Tuesday, May 13, 2014

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Our Thoughtful & Easy-to-Organize Teacher's Gift Idea from the Whole Class . . . a Wall Calendar Filled with Students' Quotes!

Teacher's Gift Idea - A wall calendar filled with quotes from the students about their favorite things!
This is my second year organizing classroom gifts for one of our children's teachers.  Somehow it always seems that there is one room that does not have a Room Parent, who usually takes on this and other important tasks.  Last year, another parent and I teamed up and we were floored at how difficult it was to arrange the Holiday gift.  More than half the parents did not provide contact information for the student directory, so we had to send home letters to the families without drawing attention from the teacher.  The participation was staggeringly low, even though we only asked for $5 per family to go towards both the gifts for the primary teacher and the assistant teacher.  I was shocked and a bit dismayed.  The experience was so difficult that the other parent and I agreed not to attempt organizing an end-of-the-year gift.  Instead, we came up with thoughtful gifts on our own for our children to present to their teachers.

This past Holiday, I was presented with the same problem.  There was no official room parent, so I stepped up to organize the classroom gift.  This time, things looked more promising.  Nearly all the parents had provided their email for the student directory, which was a good sign.  I had learned from past experience to make participating as easy on the parents as possible.  I even offered to take contributions with cash sent to school or via PayPal.  So, I came up with a teacher's gift idea that would make it easy on the parents and would be unique and super-thoughtful . . . a personalized wall calendar filled with quotes from the students about their favorite things.  This was easier to do than it sounds.  All you need is to know how to use Google Forms and Spreadsheets, have a basic graphics program where you can turn text into an image, and have a place that prints custom photo calendars, like Walgreens.


Tips for making a 'Favorite Things' Quotes Wall Calendar for a Teacher's Gift from the class . . . 

1.  Create a Google Form with clear instructions for the parents on how to interview their children and how to submit their children's responses in the blank fields.  I found it easier to use a fill-in-the-blank format for the questions.  Be sure to include a mandatory question asking for the child's name.  I offered a wide variety of interview questions, with some pertaining to certain times of the year, but, to make this low-stress on the parents and students, I only made two of them mandatory . . . what the child's favorite thing about their teacher is and what their favorite thing about 1st grade is.
Google Forms example for interviewing students about their favorite things.

2.  All the interview responses will automatically be collected in a Google Spreadsheet.  At this point, you should figure out how many quotes you would like to include per calendar page and decide if you would like to make a 12-month or an 18-month calendar.  Based on the responses I received and my wanting to include 4 quotes per page for a 12-month calendar, I figured out that each student should have 3 or 4 quotes included in the calendar.
Google Spreadsheet with students' quotes about their favorite things.

3.  When making your images of the quotes, be sure to change the color of the quotes you've used in order to keep track of how many quotes you've used from each child and to avoid duplicates.  Be sure to make your image in a high resolution format (300 dpi).  If you don't have a graphics program, you can download Gimp for free.  You can make the quotes as simple as you'd like or use different fonts, colors, etc . . . I tried to be sure to include any seasonal quotes on the images to be used on the relevant months in the calendar.  I also made sure to include all the students' quotes about their favorite thing about their teacher and about their grade.  For any families who did not submit their children's quotes, the students' names were still printed on the front cover of the calendar with the rest of the class.

4.  Ordering your photo calendar should be pretty easy.  I used Walgreens Photo, which is extremely user-friendly.  All you need to do is choose the size and format for your calendar to get started.  Then you can choose a theme and customize each page of the calendar with your image, text, and different backgrounds.

Walgreens Photo Gifts 234x60

For the classroom's Holiday gift, we included this calendar along with other goodies and a gift card in a gift basket.  The teacher was so touched while reading all the quotes that it brought tears to her eyes.

For the end-of-the-year gift this year, I will be making a design with all the student's names on it to print on a canvas tote bag for the teacher.  I think I will be using Walgreens Photo again.  I was pleased with the results last time, plus they always have coupons available on photo gifts and I was able to pick the finished product up at our local store.  Of course we'll be filling the tote with a gift card and other fun things for summer vacation.  Do you have any suggestions about what kinds of things we should include?