Sunday, December 06, 2015

How to Help Beat the Holiday Blues

The holidays are upon us and though they can be a joyful time for many, there are large numbers of people who are alone, and unhappy. Others may feel alienated from their families leading to depression and in extreme cases, suicide. Our students are not immune. Perhaps their parents are separated, or just come from negative environments.. In the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing some ideas with you to help alleviate the holiday blues.

We all know that kids love to send notes to each other. This activity allows them to do just that. We begin by talking about kindness, and I give an example of a time when a kind word meant a great deal to me and enabled me to get over an obstacle in my life. We also talk about how important it is to tell the truth when complimenting others. Then the class shares examples that they might have.

I introduce the lesson, “Note Giving,” and stress that this activity can be powerful since we rarely see how others view us. I let them know that they will have an opportunity to give everyone in the class, including myself, a truthful and kind compliment. It’s veryimportant to let them know that they should only mention the good things. We talk about why the notes should be positive and not negative. We brainstorm about the types of things that we can write to each other, and I put them on the board. Here are some examples:  I love the way you’re so willing to help. You are so artistic, I love your drawings. You have a great sense of humor. You’re fun to be with.  If they can’t think of anything to say about a particular child, I privately help them. No one should feel left out.

This lesson may take a few days so make sure you leave enough time for its completion.

Envelopes, note cards, masking tape, stapler.

What to do:
1. Give each child an envelope and a piece of masking tape, Have them write their name on the envelope. Each envelope should be taped to the board in alphabetical order.
2. Distribute note cards. Have the class write their compliment. We all know, as teachers, that some kids don't have many redeeming qualities, however, they too have some positive attributes. So no children should be skipped. If someone is having a really hard time thinking of something nice to say, help them. It's fine if they get similar compliments. Once a note card is completed, it should be put into the appropriate envelope.
3. The teacher should participate by writing and receiving compliments, too.
4.  After this activity is completed, the teacher should read as many notes as he/she can, esp. for those who might tend to receive negative comments. When I’ve used this activity, I read all the notes, just to be safe. It will be worth it in the end.

Below are a few items with some holiday flare. The first is a freebie containing note cards that go along with the post.

How to Beat The Holiday Blues Values Lesson

December Literacy & Math Center
Addition & Subtraction Practice Grades 1-2 & Sp. Ed
Multiplication & Division Practice Grades 2-3 & Sp. Ed
Literacy & History Center Grades 2-4 & Sp. Ed

Image of Children by

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This blog post is part of our Teacher Talk Blog Hop for December. Please read the 
great ideas that these educators are using for the month of December and beyond. 

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Friday, November 06, 2015

So much to Be Thankful For

I can remember my grandmother sitting in her big rocking chair that was placed in her favorite spot, next to a picture window where she kept all of her plants. I would sit on her lap and she would sing about the beautiful autumn leaves dancing to the ground in their colorful dresses. I can’t remember the tune or the words, but that wonderful memory has always been vivid in my mind. as if it were yesterday. I’m so thankful for this experience. 

I can remember standing on the front porch waiting for my mom to take me shopping downtown. I loved to shop with her. We used to go to a store called Eli Moore, they had everything that a little girl could want. First stop was the shoe department, and I’d get my black patent leather shoes, next we’d go to the clothes department. I was so spoiled back then, as an only child, I was showered with beautiful things to wear and great toys. Shopping done, we’d go to this cafĂ© for lunch and a yummy desert. My mom passed on when I was 15 so these moments mean so much for me and I’m thankful for the short time that I was able to spend with her.

I have so many things to be thankful for, a wonderful husband, my Siberian Husky, friends and family who love me. We’re healthy, other than some aches and pains. Our house is in the woods and it is our own little paradise. I can’t think of anything else that I need, other than a few million dollars, lol!

As a teacher, I feel it’s part of my responsibility to help my students think about the good things that they have going, and to be thankful for their blessings. To introduce them to this activity, I tell them the story about my grandmother, and or my mom.  Then I will pass out task cards with Thanksgiving images on them and ask the kids to write down what they’re thankful for and we put them into a decorated Thanksgiving box. They can write as many things as they wish, The Wednesday before Thanksgiving recess. I pass the box around the room and each child, as well as myself, chooses a card and we read what is on it, then try to guess whose card it is and give it to its owner.

I usually end up moved to tears  and so do some of the kids, as this activity is so meaningful to all of us..

Please take a look at my values lesson What Am I Thankful For?


Two November
Themed Activities

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Rainbow City Learning

This is part of The Best of Teacher Entrepreneurs Marketing Cooperative's November Teacher Talk Linky Party. Be sure to read other members' blog posts by clicking on the following links.

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Sunday, October 04, 2015

Halloween Spooks-Creative Writing Ideas for Middle School

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington  Irving has always been one of my favorite tales.. When I was a child, we would often visit my Uncle Marty who had a farm near Tarrytown New York.  Whenever we were up there, I would think of the Headless Horseman because that’s where the story took place.  I could always visualize the Horseman with head in hand,  chasing poor puny Ichabod Crane.. He always scared the socks off of me, so when we drove through the wooded area up there, I would cover my eyes and spread my fingers just a bit so that I could see. My parents got such a kick out of this that they just went along with it.

This story is the inspiration for my Halloween Spooks Creative Writing Bundle for Middle School.  Kids this age just love to be scared. and they’ll have a great time with this activity.  Read the novel, to the class to set the tone. This is a version that everyone can listen to. Emphasize that there is nothing gory in the story, but it is still terrifying. If you don't want too much gore, let them know that you don't want blood and guts.
I've always liked working with collaborative groups, and this assignment lends itself quite well to this approach.  Complete lesson plans and a grading rubric are included.  There are 26 task cards and some blank ones for you to add your own ideas., as well as lined writing paper.  Everything has a scary theme.
 Of course your students are going to want to share their writing with the rest of the class. So set the stage by lowering or turning off the lights, closing the shades, and bringing in a flashlight or two. Then have everyone sit in a circle as if they’re around a campfire, or have them bring in blankets or beach towels and sit on the floor.  Turn off the lights and play some spooky music in the background.  Have fun.

Halloween Spooks at Socrates Lantern's Tpt Store

Painting by John Quidor 

                                Halloween Math for grades 2-4
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New and good things are happening. We’ve changed  the name of our Sharing is CaringTeacher Blogging Cooperative to Teacher Talk.  Each month we will bring you a variety of new topics  from our teacher bloggers. Stay tuned for October Teacher Talk which will be posted October 12th.

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Saturday, September 19, 2015

Not Another Parent Night!

Are you thinking, Oh No!!! Another parent night, what am I going to do? Do you stay up worrying the night before?, or feel butterflies in your stomach? Are you self conscious about getting up and speaking in front of parents? Well, if you answered yes to any of these questions, you’re not alone.

My teaching partner and I came up with a way to make parent night fun for everyone, including ourselves, since neither of us likes to get up in front of an audience, other than our classroom, lol! 

We prepared for the taping by making sure we got the go ahead from the principal as well as all the teachers who work with our students. Next we let our classes in on it, and they just loved the idea.

When the appointed day arrived, we were at the front door, camcorder in hand, to tape them as soon as they got off the bus. We were  greeted with waves and hellos as they entered the building and proceeded to their homerooms.

Mostly, we recorded  the kids, but we also wanted to show our teaching style so the parents could get to know us a little. We went back and forth between rooms creating a short video of both. This can be tricky because the kids were alone for a few minutes just about every period. It’s amazing how much you learn about yourself and your charges when you watch yourself teach. We always made sure that we captured each child doing something, we never wanted anyone to feel left out, or for any parent to say, "I didn't see my Sally."

After period one which was either history or science, we’d escort them to Unified Arts, taping while walking. Some of them would be sewing, others would be doing woodwork, art, or metal shop. Again we would go back and forth between classes doing our filming. Parents loved to see them in action, we’d hear “oohs and ahhs,” as they saw their little ones using power equipment, or sewing machines, and cleaning up after themselves. They were in amazed at the types of things the kids did, especially in metal/wood shop, without losing fingers or limbs. 

When Unified Arts were over, we would tape either English or math classes, continuing to make sure that everyone was included.

After a busy morning,  we'd switch groups and get ready for lunch. which was a real trip. We filmed them going through the lunch line and showed the cafeteria staff serving their food. Watching their child eat, and what they threw away was eye opening for many parents.

Back to class to continue taping either math, english, world history or science classes.  As the day drew to a close, you could still see us taping the children while in homeroom study period. and as their buses were being announced over the loudspeaker.  Our ending statement says it all, “The last bus has been called, the room is empty, and quiet and sometimes we like it like that.” We always get chuckles from the parents because they can

Our final step, before parent night, was to send notes home letting them know that they will be viewing a  presentation of A Day in the Life of their Child. Then we do some edits.

During the day of parent night, the class got to see the final production. They were treated to popcorn or some type of snack and we'd all sit back to watch ourselves in action. 

Parent night finally arrived and our production was ready for viewing. We would introduce it and tell them that the video will probably answer every question that they might have and it usually did. Jokingly we called ourselves Marin & Filipek DeMille, after the Hollywood director Cecil B. DeMille and the parents had a chuckle over that. The ice had been broken and we were ready to begin.

Of course, there were times when the unexpected happened, like the video player wasn't working, or we couldn't find the TV that we signed up for. We’re all human, and these things occur. We took it in our stride and the parents were understanding. Eventually, we got everything up and running and all were happy.

The best part was to watch the reactions of the parents as they watched their kiddos in action. They marveled at how busy they were and how much work was accomplished throughout the day. Most had never seen how their child behaves in school and they just loved this. Better still, they realized what a difficult job we, as teachers have trying to tame these middle school children.

At the end of the film, we have received standing ovations, as the parents are thrilled with what they’ve just seen. We’ve made a great impression and we can rest a bit easier knowing that we’ve completed a successful parent night.


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Please be sure to read the tips from these veteran teachers who are members of our Sharing is Caring Teacher Blogging Collaborative. We’d love to hear from you, so please leave feedback.


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Thursday, September 03, 2015

Poetry Workshop with Interactive Notebooks for Grades 5-8

I’ve been noticing that many teachers like using interactive notebooks with their classes. So I’ve done some research and decided to make one of my own. This type of activity utilizes all learning styles, visual, auditory and kinesthetic. It allows children to cut, paste, write, see and listen. Better yet, it keeps them engaged because they are doing things with their hands as well as listening and seeing.

I’ve come up with an interactive-poetry notebook bundle. There are 100 pages of various types of fold-able templates that can be added to their notebooks.  If you would like to make a regular booklet or have the class write poems to put on the bulletin board, color and black and white templates are also included. As a highlight of this poetry workshop, the class may pick their favorite poem and get it published in the anthology called  Celebration of Young Poets- Creative Communication, Inc.

A Preview of What’s Inside

Teacher’s Complete Lesson Plans…………………4-13

Poetry Writing Workshop, Student Handouts……14-20

Parts of Speech, & Sensory Cards, ……………….........21-33

Free Verse Poems Interactive Notebook &
Worksheets   …………………………………………..34-40

Sensory Interactive Notebook Poems &

Acrostic Interactive Notebook Poems &

Limericks & Riddles Interactive Notebook……….57-68

Cinquain Interactive Notebook……………………..69-74

Diamante Interactive Notebook…………………….75-84

Haiku Interactive Notebook…………………………85-91

Shape Poem Interactive Notebook………………….92-98

Grading Rubric……………………………………….  99

Contact Information…………………………………. 100

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Socrates Lantern's TpT Store

Making this bundle took many hours, it was a work of love for me. I hope it will help to bring out the poet in all of your students. 

Thank you very much.


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Monday, August 31, 2015

5 Tips for New Teachers

 When I think back to the beginning of my teaching career, I can't believe it was so long ago. I've learned so many things over the years that have helped. I'd like to share some of them with you.


One of the first things that I was taught in college was to be nice to the
custodian. He or she is your best friend and literally holds the keys to the school. Remember to always say hello, and show your appreciation with a Small gift at the end of the year and/ or during Christmas. Your other good friend is the office staff who run the school. 


Remember that the first year is the hardest. Everything is new, you are constantly being evaluated. Don’t be too hard on yourself. You will make
mistakes, that’s how we all learn. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from
veteran teachers, they’ve been there and done that. Most are very happy to share their knowledge with you.


For the first weeks of school be friendly, but a bit distant, esp. for older children. Try not to smile much. Be stern, this is the time to mold your class, to teach them the rules, regulations, and what you expect of them.  Believe me, from years of experience, I learned the hard way. Kids are cute, you want to smile and be easy on them. If you do, you’ll suffer for the rest of the year. Discipline is so important for learning to take place.  After a few weeks, you can let down your guard a bit and show them that you have a sense of humor.  If later during the year, they act up, you can remind them of what it was like at the beginning of the year. If you say, “Do you want me to treat you the way I did in August/September, I will.” Most will say no. They like a more relaxed atmosphere. This leads to my next tip.


 Be human, don’t be afraid to joke with your class, to smile and to just enjoy them. Let them know that you make mistakes too, and tell them to let you know if you make a mistake, they love pointing this out to you. Make some errors on purpose to keep them on their toes. Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself, we all do silly things once in a while. They will love you for it.


 Do have group meetings, especially in the morning after announcements, and they’ve settled down. Children have so many things to tell you, and if you let them, they will get it out of their system, and be able to work for the rest of the day. Especially now-a-days, so many little ones come into school unhappy about their life situation, their parent’s may be divorced, they may be abused and the list goes on and on. If you give them time to let things out, you’ll be so happy you did. and so will they.  When you have time during the day, call them to your desk, one at a time and just talk to them. This lets them know that you really care and you will have most of them eating out of your hands. Their parents too.


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