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Happy Holidays!

Now that everyone is actually on break (kudos to you fantastic teachers who taught through Wednesday!), I hope you're all relaxing and enjoying some well deserved time off with family and friends!

Happy Holidays!

5 Simple Holiday Student Gift Ideas for the Classroom

Are you freaking out this weekend because you've realized (like me) that unless you have Amazon Prime or pay extra for shipping, anything you need to buy for students will not be getting to you in time for the last day before break and who has time to go to an actual store and wrap 30+ items to make them look cute, plus you have so many other things to do this week anyway . . . like finding a reindeer headband, a tacky sweater, holiday PJs, and red tights for holiday dress up days not to mention Secret Santa, which in a moment of weakness I signed up for.  Gah!
If this is the holiday boat you are in, here are a few simple ideas for student holiday gifts you can make this week and have ready by Friday.  You will need ink, a printer, and a laminator (optional), but hopefully you have full access (or sneaky secret access) to something that prints at your school and don't have to do your own printing at home.  Ink gets expensive!!
Classroom coupons are the easiest FREE print and go option.  Just download the freebie here, edit the options for classroom privileges/rewards, print on cardstock and give to the kiddos.  You don't even need to laminate.  Hooray!  Along with some personalized pencils from For Teachers Only, this is my go-to holiday gift.
Top Ten Lists are FREEpersonalized, easy, and the kids love them.  These are, very simply, a list of 10 things you (or classmates) like about them.  Since you'll need to make one for every student they are more time consuming, but you can knock them out in a night.  Use the editable freebie here and customize one for every student.  If you have time in class you can have other students brainstorm character traits or interview classmates to see what others like about said students, but if you're in a time crunch you can just do these on your own.  Print on cardstock, laminate, give to students.  Holiday gift complete!
Classmate compliments are FREE, don't require color printing or laminating, and give students an extra something to do during that last week before break.  You can even use them as a writing center!  Have students decorate paper bags (we call them RACK sacks - ONE because I find the word "sack" funny, and TWO because it rhymes with RACK/Random Acts of Classroom Kindness) and put them somewhere safe in the room.  Throughout the week students are assigned or can draw names of classmates to write a sincere compliment to.  I have the kids turn these in and pass them out to RACK sacks myself to avoid any weird anonymous compliment mayhem.  At the end of the week students have a number of nice things others have written about them to take home and cherish.  :)  Holiday gift done!  These are included with the freebie above.  If you haven't already downloaded it, click here for the freebie
If you have Amazon Prime or don't mind paying for shipping, these are my cheap go to supply gifts. At my school last year students were in desperate need of school supplies so they received new crayons for Christmas and at the end of the year.  I am also a big fan of buying Composition Notebooks at the Back to School Sales and saving them to give as New Writer's Notebooks for the new year.  I also love the personalized pencil sets from For Teachers Only, but you do have to order those in advance.  If you are going to order them though, make sure you click on their site through Ebates and get cash back.  
I am also a big believer in gifts for the whole class.  A new class game or PE equipment (I love having a few sets of Speed Stacks in the classroom), noise muffling headphones (my students are obsessed with these at the moment), chapter books for the classroom library, new pillows or lamps for your reading corner, or a class picture book are great gifts for the kids and for you.  

I hope one of these gift ideas will work for you if you're in a bind and save you some valuable holiday teacher time.  

We're almost there!
*If you like my blog please consider using the affiliate links above for your online shopping. This means when you click on these links I earn a small percentage of any purchases you make, but the prices stay the same for you. Thanks for helping to support my blog!*

Free Holiday Gift for Students - Editable Holiday Coupons

If you're feeling like a quick, easy, and free gift might be just the thing to give to your students for the holidays, then look no further!  My editable coupon freebie might save you some time, energy and money.
This freebie comes as a PowerPoint file with editable coupons you can customize with classroom privileges or prizes students can redeem after the break. It's easy to use and FREE!  Completed coupons look like the pictures below (with your info on there of course). 
Come on back in the next few weeks for more affordable, memorable, practical, and even a few more free holiday gift ideas for your students.

Fun December Printables Freebie

Hope everyone had a fabulous and relaxing break!

If you're looking to start your December copies tomorrow you can check out my December Holiday Fun Freebie pack that includes four free December printables.

and don't forget the TpT SALE starting tomorrow.  Hooray!

Thanksgiving Freebie-Thank You Grams

Are you like my Colorado teacher friends and have ALL of next week off?!  If so, then this might be too late and I am seriously jealous of you.  If you're like me and still have a few days to go before break then this freebie might be just in time.  

I use Thank You Grams every year just before the break for students to write notes to past teachers and staff members at our school.  I always LOVE finding sweet notes from past students in my mailbox at the end of a long day! 

Two full pages as well as a half page version can be downloaded by clicking on one of the pictures below. 

Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy your break!  We're almost there!!

Veterans Day November Read Aloud

It's November!  Month of falling leaves, chilly mornings, and pumpkin pie!  Hooray!

If you're looking for a fun read aloud for this week (or month) try Nubs: The True Story of a Mutt, a Marine & a Miracle.  It's perfect for Veterans Day or for a Thanksgiving (so many things to be thankful for) story.  I am a giant sucker for a good animal story and this one has it all!  It's such a fantastic story of friendship, loss, love, and perseverance.      
Here's a video clip of with Brian and Nubs on The Today Show.  At one point Nubs attempts to lick himself, but it's short lived.  :)

Love, love, love Nubs! and hope your kids do too,

Popular Purple Pencil Sharpener

I'm so excited to get a chance to review for The Quietest Classroom Pencil Sharpener in their newest color - Popular Purple! (Doesn't it look beautiful next to its old friend Pinkalicious - which has now lasted 2 school years?)
Quick Review:
I've been a fan of the Quietest Classroom Pencil Sharpener for a few years now and have purchased 9 or more with my own moolah.  I am officially the teacher who purchases the packs of 3 and then fellow teachers come and ask me if I'll give them one for a $20 bill.  Every single one of my teammates who has used the sharpener has loved them as well and I will absolutely buy one every year for my classroom!  So far I've had a green one, two pink ones, three red ones, and now PURPLE.

My favorite thing about it:
My classroom pencils are sharp, I don't have to listen to the horrid noises emitted from the electric sharpener variety, and the kids love using it.

There are lots of great things about this little guy!  It sharpens new pencils quickly and makes them super sharp.  The pencils are so sharp in fact, that my (male) teammate decided to throw a newly sharpened pencil onto the cork-like ceiling tiles to see if it would stick.  It did.

The sharpener is definitely quiet, not like those annoying electric ones.  It is fairly easy to use, although a few of my students did say it took a few tries to master using the sharpener.  They also liked that once the pencil is locked in, you don't have to hold it anymore and are free to hold the sharpener while you turn the crank with the other.  I love that the sharpener comes in many colors and hasn't yet broken.  It has far surpassed any other sharpener I've had in the survival department.  I haven't had much luck with the fastener attachment, but it's no biggie.  Since the pencil locks into the sharpener, even my second graders can stabilize the sharpener while they use it. 9+ sharpeners in and I haven't had one fly off my counter top yet.  :)

Overall, if pencil sharpening has been  an issue you've yet to solve, I would recommend The Quietest Classroom Pencil Sharpener to teachers old and new.  It's gets the job done quickly and quietly and is relatively inexpensive compared to some of the electric sharpeners I've seen ($80 to $100 - yikes!) I also love that these are sold by a teacher!  Overall, the Quietest Classroom Pencil Sharpener has been a great addition to our classroom.

What color is coming next? I'm hoping lime green.  :)


LaborLESS Bloghop and Gift Card Giveaway!

Hello everyone!
Main Graphic Laborless
It is finally here!

Today I am linking with Laura from Where the Magic Happens, Krista from Teaching Momster, and Lisa from PAWsitively Teaching! I have joined forces once again with my bloggy friends to bring you the best, most amazing giveaway on this Labor Day weekend!

All of us have been thinking about  good ways in which to treat our readers and followers.   We thought hard, and I mean it! Really, really hard… and decided that  we can treat you to our best ideas to work smarter rather than harder… at school and home!

It takes a lot to be a great teacher, the stress, the time, the energy… I could go on and on! But, we also crave time to ourselves and our families.

So here are a few ideas to work smarter, not harder
I have a secret teacher fear that I will forget a child's birthday.

Thus, "The Birthday Committee" is my saving grace.  During the summer I grab as many packs of cheap streamers and birthday pencils as possible and put them, along with one roll of Scotch tape (more than one and you're just asking for trouble) in "The Birthday Box".  Then, during the school year our humanitarian (this is a job on our job board) is in charge of using these supplies to decorate anyone's desk who has a birthday.  They can ask a few friends for help and they become "The Birthday Committee" for the day.  They make sure the birthday kiddo gets a pencil, a decorated desk, a card, and they put a birthday hat on my stuffed animal Kermit.  (He looks so cute in his jaunty hat).  I also have an old trophy given to me long ago that is now our birthday trophy.  It's old and decrepit but the kids love having it on their desk on their special day.

All I have to do is write birthdays down on my calendar and buy stuff for our birthday box. The kids take care of the rest.

So, while you're at the store this summer get some streamers, a plastic box with a lid, some tape, and you're good to go.  Work smarter, not harder baby!
If it's just been one of those days (and you know we'll all have a few), I leave school as soon as humanly possible - making sure I feel at reasonably ready for the next day.  Then, I stop and treat myself on the way home (pumpkin spice latte, frozen yogurt, frappuccino) all while telling myself I totally deserve it and WILL NOT stress about the calories.

Then I do one of two things:
#1 Work out - I always feel better after I do this, but some days I just can't, that's why there are TWO options here.
#2 Order take out, pet the dog, watch reality TV (Dancing with the Stars, The Bachelor/Bachelorette, Project Runway, something else mindless) and nap/go to bed early.
If I choose option 2 too much then I feel gross, but in moderation option 2 is my saving grace!
I am a slow and steady sort of TpT gal.  I always take forever to post new products!  So in classic Katie form I spent an entire year getting these homework packs ready.  They are perfect for students whose parents complain can finish homework in 2 minutes, or say their child is never challenged, or for classes where you have students on a large range of levels.  I also like that the menu system gives students choice and control over their own learning.  I refined these over 7 years and loved them.  Even on years that I didn't use the homework system for everyone, I used it for one or two students who really needed something different and I still use the printables from these homework packs in my own classroom (grades 2-3) all the time. They're my "go to" resource when a student needs a challenge, or just something a little different like a research contract or fun word work activity.  

No onto the amazing giveaway!
Top all these great tips and ideas  with these top-notch prizes!
A $100 gift card to Amazon

A $50 gift card to TpT


2 $25 gift cards to TpT

1 $10 gift card to TpT

Thank you for reading! And now go click away!!  Good luck and happy Labor Day!!!

Teacher Week Friday: My Favorite Subject - Writing!

A few years ago I participated in the Colorado Writing Project as part of my summer PD and it completely changed the way I taught writing.  What went from the lamest subject in my class, turned into the most fun and fulfilling part of my day!  
One of the most important things I learned is the role of the teacher as author.  On the very first day of the year I always show the kids my ever growing collection of writer's notebooks (some cute - shown up front, and some not cute - hidden in back).  

Now I model every part of the writing process and publish new pieces right alongside my kids. I've written stories about my sister screaming through a snorkel (ingeniously titled Screaming Through a Snorkel) after seeing one tiny fish in the ocean, one about passing out at the eye doctor (yep, I can pretty much faint anywhere), another about almost losing my dear dog Lily on a frightful nighttime walk, and the one shown above about being forced to leg wrestle in first grade PE.  This would now be illegal, but in the eighties I guess there were no rules about making two six year olds attempt to flip each other over while on their backs using only their legs while the other students screamed around them in a circle. Can you say SCARRED FOR LIFE?!  
Katie Wood Ray's book has been my "go to" writer's workshop book ever since that summer PD.  I love all the quotes from authors she uses.  
These inspired me to create my own "Think Like and Author, Write Like an Author" bulletin boards.  I love looking for new authors and mentor texts to inspire me and my students as writers.
When I see sweet dedications like the one above it absolutely makes my day!
and seeing students engaged, reading their classmates' stories is the best!  I can't wait for another year of writing, sharing, and learning more about my students from their stories.

If you're interested in more detailed posts about writing in my classroom here's a start. I'm hoping to add lots more this year including revising mini lessons, editing strategies, the road to publishing, and more mentor texts!

I've written more about some of my favorite mentor texts at these posts:
Making Mentor Texts Meaningful and Memorable
Collecting Mentor Texts for Writing

If you're looking for info about a back to school writing activity focused on idea generation check out this post:

If you're working on research or informational writing this post could be helpful (you might have to wade through a few pictures of Lily in her winter coat though):

Thanks to the authors at Blog Hoppin' for helping me get my booty in gear and motivating me to blog for 5 days in a row!  Hurrah!

I have a new job in second grade this year where I'll actually be able to TEACH, not just distract children from jumping on the air conditioner.  I'm excited to take lots of pictures and start posting about TEACHING again.  Hooray!

Teacher Week Thursday: Sanity Savers

Good teacher friends 
sometimes margaritas  
Enough said.

See you tomorrow for my favorite subject to teach!