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Literary Sherri is Getting Nerdy: 12 Days of Nerd Libs
It's that time again . . . time to link up to Mel & Gerdy's weekly nerd libs! The theme this week is "The Twelve Days of Nerd Libs" and it really made me chuckle because I was true to the spirit of mad libs and filled in my word categories before peeking at the story, yet my results could be (almost) entirely true!

Granted, I never have Puffs Plus Lotion at school. I always seem to have tissues that are sliver-thin and feel like sandpaper. Otherwise, substitute "gray" for "purple" and this could really be a day in my life!

Click here to visit the linky and read other teachers' 12 Days of Nerd Libs . . . or to add your own!

And don't forget, today is a Day of Giving Back in many TpT shops! 50% of my sales today will be donated to KIVA. Visit my TpT shop here . . . and click here to visit other TpT shops that are giving a portion of their sales to their favorite causes and charities today!

Happy Sunday!

Literary Sherri is Giving Back on December 14

One of the many reasons I love selling my teaching resources on Teachers Pay Teachers is the super-fabulous people I meet through TpT . . . the teacher-authors who sell their resources on TpT are passionate about education, committed to excellence, and some of the most genuinely caring and giving people you'll ever meet!

For example, several sellers are working together to donate a percentage of their sales this Sunday, December 14, to their favorite causes and charities. I'll be donating 50% of my sales to KIVA, a non-profit organization that strives to use the power of the internet to connect people who are in need with those who want to help. You make small loans – starting at just $25 – to people around the world (including right here in America, by the way!) who are working diligently to provide for their families or to pursue higher education. The recipients pay the money back so it can be re-gifted to someone else in need — continuing the circle of compassion, kindness, and empathy– all the big lessons and life-skills we hope to teach in our classrooms!

KIVA is not a charity, as the recipients of the loans pay the money back. In fact, KIVA has a 98% repayment rate and one of the best aspects of the program is this: When your loan amount is repaid, you can choose to cash your money out and use it in other ways, or you can re-gift the money to someone else in need!

Please visit Literary Sherri on TpT this Sunday, December 14, to support KIVA! While your shopping for resources for your classroom, check out these teacher-authors, too . . . all these sellers will be donating a portion of this Sunday's sales to their favorite causes:

Happy Giving!

Literary Sherri's Holiday Traditions with Secondary Smorgasboard

Here's a (not-so-secret) secret about me: I LOVE family traditions, both in theory and in practice . . . which is why I am thrilled to be linking up today with ELA Buffet and Desktop Learning Adventures' Secondary Smorgasbord to read about other teachers' favorite traditions!

In my family, we have several holiday traditions that I can't imagine skipping! The weekend after Thanksgiving is all about the decorations -- putting up the tree, getting out the Christmas music, sending out the holiday cards. Yes, I still send cards via snail-mail! I love receiving Christmas cards, so I want to keep brightening others' holidays by sending cards to their mailboxes! We never miss our annual Christmas-light drive, with hot cocoa warming our mittened hands and "The Carpenter's Christmas Portrait" crooning in the CD player!
On Christmas Eve, we gather with several of our dearest friends for dinner. Not just any dinner, but dinner prepared by one of our sweet friends, Karen, who is a professional chef and who never fails to amaze us with her Christmas Eve feast, starting with shrimp cocktail (and festive cocktails of the liquid variety!), ending with scrumptious cheesecakes, and somewhere in the middle we enjoy crown roast or prime rib or some other such deliciously perfect entrĂ©e. This is Karen's gift to her friends. In return, we each bring a dish and a gift for her to take to the Ronald McDonald House the next day so the families staying there on Christmas Day have a nice meal to come home to after a long day spent at the hospital with their little ones. Among other dishes, I always send a huge bowl of my Cranberry Salad . . . a family favorite that graces the table on both Thanksgiving and Christmas.
I contributed this festive recipe to the "The 2014 Secondary Teachers' Holiday Recipe Book" (which is free, by the way):
Christmas morning in my home starts with holiday music and cinnamon rolls to wake everyone up, followed by stockings, gifts, and finding chocolate initials hidden in the tree (a nod to Dutch roots). My favorite gifts to open are the ornaments we always exchange with one another, trying to choose ornaments that symbolize something meaningful that happened during the year. In this way, our tree tells our family story.
After gifts, we prepare either a turkey or ham dinner for all those we know who don't have somewhere else to be on Christmas Day, sending everyone home with plenty of leftovers to make sandwiches, potpies, soups, and other various left-over meals (our favorite leftover meal is turkey fajitas!) At the end of the day, after everyone has gone home with their gifts and leftovers, we crash by going to a movie. It's a nice way to end the day, with pumpkin pie waiting at home after the movie!
We attend two other huge holiday get-togethers after Christmas Day, which I love because I adore the idea of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" which starts on December 25th . . . and it gives us a chance to make oliebollen -- homemade Dutch doughnuts -- for our extended family! I always feel a bit melancholy the day the tree comes down and the Christmas music and movies get packed up . . . but I'm always grateful for another year of memories to add to our "family Christmas!"

Yes Virginia There is a Santa Clause
In my classroom, I love the annual tradition of reading "Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus" and the wonderful discussions we have afterwards about the meaning of winter holidays -- all winter holidays! (Click here to check it out!) I give each of my students a gourmet-flavored candy cane with colorful curly-ribbon and a "No Homework" coupon attached . . . a "No Homework" coupon from me is a really big deal! Students get to trade it for any one homework assignment they choose from January-May. I also give my students the gift of no homework over the holiday break. Students work hard and I want them to return to school in January rested and ready to dive in diligently . . . and I want them to enjoy all their own family traditions and get-togethers . . . so I do not assign homework over the holiday break. It's my little way of keeping the spirit of Santa alive for my middle schoolers!
Drop me a note and tell me about your favorite traditions with your family or your class! You can also check out other Teacher-Bloggers' favorite traditions here: 

Happy Holidays!

Quick and Easy Recipes for Busy Teachers's the most wonderful time of the year . . . and also one of the very busiest! To help you find a bit of extra time for shopping, wrapping, baking, decorating, lesson planning, and planning tomorrow's antics for your elf (whew! I'm tired just listing some of what we do this time of year!), the Teaching 2 Step blog is hosting a "Quick, Easy Recipes for Busy, Busy Teachers" linky party! Thanks to Meredith of Teaching with a Twist for starting this linky!
Here's my quick and easy recipe, made with ingredients that are typically in the house this time of year:

To view other recipes, or link up with your own recipe, click here!

Happy Busy-Holiday-Season!

Thank you for the Liebster Award!

I am truly grateful to be nominated for the Liebster Award by Natalie from Teaching with a Touch of Honey when I was so new to blogging that I didn’t even know how to accept the award and pay it forward. More recently, I was nominated by Brynn Allison from The Literary Maven, Suzy of Student Savvy, Angie from Fun, Food, and Figurative Language, and Lorraine of MrsLRyan’s Teaching Resources. Thank you all for the nominations! I’m over-the-moon to have my blog recognized!

Unless very new to blogging, most bloggers have either heard of or received the Liebster Award at some point. Here’s a bit of background on this award:
  • The Liebster Award is an internet award given to new-ish bloggers by other bloggers as a way of recognizing new blogs and welcoming writers to the blogosphere. 
  • “Liebster” is German in origin and means dearest, sweetest, or nicest . . . it also means “welcome”
  • This is a “Pay It Forward” award . . . those who accept the award answer 11 questions to help readers get to know them a bit better, then nominate 11 other bloggers in return.
The digital world can sometimes feel very impersonal and isolating . . . new bloggers can feel as if they are writing to no one in particular and wonder if ‘anyone out there’ ever reads their posts . . . so the Liebster Award is a super-fun way to make connections with other bloggers (and hopefully readers, as well) . . . so, for anyone and everyone out there who may be reading this, here are my answers to the Liebster questions:
Question 1: Why and how long ago did you start blogging?
I was introduced to the world of teacher blogs through Teachers Pay Teachers (TpT). I’ve enjoyed reading and learning from others’ blogs so much that I decided to give it a go just over 6 months ago!
Question 2: What one word sums up the heart of your blog and why?
Literacy. I believe that people who function at high levels of literacy have doors of opportunity opened to them that would not be available otherwise, which is why I am passionate about empowering students to become skilled readers and writers! I really started my blog so I could share tips, tools, and strategies from a Literacy Specialists’ toolbox with the world! I hope teachers and parents find both inspiration and practical help for teaching literacy skills right here on my blog!
Question 3: Is there something you learned late in your blog journey you wished you knew before?
Since my blog is fairly new, I’m still learning! I’d love ideas and strategies for connecting with other bloggers and with readers! I still feel that I pretty much write only to myself! (Is anyone out there? Anyone?!?)
Question 4: What is your favorite past-time other than blogging?
I’m at the point in life where I realize there are more great books out there than I will ever have time to read in one lifetime . . . I read voraciously and I still love discovering new authors and engaging books!
I also spend quite a bit of my free time creating resources for my TpT shop, which I love!
Question 5: How many hours per week do you dedicate to your blog?
Not nearly as much as I’d like! Some weeks I can devote an hour or two every few days; other weeks, time flies and I’m so busy with other responsibilities that my blog (sadly!) falls to the bottom of the priority list. Actually, it’s not the writing that I don’t have time for – it’s the picture-taking! I have ten thousand GREAT ideas for blog posts, but I rarely have the extra time to take the pictures that would make the posts worth reading. One of my goals for 2015 is to be more consistent with blog posts!
Question 6: What category of blog posts do you enjoy the most?
I adore innovative organization ideas, so those posts always catch my eye! And of course, I love all posts related to books and book reviews!
Question 7: Where does your blog inspiration come from?
Students, other teachers, other bloggers, and the many fabulous Teacher-Authors on TpT!
Question 8: Which of your posts are you most proud of?
I’m pretty proud of my “Extras” page because it provides teachers with so many go-to resources!
I also love blog posts with practical, easy-to-implement ideas that are also super-effective, so I’m also proud of my post on using cups as silent signals. This is a very versatile strategy that works!
Question 9: Is there any post you have been planning to do, but have postponing it for a while now?
Oh.My.Gosh. SO many ideas . . . SO little time! I’m postponing dozens of posts until I can take the photos to go with them! Otherwise, this post! I was so kindly nominated by others, followed by a series of both fortunate and unfortunate events that prevented me from really taking the time to do this post justice (surgery . . . 10-day road trip to be with siblings for the first time in decades . . . 2-week bout of bronchitis). Discovering 11 other bloggers with fewer than 200 followers who have not already been nominated is quite a time-consuming challenge . . . and this is pretty much the longest blog post ever!

Question 10: What is your favorite aspect of blogging?
Definitely connecting with other readers, other writers, other teachers, and other TpT teacher-authors!
Question 11: Which recipe, project, or idea on your nominators’ blogs would you most like to try yourself?
Teaching with a Touch of Honey: I love the idea of Graffiti Walls . . . because I know students will love them!
The Literary Maven: Because wall space is always at a premium in classrooms, I adore Brynn Allison’s Word Tree!
Fun, Food, and Figurative Language: I adore Angie’s idea for Table Tournaments – effective and engaging teaching and learning at their best!
MrsLRyan’s Teaching Resources: Lorraine’s Using Blogging in the Classroom looks like a perfect tool for integrating both literacy and technology in class!
Click on the links below to visit my Liebster Award nominations:
If you’d like to accept the coveted Liebster Award, here are the “official rules” . . .
1. Follow the blogger who nominated you and give her (or him) a shout-out with a link back to his or her post in your own Liebster post.
2. Answer the 11 questions above.
3. Nominate 11 blogs of your choice that each have fewer than 200 followers.
4. Let your nominees know that they've been nominated and provide them with a link to your post so that they can accept.
5. Send your nominator a link to your post so that (s)he can learn more about you as well! (You can just put your post link in the comments below!)
If you've read this far, thank you . . . you definitely deserve some sort of award for reading this very lengthy post! I officially nominate you for the Favorite Fan Award!
Happy December!

Literary Sherri is Getting Nerdy: The Dawn of Nerd Libs

In my home, we're commemorating St. Nicholas Day today by making homemade hot cocoa and watching "The Polar Express" based on Chris Van Allsburg's beautiful book! By the way, this year marks the 25th anniversary of this book -- it's officially a classic! Click on the image below to visit the author's web page:
On a totally separate note . . . it's no secret that I'm a big fan of Getting Nerdy with Mel and Gerdy -- the science teachers I wish I had! And I'm over-the-moon about their Saturday Nerd Libs weekly link-up! (My wedding RSVPs were mad-lib style, so I especially adore this idea and its nod to literacy!)
So without further ado, here's my first Saturday mad-lib . . .

Incidentally, my vehicle is nicknamed Chitty Chitty Bang Bang because I have a penchant for flying (otherwise known as a lead foot).
Here's a photo of the mad-lib-style RSVPs for my wedding . . .

And here's a photo of my year-old kitten, Frodo, who acquired his name because he is unusually small but has huge eyes and huge feet, and he's very brave and adventurous!
Read mad-libs from other Teacher-Bloggers at the link-up on Mel and Gerdy's blog -- you may discover a favorite new blogger!

Leave me a comment and let me know how you and your family celebrate St. Nicholas Day . . . or leave me a link to your Saturday mad-lib!

Happy December!

Gift Yourself with SUPER resources at SUPER prices!

If you didn't get a chance to shop on Cyber Monday, there's still time! Don't miss out on the Super Cyber Sitewide Savings Sale (now that's a mouthful!) over at Teacher's Pay Teachers!
This is a perfect time to treat your students to some holiday-themed resources, such as these:
Snag some Test-Prep Materials:
. . . or stock up on low-prep units for January!
TpT is right -- this is a great time to gift yourself and your students with SUPER resources at SUPER prices!
Happy Shopping Saving!

Looking for a Few Good Teacher Appreciation Gifts?

It's the most wonderful time of the year . . . decorating, tree-trimming, baking, addressing cards . . . and holiday shopping is near the top of so many of our to-do lists! When I taught 6th grade in an elementary school, gifts from students were the norm. As a Middle School teacher, I've never received more than 2 or 3 gifts a year from students. But I know many parents feel anxious about giving their children's teachers an affordable yet meaningful gift, so I thought I'd share my teacher's perspective on holiday gifts from students . . .

Teacher gifts are always lovely tokens of appreciation and I'm truly grateful for every one, but the truth is, some gifts are just more practical than others . . . meaning some gifts get recycled or donated very quickly. (Sorry, folks, but my cupboards only house so many coffee mugs! I'm immensely grateful you thought of me, but the mug is going in a donation box!)

Gifts that I tend to donate because I just have too many of them include mugs, soaps, lotions, candles, teacher-y knick-knacks, anything that says #1 Teacher, and boxed chocolates.

Gift cards to Barnes and Noble are super-useful and especially appreciated because I can buy books for the classroom, which I absolutely love! It’s fun to write the name of the student who gifted the book inside the front cover and remember her each year when students reads that book!


Other gifts from students I have especially enjoyed over the years include instrumental holiday music CDs that I can play in the classroom, a beautiful set of Egyptian cotton hand towels from a student who had travelled to Egypt (an unusual gift, but I still use them more than a decade later and they are as soft and beautiful as ever!), and anything personalized (hello, Etsy!)

I do have a small collection of beautiful (non-teacher-y) tree ornaments that I treasure each season as they go on my family tree. Reminiscing each year about the student who gifted the ornament – Isabella gave me a beautiful hand-painted glass ornament from her family trip to Turkey and Robert hand-picked that snowman ornament because he noticed I especially like snowmen – is always a lovely part of the treasured tradition of decorating the Christmas tree and I love thinking of these students decades later and wishing them well as they decorate their own trees with their own families!

Of course, the gifts I have kept the longest and treasured the most are the hand-written notes of appreciation received from both students and parents that remind me why I chose to become a teacher! The 10-year-old holiday card from Brandon that says, “Thank you for introducing me to mysteries. Reading is my new favorite hobby!” still makes me all smiles and the card from Amanda’s mom that reads, “Thank you for caring enough about Amanda to help her improve her reading skills. For the first time in a long time, her confidence is growing and she is talking about becoming a teacher herself. The best thing is, she believes she can teach! Thank you for giving her that gift!” just melts my heart every year when I re-read it!
Click here to read "What Gifts Do Teachers Like to Receive? Teachers Tell All the Best and Worst Presents from Students..." over at my friends' blog, Created for Learning, where Jonathan and Lisa share the good, the bad, and the ugly from 19 fabulous Teacher-Authors!

I'd love to hear about a favorite gift you gave one of your children's teachers -- or an especially meaningful gift you received as a teacher!
Happy Gift-Giving!

Catching Up!

Time flies when you’re . . . well, it always flies! I took a bit of a digital break to re-connect with family I hadn’t seen in many years. This was only the second time in a decade I’ve seen my brother and my sister, and the first time all three of us have been together since Christmas of 1994 . . . so I felt our days together warranted some technology-free time!
Our time together was beautiful – filled with laughter, tears, joy, and countless hours of talking, talking, and more talking . . . in fact, my entire trip had only two glitches: My drive out took me through Cincinnati at the exact time that the Bengals were playing the Cleveland Browns – which I definitely would not recommend! We drove exactly 4 miles in 90 minutes! And supporting the local VFW in my brother’s town included a bit of adventurous eating – which I also would not recommend! (Let me clarify -- I wholeheartedly recommend supporting your local VFW! It's the main entree of this meal that I don't recommend!) Can anyone identify this?

In the midst of all the busyness of trip-planning and travelling, I was honored to accept an invitation from The Teaching 2-Step Bloggers to contribute to their collaborative blog. This is a group of 10 terrific Teacher-Authors working together to bring you the best ideas, strategies, and resources out there! Find my first post here:

I also posted a freebie in my TpT shop . . . 12 thoughtful, creative, and FUN writing prompts that commemorate winter holidays around the world, including:
St. Nicholas Day
Fiesta of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Winter Solstice
Boxing Day
New Year's Eve

Grab it here:

I hope you're thoroughly enjoying your autumn! I'm off to create more holiday resources . . .

Happy November!

Happy Halloween! I love days like today when the students bring a lot of extra energy and enthusiasm to class that can be channeled into fun, exciting activities! I hope you're loving your day, too!
Sadly, it's been exactly 14 days since my last post . . . I've been off-line due to a computer crash. My previous computer was only 3 years old (yes, I know that's ancient to computer aficionados -- but still nearly new to me!) so I intended to have it repaired, not replaced. However, the cost of repairing the crashed computer was nearly the same as the cost of purchasing an entirely new system. So, what I thought would be a 3-hour gig at Geek Squad turned into days of shopping and endless waiting, waiting, and more waiting.
The good news: I finally have a (hopefully!) trusty and reliable new computer that should last until . . . well, until it crashes, which will be much sooner than I think it should and much later than the Geek Squad technicians think it should be!  
The reason I'm sharing this: I spend so much time on the computer that I have developed tendinitis. I spend countless hours icing my wrists and forearms, wearing braces, and doing physical therapy exercises to alleviate the pain. The physical therapist said it's important to keep the forearms parallel to the floor when keyboarding. She encouraged me to elevate my keyboard by placing it on a book and then rolling up a towel in front of the keyboard to use as a wrist rest. This was my old set-up -- it was ugly, but it made a significant difference! (Please excuse the visible scratches on the desk from my one-year-old cat, Frodo, who loves to visit me while I work at the computer! I threw in a bonus photo of him!)

When I upgraded my computer, I decided to splurge on an ergonomic keyboard and mouse. I purchased a split keyboard with a wrist rest and a separate number keypad . . .

 . . . and a mouse that has a thumb rest and a quick-key for Windows.

I use both with beaded wrist rests from IMAK. It's a pretty sweet set-up:

The sweetest thing about it is I've been pain-free since I started working with this keyboard and mouse! If you can relate to excessive pain in your hands, wrists, and/or forearms from excessive keyboarding, this might be worth a try! For me, being pain-free is SO worth the investment! I wish I'd purchased these a long  time ago! 
Bonus: Because the keyboard is elevated, I'm forced to sit up straighter to work on it comfortably, resulting in less back pain, as well! A win-win!
Oh, and I've finally been able to upload this year's spooky resource, which was put on hold due to being technology-free for a week. I realize it's too late to use it as a Halloween resource this year (my original intention) -- but any time is a good time for some Edgar Allen Poe! If you haven't included his creepy classic in your curriculum repertoire this year, give it a go! You -- and your students! -- will be glad you did! This interactive flip book contains everything you need to spend a day or two with this spooky story!

Also, don't forget to check the 'Extras' page, which will be uploaded with lots of new treats now that I'm back on-line!

Happy Halloween!
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