Category Archives: Winter Holiday

A few of our favorite things

bannerPNG copy

We at The Teaching 2 Step would like to wish all of our readers and colleagues a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year. We would like to share some of our favorite things from this time of the year with you. Family photographs, family traditions and more. We thank you for following us on this journey and we look forward to what 2015 has in store for all of us!

a few of our favorite things blog post.001favorite things images for blog post.002Its the most wonderful time of year, with lots of holiday cheer. I truly love spending those precious moments with my family. With every changing year there is always so much to be thankful for. I am delighted to share with you a few of my favorite things during the Christmas season…

I love watching the Hallmark Channel movies during the holidays, my DVR fills up with all my favorites. My little ones fill the DVR with their holiday movies and we watch them together with cozy blankets, usually there is popcorn too. We enjoy a little holiday baking. Cookies  are a favorite desert around here. I love finding new recipes and the kids love trying them. My mom has tons of cookie cutters so they always come out unique with icing and sprinkles. Then a favorite during the holiday is decorating the tree it brings us all together, with Christmas music blaring and hot chocolate, we pull out each ornament and reminisce about family highlights.

The Teaching 2 Step: My Favorite Things at Christmas Time


favorite things images for blog post.003

Hello everyone! I have to admit, I’m not an over-the-top Christmas person. My husband and I buy gifts for the kids, and then decide on a set amount for ourselves. We buy our own gifts. For me, the best part of the holidays is resting and just spending time with my family. I commute eighty-five miles to work each way, so when I get a break I am plain ole’ tuckered out. Over the break, we will probably take in a movie or two. My son and I both really want to see Exodus.

We will probably make a quick trip up to Oklahoma to visit my mom and step-dad, my sister, and all of the nieces and nephews. (My goal is to take them some of their favorite home-made jalapeno jelly & apricot jalapeno jam-I need to get cracky-lackin’ if I’m going to get all of that made!). Pretty much my whole family lives in and around a small town (If you blink, you’ll miss it) called Wapanucka. It’s about two hours from my house and lies in the Chickasaw Nation. My mom’s family settled there well over a hundred years ago on land they received back when Oklahoma was Indian Territory. In fact they received their land as part of the Indian land grants.

Finally, we will eat, eat, eat. After that, I’m making some changes (New Year’s Resolution maybe?). My small family has a tradition of letting the kids pick what they want for Christmas dinner. One year they wanted bacon cheeseburgers, so that is what we made. This year they want a traditional holiday dinner with ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, mac & cheese, and who knows what else.

Like I said, we’re a bit laid back! I hope you and your families have a wonderful holiday season!

Merry Christmas!

favorite things images for blog post.004

I love EVERYTHING about the holiday season. However, one of my all time favorite parts is designing our family christmas card. Before my daughter was born, I will admit, I was one of those people who put my dogs on our christmas cards (because they are so dang cute). Now that I have my sweet daugther I scour Pinterest for great ideas  and then play with them in my own way.  Here are the results from the last three years.T2S_favorite things post.001T2S_favorite things post.002

favorite things images for blog post.005One of my favorite things to do during the holiday season is to ride the Christmas Train with my daughter. She gets so excited to see all of the lights and riding the train. I love just watching her. The look on her face truly brings me joy!


favorite things images for blog post.006

My holiday traditions are fresh and new these days as this is my second Christmas with my husband as a married couple! This is also my first Christmas in our new home! There are a lot of changes this year as well since my brother (whom I am very close with) has moved across country and will not be home for Christmas. This is also my first year in about 6 years that I am NOT working retail! I get the next 16 days off from school and I do NOT have a second job, people! I am enjoying my fur babies, my wonderful mother, stepdad, and mother-in-law, my fantastic husband, all in my new home.

I am loving our tree and OUR ornaments on OUR tree. (Can you tell I’m fairly new to this living in my own HOUSE thing?!) ❤



I am thrilled this year to begin a new list of favorite things and favorite holiday traditions that are my own. I’m sure these things will change when I have kiddos of my own one day, but for now, I’m going to enjoy my simple life and the simple pleasures of staying home for the holidays with my husband. Merry Christmas everyone!

favorite things images for blog post.007

Wow…what a magical time of year!  Everything is rushed and life is moving at a faster pace.  All I really want to do is relax in the warm glow of my fireplace and sparkling Christmas lights.  Here’s a picture compilation of a few of my favorite things this time of year.  I hope this wonderful season finds you healthy and happy.Meredith Christmas

favorite things images for blog post.008My favorite thing to do in celebration of this time of year is go to the Christmas tree farm and pick out a tree.  It’s the same farm that I went to as a child.  So, finding a tree there with my family feels especially meaningful.  My boys love it because there’s fun tree carts to ride on (not sure if that’s technically allowed), hot chocolate, cookies, and even an autograph wall where we track our boys’ growth each year.  Getting a tree signifies the start of this magical time of year.

Wishing you and yours the happiest of holidays and a fantastic new year!

Check out the fun we’ve had through the years (and how many years we got out of that blue coat!)…


favorite things images for blog post.009

Living in South Africa, our Christmases are anything but white!  It is summer here and we spend our holidays at the pool or beach.  On Christmas day we go to my parent’s home.  It is a big gathering and all the in-laws are also invited – as far as I know, we will be 23 this year.  All of us milling by the poolside, eating a delicious roast lunch and then (hopefully, if the weather  permits) take a walk down to the beach to “make some space” for an feast of puddings on return.

Even our dog, Jack, gets into the Christmas spirit.
Even our dog, Jack, gets into the Christmas spirit.

I love baking and use this time of the year as an excuse to bake (and eat) lots of treats.  My daughter also loves being in the kitchen so this is our special quality time together. We have been so busy with trying new recipes that I think that this year is the year to give baked goods as Christmas presents!



I couldn’t help but think of the lyrics to “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music while I created my list of a few of my favorite holiday things! Creating this list was a nice way to reflect on the season and how grateful I am for the abundance of good in my life . . . I am blessed with many truly good people, good moments, good memories, and good living! Wishing you a beautiful holiday season with an abundance of good!

12.15.Christmas Favorites.rev

favorite things images for blog post.011

I am such a traditionalist when it comes to Christmas!Santa Garland

I decorate with cones and evergreens, and with things that take me back to my childhood.Hurricane Vase with Candle

After finishing up the last of my Christmas shopping, I’ll be sewing gift bags. I buy fabric on sale after Christmas and pack it away until the next year. Then during the week before Christmas (or sometimes the week after depending on how busy things get) I sew and sew and sew. I make simple drawstring bags in a lot of sizes.  Drawstring Gift Bag I do still wrap presents that I’ll be taking to our family celebration at my sister’s house, but the presents that we open at home will be in gift bags. They are such a time saver, and reduce the waste of wrapping paper. But they also bring a homemade touch to gifts and can be used again and again. I just give them a quick laundering after the holiday and pack them away with the other decorations. I have a feeling I’ve started a new Christmas tradition – one that I’ll be happy to see passed on. I hope one day they are pulled from boxes with love, as treasured as the decorations that have been passed down to me.

group signatures.012

Special thanks to The 3 am Teacher and Winchestor Lambourne for the wonderful clip art used in this post.

Winter and Christmas Brain Breaks

Header 2

If you are a teacher, no matter what age group, you will know the frustrations of the time leading up to the Christmas break! Yes, it is a time of festivities and excitement and these are the exact reasons for the frustrations. Teaching ANYTHING during this time is difficult challenging impossible. Students are so busy day dreaming about the magical happenings going on in The North Pole, or whether the marshmallow they left in their mom’s bed by accident constitutes as being “naughty” or whether or not to give Tommy a Christmas gift without it being too obvious of the feelings involved.

Winter and Christmas Brain Breaks

These last few weeks can give even the coolest, calmest and most collected teachers a few extra grey hairs. It’s not exactly the right thing to give in to the excitement and proclaim that the two weeks leading up to Christmas break is  “Movie Time,” (although I do know some teachers who did *frown*).

To help to prevent you from falling into ‘that’ group, I have compiled a list of fun Christmas/Winter brain breaks that can be used as soon as you see your students drifting off into a world of elves, tinsel and cookies.

These YouTube videos offer lots of fun with movement to music. To me there is nothing better that jumping up and moving to a catchy tune to get the blood pumping and the brain juices working! Have a look at the links provided below:
Just Dance Kids 2 – Jingle Bells is a simple yet effective dance routine for younger students. The same movements are repeated so students will catch on quickly.

Winter and Christmas Brain Breaks - Teaching 2 Step

The Dancing Christmas Tree is also perfect for young children. The words are simple and repetition gives students an opportunity to learn them quickly and easily to sing along with the movements.

The dancing Christmas Tree

Jingle Bell Dance. This version of Jingle Bells has such a catchy beat! Students will be very excited to jump up and join in the moves. I have to admit… my favorite part is “Weeeeee.”

Jingle Bells

Just Dance 3 Santa Clone is a more vigorous dance where students need to copy Santa’s dance moves. These moves are more complicated and vary quite a bit and change frequently so I would recommend it for slightly older students, maybe Upper Elementary. The movements are fun and not your average swaying of the arms. The dancing only starts 30 seconds into the 3 minute video, so you might want to avoid students standing around waiting for the dancing to start by forwarding to the exciting bit.

Santa Clone

Let’s not forget about The Sid Shuffle or Continental Drift. Sid, from Ice Age, talks students through his fun and energetic dance.

Sid Shuffle

I would recommend watching YouTube videos in Safe Share. This site requires you to paste the desired video URL onto their page in order to generate a safe, ad-free video. There is a grey frame around the video which blocks out surrounding images and videos. You can also still enlarge the screen to full screen mode.

Safe Share image

For those who don’t have facilities to show a video for a brain break or want to vary the activities, I also loved using this Snowball Fight brain break with my 5th graders, but it can be used for older students as well. This one does not involve following dance moves. I also used it as an informal assessment to check if students grasped the concept I was teaching (while they were thinking of presents and Christmas trees). This is how it works:

After completing an explanation, let’s use ‘properties of quadrilaterals’ as an example, have students draw a quadrilateral on one side of a page. Then on the other side they write down the properties of that quadrilateral. Students then scrunch the page into a “snowball.” I would then tell them to stand up and throw three “snowballs” at one another. Once they had done that (and had a good break) they would each pick up a “snowball,” flatten it out and then write down the properties of the shape on the page. It is a self correcting activity as the answers are on the back of the page.

I’m sure that you (yes, you should also get involved in the fun) and your students are going to love these little brain breaks and they make the time up until Christmas productive and frustration free!

Margaux signature

Elf on a Shelf in the Classroom

Hi ya’ll! Amanda here, from Daisy Designs, ready to talk about Elf on a Shelf in the classroom!


Do you use Elf on a Shelf at home? I know it is a HUGE trend right now and, honestly, I wish I could have had one when I was growing up! It is SUCH a neat idea and I love it when my kinders get excited to tell me all about their home elf and then see their excited faces when we talk about our school elf!

First of all, Elf on a Shelf, the complete kit with book and elf is like $40. Goodness. I was reluctant. I knew I wanted one but I was NOT about to spend $40 on an elf. I do not have kids at home, so this would not be something used the whole month everyday. It would only be used at school for the 15 days we have school… which to me… I don’t know… $40 is a lot of money! Then it hit me… These kids don’t know the difference between the “name-brand” elf and the dollar store elf. I mean, to them, they are all magic elves. So, thank you Dollar Tree! I snagged a cheap stuffed elf (I think mine is totally cuter and way less creepy anyway…), and borrowed a book from a friend who has the elf at home. WIN!


Meet Alex the Elf. Well, that is his name this year. I feel like that is totally the most boring name for an elf, but that’s what the class voted on! I voted for Peanut, but no one listens to me… He is a little clumsy. Since I went with the dollar store elf instead of the name brand elf, he is a little top heavy. I will say, it is not as easy to keep him standing, or sitting, or pretty much anything. But I would say it was totally worth save $39.

So how can you use this baby in the classroom? I swear to you, I’ve had him for 4 days, and behavior is DEFINITELY different in my classroom. We have been using our elf for writing activities, graphing activities, and he brings them treats, which I will get to later.

How to Use an Elf in the Classroom:

Change his handwriting.
I’m using a curly-q style hand writing because the kids will DEFINITELY tell that it is my handwriting otherwise. I was scouring Pinterest for elf ideas and was surprised at how many wrote in the regular hand writing! My kids would not be fooled.


Don’t FORGET. You can’t forget to move him! Like you have room for another thing to remember to do everyday up there in your busy brain… but seriously… if you’re going to do it, you have to keep up with it.

You are going to give your kids treats this time of the year anyway, so make some of them from the elf! Mine brought them stickers the other day (which I forgot to snap a picture of). He was covered in Santa stickers and the kids LOVED earning them on their behavior sticker charts.

Picture2In this picture, Alex brought us Rudolph band-aids from the North Pole. You’d think he brought cash money the way the kids were acting about these band-aids. And since there are only 10 in a box, (well, 9, since Alex fell on the way up to hanging by his tag) they didn’t fake injuries to get them. They are saving them for “real” emergencies.

And don’t forget… elves have tiny elf ears. It hurts them if the class gets too loud. (Quietest day ever).

Also in this picture is something I took the time to do: held my kids accountable. Remember, it isn’t “you” talking… It’s the elf. If you have specific kids who need reminders (like the Sariyah on this list), they’ll remember it more coming from a stuffed elf. Seriously.

I haven’t had any students TOUCH the elf yet… but poor Alex fell today (clumsy guy). I had to think quick on my feet. My kids were panicking (and a few were laughing… they’ll get a note from Alex tomorrow…). I mean, I can’t touch him and pick him up to put him back. So he stayed there. In the middle of the floor. Fortunately I had a peppermint life-saver, which of course save lives and are elf vitamins. When he wakes up from his nap, he can take his vitamin and feel strong again tomorrow. My kindergarten logic worked and my class was totally okay with it. They were also pretty funny tip toeing around him so not to wake him up.

Picture3Life-savers save lives, people.


I have some plans for the upcoming week to do with clumsy Alex. Here they are!

misstiina_csh_zerotonine_1 Alex will give the kids Christmas pencils!

misstiina_csh_zerotonine_2 Alex will ride our toy train and bring Polar Express!

misstiina_csh_zerotonine_3 Alex will be taking a nap in the tissue box.

misstiina_csh_zerotonine_4 Alex will bring marshmallows for hot chocolate!

misstiina_csh_zerotonine_5 Alex will bring his favorite Christmas movie!

I hope these ideas help you with your Elf on a Shelf planning for your classroom. It has certainly made a difference in their behavior the past several days. Too bad he has to leave after Christmas, am I right?!

Amanda Daisy Designs

Favorite Winter Read Alouds in the Middle School Classroom

T2 Blog 1

I start each of my middle school ELA classes with a read aloud.  I’ve found that it’s become an essential part of the culture of the classroom.  While I read to students, they complete short vocabulary, grammar, and reading comprehension activities.  Reading to students sets a calming tone at the start of the class period and fosters an environment where reading is celebrated.

In the winter months, I like to infuse some seasonal read alouds into class.  Here are some of my favorites…



T2 Blog 2

T2 Blog 3

(Click here for printable copies of each poem.)


T2 Blog 4


T2 Blog 5

Yes, middle schoolers love picture books, too.

There are many benefits to reading aloud to students including motivating students to read on their own, increasing their accessibility to texts, encouraging higher-level thinking, enhancing their background knowledge and improving their own reading fluency.  However, my favorite reason for reading aloud to students is that it creates a community of readers…and that always warms my heart on a cold winter day!

Brain Waves Instruction

Logo - Brain Waves - rectangle

P.S.  I’ve put together all 3 poems into a printable resource. Click here and print for seasonal read aloud fun!

Unwrap the Gift of Reading

Hey ya’ll! Amanda from Daisy Designs here with a GREAT idea for your classroom or home!


This week I began what I call, “Unwrap the Gift of Reading.” I selected enough Christmas picture books to read every single day which we began on Monday (December 1) and gift wrapped them. They are placed under our classroom Christmas tree and everyday we unwrap a new one to read. The students get SO excited to see what we unwrap next. My class of kinders this year is overall pretty attentive during read-alouds, but I will tell you, the past 3 days have been glorious! They are paying attention, they are excited, and they are definitely enjoying the gift of reading.

Here’s a picture list of the holiday books I selected to put under the tree! Some were easy ones I already had on my shelf and others were ones I found at the public library. Comment below with other Christmas/holiday book ideas! There are so many amazing books out there!


Another excitement factor for this holiday treat, is our Daily Holiday Book Journal! Everyday, we log the date we read the book, the title of the book, and a drawing of our favorite part in the story. It is fun, engaging, and doesn’t eat up a ton of time in the day. I am a fan of ongoing projects. I love to say to my kinders, “Okay, get out your Holiday Book Journals and log the book of the day!”

Right now, in my store, Unwrap the Gift of Reading Holiday Book Journals are FREE!

Unwrap Cover

Click the above image to get your download! Included are enough pages for the entire month of the December. We are obviously not in school that many days, so I only printed 15 days worth.

Don’t forget to comment below with books you might use with your class or your family this year for the holiday season! Can’t wait to discover new holiday books.

Happy holidays!

Amanda Daisy Designs

Giving Back this Holiday Season!

It’s hard to believe December is knocking on the door! While I’m not one who cares for the commercialization of the holiday season, I do otherwise love all things Christmas, including gift-giving!

Each year in early December, I read one of my all-time favorite books aloud to students: “The Quiltmaker’s Gift” by Jeff Brumbeau.


Afterwards, we discuss the importance of giving, especially to those in need, and we choose a class-wide community-service project. We’ve gathered books, food, and toiletries for Ronald McDonald House and local shelters, collected Pennies for Peace, gifted needy families with chickens and honeybees so they could support themselves throughout the year through Heiffer International, and made quilts and put together care packages for Soldier’s Angels — all causes that are near and dear to my heart!


A few years ago, my classes started donating to KIVA each holiday season. KIVA is a non-profit organization that strives to use the power of the internet to connect people who are in need with those who want to help. You make small loans – starting at $25 – to people around the world (including right here in America, by the way!) who are working diligently to provide for their families or to pursue higher education. The recipients pay the money back so it can be re-gifted to someone else in need — continuing the circle of compassion, kindness, and empathy– all the big lessons and life-skills we hope to teach in our classrooms! KIVA has a 99% repayment rate and one of the best aspects of the program is this: When your loan amount is repaid, you can re-gift the money to someone else in need!


My students bring in either .50 or $1 each and we send $25. When classes give, the next class usually gets to re-gift that money, as well as choose their own gift recipient! Students have so much fun deciding which country, then which person will receive their loan! This is truly a gift from the heart that keeps on giving and it’s fun to watch students give with such joy and enthusiasm!

If you or your class would like to give through KIVA this year, here’s a link:

Wishing you a beautiful December and happy gifting!

Literary Sherri


Giving Back this Holiday Season was written by Literary Sherri. If you enjoyed this post, connect with me on Bloglovin, FacebookPinterest, TSU, and TpT!

Manic Monday Link Up

Classroom Freebies Manic MondayHappy Monday guys, it’s Meredith from Teaching with a Twist.  I know some of you are out of school already but we have to go Monday and Tuesday.   So starting next week we will all be gearing up for the BIG winter break and I have the perfect FREEBIE that your kiddos will love.

I’m linking up with Classroom Freebies for Manic Monday to share a fun Winter Holiday Freebie.  I’ve included a winter spin and graph and one of my favorite math games, Bump Addition.  I hope you can find these useful during this hectic time of year.  Please don’t forget to leave feedback. 🙂

Screen shot 2014-11-22 at 7.55.57 PM

Slide3 Slide2To get more products I’ve created follow my TPT Store and be updated on freebies and giveaways by liking my Facebook Fan Page.

Screen shot 2014-08-26 at 9.41.10 PM