Monday, December 26, 2016


  1. Turn off the alarm and sleep in!
  2. Have a pajama day!  Those aren’t just for students you know.  You can even spend the day in pajamas without watching the Polar Express!
  3. Remove the glitter still lingering from all the classroom Christmas crafts.  It’s kind of like Christmas tree needles.  Long after the projects are gone, you’re still finding glitter.
  4. Find a place to store this year’s “Best Teacher” ornaments and coffee mugs!  You can never have too many, or can you?  Hmm…
  5. Sit down and eat your lunch.  You can take as long as you’d like!
  6. Read a book without thinking about what standards you can teach with it.
  7. Shop the after Christmas sales and end up buying things for your classroom instead of a new outfit.
  8. Spend some special time with your own children.  It’s easier to appreciate the time with them when there aren’t 20 other kiddos to think about!
  9. Smile!  You know parents are now appreciating you more than ever!  After a few days of being home with their children, they are realizing you were right all along.
  10. Try to convince yourself that you don’t enjoy sleeping in and having lazy days!
Then, realize that there is a part of you that misses your students’ warm hugs and smiling faces.  After all, who else could possibly work as hard as you and love them as much as you do?  With that realization, you are ready to get back to your classroom, but before you go to bed on that last day of Winter Break, you’ll note how many days of school there are until Spring Break.  Not because you’re counting down or anything!

                                                            Loving Our Learning

Monday, December 19, 2016

Sock Snowman: The Perfect Parent Gift Idea

If you are in search of the perfect Christmas or wintertime craft to do with your class...then look no further.  Sock snowmen are super easy to make and have proven to be a big hit with students and parents alike, year after year.  Seriously, whoever came up with this idea is a genius!

Step one:

Step two:

Step three:

Step four:

Step five:

This is where the fun begins! I like to glue a pompom to the top of the hat to create a tassel.   An idea to create the carrot nose, is to color a toothpick orange then stick it right through the sock.  Then we used a black sharpie to draw on pieces of coal for the mouth. Don't forget fabric scraps or strips of felt for the scarf.  

The best part for me, is to watch my students use their imaginations to bring their sock snowmen to life.  As a result, each snowman becomes just as unique as the child who created it.  

An added bonus to this project, is that you can easily tie in content area standards such as measurement.  Your students could also write an informational piece explaining "How To" build a sock snowman, or create a narrative piece describing an adventure their sock snowman went on.  

Each year, I look forward to this craft.  It's a great opportunity to include parent volunteers (highly recommended), and to take a break from the rigor and assessment that has become our norm.  

This is such a quick and easy activity that your students and parents will rave about for years to come!  

Snips, Snails, & Teacher Tales

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Refreshing Your Classroom

There are times during the school year I glance up from my table and realize, we need some reminders on rituals and routines in our classroom. We need organizing. We need some extra love in our classroom. The center bins are disorganized and Im pretty sure half my class forgot how to transition from word work to their seats. During the holiday season I use this time to refresh my classroom. So while I am working on crafts and gifts for our parents, I review these important things in my classroom. We come back from New Years fresh and ready to go. Here are 3 items that are on my refresh list this year:

1 - Routines and Transitions -  The phrase...“I’m Done!” It has started making its way back into my student’s vocabulary. We need a new lesson on things we can do when we think we are done. I use seat sack books and word work centers to help my students stay on task when they complete their work. These routines were started from the first day of school. My students use a rotating chart to determine what they can do when finishing their work. This gives me time to finish the small group I am with and check in on the students while they are working. Just one quick refresher lesson will do the trick with getting us back on track!                                                                                                     

2 - Behavior Expectations - This is a refresher really for me. I am going to spend the week giving more praise for positive behaviors. “Wow, look how Christopher is working so hard in his center. Great job!” “I love how Lucas is walking in line” It won’t take long for the others to catch on how much I am loving those positive behaviors. Their busy bodies are excited... and mine too... for our break from school. During these exciting and busy times of the year I use our class goal jar a lot more than normal. Every time I notice most of the class on task or making good choices I will add a star to the jar. Once we earn all the stars we celebrate. The best celebrations are no shoes for the day and bring a stuffed animal to school - because they are fun and FREE! If I do a better job praising them for the positive behaviors then all the focus is off all the other stuff. Stars in the jar this week! 

3 - Book Baskets - Oh boy. This is a job for the kids! My book baskets are all kinds of crazy right now. We even had a week of lessons on how to use our classroom library and taking care of our things. Time to take those lessons back out and refresh the classroom library. Students also love to help get everything back in its place and they feel a sense of ownership when they are apart of the cleaning up process.

We work so hard to teach all these rituals and routines with our students at the start of the year. Use the seasonal breaks as a time to restart those important routines. What things do you refresh in your classroom around this time of year? Would love to hear your ideas and suggestions. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Dear Class, There Will Not Be An Elf In Our Classroom

No elf in your classroom? I know, you are probably thinking what on earth is wrong with this teacher? She is just as bad as the GRINCH. But no, I do not have an elf in my classroom. I never have. I probably never will. I just can't. I do LOVE Christmas and ALL of its MAGIC and WONDER. But for me, having an elf is something that I want to leave up to parents. As a Mom, I could never forgive myself if somehow I managed to say or do something that stole the wonder and magic or put doubt into one of my student's minds. They do ask me, will we have an elf in our classroom? They ask because they have one at home or Mrs. Smith's Kindergarten class down the hall has one. But, I simply look at them and say; I'm sorry, we will not have an elf in our classroom this year. The elf stories are great. I love hearing about them from my students. Those elves are funny and very clever. Some of those photos (oh my word) are a priceless! The whole elf thing is a VERY fun thing home. For me as teacher, it seems all consuming just managing my 19 students, let alone an elf TOO! Moving it each day. Thinking of different scenarios to put the elf in. Making the time to move it. Remembering to do it. Not touching it.  Making sure all the students do not touch it. These thoughts alone give me anxiety! But, I can not tell my students ALL of that. So they ask, why not Mrs. Harrington? Why do we not have an elf in OUR classroom? So, I have to tell them SOMETHING. And I might have to tell them it is because of a little girl in Texas. I might have to tell them she needed the elf more. I might have to tell them I got a letter from Santa:
Well, it's true. I do love boys and girls as much as Santa does. Heck, I love Santa just as much as boys and girls do. So of course, I would want to help him out. And so...I just might. And well, that might just be why - there will not be an elf in our classroom. 

(Teachers: Feel free to use this letter if you struggle with the whole elf thing like me.)
And if you do have an elf in your classroom, enjoy the magic and the wonder those little elves bring.

Monday, November 28, 2016

6 Tips for Surviving Classroom Holidays

The holidays are in the air. Sure it is a time for kindness, family, and celebrations. However as a classroom teacher you know (and sometimes dread) that last week before a holiday break.  Just face it, the kiddos seem to loose their minds over night.  If you have seen this happen in your classroom, then this post is perfect for you.  Below I will share 6 tried and true tips to help you navigate that last week (and perhaps the weeks leading up) to a holiday break:

Tip 1: Keep your students busy with engaging time on task.  Make sure you have a several no-prep holiday learning games and activities on hand.  With all the excitement blooming around the students outside of school, why not bring it inside the classroom also.  keep in mind that you don't want the activities to just be "fluff".  They should be engaging review lessons (and possible new skills) that the kiddos can complete independently or with a partner.  This can even be done by playing games like Scoot, Quiz Quiz Trade, or Mix Pair Share but changing your normal classroom music to holiday songs.  A super fun activity to do that can reinforce shapes and bigger than/less than is to give each kiddo a piece of large construction paper and create a snowman.  All you need is shaving cream, Elmer glue, and glitter. Kiddos have to draw circles on their paper that are in order from bigger to smaller. Then they paint their circles and create a snowman.

Tip 2: Try to stick to your normal routines and schedules as best as possible.  Even with all the extra excitement going on the littles need their routines to be successful.  Also, upon coming back from a holiday break, you should take the first one to two weeks reviewing all of your classroom procedures and routines before diving right back in.

Tip 3: IF you do a gift exchange with your class, try doing one with books only.  Send a short and sweet letter home to parents asking everyone to bring in a new book that is $5.00 or less in value.  They should bring the book in wrapped with a label.  On the label, instruct the parents to leave the "To:" part blank and to allow their child to write his or her name in the "From:" space.  On one of the last days before break gather all the kiddos around your carpet area and play a little white elephant gift exchange game.  Each kiddo choose a gift (one at a time) and unwraps it. I always do a boy group and a girl group.  We all watch and admire the new books that we each get to take home. Its also a great idea to get your husband, dad, brother-in-law, or someone (that has had all the proper background checks required) to come in and play Santa.  Let Santa read a book to your class and hand out those small candy canes.

Tip 4: Give your class a gift.  I always give my class a book to take home over break.  I purchase them from the scholastic website for about $1-$2 a piece around mid November to ensure that they arrive on time.  Inside the cover of each book I write a sweet personalized note. Then I wrap each book so they each can open a present from me that will encourage them to read over the break.

Tip 5: One of my favorite events is my Polar Express P.J. Day.  I am not going to lie, this takes some prepping so if you are looking for last minute ideas it may/may not work for you.  First, I buy bell necklaces for each child in my class.  I put them inside a small box that is also filled with iridescent packing paper. I use a water bottle to lightly spray each bell with water. Then I wrap the box in brown parchment paper, attach a huge red bow on top, and then write our school address and Santa's North Pole address in the appropriate spots on the box. About 2 weeks before I plan on giving the students the fake package from Santa, I take the box into our cafeteria. I take it to the deep, deep freezer and leave it there. (You may need to get permission from your cafeteria manager to do that part.) Then I prearrange for someone in the office to bring the box from the freezer to my classroom at a certain day and time.  I send a note home for all of the kiddos to wear their P.J.'s to school on the day that I prearranged with the office to deliver our package.  We start the day by making hot chocolate. (Super easy way is to pour a gallon of chocolate milk into a crock pot first thing in the morning. Turn it on high and it will be ready in 2 hours.) I then read them the Polar express and make sure that I finish the story by the prearranged time that I had set with the office.  As soon as the story ends, in walks one of our lovely secretaries holding this FREEZING box from the cafeteria. The students eyes get so big as I make such a huge deal over how cold it is. Then we slowly read the address, predict where it came from and what we think is inside, and then open the package.  Each kiddo then gets a small bell necklace that has frozen crystals on it (from the water I sprayed 2 weeks ago) from Santa. This activity goes miles on getting them to behave and listen! Then of course we enjoy our hot chocolate.

Tip 6: Last but not least, engage your kiddos in a countdown to the holidays. This can be done with daily minute to win it games, creating a chain link count down, using a different random act of kindness a day, or by having them earn a special something each day.  For example, the last week before break I always give each kiddo a book (from above) but I also give them a little goody bag full of treats like a pencil, erasers, tatoos, etc.  Eventually I got smart and thought, why not make them earn the gifts.  Every year I purchase a holiday goodie bag of some sort, whether it be regular themed bags, small red stockings, or even Santa hats. Then I purchase five different class sets of small prizes from the dollar spot at Walmart, Target, or Dollar Tree. Everyday I show the kiddos the treat and tell them that they have to earn it throughout the day by following classroom rules and procedures and being kind to one another. Then at the end of the day I give each student the small trinket that they earned to place in their bag.  By the end of the week they all have a goody bag filled with gifts from me.

Well, I hope you received a few good tips from this post and are able to use them in your class this year.  Oh, by the way, TpT is having their HUGE Cyber Sale this week.  All of our stores will be %20 off during this event!
Happy holidays and Merry Christmas everyone!!!

Monday, November 21, 2016

November TPT Sand Dollars Giveaway

November is a time to be thankful. Your friends at Planning in Paradise appreciate you and want to prove it with this offer!

We are also thankful that it is time to host our Quarterly TPT Sand Dollar Giveaway.

This time we are giving away a $25 TPT gift card. Enter the 
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Happy Thanksgiving!

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