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The holidays are so much fun but, let’s face it, they can be a bit rough on the bank account! With all of the parties, family gatherings, and good cheer to spread it can really add up. Here are a few cheap holiday student gifts that you and your kids will love!

Scholastic Books ($34 for 32 coupons)

Use Birthday Coupons to let your students choose a book for up to $5. Or, if you have a lot of Scholastic Points saved up, you can use them to purchase the books. I did this with my students last year and they loved it! The students got to look through the December catalogs to see what they would like to choose. I then placed all of the orders and the books were there for them when we returned to school. It is so fun for the kids to get to go “shopping” and for a few of them it is one of the only times that they have ever gotten to order books so it meant a lot to them!

Homework Passes

These have to be one of the easiest and cheapest gifts to give your students. They cost you almost nothing and the kids love them! Who doesn’t love a night of no homework?!?! Just print, cut, personalize and you’re ready to go! Here are a few that we love:

Activity Book or Journal & Crayons

For some of our little guys, winter break means a lot of time entertaining themselves. Why not provide them with a fun, safe activity that they will love? Winter Activity Books, like this one (free!), are great for challenging your kiddos and keeping their minds engaged! Here is another one with an emphasis on journaling ($1.50)! You can grab a bulk supply of crayons (24 packs) on Amazon for about $30! Put them together and you have a really nice gift that your kiddos and parents will love!

The best student gift ideas for the holidays! I can't wait! I love Holiday Student Gift shopping and these are so cheap!

The best student gift ideas for the holidays! I can't wait! I love Holiday Student Gift shopping and these are so cheap!

Do you remember that meeting that you went to last month? The one where they gave you that really important paper about how your evaluations would be changing this year. You put that in a safe spot that would be easy to find again, right? Of course, you did, it’s right … hang on, you know you saw it somewhere… Or how about that thought that you had about Little Billy’s reading last week. You still remember that right? I mean you really don’t have that much going on during the day or that much to keep track of. You can totally remember every little thing that goes on during a school day. No? You either?

No worries! We’ve been there! We were trying our hardest to stay organized and keep track of all of the big-little things. What was our solution? Evernote! We know, we know, you’ve heard of Evernote before. Maybe you’ve even tried it and it was fine and all but just you wait. Here are five reasons why we love Evernote for teachers who want help to stay organized, proactive, and… let’s face it… sane!

1. Moleskine Evernote Notebooks:

Did you know that Moleskine makes notebooks specifically for Evernote? These things are amazing! Not only do they have those baby-bottom-soft pages that made you fall in love with Moleskine notebooks in the first place, but these can be integrated with Evernote. That’s right, you can take your notes in this cute little notebook at your meetings and use the Evernote app to scan your notes into Evernote making them easily accessible, shareable and most importantly (at least in our opinion) searchable! You no longer need to remember exactly what meeting you took notes on A, B, or C. Now you can just search for that note in Evernote just like you would on Google and any notes you have on that topic will pop up. You can even share just the top section of the page with your team while keeping the bottom section private. How awesome is that!

We really like being able to use a notebook instead of a computer, iPad, or iPhone to take notes because sometimes you just want something that looks a little more discrete and want to look completely engaged in what is being discussed. Sometimes when we are on our computers, it can look like we are not paying attention – like we are busy checking email, grading papers, or maybe even be partaking in a little online shopping. That won’t be the case with this little notebook.

Another thing we love about these notebooks is that they come with stickers, and we’re not talking about just any stickers, they come with Smart Stickers! That’s right, these little stickers will prompt Evernote to automatically tag your notes or place them into certain folders when you scan in your notes depending on how you program them. You’re the boss! Send those notes to the notebooks (folders) you choose.

I'd used Evernote before but I had no idea it could do so much! Will definitely need to try it again! Evernote for Teachers is a must read for Teachers looking to get organized!

2. Create Student Portfolios:

Creating student e-portfolios can be especially helpful when it comes time for parent-teacher conferences, IEP meetings, and RTI meetings. Evernote can help you keep samples of student work, behavioral and instructional notes on students, a record of parent communication, and RTI or IEP meeting notes about a particular student, all in one place. Having all of these notes in one place will help you stay organized and build a better overall picture of who your students are and where they are academically. Being able to quickly reference this information will help you to stay calm when an unexpected student concern arises.

I'd used Evernote before but I had no idea it could do so much! Will definitely need to try it again! Evernote for Teachers is a must read for Teachers looking to get organized!

3. Store PD Certificates:

As teachers, we know how many pieces of paper you are given daily! You not only need to read through them but you often need to store them for later use. With Evernote’s Scannable app (see #5), you can easily scan and store all of these important documents online. Just think, all of those professional development certificates that you get can be scanned in with just a few clicks and they will be nice and safe in your Professional Development Certificates folder on Evernote. No more praying that you never get audited because you’re sure you’ll never be able to find what you need. Evernote will keep track of them for you!

I'd used Evernote before but I had no idea it could do so much! Will definitely need to try it again! Evernote for Teachers is a must read for Teachers looking to get organized!

4. Faculty and Department Meetings:

Have you seen Evernote’s new meeting notes? They’re fantastic! We love how they are organized into sections for you. The sections include information about the meeting such as the date, time, location, participants, and description. There is also a section for you to take notes. Our favorite part is the Next Steps section where you can keep track of any follow-up tasks you may have. You can even set a reminder to remember to attend that meeting or to remind you to complete your Next Steps.

Not only can you store your notes on Evernote, but you can attach scanned copies of any and all handouts using the Scannable App (see #5) and any website links that may be shared with you. This way everything can stay together in one place making it easier to find and remember what you need when you need it! You can also share your notes with your team so that you can all stay on the same page.

I'd used Evernote before but I had no idea it could do so much! Will definitely need to try it again! Evernote for Teachers is a must read for Teachers looking to get organized!

5. Scannable App:

As we’ve mentioned a few times in this post, Evernote has a Scannable app. This app is magic! It will automatically scan, adjust the orientation, crop, and enhance the image of the page you are scanning. The app can scan multiple pages to save and upload as one document. It can save the scans as either PDF’s or images making it easy to share files and organize your information. You can even search your files if they’re saved as PDFs. As teachers, we don’t often handle business cards, but if you do need to add the information from a business card to iPhone contacts, the Scannable app can do it for you in seconds! How awesome is that!

Enter to Win!

Want a Moleskine Evernote Notebook for yourself? You’re in luck! The Teachers are Magical Contest is live November 24, 2017 – December 15, 2017. The grand prize includes a Moleskine Evernote Notebook, a Corkcicle Unicorn Magic Stemless, a ten pack of Staedtler pens (Anna’s favorite pens), and a cute tote to bring your pens and notebook with you to your meetings! Click here to enter now to win!

I'd used Evernote before but I had no idea it could do so much! Will definitely need to try it again! Evernote for Teachers is a must read for Teachers looking to get organized!

Teacher, you’re magical! You have a thousand jobs to juggle in a day and, still, you manage to create miracles and make it look easy! Even fun?! This year for Thanksgiving, we are grateful for you! For all of the hard work that you put in, the long hours and the love and care you give your students. For the positivity you put into the world. You make a difference each and every day. Thank you!

In honor of you, we are having a Teachers are Magical Giveaway! We are giving away prizes to two lucky teachers! The Grand Prize will be given to the teacher with the highest score on the leaderboard. How do you get more points? Share this amazing giveaway with all of your teacher friends, share the magic on social media, and follow us on social media. It’s so easy and it’s fun!

The Unicorn Prize will be given to a teacher selected at random but remember the more points you have the better your chances of winning are! We are so excited about these prizes and kicking ourselves for not having bought extra Corkcicles for ourselves! Mmmm. Easily up for a glass of wine but wine in a Unicorn Magic Stemless is.. magical! 🙂

So, what are the prizes?

The Grand Prize includes a Moleskine Evernote Notebook, a Corkcicle Unicorn Magic Stemless, a ten pack of Staedtler pens (Anna’s favorite pens), and a cute zipper bag to bring your pens and notebook with you to meetings!

The Unicorn Prize is, of course, a Corkcicle Unicorn Magic Stemless! So cute and, just like unicorns, getting hard to find!!!


Click here to sign up and get started! Remember, just like magic, this giveaway lasts just a short time! Be sure you enter today! Good luck teachers! You’re the best!


Teachers, check out this contest! I want that bag!!! And the Corkcicle... Magical Unicorn color... love!!! Need to enter this teacher giveaway today!

Teachers are Magical Giveaway

November 24, 2017 – December 15, 2017

Click here for the details!






Clipart and Fonts by Seniors, Kimberly Geswein Fonts, and To and Mo  Studio

End of year countdowns begin. The countdown to summer makes us smile! The countdown to end of year testing – not so much! Use these strategies to cover it all, and keep it organized and fresh when reviewing for end of year testing.


Cover it all and keep it organized:

  • Jot down a list of the topics you want to review with your students before end of the year testing begins.
  • Keep that list in Google or somewhere else online so that you can keep adding to it each year and throughout the year
  • Be sure to include academic and content vocabulary in your review. Sometimes kids can get hung up on one word and not be able to truly show what they know.
  • Once you have your list, print it out and cross items off as you review the concept with your kiddos. We love crossing things off our “to do” lists so paper and pencil work for us. If you prefer tech, keep track of the concepts you’ve covered by highlighting them.

 The countdown to summer makes us smile! The countdown to end of year testing - not so much! Tips for reviewing for end of year testing that keep it fresh.

Keep it fresh and fun:

  • Play games! Reviewing while playing games makes the work motivating and fun. Which also increases the likelihood that the concepts will stick. Add the nicer weather into the mix when everyone gets spring fever and playing games can become a game changer for test review.
  • Quizlet or Kahoot or Quizizz all have pre-made games in several areas so hopefully, they have what your kids need. Another option is to have your kids make the games – that helps kids cement the concepts as they make the game and also as they play the game.
  • Have your kids prepare short review lessons. Let them work in small groups, keep their focus narrow and their prep time to about an hour so they stay focused. Encourage them to include short videos or make presentations to explain a concept. If they make a video, be sure to save it for next year. The younger kids will get a kick out of seeing the “big” kids’ creations. Voila – teachers in the making!
  • Sing! We love songs to learn and to review concepts. Check out the selection on The Bazillions, Numberocks, and Schoolhouse Rock.

Reviewing for end of year testing doesn’t have to be drudgery!

End of year testing may be a fact of life but it can be meaningful and fun. Got more tips to share? Please do! Together, we can do this!

Reading news makes for a great nonfiction read! It’s real stories about real people in real time. Here There Everywhere (HTE) is a great source of news for kids.


What makes HTE a source of news for kids that you can count on?

HTE presents news aimed at students in elementary and older grades. Claudia David Heitler created the site to help kids learn about people and events shaping the world and to see their own connection to it. Her experience at NBC Network News’ Today show, then reading and sharing news with her own kids, evolved into HTE as it is today. She describes news as a kind of story telling. The kids in Marti’s classroom would tell you there are some pretty amazing stories out there! This is a great source for many of them.

Ways to use HTE in your classroom as a source of news for kids

  • As self selected nonfiction reading
    We love that HTE is a site with content we can trust. That’s great because it allows us to let kids explore independently and decide what they’d like to read and learn more about.
  • As a mentor text for a nonfiction read aloud or mini-lesson
    Marti’s kids were a combination of intrigued and horrified to read that spiders make up the group eating the largest amount on the planet. This article provided a great format for using the reading strategies of asking questions and tracking their thinking as we read the article. Kids were totally into paired discussions and had plenty to share with the class. It was an enthralling read aloud – kind of like a train wreck you just can’t look away from but very motivating to discuss. It was also great for giving practice using context clues to determine the meanings of words.


HTE has news for everyone – some serious, some funny, some just bizarre – pretty much reflects our world. We’ll keep coming back to see what we can discover next. Got sources of news that work well for the kids in your class? If so, please share! Together, we can do this!


Crayons in short supply? Need more and different books for your classroom library? And feeling short on personal funds? No worries! There are organizations ready to help teachers with donated and reusable supplies. In fact, they have a two-fold mission – to supply reusable resources for classrooms and to help the earth with less stuff added to landfills. It’s a win for everyone!

Reusable resources for classrooms

We’re fortunate to have SCARCE closeby in the Chicago area to help with an amazing variety of classroom supplies. Marti’s found:

  • the ordinary – markers, rulers, scissors
  • organization – bins for books, 3-ring binders
  • the unusual – a wooden set of simple machines including a working pulley
  • amazing books – all kinds of picture books!! Love finding Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey and Mouse Match by Ed Young
  • stuff she never knew she needed – elevated land forms to help kids learn what a delta, a plateau and other land forms are
  • stuff for differentiation – science books leveled for lower readers
  • math stuff – place value blocks, Tangram sets, a fraction game

Find a source close to you

The Reusable Resources Association provides contact information for sites in several states. Hopefully you’ll find one near you. All organizations are committed to reducing stuff ending up in landfills but they vary in terms of who they’re open to – some are open to public school teachers, others are open to the public at large. Please check to find the details.

Continuing the cycle

Many of these centers can work for you when you’re spring cleaning your classroom. Marti has taken 20+ boxes of books and other supplies to SCARCE. That means other teachers can find treasures for their kids and the cycle continues. It’s been so much easier for us to move things along when we know they’re going to a good home. Need help moving things along? Check out Marie Kondo’s books.

Got tips?

Got tips for finding reusable resources for classrooms? Please share – it’s great for the Earth and for keeping teachers’ costs down. Together, we can do this!

Are the books in your classroom library sitting hodge-podge, willy-nilly, in absolute random order? Stop! Don’t even think of straightening. Let your students take on the task of reorganizing the classroom library. They can take leopards out of the history bin and put them where they belong with the animals because, thankfully, they are still around. It’s time to spring clean the classroom library. Yes, all those hastily, shelved books need to be straightened and set back with their kind.

It’s a Do-Over!

Yup, you had the kids shelve the books at the beginning of the school year but, face it, things are looking raggedy. Good thing – that means it’s well used. Easy fix – means it’s time to tidy up and the kids can take charge!

Get the kids to clean the classroom library

  • Friday afternoon – perfect time to put heavy-duty academics on pause and spring clean. Especially in the middle of testing season, taking on a physical task can give everyone a welcome break. Plus, it makes for a fresh start on Monday. Umm! Organization!
  • Ownership – we’ve all heard it before. Many times. So it’s got to be true. When kids do the work organizing and cleaning, they become zealous protectors of their efforts. Protecting with vigilance and energy that lets teachers focus their energies on… so many other things!
  • It’s not you doing the work! Yahoo! In this case delegating the task is a win-win for everyone. The kids get to work together on what is essentially a community project. You get out of the task – face it, cleaning the classroom at 3:00ish on a Friday is not a good idea!

Setting aside a time to tidy helps everyone take care of and have pride in their space. We think Marie Kondo has it right when she says “tidying orders the mind”.

Got tips for tidying? Please share. Together, we can do this!

Each Monday, the New York Times posts one of their images, inviting students to discuss what they see. Posted without any text attached, students rely on their inferencing skills to make meaning about what they see. That’s right – there are no headlines or captions. Which means kids draw solely on clues from the New York Times picture when they build their evidence.

Ideas for using “What’s going on in this picture?

  • Class discussion
    Check out this Monday’s post to find a picture sure to get kids involved.     Without the clues words usually provide, it’s a great opportunity for kids to get clues from the New York Times picture then use their inferencing skills. Discussion questions are also posted to get conversations started.
  • Be part of a bigger discussion.
    Visual Thinking Strategies collaborates with The Times to facilitate a discussion about the picture. This happens on Mondays between 9:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Eastern time. With their help making connections and paraphrasing, kids get the support they may need to have deeper discussions.
  • Writing prompt
    Encourage kids to build their observation skills by looking closely to discover something more in the picture. Then, write to explain what’s happening. Change up the writing by participating in blogging sponsored on Mondays. The VTS facilitators are gentle persuaders urging kids to tell more.
  • Check back on Thursdays to get the background info not posted on Monday. Checking back and discovering how closely the class discussions did or didn’t align to the actual news story could make for some deep discussions. Information posted on Thursdays includes the source of the image as well as when and why it was published by The Times. Then, your kiddos can have a follow-up discussion that includes how having the background information to the image might change their perspective or even their opinion of it.

Want to find out more?

The Times offers an information page to help you get started. Have tips to share? Please write! Together, we can do this!

Come with a plan Stan! Start with a plan to maximize what you can get done.

So many things to do… sometimes makes our heads spin! What to do first? Start with a plan and you’ll have more to show for it. Not all that different from the idea behind learning targets for our kiddos. You can aim for a goal if you have a clear target – in our case, the tasks that will most help us do our jobs. Plan. Organize. Instruct. Facilitate. Assess. You get the idea – the list goes on so come to your plan time with a plan and get the important stuff done!

Teacher's plan time goes so quickly! Poof! It seems to disappear. Come with a plan Stan! Start with a plan to maximize what you can get done.

Ready. Set. Go!

  • Short plan time – one of those, I drop kids off then, blink. It’s time to pick them up again!
    These plan times are stinkers because they’re gone so fast. But the time can still be helpful if you’re ready with a plan to accomplish short jobs.

    • Like copying. Bring the masters with you when you’re walking the kids to music. That way, you’re spending your time doing a task that gets you ahead instead of doubling back to the classroom to grab what you need.
    • Email
  • See it all at your finger tips – Our Icon Lesson Planner has spaces to organize teacher’s plan time.


icon lesson planner – refer to plan time, have scheduled to work on 2-3 or more 🙂 days when we’ll be doing it

Teacher’s plan time goes so quickly!

Poof! It seems to disappear. What tips do you have for maximizing yours? Please share. Together, we can do this!

Family vacation! Does that conjure up memories or what? Whether or not your images closely match those of the Griswold family, there is NOTHING like a road trip! We’ve got ideas for settling back. Enjoy the ride!

Grab Audible!

Books on tape that is! Yes, you can go for the heady stuff; dive into documentaries on ancient civilizations or learn a new language. But, nah! We’re just up for some fun listens. Try these series:   A Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen and The Fox and O’Hare Series by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg.

Snacks for the road!

We’re breaking snacks down into categories because there are some must haves that just don’t fit into the healthy category but no matter. They’re a definite must! And, then there are the healthy ones to include because after all, your destination is the beach!

  • Healthy options:
    • When you want to keep snacking, we suggest lots of raw veggie strips with hummus for scooping. Red, yellow and orange peppers are a fav of ours. Snap peas, zucchini strips, carrots, and celery are also good. Apples too, of course.
    • Healthy but don’t go crazy – roasted almonds, trail mixes. Check out Sahale. We can personally tell you that the Raspberry Crumble Cashew Trail Mix is delish!
  • Must haves that are in no way healthy:
    • Salty snacking mixes like Gardetto’s and, our personal fav, Synder’s of Hanover!
    • Sour gummy worms, m&ms, snack mixes with mini peanut butter cups – you get the picture!

So most of our plans revolve around food. Figures! Got road trip favorites? Please share your family vacation faves!