Teacher Valentines

eraser valentines finishedSince I teach 4th grade, the students are still at an age where they decorate a bag or shoebox and make Valentine deliveries to classmates in honor of Valentine’s Day. Many of my sweet students bring me a Valentine along with the Valentines they share with classmates. I like to reciprocate and give my students a cute Valentine too. This year, my teacher teammate and I are wrapping erasers with white tissue paper to look like a piece of taffy. At this point in the school year, the students have rubbed, chewed, or picked away every pencil eraser they own and desperately need a way to cleanly fix writing mistakes or remove stray marks from their papers, so this little Valentine is actually more of a gift for the teachers!

eraser valentines suppliesMaterials:

  • rectangular erasers (I used PaperMate “Expressions” erasers, but you could also choose something like the classic “Pink Pearl”)
  • white tissue paper, ~6″ x 3 1/2″ (wrap a test piece of tissue around your eraser to determine the best size)
  • small stickers (I used Avery 5195, 2/3″ x 1 3/4″, 60 labels per sheet)

Directions:

  • Determine the tissue paper size you will need. I wrapped the tissue around one eraser, so the tissue covered the wide flat side two times. I had about 2 inches on either end of the eraser for twisting. Cut all of the tissue paper rectangles that you need first, so you can create an assembly line for wrapping the erasers.

eraser valentines assembly

  • Wrap a tissue rectangle around each eraser and twist both ends.

eraser valentines twist

  • Put a sticker with your name and/or Valentine message on the side of the eraser with the edge of the tissue paper to keep the tissue from unwrapping. I had a tiny glitch with my labels. If you choose to print with a return address sized label like I did (Avery 5195), make sure your words or any images are not up against the edges of the label in the document. The labels are so small that if the printer does not grab the label sheet at exactly the right starting point, the labels print into the label below (see my cut off hearts in the pictures). Yes, the mis-alignment makes me CRAZY, but I ran out of labels and I am trying not to let the OCD side of me take over on this. I think little heart or Valentine themed stickers would be a good option too.
  • Cut the edge of the twisted ends off a little if they seem too long and flappy.

eraser valentines with labelNotes:

  • I tried parchment paper and wax paper before settling on the white tissue paper. The stickers don’t adhere, and the twisted ends with the parchment and wax paper do not stay twisted together as well.

Jelly Bean Valentines

jelly bean envelopes

Yes, we start planning class Valentines early at our house. I am sure that is no surprise to the readers who have been with me for awhile. I always need a Valentine of some kind for my students, and Miss Priss and Mr. Star Wars are still at ages where they bring in Valentines to distribute to their whole class. While it would be the most efficient to think of one type of card and mass produce it, the three of us usually make different kinds of Valentines for each of our classes.

This year, Miss Priss is filling small colored paper sacks with assorted jelly beans. We closed the little bags with a label that says, “Keep Calm and Eat a Jelly Bean.” To finish, Miss Priss signed her name at the bottom of each label.

jelly bean envelopes materials

Materials

  • Celebrate It Mini Paper Sacks, 2 1/2″ x 4″ (coin envelopes or other mini bag would work too)
  • assorted jelly beans in Valentine colors (we picked our own at the fill-a-bag Jelly Belly station at the grocery store)
  • Avery 8161 labels (1″ x 4″)

Directions

jelly bean envelopes labels

  • Fill each sack with ~one tablespoon of jelly beans (don’t overfill the little bags).
  • Fold over the top flap and close with the sticker label.

jelly bean envelopes with label

Notes

jelly bean envelopes pile

Hooking the Reader

topic sentences activity

Writing the first sentence

Starting a writing assignment is the hardest part

Sometimes, the first sentence is the hardest part of writing for me. Most of my students feel the same way. To cope, they revert to the default starter sentence, “This is my story about _____.” Or, if I am lucky, I get the alternate topic sentence, “I am going to tell you about _____.” Both of these options pain me. I am working hard this year to banish bad topic sentences.

Students can write catchy topic sentences if they see lots of examples that grab their attention. Recently, my students researched one aspect of a Native American tribe and wrote an article about their topic. After they researched but before they began drafting their articles, I had the students flip through my magazine collection. To complete the Magazine Hook Sample Activity, the kids looked for 3 feature articles in different magazines and copied the first sentence only.

sample hook sentences from magazinesAfter collecting a big list of first sentences, we shared and discussed. When we compared the topic sentences, we looked at sentence structure and word choice. We made predictions about the content of the article based on the first sentence. We made a chart that listed conventions the writers used that we liked. We also generated a list of things published writers did NOT do. After the students reviewed lots of examples of good starter sentences, they were let loose to write their own topic sentences for their feature articles. The first sentences were not all publisher ready, but students did create sentences with a little sizzle to them.

Here are some of our favorite topic sentences we found in published articles:

  • Suppose—just suppose—that beings from outer space have landed in your community.
  • Golden lion tamarins grow up fast.
  • Not everyone thinks that prosthetists like Carroll are doing the right things when they meddle in the lives of injured animals.
  • A dark-green fringed leaf frog croaks softly as it sits on a tree branch in a wooded area of Brazil.
  • A small, shy cat peers out from its hiding place of dense cover in thorny shrubs in south Texas.
  • Tucked inside a nest made of moss, two young southern flying squirrels cling to each other.
  • These Halloween treats may be sugar free, but they are still super sweet.
  • Wildfires are unpredictable.
  • On a small street in Philadelphia in the 1920s, there was a factory owned by the Fleer family.

Here are a few tips for writing a good hook courtesy of my fourth graders:

  • Use an unusual sentence structure. Try having a prepositional phrase at the beginning of the sentence. Use a really short sentence to gain attention. Mix up the word order, so it does not follow the subject then verb format.
  • Use key vocabulary words related to the topic.
  • Avoid words like very, nice, good
  • Use active verbs in the topic sentence. However, if you are trying the short-sentence-for-effect technique, you might use a linking verb like is, was, or are with an interesting adjective choice.
  • Use poetic devices like alliteration or onomatopoeia.

The finished articles were part of a Native American magazine project. As with sooo many of my projects, the magazine assignment became much bigger than I originally intended. However, when I saw the finished products, I was impressed. The final magazines looked like they came from a real printer.

Native American magazine covers

Native American magazine interior

 

 

 

7-Layer Dip

7 layer dip finished

Watching football this weekend? Attending a family friendly New Year’s Eve party? Me too. There is no better tailgate snack food for football watching and potlucks than a Mexican 7-layer dip. I will be bringing this crowd favorite to a friend’s house tonight, and I made individual sizes, so we can keep eating more dip during football games tomorrow. Normally, I like to use a layer of diced tomatoes instead of salsa. I forgot the tomatoes at the grocery store, so I went with the salsa layer, which is a totally acceptable substitute. You can see my original recipe with the diced tomatoes HERE. I know many people have a version of this recipe, but I think the Fritos Original Bean Dip and the taco seasoning mixed in with the sour cream makes this variation a little special. Happy New Year!

Ingredients

  • 2 (9-oz) cans Fritos Original Bean Dip
  • 1 container guacamole (about 10 oz.)
  • ~2 cups salsa
  • 1 pkg mild taco seasoning
  • ~12 oz. sour cream
  • 2 c. Mexican cheese blend, grated
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • scoop Frito’s or tortilla chips

Directions

  • Scoop the 2 cans of bean dip into a 9 x 13 casserole dish and spread evenly across the bottom with a spatula.
  • Dollop the guacamole on top of the bean dip and gently spread out using the spatula. Try not to disturb the bean dip layer. It’s kind of like frosting a cake.

7 layer dip guac

  • Dollop the salsa on top of the guacamole layer and spread gently.

7 layer dip salsa

  • In a small bowl (or the sour cream container), mix the taco seasoning with the sour cream. Combine well. It will be a light orange color. Spread the sour cream mixture over the guac and salsa. Gently spread with the spatula trying not to disrupt the layer beneath.

7 layer dip sour cream

7 layer dip sour cream layer

  • Sprinkle the grated cheese on top.
  • Sprinkle the green onions over the cheese.
  • Serve with Frito scoops or tortilla chips.
  • Can be made ahead. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Notes

  • Make individual layered dips in ramekins or the clear 9-oz. plastic cups.

7 layer dip individual

Tunnel Poems

tunnel poems top view

April is officially National Poetry Month, but I always teach poetry to my students in December. Class instruction gets interrupted a lot in December due to holiday performance rehearsals, parties, and various holiday activities. I like to teach poetry during the holiday craziness because I can work around smaller blocks of time (and holiday mode student attention spans) to complete a whole poem, and we won’t be left hanging at a critical part of the story if we have to put our work down.

This year, I combined a poetry lesson with one of my favorite craftivities– tunnel poems. The tunnel poems did double duty. The students learned about haiku poems, and we created a finished product that kids took home to their parents for a holiday gift. I even made a tunnel poem to give to my teaching partner with a picture of us from our school Halloween carnival.

joker tunnel poem finished

I asked students to bring a 4×6 family photo to school. The photo could be of any family member (and that included pets) and show any special memory whether it was a recent event or something from several years ago.

Students generated word lists that related to their chosen picture. When they completed their personal word list, they counted the syllables in each word and wrote the syllable count next to the matching word. Using the haiku formula for the 3-line poem (5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables), students moved words from their lists around until they created a haiku poem. The finished tunnel poem has 4 frames layered on top of the photo. The first frame displays a title for the poem. The next 3 frames display the haiku– one line at a time– across the top.

tunnel poem pieces

CLICK HERE to go to my post about foldable booklets with step-by-step directions for making the tunnel poems. When I made these with students in the past, we used postcards as the back panel. This time we used personal photos to make it more meaningful. The photos were flimsier than postcards (especially if they were printed from home on printer paper), so I attached each photo to a 4×6 notecard to give the photo a little more stiffness.

Basically, you need lots of 4×6 notecards and a paper cutter to cut the side hinge pieces evenly. You will also need glue, scissors, colored pencils or markers, and lots of patience. I recommend training your early finisher students in tunnel poem contruction and let them help other students. Spatially, it is difficult for some students to comprehend how to layer the frames and attach the hinges to the backs of each frame. It is easier to fold the side hinges if your photos are landscape orientation, but it is possible to make the tunnel poems with a portrait (tall) orientation.

dog haiku tunnel poem