Monthly Archives: December 2010

A Snowy Idea!

by Kelli Lewis

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Need some new wintery craft ideas to bring to your classroom? Why not bring the cold and snowy weather to life, inside your very own classroom? Here’s a fun, cute, and much warmer way to enjoy the cold wintery months by using one thing we all have laying around the house… mismatched socks! I have seen this project done in a second grade classroom, and they absolutely loved it! However, this can be adapted for any desired grade level. Allow your students to use their creativity and create a new friend this winter. Their little sock buddy may even inspire some creative writing about its snowy adventures.

What you’ll need:

– white men’s tube sock (one per student)

– rice

– yarn

– scissors

– hot glue gun (or other types of craft glue, depending on your students’ ages)

– decorative felt or fabric (consider holiday prints, if possible)

– other optional craft supplies (pom-poms, googly eyes, buttons, ribbons, pipe cleaners, sticks, etc.)

What the students should do:

1. Decide if you want the outside or the inside of the sock for your snowman’s body. (The inside often creates a textured look.)

2. Fill the sock with rice, about 2/3 of the way, so that he has a flat bottom and can stay put on the desk, floor, etc.

3. Tie some yarn around the sock, 1 inch above the top of the rice. This should hold the rice inside the sock and keep it from spilling, as well as leave enough room for the rice to move around when creating the snowman body sections.

4. Divide the snowman into the large ball for the body and a small ball for the head, and then tie some yarn where you divided the parts in order to create the snowman body sections.

5. There should be an extra part of the sock, formed from the ribbed part of the sock at the very top, that can be rolled down to give the snowman a fetching little hat.

6. Decorate and customize your snow friend! Use your craft materials, such as the pom-poms, buttons, googly eyes, sticks, ribbons, etc.

  • You may choose to use the felt or fabric to create a scarf to wrap around your creation at the section that divides the head from the body.
  • You may also choose to use felt or fabric to add a more defined look to the hat, as well as other craft materials to decorate the hat.
  • Make the face! You may make eyes by using the googly eyes here, or even try pom-poms, buttons, etc. Consider some type of leftover candy corns from Halloween for the nose, or any type of carrot-like item. This could also be created with felt if needed.
  • Add buttons on the body if desired.

Then enjoy your new buddy! Creative writing (“The Day My Snow Buddy Came to Life”) may be in order… :-)

Kelli Lewis is a graduate student at The University of Georgia and a regular contributor to A Learning Experience.


Filed under Activities, Writing

January = A Fresh Start

by Elizabeth Cossick, M.Ed.

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The candles have all been extinguished, random evergreen needles have been vacuumed up, and the presents have all been opened and enjoyed (or returned and re-gifted). But the end of the holidays is actually the beginning of something really special in your classroom: the start of a brand new year. And unlike the newness of the year in August, this “new year” is even better because your students will return to a class of friends and a teacher they know (and love, of course).

All of this old-newness is the perfect opportunity to revisit your classroom management plan and strengthen the bonds of community (not to mention obedience) with your students. Here’s a simple first-day-back plan to get your group on the right track for 2011:

  • Brainstorm “The Ideal Classroom”

Start the day by asking students what the “perfect” classroom would be like. Tell them that you’re not talking about having recess all day or never having homework (dream on!), but rather you want to know how the students and teacher would treat each other. Ask: How would you like to be treated by your classmates? By me? How should we act toward each other? Lead students in a discussion on mutual respect, kindness…and (my personal favorite) self control. Rather than lecturing or preaching, let the students share their thoughts on what makes them feel respected when they’re talking (eye contact, no interruptions, etc) and how they can show extra kindness to each other. How can we become even more like a family?

  • Revisit and Revise “The Rules”

Then, look over the classroom rules together. If they’re posted on your wall, have a student volunteer read the rules out loud, pausing after each one to ask, “Why is this a good standard for our classroom?” Then, ask the students to thoughtfully consider if the rules need to be amended. Do we need any additional standards? Do any need to be reworded? A thoughtful conversation on classroom behavior will impart ownership to the students and be a better motivator than any lecture.

  • Play a Team-Building Game

Next, solidify the unity of your class with a team-building activity. Try a connecting web (see this post for the how-to), where students are encouraged to compliment each other.

However you choose to greet your students come January, here’s to a happy, productive, positive New Year!

Elizabeth Cossick, M.Ed., holds a Bachelors in Education from The University of Georgia and a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction from Lesley University, Cambridge. She is the editor of A Learning Experience.


Filed under Activities, Behavior Management, Classroom Community, Discipline

Star Santa: a great project for home!

by Kelli Lewis

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So, the kids are out for winter break, but the Big Guy isn’t slated to come for a few more days. Since Santa is all that’s really on their minds (let’s be real), here’s a fun craft to make with your little ones at home!

What you’ll need:

  • red construction paper, cut into star-shaped pieces (about the size of a small paper plate)
  • cotton balls
  • markers or crayons
  • scissors
  • hole punch
  • ribbon
  • glue stick

What to do:

  1. After creating stars out of the red construction paper, lay the star flat on a table in front of you. Be sure that one of the star’s points is at the top.
  2. Create Santa’s face on the top point of the star, leaving the very top of the point for his “hat.” Pull some cotton from the cotton balls for his beard and brim of his hat. Use the markers or crayons to draw eyes, a nose and a mouth for his face.
  3. The middle of the star will serve as his body. Use markers or crayons to draw buttons for his suit. You can also use more cotton for the bottom lining of his suit.
  4. The other 4 points will serve as Santa’s arms (the two points pointing to the left and right) and legs (the two points pointing down). Arms: Add cotton to the end of his sleeves on his suit. Be sure to leave small triangles for the very tip to serve as his hands. Legs: Use markers or crayons to draw black boots for his shoes. This will be done by creating small triangles at the very end tip of the two points that are the legs.
  5. Punch a hole in the top of the star (Santa’s head/hat).
  6. Tie ribbon through the hole to create a way to hang your ornament! Or, to make a magnet, add a magnetic strip to the back.

Congratulations! You’ve just gotten yourself 30 minutes closer to Santa’s arrival.

Kelli Lewis is a current education graduate student at The University of Georgia and a regular contributor to A Learning Experience.


Filed under Activities, Holidays, Parenting

Parent Gifts for Christmas

by Rachel Stepp

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As an adult, I can still go “home” to my parents’ house around Christmas time and see little “treasures” that I made in elementary school on the Christmas tree. This holiday season, you might want to make something with your students (or with your own children–maybe for their grandparents!) that will be treasured forever. There are many crafts to do, but you want to do something that parents and grandparents are going to want to hold onto and look at for years to come.

Idea #1: Fingerprint Snowman Ornaments

  1. To do this activity, you will need enough glass ornaments for all of your students. Any color will work, but clear and frosted blue are especially pretty. You can usually find these at seasonal stores or craft stores around the holiday season. Each child will get one.
  2. Paint the children’s fingers white and stamp them onto an ornament. Let them dry completely (probably over night).
  3. Then draw (or have the students draw) carrot noses, eyes and mouths made of coal, and snowmen hats with permanent markers or paint pens.
  4. Write each child’s name and the year on the back of the ornament. Tie a festive bow around the top of the ornament.
  5. Be sure to wrap the ornaments in tissue paper and in a paper bag before you send them home with the students because you don’t want them to break. Let your students know that they need to be careful with them.

Idea #2: Puzzle Piece Wreaths

  1. You can also make puzzle piece wreaths that can be either ornaments or pins.
  2. Find some puzzles with small pieces that you don’t want to have around anymore.
  3. Children should flip the puzzle pieces over to their brown side and paint them green. Each child should have enough puzzles pieces to lay them out in the shape of a wreath with pieces overlapping.
  4. You (or an adult volunteer) will need to do this next step: After the pieces have dried, use a hot glue gun to glue all of the pieces into the shape of a wreath.
  5. Then, children should take a picture of themselves and cut it out so that their face fits into the middle of the wreath. Glue the picture showing through the wreath from the back.
  6. You can add string in a loop at the top to make an ornament or buy pins with self adhesive backs to make it into pins. These are great because they are personable and it is fun to look at them year after year on your Christmas tree.

(For additional puzzle-piece wreath ideas, including the cute button look featured in the photo, visit

If you’re not feeling crafty this year, don’t panic! There are many small craft kits available at school supply and craft stores (like picture frame ornaments and foam stickers) that you could use to make something special. It is always fun to use students’ pictures so that they feel proud of what they make. It’s even possible that your yearbook staff (if your school has one) can give you a page of all of your children’s pictures so that you don’t have to print them yourself!

Merry Christmas…and happy crafting!

Rachel Stepp is a graduate student at The University of Georgia with creative ideas aplenty!


Filed under Activities

Homemade Ornaments (great at-home project!)

by Kelli Lewis

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Want to get your students (or your own children!) in the true holiday spirit? Try bonding together by creating something unique and special! Here’s an idea to get children thinking of others by using their art and math skills to make an ornament.

You can use the below recipe for air-dry clay. Children have lots of fun helping measure (math tie-in!) and mix. But here’s the catch to this project: the ornament they make is not for them to keep. They must give it away! If you do this activity with a class or group of children, they can have an ornament exchange afterward (by drawing each others’ names out of bowl). If you do this at home, challenge your children to think of someone (a friend, neighbor, sibling) that they would like to give their ornament to.

Here’s a simple recipe for making air-dry clay ornaments that was found at

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. powdered alum
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vegetable oil
  • boiling water (amount varies depending on your humidity)
  • food colouring
  1. Combine flour, salt, and alum in a mixing bowl
  2. Add vegetable oil.
  3. Slowly add boiling water, stirring the entire time.  Dough should not be sticky.
  4. Break dough into separate portions if desired.
  5. Add food coloring and knead until it is incorporated (your hands may get a bit messy here).Children can form clay into wreaths, stockings, or any other holiday or wintry shape. Cookie cutters work well, too! Flatter shapes are ideal because they will dry well. Make sure that at least part of the shape is open, as well, to allow for a ribbon to be looped through for hanging once it’s dry.
  6. Let dry 48 hours in a warm, breezy location.
  7. OPTIONAL:  Paint with clear nail polish or varnish once dry to better preserve the ornament.
  8. Store for up to a month in an airtight container.

Once the ornaments are dry, children can make a card or wrap them, and then they can enjoy the delight on the recipient’s face when they give their ornament away!

Kelli Lewis is a graduate student at The University of Georgia who is chock-full of great ideas and insights. We’re so glad she shares them with us at A Learning Experience!


Filed under Activities, Classroom Community, Math

“G” is for Gingerbread

by Rachel Stepp

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If you are short on activities to do around the holiday, you can incorporate the letter “G” and gingerbread into your curriculum.

  1. Start out by discussing the letter “G” and the sounds it makes. Invite your students to tell you words that start with the letter “G.” This will help them to realize what sounds the letter “G” makes.
  2. After this introduction, read the book Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett. This is a cute story about a gingerbread man cookie that got out of the oven when it was still a gingerbread baby. The baby runs away from the house he was baking in and causes chaos in the local town. The students really enjoy this book because of the mischief that Gingerbread Baby causes.
  3. Cut out enough gingerbread man outlines for all of your students on full size brown construction paper. Depending on your students’ ability levels, you might want to trace the pattern and cut it or let them do it themselves.
  4. Before the lesson, cut four small pieces of red rik-rak (a type of ribbon with a zigzag pattern) per child. These 4 pieces will go on the ankles and wrists as if they were icing on the gingerbread man cookie. I have even found red rik-rak with silver threading details in the past. Make sure students use enough glue so that the ribbon stays glued down. From my experience, I have learned that it takes more glue than I thought it would.
  5. Tell the students to take three buttons in Christmas colors (or random colors), and glue them down the center of the gingerbread man as if they were on his shirt.
  6. Next, students will draw eyes, a mouth and a nose on his face.
  7. With white craft glue, outline the gingerbread man along his entire body.
  8. Sprinkle ground cinnamon onto the glue and let it dry. This makes the cookie smell like a true gingerbread man cookie. (It also makes your classroom smell good!) Students enjoy sprinkling the cinnamon because it can be a little messy! So make sure that you have a large surface area to work on (like a cookie sheet with sides), or else you will be collecting cinnamon on the bottom of your shoes for days!
  9. Let the gingerbread men dry because the glue will drip from the buttons and rik rak.
  10. A tasty addition: You can bring gingerbread cookies to class to let the children snack on while they are making their crafts.

I have found it helpful to show my class an image of a gingerbread man on the SmartBoard so that they have something to look at besides my example. This activity can be molded and adapted to fit almost any grade. You can do a writing extension where your students write a story about what their gingerbread man can do. These make cute classroom decorations for the holiday season, as well!

Rachel Stepp is a graduate student at The University of Georgia who enjoys incorporating creative, interactive ideas into her lessons…and then sharing them with us through A Learning Experience!


Filed under Activities, Classroom Decor, Reading, reading aloud

All Aboard the Polar Express!

by Kelli Lewis

Comment on this post to win a $20 School Box Gift Card! We give away gift cards weekly. Just in time for Christmas presents!

One of my favorite books to read during this time of the year is The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg! Elementary students absolutely love reading it and hearing it read to them over and over. Here are some ways to engage your students with the book and some activities that you can do after reading.

Watch the movie!

After reading the book to your students, allow them to watch the movie together as a class. You could even allow your students to wear pajamas and bring their favorite stuffed animal for the movie day. Pop popcorn and have hot chocolate during the movie to make it even more festive! One way to make this academic is to incorporate Venn diagrams and have a discussion on how the movie and book compare and contrast with one another.

Create a train!

Since The Polar Express is a train, allow the students to each create a piece of the train, and then assemble it together as a class. Bring in shoe boxes and send out letters to parents requesting that they send in any extra shoe boxes that they may have lying around. Shoe boxes may also be donated from local stores.

Students can also bring in supplies to create and decorate their piece of the train. You can also contribute any materials or supplies you may have lying around, such as scraps of wrapping paper, ribbons, stickers, etc. Depending on the age and level of your students, you can also allow your students to create one piece/shoebox for the train as a group– adding cooperative learning to the mix.

Another option is to leave the train pieces/shoe boxes open (discarding the lid) and allow students to bring things to place in them, such as canned goods, toys, etc. for the less fortunate during the holiday season. Most schools are already participating in some type of event as such. Your class’s Polar Express train could be the way your class contains your donated items.

Silver bells!

Since a big part of The Polar Express is the special silver bell, it would be a special and meaningful idea to give each student their own silver bell after the day is over, to take home. This would a great conversation starter among their family and friends, and a great way for them to retell the story to others…furthering their summarizing and retelling skills in a festive way!

Kelli Lewis is a graduate student at The University of Georgia who is chock-full of great ideas and insights. We’re so glad she shares them with us at A Learning Experience!


Filed under Activities, Cooperative Learning, Reading

Gingerbread Man Math

by Kelli Lewis

Comment on this post to win a $20 School Box Gift Card! One comment wins each week.

Why not get into the holiday spirit by baking cookies and learning math at the same time?

By using the following gingerbread man recipe (or any recipe, really), you can incorporate math concepts with a festive, hands-on activity.

Here’s how:

  1. Gather all materials and ingredients (listed below).
  2. Make the cookies with your class, calling on student volunteers to measure and add the various ingredients. Give everyone a chance to stir.
  3. While you’re mixing and measuring, discuss the measurements with your students: “If we need 1 ½ cups of flour, what are some ways I could measure this out using the measuring cups?” Students may respond by using the measuring cups for 1 cup along with the ½ cup.
  4. Now challenge the students to think of ways to measure the flour if you did not have the measuring cup for 1 cup: “Could we still make the cookies if we didn’t have the measuring cups for 1 cup nor the ½ cup? What if you only had the measuring cup for ¼ cup?” Explain to your students that these are real world situations that you may run into when cooking. Sharing your own stories of when you used math to cook will make the activity even more relevant and memorable.
  5. After you make the dough (and chill it according to the recipe, below), give each student a piece of wax paper for their desk. Add a small amount of flour to the wax paper and then give each student a small ball of dough. They can press the dough (or take turns using rolling pins to roll it out) to 1/8-inch thickness (they can even use their rulers to measure!) before cutting out their gingerbread man.
  6. You can either ascertain permission to use the kitchen’s oven to bake the cookies at school (a parent volunteer is helpful to take the cookies to and from the kitchen while you stay with your class in the classroom), or you can take the cookies home to bake them and bring them back. (To make sure each student gets his or her own cookie back, label foil-lined cookie sheets with students’ names in permanent marker, and place each child’s cookie on the foil by his/her name).

Materials List:

  • medium mixing bowl
  • mixing/stirring spoons
  • measuring cups
  • measuring spoons
  • refrigerator
  • oven
  • baking sheet
  • cooking spray
  • gingerbread man cookie cutter
  • wire racks
  • decorative containers/bags to store finished cookies in

Gingerbread Men Recipe (from

*Yields: 2 ½ dozen (Calories 79, Total Fat: 3.3g per serving)

* Time: total of about 1 hour & 40 minutes


• 1 (3.5 ounce) package cook and serve butterscotch pudding mix

• 1/2 cup butter

• 1/2 cup packed brown sugar

• 1 egg

• 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

• 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon


1. In a medium bowl, cream together the dry butterscotch pudding mix, butter, and brown sugar until smooth. Stir in the egg. Combine the flour, baking soda, ginger, and cinnamon; stir into the pudding mixture. Cover, and chill dough until firm, about 1 hour.

2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease baking sheets. On a floured board, roll dough out to about 1/8 inch thickness, and cut into man shapes using a cookie cutter. Place cookies 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.

3. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven, until cookies are golden at the edges. Cool on wire racks.

Kelli Lewis is a graduate student at The University of Georgia and a regular contributor to A Learning Experience.

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Filed under Cooperative Learning, Math