Tuesday, December 15, 2020

8 FREE Classroom Resources for the Week Before the Holiday Break

A holiday poem...

'Twas the week before Christmas                                                                                                When all through the room                                                                                                               Not a creature wanted to be conferring                                                                                       Except via Z....

Yeah...that's all I've got. 

My apologies to Clement Clarke Moore. 

And to you, dear reader. 

If you're also running out of steam and creativity this wild week before break, do I have a deal for you!

Today I'm showcasing 8 FREE classroom resources you can use this week, and a few can also be used when you get back from winter break. Whoo hoo!

Because your recess, lunch time, or maybe patience is increasingly short this week, let's get right to the business at hand!

Time for Winter BOOM Cards™

If you have students who could use a little extra practice telling time to the nearest minute, this deck is for you! There are fifteen interactive digital task cards that ask students to tell time using an analog clock.


Winter Multiplication BOOM Cards™

This is a great set for intervention time or homework. Each of my students has always had a small dry-erase board in their desk, and they use that to work the problems before selecting the correct answer on their BOOM Cards™. Fun, easy, and simple--just the kind of thing we need before a break!


Christmas Computation BOOM Cards™

This computation sampler is a terrific way to get kids to review and/or sharpen their addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division skills!

And now for the ELA folks...

Winter Common & Proper Nouns

Y'all, I never knew that common and proper nouns were such a big deal. I've always just taught them once in the beginning of the year and maybe reviewed them for two minutes before the big ole tests. HOWEVER, I had created a Halloween freebie on this very topic in October, and I still had huge amounts being downloaded well into December. Obviously, there was a need for a winter theme. And besides, friends don't let friends use Halloween resources in December. 😂


Singular & Plural Possessive Nouns

Sometimes I wonder if we as a society will ever collectively learn the difference between plurals and possessives, let alone singular possessives and plural possessives. And don't even get me started about a uniform decision on the infamous nouns ending with S...

This resource is my feeble attempt at some semblance of word peace. (No, that's not a typo. WORLD peace would be a bit much to expect from fewer than 20 cards.) And no, there are no nouns that end with S in this deck...it's the holidays, folks. No need to add fuel to any arguments amongst grammarians out there.



Simple Subject & Simple Predicate

I had made a set of complete subject and complete predicate cards back in October, but I hadn't followed up with a set for simple subjects and predicates. This is a quick, easy review of the subject with a couple of instructional cards included.



Simile or Metaphor BOOM Cards

This is an oldie but a goodie! My very first set of BOOM Cards! Some kids really struggle with determining the difference between similes and metaphors, so it's always good to review them periodically.



And now, for a NON-digital resource!

Every year, I used to be caught off-guard and totally unprepared when the first student gifts started arriving. I know, I know...the holidays are the same time every year, but I just felt a little presumptuous assuming I'd get gifts. Anyhoo, that's an issue to be worked out in therapy, but I did finally come up with a solution!

I created these holiday thank you notes (although they can be used anytime throughout the year) that I can DOWNLOAD if and when I receive a gift.

And now, you can, too!
Holiday Thank You Notes

 Unlike my other free resources, this is available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. You can print out the versions with minimal color or simply print the blackline masters onto the colorful paper of your choice!

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Happy holidays, everyone! I hope you have a terrific week with your students, and may you have a December to remember!

Until next time!


Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Using Real-Life Skills in Your Classroom for the Holidays

 Happy Tuesday, everyone!

It's certainly beginning to look a lot like Christmas everywhere you go! Whether you celebrate the holidays in your classroom or not, there's no denying that the excitement is contagious. Why not capitalize on that eagerness and add a little festive fun to your learning environment!


We all know as educators that learning is especially meaningful and engaging if students see the relevance in it. Add a spark of holiday spirit to the mix, and well, the days just seem to be a little smoother...and sweeter.

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Today I'd like to offer five tips for incorporating real-life skills into your classroom during the days leading up to the holiday break.

1. If possible, find a holiday tie-in. It is almost Christmas after all, and what better way to be relevant in students' lives than to focus on what they are currently interested in! 

  •    *Incorporate reading and writing assignments around the season.        
  •       Design and describe a gingerbread house, ugly sweater, elf, present, etc.     
  •       If a character in your book gave a present to another character, what would it be?   
  •       If you could give a character in your book a gift, what would you give him/her? 
  •     *Make math meaningful and merry!
  •     Instead of a page full of addition problems, have students use sale flyers. 
  •     Create a North Pole map using distance and scale.
  •     Create a Winter Wonderland theme park.

 Do you have students that don't celebrate the holidays? No problem! Find a theme that interests everyone and tie your classroom work into it. It's all in the presentation...if you're excited, they'll be excited!
  • *Possible non-holiday themes
  • Winter Wonderland
  • Gnome
  • Yeti for Winter Break
  • Practice with a Cactus
  ....You get the idea!


Don't feel like you have to reinvent the wheel or create a bunch of new assignments to accomplish this. Check out sites like Teachers Pay Teachers or Boom Learning℠ for ready-made resources--many of them are FREE!

2. Use recipes for reading and math assignments. My kids love anything to do with eating, cooking, or reality TV. Given the number of cooking shows there are, I know they're not alone in this. During math intervention time this month, we have our own friendly group competition that the kids have nicknamed "Chopped." I have the kids broken up into small groups, and then I give each group copies of my favorite recipes. (They are holiday recipes for December, but they don't have to be.) They then work together on dry-erase boards halving the recipes (hence, the "Chopped") or doubling, tripling, or quadrupling them. Oh, what fun they have! 

After class, many of the kiddos ask if they can take the recipes home so they can make them. Umm...YEAH! Cooking at home with their families is another great math lesson and they don't even know they're doing it. See what I did there? My evil plan to sneak in homework and extra math practice worked! Muhahahahah!

Recipes are also great for my reading intervention class. They teach sequential (or step-by-step) order, and students need to read details very carefully. Sometimes students will ask if they can bring recipes from home to add to my files, and of course, I say YES! What a great way for students to share a piece of their lives and their culture with the class!

I have also noticed that recipes are a great way to expand vocabulary. Students learn the names of ingredients they've never tried before, and they discover some new cooking terms along the way, too. The cookbooks I added to our classroom library last year have quickly become a big hit!


3. Have students generate lists. This is kind of like number one, but with a different twist. I find that many of my kiddos who don't like to write are actually fabulous list makers. I also discover that my students who aren't very organized writers benefit from this greatly. Because after all, most pre-writing is just list making and organizing your thoughts. 

Plus, making lists is a life-long skill that keeps all of us on track, no matter what our age.

Examples of lists we create in December:
  • Christmas list (obviously)😉
  • Santa's Nice List (nope, we don't do naughty) Haha!
  • Shopping list (either gifts we want to give OR grocery shopping based on a recipe)
  • Character traits of a character in one of our novels
  • Things we're grateful for
  • Qualities we admire in others
  • Things you would have to pack to go on a trip
  • Favorite songs, TV shows, books, etc.
  • Things we have have to do today, this week, this month, etc.
Lists are an excellent way to organize our thoughts and our lives! 😊


4. Play games. Games are a great way for students to learn social skills such as taking turns and losing (and winning!) gracefully. They are also a terrific way to reinforce and review academic skills because they're FUN and our minds remember fun things. Games can be the most engaging link students have between school and home. Often times parents will comment that their child learned a game in class that they are so excited for their whole family to play. How many worksheets can we say that about? 

My students think that BINGO is the greatest thing ever. We play multiplication BINGO to celebrate everything--birthdays, Christmas, everyone turning in their homework--you name it, we celebrate it! Learning multiplication facts is fun when it's presented as a game and a class tradition. Trust me, if I forget to get the BINGO set out for some occasion, I hear about it. 

We also play Around the World, Hangman, 20 Guesses, Who Am I?...and many more. I hope that my students will always reflect back on our year together as a time of FUN and learning.


5. Give more time for independent reading. During this hectic time, I try to work in a little extra downtime for my kiddos so that they can unwind reading a book of their choice. To me, this is a life-long skill. I don't want my kids to think reading is an isolated activity that you only do at school. I want them to know the thrill of finding those extra moments to sit quietly and inhale a good story. I want them to get into the routine of reading every school day so that they continue it throughout the winter break.

During the years I've taught middle school, I've given my students the first fifteen minutes of class for this treat. My elementary kiddos get the first fifteen minutes following lunch recess to settle in with their books. Those who might complain about it at the beginning of the year usually are the ones who want more time by Thanksgiving.

In December, I dim the lights slightly and project a virtual fireplace on the screen. There's something about the sweet crackle of a fire that just lulls everyone into the reading mood!  I dearly hope that this is a real-life practice that many of my students take to heart well into their adult years.

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I hope that you have found a few helpful hints that you can incorporate into your classroom. May the next two weeks be some of the merriest of the year for you and your students!

Until next time!


Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Teaching Figurative Language

Top of the morning to you on this Tuesday after Thanksgiving. I hope your week is off to a wonderful start, and I want to wish you a very happy December!

I don't know about you, but December always seems a little bittersweet to me. There's the nostalgia of past Christmases, the realization that my time with this group of students is nearly half over, and the awareness that this is the last month of the "leisurely" stretch of our pacing guide.


RRRRrrrrrkkkkk! And just like an irritating scratch on an old vinyl record, the holiday mood is rudely interrupted by the thought of heavy test prep when we return from the holiday break.

But wait! Instead of being the proverbial party pooper, I'm here to offer tidings of comfort and joy! I'm about to offer you a sweet little nugget of wisdom that enables me to enjoy my two weeks off without dreading January.

Here's my best kept test prep secret: I start preparing my kiddos before we leave on break.

No, I'm not the grinch, and no, the kids don't mind. In fact, they don't even know that we are doing test prep. I strive to make it a December to remember, and the holidays lend themselves beautifully to fun activities--especially those revolving around figurative language.

I don't know about the tests your kiddos take, but our reading tests are pretty heavy on figurative language. If the kids don't have that down by the time they test in March, their chances of doing exceptionally well are pretty much slim to none.

Once the holiday break hits, I like the majority of my students to have figurative language down pat. They can define each of the devices, find examples in literature, and incorporate it in their own writing. 


Whether I've taught 4th grade or 8th grade, my methods are the same. And so I'm offering this simple phase...

See what I did there? Any Nat King Cole fans out there?

Okay, back on track. Here are my tried and true methods for teaching figurative language.

1. Go over the definitions...often. Kids can't identify or effectively use what they don't know. In fourth grade, we work on math facts like it's their job (which it kind of is), but we also go over figurative language definitions, too.

For example, when they're standing in line waiting to go in from recess, I will ask for someone to tell us what we call a comparison between two unlike things using "like" or "as." (The added bonus of standing outside a little longer certainly doesn't hurt.)

I also have figurative language mini posters displayed in a prominent spot in our classroom, and we refer to them often. I like to change them up to match our seasonal decor, so I have LOTS of different sets. (I believe they are all listed in this sub-section of my store.)


The information listed on them is exactly the same, but the backgrounds are different to match our decor and mood. When I was in college, one of my professors told us that the average bulletin board is only effective at capturing attention for two to three weeks, max. Isn't that the truth? How many displays do we walk by in our schools and we don't even pause to read them anymore? My classroom is so teeny, tiny that every square inch of that baby has to be effective real estate! By changing the posters often, that area catches the kids' eyes and they take the time to read the information, even if they already know what it says based on the previous versions. 

BTW, the pineapple version is my favorite. 🍍

2. Give students LOTS of practice finding examples of figurative language.

Once my students have the definitions down, we start applying that knowledge by looking at sample sentences. You can use worksheets or you can create your own sentences. I turned some of my sentences into a gallery walk that my students just LOVE doing at the beginning of the year! (It is available here if you're interested.)


Once the kids are comfortable and consistent with identifying examples in isolated sentences, it's time to move on to excerpts from REAL literature!

Again, I have many samples I have pulled over the years for students to practice on. In order to share all of these great examples, I have created other figurative language gallery walks (available in my TpT store), and interactive sets (available in my BOOM store at Boom Learning℠).  😀

As I mentioned earlier, the holidays are the perfect time of year to practice finding examples of figurative language. Many traditional songs, stories, and movies contain a treasure trove of these gems!

I can't tell you how thrilling it is to have a fourth grader come back from music class just ecstatic that they discovered alliteration in "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "Walking in a Winter Wonderland!" Of course, I let them think that no one else has ever made that discovery and that he/she is an absolute genius. 

And then the race is on, my friends. The. race. is. ON! Those kids are going to find examples in print and media no matter what. One mother reported to me that the family has learned so much about figurative language because her child feels the need to point out every. single. example in every song played on the radio. LOL 

(Side note: We also do "Music Monday"--or "Tune Tuesday" if we forget--most weeks. That little adventure deserves an entire post of its own, so stay tuned!)


3. Require the use of figurative language in writing assignments. This isn't a legalistic intention at all, but like many newly acquired skills, if students aren't made to use it, they won't. I ask students to include at least ONE example of figurative language in any narrative writing that we do, and they need to highlight or underline it. That's an easy enough requirement that anyone can do and many choose to do more. This practice teaches kids to apply the devices effectively and to balance its use in their writing. Nobody wants to read a whole page of figurative language strung together, but everyone can appreciate the well-placed example that helps illustrate a point.

The 7th graders in my district are required to read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens each year. We always have a lively debate after reading it if Dickens effectively used figurative language or if he overused it. Most kids point out the extremely verbose passages about the marketplace as their evidence...

By the by, have YOU noticed all the examples of figurative language I've strung throughout this post? 😂

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I hope this gives you some practical ideas and some hope about the upcoming test season. My students absolutely LOVE using figurative language and that offers me a thrill of hope as this weary woman rejoices during the holiday season.


Until next time, friends!


BTW, if your students are currently reading the very verbose work by Mr. Dickens, I have culled FIFTY-SEVEN examples of figurative language from that little novella of his. They are arranged in order by stave, so it's a fun activity to do after each chapter. I have a standard set available here and a two-pack differentiated pack (one set has helpful hints underlined) here.