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WHERE TO STAY IN BANFF

If you’ve been following my IG for a while, you might remember that my husband and I…along with two of our friends…traveled to Banff Canada for a few days in June.  I’m not an expert on traveling, and I’m definitely not an expert on traveling to Banff, but here’s just a little rundown of the lodging and food after several people have asked for trip details. 

We reserved our lodging only about a week and a half prior to our trip due to poor planning on our part.  By the time we were ready to reserve our stay, most lodging in Banff was completely sold out.  We ended up having to split our stay between Banff and Lake Louise. We considered staying all four days in Canmore (only a 20 minute drive from Banff), but we really wanted to be “in the mix” and opted to take what we could get in Banff instead. 

Canmore has a large selection of lodging and is seemingly less pricey as well. Views are excellent and Banff is only a quick car ride away. If you’re okay with driving a little bit and want to save some money, I’d highly recommend Canmore for lodging.

THE FOX HOTEL & SUITES

Our first two nights were spent at The Fox Hotel and Suites in Banff and we couldn’t have been more pleased.  This was the perfect place to stay.  When driving into Banff via the Trans Canada Highway, this particular lodge is one of the first few you’ll see as the lodging comes into view.  The Fox Hotel & Suites is about a 15 minute walk from the “heart” of the downtown Banff area and we honestly felt like it was a perfect location.  We did comment that we were about as far away from the main hub as we would’ve wanted to be without being too far out.

Image via Fox Hotel & Suites

We ended up reserving a loft suite with a balcony and absolutely LOVED our room. Perfect for one couple staying alone or with 1-2 small children. Living area downstairs with a really small kitchenette, sofa, table, TV, and private balcony access and upstairs featured a bed, bathroom, and another TV.  It was the perfect space with a very lodg(y) type feel and we honestly couldn’t have picked it better if we tried.

The view from our private balcony

The Fox Inn & Suites offers complimentary underground parking, wifi, access to public transportation, and breakfast vouchers as well.  A continental breakfast is offered at Chili’s (their in-house restaurant) and we took advantage of that before our first big hike.  We also loved their Cave & Basin themed hot pool/sauna area and made sure to take advantage of that before leaving as well. 

The Cave & Basin Hot Pool at The Fox Hotel & Suites

The grounds were kept immaculately clean, service was on point, and the entire staff was as friendly as could be.  Although we were only there for two short nights, we would definitely recommend this location to anyone traveling to the area. When we make our way back to Canada, this is where we’ll stay!  Five out of five stars for us!

FAIRMONT CHATEAU LAKE LOUISE

The last two nights of our trip were spent at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.  This historic hotel is located directly beside Lake Louise and features some of the most scenic views at almost every turn.  We shared a room with our friends for the two nights we stayed here and have nothing but great things to say about our experience. 

The view from our hotel room at the Fairmont Chateau

The service and accommodations were excellent.  That to be said, I personally felt like everything was really overpriced.  There was nothing extraordinary about our room (other than a partial view of Lake Louise) that warranted the price tag, IMO.  I mean, it was really nice, but not anything that knocked our socks off.  The rooms at The Venetian in Las Vegas blow these out of the water and they are a lot more affordable, too. However, if you’re wanting the full-on Lake Louise experience, I would definitely recommend lodging here. 

The hotel is expansive.  Several gift shops located in the lower lobby area as well as a 24-hour deli.  The oversized windows adorning the walls were one of my personal favorite features and the views were truly incomparable.  There are several different restaurants/bars located onsite, but if you’re a night owl, don’t expect them to stay open past 11.  We were trying to get as much out of our stay as possible and would’ve loved a late-night option.  Alpine Social and the Lakeview Lounge have patio seating available, but unfortunately we visited during monsoon season (mid-June) and the patios weren’t open for dining/drinking during our stay. 

Looking at the Farimont standing beside Lake Louise at the canoe rental location

I’m sure there were amenities we provided here that we didn’t get to experience, but canoeing on Lake Louise (we received free 1-hour canoe rentals upon arrival) was definitely a highlight for us.  There are several different trails to hike that can be accessed directly behind the hotel and walking around the perimeter of Lake Louise seemed to be a favorite among most tourists.  One thing to note is that this is a definite tourist destination.  TONS of people all over the place…inside the hotel, around the lake, in the canoes, along the trails, in the restaurants…people absolutely everywhere.  It definitely didn’t take away from our stay…we expected the crowds…but just something to keep in mind. 

Just a tiny glimpse of the interior of the Fairmont Chateau.

While we truly loved our experience at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, I don’t think I’d want to stay there again in the future.  NOT because it wasn’t an amazing hotel or because the service was anything other than excellent, but rather we’d prefer to stay IN the actual town of Banff where we felt like there was a wider variety of things to do at night. 

WHERE TO EAT IN BANFF & LAKE LOUISE

One of the best things about traveling for me is always the local fare.  There’s not much more I love than a great meal and Banff had plenty to offer.  While our stay was incredibly short, we were able to sample some of the most delicious appetizers, small bites, and big meals.  In case you have a trip to Banff planned, I thought this little review would be helpful!

EARL’S
We loved this little restaurant featuring a great little patio area outside.  This was the first place we stopped in Banff and we did so because they had an open table on the patio and we were anxious to sit outside and enjoy food and drinks.  We only sampled the appetizers and cocktails here so that we could try multiple restaurants in one night.
Our foursome recommends the Rhino Fries (delish!  Get extra!) and if you like bourbon, we recommend their take on an Old Fashioned (also delish).  

Earl’s take on an Old Fashioned – excellent! Earl’s Rhino Fries…great appetizer!

PARK DISTILLERY RESTAURANT AND BAR
This location has a very small patio (about four picnic tables total), but we were lucky enough to walk up as one was leaving so we scored a great spot to sit and sample an appetizer and cocktail.  Again, we only sampled apps and drinks so that we could try multiple restaurants in one night.

We recommend the Park Poutine (another fry dish…we didn’t have a clue what Poutine was, but it sounded great…and it was!). This was probably one of my favorite appetizers of the entire trip.  I tried the Parkway Caesar cocktail which is (what I think) is the Canadian equivalent of a Bloody Mary.  Not bad, but definitely not my favorite. 

The Park Poutine was amazing! The Parkway Caesar was underwhelming

ROSE & CROWN PUB
This was our favorite food spot in town.  This location recently opened up a rooftop bar/eating area and ohmiword.  Views for days.  It was pretty crowded up top, but we somehow managed to score a high-top after another couple finished their drinks and we were so grateful.  Such a charming spot!  360 views and it couldn’t have been more stunning. 

The Rooftop at Rose & Crown Pub

We opted to try out their Button Bones (bone in pork bites) and weren’t overly impressed.  They were okay, but not our favorite.  We kept our drinks simple so we don’t really have anything to recommend by way of spirits, but I can tell you that the vibe was spot on.  The atmosphere was extremely laid back and chill.  The only disappointment on the rooftop was the music.  Womp, womp.  Kind of techno(ish), but more along the lines of Ross Gellar playing his keyboard on Friends “electrifying” style.  It didn’t ruin the mood, it just didn’t amp it up, either.  LOL.  Also, we’re old.  So there’s that. 

Rose & Crown Pub rooftop views

Before we left we ended up walking downstairs and listening to the band.  We absolutely loved this place and will definitely go back when we visit again, only next time we’ll order a full-on meal!

PACINI
I’m pretty sure this is a chain in Canada…although I could be wrong…but we ended up here after a long day of walking and the only reason we stopped in was because it was the last place we could eat along our stop.  It was getting late and we were really tired and HANGRY.  While this wasn’t our first choice, we couldn’t have been happier with it.  Located in the Moose Hotel, Pacini was a perfect place to carb load with the most delicious Italian fare. 

The calzone…absolutely delicious and more than enough to share!

The guys recommend the calzone (amazing!!!), Ash recommends the Linguine Carbonara, and I devoured their Spaghetti Napoletana.  The make-your-own bread bar was amazing as well.  As for cocktails, I sampled the Signature Caesar and loved it! 

TOOLOULOU’S
If you go nowhere else in Banff, be sure to make it to TooLouLou’s.  This was recommended to us over and over again.  When we arrived for breakfast there was a line out the door and we almost didn’t stay.  HOWEVER, we didn’t feel like searching for another place and we’re so thankful we didn’t try because this was, hands down, the best meal of the trip. 

The line went relatively quickly and I can honestly say we’d wait in a line again and again.  TooLouLou’s is a New Orleans inspired restaurant with one of the biggest menus I’ve ever seen.  Our server was super candid with us and gave us her recommendations and all four of us went with her selections.

The Apple Cinnamon French Toast was AMAZING

I ended up with the Apple Cinnamon French Toast and couldn’t have made a better choice.  They slow cook their cinnamon apples in house and they were simply perfection. The rest of the table selected savory meals and here’s what they chose…

Eggs Bayou, Bourbon Street Eggs, and a sizzling rivalry. We’re all convinced that there’s not a bad meal on the menu.  AND, all four of us recommend the Toffee Nut Coffee.  To die for!!!!   

The Toffee Nut Coffee was EVERYTHING!!!!

IN CANMORE (20 MINUTES FROM BANFF)

GRIZZLY PAW BREWERY
We wanted to check out Canmore and opted for lunch after our first hike at the Grizzly Paw Brewery because it’s sister location, Tank 310, was closed on Wednesdays.  This was the second best meal of the trip for me and I’m so happy we ended up here after all!  If you can swing it, wait to be seated on the patio.  I swear it makes the food taste that much better.

Drinks:  The guys recommend the Beavertail Raspberry Ale and the ladies recommend the Powder Hound Blonde Ale.
Food:  We HIGHLY recommend the Korean Cauliflower (trust us) as an appetizer.  For lunch/dinner, we’d go with either the Smoked Beef Brisket Sandwich (SO good) or the California Thunder Club (equally delish).  And whatever you do, opt for the Yam fries instead of regular!  AMAZING.

IN LAKE LOUISE (40 MINUTES FROM BANFF)

CHATEAU DELI – (FAIRMONT CHATEAU)
This is a 24-hour deli that serves up a mean latte and offers a variety of pastries, sandwiches, and other grab-and-go type foods.  This location is the least expensive option in the Fairmont Chateau and if you’re not interested in a sit down type meal, I’d recommend stopping in here for a quick bite!  The lattes and bagels are delish!

LAKEVIEW LOUNGE -(FAIRMONT..

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I’m often asked by friends and strangers alike what my thoughts are in regards to holding a child back an extra year as opposed to sending them to Kindergarten with a June-early September birthday. As a former K-2 teacher who spent fifteen years in the classroom, I definitely have my opinions about this. However, instead of sharing my perspective solely through the lens of a teacher, I’d love to share my opinions with you from the viewpoint of a mother who made this decision for her child as well.

Keep in mind that these are my opinions based solely on my personal experiences. We all have vastly different experiences both in and out of the classroom as well as in parenting, so there’s a good chance that you may not agree with my logic and that’s okay. Because my experiences might look different than yours, my opinions may be different as well. I am ONLY sharing what worked for us as a family and I am not offering these opinions as a suggestion on how you should proceed as a parent. We all have to make decisions based on what’s best for our families. I fully realize that this is not an option for all families. I can only speak to what my experience. However, if you’re on the fence about what you should do with your child and this is a viable option for you, these personal opinions and experiences might be helpful when making your decision.


While in the classroom, I had a knack for identifying the kids who started kindergarten at the early age of five….the kids whose birthdays were celebrated over the summer or during the few short weeks right before the cut-off date to start school. Ask most kindergarten teachers and I bet they’ll tell you they had the same knack for knowing who these kids were without ever looking at their records. In my experience, more often than not, these sweet babies often lacked the maturity their older peers possessed. They were oftentimes more impulsive, lacked focus, and experienced behavior challenges and struggles more frequently than the older 5-year-olds in class. None of this was a bad thing by any means! Not even a little! These babies were just at a different stage in their personal development than the kids who had the advantage of being a little bit older and thus a little bit further along in their development.

Based on my experiences with kids who shared June-early September birthdays, my husband and I made the choice to give our oldest the gift of time and delay the start of school by a year. Instead of sending him to school as a brand new 5-year-old, we wanted him to enter into Kindergarten after he’d been six for a few months. Not because we hoped he’d be the smartest kid in class. Not because we wanted him to give him an athletic advantage. We gave our oldest the gift of time because we wanted to make sure he was equipped with the social and emotional tools we felt he needed before being thrust into a world that functions at a much faster pace than it did when we were kids.

Let’s face it. Kindergarten isn’t what it used to be (sadly) and depending on where you live, child development isn’t often taken into consideration when curriculum is designed and standards are put into place. We felt that giving our oldest the gift of time would better prepare him emotionally (as well as socially) for the responsibilities he’d assume and the different situations he’d face once in the classroom without being tasked with the added pressure & responsibility of learning how to read and losing days upon days to testing and assessments. It’s just SO much.

By giving him the gift of time to experience Pre-K for an additional year, we knew he’d have ample opportunities to be social. He’d be able to lose himself in song and dance through music and create & act out different scenarios through dramatic play. He’d be able to get his hands dirty at the water and sand table and take a nap when he was tired (because y’all…those little babies NEED to sleep). We knew he’d learn how to interact with other kids and resolve conflicts as they arose. We wanted him to be able to play...I mean he was only five, for the love! He would have his whole life ahead of him to adhere to the expectations of a formal classroom environment…we just wanted our kid to be a kid for a little while longer.

We also knew that he’d still be learning, but that he’d learn in a way that was more developmentally appropriate and authentic. He’d be learning in a play-based environment where he could develop and mature in a way that made sense to his stage of child development. We wanted to spare him from testing too soon and being pressured to perform before he was developmentally ready to do so.

As a mom, I wanted my child to be a leader and I personally felt that holding him back a year would help grow his confidence. I started envisioning what life would be like for him in junior high and high school and wanted him to be the oldest instead of the youngest in those scenarios. And, if I’m being honest, as a mom I selfishly wanted to have an extra year with him here at home before sending him off to college. The thought of sending my brand new eighteen-year-old off to college unnerved me. That extra year at home and sending him off at 19 sounded so much better (even if it’s only just a year).

My oldest just finished up his fifth grade year in May and is headed into Junior High come August. His life is about to change in ways I can’t anticipate, but I’m SO very confident that he’s ready for the challenges and struggles he’ll undoubtedly face. I can honestly say that giving him the gift of time and waiting to start him in Kindergarten until he was six was the BEST parenting decision we could’ve made for him. There is nothing we regret about it. My only regret is that I didn’t do the same for my youngest who has an early April birthday and could’ve greatly benefitted from that extra year as well.

My oldest is a pretty confident kid. He’s definitely a leader and if there’s something he wants he takes the initiative to get it done without being asked. He’s responsible, responds well to criticism, and LOVES to learn. He adjusts well to new situations and surroundings and we’re hopeful these attributes will make his transition into junior high an easy one (fingers crossed). Now I can’t say that he’s developed these characteristics because we gave him the gift of time, but I do think that time helped him to mature & develop into the kid that he is today.

When I think about my oldest going into junior high in just a few short months, I’m so grateful he spent this past year in fifth grade instead of sixth. I can tell you right now that he would NOT have been ready for sixth grade in August 2018. Not at all. Academically he would’ve been great, but emotionally?! No ma’am. He developed & matured in ways we didn’t expect this past year and he’s so much more confident because of those changes. Knowing my son, the transition to junior high would’ve been so much harder had he not had that extra year to grow.

I’ve taught so many kids whose parents have also given them the gift of time and delayed Kindergarten by a year and they all say the same thing…it was the best decision they could’ve made for their child. I’ve never had a parent tell me they regretted their decision to hold their child back, but several have shared with me that they regretted NOT doing the same for their child. I can honestly say that I feel the exact same way. It truly was the best decision we could’ve made for him.

I’d also love to add that if you do decide to start your child in Kindergarten and realize halfway through the year that maybe he/she could’ve benefitted from a delayed start, don’t be afraid to retain him/her the following year. That’s your right as a parent doing what you feel is best for your child. It’s better to make that decision early on while they’re still in the primary grades.

In addition to that, dear parents…PLEASE listen to your child’s teacher if he/she recommends your child repeat a grade level. Your child’s teacher knows your child in a way that you might not be able to see. Your child’s performance in the classroom (academic/behavior/social/emotional) may differ tremendously from the child you see at home. Those recommendations come from a place of wanting what’s best for the development and well-being of your child and when it’s all said and done, we ALL want what’s best for our kids.

Did you delay your child’s start in Kindergarten? If so, what was your experience?! I’d love to hear from you!

The post Why We Gave Our Child The Gift of Time & Delayed His Start in Kindergarten appeared first on The First Grade Parade.

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For those of you who know me, you know that I have a slight obsession with SONIC® Drive-In. The ice. Those cheese sticks. And I’m convinced no other fast food establishment serves a tastier fountain Coke. While all of that is amazing in and of itself, SONIC’s partnership with educators is what keeps me going back.

Ten years ago, SONIC partnered with Donor’s Choose to recognize teachers needing more support in public schools in our local communities. Through their Learning for Limeades campaign in partnership with Donor’s Choose, SONIC has donated $11,902,421, supported more than 27,407 classrooms, and provided learning materials and teaching resources to impact more than 822,210 students. AMAZING! I love supporting companies who value education.

Donor’s Choose continues to be a platform near and dear to my heart and I love that they’ve partnered with SONIC to support public school teachers all across the country. Donor’s Choose makes it ridiculously simple to help teachers fund projects to enhance the instruction & environment in their classrooms. I’m a HUGE fan of supporting teachers on this platform and find myself donating to teachers in need as often as I can.

You can bet I’ll be finding a few projects to donate to this month since SONIC just launched a $1 million donation match with Donors Choose. SONIC will match any donation dollar for dollar to any project posted by a SONIC teacher. To find out which projects are eligible & learn more about this amazing campaign, visit the Limeades for Learning blog HERE.

In addition to matching donations via Donor’s Choose, SONIC is offering every teacher…and everyone who appreciates them…a FREE Route 44 drink or slush in honor of teacher appreciation month. To redeem your FREE drink/slush, simply download the SONIC app, order ahead, and use the code TEACHERS. Each guest can redeem this offer once through Friday, May 31st (see app for details).

Thanks to their overwhelming generosity, I’m partnering with SONIC to offer ONE lucky teacher a $200 Donor’s Choose gift card. Want to be entered to for a chance to win?! Head on over to my Instagram page & follow the instructions on this post to enter. The contest closes Saturday, May 11th, at 12 PM CST, so be sure to enter before then.

Thank you, SONIC & Donor’s Choose, for everything you do to help teachers!

***Although I was compensated for this blog post, the content and opinions are all my own and not influenced by the third party network in any way. The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely my own. I only endorse products/companies/services/campaigns I believe in or that align with my area of expertise & experience, and & are worthy of such endorsements.***

The post Limeades for Learning appeared first on The First Grade Parade.

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The end of the school year is always so bittersweet. While I always loved anticipating the freedom summer would bring, I was always really sad to say goodbye to the kids who spent the year growing and maturing right before my eyes. As I’ve said before, I always loved spending the last few weeks of school reflecting on our year. It’s also such a great time to look ahead to summer. I love implementing writing activities and crafts at the end of the year to give me an opportunity to do both.

I created a set of four different hand-drawn craft templates to accompany writing prompts. These prompts are pretty straightforward and simple which is exactly what I like at this time of the year.

The writing crafts are easy to print, cut, and assemble. Whenever I implemented activities like this into my day, I made sure to pre-cut the templates beforehand…unless I was specifically wanting my kids to practice their fine motor skills (which they could all use!!!). If time afforded me the option to let them cut, I’d use it…otherwise I’d cut out the templates or send them home with an eager parent to cut.

What’s great about these templates is that I can choose one writing craft & template to use for reflection, and a completely different craft & template to provide kids with the opportunity to look ahead to summer.

If you think about it early enough, these writing crafts would make adorable displays…the last of the year! BUT….I’m also loving these as an addition to student portfolios. I liked to create yearlong writing portfolios for my kids, collecting writing samples and activities throughout the year. As these are collected, I hole punch and add to the binders. On the last day of school, the kids take home a year’s worth of writing. Not only is it amazing keepsake, but it’s a great way for the kids to visually see their progress throughout the year. You can read more about those portfolios HERE.

And I don’t know about you, but I always loved having a lot of options at my disposal. If I loved something one year, I might have wanted something different for the next. It really depended on the class and my mood ;). Having a bank of options in your teacher toolkit is never a bad thing!

If you’re looking for a fun way to reflect on the school year and ring in summer break, you can grab a set of these end of year writing crafts to add to your teacher toolkit HERE.

The post End of Year Writing Activities appeared first on The First Grade Parade.

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In years past, I loved using the month of May to reflect on the school year with my kids. As much as I loved doing this for myself, I’ve always felt like there is so much power in showing kids how far they’ve come in just a few short months. This was especially fun in Kindergarten. I loved showing my kids writing samples from the first few months of school compared to how they’re writing in May.

“That is NOT my writing!”, they’d exclaim. “I never wrote like that!” Trust me sweet children. You DID. And those first few months of your writing journey were painful (for both of us). Can I get an amen?!

As soon as our countdown to the end of year began, we would spend parts of our day reflecting on the months past. Whether it was looking through pictures or going over portfolio pieces collected throughout the year, we’d spend little parts of our day reflecting on what we learned, how we’ve grown, or some of our most favorite memories.

I wanted to give my kids an opportunity to meaningfully reflect each day, but also knew we were a little short on time (I know that’s shocking ;), so I created digital slides I could incorporate into our morning and/or afternoon messages/news with different reflection questions and prompts. This way we would be able to reflect together as a class in a somewhat “quick” manner. They absolutely LOVED this! When we incorporated this into our morning routine, they wanted to write all about it during Writers Workshop. It was definitely a win/win!

To add a little something extra to the digital component, I also created reflection sheets that correspond with each slide. I’d have the kids complete one a day and then at the end of the year I bound them into little memory books for them. It was such a fun keepsake to add to their yearlong portfolios! They loved these!

Speaking of memory books, I also loved to have my kids complete their very own book of memories to commemorate their year in our classroom.

I’d try to get an early(ish) start on these completing a page here and there over the course of several weeks. Some years I’d use just a few of the pages (depending on the class) and some years I’d use them ALL! My kids absolutely LOVED the “Instagram feel”. Can you tell my why primary kids know more about social media than I do?!

I loved watching my kids light up with happiness as they completed the pages in their books. It was so much fun to see how excited they’d get when they’d remember something or when a specific memory came to mind. They tried to be so very detailed when drawing their “picture memories”.

I tried to be sure that their memory books were complete several days before the last day of school. Inevitably, there are always a few kids not present on the very last day and I wanted to make sure their memory books were complete and sent home before the last day. I also really loved when parents would visit on that very last day and tell me how much they loved those memory books, too.

Let me tell you that I’ve kept every single one of my two boy’s memory books through the years. I’m slightly sentimental (which could be the understatement of the year) and love looking back through their memories from year-to-year. And even though they cringe thismuch when looking at their work from earlier years, I’m pretty sure they like going back through their memories just as much as I do.

If you’re looking for a few different ways to reflect on the year’s memories, you can grab both of these resources HERE.

END OF YEAR MEMORY BOOK

The post End of Year Reflections & Memories appeared first on The First Grade Parade.

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If you know me well, you know how much I believe in the power of telling kids WHO they are. I love praising kids not just when they succeed, but when they progress and improve, too. The end of the school year is one of my favorite times of the year for doing just that. While I think it’s important to celebrate growth and progress all year long, I love giving kids tangible pieces of praise in the form of awards to affirm how much they’ve grown throughout the year.

I am so excited about these growth mindset awards! These tangible pieces of paper praise are great for recognizing yearlong growth, but they’re also perfect to give to kids ANY time of the year! These awards are growth mindset specific and highlight the attributes and characteristics of kids who embrace the attitude of positive thinking.

I love how these simple paper pieces of affirmation instill a sense of pride within our kids and let’s be honest…who doesn’t love to be praised?! (raises hand). There’s nothing more awesome than watching their faces light up when they’re being honored and recognized in front of their peers. They love to know they’re seen and valued!

My favorite thing about these awards is that they’re not time specific. Any time you feel like praising your kids for their growth mindset is a great time to give them that recognition.

To add a little something extra to the mix, I thought it would be fun to pair these awards with little gifts to reinforce the importance of having a growth mindset. I found these brain puzzlers and erasers that fit the bill PERFECTLY!

These 3D brain teaser puzzles (affiliate link) are so much fun and really encourage kids to put their problem solving skills, grit, determination, & perseverance to good use. These are available in packs of 12 for less than $10 and make such great little gifts.

I absolutely LOVE the idea of gifting students these brain erasers (affiliate link) along with their growth mindset awards, too. These are available in packs of 24 for just a little over $10 and make such a great growth mindset reminder and reinforcement!

There are 38 unique awards designed to recognize different attributes and characteristics of growth mindset within each of your students. Each award is completely editable. Change the phrasing, add names, & adjust the dates to use year after year. Just open the file and fill out the form fields as you wish….easy peasy! Both color & black/white (ink saving) award templates are included.

How do you like to celebrate your students?!

The post Editable Growth Mindset Awards appeared first on The First Grade Parade.

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If you know me well, you know how much I believe the power of telling kids who they are. I love praising kids not just when they succeed, but when they progress and improve, too. The end of the school year is one of my favorite times of the year for doing just that. While I think it’s important to celebrate growth and progress all year long, I love giving kids tangible pieces of praise in the form of awards to affirm how much they’ve grown throughout the year. I am so excited about these growth mindset awards! These tangible pieces of paper praise are great for recognizing yearlong growth, but they’re also perfect to give to kids ANY time of the year! These awards are growth mindset specific and highlight the attributes and characteristics of kids who embrace the attitude of positive thinking.
I love how these simple paper pieces of affirmation instill a sense of pride within our kids and let’s be honest…who doesn’t love to be praised?! (raises hand). There’s nothing more awesome than watching their faces light up when they’re being honored & recognized in front of their peers. They love to know they’re seen & valued! My favorite thing about these awards is that they’re not time specific. ANY time you feel like praising your kids for their growth mindset is a great time to give them that recognition. To add a little something extra to the mix, I thought it would be fun to pair these awards with little gifts like these just to reinforce the importance of having a growth mindset. These 3D brain teaser puzzles are SO much fun and really encourage kids to put their problem solving skills, grit, determination, and perseverance to good use. These are available in packs of 12 for less than $10 and make such great little gifts. I absolutely LOVE the idea of gifting students these brain erasers along with their growth mindset awards, too! These are available in packs of 24 for just a little over $10. Such a perfect growth mindset reminder! There are 38 unique awards designed to recognize different attributes and characteristics of growth mindset within each of your students. Each award is completely editable. Change the phrasing, add names, & adjust the dates to use year after year. Just open the file & fill out the form fields as you wish! Both color and black/white (ink saving) award templates are included. EDITABLE GROWTH MINDSET AWARDS

The post Editable Growth Mindset Awards appeared first on The First Grade Parade.

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I recently had the privilege of providing professional development for an amazing group of primary teachers. We discussed a lot of different strategies, best teaching practices, and activity ideas. Professional development days are always my favorite…especially when teachers are eager & excited to learn more in an effort to provide kids with every learning opportunity they possibly can.

During this particular PD, we talked a lot about sight words. It always fascinates me how the expectations differ from school to school, district to district. At this particular campus, the teachers were using Fry Words as the basis for their sight word instruction, but were looking for more ideas to help students retain & apply what they were learning. We talked a lot about improving automaticity with these words as well.

I shared a lot of ideas that have worked for me through the years (you can read about some of those ideas in this blog post) as well as a few new ideas that have been very successful implemented in several different classrooms. One of the ideas we discussed was implementing sight word fluency activities to help students improve both retention and automaticity while improving their overall reading fluency as well.

SIGHT WORD FLUENCY —– FIRST -FIFTH HUNDRED FRY WORDS

These sight word fluency cards were created in an effort to scaffold learning & practice and provide students with repeated opportunities to increase their word base and improve retention.

Starting with the First Hundred Fry Words, students will be given the opportunity to repeatedly practice reading a set of 10 sight words in a given amount of time. These sight word fluency cards can be paired with sand timers in varying time increments (teacher OR student choice). The student will start the timer and read each word on the card accurately and quickly. Each time the set has been read, the student will mark a bubble at the bottom of the tracking card. Students will continue to read the set of words until the time runs out.

SIGHT WORD FLUENCY —– FIRST -FIFTH HUNDRED FRY WORDS

The fluency cards are organized into sets of cards with words in isolation (one word only), two word phrases, and three word phrases. Ideally, students would start with the single word fluency cards and then gradually work their way up to the three word phrases. The teacher can modify reinforcement by providing students with different time increments in an effort to challenge students or provide additional time & support.

“But if we’re allowing our kids to read these cards independently without any teacher support or assessment, how can we be sure that they’re even reading the words accurately?”

That’s ALWAYS a concern with any activity we choose to allow students to complete independently, but especially with activities like these that don’t necessarily have a paper/pencil component. How do we really know if they’re practicing something the right way?! Some of my teachers who are using these fluency cards in their classrooms are monitoring student accuracy using video! Yes! I love the idea of adding a little tech into the mix. Basically, these teachers are encouraging their students to record themselves reading the fluency cards. The student will read aloud the number on the card they’ve chosen, set the timer, and read while being recorded. The teacher will later watch the video to check for accuracy. Some of my teachers are even saving these fluency cards for small group warm-ups so that they can personally check for accuracy in real time. Love that idea, too!

SIGHT WORD FLUENCY —– FIRST -FIFTH HUNDRED FRY WORDS

One thing we’re loving about these fluency cards is that we’re able to provide students with repeated exposure & opportunities to see and read these words in a variety of ways. Automaticity AND retention are improving and that’s ALWAYS something to celebrate!!!

The teachers with whom I was working that day suggested including tracking sheets to keep students accountable as well. What a GREAT idea! Individual tracking sheets are included with each word list/set and kids can keep themselves accountable by recording the number of times they were able to accurately read the words on a particular card in a given amount of time. Ideally, the number of times would gradually increase with each reading thus improving overall reading fluency & sight word automaticity. ALL the amens!

SIGHT WORD FLUENCY —– FIRST -FIFTH HUNDRED FRY WORDS

While there are MANY different strategies and ideas to help students improve their reading fluency & sight word retention and automaticity, we’re loving the addition of this activity that provides students with multiple exposures and opportunities for practice and reinforcement. At the end of the day, we want to do everything we can to help our kids improve and this is just one vehicle that takes them on the path to improvement.

SIGHT WORD FLUENCY —– FIRST -FIFTH HUNDRED FRY WORDS

What are some of your favorite sight word activities and interventions?

The post Sight Word Fluency appeared first on The First Grade Parade.

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You might not know this about me, but just in case you were wondering, sentimental stuff is my jam.  This time of the year brings out the sap in me and I find myself knee deep in everything that’s nostalgic.  My favorite part of the holiday season is decorating our family tree.  The store bought ornaments are great and all, but my tender heart lets out a sentimental tear or twenty whenever I pull out the ornaments handmade by my boys.  Their little fingerprints painted on the matte acrylic kills me.  Can you even believe their fingers were tiny enough to cover just a teensy portion of an ornament?!  Now their man hands would CRUSH them!  But I digress.

My tree is full of sentimental ornaments and if there’s one thing I know that moms/grandmas/aunts/ love, it’s a keepsake.  So here’s an EASY idea for creating a keepsake that’s sure to be treasured for years and years to come.

Measure the length of your child/student with a ribbon.  It can be as plain or fancy as you want it…just measure them from the tip-top all the way down to the toes with it and then cut!  Stuff the ribbon inside of a clear glass (or clear plastic) ornament.  Use a paint pen to hand letter or simply write their names on the ornament.  Even better?!  Let THEM write their own names!  Just be sure to date the ornament so that should you ever decided to pull out the ribbon you’ll know just how tall they were that very year.  A little piece of themselves frozen in time. Easy peasy and adorable as all get out.

The tag attached to the ornament is REALLY simple, but if you’re sending these home as a keepsake gift for parent(s)/guardian(s) you can print and attach :). Just a little something extra if you think you can use it!  Click the link or pic to download.

Keepsake Ornament Tag

The post Keepsake Ornament appeared first on The First Grade Parade.

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