Sunday, December 14, 2014

More Classroom Elf Ideas!

More elf ideas for your classrooms.

Sleeping in the homework box... sorry can't turn in your homework today!  

Today's Object:  FUN!  Crazy elf!

Tucked in for a little snooze next to our DIBELS books... I know the feeling elfie, I know the feeling!

Writing in our writing center!

Don't squirt me with our water bottle!!!  Don't do it!  (My students are used to being squirted with water when they are on task when cleaning up.  Try it.. your students will clean up SO fast when you add this fun little trick!)

Santa and Elfie are an addition statement!  

So my friend set this (well many of these) up.  I don't recommend doing it on your SMALL GROUP TABLE but it is super cute!  Some of my dinosaur manipulatives and my alien guys are racing!  Oh and Elfie has a trophy for the winner!  So much for small groups!  LOL!

Reading a book in your library!

Bringing life back to a lifeless center!  This is my poetry center which became alive again when Elfie decided to fly in and hang out there!  "Elf's love poetry!" 

Mine is the elf on the right along with some teammates elfs on the morning announcements!  Goodness the kids got SO excited to see their elf on TV!!!  

Hanging from the ceiling!  (Really hard to get a good photo!)

What do you love to do with your elf?  Share your ideas in the comments below!  

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Milk Carton Gingerbread Houses - A How To with Freebies!

Here you have it.. a how to on making those fun milk carton gingerbread houses!  It is a fun activity for your students, but requires a lot of little details falling together in order to run smoothly!  

Gingerbread houses in our class are an academic activity!  Students will create a graph using counting skills and then use their graph to create their structure!  This free download comes with instructions, a parent letter, and graphing activities! 

Whether you do them "academic" or not.. the parent letter included in this download is the first step.  Very simple, just check off 1 or 2 items per child and send it home about a week before.  

TIP:  Have the items due the day before you do your houses so you have time to get anything you are missing on your own.  

For a class of 25 you will need (approximately of course):
- 2 1/2 boxes of graham crackers
- 5 cans of frosting (or at least 1 per table)
- 1 paper plate & 1 popsicle stick per student
- various other candies (you can work with what-cha get on the rest)

Next step is to prep it all! I usually do this the day before as best I can.  This is what that looks like:

Collect and wash out your milk cartons!  Personally, I like to write the students names on the bottom of them because of germs, but realistically we have NO EATING POLICY even at home so it really does not matter.  I will write their names in the lunch line before they drink their milk and then have the students put the cartons into a box. So wash them and then let them dry over night!  

Next day, staple them shut.  (I used to hot glue but stapling is MUCH faster.)

Next is the graham crackers.  I will portion them out so each child gets 4 squares for walls and 2 rectangles for the roof.  

TIP:  Use plates with a ledge on them so they stack nicely with the crackers on them.  (Even though I request paper plates, sometimes I don't get what I like to use for management!)

Remove all of the wrappers from the candy.  This part is very tedious but very necessary!  You don't want students with frosting fingers trying to open up candy and you don't want wrappers all over your floor!  

Make bowls or trays of the candy so you can quickly put them on your tables!  Today we used party trays but this changes year to year in my classroom depending on what is not being used for other things!  

TIP:  Peel the lids off the frosting too just so it's one less thing you have to do when the kids are in front of you!

Lastly, store your supplies in a place where your students won't touch them!  Below is everything we need to make our houses! {Don't judge, just keeping this picture real!}

TIP:  Use butcher paper on your tables so you can quickly roll up and discard your mess!  

Now it's gingerbread house time!!!  Stay calm!!!  You got this!

TIP:  MODEL, MODEL, MODEL!  I make a full gingerbread house on the carpet before the kids start!  

I also have a couple rules that are VERY IMPORTANT to me:

1.  NO EATTING THE CANDY.  Includes licking fingers.
2.  NO walking around with your gingerbread house.  Raise your hand if you need me.  Even when you are done!
3.  Only take the candy you need, don't pile it up at your desk.
4.  You may not wash your hands until you are done. 
5.  Not so much a rule but a direction on what to do when they are done (i.e. read a book in the library, a certain worksheet, or whatever the task is for that year.  You want them away from the tables because that is where the candy is and it's SO tempting!)

TIP:  Have wet paper towels at each table ready for them to wipe up their hand a little bit as they go.

You are ready to get started now.  First, use frosting to secure your milk carton to the plate.

TIP:  Frosting is glue - say that with the kids.  Put the frosting on the carton and press onto the plate!

Next you apply your walls (not your roof just yet.)

Frost the sides all the way around.  

TIP:  Too much frosting cannot hurt, but too little will not hold the crackers.  

Affix the crackers around the edge.

TIP:  You don't do the roof because then you can use your fingers to help press those walls on more securely!

Then you apply your roof!

There are two ways to apply the candy.  Each year I do something different and, truth be told, frosting will be everywhere so there really is no less messy way in my opinion.  

Theory #1:  Apply the frosting to the wall and then affix the candy.  

Theory #2:  Apply the frosting to the candy and then press onto the gingerbread house.  

And there you have it!  When they are done they RAISE THEIR HAND!  A parent or myself will come to them and bag their gingerbread house for them.  Sometimes we use Zip-Loc bags and sometimes we use grocery bags.  

TIP:  Place the children's gingerbread house on their chair when they are done.  This way they will not play with it, it will be off the table for clean up, and they will not try to come to their seat and eat the candy when they are supposed to be working.  

I alway snap a picture of the kids with their house and graph before we bag them up!  

Only other thing to discuss with kids is how to carry it home!  Two hands the whole way home!!!  And remember, NO EATING IT even at home!!!  (It's an old milk carton that is not really sanitized; just not a good idea IMO.)

Now, let's be real for a moment!  You will have frosting on your eyebrows, you will want to take a shower when you get home, and you will want to eat an apple because the smell of sugar will have got to you by the end of the day!  This day will exhaust you but it will 100% be one of your favorite days of the year (and your students)!

ONE LAST TIP:  Wear an apron and jeans if you can!  

Remember, the Academic Gingerbread House activity is available in my TpT store for free!  

Would love to hear your tips!  If you do anything different please share in the comments below!  

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Gift Ideas for Teachers - A Survey to See What Teachers Really Want!

Let's talk teacher gifts!  What can you get your child's teacher for the holiday (or really any occasion) that they really want?   Not because we as teachers want to be tacky or unappreciative, but because parents wonder what on earth it is we teachers want!  So I was on a mission to find out what exactly teachers want!

This question is SO EASY that I made a quick list for you:   I truly wish at least one of these things is bundled up in the adorable little red box above!!!  Who can relate?

- enough copy paper and glue sticks to last the whole year
- a soda sometimes during a math lesson
- my principal to teach KINDER for a WHOLE day with no help
- a raise or maybe even just unfreezing our pay scale
- world peace starting in my classroom
- enough core curriculum books for each student to have their own and not share
-  all of my students to be on grade level in all areas without it being painful for me AND most importantly them!

But let's be real... these things are not going to happen!  So I did a little poking around on the internet and I talked to a few friends and thought to myself, 'Simply Kinder has such a great community of teachers, let's ask them what they would say!'  And our very first survey was born!  

Our KwikSurveys survey was open for 3 days and 500 people participated with 492 of those identifying themselves as teachers!  93% were here in the US and the remaining participants were from Canada!   Participants were solicited from the Simply Kinder Facebook Group and Fan Page.

The survey played a little game of THIS or THAT where teachers picked which they would prefer IF a student's family was going to purchase them a gift!

And the survey says...

school supplies 29.1%  { or a }  gift card 70.1%    

(Keep reading and we will tell you gift cards to where.)

And the survey says...
lotion 32.3%  { or }  stationery 67.7%     

And the survey says...
flowers 72%  { or a }  teacher themed item 28%     

And the survey says...
         stationery 73.4%  { or a }  mug 26.6%      

And the survey says...
            chocolate 43%  { or }  coffee or tea 57%         

We also asked a few other questions... just because we wanted to know!

How important is the card if you get a gift?   

I asked this question because over the years I have noticed that I get less and less cards.  Personally, my favorite thing to get from a child is a card.  I save each and every one because they are so meaningful!  We teachers feel so beat up these days, it's just nice to get a note that says we appreciate you and you are doing a great job!  And the survey said... 

34% stated that it's 'nice but not necessary' but very close 30% said it's 'very important.'   (Overall that's 64% that says it's important!)

A meaningful card or note is something your child's teacher is SURE to keep forever!  Often times these cards are also used as documentation for evaluations, job interviews, and grants!  I appreciate these gestures WAY more than anything purchased!  

If you received a gift card, where would you want it to?  

I was just curious what people would say and thought that parents might want to know.  

 restaurant 41.7%, teacher store 35.1%, book store 23.2%

Do you like getting teacher themed gifts?  

Again, just curious because the stores get full of apple items and it's so easy to default to getting a little mug with candy.  I personally love the teacher-apple theme but I know of some who feel it's very cliche.  So I asked.  

yes 14.6%,  they are OK 42.5%, no 42.9%

Lastly, we asked teachers to rate the following into what they would like the most.  

Teachers could rate them by number in whatever order they wanted... they are numbered in order of preference.
                                      1.  gift cards (58% rated as first)
                           2.  classroom items for students 
                           3.  homemade item
                           4.  teacher themed item
                           5.  lotions (45% rated as last)

What do I take away from all of this (but please draw your own conclusions!)

- Gift cards are GOLD!  58% of teachers said that is what they wanted over everything else!  So you most likely can't go wrong with a gift card!  No matter what the value, gift cards are great because we spend so much of our own money in our classrooms it forces us to spend them on ourselves!

- Teachers really don't want lotions.  Yes lotion is nice, but I see two issues that until now I had not really considered.  (1) I get lotion from my grandma, nieces, and all sorts of other people each year and (2) I have a certain brand and certain scents I like.  Personally, I like getting lotion but after reflecting on this result, I honestly don't really use it.

- Teachers love flowers and stationary!  I have to agree!

-  Teachers would rather have a gift card than supplies for the classroom!  If you are the kind who wants to give classroom supplies to your teacher, consider giving them a gift card to a teacher store.  Teachers know exactly what they need and often times we get SO many paper towels and crayon boxes and yet no glue!  Or we get teacher supplies from the office for free OR during back to school sales for $.10 and would rather get a new center or game for our classroom!

There you have it!  Our very first teacher survey on what teachers really want as gifts!  Please comment below any great gifts you have got OR better yet, what have you got that is fun or different!

And an very important PS {just in case you were wandering}.  Teachers don't expect anything from their students!  By nature we are really giving people and so a smile in the dismissal line or a thank you when you drop them off warms our hearts far more than any present could!  But often times parents and caregivers want to know what we would appreciate and so we took the time to survey and share the results!  So thank a teacher with a simple THANK YOU as much as you can - no holiday necessary!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

My Favorite Things Giveaway!

The holiday's are upon us and so there is no better time to celebrate TEACHER'S FAVORITE THINGS' OPRAH STYLE! 

So some of my very favorite online friends and I have teamed up to bring you this amazing giveaway filled with so many of OUR FAVORITE THINGS!

So what's my favorite thing you ask?  What am I obsessed with right now you wonder?  Well it's 80 degree's here in Arizona so of course I am obsessed with my rhinestoned sweater from!  It's all about loving kindergarten and so I wear it just about everywhere!

You all have heard me speak the praises of again and again!  But they are really the most comfortable and best quality shirts I have yet to find!  (The pink sweatshirt shown above at least 4 years old and it's not faded and had not lost 1 rhinestone!)  And has graciously donated a rhinestoned t-shirt of your choice to our Favorite Things Giveaway!  

There are 7 prize packs to win!  So many prizes including gift cards to Amazon, Target, Khols, Massage Envy, JoAnnes, Cost Plus, Barnes and Noble, Bath and Body Works, and MUCH, MUCH more!  7 prize packs with 69 items to be given away!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
This is all brought to you by the amazing bloggers listed below:

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Gingerbread Exchange

The Simply Kinder Gingerbread Exchange of 2014 is in full swing!  I wanted to share with you some of the amazing photos that have been shared by some of the participating teachers and invite everyone into the Simply Kinder Facebook Group For Teachers so you don't miss out on the next big project!  (Follow that link to join.)  

We had over 300 teachers register to participate and from what I can tell... 288 of them were able to follow through and mail gingerbread people to partnering classrooms in different parts of the US.  We paired them up by similar class size to ensure all students would get one to keep from another class!  According to the numbers given by the teachers who participated, that's 5,773 students who are SO EXCITED to get the mail in the next week or two!  (And this does not count the countless others who have partnered up on their own in our Facebook group!)  

Pretty amazing and I am very thankful to have hosted this large of an exchange!  I want to personally thank each and every teacher who signed up for this project.. it is definitely going the extra mile to make learning meaningful and fun!

The following pictures were shared in the group and the teachers gave permission for us to share!  

And check this out... Ashlyn from The Creative Classroom made this fun little "Missing" activity for her students and it's free!!!  

Many of the projects were made using this Gingerbread Template Set in my TeachersPayTeachers store!  Free so you can print it off and make some gingerbread people with your students!

This project started in our Simply Kinder Teacher's Facebook Group! It's a great place with over 900 early childhood teachers!  Great conversations happen in there all day long!  Click below to join!  

We seriously had so much fun doing this project that I have decided to host similar projects like this every quarter or so!  So if you are interested in participating, click below to sign up to be notified of our next big event!  

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