My husband is a busy man. He teaches in the computer lab full time and is also the tech guy for his school. Oh and he also designed and maintains the school website and does almost all their social media. I'm not quite sure how he does it. And he does some really cool things with his kids in the lab too! They don't just plug in and play games. One project he's been doing for a couple of years is to have each class record a video about their teacher. Then next year, he plays the video for each new class. I totally stole his idea this year. He's cool with it, though ;)

When I told my kids what were were going to do, they were all over it! It was a great end of the year project because it really kept them busy and focused during the last few days. First we brainstormed ideas together. We talked about the things they wish they would have known starting the school year. Then we grouped up and started working on a script.  I helped them a little bit so that each video didn't talk about my love for coffee and hatred for cockroaches.

We worked on memorizing our scripts and practicing in front of the class. I took a few practice videos to show them exactly why they had to speak up or slow down. We worked on really acting it out and adding emotion to what we were saying. These kids are FULL of personality, but for some reason once I started filming they got shy all of a sudden! I think I warned them too many times about taking it seriously. Next year, I think I'll lighten up on that part a bit so more of their natural personality comes through.

One more tip - I was really struggling to video the kids doing their part while the rest of the class was silent. Any small movements, whispers, or chairs scraping across the floor sounded SUPER loud and distracting in the video. I mentioned this to my fantastic teaching partner, and she offered to take my class while I filmed. I just called them into my room to film their part and was done in less than half an hour. So thankful for her!

Ok, so here's the final product! I think I'll show it to my new kids and their parents at the meet & greet we have before the first day of school. I know you're probably out of school for the year buy now (I hope!!) so you might have to tuck this idea away until next year.  Enjoy!

For more bright ideas from more than 100 different bloggers, please browse through the link-up below adn choose a topic and grade level that interests you. Thanks for visiting!

I've heard the term STEM being thrown around quite a lot over the past couple of years. I knew it stood for Science Technology Engineering and Math. And that's about all I knew. So I started researching a bit more and found that it wasn't some big, abstract, scary thing. It's actually a completely doable, fun way for your kids to experiment, collaborate, and problem solve. One of the most popular challenges is the Spaghetti Tower (sometimes called Marshmallow Tower) challenge. In fact, there's a whole website devoted to it, including a really, really interesting TED talk.

All you need for this one are some basic supplies. I put them each in a tin tray just so that I could prepare them ahead of time and have it all ready to go. The tape is the only tricky one. I measured out a yard and stuck it lightly on each table. The kids just ripped or cut off what they wanted as they needed it. You can click here download the document you see below.

It's as simple as that! They can do whatever they want with the supplies they are given, but they can't get any additional supplies. So if they turn all of their tape into an unusable bundle, they have to figure out a solution. The only rule is that the structure must be free standing at the end of the challenge and the marshmallow has to be supported on top. If your kids crave rules and directions like mine, this will be tough. They wanted to ask a million "what if' and "can we" questions. That in itself was a great challenge for them to overcome. They get 18 minutes, which can either feel like an eternity or the blink of an eye depending on how effective the team collaborates together. I used this online stopwatch and projected it on the board so they could always see where they were with time. I was calling out time checks for them, but they were not a fan, so I just let the timer do its thing.

At the end of the challenge, we only had two standing towers. They all tried to basically do the same thing and stick all the strands of spaghetti to the table somehow. Finally one group thought about how to use the string to secure it. I was really rather shocked at their results. I didn't see a lot of risk taking or experimenting. It made me realize just how important these types of challenges and explorations are. 

So after we were done, we talked about what went right and what went wrong. We talked about other things they could try. I asked them what supply they thought was most important and which one they would double if they could. Most importantly, I asked them if they wanted to try it again - and the answer was a resounding YES!

So the next day, we tried it again. But this time we had an additional supply - ten mini-marshmallows. The addition of this new supply combined with their previous experience really amped things up!

This simple activity was so amazing to watch unfold. They had to call on so many different general skills and principles and they had to do it together, which is a big focus at our school. I thought I would be impressed by their efforts on the first day, but I really wasn't. I'm so glad I gave them a second chance, because the growth and risk-taking increased dramatically over just one day. Imagine what it will be like next year when my kids get to participate in a challenge like this every week!

I'm determined to make this a focus in my room next year. I've been collecting some ideas on a new Pinterest board if you want to follow along. Just click HERE.

This is my treasure box. It's been a staple in my classroom for a long time. It's been the eye-catching distraction for many curious students wondering what fantastical rewards await them inside. I couldn't find a better close-up picture, but it's a pretty cool looking treasure box with straps and a buckle and everything...

Every August out of habit more than anything else, I plunked it down on my countertop and begged parents for donations to fill it up. My students get to visit the treasure box if they win Behavior Bingo. Over the years I started to resent the time it took them to dig through the box and find what they wanted. And I really started to resent how much space that treasure box took up in my small classroom.

So, I made the decision to ditch it this year. Of course, every little decision you make in a classroom has a whole string of follow-up decisions - what will I do with all the stuff in there? What will I do instead? What will happen to the box? How with the kids react? Well, let me help with that...

What will I use instead?
Every teacher living in the real world knows that you need something. Some tangible reward. We all want our kids to have that intrinsic motivation to behave and stay on task but let's face it - some 7 year olds have NOT mastered that behavior just yet. So, while I certainly encourage it in my kids and praise it when I see it, I also know I need something else that makes it more real for them. So what will get them excited instead of dollar store trinkets? Coupons! I started to add them to the treasure box a few years ago and over time they became the most sought after item in there anyway, which leads me to ask myself why the heck I waited so long to actually ditch the box they were in! Read more about my coupons and download some freebies by clicking on the picture below. I know some other bloggers and sellers can help you out here as well. Check out Mel D's great post here. I'm still tossing around ideas for an organizational system and I'll be sure to update you when I do.
What will I do with all the stuff in there already?
To me, it was junk. Plastic rings, pencils, little bottles of bubbles, rubber balls and bracelets... standard treasure box stuff. But there's a reason it's called a treasure box, right? That junky stuff to me is a kid's delight. So, I gave it to the kids! When cleaning out my closet, I found a whole giant bag of stuff for the box that I had never added, so I took all that loot plus what was in the box already and I divided it all up between 18 brown lunch sacks and started filling them up! There were a few items that I had 18 of (pencils, sidewalk chalk, rings, balls I had collected at a conference) and each bag got one. Then I just filled the rest of the bag with random things. Some were definitely girly (princess pencils, pink peace sign necklaces) some definitely boyish (Spiderman pencils, superhero tattoos) Not that a girl couldn't like those and vice-versa, but you know what I mean... No worries. I had a plan. I stapled the bags shut and we were ready to go.

I used to choose numbers from 1-18 and when their number was up, they got to pick a bag. 

When everyone had a bag it was time to open. They seemed to dig it!

Then I told them if they didn't love everything in their bag, they had some options. They could trade 2 things with someone else and they could give 2 things away without getting anything back. They spent a good half hour checking out the goods and trading. It was a pretty fun experience, especially for the kids who felt like they didn't get to visit the treasure box often enough.

What will I do with the box?
That one was easy. I gave it to a newer teacher who I knew would put it to good use. You know the saying, one man's trash is another man's treasure? That's one of the truest statements ever in the halls of an elementary school!

So, what do you think? Anyone else out there trash the treasure box? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

I work with an amazing team of teachers. We've been together for a long time and seen each other through celebrations, births, marriages, divorces, happy times, and heartache. We've become more like family than just friends or co-workers. And we're kind of breaking up. It's sad. So sad, that I have a lump in my throat as I type this. There are 11 teachers on our second grade team, one is moving to a new school and three are being switched to other grade levels. None of the three wanted to go and none of the remaining 8 wanted them to leave. We begged, we cried, we presented our case, we begged some more, we spent a good amount of time in denial, and now we've come to accept it. It's not going to change. Our little team is being shaken up and we just have to make the best of it. Sounds dramatic, I know. But it's really been hard on us. My new principal is awesome and we love him (albeit maybe we loved him a little more before the shake-up) and we're trusting that there's a good reason and this somehow fits into his vision for the school as a whole, but it still blows to be completely honest.

I always give my team a little end of the year gift and this year I wanted it to be really special. After being the team leader for 12+ years, it's hard to come up with new ideas, but I think this one is pretty cute! 

I filled Mason jars with all things orange and added the tag "Orange you glad it's summer?" I thought it was better than a jar full of blue stuff and an "I'll be so Blue without You" tag.

What's inside you ask? Well, every random orange thing I could find 10 of that would fit in a Mason jar. Easier said than done, by the way.

Some of the items in the picture didn't make the cut. The straws were too long, so I trimmed them. And then they looked wonky at the end, so they were out. In real life, next to all of the other orange stuff, the Kit Kats looked more red than orange, so I ate them. The Burt's Bees looked more yellow when I got them home, but they were too good not to throw in the jar. 

Now packing the jars was a feat in itself. In the end, I found it easier to put in the tall things, then layer the short things, and then stuff the scrubbie in last. I used a pair of closed scissors to push the scrubbie in and fill all the gaps. I had to really push down on the top and screw on the lid fast to get it all in there.  You've all seen that fake can of nuts that has springy snakes fly out  when you open it? Well, that's pretty much what it was like to open these. I warned my team to be careful opening them because nothing spoils a moment like a pack of Tic Tacs rocketing towards your eyeball.

It did get rather pricey to make these for 10 people, so I have some tips to cut costs. Try to find things that come in packs and break them up - like the small colored clothespins, Kit Kats, Tic Tacs, Crystal Light and Post-its. Nail polish can be really expensive or really cheap. I found that out the hard way. I found 6 of the same nail polishes that were pretty reasonable and then I needed 4 more, so I threw them in the cart. When I got home I realized that those extra 4 bottles were almost $6 each! So, pay attention to that for sure. The candy sticks were about 20 cents at Cracker Barrel and the orange foot file and scrubbie were $1 each at WalMart. Really though, there's no reason you can't fill a smaller mason jar with orange fruit candies, orange gumballs, or even just tie the tag to a real orange wrapped in cellophane, a bottle of orange soda, or just the orange scrubbie. It's the thought that counts, right? 

Click here to get the tag. 

When I first started teaching, way back when my main duty at recess was to keep the dinosaurs away from the children, we did not have telephones in our rooms, forget computers, and I think we were pretty sure this "interweb thing" was just a phase.  However, we did have carpeted classrooms. And life was good. Squirmy children could stretch out on the floor without complaining of cold tushies, chairs slid noiselessly away from desks, and my feet didn't feel as if they were on fire at the end of the day.

But, those days are gone, my friends. And now area rugs have become a hot commodity in classrooms across the country. But they are expensive. And sometimes kind of ugly and boring. And almost always an issue with the beloved fire marshall. But is changing all of that. Picture your classroom carpet. Is it one solid color. Perhaps a jazzy world map? Maybe square blocks of colors you'd never choose to decorate your room with? Well, feast your eyes on these beauties! Gorgeous, am I right? And totally legit with the fire marshall for a lot less than you would pay with other school supply companies because KidCarpet is the actual manufacturer of these rugs and they ship them directly to you without a middle man.

The carpet I chose is called On the Spot Classroom Seating Rug. While I loved the beautiful and unique designs KidCarpet offered, I really wanted the practicality of the spots. Now when I gather my kids on the carpet for a mini-lesson or read aloud, we won't have any pushing or shoving or complaints of someone touching someone else. I kind of can't wait to use the spots as part of my "comfort bubble" personal space conversation next year! Look at this gorgeous blue color! This is the 7.5 x 12 ft. rug and has 24 spots. Plenty of room to face forward, or turn & talk. I had the little guy on the left sit a bit off his spot so you can see even if they don't plant their posterior perfectly in place (yay alliteration!) there's still plenty of room.

If it's time to stretch out and watch a completely relevant and educational video or perhaps read to self, we now have a lot more room than before. Old Greenie has lasted me quite a few years, but I'm not so sad to see it go. Especially with Big Blue ready to take its place.

So, ready to win one for your classroom? Just enter using the Rafflecopter widget below. You can enter three ways:
1. Like KidCarpet on Facebook.
2. Follow me on Pinterest (just click if you already are!)
3. Visit and then come back and leave a comment here to tell me which 7.5 x 12ft (or smaller) rug you would pick if you won. Good luck!

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