I am Thankful

I have read a lot of research articles this week on the healing power of gratitude.  It can not only bring you a sense of peace but be restorative as well.  So, I wanted to take just a minute and share 10 things I am most thankful for this year.  Some are big, and some are small, but they are all powerful.

  1. My health:  I will turn 50 in a few months.  I am so thankful that I am fairly healthy, have won the battle with obesity, and have found healthy foods and a routine I enjoy and can sustain.

2.  My husband:  Raising a child with special needs is incredibly difficult and can be often devastating to a marriage.  We have found a way to navigate those rough seas, and after 25 years still find ourselves to be best friends (even though we don’t always agree.)


3.  My kids:  I am blessed to have 2 great kids.  They could not be more different and they both bring me joy and fulfillment in very different ways.  I would be lost, and definitely not the same person, without them.

 Jimmy        Gina

4.  Good books:  My love for reading is very strong.  My daughter shares my passion for reading, and you will often find us cuddled up in front of the fire reading a good book.  There is nothing better.


5.  A warm quilt:  Living in the North, I have found my quilts to be even more important to me.  But it is not only the warmth they bring, but it is also the creative release they provide.  Teaching myself to quilt in those first years when my son was diagnosed saved me.  It gave me something to focus on that had nothing to do with the disability world.  So, yes, my house is filled with quilts, but they have healed me as well as kept me warm.


6.  A clear trail:  My daughter also shares my love of running.  This Thanksgiving holiday, we went on a long 10 mile run on our favorite rail trail.  Well, we had an unexpected snow earlier in the week, and it was still on the ground.  Running on snow is TOUGH.  I was so thankful when I would look ahead and see some melted tracks.  It is the little things that can make all the difference.

swatara trail

7.  A good plan:  As I embark on this new journey of trying to find possible employment for Jimmy now that school has ended, I am thankful for a good plan that was put together by a talented group of people.  We forge ahead, making adjustments when needed, and celebrating those small victories.

8.  A willingness to let go:  I have always been able to overcome disappointment fairly easily for some reason.  I am thankful that the bumps in the road have not derailed me.  There is a lot I could be resentful about, but I choose to let it go and be grateful for what I have now.  I have come to realize that this is not easy for many people, and I am thankful that I am able to focus on the present and plan for the future while letting past disappointments fade away.

9.  Good running shoes:  I do A LOT of running.  It is critical for my mental health.  (If you are a runner, you totally get what I am saying.)  At my age, equipment is everything.  Just having a really good pair of shoes that can pound the pavement day after day, is definitively something I am thankful for.


10.  A cloudy day:  It is funny, but on a walk with my son the other morning, I had the realization that I am a cloudy day kind of person.  I love the way everything feels kind of muted and soft.  The colder the better, but cloudy days are my favorite.

cloudy day

I hope everyone find something to be thankful for this holiday season.

How I taught gratitude

Teaching students what it means to be thankful can be a challenge.  Today, kids seem to have so much, and it seems like the minute they (we) want something, POOF it appears.  (Thanks Amazon.)  So, if you work in a special education setting, teaching what it means to be thankful can seem like an impossible task.  But, again, all the other teachers and classrooms are doing it, so of course I was not going to be left our or left behind.  Here are some ways I chose to teach about gratitude.  HINT:  I saved the best for last!!

1.  The Giving Tree

First, I LOVE my books.  So, I focusing on The Giving Tree as my story selection for this unit was an easy choice.  It had the added benefit of talking about how the leaves fall off of a tree during the fall season, so how could I resist?  The theme of selflessness that is present in this story was definitely over the head of most all of my students.  So, I chose to focus on all the things the boy was thankful for and the things the tree was thankful for.   I know there is a lot deeper meaning to this story, but it worked for my class, and they got to experience a book many of their classmates had gotten a chance to read.

(By the way, there is a great animated version on YouTube, that you can see here.)


We then did an activity with leaves and a tree template to show what we were thankful for.  You can get this template by clicking the button below.


2.  Thankful collage

This was an easy one.  I would give students a bunch of magazines and advertisements and have them cut/tear out pictures of things they were thankful for.  It was challenging getting them to understand that this was NOT a wish list, but rather things that they already had and loved.  We would glue them all down onto a class-sized collage.

3.  Social Scripts

So if you have run any social groups, then you have likely used social scripts.  They are simple phrases that students can repeat to practice appropriate responses in social situations.  Most of my students had very limited verbal ability, and many used communication devices.  So, depending on their personal mode of communication, we would practice (OVER and OVER), I am thankful for….).  This meant I often had to pre-program devices, or get some visual cues ready ahead of time.  This also worked really well with a pocket chart and sentence strips.  I would put one sentence strip per student (I am thankful for…) in the chart ahead of time.  Then we would go around and each student would “verbalize” what they were thankful for.  We would put either the word or picture they referenced at the end of the strip to finish the sentence.  We could then go around and practice reading the entire chart.  Again, sometimes I had to record myself reading it ahead of time so those who used devices could still participate by pushing a button when it was their turn. The repetition of this activity was VERY powerful.  If nothing else, by the end of the week, most of my kiddos were parroting, “I am thankful.”  Not such a bad thing to go around saying!!

4.  Delivering thank you notes

My students needed lots of practice navigating the school as well as socially interacting with all types of people.  So, one thing we did every November, was to write thank you notes to the various teachers and staff in the school.  Often, I would write the card, and the kids would decorate them.  You always have to think, “what is the goal of this activity?”  In this case, the goal was NOT saying what they were thankful for, or even saying thank you.  The goal was to:

  1. Deliver a piece of mail to the right person
  2. Behave appropriately in the hallway while taking our notes
  3. Using eye contact or a smile when handing over the card.  (Bonus points if they used the staff member’s name!!)

I LOVED this activity and it worked out so well.

5.  The Gratitude Dance (MY FAVORITE)

So, here it is.  My number 1 favorite activity for teaching MY students about gratitude.  My kids loved to move.  Most of them also loved music.  One day, I came across this amazing video on YouTube called the Gratitude Dance.  I can’t explain why, but it affected me deeply.  I knew I had to share it with others.  As I have mentioned before, I worked with an amazing team of special ed teachers in North Carolina.  We often planned activities together, which benefited us AND our students.  This Gratitude Dance was one of those collaborative efforts.  We all gathered in one place.  We watched the (short) video.  Then, we danced.  It sounds so simple.  But, it often bought many of us teachers to tears.  Such a simple and authentic way to show gratitude.  Move your body.  Move your body to music.  Display gratitude.  Perfect.



So that is it.  I am thankful for every single student who passed through my doors.  You made me a better teacher, a better, wife, a better mother, and a better human.  Gratitude.

An Incredible Collection of FREE Pumpkin Resources

top banner

It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, was always a favorite of mine as a kid.  Although winter is my favorite season, fall is a close second.  It is filled with those cooler days and nights, filling me with anticipation of the true crisp weather to come.  And then there are all those pumpkins.  I just LOVE them.  So, I reached out again to some of my favorite teacher authors and bloggers out there, and BOY DID THEY DELIVER!!  I have so many awesome FREE pumpkin resources here, you will be hard-pressed to use them all.

Of course, I had to create 2, brand-new, special FREE pumpkin downloads for you to get this awesome roundup started.

First is this super, simple no cook recipe for Pumpkin Snowballs.  YUM!!  In color and black and white, get your students “cooking” with this FREE picture recipe.


Next, I have a pumpkin writing prompt.  I have heard you LOUD and CLEAR.  Teachers want more of these simple writing prompts that their kids can create on their own.  So, here is a new one for you that is perfect for November!! writing prompt

Now onto the roundup!!  There are lot of good ones here, so take your time, or bookmark this page so you can be sure to grab them all!!

pumpkin 5     Math Activities

  • From the Elementary Island be sure to grab Halloween and Fall Activities to Engage.  Review those place value skills that you have tirelessly worked all quarter on.  The BEST part?  This can double as a cute hallway display!!!!  You can print the pumpkins on orange paper or have your students do the coloring! Connect some vines and….. VOILA!!! A cute display that can last all fall!
  • From the Blooming Mind get this Pumpkin Math Worksheet.  This “Let’s Count Pumpkin Seeds” math worksheet will help your students practice counting 1 to 5! Have students count the dots and cut and paste the matching number beside the pumpkin.
  • From the Therapy Mama be sure to check out these Count and Clip Cards.  These cards are a fabulous way to reinforce your students counting skills while targeting fine motor skills as well. They focus on the numbers 1 through 20. They are great for Preschool, Kindergarten, homeschools or special education classrooms.
  • From We Heart Teaching grab these Pumpkin Math Puzzles.  These differentiated pumpkin math puzzles are the perfect addition and subtraction practice for your classroom! This resource includes 1 math puzzle with 5 differentiation options.
  • From Fantastic Fun and Learning get this Pumpkin pie play dough fractions printable.  For our Thanksgiving activities I put together this quick prep pumpkin pie play dough fractions free printable. It’s a fun and meaningful way to weave in a bit of math alongside our pretend play and sensory activities with pumpkin pie scented play dough.
  • From Planning in Pajamas to check out this Pumpkin Roll and Color.  Practice number sense with this Halloween-themed Roll & Color! Students roll 2 die and count the dots, then color in the corresponding pumpkin, until the sheet is full! Excellent math center activity to practice counting and identifying numbers.
  • From Smalltowngiggles get these Pumpkin Counting Playdough Mats.  You will receive two (2) free playdough mats from my Pumpkin Counting Playdough Mats.
  • From Fun Learning for Kids grab this Editable Pumpkin Board Game.  This pumpkin editable board game is a great way to differentiate your math and literacy centers this fall. It makes learning fun and engaging too. The kids will love this fall activity!
  • From Kamp Kindergarten check out this Pumpkin Seed Add the Room activity.  Students use pumpkin graphics to determine the addition equation represented by the number of seeds on the pumpkins. This packet has 10 Pumpkin Seed Add the Room cards and a recording page with matching pumpkin vine and pumpkin graphics.
  • From Primary Inspiration get this Patchwork Pumpkin Math activity.  Here’s a subtraction game freebie that will also bring a bit of October art into your classroom décor.
  • From Hand to Heart check out My First Bingo Game for Fall.  This game includes 3 pumpkin board templates, a nine grid, a twelve grid and a sixteen grid. Also included are little pumpkin calling cards 0-15, plus directions and suggestions for playing.
  • From Momgineer get this Pumpkin Patch Compare center.  Use the picture cards and have your students build and record addition sentences.

pumpkin 1 ELA Activities

  • From the Preschool Toolbox be sure to grab There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Leaves Sequencing and Power Point.  Come explore Lucille Colandro’s book, There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Leaves! This lesson includes tips on how to engage young readers along with sequencing cards, stick puppet printable, and a Power Point to extend the story!
  • From Thompson’s Teachings check out Spookley the Square Pumpkin Text to Self Connections.  Includes a text to self reading response organizer for the story, Spookley the Square Pumpkin! A fun little activity for the fall season.
  • From Fun Learning for Kids get the Differentiated Pumpkin Spin and Cover game.  These differentiated pumpkin theme spin and cover games are no-prep  literacy centers that are perfect for kids at many different levels of ability.
  • From Jasmine McClain grab the How to Make Pumpkin Pie Silly Story.  Fun writing activity students can complete just in time for Thanksgiving. Students will write various words and put them into a recipe template to create a silly recipe/silly story. Students will use the writing guide to come up with various words for their recipe. Once their writing guides are completed, they will insert the words from the guide into the recipe which will create a silly recipe that will have them laughing!
  • From the Picture Book Cafe get Ten Little Pumpkins. Ten Little Pumpkins emergent reader is so much fun! This little reader can be sung to the tune of “Ten Little Indians”! Students will practice reading number words and will illustrate this booklet to match the text.
  • From Fantastic Fun and Learning check out this Pumpkin Letter Matching ABC game.  This game is a quick prep activity you can set up during your fall theme, pumpkin activities or Halloween theme activities. Use it for independent work time, small groups, or literacy centers.
  • From Literacy with Littles get the How to Make Pumpkin Pie Flip Book Expository Writing.  This free flip book is the perfect way to let your students work on expository writing this fall. The transition words are clearly stated at the bottom of each page to help your students logically organize their thoughts into sequential order.
  • From the Primary Post check out the Pumpkin Sight Word Game.  It is a free editable sight word pumpkin activity perfect for small groups.

pumpkin 3 SCIENCE

  • From Anita Bremer be sure to grab the Pumpkin Life Cycle Lapbook.  Provides a unique and hands-on way for students to show their learning!  Printables, instructions, suggestions for use, and photographs of the lapbooks are included.
  • From the Bender Bunch get the Pumpkin Observation Activity Sheet.  This activity sheet is sure to complement any pumpkin unit! With this one activity sheet students will learn and list the stages of the pumpkin life cycle, label parts of a pumpkin, measure the circumference, count the ribs, see if it floats, estimate how many seeds, record the actual amount of seeds, draw their pumpkin, describe their pumpkin, and name their favorite pumpkin recipe!
  • From the Crazy Schoolteacher come the Pumpkin Life Cycle.  This activity has simple black and white clip art to sequence the life cycle of a pumpkin.
  • From Renee Miller get the Pumpkin Craft Sequencing (flip book) activity.   Great sequencing activity to sequence the growth of a pumpkin or a to sequence any other fun Halloween writing!

pumpkin 6 And MORE

  • From Hola Amigos comes ¡Calabazas! – FREE Spanish Numbers Song (Los numeros).  Elementary (Primary) Spanish instruction for numbers 1-10 using the song “El Número de Calabazas.” Cute one page printable with words to the song.
  • From Expressive Monkey-The Art Teacher’s Little Helper grab the Pumpkin Freebie for Halloween and Fall Art Activities.  Whether you are making a pumpkin craft, pumpkin art, or just looking for a fun pumpkin drawing activity during a Halloween class party. These 3 pumpkins will help you get started and give you a variety of shapes for your students to choose from.
  • From Pre-K Printables practice those fine motor skills with this Fruit and Veggie Pick Up Game.  Fruit and Veggie cards-that a FREE. Many ways to use.  Included are directions on how to play a pick up game with plastic food.

Don’t forget to grab my FREE resources listed at the top:



Oh yeah, and in case you missed it last week, I have a FREE Counting Pumpkins book.  Bring some literacy into your math lesson!!