In the Trenches

Thoughts and Ideas from a Classroom Teacher

BC2.2: Communication and Remind 101

This is the first year  that I have consistently used Remind 101 with my classes, and I have to say that I love it. I send out project reminders, important dates, and more. Most recently, it’s been a great way to send out information of early closings and delays to my students’ families. When an elementary school closes early due to inclement weather, the phones immediately start jamming with teachers trying to reach parents and parents trying to reach teachers. With Remind 101, I love that I can just log into the website and send the text directly from the web. My parents have expressed their gratitude in knowing what is happening in such a quick manner! If you aren’t using Remind 101, check it out today!

In just a few seconds, set up a class distribution/messaging list that you can send as a text message from your computer. You can also easily set up different lists for different classes. Quickly remind students of homework assignments and due dates, share information and reminders with parents, and even send out notes of emergency delays or early releases without having to fight with the busy school phone lines. The messages will be coming straight from your online Remind 101 account, not your personal phone, so you eliminate sharing that personal information. By the way, it’s free!

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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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BC8: Book with an Impact

you haven't taught

You Haven’t Taught Until They Have Learned

I don’t look up to many celebrities. I’m not easily swayed by the famous. There are few people in the world of sports that I truly consider to be “heroes.” John Wooden is one of the few people that I would strive to emulate. John Wooden’s legacy in collegiate basketball is second only to his influence as a teacher. There are many books by and about Coach Wooden, and, frankly, I would recommend them all. Wooden is probably my very favorite book of lessons on life and leadership, but You Haven’t Taught Until They Have Learned is a great look at Coach Wooden’s specific teaching practices. Coach Wooden’s quiet demeanor, poignant influence, and overwhelming expertise is infectious. I have his pyramid of success in my classroom, and it always leads to some excellent discussions about life and character. Whether you are a basketball fan, or not, I’m sure this book will impact your views of life, teaching, and learning.

JRW Pyramid Laminate 07

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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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BC2: Organizational Tip

flyt-magazine-file__18520_PE103469_S4Magazine sorters. These are my best friends! You can pick them up at any big box store, especially this time of year. I actually prefer the cardboard ones. They last for several years and fit better onto bookshelves than the plastic ones. I’ve seen directions fro turning cereal boxes into these types of sorters that I’ve been wanting to try out. Maybe this is the year. Here are some ways that I use them…

1. Genre sorting my picture books for students to read. Those thin picture books won’t stay neatly on a shelf, no matter what. The boxes are perfect for sorting with genre labels. They stack on top of the book shelf, leaving additional room for my novels. They also make browsing the books simple!

2. Professional books. I have lots of teacher resource books that can overwhelm my own shelf at my desk. I have individual boxes for different themes of books. For example, I have all of my Words Their Way resources in one box. I have Guided Reading resource materials in another. My fraction books are in one box, while my geometry books are in another. It makes it so much easier for me to find what I’m seeking when I’m only looking for an initial category, rather than having to scan tons of tiny book spines.

3. Student materials. I’ve even even used these in the past for student materials. Each student had their own box, where they kept their folders, SSR book, notebooks, etc. The materials were much more organized than when they get crammed into student desks.


How do you organize? 




Self Initiated Blogging Challenge

I was so inspired by the 12 Days of Techmas Challenge that I decided to make my own. I really want to be a more consistent blogger, so I liked the element of accountability that comes with a calendar or list. I decided to brainstorm some topics that I know I would enjoy writing about, and put them into my own challenge. I created 20 days worth of prompts that I am planning to use in January. That gives me a few days off, but also works on building new habits. I thought I’d share for two reasons. First of all, when I share, I am way more accountable. Second, I thought you might want to join me. If so, please share your posts here, on Twitter, or SOMEWHERE!

blogging challenge


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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Remind 101

Are you looking for a quick, easy and secure way to message your parents and students? Try Remind 101. In just a few seconds, set up a class distribution/messaging list that you can send as a text message from your computer. Quickly remind students of homework assignments and due dates, share information and reminders with parents, and even send out notes of emergency delays or early releases without having to fight with the busy school phone lines. The messages will be coming straight from your online Remind 101 account, not your personal phone, so you eliminate sharing that personal information. By the way, it’s free!

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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!