3 Literacy Organizations to Support With Your Holiday—or Any Time of Year—Giving!

Around this time of year, many people are looking to make charitable donations. I like to donate to causes that mean a lot to me personally. So in today’s brief post, I’m sharing 3 literacy organizations that I support!

1. ReadWorks

ReadWorks provides amazing (and FREE) reading passages, lessons, and digital reading resources to K-12 teachers and students. The amount of resources available on ReadWorks.org is incredible, and the staff is dedicated to helping teachers improve kids’ reading comprehension. To help ReadWorks continue building their resource library, you can donate HERE.

2. Children’s Literacy Initiative

CLI is dedicated to improving early literacy instruction. They provide coaching to teachers, literacy materials for classrooms, and teacher workshops. You can support their efforts by donating HERE.

3. First Book

First Book provides books and other educational materials for children in the U.S. who are living in poverty. They support families who can’t afford to purchase books. You can help by donating HERE.

If you’ve made purchases from my TpT store, Learning At The Primary Pond, you’ve already helped support all 3 of these organizations. From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU for helping me contribute to causes I believe in!

Happy holidays!!

4 (Non-Religious) Ways to Celebrate the Holidays in Your Classroom

During the holiday season, students have a WHOLE lot of energy! If you channel that enthusiasm into classroom activities, you can really engage kids in learning.

But what if you teach in a public school and are not able to do Christmas activities? Here are 4 engaging, inclusive ways to celebrate the holidays in your classroom:

Read this post for 4 different ways to honor the holidays in your classroom

1. Teach students about holidays around the world.

Teaching students about holidays around the world has become a tradition in many classrooms. It’s a great way to honor students’ diverse backgrounds and help them understand cultural differences.

Here are some photos from my Christmas & Holidays Around the World Literacy Activity pack. This pack teaches students about holidays celebrated all over the world – not just during the month of December. These materials require no preparation or gathering of books – you just print and teach!

During the holiday season, you can teach students about how Christmas is celebrated in different countries. Click thru to the post to read more ideas about non-religious ways to celebrate the holidays in your classroom!

During the holiday season, you can teach students about how Christmas is celebrated in different countries. Click thru to the post to read more ideas about non-religious ways to celebrate the holidays in your classroom!

Also, last year I created a Symbaloo with sites that students can explore independently to learn about holidays around the world. You can access it here.

Of course, learning about other cultures definitely shouldn’t stop after the holidays are over. It’s easy to fall into a “holidays and food” rut, where we teach students about the holidays and foods of other cultures, while neglecting to present other aspects of the cultures. Here’s a great book list to help you teach students about other cultures throughout the entire year.

2. Focus on the concept of traditions.

When it comes down to it, celebrating the holidays is all about traditions. This is a great time for students to share their family traditions with one another – whether they are related to the holidays or not. Here are some different ways to honor students’ traditions and help them learn about others:

  • Invite students’ family members to speak to the class about their family traditions (holiday or not holiday related)
  • Make a class book – each child creates one page about his or her family traditions (could be done at home or school)
  • Have children interview family members about traditions they celebrated as children

Here’s a FREE template that you can use to have students and their families write about holiday traditions:

FREE family traditions page! Great for the holidays!

3. Use students’ interests to guide learning.

You may not be able to read books about Santa Claus or the Christmas story, but you can still engage students by studying related topics! For example, students might be interested in learning more about reindeer at this time of year. Grab a few books from the library and pair them with my Reindeer Vocabulary Companion Pack:

Reindeer cloze passage

Reindeer vocabulary photo

The kids will be excited to learn about something related to the holidays, but you’ll still be respecting the diverse traditions and religions of your students.

4. Engage students in serving others.

The holidays are a great time to teach students about giving. You might have students decide upon a community service project, like:

  • Collecting pennies for a local cause, like toys for a children’s hospital
  • Holding a class-wide or school-wide food drive
  • Making holiday cards or crafts for residents of a nursing home
  • Singing at a local nursing home or hospital

Having students lead the project lends itself to many learning opportunities – simple research, writing, organizational skills, planning, and even math. To support students in planning their community service project, you can use materials from my K-2 Giving Project Unit:

Poem from The Giving Project, a unit for K-2 students about generosity

How do you celebrate the holidays in your classroom? Do you have any ideas to add to this list? Please comment below!

Happy teaching!

My Life As A Chicken: A Writing Project for Easter or the Chicken Life Cycle

Teaching your students about the chicken life cycle or Easter?

This blog post has a free downloadable activity you can use!

I love connecting the content areas (science, in this case) with my literacy instruction. When I first started teaching my chicken life cycle unit, I had my kids create nonfiction books about the stages in the chicken life cycle. They liked doing this, but the activity only lasted a day or two.

So then I started thinking, “How could I bring more writing into this unit?” And then the “My Life As a Chicken” writing project was born!!

Chicken Life Cycle Writing Project

In this free writing project, students write pretend journals from the point of view of a chicken. Have your kids imagine that they’re tiny baby chicks inside eggs, trying to peck their way out.

You might ask your students…

  • What would you be thinking inside your egg?
  • How will you feel when you finally hatch and see the world for the first time?

My kids’ journals turned out SO cute! And they loved the project because they already loved books like Diary of a Wimpy KidDiary of a SpiderDiary of a Worm, etc. 

If you want to do a similar writing project, you might prep your kids by first teaching them about the stages in the chicken life cycle. You might show them this video of baby chicks hatching. You may want to read aloud Diary of a Worm (Doreen Cronin) or a similar book so that they can get an idea of what diary/journal writing sounds like.

If this writing project sounds fun to you, click on the image below to download it for free!

Included are two different versions of the project (one for younger kids and one for slightly older kids), so you can choose the one that works best for you. If you try it out, I’d love to hear how it goes!

s u m m e r  t i p s

Happy teaching!

Valentine’s Day Learning and Printable Valentines for Students

Looking for some fun Valentine’s Day activities and freebies? This post has some of my favorites!!

Let’s start with a craft! One year in Kindergarten, we did this adorable heart panda craft – it looked something like this:

This photo is from Crafty Morning.  Click on the image above for the link.  The craft is super simple and perfect for PreK, K, or first grade!

In addition to fun activities the day of Valentine’s Day, I like to use Valentine’s Day themed literacy and math activities for a couple of weeks leading up to the holiday.  Here are some photos from the different activities I’ve created:

This word family spinner game has kids use a paperclip and pencil to spin twice – once for the first letter of a word and once for the word family pattern.  When a child is able to make a real word from the two parts spun, she writes it down on the recording sheet.  The first player to fill up their recording sheet is the winner!  This game is from my Valentine’s Day Literacy Pack for K-1.  

This pack has 4 different centers games/activities (actually 8 total, because there is a Kindergarten version and a first grade version for each game).  In addition to the centers games and activities, you get some print-and-go, no prep literacy sheets.  Click on the image below to find out more.

I also have a math activity pack for Valentine’s Day, also for K-1.  

The game shown above has kids use printable heart dominoes to find different ways of making a number (you can use any number up to 18 as the target number).  For example, if you want kids to find ways to make the number ten, they might pull out dominoes that have 2 and 8 on them, and 4 and 6 on them.  Students write a number equation and draw the dominoes they find that make the target number.

Like the literacy centers, this pack has 4 games (each game has a different version for K and 1st), as well as print-and-go, no prep math sheets for each grade level.

You can also buy the literacy and math centers together, for a discount!

Last year we had a lot of fun playing Valentine’s Day BINGO during the weeks leading up to the holiday.  

The pictures above are from the 2nd grade version.  You use an interactive white board or other projector to show the math questions, and then the kids cover the corresponding number answer on their Bingo cards.  There are two ways to play the 2nd grade version – mixed addition and subtraction within 20 (top photo), or Common Core math practice (bottom photo).  The Common Core math practice covers time, graphing, word problems, number patterns, place value, money, simple fractions, and more (we used it to get ready for our spring MAP test).

I’ve also created Valentine’s Day Bingo for Kindergarten and first grade.  The Kindergarten version has 4 ways to play:  addition within 5, subtraction within 5, mixed addition and subtraction within 5, and number sense fluency (subitizing).
The first grade version also has 4 ways to play:  addition within 10, subtraction within 10, mixed addition and subtraction within 10, and number sense fluency (subtilizing).
And now for the free Valentines!!  I tend to be a little picky about what Valentines I give my students, so I just decided to make my own.  Click on any of the images to download a set for your own students (there’s even a set in Spanish!).

Happy Valentine’s Day!!

This Week In Intervention: Holiday Break Homework and Spanish Bingo

Happy winter break!!  I hope that you’re on break, at least – I know some schools are going a few days into next week, which can’t be fun.

This week was a little crazy – not that I’d expect anything else for the last week of school before break!  On Monday I was out for a district reading specialist training on the impact of oral language development on reading (I’ll blog more about that soon), and then much of the rest of the week was filled with giving assessments, trying to get students’ take home book bags ready (thank you, Reading A to Z!), getting coworkers’ gifts ready, and the usual holiday stuff!  One highlight from the week was playing Spanish letter sounds and syllables Bingo with my kiddos:

Click on the picture for the original post with the free Bingo card downloads (they are in Spanish).  

I totally forgot to take a picture of the bags I sent home with my kiddos.  Oops!  The first and second grade ones were nothing spectacular – just some Reading A to Z books and then a few of my escaleras de fluidez (fluency ladders) for some decoding and fluency practice.

I wasn’t 100% sure what I should send home with my Kindergarteners.  When I taught Kindergarten as a classroom teacher, many of my kids were reading by now, so I sent home little books that they were already familiar with.  I also sent home letter sound flashcards to practice, and some handwriting, too.  However, the Kindergarten students I work with are very low, so I couldn’t send home books, and I wasn’t sure how much the parents would be able to support them with letter sound flashcards.  So I ended up sending home just a two-page packet – the first page was a parent letter, and the second page was an alphabet chart that we use to practice a letter sounds chant everyday in intervention.  The letter basically asked them to take their children to the library and read to them, and to practice the letter sounds a few times each day.

Because I wanted to give parents some support with the letter sound aspect, I decided to make a YouTube video of me doing the chant.  Just for your amusement, you can see it if you click {here}.  It’s really nothing special (and probably a little silly), but it will give you a sense of how easy it was to make.  I gave a link and a QR code on the parent letter, and I also showed the kids the video during our last intervention group.  They were super excited at the idea of being able to watch the video and practice the chant at home!  It would be very easy to do something similar with English letter sounds, or to give instructions on a particular strategy you want your kids to use in math.  All I did was use my phone to take the video, and then uploaded it directly from my phone to YouTube.  My gmail account was already linked to YouTube.

Crossing my fingers that my kiddos will be practicing over break!  Especially my Kinders – we only have half-day Kindergarten at my school, so we have to squeeze in as much learning as possible.

I was also busy this week finishing up and giving out coworker gifts and treat bags.  Here’s a photo of some chocolate covered peanut butter Ritz sandwich treat bags:  

One of my teaching assistants thought that they were professionally made.  Ha!  Ha!  A professional chef I am not.  But they are super easy and turned out looking nice, considering all I did was melt chocolate in the microwave and dip chilled Ritz peanut butter cracker sandwiches in them.  I was also quite pleased with the cute bags from Target!

Well, that was my week – it was about as scattered as this blog post was. 🙂  I hope you had a wonderful week!  Happy winter break (or almost winter break, depending on where you teach)!

This Week In Intervention: Spanish Reading Fluency Ladders and Bingo

Whew!  This past week felt like it was never going to end!  In addition to trying to get things together for the holidays,  I’ve been busy making some new materials for my students.  I recently finished up a syllable fluency reading program for Spanish reading fluency and started using it with my 2nd graders.  They are loving it!  To give some background, I have three second grade boys who were non-readers at the beginning of the school year.  Even though Spanish is a language that has an extremely strong letter-sound correspondence (meaning it doesn’t have all the weird spelling nuances that English does), decoding is still extremely challenging for these three boys.  They do lots of reading and writing activities with me each day, but I found that they still really needed to increase their fluency with reading all kinds of Spanish syllables – open, closed, with and without blends, and inverse syllables.  So I created this:

Spanish Fluency Ladders - Practice reading fluency , syllable by syllable!


This is a syllable and word reading program (in Spanish) that can be used to improve students’ decoding and fluency.  Students practice reading and rereading syllable or word “ladders” that look like this:
Spanish Fluency Ladder with Open Syllables
The student starts reading at the bottom of the ladder and works her way up.  The ladders have patterns to help students see connections between syllables and words – in the ladder above, one letter in the syllable changes each time the child moves up one rung on the ladder. 
Once the child has mastered the syllables or words on the ladder (and can meet a timed goal when reading it to a teacher or other adult), she can color in one icon on her mastery sheet (the icon corresponds to the picture at the top of the ladder).  Each mastery sheet has a theme, like dinosaurs: 
Spanish syllable reading mastery sheet


Once a child has completed all of the ladders in one level, she moves on to the next level.  Here are the skills included in each level:
Level A:  Open, 2-letter syllables (sílabas abiertas con 2 letras)
Level B:  2-syllable words with open syllables (palabras con 2 sílabas abiertas)
Level C:  3-syllable words with open syllables (palabras con 3 sílabas abiertas)
Level D:  Open syllables with blends (sílabas trabadas)
Level E:  2- and 3-syllable words with blends and open syllables (palabras con 2 o 3 sílabas trabadas y abiertas)
Level F:  Inverse and closed syllables (sílabas inversas y cerradas)
Level G:  2- and 3-syllable words with open, closed, and inverse syllables, with and without blends (palabras con 2 o 3 sílabas abiertas, cerradas e inversas y algunas sílabas trabadas) 
Included is a special certificate that you can give the student each time he/she completes a level.  I also will be giving my boys a little prize after they complete each level.
Spanish Fluency Ladders Certificate.001
These ladders make great homework assignments (a parent letter is included), intervention work, or small group work.  They can also help you differentiate instruction, because students in your group or class can all work on different ladders at the same time.  Before you begin using the program, there’s a quick little assessment you can give to each child.  That assessment will help you determine what level you should start the child on.  Students then work at their own pace through the levels.  Eventually, they will get up to this level:
Spanish Syllable Reading Practice

The hardest level in the series will have them reading 2- and 3-syllable words with open syllables, closed syllables, and syllables with blends.  

So far my boys are really loving the challenge!  They like being able to see their progress on the mastery sheet.  

Next week, we will be playing some BINGO in small group!!  

Here are BINGO sheets for Spanish letter sounds (sonidos), open syllables (sílabas abiertas), syllables with blends (sílabas trabadas), and inverse/closed syllables (sílabas inversas y cerradas).  There’s 8 of each, so if you use them with the whole group instead of a small group, expect multiple winners! 🙂  You can download them for free with or without a holiday theme.  Click on the pictures to download the sets.  Enjoy!!

For some extra fun, you can have them color the pictures!

Happy Teaching!

Teaching about Christmas & Holidays Around the World

The holidays are quickly approaching, and if you are a teacher, this means that you miiight be on the lookout for some extra-engaging materials to keep your kiddos entertained and learning (and yourself sane!).  🙂

If that’s true for you, then I have 2 resources you might like:  

1.  A literacy activity pack for teaching kids about Christmas and other holidays around the world, and 

2.  A link to a free Symbaloo that your students can use to learn more about winter holidays around the world.

My “Christmas & Holidays Around the World” literacy activity pack (for 1st or 2nd grade) doesn’t require much prep at all…because I never seem to have an extra minute to spare in December!!  You don’t even have to check out books from the library to use it – a nonfiction readaloud is included, as well as 2 student readers and an additional reading passage (with questions to go with the passage).

A page from one of the student readers
To go along with the reading materials are 5 different writing activities, and 2 word puzzle activities.

A page from one of the writing activities – you can tie in a little geography, too!
The materials will help you integrate social studies into your literacy block and are only $4.25!  Click {here} to check them out.

Another resource I created to teach my kiddos about holidays around the world can be found here:

You can send your kiddos to this site and have them click on any of the pictures to learn about Christmas around the world, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Chinese New Year, and Ramadan.  All of the links are appropriate and kid-friendly (any text is read aloud).  Most of the links are videos.  You can use this URL with your students:  

I love Symbaloo because it’s so easy to create kid-friendly links!  If you’re working on a certain unit, you can create a Symbaloo for free and put links for the kids all on one page, and upload pictures for icons like I did.  

Enjoy the links, and have a great holiday season!

The Giving Project

So, did you survive Halloween?  I personally really enjoyed the fact that it was on a Friday this year. 🙂

Now that Halloween is over, I’ve started thinking ahead to Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the holidays in general.  It’s always such an exciting time of year for the kiddos!  Unfortunately, I think it’s all too easy for kids to become too focused on the “gifts” part of the holidays.  The media and advertising play a big role in this.  BUT I do think we, as teachers and parents, can definitely do something about it! 

I think it’s important to teach kids about all the ways that people can give to one another.  Giving doesn’t have to involve gifts – giving can include helping people in intangible ways, using kind words with others, etc.  I recently finished a mini-unit that focuses on just that – teaching kids the many ways that people can give to each other.  Read on for some ideas and books about teaching kids how to give, and for more details on the unit!

The unit starts by having kids discuss their prior knowledge about giving (which likely includes giving gifts).  You’ll make a class chart and/or give students a drawing/writing task to see what students believe about what it means to give (at the end of the unit you’ll give the same assignment to see how the kids have grown!).

Then, you’ll use readalouds and writing activities to open kids’ eyes to all of the ways that people give to each other.  You definitely won’t need all of these books for the unit, but here are some of the options that you can choose from:

Books About Giving Tangible Items:
The Mitten Tree (Candace Christiansen)
My Most Favorite Thing (Nicola Moon)
The Elves and the Shoemaker (Jim Lamarche)

Books About Giving Help:
Frog and Toad All Year – “The Surprise” (Arnold Lobel)
The Berenstain Bears Lend a Helping Hand (Stan Berenstain)
My Friend is Sad (An Elephant and Piggie Book) (Mo Willems)
When You Are Happy (Eileen Spinelli)
The Lion & the Mouse (Jerry Pinkney)
A Sick Day for Amos McGee (Philip C. Stead)

Books About Giving Kind Words:
One (Kathryn Otoshi)
Chrysanthemum (Kevin Henkes)
Ish (Creatrilogy) (Peter Reynolds)

Books About Helping the Community:
Boxes for Katje (Candace Fleming)
Uncle Willie and the Soup Kitchen (DyAnne Disalvo-Ryan)
City Green (DyAnne Disalvo-Ryan)
A Castle on Viola Street (DyAnne Disalvo-Ryan)

In addition to the reading and writing activities, the kids will practice giving to their friends and families through a few different activities.  They’ll make a “helping chain” with ideas about how they can help others:


They’ll also make a coupon book for their families (with ways that they can help out around the house):

After these and a few other activities, they will (with your guidance!) plan and implement a very simple community service project.

By the end of the unit, the kids should have a more complex and complete understanding of what it means to give to others.  

The lessons are great for teaching around Thanksgiving, Christmas, winter holidays, Valentine’s Day – or any time at all!  The unit also includes supplementary literacy materials like a poem, student reader, and reading passage.  Click on the image below to find out more:

Happy teaching!

Valentine’s Day Bingo Games

Okay, guys…I cheated.  It’s not even February yet and I brought out the Valentine’s Day Bingo games already!  Can you blame me, though?  It’s been freezing cold and snowy here, and my littles needed something fun to perk up their day!

Here’s what the Bingo cards look like (there’s 30 different cards):

After I passed out the cards, I just pulled up the problems on our white board.  Couldn’t be easier!!  The kiddos solved a problem, and then covered it on their cards.  We did mixed addition/subtraction and the general Common Core math review questions:

They loved it, even though I was a little early in pulling out the Valentine’s Day stuff. 🙂  I have Valentine’s Day Bingo games for 2nd (the one we were playing), 1st, and Kinder.  The 1st grade and Kinder versions have addition, subtraction, mixed addition and subtraction, and a number sense game that you can play with the same set of Bingo cards.  Click on the pics below to check ’em out!




 Happy (early!) Valentine’s Day!

New Year’s Writing Paper Freebie

All right, you guys…time to make good on my New Year’s resolution:  to actually write on my blog!  I hope you had a wonderful New Year’s, and I hope that your holiday break isn’t over quite yet!  I’m trying not to think about school, but…I did start planning a little New Year’s writing activity for Monday.

At the beginning of the school year, my kiddos set reading goals for themselves.  That was part of my first reading workshop unit, which you can find {here}.  The goals were posted in the hallway, but I have been guilty of not doing much with them.  So, when they come back after break, I’m going to give them back their goal sheets and have them reflect on how they are doing on their goals. I’ll give them this writing paper and also let them write about any other academic goals they may have for this year.

Click on the picture to download the writing paper for free.  Thanks to Melonheadz for the graphics!!  Happy New Year’s, everyone!

It’s that time of year again…

Today I received my first kiddo gift of the season!  One of my little guys handed me a bracelet with the HUGEST grin on his face.  He was so excited to give it to me, and it just melted my heart!  His gift also made me remember what I forget to do Every.Single.Year.  I can never remember to buy thank you notes in advance for the last day of school before winter break!  Some years I completely forget, and some years I just don’t buy enough.  I usually spend my whole lunch break writing thank you notes, because I want to send them home with my little ones before they go on break (and completely forget that they even gave me anything!).

This year…I have a solution!  I made these free thank you cards to print out on cardstock.  They are four to a sheet, so I can quickly print, cut, and write them.  I have to admit, I am kind of proud of myself for actually preparing these in advance. 🙂

There is a set in English and a set in Spanish –  click on any one of the pictures to download for free.  I hope they help make this time of year a little bit less crazy for you!

Happy, happy holidays!

Happy holidays, everyone!!  I’m so excited to share the 2013 Holiday Ebook with you!  Some sellers at TeachersPayTeachers got together and created 50 freebies for you.  Check out the book I’m in (for 1st and 2nd grade) by clicking on the picture below:

In addition to the 50 products that are completely FREE, the book has holiday teaching tips and a little surprise at the end. 🙂 

If you are a PreK or Kindergarten Teacher, check out the PreK-K ebook by clicking HERE.  Happy downloading!!