Lucky Duck {A Classroom Community Routine}

Teachers spend a great deal of time building classroom community at the beginning of the school year, but really, this is something that should go on throughout the year. I'm so excited to share with you a tried and true favorite community building activity of mine: Lucky Duck.

I have used this routine in my classroom for many, many years. It dates all the way back to my student teaching days (almost two decades ago).

I'm going to break down how "Lucky Duck" works in my room, but please know that it can be modified and used in a million different ways. So, feel free to tweak and customize these ideas to meet your needs and teaching style.

What is Lucky Duck?
Lucky Duck is basically the student of the day. Each day a new student gets to identify as the Lucky Duck. When you're 7, it's a pretty big deal.

How does it work?
Each day, after school, I select a new Lucky Duck. I have a small tray with my students' names printed on them. I rotate through the stack of names and place the daily name up on the board using the sign pictured below. Doing this right after school means that it's all set up for the morning (when there are always a million and one distractions).

These are the names in their little container. You can easily cut up index cards or cardstock to write students' names. You can grab my sign here for FREE (you'll need to handwrite your students' names). Rotating through the stack of names means that each student gets the chance to be Lucky Duck several times throughout the school year. 

Tip: Don't want to mess with a sign and name cards? Then, just write it all on your whiteboard. Same effect and the kids will still love it!

Once I identify the Lucky Duck, I place a rubber ducky on the student's desk. When the kids walk into the room in the morning, they can see who the Lucky Duck is by either reading the board or looking for the rubber duck.

What does the Lucky Duck get to do?
What I'm about to share is what makes this such a big deal to my students.

Daily News
First, they get to share some Daily News. Usually, I ask the students a question and they have to answer by restating the question. You can grab a similar set of questions here (freebie).

I write their statement on a piece of 12x18 construction paper using the this format: ______ said, "_________." I don't rely on the question cards 100% of the time. I often times invite the students share any random thought they'd like. This love this.

Daily News is so great for learning how to write the date (long and short) and how quotation marks work. It's also great for talking about parts of speech, capitalization, phonics, or whatever your teacher heart is drawn to in the moment. I frequently ask students to identify compound words, words with a specific number of syllables, words that rhyme with ___, to identify nouns or verbs or adjectives, we discuss capitalization and commas in a series, and so on.

Daily Cheer
Second, the Lucky Duck gets to pick the cheer of the day. I have a collection of Dr. Jean chant/cheer cards. They choose one from the designated box and we use it throughout the day. Sorry, no pic but if you search Dr. Jean chants on TPT you can find some great freebies!

Third, they help lead calendar. Again, no pic. I really have got to get better about snapping pics in my room! Anyhoo, we use a digital calendar which can be manipulated using a special pen for the whiteboard (I do not have a smartboard, it's just some pen that connects to my projector/computer and has some sort of magical powers I do not fully understand). 

The Lucky Duck leads us through the calendar slides and calls on people to share answers. They also get to prompt them to show their whiteboards. In my classroom, we use the signal, "3-2-1 show!" when using whiteboards. I never thought that being able to say those words would be such a hit, but they are. Haha!

Daily News Part 2
Fourth, the Lucky Duck gets to decorate/illustrate their Daily News. They can do so in their free time, or during reading group time that day (if their group isn't meeting with me).

At the end of the month, I put all the Daily News pages together into a special book and add the books to our classroom library. They absolutely love reading the Daily News books over and over again. They enjoy seeing their own pages, and delight in reading about their classmates. This allows them to learn more about each other and find commonalities.

As you can see, the book doesn't look special, but I'm telling you, they are always the most popular books in the classroom library. The cover is simply two pieces of colored 12x18 construction paper with the simple title written in Sharpie. I have started laminating the covers due to the popularity of the books.

Line Leader
Finally, the Lucky Duck gets to be the line leader for the day. Enough said, we all know that's like the BEST classroom job/privilege in the whole wide world.

This routine is a beloved one. The students absolutely love being Lucky Duck. They all get their moment to shine (several times throughout the year), and they get to know more about one another through Daily News. When we sit on the carpet to hear what the Lucky Duck has to report, the students are at full attention. It's an easy way to help students feel special while fostering community in the classroom.

The only cost involved with this routine is the one time cost of a rubber duck. Mine cost like $3 on Amazon. Can't beat that!

I hope you enjoyed reading about this special routine. Please share your favorite ways to build community throughout the school year in the comments below.


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Wooden Snowman Ornaments {Updated Tutorial}

Do you let your students make gifts for their families? This is something that I truly enjoy doing. My students enjoy it too! 

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Several years back, I made a wood slice snowman ornament with my class. It was a hit and I've made this same ornament ever since. This year, I am making the same ornament, only this time, I will be using a different kind of wood.

These precut wooden ornaments are absolutely darling, and perfect for this project. Best of all, they come in bulk and now I have enough ornaments for the next several years! But, I'm getting ahead of myself. Keep reading for ALL the details. :)

What You'll Need
  • wooden ornaments
  • blue acrylic paint
  • silver acrylic paint
  • white acrylic paint
  • black paint markers or Sharpies (at least two)
  • orange paint markers or Sharpies (at least two)
  • q-tips
  • Mod Podge

You can find the precut ornaments on Amazon. The set includes 120 ornaments for an amazing price!

If you like the idea of sealing your students artwork, then a coat (or two) of Mod Podge is necessary. You can find this at any craft store, Walmart, and Amazon

Here's What You Need to Do

Step 1
Paint the ornaments blue and silver (see pic below in step 2). I've found it to be a huge time saver with this project when I paint the ornament ahead of time. Also, acrylic paint does not wash out of clothing, so it's probably best that you do the bulk of the painting.

Step 2
Pull two students at a time and get crafty! To create the snowman, paint your students' thumbs. They will make three thumbprints stacked on top of one another to create a snowman body. 

I have my students turn their thumb so that they are making "sideways thumbprints." I also add more white paint to their thumb in between each thumbprint. Let these dry overnight before adding details.

Keep some baby wipes nearby so they can immediately wipe their thumbs clean.

Step 3
Once again, pull two students at a time to add details to the ornaments. Use paint markers or Sharpies (or a combo of both) to create the details. 

Have students use the black marker to draw a hat, two eyes, a mouth, three buttons, and two arms. Then, have them add a carrot nose with the orange marker. 

I like to pull the kids a few at a time because it is something that can easily take place while the rest of the class is working independently on a task. I don't have to set aside a designated time to create the ornaments because I pull them over in twos. This also allows me to explain the task, show a sample, and closely monitor them since paint is involved.

Step 4
Next, use a q-tip to add snowflakes. Simply dip the q-tip in white acrylic paint and make dots around the snowman.

Step 5
Finally, seal the ornament with Mod Podge. Again, this is optional, but it does add a protective layer, and Mod Podge does a great job of making things look more vibrant. 

Step 6
You'll need to tie a piece of twine so that the ornament can hang. If you think your students can handle this independently, have them do it, otherwise, I suggest saving your sanity and just do it yourself.

Now the ornament is ready to send home! I like to package mine up in little kraft bags. I let the kids make a label to attach (sometimes I just use labels from the gift wrapping section at Target). I like these bags from Amazon. I also use them for my birthday bags. 

I hope you are able to use this idea! It's sure to become a keepsake with your students' families. :)


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Meet the Teacher Tips & Ideas

Does your school host a Meet the Teacher event? I know this looks different in different places. We usually report back to school three days before the first day of school. The Meet the Teacher event is always on that third day, so it's important that I get in my room and have a plan so that I'm ready to meet my new students and their families at the end of the week.

This event is an opportunity to leave a lasting impression and meet your students (and their families). My hope is that the following tips will make this less overwhelming for you. I hope you find them useful! 

Tip 1: Don't Stress
Honestly, this event is intended to give you the opportunity to meet your students and vice versa. Don't overthink it.

Tip 2: Tidy Up
Your classroom does not need to be completely set up at this time. Get the furniture in place, organize whatever you can, and make sure things look clean. This not only creates a less hectic physical environment, but it gives a good impression, a first impression. The families will see your room and make judgements about it before they even speak to you. You want to present a cozy and inviting space, not a crazy, messy one.

Tip 3: Create some ambience
Two things you will always see/smell in my classroom are calming music playing in the background (You Tube has tons of options) and the smell of peppermint oil diffusing in the air. I don't reserve these strictly for day to day classroom use, I start using them at the Meet and Greet. People always comment on the nice smell and while they might not comment on the music, I know it helps set a relaxing tone for the day.

Tip 4: Greet Everyone
It's a good idea to greet each family that enters your room and an even better idea to engage in conversation with them. This is just good manners and obviously sets a good impression. Sometimes more than one family walks through the door at a time, or you might be in conversation with a family as a new one enters the room. Acknowledging them with a smile and a small wave before you can speak with them is a great way to let them know they aren't being ignored.

Tip 5: Protect Your Stuff
When families come to meet you, there are often times younger siblings in attendance. In my experience, these littles are often allowed to just roam the room. So, it might be a good idea to put away any items you don't want little hands getting into. Or, I've even seen some teachers set up a designated kid area with things like toys and coloring pages. 

Tip 6: Be Prepared to Collect Supplies
There are always a few kiddos who bring their supplies to the Meet the Teacher event. I personally love this because when I have to go through all of it on day one, it's overwhelming. Some schools even encourage families to bring supplies to this event. Either way, be sure to have a space set aside for this. You might even consider having labeled buckets where students can drop supplies. There is no right/wrong way to collect supplies because how those supplies are used varies from classroom to classroom, just be sure you're prepared to collect them.

Tip 7: Set Out a Meet the Teacher Letter & Forms
First, make sure you have your desks set up. If they're all shoved in a corner, that is not very inviting. 

Then, place important items on your students' desks. I set out a few forms for parents to fill out. This allows me to get some insider information from the parents' perspective before the first day of school.

I always share a Meet the Teacher Letter with my students and their families at this time. It's a quick snapshot that allows them to get to know some personal information about me. This is important. I am a person, and sometimes, people need to be reminded that teachers are people too. Psst: I left out my contact info and personal bio in this sample, just trying to keep some things a bit private over here on the Internet. Hehe.

Depending upon how this event works at your school, you might want to share a Meet the Teacher slideshow with your families, or project it on your whiteboard and let it loop through for parents to look at as they check out your room. I usually do a combo Meet the Teacher slideshow/BTS presentation with important school info because that's how my school has us do things. 

Bonus tip: I share a stand alone Meet the Teacher slideshow with my students on the first day and also print a Meet the Teacher book which I add to my classroom library. The kids love reading the book. On repeat.

Tip 8: Leave a Small Gift for Students
This is not necessary. It is something I like to do, and I keep it very simple. Along with the letter and forms noted above, I place a small gift of one or two glow stick bracelets on the desk. It's just a small something to let the kids know I'm excited they're a part of my class. You can read more about this idea by clicking HERE.

Tip 9: Share Your Wishlist 
Please only do this if it is appropriate for your school population. At my previous school, it was common for teachers to set up a small space to display a list of items they were in need of. I don't do this at my current school, but if it is something you know your population would be receptive to, go for it! My favorite way to display this was on the whiteboard. I used our die cut machine to cut out a tree trunk/branches and some apples. I wrote what I needed on the apples and attached them to the tree trunk. Parents took an apple if they wanted to purchase that item for our classroom.

I sure hope a few of these tips were helpful today. Got a few tips of your own? Leave them in the comments below!


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Birthday Bags {Updated}

Recognizing student birthdays is something I like to do. I like to give a small goodie bag of items to make the birthday kid feel special. Is this necessary? Nope. It all boils down to a matter of preference and personality types. I happen to be a gift giver so I enjoy helping my students celebrate their special day.

This isn't the first birthday bag post I've written. The last time I shared my birthday bags with you, it was 2015. Time for an update! That was 7 years ago! Now you have two posts to reference for simple ideas to recognize student birthdays in your classroom. ;)

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My "old" birthday bags included slightly different items and were packaged a bit differently than they are now (hence the reason I wanted to do an updated post for you). You can read all about the OG birthday bags here.

What's Included
Below is a picture and linked list of what I include. Several of these items come in large enough quantities so they can be carried over into the following year, depending upon your class size.

Birthday Book Marks  (includes 100)
Birthday Bracelets (includes 48)
Birthday Reward Tag (part of my Holiday Reward Tag set available in color and B/W)
Mechanical Pencils (I purchased these from Target, but I've linked a similar set on Amazon)

What I've opted to include in my birthday bags are simply ideas that I'm sharing with you. You, in no way, have to include all of these items in your own bags (nor should you feel like you need to), but hopefully they'll give you some inspiration. The cost can add up (and I definitely used an Amazon gift card to pay for some of these items). If you like this idea but just don't want to spend a lot, then keep reading for some easy, cost effective (and FREE) ideas you could use.

How I Package the Items
I place all the items in a small polka dot bag which I label with a Happy Birthday label. Much easier than my old bags that included tying and curling ribbon. Hehe. The set includes 100 bags, so you can get several uses out of just one set. :)

You can grab the label here for FREE! They could also be used as a sticker for the birthday student to wear. They don't necessarily have to go on a bag. :)

Note: The labels were created as a Word Document and were formatted for that program. You might want to make sure you download the file to Word prior to printing as I do not know if they will print the same from Google Drive. 

As with any labeling I do in my room, I use the 2x4 Avery labels. I love the larger size!

Prepping the Bags
I always make my birthday bags in the summer. I usually have a few left over from the previous year and I carry those over into the new school year.  I usually make around 30 bags to accommodate the addition of new students (we lose and gain students often at my school). This usually gives me about 8 extra bags so I know I won't run out before the end of the year. 

Storing Birthday Bags Throughout the Year
I store the bags in a small tub. This one is from the Target Dollar Spot (purchased a few years ago). 

Keeping Costs Down
Again, you do not need to include what I've shown. Maybe you choose one or two of those items. But here are some other ideas that will cost you next to nothing:

  • Give each student a classroom reward coupon. You could make your own, or search for some on TPT. I have an old HW pass freebie that I used to include in my birthday bags, but in recent years, my admin has asked us to shy away from assigning homework so I no longer include that. However, you can find that FREEBIE in my OG birthday bag post. :)
  • Let the student choose the read aloud for that day. I used to have a birthday box. In that box was a collection of picture books that were birthday themed. The kids loved picking a story! Moira's Birthday by Robert Munsch was hands down the most popular choice, but you could let them choose any read aloud. It wouldn't have to be birthday themed.
  • Go to TPT and search for some birthday bookmarks. Print your own instead of buying them already made. You're likely to find some free/low cost options.
  • Buy a value pack of party hats (like the sets they have in the kids' party aisle at Target) and let the student wear a fun party hat for the day.
  • Place a small object on the birthday kiddo's desk. This could be a Happy Birthday sign or some other small object like a rubber ducky (it doesn't have to be birthday themed) to signify that it's their special day. This object can be collected at the end of the day and reused throughout the year if you'd like.  
How do you recognize students' birthdays? Tell us in the comments below!


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Summer Reading Picks 2022

Summer is here! I hope you are ready for my annual list of summer reading picks! 

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Reading is an easy way to unwind and relax. And, after last year, I need lots of that in my life. I'm guessing you do too.

I'm going to share the books I've read this past year as well as the books I plan to read this summer. I hope you find a few to add to your summer TBR pile. :)

Before I get into it, I wanted to share that this year I got a Kindle Paperwhite for my birthday. I love it. I had the Kindle Fire before and I just did not like the screen. The Paperwhite is super mellow on the eyes, super lightweight, and barely takes up any space in my purse. 

A few tips:
  • Remember to check your local library for these titles. It's a great way to get out of the house, and save money.
  • If you own a Kindle, stock up on all the books you want to read this summer. Most of the time, the digital version is much cheaper (or free!). It's small enough to fit in your purse which makes it easy to bring your book(s) with you wherever you go.

Books I've Read (and You Should Too)

This series (Cambria Clyne Mysteries) is soooo good! I read the entire collection in 2 days when I was home sick. Easy reads, highly entertaining, and well written (and free if you have Kindle Unlimited)! 

The next few titles are from the same author, but a different series. It's also a really good series! I definitely made some connections to these books as they are set in the county where I'm from. Loved them! If she writes more, I definitely plan to read them.

So, clearly, I went through a mystery phase this past year. Haha! I also loooooved this romantic comedy series from Melanie Summers. Each one is a clean read and FREE if you have Kindle Unlimited. A new title will be released this fall and I can't hardly wait!

If the Shoe Fits was a really cute story. Definitely a great summer read!

I also read these fun books. Reader beware, there are some steamy parts here and there.

This is a fun lighthearted read. A second title will be released this fall and I will likely read it too. 

This was a really cute story; a fun meet cute story.

When I first tried to read this one, I had a hard time getting into it. I set it aside for a few months and picked it back up. It was a good read!

Currently Reading

I've only just started this one, but so far, it's off to a good start! If you like stories with royals, then this might be a good read for you. There is a second book in this series. If I enjoy this one, I'll likely read the second as well. 

My TBR (To Be Read) Pile

This one is another mystery type book and it sounds like it's going to be hilarious.

This is a leftover from last summer's TBR pile. I never got to it and couldn't bring myself to read a summer story during the school year. Haha!

I'm excited about this new release!

Another book from last summer that I never got to and had to save for this summer. LOL.

You can find all of my Summer Reading Picks in my Amazon store. This link will take you to all of the books I've shared over the past few years. Click HERE to access all the titles in one place.

You can also use these links to learn about past summer picks:
Summer Reading 2016
Summer Reading 2017
Summer Reading 2018
Summer Reading 2019
Summer Reading 2021

Do you have any recommendations to add? Share your favorite summer reads in the comments below. :)


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