Posted in Miscellaneous

How the Teacher Stole Christmas

‘Twas the week before Christmas break, and all through the room, not a student was on-task, the teacher felt doomed.

As the holidays approach, it becomes increasingly difficult for students (and often teachers) to want to be at school. Instead, they are excited thinking about what presents they are giving and getting, the trip they might be going on, caroling, eating cookies, and lots of other fun holiday baubles.

However, academic work still needs to happen that week before break. Many teachers end up feeling like the Grinch as they struggle to have their students do even the most basic academic tasks.


Is there a solution to this?


Since students are so excited about Christmas, why not integrate it into your academic work?

To further explain, let’s use that mean old Grinch as an example.

At the beginning of the day, read Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas to familiarize all students with the book. Then, have the rest of the day themed around the Grinch.

Reading: Besides just reading the book yourself, why not let your students perform in some reader’s theater? This is a great way for your students to practice fluency and comprehension. The best part is, students will be having so much fun, they probably won’t even realize they’re learning.

One reader theater’s script for the Grinch:

Science: Can hearts actually grow three sizes? If not, what can?

Learn a little bit about the human body. Is it actually possible for hearts to grow three sizes?  See what you and your students can discover.

As we know, hearts don’t actually grow three sizes, but maybe there are other materials that can. Have your students experiment with different materials such as sponges, the instant-grow towels (you can usually find these at dollar stores), potato pearls, and more. Just add water and see what can grow three sizes.

Math: We all know that the Grinch lives just north of Whoville, but do your students know their 3-dimensional shapes? Do students know that a Christmas tree is basically a cone and that homes are actually pentagonal prisms?

Depending on the age of your students, they could learn the names of these 3-D figures and actually create them. Using all of these newly made 3-D figures, you can create your own “Whoville.” Or maybe even find the volume of a Christmas tree.

Writing: As Dr. Seuss famously wrote, “‘Maybe Christmas’ he thought, ‘doesn’t come from a store.  Maybe Christmas means a little bit more!’” This a great springboard into a journal prompt.

Besides journal prompts, students could also learn to imitate Dr. Seuss’ famous rhyming style. Talking about rhyme, and even writing your own Christmas poem, is another great academic activity that you can derive from the Grinch.

Perhaps academics can include a little bit more?  Although the book example and activities in this post are for elementary school teachers, teachers in secondary settings can still use this same principle. If you’re an English teacher, why not discuss Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol?  Or if you’re a history teacher, you could discuss the Christmas Day truces during WWI?  There’s tons of cool dry ice experiments you can use in science classes as well.

Although all of your teaching shouldn’t focus on the holidays, utilizing them can be a very engaging and academic part of December.

Posted in Miscellaneous

Brave New World

This is my last week as a student at BYU. No, I don’t graduate until April, but this marks the last week of attending classes at BYU. Starting in January, I’ll be teaching my own classes at a nearby middle school, trying to inspire preteen minds the way I’ve been inspired by so many teachers and peers here at BYU. It’s exciting and nerve-wracking, wonderful and scary all at the same time. I’ll be sad to no longer be on campus every day, but I know that I will always remember the time I spent here. Here are a few of the important lessons that have stayed with me while learning how to be a teacher:

  • Planning is important. It also takes a lot more time than you think it will, especially at first. Planning a good lesson doesn’t always guarantee success, but you’ll feel so much more prepared to tackle anything that happens during the school day.

  • Classroom management is more than discipline. It means having clear expectations and holding students to a higher standard. A large chunk of management is simply prevention.

  • Teaching is constantly evolving, and it’s important to keep up. This can include staying up to speed on the latest technology or becoming part of a teacher’s organization to learn how to teach better. Even following blogs like this one can help you get new ideas on how to improve your classroom.

  • Being a good teacher is more than just giving tests and homework. Being a good teacher is about developing relationships with your students and seeing them as their own little people.

  • Christ is the ultimate teacher. He knew and loved His students and exactly what they needed to be taught. He never gives up on His students and is always willing to help those who ask for it. He has almost impossibly high expectations, but He also is there for us every step of the way.

  • Teaching is hard. Teaching is rewarding. I don’t think any of us thought we were just taking an easy route when we signed up to be teachers, but I think we knew that we wanted to make a difference.

And with these words, I go out into the real world, hoping that I can be that difference.

Posted in Miscellaneous

Peter Pan

As a child, you think of field trips as a fun get away from the monotonous classroom schedule. You get to go somewhere new and experience different things. It is exciting and filled with good times. You don’t think of it as an educational experience, but with every good field trip comes learning.

During practicum, my second grade class went on a field trip to Salem Hills High School to watch their production of Peter Pan. The students enjoyed it very much and talked about it for the rest of the day. They thought it was just a fun field trip away from school and they thought they didn’t have anything to learn from the play.

But like I said, with fun field trips comes learning. My very experienced mentor teacher knew exactly how she was going to tie this play into the curriculum. She had the class pull out their Writer’s Notebooks and write a thank you letter to the high school for inviting them. They were learning how to write letters, as well as practicing spelling. On top of all of that, they were also learning the importance of common courtesy. Also, they were able to develop their creativity and imagination.

Teachers may have to put a lot of work into setting up a field trip and they do not come free, but it keeps learning fun and engaging. Field trips can tie so perfectly into the curriculum or the teacher can find ways to tie the curriculum into the field trip. It’s a win-win situation.


What kind of field trips do you want to take your class on? How will you tie it to the curriculum?

Do Kids Really Need Recess?

Just like my young friends in this video, recess was not only my favorite part of the school day when I was in elementary school-it was essential! Do you remember the rush of excitement that bubbled inside of you when it was time to hit the playground? It was awesome! It seems, though, that over the years playtime has been steadily dwindling. With new standards and expectations imposed on public schools, many are cutting back on recess to provide more time for students to learn in the classroom.

Some teachers enjoy having more time during the day to cover important curriculum, and many report that their students are still able to focus even without recess. And fewer fights and injuries on the playground have certainly pleased some parents. However, other parents and numerous child development experts agree that recess is essential for children’s development. Studies show that recess time benefits every aspect of their development, including social, emotional, cognitive, and physical. Despite this convincing evidence, 40 percent of American public schools do not provide recess time for their students. So the question remains, do kids really need recess?

ImageI have very strong opinions about this issue, and honestly, I do not believe it is a matter of opinion. There is overwhelming evidence to show that children must have sufficient time to play in order to develop properly. Child and Adolescent Development in Your Classroom, a textbook that discusses the foundations of child development, suggests some important ways that play is essential in the classroom. “Play promotes school success and achievement. It enhances cognitive development through exploration and problem solving. It fosters imagination and creativity. It also enhances social development, communication, and motor skills, such as handwriting. Students who play cooperatively are liked better by peers, which promotes liking of school and motivation in the classroom. Play is also a legitimate classroom activity because students learn through play (Bergin & Bergin, 2012).” Too many educators view playing as a disruption of students’ learning. It is not! There are so many ways play can be useful in classrooms if teachers will incorporate it into their instruction.

The textbook adds that recess does indeed help children focus better. “When students have longer periods of time before recess, their attention wanes, but immediately following recess, they are significantly more attentive (Bergin & Bergin, 2012).” I remember like it was yesterday that this was the case when I was in elementary school! And anyone who has ever been around children will understand the impossibility of teaching them when they get antsy. Even now that I’m in college, taking breaks from studying and class instruction is essential for my ability to focus.

ImageInterestingly, some studies suggest that the rising number of children with ADHD may be due, in part, to the decreasing amount of playtime in schools. In fact, children with ADHD may need even more playtime than other children during the school day. What are we doing to our children? Furthermore, it seems that the decreasing amount of playtime in school is closely linked to a decrease in playtime outside of school. The textbook points out that “students are more likely to be driven to school rather than walk with friends…[and] they are more likely to replace neighborhood play with TV watching (Bergin & Bergin, 2012).” Schools can’t control the lack of play at home, but this natural decrease in children’s play at home should be an even greater source of motivation for schools to provide sufficient playtime during the school day.

One last point I want to make is that American public schools are nowhere near where they once were in comparison to other countries. Our schools have fallen far below their potential. I believe that the growing intolerance of playtime in school is a factor in this decline. Studies have found that countries with higher achieving students than America provide more time during school for play. For example, Finland’s education system is one of the highest-achieving in the world. Its students have 15 minutes of playtime for every 45 minutes of instruction. Asian countries, as well, provide twice as much recess time for their students than America does (Bergin & Bergin, 2012).

happy-kids-in-classroomFor me, the issue comes down to this: let kids be kids! If schools are concerned that their students are not performing well, then maybe it’s time to reevaluate the curriculum or improve the quality of teaching. Taking valuable time away from children to grow and develop through play is not the answer. It is clear to me that playtime is not only helpful for children’s social, emotional, cognitive, and physical development, it is essential! And there are so many ways that play can be used as a tool in the classroom to facilitate learning. As schools and teachers throughout America recognize this and incorporate more time in the school day for play, their students will be more successful, and America will be one step closer to reaching its potential.

What are your thoughts about providing more recess time for elementary school children? Do you support or oppose this action? Why?


  • Bergin, C.C. & Bergin, D.A. (2012). Child and Adolescent Development in Your Classroom. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

  • Hayes, Lisa, Wacyk, Linda. (n.d.). Major School Issues: Do Kids Really Need Recess?