Fantastic Week and Impromptu Project

I have to say I was a little worried going into this first week back after Thanksgiving break.  I was worried that my kiddos would come back not remembering our routine or expectations.  Boy was I surprised!  We had an amazing week!  My plan was to re-visit rules and expectations on Monday which worked out perfect because I got a new student that day.  The second part of my plan was to show some personal restraint and not jump straight into Christmas.  I decided since Thanksgiving was early I would end out November before bringing the holidays to my classroom.  Not only did I notice it was a great week, but so did others!  We got so many compliments this week and so much learning done!  Days and weeks like this just make my heart grin from ear to ear - or - ventricle to ventricle!

So I followed my game plan - mostly!  I woke up about 4:30 a.m. on Friday morning with this idea.  If you know me, you know that once I get an idea in my head I have to try to make it happen.  This was my idea - make an Advent Calendar or Countdown to Christmas Calendar for my kids to take home.  As a kid, I loved our Christmas Countdown each year.  I teach at a Title I school and most of my students do not have experiences like this.  So I wanted to see if I could make one at school, then send it home for the kids to do with their families. 

I decided on a large Christmas tree with ornaments and a star to add each day.  At first I was a little frustrated because my original idea (that I started on upon waking up at 4:30 a.m.) didn't quite work because apparently I didn't save it to dropbox like I thought (probably because I woke up at 4:30 a.m.).  So I had to start thinking outside the box - which usually results in a better end product - and this time it did for sure!

I pulled the really large (like 18x24 inch) construction paper from our workroom in red and green then set off to do a lesson on following instructions.  In introduced our project to the class then we set out to complete the project one step at a time together.  We started by making 3 triangles from the large green construction paper (1 large, 1 medium and 1 small).  Now - you just got the short, sweet to the point instruction, but in class this took about 30-40 minutes.  I modeled how to draw a large triangle using the bottom edge of the paper and drawing lines from the 2 corners.  We drew then cut out together, then waited for everyone to finish this step.  Then on to the medium triangle, then to the small.  Once we were done I handed out brown rectangles that I had cut by chopping a regular piece of brown construction paper into 3 strips. 

Next it was time to start gluing.  Surprisingly, most of my kiddos wanted to use glue stick (I think because I introduced them this week for a sight word paper we did).  I let them have their choice. We started by gluing the brown strip to the bottom of the paper. (Read as tell, model, show, watch, wait for everyone).  Then we talked about layering and how we were going to put our large triangle on top of the brown and cover part of it.  Model, show, watch, wait.  Then we layered the medium triangle on the top of the large triangle.  Repeat with small triangle.  The kids did an amazing job!  I love their finished trees!

Since we were getting close to dismissal time, I sent them to their desks to start coloring the ornament page.  On this page were 24 ornaments numbered 1-24 (why not practice recognizing numbers and ordering numbers while we countdown to Christmas).  Then I cut a die-cut yellow star and numbered it 25.  While the students colored their ornaments I put an instruction card and star in a baggie.  The students added a glue stick to their baggie so they had a way to attach the ornaments to the tree. 

Here's the ornament page if you'd like to make this with your kiddos!  I included the ornament page with a larger star (no die-cutting necessary) along with a Christmas tree pattern in case you wanted to just print and copy.  (My original idea was to do that and copy onto legal size paper).  A big thank you to Homemade Preschool and Pixabella for this great free clip art!  Note:  I did not put numbers on this page, so you might want to add that.  I just wrote mine on with Sharpie before I copied the page!

Click the picture to download
Ultimately we ran out of time to finish coloring and cutting out all the ornaments so I sent the page home with the kids to finish.  Note to self for next year - make this a 2 day project or have longer than 1 hour.  Each kiddo went home with a finished tree, an ornament page, a baggie with their instructions, star and glue stick.  They were very excited to start the Christmas Countdown over the weekend!

I'm just wondering, am I the only one that gets an idea and implements it on a whim?  Sometimes they work out great like this one, and sometimes not, but learning process none-the-less.  What are some of your impromptu ideas?