A Gift for You, The 2012 Winter Holidays Tips and Freebies Ebook!


Happy Holidays! This free ebook was created as a gift from TpT sellers to TpT buyers. Fifty other TpT sellers have joined me in this collaborative effort. Each of us had contributed a page to the book and each page features a holiday teaching tip and links to one or two holiday freebies! It is our hope that you will find many wonderful ideas to use with your students. This is the grade 3-6 edition, but you can also find editions for the other grades here:
Grades PrK-K Grades 1-2 Grades 7-12
Happy Teaching!


Freebies for Christmas and Hanukkah!

Freebies for Christmas and Hanukkah

Over the years, I have produced a dozen or so freebies for Christmas and Hanukkah. Of those, these six are my favorites.

Summarize it! Task Cards for Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa
I made this set of task cards this year as my holiday gift to all of you who read Minds in Bloom and frequent TpT. You can read more about the set here. One reason I really like them is that they represent all three holidays and teach a bit about each one. I chose to make summary cards because summarizing is such a difficult skill to master and so I thought some extra practice would be a good thing.

Hanukkah Match and Word Search
I am not usually a big fan of word searches (because I feel they are low on teaching value for the time they take to complete), but what I think redeems this one is that it begins with a matching activity to help your students learn more about Hanukkah. It would be a good activity to do once your students have already learned about the holiday (which by the way, comes early this year!)




Christmas and Hanukkah Tic-Tac-Toe Journal Prompts
I love Tic-Tac-Toe choice grids because, if done correctly, they can really challenge students while still allowing them some say in the activity they complete. You could use these ones each for a week, allowing student to choose three of the prompts (in a row, of course) to write on. They would also make great homework assignments.





Christmas Would You Rather Questions
Would you rather questions are always a hit with kids. Try a few - you're class will beg for more! I like to use them whenever we have a few spare moments, but they also make great writing prompts. Another fun thing to do is to send them home with students to share with their families during the holiday break.





The Twelve Days of Christmas Word Problems
I originally wrote these 12 challenging word problems for a class of gifted third graders. They were so popular that I used them every year after  Students love the humorous problems and enjoy the final bonus challenge. Answer key is included, of course.



Elf Hunt
This one is for the little guys and it is so much fun! Just cut out the elves and hide them around your classroom. Students record where they find the elves on the included answer sheet. There is also more basic answer sheet for younger students that does not require writing. This would make a good introduction to prepositions.





I hope you can use some (or all) of these freebies. There are few more to be found in my TpT storeBe sure and visit the Holiday Link Up at Laura Candler's Corkboard Connections for more great freebies and ideas!

Big Cyber Monday (and Tuesday) Sale on TpT!

Teacher's Pay Teachers is having one of their absolutely amazing site-wide sales this Monday and Tuesday! Everything in my store, along with many others, will be marked down 20% . If you use the promo code: CMT12 code at check out, you will get another 10% off of everything in your cart! 


Now is a great time to stock up on Task Cards. If you would like to see a catalog of my cards, listed in alphabetical order by subject in a spreadsheet format, please check out this google doc. The links are on in the document, so it is easy to find what you need!


I haven't done a catalog for my other products yet, so the best way to find them is to visit my store


My Thanksgiving Wish for You: Be a Pearl



I got this little plaque on a recent trip to Cannon Beach, Oregon (and if you want one you can get it here). It occurs to me that in many ways parents and teachers are the ultimate oysters...dedicating the majority of our lives to raising our little pearls, which is not a bad thing at all. But always being the oyster can be exhausting and often thankless. So as we head into yet another holiday season, my wish for you is to be the pearl...just for awhile. Carve out a little time for yourself when no one needs you for anything and do whatever brings your heart joy. If someone asks you to make dinner or help with homework, just tell them to wait a little while - you are busy being a pearl. There is plenty of time to be the oyster.

BTW, the words in the corner that are too tiny to read says: that wisdom which comes from being counted worthy of receiving. 

Giving Thanks to Teachers Giveaway Day 5

I have teamed up with the always amazing Charity Preston of The Organized Classroom Blog and seven other great bloggers to bring you this terrific opportunity to win a great prize! There is a freebie too, so please check it out!


FREE Summarizing Task Cards for Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa



I know, I know, it isn't even Thanksgiving and here I am talking about the holiday season already. But I wanted to post about this set of free Winter Holiday Summarizing Task Cards now because I am really excited about them and also so that you can download them now and have them printed, cut, and laminated to use when you get back from the break.

I made this set of task cards free as a kind of holiday gift because I so very much appreciate all of you and the amazing work you do. I chose to do summarizing because:
  • Summarizing is an important and challenging skill.
  • Summarizing shows up in several Common Core Standards.
  • I could use both informational text and fictional paragraphs (there are ten of each).
  • My previous set of Summarize It! Task Cards is one of my best sellers. 
At first, I was just going to do Christmas. Then I thought I would throw in some Hanukkah ones too. Then my fabulous facebook followers said that I really should include Kwanzaa as well. Sooooo....I did!

The set has ten Christmas cards, because let's face it, Christmas is the big holiday that most people celebrate, five Hanukkah cards, and five Kwanzaa cards. Because each card features a different paragraphs, students are actually learning about each of these three holidays. The cards focus on culture and tradition, not religion, so they are public school safe. 

Here is the first page, so you can see for yourself (or just download them...they are free!)


The challenge of these cards is to summarize the paragraph in just  twelve words. The word limit accomplishes two important objectives. First, it keeps kids from basically just rewriting the whole paragraph, which is what often happens with summaries. Second, kids love the challenge. They really have to look at what is important and what isn't and think carefully about their word choice and sentence structure. 

If you have never used task cards before, now is a great time to give them a try. Most teachers use them at a center, but they can also be used in class games such as Quiz, Quiz, Trade and Scoot. If you would like more information on how to use task cards, please visit Totally Task Cards, where you will find plenty of ideas and more freebies!

Happy Holidays (early),


Freebie Fridays

Teachers for Teresa - Great Products for a Great Cause

This post was created by one of my TpT colleagues, Cynthia Vautrot of 2nd Grade Pad. Please read to find out how you can get some amazing teaching resources (including one of mine) and help out a  fellow teacher in serious medical need. 


I’m sure it is rare if there is anyone out there reading this post who has not heard of Teachers Pay Teachers, better known as TPT.  Not only is it a great site for teachers to share their wonderful teaching ideas, it is also a place of true heartfelt kinship with other teachers and many of the teachers form virtual bonds with each other in friendship.  This is one of those times.

One of my best friends, 2nd grade teaching buddy, fellow blogger and TPTer is in CCU in Atlanta with critical medical issues. 

I asked for all of my wonderful friends on TPT to help pray for her.  Prayers have been sent up for Teresa from all over the world.  I truly believe that prayer can bring about miracles and Teresa is certainly in need of prayers.

These very wonderful and special teachers then began asking, "What can we do to help?"  Out of their love and concern came


Teresa has pulmonary hypertension and is experiencing complications. She loves teaching and has a wonderful sense of humor that keeps us all smiling. The most important thing we can all do for her, is to offer prayers on her behalf. Financially, you can help by purchasing one of the below packages. All of these items have been donated by her fellow TPT colleagues who wish to help across the world.

Unauthorized Thanks to Teachers from Ignorant People


Ignorant: Lacking in education or knowledge. Unaware or uninformed.
                       -American Heritage Dictionary

A few weeks ago I asked my Facebook followers if they would advise a young person considering a career in teaching to forge ahead or take a different path. Almost all of them said to avoid teaching. Many said that they LOVE teaching, but that they get to do so little of it these days with all of the red-tape, standardized testing, and requirements that it is not worth it anymore. Add to that the low pay, continually decreasing benefits, and lack of respect and it really does get depressing.

So, in this month of thanks, although I am completely unauthorized to do so, I offer these words of thanks from ignorant people who would surely thank you themselves if they had even the smallest inkling of what you do for their children, families, and country:

From the ignorant parent:
Thank you so much for your amazing dedication to my child. Thank you for taking my calls and maintaining a polite demeanor  even when I call you several times a week, in the evening, on your home phone. Thank you for promptly and patiently answering my long and often rude emails. Thank you for listening to my concerns and meeting my needs to the best of your abilities. Thank you for politely declining my suggestions when they are not actually in the best interest of my child or her classmates. Thank you for taking extra time with my child, even when he is part of a class of 36 other students. Thank you for doing so much more than the "babysitting" that I tell all of my friends you are doing. Thank you for spending your evenings and weekends grading papers, planning lessons, and creating materials for my child. Thank you for spending your money on  classroom supplies that I should be providing. Thank you so very much for dedicating the better part of nine months of your life to my child.

From the ignorant administrator:
Thank you for continuing to take on more and more unpaid responsibilities that I continue to heap on your shoulders. Thank you for filling out all of my paperwork, meeting all of my requirements (even the stupid ones), and attending a plethora of endless and often useless staff meetings. Thank you for dealing with my surprise visits to your classroom. Thank you for submitting detailed, common core aligned lesson plans each week. Thank you for finding creative ways to deal with the extremely limited number of copies I allow you to make and resources that I provide. Thank you for continuing to treat me politely when what you really want to say to me would not be at all pleasant. Thank you for persevering in this negative environment, which I have had a major hand in creating, so that your students thrive and our school gets good test results.

From the ignorant politician:
Even though I myself have never taught in a classroom, thank you for implementing all of my policies, regulations, and tests, that in most cases, do not accomplish the goal for which they were created, and in fact waste your extremely valuable time. Thank you for forgoing field trips,eliminating recess, and dropping most of the fun, creative, and inspiring parts of your curriculum so that you can spend that time prepping your students for the standardized tests I am requiring them to take each and every year. Thank you for continuing to teach to the best of your ability, despite the fact that I have lowered your pay and cut your benefits.

From the ignorant tax payer:
Thank you for giving our nation's children the skills they will need to thrive in our ever-changing world. Thank you for continuing to work in conditions that are less than optimal and sometimes downright dangerous. Even though I have demonized your profession and blame you (rather than poverty, abusive and neglectful parents, inner city gangs etc.) when children fail in school, I still appreciate that you are working to find new approaches and learn new strategies to help these children succeed. Thanks also for all of the things you teach our children that are not part of the academic curriculum such as accountability, perseverance, compassion, and citizenship. I appreciate that your influence has helped many at-risk young people to turn their lives around and become productive members of our society.

I want to wrap this post up by saying that I realize that I have written in broad generalizations that are obviously not true in every case. I also realize that some people may find this post offensive. But at this point, I am so appalled with the way that teachers are treated and regarded that I really don't care. It should also be noted, that I myself am not currently teaching. Quite frankly, I don't have it in me to teach in today's climate. I deeply admire those who do. 

Easy Task Card Storage without the Laminating



Don't have the time, energy, or money to laminate the task cards you just purchased? Try using a small photo album for 4x6 pictures. I got this one at our local drug store for $1.99. But I also saw this one on Amazon that hold 36 cards for just $1.29!

It is possible that some task cards will be too large but the ones I create fit perfectly. The little albums are easy to store and you don't have to worry about losing any of the cards. Your students can just flip through the book to complete the cards. Easy Peasy!



You can find this set of Elapsed Time Task Cards and over a hundred more sets for a variety of topics  in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store

I would love to know how you store your task cards. If you have a picture, please send it to reallyrachel@gmail.com. If I use it in a blog post, I will compensate your with products from my store!

Thanksgiving Books to Read Out Loud


Once again I asked my Facebook followers for their favorite Thanksgiving books. Of course, they had some terrific suggestions. Old favorites as well as some I am not familiar with. You can click on any title or image to be taken to Amazon for more details. 

A Turkey for Thanksgiving by Eve Bunting
I use it with a turkey-shaped graphic organizer outlining the story elements that the students use to form a summary. It's a cute story about how some forest animals host Thanksgiving dinner but they forgot to invite Turkey. So they go out looking for him, but Turkey doesn't want to be found because he is sure he will BE dinner.
-Sandra Leiser

A Turkey for Thanksgiving because it's so cute. The turkey thinks he's for dinner when actually he is just the guest. Super funny. After we read the book I give them turkeys to disguise so no one eats them.
-Maria Reierstad


How Many Days to America?: A Thanksgiving Story by Eve Bunting

It's about immigrants coming to America and they arrive here on Thanksgiving day. Many of my students can relate to the people in the story through their own experience or that of their parents.
-Liz Myers Marne

Our school has many families that were forced out of their home country, or they left to find a better life. I like to read it in my upper level classrooms. The stories shared are so touching and the other children who were not aware of the hardships seem to look at others in a new light. My other favorite is Molly's Pilgrim.

Thank You, Sarah by Laura Halse Anderson
Provides a history of how Thanksgiving became the holiday we know today.
-Michelle Capehart 

I like Thank You Sarah because it's history and clever. I get chills when I read it to my first graders.
-Rachel Cooper Ferguson

-Betsy Lutz Brown
Thanksgiving at the Tappletons' (reillustrated edition) by Eileen Spinelli
I like Thanksgiving at the Tappleton's because it uses humor to show the stress that families go through when preparing the big meal. In the end it teaches us that it is not just about the food, but being thankful for family and being together. I also make my class come up with how they will help their family prepare for Thanksgiving because the story talks about how each family member had a special job. Great way to get them writing.
-Michelle Marcotte Lavoie

I love this story!!! I use it for sequencing!!! Then I have them write about their favorite Thanksgiving dish that their family makes!!! 
-Jill Anderson Danklefs

Turk and Runt: A Thanksgiving Comedy by Lisa Wheeler
We love reading this story because 1) it shows that even a small turkey can have something important to say; and 2) because there are so many fun extension activities you can do with the funny characters and turkey costumes.
-Angie Oliverson

'Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving (Bookshelf) by Dav Pilkey
because the little potbellied turkeys are adorable. And because the text rhymes kids can make some pretty good predictions for word choice. Make sure to check out the author's website for fun backstory.
-Angie Oliverson


Sometimes It's Turkey, Sometimes It's Feathers by Lorna Balian
It's a feel good story and the kids never seem to suspect how it's going to end!
-Jane Anderson Thoms


I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie (Picture Puffins) by Alison Jackson
it's a play on the traditional old lady who swallowed a fly using all the traditional Thanksgiving food, but in the end when the old lady is enormous....she becomes a balloon in the Macy's Parade!
-Melissa Beebe Riggs





Eating the Plates: A Pilgrim Book of Food and Manners by Lucille Recht Penner
Eating The Plates. History written for children to understand. My 3rd graders always love it.
-Mary B. Bass Hines


Molly's Pilgrim by Barbara Cohen
I love Molly's Pilgrim by Barbara Cohen. It's about a young Jewish girl who emigrates from Russia and her mom tells her about the meaning of pilgrims.
-Laural Doyle Jenkins




The Can-Do Thanksgiving by Nancy Cote
I always start with Can-do Thanksgiving. It is about a first grade class canned food drive. One student puts a note on her can to try and find out where it goes. When a soup kitchen calls they volunteer to serve Thanksgiving dinner where she meets a boy a lot like her and they save the day together. Good moral message and kicks off our canned food drive.
-Lori Byerley Rose

Sarah Morton's Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Girl by Kate Waters
I love the book Sarah Morton's Day. The illustrations are pictures taken of re-enactors at Plymouth Plantation. We compare & contrast her life to theirs. There are 3 others in the series-im not sure on the names but i think they are Samuel Eaton's Day, Tapenum's Day, & The First Thanksgiving. The kids love them.
-Robin Runnnels Muse

Oh, What a Thanksgiving! by Steven Kroll
Good, simple compare and contrast of the Pilgrim's Thanksgiving and modern day celebrations Oh, What a Thanksgiving! by Steven Kroll and S. D. Schindler (Nov 1991)
-Kristi Falcone

Out Of The Dust by Karen Hesse
I like to use Out of the Dust. It's a gr 5/6 book about the Dust Bowl told in poems. It's great for lots of things like point of view, inference etc but the last (or nearly the last) poem is a Thanksgiving poem that the girl writes about what she is Thankful for. I have the children write their own poem and if they read it aloud on Thanksgiving Day for their family they get extra credit.
-Sue Boyce-Cormier


Let's Throw a Thanksgiving Party! (Holiday Parties) by Rachel Lynette

Yep, I wrote this one. It is part of a series on holidays. Not a great read-aloud, but it would make a nice addition to a primary class library.


Do you have another favorite to add? Please comment!






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