Color Coding with Highlighter Tape

I received free products from Oriental Trading Company in exchange for sharing my thoughts on this blog.

I am teaching 6th grade and I have been assigned two different classes this year. It is pretty tricky to track each class and keep them straight. I decided to color code each class to help me keep track of them each.  I colored one red and one blue.  To help me easily keep track of papers, I use highlighter tape from the Oriental Trading Company. The tape is colored but you can see through it. I can write things and put the tape on top of it. It has been a life saver as I look at paperwork, class lists, and general color coding. The highlighter tape has four colors (red, blue, green, orange), so you could even use this tape to track ability grouping, or below, approaching, proficient, and advanced levels in any subject. I recommend this to any teacher who has multiple classes or tracks data.

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Current Homework & Important Papers (CHIP) Folder (Guest Post)

Graphic3CHIP stands for “current homework and important papers.”

One pocket is for current homework that students have been assigned. The other pocket is for important papers (reference sheets that we use frequently, reading  passages that we are working on, group work info, etc.). Nothing else goes in this folder so that it doesn’t get cluttered. I use the boomerang folder for assignments that have been graded and papers for their parents and pretty much anything that is in their take home mailbox. This system has been helpful in keeping my students organized.

Click here to see the full-size PDF: chip-folder-cover-pdf.

About the author:
Lauralee specializes in dual immersion (English/Spanish) and math education. She currently teaches sixth grade. She enjoys travelling and spending time with family.

Minimize Distractions and Visual Clutter in Your Classroom

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Piles and clutter drive me crazy (in my classroom and my home)! And it’s not just physical clutter that I can’t stand. Visual clutter also bugs me. Here’s a super easy trick to hide stuff and minimize the visual clutter in your classroom.
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Use panel curtains and a tension rod to hide sections of a bookcase and other areas.  But more important than addressing my pet peeve, these curtains minimize the distractions in your classroom. If every inch of your classroom has multiple colors, shapes and patterns in view, your students will have a harder time concentrating on what you’re saying and showing them. I recommend choosing a solid color or light pattern for your fabric. It doesn’t have to be boring white, but it shouldn’t be super eye-catchy.  While it’s pretty trendy right now to pick a bright color scheme and use it in every pattern possible all over your room, think about what it does to your students who already have a harder time focusing. Kids only have so much focusing power in them, so help the focus on what’s really important (which probably isn’t your cute color scheme). 🙂
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How have you minimized the visual clutter in your classroom? Send me a picture (squareheadteachers at gmail dot com) and I’ll post it here to share with other teachers. Thank you!

Class Contact Information Page

Contact information STICKERThere are so many things to keep track of at the beginning of the school year. There’s so much information to make sure your students and their parents know! I recently made a sheet of teacher contact cards. To along with that same idea, here’s my class contact page. Print out the page, write in the information and then run copies for your class.

Click here to download the free printable:
Contact Information – back to school night

Journal Tabs

There are many ways to organize subject journal. Here’s one way to separate a spiral notebook into sections, or a single notebook into two different subjects.

Journal Tab 3

Journal Tab 2  Journal Tab 1

Here’s a sample of how you can format your page: anchor chart tab for math journal. You can type whatever you want on the tab. Print and cut into strips.  Glue anchor chart/show my work tab in middle of spiral notebook math journal.  When you are making an anchor chart with the class, have each student copy what you are doing into their journal.  Or when you pass out math definitions, examples,  charts, or whatever that you want students to glue in their journal for future reference, have them start writing and gluing at the beginning of the book.  When the student is just showing work or writing different ways to write a number or story problems, etc., have them go to tab and then start that sort of work there.  That way, your student has the more pertinent information in the front of the journal and it will be easier for students to use their journals as a reference.

 

47 Questions New Teachers Should Ask

47 questions new teachers should askTeaching is a big job. It can get overwhelming to plan for, remember and execute everything you’re supposed to. In an effort to help a good friend who’s starting teaching this year, I recently read a great article by Karen Zauber and it got me thinking about questions teachers should ask. I’ve put together a list of some questions all teachers should ask at the start of the school year and periodically throughout the school year. Some questions are for you to ask yourself, and others are for you to ask someone else. Please comment below if there are any important questions I missed!

Establishing the Climate of My Classroom (To Ask Myself)

  1. How do I expect students to turn things in? (This is definitely something to tell students on the first day!)
  2. How much noise can I tolerate? “It’s easier to start out more controlled and gradually open up to activity and noise than the other way around.”  – Karen Zauber
  3. How neat and organized does my room have to be? Can I handle some clutter?
  4. What do I want my desk and classroom to say about me and what I value?
  5. How will I make myself inviting and approachable, while continuing to be the authority figure in the classroom?
  6. How will I make sure things are fair in my classroom? Read my post, Fair isn’t Equal: 7 Classroom Tips.

Conducting My Class Efficiently (To Ask Myself)

  1. How will I gain students’ attention before starting a new activity?
  2. How will I make sure I stay consistent in what I say and do?
  3. How will I make sure that the materials I give my students are correct and clear? Do I have a fellow teacher who I can ask to read over a letter I’m sending home to parents?
  4. What are my long-term goals? How will I keep them in mind as I do my daily planning?
  5. What routines and procedures do I need to teach my students? Check out my post on 30 must-have classroom procedures.
  6. What strategy will I use to learn my students names quickly?

Reaching & Encouraging My Students (To Ask Myself)

  1. Do I accentuate the positive?
  2. Do I show my students that it’s ok to make mistakes while learning? Do I acknowledge that I don’t know everything and that I sometimes make mistakes?
  3. Do I have the right balance of being serious about accomplishing work and making class fun?
  4. Do I move around the room enough as I’m teaching or do I stay in one place too long?
  5. Do I take time to really connect with my students and learn about who they are as a person (family, interests, dreams, etc.)? Click here for some fun “get to know you” games and activities.
  6. Do I talk to all my students, not just my favorite students?
  7. Do my student know that I expect them to succeed? Do I communicate this in my words and actions? Click here to see one idea for showing your students you’re proud of them.
  8. How can I use tone of voice and body language to keep students interested?
  9. How will I make sure I’m speaking in a clear, easy to follow way? What should students do if they don’t understand what I’m saying?

Applying Proven Teaching Techniques (To Ask Myself)

  1. Do I teach using a variety of strategies, or do I stick to only the strategies that are easy for me?
  2. Do I give students enough time to think after I ask a question? (You should wait at least 3 seconds after you ask a content question.)
  3. Do I have the right balance of working one-on-one with students, small groups and monitoring the whole class?
  4. Do I make sure students understand the content as I teach?
  5. Do I praise students appropriately? Am I specific in the praise I give? “If you praise them all the time — especially when they’re only doing what’s expected and no more, they won’t strive to do more. Remember, intermittent reinforcement is the most powerful way to reinforce positive behavior. Be selective in your praise. Be honest. Tell them when they’ve excelled and how they can improve. “ –Karen Zauber

Establishing Discipline (To Ask Myself)

  1. Am I consistent in what I say and what I do?
  2. Is my attention signal working? If it’s not, try something new!
  3. Do I control the class by using threats to control the class? “If you do use a threat, be prepared to carry it out.” –Karen Zauber
  4. Do I nip behavior problems in the bud? It’s easier to correct behavior problems when they first start than after it’s become a habit.
  5. Do I reprimand a student one-on-one or in front of the whole class? How does a public reprimand affect the student and the whole class?

Miscellaneous Questions (To Ask Myself)

  1. How will I get parents involved in my classroom?
  2. How will my class celebrate birthdays and special occasions? (Find out the school policy on this.)
  3. What school committees am I interested in being a part of?

Miscellaneous Questions (To Ask My Principal or Fellow Teachers)

  1. When can I get into my classroom to start preparing for the school year?
  2. What should I do if I have to be late to school unexpectedly?
  3. What programs are required by your school/district/state and which are optional or just a school tradition? (If you’re a new teacher focus on the required programs. Then once you’ve got a handle on those, add the optional programs into your classroom one at a time. I learned this the hard way during my first year.)
  4. What textbooks are available to me? Which ones am I required to use?
  5. If I need to step out of my classroom for a few minutes (emergency trip to the bathroom for example), what should I do?
  6. What is my budget? What things are covered in a grade/school budget? (Again, I learned the hard way. My first year, I paid for things from my budget that I could have gotten with my grade level budget. Also, Keep your receipts for taxes or if the PTA/PTO decides to reimburse some of them.)
  7. Does our school give out student supply lists? Am I allowed to distribute a supply list? (I once worked in a district that prohibited distributing supply lists.)
  8. Can I ask for donations from parents? Some schools allow a “wishlist” to go home, so parents can donate if they so desire.
  9. How can I obtain a copy of the parent/student handbook?
  10. What time commitments are there outside a traditional day (meetings, school events, conferences, etc.)?
  11. Exactly how will I be evaluated? Will I have advanced notice of classroom observations?
  12. How should I report attendance?
  13. What should I do if I feel like a situation is getting out of hand with a student or parent?

Weekly Homework Trackers/Planners

WeeklyHomeworkTracker STICKEROne of the hardest skills for kids to learn is to keep track of many tasks on various time schedules. Providing students a weekly homework assignment sheet or planner. I’ve made two versions for you to use in your own classroom, or with your own children. I recommend that if you don’t use a planner in your classroom you provide one to your students’ parents for them to use with their families if they’d like. Here they are!

Click here for the free printables:

Weekly Homework Tracker – Horizontal
Weekly Homework Tracker – Vertical

Using Memes in the Classroom

PutYourNameOnIt memeI absolutely loved this idea! It might work better with upper grades, since I don’t think younger kids have had enough exposure to memes to get as much out of this activity. This post from Mrs. Orman’s classroom talks about five ways to use memes in the classroom. Here are the five ideas:

  1. Teach about class rules, expectations and or procedures using memes
  2. Have kids create memes as ice-breaker activities
  3. Promote and reinforce your curriculum (such as a meme of George Washington)
  4. Creative activity
  5. Open house or new student orientation

Even if you don’t think using memes in your classroom will work well, her examples are HILARIOUS and totally worth the read!