Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Healthy Testing Treats

 Yes, you can afford it!

I know hearing "fresh produce" and "fruit" as an already underpaid and on-the-verge of broke teacher can be scary. The idea of providing our kiddos with some delicious and nutritious snacks before the dreaded tests we are mandated to give is wonderful and I'm sure most, if not all of us, want to provide them. But nutritious + fresh always = expensive... right?


I gave my students healthy and delicious snacks on the day of testing for the three years. I taught at a small, private Christian school where I administered the Stanford Achievement Tests. They were broken up over the course of two weeks, and in third grade I also give the OLSAT. So, in all, we typically tested for about 7 days. Yep, you read that right. SEVEN days of testing. It was a lot on my students (and me!) By the end we are all exhausted and each morning could be a dread to get up and go in when you know what's coming. But once I began giving out these delicious (yet healthy) snacks, it didn't much feel that way. My students were excited to come in each morning to discover the new "surprise" snack on their desk, and I looked forward to seeing their eyes light up, hearing a chorus of "Thank you, Mrs. Morrison!"s, and listen to them try to read and "get" the pun on their note card. <<side note - the iced tea pun is always hilarious... it sounds more like "tootly" when they read it instead of "towteally." I love it.>>

These treats have been circulating on Pinterest and the TeachersPayTeachers' social media pages for the past two years, and recently I've seen some comments about how expensive it can be. At first, that thought discouraged me because to me cost it nothing. My students are precious and deserve the world. I want them to know how much I love them and will show them any way I can. If I have to go without for a few days so that I can buy my students some healthy snacks to eat for breakfast [especially knowing some aren't getting that before they come in] then I will absolutely do that. With that all being said, at the time it was just my husband and I at home. So, I probably did have a little more time and money than others might to make this happen. But even if I didn't I would make sure I could in most affordable way possible and wanted to share some ideas and tips I have discovered over the years to do so. (and now that I'm a mom, I would love to know that my child was eating healthy to help them succeed and do their best at school, and know that their teacher cared enough to do this for them!)

I took a trip around the grocery store and compiled a bunch of ideas to share with you to help provide your students with healthy testing treats and treat your wallet kindly at the same time!

I went to my local Giant Eagle, which is not the cheapest store in town, to show you that even there it can be done affordably. But don't forget, that with large class sizes, Sam's Club, Costco, and WalMart are all viable options that will more than likely be even cheaper than the deals I show you here. If you live near an Aldi's, they too offer very affordable produce options. I just prefer my local grocery store and usually purchase everything on one day to use over the course of the week and I have found that Aldi's produce won't stay as fresh as long, so it's not my first choice. That's just me personally. But I know you can save a bundle there too! and of course, local farmer's markets would be most ideal, it all just depends on where you live and the time of year you are testing. Heck, you could even grow some of your own if you plan it out in advance and live in the right climate!

Okay, let's take the grocery store tour and see what kind of deals we can get...

I'm first going to start at Target, because I was so excited to find something for APRICOTS without having to actually buy apricots. I was also able to take advantage of a coupon on their app, so I scored a GREAT deal. Check it out...

I found these Target brand apricot fruit strips for just $2.99 for a box of TEN! I only needed 2 boxes for my class, which was just about $6 total. Not bad.

Then, I found their app had $1 that same brand when you spent $5, so I automatically got one dollar off at checkout, and spent just $5 total on all of my students for that treat day. It comes out to about 28 cents per student... not a bad deal at all!  I know I've even seen this brand on their Cartwheel app for a 5% off before, it just didn't happen to be on there this time. But it's just one more way to save! So make sure to take advantage of those couponing apps - they really do help you save a bundle!

Now let's tour Giant Eagle. I have a variety of fruit options in my Healthy Testing Treats pack on TpT for a variety of classroom needs and taste preferences, so I wanted to make sure to show you a variety of options for each one.


Typically, I like to give my students this Honest Kids grape juice because it's got the same little saying on it as the note card, but when I spotted this AMAZING deal on grapes at the store I just couldn't resist.

I did pick them up still when I was at Target. I got 3 boxes (because I have 18 students and the boxes come in 8) for $10. Not a bad price compared to Giant Eagle's above. Plus, I saved the extras for me and the hubs! Which is always the added bonus when taking care of this project too.. there are ALWAYS some leftovers for our lunches too!

But like I said, I couldn't pass up this deal when grapes were A DOLLAR A POUND!
One giant bag was enough for my whole class, and I spent about $2 on it. Each kid got 15 grapes plus a pouch of grape juice and I spent less than a dollar per child....  and they LOVED it.

Raisins are also a great option for grapes because, well...they're just dried grapes. These Sun Maid raisin boxes wouldn't be bad... you'd get 24 boxes when you buy two bags for just $6, or 25 cents a student. Not bad at all (if you like raisins..)

and now added to a new pack is a fun note 
for raisins! so no matter what, you're covered!


Okay, let me just say.. berries CAN get expensive. But if you plan and shop right, it's really not so bad. I took my tour of the grocery store AFTER I had already given my students the berries, so these are NOT the prices I paid. They were all on sale when I got them.. so let's break down what I actually spent.

Four pound strawberry containers were on sale for just $7.99. So, I spent right under $2 a pound for fresh berries. I was able to cut up 3 strawberries per students and still have several left for the hubby and I to enjoy.... so in total, for 20 people I spend about 40 cents each. They also had blueberries and blackberries on sale for buy one, get one FREE! so I spent $8 on 4 containers of those. Now, looking back, my students got so many of each, that I really only needed one container of each. But the Italian in me worried I wouldn't have enough so I bought way more than necessary. Every child got at least 10 blueberries and 5 or 6 giant blackberries, and again I had a BUNCH left over for the hubs and I to have some too. So again, another 20 people was about 40 cents per person. I also grabbed just one container of red raspberries. They weren't on sale, so I paid the full price of $3.99. Each child got 2 nice big raspberries, and there were still some left over. So, that was about 20 cents per person there.

In total.. I spent just about ONE DOLLAR for all of my students, my husband, and myself to enjoy a large quantity of fresh berries. I could easily have cut out the extra containers of blackberries and blueberries, or even just cut out the raspberries, and still would have spent less than a dollar on each of us. Considering they are not typically cheap and extremely delicious, I am more than happy with those deals! I only spent about half an hour prepping the bags of them in my kitchen.. and boy did my students gobble them up the next morning!

On top of the in-store savings you can get right away, don't forget to take advantage of rebate apps! One of my personal favorites is ibotta. They usually offer a wide variety of rebate options, and when I shop at Giant Eagle, my store reward card is linked to the app and the rebates come off automatically! I saved $1 on a bag of oranges, and $0.25 when I bought the bananas thanks to their any brand rebates for produce. So, be sure to check that out and take advantage. If you sign up with my link here, you'll also earn $10 when you redeem your first rebate... and you can transfer your rewards straight to PayPal, so it's legit MONEY back to you! I highly recommend it.. I've already earned back over $300 since joining!


Now this one is a great one, but you may have some students who don't like them, and they would probably be better for an afternoon testing session. But the price of pickles is CHEAP! and I think I might be partial to the pun on this new note I made! 

You can get a large jar of pickles like this one at Walmart for just $4.28! One jar would be plenty for an entire class if you gave one pickle spear to each child. You can also buy the whole pickles for the same price and cut them up... but why waste all that time when you can have the work done for you?! For my class of 18 this was only 24 cents a student, not including all of the extras I had for my hubby!


I always overbuy pears. Which is totally fine in my house. My husband loves them for his lunch. So extra doesn't bother me. I usually buy the sliced pears for my students, and this store brand is $1.25 per can. I'm sure you can buy them elsewhere for cheaper, but I like to work smarter, not harder, and I find my time to be just as valuable, so instead of running all over the place hunting down deals, I shop in one spot. I also don't have a Super Target near me and mine doesn't stock their brand of pears so I stick with these. I can get enough for 3 students out of one can of sliced pears, so that works out to be just 42 cents a student. Not bad. Sometimes I can get these on sale for even cheaper, and I'm sure they are at Walmart, so for less than 40 cents a student they can all have some yummy pears! If you see them on sale for a good deal early on, just stock up a few at a time and you'll have plenty by the time testing season rolls around!


Bananas are delicious! and your students will love them! They are probably also one of the cheapest snacks, as they usually cost around fifty cents a pound! A bunch of about 5 good-sized bananas will be around a dollar... so for about $3-$4 (depending on your class size) you should be able to get all of the bananas you need! They are also the quickest because they require no prep! I just use a permanent marker to write a little note of love to my kiddos, and plop on their desk! presto - you're done!

There are SO many ways to make this work for your budget and your classroom, but most importantly, YOUR STUDENTS! 

One final way that you can implement this without breaking the bank is a suggestion I saw on Facebook from someone commenting on TpT's post of my treats... ask your students' parents! I guarantee you would have a great response from parents willing to help chip-in in some way to help their children have healthy snacks during testing season!

I created a sign-up sheet so that you could put it out at an Open House or send it home with a classroom newsletter for parents to sign-up and return to you. It is pretty open-ended and works with all of the snack notes in my Healthy Testing Treats packs. There are also reminder cards so that once parents do sign-up, you can send a reminder home a few days before!

I've added several new healthy snack options to my TpT store in a second pack, and also bundled them all together with black & white printer friendly versions so now you can really give your wallet a break by saving ink too! and an added bonus? Students can color them when they've finished for a personalized touch!

I've bundled them all together in this giant pack of testing treat goodness that you can grab here for only $10! Buy it once and you're good to go for years to come! 

Click here to check them out! >>>>> Healthy Testing Treats on TpT

I hope you found some useful, budget-friendly ideas for testing season! Do you have any tips or suggestions?! Feel free to share them here! I'd love your input!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Classroom Management Part Six: Zone Time!

Do you have students, that no matter how much you reward him/her or reward everyone else but him/her, they struggle with staying in one spot? Though I didn't implement true flexible seating last year in my classroom (for reasons beyond my control) I did allow my students to option of working around the room whenever possible, and if they had to be at their desk, they could choose to stand or sit. But they had to stay in their area and stay focused the whole time they work (well, as focused as eight year olds can stay...).

One boy in particular really struggled with this. He was allllwaayyyyss wandering around the classroom, especially when I was working with other students in small groups. It drove me bonkers. No matter what I tried, it didn't improve. So, I dealt with it as best I could.

Later in the year, his mom had him meet with a variety of doctors for a variety of different and heart-breaking reasons. After meeting with her, my admin, and our intervention specialist, it was found that he needed boundaries set within the classroom in order to achieve the behavior goals we were implementing for him.

I dubbed this new boundary system  "Zone Time." I set it up for the whole class, not just him. and I apologize that I slacked in taking pictures.. so I'll do my best to paint a picture of what I implemented for you so it is as clearly as I can.

We needed him to work on Zone Time in two ways... first to work on staying in his area when he was working. Due to other poor behavior choices he was making, this was always at his desk for the remainder of the year. He was no longer allowed to work around the classroom. So, since my students' desks were arranged in pods, he needed to stay within his small group area. I outlined this in two ways:
1. washi tape that I put on the floor around the group - it looked like a giant rectangle. I DON'T recommend duct's quite difficult to remove. Washi tape removes easily, and comes in a variety of different colors.
2. numbers I hung above their pods. I had 4 pods of students, so I cut out a giant 1, 2, 3, and 4 of cardstock, and hung them above the pods.

note* I used numbers, but you could also use colors, animals, let the pods choose their names, etc... whatever works for you. I liked numbers. That way, I could change where my students were sitting and always have the same four zones. Washi tape comes in a bunch of colors so you can really go crazy with colors! I also would have wanted them to match my classroom decor, and I couldn't find what I needed to make it work. So numbers it was. 

The second thing we were working on was staying within his specific working area within the zone. Again, he wasn't allowed around the classroom, so this was his desk area. I didn't always require him to stay within just his desk area. We were working on the broader goal of the group zone first, before honing in on his desk area. But, this was the end of the third grade and he was nine years old. He could fully understand what was expected of him, even if he couldn't always control it, so I pulled him aside to talk about what Zone Time meant for him specifically and when.

My goal for him was to work on staying within his specific working zone (the second, more specific goal - his desk) only when I was working with small groups. If students were told it was "Zone Time" and I was walking around observing/helping students, he could move within the zone, but if I was with small groups he was to stay at his desk. We then had a behavior chart that the intervention specialist created for use at school and home to monitor his success with this goal and he was rewarded appropriately.

So, in the picture you see at the beginning of the post, I created a sign that I hing at the front of the room on my white board. When the sign was hung (and I always announced it as well) it was "Zone Time," and students had to stay in their zone.

It worked wonders. Students still had some freedom to move around, but the visual of the zone created with the washi tape helped cut down on shenanigans from the entire class! I had a class of 18, twelve of which were boys, and half of those boys excelled in shenanigans. This was a great success.. I only wish I had thought of it at the beginning of the school year rather than the end of the year.

If you feel like you might benefit from Zone Time in your class, CLICK HERE to download the sign for free (or click the picture at the beginning of the post)! Take it, and run with it.. make it work in your classroom however you need! and again, I apologize for not having pictures. I was quite pregnant at the end of the school year, we were remodeling our house, and I was preparing to pack up my entire classroom to stay home this year... and pictures just never happened..... but it is quite a simple concept, and how you make it work could vary quite differently in your classroom for your students.. and that's okay!

Let me know how you used this concept, or if you have any questions in the comments below!

Classroom Management Part Five: Class Contributors

In my opinion, it is so important for students to learn responsibility at as early an age as possible. 

In my classroom, I make sure I help students understand what it means to be responsible and to make a commitment. To implement this, I decided to take my classroom jobs and make them more meaningful. I wanted my students to take ownership of their job and to do their very best. How did I do that? I'm glad you asked!

I took my job system and added in higher expectations. I also decided that in order to do a better job in the classroom with their responsibilities, they needed to hold the jobs for longer than a week. So, I switched to monthly job rotations. This allowed them to learn the job and develop it over the course of a month, rather than just a week. It also gave us more time in the classroom every Monday morning. Rather then randomly selecting the jobs with them each week, students were introduced and explained each job once at the beginning of the school year. Then, they applied for jobs. This was done as an early finisher activity and took little instruction time out of the day. I then took the applications home or used my planning period to assign the jobs. On the first day of the month (or first day we were in school at the beginning of the month) I would change the numbers before the students arrived. They knew that jobs would be changing, so they would find their new job and start it right away. It has saved a lot of time!

During the application process, students could use the following description cards to remind themselves the expectations of our jobs to help them apply for the best job for them. Here's a look at a few of those cards. I had them printed and laminated, and kept them on a binder ring. Students could go up and look at any time while they were applying. They also worked well for me to use to remind students of their job if they were failing to do it properly.

I kept the rings with the applications so I had everything in one convenient place. This is on the side of a tall shelf that is right next to my job posters wall. 

I noticed the year previous to implementing this new system, that students were often forgetting to do their jobs and I would have to remind them. The point of the jobs was to learn responsibility, but they also helped ME.. if I was having to remind them of their job, how was that actually helping? It wasn't! So, I decided that I needed a way to provide them of that reminder. So, I decided on using student lanyards. They would serve as a visual and tactile reminder. They could see on the bright card the job they had, and could also feel the lanyard around their neck and be reminded in that regard as well.

I also added the orange card you see. I knew I would be having 12 boys in my class and wanted them to come to school and "put on" an attitude of being ready to learn. When they put on the lanyard, they were ready to work and do their best. When they took it off for lunch and recess, they were free to have fun and relax a bit. When they returned to the classroom and put them back on, they were ready to work again.

We store them on a command hook next to the door so students can grab them as soon as they come in to the classroom and hang them up on the way out.

I added the small numbers so that we knew who the lanyard belonged to and to help students learn their numbers at the beginning of the year. 

I purchased the lanyards from Oriental Trading Company [only $6.99 a dozen] and the plastic card holders from Staples.

Then, at the beginning of the month when jobs changed, my paper passers would collect the job cards and we would redistribute them as we got settled in to the morning. It took little time and my students did it. It also helped them learn their friends jobs and they would help remind each other to complete them rather than me having to do so! They became quite helpful.

If you like this system, you can check it out on TpT here! you'll get everything you see above, with editable versions of the description cards and lanyard cards, with 25 different jobs included!

Or, if you want to just implement the application process to the job system you are already using, you can check that out here

Friday, July 22, 2016

Prepping for Baby Mo!

It's been a while since I posted last.... there has been a lot going on! As you might remember from a previous post, my husband and I are expecting our first child [any day now - AHH!] and I wanted to share a little something I have been putting together to help take care of the amazing people who will help me deliver our new little bundle of joy!

First, I wanted to make sure my Hubby was well taken care of while I was in labor, because let's be honest... who knows how long that could be and when! It could start in the middle of the night and last for hooouurrrrsss and I'd prefer he stay conscious in the delivery room! I saw some ideas on Pinterest and then headed to Target to create my own version of the "New Daddy Survival Kit." Here's what I came up with!

My Hubby LOVES sweets. So I made sure to include his favorite candy and granola bars. I also grabbed some Goldfish crackers and almonds and a bag of jerky. Not pictured (and almost already gone because he likes them SO much!) are a pack of Starbucks Mocha Frappucino drinks. I'm thinking we'll need to pick some more up on the way to the hospital for him....

Just before Father's Day, Target had some great shirts for dads, so I grabbed this shirt while it was on sale, as well as the hilarious book "Your Baby's First Word Will Be Dada" by Jimmy Fallon. He laughed out loud as he read it.... literally every page says "Dada." SO cute! 
He loves cars and Mustangs, so when his favorite magazine came in the mail the other day, I stuck it in the basket too, so he would have something to read while we wait.

I also made sure he would have some change on him for the vending machine. I put a bunch of quarters in the envelope so he could get himself some other drinks and snacks during our stay.

I grabbed a bin from my classroom as I was packing it up and made a little sign for it and stuck it on the front..  and that was it! Super simple to put together and he loves it. Now I just have to make sure it makes it to the hospital with us!!

Don't worry... you'll be able to download the sign at the end FOR FREE! :)

We're never gonna survive the birth without some amazing hospital staff, so of course I want them to feel appreciated and taken care of. So, I made two little baskets for the staff and nurses who will be on duty during our stay.

I bought all kinds of candy, gum, snacks, and drinks at Target, using sales, coupons, and the Cartwheel app to help cut costs. I also grabbed some lotion and little hand sanitizers at Bath & Body Works when they had their semi-annual sale in June. I am so excited to leave them at the nurses station so they can treat themselves on their shift and stay fueled while they care for us and our new baby!

New Daddy Survival Kit

I'll be back one day (soon!) to share our little one's arrival with you... I can't wait!

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Clean Desk Award

It was becoming apparent over the last couple of weeks that my students needed a little motivation to work on keeping their desks clean and organized. I mean, some of them were just AWFUL. The worst I'd ever seen. It was time for action!

I've seen "Desk Fairy" notes floating around on blogs & TpT, but my 3rd graders wouldn't buy into that, as most of their parents don't refer to the Tooth Fairy or anything. So, instead, I whipped up my own version really quick Wednesday afternoon. I had some Starbursts, and inspiration just struck!

I simply printed them onto colored cardstock, attached a Starburst with some tape, and wrote an encouraging little note to them!

You can CLICK HERE and grab them for FREE to motivate and reward your students too!