Monday, August 22, 2016

6 RESOURCES TO GRAB DURING TODAY'S SALE


How exciting! If you are like me there were probably some things you wished you had purchased during the Teachers Pay Teachers back to school sale a few weeks ago. Well, lucky day!! Today TpT is offering a ONE DAY ONLY Bonus Sale Day.

EVERYTHING in my store is 20% off for today only AND by using the code "ONEDAY" at checkout you will save an ADDITIONAL 10%.

Below are some of my favorite resources that I've used with great success in my classroom over the course of many years and they've also been used with great reviews by THOUSANDS of teachers around the world. 





This resource includes everything needed to implement, manage 
and maintain an effective and engaging 
math workshop with guided math instruction! 
It will change the way you teach and the way your students learn.






















Sunday, August 14, 2016

CLASSROOM MUST HAVES: I Can't Picture Myself Teaching Without These Things


In addition to blogging here at Clutter-Free Classroom, I am honored to also be part of an amazing team of talented educators who work as a collaborative team to publish the Upper Elementary Snapshots blog.  Together we are sharing all of our "Classroom Must-Haves" which is a collection of school supplies, books and resources we could not picture ourselves teaching without. 

Oh and best of all we are all also spotlighting our "Must Have FREE Resources." So get comfortable and visit each of our blogs to get some ideas for tools to make your job easier, books to make reading to your students even more enjoyable and resources that will save you time and inspire your teaching.

Did I also mention there are 13 amazing and free resources just waiting to be downloaded? Here are a few of my favorite things.


I first received one of these staple removers in a swag bag at a teacher conference. It seems like a simple little invention, but I found it to be a genius invention. If you have ever pulled staples from a bulletin board using a traditional claw-like remover then you know all to well how the make holes in your background and often damage whatever you are removing from the wall. 

This handy dandy gadget simply slides under the staple and pops it right out. Best of all it collects them as you go so you are not left with staples all over the floor. To make a good thing even better it also has a nifty little slider conveniently positioned at the thumb so you can easily deposit them all in the trash. Love it!

You can order one from Amazon using the link below at a really low price and it will make you happy every time you need to change a bulletin board. 

{Click to Read Description & Order}
Picking one favorite book was a challenge. There are so many great choices. But if I had to narrow it down, I would have to say the read aloud that is nearest and dearest to my heart is Charlotte's Web. The vocabulary and writing style make it a perfect mentor text. The story of friendship is ideal for spring boarding classroom discussions about kindness, caring and the true meaning of friendship. I used it to teach character traits and paired it with a non-fiction unit on Spiders which was ideal for getting them used to reading that type of genre and conducting animal research (which they then did on their own throughout the year as an enrichment activity). One year I made it my theme for open house and we even wrote and performed a script based on the book.



Click to See Details
Unlike narrowing down a must-have book, this category was super easy for me. Of all the resources I've created none have transformed my own teaching or elicited more testimonials and emails from teachers around the country as the The Clutter-Free Classroom Guide for Math Workshop with Guided Math Instruction. It spells out exactly how I planned, implemented, managed and a successful math workshop/guided math model. Upon doing so I began to love teaching math, my students approached it with confidence and enthusiasm and test scores skyrocketed. The resource was recently updated and includes everything you need to use this model of teaching with ANY math curriculum.


{Click to Download the Sub Plans Freebie}


Last, but certainly not least I have my "Must-Have" Freebie to share. I am one of those people that used to drag my sick self into school because it was so much easier to be there than it was to have a substitute teacher come in. I learned the hard way that is not always possible. You never know when you or one of your own children may get sick or car trouble en route to school may occur and prevent you from reporting on time or at all. You work hard. You are entitled to days off. When you are sick your health should be your number one priority. It is imperative that you have detailed sub plans and prepped activities at the ready at all times. My How to Prepare for a Substitute Teacher resource is chock full of tips, ideas and printables to help you put together rock star sub plans.
After you've downloaded my freebie be sure to visit each of the blogs below to add 12 more FREE RESOURCES to your own collection of things you can't picture yourself teaching without. Then swing by our collaborative blog, Upper Elementary Snapshots for lots of great content and ideas you can put into practice in your own classrooms as well as a chance to win gift cards to Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Teachers Pay Teachers so you can stock up on your own Classroom Must Haves.

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Thursday, August 11, 2016

First Day of School Plans, Activities, Printables and Icebreakers

Do you need to make first day of school plans? This detailed post explains how an experienced teacher started each year in her classroom. It includes activities, management tips, icebreakers and printables.

The first day of school is such fun. There is so much excitement and energy. 

It is also one of the most challenging days of the school year for a teacher because there are no procedures and routines in place and your new students are not yet familiar with your expectations.  Unexpected things can and will pop up. 

There may be a new student added to your roster 10 minutes into the school day. You could have a crier...or an "need-to-pry-the-kid-off-mom's-leg" situation.  Also, you do not yet know the students and their ability levels. What seems like a simple and appropriate task could be challenging for some friends and the goal for day one is to send everyone home happy and excited to come back for day two.

Therefore, it is very important to avoid academic tasks that could be challenging on the first day. Instead focus on starting to build a community and establishing norms and routines. 


Do you need to make first day of school plans? This detailed post explains how an experienced teacher started each year in her classroom. It includes activities, management tips, icebreakers and printables.
The key is to have lots of activities that can be completed by ALL students.

I have always greeted the students on the first day with Play Dough on their desk waiting for them. It is a great stress-free activity. After they get settled I would ask them to make things that represented their favorite food or sport.

Throughout the morning I would slowly introduce important things that help the classroom run smoothly. I think it is important to first establish an “attention getter” so you can get the children to look and listen to you. Start of with a simple and effective one such as shutting off the lights and then add in others. The one I found most effective was to quietly say, "if you can hear me clap once" followed by "if you can hear me clap twice." As students responded others would join in. 

I also introduce our hand signal system early on day one. They are hands-down (pun intended) the very best classroom management strategy you can use. Having a nonverbal system for communication enables you to get through lessons, work in small groups and conference with students. They also keeps children more focused because they eliminate distraction.

Throughout the day I would gather the students to the group area for several read alouds. They included First Day Jitters and How I Spent My Summer Vacation. As a third grade teacher I always read Judy Moody was in a Mood Not a Good Mood, But a Bad Mood as our first chapter book. The story starts out on Judy’s first day of third grade so there were great connections. I followed up each chapter with an activity based on the book.



It is important to plan short and simple activities on the first day. I had a variety of different printable pages and activities available and would select which ones to use based on how the day was going and how much time needed to be filled. These were a good way to start building community and learning about students as individuals.  As the students worked on these I would take first day of school photos. The parents LOVED them. I printed two copies of those photos. One went on a bulletin board and the other was glued onto a card and sent home to the families with a hand-written note at the end of the first week. This is a nice way to start to build a positive relationship with each family.

Knowing there would be lots of odd minutes throughout the first week of school and times when I would need to meet with individual and small groups, I prepared a booklet for each student titled “I’m a Third Grader.” The booklet was perfect because it included some great get to know you activities and areas for coloring. The children could work on these independently throughout the first day and the booklet was a great time filler during the entire first week when I would need to conference with students for running records or just when we had a few minutes to fill since our schedule was not yet automated. (By request these are now available for Kindergarten, First Grade, Second Grade, Third Grade, Fourth Grade and Fifth Grade).

Do you need to make first day of school plans? This detailed post explains how an experienced teacher started each year in her classroom. It includes activities, management tips, icebreakers and printables.

The other reason I loved these books was because they paired perfectly with our End of the Year Memory Books. I would save both and put them into a folder as a keepsake for each student.


During the time that would become our Math Workshop with Guided Math Instruction Block on the regular daily schedule, the students would explore some of the math manipulatives. This was one of my favorite times of the day because it set the foundation for our math workshop (the students were in groups and moved through a rotation - you can read about how to start and manage Math Workshop and get the printables here). It was a time when the students could reconnect with old friends and make new ones in a casual setting. It gave me a chance to circulate and chat with the students and make notes on how they interacted with each other. This information allowed me to create seating plans, form a “line order” for walking down the hall, and put together initial guided math groups.

I highly encourage you to use a math workshop with a guided math approach in your classroom. Everything you need to get it up and running, introduce it to the students, plan, take progress notes, organize, manage and maintain math workshop can be found in the Clutter-Free Classroom Guide to Math Workshop with Guided Math Made Easy resource.

At some point during the day I would introduce their writer’s notebooks. I explained that they would be using them each day, but for now we were just going to start gathering ideas. I passed out my Writer’s Idea Collection Bank. It’s a series of grids with topics such as toys, restaurants, foods, friends, etc. I would let a student pick any one of the topics. I would then play about a minute of a popular song. While it played the students would fill in that category with all the things they could think of. When the music stopped they stopped. I asked the students to share some things they listed and other children could add them to their banks. We repeated this throughout the first week of school and kept them in their writer’s notebooks. Between this list and our fun monthly writing prompt task cards they ALWAYS had something to inspire their craft and I never once heard, “I don’t know what to write about.”


When the students went home they took their first assignment with them. It was an “All About Me Bag.” They decorated the outside and put something of meaning to them inside. We shared these in class on the first Friday to get to know each other better. It was so fun to see kids connect and friendships form when students realized through the sharing they had things in common with their classmates. The parents were given homework too…a parent survey. At the end of the day I was exhausted, but felt like we accomplished a lot, the year was off to a great start and I couldn’t wait for days 2 through 180.

If you don't want to spend the last precious days of your summer vacation making resources but still want to be ready for the first day of school I encourage you to grab my collection of printables to save time and get the year off to a great start. I have bundled them all together into one easy download for you, but each is also available individually.
Do you need to make first day of school plans? This detailed post explains how an experienced teacher started each year in her classroom. It includes activities, management tips, icebreakers and printables.


Do you need to make first day of school plans? This detailed post explains how an experienced teacher started each year in her classroom. It includes activities, management tips, icebreakers and printables.

Do you need to make first day of school plans? This detailed post explains how an experienced teacher started each year in her classroom. It includes activities, management tips, icebreakers and printables.


YOU MAY ALSO BE INTERESTED IN THESE RESOURCES:

By the way, if you are not already subscribed to The Clutter-Free Classroom newsletter I encourage you sign up. Subscribers receive weekly tips for organizing and managing a classroom as well as exclusive free printables. You can sign up here.


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Monday, August 8, 2016

Classroom Morning Routines: Start the School Day in an Organized Way

Daily classroom morning routines will get the day off to a great start for teachers and students. This article will give you ideas for a classroom morning routine that will enable the teacher to greet students, take attendance, get lunch count, log homework, check notes from home and make dismissal changes while the students are engaged in a meaningful task.
Like many aspects on my quest for mastering classroom management, "Morning Work" was a process of trial and error. Thinking back, I'm almost ashamed that it took me so long to find such a simple solution.

If I was told to name the time of day when the students are the least settled, the most chatty and the least focused it would be a close tie between "first thing in the morning" and "right after lunch/recess." 

Post-specialists would be a runner-up. 

The irony of this is that it is during the "first thing in the morning" timeframe that you have the most things to do in a short amount of time and can't devote your undivided attention to the wee ones before you.

They are excited. It's been about 18 hours since they have seen you and their classmates and a lot happens during that time. They have breaking news to share. Maybe they saw a bunny on the way to school. Perhaps a tooth fell out or a cat did some funny trick. Maybe they ate chicken for dinner and can't wait to share that earth-shattering fact with others.

Early in my career I thought the best thing to do would be to channel those thoughts into journal writing.

Epic fail.

Daily classroom morning routines will get the day off to a great start for teachers and students. This article will give you ideas for a classroom morning routine that will enable the teacher to greet students, take attendance, get lunch count, log homework, check notes from home and make dismissal changes while the students are engaged in a meaningful task.

They worked at different paces. Some moved quick. Others appeared to lack a pulse. Many were stressed. Several had chronic cases of, "I don't have anything to write about." In a nutshell it was too open-ended. (Moving journal and prompt-response writing to a different time of day magically made it a productive and purposeful activity. You can read more about how I transformed my reluctant writers into enthusiastic authors here.)

So I moved on to what is traditionally known as "bell work."

You know...unfinished work, morning jumpstarts, mad minutes, insert any other type of busy work known to man here.

Again it was a flop.

Because they lacked the independence to follow the directions or legitimately needed assistance. But, I couldn't provide them with assistance because I was taking attendance and checking their daily communication folders which is why they were doing said task to begin with. Plus it felt meaningless.

So then I tried handwriting. Once upon a pre-Common Core time, cursive in third grade and it seemed like a good task to start the day with.

But some were masters of upswings and downcurves while simultaneously chatting the ear off the peers at their table.

Alas I started using the Daily 5 in my classroom. Well, the Daily 5 with my own twists, but the same concept. And I needed to fit in a block of time for "independent reading."

And just like that it all clicked and I was left scratching my head and thinking, "Why did it take me so long to do something so easy?"

We always start the day with a morning song. It is used to get them settled. When it ends they are expected to be at their seats and reading silently. 

Daily classroom morning routines will get the day off to a great start for teachers and students. This article will give you ideas for a classroom morning routine that will enable the teacher to greet students, take attendance, get lunch count, log homework, check notes from home and make dismissal changes while the students are engaged in a meaningful task.

I've found this to be the best way to start the day because:
  • Everyone can do it. Even wee little non-readers can "read the pictures."
  • The expectation is silence so it's easy to keep everyone on track. Plus you can't read and talk so it's a no-brainer.
  • If someone comes in late he can hop right in.
  • It provides a quiet environment that allows the teacher to focus her attention on taking attendance 
  • It calms the room and gets them ready to focus on learning.
Because this is counted as their 20 minutes of independent reading, I let it go on for that long. This allows me time to do a couple of running records or 1:1 reading conferences each day as well. Win-win! This also provides a nice buffer for tardy students.

Many students opted to record their thinking in their interactive bookmarks, but it was not required at this time of day.

As the 20 minutes was ending, I would distribute their spiral review activity pages for math and language arts and project the pages and answer key for a super-quick correcting session/mini-lesson lesson and we would then transition into our Daily Math Workshop with Guided Math Instruction.

To execute your morning routine, I highly suggest teaching and modeling the expectations as part of you classroom procedures and routines and reviewing them often.

Do you need more helpful tips and ideas on how to effectively manage your classroom? Be sure to check out my Classroom Management Mega-Bundle. That bundle includes an eBook with tons of tips and ideas for all aspects of classroom management, an editable teacher workbook to guide you to planning out how you will effectively manage your classroom and 30 printable resources including the ones mentioned below.

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Daily classroom morning routines will get the day off to a great start for teachers and students. This article will give you ideas for a classroom morning routine that will enable the teacher to greet students, take attendance, get lunch count, log homework, check notes from home and make dismissal changes while the students are engaged in a meaningful task. Daily classroom morning routines will get the day off to a great start for teachers and students. This article will give you ideas for a classroom morning routine that will enable the teacher to greet students, take attendance, get lunch count, log homework, check notes from home and make dismissal changes while the students are engaged in a meaningful task. Daily classroom morning routines will get the day off to a great start for teachers and students. This article will give you ideas for a classroom morning routine that will enable the teacher to greet students, take attendance, get lunch count, log homework, check notes from home and make dismissal changes while the students are engaged in a meaningful task.

YOU MAY ALSO BE INTERESTED IN THESE HELPFUL RESOURCES:

By the way, if you are not already subscribed to The Clutter-Free Classroom newsletter I encourage you sign up. Subscribers receive weekly tips for organizing and managing a classroom as well as exclusive free printables. You can sign up here.


Sunday, August 7, 2016

FIVE EASY WAYS TO MANAGE STUDENT ASSIGNMENTS

Teachers can improve classroom management by creating a system for managing student assignments. This article explains how to create an easy plan to log and track student assignments so elementary school students always know what is expected.

In which of these two classrooms would you rather be the teacher?

  • Classroom A has 3 kids thrusting papers in your face, 2 dropping their work on your desk, 8 yelling out “I’m done. What do I do next?” and at least 3 who had no idea what to do in the first place. Their desks are jammed with unfinished tasks and you don’t know where to begin catching them up.
  • Classroom B has all students working on task with the completed assignments neatly placed in a labeled container. You can tell at a glance who has fallen behind on their workload and have the ability to tell within a minute exactly which assignments each student has completed.
All too often I hear teachers complain that they are feeling disorganized, stressed and overwhelmed, but it doesn’t have to be that way. While this blog post won’t solve all your teaching woes it will provide you with 5 easy-to-implement ways to streamline managing student assignments.

Determine what you will be collecting and grading each week. As you write your weekly lesson plans write down exactly what written assignments the students will need to complete. Enter these into a checklist. This will provide you with a simple way to definitively track completed assignments.
Designate spaces for turning in assignments. Never utter the words “put that on my desk.” Instead have containers set out in permanent spots for students to place their work in when completed. I found dishpans worked great, but other teachers have found success with boxes or a variety of baskets or containers. It doesn’t matter what you use, but you do need to make sure it is large enough to hold 8.5 x 11 papers or larger. Label each with the subject area. 

Teachers can improve classroom management by creating a system for managing student assignments. This article explains how to create an easy plan to log and track student assignments so elementary school students always know what is expected.

Train your students to not only write their name on every paper, but to also write their student number in the top right corner of each page. This will enable you (or better yet a student assigned to do the task as part of your classroom job system) to place the piles in numerical order for quick checklist completion.

Teachers can improve classroom management by creating a system for managing student assignments. This article explains how to create an easy plan to log and track student assignments so elementary school students always know what is expected.
Invest in “Unfinished Work Boxes. Buy a sturdy paper sorter and label the slots with numbers. Each student will use the box with his number to house unfinished work. (Sidenote PSA: I purchased two (one for student mailboxes and one for unfinished work) as well as a large paper sorter for construction paper and consider those to be some of my all time best classroom investments. The time they saved was priceless). Never ever ever ever ever (to infinity) have your students place their papers into their desk. Instead, instruct them to place all unfinished work into their designated spot within the sorter. This will enable you, at a quick glance, to see exactly how much work each student has to do. 

Create a “Must Do / May Do” Assignment Board. This can be done using a white board or pocket charts and is easily one of the most effective classroom management tools I’ve ever used. Divide the board into two columns. Label the left “Must Do” and the right “May Do.” As you give an assignment, list it on the must do side. Include specific page numbers and any other information needed. This tells the students which tasks must be completed and provides a reference for those who may not comprehend or remember auditory directions. Use the right side to list the activities they “May Do” when all their work is finished. I highly suggest making the may do choices be purposeful, but not so inviting that students rush through the required assignments. Avoid things like “free choice” or “technology time”  if you don’t think your students will put forth their best efforts. Some of the activities I found to be perfect as may do choices include: 
If you want to save time, I do have printable resources available for labeling turn in bins as well as planning and tracking assignments and creating a Must Do and May Do Board. Not only will you not need to take the time to design them, but they are offered at a price that is less than the clipart to make them would cost you. There are editable components which means you customize and print components from the resource. You can also alter the look of them by mounting them on colored card stock or patterned scrapbook paper to match your classroom theme or classroom color scheme.
Each of these are available on their own via the links below or as part of my Classroom Management Mega-Bundle. That bundle includes an eBook with tons of tips and ideas for all aspects of classroom management, an editable teacher workbook to guide you to planning out how you will effectively manage your classroom and 30 printable resources including the ones mentioned below.

YOU MAY ALSO BE INTERESTED IN:

By the way, if you are not already subscribed to The Clutter-Free Classroom newsletter I encourage you sign up. Subscribers receive weekly tips for organizing and managing a classroom as well as exclusive free printables. You can sign up here.



By the way, if you are not already subscribed to The Clutter-Free Classroom newsletter I encourage you sign up. Subscribers receive weekly tips for organizing and managing a classroom as well as exclusive free printables. You can sign up here.