Diary of a Not So Wimpy Teacher

Christmas Books for the Classroom

The weeks leading up to Christmas break can be tough in the classroom! It can be challenging trying to find a way to mix the holiday fun with the necessary academic standards. I think that Christmas read alouds are the perfect answer! My students just think we are doing fun holiday stuff. But I know the truth- we are reviewing all kinds of reading skills and standards!

Each day, I read a fun holiday book. I choose ones that are funny, touching or unique. After we enjoy the book together, students are given an interactive notebook activity to complete based the the story.

My students enjoy the cutting and creating of the activity. I enjoy knowing that they are reviewing reading standards! I am even able to extend the stories into fun writing projects!

Here are five of my favorite holiday books to share with my students during the month of December. If you are interested in the book, you can click on the photo to check out the book on Amazon.


I seriously LOVE this book! Moose is planning the perfect Christmas. He thinks that he has everything planned until he realizes that he forgot the tree! He goes out on Christmas Eve to find a tree, but has no luck. The trees are gone. He sees that his kids are disappointed. Moose comes up with the perfect solution! He stands in the corner and becomes the tree- decorations and all! This book has beautiful illustrations and reminds us that christmas doesn't have to be perfect. In fact, students can write a personal narrative about a time when a holiday or special occasin didn't turn out perfect!

Olive, the Other Reindeer

This book is sure to make your students laugh! Olive is a dog that is preparing for Christmas. He hears the song Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer. But instead of "all of the other reindeer," he thinks they are saying "Olive, the other Reindeer!" Olive thinks that he must be a reindeer! So he heads to the North Pole to help Santa. He gets there just in time to help save Christmas with his unique dog skills. This book's central message is about how differences can be good!

How Santa Got His Job

This is a fun story about all of the different jobs Santa had before he started delivering gifts on Christmas. He tried everything! They just aren't the right jobs for him. Then, he meets some elves that help him discover his talents and his dream job. This book lends itself nicely to having students write a persuasive piece about why they would be a good Santa! 

A Wish to Be a Christmas Tree

This is a precious story that is told from the point of view of a tree. This tree desperately wants to be a Christmas Tree, but it is always passed over. His woodland friends help him to understand the importance of being a tree that is loved and appreciated all year! This is a great book to use when discussing point of view. Maybe students can write a story from the point of view of their own Christmas tree!

The Carpenter's Gift

This is a very touching story! I have been known to cry when reading this one. This is a historical fiction book that takes place in the Great Depression Era. Henry and his father are selling Christmas trees. At the end of the night, they have some extras and they donate them to the construction workers who are building the Rockefeller Center. This tree becomes the first Rockefeller Christmas tree! The next morning, Henry  gets the biggest surprise! The construction workers have come to together to build him and his family a house! I think this is a wonderful book to help students understand and appreciate their many blessings.

If you are looking for ways to extend these books into your reading lessons, you might be interested in my Christmas Reading Interactive Notebook. Every one of the activities can be used with ANY holiday book. So you can choose your favorite story and the skill you need to practice!

There are actually 24 different foldables that are included in this one notebook!

May the weeks before winter break be joyful, fun and QUICK! 

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10 Games to Play with any Vocabulary Words

These vocabulary games are the perfect addition to your centers or word work! I have provided free printables and game pieces!

Vocabulary instruction is so critical is today's classroom! A vast vocabulary will help students to become better readers and writers. Vocabulary is also essential to their performance on standardized tests. Helping kids to develop their vocabulary is time that is well spent in a busy classroom. I have developed a vocabulary routine that keeps my vocabulary instruction simple to plan and a meaningful use of instructional minutes. If you want to read more about my weekly routine, click on the picture below.

I love using games to practice and review vocabulary words. Games are engaging and fun. Students will remember more when they are having fun! Games can be used in centers or as a whole group activity. I have come up with ten different games that are super simple and can be played with any list of words. You can play these games with ELA words, science words or even math vocabulary! You will find lots of FREE printables throughout this post that will make it super easy to start playing these games in your classroom tomorrow!

Each student will need one of the free game boards. If you want to be able to use them over and over, laminate and have students use dry erase markers. Otherwise, they can use any writing utensil. Provide a long list of vocabulary words. Students will need 24 words, so it is a good game to play at the end of the unit to review. You can also mix math, Science and ELA words for a review of multiple subjects! Students will write a different word in each box. They decide which words and what order to write them in so that every board is a little different. When you are ready to play, give students a definition. Students determine the word. If they have that word on their board, they can cover it or color it. The first person to get five in a row is the winner.

These vocabulary games are the perfect addition to your centers or word work! I have provided free printables and game pieces!

You can download the game board for free by clicking HERE.

To play this game, you will need cards with vocabulary words and cards with their meanings. You can make them with index cards or you can use the free editable card template that I have provided. Students shuffle up the cards and place them face down in an array. Students take turns flipping two cards. 

These vocabulary games are the perfect addition to your centers or word work! I have provided free printables and game pieces!

If they flip over a match- the word and its meaning- they keep the two cards. If they are not a match, they flip the cards back over and it is the next person’s turn. Play continues until all of the cards are gone.

You can grab these FREE editable word cards by clicking HERE.

For this game, you can use the word cards from the memory game or you can write words on popsicle sticks. You will also want some of the free pop cards or write pop on several sticks. Put the cards or sticks into a container. Students take turns pulling one card or stick out of the container. If they pull a word card, they must give the definition. You can change this up a bit by requiring them to give a synonym and antonym if you prefer. If they answer correctly, they keep the card. If they are wrong, it goes back in the container. If they draw a pop, they must put all of their cards back in the container. 

These vocabulary games are the perfect addition to your centers or word work! I have provided free printables and game pieces!

This game won’t end on its own because there are always pop cards. When the time is up, the winner is the person with the most cards.

You can grab these cute pop cards for FREE by clicking HERE. You can also grab the FREE editable word card template HERE.

This game is perfect for a small group or center. You will need word cards. Students will take turns putting a word card on their headband, so that they cannot see it but the other players can. The student will ask yes or no questions of the other group members until they can correctly guess the word. For example: “Is my word a verb?” “Is ‘take’ a synonym for my word?” Tell students that they must be asking questions pertaining to the definition, part of speech and definition! Once a student guesses their word, the next player takes a turn. You can also use the timer that comes with the game to keep things moving. There really isn’t a winner for this game, but it always a favorite in my classroom.

These vocabulary games are the perfect addition to your centers or word work! I have provided free printables and game pieces!

You can grab these FREE editable word cards by clicking HERE.

This is a good whole group game, but you can have students working in teams. You will need to use word cards again. You will be taping them, face down, onto your board so that the whole class can see the blank back of the card. You will add the category and point cards that I have provided for you. 

These vocabulary games are the perfect addition to your centers or word work! I have provided free printables and game pieces!

The first team will choose a category and a point amount. Flip that card over and give that team 5-10 seconds to answer. So if they choose Synonyms for threes points, they need to give a synonym for the vocabulary word. If they are correct, their team gets the three point. I usually just keep score on the board. If they are not correct, put the card back so that another team can try it. Once all of the cards have been completed, the team with the most points is the wining team. Be sure to put the toughest words in the five point row!

You can download these FREE jeopardy heading cards by clicking HERE. Again, grab these FREE editable word cards by clicking HERE.

For this game, you will need a small ball and a trash can. I also put a piece of masking tape on the floor to show students where to stand when they throw. 

These vocabulary games are the perfect addition to your centers or word work! I have provided free printables and game pieces!

The teacher will need a list of vocabulary words. I like to do boys versus girls- so I have  them line up boy, girl, boy, girl, etc. But you can do different teams if you want. Have students get in a line starting at the tape. Ask the first person a question. You can just give them a word and ask for a definition or a synonym or to use it in a sentence. You can even use questions from assessments. If the student gets the question right, they get a point for their team and they get the chance to throw the ball. If they make the basket, they get a bonus point for their team. If they are not correct, the question goes to the next person in line. At the end of the allotted time, the team with the most points is the winner.

This is so simple to implement because you are using simple games that students already know how to play. Games that I suggest are Candy Land, Checkers, Connect Four, Chutes and Ladders, etc. It is ok if the games seem childish for your grade level. The kids love playing them anyway! 

These vocabulary games are the perfect addition to your centers or word work! I have provided free printables and game pieces!

You will also need word cards. The game is played according to the rules. The only change is that before a player can take their turn on the game board, they must flip over a word card and correctly define it. If they are correct, they get their turn. If they are incorrect, it is the next person’s turn. It is so simple, but my kids beg for it!

You can grab these FREE editable word cards by clicking HERE.

This is another whole group game that you will play in teams. You will need some sort of buzzers or bells. I got these fun animal sound buzzers. (Click on the photo for a link to Amazon.)
I like these buzzers, because each team gets their own animal sound. The kids LOVE it. But be sure to do some training about proper use. I take a point if I hear a buzzer at an inappropriate time. Teams stand in a line behind their buzzer so that they can easily take turns. The teacher asks any vocabulary question and when a team thinks they know the answer, they push their buzzer. The first buzzer I hear, gets to answer. If they are correct, their team gets a point. If they are incorrect, the other three teams get another chance to buzz in and answer. Then those four students go to the back of their team line. The winning team is the team with the most points when time is up or you run out of questions.

This game doesn’t require any prep and could be done when you find yourself with a little extra time before lunch or during rainy day recess. I often play this with the whole group with teams, but it could be played with a small group. Teams will take turns being the actor. Either give the team a word card, or just whisper the word in their ear. The team or the student will go to the front and act out the word. They can’t talk. The audience will guess what word they are. You can give the audience teams buzzers or just let them call out answers. You can give teams a point for getting answers correct, or you can just play for fun.

If you want to use word cards, you can grab these FREE editable word cards by clicking HERE.

This is a super simple game. Students will play in a small group and only need word cards (or even definition cards!) and a die. Players take turns flipping a card and giving the definition (or if it is a definition card- they give the word). 

These vocabulary games are the perfect addition to your centers or word work! I have provided free printables and game pieces!

If they are correct, they roll the die to see how many points they get. If they are incorrect, it is the next person’s turn. The winner is the person with the most points when time is up or all the word cards are gone.

You can grab these FREE editable word cards by clicking HERE.

Did you miss any of the FREE resources from this post? Just click HERE to grab them all at once!

Do you have resources for helping your students to learn tier two vocabulary? I have put together units that include everything you need to teach, practice and assess vocabulary. Each unit includes teacher plans, weekly word lists, daily activities, task cards and assessments. Click on the pictures to get a better look at each unit.

Are you wanting to learn more about vocabulary instruction? I highly recommend the book Word Nerds. It is a book that I think every teacher should read and I based my units on a lot of her strategies. Click on the picture below to learn more about the book.

This post contains affiliate links.

Thanksgiving Books for the Classroom

Thanksgiving is such a fun time in the classroom! Thanksgiving is a great time to teach fun social studies lessons and character trait lessons! I love teaching about the First Thanksgiving and helping students to understand what it means to be thankful. I use lots of books throughout the month of November in my classroom. I am going to share lots of my favorite Thanksgiving books with you. Each book picture is linked to the book on Amazon to make it easier for you to read more about the book or make a purchase for your classroom. I have included some fun books, as well as some more historical books.

The Story of the Pilgrims

This is a simple book about the first Thanksgiving. It includes historically accurate facts about the Pilgrim's voyage across the Atlantic, the first winter and the feast. The details are interesting and just enough to keep students engaged. The simplicity of this book makes it ideal for the start of a unit on Thanksgiving or for younger students.

If You Sailed on the Mayflower in 1620...

This is my favorite book for teaching students about the Pilgrims. The book is long and I am only able to read a few chapters each day. The book goes into great detail about their voyage and why they were making the journey across the Atlantic. There are also very descriptive chapters about their first winter and how they lived in America. As I read this book, students work on their Thanksgiving Interactive Notebooks. It is a great companion. 

I must warn you that there is one section where it talks about how the children had to drink beer because they had run out of clean water on the Mayflower. I still read this section because it is historically accurate, but we do talk about how unhealthy that must have been for those poor kids. I don't send them home thinking they should drink beer! 

Squanto's Journey

I think that it is very important for students to learn about the Native Americans and their role in the first Thanksgiving. This book does an amazing job of showing how the Native Americans helped to save the Pilgrims. The story shows students how Squanto cared for the land and wanted to be friends with the Pilgrims. The book is very detailed and includes facts that many of your students have never heard. This book is an excellent read aloud when discussing character traits and central message. The book could also be used, in conjunction with others, to compare and contrast the point of view of the Pilgrims and the Native Americans.


Thanksgiving is a great time to learn about turkeys! This book has lots of interesting facts about these birds and their life cycle. The pictures in this book are sensational. My students love to become turkey experts and it helps me to squeeze in a little science while students think we are just having some Thanksgiving fun!

Balloons Over Broadway

I grew up w watching the Macy's Thanksgiving parade with my grandma each Thanksgiving morning. Reading this book to my students brings back all of those special memories for me. Most of my students have seen the parade and so they too get excited about the story. This book is essentially a biography of Tony Sarg, the creator of the Macy's balloons. While the book includes lots of historical details, it also has beautiful illustrations that grab the attention of my students. The book is also an excellent story for discussing creativity and problem-solving. 

There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Turkey

The There Was an Old Lady series is super fun and follows a predictable pattern. The lady swallows a bunch of things including a hat, a football, a turkey and more. Readers are trying to figure out why she is swallowing these things. This book has lots of humor and is a fantastic read aloud for practicing sequencing skills. You could also use the book to discuss inferences.

10 Fat Turkeys

This is another funny book that students will enjoy. It is a story about ten turkeys who do all kinds of silly things such as dance and swing from vines. The book has great illustrations. The turkey faces are super funny! If you are teaching younger students, the book is great for teaching counting backwards and subtraction. 

Turkey Trouble

This is a fun book that I read to my class every year! The turkey is in trouble! He is about to be cooked for the Thanksgiving dinner. He decides that the only way to save himself is to disguise himself. If he looks like a different animal, maybe he won't get eaten. Your students will love all of his funny ideas!

The Great Thanksgiving Escape

This is a laugh out loud book about the trials of a big family gathering! In this story, Gavin and his cousin are trying to escape to the backyard. But they must get past all of the extended family before their backyard fun can begin. It is fun to talk about different family member's point of view and share stories of who we spend Thanksgiving with. You could also have your students sequence the events of the story.

Thanksgiving on Thursday

This is a great historical fiction chapter book about the first Thanksgiving. Jack and Annie go back in time to the first Thanksgiving feast. They meet Pilgrims and Native Americans. The book is fiction but includes lots of historically accurate facts about how the Native Americans helped the Pilgrims through the first winter. The book includes the usual Magic Treehouse fun that keeps students engaged. This book would make a great read aloud or book club book during the month of November.

I hope this gives you some new and fresh book ideas for November! Happy Thanksgiving!


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