My Teacher's Getting Married!

Hey there! I've been on a bit of a hiatus from the blogging and TpT world, but for good reason...I'm planning my wedding! As some of you may know from following my Instagram, I’m getting married in just 34 days! It breaks my heart to tell my students  (both current and former) that they aren’t able to come to the wedding. I knew I wanted to have my students celebrate with me, so I’m in the process of planning a “school” wedding, using my newest product, My teacher says, "I DO!"! I’m hoping that my ideas might inspire you to have your own school wedding. Our celebration will take place this Friday, May 12. Be sure to watch my Instagram for updates! 

About a month ago, I picked a Friday in May to be our “school wedding” day, and had my fiancĂ© take a half day off from work to join in the celebration! I put the day on our morning meeting calendar and even had a paper chain countdown. About two weeks out, I sent home a letter to parents explaining my plans (included in this set). I later sent home simple invitations with my kiddos. Since we used a design from Etsy for our real wedding invitations, I simply edited this for our school wedding! The kids loved it.

To build up to the event, we completed writing and art activities each day that week. We also read some great books, including Congratulations, Miss Malarky! and Lily’s Big Day. This gave students an idea of what to expect for the big day, since many of them had never been to a wedding! We also made DIYbow ties and flower crowns.

On the big day, the kids – I mean, guests! – will arrive in their fanciest clothes. I'm planning to wear a white dress (dangerous, I know). We will spend the morning rotating around to different wedding themed centers. While the kids are hard at work, I will call them out one by one to take a picture with me at our DIY photo booth. I’ll be printing them out a copy of their photo to keep.

During the kids’ lunch, I'll be hustling to transform my classroom into a mini reception hall! I bought some cheap plastic tablecloths to cover our tables, put out some centerpieces, and set up a cupcake table.

I'm hoping the kids will be wowed when they return to our "reception venue," and know they'll be especially excited to see Mr. May. After eating a delicious cupcake, we'll turn on some kid-friendly music, and dance the afternoon away. I'll set out wedding coloring books for my non-dancing friends, and we'll even have a lollipop bouquet toss! At the end of our celebration, my students will present Mr. May with a book they'll make, called How to Live Happily Ever After

I've included all of these activies in my newest product, now available on TpT! If you're a teacher bride, or have a bride on your team, be sure to check it out. I've also divided the set into three mini versions for writing, art, and centers, which you can also find on my TpT!

And...just for you, here's a freebie sampler of the set! Enjoy, and happy wedding planning, teacher brides! Stay tuned for updates from my classroom's "wedding week"! 

Thank a Farmer (plus a FREEBIE!)

Check out this product on TpT!
Here in Ohio, we still have snow on the ground, but spring is just around the corner! March will be here before we know it, and with it, Agriculture Week! As a life-long 4-H volunteer and agriculture supporter, recognizing the hard work of our nation's farmers has always been very important to me. Though our farming families make up little under 2% of our population, these hard working Americans provide about 24 million jobs and, of course, food for our entire population. We are able to enjoy an abundant, affordable food supply, all thanks to the continuous efforts of our farmer friends.

As a 4-Her, I mostly showed rabbits, but I was able to learn about and work with many other species!
Growing up, I loved helping at my grandparents' beef cattle farm. I raised rabbits, chickens, and ducks on my own "mini farm" in the suburbs as a 4-Her. These experiences gave me so many valuable life lessons that I carry with me today. A sense of responsibility, a hard work ethic, and the desire to learn all started for me in 4-H. 

Unfortunately, most of my students don't have these farming experiences. In fact, each year when I ask where our corn, beef, and other food products come from, the most popular answer I hear is "Walmart." I love being able to partner with organizations like Farm Bureau and 4-H to show my students how their food gets from farm to table.  

Our Journeys reading series is the perfect start to this unit! Lesson 18 features an awesome non-fiction text, called Where Does Food Come From? This year, we are spending two weeks on this lesson to really dive into agriculture! By the end of our unit, my students will know exactly where their food comes from and which products are produced right here in Ohio. We will learn about crops and livestock by reading informational texts. We'll also join in the Thank A Farmer campaign by writing letters to our local farmers in appreciation for their hard work. 

Our unit will end with my favorite activity of the year...the Barnyard Olympics. The kiddos will put their knowledge to good use by becoming classroom farmers! We will play games to mimic what life is really like on the farm. After proving their knowledge with a quick agriculture assessment, they'll simulate milking a cow, gathering eggs, and herding swine. The Barnyard Olympics is a hit with my kids every year!

The "Dairy Queens and Kings" competition during The Barnyard Olympics
Each student will go home with a certificate and a sticker that says, "I competed in the Barnyard Olympics today!" to stimulate conversation at home. 

The "Swine Time" competition at The Barnyard Olympics
For more fun on the farm activities, be sure to follow me on Instagram. I'll be posting photos for the next two weeks about our barnyard activities! You can find my complete 132 page Thank a Farmer thematic unit (including directions and materials for your own Barnyard Olympics) here on TpT. My Farm Themed Leveled Readers and Comprehension Guides (included in the full set) are also available separately.

Sample the unit before you buy by downloading my sampler set HERE! Enjoy and happy farming!

#TpTBeMine Gift Card Giveaway!

Roses are redViolets are blueI've got a saleTo share here with you!

I've joined up with nine other teacher authors to bring you 10 chances to win a TpT giftcard, just in time for this week's sale! Almost every TpT product will be on sale for up to 28% off original price. Now is your chance to snag those resources that you've had your eye on. Check out these sale prices on products from my store from September to (Mrs.) May!

My 132 page Thank A Farmer complete thematic unit will be on sale for under $7.00! That's just pennies a page!

My newest product, the Differentiated Letter Writing Kit, will be on sale for under $5.50! Check out how I use it here.

Another amazing deal to help with positive behavior management...this life-changing 20 page editable set will be on sale for under $3.50!

The #TpTBeMine sale will take place on February 7th and 8th! Be sure to use the code LOVETPT at checkout to take advantage of the full savings! For a chance to win one of TEN $10 TpT gift cards, head on over to my Instagram page here.

Good luck and happy shopping!

Celebrating the 101st Day of School with my PAWsome team

This year, our first graders celebrated our second annual 101st Day Dalmatian Celebration! For years, we celebrated the 100th day, but found that we were repeating many cute activities that our Kindergarten (and even PreK!) staff were using. By the time students got to us in first grade, the aging app, 100 day buffet, and other beyond cute activities had all lost their novelty. We needed something new, fun, and different! 

After talking with a friend of mine at a neighboring district, I discovered Erica Bohrer's The 101st Day of School set. I highly recommend this product in conducting your own 101 Day Dalmatian Celebration. This 108 page set has all you need to get started! Here's how we used her set this past week. 

Getting Ready

We first sent out a note to our parents, asking them to send in a white t-shirt for their child. Using black sharpies, each student created their own dalmatian shirt for our celebration! Be sure to put a piece of construction paper in between the front and back of the shirt so that the Sharpie ink doesn't bleed onto your table. We kept these shirts at school, and asked students to wear black or white bottoms on the 101st day of school. We, of course, made our own outfits, too! 

We also made our sentence strip puppy ear headbands in advance. Erica provides the patterns. All you need to do is trace, cut, spot-ify, and staple! I had students make 50 spots on one ear and 51 spots on the other for some counting practice. 

An adorable addition this year was the 101st Day of School Banner. This add on is free on Erica's TpT store! We used our banners to decorate the hallways.

Photo from Erica Bohrer
We also prepped for the big day by making these beyond adorable puppies to decorate our bulletin boards. Again, Erica provides the patterns. To make clean up easy, I have students paint their spots with a q-tip! No need to clean messy paint brushes!

With the addition of a little butcher paper dog house, I had this simple bulletin board up in no time!

The Day Before

Our amazing Kindergarten staff goes big for the 100th day of school, so of course we didn't want to disappoint our firsties with their 101st day! After the kiddos left on Thursday afternoon, my team and I set to work prepping the hallways for our big day. First, we made a simple butcher paper photo back drop using lettering from Erica's set. 

We then made this enormous hallway walk through! Again, this was made out of butcher paper, with the words painted on. The kids loved it!

Our Celebration

We finally celebrated the 101st day of school on Friday. The kids were so excited, especially after walking through our huge dog house entrance to our hallway! As the kids filtered in, I had them change into their spotted shirts, put on their ears, and get started right away with the day's festivities. 

Instead of our usual morning work, I set out legos, blocks, dominos, and other building materials, challenging the kiddos to work together to make "dog houses" built out of 101 objects. Of course, I had fun dog themed music, like "Who Let the Dogs Out" on in the background!

For easier management, I picked eight (there are many, many more) of my favorite activities from Erica's set to set up as mobile centers. We completed four in the morning and another four in the afternoon. I simply packed all materials needed for each activity into trays, set the timer for 15 minutes, and floated around to assist groups. Each time the timer went off, kids cleaned up the center, packed their take home page in their folders, and waited for me to rotate the centers. Since I have four tables of about five students each, this worked perfectly! Here are the activities we used:

Dalmatian Rhyme and Sort: Students sorted cards into "Rhyme" or "Does Not Rhyme" piles and recorded their answers.

Dalmatian Find and Color: Kids took turns drawing a card, reading the number and color out loud. They then found this number on the chart and colored it the designated color. At the end, they revealed a mystery picture!

Dalmatian "ee" and "ea" sort: This activity was especially timely since we just introduced "ee" and "ea" words. Students sort the cards and record their word lists.

Dalmatian Write the Room: I cut apart one of the word walls and hid the dog themed words around the room. Students found all twelve words and recorded them, then wrote sentences using the words. (Note: I created the work page for the activity.)

Dalmatian Build a Sentence: Our pups matched the cards by picture, then sorted the mixed up words to create a fun, themed sentence. I loved the writing paper with this one! It made them remember to write neatly and include punctuation. 

Dalmatian Writing Center: Using two different handy word walls, kids wrote a narrative about the 101st day of school or a story about a dalmatian. (Note: I created the writing paper for this.)

Dalmatian Counting Mat: Another one of my favorite! I loaded unit cubes into different bags. Our dalmatians spilled the bags and used these cute counting mats to record the number of cubes in each bag. This was great for counting by tens and ones!

Of course, the day just wouldn't be complete without a fun puppy snack. I use this recipe to make puppy chow. I love it because it avoids peanut butter! Pressed for time? These Scooby-Doo graham cracker snacks are a hit, too!

Excited to try out your own 101st Day Dalmatian Celebration? Be sure to check out Erica's complete product here! For more great tips and products, you can also follow her on Blogspot at Erica's Ed-Ventures or on Instagram.

Thanks for reading along, and be sure to come back tomorrow, Monday, February 6 for an exciting announcement!

Firsties Wild about Letter Writing (Plus..a sale!)

Can we all just take a moment to recognize how awesome our little learners are? Forget the test scores, forget academic buzzwords, forget the standards for a second, and think of your kids when they walked into your classroom on the first day of school. I welcomed 19 students into my class this year with a wide range of abilities. On the first day of first grade, many of my kiddos were non-readers, unable to write a complete sentence or solve a simple math problem. 

When I look at my students now, I'm amazed at their growth! As a first grade teacher, I always feel that these incredible gains are most apparent in their writing. My students started the year using guided writing activities to tell me what they, they are writing opinion pieces, reports, narratives, and - my favorite - friendly letters!

In the digital age, it can be easy for us to forget that letter writing is a life skill. I'm always sure to remind my students of this. As older students and grown up, they will be expected to write letters in many different forms. Emails, thank you notes, cover letters...the list goes on and on! I love that we are preparing them for these experiences already in first grade.

Like many of you, I use the Adams family parody to teach the five parts of a letter: heading, greeting, body, closing, and signature. We take some time to get familiar with this by labeling letters that I've written. This is an important first step! 

After some more modeling and guided writing experiences, it's time for the students to write their own letters. For day one of letter writing, we all write to the same person. This year, my students chose to write to our "next door teacher," Miss I. Again, we start with a guided writing experience to model proper format, grammar, and spelling. We then build a temporary white board word wall together to determine which words we might need while writing our letters. Then, I release my kiddos to write their own letters using differentiated writing paper

On day two, students are given more freedom...they are able to write a letter to anyone who learns or works at our school! This year, most of my students wrote to their Kindergarten teacher and told her all about first grade. I thought that was so sweet! We put all of our letters in a mailbox in our writing center (pictured above) to be delivered. Some of my co-workers take the time to write back when they receive their letters...the kids are so happy when this happens! 

Day three of our letter writing week is always my favorite. My students write to celebrities! Over the years, my kiddos have written to Taylor Swift, Hillary Clinton, LeBron James, and everyone in between. We've even had some responses from these celebrities! In fact, here is a list of famous people you can write back to who will respond. This little list is tried and true. My firsties have written to these addresses and received responses all within the past few months!

  • The President of the United States, The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, Washington, DC, 20500
  • Mickey Mouse, The Magic Kingdom, 1675 N Buena Vista Drive, Lake Buena Vista, Florida, 32820
  • Her Majesty the Queen, Buckingham Palace, London SW1A 1AA
  • Michael Jordan, Jump, Inc., 676 North Michigan Ave, Suite 293, Chicago, Illinois, 60611
  • Miss America, MAO, PO Box 1919, Atlantic City, New Jersey, 08404
  • Your Miss America State Title Holder (find your state on, then find their "Contact" link)
  • MLB teams and their minor league affiliates (Pick your team on MLB's website, then scoll down to click "Contact")
  • NFL teams (Pick your team on NFL's website, then scoll down to click "Contact")
  • Local politicians (a quick Google search will help you find an address!
For all other celebrities, I simply Google their name plus "fan mail address" and choose the most reliable address. Some celebrities have their fan mail address on their website, but I've also used On each students' letter, I place a simple note that says, "We'd love to hear back from you!" with our school's address.

The most exciting part comes next...we begin to receive letters! Look who wrote to us this year right before he left office!

Of course, I remind students that we may not hear back from every celebrity. After all they are very busy people and have many important things to do. I've found that this does not discourage my students at all. In fact, if time goes on and they haven't received a response, my students oftentimes head to the writing center and write to someone new! We send out letters to people all over the world throughout the year, and have had some great responses and new-found pen pals.

As with all writing assignments, I use a rubric to grade my students' letters. I like to differentiate my rubrics for the simple reason that my students have a wide range of ability levels. Differentiated rubrics challenge all of my students yet give them opportunities for success, no matter what level of writing they are working at! 

Check out my Differentiated Letter Writing Kit, now on Teachers Pay Teachers! This kit has made letter writing assessment so much easier for me this year. In this kit, you will find three leveled rubrics, draft letter writing papers, plain writing paper, and seasonal writing paper. Each letter writing format is differentiated to meet the needs of your students. This 56 page resource is sure to help you all throughout the school year. And...just for you, it's on sale for half off for the first 24 hours! Click here to enjoy this savings (sale ends Monday, January 30, 2017 at 3:00 PM EST).

Happy letter writing!

Local Celebrities Bring New Life to Books

Start a Celebrity Reader Program in Your School!

Celebrity Reader Miss Ohio 2015, Sarah Hider reads Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon.

As teachers, we generally have a very open love affair with books. Big books, small books, silly books, serious books, adult books, kid books...we love 'em all! 

How amazing and hilarious is this display from the Virginia Beach Public Library?!
Unfortunately, our students don't always agree. I work with children that don't have many books (if any!) in their home. They aren't read a story each night, they don't see adults modeling reading habits, they don't see reading for the life skill that it is. It's an unfortunate reality for many of today's children.

I'll never forget the moment this shocking truth hit me...I was a pre-service teacher observing in a HeadStart in inner city Pittsburgh. A brand new kiddo was wide-eyed as he experienced his first day of school. At one point in the day, he casually plucked Goodnight Moon off the shelf, and exclaimed, "What is this thing?" My heart broke as I realized this child had never come in close contact with a book before. 

Because of their lack of exposure at a young age (along with many, many other factors), a large percentage of my firsties are struggling readers. Picking up a book doesn't give them makes them feel anxious. Let's face it, deciphering the English language is hard work! It's our job as teachers to make reading as engaging and as interesting as we can so that those anxious feelings some of our students have turn into wild excitement. After all, reading books opens us up to corners of the universe we could have never possibly imagined! What a thrilling, beautiful power.

With the goal of getting kids excited about books, I started a celebrity reader program in my school three years ago. The idea was simple: At the start of the year, I'd reach out to local celebrities, asking them to come read to our kiddos and share about their job. After getting confirmations, I create a schedule for the year, making appointments with one celebrity reader a month. On the big day each month, our celebrity reads an amazing book and then answers questions about his or her job (and how it's essential to be a good reader for that job!). 

In its infancy, I could not have imagined the impact of this program on my students. Now, it's one of our most exciting days each month! We keep the identity of the celebrity reader a secret until he or she walks in the door, which really builds the anticipation. Even though the kids guess that Ninja Turtles, Bruno Mars, or Doc McStuffins are coming into read to us, they are never disappointed by our local celebrities. Kids also get an amazing real world connection; they learn about careers they may not know much about, and see how reading is important in those different jobs. 

Celebrity Reader Scrappy and his "handler" from the Mahoning Valley Scrappers read Bats at the Ballgame.

Start Celebrity Story Time in your school! 

1. First and foremost, get permission from your administrator. Your school may have rules about who can visit your school, what clearances they may need, and what times they can come in to visit. Luckily, our principal is very supportive of this program. We keep her updated of our schedule throughout the year, and run times and locations by her as needed.

2. Next, decide on the logistics. Who will the audience be? How often will celebrities visit? Where will you host your readers? What time will they visit? How long will they visit for? Our monthly Celebrity Readers visit the entire first grade (about 80 students) at once. We usually all squeeze into one classroom, but if a reader needs more space or a presentation area, we ask for permission to use our media center or high school auditorium. More often than not, the classroom works just fine. Our average reader stays for about 20 - 30 minutes. Some of our readers travel a bit further to see us, so we try to stretch their visit to make it worth their while. To accomplish this, we ask other grade levels if they are interested in a visit or have a "Celebrity Lunch" with the kids or staff.

3. The most exciting part is picking your celebrities. I promise that even the smallest of towns has a full host of local celebrities to choose from! Here are some amazing groups of people that we have had success with in the past:
  • Local News Personalities: Kids love to hear about reading on a teleprompter. These are some of the most expressive celebrity readers we have hosted!  
Celebrity Reader Derek Steyer from Channel 21 News reads Three Nasty Gnarlies.
  • Local Politicians: Politicians are always a huge hit with the kids, especially during an election year. "You're like the president of our city?! Whoa!"
Celebrity Reader County Commissioner Dan Polivka reads Duck for President.

  • Authors: Authors are always looking for schools to visit, but can sometimes come with big fees. Still, you may know of a local author who is willing to work with your students for free in exchange for promoting their book! Contact your local university...both our author visits have been from professors at my alma mater, Slippery Rock University!
Celebrity Reader Dr. Anne Slanina reads her book Annie Mouse Meets a New Friend.

  • Service Men and Women: These heroes are especially impacting around Veteran's Day. Students love to see them in full uniform!
Celebrity Reader Dr. Snyder reads his own book What is a Veteran, Anyway?

  • Athletes: It's likely that many of your students have dreams of growing up to play sports professionally. We were lucky enough to have a connection with a player for the Steelers. Not as well connected? Reach out to your local minor league team. High school athletes also make great role models. 
Celebrity Reader Mike Adams of the Pittsburgh Steelers with first grade staff.

  • Pageant Queens: As a former local titleholder in the Miss America Scholarship Program myself, I can tell you firsthand that these ladies are more than just "beauty queens." Most have platforms, or a social issue, that they are eager to spread awareness about! 
Celebrity Reader Gabriella Morando, Miss Michigan Junior High 2015, reads Chrysanthemum. 
  • Building Staff: Does someone at your building wear a different hat outside school hours? Show your students' a different side of a familiar teacher by inviting them in as a celebrity reader. The kids will go nuts! During my first year of teaching, I was still competing for Miss the end of the year, I visited my students as "Miss Clayland" instead of "Miss DePizzo." It was an amazing experience as a teacher and titleholder!
Celebrity Reader Jenna DePizzo (me!), Miss Clayland 2015, reads My Pal, Victor.

4. Once you have your list, it's time to contact those celebrities. I've found email to be most effective. Feel free to copy and paste this form email that I use for my initial contact with celebrities!

Hello! I hope you’re doing well!

I can’t believe another school year is starting up again! I am a (grade) teacher at (school) in the (district), located just outside (nearest city). I am looking for local “celebrity readers,” and thought instantly of you!

The (grade level) team is hoping to host one celebrity a month to read a book to the students. We hope “Celebrity Story Time” will not only encourage our students to read, but also show them many different kinds of jobs in the community. [Make a connection to the reader here, like this: We learn about the news and weather in first grade, and thought this would be a perfect connection.]

If it works for your schedule, we would love to have you come in one day this school year to read to our students. If you are interested, please let me know if a certain time of year works best for you. I look forward to hearing from you!

5. Then, it's time to coordinate your schedules and give further details. You may need to be flexible, depending on your reader's job. Morning might be best for a reporter, but terrible for an athlete. You'll want to be clear about the visit: How long should it last? What is expected? Are you picking out the book, or will they come with one? What topics would you like them to discuss?  

6. Before your celebrity arrives, spread the word! It's, of course, important to share the schedule with other teachers and your administration. You may also want to contact your local newspaper. Several of our celebrity readers have been featured in the local section of our newspaper!

Celebrity Reader Mackenzie Bart, Miss Ohio 2015 and ventriloquist, visit to teach about STEM.
7. Next, you'll want to make reminders. The week of the visit, send out a quick email to your staff and reader to remind them of the details of the visit. This ensures that everyone is on the same page schedule-wise. 

8. After all that planning, you're now ready to host celebrity readers at your school! Upon arrival, I send down a couple of students to greet our reader with a handshake to welcome them to our school. The celebrities get a kick out of that! Be sure to take lots of pictures, and post them to Instagram using the hashtag #CelebrityStoryTime. 

9. Be prepared to help monitor behavior and lead the discussion during and after the reading! Depending on your reader's background, he or she may not be comfortable addressing students' chattiness or other behavior issues during their reading. In addition, they might not be sure how to steer the kids into asking meaningful questions. That's where you should step in!

Celebrity Reader Miss Ohio 2015, Sarah Hider reads Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon.

10. After each visit, be sure to send thank you notes! No matter how big or small your celebrity's status, they've taken time out of their day to spend time with your kiddos and enrich their love of reading. Whether it be heartfelt thanks from the teacher, a group note from the class, or individual letters, thank yous are a must! They also help build a relationship with the celebrity may have some you'd like to invite back year after year.

How do you get your students excited about reading? Do you have a similar program at your school already? Thinking about starting your own Celebrity Story Time, but need some more direction? I'd love to hear about it in the comments! Remember to tag your photos with #CelebrityStoryTime so I can check out what's going on in your school! 

"Snow" Place I'd Rather Be Than First Grade!

I may be a bit late but...Happy New Year! I hope you had a restful, relaxing, much-needed winter break. Personally, I spent my time off wedding planning with my fiance. We are so excited for what this year will bring for us!

Coming back from break has always been hard for me...and not just because I have to start wearing real pants again. I always hit the hard realization that half of the school year is over and start to panic. Are my students halfway to their reading goals? Have I covered enough standards? Will we meet our SLO? My natural reaction is to come back in January with my eye on the prize, hitting the ground running and never looking back.
While I may have had good intentions, I was always met with resistance from my firsties. Who can blame them? They come back from break refreshed...but also wildly out of routine. This year, I slowed it down for our first couple days back, in hopes for a better transition. Check out these awesome FREEBIES for some winter fun and an easy transition back into your normal routine!
Here in Ohio, if there’s one thing I can guarantee for each January, it’s snow. Lots and lots and LOTS of snow…which makes snowmen the perfect theme for the month. We are also learning about cause and effect this month in first grade, which was the inspiration for this fun writing project.

One of my favorite snowy read alouds is Maureen Wright’s Sneezy the Snowman. In the book, Sneezy gets too cold out in the snow, and tries – hilariously but unsuccessfully – to warm himself up. Each time he tries something new to get cozy warm, he melts! This book, of course, is the perfect inspiration for cause and effect writing.

First, students build their own snowman head using a white paper bowl, a half sheet of black construction paper, and a scrap of orange construction paper. I do not provide them with a pattern for this...their snowmen turn out much cuter and more unique this way!

Next, we work together to build a “cause” list...all leading to the effect of, “My snowman melted!” We first start with the examples from the book: He drinks hot cocoa. He sits in a hot tub. He stands by the fire. We start building on the list using our own imagination. I encourage my students to think outside the box and pretend their snowman is alive, like Sneezy, Frosty, or Olaf. This gets them thinking outside the box, and also stirs scientific discussion. What makes cold things melt? Heat! What produces heat? The sun! A hair dryer! A volcano! Our list then serves as a word wall for their writing.

I then give my kiddos this simple print out of a melted puddle (get it for FREE at the link below!). Some have a blank sheet and others get a sentence starter. They have just enough room to write three to five sentences, explaining how their snowman (or snowwoman!) melted.

This brief writing sample gets them back into the swing of things without exhausting their poor little hands (or minds!). I add a few staples to attach the head to the puddle and boom! Our melted snowmen are ready to be displayed.

Looking to make your own melted snowmen? Find the freebie on my TpT HERE!

Later in the day, we eased our way back into math with this easy craftivity. Back in December, my best friend and fellow teacher down in Texas sent me photos of this beyond adorable craft that she created with her preschoolers, perfect for shape recognition. I was determined to modify it into a first grade activity!

Up to this point in the year, we have focused almost entirely on addition and subtraction skills. Adding an addition and subtraction review to the craftivity made the project perfect for first! Students sat on the carpet with whiteboards, markers, and erasers. We studied the chart, and solved each math problem to find out how many pieces we needed to make our melted snowmen. For example, we started with an easy subtraction problem to find out how many pieces of blue paper we needed (one!). Once we solved this, we returned to our seats, grabbed a blue piece of paper, wrote our names on the back, and returned to the carpet once again to solve the next fact. We then moved on to the next problem.

Breaking the project up like this gave kids a little break between each math problem. What they didn’t realize is that they were still working on their math skills while working on their melted snowmen!

Again, I don’t give the kids a pattern for this. I think their projects turn out much cuter this way! This project is the perfect way to transition into more rigorous academics, and ease the students back into routines and procedures after break.

For the full directions and easy printable guides, get the freebie on my TpT HERE!

How do you transition your students back from a long break? Sound off in the comments to share your ideas!

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