Reflect on 2015

Happy New Year

It's that time of year! 

It's time to reflect back on 2015, and be proud of the accomplishments. 

It's also time to plan ahead for 2016 and set new goals.

As a blogger, I'll reflect with my top ten blog posts of the year. 

Last February, when the New England winter started to get to the kiddos, I posted THIS  post.
Winter Blues
Add caption
I was thinking a lot about my dad back in March. I posted THIS on what would have been my dad's 97th birthday.
In April, I attended a Memorial Service for one of the best teachers I've ever had. I reflected with THIS post.


Later in April, I celebrated the start of the baseball season with THIS post.
Learning and Baseball

Later in the spring, I featured one of my most popular freebies, and gave some ideas on how to use it in THIS post.
writing ideas
At the end of May, I celebrated an anniversary of something that changed my life with THIS post.

In July, I reflected on how demanding the school day is, and shared some ideas on getting in those subjects that the kids enjoy the most with THIS post.
Science and Social Studies

In August, I started learning a lot  more about S.T.E.M. and S.T.E.A.M. and did THIS post about The Science and Engineering Practices.

S.T.E.M. and S.T.E.A.M.

At Back to School time, I shared THIS post about my Back to School promise.
back to school

In October, I came out with my most popular blog post of 2015, THIS one:

Those are my top ten favorite blog posts of 2015. HERE's one bonus: the links to all of my "Bright Ideas" blog posts for 2015. Enjoy these ideas to help your teaching!
bright ideas round up
My  next blog post will be ideas for 2016!

Random Christmas Questions

As I FINALLY begin my Christmas Vacation, a lot of random things are racing through my head!
Random Christmas Questions: Questions for teachers as we get close to Christmas such as... are you crazy enough to pull out the glitter a week before Christmas?

Here's the first one:  Does your desk get as messy as mine? 
Yes, folks, this is really my desk, and there's no room for ANYTHING on it!

I'll be cooking up a turkey and all the fixings for Christmas dinner again this year.  I used to make home made cranberry sauce.

It wasn't all that tough. It's pretty much just cranberries and sugar. Lots of sugar. But I don't do that anymore since I found out most people prefer the cranberry sauce that comes out of a can... and is shaped like the can.  

What's your preference? Home made cranberry sauce, or the cranberry sauce that comes out shaped like the can?

 making ornaments
Yep, we had the glitter out this week. I have to admit, the kids were pretty careful with the glitter. They made these awesome popsicle stick snowflake ornaments, which came out great! Plus, they loved doing them! Unfortunately, no matter how careful the kids are with glitter, the whole room shines for a couple of weeks.  But secretly, I admit, I like the little sparkles all over my class. 

I've learned NOT to cover my walls with Christmas items the last week before the holidays. I'm certainly no queen of bulletin boards or "craftivities", but I prefer art projects where the children can be creative. For this project, they painted snowmen. Then they wrote "How to Make a Snowman" procedures. When they finished their final draft, they could decorate their snowmen with felt, crayons, and colored paper. (I thought they had a brilliant idea to use the paper punch to make the buttons and the eyes!)

I learned that I need to find the time for the kiddos to do more of these creative "hands on" projects. They really enjoyed it, and their work was fabulous. Plus, it motivated them to do a good job on their procedures.

My favorite procedure was the one that started off like this: "In order to make a snowman, you need snow."

Here in New England, we're having record high temperatures, and definitely won't be having a white Christmas.

No complaints here! It might reach 70 degrees tomorrow!

Elf Laws: A Social Studies Activity

Elf Laws: A Social Studies Activity- Here's a fun activity to help get your children engaged in the process of law-making and what is really important!

I had my students do the "Elf Laws" activity, and I'm not sure who had more fun, the kids or me!
Elf Decision Fun

The first part of the activity asks the children to put the Elf Laws in order with the most important law being #1 and the least important law being #10. Once I convinced them that any answer was correct as long as they could defend their answer, the fun started. The children worked in pairs making their decisions and defending their decisions. I enjoyed some delightful conversations! 

I've developed the skill of pretending I'm working on something else while they work in order to hear those true conversations. I'm sure you've done it...pretend you're organizing books for tomorrow and walk by slowly. These are precious moments!

Well, one they got their laws in order, the real fun started: writing about why they put the laws in the order they did. Some children had a little trouble starting, but I prompted with some questions like, "Why do you think cleaning up the workshop is so important?" Or "why is tooth brushing more important than singing carols?" Or "why don't you think wearing hats is an important rule?" 

Their answers were priceless! 

Here are some examples of how they ordered their Elf Rules:

  • Elves  need to show respect to other elves, just like we do. 
  • It's not important to brush teeth, that's what dentists are for!
  • Elves don't need to wear hats. 
  • They work indoors. 
  • They need to clean up the workshop. What if Santa tripped over something? We want Santa safe.
  • Of course they need to care for the reindeer. Who else is going to do it?
  • Elves work very hard making all those toys. It's important for them to get a break after Christmas. Just like us!
Aren't kids precious?

This is the perfect activity for this time of year. It keeps them engaged, and it's a valuable learning experience.  For more activities like this, please see Science and Social Studies Printables for December.  These will get you through the last week!

My Silly Picture on a Tee Shirt!

Are you familiar with a company called A+ Images?

They are a great company to work with, especially if you're looking for custom made T shirts!

Look at the one I got from them!

Yes, That's my logo on the front, and yes, that's a blow up of my silly face on the back.

I wore this T shirt when I was in Las Vegas last summer, hoping a lot of bloggers would recognize my familiar photo and logo when we got together. Well, I was right!

It's amazing how many people recognize that picture from Facebook and Pinterest! 

Once upon a time, I was thinking I should have a professional looking photo on social media. At the time, I didn't have much, so I thought I'd give this one a try. It was taken on the first day of school in 2010. That was my daughter's senior year, the last time we got to take our traditional "first day of school" pictures. We always took 2 pictures of each other. A "normal" pose and a silly pose.  Well, I looked cross eyed in my "normal" pose, so I used this one, and I'm glad I did!

Honestly, this photo reflects who I am as a teacher. I tend to be very animated, and overly dramatic in the classroom. Yes, I tend to do just about anything for a laugh, and to hold the kids' attention. (Brain research tells us humor helps relax the brain, making it more able to take in information!) this picture also catches the eye of the reader, so I'm glad I used it. 

And I'm VERY glad A+ Images was able to reproduce this image for my tee shirt! I lost the original ages ago, but they were able to get a pretty good quality from a copy of a copy of a copy! 

I know, it's 5 years old, and it's time I got a decent copy of a more current picture. But I love this one! I'm seriously considering putting that red and white dress on and re-creating that moment.

If you are interested in more about A+Images and their products, see THIS link to their website!

Holiday Freebies!

I can't believe the holidays are suddenly upon us! 

I know a lot of us have a lot of teaching to be done, too!

I'm here to help you with that!

I wanted to give you  some holiday freebies!  See the linky below to check out my holiday freebies, and the freebies of other teachers, too!

If you are a teacher, I'd love to have you link up if you have a holiday freebie aimed at grades 1 - 3!

A Year's Worth of Bright Ideas

Bright Ideas

You're in luck! It's time for a Bright Ideas Round up!
bright idea

This is a collection of all our bright ideas from the past year!

Last January, I posted a bright idea on a quick way to celebrate the good stuff. See that post HERE.
bright idea

In February, I posted about a trick I learned 30 years ago from a bus driver, that helps the children appreciate the adults in their life. See that post HERE.
bright idea

March was about keeping a positive attitude toward Reading. See that post HERE.
bright idea

In April, I shared a way for the kids to see the feedback I put on their papers.  Click HERE.
bright idea

In May, I shared some tricks to help the children keep track of the size of certain measurements, even if they don't have a ruler or other tools. Click HERE.
Bright idea

Here's a game I play often, especially in June when the kiddos are more restless than usual. Click HERE to see how to keep them moving!
Bright ideas

July's post was about a trick to get parents to read notes you send home. HERE's the link!
bright idea

In August, I shared my secret ingredient for a Successful Open House. Click HERE.
Bright Idea

In September, I shared a little trick I learned from one of the cafeteria ladies that helps kids feel good rather than "left out". Click HERE for that link.
Bright Idea

Believe it or not, October was the first month since the Bright Ideas blog hop started two years ago that I didn't link up. (That reflects how busy this year has been!)

But you're in luck... HERE's a link to last year's Round-Up! A whole year's worth of Bright ideas for 2014!
Blog Hop Round Up

Blog Hop

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Elementary Matters

Elementary Matters

Elementary Matters

Bouncy Bands for Wiggly Kids

Got wiggly kids? I sure do! I've got kiddos that wiggle all day long!

There are numerous strategies for these kids to help them get the wiggles out and focus more on classwork. 

One excellent strategy is using Bouncy Bands!
There are two different kids of Bouncy Bands. One you can attach to a child's desk, like you see above. The other attaches to the child's chair like this happy guy below.

Both bands allow the children to push or kick against the rubber strand with their feet. It helps the children with the need to move do so without disrupting others. 

I wish I had one for every kid! I've seen a variety of foot action with each type of Bouncy Band, but with minimal noise and distraction. 

It definitely took some muscle to put the Bouncy Bands onto the furniture, but once it was there, the kiddos can go crazy with the bands without damaging them!

School is so stressful for the kiddos these days. It's nice to have something for them to relieve a little of that stress.  Bouncy Bands are a great option to help these kids!

Be sure to check out this video from Scott, the creator of Bouncy Bands! (The little guy at the end is adorable, isn't he?)

Here's another video from Dr. Oz (I love him!) It features the "Read and Ride" program created by Scott of Bouncy Bands, but there is also a mention of the benefits of Bouncy Bands as well! As teachers, we all know the learning benefits of letting kids move!

To see more about Bouncy Bands, see THIS link!

Holiday Magic!

Holiday magic: This blog post contains ideas for fun and engaging activities designed for learning!
The holidays will be here before you know it! I've been putting my holiday resources in order, and here are a few that will keep the kiddos engaged, along with some fun learning as well! (Just like magic!)

Here's one of my favorite collections: Science and Social Studies Printables for December!

This has all sorts of Science and Social Studies activities! It's got close reads on the aurora borealis and the north pole, a mapping activity about the North Pole, classifying animals by habitats, science activities on holiday scents and the effect of marshmallows on hot chocolate, and there's even a civics activity on elf laws!

The kiddos won't even know they're having learning experiences, they'll be having so much fun!

Holiday No Prep Printables has loads of Math and Literacy activities that are just perfect for those few days just before the holidays, when you're trying to keep them focused, but all they want to do is talk about the upcoming holidays! This collection will perform its holiday magic on the kiddos!
Drawing Holiday Conclusions is a favorite of my students! These task cards can be used as a center, as part of a Scoot game, or as skill practice in a reading group. This is always a hit!

Finally, one of my favorite freebies! This resource is totally magical! The children LOVE to listen to the music of the Nutcracker and visualize the storyline. Their pictures are delightful, and it's always a peaceful time while they listen and illustrate. (Sh... don't tell them they are practicing important reading skills like visualizing and sequencing a story!)

Be sure to click the link HERE for more December resources!

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