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Organization

Organization

Worksheet Organization

July 7, 2017

One of the most important lessons I learned during my first year of teaching was how necessary it was to be incredibly organized if I didn’t want to spend 80 hours a week in my classroom. (Although let’s be real, I still could have spent that much time there if I’d wanted to!) The most time-consuming task for me that first year was lesson planning. I had to spend so much time hunting for papers in my desk or searching TeachersPayTeachers for the perfect activities. I have always loved lesson planning, but the time it required took out all the fun! So when I switched from 4th grade to 1st, I made a point to spend part of the summer organizing to make planning easier the next year.

Storage Containers

When it comes to finding the perfect storage containers for organizing papers, it really depends on your own personality. Some people like to have everything in clear containers so that they can see exactly what’s in them. For me, however, I have to hide clutter or my anxiety is going to fly through the roof! For this reason, I LOVED using hanging files to store my worksheets and practice pages.

During the summer I didn’t have access to my classroom and filing cabinets, so to make it easier for me to prep at home I put all of my hanging files in crates and got to work. This made transferring all of my papers back to school SO much easier. Once I got there, all I had to do was take the hanging files out of their crates and stick them in their designated drawer!

Organization Categories

Once you’ve figured out what kind of storage container best fits your needs, the next step is deciding what categories you want to use. As a Texas teacher, I preferred to file mine according to TEKS (our state standards). This was the most time-consuming part, but it was SO worth it and shaved off SO much of my planning time! Each file cabinet was labeled with its subject (I stuck with Math, ELAR, Science and Social Studies) and the files were labeled with their TEKS and a short description. From there, I went through all of my loose worksheets and placed them in their new home!

You can only imagine how much this helped me when it came time to lesson planning! After I reviewed which skills were to be taught the following week, I opened my trusty filing cabinets and had no problem finding the worksheets I wanted to use! Call me a nerd, but this brought back the fun I found in planning fun activities for my kiddos each week. I hope that these time-saving tips help you out as well!

Language Organization Phonics Reading Writing

Divide and Conquer

July 5, 2017

Taking Control of your Reading Instructional Materials

The dictionary defines divide and conquer as: the policy of maintaining control over one’s subordinates or subjects by encouraging dissent between them. This is not exactly what you need to do with all that reading STUFF you have accumulated in your classroom, but dividing it out is a good start. The beginning of the school year is an excellent time to get everything you will use to teach literacy organized and easily accessible.

If your materials are not well organized, let’s face it, you will not use them. Many times a new school year comes with new materials. We all know by now that no new textbook adoption comes with as many components to sort through as a brand new reading series. Pop open those new boxes (or old ones that you have hidden on a classroom shelf somewhere). Be honest with yourself about the materials you think you will use initially. Save the rest for later. Some items you overlook at first glance may come in handy in the future. Some items you may be able to recycle later, but save them for now! You can cull unused items after a year or when your district lets you know you can toss (maybe donate) materials you cannot use. I recently made some money taking old materials to a used bookstore. Then I spent double that amount of money on new materials at the same store. We are teachers. That is how we do it!

You may organize your reading materials by skills, units, what weeks you will teach them, etc. Literacy materials do get a huge chunk of space in my filing cabinet. I resist the urge to organize immediately. I have found that it is better to see how I actually use items and give some thought about how to best access them. Sure, your vocabulary cards look great in ABC order, but you will use them easier divided up in folders with weekly materials. You can organize everything at once or make week by week folders as the year progresses.

Finally, check your basal series teacher manual. What items are needed for implementation of whole and small group instruction? Have those items handy! No basal is perfect, either. Take some time to see where there may be gaps that your students need filled. Then use materials you already have or create new. There are so many supplemental resources online these days that you may not have to search as hard as you think. I now find myself needing less and less filing cabinet space and more and more hard drive space!

The D&C method worked for rulers and it works for teachers. Divide up what you will use and conquer the reading series materials before they conquer you!

Organization Reading

Book It

June 25, 2017

Classroom Library Organization

How do you have your classroom library organized? This question is as personal as asking someone to tell you his or her favorite color! There are many methods to go about setting up a fun area of discovery and learning for your students, but let’s review methods for stepping up your library game.

Get it Together

You have got to have the right gear, yet you do not have to break the bank to accomplish this task. Hit yard sales or 50% off day at your local thrift stores to secure some great shelving. Even the most beat up shelf can look awesome with a new coat of paint (just refrain from painting in the heat of the day because the paint will bubble up- rookie mistake I once made!). Next you will want book bins that are durable, and that fit both your shelves and books. A coordinating color would be nice, too. Book bins can get expensive, but Dollar Tree, Wal-Mart, Old Time Pottery, Dollar General, and Target usually have some nice options around back to school time. Invest in a few extra matching bins in case you expand your library in the future or a bin needs to be replaced later. In my later classroom years, once I had really expanded my collection of books and had more funds to splurge on library gear I treated myself to a few Container Store bins and the mother of all IKEA shelves. You know the one! Be sure to secure all shelving to the walls of your classroom. Safety first!

Enlist Help

Summer is the perfect time reorganize a classroom library. I had my most successful library makeover when I called upon a trusted colleague to come to my classroom as a consultant. At first I did not like what she had to say. Mainly I did not want to take the work it would require in revamping everything. I finally broke down, took a leap of faith, and did what she suggested. It was completely worth it. The time I spent in the summer saved me so much time reorganizing the library daily during the school year because it was set up where my first graders could put everything back exactly how I had it. They could access the books easily and this inspired them to explore a wide range of genres. Whether you prefer in person or online sharing, gather some ideas from peers and get your library shaped up for the next school year.  

Organize

Start with your teacher stash of books. These are literally top shelf books that I get out only for read alouds or special holidays, lessons, etc. Maybe some are fragile pop-up books or treasured keepsakes from your own childhood. I used to think having a teacher stash of books was a bit selfish considering I want to spread the love to literacy to all, not hoard books to myself. But you must be able to find your books needed for certain lessons quickly and it makes them more exciting to the students when featured books are displayed for a limited time only! Now we have the student books to discuss.

Access

The number one rule is they must be easily accessible. Can students get them in and out of shelving easily without bending the covers or ripping pages? Can students find where to place the books when they are finished? Do students have a location to keep books they are not finished reading so they don’t get beat up in their desks?

Categorize

How will you sort and categorize the books: by topic, by reading level, and/or by series? There are many options here and it is good to have a variety. Overall I encourage my students to select books that interest them. I do not mind if the books are not on their reading level. We read just right books during small group time. If students want to thumb through pages of a chapter book that is too difficult for them to read, I let them. If they want to look at a picture book but they are my top reader, I do not consider this a waste of time. I want students to learn the excitement of books in general, not dictate what they can and cannot choose to read or make them feel self-conscious about their reading levels.

One tip I got from a fellow teacher is to introduce books to your classroom library just a few at a time. This way the library is not as overwhelming when you are first going over the rules (you must always teach the procedures for using the classroom library) and students get SO excited about having new books to choose from in the bins. This helps to prevent boredom with the same books. Also, find your student(s) with the most Type-A personality (a.k.a. future teachers) and assign them the duty of classroom librarian. I had a team of students help clean up the library weekly. Your hard work in the summer will last all year. Enjoy!

Classroom Management Organization

Summer To-Dos

June 14, 2017

Generally speaking, there are usually 2 types of “summer teachers”. First, you have the teachers who want absolutely nothing to do with anything educational or school planning related. Second, you have the teachers who are already pinning activities for the next school year from their beach towel the second week of summer. Which teacher are you??

While I always knew that turning my teacher brain off for a long vacation was best for me, there was something so inspiring about having a clean slate in August and the entire summer to prepare for it. (#nerdpartyof1)

So, to help balance myself out and keep from working through the whole summer, I had 5 parts of my classroom I wanted to reevaluate or prep each summer.

Summer “To-Dos”

1) Stations Organization – K-2 teachers know the value of engaging stations, but we also know how time-consuming they can be to set up. Use your summer break to shop all the great sales on efficient storage, and use this time to do all of your cutting/laminating at a leisurely pace instead of blasting through it during your cherished weekends!

2) Library Set-Up – The school I taught at was all about Accelerated Reader and our kiddos absolutely loved it! In order to help them take ownership of their reading, I labeled all of the books in my class library with AR levels and quiz numbers. This made it so easy for my students to grab a new book when it was time instead of having to wait until our next library day. Since it takes forever to set this up, summer time is perfect so you can space out your work time!

3) Substitute Prep – It may sound crazy to think about sick days when you’re relaxing by the pool, but we all know those days will come. Instead of prepping at the last minute, get all of your sub materials prepped and stored over the summer! (If you’re a K-2 teacher, my sub-bundles make this a breeze!)

4) Organize Worksheets – Another time-consuming task is going through your worksheets and getting them organized in a way that is most meaningful to you. I chose to organize everything in hanging files according to TEKS (Texas’s standards). This made lesson planning and getting copies made so easy. While it may take a lot of time to set up, it saves sooooo much during the school year and is so worth it!

5) Classroom Management – Whether you like to keep your same classroom management system each year or change things up, summer is always a great time to reevaluate and tweak. Again, check summer sales or slowly purchase Dollar Spot and Dollar Tree goodies throughout the summer to avoid making large emergency purchases throughout the school year!

Put a Summer spin on it!

These may or may not be applicable tasks for the grade level you teach, but chances are every teacher has things they scramble to get done during Back-to-School or the rest of the school year. Find a few things you think would help make the upcoming year less stressful for you and plan to do them this summer at your leisure. Take your laptop outside for some sun and unit planning! Or spend a couple of days in your favorite pajamas with a good movie and drink while you take your time putting together activities you might otherwise skip for lack of time. Getting to take my time always makes me happier about what I want to accomplish, and more likely to actually get it done! What can YOU get out of the way this summer?

Motivation Organization Reading

3 R’s of Summer

June 5, 2017

Refresh, Research, & Relax

Summertime is here! You have finally made it to the most glorious time of the year. However, we all know that a teacher’s work is never done. While the break should certainly be a time of rest and rejuvenation, you know you will be dreaming about next school year. Let’s think about some ways to make sure your nightly slumber does not involve panicky nightmares about August, rather sweet dreams about the great possibilities that lie ahead.

Refresh

Do some meditative brainstorming here. What literacy practices are going well in your classroom? What routines and instruction can you keep, but just jazz up a bit? You may want to reorganize your classroom library or go to a used bookstore to restock a variety of literature. It is fun to shop for new storage to help make your small groups run more effectively. Perhaps take time to add to your reading review game options or unit lesson plan collections. Design a new reading strategies bulletin board- now is the perfect time to plan before the stress of the school year sets in. Maybe you need a new reading rug or just want to steam clean your current one. Add some new seating to your book nook? Remember one of the most exciting parts of the new school year is all the “newness” floating around, so think about ways to revitalize your classroom practices and surroundings.

Research

Pick out a professional book to read. You know, that one you didn’t get the opportunity to read during the hustle and bustle of the school year. It is inspiring to learn about new practices that are researched based and will better equip you to help students reach their full potential. Find a book that pertains to an area of weakness you have in your pedagogy or just an area you are looking to learn more about. Keep in mind that this is not an assigned summer reading program. You get to pick! Recently I have really enjoyed The Reading Strategies Book and newly released The Writing Strategies Book. These texts even have their own Facebook group enabling educators from all over the world to share resources and ask questions pertaining to these user friendly texts by Jennifer Serravallo.

Relax

Let’s not forget that you really do need to rest up. It takes a ton of energy to get your classroom set up at the beginning of the year and to prepare yourself for a whole new crop of kids. Plan how you will attack the upcoming year. Sure, you can write a grant for some new technology for your reading centers, but only do so while in your pajamas eating breakfast in bed. Meet with your grade level team about how you will adapt your current reading series to the rigor of the revised standards, but only do so poolside. To gain more background information about an expository text unit you will be studying with your students next year take a vacation to places the books feature. Cut out laminated vocabulary cards while watching your favorite Netflix series. Teachers are some of the most creative folks I know, so no doubt you can think of inventive ways to multitask school planning with relaxing!  

While your days may not be filled with parent emails, keeping up with a classroom full of kiddos, and after school faculty meetings, you can still be working towards a fantastic new school year. Enjoy this time by making the most out of it!

Creativity Organization Writing

End-of-the-Year Memory Books

June 3, 2017

The end of the school year may bring a lot of chaos, but it also brings such a sweet time of reflection. One of my favorite things to do at the end of the year was have my kiddos complete a memory book. I wanted to know how they felt about all the things we did through the year so that I could reflect on myself as a teacher and the curriculum I had chosen for them. I had a hard time finding exactly what I wanted, so of course I created one of my own!

What’s Included?

This set includes 13 pages – 12 of which I put together in the memory book and 1 letter to the class coming up next year.

Memories included:

1) Cover page

2) This year in Math…

3) This year in Social Studies…

4) This year in Music…

5) In the cafeteria…

6) At recess…

7) My favorite field trip…

8) This year in Art…

9) This year in P.E….

10) This year in Reading…

11) This year in Science…

12) My teacher…

 How Do I Use This?

All of the pages in this set are on their own slide. This way, you can choose which pages you want to print and how you want to print them. To save paper (and make the memory book small and adorable!) I print mine with 2 slides per page and front and back. If you want to print yours to look like mine in the picture, be sure to print front-and-back with the option of flipping along the short side. Simply layer your pages, staple together, and you have the cutest little booklet! I love printing this way because it turns 12 pieces of paper into just 3! Your copier and “print allowance” will certainly be grateful!

I hope your kiddos enjoy reviewing the school year and give you lots of insights on how to make your next school year even better than this year!

Happy Summer, y’all!

Organization

Moving and Packing: How I am getting prepared for a fresh start in a new school

June 1, 2017

As the school year comes to a close I am working on motivating my students and pushing them through the last few weeks of the school year. And while they have a lot of work to do, so do I! Next year I am moving to a new school district AND changing grade levels. This year I am teaching third grade and next year I am going to be teaching a developmental kindergarten calss. I will be spending the next few weeks cleaning out my room and packing up all of the junk I have accumulated over the past school year. The amount of work I have to do is overwhelming to say the least but my colleges have offered me some awesome advice for making the moving process as painless as it can be.

Moving schools, classrooms and grade levels is super common and I have compiled some of the best advice I have received. These are some of the tips I have gotten from other teachers that help them end the school year feeling prepared for back to school time.

Copy Essentials

The rush to the copy machine right before school is CRAZY! If you have been teaching the same grade level for a while you know what you will need those first few months of school. Copy those essentials and have them filed away so you aren’t fighting the masses the first few weeks. Having a few weeks worth of essential copies made will make you feel more prepared and relaxed as August approaches.

Supplies Inventory

Take an inventory of the supplies you have leftover from this year to help save money in the fall. I don’t know about you but as soon as the back to school ads start appearing in the mail I am convinced I need everything!! But to help save some money this year I decided to start taking inventory of what I have leftover and what I am in desperate need of.

When going through my supply drawers I realized that I somehow managed to end the year with 50 glue sticks but I am on my last box of pencils. This will help me as I am scoping out sales during Back to School time.

Trash!

Throw away the things you know you don’t need or want to keep. For example I started throwing away all of my ripped anchor charts, the books beyond repair, and my broken book bins etc. I am also going through my makers and crayons and throwing away the ones that are broken or dried up but salvaging the ones that are still usable. Throwing things away now means less to pack up!

Files

Take these last few weeks to begin organizing your file cabinets. My goal is to eliminate as many paper originals as possible because I find it SO much easier to simply search my google drive and print a copy then search through binders that are bursting at the seams. For the binders I do still have I plan to throw away extra copies of papers and anything I know didn’t work for my kids.

Organization

For the Love of Lists

May 27, 2017

Hello, my name is Kaitlyn and I LOVE LISTS. I do. Grocery lists, to-do lists, idea lists – you name it! Nothing helps me ease stress quite like writing down all of the things floating around in my mind. It’s like if my thoughts have been recorded, I can’t forget them and so I don’t have to worry about constantly trying to remember them. And I don’t know about you, but I feel so relieved and productive when I cross off items on my lists.

What Do I List?

I make lists for everything, but I noticed them make the biggest difference when I was in the classroom. If you were to look at my desk at any given time, there were probably 2-4 lists laying around. I made lists of a million things, but a few examples include:

– missing work

– parents I needed to contact/reply to

– paperwork I needed to complete

– stations I wanted to update/add

– which subjects still needed to be planned

– assignments to enter into the gradebook

– areas of my classroom to tidy/organize

 Why Do I Write Them?

One of the reasons I write my lists is because I just plain enjoy writing. That may sound crazy, but it’s true. I type all the time so it feels nice to put my fun pens and handwriting to good use. But most importantly, I write because I remember best this way. I was the same way as a student, and I had many students who were similar. If I type my lists into my phone or on my computer, I go into auto-pilot and don’t actually remember what I’m listing. There’s also something so therapeutic to me in writing down my thoughts and almost feeling them leave my stressed-out brain.

Try it out! The next time you’re at the Target dollar spot stocking up on your ridiculously adorable erasers and goodies, grab one of their super cute notepads and start listing your projects and ideas in your classroom. I’d love to hear if this helps you as much as it helped me!

Organization

Sweating the Small Stuff

April 22, 2017

The “small stuff” is often the glue that holds everything else together. Setting a time to complete all these seemingly unimportant tasks helped keep my mind focused on my kids while at school or my family while at home. Once I had sat down and planned out what I would do and when I could go about my day without the fear of forgetting any of the details. It was such a great way to take some stress off of me. And I’m not going to lie – I’m a sucker for crossing off future tasks when I get enough time to jump ahead! Ha! Having this planned out gave my crazy Type A self some extra motivation to be super productive with my time.

The Small Stuff

The first thing I liked to do was really think about what “small” tasks had highest priority and list them on paper. I. Love. Lists. So much so that I can’t wait to get around to my post about lists and how they are SUCH life savers! In this case, I listed my top 5-10 must-do tasks. They included grading papers, returning e-mails, planning specific subjects, organizing copies, etc. These were things that had to be done no matter what, and would really help me out if they were completed a week in advance. That meant things like creating new activities, reorganizing stations storage, rearranging desks, etc. were NOT included in this list. Class could go on if they weren’t done right away, so they were saved for when I (miraculously) had some “extra” time.

Plan It!

Once I had decided what must get taken care of, I made a weekly schedule. (Click the picture below to get this FREEBIE in my TPT store!) My schedule included all “free” time I had during the day. For me I liked to include my lunch break, planning period and after school. Pretending I would get to school early enough to do anything before the kids came was just not even worth it. I was the WORST! Having 5-10 tasks and 15 time slots meant that I could usually plan everything outside of my lunch break. But if I had to use it, I knew lunchtime was available.

I can’t tell you how much this schedule helped me! Every week I would print it out with my lesson plans and write down all the things I wanted to get taken care of. Having them on paper and out of my head was such a relief. I would tweak as needed without losing track of anything. In a career with tons of clerical and organizational “extras” to do, this kept me sane. I hope that it does the same for you!

Assessments and Data Organization

Assignments Collection & Organization

March 31, 2017

We all knew that part of our job as a teacher would be grading students’ work. We amped ourselves up as interns thinking we would never be one of those teachers who got tired of grading papers. We’d make it “fun” with stickers and colored pens and encouraging notes on every page. Right? Then reality set it… You’re finally sitting down to grade Mt. Paperwork and update your gradebook the night before grades are due. Your stack is huge so surely you have full class sets of assignments. Until you see the dreaded “holes” in the gradebook and you just want to cry. No more, friends. No more.

Collecting Assignments

My secret weapon for staying on top of collecting papers and making sure there were no horrid gradebook “holes” was this handy checklist below. {Click on the picture to download this editable list for FREE in my TPT store!} If I already knew that an assignment would be taken for a grade or I really wanted to assess the skill before we moved on, I would have students turn it in directly to me or my desk. I didn’t want to risk papers getting lost in my turn-in tray or shoved in students’ desks. As assignments came in, or at least by the end of the day, I would highlight students’ names. This helped me see who was missing work and quickly remind them to get it finished within a few days. By progress report time, I had very few “holes” in my gradebook because we had tackled missing work early on.

Organizing Graded Assignments

While my checklists helped me save time and manage assignments before they were graded, I still needed something to help me handle the tedious task of returning graded work to students. Walking around the room dropping off graded assignments to each student became such a chaotic ordeal. Papers ended up all over the floor, crumpled up in backpacks, and didn’t always make it home to parents. I decided to streamline my organization of graded papers with a hanging file bin and it made a world of difference! Each student was given their own hanging file in the bin. After I graded a class set of an assignment, I would immediately file the papers with their owners. These papers stayed in the bin until the end of the week. During special area, I would quickly grab students’ take-home folders, load them up with assignments, and put them back on students’ desks. Done. No walking around the room for 15 minutes while kiddos shouted their grades across the room or followed me around asking for why they got a certain grade. It was so easy!

I know I can’t be the only teacher who struggled with collecting and organizing student work. Did you find a different solution that works for you? I’d love to hear about it! If not, I hope this helps you relieve some stress!