Holiday Traditions Around the World

by Learning Harbor Resources ™
for K - 2

The holiday season always brings such cheer to people far and wide. The time of year is filled with traditions that harken back to centuries ago. Christmas, Hanukkah, Los Posadas, Diwali, Kwanzaa, and St. Lucia are celebrated around the globe with great food and rich traditions and among family and friends.

Every year, at Christmas time, families of Christian faith celebrate in a myriad of sacred and secular ways. The advent calendar marks the days leading up to the birth of Christ, which is celebrated on December 25th. One of the most treasured traditions involves hanging stockings for Santa Claus to fill on Christmas Eve. Many families put up a Christmas tree, often fresh from the farm, and decorate with lights and ornaments passed down year after year. Christmas songs play on the radio and Christmas movies play on the TV. Many might dream of a white Christmas, but only some see it. Thanks to Irving Berlin, we can all sing about it though.

Hanukkah is also called the Festival of Lights and is celebrated in the Jewish faith. Hanukkah lasts for 8 nights and commemorates the oil burned when Jews rededicated the Second Temple of Jerusalem where the Jews rose up against their oppressors. The first day of Hanukkah begins on the 25th day of the month of Kislev in the Jewish calendar. A menorah holds candles; one is lit the first night and another candle is added and lit each successive night. When the menorah is lit, blessings are sung or chanted. The kids look forward to one special gift each night. And there’s plenty of good food: potato lattkes, brisket, and sweet doughnuts are shared with family and friends.

Los Posadas is also celebrated over several nights by those of Mexican or Spanish heritage, and of Catholic or Protestant religions. It is a nine-day festival celebrated from December 16th through December 24th, leading up to Christmas. It is both a native celebration of the Aztec Winter Solstice and a religious celebration of the birth of Christ. Reenactments or Bible plays are staged to retell the story of Mary and Joseph trekking to Bethlehem in search of an inn (a posada) in preparation for the birth of Christ. Each night, in various communities, one family reenacts the pilgrimage and often children dress up as shepherds and angels. They are refused shelter until the pre-designated house is reached. Singing and praying continues indoors. After eating and celebrating, the night ends with a star-shaped piñata.

Diwali is celebrated by Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs and Newar Buddhists. It is a 5-day celebration of the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, hope over despair,and knowledge over ignorance. The date varies from year to year based on the Hindu calendar, but it is often in late autumn. The first practice during these festive days is  cleaning, renovating, or decorating of the house. People will dress in their finest clothes, candles are lit and prayers, often to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity, are spoken. Gifts are exchanged and ‘mithai’ or sweets are shared. Often towns and cities will have celebrations with special performances, parades and gatherings. It’s a festive and happy time
Kwanzaa is known as a celebration of family, community, and culture and is celebrated by the African-American and the Pan-African communities. Dr. Maulana Karenga, professor and chairman of Black Studies at California State University, Long Beach, created Kwanzaa in 1966. He had been looking for a way to bring together the community and unite people after the terrible events of the Watts Riots in California. He used traditions from several harvest celebrations among various African tribes, such as the Zulu and Ashanti to form the basis for traditions for Kwanzaa. The name is derived from a Swahili word for ‘first fruits’ or harvest. For that reason, African drumming, a large feast, and storytelling are often part of the celebrations. Seven principles form the core values of the celebration: Unity/Umoja, Self-determination/Kujichagulia, Collective Work and Responsibility/Ujima, Cooperative Economics/Ujamaa, Purpose: Nia, Creativity/Kuumba, and Faith/Imani. Each year, Kwanzaa falls between December 26 and January 1.

St. Lucia’s Day is a festival of lights celebrated in Sweden, Norway, and Swedish-speaking areas of Finland on December 13 in honor of St. Lucia. In the Scandinavian countries, this day marks the beginning of the Christmas season. Usually there is a procession on December 13th with girls dressing in simple white dresses, wearing a lighted wreath on their heads. Boys also take part and wear a simple white outfit. Coffee and baked goods are served to the family by the eldest daughter, all dressed in white. Her white dress, wreath of candles and lingonberry greens represents light and new life in the long, dark nights of winter.
All these festivities carry with them the love of sharing time, faith, and food with family and friends. It is a time to strengthen those ties that bind us together as a community. We celebrate and rejoice in our faith and our time spent with each other. Holiday traditions are passed down, from generation to generation to instill and perpetuate the values of our groups within society. We hold them dear and hope our children’s children will as well. 
And of course who could have a Holiday without the Nutcracker Theme. Students will have fun with the Interactive Self Correcting resource with the Tin Soldiers, Christmas Tree and Ballerina while learning about Adding Doubles and Doubles Plus 1 for Google Classroom™

Thanksgiving Traditions and Fun Classroom Resources

by Learning Harbor™ Resources for Teachers
for Kindergarten

Early Addition Joining Sets Turkey Theme for use with Google Slides™ Google Classroom™

Thanksgiving has some pretty interesting traditions, from Pie Eating Contests to 5K Turkey Trots, this holiday is filled with more than just stuffing! It all started way back with the pilgrims. In Plymouth, Massachusetts, November of 1621, the Wampanoag tribe shared their food and their cooking with the English Pilgrims, who shared their food cache and cooking styles in return. It was a time to celebrate the autumnal harvest. Life was good. Or, well, as good as it can be in 1621. Wild game was definitely on the menu for that first Thanksgiving. We’re unsure whether it was turkey, but that fowl was plentiful near where the festivities took place. There were root vegetables and, surprisingly, a fair amount of fish and fruit, such as shellfish and berries. Although there could have been a turnip or two, there were definitely no potatoes. They didn’t become a sustainable crop in the new colonies until much later. And as for that pumpkin pie, that came later. With no butter, wheat flour, or even an oven, pie was out of the question.

Today we know the menu must-haves: turkey, potatoes and pie. These are staples among Thanksgiving fare. They grace the table every fourth Thursday in November. Seventeenth-century citizens kept up the custom; George Washington named a November 26 as a day of thanks. In 1864, Lincoln made Thanksgiving a Federal Holiday the last Thursday in November. In 1939, there was a fair amount of scuttlebutt over which Thursday was the Thursday to celebrate Thanksgiving. Finally in 1941, FDR made the fourth Thursday in November a National Holiday. The day has accumulated a fair amount of other traditions since then.

These days, Thanksgiving typically involves travel. In fact, air travel for Thanksgiving is the busiest time of the year for most airlines and airports. The Sunday after Thanksgiving is projected to see 2.88 million people take to the skies in 2017. The Wednesday before Thanksgiving will also super busy. Plane, train, or automobile, we take to the air, rails, highways in order to get the friends and relatives in time for the feast! There are other thanksgiving traditions that stem from the feast. It’s the cracking of the wishbone. Every turkey has a wishbone. Tradition has it that the wishbone is removed, dried and then wished on. Whoever gains the larger piece of the wishbone will see their wish come true so says the legend. This cracking or snapping of the wishbone, in general, goes back to ancient Roman times.

In more recent times, one tradition has proven to be most beneficial to the turkey! It’s the Official Presidential Pardoning of the Turkey. Reagan treats his gift of a turkey to a long and happy life on a farm. The first President Bush continued the legacy, and so on. But the eating (or not eating!) of the turkey isn’t the only activity on the actual holiday of Thanksgiving. Many people will donate their time to soup kitchens or other non-profits in order to give back and give thanks. Some run in road races, having raised funds for others. While still others work the holiday, in order to let coworkers spend time with their family. One set of coworkers have been working the holiday for almost 100 years. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade is hosted by Macy’s employees who march through the streets of NYC in order to bring floats and fun down to Macy’s landmark store at Herald Square. Decade after decade, colorful balloons have flown past the skyscrapers as the people line the streets for a glimpse of the parade. Floats and Broadway show numbers traipse down the avenues until they meet Macy’s Herald Square to applause and cheers. Many watch from home on television. The spectacle is grand and fun as Santa Claus makes his way down the parade route at the very end.

Thanksgiving traditions give us the perfect opportunity to share our pleasures and our gratitude with family and friends. We gather, we feast, we play, and we applaud the beginning of winter and all its glorious festivities are announced. But let us not forget the preamble, the day of giving thanks for all we have and all we can share.

In the classroom, we teach young students to sing songs about turkeys and pilgrims.  Turkeys are very popular in classrooms in November, and students love playing learning games that include turkeys and pilgrims.  Here are two products one for kindergarten students and one for first and second graders to help celebrate learning during the Thanksgiving season.

Counting Task Cards with Halloween Racers for grades K - 2

by Learning Harbor™ Resources for Teachers
for Grade K - 2

                           Counting Task Cards Halloween Racers K - 2

Follow little Halloween racing characters as they help teach elementary kids how to count forward from a given number that is not the number 1. This task stumps children in kindergarten, grade 1 and 2. Tie your math lesson to Halloween and brighten your students’ day, as well as their interest in your lesson.

Kids get to see funny little Frankenstein’s monsters and happy little Dracula vampires, as well as adorable witches and baseball cap-wearing mummies drive cute race cars toward the finish line. The purple and orange colors heighten kids’ engagement when trying to pick the correct card. Students see a set of cards with multiple numbers. They’re given a card with a problem, such as a 5 and a 7. Students must then figure out how to choose the number that is the right number between the two. What number comes after 5? Don’t worry; it’s not as scary as it sounds, you can assure your students. These cards take the ‘fright’ out of the fest and put the ‘happy’ back into Halloween.

This kind of complex counting is foundational to having kids learn advanced addition strategies in later elementary grades. The more students learn to count from 1 to 50 without having to start at one, the better off their conceptualization of math will be. In his Developmental Psychology article, Cognitive Predictors of Achievement Growth in Mathematics: a 5-year Longitudinal Study, David Geary, from the University of Missouri, Columbia, deduces that counting skills appear most important to arithmetic skill acquisition through 5th grade and therefore may be a better predictor of future math success than other skills, such as speed and memory. These cards help a student to work towards greater proficiency with regard to hierarchical inclusion as well as number sequencing. Students eventually learn, with the help of these cards, that each number represents one more than the previous number in the counting sequence and includes all previous numbers within it. Six includes 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1. It also reinforces number sequencing where the student does not have the crutch of the starting from number 1. These skills are part of the Common Core and mandated for each teacher to teach and for each student to learn.

This counting forward activity comes with the 2 sets of clip cards, a set of “Count to 50” charts, 2 response sheets, 2 answer keys, a game board, zap cards, 3 spinners, storage labels, complete directions, and the handout, 20 Ways to Engage Students by Using Task Cards. The materials are delivered to you in both black and white, as well as color. These cards can be used with student-to-student work, student-to-teacher work, as well as in a self-correcting mode.

Students can practice counting using the clip cards (or task cards) that are included with the set. Each set comes with 2 group of cards: numbers 1-27 and numbers 24-50. But this activity is about more than math. Use of the cards can enhance fine motor control if played this way: each child has to mark the correct card with a clothespin or other marker. Simple and fun solutions to irksome problems! A teacher’s use of differentiation is the hallmark of a seasoned educator. This set also addresses the need for differentiation in the classroom. Easier cards are marked with a perky pumpkin and the more difficult cards are identified with a lacy leaf. All of the monsters wear a happy smile and appear friendly and ready to assist your students in their quest to learn math fun.  Each student can see and use the ‘same’ cards with the ‘same’ pictures on them. So there is no stigma attached to one set of students playing one game from another set of students playing a different game. This resource is a handy and Halloween-y tool to keep kids on track to reach the ‘counting to 100’ benchmark. Use it to your advantage and you’ll never be frightened by Common Core Standards again!

1st Grade Subtraction Within 20 Firefighter Safety Awareness Resource

Elementary school children struggle learning math. When kids focus on rote memorization of math facts, they don’t develop the ability to think critically, a necessary skill to learning math. But when kids are engaged in solving problems, they are developing the skills to reason, which in turn helps them to figure out how to do math. You can help them to understand the concepts of math by using active lessons involving simple subtraction equations.

What do you want to be when you grow up? A chef, a dancer....a firefighter! We all have memories of being that kid who wanted desperately to ride in the big, red fire engine truck. Firefighters were our heroes and still are. Day in and day out, they come to our aid whenever we call. And every October, National Fire Prevention Week gives educators a chance to remind students about the role these important members of our community play in keeping us safe.

Learning about how to escape safely in the event of a fire emergency is valuable information for living a happy and healthy life, no matter your age. Our youngest among the population can be part of the biggest risks for fire emergencies. Kids are around potential hazards throughout the year: candles burning in the winter, a malfunctioning toaster, a friend playing with matches, lightning strikes during a thunderstorm, dad’s cigarette burning in the ashtray, fireworks in the backyard over the summer, or hot ashes from the wood stove, to name a few. Educating kids about the causes of unsafe situations involving fire can prove to be one of the most important lessons you’ll ever teach your students. And there are ways to build lessons around this necessary information.

Remember, knowledge can save lives. So invite your local fire station firefighters into your classroom to speak. Promote family conversations about fire safety plans with homework associated with firefighters. Your classroom activities can make the firefighter a symbol of safety, knowledge, and confidence. When you incorporate the firefighter into your math lessons for instance, you’re adding to that child’s feelings of safety, knowledge, and confidence around math, by association.

There are plenty of ways to incorporate lessons of fire safety into your existing curriculum. Math is one of them. Perhaps you’re teaching children about immigration, the turn-of-the-century time period, or American history. Discuss the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. It was this October 9th disaster that led to the creation of National Fire Prevention Week every October. In 1911, the Fire Marshals around the country wanted to commemorate this tragic event with greater education about fire safety. At their urging, President Woodrow Wilson, in 1920, issued the first National Fire Prevention Day Proclamation. By 1922, for the Sunday through Saturday in the month of October that passes through October 9th, fire prevention was celebrated and Fire Prevention Week was born.

Do your part to spread the word about fire safety and boost kids’ interest and confidence in doing math with a subtraction within 20 activity for use in 1st grade classrooms or wherever lessons surrounding subtraction within 20 are needed. Numbers are abstract concepts and take time to form in a child’s mind as having intrinsic value. The symbols used in mathematical equations are abstract as well. Their meaning can be elusive to younger elementary kids, especially since they alter when used in different contexts. Is it a dash or a minus sign? But a simple activity involving subtraction and firefighters can help promote greater understanding.

Through Teachers Pay Teachers, you can download Subtracting Within 20 Interactive PowerPoint that allows kids to practice subtraction within 20. This activity has fun sound effects and displays kids dressed as firefighters to help promote discussion about fire safety and fire prevention. It’s even self-correcting. Small change will get you a math lesson activity that can be used over and over again in your quest to teach kids math. Don’t let subtraction within 20 leave the kids in your classroom confused. Build math problem-solving skills and promote fire safety with this activity that can allow you to keep a tally of correct answers. Immediate feedback will have your kids yearning to take part, solve a problem, and hear the applause for their correct answers. Have fun while learning and learn while having fun with these friendly firefighters and their subtraction within 20 math equations.

             Click here to see the resource


Cheryl began teaching in 1979 and retired in 2013.  Within that time frame, she taught in four school districts, and in two states.  Early in her teaching career, it was common for schools to host Halloween carnivals during the school day with students attending at different times for different grade levels.  In later years schools changed the name from Halloween carnivals to fall festivals. Many of the fall festivals still had costume contests.  I believe that now it is the choice of the school district or the building principal to decide whether or not Halloween can be celebrated or even mentioned.
Cheryl taught kindergarten at one school were the teachers could books and sing songs as long as witches and ghosts were not mentioned.  At another school nothing pertaining to Halloween could be mentioned at all by the teachers.  Of course the kindergarten students talked to each about their Halloween plans and costumes. 

Whether or not your school allows Halloween celebrations, many parents will send in trinkets or treats. In school that allowed no Halloween mentions at all, Cheryl would put these in plastic bags and have students put them in their backpacks to enjoy at home.  If special snacks were allowed for Halloween, the students would have them at their regular snack time.

There are several fun activities that substitute well for Halloween celebrations.  One of 
Cheryl's favorites was grade level pajama days with a read in.  All of the kindergarten students and teachers would come to school in pajamas.  Students would bring a pillow and a beach towel or small blanket or throw, a simple board game, and  a favorite book or two from home to be shared or read aloud.  The class would have guest readers including the principal, guidance counselor, office staff, and parent volunteers. After that the students would play learning games that went with the pajama day theme. Then it would be time for lunch and recess.  When the students returned from recess, they would have a special snack to eat,  then they would get into small groups to share their books from home.  They would do this on Halloween itself or on the Friday before Halloween,

You could easily adjust the read in activities to many different themes that would substitute for Halloween or be a special day anytime you need one.

  • Superhero Day
  • Pirate Day
  • Bring a Stuffed Animal to School Day
  • Cowboy and Cowgirl Day
  • Folk and Fairy tale Day
If you can talk about friendly Halloween topics at your school or would like a fun Halloween theme game to share with your own children at check out the interactive PowerPoint game on adding doubles and doubles plus one with a friendly, lighthearted Halloween theme." title="click to view in an external page.">An InLinkz Link-up


Painless Problem Solving Daily Routine

by Learning Harbor Resources for Teachers
Grades K - 3

Wouldn't it be great if your students were excited about problem solving every day? Wouldn't it be wonderful if your students thought that problem solving was FUN?  Wouldn't you love to see your students engaged in problem solving?  

This is a classroom tested problem solving routine. We solve two problems a day. On any one day both of the problems are the same type. The types are listed below. First one problem is projected onto a screen and it is acted out by students and worked together as a whole class. The second problem is read and discussed as a whole class and then worked individually or by partners using manipulates, drawing pictures, or using math strategies that the students have learned. It is important for first graders to solve four types of math word problems.

  • Add To, or Join
  • Take From, or Separate
  • Put Together / Take Apart/ or Part, Part, Whole
  • Compare 
The term Compare is used in both Cognitively Guided Instruction  and Common Core Standards. The terms Join, Separate, and Part, Part, Whole are used in Cognitively Guided Instruction. The terms Add To, Take From, and Put Together / Take apart are used in Common Core Standards.

These are my tried and true methods of teaching problem solving. This works well for whole class or for guided math groups.  Below is a list of the activities I use.  After that, is an example using each type of problem.
  • Project a grade level appropriate word problem on a white board or screen.  This should not be a worksheet. Task cards work well because the students will be concentrating on only one problem at a time.
  •  After reading the problem together, I choose students to act out the problem.
  • We reread the problem and students work the problem on wipe off white boards.
I project a new problem of the same type, and we read and discuss the problem as a class.The students solve the problem on a wipe off board or paper.  Students may draw a picture, use manipulatives such as cubes or counters. or us  math strategies that they have learned. 
                                                         Add to, or Join
Kate had 5 flowers.  Julie gave Kate 2 more flowers.  How many flowers did Kate have altogether?
I call two girls two the front of the class. One will play the part of Kate and the other will play the part of Julie. Kate will pick up 5 plastic or paper flowers. Julie will give Kate 2 more flowers. Kate will lay all the flowers on a table and will lead the students in counting the flowers and find the sum of 7. I will project a new Add to, or Join problem.  We will read the problem as a group and discuss it. Students will solve the problem on a wipe off board. Students may draw a picture or use manipulatives such as cubes or counters, or use a math strategy to solve the problem.
Take From, or Separate
Liam had 10 pumpkins.  He gave 2 pumpkins to Jack.  How many pumpkins did Liam have left? 
I will pick two boys to come to the front of the class. One will play the part of Liam and the other will play the part of Jack. Liam will pick up ten small plastic or paper pumpkins and lay them on the table so that the students can see them. Liam will give Jack 2 pumpkins. Liam will lead the students in counting to find the difference of 8. Students may draw a picture or use manipulatives such as cubes or counters to solve the problem.
Put Together/ Take Apart, or Part, Part, Whole
Mrs. Brown had 12 cupcakes.  6 were chocolate and the rest were vanilla. How many were vanilla? 
I would pick one girl to play the part of Mrs. Brown.  She would have 12 plastic or paper cupcakes. She would move 6 away from the group and lead the class in counting how many were left to find a difference of 6. I would then project a new Put Together / Take Apart , Part, Part, Whole problem.  We will read the problem as a group and discuss it. Students will solve the problem on a wipe off board. Students may draw a picture or use manipulatives such as cubes or counters or use a math strategy to solve the problem.  to solve the problem.
Matt had 6 balloons.  Kevin had 5 more balloons than Matt.  How many balloons did Matt have?
I will pick two boys to come to the front of the class. One will play the part of Matt and the other will play the part of Kevin. Matt would have six real or paper balloons. Matt would put his balloons on a table. Kevin would add his 5 balloons to the same table.  Kevin would lead the students in counting the balloons to come up with a total of 11 balloons. I would then project a new Compare problem  We will read the problem as a group and discuss it.  Students will solve the problem on a wipe off board. Students may draw a picture or use manipulatives such as cubes or counters or use a math strategy to solve the problem.
                                                               FUN TIP
I make name tags of the names used in the problems for the students acting out the problem.  I make a big deal out of saying something like, "The part of Mrs. Brown, will be played today by Anna" in my best dramatic voice.  The kids LOVE it. Students look forward to this math problem solving time. They LOVE to be chosen to act out the problem.  It is great to have them love problem solving.
                                             BEST RESOURCE SOLUTION
Would you like to try this, but don’t have the time to write out those problems, or identify the type of and sort the problem from materials that you have?   Check out this resource.  It has 20 problems with a fall/ autumn theme. The problems are grouped so that there are always two of each type together.  Just what you need to save time in your already busy schedule.
This resource is available in Google Classroom™ or PowerPoint.


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Hot Off The Press! A Great Way to Practice the Math Addition Strategy, Counting On

by Learning Harbor Resources for Teachers
Grades K-2

Hot Off The Press!  A Great Way to Practice the Math Addition Strategy, Counting On

Some students really struggle with counting on.  They may have trouble starting with the largest number. They may want to count both of the addends. It can be so confusing for young learners.  I was teaching this strategy to a group of first graders. I modeled "touching" my head and said, "Put the larger number in your head and count on the smaller number. We practiced as a group and then the students began working independently. I walked around the room observing and guiding the children.  After about five minutes the students went from "touching" their heads to slapping themselves on the forehead.  Needless to say we moved on to put the larger number in your pocket the next day.

If I were planning to teach this strategy today, in guided math groups, I would pass out laminated pocket shapes, pennies and number cards. I would say, choose two number cards, put the larger number on your card, count on the second number, using the pennies.  I would observe the students and have them tell me the sums.

After the students had had many opportunities to practice with hands on materials.  I would introduce the Addition Strategy Counting On for use with Google Classroom™ activity. One slide from the activity is show above. 

This activity will help students to continue to practice Counting On in a meaningful way.  It takes many repetitions for a strategy to become automatic.  This activity is designed to provide repetitions while keeping the student engaged.  
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