Monday, October 27, 2014

Trick & Treat Blog Hop - No Candy At School

It's time for some teacher Teaching Trick & Treating and I have a special treat for you so your students don't bring Halloween candy to school!

That's right - I have teamed up with my Freebielicious friends again to share some 
teaching tricks and special free treats for you!  

My treat for you is this fun little flyer to send home to remind students to keep their Halloween candy at home!  Click the image to download it from my Random Freebies file on Teachers Pay Teachers!  

And my trick goes along the same lines!  Kids get SO MUCH CANDY during this time and they never eat it all.  So I always ask my families to donate any treats their students won't eat to our class for incentives.  I usually get a good amount of candy and trinkets to either put in my treasure box OR have in my cabinet to pull out when needed!  

Hop along to the next Freebielicious friend to see what their Trick & Treat is!

Kinder Alphabet

Sunday, October 26, 2014

8 Reasons Why Teachers Should Use Their Time Off

My family is getting ready to take our annual family trip to Disneyland. This time of year, I tend to go off on a rant about why it is okay for teachers to take time off.  

Let me start by saying this post is not intended to encourage teachers to use their time off irresponsibly.   In schools today teachers are often highly discouraged from using thier earned/granted time off and I just feel that there is a part of it that is wrong.  Each school and district has it's own designation of sick, personal, or time of days allotted each year and I am only trying to suggest that if teachers need to use a sick day they should or if they want to use a personal day they should as well.  In no other profession I know are people given a benefit and then told they cannot use it.  I feel like we work with children and so by nature we are kind hearted people and I feel like by discouraging teachers to use time off is taking advantage of the fact that teacher genuinely want what is best for students!

That being said, here are the reasons why I take some of my days off every year for family vacation and why I feel it's okay for your to as well!

1.  Because my family is more important than my career!  Does that mean my students are not important?  Absolutely not! But it does mean my family is important too and I strive to have a good balance of home and work and you all should too.  The quaintly of education you provide to your students is not determined by who works the most hours!

2.  Because vacation is expensive.  My family goes to Disneyland every year.  I am not going to pay  to go to Disneyland and go when the rest of the world is out of school.  The lines, the weather, the events in the park are all factors on when we decide to go.  It's expensive and we want to get the most out of our experience.  We strategically go a certain time every year, and it has yet to fall around  major spring, fall, or summer breaks.

3.  Because teachers often work 10-12 hour days.  Teaching is exhausting and we deserve a break too.    I put a lot of time into my classroom all year long.  Any teacher will tell you planning for a substitute is probably more work than just staining in the classroom and teaching!  It's okay for me to take some mental health time and for my students to have a substitute!

4.  Because it's good to get a break.  I love my students and I love teaching but that does not mean that if I take a day or two off that I love them any less.  It also does not mean I am any less effective of a teacher.  I would argue having a balanced life makes me more effective!  But those who do take time off are often made to feel bad for doing so and it's not right.  We are more than just teachers - we are parents, spouses, siblings, etc.  Sometimes you just need a break!

5.  Because my schedule as a teacher should not always dictate the plans of the rest of my family.  My children do go to the school in which I work.  And my husband cannot always take days off around my scheduled breaks.  Sometimes when we go on vacation we go with other members of our extended family or with friends.  Everybody has schedules to juggle and just because I am a teacher does not mean that my schedule overrides theirs.  It's a give and take and if I am able to schedule something during a break, I of course will.  But if not, then we do what is best for my family overall.

6. Because your time off is a benefit offered to you and budgeted into their business plan.  FTE is what an employer pays to have a Full Time Employee (FTE) on staff.  It calculates your benefits including medical insurance, your sub days, and other fees they pay to have you employed there.  Employers allot a higher price per FTE than that person's salary to cover all the costs of employing that person.  In other words, although your salary is $40K a year, it actually costs the district $65k (not a real number) to employ you.   Businesses plan for you to use your time because it is a benefit just the same as they plan for you to use your insurance.  Part of me wonders if  there is anything they can do about it because it is a benefit.

7.  Because school budget issues have changed over the years.  Does your district have this problem?  Essentially, many districts only allot so much money for substitutes.  Often by the end of the year, all the sub money is gone.  Teachers are then forced to split classes instead of getting subs when they are gone.  So many school districts highly discourage you to use your time unless it is absolutely necessary.  10-15 years ago did we ever roll our eyes at teachers who took time off?  I don't remember this.  It was the crash of the economy (IMO) that put strain on school budgets to the point that they had to start cutting back and watching what they spend.  So they cut back on how many sub days they give schools but did not cut back on the amount of days they give teachers. So essentially they are saying you can have 10 days off each year if you need but we will only provide you coverage for 6 of them.   Guilt factor kicks in and the mindset starts to change that we cannot use our days!  

8.  Because I don't plan on retiring as a teacher.  Many districts will only allow you to trade time off days for retirement points.  Just being honest, I don't see myself in the public education system for the next 22 years let alone in the same district that long.  I just feel as if there is something else out there for me in education.  And who is to say in 22 years when I have enough points to retire that this option will still be there.  

There you have it - why I feel it's OK for me to use my days off as a teacher!

For the last 9 years and through 3 school districts I have taken up to 3 days off every November to go to Disneyland.  Although I have had many conversations with administrators and other teachers about why they feel it's not okay to use my time off, it has never effected any of my evaluations or any of my test scores.

I am not trying to tell you to use your days irresponsibly.  I always have a bank of days to use when necessary.  And I am by no means saying take 100% of your days each year.  The districts I have worked in either have no distinction on why you are out or have a portion of the days designated as personal days.  Even though we have these personal days, many teachers choose not to use them and they do not roll over to the next year.  And I am not calling in sick and going to Disneyland - I am honest and upfront about what I am doing.  We all know people who do this (and many of us pass judgement on them).  They don't always like it but it has never been held against me.  I am hopeful teachers are able to be honest and upfront as I have been.  Just because it's discouraged does not mean it is not doable.  We as teachers should not feel guilty for taking 3 days off to spend with our families!

What happens where you work?  Are you allowed to take your time off?  Do you feel it's okay for you to do so?  

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Yuck Soup - A Snack Activity Freebie

Have you ever read Yuck Soup by Joy Cowley? 

It's a great little book about some monster looking characters who make Yuck Soup!  They eat tires and all sorts of disgusting things!  The kids get a kick out of it this time of year.  

I love tying activities to book and so we make our own Yuck Soup every year.  We actually call it "Kindergarten Soup!"  

I send home a letter and ask each child to bring in their own item to contribute to the soup.  Everything must be prepackaged and not opened!  Each year I get different items and so it's never quite the same!  

Each person pours into the soup what they brought.  We say the pattern of the book "In goes some..." 

Then we mix it up.  

And serve up our snack!  

We follow up by making this fun class book that matched the Joy Cowley version!  

Each person documents what they brought and we assemble it into a book!

Sometime when I make these class books I will have the kids not color the pages.  I will collect them, copy a version for each student, and then send home to color.  This way the families can read the book at home and we can enjoy the original in class!  

This Yuck Soup activity is a freebie at Simply Kinder on TpT!  

This makes a great alternative to Halloween and also a great activity for Thanksgiving because it's about sharing!  

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Pumpkin Book Reports - Last Year's Pumpkins!

Pumpkin Book Reports are one of my favorite family projects each year!  And they are a free download so be sure to read to the end so you too can do this project with your students! 

Here's a sampling of the actual pumpkins I got last year!

I loved this one because it was the first time I ever got a tutu on a pumpkin!  So creative and such a great way to use resources you already have at home!  

 One of my favorite series of books ever! I was so excited to get a pumpkin for the book More Parts!  This pumpkin is like the typical pumpkins I get because it uses construction paper!

I just love this one as well!  This student of course read Cinderella and they did her pumpkin more as a family project.  Some teachers don't like when parents control the creative process but it does not bother me as long as they work together and the student is super excited about their project in the end!  
Green Eggs and Ham - a classic pumpkin.  I seem to always get 1 or 2 Dr. Seuss books every year!  I loved the toothpick with the little saying which was very creative!  

 This pumpkin was wrapped in tissue paper and then sprinkled with glitter!  Skippy was made out of foam pieces for durability!  Super creative and very cute in real person!
Last year I got lots of books that were not as well known which was fun.  We enjoyed reading those books together so we could understand the pumpkin character.  

I don't always read every book especially if it's a classic.  We just don't have time to read each and every book that day and so ones that I will most likely read during the year sometimes are not read.   
 This one was a little bit of an issue for this student because the parent used the marker as the medium.  The marker was rubbing off and so he was a little upset. If you are making these with your children, be sure to think of that.  To fix we presented his first and then at recess we traced it with my Marks-A-Lot marker.  
I love that this student did a Christmas book!  But I have to be honest, it made me wonder how many books this child has at home.   Knowing her though, I think she just really loved this book!  I love that it has a handwritten element on it as well.

Another book that was not as well known to the students in our class.  We read this book because we were intrigued by why the pumpkin had a whale on what appeared to be a bib.  So it was a great pumpkin to springboard into a good book!

Where The Wild Things Are.  Love every bit of the this pumpkin!  The wig, the bumps on his face, and the frown are all so perfect to add character to his pumpkin!   

I love this one because it was a nonfiction book report!  All kids love nonfiction books so it was a great way for him to share what he knew about sharks in a creative, artful manner!  

This pumpkin was a pre-made pumpkin character set I got at Walmart the year before.  In the Halloween section they sell kits you can stick right on the pumpkin.  So each year I buy a few for students who I know will not be able to afford to do a pumpkin or if the parents have some sort of circumstance that the parents are not able to do the pumpkin with them.  This particular pumpkin was made because the dad was in the hospital and I figured me doing it with the child would take a little stress of the family and the child would still have one to present!  

I like to give my families about 2 weeks to prep these and bring them in to class.  So now is the time to be planning this pumpkin project!  Letters and book reports are free in my Simply Kinder TpT store below:

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Planting Pumpkins in Kindergarten

It's that time of year... time to plant pumpkins in kindergarten!  Here are some tips, tricks, and lessons I have learned over the years to make this as easy as possible for all!

Let's start with what you need:  

You will need:  
- a medium size bag of potting soil  (one of those large bags is just too much soil)
- a medium sized pumpkin
- clear plastic cups (I like the half size cups because they are more stable)
- pumpkin cutting stuff
- Ziploc bags
- chart paper and/or cover from the chart paper tablet or newspaper or butcher paper

Two things to do ahead of time... write the names on the cups (I like to use Marks-A-Lot markers because they never smear and I am just snobby about my markers) AND put potting soil into the ziplock bags so it's easier to distribute them.  

I always have a hard time with the soil because how do I "entertain" the other kids while I am helping the kids at my soil bag.  Dirts flying everywhere... kids are getting restless... just not a good plan.  Finally I got smart and I pre-measured the soil for the kiddos and they get their bag ready to go!  

I usually still like to do this activity outside because it can get messy but either way I use chart paper and the cover from a chart tablet because it's free, I didn't have to remember to bring it to school, and it's sturdy enough to roll up and throw away when we are done without breaking!  

So now we are ready to open our pumpkin!  Cut like normal and pull off the lid.  I usually cut ahead of time.. but don't pull it open until I am with the kids because they LOVE the "ooooh" and "ahhhh" that comes with the mystery of opening a pumpkin!

I like to sit in a circle to do this.  We pass the pumpkin around 2 times:  once to just look (so they can record their findings) and a second time to get some seeds.   (A picture from when I did it at my desk which is effective but sitting in a circle is how I like to do it now.)

Now that we have our seeds we are ready to plant them.  My students always use my Let's Plant Pumpkins Interactive Reader and so they are fully versed in the directions before they get to this stage.  They follow the directions... fill have the cup, drop in seeds, and then fill up the other half of the cup.  
Let's talk about seeds.  I used to be the teacher that gave everyone one seed to each child.  A few years ago I thought to myself.... why?  So we plant multiple seed AND we make sure there are few seeds near the edge so we can really see them grow!  I don't have pictures of this year but I will add them as the plants we planted this year grow!  

Once you plant the seed you put them into containers so you can easily take them outside for sun.  I like to do this into several bins so each day 4-5 kids will get to take them outside and feel apart of the experience.  I really like to use my paper tray baskets - they are just the perfect size so during this week I will often move whatever I am storing in them.  The goal is to put them in so they don't move around.   For this reason I don't do them by table because if they can move in the basket they will tip and spill.   

I use extra cups if they don't fit into the baskets snuggly... you don't want them to spill when moving them outside each day.  And you of course want to plan extra plants too so if you get a new student or if any don't grow you can replace them after school.   

Once you have them all in the basket... then you water them.  I feel like watering them is something that needs to be taught and it's too chaotic at that time to allow students to do that part just yet!  

Everyday we take the plants outside to get sun.  We look at them only in the morning and in the afternoon.  My classrooms never had any natural light so this is a step you may not need to take.  

We let the plants grow until they sprout big stems and need to be transplanted.  That usually takes a full week and one weekend. Sometimes we just find a safe place for them over that weekend.. but sometimes I take them home depending on how sensitive they have been to grow for us.  

Planting pumpkins in my class is done along side our Let's Plant Pumpkins Interactive Readers!  This  is a great little download that walks you through each step of the process and concepts that planting pumpkins teaches!  

You can of course pick up this little treasure to assist you in your pumpkin planting experience!

I have done a few things I wanted to share with you that have not worked so well! They are my planting pumpkins Pinterest FAILS!  They get a 404 stamp from Simply Kinder! 

We have all seen that pumpkin with the hundreds of sprouts sticking out.  "Just throw in some soil and the pumpkin will start sprouting right in your pumpkin."  Yeah... did that.  Pumpkin was smelly and rotting and most likely a health concern for a classroom!  We had to throw it away and move on! It became an lesson in what a pumpkin does when it rots instead of what a sprouting pumpkin plants! Oh and it smelled!!!  No bueno.  Am I alone here?  Has anyone got it to work?

The other Pinterest Fail for me.  Saw in Pinterest is where they planted seeds in these little cups.  The seeds began to sprout and the kids took the seeds out and dissected them.  Yeah that never happened in our class either.  The soil got dry and old from watering... how much do you water a tiny tiny plant?  Maybe I did not do it right?  I don't know but that lesson got trashed and we moved on!  

So there you have it!  Planting pumpkins in kindergarten can be easy and fun when planned and executed correctly!  This is what has worked for me.. but by all means do what works for you!  

Tell us about it!  What tips do you have to share with us?

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Custom Class Shirts You Will Love!

I am so excited to share with you some amazing custom class t-shirts that I know you will adore!!!   

Aren't they adorable? The kids draw their little faces, you send them in, and they print the shirts!  

And guess what... I have teamed up with my Freebielicious friends for an exclusive offer and a HUGE giveaway for our readers!  Isn't that great!  We were so excited we had one of our resident artists Nikki from Melonheadz Illustrating sketch our little faces so we could have a group shirt!

Why I Love These Shirts

Ok.. I am not a t-shirt gal... I never have been.  There is just something about the shape of my body that they make me feel so uncomfortable!!!   I discovered this company about 4 years when I was lured into the cuteness of the shirts at the national teaching conferences in Vegas.  BOY was I pleasantly surprised!  There is something about the fit of these shirts... I don't feel like they are stiff or stuffy or like I am drowning in a shirt like I do in most other t-shirts I have tried to wear.  Just being honest here... I LOVE THESE SHIRTS and I know you will too!  I have several kindergarten shirts (and a cool night shirt) from them and I love every one of them!

Exclusive Discount

All Freebielicious fans who order a class set of t-shirts can save $1 on each tshirt and receive ONE FREE  teacher t-shirt with their order using promo code FREEBIE14. Orders must include 15 or more paid shirts to qualify and must be postmarked by December 31, 2014.

Enter to WIN a Class Set of Custom Classroom Faces T-Shirts

Now that you have seen how ADORABLE these t-shirts are, it's your chance to try and win a set for your classroom. The wonderful people at ClassroomFaces are graciously giving away a class set* of custom t-shirts to 3 lucky Freebielicious fans! Each set is valued at over $250. Stop by the Freebielicious blog for your chance to WIN! 

*  Some Fine Print- A class set of shirts is defined as up to 24 tshirts will be included for each prize pack. Winner can choose to order a class set of traditional single-color tshirts or t-shirts will full-color illustrations. Additional t-shirts can be purchased for $11 or $13 (depending on t-shirt size and style). Shipping is free for winners that live in the US. If a winner requires shipping outside of the US, the winner is responsible for shipping costs. (Shipping to Canada costs between $5-$20 depending on weight and location). 

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