Parent Gift Idea {Tag Freebie}

Everyone is so busy this time of year.   It's easy to forget to grab a gift for that special parent who comes through for you in your time of need.  If you're in a crunch, I've got the perfect gift idea for you.  It comes from my brilliant teammate and it really is the perfect token of appreciation.  It would also be great for custodians, teammates, or any other staff member!

Just grab paper products and wrap them up with this gift tag.

I love to purchase my paper products at Hobby Lobby - they always have a cute selection and all holiday items are usually 50% off!  It's also a great idea to stock up AFTER Christmas for next year!  In mine, I included two sizes of plates, napkins, cups, and plastic cutlery.  I placed them in a clear gift basket sack and tied with ribbon.  Easy Peasy!


Appy Classrooms {Word Clouds}

Hi all!  I'm back to share a super easy but very useful app for your classroom!

App Name: Word Clouds
Cost: FREE
Here's what you will look for:

This is app is very simple to use.  Students simply type in words to show up in a "cloud" format.  The more times a word is typed, the larger it will appear in the cloud (very similar to the Wordle site if you have used that).  Students then have the option to change the font, color pattern, or layout design.

Here are some ways we use this app in my classroom.

As we studied adjectives, students worked in pairs to create a word cloud of adjectives using the five senses - How does it taste, look, feel, smell, and sound?

This led into our next session on adverbs.  Students were given a verb which they typed in 8 times (to make the verb larger) and then typed in adjectives describing how, when, or where that verb happened.

A science use is to give students a topic, in this case an animal classification group (mammals) and have students create a cloud of words associated with it.

My favorite way to use Word Clouds though is for student birthdays.  For this, I set one iPad out and type the birthday child's name eight times (to ensure it is large).  Then, students go one at a time throughout the day and add a character trait that describes the birthday child.  If character traits are repeated, it's okay - those words will appear larger.  Once all students have typed a trait, I quickly make the cloud (but you could also let the birthday child do this) and let them upload it to their Seesaw portfolio.  I'm also considering printing them out to frame as end of the year gifts.  I've done word cloud frames as gifts before at the end of the year and the fact that the clouds will all be done for me as an added bonus! <3

Since character traits are something we are really just starting to learn about in 2nd grade, I do post a {positive} character traits sign in the room for those students who may need the support (or help spelling their word).  You can grab my character trait signs (both positive and negative) FREE in my shop by clicking the link below!


Put Your STAMP On The New Year! {Giveaway}

There's just something about kicking off a new school year with new goodies!  Whether it's a new planner, new desk accessories, or new stamps...they just make a teacher's heart go pitter patter.
That's exactly how I felt when I opened my new package from
I mean, new goodies that are also going to save me time and help to simplify my life this year?  Yes, please!  Here's a peek at my new goodies I got from on for how I will use them as time-savers in my classroom AND for a chance to win your own customized stamp!

Every summer...heck, every week, it seems that I buy new books for my classroom.  Usually they get set aside until I have time to label them with my name.  I'm constantly letting other teachers borrow books and know that it can be hard to remember who you borrowed them from sometimes, so labeling books is essential for teachers in my opinion.  Now, it's super easy!  So easy, I could give the task to a student even!

Speaking of students, I love to give that extra little "HOORAY" to my students for doing an exceptional job on assignments.  Do you know what they love?  When the notes are personal.  They LOVE when it includes the teacher's name - they love to know YOU are proud of them.  These personalized stamps are the perfect way to give them that personal touch, while saving the super busy teacher a little time along the way.

While we're talking about encouragement, students are all too savvy about current trends and this includes social media!  How much will they LOVE this Facebook inspired "like" stamp?  In my classroom, we use the app Seesaw so students are already familiar with "liking" work.  This stamp is perfect for those quick checks, like interactive notebooks.

This year, I have a student teacher in my classroom.  I thought a personalized stamp for her would be perfect!  This will let students and parents know when she is checking work.

Sometimes, things aren't all unicorns and rainbows though.  This final stamp was a "must-have" for me.  It's so versatile and I can use it for a variety of reasons.  Just stamp and mark.  On this particular paper, I want the student to correct the work and return it back to school for partial credit.  A system like this lets parents know what to be on the lookout for on graded work.

I'm so pleased with the quality of my new self-inking rubber stamps and thought you might like to give one a try, too!  So, I'm teaming up with RubberStamps for a little giveaway.  I'll be selecting THREE winners who will each get to select their own customized stamp. 

Enter below.  Good luck!  The winners will be announced on Wednesday, August 31.

View the entire Teacher Selection of stamps here!

Which is your favorite?  You have 5 ways to enter this giveaway below.  Enter as many times as you'd like!


Oriental Trading Wishes Granted!

One of the great joys of a new school year is browsing through the new Oriental Trading catalog for classroom goodies.  Teacher Heaven, right?!?  This year it's a bit more amazing because they have created a Teacher Wish List function!  Keep reading to see how you can get your wishes granted.

This year I decided to change my classroom theme and I knew that Oriental Trading (as usual) would be my go-to place for Superhero things.

Take a peek at the amazing goodies I found for my classroom.

Years ago, I began using badge holders for my students' nametags.  This saves me from having to handwrite or print new tags each time they're needed.  In fact, it means I have nametags on hand at any given time - this is super convenient for subs during unexpected absences. 

These Superhero Lanyards are perfection for my little marvels!  They're bright, colorful, fun, and safe (with that breakaway clasp).  Even better?  I'll be able to use them year after year after year!

These Superhero Tickets are the perfect incentive for my students!  Last year, I began using the Golden Ticket system.  I just cut gold paper strips and laminated them, but these are SO much better!  My students are super excited to earn these for random good deeds throughout the week and then turn them in on Friday for free choice selections.

These hanging swirls made the PERFECT back-to-school activity.  When I handed these out, the students "OOHED" and "AAHED."  They were quite obsessed with the foil swirls.  I mean, why wouldn't they be?!  They add so much color and pop to our classroom ceiling, all while sharing a little about each of my new marvels.

Here's a close up look of the front...

...and back of the hangers.

And, here's one more look at them on display from a distance.

What kid doesn't love stickers??  These superhero stickers will be the perfect way to say "well done" on students' papers, or right on their shirts!

I mean, how about that marvel t-shirt?  Do you think my students are excited about my classroom theme? I'd say so! :)

These dry erase magnets are so versatile that I knew I needed them to be a part of my classroom.  For now, I am using them to label my file cabinet drawers.  They make it super easy to locate the right item the first time!

The next few items, I got for incentive rewards in my classroom.  My school uses Accelerated Reader and I like to have little rewards for students who reach specific goals, but these items could also be used for birthday treats, welcome back gifts, or star student surprises - the possibilities are endless.

Can we just talk about these medals for a moment?!  The quality is AMAZING!  They are made of rubber with a fabric lanyard.  Students will treasure them!

Whew!  Those are just a FEW of the things I found for my superhero classroom.  You can view the rest of the items that I have my eye on HERE on my wishlist.  Here's a little sneak peek of it:

Oh my gosh, those pencils, right?!  Creating a wishlist on Oriental Trading is super easy and you have the option to share it via social media, email, or even print a hard copy of it to share.  Often times, at the beginning of the year especially, parents are eager to help your classroom.  What an easy way to share with them some of the things you'd like to have for your classroom.

Just visit Oriental Trading and click on the Wish List heart at the top (red circle below).

Then, to share your wishlist to your website, Facebook, or through email, just click the SHARE button (green circle) and choose your preference.

That's it!  Then, just wait patiently as your wishes are granted! :)

*Disclaimer: Oriental Trading sent me products in exchange for a blog post; however, all opinions in this post are mine.


The Benefits of a Classroom Theme

Photo Credit: Classroom Clicks

Just like with everything else in education, classroom décor is cyclical. Right now the trend is to go with bright colors or neutrals.  Everyone wants their classrooms to be a replica of their homes - warm, inviting, cozy, and beautiful - truly Pinterest worthy.  But, I just can't let go of my fun classroom themes and I'm here to tell you why.

I get it.  I really do.  Teachers want to make their classrooms a place they love.  As teachers, we spend more time at school many days than we do at home.  It should be a place we love!  But, first and foremost, it should be a place our kids love!  I promise you can find a way to have a balance.  For example, I'm changing my classroom theme to superheroes this year and I'm not a big fan of the cheesy store-bought items - those bright blues, reds, and yellows.  To make it a place I will love, I've chosen to use red, navy, and gold as the base colors - colors that are a little more classic.  But, my main goal is to make sure my students love the space.  I remember the first year I had a monster theme and I had a little girl come to Meet the Teacher.  With wide eyes and huge grin on her face, she turned to her mother and asked, "Can we make my bedroom like this?"  Y'all!  She loved our classroom so much (the instant she walked in it) that she wanted her bedroom like it!!!  THAT is priceless.

Themes help to give the class an identify and bring everyone together as a team - right from the start!  I often hear students talking on the playground and one student will say, "What class are you in?"  My student will answer, "Mrs. Madden's."  The child will respond, "Oh, are you the monsters?"  Children may not know all of the teachers' names, but let me tell you, they know the class themes!  At my school each class has a class t-shirt with their mascots on them and students wear them proudly!  My students will draw me pictures of monsters, bring me little monster gifts, and even tell me all about a cool monster they saw somewhere.  Now, while I don't always want a shelf full of monsters, the theme is an instant connection and that is priceless.

I've been teaching the same grade for 19 years now.  I know some teachers change grade levels to "switch things up."  I LOVE second grade and couldn't imagine teaching another grade.  However, I do get that little "itch" every few years to make a change.  My theme is where I can do that.  I don't change it every year - that would be way too pricey!  Instead, I keep one theme for 4-5 years.  This allows me to build on the theme...add a little to it as the years pass.  But, changing it up every few years allows my creativity to shine through.  I enjoy digging through Pinterest, party stores, and dollar stores collecting ideas.  Not just for decorating ideas, but for student centered learning ideas that integrate our theme.  The transformation that happens in my room isn't all for my students, it's also for me.  It gives me that extra little spark and excitement for a new adventure and that is priceless, too.

I can't reveal too much about my new theme yet because it's still a work in progress, but here are a few of my superhero transformation pics so far.

These felt masks will unit my students on the first day of school.  We'll take a superhero class pic as we students write about what qualities make them SUPER!

Easy and cheap bunting across windows brings our theme colors to the forefront.  This is just fabric cut into shapes and attached to the top of my window with red duct tape - no sewing at all!

Bulletin board are in progress to match the bunting and tie our room together.

Extra fabric is used to make a scrap valance to hang on our classroom door.

Accessories are found throughout the room to tie it altogether.

Our class T-shirt that will be worn proudly!  Yes, that's the Wonder Woman logo flipped upside down for Madden's Marvels! ;)

Our Super Studio headquarters is just a black foam science trifold that I transformed into a cityscape.  We will use it as our "recording studio" for iPad recordings.  It will block out distractions and when the light is "on," the rest of the class will know to use whisper voices because a recording is in progress.

Check back in a few weeks to see the full classroom reveal and to watch the magic begin! 

Fun, child-centered classroom themes may not be for everyone, but if you've been on the fence, I encourage you to jump in and give it a try!  Often, teachers don't jump in because of the cost factor.  But, go ahead and decide to keep the same theme for several years, at least, knowing that you can build on it.

If you already have a theme in your classroom, think about what it is and if it is for you or for your students.  If your theme is your favorite college team or your favorite color, it may not really be inclusive to all of your students.  Make your classroom a place you love, but also a place your students are excited to come to each and every day - even before they know you!

If you're on the hunt for classroom décor for your theme or are looking for a new theme, check out the themes in my shop. I've updated almost every single theme this summer!  Each theme contains over 40 resources, including editable newsletters and Open House slideshows.

Whatever your theme, or non-theme, I hope you have the most magical year yet!

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