Valentine’s Day poem and writing activity

Valentine's DayA while back I posted a writing activity for the wintertime, including a winter poem. Today, I’m doing the same thing for Valentine’s Day!

Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is a day for love and caring – not just for couples, but for friends, family, and relatives as well. So I wrote this poem for you to use in your classroom or with your homeschool group. It’s not a very deep poem – just a few stanzas about celebrating Valentine’s Day in February, and keeping the caring going throughout the year.

After you’ve read the poem in class, or had your students read the poem, there is a short writing activity for them to complete. Using this writing activity, your students can analyze the poem and discuss how they felt about it. You can also have them write their own Valentine’s Day poems as an additional activity.

Valentine’s Day Close Reading

Valentine's Day Close Reading

If you’re interested in more fun reading activities for your classroom, I’ve created a Valentine’s Day Close Reading packet, with reading passages and activities for your kids to complete in class. If you check it out, be sure to let me know what you think! I always appreciate the feedback.

I hope you have a wonderful month of February, and a terrific Valentine’s Day!

Video games for fun and fitness

Wii Fit PlusI think our family is in the minority in that we do not have a video game console system. Most people I know of these days have either an Xbox or a PlayStation of some variety – maybe both. As for us, the last console that we owned was a Sega Dreamcast (mostly for the excellent game Soul Calibur). That was before we had children, and while I’m sure it’s safely packed away somewhere, I have no idea where that might be.

Generally I do not find that console games are “good” for kids. I suppose they serve as a diversion from reality, and are fun for kids to play with, but most of the games I’ve seen on these consoles are popcorn for the eyes, with too-fast-paced action, lots of animated violence, and little else.

That said…

My parents do have a gaming console… a Nintendo Wii. It is several years old now, but still in good working condition. They have a variety of games for it, including Just Dance 1, 2, and 3, Zumba Fitness, and Wii Fit Plus.

When we visit my parents, our kids enjoy playing on the Wii, and while I’m usually not impressed by console games, I’m very impressed by the way the Wii manages to incorporate fun and fitness. Wii Fit Plus, for example, has a variety of different games that kids can play that will track what sort of exercises they are doing, how active they’re being, how their balance stacks up, and how many calories they are burning. Our daughter in particular will play on the Wii for ages, going through the different games, doing lots of dancing and moving about, and generally getting in shape while having fun.

The Wii has been discontinued, and it doesn’t seem that many modern gaming systems require the use of the entire body to play. I think that is too bad – but I am hopeful that there will soon be more games that people will play that combine fun and fitness. I think these sorts of games are great for both body and mind. I’d certainly play them!

Indoor gardening with an AeroGarden

AeroGarden BountyThis past Christmas, our son received an AeroGarden system. He is big into plants in general, though he favors edible plants (fruits, vegetables, and herbs) and of course, carnivorous plants.

The AeroGarden system, by Miracle-Gro, is not exactly a full hydroponic system, but it is pretty close. Plant seeds come in small pre-packaged pods that do contain some dirt. These pods then rest in a basin of circulating water, with plant food added. In the AeroGarden Bounty system our son received, there is a little touch screen that will display when water or plant food needs to be added, and the status of the system in general.

AeroGarden Bounty

So far, the system has been working well. Every pod in the starter package of different types of herbs has sprouted successfully. And the system is extremely simple to use – the Bounty system automatically turns the LED lights off at midnight every night, and back on again at eight in the morning. Since the system is already filled with water, you don’t actually have to do anything to care for your plants. The only work involved is adding plant food and water when necessary, and trimming the plants as required.

The ease of this system made me think that it might be useful to put into classrooms. Nobody will have to care for the plants, and it is likely they will grow successfully (at least to begin with – we’ve only had the system for a few weeks, so I can’t vouch for any long-term results). Of course, having your kids take care of the plants in your classroom is part of the benefit of keeping plants at school – but if you’re too busy for that, one of the smaller AeroGarden systems might suffice. And if you get a starter kit with herbs or vegetables, you can even produce your own food for your kids to eat.

Herbs in the AeroGarden

The AeroGarden Bounty system earned generally good reviews on Amazon, though according to customer feedback, there may be a few quality issues with the water pump that circulates the water inside the machine. Time will tell if that is the case for our system in particular.

I’m looking forward to seeing the plants in the system getting bigger and bushier!

Celebrate diversity for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Martin Luther King, Jr.I’ve just completed work on a new product – Martin Luther King, Jr. Close Reading. I would love for you to check it out, because I think it is one of the best products I have completed to date.

To celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and the month of January, I’ve created a Celebrate Diversity worksheet available as a free download for you to do with your kids. You’ll find it after the following information about my new Martin Luther King, Jr. product available at our online store.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Close Reading

For Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and Black History Month, here is a book containing nine different non-fiction informational texts about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement. There are chapters about Rosa Parks and President Barack Obama included as well, so that young readers can get an idea of the works of some of the African American leaders in our past and present.

Here are some pictures of some of the stories and activities being completed. Please note that if you have any pictures of your own to send us of kids completing any of our activities, I’d be glad to feature them!

Writing about personal civil rights:

civil-rights-activity

Sorting events in the story of Rosa Parks:

rosa-parks-activity

The completed Rosa Parks activity:

rosa-parks-activity-completed

Reading about the works of President Barack Obama:

obama-close-reading

Completing a civil rights vocabulary word search:

civil-rights-word-search

If all this looks interesting to you, and you would like to check out the product, here it is. I’m hoping that it will serve as a comprehensive introduction to Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Close Reading

Click here. Covers Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Grades.

Celebrate diversity in the classroom

Here is a fun and free activity for you to use in your classroom or homeschool group to celebrate the diversity of the group. Have students take these printables and interview the other students in the class. They can find out which languages those students speak, what religions they follow, what countries they or their parents come from, and what interests and future aspirations they have. When they’re done, they should have worksheets full of interesting diverse answers from the kids in the classroom.

I hope you have a fantastic month of January, and a fun and educational Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!

A winter poem and writing activity

A snowy dayHere’s something fun for your students to do in class during the wintertime – a free winter poem and writing activity.

Snowy Day

I wrote a wintertime poem called “Snowy Day” – just a bit of fun about a kid playing in the snow. I purposefully used the same rhyming scheme used in one of my own favorite poems about snow: “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost. If you’re teaching poetry this winter season, you might consider reading your students that one – if you haven’t already done so.

BFFsI have also included an writing activity page with the poem so that your students can analyze the poem. You can also have your students read the poem out loud in class, and discuss it as a group.

I hope your kids have fun reading the poem and completing the activity! And if you’re looking for more winter activities to do with your students this winter season, please be sure to check out our store – we have dozens of wintertime activities on sale there, as well as products for Christmas, New Years, and the 100th Day of School.

I hope that your wintertime is spectacular. Have fun in the snow!

Christmas close reading

christmas-stories-readingClose reading is a careful, purposeful examination of a text, often involving rereading, discussion, word definitions, and written analysis. Normally, close reading is applied to nonfiction and informative texts. However, you can also use close reading to give fiction stories, books, and even poems an in-depth investigation. The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) mention that students must provide examples and justification for the answers that they give in their texts. As such, close reading is a great skill for students to learn in conjunction with a Common Core education.

Close reading stories for Christmas

christmas-stories-coloring-picturesWith Christmas coming, it seems like giving some Christmas stories a close read would be a fun activity for kids, and can help get them in the Christmas spirit. I’ve put together a packet of four short stories kids can read, discuss, and explore during those few weeks before the winter break. They feature a variety of Christmas and winter themes, including Santa Claus, gift giving, winter fun, and holiday caroling.

The stories in the packet include:

  • Santa’s Workshop: Santa faces a crisis when a new toy is introduced right before Christmas
  • The Perfect Gift: Addison and Logan search for the perfect Christmas present for their mother
  • Winter Fun: Jack and Lucy spend a fun day playing in the fresh snow
  • Going Caroling: Michael can’t sing – so why is he going caroling?

Here are a few pictures of the Christmas stories being colored and worked on, plus a sample page from one of the stories:

Coloring the pictures in the stories:

christmas-stories-coloring

Working on the writing prompts and discussion:

christmas-stories-writing-prompts

A page from the Santa’s Workshop story:

christmas-stories-santa

Those stories can be found here:

Christmas Reading Passages - Close Reading

Third, Fourth, and Fifth Grades

If you try the close reading stories out with your students, please let me know how it goes! I am always interested in feedback, and I love hearing how people use the various products that we create.

I hope that you and your kids have a fun few weeks before the winter break. Have a great holiday season!

An oasis of summer… in the winter!

A beach in a tinFor many of us in the United States and my native Canada, it’s been getting very cold! And many of us have been seeing record snowfalls. Not us, this year – living in central Florida means it’s going to be a green Christmas for our family. But it’s fun to watch the snow flurries falling in other parts of the country!

The other day our daughter made a little craft out of an empty tin of Trader Joe’s Green Tea Mints (which are really quite good, by the way, if you like the taste of green tea). I thought it was very creative and figured I’d share it here. I’m not sure where she got it from – she thinks it might have been from an American Girl magazine from a few years ago.

To make a little beach out of a tin, you simply do the following:

  1. 1. Get a tin of mints – Altoids, or Trader Joe’s Green Tea Mints, or similar
  2. 2. Open up the tin
  3. 3. Paint one side of the tin sea blue, like the water of the ocean
  4. 4. Paint or decorate the outside of the tin, if you like
  5. 5. Fill the other side of the tin with sand, like a sandy beach
  6. 6. Add a little rectangle of colored felt or construction paper for a towel
  7. 7. Add a paper umbrella, like the kind you find in mixed alcoholic drinks
  8. 8. Add whatever other beach decorations you like – small shells, etc.

And there you are! Now you’ve got little bit of summer sun you can enjoy during the winter.

Stay warm out there!

December is here… and winter is coming!

A day with cold temperatureDecember is upon us! And for many, it’s starting to get downright cold outside.

Of course, that means dressing warmly, playing in the snow, and going skating, skiing, or sledding down the nearest hill. And near the end of the month, Santa Claus will be paying a visit! It’s a fun time to be a kid.

Winter Math and Literacy Bundle

Our Winter Math and Literacy Bundles for kindergarten through to grade six feature plenty of fun winter products for your kids to work on, including math glyphs, interactive printables, Common Core-aligned worksheets, and more. They are also endless… once we add more winter products per grade level, we will be adding them to the bundles at no charge to you (the price will go up for newer buyers when we do). Check out the previews by following the links below if you’re interested in learning more about these winter bundles per grade level.

Winter Math and Literacy Bundle - Sixth Grade

If you do try out our winter bundle, we hope your kids have lots of fun working on the various winter activities. Stay warm in class!

A December poster for your classroom

Here is a free class poster that you can download in PDF or JPG format. You can place it on your classroom wall or bulletin board, or even on your classroom door. It might add an element of winter fun to the classroom.

We hope you have a wonderful winter season. And if you have snow where you live, get out there and play in it! You’re never too old to play in the snow.

Getting ready for Christmas

A Christmas elfThanksgiving is over, November is drawing to a close, and the Christmas lights are popping up all over the neighborhood! It is time to get ready for the holiday season. I for one am excited about it.

Teaching during Christmastime

If you’re a teacher or a homeschool parent, you may be thinking about incorporating some holiday-themed learning activities in your classroom. Can’t hurt to bring a little Santa Claus and his elves and reindeer into the classroom to get the kids motivated and excited about the coming holiday break. If so, then this is for you – below, you’ll find a holiday teaching planner that you can use to figure out what holiday activities you are going to teach, and when.

But first, I want to quickly bring up the sale on Teachers Pay Teachers that starts tomorrow.

Cyber Smile Sale on Teachers Pay Teachers

Tomorrow the Cyber Smile Sale will be taking place on TPT. We’ll be marking everything in our store 20% off, and TPT will remove an extra 10% off for a total of around 28% off our entire store. So that’s cool. It’s a good opportunity to shop for Christmas worksheets, printables, and activities.

In order to take advantage of the sale, use the code smile on checkout.

Our store can be found here. We have an extensive variety of Christmas items. Please visit even if you’re not buying anything, just to check it out!

Holiday lesson planning

Here is the worksheet that you can use to plan out which holiday teaching activities you are going to be using throughout the month of December before the Christmas break. I’ve included a holiday planner for December of 2015, and also a generic holiday planner that you can use at any time. I hope it comes in handy for you!

Have a wonderful month of December!

Reading over Thanksgiving

An autumn wreathThanksgiving week has arrived! I hope that you and the people you care about have lots to be thankful for this year.

Reading over the Thanksgiving break

The Thanksgiving break is a fun time for kids to do some reading. The weather is cooler; you can head outside and find a cozy nook to cuddle up with a book. And there are lots of great, inspirational books for kids to read over Thanksgiving, that will help to teach them why they should be thankful for their families, food, and friends.

We’ve made a Thanksgiving reading challenge handout that you can use to motivate your students to do some reading over the break! The free PDF download for the Thanksgiving reading challenge printable can be found at the end of this post.

Thanksgiving Close Reading

Here’s a series of Thanksgiving stories that we’ve created for your kids to read and work on. The stories have been written in a Close Reading format, so that you can work through each story in detail, discussing the various new words and phrases within each story, and talking about how the information within each story applies to the lives of the students. These stories are designed to be fun, interactive, and educational. If you try them out, we hope you have fun working on them in the classroom with your students this autumn season.

Thanksgiving Reading Passages - Close Reading

Third, Fourth, and Fifth Grades

A Thanksgiving reading challenge

Here’s a challenge for your young readers to complete over the Thanksgiving break this November. For every ten minutes of books that they read, they can color in one of the turkey feathers on this picture. When they’re done coloring in all the feathers, they’ve completed the turkey challenge!

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!