Christmas is over and I should be putting away my holiday lights and taking down the tree. Instead, I spent the day making these! It’s cathartic! Year 2017 is just around the corner. Happy NEW YEAR from the Pensive Sloth! You can click here to see the lists from 2015 and 2016 if you would like.
Funko Pops. They’ve been the thorn in my side for several months now. When we went on vacation this summer, a few came back with us. When I arrive home after a long day of teaching, there’s often a Pops-sized box on the porch from Amazon or some other online retailer. I literally can’t escape them because they’ve become my husband’s obsession. Usually these little guys stay in his office. It’s one of those unwritten house rules, but when my husband looked less than enthusiastic about putting up the tree this year, I got an idea and decided to make use of the little devils.
The first challenge was finding a way to hang them on the tree without *damaging* them (Mr. Pensive Sloth insisted upon this). Luckily we had some pipe cleaners around. I tried wrapping the wire around their scrawny necks, but they just fell over. The same thing happened when I wrapped it around their torsos. The little buggers are so top heavy, that everywhere I tried to hang them from just resulted in a Pop facing down. I thought I was onto something when I decided we’d just hang them all up by their tiny feet and have upside down Pops all over the tree. I was quite fond of this idea, but it was quickly vetoed.
I’d almost given up when I figured it out. Cue 90s pop song…”This is how we do it…” Here are the steps from the photograph (below):
- Gather a Pop and a pipe cleaner. We had white and they matched our tree, but if your tree is green, consider green pipe cleaners so they blend in.
- Fold the pipe cleaner in half and put it around the neck with the open part in the back.
- Twist the two ends together close to the neck.
- Bring the sides up around the head of the Pop, near where the ears would be.
- Twist the two ends very tightly together at the top so they don’t slide back and forth.
- Hang on the tree! There is usually enough left to twist around a branch, but if there isn’t you can make a hook out of a small piece of pipe cleaner and attach this to the one around the head.
NOTE: This doesn’t work for all Pops. Some heads are bigger than others, some have decorations on their already enormous heads that prevent a pipe cleaner from going around easily, etc. On a few of the big ones, I did the same thing after twisting two pipe cleaners together. You just have to be creative if you really want it on the tree. Or give up and choose a different Pop. We did that too sometimes. As you can see, we also have a fake Christmas tree, so the branches are pretty strong and can be bent around to support the pops. Some of these little guys are crazy heavy for their size, so if you’ve got a real tree, test a few out first.
Overall it was a lot of fun! We got into a rhythm where I added the pipe cleaners and my husband carefully placed each Pop on the tree. He enjoyed making sure the characters stayed with their bonded Pop families. Here’s the final product!
If you’ve got children or a husband with a wild collection of small objects (Pops, superheroes, dolls, toy cars, Beanie Boos, etc.), why not turn it into something fun and make a themed Christmas tree? Share your ideas and experiences below.
Now, you may be wondering how this is related to teaching. It’s not, but was so much fun that I had to share! Of course if you have a bunch of Pops around and want to do this in your classroom, I’m sure your kiddos would love it (make sure to use school-friendly Pops!). I did get an idea that I plan to have the kiddos start on next week. A favorite character theme Christmas tree. More info on that coming soon!
–The Pensive Sloth
Ok, I know this isn’t teaching related, but it was fun and is relevant for October and Halloween! I decided to try something new with my pumpkin this year, and I discovered pumpkin drilling! Here’s what it looks like–
Should you want to try this on your own, you should know a few things.
1. Your forearm will hurt. Power drills are heavy. You have to hold that thing while you drill hundreds of holes. Be prepared.
2. Pumpkin bits will be everywhere. I didn’t realize the power of the drill, and I may have been a little over zealous at first, sending chunks all about my dining room. If you push that button ever so slightly and slow down, it’s not bad. Maybe you should do this outside?
3. If you have dogs, they’ll eat the pumpkin bits they can reach. They took care of the floor, but I’m going to have to wipe down the walls myself. Fun fact: Pumpkin improves your dog’s breath.
4. If you have people in the room, they’ll be annoyed when they get hit with flying pumpkin for the 4th time.
5. You’ll look up at the clock and notice it’s past midnight, you have to teach tomorrow, and wonder how in the world putting holes in a pumpkin can take you three hours. THREE HOURS?
FUN DISCOVERY–An avocado slicer will get your pumpkin crazy clean on the inside. In that kitchen drawer filled with strange utensils I never use, I found this thing and WOW. Try it next year. NOTE: Avocados are easy to slice. Why does this thing exist? They should call it a pumpkin cleaner-outer.
Have a happy Halloween my teacher friends! Eat lots of chocolate.
–The Pensive Sloth
I never really liked history in school. All I really remember is my 7th grade teacher giving us a packet of worksheets to fill in as we read a chapter in the book or my high school US history teacher holding classes in the bleachers so that he could practice with his baseball team on the field during the spring season. I’m not kidding. We filled in our worksheets from the bleachers, chasing after them (reluctantly) from time to time when the wind blew them away! When I started teaching American history to my 5th graders, I wanted things to be different. I wanted learning history to be fun…and hopefully memorable.
The week before Christmas is when I whip out one of my favorite history lessons–World War I and the Christmas Truce.
- DAY 1–CAUSES OF THE WAR
- We spend the first day learning about the events leading up to the war. Of course there is the Archduke Ferdinand moment, but that was but one part. There is so much more! We discuss and act out the role of different countries as they seek to control lands in Africa (imperialism). Every country wants to be wealthier, right? Of course they do, and Africa had lots of natural resources! We share our thoughts about why countries become allies and enemies and discuss why countries want to compete with each other to have the best weapons and strongest armies (militarism). Then we discuss immigration and the different cultures that were coming to American soil during the early 20th century, each with their own beliefs and loyalties (nationalism), and how and why America decided to join the war. By the end of the lesson students have a conceptual understanding of what led to the war.
- DAY 2–TRENCH WARFARE
- After reviewing what led to the war, it is time to dig in deep and discuss trench warfare! We discuss the sacrifices the soldiers made and what life was like for them in the trenches. What new weapons made the war so deadly and the chances of survival for those that fought–would they get trench foot? Trench fever? Or killed or injured by the weapons of that time? What was medical care like? The YouTube video above does a great job of explaining trench warfare. Please preview to make sure it is appropriate for your students.
- DAY 3–“CHRISTMAS IN THE TRENCHES” BOOK
- Time to hear from a soldier! I read the book “Christmas in the Trenches” by John McCutcheon. It’s a fabulous story! A grandfather tells about Christmas night during the war, when enemy soldiers put down their weapons and ventured into no-man’s land to celebrate together. The kids are always in awe at this idea. If you order this book from Amazon.com it comes with a CD that includes the song “Silent Night” in German. The kids LOVE it!
- DAY 4–“BELLEAU WOOD” SONG/POEM BY GARTH BROOKS
- This is where students really have to make connections and pull it all together. I give the kids a printed copy of the song “Belleau Wood” by Garth Brooks. NOTE–The word ‘hell’ is used towards the end. I edited this out, both in the paper copy I give students and the audio version I play. Know your audience. It is used very appropriately in my opinion, but I err on the side of caution with language in 5th grade. Back to the lesson…The song presents one soldier’s account of the Christmas truce. I always get chills when listening. I play the song once and they follow along. We stop and discuss the content of the song as it relates to WWI, then talk about the poetic elements–speaker, change in tone, word choice, etc.
- DAY 5–ASSESSMENT
- I do give an integrated assessment over the whole thing–a few poetry questions on the song, a pencil and paper quiz and essay on the content, some activities with the new vocabulary and so on. Gotta get a few grades and check for mastery!
PS–I’m working on a packet of resources to go with this lesson. It’s not quite finished. Hopefully over the Christmas break I can fit it into my busy napping schedule!
For more Teach History with Me posts, check out these posts on The Civil War and MLK and the Civil Rights Movement
–The Pensive Sloth
Looking for a goofy treat to share with your students this holiday season? How about Reindeer Trail Mix! Now, I started making this stuff years ago when I taught 1st grade and it was a hit. When I moved to the upper grades, I needed a festive snack for our holiday party but wasn’t quite sure if my 5th and 6th graders would go along with the cheesiness of making “Reindeer Food.” I decided to give it a try and…it turned out great! The more I cheesed it up, the better. Here’s the secret recipe:
- “Reindeer Chow”–Coco Puff cereal
- “Snowballs”–Small marshmallows
- “Twigs”–Pretzel sticks
- “Berries”–M & M candies
- “Magic Flying Powder–Colored sugar, like you would sprinkle on cookies
- A Ziplock baggie for each student
I usually lay all of the ingredients out in bowls and post the recipe on an anchor chart. The kids are pretty good about inferring what each ingredient in the recipe represents (twigs = pretzel sticks). Students then go down the line to make their own trail mix, but…With the colored sugar, AKA “Magic Flying Powder,” I tape a fictional label over the manufacturer’s label. That’s where it gets really cheesy! It reads something like this–
“Magic Flying Powder: Super concentrated flying powder for reindeer use only. Use caution when feeding, making sure not to over sprinkle. Using more than 2 shakes may cause such consequences as flight to the moon.”
The kiddos know it is just their teacher being goofy, but they love to break the rules and over sprinkle, then joke about how they used so much that they will probably end up on Jupiter. It’s fun for all! HINT: Buy an extra bottle of the “Magic Flying Powder” and keep it hidden. Almost every year there are a few students who go way overboard and I run out, which makes those last kiddos to make the trail mix sad. If that happens, you can pull out your extra bottle and brighten their day!
LAST MINUTE CHRISTMAS SHOPPING???
How would an Amazon gift card help? A teacher blogger friend of mine is hosting a giveaway for a $65 Amazon gift card. Entering is easy. Click the picture below and head on over to NC Teacher Chick’s blog where a Rafflecopter is waiting for your entry. The giveaway runs Tuesday December 16 through Sunday December 20, 2014. Good luck!
I’m linking up with Krista of Teaching Momster for Math Madness Wednesday in honor of Talk Like a Pirate Day…
“If I hear one more pirate joke I’m going to make you ALL walk the plank!” That’s right teachers, international Talk Like a Pirate Day is just around the corner. Friday, September 19th to be exact. I actually really like silly holidays, so here is a math freebie to celebrate! Students answer the decimal addition problems to solve the riddle. But, these aren’t any old decimal addition problems, matey. These problems are set up using tape/strip diagrams to build those algebraic thinking skills!
In my last post about tape/strip diagrams, I shared some ideas for using them in upper elementary math. Here’s another idea. Provide students with a tape diagram with a missing part. Then, ask them to write what they would type into a calculator to find X. It isn’t as simple as you might think! Depending on the location of the unknown, X, students must form an equation that will get them to the right answer. Give it a try…
Fair winds my fellow pirates!
–The Pensive Sloth