February 26, 2017

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December 12, 2015

Our Family's Best Christmas Traditions

Deck the Halls:

The McClendon Family has THE BEST CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS EVER!!! I would love to share this post with you and your family in hopes of helping you find the perfect traditions to build a lifetime of memories.  First and foremost we spend the better part of three days decorating the house.  Each room has a Christmas theme.  Yes, it took a few years to develop and collect the decor but since Christmas is my passion I was always at the BEST after- Christmas sales on December 26.  

The picture in the top left corner is the kitchen which has a gingerbread theme.  Everything from tea-towels to ornaments have a similar theme.  The dishes tell the story of "Twas the Night Before Christmas" but the centerpiece has the gingerbread trees to tie it all together.

The dining room in the top right picture has a winter wonderland theme.  Everything from sleds to snowmen can be found among the decor.  This is my husband's favorite tree.  Since the dishes have green trees with pink gifts, I've put small wrapped boxes in the garland that surrounds the chandelier.  I've also included small packages using pink, green, silver, and turquoise in the centerpiece to tie the dishes to the theme.  I love how the gifts can be tucked under a candlestick or decorative piece to make them a bit taller and more interesting.

The living room in the bottom left picture is my favorite.  This room has a nativity theme.  Everything from nativity sets to unique angels are used to enhance the true reason for the season.  This year, I put the green, gold, and bronze ornaments in a spiral pattern throughout the tree for something different.  I have ten or twelve special nativity sets that I have collected on my travels from countries like Japan, Egypt, Israel, Italy, and Germany but my all-time favorite is a painted roof tile from Portugal with Mary and the Christ-child.

Last but not least, is the den with a Santa theme.  I started collecting Santa ornaments the first year Mike and I married so this tree has some priceless memories on it's branches.  I have the full collection of Department 56 "All Through the House" which has been retired for several years now. I display them in a built-in book case.  With my recent redecoration of the master bedroom, I have used a tree with vintage ornaments in a leopard and sage theme. Since I no longer had a place to display my Snow Village, I wrapped open boxes and sat them inside as if a lighted village had just been unwrapped.

Traditions for a Lifetime of Memories

Almost every year I am lucky enough to set a table for 12 guests for our Christmas Eve dinner. I place an English Cracker near each plate and hide $6 under each place setting.  In advance, an almond is carefully pushed inside one of the crackers. Once the dinner is over we "crack" our English Crackers to reveal who has the almond.  The winner gets the $25 Target gift card that is wrapped on the table.  

Of course, we all have to wear our paper crowns while we play the McClendon version of "Left, Right, Center".  We each gather our 6 one dollar bills and go around the table each rolling one die.  If a 6 is rolled the person has to put one dollar in the CENTER of the table. (Notice the word center has 6 letters.)   If a 5 is rolled the person has to hand one dollar bill to the person on their RIGHT.  (Right has 5 letters.)   If a 4 is rolled the person has to give one dollar bill to the person on their left.  (Left has 4 letters.)  Got it?
If a one, two, or three is rolled then the person just keeps their money for this round.  The die continues to make its way around the table and a pile of ones begin to form in the center of the table.  Eventually two or three people are the only ones playing but the players can easily change since a roll of 4 or 5 can send those last few dollars to the person on the left or right. Occasionally one person may be the only one left with 2 or 3 dollars but the game doesn't stop there.  The winner must have the very last dollar.  With our large crowd of 12, the winner gets $72.   However, recently we have been playing two rounds with 4 dollars in the first round and 2 dollars in the second round.   That way the first winner receives $48 and the second winner gets $24.  The teenagers love this game but I must admit the little ones often win.  

In the top right picture, you will notice a pickle hidden within the tree branches.  This is a German tradition that we have adopted.  Whoever, locates the pickle on the tree gets to open the first present.  I love how everyone begins looking at the details and finding those special memories along their mission of locating the pickle.  For some, they begin looking as soon as they arrive rather than wait till its time to open the presents.  

Our family also writes Christmas cards to each person at the table.  Some make their own and others simply write corny wishes.  But I have saved years of funny and serious well-wishes for each family member year after year and we enjoy reading them to see how our lives, and passions have changed throughout the years.

Uncle Gene is also known for calling on Christmas Eve to be the voice of a long distance SANTA for the little ones.  That always brings excitement and wonder to the festivities.  The older kids and younger ones begin interacting with their favorite Santa memories.

I must mention the last few family traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation throughout my side of the family.  Mike, the patriarch, always reads the Christmas Story in Luke prior to opening our gifts to reinforce the birth of Christ as the true meaning of Christmas.  If and when the little ones spend the night at our house, Mike and I always have a few rounds of "swinging in the sheets".  We both simply take the ends of a sheet or light-weight blanket and lay those little-ones inside as we lift it off the ground and begin swinging them side to side as they lay in the sheet.  On the count of ten, we bounce the little-one onto the bed and the next little-one crawls in for their turn. This could last for hours if our strength would allow it.  We've had to make a rule that once you've had your 8th birthday, the tradition becomes a memory to save until you have your own little-one.  Another tradition my parents have passed down through the years is to always greet one another with the term "Love you BIG BIG".  We all sign our letters or notes to one another with that salutation and even my daughters had it inscribed into their husband's wedding rings.  

These traditions recreated or replicated year after year are what make the McClendon Christmas the best ever!  Whether they are young at heart or young in years, everyone loves coming to the McClendon's  for Christmas!

May you have a blessed holiday and find the perfect traditions to build into your family celebrations.   Love one another BIG BIG!

Holiday Linky Party

I'm linking up with Southern Fried Teachin

 Brain Breaks - Whip Around Trivia Game


August 20, 2015

Classroom Discussions on Real-Life Dilemmas

It's time to download your next set of 4 thinking strategies HERE.  This set includes the following thinking strategies:
*  Dependency-Inter-dependency
*  Design
*  Details
*  Dilemma

Each of these 4 strategies can be skillfully used to jump-start the thinking process.  I especially enjoyed discussing dilemmas with my gifted and talented students.  Here's a few examples.

 People everywhere face important dilemmas each day.  Making good decisions and weighing the outcome is a valuable skill for students to acquire.  Consider the following dilemmas.

  • In 1775, early settlers faced a dilemma when Lieutenant Moore, Commander of an armed British vessel demanded they load their lumber onto the ship to build barracks for the British troops in Boston.  If they refused, they faced hunger or even death but if they complied, they betrayed the American cause.  What should they do?
  • On a return journey, Christopher Columbus noticed that his compass headings did not agree with the sightings of the North Star (Polaris).  Should he trust the compass or have faith in his belief that Polaris is true north?  The wrong decision could send the fleet too far north into the cold and dangerous waters of the northern Atlantic. Which navigational tool would you trust?
  •  International trade is a growing industry. Large ships carrying cargo around the world must use ballast water to safely maneuver the vessel.  Ballast water transports organisms half a world away where the balance of predator and prey does not exist.  This dangerous practice is costing billions of dollars and contaminating food supplies.  What alternatives or solutions should be considered?

August 8, 2015

4 More Thinking Strategies to Entice our Students to Think Critically

I am excited to share the third set of task cards showing 4 additional thinking strategies from my collection of 45 iDazzle Thinking Apps.  These 45 Thinking Strategies are proven to be effective in all 4 core subject areas and in grades K-12.  Download your copy HERE

This is a fun example of how I have taught the Data App.  Without any explanation, I like to ask the participants in my workshop to use a sticky note to indicate which simple machines they used the previous day.  Below is the slide shown on the PowerPoint.

The teachers usually place one or two sticky notes in the appropriate spot of the chart paper to indicate which simple machine they used.  The sticky notes are placed one on top of another in order to resemble a bar graph.  Then I figure the percentage of how many used each of the six simple machines yesterday.  Below is the results of a recent workshop.

In this case, there were 28% of the teachers had used an inclined plane the day before, 31% used a wedge and only 22% used a screw.  16% used a pulley, 28% used a lever and 84% used a wheel and axle.  Now, its time for some fun!!!!   I switch the presentation to this slide:
I give them a moment to look over the many simple machines in our everyday life and then explain that only 28% of the people in the room flushed the toilet yesterday.  16% didn't wash their hands using a water faucet.  After a bit of laughter, I emphasize that the BIG IDEA to our activity is that some DATA we collect may not be accurate and perhaps needs a second look.
Collecting, organizing, and analyzing data is an important skill for our students to master.  There are so many thought-provoking tasks that can occur during the process.  I hope you enjoy collecting all 45 task cards and encourage your students to think creatively and critically along the way.

August 2, 2015

I'm Participating in the Tried and True Linky Party

As a new blogger, I thought it would be great to participate with an innovative group of teachers offering "tried and true" activities and tips for the first day of school.

My favorite "tried and true" activity for the first day is to play a fun, interactive, trivia game.
The true and false quiz will feel more like a game as students "whip-around" to compare their answer with their partner's answer choice.  The room fills with excitement as students pair up and get their brains energized.  They aren't expected to know the answer but learning the information in a brain activated way is so much fun.  Besides, those active bodies are up, moving around and getting to interact with new friends. How fun is that?

 Click HERE to check out the preview.

The best part of this activity, is that you will engage in a brain-break teaching activity which you can adapt and use over and over to help hook your students into the content you are about to introduce as the school year continues.  You've laid the foundation for engagement throughout the year!

As an introduction or exit activity to content driven lessons, three or four questions are sufficient to arouse student curiosity.  Once they know how to play, it's quick and easy to get a short assessment of a student's new knowledge and understanding.

This set of  trivia activities will fill approximately 20 minutes in three different settings as students learn interesting facts they are eager to share or discuss with others.  It sets the stage for year-long content-driven fun!

August 1, 2015

I met Farley in Vegas ~ Here's My "Currently" Post

At the TpT Conference in Las Vegas, I met Farley from "Oh Boy, Fourth Grade".  We met at the initial gathering just before the sessions began.  Her friend from "Crazy Town" told me about her blog and how successful it has been.  Several talked about being part of the linky event called "Currently".  So fast forward...here I am linking on to the August "Currently".

Currently, I am listening to the best book on Audible by Mary Kay Andrews.  She's my newly found favorite author this year.  I'm currently listening to "Save the Date" and I read "Ladies Night Out" in May.  "The Fixer Upper" is next on the list.
I'm loving these last few weeks of summer.  I can't believe fall is around the corner.  The "to-do" list is completely full.  I still have all those appointments to make that I never seem to make time for during the school year.

My husband and I have a quick trip to make before summer ends.  We are off to Charleston and Savannah.  Hopefully, there will be a great summer breeze and we can walk along the beach and enjoy the time together.  I almost feel guilty that summer is almost over and I haven't had much time to spend with my parents.  Our time together is special but I wish they lived closer.

My B2S Random Act of Kindness (RAK) is letting my two favorite teachers know that I am here to help.  There is so much to do with setting up a classroom, designing lessons, gathering materials for work stations, and organizing management systems. I'm ready and willing to dive into the challenge!

Go check out Farley's blog, "Oh Boy, Fourth Grade.  Link-up and check out her new give-away!