Ideas for Teacher Stamps & Giveaway

I am so excited to be teaming up with to share some ideas for using teacher stamps in your classroom! If you don't have a personalized teacher stamp yet, trust me- you need one! So here are some of my favorite ways to use teacher stamps...

Avoid the Copy Room Black Hole!
When you are trying to eat lunch and check your email while making copies, it's so easy to leave your original paper in the copy machine. If you stamp the back of your paper, it's more likely to get returned to you! This also helps if you have some support staff who make copies for lots of teachers at the same time!

Keep your Library!
Creating a library in your classroom is a huge investment! Teachers are always borrrowing books from each other or sending books home with little ones for practice, but we never want our books to get lost! Stamp the inside of your books and teacher binders so other teachers and parents knows they should be returned to your classroom.

Prevent Carpal Tunnel!
This may be dramatic, but it does make your hand tired to write the same message on papers 25 times! #teacherproblems One quick stamp is so much easier, and kids love them!

Make Kids Happy!
I ordered my son a personalized stamp, which he LOVES!  After about 5 minutes, I had to hide it to keep my entire office from staying "Property of Rusty," but it did remind how much kids love to stamp things.

You could put a "Please sign and return" stamp at your mailboxes. After kids get their papers, they could stamp a form that needs signed and returned. I'm sure no one would forget to grab their paper on that day!

These self-inking stamps would also be great at a school play center because there is not a messy ink pad and a wet stamp to clean up and store! Just stamp and it's done with no mess!


Manage your Class with Just 6 Words!

Do you have lots of environmental print hanging in your classroom? Do you post anchor charts for units you are studying? Why do you do that?

As teachers, we hang lots of visuals for our little ones. We know that seeing words or images will help them remember something they are learning. We know they can use those resources as they work to gain mastery of new skills. We should be doing the same thing for ourselves!

I found a picture from my first classroom of the library corner where I did a lot of whole group instruction. On the window, there are three little simple hand-written signs on generic cut-outs. (Don't judge--this was before I had a computer at school or ever dreamed about Teachers Pay Teachers.) The signs were simple, but the 6 words printed on them shaped how I managed my classroom.

Show Me.

Tell Me.

Remind Me.

I used those 6 words again and again as I managed my first class. Instead of raising my voice with students, I would try to remember to say, "Show me how first graders sit at the rug." "Who can show me a safe way to walk to line?" "Tyra is showing me a quiet way to carry a pencil box without the shaking the crayons."

Please remember, it is vital that you explicitly teach and practice your classroom expectations first. When you ask children to show you how a procedure should be done, they need to already know how it should look and sound in your classroom.

Instead of complaining to my class about their behavior, I would say "Tell me what I should see when I look at your center." "Tell me what we do when we come back from recess." "Tell me two things you can do when you finish reading at read to self."

Instead of always targeting negative behaviors, I would say "Remind me what our line should look like in the hall." "Who can remind me how we put away our art supplies?" "Chris is reminding me what first graders should do if they have a question."

I used these phrases again and again, because I could always see them as I looked over the heads  of my first graders. A few years ago, I started watching videos online to learn about Whole Brain Teaching. I knew I wanted to try it in my own classroom. I hung signs on the back wall of my classroom to help me remember to use the different cues until they became automatic.

If you are looking to try a new classroom management technique, it may help to create some classroom posters or charts that are just for you! Hang them in a place where you can easily see them. As teachers we are always learning so we need to make sure we give ourselves the resources we need to be successful!

You can try my new Show Me. Tell Me. Remind Me. posters for FREE. Just click on the image to download them. You get two different sizes so you can pick what fits your classroom.

I also have other posters in my classroom to help me as I manage and teach. You can check them out too by clicking on the pictures!

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How to Make Border Bookmarks!

Each year at Meet the Teacher Night, I try to give my kids a little gift they can take home with them from the event. I just created some new Smart Reader bookmarks so I knew they would be perfect!

I was planning on cutting out my smart reader bookmarks and then mounting them on strips of scrapbook paper. Of course, I was going to have to buy some more scrapbook paper and cut it all, but they would look so cute when they were done!

As I was cutting out my bookmarks, I glanced over at a little stack of borders I bought at the Dollar Spot. I was thinking about how well they matched, and then the lightbulb turned on! I didn't need to buy or cut scrapbook paper- I could just use border! It's colorful, strong, and it comes in the perfect dimensions!

So I printed my bookmarks a little bit smaller (I used an 85% ratio for this job). Then I gathered up a few more supplies, and I was ready to go! In just 3 simple steps, I made durable and adorable bookmarks that are perfect for home and school!

Easy, peasy! For a little bonus idea, you could add a label to the back with your contact information. This is a simple way for families to keep your contacts at home.

You can grab these Smart Reader bookmarks and the matching posters by clicking on the picture below.


5 Tips to Make Homework Easy

Homework can be a hot topic for debate, but surveys have shown that teachers and families see the benefit of meaningful homework. As a teacher, it is important to establish a homework routine and find homework activities that are mearningful for families. I have always found that parents want to help their first graders. They may not know the best way to help or always have the best resources, but parents love their kids! Here are my Top Five Tips for creating Fuss Free and Family Friendly Homework.

1. Allow flexibility for families
"Homework" is designed for kids to do at home so you have to create something that works for different types of homes. I send our homework home on Monday, and it is due on Friday. This gives families a whole school week to decide when and how to work on activities. (I know some teachers send it home and Friday and give families a complete week to turn it in.)

2. Start a homework routine
Our homework looks almost exactly the same all year. It is a collection of activities that focus on the literacy and math skills we are learning each week. The order of activities is the same and the directions for the activities remains consistent. The high frequency words, phonics skills, and math concepts are what change.

At the beginning of the year, I send home a homework guide so families know what we are practicing and why. I attach the same sheet for a couple of weeks, because it's so easy to lose papers at home! I also model and teach my first graders how to complete their homework. I show them how to do each page so they can develop their independence!

There is no surprise or mystery when first graders grab new homework from their mailboxes. Some people may love the novelty of new assignments, but I found that consistency works best! Families and children know what to expect. It helps build confidence and independence.  First graders who may not be able to read a full set of directions can still easily navigate their practice.

There is an optional activity included in each assignment. This works great for families who may call and ask "what else can we do to practice?" I also send home books each day most of my guided reading groups.

3. Explain what you are teaching
Parents appreciate seeing homework when it helps them understand what their kids are learning about at school. I include information about what children are learning and what they are expected to be able to do. It's a great way to communicate with every family each week!

4. Motivate everyone
I have found that kids and families work best through positive motivation! I reward children who complete all of their homework each month with an invitation to a "lunch party"...more on that in a bit. I will often write little notes or draw little pictures on the pages of a kiddo's homework to surprise her and keep her motivated if homework seems like a challenge.

I love to send home thank you notes to families- like brag tags for parents! I created designs for each month of the year, and I send them home our test sign-off sheet each month. Parents really appreciate this little note that recognizing their efforts!

You can get all of the thank you note designs for FREE by clicking on the picture below!

Although there were a couple late assignments, I had 100% homework completion for every child in my class last year. I teach a very socioeconomically diverse population with a lot of need so this was a huge accomplishment for my kids! To  reward their hard work, we had a monthly "lunch party."

I love calling the reward a party, because it automatically gets kids excited....but here's a little secret- it's not really a party! I just make a big deal about it! I let the students who completed their homework eat lunch in the classroom. They eat the regular cafeteria lunch or they lunch they packed so there isn't a special menu to organize. We don't typically ever watch movies at our school so while they are eating, I put on a movie for them to watch. They may only get to see 27 minutes of the movie, but they LOVE it! (It also eliminates any chaos that kids might have thought would happen at the "party.")

If you are feeling super adventurous, you may want to add a snack to the party plans. I created a list of movies and snacks that match the parent homework notes! Check out all of the ideas here!

You can also follow my Lunch Parties Please board on Pinterest to find more ideas for simple ways to make your lunch parties awesome!

5. Send Support
I try to send home all of the materials that children may need to be successful. If I want my kids to keep their sight words, I send home a bag to keep them. Putting supplies in these bags helps ensure that no one says they don't have what they need to complete. Just outline a ziploc bag with some duct tape to keep the endges strong. I also send home pencils or crayons if needed.

I am currently working on updating all of my homework to align with our district's new English Language Arts curriculum, but you can already grab the short vowel practice pages now!


Classroom Cleaning and Packing Made Easy

There is no tired like first week of school teacher tired....but the last month does come pretty close! Between report cards and data reports and end of the year activities, it can be tempting to just throw everything in the closets and run home for a much deserved nap!

My classroom is closed from June to mid-August so it's important for me to get supplies organized and protected!  I try to do as much as I can to make the transition back to school faster and easier! Here are a few tips and tricks I have tried over the past 9 years.

I got almost all of my supplies for packing up and organizing at the Dollar Tree! It's worth it to spend a few extra bucks in May to keep everything fresh for back to school time! Here are my best tips:

I have big book bins from IKEA that fit perfectly into pillowcases from Dollar Tree! If you have smaller bins, you could probably slide 2 or 3 in each pillowcase. My firsties love helping me get each bin nice and neat. I just tie the pillowcases with some scraps of ribbon to keep dust out!

My leveled library stays on a rolling cart all summer. A plastic table cloth cover from Dollar Tree covers the whole cart! I just tape down the excess. You could also use these covers for anything big in your classroom that needs a little protection.

Putting shower caps on open supply bins is a trick that I use all year! You can drop the whole bin on the floor and 249 paintbrushes and markers don't go flying across the floor! They also keep dust and busy fingers out your bins when they aren't being used. You can get 8 shower caps for $1 at Dollar Tree! 

This tip is even better than Thanksgiving leftovers! I wrap my teacher toolbox with Glad Press 'N' Seal. I first figured this out last summer when I excitedly packed my teacher toolbox at home and then realized it was ALL going to spill in my car! Wrapping the whole thing keep the draws from sliding, and it seals the back shut!

I secure my supply drawers by taping them shut with washi tape. It keeps everything safe and snug when they get moved for summer cleaning! Just pull it off for a residue free handle.

This spring, I organized my closests in my classroom. I was experiencing some serious classroom nesting! I threw away a lot of outdated and unused items (think lesson plans from student teaching). As I tried to find a home for everything that was left, I realized I needed a lot more labels for my closets!

I got clear storage bins from Dollar Tree. (Except for the boxes with blue lids-- they were originally for individual student math manipulative kits.) My favorite bins are the shoe bins and these tall cylinders designed for storing food. All of the new labels have pictures so that my kids can help me keep things organized too!

You can check out all of the labels here! They are available in 3 different styles to perfectly fit your classroom design style!

Setting up bulletin boards and hanging decor always takes me a long time! I try to put all of my decorations to hang up right away in one giant tote. I try to label something if I might forget where it goes. These curtain panels all look the same so I added a note to remind myself where they go.
I put big display items in giant folders that I made with bulletin board paper. Just fold a giant piece in half and staple the sides. It makes a big envelope that is perfect for holding posters, charts, etc.

I store bulletin board letters inside coupon files from Dollar Tree. It makes is soooooo much easier to find the letters you need. Kids also love helping you put letters away!
I used to think I would remember everything until August. As it turns out- I don't remember anything! I started making myself detailed reminders so that even if my brain turns to mush, I can still whip my classroom back into shape.

I created several different lists to prevent complete memory loss! I printed them on bright paper so I don't lose them as I am packing up! You can grab these printable lists for free here.
Whether you despise a space in your classroom or it just needs freshened up, it can be hard to remember how you wanted the area to change. I write my idea on a post-it note and than snap a picture of the space. You can look back at your ideas and the space at the time. If I am shopping, I can flip back through my camera roll to see how something new would look in the space.

A fresh clean classoom is so refreshing. A few extra steps before you close the door for summer makes back to school must easier! I would love to hear your tips and tricks for packing up too!

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