Friday, January 6, 2017

Tea Light Classroom Delight... Among Other Things

Hello Friends who I haven't seen for a while. Life goes along at a pace that does not always leave room for blogging, I'm afraid. But I am still alive and well, and have an idea or five that I hope you'll find useful, so let's get crackin'. Thanks to Kasey at Five for Friday! What would we do without this linky??

1.  The winter months are dull and dreary here in Michigan where Old Man Winter rolls a gray blanket across the sky and leaves it in place from January through March. One little way I bring darkness into the classroom in playful ways is by adding little LED tea lights to the play areas. Great fun can be had for cheap as multipacks can be found at the dollar store. The kids like to use them in the dollhouse, small world, blocks and drama... anywhere really.

An added bonus is that it seems to bring a certain hush to the play as the kiddos make up imaginary scenarios using the "flames." A pack or two will last all season.

2.  And while on the topic of lights, don't forget Flashlight Fridays. My kids LOVE coming in to class on Fridays for DEAR time, which is how we start each day. They put away their things, grab a book, grab a partner, grab a flashlight and sit ANYwhere in the room they choose to read together. I found inexpensive yet hardy flashlights at Menards. I have done this for many years and it is a much loved weekly literacy activity.

Under the table with a book and a partner for Flashlight Fridays!

3.  We had early snow here in the southeast corner of Michigan. A full foot gave us a snow day in early December, while December snow days are rather rare. When we got back to school the kids so wanted to play in it, but the temps on many days that week were too cold to allow outside play. So I went out and filled buckets with snow to bring inside. One day, mitten handed, we simply played with it. Another day I added watercolors, and another day I packed it rather hard and brought out the watercolors again. Loose snow and packed snow provide very different painting experiences. Bringing snow in to play with and painting snow are hardly new ideas to teachers, but this year's kiddos still loved it as much as any kids have over the years.

4.  I have already made my ice berg discovery blocks to bring to school when we go back. You take a plastic bowl of water, drop in a plastic figure or two– dinosaurs work well, though any item will do– and let the water freeze solid. Then you put the chunk of ice on the sensory table with eyedroppers of water. As the kiddos drip water drop by drop, the ice slowly melts and the figure comes free. It is amazing how long the kidpeople will stay with this activity. And think of all that great fine muscle strengthening as they use the eyedroppers. Sorry I don't have photos for this one, but I'm sure you get the idea.

5.  I LOVE Donors Choose. I got two complete Osmo sets funded, and then I bought one of my own. With three iPads going at once, and working in pairs, six kids can participate at once. It makes for a fine center.

Language use is high as they work together, which is good for all young students, but my ELL kids especially.  The kiddos don't know it yet, but I've kept some of the games aside to pull out when we get back, and it makes my teacher heart sing knowing I've got highly engaging, new additions to our technology that are really going to help us spice up January.

Give Donors Choose a try if you haven't. It's a little bit of work to write up and complete, but the materials cost you nothing and sure are helpful to learning in the classroom. I've done three different projects over the years– rekenreks, wobble seats, and the Osmos. You can have new materials in your classroom within a month or two.

Bonus 6.  I share this one just for teachers who are looking for something new to read in the early dark evenings. I received lovely bookstore gift cards this Christmas. I love nothing more than a date night with the husband at a bookstore. We go our separate ways and meet in the cafe later, each with a stack of books to peruse and choose from. I do a lot of online shopping, but nothing beats a real brick and mortar store.

I have been keeping an eye to the end of year must-read lists and quite frankly, finding them quite depressing. There seems to be nothing happy or uplifting on any list I can find... perhaps an indication of where some of us are as 2016 comes to a close. But that doesn't mean I want my reading to be a downer, too.

I went to the Barnes and Noble site before we went shopping to sort of get in a book mood, and as I clicked around a "Chat" window came up that suggested I "talk" to someone for book suggestions. It wouldn't have occurred to me to ask for help in browsing, but it turned out to be quite helpful, actually, once we narrowed down the genres a bit.

Another helpful discovery was the "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought" list at the bottom of each book's page. Of course, I've noticed this in the past, and in shopping on Amazon found it quite useful when shopping for things. It never occurred to me to go specifically to the page of a book I have already read and loved, just to read the list of similar books that appears at the bottom. I found all sorts of treasures, both current titles and oldies, and have a new stack of books at my bedside.

Most of last year's reading for pleasure was spent in the eight part Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. Oh, how I mourned coming to the end of the last book! I'm sure I'm not the only fan that hopes for just. one. more. When I bought the series– a huge stack on the counter– a young woman passed by, took a look, and said, "Ah, lucky you! I wish I was reading them all again for the first time."

NEWS FLASH!  I just visited Diana Gabaldon's website and she. is. writing. number nine!!!!!! We can't hold our breath because we don't know when it will be out, but it WILL! AND this June a compilation of side-stories of the outlander characters is coming out- featuring Monsieur Raymond, Roger's parents, and even a young Ian and Jamie, among others. Can hardly wait for them!!! So Outlander Fans take heart– the adventures continue!!! And of course the Outlander series season three lies ahead this summer. Yippee!!! If you don't know this series I highly recommend you check it out!!!

So glad you stopped by. I would promise to blog again soon, but you know how it goes. I hope because I don't post super regularly thru the school year, when my blog pops up on your feed you stop by to see what's up. Thanks so much for stopping by!

Now it's time to click on back to read more teacher stuff. Thanks, Kasey!


  1. Tea lights are a great idea. It adds so much dimension to the play.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Once a Teacher, Always a Teacher

  2. I love using mini flashlights too especially during these dark January days. Thank you for sharing.

  3. I love the idea of using tea lights!! My classroom is so bright (even with blinds closed!) that I have not been able to do Flashlight Fridays at this school! Thanks for sharing about the next Outlander is always such a long wait!


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