Classroom Management Tips

Hi everyone! I'm on a blogging roll lately and can't wait to share a few back to school ideas with you today. I'm linking up with Dirt Road Teacher again for her Dear Future Teacher series. Today's focus is on creating classroom rules and management systems.
First off, think about your vision for your classroom and for yourself as an educator.  I like to see myself as someone who is firm, but fair. I try to embrace the differences each student may have and also create an environment where these differences are welcomed. This vision helps me create our class climate starting on day 1.

We begin by discussing our ideal classroom and expectations that students know from the previous year. We spend the first few days discussing our different roles, and agreeing on classroom rules. I previously wrote more on this topic here.  It is important to stick to just a few main rules. At our school we follow the 3 Be's- Be Safe, Be Responsible, Be Respectful. We talk about what that actually means in terms of how it sounds, feels, and looks in our classroom.
I also believe in praise and positive reinforcement. My school follows an "Ask, don't tell" policy which fits in perfectly with my style of teaching and management. For example, rather than saying "Don't run" we would say something like "How should you move throughout the classroom? Or, Can you show me a safer way of walking in the hall?" This gives the power to the child to make the right choice on their own, and prove to you (and themselves) that they are aware of expectations and are choosing a different action.

One way to recognize good choices is by using a class management system. Some people prefer a color chart, or clip chart. I like to use Class Dojo. If you have not heard of Class Dojo it is an online app/website that is used to track behavior. I simply create an avatar for each of my students and customize the behavior options. I can then give individuals, groups, or the entire class points for different behaviors. For example, I have some that say "Creative, Hard Working, On Task, Showing Respect, Helped a Friend, Completed Work, etc." Not only can I give points but other students are allowed to reward a classmate when they catch them making great choices too. I also bring my phone in the hall with us and my Line Checker can use the app to reward a few students who are showing the best examples of safety and respect at the time. At the end of the week I allow students who have above an 80% (positive points out of total- you can subtract for poor choices as well) to earn some type of treat like a coloring page, piece of candy, prize box, snack, etc. I never focus on how many points a child earns because I want them to know its ok to make  mistakes as long as we learn from them. Some kids just naturally earn more points.
While I do try to focus on the positives, there are of course challenges. I have found that many times the cause of behavior problems is actually my fault. I may be teaching at a level that is too high (frustration) or too low (bored) for a specific child. I may be asking them to sit still too long. Or I may be causing more drama than necessary. (We all know those kids that like to argue. Be the adult. Don't argue back. State your expectations and move on.) A few months ago I wrote a post on how to deal with the class wiggle worms (sensory issues, ADHD, and even typical 6 year old behavior!). Click here to read more about the behavior systems I have put in place to help these kiddos out. I use a lot of fidgets, wiggle seats, and specialized token systems that meet their interests.
Learning how to manage a classroom can be difficult but it is a necessary part of teaching. The best advice I can give is to spend TONS of time practicing routines and expectations in the beginning. Also, stick to your word. If you threaten with a consequence make sure you follow through (and make sure the punishment fits the crime). And lastly, remember you are working with children. Love them. Teach them. Lead them to making good choices, not just because they earn prize box, but because they get smarter each day and being kind towards others feels good inside. Happy back to school season!

Five for Friday- Summer LOVE!

Hello there! I am so happy to be linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching today. This summer has been a blur and I feel like I have a million adventures to share...I'll narrow it down to five!
I began my summer with a last minute road trip to Florida. My boyfriend and I discovered online Ebay live auctions and couldn't help but bid on a few treasures. If you have never tried one they are seriously fun but oh so fast! Next thing we knew we were the proud owners of who knows what and had a 2 week deadline to pick it up. Only problem was we don't live in Florida...

My friend and I turned it into a girl's weekend (with Sherman the service dog of course) with stops in Tallahassee, St. Marks, and Savannah. We of course drove through every storm on the east coast, had car trouble, had to lift and pack my 300 pound new beast of a dresser and our other goodies, and stayed in a hotel with walls so thin I could hear the neighbor's dog slobbering (literally).

 When we finally got back home I noticed the clouds around me looked funny. Next thing we knew a WALL of debris and sticks and rain was swarming around us (uhhh hello tornado?!?). Naturally, we froze and my friend said "I think we're in trouble". Yup. Luckily the wanna-be tornado passed over us and we stepped on the gas and got out of there.

For now all of our auction finds are staying at my friends house (read- I'm a teacher hoarder and my tiny apartment is full of school supplies for the summer). I plan on refinishing the dresser and also got a few new stools for my classroom. It was quite the adventure but one I will always remember and laugh about!

When I got home from Florida I repacked my bags and headed off to Vegas for the Teachers Pay Teachers conference. I traveled with two other North Carolina sellers and we had a blast! We were like little kids running around our fancy hotel. There was even a phone in the bathroom (come on now, that's fancy hah). We were able to check everything off of our tourist bucket list like gambling (I lost $5 whole dollars), eating in fancy celebrity chef restaurants, sightseeing on the strip, and riding on the gondola throughout the Venetian.
I also learned so much from the wonderful presenters. I came back feeling empowered as a small business owner but more importantly inspired as a teacher and creator. I loved meeting the TPT team and so many other teachers that I feel like I already "know". I am planning my return visit now ;)
 I also was lucky enough to have been given this amazing shirt from A+ Images. They have been so kind to teachers and bloggers this year. Having something so adorable with my logo made me feel professional and I love it! They also have wonderful class sets of t-shirts and other fun items I know I'm going to show my teammates once we return back to school.
I got home from Vegas, repacked my bag, and left the next morning for the mountains. I was lucky enough to attend a week long conference/retreat with NCCAT. This program was amazing. Their goal is to provide quality professional development while helping teachers feel refreshed and appreciated. We ate wonderful meals, had time to connect with teachers across the state, and left with dozens of new ideas to help with literacy instruction- and all of it was at no cost to me! I will be sure to blog more about the literacy ideas as I implement them in my classroom.
I also learned about a book warehouse that was on my drive home. They were having a sale and I clearly need more books (don't judge my hoarding)! I ended up leaving with 106 children's books for less than $20!

Now that I am finally home and sitting still for the first time in weeks, I have had the opportunity to put all of this inspiration to use. I decided to change my store name on Teachers Pay Teachers to match the rest of my social media (clever, I know). This now means updating every copyright, logo, cover, and document in my store. While it is a huge undertaking, I am so thankful I have the time this summer to work on it. Many of my older products are now completely updated and the rest are in the works. Be sure to check for product revision notices on TPT over the next few weeks if you have purchased anything from me.

Lastly, I am beginning a new adventure with my friend Theresa from Theresa's Teaching Tidbits. On the flight back home from Vegas I shared with her my desire to become a more consistent blogger and some of the ideas I had to write about. This conversation turned into the launching of our first collaborative (and self hosted) blog linky called Math Tip Monday. We will share math tips on the first Monday of each month. Here's a sneak peek at the calendar. I am looking forward to having this focus when blogging and can not wait to share ideas with you. If you are interested in learning more about how to link up with us please click the form below and I'll send you the details.
Google form

Whew, thanks for sticking through this massive post!! I hope your summer has been full of adventures, new opportunities, and relaxation!

Dear Office Supply Store...

Dear Office Supply Store,
Please let me start by saying how much I love you. I am a first grade teacher and have a deep passion for educating students. I look forward to back to school shopping all year long. I wait for new sales ads each week like it's Christmas and love planning my trips. I also love the thrill of the hunt for great deals and appreciate your support with this.

With all of this said, I must admit I have one complaint. The decision to remove Teacher Rewards like exceeding store limits, or even allowing multiple transactions, was a BAD one. I, like many teachers, spend a lot of my own money each year on my students. I teach in a low income area, and while the school and parents do the best that they can to provide materials, it is simply not enough. I woke up this morning feeling excited to head out on my shopping trip (I even fell asleep with my shopping list in bed). I left feeling frustrated.

Here are a few fun facts based on my own teaching experiences:
1) The average classroom can go through 400+ glue sticks each year.
2) Crayons break easily and then have a magnetic pull towards the floor.
3) Sharpened pencils are like gold and each child goes through several a week.
4) Little kids write either super huge (like 5 lines each letter) or extremely tiny. The tiny writers typically like to put one sentence on a page. This means I need many notebooks.
5) The school supplies sent in by students usually run out by October. The rest of the year is up to the teacher or school.
6) I do leave your store and go to your competitor just to get a better deal (and then tell my friends).

As you can see, having a limit of 3 or 5 of an item, doesn't really help. While the low prices are great, buying 12 gluesticks compared to the 400 I need still leaves me short. I understand needing to set limits, you are a business. However, I strongly suggest you re-evaluate this plan.

Wouldn't you rather be known as the store that teachers can trust? Teachers talk. We share the best deals, we share who had great customer service, and we share our passion in educating your future employees. While it may seem like a loss to be "giving away" so much during the back to school season, I can promise you, we will be sure to repeat our business with your company the rest of the year. Set yourself apart and we will do our part to spread your support with others. We are not asking for a lot. Please just reinstate your policies that allow teachers to provide the necessary materials for their students at a cost that is feasible. Thank you.

The person educating your future employees

Budget Friendly Classroom Decorating Ideas

Hello! I am excited to be linking up with Dirt Road Teacher for her series geared toward beginning teachers. Over the past few years I have had the opportunity to be an official mentor to many first year teachers and also a Model Classroom for my county. What I enjoy most is sharing ideas with fellow teachers!

If you ask my friends, family, and coworkers about my summer favorites, they may tell you that I LOVE back to school shopping. I am definitely the one who plans out my shopping trips, visits multiple stores a week, and forces recruits friends to shop with me to get even more deals. I am always looking for the best prices and innovative ways to decorate on a budget. Today I'm going to share my Budget Friendly Decorating ideas.

1) Build on a Theme:

When you are first starting out it can be overwhelming trying to plan a whole classroom. Relax. It will grow with time. Start with a few basics that fit your theme and know that you can always add new items throughout the year or the following year. Pick some neutrals that you can use with any theme in case your taste changes. For example, I use shades of blue with accents of lime green in my room for my big pieces (table, stools, book boxes). For now, it works with my ocean theme. However, having one or two main colors will allow me to change designs in the future if desired. (The boxes shown are from Dollar Tree.)

2) The Craft Store is Your Friend:

I LOVE going in to teacher supply stores! However, I know that I can quickly blow my budget if I am not careful. You can find many of the same decor items at your local craft store. Plus, AC Moore and Michaels offer teacher discounts and usually have a 50% off coupon. I like to stock up on Fadeless bulletin board paper or fabric to cover my bulletin boards. I hang the piece at the beginning of the year and just change out the work on top.
One item that I love to buy from my local craft store is a science fair style board (tri-fold board). Here is a quick way to add a pop of color to the back of open shelving. 

Most schools also have a die-cut machine to cut out cute letters. When I know that I want just one heading in a fun color I buy glitter paper or scrapbook paper for a few cents a piece and cut out my own letters rather than buying a pricey set. Another option is to look at Dollar Tree in their Teacher Section for packs of letters. 

3) Reuse Items:

This is similar to idea number 1 about building on a theme. Get in the habit now of hoarding saving items you know you will buy again the next year. Whenever I buy decorative posters I always laminate them. This way they last longer. I also sometimes attach labels prior to laminating with group names, etc. Then, I can just switch out names throughout the year with a dry erase marker. Rule posters, color posters, vowel charts, etc. are great to resuse.

Another way to save is by rolling up your borders each year and saving them. Here is a cute Pinterest idea about storing them in old frosting containers. I wish I could tell you mine are this cute but they're not. I roll mine up, paper clip them to themselves, and store in a large plastic bag.

Lastly, I reuse ideas! I take pictures of my bulletin boards each year to go off of. It helps me remember what items I used, clever sayings, and the layout. I then make changes as needed. Here are some pictures of my classroom in the past. I also take pictures of furniture layout and classroom setup. It's hard to imagine that only a few months of summer will erase your old layout from your brain but summer is magical like that :)

4) Get Creative with Materials:

By now I am sure you having been checking out Pinterest for tons of cute classroom ideas. Find a few that seem manageable and have a blast! Like I said, I use science boards for shelving, fabric for bulletin boards, and whatever other items I can repurpose. I attached three milk crates together and made a bench seat for my library. I also made a few crate seats.

You can also use a shower curtain from a dollar store as a bulletin board backdrop as well or to cover open shelving. If you find an old table or stools feel free to spruce them up with a can of spray paint.

5) Look for Deals When Building a Library:

One of my biggest expenses when I first started teaching was building my classroom library. I wanted it to look beautiful and be FULL of books. I spent hundreds of dollars my first year until I learned a few tricks of the trade.

* Use Scholastic Reading Club (book orders). Books are reasonably priced, ordering is easy, and you earn FREE books. If you need any help setting up an account just message me and I'd be happy to help.
* Scholastic also has Warehouse Sales a few times a year. You can sign up to volunteer and get paid in books. They have build-a-box deals and coupons as well. I usually work one 7 hour shift and leave with hundreds of dollars worth of books (and only pay $10 out of pocket).
*Ask your local library about the book sales they host. Many libraries have sales a few times a year where they discard books. You can normally get library bound copies and bundles for only a few cents each. Ah-maz-ing!
* Purchase boxes and containers from the Dollar Tree. After all, who doesn't love a good dollar deal? I again pick one or two colors and buy boxes in bulk.


6) Label, Label, Label:

Invest in some Avery Labels and go to town printing! I love having all of my classroom materials labeled and student folders/notebooks/binders prepped for student names. This is a quick and easy way to implement a theme as well as organize your room. By using matching labels around the room, everything is instantly tied together.

Here is one of my favorite items from my store that shows how I organize my room, includes all decor in an Ocean Theme, and even provides the matching labels. One instant classroom coming right up!
For other classroom decorating ideas be sure to check out my Bulletin Board series, Classroom Organization board, and Ocean Themed Classroom Board on Pinterest. 

Check out these other great posts for even more decorating ideas on a budget. Enjoy!!