How to Organize Your Digital Life as a Teacher (in 3 Easy Steps!)

Raise your hand 🙋🏼if any of the following has happened to you within the past 6 months:

  • You opened an email and read it but (gulp) forgot to respond to it
  • You purchased a teaching resource on TpT or elsewhere…and then completely forgot that you even had it
  • You purchased a teaching resource on TpT or elsewhere…and then didn’t have time to start using it
  • You just couldn’t find that darn file or worksheet…where was it, again??
  • You accidentally double-booked yourself or forgot you had an appointment after school

If you said YES! to any of those, then this blog post is for YOU! In this post, you’ll learn how to organize your “digital life” so that you can save time and stress — and spend less time planning!

Learn how to organize your "digital life" so that you can save time and stress! These teacher organization tips will help you spend less time lesson planning and feel so much more organized.

Step #1: Get a free Google Drive or Dropbox account — and organize the heck out of it!

Nowadays, we use so many digital files and resources for teaching. Keeping those files organized is ESSENTIAL!

And I mean ALL your files…things you’ve created, TpT purchases, free PDFs…all of them.

If you don’t have everything in one place, you end up spending a few extra minutes searching for materials every time you plan.

Those extra minutes add up to hours. Hours you COULD be spending doing other things (like not lesson planning).

This is why I highly recommend keeping an organized Dropbox or Google Drive account where you store ALL your files.

Now, I know you can return to your TeachersPayTeachers account and re-download files anytime, which is convenient.

But this also means that you have to spend time searching for the file and redownloading.

Plus, if you’ve bought many items on TpT (like I have), you’ll have pages of purchases. This means that you might forget that you even have something!!

This is much less likely to happen if you maintain an organization system for your files. Then, when you’re looking to teach a certain topic, you simply go to the corresponding folder and look at what you already have.

So after you’re done reading this post, take 20 minutes — right now! — and set yourself up to save tons of time later on.

Get your free account set up (if you don’t have one already), and make folders for EVERYTHING!

For example, you might have folders and subfolders like this:

Folder for “Literacy”

  • Subfolders for: Centers, Grammar, Guided Reading, Handwriting, Phonics, Phonological Awareness, Readalouds, Shared Reading / Reading Worksop, Vocabulary, Writing

Folder for “Math”

  • Subfolders for: Number Sense, Geometry, Addition, Subtraction, Measurement, Time, Money

Of course, your subfolders will vary. But you get the picture! Create folders for science, social studies, and any other subjects you teach.

And then USE THEM! Every time you purchase a resource or download a freebie, upload it to the correct file.

If you find a helpful article while browsing Facebook, you can even upload a screenshot of it. Same thing goes for a helpful post on Instagram: screenshot it and add it to that folder!

You’ll be able to access your Google Drive or Dropbox account from your home computer, school computer, tablet, or phone so you won’t have to email yourself files anymore, either! YAY!

Once you have this all set up, you’ll feel so organized. And more importantly, you’ll save time and energy. You won’t spend so much time searching for materials!

Step 2: Create a no-fail system for processing emails.

We all get so many emails these days. If you’ve ever forgotten to respond to one, just know I’m right there with you!

Sometimes I’ll read an email and won’t have time to respond to it.

But if I’m not careful, that could mean that I never respond to it at all!

Fortunately, however, that doesn’t happen to me very often. But it’s because I have a very specific system for processing emails.

I follow these 2 simple “rules:”

  1. If I open an email, read it, and either respond / don’t need to do anything, I click “archive.” The message goes out of my inbox. It’s still saved in case I need to search for it later, but it no longer appears when I log into my email.
  2. If I open an email but can’t do anything about it in that moment (i.e. I need to ask someone a question before responding, need more time to think about my answer, etc.), I leave it in my inbox.

In a nutshell: when I’m done going through email, the only messages left in my inbox are those that I still need to respond to / do something with.

Archiving unneeded messages keeps my inbox sooo much neater! And it helps me ensure that I don’t accidentally forget to respond to a message because it gets buried by other messages.

Step 3: Use a digital calendar or to-do list with recurring tasks.

If you’re a paper planner lover, you might be thinking, “Whoa, whoa, whoa there, Alison. I just bought my 2020 planner! And it’s gorgeous!”

And I feel you! I used to be a “paper-only” kind of gal. I refused to go digital.

Until I realized that going digital made my life much easier. 😝

Here’s why I now love using a digital calendar:

  • I don’t have to worry about forgetting my planner or trying to bring it everywhere.

  • I save tons of brainpower with recurring tasks and events. There are some things I need to do every Sunday: meal prep, laundry, etc. There are some things I need to do every Thursday for lesson planning: write plans, make copies, etc. I set these up ahead of time on my digital calendar. Then I don’t have to try to remember all the things I must do! (And I’m less likely to forget something.)

  • In Google Calendar, I can have multiple calendars for the different “areas” of my life and share each calendar with different people. For instance, I have a school events calendar, a personal appointments calendar, a Learning At The Primary Pond calendar, and a Ryan family calendar. They ALL show up when I log in, so I don’t accidentally double-book myself! (Note: you don’t have to have so many different calendars. I do for practicality reasons, but you can stick to just one.)

  • I can set reminders about events and appointments. These go to my phone half an hour before the event. So handy!!

There are many options out there for digital calendars. I like using Google Calendar. Every 3 months, I go through and set up my tasks for each Sunday and Thursday (and any other days of the week). When I have a recurring event (like a meeting), I can set that up in Google Calendar to automatically repeat.

Todoist is another option for a to-do list, and you can create tasks that recur too.

Time to Get Organized!

If you use these 3 tips, I promise that you’ll spend less time searching for files and feel more “on top of” your digital life! (Honestly, implementing even just one of these tips can make a big difference!)

Which tip(s) do you plan to try? Leave me a comment below! 🙂

I love sharing organization and other teaching tips for K-2. To get those tips and freebies via email, you can sign up HERE (you’ll even get a freebie to help you get started with organizing for literacy centers / D5).

Happy organizing!!

A Surprisingly Easy Process for Planning and Prepping Your Lessons on a Yearly, Monthly, and Weekly Basis

I’m a reading specialist, but I actually have a math-oriented brain. I love logic, organization, and breaking things down.

So it probably comes as no surprise that I ADORE lesson planning! The process of planning is fun and exciting to me. (Does that make me a huge dork?)

Here’s what I like about planning: I like staying organized. I like getting ahead. I like doing long-term planning and looking at the big picture. And I like the fact that I actually have control of my written plans…because we all know that we definitely don’t have control over whether our plans actually go how we want them to. 😬😬

I do think there’s so much value in carefully planning your lessons and doing long-term planning—even if you don’t share my strange love of organization. 😉 If you have a set planning routine in place, you’ll feel less overwhelmed and less likely to fall behind!

So in this blog post, I’m going to share my exact process for long-term and weekly lesson planning. I’m going to break it all down and explain how I stay on-track and ahead of the game!

If your brain doesn’t love organization like mine, I hope this post gives you a place to start. And if your brain does love organization and you’re already a lesson planning master, I hope this post gives you some new ideas and inspiration—and I’d also love to hear your tips in the comments! 🙂

Want some lesson planning tips to help you stay on top of your classroom teaching? This post gives lots of detail about how I do my long-term and weekly lesson planning!

Yearly Planning Process

First, I want to mention that I’m a reading specialist. My planning process looks a bit different now that I teach mostly reading intervention. What I’m sharing here is the exact process that I used as a classroom teacher (before I became a reading specialist).

So let’s start at the very beginning—the very beginning of the school year! Or actually, the summer. I don’t even attempt to do long-term planning at the very beginning of the school year, to be honest! I’m too worried about setting up my classroom and keeping myself together for the first day, back to school night, etc.!

Over the summer, or at least a few days before I start working on my classroom, I lay out the units that I want to teach. (I typically teach all subjects in units—reading, writing, math, science, and social studies.)

I take a list of my units and the length of each unit, and I lay them out over the school year. Using a monthly calendar (like this free one from Scattered Squirrel), I write the unit name or number next to each week. I also build in about 3 extra days for each unit, if I can. I like color coding, too!!

Want some lesson planning tips to help you stay on top of your classroom teaching? This post gives lots of detail about how I do my long-term and weekly lesson planning!

(I’ve sometimes used small sticky notes in the past, instead of writing in ink; this enables you to move them around as necessary.)

Honestly, I don’t always end up sticking to this calendar 100%. Sometimes units finish a bit later or earlier than I intended.

But I do feel that it’s best to start the year with some kind of plan. Otherwise, you can accidentally spend too long on a unit and feel rushed for the rest of the school year.

This process is pretty easy—unless you don’t have defined units or any kind of curriculum with a pacing guide! Then it gets a bit tricky.

If you’re starting from scratch, I recommend deciding on your units before the school year begins.

For reading and writing, I like to cover each genre at least twice during the year. For example, if a fiction reading unit comes second in the school year, we might revisit fiction reading again in the fourth or fifth unit of the school year. The skills in the units grow in difficulty, but this gives students more than one chance to be successful with a genre. (If you don’t teach in genre units, you can still apply this principle by making sure that students revisit each skill or strategy multiple times throughout the school year.)

Anyway, if you’re choosing your units, make a list of the standards and/or topics covered in each unit. This will help ensure that you cover all of the necessary standards or topics.

Don’t feel pressured to list out every lesson or activity at this point; you’re just doing some general, long-term planning to keep yourself on track. Once you have a basic outline of each unit, try the weekly calendar mapping procedure that I described above.

And that’s it—that’s about all I do before the school year starts! But then, as soon as I can, I begin my monthly planning process…

Monthly Planning Process

Okay, so to be completely honest, my “monthly” planning process is not all that monthly. Sometimes it coincides with the beginning of the month, but often it doesn’t.

I usually go through this routine shortly before I begin a new unit of instruction, maybe a week or two in advance. So it’s usually more of a “unit” planning process than a monthly one—but again, you can adapt it to meet your own needs.

This “chunk” of procedures is all about staying ahead and knowing what’s coming up next. Here’s what I do:

  1. I list out the lessons I intend to teach during the upcoming unit. I make a few notes about the content of each lesson and what materials I might need. (If I have a defined curriculum resource to use, I’ll just read through the materials I already have and highlight anything that needs to be prepped, located, or purchased.
  2. I take that same planning calendar (where I wrote the units out by week) and note when I intend to teach each lesson—making sure to account for days off and special school events. I don’t typically write in the full lesson title, just the number of a lesson.

Want some lesson planning tips to help you stay on top of your classroom teaching? This post gives lots of detail about how I do my long-term and weekly lesson planning!

Once I’ve done that, I can then take any necessary steps, like requesting books from the library, preparing heavy-prep materials, etc.

When I first started teaching, I really only planned for one week at a time. But that created these problems:

  • Certain projects and activities required me to go purchase materials, order something, request books from the library, or do a lot of cutting. I wouldn’t always have time to do that when I planned only a week out.
  • When a volunteer came in unexpectedly, I wouldn’t always have something for her to work on. I wouldn’t know what we’d need in a week or two, so I couldn’t make the best use of her time.
  • When I want my students to do an activity independently during centers / Daily 5, I typically need to have them practice with me—whether it’s in a whole group or small group setting—before I “unleash” them to do the activity on their own. But if I don’t know what centers activities will be coming up, then I can’t adequately practice with my kids before I assign a task as an independent activity. (This used to be a big problem for me, and you can read more about that HERE.)

Weekly Planning Process

The yearly planning and monthly / unit planning help me stay ahead of the game, but I wait to make my final plans until the Thursday before the following week.

I typically plan for next week’s lessons on Thursdays. Thursdays work well for me because at that point in the week, I can usually guess what we’ll be able to finish during the current week.

Also, if we started a new skill during the current week, waiting until Thursday to make future plans gives me a chance to see how students are doing with the skill. I can then plan for re-teaching during the following week, if necessary.

So on Thursdays, I type my lesson plans into a planning template. I don’t have a specific tool or planner that I use. I usually just create a simple spreadsheet-type setup that follows the order of my school day. I’m constantly tweaking what I use!

In addition to typing up my lessons, I keep a whiteboard with recurring tasks that must be done every week. Each week, I make a checkmark once I’ve completed the task for the following week. On Friday afternoons or Mondays, I erase all the checkmarks and start all over again.

This weekly whiteboard contains all my teaching to-dos for the week and helps me stay in track! Want some lesson planning tips to help you stay on top of your classroom teaching? This post gives lots of detail about how I do my long-term and weekly lesson planning!

You’d think that doing the same things every week would mean that I remember them all without this checklist. But…I don’t! Plus, I feel like having this checklist frees up “mental space.” I’m not worrying about what I’ve forgotten to do, because it’s all there for me.

If you prefer to use an online re-usable checklist, you can use a free tool like Trello.


That’s my whole process right there! It’s nothing fancy or complicated, but it works really well for me.

If you’re looking to make planning easier or quicker, I have many resources to support you! My writing lessons, reading lessons, and guided reading lessons are all written out for you and ready to use. Having those complete lessons on hand will drastically reduce your planning time and help you stay on top of your planning!

And if you have any planning tips to share, I’d absolutely love to hear them in the comments. Happy teaching!

3 Books to Read When You Want to Feel Re-energized about Teaching!

Looking to feel re-energized about teaching? Need a little inspiration?

I’ve got 3 great books to share with you today!

I will warn you—this post includes an odd medley of texts! 🙂

I’ve included a memoir, a professional development book, and a children’s book. While these three texts are very different from each other, they have one important thing in common: they will help re-energize your teaching!

These 3 great books about teaching will help you feel re-energized immediately!

Photo Credits: Tiplyashina Evgeniya, Shutterstock

Note: Amazon affiliate links are included in the images in this post.

1. Educating Esmé: Diary of a Teacher’s First Year (Esmé Raji Codell)

Esmé Codell recorded her experiences as a first-year teacher in Chicago Public Schools in a diary—and published it for us to enjoy!

While my teaching personality is very different from Esmé’s (she makes her students call her Madame, and she roller skates down the hallways), I couldn’t get enough of this book. It’s infused with her bright, idealistic, caring approach to teaching. She faces some real challenges during her first year, but she does some amazing things to get through to her at-risk students.

Parts of it are funny, sad, and heartwarming. Her first year is a rollercoaster, and you feel like you’re experiencing it right alongside her as you read the book.

It’s been too long since I’ve read this one—I think it’s time to read it again!

2. Choice Words: How Our Language Affects Children’s Learning (Peter H. Johnston)

Yes, this is “just a PD book”—but it inspired me in ways that not many books have.

It’s all about how we talk to our students. There is SO much power in our words! Our words affect how our students view their learning, themselves, and the world.

Choice Words is an interesting AND informative read—I highly recommend it.

3. Thank You, Mr. Falker (Patricia Polacco)

This is a children’s book, but I can’t even describe how much I love it as an adult reader!

I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s about a girl named Trisha who struggles with dyslexia. She’s fortunate enough to have a very special teacher, Mr. Falker, who goes far out of his way to help her learn.

If you haven’t read this one…read it now!!

Your Turn

These are three of my favorites—what would you add to this list?

Happy teaching!

How to Get Organized for Literacy Centers in K-2

Having your literacy center materials organized can save a LOT of time!

As it is, we spend tons of time finding and prepping activities. Keeping those materials organized is a must; otherwise, literacy centers prep turns into a time-consuming scavenger hunt around your classroom! And personally, that’s not my favorite way to spend an afternoon. 😉

So in today’s post, I’m sharing literacy centers organization ideas for your own (teacher) stuff and the kids’ stuff!

In this blog post, I share my organization tips for literacy centers in Kindergarten, first grade, and second grade!

Organizing Your Own Stuff

In the past, my own biggest problem has been that I forget what materials and options I have for literacy centers.

I might come up with a great idea one year…and then entirely forget it the next. Oops! (Hey, we all have a lot on our minds, right?!)

My solution to this was to create a running list of materials and ideas for each center.

That way, when it’s time to plan centers, I can look at the list, determine what would best match what we’re working on, and choose centers quickly.

Here are two examples from my K-2 literacy centers resources. These examples list the lesson plans I have for introducing the centers (top), as well as the different centers activities I have (bottom):

So I don’t forget what center activities I’ve used in the past, I keep a master list!

My centers resources include an editable version too. You can just keep it on the computer and add to it whenever you purchase or think of a new idea for a center. In my opinion, the editable list is the best way to go, because you can always add onto it:

So I don’t forget what center activities I’ve used in the past, I keep a master list!

I’ve also found that it’s helpful to keep a binder for each center:

 I keep a binder with master copies for each literacy center.

The very first page of the binder is that materials list for the center.

So I don’t forget what center activities I’ve used in the past, I keep a master list!

Then, I include a yearlong schedule for introducing the materials. If I want to make changes to the schedule, I can easily draw arrows or move things around, but it’s nice to have something to start with.

I have a yearlong plan for what centers activities I will introduce and when.

Next, I include the lessons I use to introduce the center at the beginning of the school year.

It’s nice to keep these lessons handy throughout the school year, because when things go awry (aka kids aren’t using the center correctly!) I can refer back to the initial lessons and do some re-teaching.

I keep the introductory lesson plans for all of my literacy centers in my binders.

Following these introductory pages, I include the actual printable materials students will need for the different activities.

I have 1-2 plastic sleeves per activity. The plastic sleeve(s) include:

  • Overview of the center (on top, for quick reference)
  • Lesson(s) to introduce the center
  • The printable masters for materials kids need for the center
  • Kid-friendly directions cards

For any literacy center activity, this is all the “stuff” I keep in my master binder.

All of that stuff above goes in 1-2 plastic sleeves:

For any literacy center activity, this is all the “stuff” I keep in my master literacy centers binder.

Then, when I assemble materials the kids will eventually use, I put them in a simple manila envelope. And I keep the envelopes in these plastic storage tubs, labeled by center:

This is how I store prepared literacy center materials when students are not using them.

You can find those tubs on Amazon HERE.

Organizing the Kids’ Stuff

Now let’s move on to the kids’ stuff—the actual materials they will need to do the centers activities!

First, I have my students bring their own individual book bags to centers. They use them in the independent reading center, reading response center, partner reading center, and sometimes even the writing center.

I also give each student a sturdy independent work folder to use. ALL of the student’s paper-and-pencil work for centers goes in the folder.

The side with the red sticker is for finished work (aka work that I can review) and the side with the green sticker is for work in progress.

I have students keep an independent work folder for centers. The green sticker side is for work in progress and the red sticker side is for finished work that I can review!

Then there’s all the other centers “stuff.” What to do about that?

My personal preference is to keep everything students will need for a center in one or two plastic storage tubs.

And I’ve been using the same type of tub that I store the prepared materials in:

I keep literacy centers materials for students to use in these tubs.

I don’t keep a tub for every single separate center activity, because I typically use the materials for other purposes throughout the year. My binder and own tub(s) for the center serves as my “bank” of activities, and then I gather other materials from other classroom storage areas.

Your Thoughts?

Do you have any great storage ideas for centers? Please leave a comment below!

If you’re looking for the materials lists, lesson plans, and activities featured in this post, you can check out my kindergarten, first grade, or second grade centers bundles HERE .

Happy organizing!

3 Ways to Manage a Take-Home Book Checkout System

I’m a big believer in letting kids take books home. Yes, some of your books may get ripped, or lost, or drooled on by baby brothers. But this is a small price to pay in exchange for the incredible value that take-home books provide!

As I’m sure you already know, some of the students in your class do not have books at home. And our students are with us at school for a limited amount of time each day. So isn’t it great when kids are able to complete (some of) their reading practice at home?

Establishing a take-home book checkout system for your classroom requires a bit of preparation. But if you spend a little time setting up your procedures, the system should run smoothly on a daily basis.

Setting Up The System

Something I’ve done for book storage/transportation is to have students use 2 book bags. Each child gets a Hefty 2.5 gallon baggie and a 1 gallon Zip-Loc baggie. The Zip-Loc baggie goes inside the larger Hefty baggie. When students check out books from our classroom library, they put them in the larger Hefty baggie. At the end of the day, they move the book(s) they want to take home from the Hefty baggie into the smaller Zip-Loc baggie. The smaller baggie goes home, and the larger baggie stays at school.

This shows the larger Hefty book bag (2.5 gallon) with a smaller Ziploc baggie (1 gallon) inside. The larger book bag stays at school, and any books students want to take home at night go into the small Zip-loc baggie.

This photo shows the smaller baggie inside the larger baggie.


This photo shows the smaller, take-home baggie that also includes a reading log.

But how do you know which books go home each night? And how can you ensure that they come back? Keep reading for 3 different ways to keep track of take-home books!

Here are 3 different ways to set up a take-home book checkout system in your classroom! The post also includes the pros and cons of each system.

1. Library card system

This is one of the most commonly used checkout systems I’ve seen. You place a library card pocket in the front cover of each book (find some cute library pockets here). Then, you place an index card with the book title and author’s name inside that pocket.

Using library pockets is one way to set up a take-home book checkout system. Read the entire post for 2 additional ideas!

When students want to take a book home, they take out the card and place it into their own library pocket that has their name on it. In the morning, they bring back the book, put the library card back into its pocket, and their pocket remains empty until they check out another book.

If you have all students’ pockets on a bulletin board or poster board, it’s pretty easy to see which student has which book. It’s also easy for students to use – they don’t have to write down book titles, which can take quite a while for little ones!

This system is pretty simple once it’s been set up, but it does take a ton of time to make all those cards and pockets. Sometimes cards and pockets get ripped, and you have to create new pockets/cards every time you buy a new book. Maintaining the cards/pocket system would be a great job for parent volunteers!

2. Book checkout form

This system requires less work than the pockets and cards system. First, print a copy of my free book checkout form (just click on the photo below to download it).

Using a book check-out form is one way to set up a take-home book checkout system. Read the entire post for 2 additional ideas!

Make a copy of the form for each student in your class. They should keep the form in their reading folders. At the end of the school day, all students put their sheets on top of their desks. They write down the names of any books they will be taking home, and they leave that sheet on their desks overnight. (If leaving on desks is a problem, you can collect all the sheets and keep them until the following morning.)

In the morning, students place the books on top of their desks immediately after entering the classroom. Once you give each child the “okay,” he/she puts those books back into their book bag (or the classroom library, whichever is easiest).  The checkout sheet goes back into the reading folder.

However, if a student did not return his books, you collect his sheet. Students who did not return their books are not allowed to take home more books that afternoon. You hang onto the sheet until the student brings the books back to you.

The benefits of this system is that it’s pretty easy to implement. Students will quickly learn the routines for the beginning and end of the day. It’s also easy for you to take note of who is not returning their books consistently, since you collect the sheets of students who do not bring back their books.

The drawback is that it requires a bit of work from you in the mornings. You have to look at each child’s desk and individually give the student permission to put away his books and sheet. It doesn’t take long at all, but if you have other morning tasks to complete, things can get hectic.

3. Photos on a tablet

This third way to maintain your book checkout system only works if you have tablets or devices for each student in your class.

At the end of the day, have students place the book(s) they will take home on their desks. Students then use their tablet or device to snap a photo of the books. They can send the photo to you, set it as the background/screensaver on their device, or simply save the photo.

In the morning, students place the books back on top of their desks and you give them the “okay” to delete the photo. If students did not return their books, they must send you the photo.

The pros of this system are that it is paperless, quick for students (they do not have to write down book titles), and simple to implement. The cons are that it requires students to be relatively comfortable using the technology, and that photos can accidentally be deleted or lost.


I certainly haven’t found a perfect way to set up a take-home book checkout system, but I hope you find at least one of these ideas do-able for you.

Another option for allowing students to take books home is to give them books that they don’t have to return at all! I have printable books available in my TpT store that students can take home, read, and keep.

Using these printable books is an easy alternative or supplement to having students take home “regular” books. And the best thing is that you don’t have to worry about getting them back! Click on the image below to read more about the books.

Use these printable books in students' take home book bags! Kids can read and reread them at home with their families, and you won't have to worry about making sure the books come back to school.

If you have any other suggestions for setting up a take-home book system, please share in the comments! Thanks for reading!

3 Ways to Save Time In The Classroom with Trello

One of the things I love most about teaching is the variety. Every day at school is different. Especially working with primary kids – you know there is never a dull moment!

That said, there are still some things that, as teachers, we have to do over…and over…and over. We make copies, assess kids, grade papers, organize data, and so on. I’m always looking for ways to spend less time on these repetitive tasks.

One free program I use to maximize my efficiency with these repetitive tasks is Trello. Have you heard of it? It is super handy! Keep reading, because I’m going to show you exactly how to use Trello to save precious minutes of prep time!

Trello is a FREE tool that you can use in your classroom!  Use it for organizing student data, anecdotal notes, and your to-do lists.  The best part is that you can also use it on your phone and tablet!

What is Trello?

Trello is basically an interactive, digital list builder / organizer. To get started, create a board for a multi-step or multi-part task that you want to accomplish. Then, break up the task by creating lists and adding “cards” under each list. You can easily move and rearrange the lists and cards.

Okay, that probably doesn’t sound like anything new or thrilling. But let me show you some of the cool ways you can use it to make your life easier! Watch this video to see how I use Trello to eliminate my lengthy and repetitive to-do lists, organize my students’ assessment data, and easily take anecdotal notes for grouping students:

Okay, so let’s recap. In the video, you saw that I use Trello to…

1.  Keep track of the planning / prep work that I do repeatedly. The example I gave in the video was planning a unit. I know that I always have to align the unit to our standards, check out books from the library, plan assessments, find internet resources, and write lesson plans. So that I don’t forget any of these steps, I keep a board called “Unit Planning” in my Trello account. I keep the name of each unit on a card and move it through the stages as I go through the planning process.

2.  Organize student assessment data. I can organize just about any type of assessment data in Trello! First, I decide what my lists will be (I gave the examples of Fountas & Pinnell reading levels and MAP RIT bands). Then, I make a card with each student’s name on it. I place the cards under the correct lists and can easily move them when the data changes. It’s such an easy way to see how everyone is doing at a glance!

3.  Record anecdotal notes and plan future small group instruction. I can make a board for each subject I teach (i.e. writing). Within that board, I can create a list for each major skill we are working on (i.e. putting a period at the end of each sentence). Since Trello can be used on a phone or tablet, I can walk around a classroom with the app open while students are writing. If I notice that a student needs to work on a certain skill, I create a card with her name on it and place that card under the applicable list. After repeating this for multiple students, I have ready-made topics and groups for future small group instruction! I can easily see who is still struggling with a certain skill, and then group those students together for an extra lesson on it.

As you saw in the video, Trello is super simple and easy to learn. And you can use it on a desktop / laptop computer, phone, or tablet!

There are a lot more cool features that I didn’t show in the video. You can add/tag other Trello users on your cards (like your teaching team members!), write notes on each card, add attachments…the list goes on. Trello comes with a free guide to help you figure out all the neat extras.

Have I convinced you to try it yet? Really, you should, because as I mentioned, it is totally FREE! Click here to give it a go.

Let me know what you think!!

This Week in Intervention: Cute File Folders and A Favorite Book

Happy Saturday!!  So this past week was a short week with my intervention kiddos.  We had Monday off (yay!) and Tuesday was a teacher work day (aka “Day In Which I Filed a Lot of Junk”).  Then we had a snow day on Thursday!  It made for a rather choppy week, but also an easy one.

But back to the teacher workday.  I’ve worked in a handful of districts but it’s been 5+ years since I’ve been in a district that has real teacher work days…I’d forgotten how amazing they are!!  Our admin doesn’t interfere with our time at all…we just get stuff done.  And in my case, that “getting stuff done” was doing the filing that I’ve been putting off for about 3 months. 🙂

Okay, so speaking of filing, I’m going to go off on a tangent here!  I am in the process of redoing my home office and went to Target the other week to get hanging file folders.  When I got there, all they had were those yucky, dark green, barfalicious file folders.  The ones that look like they belong in the filing cabinet of an Army sergeant.  You know what I’m talking about, right?  These.

Am I the only one who can’t stand that all the file folders in the world seem to be this color?!  I tolerate these at work (actually I think I have some in the primary colors this year), but I wanted something prettier for my home office.  So I went online and found these!

Jewel tone hanging file folders from Smead!!  (You already saw that I scored these if you follow me on Instagram).  Anyway, to make a long story short, I am delighted that my desk drawers no longer make me look like I am the Sergeant of Filing in the Army.

Okay.  Sorry for that tangent…back to my main topic here – intervention!  This Friday, I had an especially great time with my intervention kids.  I always love Fridays with my kids because instead of having to squeeze in the many components of our super busy intervention program, we just sit together and I read them a story.  It is such a lovely experience!  I know that many of them aren’t able to have this type of story reading experience at home, so it’s especially important that they get to sit one-on-one (or one-on-two, for some of my groups) with an adult and enjoy a story.  

However…I end up reading whatever story I choose about 7 times in a period of 2 hours!  So I have to make sure I really like the story to avoid going completely insane.  This Friday, I brought the story Kitten’s First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes. 

Max the cat also endorses this book.

I teach bilingual students, so I had ordered a copy of the book in Spanish.  I love this story so much that I just had to own it!  

The story is about a sweet little kitten who sees a full moon for the very first time.  Unfortunately for Kitten, she mistakes it for a bowl of milk.  She ends up chasing it through a field, falling into a pond, and experiencing other mishaps in pursuit of this “bowl of milk.”  The ending to this story is sweet and heartwarming, and it makes me smile every time (even after reading it 7 times in one day).  The kids love it, too!

The book is great for PreK through 1st grade.  You can use it when teaching about reflections, the moon, or making inferences.  I can even see it being used as a mentor text for writing – it shows how the author stretches out the problem in the story, because Kitten doesn’t solve her problem right away.

You can check out the book here (it’s available in English  or Spanish):


I feel like my post today was a little all over the place, but hey, it’s the weekend, right?  Hope you have a great one!!

This Week in Intervention: Teaching In The Hallway

Happy Saturday!  It has felt like a really long week, even though we had Monday off on account of the giant blizzard that hit Illinois.  This week I really got rolling with my Kindergarten interventions (in this post, I shared that I’ll be working with only Kindergarten students for the rest of the school year).

I work in a fairly large school, and the reading room is pretty far from the Kindergarten classrooms.  My time with the kids is limited (we had quite a few kids qualify for interventions and I only work in the afternoons), so I just decided to ditch the idea of bringing the kids back to the reading room.  Fortunately there is a nice-sized table in the hallway by the Kindergarten room.  So every day before the PM Kinders come in, I set up shop!

It’s not an ideal situation, but I just can’t justify bringing the kids all the way to my room just for the sake of my own convenience.  I’m seeing 10 kiddos in a little over 2 hours, so I have to make use of every minute!

When I realized that I was going to be working out of my room, I started thinking that I would need some way of displaying alphabet charts, anchor charts, and “I Can” statements for my kids.  I was thinking about making one of those cute little mini anchor chart stands I’ve seen on Pinterest (like this one).  Then I got real – with my lack of craftiness, it would probably fall apart after a week.  So I decided to invest in this:

I am actually really glad I bought this one, because it’s super convenient.  It has clear pockets for displaying 20 different sheets, and it stands up really well.  If you’d like to purchase one for your guided reading table or centers, click on the image below (they aren’t expensive at all!).  They may not be as cute and crafty as the PVC pipe chart stands, but I am really happy with mine.

That’s all for now!  Have a great weekend!

My Homemade Planner

Hey there!  I’m on Day 3 of no school due to the cold…meaning that we’ve had school for a grand total of 2 days during the past 3 weeks, thanks to winter break!  Eesh!  Going back for a full week next week is gonna be rough.  Assuming, that is, that the temps actually climb above -300 degrees. 😉

Anyway, I’ve been getting a lot done during these days off. Something I accomplished yesterday was getting my 2015 planner ready.  Recently, I’ve taken to making my own planners.  I tend to be rather…particular…about the pages in my planner!  So when I couldn’t find one in stores that I liked, my husband suggested I make my own.  Genius, husband!!  

I found out that planners are really pretty easy to make, once you figure out what you’re doing.  (I actually made one this past summer, but then decided I wanted a new layout for 2015.)  I print out the pages I want on my own printer – I use card stock for the monthly pages and regular paper for the weekly pages.  Then, I take it to Office Depot, where they bind it and add a frosted cover and back cover for some durability.  Voila!  It’s very inexpensive and I get just what I want.

Some of my planner consists of blank calendar pages.  They’re nothing fancy – I write in the dates so I can reuse the same calendar in other years.  If you’d like to download the free pages for your personal use, just click on the image below.

Happy teaching (and planning!)

This Week In Intervention: Organizing Magnetic Letters

Well, it was another 3 day week for us in intervention!  All of the reading specialists in the district had a meeting on Monday, so we were out all day, and then the kids were out for the voting on Tuesday.  Three day weeks are kinda nice…but I also feel like I’m just not getting enough time with my kiddos!

Lack of time aside…things are going well with my Kinders!  We are continuing to use my letter sounds intervention pack to work on phonemic awareness and phonics.  One day we do a letter sheet, and the next day we do a picture sort using that letter.  I only have 15 minutes with each group, so there’s no time to waste and routine is KEY!  

My 1st grade group is coming along nicely, but I am having some trouble with my 2nd grade group of boys.  They are still reading at a Level A, and there are some behavior issues.  What I’ve decided to do is basically turn the group into a series of one-on-one reading conferences.  We start the group with some activities that all the boys can do.  Then, I’m having them work on iPads, iPods, or computers while I read with the boys individually.  Then we’ll come back together as a group for a quick closing discussion.  I’m hoping that this one-on-one attention makes a difference!

This week I finished organizing my magnetic letters and picture cards (for letter sound sorts) into jewelry organizers!  I seriously love these things, and have had them for about 7 years now (I think they were from Wal-Mart).

They don’t have enough compartments, so I do have to “double up,” but it’s fine because that way the jewelry organizers are small enough to be portable.  They do make larger ones – I just prefer portability over organization! 🙂  Take a look at these two photos to see how I cut up labels into teeny tiny pieces to organize the letters and word cards:

I love me some jewelry organizers!

OH – one thing we talked about at our reading specialist meeting on Monday was oral language!  Oral language is SUPER important to kids’ literacy development, but it often gets ignored.  Kids are spending more and more time with technology these days, too, instead of interacting with others.  I am going to try to focus on giving my kids more talk time, even though intervention time is so limited.  Here is a link to a free oral language assessment – it literally takes 3 minutes to do with your kids and can reveal a lot about how much language they are able to process!  The directions are included, too.  I can’t use it because it’s in English, but hopefully you can!  

Oral Language Assessment from Mondo

This was a VERY random and scattered post, but I hope that you still managed to get something useful out of it.  Have a wonderful weekend!!

Time to Get Organized!

Happy Sunday!  Today I spent some time getting my teacher binder ready for the school year.  I use a regular 3-ring binder and then make a cover that I put inside the plastic.  I put my full name on it, but I also made a set to share with you!

Click on the picture to download a free set (all letters are included, A to Z).  Hope you enjoy!

In other news, TeachersPayTeachers is having a big sale Monday and Tuesday!  When you check out, make sure to use code BTS14. I have definitely forgotten to use the code during a sale before.  Whoopsies!  I’m off to go check my wish list and fill up my shopping cart. 🙂

Making the Most of Bulletin Boards

I have to confess – I’ve never been one of those teachers who loved doing bulletin boards. When I was in my teacher training program, I did NOT long for the day that I’d put up my own butcher paper, borders, and die-cut letters.  I’ve always thought bulletin boards were a little bit of a pain. 🙂

A while ago, I decided to be very purposeful about my bulletin boards for the coming school year.  I wanted them to work for me – not create extra work for me!  I decided that I wanted my bulletin boards to meet the following criteria:

– Easy to refresh
– Consistent throughout the classroom (same background and borders)
– Dark background color (so that white paper visually pops against them)
– Have lots of space for anchor charts

The last one was especially important to me, because I love me some anchor charts.  There’s never enough space to display anchor charts in the room!  Plus, sometimes I like to add more to anchor charts after we first create them.  If they’re already hung up, that can be difficult.  So I was looking for a way to display anchor charts so that I could easily put them up and take them down.

With these things in mind, I created bulletin boards really worked for me and saved me time! Here is a picture of my math board.

I used navy cloth (from Jo-Ann fabrics) to cover the board.  I added lime green borders (Teacher Created Resources) and kept these same two elements throughout all the boards in my room.

Next, I created space for anchor charts.  I measured the chart paper pad I had in my room and then used lime green ribbon to outline two areas for chart paper.

This is not the best picture, sorry!  But at the top of my chart paper outline, I placed two clothespins.  Each clothespin is decorated with a strip of thick scrapbooking paper, and it has a thumbtack hot glued to the back of it.  To read more about making the clothespins, click {here}.

To hang anchor charts, I would just (carefully) open up the clothespins and pin up the chart paper.  If we wanted to add more to the chart, I could just take it down and then hang it back up later.  So easy!  

I left these bulletin boards up for an entire year.  They took some planning before the school year began, but they sure were low-maintenance during the year.  

If you are looking for low-maintenance bulletin boards and use a lot of anchor charts, I would definitely recommend setting up your bulletin boards this way.

For more free, fun ideas to help you organize and decorate your classroom, check out my “Classroom Organization Tools” board on Pinterest (click on the image below).

How to create bulletin boards that work for you - and have room for anchor charts! - Learning At The Primary Pond

UPDATE:  By request, I’ve made a few different sets of my bulletin board letters.  If you’re interested, click on the image below!

Happy decorating!