Teacher Appreciation Week, which is held during the first full week in May, is a week designed to honor teachers. It is also a convenient time to take a moment to thank teachers for the hard work that they do. While a simple thank you will go a long way, accompanying it with a gift doesn’t hurt either. This year, think beyond the apples and homemade cookies and replace it with one of these ideas.
1. Classroom Supplies
Teachers spend a lot of their own money on classroom supplies. Even though the school year is almost over, you can help get through to the last day of school and start to stock them up for next year by giving a classroom supply basket. Pencils, crayons, glue, and markers are items teachers can always use more of, but you don’t have to stick with the obvious. Encourage your favorite teacher to make a special wish list earlier in the year and purchase something off of that wish list as a Teacher Appreciation Week gift. If you know there’s something bigger the teacher wants, such as a set of books for the classroom or a large rug for circle time, go together with a group of parents to purchase it.
Even though the school has its own library, many teachers also keep a classroom library stocked with books for students to read. These books are often purchased by the individual teacher and the expense can add up. Instead of giving the teacher a card, consider giving a book instead. Let your child help you pick the book since she will know what types of books the kids in the class like to read. For preschool, kindergarten, and first grade, popular picture books are always a good choice. However, you don’t have to get a picture book or even a piece of fiction. You can also pick up a non-fiction text about one of your child’s favorite topics. If you want to make the book a little more memorable, include your child’s name or a short note inside the cover of the book so the teacher will always remember who it came from.
3. Educational Subscriptions
Having a lot of resources on hand can make a teacher’s job much easier. Educational subscription services help provide teachers with those resources. Magazines, such as Highlights, Time for Kids or one of Scholastic’s range of magazine options are a good choice. Don’t forget about digital subscriptions either. Resources such as BrainPop can help a teacher save time by providing interactive lessons.
4. Gift Cards
Gift cards also help offset the amount of money teachers spend in the classroom. Consider a gift card to a teacher supply store, Dollar Tree, or even Amazon to help teachers get supplies they need. Bookstore gift cards can help teachers build up their classroom libraries. If you know a teacher who regularly uses apps in the classroom and like to try out new technology, iTunes or Google Play gift cards are another option to help them build up their library of resources.
Of course, the gift you give doesn’t have to help the teacher in the classroom. You may want to give a gift card for a local coffee shop or movie theater. You can also help them relax with a gift card to a local spa. Fast food gift cards are handy for teachers who spend a lot of time at school and need to pick up dinner on the way home.
5. Handwritten Notes
If you don’t want to spend a lot money, there is one handmade gift that is always accepted by teachers. A simple handwritten note thanking a teacher for their hard work and explaining the impact they have had can go a long way. Teachers don’t always have a place to store all of the mugs and trinkets they receive, nor do they want a lot of homemade treats, but most have a special place to keep the notes from their students. Nothing makes a teacher feel better than to know they’re making a difference.
If you need some inspiration for a note, consider using one of our teacher thank you note templates:
Are you a teacher? What types of gifts do you appreciate most during Teacher Appreciation Week?
Since 1970, Earth Day has been raising public awareness of environmental issues. Today, our waterways are less polluted and air cleaner, yet there is still much work to be done before we can consider ourselves a sustainable society. This year, engage your students or children with one of these eco-friendly activities on Earth Day or the weeks leading up to and from it.
Activities for Children – Kindergarten to Grade 6
Plant a Tree
It may seem cliché, but planting a tree is a simple act that helps the environment and gets children outdoors enjoying the natural world on Earth Day. Coordinate with your school a place on the grounds where your class can plant a tree or check with your local conservation board for a public location. Apply for free trees through organizations like Trees for Schools (UK and Ireland only) and Trees for Wildlife or by having students write to local nurseries.
Compete in a Contest
Contents are a wonderful way to get students excited about learning and with Earth Day comes array of eco-themed competitions. Look for local and regional contests or have your students enter the Wonders of Water contest by writing and illustrating a water-themed poem.
Don’t Put Out the Trash
During the week leading up to Earth Day, arrange with the custodian not to remove the trash and recycling from your classroom. On Earth Day, have your students weigh the trash and recycling they generated (weigh trash separately from recycling). Over the next week, challenge your students to toss and use less, plus recycle more. After a week, have students weigh the trash and recycling again and calculate the decrease (hopefully!) in trash weight and increase in recycling weight. Extend the lessen for older students and have them calculate percent increase and decrease as well. Get started by assigning the lesson Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, then find more recycling activities here.
Walk to School
It is good for the environment and our children’s health. More and more schools are planning annual walk or bike to school days. Why not plan one for April 22 or use Earth Day to have your students start planning for National Walk to School Day in May? Read this for more information on getting started.
Declare April 22 Waste-Free Lunch Day
With the help of your class and the EPA’s Pack A Waste-Free Lunch site, make Earth Day a school-wide commitment to reducing the mounds of garbage generated during a typical school lunch. Have your class coordinate with administrators and cafeteria workers and help spread the word to students and parents about what can be done to minimize lunch waste.
Get your students excited for Earth Day by engaging them with these interactive lessons on Climate Literacy and Environmentalism by PBS Learning Media and with Help Teaching’s self-paced science lessons.
Activities for Children – Grades 7 to 12
Participate in a Citizen Science Project
Engage your children or students in authentic science by participating in an eco-themed crowd science collaboration. There are numerous projects running that allow students to participate with adult supervision, including the environmentally oriented: Forgotten Island, YardMap, The Lost Ladybug Project, and Globe at Night.
Take a Field Trip
What student doesn’t love a field trip? Plan an inexpensive day out by arranging tours of your local landfill, recycling center, wastewater treatment facility, and/or power plant (even better – visit a plant that uses renewable energy and one that uses a nonrenewable source). Yes, it will be dirty, hot, and smelly, but what better way for students to develop an understanding of where energy comes from and trash goes than to see it for themselves?
Host an Environmental Career Fair
Enlist your students in finding local professionals working in environmental careers to visit the school on Earth Day. Arrange for a career fair that allows students to hear about green jobs and discuss job duties with the professionals. Have students prepare questions ahead of time and write thank-you notes after. Visit Kids.gov for a list of environment and nature jobs to get started.
Build a Rube Goldberg Machine
Ask your students to bring in a variety of cleaned items from their home recycling containers during the week leading up to Earth Day. On April 22, divide your students into teams and task them with designing and building a machine that completes a simple eco-friendly task such as turning off the lights or watering a plant. Provide basic materials, like string and wine, to aid in construction. Be sure and have your students demonstrate their machines for an audience and see if their projects can be displayed in the school lobby or library.
Launch a Project-Based Learning Unit
Spring has sprung and students are anxious to get outside, making Earth Day is the perfect time to embark on an environmentally focused project-based learning (PBL) initiative. BIE.org offers extensive PBL resources for teachers and students – start by using their search tool for project ideas.
April is Autism Awareness Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness about autism within the community. As autism rates have risen over the years, so has awareness. However, as parents of children with autism know, a lot of myths and misunderstandings still exist. Whether you’re a teacher, a principal, or someone who works in another capacity in the schools, it’s important that you avoid the myths and develop an accurate understanding of what autism is and what it looks like to work with kids with autism.
1. Autism is a Spectrum
Perhaps one of the most challenging aspects of autism is that kids with autism are on a spectrum. There’s a world of difference between kids with high-functioning autism versus low-functioning autism. Before assuming anything about a child with autism, learn where they are on the spectrum and what particular aspects of autism they demonstrate the most.
- Are they socially awkward?
- Do they have trouble understanding non-literal language?
- Do they lack basic communication skills?
- Do they have tics?
- Is it difficult for them to make eye contact?
- Do they express emotions inappropriately?
Not all children with autism will express all of these traits and some will express all of them and more.
2. Autism does not Signal a Lack of Intelligence
Many parents have sat through IEP (Individualized Education Plan) meetings where they listened to professionals discuss their child’s lack of intelligence. For example, in a recent initial IEP meeting for a newly-diagnosed child with autism, the Child Study Team leader said, “We’ll give him a series of tests to see where he is, but I’m sure he’ll be low,” simply because the child had been diagnosed with autism. Imagine how surprised she was to learn that not only did he not score low, but he was working above grade-level in multiple subject areas. Kids with autism may struggle academically, but often their struggles do not signal a lack of intelligence. Rather, they signal their struggle to adapt to the educational system. In many cases, kids with autism solve problems and communicate differently than what is expected. Sometimes teachers and other educational professionals think they got the answer wrong, when really they just thought about it differently.
3. Autism Often Confuses Other Kids
Recently Sesame Street introduced its first autistic character, Julia. While Julia represents a character that many children with autism can relate to, she also serves as a tool to help teach other kids how to interact with kids who have autism. Kids don’t always know how to act around kids who are different or who don’t do what’s expected. Teachers can use models like Julia and other activities to help kids understand what autism is and how to interact with their peers who have autism. After all, everyone has differences. Some of those differences are just more noticeable than others.
4. Autism is Unpredictable
One thing about working with kids with autism is that you are never quite sure how they will react. Sometimes, you’ll expect them to react negatively to a loud concert and they’ll be fine. Other times, you will think a certain activity will be easy for them and it will become a major challenge. When you work with kids with autism, you must be flexible. You must also learn to recognize their cues so you can adjust a situation to avoid making it a bigger problem.
5. Autism Requires Predictability
Imagine living every day without knowing what’s going to happen. For kids with autism, that’s often a reality. They are not always in control of their emotions and navigating life can be confusing. Surprises lurk around almost every corner. However, the adults in their lives can help limit those surprises by developing routines for them to follow. For some kids, just knowing the general schedule of the school day will help. For others, parents and teachers will need to develop a thorough schedule that includes the smallest of events, such as brushing their teeth and going to the bathroom. If the schedule is going to change for any reason, adults should also try to take time to warn the child about the change in advance. For example, a child expecting to do math at 10:15 may be upset by the fact that he gets to out for early recess instead. Even though recess is fun, the disruption to his routine could outweigh that fun.
6. Autism Requires Parents and Educators to Work as a Team
Educators have a lot of students to focus on, but when working with a child with autism, it is essential that they take the time to develop a relationship with the child’s parents and work as a team to ensure they are working in that child’s best interests. Educators should respect a parent’s position as an expert on the child, while parents should respect an educator’s professional expertise and observations in the classroom. Educators must also be careful not to criticize parents of autistic children for making decisions related to their child. They must also take into consideration the child’s autism when making observations about the child’s appearance or behavior. For example, a note home saying “Please ensure your child wears socks each day” may seem innocent, but it may not take into consideration the fact that the parent is encouraging the child to become more independent in dressing himself and letting him go to school without socks when he forgets is part of that process.
7. Working with Kids with Autism is not as Difficult as it Seems
Some of the information above may overwhelm educators. “I have 25 students in my class. How can I spend this much time on the needs of one?” At the end of the day, it’s not that hard. Just as you get to know your other students, get to know your students who have autism. Learn their quirks. Get to know their personality. Focus on their diagnosis, but at the same time don’t focus on their diagnosis. Just treat them as human beings.
There are lots of resources available to help educators work with children with autism. One of them is the School Community Tool Kit from Autism Speaks. It contains a wealth of resources, information sheets, worksheets, and activities to help the many different people in a school community understand autism.
For educators looking for help with behavior modification, check out Insights to Behavior, a free resource full of activities to help educators create behavior plans for students, as well as find activities to help with some of the social and emotional challenges kids with autism face.
You can find additional books, videos, toys, and information sheets in the Autism Speaks Resource Library. If you’re looking for more educational resources, you may appreciate Help Teaching’s Life Skills or Study Skills worksheets or use Help Teaching’s Test Maker platform to develop test, quizzes, and worksheets that can meet the needs of your autistic students.
Are you a parent of a child with autism? Is there anything else you want educators to know? If so, please share it with us in the comments.
In April, we celebrate National Library Week. It’s a week to stop and consider how important libraries are to our schools and communities. In this digital age, it may be hard to understand why libraries are still important. Kids don’t need to head to the library to find books for research – they can just look up the information online. Even though the use of libraries is changing, they still offer a lot of benefits to kids.
1. They Provide Equal Access to Resources
For people who have regular access to computers, smartphones, and tablets, the library may not seem like that big of a deal. They can easily access the information they need and quickly purchase and download new books to read. However, for those who don’t have access to technology or don’t want to spend money on digital books, libraries play a big role. Walk into nearly any library and look at the computers. Chances are there won’t be many empty chairs.
Every day, libraries play host to kids completing research projects or seeking homework help on the computers. They make it possible for kids who don’t have access to the Internet at home to still benefit from the resources the Internet provides. Kids don’t have to stress if a teacher gives them an assignment or schedules a test online because they know the library is there to help. Many libraries have even started to lend out tablets for use in the library so kids can get a chance to play educational games, read digital texts, and become acclimated with the latest technology.
2. They Provide a Sense of Community
In many communities, the local library is one of the most popular meeting places. Kids might meet at the library to work on a project or see friends from school when they stop by in the afternoon. Libraries also foster a sense of community by providing programs for kids and teens. They host story times for young kids and book clubs for teens. Sometimes libraries host special concerts or show movies for different age groups. They may even host a LEGO club or a robotics club. All of these activities give kids the chance to have fun in safe, positive environment and help them connect with other kids in their community.
Many libraries bring their programs out into the community too. Some take bookmobiles into local communities so kids can check out books without having to go to the library. Some partner with local events or attractions for kids and design programs that show kids how reading relates to different aspects of life. For example, a librarian may visit the local zoo and read a story about snakes before the zookeeper brings out a snake for kids to see or a library may set up a booth with books about going to the doctor at a local health fair.
3. They Teach Responsibility and Accountability
Getting a library card can be a special moment for kids. It is something that belongs just to
them and it opens up a whole new world. But with that library card comes great responsibility. Kids can check out books and movies with their library card, but those books and movies come with due dates. If a book is returned late or damaged, it results in a fine. This makes a library card a great tool for teaching responsibility and accountability.
When kids check out books, they must make sure they keep them safe and that they turn them in on time. If they end up with a lost book or a fine, they learn how to be accountable for their actions. Parents can have kids pay the fine out of their allowance or work off the fine by doing chores around the house. Doing so will help kids learn a lesson they can transfer to many other areas in life.
4. They Encourage a Lifetime of Learning
Kids cannot step into a library without learning something. If they’re playing a game on the library computer, they’re likely building their math or reading skills. If they’re reading a picture book, they’re learning new words and discovering new worlds. As they grow older, the library continues to be a place where they can learn. If they want to improve their cooking skills, they can pick up a cookbook. If they want to learn to crochet, they can find a book on crocheting or sometimes even take a class that teaches them how to crochet. When it comes time to find a job, the library will help them develop a resume and give them interview tips.
Libraries encourage people to visit new worlds, discover new points of view, and to keep building upon their knowledge. They create displays of books related to popular topic and regularly highlight librarians’ favorite reads. They host local authors, historians, and musicians. By encouraging kids to visit the library when they are young, parents and teachers will share with them a resource that they will continue to return to as they grow.
What do you love about your local library? Give your library a shout out in the comments!
Music education plays an important role in schools. Music classes help students build focus and discipline, rhythm and coordination, and creative language and thinking skills. With all the benefits music offers, it shouldn’t just be relegated to the music classroom. Teachers in all grade-levels and subject areas can reap the benefits of bringing music into their own classrooms.
1. Music to Jog Memories
In the 70s, 80s, and 90s, elementary students learned how a bill became a law by listening to “I’m Just a Bill” and learned the purpose of words such as and, but, and or with “Conjunction Junction.” Schoolhouse Rock songs were a staple in classrooms and helped kids learn a lot of fun new concepts.
Today, lots of musicians have branched out into the world of educational song writing. Even popular groups such as They Might Be Giants and Barenaked Ladies have albums written designed to help kids learn. Other popular educational music collections include:
If you can’t find a song that fits your topic, make one up on your own set to the tune of a popular children’s song.
In the classroom, you can use educational songs to spice up the content and give students a way to remember important concepts. If you can’t find a song that fits your topic, make one up on your own set to the tune of a popular children’s song. For example, this song uses the tune of “The Farmer in the Dell” to teach students about long vowel sounds. Singing about the planets to the tune of “The Wheels on the Bus” or rapping the parts of speech may not win you a Grammy, but it will likely help your students tell the difference between a noun and a verb or remember the order of the planets.
2. Music as an Example
From language arts to social studies, music can be used to help spark discussion, provide illustrations, and enhance your discussion of a topic. For example, if you’re studying the Civil Rights Movement, bring in some protest songs. Often songs from a particular era or related to a particular topic can provide more specific examples and convey deep emotions. They’re also a great way to open a lesson and hook students from the very start.
Even popular music can serve as an example in the classroom. In the language arts classroom, you can pull songs with lyrics to represent different types of figurative language or that relate to particular themes. In math and science, you can also pull out lines from songs that have to do with particular concepts students are learning. You might be surprised where you’ll find a reference to isosceles triangles or the periodic table. Steven Galbraith, a member of the Mathematics Department at the University of Auckland has even put together The List of Unintentionally Mathematical Songs to help you start finding songs to use in your classroom and Scientific American and NewScientist have highlighted a few pop songs inspired by science.
Encourage your students to bring music into the classroom too. They’re likely to notice a lot of references to what you’re learning in the songs they like to listen to. For example, rap songs are chock full of allusions and clever one liners, pop music is full of metaphors and similes, and country music offers a lot of imagery. While a song may have nothing to do with what you’re learning, one or two lines may fit perfectly in a lesson.
3. Music for Energy and Relaxation
If you want to keep students’ minds sharp for a particularly important lesson, put on an upbeat tune and have them get out of their seats and dance before getting to work.
Beyond helping students learn specific information, you can use music to help improve the learning environment. Both upbeat and softer music play a role in stimulating students and improving their focus. If you want to keep students’ minds sharp for a particularly important lesson, put on an upbeat tune and have them get out of their seats and dance before getting to work. This will help wake them up and increase their attention before getting down to business. An upbeat song also works well as a way to transition between two topics or to re-energize students after they have been sitting for a long time. You can even play upbeat songs as students enter the classroom to get them excited about learning or play farewell songs at the end of class as a creative way to end the day and signal to students that it’s okay to start packing up.
When you want students to feel calm and relaxed, try playing softer music. Classical music has been shown to be as effective as Valium for heart patients and has been attributed with lowering crime rates in dangerous neighborhoods. With these examples, imagine how much it could improve classroom management and focus in your classroom. Play classical music during tests to help reduce the amount of anxiety in the room or during seatwork time to remind students to be calm and focused. While students may push to listen to more popular music during these times, the softness and steady rhythms provided by classical pieces are more ideal and less distracting to students.
Do you have any favorite songs you like to play for students? If so, we’d love to hear about them.