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How To Set Up Your Clip Chart System for Amazing Success!

How To Set Up Your Clip Chart System For Amazing Success

So glad to see you here for the  2nd installment of the clip chart system challenge. If you haven’t signed up, it is not too late. Just click here or scroll to the bottom and be sure to read Part One here.

As we talked about last time, used alone clip charts don’t remain effective for very long, but as part of a system they have the potential to be a powerful behavior management tool.

We are going to get to the nitty-gritty of setting up your system for success and dispel some myths and misconceptions as we go.

Ready? Oh wait!

Apple Clip Chart

Do you have your clip chart printed and laminated? If not, you can get this one free when you sign up for the challenge.

You can use any clip chart if it is editable or has the recommended wording.

See A Word About Wording below.  

Also, although the colors don’t matter to the system itself, they should be purple, blue, green, yellow, orange, red to synchronize with the free printables.

A Word About Wording

(Misconception – Clip charts are degrading)

Clip charts themselves aren’t degrading but sometimes the wording used on them can be. 

Avoid clip charts that have cutesy phrases such as “flight cancelled”, “head in the clouds” or “lost in the jungle”. I have seen all of these! Not only might some children (and parents) find it degrading, but the reverse also can be true! Some of your challenging kids may find “walk the plank” funny and motivating. It’s best to use descriptive words you would feel comfortable writing on a student’s work or report card. Imagine writing “shark bait” on a student’s paper?

Okay so now we are ready to hang up that colorful, appropriately worded clip chart, right?

Almost 

Another issue that has come up, is the publicly displayed element of a hanging clip chart with students’ names on it.

We will talk a lot more about reward and punishment later, but keep in mind that this system is intended to be predominately positive and motivating.

It is a tool for teaching and reinforcing appropriate behavior, with the last two levels reserved for truly unacceptable conduct, not minor infractions.

If children engage in behaviors that are intolerable they must learn there are consequences for those behaviors.

If part of the outcome is embarrassment, hopefully they have learned a valuable lesson about socially unacceptable behavior and consequences.

The point is not humiliation, rather learning about cause and effect of behavior and accepting responsibility for their actions.

Relationship building involves trust and respect so it is important for all students to see that you, the adult, will not allow aggression, offensive language or bullying.

Step 1 – The Rules

(Misconception – Kids Don’t Care About the Clip Charts)

Of course, they don’t! Not at first anyway.

A clip chart is just 6 pieces of paper hanging on the wall! Your job is to provide kids with reasons to care about it!

Become a car salesman. Emphasize all the positive benefits the clip chart can produce, both individually and as a class.

Now turn into a cheerleader and really sell it! Sell it from the heart and before you know it, you will hear your students talking about the awesome clip chart their teacher uses.

Step 2 – The Rules

The rules are the second piece of a positive behavior management plan.

Almost every teacher I have ever known, starts the school year with some version of rules.

The rules are a crucial part of any classroom and while there may be similarities they can differ from teacher to teacher and from year to year.

As you create your rules, think carefully about what is important for you to be able to teach effectively.

Classroom rules define what is and what isn’t allowed. Effective rules use short, clear, positive statements. (i.e. instead of no calling out, say raise your hand) and don’t go overboard with the number of rules you have.

Be sure to include some positive version of “use appropriate language” and “keep hands to self”.  Classroom rules reflect the climate of the classroom you wish to create.

So far, I may not have told you anything new about rules.

While all of these things are important for rule development there is one significant difference for incorporating them into a positive behavior management system.

The way the rules will be introduced to your class varies a great deal from the traditional way and may take a bit of a mind shift for you.

The rules should be viewed more like goals instead of a list of things that are prohibited with consequences for infractions.

By viewing rules as goals, they become a set of skills to be learned and maintained throughout the year and will help create an encouraging and affirmative classroom structure instead of one of fear.

Students and parents will be pleased to know you are a teacher who manages his/her classroom with a positive system, not a teacher who looks for opportunities to catch students disobeying.

Time spent now discussing the rules with your class, will be time well spent. Give rationales for why specific rules (goals) are important and present lots of examples.  Revisit and reinforce when necessary. You might even want to link them with your character education traits.

Now hang up your clip chart and rules, give yourself a pat on the back and stay tuned for Part 3 – The Motivators

Before You Throw Those Clip Charts Away…

Before You Throw That Clip Chart Away...

Read This!

Clip Charts. Those rainbow-colored charts with clothespins bearing students names or numbers clipped to the sides. If you are a teacher you have seen them, probably used them, and have an opinion on them one way or another.

Lately the clip chart has gotten some really bad press. I have read articles urging teachers to outlaw them, burn them, throw them away. Beside that, they have been called demeaning, ineffective and evil.

So, what is wrong with clip charts? Nothing. What IS wrong, can be the way they are implemented.  Many well-meaning teachers have inadvertently been using them incorrectly.

Have you ever had a Pinterest Fail?  You see a beautiful picture and it has thousands of likes, and although you carefully followed instructions it came out looking ugly and tasting terrible?

What mostly likely happens is someone posts a delicious recipe, someone else tweaks it a little and re-posts it. Tweaks and re-posts continue.

Before long the recipe no longer resembles the original. The same thing has happened with clip charts.

People have put their own spin on clip charts until they no longer look or function as intended. I have heard many classroom stories about clip chart implementation that could potentially have damaging results.

Yet, when used the way they were originally intended they can be a fun, effective and stress-free tool for classroom behavior management.

The original form of the clip chart was a positive system designed for teaching and reinforcing appropriate behavior.

One of my pet peeves is when certain colors are assigned labels of “good” and “bad”. Colors are just colors.

They are not inherently good or bad and this vocabulary should not be used or allowed by teachers and parents.

In theory, a clip chart could be on plain white paper, although it would be a lot less engaging and fun!

 

As a result of all the tweaks and changes I  often hear clip charts “don’t work”.                  

Used alone, I mostly agree.  At least they probably won’t work for long!

But as part of an easily implemented, behavior management system you would be amazed at the outcome!

I have taught this method to many, many teachers with terrific results.

On October 11, 2016, Juliette said:  I am SO excited to use these. My class saw the chart and was already chattering about how they would get to purple before I even explained the concept. Thanks!!

On January 20, 2016, Ashley D. said: LOVE it. The charts are life savers.

On August 17, 2016, Carmen J. said: I love that kids can move up, instead of only down!!!

Not convinced? Before you throw out your clip charts, I am inviting you to take the clip chart challenge.

Already a clip chart believer? You are gonna love this!

On the fence? Give it a try. What do you have to lose?

THE CLIP CHARTS CHALLENGE 2017

How It Works

Beginning next week, I will be sharing a series of posts describing how and why to set up a complete clip chart behavior management system. Once your system is set up and running, I will continue to support you with additional information for lasting results. Together we will constantly strengthen your system and motivate your students.

What You Will Get

  • Access each month to free behavior management printables
  • Tools to implement a complete system
  • A better understanding of behavior and motivation
  • A smooth running, well behaved class
  • A format for documenting problem behavior
  • Admiration of your administrators and colleagues

What You Will Need

  • A classroom of kids. A willingness to try something new!
  • A 6-color behavior chart. You can use any one you want but be sure it is editable because the words will be important. Also, although the colors don’t matter to the system itself, to limit the need for editing printables, they should be purple, blue, green, yellow, orange, red. You can find many varieties in my TPT Store Stars On The Spectrum. Or get started with the free one below.
You can find this one in the FREE RESOURCE LIBRARY when you sign up for the challenge below.

How Much Does The Challenge Cost?

Nothing! The challenge is absolutely free!!!

Where Can I Sign Up?

Right here!

What Do April Fools’ Day and Autism Awareness Month Have in Common?

What Do April Fools' Day and Autism Awareness Month Have in Common?

What do April Fools’ Day and Autism Awareness Month have in common?

If you guessed they are both in March you would be right.

April Fool!

Was that lame?

I don’t like April Fools’ Day!

On April 1, when I was in fourth grade, Mr. Martin asked my class “who knows what spontaneous combustion is?” 30 clueless ten year olds turned towards the projector hoping for a movie.

I’m pretty sure Mary Ellen McNutly knew the answer, but for once she was silent. Glancing in her direction I saw she had the newest Nancy Drew mystery in her lap.  Mr. Martin pulled out a pack of matches, carefully extracted one match and fell to the floor.

That got our attention and we burst into laughter. As Mr. Martin writhed on the floor we laughed and hooted, waiting for him to sit up and shout “THAT students, is spontaneous combustion!”

But he didn’t.

As the laughter subsided we realized something was wrong.  Mary Ellen ran to get the nurse.  Poor Mr. Martin had a seizure while trying to teach his fourth grade class about spontaneous combustion – on April Fool’s Day.

Mr. Martin was okay and returned to school the next week and we finally learned what spontaneous combustion was, but I have often wondered if Mr. Martin’s collapse predisposed me to not like April Fools’ Day.

April FoolI usually have a good sense of humor, but I don’t understand what is funny about toast in the shower or fake pregnancy announcements on Facebook.

I don’t Laugh Out Loud when my Oreos are filled with toothpaste and exploding   anything is not amusing.

Years after Mr. Martin’s collapse, I discovered many of my students with autism didn’t like April Fools’ Day either.  Kids with autism tend to be very literal and jokes and pranks require a level of language sophistication that is not natural for them.

AutismSo, it boggles my mind why Autism Awareness Month is in April. The origin of April Fools’ Day is unclear. We do know it has been around for centuries and is observed in many countries.

Autism Awareness Month on the other hand, was established in 1984. It would seem with 11 other months to choose from the founders might have chosen a month that didn’t begin with April Fools’ Day.

April Fool and AutismRegardless of in which month Autism Awareness is observed, April Fools’ Day can be confusing and upsetting to many children on the spectrum.

Here are some easy to implement tips and ideas to make April Fools’ Day more fun and                                                      less stressful for our autism students.

SAFETY

First and foremost is physical and emotional safety. Be sure all students, not just those with autism, understand if it hurts someone, it is not funny or a joke. Even if it is followed by “April Fool” it is not okay to be mean. “Your dog is dead – April Fool” is not humorous”.

UNDERSTANDING

The more kids with autism know about what is going to occur, the more they can cope and react appropriately.

  • Place a visual reminder a few days before on your calendar. During Circle Time or Morning Meeting refer to it with excitement and practice a joke or two.
  • Read an April Fools’ Day story. April Foolishness by Teresa Bateman is a cute story about two children trying to play an April Fool trick on grandpa. Grandpa isn’t falling for it, but Grandma has the last laugh when she tricks grandpa.
  • If you are planning a party, be very careful with “joke food” such as pound cake fries (I have seen some very realistic looking ones) or carrots wrapped in Toostie Roll paper. Many children with Autism have food issues and can be confused and upset by these.
PRACTICE – PRACTICE – PRACTICE

Kids with autism tend to be rule followers. Once they learn a rule they expect everyone to follow it, all the time. Things are black and white, with no room for exception. When something will be different, it is important for us to prepare them as much as possible. I had a “Something is Different” sign I used in my classroom and on daily visual schedules.

  • Play “I Know or April Fool”. Make a statement to the students and have them respond with either “I Know!” or “April Fool!”

You: There is snow on the carpet.
Student: April Fool!
You: My shirt is blue
Student: I know!

  • If you are looking for a social skills resource that focuses on vocabulary and concept development resource, you can find “What is April Fools’ Day?” in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store.

You can use “What Is April Fools’ Day” one-on-one or in small groups for multiple practice sessions.

CLICK ON PICTURE ABOVE TO FIND THIS PRODUCT IN MY TPT STORE

These are sample pages. Click on each one to see larger images.

Your students might also enjoy this project pack to celebrate
April Fools Day!

Click on the picture above to see it in my TPT Store!
Click the pictures below to see what’s included!

34 Prompts for Reluctant Writers

34 Awesome, Splendid, Marvelous, Imaginative, Structured Writing Prompts For Your Reluctant Writers

He slowly slid his paper across the table to me, attempting to hide the little rip from erasing too hard.

Do you know why I like dolphins? I like them cause they are fun.
They are fun to watch. They do good tricks.
They have good herring (hearing) and they can see good.
Some books have good pictures of dolphins. They are fun to look at.
They live in water but are not fish but mamals.
Someday maybe I would get to swim with dolphins and would be good.

 

                                                                                        Jon Grade 3

I was horrified and tried to hide it by concentrating on the fact that he at least spelled dolphin correctly.

“Well” I said a little too loudly. I tried again. “Well, you certainly made the point that you like dolphins”. He just stood there. I took a deep breath. “Maybe we can think of some other words besides “good” I asked. Again, he just stood there. After the longest time he finally said in all sincerity “very good”?

The prompt – Write about your favorite animal and why
The writer – My son
A teacher’s child
A child who attended the same school where his mom taught
The teacher – A well-respected colleague and good friend of mine

Three years later, my daughter would blossom as a writer with this same teacher and to this day, as an adult she still loves to write.

My son was what we call a reluctant writer. As teachers and parents, we have all had them. Some years it seems as if the whole class are reluctant writers. Writing is painful for them and painful for the reader.

Luckily for Jon his teacher figured out he needed prompts with more structure, not less. His writing improved slowly and he learned to use some adjectives.

Fun Fact – He graduated college and now does technical writing for a living.

While changing the type of writing prompts won’t necessarily be enough to make competent writers out of your reluctant writers, it is a step in the right direction.

Below you will find a list of 34 good awesome, splendid, marvelous, imaginative, structured writing prompts for your reluctant writers.

March 1 – National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day
Crunchy or Creamy? Which is your favorite and why? What do you like to eat it on, or with?

March 2 – Read Across America
Design a bookmark highlighting your favorite Dr. Seuss book.

March 3 – National I Want You to be Happy Day
Pick someone you think needs cheering up and make a list of things you could do to make them happy.

March 4 – International Scrapbooking Day
Years ago, before everyone had cameras people kept scrapbooks filled with memorabilia like ticket stubs, recipes and letters. They also drew pictures and wrote notes about places they went and everyday events. Pick a historical figure and make a scrapbook with drawings and words to tell their story.

March 5 – Clean Up Australia Day
Every year groups of Australians go out and clean up parks, beaches and streets. Think of a place in your community you would like to clean up. Write about why and how you would convince friends and family to help you.

March 6 – Oreo Cookie’s Birthday
Did you know there are more than 25 flavors of Oreo cookies. Write about how you like to eat Oreos. What do you like to drink with them? What would be a good flavor for a new filling?

March 7 – National Cereal Day
Invent your own cereal. Will it be hot or cold? What ingredients will you put in it? Write a recipe and share it with your friends or make a class book.

March 8 – International Women’s Day
This year the theme is Be Bold for Change. Design a poster to celebrate women’s achievements using this theme and a woman from history or your life.

March 9 – Barbie’s Birthday
Make a birthday card for Barbie. Barbie is actually 58 years old, but you can pretend she is any age when you make her card.

March 10 – Middle Name Pride Day
Do you have a middle name? If you don’t have one chose your own for the day. Find out why your parents gave you that name or why they didn’t give you one. Make a badge with your middle name and wear it proudly.

March 11 – International Fannie Pack Day
Chose a T.V. or movie character and write about what they might keep in their fanny pack.

March 12 – Girl Scout Day
Think of something you would like to teach to a friend and design a merit badge for it. Write  directions for how someone could earn the badge.

March 13 – Good Samaritan Day
Write about a time you were a good Samaritan.

March 14 – Pi Day
Write about something you would like to go on and on and on forever.

March 15 – Incredible Kid Day
Write a story about an Incredible Kid Contest and why you should be the winner.

March 16 – Panda Day
Make a zoo brochure about the panda exhibit.

March 17 – St. Patrick’s Day
Many Irish families like to eat corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day. Have you ever tasted it? Do you think it is made with corn? Write a recipe for how you think this traditional meal is cooked.

March 18 – Quilting Day
Many years ago, women made quilts to tell a story about their family. Design a quilt to tell the story of your family.

March 19 – International Read to Me Day
Pick a real or fictional character and write about why you would like that character to read to you. What story would you ask them to read and why?

March 20 – International Day of Happiness
Make a coupon book for someone you care about. Give them coupons for things that will make them happy.

March 21 – Children’s Poetry Day
Write a poem about one of your favorite things i.e. favorite animal, favorite food, favorite sport etc.

March 22 – International Day of the Seal

March 23 – Puppy Day
Write about what it would be like to adopt a new puppy. What would it look like? What would you name it? What things would you need to get before bringing it home.

March 24 – Harry Houdini’s Birthday
Pretend you are a famous magician with a magical wand. Write about what magic you would perform with this amazing wand.

March 25 – Waffle Day
Do you like waffles? Make a list of things you would like as toppings on your waffle.

March 26 – Make Up Your Own Holiday Day
Create your own holiday. Write about when it would be and how you would celebrate.

March 27 – National Joe Day
Make a list of all the Joes you know. They can be friends and relatives as well as famous people. Then choose one and write an acrostic poem.

March 28 – Something on a Stick Day
There is a restaurant in Amsterdam and everything is served on a stick. What would it be like to eat or work there? What if you could eat all your meals today on a stick? What would be on your stick for breakfast, lunch, dinner?

March 29 – Coca Cola’s Birthday
Design a new look for a coke bottle or customize a can, then write an advertisement for it.

March 30 – Mom and Pop Business Owners Day
Imagine your mom and dad want to open a store. What kind of store would it be? What things would you sell? Where would it be located?

March 31 – Crayon Day
If you were a crayon what color would you be? How do you like living in a box with other crayons?      Write a conversation between two different colored crayons in a messy desk.

Bonus Prompts

American Chocolate Week (March 19-25)

Write a letter to Mr. Wonka and convince him he should give you a ticket to his chocolate factory.

Design a candy bar and special ticket for a contest. Make a list of the contest rules. Describe the kind of candy inside the wrapper and the prize the winner of the ticket will receive.

What if you could have your own chocolate room in your house? What would it look like? Would you tell people about it? Why or why not? Who would you invite in?

Planner Love

Do You Still Love Your Planner?

HOW I FINALLY GOT THE PERFECT PLANNER AND YOU CAN TOO!

Last week I broke up with my planner. It was beautiful in the beginning, but after just a few weeks I knew something was wrong. Something was missing and wasn’t working for me. I had to admit the relationship just wasn’t all that I had hoped and dreamed it would be. Sadly I closed the cover one last time whispering “It was me, not you”.

Have you ever had this experience?

You purchase a new planner and fall in love. You get that amazing feeling that you are on the brink of lifelong organization. Just like a new high school bf with each new planner you are sure this is the one.  You will get up early, do your hair, reach your goals, be on time and never miss another deadline. It works for a while but not long and the search resumes.

plannerLike me, you may have tried all sorts of systems; large, small, expensive, very expensive, paper, electronic, bound, rings and discs,  but none have the Goldilocks factor we are looking for. None are “just right”.

The size may be wrong, or they are missing sections we need or have too many sections we don’t need. Whatever the reason, no matter how pretty or expensive, we become disenchanted and experience planner envy.

I can help!

Even if your planner is still the love of your life, you will probably find some things below to help sustain your affection. No matter what your current relationship with your planner is, I have found a ton of resources to make it better!

Choosing A Planner – My Story

Right after my break-up, determined to have planner success, I made a list of things I wanted and needed and began my search. First, I knew I wanted a paper planner. There are some amazing apps but I find paper planners faster and more fun. I love the ability to decorate the pages with markers, stickers and washi tape.

I also knew I wanted more than a calendar, a comprehensive “life organizer”. I did a lot of research and found 2 excellent posts comparing planners that you can read here and here. I can’t lie, the Erin Conderan is wonderful and I was seriously tempted by several  others, but hesitant to spend that much money with my track record.

my planner

The Happy Planner Create 365 with a 40% off coupon at Michaels fit my budget and I love the flexibility of the disk system.

Coupon in hand I went shopping and lo and behold they were on clearance!  I couldn’t decide between the large and classic size and since the prices were so great, I got both.

Size Does Matter

I have learned from past experiences, that a 12 X 12 planner is too large for me. I find using it anywhere but on my desk cumbersome, yet the 8x10 can be too small. Size is one of the only planner features I haven’t found a way around, so chose carefully.

Finding The Best Free Printables

This is where the magic and fun begin!  From printable pages to stickers, dividers and dashboards, you will find everything you need here to stay in love with your planner for a long time. They are all free and oh my goodness there are so many options! To save you time, I have collected the best of the best.

*Special Note for Erin Conderan and other spiral planner people. If you want to turn your planner into a disc system for more functionality, this is a great how-to video

Large Coordinated Sets

The Supermom Planner by A Spark of Creativity includes Cleaning Charts & Checklists,
Blank Weekly Menus, Grocery Lists, Today & Weekly To Do Lists, Monthly Budget Log, Medication List, Password Tracker, Online Bill Pay Checklist, Daily Expense Log, Debt & Savings Tracker, Donations Log, Babysitter Information, School Information, Insurance Information, Family Medical Information, Birthdays & Anniversaries List, Chore Charts for kids and plenty more!

Fortypreneur has a big set of pretty pink and gray planner printables. You can download the whole set or pick and choose the ones you want.

The Free Planner 2017 by Shining Mom is a pastel set divided into three major categories: Life Planner, Kid Binder and Home Binder. I especially love the Kid Binder!

The Ultimate Customizable Personal Planner by Green Child Magazine has 81 customizable printables in 2 different colorful designs.

Ultimate Life Planning System by DIY Home Sweet Home is another comprehensive set of printables for organizing your life.

The Project Girl has a complete list of all of her printables. I really like her short and long term goals sheets (link below) and she also has some unusual ones like Blog Brainstormer and Room Design Form.

Ala Carte Printables

Daily Dockets

Since I work from home now, I wanted a daily docket without time blocks. I also needed a lot of space for “to-dos”. If I don’t write it down, it doesn’t get done.

I like this customizable one by Money Saving Mom and this one from Andrea Dekker. I might also test drive Let’s Get Things Done Today from Team Confetti and Daily To Do’s from Scattered Squirell.  For more options you can check out this post 10 MORE Free Printable Daily Planners From Contented at Home.

Budget

The Harmonized House – This Home Finance collection includes multipurpose labels, binder labels and tags, annual budget, debt worksheet, monthly budgets, bank accounts, tax deductions and more. They are editable and ready to print …. and FREE!

Frugal Fanatic also has fantastic free budget binder pages here.

Still need another choice? Check out Just A Girl and Her Blog’s Budget Binder.

Goal Setting

Goal Setting is not just for January! Many experts recommend setting 90 day goals. If you need help, Mary Shore has an excellent workbook that you can sign up for here.

Living Well Spending Less has a Goal Setting Workbook “that will help you create a straightforward action plan for achieving your biggest goals and reaching your dreams this year”.

Clever Little Mouse has a nice set of Goal Setting Printables in both personal and half page size.

Meal Planning

Dear Chrissy has a recipe organizer is loaded with over 30 pages to help you plan meals, track food and shop for ingredients.

Blissfull Intent has a Meal Planning Kit with a grocery list I love. It has a section to indicate items you are totally out of as well as a place to put coupons.

Household Cleaning

Scrimpalicious has a nice concise one page cleaning list.

DIY Home Sweet Home has a daily blank checklist for you to fill in with the chores you want to do each day.

And if you need something not too structured but not too open ended, Smead.com has the perfect House Cleaning Checklist,.

Now that you have your pages set up, you are ready for the next step!
      Next week: Free Stickers, Dividers and Dashboards!

 

Need more free printables? Follow my Pinterest Board Free Planner Printable Pages!

Unofficial Guide to Ugly Christmas Sweaters

Unofficial Guide to Ugly Christmas Sweaters

What Is The Ugly Christmas Sweater Craze?

The Ugly Christmas Sweater, has in recent years amassed so much attention, it has become a “thing”. In the unlikely event that you haven’t heard of it, the concept requires participants to compete by wearing the gaudiest, most atrocious Christmas sweater they can find. This new twist on an old tradition has inspired ugly Christmas Sweater parties, contests, and prizes, and led to Facebook pages, websites and hashtags. Amazon has dozens of coloring and how-to Ugly Christmas Sweater books and there is even an official count down to Ugly Sweater Day, which has been declared a National Holiday (December 16, 2016)

How Did The Ugly Christmas Sweater Craze Start?

When I was growing up, the ugly Christmas sweater was a very different “thing”. Each year great Aunt Ruth would lovingly hand craft her custom interpretation of snazzy Christmas apparel. Presumably Aunt Ruth’s masterpiece was intended to be admired. The word ugly was never, ever spoken aloud.

A few days after Thanksgiving a box would arrive smelling strongly of moth balls and slightly like cats. Inside the box was a monstrosity of epic proportion. Your mom would make you wear it and you would “JUST DIE! I mean honestly, there was a crooked snowman crocheted on itchy thick wool, sequins sewn on randomly and one sleeve was considerably longer than the other. The only consolation was on any given day in the weeks before Christmas, several other kids would be wearing equally ugly sweaters. Luckily this punishing tradition faded away.

Brief Come-Back of The Ugly Christmas Sweater

Ugly Christmas sweaters had a brief come-back (complete with shoulder pads) in the 90’s, thanks in part to their prominent place on the popular Bill Cosby Show TV show and Chevy Chase in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation Movie.

Current Ugly Christmas Sweater Craze

Some accounts of the current craze point back to two Canadian students having the first ucs party. I have a different theory.  I think we elementary teachers who disregarded whispers of fashion faux pas and proudly wore our sweaters to work well past their expiration date deserve the credit.

Regardless of which version you believe, I am sure you will agree that I am an Ugly Christmas Sweater aficionado and qualified to present you with The Unofficial Ugly Christmas Sweater Guide. I was, after all, an Ugly Christmas Sweater pioneer, albeit a reluctant one.

The Unofficial Guide to Ugly Christmas Sweaters

To begin with let’s start with a good working definition of an Ugly Christmas Sweater. Any garment such as a vest, sweatshirt, or sweater that is covered with a combination of felt figures and symbols, glitter, gemstones, sparkles, tinsel and fake snow. Bonus points are given for the addition of working lights and talking characters.

DIY Ugly Christmas Sweaters

If you are the DIY type you are now ready to uglify your own Christmas sweater. This can be done in three easy steps:
1) Go to the dollar store and fill a basket with all sorts of Christmas stuff.
2) Go home and randomly glue it all on (use heavy duty glue – no need to be neat)
3) Duct tape back on anything that falls off.

If this is a little too imprecise for your taste – check out this video:

For Non-DIY People

Perhaps you prefer to purchase your Ugly Christmas Sweater there are lots of options available.

Tipsy Elves has a huge variety for men women and children

Kohls and Target also have reasonably priced options. And if you are working with something other than a teacher’s budget you might be interested in Nordstrom.com’s $600 version.

In Betweeners

Those of you that fall somewhere in between complete DIY and off the rack, may like this kit you can purchase for just $7.97 at Collection Set!

And don’t bypass the bonus points Light-Up LED Ugly Christmas Sweater Ornaments from Amazon.com

Time to Party!

Now that you have your Ugly Christmas Sweater, you are ready to rock it at a party or event. What? You haven’t been invited to one yet? Well, plan your own with these easy printables.  You can have a class party with your students or a fund raiser with your school staff.

Where to Find Some Stuff

Free Invitations, banners, awards and more from Catch My Party

More invitations and party printables from The Country Chic Cottage

Need a cake?

Easy cupcake ugly sweater cake from Purple Chocolat Home

Ugly Sweater Decorating is a fun activity for young and old. You can get your Ugly Sweater Cookie Cutter at Amazon.com. They even have a Hanukkah edition for those that want an Ugly Hanukkah Cookie Sweater!

Feel free to share your Ugly Christmas Sweater finds or your thoughts on Ugly Christmas Sweaters below.

Wishing you all happy, healthy, fun-filled holidays!!!

 

Cookie Cutter Hacks for Christmas and Beyond

Cookie Cutter Hacks for Christmas and Beyond

National Cookie Cutter Week December 1-7

Christmas cookie thoughts enter my mind almost as soon as I take my last bite of Thanksgiving pie! Don’t judge me, I like to bake (and eat dessert)! I know I am not alone on this. It is no surprise then that December 1-7 is Cookie Cutter Week and December 4th is National Cookie Day.

I have a huge collection of cookie cutters both plastic and metal, collected over the years and varying with my kid’s latest obsessions. Ninja Turtle, Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs, Cabbage Patch Kids to name a few. And of course, the Christmas and Chanukah Collection has a place of its own.

cookie cutter

Now, I am by no means a pastry chef, but I am a fairly decent baker. Bread, brownies, cakes, you name it…I can whip it together with the right recipe and time. Somehow, using sugar cookie dough for actually cutting shapes has eluded me. Every year we would add a few new cookie cutter shapes to our massive collections and try a new “rolled sugar cookie dough” recipe. While visions of perfect edges and beautifully decorated treats danced in my head, I was the epitome of a #PinterestFail. Cookies that held together, tasted like cardboard…Cookies that tasted great would crumble or grow three sizes too big! Eventually, I tossed kid favorites in the playdough box and stashed the rest.

If this has been your experience keep reading!

 

If you have totally given up on rolled sugar cookies, try some of these crafts instead.

Press into Bread
With my granddaughter, she can be a finicky eater at times. If Minnie Mouse is on something though, she’ll eat it right up! I’ll take a Minnie Mouse cookie cutter (from Amazon) and press it lightly into bread before making a sandwich or toast. Try it with any cookie cutter! It is a simple as that! But if you really want to feel inadequate, check out how this blogging mom took this concept to the next level.
Next Level Lunches
(BONUS HACK) Ask grandma to make them! When I was a working mom I would NEVER had made these, but now as a retired grannie, I might!

Make Outdoor Bird Feeders
This project is really cool! It might not be best for tiny hands, as this is a messy project using small seeds but they will love watching the birds feed, through the window!
Cookie Cutter Bird Feeder

Make Crayons
What to do with the million broken crayons you have? I know we all have creative tricks and tips of ways to melt them down, but here’s one more! Make your own favorite shapes super easily.
Cookie Cutter Crayons

Make Gingerbread Cookies
One of the most classic uses for cookie cutters and the age old goodie, fun to make and fun to eat! They hold their shape so much better than rolled sugar cookies.
Gingerbread Cut Out Recipe

Brownie Roll Outs
This one is a little more unique but extremely yummy! Much like a sugar cookie dough, but tastes like brownies and holds its shape. Try to keep your hands off these this year!
Brownie Roll Ups

One Last Sugar Cookie Cutter Try
We have a new little one in my family now. She won’t care how they taste or look, so I am going to try one more rolled sugar cookie recipe. The best part about these is that you can “paint” on them with frosting!This recipe has tons of 5 star reviews on Allrecpes.com proclaiming “This recipe is wonderful” Disclaimer: I haven’t actually tried this recipe yet, and one reviewer did say it was “Terrible”.
Best Rolled Sugar Cookie Recipe

Santa won’t care how they look or taste either.  He will leave my granddaughter a delightful thank you note that she will treasure.   If you would like a free copy for yourself plus signs and tags for Santa’s cookies, just fill out the form below for instant access.

If you don’t immediately see the link, scroll back up until you find the santa-letter link. Click on that for your downloadable PDF.

Stay in touch! Let me know in the comments below, if you try any of the activities or have a no-fail sugar cookie recipe, Oh, and does anyone know where to find a Peppa Pig cookie cutter for my granddaughter?

Everything You Wanted To Know About Bingo But Were Afraid To Ask

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Bingo But Were Afraid To Ask

Celebrate National Bingo Month December 1-31
Bingo Flashback

I thought I knew all there was to know about Bingo – until the night I walked into that smoky, crowded Bingo Hall. On a whim, I agreed to accompany my mom and the “girls” to their weekly game at the Fire Station.  The line was long and moved slowly, because people were purchasing 20 and 30 cards.

When my turn came, I asked the seller at the door for 20 cards.  “You might want to start smaller, dear” she said, her cigarette dangling precariously from her lips.  “Twenty please” I insisted defiantly. I mean this was Bingo after all. My first-grade students played it all the time.

Round One

We settled into our seats and the first round began. Whoa! Why was he calling the numbers so fast! Was this speed bingo? I peeked up to see if anyone else noticed he was going too fast but no one seemed distressed except me, and as a result I missed two more numbers.  The lady behind me yelled “Bingo!”

Rounds Two and Three

Round two began and focusing hard, I managed to keep up, but I was sweating! I mean literally, I was SWEATING. I wanted ask my mom for the crumpled-up tissues I knew she had in her purse, but I didn’t want to miss anymore numbers! By round three, I reluctantly admitted the octogenarian selling cards at the door was right. I gave my mom half my Bingo cards.

Round Four

Round Four. “Bingo!” I won! I WON! It must have been the pure adrenaline running through me at that point because I felt like Olympic Gold. After that it was mainly downhill, but all that mattered to me was that I won on round four! I. Won.

Bingo Now

This all happened a lot of years ago. While Bingo is still immensely popular at churches, fire stations and halls across America (minus the smoking!) online Bingo has had tremendous development since the introduction of “Bingo Zone” and “Bingo Blitz” in the late 1990’s.

Both cyber Bingo and in person Bingo are extremely popular in other countries as well, especially the U.K. where it is played with 90 numbers, 15 more than the 75 played in the U.S.

Bingo Fun Facts

Want some fun facts to impress your students with next time you play Bingo?

  • Bingo was originally called Beano. An excited grannie accidentally yelled “Bingo” when she won.
  • The Queen and Prince William love to play Bingo at Buckingham Palace
  • Women named Margaret are more likely to win Bingo than any other name.
  • The most popular color Bingo dauber is purple.

And here are some facts about the educational benefits for the next time your administrator comes in when your class is playing Bingo.

  • Bingo was originally played in the 1800’s as an educational tool to teach students multiplication.
  • Bingo improves concentration and cognitive skills
  • Bingo increases hand-eye coordination
Let’s Play!

Just about any skill from colors, numbers, math facts, spelling words, science and history facts can be reinforced by playing Bingo. You can create your own Bingo games using these online generators:  Baker Bingo  or Bingo Card Generator

To get you started here is free Christmas Bingo Game from my Teachers Pay Teachers Store!

 

xmas-bingo

Now Check Out All These Free and Paid Products From My TPT Friends!

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True Story – A Box, A List and Clean Up In Aisle 7

The Box, The List And Clean Up In Aisle 7

Or Why This Post Took 2 Years To Write

This is a story. It is a true story, it is my story, it is the story of how this blog came to be.

Long before computers and Xerox machines and PLC’s, I began my teaching career without the benefit of Pinterest! Can you believe that?! Over the years so much has changed, the pendulum has swung back and forth and back again.

Some changes for the better, some not so much, but that’s a totally different topic for a totally different time. Almost two years ago, with mixed feelings, I retired at what I considered a young age.

A young woman lying on her couch talking on the phone and eating

 

The first two months were an awesome, endless vacation. I lounged on the couch in my PJs eating fast food and Netflix bingeing.

Then…I remembered …The Box! Do we all have one of these boxes? I think we do. The Box was my treasure chest of “things I would do when I had more time” i.e. when I retired.

 

The Box

Excitedly, I lifted the dusty top. Counted cross stitch of a unicorn with a peace sign? What? No!  Five rolls of film with pictures to scrapbook? Well, I’d have to get them developed and …and…nope. Rusty calligraphy pens? I haven’t updated my tetanus shot, nope! 129 things you can make with zucchini?  Hmmm, zucchini is out of season, so…nope.

The List

Sigh. I put the top back on the box and I shove it back under the bed. Next came my list “THE List”. The list to end all lists. I’m famous for my lists. Honestly, look up “lists”, you’ll see my face.

1) Write a novel (Scoff)

2) Bedazzale a purse (LOL)

3) Play the lottery (I can try, right?)

4) Dye yarn with Kool-Aid in my crockpot (uh…what)

There was more but I’ve probably overshared enough already. Needless to say, this list…THE List, wasn’t turning out to be all that much of a life changer.

The Blog

That evening I admitted to my daughter that maybe, just maybe, I was getting a little bored…and maybe, just maybe, I missed teaching…a little bit.

“Start a blog, mom.” She said to me. Me? What? A blog? But I hardly even know how to use FACEBOOK! I don’t know how to do that!

“I’ll help you!” She promised, fingers already flying over the keyboard and words like “host” and “WordPress” coming from her mouth.

Within minutes, Stars On The Spectrum comes to life and so do I once again.

student-849820_1920

“We’re all set” She tells me, with a grin on her face. I’m beaming for the first time in what seems like forever. It’s getting late now, so she promises to help me write the first blog post tomorrow, after we go grocery shopping.

I can hardly sleep, my head is filled with ideas. The next morning finally comes around and we make it out of the house our feet crunching on freshly fallen snow. I feel like something about today is going to be different, I think to myself.

Clean Up In Aisle 7

My daughter is chatting away on the car ride there and once inside aisle after aisle, reading items off a list, grabbing this, grabbing that. I am barely focusing on what she’s saying, I’m so excited about what I’m going to put up on my new website when we get home! Walking down aisle 5 she stops and grabs my arm…

“Mom, I think my water just broke!”

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My daughter is laughing, trying to waddle to the bathroom. I’m trying not to freak out and stay calm, because we’re literally in the middle of grocery shopping.

Oh, my goodness, is she going to give birth in the middle of Walmart?!

She wobbles out and she nods with her typical smirk. Within 24 hours, my very first granddaughter was born and my blog forgotten.

 

Epilogue

So, that is the box, the list and the clean up in aisle 5 part, but the story doesn’t end there. I opened my store on Teachers Pay Teachers and focused most of my energy there (and on my grandchild of course!)

I made a few feeble stabs at my blog but I was ill-equipped when it came to using plugins and software. I am also a perfectionist, so unless things are JUST right, they’re wrong. I took courses and watched as many YouTube videos as I could.

I’m writing this post because November 16th, 2016 is coming up. My beautiful, granddaughter will be turning TWO! And I, dear readers, am posting my very first blog post. Not because it is finally perfect, but because it is Time! I hope you like it!

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