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The Great Garbage Can Mystery- A FUN Making Inferences Lesson

If your students are any thing like mine, they struggle with making inferences.  It is a tricky skill! ...and it takes a lot of practice.  I made something super fun for my second graders, and they didn't even realize how hard they were working on making inferences.

In summary, students use the items in the garbage cans to infer who the garbage can belonged to.

My teammates and I (6 of us) each filled a little Dollar Tree garbage can with trash that would represent us.  We chose items that students would recognize as ours- food and drink wrappers/containers, ticket stubs, receipts, items from our purse, classroom supplies that we love, etc.  We intentionally chose items that would help the students infer. 

I started my lesson by showing the Brain Pop Jr. video titled, "Make Inferences".  (Brain Pop is a paid subscription that I am lucky to have in my District.  If you don't subscribe, it is definitely worth the money.  I use it so often!) I referred to my Inferring anchor charts (shown above).  I love having premade anchor charts to refer to when creating the anchor chart is not the focus of my lesson.  (This set is can be found here.)  I always teach inferences as filling in the blanks.  The author wants the reader to think about the text and to draw his or her own conclusions.  Then, to help students get the idea of using object clues to make inferences, we did a premade practice worksheet starring some famous characters.  You can grab this worksheet for free here or by clicking on the photo above. 

I put a garbage can on each of my student tables.  After explaining the activity to the students, they went from table to table to inspect the contents of the garbage can.  They recorded a list of the contents on the graphic organizer that I provided for them.  This was considered the evidence or text clues.  Then, students wrote down some of the background knowledge they had about their teachers.  Some chose to fill out the entire thing while at the table, and some chose to observe first and infer later.  This took about 15 minutes.  The activity followed the same procedure that we used when we were learning to make inferences in a text: read, think about what you already know/schema, and then infer. 

Finally, we came together and created a whole-group anchor chart using the information that students had recorded.  We recorded the evidence.  They gave me their inference, and then they explained why they chose that particular teacher.  It was so fun to hear their rationalization about why a certain can had to belong to a certain teacher.  So cute and funny!  I also revealed the owners of the garbage cans, and they had gotten them all correct!  They definitely know their 2nd grade teachers pretty well.  It was so much fun!
If you need help or suggestions, there is a list of ideas included in my resource. 

I rewarded the students for their hard work with some cute brag tags and completion certificates, which of course they loved.  They are crazy for brag tags!

I put this activity together in one resource for you, if you're interested in trying in your own classroom.  It includes everything that you need, minus the items for the trashcans.  The recording sheets are editable so you can customize it for yourself and your classroom.  You can grab it here or click on the picture below.  You don't need the resource to do the activity, though!  You could do it really simply without the extras.  Have fun with this activity!  It's a really great way to hook your little readers!

How I Use Brag Tags AND Class Dojo Together

Lots of teachers use Class Dojo, and lots of teachers use brag tags...but do you use both?  
I do, and it works really well. In short, I use Dojo to communicate with parents and
reward/manage behavior, and I use brag tags as rewards.  I wanted to share a few easy
ways to tie the two together.

At the start of each week, introduce and display a specific brag tag. Explain how students can
earn this tag- Do students need to display a specific behavior? Do they need to complete a
specific task? Add a Tag of the Week category in your positive Dojo points. When students
earn the brag tag, they also earn the point. To make it even better, make it worth 2 or 3 points.
I like to display my tag of the week on the board. I put the brag tags on a binder ring, and hang
them from a magnetic hook. I try to choose tags that are seasonal or related to
topics/characteristics that we've been working on during our Leadership time. My school uses
Leader in Me, so I often choose those tags for my tag of the week. I’ve created a Brag Tag of
the Week sign for you to create a small display. You can download it here.

As my students reach specific milestones in their long totals, they earn a brag tag. We reset
their bubbles every other week after the kids cash in with our Dojo store, which you can read
about here, but we keep a running total in my notebook. Our milestones are 24, 50, 100, 200, 300, 400, 500, and so on. I don’t think I’ve ever had a student go beyond 600 points. My
Dojo-themed brag tags are in my TPT store.  

This is a simple one.  Each week, the student with the highest number of points earns the
Monster of the Week Tag. They also get to color a monster labeled with their name which is
then hung with our Dojo display. Monster of the week tags are in my Dojo brag tag set, and the
coloring page can be found here.  

Our specials teachers choose a student or two who showed leadership during the class period.
Those students earn a Dojo point under the category of Super Student in Specials. I also have a
brag tag that I created specifically for the specials at my school. If you're interested in those,
please email me.

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Running a Simple Class Dojo Economy

I’ve used Class Dojo for the past six or seven years, and I love it. I love that it’s a flexible, easy way to manage the classroom, and I really love the home-school communication tools that have been added.

One of my students’ favorite aspects of Class Dojo is our Dojo Economy system. It’s super easy and not at all fancy. I adapted my idea from School and the City's Sticker Economy. My students earn and lose points on a daily basis. We keep track of that on the Class Dojo site, and parents are able to sign on to see how their students are earning and losing points. With my Dojo Economy, we take the points one step further to keep students motivated and reward them for positive choices.

I keep a binder, and in the binder, each child has a blank hundred grid with his/her name on it. We add a sticker for every 5 points students earn.

I check in with students every other Friday for our Dojo store. I call the student over, and tell them how many points they've earned over the past two weeks (They usually already know.) We add that to their existing total. So, if a child earned 21 points, we add 4 stickers and a +1 at the bottom of the last sticker. As students' math skills improve throughout the year, you can involve them in the process.
You're starting with x points, add x. What's your total now?
You earned x points, how many groups of 5 is that?
You had x points, you spent x, how many points do you have leftover?

I keep an anchor chart hanging in our classroom with the prizes and their value. Students able to easily choose something within their range. I also keep a small version of the chart in the back of my binder, so I can easily see how many to subtract from their total. The prizes and privileges are inexpensive or free- candy, lunch with a friend, no shoes for the day, bring a stuffed animal to school, iPad for morning work, etc. I have a few big prizes worth 10 stickers (50 points), like donuts and ice cream from the cafeteria, and some kids really do save up for them. At the start of the year, we work together to come up with a list of prizes and privileges that they would like to be able to earn. This helps to give students ownership of the classroom.

Once a student chooses their prize, we subtract it from their total by crossing off the stickers. It really is uncomplicated and easy to manage with things you already have in your classroom. You can download the blank grid here.
I reset point bubbles to zero after we cash in points. This doesn't affect how parents can see how students have earned or lost points. Their pie graph and Dojo data will remain the same.

I also use brag tags in my classroom, and students earn brag tags when they hit certain Dojo point milestones- 25, 50, 100, 200, etc. Because you're keeping a running total with the stickers, even when they're crossed off, students can see how many points they've earned throughout the year. The brag tags can be found here.

The whole process usually takes me about 20 minutes, which is perfect to do at the end of a Friday while kids are playing a math game or even during morning work.  It's also a great task for a parent volunteer or student intern.  Comment below if you have any questions!
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Fun and Frugal End-of-the-Year Gifts for Teachers

This blog post contains Amazon affiliate links.  Each purchase using those links earns me a few pennies to buy more Diet Coke, smelly markers, and day care for my kids.  Thanks for supporting a fellow teacher!

At the end of the school year, I always like to get my teammates something small as a "We made it! It's finally summer!" gift.  The thing is, by the end of the school year, I'm trying to keep costs down to save money for fun summer days.  I wanted to share a few of those ideas with you.  I think that each of these would be fun to gift your own teammates or your kids' teachers. 

Personalized Tumblers
I bought simple clear tumblers at Michaels, and I personalized them with my Cricut.  I added some filler and a few scratch off lottery tickets. You could also toss in some iced tea or lemonade mixes or even a fun silicone ice cube tray like this one.  Super easy and around $10 for each gift. 

Wine with Drink Floaties
This one is my favorite!  Last year, I found the cutest drink floaties at Target, and I added a small bottle of wine.  My teammates LOVED the gift, and really, who wouldn't?  You could also add a Diet Coke, lemonade, or something else refreshing for summer. You could even add one of the cute personlized tumblers like the ones I showed you above.  You can download the wine tags here or by clicking on the photo.  They're free!  The floaties were from Target last year, but I found a really cute mixed pack of drink floaties on Amazon for you.  Each gift probably cost me a total of $5 or less. 

Desk Supplies
Again, Target Dollar Spot for the win!  I added some pretty Flair pens with a notepad to a cute bag and add the filler.  I bought a big pack of Flairs like this one, and then I split them up to save some money.  I especially love the tropical vacation colors for an end of the school year gift.  You can download the donut tags for free here or by clicking the photo.  Each gift cost me about $4 each. 

Scented Markers
Mr. Sketch markers are in my top 5 favorite school supplies of all time, and I LOVE getting a new pack of them.  I don't know any teacher that doesn't love them.  Order a few packs from Amazon or pick them up at Target and slap a cute tag (another freebie in my TPT store) on them.  Easy, easy, easy and under $7 a gift! 

Other good ideas....
Starbucks Gift Cards.
6-pack of Beer. 

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How to Make Pumping at School Work for You

This post contains several Amazon affiliate links, which means I'll earn a few pennies if you happen to purchase the item on the link.   

So, you just had a baby...congratulations! Being a working mom is awesome for so many reasons, but it can also be really tough, especially if you’re still nursing and need to pump for your baby. I’ve breastfed all three of my babes while teaching full-time.  It can be done! It takes time and commitment, but it’s definitely worth it. Here are a few tips that might work for you.

I have always used a Medela Pump-in-Style Double Electric Breast Pump, and I love it (as much as you can actually love a breast pump). It's easy to use, efficient, cleans up well, and isn't too cumbersome to carry around. I use a pump tote bag, and I highly recommend it. It makes it so much easier than just a regular bag. Everything has a place. Keep in mind that if you're getting your pump through your insurance company, it may not come with a pump bag.
Be sure that your flanges (the cone part) are the correct size for your girls. If they're too big or too small, your milk production will suffer. The parts that come with your pump may not be right for you. You can easily get what you need at Target or on Amazon.
Image result for medela pump in style transparent image
Figure out at least two consistent times that you can pump every day. If you need and can get more sessions in, do it. I pumped during my special (9am), at lunch (12:15pm), and after dismissal (3:45pm). This helped me bring home an average of 14 ounces each day. If you don’t schedule consistent times for yourself, your body will struggle to know when to expect a pump, and your supply may be affected. You might consider pumping at lunch, during planning, during recess, before or after school, or even during your commute if you’re extra tricky. I could never get the hang of pumping and driving without feeling like I was spilling or flashing other drivers.

 These things are fantastic! I never used one with my first, and I wish that I had. You can do whatever you need to while hooked up. I did all of my desk work while pumping: emails, paperwork, grading, cutting lamination, etc. I love the Simple Wishes hands-free bra. It zips up nice and tight and keeps everything in pace. It washes and wears really well.
Image result for hands free bra for medela pump
 I work on a team of six, and they were so supportive of my pumping schedule. I didn’t miss meetings, and I made sure to pull my load. I didn’t make pumping an excuse to get out of things. Let your colleagues know when and how long you need to pump, don’t forget to include your principal and secretary.  Accept responsibility for tasks that can be done while you’re hooked up. I also had a teammate who I could call when someone can knocking on my door. She would try to help or send them away. My teammates were fantastic about respecting my need to pump, and I’m so thankful for them.

 Keep snacks in your desk, and fill your water bottle often. Almonds, celery with peanut butter, and KIND bars are my go-to snacks. You’ll probably have a harder time with production if you don’t eat and drink enough. Keep in mind that your body burns extra calories every day while you’re nursing, so you can use that as an excuse to have a few extra snacks.  

 Pumping is HARD work, and it’s not fun. There will be days when you want to quit, when you don’t produce enough, when your schedule gets messed up (field trips, in-service days, unexpected meetings, or when you just don’t feel like it. It’s okay to skip a pumping session here and there, especially once your babe is eating lots of solids. Give yourself some grace and credit. You’re an awesome mama, and your babe is so lucky to have you.

If you have any questions, leave it in the comments.  Happy pumping, pretty mama!

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Teaching Friendship with The Fruit Salad Friend

I have been a long time fan of Maria Dismondy's books.  They're wonderful for character building lessons.
Maria recently published a new book titled The Fruit Salad Friend.  In this story, a little girl named Chloe faces some challenges with friendship.  She learns and uses different strategies to to help herself feel better and find friends that lift her up.  She learns the recipe for friendship.  Super cute! ...and if your classroom is anything like mine, then everybody could use a little springtime refresher on friendship- I'm looking at you little drama queens!

Maria has collaborated with Emily Yost to create a free readers guide for you to use in your classroom.  It is EXCELLENT!  Comprehension, writing, drawing, etc.

In my own classroom, after reading the book, I focused my lesson the the traits of a good friend and on using I-Messages.  We used the I Message poster in the readers' guide along with with the scenario cards.  My students could really connect with the scenarios.  We practiced using I Messages together and in pairs.  I love using I-Messages, because it gives the students ownership over their feelings and their words.  It also helps them to figure what exactly is making them mad.  We talked about how much more powerful an I-Message is compared to whining and bickering.

Using the materials from reader's guide and some clip art from Dancing Crayon Designs, we created a display to help us remember how to use I-Messages and ways to calm down when we feel upset or angry.  I am in love with how it turned out!  They love finding their fruit, and it's nice to have the visual available when conflicts arise.

Afterwards, we made a friendship fruit salad together- naming the traits of friends as we added the ingredients.  It was fun and nutritious.  Everything is better when food is involved, right?

After the lesson, each child received a 'Friendship is Sweet' brag tag to add to their collection.  You can download it here or by clicking on the picture.  We LOVE brag tags!  They really do brag to each other about them. Haha!

Here are some quick links for finding everything you need to use The Fruit Salad Friend in your own classroom:
Book (Amazon Affiliate Link)
Reader's Guide
Brag Tags

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