Large Poinsettia

Materials:  Large, medium and small leaf templates, red, pink, white and green construction paper, brad, yellow hole punches, single hole punch tool.

1. Make enough leaf templates for students to share.

2. Students will choose to make a red, pink or white poinsettia.

3. Each poinsettia needs 4 or 5 small, 4 or 5 med and 4 or 5 large leaves of the chosen color. The flower also needs 4 large green leaves. Students trace and cut out the leaves they need for their flower.

4.    Punch a hole at the end of each petal.

5.Put brad through each petal going from smallest to largest so the
       brad opening ends up at the back.

6.    Spread out the leaves

7.    Glue a few of the yellow hole punches in the center.
        into the gingerbread man through the open side.

These look beautiful displayed around the room during the holiday season.

Click here for directions and pattern.


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Gingerbread Man

Stuffed and Spicy Gingerbread Man

Materials:  gingerbread man template, large brown paper bags (have the kids bring them in), glue, spices (ginger, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, or any other spice you have that smells like yummy cookies, small pieces of scrap paper.

1.  Copy patterns heavy card stock or lightweight cardboard to use as a tracing template.  I usually had one template for every 4 students to share.  You can use the templates for many years.
2.  Students trace and cut out two gingerbread men from the brown paper bag.  It’s okay if there is printing on the bag.  It can be on the inside of the gingerbread man.
3.  Color one side of the gingerbread man.  You can also glue
       on ribbons, glitter, sequins or any other decorations
       you have on hand.
4.    Put glue around 3 sides of one gingerbread man piece.
5.    Place the other gingerbread man piece on top and let the pieces dry for 10-15 minutes.
6.     Crumple the scrap paper and use it to put the stuffing into the gingerbread man through the open side.
7.     Sprinkle in a few of the spices.
8.     Glue the open side together.


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Stitched Stocking

Stitched Stocking

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Paper Strip Trees

Paper Strips Tree

Materials: Strips of paper ½” wide.  For younger children you can use wider strips.

For hanging tree:  ribbon, bell

For card:  8 ½ X 11” piece of white card stock folded in half.

This easy craft is super cute.  The uneven layers make it even more adorable.

1.Cut ½” strips of paper.  You can use paper with a printed design or plain, colored paper. 

Hanging Tree:

     Plan the layers by putting two strips back to back.  The next layer should be slightly smaller, keep going until you reach the top.

When you’re ready to glue the tree together, tie the bell on the end of the ribbon.  Lay the ribbon on a flat surface.  Take the longest pair of strips and put glue on one piece.  Place it under the ribbon and put the matching strip on top.  Make sure the strip is centered on the ribbon.  Continue gluing the strips up the ribbon.  Tie the extra ribbon at the top to form a loop.

Card:  Glue the longest strip at the bottom, continue gluing shorter strips up the front of the card to form a tree shape.  Draw a star, cut it out and glue it to the top of the tree.


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Paper Strips Ornament Ball

Paper Strips Ornament Ball

Materials: 8 strips of paper (1” X 6”) for each ornament.  You can use printed paper, or plain paper and let students color or decorate the pieces. Two brads, 8” thin ribbon, bell, hole punch.

1.Cut the strips and punch a hole at both ends.  It might save time to have the holes punched before you give them to the students.

2.Put the brad through the bottom holes for all 8 pieces.

3.Make sure the brad will open on the back side of the

          paper strips.

4.     Put the bell on the ribbon.  Put the ribbon ends through

         the top hole so the bell stays on the back of the strips,

         which will be the inside of the ornament.

5.Put the other brad through the hole with the

        opening on the inside,  by the bell.

6.     Spread out the strips to form the ball.


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Rudolph Race

Reindeer Race

This is a fun game that can be played with 2 to 12 students.  The best number of players is 3 to 5.

Materials:  Reindeer Race game board, two dice, one marker for each player. Small buttons or 1 cm cubes work well for the markers.

1. Students choose a number from 1 to 12 and place their marker on that number at the bottom of the game board.

2. Someone rolls the two dice.  Add the numbers on the dice and move that reindeer up one space.  If there is no reindeer for that number, no one moves. No matter who rolls, the reindeer with that number gets to move up one space.

3. Let the next person roll, add the numbers on the dice and move that reindeer.

4. Keep rolling and moving until one reindeer crosses the finish line.

5. The reindeer who was in last place gets to be the first to choose their number for the next race.

Students soon learn which numbers have the greater probability of being rolled with two dice.


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Christmas Craft: Cinnamon Dough

Cinnamon Dough Ornaments

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An Orange for Frankie

An Orange for Frankie
Book Chat and Craft
Patricia Polacco has several wonderful books that are perfect for the holiday seasons.  She draws on her childhood memories to share heartwarming stories about Hanukkah, Christmas and Epiphany.
This activity is a sample from my Holiday Reading with Patricia Polacco. The full version is available in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store.

 (Click on the picture to download the sample.)
 In the sample you get the story chat chards, the mini-folding book and directions for making an orange/clove holiday decoration for the book An Orange for Frankie. 

Click here to see the Holiday Reading in my TpT store.


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Snow Window Snowman

Snow Window Snowman

Materials:  snowman pattern copied on heavy white paper.  Clear piece of cellophane,  plastic snow pieces or glitter. You’ll also need a scrap of fabric for the scarf and small piece of orange paper for nose.  Optional:  googly eyes,
1.You can copy the snowman pieces on card stock for each student or make templates out of lightweight cardboard and let students trace and cut them out. I usually had one template for every 4 students to share.  You can use the templates for many years.
2.Cut the center out of the front snowman.  Glue the clear cellophane  around the circle.  (Make sure the side with the black lines is on the inside so they don’t show when you’re finished.
3.Students can draw face features or use scraps of paper to cut out nose and eyes.
4.Lay the front snowman piece face down on the table,
       put glue around the edges and place the snow pieces
       on the cellophane.  Then put another line of glue around
       the  circle opening.  This will keep the snow pieces in the
       window area.
5.Let the glue dry for 10-15 minutes.  Then you can add the scarf and  a ribbon at the top if you want a hanging ornament.


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Stained Glass Tree

Stained Glass Tree

This sun catching tree is super simple to make.  Copy the pattern on green construction paper.  (The picture makes the tree look black, but it is actually green) Cut out the center.  Have lots of ½” strips of black construction paper ready.  Students glue the black strips to the back of the tree, crisscrossing to form different sections.  Caution them to not have any spaces that are too small.  Then cut tissue paper to fill the spaces.  If you want, another green tree shape can be glued to the back to cover the paper ends.


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Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

The season we’ve waited for all year is almost here!  Thanksgiving is just a warm up for the big event in December.  My birthday!  (just kidding) Even though my birthday is December 24, it doesn’t compare to the excitement of Christmas.

The weeks leading up to the holidays can be some of the most precious time you spend with your students.  Over the years I’ve read lots of holiday books, cut out thousands of stars and used gallons of glue and glitter.  I’d like to share a few of my favorite books and craft activities and maybe you’ll find a few new ideas to share with your kids (at school or at home).
I plan on adding a new idea every other day until December 23th.  So check back often to download all the holiday ideas.
Pattern and directions for making these standing reindeer.

The first craft is a standing reindeer.  I found a picture of these adorable reindeer in a magazine about 10 years ago.  I drew the pattern and my students have loved making the pair of reindeer every year since.  I scanned my pattern for you to download.  I'm not a clip artist so the pattern is kind of rough, but should work fine when you make copies for your students.

Copy the pattern on brown paper, or on white paper for the kids to color. Fold in the middle, then glue the sides together.  Clip on two clothes pins for the legs.  Then you can add pipe cleaner antlers, googly eyes, pipe cleaner wreath, a string with a bell, ribbon bows or any other adornments you can think of. My class reindeer turned out different every year.  It all depended on what scraps of materials I had on hand.  Have fun with you class reindeer herd!

Click here for directions and pattern.


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Snowman Ideas

An Avalanche of Snowman Ideas

  Brrr!  Its cold outside.  Well, not really.  Here in the deserts of Arizona we like to pretend it's cold outside.  One way we get in the winter spirit is to bring some fun "frosty" activities into your classroom.

Who doesn't love snowmen!  I grew up in the Midwest and remember spending the day outside building a snowman and then clomp, clomp, clomping back into the kitchen where my mom would pour me a cup of hot chocolate.



Since my students can't build snowmen outside, we do it in our classroom.  My favorite is the snowman fence.

  1. Get a free paint stick for every student from your local home store.

  2. Students paint the sticks white.

  3. They can use markers for the eyes, nose and mouth.

  4. Cut off the finger tip from a knit glove (I buy the really cheap ones from Walmart or Walgreens) This will be the knit hat. Top off the hat by gluing a small pom pom at the top.

  5. For the scarf cut strips from any scrap material. Glue a few colorful buttons down the front.

  6. The snowmen are adorable on their own but I taped them to two long board (painted white) and then set them in my window. I love them so much I didn't let the kids take them home until the end of February!


Check out these snowman crafting ideas on my Pinterest board.




Love these crystal snowflakes.  They’re super easy and looked so sparkly hanging in front of our windows.

They’re super easy and looked so sparkly hanging in front of our windows.

For the crystal snowflakes you’ll need:

pipe cleaners, 5 for each student, 3 long pieces and 2 cut into smaller pieces



wide-mouth jar, one for each student


boiling water 


1.  Twist three pipe cleaners in the center to form the six sides of the snowflake.  Cut (with wire cutters) three pipe cleaners in half.  Twist each of these smaller pieces around the end of the original six sides.  This adds a little more dimension to the snowflake.  Tie a string around one end of the snowflake and one around the pencil.  Hang it down into the jar to test the length.

2.  Add boiling water to the jar.  Let students stir in about 3 tablespoons of borax.  Let then stir very gently until the borax is dissolved.  You may need to add more borax.  The ration is about 3 T borax for every cup of water.

3.  Now hang the snowflake in the jar.  Let it cool overnight.  The next morning you should have beautiful crystals on the snowflake.  If the crystal didn’t form you probably didn’t have enough borax in the water.


Need a fun writing idea?  Try this creative snowman writing prompt.






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Read Aloud Discussions

One way to make your read-aloud time more efficient is to focus your discussions on current skills, strategies or content. It's like killing two birds with one stone.  Your kids get to enjoy a wonderful book and you get to pull in some instructional time.

Start by planning how you'll use your read-aloud time.  This planning sheet will help.

Begin by writing the date and the page in the text where you'll begin.  I usually don't put an ending page because I'm never sure how far I'll get in the book.  It will depend on the discussions we have that day.  At the end of the read-aloud I'll write the beginning page for the next day.

On the planning sheet you can circle if the lesson focus will be a strategy, comprehension, content information or other.  Then any materials you might need. This might include chart paper, reading notebooks, chat cards, name sticks, partner list, etc.  There is also room for notes to jot down any reminders you want to give yourself.  Perhaps you want to note the pages where you'll stop for the discussions.  I also suggest you place sticky notes in the book to mark places you'll stop for instruction and/or student discussions.

One way to get students involved in discussions about the book is to use Reading Chat Cards.  These cards have a thinking stem students can use to begin a talk with a partner during your read-aloud time.  You can tell them which card to use (they're numbered) or let them choose one for their partner chat. 

When students are first learning how to focus on their thinking (metacognition) I let them hold their ring of chat cards.  When they want to add a thought to the discussion they hold up the card they want to share and we listen to their thoughts.  Other students can join in and share their thoughts about that topic.  They all want to share and this is one way to get them to focus and also "branch out" with their thinking a little.  It helps cut down on the "I have a dog." remarks.

Click on the image for a free sample set of Chat Cards you can use with your class. Cards 1a-16a can be used with literary texts and 1b-16b can be used with informational texts. 
 Reading Chat Cards---Free Sample

I hope these resources help you incorporate read-aloud texts into your instructional day.


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Read Aloud Time--Make the Most of It

 Make the Most of Your Read Aloud Time
If you're like every other teacher I know, you're feeling a big squeeze on your instruction time.  There just aren't enough minutes in your day to get everything in.   I understand that some things have to go, but, I cringe every time I hear a teacher say "I just don't have time to read aloud to my kids."  Instead of taking the read-alouds out of your day, why not find ways to work them into your instructional time.

Here are a few ways the read-aloud time can be used to enhance your instructions time:
-Build excitement when introducing new topics
-Begin discussions on sensitive topics
-Model thinking strategies
-Increase student vocabulary and comprehension skills
-Set examples for classroom expectations

At the beginning of every year we spend lots of time setting up our classroom routines and explaining the expectations.  I use the book, Because of Winn Dixie, by Kate DiCamillo, to help establish a set of classroom expectations.  I call these expectations, Life Lessons or qualities that will help us all get along and have a successful year.

It’s my favorite read aloud book of all time!  I have a blast putting on my southern accent as I become Opal, Miss Franny, Gloria Dump and all the other wonderful characters.  The kids love it when you get into the read aloud and use your voice to enhance the moods and personalities in the story.
 Winn Dixie Free Sample--Crockett's Classroom

While I’m reading, I stop once in a while to share my thinking and encourage the kids to share theirs. (great way to introduce metacognition) For every two chapters I guide the discussion toward one “Life Lesson”.  In chapter 1 Opal comes home from the store with a stray dog.  She got the dog when she told the manager the stray belonged to her.  So our discussion is about truthfulness and honesty.  It can be a great discussion because Opal’s little white lie has saved a dog’s life. But, does that make it ok to be dishonest?

For every two chapters we discuss these life lessons: honesty,  curiosity, compassion, responsibility, courage, teamwork, respect, loyalty, generosity, friendship, self-discipline, perseverance, and joyfulness.  Using this read aloud at the very beginning of the school year we not only set the tone for a caring and supportive classroom, we also bond as a class through the shared experience of enjoying this wonderful book.

Here are the life lesson discussion cards you can use with the book, Because of Winn Dixie.

Do you have a read aloud book you use to begin your year?


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