Just another Normal Day...when Heaven Met Earth

Being away from home for the holidays is definitely bittersweet for me. In some ways, I'm SO grateful for the opportunity to serve in Tanzania, and be part of God's work here. I'm immensely thankful for the friends who have become family here. I love Tanzania, and the students I get to work with, the friendships I've built here, and God's perfect purpose being fulfilled. MUNGU NI MWEMA! (GOD IS GOOD!)


However, being away from my family, my culture, and the place I've called home for the last 26 years is so tough. All of the traditions, the excitement, the decorations, the cold weather, the parties and get-togethers, and the quality time spent with family is what I'm missing so much. There's a hole in my heart by not being there. But I know that if I was there, I'd also be missing this home here. You may remember my blog post earlier this year: Revolving Doors. They are ever-present, and make living life to the fullest pretty hard.

But, tonight, as my friends and I were worshiping and singing Christmas carols, I was reminded about what life was like on that first CHRISTmas. When heaven met earth, and when our Savior humbled himself to become a baby.

It was just another normal day, for Joseph and Mary. They had traveled far, on DONKEY. I'm about to get in a car and drive 8 hours to the beach in a couple days. I couldn't IMAGINE being VERY pregnant, traveling by DONKEY, in the intense heat. This is my first "summer Christmas" and I am NOT enjoying the hot temperatures. I'm sure Mary would have rather stayed home and taken a cool bath, instead of traveling day and night on a donkey to Bethlehem. BUT she followed God and did what she needed to do to be in the right place at the right time.

I'm SURE she did NOT think it was the right place. The only person she knew in the whole city was Joseph! No family, no friends, no one to care for her or take her in. Not even a hotel room to have her baby in. She was alone. I'm sure she was scared. She probably wasn't too happy about the conditions of where she would be giving birth, either. BUT she was courageous, strong, brave, and was a servant of the Lord.

I was thinking about how I would react, if I was a shepherd, or wise man, who had come to see baby Jesus. Or, even further, if I was Mary, looking down on my newborn son. The Savior of the Universe, in a tiny little body, sleeping in a feed trough for animals. It was dirty, smelly, and not so comfortable, but HE did it for US. Our Emmanuel is HERE. He was born on just another normal day, where the shepherds were trying to stay awake watching their sheep, the city was full of hustling and bustling people, it was HOT and DUSTY, and, still, Jesus was born among us. That leaves me speechless, thankful, and in awe of His unadulterated love for me.

And then I think back to my life here. I have the opportunity to focus on Jesus this holiday season, as there is so much I'm missing. That hole in my heart isn't actually a hole, it's just growing pains. Jesus is still here, and He's not going anywhere. He'll be here when life is messy and unclean, when you're lonely, sad, or just needing someone to be there. OH COME LET US ADORE HIM!!

Merry Christmas!

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!!

Well hello there!! Long time no see! These past few months have been CRAZY busy, and life just keeps on moving! If you follow me on any social media, you know I haven't dropped off the face of planet earth, I'm just half-way around it - continuing to teach in Tanzania, East Africa! If you're new here, WELCOME! I'm so glad to have you. Feel free to explore my new blog design, isn't it LOVELY!?! A huge thanks to Alexis from Laugh Eat Learn Designs for taking my ideas and turning them into a wonderful reality!

Now that it is Christmas break (#andalltheteacherssayamen), I'm ready to unpack the last few months, and share what I have planned for you next!! Let me first say how much I still, after two and a half years, LOVE living in Tanzania! This is my third year teaching at Hope International School, in fact, it's my third year of teaching! Living on another continent has not been easy, but I'm so thankful that God continues to prepare my way through this adventurous life.

This is what this school year has looked like for me so far:

My class of 16 kindergarteners is very rambunctious and FULL of BIG personalities (as you can see)!! It's been a challenge, but I'm thankful for God's new mercies each day. It's such a privilege to teach these cuties, and train them in the way they should go.

I LOVE teaching along side Esther - my assistant teacher and friend!! She came in for the fourth quarter of last school year, and I love her dearly!! We work really well together - and make a great team! I am so thankful for her.

These are the AWESOME teachers I get to work with day in and day out! 

I've also had the opportunity to direct our school's Christmas play! It was A TON of work, but so much fun!! You can check out videos from the play here!! It was written as if Bethlehem was Moshi- where we live. So it may not make sense to you, but it makes complete sense to us! ;)

My team has also ministered in village churches - praying over people, loving on them, and speaking words of encouragement to them and their situations. God is really working here- and I love being a part of it!

This will be my first Christmas here in Tanzania - and I definitely have mixed feelings. I'm so excited to experience my first summer Christmas, and be able to celebrate with my "framily" here. But I'm definitely missing the cold weather, festivities, and mainly my family and friends at home. Moshi has truly become my home as well, but there's something about being away from what you know and love about the holidays, that hurts your heart too. 

That being said, this month I've worked hard to celebrate Christmas with my kinders in as many ways possible!! I'll be sharing some of my favorite Christmas DIYs for the Classroom during the next couple weeks, even though we're finished, or wrapping up the holidays in our classrooms. Check back soon for the first installment, as well as a chance to win a fun Christmas giveaway!!

Before I let you get back to your holiday traditions and fun, I want to let you know there is still time to make a tax-deductible donation to my mission before the end of 2016! I am a volunteer teacher and missionary here in Tanzania, and fully rely on the support of others. I would really appreciate your support! You can donate here: http://bit.ly/AllieDonate. Please select HOPE INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL, and write my name ALLIE ELLIOTT in the notes section. I pray God's blessings will be poured back into your lives as you give! Asante sana (Thank you very much)!

Merry Christmas!! Enjoy this season with your loved ones - as we celebrate the true reason for the season - when heaven came to earth!

Pick 3 - TOP PINS for AUGUST

Happy AUGUST! It is my birthday month, and I couldn't be more excited!!!! I also leave to go back to Tanzania in 5 days. On top of ALL that, I am currently en route to a TROPICAL destination for a little Girls Trip with my mom for a couple days! Can you feel the excitement?!?

I loved sharing my Pinterest picks so much last month, that I thought I would do it again for August! Make sure you read all the way down, and check out all the awesome pins that are being highlighted in this linky!!

Pin It Here!!!
1. First of all, I LOVE Brooke Brown!! I first discovered her when Periscope blew up in the summer of 2015. I looked forward to each of her scopes- she's so creative, insightful, and an amazing teacher!! So, of course, I had to check out her blog. She has SO much amazing info for teachers; I love reading her posts!
Anyways, in regards to the pin, I dabbled in Morning Meeting this past year with my kinders, but really didn't do a full-fledged Responsive Classroom Morning Meeting. Her blog post on this is so informative, and I'm definitely going to use it to help plan out my morning meetings this year with my kinders!

Pin It Here!
2. I teach ESL to all grade levels at my school, in addition to teaching Kindergarten. I seriously LOVE this writing activity- and can't wait to use it with my older ESL students. I think it's a really neat way to help build their confidence, appreciate each classmate's uniqueness, and foster community! I want to do this within the first few weeks of school, to assess their writing abilities and levels. And then, I want them to do it again at the end of the school year, to see how much they've grown!

Pin It Here!
3. Anchor Charts- one of the most necessary parts of any classroom! At the end of the day, you could lose the cute decor, the loads of labels, and the excessive amounts of teacher supplies, and your students would still be able to learn. But, take away anchor charts?!! That would make learning nearly impossible- especially for your visual learners!! I love how anchor charts really do make a difference in a student's learning. They are able to remember the lessons and refer back to different charts for different things. Linda has an awesome post on making the most out of your anchor charts- it is a MUST READ!!
Alright! I could probably share 20 more pins with you that I will be taking from as I begin planning for this next school year!! But, I know that we have to keep it to three! If you want to see more from me, come join the party by following me on Pinterest!!
Much Love, Allie

Theme Thursday : Kindergarten in the Ice Age!!

I don't know about you, but I could really use some cooling off from this HOT summer sunshine! So, today, I thought I'd share with you about how I taught my kindergarteners about the Ice Age! Here we go for the fourth installment of Theme Thursday!

I've mentioned before that we use the curriculum called Mystery of History to get ideas for my history themes. It's geared for MUCH older students, so it takes a little work to adapt it for Kindergarten! However, I like a challange- and I came up with some fun ideas (and took a lot from Pinterest!) to help my kindergarteners in Tanzania, almost all who've never experienced weather below 60 degrees, discover the Ice Age!

I decided to host an Ice Age Day in my classroom. We spent ALL day learning about the Ice Age! Here is how my Focus Wall for this theme started out.

Believe me when I say that keeping things frozen in Tanzania is NOT EASY. I found this fab idea to put toys and different trinkets in a plastic storage container and freeze it. Then, the kids would have to "excavate" the toys from the ice! Well, of course, the night before "Ice Age Day", our power was out for a few hours. And even though I had stuck my container in the freezer a couple days prior, it wasn't completely solid! #lifeintanzania #rollwiththepunches #TIA

Thankfully, the block of ice was mostly frozen, so the activity still worked! We went outside with our "eyedroppers" full of blue water and spoons, and got to work!

It was a great way for my students to experience the ice, and build their schema! They also had to be creative to break the toys from the ice; and they had to work together! I have 12 students, so one block of ice worked fine. But, if you have a larger class, I recommend doing 2-3 of them.

This kept them working for a good 10-15 minutes, and by the end we had retrieved all the toys, and we were definitely cool as cucumbers! :D

Then we went back inside to discuss the activity, and we used an anchor chart to anchor their learning. (no picture :( ) After teaching them about the different animals in the Ice Age, and showing pictures, we did a woolly mammoth craft. The template came from Learn, Create, Love. They turned out SO cute, but I probably will use paper for the tusks next time, as the felt didn't stick very well!

We have a 15 minute snack break mid-morning, where the students eat and play outside. During that time, I used fabric over my windows to make the room dark, like a cave! The students DEFINITELY had a lot of background knowledge on that- as the power can go off at crazy hours, making it feel like you're inside of a cave! I had sent home a note earlier that week to have students bring in a flashlight, or lantern, if they had one. Using mine as well, each student was able to use one for our next activity!

We turned off all the lights and made CAVE DRAWINGS! This idea came from Alejandra Chavez. We used crumpled up brown butcher paper, and drew pictures on it. I recommended drawing some animals we had learned about, or tracing their hands. I showed them pictures of some actual cave drawings to spark their creativity! They had a lot of fun using their flashlights!!

We also got to squeeze in some of the Ice Age movie at the end of the day! I felt like my little kinders really got a good taste of the Ice Age, from our day of experiencing and learning!
I was talking to some friends about Theme Thursday, and they wanted to join the fun! So I'm turning this into a LINKY PARTY!! If you have a theme you've taught in your classroom and you'd like to link up with me, here's what you need to do:
1. Write a new blog post sharing your theme with us. Links and resources are appreciated!
2. Grab the picture to use in your post; and link it back here!
3. Link up below! I'd love for you to choose a picture from your blog post as the picture we click on to go to your post!
4. Follow the rule of 3 - go read and comment on 2 posts before you and 1 post after you- to share the love!

Much Love, Allie

Top Pinterest Teacher Finds!

Hey friends! Can you believe that it's July already?!? Ugh, this summer is flying by way too fast!! Today I'm joining some bloggy friends for a fun link-up where we share the awesome Pinterest finds that we've pinned this month! Are you following me on Pinterest? Do it ---> HERE!

I absolutely LOVE playing music in the classroom, and my kinders this past year really took to it too. I love this blog post from Amber! She has so many great music suggestions, and when to use them during transitions!

Maribel has some AWESOME organization tips in this pin, and she has a great freebie for us! I love weekly to do lists to keep me on track and to have everything in one place. These are getting printed and prepped so they're ready to use in August!

We know firsthand, how difficult it is to turn our teacher brains off during the summer! One of the things I'm planning out is my word wall- making it more meaningful, organized, and helpful for my students! I love this pin, and found lots of great examples and links to word walls! I found that I really love the color-coded words, and the color-blocked word walls! We'll see what mine ends up looking like!

I hope you found this helpful- as we are pinning away this summer! Leave me a link to your favorite pin in the comments. Also, go check out more pins from these fabulous bloggers!!
Much Love, Allie


Theme Thursday: Ancient Egypt Edition

Welcome back to another installment of Theme Thursday - a weekly series on my blog where I share tips, tricks, and ideas for different themes I cover in my Kindergarten classroom! Each week (or two), I choose a science or history theme for us to focus on and learn about, not only in our designated block, but also incorporating the theme into the rest of our day! Last week, I shared about our Dinosaur Unit. This week, this post is chock-full of ideas for ANCIENT EGYPT!

This was another one my littles really enjoyed! It took me a minute to get some ideas, as it's a little more in depth than what they're used to. But I tried to introduce them to it, and skim the surface! They really connected to the theme, and had a lot of fun!

On day 1, I engaged my learners by dressing up like a pharaoh! I made a paper headdress, put on some black eyeliner, and wore some gold jewelry!! I love seeing their reactions!

We first learned about pharaohs and made our own headdresses. I found a super easy template from First Palette. I just printed out both pages for each student, and they colored them to their liking. Then, we cut out the pieces and put them together! I kept them on hand for them to wear throughout our theme. Seriously, are they not just SO CUTE?!?!

We LOVE Brainpop Jr., and they have a great video on Ancient Egypt that we watched, so they could be introduced to it! We learned about pyramids, and how much work and thought went into creating them. We made an anchor chart with facts about pyramids (forgot to snap a picture!). PBS has a  website where you can get a virtual tour of the different pyramids. I think this would be so cool to do if you have a smartboard, but they liked seeing it on my computer screen too!

So, naturally, after we discuss pyramids, we had to learn about mummies!! We did an interesting experiment where we mummified apple slices by wrapping them in gauze, and then "embalmed" them in different solutions to see which one kept the apple looking the best. It was probably a bit complex for my kinders, but it would be PERFECT for 1st or 2nd graders!! I got the idea from The Unlikely Homeschool. You can click the link to check out the whole experiment.

Once we mummified the apples, we let them sit in a cool, dark place for a week. (You can imagine how GREAT it smelled in there...lol!) Then, we opened up the apples and observed the changes, and what each solution did to the apple. Not going to lie, this is NOT for the faint of heart!! As you can see, there were some pretty DISGUISTING results! Once we opened and observed them all, we voted on which apple looks the best, and discussed why it looked that way. They found it interesting, and it was a fun experiment!!

Then, we mummified each other!! ;) You knew this was coming, right?! Never pass up the opportunity to wrap your friends in TP! Haha! This might've been the highlight of this theme. Some of them needed some help, but they had SO much fun doing it!

And, of course, they had even MORE fun breaking free of the toilet paper!

Next on the list, hieroglyphics and paper weaving!!

We talked about how the Egyptians didn't have paper back then, and how they made their own from weaving reeds together to make papyrus. Then, they would write hieroglyphics on their paper to write down stories and important events. We weaved paper together to make mats, and then we used a hieroglyphics cheat sheet to write our names on our weaved mats!

Math and Literacy Center Connections
There is a GREAT resource with lots of fun math and literacy activities in it for you to use in your centers! This is by 123 Homeschool 4 Me, and it has all kinds of fun Egypt-themed goodies!!

I also found a really cute "Bump Like an Egyptian" game from Kathy Ryan. Bump is a very popular math game, that helps students practice their number recognition, counting, and addition skills!! 

I also have an Ancient Egypt-themed resource in my Teachers Pay Teachers store!! And, this week only, it is $1.00 instead of $1.50!! It's a Label and Color activity- perfect to add to your literacy center rotation during this theme!

Label and Color is an activity that gets your students thinking about the sounds in words, and transferring those sounds onto paper. It is a crucial part of literacy, and helps with inventive spelling, writing, etc. It's a useful tool to see where your students are on the phonological awareness spectrum!

We also did some fun centers like writing sight words in sand, building pyramids and other 3D shapes to make math connections, and making Egypt word books. There are SO many ideas on pinterest too! Are you following my Kindergarten Classroom Pinterest board? I love posting fun Kinder ideas!

Now, you should know by now that I LOVE music in the classroom, and so do my kids!! This song was a favorite, and we played it more than any other song all year long!! We loved playing "Freeze Dance" with it, and anytime Egypt or pharaohs would come into our discussion, someone would always ask for it!! It is called "Pharaoh Pharaoh"!

I hope you got some new ideas on how to use this theme in your classroom- in all areas!! Make sure you grab that resource for $1 while you can! Leave me a comment below with how you connect the dots and teach with themes!!! 
Much Love, Allie