November 15, 2015

Holiday Teacher Gift Guide 2015

The holidays are quickly approaching, as they do every year, and although you’re probably thinking, I have time!, it’s always a good idea to start thinking about what you would like to gift the teacher of your little one(s). Speaking from the teacher perspective, we love the holidays for more than one reason: we get to see parents at the class holiday party, we look forward to those Starbucks gift cards, and really feel appreciated by the families we serve when we are thought of to any degree.

So, here are my holiday picks for gifting those teachers in your life that make a difference every day with your child. The best part is: this list is made by a teacher for teachers and parents like you.

A gift guide for the teacher in your life! Don’t spend your time or money on something your teacher won’t use or need. Here is a comprehensive holiday guide to gifting teachers the things they’d really enjoy. Created by a teacher for teachers!

Minted Class Photo Frame via Minted
I’m not sure if you know, but Minted has a cute selection of art pieces and even ones you can customize just for teachers! I thought this apple print was adorable and it would be easy for any room-parent to snap some photos of the class and present it to the teacher at the class holiday party. Teachers love having keepsakes from each class and what better than something they can hang in their rooms for years to come!

Monogrammed Anything via Etsy
If you’re wanting to reach a little bit more outside the typical gift for a teacher, go with anything monogrammed or personalized. I have yet to find a teacher that doesn’t love jewelry, a personalized coffee mug, pencil holder, etc. I loved receiving a ‘K’ initial necklace my first year teaching and it was something I wanted to wear over and over. Plus, it makes the child feel special when they see you wearing and enjoying their gift (even if mom picked it out).

Custom Wine Label via Evermine Occasions
This particular wine label went viral just a few months ago and it’s for a good reason! What a funny, yet practical, gift for any teacher! Because honestly, we’re probably the biggest winos out there so don’t feel weird about gifting us a bottle of wine- it will be used! I had parents of students in the past do this and I loved it because it’s truly amongst the things we really want right before winter break. Add a fun custom label to it to make it extra special.

Starbucks Anything
Want to know something teachers love more than wine? Coffee (or tea). Whether they make their own at home or pick it up from their favorite roaster (i.e. Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, etc.) getting them anything from a gift card to a new travel mug will be sure to brighten their day. Those tend to be things we want, but never buy for ourselves.

Gift Cards
This is by far the most typical, yet most coveted, gift you could give a teacher. It is nothing new for parents to know that teachers always spend money out of their own pocket to provide materials for the class or for that fun activity she/he has planned. It’s also no secret that we aren’t necessarily bringing home top dollars either to help fund our classrooms. So, with that in mind gifting a teacher a gift card will be very appreciated. Here are the top retailers most teachers shop at regularly:

  • Coffee (Starbucks, Dunkin’, etc)
  • Target or Walmart
  • Teachers Pay Teachers
  • Amazon or Barnes & Noble
  • Michael’s or Hobby Lobby (whichever is nearest to you)
  • Visa Gift Card
  • Stitch Fix (this is an exception. Most teachers love this service but check with the person before assuming they’ll use it)
Other gift card ideas include fun things like a nail salon or massage so we can treat ourselves, movie tickets, restaurants or popular chains like Subway or Chipotle, and even office supply stores like Staples are great ideas.

Scarf or Other Accessory via Mom Advice
I love scarves and all of my students knew that so it was a lot of fun to receive a gift I wasn’t expecting. Our little kiddos are a lot more observant than we give them credit for. So, if you have a favorite accessory please believe they’ve noticed.

Ruler Photo Ornament via Simply Kierste
One of my favorite gifts ever from my kids were those who thought to buy me ornaments I could hang on my Christmas tree at home. Most of them were store-bought, which were very cute and I still hang to this day! However, if you have the time or find something on Etsy that’s handmade, just slip your child’s photo in and voila!

Gift Registry
This one is really special and the most overlooked. Is your teacher engaged? Have a baby on the way? Do some digging to see if you can find their gift registries and pool the class on getting an item or purchase one from your family to theirs. I found it to be so thoughtful (and a huge surprise) that my class bought me the Kitchen Aide from my wedding registry at the end of the year. Absolutely touched my heart.

Letters From Students
A free gift that could possibly take the cake and be more valuable than any Starbucks gift card is anything made from our students. Whether it be a letter or a handmade item, it all means so much to us and we love receiving little notes about how much our kids appreciate us as teachers. It’s little sentiments like that, that get us through those tough work days.

So there you have it. Gift teachers this year something they would really appreciate and get a lot of use out of. I hope this guide helps you decide on a gift for the teacher in your life!

Anything missing from my list? What would you add to your Teacher Gift Guide?

November 11, 2015

Diving Into Matter!

An easy and comprehensive unit plan to get your students engaged and learning with matter! This packet includes five major lessons in note-taking format for your little scientists!

One of my favorite units to teach in science is our matter unit! Having fun with solids, liquids, and gasses, discovering those three states, and getting our hands dirty with exploration is just the best! I wanted to re-share my Matter Matters Unit with you all today and hope you can find it useful in your classrooms.

This packet contains all the important objectives in a fun fill-in-the-blank format, which is perfect for those beginner note taking skills. I incorporated videos from Scholatic’s Study Jams (which are fabulous resource videos if you haven’t already heard of them!) as well as Brain Pop Jr. I also use this packet as a companion to a PowerPoint slideshow I made, which helps me keep my lessons on track.

I made some edits to my original packet, but for the most part all of the content is still the same. If you have already downloaded this unit, be sure to re-download the newest version. For those of you who need it you can pick it up at my TpT store here.

Lesson 1: The Three States of Matter
Lesson 2: Mass & Volume: Measuring Matter
Lesson 3: Changing States
Lesson 4: Physical & Chemical Changes
Lesson 5: Experiment: Sugar Cube
Three States of Matter Poems

Another just for fun activity that has always been a hit, and one done at the very end of the unit (if there’s time), was creating Oobleck with my class. This was always a hit and something the kids really enjoyed year after year. All you need is water, cornstarch, and food coloring! We read the book Bartholomew and the Oobleck prior to the activity and discussed how students will observe that when we mix solid and liquid ingredients it creates something completely different!

November 2, 2015

November Currently

Happy Monday and the beginning of November! I say this all the time about how quickly time seems to fly, but’s November already. In celebration of the harvest, everything Thanksgiving, and the approaching holiday season, I’m linking up with Farley and her Currently linkup and sharing what’s going on with me on this brisk November morning!

Listening // My husband just recently discovered Lisa Ling’s new CNN docu-series and currently watching an episode about motorcycle gangs. Not quite the best thing to listen to first thing in the morning, but I suppose neither is my Real Housewives to him ;)

Loving // With a show of hands, how many of us are excited that Starbucks has officially rolled out their red holiday cups?! I know, many people I know (and many more across the internet) believe that the holiday/Christmas season doesn’t/shouldn’t officially start until AFTER Thanksgiving, but consider me one of the few who gets excited nonetheless. 

Thinking // It’s been over a year since I’ve been able to visit Virginia to see my family since moving to California with my husband and I am so excited to get the opportunity to visit during Thanksgiving. We are trying to visit both my family and his family in Texas this holiday season before our baby is born in the spring. It’ll be a lot, both financially and in stress, to travel while pregnant and with a dog, but it’ll be worth it!

Wanting // This is the first week that we’ve had temperatures below 80 degrees and I am welcoming it with open arms! It’s only about 70 degrees outside, so not quite scarf and sweater weather, but I’ll take it! Celebrating fall has been an interesting thing, especially since it’s been unseasonably hot here in CA. More cold weather!

Needing // How many of you have seen and fell absolutely in love with Chip and Joanna Gaines from Fixer Upper?! I mean, seriously. I love their work and wish I lived in Waco just to have them makeover a house for me. They seem like an awesome couple and I love the example they set as Christians, spouses, and parents. Love them!

Yummy // I’ve been craving Thanksgiving Dinner, like the whole spread, for a few weeks now. This also adds to just how excited I am to visit my family since my dad goes all out for dinner and hosting our family. My heart skips a beat every time we walk into Trader Joe’s and I see the stuffing, gravy, turkey broth, etc. lining the walls. Just a few more weeks!

Preparing for Parent/Teacher Conferences

Today I am going to be discussing Parent/Teacher Conferences! These conferences are wonderful opportunities to meet with parents for the first time and discuss how the first couple months have been going for their child. Typically, after routines and procedures have been established, teachers hit the ground running with instruction and conferences are great times to share with parents the work students are doing and the progress they're showing! 

This means that teachers need to communicate a lot of information to parents and in a short amount of time. Here I have a resource that has been very helpful to me in the past and it keeps me focused the whole time! It's so easy to get sidetracked so here are a few things I've done that you may find helpful!

Break down the information by quarter.
Obviously you want to focus on the immediate goals for each child so it's important to dedicate some time to look up student scores and make them easy to compare to quarterly benchmarks.
This resource includes conference forms for all 4 quarters. It includes areas to document important information about reading, writing, and math so you can focus your conversation with your parents. It also provides the teacher to discuss where the student is at in terms of their work habits and attitude. Having the benchmarks available helps show if students are below, meets, or exceeds the given benchmark for that quarter.
Include student work samples
Student work samples are great tools to use during conferences to show where students should be performing or the goals they should be working towards. I keep previous students' work to help compare. I've gotten a lot of compliments from parents on how helpful it is for them to see what I'm referring to in regards to what I expect each quarter {especially writing!}.

Planning and organization!
I always put out the conference time sign up sheet at my Back to School Night and Open House that way I can get the majority of parents locked in to a time early and it's one less thing to do. However, everyone is different! Plan your conferences to be about 15-20mins each, especially if you're meeting with all your parents the first quarter. Give yourself a few minutes between each conference to prepare and have materials ready. 

Tip: have resource information readily available too like:
-specialists emails or phone numbers
-a laptop or iPad with your schools website so you can show 
them how to navigate it to find other resources

Keep a record...
It's important that teachers keep records of their conferences with each child's parents/guardians. It's important because it can be used as documentation in other meetings, especially if it's related to academic or disciplinary issues. 

This form is good if you want to see your whole class at a glance as you have conferences throughout the year. Or...

You can use this form, which looks at individual students and how often you've met or talked with their parents. I like this form personally because I can keep it in their file in my classroom. It's also helpful if you have students with IEPs or Child Study (in LCPS that the initial meeting that establishes interventions before officially giving a child an IEP).

Don't Forget!
I've included Don't Forget! slips with my resource pack because it's another small thing that parents really appreciate {especially if they signed up for a conference back in Sept}. Just fill out the student's name and the time/date of the conference and send home a week or so before your conferences begin! 

Every year this packet has been such a time saver and an easy way to organize student progress and work in a nutshell for parents. What are some tricks of the trade you utilize during conferences?

October 11, 2015

Baby Daniel On The Way!

A lot of you probably have noticed that the blog has been very quiet over these last few months (or maybe not). It’s for a good reason, I promise! If you follow me over at my lifestyle blog, Primarily Inspired, you probably already know this news. But for those who don’’s the reason behind my absence from this space...

A photo posted by Kelly Daniel (@kjdaniel1) on
My husband and I are excited to be expecting a baby boy in March 2016! Since getting pregnant in early March of this year and unfortunately suffering a miscarriage, we were on the path for parenthood ever since. Our experience with miscarriage only brought my husband and I closer and made us realize that we were ready to embark on this next exciting chapter in our marriage and lives together. We are so excited and are truly appreciative to all the prayers and well-wishers from our family and friends.

If you’re interested in staying up to date with me, my pregnancy and life, be sure to follow me over at my lifestyle blog Primarily Inspired!