It's time for that one last push before the holiday break!  I'm linking up with Abby at the Inspired Apple for some holiday sharing.
Let's start the party!

Head over to the Inspired Apple to see who else has linked up.

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Do you have any traditions you do with your class each year for the holidays?  I always try to do some things every year so students can say, "We're going to do xx in Ms. G's class!" or "Hey, I did that when I was in her class!"  Those kinds of things build community within the school and even within your town.

Every year my students work together to decorate a Night Tree.  We've done this for more years than I can count... really... like more than 10 (might even be twice that many, actually!) and it is an anticipated project every year.

I start by asking students about the trees they have decorated for the holidays.  We graph the different things on top of the tree, whether it is real or fake artificial... where the tree is, etc.  Then we sit down in a cozy spot, turn the lights down and read Night Tree, by Eve Bunting.

It's a story about a family who goes into the woods each Christmas Eve and decorates a tree for the woodland creatures who live there.  You don't know this at the beginning of the story, though - you think they are going to get or decorate a traditional tree.  My students are always surprised and amazed by the idea of decorating a tree for outside - and at least one always suggests we do it ourselves :-)

Our next step is to brainstorm things we can use to decorate the tree - how to make ornaments that will be safe and tasty for the animals, what to hang them with, how we can feed the "bottom walkers", too.  Sometimes we make the ornaments in class, and sometimes I send it home as a family project.  It really just depends on the year.

One easy way to make ornaments is the tried-and-true peanut butter, pine cones and birdseed recipe.  This is always fun - but it only works if you are not a nut-free classroom... I've had to be resourceful these past few years and come up with other ways to make ornaments.  This one is my favorite!

It really works well and is easy for kids to help with. 

 We've also done ones like this

I haven't personally tried the ones with corn syrup, but I have a friend who swears by it.

If you're looking to make this into a writing activity, this project lends itself well to a "how to" expository piece.  I created some quick organizers and writing paper you can use.  Click the image below to download.

Once we have made ornaments, or had students bring them in, we're ready to head out to decorate our tree.  We have decorated the same tree every year since I started doing this.  And it is always amazing to me to see how much it has grown from past years. 

And here we are decorating past trees
I also send a note home asking families to clean out the cabinets - save all those old stale boxes of cereal, crackers, cookies... we toss those crumbs under the tree before we leave.

Decorating the Night Tree is one of those projects I look forward to every year.  I love doing something different and the idea of feeding the animals really appeals to kids.  You can make this project as big or as small as you'd like.  But however you do it, you just might start a tradition!

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Teachers are wonderful people.  We are constantly giving of ourselves - to our students, our families and our friends.  I think it is just part of who we are.  Here is just another way to show that.  I'm linking up with many fantastic teachers from TpT for a day of Giving Back, tomorrow, Dec. 14.

Everyone who participates is donating a portion of their earnings from that day to a charity or organization that is special to them.  I am donating all my earnings that day to the Special Olympics.  (Who, as it turns out, is matching donations dollar for dollar through Dec. 31!)  My brother has Down's Syndrome and Special Olympics has allowed him, from the time he was little through now as an adult, to share in the fun of sports.

My family always went to all his events and tournaments - every year was special.  I do have one memory that I always think of, though.  My brother plays soccer and for many years when he first started playing, he wouldn't move from his "spot."  Other players would come running by with the ball - but he would stay right there, guarding his spot.  It really was kind of funny, and the coaches and the other families would laugh and say what great defense he had, because no one was going to mess with is spot!

Well one day the game started and sure enough, my brother defended his place on the field.  Knees bent, hands on his legs, ready to defend.  The ball got kicked in his direction.  AND HE MOVED!  And not just a little - he got the ball and started kicking up the field toward the goal.  I'm going to tell you, I have tears in my eyes just typing this.  The excitement in the stands and on the field that day was not because he was going to score  goal.  As a matter of fact, I don't remember if he really did or not.  (I called my Mom to see if she remembered this.  She said he didn't score a goal, but she immediately knew the time I was talking about!) But all those families and players and coaches who had spent so many hours, weeks and for many of us - years - attending these events.... to see my brother run down the field kicking that soccer ball was like he had won an Olympic medal.  They got it.  That's what Special Olympics is about.

I'm sure others in the stands thought we were crazy, cheering and yelling so hard for some who just seemed to do what he was supposed to do, but we knew how big that moment was.  I've gone to many Special Olympics events over the years and probably witnessed many more times like that for other families that I don't even know about.  But I'll never forget that feeling.

So.... if you're looking for some last minute holiday activities to do with your students before the break, or if you're already planning for when we come back in January, stop by my store and check out a few of my resources.

100% of everything I earn on Dec. 14 will be donated to the Special Olympics.  TpT has been a blessing and given me so much.  It's nice to give back.

Take a look at more sellers who are Giving Back on Sunday.

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Just popping in for a moment to give you a sneak peek of what's happening in my classroom this week -
I decided to do Kindness Elves this year instead of the traditional elf guy, mainly because I like the idea of focusing on GIVING and not receiving.  Check out my post tomorrow (Monday) over at Who's Who to see how I plan on sharing the kindness in my classroom.

And don't forget - Teachers Pay Teachers is joining in the fun of Cyber Monday with a fantastic sale!
(Graphic by Rachel Lamb)

My whole store - along with tons of other great sellers - will be 20% Dec. 1-2 - ANNNNND if you remember to use the promo code at check-out (which I have been known to forget!), you get an extra 10% off your purchase!  Start shopping!
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I couldn't decide on just one thing to blog about this weekend so I'm linking up with Kacy at Doodlebugs for Five for Friday.  Good stuff this week!
Not sure how I feel about this... It definitely was pretty and it didn't last long.  But let's just say I'm not ready for this to be happening too often right now.  Snow means boots and snowpants and the craziness of getting everything ON for recess, then coming back in and taking it OFF... not yet, ok?

We finished up our unit on repeated addition with some fun centers.  In the first one everyone is using square tiles to show arrays of a certain number of rows and columns.  This one got a few of my kiddos confused.  It was good to see some kids having no problems figuring it out and others who usually breeze through all things numbers having to really think.  In the end we all got it and it was great to see everyone help each other figure it out. The ipad center was hit.  They used a drawing app to create arrays based on repeated number sentences.  In the third center it was the opposite - write the number sentence to go with the array. (You can get the cards from TPT HERE.)

This is my second Stitch Fix and I LOVE IT!  I get to try on things I wouldn't normally even look at and I'm finding some great pieces to add to my wardrobe.  That cream sweater is perfect to keep at school for when it gets chilly and the jeans on the bottom are my new faves!

We took out the laptops for our first research project of the year!  Wow - the excitement was amazing and it's so great to see my kiddos really able to use technology so well.  Last week we visited three sites to learn more about nocturnal animals.  As soon as everyone got busy you could hear a pin drop as they all read everything they could.  Then the chatter started - "Did you know....?"  Wow!  Listen to this!"  It warmed my teacher heart!  This week we'll add information from a few books.  I created a research flip book for them to keep track of their facts.  After the research piece, each student will create a slide in Powerpoint with a fact about their animal, photo and caption and a title.  (Snuck a little nonfiction text feature practice in there!)  We are all so excited to see how the final presentation turns out!  (Click HERE for the flip book.)

Here are the sites we used:

As I was cleaning things up on Friday, I realized this little habit I have just might save some of you a little time.  You know all those resources you have that you use parts of all year, ... but sometimes not every week so you forget which one you used and which ones you didn't.... and you copy it and hand it out only to hear "we already did this!"... I started turning the page I used around the other way when I re-filed it after copying so I knew I had already used it.  Now when I go back to my folder I can see at a glance which pages I've used so far.

Be sure to check out Doodlebugs to see what everyone else has been up to this week!

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My students LOVE anything nonfiction.  Whether it is about space, the weather, trucks or animals (a particular favorite with second graders), learning more about a topic is where it's at. 

I came across this pin while I was looking for ideas on how to teach nonfiction text features.

It leads to a quick summary of how the author used text mapping to teach nonfiction text features.  I was hooked.  (Be sure to follow the link to The Text Mapping Project for more information.)

I knew this would be a great idea to use with my kiddos because: (1) It was VISUAL!  My kiddos could see how a nonfiction book was put together in one look, rather than flipping through pages; (2) It was INTERACTIVE!  From putting the copied pages together into a scroll, to highlighting and labeling text features, my kiddos would be actively involved every step of the way; and (3) It was DIFFERENT!  Just the idea of creating a scroll would be engaging for them.

So, step one.  I made copies of 3 of our nonfiction books.  I made sure they had a variety of text features and would work well when placed end to end.  I chose one on leaves, pumpkins and apples to go with our fall theme.  6 copies meant I could have 3 students in each group - very manageable.
Then we made the scrolls.  I actually did this with whichever kids were waiting for buses to be called in the afternoon.  They were so excited to find out what we were going to do and the fact that THEY create the scrolls added to them being more invested in the whole lesson.

I have to tell you - this was not the first lesson we had done on nonfiction text features.  We had already looked at different nonfiction books, worked with features such as the index, table of contents, captions, etc.  I wanted my students to have some familiarity with the features before we did this so everyone would be more successful.

Wow!  The response was amazing!  As soon as I took out the scrolls that had been created, you could hear and feel the excitement.  "I helped make that one!"  "Look!  I see the title!"  "Wait, the glossary will be at the end!"

We unrolled the scrolls and spent a few minutes just talking about the text features they noticed.  This was quick way for me to assess what they remembered and what I needed to make sure to focus on.  After having each person in the group share one example of a text feature - and its purpose - we started mapping!

I went through the features one by one, showing them on a Powerpoint as we found them in the text.  Students sat at the beginning, middle or end of the scroll and the person closest to the text feature we were talking abut got to circle it with the highlighter and label it. 

As we mapped the text, we also added to our nonfiction text features booklet.
 We spent two full days doing this, then each group walked around and looked at the other groups' text maps.  By the time we were done with this, my students could easily locate and identify various nonfiction text features, and had a better idea of how they worked to help support the reader in finding information.

I assessed the final time in two ways - first with flip flap books to match the feature and the definition.  Then when I was meeting with small groups, I gave each student a nonfiction text and asked them to identify certain features, show where they would go to find___, use the ____ to ____.  I had the same questions for each kiddo, but a different text.  This really gave me a good idea of who could just identify the features and who could actually apply them.

This definitely turned out to be a great way to show how nonfiction text features are organized and how they help the reader.  I plan on using text mapping again in a few weeks when we get deeper into understanding the narrative structure of a story.  I can see making a short chapter into a scroll and then highlighting the introduction of characters and setting, the rising action, falling action and the ending so students can really SEE how a story moves along.

Let me know if you decide to try this in your room.  I'd love to hear how it went!
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It's time for Wordless Wednesday!  Thanks to Christina at Sugar and Spice for hosting this linky.  Ready for a fun and visual way to teach nonfiction text features?  Blog post to come!

a new way to work on nonfiction text features

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Really?  November already!  I really do like November, even though it seems so short.  I feel like after Halloween the craziness of back to school, apples, pumpkins, fire safety, fall, bats and spiders and ghosts... phew!... all settles down and I can finally enjoy what is left of the fall season.

Time to link up with Farley for this month's Currently!

Here we go!

Oh the wind!  We are on the edge of two coastal storms/fronts this weekend.  Yesterday it rained, today we get wind.  And if I can hear it blowing across my backyard, which is pretty sheltered then I KNOW that wind is strong!  It's been a perfect weekend to stay inside in my comfy clothes, catch up on house stuff and catch my breath.

Turn the clocks back?  An extra hour of sleep.  Enough said - thank you!

I am just in LOVE with this month's Currently design.  Fall really is a favorite season of mine - I love the colors, the smells, the crisp air... I am lucky to live where we see a true fall season, complete with beautiful changing leaves, pinecones, acorns and more.  I really hate to see it go because that means winter is just around the corner!

So. Much. Stuff.  I have Halloween stuff decorating my house, stuff I brought home from my classroom... it's everywhere.   am one of those people who does not like to leave holiday decorations up past their prime (except maybe the Christmas tree,, which I did keep one year until the beginning of February - and yes, it was a real tree :-)  Time to put away all things spooky and pull out those Thanksgiving turkeys!

Read a book - what's that?  I read like a mad woman during summer and on school breaks, but at the beginning of the year I probably don't pick up a book until now.  I do read blogs, teaching articles, magazines... things that I can finish before falling asleep at 9:30.  I'm curious to see what others are reading though.  I love a good book!  And that makes me think - I love my Kindle.  I swore I would never stray from the feel of a real book in my hands but my Kindle is fantastic.  EXCEPT for professional reading - then I want the actual book.  Not sure why... I don't mark up my books (that would drive me crazy!), but I do like to be able to go back to them for ideas, which is much easier with a real book than with a Kindle... hmmm... your thoughts?

Don't forget to stop by Farley's blog and see what everyone else is up to!

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A quick link up with Christina DeCarbo over at Sugar and Spice for her Wordless Wednesday.

A little Halloween science each day this week.
What do you think will happen?  The results were surprising - and amazing!

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Happy Saturday!  Phew!  I am beat!  I went to bed pretty early last night so I never had a chance to finish this post - and announce the winners of my spider unit.  Parent conferences went great!  I loved meeting and chatting with everyone and I know this year is going to continue to be fantastic!

Now, on to the spiders!

As you know, we spent all of last week researching, writing about and loving every minute of spider central.  My plan was to incorporate our unit on nonfiction text features with these creepy crawly guys for a great finished product (you can see that blog post HERE) - and the week did not disappoint!  (My picture... not so much.. we were so involved in everything I forgot to take pictures of every step!)

We started with a "what do you know/what questions do you have?" activity.  We sat in a circle and rolled a ball of yarn to each other.  Each person shared something they knew about spiders or a question they had.  After they answered, they had to hold on to the yarn as it got rolled to someone else.  This created our "web" of ideas to start our spider investigation.

After doing some general spider reading and sorting (these are from my spider unit - you can see that HERE)

we created a list of 6 different topics about spiders: body parts, babies, what thy eat, webs and silk, fangs and venom, and different kinds of spiders.  Everyone was in a group and their job was to read and research and find 3-4 facts about their topic. 

I met with each group myself, along with having them work independently.  Here's what they came up with:

The next step was to take our facts and write a quick expository paragraph.  This turned out to be a great way to introduce nonfiction writing in a blink.  We're focusing more on this next week.  They worked together to write their paragraphs and then edited and copied them for the display.

One text feature that has been tricking my kiddos has been what a caption is - and what it does.  So I used this opportunity to have every group create an illustration for their paragraph and write a caption to go with it. 

Perfect!  They were now finding captions left and right in all the nonfiction books we had, and rather than asking me what the picture was about, I could hear them saying, "The caption says..."  Made my teacher heart smile!

Our final step was to work together to create the table of contents, index and glossary.  For the glossary, each group chose a word or two that they thought was an important word to know.  They highlighted it in yellow and then we wrote a simple definition for the glossary.  My main goal for this part was for my students to really understand the difference between the table of contents and the index.  When we worked together to create both of these using our own information, the difference became much more apparent for most of them.  Success!

Now I have to tell you.. my original plan was to do all this during the week and then put the board up on Friday after school.  But that didn't happen.  My kiddos were sooo excited to share their work with everyone they really wanted to put it up for Thursday after school when parent conferences started.  Didn't want to disappoint them, so here it is!

The were SO proud of their work and every time we go down the hall I can hear them point out the text features and how they help support reading... definitely a successful week!

And since we had everything done and up by Thursday afternoon, I needed something different to complete our spider study on Friday morning.

I used Amy Lemons' quick and easy spider poems for a great way to review parts of speech.  And they turned out so cute! (The spider poem is glued inside the spider do you can't see it in the picture.)

Now on to the winners!  Earlier this week I decided to give away one of my spider units to one lucky person who left a comment with a spider book idea or a spider fact.  And since we had such a great spider week, I'm going to give a unit to everyone who commented!  Congratulations to Angie, Cherie, Lori and Paula! Check your email!

Enjoy the weekend!

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