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Christmas Around the World

My students have always adored learning about Christmas traditions around the world. We try to learn about Christmas in other countries throughout the month of December. It’s a great unit for our Social Studies class! I usually introduce the unit with a power point presentation. It is a super way to encourage class discussion.

The presentation covers Christmas traditions in 10 different countries. The countries include:

·         United States
·         Mexico
·         Australia
·         Sweden
·         France
·         Germany
·         Italy
·         Japan
·         Greece
·         Spain

For each country, the presentation allows us to discuss:
·         The country’s location in relation to the United States
·         Their country’s flag
·         When they celebrate the holiday
·         Special traditions that are unique to the country
·         Figures that they have that are similar to Santa Claus

We then cut out fact cards for each country that reiterates the information from the presentation. We put them into pockets in our Social Studies interactive notebooks. The cards help us with our activities throughout the unit.

Teaching Christmas around the world, allows us to also practice our map skills that we learned earlier in the year. This unit has activities that reinforce what we’ve learned about the seven continents and allows us to locate countries and capitals on maps.

This unit is full of activities that help students to use nonfiction information!

You can find the complete unit at:

You can find the presentation at:

OR, you can buy the BUNDLE that includes the unit and the presentation!

Painless Classroom Gift Exchange

For years I struggled through the classroom gift exchange at Christmas. You know how it goes – everyone draws someone’s name to buy a gift for them. This inevitably follows:
·         Someone dislikes what they are given and lets the giver know, tears follow
·         Someone breaks their gift before the party is over, tears follow
·         Someone (usually several) doesn’t bring a gift and you are left buying a handful of spare presents

After suffering through this for years, I came across the idea of Christmas stockings. Rather than exchange presents, students simply bring small things for the stockings (one small thing for each student). This idea works because:
·         Everyone receives the same gifts
·         Most parents don’t have to spend more than $5 unless they choose to
·         No one knows who the gifts are from
·         No one knows if someone didn’t bring anything

The “stockings” that I use are simply brown lunch bags. I have found that the larger ones work the best. I have had a fellow teacher use the large brown grocery bags before too.  I like the lunch size because it seems like a stuffed full stocking. We usually decorate our “stockings” a few days before our Christmas party and I line them up along a back counter.

Prior to our Christmas party, I let the students fill the stockings with the goodies that they have brought. The highlight of the party is opening the stockings! I pass them all out and then let all of the students open their stockings at the same time. You may want to have extra grocery sacks handy to help students carry home all of their goodies!

Halloween Spelling Fun

I love incorporating art into our Spelling. This is a fun way that we practiced our spelling words before Halloween!

Veteran's Day for Primary Grades

A great starting point for teaching about Veteran’s Day is to teach about the different branches of the military. My students are always fascinated to learn about the different branches. They love to learn about the role of each branch and what their main duties entail. (FYI, this allows them to ask great questions when he have Veterans visit!) There seem to be very few resources that accomplish this. Since our resources are limited, we always make fact cards that we keep in our interactive notebooks. The cards have the basic facts that my students need to know about each branch.

                To incorporate Veteran’s Day into our Reading and Language Arts, we read short passages about each branch of the military. Each passage is followed by several comprehension questions.

                All of these fact cards and a reading passage about the Air Force can be found in my Branches of the Military FREEBIE. Feel free to download and enjoy!!!

                All of the reading passages and the rest of the COMPLETE Branches of the Military Unit can be found below.

My presentation that accompanies this unit can be found below!

OR, you can buy the BUNDLE and SAVE!!!

The ONE Thing that Revolutionized my Math Class!

Since I started teaching second grade 10 years ago, we have used several different Math curriculums. No matter what curriculum we are using, this daily “Math Meeting” has been the one constant thing that has helped my instruction. Seriously, it has revolutionized my math class. I have simplified this Math Meeting time throughout the years and have adjusted it to fit our changing standards. By using this format, I am able to do a mini lesson on the date, time, place value, money, writing equations, problem solving, and skip counting – every single day (and usually during a span of 10 minutes)!

This simple “Math Meeting” enables me to cover concepts before we even get to those concepts in our curriculum. Throughout the year we will start new concepts with ease because we have already covered them on a daily basis in our Math Meetings!

I simply write all the parts of the Math Meeting on my white board each morning. This following recording sheet (link below) is used for the students to follow along. I also fill in one of the recording sheets on my elmo while they are filling out their recording sheet. There are 5 spaces on the recording sheet that enables students to complete the Math Meeting each day of the week.

The first thing we fill in for the day is the date. We start the year by writing out the date using the month, day, and year. After a few weeks of school, we move to writing our date in numbers.

After the date, we write in the time. This is an excellent way to teach time before we even get to our unit on time!

Next, we fill in our secret number. For the secret number, I draw ten blocks for place value practice.

We start the beginning of the year just counting dimes and pennies. After we’ve mastered that, we add nickels and eventually quarters. Money has to be practiced everyday if students are to master it.

The word problem that I write on the board always varies depending what we’ve been learning. I usually write a word problem that is similar to something that we learned the day before or that they had on their homework. The recording sheet has workspace for the students to show their work and write their answer.

The number of the day is the section that the students seem to like the most. One of my student jobs in my classroom is “Math Meeting.” That person gets to go to the board for the number of the day section. They call on someone to give them the number of the day and they get to record the number on the board. My only rule for the number of the day is that the number cannot be larger than 10. The math meeting person also gets to call on four other students to give them an equation that equals the number of the day. Their job is also to write the equations on the board. You’ll be amazed by the equations that your students will generate by the end of the year. Many of my students will begin to think of multiplication problems as well as two-step problems.

Skip counting is the last thing that we do during our Math Meeting. I usually pick a number to start with and use that same number to start each day during the week. However, what we count by changes every day. We usually count by ones on Monday. On the other days of the week we may count my 2, 5, 10, or count backwards.

When we are done with our Math Meeting the students place the papers in their “Math Meeting” folder so that they can find it the next day.  On Friday, all of the papers are turned in for a daily grade.

This simple Math Meeting has revolutionized my math class!

Time Order Words for Expository Writing

Our first writing piece of the year is an expository writing. I always teach time order words before we start this piece of writing. I like using time order words because it tends to give my young writers a sense of direction. This poster serves as a great reminder of time order words that my second graders can use!

What is a Scientist?

One of our first lessons in Science is about scientists. It comes after our lessons over Science Tools and Lab Safety. ALL of us are scientists! When students are exploring the world around them – they are scientists! In primary grades, we explore the basics of what being a scientist means. We explore the different ways that they use their body to explore the world around them. One of their favorite projects is drawing themselves as scientists.  I always draw an example of myself as an example…

Safety goggles are a MUST! Remember to dress as a scientist would dress. I also have them label their scientists to show me how they can use their bodies to explore in Science. These are always some of the first pictures that we display in the hallway for the school year.

I was especially excited to start this unit this year because I revised my entire “What is a Scientist Unit.” It is much more teacher and student friendly! You can find it in the link below.

Interactive Notebook Storage

I learned real quickly after I started using interactive notebooks that they could NOT be stored in the students’ desks. If they stored them in their desks, they would constantly get them mixed up with their writing journals or other interactive notebooks. I store our interactive notebooks fairly easily. I currently have them on the back counter in my room (simply because that is where I happen to have room for them this year).

Another helpful tip that I have learned is to have students simply stack them in the middle of their tables (or desks) when they are done. I always collect them by table. This ensures that passing them back out is a quick process!

Science Tools and Lab Safety for Primary Grades

One of the first Science units that I teach every year to my kiddos is about Science Tools and Lab Safety. It is a great way to familiarize the students with the Science tools that they will be using all year long. It is also a great way to teach them how to properly use them. It is important to remember that while you may be teaching young kids, you are also laying the ground work for all the Sciences that come later. Science in the primary grades prepares students for biology, chemistry, physics, etc…Since I teach second grade, I generally stick to the basic Science tools such as:
·         Magnifying Glass
·         Magnet
·         Microscope
·         Terrarium
·         Computer
·         Balance
·         Beaker
·         Weather Vane
·         Aquarium
·         Safety Goggles
·         Notebook
·         Thermometer
·         Rain Gauge
·         Stop Watch
·         Ruler
·         Scale

I have my students cut out fact cards for the different Science tools. We put them into a pocket in our Science notebooks for reference throughout the year.

If possible, have all the tools for the students to examine. I like showing the students the real tools as well as using a Power Point presentation that encourages discussion about the reasons we use Science tools.

We also discuss which tool is the correct tool for the different jobs…

Lab Rules are also crucial to teach students. Even if you don’t have a Science lab, lab rules are important to follow when performing experiments in your classroom.

My best-selling Science Tools and Lab Safety Unit can be found below

My Science Tools and Lab Safety Presentation can be found at:

OR, you can buy the BUNDLE and SAVE!!!

Postcards to Your Students - Setting the Tone for a Great Year

Kids LOVE getting mail! There really isn’t a better way to set the tone for the school year than to send postcards before school starts. It is a great way to open up the line of communication with the students and parents. I don’t know how many students over the years have told me that the postcard that I send them before school starts is the first piece of mail that they’ve ever received. Postcards are relatively inexpensive. You can usually find them at teacher stores in packs of 30. I will be sending my bunch out this week (one week before school starts). I generally just say something like:

“I hope that you’ve had a fun summer. I’m excited to be your teacher this year. I look forward to seeing you on the first day of school!”

You will be surprised with the amount of students that will bring the postcards to school to show you that they received them. I even get Thank You notes from students for sending them!

Simple Classroom Rules

Classroom rules are essential to classroom management. However, my classroom rules have changed in the years since I first started teaching. I used to start the year by establishing the rules. In college, I was taught that 4 to 5 rules were ideal (not too many, not too little). In the past, I even did brainstorming activities with my kiddos and allowed them to vote on the classroom rules. While that was effective, I realized that all I really needed were 2 basic rules.

My 2 rules:

1.       Be respectful: This rule really covers all of our behavior issues. If we are respecting the teachers and others, then everything will be OK. This rule takes the place of “Stay quiet while the teacher is talking,” “Keep hands and feet to ourselves,” “Remain quiet in the hallway,” and etc…
2.       Be responsible: This covers a lot of issues. I like to tell my kiddos to take care of their business. This takes the place of “Always be prepared,” “Have your supplies ready,” “Finish all your work,” and etc…

I post these rules above our “Bucket Filler” reminder. I also like to read “Fill a Bucket” to my class every year on the first day of school. It really helps to establish a classroom community. Below you can find the activities that I like to do with my kiddos during the first week of school!

Math Resource Folders

 How do you spell September? How much is a quarter worth? How do you skip count by 3’s?

…these are all questions that elementary teachers hear all year long. To solve this problem, and to teach students at the same time, I’ve started using Math resource folders. They actually serve as our “privacy folders” for all subjects all year long. Making them is one of the first things that I like to do during our first Math lesson of the year (and it also makes a great first day of school activity). I have made these folders both ways: 2-sided and 3-sided. Last year we made 2-sided folders (made with one file folder).

This year I am going to make the 3-sided folders (made with 2 file folders). They just seem to be less crowded with information.

If you are making a 3-sided folder, you will need to assemble the folder using 2 file folders. Last year, all of mine were made out of plain manila folders. However, I found a bright blue (our school color is blue) that is sold in a large quantity at Staples. The colored folders seem to be a little thicker than regular file folders and they should hold up better.

How to construct a 3-sided folder from 2 file folders:
1. Place one file folder on top of the other. 
2. Line up the left side of one folder on top of the right side of another. 
3. Glue the overlapping sides together.

To make either the 2-sided or 3-sided folders, we simply cut out all of the information that we need for references. All of the references that I use in my classroom can be found in the link below. It’s important that the students arrange all the information before they glue it all down to make that it all fits. When they are happy with their arrangement of information, they can glue it all down. 

To ensure that the folder lasts all year, I laminate them. My second graders keep them in the top slot in their desk. We seem to use them throughout the day. They are great to use during fact tests, during Spelling tests, and when little darlings can’t seem to act pleasant to one another ;)

You can find my templates for our Math resource folders below!