When does your winter break start?  We have the entire week of Christmas off, so we are down to 5 days. But as any teacher knows, each day will get harder and harder as the kids get crazier.  What do you do to keep the kids on task?

Last week I made a list of what I call "Must Dos."  We have a million district tests (okay, three) that we spread out this week to try to calm the room.  This is also "wrap up week."  We are almost done with the science chapter and we need to work on the DBQ, so those are must dos.  I will share this list with the class and use it like a checklist.  Once the list is done, then we can begin holiday activities:D  (Of course, all make up work needs to be completed before individual students may do those activities.  I teach 5th grade, and many students are struggling with responsibility.)

A treat I did last week was to reward students who brought homework with a massive load of homework passes.  Seriously.  I calculated about how many homework passes they would need for one week, and I gave them half one day and half the next.  (Yes, homework is this much of a problem.)  Now, you would think that kids who don't do their homework anyway wouldn't care, but nope, not true.  The second day I had twice as many kids turn in homework as the first day.

So, what are some out of the box ideas to do this week?

Hands on Science

This is a freebie from my TPT store.  Students work together to cut out the planets.  The sizes are listed.  It is a real eye opener for students to see how large and how small the planets are in comparison with Earth.  All you need is construction paper, pencil, measuring tool (ruler, yardstick, etc.), and scissors.  You can find it in my store here.

Task Card Math

         Okay, this may not be what the students want to do, but before we get into full holiday swing, we are going to practice some math.  We are struggling with multiplication and division - especially in word problems - so I created these 12 Days of Christmas themed task cards.  The word problem strategies vary, so students really have to think.  Some word problems ask for two responses, while others involve multiple steps to solve.  All problems deal with basic operations and decimals.
        I will probably have the kids work with partners.  This is a paid product in my TPT store.  If you are interested, you can find it here.

SOLO cup ornaments

Solo Cup Ornaments

I love to do crafts.  Seriously.  However, crafts x 24 students = way to much $$$$.  This craft is sure to please both your students and your wallet.  All you need are Solo Cups, stickers or Sharpies or other decorations, and string for the tie.  

In my opinion, clear cups are much nicer.  They melt 100% better as well.  Sometimes the cups melt flat.  I have no idea why this happens sometimes and not others, but I would turn on the oven and let it really warm up before I put in the cups.  I have noticed that the cups melt faster after I have done a few batches, so I have a sneaking suspicion that the oven just isn't hot enough when they turn out wavy.  Some kids like the wavy ones, so I use those as well.

If you look at the pictures, the white lined cups just do not melt as well.  Again, some kids prefer this so I guess it is just what you like.  (I like the clear ones because the light shines through.)

Best of all, you can do this for just a few dollars!  Do not scrimp on the cups - Solo cups are the best.  I know our grocery store puts them on BOGO near the holidays, so that is when I stock up.  I usually make enough for 2 per student.  As far as decorations, use what you have.  I bought a big tub of fake jewels last year and still have enough for 2 more years - just glue them on.  You can put out stickers or permanent markers (I am not big on letting kids use those, but the option is there.)  Make sure you have yarn or string for the tie - put that on before they begin decorating

What are your ideas?  How do you keep kids engaged the last week before break?

Are you crafty?  Do you enjoy staying up late and creating pretty things?  I know I do - although they are not always as pretty as I saw in my mind's eye.
Last year, I made two different types of ornaments - one that the students finished and one that I made as a surprise for students and coworkers.  I will focus on the latter in this post.

Supplies Needed:

A clear ornament for each student/coworker plus a few extras  
Really Cheap Hairspray with a screw-top
Lots of Glitter
Curling Ribbon
Baker's Twine/String/Yarn
List of Favorite Colors
A cardboard box (smallish)
Styrofoam or plastic cups

How to Make the Ornaments

1.  Before Thanksgiving I took a student list and passed it around the class. I asked each student to write down his/her favorite colors.  I also went around asking coworkers the same question.

2.  I purchased my supplies.  You can get clear ornaments at most craft stores.  They come in glass or shatterproof plastic.  As I am sure you have guessed, I used plastic;)  WalMart usually carries plastic ornaments for just under $1 each.  They are very nice, and sometimes they even have different shapes, such as Christmas light bulbs.  (I tried the different shapes, and they were okay.  Overall, I prefer the round ones.)   These ornament go very fast in some areas, so if you want them get them early.
I used the cheapest bottle of hairspray I could find.  You need to pour it in the ornaments, so it just needs a screw top lid.
I bought Martha Stewart glitter in her massive pack.  (there are always 50% off coupons for some of the craft stores - don't pay full price.)  Warning, her little bottles only cover a few ornaments, so if you need to do a lot of one color, you may just want a big bottle of glitter in that color.  Any brand of glitter is really fine.
I also bought a big lot of baker's twine - I think I found it in the craft store.  Again, always use a 40-50% off coupon.
I had a lot of curling ribbon stashed away in my wrapping paper, so I didn't buy that at all.
All in all, I spent about $1 an ornament, $10 on glitter, maybe $10 on twine, and maybe $2 on hair spray.  If you need the ribbon, it will cost more.  The good news is I have tons of everything left for this year (except the ornaments of course.)

3.  Get organized to craft!  I enlisted two children that liked dumping glitter and swirling it around.  (My youngest was 8 and I am not sure how much "help" a younger child would be,)  Always put down a lot of newspaper.  We are messing with glitter here.  The more newspaper the better.  I used Styrofoam cups in a box to hold each ornament as it dried.  Organize the box with cups, hairspray, and glitter on the table where you will craft.

4.  Pop the little tops off of all the ornaments and store them in a cup or bag until you are finished.

5.  Place one clear ornament in each cup in order to craft faster!

6.  Before you begin glittering, make sure you know how many ornaments of each color you want to make.  Check them off as you go in order to not make the wrong colors.

7.  Now, the trick to doing these ornaments is to be FAST.  You start by pouring the hairspray in the ornament.  (Don't go crazy - you don't need tons of it.)  Slowly twirl the ornament around until you are sure that you have coated all of the inside.  (It is not easy to add glitter if you miss a spot later!)  Be sure to coat the area at the top well.  If you do not get the hairspray everywhere, you will end up with "bald" spots.

8.  Pour excess hair spray back into bottle or into the next ornament.

9.  Quickly dump a lot of glitter into the ornament.  Tap and spin the ornament around until the entire inside is covered.

10.  Again, dump out the extra glitter back into your bottle of glitter.  (This is why it is important to get all of that excess hairspray out - you cannot reuse wet, sticky glitter.)

11.  Turn ornament upside down in its cup to dry.  (They dry fairly quickly.)

12.  Repeat for each ornament.

13.  Put the ornament tops back on.  Let the ornaments get good and dry before you try to put the ornament tops back in.  The tops scratch the sides, and they can easily take the glitter off in inside when you put them back in.

14.  If you use vinyl and have a Silhouette machine or a Cricut, you can cut each person's initial with the machine.  If not, use Sharpies and write it on.  (They will love it either way!)  Be sure to let the sharpie dry - otherwise it can smear.

15.  I sued Sharpies to write the year and my name on the back of the Student ornaments.

16.  Add ribbon to your desire.

17.  Add in yarn for the "attachment."  I used baker's twine, but your could use string or yarn.


Were these quite a bit of work?  Yes.  Were they very expensive?  No, but if you are on a tight budget it may be more than you want to spend, especially if you have to buy everything new,  (I already had a lot of craft items - and then I bought stuff at clearance prices for this year after the holidays.  It will be even cheaper for me to make them this year!)
The look on each student's face?  Priceless.

Holy cow! Can you believe that we are already in November?  This school year is flying by!

Are you looking for some terrific resources?  The Lesson Deli is sponsoring weekly linkys.  This week we are featuring fall-themed products.

My school does not really celebrate Halloween, so I like to plan ahead for Thanksgiving.  November goes by so quickly with the holidays.  (It really feels fast because we always take a field trip on Halloween!)  My students always get a little crazy Thanksgiving week, as we only have 2-3 school days.  (3 this year, <sniff>)

Thanksgiving is truly my favorite holiday.  There are so many awesome ways to make learning fun with Thanksgiving themes!  Last year, I had an all popcorn theme.  This year I decided to expand a little more.  I have a lesson for every subject area!  I am so excited. 

Let me show you a few of my lessons (and there is even a freebie at the end!) All of these are aimed at 4-6 grades, although some are also suitable for 3rd.

In Florida, we are having all new testing this year - and the rigor has been raised.  My students are really struggling with math, so I made these task cards.  We have gone over place value, multiplication, and division, so the cards focus on those areas. 
In order to engage all students, I have them choose "math teams."  Each team has 3-4 students, although 3 is definitely better.  I show one question and read it, them I give the teams time to work out the answer.  Once time is called, I ask each team captain to tell me the team's answer.  All teams with the correct answer get a point.

After a few questions, I give the winners tickets (our class reward system) or 3-4 Skittles. It is amazing what kids will do for 3-4 Skittles, trust me.....

I love history - that is definitely my favorite subject, and we really do not have enough time to teach it.  I plan to have students explore Plimoth Plantation online during a center.  The website is free, but the online assessments are hard for me to use as we cannot print.  Instead, I made this webquest that guides students through the website (for the less tech savvy students) and also has students write down what they are learning (for my students that do not want to read anything online.)

I promised a freebie at the end, so here is one of my math activities - Popcorn Volume! This activity teaches students the connection between dimension and volume.  My 9 year old did this with my 92 year old grandpa, and even my grandpa expected the volume to be the same.  NOPE!  (Warning: this activity is terrific, but it does take quite a while to finish.)  

If you would like to see my other fall activities, please visit my TPT store.

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