Learning on Holiday


This weekend, for my 40th birthday, our family is headed on a grand adventure to Hawaii. The last couple weeks have been spent gathering teaching material and creating fun projects for my 3, 5 and 7 year old children.  In order to make the most of space, I’ve tried to come up with projects that don’t require a lot of storage but still spark creativity. During our trip, I plan to blog about our family learning adventures.  We hope to travel and learn on the go creating a classroom without walls. We are excited about the learning possibilities and adventures we will have with our kids!  Here are some of the projects I’ve created, so far.

Travel Journals 

With the different age levels in mind, I created personalized journals.  Designed not to be to labor intensive, I want the children to be excited and enjoy writing in their logs. For my preschool child, he can circle the type of activity & weather and rate the day.  Then he can draw a simple picture while I write down one sentence about his drawing. For my kindergartener she can also circle the type of activity, weather and rate the date. Additionally there is a space for a picture and sentence prompts for details about each day. For my 2nd grade child, I have the same as the 5 year old but with words rather then emoticons to rate the day.

This year, I bound each of their journals into a fun personal book.  First, I added a blank page to each side of the book.  I then hauled out my sewing machine and stitched one side of the book for a spine. Using a sticky back foam pages, I attached it one to the front and the second to the back to create the cover.  Using patterned duct tape, I reinforced around the outside cover for a finished look. Originally I was just going to tape the spine, however the sticky foam continued have edges that popped up and I figured this would make it easy for children to take the book apart.  So, I ended up taping around each side.

Learning Modules

The teachers are sending home some of the material they are covering in class but this holiday gives me the opportunity come up with create projects and writing prompts for my students. So with that in mind, I created different modules for three children.

1st up is my preschooler.  Found on Mrs. D’s Corner, I absolutely love her morning work binder.  I purchased, downloaded and modified to fit my little one’s needs.  In this binder, I have practice for learning to spell his name, his street address, phone number and understanding weather.  To add to this idea, I designed suitcases that I laminated for all my kids to practice packing according the season, putting the months and days in order and housing their personal information for the velcro sheets.  Towards the back of the binder, I also found some fantastic clip art story boards to use with dry erase markers.

Each of the girls have a binder/folder filled with projects and activities. There is music and movement, a Hawaii Glyph, a short play, reading comprehension for the older and following directions for the younger.  I’ve also included a variety of working with words and language development for each girls designed for their level.  Each girl has a daily activity that I used a few years ago while teaching in Colorado. This one page is chalk filled with daily math uses.  There is number of the day with ten frames, hundred charts, calendar, patters, temperature, clock, analogies and either sentence editing or site word practice.  Then, there is my favorite section, writing lessons.

Writing Projects

During our time away, I have created a variety of writing prompts themed for our time on the island.  There is a prompt for creative stories, procedural writing and comic.  I also created a movie strip from a suitcase to design a picture story.  Each prompt can be used for a variety of levels by offering more or less help when writing stories.  I am also taking a few blank books for when inspiration hits or to save brochures and pictures from the island.


Our evening routine is not complete without story-time.  With that in mind, I looked for island themed books.  Here are some of the Hawaii books we found. Some are on kindle with others are paperback.



Sight Word Adventures!


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During Christmas vacation, my 5 year old was motivated to practice reading. However, for her, isolated words are a struggle. In order to make the sight words more meaningful, I tried a variety of ways to help encourage her learning.

Meaning in Print


I LOVE the Target dollar bins. There are all sorts goodies you can find for teaching.  Often this section has an empty book bundle in sets of 8.  These books can be used for all sorts of projects.  Here is how we used them recently:

Family Book: My mom and sister gets credit for this genius.  For a Christmas present my Mom came up with the idea of personal story starters.  My children love coming up with stories from these adorable pictures.  So, the other night, we played a family game.  We took turns drawing a card and writing part of a story.  In one of the blank books, I scripted the adventure as the family spun the tale.  We were all in a fit of giggles as the saga unfolded.  After the story was complete, we highlighted sight words in the book and let the three kids decorate.  They have now re-read the story many time and added extra details and shared with friends.  Thank you Mom and Auntie B. for creating such a wonderful Christmas gift!


We also used these blank books to create personal site words books.  Choosing two or three of the words per book, my 5 year old helped write her story. Then I”boxed” the “missing” sight-word.  There are a variety of ways to make this project fun but for this round, I secured an envelope inside the front cover (to hold the words or tools).  Next I taped the covered the words written with packing tape.  Now as she reads the sentences, she can write in missing words with an expo, fill in the words with a missing card or use a “star” sick to read her sight-words.  Not only does this add meaning to the site words but it offers a chance for her to practice reading in a fun way.

Personal Game

Another Christmas gift,  a chalk board table runner, was sent to us from our good friends. I LOVE this present! It’s reusable, fun and interactive!  Over the whole runner, I drew chalk flies & bumble bees and filled each in with sight-words.  Next I placed the same words on paper and added a little spider inside the mix. Then I gave them each a mini fly swatter. The rules were as follows:

  • Pick a card from the box, read, find and swat the insect.  You have 20 seconds.
  • Pick the spider, create a sentence from one of the words on the board.
  • Continue until all the words are swatted.
Treasure Hunts

Also from the Target dollar bin, I found individual chalk boards.  To make our road trip (over 20 hours) more fun, I gave them each a word (or letter for the three year old) of the day.  They had to locate and find their personal word in bulletin boards, street signs or a different stops along the way. Every time they got in and out of the card they also read their word.

Yesterday, my oldest created and designed a treasure hunt sight-word game!  She wrote clues on note cards but left a spot blank for a sight word.  On the back of the card were three sight words as choices to fill in the blank.  Once the sight word was filled in, it told us where to go next. About 10 cards were created in total.  S. took us on a fun sight-word scavenger hunt!! Impressive my little 7 year old, I’m proud of you!


Going through my teaching materials, I came across an old tape recorder.  I literally had to tape the pieces together to make it work, but it was so worth it!  The three kids have enjoyed recording their reading and listening to old tapes.  Although they did say it took forever to rewind the tape, which totally cracked me up!


 Popcorn Words from Learning Resources

As an early Christmas gift, we ordered the game of Popcorn Words for our kids to play and practice sight word reading.  They insisted we take this fun game with us on vacation so they could play with family.  Now words are “popping” in books for our littles.


Sight Word Apps

Looking for practice on the go?  Check out the Mystery Word App.  My kids enjoy playing this interactive game.  Word lists can be generated to personalize the game for each child. The cost is $3.99 for this app.

Another Free Sight Word App for flashcards is My Sight Word Lists.  Personal lists can be created, then flagged for still struggling words.  Lists can also be emailed to parents or teachers.

I hope these ideas have sparked a fun way to practice sight words with your students!  Enjoy and happy reading!



Day One of our Advent Adventures

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Day One of our Adventure Series

December 1st has arrived and with it the start of our advent adventures. Just a week ago, I posted advent activities for the holiday season.   Here are the three categories we chose: Family Holiday Activity, Random Acts of Kindness and Workout Challenge.

Day 1 Tasks:

Family Holiday Activity

Write a Letter To Santa


There are numerous websites advertising letters from Santa.  The one I like to use is the PNP (Portable North Pole) app. For the past several years I cultivated the magic of Christmas with a free, personalized video from Santa.  Last Christmas, I downloaded the free app that has both a parent and child corner.  This season I decided, to pay a little extra to make three unique videos on for each child.  Each one is about 5 mins long, creative and enchanting. It was worth it to see my three excited and beaming as Santa send hello to them, took them on a tour a different parts of the North Pole and demonstrated how each were on the nice list.  In all three videos I was able to provide their names, upload photos and pick out a task each had diligently worked on this year.  The videos are unique, creative and personal all together making for a magical experience.

This afternoon, when the kids return from school, we are going to each write a letter to Santa, (my husband and I included). In their message, I ask that they cover the following details:

  • The Date
  • Greeting to Santa
  • A kind word about Santa and his mission
  • Something for which they are thankful
  • One or more question(s) about the North Pole
  • Closing

Click here for a FREE PDF of Santa’s Letter  I created. We will send them off in the mail tomorrow.  The Package From Santa website listed Santa’s official mailing address as the following:

Santa’s Address
Santa Claus
325 S. Santa Claus Lane
North Pole, Alaska 99705

From this website, you can also have Santa write to your kids for free.  There is a charge to upgrade for a letter directly sent to your children.  However, I just choose to have the letters emailed to me.  I’ll print, seal them in an envelope  and a little glitter and place in their stockings.

Random Acts of Kindness

Smile at 5 or more people.

At the bus stop this morning, the girls sure had fun with this task as each was trying to out smile the other. What a fun way to start our day with positivity!

Workout Challenge

Get out your yoga mats, today we have:

1 minute of plank


Need help on proper form when in plank? Check out this website for some instruction.

Window Writing

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Have your students ever dreamed they could enter a painting, be a reporter on TV, travel to an exotic location? Awaken their imagination, welcome them to window writing!  These “empty”  screen designs inspire and capture the attention of budding writers. Even young preschoolers will enjoy this creative tool. First, imagine anything that you peer through such as an open window (maybe even Santa’s workshop), a picture frame, a computer or television.  Next, using card stock or large paper, draw your object.  Now, cut a large hole “window” in the design.  Finally, laminate the entire project! You now have a clear window that can be used for many creative lessons.


Here are a few ideas for window writing designs:

  • Open Window (You could even create a scene such as beach, mountain, forrest)
  • Snow Globe
  • Fortune Teller Ball
  • Picture Frame
  • Barn Door
  • Transportation Window (Bus, Car, Airplane, Helicopter, Train)
  • Book or magazine
  • IPad
  • Empty bottle or container
  • microwave
  • oven

There are many ways these could be used in the classroom, however here are some suggestions.


In writing, use these windows as a prompt to get ideas flowing.  Older students can use these screens to cultivate and create a story. While young leaners may choose to draw, with an erasable marker, on the prompt to create their stories.  Or, consider this, after the first draft is written, use the window as an editing tool. Have them place their paper behind the screen and revise their work with an expo or vis-a-vis.  Final projects can also be framed behind the screen as a eye-catching bulletin board.  Wanting to add positivity and encourage your learners, enclose writing behind the prompt then, with an erasable tool, allow complements and positive notes to be written on the window.


Wanting to foster creative expression through preformance?  Use these windows to design a student lead preformance. Or, have learners use the window as a backdrop while they read their writing aloud. Children can also practice the art of speech with one of these windows then share their work through a preformance.  Imagine a fun news or weather report, students would enjoy sharing their work. Plus, how fun would it be to film kids and their clever communication?! Certainly, this would motive children to practice reading with fluency and expression.


Creative Play

The importance of creative play is invaluable.  Abundant learning takes place while children are “playing”.  Incorporate some of the window prompt into their centers and observe them having fun.  While listening to kids play, write short stories of their adventures. Create a magical moment and watch their eyes light up as you read back what fun stories you heard them invent. Make these little adventures into personal books to practice reading.

Or, use the window prompts to practice reading words or letters. Put words, letter, phrases or important skills behind the window. Perhaps you want them to incorporate some spelling or vocabulary words into their theme writing.  Place it behind the screen thereby drawing more attention to the required skill. You could even consider adding velcro or a slit in the window for an interactive learning center. How cute would it be to have an interactive prompt while writing letters to Santa or his elves. There are so many possibilities for these window writing tools. Have more ideas of how to use these creative prompts, please share!  I would love to hear your ideas.

Time to Write

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  • Idea √
  • Organized Plan √

It’s first draft time!  Get Ready, Set… Write! Within this post I will outline a variety of methods to get your students writing with confidence. Even the most struggling writer will find these techniques useful.

Hook your Audience

What is your reason and passion for writing?  Tap into that enthusiasm, start with a hook and pull your audience into the essay.  A captivating story, intriguing question or a thought-provoking statement are all unique styles of hooks.  Consider this analogy, visualize a triple scoop of ice cream.  ice cream cone with cherry on topThe cone holds the thesis statement, the scoops of ice cream are the main ideas or topic sentences and the cherry on top, that’s the hook.  It seems tiny but it dresses up the entire story.  That’s what the hook is to your essay, a delicious treat to pull your reader into your writing.  Stuck on how to start your hook? Try one of these creative techniques. Or, click here to download a copy..



First Draft
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Ready, set… write, keep this in mind as your students being to draft.  Editing will come with time but for now get the ideas down on paper.  Here are are my list of Do’s and Don’ts


  • Stress about spelling
  • Agonize about word usage
  • Hound on handwriting


  • Follow your outline
  • Write on topic
  • Own it!  Put your personality, style and voice into your work.
  • Have fun! Just Write!
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Cue the Keyboard

For students who struggle to write on paper have them type. Handwriting needs to be practiced and cultivated but if you are trying to encourage your student to write, this may be an excellent solution. I have come to the point in my writing where it is easier for me to type rather then a handwrite an essay.  Ideas, words and creativity flow differently when I’m typing verses using a pen.  Many kids, I know, are just learning computer skills and typing may be labor intensive. However this may just be the perfect solution for kids who not only struggle with their first draft but dread the idea of rewriting their work so, it may be worth learning to use the keyboard.

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Talk to Text

Perhaps your child needs help typing and struggles to write on paper try using dictation. This will require many starts and stops as voice to text doesn’t capture everything. However, this is a helpful tool for children who just need that extra boost.

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Record on Tape

Have a tape-recorder  or some sort of recording device?  Use this tool to help jog ideas or have a child carry a small notebook with them.  When a simple sentence or perfect paragraph pops into their head, have them record on their device or notebook.  There are so many moments when you can speak the right idea, however forget your brainstorm when you are ready to write. Recording the thought will help jog your memory to recall and write later. Don’t have a tape-recorder, consider downloading an app to help your child. This particular app, designed to look like the original tape player is a Free Recorder to record your notes on the go.

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Change of Venue, Create a Writer’s Paradise

Is your student struggling to write at their desk or table?  Change their location. This may sounds like a distraction however some kids prefer to write on the floor, in their own nook, in nature, at a coffee house or someplace that makes them feel comfortable. Other kids may need a tool to help them focus such as classical music or headphones to block out noise.Watch their stories come alive when their learning style matches the location and ambience where they have chosen to write.




Learn through Play -Topic Sentences and Transitions

img_3505Designing a meaningful and eloquent topic sentence sets the tone for the entire expository or narrative essay.  Wouldn’t it be nice to take the guess work out of creating such a sentence while at the same time having fun?   Read this post, I have designed activities that will encourage your writers to do just that; learn through play while creating topic sentences.

Spin the Wheel


Struggling to get your student to draft a topic sentence? Consider downloading this engaging tool.  Divided into eight sections, writers will explore seven styles of topic sentences. The eighth space is reserve for personal choice to allow freedom of expression.  Download this wheel on Venture2Learn’s Etsy Page. 

How could you employ this wheel in the classroom or at home? First, have them spin for a specific style of sentence to adopt in their essay.  The classroom writing center could also benefit from this wheel as a quick reference tool for identifying and writing topic sentences. Or, perhaps you will use this as a game to promote fun with writing. Clearly there are many ways to use this handy wheel but most importantly students will be engaged having fun learning to draft beginning sentences. The following topic sentences are covered in the wheel each with starter words and an example:

  • Love to List
  • Number Power
  • Preposition Ponder
  • Quick Question
  • Conjunction Junction
  • Verb Vernacular
  • Complex Sentences
Fun with Writing Game Board

Bring back the fun in writing with a game! Designed just this week to incorporate skills for writing, this short but fun game can be used as a writing center, home school lesson or learning tool. Divided into four categories, questions are grouped into four colors and ready to print on avery 5160 labels.  Just download print and stick to notecards, paper or simply cut into rectangles to have an easy and creative game.  Surprises await the learners on various note cards. Giggles and fun are guaranteed as kids play this game. Expect the unexpected! Find this game in my Venture2Learn’s Etsy Page. Categories covered are:

  • Topic Sentences
  • Transitions
  • Details and Idea Jogger
  • Fun with Writing
Transition Stickers


Use this adorable printable tool as a visual for kids working on their transitions. Using the tag line “transitons are the glue”(Auman, Karas, Sage & Tyler, 2003), I have placed transition words onto labels (avery 5160) for stickers.  Or, simply print and have kids paste these transitions into their journals.  For further clarity, the first 15 glue bottles are traditionally used with procedural writing while the second 15 bottles are for use with narrative stories.  Help kids get a kick start on blending their stories together with these delightful glue bottle stickers. Download this tool on Venture2Learn’s Etsy Page. 

Creative Transition Manipulatives


What are manipulatives?  These tools, most often used with math, reading and science are small objects used to cement visual understanding and assist in solving problems.  Why not use them to help teach transitions? Try one of these items with the following tagline:

  • Cubes: Connect your writing with transitions
  • Links: Link your story together with transitions
  • Buttons:  Button up your story with colorful transitions.

Have a handful of cubes laying around?  Use stickers or write transition words directly onto the cubes. If you’re not looking for something permanent, use a vis-a-vie or an expo marker. For links, print the stickers and wrap them around the tool. Buttons are an also easy to write on with a vis-a-vi or place a small sticker.  These manipulative are a fun, creative and interactive way to blend transitons into your writing.



In another post, I will cover conclusions in depth.  However, as a side note, I like to outline my conclusion before I begin drafting, just after I have written my topic sentence. Why?  Doing so allows me to see and set the goal of my paper.  A conclusion is simply revisiting the beginning the writing.  Yes, it differs from narrative to expository as I will explore more. But, for now try using one of the following transitions to reword your topic sentence, thereby sketching out your conclusion. Find this printable on Venture2Learn’s Etsy Page. 

Expository (revisit the topic sentence)

  • Consequently
  • Finally
  • Third

Narrative (revisit a character, or share a feeling)

  • As a result
  • Finally
  • Afterwards
Have Fun!

Cultivate positive, excited momentum for young writers as they learn to write clear, concise topic sentence and create fluidity with transitons.Enjoy trying out these activities and games to embrace the fun and enjoyment of the writing process.

Works Referenced:

*Auman, Maureen E., Karas, Gwen., Sage, Peg., Tyler, Caela. 2003. Primary Steps Reproducibles, Step-Up to Writing 2nd Edition. Longmont, Colorado. Sopris West.

*Auman, Maureen E. 2003. Step-Up to Writing. Longmont, Colorado. Sopris West.