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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. 

Pin and save these ideas for later!

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

Don't need it now?  Pin it for later!

Listen Up Peeps!

So, are you Team Peeps or Team No Way, They're Disgusting? I'm the latter, but I sure do think they're cute and super fun for spring time.

I have an easy behavior management idea for you involving marshmallow Peeps that you can use right around Easter or after Easter once you pick up all of the Peeps from the clearance rack at Target.  The goal is to get students to listen and pay attention a little better...because we all know how spring fever goes.

Here's my display, which you can grab by clicking here or on the picture.  I set mine up the day before we started to grab their attention and build excitement.

Students will start each day with three Unifix cubes.  You could easily use counters, beans, or plastic pennies.  If a student is talking at an inappropriate time, not following directions, or is just not listening, they must give you a cube.  When I introduce the concept and chart to students, I show them a non-verbal signal that means, "You owe me a cube." I simply put out my hand, and they hand it over.
At the end of the day, students will record how many cubes they still have left on the chart.  Students who end the day with 1 or more of their cubes, get a marshmallow Peep and a certificate.  I've always used these adorable certificates that Recipe for Learning has on her blog.
This year, I snagged a small stuffed Peep at Target.  Each morning, I will randomly select the name of one student who had 3 cubes let the day before.  That student will get to hold the Peep at their seat all day- You all know they'll do anything to have a stuffy to snuggle with.

This is just an easy way to keep the chatting and general lack of listening in check.  Let me know if you decided to give it a try!

If you're too swamped to do it this year, Pin it and try it later on!

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.  

Want to save these ideas for later?
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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!
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