Finding Balance Between Back to School, UGA, Book Club, and FAMILY!

I have been a little MIA lately, so I thought I’d share what has been going on, now that I have a quiet moment to drink coffee and type. If any of you have followed me on-line, or are familiar with my on-line life, I have been enjoying reading with the Educator’s Book Club and co-managing the Unshakeable Summer Book Study with Angela Watson. During this book study, I promised myself that I would find balance this upcoming school year. What I didn’t mention in the book club is why I am so focused on this.

This school year, I am starting a new grade level (2nd!) that I haven’t taught since before the release of Common Core, I am beginning graduate school, and I am continuing the book studies with the Educator’s Book Club. There is a possibility that there may be other projects on the horizon, and I’ll welcome those if and when they come.

Needless to say, these are all exciting challenges, and each one takes a great deal of time to handle. Meanwhile, I have an almost 2 year old daughter and a husband I refuse to neglect, or, even, make to feel neglected. I am very grateful to have a supportive husband who is picking up any slack I am leaving around the house and encourages me to go after all of my dreams. He cooks dinners many nights, and even brings me dinner while I am “in-class” (on-line). He cleans our home, and he does the dishes. If I can’t make it to the grocery store, he swings by on the way home from work. We try to balance our responsibilities, but he hasn’t complained at all if I can’t hold up my end for a day (or week…) I can’t thank him enough for his support.

Daddy Daughter

That being said, here is a glimpse of my schedule. One thing I learned this summer from Unshakeable: 20 Ways to Enjoy Teaching No Matter What by Angela Watson, is that I need to schedule in me-time or family-time. This time is just as important as anything else in my life, and, definitely, more so!

Monday-Friday: Teach extended day 2nd grade 7:45-4:15And all of the teachers reading this know that 4:15 is a dream number. We always leave at-least 30 minutes after that, once dismissal duties are done and you say your greetings on the way back to your classroom to grab your things, prepare for the next day, and clock out.

Tuesday-Wednesday: On-Line Class 6-7:45
I’m loving these classes! But I hate the limited time I have with my daughter. But this phase in our life will be brief, and this is only two days out of the week. 🙂

Every Night for at-least one hour: Read for graduate school, update the book club, lesson plan for coming weeks, homework/projects. But, let’s be honest. Some nights, I just fall asleep and play catch-up on the weekends.

Monday, Thursday, Friday: 2 hours of family time after school. NO INTERRUPTIONS! We try to go on a walk and go to the park on these days.

Saturday-Sunday: Mommy-Daughter time. Or we visit the grandparents and I bring some work with me. Or we have a playdate with coworkers while we plan.

Once or twice a Month: Update Teachers-Pay-Teachers with new products.

Did I mention that my husband is awesome and picks our daughter up from daycare everyday? I drop her off, and this allows me to tie any lose ends before I leave at the end of the day.

A little over a year ago, I started the Educator’s Book Club as a means to stay connected to the world of education while I worked part-time and stayed home with my daughter. One year later, I realized what field I wanted to venture into for my M.Ed. Learning Design and Technology, Instructional Design and Development (IDD). I love connecting with educators around the world and learning from them! I’ve learned more than I could have imagined and discovered such an inviting and helpful group of teachers. One day, I look forward to meeting some of these “friends” and putting faces to the names. I found that the University of Georgia had this LD&T, IDD program AND that it is 100% on-line, so I jumped on it! I got accepted, and now I am a first year IDD student at UGA. I can’t put into words how excited I am, but I can tell you that thinking about it makes me feel like I’ve had 5 espressos. (I get really excited!)

We are into week 3 of the current semester and my mind is reeling at the thoughts of what kind of projects I intend to work on this semester. I have several ideas swirling around in my mind, and once I settle on which ones to do, I will share them with you all. I know that my students will be excited to hear what is in store for them, because I am trying to include them in the projects as much as possible.

(As a side note, if you plan math for your grade level, you should check out Engage New York’s curriculum. It is free. It is on-line. It is rigorous. And it is awesome! Work smarter, not harder!)

Life is getting busy and exciting, all at once, and I’m ready for it

There is so much more I wish I could write, but I hear my daughter stirring and our day is about to begin. Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

Frankie ❤


Goal-Oriented Classroom Management

The first day of school is approaching, and I see many of us teachers are putting together our classroom management systems and tools for the next school year. I have had my fair share of management systems in the past. I’ve had the treasure box and clips. I’ve used class dojo. I had the sticker charts on each kids desk. And I’ve had individualized behavior charts for select children who needed extra support. I’ve pulled kids into the hallway to speak and I’ve had silent lunches. I’ve also had lunch with the teachers and positive phone calls home. I’ve sent home “I noticed you” notes and I’ve done class jars with class parties. I’ve done all of these, and I’ve been teaching for only three years. So this all made me think. What in the world am I trying to accomplish with all of these “tricks” and treats?

I want to teach my students to be great critical thinkers, to problem solve, and be independent. I want the classroom to truly be OURS, and for each child to have a sense of ownership and pride in the room they spend 40+ hours in per week. How in the world am I achieving this if I am giving points for pushing in chairs and keeping work spaces clean? Shouldn’t the driving factor for taking care of our room and friends be just that, taking pride in our room and caring for our friends? How can I teach my students this if they are actively asking for points/stickers/clip-moved-up for everything?

And, then, came my next question. Is there a more productive time to use a point system? Immediately, I thought of the students who need a constant reminder or extra nudge, but these kids are usually on their own behavior management plan, anyway. The point/clip/reward/consequence system doesn’t seem to phase them, and really only provides an inadvertent label for the other kids. “John is always on red.” Or, “John never gets to the treasure box.” Of course, these are more extreme, because I hope the teacher is mindful of each child’s progress. But, then, we end up sending a child to the treasure box for doing something like showing up to school on time or tying their own shoe laces. So, again, what am I trying to achieve? And what am I actually achieving?

Or, think of it this way. Our students have feelings just like we, adults, do. What if our principals had a point system for each teacher and if you made an infraction, your points were reduced or your clip was taken down? We could lose points for making too many copies or being late to our designated lunch time (the precise time of 11:36). Usually, we rush to make it to lunch on time so we don’t delay lunch for the following classrooms, but, if a point system were in place, the focus shifts. Not only am I disappointing the next hungry class, I, now, have lost points. Whether or not this system is public knowledge, doesn’t change the fact that the next class teacher knows I’ve lost those points. It’s embarrassing on more than one level and now I would be focused on how to build my points up. Not the learning process. Or, maybe, I just wouldn’t care and start to despise the system altogether.

Our students are the same way. My students would become fixated on either not losing a point or how they can earn the next point. Sometimes, it just looks like sitting super still on the carpet, even though they may not be paying attention to the book that I am reading. My classroom did not truly reflect the type of learning and communication I wanted.

I believe that learning is a messy process. I believe that it is not and, dare I say, never linear. I want my students to be making numerous connections across texts, subjects, and time. I want them to recall and build on prior knowledge. I want them to be able to carry focused and inspiring conversations that provoke more questions, and, therefore, provide opportunities to find answers and solutions. But, how can I encourage this if I am dictating how they are to carry a conversation?

Roughly two years ago, I went through a training called, 21 Keys for High Performance Teaching and Learning, by The Pacific Institute. I highly recommend this training and wish I could sum up the gist of the training into a couple paragraphs. However, if I did, it wouldn’t be nearly as effective. Here is a video clip as a taste of the training I had. I can say that this training transformed my thought process and really made me question the classroom techniques I used, the techniques I was taught, and the techniques that are so highly applauded.

Two years and some experimenting later, I’ve decided to quit all extrinsically motivating management tools. Just say no! I know that this will be hard, especially since it is what I consider to be the norm. I know that this will be more time consuming. I will need to carry more conversations with more students regarding acceptable and not acceptable behavior. I know all of this, but I am also very excited.

My students who always got a star in their take-home folders, or often visited the treasure box, truly do not need the extrinsic motivation. They weren’t following the rules for the star. They would probably be following the rules, anyway. These are the teacher-pleasers. The students who teeter on the edge of “Great Day!” and “Let’s do better” respond to personal connections with the teacher. The students who are almost always on the “Let’s do better” list need the personal connection with the teacher. So, what is the take away?

Students need the personal connection with the teacher.

We all know that teacher-student connections are important in the classroom, so shouldn’t our classroom management techniques reflect that?

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And, that is why I came up with this classroom management tool. I had already been doing this with some of my students, and thought, “Why aren’t I doing this with everyone?”

I call this Goal Oriented Classroom Management for what I believe are obvious reasons. The focus of this system is very individualized, student guided, and teacher monitored. All of the students are using the same tools, however, each goal is different for each kid. Some students need more short term goals, such as staying seated during lunch for one week. Other students can set long term goals, such as increasing reading fluency from 95 to 135 words per minute. The key is to make certain that the goals set are important to the students. If they don’t deem it important, then they won’t be motivated to achieve them.

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Now, some of you may be thinking, what about classroom management? What about the unruly behavior and the shout-outs? All of this falls under what is deemed appropriate and respectable in OUR classroom. Before the students even know that they will be setting personal goals, we set classroom goals first. We discuss what kind of classroom environment we want. Of course, I will heavily guide this discussion. Here are some questions I intend to ask my class in order to provoke deeper discussions. I try to steer clear of any yes/no questions and focus on the more thought-provoking questions.

  • How can we show pride in our classroom? How can we show visitors that we care about our class, classroom, and school?
  • Why is it important that we show respect and kindness for each other? How can we do this?
  • When we walk down the hallway, are other classes still learning? How can we show respect for the other students and teachers in the building when we are walking down the hallway?

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Once the class goals are set at the first of the year, I intend to slowly introduce the other sheets and graphic organizers. The first sheet I would introduce is the Pocket Statement. I would encourage each student to write one class goal statement onto their little Pocket Statement. We would discuss how having a statement in your pocket can be a great reminder and help us to make more positive decisions. I do not intend to monitor the use of these Pocket Statements. I will simply have a stack by my desk, and quietly encourage students to write their statements when needed.

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I would then introduce the Reflection sheet as a whole group. Up until this point, any poor decisions are discussed privately with the teacher and always referring to the goal statements set by the class. The reflection sheet is a great way for students to think about any decisions they made that were positive or negative influences based on the goals set for the class (or themselves). I intend to provide a time weekly for my students to fill out this sheet. Although this sheet would be a great alternative to “time-out”, I don’t want this sheet to be affiliated solely with negative consequences. It is also a great way for students to reflect on the progress they may have made in achieving their short or long-term goals.

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And, speaking of achieving goals, once a student does so, they get to fill out their Goal Achieved Certificate. Since the students guided their own goals, I believe that they should write their own certificates. This shows the students that their goals are their’s to achieve and encourages autonomy in the classroom.

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One of my goals as a teacher is to promote independence in the classroom, but I also understand that my students will need encouragement throughout this process. Some students will need more encouragement than others. That being said, I want all of my students to feel supported by me, as their teacher. And this is where the Shining Moments letters come into play.

In the classroom, I will have a class mailbox. After school everyday, I intend to write 2-3 letters to any child I notice making a positive choice. The choice can be related to a classroom goal or personal goal. Every morning, I will show the students that I noticed some classmates yesterday make some shining moments and slip those letters into the class mailbox. These letters should take no more than 10 minutes after school, and, by the end of the week, I should have 10-15 letters in the mailbox. (I have already invented a simple system to insure that every child receives a letter within 2 weeks.) During dismissal on Friday, I will deliver those letters to the children.

I have toyed with the idea of letting the students write letters to one another after the winter break, but I’m a little apprehensive about this idea. I have noticed that you learn very quickly who is or isn’t popular, and the purpose of the letters is to be encouraging. The focus is on being goal-oriented, not most liked. However, if I teach the system well to the students, then I may trust them to be mindful of their letters. I should not see a letter about how much you like your friend’s shoes or book bag, for example.

As you can imagine, sending home a daily behavior correspondence sheet would be difficult with this management system. And, honestly, who truly enjoyed filling in 25 stars in 25 folders every day? The kids loved it, but I, personally, would love to do without it! If I need to contact a parent, I will do so via phone or e-mail. If a kid has an exceptional day, I would rather call, anyway, than leave a simple star in a folder. It builds a strong connection with schools and families and builds a strong bond with the students.

I apologize for such a long-winded post, today. I hope it was helpful and informative. Please let me know what you think in the comments below. I will keep you all posted with this upcoming school year and how smooth the transition goes for myself.

Final Discussion with Margie Pearse

Sadly, the 8 week long book study of Teaching Numeracy has come to an end and, with it, we had our last live discussion with Margie Pearse. I can’t speak highly enough of Margie and the knowledge she has shared with the members of The Educator’s Book Club. Unfortunately, I have been informed that some members were not able to join the discussion, so I thought I would recap on some of the highlights of the discussion.
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First and foremost, last night’s discussion was a follow up of June 28’s discussion when we discussed various forms of ignitions and bridges. You can find the free document (30 Great Ignitions and Bridges) here. She has some great, useful freebies up for grabs, as well. She has listed 30 awesome ignitions and bridges in her document, and here are three take-aways I took from the discussion.
  • The ignition should not simply be a cute introduction. It needs to be engaging and promote critical thinking. The ignition gets the kids in the right state of mind to start thinking mathematically.
  • The bridge makes the connection to the lesson being taught that day.
  • You can double-front load the students before you begin a lesson by making the ignition and bridge, both, related to the lesson being taught. (Usually, the ignition can be used as a review of past content, etc.)
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Now, on to last night’s discussion! I have truly loved hosting these discussions with Margie, because her excitement to teach math truly resonates when she begins to discuss the topic. Her excitement is very contagious, and I find myself pumped to start planning when we finish our discussions. Last night was no different. We recapped briefly on June 28’s discussion (recapped above) and continued with her document, Best Practice Lesson Format. This can also be found here or on The Educator’s Book Club on Facebook.
Best Practice Lesson Plan Format for Deeper Numeracy based lessons image
Since we had already discussed the bridges and ignition component of the lesson plan, we jumped straight into Gradual Release of Responsibility (GRR). Some of you may have heard this as I Do, We Do, You Do, except Margie goes into more detail as to how each “Do” should look in the classroom. Her explanations are also listed on the Best Practices format.
Margie really stressed the importance of quick checks with the kids. She said to go beyond thumbs up and down, and really teach the kids to try and assess their understanding. Here are a couple of great suggestions she gave.
  • Get a paint strip for each kid. The lightest color represents clear understanding, and the darkest represents murky/unclear understanding. Then, there are the colors in between that represent anywhere in between. “I kind of understand, but am unsure about xyz, etc.”
  • Mini white boards and markers: Give the kids a quick 3 minute problem to solve or question to answer.
  • Use mini-composition notebooks to write their reflections.
  • Use post-it notes: The star post-it note was the highlight of this discussion. Like many teachers, we all got really excited about having a black bulletin board with yellow star post-its. The kids could write their “shining moment” on their star. What did they solidly understand from a lesson, etc.
Once you “take the temperature” of the room, as Margie states it, you will know if you can continue to the next step of GRR. If you just finished We Do (You Notice), then “check the temperature” of the room. Did most of the kids understand? If not, maybe we need to return to I Do (You Notice) and model the lesson again. Personally, I love the yoyo effect of this lesson. The lesson plan is not linear and is truly created around the understanding of students.
If you are curious to learn a quick snippet about GRR, check out this video by Doug Fisher.
If you are interested in creating more dynamic and engaging math lessons that ignite mathematical thinking, you need to check out Margie’s book, Teaching Numeracy: 9 Critical Habits to Ignite Mathematical Thinking.
Teaching Numeracy Book Cover

Before Day 1 of School

You know that saying that someone can talk in circles? I am the person who thinks and talks in squiggly lines, loops, and zig-zags. My thoughts are constantly pinging from one connection to another, so I need (NEED) a list to keep me on track. The worst and best topic for me to talk about is education. I try to reign in my sporadic thoughts as best as I can in public, but it does bubble it’s way out at times. With this said, you may be able to imagine how my thoughts are as we approach the new school year. They are everywhere! However, over the course of the past couple of years, I have learned that this habit both excites me and drains me of my energy. I remember before and during my first year teaching, I spent many late nights at the school or in my living room. I spent hours on completing tasks and goals I had set for myself, but I didn’t spend much time on prioritizing these goals. Often times, I’d find myself stressing over needing to complete one necessary task when I just spent two hours on a task I just “wanted” to do. This seems like an obvious point, but, when excitement strikes, it’s hard to push that urge to the side. So, this year, I sat down and prioritized my to-do list. There are a lot of aspects of teaching that can be stressful and time consuming. I’m determined to keep my stress to a minimum by managing the tasks that I do have control over. This post is all about the tasks I deem necessary to have complete before Day 1. Your list might be different. If so, please share your thoughts in the comments! I’d love to hear them! So, here it is!

  • Parent-Welcome Packet: Create an info packet for your parents and send them home with your children. If you have Open House before school starts, then have it ready by then. (It’d be much better to send this home directly with parents, if possible.) This may seem like a mundane task, but a necessary one! This gives the parents an idea of the kind of teacher you are and it sets the tone for the rest of the school year. This year, I created a personal flip book packet for my parents. I’m even considering adding a strip of magnetic tape on the back to stick on the refrigerator at home. Here is a list of things to consider in your parent-info packet:
    • Welcome page
    • Teacher contact information (I’ve even seen teachers us QR codes for this.)
    • Teacher about information
    • Parent contact information
    • Transportation for dismissal
    • Homework policy, if any.
    • Daily schedule (even in a rough template)
    • Classroom management policy
    • Parent volunteer opportunities and ways to sign-up
    • Attendance and Tardies policies
    • Field trip info, if any

And, here is my flip book! If you are interested in this one, click here to download it.

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  • Parent Phone Calls: If you are able to see a list of your students before the first day of school, contact the parents before Day 1. It shows the parents that you are invested in getting to know them, that you are welcoming and compassionate teacher, and it sets a positive tone before the school year begins. You never know what Day 1 will bring. A student may have woken up on the wrong side of bed and may need a phone call home. Try to avoid that first phone call from being a negative one. If you can call before or on Day 1 and set a positive tone, the negative phone call will be much easier to make. (Side note: Keep a communication log of all contact with parents. Include a brief note of what the conversation was about. I created a simple, free Google Spread Sheet for Parent/Teacher Communication Log. You should be able to make a copy for yourself or download it.) parent phone call
  • Transportation: Know how each student is going home. This would be a great question to ask during your first phone call home or during Open House. Some are bus riders. Some are car riders. Some go to afterschool. Some ride a van to daycare. Some alternate transportation. And some do all of the above. (I created a simple, free Google Document for Mode of Transportation. Personally, I find it easier to have each day listed, so there is no confusion when Student A is a car rider for three days and a bus rider for two. I, simply, look at the list for the current day, and there is no confusion.)Dismissal is already a very hectic time of day, and not all children truly know how they are getting home or to their after-school destination. If possible, I would contact someone at the school and learn about the dismissal policy ahead of time. Do the kids need bus passes in order to be let on the bus? Are the students released by bells? Will the car riders be released to the cafeteria, or will someone be calling for them through intercom or walkie-talkie. Each school has their own dismissal policy. The sooner you are aware of the system, the more smoothly dismissal will be, especially on Day 1.And, no matter the age of a student, if what the child says conflicts with your Mode of Transportation Document, always double check. Sometimes, students will say with absolute certainty that they are a car rider or that they ride bus #12-34. It’s better to be safe and call the parents/guardians. Otherwise, you could be speaking to very irate and worried parents when you tell them you aren’t sure where their child has gone. Also, I suggest taking all parent contact information with you during dismissal. If you need to make a quick phone call, you will have all of the phone numbers right there with you.
  • Prepare all of Week 1 activities and lessons: I would create a spreadsheet with the days of the week across the columns and subject matter down the rows. (Personally, I’m using, although there are many other on-line tools for lesson planning.) Fill in all of the activities and lessons you intend to teach that first week. You probably already know that the first couple (or more) weeks should be based on routines and procedures.Whatever you have in your plans, have the copies made, pull the manipulative out, and make any extra materials you may need (ie. chart paper diagrams, etc.) I do mean Week ONE, only, and not unit plans. Unit plans are very important to have done in advance, but, if you have your math Unit plan done for the next 6 weeks without any ELA plans, then, technically, you only have half of week one prepared. This will cause deep stress during the first week as you scramble to have your ELA plans done, and, meanwhile, week 2 is still on the to-do list. My recommendation is to have weekly plans completed at least one week in advance and all supporting materials prepared. Once you are ahead of your weekly plans, you can, then, plan your units in advance. If you are lucky enough to stay in the same grade level the following year, each week will become easier to teach, and the time spent on unit plans will increase and improve.
  • Label, label, label: They don’t have to be pretty, but label any and all things you will be referring to in your routines and procedures. If you have a pencil bin, label it. If you have bathroom passes, label it. If you want your students to line up at the 4th tile by the door, label it. This will keep you from having to repeat yourself endlessly (but not completely), and ease your students into new routines and procedures more easily. However, you don’t have to label EVERYTHING. Just label what you have in your plans. Eventually, I did label everything. I found it helped me and the students, but it took a very long time. That time could be better spent on your lesson plans and lesson prep. Check out these free labels! Many times, I like to create my own and make the labels fit perfectly, but, again, that’s time better spent elsewhere. ( Supply Labels Image from 1plus1plus1equals1
  • Name Tags: Speaking of labeling, and depending on the age group, I highly suggest having name tags ready to go by Day 1. If you are like me, then you may be terrible at recalling names. When I’m teaching a lesson, I need to know the names of my students, otherwise, the lesson is filled with multiple hesitant moments where I need to be reminded of a child’s name. What a waste of time! And how distracting!I understand that this can be difficult if you have several dozens of kids each day, but, in my case, I only have about 20-25.Also, to save time in the future, I don’t use sticky name tags. If I do, then I would be recreating new name tags every day. Instead, I use plastic name tag inserts ( with those metal clips to fasten onto the collars of their shirt. One side has their first name, and the other has the name of the school, address, and phone number. If we go on a field trip, they flip it over onto the school side. We talk about stranger danger, and the concerns of having their name on display in public.Plastic Name Tags
  • Welcome Kids at the Door: On Day 1, and every day thereafter, welcome the kids at the door. This will be a goal of mine this year. I intend to have everything for the morning set up and ready, so I can be present for the kids when they walk in. Every classroom management book I have every read insists on doing this. Have an engaging activity ready for the kids to do when they arrive. Make sure that the activity is engaging and can be done independently with minimal teacher assistance. This way, you will be able to tend to the students as they enter the room and address any needs that may arise. For instance, separation anxiety or an “accident”.

    This is a great video about classroom management from Week 1, Day 1. I highly recommend Harry Wong’s “The First Days of School”.

  • Routines and Procedures: And, lastly, but most important, have a clear understanding of your procedures and routines. In the past couple of years, my idea of classroom management, routines, and procedures has changed drastically. Initially, I learned about a lot classroom management techniques that were extrinsically motivating. The students receive skittles, stickers, or an item from a treasure box. They may receive class dojo points or move their “clip” up or down. I used all of these techniques. And each one had their own benefits. Each one helped keep some behaviors at bay, but only when I actively used these tools.I’ve decided to teach intrinsic motivation and would love to go into more detail. However, that post would be very long and, honestly, I’m still figuring it out. So, instead, I’d like to leave any new teachers with a couple questions and thoughts to ponder while creating your procedures and routines for your classroom. There are certainly a lot of opinions out there, so I hope this helps spring board what it will look like your room.
    • What kind of environment do you want to foster in your classroom? I prefer the more serene and calm environment. It helps me think better and stay calm during hectic days. The calmer I am, the better behaved my students are. However, you may be more energetic than me. You might be fine with a louder, more active classroom. Try and make your classroom routines reflect the environment you want.
    • What kind of learning do you intend to encourage? Do you plan to incorporate work stations daily? Will the students be working in pairs often? Will you need to lecture at times? Take these into consideration when you are planning your first week’s lesson plans. Try to make the ice breakers and routine/procedure practice reflect the kind of activities you intend to incorporate. Try to incorporate team building and group work if you intend to do class projects. Maybe pair students up so they can get to know one another with a Q&A form. Etc.
    • What are YOU comfortable with? Some teachers love a constantly moving classroom and others like a more calm and relaxed environment. Remember, your classroom does not have to look like Ms. Smith’s classroom next door. As much as we are in the profession for our students, you don’t want to set up a routine that will drive you crazy. What works for one teacher may not work for you. For me, the sound of a pencil sharpener in the middle of a lesson bothers me. It’s loud and interruptive, to me. I easily lose my train of thought and have to take a moment to refocus. Naturally, I taught my students to not sharpen while I or another person is speaking.
    • Seating arrangements during Week 1 are temporary. Do not seal those name tags until, at least, week 2. It’s much easier to move a name tag, than an entire desk. I suggest using double sided tape to temporarily stick them down, if you need name tags at all.
    • Other things to consider:
      • Restroom break (or restroom use during class time)
      • Pencil sharpening
      • Lining up and hallway behavior
      • Participating in group conversations
      • Questions or comments during a lesson
      • How to use classroom materials
    • I recommend the book First 6 Weeks in School. They have a wonderful template to help map out these procedures in school.first 6 weeks of school

And, in contrast, this is a list of what I do no recommend stressing over.

  • Your classroom does not need to look magical. Yes, try to make it look as inviting as possible, but you don’t need a big tree in the reading nook. You don’t need special, fancy numbers/letters hanging from the ceiling identifying the different table groups. You don’t need to make cereal box filing boxes for each kid. And you don’t need to paint cheap picture frames, place  white paper inside, and glue them to the wall for a make-shift white board.

    Notice the frames, the letters, the alphabet, the decorations: I could have achieved the same look in less time if I hadn’t done so many DIY projects.

    I did all of these things, and ended up staying up really late completing my necessary items before Day 1. It took time away from my family and time away from precious sleep. Don’t do what I did. Save those fun activities for the weekend when you are caught up (on the necessary things). Because, honestly, what teacher is ever truly caught up and checked everything off their list?!

  • Try to keep Pinterest/Internet searches at bay. Personally, I am addicted to Pinterest. Seeing all of these great ideas from other teachers make me feel like I have to do the same. I feel “behind”, and my priorities start to shift from my original to plan to those of others. I have to remember that, while that teacher may be creating fun file-folder games and work stations, s/he may have already completed the parent info packet, or the first week of school’s lesson plans. I have to reign in that excitement!
  • That one super-cool and time-consuming activity that would be neat for the 15 minutes the kids will use it. Resist the urge. I created a file box full of “how-to-draw” pictures. A whole box. I laminated the sheets, alphabetized them, and created a cover for the box. Ask me how often my kids used it. I can count the number of times on one hand. AND the pictures were, most often, not alphabetized correctly when returned to the box, creating more work for me to do. Every time I think of that box, I always wonder what in the world came over me to think I just HAD to make this box. My only answer is excitement. One day, I will find a better purpose for this other than journal drawings.

Again, this is my list of what I deem absolutely necessary to have done before Day 1. Depending on your grade level, it may look different for you. Also, if you are seasoned teacher, your priorities are probably very different from mine. This list is ultimately geared towards new teachers. This upcoming school year will be my first full year in 2nd grade, so I feel like a first year teacher all over again. I still have many other items on my to-do list, but these are my absolute musts. Now that I have prioritized them, I’m off to complete them! Let me know what you think in the comment section! Do you have anything you might add to the list?

Interactive Calendar Journal Songs

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I recently just uploaded a new document on TPT, Interactive Calendar Journal, and thought I would add a couple songs I used during calendar this past year. Unfortunately, when I got a new laptop, I lost many of my calendar songs I had on ITunes and can’t seem to remember my password. You can imagine my disappointment at the beginning of last year. So, I instead decided to use YouTube. I understand that many of you may not be able to use YouTube, but I have heard of people somehow saving the videos to their computers. I have no idea how to do this, but it could be an option… Anyhow, here are the videos/songs I used during Calendar Time.  Months of the Year Okay, so I just discovered this first one and LOVE IT! I wish I discovered it sooner! It’s a fresh take on the Months of the Year, and, frankly, the Macarena version is getting old to me.

 But we still sung the Macarena version, if you would like. Days of the Week We didn’t always use videos to accompany journal time. Sometimes, due to a time crunch, we would sing the “classics”, as I call them. Most children learn these in pre-k, so we breeze through the songs fairly quickly.  Adam’s Family Days of the Week

 I’m not sure the name of this one, but here’s a video from 1993!

 I didn’t play a video for the above songs. We simply sang those by heart. Sometimes we sang them using funny voices though. Now, here are some videos I did play or wish I discovered sooner.

This video is from The Learning Station. They have other great songs, too! I am LOVING these Story Bots!! I’m so sad I missed out on these this past year…

I, mean, come on. This is awesome! (Sorry, this is about planets, not calendar.)

Okay, back to Calendar.

Counting I taught kindergarten, so we counted every day. Every day. So, as you can imagine, that can get old very quickly for both me and the students. Finding a fun way to do this was imperative! A couple ideas are to say them with funny voices, like robot, monster, and squeaky. I’ve heard coworkers do rockstar and opera. Haha! I’m not much of a singer, so my students probably wouldn’t have made the connection with me. I also worked with a teacher who would clap the numbers, but they kids had to watch her rhythm. If she didn’t clap, they shouldn’t count. The kids loved this and would always try to prove that she couldn’t trick them.  Here are some videos as well. My Co-Teacher last year had the students stand, dance, and sing along with some of these. I loved to sing this towards the end of Calendar after they have been active and energized. It’s calming and helps with transitioning to the next activity.

Dance, dance, dance!

Let’s Get Fit Counting to 100 by 1’s!

Count by Tens The kids LOVED this one! It’s by Have Fun Teaching. They have other great songs, too!

I find this one to be catchy and cute. And simple. The simplicity is what makes it most appealing to me. Sometimes, I like the catchy tunes that really get the kids excited, but sometimes you need something simple and to the point.

Counting by 5s When you notice you have some wiggle worms in your class, let them shake it out with this video from Have Fun Teaching. 

These are most of the videos and digital songs we played during calendar time. The rest of the time was used completing the activity pages in our Interactive Journals. If you would like to check out the Journal, check out my TPT website. Thanks for reading! And have fun with calendar time!  

New Teacher/Mentor Google Hangout

As the new school year begins to approach, I am getting more and more excited. I’ve been putting a lot of thought into what I deem necessary to have ready for the first of the school year and what can wait. I was TERRIBLE at this my first year. Absolutely terrible. What I thought was necessary was definitely not, so I spent a grandiose amount of time on extraneous things that had little effect on the classroom.

Many schools have New Teacher/Mentor programs, and many more schools do not. I was lucky. During my first full year of teacher, I was surrounded by wonderful teachers eager to help me with any questions I had. AND the school I worked at had a program for new teachers. I had double the support. The school year was still tough, but not nearly as bad as it could have been.

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I understand a lot of schools do not have this, so I would like to offer a place for new teachers to receive support from fellow mentor teachers on-line. The idea is to host the discussions once a month, the first session being in July. Each month, we would discuss a different topic ranging from parent communications to classroom management to balancing work and home life.

The first session will take place on the evening of July 6. The focus will be all about the first couple weeks of school. I’d like to provide a place for new teachers to voice their concern and receive encouraging feedback with useful advice. I’d also like to discuss what the mentors deem necessary to have prepare before day one and what can wait for later in the school year. If you are interested in participating in this discussion, join the google community, “Google Hangouts for Teachers“, since the discussions will be hosted through that community.

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Google Hangouts for Teachers

As many of you may know, I founded The Educator’s Book Club, an on-line group of teachers reading professional developments books together and discussing the reading selections on a weekly basis. The group has grown significantly to over 880 members in one year alone. In that year, I have met wonderful teachers from all around the world and have read some amazing books that will improve my skills as a teacher. Halfway through every book study, we nominate and vote on the books we will read during our next book study. As you can imagine, many subjects and books get nominated, but, because only two books are selected, we miss the opportunity to learn about the other selections.

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Everyone in the group nominates books for various reasons. Either they heard great things about it from coworkers or they’ve had the book for a year with the intention to read it. Maybe your school is rolling out a new curriculum or shifting the school culture. Maybe you are moving to another state or country and your new school follows a different educational approach than your past school. We all have different reasons for nominating topics and books, and I don’t want to keep anyone from learning more.

So, I created the Google Community called “Google Hangouts for Teachers”. Here is my vision for this group.

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As the group grows, the Hangouts will become more and more diverse. This is member driven, not admin driven. Meaning, I will be posting about Google Hangouts for The Educator’s Book Club, but anyone is welcome to post about Google Hangouts, in general. The purpose of this group is to provide a community of teachers excited about education and interested in connecting with other educators. For example, if you are reading Dave Burgess’ “Teach Like a Pirate” or revamping your brain break activities, post about your interest and invite for a Google Hangout session. My hope is that there will be other teachers interested in those same topics and willing to partake in a hangout session. Brew some coffee, put on some comfy clothes, and video chat with other teachers from the comfort of your own home!


I have already created a couple of categories within the group: Professional Development, The Educator’s Book Club, and New Teacher/Mentor. I am excited about all three opportunities, but I am really excited about the New Teacher/Mentor category. How many of you are starting your first year teaching, but are unaware of any new teacher training at your school? Maybe your school doesn’t have a mentor program established yet, or never has. I started teaching mid-school year about 4 years ago, and didn’t have a mentor or new teacher program. I survived that year, and pulled many, many late nights. However, looking back, I wish I had been a part of a program. The following year, I transferred to a different school, and this school did have a program. I can’t tell you how valuable those meetings were, or how helpful my mentor was for me! I’d love for this community to be just as, or more, helpful for other teachers!

I still have a lot to learn in the field of education. I still turn to my mentors for help. But I also have learned a lot during these past four years and have a couple tips that I would love to share. I would prefer to not be the only “mentor” and would love to welcome more seasoned teachers to the group. My thoughts are to host New Teacher/Mentor Hangouts once a month, with focused topics for each discussion ranging from parent communication to time management.

If you are interested in connecting with other teachers about continuing professional development, please join us! This group is about our professional growth no matter how long we have been teaching. New teachers and seasoned teachers are all welcome.

Currently, I am co-hosting Google Hangouts with Margie Pearse as we discuss her book, Teaching Numeracy, with other EBC members. The discussions have been wonderful so far!


Hopefully, the Google Hangouts for Teachers community will grow and be a wonderful place for teachers to “hangout” and discuss more about our profession!

If you are interested, just click here or click on the “Google Hangout for Teachers” image above. If you aren’t sure how to create a Google Plus account, then check out this video below.