A Post to be Proud Of

Writing previously about our most-read posts in 2023 had me reflecting on past posts I’ve written for HonorsGradU. I’ve been a writer on this blog since 2019, so with four years of blog posts floating around this website, I have plenty of work to sift through. So, as humble as possible, I’d like to share my top five favorite posts that I have written for this blog.

Helicopter Mom was one of the very first blog posts I ever wrote and still is one of my favorites. I think about this post often and remind myself of the topics I learned this day and I continue in motherhood and teaching. I also wrote Helicopter Mom Part II a few years later and felt like it was also a great reflection post for me.

A little background on this post… I initially had this post written in February 2020 and scheduled to post in March 2020. However, once the COVID shutdown started, I quickly realized that I needed to modify my original writings to better fit the situation. It ended up becoming our most-read post in 2020, and for good reason.

This isn’t necessarily a post, but a page on our blog that leads to several other pages. This page has been my pride and joy since I started it. Several times I have sent the link to this page to friends and family when they ask me questions about sensory bins and how or when to start them or when they want more information on play-based learning. It has been such a work in progress over the last several years and I am proud of that!

The story of Mr. Meyers is one that I find myself often thinking about. It’s a story about teachers and the influence and lessons they teach us, beyond just math, writing, and reading.

I had a group of friends over the other day and our discussion led to children’s activities and where to start. I ended up not only sending them my page on early childhood resources, but I also giving them several books and book recommendations on the subject. I truly belive that most of life’s problems can be solved by reading a book!

There have been many blog posts over the last several years, I could make this list much, much longer but I won’t gloat too much 😉

Do you have any favorite posts from HonorsGradU? Tell us in the comments!

A 2023 Recap From HonorsGradU

2023 was an incredible year for the HonorsGradU blog. We had some amazing posts and series that have rolled out on our website, not just this year but in years past. Let’s recap our most popular posts this year based on views.

Coming in at number one is our true colors personality testing and how to use it in the classroom. This series was just one of the few that we’ve done on personality testing for the classroom, but so far it has been our most popular. Some may feel that personality testing puts them into a box, but we feel that personality testing is just another way to learn more about ourselves and can be used as a tool to understand our circumstances and thinking process better.

Our second most popular post is a great article (and one of our originals from back in 2013!) giving tips and advice on graduation day. Graduation day is such a big day, it’s not a day you’ll want to miss important things, so small things like chapstick in your pocket can make a big difference.

The third most popular post this year was my initial post about late summer birthdays and deciding whether to red-shirt kids for kindergarten, or not. This initial post led to more and more through the years as I continued to go through this decision-making process with my two older kids.

Forever one of our most popular posts: Chemical vs. Physical Changes! It can be such a tricky topic to know, let alone teach, so Mary did a great breakdown for all of us to get it all straight.

My very first personality testing series was on the Myers-Briggs personality testing and is still one of my favorite subjects to talk about. It looks like it’s also one of everyone’s favorite topics to read about on the blog, too because it was our 5th most popular post for the year. Going down the MBTI rabbit hole is worth it, in my opinion.

I am excited to see what 2024 brings for HonorsGradU. We already have some great posts and series up our sleeve, but if there is something you’d like to see here, please let us know in the comments!

Christmas Picture Book List 2023

It’s here, it’s finally here! The Christmas picture book list of 2023. To see past Christmas picture book lists, head here

A Creature Was Stirring by Heather S. Pieczynski 

“‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a— MOUSE! He had never heard of a mouse not stirring. It was the most glorious night of the year! So he stirred. Squeaked! Eeked! Anything but sleep.” -Goodreads  

This book had us giggling on every page! The small, loveable mouse also felt relatable to how my children act on Christmas Eve. 

How Does Santa Go Down The Chimney? By Mac Barnett

“Mac Barnett’s iconic talent for earnest deadpan humor and Jon Klassen’s irresistibly funny art honor the timeless question with answers both ridiculous and plausible, mounting in hilarity as the night continues.” -Goodreads

This book is exactly what every child asks at some point. How exactly does Santa go down the chimney? We loved the illustrations and the humor of the book. 

The Nutcracker by Jan Brett
“Jan Brett makes this classic her own by setting it in snowy Russia and adding whimsical touches to the favorite elements of the traditional ballet. Enjoying this book will be an instant Christmas tradition for families who love the ballet and those new to the story.

As perfect a gift as Jan Brett’s classics The Mitten and The Night Before Christmas.” -Goodreads

The illustrations along with the changed setting of this book gave the classic story of The Nutcracker a fun, exciting new change. 

‘Twas The Night Before Christmas poem by Clement Clark Moore, Illustrated by Mr. Boddington

“Mr. Boddington’s Studio provides a fresh take by using the same poem and updating the style” -Goodreads

We were oohing and ahhing with every page flip because of the amazing illustrations. The color palette used in the pictures flowed incredibly well and the bright colors drew us into each page. 

Classroom Christmas Party Games: Free Cakewalk Printable

There are a lot of teachers who have support from parents and volunteers to help with Christmas parties, and that is incredible! What an amazing resource to have in the classroom.

But for those teachers who are doing the majority of the party planning on their own, let me help you out with a FREE printable for an easy cakewalk game that you can host in your classroom for your Christmas party. Or, use it for the school’s Christmas party! Need it for a family Christmas party? It works for that, too!

A cakewalk is fairly simple to orchestrate, especially if you’re familiar with musical chairs. Tape down on the floor ~20 numbers. This amount can change based on what your needs are for the group you’re serving. Not every number needs to be filled, but each individual needs a number.

Start up some festive music and everyone starts walking in a circle. Decide beforehand if you’re starting clockwise or counter-clockwise. If the music suddenly switches, switch directions! Once the music has stopped, everyone stands on the number they landed on.

A number is drawn randomly and whoever is on this number receives the prize for the round. Traditionally the prize is a cake… hence the name a cakewalk. However, any prizes are acceptable! It’s also handy to have consolation prizes for those who participated but didn’t win, such as a sticker or a small piece of small candy.

Here is the download for the FREE cakewalk printable including numbers to tape to the ground and smaller numbers to cut out and draw for winners. Enjoy!

Christmas Book Lists of Christmas Past

I’ve been working on my 2023 Christmas Picture Book list for almost a month now, there are SO many good Christmas picture books out there and this is my favorite post I write all year! Picture books are magical year-round, but for some reason, the magic seems to double around Christmas. We’re not quite ready to roll out the red carpet for our 2023 list, so to hold us all off, here are all of the links to past year’s Christmas picture book lists.

Find the very first Christmas book list here:

My second year of writing a Christmas picture book lists almost felt wrong because it seemed like so many incredible holidays and celebrations were left out. Thus came the Christmas Book List as well as several other lists of holiday books!

By my third year of writing my Christmas Book lists, it felt like a tradition.

Last year’s Christmas book list almost felt like it couldn’t be topped, but maybe this year I’ll say the same thing.

Stay tuned! The Christmas Picture Books of 2023 will be hitting the blog soon! Which books are you hoping to see on the list?

Christmas Reading Bingo Chart: FREE Downloadable PDF

Our reading bingo charts have become pretty popular with the reading crowd around our town! Each holiday and season I’m getting new requests for more. You can see our past reading bingos here:

Summer Reading Bingo

Fall Reading Bingo

As always, these are FREE to download. We love sharing this free resource for those who need or want it. These bingo charts have been great for readers who want a challenge and for readers who need some motivation or direction to get started.

On the bingo chart, there are several squares for reading books about different winter celebrations and holidays. If you don’t know where to find these books, look no further! We did the work for you last winter! Check out our winter holiday book lists:

The bingo charts are available in both color and black and white, for whatever your preference is. Download them here!

The Importance of Being Thankful- Ideas for the Classroom

Thanksgiving can be a tricky topic in school to learn about and celebrate, especially when we want to be respectful of those who may not celebrate the holiday.

At its very core, Thanksgiving is about being thankful, which is always a great topic and value to teach to all ages of children in schools. You don’t have to explicitly celebrate Thanksgiving in your classroom to celebrate and learn about being thankful.

We can start off by having a simple conversation about being thankful and what it means to us. We can talk about the different things we can be thankful for from everyday necessities like water, food, and shelter, to the bigger things like our gaming systems at home, bikes, etc. There are also things to be thankful for like friends, family, and teachers.

Ways we can incorporate thankfulness in the classroom-

A thankful tree art project- an empty tree trunk that eventually is filled with leaves that are written with what the students are thankful for.

A thankful turkey art project- similar to the thankful tree, but a more “Thanksgiving” approach if you’re wanting to head that way.

Write thank-you notes to teachers, janitors, administration, cafeteria workers, and more.

Take a few minutes of class each day to have the students tell everyone what they are thankful for.

Create thankful journals in class and write in them when possible.

Have students write what they are thankful for on a strip of paper and draw a few each day to read to the class.

Let the students highlight each other when they see the kindness their peers are showing.

When we are looking at the good, positive aspects of our lives, the good only gets better. That’s why promoting and talking about being thankful in our classrooms is only a net positive for everyone. It’s eye-opening for everyone to see what others value and are thankful for in their lives, and can remind us more about what we are thankful for in our lives.

Do you talk about being thankful with your students? What does this look like in your classroom?