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Sunday, December 15

How to Use Countdown Calendars in Your Classroom

What is a countdown calendar? How can I use one in my classroom? Countdown calendars are an awesome tool I like to use to increase student engagement in my classroom. Whether I need to build anticipation or share compliments, countdown calendars are the way to go. Read more to find out how you can implement countdown calendars in your classroom today.

Holiday Countdown Calendar


Holiday countdown calendars can be a great deal of fun! This year the special education teacher and I have teamed up to do a book advent countdown calendar before winter break. We have pre-wrapped and numbered all the books (one for each day until winter break). Each day we pick a student who has been kind, respectful, and responsible. That student will get to unwrap the next book in our countdown bin. Then we have a read aloud with our new library addition. My students are loving this countdown calendar!

Personalized Countdown Calendar


Personalized calendars are a great way to build classroom community! I love implementing this type of countdown calendar before February break, the first month of school, and before the end of the year. I use personalized countdown calendars to share compliments with my students. I will put their name on a place on the calendar and on the day their name is up, the entire class will write them a compliment. Each student gets a turn. This offers excellent opportunities to teach compliment giving as well as building relationships in your classroom.

Unit Countdown Calendar

Want to build up excitement for a new unit? Do a countdown calendar! Each day the student can open a new riddle to try and discover their next unit. Or you can do a book countdown calendar using materials from the upcoming unit. Whatever method you decide, a countdown calendar for your next unit is sure to drum up student engagement!

Sunday, December 8

Why Thematic Teaching is Awesome


What is a Thematic Unit?

What on Earth is a thematic unit? Um only something I like to call the bomb dot com! Thematic units are units focusing on a centralized theme and integrating standards across content areas. Here’s the awesome sauce part, thematic teaching allows you to easily increase student engagement! Ready to learn how thematic units ramp up student engagement, create easy celebrations, and have fun themes? Keep reading!


How to Plan a Thematic Unit

The first thing you need to do is check your standards. For my pizza themed unit I started by looking at the Next Generation Science Standards. I knew my next unit needed to focus on forms of energy. I focused on this standard and its elements. Solar power was a part I really wanted to focus on, thus I started building my unit. Now, I was ready to start looking for my theme. As all good party planners know, you gotta have a theme to have a kick butt party. Now, I’m not a party planner, but I do try to be a kick butt teacher. I hopped onto Pinterest and searched for solar power projects for kids. I stumbled across the perfect project, solar powered pizza ovens. How cool! I now had the Holy Grail theme for kids, PIZZA! Want to build these in your classroom this year (trust me you do). Check out the link I used, here.

Now, that I had my science standards and my theme, it was time to get interdisciplinary. I started looking at upcoming math and writing standards. In writing we were about to start poetry. So, why not write poetry about pizza! In math, many of the upcoming fourth grade standards were focused on fractions and decimals. Thinking thematically, I decided that I could easily incorporate those standards through the use of some Project Based Learning. 

You can check out the Design Your Own Pizza Restaurant PBL unit I use by clicking HERE.

So, let’s check, science standards, math standards, and writing standards all with a pizza theme. Ding ding ding, we have a thematic unit!

How Thematic Units Make Learning Celebrations Easy

I like to end my units with learning celebrations. I like to show students that their hard work is worth celebrating. Classroom celebrations also increase student engagement, which y'all know is my jam. So, how does thematic teaching make learning celebrations easier? Well, you already have the theme/ backbone for your celebration! 

For example, my thematic unit focused on pizza. I already planned on having my students build solar powered pizza ovens as a final project for their energy science standard. So, it was simple, decorate the classroom like a pizzeria! I was able to quickly make a sign and lay out the ingredients. For added decoration, I hung the students Pizza Poetry (their final writing for the unit) on the wall! My kiddos loved this experience and having an overlapping theme helped keep them engaged and wanting to learn more across all subject areas. 

Want to learn more of my student engagement strategies? CLICK BELOW to download my FREE e-book! Here I’m sharing the secret sauce that keeps my classroom a rigorous and fun learning machine all year long!


Tuesday, December 3

How to Keep Your Students Engaged Before Winter Break


Are you ready for the final stretch? Are you ready to pull out every student engagement strategy and XL coffee cup you have left? That’s right folks, we teachers are gearing up for the ever so tricky stretch between Thanksgiving and winter vacation. Student energy is on high and motivation is low, but I am here to tell you there is a way to turn all that around and still rock your lessons until the last bell before break. Increase student engagement and your next few weeks will be jam packed with rigor and fun! Ready for some student engagement activities, tips, and tricks to keep your train rolling until break? Let’s get this (almost) holiday party started!

Student Engagement Strategies to Use Before Winter Break


My favorite strategy to increase student engagement before a break is to be unexpected. This does not mean I forgo routines. Keep the routines and schedules, but by all means ramp up your delivery. Starting a new mini unit? Why not do your introduction lesson dressed in a way that brings your content to life! Dress like a festive character for a day. Instead of standing at the front of the room, deliver a lesson from the back, or on top of a table! Do something a little out of the norm or unexpected each day. 

Another student engagement strategy I like to use this time of year is the power of art. My students always love when I include an art element into a lesson. This time of year allows for a little more flexibility in my daily schedule. Thus, I am able to incorporate winter or holiday themed crafts in more regularly. These are simple strategies you can implement tomorrow and hold student engagement until winter break begins.

Student Engagement Activities


Let’s get our hands dirty! As we all know, kids love to get their hands on things, so why not let them? Before each break I like to do a Project Based Learning unit. What is project based learning? PBL is a hands on, interdisciplinary approach to learning. It allows students to explore and build something too. For example, before Thanksgiving break, I introduced a create your balloon parade unit. They studied, budgeted, and build their own balloons to “fly” in a parade (which we proudly marched through the hallways). Do you want to know the best part? My students enjoyed every minute of this mini unit! Even through the budgeting and planning process, my students were all in and all hands on deck. 
The last few days before winter break my students will be starting a new Project Based Learning assignment, building gingerbread houses! I can not wait to share the excitement and fun with them as they research, design, plan, budget, build, and create amazing gingerbread houses!

Sound like fun? If you want to do this with your students as well, just click the picture below to check out the ready to use Project Based Learning pack that I will be using!

How to keep Student Engagement Alive Before Break

 Are you ready for the best way to keep your students engaged the very last few days before winter break? Lean in close, I’m about to drop a knowledge bomb on you… let them share. The last couple days before the holiday break your students will be full of excitement. Let them share all about it! Children love to share their holiday traditions! Do Venn diagrams, picture graphs, discussions and more. Find ways to let them share across all of your subject areas. Let students who celebrate different holidays stand up and teach a lesson. We are teachers, educational rock stars at that, I bet if you but you’re thinking cap on that you will be able to come up with many creative ways to let your students share before the break begins. For example, last year I decorated my shelf like a fireplace and we sat around the “fire” and shared holiday memories and traditions.

How Can I keep the Engagement high in my classroom year round? Are you ready to ramp up the rigor and fun in your classroom all of the time? CLICK BELOW to download my FREE e-book! Here I’m sharing the secret sauce that keeps my classroom a rigorous fun machine all year long!