Friday, June 21, 2013

End of Year Gifts From the Heart

The end of the year is a great opportunity to recognize students for their accomplishments. It's also a great time to let them know the impression that they have made on their fellow students and their teachers. Ever since I began teaching, I have made sure that my students leave my classroom at the end of the year knowing that they are in fact special in many different ways. I have made a few changes throughout the years, depending on our themes and experiences, but I always do something close to this year's gift that I am going to share with you.

The first thing that I do, around the last week in May, is send home a packet with all of the students names in it. Here is the assignment that I attach:

Of course, in the blank space will be each student's name and this will be a packet a few pages long. I always talk to my students about how important it is to take their time and choose their words carefully and I am sure to let them know that only I will know what they wrote. These words of praise are always the foundation of After all students have turned this back in to me, I get to work. Since I have a Snoopy theme in my room, and this year's students were especially fond of Snoopy, I saved different Snoopy images throughout the year that reminded me of each of my students in some way so that by the time this project came, I had at least one image saved for each student. 

In powerpoint, I placed the image of each student's Snoopy on a page with their name on it (which I have taken off of the pictures for some students). I then take the words that they have said about one another and place them in text boxes around the picture. I bought special Snoopy computer paper for the border, and after placing all of the words around the Snoopy, I printed them out, one page per student. I then went to the Dollar Tree and bought 24 document frames. I placed the printed paper in the frame and...voila! A super special end of the year gift that is personalized and meaningful! Here's what they looked like: 

I presented these on the last day of school right before our fifth grade graduation. I made up this note from me and read it to them, and gave them each a copy of the note.

Of course, I cried a river as I read it, because this has been such an amazing group. They loved their gift and their parents did too and I really enjoyed making them. It gave me a chance to reflect on my time with each student and the growth that they have made in our time together. This is an end of year gift that I will do again and again. If not for the computer paper, it would've cost me $24 for the frames, and some printer ink. Totally worth the final product and the smiles it brought to each student. Meaningful is so much better than expensive!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A Simple, Low Cost Birthday Wish

I'm on summer vacation! Well, I have been since Friday, but I'm just now getting around to blogging. This has been the week of, doctor, hairdresser, oil change. You name it, the appointment happened this week! I put it all off during the year and then end up sacrificing my first week of vacation catching up on everything.

Anyway, now that I have more time for me, I have more time to read blogs, plan next year's theme, and think about my upcoming vacation (one week!). I was just reading a question posted to teachers about how they celebrate birthdays in their classroom and I realized that I hadn't shared my idea with all of you.

For years, I puzzled over what is too much or too little for birthday acknowledgements. None of the schools that I have taught in allow any kind of in-class celebration (if parents bring in cupcakes we have them in the lunch room). I know that my childhood was quite different. I can remember planning my in-class celebration for weeks, giving my grandmother a lengthy list of the items she would be required to send in for my classroom birthday party. In fact, on one such preparation, I fell off of a chair in the midst of icing a cupcake. I still have the scar to prove it.

Getting back to the subject at hand, I always want to recognize my students on their special day, but I never want to go over the top, as I know our instructional time is precious. During my first year of teaching, I baked cupcakes EVERY time there was a birthday. Looking back, I realize it was a tad over the top, as well as expensive and time consuming. So then I pulled back and just gave a pencil. Then I gave a bag of candy. Then I did a giant card, most of which ended up thrown out before my students left. So I've been in search of a cost effective balance, one that will recognize the student, not take away instructional time, and include a treat of some type. This year, I think I finally nailed it:

What I used:
birthday streamer (Dollar Store!!)
birthday pencil (any teacher store)
birthday blow-pop (in bundles of 5 at your local Dollar Store!!) - I don't allow gum chewing or candy eating of any sort in my classroom unless it is a special occasion, so this is a super special treat in my room!
birthday certificate - with Snoopy, of course! I made it myself! Just a little colored ink from the printer and...voila!

Though I can't share the Snoopy one for copyright reasons, I do have two happy birthday certificates available in my TpT store.

Here's the links:

Happy Birthday Certificates

Owl Birthday Certificates

On the last day of school, I do this for all of the students with summer birthdays so that they don't miss out! And, if a student has a birthday over the weekend I decorate their desk the Friday before it. That way everyone is included!

So simple and cost effective...this is now my official go-to birthday acknowledgement! I hope it will be helpful to others who are trying to save a little money and still make it special for their students.

Tomorrow my only appointment is working on my tan poolside! Yipppeeeee!!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Homework Rewards That Don't Cost a Bundle

Yes, it's the end of the year and I am talking about homework. It's reflection time! At the end of each year, I am always evaluating what's working and what isn't. I'd say that homework rewards are because my students are buying in to my rewards and it's not costing me a bundle.

My students get homework Monday through Thursday. I check it each morning. As I check it, I use a homework chart to chart their progress. Usually, I buy 10 charts at the beginning of the year in different colors (because the same colors all year are so BORING), but you could get away with just buying one and laminating it if you wanted to be really savvy. You can find them for around $2 each, so $20 for the year isn't too steep.

I put a dot under the assignment and next to their name and then it's a student's job to put the stickers over the dots at the end of each day. If the student only completes half of the homework, they get a 1/2 and if they complete none they get the dreaded "X". Neither of those gets a sticker, because only the dot is worthy of the sticker. I chart it for a month. At the end of that month, I take down the chart and look for my homework superstars that have a sticker for every single day for that month! In addition, I also look for anyone with a lot of "x's". Those charts are a great visual for parent conferences.

If a student has all of their stickers then they get a homework superstar certificate, which I print up on colorful paper (Bought 100 sheets at the beginning of the year for $10...less expensive than using all that ink). I attach a homework pass that I created myself (of course it's Snoopy) to the certificate and leave it on their desk. They love seeing that bright colorful paper on their desk, but love the homework pass even more!

Although I can't share the Snoopy ones, I did create an amazing set of homework passes in different seasonal, subject, and holiday themes, the set also includes the homework certificates. You get it at 

All of the students that earn certificates get their name placed in to a raffle for a free book ($5 and under) from the book order and I only choose one each month. (Think your $10 in free books...thank you Scholastic). 

So, in total, you could spend $5 on a laminated chart that can be write-on, wipe-off, $10 on computer paper that's cute, and a little ink to print out the coupons or you could buy my set on TpT which is already adorable and ready to go! You could opt-out of the book order reward if you don't do book orders. To be honest, my students always seem to be more interested in the homework passes than the raffle anyway. You may or may not use stickers over the dots on your homework chart, but if you do, you can find a bundle of them in the $1 section at Target and if you were to get 5 packs, you'd still be at $20 for the whole year. If it results in students practicing the lessons that I teach, I'll happily spend $20 a year! 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

June Currently

Has it been a month already? Oh my gosh! It's time for another  Link-Up With Farley!

Listening: Yep, the hubby is packing up to head out for a couple of weeks of training. After two LOOOONG deployments, I know that 12 days apart is no biggie, especially since he'll still be in the states so I can call him and bug him each night when I'm missing him. I'm sure the time will go by super fast since I'm down to 9 school days left! 

Loving: I often speak of this honeymoon, but if you were waiting five years, you would be too! We are now 26 days from being in Cali enjoying our two favorite things: baseball and wine. I cannot wait though I've got a bit of the pre-travel jitters, thinking about putting the cats at the kennel, making sure I have all of the clothing I "need", getting all of our reservations set, etc. 

Thinking: I know the year isn't over yet, but I'm already thinking about the items I will need for next year. I just received a BIG order from Really Good Stuff, filled with items for next year. Call it over prepared, I'm aiming to not have back to school stress next year, even though I know deep down that no matter how much I do, I'll still find something to be stressed about. 

Wanting: A maid. I'm not lazy but I swear my husband and I spend half of our weekend doing laundry, vacuuming, cleaning this, cleaning that, etc. I'm positive we'd enjoy our weekends more if we had a maid clean during the week. I know they aren't that pricey, but for me, it's the control freak thing. I'm not sure I want someone else in my home doing what I usually do. I really want a stranger cleaning my stuff? Hmmmm...

Needing: Our honeymoon is chock full of activities. One that I am looking most forward to is a  5 hour car with driver for a day of wine tours :-) We're thrilled with this idea but absolutely clueless when it comes to choosing where to go. We really want the people at the hotel to just choose the places for us, but we also want certain things like places with a breathtaking view, places that are unique, you know quality over quantity. It's making this part of our honeymoon a bit hard to plan. But honestly, after the first tasting, I probably won't care where they take us next! 

3 Vacay Essentials: Books, books, Books! I've got hundreds of to-reads on my actual bookshelf in my living room. I have a little problem with buying books. I'd like to read some this summer :-) My iPod is currently broken, but I can't lie by our pool without one so it looks like I will soon need to splurge. The sunglasses...well, I don't want my eyelids to burn while I'm catching a tan. Plus, my future is so bright, I gotta wear shades! (Yep, that's a little 80's music throwback for you.)

Enjoy your week! You might even see a couple of blogs from me since the hubby will be gone!