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5 Super Simple Ways to Bring the Olympics Into Your Classroom

We are 1 month away from the PyeongChang Winter Games, and I am so excited!  I have loved the Olympics since I was a kid.  I remember my mom letting me stay up late to watch the Lillehammer Games.  It is such a special event, and it's something that I have wanted to share with students.  Since I teach at a Leader in Me school, we are always talking about leadership.  Olympians are such great leaders!  Sportsmanship, physical fitness, strong work ethic, the ability win and lose, you get it.

The Olympics are not in my curriculum, but I just cannot stand not to bring them into my classroom and get my kiddos excited for the Games.  So, I had to get creative, and I bring you....

1. Books!
Let your students read about the Olympics.  I have a Winter Olympics collection that I created on Epic! that is perfect for 2nd and 3rd graders.  (If you're not using Epic! in your classroom, get on it!  It's the best! and free for teachers!) Reading A-Z also has some great books about the Olympics that you could easily use during guided reading or in book bags.
Here are a few of my favorite Olympic-themed picture books:
Each picture is linked to Amazon using an affiliate link.  Click on the picture to find the book on Amazon.

2. Medal Count
My students will be checking the medal count for the United States each morning during our morning work time.  I created a simple graph that I blew up on our school's poster maker that they'll add circles of yellow, gray, and orange to create a large pictograph in our hallway.  Click on the picture to grab a copy.

3.  Finger Print Ring Craft
Super simple craft!  Trace a plastic cup 5 times in the pattern of the Olympic rings- 3 on the top, 2 on the bottom, interlocking/overlapping.  Then use the pointer finger to trace over the rings with the appropriate color of paint using a finger print method.  These turn out very cute, and they only take about 10-15 minutes.  Another activity that can be done during morning work!  These make a great bulletin board.   I have lots of other crafts saved on my Olympics Pinterest board.

4. Brag Tags
I'm a brag tag loving teacher, and I was so excited to create a set to use during the Olympics.  It might just be my favorite set! Students earn brag tags for making good choices and exhibiting strong student behaviors.  Mine store their brag tags on large binder rings on Command hooks.  They LOVE looking at and comparing their brag tags.  Brag tags can be found here.

5. Classroom Display
I love a display that I can put up and leave up for a while.  I have this one up in my classroom right now and plan to leave it up through the end of February.  I have some books that I'll put out with it along with some past Scholastic News articles that I have laminated.  My kids love current events displays.  The bulletin board set is in my TPT store, and the vocabulary cards are in this vocabulary set.

Let me know some of your favorite Olympics activities in the comments below.  It's such an exciting time!  If you're looking for some other classroom activities, you may want to check out the Olympics category in my TPT store.  

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The Jelly Donut Difference: Virtual Book Tour

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. 

You know how sometimes you come across an author and you just LOVE everything he or she writes?  For the past two years, I have been loving all of Maria Dismondy's books.  All of her books are written to make a difference and teach valuable life lessons.  Her newest book, The Jelly Donut Difference, is no different!

The Jelly Donut Difference is a quick read about a pair of siblings who learn that a small act of kindness can really change someone's day.  Such an important lesson for kids to learn!

I love this book as both a teacher and a mom.  In my classroom, I used it as a mentor text during a lesson on acts of kindness.  I always take the month of February to focus on kindness, and I was so pleased to be able to add The Jelly Donut Difference to my collection of kindness books.  It's a pretty quick read, but it made for a great discussion on ways that kids can spread kindness to others around them.  If you teach about random acts of kindness in your classroom or to your own children, this is the perfect book to use to introduce the idea!  I think it would be so fun to have your students deliver donuts to the faculty and staff around the school.  Think of the smiles that would bring!  However, #teacherbudget...

Instead, we brainstormed easy ways that kids can spread kindness to people that they care about without spending a penny.  I wanted them to get out of that mindset that kindness has to be a physical present that you give someone.  We also made a Crockpot Jelly Cake.  My recipe came from Rachel at Archer's All-Stars.  My class had a ball making the cake, and most of them liked it.  It made our classroom and hallway smell wonderful!  One of cuties said, "I think our act of kindness to all of the teachers is making the school smell so good instead of like sneakers and lunch." Hahahaha Right on, kiddo.

You can grab a copy of The Jelly Donut Difference on Amazon, along with all of Maria's fabulous books.  My other favorites are Spaghetti on a Hot Dog Bun, The Little Linebacker, and Chocolate Milk, Por Favor.  You can grab each book by clicking on the title or on the book covers below.


Be sure to follow Maria Dismondy on Instagram and Facebook to catch all of her virtual blog tour events.  I can't wait to see what she has in store for all of her readers!

Five Cute Ways to Announce Your Pregnancy at School

So, if you're reading this, you're probably pregnant, or maybe hoping to be pregnant, or know a teacher who's pregnant---one of those, right?  My husband and I are expecting our third baby at the end of May 2017, so I wanted to share our exciting news with my colleagues and students in a fun way.  Pinterest has load of ideas, but not many are practical for school.  I gathered a few cute ones for you to share your own exciting news when the time comes.

With each of my pregnancies, I shared the news with my staff using Munchkins donut holes from Dunkin Donuts.  It's super simple and feeds a lot of people.  Who doesn't love donut holes?! I printed simple pictures of my kids labeled Munchkin #1, Munchkin #2, and Munchkin #3 May 2017.  The display turned out really cute and took me about 25 minutes to make...and yes, I know my poster is crudely made and has an apostrophe in the wrong place, I was rushing that morning- shocking! 

If you're announcing close to Dr. Seuss week or Favorite Book Character Day or even Halloween, this would be an adorable announcement.  Tutu optional!

This is a cute idea, and you could use any type of food.  You could do pastel colored cupcakes, donuts, or even chocolate dipped candies.

Eve Bunting (fabulous author!) has a really cute book called, Our Teacher is Having a Baby.  It tells the story of a teacher announcing her pregnancy to the class, and they write the baby letters and brainstorm names for the baby.  It's great for the PreK-2 crowd but may be too juvenile for older kids.

I didn't want to lose a bunch of instructional time with my second graders when I announced my pregnancy to them, so I planned a task card hunt with QR codes.  The students scanned each card to reveal a letter.  Then, they had to unscramble the letters to reveal the secret message- Your Teacher is Having a Baby!  They were SO excited.  The activity fit right into my literacy block but also shared the fun news.  My second graders completed the activity with a partner, but older kids could complete it on their own.  I had the answer key right in front of me so I could see their reactions when they scanned to check their work.  Talk about adorable!  Second grade girls get very giddy when they find our their teacher is pregnant...second grade boys, not so much. LOL.  You can grab the QR Code Word Puzzle here.

Did you announce your pregnancies in a special way at work? I'd love to hear some other ideas if you have them.  Leave them in the comments below!

The Santa Letter...for Parents

Do you all love Christmas and the magic of Christmas as much as I do?  I'm assuming that you do.  So, one thing that just gets under my skin, and probably yours, is when kids try to ruin the Christmas magic for other kids.  You know what I'm talking about...Santa isn't real! (gasp!)  Obviously not all families celebrate Christmas or even incorporate the tradition of Santa into their holiday celebration.  However, I just hate when someone tries to spoil someone else's joy and fun.  It's not always deliberate, but usually it is.   It's just plain mean, right?

To prevent this and the uncomfortable conversations that come with it, I've began sending home what I call my "Santa Letter" each year.  I ask the parents of those that do not believe in Santa or celebrate Christmas to please gently speak with their children about not letting out the big secret to those who do believe.  I simply print my letter out in cursive font, so 2nd graders can't read it, fold it in half, staple it, and send it home.

You can grab this letter for free by clicking here.

Every year I have several parents thank me for doing this.  It's a simple gesture but one that can prevent a lot of heartache and unwanted revelations.  I've yet to receive any complaints (crossing my fingers) or backlash from this request.  I'm sending mine home early this year, as I have one table of kiddos that just can't stop talking about Santa already (They Believe!).

What do you think?  Is this something that you'd use in your classroom, or do you think I'm taking it too far?  I'd really like to hear your thoughts.

If Teachers Earned Brag Tags...

You all know that Brag Tags are all the rage right now.  I use them in my classroom, and my students LOVE them! So I got to thinking, what if teachers earned Brag Tags, too???

Because I feel like a champ when my "to grade" bin is empty...which is rare.  

It's October, which means your bladder stamina has been building for the past month and a half.  Just think how strong you'll be by the end of the year! 

Be honest, how many times a day to you think WTF to yourself?  I mean really, everyone does it, even fabulous teachers like you and me.  

I always pack my lunch the night before school...and leave in the fridge at least once a week.  So annoying!  Do you do this, too?  

You all know those meetings that I'm talking about...the ones that make you feel inadequate and unappreciated.  I'm pretty good at staying mum, but I know it's hard for some of you. #amiright?

My club always welcomes new members.  Are you going to join me?  

You can grab all of these tags and a few more for free by following this link.  What would you add to the list?

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Fun Back to School Gift Ideas for Your Colleagues Under $5

This post has Amazon affiliate links included in some of the items highlighted below.  

So, my countdown is on. I have 5 days left until have to report back to school, and like you, I've been in and out of my classroom getting it ready.  I didn't see many of my colleagues all summer, so I was pleased as punch to see those sweet faces when I went in last week.

I am one of those lucky ones who works with a group of truly fabulous teammates.  I love all five of them so much, and I like to show them that at the beginning of the year.  However, my summer shopping problem hobby has taken a toll on my available funds.  I bet you're in the same boat, right???  So I wanted to round up a few adorable gift ideas for you to gift to your teammates that will make them smile without making your debit card cry.

Grab a cute tumbler from the Dollar Tree or Target dollar spot, and fill it with Crystal light packets.  Super simple and inexpensive.  I used this idea a few years ago, and it was a hit!  Your tag could say "We're going to have a tea-lightful year together!"

I love these little coffee packets, or you could use K-Cups if your school has a Keurig machine.  Buy a box and split them up between your teammates, stick them in a cute bag or mug...you're done!  I'd probably throw a few chocolates in there, too, because coffee and chocolate #nobrainer!

What teacher doesn't love a new pack of pens or markers? I'd probably go with a pack of Mr. Sketch, myself.  (PSA- Mr. Sketch are $5 on Amazon.  Go get a pack.  They're the BEST for making anchor charts, but I'm sure you already know that.)

This year, my own teammates are each getting a pack of these cute smiley stickers and Post-It's from me.  Stickers form from Target, and I split up a box of Post-It notes.  Perfect and so easy!  You can grab the tags, which are editable and free, here in my TPT store.  

So you're not feeling creative and are lacking time?  I've got you.  Purchase $5 TPT gift cards for each of your teammates.  Super easy!  Click, buy, and print.  You're done!  Teaching in the Tongass has a really cute (and free!) printable gift card template that you might like.  

I hope you grab a cute idea or two.  Do you give gifts to your teammates?  Do you have any new and adorable ideas for me?

5 Tips to Get Your Family Ready for Back to School

You guys, it's August. It's Back to School month. Cue the moans and groans! Going back to work was never that big of a deal until I became a mom.  Going back to school is hard on families! My husband teaches, too, and also coaches high school football, so it's kind of a double whammy for us.  Our summer routine gets all shaken up! I've learned a few things over the years that have made the transition easier.

I like to cook, but I don't like to cook when I'm dead tired and sweaty from being in my classroom all day.  I try to keep my freezer stocked with a few easy things to pull out in the morning and stick in the oven when I get home.  No prep.  Baked pastas are super easy.  I made stuffed shells for a friend with a new baby last week.  It was easy to double the recipe and add a few pans to my freezer for when school starts.  My other favorites to stock are hamburger patties, homemade chicken strips, enchiladas, and lasagna.  Confession- I hate Crock Pot meals #ithinktheyregross #itsfine, but there are tons of prep and freeze ideas for the Crock Pot on Pinterest.  You can grab more freeze and go meals on my Yummy Eats Pinterest board.   If neither of those options are your cup of tea, get a few Stouffer's frozen lasagnas and call it a day.  A tired mama who doesn't have to prep and cook dinner is a way less grouchy mama.

My kids have been going to be a little late all summer, just like yours, right?  Start pushing their bedtime up little by little so it's not such a shock and fight once you're on a a regular school schedule.  Move it up 10-15 minutes each week until you're back at the normal school year bedtime.  Get back into a solid bedtime routine again.  All kids (and parents!) benefit from regular bedtime schedules.  

I try to ease my kids back into their daycare schedule by taking them a few days each week while I work in my room.  Next week, they'll go twice, and then three days the following week.  It's hard for your little ones to adjust to much less Mommy time than they've gotten used to.  It also gives you some guilt free time to get your room ready.

I'm sure I don't need to tell you this twice, but go to Target and stock your pantry.  Get the stuff that you're not going to feel like running out to get once school starts.  Maybe it's just me, but I despise going to the store after work.  My feet always hurt, and my kids are grouchy.  Recipe for disaster.  On my list: dry and frozen foods, diapers, wipes, paper towels, toilet paper, toothpaste, bottled water, baggies, trash bags...you get it.  Just keep it under control, ladies.

Remember, your job is just that, a job.  Don't waste your last few weeks of summer obsessing over your classroom and curriculum.  Limit the time that you spend in your room.  Get that stuff done, you'll be glad that you did, but also enjoy the time at home with your kids.  It's such precious thing to be able to spend our summers with our kids. 

Have a great August, my friends!  Let me know your best piece of advice for transitioning your families back into the school routine.  

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