February is jam packed with holidays and celebrations!  From Groundhog Day, Black History Month, Valentine's Day and President's Day, it's a lot. 

(And then there was that one year the 100th day of school fell in February thanks to a bazillion snow days!)

For me, all of the celebrations are welcome.  After January drags on and on and on, all the things in February seem to help us move along quickly into Spring!

Plus, as usual, these holidays provide some really great social studies content for first graders.  So let's get started talking about my four favorite February activities! (Hint: one of them is technically NOT for February... but I'm making it fit anyways!)

Black History Month

February is black history month.  In my classroom, we operate on content units.  We have 6 science or social studies based units during the year.  In January, we kick off our unit on Famous Americans with MLK day.  And Black History is a huge part of that Famous People and Inventors unit!

We research each person and chart them on anchor charts.  It's not secret that I love a good shaped anchor chart.  And Black History anchor charts are some of my very favorite.

It is so so important to teach our kids ALL of our history.  Like our own lives, our history is full of highs and lows, light and dark spots, and studying how people overcome adversity and persevere to make the most of their life is invaluable to us all...even 6 year olds!

Read this blog post for more about our Black History month activities and routines.

Valentine's Day + The Wizard of Oz

I know what you're thinking... how in the world are these two things connected??

Well, Valentine's Day is about the time we start our fifth first grade unit on weather.  The Wizard of Oz is our big class read aloud during this weather and cause and effect unit (Hello, tornadoes and severe weather!)

The year we kicked off this "Winds of Change" weather unit with a Oz Valentine's Party was the absolute cutest.  I mean, Pin the Heart of Tin Man and all the cute themed snacks.  

I mean, y'all.  You'll have to see all of the details in this Wizard of Oz Valentine's Party post to understand just how fun this was for our first graders!

President's Day

Another holiday about Famous Americans in February.... see why it's so perfect to be learning about Famous Americans in January and February?!?

We spend some time learning about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln and comparing and contrasting them.  You can read about all the Washington lessons and activities here and the Lincoln lessons and activities here.

Then, these President's Day crafts are easy and adorable February hallway decorations.  

Dr. Seuss

Yes, I Know that Read Across America is in March.  And yes, I know that Dr. Seuss' birthday is March 2nd.  BUT I love to end our mini-study of Dr. Seuss with his birthday.  It's a fun birthday celebration after learning all about him!

In first grade, our Dr. Seuss mini-unit focuses on poetry.  We use his books as a mentor texts for learning to create rhyming sentences and write couplets and short poems!

I don't think there's another writing unit that is more engaging for my first graders that this one!  Read all about our week long mini-unit on Dr. Seuss in this post!

I don't know that there is much that I love more than teaching Preschool Sunday School.  Teaching kids about Jesus is beyond rewarding.  But also, preschoolers are the absolute BEST!  

And I learned eons ago when I started teaching PreK Sunday School that my preschoolers were going to need some hands on engaging activities to help us all survive and thrive our Sunday School hour! :)

Here's a look at 5 of my favorite Sunday School lessons for kids.  (Yes, it was HARD to narrow it down.  So, if you're like me and want to see the entire list, download the free Sunday School pacing guide for all of my lessons PreK - 2nd grade)

The 7 Days of Creation

Well, if we're making a list, we might as well start at the very beginning!

I think I love teaching preschoolers about the seven days of creation because there's so much "preschool stuff" in there.  Counting, the world around us, sequencing...

And while I know my main goal is teaching kids about Jesus, if we can work in some other content with it, my teacher heart calls that a win!

You can read all of the details about these lessons and activities in this 7 days of Creation blog post.

God Gives Family

This families of the Bible unit is another one I love because of the extra content we can add in there.  I love teaching these lessons in between Mother's Day and Father's Day.  And any Bible unit that can teach kids more about their world--like family--is a big win!

These family units have all of the favorites: family Bible stories, handprint crafts, and engaging exploration stations.  Read more about these Family Bible lessons in this blog post.

Moses & Manna Games

Games are another HUGE hit for my preschoolers.  This Manna game during our Moses unit goes down as one of the forever favorites for my littles!

It's super low prep, and has such a huge impact!  Find out how to play in this blog post on the Manna game from our Moses unit.

The Fruit of the Spirit

If you can't teach 'em with games, teach 'em with FOOD!  This Fruit of the Spirit unit was one of the first Bible units I ever wrote.

I love how well the Fruit of the Spirit goes with character education that we do so much with younger kids.  And adding fresh fruit snacks made it even better and more engaging!

This Fruit of the Spirit stamping book is one of my all time favorites and is sure to have you kids licking their lips and learning how to be more like Jesus all at the same time!  Read our routines for the stamping Fruit of the Spirit book here.

Love One Another

Another thing I love to do with Sunday School lessons is connect them with holidays.  Christmas and Easter are obvious ones for Sunday School.  But I also love making Bible units for Thanksgiving and for Valentine's Day.

Why is Valentine's Day not a more religious holiday?  I mean, God's greatest two commandments are LOVE God and LOVE others.... how have we missed this opportunity?!? :)

In Preschool Sunday School, exploration stations are one of our favorite routines.  This is a time for kids to come in to the class and start playing and exploring with something related to our lesson or unit. 

And this Love One Another unit is no different!  Read more details about this Love One Another unit here.

What is your favorite thing to teach in Sunday School?

It's the first of January and snow is already in our 5-day forecast.  That's super early for us here in Arkansas.  And it's putting me in the mood for some of my favorite January lesson plans and activities for kindergarten and first grade.  

So, get your lesson plans out and ready, because I'm giving you 4 of my go to January activities for kindergarten or first grade.  

New Year's Writing Craft

This is my go to activity to start off the new year in the classroom.  We spend time talking about what goals are and I chart key words we brainstorm when talking about our goals. 

Then, I model choosing one word as my classroom goal for the year.  Kids also choose their own one word goal for our classroom for the remainder of the year.  They write about their word, why they chose it and how they are going to work on that goal.

Once their writing is finished, we make the craft!  This is always a kid favorite and they look so so cute in the hallway during January.  To learn more, read the details on this January New Year's writing craftivity.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Writing Craft

Once we get through the New Year, we jump right into MLK.  We spend January and February learning about famous people in history. Martin Luther King, Jr. is the first one on that list!

We read and research and read and research a LOT! :)  We chart our learning.

We talk about sifting through all of the facts to find the important facts.

Finally, we are ready to write about what makes Martin Luther King, Jr. so important in our history.  


Click to read all the details about our Martin Luther King, Jr. lessons.

Snowman Independent Craft

When I taught kindergarten for a maternity leave, independent crafts were a big part of our literacy stations!  In our creation station, we posted an example of the craft with all of the materials and templates they needed.  

The kids LOVED making their crafts each month (I did two crafts a month and two directed drawings in this station)!  I was nervous about how well they would handle this station, but it was one of the most well-behaved, on-task stations we had.

This snowman craft is my favorite winter craft that we did. And who doesn't love painting with q-tips?!?

As each kid finished their craft, we posted it on the wall by the station for more examples of our crafts!

For my first grade friends... I had a creation station in first grade too, but with the added requirement that they write about their creation when they finished.  Kinders could easily do this during the second semester as well.

You can find this snowman craft in these January Creation Stations or the whole year of craft station ideas here.

Text Evidence Lessons

Last, but not least, text evidence lessons are a HUGE part of the second half of first grade.  We spend time modeling this before Christmas as well, but the focus shifts to text evidence during the second semester.

We talk about going back to the text to answer questions about the text.  And we get out HIGHLIGHTERS!  Which is a huge hit for 6 and 7 year olds!

I model this when we are doing whole group lessons, like reading about Martin Luther King, Jr. in January like we talked about earlier.  When I ask a question about the text, we go back to the text and highlight how we know that to be the correct answer.

Is small groups, I start introducing reading comprehension passages with questions and we practice highlighting our answers in the text together.  They LOVE passage days in small groups!

You can read here to learn more about our text evidence routines in first grade.

Writing is one of those subjects in lower elementary where there isn't a lot of guidance other than our writing standards.  In the classroom, I'm constantly trying to figure out the best way to improve my first graders' writing...without a real district curriculum to follow.

Thanks to the science of reading, we've learned that tying writing to reading with reading response is best practice.

But still, when I stare at my first graders' writing all I can see are more things we need to work on.  So, how do you choose what to focus on for your writing mini-lesson?  How do you decide what skill to attack first?  Or what skills are worth your time?

Let's chat about how I used our writing rubrics to guide our writing lesson topics.

Sequencing Writing Skills

I don't have a specific scope and sequence for teaching writing skills because it really just depends on my kids.  

But, in general, I start the beginning of the year working on mechanics.  We are literally writing one or two sentences over and over and mastering capitals, punctuation, spacing, handwriting, and sounding out words.

We make this anchor chart together and do a LOT of silly sentence writing!

We use our writing checklist rubrics for this part so that kids are constantly going back and "editing" to make sure their mechanics are on grade level with our checklist writing paper.

Once we have our mechanics down, we move to different types of writing and begin using our writing rubrics.  Our district tells us which order to teach writing types in, but most often we start with informative writing.

Again, there is no hard or fast rule on sequence, but I generally work on the content section of our rubric after our first few weeks of mechanics work.  Then, we work on language and sentence formation as needed.

Prioritizing Missing Writing Skills

Let's get down to the nitty gritty.  When I am planning our writing lessons, I have the rubric out for the writing genre we are working on.  

We start working on content so we can learn the characteristics of a particular writing genre.  I literally go through that checklist in the "3" or on grade level column and make sure we work through that together.  

So, the first day, I might introduce the entire structure of the paragraph.  Then, another day, we may really focus on introduction sentences or supporting facts for informative writing.   

At the beginning, I don't show the entire rubric to the kids.  I just show them the area we are working on, like content.

These mini-rubrics have the same checklists and wordings as the big rubric, but they just focus on one area so that it's less overwhelming for the kids.  When we are farther into learning a writing genre, I pull out the entire rubric so kids are familiar with it and can use it to check their own writing.

As I'm planning, I'm thinking about what most of my kids are struggling with on the rubric.  And that becomes our focus for writing that day or week.

Peer Editing

As you may have guessed, we use the small rubrics for one area to peer edit or self-check the kids' writing.  I have the kids check their own writing alone or with a peer and fill out a mini-rubric slip to attach to their writing. 

Then, I call them back a few at a time to check with them.  I fill out the same slip in a colored pen so that they (and parents) can see the difference in how the student assessed his/her writing and how I did and if we agreed or disagreed.

It is SUPER important for kids to be involved in evaluating their writing from even the first week or school.  It helps kids understand expectations, helps them look for and correct their own mistakes, and it can be a powerful tool to guide our writing lessons if we let it!

You can find the writing rubrics I use, including the checklists, writing paper, and mini-rubrics here.

Christmas is my SECOND favorite holiday. (Thanksgiving girl all the way right here, y'all!)  And I love learning and celebrating Christmas in the classroom, too!  Here are 3 of my favorite ways to learn and celebrate Christmas in the classroom.

Christmas Around the World

I remember when I was an elementary school kid and we learned about Christmas traditions around the world.  It's one of my fondest memories as a student and one of my favorite things to teach as a teacher!

My favorite way to teach this is with my team.  We each take on a country and then rotate our kids through our classrooms.  Some years, we did a "Christmas around the world" rotation every afternoon until we rotated through all of them.  Other years, we took 2 days and all we did was rotate through Christmas tradition classrooms. 

The kids LOVE learning about how different people celebrate similar holidays differently.  And I love helping them see how the United States is really just a melting pot of so many older traditions!

The best part about Christmas around the world is that it's not fluff.  At least in Arkansas, these lessons tie in nicely with our state social studies standards in learning about traditions, holidays, and customs around the world! #winning

You can read more about how we do Christmas around the world in this blog post!

Pancakes, Pajamas, & Polar Express

It's not Christmas in the classroom without a Christmas (or Winter) party!  Our first grade winter party was my favorite all year.  And it alliterates which makes it even better!! :)  Pancakes, PJs, and Polar Express!

If you haven't tried a breakfast party at Christmas, you are missing out.  Truth bomb:  Kids come to school on party day jacked up and ready for the party at the end of the day.  Reigning them in until the party is a next-to-impossible feat.

That's why a Christmas breakfast party is so genius.  Kids came to school in their pajamas and got to "party" right away.  I (and some parent volunteers) made pancakes for our Christmas breakfast party with all the fun toppings. My favorite is building Rudolph pancakes together!

And while we called this a "breakfast party," we also ended the day with hot chocolate and the Polar Express movie.  You can read all the details for this party in this blog post.

The Christmas Story

As a Christian teacher, nothing beats being able to teach my kids the REAL meaning of Christmas.  Of course, this is a no-no in public schools where I taught for 10 years.

But it is an absolute HIGHLIGHT in my preschool Sunday School class.  Preschoolers are one of my favorite ages because they are so literal, hilarious, and help remind you that play is the key to learning.

Each Christmas, we bring out the kids play nativity set to play and "rehearse" the birth of Jesus Christ. 

We play games.  We make Christmas sensory bins.  We make ornaments.  But most importantly, we talk about Jesus' birth and what it means to us all during our play and exploration.  You can find all these activities here and read more about the lessons in this blog post.

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