Pumpkin Hunt

Do you get inspired when you shop? Some of my favorite ideas through the years have happened when I am strolling through a store. Last night, I was at Target and saw a bag of pumpkins that is in the picture below. The bag said these pumpkins could be used for a pumpkin hunt for class parties.

I thought these would also be fun for teachers, too. What if the Sunshine Committee or administrators hid these pumpkins in places around the school that are accessible for the staff such as the teachers' lounge, office, mailbox area, etc.? Teachers would have fun looking for them and getting a little fall themed prize, too.

It would be hard to fit a prize in such a tiny prize. I would suggest writing a number on the bottom of the pumpkins. The pumpkins from Target do have candy in them so that could be prize if you don't want to purchase fall themed prizes.

I recently finished a Sunshine Committee packet that includes a freebie in the preview file.

School Climate 101 has luncheon signs, signups, staff recognizing staff system, and other resources for administrators, Sunshine Committees, or other school leaders

We all know full moons can affect students' behavior. Why not make it a special day for teachers? How about moonpies in the teachers lounge and playing songs with moon in the title at lunch? The freebie includes a list of songs.

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School Climate - Building Community

If you read forums for teachers, job satisfaction surveys, or listen to conversation in the teachers’ lounge you will often hear a common theme in the complaints of teachers. Teachers who are unhappy feel unappreciated and unrecognized for their hard work. Although a raise would put a smile on teachers everywhere, this may not be possible with the current state of economics.

Have you read Malcom Gladwell’s book, The Tipping Point? One of the examples he gives in his book is the NYC subway system. George L. Kelling was hired as a consultant in 1985 to test his broken windows theory. The city cleaned the subway system of graffiti. Graffiti was quickly cleaned any time it appeared. The theory was that small crimes lead to bigger crimes. Purging the subway of graffiti was the tipping point to make the NYC subway system safer. Small crimes lead to bigger crimes.

I think a few negative comments can spread quicker than 48-hour flu in a school. Soon it seems like the entire staff is infected with negativ-itis. It is possible to make teachers, staff members, and co-workers of your school feel appreciated and recognized for their hard work. The best thing is the school climate doesn't have to be the responsibility of one person in the school.

Do you think your co-workers are feeling a little stressed? Do you hear more snips and snarks than comments of appreciation? Have there been changes on your campus . . . new team members, administrators, curriculum, or expectations?

If this sounds familiar, you could be the change agent at your school. Sometimes it is the administrator, team leaders, or Sunshine Committee than plans school climate and community building events. But, one thing I have found through the years. Everyone loves a helping hand. If you step up to the plate, you will have their undying gratitude. After a few community building events, you will have a happier place to work. So, it is a win-win for everyone.

For whatever reason, I have always enjoyed planning these type of things. I know it is crazy, right?!! I have been on a social committee for my neighborhood homeowner association, a school's Sunshine Committee, and planned monthly luncheons for my daughter's middle school. Through all of these experiences, I have picked up a few tips and tricks that make putting on a luncheon for a large group a little easier.

Food brings people together, it bonds them, it is just that simple.

If at all possible it is best to plan the date of your luncheon on a day when everyone can eat lunch at the same time. Do not forget to include everyone in your school family like the custodial staff and secretaries. If you do plan the luncheon on a day when you have multiple lunch periods, set out fresh food each lunch period.

I just added a new School Climate packet that includes what you see above.

Each luncheon has a PDF that is "PRINT & GO" prefilled for your luncheon. There is also a blank signup in the EDITABLE file so you can personalize it to fit your needs. The sign is EDITABLE, too so you can add the date, time, and place.
There are also notes (6 per page) so you can write little notes of support, encouragement, thank you, and give treats. There is room that you can write a note or attach a treat.

Who doesn't love to get a little note in your mailbox? Some of these are colorful and some are black & white.
Look for the Positive is a system where staff members recognize other staff members.
This system could also be used with students. Staff members fill out a nomination about another staff member who is:

ALL HEART: A person who is kind and helpful to others.
ALL STAR: A person who shines at his or her job and goes beyond what is required.
ALL SMILES: A person who has a positive attitude and a joy to be around.
OUR TREASURE: A person who is worth his or her weight in gold.

Prizes can be whatever you want. I made these signs to hang outside classrooms to recognize teachers. I bought the supplies at Hobby Lobby. At one of my schools, the prize was a front row parking spot. That was a very popular prize!

If a luncheon seems like a bigger job than you want to tackle this year, I included monthly events that are still fun, but on a smaller scale. The signs are editable so you can add the date and time.
Click HERE find out more plus get a FREEBIE in the preview file.

Click HERE to check out the preview file.

Sources to make my blog post graphics can be found HERE.
Click HERE to read my blog's disclosure statement.

Calendar Time and Sunshine Committee

Routines are an important part of a teacher's job. One of the routine that you are probably working on right now is calendar time.

Calendar time is a valuable part of your day because it teaches and continually reviews important skills. Students who may not be successful today, might master the same skill in a couple of weeks because of the repetitive practice.

Through the years, I have played around with my schedule to figure out when was the best time to incorporate calendar time into my day. In the beginning of my career, I did calendar time right after I took attendance and lunch count. It never fails, it seems like every class has a handful of students who are chronically tardy. These students are often the ones who NEED to review the skills the most. Calendar time is a great way to get your students up and moving. Why would I want to do it a few minutes after my students arrived? Click HERE to read about what I did before calendar time. This post also has freebies for you.

I organize my students in teams, usually at tables. When it is time to begin calendar time on the carpet. I dismiss one table at a time to go to their assigned row on the carpet. I rotate which row they sit on each day. Tape can damage carpets like these:

Click on picture.

I tape different shapes on each row to show students where their assigned row is.

Use shapes students may not be as familiar with such as: pentagon, rhombus, or hexagon. Dismiss the teams and quiz them at the same time. Example: The team whose shape has six sides is dismissed. Team, what is the name of this shape?
Add a little seasonal fun by taping seasonal shapes for each row. You can also incorporate language arts skills with this activity. Example: Fall shapes - bat, pumpkin, and apple. Team one may sit on the row that has one syllable.

You can use die cuts or the small calendar numbers work great, too!

Crossing midline is an important skill that can be overlooked. One way I incorporate it into my schedule is with skip counting aerobics.

This is the perfect activity to incorporate into your calendar time. To skip count by 2's, students will hold up two fingers. The student will cross midline, while holding up two fingers, and count by 2's. Your class will look like they are doing aerobics. They hold up the number of fingers that they are skip counting.

We do rocket counting when we practice counting backwards. We hold our hands above our heads and slowly slide them down while bending our body down, too. When we get to zero, we jump in the air and say blast off!

In the beginning, I lead the calendar time so my students can learn the procedures. Once we had a good grasp of the routines, I will have a student leader help me with it. The easiest way I found to do this is do it in number order. If a student is absent on their assigned day, I write his/her name down on an absent leader list. Anytime a leader of the day is not at school, I go the absent leader list and get the first name on the list. If that person isn't at school, I go to the second name.

Click HERE for the FREE printable.


Faculty Meeting: Sunshine Committee Idea


Are you on the Sunshine Committee this year?  Looking for school climate, faculty appreciation, or school climate ideas?

One year, the sunshine committee organized door prizes for faculty meetings.  We set up the following guidelines:

  • All employees' names were put in the box. Everyone who paid dues name was put in the box (because we used funds from the sunshine committee to purchase some of the prizes).  This included administrator, classified staff, and certified staff. Most of our classified staff attended the first 15 minutes of the meeting.  Some staff members had parent pickup duty or were answering the phones.  
  • Winners must be present to win, except for classified staff that had duty.  We put the names of the winners who weren't there back in the box so they had a chance to win another day.  The exception was the staff members on duty.  They chose their prize after duty. 
  • Winners' names were not put back in the box.  Winners could only win once. 

It was amazing how staff members were suddenly arriving on time for faculty meetings!  We always did the drawing the first fifteen minutes when the classified staff was there so we could focus on what our administrator needed to tell us afterwards.  There seemed to be less "venting" since people we chatting about what that week's prizes.  The magic of 2-3 prizes a week brought little rays of sunshine to our school.

You can get gifts from a variety of sources.  
  • I called and visited local business.  Some of them were willing to donate gift cards.  Make sure you tax your tax-exempt form when you visit them along with a thank you of donation that you can give for tax purposes.
  • Your P.T.A. might be willing to support this activity.

Does your sunshine committee have extra money in its budget? You can buy inexpensive gifts that teachers will love.  With the exception of the iTunes gift cards, all of the other prizes cost less than $5 on sale.

What does your sunshine committee do?

Sources to make my blog post graphics can be found HERE.
Click HERE to read my blog's disclosure statement.

Fine Motor Skills Ideas


One of the things I often forget is what my students' fine motor skills are like at the beginning of the year.  Students grow and develop in so many ways throughout the year.  When I am back to square one with a new class, it can be a little overwhelming when there are so many other things I am trying to teach, too.  You know those nitty gritty details like how to line up, where to put homework folders, restroom protocols, and beginning of the year testing.  Add in a few students who do not know how to hold a pencil correctly or whose handwriting looks like hieroglyphics and you may be reaching for Tylenol or chocolate.

This is the time when my husband reminds me that I go through this same stage every year and every year I magically am able to transform this group into what they need to do.  For whatever reason, the reminder seems to help me relax a little.  You will work your magic, too.  :)

Sometimes you may have a hectic schedule and have trouble finding time to add fine-motor skills activities to your day.  I have a few ideas you can try to squeeze in.

Clothes pins are good for strengthening the pincer grasp. 
  • Put on some music and let your students open and close the clothes pins to the sound of music.
  • Use a variety of sizes because the clothes pins are easier and harder to open depending on the size.
  • The large blue on in the picture is Boca beach towel clip.  It is used to clip your towel to a chair.  It works great for this, too.

I did this activity one year when I was teaching at a school that was filled to capacity that needed more restrooms. We were told not to take group restroom breaks.  So, how do you get your class ready for lunch? 
  • I put on catchy, quick-paced phonics songs and gave my students clothes pins.  My students practiced their reading skills and fine-motor skills while they were waiting their turn to go to the restroom.
  • Two boys and two girls at a time went to the restroom.
  • When a student returned from the restroom, students who had not had a turn raised their hand. Boys who went to the restroom chose boys to go next and girls chose girls to go next.

This system ended up working much better for me than group restroom breaks.  Since there were only 2 boys and 2 girls, they went quickly and quietly.  The rest of my class was working on something productive.  After I moved to a school that allowed group restroom breaks, I kept this same system because I liked it so much.

After you have used clothes pins for a while and your students are ready for a challenge, try clamps and clips.  You can find them in many different stores.  The white ones and yellow one in the picture are from Dollar Tree.  The pink and blue one is another Boca beach towel clip that I bought at Target.  If your dad or husband is a handyman, you can see if they have any clamps that they would be willing to donate.

Do you incorporate brain breaks with your day?  You can add a fine-motor component to your brain break.  I stuffed socks with plastic grocery sacks.  Students can squeeze and work their hand muscles with the socks while they dance and get their wiggles out.

Your students will love it if you use a variety of colors and textures.  Great way to repurpose all of those socks that have a missing mate.

Look around your garage and see what you can find.  A small paint roller has a fun texture and would be great thing to squeeze to sound of music.

Hook each end of the bungee cord to thumb and stretch. Then do the same thing with the other fingers.  Fun way to stretch.

Paper punches in a variety of shapes are an easy center to set up.  Cut strips of colorful about 2 inches.  Let your students punch out a bunch of shapes, glue them on paper, create a picture, and write a story.  This is also a fun center to set up for your early finishers.

Looking for more ideas?  I have a Pinterest board full of great ideas.

Sources to make my blog post graphics can be found HERE.
Click HERE to read my blog's disclosure statement.

Professional Development

Are you looking for new professional development ideas?

Do you have a museum near you?  Museums make a wonderful partner for schools.  We often think of museums when it is time to plan a field trip, but do you think about them when you need professional development? Some museums even having a lending library.  You can check out some of the materials that aren't currently on display to use with your lessons.  This is a great way to enrich your lessons and give them a more hands-on approach.

Here is an example:

Chicagoland teachers, The Field Museum has free professional development for PK-12 teachers this fall. There is limited space and you will need to pre-register.

When I was a teacher in a Chicagoland school, one of our dedicated moms, was our liaison with the N.W. Harris Learning Collection at The Field Museum.  Teachers could request artifacts, specimens, and other treasures.  Our liaison would get and return the resources for us.

If you live in the Seattle area, the Museum of Flight has free professional development for 4th and 5th grade teachers and older in October, February, April, and May.

I have a Pinterest board with other ideas for you.

What is your favorite place or type of professional development?

Sources to make my blog post graphics can be found HERE. Click HERE to read my blog's disclosure statement.

Tech Tips - technology for teachers

Technology has made a big impact on teachers' jobs.  It can be a blessing and a curse, all tied up in a bow!  I began teaching when there was one computer lab on campus that we took our class to once a week.  Back in those days, teachers did not have his or her own computer.  While it would have been nice to have a computer in our room to type up class lists at the beginning of the year, we also didn't have a gazillion emails, websites, and electronic duties.  In some ways, it felt like we spent more time teaching . . . . back in the day!

If you were around me for 5 minutes, you would quickly see that I love technology, but not what it has added to a teachers' already busy schedule.

I am always looking for new things that can enrich your job or make it a little easier.  Here are a couple you should check out: 
Telestory is a FREE app.  Your students can create their own TV show using it.  This can be used so many different ways. 

Sign up genius is one of my favorite sites.  You can use it to organize class parties or field trips.  It is also a great way for students to sign up for a big project.

My friend, Fern and I have a special surprise.  We are going to give one lucky person an iPad Mini.  This giveaway is perfect for:
  • Teachers: Public or Private
  • Homeschool Teachers
  • Librarians, Speech Pathologists, Reading Specialist, Counselors, Special Education, Administrators, and other important people who help students.
The only thing you need to do to enter is to follow Fern and my TPT store.  That's it, super simple - and you'll know when we post our latest freebies and great stuff!

In case you missed it, here is my latest freebie.  Click on the picture below to get your copy.

Click HERE to download this.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Congratulations Marge!
Marge is a retired teacher who helps homeschool her grandchildren.

Do you need more tech ideas?  Click on the pictures below.

Sources to make my blog post graphics can be found HERE.
Click HERE to read my blog's disclosure statement.