I teach in a great area of Metro Atlanta that is a true melting pot. The diversity in my classroom is truly amazing. I have learned so much about other cultures and languages from my students. 

That being said, I can't do Christmas in my classroom anymore, so I thought I'd share an activity that I did a few years ago. 

After Thanksgiving break, I chose Flat Stanley's Christmas Adventure as our read aloud. It's short and sweet, and the kids were thrilled to hear that they would get to take Stanley home!

We were working on letter writing, and I thought it would be a fun way to learn more about my students and differing holiday traditions. It went so well! 

I chose to use two notebooks, since I had 25 students and I didn't have 25 school days until Christmas. Split in half, it took a little over two weeks to get the project done. 

I had a schedule taped inside the notebook, along with instructions and a pocket for Flat Stanley. 
(I had to take Flat Stanley out when I added these notebooks to our classroom library. As you can see from these pictures, these notebooks have been LOVED!)

You can find the introduction/instructions here

I created the first entry to be an example for my students and their parents, then glued it on the first pages in both of the notebooks. 

As I said, it was a HIT and these notebooks are still popular in my classroom library.

You can find templates for the old Stanley on FlatStanleyProject.com and the new Stanley (like I used) at FlatStanleyBooks.com.

You can find the Christmas Adventure book here. The paperback is a STEAL - only $2.88 right now!

Lastly, you can find a writing template for an extension/research activity here.


As you may know, I was "promoted" to third grade this year. Because of that, I'm not using Words Their Way anymore (GASP - shocker, I know!).

My students have a new spelling list each week, and after a few weeks, I realized I HAD to do something to make spelling practice more engaging for them.

I decided to shop with Oriental Trading because they offer a TON of fun alphabet things! I was impressed with the selection and was excited that I could purchase everything in one place.

First, I looked for some letter tiles. I had some plastic tiles that my students loved using at the beginning of the year, but I confiscated them because they made so much noise while other students were trying to read or write. These tiles are colorful and QUIET! They are just thin pieces of cardboard, but I think they'll last a while if my students treat them correctly. Plus, it came with so many pieces, I put many pages aside in storage to pull out later if I need to.

Find the letter tiles here ($6.99 for 2000 letters).

I saw the dough cutters and knew my third graders would go crazy for this spelling bin! I already had plenty of PlayDough in my classroom, so prepping this bin was simple for me and has already proven to be so engaging. I think the rollers are unnecessary but add an extra touch of fun.

Find the alphabet dough cutters here ($5.97 per set) and the rollers here.

These stampers are already a hit! They are quick, colorful, and - here comes that E word again - engaging. The stamps were a little more expensive, but the reviews are good and I'm hoping they'll last me for at least a few years. Also, I figured we could use these stamps for things other than spelling...

Find the stamps here ($9.49 per set).

Stencils are simple, yet I hardly ever see them anymore, so I thought stenciling would be something new for my students to try. The set comes will all sorts of colors and fonts, but each durable page contains every letter, so students only need one page. Simple! The only downside is that the stencils do not fit into my pretty spelling bins!

Find the stencils here ($16.99 for 12).

I pulled out some of my STEM materials for the additional bins. One has popsicle sticks, and the other has pipe cleaners. Although these materials may not be as engaging, they are a little more challenging and work on those motor skills!

I store my word work supplies (along with all of my other Daily 5 materials) in some sort of shelf that is probably older than I am, so I had a hard time finding bins that would fit inside it. After lots of searching, I found these Iris bins on Amazon. I have a couple of other supplies made by Iris, and I love how high-quality they are. I hope these will last me for years!

Obviously I bought the blue ones to match my room... aren't they pretty?!

Grab an 8-pack of the bins here. (Watch the price, though, as it will fluctuate... I snagged the set for $31.68!)

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Please let me know if you do any shopping or add any of these ideas to your spelling routine! Additionally, I'd love to know if you have any other simple, engaging activities that I could add to my routine.

Let me know in a comment below!

DISCLAIMER: Oriental Trading sent these items to me at no cost in exchange for an honest review. THANK YOU, Learn 365! 

Please note that this blog post contains affiliate links. Purchasing through these links comes at no extra cost to you, but I do get a small percentage back that I use for the upkeep of this blog and other School and the City communications.

Yes, even you, upper elementary teachers!

Earlier this month, my third graders took the ITBS. Before the testing week began, I had to completely cover or take down anything "academic" in my classroom that students could possibly glean answers from... even my alphabet.

I decided that since I was taking down the alphabet anyways, it'd be the perfect opportunity for my students to make their own alphabet. I'd seen this done in younger grades before, but never in upper grades, so I spun the idea to make it work in my classroom. I did this by tying it in with our content, involving writing, and using cursive letters.

I just posted an anchor chart with the alphabet written on it. I told students that as they were learning about and researching Georgia, they could add something to the chart if they found a noun that started with one of the letters. (We were studying Georgia habitats AND working on nouns!) I told them that when we filled the alphabet, we would do something exciting.

I explained the task and assigned letters. Students who found words got first dibs on them! Students researched their topics and wrote about it. I displayed their writing underneath the alphabet!

After the writing was completed,
students were given their letter, which I printed on cardstock for durability. They did SUCH a nice job decorating! I could not believe how much time and effort students put into both their writing and pictures. It just goes to show that if you empower and motivate students by giving them choice and a sense of ownership, they'll really do their best work!

I definitely catch myself staring at our beautiful alphabet at least once a day!

You can make your own alphabet, too, with this simple print-and-go kit, that you can find here

To assist you in meeting the needs of your classroom, I gave you the option of a print or cursive alphabet. I also have two different options for the writing page, depending on the age of your students.

If you do allow your class to make their own alphabet, be sure you tag me on Instagram @schoolandthecity... I can't wait to see how yours turns out!

I have been SO VERY BUSY lately (hello testing, conferences, and report cards) but I am SO VERY EXCTIED about this that I just can't hold it in anymore!

So, I don't have whiteboards. I have two very large, very black chalkboards. They're magnetic (whooo) but other than that, they annoy me to no end. I don't like writing with chalk. It's messy! Chalk markers are EXPENSIVE and dry out so quickly... I feel like I've tried them all. And when I DO suck it up and write on the chalkboard, it's hard for kids to read. 

Then came the day a few months ago that my friend Emily from Munchkins, Inc. shared an image on her Instagram  showing how she covered her chalkboards with dry erase contact paper. I thought about it for a while... Hers looks so good that I just had to try it myself!! 

Here's the before...

... and here's the after!

I did the first half with the help of a friend, but did the second half on my own. I used a credit card to help me apply without leaving any bubbles!

It is white and so freshhh.
It's erases well, even after days.
I'm only using black Expos on it, though. I'm not risking any of those pretty colors!

I've already found myself writing on the board WAY MORE THAN I USED TO. I'm now able to make quick notes or illustrations for students to refer back to, and I'm able to create opportunities for the students to interact via the whiteboard! Life is good.

What do you think?!

I think I'll buy another roll to cover my other board!

You can find the roll of dry erase (whiteboard) contact paper here.

Please note that this post contains affiliate links. Purchasing through these links comes at no extra cost to you, but I do get a small percentage back that I use for the upkeep of this blog and other School and the City communications.
Third grade! Yay!

I survived the first two weeks of third grade and finally have the time/energy to tell you a little bit about it. I won't be going into total detail, so please leave a comment if you have a question!

The first read aloud for third grade was How to Be Cool in the Third Grade. It was great and opened up the opportunity for discussions about bullying, "being cool," and friendship. The kids loved it so much that they gave it a standing ovation when we finished it on Friday!

On the first day, we read The Crayon Box That Talked. Then students completed this (very challenging) team building activity that required them to build a tower of cups without touching them. Afterwards, we discussed kind and respectful language and made an anchor chart called "Meaningful Conversations." (See below.)

One of my favorite back to school books for teaching respect and responsibility for actions is called What If Everybody Did That? I find myself referring to the book ALL YEAR LONG by asking students that question in order to redirect their behavior.

After reading the book, students write on sticky notes how they might apply our classroom rules.

Two first week traditions that I continued were All About Me Four Corners and the Me & We Book.

I updated my four corners game over the summer so that it ended with this encouraging slide. Students read it with me and I read it to them because I wanted them to know - from day 1 - that they are so loved.

The Me & We Book is a tradition that I learned from my team during my first year of teaching. Students always love it! We turn the pages into a class book that they can read all year long.

We read The Important Book and talked about how our unique qualities make us important. This discussion ended with students writing autobiographical writing samples and gave them ideas for their Me & We Books. We also used The Important Book as our first mentor text for Jivey's mentor sentences.

On the first day that we switched for math classes, I introduced myself using my interactive math about me chart. Then, students made their own using a matching freebie by Create Teach Share called Figure Me Out. I allowed them to use sticky notes to make them look like mine, and I love how they look on my math board! They'll be perfect for parents to check out during Curriculum Night.

SPOTTED: Hashtag Headings
Later in the week, I introduced each of the Daily 5 centers. Practicing independent reading s=and building stamina is so important to start right away! The kids loved listening to "The Greatest" by Sia as they picked out books and found comfy reading spots.

Towards the end of the week, we set long term goals for the school year. (Look for a product coming soon to my TPT!) We talked about growth mindset by reading Giraffes Can't Dance and watching the Class Dojo "Big Ideas" series about the power of YET.

Other than those major activities, the rest of the time was spent teaching and practicing classroom procedures, organizing our supplies, and learning how my classroom runs. It was a great, smooth week.... but I am glad it's over! This group of students has figured out the routine quickly, which has made the transition to a new grade much easier for me.

Other books I read throughout the week:

Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun

Chocolate Milk Por Favor

What If Everybody Did That?

The Juice Box Bully

The Important Book

Miss Malarkey Leaves No Reader Behind

My Mouth is a Volcano 

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What are your favorite activities for the first week of school? Let me know in a comment below!

Please note that this post contains affiliate links. Purchasing through these links comes at no extra cost to you, but I do get a small percentage back that I use for the upkeep of this blog and other School and the City communications.

I was moved to third grade this year, so I needed a fresh batch of read alouds.  After all, I have some former students in my class, and I didn't want to reread any chapter books to them!

After thinking back on books I loved as a kid and asking other teachers for recommendations, I purchased the following books for my classroom:

How to Be Cool in the Third Grade

Judy Moody is in a Mood

The One and Only Ivan

Because of Winn Dixie

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

The Witches

Those may last me through this semester, but I already have some great options lined up for the spring semester! The following books were recommended to me by other 3rd grade teachers that I totally trust. (A * denotes books I have read and completely approve of!)

How to Eat Fried Worms*

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory*

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy

Lemonade Wars

Lone Bean

The Wild Robot

Third Grade Angels

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing*

Did I leave any of your favorites off of my list?! Let me know in a comment below!


Please note that this post contains affiliate links. Purchasing through these links comes at no extra cost to you, but I do get a small percentage back that I use for the upkeep of this blog and other School and the City communications.

I am completely exhausted but my heart is so happy. I survived Meet the Teacher today and I got to squeeze all of my sweet kids from last year!

As you may or may not know, I was moved (promoted?) to third grade, so I have a few of my students that were in my class last year. All of my other former students will be right nextdoor or across the hall, so I'll still get to see their sweet faces every day. Yay! They were a wonderful class and I miss them tons.

Anyways... on to the sneak peek...

When new students and parents first walked in, they saw my math about me chart, a photo area, and instructions on the board. (I also had fun music playing... #ambiance).

The YAY balloon is from the Target Dollar Spot, but I found a similar one on Amazon, found here.

Most students bring their supplies with them, so I have them sort them for me. My bins are labeled with my supply labels, free in my TPT store.

SPOTTED: pencil nametags, expectation posters, and team jobs

On tables, students found their nametags, important forms for parents, an envelope full of information to take home, and a quick gift.

I found the fun glasses at Target in the party section. You can read more about them here.

I printed on sticky notes using a free template that I found on TPT after reading some tutorials. It's easier than I thought it would be, and I love how it looked!

Here's the area where parents turned in the forms, signed up to volunteer, and viewed my classroom wish list.

Wish list tips: Make sure parents have something to take with them so they don't forget about it, and write your name on the back of it in case they have more than one child at your school.

I bought these acrylic display signs last summer, and they have proved so useful! I use them for sneak peek, curriculum night, and even during daily lessons to label centers or differentiated activities.

Last but not least, I set up my table supply caddies with the new supplies and I LOVE how gorgeous they look!

Whew! Now I just have to get ready for Monday.... First day of third grade, here I come!

Please note that this post contains affiliate links. Purchasing through these links comes at no extra cost to you, but I do get a small percentage back that I use for the upkeep of this blog and other School and the City communications.