End of the Year Awards Time Saver Tutorial


It's time to start thinking about how to wrap up the end of the year. It's always bittersweet to say goodbye to the little classroom family we have created throughout the year. A nice tribute is to give students a special, individualized award that shows them how well you know them and their strengths. Bonus if you can personalize it with your Bitmoji picture! I have created a pack of 39 individualized awards that you can personalize with your own Bitmoji. This is nice because it looks like you, which makes it more personal, and it's not too cutsie or little kid-ish. You also don't have to buy a bunch of clipart to make these awards fit your class personalities perfectly. Here is the easiest way I have found to add your own Bitmoji picture into your awards.

1. Create your own avatar with Bitmoji

It's super easy and free! Just create an account at https://www.bitmoji.com/ and personalize a cartoon version of yourself. There are lots of fun ways to customize your avatar and make it look like you.

2. Add the Bitmoji Chrome Extension

To search for a picture and quickly add it to your award, you can add the free Bitmoji Chrome Extension to your Chrome bar. Once you find the picture you want, you just drag it into your award that is already set up in google slides. 

3. Print

Once you add the names, you print on card stock. And that's it! 

It's not near as much work as you might think to set up, and it's a thoughtful end-of-year gift. You can make your own awards, but I have 39 awards for you to choose from already set up for you in a google slide show. You just have to add your own Bitmoji. You can purchase it here. I suggest adding your Bitmoji to all the awards and saving it as a master so you have it year after year. If you think of an award I haven't included, just let me know and I'll see if I can add it. 

Good luck with the end of the school year!

12 Days of Christmas (or December) in the Classroom

Are you looking to add a little holiday magic to your classroom? Try wrapping 12 holiday or winter books for your class--they don't have to be brand new. Unwrap one book each day and read it aloud for 12 days of Christmas (or December). This post contains affiliate links for your convenience. That means I get a small commission if you use my links to buy something, but at no cost to you.

Add these tags to your wrapped books that say "Don't open until _________." Since we aren't at school every day in December due to weekends and winter break, you can plan when to start opening each book so that the last book is opened on the day before break. If you do elf on the shelf in your classroom, it can be a present from your elf! If you don't do elf on the shelf or you don't specify Christmas in your classroom, you can use the tags that are for 12 days of December with books to unwrap from your teacher. You can even ask parents to donate a wrapped read aloud book for the 12 days or Christmas or December so it's a surprise for you as well! You may want to include a sign up genius if you do it this way so you don't get the same book. You can even have the parent who donated the book to come read it to your class! There is a tag for all of these options included in the bundle below.

In my classroom, at the beginning of the year, I added a little fairy or elf door. Throughout the year, we have discovered that they are elves, like the elves from the book The Elves and the Shoemaker. Periodically our elves leave us notes and presents. They are cousins to the elves in the North Pole, so they have been gone for a little while helping their cousins during this busy time of year. But they have returned with 12 read alouds wrapped for the 12 days of Christmas!

Our elves are also friends with the Leprechauns who live in Ireland, and they bring them to our classroom for a visit in March. They play little tricks on us around St. Patrick's Day and we try to catch them! Read more about how I set this up in my classroom in the blog post 3 Back to School Books With Creative Gifts & Activities For The Beginning of the Year. If you didn't start with elves in your classroom at the beginning of the year, now is still a fun time to start! Your first book to open could be The Elves and the Shoemaker which can be a clue to who your new little friends are!
One of the parents in my classroom made this little house for the elves! The kids were SO excited! It is amazing! And we can change out the decor as different holidays come around!

Whoever you decide your wrapped read alouds are from, have fun sharing one with your class for 12 days of Christmas (or December). Here are some of my favorite books to use in this activity. If you are a teacher, you know that this time of year kids are C R A Z Y. Keeping their attention is a daily challenge. You need read alouds that are fun, meaningful, and not too long or you'll lose them. So while I love books like the Grinch and the Polar Express, because they are also movies, kids struggle to sit through these LONG read alouds at this time of year. That is just a teacher truth, so I stick to shorter stories. 

If you focus on the holidays, here are some of my favorites. The stories about specific holidays are a little longer, just FYI . . . 


If you want to stick to winter books, these are some of my favorites.

I personally do a combo of both kind of books in my classroom. There are some great activities that you can do with many of these books as well. 
  • The Snow Globe Family by Jane O'Connor: This is a story about a family and a family that lives inside their snow globe that mirrors what happens in their family! Here is an activity from Ideas by Jivey called Reading in a Winter Wonderland: The Snowglobe Family . And here is an oldie but goodie-- If I Lived In A Snowglobe by Hope King. I think there are more out there! We also have our students make their own snow globe ornament for their parents as a present. With a picture of their face, they add a body doing something in the snow. Then we add snow or cotton balls. They turn out so cute and original each year!
  • Snowmen At Night by Caralyn Buehner: This is a fun story to read about what Snowmen must do when kids are not around at night. Jen Kimbrell has a fun literacy activity that includes coding with this book Fun Coding Activities For Kids that Teach Literacy Skills.
  • Our Table by Peter Reynolds: This beautiful book is a good reminder about spending time with family and not getting too caught up in technology. Use 'Our Table' Bingo as "homework" for your students over the holidays. It has opportunities for students to spend time together and share the pictures with you!

Do you have any other favorite read alouds for this time of year? Do you have activities to go with them? Leave them in the comments below!

Help Teachers Clear The List 2023


It's no secret that there is a teacher shortage in the United States, and seasoned teachers are leaving the profession in droves with no one to take their place. There is no easy answer to this problem, but one small act of kindness can go a long way. Many teachers spend hundreds of dollars of their own money every year on their classrooms. Here's a chance to show some love and support for teachers by gifting them something on their wishlist. You have no idea how much something like that means to a teacher!

Teachers, post your name, what you teach, the name of your school, and a link to your Amazon wishlist in the comments. When you create an Amazon wishlist, you can click on the button in the right hand corner that says. 'Send List to others.' Copy the link and paste it in your comment on this blog post. Let our community show their support by helping us clear the list!

 #ClearTheList #PayItForward #CommunitiesCare

Top 10 List for Teachers on #AmazonPrimeDay

Amazon Prime Day 2023 is on my birthday! Woot! Woot! July 11💗 - 12 Amazon has its biggest sales of the year, and you won't want to miss it! This post contains affiliate links for your convenience that give me a small stipend when you use the link, but at no cost to you.

First of all, if you are not an Amazon Prime member–it's time. It is $139 for the year, but I make that money back with their free 2 day shipping alone! With your Prime membership you also get to watch a lot of free movies on Prime Video, you get A LOT of free kindle books on Prime Reading, and you have to be an Amazon Prime member to get the deals on Amazon Prime Days. If you're not a Prime member yet, you can start with a free trial here.

Here is my top 10 list for teachers on #AmazonPrimeDay!

1.  Echo Show 5 (3rd generation 2023 Release)


This Echo Show is #1 on my list because it is what I'm most excited about on my Amazon list this year! I don't have an Echo Show yet, but this is how I imagine using it in my classroom. Right now, I have timers set on my phone to go off when it's time to switch to a new subject, and I'm planning on having the Echo Show set up to do that every weekday. I also think that I can set the alarms to snooze on days off. I can set timers during the day with just my voice, and the Echo Show has a digital clock and temperature display. We will use that daily. I can play Pandora (I like to play classical music when the students are working), and I imagine my class asking questions or how to spell things we need help with. I'm very excited to give it a try! There is a deal --buy one get $100 off the 2nd one, so I'm going to get one for my classroom and one for my son as a sophisticated alarm clock. That means one of them will be free! If you don't need 2, however, the Echo Dot is a cheaper option. The Echo Dot doesn't have the screen, but it should do everything else.

2. Dry Erase Clipboards (set of 30)

I really need these dry erase clipboards this year! I make sure my students have dry erase boards and clipboards, and since my classroom needs a refresh on dry erase boards, it makes more sense to get something that is 2 in 1 and save space and money! 

3. Scented Flair Pens

Scented flair pens are a must-have for me every year. I LOVE flair pens, and now that I have found scented, they are the best! The kids love smelling their paper when I draw a star on it! 

4. Magnetic Dry Erase Boards (set of 5)

I have been looking for a set of magnetic dry erase boards for my small groups. I use them for reading, math, and intervention groups, and they are magnetic because I use them with magnetic letters when necessary. These are double sided (both magnetic) with one side blank and one side with dotted lines.

5. Microfiber Hedgehog Erasers (set of 3)

I have a set of 6 of these super cute hedgehog erasers. I use them with my guided reading groups and intervention groups and the magnetic dry erase boards above!

6.  Better Than Paper White Shiplap


I LOVE this stuff! It is absolutely better than paper–it's true. It's very thick, so it's forgiving when you're hanging it. It doesn't get wrinkly, it doesn't show staples, and it doesn't fade. The pictures from my classroom above show the white shiplap, and it's at least 4 years old. I've moved schools in that time, so it has been taken down at one school and put up again in another, and it has held up well. I definitely think it's worth it!

7. Mini Plush Stuffed Dogs

I look for a class set of stuffed dogs every year. For Christmas, I let the kids adopt a dog as long as they promise to read to it for 20 minutes a day. It is a big hit with my 2nd graders every year! Check out this blog post from Teach Junkie that includes name tags for the dogs and adoption certificates. I try to plan ahead for presents to get the best deal possible. Amazon Prime day is a great day to stock up on Christmas presents!

8. 12 Pocket Poly Organizer

This is going to be for my guided reading groups. I like to use use a plastic, multi pocket binder to keep track of what each of my guided reading groups is doing. I keep a copy of the book that group is reading, the names of the students in that group, and any papers we may use. I'm looking for an organizer that has more pages to include all my intervention groups as well, and this one has a pencil pouch in the back too. 

9. Mochi's Squishys Toys (25 pieces)

This is another gift for my students that I plan ahead for so I can get the best deal. These squishy fidget toys are great non-candy Valentine's Day presents. Make tags that say, "I squish you a happy Valentine's Day," or print your own teacher valentines.

10. Calming Breath Sensory Stickers (64 pieces)

I'm really looking forward to trying these out this year. We try different breathing techniques when kids need it, and I think these textured stickers will big a big hit. I'm thinking about putting it on their desks, or maybe on the dry erase clipboards above so kids will be less likely to pick at them. 

Still looking for more ideas? Check out these past blog posts that have links to some great classroom supplies and organization.  Happy Shopping!

Organizing Your Classroom with these 4 IKEA shelves

I think every teacher can relate to the ongoing battle for organization. When we have to manage so much STUFF for so many little people, it can quickly get overwhelming! IKEA has some great furniture for your classroom that is durable and will keep you more organized. Here are some of my favorites worth investing in: 

1. Trofast bins

I ditched student desks awhile ago, and I'm never going back! Getting kids to keep their desks clean is a nightmare! They just don't do it. And no matter how many times we took the morning to clean out our desks and have visits from the desk fairy, there were always some kids that had a rat's nest and weird things growing in their desks.  So now the kids use tables and Trofast bins instead. They each have a drawer where they keep folders and notebooks, and it is at the front of my room. They are big enough that they can hold those important things but small enough that it's easy to keep organized. By having it at the front of the room, they can't have their hands in there all the time, and we have routines for getting supplies that give them a chance to get up and move periodically throughout the day. It's a win-win! They also have chair pockets where they keep a bag with a pencil, highlighter, expo marker, dry erase board, and their reading books for easy access. Trofast bins for the whole class can get a little pricey when you have a drawer for each student, but I could not teach without them now that I've done it this way! I've been using these bins for 4 or 5 years now, and I have not had to replace any. They're as good as new (maybe a bit dirtier, but otherwise in great shape!). Trofast bins are probably my #1 favorite teacher hack from IKEA.

2. Kallax Bookcase Shelving 

I use the Kallax Bookcase Shelving in my classroom library. I put pillows on the top and the kids use them as couches to sit and read, and I also have baskets of books underneath, so they do double duty as book shelves too! I use 3 as couches in my classroom library. Based on your available space, you can put them end to end or separate them. I have been using these shelves for 4 or 5 years as well, and they look almost as good as new. They are very sturdy, and the perfect height for my 2nd graders to sit on.

3. LACK Wall Shelf 

The Lack Wall Shelf makes a great book display! I put this at the front of the room near my teacher reading chair, and I rotate books that we are reading throughout the year. The kids get excited to see what is coming when I display books for a new learning theme. It's nice if you can mount this shelf to the wall for safety, but the current school I'm at wouldn't let me put holes in the wall, and I've never had a problem with it tipping in 3 years. It still looks new and it is sturdy.

4. Kallax Cube

I also ditched my teacher desk many, many years ago. Even though I don't sit at a big, bulky teacher desk, I still need a place to put stuff so it doesn't pile up. Several years ago I started using Kallax Cubes as my teacher area. You can leave the cube open (which I do on top), or use the fabric bins that fit inside to hold things (which I do on the bottom). They take up a minimal amount of room, but they still hold a lot of stuff in order to keep me organized. I've been using these Kallax cubes for at least 6 years, and they are still sturdy and look great. 

As teachers, we use so much of our own money to make things organized, efficient, and pretty in our classrooms. So if we're going to fork over the money, we need to make sure it's worth the investment. These 4 shelves have proved their stamina for me, an they're still going strong. They are classroom approved! And not only are they functional, but they're pretty. Several pictures from my classroom were featured in an article on We Are Teachers called 41 IKEA Classroom Supplies for Your Next Shopping Trip. Check it out! I'm the teacher Emily from Parker, CO. 

Good luck organizing your classroom!

ABC Family Fun


I've been teaching for 23 years, and I swear teaching is getting harder. I'm sure that is no surprise if you were in the teaching field before Covid, or if you've just been watching the news. So this post is just about unwinding, and taking some time to have fun with your family. Relax and enjoy the summer! I'm sure you've earned it. And what better way for a teacher (or student) to unwind than with ABC family fun? Try doing something different that starts with each letter of the alphabet. I've been doing this for years (before kids it was ABC dating with my hubby), and it'a a great way to try something new, get you out of your comfort zone, and have fun!

Some tips for trying #abcfamilyfun: 

1. Make a list for each letter of the alphabet ahead of time. 

I promise, you won't be able to remember what your plan is for each letter, and some letters take a lot of creativity! I check out local magazines and websites about fun things to do in my area and I take a day to write out all the options and we vote as a family. We try to balance it with things each person will be really excited about and things we've never done. You have to get creative sometimes! I make a list on my phone using Google Keep so I can pull it up wherever we are, and I can check things off the list once we've done it.

2. It doesn't have to cost a lot of money.

Things are SO expensive right now! There are plenty of fun things you can plan to do that don't cost money or are inexpensive. Be sure to include a balance of things. You can have a picnic, go to a free concert in the park, or fly a kite for little to no money. 

3. Big trips can include more than one letter.

If you already have a big vacation planned, make sure it counts as several letters. No doubt it is already costing a lot of money, and you probably have several thing planned so it should count as more than one thing on your list. For example, last year we went on a big trip to Mexico, so it counted as our letter M for Mexico, S for snorkeling, and C for catamaran (we rented a catamaran and went to a different island with a large group). 

4. You don't have to go in order.

Don't put a lot of rules on your family fun time, or it takes some of the fun out of it. Some activities that you want to do happen at a certain time, or your big trip is scheduled and it doesn't always match ABC order. Don't sweat it or you'll never get done! The point is to have fun trying new things, so don't worry about the order or how long it takes you to finish. We've been working on our current list for a year and a half. We should finish this summer! We do a lot more in the summer, and we fit in activities when we can during the school year. There don't have to be a lot of rules -- just have fun!

5. Be flexible and creative!

One of the reasons you want to make your list of activities ahead of time is so that you can move things around as needed. For example, we live in Colorado, so we always go to a Rockies baseball game in the summer. We can count this as B for baseball or R for Rockies or F for fireworks (we love to watch a game near the 4th of July because they shoot off fireworks). We pick the letter that fits best with out list that year. If we already have something planned for B, we call it our R letter. Some letters are tricky, so be creative and move things around until they fit in your list.

Even if you don't have any big trips planned for the summer, you can have a lot of fun trying new experiences! And then you have an ABC list to remind you of the things you did, because if you're like me, when someone asks what I did this summer, I can't always come up with an answer. I know I was busy, but I don't know exactly what I did! Now you can say, we did something starting with each letter of the alphabet. It starts an interesting conversation! Here are some ideas to get you started. Be sure to comment with your ideas, especially for the hard letters!


  • Art Museum
  • Aquarium
  • Archery Games - We haven't done this yet, but I can't wait to try it!
  • Alpine Slide

  • Baseball game
  • Basketball game
  • Botanic Gardens
  • Boondocks
  • Butterfly Pavillion 
  • Biking
  • Bowling

  • Cooking class - we did this at the Uncorked Kitchen! It was awesome! We'd definitely do it again. It was our first time doing a cooking class, and it was a lot of fun!
  • Concert - our area has free concerts in the park all summer.
  • Children's Museum
  • Casa Bonita - We went before it closed, but it's reopened again! Can't wait to go back and watch those cliff divers!
  • Comedy show
  • Camping - this can be outside or with a blanket tent in the living room!
  • Castlewood Canyon

  • Dinosaurs Alive! This year there were some dinosaur experiences we got to see with dinosaur robots that moved. It was really cool!
  • Dinosaur Ridge - this was our letter D a few years ago (can you tell my son is into dinosaurs?). It was really cool to take the tour of the trail around the area -- definitely something we'll do again!
  • Dinner theater
  • Dave & Busters
  • Doughnut taste test - we discovered there are a lot of different doughnut shops in our area, so we had to try them all to find the best! #1 Crispy Cream #2 Lamar's Doughnuts #3 Hurts Doughnuts #4 Dunkin Doughnuts. I think there are a few we still haven't tried!
  • Dog Sled rides 
  • Elitch Gardens
  • Egypt Time of the Pharaohs - this was an exhibit at our Nature and Science Museum this year which we did for our letter E
  • Ethiopian food
  • Mt. Evans
  • Estes Park
  • Exploding Kittens - this is a super fun family card game even your teenagers will play!
  • Film on the Rocks - In Colorado, Red Rocks Amphitheater has a series called Film on the Rocks. You get to watch an old movie on the really big outdoor screen!
  • Fireworks
  • Frozen yogurt
  • Farmer's Market
  • Football game
  • Food Tour
  • Ghost Tour - I found a historic walking ghost tour you could take in Denver that took us to the old mansions in downtown that were built in the 1800s or early 1900s and believed to be haunted. It was a cool history of the area and a fun walk!
  • Great Wolf Lodge
  • Garden of the Gods
  • Golf, miniature golf
  • Gel blasters - there is an Airsoft Field near us!
  • Game night
  • Gaylord Hotel
  • Hiking
  • Hot Air Balloon - there are many hot air balloon festivals in Colorado
  • Hot Springs in Glenwood Springs
  • Horse back riding
  • Hammond's Candy Factory
  • Inventing Room - this is something we tried this year that we've never done before! The Inventing Room Dessert Shop is like a mini version of Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory! We went to a Sugar Science class and learned a lot about cooking with liquid nitrogen, and we got to eat a lot of yummy stuff! Super fun!
  • Ice cream
  • Immersive Monet - this exhibit was visiting our area, but we missed it. There are a lot of immersive art experiences to try though!
  • Imax theater
  • Indoor Skydiving
  • Ice Castles - a winter activity that has been closed since Covid, but will hopefully open back up soon!
  • Immersive Gamebox
  • Jurassic World Domain movie - we did this as our letter J when the movie came out this year
  • Juice Bar
  • Jeep tour
  • Jenga
  • Fly a kite
  • Kickboxing
  • Karate Class
  • King Tut exhibit - there was a special King Tut exhibit at our art museum a few years ago. Very interesting!
  • Legos - we went to the lego store and picked something out to build together as a family.
  • Library
  • Laser Tag
  • Littleton Historic Museum 
  • Movie Night
  • Musical
  • Museum
  • Mining for gold
  • Make your own pizza - make your own dough and everyone in the family makes their own personal pan pizza with toppings of their choice!
  • Oreo dessert bar - this year we bought a bunch of different kind of Oreos and had a fun taste test of our favorites! You'd be surprised how many kinds there are!
  • Opera
  • Orchestra
  • Origami
  • Park
  • Painting class
  • Picnic
  • Paintball
  • Pirate's Cove water park
  • Qdoba
  • Quandary Peak
  • Rodeo
  • Royal Gorge
  • Red Rocks Amphitheater
  • Run - do a 5K as a family. Bonus points if it's for a good cause!
  • Rock Climbing
  • Renaissance Festival
  • Swimming
  • Visit the State Capitol
  • Stanley Hotel Tour - The Shining was filmed at this old historic hotel!
  • Symphony
  • Scavenger Hunt
  • Snow Tubing - obviously a winter activity!
  • Smores -- around the backyard fire pit or the camp fire, smores are always delicious!

    • Tattered Cover Bookstore
    • Trampoline Park - Sky Zone, Urban Air
    • Top Golf
    • Train Ride
    • Tiny Town Railroad
    • Taco bar
    • Upstairs Circus - this is on our list this summer! It's a bar where you can do DIY projects like making concrete coasters, creating a leather pet collar, or making a butcher board. I'm looking forward to checking it out!
    • US Mint
    • Start a Vegetable garden
    • Video games
    • Xbox night
    • Yard games - i.e., corn hole, bocce ball, horseshoes, etc.
    • Yoga
    • YMCA
    • Zoo

    Teacher Stuff Newsletter #3 - Back to School


    The 3rd edition of the Teacher Stuff Newsletter is available, and the theme is 'Back to School.' Check out this collection of free resources to help you get ready for the new school year. Just click on the picture to go to the google slide that has live links to the resources. You can also see previous newsletters by clicking the arrows on the slide show. Happy New (School) Year!