7 Teacher Organization Tips for the Classroom

Let's face it, staying organized in the classroom isn't as easy as it sounds. There are constant daily (even hourly) interruptions. There are people coming in and out of your classroom. Announcements at all the wrong times. The office calling your classroom letting you know a student is going home early. Who can relate?

Staying organized just makes things easier. When you are organized everything runs smoother. No lost instruction time, smoother transitions, better behavior from your students, and less stress!

classroom organization tips for back to school
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It is extremely important to have a daily schedule that is consistent. You need to have a general idea of what is going to be happening and when throughout each day. For example, language arts is always first thing in the morning. After recess is writing and grammar. After lunch, math and social studies or science. This not only helps you, but your students, as well. 

Now that you have established a general daily schedule, it is time to be more specific. I always post our daily agenda on our classroom white board. I go over it at the beginning of the day with my students. This not only helps them to know what we will be doing throughout the day, but myself as well. I do NOT put times. Times just make everyone anxious. I tell my students this is our general plan for the day. If we don't get to something, it is OK. 

It never fails that your admin comes in and wants to see your plans at all the wrong times, like during transition or your whole group teaching time. Having my lesson plans easily accessible is crucial. I type my plans and keep them in a binder near my teacher station. They are color coded by subject and always open to the day's lessons. I can easily hand it to my admin without interrupting instruction. 

Lists, lists, and more lists....that is me! I don't do anything fancy for my list making. I write everything on Post-It Notes. I have them in all sizes and colors around my room. They are at my desk, next to my computer, at my small group station...everywhere! I cross off as I have completed things (this makes me giddy) and add throughout the day. I usually stick my lists onto my laptop because I know I won't lose them there. Find a system that works for you and use it consistently. If I didn't make lists, I would forget half (or more) of the things I need to do. 

classroom organization tips

I label everything! I want someone to be able to walk into my room and find what they need if I am not there. My file cabinets are labeled with what can be found inside. My copies are labeled by subject or by day of the week. Manipulatives are organized in bins and labeled. Everything has a place. This also helps my students keep the room organized. We can't do it alone! I use these labels in my classroom and home office to keep everything neatly organized:

 classroom and home office labels for organization
They come in two sizes to meet all your labeling needs. They can be printed on self adhesive labels or just print, cut and go! Check them out, HERE

Copies, oh copies! There is so much paperwork associated with teaching! If you teach younger grades, there always seems to be more copies too. 

File your copies BY THE WEEK into hanging file folders, crates or paper organizing trays! I actually use hanging file folders AND paper organizing trays the most. I like to plan a month in advance. Don't freak out! This is not for everyone. If planning a month in advance freaks you out, just stick to one or two weeks. Find what works for you. 

I use paper trays for my WEEKLY copies. I label the trays by subject (ELA, Math, Science etc.) I label by subject because I don't always get to everything I have planned. If I missed something during my grammar lesson on Monday and I don't get to it until Wednesday, I can just go to my grammar paper tray and get my copies. I don't have to try and remember what day of the week I had originally planned it for. 

The rest of my copies (for my monthly planning) go into file folders in my file cabinet. My file folders are also labeled by subject. On Friday, I look at my lesson plans for the following week and pull out my copies and put them into the appropriate paper tray near my teacher work station.

I keep supplies JUST FOR ME to use during teacher instructional time: Flair pens, Post-It Notes, Mr. Sketch Markers for anchor charts, Expo dry erase markers, and magnetic manipulatives. This way they are right there when I need them. No instructional time is lost. I just swivel in my chair and quickly reach for what I need.

There you have it! SEVEN simple and easy to implement organizational hacks for all my teacher friends out there.

I would love to hear your organizational tips too! Please share them in the comments below. 

back to school teacher organization tips

Ideas to Teach Emotional Regulation In the Classroom

It seems like any normal day in my classroom. My students walk in. They are chatting, turning in their homework, getting settled and starting to work on their morning warm up. I say good morning to each of them, as they walk in the door, and greet them with a smile. 

I go to my desk to take attendance and notice Caleb isn't in his seat. He is wandering through the classroom chatting with different classmates. His things aren't put away. He goes to get a drink of water. Then he needs to use the restroom. I redirect him and get him settled in his seat.

Next thing I know, 30 minutes have passed. Most students are engaged in their morning work. Caleb, though, hasn't even started. He has 4 highlighters on his desk, a pencil sharpener, 3 pencils, 5 emoji erasers and his jacket is on backwards with the hood over his face. 

And all I can think is, "Lord, help me. This is going to be a L.O.N.G day!"

emoji emotions chart

I know I am not alone. We all have  AT LEAST one of these students in our classes. What do your instincts tell you to do? Punish Caleb? Send him to the office? Send a scathing message to his parents? Pull your hair out (always a viable option...I'm joking!). There are a few strategies you can use the help those students get back on track and improve classroom behavior.


Building trust with students can be accomplished in a variety of ways. After the weekend, many students come to school with "baggage" from home and need a safe way to discuss and release their emotions. Each Monday, I have a discussion circle. It's very informal. Participation is not required. It is a way to check in with each student. They can discuss something good that happened, something that is bothering them, or nothing at all. There are students that give a thumbs up, thumbs down or neutral signal and don't talk at all. I check in with those students one on one later in the day. The most important thing is that there is NO JUDGEMENT from anyone. This helps students be honest about their feelings and trust begins to be built. This process takes about 20 minutes once a week.

emotions chart


It is extremely important to continuously check in emotionally with your students all week (not just on Mondays). These EMOJI EMOTIONAL CUE CARDS are a key tool in my classroom to help with emotional regulation. Many students have difficulty expressing their emotions in words. These cards are kept on their desks and students can point to an emoji that describes how they are feeling that day. 

Students use the numbers to determine "the weight" of the issue which is bothering them. For example, Caleb may point to the angry emoji on the top right side of the card. He is fuming! However, after speaking with Caleb, you find out someone took his favorite pencil. This problem can easily be solved with some help and would only be a 1 or 2 on the number scale. 

This visual helps students see how emotionally upset they are compared to the ability to solve the issue. 


As teachers, it is important to create a classroom where students feel emotionally safe. All feelings are OK and will be respected. From day one in my classroom, students know they can go to the safe spot with no questions asked. I have an area in the back of my room students may use. They can rest, do deep breathing, mindfulness exercises and just take some time for themselves to reset. 


GoNoodle is a great resource for teaching students mindfulness strategies. Students learn ways to manage stress, build their confidence and self control, as well as, build compassion for others. The students absolutely LOVE the activities!


Teachers are the best role models for emotional regulation. Model for your students how to properly handle stress and emotions. Talk to them about how your are feeling when you are trying to teach them this incredible lesson and get interrupted 100 times with calls from the office, people walking in and out of the classroom and the same question being asked 20 different ways. 

Explain what you are feeling to your students. Talk about how you handle it. Also, make sure they know you are not perfect and make mistakes. This will help them realize managing emotions is a life long learning lesson! 

How do you teach emotional regulation in your classroom? I'd love to hear your ideas! 


emoji emotions chart

Summer Reading Pics for Teachers

Summer...summer time! Yes, that is correct! It is summer time, my friends. And you know what that means? Alarm clocks are set to off. PJs all day. AND....extra free time to read at my leisure! Sign me up!

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I love a good mindless read in the summer time or anytime for that matter! I am not into thrillers or scary suspense books. I do love a little historical fiction AND I love any book that makes me fall in love with the characters and escape reality as much as possible.

One of my summer reading struggles is whether to get my hands on an actual book (my preferred way to read) or reading on my Kindle. Here is how it usually goes down.... I start off by purchasing an actual book. I read it and love it. Then I find out it is part of a series or I love the author and want to read more. This is where my Kindle comes in. I love instant gratification. I don't have to wait for Amazon Prime to deliver my book. If I am on vacay, I can continue reading instantly without skipping a beat or carrying bulky books with me on my carry on. 


Lost and Found Sisters: In this story, Quinn Weller seems to have the perfect life as an up and coming chef in one of LA's hottest restaurants. Her life gets flipped upside down when she finds out  that most of her life has been a lie and she is now the recipient of a strange inheritance. This is a fast read which will suck you in and have you quickly turning the pages.

Friday Night Lights: I am not a huge football fan at all BUT this book peaked my interest after a friend of mine told me about growing up in Texas during the time this story took place. I had to find out more. It's a true story about high school football heroes in Texas and how racial and social issues divided a community, the pressure these young high school boys had to achieve victory while inspiring and shaping their community. No pressure, right?  

Party Girl: This is the first book in Rachel Hollis's Girl Book Series. After I read it, I was hooked! It's light reading and made me giggle like a school girl. Being from Los Angeles, I found it hilarious to read about the typical stereotypes of people's impression of the "rich and famous" that live here. There is a sweet and innocent love story attached to it that makes it that much better to read!

Sweet Girl: This is the second book in the series and highlights one of the BFFs of the main character in the first book, Party Girl. 

Smart Girl: This is the third and final book in the series, highlighting the last girlfriend in the group. It is a fast and fun read, with different perspectives and interests of the characters I fell in love with.


Girl, Wash Your Face: Can you tell, I am a Rachel Hollis fan? When this book hit the shelves, it went on my must read list immediately. Being successful in all the different roles we play in our lives as women can be overwhelming and at times lonely. This book brings light to all negative self talk that can destroy our self confidence and squashes it like a bug!

Green Ninja: Jim Larsen is an inspiring speaker who has written his first book about pursuing your life dreams and lifting the limitations you set on yourself. He discusses 7 steps to take to awake the fire inside your belly and become a warrior in your life. I can't wait to be inspired and motivated to make the changes.

The Good Luck Sister: I want to read this book because it is a continuation of the characters' stories in Lost and Found Sisters. It will be an easy read and I can get lost in a good book once again.

Looking for more reading ideas? Check out my Summer Reading List 2017 too!

What is on your list for your summer reading pleasure? I'd love to hear about it. Leave a comment below. Who knows, it may be added to my list next!


Homework: What's The Point?

Homework...the dreaded word for so many parents and children.

Why do teachers assign it? Why do kids and parents usually dread it? 


* Please note: The comments in this post are my opinions solely. They are based on my experiences as a classroom teacher for over 20 years and being a mother of school aged children. There is no hard core research behind my findings, just real world experiences and observations that have influenced my opinions.

This is a blog post I have been mulling over in my mind for quite some time now. I have started and stopped writing my opinions about homework and the positives and negatives about children being assigned work to do at home. It's so controversial. What will people think? Well...no more! Here it goes!

As a parent and teacher, I believe homework should NEVER be assigned as "busy work" for children to complete. It needs to be meaningful and have purpose. The meaning and purpose need to be CLEARLY communicated to the students and parents. I also believe the homework process should NOT take up a large portion of the child's after school time.

I have a middle school aged child, who has 3-5 hours or more of homework every night! It's ridiculous! Then, I have an upper elementary aged child who has 20 minutes of homework a night. Sometimes he doesn't even have any! I think that is ridiculous as well! Finding a balance is difficult, but necessary.

I do, however, believe there are many useful reasons for children to have homework assigned to them. And for the most part, the positives outweigh the negatives.


Teaching children good study habits from a young age is key to their academic success. Providing a consistent, quiet learning environment is extremely helpful, but not always possible. Children also need to learn how to get their work done even when "life is happening around them." Sometimes this is easier said than done. 

My children always know the first thing they do when they come home from school is get their homework started. It is never a fight. They might get a snack to have while doing their work, but they know the work needs to get done before anything else. Now, don't get me wrong, there are days when sports practices or doctor's appointments prevent this from happening. BUT, whenever we get home, they know the homework needs to be completed. 

A consistent routine and expectations for homework help to lay the foundation for good study habits.

Children need to learn to complete tasks within a finite amount of time. This obviously changes with a child's age and school experience. But learning how to manage one's time is a daily life skill that needs to be mastered.

Homework helps students understand and learn these skills. When children have after school activities AND homework to complete, they need to manage their time correctly. This is not a skill they can learn on their own. They need the guidance and support of their parents and teachers to help them understand how to grow their time management skills.

In my classroom, I give my students a weekly homework packet which includes daily homework mini packets that need to be turned in each day. I explain to my students and parents, at the beginning of the school year, WHY I design homework this way. First, I don't want my students sitting down in one afternoon and completing a week's worth of work in one day. Second, I want to give them options if necessary. If on Wednesday, Alexa has dance class until 5:00pm, she can start that day's homework earlier in the week to help reduce Wednesday's work load.

Parents understand and appreciate the flexibility and help their child manage their time.

When my children were starting elementary school, I spent time helping them with their homework. As each year progressed, I did less and less. My husband and I let them struggle a bit. They learn to work through things that don't come to them quickly and easily.

Up until about 4th grade, we checked out kids homework each night. Let's be honest, after 4th grade things take longer to check and the concepts are WAY more complex. You just skim for completion and quality at this point.

If it was messy, they were told to redo the assignment. If they didn't put forth their best effort, we asked them how they thought they could improve. Then they fixed it. By doing this at an early age, both kids learned to work more independently. They were able to gauge what quality work should look like on their own. This carried over into the classroom and hopefully one day, to their jobs.

We have always told our kids, school is their job. It's the one thing they have to focus on and do well. It's their responsibility to themselves and to our family.

Completing a homework assignment, putting it into their backpack, and turning it in the next day to their teacher is CRUCIAL. It's not my responsibility or my husband's responsibility to put their homework in their backpack. It's the CHILD's responsibility!

As a teacher, I loathe the answer to "Where is your homework?" The answer is either "My mom/dad forgot to put it in my backpack" or "I left it at home." And my response is always, "Who's homework is it? Who's responsibility is it to turn it in?" They usually get the meaning of the message quickly.

Homework should be a time to review and practice skills taught in school. It should NOT be a time to learn new concepts they have never been exposed to.

Homework should also be a time when parents interact with what their child is learning in school. 

Look at what skills are being reviewed for homework. Is the homework connected to the standards? Did your child understand what was taught in class? Can you clarify any concepts for your child? 

If you notice your child struggling with their homework or specific skills, reach out to the teacher. If the homework is too easy or it is taking too long to complete, reach out to the teacher.

Homework time should be one of the indicators of how your child is doing in class when you are apart from one another.

Ask questions! Stay connected!

Looking for homework resources? Click the links below for a closer look.

             Spelling Resources


    A Year of Skills in Review: First to Second Grade AND Second to Third Grade


February Bright Ideas For the Classroom

It's hard to believe February is on the horizon! Mid year testing has begun, report cards are a few weeks away and it just seems as though there are a lot of distractions that are filling up our calendars and making it hard to stay focused.

I hope you can take some ideas away from this post to make your planning easier and smoother for the month ahead. Pin the ideas you love most so you don't forget them.

bulletin boards, freebies, valentine's day
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Believe it or not, not everything in the month of February is all hearts and butterflies. We spend a few lessons learning about Washington and Lincoln. I either read them a picture book (see below) or I use independent reading passages, like these, to engage their attention. 

We also create a craft and write an opinion piece about whether on not Lincoln should have a beard. We write a compare/contrast story about the two presidents also. 

During small group time, we review grammar and phonics skills with different activities such as these.

All these activities and much more, can be found in my Patriotic Presidents' Day resource. 

I love teaching my students about different cultures and countries around the world. It becomes even more meaningful when there are students in our class from the countries we are learning about.

For Chinese New Year, we read a book about the holiday as a whole class. Then we create a chart about all the new things we have learned. Students also read these independent passages and answer comprehension questions.

Each student makes a red envelope that we display in class. Then throughout the month they write kind words to one another about something positive they wish for the other person. 

My students' favorite activity during our unit of study is when we make our paper bag books. The kids love all the new information they learn and the interactive pieces they can manipulate. There seems to be a great sense of ownership and love of the information they get to share with their friends and family.

We also practice our fact and opinion skills with these Chinese New Year fact and opinion cards. I post them around the room and the students answer them on their paper when they have free time.

These activities and much more are all part of my Chinese New Year packet you can find HERE!

I just added this little gem of a book, Little Leaders, to my collection to share with my students this next month. It features 40 inspiring and heroic women who took action in a time when they weren't always accepted. Knowingly or not they each helped to make the world a better place for young women of future generations. 

The Youngest Marcher is a very special story about the civil rights movement from the perspective of a young nine year old girl. It's a great story that gives kids the inspiration to speak up for what they believe in, no matter their age.

Mr. Lincoln's Whiskers is my favorite book to use to introduce Abraham Lincoln to my students. It's told from the perspective of a young eleven year old girl who wanted to know why President Lincoln decided to grow a beard. So, she wrote him a letter to ask for his answer. It's a true story that captures the sweet innocence of a child and her relationship with the President of the United States. 

My students and I LOVE task cards! What better way to integrate Valentine's Day but with math? We just finished learning about adding and subtracting three digit numbers. And word problems always seem to be a challenge for my kiddos. Now they can be engaged in their learning with these word problem task cards! I use these cards at an early finisher activity, whole class game of Scoot or as partner work. The best part... they will be reviewing their math skills all while getting extra word problem practice with some Valentine's Day flair! Grab your set HERE

I love integrating language arts and math skills with some holiday fun whenever possible. This is a follow up activity to the book There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Rose. After we read the story, the students work on their comprehension and sequencing skills by choosing there favorite part of the story to write about and illustrate.

I also follow up the story with word problems  and measuring activities to practice math skills we have learned through the year. Take a closer look HERE.

I just love these adorable bookmarks to give to each of my students for Valentine's Day. I printed and laminated them. Then I hole punched each one and tied a ribbon to the top. These are from Primarily Speaking and are part of her Love Bot Writing Prompt Packet. This packet is full of great ideas!

I love to challenge my students to review their math skills. They love these Valentine task cards! I love them because it force my students to show their work before choosing their answers. This allows me to see their thinking and help them to correct their errors when regrouping. Grab your free set HERE

This is by far my FAVORITE Valentine gift to give to kids! What kid (or adult for that matter) doesn't love emojis? Well, I know I do and so do my own children. I fell in love with this idea as soon as I saw it! I ordered plush emoji key chains at Amazon and had them shipped to me the next day (gotta love Amazon Prime). Then I printed out these adorable tags from Molly at Lucky To Be In First and had my son signed his name. Ready to make your own set? You can grab these tags for FREE by clicking HERE.

I hope you were able to grab a few ideas to use. Thanks for stopping by.