Sunday, November 29, 2015

20 Free Tips and Printable December Resources for Teachers {holiday gift update, Christmas resources}

I've been working harder than Santa on Christmas Eve to create some new December resources {see below} and to update some tried and true favorites. I even made a HUGE freebie chock full of tips and printables. Have you downloaded it yet? 


While I am proud of them all, I am most excited about the makeover the very popular Family Dinner Conversation Starters Holiday Gift to Parents received.

This is easily one of my personal favorite creations and it brings me such joy to know so many teachers are using it to help their students' families strengthen their connections and open the lines of communications.

The short summary is this...each student creates a can of conversation prompts as a holiday present to their families. It still has those sweet personal touches like the child's drawing, coloring and handwriting. However, unlike a keepsake that gets stored away, this little treasure is used nightly to prompt the student to share details about his day.

We use it in our house and it always makes for the best dinners. I truly get so much more information from my children with these prompts. It is low cost to and very easy to create. You'll be amazed at the feedback you receive from your families after sending it home.

If you already purchased the Family Dinner Conversation Starter Gift for Parents in the past simply go to your "my purchases" folder and redownload it to access the new and improved version at no additional cost.

You may also be interested in these December resources:

Friday, November 6, 2015

Pilgrims, the Wampanoag, and The First Thanksgiving {printables, resources, facts, interactive notebook}

November is the perfect time to teach students about the time in America’s history when the Pilgrims arrived from England and settled in Plimoth Colony. It’s important that all lessons and activities involving Thanksgiving be historically accurate. This post will provide teachers and homeschooling families with some tips for teaching about the culture of the Wampanoag people who lived in the area prior to the European colonization. It will clear up some misconceptions and provide you with ideas and resources for teaching in November.

It is helpful to open your unit by helping students think critically about stereotypes. Helping them understand what they are by listing false stereotypes about Native Americans. Discuss why stereotypes are harmful. I also found it to be important to talk about cultural sensitivity. They will encounter images of Wampanoag people dressed in traditional summer clothing. A proactive discussion goes a long way. These lessons can be taught during a class meeting or as part of your anti-bullying curriculum.

There are many great books, videos and websites for supporting your study of the topic. Unfortunately, many of them include some stereotypes and errors. This is a great opportunity for teaching your children to find those examples as well as contradictions in texts and discuss the historical inaccuracies. Some of the best learning moments in my 3rd grade classroom each year have come from the fact that different sources made different statements about the same topic. It helped them with research throughout the remainder of the school year.

  • You may see “Plimoth” spelled different ways. The area the Pilgrims first colonized is now a town called Plymouth, Massachusetts. However, the historical accounts from Governor William Bradford refer to it as Plimoth. When speaking historically it is best to use Plimoth. 
  • There were no teepees. The Native People associated with the arrival of the Pilgrims are the Wampanoag. They are part of the Eastern Woodland nations. They lived in homes made from branches and bark. In the summer they lived in smaller dwellings called wetus and in the winter they relocated to larger, shared homes called longhouses. 
  • The Wampanoag people did not have horses or wear elaborate feather headdresses. Explain to the children that there are many different nations and tribes and that each nation has its own name, language and culture. Avoid creating headbands with fake, colorful feathers as a class project.
  • Do not speak of the Wampanoag only in the past tense. While their way of life has changed, they are still a very culturally active group.
  • Avoid the word “squaw.” It was once an Algonquin word meaning “woman,” but the modern meaning is offensive.
  • The Pilgrims did not “land on Plymouth Rock.” The Mayflower arrived in the area of Massachusetts that is now known as Cape Cod. They spent several days exploring the area and ultimately settled in the town that is now Plymouth. There is no historical record of Plymouth Rock.
  • The purpose of coming to America was not for religious freedom. The Pilgrims first left England and went to Holland where that desire was met. Although they had religious freedom in Holland, they found there were still obstacles. It was hard to make a living and they struggled to maintain their English identity. For those reasons they chose to sail to the New World.  
  • The Pilgrims did not leave England to “come to Plimoth.” They were actually sailing to the area of Jamestown, Virginia that had already been colonized. Bad weather and the onset of winter forced them to settle in Plimoth.
  • The Pilgrims did not live in log cabins. They built wood clapboard houses made from sawed lumber. 
I’ve taught this unit 8 or 9 times and it is a topic I always found to be fun to teach. I have always had the students document their understanding as we learned and assembled each individual project into a learning portfolio The final results really showcased their new knowledge and made an excellent keepsake. I just did a complete makeover of the lap book/ interactive notebook I had always used and am really pleased with the result. Not only did I update the fonts and graphics, but I also made it very user-friendly for teachers and students. 

The newly updated Pilgrim and Wampanoag Interactive Notebook can be assembled using only 2 sheets of 12 x 18 construction paper. There is not a lot of cutting, folding or glueing. You can pick and choose which activities you wish to include in your classroom or homeschool setting. 

I also added a teacher guide that outlines the sequence in which I taught the unit and now includes links to online sites you can use with your students with each activity. It also includes book lists for Pilgrims, the Wampanoag, and the First Thanksgiving. You can also view the recommended book lists on the Clutter-Free Classroom November resource page.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

November Lesson, Craft and Teaching Ideas for Teachers {as seen on Pinterest}

Do you need some inspiration for teaching in the month of November? They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Well in this case a "pin" is worth a thousand words. Maybe not a thousand, but you certainly can find lots of ideas, projects, bulletin board photos, book suggestions, recipes and crafts, and more for classroom or homeschool learning.

Do you follow the Clutter-Free Classroom Pinterest boards? New ideas are being added daily that are timely for seasonal teaching. Below are the links to my November boards. I hope you find them to be helpful timesavers as you plan lessons for your students. Just click on any photo to go directly to that board.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Free Math Manipulatives...that Can Also be a Fall Decoration or Science Center

My girls are in Kindergarten and are very excited about numbers and math. I created some Thanksgiving themed math activities for them. These math centers focus on vocabulary and concepts such as numerals / digits, tallies, ten frames, subitizing, word form, shape identification, simple addition and subtraction. It’s so much fun to see them excited about learning.

I began by shuffling all the cards together and we sorted them using the category labels (dice, tallies, words, numerals/digits, ten frames). Next, they put the numeral cards in numeric order. Then I had them take the cards they had sorted and place each on top of the pile that showed it’s equal value. This activity allowed me to clarify any misconceptions and served as an informal assessment tool to guide future activities. These would be great for small group work with the teacher during guided math in Kindergarten of first grade.

Later we used the cards to play Go Fish with 4 sets and Memory Match with the ten frames and dice cards. Doing so gave me the opportunity to reinforce subitizing.

Since subtraction is new to them (and to keep with the seasonal theme) I gave them corn kernels to use as counting manipulatives. This gave me an idea…ACORNS!

I thought it was genius! Free…seasonal…festive. Best of all it tied in with my love of a Clutter-Free and organized classroom because when we were done we could toss them back outside into nature.

I scurried to the park and frantically gathered nuts like a crazed squirrel because when I get an idea in my head it needs to happen yesterday! 

While they were busy using them to solve equations on the turkey math center clip cards, I was glaring at my favorite candle holders. 

They are shown here filled with candy corn and my completely Pilgrim, Wampanoag and First Thanksgiving interactive notebook / lap book / learning portfolio. I mention it because it took me 2 full days to update it (new fonts, new clipart, new activities, easy to create foldable, less cutting and glueing, and links to resources for every lesson) and as you can see I slowly ate my way through a good portion of the decorative candy corn while working on it. 

That’s when I had my second genius idea of the day…replace the candy corn with acorns for the month of November! Free Thanksgiving decor.

So this morning I made my son head back to the park with me before school to gather more acorns. We came home and emptied our pockets into an empty bowl we had used to hold candy for trick or treaters and went about getting ready for the day. 
Not long after I was working at the table and kept getting distracted by a noise that sounded like scratching, popping and dripping. It wasn’t constant, but it was happening enough to drive me crazy. I checked the shower to see if it was dripping. I checked the thermostat to see if there was something wrong with the heat. I made my husband sit in silence to try to identify it. This went on all day.

I tried to distract myself with work. I was checking to make sure acorns wouldn’t cause a safety risk to students with tree nut allergies.  I had planned to put up Facebook and Instagram posts suggesting teachers use acorns as math manipulatives and I wanted to make sure I wasn’t giving a bad suggestion.

The good news is that no research has found them to be a danger to kids with tree nut allergies.

The bad news is I would’ve been giving a bad suggestion.

Luckily I did not send thousands of teachers scurrying off to gather millions of acorns to put in classrooms across the country because I finally realized the sound was coming from the bowl. A second Google search about acorns for the day alerted me to some interesting acorn facts.

Or should I say acorn grubs.

{photo source}

Ewww, right?

That was my initial reaction too. But, they are actually really interesting. 

This article about these acorn weevils is short and informative.

They are definitely not something you randomly want hatching out during math workshop or in your math manipulative bins…or in your decorative candle holders on the dining room table.

But, they are actually really fascinating and it would be very cool to bring a little science into the classroom. If you conducts animal research or teach about plant or tree life cycles during the school year this would be a neat addition to your yearlong curriculum

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