Homemade Cheezits (kind of)

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It’s holiday teacher gift season! I love teacher gift ideas, and I try not to repeat too many ideas from year to year. If I were not a teacher and a parent, I would not take the teacher gift situation so seriously, but I know how much I appreciate getting a small thank you from a student or family at the holidays, so I try to do the same for my children’s teachers. At the holidays, I often receive lots of home baked sweet goodies (no complaints here). Because there might be lots of cookies and candies on the way, I thought I would go the savory route for this year’s teacher gifts.

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The crackers look like a Cheezit and have a similar taste but are slightly more gourmet due to the rosemary. I found THIS RECIPE via Pinterest. The recipe is easy to follow, but it is time consuming since you need to mix the dough, let it rest in the refrigerator, roll out the dough, cut, and bake. I put about 2/3 cup of crackers in each gift bag and ended up making three batches of dough to have enough crackers (twelve teachers).

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In order to make my cuts even for the cracker shape, I cut a strip of cardstock paper one inch wide and used that as a guideline for cutting. I had straggly edge pieces that were not perfect shapes, and those were the pieces we ate at my house!

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I printed labels on Avery 8163 shipping labels (2″ x 4″). You could use this ROSEMARY CHEESE CRACKER LABEL template and print on regular paper, cut, and tie to the bags with curly ribbon. The crackers would also be pretty in pint Mason jars or small, decorative Chinese food container boxes.

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I am hoping the teachers receiving these little gift bags will enjoy this snacky treat. For our teachers who we know are dog owners, we are giving these DOG TREAT GIFT BAGS in place of the human treat. It saved me having to make even more batches of crackers!

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Homemade Dog Treats

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This year, Miss Priss and Mr. Star Wars have several teachers who are dog owners. It gave me a little inspiration for a new teacher gift idea for the holidays. We got out a dog biscuit cookbook and tried out a few organic dog food recipes. Most of the dog treats need to be refrigerated after baking, so we narrowed down our choices to two recipes that can be stored at room temperature when finished. (CLICK HERE to see the Bubba Rose Biscuit Company cookbook information.)

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We liked the recipes that made a dough that rolled out, so you could cut fun shaped dog treats. We used bone, fire hydrant, and squirrel cookie cutters. The dough is a little sticky at first, and we kneaded in a little extra flour to make it easier to work. We tried to roll the dough about 1/4″ thick, but if you have kids rolling out the dough, you might have some batches that are thicker. Increase the baking time if you have thicker biscuits. We watched until the biscuits were browned on the edges.

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There are many dog treat recipes available online. You need to know if your dog has any food sensitivities, and the dog biscuits should never have chocolate, raisins, onions, and a few other items that are toxic to dogs. Many of the recipes I found had specialty flours (we used brown rice flour and oat flour), so check your pantry before starting. CLICK HERE for one recipe from the Bubba Rose people that is similar to the ones we made. Our cookbook said it is easy to swap out the “flavor” ingredients for something similar– it did not recommend replacing the flours. For example, if a recipe calls for cheddar cheese, you could replace with provolone. If a recipe calls for ground chicken, you could replace with ground turkey.

When we are putting together our gift boxes, we are making sure there is a mix of shapes in the gift box (or bag). We are also wrapping up a few gift boxes for our neighbors and friends who have family dogs.

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Reindeer Food Craft

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Holiday market week is here! After working all semester, my students’ products are bagged, tagged, and ready for purchase. The first product we assembled back in September were these reindeer food ornaments to hang on your Christmas tree (we also made these BIRDSEED ORNAMENTS and several MASON JAR MIXES). On Christmas Eve, you open the bag and sprinkle the reindeer food on your lawn to attract Santa’s reindeer.

I originally received a bag of reindeer food from a grandparent in my son’s 3-year old nursery school class. I kept that original bag all these years and duplicated (modified) the pattern over the years. The original reindeer food is a little fancier than the version my fourth graders made this year. Mass production with a 10-year old work crew forced us to simplify a few of the steps.

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Materials

  • old fashioned oatmeal (not instant)
  • glitter (we prefer silver, light blue, or clear colored)
  • bead bags with ziploc top (3″ x 5″)
  • tan or light brown cardstock or scrapbook paper (3″ x 4″ pieces, folded in half)
  • dark brown cardstock or scrapbook paper
  • googly eyes (10 mm)
  • red pom poms (10 mm)
  • jingle bells (3/4″)
  • skinny ribbon (~12″ strips– curly ribbon works)
  • stapler
  • Elmer’s glue or hot glue gun
  • scissors

Directions

  • Mix oatmeal and glitter in a bowl. You will need 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of oatmeal mix per bag, so mix the amount you need and add the amount of glitter sparkle you like!
  • Scoop sparkly oatmeal into a bead bag and seal the bag closed making sure the ziploc is secure. Don’t overfill the bags. I like the bags to be about half full and not overly plump. Set aside.
  • Make an antler template. I cut up a manila file folder to make my template. The antler is about 2 1/2″ tall and 1 1/2″ at the widest bumpy part.  Using the template, trace the antler pattern on the dark brown paper and cut as many antler pairs as you need.

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  • Fold the light brown 3″ x 4″ paper in half, so the paper is 2″ x 3″. Glue two antlers on the back and let dry. Watch that the antlers do not slide while the glue is wet. You may need to hold the antlers in place for a minute until they stick in position.

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  • Thread one jingle bell onto a piece of ribbon. Silver jingle bells were easier to thread than gold; they had a bigger “loop” on the bottom in the brand that I purchased from Michael’s Crafts. Move the jingle bell to the middle of the ribbon piece. Match the ends of the ribbon and tie a knot close to the ends. After the antlers dry, wrap the loop of ribbon around the folded piece of paper, so the knot of the ribbon sits up against the fold, and the jingle bell is above the paper near the antlers (like a handle for hanging).

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  • Slide the oatmeal bag into the folded paper and line up the top of the bag with the crease at the top of the paper fold. You may have to adjust the ribbon strip a little, so everything sits neatly. Staple the bag in place in the center of the paper where the mouth would be.
  • Glue eyes and nose onto the front of the paper and let dry.
  • If you want to dress up your reindeer food a little, see the picture below with embellishments like the bow on the front (to hide the staple) and pointed face. This one is my original reindeer food bag that I have been using as my model all of these years– and not letting my children open and use it!

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Thanksgiving Craftivity

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I pulled out the turkey toilet paper roll napkin rings my children made when they were in kindergarten. I like to use them for a few weeks around Thanksgiving– not just on Thanksgiving day. The year my son built his, we made sets for all of the grandparents and extended family and brought them with us to our family Thanksgiving meal. My in-laws still have their napkin rings.

If you make the napkin ring at school, it’s a fun little craft students can take home to their family. If you are building these with a whole class, you may want to pre-make certain steps, and you will need two days to let paint and glue dry– or do some work at the beginning of the day and finish construction towards the end of the day.

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Materials

  • toilet paper or paper towel rolls cut into 2 inch wide rings.
  • brown and yellow tempera paint
  • brown pipe cleaners (for the feet, optional)
  • red felt
  • assorted colored feathers (we used red, yellow, and orange)
  • googly eyes, 3 mm
  • wood craft spoons ~3/5 inches in height (I used THESE)
  • Elmer’s glue or hot glue gun

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Directions

  • Paint the wooden craft spoons yellow and the toilet paper roll rings brown. Let dry. (This step can be prepped ahead of time if you do not want the mess and clean-up of lots of tempera paint.)
  • Cut the red felt into a tear drop shape about 1-inch tall.
  • After the paint dries, glue the red felt tear drop shaped piece onto the middle of the spoon end of the wooden stick. Glue two googly eyes above the read waddle. Let dry flat.
  • Glue the yellow wooden stick turkey face to the side of the painted toilet paper roll piece. You may need to hold the craft spoon in place for a few minutes, so the face does not slide to the side. ** Note: Hot glue might be a better option here since the Elmer’s glue takes longer to dry and hold.

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  • If you are adding the pipe cleaner feet, you will need an adult to poke two holes at the base of the wooden spoon. Thread the pipe cleaner through the two holes, so a loop runs around the inside of the toilet paper roll. Fold and bend each pipe cleaner end into feet shape with 3 toes. Cut any excess length of pipe cleaner off.
  • Glue 3 feathers onto the back of the toilet paper roll and arrange, so the feathers are fanned out.

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  • Roll a napkin and slid into the napkin ring and set at each place setting for your Thanksgiving feast!

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Facebook Character Activity

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A few years ago, my students designed a Facebook page for a favorite character in the book, Dying to Meet You by Kate Klise. I was surprised how much critical thinking was involved. The students needed to pick a significant scene from the story, summarize it from the point of view of a character in the form of a Facebook post, and then respond to the post from the point of view of a different character.

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It was challenging for students to think about one story event from several angles. The finished writing activity reveals quite a bit about a student’s understanding of events in the story, character traits, and character interactions and motivations. It is a short activity but packed with reading skills, and the results are completely entertaining! It also had the bonus of incorporating technology skills since my students completed the Facebook page digitally.

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I recently assigned the activity again, and it did not disappoint. My students were in three separate reading groups this time around, but all students completed the Facebook page based on a character from their assigned book. It is such an easy activity to adapt to any novel study.

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In my classroom, I inserted the blank FACEBOOK TEMPLATE that I designed as a background in a PowerPoint slide and then added text boxes as placeholders on top of the background. I shared the template with my students, and they clicked in the text boxes to add their writing. They also inserted pictures, used bullet points, and changed font sizes (potentially tricky technology skills for 4th graders).

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For younger students or classrooms/homes without computer or printer access, the activity could be handwritten using THE TEMPLATE. The basic Facebook page with the text box outlines can be printed, and students draw profile pictures and neatly write posts, likes, and replies.

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The samples above are related to the novels, Dying to Meet You, Love That Dog, and Hate That Cat. Complete novel units are available for purchase in my teacher store. Click the book names to see more details about the novel studies.