Crackers Are Crazy!

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Students will be able to recognize and write the blend /cr/ as part of practicing grade level phonics.

Big Idea

Building an English Christmas cracker and a crown helps students recognize a common blend - /cr/, which in turn helps build fluency when reading.


10 minutes

Gather students on the rug using a preferred classroom management technique. I like to use my “Stop, look, listen.” The students stop what they are doing, look at me and listen for the direction. I usually preface the direction with, “When I say go…” This reminds the students to listen to the whole direction before moving to follow the directive.

In this case I would say, “When I say go I would like you to clear your space, push in your chair and go take a spot on your dot. Walking feet go.” By saying walking feet I am reminding the students to use walking feet in the classroom to ensure safe movement between areas.

When all of the students are seated on their dot in the rug area I place the globe in front of them and tell them to pack their suitcases because we are going to climb aboard our imaginary plane to head off to the country of England.

“Today we have a short flight, just enough time for a movie. We will take off from here in Maryland; fly in a north east direction out over the Atlantic Ocean and drop down to land in the country of England – which is part of the United Kingdom.”

 While I was talking I moved the push pin I was holding across the areas I spoke of and then pushed the pin into the country of the England.

“England is one of three countries which make up the United Kingdom. The other countries which make up the United Kingdom are part of Ireland, Wales, and Scotland. Today we will just focus on England.”

 “Looking at England, are we in the Northern Hemisphere or the Southern Hemisphere?”

“That’s right we are still in the Northern Hemisphere, so what season do you think it is there right now?”

“Well done winter, just like us.”

“Can anyone tell me the name of a famous important person who lives in England?”

I use the Fair Sticks to help select random students to answer the question. Be prepared for a multitude of different answers if you live in a transient population area, such as I do. For example, one of my students has a grandmother who lives in England and she is an important person to my student. “Your grandmother is an important person, but I am looking for someone famous who is known by lots of people throughout the world.”

“That’s right Emily; Queen Elizabeth. She is the Queen of the Commonwealth countries and she lives in a big palace called Buckingham Palace.”

Now I move the globe back to its resting spot on our book area shelf and take my seat in front of the students on the rug area.

“Today we will be celebrating Christmas. Christmas is just one of many celebrations recognized in the country of England. If this is a celebration what do you think the people of England will do?”

I use the fair sticks to select students to respond to the question. Once several students have had the opportunity to respond I recall a few of the responses and say, “Go on break from school, wear special clothes, eat special food, go to church, put up decorations, give presents or gifts; those were all good predictions. We are now going to read a book about Christmas in England to see if you are correct.”    


40 minutes


“The book for today is called Christmas Around the World, by Mary D Langford and illustrated by Karen Dugan.”     COMMENTS ABOUT THE BOOK

After I have “read" the page and we have discussed the new vocabulary words, the traditional practices etc, I then have the students take a seat around the edge of the rug. Edge of the Rug Song

Once the students are settled I tell them what they are going to do today at integrated work station time.

“Boys and girls, at one of your stations today you will put together a small book which has the same beginning sound as the word – cracker.”

“Can anyone tell me the sound they hear at the beginning of the word “cracker”?”

“Yes Owen that is correct. I too hear a /cr/ sound. Now can anyone tell me the two letters they think make that sound?”

“Great try Adam; k and r are very good answers, but the k needs to be changed to another letter. Can anyone tell me what letter that might be and why?”

“Yes Shelby; c is the correct letter and it does have the /c/ sound like the letter k.”

“When you put the letters c and r together we call that a blend as they pair up to make one sound - the /cr/ sound. Everyone make the sound with me.”

“Can anyone think of a word that has the same beginning sound as cracker? Not the cracker that you eat, but like the cracker we read about today in our book about English Christmas traditions.”

I use the fair sticks to select students to respond to this request.

After we have heard about 5 or 6 words, and we have discussed whether the words actually have the blend /cr/ or not at the beginning, I move onto the next direction.

Why Blends?

“Today at one of your work stations you will be putting together a /cr/ blend book. This book has a box of crayons (I emphasize the /cr/ blend as I say the word) as the background and then little pages with /cr/ items will be attached to it.” 

“Your job will be to use scissors to cut out the pages, put them in any order you like and use the stapler to attach them to your background page. After you have attached the small pages to the box of crayons, you will need to get a pencil and go through writing the blend at the beginning of each item page.”   Book resource for worksheet

“When you have finished writing you will need to color the crayon page carefully to complete the assignment.”

"Once you have finished coloring you will check you have done everything you were asked to do, make sure your name is on the cover and place it in the finished work bin.”

“Does anyone have any questions?” 


Once I feel the group has a good grasp of the instructions I send the students over one table group at a time to maintain a safe and orderly classroom. It usually sounds like this;

“Table number one let’s go have some /cr/ blend fun.

Table number two, you know what to do.

Table number three, hope you were listening to me, and

Table number four, you shouldn’t be here anymore.”

 Students working 1     Students working 2      Students working 3      Students working 4

Allow the students 15 minutes to work on this activity. Set a visual timer and remind the students to look at the timer so they will use their time wisely. 


10 minutes

When the time is up I blow two short blasts on my whistle and use the “Stop, look, listen” technique mentioned above. “When I say go, I would like you to clean up your space remembering to take care of our things, push in your chair, and use walking feet to go and take a spot on your dot.”

Students know to put completed work in the "finished work" bin. Any work that is not completed goes into the "under construction" bin and can be completed throughout the day whenever the student finds he/she has spare time or it will be completed during free choice center time.

 Cr words sample 1      Cr words sample 2       Cr words sample 3

Once the students are seated I tell them that their exit slip for today is to tell me a word with the /cr/ blend at the beginning.

“Boys and girls, today your exit ticket to get your snack is to tell me a word that has the /cr/ blend at the beginning of your word. Here is the hard part; once a word has been used it is off the menu. I will give you 10 seconds to think of to or three /cr/ words so that if someone uses one of your words you have a back-up word ready. Ten seconds starts now.”

I look at my watch and when it gets down to three seconds I say, “3, 2, 1. Okay you should have two or three words ready to go.”

I use the fair sticks to randomly select the order in which the students get called.

Once a student has told me his/her /cr/ word they are able to use the hand sanitizer and go to get their snack. If a student is unable to give me an answer, they know they can do one of two things.

  1. They can ask a friend to help, or
  2. They can wait until everyone else has gone and then we will work on a /cr/ word together.


5 minutes

I will call each student over during a time which fits into my classroom schedule. I usually call my students over to work with me during free choice centers time or at integrated work station time (only if I have enough parent volunteers and I am not working a station myself).

I explain to the students that I would like them to look at the sheet of pictures before them.

Cr Blend Assessment

“Please focus your attention on this sheet of pictures. I would like you to take a pencil and circle all of the pictures that have a /cr/ beginning sound.”

Once the student has completed the assessment, grade accordingly, make any notes necessary on the back and place it in the student’s assessment portfolio. 


Morning work for the following morning – the students must think of 4 words that start with the /cr/ blend. Students are asked to draw and label to the best of their ability the words they come up with.

Cr Blend Words Morning Work


Students make a Christmas cracker craft. I provide cheap trinkets that I buy from either the dollar store or from Oriental Trading Company for the students to place inside their cracker. To make our cracker we simply take a piece of cardstock which has been cut in half. We roll our half sheet of cardstock into a cylinder (we discuss how we took a flat 2D rectangle and made it into a 3D shape called a cylinder) and tape it in place. We wrap the cylinder in pretty paper and tie one end closed with ribbon (a great fine motor skill practice task0. Next we place our trinkets inside the cracker and tie the other end closed using ribbon. The students take home the “cracker” to show their family and share their new found knowledge of another Christmas tradition.

 Christmas cracker student


The traditional cracker always includes a crown. This is thought to symbolize the Wise Men but no one knows for sure. To go along with our /cr/ blend we work, we also make a crown. The crown is decorated with things that have the /cr/ blend as the beginning sound. Depending on the level of the student I either have them find their own pictures in magazines, or for time’s sake I may provide the table with pictures. The pictures may or may not be labeled – once again this will depend on the level of the students. I have higher level students label by themselves using phonetic spelling. Other students I may ask to come up with the beginning sound, others I just have verbally tell me.  

Cr words images


Later on in the day we will move and sing along with the "Blend Song" video. This video pronounces the blend and then has the students echo which helps reinforce the sounds.