End of Year Teacher Gift

paper pockets finished all

Not too long ago, I found pictures of Gift Holding Cards made with scrapbook paper. I filed the idea away knowing I could do something along the same lines in the near future. Miss Priss and Mr. Star Wars wanted to give scratch off lottery tickets as end of year teacher gifts again (mostly because they know they get to scratch any leftovers), and I have spent three days engineering my own gift holding cards to hold the lottery tickets.

paper pockets supplies

I used scrapbook paper and located all of the various trim, ribbon, sequins, and embellishments I have from American Girl projects. I dug out craft scissors with the decorative edges and my fancy hole punchers. You can really use any kind of decorative materials you have on hand (stamps, stickers…).

paper pockets prep

Cut two coordinating pieces of paper to 4″ x 6″. Fold one piece over about 2/3 of the way along the 4″ side and press firmly to crease. I first sewed the folded piece and any front trim together along the folded edge before attaching to the back piece. I then stacked the two pieces together, lining up the edges, and sewed around the outside to attach the folded piece of paper to the back leaving the top of the pocket open. If you don’t sew, double sided adhesive roller tape along the edges would work too, but I must tell you, sewing paper is super fun.

paper pockets finished set 1

We filled our gift pockets with the lottery tickets and slipped a small handwritten note in the front of the pocket. The pockets also fit gift cards. I think they would be a pretty way to deliver a thoughtful note too. The Original Blog Post with the pocket idea had single fancy tea bags in the pocket.

paper pockets finished set 2

paper pockets finished set 3

paper pockets finished set 4

Helping Verbs Help

helping verb list

Around this time every year, I require my 4th grade students to memorize the helping verbs. I have a specific order for the 23 verbs that fits perfectly to the tune of “Mary Had a Little Lamb”. I usually call some of my former students from across the hall to demonstrate This Helping Verb Song. My former students never fail to provide an excellent demonstration. Once the song is committed to memory, it will be burned into your brain for the rest of your life. Memorizing helping verbs aids students with a variety of language arts tasks.

Helping Verbs are Tricky

  • Many of the verbs on the helping verb list are difficult. They are the verbs that don’t sound like verbs– the being verbs are the main culprit. Often, words from the helping verb list appear alone in a sentence. In that situation, the helping verb IS the verb. It is easy to identify because of the memorized list of verbs. I can’t visualize a person “is-ing”, but I will mark it because it is from the helping verb list. Just say the list in your head every time you look at a sentence to check for the tricky verbs.

linking verbs

  • Locating these tricky verbs will be useful when students are working with linking verbs.

Past, Present, and Future

  • Helping verbs create past, present, and future. In order to identify verbs in sentences, students will need to find the main verb and any helping verbs that go with the main verb. This will be called the complete verb or verb phrase; it’s part of the predicate (fancy word for action part of the sentence). Teachers love to ask students to find the complete verb in sentences. 

verb phrase

  • Students should find the main verb in a sentence. Students should then recite the helping verb list in their head and look for any helping verbs in the sentence. If they see one (or two), group it with the main verb and label the complete verb.
  • WARNING: Not is NOT a verb, but it lurks about in the middle of helping verbs and their main verb partner. In the sentence, “I do not enjoy grammar,” do enjoy is the complete verb. Not is an adverb.

Passive Voice

  • Teachers want students to eliminate passive voice in papers, yet students rarely know how to do it. Have a student circle all verbs from the helping verb list that appear in an essay. Then, revise the paper taking out half of the circled verbs. This tip fixes passive voice in many cases without really knowing it. Ultimately, we want students to avoid passive voice on purpose, but this is a great work around until a student has more experience avoiding passive voice.

passive voiceGrammar is a frustrating subject for students. There are exceptions to every rule. Students who have some reliable tools to help during confusing grammar situations do better. For some other grammar tips for students, visit my Previous Grammar Post. I also have grammar resources available at my teacher store. CLICK HERE to purchase great grammar materials that students really get.

The Right Reading Level

       

One of TheRoomDad’s best friends, affectionately known as Uncle Burrito at our house, visited a few months back and asked me about book recommendations for his 2nd grader. His daughter is a crazy good reader and not only finishes books at mock speed, she also reads at a level that is much higher than an average 8 year old. He said that she finishes books on the ride home from the library or book store, and the book never even makes it into the house. He wanted book ideas that might slow her pace a little but also have content that is suitable for a 2nd grader.

peter-and-the-starcatchers

How do you help your child pick a book when they are reading at a higher level than their age?

  • First of all, it is OK to read below reading level. It increases fluency, supports comprehension, and minimizes frustration. In fact, I often encourage reading at the low end of a child’s reading range when reading for pleasure or during “free reading” time.
  • Think about books you loved as a child and recommend those titles. I find that classic books stand the test of time very well, and I think the content is not nearly as “edgy” as some literature that is published today. 
  • Find a series that your child loves. This is a great way to buy some time before you have to come up with more titles. If you can find a series with a good first book, chances are the content will stay at about the same level in all of the books.
  • Not only can you follow a series, you can also follow an author. But, some authors write for a young and older audience, so pay attention. Think about Judy Blume’s Forever versus Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing.
  • Read the book jacket or online summary of a book. If the synopsis mentions death, destruction, or “coming of age” (translation = puberty or romance), that is a red flag that the content may be for an older child.
  • Our library has a new eReader service. You can check out books through your iPad, and they download to your device. The book is deleted from your iPad on the due date. This won’t slow down your speedy reader, but it will reduce your visits to the book store and library.

Here are a few book options that are high reading level for the grade but “clean” content.

Advanced 1st/2nd Grade Reader:

  • All of a Kind Family by Sydney Taylor, 4.9
  • The Black Stallion by Walter Farley, 6.5
  • The Candy Shop War by Brandon Mull, 4.6
  • Cricket in Times Square by George Selden, 5.9
  • The Doll People by Ann M. Martin, 3.8
  • Henry Huggins series by Beverly Cleary, 4.1-5.7
  • The Indian in the Cupboard series, 5.5-6.1
  • The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie Edwards, 7.3
  • The Lemonade War series, 3.4-4.5
  • Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, 4.3-5.3
  • The Million Dollar Putt by Dan Gutman, 4.5
  • No Talking (5.0) and School Story (4.7) by Andrew Clements
  • Poppy and Friends series by Avi, 3.5-5.8
  • Ramona series by Beverly Cleary, 3.5-5.9
  • The Secret Garden (6.8) and The Little Princess (4.0) by Frances Hodges Burnett
  • The Sherlock Files series by Tracy Barrett, 4.3
  • Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica George, 3.0
  • Who Was series by various authors, 3.0-4.0

Advanced 3rd/4th Grade Reader:

  • Far North by Will Hobbs, 6.8
  • How to Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell, 5.7-7.4
  • The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford, 8.1
  • My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George, 6.1
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society series by Trenton Lee Stewart, 6.3
  • Urchin of the Riding Stars by M.I. McAllister, not leveled
  • Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, 6.2
  • Princess Academy by Shannon Hale (sequel has a little romance), 5.0
  • Remarkable by Lizzie K.. Foley, not leveled
  • The Secret Series by Pseudonymous Bosch, 5.3
  • The White Mountains series, 6.1
  • The Wizard of Oz series by Frank Baum, 6.9

Reading Levels

  • I included a reading level for each book/series on the list. This is a guideline only. 4.3 is roughly where a typical student would be in the 3rd month of 4th grade. For more information on leveling books you can read this article on the Scholastic website. Not only are books leveled by content, they also look at the length of words and sentences. More words with lots of syllables might bump up the reading level. So, The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles, which has words like Papilionaceous, earns a higher level.

Bottoms Up

teacher gift iced tea kit

In honor of National Teacher Appreciation Week, I am sharing some insider information about the teacher world. Teachers have limited access to water or other beverages during the day. There are water fountains, faucets, and other drink sources at the school, but teachers just can’t get to them. Here is what happens. During the school day, teachers can’t leave the students unattended. Ever. One year, I taught in the 10th row of trailers at a growing high school and needed a 15 minute window to make it into the building and back for access to water.

iced tea kit contents

With that in mind, I picked up some double insulated cups with lids and straws I happened to see at the Dollar Store. I filled the cup with ingredients for a fruit iced tea mix and a $5 Starbucks gift card then tied Citrus Tea Labels to the cup with the recipe for the iced tea. The tea contents will probably be tossed, but the Starbucks card and insulated cup will be enjoyed. Every teacher I know needs/wants/uses a water bottle of some kind. The double insulated Tervis tumbler style are the best because they don’t sweat all over the papers on the teacher’s desk and keep drinks colder longer.

iced tea kit contents close

If you are working on an end of year teacher gift or a teacher appreciation gift of some kind, the cup is low cost and teacher approved. If you happen to know that your child’s teacher is addicted to Diet Coke or Dunkin Donuts coffee, those are good appreciation beverage gifts too.

I know you might be tempted by cutesy notes attached to 2-liter bottles of A&W Root Beer or Mountain Dew that you may have seen on Pinterest but do not give in to the dark side. A 2-liter bottle is impractical and goes flat before a teacher could drink it. And besides, A&W root beer or Mountain Dew?? Who drinks that? Unless you have heard straight from the source that these are soft drinks of choice, DO NOT purchase.

End of Year Writing Portfolios

writing portfolio binder

Several months ago I submitted my name to guest post on the teaching blog, All Things Upper Elementary. Today’s the day that my post goes live! In my guest post, I share one of my favorite teaching projects of the year. My students always create an end of year writing portfolio to showcase their writing (and growth in writing) from the school year.

Whether you are a parent or a teacher (or a writer) being able to look back through a year’s worth of work is always a thrill. In the case of my students, there are obvious changes in handwriting, sentence structure, word choice, and style. Since I am with my students every day, I am not always aware of how much they improve over the course of nine months. As soon as my students complete their portfolios, and I can compare writing from August to the writing from April, it is immediately obvious how much a child’s writing can progress in a school year.

portfolio requirements

My students use a 3-ring binder and select favorite writing from the year based on a checklist I give them. They organize the writing with a table of contents. Since we complete this project at the beginning of May, these portfolios often end up as Mother’s Day presents (hint, hint).

my children's work

With my own children, I keep *significant* project and writing samples that come home. I deposit these special items in a big pile on a shelf in my closet (and secretly throw away school work that does not make the cut when THEY are not looking). At some point during the summer, I sort the stack and organize the work into a storage box with Miss Priss and Mr. Star Wars’ name/year on the front. Then, I am ready to start over again in the fall.

If you have not already clicked through to my post at All Things Upper Elementary, feel free to do so now. The writing portfolio teacher instructions and handouts are available for free at my Teachers Pay Teachers store. Happy almost end of the school year!

portfolio samples