by the way...}Right about now you might even be traveling for the holidays, but what about a real, get-away-from-it-all vacation? Have you had a great one? Are you planning one? Is there a place on your bucket list that you just can't wait to see?

Let's talk about it with today's My Truth Monday. Well, you guys talk, I'll be mopping. and chopping. and cursing cooking up a storm in the kitchen...
Now grab this graphic and tell us about your happy place! Be sure to include the My Truth Monday button and link back to this page.

I've spent my fair share of time walking down hospital hallways and I swear sometimes the only thing that distinguishes a hospital hallway and a school hallway is the student artwork lining the walls. I find this to be especially true in the newer schools, like the ones in the community where I teach. Now with the added layers of security and fire codes,  it's even more important to make an effort to add warmth and whimsy to the school environment.

We can't go all crazy with tons of paper and hanging decorations, but we do have a nice sized bulletin board in the hallway and a long cork strip. As much as I understand the importance of decorating these boards, the time to do it can be hard to come by. I also have a difficult time putting things out that are strictly crafts without a clear academic component. So I created a couple of things that fit all of my needs.  First up is a writing craftivity called "Oh, no! What's in my Cocoa?"

I wanted to help my kids write better sentences. Sometimes I ask them to describe something and they say "big" or "red". I always kid around and say things like "Elephants are big, is it an elephant?" when what they were trying to describe was a house, or building. They get the idea, but it's still hard for them.
So, this writing activity has them focus on really describing an object that is unseen to the other students.  Since my kids are a bit older, I'm going to use this form of the craftivity {I love that teachers have totally made that a word} My kids will write clues on the smaller paper that will go on the cup. That paper will only be glued at the top so it lifts up to reveal the hidden object.
There are lots of other versions and paper sizes so that you can choose what works for your kids. I also played around with adding marshmallows and a real spoon. I'll post some more pictures when my kids make theirs, but I wanted to share these with you now because I'm guessing you're planning your winter boards already.

I have a bit of an obsession with these bright colors lately! I got this pack of paper at Office Depot. It's super vibrant card stock that's two sided, so one pack has about 4 different colors that all coordinate.

For the long cork strip I'll be using one of the banners from my 25 Quick and Creative Bulletin Board Banners set. You might remember these that I did in the fall. You'll notice I like to keep things intentionally generic so I can leave them up though a season, like October and November, or December to February... I try. I don't always get away with it. 

These also work great if you have a clothesline hanging in your room. I really try to make things with big visual impact, but minimal teacher prep that won't take the kids a ton of time to work on. These banners fit the bill pretty well. They even make a great homework project!

I'll be making the ice skates for my hallway. They were designed to fit on legal paper to give the kids a lot of room to write and fill up lots of wall space, but they print out equally well on letter size. Sometimes I cut regular construction paper to legal size and run it though my printer. Can you believe I didn't even know that was possible until a couple of years ago?

There are a few winter options and even a New Year's banner as well if the ice skates don't float your boat. With 25 banners to choose from and only 9 months in the school year, you can use two each month and still have plenty to spare!
While you're planning for December, you might also want to check out this post from last year with eight different freebies!

"Oh, No! What's in my Cocoa?" Writing Craftivity

Update alert!
I've added new activities to my December Printables Pack and added a classroom friendly version of December Homework Helpers be sure to update the new versions!

With the holidays drawing near, I thought it might be a fun departure from the "What I'm Thankful For" type posts, to get real. Really real. Let's talk about the things that maybe you weren't so thankful for at the time, but now you can laugh about. Years later. Maybe many years later. 

There's no graphic to grab and write on this week because I have too many dang disasters to fit on one!

Ok, so I have fallen into the role of Thanksgiving hostess among the families. I'm good with it. I can actually make a darn good turkey and I like having a house full of family and friends (once a year. lol!) Here's me last year, P.IG {Pre Instagram, where I currently document every minute of my life} sharing my William Sonoma catalog cover-worthy turkey. Don't I look all stress free and stuff?

It hasn't always been so stress free. Ok, so disaster number one. After years of stressing out to get everything prepped, cooked, and perfect ON Thanksgiving, I've realized it's ok to do some things ahead of time. Three years ago I was cooking some stuffing the day before Thanksgiving.  I'll let you read the rest though the magic of the Facebook timeline. I think you'll also appreciate the sincere concern my friends have for my safety and well-being...

After that, my husband pretty much insisted we get rid of the rest of the Pyrex. That was actually a pretty scary experience, but thankfully no food, fingers, or faces were harmed in the Great Pyrex Explosion of 2010.

My next disaster happened last year, shortly after I took that nice stress-free picture next to the bird. It was just me and my hubby, and my sister and her husband at the house so far. The rest of the family of 15 or so was set to be there in about ten minutes. I had almost dislocated my shoulder patting myself on the back about how stress-free and well-planned everything was.  I was ready to welcome everyone, I was relaxing with a cocktail, rockin my Wii basketball skills (That's right. I'm a baller) when I casually wandered in the kitchen on cloud nine to refill my drink. I saw that the sink was still full of potato peels, so I turned on the disposal and started grinding them up. Except they wouldn't grind up. Or go down. Or stop spitting out of the disposal! I went from super-cool, easy breezy hostess to complete maniac in about seven seconds. After hearing my panicked cries, my sister, brother in law and hubby rushed in. We shut off the disposal, but nothing would go down. I stuck my hand way down into the depths of disposal disgustingness and pulled out all the stuck peels, thinking that would do the trick. When I turned the disposal back on, it rebelled and crap and water shot straight up out of the drain and all over everything! Water was backing up into the other sink and the dishwasher. I was really ready to cry at that point. How can you not have a sink for Thanksgiving dinner - the biggest dishwashing holiday of the year! Well, we tried Draino, we tried moving the blades of the disposal with a broom handle (I have no idea why, but I thought I remembered reading that somewhere...don't try it. Doesn't work...) Then my husband tried using a toilet plunger (hey, desperate times). He plunged and plunged...nothing. I was thisclose to packing everything up and rerouting the family to my mother in laws house, when my brother in law gave it one last crazy hard plunge. I thought for sure he was either going to have a heart attack or my sink would actually fall out of the countertop and onto the floor with the force of that plunge...but it worked! That sucking sound of the water going down the drain was the most beautiful sound ever. I cried. for real. Then I wiped off my sweat and tears and said a secret thankful prayer for the plunger.

Can you believe I have one more? My mother in law is a wonderful woman. I love her like she's my own mother. But she has a major slight case of OCD. She's also ridiculously a little stuck on tradition. So, every year she insists on bringing sweet potatoes, even though we have mashed potatoes and sweet potato casserole. No one ever eats them. Never. Ever. Not even her! So I told her not to bring them last year. But she brought them anyway. Ok, whatever. I put them in the oven to keep them warm while we were getting everything ready. And then forgot about them. For weeks! I preheated the oven for something and the smell that filled the house was like nothing I've ever experienced in my life!  I was sniffing all over the house and realized it was the oven. I opened it and realized I was baking a pan of moldy, rotten sweet potatoes! I grabbed them, ran out the front door with them and threw them, pan and all, into the front yard! Thankfully, my saintly husband cleaned it up before the neighborhood dogs got wind of it. If she brings those dang potatoes this year, they are NOT going in the oven!

So, am I the only clutzy, forgetful, emotional basketcase cook out there? Share your craziness with me please. Let me know I'm not alone! Link up with your holiday disasters! 

Be sure to grab a button and link back to this page!

Happy Sunday, my friends! Today I have a fun indoor recess game to share with you. It might also work well as a brain break. I've been playing this for years with my kids but I actually first saw it when a great sub played it with my class. It's called Turkey in the Straw so it's the perfect time of year to try it out!

I think there might be different versions of this game around. I kind of thought everyone knew about it, but I was talking about it to my super adorable friend Caitlin from Kindergarten Smiles and she had never heard of it. We teach at the same school, so I thought if she doesn't know about it and she's in the same building, maybe some of my readers don't know about it either! 

It's fun. The kids dig it. Here's the gist:
We're a very, extra, super, overboard, bordering on paranoia, safety-conscious school (which I'm happy about btw) so when I have the farmer stand outside the classroom door, I also stand at the door holding it open with my farmer standing right outside the door about 6 inches from me. So the farmer is never abandoned in the hallway left to wander aimlessly looking for his wayward turkey. Second grade farmers can be a little loopy and tend to wander. {link to a download of the directions is at the end of the post}

And in new product news, thank you thank you thank you thank you for the great response to my November Homework Helpers pack! I'm so glad you dig it! I had a couple of people ask me if it was possible to remove the word homework so they could use it in the classroom. Not a bad idea! I aim to please, my friends. So in the December version, I added two files. One has the word homework and one file has all references to home removed so it's more classroom friendly, check out the free sample to see the difference.  I'm hoping that these packs will help you take the hassle out of homework and add some fun and meaningful activities for the kids and parents. And if you have to send home a work packet over the holiday break {ouch!} this might do the trick! Now that a second file is included without the homework reference, they'd be a great way to keep your high-flyers challenged. As always, feel free to leave suggestions for future packs. I love making what works for you!

It has been a year since my friends, Fern and Michelle began their Dynamic Duo monthly giveaways and this month they invited me to join in! We have had a fun time working together and of course we love to give stuff away!

Fern recently came up with a new idea.  Each week, they are going to make one of our normally priced packets free for one day.  This is our way of showing a little appreciation to our followers who have loyally followed our blogs. Not only will you get free stuff, you might get to "meet" someone new and want to follow his or her store, too.  How great is that? Make sure you visit their blogs every Thursday!

My freebie is this Hanukkah Pack. I just updated it, so even if you've already purchased, you're going to want to download it again. I added some new activities and gave the whole pack a facelift.

Click HERE to download your freebie.

Just a reminder:  You will not be able to leave feedback after we change it back to a paid lesson. 

Fern Smith's Classroom Ideas

My little sausage fingers have been flying across the keyboard lately! I even broke a newly shellacked nail in the process. And I've pretty much had a non-stop headache for the last 8 days or so, with a full blown migraine from Friday to Sunday. I'm sure stepping away from this computer for a while would help, but I can't. I've tried. I'm obsessed. There are times when I want to create and nothing is coming to me, then there are times when the floodgates are open and it's all I think of night and day. Right now the floodgates are open, so I'm workin it while it's workin'!

So, first up is something totally new for me. I've been struggling with homework. I want to give my  kids something to do that's fun, meaningful, but not crazy hard because I'd like them to do it independently. I also want to encourage them to read at home with some accountability. So, I created my first in a new series of products- Homework Helpers!
Each page asks them to record the title of a book they're reading at home and search for nouns, verbs, and adjectives. Next month I'll change it up to proper, common, and pronouns. There's also a clue to a certain word, a quick language arts activity, two math problems, and the directive to write a fact or opinion related to the topic on that page. They're seasonal, so I covered turkeys, corn, apples, Native Americans, pumpkins, and crows in this packet. I'm already working on December's pack and I'd love to hear any suggestions you have for themes or skills you'd like to see included. {Be sure to check the links at the end of the post for an exclusive sample only available to my blog readers! muah!}

Next project was my winter EZ Prep centers. These might be my extra super favorite so far! Don't you just want to jump in and swim with those little penguins? As always, the file comes with both pictures with an ELA and math page for each. I also include answer keys with lots of possible answers to give you and your kids an idea of what's possible. To save on ink, try projecting these for your kids to use. With this one I also included a version of the first one with a white background to save a little ink when printing.

And finally, I've been revamping some older products starting with my December Printables Pack. It's amazing that I just made them last year and I look at them and cringe over how much they need to be updated! If you already purchased, just download the revision under your purchases. That's the great thing about TpT. Once you purchase something, you always get the updates for free! For this pack I majorly updated the clipart, fonts and style and even more importantly, I added 6 additional activities. I'm working on January now. See, told you I was obsessed.

Before I go, here's an important head's up. I'll be taking part in a fun collaboration with two great bloggers and I'll be offering a normally paid product for free, but ONLY ON FRIDAY! The post will go live at 6:00 AM and be up for 24 hours. I know that if you subscribe to my posts via email, they tend to show up a day later  - so I didn't want you all to miss out. I'm cool like that ;0)

Edited 11/14. I flaked on the date of the freebie described above. It will be listed on Thursday!  But I will leave it up all day Friday too, just in case :)

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