Sunday, September 29, 2013

Autumn Acrostic Poems

Acrostic poems are a great way to engage students in poetry writing. They help foster creativity, descriptive ability, and initial sound fluency.

These fall acrostic poem templates are perfect for any lesson. Students write inside fall shapes and then color them. Makes a great hallway display!


Acorn templates
Maple Leaf templates
Pumpkin templates

There are template options for 2-letter words, 3-letter words, 4-letter words, 5-letter words, and half sheet attachments for longer words. Any number of letters is possible!

30 pages plus directions

Ideas for Use:
Student names
Character names
Book titles
School name
Autumn adjectives
Fall food and drink
Thanksgiving words
I'm Thankful for...
Halloween words
Spooky words

Get the Autumn Acrostic Poem set here! ($4)

How do you use acrostic poems in your classroom? Share in the comments below!

Happy Fall!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Spelling Practice Menu

It's been said that one of the most effective forms of behavior management is a fun, engaging lesson. Children with behavior needs, especially those motivated by control, are often less likely to display refusal when given choices. I decided to come up with a spelling practice activity that combines both of these ideas.

Spruce up your spelling practice to make it fun, and give children choices with this Spelling Practice Menu.

Download it for FREE here.


Give students this tri-fold menu, and have them choose from 22 choices how they will practice their spelling words. Includes directions and ideas for spelling menu items. Also includes a blank menu format for handwritten customization. Grayscale color theme for easy printing and copying.

What are some fun ways you practice spelling in your classroom? Share in the comments below!

Happy spelling,

Monday, September 23, 2013

Finally, students want to practice tying their shoes!

In a multi-age classroom you're likely to find a few students who are unable to tie their shoes. A colleague of mine told me that her son learned how to tie his shoes by watching the television show Spongebob Squarepants. In case you've been living under a rock (or in a pineapple under the sea), Spongebob is HUGE among elementary aged students.

Spongebob has a song for shoe tying practice! It's pretty catchy, and the students love it. First, I teach the lyrics. Then, I teach students how to tie their shoes, using the words of this song. Finally, I give them independent practice time with lacers (or actual shoes) while I play the song on loop.

Check out the Spongebob shoe tying video here! (Not the best quality, but it works!)

How do you help students tie their shoes? Share in the comments below!

Happy tying,

A Peach for the Teach

Using the iPad (or Digital Camera) for Accountability During Independent Work

I have a confession. In first grade, I used to "pretend" to build letters with play dough when my teacher walked by, but really I was building puppies and kitties. I would quickly roll them into the letter "C" when she checked on me. [gasp] I've learned my lesson since then, but this got me thinking...

In a perfect world, we could never miss a beat while observing each student working in centers. Realistically, though, we miss a thing or two. Here's the solution for that!

Have students take pictures of their independent work-- on the iPad or digital camera. Here, a student was asked to stamp his spelling words into play dough. I had him take a photo of each word he stamped.

This was great for accountability and also a wonderful informal assessment tool!

How do you hold students accountable during independent work times? Share in the comments below!

Happy assessing,

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Lined Paper - All in one place!

I always felt frustrated at the amount of time it took me to find, collect, and copy lined paper for my multi-aged classroom. Each student needed a different sized line, but I wanted all the paper to match for hallways displays. I finally decided to just make my own!

The multi-age lined paper set I made contains the following:
4 line size options (Pre-K to Upper Elementary Grades)
4 color options (black, black with red bottom line, blue with red dashes, blue)
Lined set with picture boxes
Lined set without picture boxes
Portrait and landscape orientation
Each page has a margin-- perfect if you plan to photocopy a border onto any paper

Click here to download the set from my TpT Store ($5)

Soooo much easier now!

I sort my lined paper in these plastic containers with drawers. I recently bought these from Walmart, and I've seen them all over the place. I store the 4th-5th grade paper in the top drawers, 2nd-3rd grade paper in the middle drawers, and primary papers in the bottom drawers. That makes it easy for each student to reach. The drawers are clear, so they are easy to see. You could also cut a strip of the lined paper out and tape it to the front of the drawer as a label.

I hope that helps you, your students, and your sanity,

A Peach for the Teach

Saturday, September 21, 2013

What makes kids and teens popular? What makes teachers like students? The Hidden Curriculum

Teachers who have students in special education, meet your new guru-- Rick Lavoie.  If you haven't heard of him yet, Lavoie is an acclaimed advocate for students with disabilities. He is a motivational speaker who has created workshops, videos, and books to help parents and teachers. Watch one of his videos, and you'll be hooked. (I recommend F.A.T. City or Motivation Breakthrough!)

A common term in special education is the "hidden curriculum," which refers the the social skills that students pick up without being taught-- the "obvious" things that "everybody knows," like unwritten laws and social norms. It's not polite to ask someone's age or weight. Don't tell a person that she has a pimple. When a teacher is busy, it may not be a good time to ask a question. Avoid picking your nose in public. Greet people you see. There are countless hidden curriculum examples, which often remain hidden to some of our students. We must teach the academic curriculum and the hidden curriculum.

Rick Lavoie described four types of students, what makes kids popular, and what makes teachers like students. Teachers and parents can provide explicit instruction to help teach these components of the hidden curriculum.

Four Types of Students

  • Rejected – Students who are targeted and openly rejected by peers.
  • Ignored – Students who are not openly rejected but just left alone or ignored.
  • Controversial – Students who have friends and tend to stick to their small group of friends.
  • Popular – Students who have friends in all the controversial groups. These students are liked by people who may not actually know them.

Lavoie suggested looking at controversial and popular traits-- and teaching these positive traits to students. According to Lavoie, researchers have developed a list of seven things that kids typically like about other kids. These results were drawn from directly polling youth.


7 Things Kids Like About Other Kids

  • Smile and laugh
  • Greet others – say hi
  • Extend invitations
  • Converse
  • Share
  • Give good compliments
  • Good appearance 

Lavoie made a list of things that teachers like, which he called, "No Sweats," because they don’t require much time, energy, or effort.

9 Things Teachers Like
  • Be punctual.
  • Establish eye contact.
  • Participate in class. – even asking a question
  • Use the teacher’s name.
  • Submit work on time.
  • Use required formats.
  • Avoid crossing things out.
  • Request explanations. – teach how to ask for help
  • Thank every teacher after every class.

Watch Rick Lavoie's "No Sweats" Clip

How do you teach the hidden curriculum? Share in the comments below!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Challenging Kids, Challenged Teachers Book Review

Sticker charts, timers, procedures, routines, contingency contracts... Ever feel like you've tried it all when it comes to behavior management? What do you do with the child who rips the sticker chart, throws the digital timer, or... well, you get the point.

I've been referred to this book by many who call it the "Emotional Support Bible." I couldn't agree more. This book, in my opinion, was one of the few resources that actually gave me ideas when I said, "Been there. Done that."

One thing I love about the book is that it doesn't need to be read cover to cover. I seek out the table of contents whenever I'm faced with a particular challenge, or when I need a refresher. It's also a great resource for paraprofessionals, homeroom teachers, therapeutic support staff, and parents.

The authors of this book have worked with children with challenging behavior on a personal and professional level. It gives teachers a look into a parent's heart and provides parents with a peek into a teacher's perspective. What a great way to bring everyone together on the same team!

Check it out, and let me know what you think! Have you read this book before? Do you suggest any other similar titles? I'd love to hear your comments below!


Sunday, September 15, 2013

20 Creative Ways to Practice Sight Words (and math facts, vocabulary, etc.)

Just about any fun childhood game can be applied to sight word learning! Just add a sight word list, tweak a rule or two, and you're set! This can also be done with addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division facts-- or even with vocabulary words!

Download my FREEBIE Sight Word Lists for Pre-primer, Primer, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, & 5th Grade to get started!


Here are a few of my students' favorite games that I've tweaked for sight word learning. 

Movement Games

1. Hopscotch - Using sidewalk chalk outdoors or painter's tape on the floor indoors, create a hopscotch board with sight words written in each square. As students hop, they read the sight words.

2. Whack-a-word - Give students fly swatters or foam mallets, and have them swat/whack sight words. Each word swatted or whacked is a word read.

3. Bean bag toss/Corn Hole- Cut holes in a piece of poster board, and write a sight word beneath each hole. Have students toss bean bags through the holes. Each bean bag through the hole is a word read.

4. Fish bowl game - Re-create the common carnival game where a ping pong ball tossed into a cup is a fish earned. Write a sight word on each plastic cup, and fill them with water and plastic fish (or simply draw a fish on the front of the cup). Each time a student tosses a ping pong ball into the cup, they read the word on the cup and keep the fish (or the cup if hand-drawn).

5. Pick up ducks - Write sight words on the underside of weighted rubber or plastic ducks. Put them in a small pool or container of water. Have students pick up ducks and read their sight words. (Note: If the ducks are not weighted, they will tip over... pretty annoying!)

6. Fishing - Write sight words on fish cutouts and laminate. Slide a paperclip over each fish's mouth. Tie a string with a magnet at the bottom to a pole or pencil. Have students "go fishing" for sight words.

7. Jump Rope - Have two people hold the jump rope, and students spell sight words as they jump. Don't have three people? This can be a partner game with one side of the jump rope tied to a tree.

8. Indoor "baseball" - Move desks aside, and set up four bases on the floor of the classroom. "Pitch" sight words to the batter by holding up a card with the word written. Students can "bat" the word by identifying it correctly. Students may walk to their bases. Continue with innings just like a regular baseball game, being careful that each student gets a chance to bat.

9. Four Corners - One student is "It" and sits in the center of the room, counting to ten with eyes closed. Students quietly tiptoe to a corner of the room (each marked with a sight word). The student who is "It" calls out the name of a corner (sight word), and all students in that corner must read the word.

10. Heads up, Seven Words Up - Seven students are "It." Students put their heads down on their desks with their hands extended (palms facing ceiling). Students who are "It" each have one sight word card. They must put the sight word card into someone's extended palm. Students who get the word card read the word and guess which of the seven students gave it to them.

Board Games 


1. Hungry, Hungry Hippos - Each marble a student's hippo eats is a sight word read.

2. Candy Land - Each space a student moves is a sight word read.

3. Jenga - Each Jenga piece a student successfully removes is a sight word read.

4. Legos- Write sight words on Lego pieces with dry erase markers, and have students build sight word creations. Each Lego piece read is a piece earned.

5. Cootie- I changed the name of my Cootie game to "Word Bugs" and wrote sight word letters on the bugs' legs. Students build "word bugs" as they roll the die.

6. Chutes and Ladders - Write sight words above the chutes and ladders on the board game. Have students read them with each move.

7. Checkers - Write sight words on checker pieces. As students "jump" each other's pieces, they have to read the sight word before they can take it. Do the same thing when they "king" themselves!

8. Twister - Write sight words on a Twister mat. Call out colors and words -- for example, "Right foot red- the!" Make the game safer by only allowing the use of feet, not hands. Change each spot that says, "hand" on the spinner to "foot."

9. Hi-Ho Cherry-O - Each cherry picked is a sight word read.

10. Connect Four - Write sight words on Connect Four pieces. As students drop pieces into the board, they read the sight words.

What are some of your favorite sight word games? Comment below to share your ideas!


Have a blast,

Monday, September 9, 2013

Top 30 Books to Teach Elementary Social Skills

“The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children... It is a practice that should continue throughout the grades.” -Becoming a Nation of Readers Commission on Reading Report, funded by the US Department of Education

Social skills are likewise important to teach, so why not combine the two? I've combined a list of social skills books that my students and I have enjoyed throughout our year(s) together.

1. Have You Filled a Bucket Today? A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids
Carol McCloud
This book helps teach kids about empathy using buckets as a metaphor for confidence.
2. Confessions of a Former Bully
Trudy Ludwig, Beth Adams
This book is written from the perspective of a bully and clearly indicates that this bullying is NOT okay-- but it does so in a gentle way that will bring students to self realization without damaging self-esteem.
3. Chrysanthemum
Kevin Henkes
A touching book about kindness and empathy, centering around a child named Chrysanthemum. There are hundreds of resources online for teaching this book.
4. The 7 Habits of Happy Kids
Sean Covey, Stacy Curtis
Written by the son of the author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, this is a great book with awesome activities for building self-esteem and goals with children.
5. Just the Way I Am: Habit 1 (The 7 Habits of Happy Kids)
Sean Covey, Stacy Curtis
A great picture book that teaches "habit 1" of The 7 Habits of Happy Kids 
6. When I Grow Up: Habit 2 (The 7 Habits of Happy Kids)
Sean Covey, Stacy Curtis
A great picture book that teaches "habit 2" of The 7 Habits of Happy Kids  
7. A Place for Everything: Habit 3 (7 Habits of Happy Kids)
Sean Covey, Stacy Curtis
A great picture book that teaches "habit 3" of The 7 Habits of Happy Kids  
8. Lacey Walker, Nonstop Talker (Little Boost)
Jones, Christianne C.
A great book for your chatterboxes that teaches the importance of listening.
9. What If Everybody Did That?
Javernick, Ellen
Have any students who think it's no big deal if they break a rule once in a while? Read this book! The title says it all.
10. The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes
Gary Rubinstein, Mark Pett
Great for curbing perfectionism and encouraging positive risk-taking.
11. Don't Squeal Unless It's a Big Deal: A Tale of Tattletales
Jeanie Franz Ransom, Jackie Urbanovic
Excellent book for teaching the difference between tattling and reporting.
12. Enemy Pie (Reading Rainbow book)
Derek Munson, Tara Calahan King
This book addresses issues faced by friends and how to turn something negative into a positive.
13. The Crayon Box that Talked
Shane Derolf, Michael Letzig
A wonderful book for accepting and embracing differences in a community.
14. I Just Don't Like the Sound of No! My Story About Accepting No for an Answer and Disagreeing the Right Way! (Best Me I Can Be)
Julia Cook, Kelsey De Weerd
The title explains exactly what this awesome book teaches!
15. It's Hard To Be a Verb!
Julia Cook, Carrie Hartman
A fun book about coping with ADHD.
16. Sorry, I Forgot to Ask!: My Story About Asking Permission and Making an Apology (Best Me I Can Be)
Julia Cook, Kelsey De Weerd
The title explains exactly what this fantastic book teaches! 
Julia Cook, Carrie Hartman 
This book provides a great visual for maintaining personal space.
18. Soda Pop Head
Julia Cook, Allison Valentine
A nice book for teaching anger management.
19. My Mouth Is a Volcano!
Julia Cook, Carrie Hartman
A great book for impulsivity control.
20. The Worst Day of My Life Ever! (Best Me I Can Be)
Julia Cook, Kelsey De Weerd
A book that puts a positive spin on common problems.
21. Words Are Not for Hurting (Ages 4-7) (Best Behavior Series)
Elizabeth Verdick, Marieka Heinlen
A book that teaches how to (and not to) use language.
22. Hands Are Not for Hitting (Board Book) (Best Behavior Series)  
Martine Agassi Ph.D., Marieka Heinlen
A book that teaches how to (and not to) use hands.
23. Feet Are Not for Kicking (Board Book) (Best Behavior Series)
Elizabeth Verdick, Marieka Heinlen
A book that teaches how to (and not to) use feet. 
24. When I Feel Angry (Way I Feel Books)
Cornelia Maude Spelman, Nancy Cote
An awesome book for coping with anger!
25. Cool Down and Work Through Anger (Learning to Get Along)
Cheri J. Meiners M.Ed.
Another awesome book for coping with anger! 
26. How to Be a Friend: A Guide to Making Friends and Keeping Them (Dino Life Guides for Families)
Krasny Brown, Laurie
A nice book for teaching social skills of how to be a friend. This is a good book to read in a couple sittings.
27. The Giving Tree
Shel Silverstein
This is a classic tale of selflessness.
28. What to Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid's Guide to Overcoming Anxiety (What to Do Guides for Kids)
Dawn Huebner & Bonnie Mathhews
Awesome for our kiddos with clinical diagnoses of Anxiety! (This helped me as a worrysome adult, too!)
29. What to Do When Your Temper Flares: A Kid's Guide to Overcoming Problems With Anger (What to Do Guides for Kids)
Dawn Huebner & Bonnie Mathhews 
Awesome for our kiddos with clinical diagnoses of emotional/behavioral disorders!  
30. What to Do When Your Brain Gets Stuck: A Kid's Guide to Overcoming OCD (What-to-Do Guides for Kids)  
Dawn Huebner
Awesome for our kiddos with clinical diagnoses of OCD!  

What are your must-have books for teaching social skills? Share in the comments below! 

Happy reading!

A Peach for the Teach

Sunday, September 8, 2013

How to Write a Behavior Plan

Children with challenging behaviors need positive behavior supports to meet success in the home and school settings. Negative or inappropriate behaviors may be the result of any number of things-- environmental conditions, neurological conditions, intellectual or developmental disabilities, sensory needs, or emotional/behavioral disorders. These conditions and behaviors may impede the learning of the child and his or her peers. Parents and teachers can work to develop a positive behavior support plan to help promote success and happiness in the child. This article explains how to collect and analyze behavioral data, note patterns, develop interventions, and assess progress.

1. Collect the A-B-C Data. Our first goal is to determine why this child is demonstrating the behavior, and we need to collect data to find out.
  • To do this, collect anecdotal notes and A-B-C Data. A= Antecedent (what was happening before/when the behavior occurred?) B= Behavior (what was the behavior?)C= Consequence (what happened as a result of the behavior?)
  • You can create your own ABC form by folding a sheet of paper into three columns, or use mine.
  • Note trends, such as the time of day, subject or class, nearby people, or other common patterns.
  • Keep track of frequency (how many times behavior occurred) and duration (how long the behavior lasted).
  • View a Frequency and Interval Data form and Excel Spreadsheet that automatically calculates averages from this sheet.
2. Determine the Function of the Behavior. Once we have noted patterns in the behavior, we can begin to analyze it.
  • Use the A-B-C data to determine the function of the behavior. The function explains why the student engaged in the behavior. What was the student seeking to gain or avoid?
  • Determine what motivated the behavior.
  • Escape, Avoid, or Postpone: Was the behavior an attempt to escape, postpone, or avoid a non-preferred or difficult task or assignment? Was the child attempting to stop a transition from one activity to another? Did the child want to leave the situation?
    • If so, the child was engaging in escape-motivated behavior.
  • Gain Attention: Was the child seeking peer or adult attention by engaging in this behavior? Was the child attempting to gain positive or negative attention?
    • If so, the child was engaging in attention-seeking behavior.
  • Gain or Avoid Sensory Input: Was the child seeking to gain sensory input by accessing taste, touch, feel, or smell objects? Was the child engaging in self-stimulation (i.e., "stimming")? Was the child flapping arms, clapping, spinning, pulling on ears, mouthing objects, humming loudly, or standing? Was the child attempting to escape or avoid sensory overload-- loud sound, overstimulating situation, uncomfortable clothing, crowds, etc.?
    • If so, the child was engaging in sensory-motivated behavior.
  • Gain Access: Was the child motivated to have demands met immediately? Did the child attempt to overpower or control someone? Did the child grab an item from someone else?
    • If so, the child was engaging in tangible behavior.

3. Write a Behavior Plan. Now that we have a function of the behavior, we can write a behavior plan.

We first want to focus on antecedent procedures that can help to keep this behavior from re-occurring. For example, if the student is seeking sensory input, we can implement sensory diet activities. Ask your school occupational therapist about proprioceptive and sensory activities like brushing, compression vests, weighted vests or blankets, vestibular seats or balls, jumping on a trampoline, or playing with putty. If the child is seeking to escape or avoid overstimulating activities, we can provide ear plugs or headphones during loud activities or give the child access to a quiet space. If the child is seeking to escape difficult works tasks, we can implement procedures for asking for breaks or help.

We also need to teach coping skills. Teach the child to use communication skills to verbalize wants and needs appropriately. Use social stories to teach clear expectations.

If it is believed that the behaviors may be the result of a neurological, sensory, or emotional/behavioral disorder, parents may wish to consult a pediatrician, neurologist, or psychiatrist. It is helpful to rule out disabilities and discuss options.

Parents or teachers may also refer the child for testing by the school psychologist. The child will be assigned a case manager, and the school team and parents may convene for a meeting to develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP) to help support the child's behavior in the school setting. Parents of children who are not school aged may also wish to consult Early Intervention (EI) services. Teachers should seek the help of the child's case manager in the school to develop a Positive Behavior Support Plan (PBSP). Case managers will find that PBSP formats may vary based on state requirements. View a Pennsylvania annotated PBSP.

4. Stay Positive. Do not get discouraged if you try a behavior plan that is not successful, or if you find that a behavior plan stops working after a couple of days or weeks. It is recommended that behavior plans are constantly assessed and updated to reflect preferences, motivation, and maturity. Think of a behavior plan like your favorite dessert-- No matter how much you enjoy it, you may eventually satiate on it and want something else. This is natural. Give it time, and stay positive.

Children with challenging behavior need our love, positive attention, guidance, and support. It is already apparent that you are willing to provide those, as you have already begun to seek out resources to help your child.

5. Continue collecting and assessing data. Assess how well interventions are working. Has the child satiated on current interventions? How could we tweak them to help the child? Get the child's input. Allow the child to self-monitor progress. Fun programs like Class Dojo help children self-monitoring and also help teachers note time of day and day of the week trends. I've created an Excel Spreadsheet where adults can enter daily frequency and interval (time of day and percentage of time) data, and the spreadsheet automatically calculates a bi-weekly average percentage and frequency total.

For additional information: Check out the book Challenging Kids, Challenged Teachers: Teaching Students With Tourette's, Bipolar Disorder, Executive Dysfunction, OCD, ADHD, and More by Leslie E. Packer Ph.D. and Sheryl K. Pruitt, M.S.Ed. I really can't recommend this book enough!

Share your helpful behavior plan writing tips in the comments below!

Happy PBSPing!

A Peach for the Teach

Printable Score Board Flip Chart

Keep score during any educational game with this score board flip chart. Display scores for up to four teams, with scores from 0-99. Simply print, cut, and secure with binder rings on a cardboard or cardstock table tent. SO easy-- and fun!

What are your favorite games  to play in your classroom? Share your ideas in the comments below.

Have fun playing,
A Peach for the Teach

Saturday, September 7, 2013

September Giveaway!

I've just wrapped up my first month as a blogger and Teachers Pay Teachers seller! As a thank-you for visiting my blog, I'm hosting a Giveaway for the month of September. Enter for your choice of ANY one of my Teachers Pay Teachers Products! I'll use Rafflecopter to select a winner on October 1. The more ways you enter, the greater the chance that you'll win! Thanks again for all your support!

--------------> Enter a Rafflecopter giveaway here! <--------------

Good luck!
A Peach for the Teach

Encourage Creativity with Name Art

What do you see when you look at this picture? A funny monster with glasses, braces, and 80s hair? The name Brandi?

1. Fold a sheet of paper in half, lengthwise (like a "hot dog").
2. On one half of the paper, write the names in block letters with pencil. You may want to write them for students, or give students stencils to trace.
3. Fold the sheet of paper closed, and rub.
4. Open the paper again. A faint reflection of the name should have appeared on the other side.
5. Trace the other side.
6. Have students turn their picture into something-- a character, an object, a scene. Encourage creativity!

These make a great story starter. Also, use as an extension activity for the book Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes. Pair with a writing, "I like my name, because..." or "What My Name Means to Me."

How do you use the book Chrysanthemum in your classroom or home? Share in the comments below.

Have fun!
A Peach for the Teach

Fun Additions to My Classroom

Each year I try to add something new to my classroom. This keeps things fresh-- which is especially important, because many of my students stay with me from kindergarten through fifth grade. Check out some of my new additions this year!

My $10 DIY Light Table-- My students' favorite classroom material!
When you're a kid, is there anything more awesome than turning off the lights to learn?
Have you seen light tables that sell for hundreds of dollars?
I found a blog post from Glowing a Jeweled Rose with a cheap DIY light table.

I took a plastic container and spray painted the inside and outside black. I chose a white lid, because it softens the light coming out of the box to protect the eyes. Frosted lids work well, too.

Inside the box, I put a string of dollar store white holiday lights and a $5 LED light. I also keep overhead transparency sheets and dry erase markers inside the box. We use these to practice spelling, math facts, and more! I also use translucent geographic shapes and counters for fun lesson additions!

Number of the Day

Morning work activities take forrrrrrevvvvverrrrrrr to prepare. I simply use this daily number flip chart and a "number of the day" paper. I write our monthly math skills on the paper with a bunch of blank spaces. The students fill in the number and go! Instead of making 30 pages for the month, I only have to make one (and, of course, differentiated versions). Time saver!

Window Workshop

 I remember staring out the window as a student and getting in trouble for it. Here, I give students the option of writing at the window workshop. I keep writing starters, fancy pens for expensive words, and writing materials at the workshop. This helps students who need a quiet space or who need to get some inspiration for writing by looking outside. My windows have blinds (hard to see with the sunlight), so students can close them if they choose.

And a few throwback ideas from my old learning support classroom photo album, way back when--

Mystery Box
I took a shoe box and covered it with wrapping paper. I cut a hole in the side of the box and stapled a T-Shirt sleeve inside (so nobody can see inside the box). I put mystery items in the box, and students have to feel around to guess what is inside. I've used this for anticipatory sets, adjectives practice, and writing starters!

I can't figure out how to rotate a picture on Blogger-- sorry! (Feel free to comment to tell me how?) Anyway! I wanted to use Velcro to make my word wall interactive, but I couldn't damage the walls with it. I knew putting Velcro on butcher paper was just asking for trouble-- ripping! I decided to put my word wall on a bed sheet, and I put Velcro on the back of each word. I hung it at student-level, so they could interact with the words on the wall. This made it really easy to move my word wall from one spot to another. The wall was safe, and it could never rip!

Solution for the dangling feet problem

If you're short like me, you probably remember the sore legs that never quite touched the ground in your chairs in school. The only comfortable alternative was to slouch, stand, sit on your knees, or sit criss-cross-- and even those weren't that comfortable. If you're really short like me, you probably even know the feeling now! Putting a stool under students' feet makes it MUCH more comfortable! It also keeps them secure in their seats. (If you teach kindergarten, you probably have at least one child fall out of her chair a day!) Take it from a shortie-- this helps! This stool was $3 at Walmart a couple years ago.

Just a couple of cheap ideas for you! Hope this makes your year brighter :)

Do you have any helpful time savers or fun classroom additions? Share them in the comments below!

A Peach for the Teach

The most unusual (yet heartwarming) compliment...

Here's a heartwarming daily giggle for you. One of my students wrote this essay about me, and it brought me to tears... And also made me rethink my fragrance choice!

What's the most unusual or heartwarming compliment you've ever received from a student? Comment below to share some smiles!

Hope that brightened up your day,
A Peach for the Teach

Friday, September 6, 2013

De-Cluttering and Saving Space and Time

Multi-aged classrooms can get cluttered in the blink of an eye! We need so many different materials to meet the needs of all our students. Here are a few ideas I've tried this year to de-clutter and save space.

Busy shelves BEFORE...

 Shelves AFTER...

I took a bedsheet and cut it in half. I folded it over and connected the two pieces to the shelf with a long Velcro strip.


Busy cabinet BEFORE...

 Cabinet AFTER...

I put a long curtain on a tension rod and stuck it in the cabinet. That makes it easy for students to slide it open to access the contents.

Plain, boring wall next to the SMART Board BEFORE...

Wall next to the SMART Board AFTER...
 I took a long strip of butcher paper and glued it to the wall with my hot glue gun. I did the same with a silver border. I added some words, "WE ARE SMART... ABOUT OUR TECHNOLOGY" above technology rules.
 I bought the rules posters on TpT HERE and HERE.

The Polka-Dot Book

Sometimes multi-age classrooms end up having more adults than students. Add in a busy schedule, and you may have adults and students in your room during lunch/plan periods. When you're working or teaching, you may find yourself being approached by adults. Encourage them to write any questions they have for you in a notebook, using initials for confidentiality-- so you don't forget their important questions (and so you can lessen your interruptions!).

Centers Storage

Centers and games taking up all of your shelf space and/or falling all over the place? Get rid of their boxes, and store them in plastic stackable storage containers. Space saver!

Big Books
I put my big books in a bulletin board holder behind a door. (I do need a new box... I've had that one for 4 years!) When I taught learning support, I kept my big books in a pretty hamper. That was easy, too!

Lined Paper
I keep my lined paper in these organizers. I put my 5th grade paper in the top drawer, then fourth in the next drawer down, and so on. The clear boxes make it easy for students to find. I do the same with composition books.

Grade Level Bins
I keep my weekly materials in grade level bins. There are five bins (one for each grade level). Inside each bin, I put weekly workbooks and teacher's manuals. I put a sticky note on the page where we left off, and I put corresponding worksheets in five-pocket portfolios labeled Day 1 - Day 5. That makes it easy to take the bin anywhere (e.g., if we need to leave the classroom) and pick up where we left off.

I used to spend FOR.EV.ER setting up and cleaning up manipulatives. Then I decided to put them in stackable storage bins. I bought them in the kitchen section at a grocery store. When I'm doing a lesson where I need counters, for example, I simply grab my counters bin. I have a student pass them out, and at the end that student collects everyone's counters and puts the container back on the shelf. SUCH a time saver!! When I took this picture, two of my groups were using manipulatives (hence the missing spaces).

I keep my letter tiles in individual plastic baggies, sorted by letter. This makes it SO much easier to find them, and again- students can clean them up for me.

Picture Schedule

I keep my picture schedule cards sorted in a Rollodex! I printed them on multiple pages per sheet to get extra small schedule pieces for the labels of the Rolodex. I'm going to get an index card box to store them.

Sign-Out Station with Passes on Wall

To save shelf space, I put my passes on hooks beside my sign-out station.

Missing Pieces Box
 Don't you just love finding a random game piece, puzzle piece, screw, or piece of plastic on the floor on your way out the door at the end of the day? When you don't have time to figure out where things go, put them in the missing pieces box. When students realize a game piece is missing, they can check the box. I also assign a student to put away the items periodically.

Monthly Materials Bins
I keep my monthly materials that would take up too much space in a filing cabinet, in plastic stackable totes. I combined short school months (eg., Aug/Sept) to save space.

 Filing Cabinet "Offices"
 Use filing cabinets to your advantage! My instructional assistant had an awesome idea to partition desks with filing cabinets. I loved the idea, because now we have instant magnet boards (note letter and number magnets) where students can hang work. They each also have an independent work space (perfect for centers or for students who are easily distracted/overwhelmed). I put word helpers posters (as suggested by my former colleague, Dominica Skal- the bam of am, tie of my, hen of when, king of ing, hand of and, bat of at, fuz of was, love of of, paw of saw, tent of went, and wiz of is), and a number strip above their desks. OT ball seats and cushions also help students who seek movement and sensory needs.

To Do Notebook

I've always used To Do lists, but I end up losing them, filling them, or rewriting them. I decided to make a To Do notebook. It's a great spot to jot down extra notes, prioritize your lists, and keep track of your thoughts. I think it's also fun to look back at everything I've accomplished. (Cue: Cee Lo Green's "Does That Make Me Crazy?" song lol!)

That's all for tonight. I'll keep you posted if I come up with any new space/time saving ideas. Please feel free to comment with some of your ideas!


Dry Food Containers

Milk Crates

 8-pocket Portflios

28 qt Storage Bins

6 qt Storage Bins

Colored Word Strips

A Peach for the Teach