Elf on the Shelf in Your Classroom: 25 Days of Problem Solving

December is SO magical!  I remember my first year of teaching, I was just itching to get the Christmas season started in my room.  As soon as Halloween ended, I couldn't wait to implement all of the fun Christmas traditions I'd been dreaming of and planning all through college.  I waited as long as I could, but I didn't quite make it to Thanksgiving.  *ashamed, I know*  By the time Christmas actually rolled around, we were SO OVER IT!  Even my students were tired of Christmas music!  I was a total humbug that year, and I vowed to never EVER do that again.

And yet, here we are before Thanksgiving talking about CHRISTMAS!  :)  Don't worry, there's a reason!  I'm hosting a giveaway for a fun, new product for December, but I want the winner to have it BEFORE December begins!

The other morning I was in the shower getting ready for the day.  I have a love-hate relationship with showers (love them, HATE drying/curling my hair, and air drying looks like a lion got electrocuted), but I seem to get my best ideas for school in there.  So this little idea popped into my head of a way to do a "middle school/grown up" version of Elf on the Shelf and actually make it fun and educational.  As soon as I got out, I had to just dump all of my ideas out before they got away!  Click HERE to get this product on sale!  It's on sale through 11/20/15!


This set of problems features 25 problem solving and critical thinking problems!  (Mostly 25 because 12 just was NOT enough!)  I thought it would be fun to hide a problem somewhere in the school each morning (nice and early) and students can find and solve it each day.  If they turn it in with a good effort, they get a point.  If they get it right, they get a prize!  I've also thought of incorporating this into my behavior management system where the kids earn letters to a word throughout the day and if they get the word, we get to solve one of these the last 10-15 minutes and then they are entered into a drawing.  I haven't decided yet! 


There are 6 different varieties of student response sheets to fit the needs of you and your students.  I am going to be giving only 1-2 problems a day, so mine will be a quarter-sheet sized paper for each day so that the students have some space to work out their thinking!  Then they can just fold that paper up and enter it in the drawing.  I'm all about making December easy!

Anyway, take a look at some of the sample problems and be sure to enter the drawing on my Instagram account!  @6thgrademarksthespot  Along with the digital file for you and your grade-level team at your school, you'll also receive a set of COLORED questions that are task-card sized that are laminated and cut.  I am so thankful for all of you, so here's my way of saying THANKS to you!

**Please see terms & conditions for entering on Instagram**

A Long, Long Time Ago I Can Still Remember

I know that I'm a day late in getting this posted...since Veteran's Day was yesterday and all, but it just wasn't going to happen.  Sorry y'all!  Fortunately, this is an activity that isn't necessarily a Veteran's Day only activity.  It's terrific for all of November as we turn our focus to gratitude.

When I was getting my arts integration endorsement, we had a few classes on technological arts.  We were challenged to create a video with technology that our students had access to so that we would be familiar with it.  I've made a few movies in my day, but our school has Chrome books, and those don't come preloaded with video editing software.  There WAS an online program called Mozilla Popcorn that is an online video editing program.  And it's my favorite four-letter f-word: FREE!  Unfortunately, they no longer support this service, so...it's not available to make new videos.  :(

It's pretty basic, but, hey, when you're teaching video and movie creation to 11 year-olds, basic is okay!  Our other challenge was to become familiar with Creative Commons licensing for pictures & music.  When I was in junior high, I was in a choir that sang the song "In Flanders Fields."  I loved the song because it was gorgeous, but it wasn't until years later that I understood the meaning.  I decided to create a video that featured the song along with pictures and to use the original poem as a close read for my students to launch a more thoughtful essay on gratitude.  I was worried that my students would totally miss the point and think it was weird, but I should have learned to NEVER EVER underestimate 6th graders.

I had my kids read the poem first without any background.  (At this point, we had done a lot of close reading, so they knew the drill of highlighting, writing, notating, etc. and writing about their first read.)  We talked about it and I asked them what they thought it was about.  The first read most of them said, "I'm kind of confused...what's a lark?"  Ha!  Gotta love kids.  Anyway, I slowly introduced more information before each respective reading: history of the author, the story behind the poem's authorship, and where/what Flanders Field is.  I honestly struggled to hold back tears by the end of the third read as students where pulling out some SERIOUSLY DEEP MEANING!  They were so moved by this short poem.

For the fourth read, I asked them to watch the video and write down their thoughts as it went along.  As the video ended, not a soul moved.  They quietly left my room for lunch, and they frequently talked about how much they enjoyed the lesson.  It's one that I've used again and again because it is so powerful to instill deep gratitude in our students.  After all, we have SO much to be grateful for.

This would be a powerful way to begin a class project of sending letters and packages to troops overseas or to begin a social studies unit on WWI & WWII or The Revolutionary war (or any war really) so that students have a little more respect and understanding for those who have given their lives fighting for freedom.

I'm including the links for the background info and the video I used.  Because of the CC licensing, you are also welcome to use this video and edit it as you wish, so long as you are not seeking financial gain for the video, pictures, etc.  I'd LOVE to hear how it goes in your class!



Ohhhhh my lanta.  This was the project that just wasn't meant to be...according to fate that is.  In the course of my attempt to complete it, I have had to recreate it due to computer (user error, ha!) issues and I had to solve every card twice because I accidentally shredded the first one when I was anger-cleaning.  Yes, that's a thing at my house.  When I get really mad, I clean frantically, but it's usually in haste.  I was tired of the ghastly amount of junk that comes into our mailbox each day, so in anger I went to shred it.  Along with my SHOWN WORK!  Sigh.  But!  It's done!  And I love it!  And it's posted!  If you're interested, click any of the pictures or HERE and they'll link you to my TpT store where it's currently on sale for this weekend! 
Imagine me fistbumping you.  Because I am THAT excited that this is finally LIVE!!!!!!!!! 

I love QR codes!  They make immediate feedback so easy, and what middle schooler doesn't love pulling out their phone without fear?

These cards have multiple versions so that you can use one product with a variety of levels.  One version asks students just to explain how to break the shapes apart without the pressure of calculations.  The other version requires calculation and for students to decide which dimensions are actually necessary-some cards have extraneous dimensions!  It's good for them!

Every teacher needs simplicity in their lives without worrying about compromising the content.  There are multiple student work pages so that you can pick what works best for YOU!

The cards are designed on single pages so that you can pick you'd like to have them printed.  Work mats?  Yup.  Mini task cards?  Just tell the printer what to do!  Every teacher uses task cards so differently, so I want to make sure you get the options to do it just how you want without the hassle! 
I am stoked about these y'all.  Let me know how you use them in your room!  I can't wait to hear!