From the Desk of Kelly Harmon

December 2017 Newsletter

Dear Educator,

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas! We pray that your holiday season is off to a great start and that you are seeing lots of student learning and growth in your classrooms. This month we are bringing you ideas for giving back with your students this holiday season, ideas to spice up your book talks, and tips on teaching the executive skill of organizing. We have also just released our information on our Countdown to ELAR STAAR workshops happening this February. We also have Writing Strategies online seminar coming up on January 20th. Best wishes and Happy Teaching!!!

-Randi Anderson & Kelly Harmon

Holiday Classroom Outreach Opportunities

December is great month to teach your students about the gift of giving! So many times kids get the message that the holidays are about ourselves and getting what we want but, really it's about so much more! Children need to be involved in discussions about how to care and give to others. Read texts about generosity, empathy, and serving others. Here are some ideas for giving back with your students this season!

The Christmas Jar

The Christmas Jar tradition is based on the novel written by Jason Wright. A Christmas Jar is a jar of some sort that is used to collect spare coins and bills. Students contribute to the jar through the month of December and then on Christmas Eve the jar is delivered to a family that is in need in your area. The jar is left anonymously to help the family with any expenses they have. This activity teaches generosity and to think of others before themselves. For more information about the Christmas Jar, visit .

Leave a Friendly Note in a Library Book

Start a kindness epidemic in your school! Have students write friendly letters to fellow students and place the letters inside library books. Students will return the library book to the school library and when another student checks out the book, they can read the friendly note left behind. Challenge your campus to write friendly letters each time they receive one, to replace the one they found in their library book. This activity teaches empathy and passing on kindness to others.

Nursing Home Caroling

Sometimes the elderly can feel forgotten during the holidays, but you can be the change that will brighten their season ! Organize a time for your students to visit a local nursing home or invite elders to your classroom to hear Christmas carols. Students will practice their fluency by reading and rehearsing festive tunes. Then schedule a performance day! Discuss with the students the importance of thinking of other's feeling and always making sure to reach out and make someone feel special.

3 Ways to Spice Up Your Book Talks

Book Talks are a great way to create excitement and motivate your students to read! Educators can create even more excitement when they too create a book talk. Here are 3 ways to perform book talks for your students to get them excited about reading.

Act It Out

Choose a scene from the text to act out for the students. Be one or two characters for students to see the story truly come alive. Be sure to just choose a small portion of the story that will keep students engaged but wanting to read the book to know more!

Perspective is Everything

Try giving a book talk as a character (first person) or as an outsider looking in (third person). You can give your students a glimpse into the characters thoughts and feelings by telling about the book in first person, or give your students a bird's eye view of the story as you tell about the plot in third person.

Match with Music

Add dramatic effect to your book talk by choosing music to play in the background that captures the tone of the text. Read an excerpt using music in the background or give a brief summary while appropriate tonal music plays in the background.

To see a book talk given by Kelly Harmon, click here and watch it on Youtube!

Guided Math Games: Backpacks

What is a Math Backpack?

Math backpacks are a great way to motivate students to practice their math skills at home. A Math Backpack is a simple backpack filled with focused math games, that have been played in the classroom that students take home to practice for a day or week.

What Goes Inside the Backpack?

Each week or month, teachers can fill the backpacks with games that are related, such as, dice or card games for practicing operations one week, then the next week put in some strategy games. Be sure to label the backpack with "Math Take Home" or "Math Pack" before sending it home each time. It is important to include a letter explaining your intended outcome and expectations for taking home your math pack.

Who Takes Home The Pack?

Choose students at random to take home the bag. You can allocate who takes the pack home daily or weekly. Be sure to account for the few times when students forget to bring that pack back.


Encourage parents to participate in the math games each night. Have your students teach their parents/caregivers the math games. Students can explain the skill they are practicing by playing that particular game. This is a great way for parents to see what learning is happening in the classroom and be included in helping their child.

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