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Looking for some Holiday and/or Winter Ideas?

The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas can be so busy in the classroom. We also have to deal with shortened weeks, holiday program practices and performances, holiday parties, and worst of all the pre-holiday energy that makes the students extra antsy this time of year!

It's hard to start any big units because you don't want the holiday break to fall mid-unit so short activities that are fun, colorful, yet reinforce important skills become all the more valuable in the month of December!

I have added some items to my product line to hopefully make this time of year a little easier for you and more fun for your students! Check out the new offerings:

Literacy Center Activities for Grades K-2:

Holiday Cookie Hard G and Soft G Sorting Center and Holiday Cookie Hard C and Soft C Sorting Center are manipulative activities to help reinforce the Hard/Soft G and Hard/Soft C sounds.

Building Snowmen with the H Brothers Center! TH, SH, CH, WH Blends

Building Snowmen with the H Brothers Center is a manipulative activity to help reinforce the TH, SH, CH, WH consonant blends/digraphs.


Math Center Activities for Grades 1-4:
 Holiday Cookie Shopping~Money Counting/Making Change Math Center

"Holiday Cookie Shopping" is a fun manipulative Math center activity to give practice with adding, subtracting, money counting, and making change.

I hope these activities can make your holiday season a little easier and brighter!

Happy Holidays from The Teaching Bank!

How Does Copyright Affect YOU as a Teacher?

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How did you, or will you, discuss the 10th Anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks in your classroom?

I frequent a bargain board forum where often times things go off task and things are discussed that are not "bargain" related. Yesterday there was a post that has me thinking both as a parent and a teacher. Here is the post:

"I just read the teachers blog and my 8 year old has an assignment for the weekend. This was on her blog: My homeroom class assignment to research and write two paragraphs on what 9-11 is, why is it so important, and what does it mean to you. This assignment is due Monday 9-12-2011. (social studies)

I just walked into the room and asked XXXX if she knew what 911 was. Then she proceeded to tell me about the assignment and I asked her if she knew what she was going to write about, she said she didn't know what it was and was going to google it.


This really got me thinking about the discussion of 9/11 in the classroom. As I read the responses to the post I was shocked that so many felt this assignment was totally inappropriate and that 9/11 was a topic that should not be discussed in the 3rd grade. Many thought it wasn't an appropriate topic until high school age. Here's an example of a follow-up post:

"My problem with this is That *I* want to be the one to decide when the time is right to tell my kids about tragic events. As parents, we know our kids best. We know what is tmi, and what will be fine for them to handle. I guess I think this is more of a high school topic."

Of course there were others who posted and didn't see a problem with it. They argued that to an 8-9 year old child 9/11 is an historical event not that different than Pearl Harbor. Obviously this wouldn't apply to a child whose family was directly affected, but to the general population of 8-9 year olds, considering they weren't even born yet, it is history.

I have to admit I was a bit baffled by the feeling of inappropriateness. It honestly would not even cross my mind that 9/11 would be a taboo topic in the 3rd grade. In fact at school Friday was my 3rd grade daughters day to bring in a current event topic and give a small presentation. She took in a story about the ceremony happening in NYC on Sunday, 9/11, to unveil the memorial. She talked about how it is the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on NYC, DC, & PA. How this memorial will open on Sunday, to family only, in a special ceremony that President Obama and Former President Bush will attend. Poetry will be read along with the nearly 3,000 names of the people that died that day. It never once occurred to me that it wouldn't be an appropriate topic for her to present. When I was helping her prepare and practice her presentation we had a long discussion about what happened that day. We talked about what terrorism is, why these guys felt the need to do what they did, how the passengers of Flight 93 probably saved hundreds of lives by fighting back, and how so many of the first responders on the ground lost their lives going into the building to save others. We even talked a bit about the science behind the buildings collapsing. She asked questions and I answered them in appropriate, truthful way. I feel this was totally appropriate discussion to have with my 9 year old.

My kid's school district also had a patriotic day on Friday where everyone was to wear red, white, & blue. The elementary school collected loose change for the local food shelter. The middle school collected canned food for the food pantry. It was a day to come together as Americans and help those neighbors in need as we did 10 years ago. Again I feel this was an appropriate response to the anniversary.

I just don't understand the purpose of keeping the 9/11 event a secret from children? Do you have to tell them gory details and show them graphic footage? No! But it is a part of our history as a country just as Pearl Harbor is. Why would we not discuss it with them? It is all over TV and they are hearing things. Isn't it better to discuss it with them and explain it on your terms as parents and in an age appropriate way in the classroom?

Now as a teacher I think I would have gone about giving out the assignment in a different way. I wouldn't have just given it to the kids and then posted on my blog. I would have sent the assignment home along with a note asking parents to talk over 9/11 with their child in terms that they are comfortable with and then have the children write something about what they learned from the discussion that they had together. I wouldn't just send a 3rd grader off alone to google it! I see the poster's point in that.

How did you as teachers handle the discussion of the 10th anniversary of 9/11 in your classroom? As parents how do you feel about it being  discussed in your children's classrooms?

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ETA: After posting this I headed over to The Lesson Cloud Blog (see link on the left) and saw a post from Sunny Days in Second Grade. I love what she did! Check it out:

Visit Sunny Days

Happy International Literacy Day!

What a great day to celebrate! I love reading, have always loved reading! I love reading to my kids, my students, myself! I love quality literature, I love not so quality literature! ;) I love magazines and the old dinosaurs, newspapers! I see a value in all kinds of reading. Reading is to gain knowledge, but it is also to entertain and enjoy.

I have read thousands of books in my lifetime and I have to say my very favorite are the seven books of the Harry Potter series. So in honor of International Literacy Day I am going to discuss my favorite!

There is a reason this series is so popular, why they make non-readers spend hours with their noses in the books! There is no other literary world that has drawn me in quite like the world that J.K. Rowling has created. I have read the books multiple times. I will never tire of reading them.

Last year I read the series from start to finish to my three children. What a wonderful bonding experience it was for us. I can't describe how magical it was to reveal this world to my children. It is by far one of my most treasured experiences with my kids. Of course they fell in love with Harry's world as much as I did. We got so into it we planned an impromptu trip to Universal Studios last January just to see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It lived up to the hype. It was such a fantastical trip, literally walking into the books. The attention to detail was phenomenal!
This July I was finally able to go to the midnight opening of a Harry Potter movie. In the past I have always gone alone on opening day but felt it would be odd to go alone to the opening midnight show. This year my two oldest kids, Joey and Ally, were old enough to join me! We headed to the theater, the kids armed with the wands they purchased in Florida! It was so much fun to sit amongst all the die hard Harry Potter fans in the theater and see the book come to life on film. I have to admit I was pretty choked up at the end, not because the story was too sad, but because it was the end! For 12 years I have anticipated the book and movie releases and now we had reached the end. No other book has touched me in quite this way.

Fall in love with Harry Potter all over again by reading the series to your students and children. Check out my novel units that accompany each book. The first unit for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is newly updated with new activities added and now aligned to the Common Core Standards for Grades 5-8!
Find it at:

Also in honor of International Literacy Day I am offering my Frindle Unit for 15% off at my Teachers Pay Teachers store from now through 9/14! Check it out! Check out some other great sellers that are offering great deals on their items as well: Teacher 2 Teacher Blog

And last but not least please check out my FREE offering of End of the Book Activity Ideas for ANY BOOK!

Go grab your favorite book and have a Happy International Literacy Day!

The Space Shuttle Experience Part 2! It's a GO!

If you have read my past posts you are aware that I have had a dream to see a space shuttle launch since I was a child. In April my family and I traveled to Florida with tickets graciously given by Senator Johanns of Nebraska to attend the Endeavour launch. Due to a technical glitch that launch was delayed by a couple weeks and since the school has such pesky attendance policies (just kidding!) we were not able to stay or return for the launch.  At the time my heart was broken and I thought I had lost my one and only chance. I contacted the NASA reps that handle the congressional tickets and asked if there was any way I could roll over my ticket request to the Atlantis launch this summer. The Gods were smiling down on me and I was again granted tickets for the Atlantis launch scheduled for July 8, 2011 at 11:26 AM. This launch is the very last space shuttle launch EVER! My very last chance!

We flew to Orlando on the night of July 6th and drove to our hotel on the space coast July 7. All day on the 7th was rainy and drizzly. Thick cloud cover as if we were sitting in a cloud. The news and forecasters were giving the launch only a 30% chance on the 8th and everyone was talking very pessimistically. I was so scared that yet again seeing a launch would be just out of reach. We did plan to stay for a week in case of weather scrubs but the long range forecast wasn't looking much better.

I didn't sleep well the night of the 7th. I checked the NASA computer feed on progress at 2 AM to see if they would even progress with the fuel tanking. They went ahead and fueled up so I tried to get a little more rest. Alarm went off at 4 AM.  We had to meet the NASA bus at the Merritt Square Mall at 7 AM which was about an hour drive from our hotel in New Smyrna Beach. With crowd estimates at near 1 million I didn't want to take the chance of getting stuck in traffic and missing my bus! We headed out about 5 and arrived with no traffic issues about 6. Launch chances were still only at 30%.

We boarded the bus and were taken to the NASA Causeway for viewing. We arrived about 9:30. We found a good spot at the front of the ropes with an unobstructed view of the launch pad. It was still pretty hazy so the shuttle looked awfully small 6 miles away from us! We got some pictures and studied the shuttle and launch pads with our binoculars. The energy of the crowd was fun, everyone so excited and nervous together.
The launch pad is above my older son's head. Pretty small!

Zoomed in on the camera!

Our first miracle happened about 10:30. I was watching the NASA twitter feed and all of a sudden the launch went from a 70% of "no go" to weather was a "GO"!! The clouds had started to part a bit and the haze started to clear off. As we sat there the shuttle became clearer and clearer.  I was simply antsy in my chair thinking this might actually happen! I had a smile plastered across my face and I kept saying over and over "It might actually go up! This is going to happen for us!"

As the hour counted down we got more and more excited. The speaker system set up was announcing all clear on the technical and weather side and all was on track for 11:26 launch! We watched excitedly as 2 minutes to launch the arms from the launch pad were retracted from the shuttle and we could start to see the steam rising from the base!

One minute to launch, I could hardly contain my excitement and then at 31 seconds to go the speakers announced clock stopped! WHAT!!! NO!!! Lots of confusion on the Causeway and everyone trying to figure out what going on. My heart was just heavy and beating a million beats a minute. Please don't scrub this close!

Then miracle number two, the clocks resumed! Apparently the retraction arm sensor showed an error but a camera on the pad confirmed it was safely out of the way and launch was back on! 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 LIFT OFF of space shuttle ATLANTIS!! I watched through my binoculars at the smoke rising from the pad and as soon as the shuttle started to move heavenward I put them down and watched with my eyes. I have watched many, many launches on TV but there were a few things that struck me about being there in person. First, was the brightness of the flames under the shuttle. It was so awesome to see and I can only imagine how incredible a night launch must be! We watched in tears and cheers as Atlantis crossed through the first layer of clouds and then we got another view through the cloud break. Got to see it up for a good minute or so. I was prepared for the delay in sound but it took longer than I had anticipated. Atlantis was almost out of view when it hit us. I was looking forward to the bone shaking sound and I was a little disappointed because the wind was blowing away from us and I think it was diminished a bit. It still was remarkable and it was unlike any sound I have ever heard before. It was very, very low rumble that grew and grew and washed over you. Lots of crackling in the rumble as well. Very unique and something I won't forget!
Not my picture. My photography skills would not have done it justice!
Once the sound passed us and Atlantis was out of sight we all hugged and wiped the tears from our eyes. The kids were really excited and kept saying how cool it was. They were also very disappointed that we couldn't watch another launch in the future. Our feelings were mirrored from most in the crowd. Everyone hugging, cheering, and wiping away the tears.

We rejoiced and took some pictures of the plume trail left behind. It was really neat to see it stay there and expand. We could still see it in the sky when the bus rolled away an hour after launch.
Plume a couple minutes after launch.
My daughter with the expanding plume.

Before boarding the bus I had to sit in my chair and just process and reflect for a minute. I was shaking from the adrenaline of it and still tearing up. The realization that I actually saw a launch in person was hard to grasp. Still 1.5 weeks later I am still in shock that I saw it and it almost doesn't seem real. Not only did I get to see it but I had realized a life long dream. The accomplishment of that feels really good!

I also reflected on 2 people that were partly responsible for my shuttle interest. My Grandma Christensen was always very interested in new technology and she talked often of the miracle of the space program. When I was 12 she took us to Kennedy Space Center which expanded my awe of the shuttle program. My Grandma died in 1997 but I know she was there with me in spirit!

In 1985 NASA announced the Teachers in Space program. Mr. Kevin Falon, a teacher from a high school in my town was selected as a finalist. On January 28, 1986, with teacher Christa McAuliffe aboard, Space Shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after launch. At the time I was in Junior High and I remember vividly of the announcement over the intercom and the teacher bringing a TV into the classroom to watch the news footage. In September 1988 NASA returned Space Shuttle Discovery to space as the first shuttle after the Challenger disaster. I was in 12th grade at the time and I happened to be in Mr. Falon's Mass Media class at the time of the launch. He brought in a TV and we all watched and cheered. After the launch the class turned to a discussion of Mr. Falon's experience and his love of the space program. Many students commented that he was lucky he didn't get picked and wasn't on Challenger. What really stuck with me was the fact that he said even knowing what happened to Challenger he still wishes he could have been chosen. He was willing to sacrifice to realize his dream. That has always stuck with me over the years. Sadly Mr. Falon died a few years later in a crash of a plane he was piloting. I have thought of him often over the years and I was sad to hear he died, but I take comfort in knowing he tried to live his life to the fullest while he was here and I try and learn from his example.

So with my Grandma and Mr. Falon in mind I realized one of my dreams, to see a launch in person. I am so very fortunate that I was able to share the experience with my husband and children. I am hoping this experience will be something my kids keep with them and use to strive for the heavens with any dreams they may have. They are already talking about what kinds of jobs they can get at NASA and how they can be a part of the next generation of space travel.

Space Shuttle Atlantis is scheduled to land at Kennedy Space Center, tomorrow, July 21 at 5:56 AM. I plan to watch "my shuttle" land which will mark the official end of the 30 year Space Shuttle program.

Centers and More Centers!

Since school let out I have really been focusing on adding some new products and updating current products.  I found some really cute clip art at:

As I perused their inventory, center ideas were coming to me like crazy! I stopped myself before draining my pocketbook but came away with lots of ideas and clip art!

My favorite clip art was the Scrabble tiles art. Simple clip art, but the ways to use it in the classroom are endless!

 There are so many ways you can use these tiles for both literacy, spelling, and math skill practice. It works great from the primary grades through the intermediate grades.

I loved the building opportunities with the S'mores and Ice Cream clip art. It allows students to build with the manipulatives to reinforce math and literacy skills.

You can get the full set of Long Vowel Activities or buy it in smaller increments for the long vowel combination of your choice. EA, EE, AI, OA, and OO all available individually. 

For sight word and sentence building activities I created:

This center contains the complete 220 word Dolch List plus 95 common nouns for students to practice building sentences with familiar words.

 Students can make very basic sentences or elaborate sentences by building onto their trains. Also provides good practice with using proper punctuation marks.

I've added all of these centers within the last month to my center inventory to join Cruisin' with the Magic E! and Dog Gone Good Contractions.

If you are looking for some new centers for your classroom check these out. Kids will love the super cute clip art while reinforcing the skills they are working on.

The Space Shuttle Saga Continues.....

After the disappointment of watching the Space Shuttle Endeavour launch from TV at home I now have some promising space shuttle news! NASA allowed me to rollover my Congressional ticket request to the upcoming Atlantis launch. I received confirmation yesterday that my request was granted so the family is heading back to Florida! I am super excited, but much more guarded this time after the last launch experience!

Photo credit: Ben Cooper/Spaceflight Now

The Space Shuttle Atlantis launch is scheduled for 11:26 AM EST on Friday, July 8, 2011. This is the final launch for Atlantis and the final space shuttle launch EVER! The amazing space shuttle program has captivated me since the first launch of Columbia in 1981 when I was 10 years old. Most people think I am crazy to make these two trips from Nebraska to try and realize my dream of seeing a launch in person but it is my dream! I am so excited that my children will be with me and old enough to appreciate and remember the experience.

I have a good feeling about this launch.  The pilot is Astronaut Doug Hurley. Hurley is my maiden name so that's a good sign right? One of the four astronauts is a woman, Astronaut Sandy Magnus. When we toured Kennedy Space Center my eight year old daughter noticed and commented on the astronaut pictures around that there weren't very many women astronauts compared to men. I explained that women are joining the ranks more and more as times have changed and I am excited that she will be able to witness a woman go into space. Also my son has a space shuttle launch pad toy that he's had for years. The shuttle on the toy is Atlantis. We searched high and low to get an Endeavour one when that was the orbiter we thought we'd see launch and yet could never find one.  Maybe Atlantis is what we were always destined to see?

Wish me luck on a successful launch trip! In the meantime my kids will be completing my Space Shuttle Experience Unit available for FREE in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store:

Check it out for your own classroom or child at home. Only 29 days until the launch! Makes a great summer project to keep that learning alive and fresh!

It's a GO for Endeavour!

Space Shuttle Endeavour launched this morning with a technically perfect countdown (unlike April 29!).
Photo credit: Ben Cooper/Spaceflight Now
It was a beautiful launch but I sure wish I had been at Kennedy Space Center instead of watching it at home on TV! 

I had to share a portion of my daughter's journal from school telling the story of our Endeavour launch experience. I think that is me yelling NO!

Even though I am heartbroken that I wasn't there in person I am very happy the crew and all the NASA workers that make it all possible experienced a flawless launch! The mission is very interesting, they are taking the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer ( a $2 billion instrument) to the ISS (International Space Station). AMS is the exotic experiment to prove the existence or myth of antimatter, seek out dark matter and probe the origins of the universe.You can read more of the technical explanation here:
My continued good wishes to the Endeavour crew and the whole NASA family for a successful mission!

Space Shuttle Endeavour Launch Trip Update!

We returned from a week in Florida on Wednesday night. The purpose of the trip was to attend the Space Shuttle Endeavour launch that was scheduled for Friday, April 29th. I was fortunate enough to get NASA property viewing tickets from my senator for our family.
Mission STS-134 Patch

We arrived in Florida late Tuesday, April 26. We drove from the Orlando airport to our hotel, the New Smyrna Beach Holiday Inn. Hotel was wonderful. Room was huge, right on the beach, all rooms are ocean view, and the price was CHEAP for such a place! I highly recommend it!
View from our room balcony.

We did beach days on Wednesday and Thursday and really enjoyed being a part of all the local excitement leading up to a shuttle launch. It is on everyone's tongues and all over the TV there. There might have been a heightened awareness due to it being the second to last launch and the fact that the Obama family, as well as Senator Gabrielle Giffords, were attending. Giffords' husband is Endeavour Commander Mark Kelly. There was expected to be near one million people in the surrounding areas to view the launch.

Friday morning we got an early start. We were to meet our bus at the Merritt Square Mall, which was about an hour drive from our hotel. Due to the possible traffic delays we gave ourselves 3 hours because the last thing I wanted to do was miss the bus! We arrived with plenty of time and got boarded on the bus about noon. Our guide said that it looked very promising as no technical issues had arisen and the clouds looked like they would clear for the 3:47 PM launch. We headed out of the mall parking lot on our way to the NASA Causeway viewing site. About two blocks from the mall our guide got a message that the launch had been scrubbed due to a heater issue. Needless to say we were all heartbroken but were told it looked like it would be moved to Sunday or Monday and to meet back at the mall for our bus at that time. Since we had planned our trip in anticipation of possible delays we were feeling okay about the move since we had until Wednesday, May 4th.

Sadly over the course of the weekend it became quite clear that the problem was much more involved then they had thought and the launch was pushed off to May 8 or 10th. Too long to stay and wait since the kids were missing school but too close to return again. No other word to describe except heartbreaking! Seeing a shuttle launch has been a lifelong dream and finally the kids were old enough to appreciate it so I took the risk of planning a trip from Nebraska. I knew going into it that there was always a chance it wouldn't happen for me but I had to try!

Sunday we spent the day touring Kennedy Space Center. The hardest part of that day was being there when we got the official word that we would miss the launch and seeing Endeavour on the launch pad from the observation deck. Seeing it was an awesome sight but being so very close to seeing her launch was hard. I had a mini-cry looking at her beauty on the pad.

Endeavour on the launch pad. The Rotating Service Structure is covering most the shuttle because they are working on the heater problem.

 As of today the launch has now been pushed of to no earlier than May 16. I am selfishly hoping it gets pushed off into June so the kids would be out of school and we may possibly be able to return to try again.

Other than the heartbreak of missing the launch our trip was fantastic. As mentioned our hotel was right on the beach and New Smyrna Beach is really beautiful. Fine white sand with big waves and lots of sunshine! We spent a lot of time body surfing, collecting seashells, playing catch, flying a kite, and just sitting back and relaxing on the beach. Most mornings we sat on our deck and watched several dolphins swimming and frolicking in the ocean. We got an up close and personal lesson on the varieties of jellyfish. They were washed up all over the shore! We spent some time googling all the types and learning about them. My oldest son was stung out in the water too. We learned that vinegar takes away the sting and that it is an old wives tale that urine works (it doesn't we tried!). Also learned a lot about tides and how they affect the shore. We were also within walking distance of some great beachside restaurants and we stopped a couple times for ice cream at Treats on the Beach!
Joey pointing out a washed up jellyfish. This was prior to the sting so he's still smiling about them!

We ventured out for some local educational adventures as well. Replicas of Christopher Columbus's ships the Nina and Pinta were docked in nearby Ponce Inlet. We toured them and they were very interesting. I cannot imagine the courage of those long ago explorers venturing out on (to me) such a primitive ship to parts unknown across the ocean!
The Nina and Pinta Replica Ships

Saturday, April 30, was Turtle Day and the local Marine Science Center, which rehabilitates injured shore birds and sea turtles, had a release of some healed pelicans, seagulls, and sea turtles. It was inspiring to see them return to their natural habitats.
Rehabilitated turtle being released back into the ocean.

We also toured (and climbed!) the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse. This is the tallest working lighthouse in Florida and the second tallest in the United States. The exhibits educating about early life in the lighthouse were very interesting. We climbed the 203 steps to the top observation deck. Being scared of heights this wasn't my favorite thing to do but I am glad I did. Even though I kept myself glued to the wall of the observation deck the view was amazing!
Ponce Inlet Lighthouse

Kennedy Space Center was a great learning experience. My husband, oldest son, and myself have been there before but it was the first time for my daughter (8) and my youngest son (6). They were amazed at the rockets and all the exhibits, especially the ones of the Apollo program. Seeing the giant Saturn V rocket is an awe-inspiring sight! Riding the Space Shuttle Experience ride was a first for all of us and we loved it. It was amazing to feel what it is like (as close you can for a simulator) for the astronauts on a shuttle launch.
Saturn V rocket
We also drove through the wildlife trail at the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge. We saw many native birds, an alligator, eagle's nests, crabs, fish, and several manatees all in their natural habitat.
Alligator amongst the mangrove trees.

Brown Pelican

So overall the trip turned out to be very enjoyable, relaxing, and educational even if we did miss seeing the shuttle launch. It will be a week that our family will never forget.

I still have the Space Shuttle Experience unit available in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store for FREE! There are still two space shuttle launches remaining, Endeavour scheduled for May 16, 2011, and Atlantis on June 28, 2011.