I have always loved giving my students little themed gifts throughout the year.  And now that I'm the mom of a preschooler, I'm also having fun sending in treats for my daughter's classmates!

For Christmas this year, I thought it would be fun to create Play-Doh Christmas tree kits!  Instead of just a little toy or trinket, these kits will allow kids to use their imaginations and create something.  All you need are a few crafty supplies... and I bet you already have some of them in your teacher closet!

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You will need:
star beads or cutouts
FREE bag topper (linked below)

Stuff each sandwich size Ziploc with one can of green Play-Doh.  I found enough individual cans at my local craft store, but you can actually buy a case online.  Next, add your embellishments! I used red and silver tinsel pipe cleaners for the garland.  Cut two pipe cleaners in half, for a total of 4 pieces per bag.  Pony beads make the perfect ornaments-- grab a handful and add it to your kit.  Sequins or rhinestones are other fun options.  Last, add in a few stars!  I found star beads at the craft store.  You could also use a star punch to create stars from card stock.

Once your bags are stuffed, seal them up (push out as much air as you can so it will be easier to add the label).  Cut out the bag toppers (I recommend printing on card stock), fold them in half, place over the top of the bag, and staple on both sides.

I included two versions of the tag in this free file: one has a little heart with space to write your name, and the other does not.  Click HERE to download your copy!

Kids will love this creative gift!  And how cute are the decorated trees?!

Feel free to pin the image below to save this post for later or share it with your teacher friends! :)

Communication with parents is KEY when you're a teacher.  Unfortunately, getting in touch with parents isn't always easy.  Notes get crumpled in backpacks, phone calls home go unanswered, and scheduling conflicts can get in the way of face-to-face meetings.  

This is a sponsored post.  All opinions are my own.

Luckily... there's an app for that!  I was recently introduced to ClassTag, a FREE classroom communication app (and website).  I've used other apps in the past, but this one takes the cake.  It has everything you could possibly need in one handy application!  It is available as an app for iOS and Android phones and tablets, as well as a complete website.

Through ClassTag, teachers can directly message parents or choose to send a note to the whole class at once.  The private message is great for addressing a behavior issue or discussing a grade.  The class-wide announcement is a quick and easy way to remind everyone about Picture Day, for example.  The app will convert the message to text or email (based on parent preference) and it will *automatically* translate it into 50+ languages.  What?!  It's also worthy of noting that the messages are sent from private numbers, so your information is kept safe.

ClassTag makes asking for volunteers (chaperones for the zoo field trip) and donations (apple juice for the class party) EASIER than ever!  With just a few clicks, teachers can create a "Volunteer Request" or "To Do Item" and parents can sign up right from their account.  Too many volunteers (as if that's possible?) and cupcakes in excess (again, as if that's possible?) are not an issue because limits can be set right in the request.

It's also super easy to organize parent-teacher conferences with ClassTag.  I know firsthand how difficult it can be to coordinate meetings with 20+ families and their busy schedules.  ClassTag allows teachers to organize conferences 1, 2, 3 by creating time slots on certain days.  Parents can sign up for a time that works for them, and there won't be any double booking!  The app will also send out reminders so parents won't forget their meeting time, which is great!

Another awesome feature of ClassTag is the ability to share fun classroom moments with families.  Teachers can upload photos of craft projects, videos of the holiday concert, or simply information on exciting classroom happenings!  Parents can then see these notes right on the class page and stay up-to-date with what's going on at school... because every kid says, "nothing," when asked.

Other noteworthy elements include weekly newsletters and a stats page.   ClassTag will automatically send out newsletters with events, due dates and announcements from the week.  ClassTag also keeps an activity record on the "Family Activity" page that shows who is viewing and responding to messages and who isn't.  That means teachers can even check on parent engagement! Can we send them report cards, too?! ;)

Last but not least, ClassTag offers a fun feature called The Marketplace, where teachers can cash in virtual coins, or "ClassTag Coins," for classroom supplies.  Earning coins is easy-- simply use the app to communicate!!  ClassTag Coins are added when teachers send messages, when parents sign up for events, and more.  Rewards in The Marketplace range from googly eyes to books to gift cards!

ClassTag has everything teachers could possibly need rolled into one, easy-to-use app (plus full access on the web)!  It is the perfect tool for parent-teacher communication... it helps turn parents into partners!

Picture it: You're in the middle of a math lesson and you ask your class, "Does anyone know what 10 - 7 is?"  Several students' hands go up, you pick one, and instead of a number you hear, "Can I go to the bathroom?"

As teachers, we all know this scenario too well.  But interrupting learning time is only one bathroom issue that teachers face daily.  I can think of a some more off the top of my head:

-If you say yes to one student, you can almost guarantee 12 other hands will go up.
-There are several "frequent flyers" in your group.
-Your kids think the bathroom is a place to shout and play.
-Your classroom bathroom is a mess by midday.
-The bathroom is all the way down the hall.

Whatever grade you teach, you've faced one or more of these bathroom dilemmas (and probably more).  And on top of those, sometimes it's hard to determine who really has to go.  
For years I struggled to find the right solution, and I have tried a lot of different things.  I weeded out what worked and what didn't, and I put a bunch of them together into a Bathroom Rules & Management Kit!

The ideas presented in this post can be used together or alone.  Use what's right for YOU and YOUR STUDENTS!  Please always keep in mind that some children need to use the bathroom more than others for medical reasons.  Always have an open mind when it comes to bathroom emergencies as well!

* * *
First thing's first, you absolutely need to set rules and expectations for bathroom breaks.  This is important whether you have a bathroom IN your classroom or way down the hall.  I've had three classrooms without and one classroom with (by far my favorite), so I've dealt with both scenarios.

I included nine rules posters that you can display in your class bathroom, near the door as a subtle reminder before kiddos exit your room, or even in the hall outside of the bathroom.  Other reminders (not shown) include knocking first, closing the door behind you, and being quiet/no playing.

I always love to create anchor charts with my students.  Discussing proper bathroom etiquette is no exception!  There are large anchor chart pieces in this set that you can use with chart paper.  List your ideas with marker or use Post-It notes (kids can write their ideas and put them in the correct spot).  Later you can use the editable mini posters to type your answers and create a small visual.  There are two useful topics included: "Is it a good time to use the bathroom?" and "How should I behave in the bathroom?" Students can refer to these all year!

One idea that's always worked for me is the use of STOP and GO signs.  I like to hang them back-to-back right on the bathroom door.  I just punch a hole in the top, tie with string, and hang them on a command hook.  When students enter the bathroom, they flip the sign to STOP so other kids know that it's occupied.  When they come out, they flip the sign back to GO!

You can also use the STOP and GO signs as a "good to go" signal. Create a small display on your chalkboard or whiteboard using the "Is it a good time to use the bathroom?" anchor chart header.  Switch out the STOP and GO signs during the day so your students can take a look and see right away whether it's a good time to ask.

One of the biggest bathroom issues I've faced is when students ask to use the bathroom A LOT.  It's hard sometimes to figure out who is just looking to escape and who really has to go.  And on top of that, there's so much going on during the day that it's not easy to remember who already went and how many times! (I have a terrible memory, anyone else?!)

 I was looking for a fun way to TRACK and REDUCE bathroom breaks to see who was asking me all the time, while also hoping to cut back on the amount of [unnecessary] breaks.  And so, I created a checkout system that really helped!  I explain the system in further detail inside the Bathroom Rules & Management Kit, but basically I use pom poms to represent bathroom breaks.  I can easily see who's asking and who isn't.  

Another great way to track trips is with a tally chart!  You can use this on it's own, and change the chart out weekly, bi-weekly, monthly... it's up to you!  There's also a black & white version for easy copying.  You can also use the tally chart WITH the pom pom system, which is what I do!  Since the poms will be emptied daily (make it a student job!) the tally chart is a quick way to mark bathroom breaks at the end of the day and have a record on hand.  You can refer to it if you need to speak to a parent.

Individual bathroom passes are another great option.  Give each student three passes (or more or less--up to you) for the day/week and have them turn them in with each trip they take.  Passes can be kept at student desks or in a designated spot (like a pocket chart) and they can be dropped in a specific turn-in bin.

Whichever tracking system you use, I highly recommend adding an incentive!  Candy, stickers, mini erasers, and bouncy balls are all fun ideas!  If kiddos aren't asking or using up all their passes in any given day/week/month (again, it's up to you), they can earn a little reward OR earn tickets for prize drawings.  This will help discourage those unnecessary breaks.

All of the ideas above AND MORE are included in my Bathroom Rules & Management Kit.  You will also find hall passes, a Wheelchair Accessible sign, labels, and various options.  I really tried to include EVERYTHING you need to manage bathroom breaks in your classroom!!  I'm telling you-- these ideas are GAME CHANGERS!!

Feel free to pin the image below to save this post for later or share it with your teacher friends! :)

One of my favorite organizational tools for the classroom is the B.E.E. Book!  B.E.E. stands for Bring Everything Everyday.  It's a fancy name for a take home folder. ;) 

But it's not just any take home folder.  It's the BEST take home folder.  Because it keeps kids organized.  And their parents.  And me.  I call that a win-win-win!

*I'm going to lose the dots and just refer to it as a BEE now, don't judge ;)*
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I purchase and put together the BEE Books for my class.  I like the folders to be uniform and it gives me a chance to have them ready for the first day of school.  I always choose bright yellow folders for my BEE Books, because bees.  Black folders would also be a perfect fit!  I buy the poly portfolios with prongs as they have the best chance of lasting throughout the school year.

You can include as little or as much inside as you want.  I keep mine fairly simple.  On the outside I add a cute label with my kiddos' names (you can add student numbers, too).

On the inside I label the left and right pockets.  The left side is for papers that should be LEFT at home.  These might include completed papers, school flyers... anything that can be taken out and stay at home.  The right side is for papers that should come RIGHT back to school.  These might include notices or test papers that need signatures, homework to complete... anything that you want to see again.

I also include a 3-hole pencil pouch in the BEE that we use for money and notes.  Without it, money for lunch, field trips, and book orders was lost in pockets and desks, and notes to me were crumpled in the bottom of backpacks.  Now we all know where to put and look for these items!

As I mentioned above, I keep my BEEs simple.  Aside from the labeled pockets and zipper pouch, I add in two clear page protectors for our spelling menu and homework/skills assignment sheet.  I also 3-hole punch our behavior calendars and pop them in the BEE, too.  If you use a clip chart, you can even stick a mini version inside so parents are aware of the color code! 

BEE Books go home with students every afternoon, and come back to school every morning.  My firsties know that when they empty their backpacks in the morning, their BEEs go in a specific bin, and that they aren't supposed to take anything out (either myself or my aide will go through it).  If you teach older kids, you can assign more responsibility... or even as the year progresses with the young ones!

If you want to make your own BEE Books for your class, I provided the cover and inside labels in my *editable* Notebook & Folder Labels pack.  There are tons of other labels, too!  You just type your class list in ONCE and student names will autofill on EVERY page of labels.  So easy!  They are made to go on these Avery labels because they are nice and big.

Feel free to pin the image below to save this post for later or share it with your teacher friends! :)

I am VERY excited to share my latest product with you!  My Year in School Memory Book is a WONDERFUL way for students to document the *entire* school year!
This post contains affiliate links.

This memory book is special because students will add to these ALL YEAR!  There are monthly pages for kiddos to fill out at the end of each month, as well as pages for special days like the First Day of School or the 100th Day.  I even included a page so students can look forward to Next Year.

I also was sure to differentiate this pack.  There are THREE levels of memory book printables included to accommodate different grade levels and all types of learners!  I set it up for students in Pre-K/TK, 1st, 2nd, 3rd & 4th {covers also included for those grade levels}.

Last but not least, I included an editable PowerPoint document so you can add memory pages for ANY day you like {Halloween, Reading Day, Spirit Week, etc.}!

Now a quick look at how I put my books together!

The Astrobrights envelopes I used are neon and 9x12" (they don't seem to have neon in stock anymore, but more a primary set).  They come in a pack of 25 and have an adhesive seal, which is what you want in order to laminate {rather than a prong or string}.  The envelopes *just fit* inside a legal size laminating pouch, which is perfect for at home laminating!  If you have access to a large laminator, by all means, use that one instead!! ;)

Complete directions for putting it all together can be found inside My Year in School Memory Books!  If you don't want to go the envelope route, I also included a page of ideas for other ways to assemble your books!

For another look at this product, head to my TpT shop! Be sure to download the preview, too!  I hope you love it!! :)

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