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February is one of the busiest months of the school year: Valentine's Day, the 100th Day of School, President's Day, and the inevitable wave of sickness that comes every year... It's a wild month. 
I created this NO PREP resource to help busy teachers keep their students engaged and learning all month long. You are going to love this resource because there is an assortment of activities that can be used for morning work, centers/stations, homework, or when you have 10 random minutes in the day! These printables would also be wonderful to have on hand incase you need to plan for a substitute quickly. Take a look at some of the goodies included:
Hershey Kiss Writing
Quick writing activity that will make a cute & easy bulletin board display!
Candy Heart Graph
16 Valentine's Day & Winter Writing Prompts
More good stuff: Valentine word search, logic puzzles, design challenge, Find a Friend, Making Words, graphic organizers, and following directions/listening activities. You can see a full preview on TpT by clicking one of the images below.

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Today I'm sharing a fun and easy activity for your math centers or small groups. It won't take long to get set up and would be perfect to use during January/February or the week before Valentine's Day. 
To get started, you will need some heart cut outs. The Dollar Spot at Target has adorable packs of them for only a buck! You could also try the Dollar Tree or just cut out hearts on the die-cut machine.
Grab some scissors, a black marker, and a baggie or envelope to store the puzzle pieces. 
Buying the pre-cut hearts will save you so much time! Cutting the hearts into jigsaw pieces only took me a few minutes. Time is money. :) 
You can grab these FREE worksheets to use with your kiddos in small groups or math centers. Click on the pictures below to visit my TpT store and download this FREEBIE.
 I've included two versions (two piece puzzles and three piece puzzles).
I hope your students have fun with this Valentine activity!
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As a teacher and mom to two kiddos (aged 4 and 5.5), I want to give you some tried and true advice about the best gifts for kiddos. We all see the gadgets on TV with fancy bells and whistles... lots of batteries and annoying lights and sounds to 'stimulate' our children. How long will the child play with that expensive toy? Spoiler alert...not very long!
The American Academy of Pediatrics just released a clinical report about selecting toys for children in the digital era. While gaming systems and tablets are all the rage, the AAP suggests bringing back classic, low-tech toys to our playrooms. Toys should give children the opportunity for open ended, imaginative play. Appropriate toys encourage interpersonal play and creativity. Today, I'm sharing my favorite gift ideas for kiddos aged 3-7.
Hands down, this is the toy that gets played with in our home more than any other. The frequency and length of time that these magnetic tiles are played with makes it worth every penny! There are other brands on the market that cost two or three times as much, but the quality of Picasso Tiles is top-notch. This 60-piece set on Amazon makes a great starter set, and you can add to it for birthdays or next Christmas!
I bought this set of wooden blocks for my son when he was 18 months old. Years later they are still in excellent condition. Sadly, wooden blocks have become obsolete in elementary classrooms, but this is a timeless gift choice that will offer endless opportunities for building and creating!
This set comes with 40 red, yellow, and blue lightweight blocks in three sizes. They are easy for kiddos to lift, stack, and build. They take up some space, so I store them in an old hamper. Note: The blocks must be assembled. :) 
I haven't counted, but we must have one zillion Duplo Legos. My 5-year old can build regular Lego sets, but he still thoroughly enjoys Duplo Legos. They are so much more manageable and still totally age appropriate. (Also pictured wooden blocks from #2) Santa brought this Family House set last year, and it's one of our favorites. 
Do your kids like to build pillow forts or bury themselves in the couch cushions? If so, this fort building set is for YOU! The blue poles snap into the red connectors for endless fort fun! Cover the poles with sheets or light blankets for the ultimate fort. The set comes with a booklet that shares tips for building igloos, castles, and more. In my opinion, you need TWO sets to be able to build a fort big enough to hold multiple kids. We started with one set and added another set for my son's birthday.
We first experienced the joy and wonder of Tegu blocks at a local establishment, Play Street Museum, in Dallas. WOW. These are SO COOL. They combine the fun of traditional wooden blocks with the wonder of magnets. Warning: Because they are truly awesome, they are also truly expensive. :)
7. Card Games
Two of our family favorite cards games are Uno and Skip-Bo. Even my little one can participate in these games. Card games are great for building number sense and math foundations. 
8. Board Games
Some of my best family memories are playing board games at my grandparents' house at Christmas time. The Game of Life Jr., Guess Who, and Connect Four are in my kids' current rotation.
I hope this gift guide gives you some new ideas for your children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews. What's your favorite gift on the list?
Affiliate links provided for your convenience. All opinions are honest and strictly my own.
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Spookley the Square Pumpkin is a fantastic October read aloud book. I love the author's message of celebrating and appreciating differences. Diversity in the pumpkin patch is a beautiful thing. After reading Spookley, create a chart with students to describe Spookley.
Then let students create their own pumpkins with Chunkies Paint Sticks. You could also use oil pastels, but I love paint sticks for art projects like this.
Materials: White card stock or construction paper, pencils, Black Sharpie to outline, Chunkies Paint Sticks, green glitter glue (optional)
Choose a shape for your pumpkin and draw with a pencil. Then trace the outline with a black marker.
We looked back in the story to get ideas for different shapes we could draw.
If you've got toddlers, you may want to draw the outline for them. Not an artist? Just google blackline pumpkin images and print a couple off. Then, 'paint' the pumpkin with the Chunkies Paint Sticks.
They dry super fast and don't smear. We used the paint sticks for the stems and faces as well. On a few pumpkins, we added some green glitter glue for the stem and vines.
What a cute little pumpkin patch! Perfect for decorating your classroom door or creating a pumpkin patch bulletin board! Happy Halloween!
Amazon Affiliate links provided for convenience if you'd like to check out the supplies we used.
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Today I'm sharing some of my favorite read alouds for fall! I have several classics on my list, as well as several new gems. These books are perfect for late September and the whole month of October! Amazon affiliate links included incase you want to check them out.
More than a simple counting book, the author's creativity delights readers as the pumpkins vanish one by one. This books makes it easy to incorporate subtraction and basic math facts into your lesson. It would be so fun for students to work in groups to write their own version of this book!
Tap the Magic Tree is an interactive picture book about the magic of the changing seasons. You can revisit this book as each season changes. It's a fun read-aloud, but kids will also enjoy curling up and reading this one on their own. Have kids create their own bare brown tree and decorate the tree for each of the four seasons.
Learn about the life cycle of a tree and experience the wonder of nature in this classic book by Lois Ehlert. Science, literacy, and art are woven together beautifully. This red and yellow splatter art project is a perfect pair to Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf.
I love the use of rhyme, and the rhythm of the verses in this Halloween tale. It's a spooky and fun  story that will have your kids howling in no time. 
Don't Push the Button (A Halloween Treat)
This was an instant hit with my kiddos- silly, interactive, and full of Halloween fun!
The message in this story is so powerful. Different isn't odd. Different is beautiful, unique, and a blessing. Instead of having the class all make identical round pumpkins, let them create their own pumpkin- any shape, any size, any color, any design!
This book is great for toddler and preschoolers learning the alphabet, but it's also awesome for elementary students. Add this book to your writing station to help kiddos spell tricky Halloween words like cauldron, Frankenstein, invisible, quiver, and skeleton. It may also give writers new ideas to add to their story. 
This short and sweet tale is one of my favorites for preschool through first grade. I love the Pete the Cat version as well! 
Finally a sequel to Five Little Pumpkins! This was just released back in July, and it's just as cute and catchy as the first!
Learn about the life cycle of a pumpkin in this festive, fictional tale.
My kids can't get enough of this series, so of course, they love the Halloween version. The best part is definitely the TRICK or TREAT at the end.
This is a timeless Halloween tale that your kids will ask for again again. The repeated text is fun and rhythmic. Have your students create movements or actions for each new line of the text. Enjoy!
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Is there anything more beautiful than autumn leaves? As we wait for the cooler weather to arrive here in Texas, I'm thrilled to see the leaves begin to change ever so slightly on my way home each day. Today, I'm sharing an autumn process art project for preschoolers and elementary students. 
Process art is awesome for young learners because it focuses on the HOW and encourages creativity.
In this autumn leaves project, students will explore mixing colors. They will also see how various tools can be used in art. Here are the supplies you will need.
Red paint, yellow paint, wooden leaf shapes, liquid droppers, various brushes and sponges
Most craft stores like JoAnn's, Michael's, or Hobby Lobby will carry the wooden leaves at this time of the year. You could also die-cut leaves on card stock or thick poster paper. I've had these liquid droppers for years. I found them on Amazon (affiliate link included for convenience), and I love them because the silicone tops come off which makes it easier to clean. I taped the wooden leaves to our workspace with painter's tape so they wouldn't shift. 
I prepared a bowl of red paint and a bowl of yellow paint and demonstrated how to use the dropper to splatter the paint.
Splattering the paint is so much fun, but it can be messy! Be sure to prepare your area accordingly. (It's hard to see in the photo, but I have a large poster board underneath.)
Now it's time to use various tools to spread the paint splatters. Hopefully your kiddos will be saying something like "WOW! It's making orange!" Let the kids experiment with adding more drops of yellow or red to mix the colors. Allow the students to use different brushes and sponges. The detail-oriented kiddos will likely notice they need a small brush to paint around the edges of the leaves.
This is a fun project to do collaboratively. Students can participate as much (or as little) as they want! A large poster would also make for a beautiful, festive classroom display. Originally, I planned to remove the leaves, but I love the way they look and give the project dimension!
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Teaching phonics is one of my favorite things about working with primary students. Ever since I was a child, I loved how the letters worked together to make words. It was like magic when a small shift of a vowel made a completely new word. Today I want to show you a few ways to increase engagement and make phonics FUN and active! Phonics doesn't have to be boring, repetitive worksheets.
Activity #1: Letter Mazes
I love these "alphabet stones" from Oriental Trading. They are made of heavy-duty foam, about half an inch thick. One side has numbers and the other side has letters. I love that Oriental Trading color-coded the consonants blue and vowels red. This is so helpful for primary students and teachers! When I first got these out, my kids had a blast spreading the stones out to create a maze-like obstacle course. They ran, hopped, skipped, and jumped around calling out the letter names and sounds as they went!
Activity #2: Building CVC Words
Another fun way to use the Alphabet & Number Recognition Step Game is for building words. I used blue painter's tape to create Elkonin boxes. The visual helps students segment a word into individual sounds or phonemes. The color coding of the stones was particularly helpful for creating CVC words. 
When using this with a small group or an individual student, you can start by giving a word for the student to build, such as tan. Then give a simple direction, such as "change the first consonant to create a new word." (tan ---> fan)
"Now change the vowel in the word." (fan ---> fin)
You can use an easel or whiteboard to record the words. If you are using the foam alphabet stones in a center, students can work to build their own CVC words. For accountability, you can have them record the words they created. 
Activity #3: Word Paths
Lay out the alphabet stones like this.
(1st row-consonants, 2nd row- vowels, 3rd row-consonants)
Show students where to start. Have them jump from row to row to create a word.
See my Kindergartener in action:
Word Building with Alphabet Stones - YouTube
I have a freebie in TheHappyTeacher store that shows several ways to set up your letter stones, and it also includes a recording sheet. Tune in next time for more games and ideas to make learning fun and active!

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post for Oriental Trading Co. I received products from Oriental Trading, but all opinions and ideas are strictly my own.
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Clip cards are a fun way to practice phonics skills, and they are so easy to prep. I just posted this free hands-on activity in my TpT store. In this activity, students will work with CVC words to identify the medial vowel sound. This short vowel activity is perfect for literacy centers, small groups, fast finishers, or phonics/word work.
This set includes 20 short vowel clip cards and a recording sheet for accountability. Just print, laminate, and cut the cards. Add some clothespins and you have a new literacy center activity ready to go in minutes. This activity is ideal for Kindergarten and first grade students. Many preschoolers or transitional Kindergarteners that have mastered letter sounds would also enjoy this clip card activity.
Do your students need more practice with short vowels and CVC words? Here are 18 fun learning activities and printables for Kindergarten and first grade students.
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