Sunday, July 31, 2011

Job Charts - Setting Up the Classroom Series

This post is part of my Setting Up Your Classroom Series.

As we continue to get those room ready for the fall, let's chat about the Classroom Job Board.

Which is also a classroom management topic. Much like my mailboxes, jobs in my classroom have evolved over time. I started with an elaborate system where students received new jobs each day because I was told that the responsibility and sense of community was important.

It is.

But so is your sanity.

I'll skip all the middle stages and tell you about where I am now.

In my classroom everyone has a job. However, they are gainfully employed in that position for a very long time. Students are matched with jobs that they express interest in and that I feel is a good fit for them. They are trained and the job becomes routine for them.

This means the classroom runs very smoothly. Some of the assigned jobs that I have include:
Table Captains
Line Leader
Clip Chart Carrier
Mail Carrier
Homework Clerk

You know, the usuals.

When I rotated jobs too often my friends would forget to do their job or else wouldn't know exactly what the role involves. The consistency of keeping the same job means that everyone has a special part in helping our room to function. They are ALL responsible for cleaning up the classroom at the end of the day when we play Find It / Fix It. I also have a "helper of the day" and that person does everything else for the day (take notes to the office, erase the board, etc).

When I do change jobs (maybe 2-3 times a year), each student is responsible for training their replacement. I couldn't be more happy about this system.

I do still have a job chart. It just doesn't change very often.

Below are some very cute charts and ideas that you could use no matter if you change jobs annually or daily.
Mrs. Dillard from Suesstastic uses her little friends' smiling faces on her job board. I like how bold and colorful it is.

Callie's job chart had me feeling nostalgic. It reminds me a lot of the rotating sunflower chart I made during my first year of teaching. If you are looking to have the students switch jobs this is a fun option.

I simply adore the wording of this title. "We are Happy to Help!" It's so friendly and upbeat. Ironically, I came across this on pinterest and when I clicked to link I saw that it was from Mrs. Robinson's blog. I started following Heather's blog last summer and it's been fun to watch it grow. Check her out.

Amanda, from One Extra Degree put together a great Freebie to help with jobs in the classroom. Hop on over to her blog to read about how she manages jobs and snag her printables.
For more ideas and pictures to help organize and manage your classroom, please check out my book: The Clutter-Free Guide to Classroom Organization & Management.

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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Reading Strategy & Author Studies - Setting Up the Classroom Series


Be sure to follow my blog and store  and Facebook Page for notification of the FreebiesClick here to access a collection of Teacher Tips or tour my Classroom Makeover here.


OMG! The feather boa border makes my heart pitter patter (as does the table skirt, but that is unrelated so I digress). I secretly idolize Fancy Nancy because she is everything that I am not. Check out the rest of this teacher's uber-organized classroom at her site by clickity clicking here.

Be sure to follow my blog and store  and Facebook Page for notification of the FreebiesClick here to access a collection of Teacher Tips or tour my Classroom Makeover here.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Unfinished Work Boxes - Classroom Organization & Management

Yesterday I wrote about the evolution of my mailbox system. After going through some trial and error, my husband scored me two literature sorters. This is how I use the second one.

This is an older picture. I recently painted them black.

Over the years I tried a few different approaches to managing the work that students had not finished. Many teachers will have children keep a folder of work in progress activities. The problem with that is that it is "out of site and out of mind."

A few years ago my husband rescued a paper sorter from his office and brought it to my classroom. I already had one that I used as a mailbox, but wasn't about to pass up this treasure. That's when I had a lightbulb moment and my "unfinished work boxes" were born.

Here's how it works:
  • Each student is assigned a box which is labeled with his/her number.
  • If we are working on a whole-class ongoing project, I will collect the student work and hold onto it until the next time we are going to work on it. However, if the children have not completed work during the allotted time I tell them to "put it into your unfinished box."
  • The students will then slide their assignment into their box until a time arises when they can finish it.

I love this system because it allows me to tell at a glance who is falling behind on classwork. I can easily see who has work to complete and who has A LOT of work to complete. I can also tell when children are making "may do" choices when they should be doing their unfinished work from the "must do" board.

I find it beneficial to have everything in one place. My "late finishers" are often my more disorganized students. In the past, I would need to spend time helping them find their missing assignments before they could finish it. Now it's all in one central location.

We empty the boxes at the end of each week. This may mean that I invite the children to come in before school, stay after school or else I'll send it home to be completed on the weekend.

Be sure to follow my blog and store  and Facebook Page for notification of the FreebiesClick here to access a collection of Teacher Tips or tour my Classroom Makeover here.

Welcome Back to School Bulletin Boards - Setting Up the Classroom Series

Andy Warhol? Is that you?

These self-portraits are so fun. I'm a big fan of mounting on black to make them pop. I love the backgrounds that they colored.
To view more pictures of this teacher's classroom click here.

Be sure to follow my blog and store  and Facebook Page for notification of the FreebiesClick here to access a collection of Teacher Tips or tour my Classroom Makeover here.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Mail & Communication Station - Setting Up the Classroom Series

{Click to see more of my posts on how to set up a classroom.} 

As we continue to get your classroom set up, we need to talk about setting aside an area for student mail and communication. The "communication station" if you will. You have options. I know because I've tried them all. There are pros and cons to each. I'm going to take you on a tour I like to call, "The Evolution of My Student Mailboxes."

Back in the day (translation: when I first started teaching), I coveted those spiffy, wooden literature sorters. I knew it would be great. But, I was young and poor and couldn't justify the cost. So I got creative.

I started by just putting folders on their desks and passing out all of the papers at the end of the day.

Excuse me while I take a moment to shudder at the memory of the daily chaos.

OK. Moving on.

I invested in plastic stacking trays. And by invested I mean I got a good deal and scrounged up enough cash to buy a class set. This was a decent option. If you have the space (I put them on a counter) and can find a good deal, it's worth giving a try.

My set met their demise when I moved home to Massachusetts from Florida. Incidentally, that was also the demise of my tan, but that's irrelevant.

Next up, I bought a bunch of boxes from Ikea.

I made them all cute with scrapbook paper and colorful labels. Color that a waste of my time. I don't think they lasted a month and that was with them undergoing some emergency surgery from me and my hot glue gun. Even packing tape couldn't revive them.

I had used some of those wire dorm shelving cubes at home to create a system for storing scrapbook paper. I used cable ties to secure them as shelves.


I didn't care for them in the classroom for several reasons. It was hard to secure a name tag on them and the kids reaching into them made them fall apart. If you do go this route, my partner teacher laminated different colored 12x12 paper with a name label on it for each student to help them keep track of where their box was located. You may want to try that.

The following year I was moved to Kindergarten where I had two classes (an a.m. and a p.m.) so I needed two sets of mailboxes. I thought these pocket charts would be perfect. They were wall mounted so they wouldn't take up space. They weren't all bad. If I was in an older grade at the time they would be doable.

A) Because the kids could help mail things.
B) Because the kids might be tall enough to reach them.
In my situation I not only had to stuff everything into the pockets (which was a challenge because they were tight), but I also had to stand there and take everything out and hand it to my little wee ones because they couldn't reach the higher pockets.

I repurposed those to hold paperwork and switched to a crate with hanging folders (one color per class with #s so I wouldn't need to remake them).

So I followed my heart.

But, much like the rest of me, my heart is ubercheap.

So I bought the cheapo, cardboard version of my dream boxes.

And much like when my Payless shoes dye my feet funny colors, I realized you get what you pay for. These didn't last very long.
But, that didn't matter because the skies parted, angels sang and my husband presented me with not one, but TWO of the sorters of my dreams.

Well that's a bit of a lie actually.

The one in my dreams would be new and black, and these were a bit worn and that funky, fake wood-looking brown color. But nothing a little paint couldn't fix.
I've since made new labels for the new year AND repainted them a shiny, sleek, black and they are now super bee-you-tee-ful!

Oh. Are you wondering what I did with the other set? Stay tuned and prepare to be razzle-dazzled tomorrow.

Did I cover them all in my teaching career thus far or do you have a different system you use or have used?

For more ideas and pictures to help organize and manage your classroom, please check out my book: The Clutter Free Guide to Classroom Organization and Management by clicking here.
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Be sure to follow my blog and store  and Facebook Page for notification of the FreebiesClick here to access a collection of Teacher Tips or tour my Classroom Makeover here.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


We have a list of spelling words that accompany our reading curriculum (Treasures). I use that as a guide, but differentiate my lists to meet the needs of my learners. This meant I needed to create activities that were open-ended in the sense that the students could be doing the same activity, but with their own personal word lists.

I use these with spelling lists, word study lists, vocabulary, and content area words. I also use them as homework pages. And they are great to leave when you have a sub. Oh, and if you are a "Daily 5er" then these rock for Word Work.

I finally organized them all into one packet. The packet includes:
  • TEN CENTER SIGNS - These are optional to use, but are great for letting the kids know what to do. Each sign prints as a 8.5 x 11 ince page and can be displayed in acrylic frames or just placed at the center.
  • MATCHING ACTIVITY PAGES-There are activity pages to go with each of the center signs, but can be used on their own as well as each has directions stated on them.
  • ADDITIONAL ACTIVITY PAGES-There are also 6 blacklined reproducible pages with additional activities.
  • HANDS-ON IDEA LIST-Includes a list of 10 hands-on activities that you can implement in your classroom or supply to the parents to use as homework.

Be sure to follow my blog and store  and Facebook Page for notification of the FreebiesClick here to access a collection of Teacher Tips or tour my Classroom Makeover here.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

FREE Clip Chart Behavior Plan

I had posted about my behavior management system a little while ago and have received a few messages asking how I made it. I designed it in photoshop using the template that Vistaprint has available for banners and then saved it as a jpg.
I uploaded it to VP and had it printed as a vertical banner. You'll notice there are 3 columns. I did this so I could cut the banner and get 3 charts out of it. I was able to share them with coworkers to use. It lasted all year and is still in great shape.

I just added the jpg file I designed to my Teachers Pay Teachers store. You can download it there for free. I'm assuming you can then upload it to Vistaprint, snag a good deal and get your own free clip chart.


Be sure to follow my blog and store  and Facebook Page for notification of the FreebiesClick here to access a collection of Teacher Tips or tour my Classroom Makeover here.

Best. Thing. Ever.

I can't take any credit for this idea, but it is my civic duty to pass it along to you.

It has rocked my world. And it rivals Find-it / Fix-it for the top slot of 'all-time best thing to grace my classroom.'

I feel like there should be a drum roll and spotlights as I introduce you to.....

The Clip Chart!

I've used flip cards and tally charts and dabbled around in a whole bunch of other complicated behavior management systems. Truth be told, I have found that with clear guidelines and consistency, the room runs itself and kids rise to meet your expectations. However, it is important to have something in place.

This was an interesting start to a school year. I heart my class. They are a great group of kids, but were by far the chattiest collection of kiddos I had ever encountered. At one point when they were still talking over me and not listening to directions in late September I told my student teacher, "I've got nothing left. I've pulled out every trick I know. But, I'll work on it over the weekend and find something new to try."

Our second grade teachers had started using a clip chart this year and spoke highly of it at lunch. I resisted at first because of the size, but decided to look into it more. After visiting the site they suggested, I thought it was worth a try. That Monday morning I quickly made a chart using construction paper and introduced it when the kids came in.

Holy Cow!

It was as if I had flipped a switch. The behavior was flawless and has been ever since.

Here's why....

In any given class you are going to have your talkers and your rule-breakers and you are going to have your good little doobies. The clip chart makes the doobies work for you. They become your allies and they love it.

Each student has a clothespin and they all start the day in the middle of the chart on "Ready to Learn." The clothespins move throughout the day. Positive choices will move you up one level at a time. Negative choices move you down. There is a buffer zone between "Ready to Learn" and facing any form of consequence so if a child "clips down" he has the opportunity to clip back up.

Here's the best part....

The good little doobies are rewarded for being good little doobies. They can "clip up." So when the room gets a little chatty, I don't focus on the chatty ones. I find a few doobies, ring my bell and make a nice show of appreciating their role model behavior. They clip up. They beam. The others are quickly redirected without me needing to mention their chatting at all. It keeps things so positive and upbeat.

Here's the mostest bestest part....

There are no prize pails or trinkets or tickets or tokens or tchotchkes to manage or track. Instead of striving for useless junk, the kids strive for acknowledgement of good behavior. When a child reaches outstanding at the end of the day, we add a little star sticker to the clip and I give them a label to take home. When they earn 5 stickers they get a new clip and color it red. We repeat the process in "rainbow order" meaning they then work to earn an orange clip and then a yellow, etc. The ultimate goal is the coveted "glitter clip." They manage this on their own by getting a new clip from the drawer and coloring it with a marker.
You simply pass out the labels and move the clips back to their original spot each morning (or do as I did and train a responsible, tall child to do it).

I love the simplicity.

I love the consistency (it travels to specials with them) throughout the day.

I love the positive feeling to it.

I love that even if a child makes a not-so-good choice, she can rally and move back up. As a helpful hint, I usually try to "clip up" my friends who have a tendency to "clip down" early in the day so that they have a bit of wiggle room.

I really, really love that the focus is on my students that make positive choices. I feel that they often get taken for granted and the attention goes to those who don't. This turns things around and the others learn from their example.

Here's the link to the site with lots and lots of info. I would just whip up your own chart though. It was very easy to make out of construction paper/poster board, but you can also create a Vista Print banner. I made 3 on one banner and cut them apart.

Be sure to follow my blog and store  and Facebook Page for notification of the FreebiesClick here to access a collection of Teacher Tips or tour my Classroom Makeover here.

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