Books, Videos, and Resources for Teaching About Thanksgiving

Teaching about holidays can be fun, but they are also required. At least they are in Texas. In early elementary, we talk about the origins of customs, holidays, and celebrations celebrated in the community, state, and nation. Among those holidays is Thanksgiving. Unlike some holidays, such as Constitution Day, students are most likely familiar with Thanksgiving and probably celebrate it at home. However, our younger students may not be familiar with the story of Thanksgiving or understand its significance.


There are many ways to talk about Thanksgiving in your classroom. Check out the following videos, books, and resources to help supplement your lesson plans.

Introducing Elf on the Shelf in the Classroom

Elf on the Shelf has been a well known tradition since 2005, but increases with popularity every year! The official Elf on the Shelf website describes the tradition as follows "Santa’s scout elves help him manage his naughty and nice lists. During the Christmas season, the elves are adopted by families and fly back to the North Pole every night to tell Santa about the day’s adventures. When the elves return from their nightly North Pole journey, they hide in a new spot and wait for their families to find them!" While the original story of the elves was for families, it is easily adaptable to use in your classroom. In fact, you can register through the Elf on the Shelf website to receive K-5 lesson plans.

Use an Elf on the Shelf to keep your students on their toes this December! You'll be amazed at how many behavior issues are managed with the elf between Thanksgiving and Christmas at school!

Thankful Thursday Week 2

We're back with another week of great deals to get you through November!


Dollar Deals

Who can resist a good dollar deal? We've got a variety of options available to you in math, social studies, and language arts resources - as well as seasonal and non-seasonal. Grab a few for just ONE DOLLAR today!



Featured Discounts

These valuable resources have been marked down 50%, so be sure to check them out today to take advantage of the discount!


This Christmas Write the Room Bundle is a great supplement for your Christmas Around the World Unit or as stand alone activities during December. The advantage of using Write the Room as part of your Christmas unit is that it allows students to learn and review the vocabulary of Christmas symbols and traditions while moving about the room. (We all know the closer we get to Christmas the harder it seems for little ones to work quietly at their seats!) If you would like to sample a set, try this FREE Nativity Write the Room.


Are you looking for a way to engage your learners while learning or reviewing digraphs? Write the room is a fun and interactive way to get your students moving around the classroom. After placing word/concept cards around the classroom, students will walk around with a clipboard and recording sheet. Students write the words/answers they find on your chosen recording sheet.

Teaching About Veterans Day

Veterans Day is on November 11th every year, regardless of which day of the week it falls on. This holiday is a great opportunity to discuss all the branches of the military with your students, as well as the duties and sacrifices of our veterans.


Planning a Classroom Thanksgiving Feast

There are many types of Thanksgiving Feasts that take place in elementary schools throughout the United States. It can be a hands-on way to learn about the history behind the holiday, an opportunity to promote community and parent involvement, or a fun way to encourage your students to work together to accomplish a common goal.

There are many types of Thanksgiving Feasts that take place in elementary schools throughout the United States. It can be a hands-on way to learn about the history behind the holiday, an opportunity to promote community and parent involvement, or a fun way to encourage your students to work together to accomplish a common goal.

As with most things in life, there are different opinions on what a “feast” should look like. Every version has pros and cons but the key to success is organization! I’m going to share some things to consider when planning your feast to help make it a successful event.

Thankful Thursday Week 1

Today is the first Thursday of November and we are kicking off Thankful Thursdays with some great resources to get you through the month!


Thankful Thursday Deals Are Coming!

During November, we often reflect on things that we are thankful for such as veterans, our family, and bacon friends. As educators, we are thankful for committed classroom volunteers, supportive administration, hard-working paraprofessionals, and inquisitive students.

During November, we often reflect on things that we are thankful for such as veterans, our family, and friends. As educators, we are thankful for committed classroom volunteers, supportive administration, hard-working paraprofessionals, and inquisitive students.

Throughout the month of November, you can grab this image and add what you are thankful for to share on social media. Make sure you use the hashtag #thankfulteachers and tag @resourceranch or @creationcastle.

Throughout the month of November, you can grab this image and add what you are thankful for to share on social media. Make sure you use the hashtag #thankfulteachers and tag @resourceranch or @creationcastle.

Vote in the Classroom: An Election Alternative

Voting is something students are required to learn about whether it is an election year or not. Younger students may have experienced “voting” for which movie to watch or what to eat for dinner at home, but some may have never experienced it. A simple way for students to understand the voting process is to essentially run a class vote. However, just voting for something is not enough. That really isn’t different from some of the class graphs you have made. Students need to be involved in the process of choosing a candidate and supporting their choice.

A simple way for students to understand the voting process is to essentially run a class vote. However, just voting for something is not enough. That really isn’t different from some of the class graphs you have made. Students need to be involved in the process of choosing a candidate and supporting their choice.

An activity that my students (and principals!) loved in the past is voting for a class mascot. You can spend 1-5 days on this activity depending on how involved you want the project to be.

I'm Trying to Love Spiders Book Review

Whether the word spiders bring fond memories of Charlotte or makes you want to run in the opposite direction, you’ll enjoy this informational picture book!

"I'm Trying to Love Spiders" is written and illustrated by Bethany Barton and was a 2016 Children’s Choice Book Award winner. Whether the word spiders bring fond memories of Charlotte or makes you want to run in the opposite direction, you’ll enjoy this informational picture book!

I'm Trying to Love Spiders is written and illustrated by Bethany Barton and was a 2016 Children’s Choice Book Award winner.


Fall for Autumn Classroom Decor

It may be officially fall but with 90 degree temps it still feels like summer in Texas. Sometimes it is difficult for young children to understand the difference in seasons when their surroundings do not reflect change. A great way to help them discover the uniqueness of autumn is to add some fall fun to your classroom décor.

Sometimes it is difficult for young children to understand the difference in seasons when their surroundings do not reflect change. A great way to help them discover the uniqueness of autumn is to add some fall fun to your classroom décor. You can also encourage creativity and teamwork by getting your class involved in a fall decorating project using apples, pumpkins, acorns, squirrels, owls, scarecrows, leaves, Indian corn, crows, corn stalks, or sunflowers.

You can also encourage creativity and teamwork by getting your class involved in a fall decorating project using apples, pumpkins, acorns, squirrels, owls, scarecrows, leaves, Indian corn, crows, corn stalks, or sunflowers.

Character Education in Five Easy Steps

"Character is the real foundation of all worthwhile success." - John Hays Hammond

When I was preparing to become a teacher I envisioned my classroom of the future to be a caring learning community built from consideration and respect. One which applauded responsibility and perseverance; where friendships grew through cooperation and sharing. Unfortunately, I found the reality to not always be so picture perfect. Oh I had some amazing kids who were hard working, kind, and generous, but I also had children who seemed unfamiliar with words like respect and honesty. It never occurred to me at the time to intentionally teach these things. After all, they weren’t in our curriculum, so I only addressed character traits as situations warranted.

Character education helps teach your students to make better decisions and implementing those traits creates a more cohesive and productive learning environment.

Fast forward a couple of years. Behavior problems in school seemed to be on the rise maybe because more and more kids were going to before and after school programs which meant less time with families…less time to teach those important traits that would build the foundation for how they would choose to treat others and what effort they would put forth in school. It became obvious that we as a school family had to do something. Our counselor put together a set of traits that the entire school would work to develop. There was a specific trait we were all to focus on each week and one child from our class was to be recognized for demonstrating that trait. It was a great start but without any character building resources, planning lessons became a time consuming chore and as time went on, it was the thing first eliminated from the lesson plan when teachers ran short on time.

Introducing Show and Tell in the Classroom

Not many teachers today find time in their busy schedules for weekly show-and-tell, but it can be a great way to help get to know students and for students to begin to connect to one another at the beginning of the year.

Not many teachers today find time in their busy schedules for weekly show-and-tell, but it can be a great way to help get to know students and for students to begin to connect to one another at the beginning of the year.

TpT Sale + Gift Card Giveaway

Have you heard TpT is having a one day back to school bonus sale? Let us help you with your shopping! We will be choosing two winners to receive a $10 gift card and $10 in store credit to Resource Ranch or Creation Castle.



We will contact the winners on Monday morning so you have the opportunity to use your gift card during the sale. We hope you have a wonderful school year!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Shared and Performance Reading

Reading in the classroom can be seen in many forms: interactive read alouds, shared or performance reading, guided reading, or independent reading. Shared and performance reading is similar to interactive read alouds because you are engaging the students as you read, but it takes things beyond listening and discussing. Shared and performance reading involve students.

Reading in the classroom can be seen in many forms: interactive read alouds, shared or performance reading, guided reading, or independent reading. Shared and performance reading is similar to interactive read alouds because you are engaging the students as you read, but it takes things beyond listening and discussing. Shared and performance reading involve students.

For all types of shared and performance reading, it is imperative that every students can see the text. This may mean that you are using a big book or poster, you may be projecting the text on your document camera or interactive white board, or you may simply give each student a copy of the text.

Interactive Read Alouds

It is important that students of all ages listen to and comprehend texts read aloud. When a text is read aloud to a student, it frees them from the stress of decoding and focusing on expression. Interactive read alouds give teachers a great opportunity to observe student understanding, assess critical thinking skills, and use academic vocabulary.

It is important that students of all ages listen to and comprehend texts read aloud. When a text is read aloud to a student, it frees them from the stress of decoding and focusing on expression. Interactive read alouds give teachers a great opportunity to observe student understanding, assess critical thinking skills, and use academic vocabulary.

The books you use for interactive read alouds can serve many purposes. When selecting texts, consider your curriculum and the goals you have set for your students. To have a successful read aloud, you must read the texts in advance.

Bulletin Board Essentials

Whether bulletin boards are mandated or you enjoy the creative challenge, they serve an important purpose for your classroom. You can use them to welcome your students and their families at the beginning of the school year or keep parents informed. They also can showcase student learning or help build a sense of community by displaying student artwork.

Once you've chosen the perfect bulletin board design, you need to make sure you have the right tools. We've gathered 34 bulletin board essentials to help you get started.

Once you've chosen the perfect bulletin board design, you need to make sure you have the right tools. We've gathered 34 bulletin board essentials to help you get started.

Four Levels of Phonological Awareness

It has been said that a student’s level of phonological awareness at the end of kindergarten is one of the strongest predictors of future reading success. With the expectations of our kindergartners today, we can see the effect of strong phonological awareness early on in a student’s academic career.

Phonological awareness is a process that all successful readers go through. In the simplest terms, it is the understanding that sentences are made of words, words are made of syllables, and syllables are made of phonemes. Phonological awareness is a broad term that can easily be broken down into four levels.


Phonological awareness is a process that all successful readers go through. In the simplest terms, it is the understanding that sentences are made of words, words are made of syllables, and syllables are made of phonemes. Phonological awareness is a broad term that can easily be broken down into four levels.

  1. Word Awareness
  2. Syllable Awareness
  3. Within-Syllable Awareness
  4. Phonemic Awareness

50 Back to School Bulletin Boards

Last week we posted welcome back-to-school doors but we realize not everyone is allowed to decorate their door or you may be on an open classroom campus and not have any doors at all! So this week we bring you ideas for welcome back-to-school bulletin boards.

The great thing about bulletin boards is you can use them to welcome students in school common areas, grade level hallways, or inside your classroom. We hope things examples will give you some inspiration.

The great thing about bulletin boards is you can use them to welcome students in school common areas, grade level hallways, or inside your classroom. We hope things examples will give you some inspiration.

Visible Learning for Literacy: Determining Impact on Your Teaching

Reflection is an essential part of being an educator. If our lessons are not leaving a lasting impact on our students, then we are doing something wrong... not the students. A lasting impact does not mean the lesson was fun. A lasting impact does not mean that the students liked the lesson. An impact occurs when your lesson has a strong effect on your students and their academic careers.

Reflection is an essential part of being an educator. If our lessons are not leaving a lasting impact on our students, then we are doing something wrong... not the students. A lasting impact does not mean the lesson was fun. A lasting impact does not mean that the students liked the lesson. An impact occurs when your lesson has a strong effect on your students and their academic careers.

4 Apps Better for Kids Than Pokemon

Whether you love it or hate it - or don't know what it is - Pokemon Go is one of the most popular apps in the world right now. Here are some alternatives created intentionally to foster learning, making them a truly worthwhile time investment. For fun, and since Pokemon's from Japan, I'll count the 4 apps in Japanese - Ichi, Ni, San, Go!

40 Ideas for Back to School Classroom Doors

There is something about a freshly decorated classroom door that just says “Welcome Back to School”. Of course the options for dressing up your door are truly limitless but there are a few things to consider when planning your masterpiece.

There is something about a freshly decorated classroom door that just says “Welcome Back to School”. Of course the options for dressing up your door are truly limitless but there are a few things to consider when planning your masterpiece.

1. Adding students’ names: The pro to this is that students feel an immediate sense of belonging when they see their names. The con is that it puts a little more pressure on the teacher if you are on a campus that doesn’t give out class lists until the last minute or likes to play musical students right up until the first bell rings.

Visible Learning for Literacy: Transfer Learning

Transfer learning is one of the most important skills we can teach our students. Simply stated, transfer learning is when we use prior knowledge or schema in new situations. If we want our students to become lifelong learners (which of course we do), then we need to teach them how to harness their knowledge and skills and apply them to situations in and outside of school.

Transfer learning is one of the most important skills we can teach our students. Simply stated, transfer learning is when we use prior knowledge or schema in new situations. If we want our students to become lifelong learners (which of course we do), then we need to teach them how to harness their knowledge and skills and apply them to situations in and outside of school.

5 Books for the 1st Day of School

There is a long standing tradition in the elementary classroom of starting the new school year by reading a picture book or two to calm those first day jitters. If you're looking for a new selection to share this year, you'll want to check out Ally-saurus & the First Day of School!

There is a long standing tradition in the elementary classroom of starting the new school year by reading a picture book or two to calm those first day jitters. If you're looking for a new selection to share this year, you'll want to check out Ally-saurus & the First Day of School!

What does a dinosaur, lion, and dragon have in common? They all live in the imaginations of children that become friends on the first day of school in Richard Torrey's ALLY-SAURUS & the First Day of School.

Visible Learning for Literacy: Deep Literacy Learning

According to MENSA, only about 2% of the population are considered geniuses. Fisher, et al. suggest that at some point in their childhood, each of these geniuses had a teacher that provided learning experiences that were relevant and meaningful to them. That may be the case, but whether or not someone is considered a genius we know that students will learn more when they can take their surface level learning and apply it to something that is relevant to them.


In thinking about the differences between surface and deep learning, it really comes down to how and why learners are learning. Deep learners interact with content and ideas to make connections between concepts and knowledge. So how do we help our students achieve deep learning?

Classroom Color Schemes to Enhance Learning

Imagine walking through a kaleidoscope. At first glance it may look cool but after a few minutes of visual overload you would start looking for the exit. Teachers spend a great deal of time, money, and energy to create inviting learning environments. However, many do not realize that their color choices can affect student’s mood and learning.


According to the International Association of Color Consultants, appropriate color design is important in creating surroundings conducive to learning. They also note poor planning of light and color in a room can lead to irritability and premature fatigue.

Visible Learning for Literacy: Surface Literacy Learning

There are three levels of learning: surface, deep, and transfer. For students to reach deep and transfer levels of learning, they need surface learning. Surface learning helps students relate, extend, and think deeply. The problem is that many teachers are pushed to go beyond surface learning before students are ready. Chapter two of Visible Learning for Literacy talks about the importance of surface literacy learning and how to utilize surface learning during instruction.


Before we can begin instructing our students, you must first find out what they already know. You can assess prior knowledge in many ways, such as through the use of anticipation guides or cloze reading. Rhonda shared how assessing prior knowledge can be an everyday thing, as opposed to assessing prior learning in our Facebook group:
"Assessing "prior knowledge" is an everyday informal thing...asking those "Have you ever ____" questions (seen a, been to, tried,). It lets me know how much time I need to spend introducing something, if my students need visual support or examples, and helps determine my pacing. When I taught 1st we had grade level themes and pets was one of our first ones. I taught in a Title I school where most my kids were in less than desirable situations. I remember starting the first lesson with "How many of you have pets?" Not a single hand...thinking that couldn't be possible I tried again, How many of you have ever had a dog?" Crickets..."cat?" ....no, not one of them had ever had a pet. It was obvious that we couldn't jump right into the needs of a pet. It also was at that point I knew that we were going to have a class pet!"
Once you are aware of what your students already know, then it is time to tackle reading. Becoming literate is not something our brains are hard-wired to do like walking and talking. Everyone has to work at becoming a reader. Reading involves six major areas that will eventually be utilized in unison:
  1. Phonemic Awareness
  2. Alphabetics
  3. Phonics
  4. Fluency
  5. Vocabulary
  6. Reading Comprehension
All of these areas are crucial for developing reading skills, but phonics instruction is very important for beginning readers. Chapter two talks about using direct instruction to strengthen phonics skills, vocabulary activities, and improving fluency.

Building a Classroom Library on a Budget

Everyone knows reading is important in school, but just how many books does a teacher need? Although that answer varies, on average students read 3,600 minutes each month. That requires a lot of book! The problem is books are expensive. No matter how many books you may want need for your class, you definitely cannot buy them all. So, if you're working on building up your classroom library, we have some tips to stretch your budget and fill your bookcases!


1. Advertise - request new or gently used books from your students in the school or class newsletter

2. Partnerships - talk to your local bookstore or Half Price Books to see if they would be willing to set up a box for donations at their store (you could even provide a list of titles)

3. Scholastic Monthly Deals - each month Scholastic offers $1 book deals (they also have some good deals if you are buying books in bulk!)

4. Crowd Source - set up an account with Donor's Choose or Adopt a Classroom (check with your school first)... there are plenty of people who want to help you out, but they don't know how to on their own

5. Library Sales - public libraries often hold sales of used books that they have too many copies of (check with your library to see if they have any deals like "as many books as you can put in the tote for $10")

6. Goodwill - you will often find books for just a quarter at Goodwill

7. Scholastic Warehouse Sales - warehouse sales don't happen very often, but when they do you can stock up on tons of books for just a fraction of normal retail price

8. Kohl's Cares - each month Kohl's swaps out their book selection near their checkout stations... you can grab a handful of hardcover books for just $5 and the adorable plush characters that go along with them

9. Retiring Teachers - not every teacher that leaves the classroom will need their books in the future, see if you can buy their books

10. Garage or Yard Sales - nearly every garage sale will have at least one tub of books and they're typically pretty cheap

11. Book Drive - hold a book drive as a school or a community

What are some ways you've built up your classroom library?

Visible Learning for Literacy: Chapter 1

As an educator, it is always a good idea to keep up with new methods and research. This summer Heather from Creation Castle is hosting a book club through Facebook. The Beyond the Blackboard Book Club is discussing the book Visible Learning for Literacy by Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey, and John Hattie.


Chapter one opens with a simple, resonating statement. Every student deserves a great teacher, not by chance, but by design. This is easy enough to say and believe, but when you think about the development of a "great teacher", their educational journey does not stop with a diploma. Our book club found that many districts are not providing teachers with enough opportunities for meaningful professional development. That's right... we don't enjoy watching the blood born pathogens film every year to earn an hour towards our PD credits. It is NOT helpful.

Getting Ready for a Substitute

Imagine you are a substitute teacher. Scary, I know. There are two classroom doors in front of you. To the left is a clean, organized classroom. There is a single stack of papers on the table. Detailed lesson plans are followed by clearly marked activities for the day. To the right is a slightly disheveled classroom (that’s okay… it happens to the best of us). There are piles of paper everywhere – none clearly marked. Buried somewhere on the desk there is a single sheet of paper with the daily schedule and a few notes jotted down in the margins.

Which classroom would you want to sub in? Unless you are the Mary Poppins of subbing and can make anything work with your magic carpet bag, you would probably choose the door to the left. So would I.

Each time a new substitute walks into your classroom, it's likely they have some anxiety about how the day is going to work out. Most people feel more at ease when they know what is happening, when it will happen, and how to make it happen. That doesn't mean you can leave out your weekly lesson plans and a daily schedule and assume your sub can figure it out from there. Help your substitutes by giving them as much essential information as you can. Check out the list here!

Each time a new substitute walks into your classroom, it's likely they have some anxiety about how the day is going to work out. Most people feel more at ease when they know what is happening, when it will happen, and how to make it happen. That doesn't mean you can leave out your weekly lesson plans and a daily schedule and assume your sub can figure it out from there.

Teacher Appreciation Sale + Giveaway!

Teachers provide such stability and support in the lives of their students that one official week of appreciation doesn't seem like enough. So it's important to keep in mind that each and every day your students appreciate you. They might not show it. They may never say it. But deep down they know just how special you are!

How to Use Current Events in the Classroom

She clutched a wrinkled, dirty newspaper clipping as she stood in front of the class. Some looked at her as if she were crazy. As she began reading from the paper, whispers started in the back of the room as everyone began to tune out.

Is that how you feel when you bring up current events in your classroom? Do you find your students tuning out because they aren't interested? Maybe it's because the content you're delivering to your 3rd graders is written for 12th grade level readers. Maybe it's because they haven't found a news story relevant to them. 

Prioritizing Piles in the Classroom

Most of us became teachers for reasons like wanting to share a love of learning, not because we loved paperwork. Yet it seems the average teacher is inundated with growing piles of papers and files. Even organized piles can leave you feeling frustrated as you try to determine what to tackle with your very limited time. So what can you do alleviate this problem? One might be tempted to utilize that just emptied scholastic box! Unfortunately, for the responsible teacher, out of sight does not equal out of mind. A better course of action is to prioritize those piles so that you can start eliminating them.


Safe Search Engines for Kids

iPads. Computers. Tablets. Smart phones. Game systems. Technology is everywhere. While having so much knowledge at our fingertips can be a great asset, it can also be a very unsafe place for our students. Luckily there are a few tools that make searching the internet much safer for students.


In searching for safe search engines, it was important that the websites
  1. use Google SafeSearch™ technology
  2. are moderated by adults
  3. include contact information
After doing some digging I was able to find five sites that met all three criteria.