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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