As the new year approaches, the word resolution comes to mind. I NEVER keep any resolutions. EVER! Do you? I don't even like making them because I'm so bad at keeping them. Denise at Sunny Days is asking that we think about one little word for the new year for her My Truth Monday linky. I like it. One Little Word that will define 2014. OLW to live by in the new year. I think I can handle this!
Change. Thrive. Become. Mature. Grow. It fits into many facets of my life. Grow as a mother. I have a teenage boy and preteen daughter. Parenting takes on a whole new dimension now. Grow as a teacher. Continuing the journey of learning. Grow as a woman. I'll be entering a new age decade in 2015, so I have to make the best of my last year in this one. Grow as a family and grow as a friend. I don't ever want to be stagnant in any part of my life. Grow means life and living. Rising. Building. Stretching. Lovin' my OLW for 2014!

Join in and share your OLW!

January is upon us and so is a new year! I can not believe that 2014 is here! 2014??!! Really??! I wish time would slow down. I am so very thankful for 2013 and all of the good things from the past year. I have my health, happiness, and lots of good friends and family around me! I am especially lucky to have 2 wonderful kids! My son is practicing very hard at water polo and doing so well. He is currently participating in the Olympic Development Program and he'll be part of the Southeast Zone team. He'll be traveling to Texas in March for a tournament. (Keeping my fingers crossed that he is selected to be part of the National team!!)
My daughter continues to dance her heart out. I am so happy that we were able to take a trip to NYC together. It was such a special experience. She is more motivated than ever to get herself to Broadway!
I'm looking forward to the new year, filled with new adventures!

Now on to some of my favorite reads for JANUARY!!

Grace Lin is such a wonderful author and illustrator.  Bringing in the New Year  is a perfect read for the Chinese New Year on January 31st.
 I love her beautiful artwork!
 The story tells of a family preparing for the special day.
Sam and the Lucky Money is about Sam who wants to buy something with the money he received for the Chinese New Year. He finds that most things are too expensive and he ends up using the money for something much more special.

Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King Jr.  are lovely picture book biographies. Each one is simple enough for our youngest learners to understand. The illustrations in both make these books MUST READS!

The Snow Globe Family is lots of fun and very retro! The book is about a family who lives inside a snow globe in the home of a family just like them. The only one that can see them is the baby, but she can't reach them on the shelf. The Snow Globe Family is waiting for someone to shake the globe so they can play in the snow. Love this little story and the old fashion illustrations.

The Night Before New Year's is patterned after the poem Twas' the Night Before Christmas. This book is best suited for our youngest readers and is perfect for helping kids understand the excitement of the night.

Squirrel's New Year's Resolution is about a squirrel (obviously) who is learning about the meaning of a resolution. She travels around the forest helping her friends make their resolutions while she tries to figure out her own.

Here is my new FAVORITE book by Jon Scieszka. Battle Bunny. Alex receives Birthday Bunny as gift, but decides he needs to turn it into something more exciting! With the help of his imagination and a pencil he turns the Birthday Bunny into Battle Bunny! The layered pictures and scribbled words make this story so much fun to read. I can not wait to share it with my class!

I hope you all enjoy ringing in the New Year. I wish you much happiness and peace in the coming year!!

I LOVE this activity! A LOT!  I can not let a year go by and not do it. It's so simple, yet so meaningful.

First, read the book Silver Packages: An Appalachian Christmas Story by Cynthia Rylant.

If you have never read this book PLEASE do so TODAY! It is a beautiful story that can spark really meaningful discussions. The story is about a wealthy man who feels he "owes a great debt" to someone who helped him. He repays his debt by bringing the Christmas Train through Appalachia every December 23rd. (This is a real train.) Find out about Frankie, a little boy who waits for the train and a special gift.

I have my students create their own silver packages for someone special. After reading the book and having a great deal of discussion about what it means to "owe a debt", I have my kids draft a letter to a family member. I prefer they write to their parents or parent, but all families are different. The students write thanking their family member for something they have done or taught them. I try to encourage the kids to not thank someone for toys or things, but to dig deeper. Write from the heart.

During our discussion, my kids came up with such ideas as thanking their parents for cheering them on at sports or taking the time to drive them to activities or planning trips for the family. Some mentioned thanking their parents for helping them learn. Some brought up thanking their parents for teaching them good manners. This seems to be the one that stuck with many of them. I had one student thank her mom for teaching her responsibility. This little girl often has to help take care of her big brother with special needs and her younger siblings and she feels like she's learned patience. It was very sweet.

I had forgotten to snap some pictures before they wrapped their letters, but here are two for you to peek at.

 Here is one wrapped up and ready to go under the tree!

Click HERE to download a freebie that explains the directions for this project, as well as writing paper and the gift tags, too. I hope you and your students find this just as enjoyable as my class does!

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Now that my third graders are off and running with their book boxes and readers' notebook, I have introduced book commercials and student book recommendations. Students are required to present at least one book commercial during the quarter. These commercials are quick and to the point. To give them an idea of how one should look, we watched kids present book reviews from old Reading Rainbow episodes. (You can watch those here on Discover Education and the kids love them. I can't believe how many have never seen LeVar say "And you don't have to take my word for it!") They will need to present one on a chapter book and then any book of their choice after that. I ask them to be sure it's a book they have finished and really loved. It's a great way to practice speaking and listening skills and for students to learn about new books.

To go along with the book commercials, my students can also fill out a book recommendation slip. I keep these slips near a book rack labeled "student recommendations". At any time, they can fill out a slip, place it inside the book, and place the book on the rack. This makes for another great way for kids to find good books with a peer review!

Download this freebie HERE with book commercial book marks and student recommendation slips. Enjoy!!

It's Friday the 13th, but I am NOT superstitious! Only good things are happening today!

I haven't linked up in awhile, so I'm excited about today. I have lots to share! Thanks Doodle Bugs for hosting this fun party every week!

We started out the week writing to our pen pals in California. I can't believe how much my class LOVES to hear from and write to their new friends. I love the question/answers in the exchange of letters. It's amazing how kids can become such fast BFFs. We decided to make them a little holiday gift to send along with the letters. We created these starfish ornaments and wrote up a piece about our winter weather here in the Sunshine State. The pattern is HERE if you would like to make these.

The past several weeks have been super busy at our school! We have a tradition called Tanakeekee. (It means "gathering" in the Seminole language.) Next to our campus is a plot of preserved land called the Ridge. On this historical site, a war took place between the Seminoles and the U.S. military. For this special event, each grade level takes a part of local history to study and represent on the day of Tanakeekee. Kindergarteners are the Seminole children. 1st grade are the citrus growers. 2nd grade are Florida cowboys/girls. 3rd study the pioneers of our area. 4th graders are the Seminoles and the 5th graders represent the U.S. military. It is a HUGE tradition here and one I do enjoy even though it's a ton of work. Students create a journal in kindergarten and use them each year to fill with activities and information learned on that grade level. We ask the kids to keep the journals under their mattress so they can find it the following year. (Most do bring it back!) Two classes from each grade level walk out to the Ridge each day for 3 days to share what they have learned with the other classes. We set up "camp" there and spend the day. It takes several weeks to study our parts and create crafts and materials for the day.  As the Florida pioneers, we study Frank and Ivy Stranahan who came to Ft. Lauderdale around 1900 to start the first trading post and run a ferry boat.  Ivy was the first teacher. We have an actual trading post at our camp and the other grade levels get to do some trading.  It is difficult to imagine (and explain) unless you are there, but I think it's so neat to have this tradition that all the kids remember LONG after they leave our school. Here are some pics to give you a glimpse into our day on the Ridge.

My students (left) learning about the military from the 5th graders.

Kindergartners sharing paper bag puppets of the animals that live near the Ridge.

Walking out to our "camp".

My kiddos getting ready to tell a class about pioneers. This is Frank and Ivy!
 Sharing pioneer facts with 2nd grade.
Learning about Seminole life from 4th graders.

Here are my students making spice bags as part of our pioneer study. They loved smelling each spice and deciding which ones to use. We also made beaded necklaces.
Finished products.

They painted wooden toys that pioneer children may have played with. We put these in our trading post and they were a huge hit with the other grade levels!
My school has celebrated Tanakeekee for over 20 years.  Every once in awhile the activities need a face lift. I contacted Anna over at Simple Skilled in Second. Her Flip Flap books are so creative and clever! We have made several so far this year and I knew this was just what my team needed to give our pioneer study a little updo! The books came out adorable and now these will be added to their journals as keepsakes! Thanks, Anna!!

Our winter break starts December 22! (I can not wait.) When we return we will be starting our informational text unit beginning with understanding text features. I'll be using the posters and activities from my Text Features Pack.

This set is one of my best sellers and personal favorites. I have recently made some revisions to the posters, added an anchor chart, and added additional activities. (If you have purchased this already please be sure to download it for the updated version).

I added these text feature arrows (18 in all) for the students to "point out" features they find in nonfiction books.

I printed several sets on bright colored paper and laminated. These can be used in a whole group or small group setting as practice or an assessment. I plan on having a set handy during my one-on-one conferences. I can do a quick assessment by having students look for text features on the arrows and use them to point to the features in their just right books.
Last, but not least, I just finished this pack of spelling activities.
The traditional "list on Monday, test on Friday" approach just does not work for me (or the kids). Research says word study is the way to go. We spend a lot of time working with vocabulary and spelling patterns. I created this set because I just needed some new activities. It started out as a Scoot game for tricky patterns then other activities evolved.

In this set, you'll find word cards like this page that can be used as a Scoot game or at a word work center. 

I also included several cards of commonly misspelled words like this one.
These can be mixed with the picture cards to make several variations of Scoot.

Spell by Number is a board game that can be use with any list of words or with the cards in the pack. There is a color and b/w version included.
 I also included a printable for homophones(see below), a foldable for the homophones there, their, and they're, as well as a spelling brochure that, again, can be used with any set of words.
Check this pack out HERE if you are interested. Download the preview first!

I created this winter version of my Spell by Number game as a little freebie for you! Download it and let me know what you think. (Keep an eye out for more of these! My kids love it!)

Check out more Friday FREEBIES HERE!

Thanks for stopping by!

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