Post a sign that tells others where to find your class (FREE and ready to use)

boystaringTeachers, here are FREE printable signs that tell others where to find your class.  You will save others a lot of inconvenience and grief if you display these signs whenever your class leaves the room.

When your class leaves the room, others don’t always know where to find you.  This can become a problem for a parent dropping off a lunch, a student who arrives late to school, or a messenger.

Some teachers make cute signs for their doors; mine are more functional.  You can print them in color and have a bona fide cute sign.  Or you can do what I did: print them in black and white—on colored paper.  (I use green for Miss Green.)  That will catch the eye and look pretty decent.  Laminate each sheet of paper, cut out each sign, and there you go!  My version like this lasted for three years.

At our school, we have windows on each door to the classroom.  The windows are framed in metal, and magnets stick to this. We keep all the signs clipped together on the inside of our door.  When we leave the classroom, it’s one student’s job to choose the correct sign and display it on the outside of our door.  This is a coveted job, so the child does it well, lest he or she lose the privilege.

I have uploaded the signs in two formats.  The pdf is ready to use.  I also give you the PowerPoint, so you can make modifications to fit your situation.  To use the file, just click.  Once in the file, click again to enable editing.  Then you can customize the signs to fit your needs.


 

Low-budget whiteboard markers and cleaners

markersHere are some cheap and easy ideas for whiteboards: markers, cleaners and student whiteboards.  Perfect for today’s teachers, who outfit their classrooms on their own dime!

Whiteboard cleaner

Expo Whiteboard Cleaner does the job, but it adds up over the course of a school year.  However, a rubbing alcohol solution can do the trick, too.  You can dilute the rubbing alcohol with distilled water for a solution that is less potent and smelly.  In a pinch, hand sanitizer does the job because of the alcohol content.

Rubbing alcohol is also effective at removing marks from a permanent marker.

Whiteboard markers

Expo is the standard for dry erase markers, but the brand is pricy.  A few years ago, I was buying fine-tip Expo markers at almost a dollar a pop when our class supply ran out.  Now my local Dollar Tree stocks four-packs for a dollar.  The best are packs with only black.  The colored dry-erase ink tends to be more difficult to erase—particularly the red!  Consider yourself warned.

Low-budget whiteboards

Many teachers like to teach math by having students work out problems on individual whiteboards.  Those whiteboards are pricy.  A cheap alternative: page protectors. Slide paper or cardstock inside and you’re good to go!

Tip: buy cheap page protectors.  Thick, high-quality ones do not erase!!!

Click for my post with more details on Cheap “whiteboards” for no-budget classrooms.


 

Calm your students with soothing water sounds

WaterscapesThe sound of moving water is incredibly soothing and very effective at calming students.  Here are five easy ways to bring the sound of water into your classroom.

Buy a fountain.  When you’re trying to create a falling-water sound, nothing beats the real thing.  Fountains at every price point help you make it happen.  Under $25 fountain, under $50 fountain, fancy fountain.

Buy a CD.  I like the nature music/sounds of Dan Gibson.  My favorite water sounds CD is Waterscapes.  It has all kinds of water—rain, waterfall, bubbling brook, ocean waves.  You can play the CD through a few times, then put it on random to mix things up.

Use Pandora and other Internet radio channels.  Tell Pandora to play Dan Gibson music, ocean waves music, or other similar sounds.  The Spa channel is good for water sounds, too.  It’s best if you can spring for a subscription so that Pandora doesn’t play ads.  Another good option: work for a district that blocks the ads, giving you the no-commercial sound for free.

Buy a machine that generates a water sound.  You can bring nature sounds of all kinds into your classroom with a machine favored by spas.  Or, go for the budget option and buy (or repurpose) a Lullaby Sound Machine meant to soothe babies to sleep.  The machine will soothe grade-school kids, too!  Just don’t play the lullabies.

Play Internet videos.  A quick search for water sounds for studying yields many hours-long videos that play water sounds.  If your school’s system will allow, stream away.

Posted in Classroom Management,Classroom setup,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Apr 28, 2014

 

Bring Flowers to Your Classroom

Create a cheerful and calming environment by bringing nature into your classroom.

I stumbled upon this tip as a substitute teacher while I was in grad school. In one classroom I subbed in, the teacher had placed live flowers in the middle of each table group of desks. Next to the flowers were a cup of water and a medicine dropper. Anytime during the day, the students could take a little break and feed the flowers. The kids found this to be both calming and cheering. Anyone who has ever tended a garden knows that taking care of a living thing really puts life in perspective. Sometimes that’s just what kids need to get them through long division.

When I was a beginning teacher, I did the same thing, but with bamboo plants. It was cool, but became a pain during breaks because I had to take all of the bamboo home. The next year, I switched to artificial flowers.

They worked just as well! Plus, upkeep was much easier. The flowers brought life and happiness into the classroom. They really broke up the formica fake-wood desks nicely. The kids loved having them as centerpieces.

I found another use for the flowers: clutter replacers. I bought cheap flower arrangements at Ross ($5 each) and placed them around the classroom, wherever the kids and I tended to leave piles of papers or books. The classroom stayed neater because there wasn’t space for the clutter.

Flower pens are good, too. I made three arrangements, one for each space in the classroom where I tended to do work, but it seemd like I never had a pen. It worked quite nicely. Sometimes I let the kids use the pens as a special treat.

The flowers are also useful for school events. My classroom flowers have brightened potlucks, volunteer luncheons, you name it.

You might be wondering if all these flowers make the classroom too feminine, but that has not been my experience. Boys and girls like the flowers equally well. Our room’s dominant color is green, so the flowers are just accents. I try to use yellow, orange, red or white as the dominant flower colors. (Plus, a classroom where fun nicknames, Fort Day, Greek tortoise formations for the school parade, and Captain Underpants all figure prominently is just not that feminine.)

Flower buying tips:

I bought centerpieces at JoAnn Fabrics. They have a really nice selection of flower bunches. I got the copper flowerpots there, too.

Wal-Mart has a good selection of flowers. I buy bunches of flowers to cut up and use for pens. It’s more economical that way.

You can find neat flowers at dollar stores, but some of them look really cheap. Be judicious with your picks!

The flower centerpieces tend to last a school year or two. The worn-out bunches can then be cut up and rearranged into clutter-replacing arrangements.

Ross, TJ Maxx, Marshalls and similar stores have inexpensive flower arrangements in interesting vases.

Goodwill stores often have flower arrangements and greenery for your classroom at a great price.

You don’t want all the flower arrangements to match; it will look like a wedding. A good rule of thumb is to have no more than two or three of the same flower arrangement. You do want to use complementary colors that look good together.

Posted in Classroom Management,Classroom setup,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Dec 10, 2012

 

Emergency Sub Plans

When you are too sick to teach, you are also too sick to drag yourself to school before dawn to create lesson plans, make copies, and organize for the day. Create Emergency Sub Plans so you don’t find yourself in this predicament.

Early in the school year, I restock my Emergency Sub Plans. I add worksheets, simple games, and packets that students can do if I am unexpectedly absent. The supply is large: it fills a crate-a-file. The selection is wide: I stock lessons in each of the major subjects, plus fun packets.

I supply the Emergency Sub Plans with lessons that students can complete at any time during the school year–nothing too difficult, whether it’s used in September or May.  For math, I leave review worksheets with puzzles to solve or pictures to color after you do the math. For reading comprehension, I use fun worksheets with interesting passages and questions. For writing, I tend to leave draw-and-write activities that keep kids engaged with minimal help from the teacher. A favorite is to design a tree house, then write about it.

I also created Super Seatwork packets for my Emergency Sub Plans. These packets consolidate worksheets for the 3 R’s (reading, ’riting, and ’rithmetic) with fun worksheets involving dot-to-dot, hidden picture, puzzles of all sorts, mazes, and anything else I can find. The Super Seatwork packets are easy to grab if no sub is available and your class is split to spend the day with other teachers in the grade level.

Your Emergency Sub Plans can have more than just seatwork. I tuck fun read-alouds in the file so subs can read a story I know students haven’t heard. I have a separate place for simple games; I find them in file folder games books or books of reproducible board games.

You can leave a note for your sub to let the kids do special activities if it seems appropriate and they are behaving:

Educational board games

Free reading time (let the kids sit on the floor if they are being really good!)

Extra recess (a great way to make it through the last 20-30 minutes of the day)

Extra computer lab time (some schools have free space teachers can reserve: your sub could check before school, during special, or at lunch)

Spelling bee (leave a list or tell your sub where to find one)

Whatever else you can dream up!

IMPORTANT: don’t forget an ADMIN FILE in your Emergency Sub plans! Always have current copies of your class list, daily schedule, students who are pulled for special instruction, and especially allergies or physical conditions the sub needs to know about.

You might want to make notes in your lesson plan book to check the Emergency Sub Plans every few weeks or so.

IMPORTANT: make sure other teachers in your hall or grade level know where you keep your emergency sub plans. When you call for a sub the night before or day of your absence, send an email to the school secretary, copied to your grade level team, with instructions on your sub plans and notes for the day. Someone can print this and give it to the sub.

I hope Emergency Sub Plans help you as much as they have helped me.


 

Class Antics: Best Back to School Advice EVER!

A National Board Certified Teacher shares tips, tricks and time-tested advice to help you get ready for back to school.

This Best EVER! collection is a must for first year teachers, but veteran teachers will enjoy it, too. I sincerely hope that these tips ease your worries as you face back-to-school stresses.

How to Set Up Your Classroom

Part One: Facing an Empty Room: this will help you get started on that terrifying first day you see your new classroom.

Part Two: Cover the Bulletin Boards: there’s more to it than you think, and this post will help you slap something respectable up so you can get back to work on more important things.

Part Three: Decorate the Walls: whether you have supplies or have to beg, borrow or steal (just kidding!), this post will help you cover those institutional cinderblock walls.

Part Four: Basic Management Systems: from managing your pencil supply to organizing work turn-in, this post will help you get the bare-bones systems in place.

Meet the Teacher Night/Open House

How to Organize Supplies from Meet the Teacher Night: if you can only read one post, make it this one! Learn how to save HOURS and HOURS by setting up your classroom so families can organize the back-to-school supplies.

Meet the Teacher Night: A Guide for Families: learn how to get the most out of back to school night.

Have kids sort the community school supplies: a fun time-sponge (soaks up time) activity that helps you organize the classroom and build community! A great way to deal with those Meet the Teacher Night supplies.

The First Day of School

A Sample First Day of School Letter Home: feel free to use the whole thing if you like! This sample letter will save you time so you can get back to setting up your classroom and planning a fun first day.

How to plan for the first day of school: the first day of school is a day like no other. Learn how to plan well so that the rest of your year goes smoothly.

The New Teacher’s Complete Sourcebook: this Scholastic Professional Book is very, very helpful to first-year teachers. You will especially like the minute-by-minute schedule for the first day of school. There is a unique schedule for each grade, K-4. I was incredibly glad to have this book!

Give kids a snack on the first day of school: this tip helps you break the ice, practice birthday treat protocol and ingratiate yourself with your students!

Don’t forget to TEACH on the first day of school: here is some good advice on how to inject some academics into the first day of school. Students, parents and administrators will appreciate your effort!

Throw Down a Challenge the First Week of School: coordinating nicely with Don’t Forget to TEACH on the First Day of School, this post tells you how to give your students a motivating challenge that builds academic skills, confidence and community.

A typical elementary school day schedule: this is really helpful for first year teachers. Get a sense of how a typical day is scheduled. Also helpful for parents who want a sense of what their child does at school.

Greeting Visitors Procedure: teach your students this charming greeting that also functions as a “principal’s here” alarm bell. Practicing this on the first day of school is super fun and can soak up half an hour, easy!

Set up class jobs right away! Years of experience tells me this is the BEST way to do classroom jobs. It’s really easy for you, and setting up the jobs on the first day gets kids into the swing of things. This activity soaks up half an hour or more!

First Week of School: Learn the Names Challenge: are you worried about learning all your students’ names by the end of the first week? Well, if you use this tip, the kids REALLY won’t care whether you know their names or not! They’ll be rooting for you to make a few mistakes!

Posted in Back to School,Classroom Management,Classroom setup by Corey Green @ Aug 24, 2012

 

How to set up a classroom / Classroom arrangements Part 4

Part Four: Basic Management Systems

They don’t prepare you for this in college: the moment you see the bare-bones, institutional box that you are expected to transform into an inviting classroom…in two or three days.  It’s a daunting task for veteran and new teachers alike, and it has to be redone every year.

Through blood, sweat and tears, you have created a decent learning environment out of a previously forbidding and forlorn empty cinderblock box.

Now it’s time to set up a few classroom management systems.

A Pencil System

Decide on a good place for your pencil sharpener. Decide on a system for dealing with classroom pencils. I recommend the two-cup system: dull and sharp. New teachers, dealing with pencils is actually pretty complicated, so here are several posts to help you out!

Pencils, Part One: Managing Your Pencil Supply
Pencils, Part Two: Some Advice About Pencil Sharpening
Pencils, Part Three: The Pencil Drive

Turn In Work System

If you can afford it, buy Literature Organizers (their proper name!) at a teaching store or office supply store. Use pieces of index card to number the boxes 1-30 or so. On or before the first day of school, assign numbers to your students. They can turn everything in to these numbered boxes.

You will really, really appreciate having this system in place for receiving all the back-to-school forms.

If you can’t afford literature organizers, there is still hope. One idea is to tape down plain old manila file folders to the countertop in a long line. The student work slides into their numbered folder.

Another idea is to use existing cubbies or whatever your school provided for backpacks. On the first day, at least, you might rather receive paperwork in these cubbies and have kids hang their backpacks on their chairs. Trust me, you will like having all the back-to-school forms alphabetized!

Or you can just have a few paper trays out, like one for each subject. Then at least student work is organized by subject. You can enter these grades in the gradebook haphazardly, arrange papers in number order before you enter grades, or if you teach older grades, ask a student to put the papers in number order for you.

Lunch Count/Attendance System

A lot of schools have 2-4 choices for lunch each day, plus sack lunch from home. Many teachers set up a magnet system with numbered magnets for each student. Each morning, the kids put their magnet under their lunch choice. Whoever’s left either forgot to move their magnet or is absent.

Set this system up in a corner of your whiteboard, or you can use the side of a metal desk or filing cabinet. Here is an example of a lunch count system with magnets.

Organize your Bookshelves

My favorite way to organize bookshelves is with clear plastic shoe box bins. I sort the books by reading level, but earlier in my career I just sorted them by genre. Kids will keep the books very nicely in these shoe box bins. If you just put the books on the shelf, you will have a mess before long. Of course, it will look okay for Open House, so you might just want to set the books out and buy some bins next week!

VERY IMPORTANT: DO NOT LABEL YOUR BINS WITH MARKER! WRITE ON A NOTE CARD AND TAPE IT INSIDE THE BIN. You will repurpose your bins so many times; don’t tie yourself down with permanent marker labels!

Organize School Supplies

I organize school supplies in plastic shoe box bins. My classroom comes with open shelving, which I covered with plastic blinds from Lowe’s, about $15-20. This keeps the classroom looking serene.

Try to avoid organizing with cardboard boxes of any type. They look tacky and smell funny after a while, particularly if your school is humid.

Extra Credit: Set up for the influx of supplies that students will bring on Meet the Teacher Night. You REALLY, REALLY want to make time for this! Read my blog post on how to do it.

Part One: facing an empty room
Part Two: Cover the Bulletin Boards
Part Three: Decorate the Walls
Part Four: Basic Management Systems (this post)

Posted in Back to School,Classroom Management,Classroom setup by Corey Green @ Aug 17, 2012

 

How to set up a classroom / Classroom arrangements Part 3

Part Three: Decorate the Walls

They don’t prepare you for this in college: the moment you see the bare-bones, institutional box that you are expected to transform into an inviting classroom…in two or three days.  It’s a daunting task for veteran and new teachers alike, and it has to be redone every year.

Once you have arranged the furniture and covered your bulletin boards, put a little time into decorating the walls of your classroom. You will need some posters or wall decorations.

There are many sources:

Shop for educational and motivational posters you find at teaching stores, office supply stores, and DOLLAR STORES, which are often a lot nearer to you at any given time than a teaching store.

Ask veteran teachers in your school if they have extras to give or lend you. Most teachers have a lot and are willing to share!

Required posters, like for curriculum programs, character education programs, whatever the school gives you and insists you display.

I prefer relaxing and beautiful artwork to school posters. I have assembled cool artwork from around my house, DOLLAR STORES, cut-up calendars, discount stores like Ross and TJ Maxx, and poster sales. You might also find that your parents or relatives have canvasses or framed prints that could look good in your classroom.

Ideas for if you have no posters:

A quick homemade poster of class rules. Principals like to see this display. Don’t make your rules too complicated! It’s just a poster; it’s not magic and it won’t inspire kids to behave like little angels. Just write a few be-safe-and-respectful type rules and get on with it.

If you can’t get your hands on decent posters before school starts, fill the walls with grids of construction paper ready to display student work.

Using black marker on construction paper, write BIG and use several pieces of paper to illustrate basic educational concepts. Six traits of writing, vowel sounds, mathematical operations, whatever. Just keep these really bold and graphic.

Use pieces of construction paper or butcher paper to create blank graphic organizers or thinking maps. Put clothespins on each piece of paper so you can clip things to the map during the year. Here is a simple example.

You can hot glue clothespins to the wall, then clip posters or construction paper to them. You can put student work out as soon as the kids arrive. Click here for a good example.

How to hang your pictures and posters:

If you are lucky, your classroom’s walls are easy to work with. You can hang things up with pushpins and staples.

More likely, you have a classroom lined with cinder block walls. It is really hard to hang things on them, but not impossible. Here are some ways to affix your posters and decorations:

Hot glue holds the posters really well, but will come off the wall when you are ready. With hot glue you have to work quickly, so an extension cord can let you dot the glue as you hang. A quick Internet survey showed that hot glue is the hands-down favorite for hanging things on cinderblock walls. Get a glue gun Wal-Mart, Target, or a crafts store.

Adhesive products: I like the 3-M mounting strips and sticky stuff. Get it at Wal-Mart or similar stores.

Adhesive products with Velcro: Get these at Wal-Mart or similar stores. You get a sheet of squares with velcro. Arrange them the way you want on your poster and put the Velcro that’s gonig on the wall right on the Velcro on your poster. (You do not want to mess with trying to line things up!) This will hold a while, but not as long as adhesive products without Velcro or hot glue.

Framed pictures are nice because you can drill into the wall, set up a hook, and hang them. (Confession: I don’t know how to do this; my dad always did it for me. But here are some online directions.)

Part One: facing an empty room
Part Two: Cover the Bulletin Boards
Part Three: Decorate the Walls (this post)
Part Four: Basic Management Systems

Posted in Back to School,Classroom Management,Classroom setup by Corey Green @ Aug 10, 2012

 

How to set up a classroom / Classroom arrangements Part 2

Part Two: Cover the Bulletin Boards

They don’t prepare you for this in college: the moment you see the bare-bones, institutional box that you are expected to transform into an inviting classroom…in two or three days.  It’s a daunting task for veteran and new teachers alike, and it has to be redone every year.

Most classrooms have at least one bulletin board in the room and one in the hallway.  Set up your bulletin boards before you worry about other wall decorations.  Your boards don’t need displays on them for Open House, but it helps if they are at least outfitted with butcher paper and a bulletin board border.

Get the butcher paper from the school’s supply and use it to cover your bulletin boards.  You can skip this step if the bulletin board looks good without butcher paper.  Don’t discount the nice clean effect of plain white bulletin board paper.  It doesn’t fade during the year and it looks good with a construction paper grid for displaying student work.  (see below.)

You will want to use bulletin board border.  This can be found at teaching stores, office supply stores, and sometimes at dollar stores.  If you are in a hurry, just ask a veteran teacher for bulletin board border.  Most of them have extensive collections housed in special bulletin board border storage boxes.

You can get by without bulletin board border if you do a really nice clean job of setting up the butcher paper.  In my experience, first year teachers have not yet acquired this skill.  Cover your mistakes with border.

You can put displays on the bulletin boards, but this might not be a priority if you are facing an empty room with nothing on the walls.  Many teachers put the students’ names on interesting shapes for the bulletin board in the hall, but this has to be replaced early in the year.

I like to create a grid of construction paper for displaying student work.  I arrange construction paper in a pleasing pattern on the bulletin board.  Then, during the year, I attach student work with a thumbtack.  The bulletin board can stay up all year while the display changes.  This grid is really easy to do and probably your best bet as a beginner.

You can have students create bulletin board displays on the first day or week of school.  Have the kids decorate a 4 x 6 index card, a piece of paper, a shape like a paper plate, whatever.  You can have the kids just do pictures, or you can add a writing sample or getting-to-know you aspect.  This work can become the first thing featured on your bulletin board.

Later, when you are not so overwhelmed, cover the bulletin board with fabric rather than butcher paper.  Thisbackground can last a school year or more.  I recommend dollar-a-yard fabric; don’t go much more expensive than that.  I usually find fabric at Wal-Mart, but crafts stores also have good selections.  A bulletin board fabric should be either solid color or with a really small print.  It’s nice if your solid-color fabric can have some texture to it, but it’s not necessary.  It is very important that you IRON the bulletin board fabric before you staple it to the board.  This makes all the difference in the world!  No amount of wrinkle spray or stretching will give you the nice clean look of ironing.

First year teachers: just cover the bulletin boards with butcher paper, cover mistakes with a border and move on.  You have a lot to do!

Part One: facing an empty room
Part Two: Cover the Bulletin Boards (this post)
Part Three: Decorate the Walls
Part Four: Basic Management Systems

P.S. In the photos above, I covered a bulletin board with fabric, used monkey decorations from a bulletin board kit, and stapled construction paper in a grid.  Then, as my class achieved learning goals, I had them all sign a paper relating to the goal and we used a push pin to display it on the bulletin board.

Posted in Back to School,Classroom Management,Classroom setup by Corey Green @ Aug 3, 2012

 

How to set up a classroom / Classroom arrangements Part 1

Part One: Facing an Empty Room

They don’t prepare you for this in college: the moment you see the bare-bones, institutional box that you are expected to transform into an inviting classroom…in two or three days.

Oh, and the district is “supporting” you with new-teacher induction programs during those same days, so you’ll be attending lots of meetings.

Setting up the classroom will have to be done during evenings and on the weekend—if you have a weekend between the time you get hired and the first day of school.  Here are some tips for first year teachers and transferred teachers.

Step One: Assess the situation.  Request the room be cleaned if it isn’t already.  Request furniture you may need.  For example, do you have enough student desks?  Chairs? Do you have a table for reading groups?  Enough bookshelves?  A teacher desk?

Are the student desks all the same height, or are they a mish-mash?  You can ask for school custodial staff to adjust the desks for you.  They should be able to help.  If necessary, you can adjust them all yourself—or, to get started, put like-sized desks together in tables.

Step Two: Clear the room.  Often, the teacher before you has left weird little things, claiming they might be “useful.”  Chances are, you just don’t need this excess stuff.  I’m talking about those student worksheet packets that MIGHT be useful in November, if you can even remember where you put them, knick knacks, 30 year old posters, strange office desk accessories.

Just clear that junk out.  Put it in the hallway, in trash cans if you can, but it’s not necessary.  The custodians will clear it away.

Step Three: Arrange the furniture and desks.  Map this out on the whiteboard if you can, and use a measuring tape on the room and furniture so you get a rough idea of if your plan will work.  You don’t want to shove desks around, then find out there wasn’t room for your design.

Nowadays, it is more common to make tables than to arrange the desks in rows.  I find that tables of four to six desks are good, and so are long tables of desks down each side of the room.  Whatever arrangement you decide, test it for livability.  Do student chairs back into each other?  Is a student sitting right in the flow of traffic to cubbies or the bookshelf?

Visit ClassroomDeskArrangement.com for ideas on setting up desks.  Don’t get too fancy your first year.  Take a look at the picture here—my all-time favorite desk arrangement that I used for years.  It’s a variation on a nice horseshoe shape, but the horseshoe is made from tables of four.

Your teacher desk DOES NOT need prominent placement.  You won’t be able to work at your desk during the school day because you will be too busy with students.  Arrange the important things, like the reading group table and bookshelves, and put the desk in as unobtrusive a spot as you can.  Up against the wall is often a good spot.  That way, more of the classroom is available for the kids.

Procuring furniture, clearing the room and setting up desks could take you a full day…or two.  Enlist helpers, if you can.  Regularly assess your progress, and adjust if need be.  Your goal must be to have the classroom ready for students and you must be ready to teach your students.  Keep that in mind and don’t be tempted to stray into projects that don’t require immediate attention.

Part One: facing an empty room (this post)
Part Two: Cover the Bulletin Boards
Part Three: Decorate the Walls
Part Four: Basic Management Systems

Posted in Back to School,Classroom Management,Classroom setup by Corey Green @ Jul 27, 2012

 

The Lunch Wagon

Many schools have a giant plastic “lunch bucket” for each class. After eating, students place their lunch boxes in the bucket before going outside to play. Two students are charged with transporting the lunch bucket back to class.

It’s not a pretty sight to watch students transport this bucket. They drag it down the halls and scuff up the linoleum. Lunch boxes fall out—and not all are retrieved. For the youngest students, moving the bucket is pretty much an impossible task.

…the lunch bucket system is just okay. Here’s how to make it great!

Get a lunch wagon! Ask your students’ families for a used wagon. You want a classic Red Flyer type wagon. It’s nice and strong and will last for the rest of your teaching career.

I was incredibly fortunate — one of my class families had a wagon, and when I sent out a call, they responded immediately. Then they took generosity to a new level and painted the Lunch Wagon green, in honor of our G3 classsroom brand.  We have an alcove just outside the door to our classroom where the G3 Lunch Wagon lives when it’s not in use.  We use a pretty green vinyl tablecloth to line the Lunch Wagon bed, so it’s always attractive (and easy to clean!).

I hope you and your class like the Lunch Wagon system. The Lunch Wagon is loads of fun and very useful!

Posted in Classroom Management,Classroom setup,Tips for Parents by Corey Green @ Dec 5, 2011

 

Keep spare treats for kids with allergies

This is another one of those tips that will involve spending your money.  In a nutshell: keep spare treats for kids with allergies.  Common allergies are peanuts, tree nuts, milk, and gluten or wheat.

Keeping spare treats it is helpful when parents bring in birthday treats or refreshments for classroom parties.  Sometimes parents will arrange this with you in advance, sometimes they won’t.  Often, parents will ask about avoiding allergens for a treat they plan to bring—but if you have several students with varied allergies, a parent may find it very difficult to avoid all those troublesome ingredients.  In many cases, parents don’t realize how complicated this can be unless their own children have allergies.

Keeping alternate treats helps you avoid complications and disappointments.  Other teachers and the nurse sometimes ask me if the allergic child’s parents have sent an alternate treats.   I just take care of it myself so it doesn’t become another admin responsibility.  Plus, if you have treats always available, you can head off disappointments and even tears during what should be a moment of celebration.

Here are a few ideas for treats that avoid various allergens:  Skittles, Rice Krispie Treats, Little Debbie Cakes (those that avoid tree nuts or peanuts), lollipops, and hard candies.  You can check ingredients lists easily—the potential allergens are listed at the bottom of the nutrition information section.  I always stay on the safe side and don’t buy treats processed at a plant that works with peanuts or tree nuts for students who are allergic to those foods.  Often, I have a nice fresh piece of fruit available, but I can’t always guarantee that.   (It just depends what goodies are in my lunch that day!)

If I’m ever out of stock and a treat shows up that I know a child can’t eat, I just arrange for someone to cover my class while I take the child to the teachers’ lounge to pick an alternate treat out of a vending machine.

This is just another example of how being a teacher can become expensive.  However, I think you will be glad to have these spare treats on hand.  Kids with allergies have problems enough, and they will really appreciate when you go the extra mile for them.

Posted in Classroom Management,Classroom setup,Food,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Oct 27, 2011

 

How to Organize Supplies from Meet the Teacher Night

At many schools, families bring items from the school supplies list to Meet the Teacher Night.  Nowadays, most supplies are collected by the teacher to be used by the whole class.

I highly recommend that you implement a system for dealing with these goods.  If you don’t, you will spend hours dealing with school supplies.

Cubbies are ideal.  You can make quick labels saying things like “paper,” “Kleenex” or “pencils” and families will sort the supplies for you.  The kids really enjoy it, and parents are happy to help.  Set aside ample room for bulky supplies like tissue, reams of copy paper, and Clorox wipes.

If you don’t have cubbies, designate bins, countertops, bookshelves, student desks, tables, or just patches on the floor for various supplies.  You’ll be glad that the supplies are at least sorted.

You can put the supplies away before school starts—or not.  If school starts the day after Meet the Teacher Night, don’t deal with the supplies after families leave.  Just go home and get some sleep!  The kids can help you put them away.  It’s a fun team-building activity.  Really.

Veteran teachers: showing new teachers how to do this is probably the number one thing you can do to help short of assisting in actual classroom setup.  Last year I showed our new kindergarten teachers how to do this, and they all said I saved them hours.


 

Chill Music for the Classroom

Lately, I’ve been really into the Soundscapes channel on my cable TV.  The background music helps me focus while I write, and this keeps me from getting up and making snacks.  (A really good one: Frozen Banana Boppers, courtesy of my prankster character Chris.)

I have developed criteria for evaluating music to listen to while you study.  The perfect background music has a calm, steady beat, is written in mostly major keys (too much minor is just depressing), has no lyrics, and isn’t too peppy or catchy.  (No Eine Kleine Nachtmusik while you study.)

Following these principles, I have found some CDs that work like magic with my students.  We all focus much better with these CDs, and when I deviate from them, we tend to have problems.  Here are some recommendations:

Feng Shui Harmony Balance Energy: This CD is magic!  It has mysterious child-calming properties.  The class always falls silent when I play this CD.  I use it sparingly so the effect doesn’t wear off.

Classical Music for Reading: This mix features some of the big names in classical composition and works very well.  Fun fact: I bought this for my class on a trip to Mexico where I also purchased two foam puzzles of the human sistema digestivo.  You can buy the album on Amazon—much easier although less fun.

Poeta by Al Conti: This is a nice calm instrumental album with a New Age sound.  It’s very soothing and is probably the disc we spin most often.  Fun fact: before Al was a composer, he was a soap opera star.

Touch the Sun: I came across composer Eric McCarl on Soundscapes.  This is soothing and pleasant piano music that everyone enjoys.

Classical Music to Study To: After stumbling across Classical Music for Reading, I started getting into pre-selected mixes.  This one is very good, too.  Several of the songs are in minor keys, and they’ll definitely slow you down a little.

Art of the Guitar: Andres Segovia and John Williams: This is a soporific collection of Bach preludes.  I remember I used to play one of them on the piano and if I didn’t watch the sheet music, I’d lull myself into a stupor and just keep looping the song.  It was good background music, though.  This CD is good for calming students to the extreme; not so good for inducing critical thinking.  Still, there is a time and place for this album.

Touched By the Sea: Uplifting Piano Solos: Silvard is another artist I discovered on Soundscapes.  His original compositions are just perfect for background music.  My students and I find it calming and pleasant.

Posted in Classroom Management,Classroom setup,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Aug 2, 2011

 

Chores Build Confidence

Chores are not drudgery.  Chores build confidence.

I’m not kidding.  Real confidence comes from deep inside, from a sense that one has achieved before and can achieve again.  Real self-esteem comes from knowing that other people depend on you, that you matter.

Of course, to reap these benefits in your family chore routine, you really have to know what you’re doing.  First of all, frame chores as something everyone in the family does to contribute to the success of the family.  The family is a unit, and the unit cannot succeed unless everyone succeeds.  To make this happen, everyone needs to pull his or her own weight.  (Can you tell I’m a military brat?)

Your child should have a very basic chore of keeping his or her own room neat.  Beyond that, your child should be doing something to contribute to the family.  This can happen at a very young age.  My school’s reading specialist gave her toddler one chore: he opens the blinds every day.  Without him, the family would be in darkness.  He is important!

Chores build community.  This why I assign chores on the first day of school.  I talk to my class about the importance of chores, and how they make things nicer for everybody.  Then, we look at the list of chores that needed to happen and students volunteer for jobs.  Everyone has to have one job, and most kids clamor for more.  The really exciting part is when kids notice a need and invent a job.

I think that having chores from the get-go makes a difference in my classes.  We love chore time, and we all appreciate the little things each of us does to make our classroom great.

I hope that your family finds the same benefits.

Posted in Classroom Management,Classroom setup,Tips for Parents by Corey Green @ Oct 7, 2010