Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Top-It Tray Freebie

Hey there. Super fast post just to give you a math freebie. I bet you know the math game Top-It. Top-It has been around for years known as the card game War. I remember my two daughters playing it for hours on long vacation car rides, once playing into the night with the help of traffic headlights as we looped around DC's beltway. snort. Top-It gives students practice with number ID and fluency in number value– namely, which of two numbers between 1-10 is greater. When my kidpeople were first learning the game this year there was just way too much time going into figuring out where the card stacks go. So I came up with a Top-It Tray. I think I'll always teach the game with this now because it makes things so much easier.

Two players share one tray. They each place their cards of 1-10 in a shuffled pile on their corner.

Then on the count of "1-2-turn" (at least that's what we say in our room) they each turn over a card.

The player who turned over the bigger number gathers both cards and puts them in his "winning pile" on top.

When someone runs out of cards to turn over, both players gather their own winning piles, shuffles them, and places them in their own corners again so the play can continue. The rounds continue until someone runs completely out of cards. The one with all the cards is the winner.

This game has become a big hit. In part it is so popular because there actually is a winner– so few of our games in class are competitive that Top-It has a definite novelty factor. Don't get me wrong, winning games have a place in life, but I think that in most instances competition takes away from classroom learning games. Maybe I've followed Alfie Kohn too long. smile.

Click on the pic below to download the simple sheet. I copied a classroom set on colored cardstock and laminated them so they'll last a long time. When playing I usually place the sheet on a plastic tray so the cards don't slide off. We use regular playing cards, with the Ace as the number one card, but you can play with any number cards you have. And you can let kids play with double the number of 1-10 cards, or even with a hand of 1-20 each.

Thanks for stopping by! Pin, please.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Classroom Music Videos that Highlight Black Artists

What started out as me putting together a "quick" video playlist for my classroom has turned into a favorite project to share with you, too! You'll want to know about this...

February is Black History Month and, now, more than ever, I want my kiddos to see the many ways Black talent, inspiration, and leadership have influenced our American history. I consciously aim to represent diversity throughout my teaching, EVERYday, but February gives me a push to do more in new ways. I, like many teachers, bring in diversity through books, images and materials, but I pushed myself to think of more ways... hey! How about the music we play everyday! So I put together a video playlist of all sorts of music, collaborations, and dance featuring Black artists to use for our classroom dance party brain breaks, or just for listening to. I wanted a wide array of Black talent– here's a sample of who's on the list!

I found over 15 videos so far that I think kids will enjoy watching and moving to. I'll update this list as I find new ones. Although Black History Month motivated me to put the list together, I plan on stopping back here myself for dance parties for years to come... I told you this project started out just for me. grin.

Please note these videos were not specifically "made for children" like many video playlists shared on teacher blogs. I reviewed my selections for acceptable language, and with a teacher's eye, hoping the visuals added value for kids. I chose "clean" videos, finding a couple that even included kids, and if I couldn't find an acceptable version, it didn't make the list. Please watch them yourself before choosing the ones to use with your students. I added the length of each video to help you pick a couple on any given day. You might want to give a little background at times and maximize the learning as some of these videos are pretty old– black and white technology was as modern as it got for many years. I want the kiddos to see and hear the wide variety of music and dance that make up our American history and culture, as no matter how old, the music is still great in our ears today. My kiddos were as fascinated by the bit of scat singing and "flash dance" tap dancing in the Cab Calloway video with the Nicholas brothers as they were drawn in to trying the hiphop moves in Watch Me.

Hope this gives you some good choices for this month and WAY beyond. As for me? You know I'm teaching my kiddos the hustle! This summer I went to a high school reunion and still proved myself the Hustle Queen. snort. You'll find lots of variety in the list– jazz, soul, hiphop, R&B, rock n' roll, worldbeat, disco.... Here we go!

 5:34 min




 4:49 min

2:55 min

 6:19 min

 2:21 min

 3:12 min

 4:18 min

 3:00 min

 4:17 min

 4:00 min


 5:15 min

And I end on perhaps an unlikely note. This is the "Trading Taps" segment of Riverdance... you know I like to put a wee bit of Irish in there when I can. wink. We saw Riverdance in Dublin last summer and this number was fun and powerful. I'll use it (and the Hiplet Ballerinas up above) to discuss how many different cultures from all over the world influence music and dance worldwide. It will be fun to contrast the heel kicks and straight arms of the Irish dancers with the looser, more fluid movement of the hip American tap dancers. There is notable difference in music styles in this friendly competition, as well.

 8:11 min

Hope you enjoy this compilation of videos highlighting musical contributions of Black performers over the decades. Let me know in comments if you think I found good variety or if I've missed some great video that would be particularly good for the kiddos. And I hope you and your students can get down and boogie around the room. Whoot Whoot!

And as always, please PIN the post! See you around!

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Easy Classroom Chocolate Fondue and a Valentine Freebie!

I could have called this post One Great Valentine Party because I cover the fancy treat, a cute hat that doubles as my teacher Valentine to students, and a crazy way of Valentine exchange, with a little Freebie thrown in for good measure. Here we go!

One of the BEST treats we have all year is "Chocolate Fondue" for our Valentine's Party. Ok. So I use the term "fondue" loosely... no flames are involved. snort It is more like chocolate dip... but it IS warm. And it is easy. And it is nut-free. And it is DELICIOUS!

Simply get a jar of Trader Joe's Speculoos Cookie and Cocoa Swirl spread.

I tell you this stuff is wonderful in any form on anything you choose. I found out about it from the mom of a nut allergy student who could not have many forms of chocolate, but could have this stuff. What a find!

Put some in a safe container and microwave for ten seconds at a time, stirring in between ten second blasts. It doesn't take long to turn it into smooth, warm, liquid heaven. It mixes the two flavors into the BEST chocolate flavor. I put the fondue in little sauce cups, another reason why the chocolate should only be warm, not hot. If it cools down it is okay because once liquified, this dip won't harden again. Also put out whatever items you are going to let the kids dip– pretzels, bananas, crackers, marshmallows...  it's all good!

Then let the kids have at it! Voila! You will be the most popular teacher in the school. One of my parents gave glowing praise, "It figures you'd figure out a way to do Chocolate Fondue with five year olds! My daughter can't stop talking about it! I think we're going to be having it this weekend." Hee

If you don't have a Trader Joe's nearby, not to worry because I found it on Amazon! Click on the pic below to go there. And if nuts aren't an issue in your classroom, I'm betting good old Nutella would work, too, though I have not actually TRIED warming Nutella, so experiment first!
Click to find on Amazon

Now, take a look below at the kids' Valentine hat close up. I think they are the CUTEST things around and I use them as my Valentine to each kiddo. Here's how you can do it, too, with the help of my FREEBIE download.

Print out the "Happy Valentine's Day, Love Bug!" sheet on pink paper, one for each child, and cut the paper in half lengthwise. This message is printed on the back part of the headband, which you can't see in the photo. And it's printed in bubble letters so the kids can color it in.

Print out eye sheets on white paper– you get six pairs of eyes per sheet and each child needs a pair.

Include a small heart sticker, paper heart punch-out, or those press on foamy hearts for a nose. Do Love Bugs have noses?? Mine do!

Add two pipe cleaners or one pipe cleaner cut in half, or if you don't have pipe cleaners handy, just cut skinny strips of paper. They'll need four more hearts to make the antennae. The kiddos will sandwich the pipe cleaner tips in between two hearts to form antennae that can be taped to the hat's inside edge. As you see, the hearts don't have to be red or pink.

To turn the hat into a Valentine for my kids, I sign my name under the word "Love Bug" on the message at the back of the headband. Then I make little Valentine "kits" by rolling up all the parts into a scroll tied with red curling ribbon. I hand one to each kiddo as our party begins and let them cut, glue, color and tape their hats into place. It makes a lovely, wearable Valentine and a great valentine party activity.

Hat making is followed by the fondue, and then the big valentine opening event. We open Valentines with everybody sitting in a circle on the floor with their lunch bag mailbox of Valentines in front of them. On my signal everyone starts to take out their Valentines, one at a time, and when they figure out who it is from (it takes a while for five year olds to read five year old handwriting!) they then yell, "Thank you, So-and-So" across the circle. Then So-and-So has to yell back "You're welcome!"

You have never seen or heard such chaos!!! So much happy yelling. Warms my heart! I've done it this way for years and won't do it any other way. Then all the Valentines go back in their bag with any candy that came in Valentines, so it can all be taken home.

One heck of a good party, and a level of prep that I can handle. Try it! Bet you like it!

OH! Almost forgot! For the simple freebie hat download, just click on either of the photos with kids in hats! Kuddos to DH Jonathan for putting the hat handout together to my specifications. Life would be SO much harder without him... it's why I keep him around... well, that and a few other reasons. TeeHeeHee

As always, Pin Pin Pin please!!!

See you next time! News Flash– Next time is TODAY. I put together a compilation of dance party brain breaks featuring Black artists performing a wide variety of music over the years to use throughout February. This collection for Black History Month is coming out in a couple hours! You'll want it for easy reference. AND going BACK in time, don't miss my post with the Safe Youtube QR Code cards for students to use to watch Storyline Online! Click HERE for that one.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

ByeBye Google+

Super quick post here. Google is doing away with Google+. It won't change much about Google,  just specifically Google+  If you have a Google+ account you should check into it because they suggest that you delete it. If you do a general search for information, you'll find lots and they will probably send you an email if they haven't already.

I am posting this specifically for the 203 people who chose G+ as their means to follow the blog. If you value knowing what's going on at Kidpeople Classroom, you might want to follow via email or Bloglovin' now. The links to do so are right over there in the righthand sidebar, so just a few clicks and you're set. You can follow via any feed tool you already use, too, of course.

I spent time this afternoon going over my Google+ account and following bloggers I don't want to lose track of via email and Bloglovin'. I also did away with the G+ follow button here on the blog as Google+ accounts will no longer exist as of April 2. It is sad to lose any readers, sniff, but my other means of following show steadily increasing numbers, so that brings some comfort. Yay.

See you around!

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Grow Writing Love by Writing Letters... and a Funny!

Here's a quick post to tell you about a resource that is particularly useful now. We all have our official writing units to teach, dictated by Common Core or State Standards– opinion, information and narrative writing. I get the importance of those, but that certainly is not the only kind of writing kids enjoy learning about, so we take little bends in the road to incorporate other kinds of writing. One of those is letter writing. I put together a resource to help you expand letter writing into a mini-unit.

With Valentines coming up it's a great time to write to parents, grandparents, far away friends and friends at school. The pack comes with some anchor charts, stationery, and teaching ideas. Freshen up your writing center with these new materials and penny stamps and see the kids write with new vigor to a specific audience. For only two bucks, you'll get more than your money's worth. 

I'm hoping to launch my own letter writing unit next week, pulling out the classroom mailbox which will stay up for the rest of the year. In addition to leaving materials in my writing center after the mini-unit is done in probably just a week, I'm going to begin Friendly Friday Letter Writing. Friendly Friday letter writing means everyone will pull a name out of a hat, or a popsicle stick out of the name jar, and then "secretly" write to that person... well, as secretly as five year olds can do anything. snort. Then we will do quick delivery of our letters, and let instant fun and warm feelings ensue. 

This little postcard stationery works great for a Friendly Friday quick write! It's part of the pack. 

Friendly Friday letter writing is one of our Hygge Hour activities... pronounced, Hoo-guh, by the way. Don't know about Hygge? Then you should click here to check it out! 

To get to the Let's Write to Someone pack click on either of the pictures above. While you're at my store, check out all the FREEBIES. I have more resources for free than resources for sale. snort. One of my list paper freebies has been downloaded more than 3,800 times! It always cracks me up... and warms my heart... to see my resources downloaded many thousand times over. Love. Also love it when people leave product comments, which they don't do near often enough! hint.

You can see a post with more ways to use the Let's Write to Someone pack by clicking HERE. 

Hope your kiddos enjoy letter writing as much as I know my kidpeople will. Click on the photos above to find the pack. 

And now for a quick grin!

Just today, as I opened my mouth to answer the same question for the fourth time, a pipsqueak piped up, and with a roll of her eyes interjected, "Do not say that to Mrs. Wright AGAIN! She is going to get frus-ter-a-ted!"

It cracked. me. up. Who says five year olds can't get another's perspective, feel empathy, or find themselves just a little bit frus-ter-a-ted with their spacey peers, too! 

Want to catch some more Funny Kid Stories? Click on the Funny Kid Friday tab at the top of the page under my heading. Everybody needs a little funny kid story now and then. It's what keeps teachers going!

Thanks for stopping by! See you next time!

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Storyline Online and a FREEBIE

Storyline Online is one of the best sites for viewing children's book read alouds. Let me share some details you might not know yet, and I'll throw in a helpful Freebie you'll use again and again.

If you've looked on YouTube for kids books being read aloud you've found thousands of them. Any given children's book title usually has several different uploaded read aloud videos to choose from and there is a wide range in quality. I found Storyline Online this very way, while looking through all the YouTube videos for read alouds.

Storyline Online is made possible by the Screen Actors Guild Foundation, SAG-AFTRA. It is absolutely free to use. As I write this they have over fifty children's picture book read aloud videos available. Here's a sample.

Each video starts with the actor, or actors, holding the book and giving a book introduction before beginning to read.

The camera zooms in on the illustrations, where often little parts of the pictures become animated. Throughout the story you go back and forth between seeing the illustrations and the actor reading the book, so kids never forget they are being read to. 

Fully animated video movies of children's books are great, to be sure, but it is easy to forget those cartoons come from books. I think when kids watch books being read by live people there is added value and emphasis on reading.

Because I had always viewed the Storyline Online videos directly on YouTube, I didn't realize that there are activity guides written for each story, which you can only get on the Storyline Online site.


The activity guides, written for teachers mostly, but some with activity guides specifically for parents, are chockfull of ideas– some suggest before, during and after the story discussion points, themes, writing ideas, art, movement, even cooking activities... all sorts of things to choose from. You can find them by going directly to StorylineOnline.net under the All Books tab.

You can watch the Storyline Online read aloud videos on YouTube, but when watching on YouTube it is pretty easy to get to other videos and ads, some of which you wouldn't want your kids to view. You can also watch Storyline Online videos directly on StorylineOnline.net, with options of watching via YouTube or SchoolTube, with SchoolTube being the safer option.

Either way you choose to watch on the Storyline Online site, when you get to the end of the video, other Storyline Online videos will pop up. That isn't a bad thing, unless you want kids to only watch one particular story, or you want other kids to use the same device and watch that one particular story.  So to keep kids on the correct story I created QR codes for the stories through Safe YouTube.

Click to download Safe YouTube QR Code cards for Storyline Online videos

Safe YouTube is better than safe mode on YouTube, and it takes away all those many buttons and videos that cause distractions and allow kids to click and end up anywhere on YouTube. No online connection is completely safe and kids seem to find a way to other things no matter what, so always keep an eye on what they are watching.

I created one for each story on Storyline Online, currently fifty three in total. You can print out the QR Code cards in color, or they come out crisp and clean if you choose to print in black and white. Laminate, cut apart, and you'll have a set of cards for kids to use on any device with a QR Code reader. It will take them to that story and no other. These work great in classrooms as centers, Daily 5 and Readers Workshop stations, and independent reading choices. If you're a parent you'll find them useful at home or on the road with devices.

To get this Freebie just click on the picture of QR code cards above. There are six pages in all. I will update as I see new stories appear on Storyline Online. Be sure to Pin this post so you can get to updated pages.

I suggest you cruise by StorylineOnline.net to see the full list of read aloud titles. I found many good books there, books I hadn't heard of before. I like to have actual copies of the books the kids are going to listen to, and I like to read the book to my students first, so I can make the most out of that read aloud– focusing on vocabulary, story problem, characters, etc.  But if I'm low on cash, Storyline Online is a way to let my kidpeople hear quality books at no cost to me. Many of my favorite Flashlight Press books are there, too, and if you are a regular reader you know how I love Flashlight Press. (News Flash– I'll be giving away another Flashlight Book soon!!) Storyline Online has won lots of awards and that is for very good reason. Good book selections, VERY well read!

Hope you found this post about Storyline Online and the activity guides helpful. And I hope you'll download the QR Code cards and find them useful with your kids. I am not being paid or getting any perk for telling you about Storyline Online. I just wanted to share a great resource.

See you next time!

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Carla's Sandwich– Appreciating Differences and Trying New Things

My class had a lot of fun and learning with Carla's Sandwich by Debbie Herman, illustrated by Sheila Bailey. Published in 2004, it is not a new book, but it was new to me when I spotted it on the website of my favorite publisher, Flashlight Press. How could I have missed it before? With quirky illustrations, and a storyline and dialogue that rings true to kids' ears, this book was a fast favorite for the kidpeople and me, too. Let me share what we did with it.

The sandwiches Carla brings to school are different, unique and creative... at least that's how she sees it. Her classmates deem them disgusting, gross, and sick, and after a while even spunky Carla is brought low by their lack of understanding and respect for her sandwich ideas. That is, until hunger steps in.

Before ever reading the book I asked kids what their favorite sandwiches were, listing them on the board. Ham came up most in the list of five favorites, to my surprise. Then I asked each child if they would eat all the sandwiches on our class list... Nope. Would then even try them? Nope. Even if it was a classmate's favorite, they weren't going to touch it.

And then as we often do, we checked out certain parts of the book, enjoying what we found at first glance. Well, look at that– the cover has a piece of bread with a girl... Carla, probably...  inside it. That's an interesting illustration idea. And look at those endpapers... we always check out the end papers.

And yes, the back flap has "About the Authors" information. All the best books include that.

We dug in and after reading the first half of the book, at which point all of poor Carla's sandwiches have been rejected by her classmates, I stopped and asked the class what they thought so far. They very much agreed that they wouldn't want to eat Carla's sandwiches because they were "really yucky." However, my kidpeople thought that the kids in the book were mean to Carla and "she should be able to eat any sandwich she wants," even if my kiddos themselves wouldn't eat it if she brought it to our school.

After reading the whole book my class thought it was good that the classmates in the story tried a new sandwich and were glad Carla felt better, but they were still pretty dubious about eating sandwiches like Carla's. I brought most around to the idea that at least trying new things was a good idea, even if you worried that you wouldn't like it.

We especially enjoyed discussing descriptor words like different, unique, creative, gross and disgusting. And wasn't it interesting that "sick" means ill, but a sandwich could be "sick" too. I love helping kids understand the nuances of words. And we didn't even touch on sick meaning awesome in slang... ai-yi-yi.

We also came up with other things to say when we didn't like something, words that wouldn't hurt somebody's feelings. You don't have to agree with people, but you can't be mean.

The next day I set up a sandwich bar for kids to make a sandwich for snack. I wanted them to try it, ultimately, so the ingredients were overall acceptable to kids, but the combination was still a challenge to most. You'll see in the picture below bread and peanut butter, cheerios, chocolate chips, banana slices and yogurt.

They got to put on varying amounts, but they all put on at least a bit of each, I think.

Then came the bigger challenge. Hmmm... should I try it?

Every one of my kiddos ate at least two bites, and most ate it all, in very enthusiastic fashion.

After our snack we talked about how Carla was brave because she kept bringing "creative" sandwiches for lunch, even when kids wouldn't eat with her. Being different is okay and we can all be different and accept others who do things in different ways. Their way might actually be pretty good in the end, if we at least give it a try.

I give Carla's Sandwich two thumbs up. Teachers will find both important concepts and story elements to teach. And it sure lends itself to hand's-on experiences with new foods.

I reviewed this book for Flashlight Press, receiving a free copy, though I bought another so we'd have two in class. I have been impressed with many Flashlight Press books over the years. Those editors have a great eye for books that kids love, and teachers and parents value for a slew of reasons. Click to see their books.

Much to my delight, I found Carla's Sandwich, along with quite a few other Flashlight Press books on Storyline Online. This site, sponsored by the Screen Actors Guild Foundation, is terrific because each video features different actors reading a real book, which often are animated is some little way. There are over fifty stories to be found and all come with an activity guide.

Be sure to keep your eyes open for my next couple posts, because I am going to feature some tips about Storyline Online, including a freebie you'll want to have!

Well, hope you discovered a new book and got an idea or two. See you next time!

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Hygge in the Classroom

I am doing something SUPER fun! I gotta share it right now so you can start thinking about it, too. Have you heard of Hygge? (hoo-guh) It is a Danish word, which means a mood of warm cosiness, comfort, and sense of contentment. The Danes are known as the happiest people in the world and I think there is much we can gain by embracing a hygge philosophy and focus. Hygge is a trending topic with lots written about it now. In this post I'm going to tell you how I have a hygge classroom, and how I developed a special Hygge Hour. I also share what hygge is and even some research that backs up why hygge concepts belong in the classroom. Here we go!

I was instantly captivated by the idea of hygge when I first heard about it and decided I needed to read more. I made a little poster to summarize in a nutshell what I've learned and come to appreciate about hygge. It has been useful when sharing at school and with family and friends.

I decided that I wanted more hygge in my life and since my classroom is so central to my life, I thought I'd find ways to incorporate hygge into my time with the kidpeople. When I stopped to think about it I realized I already did have hygge in the daily environment of the classroom! It's in some of the small elements and even more so in the feeling I try to cultivate. Our lighting comes from lamps and softer, non-fluorescent overhead lighting. We have a couch, comfy cushions and floor seating. We spend lots of time sharing books with friends, sometimes in pretty laid back ways.

We have a twinkling fireplace, a favorite with everyone, kids and adults alike.

Even our class motto, "We are a Caring, Learning Commuity," which I developed many years ago, is hygge-esque. I used it in preschool, brought it to grade school, used it through the time we were a PBIS school (which I felt surely needed some balance) and now it really fits with our Responsive Classroom school. Click on pic for previous post.

I need to point out here, though, that hygge is actually more about feelings than things. Our class motto starts to get at the feeling piece of hygge in our classroom. I really want my kidpeople to feel connected, to understand that what they do affects everyone else. I want them to feel they have a place in the classroom, and they have a place in my heart. I build the connection piece into our daily routines– greeting kids one to one at the door, giving time for sharing first thing in the morning and connecting at the end of the day. We practice mindfulness right after lunch, which helps us slow down, listen, and discuss how we feel on the inside.

I have deliberate purpose for all the stuff and routines in the classroom, but how could I bring awareness and focus of these hygge elements to my kidpeople? That's when Hygge Hour was born! We may live in a regular hygge environment, but for one special hour we can be consciously happy and grateful for being part of a cozy, hygge community!

I was lucky enough to find a cartoon video for kids that explains hygge and what it means, and it was a great way to introduce hygge.  Click to watch.

The kidpeople were ALL about that video, even though I didn't say a word about having a hygge hour.  I just let the idea of hygge percolate for a while. Before I told them about our first hygge hour I asked the kids what they remembered about the word hygge and what were things they could do at home or we could do in our classroom for more hygge. They came up with several things, cookies being top on the list. snort. It didn't even occur to them that we could have hot chocolate or take our shoes off, so when I suggested it... Whoa! YES! 

This is how we do our hygge hour:

Lighting– I put a roaring fireplace video on the big screen. There are lots to choose from on YouTube. And each table gets a flickering LED candle. And of course, we already are a non-flourescent lit room.

Quiet background music– I put on a cozy instrumental background mix of snow songs or jazz. And some of the fireplace videos have nice music, too.

Hot chocolate–We use these tiny espresso cups that had been in deep storage in my kitchen forever. I mix chocolate and white milk together, which to my surprise, actually tastes better than straight up chocolate and it has less sugar. I heat it in a pyrex pitcher in the micro. When it is warm but not quite hot, I pour it into a thermos, which mixes it and keeps it warm until pouring time. Kids get to choose zero, one or two mini-marshmallows to put in.

Sweet treat– We've had donut holes, pretzel cookies, Keebler elf cookies, and cut outs. With one cookie and the micro size cup of hot chocolate they are not getting too much, but there has not been any complaint or spoken request for more. They seemed to "get" from the very beginning that this was a special time and the treat was only one small part of it.

Cozy elements– We get to take our shoes off and put on cozy socks! Something about this just took their fancy and they can hardly wait to put their shoes in their backpacks and grab snuggle socks from the bin.

The socks come with a story that might make you grin. It took Jonathan and I a full hour to find just the right socks at Dollar Tree. First, we collected little holiday socks, which took forever because I only wanted the ones with a non-Christmas snow motif. I had almost gathered enough when I spotted fuzzy socks in adult sizes. Hmmm... better. So we dumped the little themed socks and started scouring the aisles for enough pair of fuzzies, while managing to narrow the collection down to just two colors. And THEN, while looking for enough of those (I never realized how scattered around things are in dollar stores until that day), we found adult snuggly socks with non-slip dots on the bottom... Even better. Away we went again, this time staying with it until we found enough that were all the same color! Next year I might have kids just bring in their own pair, though these are holding up well through wear and laundry. I bought extra pairs and it's a good thing I did because all our visitors kick off their shoes and wear cozy socks, too... even our principal. snort. And yes, we do have visitors. Our principal, teachers, my adult daughter, and come the new year there is a long list of parents who want to duck out of work and come hang with us.

I also decided to incorporate a special activity as part of each hygge hour to focus us on the "being together" aspect of hygge. On our hygge activity list are winter song sing-alongs, back tales and echo stories, community building games, and some new cozy things for free choice, which comes in the second half of hygge hour. They love getting out book buddies, cushions and even blankets on hygge days. Not too many better ways to spend half an hour at school then snuggled with a book and friends in the Book Nook.

We have some special small world play with snow, characters, and even a fairy house.

If we get enough real snow this winter, I'll bring some in so they can don mittens and build small snowmen at our water table. In fact, all our hygge hour activities are good general learning activities made extra special when introduced as part of hygge hour.

Our hygge hour is the last hour of Friday afternoons but that is mostly because our specials schedule. The kiddos go off to special and I have half an hour to prep the room, the treats and activity. Hygge is not tied to any particular season, in fact it is an all year long mindset, but from the get-go I decided that we would do hygge hour every week until our spring break in March. Our hygge hour is full of cozy indoor activities to perk up cold, gray, winter days, but once spring comes we'll be outdoors more.

I have chuckled to myself to see how invested the kidpeople are in hygge. They take turns serving treats, setting out the flameless candles, and holding the sock basket. The clean up and putting cups in the sink has also been very cooperative, too. Parents report that the kiddos jump right into bed on Thursday nights because "Tomorrow is hygge!!!"

In our first couple of hygge hours, to signal it was time to eat, and without putting much thought to it,  I raised my cup and said, "Happy Hygge." Several weeks later at a Hygge Hour I simply said, "You may begin," which is what I say twice a day at our community-style snack times, and the kidpeople immediately protested... "Nooo, Mrs. Wright! You need to say Happy Hygge!" I didn't know the toast was so important... grin.

There is other evidence that hygge hour is important to the kiddos. As is tradition in our school, we have classroom "winter break" parties before we go off for our two weeks at home. We wear PJs that day school-wide. I was excited to tell the kids about what we were going to do for our party. It was all fine and dandy until they realized it was going to be during the hygge hour. I actually got moans and groans... "What about our hygge, Mrs. Wright??" Even though the party was going to be more special than a typical hygge hour, the only way I could bring them around on the party idea was to call it a "Hygge Party." We pretty much did the same things, only with a bigger cookie and a candy cane. snort.

To be perfectly honest, I look forward to hygge hour as much as the kids do. I have to be extra organized on Fridays, getting backpacks packed up early so my planning period can be given over to prepping for hygge. And it costs me a little out of pocket because there are the cookies and milk to buy as it is only occasionally that parents donate.

But what makes the hygge hour and hygge in our classroom in general SO important is actually the emotional aspect, the feelings that go along with of all that we do. To feel that we belong, that kids know each other and are connected to the teacher; that we are safe and cared for so we can be happy and content while we learn and grow. Simple things like reading by the fire, or telling our stories from our own lives, or playing games together is really more important than the material things that make our classroom hygge. Our hygge hour is just one more way I strive to meet the emotional needs of my students.

Just as pretty much everything in my classroom has data to back it up, so too, my focus on emotional connection with my students is based on ever growing evidence from educational research. Teachers who invest time and effort in developing relationships see more student progress in all areas. Kids who have an emotional connection with their teachers do better academically, showing higher grades and test scores. Teacher-student relationships are central to Responsive Classroom schools, too. My Early Childhood background taught me long ago that all this was true, but it is nice there is always new info coming out for all teachers and students. You can read more about the the importance of teacher-student relationships here.

Even going shoeless is research based! A decade long study on tens of thousands of school children in over 100 schools in 25 countries found students were more engaged and did better in the classroom when they ditched their shoes. In classrooms where students went with just socks, children got better grades, were better behaved, and they read more, especially boys. There was also less bullying. Those dollar store snuggly socks are golden! You can click here and here and here to read more about learning in socks.

I shared the idea of hygge hour with parents via email before returning from Thanksgiving break. They are very supportive of hygge. A few have supplied cookies, many hope to be visitors... it's so good when parents come to school! One family even bought me a hygge shirt- grin.

So what do you think? Do you already have some hygge in your classroom? What new things might you try now? A hygge environment and a hygge hour can be developed and maintained with next to no stuff at all, especially if the focus is on kids feeling cozy and content, and part of the tribe. It is about person to person relationships, not tiny cups, even if tiny cups are fun to have and use. I do encourage you to try it in whatever form you choose. You can have my poster up at the top of the post if it helps you think about and share hygge– click on it to download. Mull it over and decide what you hope to accomplish with your students and how hygge fits in.

I really encourage you to check out hygge for your own life, if not your classroom. After this post I have linked some books and videos. Hint- you can read or listen to quite a bit of the books for free in the sample sections of Amazon. You don't have to buy to learn more.

Here is one last little hygge image to use in ways of your choosing. I've used it as a mini-poster and as little thank you cards for folks who have stopped by or donated to the cause. Just click on it.

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Thanks so much for stopping by. I would love to hear what you think in comments below!