Easy Holiday Baking (For People That Don't Bake)

I am so excited to be linking up with Classroom Tested Resources to share my FAVORITE holiday baking recipes!!

I love the thought of making Christmas cookies for my girls and giving lovely plates of cookies craftily wrapped with springs of evergreen to my neighbors.

But let's get real.

Baking with small children is hard.  And generally, not the most sanitary.  So, the LAST thing I want to do is wrap any of our personalized germs up to share with neighbors!

Instead, I try to get my holiday baking done during nap time.  This means I only have a short, uninterrupted time to work. I made all THREE of these recipes during nap time (2 and a half hours- it was a long one) AND cleaned up.  It was magical!

This is an oldie, but goodie!  White chocolate dipped pretzel rods!

To make these I simply melted a bag of white chocolate chips in the microwave (following the directions on the bag).

I dipped the pretzel rods and set on a wire rack to harden.   I did put wax paper under the rack for easy clean up.  Then, I shook Christmas colored sprinkles all over the white chocolate. 

I  found some small, cellophane bags at Wal-Mart and wrapped two to a bag! Super cute and easy clean up!

Have you ever made these pretzel treats?

These are so easy and kids can help with these, if you want ;).

You just need Butter Snap pretzels (they look like windows), M&M's, and Hersey kisses.  I used a combination of regular kisses and peppermint kisses. 

Lay out the pretzels on a baking sheet.  Heat the oven to about 325 degrees. Put one kiss on each pretzel.  Pop in the oven for about 2-5 minutes- just long enough to soften the chocolate without burning it.  Take the pan out of the oven.  Squish one M&M on top of each kiss. I put the pan in the refrigerator to cool quickly.

Note to self- the peppermint kisses melted way too quickly compared to the chocolate kisses.  They were a hot mess.  Tasty, but messy! Next time, I will stick with the chocolate kisses.

The last recipe is the most involved: Peppermint Bark Brownies!  Mmmm!  

However, it has three ingredients so how hard can it be, right!?!?!

I just made the brownies as directed on the box.  

Then, after the brownies cooled I made peppermint bark by melting white chocolate in the microwave and stirring in crushed peppermints.  Then, I poured it over the brownies like a frosting. They did take a bit to cool.

Want a quick printable recipe so you make your own brownies?

Looking for some more yummy recipes?  Check out all these links below!!!



12 Days of Christmas Giveaway!

I am thrilled to be taking part in Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah's Twelve Days of Christmas giveaway!

I love all these ladies!  I feel so honored to have my picture up there with them! You will win either a $5 credit from each store or a product!  Yay!

You will also win a $30 Starbucks card! Whoop!

Make sure to enter here  before it is too late!!



Keep Assessing Simple:Tips and Tricks to Keep the Pile Under Control {FREEBIES}

Yahoo!  The end is near!

You can make it!  Soon you will have several days off to relax, celebrate with your family, and eat yummy food!

BUT first you have to finish school work.  Blah.  How many of you have report cards due around now?  Ours were usually due in January when we returned. Because of the holiday crazy season, I was usually greeted with a tub of grading when returning for the New Year. And it STUNK.

My last year teaching, I figured it out and didn't grade AT ALL over the holiday AND had my report cards done early.  Think this is a mystical unicorn that is rare and never seen?  Nope! Let me share my tips for how I got it done with you!

You have probably hear this before.  DON'T grade everything.  Be very selective about what is going in the grade book.  Because, really, should you be grading any practice work?  Don't kids need time to practice, figure it out, AND make mistakes?  

When we grade practice work, we are grading RATE of learning rather than learning.  Yes, at some point their is a deadline for when concepts should be mastered.  This is dictated by our districts, right?  But why do it earlier if it doesn't help and support students?

I just looked over practice work and gave it a check to show it had been seen OR trashed it.  For real.

Certain grading tasks can take FOREVER.  Gah!  

Grading 25 pieces of writing was a huge task. Consider grading writing WITH your students.  Have the student with with you while you read over the writing and think aloud while marking the rubric. This way the student understand why they scored the  way they did.  It is NOT a waste of class time to provide your students feedback.

If you sit one-on-one with the 25 students in your class to grade their writing for 5 minutes apiece, that is only 125 minutes. If you spend 40 minutes on writing that is only about 3 days of class time. While you are conferencing with students, students can work on a "fun" holiday writing piece and craftivity. These don't have to be graded and can be sent home for parents to enjoy the break! Here are some FREE suggestions:

A Cupcake for the Teachers shared this FREE and ADORABLE stocking craft and writing activity.

Julie Shope shared this precious and FREE Christmas Tree craft and writing activity.

When kids are finishing their test, quiz, assessment. or whatever you want to call it, have them bring it to YOU instead of the turn in box.  Grade the assessments as the kids finish them.  

There are two benefits of this.  First, you can get them graded and be done.  Always a bonus.  Two, the kids can find out their grade as soon as possible when it means something to them...rather than waiting a week when they have already forgotten!

 I think as teachers we tend to make assessments more elaborate than necessary at times. I am not saying we need to create simple assessments that assess the lower levels of learning.  I am just saying that 5-7 addition problems is as effective as 15.

I once heard a speaker that was sharing brain based learning strategies.  The speaker said that 5-7 questions on an assessment was optimal because it was the perfect amount that the brain could attend to without fatigue.  Or something like that. Whatever the speak said made me feel just fine about my short assessments.  Validated even.  So I am gonna stick with that!

This was my MAJOR weakness.  Since I taught all the way to the end, that meant I assessed all the way to the end.  I am not saying that you need to do fluff the last week of school before break. 

I am saying you need to plan carefully.  Do you really think students are going to give you their best effort 5 days before Santa comes? Also, what about the kids that are absent for travel?

Plan carefully to make sure you can fit in all the learning and assessing need so you are not pressured to assess the last two days of school.  I have done it before and it WAS horrible.  We did not feel the Christmas spirit in that classroom at all and I hated every second.  I am sure the kids did, too :(. I vowed to never do that again.

For some reason, I always felt like observational check lists didn't count.  Like I needed some kind of paper SOMETHING to grade to PROVE my students had learned.  Looking back, that makes me sad. I only went to school for 6 years to be an effective teacher.  Why in the world would I not value my own opinion!!??!

Consider using checklists while students are reading during guided reading as evidence of student learning.  As long as students are reading a grade level text, there is no reason WHY we can't score them!  Isn't it most valuable to see students learning when they are apply newly acquired skills?  It is like a front row seat to the best party in the world!

One issue I DID have was finding appropriate assessments for my second graders.  We actually had to have common assessments across the grade level so that all students were given the same assessment.  In general, my team worked very well together so that wasn't an issue. It was more FINDING things to use!

SO, I decided to help out a bit!  I wrote a few second grade appropriate assessments.

Four reading assessments are included.  The assessments cover:
*Authors purpose
* Character's response to major events (approximate level of the passage  is mid 2nd grade)
* Story structure
* The observational checklist featured above

Four math assessments are included.  The assessments over:
* Two digit addition  (with and without regrouping)
* Two digit subtraction  (with and without regrouping)
* Measuring to the nearest inch and foot
* Measuring to the nearest centimeter and meter

Just click on the picture to get yours!!

Hopefully, these little freebies will make your December much smoother and easier to plan!


Click here for this great pack of FREE math centers, plus get tips and updates from me!

  If you would like more ideas from me, be sure to follow me on Teachers Pay Teachers, Pinterest, and Facebook to catch all the freebies and ideas and more!



Tips and Tricks for the Classroom (A Guest Post by 2nd in Line)

I am thrilled to invite a handful of guest bloggers to share some wonderful ideas from their classrooms!  My first guest blogger is Patty from the blog 2nd in Line! I LOVE her idea for simple (and cheap) activities or centers! You will love it!


I am so excited to be guest hosting for Mandy. I don't do this often so I hope you're not disappointed. My name is Patty. I blog over at 2nd in Line. I taught 2nd grade for 36 years, retired, subbed for my daughter-in-law's kindergarten class for 3 months and now am an interventionist in my district. (My daughter also teaches kindergarten, so I have been making some things for her too.) 

Let me just tell you that being an interventionist is a GREAT job! I work half days and only 4 days a week. Not too shabby!

In my job I still work with 2nd graders. These are kids who just don't get the skills in the classroom, so I can have a chance to work in a group of only 4 kids at a time. I grab a lot of things from Teachers Pay Teachers to help me. But there also many things that you can make yourself that won't cost you anything other than your time to put them together. 

If you have the Ellison Die Cut machines, and the puzzle die, you can make some sets for them to practice many things. 

These pictures  show how the kids can practice their doubles by matching the pieces. (I firmly believe that when they have mastered their doubles, the rest of the facts can be learned a bit easier too.) 

I laminate the colored tag paper first then cut out the puzzle pieces from the dies. 

You could also make other math facts on these pieces. I just chose to highlight the doubles this week.

I also love all the cutsie containers that you can find in a variety of stores, but when push comes to shove, I have to cut corners.

 I have been buying a lunch meat called Carving Board. It comes in the perfect container for storing these cards. 

You can write on the top of the container, or you can create a paper label and attach it to the top. 

Another thing that has helped my students is for them to learn how to add ten to a number. I used a ten frame that I bought from 

I printed these on the colored tag board then laminated them and cut them apart. 

Then I put a complete ten frame in the middle of the table. I pass out another partial ten frame to a student and asked them to add the two together. So if they received a 7, they would think 10 + 7 = ?
To the next person I would give them a partial ten frame and they half to add them together. I kept going around the table until the cards were gone. 

I want them to quickly think 10+6=16, 10+4=14, 10+5=15, etc. I repeat this again and try to get them to say it faster and not really having to count the dots, but to think of a ten plus that other number.  Quick reviews with these ten frames is good for them to keep in the front of their brain.

I hope you found something that you could use here. 
I would like to close with sharing one of my recent freebies with you. It's not math, but it is fun! Click HERE to see it. 

You can find other things in my store if you'd like to browse, or maybe you'd like to follow me. If so, click here to go to my store. If you'd like to check out my blog or maybe become a follower there, too. Just click here


Thanks Mandy for letting me chat on your blog. It has been fun! I hope you enjoyed letting me do some talking for you!



December Pinterest Pick 3

I am so excited to be joining up with my dear friend Ashley at Just Reed for her Pinterest Pick 3 linky party!!

I love Pinterest.  Probably a  bit too much.  Here are my favorite picks for the month- that I actually *might* get done!

I adore these sweet snowman mugs!  I actually found some white, Corelle mugs at a local bargain store for $1 each. My girls are going to decorate them for grandparents for Christmas (Hush! Don't tell! LOL!).  The pens are somewhat expensive.  I ordered them off Amazon in a pack of 5 for about $12.  I am not sure this makes is a reasonably priced parent gift or not!

I know many people study Holidays around the world.  I loved this book list of books about the different ways other countries celebrate.  I especially liked that it had some books for harder to find countries!

I am kinda cheating with this third pick. Technically, I am sharing TWO pins that go together.  I hope I don't get kicked out of the party! LOL!


Click on each picture to see the original pin.

How  CUTE is that reindeer craft!?!??!  Wouldn't they be perfect to go along with some of the read alouds in this pin?

What do you think?can you use some of these?  Want to link up as well?  You can join in on the linky fun!!


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