FREE New Years Reflection Printable

Great for the first day back! Just click on the image to download yours.




Making New Years Resolutions with Kids

Every New Years I resolve to be perfect. It must not be a very good resolution because I usually fail pretty quickly. Some years it only takes a few minutes. Obviously, making your goals attainable is a big step in the right direction for both children and adults. Learning to set effective goals is an important skill for children to use, not only when they are young but throughout their entire lives. Here are some tips for writing goals and resolutions with kids.

Ownership
As parents and teachers, we have many goals for our kids. However, in order to be successful, the resolution must belong to the child, not the parent or the teacher. A resolution that is generated by the adult and unwanted by the child is not a resolution at all, it is just another teacher or parent command. Suggestions are fine, of course, but there is much more empowerment when the child comes up with the resolution him or herself and when he or she is fully invested in the process and the outcome.

Attainability
Whatever the resolution, unlike my goal to be perfect, it should be attainable. The flip side of attainability is challenge. The goal must not be too easy or there is not much point. Try for a goal that is both challenging and attainable.

Be Specific
Another problem with my resolution to be perfect is that it is a bit unclear as to exactly it means to be perfect. Help your child to refine his or her resolution into a specific goal. Here are some examples:
  • Instead of: I will be more polite, try I will remember to say "please" and "thank you."
  • Instead of: I will keep my room neat, try I will make my bed and pick up my clothes and toys each day. 
  • Instead of: I will get better at playing the piano, try I will practice for one hour each day.
Make a Plan
Brainstorm some ideas for success. For example, if the goal is to pick up clothes and toys each evening, perhaps a reminder sign on the door is in order, or a chart for marking the tasks off each evening. If the resolution is a big one, you may want to make a list of steps to follow. 

Celebrate Success
Be sure there are markers for success. Some resolutions are easy to measure. For example, if your daughter has resolved to stop biting her nails, longer, unbitten nails are proof of success. You might consider a new bottle of nail polish or a manicure to celebrate. If the goal is more long term or ongoing, such as practicing piano, it is likely the hard work will pay off without you doing anything, for example, the piano teacher may comment on improvement or offer a larger part in the recital. However, a little extra encouragement is always a good thing! Perhaps going out for ice cream after a piano lesson would be a nice way to celebrate.

Here is a free goal-setting worksheet I have used with my students. It includes space for students to make three types of goals: academic, behavioral/ social, and personal. Feel free to download it and use it with your kids!

Make a Dreidel out of a CD!


So, maybe in the old days kids made dreidels out of clay (I think there's a song about that...) but not only is that difficult and expensive (a kiln isn't cheap), it would likely result in a dreidel that would break very quickly. Here is a more modern way to make this traditional Hanukkah toy.

You will need:
  • 1 old CD or DVD
  • Sharpies or other permanent markers
  • A ruler
  • 2 regular-sized marbles
  • tack-it putty (usually comes in blue or white, for hanging posters) or a hot glue gun.
Begin by using your ruler and a Sharpie to draw two perpendicular lines across the top bottom of the CD (which will be the top of your dreidel) in order to form four equal quadrants. I'm sure you could get them absolutely perfect if you used a protractor, but I just eye-balled it with a ruler. 

Next use your Sharpies to color the quadrants (optional) and to write the four Hebrew letters: 


Now comes the part with the marbles. Place one marble in the hole on the bottom side of your dredeil (the part you did not write on). It will not fit through the hole; most of the marble will stick out the bottom. Use tack-it or hot glue to secure the marble in place. Then place a second marble on top of the first one on the top of the dreidel. This marble will the be the handle that you spin. Secure with tack-it or hot glue.

That's it, our dreidel is done! You will find that this is a very efficient top that will spin for quite awhile. If you find that yours always lands on the same letter, you may have to use a bit of tack-it to weight the the bottom of the other side slightly. You could also glam it up with glitter, sequins etc.

Don't know how to play dreidel? Click here for the rules.

Dreidel Fun Fact: One reason that people play dreidel on Hanukkah is that under Greek Rule, Jews were not allowed to study from the Torah. In order to keep from getting caught studying, Jews would post a look-out and whenever a Greek soldier came to check on them, they would take out the dreidel so that it looked as though they were gambling, instead of learning.

Christmas and Hanukkah Activities



Just in case you missed them, here are some fun and free Christmas (and Hanukkah) activities to use with your students. 

Christmas Would You Rather Questions for Kids

Christmas Analogy Fun

Christmas Break Scavenger Hunt

Twelve Days of Christmas Math Word Problems

Christmas Tic-Tac-Toe Journal Prompt Grid

Elf Hunt

Hanukkah Vocabulary Matching and Word Search

Menorah Logic Puzzle

How Many Latkes? Logic Puzzle

And of course the giant TpT Winter Holiday Tips and Freebies Ebook!, which you really, don't want to miss!

Pinterest Tip #1

Easy and Beautiful Waxed Snowflakes

Dipping ordinary paper snowflakes in wax will not only give them a subtle sheen, but will also make them durable enough to be used year after year. In addition, it makes them somewhat waterproof so that they will not be ruined by condensation if you put them on a window.

After you have cut your snowflakes (here are some excellent directions on how to make the really cool 6-sided ones), slowly heat household wax in a frying pan or a plug-in warming tray over low heat. Use an old pan that you can dedicate to melting wax, because after this, that is about all it will be good for. Once the wax has melted, lay the snowflake in the wax.


As soon as it is covered, use a tweezers or metal tongs to lift the snowflake out of the wax. Hold it over the pan and shake it gently for a few seconds until the wax stops dripping and is mostly dry. After about 15 seconds, you should be able to put it onto a plate and it can be handled within a minute.



That's it! Of course if you are working with children in a classroom setting you will need to be extra careful, but I first learned how to do this in a kindergarten classroom. The teacher used a warming tray and the children knew they had to stay away. You can do dozens of snowflakes with a single block of wax.

10 Ways to Compare and Contrast

Comparing and contrasting is a higher level thinking skill important across the curriculum. We compare and contrast characters in a story, word choice in writing, equations in math (think < > =, not to mention word problems ), different hypothesis in science, how holidays are celebrated in different cultures, etc. That is probably why comparing and contrasting shows up multiple times in the Common Core Standards. Here are some ideas for comparing and contrasting in your class.

  1. Venn Diagrams. In addition to using them on paper, you can make big ones on the floor with hula hoops and have kids use labeled index cards or Post Its to fill in the variables. 

  2. Analogies are great because you can use different criteria and then talk about which criteria was used. For example the analogy:  Mountain: Hill : : River : Stream is defined by size while:  December : Christmas : : February : Valentine's Day is defined by time. Here is a free Analogy Worksheet.

  3. Similes and Metaphors Like Analogies, students can identify what the criteria is for the comparison. Similes may be easier for younger students because the words "like" and "as" pretty much tell you what the criteria is, while you often have to work a little harder with a metaphor. 

  4. Would You Rather Questions present a forced choice between two more or less equal options, which can lead to some terrific discussions. Read more about using Would You Rather Questions with your students here.

  5. Class Polls, Bar Graphs, and Glyphs  Good way compare and contrast student's experiences, opinions, traits etc.

  6. Foldables can be used in so many ways for comparing and contrasting! Here are instructions on how to make some of the most common foldables.

  7. Rating and Ranking There are so many ways to use this. Students can use numbers to rank brainstormed ideas. They can use a rating scale to evaluate their own work, peer presentations, the usefulness of a particular lesson etc. 

  8. Comparisons over Time Everyone loves to see improvement. Having students complete a variety of tasks at the start of the year and then doing the same ones at the end is a wonderful way to compare then and now. Do this on a smaller scale with a pretest and post test for any unit of study.

  9. T-Charts Simple, basic, effective and applicable to so many things. You can put a variable on each side of the chart (eg "Conductor" and "Insulator") or you could put the words "Same" and "Different" on each side and put a the things to be compared at the top (eg: "Mammals" and "Reptiles").

  10. Written Essay No one should leave school without being able to write a solid, well-organized compare and contrast essay, complete with examples from life or literature. They will need these skills for the essay portion of the SAT. 
Looking for more compare and contrast practice? Try these Task Cards!


Do you have a tool that has been particularly valuable? Please share!

Teaching Resources

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