A Very Victorian Christmas in the Elementary Classroom

Christmas is one of my favorite holidays to celebrate in the elementary classroom. The season itself is filled with hope, joy, and love. It's also a perfect time for students to focus on being generous to others and thankful for their blessings. I love to include lessons specifically teaching them about the historical origins of our modern-day holiday traditions. Many of our modern-day Christmas traditions were born in Victorian England.

It's hard to believe, but before the the 1800s, Christmas was not celebrated in the same ways we celebrate it today. People didn't decorate trees in their homes, send greeting cards to one another, or give presents for the holiday. By the beginning of the 1900s, Christmas had grown into a widely-celebrated holiday with traditions that we still follow to this day!

Schema Maps - An Alternative to the KWL Chart

Activating schema, or prior knowledge, is the foundation to helping students understand what they are reading about any topic. One of the more popular graphic organizers to record students' prior knowledge on a topic is a KWL Chart or a KWL+ Chart. I have used these charts many times to help my students record their thinking and learning about a new topic, but I've frequently run into a specific problem with them...What do you do when the kids think they know something, but as the teacher, you know it's totally wrong?! Do you correct the students right then? Or do you move on? What's the best solution to correcting their misconceptions?


Schema Maps provide the perfect solution to this problem! This strategy encourages students to record their prior knowledge and their new learning. Schema maps require students to distinguish between information that is expanding upon something they already knew and information that is brand new learning.  Schema maps also require students to identify any of their prior knowledge that is a misconception and explain why the information is incorrect. I love schema maps because they have really helped my students deepen their knowledge in different content areas and they are super easy to create. This post will tell you exactly how you can get started using schema maps in your own classroom!

Gluten-Free Play Dough: An Allergy-Free Solution for First Day Fun

Play dough is my favorite activity for students for students to do as they enter the room on the first day of school. It gives them an engaging and hands-on task while freeing me up to help other students get situated or meet briefly with parents that come to the classroom. It also promotes collaboration, creativity, and divergent thinking! But did you know that some students with a gluten-allergy may have an allergic reaction from merely touching play dough?  I always thought students with allergies would need to ingest the play dough in order for it to be an issue, but some gluten allergies are severe enough that even touching play dough can cause children to break out in hives.

Play dough is the perfect first activity on the first day of school! But students with a gluten-allergy can break out in hives just by touching play dough. This recipe for gluten-free play dough is super simple to make and will keep all kids safe from allergic reactions.

For this reason, I started to make gluten-free play dough for my students on the first day of school. It costs a little more than traditional homemade play dough, but it still costs less than purchasing pre-made play dough for everyone! It's also worth the extra cost to know that all my students are safe from potential allergic reactions. 
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