Ring in 2010

Tomorrow is New Year's Eve and the last day of the decade. If you're thinking of hosting a last-minute soiree, head to Chica and Jo for this printable, penguin invitation craft.Print, cut, assemble and deliver these charming party propositions that are to0 cute to turn down.

New Year's is a perfect occasion for practicing clock skills. In the era of digital timepieces, even big kids often need extra clock practice. Make this New Year's countdown clock from Kaboose. After constructing the clock, learners can mark the final hours of the decade.

Visit FatherTimes.net to study New Year's Eve and New Year's Day traditions in countries around the world. Make some of these global holiday activities part of your own festivity this year like the Scotish tradition of first-footing (visiting friends at midnight), the Japanese tradition of forgiving grudges or the Venezuelan tradition of wearing yellow underwear to bring happiness in the new year.
Then checkout the lyrics and history of the English-speaking world's New Year's Anthem, Auld Lang Syne. After reading about the song, read Auld Lang Syne: The Story of Scotland's Most Famous Poet, Joanne Findon's biographical storybook about Robert Burns who transcribed the traditional Scottish folk song and contributed lyrics to make the famous 1796 version of the tune. With all that learning done, it will be time for a snack. Sample various traditional New Year's foods, which are outlined neatly in "Lucky Foods for the New Year," from Epicurous. Eat black-eyed peas and cabbage which are thought to bring luck and money in the Southern U.S. Or gobble down 12 grapes, one for each chime of the clock at midnight, as is the tradition in Spain.

Images from Chica and Jo, Kaboose, Virtual Sheet Music, Amazon,


Sherlock Holmes Printable Paper Doll

The newest movie adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes was released yesterday. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Sherlock Holmes is the most frequently portrayed fictional character in film history.

After seeing the new Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law film or re-reading some of the famous 19th century stories, check out this Sherlock Holmes printable paper doll at Paper Doll Garden. Students can retell scenes from the original stories or create new adventures for the renowned detective.

Image from Paper Doll Garden.



In 1990, NASA launched the Hubble Space Telescope into orbit around Earth where it can collect clear images of space, unobstructed by our atmosphere. In the last 19 years, Hubble has allowed scientists to discover quasars, dark energy, and the age of the universe. The telescope runs on two 25 ft. solar panels, orbits Earth once every 97 minutes, and has collected countless images of space using filters that can process ultraviolet, infrared and visible light.

Learning about Hubble fits perfectly with lessons on space exploration, renewable energy or the light spectrum. Visit Hubblesite.org to find bunches of information about Hubble's history and structure.
After students read about the telescope, check out all of Hubblesite's fun, extension activities like
tracking the Hubble's orbit, preparing for a night of stargazing, and building a hand-held Hubble.
For many students, tactile experiences like model-making aid in their comprehension of a concept. Also, understanding the relationship between a model and the object it represents is a key learning objective in some states.
The site provides three tutorials for mini-telescope construction, which you can approach as your bravery accords. In my class, we made the basic, paper model, which the site describes as "Average to Difficult." This took just less than three 45-minute class periods with about 18 sets of helping hands.

Hubble diagram and photo from Hubblesite.org


Hanukkah Hullaballoo

Hanukkah's beginning is just days away. Learn more about the holiday by visiting Torah Tots Chanukah Story page for detailed explanations of the meaning and traditions of the Jewish Festival of Lights.
Students can practice "lighting" a candle each day without the hazard of fire with this colorful menorah printable from Nick Jr. Talking about the menorah is also a great opportunity to practice ordinal numbers as you light candles on the first, second, third, etc. days.

Read Eric Kimmel's The Magic Dreidels which is a Hanukkah twist on Grimm's Fairy Tale, "The Table, The Donkey and The Stick."

After reading Kimmel's story, print a paper dreidle template from Akhlah's Crafts page, so students can play the traditional dreidle game following these directions from Judaism.com. Then browse their Hanukkah books section for more ideas about what to read.

After playing the game, students can make dreidle candy boxes to fill and enjoy with step-by-step instructions and a template from Chabad.org's Chanukah page.

Images from Nick Jr., Eric Kimmel, Judaism.com, Chabad.org.


End of the World

Today, I was asked, for the eleventy-billionth time, if the world is going to end in 2012. I've done all the persuading I can do alone. I need to call in the experts to corroborate my story.

Fortunately, NASA seems to have reached a similar point of exasperation with all the hub-bub over 2012, so they have graciously lent their astro-brilliance to the matter and published "2012: Beginning of the End or Why the World Won't End?"  This concise article explains clearly why students can relax a little about impending doom.

After reading, visit the "2012 Doomsday Myths Debunked" photo gallery at National Geographic.

Image from National Geographic

Plant Life Cycle Activity Cards

Visit Craft Jr. to get this set of printable, plant life cycle cards. Students can practice putting the pictures in order to reinforce their memory of the life cycle of plants. If you print two sets, kids can turn them over and play memory.
Craft Jr. has eight other plant-life lesson ideas accompanying this printable. Also check out the black-and-white version of the cards, that students can color themselves, and the printable plant-life mini-book and word puzzle.

Images from Craft Jr.



I like Thanksgiving and the idea of stopping to think of what we have to appreciate. While I was shopping this week, I hoped to find some Thanksgiving candies to give with thank you cards. With the way holidays are commercialized, I thought it would be easy to find some little turkey-shaped chocolates. But, everywhere I went it seemed to already be Christmas. I like Christmas too, but put on the brakes. So, in celebration of slowing down a little to be thankful, I've compiled some of my favorite Thanksgiving stories and ideas.

Read Thanksgiving on Thursday from Mary Pope Osborne's Magic Tree House Series and its non-fiction companion book, Pilgrims.
In the illustrated fiction book, Jack and Annie, the series' main characters, take their time-traveling tree house back to the first Thanksgiving in 1621. The kids meet Squanto, Captain Standish and Governor Bradford and help prepare for the first harvest festival. Readers learn about Wamanoag and early colonists' ways of living. Random House, the books publisher, has a Thanksgiving on Thursday teacher's guide that includes a printable Thanksgiving Quilt worksheet. They also have a section of activities that can be used with all of the Magic Tree House fiction books.
Follow-up this story by reading Pilgrims, which rehashes the first Thanksgiving story from a completely non-fiction perspective and includes plenty of illustrations and diagrams of Wampanoag and Colonial clothes and lifestyles.
To find out more about the colonies, visit PBS' interactive history of 1628 in North America.

Then read Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving, a biographical picture-book about Sarah Hale who helped Thanksgiving become a national holiday in 1863.
Visit author Laurie Halse Anderson's site for a Thank You, Sarah teacher's guide full of guided reading questions and activity ideas.

Then visit Danielle's Place to get instructions for Story of Thanksgiving turkey,
table-top teepees,
and bunches of other Fall and Thanksgiving ideas.

Craft images from Danielle's Place.


Space: The Final Frontier

I watched a lot of Star Trek as a kid, because it was my dad's favorite show. I found all the futuristic trappings (warp-speed travel, funny-looking but human-like creatures from other galaxies, the virtual reality holodeck, Geordi's vision-granting visor) exciting, but I never thought much about the science behind the fiction.

To learn about where human's have been boldy going, check out this space round-up.
Start by exploring the Evolution of the Solar System pictorial timeline. This beautiful graphic by the Lunar and Planetary Institute gives learners an idea of the way our solar system came to be. Then visit Kids Astronomy's Solar System article to find out more about how scientists think stars and planets form.
Learn the history of space exploration with NASA's PlanetQuest animated timeline depicting major events in the study of other worlds as well as spacey pop-culture milestones like the debut of Star Trek.
Students can play the Astroventure Design a Planet game to understand what qualities an inabitable planet would require. After playing the game, find out about conditions on the other planets in our solar system at Planet X-treme Weather.

Visit NASA's interactive lunar outpost to learn about lunar habitats and equipment that will be necessary for humans to visit and spend time on the moon. Visit the Planet Quest New Worlds Atlas to learn about the 403 planets that have been discovered beyond our galaxy.
Then read NASA's Exoplanet House of Horrors article to learn about some of the terrifyingly uninhabitable planets that have been discovered.

After exploring the varied planets of our universe, learn about the stars that sustain them. Learn about constellations at NASA's Space Place.Then print and fold the star-finder for this month so students can explore the stars on their own. Students can also make film-canister constellation viewers by poking these constellation patterns through one end of the plastic containers.
Teach students the fate of the universe's largest stars with HubbleSite's Black Holes video.
Then let students travel through space to one of Earth's nearest black holes. This interactive voyage gives learners a sense of how vast the distances between objects are in space.

Also check out Crayola's moon phase foldable.

Images from Lunar and Planetary Institute, PlanetQuest, Astroventure, NASA, NASA's Space Place, and HubbleSite.


Global Handwashing Day

Today is Global Hand Washing Day. Celebrations and lessons will take place around the globe to emphasize the important role hand-washing plays in preventing the spread of disease.
Watch UNICEF Japan's Global Handwashing Dance video, which features Kaiji Moriyama in a funny water-drop costume turning the steps of good hand washing into a cheerful dance.

On the American Red Cross Scrub Club website, there are bunches of hand-washing resources. First check out their 6 Steps to ultra clean hands. Then visit the Villains Gallery to learn about germs that are passed from one hand to another.
As flu-season is getting in full swing, students can be forced to miss important days of instruction if they get sick. Fight illness with information by showing the Scrub Club It's the Flu animation, and then test students comprehension with the corresponding quiz game.
Also visit Clean Hands are Cool Hands to get bunches of hand-washing resources like
this hand washing reminder-sticker download and other cool printables. Then check out their catchy rhyme for remembering good hand-washing protocol.

Images from YouTube, Scrub Club, Clean Hand are Cool Hands.


Where the Wild Things Are and More Printable Paper Puppets

The best part about children's books being made into movies is all the resources and curriculum ideas that get produced to promote or adulate the flick. Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are has always been one of my favorite books, so I was excited when I found out it was being made into a film.
Today, you should check out Toy-a-Day's fantastic printable Wild Things 3D puppets.

Just print the templates for Max and the Wild Things, cut, fold, et voila! Students can retell the events of the book with a puppet show. Then they can create new adventures for Max and his wild companions.

Also check out Toy-a-Day's LONG list of other printable characters for more storytelling fun. I couldn't resist this smurf, as my yard is full of mushrooms. Students will have at least as much fun setting scenes and planning lines for these adorable characters.

Images from Toy-a-Day and my yard.


Another Great Garland

While I realize that I may be featuring more garlands than anyone's going to have time to cut out this fall, everyone should check out Paper Crave's amazing, free Halloween garland.Just print the template, cut out the super-cute Halloween characters, and string them up.
These would be perfect atop a spooky bulletin board or book display.

Images from Paper Crave.


Acorn Garland

As you're setting up your fall bulletin boards and displays, check out Amy Atlas' free printable acorn garland. Also consider last year's maple leaf garland from A Field Journal.

Image from Amy Atlas Events Blog


Learn about Eid al-Fitr

The Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr began today. For students who've been observing Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr is the end of a month of fasting and restraint.Check out this Palestinian Eid cake in the Huffington Post's slideshow of Eid al-Fitr celebrations around the world.
Read more about Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr at Holidays.net.

Simulate an Eid al-Fitr tradition with Crayola.com's Celebrate with Henna Hands activity.
Also check out their Ramadan coloring pages.

Then, since the beginning of Eid al-Fitr is based on the lunar cycle, learn about the phases of the moon with NASA's Space Place.

Images from Huffington Post, Crayola, and NASA.


The Science Spot

Because teachers are generally certified to teach certain grade-levels instead of class subjects, it is the nature of public schools that occasionally a teacher with a subject-area teaching specialty finds herself teaching an entirely new and different subject. Such was the case for me last year when I inadvertently became a science teacher. Although I made good grades in school, I don't particularly remember much of what went on in my primary or secondary science classes.
This year I found out just as school was starting that I'd be teaching two new sections of science, one of which has no prescribed curriculum. Just as I was about to panic, I discovered The Science Spot. This site, developed by Tracy Trimpe who teaches middle school science in Illinois, is a science teacher's haven. Mrs. Trimpe's enormous index of resources is new to me, but not new. Today I used a worksheet she developed before I finished high school, and the details in her activities and lesson plans show those years of experience.
This week, my students marveled at the number of water drops that will fit on a penny with her Drops on a Penny lab, and I didn't have to worry about unforeseen disasters since her teacher notes have materials lists, safety precautions, and teaching tips (this one reminds teachers to emphasize that pipettes are not to be used as water guns).
Mrs. Trimpe also includes links to other great teachers' resources like the Come Fly With Me lab made by Jesse Bergman.Flying paper airplanes is a pretty fun way to practice steps of the scientific method.

The Science Spot also has a teacher's reference page, a long list of printable science review puzzles, and The Science Spot Kid Zone, a huge list of online science resources and games for students.


Calendars and Agendas

The beginning of school is no time to miss an appointment or forget an assignment. Get your ducks in a row with these free organizing templates.

Organized Home's Household Notebook printables page has free monthly calendars, an undated monthly calendar page, a weekly planner page and a running to-do list.
Family Fun's Back-to-School Printables page has a monthly planner page with cute holiday and appointment stickers,
a student's weekly calendar, and a teacher's weekly calendar.
DIY Planner has printable kits for all sorts of planner sizes. At The Pocketmod, you can design, print, fold and stash a customizable, 8-page, pocket-sized notebook using just one sheet of paper. This program would also be great for making comic-book templates for students to fill in using the story board option on all eight pages.

Images from Organized Home, Family Fun, and my library.