A New Year's Goal Project

Hi Everyone!

I hope you are all enjoying your vacation. I certainly am, so much so that I forgot to come and share some thoughts with you yesterday. Ooops! My personal blog has also been neglected this last month due to fun and excitement that comes with this wonderful holiday season.I guess it is a good thing we are all getting set to make goals for the new year.

I always make personal goals for myself each year, but I also have my little firsties make goals as well. I have them write one goal and then they have to write one thing that will help them reach that goal. I want them to make the connection between setting a goal and making a change to reach that goal. We write these on a cute sheet of paper that goes along with a craft and we write them in our journals so that we can look back on them throughout the remainder of the year. The cute paper we use comes from a really simple craftivity from The Lesson Plan Diva. It is a really fun craftivity to do the first week back and it is always fun to see what they say. I have included some images from the file I use as well as a link to the packet on TpT. Have a wonderful rest of your vacation and enjoy your fist week back with your students!

My New Year's Resolution

SMART Goal Setting for the New Year

Help your students write S.M.A.R.T. goals for the new year.

The new year is here!  It's the perfect time to help your kids set goals. I know we've all set New Year's Resolutions and they've probably lasted just a few days. That's probably because the resolution wasn't S.M.A.R.T. In order for goal setting to be effective you need to show your kids how to write S.M.A.R.T. goals. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Realistic and Timely.

As you have a discussion about S.M.A.R.T. goals, go over these questions.
Specific:  What exactly do you want to accomplish?
Measurable:  How will you know when you’ve reached this goal?
Action:  What will you need to do in order to reach your goal?
Realistic: Is this goal reachable? Can I really do this?
Timely:  When will you reach this goal?  What is your deadline? 

You can download these pages to help your students set up their S.M.A.R.T. goals for the new year.

Freebie!  Goal setting for students.

Freebie!  goals setting for kids.

Do you set New Year's goals or resolutions with your students? We'd love to see your ideas.  If you have a freebie or a blog post about setting goals with students please link up your ideas below.

Polar Express Experience

Polar Express Day is a magical time for my second graders to feel the magic of the Christmas season.    I love celebrating our holiday party by using this favorite Christmas story that I remember reading with my Mom years ago.

I organize my day with everything Polar Express. The day begins with the students arriving and listening to me read aloud the story. They receive their ticket to board our classroom train and I punch it as they go to their desk that is arranged in a long rectangle like a train. We do a story graphic organizer for the book as a class and then begin watching the movie. I like stopping the movie at different points and doing an activity. That way it keeps the excitement going all day long. Below you will see my schedule for the day and activities I do. All the activities can be found in my All Aboard Polar Express pack found in my TPT Store. Merry Christmas and remember the bell rings for those that truly believe!

Gingerbread Fun!

There are so many great teaching themes to use during the month of December. One of my favorites to do every year is a gingerbread theme! There are some really wonderful read aloud books that can be used in a variety of ways in all subject areas.

One story I read to my students every year is Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett. In this twist on the original tale, the gingerbread baby runs away and is lured back to the house when the boy who created him traps him by creating a gingerbread house.

For a fun activity, read the story to your students and, once the story ends, tell your students that you brought them some gingerbread cookies to eat. Then, grab a fancy Christmas bag, bring it over to your kids, and look inside. Newsflash: There's nothing inside! Then play it up BIG TIME: Looking inside the bag, looking confused, looking under your chair, around the classroom... and tell your students that, shockingly, the cookies are no longer in the bag! They always gasp and offer their suggestions on what happened to the gingerbread men. Of course, eventually, at least one student predicts that they must have run away! To relate it to the story, ask your students to recall how the boy got the gingerbread man to come back at the end of the book. The boy creates a fancy gingerbread house in order to entice the gingerbread cookie to come back; so your students will do the same thing to try and get their own cookies to return.

Give each student a gingerbread house traced onto construction paper with an open door cut into it. You can have them decorate it with any supplies you wish, but I usually take the quick route and just have them decorate it by coloring, cutting out, and gluing pictures of candy to the front of the house. I then glue it to a piece of red construction paper to add a little more stability.

I always plan this activity right before my students are about to leave the classroom, such as during specials or lunch time. This way, it gives me an opportunity to leave a gingerbread cookie on each of their houses when they least expect it!

Then your students will return to a surprise - a gingerbread man in the door! It always warms my heart when they come back in and exclaim, "It really worked!!!".

I also love to integrate the theme into our centers as well, such as with this Bakin' Up Sight Words activity from my Deck the Halls {Math and Literacy Centers} pack. Students choose a cookie and write the sight word on the matching space in the recording sheet.

A gingerbread theme is also a great little way to teach adjectives and descriptive writing. I picked up a foam sticker gingerbread decorating kit from Michael's (they have 24 to a pack!) that came with foam gingerbread men and all the components to decorate the front of it. Each student decorated their own.

Then, each student described their gingerbread man by creating a tree map to organize their thinking.

...Which they then used to write a story to describe their gingerbread creation. The tree map really helped them create coherent compound sentences and their writing turned out wonderful!

We always culminate our gingerbread unit with a big class gingerbread house building party. The day before the party, we have little elves (aka parent helpers) come in and build real houses out of graham crackers and royal icing. No milk cartons here! Then, the next day, each student gets to decorate their own gingerbread house. They absolutely love it!

What is your favorite gingerbread story to read during the month of December? Leave a comment telling us which one you love reading to your students and why!

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Using STEM activites to encourage PROBLEM SOLVING!

Hello friends!  Heather here from Learning with Mrs. Langley and today is all about STEM in the classroom!

What is STEM?

The acronym STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.  For me though the idea of STEM based lesson plans goes back to teaching across disciplines, integrating knowledge, and solving problems in a cooperative environment.  You know.....the way we were taught to teach! 

STEM based lesson plans and projects are inquiry based by nature.  Here are a few of the important skills students gain when exposed to inquiry in the early years. 
  • asking questions
  • explore materials, objects, and events and noticing what happens as changes are made
  • using all the senses to explore
  • making predictions
  • recording observations
  • working collaboratively

How do I start?

How do we integrate STEM activities in our classrooms?  Where do we start?  Here are a few tips to get you going in your room: 

1.  Starting a new unit in reading?  Here is an example of how I integrated a STEM activity with my Kindergarteners and the book Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman.  It is part of our reading series so I "have to" read it (although I love this one so I'm not complaining!).  We spent the week comparing make believe stories with real stories and read a lot of non fiction books about bears.  To keep the investigation going we had our STEM center set up with these materials:

Sounds dangerous right?  I think that only added to the excitement!  My favorite solution from one of my kiddos was pretty simple. He suggested we leave the parents behind because the kids are lighter and it would be easier to build a raft to float them.  I guess he showed me!  I feel a little bad for his parents though when it comes to survival! The materials I used were from Lakeshore.  I love their STEM kits! 

2. If we don't have a reading book to go along with the center I simply call this our "Problem Solving" station.  It's a class favorite!  We have experimented with magnets, ramps, and things that roll so far.  To integrate Math and Technology we incorporate some of our apps on the iPads to our problem solving station but I have to admit, that's been the hardest part of STEM for me to include so far.

3. Rethink your favorite units!  Instead of a Halloween party or Halloween centers this year I went with an "All About Pumpkins" unit instead.  The kiddos loved experimenting, making predictions, and measuring our pumpkins.  In years past we would have made jack-o-lanterns, instead this year we cleaned out the pumpkins, dried out the seeds, and counted/compared the numbers of seeds to the size of the pumpkin.  It was so much fun! 
 So that's how I integrate STEM into our daily kindergarten routine.  How do you incorporate science, technology, engineering, and math into your science lessons?  I'd love to hear in the comments below!

Thanks for stopping by Hello Sunshine today!

Naked Egg Experiment

Hello! This is my very first post for Hello Sunshine!  My name is Maribel and I blog over at Learning in Wonderland.
For those of you that don't know me, I am a first grade teacher from Arizona.  I have been teaching for nine years.  I love teaching and love sharing our adventures in the classroom via my blog and Instagram.  I am so excited to join this talented team of Arizona bloggers and join my fellow Sunshine girls!
Today I'm going to share one of my favorite science experiments I've done with my class.  My students were so excited to see the results and so was I.

This experiment was to find how eggs change in different liquids.

We left one egg inside water, another inside Coke, and another one in vinegar. 

We then left the eggs inside of the liquids for a day.   The main purpose was to see what vinegar did. 

 We made predictions and the kids were sure that the only one that would change was the one left in Coke.

That is until one of the eggs hit the vinegar.  It instantly started to fizz and this is what it looked like after a few minutes.  It was weird how the eggshell began to dissolve immediately.

After about 5 minutes, the top layer of the shell had dissolved and even the logo lifted to the top.

The next day the shell had dissolved completely.  The egg was soft and squishy at that point and the only thing holding it together was the egg membrane.  
The kids loved touching the "naked" egg.  

The egg left in Coke turned brown and made me question every Coke I ever drank.  The one left in water didn't change at all.

It was such a fun and easy way to infuse science into our day.

Have you ever tried this experiment? Is there anything else I could try this with that will give us some fun results?  Please share below :-) 

Sharing Sunshine {November}

It's the 15th... so that means it's time to share some of our Arizona sunshine!  Welcome back to our monthly link up, where we share tips, ideas, and resources with you.  Our November theme has been Sensational Science and Social Studies, but the link up can feature absolutely anything that helps our fellow educators. 

We hope you'll grab these buttons and link up to share some of your own sunshine too!

Edible Science

I am so excited to be sharing with you some of my favorite ways to make science not only fun but also engaging and hands on!!

One of my favorite ways to keep students engaged is by putting science in their mouths!  Students learn more when they have something to grab on to!  How much more do you think they remember when you give them something to eat that also has to do with what they are learning!?

When we were talking about rocks we were learning about the three different types of rocks.  Of course we also had there different foods that we could eat to help us remember the difference between sedimentary, metamorphic and igneous rocks.  It was a great to be able to see them apply that knowledge on their tests, and to tell each other more about it.

Every time I plan out a science unit I go through and make sure that I have a hands on lesson to go with each chapter.  I also make sure that I have not only a hands on lesson, but also something that they can eat!

What science lessons have you taught that were edible!?!  Did your students enjoy the activity and hold on to the information?!  I would love to hear more about your edible science lessons!

5 Tips for using Informational Text

You can use informational text to teach reading skills.  Tips for using content area texts from science and social studies for your reading instruction.

We all know that informational text is playing a bigger role in our reading instruction.  Teachers are also aware that their instructional day is packed and that the content areas of science and social studies often gets squeezed out.  I've gathered some tips to help you use your science and social studies texts and curriculum to teach the required reading skills. Stop thinking of the content areas as a separate part of your day,, bring them into your ELA block.

1.  Show students the difference between literary and informational text structure.  
     One of the first things students need to understand is the structural difference between literary and informational text.  Literary text will generally have characters, a setting and a plot that has a beginning, middle and end. While informational text will usually be organized by topic with sections having main ideas and details. To help students compare these two types of texts you can use a T-Chart along with sample texts.  Set the students up in small groups.  Give each group a few text samples and a T-Chart.  Let them explore the text and make note of what they see.  You can sum up the activity by having them list things the texts have in common and some of the major differences they noticed.  Make sure you have a list of the main points you want to make with this activity.  Depending on the age of the students you can guide the summing up discussions to make sure all the main points are covered. 
Click on the image to download the organizer.

Students can use this t chart as they explore the differences between literary and informational texts.

2.  Teach students how to find information using the table of contents and index.
     I think the two most important features of an informational book are the table of contents and the index.  As students begin to use informational texts for research projects they will not always be reading the entire book from beginning to end.  They will use the table of contents and the index to find the specific places in the book that has the information they need.
     A fun way to give students practice in using these features is to have a scavenger hunt.  Choose an informational text for which you have enough copies for each student or each pair of students.  I always did this activity with our Science and Social Studies texts because we had a class set.   Write a set of questions that can be answered from the text.  Make sure some of the questions require the table of contents and some require the index in order to find the answer. I also leave a space to write the page number where they found the answer and if they used the table of contents or the index.

3.  Use graphic organizers to gather information.
     Graphic organizers are a must for gathering and organizing information.  There are many different types of graphic organizers that can be used, depending on the text structure and the type of information to be organized. This handy chart will give you an idea of which organizer to use with your students. 
Click on the image to download the chart and 3 free organizers.
 Graphic Organizers, free sample to use with informational text.

4.  Choose reading strategies and or skills that fit the text.

     Throughout the year students will be learning many different strategies and skills as they become better readers.  You’ll want to choose just one or two to use with this lesson with informational text.  When you’re planning, read the text with fresh eyes and think about the skills and strategies you’re using as a reader.  Mark places where you used specific skills or strategies. When you finish, go over your notes and decide which skills/strategies fit the text and also fit the needs of your students. Then you’re ready to plan you lesson!

5.  Reread the text to teach different comprehension skills.
     Now that you have your first lesson planned, use the text again to target a different skill or strategy.  On the first day you may cover main idea and details with a graphic organizer.  On the second day the focus may be cutting down the details to just the most important ideas and writing a summary.  Later in the week you might focus on vocabulary or author’s word choice. Reading the same text again and again is always a good thing!

Kids love learning about things in their world.  I hope these tips will help you begin using more informational texts in your ELA lessons.

Past, Present, Future

Timeline for Children

Before beginning teaching any history standards at any grade level, students need to understand the concept of time. Teaching the key words of past, present, and future will help them build their understanding of history. 

I always model what a timeline is and show them what I mean using the words past, present and future by constructing a timeline of my life. They love hearing stories of my past and counting the number of years since I was born or when I started kindergarten. Yes, I know they get so excited to find out that I am old. But, no I'm not as old as Abraham Lincoln (as one student asked me one year).

After learning about timelines I give each student the opportunity to make their own timelines at home. I send this home as a homework project because I love seeing the help and support from parents. The students create wonderful models of their lives using real photographs and newspaper ads. The students love sharing their timelines with the class and learning about one another.

One thing I plan on using this year in my classroom is a history timeline. I love how this 3rd grade teacher from my school posted a large timeline and adds to it as they move through history in their lessons and units. 

Classroom Timeline

In second grade we begin talking about the Native Americans and the settling of Jamestown. Following this we begin discussing the 13 colonies and the Revolutionary War. Finally we finish our 2nd grade history units with westward expansion and explorers. Having a visual timeline posted in the classroom will be a great visual aide to show the students how much time passes between each important event. Throughout my years of teaching I've noticed that is the one area that the students have a hard time understanding in history, they have difficulty grasping the concept of time. 

Hopefully you can use these ideas in your classroom to bring your timelines of history to life. Help your students understand the past, present, and future. 


Thanks for reading my post on Hello Sunshine. Please visit my blog, The Creative Classroom to find other creative ways to engage your students every day!

 The Creative Classroom

Spotlight on Social Studies

The theme for this month is Social Studies and Science.  

To be honest, I've never loved Social Studies.  I remember being in High School and absolutely dreading it!  Social Studies was just so boring!  Last year I decided that instead of complaining about our social studies curriculum, I would rewrite/find better resources.  Now I have three social studies units that I absolutely LOVE to teach!    


This was the first unit I rewrote.  I put together an entire unit for my 2nd graders to learn all about Ancient China.  It was definitely their favorite!  

My school district provides these social studies kits to go along with each of our units.  This is just about a third of what we get.  My class loved seeing all the real, authentic artifacts from China!  

During the course of the unit, we learn about Chinese geography, flag, map, rivers, Confucius, Great Wall, Writing, Inventions, Silk, and Chinese New Year.  One of our favorite activities was to practice using chopsticks.  I gave each student a bag of fruit snacks, two cups, and a set of chopsticks.  They had to put all their fruit snacks in one cup.  Then, they had to use their chopsticks to move them into the other cup.  Once they did it twice, they were allowed to eat their fruit snacks.  It proved to be pretty difficult for some of them, but they loved the challenge!

Check it out here.

American Revolution

My coworker's student teacher helped me come up with a unit all about The Road to the Revolution.  It is full of fun and engaging activities to teach about the events leading up the American Revolution.  

My class LOVED this song about the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.  

I put it on my staff website, and they watch it ALL.THE.TIME.

One of our favorite activities from this unit was about The Stamp Act.  We actually put on a class demonstration on taxation.  Full, detailed instructions, name-tags, and cards are included in the unit, but here's a quick rundown for you.  Choose students to be the king, two members of parliament, and two tax collectors.  The rest of the students are the colonists.  Give each colonist some classroom money.  The members of parliament read the cards to say who is going to be taxed.  The cards say things like, "If you are wearing a headband, you are taxed 15 cents".  Tax collectors collect the money, and also have to pay taxes.  Once all the colonists have been taxed, the money is counted and half of it is given to the king.  The tax collectors get a small portion, and the members of parliament split the rest.  My class had a love/hate relationship with this activity.  It really hit home to them how awful taxation without representation was.  We had great discussions on what was/wasn't fair, and how the colonists must have felt during this time.  

Check out more of the fun included in this packet here!


I found the best book to help us learn all about economics - Striker Jones.  

It's an excellent chapter book that helps teach students basic economic principles.  It even has a Teacher's Companion that lays out every lesson for you with objectives, questions, and activities.  We used about half of the book for our unit and loved it!  They get so excited to hear the next chapter.  The first chapter/lesson was all about trading.  One of the activities was to give each child one piece of candy, so they each get something different.  Then, they spent a few minutes trading.  At the end, we had a lot of great discussion on the pros and cons of trading.  Some children ended up happy, but there were still a few unhappy with their trades.  It was an awesome activity!

How do you make Social Studies exciting for your class?
What are your favorite topics to teach?