15 Easy DIY Holiday Projects for the Classroom

The holidays are a-knocking, and your students likely need some distraction from sugar highs and thoughts of vacation dancing in their heads. Check out these 15 cheap and easy DIY holiday projects you can start and finish in your last days before winter break.

1. Bring some sparkle to your classroom with macaroni snowflakes. They can be hung from hooks with fishing wire or made into ornaments for the kids to take home.

diy macaroni snowflake

Detailed directions and image via Katy Elliot

2. Make a JOY banner with felt, scissors, and a glue gun. This makes a great backdrop for a holiday photo booth, too.

diy joy banner

Via Etsy and includes a pre-sewn kit with self-adhesive felt stickers for application.

3. Celebrate the festival of lights with colorful menorahs made of construction or wrapping paper and glue.

hannukah project

Via Pinterest

4. Transform your bulletin board into a game of pin-the-nose-on-the-reindeer. The kids can help cut out the shapes and take turns trying to pin their noses on the reindeer.

diy reindeer

Via Buzzfeed

5. Some inexpensive and delicious-smelling cinnamon sticks make great starters for trees, stars, and other holiday décor.

cinnamon sticks project classroom

Via Paper & Stitch

6. Felt snowflakes are a snap for older students.

diy felt snowflake

Detailed directions, image via paper[bullet]

7. Turn leftover cans into tin can snowmen with some wire, ribbon, paint, and felt balls.

diy tin can snowman

Via Pinterest

8. Collect pine cones for your kids to decorate with simple everyday materials. These sugar snowy pinecones require just egg whites and some sugar.

diy sugar pinecone

Via Whole Living

9. Students can make garlands out of just about anything. Here’s one example with colorful pompoms.

holiday garland school

Via Paper & Stitch

10. You can never have too many pinecone crafts for kids if you ask TeacherPop. This one gets really festive with globs of glitter.

diy pinecone activity school

Detailed directions, image via Activity Village

11. This penguin mask is perfect for wee ones. Bonus: It’s not holiday-specific. You can save this one for January when the mercury dips.


Detailed directions, image via Activity Village

12. Make a pasta necklace in traditional Kwanzaa colors with some dried ziti, paint, and shoelaces or string.

kwanzaa necklace

Via Activity Village

13. Felt can get pricey (see #7). Here are more snowflakes, made out of coffee filters, and easy for young kids to make.

diy paper snowflakes coffee filter

Detailed directions, image via The Pink Couch

14. Fuzzy white pom poms are a cinch to make, but word to the wise: snowball fights.

snowball craft diy

Detailed directions, image via Talk Crafty

15. Everybody loves a snow globe. Make a 2-D version with your students with super simple materials like a plastic plate, some cotton balls, construction paper, and markers.

snowglobe diy school

Via Pinterest

Happy, crafty holidays!

By |December 12th, 2014|DIY, Teaching Tips|0 Comments|

Frugal Friday: Hot Deals for Teachers


Frugal Friday is TeacherPop’s weekly round-up of sales for teachers on a budget.

Today (12/12)

LOFT: 50% off sweaters and an extra 60% off sale styles. No code necessary!

Asos: 30% off cold-weather gear for guys and gals.

NY & Company: 50% off everything with no exclusions.

Payless: Stock up on cozy boots and slippers—15% off everything with code ZZLIGHTS.

Ends Sunday (12/14)

Banana Republic: 40% off full-priced items with code BRSANTA.

Lands’ End: 30% off regularly priced merchandise and an extra 20% off sale and clearance. Plus, free shipping! Use code WINTER and pin 1244.

Ends Monday (12/15)

J.Crew: An extra 30% off select sale styles with code GIFTTHIS.

Madewell: Up to 30% off your purchase with code GOFORIT.

Barnes & Noble: Use code BNFAMILY at checkout to take 25% off any one item. Books make great gifts, people!

Kohl’s: Save 20% when you spend $100+ with code WREATH or 15% when you spend less than $100 with code HOLLY.

Hot bonus tip: There’s a new shopping tool for the fab and frugal. It’s called Shoptagr, and it notifies you when items at your favorite shops go on sale. Download the free browser extension to start saving.

Happy shopping!


Pop Links 12.11.14: Alum Talks STEM; Report on Race & Discipline


Pop Links is Teach For America’s twice-weekly roundup of education news and resources for teachers.

  • The Hour of Code is upon us! As an alum gets his students ready to participate in this STEM movement, he examines why many STEM majors often forgo teaching despite the all important role of teachers in the STEM field.
  • Unfortunately for young female students, school punishments often are not race-blind. The New York Times explores how a student’s skin color affects the punishment she receives.
  • Like most people, young high school seniors ready to embark on the next big journey often overlook the fine print when signing off on documents including student loans. A new study shows an overwhelming majority of American students underestimate their student debt burden.
  • Over the next few weeks, just about everyone (including TeacherPop!) will begin to tout their “best of 2014” lists. Join the fun! Look back on the highlights from the past few months with your students with creative collages. Find resources for creating multimedia collages.

The Holiday Spirit: Winter Break Is Around the Corner

candy canes

Thanksgiving break provided a much-needed respite from an incredibly busy semester. And now, the end is in sight. There are only a number of weeks before the semester is over and you will have the winter break to spend time with loved ones, tend to things you’ve been putting off (hello dentist!), and finally get some real rest.

As we approach this time of the year, I want to encourage you to take time to reflect on the semester. During this time, it can be easy to develop tunnel vision, to plow ahead, wrap up the semester, and not think about anything except making it to break. But, now is also a time rich with opportunity to make meaning of the experiences you’ve had this semester.

When you think back on the semester, what comes to mind? Which experiences stand out? If you’re like me, the first things that come to mind will probably be the struggles—how hard management has been, that time you really “blew up” at your students, the practice state test that did not go well. But, after thinking about those things, remind yourself of the things that have gone well. Is there a “problem student” that you were able to reach? Are there students who have made academic progress that you’re really proud of. Which lesson plans or units have gone well? It is easy to remember the times that we fail or the struggles we have, but it is important to remind yourself of success, too.


Now take this reflection even one step further: connect your experiences this year to your larger values and goals. What have you learned about yourself as a person? Often we grow the most through hardship. How have the challenges you’ve experienced this semester changed you? Do you still feel connected to the reason you chose to teach in the first place? What was this reason? If you feel disconnected from this, why? How might you reconnect with the values that drew you to this job?

Congratulations on making it through the semester. You have worked incredibly hard and you deserve a break. I hope you have a wonderful winter break and that you are able to spend time reflecting on the many meaningful experiences you’ve had over the past six months.

Teachers, It’s Time to Get Your Code On


Once again, it’s that time of year to geek out—Computer Science Education Week! Computers are so much a part of our everyday lives, but did you know that fewer schools teach computer science today than 10 years ago? That’s crazy!

Well, the fine folks at Code.org and a handful of esteemed public figures (ahem, President Obama) are working to change that sad stat. This week, they are hosting the Hour of Code, a program chock full of hour-long tutorials empowering teachers of all subjects to introduce their students to computer science—and how to build technology, not just use it.


Last year, 15 million students participated in the Hour of Code. Almost half of all participants were girls, 8% were black, and 14% were Hispanic. Computer science students on average are only 18% female, 3% black, and 8% Hispanic. Help us keep closing that gap!

Check out the Hour of Code’s How-To Guide  to get started.

Don’t forget to tweet your plans @TeachForAmerica using the hashtag #HourOfCode. Happy coding!

Pop Links 12.9.14: Hour of Code, Virtural Science Laboratory


Pop Links is Teach For America’s twice-weekly roundup of education news and resources for teachers.

  • To celebrate the beginning of Computer Science Education Week, The White House invited a lucky few students to code with the president and announced POTUS’ plans to get more students coding. Find out how you can get your students involved in the Hour of Code!
  • Recognizing that in many discussions about education, middle school is often overlooked, The United Way launched the Middle Grades Success Challenge to help fund innovative ideas and keep middle schools on track to high school graduation!
  • Science teachers: No need to spend hours prepping in the lab to show your students exciting experiments, Check out the Molecular Workbench, an NSF-funded site that has dozens of interactive models and experiments in bio, chem, and physics!
  • TFANet Resource: Centers
By |December 9th, 2014|Pop Links|0 Comments|

4 Reasons the Bus Is Not the Best


There is nothing less fun than riding on a bus. It is a unifying principle of the universe that riding on a bus, even a nice bus, is unpleasant. Young or old, nerd or jock, student or teacher, riding on a bus is a fate that should be reserved for those who perpetrated a capital crime and no one else.

As I write this post, I am in hour 4.5 of a 6-hour trip from Memphis to Nashville and back, and I can report that the struggle is real. Here four reasons bus rides are my least favorite parts of my job (despite the awesome field trips they bookend):

  • There Is Never Enough Space

It doesn’t matter whether you are stuck on a school bus or a swanky coach, there is never enough room for all the people to sit comfortably on a bus. Teachers are further squeezed when laden with several bags filled with hot chips, whoopee cushions (not making this up), and other assorted contraband confiscated from students.

  • Sound Carries

These buses get loud with 50 people talking at even a reasonable volume, and few (if any) middle schoolers come equipped with reasonable volume at four hours into a bus ride (to be fair very few adults do either). The noise I am currently experiencing  is an eclectic mix of whatever PG movie is playing on the bus televisions, desperate pleas to charge phones (middle school boys are lost without Instagram access), and cackles that would chill the Joker himself to his very core.

  • Photographs of You Sleeping

Now to the reason that all of those phones are dead in the first place: there is nothing (and I mean NOTHING) more exciting to students than when adults fall asleep in front of them. This trip is no exception. I’m pretty sure that Ellen’s Oscar selfie has nothing on the attention the snapshot below got on our Nashville trip to the State Legislature.  I know that I will be dodging this picture on my Google image search for years to come.


  • Ridiculous Gift Shop Crap

Now I am not so old as not to appreciate the appeal of any opportunity to spend money on nonsensical things that likely originated from an Oriental Trading Catalog.  However, there is nothing worse than being forced to set expectations for the most random, ridiculous, and bizarre collection of crap that my students buy at gift shops. I am truly at a loss as to how any of these things (Chinese Yo-Yos, Harmonicas, Rock Candy, etc.) relate to the Tennessee State Museum of History. Plus, the kids get really ticked off when you inevitably take these new treasures away from them because they are not following directions. On the bright side, it makes me realize that there is a lot of money in the manufacturing of teacher torture devices for gift shops around the country.

Long story short: being on a bus sucks, but it does remind me that I must really believe in these students to endure this cruel form of punishment multiple times a year (shivers in terror thinking about a week-long college trip in May).

What are your favorite or least favorite parts of field trips? Any good stories of your own?

Photo by: Dliban

Motivation Monday: Impact


By |December 8th, 2014|General Pop|0 Comments|