Saturday, May 14, 2016

Ice Cream Themed Parent Volunteer Gift

Parent volunteers are such a blessing, am I right?  They come in week after week, with a smile on their face, and willingly tackle any task you send their way.  At the end of the school year, I like to give my parent volunteers a little something to let them know how grateful I am for all their help.  This year, being excited about the hot summer days ahead, I went with an ice cream themed gift.

This gift looks impressive, but was super easy (and fun) to put together.  It includes just about everything BUT the ice cream. ;)

The idea behind this gift is to give the recipient some fun things they can use to create some tasty ice cream desserts at home.  Most people usually buy ice cream, but, they don't typically buy all the fixin's, so I thought it would be kind of fun to give them a little kit that they could use to take their ice cream to the next level. 

I collected a few treats that I thought would appeal to a wide variety of individuals (and would taste good on ice cream), packaged them up, and placed them in a box.  Easy peasy!

I started by collecting the following items:

I found some cute ice cream cups at Marshall's one day and snatched them up without any hesitation. They were just too cute to leave behind.  The wooden spoons are from Michaels, and the food treats are from the local grocery store.

The great thing about this gift idea is that you can include ANY ice cream related treats that you want.  Can't find any cups?  Then, use cones.  Can't find wooden spoons? Then, get some fun colored plastic ones from the party section.  Here are a few ideas for other items that you could include in your gift box:
  • ice cream cones
  • waffle cones
  • colored plastic spoons
  • maraschino cherries
  • caramel sauce
  • chocolate syrup
  • any variety of sprinkles you can find
  • Reese's Pieces
  • Heath Bars
  • chocolate chips
  • marshmallows
  • seriously, anything you can think of that you think the recipient might like 

Back to my picks.  I really didn't want to just stuff my gift boxes with the items in their original packaging. They were just, uhhhhhh, well, not cute.  So, I decided to repackage the candies.  I placed the contents into small pop favor bags (Michaels).

After filling the little bags with the candies, I folded the top over (making sure to squeeze out all the air), and stapled them in place. Then, I added a piece of patterned scrapbook paper as a bag topper.  I just cut them to fit the width of the baggie (about 4.25 in. by 2.5 in.), folded them in half, and stapled them to the baggies.

Next, I prepared the gift box.  I used one of the photo memory boxes from the craft store and stuffed it with tissue paper. 

I placed all of the goodies in the box and added a little note reminding them to add some ice cream.

After placing the lid on the box, I tied it with some pink twine purchased from Michaels and added this fun little card.  I have yet to write my personalized message in the blank space.

The memory box is a super easy way to package everything up because you just stuff the box and then put the lid on it.  It will be so easy to transport it to school without worrying that stuff will fall out and get damaged.

You can grab the FREE card and the "Just Add Ice Cream" label shown in the photos above by clicking HERE.  

As I put together my parent volunteer gifts, it dawned  on me that it might make a fun end of year treat for my daughter's teacher as well. So, I added a card to the free download that would allow you to use it for a teacher gift as well.

I am excited to present these gifts to my volunteers at our parent volunteer breakfast this week.  I hope they love it, and I hope that you can use the idea!


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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Brag Tags {Tips & Tricks}

Oh, brag tags, how I love thee.  Brag tags have been a serious game changer for me and my students over the past several years. And, over the years, I've picked up a few tricks for effectively and easily using brag tags in the classroom. Curious?

Before I share my tricks, let's cover the basics.

What are brag tags?
Brag tags are little tags that students earn for working hard, putting forth effort, having positive attitudes, setting a good example, and so on.  Students can earn new tags at any time and as often as you are willing to pass them out.  The tags are added to a chain necklace where they can be easily stored and shown off.  Students love adding new tags to their personal collection and never grow tired of earning a new tag.

Just like any resource, there is no single right or wrong way in which to use brag tags.  They can be used however you'd like.  You can be systematic in passing them out, or you can strictly pass them out when you see that students have earned them.  You can choose to reward effort only, or also recognize academic accomplishments.  It's completely up to you.  I tend to use them to recognize character, attitude, behavior, and effort because that's what works for me.  You can read more about how I use brag tags in my classroom HERE.

Alrighty, let's get to those tips and tricks!

Stockpile Your Brag Tags
The purpose of brag tags is to recognize student effort on the spot, so you want to make sure that you always have plenty of tags available to pass out.  It's a good idea to have a variety of tags prepped ahead of time. This way, you have options when it comes time to awarding a student with a new one.  Having a stockpile will not only give you plenty of options, it will also help lessen the possibility of students earning duplicate brag tags.

For me, the best time to build/replenish my stockpile is over the summer. I have the time during the summer to leisurely make what I need.  I can print them out and laminate them without feeling the pressure to get them all cut out that same day.  Don't get me wrong, I still make some tags throughout the year, but making sure that I'm fully stocked and ready to go when day one rolls around saves me a lot of time in the long run.  And, we can all benefit from that.

Communicate Your Expectations
Before you begin using brag tags, be sure to clearly communicate your brag tag system with your students.  Explain to them how they can earn tags, when they will get to wear their tags, when/if they will go home, expectations when they are being worn. 

In my classroom, my students can earn a brag tag at any point in the day.  They could even earn two in a day. It's all up to them and the choices they make.  My students know that their tags stay at school until the very last day of school. I tell them that they are responsible for their brag tags.  They know that I won't replace lost or damaged tags. They know that they get to wear their necklace anytime they earn a new tag, and that everyone gets to wear their necklace on Fridays.  They also know that they need to keep their hands off of their necklace.  Otherwise, they have to take it off.  Just like anything else in your classroom, when students know your expectations and the procedures to follow, things will run more smoothly.

Label Your Students' Brag Tags
I like to label my students brag tags with their numbers.  I write their student number on the back of the very first tag I give them.  This way, we always know which set of tags belongs to which student.  If you don't use numbers in your classroom, you could write your students' names on the back of one of the tags instead.

Make Sure You Can Easily Get to Your Brag Tags
Trust me, it is so much easier on you if you keep your brag tags in a place with easy access. I keep mine on the top shelf of the bookcase behind my desk.  I can easily see what I have and I can easily grab a tag when I need one.

This set up may not work for everyone, and there really is no right or wrong way to make your tags easily accessible, just make sure that they are. When you see them yourself (and can quickly get what you need), you are more likely to remember to pass them out consistently to your students.

If you're wondering, my tags are stored in floss organizer boxes from the craft store (Walmart sells them too). I cut the lids off and glued some ribbon around the outside.  Necessary?  Not so much, but I'll be the first to admit that I'm obsessed with ribbon and bows and pretty much add them to everything.  Hehe.

Organize Your Tags
I try to keep my character trait/citizenship related brag tags together.  Along those same lines, I keep the tags that can be used to recognize good learner habits together.  I think you get the idea.  By keeping like tags together, it makes it easier (and faster) to locate tags when I need them.

Be Consistent
Just like any management system, be consistent.  Aim to pass out at least one or two (or even three) brag tags a day.  Want to aim for more?  Go for it, but don't go overboard.  Students need to earn their tags.  If you hand them out like candy, they lose their value. And, if you forget to pass them out for several days, the kids will begin to think that they aren't important.  Make sure you pass them out regularly, whatever that looks like for you and your management style.

Help Yourself Remember to Pass Out Brag Tags
We all know that consistency is key, but sometimes, we get off track.  On occasion, you might find yourself slacking when it comes to passing out new tags.  I've been there.  Sometimes things get crazy, you might be focused on other things and forget to focus on your students' efforts and accomplishments in the classroom.  This doesn't make you a bad person, it means you're human.  When I find myself getting off track, I pin tags to my shirt.

If I'm wearing them, I remember to pass them out. You could pick a "generic" tag that could be awarded for a number of behaviors or work habits, or pick a specific behavior to target (see next tip). 

Target Specific Behaviors
If you notice that your students need to work on something in particular, tell them that you will be on the lookout for students who are demonstrating that behavior or habit.  For example, a while back, I noticed that my students were getting a bit sloppy walking through the halls.  So, I began telling them that I was looking for one hallway champ each time we went anywhere as a class.  I held the tag in my hand as we walked through the hall and as we navigated the halls, I reminded them that I was on the lookout for a champ.  They all wanted to add this tag to their collection, and it really helped motivate them to walk through the halls in a straight line while using appropriate voice levels.

I truly hope you were able to take away a tip or two today.  I'd love for you to grab this free brag tag to add to your collection. Click HERE to grab the freebie. The download includes a color version as well as a black & white version.  Simply use the version that meets your needs!

Also, be sure to check out my brag tag collections on TPT:
Black and White Brag Tags
Color Brag Tags

Thanks for stopping by!


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Saturday, April 30, 2016

May Round Up

Who's ready for a new monthly round up?  This teacher is!  May is always a busy month.  It's not only the last full month of school, but it's also when I start looking ahead to see how I can get a head start on the upcoming school year.

Directed drawings are awesome.  They make the students really focus, listen, and to think before they do.  Once the drawings are done, students can color them with crayon, oil pastels, or even paint them with watercolor paints.

We've done several directed drawings this year, and they have been a hit with the parents.  This got me thinking, why not have the students make a special drawing for their mom (aunt, grandma, whoever) for Mother's Day?   

To make this a little more gift worthy, we will frame the drawings using 8x10 frames from the dollar store.  If you plan to frame your drawings, just be sure to trim the paper to match the size of the frames you purchase.  I would recommend cutting your paper to size before the students do their drawing. To help cover the cost of the frames, I ask the students to send in one dollar.  Even if some students don't contribute, it helps to cover the cost when you are buying so many frames.

I like to use card stock when we do our drawings, especially if they paint them afterward.  It just holds up a lot better than regular construction paper (and it's usually cheaper than investing in watercolor paper).

To present the gifts, simply wrap the frame in colorful tissue paper and tie some yarn around it.  You could also let your students make a card. 

You can grab the free step by step directions for this drawing HERE.

May is research month in my classroom.  More specifically, we research various American symbols and put together an impressive project.  It gets sent home at the end of the month, and parents are always so impressed with the final product.

I love that this project keeps us busy, but with meaningful learning material, addresses several of our social studies standards, as well as a few writing standards.  It's high interest and the kids take a lot of pride in their work.

You can read more about this project here.  And, you can check out my Celebrating America unit here on TPT.

The end of the year is a crazy time.  The students get super distracted, challenging behaviors might become even more challenging, you're trying to teach those last few standards, and you're also likely thinking of the next school year.  Wait, that isn't just me, is it?

Ok, so let's talk next year, shall we?  This time of year, my brain goes into serious "plan for next year" mode.  I can't help it.  I just always think if there is something I can do now to save myself some time when reporting back in late August, that I might as well do it.

For example:
  • Sharpen pencils for next year and store them in a zip top bag.  I do this every year and it saves me a ton of time and hassle when I'm more worried about reconstructing my classroom that was dismantled when I checked out in June.
  • Copy any and everything you know you will use.  For example, I know that I will set out my Meet the  Teacher letter at Meet and Greet.  I also know that there are specific back to school forms I want/need parents to fill out.  If I copy them now, I don't need to worry about fighting my way to a copier at the last minute next year. 
  • Laminate your nameplates and cut them out.  This job is perfect for parent volunteers, and again, saves you precious time when you are worried about making your room presentable for meet and greet and attending various staff meetings at the same time. TIP: I laminate the nameplates now, and write the students' names on them with permanent marker in the fall.  This has worked well for me over the years.

  • Each week, choose one thing in your classroom to "spring clean." Go through things, get rid of what you don't need, consolidate what you can, and label things for easy reference next year. For example, tackle those math manipulatives in your storage closet.  When I did this recently, I noticed that I had a bucket of tangrams.  They weren't sorted into individual sets.  Why and how did this ever happen?  Who knows, but I had a parent bag them up and I found out I had enough sets for two classes and ended up sharing half of mine with another teacher. 
For even more end of year ideas and tips click here.

Also, check out my End of Year Pinterest board for some fun classroom ideas!

Thanks for stopping by today, friends!

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