valentine’s day class party ideas, 2.0

valentine's day class party ideas, 2.0 | fun ideas to get groups of kids moving and having fun | minute to win it games | free printables | teachmama.com

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valentine's day class party ideas, 2.0 | teachmama.com

 

For many years now I’ve been roped into being Room Parent for my kids’ classes, and though I do love the opportunity to meet other families from the school and to get to know the kids in the class, it’s a lot of work.

More than once I’ve wished that there was a secret site that gave me all of the Valentine’s Day class party ideas I needed–the letters to send, the snacks to serve, crafts to make and the games to play.

But knowing that such a thing doesn’t exist and that each class party is different and unique, I am just sharing the love.

Whatever I’m doing as Room Parent, I’m sharing my own, gathered ’round the world Valentine’s Day class party ideas. There you have it.

I shared How to have a Rockstar Valentine’s Day class party, and now we’re back at it again.  2.0, man. 2.0.

Grab what works for you, and leave what doesn’t.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Valentine’s Day Class Party Ideas, 2.0:

The real secret to success with these parties to to keep the atmosphere light and to make sure you have a handful of awesome helpers on board.

  • Parent Letter: About three weeks before the class party, chat with the teacher and ask:
    • What is the timeframe for the party?
    • Is there anything special you’d like for us to do? 
    • Do you want the kids to address each Valentine or keep them nameless?  (Nameless is often better for younger kids and allows for easier, quicker distribution.)
    • What are the food restrictions for the students? 
    • Do you know of anything that has really worked well in the past that you would recommend repeating? 

Then draft a Parent Letter (you can definitely model yours after the one I’ve used here: valentines day class party letter BLANK).  Head into school and make copies, and put one in each child’s cubby or take-home folder.

valentines day class party  | teachmama.com

If the teacher suggests that Valentines be addressed to recipients, then be sure to include a copy of the class list.

  • Prepare! Pow-wow with your Co-Room Parents or do a little research to figure out what will work for your party.

Make a shopping list and split the job up.   I usually like collecting money from other parents and then having the Room Parents purchase the items we need. Other people like to have the job split up: one parent brings cupcakes, another juice boxes, another small prizes, etc.

valentine's day class party plan  teachmama.com

  • Create the Plan: I love having the party plan out so that all of the helper parents and the teacher knows what’s going on for the event. That way, everyone’s on board.

Here’s a sample of our party plan. Feel free to use and modify for your own rockin class party: valentine party plan 2014.  Want it in word? valentine party plan 2014 — word doc

  • Rock. The. Party.

Here’s what’s on our schedule this year:

musical hearts reading, moving, & crazy-fun kid game teachmama.com

This heart-happy game can be adapted for nearly any reading level, and I love how it gets kids engaged, reading, and responding.

 

valentines day class party ideas  craft  teachmama.com

    • Stained Glass Hearts:  The kids will make these easy, super-cute, no-glue crafts which are really pretty.

Simple, sweet crafts that look so pretty in wintertime windows, no matter where you are.

valentines day class party ideas  guess the word  teachmama.com

    • Valentine Guess the Word: While they’re crafting, they can play Guess the Word.  We’ve played it for our other parties, and the kids really seem to enjoy it.

 

    • Valentine Card Delivery and Snack!  The kids’ favorite part! Break the class in half.  Let one half deliver their Valentines, while the other eats, and then have them switch.

Then give the kids some time to read their Valentines!

hint: Have the plates of food ready and set them in front of each student. It makes things move a lot more smoothly!

valentines day class party ideas  groups teachmama.com

    • Small-Group Minute-to-Win-it Games:  We’ll break the kids into three groups by having them pick a heart foam sticker out of a bag. Three groups: white hearts, red hearts, and pink hearts.  That way, we’ll have about 6-8 kids in each group.  A bit easier to manage.

We are not keeping score here with our games. It’d be too hectic, and the focus is fun, not big wins.

We’ll encourage each child to do his or her best. At the end, if everyone works hard, everyone grabs a prize!

Each ‘game station’ will host two Minute-to-Win-It games.  At the first rotation, every student will receive a small Valentine goodie bag to keep candy and supplies.

valentines day class party ideas marshmallow race teachmama.com

    • Marshmallow Race:  Simple. You can play this several ways.

1. Break the group in half and draw a line in the middle of the table. Each side uses inexpensive plastic straws to try to blow the marshmallows to the other side of the line. The team with the most after one minute wins.

2.  Each person plays individually and has one minute to blow a single marshmallow from one side of the table to the other. The person with the most at the end wins.

Straws and marshmallows, and a clean table–that’s all you need.

valentines day class party ideas marshmallow toss teachmama.com

    •  Marshmallow Toss:  Students partner up and stand across from each other, about 2-4 feet apart.  One person has a handful of marshmallows and the other has a small paper cup. Students have one minute to toss as many marshmallows into the cup as possible.

After one minute, the throwers catch and the catchers throw.

The winning team is the one with the most marshmallows in the cup!

valentines day class party ideas heart towers teachmama.com

    • Heart Towers: Students have one minute to stack as many conversation hearts as they can. It’s harder than you may think!

The winner is the person who has the highest stack after one minute.

valentines day class party ideas bracelets teachmama.com

    • One-Handed Bracelets: One minute to thread as many fruit loops onto a pipe cleaner as possible.

And then–here’s the clincher–the player has to make that pipe cleaner into a braclet. Using one hand.  So funny!

valentines day class party ideas cookie face teachmama.com

    • Cookie Face: Players have a cookie on their foreheads and have one minute to move that cookie from their forehead and into their mouth.

So hard. And so, so funny to watch!

The winner is the player who moves the most cookies from forehead to mouth in one minute’s time!

valentines day class party ideas heart chopstick race teachmama.com

    • Heart Chopstick Race:  An oldie for Valentine’s Day class parties but definitely a goodie.

Players work individually to move as many conversation hearts from a central bowl into their own plastic cups, using only a pair of chopsticks.  It’s not easy, and very quickly you’ll see which students use chopsticks on a regular basis.

 

valentines day class party ideas heart mitten race teachmama.com

    • Mitten Race: Kids totally love this game.

Wearing a pair of adult ski mittens, players try to unwrap a piece of candy. Small candies with tight wrappers, like Starburst or Tootsie Rolls are especially hard.

You can play this game with the kids in two lines, and as each child unwraps the candy he or she pops it in his or her mouth and passes on the mittens, going down the line, or you can play individually.  Each child wears a pair of mittens and the winner is the player who unwraps the most candy in one minute.

valentines day class party ideas heart puzzle race teachmama.com

 

    • Puzzle Race: I love the simplicity of this and kids love to do ‘speedy puzzles’ together.

These are really just six or seven Valentine-themed photos that I printed out on cardstock and cut into pieces.  I printed them on three different shades of paper to make it a little bit easier, but the goal is to put as many together under one minute as possible.

The Valentine’s Day puzzles are here to download if you’d like: valentines day class party PUZZLES.  

valentines day class party | puzzle race | teachmama.com

valentines day class party  | puzzle race | teachmama.com

You may want to add an extra for your school’s mascot just for kicks.

My suggestion is to flip the pieces face down on the table, start the timer, and let the kids at ’em. If they are struggling, then show them the key. Otherwise, let them have fun with it!

 

Want a few more fun Valentine’s Day ideas? Check out: 

how to throw a rockstar valentine's day party teachmama.com 2

valentine's day class party ideas

 

 

fyi: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Forever and always I recommend only products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”  For more information, please see teachmama media, llc. disclosure policy

when talking to teachers: 5 tips for parents

when talking to teachers 5 tips for parents

when talking to teachers 5 tips for parents

As a writer for Scholastic Parents’ Raise a Reader blog, I’m always surprised at what sparks the most conversation among readers.

I recently wrote Talking to Teachers: What Every Parent Needs to Know, and it raised a boatload of emotion over on the Scholastic Parents’ Facebook page.

Really. I was quite surprised.

Check it out.  And tell me. . .

What do you think?

Am I missing the mark?

Do you agree or disagree?

Did any of the comments strike a nerve with you, as a parent or teacher?

Share your thoughts on the Scholastic Parents Facebook page, or find me on twitter, @teachmama, and let’s continue the conversation!

 

 

 

school RULES! super-silly lunchbox joke notes

school RULES! super-silly lunchbox joke notes

post contains affiliate links

 

 

school rules lunchbox joke notes

It has been such an amazing summer.  I am desperately, terribly, incredibly sad to see it go.

But here we are.  Marching forward.

At my kids’ request, I whipped up another batch of lunchbox love notes.  This time, they’re silly, wacky, crazy, funny, and giggle-inducing.

They’ve asked for more jokes.  So fun.

And since school’s starting in a minute (waahhhh!), what better way to ring in the new school year than by celebrating their good, ole school days with School RULES! Lunchbox Joke Notes?

Right?  Right.

And really, the jokes help to keep things light for this mama who has a hard time with change.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • School RULES! Super-Silly Lunchbox Joke Notes: During our last summertime library trip, we grabbed a boatload of joke books, and I added the ones that were school-related to this 3-pager joke printable.

They’re funny.  I must admit.

school RULES lunchbox joke notes

school RULES lunchbox joke notes

And because Cora loves the pictures–and can still really benefit from using them to help her decode the text, as an early reader, I tried to add related art for each joke.

Amazing to think that last year’s Wordless Riddles Notes were mostly photos because she couldn’t read as much. Incredible what happens during that Kindergarten year! Our babies learn to read!

There are 24 superstar, hilarious, fabulous notes on these pages.

 

school RULES lunchbox joke notes

Cut the notes together if you have more than one kiddo. . .

school RULES lunchbox joke notes

then write a little love. . .

school RULES lunchbox joke notes

. . . and fold it so that the answer to the joke is hidden!

To make it easier for cutting (so I’m not spending three hours standing and cutting, standing and cutting), I simply grab three copies of the first sheet and cut those–three pages at once. Then I do the same for the second and third sheets.

I stack them in our cabinet so I can easily grab the first three on the pile, write a quick ‘Maddy, I love you! xoxo love Mom’ on the note–something short and sweet–and toss them in the lunchboxes.

The school RULES lunchbox joke notes are here to download and use for your own kiddos if you so choose. If you would, feel free to share with a buddy so that all kids get a little something silly in their lunch this year!

Print them here: school rules joke lunchbox notes

school rules lunchbox notes  | teachmama.com school rules joke lunchbox notes

I try to put the same note in each child’s lunch so I can make sure there aren’t repeats through the month, though that doesn’t always work.  Just clip them together in a little stack so they’re easy to grab when I’m making lunches two seconds before they leave the house.

I wouldn’t worry if your kiddo isn’t reading yet; you can still add lunchbox love notes and have your child ask the teacher to read it to him or her. I did that when Maddy, Owen, and Cora were teeny, and I really think that it helps kids build confidence, patience, manners, and communication skills.

Though teachers are super-busy, and we all know that, most likely he or she can find 15 seconds to read a silly note to a student.

And that’s it. Just a little something silly to get us moving in the right direction next week when school starts. Keeping it light for a few weeks of change.

Want a look at all of our lunchbox looooove notes? Here they are:

Need more awesome Back-to-School lunchy ideas? Definitely check out:

Here’s to a rockstar 2013-2014 school year and many more to come!

fyi: feel free to use the links below to more joke books if you’d like more silly  jokes in your life

back-to-school shopping: the secret to keeping kids happy AND parents happy

back to school : happy kids, happy parents

back to school shopping Back-to-School shopping can be crazy, stressful, and anxiety-producing for kids and parents alike.

But there are a few things we can do to make this annual event lighter, easier, and more fun for everyone.

We’ve kept our kids actively engaged in our back-to-school shopping ever since they were tiny, and this year was no different. However, as they get older, we make adjustments to keep them in the loop–from beginning to end.

We did a whole lot of pre-shopping research and planning, printed out their shopping lists, and then hit the stores.

And once we were there, we tried Cartwheel from Target that I really think is beyond cool for customizing and personalizing a shopping experience. Easy and free. Two ‘musts’ for anything that I incorporate into my life.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Back-to-School Shopping– The Secret to Keeping Kids Happy and Parents Happy:

Keep kids happy by. . .

back to school price shopping tabletop surprise

back to school price shopping tabletop surprise

 

1. Making them involved from step one.

This year, because we have a rising 4th, 2nd, and 1st grader (UNbelievable!), we had the kids help with even deciding where to do our shopping. As one of our tabletop surprises, they went through the circulars, compared prices, looked at their lists, and made some shopping decisions.

And then? We shopped.

**********************************

 

back to school shopping

 

 

2. Making shopping for supplies a ‘scavenger hunt’.

Each year, I’ve created a ‘kid-friendly’ shopping list for Maddy, Owen, and Cora. Their lists included everything they needed for the year along with hopeful donations for the classroom.

We read through the list together, and then the kids are on their own to search for each item (not really–we do it together!).

back to school shopping

back to school shopping

Each kiddo gets his or her own shopping back, list, and pen or pencil. And they’re free birds.

Need a list?

We’ve used:

 **********************************

 

back to school shopping

3. Organizing ‘loot’ after you get home.

The cool thing about this is that not only are kids re-reading the list, you’re getting a chance to see that everything on the list actually makes it into the bags that you’ll take to Open House.

It reminds me of the way kids root through their Halloween loot after Trick-or-Treating–they really do love going through their supplies once shopping is finished.

And if we weren’t able to locate an item? Now’s the time to circle it, highlight it, and make sure we find it before the big day.

 **********************************

Now it’s our turn.

Keep parents happy by. . .

target cartwheel | teachmama.com

1. Saving money.

Really. Totally one of the most fabulous things out there, Target’s Cartwheel is so crazy cool, it’s nuts.

The concept is simple: you choose up to 16 items you are shopping for, add them to your ‘cartwheel‘ via computer or mobile device, have the checkout person scan your special code at the register, and BAM! you get a huge discount.

And if you use it enough, you can earn badges, awards, and even more savings.   You can actually even link Cartwheel to your Facebook account (though there’s no pressure to do so), and then you get to see what your friends are buying, what they’ve saved, and what you’re missing out on if you don’t start using your own cartwheel.

They’ve got items organized in Collections so shopping is completely easy.

target cartwheel logo

Though admittedly I created my Cartwheel months ago, I let it sit, forgot my login and then re-created my Cartwheel again only recently and then (believe this. . . ) forgot to use it at the checkout for our back-to-school shopping (what is wrong with me?), many of my friends have used it and have saved HUGELY.

How do I know they did? Because I tell them about these great things then forget to use them myself and then thanks to the power of social media, I can tell how much they’ve saved because Cartwheel lets the whole world know (if you want–if you don’t want the world to know, you can adjust your settings). But don’t we all brag about great deals we find? I know I do.

Cartwheel does it for you.  Try it. And let me know what you think.

And then send me a text reminding me to use mine.

 **********************************

target redcard happy

2. Creating a card that makes sense.

The reality is that I often lose receipts. And I often buy things I need to return. And occasionally I forget to return those items.  It’s a beautifully ridiculous combination, I’m afraid, one is equivalent to nails on a chalkboard for my poor, loving, patient husband.

So the REDcard makes sense for me.  It makes sense for my familia.

No need for me to get into the nitty gritty of the card, but check it out for yourself.  It’s a happy card.

 **********************************

take charge of ed target

3.  Giving back.

Any time you use your REDcard, not only will you save 5%, but 1% of that savings will go to an eligible K-12 school of your choice.

The program is called Take Charge of Education, and literally all you have to do is visit the site, register your card and choose your school. And tell your friends to do the same. Because at the end of the year, your kids’ school will receive a check–thanks to your spending at Target.

Seriously. So do it. Because you know you spend a handful of cash at Target. Might as well have some of that go back to your school, right?

 

target give with target

 

But the giving doesn’t stop with your school–even though it sure is nice.

I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating: Target has made it a goal to give $1 billion to education by 2015 through their their numerous programs and initiatives, like the incredible School Library Makeovers for one.

They’ve just re-launched Give With Target for a second time–and it’s awesome.

Here’s the deal:  (from the Target site)

Simply select a K–12 school from the list of eligible schools and vote for it weekly until September 21 or until $5 million has been awarded, whichever occurs first. It takes just 25 votes to start. After that, Target will donate $25 to your selected school. Upon receiving 25 votes, each additional vote equals $1 more for up to $10,000 per school. If your favorite school is not on our list, please choose another school.

give with target email screener

Target’s making it insanely easy to share, to vote, and to remind your friends, to, since they’ve all hooked up with Facebook for this one.

You can use their nifty little email template to share the news with your class, PTA, principal, friends, family, you name it. Share it. And if you to, and if you have enough sharing and voting going on, your school can really see some cold, hard cash, thanks to Target.

Just think about the books, equipment, technology, teacher training, and field trips that kind of money can buy. Nuts.

Start sharing, friends! Start the sharing!

 **********************************

That’s it. We’re at year number five of buying school supplies and doing the elementary school thing, so we’re kind sorta hitting a stride.

No, it’s not perfect. But we’ve got a few tricks up our sleeve now to keep kids–and parents–happy for at least a little bit of the experience.target inner circle

What works for your family? Any tricks for maintaining peace or bringing some big smiles to your crew? Do share!

fyi: This is an unsponsored post, written as a parent and educator who wants to share a few good–pretty darn great–things when I see them. As part of Target’s Inner Circle program, I am privy to a behind-the-scenes look at all things Target, but that in no way, shape, or form influences what I write about them.  Honestly, the more I learn, the more I like ’em. 

Please be sure to follow the links for more specific information about these programs and campaigns.

VolunteerSpot: parents AND teachers can win BIG for back-to-school (sponsored)

volunteerspot get spotted volunteering

sponsored post

 

 

 

volunteerspot get spotted volunteeringI’ve been a longtime fan of VolunteerSpot for the ease with which I can participate in and organize events at my kids’ school.

I’ve loved them for really changing the way people can manage events–big and small–and I’ve loved them because their service is free.  No joke. F to the R-E-E. Free.

But this back-to-school season, I love them even more because they’re offering not one but three $1500 grants to people who ‘get caught’ volunteering at their child’s school.

Parents and schools aren’t the only ones who win here, though.

Teachers, if they just try VolunteerSpot, can win two iPad mini’s –one for them and one for a friend. Or two for their class. Awesome, right?

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • VolunteerSpot–Parents AND Teachers Can Win BIG for Back-to-School:

Let’s get it straight: two cool things thanks to VolunteerSpot

1.  three grants of $1500 for people who volunteer and

2. one giveaway of two iPad mini’s to a teacher who uses VolunteerSpot.

Makes me want to dance.

—————————————–

For volunteers:

How to Enter to Win (You can do one of these, or all.)

1. Use VolunteerSpot during August to Take the Pledge to volunteer for your school. Don’t worry if you don’t have a specific activity to sign up for yet; just make the commitment to help out with one thing this school year.

Just be sure to include your school’s name when prompted during the easy registration process. Boom! You’ve got 1 entry already.

GetSpottedMain

2. Use VolunteerSpot’s FREE online sign up sheets during August* to organize the parent volunteers for any school activity: back-to-school events, classroom helpers, carnivals, book fairs, hospitality teams & potlucks, concessions – any activity that involves multiple volunteers will be easier to manage with online sign ups and scheduling.

How to Get More Chances for Your School to Win

Invite (okay, bug) your neighborhood friends and fellow parents to use VolunteeerSpot this August too. Every new Pledge and new activity organized in VolunteerSpot.com counts as an entry for your school, so the more people you can get to sign up, the more entries to win $1,500 your school will get.

Post it on Facebook, or even better, email your whole class and ask them to take the pledge too. You might even remind people to take the pledge when you see them on the first day of school. Isn’t it worth it for the chance to win $1,500 bucks for your school?

VolunteerSpot Logo

One Last Brilliant Idea

Maybe you’re not the person who gets super involved in organizing activities for your school, but you probably know who is. Send the link to this page (http://vols.pt/GSVOL) to the person you know who is most involved with your school’s parent/school organization. That way, even if you don’t need to organize an activity with VolunteerSpot right now, you can still help someone else out AND help your school win.

The Rules

If you have really bad insomnia, you can read the official rules here. Zzzzzz.

If not, here’s an easy-to-read summary:

  • 3 schools will be chosen at random to win. Each will receive a $1,500 grant from VolunteerSpot for their designated school’s parent-teacher organization.
  • You must be at least 18 years old to enter for your school.
  • You must reside in the United States. (We know, we know, but international sweepstakes laws are just too complex for us to handle. We are sorry!)
  • The following uses of VolunteerSpot count as entries: registering and school organizer or teacher/educator VolunteerSpot account (it’s free!), setting up an activity, signing up for an activity someone else has set up, and pledging to volunteer.
  • The sweeps will run from Aug 1- Aug 31st, so enter now! Winners will be drawn at random and notified in September.

If you still have questions, please click HELP at the top of VolunteerSpot.com and contact us.

—————————————–

teachers ipad mini volunteerspot
For teachers:
How to Enter to Win TWO iPad minis1. Use VolunteerSpot’s online sign-up sheets during August to simplify scheduling:

  • parent-teacher conferences
  • guest readers & volunteers
  • class snacks
  • potlucks or parties
  • trips & tournaments
  • any activity with multiple sign ups

(If you use email for any of these tasks right now, you know what a pain it is to contact and re-contact everyone involved, not to mention organizing everyone’s replies. No more!)

2. When you register your account, just confirm that you are a teacher/educator and enter the name of your school when prompted, you’ll be automatically entered to win!

3. BONUS! When you enter the name of your school, your school’s parent-teacher organization will also be automatically entered to win $1,500 in our back-to-school  Get Spotted Volunteering in August sweeps.

Volunteerspot logo option

Important!

Once you’ve tried VolunteerSpot for yourself, be sure to tell a fellow teacher to enter too. That way of she (or he) wins, she might just share that second iPad mini with you. Sweet!

Of course winning two iPad minis would be totally cool, but also we hope that once you try VolunteerSpot you’ll tell other teachers about it because it makes sign-ups so much easier. Please let us know what you think!

The Rules

If you’re having trouble sleeping, you can read the official rules here. Zzzzz.

Alternatively, here is a summary:

  • The winner will be chosen at random from among all eligible entries.
  • You must be at least 18 years old to win.
  • You must be a teacher or educator employed by a public, parochial or independent school.
  • You must reside in the United States. (Sorry, we dislike this rule too, but international sweepstakes laws are just too complex for us to handle. We are sorry!)
  • You must use VolunteerSpot to organize an activity between Aug 1- Aug 30. The activity may occur at a later date, but you must create the sign up sheet during August.
  • The winner will be notified in September.

If you still have questions, please contact us by clicking Help at the top of VolunteerSpot.com.

—————————————–
Really. That’s it. Hope that you or your school is super-lucky this year, and if you are. . . please let me know!
Off to share this post with my school, PTA, and teacher buddies!
Here’s to a rockstar 2013-2014 school year, and huge and happy thanks to VolunteerSpot for making it easier to support our schools and teachers!
fyi: Though I am a longtime fan of VolunteerSpot, I was compensated for my time in sharing news of this rockstar campaign. My opinions, as always, are my very own, influenced only by my experience as a parent, teacher, and volunteer.

give words as a gift: word conscious kids use wordle

give words as a gift

playing with words

It’s that time of year again, when the fliers start coming around collecting money for teacher gifts.  And collecting for teachers’ gifts–on top of other household expenses–can really put a strain on your budget.

Why not get a little digital with your kids this year and give words as a gift?

Words are celebrated with Wordle, and I love it.  Words are art with Wordle.

In the attempt to create word conscious, word-loving kiddos, celebrating words this way is a fun and cool way of sharing messages of thanks with people you care about.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Give Words as a Gift–Word Conscious Kids Use Wordle: I discovered Wordle about a year or two ago, and I’ve been  in love ever since.

Wordle is simply a free site that creates collages out of words.   “Word Clouds” is what they call what they create.

And you can enter single words manually or you can cut and paste a paragraph, or you can paste in a url.

I entered http://teachmama.com and I came up with the following wordle designs:

teachmama wordle 3

And I clicked ‘randomize’ and came up with the following design for the same url:

teachmama post wordle 2

The more times a word is entered, the larger it becomes.

I totally love it.

So for Mother’s Day this year, along with our Butterfly Pens and Limericks for Grandma and Nanny, the kids played with words.  And with the words, we created Wordle designs for their grandmas.

Really, the whole process is so simple. I asked Maddy, Owen, and Cora to brainstorm a list of ten words that came to mind when they thought of Nanny and then again for Grandma.

give words as gifts

Cora works on her list of words that come to mind when she thinks of her Nanny. . .

give words as gifts

. . . and though Nanny is not tall by any means, I guess she’s tall to Cora.

Though I think this is a great exercise when talking about parts of speech, my focus for this gift of words was not to creat a Wordle of just adjectives.

I really wanted it to be more like a word splash–any and every word that the kids thought of when they thought about their grandmas.

More like a burst of happiness coming from the kids.

give words as gifts

Maddy and Owen’s lists for their Nanny

The cool thing about this words as gifts exercise is that the kids came up with repeated words for their Nanny and Grandma, so those words appear larger on the final product.

Together, we decided on the layout we liked best, and then I clicked ‘print’.  Instead of printing, I saved the design as a pdf.

That way, I had more control over the size.  I wanted to add designs to 5 x 7 frames for the final gift; I think they turned out so cool.

give words as gifts

Design number one. . .

give words as gifts

. .  . and design number two. Both grandmas LOVED them!

Though we gave them as Mother’s Day gifts, I think Wordles are super-awesome for other things as well.

Consider:

  • end-of-the-year teacher gifts–use student names or memories or adjectives to describe the teacher
  • gifts for camp counselors
  • gifts for campers–each person shares a favorite camp memory
  • party favors or shower gifts
  • bookmarks
  • positive message reminders
  • summer fun Wordles instead of summer fun cards
  • end-of-summer book lists of books read
  • family re-caps of reunions, vacations, or events

Love them.

family meeting highlights

We hadour digital kids a family meeting a few nights ago, and I made a Wordle with our highlights:

Printed it out as a pretty reminder of what we covered. . .

And that’s it.  Simple, pretty, personalized gifts for loved ones and another way to help our digital kids play with words.

Have any other ideas for Wordles? Share ’em! Dying to know!

3 all-time best games to play with sight words

3 all-time best games to play with sight words

how to play games with sight wordsWhat games do you play with sight words?

Sight words are words that we all need to be able to read quickly and automatically in order to be strong readers, and the more we allow emerging readers to interact with these words, the better!

There are tons of hands-on ways to play with sight words, but these three games are total winners in our family’s book.  We’ve played them year in and year out with sight words so that Maddy, Owen, and Cora learn these little–but important!–words.

And the great thing? Play them with spelling words, vocabulary words, any words your kids need to learn and know.  Mix it up and play it with numbers and numerals. Bam.

But wait. How do you know which list of sight words to use?

Where do you get the cards that you need in order to play these three games?

Glad you asked.  It’s all right here.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • 3 All-Time Best Games to Play with Sight Words:  Here are three fun and easy games that get your kids playing with–and learning—these important little words.

3 of the All-Time Best Games to Play with Sight Words

 

 

So there are just three of my kids’ all-time favorite ways to play with sight words.

But where are the words themselves?

In order to pick up some freebie word cards for playing sight word games, click on the photo of the post to grab some word cards:

 

go fish--sight words

Go Fish! A fish out of water–games for playing sight words

sight word memory

Sight Word Memory  –All of the word cards are here, including ABC cards

wordo sight words

WORDO! A game for word-learning

Wait. Sight words. High frequency words. Early emergent words, fluency words. Word wall words.

What in the world is the difference?

Essentially, they’re all focusing on words that all readers must know, and commit to memory, in order to be the best readers they can be. That’s it. Many school districts and counties offer their own specific list, or maybe they go with the Dolche or Fry list. The Dolche list is older, the Fry list is more updated.

Word Walls? What? Word Walls are walls in a classroom used as a tool to help teach young readers new words.  Word Walls are just that—words filled with words! Words are placed in alphabetical order and are introduced to children throughout the year, and after introduction, the child needs to lean and know the word.  These words include word family words (-at, fat, cat, mat, etc) and high-frequency words, many of which are sight words.

Need or want more on word wall words?

Need or want more on sight words?

The main thing?  Don’t sweat it. Your kids will learn these words eventually–and the best way to ensure that is to read early–and often!

And okay. . . play some games with sight words as well.  Questions? Let me have ’em!  I’m happy to help!

how to make butterfly pens: a sweet spring garden gift

butterfly pens sweet spring garden gift

butterfly pens cover

For Teacher Appreciation Week, for Mother’s Day, as a birthday party favor, or for any occasion, these butterfly pens are indeed a sweet spring garden gift!

No glue, no sewing, no lengthy prep, these butterfly pens are totally quick and so easy.  And so beautiful.

And the really cool thing is that they’re easy enough that kids can get involved no problem. They can show their love and appreciation by helping to create these, while working their fine motor skills along the way.

With a little trip to the craft store, you’ll have everything you need–and some pieces you may have under your roof already.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • How to Make Butterfly Pens– A Sweet Spring Garden Gift:  Another big win for these guys is that they make use of all that mixed-up, almost-on-the-outs PlayDoh that you’ve had sitting around.

butterfly pens sweet spring garden gifts

 Your Butterfly Pen Spring Garden supplies

butterflies

Biggest tip? Spend the extra on good-quality butterflies. So worth it.

You’ll need: (affiliate links are included)

butterfly pens playdoh

Then get started!

1. Make weights for your pails. The pails are light. The pens are light. So if you don’t weigh them down somehow, they’ll tip over and just be a pain in the neck.

Maddy, Owen, and Cora just scraped together baseball-sized globs of old Play-Doh, rolled them into balls, and shoved them in the bottom of their silver pails.

butterfly pens playdoh bucket

2. Wrap Butterflies around the pens.  The way these butterflies are made makes it really easy to wrap them onto the pens.

Take the caps off of the pens and start from the top, wrapping the butterfly wire around the pen.

butterfly pens

The butterflies are already attached to wire. . .

butterfly pens

 . . . so wrapping the pen is totally easy.

butterfly pens

Now you just need to cover the wire with tape.

3.  Wrap the pen with Duct Tape.  This may be the most difficult part of the whole process, and it’s not even that difficult. Just tricky.

One thing to remember is that they do not need to be perfect. They can’t be perfect. And the more we remind ourselves of this, the more fun  you’ll have doing it.

butterfly pens duct tape

Cora cuts the tape–not easy–so better for an adult to do it.

We cut the Duct Tape long enough to leave a teeny, tiny bit over the top and then we cut it short enough so that it ended before the curve of the pen tip.

Totally impossible to make these completely flat, so we went with the bumpy, wavy look.

butterfly pens butterfly wrap

Owen wraps his pen for his teacher. . .

butterfly pens butterfly wrap

. . . and so does Cora.

One thing we were careful to do was to flatten the very tip of the wire and then double-up on the tape.

Otherwise, if we didn’t, the pointy part of the wire would poke fingers as they used the pen. Ouch. Lucky it was an easy fix!

butterfly pens wrap

Tiny bit of tape at the end did the job. . .

butterfly pens wrap

. . . and we thought the ‘wave’ of the wire through the tape made the pen look more ‘grassy’.

butterfly pens wrap

4. Fill the pail with grass. So easy. Plop it in.  Bam. Done.

Just don’t skimp on this because otherwise it’ll look strange. If you want to put a big bunch of glue on the Play-Doh to keep the grass in place, that works, but we didn’t do that.

butterfly pens grass

Crinkle-cut paper worked so perfectly as grass for our little butterfly gardens.

5. Add your butterflies and flowers to the little gardens.  So fun.

The very first thing Maddy, Owen, and Cora did was pick the colors of their butterflies, so when it came time to add theirs to the garden tins, they knew exactly which three to grab.

No need for glue; the butterfly pens stick in pretty tightly among the crinkle-cut grass. Woot!

 

butterfly pens planting the garden

Adding just a dab of glue to the flowers . . .

butterfly pens planting the garden

. . . so that they don’t fall out . . .

butterfly pens planting the garden

. . . of the garden. Just a wee bit because it’s really okay if they move around a little.

butterfly pens planting the garden

Final little butterfly pens and little gardens? So cute. So totally cute.

butterfly pens planting the garden

We love them.

They couldn’t be more beautiful, and really, each one of the kids was so proud.

And so was I.  Here’s to hoping that everyone who receives one loves her little butterfly garden!

And that’s it–just a little springy craft in the name of Teacher Appreciation and Mother’s Day. But really? It’s a super-cute something that could be used for any occasion!

We made one for each teacher, one for each grandmother, and one for great-grandmother. Shhhhh.

Though we made flower pens for our teachers and grandmothers and great-grandmother last year, the response was so great that we thought we’d do it again.  New teachers meant it wasn’t a repeat gift for them, but I’m betting that the ‘mothers’ used their flower pens so frequently, it just might be time for replacements!

Happy butterfly-garden building!

Want a few more fun gifts to give for Mother’s Day or Teacher Appreciation Day?

Check out:

Or follow these two pinterest boards:

 

Follow amy mascott @teachmama’s board school & teacher appreciation on Pinterest.

Follow amy mascott @teachmama’s board mother’s day, father’s day on Pinterest.

 

fyi: Affliliate links are used in this post, which means any time you click on one and buy from Amazon, we get a teeny, tiny, miniscule percentage of your purchase. Every little bit counts, and we totally and completely appreciate you using our links!

quick and easy inexpensive thank you gifts for teachers

easy thank you gifts for teachers

thank you gifts for teachersNo matter how or when you do it, it’s an important time of the year to offer a sincere ‘thank you!’ to teachers, especially with National Teacher Day and Teacher Appreciation Week just around the corner.

Teacher Appreciation Week is the second week in May! Every year! That’s right.

But as a mom of three, I know that often, it’s really hard to scrape together the cold, hard cash for all of your kids’ teachers’ gifts.  Especially if you include your kids’ extra-curricular teachers, or their para-educators, support teachers, and adminstrators, there are a lot of people who support your child’s education.

It’s also hard to find time for putting together a thank you gift.

There are ways, however, to say ‘thank you’ without spending a trillion bucks.

And without buying dollar store junk that will fare well as White Elephant gifts for holiday parties.  And without spending a trillion hours on a craft you saw on Pinterest that looked a whole lot cooler on a pinboard than it does in real life, on your kitchen counter.

Go simple.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Quick and Easy Inexpensive Thank-You Gifts for Teachers: These are simple but sweet. And seriously functional.

 

thank you gifts for teachers

Simple thank you’s for teachers that are fun, frugal, and functional.

What teacher couldn’t use a well-made plastic container?

And what teacher couldn’t use some sweets?

Right. And when you combine them and add a little happy message, it’s sure to bring a smile to his or her face, any day of the week.

For our little teacher thank-you gifts, which Maddy, Owen, and Cora gave to their teachers one day this year, we went with the Systema Klip-It minis.  The kids use the lunch cubes every day, and we have come to love and trust this brand.

We used bold, vinyl alphabet stickers and added the following words to one side of each container:

  • thank you
  • love
  • joy
  • peace

And then we filled each small container with hard candy.  Bam. Done.

 

thank you gifts for teachers - 01

 

Each child wrote a small note to the teacher, which we included with the gift.

Notes make a big difference for teachers–for anyone, actually.  Both my husband and I still have boxes of personal notes from parents, students, and colleagues, and it’s amazing how rewarding it is to look back and read those every so often.

Maddy, Owen, and Cora gave the ‘Thank You’ boxes to their classroom teachers, and they gave the ‘Peace’, ‘Love’, and ‘Joy’ ones to their Religion School teachers. However, I’m betting that any of these messages would work for either teacher.

 

thank you gifts for teachers

The Sistema colored containers looked great with white stickers. . .

thank you gifts for teachers

 . . . and the clear containers looked great with black or rainbow stickers.

All wrapped up with a little curling ribbon, these little tokens of appreciation looked pretty good to us.

And from what the kids said, their teachers were quite pleased.

All I know is that I am thankful Every. Single. Day. for the gifts that are my kiddos’ teachers. Every day I am thankful because I know firsthand how difficult their jobs are and how every year the demands are more and more great for teachers.

So to be a gifted teacher–to be able to reach children and teach children? Not easy.  Not easy in the least.

You better believe I’m saying thanks.

Tomorrow? A whole lot more on Teacher Appreciation. Woot.

fyi: Affiliate links are used in this post.

helping kids use PowerPoint for presentations and serious learning fun

helping kids use powerpoint

helping kids use powerpoint It’s Spring Fair time, Science Share time, Reader’s Tea, Poetry Share, and International Night time at schools all around the country.

Kids are sharing their learning, and they’re learning about sharing. Or at least they could be!

My kids are a bit technically-savvy, love anything laptop, iPad, or DS–so for International Night this year, I took a little time to show my kids a few things about PowerPoint.

And honestly? They loved it.

It wasn’t all that involved–it was by no means the end-all PowerPoint intro. Just a touch. Just a taste.

And instead of making double work for us, we used the PowerPoint slides we created to decorate our France board.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Helping Kids Use PowerPoint for Presentations and Serious Fun: I suppose the ‘serious fun’ part may be a bit of an exaggeration, but the bottom line is that using PowerPoint for our France presentation for our school’s International Night sure upped the kids’ interest factor.

And doesn’t that count for something?

Last year, we did Madagascar for International Night. This year? France. Naturally. Maddy’s choice.international night poster

The kids love using Pixie, so Owen jumped right in and made us a France flag to include.

I started off by asking Maddy, Owen, and Cora if they wanted to try something a little bit new for their project this year–if they wanted to use a bit of technology alongside our poster for International Night. They did. So we got rolling.

I said, Okay, well we’ll try a tool called ‘PowerPoint’ that I’ve used for many of my own presentations and that Daddy also uses for his presentations at work. With PowerPoint, you can make slides that show your information. And then you can print your slides.

I thought it would be cool to make a PowerPoint presentation that we could play during International Night and use the slides to decorate our big poster. Does that sound okay to you?

It did. Phew.

So we began:

1. We built background knowledge on the format. I showed them a really quick example of a PowerPoint presentation I used for a meeting I had a few months ago so that they knew how a PowerPoint presentation could look:

 

 

2. We started fresh. I opened a new presentation [File -> New Presentation].

power point theme change

I showed them all of the ways we could change basic format and fonts.

We chose one that we thought would be simple and clear but bright and cool: Newsprint.

power point presentation newsprint

 

3.  We brainstormed.  We wrote down all of the topics that we wanted to include in our presentation, trying to cover all of the things people would want to know about France. We came up with: Intro, flag, food, clothes, language, people, art, buildings, history, school, and sports.

international night poster brainstorm

Then I showed them how to create new slides: [Insert–> New Slide OR Insert–> Duplicate Slide].

Maddy set us up with a new slide for each of our topics.

power point new slide

 

4. We researched.  We jumped over to PBS LearningMedia. We used KidRex. We used Time for Kids and Kids National Geographic.   The kids came up with the search terms, something that we’ve done quite often in the past.

We went simple, and we found what we needed: France map; food in france; france and clothes.

 

international night research

 

international night research

 

5. We created. For the sake of time, we added information to the slides as we found it. We did our best to read information, put it into our own words by summarizing it, and then typing it into each slide.

Because our focus with this was simply to get them some basic information on France and to get them familiar with PowerPoint, I didn’t worry too much about proper citation of photos and information. Believe me, as a former high school English teacher, I totally understand how important that is; however, I had to choose my battles here.

Instead, I created a ‘Resources’ page at the end of our slideshow, and anything we took from the internet, we added to that page. I felt it was enough to emphasize the importance of not just grabbing from the internet, but it also emI showed them how to

When we needed images, I showed them how to change our search terms on Google from ‘Search’ to ‘Images’ and drag the ones we wanted to use to the desktop.

google search

Then we could easily insert the new images into our presentation.

6. We added transitions.  In a really basic way.  Since I knew we’d keep our presentation on a loop, I knew I wanted to have the transitions advance after a few seconds, so we changed that, and we unclicked ‘on mouse click’.

power point transitions

7. We moved slides. I showed Maddy, Owen, and Cora how to view the presentation with the slides on the left side [view–> normal] OR [view–> slide sorter] so that we could easily move slides into a different order.

We moved them around in a way that we thought made the most sense.

france ppt full screen

8. We saved it. We saved it as a movie [file–> save as –> movie] so that it would loop while we stood at our booth.

9. We added, edited, and revised. And soon our presentation totally rocked the house.

10. We printed. We printed each slide four on a page because we thought that was the best size for our poster.  We followed [print –> preview –>images per page –> four], but I’m sure there are a million other ways to do it.

11. We blinged our board.  We covered it in France’s colors: red, white, and blue.

http://kids.nationalgeographic.com

We added letters at the top: FRANCE.

http://kids.nationalgeographic.com

http://kids.nationalgeographic.com

We cut out our slides with fancy scissors.

http://kids.nationalgeographic.com

international night poster

And we mounted each slide on another piece of construction paper.  Because doesn’t everything look so much more beautiful when mounted on colored paper?

http://kids.nationalgeographic.com

http://kids.nationalgeographic.com

international night poster

And we blinged a bit more, signed our work, and we were finished.

international night poster

international night poster

12. We gathered our French materials.  Thank goodness for our good friends whose grandmother is French and for my husband who has some French connections at the school where he works because our French display rocked.

We had flags, children’s books, a beret, French money, posters, and more. And we picked up some croissants at the grocery store, cdigital kids teachmama.com buttonut them in thirds, and gave our friends a little (teeny) taste of authentic France. Or as authentic as we could muster with us not being very French for real.

We set our France Presentation on autoplay, and we were good. To. Go. Woot.

Want a few more advanced PowerPoint links for your Digital Kids?   Check out:

 

And really? That’s that. The kids had fun. I had fun. And they were proud of their display.

Was it perfect? Hardly. Is this PowerPoint tutorial perfect. Far from it.

But it’s here to prove that with a little bit of effort, we can give our kids a taste of something more technologically advanced than they may think they are capable of. And perhaps this little touch of PowerPoint may give them more confidence when it comes to doing another presentation down the road.

 

Next up: iPad Notes–fun family interviews

5 min reading tricks for raising rockstar readers

5 min reading tricks for raising rockstar readers

5 minute reading tricks

It’s here.

My first eBook on reading and literacy and all that stuff I really, really love.

And I’m totally psyched.

5 min reading tricks for raising rockstar readers.

There you have it. That’s all you need, right?

Sure it is.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  •  5 Min Reading Tricks for Raising Rockstar Readers: 15 of ’em, my friends. Fifteen tricks that are in themselves filled with several other tricks.

So it comes out to a whole lot more than fifteen, but who’s counting?

Essentially, it’s a busy parent’s guide to all that you need to get on the road to raising a rockstar reader. And we all want our kids to be reading rockstars, right?

5 min tricks to raising rockstar readers

Here’s why:

Reading is my favorite thing.

But I totally get that it might not be yours.

So because I love it, and because I am continually amazed, in awe, and humbled by the process of reading acquisition—kids learning to read, working hard at reading, and becoming better readers—I want to help you.

I want to help you because I know I can—and I know you can. It’s easier than you think. And with just a few minutes a day, a few times a day, you, as a parent, can help your child become a strong reader—even if you don’t consider yourself one. It’s cool. I’m not great at math. At all. I need help. Still do. It takes a village, and I need a math guy (or gal) in mine.

The crazy thing is that even before children are able to read texts on their own, they can develop vocabulary, oral language, comprehension strategies, phonological awareness, and print awareness just by participating in a read-aloud with an adult.  It’s amazing how much power and potential exists in that small amount of time.

We got it. We know what to do, now let’s get moving!

5 min reading tricks clip

The 5 min reading tricks for raising rockstar readers eBook is a $10 download that includes 15 tricks covering:

  • comprehension strategies
  • reading readiness
  • fluency
  • what parents should say during read-alouds
  • books as gifts
  • the importance of series
  • and much more!

AND everyone who purchases the eBook is invited to join a special, private group on the we teach forum–just for sharing reading tips, asking questions, and getting more reading success tips!  You will be emailed an invitation upon purchase!

How cool is that? The reading love goes on and on. . .

5 min reading tricks For a cool-cat 10 spot, this gem could be yours, and I thank you. 

But more importantly, your little rockstars will thank you.

 

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 $10. for 5 min reading tricks for raising rockstar readers:

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5 min tricks book walk cover 
There you have it.

I hope you like it–and let me know what you think about 5 min reading tricks for raising rockstar readers!

  • tweet me with your feedback
  • leave me a message on my Facebook wall with what you liked–or didn’t care for
  • let me know what else you need–and I’ll be sure to include it in the next one!

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 $10. for 5 min reading tricks for raising rockstar readers:

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Many thanks, friends, and three cheers to our reading rockstars and you!–their parents– who are rockin’ it out with the reading thing!