In the Trenches

Thoughts and Ideas from a Classroom Teacher

BC15: My Wish

I’m blessed to be in a classroom where I have so much… I have an interactive whiteboard, lots of books, plenty of school supplies,3 computers, and even a Makerbot 3D printer. Over the years, I’ve been blessed to gain many resources with mini grants from DonorsChoose and Bright Ideas. And, of course, I’ve spent plenty of my own money over the years. My current wish, though, is a bit different than one I’ve ever had before. I *really* want to overhaul my learning space. Last summer, Erin Klein, shared her journey in getting rid of traditional desks in her elementary classroom to develop a comprehensive, inviting, and efficient learning space. She shared more of her ideas here. A re-design like this is my wish! Trips to the Hunt Library on the campus of NC State University definitely inspire me, too!

I’m looking into various other grants, donation options, thrift shops, and more in order to make this a reality.  A few of the things on my list would include…

– couches


– tables (not desks)

– comfortable chairs

– bean bags

– carpets

– sturdy, low level bookshelves

– table and floor lamps

– and everything would have to be mobile and comfy!

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BC10: Brain Breaks

My kids love these quick Brain Breaks! They are all under 5 minutes and perfect for when your students (or kids at home) have been sitting for way too long. Did you know that 5 full steps sends freshly oxygenated blood all the way through your body? Get that brain refreshed and the mind and body ready to learn more!


And check out these 20 great ideas from Minds in Bloom and these Energizers for the classroom!


BC7: Classroom Management

TUM398Most of the time when people, especially in pre-service and initial teacher trainings, are equating classroom management with discipline. While discipline is a part of management, it is not the whole thing. In fact, the more actual management this is happening, the less likely of a need for discipline. In my mind, classroom management is about organization. Students who are engaged in learning and know classroom routines and procedures are more likely to stay on task with learning targets.


One way popular way to facilitate student responsibility is with classroom jobs. Here’s the thing. I can’t ever remember who is supposed to do what and when and where. I tried for years to keep up with different roles. I gave up on that last year, and I haven’t been more pleased. I simply have a STUDENT OF THE DAY. The student of the day runs errands, leads the line, collects and dispenses materials, and does pretty much whatever other jobs we might need for the day. They even get a special chair for the day! If you can’t keep up with who is supposed to do what each day, try having a student of the day. It works for me!

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BC5: Assessment Tips

I’ve used Google Forms for a long time as my parent/student information survey at the beginning of the school year. This year, I decided that I wanted to find ways to use this free, digital tool more frequently and for assessment. It allows my students, who will be taking end of year tests online, a chance to practice assessments online. Here are a few I’ve done that I post to my class blog for the kids to access easily.googleform

Unit ELA Assessment (students had printed copies of the texts)

Matter Post Test

Student Mid Year Survey

I love how easy they are to access from home, and they are a lot lighter to carry home than a stack of papers. I’ve recently discovered the joy of Google Forms Templates, and I found this post by Tammy Worcester Tang. She provides detailed instructions and a variety of templates for self checking quizzes. So cool! I thought I’d try it out for this post, so I’m prepared for my students.

Take my quiz and then check out the results! Let’s see how it works 🙂

Here’s the spreadsheet. You can see the ANSWERS on the top page. Click the SCORES tab at the bottom to see how they are checked. SO COOL!

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Back to School – Anchor Charts

Anchor charts, anchor charts, anchor charts! I have a love and hate relationship with anchor charts. They are useful, student centered, and focused on needs. Yay! They take up tons of space and paper. Boo! I can’t stand cluttered walls and feel that they can be overwhelming for many of my students. I need them for my county’s learning requirements, so I have to find a way to make them accessible and meaningful. Tada!

Anchor Charts

Last year, I decided to post some of my more frequently used math Anchor Charts in a web album to link on a webpage. Finally! I could get ride of the clutter. I’m definitely going to do the same thing this year, and I will be able to use some student examples as well. I will set up albums for Science, Social Studies, Math, Reading, and Grammar. They will be embedded on our blog so that as I update the albums, they will also update. Students and parents can access them at home, or at school. I don’t have to worry about keeping up with posters and papers. Yay! Once they are set up and linked with my Picasa account, they should auto sync and make my life easier, too!

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Senior Seminar Sharing

I had the best time last night with the Senior II Seminar at Pembroke University. They invited me to come talk with them about “the real world” and using technology in the classroom. I promised to share my notes, so here we go!

Pembroke New Teacher Seminar

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Math Anchor Charts

I admit it.I hate clutter. I don’t like it in my house. I don’t like it in my classroom. It distracts me, and really makes me a bit crazy. My school system focuses a lot on creating anchor charts, which I love. They are useful, address a different type of learner, and provide an excellent reference point. But, I couldn’t keep piling them on my walls and keeping them there, too! I had to come up with a different way to keep them accessible for my students, so I made a 9×12 version of each (which is a favorite way for me to spend a Friday night at home, haha!). I have a notebook filled with page protectors, and they are all in there, sorted by subject. I also took a picture of each one and created a web album that I linked to my class webpage. I can pull it up on the whiteboard or television in my room at any point, and so can my kids! Check it out!buttefly

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High Fives

This year, our school’s focus for PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention and Support) will be on four traits. They are Respect, Responsibility, Trustworthiness, and Safe. In order to get students thinking about these behaviors and recognizing them in themselves and in their classmates, I’ve come up with “High Fives.” Students will be able to give one another “High Fives” by filling out a quick compliment form that allows them to highlight a peer for showing one of the focus traits and explaining how the action was a great representation of one of the traits. After we share them with the class weekly, the student who received the compliment will get their compliment slip and a “High Five” with their name on it will be added to the appropriate section on our High Five board. I can’t wait to see it fill up this year! I’m also hoping to give copies of the slips to our activity/specials teachers and cafeteria monitors, in hopes that they will also take a moment to recognize my students for demonstrating respect, responsibility, trustworthiness and safety!

Here’s the High Fives form!

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First Days of School – My Classroom

Robert the Reader hangs over my small group lesson area, remind students about things their brain is doing while they are reading.

My small group instruction area has a place to take notes, clipboards and dry erase boards handy, storage for student work and a place to keep group materials.

My sign in station greets students at the door. It reminds them to

“Be a STAR today!”

S – sign in

T – take time to organize for the day

A – attitude check

R – read any notes/directions on the board

My classroom library has all of our novels sorted by level and picture books sorted by topics. There is a “Book Return” box. My students help me to keep it organized by returning there so things can be re-shelved properly. I don’t have a “check out” system. We establish trust and responsibility and hope that our books get taken care of and returned in a timely manner!

I keep my desks in groups through the year, but I change my groups often. We share supplies with the buckets on each table to keep things readily accessible.





First Days of School – Student Supplies

I think every year about my school supply list. I try to be considerate of kids and their ability to tote things back and forth to school. I am very conscious of parents and the financial burden of back to school time, especially with multiple children. I also want to be sure that the things I’m asking for are true necessities. Here’s what I’ve come up with…

– 2 sturdy pocket folders (yes, I’ll use more than that, but I got 100 of them for a dollar, so I can color code those like I want. These 2 are for homework folders.)

– 5 one-subject notebooks (I believe in teaching students to be good note-takers)

– lots of wooden pencils (I don’t allow mechanical pencils in my classroom – too much fuss)

– 3 highlighters

– 2 dry erase markers

– 2 packs of loose leaf paper (I don’t use a lot of looseleaf. If I’m giving a short quiz, we use a half or a quarter of a sheet. Who needs all that paper if it’s not necessary?)

– a basic white t-shirt that is at least one size too big (I’ll explain this more later)

The following things are helpful if parents can send them in, but they are not required.

– glue sticks

– crayons or colored pencils

– a few clean socks to use as dry erase markers

– boxes of facial tissues

– zip lock bags of any size

– disinfecting wipes

– hand sanitizer

On the first day of school, we spend a bit of time sorting the supplies into the storage totes that I have for each item. I explain to my students that we will be operating as a family throughout the year, and we start by sharing. I have a tote at each table that I keep stocked with sharpened pencils, highlighters, crayons, glue, scissors, etc. We replenish the totes from the stock of beginning of the year supplies throughout the year. Those items don’t belong to any one person and are shared. As we start to run low on a particular item, I send a quick note home and often receive plenty from parents who are able. I have found that this is the best way to keep the supplies that I need for my room, manage the items, not single out students whose parents are unable to send in items, and have students take ownership in managing their items. At first I anticipated having students who might be upset about the idea of sharing, but I’ve never had an issue. It just makes sense to them to look out for one another, and it’s a relief that they know they will have pencils, paper, etc. always available.

The day before school starts, I always print multiple labels for students to use with their names on them. I print ones for HW folders, math notebooks, weekly take home folders, etc. On the first day of school, I hand out the students’ labels and we spend a few minutes organizing the folders and notebooks they’ve brought. It’s much quicker, not to mention neater, than hand labeling everything. And, with all the zany colors and designs that are out there now, the labels are much easier to read!

As crazy as it sounds, organizing supplies on the first day of school is essential for me to get things off on the right foot. It’s a great way to establish some routines and expectations in the classroom, as well as communicate the idea that I am organized and no nonsense from day one. Chaos on the first day as items come in may not set the best tone, so have a plan. All those plastic grocery bags get overwhelming pretty fast!