Did Somebody Say Thematic Teaching?

I know I've seen posts on this topic up somewhere, but I wanted to add in my 2 cents on the subject.

First of all, I LOVE thematic teaching.It makes planning so much easier, when you have a bit of inspiration for which lessons you may choose to do.  Also themes can be fun, and appropriate laughter has been proven to improve student learning. (If you are interested you can read an article from The American Psychological Association about it here).

When I first started teaching I work for an amazing principal, Dr. Cathy Evans-Truitt, who was always telling up to "teach smarter, not harder". It has been my teaching motto ever since. Teaching smarter, not harder means doubling up on concepts you can teach at the same time. For example, If you choose your read alouds to align with concepts taught in your Science or Social Studies curriculum, you are killing 2 birds with one stone. You can also double up on math, and science by having students run an experiment which requires that they record and analyze their data using grade level appropriate math skills.

I used to teach my students library research skills, by telling them if they bring me a book on the topic of the week, we could add an extra "story time" at the end of the day. During that extra story time I just read the book, no stopping to be teacherly, we read to enjoy. My students loved it, and the school librarians took to asking me what next week's theme would be ignored to have some books laid out for my kiddos.

When planning I generally choose a month long umbrella theme, and then 2-4 themes to connect below it. For example, when I taught kindergarten my March Themes were like this:

March: Magical March
Week 1:Weather (Signs of Spring Focus)
Week 2: St. Patrick's Day
Week 3: Fairy Tales
Week 4: Fairy Tales

The month long theme kept everything tied together, and allowed for some things like centers students visited only once a week, to remain the same throughout the month, and still tie back to the weekly themes.

If you are interested in trying to teach a theme week I highly encourage you to do so. You will have fun I promise, and having fun leads to lots of smiling. Smiling has been shown to reduce stress and improve social and emotional intelligence.

My thematic planner looks like this:

It is not my lesson plans, but just my collection of ideas for a theme study. That is why not every box is filled in all the time, and why I may list more things to do in a space then we could really cover in a week. Since I look these over when planning every year I always fill these in in pencil so I can add new ideas and erase off ideas that didn't go so well. I keep all my monthly reproducible sheets in a monthly binder and these pages go right in front. That way when I go to plan each year I have a quick cure for writers block.

I am wondering if I am seriously being too old fashioned here. Do any of you still do thematic planning? If so how do you keep it organized? I would love to hear your ideas too. :)

If you would like to use my planner for thematic units, Grab it for free by clicking on the picture. The first file is a document format so it may not match up well unless you have the noteworthy font. The second file is a PDF form so you can change the topics/center titles to match your needs.
Document Format
Adobe .pdf Format

Also, If you interested in my Oh Leprechaun Fluency Center (It is programmable to practice many different skills), or MyPot of gold Creativity. You can find them at my TpT store.

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Some Sad News

I am sorry to say I have some sad news to share with you all today. Yesterday, we had yet another snowstorm in my little corner of the world. There have been a lot of Sunday snowstorms this year, and we have had some Sunday services cancelled as a result. Church was not cancelled yesterday because the storm was projected to start around 3pm, but began 4 hours earlier.

Our priest had a normal service, and spent time afterwards talking with parishioners. It was about 4 pm when he buckled his 6 children into their minivan and drove a mile down the street to the highway entrance. The snow was getting pretty heavy at about that time. They had not travelled far when Father Matthew lost control of his car which crossed the median and rolled over several times. Father Matthew was thrown from the car, and did not survive, but miraculously his children ages 2-12 survived with only minor injuries.

His wife had been a teacher, but she left the teaching profession, to homeschool their children. As such, she has no income. Someone has set up a go fund me account to raise money for their family and try to help pull them through this difficult time. Please consider, if you can, making a donation of any amount to their family.

Also, if you can pass this one to anyone you know, it would greatly be appreciated.
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Looking for a Super Sweet End of the Year Writing Activity?

My daughter came home from school on Valentine's Day, with the cutest smile on her face. She had her mailbox full of the usual cartoon character valentines with her classmates names written on them, which she quickly tossed on the table with disinterest. She said she had a special envelope to read, and she wanted a cup of cocoa to go with it.

I thought oh no, a crush at 7years old.... get thee to a nunnery.

We made the cocoa, sat down on the couch and opened her envelope. It was full of heartfelt letters written to her by every student in her classroom.

In the eyes and words of her classmates, my daughter is, smart, brave, cute, loyal, fluffy, and a coiete... whatever that one was. My daughter was on cloud nine, and after reading her special letters, folded them up ever so carefully and hid them away in her "secret" place.

I think her teacher is a genius.

Each of her students spent the couple of weeks leading up to Valentine's Day writing 23 letters full of compliments to their classmates. If you don't know the format of a letter after writing 23 of them, I don't know what else can be done for you. Also, what an amazing thing for boosting classroom climate, and personal self-esteem for students! Not to mention the deserts, of knowing that your writing plans for at least a week can say, "Students will work on writing letters to their classmates. Teacher will clean and organize desk monitor and assist students with success full letter writing and drink a cup of coffee while trying not to laugh at how cute their letters are.

I LOVE this assignment.

If you love this idea too, it is not too late to have your students complete this writing assignment for this year. How about writing letters to each other for the last day of school? What a sweet way to end the school year huh? You can of course have students use any paper you like, but if you would like to have a cute paper for them to write on, click the pic below to grab my free one!


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Announcing Free Blogger Backgrounds!

Good evening everyone,

For some time now I've been trying to learn how to write code for website and the like. Generally it's been a lot of banging my head on my keyboard, but I like learning something new, because I was feeling like I was in a bit of a rut.

Today I achieved a mile-stone, for me anyway, and you get to benefit. I have added a page to my blog of free blogger backgrounds I created. So far there are only 2 available, but I hope to add more backgrounds and header images each month. Please check it out and let me know what you think! :)

I would love to do a custom blog design for you for FREE. Yup that's right, for free. I've never done a custom blog design before, and it sounds like a fun next adventure. I think I can handle giving the first 2 people to request a custom blog design a free one. If you are interested please leave a comment, or shoot me an email at carrberrycreations@gmail.com.

Have a great day!

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Hi All!

Just wanted to let you know that the Teachers Pay Teachers one day sale has been extended an additional 24 hours. You can save up to 28% off by using the promo code HEROES when you check out. Everything in my store is 28% off with that code! Enjoy!

Want a freebie button for your blog or store? Grab this one if you like.


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Teachers Pay Teachers is Having a 1-Day Sale

This Wednesday February 25th Teachers Pay Teachers are having a sitewide sale. Everything in my store will be marked 20% off, and you get an extra percentage off when you use the promo code heroes at checkout.

Need a banner for your store? Grab mine here.

Happy shopping!
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Santa's Got it in for Me

I am slightly certain santa has it in for me.
This year for Christmas he brought my 7year old a sewing machine. I can sew a bit. Mostly I can sew straight lines, brownie/cubscout patches, and stuff that doesn't need to last very long at all... Halloween is a bit long lasting for my sewing projects. In other words, I know enough about sewing to know that it is not easy. To make things worse, doll clothes are harder to sew than people clothes because they are so tiny.

But now here we are with a little girl, really excited about sewing for her dollies, and a Mommy contemplating sealing off our chimney next year.

After 2 months of procrastination, I spent most of the day yesterday looking for patterns online for a simple dolly dress for my cutie pie to make. No luck. Fortunately my daughter was sitting with me at the time and we stumbled across this blog post about how to "make" barbies swimsuits without a sewing machine.

My daughter was so excited!

We grabbed out her box of nail polish, and got to work.
Loads to work with

Paint front, let dry, then paint the back

A little Barbie yoga to dry

Pool party anyone?

My daughter absolutely loved the results, and had to ask me every 5 minutes if they were dry enough so take in the tub. I had her wait 1 hour, I don't know if that was necessary or not, but it seemed to go fine.

It was a really fun project, but we still haven't sewed and she is not going to let that one slide for long I'm sure. I did find a easy enough pattern (straight lines) for a summer sundress for her, but as it looks like this out side I think I will try to procrastinate a bit longer. :)

Have a great day!
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Cutie Patootie Tuesday

This time of year is when it all starts to hit me. Testing, paperwork, meetings, scrutinizing data, etc...  I begin to long for the end of testing, in the Spring, when teaching becomes more about the students, and less about the test(s) again. Do you ever feel that way?

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Happy Belated Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day a bit late. This year with a blizzard bearing down on my neck of the woods, going out for a romantic night with my hubby was out of the question. So this year we decided to share valentine's day with all 3 of our kiddos, and we had a blast. They woke up to gigantic boxes of chocolates, Valentine's day Balloons, and new legos. Then had pink died Belgian waffles for breakfast, with strawberry syrup and whipped cream.

The best part of the day was making chocolate covered strawberries with them. I have never had them come out right before, but thanks to an article on NPR that my hubby was listening to they came out perfect, see?
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Freebie Friday With TBA

Happy Lucky Friday the 13th!

Today I'm linking up with Teaching Blog Addict's Freebie Friday, and sharing a sample of my St. Patrick's Day Digital Paper Pack. You can grab 4 free papers today by clicking on the image below, and if you need more you can find them on my store.

Have a Great Friday!

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