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A Place for Everything

With the thought of being out on maternity leave, I am more determined than ever to get organized this year!  I know that paper piles up so quickly the second students show up (and even before) so I'm starting with creating a spot for every paper.  I stuck with the paper items that show up with students...not curriculum materials. I made a little checklist to help myself.  Feel free to use it!  Click on the picture to grab the PDF.
I KNOW there are some missing (like Take to the Office) so there are blank spots too.

Remember that you may not need all of these. All mail for students goes directly into their mailboxes (or just tossed on top until we have a second).  I keep my weekly progress notes and homework together by the mailboxes.  I also cut down on lose paper by making packets for EVERYTHING I can.  All my math units are in packets so I never have lose math sheets in my room.  As I actually get my room together, I'll post pictures!

If you think of anything else...please let me know!

Organizing Student Data

Pregnancy and I are not friends.  If I'm not sick, I'm sleeping!  It makes it very hard to get ready for school, let alone blog about it!  I was motivated today to setup my Student Data Binder so I'm going to share with you exactly how I did it! 

It was pretty quick and easy once everything was printed.

This is my binder & cover (it has to have a cute cover right?!)

When you open the binder, you see the list of students with numbered tabs.  I laminated this page 4 or 5 years ago and just use wet erase markers to write the names each year. 

At this point, you will want to organize your students and assign them each a number.  I organize my kids alphabetically by grade level (since I have 3). 

The first page I keep under each tab is the At a Glance sheet.  This one isn't filled in for confidentiality but you get the idea.  It has basic information about the IEP so I don't have to flip through a 20 page document every time I have a quick question.  This does take a little while to complete BUT I do it when I'm reading the IEP before school.  Plus taking notes helps me remember the important information.  IEPs start to all blend together after a while! 

Next, I put my progress monitoring sheet.  I assess goals monthly and I typically have 1 reading, 1 writing, and 1 math goal.  I just write the goal in at the top and as I assess, I record scores and notes.  I have several versions of this in my teacher binder kit.  I hand wrote this one but I typically type the goals in before printing. To save time, just copy and paste the goal from the At a Glance sheet! 

Next, I put the IEP.

Then, I have my parent contact log. 

Finally, I have lined paper.  This is good for extra notes and documenting behavior.  Some kids need more notes than others.  Rather than trying to figure out how many pages everyone would need in a notebook, I just use the lined notebook paper.

There is plenty of room in the binder to also keep behavior plans and anything else that comes up during the year.

All of these forms and the binder cover (plus a ton of other forms and binder materials, including a sub binder-245 pages) are in my Colorful Dots Teaching Binders for $4.
Teacher Binders with Colorful Dots

Star Homework & Freebie!

I am not a fan of homework.  My dislike has nothing do with whether or not it is basically comes down to management.  Coming up with assignments for 3 grade levels each night, copying the work, getting the assignments written in an agenda, all just to have maybe 1 student do it.  Then what?  Do I go over it when nobody did it?  Should I punish the kids who didn't do it or just reward the few who did?  Who has time for all that?!
*As a side note, my students generally come from lower socio-economic families and all of them have learning probably have a higher homework completion rate. 

Because of all this, I stopped sending homework home.  Do you know what happened?
I so wanted to send home the piles of blank homework from all of those kids with a note saying: 
"When you finish all the work you DIDN'T do so far, I'll start giving homework again."
But I didn't.

I came up with a system that works for me, the kids, and the parents.  It's super easy!
Homework is the same 3 things each night:
1. Journal Writing
2. Read for 20 minutes
3. Math activity

Each week they get a new bookmark in their folders
I had these printed, cut, and bound with that sticky stuff at the top so I can peel off each book mark (like a notepad).  I asked parents to initial next to each colored star to hold everyone accountable. 

Each month, I put the new journal in their take home folders.
I use these journals from Miss Kindergarten.  I like the list of monthly words at the beginning of each journal.

At the beginning of the year, the kids and I made math bags full of games I found for free on TPT.  We made dice, I had everything laminated and it took forever.  Then kids moved, new kids moved in and more than half the class lost their games in about 2 weeks.  Nobody every did the math games!  This year I am using these for the math activity: 
They are from Teachers Clubhouse.  I'm just waiting on the 3rd grade set and I'll have one for each grade level :) If someone loses these, it's easy enough to make up more.  I am going to add these to my math stations as well so the kids know how to play the games.  I also use reflex math in the classroom so that is always another option.  I will probably make up a card of math game websites to add to their game rings.

I made these posters to encourage kids to do their work.  We colored in a star for every star of homework the class did.  I'm going to be honest...I only used this the first 2 weeks of school.  Nobody was doing the work so I just stopped.

Why I love this: 
Easy prep...I can print everything over the summer and just add a new journal to the folders each month.  The parents who want to work with their children can but it's no pressure for the parents who just can't fight their children every night to do more work.  I don't have to check anything but journals occasionally so it doesn't waste my class time!

You can grab my posters and book marks here for free!

How do you feel about homework?  What does it look like in your room?

I'm still here!!

What a year!  I've taken a big break from blogging for a lot of personal reasons.  I usually stick to just school topics but I wanted to share a few things.  First, I got married!  Dave and I have been together 10 years this July and we've been engaged for 6 years...yup 6 years!  We are not center of attention people and we are terrible dancers...traditional weddings were not for us!  We ended up doing a small wedding with about 17 people and went to dinner after in a private room in a nice restaurant.  It was no stress and perfect for us!  I would have pictures to post but my photographer/best friends computer was destroyed when lightning struck his house so I have to wait until he gets the computer fixed and re-edits all the pictures.

The next big news is we are having a baby!!  
(11 weeks)

It has been a rough road.  I got pregnant in February and miscarried in March.  We accidentally got pregnant again in April.  My hormone levels were very low and the doctor didn't think the baby would make it.  I started taking Progesterone pills twice a day and my levels went up.  To check your levels, you have to do blood work every 48 is extremely stressful waiting to see if my numbers were doubling.  Then I started getting all the symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy so I had an emergency ultrasound.  They could see the gestational sac so all was good.  THEN I started bleeding which is terrifying for anyone but especially someone who just had a miscarriage.  I went in for another emergency ultrasound.  They found Subchorionic Hematomas...a fancy word for clots of blood in your uterus.  The clots can move up and separate the placenta from the wall causing miscarriage so I was told I could go to work and come home to lay down.  During all of this, I couldn't even begin to think about blogging!  I had my first regular appointment the day after school ended and we saw the baby flipping around and the blood clots are gone!  So hopefully I'm in the clear now and I can stop worrying all the time....well that last part isn't true, I'll always worry.

This has been my motto for the last few months.

Thankfully, now that I am less worried about the baby, I am starting to think about school and blogging again!  I can't wait to start sharing about some of my experiences over the last year!  Stay tuned :) 

New Teacher Binder!

I am so excited to show you guys my new teacher binder!  I made a meal plan binder cover that I fell in love with so much that I HAD to make a teacher binder set to match.   So join me on a tour of my teacher binder(s)! 

My first binder is my planning binder.
It's hard to tell but there is a blue background outside of the printer isn't printing the blues well :(
In this binder I keep: 
A student birthday list
All my lesson plans
Weekly & Monthly to do lists
my curriculum maps
And grade book forms.

I have another binder that REALLY has helped keep me sane this year.  I call it my Important Things Binder.  Basically, I throw any important things into the binder that we use throughout the year but not frequently.  

Each pocket/divider holds information on things like Star assessments, dibels, report card dates & samples...those things you have to have handy but only a few times a year.

My next favorite organization tool that I started using this year is a class list book.
 Inside the book are a bunch of blank class list easy to keep track of who owes what!  

I also have a Student Data binder which I left at school over break so I'll do a separate post on just that binder later.  
I don't have all my binders at home and I didn't use everything I included in the binder kit so here is a better look into what's included:

If you'd like to grab this binder set for yourself visit one of my stores!

April Currently!

I'm linking up with Farley for her April Currently!

Listening...I am never home alone and if I am, the tv is on or someone is calling me.  For the first time in a long time, I'm alone and it's quiet :) 

Loving...the idea of adding a sand/water table to my room!  I was going to write a grant for one but a co-worker has one that she doesn't use so she is *probably* going to give it to me.  Obviously, I am now pinning a billion ideas for sensory play :)

Thinking...about our field trip!  Many of my kids are from low income families and they don't get opportunities to go to different places in the community.  There is an amazing science center about an hour away and my principal gave me the green light to take them there!  I can't wait to see them running around and exploring!!

Wanting...state tests to be over...I'm sure you feel me on this one!  Today was the first day of our ELA test (how appropriate..April fools day).  We have 2 more days of ELA and then 3 days of math at the end of the month.  The tests are MUCH harder this year with the common core :( 

Needing...spring break.  Seriously guys, 2 more weeks!  That is so.far.away!  Going from January to mid April with no real breaks is just a little too long!

Hours...I have to be at school by 8:30.  My kids get there around 8:40.  I have to stay until 3:40 (usually I'm there until 4:30 at least).  The kids leave at 3:20ish.

Now I'm off to read all of your currentlys :) 

Guided Math Made Easy: Practice Path

We are almost to the end of of my Guided Math Made Easy series!

Practice Path is the last of my 4 stations and it's my favorite!  This is the station that gets totally blown out of control when it comes to management and set up.  To me, this is where I truly make Guided Math easy!

When students are working on Practice Path, they are working on math station games.  I have seen people make monthly station kits that give you 5 or 6 activities per week and I LOVED that idea.  I even bought one or two but I never ended up using them because of the amount of prep work and storage involved.  I would be prepping 20-24 stations per week for my 4 groups who are all at different levels.  That's 80-96 stations to print, cut, laminate, re-cut, and find homes for each month.  I don't have space in my room to store 800-960 math station games.  Not to mention the cost to print everything in color on card stock plus laminating pouches and storage containers.  Obviously, if you have 1 grade level, this is much more manageable for you!  Please don't be offended if you are someone who has made these!! I think it is a genius idea and I so wished it would work for me!

Since this is guided math made easy, I tried to keep things as simple as possible for myself, while still keeping it fun and fresh for my students.  My students all love my dice activities in my sub tubs so I decided dice are a must for these stations.  I wanted to mix it up and add playing cards as well.  So I set to work making activities that my students can do using those 2 items.

I bought both of these items on Amazon.  A set of 12 playing cards was $12 and the dice were about $4.  I love using these foam dice because they are colorful and they make no noise when the students use them.  Each group you see can get a bucket or a drawer in a 3 drawer cart.  Here is a sample of a station I put in their drawers:
The activities allow the students to choose whether they want to use dice or cards.  Each activity is one full page like the one above.  There are no small pieces to cut out...just print and laminate!  Most of the page is black and white to save on ink but the titles and a few graphics are in color (I did not make black and white versions at this time but you can certainly print them in black and white and on colored paper).  I've made about 12 different themes to keep everything looking fresh throughout the year.

These games are the foundation of Practice Path.  Once you teach the games, they pretty much stay the same all year with very little prep on your part.  As you see additional games on Pinterest and Teacher's Notebook or Teachers Pay Teachers, add them to the students baskets!  But if you are having a rough week/month, there is no need to add more games!  If you have a sub, the students are left wondering how to play the new activity in their baskets...they always have activities they know how to use.

The activities are open ended because the students can just keep making their own problems.  This means that there is no "I'm done!" because there is no end point.

Set it up:
You will need decks of cards, dice, wet/dry erase markers, and containers. And the games!
Print and laminate the games.
I store my decks of cards in these snack containers from the dollar store (2 for $1).  Number the containers!
Next, I had my aides (you could use parent volunteers) number the back of each card in the deck.  I made a deck for each student so I know who has kept their cards neat and who hasn't.  You could make a deck or two for each group.
While numbering the cards, we changed the queens to zeros and made the aces ones.
Then I just through everything in a few buckets (although, now the cards are in their drawers).
And the games go in the drawers.  Dice and card buckets are on top.  I use Martha Stewart whiteboard labels for the drawers so I can change their groups easily.  I wiped off some of the names before taking the picture.

Organize it:
I place my stations in 1 gallon Ziploc bags.  I have a bag per theme/month.  The bags get tossed in my monthly boxes.  When a new month rolls around, I simple gather all the old sheets, put them in a bag and back into the monthly box.  The new games get pulled out and tossed in drawers.  It seriously can't be easier!
For non-monthly games, I store those in bags or envelopes in my cabinet according to concept.

Using it:
The students can choose any activity from their drawer/basket.  It's that simple!  As with the Computer Cabin station, Practice Path has a no-warning system.  The students are explicitly taught that they are to work together to play the games.  If they are fighting, yelling, and not working on math, they are given a worksheet from "The Binder" and they must sit at their seat and complete it.  If they do not clean up their stations properly, the next time they also get a worksheet from the binder.
I get the worksheets from  

I love the simplicity of my guided math set up!  I was able to get the basics of each station up and running quickly.  After a few weeks, everything was running smoothly and I felt like I had the time and energy to make and add in some more games to the math drawers.  On the other hand, March was a crazy month and I didn't have time to include any additional activities.  My class didn't even notice because they still had a bunch of activities in their drawers that they know how to use.  I didn't feel bad because they were still practicing the skills they need to practice the most!

If interested, you can grab my games here or here.

I hope you found some part of this series helpful!  Is there anything that you do differently that you love?

Guided Math Made Easy: Computer Cabin

Welcome back to my Guided Math Made Easy series!  

Today's post is all about my Computer Cabin station!

This station can take as much or as little time and thought as you'd like.  If you are just starting out, I would do the bare minimum and come back to it after you are comfortable with the other stations.  Technology can be overwhelming because there is so much you can do with it!  You can't worry about everything at once so don't! 

Set Up: 
You will need computers or iPads (or some other technology) for this station.  Once you have that, I suggest finding a program that has students practicing their facts that they can do every day.  My district uses Reflex Math but this costs money.  
With Reflex Math, students can choose from a variety of games.  There is a little green light that comes on after they have been playing for an optimal amount of time.  Reflex keeps track of everything for you!  I really like this program!  Xtra math is free and people seem to like it (I've never used it).   
Set up your class and teach them how to use it. 

The next thing you will want to do is find apps and/or a list of websites that your students can visit to play math games.  Show your students how to get to the websites.

If you are using an iPad, you can add website links to your homepage: 

Here are the apps in my math folder: 

You can also lock students into apps using guided access.  You will need to turn it on in settings (under accessibility).  It needs a pass code (don't forget it!).  Then open the app you want students to use that day and triple click the home button.  A little thing will come up for you to turn guided access on.  This locks students into that app.  When they hit the home button, they will be prompted to put in the pass code to get out of the app...without the code, they are stuck :)  *Please know your students before using this!  I have some behavior students who would (and have) throw the iPad because they are mad.

Using it:
This station is pretty self explanatory.  Students use computers or iPads to play games online.  How do I keep my students playing math games?
With my red basket! 
If a student is not playing a math game, they are not allowed to use the iPads.  Instead, they sit and do flash cards.  I have ELA and Math flashcards in here because I use the iPads for both station times.  Call me mean, but I do not give warnings with this.  We discuss it a lot before we start math stations and I tell them up front, there are no warnings here! 

The first time a student was caught, he did flashcards.  They learned fast.  The whole class looked mortified and nobody ever made that mistake again.

Organize it: 
Here is the tricky part for me.  I have 3 grade levels with kids who need to work on a ton of different skills so how should I organize my math apps?!  You can organize them by topic and assign students a folder to work from.  Some apps cover many topics though...Currently, I have all math apps in a math app folder.  It's really not the best but with apps covering k-3rd grade material, I'm not really sure how to organize it a different way.  If you have ideas, please share!  

Also, share your favorite math apps in the comments!