New Teacher Tips, Part II

Hatorade must have been on sale when I published Part I of my New Teacher Tips because a couple of Crabby Abbys attacked me after reading it. Because of this, I will start Part II with the following disclaimer:

I am the kind of person who values straight up, truthful advice. I am also a bit of a realist. If you fall into any of the categories below, please X out of this blog post immediately:
-sensitive
-easily offended
-detached from reality
-lacking the part of the brain that gets sarcasm

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New-Teacher-Tips
6. Stop Grading Everything
Just stop. Put your red pen down right now. It isn’t physically possible to correct everything without going utterly bonkers. There was a time when I thought that I just HAD TO correct everything. It got old really quick, so I made a better system.

I call it the Pick and Choose system.

The Pick and Choose system involves grading student work that is easy to correct, like my assessments below. There are 4 or 5 questions. Each question is either right or wrong. No blurry lines. No going bonkers. Yeehaw!
Common Core Math Assessments for Grade 1
Common Core Math Assessments for Grade 2
Common Core Math Assessments for Grade 3
Common Core Math Assessments for Grade 4
Common Core Math Assessments for Grade 5

If you choose to ignore this tip, that’s fine. Have fun going completely crackers as you find yourself mulling over how to grade one paper for the next 16 hours. Oh, and have fun with that helicopter parent who disagrees with how you graded the paper as well.

(I know you’re probably wondering how I grade writing. Please don’t. I can’t help you because I still don’t know how. I have been in the bonkers phase with this one for the last 3 years.)

7. Don’t Get Too Comfortable With Your Current Assignment
I’m going to tell you a little story. If you aren’t sitting down for this one, you probably should because it involves my biggest FAIL as a teacher to date:

It is a brutally hot week in the month of August. My current assignment is a 3rd Grade Academic Interventionist.

I am in great spirits considering I have just moved all of my classroom materials up and down 2 flights of stairs… for a 4th time… in the last 2 months. I find this completely acceptable though, since I overate this summer and can’t afford a gym membership anyway. To me, this is a gift.

Students arrive in 5 days and my classroom looks like this:New-Teacher-TipsThe best thing about those 5 days before student arrival is the great abundance of time you are given to prepare your classroom. I mean..I love professional development and I do appreciate the importance of number talks and inferring, but can’t this be summed up in less than 8 hours?

So I do what any sane teacher does in that week before school: Show up at 5am to work on my classroom for 3 hours before attending an 8 hour long PD session to let me know that I suck at guided reading.

It is at some point this week that I completely lose my shiitake mushrooms. My number 1 priority turns into painting this disgusting bookshelf, because I figure, “Hey, why set up a 4th classroom when I can make this bookcase pretty?”New-Teacher-Tip

Not only do I paint this bookcase, but I decide that it would be a magnificent idea to paint over every bulletin board in the room. I stay at school until 8pm every night sweating bullets in 90 degree heat. I manage to get it all done before the students arrive.

So, why was this such a fail?

Well, the principal entered my room with some wonderful news while I was cleaning up paintbrushes, folding up drop cloths, and admiring my masterpiece: “We have to open up another first grade classroom because the numbers are too high. Your new classroom will be downstairs.”

Moral of the story? Don’t get too comfortable in your classroom.

8. Have a Sub Tub Prepared/Take a Mental Health Day at Least Once This Year
Taking days off can be a nightmare for a teacher. This e-card sums it up pretty well:substitute-planningIf anyone needs a mental health day, it’s a first year teacher. There will be at least 1 day this year where you will completely question your sanity. If the 25 students in front of you start to look like a blurred carousel and/or you find yourself helplessly throwing your hands in the air, this is probably a good time to take a mental health day. Don’t fight it; just do it.

When I discovered the Sub Tub on Pinterest, I needed to make one. It took about 5 minutes to put it all together. I believe I got the white tub from Target for 3 bucks. (It’s actually a mini trash bin. Fancy, eh?)
sub-tubThe greatest thing about the sub tub is having everything set up for the sub weeks in advance. Say goodbye to those last-minute-planning-panic-attacks!

If you are confused about what you should put in your sub tub, don’t be! There are some amazing resources on Teachers Pay Teachers that will get you started. All you have to do is the following:

1) Go to teacherspayteachers.com
2) Type “sub plans” and your grade level in the search.
3) Immediately watch your blood pressure go down.

Last year, I kept my sub tub on a book shelf behind my desk. It was ready to go and I never had to worry about making plans last minute!sub-tubsub-tub

9. Be Gracious When Another Teacher Shares with You
I know there are schools out there where everyone is hunky-dory with each other and this would never be a problem, but I’m still throwing this tip out there. (Maybe it’s for my own venting purposes. Sue me.)

If another teacher in the building shares a resource with you, do not do either of the following:
1) Be a jerk.
2) Be a know-it-all.

When I was a K-5 intervention teacher 3 years ago, I had to make lesson plans for every grade in the building. Because of this, I had the opportunity to share resources with almost every teacher in my school. These resources were usually awesome printables that I found by utilizing my amazing Google skills.

What annoyed me about sharing resources was the general response I received from colleagues after I extended out this good gesture to them. It was…baffling, inconceivable even. I can only equate their response to someone showing up to my classroom and handing me a free coffee. Not only would I fail to say thank you, but I would also take a sip of the coffee, dump it all over their new Ann Taylor shirt, and tell them that the coffee sucks as they are heading out the door.

Sorry… sidetracked. How did they actually respond when I gave them free resources? Noses would turn up. Know-It-All comments such as “This is too easy”, “This isn’t rigorous enough”, and “My students are SO beyond this” would fly out of their mouths.

My response usually looked something like this:Teacher-tips

..but what I really wanted to say was, “Apparently you didn’t get the memo in kindergarten that sharing is caring….but hey, it’s okay. I appreciate the extra couple of minutes that I get to myself now because I don’t plan on ever sharing with you again.”

10. Let the Parent Speak First
I have always found communicating with parents to be one of the most frightening aspects of teaching. During my first year, I really struggled on days where I had a meeting with a parent. If the conference was in the afternoon, I would have crippling anxiety for the entire day because I was hung up on how each meeting would turn out.

I always reflected long and hard after each parent-teacher conference since I knew I wasn’t the best at them. What I can tell you is this: Talking to parents becomes much easier over time, even if you’re socially awkward like the best of us.

One of the biggest things I learned through reflection is that I needed to chill out when the conference started. As teachers, we have a lot to say about our students, but you’d be surprised at how well a conference goes when you let the parent speak first. My worst conferences were usually the ones where I was too eager to tell Mrs. Johnson about the 10 gray hairs I had developed that week because of her son.

So do yourself a favor and start the conference off by asking parents about THEIR questions and/or concerns. 9 times out of 10, they will have something they want to talk to you about. The moment I started doing this, conferences immediately became easier and less tense.

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For more entertaining reads, click on the “Rants and Funnies” tab at the top of this page.

Common Core ELA Cheat Sheets

I was tired of flipping through 50 pages to figure out what a certain standard was, so I decided to make this 1 page “Cheat Sheet” that has every Common Core ELA (English Language Arts) standard on 1 page. .

This FREEBIE has Common Core ELA Cheat Sheets for grades K-5!!

I keep this cheat sheet in the back of my ELA Lesson Plans Binder. It has been extremely useful. I find myself constantly looking at it when I need to know what a certain standard is.

Common-Core-ELA-Cheat-Sheets

There is one “cheat sheet” for each of the following grade levels:
• Kindergarten
• 1st Grade (Grade 1)
• 2nd Grade (Grade 2)
• 3rd Grade (Grade 3)
• 4th Grade (Grade 4)
• 5th Grade (Grade 5)

Each 1 page cheat sheet includes every standard in the following English Language Arts strands:
• Reading: Literature
• Reading: Informational Text
• Reading: Foundational Skills
• Language
• Writing
• Speaking and Listening

Take a peak at the format below. 🙂
Common-Core-ELA-Cheat-Sheet
Common-Core-ELA-Cheat-Sheets

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If you need the same kind of cheat sheets for math, look no further! Click the link below!
Common Core Math Cheat Sheets for Grades K-5

Enjoy!

(A big thanks to Glitter Meets Glue for the cover design, Graphics From the Pond and Creative Clips for the borders, and KG Fonts for the title fonts.)

Top 3 Classroom Organizational Tools

This year, I taught first grade in a closet. No, seriously. On any given day, I saw at least 3 kids go ass over tea kettle due to the cramped obstacle course they routinely participated in. I’m actually surprised that there haven’t been any lawsuits for all of the injuries caused by bumping into desks, shelves, and..each other. Anyway..let’s get back on topic.

Due to this limited space, I tried my best to stay on top of my organizational game. So today, I share with you: My Top 3 Classroom Organizational Tools of 2013-2014.

Top-3
#3: Folders with Regularly Used Printables
Okay, you might look at this and think it looks stupid, but it has worked for me. These folders have copies of papers that I regularly use in my classroom, such as: Spelling Pre-tests, Spelling Tests, Time-Out Reports, Writing Templates, Homework, etc. You get the picture.

Desk-Organizer
#2: Days of the Week Desk Organizer
This thing is fantastic. I bought it on Amazon. I did contemplate buying those cute, colored bins from Really Good Stuff to store my copies for the week, but I couldn’t justify giving up 2 paychecks to pay for a couple pieces of plastic. Instead, I scoured Amazon for a highly rated desktop organizer that wouldn’t break the bank.
Desk-Organizer

Desk-Organizer
This is probably the best $20 I’ve ever spent. I use each tray for a different day of the week. Monday is red, Tuesday is yellow, Wednesday is black, Thursday is green, and Friday is purple (my favorite day of the week AND my favorite color).

It might look a little disorganized, but I put all reading work for the day on top of the folder, all math work inside the folder, and everything else (social studies, writing, etc) goes under the folder. 🙂

Grade-Copy-File
#1: Grade, Copy, File Organizer
This organizer was Pinterest inspired and it was probably my MOST used tool this year. I didn’t realize how great it was until I reflected about it this past week. These simple drawers will save your life.

Last year, I had many “OHPS moments”. These moments involved tossing piles of papers from my desk into the recycle bin. When the time came to Iook for an important document, I would spend a few hours shuffling through disorganized papers. This scenario almost always ended with me mumbling something like, “Oh Sh%$, I think those signed permission slips could have been in that pile I chucked yesterday.”

I knew that I needed a better system this year. Instead of throwing papers onto my desk when I receive them, they go directly into one of these three drawers. I haven’t lost any documents this year and my desk is no longer the classroom dump.

What are some of your best classroom organizational tools this year?

I Hate Desk Pods

It’s 1995. I’m in 4th grade. I sit in row 2, seat 3. My behavior is pretty good, not Student of the Year good, but top 10% good. The nuns only reprimand me once or twice a week for whispering to a neighbor.

The most exciting part of my day involves the interaction I have with John. He is the boy in front of me with the perfect, brown mushroom haircut. He sits in row 2, seat 2.

When I see Mrs. Booker grab a set of worksheets off of her desk, it’s show-time. In just moments, she will be releasing 6 worksheets to the first person in each row. This means John will be turning around to pass me those worksheets. The potential for eye contact here is huge.

Ohp, here we go. Mrs. Booker is currently licking her thumbs as she counts off 6 papers to the first person in each row.

I wait eagerly and patiently for our row to receive our set of papers.

Kevin, who sits in row 2, seat 1, just turned around to pass John the papers. Smooth transaction.

John then turns his body around and I flash my pearly whites. We engage in 3 seconds of solid eye-contact as he hands the papers off to me.

Butterflies awaken in my esophagus. A beautiful transfer was made and I think our pinkies just touched. Oh My God, our pinkies touched.

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Why did I share this nostalgic flashback? I thought it would be a nice segue into a topic in education that baffles me more than Kim Kardashian’s everlasting and unexplainable fame status.

Ladies and gentleman, what am I talking about? It’s Classroom Desk Arrangement.
Desk-Pods
Not familiar with desk pods? They can be seen in most elementary classrooms across America. It is that ugly clump of 4-6 desks squished together to form a group. As you can see from above, this desk arrangement has no flaws. It promotes cooperative and collaborative learning at its finest!

I find myself completely fascinated by this setup, because traditional rows are all I ever knew growing up.

Ah, Heck. I guess I’ll just put on my big girl sneakers and share a little secret with you:

I hate the glorification of desk pods almost as much as I Hate Centers.
Desk-Pods
Unfortunately, I am completely guilty of having the clumpy dumpy pod setup in my classroom. My excuse? I teach in a closet and couldn’t arrange them any other way.

Some days I teach a new concept when the students are sitting in their clumpy dumpy pods. Some of those days I see attention wander quickly, and some of those days I get frustrated with how distracted some of them seem.

Then I take a step back to reflect. I gotta put myself in their shoes. How can I possibly get upset at my students for being distracted? If desks were arranged in groups when I was their age, I would probably have a heart attack sitting across from John.
Desk-Pods
If it’s 1995 and the desks are in groups, my complete and undivided attention is on a getting a glance from Johnny. Sorry, Mrs. Booker. I could care less about what you have to say about changing a fraction to a percent. There are bigger concerns when I have this fine specimen sitting across of me.

To solve the situation, I think you should put Justin Timberlake’s assigned seat across from me too. Oh, and while we are at it, make sure Leonardo Dicaprio is assigned to my right, so we can play footsies. I think that might make me less distracted.
Desks-in-Rows
When I took over a chatty 3rd grade classroom last year, I wanted to switch up the desk arrangement. When I expressed my grand plan of putting the desks in rows to a veteran teacher, she laughed at me.

Yep. Laughed at me.

Have I gone completely off the deep end for wanting to spice it up with a traditional setup? Are traditional rows so bad that we can’t even talk about the option, let alone actually have that setup in our classrooms?

Do I think traditional rows are perfect? No. Does it annoy me how much people praise the clumpy dumpy pod? Yes. I don’t understand how we praise cooperative learning all day, then turn around in the same blink to complain about students not becoming independent enough. Uhm, Hello? Am I the only one seeing a correlation here?

If my class was big enough, you would probably see rows of desks. They wouldn’t be traditional desks though. These desks would be based off of grandma’s old extendable dinner table. When it’s time for group work, the middle desk will extend and only chairs will be moved!
Desk-Flaps

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(If you enjoyed this post, you might enjoy some of my other rants. Just click on the “Rants and Funnies” tab at the top of this page.)

Common Core Math Cheat Sheets

Are you tired of flipping through dozens of pages to figure out what a certain Common Core standard is?! I know I was. This freebie has Common Core Math Cheat Sheets for grades K-5!!
Common-Core-Math

I decided to make this 1 page “Cheat Sheet” that has every Common Core math standard on 1 page. I keep it in the back of my Math Lesson Plans Binder. It has been extremely useful. I find myself constantly looking at it when I need to know what a certain standard is.

I also used these cheat sheets to create my Common Core Math Assessments for each grade. Take a look at the product links below. 🙂
Common Core Math Assessments for 1st Grade
Common Core Math Assessments for 2nd Grade
Common Core Math Assessments for 3rd Grade
Common Core Math Assessments for 4th Grade
Common Core Math Assessments for 5th Grade

Kindergarten-Common-Core
Grade-1-Common-Core
Grade-2-Common-Core-Math
Grade-3-Common-Core
Grade-4-Common-Core
Grade-5-Common-Core-Math

There is one “cheat sheet” for each of the following grade levels:
• Kindergarten
• 1st Grade (Grade 1)
• 2nd Grade (Grade 2)
• 3rd Grade (Grade 3)
• 4th Grade (Grade 4)
• 5th Grade (Grade 5)

Each 1 page cheat sheet includes every standard in the following Math strands:
• Operations and Algebraic Thinking
• Number and Operations in Base 10
• Geometry
• Measurement and Data

You might also be interested in my NO PREP Fall and Winter Printables for grades 1-3. Click the links below to view each product:
NO PREP Winter Math Pack for 1st Grade
NO PREP Winter Math Pack for 2nd Grade
NO PREP Winter Math Pack for 3rd Grade
NO PREP Fall Printables – 1st Grade Common Core Math and ELA
NO PREP Fall Printables – 2nd Grade Common Core Math and ELA
NO PREP Fall Printables – 3rd Grade Common Core Math and ELA

Enjoy!

A big thanks to Glitter Meets Glue for the cover design, Graphics From the Pond and Creative Clips for the borders, and KG Fonts for the title fonts. 🙂

My Data Wall

Data-Walls
I thought I would share some bulletin board decor today. If you aren’t familiar with Glitter Meets Glue, you need to be. Her work is responsible for the glittery goodness that you see on the letters. I am obsessed with glitter and I think first graders love it just as much as I do!

I’m not sure how other districts and states show their data, but our students take pre-assessments, mid-years, and final assessments for ELA in Math. We have to display the data once they are scored. Each student has a number and his/her score will fall into 1 of 4
categories:

Warning (Red)
Yellow (Needs Improvement)
Blue (Proficient)
Green (Advanced)
Math-Data-Wall
My data is displayed here for the pre-assessment in math. I got the silver sticker circles on Amazon here:
Silver Foil 2″ Round Labels

I love my data wall! Some teachers get extremely fancy with theirs, but I wanted to keep it simple because I don’t consider myself too creative of a creature.
 

pocket-chart

Saturday FAIL: Pocket Charts

It’s the beginning of September. I walk into my classroom on a Monday at 7:30am after a nice restful weekend. An unusual sight awaits me:
pocket-chart
“Someone must have just brushed alongside of it. No big deal. I will use some more mounting tape to get this baby back up and running.”

Fast forward about 20 school days. A familiar, annoying sight awaits me as I walk into the door:
familiar1
I have now become sick of spending the first 10 minutes of every school day “fixing” this stupid thing. It is at this point that I do everything in my power to make sure this thing stays up for longer than 1 day.

I buy bigger Command hooks which “hold up to 5 lbs”. Result? CRAP.
I buy heavy duty mounting tape. Result? CRAP.
I’m desperate. Let’s try velcro. Result? CRAP.

I have now spent more money buying products to keep this thing up than the actual worth of the pocket chart. I start to question the importance of this piece of junk. “Do 6 year olds even need these stupid pockets for important papers to go home? Maybe I could just give them the papers to organize themselves? They should be able to figure out how to organize their home folders. They aren’t in kindergarten anymore.”

Morale was low, until last Sunday…

I was doing groceries and stumbled across the possible solution to my pocket chart problem. pocket-chart

I was completely sold on the words “Toughest Tape on Planet Earth”. At this point, I didn’t care how ugly the tape was. If I use the strongest tape on Planet Earth, then my pocket chart WILL survive for longer than 1 day.

Result?

pocket-chart

flipbookopenbright

Common Core Flip Books

I’m about to let you in on a HUGE secret. Okay, some of you might already know about it..you don’t count. For those of you who don’t know about it, the tool I am about to show you will change your life.Common-Core-Flip-BookWhen the Common Core was implemented at my school last year, I was a little overwhelmed. I was a new teacher just trying to survive my first few weeks. Like the children, I need specific structure to know that I am doing certain things right.
When the 3rd Grade Common Core State Standards Flip Book was presented to me, I didn’t really think anything of it since it was the 3,465th packet that I received in the first week of school.

Since I am an intervention teacher, I needed to learn about the Common Core prettttttty quickly for every elementary grade.Common-Core-Flip-BookThe Common Core Flip Book was hands down the best go-to tool for me when I needed to learn about how to teach a specific standard. I would like to thank all of the teachers from North Carolina for creating this one.

The organization of these flip books = excellent.  The teachers who created them got straight to the point and only included what we really need to know.  There isn’t any added educational jargon and it’s easy to read.Common-Core-Flip-Book
For each standard, you will be able to easily locate the domain and the connections to other standards in that grade level. You’ll also see connections to standards in different grade levels.

Okay, I’ll get to my favorite feature of these flip books: the explanation and EXAMPLES for each standard.Common-Core-Flip-BookIt is beautiful, isn’t it?

I hope someone out there found this tidbit helpful. I used these Flip Books just about every day last year and they made my first year of teaching a little less stressful.

Here are links to the other grades:
1st Grade Flip Book
2nd Grade Flip Book
4th Grade Flip Book
5th Grade Flip Book
6th Grade Flip Book

Flip Books for English Language Arts are also starting to surface. I have only used the math versions. Does anyone have experience with ELA flip books?!

Target-Deals

Target Binder Deals!

My name is Beth. I am 27 years old and I am addicted to binders.
I have become a binder snob. It’s not a view binder? Please don’t waste my time. I will only buy the Avery brand. I’ve tried so many other brands of binders and they do not hold up..and quite frankly, I just hate cheap binders. You know the ones I’m talking about. You have to be Iron Man just to get the friggin’ rings open.
At Staples, Avery binders can range anywhere from $9-$20+. (Hey Staples, why don’t you just take my wallet?) I saw a Target ad for these binders the other day – $3.50 for 2 inch Durable binders.  Due to my addiction, this was a BIG deal since I always buy binders in bulk.
Target-DealsI spent at least 20 minutes in the binder aisle.  The colors were so pretty. “Do I stick with a 2 color scheme for my binder collection? or just 1 color?”
Target-Deals“Ah heck, I want all of them.”
Excuse me will I go get another basket.
Target-DealsIt was also my lucky day because those 1 inch binders were 2 for $4.00!
….and here they are lying on my table… just waiting for their time to get a makeover
Target-Deals

Common Core Math Assessments

2nd Grade Common Core Math Assessments

I don’t want to be one of those people who only blogs about the products they are selling, but let me do it just this once!  I was so gosh darn proud of finishing this one that I wanted to share it with the world. What is the product you ask? 2nd Grade Common Core Math Assessments.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is up and running so get it while it’s hot and click the link above!

Common Core Math Assessments

This 60+ page packet contains math assessments for every 2nd grade Common Core Math Standard. There are at least 2 assessments included for each standard.

This product also includes 2 sets of checklists to keep you organized! You will be able to track individual student progress and class progress for all 26 standards.

These assessments would be great to use at the beginning of the year as pre-tests to assess what your students already know. Answer keys are included for every assessment.

I know you’re probably asking: Has she started her assessment binder yet? Of course I have!

Common Core Math Assessments
…and of course I used Avery’s 26 Tab Dividers for this Math Assessment binder!Common Core Math Assessments

The assessments that I created are already in there with sheet protectors.  They are anxiously awaiting for the moment where I am 5th in line to use the copy machine!
Common Core Math Assessment Binder
Common Core Math Assessments
I plan on adding many more assessment resources for each standard before the year starts.  I am going to try to limit my Common Core resource binders to just 2!  I will have an assessment binder and a lesson plan/resource binder.  Knowing how crazy I get with binders, this is probably a pipe dream.

How do you organize your lesson plans, resources, and assessments?