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How to Make a Teacher Toolbox

I recently jumped on the Teacher Toolbox train, and am THRILLED about it!

I'm trying to take advantage of these stress-free summer days by thinking ahead about classroom organization for next year. My desk always ends up so messy (please tell me I'm not the only one!), and I think a lot of my problem is that I hadn't ever taken the time to really think through a specific home for everything. 

You guys, I'm not gonna lie. This project is a dream to do. It took me maybe 15 minutes of hands-on time to put together (seriously) and I felt sooo accomplished. Not too bad for summer, right? ;)

Here are the steps:

1. Look up "Teacher Toolbox" on Pinterest for some organization inspiration.

2. Go to Lowes and buy one of their plastic organizers from the tool section. (I bought this one, but they do have larger options with more drawers available if you really want to go all out.)

3. Head over to the paint section and pick out some spray paint, if you'd like. Make sure it says "bonds to plastic" on the bottle.

4. If you do decide to spray paint, give your drawers a light sanding. I used 220-grit sandpaper and spent about two minutes roughing up the smooth frame of the drawers. (Don't sand the drawers themselves--go ahead and just remove those for this part of the process.)

5. Spend two minutes spray painting. You really should do light, even coats, but I was too excited and did one thick coat. It turned out just fine. : )

6. Leave the spray painted drawer frame in a dry, cool place to gas off for a couple days. THIS is the part you don't want to skimp on--an accidental paint drip here and there doesn't bother me, but paint really does need time to cure before you expose it to any wear and tear. Chipped paint is way worse than accidentally dripped paint. Trust me, you won't regret the wait. 

7. While your drawers are drying/curing/gassing off, print and cut your labels. You can find the ones I used in my store, if you'd like the same look--and the file's editable! You can laminate your labels for extra durability, too.

8. Use a dot of hot glue to attach your drawer labels to the drawers, then put the drawers back in the frame. That's it! 

I hope this is inspiring for you as you're getting ready for the new school year. Do you have any organization projects planned?  I'd love to hear from you!

Happy crafting!

Classroom Decor (And Why It Doesn't Matter)

Isn’t it amazing how many hours of our lives are spent in our classrooms? They truly are our homes away from home, and over the course of a school year, our students become like our second families. With this in mind, I’ve been thinking a lot about my classroom environment in recent weeks. In fact, I just clicked "publish" on a Teachers Pay Teachers classroom décor resource that I'm really excited about and proud of.  

You know what's funny?  I believe the packet I just created is completely unnecessary.  Yes, you read that right: my official advertising message is that you don't need my resourcenot even one little bit.

Let me give a little context. I LOVE interior design, and I have a lot of fun with it at home, but until recently I'd never stopped to consider how to give the same attention to my classroom. I have nothing against ultra-bright rainbow colors (they’re fabulous!), but my personal style is a little more subdued than most of the classroom décor that’s currently on the market. No surface in my home is safe from a coat of gray or navy blue paint. I have succulents EVERYWHERE. I love clean and simple design, and I'm addicted to beautiful typography. As an introvert and a teacher, I need to lower the stimulation in my surroundings, which is why my style preferences lean toward the subtle and neutral.

As I dreamed about my classroom design for next year, I realized I'd love my classroom to reflect the same kind of calm I feel when I’m at home. I also figured that if I decorate my classroom in muted colors, my students will definitely be calm and serene, too. (That sounds like science, right? Ha!) 

This kind of thingplanning out beautiful spacesis really, really fun for me. I see teaching as both a profession and a hobby, and I do some things in my classroom simply because I like them. I believe with conviction that making any effort to care for a space that you share with otherswhether a classroom or a homecommunicates love, and that's something I want to do.

The funny thing is, even though I value creating beautiful spaces, I truly believe that the way you decorate your classroom, teacher friend, doesn't matter. Actually, the fact that you're even reading a post about how to decorate your room in the first place communicates how much you already care as a teacher, and you don't need a cute classroom to prove that.

Should your classroom be functional? Absolutely. Orderly? You bet. If your students don't know where to find a pencil or turn in their work, they won't be able to get quality learning done. So, to an extent, it does matter what your classroom looks like. An orderly and reasonably tidy classroom with clear systems in place will set your students up to be successful, productive, and organized. 

That said, though, if your kids' name tags aren't perfectly coordinated or the alphabet doesn't match your color scheme (or you don't even have a color scheme) or your bookshelves and rug are a random mix of hand-me-downsit doesn't matter. Knowing when to draw the line, let it go, and prioritize is a sign of balance, confidence, and professionalism as a teacher. 

In the era of teaching with Pinterest, letting things go isn't always easy to do. Color schemes and cute matching binder covers and darling student number lines are fun! I'm not at all critical of teachers who spend a lot of time making their classrooms beautiful. What I've noticed, though, is that most of the time the teachers with the best-looking rooms are the ones who have been teaching for quite a while. I bet their classrooms weren't very cute and fun their first few years, and that if you asked them, they would say that they spent that hazy and hectic time figuring out how to run literacy centers or teach writing mini-lessons or identify where in the world all of those millions of papers should go. 

Once the basic systems are in place, and you've figured out how to make your classroom functional and organized for yourself and your students, you might find yourself with a little extra bandwidth to think about matching library labels. Even then, those thoughts should only be on your radar because you think matching is fun. Done is always better than perfect, and if your students know where to find books for their level because you have any kind of label on those book baskets, you've made it. Your classroom décor has exactly zero bearing on your strengths and abilities as a teacher.

I want to say that one more time, especially to new teachers: Your classroom décor has exactly zero bearing on your strengths and abilities as a teacher.

I'm about to start Year 6 of teaching (Year 9 if you count the preschool years), and I'm just now starting to think about a cohesive classroom design...only because I happen to like that kind of thing. I've finally figured out a math rotation system I like and some PBL projects I'm excited about, and I have some time and energy to spend thinking about decorating. I plan to start pulling from this new packet I made, see what I can get done, and let go of the rest.

If you're in the mood to start thinking about next year's classroom décor, you should totally check out this resource I made. You don't need it, but you might think it's fun and beautiful and matches the atmosphere you'd like to create in your classroom. I'm really excited about how the packet turned outI love how bright, clean, and modern it feels. I can't get enough of the navy blue/white/mustard/light blue combo in my home, and I hope the kids like it in the classroom, too. 

If you're in your first few years of teaching, please consider skipping over this resourceinstead, use the money to buy yourself a few lattes to carry you through your first rounds of grading and lesson planning. You've got this, and things like classroom decorations can definitely be pushed to the back burner. You might consider bookmarking this resource to come back to in a couple of years, though, if it's something you think you'd enjoy! : )

Happy summer, teacher friends!

Why You Need to Create Art with Your Students

I have always loved art.

I understand the way I'm wired much better now than when I was a kid. I didn't know until I was an adult that I have attention deficit, which would have explained why school was such a struggle when I was a kid. I wondered if school was hard for everyone else, too, and if they were just really good at keeping it a secret. Somehow, I managed to make it through school, and art was a huge reason for that. While I struggled my way through other subjects, art was somehow easy for me, and I had a high school art teacher who let me take advanced art classes. I had found something I was good at in school, and it helped me build the confidence I needed to tackle challenges in other classes.

As a teacher, I see why art so often gets pushed to the back burner. Making sure your students master standards during the handful of hours you have with them each day is incredibly important. Teachers constant shift and re-shift those precious instructional minutes to make sure our students' highest needs are met. This is what good teaching is, and most of the teachers I know do it really, really well.

I wanted to share some thoughts and observations about art in the classroom, because art is something that tends to be cut when we're juggling lots of other priorities, and I'm not convinced that's a good or helpful thing. I want to be clear that my intention is not to add more to anyone's plate: we're in the trenches together, and I'm trying to figure out a balance right along with everyone else. My hope is that instead of feeling pressure, other teachers would feel permission--permission to make art a part of your classroom culture, knowing that the life skills your students learn when they are creative will lead to growth in other academic areas, as well.

At a basic level, artistic expression supports the growth and development of the whole child. When I watch my students create art, I see the final product as only a very small part of the process. Sure, their final art pieces are delightful and adorable, but what I'm always struck by is how important the steps are that lead up to that final piece. In just one art project, children can practice their gross and fine motor skills, follow multiple-step instructions, understand cause and effect relationships, develop their spatial awareness, make a plan, and modify their plan to meet a goal. Whew! Impressive, right?! Giving kids space to be creative not only supports their development as artists, but as people.

Art allows children to be innovators. I'm always amazed at the thought that, as teachers, we're tasked with preparing students for jobs that might not even exist yet. We want, and need, this next generation to be fearless when it comes to exploring new ideas, concepts, or processes. When I read stories about inventors and their world-changing inventions, the stories are almost always defined by repeated failures. The truth is, innovation is impossible without failure. If we want our students to be innovators, we need to teach them how to fail well. Creating an art piece allows students to make something completely original and innovative while solving problems, and mistakes are almost always made. The beautiful thing about art is that failure is rarely final--you can generally keep adding to your painting to transform it into something new. When our students stop seeing their failures as an end point, but instead as a starting point for something new, we have taught them to fail well.

The process of creating art builds critical social skills, especially when done in community. A sign of maturity in children (and adults, for that matter!) is the ability to cope with frustration in a healthy way. Disappointments and setbacks are a completely normal, natural, and expected part of life. The trick with frustration is not letting those emotions overwhelm us. Creating art in community also gives students the opportunity to practice giving and receiving constructive feedback.

Art connects kids to a larger worldview. Art is an important part of every culture, and is a way to preserve history, traditions, values, and scientific discoveries. Exposing kids to art from around the world is a very simple but powerful way to reinforce a deep respect for other cultures.

Teachers can communicate art's value by participating. Some teachers have an art program available to their class through the school. That's wonderful! If someone else teaches art to your students, consider joining the lessons. Don't just sit back and watch. Modeling a love for art is just as important as modeling a love for reading and math. Your students will follow your example! Participating in an art lesson along with your students communicates that art has value, mistakes aren't something to be afraid of, and that it's always okay to try something new.

I know that setting aside hours of instructional time for art usually isn't practical (or wise!), but I do hope you'll feel encouraged to add in an art lesson or two to your next unit. It's worth your time and your students' time, and the lessons they'll learn will carry far beyond the classroom. I know that's been true throughout my own life, both as a student and as a teacher.

So, what do you think? Do you make time for art in your classroom, too?

Easy Teacher Gift Ideas

I have mixed feelings about Teacher Appreciation Day, which in the United States takes place on Tuesday of the first full week in May.  On one hand, I'm always SO blown away and humbled that my students' parents would want to communicate appreciation for the small role I play in their kids' lives--it's such an honor to have that role, and I love my job.  On the other hand, though, it's never been clear to me why my profession in particular is singled out.  If anyone deserves a national holiday, I think it's our school's janitor, who spends his nights cleaning up unspeakable messes left behind by the students.  (And all the teachers said, "Amen.")

In any case, I thought it might be fun to write a post with some practical and meaningful gift ideas for teachers, based on my own experience and conversations I've had with other colleagues over the years.  You may be reading this and thinking, “Wait, isn’t it kind of awkward and inappropriate for a teacher to talk about Teacher Appreciation Day, like a kid telling strangers at the park what he’d like for his birthday?”  The answer is yes, I do feel a little awkward writing this.  However, I've received this question from many parent-friends over the years who suspected their child’s teacher might have enough mugs and apple-themed desk supplies to last a lifetime, and who wanted an inside scoop from a teacher in the trenches.  So, what follows is in no way a personal wishlist (though I do have to admit it’s probably more aimed at women than men), and I hope it will be helpful for parents searching for an easy, inexpensive, meaningful, and practical gift.  I should also say that the list isn’t just aimed at parents--for those of you who are teachers, these could be great gift ideas to thank volunteers or celebrate a colleague! Okay, without further ado, here's the list:

1. Essential Oil Diffuser, $20, to make the classroom smell like Heaven even after PE class.

2. Flair Pens, $14, to add a little splash of joy to grading and note-taking in staff meetings.

3. Clorox Wipes, $5, for obvious reasons.

4. Stickers for Organizing, $10, because stickers and cute labels make a teacher's heart sing.

5. Initial Necklace, $38, to dress up an everyday work outfit.

6. Glue Sticks, $10, because it seriously feels like these things evaporate into thin air as the year progresses. Where in the world do they go!?

7. Tote Bag, $30, because teachers carry a comical amount of items back and forth from school every day, and these cute bags can take a beating. (You can get them monogrammed, too!)

8. Grading Stamps, $19, for cheering on the kiddos AND making grading easier at the same time.

9. Personalized Zippered Pouch, $25, for carrying all of those flair pens, paper clips, and tiny confiscated toys in style.

10. A Funny To-Do List, $9, to make them laugh even when the teacher to-do list feels unending.

11. Personal Cinematic Light Box, $20, to make writing a morning message for the students even more fun. It's whimsical and silly, but could have so many fun uses in the classroom!

12. Beautiful File Folders, $14, so those stacks of paper look pretty instead of overwhelming.

13. A note from your child that will be treasured forever!

14. Finally, I've also found that some of the most meaningful gifts are the ones that communicate to teachers that the parents and students know and care about them personally.  Pretty much every teacher I've met has a secret (or not-so-secret) sweet tooth, caffeine addiction, or other quirk, and a well-placed packet of Skittles or a vanilla latte with an encouraging note can have a huge impact.  Ask your kids what they've noticed about their teachers (does she always have a bottle of Coke on her desk, or does he love going to Friday night movies at that downtown theater with his wife?), or have your school's staff fill out surveys at the beginning of the year to discover those more subtle, but high-impact, gift ideas.

Well, there you have it!  I'll keep adding to this list over time, as I come across more great ideas, and I'd love to hear your thoughts.  If you're a teacher or a parent, what are some of the most meaningful and practical teacher or volunteer gifts you've given and received? 

Project Based Learning in the Primary Classroom: Part 2

Note:  This is the second post in a two-part series.  See the first post here.

Now that you know the components of Project-Based Learning, I want to share a step-by-step example illustrating how I walked through a project with my primary kiddos.

As a disclaimer, the project I am about to share is not perfect. It's a work in progress (aren't they all?), and I'm sure I'll continue to tweak it in the years to come. That said, I hope this will still provide a practical example of how you can pull off a project of this scale in a primary classroom. Here's how you can make it happen!

1. Present the Essential Question and Brainstorm Solutions
For this specific unit, the essential question was, "How can we use economics to bring justice to the world?" I started off by presenting the students with some background knowledge: families in many countries around the world depend upon cows and other livestock for their livelihoods, but they often don't have enough. Next, I framed a central problem. Cows, which can provide extra income, cost around $500 in many countries, and that's often beyond the reach of the families that would benefit most. How could our class earn that much money and help a family develop a more sustainable livelihood? I created a problem and solution chart and had students share their ideas for how they could solve this problem. The teacher is the facilitator in this step, and can guide students towards the idea of creating their own businesses.

2. Brainstorm Ideas Individually
A few years ago, I read the book Quiet by Susan Cain. I'm an introvert myself, and this book helped me better understand how to operate well in a group setting. Jumping right into brainstorming without quiet time to think is an incredibly stressful experience for me, and I don't feel comfortable verbally processing. As it turns out, Cain wrote in her book that those extrovert-oriented brainstorming sessions don't necessarily lead to the best ideas. Everyone, whether introvert or extrovert, has the best ideas when they are given time to think quietly on their own before coming together with a larger group. I see this individual brainstorming time as one of the most important steps of the problem-solving process. Giving your students time to think individually before they collaborate with peers will help them prepare their valuable contributions to their group.

3. Collaborate as a Group 
After students have their individual business ideas written down, it's time for them to share their concepts with their group. Before your students break off into groups, review and model appropriate social skills for collaboration. I can't say this often enough: assume nothing, model everything. It's easy for adults to take for granted the skills we've mastered for working well with others. Don't forget, though, that learning how to speak is a relatively recent event in your primary students' lives. They've only been speaking in complete sentences for a few years. It's completely reasonable and absolutely necessary to set aside time to practice how to respectfully disagree and make compromises with others. When your students do break off into their teams to share their individual ideas and come up with a group concept, remind them that they'll be allowed to tweak their ideas in the future. This isn't set in stone after the first group meeting!

4. Explore the Topic in Other Content Areas
This is the fun part for me. I love referring back to my Curriculum Map and bringing the economics theme into other subject areas. Take this opportunity to cover your measurement and data standards on the value of money, hit your language arts standards on persuasive writing by creating advertising for stores, and address reading comprehension standards by reading books and articles about finances and businesses.

ReadWorks is a fabulous resource for leveled articles, and you can search for resources about economics by your students' grade level. There is a wealth of quality children's literature with this theme, too. Here are some titles to help you get started!

1. A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams
2. Pedrito's Day by Luis Garay
3. A Day's Work by Eve Bunting
4. Alexander, Who Used to be Rich Last Sunday by Judith Viorst
5. Once Upon a Dime by Nancy Kelly Allen
6. Chicken Sunday by Patricia Polacco
7. A New Coat for Anna by Harriet Ziefert
8. Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts

5. Develop a Prototype and Revise
Learning how to make a plan before diving into a project is an invaluable skill that will benefit your students throughout their lives (it's something I'm still working on myself!). Before handing over any project materials for making store products, have your students work with their team to draw a detailed plan or build a prototype out of inexpensive materials. That way, when you hand over the real supplies for creating the products to sell, your students will have a clear end goal in mind. This also helps to resolve disputes about product designs before they even start!

6. Create a Final Product
Now the fun part: give your students time to create their final products! Don't be shy about asking for help from parent volunteers, and I would recommend distributing only a few supplies at a time. For example, if you have a group painting toy cars, don't give them all 20 cars at once. Give them just a few to work on initially so that there is a higher quality of workmanship. Discuss with your students the importance of offering quality products in your store.

7. Share Learning with the Community
After all of that work developing businesses, you'll be ready to celebrate! As a culmination of the project, host a market on your school campus to sell the products the students made. Again, don't be shy about recruiting volunteers! After the market, help your students calculate their earnings, pay back their loans, and use the profits to buy a cow for a family in the developing world.

8. Reflect on Learning
A final, and critical, component of Project-Based Learning is allowing your students to reflect on their experiences. Remember, you built in room for failure, and your students learned a lot through the process of fixing those mistakes or revising their plans. That's the whole point of Project-Based Learning. This reflection step will solidify for your students what they would like to do differently when you take on your next big project together as a class.

Do you feel ready to get started? If you are looking for a resource to make your first experience with Project-Based Learning a breeze, I have good news! I've included ALL of the printable materials you'll need for this project, as well as a more detailed daily pacing guide, in my Marketplace Economics packet. Click here to see more!

Project Based Learning in the Primary Classroom: Part 1

Over the past few weeks, I've been working on a Project-Based Learning task with my students. Working in groups, the students have developed business models, created budgets, filled out loan applications, met with loan officers, developed an advertising campaign, and placed purchase orders for company supplies. They've corresponded by email with their loan officers and tracked their work in business portfolios. They've presented their business plans to leaders in our school community, and are preparing for production when we get back from spring break.

My students are seven and eight years old. They don't even have all of their teeth yet.

It sounds unbelievable, but I promise--it's true. 

If you haven't experienced Project-Based Learning in your classroom, I can't WAIT to share all about it with you, and how I make it come to life for my second graders. I won't lie--it's a lot of work. However, teaching in and of itself is a lot of work, and I've actually found that committing to one large project is a far better use of my time, effort, energy, and resources than planning 25 separate, smaller, unrelated activities.

Over the next couple of weeks, I want to share about how to practically apply Project-Based Learning in a primary setting, and give you the tools and resources you need to make it happen in your classroom, too. Before I dive in to the specifics of the project we're currently working on, I want to outline some of the core principles of Project-Based Learning and some of the practical first steps you need to consider before you write even a single lesson plan.

Project-Based Learning is an instructional strategy defined by several key components. First, students need to have a real-life problem that they are trying to solve. This is written in the form of an essential question. All lessons and learning activities are tied to this essential question, and the question helps to focus the unit of study. This leads to the next component of Project-Based Learning, inquiry. Project-Based Learning allows for open-ended exploration of the essential question. This means that students working in groups might all come up with slightly different answers to the essential question, and that's okay. This also means that students might fail at first, and that's okay, too. A final characteristic of Project-Based Learning is that the project is integrated into all content areas over a long period of time, and eventually the project is shared with others.

Project-Based Learning is NOT one day of lessons, and it's not even a set-aside part of the day. Instead, your reading, writing, grammar, science, social studies, and math lessons ALL point back to the essential question, and help students in one way or another to move forward in their project.

Where is the teacher in all of this? The teacher is a guide and facilitator, but not the source of all knowledge. Of course, direct instruction will be involved, but there's a huge, collaborative problem-solving component woven into the instruction, as well.

I'll be completely honest: when I first heard about Project-Based Learning, just thinking about it made me feel exhausted. This was a major shift from how I had previously taught my primary students! I used to approach planning on a week-to-week basis, and would look up activities and crafts on Pinterest for each separate content area. I'm not knocking Pinterest in any way, shape, or form (you can see my own overflowing Pinterest boards here!), and I always found great activities that really engaged my students. The difference with shifting to Project-Based Learning, though, is that I'm no longer searching for and prepping 25 separate activities each week. Instead, each subject area is seen as an opportunity to make progress towards one big goal of completing a final project. Instead of planning on a week-to-week basis, I plan on a unit-to-unit basis.

Before you get totally overwhelmed, let me encourage you: Project-Based Learning takes no more effort than you are already putting into your teaching. If you are a week-to-week planner like I was, you'll find that planning a whole unit at a time is actually easier! I'll be sharing an overview of our current Economics unit in a future post so that you can have a practical example of what this looks like, but first I want to share the initial steps for putting together a Project-Based Learning unit.

1. Create a Curriculum Map
Gather all of your standards for each of your content areas in one place. Are you working on narrative writing? Jot down that standard. What ELA standards are you focusing on? What math standards will you be working on? Most importantly--what science or social studies standards will you be covering? (This will be key in designing your Project-Based Learning Task.) Put all of these standards into one document, and now you have your Curriculum Map!

2. Identify a Central Theme
Now that you have all of your standards together in one place, what kind of themes do you see? Can you tie together social studies and science standards? Do any specific math concepts correlate with your topic? Consider what books or articles you could study that are related to your topic. By starting a unit with a particular theme in mind, you'll be better equipped to make smart decisions about the resources you choose to plan your lessons around. You might also spot some ways that you could group your standards and identify concepts that would lend themselves to being taught in tandem.

3. Write Your Essential Question
After you've identified a theme, craft an essential question that encompasses a real-world problem related to your central theme. Essential questions are broad, but they help to define the purpose behind a project. For example, the essential question for our Economics unit that I will share with you was, "How can we use economics to bring justice to the world?" This encompassed our topics of economics and countries working together, and defined purpose for why we would care about buying a cow for a family in the developing world.

4. Outline Your Project
Once you have your unit theme and essential question, you can start to think about a project that would give your students a real-world problem to solve. In our Economics unit, I focused on the problem of economic injustice in the world. Not all problems that are presented to students need to be on a global scale, though. We happened to be studying about how countries work together for our social studies standards, so choosing a global problem was appropriate. In other units, though, we've identified problems on a school level. When choosing a project, just remember that it should be spread out over weeks, not hours. It's completely reasonable to break up a project into a lot of tiny steps, especially with primary kiddos. Sketch out what you want your final project to be and list off the small steps your students will need to take over the course of the unit.

5. Create a Weekly Pacing Guide
Whew, last step! Now it's time to make your Weekly Pacing Guide. I promise that this upfront work will make your weekly planning a breeze. Pull out your Curriculum Map, Project Outline, and calendar. In a new document, map out how many weeks your unit will take. Divvy up your standards by week, deciding how long you want to spend on each content area standard. For each week, make a note about your project goals for that week. What portion of the project will your students be working on, and how will that tie to the standards? Now when you go to do your detailed weekly planning, you won't be doing a search on Pinterest for each individual content area. You'll still be searching for resources (Pinterest included!) but you'll be carefully and intentionally choosing activities that all relate to each other and to your essential question.

If this still feels like a mystery, don't panic. I'll be sharing with you all of the start-to-finish details of my class' most recent Project-Based Learning experience in Part 2! If you're ready to get started and want to integrate Project-Based Learning into your classroom right away, I've put together a resource to make your first experience a breeze.  I've included ALL of the printable materials you'll need for a project, along with a detailed daily pacing guide, in my Marketplace Economics packet.  If you're interested, you can find the printable materials here.

For those of you who have already implemented Project-Based Learning in your classrooms, what has your experience been like? I'd love to hear all about it!

If You Give a Mom a Cookie

A couple of years ago, I happened to start a unit on circle stories with my students right around Mother's Day. We read all of the "If You Give a..." books by Laura Numeroff, and worked on our narrative writing. If you teach primary, you know how challenging it can be for students to understand the concept of writing a complete narrative. Having quality mentor texts to follow is a LIFESAVER.

Given the timing of the unit, the idea of writing silly circle stories about our mamas for Mother's Day seemed only appropriate, and a new classroom tradition was born. I put together the packet I use with my own class, thinking that others might enjoy it, too. In this single writing activity, we practice narrative writing and reading comprehension skills, AND come out with a low-prep, darling Mother's Day gift for my students' families. YES! Don't you love it when that happens?

No two families are alike, so in creating this packet I've included additional pages to celebrate grandmas, aunts, and dads. No matter who your kids write about, following the story structure of Laura Numeroff's books is a GREAT support for your young writers that will help them create some wonderful (and hilarious) writing. You can find the packet here, if you'd like to see.