Morning Devotions for Kids

Devotions - spending time with the Lord for a focused period of time. Morning devotions with kids - spending time with the Lord for a focused period of time, and teaching kids the importance of following God. This is so important! But sometimes it’s hard to do because we lack ideas. If you’re anything like me, you like to establish routines in your classroom, and finding a devotion routine for school (or at home!) can be tricky.

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Despite all the excuses that I come up with - my biggest one being “I don’t have time today”, I have discovered that devotions help to ground my day. When my students come in, they do morning work. Let’s be practical, we need those few minutes to talk to parents, organize backpacks, etc, etc. But right after that, we all sit together at the carpet for devotions. I find that doing devotions in the morning is a way to invite Jesus into the day. It sets the tone for the day: we are first focused on Christ, then our endeavors of the day. It reminds the students (and me!) about the importance of obeying and trusting God in everything we do.

Devotions are important for every age, so here are some suggestions for devotional books that can help you establish a routine in your classroom (or at home), no matter which age group you teach.

Pre-K and Kindergarten: Read and Share Bedtime Bible and Devotional, by Gwen Ellis

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Although titled “Bedtime Bible”, it does not have to be read at bedtime. This book is full of short Bible stories written in kid-friendly language, with colorful illustrations. Each story is only about 50 words long, and at the end there is a discussion question. Since the stories are short, more than one story could be read and discussed.

Kindergarten and 1st Grade: Betty Luken’s Flannelgraph, by Betty Luken

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Both the Kindergarten teacher and 1st Grade teachers at my school use flannelgraph when teaching Bible stories. Betty Luken’s book is written in the form of a narrative story, with flannel pieces to accompany it. The K and 1 teachers will do one story in the morning, then chat about the story and pray. Later in the day, during play centers, the students can use the flannelgraph pieces to retell the story. The kids love doing this!

2nd and 3rd Grade: The Jesus Storybook Bible, by Sally Llyod-Jones

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In my room, we use the “Storybook Bible”, which has beautifully written stories that focus on God’s plan for the world and our need for a Saviour. We gather on the carpet to read one story a day. This way, all students are super familiar with the “Big Picture” of the Bible. After reading, we talk briefly about the story and then take time to pray.

2nd, 3rd or 4th Grade: The One Year Book of Devotions for Kids

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If you’re looking for something that goes beyond Bible stories and delves into specific Bible passages, this is the book for you. Each day, there is a short Scripture to read, followed by a short narrative story about modern-day kids who have to practice the virtue or principle outlined in the Scripture passage. At the end, are discussion questions and suggestions for a Bible Memory Verses.

4th Grade: Jesus Calling - 365 Devotions for Kids, by Sarah Young adapted by Tama Fortner

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This book is written as if Jesus is speaking to the children. Each page starts with a Bible verse. Then there’s a short passage, written from Jesus’  point of view, telling the students about how wonderful His plans are and how He wants them to live their lives. This book does require students to have a background knowledge of the Bible, so that’s why it’s better for older children who have some foundational knowledge.

These are only a handful of the resources that my teacher-friends and I have used for our morning devotions with our students. There are so many wonderful books and routines out there. What are some of your suggestions and tried-and-true routines?

- Rachel

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Rachel PoetkerComment
A Little Encouragement Goes A Long Way

There is a saying that goes like this: “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar”. As teachers, we could change this to phrase to read like this: “You impact more students with encouragement than harsh words”. If you think back on your schooling, which teachers do you remember with fondness. My favorite teachers were the ones who encouraged me along the way. The ones who took time to get to know me and what I needed. The ones who knew how to “fill my bucket”, to borrow the phrase from the ever popular book “Have you Filled a Bucket Today?”

PoetPrints Encouraging Your Students in 4 ways

It really is true that a little bit of encouragement can go a long way. As teachers, we have a unique job because we have the privilege of setting an example for the kids. I don’t know about you, but I want to set an example as an encourager and someone who takes the time to build others up. Here are some simple ideas for how to ‘love on’ different personality types in our classroom.

Encouragement Idea One: Tea Time

This is for those kiddos who feel love through ‘quality time’. I set aside time a day or two a week (during Lunch, Recess or Centers) to have some one-on-one time with a student. I brew a cup of herbal tea for each of us and we chat. In the past, I’ve had a chart on the back wall where students can sign-up to spend tea-time with me. The kids really look forward to someone on one time with Mrs. P. Some kids thrive on starting conversations and carrying them on, so chatting with them is easy. Other students need some prompting. For those kids, I have a stack of questions cards that help the conversation to flow more naturally.

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Encouragement Idea Two: Whiteboard Marker Notes

Another great idea for leaving encouraging words is writing on their desks with a whiteboard marker. (Yes, it really works, and erases quite easily!) I like to do this the night before, so the kids see the notes when they come in for the morning. It’s also fun to hear the shock in their voices when they see you have written on their desk. It’s so worth it.

Encouragement Idea Three: Positive Notes

This is for those kids who feel love through ‘words of affirmation’. Students love to receive little notes and hear positive things about themselves. When these notes go home, parents also love to read the positive things about their child. I try to have a stack of notes ready to go in my desk drawer.  (You can find the notes that I use here.  I also have a Bible-based version for Christian classrooms) In the package, there are many pre-made notes that you just need to print out and give the students. These are great to slip into report cards, journals, or leave on the kids’ desks in the morning.

Ready-to-print positive notes that focus on good character.  

Ready-to-print positive notes that focus on good character.  

Encouragement Idea Four: Trinkets and Tokens

Some students feel the most loved when they receive a small gift. I’m not saying that you need to break the bank on getting 20+ students a gift. It could be something as small as a new fun pencil or eraser for each student. Or maybe you could bake cookies for your kids....just because. There doesn’t need to be a reason! If everything is a reward, it can lose its meaning. Sometimes a surprise gift will bring the biggest smiles to your students’ faces.

These are only a few ideas that I’ve used over the years, and I’m always on the search for more ways to show my kids some extra love. What are your favorite ways to encourage your students?

- Rachel

Poet Prints How To Encourage Your Students
Rachel PoetkerComment
5 Things Missing From Your Sub Plans

This year, my teaching career looks very different from the past few.  After university, I was super lucky to land a third-grade teaching contract, and I stayed there until this past June.  After moving to a new city over the summer,  I am trying something different.  While we get settled somewhere into our new house and community,  I am taking the year to be a substitute teacher in our local public district (or, as we call it up here in BC, a TTOC, Teacher Teaching On Call). 

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It's been fun to pop into many different grade levels for the day and see how different teachers and schools choose to run their classrooms.  Most often, teachers leave me wonderful day plans with exactly what I need to teach each day.  (However, I have been very thankful for emergency plans on days that there has been nothing left!)  

In looking through many, many different 'sub plans' I've noticed that most are missing a few key pieces of information that would make my day, as a substitute teacher, so much easier.  Here are the things I wish all sub plans would include:

Your Usual Attention-Getter

How do you usually get the attention of the students in your room? Are you a clapper?  Do you do a call-and-answer?  Do you ring a bell?  Does someone turn the lights off?  As a sub, it can be almost impossible to establish a new attention-grabbing routine in a day or two, and kids respond best to what they are familiar with.  When a teacher leaves this key piece of information in his/her plans, it helps to set me up for success! 

Extra Class Lists

So often, substitute teachers are only given one class list for attendance, and then it is required to go back to the office first thing in the morning.  The rest of the day, I am without a complete class list.  I love when the teacher has left a few easy-to-find copies of the class list somewhere readily accessible.  

Important Routines

I have found that students thrive on routines, so when a substitute teacher arrives, they can be very thrown off by familiar routines that are not 'done right'.  If you have an important routine in your classroom - morning meeting, end-of-day dismissal, birthday songs, line up, how centers are chosen, etc.  write down the procedure to help different substitute teachers maintain the routines while you are away.  

Off Limits Items

Regardless of how 'on' I am as a teacher, there will always be one or two students who try to get away with things that the classroom teacher would not normally allow.  If there are things in your classroom that the students can't use, touch, or do - jot them down in your sub notes.  

Student Notes

As a classroom teacher, you have days (and weeks, and months) to try and 'figure out' some of the tougher students.  Substitute teachers have only minutes.  If you have a student with special needs, or a student who may need some behavior help, write down some of the strategies that have been successful.  As a sub, we want to help your students be successful, but the best way to do this is to partner alongside the work that you are already doing daily in the classroom.  

Have I missed anything?  Is there anything that you include in your sub plans that is a lifesaver for your students?  Let me know in the comments below!

- Rachel

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Planning the Perfect Crime Scene Classroom

I know I’ve said it before, but I love hands-on events in a classroom. I love creating learning moments that students will talk about for months (or years) to come.  Last year, while studying inferencing in our reading curriculum my teaching partner and I decided to turn our classroom into an interactive crime scene to really dial up the excitement.  We had such a fun day and the kids were buzzing about it until they went home for summer break.

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We decided to set the classroom up as a crime scene to help explore how making inferences is a lot like being a ‘detective’ when you read.  When you read, you must use observations to draw a conclusion and read-between-the-lines of a story.   At a crime scene, detectives have to use clues to figure out what happened, there is no obvious sign explaining everything. 

Although we set the stage with a few inferencing lessons that introduced key vocabulary, the real highlight was our Crime Scene Classroom.  Here are my top 4 tips for planning your own Crime Scene Day. 

Tip 1:  Make a list, check it twice

Be prepared.  However you choose to set up the scenes in your classroom, have everything ready to go ahead of time.  I would suggest preparing materials for each scene in a large Ziplock bag or ice-cream pail so that it is quick and easy to set up.  If possible, choose Crime Scene scenarios that require very few additional supplies.  Try brainstorming ‘crimes’ that can be committed with things you already have in your classroom.  Are there any rules that you have in your classroom?  What if the criminal broke one or two of them?  I have also planned out 4 easy-to-assemble crime scenes in this packet.    Store your supplies away so that they can be quickly accessed during a prep or recess break.  I've laid out the supplies that I used in a convenient checklist in my Crime Scene Classroom packet

Organization is key!  The Crime Scene Class pack has detailed set-up instructions to make planning/set up so much easier. 

Organization is key!  The Crime Scene Class pack has detailed set-up instructions to make planning/set up so much easier. 

Tip 2:  Set it up in secret

I set up the crime scene during my prep time and made sure that none of my students knew about the activity before the walked through the door to begin solving crimes.  The surprise on their faces when they came into our classroom was so worth it!

Setting up the class while students were at recess allowed them to be really surprised when they walked in! Do we look sneaky?

Setting up the class while students were at recess allowed them to be really surprised when they walked in! Do we look sneaky?

Tip 3:  Set the stage

Instead of handing students a workbook and telling them to go solve each crime, I would suggest getting into character and really setting the scene.  This helps students to get excited about the event.

  “Grade Three! Something terrible has happened in our classroom.  Someone or many people have broken into our room and committed crimes.  The police need your help to solve them.  Will you be Junior Detectives for the day and help me to figure out what happened to our beloved classroom?”   

The more engaged you are, the more engaged they will be in return.

Tip 4:  Start together

After I invited students to become Jr. Detectives for the day, we all entered the Crime Scene Classroom together, as one group.  Then, we proceeded to the first scene together.  Here, made observations and inferences as a group so that all students understood how to participate in the activity. By modeling this, students had a good understanding of how to visit each crime scene and make observations without rushing.  (Well, most of them at least!)

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Tip 5:  Be prepared for early finishers

While most of my students moved carefully through each crime scene, one or two finished with lightning-speed.  And the worst part… their work was well done!  I quickly came up with a few tie-in activities to extend their learning. 

  • Write a timeline of the crime
  • Draw a map of how each crime was committed
  • Write a first-person story about one of the crimes

We had so much fun completing our Crime Scene Day, and it was a great way to help students understand what it means to make an inference. 

The plans for the complete Crime Scene Class (along with 2 scripted inferencing lessons, printable decor, planning pages and student workbooks) can be found here

Have you tried a day like this?  I’d love to hear your best tip in the comments below.

 

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NEW - Coffee & Kindness Teacher T-Shirts

If things have been a little quiet here at Poet Prints, it's because we have been launching something new behind the scenes.  I am so excited to announce our new line of Teacher T-Shirts!  We will be doing individual runs of soft, comfortable, and (most of all) cute tees for work or play.  

These shirts have been a labor of love and I am so excited to share them with the world.  They are made here in Canada and currently ship to all locations in Canada.  As a Canadian teacher, I was inspired to make these tees to have an option that didn't require USD/CAD exchange, duty, and super-expensive shipping.  

To celebrate...

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(This giveaway is now closed!  Thanks to all who entered and congratulations to our winner.)

Winner must be Canadian, over the age of majority in their province, and answer a skill testing question.  

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Rachel Poetker
Love Languages in the Classroom

Have you ever heard of Love Languages? I use them all of the time in my marriage and I try to show care and kindness to my friends in ways that speak to their love languages as well.  But have you ever thought about using them in the classroom to help your students interact with each other and show care in a more meaningful way? 

If you have never heard of love languages, the basic premise is that there are five basic ways that we all receive and give love: gifts, quality time, acts of service, physical touch, and words of affirmation. Through the love languages quiz, you can find out the primary and secondary way that you like to receive love. 

I wanted to try this out in my classroom because I had a group of kids who both loved to give physical touch and did not like to receive it.  It was a really weird contrast.  They were a very ‘touchy’ group without any sense that no one else wanted to be hugged/touched in return.  I thought that exploring Love Languages might give them other tools to show their care/concern in a way that could be better received. 

So we did the quiz individually, as a teacher-led activity.  You can find a kids’ version of the quiz right from the official Love Languages book website.  I walked my students through each question and we tallied up their primary and secondary love languages. Each student was given a post-it note and they charted their top two Love Languages.  

It was so interesting to see how my students like to receive love – it was definitely different than I would have expected. 

It was so interesting to see how my students like to receive love – it was definitely different than I would have expected. 

Then we met on the carpet to talk about it.  Of course, we all loved parts of all of the Love Languages, but after talking, most agreed that these were their favorite ways to receive love. Together, we brainstormed ways that we could show love to our friends that would match up with their Love Languages.  

  • Play a board game with someone who is quality time
  • Give a high-five to someone who is physical touch
  • Write a note to someone who is words of affirmation
  • Tidy a friend’s cubby if they are acts of service
  • Make a craft for someone who is gifts

It was so fun to brainstorm ways to show love to our friends in a way that they like to receive it.  We hung up our Love Languages chart in a clear spot in the classroom for the next couple of months so that the students could easily see it. As a teacher, I enjoyed watching my kids head back to that chart frequently to find a name on it to see a way they could ‘bless’ someone else.  It really helped to build character and empathy in my students and encouraged them to put the needs of their peers far above their own needs.

Have you ever used Love Languages in your classroom?  I’m already starting to plan ways to go ‘bigger’ with this in the future. I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below!

- Rachel

Poetprints.ca Love Languages in the Classroom