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Digital Learning

A Day of Giving Back

On December 13, I will be joining in with a group of amazing TpT sellers for a day of giving back. All profits from sales in my TpT store will be donated to a cause near and dear to my heart: Adopt a Family. For many years, I adopted a local family at Christmas time who was struggling to make ends meet with my class. We would have a fundraising day which was built around displaying project work we had completed, and would serve breakfast and lunch while entertaining parents, friends, and school and community members in exchange for money to spend on clothing, gifts, and even paying an electric bill for the family we had adopted.

It was never hard to find a family in need, especially during the holiday season. We got referrals from a local social service agency, or sometimes we were alerted to the needs of a family in our midst by a caring friend. The family always remained anonymous, and the gifts were delivered by someone who represented us. My students brought holiday joy and relief to many homes over the years. The joy and warmth they received in return was priceless.

I have continued this practice during my recent retirement, and this year I am reaching out to help a five year old girl who is living with her disabled grandmother.  She needs so many of the basics: shoes, socks, boots and a jacket for the winter besides a few toys and books to brighten her Christmas. As a grandma myself, their story has touched my heart.

I hope you will help me to help this sweet little girl by checking your Rainbow City Learning wishlist or browsing for a new idea to try. Whatever you purchase from my store on the 13th will go directly to help my adopted family for this year.

With gratitude and hope, I wish you a bright and joyful holiday season!

Look for a store profile like mine for other charities which will benefit from our Day of Giving Back.


My Favorite Things

Found a fun linky this morning and decided to join in the fun! Thanks, Southern Fried Teachin'! 

1. My favorite holiday song has always been "Little Drummer Boy". I love visualizing that biblical scene as the song plays. My favorite version is Bob Seger's. (Probably a little weird!)

2. Favorite holiday guilty pleasure food? Peppermint Bark! I even tried learning to make it, but it just doesn't taste the same unless the snow is slowly sifting to the ground outside as I crunch down on it!

3. My favorite holiday tradition is wrapping gifts. I dread all the shopping and deciding, but love the quiet time at home when I can get creative with wrapping papers, ribbons, and star wire!

4. My favorite holiday book is "My House Has Stars". It is a great reminder that even diversity can show wu show much we all really have in common. So many of the holidays celebrated by different faiths this time of year have the same values associated with them.

5. My favorite holiday act of kindness is to "adopt" a family in need. Finding a family in my community to help with buying Christmas gifts, clothing, or even with some grocery gift cards or electric company bill credits makes my holiday complete each year.

6. My favorite holiday memory is opening gifts with my children when they were small. We always tried to add a few surprises among the ones they had requested, and I loved watching their eyes when they unwrapped those surprises!

7. My favorite holiday gift as a child was a turquoise transistor radio. (REALLY dates me, but the truth!) That radio and I were forever after inseparable, kinda like me and my iPhone now!

8. My favorite holiday craft is baking cookies. I love adding frosting and decorations to them!

9. My favorite holiday movie is "It's a Wonderful Life". All actors to this day must measure up to Jimmy Stewart for me to enjoy their performances. Nicholas Cage often comes close to Jimmy's performance.

10. I like to shop online for holiday gifts. No parking issues, no crowded stores, and I can do it in my pjs! Aaaaaahhhh.....

11. I would love for Santa to bring Peace to all of us on Earth this year. Without Peace, all other gifts are meaningless. 

12. My favorite product to use throughout the year, to fire kids' imaginations, give them so many uses for building sets they may have received for the holidays along with tons of recyclables, and to consistently answer the question of "I'm done. What do I do now?" is my Maker Place Start Up Kit. I hope you'll check it out!

May all of your holiday wishes this year come true! Sending love and light to you from Rainbow City Learning!


Our Homes Have Stars

Our homes all have stars. All across this beautiful land of ours, and all across the world. If you 're reading this at night, go outside and look up. I'll wait.....

If you're reading this in the daytime, be sure to check it out tonight. It's a beautiful display, and a beautiful reminder that "We are more alike, my friend, than we are unalike." (Maya Angelou)

The holiday season is upon us, starting earlier and earlier each year, fueled by the world of commerce. It's a very difficult time of year for many of the children in our classrooms who celebrate holidays other than Christmas. If you have a diverse group of learners in the faiths they follow as well as in their learning styles, I hope you will find some of these suggestions useful.

I found this beautiful little picture book a long time ago, and have loved sharing it with my students each year at the start of this festive season. It is a narrative by eight different children from all over the world, telling about their life and family inside their homes. You will see many parallels in their daily lives, and will also see that they (and we) all exist under the same beautiful sky, in the same universe.  If you don't already have this book, it will make a beautiful addition to your teacher toolbox. I promise!

A long time ago, in a wonderful school where I spent most of my career, a mom asked if she could come to school to make latkes and explain the celebration of Chanukah. She did. Then a parent who was also a minister asked if he and his wife could visit and explain the the manger and the true meaning of Christmas. They did.

Before long, three grade levels in my school joined in each December in a celebration of the similarities and differences in our faiths called the Holiday Carousel. We set up stations in as many classrooms as holidays with presenters, and students traveled from room to room to learn about each of the holidays their classmates were celebrating. We learned about Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, Chinese New Year, Diwali, Japanese New Year, and Pongal, to name a few! Parents could bring in trees, menorahs, kinaras, lanterns, and any other symbols of their holidays. Each group of parents also brought in holiday foods (prescreened for allergies of course!) and a craft symbolic of their holiday. Teachers and our principal pitched in to fill any gaps when parents were unavailable to present. Other parents also filled in. One year, a Jewish teacher and a Jewish parent presented Kwanzaa, for example. Another year, a teacher and three Chinese students presented Chinese New Year. We did it all together, and loved every minute of it!

Over the years of our Holiday Carousel, I developed some resources to help my students to prepare for and reflect on the Holiday Carousel. I have been a busy little teacher bee in my TpT store this week, trying to bring more of those resources to you, teacher friends, in a format that will be simple to print and use at this very busy time of year. I hope that you will find some of them to be just what you were looking for!

I wish you joy, peace, and contentment this holiday season!

For more December tips from some amazing bloggers, please check out the other December Teacher Talk posts below!


Guest Posting on Minds in Bloom

So excited to be invited back to Rachel Lynette's amazing blog, Minds in Bloom! My post is about finding time for social-emotional learning. I hope you'll stop by to read and leave a comment!

Music in the Classroom: A Bright Idea Rounded Up for You

Joining the Round-Up with those Bright Ideas bloggers to bring you some of our favorite ideas from the past year. This is one of my favorite teacher hacks for transitions. I hope you will find something helpful here!

Transitions! A pet peeve of many teachers for sure! Don't we all wish that the relative calm as students work on a task could be carried over into the next activity? I love to use music to soothe and smooth these transition times. Here are some quick ideas if you'd like to start using music as an aid for smoother transition times.
  • Have a playlist ready on your computer desktop or on a CD. Choose some songs with your students and have some that you have carefully selected to set the mood you'd like.
  • Select one song that will be your "lining up" signal. Make it one that your students can sing along to. Singing will be much easier on your teacher ears than endless chattering! 
  • Select another special singable song to be your "cleanup" signal. Cleanup time will go faster and be more enjoyable with a singalong!
  • Use songs that relate to the standard you will be addressing in your lesson as an introduction for that "listen up" phase. If no song applies, have several ready that encourage thinking and focus.
  •  Play DJ to settle the occasional disagreement with a song. I love to use this strategy after recess when students enter still arguing over conflicts that occurred on the playground. An example of this is when a group of girls rushed me at the door with an endless tale of who would or would not play with them and who was or was no longer their friend. (Been there?) I would simply step over to my computer, cue up a song called "Whatever" (a favorite of my class and me, about walking away from conflicts), and say into my sound system mike, "This one goes out to all my lovely ladies out there." Smiles all around and right back to work as the song ended. Kids - happy. Teacher - unruffled and calm. Aaaahhhhh.

So, for a happier classroom environment and smoother transitions, make and use a "soundtrack of your lives together in class." I promise you'll love it!

You may also like "Music in the Classroom".

So happy to link up with this fabulous group of teacher bloggers sharing more Bright Ideas with you!


Seller Spotlight

To celebrate Rainbow City Learning being selected for this week's Seller Spotlight in the K-5 newsletter, my entire store is 20% off. Today only (Sunday November 15)! It's a great day to shop at Rainbow City Learning!

An Attitude of Gratitude

It's that time of year again - the time so many of us stop and say thanks for all the gifts we receive from the universe each day. It's a very reflective season, leading up to a season of giving and often of overindulgence. I often wonder at this time of year what we can offer to our students that will make the reflective and thankful aspects of Thanksgiving last throughout the year. 

How long for an action, a thought, or a practice to become a habit? I've heard varying opinions on this, but most settle at right around three weeks. I tried this out myself recently. I've done it before while going through Covey training, while making plans for my students, or after watching Oprah. This time I did it just for me. I tried to think of and write down three things each day for 21 days that I am grateful for. Sometimes I just really miss Oprah! I think she nudged so many of us to become more reflective. 

At first, it was the usual list that comes to each of our minds immediately: our families. Spouse, parents, children, siblings, grandchildren. The maybe some special moments with each of them. Then I expected the list making to grow more difficult. The great surprise (to me anyway) was  that it became easier and easier each day to think of three things that make me feel grateful, and in fact harder and harder to stop at just three. 

Grateful for a warm breeze against my cheek here in Michigan in November.
Grateful that I can easily walk into the mall from the farthest parking spot. (This revelation should come in very handy when holiday shopping begins in earnest, and the only spots available are the farthest!)
Grateful for the first rays of sun that wake me up now that I am retired. (Got up in the dark every day for years!)
My personal list continues to grow and grow.

What's on your list? Are you comfortable sharing at least a part of it with your students? 
Introducing an attitude of gratitude to your students and building upon it until it reaches habit status just might make a difference in the atmosphere of your class in general and in the life of each of your students in particular. 

Some easy to implement suggestions:

Declare your gratitude together.

Add a declaration of gratitude to your class meeting time. 
(I'd call it morning meeting time, but most years my class meeting was never in the morning. It's so important, I think, to have that community building time, no matter what  the time slot during your busy teaching day.) Use talking sticks, a rainstick, a special ball, or even a glittered leaf to get the discussion started. As each student receives the talking prop, he/she must state one thing, person, idea, aspect of their life for which they are grateful. (OK to "pass" until some great examples have been set and all have the idea.)

Change up your playlist.

If you don't already use music to inspire your students to be kinder, better, stronger versions of themselves, now is the perfect time to start. If you already use music to enhance your teaching and your collective day, brief pause here for applause and a pat on the back. (At least a silent cheer for you, awesome teacher!) Add some songs to your daily playlist with the theme of gratitude. Two of my favorites available online for free (just click and enjoy!):

Journal it!

If your students already have journals, tab a section of it for thoughts of gratitude. If you would rather, start a new gratitude journal that kids can keep all year to nurture and continue to grow their new habit of declaring gratitude. Write right along with them at least at first. Make yours honest, heartfelt, descriptive, and a beautiful example of the way you'd like theirs to look. Use special paper, markers, pencils, etc. to embellish it. I have a Pinterest board where I save ideas for journaling that inspire me. Feel free to take a peek or to follow!

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I hope you have found a few ideas here to make this season of reflection more meaningful this year in your classroom. For more November ideas from some of my favorite bloggers, please visit more November Teacher Talk posts!


Around the Poetry Campfire


The Bright Idea I’d like to share with all of you today is my poetry campfire.  I have used this activity with second through fifth graders, and this is a great time of year to get it started!
I bought an electric campfire from our local fireplace shop, looking exactly like the one in this picture.  It has held up so well over the years with only an occasional replacement every two or three years of the red light bulb (available inexpensively at any hardware store). 
A very inexpensive and super cute version of this campfire is a paper plate piled with some toilet paper rolls (sans tp of course!) and torn and slightly crumpled pieces of red, yellow, and orange tissue paper. This would also be a very “green” way to do this activity – no electricity involved! Paint, color, or cover the rolls so they are brown and wooden-looking.  Here’s a picture of how it might look. 

One more idea is to use a cute basket with crumpled orange, red, and yellow cellophane and shiny red icicles (gift bag filler). Here's a photo of one I made with my favorite four year old when his outdoor fire pit was "closed" because of weather:

On to the poetry part of this activity! While decorating the paper rolls for the campfire, have each of your students decorate a paper roll of their own.  Do this even if you are using an electric campfire like mine!  This paper roll becomes the holder for each child’s poem to share at campfire time.  Make sure each student labels his/her “log” with their name.
start the first session by wowing them with my amazing and dramatic recital of the poem “Honey I Love” by Eloise Greenfield.  I recite it rather than read it, and it takes a couple of weeks of refreshing my memory in practice before I do it each year. (Easy and fun for me, though, because, honey, let me tell you that I LOVE Eloise Greenfield’s poetry!)  Pick a poem that YOU love so that the memorization and recitation will be fun for you.  This is your chance to show how much you personally love poetry so your students will catch that fire!

While you have your students’ rapt attention following your rendition of your favorite poem, talk with them about sharing their own poetry by the campfire each week (or at whatever intervals you choose).  Explain that they can write their own poem or bring a copy of a poem that they would like to share.  They can memorize and recite, or just read the poem with expression (we hope). The poem is stored inside the paper “log” and as each poem is shared, the log is added to the campfire.  At the end of the session, each child gets their log back to save the poem they’ll be sharing next.  Not every student has to share every week, but try to keep track in some way so you can draw those still reluctant sweeties in at some point.
I hope you’ll enjoy sharing your love of poetry in this cozy way sometime this year. I’d love to hear what happens around your poetry campfire!         

If you enjoyed this bright idea, I hope you'll visit Rainbow City Learning for more great ideas! 

For more bright ideas from other bloggers, please browse through the link-up below and choose a topic/grade level that interests you. Thanks for visiting! 





For many years, I had a special place in my classroom. It was a rectangular table, placed under a bulletin board. The bulletin board's title was "Inventor's Center".  There were boxes of junk, spare parts, and recyclables under the table. There were art supplies on top of the table. It was always there during the years when I taught science, and during the years when I was not the science teacher.  That inventor's center always filled a basic need that I could see that my students had: the need to CREATE!

As humans, we are born ready to tinker. We love to explore, hold things in our hands, and try out different ways of doing things. My little Inventor's Center stood at the ready for kids who needed to make a model they could hold to explain a concept, work on a project when the regular curriculum just didn't fit all their needs, or just wanted to add an artistic touch to a presentation in any subject area.

Two years ago, I started to plan my retirement, and also began to notice that Maker Faires and Maker Spaces were starting to appear in the news. Further investigation told me that the basic concept was very much like the Inventor's Center that my students had been tinkering around in for so long.  But the Maker Spaces that I was reading about were really more like my little Inventor's Center ON STEROIDS!

Yes, Retta, they have 3D printers, and YOU have retired too soon! Nice job!
But seriously, teachers, 3D printers and all the latest tools and robotic building supplies, while flashy and tempting, are not necessary to have a great Maker Space right in your classroom that will fill your students' needs to tinker, create, and prepare for the future. I hope to tell you how to get it started in the post that follows!

You might want to get over this 3Doodler Pen  before you continue reading though! I might seriously just need to have one of these. It's pretty cheap. Please ask for my address if you'd like to send me one. Please!

STEAM is a popular movement that was founded by Georgette Yakman in 2007 to promote and integrate design and art in STEM fields. She defined the movement as "Science and Technology, interpreted through Engineering and the Arts, all based in elements of Mathematics." 2007! Who knew? I didn't! Not officially, anyway!

Using the arts to explain science concepts, though. Of course! Haven't we all asked kids to use diagrams and illustrations to explain their understanding of concepts? STEAM just brings it all together so beautifully in a way we can make posters about and kids can really get!

We once had a fashion show in my class featuring what the well-dressed planets might be wearing, based on their known characteristics. Explain electricity using interpretive dance? Not so farfetched! This could be exactly what a little dancer needs to bolster that science confidence as well.

So without further rambling on my part, here are some fundamentals to help you get started STEAMING away in your own little corner of the world soon!

Start Small. Start Somewhere. Just Start!
S stands for Science, but also for Small and Start and Somewhere.The most important thing is to get going! Gather some boxes. Start collecting recyclables and some basic art supplies. Put the boxes where your students can get to them easily. Get together with a few other teachers or your whole school to set aside a space, or just designate a corner of your own classroom.

You will be truly amazed at how your Maker Space will develop wings of its own once your kids get in there and start tinkering. The ideas and creativity will flow. The excitement will be a force all its own. Give them project ideas or just invite them to enhance other projects. Just get it started! 

Find the Time!

T stands for Technology, and also for Time! With the demands on your time throughout the day, how will you ever have the time to let kids work in the Maker Space?  There are so many little bits of time here and there in every student's day. I always had a poster hanging in my classroom that said, "We Are Never Done!". It's true.  Students do not all finish work at the same time. Having an ongoing project to return to when other work is done will keep a kid from thinking of creative ways to disturb classmates. Project work really keeps the learning happening all day long. 

One strategy that really worked for me was to have a designated block of time (40 minutes) at the end of the day called "Notebooking Time". It was a chance for students to get caught up on their left page thinking in their Interactive Notebooks, but they could have them completed by using other other class time more efficiently or could choose to finish them for homework. Forty minutes of Maker Space time could magically appear in this way at the close of any ordinary day. That forty minutes was also a valuable time for me to get in a few more individual conferences or small groups. 

I also often opened my room during lunch/recess when kids could come in and work on projects. This is a personal choice of course, and we know how little time teachers have without students during the school day. I didn't do it every day, but I enjoyed their company when we did make time for it!

Encourage Kids to Make Connections!

E stands for Engineering, and also for Encourage. With just a little coaxing, kids will begin to see how STEAM is really about real life and real world problems. Why not grab some materials from the boxes to work out a concrete representation of a math problem? Why not test some science concepts while studying for THE TEST (which was how we referred to those wonderful standardized computer tests we always seemed to be prepping for)? What about a gifted kid challenging himself/herself to create an invention to make life easier for a character in the novel they're studying? The connections that can be made are endless. (ENDLESS starts with E too!!!) Just get them started, and you'll see!

Activate Knowledge and Ask Others to Take Part!

A stands for Art of course, and also for Activate and Ask. STEAMing is fun. When others see the fun you and your kids are having, they will want to start their own Maker Spaces, or send their kids to yours! (It happens. Been there.) It's ok though! Encourage them to start their own, and offer to help kick it off! Take action to get a school wide or district wide Maker Faire going. Enlist the help of parents to organize it, or form a staff team. 

Ask (Also an A word. Ha!) everyone on staff, not just teachers. Our custodian did so much work with students during her lunch time on agriculture and reuse of recycled materials. She planted a garden with our kids and built a huge greenhouse from recycled water bottles. Agriculture should be an important part of your STEAMing. Our food supply is crucial to the future of our survival on this planet! You never know what amazing (A word!) ideas are STEAMing in the brains of the people you work with every day. ASK them to join you!

Materials Are All Around You!

M stands for Math, and also for Materials. How will you fill those boxes? You have little enough money coming from your school to fund simple things like pencils, and anything else comes out of your own pocket. I know! I've been there way too many times too! 

Just download my free resource on how to get your Maker Space started, and you'll find lists of very ordinary things already in your classroom and in the homes of your students to get you started. Letters to parents and the community can keep the supply line open as materials are used.

I hope that some of this very long post will encourage you to try a Maker Space in your classroom soon. Your kids will love you for it, and learning will soar! The skills your students will develop in your Maker Space will serve them so well as they prepare to be workers and leaders in a  future that we can't even begin to imagine yet!

I would love to hear from you as you STEAM along on your journey!

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Oh Snap! It's Almost November!

Almost November already? Are you kidding? I can't even figure out what happened today. Planned to write this post today, and I lost the whole day! It started out pretty well, getting materials ready for a conference this week, and polishing up a new resource. Did some laundry, talked on the phone a few times, texted a few more times, knitted a little, read a little, checked in with Facebook, took the "Which Disney Mom are You" quiz (I'm Wendy. You probably are too. Don't even bother.) and the next thing you know.... Here I am burning the midnight oil.

I do want to make sure that you don't even think of starting November in your classroom without a few great products from Rainbow City Learning!

First up is my already incredibly priced bundle of Thanksgiving activities, classroom tested and kid approved for grades 3-5! I promise you will love every one of these seven great resources:
Indian Puddding in a Cup: A Pilgrim's Breakfast
Thankful Quilt
Thanksgiving Math: Cranny Measurement
Gratitude Slapdown Card Game
Turkey Notes: A Thanksgiving Tradition
Thanksgiving Writing Papers
Gratitude Journal

These great resources are also all available as single purchases in my Rainbow City Learning shop.

Next, November is the perfect time to try a Bullyproof Rainbow unit. The one on Gratitude is right on target for November ELA and Social Skills for the big kids (grades 4-8)!

While you're at it , check out some of these other great products from some of my blogging friends: