#bethedifference Gingerbread Week


He's cute, he's sweet, 
and he doesn't get upset 
when you bite his head off.
Introducing, the Gingerbread Man!

Gingerbread week happens to be one of my favorite times of the school year.  Kids are engaged and eager to participate in learning activities centered around various ginger friends who always seems to be on the run!  

Today I'm writing to share with you some fun resources I found on The Mailbox Gold to enhance my instruction and boost reading engagement with my first graders.

I find engagement to be at it's height when teaching themes.  Setting the stage elicits excitement while meeting the standards.  This week, we will turn my classroom into a sugar sweet learning lab. The entrance includes yummy candy canes and lollipops that flank the classroom doors.  

Using pool noodles and decorative masking tape, you can create whimsical candy canes. For making lollipops and candy, you'll need pool noodles, pvc pipe, paper lanterns and saran wrap. These elements go a long way to providing the wow factor!  

Our winter wonderland wouldn't be complete without a little snow.  Living in Florida, we have to imagine what snow looks and feels like as we roast with temperatures in the 80s.  

To create the effect, my sister and I strung around 10 cotton balls on approximately 3 feet of fishing line. You'll need a needle and a glue stick to complete the task.  Once you have 10 cotton balls, you'll need to space them out in random widths.  Use a dab of glue by rubbing the stick on the areas where the balls are located.  A little glue goes a long way. Cotton won't need much to adhere to the line. 

The focus for this post is reading engagement.  Candy capers will elicit so much excitement. I prepared our reading matrix using delicious candy prints found on The Mailbox Gold.  The site provides blacklines of M&Ms, Gumdrops, Candy Canes, Peppermints and Hersey Kisses.  YUMMY! The matrix will become our instructional focus as we compare various texts of The Gingerbread Series.  Below is a sample of several PDFs available for download.  

Pre-typed comparisons are ready to be attached as we explore each book.  The kids will assist in recording various characters and outcomes on the white board.  At the end of the lesson, I will have my students adhere the pre-typed papers to the chart since the space is limited.  You can always facilitate the discussion to ensure the outcome essentials are provided and match the content in which you prepared in advance.  

One of the first activities we will complete includes a graphing activity.  I bought several packs of Little Debbie Snacks.  Goodness, the kids are excited and this eliminates baking stress on me.  The snacks are sitting on their desk when they arrive.  Their eyes are already glazed over and eager to figure out the direction of the lesson.  

I find completing this task first gives the kids the necessary schema for what gingerbread smells and taste like.  Surprising enough, I have over half my class that's never had a gingerbread cookie before. We often take for granted that our student know and understand the text.  Weaving in various content areas helps develop a deeper meaning.  Bring on a little math with graphing...

Also available on The Mailbox Gold are various gingerbread printables.  I found the different options to meet the various instructional needs.  I used the decorated gingerbread men for our retelling props. The large gingerbread men are programable and used for the matrix. The smaller gingerbread men are used for the graphing activity.  For a visual representation, I cut the gingerbread to match the recording sheet provided by The Mailbox Gold.

Using various comprehension pages from my freebie book companion, I follow up with the different stories using a variety of strategies.  This allows for me to informally check their understanding with a familiar format.  

This repetitive text provides students with confidence as they work on retelling and fluency. The Mailbox Gold provides visual retelling props used in the matrix and below on tongue depressors for use in our drama center.  

My niece helped me work through any challenges I may face in the week.  Madelyn just turned four and found the flaws in my printing, lol!  However, she did a remarkable job as I read the text and she reenacted the parts with the retelling sticks from The Mailbox Gold.  The puppet theater came from The Land of Nod and has been used in my classroom for five years.  

I find the kids ABSOLUTELY love this book and are eager to take the back seat to read while their partner is reenacting...

To build a purposeful theme, I want to weave the topic of gingerbread in each content area.   Tuesday will be full of excitement as I challenge the kids with a stem project.  We will be building a gingerbread house with gumdrops and toothpicks.  This will provide the kids with an understanding of the shapes needed to construct our own gingerbread playhouse for the classroom.  

Once we understand the foundation of a gingerbread house, we will construct one using a furniture box from a local store.  I'm assigning kids to work on various tasks when building our playhouse. My experts will create a few sentences sharing how they completed their task.  We will work to collectively combine their words into a shared "how-to" writing paper which will become a model for their independent papers at the conclusion of the week. The Keeper of the Cheerios has an outstanding visual blog post on how to create a cardboard gingerbread house.

By the end of the week, we will bake gingerbread cookies together, following the step by step directions on the Betty Crocker package.  This allows students to see the value of detailed instruction when teaching someone following your steps.

Our final task for the week will include decorating a gingerbread man while explaining how in their own paper.  This performance writing task will become a portfolio writing sample. 

This week is packed full of themed learning that is sure to make magical memories!  Don't let themes overwhelm you.  You certainly don't have to squeeze in everything.  I find going big builds excitement for learning so I typically do one large theme a month.  Best wishes to you and your littles as you navigate through the holidays!

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post!  I'm thrilled to share a surprise giveaway hosted by The Mailbox.  The Mailbox team has offered one of my readers a giveaway for a $100 Visa Gift Card. Please check this post on Saturday for the announced winner.

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Congrats to Sharon Marie!  
Your winning gift card is in the mail.  Best Wishes!
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