5 Tasks Your Future Self will Love You For! 

Many teachers go on their holiday break this week and some blessed souls were released last week! If you’re still in school, we know how crazy this time of year can be and how hyper those kids are! We’ve been there! We ARE there! Plus, we ARE here for you with our 5 tasks your future self will love you for!

The last thing you want to do is work any longer or harder or any extra than you have to this week, but may we suggest something? We have five tips that your future January self will thank you for when it’s time to go back into your classroom after holiday break. I know that we don’t want to think about that right now, but we all know that holiday break flies by quicker than a kid tearing open a present. By completing these five tasks before you leave for holiday break, you’ll thank yourself later once you arrive back at school in the new year. 

Task 1: Take Down All Christmas/Holiday Décor.

Take down all Christmas/holiday decor. I absolutely love that fresh and clean feeling once I take down all the holiday decorations in my home and classroom. My house and classroom looks less cluttered and it feels like we can breathe again. The bright stimulation is gone. Just like winter ushers in clean, white snow, you can usher in clean, empty spaces. Before you leave, have the kids help you take down those decorations, or if that’s too sad for them, sneakily take it down while they watch a movie. Take fifteen minutes after school and put it all away. Take some Lysol wipes and clean your surfaces. Tidy up your desk. When you arrive back in January, the simplistic look of your classroom will ease any new year burdens you face.

Task 2: Prepare for the New Year Physically.

Prepare for the new year physically. Switch your calendar to January. Put out some simple snowflake or snowmen decor. If you have extra time, go ahead and get started on a cozy winter bulletin board that can stay up well into March! 

Take a look at our winter bulletin boards we have available!

Display your winter picture books in your classroom library. Even when I taught middle school, I would put out winter poetry books and place snowflake clings on the windows. (Older kids love an ambiance too!) 

Task 3: Lesson Plan for the First Week of School in January.

Lesson plan for the first week of school in January. The last thing you want to do is take home your books over break. Even though it may feel like torture and you’re exhausted, take thirty minutes everyday this week to get your first week planned for January. Make your copies. Get it all organized and put away. Lay out your books you’ll need for any new units. Anticipate your needs by getting everything ready for that very first week. Additionally, make sure your first week back is simple. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Don’t complete any extensive and complicated lessons. Even the kids need to ease back in. Doing some more routine or less complicated activities is the best approach for you and your students. 

Tip 4: Take an Inventory of All the Things

Dot your i’s and cross your t’s. Take an inventory of all the things that you may overlook normally because you’re ready to get out of that school building. Put your lunch choice board back to normal. Sharpen the pencils and refill the student supply area. Get your new novels out of the closet. Print out the new spelling choice menus. Make sure you have responded to all the emails. Get your first week back newsletter ready. Enter all your grades in as well. Write your thank you notes and give them to your students before the last day of school. Check to see if you need to bring in more K-cups and creamer for your coffee station. Even though it’s cliche, don’t put off what you can do today, even if you must complete the task tiredly!

One Christmas break, I forgot to check to see if the students had plugged in their Chromebooks. Over half of the laptops were dead on our first day back. My first activity was an online one too, and you can imagine my mood already at the beginning of the day. Ugh! Take some time to do a final look at the details of your classroom and make sure you’re ready for January. 

Task 5: LEAVE! And leave the books and laptop at school!

LEAVE! And leave the books and laptop at school! If you’ve done the above four tasks, you’re going to have a burden-free holiday break, knowing that you are prepared for January. Leave that school building and leave your worries behind. The worrisome parent, that situation with that student, that tension with that coworker…just leave it behind. Your body and mind need this break. Leave knowing that you’ve done all you can and go into the holiday season with anticipation of restoration. 


Teachers who have finished December are like Olympic gold medalists. They have survived the chaos and the mayhem. Their mental fortitude is like the strength of an athlete and just like an Olympian must recuperate before building more muscle, a teacher must rest before the new year. Resting without worries by preparing yourself and your classroom for January is the best way to bring your best self into the new year. Once you walk back into school in January and you see your neat, tidy, clean classroom, your lesson plans complete, copies ready, and all the details of your classroom prepared, you’ll kiss your December self for all that hard work that was well worth it!

5 Picture Books for Christmas – Part 2

Last week, we introduced our first five favorite holiday picture books. This week, we are going to show our final five Christmas books we adore! Some of these books are classics. On the other hand, you may not have heard of another book or two. That’s why we love these kinds of blog posts! Introducing you to new stories that you can share with your students is what warms our hearts, just like a cup of hot cocoa! Let’s dive into our 5 Picture Books for Christmas – Part 2.

#1 The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

A lot of our students know The Polar Express from the beloved and magical movie. When I would tell my elementary kiddos that it was first a book, some were quite shocked! Nevertheless, they quickly loved the book as much as the movie, if not more. The beautiful illustrations are just as enchanting as the motion picture. Chris Van Allsburg’s classic tale of a young boy on his journey to the true belief of the magic of Christmas captivates students as they also struggle with believing as they get older. The timeless dark train against the backdrop of the falling white snow creates a classic scene of Christmas. 

Publisher’s Synopsis: A young boy, lying awake one Christmas Eve, is welcomed aboard a magical train to the North Pole . . .Through dark forests, over tall mountains, and across a barren desert of ice, the Polar Express makes its way to the huge city standing alone at the top of the world, where the boy will make his Christmas wish.

#2 Gingerbread Friends by Jan Brett

Any Jan Brett book is filled with gorgeous whimsical illustrations of the Swiss snowy countryside. Her books are filled with fun storylines, and beautiful imagery mirrored by detailed and enchanting drawings. When I think of a picture book that evokes Christmas and wintry magic, I think of Jan Brett. Gingerbread Friends is a sweet story perfect for the littlest elementary students. 

Publisher’s Synopsis: This Gingerbread Baby is looking for friends and finds an adventure he’ll never forget. The Gingerbread Baby is lonely and decides to do something about it. At a bakery, he dances and prances in front of a sugar cookie girl, trying to make friends. But she just stares and doesn’t say a word, like all the other sweet treats he tries to meet. Discouraged, the Gingerbread Baby runs home, chased by a long line of hungry creatures, where Mattie has a fantastic surprise for him–gingerbread friends that fill a giant fold-out page.

Check out our Gingerbread Friends unit here!

#3 The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski

Ready to cry in front of your students? The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey will do just that! This was a classic tale I read to my elementary students every Christmas season. Filled with heartache, hope, and redemption, this story is thought-provoking and moving for students and adults alike. This story contains depth as well, making it wonderful for older elementary to middle school students. 

Publisher’s Synopsis: Jonathan Toomey is the best woodcarver in the valley, but he is always alone and never smiles. No one knows about the mementos of his lost wife and child that he keeps in an unopened drawer. But one early winter’s day, a widow and her young son approach him with a gentle request that leads to a joyful miracle. The moving, lyrical tale, gloriously illustrated by P.J. Lynch, has been widely hailed as a true Christmas classic. 

#4 Radiator the Snowman by Tami Parker

Written and illustrated by my mother, Tami Parker, Radiator the Snowman is a wonderful tale with deep lessons of true friendship, celebrating uniqueness, and being comfortable with just being yourself. Students will fall in love with Radiator, the snowman, and his furry friends. The author, an elementary school librarian, truly knows how to weave a story together to capture to hearts of students. 

Publisher’s Synopsis: Radiator the Snowman knew he was different from the other snowmen of his most distinguished village. These feelings had always been with him since he was first formed in the hands of the children of the local junk man to the present time period in which he was kept away from the finer snowmen on display in his village. However, Radiator’s chance to join this prestigious league soon arrives. Will he take this opportunity or decide to stay in the junkyard with his friends? Radiator the Snowman is a wonderful story to read to little ones when you want them to know how important they are to each person in their life and why they should never compare themselves to others.

#5 The Christmas Pine by Julia Donaldson

Newly published two months ago, the author of Room on the Broom has written a book that celebrates the joy and warmth of the holiday season as it follows the story of one Christmas tree on its journey to Trafalgar Square to become London’s official tree. The sweet and snuggly illustrations will charm your students as well as create that magical feeling around your classroom rug. 

Publisher’s Synopsis: Deep in a snowy wood stands a little pine tree with a special destiny: when it grows up, it’s going to be a fabulous Christmas tree! The tree travels far across the sea to shine in a city square. Crowds gather to admire it, children sing carols around it, and the tree brings joy and the spirit of the season to all who pass by. Inspired by the annual journey of London’s Christmas Tree in Trafalgar Square, this story includes back matter detailing the tree’s history as a gift to the United Kingdom from the people of Norway in remembrance of the UK’s support during World War II – an enduring symbol of friendship and peace.


December is a month full of wonderful opportunities to enchant readers with heartwarming holiday picture books. Take advantage of those cozy Christmas stories and create an atmosphere that highlights reading this holiday season in your classroom. It’ll make your heart melt like a gooey marshmallow in hot cocoa. 

Author of Blog

5 Picture Books for Christmas in the Classroom

December is here! How did this happen? I felt like it was just September a minute ago. December arrived swiftly and it came in like a roaring lion! Wait…isn’t that the saying about spring? Nevertheless, with the holiday hustle and bustle, it can be such an exciting and magical time for kiddos. Perfect time to pull out and share 5 picture books for Christmas in the classroom.

I love to bank on this excitement by lining my classroom with a plethora of Christmas books. Elementary students love the holidays! What’s not to love? Family time, the excitement of possible snow, gift-giving, tons of fun food, Santa, Christmas lights, pajama days, hot chocolate…there’s so much that a youngster can look forward to. I look back fondly on the Decembers from my elementary years and absolutely cherish them. 

Since students are so very delighted about this month, incorporating lots of picture books is a wonderful way to get students excited about reading. I have ten picture books perfect for the elementary classroom I’d like to share with you! Let’s start today with five of them and come back next week for the rest!

Dasher by Matt Tavares

We first discovered Matt Tavares in 2019 with his publication of his Christmas book, Dasher. It quickly took the reading world by force and has now become extremely popular. Tavares is a New York Times Bestseller who was known for sports novels and biographies before he ventured into the world of holiday picture books. Not only is Dashertruly heartwarming, but its beautiful illustrations, by Tavares himself, make for such a perfect read-aloud around the classroom rug.

Publisher’s Synopsis: Dasher is an adventurous young reindeer with a wish in her heart. She spends her days with her family under the hot sun in a traveling circus, but she longs for a different life — one where there is snow beneath her hooves and the North Star above her head. One day, when the opportunity arises, Dasher seizes her destiny and takes off in pursuit of the life she wants to live. It’s not long before she meets a nice man in a red suit with a horse-drawn sleigh — a man named Santa. And soon, with the help of a powerful Christmas wish, nothing will be the same.

Check out our Dasher’s Daring Escape here!

Red & Lulu by Matt Tavares

Dasher was our first discovery of Matt Tavares, but we quickly learned he had another Christmas picture book before it. Red & Lulu has the same sweet, heartwarming Christmasy feel, with the same gorgeous illustrations that drive the story along. What we love about Matt Tavares is that his stories always have some sort of educational element as well. In Dasher, we learn that the female reindeer would be the ones to pull Santa’s sleigh, because real female reindeer would have antlers in December, just like Santa’s flying crew, whereas male reindeer cast their antlers by that time. What a fun and interesting fact!

Red & Lulu contains the true story of the annual practice of cutting down one evergreen tree from a small town in the USA to become the Rockefeller Center tree in NYC. With a nonfiction article in the back of the book explaining this, Red & Lulu quickly becomes informative as well as entertaining. 

Publisher’s Synopsis: Red and Lulu make their nest in a particularly beautiful evergreen tree. It shades them in the hot months and keeps them cozy in the cold months, and once a year the people who live nearby string lights on their tree and sing a special song: O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree. But one day, something unthinkable happens, and Red and Lulu are separated. It will take a miracle for them to find each other again. Luckily, it’s just the season for miracles. . . . From Matt Tavares comes a heart-tugging story combining the cheer of Christmas, the magic of New York City, and the real meaning of the holiday season: how important it is to be surrounded by love.

Check out our Red & Lulu unit here!

Little Red Sleigh by Erin Guendelsberger

This picture book is ideal for those younger elementary students, but young and old will love this story. Similar to the underdog story of Rudolph, a little red sleigh feels like she’s too young and little to be Santa’s actual sleigh. Children will relate to this book in a deep way, as many have felt disqualified from doing certain things because of their age or size. This picture book is beautifully illustrated and really pulls on the heartstrings. 

Publisher’s Synopsis: The Little Red Sleigh has one big dream―to one day become Santa’s big red sleigh! But all her life, she’s been told she’s too small, she’s too young, she can’t fly, and she certainly can’t meet Santa. Well, this Christmas, with the help of some friends, she’s determined to do the impossible. Little Red Sleigh is a heartwarming children’s Christmas book you’ll want to read again and again. Full of winter joy and holiday magic, this charming Christmas story will remind readers of all ages that no dream is out of reach if you believe.

Snowmen at Christmas by Caralyn Buehner and Mark Buehner

We absolutely adore the Snowmen collection of picture books. With its simple story of the secret lives of snowmen at night and their adventures, students can’t get enough of these books!

Publisher’s Synopsis: This snappy and entertaining companion to the New York Times bestseller Snowmen at Night depicts all the best parts of the holiday, replete with icy treats and a snowman Kris Kringle. Told in the same bouncy verse as the original, Snowmen at Christmas is perfect for a snowy evening read-aloud.

Check out our Snowmen at Christmas resources here!

Humphrey’s First Christmas by Carol Heyer (Christian Picture Book) 

This picture book about Humphrey, the clumsy camel on a journey in the desert, will have students giggling. Yet, as the story progresses, we see just how magical that journey is and the destination, in this case, was even more important: to see the newly born baby Jesus. 

Publisher’s Synopsis: Humphrey the camel is only interested in one thing — getting his carpet blanket back. As he journeys with the Wise Men to Bethlehem, Humphrey bemoans his lost blanket until he finally gets a new one. But when the caravan arrives and Humphrey sees baby Jesus shivering, he gives the child his new blanket without a second thought. Full of rich acrylic paintings, humor, and heart, this book will swiftly become a cherished favorite with little ones.


These picture books will make an impact on students this holiday season. Whether it’s to learn a lesson on how young people can impact the world no matter how disqualified they feel or whether students need a magical story about Santa and his reindeer, these picture books will make students excited about reading. Stay tuned for next week for Part 2 with five more Christmas picture books!

Author of Blog