Monday, May 30, 2016

10 Awesome End of the Year Gifts and FREE Gift Tags

The final countdown is here. We are down to single digits of days left in the school year. While I am beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, I feel like the these last few days are like dog years, each normal one must be multiplied by seven. So eight days feels a little like fifty-six.

At the end of the year my to do list always balloons until it is a blur of field trips, report cards, cumulative folders, summative evaluation meetings, data collection, data recording, checklists, yearbook signing, paperwork, more paperwork, room cleaning, and dealing with the piles of stuff I put in piles until I had time to deal with them (now or never). I am pretty much ready to lapse into a coma by 7 p.m. Every. Single. Night. 

In the midst of this blinding exhaustion, I also like to get my students a fun end of the year gift. In early May, I start dreaming of personalized acrostic poems for each student, a DVD I-Movie with pictures from our year, or mini-time capsule bursting with memories of all our special events. 

By the time the school year is actually winding to a close and I am so tired that no Starbucks in the world has enough caffeine to keep me awake past my (goal) bedtime of 7 and my gift ideas are scaled WAY down. By the time the last day countdown is in single digits, I am all about getting each student a fun little gift, with an adorable label, that can be assembled in less than 15 minutes, and ideally costs around $20 or less total ($1 or less per student, I am a teacher after all).

I TRY to plan in advance, but there have been years I have stopped at the grocery store on the way to school on the last day and frantically searched for something cute and fun. In an effort avoid the last minute crunch I went on a Dollar Store shopping spree and came up with 10 fun and cheap end of the year gifts. (Click on the pictures to download the gift tags for FREE, because free is AWESOME when your budget is $20 or less...)
  1. Dollar store sunglasses + a gift tag = super cute and PRACTICAL!

  2. Everybody loves Goldfish crackers and you might get bonus points with parents because they are not loaded with sugar!

  3. If your year rocked, Pop Rocks make a fun gift!

  4. A Dollar Store bucket and a cute tag make a super cute gift (and they can use the bucket to carry home any remaining items from their desks!

  5. Nothing screams school like chalk and this super cute tag makes it a fun gift!

  6. A Dollar Store kite (or glider) works well with this gift tag; it is perfect if you are a STEM classroom!

  7. Your students will GLOW with pride when they get this Glow Stick gift!

  8. Students will love a cool popsicle treat!

  9. Let the fun bubble over with this super cute gift!

  10. Nothing says summer like a beach ball!

Clearly, now that I have all these gift tags I will be super organized with my end of the year gifts for the rest of my teaching career. After all, I said it here on the internet, so it MUST be true!

Happy end of the school year!

Monday, May 23, 2016

What do teachers do in the summer?

We can all probably remember a time when someone told us how lucky we are to be a teacher because we only have to work from around 9am-3:30pm and we have a couple of months off each summer.  If only people knew!  We are blessed to be teachers, but not for the reasons most folks think.  I suppose we really cannot complain about the amount of time we have off in the summer, but we need it after working all those 50-60 hour weeks during the school year.  People don’t realize that our brains do not get a break when school is in session.  Teachers lie awake in bed at night wondering how Juan’s parents reacted to his low math grade, whether or not Suzie had a hot meal for dinner, and if he/she selected the best lesson for next week's observation.  Our time off in the summer is very well deserved and is the only time during the year we can relax and stop thinking about school for awhile…but do we?

Students at my school have some definite ideas about what teachers do in the summer. 

“I think that in the summer teachers go to the Bahamas!  If not, I think they go home and sleep in.” - Madison

“I think teachers spend time with their families at the beach.” - Anny

And, my favorite… “I think teachers get together with other teachers and hang out.  Have some fun.  Go to movies.  They have parties.  Play video games.  Have family time.” 
- Keith

As we near the end of our school year, I’m most looking forward to sleeping in and spending some extra time with my friends and family.  It’s not so much about what we are doing, it’s more about the people we are with.

Hopefully, we will all spend some time relaxing, but we will also be making preparations.  Just like we don’t only work from 8am-3:30pm during the school year, we don’t really have months off in the summer.  We will be making preparations for that classroom of bright, young faces who will sitting in front of us in August! 

These kiddos have figured out the truth. 

“I think teachers get ready for their new kids and think what to do and what work.” 
- Penelope

“The teachers come to school to get ready for next year!” - Caidyn

As teachers, we know we will spend many hours this summer getting ready for our new school year, but in the words of Maya Angelou-

Enjoy your summer!  May it be filled with many carefree days.  And remember, summer is when parents realize teachers are grossly underpaid!

Monday, May 16, 2016

A Highly Effective Approach to Creating Measurement Maniacs

Down here in “paradise,” we are in the home stretch of our school year.  This is the time when those tell-tale signs that summer vacation is right around the corner begin to taunt you.  You know the signs I’m talking about.  The days start to get warmer.  The students start to get restless.  You start to panic about squeezing in those last few standards that you still need to cover.    

Imagine the sand between your toes, and that cold drink in your hand. 

The hard part is done.  The bulk of the learning has been covered.  I’m reminded of this whenever I pick up that thick math journal we use, and invite the students to turn to a page towards the end of the book.  The END of the book.  We’ve made it!  It’s such a feeling of accomplishment.  

One of the last math units that we cover is measurement.  It has become my favorite unit thanks to author Steve Jenkins and his books Actual Size and Prehistoric Actual Size.  We use these books to take our learning outside for a hands-on approach to covering the measurement standards.  

Remember...summer vacation is right around the corner.  Your students are getting restless!  Taking them outside for some fresh air and a change of scenery may be just what they need (ahem...and maybe you need it a little too).  

We began with the book Actual Size because it shows creatures large and small at ACTUAL SIZE in inches and feet (US standard units of measurement).

Grab your copy HERE

Thanks to this handy-dandy anchor chart:

Click here if you would like this anchor chart for your classroom!

...and using color tiles and base-10 blocks to see and feel the difference between an inch and a centimeter: class had a basic understanding of the different measurements of length.  

So after our read aloud, the students formed small groups based on their favorite creature from the book.  They used sticky notes to record the lengths of these creatures in feet.  

Then we grabbed our rulers, some sidewalk chalk, and made our way to the great outdoors!

Once outside, I demonstrated how to record the number of feet drawn so that they knew when they reached the exact measurement of their creature.  

Much to my surprise, one group took the lesson a step further, and converted the length of their creature from feet to inches (I was part of my plan all along).  

Another group wanted to investigate how many 2nd graders it took to equal the length of their creature.  

Pretty impressive, right?  These kiddos were so into this lesson!

A few days later, we dove into Prehistoric Actual Size:

Pick up a copy HERE

This version shows parts of dinosaurs at ACTUAL SIZE measured in both US standard units as well as metric units.  This time, we focused on the metric units of measurement.  

We compared the units to base-10 blocks:

On the day we read this book, I had every intention of taking our learning outside once again...but it was raining.  Bummer!  So instead, we grabbed our whiteboards.  

As we read each page and learned about the length of the creatures, we converted meters to decimeters, centimeters to decimeters, and meters to centimeters.  

I asked questions like:  If a Velociraptor was 2 meters long, how many decimeters does that equal? Centimeters?  

Through a high-engagement game of Showdown, the students used their whiteboards to record their thinking and share their conversions with the group.  This also served as a great opportunity for me to informally assess their learning. 

So, if you are looking for a way to keep the momentum going and end the year with memorable experiences, I highly recommend these books.  When paired with these fun activities, you will be equipped with a no-fail approach to creating measurement maniacs in your classroom!  

Want even more high-engagement measurement activities? Try this fun game of Measurement Scoot:

Visit my store to grab this game!

I’d love to hear how you teach measurement in your classroom.  What tricks do you have up your sleeve?

Visit me at Snips, Snails, & Teacher Tales

Monday, May 9, 2016

Do's & Don'ts of Garage Sales

Don't get me wrong... I love to sleep in. But really when does that happen? Never! So this weekend I decided to get up and go check out some garage sales. I have been teaching for 10 years but this is my first year of kindergarten. Most of my materials are 1st and 2nd grade level, so I've been busy stocking up on letter stamps and pocket charts.
I was so excited to have a free minute that I couldn't even sleep. I headed out around 7am and saw a sign... "Retired Teacher Garage Sale!" You bet I was about to burst when I saw the sign. Retired kindergarten teachers... you know they keep everything...this HAD to be good.

I am not a professional garage seller by any means. I am the person who is just jealous of other teachers finds and they always seem to get amazing items for under $5! This kind of bargain shopping NEVER happens for me. My excitement turned to disappointment very quickly. So I took some notes on the dos and don'ts of garage sales to save you from a Saturday morning let-down. Don't worry... I made it to Starbucks and quickly turned my day around.

#1 Do: Sell your classroom items to help other teachers build their classrooms. Your treasures are so valuable to us and they inspire creativity in our classrooms...BUT

DON'T: Sell items that don't belong to you or may have a terms of use for the product. So many items at this garage sale were labeled with the school name. Even more products were purchased from Teachers Pay Teachers, printed and being sold in file folders. I was so disappointed to see such valuable resources be mistreated by a teacher. 
We all use items that belong to our school and most of us are avid TpT buyers. Be mindful of these precious items and use them with care. We are a team of educators who need to stick together. 

Good luck on your garage sale finds. I hope your early Saturday morning is more successful than mine. Any good garage sale finds? Let us know what you found in the comments. Can't wait to be jealous... still looking for that letter H!


Monday, May 2, 2016

Gifts Only Teachers Will Love

We LOVE gifts! Giving gifts is the best (but getting them is not so bad either!)  We here at Planning in Paradise want to begin Teacher Appreciation Week with a little gift humor and then we will end the week with someone winning a gift!

Our teacher friends are by far the funniest people we know. And there are often times when we are sitting around telling stories, we are all crying and shaking our heads in disbelief. You know those stories...things only your teacher friends understand. These are the kinds of stories we can't even make up.
Here are a few of our most hilarious/overly thoughtful gift stories. We are absolutely sure these gifts were given with love and a sweet heart. We are also absolutely sure they made us crack up! We hope you enjoy our laughs and share some of yours.

Teacher Favorites
Ever mention your favorite food a time or two to you class?
Make sure you are ready for a cooler full!
That's just what came in... a styrofoam cooler filled with tater tots!
Great laugh but took that cooler full of tots right to the cafeteria to bake them!

Gift Mix Up
Bubble bath sets are always nice. This set was "Naughty or Nice" and each bottle was labeled with a blushing detail of how to use it. As your mind races... just check your email. A frantic parent emailed  explaining how the Bath & Body Works gift set had been confused with the one she bought for a bachelorette party. Pretty safe to say, we were both cracking up and completely embarrassed!

Dining In?
Over the years we all have been blessed with gift cards for restaurants
and coffee stores. This one may be a first...
A Chinese Take-Out Menu!

Snacks and treats always make great gifts. Our students can hardly take it. They are dancing and can't stand the excitement of handing you the gift. But do you know how hard it must be for them? To deliver a bag of skittles with only 4 left... or a half eaten granola bar... or even a cupcake with no frosting left on it (but you can totally tell that bad boy had frosting on it 5 minutes ago!)

No Returns
Watch out! *Pun coming...
Receiving a nice piece of jewelry is always touching. Opening a VERY nice watch then to read the hand written note that is included in the box. "Happy Birthday! I hope you like this watch. Don't show my mom but I wanted you to have it!"
Whoops... Where is your backpack?

There isn't a day that goes by without something completely hilarious happening in our classrooms. We have the best job in the world. We hope you share some of the funnies you have with us. Thank you for all the wonderful gifts over the years and even more thanks for all the laughs.

We are giving away Planning In Paradise "Sand Dollars" which is just what we affectionately call a $25 Dollar Gift Card to Teachers Pay Teachers. Enter below on the Rafflecopter, by following ONE or ALL of our TpT stores. The more you follow the more chances you have to win. Good Luck Teachers!

a Rafflecopter giveaway