I love using Sight Word Mats!  They are a great work station for kindergarten.  I can easily change out the manipulatives and the students get practice with the sight words they need in a tactile way.  They are also an easy to differentiate work station!


I like using small Sterilite containers with snap lids to store manipulatives.  They are easy to store and stack!

Some other popular ideas are:
gems
play doh
wikki stix
unifix cubes
noodles



Last summer I made some posters for a friend and myself with a distressed wood look.  This summer she asked if I would make her some labels and banners that coordinated.  

Here are some photos of the farmhouse decor pack in use!  The baskets and book holders are from Big Lots.  The baskets come 3 in a pack and they come with a lid! The book holders are the best ones I have been able to find!  I love how tall and sturdy they are!  They are a big step up from my crates!


You can download the freebie #WORK banner here!



I finally found the perfect container for my task cards! They come with 6 holders and a keeper box to keep them all together!  They are the perfect size and sets of 6 work perfect for differentiating work stations.  They are about $8 on Amazon for the set!  It is a great deal!

You can download these free editable labels in my store.  


Try out some of my free task cards and I also have task cards available in a bundle to save you money!





My family has always loved board games.  The past couple of years, we have branched out from traditional board games and I have been buying games that are more STEM related.  Here are some of our favorite games that I've brought into the classroom!

In the classroom, it is really easy to add a Thinking Games or Problem Solving Games work station during math time.

Gravity Maze is a favorite.  Students love solving the puzzles and it challenges their thinking.

Suspend is another favorite.  It is a balancing game that will challenge students and help them learn about engineering and science!  It is also the one game that I have to remind students of their voice level!


My son loves, loves, loves building with Gobbi construction pieces!  It involves problem solving, science, and engineering.   I'm a little obsessive compulsive with the magnetic balls...I don't want them to get lost.

My newest game is Laser Maze.  It has been a hit!  Students use lights and mirrors to go through a maze they build.  




I remember how excited I was when I began teaching 12 years ago!  I had my dream job and I knew was going to make a difference.  Twelve years later, I still work in the same school district, and I still work in a school that has about 85% students coming from a low-income home.   I still have the same excitement and feel the same way- that I am making a difference!

Not everyday is perfect and some days are harder than others.  You'll meet lots of people that have lost their "teaching spark" but don't let them bring you down!!!

I'm a big picture gal, and I know that what I'm doing is going to change these children's lives and help break the cycle of poverty!  I've been collecting the wisdom of experienced teachers from one year to thirty years experience!  I wanted to share with you some ideas that will help you survive your first year, help maintain your sanity, and keep you energized and excited!

Teaching Procedures
Jennifer from the Practical Primary Teacher and Carla from Comprehension Connection both focuses on classroom routines and procedures.  Jennifer says that it may seem like overkill to model and have kids do certain things over and over until they get it correct, but it will be worth it when they can do it automatically. It will save you from chaos and from wasting valuable instruction time. Remember...wasted seconds and minutes each day can add up to wasted hours and even DAYS over the period of a school year! Some examples of things to perfect: Coming to meeting area, lining up, leaving meeting area, drink and bathroom procedures, getting supplies, turning things in, going to centers/stations, cleaning up centers/stations, meeting at small group area.

Carla reminds new teachers to think about about the traffic flow- (least amount of wandering possible)! If you decide to change things up in your room, try to make just one change at a time and polish it before making another. Too many changes at once leads to a stressed teachers and confused kids.

Here is a checklist you can use to ensure you have taught all the procedures that you feel are most important to your classroom.  

Collaborate
The most frequent advice I was given was to use your fellow grade level teachers as a resource for questions, guidance, anything you need!  

Darcy from Ms. D's Literacy Lab reminds new teachers to become good friends with your literacy coach and reading teacher. They will be your greatest supports with ideas, websites, knowledge of your school's literacy closet, understand the language arts curriculum at all grade levels, and know your students' already !  

I love this great suggestion from Janiel Wagstaff:  One way to boost your skills is to observe expert teachers in your own building. Your literacy coach or admin can facilitate this.


Build Relationships
When it comes to students, Miranda J. reminds new teachers to create a bond with your students, relationships are everything. They will work and try hard for those they know care and believe in them.


Take Care of You!
Finally, Shelly T. reminds teachers to get plenty of sleep!!!  You’ll need it!  The first few weeks (or more) are going to be very overwhelming and your "to do" list is going to probably cause you lots of anxiety.  Make sure you take time to relax and do something that is not school related!  You can't pour from an empty cup, so please make sure to fill your cup!




I use my coaching binder every day.  I love having all my information in one place.  This summer, I added an option if you want to have a digital option.  Included in the updated file is a link to a Google Slide file.



In terms of keeping a digital binder, I have found that what works for me is to have a folder for each grade level and then a folder for each teacher.  

You can copy and paste from the original Google Slide document to create additional Slide documents.  Make sure you right click 'copy' and then if you create a new slide set the PAGE SIZE as 8.5x11.  Then PASTE into a new blank slide.  

The digital option can be edited and adjusted to fit your needs.  When you open the file, you'll see that  many titles say ADD TEXT HERE or TEXT.  For this form, I use it to take notes.  

This form is for classroom observations.  You can add notes.  It is different than the paper version in the binder, because you type directly in it, and don't check boxes.

When I meet with teachers, I keep track of meetings and what my follow-up focus will be.  

This form, I titled OBSERVATIONS, and then kept track of the conferences/observations I've had with teachers.  I like creating one per grade level, but you could have all teachers on one form.  Since it is editable, you can decide what works best for you.




Word walls can take up quite a bit of room, so I want to make sure I'm getting the most out of them.

When I put a new word on the word wall, before the word is placed on the word wall, we say the word, spell the word, snap and spell the word and then I use the word in a sentence.  With student's Kagan partner, each student uses the word in a sentence.

I try and refer to the word wall all day long.  This means it has to be placed in a location where it is visible no matter where we are in the room.  If I'm at my guided reading table, I want to be able to reference it.

I started putting the words on different colors, and it has made a big difference in helping students pick out words.   I can say, "that" is the word that is on green, next to "so."  It has helped students find words much more efficiently.  I also find that I encourage the word wall more.

Since the purpose is to have the students take ownership of the word wall and use it as a reference, I have had them place the words on the word wall when we add new words.

Some ways to use the word wall daily are by incorporating it into a work station.  Here is a free download that I use with students to practice finding words on the word wall.

Another freebie that will help your students is a personal word wall.  It comes with two files (one that you can edit).  
I've also had students make their own personal word wall by using spiral-bound index cards.  Back-to-school time is the perfect time to find them!  Students (or the teacher) write each letter on each page.  As words are added to the word wall, students add to their personal word wall.




I've been looking at Pinterest on ideas to help organize the packing-up process.  I like leaving school knowing that things are cleaned and organized and I'm not returning to a mess in August.  These are somethings that I always do each year.
  • Organize filing cabinet
  • Clean out files
  • Throw stuff away!!!!!
  • Finalize Data Notebook
  • Clean/Organize Desk
  • Update computer files.
I love leaving school with my binders organized!  This usually takes a half-day (usually I do this on the Saturday before school gets out), but it is totally worth it.  I try really hard to file everything on Friday before I go, but the last weeks of school have so many priorities, this doesn't always happen.

Since I keep a binder system,  I also keep the same system electronically.  My files are all in folders that match the same title as my binders!  I love it :)  That's the last thing I do before I leave.  Sometimes my electronic life gets a little out of control and things just end up in Downloads or on the  Desktop (so I don't loose them).

Years ago, The Clutter Free Classroom suggested using clear tubs for packing! This is one of my favorite packing tips EVER!!!  Just don't buy them too big or you won't be able to carry them out of school!



Here are some of my favorite packing ideas from great bloggers.

This is my favorite way to organize anchor charts at the end of the year!  Thanks to Teaching With a Mountain View for the great idea!


Conversations in Literacy has a great packing up post with lots of idea!  You can tell we think alike in terms of throwing stuff out!  She also discusses having a classroom map done before you leave!



True Life I'm a Teacher has a great freebie to keep you organized!


Here is a link to my classroom packing Pinterest Board where there are ideas on packing, organizing, and even possible ideas for organizing files next school year.



Back to Top