Winter Reading for Elementary Students

With winter right around the corner, I thought I’d share with you some of my favorite winter books for elementary students.  These stories all share some elements that are important to me, personally, when choosing books to share with children.  For one, they all have beautiful, vivid, and colorful illustrations that creatively depict what the clever stories are telling.  Also, all of these books are written with either an amount of predictability, which is very important for young listeners, or have a rhyming element to them which is equally as beneficial.


The Mitten was an obvious choice for me as Jan Brett is one of my favorite children’s authors.  In this book, Brett has adapted a Ukrainian folktale that tells the story of a young boy who drops his mitten in the snow and it soon becomes the home to many animals looking for a warm and cozy place to hide.  As more and more animals attempt to squeeze into this mitten, the mitten becomes a little cramped before something finally sends all of the animals flying out!


The Mitten Illustration 1


I am having a hard time finding the words to describe how beautiful the illustrations are in this book.  From the detailed main pictures, to the Brett’s signature “key hole” sneak peak into what is occurring on the next page that she includes in many of her other stories, it’s no wonder that The Mitten is still popular after it was first published in 1989.


The Mitten Illustration 2


Written by Uri Shulevitz, Snow received a Caldecott Honor in 1999.  This book is best suited for younger children as there are minimal words on each page and the story as a whole is relatively brief.  It also has some famous nursery rhyme characters who show up in the pictures toward the end of the story to join in on the fun.




The illustrations, which depict the story of a boy who notices the first few snowflakes that begin to fall on a day in which snow was not originally in the forecast, are whimsical and fantastical.  By the end of the story, when the town is covered in beautiful white snow, it’s pretty apparent that the weatherman was wrong and the boy’s hunch, that it is in fact a snow day, was correct all along.




Snowmen At Night, written by Caralyn Buehner and a New York Times Bestseller, is another winter favorite of mine.  I love books that rhyme, have large, full-page illustrations, happy and exciting storylines…and this book has it all!

Snowmen At Night



The story answers the question, “What do snowmen do at night?” by taking them on a journey that suggests to young readers what snowmen might do to entertain themselves during the dark hours.  Snowmen playing baseball, making snow angels, ice skating, and drinking hot cocoa are just a few of the illustrations by Mark Buehner in this fun storybook!


Snowmen At Night Illustration 2


Enjoy and happy winter reading!



Essential Oils

I take Cod Liver Oil, eat flax seeds in my morning smoothie and snack on nuts on a daily basis to help boost my brain-power and general functioning. At first, I felt that the whole fish oil and flax seed push sounded like a health fad, but then I read an article about the link between essential fatty acids and brain functioning and I was mesmerized by the close link. As a self-proclaimed nutrition geek and an educator, I was intrigued by the science of increasing my intake this essential nutrient.

In the 1980s, researchers began to look at the link between children that exhibited hyperactivity and their essential fatty acid levels. The results of the studies showed that children exhibiting hyperactivity were actually deficient in essential fatty acids. Numerous studies since these original discoveries have eluded that the fact that children with low level of fatty acids have a higher frequency of behavior problems.

To get even more nerdy about the science of the brain, nutrition and how it effects learning, we need to dive further into the structure of our brain. The brain, “is compose of 70 percent fat. Docosahexaenoic acid DHA is the most abundant fat in the brain. DHA is an omega-3 essential fatty acid, which means that the body can’t produce it and, therefore, must be consumed through our diet.” ( Strickland, 2009) The truth is, fatty acids are the building blocks of the brain. If someone is low on fatty acids, it will start altering their ability to learn, memorize and pay attention.

It will probably not surprise you to know that deficiencies in fatty acids are also linked to Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and Depression.


Since I am not a big fish eater, I had to find other ways in consume the correct amount of essential fatty acids in my diet. I decided that taking Cod Liver oil was the best solution for my family but I highly encourage you to do your own research on essential fatty-acids. I researched and was able to find an organic option that fit my needs. When searching for a way to integrate more essential fatty-acids into your child’s diet, I highly recommend consulting with your pediatrician, a registered dietitian or a natural health practitioner to ensure that you are gaining a healthy balance of your child’s nutrients and avoiding other health concerns that may derive from altering your child’s diet.

I have loved hearing numerous parents that I work with have success stories when they have increased their child’s intake of this nutrient. I look forward to hearing your stories.

Get Your Game On!

With the holidays approaching, we thought we’d give you some resources for some fun holiday (and educational) games to play with your children or students.  They’re fun, they’re festive, and (shh!!!) they teach your children, too!


Of course, we have to give recognition to our fellow educators who share their resources (for just a few bucks each…it’s a steal…some are even free!) on Teachers Pay Teachers.  This amazing website has more resources for educational materials than you could use in an entire lifetime of teaching.


Here are some of our top picks:


This holiday fluency game for elementary grades looks like so much fun I’d like to play it alongside them!  What’s even better?  It’s absolutely free with a simple download of the PDF!  This game correlates with five of the Common Core State Standards in Literacy.   Students work in pairs to read the phrases on the cards, make up sentences using the phrases, and then write their sentences down.  Once they have completed those steps, students can use the “fun phrase reading card”  to step the silliness up a notch by reading the phrases in an elf voice, like you’re very cold, like you’re a sleepy child, and many more!



Here’s another freebie for you!  This math game for middle schoolers, Build-a-Snowman and Build-a-Tree, has them converting improper fractions to mixed numbers.  Working  in pairs, students roll dice and must correctly convert the improper fraction into a mixed number in order to earn a piece to the snowman or tree they are trying to build.  The first person to completely build their picture wins!




High schoolers can practice writing a letter with this White Elephant activity (also free!).  Prepare students ahead of time by having them bring in any item from home that could be a part of the White Elephant Gift Exchange.  Items do not have to be expensive!  The funnier the better.  Ideas include a package of Ramen noodles, a box of tissues, or a tube of toothpaste.  Once students participate in the gift exchange, they are then instructed to write a thank you letter to the gift-giver.  Great holiday fun!




Other honorable mentions….


Holiday Treats Alphabet:  Letter and Sound Recognition Game  ($1.00)

Holiday Math Number Cube Game ($1.50 for 4th-8th grades)

Holiday Owl Poke Math Facts Bundle ($5.00 for the bundle that includes addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.  Can be purchased separately for $2.00 each).


Blog written by Lauren Bronson from Tampa Learning Co.

Playful By Design Journey

Hello Education world and welcome to Playful By Design‘s blog. I look forward to sharing ideas with you about fun ways to engage your child in learning. I strongly believe in learning through play and love reading research and studies on the benefits of movement and learning (but there is more of that to come…) Today, I want to share with you a my journey into play-based learning.

I was that child that set up a classroom full of dolls and taught them lessons on reading, math and science. Each doll asked questions and I wrote on that white board like a champ!

Fast forward a few years. (OK more than a few but this imaginative thinker did play with dolls until she was pretty old). I left for college thinking I would begin a children’s fitness franchise. I began with my major being Sports Medicine for I thought that this would give me the base I needed to run a fitness company. However, about a semester in, I realized that I really wanted a more education related degree so I made the fantastic decision to switch over the Special Education. With this switch, so do did my career goals. I haven’t opened a children’s fitness company. (Yet!)

I returned home to teach as an inclusion teacher while I earned my master’s degree in Behavioral Disorders. That is when my belief in play-based learning really started to flourish. I noticed a strong need for children to learn through play. My background in behavior allowed me to look for trends on children’s learning and their need for movement. I try to design all of my lessons around the thought process that children need to move. I have even snuck movement opportunities to many of the worksheets that I have created.

Since then, my love for play-based learning has flourished. I can adapt a board game, come up with a movement or sing a song for about any education standard. It is a blast! I look forward to learning from you and sharing some of my play-based ideas.

I also offer a range of education services, most of which center around executive functioning skills and family involvement.

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