Sunday, December 30, 2012

New Year's Resolutions and a Freebie!

Personally, I love the New Year - a chance to reboot and restart! And create lists! (I love lists.....) So today I'm excited to link up with Jen at The Teacher's Cauldren to share our personal and blogger resolutions.
And I'm glad to have another opportunity to put my S.M.A.R.T goal training to use!  

Personal Resolution:
I will improve my health by losing 10 pounds by March 31st. I will achieve this by tracking what I eat daily through Weight Watchers online. I will also walk, do yoga, or work out on my elliptical machine for at least 30 minutes 3 times each week. (And if any of you do WW online - I'd love to join a community group with you to encourage each other!)

Blogging Resolutions:
(Since I have three blogs that I'm involved with, I'll share my goals for each of them....)

Mrs. Allen's 5th Grade Files:
I will write at least one blog per week and link to it on Facebook-even if just to share quick ideas, reflections, and strategies that are working in my classroom while I work on more involved posts. 

3-6 Free Resources: 
I will share at least one resource per week and link it to Pinterest.

Mrs. Allen's Recipe Files:
I will share at least 1 recipe per week - and at least one original per month with recipe card. I will also calculate and include the Weight Watchers' points for each recipe or serving.
 I will achieve these blogging goals by taking more pictures during the week and editing them each night so they are ready to be included in a post. I will also write posts Thursday and Friday evenings when I have the most energy and then schedule them throughout the week. I will carve out more time for writing by limiting Netflix viewing and App playing to rewards once I have completed a post.'s out there now - I can't take it back so you'll all be witnesses to how I'm faring!
I also think it's extremely important for children to set their own goals - both personal and academic. When we go back to school this Wednesday, this will be their first writing journal prompt:
You can download a copy here in Word format for free and change the examples to match the experiences of your students and grade level.  

What are your New Year's resolutions for 2013? 
Have a happy and safe New Year!!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

5 Tips for Dealing With the Santa Minefield

Last week, one of my more "sophisticated" 5th grade girls - of the eye-shadow-wearing, high-heel teetering, eye-rolling variety - looked ready to cry when a boy in our class told her, "Duh - Santa's not Reeeaallll!"  I have to say, talking about Santa was one of many things I hadn't anticipated when I moved from teaching in a middle school to teaching at the elementary level. Actually - I don't really talk about Santa much at all. He's referenced in one cute R.A.F.T writing assignment:

Imagine you are Santa Claus. Write a letter to Mrs. Claus explaining why you won't be home for dinner....again.

(My students love that assignment and their reasons and apologies are just hilarious, but it's not really endorsing the idea of Santa.)  And all of my classroom holiday decorations are of the red berries and garland variety - more wintery than anything.  A small little tree hosts ornaments my students have given me over the years and one or two may have Santa on them.'s dealing with the students' chit-chat and direct questions aimed at my opinion that's the minefield. I do not want to utter anything that would land me in the news - just Google "Teacher Tells About Santa" to see where that might get you - yikes! Stories like this one seem to be a fairly common occurrence. 

So....after some thought and  research, I came up with a few classroom ground rules for myself:

1. Do NOT threaten with Santa. 
No "Santa is watching so study for that Spelling Quiz!" This method always seemed vaguely creepy to me anyway, and my husband and I never do this in our house with our daughters. I really don't want to encourage my children or students to be good only because someone is watching them. No matter how adorable that darn Elf on the Shelf is!

2. Intentional Ignoring
If Sally and Alice are starting to have a Santa conversation - just let it go. Debate, sharing ideas, and defending your own beliefs are part of growing up. If it's causing a major distraction, move ahead with #3!

3. Redirect!
If #2 does not work - try the old standby - "Ah...look at the time boys and girls!!  Let's get started with  (Insert Very Important Task Here)!"

4. Turn the Question
If Mikey asks something like, "How do you think Santa fits down all those chimneys?" Respond with, "Well, what do you think?"

5. Reference Others
Respond to questions by saying, "Some people think that Santa uses magic dust to make the reindeer fly." or "Some people think Santa uses the window if a house has no chimney." I like this one because it doesn't really offer your opinion and puts the critical thinking back on the student. Also - my students are a bit familiar with this since I wouldn't tell them who I would vote for during the last election or even my stance on controversial topics. The "Some people think" opening has served me well so far!

If you're interested in further reading, here are a couple resources from different viewpoints on the subject:

Dr. Lydia McGrew wrote this article explaining why Christian parents might want to reconsider Santa.

Dale McGowan is the author of the secular parenting blog called the Meming of Life. Here he has an interesting post about how the Santa tradition is a great "Dry Run" for developing critical thinking in children.

A couple of the sites I visited also mentioned these two books about talking to children about a variety of difficult topics. Since this seems to be an area overlooked while attending college for education, I may have to pick them up.  (If you own them, let me know what you think!)

So how do you handle Santa in your classroom?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Spelling Freebie & December Currently

Hooray - I'm back! Switching grade levels and buildings - while terrific - has also been far more challenging than I had imagined. Phew! I've been gathering lots to share - just haven't had as much time to actually get it posted. But stay tuned....more will be coming shortly!  First off, here is my December Currently from Oh' Boy 4th Grade.....
 We put up our Christmas Tree today and always watch White Christmas while decorating it.  My two daughters (3 and 5 years old) like to dance to the "Sisters" song while prancing around with feather dusters.  :-)   
And here's a quick freebie I've been fine-tuning and wanted to pass along.  I know many of you use similar lists of assignment options for students to complete to review their spelling words. I call our classroom version a Word Study Menu. Students can select any choices from Appetizers, Entrees, Side Dishes & Desserts - completing 100 points worth of work.

Just click on the picture above to download yours from my TN Store, or you can also get it from

I opt to have students study one list of words (20 words plus 5 bonus words) over the course of 2 weeks.  The spelling preview is on Monday and they grade their own the same day. The following Thursday is a quiz on the meanings of the words and Friday is the spelling quiz.  I find that they're more likely to actually remember the words if we spend more than the traditional week.  Of course, students love choice, so this is a nice way to give them some options.

Also - since there is no way we can get to all 30 lists from our Scott Foresman series, I give the students two choices and let them vote.  They selected Compound Words this time - one of my favorites, too.

What are your favorite spelling assignments?