5.19.2012

Ten Thoughtful and Inexpensive Graduation Gifts for Your Students

Inexpensive and Thoughtful Graduation Gifts for Students

It's graduation season and for high school teachers this can be a drain on the budget. I love supporting my students and going to their parties, but I also know of many teachers who may opt to skip them because giving money or buying a gift for each graduate is expensive. My husband also teaches at the same school, so there have been years that we've been invited to over 20 parties. Of course, attending them all is next to impossible (especially if they are on the same day), but I still like to acknowledge the students with a small gift.

Here are 10 ideas for graduation gifts:

{For Those Who Need a Gift Now}

1. Ask the office for a list of all the students in the graduating class (a digital copy is preferred). Insert the names into a word-cloud generator, like www.Tagxedo.com or www.Wordle.net. Change the colors to match your school's (or just use fun colors), then download and save the image. Print it on cardstock, frame, and sign the back. (Tips: Add words like "congratulations," "graduate," and their class year for variety. Also, duplicate the name of the student so it appears larger in the cloud, as seen in the first image with "Nicholas.")
Graduation Word Cloud

For variety, use a picture of your school mascot, or the year of the graduating class as the format for the cloud. 
2013 Word Cloud: Graduation - Ideas for Graduation Cards & Gifts

Use my 2013 clip art numbers to create the 2013 word clouds on www.tagxedo.com.
Make 2013 word clouds using these clip art images

2. Using one of the word-cloud generators from above, copy the text from a favorite poem, book, or collection of inspirational quotes. After you create the cloud, print and frame it, adding a personal message on the back for the graduate. (See my Dr. Seuss Oh! The Places You'll Go! art prints.)

3. Create a caricature of the student, print it, and frame it or just use it as a card. Use the website www.sp-studio.de to create South Park-style caricatures. High school students love these!
A caricature of the graduate using www.sp-studio.de website.
4. Write a personal handwritten note to each student. Bring up the positive things you remember about having the student in class. Sometimes a note from their teacher letting them know that you care and wish them the best means more to them than any other gift.

{Involves Planning Ahead of Time - Bookmark for Next Year!}
5. Create a 2-column table with the students' names in the first column. Leave the second column blank, but give others room to write. Run copies for each student and distribute. Then have them write one nice thing about each of their classmates. Collect all the papers and either:
     A. cut each row so each student gets a sentiment on each individual strip of paper, OR
     B. type all the sentiments for each student, with each student getting an individual piece of paper with multiple sentiments.
  (Another way to do it is to have a page with each student's name at the top, then pass that page around and have each new student add something nice about that classmate. Then give each student the copy with the handwritten notes from their classmates. This can also be done in a shared Google Docs document. Have each student type in a different color. Drawback: some students are immature and use this as a way to write something inappropriate because it is in front of the class. Having each student write all the comments on their own sheet and turning it in may be more work for you, but it also deters those "exhibitionists" from doing something immature.)
Ten Thoughtful and Inexpensive Graduation Gifts

6. Have your students pose for a class picture. Take a group shot of them, then run copies of 4x6 prints (you can even make a personalized frame on many websites like www.snapfish.com). Buy an inexpensive picture frame (dollar stores are great for these) and you have a personalized gift for less than $2. Write a note to the graduate on the back of the frame/picture and you are set.
Personalize a class picture, then print & frame.
7. At the beginning of the school year, take a group picture of each class of students you have. Take another picture at the end of the school year. Save the files (I'm assuming you take the pictures with a digital camera). When a student from one of your past or present classes graduates, print the pictures and include them in a card, frame, or inexpensive photo flip album. Include copies of inspirational quotes in between the pictures.

8. For a yearbook/newspaper advisor: Copy the images from the past year onto a CD. Give a copy of the CD as a gift to the graduates. (Note: We used to sell photo CDs at the end of the school year as a fundraiser when I advised the newspaper and yearbook. We were able to fund the printing of our school newspaper with the sales from the CDs. We also made video yearbooks, which helped, as well.)

9. If photos aren't your thing, have your students write "life lessons" when they are in your class. Save these, then make copies of each class for when they graduate. If you have mixed classes (ex.: juniors & seniors in same class), make sure to separate them out by keeping an envelope for each class year. Just label it "Class of 2012" and so on. Then, when they graduate, give them a copy of the booklet with their classmates "life lessons." (*I have a free download of this activity--it is amazing what students will write! They love reading these!)
Compile copies of the "life lessons" your students write in class.
10. Another thing you can give the graduate separately or include with the "life lessons" is a compilation of funny things said in class. I try to write these down when they are fresh in my mind (but I miss a lot of them, too). Then make a photocopy and share with the graduates.

Also read 

To help you, I have several inexpensive digital downloads of templates you can use for graduation cards or framed gifts. Here are some of the old favorites and new products I just uploaded:

"If" By Rudyard Kipling Art Print
PDF file

Robert Frost Poetry Art Prints
PDF file

Langston Hughes Poetry Art Prints
PDF file

NEW Products:
Graduation or Promotion Printable Cards You Can Personalize (Any Year)
Microsoft Word document

Graduation or Promotion Graphics (Any Year) for Personal & Commercial Use
PNG files

Class of 2012 Graphics for Personal or Commercial Use
PNG files

Do you have something special you do for graduates? Add your idea in the comments below!

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5.10.2012

Replace Student Journals with a Class Blog


I teach at a 1:1 Mac school. This year marked our third year with laptops at the high school and I knew I wanted to do something differently with student journals. Last year I had students typing them in a Pages document (Pages is an iWork word processing application). And though journals are personal reflection, I wanted to take it a step further and venture into blogging.

I had students write journals online in the past. But that involved reserving the computer lab and hoping the internet worked and all the computers were working properly. They wrote posts on our old school website and every entry had to be approved. It was tedious and students rarely had the opportunity to read their classmates' entries.

So this year we started a group blog on Blogger. I urged students to remember this was for public viewing and they should write in complete sentences, use complete words rather than texting lingo/abbreviations, and always spell check. Well, it didn't quite start the way I would have liked. This post, for example. And this one. And this. No matter how much I urged my students to write more, write better, they didn't really seem to care.

Though I do think their writing online is improving, I have to remind them this isn't a Facebook status update. I think it's important to allow them to practice responsible online writing. In addition, many will be taking early college courses that require blogging. I was shocked that even though my students had their laptops for three years, only a couple of them had ever blogged before. Now, many of them have started their own in addition to our class blog. Learning this skill is another way to prepare them for a digital future.

You can check out their most recent posts for Teacher Appreciation Week. They wrote thank-you notes to a teacher they have had in the past. I'm pretty proud of their letters and we shared them with the rest of the district. Many teachers from their past were touched by their heart-felt sentiments: EHS English II

If you are on the fence about blogging, I suggest giving it a try. On Blogger you can have up to 100 authors for one blog. It's pretty easy to set up and add authors (you'll need their email address to invite them). If it doesn't work out, you can always delete it. But you'll never know unless you try.



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5.06.2012

Teacher Appreciation Week: You DO Make a Difference

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Today kicks off Teacher Appreciation Week and Tuesday is Teacher Appreciation Day. We celebrate it to honor those who devote their lives to teaching children and serving others.

It's nice to get a pat on the back, especially this time of year. We often go about our day lecturing, explaining directions over and over, wondering if anyone is listening, if anyone cares. Sometimes it's a thankless job. Sometimes it seems as if we've not made a bit of difference. Then, perhaps years later, we receive a note from a student or a call from a parent who just wanted to say thanks. Those moments lift us and remind us that our jobs may not have immediate rewards, but they DO make all the difference in the lives of others.

As we near the close of another school year, stay positive and end it with a smile. And know that even though you may not see the fruit of your labor this year, or next year, or even in ten years, you have planted the seed and it will continue to grow because of your efforts.

Thank you to teachers everywhere for your efforts with our children...with our future.

Here are some of my favorite teaching-related Pinterest pins:









5.05.2012

Help Your Students With Reading Comprehension With Simple Bookmarks



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We all have students who are hesitant to speak up in class; perhaps they do not want to ask questions in front of their classmates, or they are just shy. Regardless of the reasons, we can't help them unless we know that they are struggling.

To help combat this, try these bookmarks the next time you assign reading (or during read-alouds in class). Instead of students speaking up, they jot down the question on the bookmark. Have them submit at the end or beginning of class. This way you know what they may be struggling with and can address it in the next class period or the next day. It's a simple idea and can be done on any piece of paper or post-it note. However, I did create some free printables you can try.

Just print on regular paper and have students grab a new one when they turn one in. They can be printed on front/back, as well. One format has 6 bookmarks on one 8.5x11-inch page, the other has four per page. I also featured two different fonts (one is more appropriate for lower grades) and each with lines or without.

You can download them FREE here:

Don't forget that the Teacher Appreciation Sale starts tonight at midnight! You'll be able to get all of my products 20% off and take an additional 10% off by using the promo code TAD12 at checkout. This is our way of giving back to our fellow teachers to kick of Appreciation Week! THANK YOU for all you do!