As the holiday season approaches, we find ourselves surrounded by the warm glow of Thanksgiving and Christmas. It is a time when families come together, delicious meals are shared, and joy fills the air.
The holiday season, with Thanksgiving and Christmas at its heart, provides a perfect backdrop for teaching about kindness, compassion, and gratitude.
This is a time to think about how to add some festivities into our teaching as well as some special meaning.
I love to use this time to help kids think about others and how we can make things happier or easier for them.
Acts of kindness are a special focus at this time of year. Here are some ideas to try that might help foster a giving and caring spirit.
Counting Our Blessings
When we think of Thanksgiving, we think of all the things and people we are thankful for. We start to focus on what we have and we start to count our blessings. Often we need to have these reminders as we live in a world of "all about me" bombardment.
There are several ways to share our thoughts. One that works well is a "Thankful Tree". Have your students craft leaves out of paper, and on each leaf, they can write or draw something they are thankful for. These leaves can be attached to a tree displayed in the classroom, forming a visual representation of gratitude.
Another way to focus on things that they are thankful for is to create a gratitude journal and write things in it that they are grateful or thankful for. Incorporate gratitude journals into your classroom routine. Have your students write or draw one thing they are thankful for each day. This practice helps them focus on the positive aspects of their lives and appreciate the little things that often go unnoticed.
Here is a fall gratitude journal that I created that might work for you.
Spirit Of Giving
As Christmas approaches, emphasize that the holiday season is not just about receiving gifts but also about the joy of giving. Share stories or read books that focus on the spirit of giving, such as "The Giving Tree" by Shel Silverstein or "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" by Dr. Seuss. Discuss how the characters in these stories experience joy and fulfillment through their acts of kindness.
Acts Of Kindness Activities
Plan classroom activities that promote kindness and compassion. Encourage your students to do things to brighten up someone's day and make it special.
Create an "Acts of Kindness" calendar for the days leading up to Christmas. On each day, include a small act of kindness that students can perform. These can be as simple as saying a kind word to a classmate, helping a family member with a chore, or making a holiday card for someone in need. Make it a fun daily ritual in your classroom to share stories of these acts and celebrate the good deeds your students have done.
Here is a set of coupons that might be fun to hand out to others.
Provide opportunities for your students to participate in activities in the school community that provide service to others. This could include participating in a food drive, collecting toys for underprivileged children, or visiting a local nursing home to sing carols and spend time with the elderly. When children see the impact their actions have on others, it deepens their understanding of the true meaning of the holidays.
Different Holiday Traditions
Ensure that all students feel included during holiday celebrations. The holiday season is a great time to teach students about the diversity of cultures and traditions.
Acknowledge and respect the diverse cultural traditions within your classroom. Teach your students about different holiday customs, fostering understanding and acceptance among classmates. Discuss various holiday celebrations from around the world.
There are many different books that would work well for sharing the special holidays and celebrations that happen at this time of the year.
The book "Horrible Harry And The Holidaze" shares aspects from several different holidays celebrated by different members from Harry's class. (My students enjoyed this because it was with characters they were familiar with from other books in the series.)
There are many other ways to help kids to develop a spirit of giving. It might be fun to include them in the discussion and find out ways they would like to try out. This gives ownership and helps them to feel valued as well.
Teaching our young students about the significance of kindness during Thanksgiving and Christmas is a priceless gift that will serve them well throughout their lives. By incorporating these strategies into your teaching, you can make the holiday season a time of both joy and valuable life lessons.
Let's inspire the next generation to embrace kindness, compassion, and empathy, creating a brighter and more compassionate future for all.
Language Ideas for the holidays and seasons
The holiday season is here and kids are getting excited and restless. The weather is changing and winter is almost upon us. We need to find activities that capture the attention of our students while continuing to provide content and skill development. What better way to excite kids than to focus on the holidays with these activities.
There are many different subject areas that can be considered here. For now, I would like to focus on language arts. Being able to read, write, and speak well are goals that we would like to see achieved. This is a great time to focus on new activities that expand vocabulary and help with creating more detailed and descriptive oral and written experiences. Using games and other hands on activities will help to engage kids and motivate them to learn. For students learning a second language this is especially important.
For the purpose of this blog post, I will be focusing on French, but the concepts and ideas are appropriate for any second language.
Why vocabulary development is so important for second language learners
Second language learners often feel tongue-tied when they start to learn a new language. They know what they want to say, but they don't have the words yet to say it. They struggle to make themselves understood as they attempt to use the limited vocabulary they have been given. They are self conscious and often afraid to speak out loud. Doing activities that help to broaden their vocabulary will help them with communication. Holiday vocabulary activities will work well for engaging them in the excitement of the season.
There are many different types of vocabulary activities, but I would suggest that they focus on fun and interactive games and activities. As they continue to develop their vocabulary skills, they will gain more confidence and begin to speak out more often. The more they speak, the more they get practice, and the more confident they become. The same goes for reading and writing. The more comfortable they become with the language and the vocabulary, the more they will use it. Win-win.
French/English resources for the holidays and seasons
I have been creating French resources for younger kids and for those going into late immersion. I created many of them in both French and English so that they could be used for those who might be learning English as well. They are also great for primary English classrooms.
Here are some resources that may help you through the next few months as your students continue to learn new vocabulary and develop their language skills.
le vocabulaire thématique/J'ai, qui a? combos
(les prépositions, les vêtements, les légumes et les fruits, les émotions, la météo, l'hygiène et la santé, les adjectifs opposés, les parties du corps, la cuisine rapide et la collation, la cuisine, le temps, le calendrier)
Themed vocabulary/I have, who has?? combos
(prepositions, clothing, vegetables and fruits, emotions, weather, hygiene and health, opposite adjectives, body parts, fast food and snacks, the kitchen, weather, calendar)
Here are some holiday vocabulary activities that will make learning fun.
le Noël des mots de vocabulaire - French Christmas Vocabulary Task Cards Activities and Games
le Noël des mots de vocabulaire - French Christmas Vocabulary Game I Have, Who Has? J'ai, Qui a?
le Noël Parts Of Speech Silly Sentences French Version
Christmas Vocabulary Task Cards Activities
Christmas Vocabulary Game - I Have, Who Has?
Christmas Parts of Speech Silly Sentences
l'hiver - le vocabulaire
l'hiver Parts Of Speech Silly Sentences French version
Winter Parts of Speech Silly Sentences
Winter Vocabulary Activities And Games
Winter Vocabulary Activity - I Have, Who Has?
For more French holiday resources, check out this blog post from another teacher with links to more resources that will help you make it through the Christmas season.
Preparing for a new year
If you are looking ahead for the new year, check out some of these resources and ideas. Click on the images to find out more.
Well, I hope you have found some helpful ideas and resources here. Let me know if there is anything else I can help you with as you continue to work with kids.
The holiday season is here
It is hard to believe that 2021 is almost over. It has been a crazy time for most people, but hopefully there will be an end in sight to the craziness soon and we will be able to look back and find some positive moments to build on in the future.
Thanksgiving is almost here in the United States. This will be a time for families to get together again after a long absence. I remember doing Thanksgiving and Christmas with my family over Zoom last year. It was very hard. I wish all of those who are able to gather a wonderful time with family and friends.
Of course, this means that Christmas is not far away. One of my favorite things to do was come up with new and creative ways to make gifts with my students. If you want to see some of the different ideas that work well with kids, check out this blog post that I wrote last year.
I love walking into the dollar stores and checking out all the different materials that they have for doing crafts. This always give me inspiration. Sometimes it might be a special ornament, a centerpiece idea, or something that can be framed for a keepsake. Of course, the cost has to be considered as most of us end up buying materials with our own money. I do try to see if I can couple my ideas with materials that we already have at the school, but usually that doesn't work too well as the school always seems to be short of supplies.
Here is my latest inspiration. It is similar to the stained glass pictures I did, but easier to do. There are 3 different versions available so that everyone can do it, even those who don't celebrate Christmas.
If I find a craft that works well, I will sometimes repeat it a couple of years later. I didn't do the same thing each year because I often had split classes and I would have some students for two years in a row. Also, some crafts require saving up materials. For instance, I saved up light bulbs for a few years to get enough for a whole class. Of course, you can always ask parents to save up materials for you. They don't need to know what you will be doing with them, just that you are looking for them.
You can get a free copy of the coloring sheets by clicking the image below.
I hope you enjoy the next few weeks as the holidays are approaching. Until next time, take care.
Helping kids expand their vocabulary
Are you looking for ways to help kids with writing and sharing their ideas? This seems to be a common issue with younger children as they begin to share their ideas, but they don't have the words yet to describe things in detail. Instead, they tend to use the same few words over and over. We sometimes refer to these as "worn out words".
How to develop a rich vocabulary base
Developing a rich vocabulary base helps with writing and expressing ideas and it also allows kids to create more detailed and creative stories. There are many different ways to expand the vocabulary. Here are a few.
Brainstorm as a class
Choose some of the worn out words, such as nice, good, happy, fun and come up with a list of words that can be used instead.
Try a thesaurus
Younger children might find this a bit challenging, but they can still give it a try. A thesaurus will provide many synonyms for words.
Do a vocabulary challenge
Take a simple sentence and challenge the class to come up with different variations that make the sentence more interesting but still maintain the meaning. Then share the sentences with others.
Create a themed word wall
Sometimes kids just need words that fit the various themes. They can help them to get their stories started or provide some extra ideas to expand their stories. A themed word wall can be changed as different themes are explored. If you don't want to devote space to an actual word wall, you can store the words on rings and allow the students to take them as needed to use.
Use word games and activities to review vocabulary
It is important to make sure that the kids get lots of exposure to the words they need for various writing tasks. This ensures that the words become part of their working vocabulary. Then they will be able to access them more readily in future literacy situations.
I find that word games and activities work well for working with vocabulary words as they are engaging and fun. Kids learn without realizing they are actually studying the words and phrases. The more they play, the faster they begin to recognize the words.
Sight word games, silly sentences, I Have, Who Has? games, and task cards for matching games are a few examples that have worked well for me over the years. I created many of these games for literacy centers and they were always very popular.
Using the same types of formats helps the children to focus on the content rather than how to play the games. Just change up the themes and let them play.
Here are some vocabulary word sets I created for the seasons and special days. I hope to be able to add to the special days in the future. There are sets of I Have, Who Has? cards for each of the seasons and special days as well.
If you are teaching French, check out the French versions.
My students loved making silly sentences, so I created several themed sets for them. They enjoyed making the sentences and practiced parts of speech at the same time. As an extension activity, we would sometimes take the words and illustrate them and then put them into a flip book of silly sentences.
You can check out my special days parts of speech silly sentences here.
If you would like to try out a free vocabulary activity, sign up for my newsletter.
I am offering my I Have, Who Has? Christmas set to my followers for free.
There you have some ideas for expanding and developing a broader vocabulary base for your students. I hope they work well for you. I would love to hear what other ways you use themed vocabulary in your classroom. Let me know in the comments.
Capturing Imagination In Writing
Christmas is fast approaching. This a time that is full of excitement and wonder and kids look forward to it all year. They start talking about it and making wishes. They enjoy getting gifts and being part of the decorating and family times. They have fun playing holiday games and activities at school. It is a great time to capture their imagination in their writing.
I used to tell my students to use descriptive writing with the five senses to paint a picture in the reader's mind. We would come up with lists of words and juicy details that would help to describe images. I even used paintbrushes as symbols for different types of descriptions. Check out my graphics and templates for this kind of detailed writing.
Using images and graphic organizers can be really helpful for students that struggle with writing. They can even use them like a checklist as they get started. Eventually they will not need to rely on them anymore.
One of my favorite projects for this season is Christmas Writing Using The Five Senses. It is a poem that shares images from four different settings. I even shared it with another teacher and her class after I retired. We had fun working together and seeing the poems that the children wrote.
Here is one of the poems that a grade 2 student wrote.
Another thing that we did was create a special craft to go along with the poem. You can check it out here.
If you are interested in more writing ideas using the five senses, check out my products that use images and photographs to practice descriptive writing.
Grab this free sampler by signing up for my newsletter.
Have fun watching your students create magical stories and poems this Christmas.
Are you looking for some easy Christmas gifts kids can make?
Making gifts for families is a special part of the Christmas season. At school, I always tried to find something that was a little different that was special, but still easy enough for my students to do. It was important to have a variety of different gift ideas because I often had the same students for more than one year and I didn't want them creating the same thing year after year.
Here are some of the different things we did that you might be able to try with your students.
One of the most popular things was the "stained glass" frame. This was done with a transparent film and felt pens. It was backed with tin foil. You can read about it here. I updated it recently, but the procedure is still similar. Here is the update.
Light bulb ornaments were fun to do. I saved burned out bulbs until I had enough for the whole class. Nowadays, this would take a very long time to do because the LED bulbs last so much longer. Perhaps you could ask around for people to save bulbs for you, or you could buy some cheap ones to use. We put the ribbon on first with a glue gun and then we painted. We started with a base coat of blue paint, and then we hung them to dry. We painted snowmen on the bulbs when they were dry. Unfortunately, I don't have a picture of the finished product. I suppose you could buy those DIY clear plastic ball ornaments and do the same thing.
Potpourri jars are fun to make and they can be used over again by changing out the potpourri when it loses it scent. You can add to it by putting decorative paper on it in a modge podge fashion. I used diluted liquid white glue and small squares of wrapping paper. The sample was from Mothers Day so it has a different pattern of paper and topper. The topper could also be netting that you get from the bags when buying some fruit or produce.
Decorative candle jars are also easy to do and they are handy to have around during power outages. We still have some around the house. They can be painted, modge podged with Christmas paper, or even decorated with rub on transfers.
How about some snowflake seeds? These jars are great for holding treats or other special things. We filled them with popcorn seeds and called them snowflake seeds. They were fun to make and the kids enjoyed eating them later on.
Do you have some old CDs kicking around? How about using them as the base for a center piece. They shine and they can reflect light from candles. They can be decorated with branches, leaves, ribbon, pine cones, or many other different things.
Beeswax candles and fire starters were a couple of other things we did in years past. The candles don't need to be big, but full size ones do last longer. The fire starters are really just small candles on the end of wooden skewers.
These bell toppers for pencils were a great hit for our diy spring fundraiser, so I made some for my students for gifts. They loved doing their writing with them and we had music throughout the classroom as the bells rang out.
These "I Spy Jars" were another favorite from our fundraiser DIY crafts. They are a great gift for family members and they are fun to use.
Small trinkets and ornaments are also fun to make. Puzzle wreaths, reindeer brooches, bell necklaces, felt animals, pencil toppers, are a few that I have used in the past.
Over the years, I collected a lot of different materials for crafts. The year I retired, I decided to have a make and take session with my students. I put out all my Christmas materials and I let them make whatever they wished. It was amazing to see what they came up with.
When we allow children to use their imaginations when they are young, they can surprise us. Sometimes their creativity can open up new ideas for us too. This might be a fun way to get inspired.
We mustn't forget the handmade cards and wrapping paper. These special touches personalize the gifts and make them even more special for the recipients. Here are some cards I made for my students.
I hope these ideas help inspire you as we move into the Christmas season. I would love to hear how they work for you.
Acts of kindness are perfect for Christmas time. Often at Christmas time, there can be a tendency to think about all the things that we want. We are often asked the question, "What are you asking Santa for?" or "What do you have on your Christmas wish list?" or some other similar type of questions. It isn't wrong to want things or to hope for certain things, but Christmas is a great time to be thinking about what we can do for others too.
There is a sense of joy and fulfillment that can come from thinking of others and giving to others. It is important to teach others that giving is an important part of Christmas. Doing random acts of kindness has the power to give joy to others and help make the world a better place. These acts do not have to be expensive or difficult to do. They just have to come from the heart.
During my last year of teaching, I created a set of cards for my students to use for Christmas and we called them RACK. (Random Acts of Christmas Kindness) Each child was given a few cards to take home and use as a countdown to Christmas. They had choices provided as samples of what they could do, but they also had the option to do something else that they decided on. It was exciting to hear some of the things they did as they took on this challenge.
I hope you find this free resource useful. Click on the image to get your copy.
The image below is the original one. You can still follow the directions here, but you may need to make slight changes to the procedure and materials used as explained below.
The first step is to find an image that you would like to use. I chose this one because it is typical of what one might find when thinking of stained glass at Christmas time. You can choose anything you want. Color by code pictures or mandalas would work well. This is a coloring picture from Miss Mindy.
Once you choose your image, it is necessary to transfer the image onto a transparent material. This time I used a laminating pouch. I placed the printed image (image 1) behind the pouch and opened up the pouch to trace the image on the inside surface. (images 2 and 3)
Note: It is important to put it inside if you are going to laminate it so that you don't have the marker ink damaging your machine.
If you have access to the transparency sheets used in the original version, it makes it easier because the image can be photocopied on to the transparency. This saves the tracing step. If not, I would suggest making sure the design is not too difficult for children to trace.
Note: It is important to talk to them about how to trace without smudging the design. I usually suggest they start at the top and work their way down on the side opposite to the hand they are coloring with.
Once you have the design traced, you can place a paper beneath the laminating pouch again so the areas can be seen as you add color. (image 5) I chose to change up the colors a bit so that they popped more.
When you have finished coloring all the spaces desired, put the pouch through the laminator to seal it. (image 6)
Note: I use a personal laminator with pouches. If you are using a different type of laminator this may not work.
Another option could be to cut the laminating pouch apart and treat it like the transparency sheet. You would still need to trace the design because it can't be put in the photocopier. If the design is traced with a permanent marker ahead of time, it will be easier for use by everyone and it shouldn't smudge when the children color it.
Note: The children should color the back of the transparency sheet or laminating sheet so that the washable markers won't smudge or wash off when it is placed on the tin foil.
Next, prepare the background by cutting a piece of card stock or a cereal box to the correct size and covering it with tinfoil. I usually tape the tinfoil on the other side and then add a piece of writing on that side to hide the seams. My students preferred the crinkly foil as it caused the light to bounce off of the colors.
(Sorry for all the shadows. I couldn't seem to find an angle where they weren't showing.)
Finally, tape the transparent picture to the tinfoil card stock. Add the writing on the back and you are done. If you wish to hang it, punch some holes on the top and add some ribbon.
If you would like a sampler copy of the writing templates click the image or here.
I would love to hear how you use this idea in your classroom. If you have any other suggestions to make it easier please share in the comments below.
December is a busy and happy time for sharing and giving. The children can hardly contain their excitement. It is sometimes exhausting, but it is very rewarding at the end of the day. Here are some highlights of our last couple of weeks.
A couple of years ago I got this DIY idea from Pinterest. It was from Charity Preston"s Classroom DIY. My kids loved finding out what was hiding behind each number. On one day they had a movie and popcorn. We watched Santa Claus the Movie. They loved it.
For our Christmas concert we performed A Porcupine In a Pine Tree. This was a Canadian version of the Twelve Days of Christmas. I created the boards based on the images in the book and each child had a board to hold up. They did an awesome job. Here are some pictures of the Mounties, the Leafs, and some of the animals.
On the last day, I decided to let the children do a make and take it activity. I put out a bunch of different craft materials and they created their own Christmas crafts. Here are some of the creations.
At Christmas teachers often receive gifts from students. I appreciate every gift, but this one especially warmed my heart. One of my students really wanted to give me something, so she colored me a picture and gave me Canadian Tire money along with a candy cane. Isn't that sweet?
Winter break is finally here and we are having everyone here for Christmas. This will be the first time since 2009 that all my family will be together. One daughter has arrived with her 3 children and my older son and his family live in town. My other son and his family, my son-in-law and my mother and mother-in-law will be arriving on Christmas Eve. My other daughter will arrive on Christmas Day.
Here is a picture of the tree. It is hard to find it under all the presents. There will be some very excited people on Christmas Day.
Merry Christmas to all my friends and family and to all the wonderful people I have met or had the blessing to encounter through blogging and collaborating.
Christmas is in the air and lights and decorations are springing up everywhere. The weather is getting brisk and snow is beginning to fall. The kids are getting excited and starting to talk about Santa and his reindeer. Elf on the shelf stories will soon start taking over sharing time, and school work will have a Christmas theme.
As we think about all of this hustle and bustle and we get caught up with the shopping and presents and parties, it is good to slow down for a moment and think about the giving and sharing and gratitude that are also a part of the season. Sometimes it is so easy to get focused on the commercialism of the season. Maybe we need to step back and think about why we are doing all of this.
Every year, I do something with my class to help them to focus on the random acts of kindness that they can do to make Christmas a more special time for others. I have noticed that many other teacher bloggers that I follow are doing the same thing. Maybe that is why these people are some of my favorites. We seem to have a similar philosophy for many things.
I want my students to understand that they can make a difference in other people's lives. It is so rewarding to hear the stories of some of the things they do with their families when they put the focus on giving and sharing instead of receiving.
I just created some writing papers to use for Christmas letters or other writing activities. I would like to share these with others. If you would like a copy, click here.
Happy December everyone! I hope you have many wonderful moments with your students.
About Me Charlene Sequeira
I am a wife, mother of 4, grandmother of 9, and a retired primary and music teacher. I love working with kids and continue to volunteer at school and teach ukulele.