Need some last minute ART and Christmas gift ideas?

There is so much excitement happening in our classroom this week.  Between our Elf Jingle, making reindeer food, and some holiday movies during rainy day lunch, we are beyond giddy!  I don't have any munchkins of my own yet, so seeing the magic of Christmas through the eyes of my second graders ABSOLUTELY melts my heart.
easy teaching tools, christmas
Every month, I send home a family art project.  Students love working on them with their families.  They are proud to share them with the class and I love hanging them up in our windows for the rest of the school to see!  What's even more awesome, one less project to fit in!

easy teaching tools, christmas, teachers pay teachers, children's art
I found this awesome direct drawing project last year.  It's so easy to do!  All you need are black sharpies and watercolors.  We hang them up on our memory books for all to see!

Our school loves art and each classroom has a parent who volunteers as the art docent.  Our awesome art docent was a lifesaver because the made these gifts with my kiddos!  Have you heard of Shrinky Dinks?  Neither had I...until last week!  They are these little thin pieces of plastic.  Kiddos use colored sharpies to decorate them.  Then, just pop them in the oven and they shrink and harden.  This awesome momma attached little hooks to make keychains.

easy teaching tools, christmas, teachers pay teachers, children's art
Not only did that awesome momma make key chains, she also had my class make pinch pots using the modeling clay that can air dry.  Kiddos rolled the clay, flattened it out (which is a process), and shaped it using a paper bowl.  They used bamboo sticks (you know, to BBQ with) to write and make designs in the clay.  If I were to do this again, I'd definitely to it in a small group.  We let the clay dry for a few days and then colored them with watercolors.  So easy!

easy teaching tools, christmas, teachers pay teachers, children's art
How awesome is this door that my room mom made with my class! She had the kids decorate the light bulbs with glitter glue.

easy teaching tools, christmas, teachers pay teachers, children's art
I use to make a list of all of the love bugs who brought me an awesome gift and spend my break writing thank you cards.  It was pretty time consuming and if you know me, I like quick and easy!  So...last year I made these pre made cards.  All I had to do was print in color or black and white on colored paper.  Since they come 4 to-a-page, I just cut them, sign my name, and keep them stacked on my desk for my little friends.  As soon as a kiddo or colleague gives me a gift, I can thank them right away!  

easy teaching tools, christmas, teachers pay teachers, children's art
Michaels sells medium and large glass ornaments for fairly cheap.  A few years ago, I made them for everyone in my family and all of my work colleagues.  I'm a beach girl, so I added sand and shells (from Michaels) to the inside.  I wrote fun little sayings with paint markers, tied on some raffia, and DONE!  Meaningful and easy!

easy teaching tools, christmas, teachers pay teachers, children's art
I saw this idea and knew I had to do it!  I tried it at first with white construction paper but think the black turned out better because the colors really popped.  All you need is black construction paper, chalk, 1 Q tip per kiddo, and a metallic sharpie.  You'll also need to make light bulb stencils.  I'm clearly not a perfectionist, so I cut a bunch out in 2 minutes.  I just used construction paper, stacked a few pieces on top of each other, and cut away. Then,  I cut an 8.5"x11" piece of black paper hot dog style.  Each kiddo got 1 stencil and 1 black piece of paper.

  I only had 2 silver sharpies (which worked fine because these babies aren't cheap) so as they worked their way around the room.  First, kiddos used their stencil and drew 4 bulbs. I like bright colors so I bought sets of chalk (pink, blue, green) from Michaels.  But, any chalk will work!  As students traced their bulbs. I passed out the sharpies and students drew a squiggly line at the top of their page.  Don't forget the rectangle for the bulb to attach!  As the markers continued to make their way around a room full of 26 quiet second graders, I encouraged the kids to trace thick lines.  They used the Q tips to smudge the lines.  They absolutely loved this project.  I loved it because it was 15 minutes of absolute silence!

easy teaching tools, christmas, teachers pay teachers, children's art

easy teaching tools, christmas, teachers pay teachers, children's art
Is this not the most precious thing you've ever seen!  Next year, I think I'll have them do this on a 4"x6" piece of paper and frame it!

easy teaching tools, christmas, teachers pay teachers, children's art
I'm fortunate to have a lot of parent help this year.  As much as I appreciate them, I can't go out and get all of them a nice gift card.  So, I came up with this after I was inspired last year.  I had trouble printing the tags that I used last year so I found these precious reindeer ones.  When I printed them, I scaled it down to 75% so that they would fit on the lid of the jars. I bought small mason jars at Target.  Ten bucks for 12 jars, SCORE!

I like easy so I bought Chex Mix for 2.50 a bag.  One small bag filled up 4 jars!  I dumped in the mix, screwed on the lid, put on the tag, ran a coat of mod podge over the top, and tied on some twine.  The whole project took 20 minutes!

easy teaching tools, christmas, teachers pay teachers, children's art
I just loved the water color reindeer project we did earlier, so I created this little direct drawing.  Each kiddo was given a piece of astrobright paper.  You can use construction paper if you'd like.  I'm running low so I went with this.  Kiddos folder the paper in half and we got to work.  Kids used a pencil and watched and listened to me as I modeled the project under our doc cam.
1. Draw a rounded triangle for the face
2. Add your ears
3. Add a large circle on the bottom of the face for a nose
4. Draw two large circles inside the face, for the eyes
5. I like crazy eyes, so I made my little eye balls look up
6. Connect the body
7. Add cute antlers
8. We used oil pastels to color our little reindeer
This whole project from start-finish filled up the last 20 minutes of our day.

I hope you can use some of these fun projects during such a fun, busy time.  If you can't use them now, make sure to pin the photos and use them next year.  Have a wonderful Christmas, sweet friends!

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How do you level your classroom library?

I blogged over at The Primary Pack a few days ago but wanted to share the same post with you friends!
The Primary Pack

Over the years, I've organized my library by genres, then by Accelerated Reading (AR) level, then AR level within genres and then nothing at all!  Oh my!  I loved it because it was so organized and made this semi-perfectionist heart smile.  But with moving schools, classrooms, and states, my little library had to be sold and I started fresh.
With the new school year, I organized my books by genres.  I even made cute genre labels to stick on my cute little baskets.  My little heart began to smile again.  But I kept finding books that were NOT in the right spot.  Please tell me I'm not the only one this happens to!
Am I shocked, not at all!  They're kids, it happens.  Plus, sometimes, I don't know if the book should go in the realistic fiction basket or the funny stories one.  If I struggle as an adult finding the best place, I'm sure my kids do too.

With lexiles being everywhere with Common Core, I decided to level my library by lexile levels.  Sure, it may limit some of my kiddos, but I know they will be reading books at their level.  And as you know, groups and levels are flexible so my little guys won't stay put for long.

  • I'll monitor their progress in reading groups
  • I'll check their AR quizzes each week to make sure that they are at their independent reading level
  • I'll use Enterprise Reading (same company as AR)
It's time to get organized so here's what you need to do to level your library as well!


Snag this lexile level list and add some stickers to it so you can color code your books. I printed mine on fun scrapbook paper.  If I were to do it again, I'd make sure I had enough of those round Avery stickers from Staples or these ones!  Don't make the mistake of getting the clear colored labels like I did because they didn't show up well on the books.  Choose a color for each level.  I thought about using cute washi tape but I don't want to risk the pattern not being around in a couple of years so I stuck to stickers.
If you have parent help, take advantage because this is a big task that took a few weeks.  I took each basket from my library and scanned the bar code on the books using Scholastic Book Wizard {free} mobile as well as the Level It {3.99} mobile app.  I'd start with the Scholastic app and go through your books.  If there isn't a level, place them in a pile and save them for the Level It app, to save time.
 After it gave me the level, I'd add a sticker that matched the level and placed it on front of the book.  Be warned, the apps won't have the levels for some of the books so place the books in a pile and save them for later.
So now about those books that you couldn't find a level for with either app.  You can try to input it manually or try and do a search on the Scholastic website.  I told you it would take some time!!!
Once all my books were back in the library, I noticed that I needed more lower-level books.  So...I used my Scholastic points and ordered books by lexile level.  That way, I KNEW I was getting the books we needed AND I also knew they had a lexile level.
I made library level cards to place on the baskets, added the sticker that matched the lexile list, and laminated them.  I placed the books inside and that was that!  Why didn't I color code sooner, it has made putting books back so much easier?
I also leveled our book boxes that stay at each table.  I rotate the boxes from table-to-table each week.
Now that your books are in the right spot, it's time to get the kiddos in on the action.  Once our new books arrived, I laid them out during independent reading time and let the kiddos choose books they wanted to read.  It really built excitement about reading!!!  They were beyond excited about all of the new books and couldn't wait to check out our new library the following day.
Our school had extra school ID cards so I placed the sticker of the each child's level on the back of the sticker.  That way, it's private for my little friends.  As my friends become better readers, I'll just add a new sticker next to it to show their progress.
I thought about giving each kiddo their card to keep in a safe place, but decided to keep all of the cards in a plain ol' pencil box that stays in the library.  I included individual student cards in this pack in case you don't have any just laying around.
We've been using this new system and the kiddos are so happy.  I feel like I'm giving them more of a chance to read appropriate books and can't wait to see their progress!  The parents are also happy because they know their child's reading level with the parent letter that I sent home.  As students move through levels, I'll be sure to keep families updated!
I hope this post and resource will help you as you level your library.  I can't wait to hear how it goes.  Want to win a copy?  Share this post and leave the link in the comments section with your e mail.  I'll choose 2 winners on Friday!

It's almost BLACK FRIDAY {$1.00 Sale}


Hopefully you won't be at your computer too much on Black Friday {and Saturday}, unless you bought a new computer and are having so much fun playing around with it!  But if you are, grab these items while they are only a buck!  If you're like me, you love a good bargain!
Grab the Winter Math Centers for 2nd grade
Get prepared for the 100th day of School
Practice your printing with Handwriting without Tears Christmas edition
Get extra Place Value Practice with these Pals


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Not your Typical Thankful post...

I remember reading an article in our local newspaper back in college about Thanksgiving that I really connected to.  It wasn't about listing all that you were thankful, it was turning things that aren't always so great, and turning them into positives.  I did this last year so I'm going to keep this tradition going.
Thanks Jen Jones for the photo!

  • I'm thankful for being laid off in 2009 due to budget cuts because it forced me to move around and teach in different schools and communities.  I learned a lot about what works and what doesn't. I'm truly able to appreciate where I'm at and finally feel home. 


  • I'm thankful for the bullying I endured from the Union President at a former school because it taught me to have more empathy for people who are grown adults and feel that being cruel somehow makes them feel better. It also gave me thicker skin and taught me how to deal with bullying in education. 
  • I'm thankful for standards-based report cards because they give me so many hours to analyze how much my students have grown.
  • I'm thankful for all of the documentation and data that goes with trying to get a needy kiddo assessed and tested because that child will finally get the extra support they need. 


  • I'm thankful for parents who are a handful because I will eventually win them over with my charm!
  • I'm thankful for that kiddo whose stressful family life is placed in my class because I can give them extra love. 
  • I'm thankful that publishers haven't created great textbooks that are aligned with Common Core because it pushed me into creating products for Teachers Pay Teachers.  I found that I absolutely love creating and have made some great friends along the way!
so cal meet up

  • I'm thankful for feeling like a brand new teacher (thanks to CCSS) because I'm able to collaborate more with my team. 
  • I'm thankful for a lack of parking in the morning because I make it a point to be early and productive.   
  • I'm thankful for going through loads of ink because it gives me a reason to browse Staples ...yet again!
  • I'm thankful for parent conferences because concerns are addressed from both sides. Plus, they're not as scary as they once were.
  • I'm thankful for unexpected heat warnings because my kids get to stay in and join their favorite Go Noodle champ. teaching, second grade, school, fun
  • I'm thankful to the little munchkin with glitter shoes who leaves her sparkles EVERYWHERE because it makes her happy. Me, that's another story!
  • I'm thankful for the salary because it forces me to get creative with my money (hello Target Dollar spot).
  • I'm thankful for sub plans because I know my kids will be in good hands and that the sub will do everything in my plans.  Just kidding, this rarely happens and this was a hard one to turn into something positive, just saying!

But in all honesty, teaching can be hard, like really, really hard.  There are days when I'm exhausted and my patience is tested.  There are afternoons where I have so much to do, but I'm sitting in a staff meeting instead.  Some nights, I don't feel like creating something for my class because I'd rather be curled up on the couch watching Revenge and drinking a glass of wine.  Teaching is hard and we're not always appreciated.  

But I want you to know that I'm also thankful for you.  I'm thankful for your dedication to your students and your craft.  Thank you for spending hours running around town for all of the items you need for the perfect craft or science experiment.  Thank you for spending your own money on supplies and supplies.  To all of my new blogging friends who I've collaborated with over the years, thank you for your advice, your patience, and answering all of my bazillion questions.  And to my fellow teachers who have spent your hard-earned money buying products from my TpT store, thank you for trusting me enough to do so.

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All I want for Black Friday...

I'm happy to team up with my friends at The Primary Pack to share with you some things I really want for Christmas and some things you may want to add to your wish list! 

 I have been hearing about how amazing Tieks are for teachers' feet and gave in and got a pair over the summer.  They are these amazing fancy-pancy ballet flats made of Italian leather and have the most adorable turquoise sole.  I had very high expectations and was a bit disappointed with them for a few weeks.  Probably because I'm not one to splurge on clothes and shoes anymore, so I was expecting something magical to happen.  I will say though, after breaking them in, I'm a true Tieks believer.  They're so dang comfy and perfect for being on my feet all-day-long!  I'd love a hot pink pair (hint hint to my mister)! 

I would also love a laser printer because I go through ink like it's going out of style.  Spending 50 bucks a month just doesn't seem right people!  I've heard great things about this model and it's on SALE on Amazon.  Plus, I'd love to be able to catch up on Scandal and print, from the comfort of my couch.  Yes, please!

I love anything that my friend Nikki of Melonheadz creates.  I am absolutely in love with her new Snow Fun bundle.  Aren't they just the cutest?  For a minute, her newest pack makes me want to live in the snow (but just for a short minute)!

With Common Core, my school is really pushing for more academic conversations and I think this product would be perfect, especially during Guided Reading.

Now that we're using Number Talks and doing a lot more with word problems, we don't have as much time for math centers like I did last year.  But, I have a sample of one of the games from this awesome pack and my kiddos are obsessed!  They choose this game more than any of the others!  I can't wait to purchase the full pack to use with my kiddos after break!

These are my most wish listed items in my TpT store.
  • I created this Place Value Pals pack to supplement our place value unit.  My kiddos loved the cute "pals" and I loved that they were engaged and showed true understanding.
  • Math Centers are a great way to reinforce important skills!
  • I've used Handwriting without Tears paper forever.  If you use the program, you'll love this paper that's PERFECT for December!
  • Parent Conferences can give even the best teachers some anxiety.  This resource will help you get organized!
  • Are you tired of telling your early finisher to read a book when they're done with their work? I created this pack when I began teaching (but it's been revamped thanks to fun fonts and cute clip art) to eliminate the "I'm through, what to do?" questions!  It is amazing to be working with a Guided Reading group and seeing the rest of my kiddos making independent choices when they complete their work.  This is a life saver!


Drumroll please.... Check out this HUGE giveaway package you can win by entering below! There is a resource from almost everyone in The Primary Pack, perfect for all primary grades!! Good luck, friends and happy shopping!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Now It's Your Turn To Join The Fun! 
Just a few rules to follow and your on your way:
1. Download the images above!
2. Add your favorite sellers products in your TpT cart to the "My Black Friday Wishlist"
3. Add your own products to the "For Your Black Friday Wishlist"
4. Link up below to share your Black Friday Wishlists!
5. Don't forget to enter our fabulous giveaway above AND visit others linked up below!





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What would you do if your school burned down?

Helping the Heart of Texas: A Fundraiser for Post Elementary
On Sunday, September 21st, the only elementary school in Post, Texas caught fire and burned for several hours. Two grade levels have lost everything.   More grades have suffered severe smoke and water damage to their classrooms. Like most small, rural towns in West Texas, the school in Post is the heart of the town. The majority of community activities revolve around the local schools. 
To show our love and support for Post Elementary, caring bloggers and TPT sellers have graciously donated products for fundraiser bundles! Let’s show our love and support for our fellow teachers that are rebuilding their classrooms and teaching their children.  Products in the bundles are worth over $200! TPT sellers that have graciously donated products. All of the bundles will be available for the entire month of November. All of the proceeds will go to the Post Elementary teachers to help them rebuild their classrooms. The bundles include the following:
Helping the Heart of Texas: A Fundraiser for Post Elementary
Saddle Up For 2nd Grade – That’s a Fact Jack: Math Fact Fluency Minute Test
Show Me the Money Unit

Michelle Griffo from Apples and ABC's - I Know My Colors

Jamie Pink from Bright Concepts 4 Teachers - Time Telling Task Cards

Valerie Donaldson from Georgia Grown Kiddos - Morning Meeting Calendar Time

Angie Olson from Lucky Little Learners - Addition Interactive Notebook

Dixie Selva from Teachin' Little Texans - Magnet Mania Unit

Nicole Alderson from Rowdy in Room 300 - A Year of Ten Frames Worksheets
Helping the Heart of Texas: A Fundraiser for Post Elementary
Greg Smedley from The Kindergarten Smorgasboard – What Does The Fox Say? CVC word work mega pack 

Patty Rutenbar from 2nd in Line – Cause/Effect for 1st and 2nd Grades

Arisbeth Rossi from Sailing into Second Grade - Sub Teacher Pack

Haley O'Connor from My Silly Firsties - Colorful Editable Teacher Planner

Ashley Schroeder from Schroeder Shenanigans in 2nd - ELA SCOOT and SCOOT JR.

Kacey Mclendon from Doodle Bugs Teaching - Reading Comprehension Printables
Helping the Heart of Texas: A Fundraiser for Post Elementary
Saddle Up For 2nd Grade – Knuffle Bunny Mini Unit

Angela Nerby from Hippo Hooray of Second Grade! - Making Words for the Whole Year

Rachelle Smith from What the Teacher Wants - Guided Reading Mini-Lessons

All Y’ALL Need - A Unit Inspired by Snow White 
Helping the Heart of Texas: A Fundraiser for Post Elementary
Holly Ehle from Kindergarten Connections - RTI: Letter Confusions Investigations

Hadar from Miss Kindergarten - Sentence Scrambles {sight word practice}

Kristen Walker from Easy Teaching Tools - Handwriting without Tears for the Entire Year

Amanda Richardson from Mrs. Richardson's Class - Scarecrow Fun
Helping the Heart of Texas: A Fundraiser for Post Elementary
Helping the Heart of Texas: A Fundraiser for Post Elementary
Meg Anderson from The Teacher Studio – Exit and Entrance Slip Bundle

Diane Hubacz from Teaching with Moxie - CRASH: A Multiplication Game

Lacie Brown from Polka Dots and Pencils - Superfun Back to School Activities

Lory Evans - Multiplication Game Boards

Retta London from Rainbow City Learning - CeeCee Math Halloween

Stephanie Chambers from Learning Chambers - 3-digit addition and subtraction station with QR codes

Amanda Wilp from The Primary Gal - Division Task Cards

Saddle Up For 2nd Grade – Popping into Place Value: A Unit up to 1,500
Helping the Heart of Texas: A Fundraiser for Post Elementary
Katie Klohn from Miss Klohn’s Classroom – December Literacy Station

April Smith from Performing in Fifth – Plan a Field Trip Project-Based Pack 

Amy Alvis - United States Regions and Poster Pack 

Michelle Harper from No Monkey Business - Literary Elements (Make a Case for...)

Lacie Brown from Polka Dots and Pencils - Superfun Back to School Activities

Tanja Tlusty from Journey of a Substitute Teacher - Natural Disasters Nonfiction Pack

Nicole Swisher from All Things Apple in 2nd - What's the POINT, anyway? 

Activities to teach Author's Point of View

You can purchase the entire 3-5 bundle here. Due to file sizes, we were not able

to bundle the entire K-2 sets. You can click here to visit our entire store. 

We would also like to give a shout out to the amazing Nicole from TPT! Her 

guidance and support of the fundraiser has been incredible. What a wonderful 

community to be a part of!

If you have any questions about this fundraiser, I'd be happy to help in anyway. 



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