Monday, December 4, 2017

Reflection Connection: December

YOU GUYS! I feel like a little kid this time of year because I LOVE the Christmas season! As soon as Thanksgiving is over, I'm whisking out all of the decorations and blaring Christmas music in the house. It's truly the most wonderful time of the year! This month's Reflection Connection is all about joy.

Entry 5: What brings you the most joy each day?

My Response: On a professional level, seeing my students collaborate well with their classmates and make good decisions brings me the most joy. As a teacher, I aim to help my students learn how to be compassionate individuals who can navigate our diverse world with understanding and kindness. Watching them learn those skills and deal with challenges in a productive way brings so much joy to my heart because I know (hope!) that these are skills they'll take with them long after they leave my classroom.

Your turn: What brings you the most joy each day?

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Best YouTube Videos for Teaching the Revolutionary War

I always get so excited when I find YouTube videos that supplement my lessons perfectly. Some are funny others are purely informational but all the ones I choose fit specific parameters that I'm looking for in a particular lesson.
The Revolutionary War is one of my favorite topics to teach because I find that era of American History so fascinating! I love finding ways to bring the content to life in my classroom and brief videos help students to learn in engaging ways.
Here are my favorite YouTube videos for teaching about the Revolutionary War (in no particular order).

Soomo Publishing: Too Late to Apologize: A Declaration

This is a staple favorite in my classroom to segue from the causes of the Revolutionary War to the war itself. It's very well produced and has some great symbolism. The kids LOVE it! 
Disney Educational Productions: Schoolhouse Rock! The Shot Heard Round the World

I think it's safe to say that we've all seen this one before, right? I remember watching it when I was in school! It is geared towards younger students but I still think it's a fun way to reinforce the battles of Lexington and Concord. I usually show it at the end of class when we finish learning about those battles. The kids think the tune is catchy and (surprisingly!) several in each class have never seen it. I guess that means I'm old. ;)
Crash Course U.S. History: The American Revolution
Personally, I really like Crash Course videos. They're clever, thoughtful and informational. These videos are great for older students - definitely high school and even gifted middle school students, as well. I've shown them to 8th grade students and several understood it (John Green speaks really fast). When in doubt, I post them to my class website so that students can access them at home.
Civil War Trust: The Entire Revolutionary War
I LOVE this YouTube video! It goes through many major events of the Revolutionary War and feels very cinematic. I don't show the entire video at once. Rather, I show it section at a time to correspond with our studies. The whole video is just under 20 minutes but each section is approximately less than 5 minutes (sometimes shorter).
The Civil War Trust also has great 4 minute videos that highlight specific topics related to the Civil War. Click HERE to visit their YouTube playlist.
Kristina Edgar: American Revolution Episodes
Kristina makes learning about the American Revolution extra fun. She creates clever and engaging videos that are PERFECT for middle school students. They're informational and humorous.  A perfect combination for that age group.
To Win a War, You Need a Plan
Parliament Taking All My Dough
Declaration of Independence
I hope these help you jumpstart some fun lessons on the Revolutionary War!
Happy Teaching!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Reflection Connection: November

I love November because it kicks off the start of the holiday season in my house! Delicious food, more time to spend with friends and family and thinking of all the things I'm thankful for in my life make this season truly special.

Entry 4: What do you feel thankful for in your life?

My Response: At school, I'm most thankful for supportive colleagues who are always ready to collaborate with each other and constantly put students first. At home, I'm thankful for the unconditional love and support of my family. Life isn't always perfect, but the people around me sure do make it fun!

Now it's your turn: What are you most thankful for in your life?

Monday, October 16, 2017

DIY String Art Tutorial for the Classroom

When I started to see string art in home d├ęcor stores, I knew I wanted to create a custom piece for my classroom! I'm a novice at crafting, so bear this in mind as you read the post: if I can do it, you can do it!


I snagged most of these supplies at Walmart. Here's the list:

1. Embroidery Thread: $2.28
2. Stencils: $3.47
3. Nails: $0.97
4. Spray Paint: $1.00
5. Wooden Board (Lowe's): approx. $3.00 (I forgot to keep the receipt - oops!) 

I measured the board and placed the letters in the center. Watch out for the spacing! I had to re-do a couple letters because I didn't space them out evenly when I started. All it took was a little erasing - an easy fix.

After tracing the letters it was time to add the nails. Originally, I spaced the nails about an inch apart (see the picture above). I realized that I wanted the thread to really fill up the inside of the letters so I added more nails after the picture was taken. You can see the difference in the picture below.

I read some tutorials online that suggested painting the board before starting the project. I wanted to paint the nails, too, so I opted to spray paint the entire project at one time. It took a few coats of spray paint to cover the wood but I LOVE the end result.

Once the paint has dried, it's time to start the tedious (but gratifying!) process of attaching the string to the nails. I chose a nail on the outside corner of a letter and tied a knot. I left quite a long "tail" on the knot because I'll be tying a couple more knots to it and didn't want to be fumbling with a tiny piece of string later. We'll cut off the extra string at the end of the project.  

Next, wrap the string around the outside of the next nail. By wrapping the entirety of the outside of the letter first, you'll create a nice clean edge.

Keep the string pulled tight as you continue wrapping it around the nails on the outside edge of the letter. If you don't keep the string pulled tightly, it has a tendency to pop off the nails. It happened to me a couple times. It's a bit annoying but a great reminder to always keep a watch on that string!

Continue the process until the outside of the letter is wrapped with string. Tie a knot back at the first nail. Then fill in the center of the letter by wrapping the string around the nails! There's no particular way to wrap the string. I just kept wrapping it around the nails until I got the look I wanted. Once I was finished, I made sure to end at the nail with the knot, tying one last knot to finish up the letter.

This part of the project is my favorite - seeing everything come together so beautifully! I love how the color pops off the white background. Once all the letters are complete, take your scissors and cut off all the extra hanging strings.

Ta Da! I LOVE the finished string art project and can't wait to place it in my classroom! I'll probably attach two little hooks to the back to hang it on the wall.

If you make string art for your classroom, I'd love to see it! Share it with me via email at or on Instagram: @teachersprep. :)

Monday, October 9, 2017

5 Great Websites for Teaching About Colonial America

When planning for each unit of study in my classroom, I spend a solid amount of time searching the internet for websites and online resources that can supplement the activities I already have. I feel so excited when I find one that fits the needs of my students and I'm sure you do, too! 
If you're on the hunt for websites and online resources for your unit on the colonies, here are some that might help:

1. Colonial Williamsburg

This has to be one of my FAVORITE websites to use for finding online resources for the colonial times. The multimedia tab of the website seems to go on forever with interactive activities for a variety of subjects. I love the interactive paintings (like the portrait of George Washington and Trumball's "The Declaration of Independence") along with the cute games. Several of the games are geared towards younger kids so there's resources available for several grade levels in one website! Click HERE to visit the site.

2. PBS: Colonial House

This page on the PBS website has lots of great information and interactive tools about life in the colonies. Some of my favorite tools are the 360 Tours (it's like going on a field trip without all the paperwork!) and 1628 Across the Continent where students learn about what was going on beyond the borders of the colonies. The website has several other games and interactive content that you might find useful, too! Click HERE to visit the site.

3. Mrs. Nussbaum's 13 Colonies Interactive Map

Mr. Nussbaum's website has a fun little interactive map that students can explore to learn about this history of the colonies as well as the major cities in the New World. It's a fun resource to use for a daily warm-up or two! Click HERE to visit the site.

4. Library of Congress: Colonial America Primary Sources

While engaging students in online, interactive content can be both meaningful and fun, we can't forget about the importance of using primary sources as often as possible in the classroom. The Library of Congress is packed with primary sources that are a click away. In fact, click HERE to see what they have collected for Jamestown and Thanksgiving.

5. YouTube

It's no secret that I love to use brief videos to introduce or reinforce certain concepts. Here are some of my favorite finds from YouTube:


Monday, October 2, 2017

Reflection Connection: October

Now that it's October, we've settled into the rhythm of the school year. Classroom expectations have been established, we know all our students' names and half of our year's supply of pencils is already missing. :) The first weeks of school jitters are behind us and new challenges rise to confront us on both personal and professional levels. This month, let's reflect on those challenges we're facing and create an action plan for how we can solve those issues.

Entry 3: What challenges are your facing in school? What is your action plan for solving these issues?

My Response: One challenge that I'm currently facing is finding effective strategies to keep students' work organized - primarily for those who seem to lose everything! I've developed a binder organizational system, post homework and assignments in my classroom and online as well as work with those students on an individual basis. Somehow, though, a few students still seem to lose work despite all my efforts! Does this happen to you? What is your strategy for helping those students?

One policy I'm going to try this year is binder checks. I'm hoping it provides an extra incentive for my kiddos to stay organized while at the same time setting up a system that keeps me routinely checking on their organizational skills and offering assistance when necessary.

Your turn! What challenges are you facing and what is your plan of action?

Monday, September 25, 2017

Best Fitness Trackers for Teachers

There are no affiliate links in this post. :)

As a teacher, I always thought I did a pretty good job at staying active in my classroom. After all, I walk around constantly! When I started counting my steps using my Fitbit Charge HR, I quickly realized that I wasn't doing quite as well as I anticipated. On average I was getting only 5,000 - 6,000 steps during the school day. Studies say we should be getting around 10,000 steps a day!
I started tracking my health and fitness more consciously using my watch. Just wearing the watch and checking the stats encouraged me to get those 10,000 steps each day and I even started to monitor my nutrition using the app! Several of my teacher friends have different types of fitness trackers. We compared notes and came up with a list of the best fitness trackers for teachers, in our humble opinions. :)

Fitbit Charge 2 Heart Rate +
Product Details
I have the first version of the Fitbit Charge and I love that this watch tracks my heart rate and monitors my cardio workouts and calories burned. It's so gratifying to watch the app track my caloric intake vs. calories burned so that I can better monitor my nutrition. The Fitbit Charge 2 adds guided breathing sessions (definitely need those some days...right, my friends?) and call, text and calendar alerts. I think I'll definitely be upgrading soon - there are so many beautiful colors! I especially love the teal one. (Unless one of these other trackers catch my eye!)

Apple Smart Watch
The sleek design of the Apple Watches are sooooo pretty. Several of my teacher friends can't imagine living without their watch now that they own one. It's a little pricier than the Fitbit smart watch, but if you're looking for a device that can do double-duty as a sport watch and all-in-one wearable tech, this is for you. It's even water-resistant up to 50 meters! One teacher said she is obsessed with the daily activity tracker which uses sleek, multi-colored rings to help you monitor your daily progress. Click here to learn more from Apple!

Garmin Vivosmart HR+
Product DetailsOne of my friends runs several times a week and swears by the Garmin products. She loves the app interface that tracks steps, sleep, "active calories" (calories burned) along with a wide range of ways to monitor nutrition (calories consumed, remaining, etc). There's also a GPS within the watch which allows the wearer to measure distance and pace easily. Click here to learn more about the Garmin Vivosmart HR+.

Fitbit Blaze
Product DetailsThe Fitbit Blaze has a very Apple Watch-type feel with a focus on tracking fitness over other apps. It's been described as a "powerhouse" for tracking activities and getting notifications from smartphones. The screen has a beautiful, clear display with touchscreen functionality and (much to my friend's delight!) the battery usually lasts here 4-5 days! Having one last thing to remember during the school week is a lifesaver. The watch keeps careful track of steps, calories burned, etc. so you can just live your life. Click here to check it out for yourself!

While this certainly isn't a comprehensive list of all smart watches available, these represent options that are both affordable and well-recommended! Having a fitness watch has made me more aware about the decisions I make on a day-to-day basis regarding food and exercise. Some of my students love to ask me how many steps I've taken at different times of the day and we can compare our mileage if they happen to be wearing one, too!
If you own a fitness watch that's not on this list and love it, please share it in the comments below! :)

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Elementary Classroom Management Strategies That Still Work in Middle School

Developing a classroom management plan in middle school can be challenging, to say the least. Kids are growing and changing so fast at that age and it's difficult to judge which strategies will work best for kids in 6th, 7th and 8th grade.

You might be surprised to hear that middle school teachers can still use some of the same strategies seen in elementary classrooms, with a twist, of course. Here are a few ideas that my colleagues and I have used to create a positive, safe learning environment for our students:

Hand Signals

If you've ever been near an elementary classroom, I'm positive you've seen a teacher use hand signals to refocus students. Kids can use them to let the teacher know what they need. The same idea works well in a middle school setting as well. I've used hand signals to ask the students to be quiet and my students use them to signal a bathroom break. These nonverbal cues are efficient in saving time. How often have we walked across a room to answers a student's question only to find out that they wanted to use the restroom? A hand signal saves me time and I can nod my head to grant their request across the room while working with another student. 

Sticker Chart

Bear with me, here. I know what you're thinking..."Sticker charts in middle school? No way." I'll partly agree with you. While some groups of students would find it juvenile, it may be just what you need to inspire your unmotivated kiddos. I've worked with small groups of students that were failing school. They were unmotivated, lacked support outside of school and were often removed from the classrooms due to behavior concerns. When they came to my classroom, it was my job to motivate them to complete their work. Challenging? Y.E.S. So I brought out a simple little chart with 4 rows, 5 boxes per row - one for each day of the week for about a month. Each day a student was positive and productive, I put a sticker in the box. At first they scoffed at the idea. When their peers started earning small treats and prizes (a bag of chips, a small candy, etc) after getting 5 stickers, suddenly it became very important to earn a sticker each day. I couldn't believe it! These kids transformed in front of my eyes after a few weeks all because of a daily middle school. Miracles happen, people, and we all ended up having a pretty good year!

Voice Levels

In elementary school, you'll see teachers with a chart of voice levels and colored dots to indicate what volume the kids should use when completing different activities. I've used this with much success in the classroom. The most common voice level charts I have seen have 4 levels: silence, whisper, normal voices and presentation voices. If you write your daily agenda on the board, it's super easy to stick a colored dot next to an activity so that the students understand what's expected of them during that time. This behavior management strategy is a keeper for me.

Marble Jar

The marble jar is an age-old strategy that allows your class to work as a team to fill the jar. Whenever someone does a good deed, goes above and beyond to help a fellow classmate or the class as a whole has a particularly good day, I add a marble to the jar. When the jar is full we have a little celebration! I fully believe in creating a positive atmosphere in the classroom so I never take away marbles. Those were hard-earned and they should be proud of every single one. 

Table Points

If your students thrive on a little friendly competition, starting a system of table points is a fun way to keep groups on task and accountable for their behavior. This is a fun strategy to use at the end of the year when they're getting a little (ok, a lot) excited for summer and have trouble remembering your classroom expectations. It works similar to the marble jar idea. Each group is awarded points based on individual and group behavior. As they reach certain point milestones, they receive little rewards! The rewards can start off simple (first group to leave the classroom) to more complex (homework pass) as they earn more points. You can even go to the dollar store and pick up little prizes or treats. Middle school kiddos love those little surprises! 

I hope you find some of these strategies useful in your classroom. Middle school is such a fun age to teach and your classroom can have a positive and uplifting atmosphere for your kids to express their ideas while they learn and grow together.
Happy Teaching!

Monday, September 11, 2017

My Favorite Resources for Teaching Map Skills

Learning the basics of mapping skills is an important concept to teach and reinforce throughout late elementary and early middle school. Despite the fact that we live in a digital world where handheld GPS devices can pinpoint our exact location on Earth, knowing how to read a map and the basics of latitude and longitude is crucial.
That being said, teaching about those concepts can be challenging, sometimes. (Especially latitude and longitude for some reason!) Here are my favorite resources for teaching map skills:
These videos are adorable and clever parodies of popular songs made by some history teachers. I wish I was musically inclined and could organize a video like this, too!

Print and Digital Resources
A few years ago, I uploaded two of my favorite resources for teaching latitude, longitude and geography. I also recently uploaded digital versions as well for those teachers using Google Classroom!
One of my favorite activities in the Latitude and Longitude Activities resource is the "Exploring Earth" activity. Students use Google Earth to navigate the globe using coordinates. They get to see 360 degree views of famous locations! I've been so pleased to hear that the activity is a hit in other classrooms as well! If you have a 1:1 classroom for your Google Classroom account, there's also a digital version.
If you're feeling a little adventurous, you can also make your own virtual field trip using Google Earth. I have directions on how to create one in this blog post.
Another one of my go-to resources is the Geography Skills Activities. In the resource, students learn the basic skills of reading a map, measuring scale and are even challenged to create Mega City using all the skills they learned throughout the activities. I updated the resource recently and you can check it out HERE. There's also a digital version for Google Drive.
Other Online Resources
The University of California San Diego has a great interactive activity where students mark coordinates on an online map to check their skill in finding latitude and longitude. Click HERE to visit the site.
National Geographic has a fun game for younger kids or students who need a basic introduction to understand how to read a map. The game covers map symbols and the map key. Click HERE to visit the site.
The National Park Service has a brief interactive activity that covers topographic maps and asks students a few questions to check their understanding. It's a fun and simple way to introduce the concept of topographic maps! Click HERE to visit the site.

Do you use any other resources when teaching about map skills? If so, let me know in the comments! I'm always looking for great ideas. :)

Monday, September 4, 2017

Reflection Connection: September

The start of the new school year is the perfect time to consider which new skills you want to learn over the course of the school year and make a game plan for how to achieve them. No matter how many years you've been teaching, there are always concepts to learn and master.

Entry 2: What new skills do you hope to develop this year? What will you do to obtain those skills?

My Response: This year, I want to continue developing my organizational skills. I've come a long way in the past couple years but I still see areas where I can improve so that I can better help my students stay organized. I think some more organized binders await me this year: one for parent/student contact information and one for substitutes (or maybe a sub tub...hmm....). I'd also like to come up with a new and improved plan for creating and maintaining meaningful student portfolios.

What skills do you hope to learn?

Monday, August 28, 2017

10 Things I Wish I Knew as a New Teacher (via Movie Quotes)


Being a new teacher is as terrifying as it is thrilling. Nothing can quite prepare you for the moment you are left standing in a room full of young people as the sole adult. Let's be honest, here...THAT moment is absolutely terrifying. If you can survive those precious few seconds of sheer terror, a challenging and exceedingly rewarding career awaits you.

As a new teacher, one moment there's action, the next you're embroiled in a drama of epic proportions. The classroom can sometimes feel like the Wild West while at other times be as picture-perfect as a Hallmark movie. Continuing the movie analogies, here are 10 things I wish I knew as a new teacher:

I think we can all relate to the Tin Man. His face is exactly how we all felt inside on the first day as a new teacher!
Image from The Wizard of Oz motion picture
"Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore."
- The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Learning how to be a teacher and actually, well, being a teacher are two very different things. No matter how much I had learned in college, it was still a steep learning curve when I had 20 faces staring up at me. That first year made me realize that the theoretical approach to lesson planning was very different from  the reality of the situation. Ideas I thought would work sometimes flopped and meeting the needs of each individual student was quite challenging that year. Sometimes I felt like Dorothy - transported to a beautiful new world with wonderful new friends but thinking about how it was different than what I had expected, in some ways. I wish I knew that these feelings were normal and that despite all the challenges, it would be the start of the most amazing adventure.

PSA: Don't smoke. Just get a bigger boat.

"You're gonna need a bigger boat."
- Jaws (1975)

You are a new teacher and you can't go it alone! I think the one mistake we all initially make as new teachers is that we think we can solve all problems ourselves. Sometimes we even feel embarrassed to ask for help for fear that it will make us look inadequate. Being a teacher isn't about driving a boat through treacherous waters all by yourself. You're going to need help, so don't be afraid to ask for it. Imagine that your little boat is actually a cruise ship. You're surrounded by colleagues who are ready and willing to help you! Your floating village is working together to navigate those treacherous waters. You're never alone.
His face is all of our faces when we realize we're in the midst of a miscommunication fiasco. IT'S THE WORST.

"What we've got here is a failure to communicate."
- Cool Hand Luke (1967)

Miscommunication happens. It's never, EVER fun, but at some point during your first year or two, signals will get crossed between yourself and a parent, colleague or administrator. Deep breaths. The best course of action is to schedule a conference or meeting and clear the air. Work towards finding a solution and carefully, thoughtfully express yourself. The goal of educators, parents and administrators is to provide the best care and instruction to our students as possible. Open the lines of communication again by focusing on that goal and thinking and acting in the best interest of the students.

*Sunglasses are optional
"Alrighty then."
- Ace Ventura Pet Detective (1994)

Sometimes things don't go according to plan. You're going to spend hours on a lesson only to find that it flops. There will be times when you do everything in your power to help a student and a parent says you're still not doing enough. The moment will come when your lesson runs 20 minutes faster than you anticipated and you have to come up with something engaging and instructional to fill the gap. In those moments, I always here Jim Carey's voice in my head saying, "Alrighty then" before jumping in to find a solution. As a new teacher, you're going to get lots of practice finding solutions on a moment's notice. As time goes on, you'll learn from your experiences and you'll become adept at creating a Plan A, B, C, D and E for every situation. 

Lighten up!

- Dark Knight (2008)

When I started teaching, someone passed along this age-old advice: "Don't smile until Christmas." I think they were joking (I hope they were joking) because I've found that to be one of the worst pieces of advice I have ever received. Classroom management can be very difficult for new teachers, but the answer isn't to stop smiling. The key to classroom management is establishing a routine, setting high (but achievable) expectations for your students and cultivating a positive atmosphere where students feel safe. Try greeting students with a smile instead of a frown and you're probably off to a good start. :) 

Cutest movie EVER.
"Just keep swimming!"
- Finding Nemo (2003)

These three words are just what a new teacher needs to hear as the school year gets into full swing. Between teaching, lesson planning, grading and meetings, days can be long and tiring. During those first few years you might feel as if the weekend is a million years away. Just remember what Dory said: "Just keep swimming!" Push through those challenging times and reflect frequently on the ways you are growing as an educator. I get it. Some days and weeks are rough but there are always calm seas ahead. Just keep swimming!

Just look at the hope in her eyes...and the tears.

"After all, tomorrow is another day!"
- Gone with the Wind (1939)

This is similar to a phrase I tell my students all the time: "Tomorrow is a new, fresh day!". We all make mistakes sometimes and I always let my students know that I treat each day as a fresh opportunity to make good choices. As a new teacher, you'll make mistakes, too. Learn from your errors and remember that with each day comes a fresh chance to improve your teaching practices, classroom management plan or interactions with students. Go home, relax and come back ready to get the day started on the right foot. 

Every movie with Leo in it is 10x better, am I right?
"Don't tell me I can't do it;
don't tell me it can't be done!"
- The Aviator

I love visiting with new teachers at my school because they are so full of ambition and promise! I wish more veteran teachers had this mentality. As a new teacher, this "can do" attitude will be one of your biggest assets. Believe in yourself and your students. You'll be amazed at what you can accomplish when you have faith in yourself and your abilities. Always be willing to try new lesson ideas in order to make your subject matter engaging and exciting. Your students will grow in ways you can't imagine.

Cameron's face is how I feel as the school year winds down. Everything moves so quickly!

"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." - Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)

This quote reminds me of the importance of reflection. My first year as a teacher was a blur. I forgot to stop and reflect on my experiences and it wasn't until my second year that I learned the importance of scheduling time to reflect on my instructional practices and classroom management style. The more I reflected, the more growth I was able to make. As a new teacher, remember to stop and look around once in a while. See how much your students have grown and consider the ways you have grown as well!

He looks like a guy who just spotted the Back to School dollar section at Target! So much excitement!

"Wait a minute, wait a minute. You ain't heard nothin' yet!"
- The Jazz Singer (1927)
The last thing I wish I knew as a new teacher was that the first year was the start of an amazing adventure. It's easy to get wrapped up in the challenges and celebrations of that first year. It's hard to imagine what kind of teacher you'll grow to be in 2, 5 or 10 years. Although I have many years ahead of me, I can tell you with absolute surety that if you have passion, dedication, an open mind and a willing heart, you will be a greater teacher than you can possibly imagine. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

My Back to School Teacher Binder

I'm convinced that this is the year that I will become totally and completely organized. The beginning of the school year is a perfect chance for a fresh start, right? I'm armed with a binder, organizational pages, my new teacher vision board for the cover and my stash of colorful pens. Let's do this!

The Binder

I purchased a one inch white binder with clear pockets on all sides for my Teacher Binder. I'm designing it specifically to hold the teaching essentials that I use all the time. Having a smaller binder makes it easier to find what I need. You bet your bottom dollar that I rely on the giant ones for student information and yearly lesson plans!

The Cover

Teachers Pay Teachers has gobs and gobs of the most beautiful binder designs. I do plan on purchasing some for other binders I'll need this school year, but I wanted to give this binder a personal touch. I used my teacher vision board that I created last week and slid it right into the clear pouch on the front of the binder. It will be a great reminder of my dreams and goals for the new school year.

The Pages

A while ago I created one of my classroom staples: Binder Pages for the Organized Teacher. I love that I can mix and match them with different binders to keep me organized throughout the year.  This particular binder will have my classroom essentials:

1. Class Rosters
2. Important Contact Information and School Resources
3. Team Meeting Minutes
4. Staff Meeting Minutes
5. Curriculum Sequence (a print out from my school)
6. Lesson Plans

I don't keep all my lesson plans in this binder - just the ones for the week or unit. I have a separate binder for my collection of lessons for the year and another binder dedicated to student information. I'm adding a substitute binder and field trip binder to the collection this year, too. I'll definitely blog about those once they're created!

Organizing the Binder

When setting up my binder, I use dividers for each section so that I can quickly find what I need. 

The binder itself is purposefully on the thin side as I consider it my "grab and go" binder for fire drills, and staff or team meetings.

Organizing the pages itself is super easy. I just place the pages in the appropriate section and I'm ready to go! While my class roster (until a new student is added) and curriculum scope and sequence sections stay the same all year, I do add enough blank pages in the meeting notes and lesson plans sections to take me through the first weeks of school. When I see that I'm running low on blank copies of the meeting notes, for example, I print out about 10 more pages and add them to the binder. Sometimes those meetings pop up at the last minute and I always want to be ready to go!

Voila! Now my Teacher Binder is ready to go for the school year. I'll be posting about my Field Trip Binder, Substitute Binder and Student Information Binder, too, so come back and visit the blog again! :)

Monday, August 14, 2017

Create a Teacher Vision Board

I was perusing the internet recently and rediscovered vision boards. Vision boards are spaces that you fill with pictures, magazine clippings and other accessories to showcase your life goals and dreams. They are meant to be personal and uplifting reminders of your hopes for the future and provide a constant visual cue to keep you focused on your goals.

The start of a new school year always fills me with hope and excitement. I feel like anything is possible and I start writing down dreams and goals for the year. Unfortunately, those pieces of paper seem to get lost and I tend to lose focus on some of those goals once the school year starts in earnest. I have every intention of fulfilling my self-made promises but time starts slipping through my fingers in the often beautiful but challenging day-to-day teacher life. I needed to create something that would be a daily visual reminder of my teaching goals.

The only logical conclusion? I needed a teacher vision board! Not just any size vision board, though. I needed one that I would see every day - a constant reminder of all that I hope to accomplish over the year. So what's a teacher to do? Place it on the cover of her teacher binder, of course!

Here's how to create one for yourself:

I usually read magazine subscriptions digitally so I ran down to my local library and picked up some out-of-date magazines for sale near the front. Cost: 25 cents each. Woo! Once I got back home, I rounded up scissors, a glue stick, a piece of 8.5x11 cardstock and an upbeat playlist to jam to while I created my teacher vision board.

This step is obviously very personal. My focus for this board was on the new school year, so I selected images that related to my professional hopes and dreams. I cut out words, titles and pictures that fit with my growth goals. The beauty of vision boards is that each one is perfectly unique.


After cutting out all the words and images I began arranging them on the piece of paper. It took me about 30 minutes to organize everything. Then I grabbed the glue stick and carefully glued everything down.

Ta Da! I love my new binder cover! It's meaningful and will impact the decisions I make this year as I'm constantly reminded of my initial priorities. I'm excited to see where the new school year takes me as I strive to follow my vision for an engaging, student-centered year!

If you create your own teacher vision board, share a picture with me! Use the hashtag #teachervisionboard on social media or send a picture to I'd love to see what you create!