Teacher Organization Resources for Blended Learning

I’m always looking for ways to stay organized and save time with my teacher professional duties. This year I needed resources to keep my blended learning lesson plans, resources, and grades organized. Almost everything about what we’re doing as a teacher has changed in some way this year, so of course this part of the job would change also. I knew what I didn’t want and I knew that I wanted to use my time more efficiently, and I knew that what I have always used in the past wasn’t going to work, but I didn’t have anything that seemed like it was going to work.

Lesson Planning

The paper planner books just weren’t organized for blended learning. Honestly, no template I found was organized for blended learning, at least not for the schedule that my students and I are on this year. I have an A and a B group. I see both of my groups two days a week and plan “At Home Learning” resources for their other three days of the week. I’ve also always only taught ELA for my grade level and this year my students are with me for all subjects.

It took a few weeks to figure out exactly what I wanted and needed the lesson plans to look like, and how to plan more efficiently. But I’ve found it and am so happy with it that I want to share it with you.

What I’m using is a digital chart in Google Slides. We have a separate slide for each subject, and each slide chart covers an overview for the entire week (both in class plans and at home resources on the same page). My teammates who have previously taught math and science for our grade level fill in the math and science weekly overviews, and I fill in the ELA overviews for each week. Our team shares the file each week and links all of the needed resources for each piece of the plan. It seems so simple right? That’s the beauty of it, it is that simple and you wouldn’t believe the amount of time and stress this lesson planning routine is saving me. You can get a free copy of this resource here.

Organizing and Grading Assignments

There’s a lot of assignments to keep track of for the blended learning model. I was drowning in the process of opening individual student assignments in Google Classroom and keeping track of what is complete and what is not. I knew I needed a space for all of the assignments, both in class and at home, to check them off, enter grades, and enter notes for whatever I needed to keep track of (parent contacts, absences, etc.). It also needed to be a shared document so that I wasn’t texting and calling my collaborative teacher on a daily basis to ask about assignments for our shared kids. (I’m sure she was getting tired of me.)

For this one, I used an idea I’d seen on Instagram (@aprimarykindoflife). It was simple (you know I love that) and so organized. I made separate Google Sheets for In-Class assignments and At Home assignments and we posted them to our Google Classroom (sent to a fake student) so that they are always easy to access. We just add assignments to the sheet as we go and check them off daily/weekly, and now that it’s a routine, it takes so much less time than the gradebooks I’ve used in the past. Click on the image below to get a free copy of my Work Log.

Google Classroom

We post our assignments in Google Classroom by the subject and week. All of my assignments are posted on the Classwork tab in my Google Classroom and organized by these topics: Morning Check//In, In Class This Week, At Home This Week, Daily Resources (everyday items not by the week), Old Assignments, and Technology Help. We drag all “this week” assignments to the Old Assignments topic at the end of each week to make it easier for our students to find their work.

Student Google Drive Organization

Not all of my students have internet access at home. For this reason, I have my students mark all of their At Home Work assignments (all in Google Apps) as “Available Offline” when they are in class at the beginning of each week. We’ve taught them how to download their instructional videos also. Once they’re at home, they can log into their chromebook and open and complete all of their assignments without needing internet. To get to their Google files, they go through their Drive and open the folder that our Google Classroom creates for them. The problem is, it does not create new folders for each week. So, as you can imagine, by the 8th week of school, there are A LOT of files in their Drive, and the students have a hard time finding the exact assignments they need for that day in the 100s of files in their Drive.

So what we did was had them add a Folder inside their Classroom folder on their Google Drive. The new folder is labeled Old Work. Once they complete an assignment, they move it to the Old Work folder. This way, when they open their Classroom work folder, they only see work they still need to complete. No more, “I couldn’t find my work” excuses for missing work. And now, because we took the time to organize (and learn how), no more making and posting missing work lists because, “If you can’t move it to your Old Work file, you must still need to do it.”

Classroom Lesson Slides

Finally, keeping your daily lessons organized is key to using your time effectively and fitting in as much learning as possible with this new crazy schedule. With your lesson and instructional materials all in one place, you’re not flipping through tabs or your drive trying to find your instructional materials. And better yet, you’re not repeating directions because it’s all there (unless you like repeating directions).

You can grab your own copy of these Classroom Lesson Slides here.

My Morning Routine for a Socially Distanced Classroom

We all know that a good morning routine can make a huge difference towards how your day will play out in the classroom. And this year, incorporating social emotional learning and social time for our students is probably more important than ever before.

In years past, my students’ morning routine consisted mainly of some kind of social choice activity. This is a time that my 4th and 5th graders love to just sit with their friends and talk, draw pictures, play games, and engage in other appropriate non-learning related activity with their friends. This social time is SO important to helping us build our classroom community AND to help students have a soft start to get ready for learning.

Because of COVID-19 safety requirements this year, that routine had to change. So, knowing that I wanted to make sure I included SEL (social emotional learning) into my routine along with some kind of distanced social choice activities, AND given the fact that our arrival time is lengthened this year because of staggered arrival for distancing requirements, I’ve come up with this plan. (And I hope that it helps you with your own morning routine plan.)

First, my students will fill out and submit a Daily Check In Form. This is just a few simple questions but will allow me to monitor my students’ emotional well-being and offer help when it’s needed. It also allows my students to ask for that help without having to speak their request aloud for other’s to hear. I’ve create a Google Form for this, so it can be completed whether they are in the classroom or at home. You can grab my check in form for free by clicking on the image below.

Next, my students will write/type in their Make Today Matter gratitude and growth mindset journals. Incorporating a time for students to focus on gratitude and goal-setting is essential. In this daily journal, students write three things they are grateful for, three small, attainable goals for the day, and three things they are proud of themselves for. The attitude transition this practice can make when made a routine in the classroom is amazing! This year I’ll use only the digital version, but I have a digital and print option available if you’d like to add this day-changing routine to your own classroom. Click on the image below to grab this classroom must have!

For the rest of our arrival block, after completing their morning jobs (ordering breakfast and lunch and downloading/preparing assignments to be worked on at home), students will have a variety of either digital or distanced social games to choose from. Digital game board choices will include tic-tac-toe, connect four, the dot-square game, digital checkers, and other easy to create game boards in Google Slides. Student pairs will share the game board slide with each other to play. Many of these games can be found for free in a Google search. For students who love to draw, they can share a Google Drawing page and create an image together, or they can play a distanced game of Pictionary using their individual whiteboards at their desks. I’d love for you to share your ideas with me for more social digital activities to add to these options! Send me a message or comment to share so that I can share on the blog!

This year may be different, but having healthy, happy students, is still my number one goal. I hope my morning routine plan can help you work towards that same goal in your own classroom.

Happy teaching y’all!

Digital Open House Night

Whether you are preparing for a full virtual Open House or an in-person Meet the Teacher, using a digital open house pack will help make your event run smoothly, contactless (i.e. safer), and successfully.

My school is currently planning an Open House Night with scheduled appointments for families. So to make my Meet the Teacher meetings quick, effective, full of information, and safe (SAFER, I mean!) I created an Open House Meet the Teacher Pack for Distance Learning and In-Person events. This pack has everything!

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Open-House-Meet-the-Teacher-Pack-Distance-Learning-and-In-Person-5811935

Class Information Presentation

The presentation Google Slides include a teacher introduction, teacher contact information, your schedule, class expectations, virtual learning information, lunch info, recess info, your procedures for snack and items from home, and so much more! These can be presented in the classroom on your whiteboard, inserted into a website, or generate a QR code (video tutorial in the product) for families to scan and view from the QR Poster Station signs included in the pack. Once parents have accessed the file, they can save to their personal drive or to their device for future reference.

Student Information Survey

Use this Google Form to collect important information, like birthdays, dismissal routines, addresses, parent contact info, and more. Send the responses to a Google Spreadsheet to have it all in one place and ready for quick access anytime you need it. I’ve included Key Ring Tags with a place for you to insert a QR code on the Student Information Tag so that you always have this information available (with use of your smartphone’s camera) when you need it! Again, families can access this via a QR Poster Station sign if you’re in-person, a link to the form can be inserted on a Google Site or on your Google Classroom, or you could even add a QR code linked to this form on your Student Postcards/Letters you send home before school begins.

Teacher Contact Cards

I’ll be handing these out to parents by request only, but these could also be mailed to families if you are virtual teaching. Included on the card is a place for email, phone, your website, Zoom link (or any digital link), and your Office Hours. These are completely editable for any of your needs and will help your parents stay in contact with you whenever needed.

QR Poster Station Signs

I’ve included these for in-person open house events to help create a contactless process. Poster options included are your Class Information Presentation, the Student Information Survey, a Class Website, and one Editable sign. All posters include directions for parents and a spot to insert a QR code linked to each of your Open House materials.

Open House and Blank Newsletter Templates

If you prefer using a Newsletter to convey your information, I’ve included an Open House template and a blank template to use whenever and however you wish. These files are in Google Slides, so it is easy to use these as handouts, to insert on a Google Site or your Google Classroom for families to view, or to send digitally.

Key Ring Tags

These are for you. I’ve found that having these tags on my teacher badge key ring is extremely useful and helps me save time. At the beginning of the year when you’re still trying to remember your schedule, student names, and ALL. THE. THINGS. these tags are a life saver! I’ve included tags for your class list, your schedule, student information (insert a QR code for quick access), dismissal info, pull-out service schedules, and one for common phone extensions like your nurse, admin, office, and collab teacher. These are all editable, so you can create a tag for whatever needs you have. These are also great for substitute badges, just not including the student information tag!

Website Banner Images

And for those of you creating a Google Site or other website for your virtual teaching, I’ve even included website banner images with the same theme. These come in six different colors, with text and without. The text on the images states, “Welcome to Our Class”.

I hope you’ll love using this Open House Meet the Teacher for Digital or In-Person resource for your Open House Meet the Teacher Day/Night whether you are hosting a virtual or in-person event. If you have any questions about the resource or how I’m using it for my own event, please let me know!

Grab this resource here!

Happy Teaching!

1-2-3 Magic Warnings and Class Dojo: The Best Behavior Management Plan I’ve Ever Used

First, I need to say that this is NOT original to me or my classroom! The 1-2-3- Magic discipline strategy is from the book, “1-2-3 Magic” by Thomas W. Phelan, PhD. It’s a brilliant strategy for parents, classrooms, and any other individual who has the responsibility of helping raise children. The difference is that I have simplified it just a little to work more effectively for my own behavior management style and classroom.

So, here’s the thought behind the plan … our job as teachers, parents, etc. is to teach children appropriate social behavior, and how to make appropriate social behavior decisions on their own, right? Well, that’s how I see it. So if all I do is set the rules and then give out consequences, am I really teaching them to manage their own behavior? No. But, you can’t spend your time giving out warnings and reminders all day without there being a consequence either. That’s where the 1-2-3 magic warnings come in.

The actual plan and process is extremely simple. When your child is making a behavioral decision that is not appropriate you give a simple warning of “1”. This can be a verbal warning, a hand signal, or some other signal. I’ve found that nonverbal signals are the most effective in the classroom because it doesn’t stop your teaching. I use hand signals by raising one, two, or three fingers depending on the stage of warning. After the warning, you immediately go back to teaching or whatever you are doing. If the child corrects the behavior, you’re done. But, if you’ve given a warning of “1” and the behavior doesn’t stop within 10 seconds, you now give the warning of “2”. Again, you allow 10 seconds. The same process applies here. If the behavior stops, you just move on. If the behavior does not stop within 10 seconds, you are now on “3”. What happens at “3” depends on your classroom plan. This could mean a short time out, a clip down on your behavior chart, or a loss of a point on ClassDojo (which is what I use), or any other number of things depending on what you do.

What I love about this process is that it’s quick, doesn’t stop your teaching or activity, and it allows the child to make a better choice, making them more accountable for their behavior choices. I’ve found that it works well for all students, but especially for students who are more impulsive and need a little more guidance and encouragement.

I’ve used the 1-2-3 magic warnings with a clip chart before and found that it worked just fine. However, I definitely prefer ClassDojo because it’s not visual in the classroom and therefore the students are not focused on it all day long, are not viewing other students’ points, and it is also visible to the child’s guardians if you connect families to your account. This means that you can message families about those behaviors the student is frequently choosing to engage in, making their growth more of a team effort.

Now for the next steps … in my classroom, if a child loses three points in a day(which would equal six to nine warnings altogether), my student fills out a Time-Out Form, which is taken home to be signed by the parent. Three of these in a nine weeks results in a behavior referral to the principal. This is actually a school-wide policy at my elementary school and it works really well. Or, if a child fills out a Time-Out Form and then continues to make poor behavioral choices throughout that same day, I immediately go to a phone call home and/or a behavior referral that day. This also works really well as a deterrent to continuing poor choices.

Just like any behavior plan though, it is not a magic fix for all students all the time. I haven’t found anything that is actually. What I have found, though, is that when I am consistent, this behavior/discipline plan works better than anything else I have done in the 15+ years I’ve been teaching. I think that’s true because it’s fair, and it allows the students to feel more in control, than controlled.

As always, if you’d like more information or have questions related to this post, please contact me. I’m always happy to help in anyway that I can. Or, if you try it out, I’d love to hear how it goes for you!

Happy Teaching!

Using Student Conferences to Set Meaningful Goals

New Year’s Resolutions are great, and we all set them. In fact, most of us work with our students to set New Year’s Resolutions in the classroom when we come back from our winter break. But, do your students really understand the importance of the goal they are setting, or, do they really set meaningful goals? My guess, based on my experience, is that your answer to those questions for many of your students, is NO. I saw the same problem, and I found a solution that has really worked for me. The biggest difference in my strategy than others – I hold one-on-one student conferences before setting those goals!

Student Conferences are the KEY. It looks very much like your admin/teacher mid-year evaluation meeting, and it’s just as professional. I know this sounds like it will take A LOT of your instructional time, and I know we are all fighting to use every single second we’ve got, but I promise you, this interruption in your daily instruction is TOTALLY WORTH IT! Each of my own meetings takes about 10 minutes, maybe less or more, depending on the student. When you think about it, that’s really only one day, and that one day could make a huge difference for the rest of your school year.

My process is done in two steps.

Step One – Student Data: I present and we discuss their overall grade and strengths, their areas for improvement, division assessment scores and progress compared to the expectations for those assessments, attendance concerns if necessary, and discipline concerns if necessary. Next, I talk to them about their daily work habits and I give the student time to talk about their own thoughts and reflections. Then, I have the student begin to think about and discuss their progress goals and action plans.

Step Two – Reflection & Goal-Setting: Now it’s time for the student to do some independent reflection. I use a few simple questions, asking the student to reflect on what he/she is proud of and what he/she would like to make better, where they would like to be by the end of the year or in the future (the goals), and how they, myself, and their parents can help reach those goals.

Step Three – Digital Display Google Slide (optional) – Finally, I have my students create a My New Year’s Goal digital poster display. These display posters are super cute printed out and displayed in your classroom as a reminder for students as they work towards their goals each day. If you’re teaching virtually, these posters could be used as a background wall/bulletin board in your virtual classroom.

If you’re holding these conferences in the classroom, I suggest saving your conversation notes and their reflection form, to share with parents and guardians at your mid-year parent-teacher conferences. If you’re holding these conferences virtually, you could even try having parents sit in on the conference since parent involvement is SO crucial to student success in virtual learning. I also pull these back out for future conversations and mini-conferences with my students later in the year. For those students who need it, those mini-conferences happen about once a month from this point on, and for others, not as often. It’s a relevant, important, and meaningful conversation and goal that you will NOT regret taking time to do.

If you’d like a copy of the forms I use, I have a printable and a digital version in Google Sheets and they can be snagged with this link. If you’d like to see what I have my students work on to extend these conversations and get the students thinking even more about their future goals, check out this “My Future’s So Bright Career Research Project.” Read about that research project and why I believe its so helpful in building intrinsic motivation in my blog post here.

Enjoy! And as always, I’d love to hear how your conferences go if you try this strategy with your own students!