How to Create a Schedule That Makes Sense When Your Time Looks Different Each Day

The Scheduling Nightmare

Got a crazy class schedule? You’re NOT alone! I can count on one hand the years I have had a class schedule that was the same each day of the week.

If your crazy schedule is getting you down, don’t despair. It’s really possible to have a calm, well-run classroom when your schedule is constantly changing.

A couple of years ago I was working with a teacher who was stressed out about her crazy schedule. In an effort to start each subject at the same time each day, she had managed to cut her subject blocks into multiple pieces two days a week. By the time her students got in the groove for Language Arts, they had to pick up and go to to specials. Then, they came back and finished up. It was hard for her to get solid time to teach small groups. Talk about stressed out! Once we made the Language Arts block non-negotiable, life got a lot calmer.

Here’s the system we used to calm her schedule down:

How to Get Your Classroom Management Back on Track

Do you have a few students that are on your last nerve? Are you feeling like nothing you do is working to keep your class on task? 

You’re not alone. We’ve all been there at one time or another. 

Here's the gig. It's NEVER too late to start fresh. 

When I first started teaching I had the great grace of team teaching with a master teacher. What a blessing! I was the blind leading the blind after all. Fresh from college, no kids of my own and only my year of student teaching under my belt. HELP! The best advice Jan gave me? Velvet over steel. 

Velvet over Steel

Have a backbone of steel and a velvet touch. Know your boundaries and don't compromise while always treating your students with dignity.

Here's what you need to do.

How to Use New Year's Resolutions to Teach Effective Goal Setting

As adults we set personal and professional goals all the time. Sometimes we even have goals set for us by our employers. New Year’s Resolutions are the perfect way to help your students learn how to set and accomplish their own goals.

I know what you’re thinking… most people don’t keep their New Year’s Resolutions. True. I believe a lot of that has to do with how we write our goals. First of all, are we writing down goals or wishes? A wish is a goal without a plan. That will get you straight into failure territory. In oder to accomplish our goals, we need to know how to write them.

Using Storytelling to Improve Long-term Learning

Storytelling will improve your students’ learning and retention. That’s a big claim, I know. I still stand behind it because I’ve lived it both as a teacher and a student. Think for a minute about the best lecture you ever sat through. The one you remember, the one that made an impact on you to this day. Or, think about the best teacher you ever had in high school or college. What did that teacher do differently? There are two things I believe you’re will saying to your self right now: taught with passion for their subject and incorporated stories that made their subject come alive or feel relatable.

How to Empower Students and Create a Bully Free Classroom

As we head into the end of 2018, life gets busier and kids get antsy. Mean words can sneak out as students come impatient with each other. Or perhaps you just have one of those sneaky word bullies in your class. You know the ones, the sneaky ones that like to whisper mean things to tear others down. The ones that like to say mean things in front of a whole group of kids to get a reaction and an audience. They like to turn everyone against one person.

It happens. If you think it doesn’t then you’re not paying attention. Kids are just like adults, they have bad days, bad examples of behavior for home or media, and just get frustrated. They can take their frustration and insecurities out on others very easily.

What Starfish and Our Students Have in Common

This starfish keychain hangs on the wall in my office. It reminds me why I choose to be an educator, why I work so hard for teachers and students. I know starfish and students seem quite different. But in this story, you’ll find they are similar. It’s not a new story. In fact, it’s been around for more than 30 years. I took a few liberties with the original tale, but the gist of it is the same.

10 Tips for Starting Writer's Notebooks with Your Students

Writers’ Notebooks are an essential piece in well-rounded writing programs. But, organizinging and using them appropriately is not intuitive. In fact, unless you use one yourself regularly, then it’s quite a difficult thing to teach.

I believe anyone teaching writing to students, regardless of the grade you teach, should be a writer in their own life in order to teach writing well. That’s a tall order in our busy lives, and for many teachers it may seem unrealistic. I get that. In fact, I’ve been there. But you really do write all the time. You just aren’t collecting it all into a notebook.

Here’s what to do to collect some writing to share.

Finding Balance and Helping Learning Stick

I was waiting in a line a few days ago and a young couple was ahead of me with their 7 month old daughter. I asked her age and attempted to wave and say hi to her. Her eyes were glued to a phone screen. They informed me that they always made sure their phone batteries were charged before going out because she needed to watch movies to behave. Seriously?! The only way she wouldn’t scream and cause a fuss that whole time was if they let her watch a movie. Not only that, but they had to be prepared to switch movies whenever her attention waned. Wow!

My middle school daughter was with me and said, “Mom, we didn’t have that. What did you do before mobile phones and the internet?” Am I really that old?! Apparently so.

3 Simple Brain Break Strategies You Can Use on the Fly

Everyone needs brain breaks throughout their day to be at their most efficient and productive. We know from research that brain breaks reduce stress and increase retention of learning. What’s not to like about that?!

Go Noodle Anyone?

Taking brain breaks works with our students and for us as well. What did we ever do before GoNoodle?! But GoNoodle takes time, something that we don’t always a lot of.

There are those days we only have a minute or two for a much needed brain break in the midst of a busy day. Sound familiar? Then there are days we simply don’t have an extra second, much less minutes. Here’s how squeeze those brain breaks in on the fly.

How to Get Your Students to Transfer Word Work to Writing

“My students spend all this time on word work and they still spell everything wrong in their writing! They aren’t transferring their phonemic awareness training and spelling words to their real work.”

Sometimes it seems like we do all this phonemic awareness and word work prep to get it to be memorable for our students, and they STILL struggle with transferring the skills and knowledge. This is not a new dilemma. Teachers have struggled with this issue forever.

As long as we teach spelling and phonics only in isolation, transfer of these skills will continue to be an issue. There are teachers that effectively teach all of their spelling and phonics inside of their writing lessons and conferring. It takes great planning, practice and skill to do so. I would call it the gold standard as it’s the most efficient and effective way to teach these things. But, it’s not the only way.

How to Teach Questioning in Primary Grades

Asking good questions and citing evidence is essential in helping students think deeply about their reading.

Students learn to ask better questions by example. If we want our students to ask good questions of themselves and think deeper about their reading, we have to model that in our lessons. One of the things I teach students of all ages, even Kindergarteners, is to answer with their evidence ready.

Here’s an example of a conversation with primary students about Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse. The conversation is happening just after reading the part where Lilly is heading out of the classroom after slipping her picture of Mr. Slinger into his bag. My goal here is that students learn to observe, think critically and cite evidence while enjoying a fun text.

How to Make Your Parent Conferences a Success [Free Guide]

It’s fall and that means that parent conferences are just around the corner. Wouldn’t it be fabulous if you could go into each student’s parent conference feeling prepared and confident?

I know how hard you work and how much you care about each of your students. Take the time to prepare a bit for parent conferences so your families will have no doubt about your hard work and caring heart as well.

So what do we need to do to have successful conferences? Prepare an overall plan, prep student details, rehearse and understand parents' expectations. Think of conferences as an opportunity to build relationships, share information and create a plan for moving forward.

Read more and get the free conference guide.

How to Get Your Principal to [Truly] Understand Your Schedule

Do you ever feel like your admin, parents or even your own family don’t fully understand how hard you work as a teacher?

Does it seem like everyone thinks you should help them out or volunteer because you get off work at 3:00? You know the drill… “You’re just a teacher. Working until 3:00 and then going home so early must be nice. You get every holiday and summers off. How hard can it be?!”

It’s insulting. I get it. But instead of getting hopped up over a few thoughtless words or general ignorance, try this.

Why I Don't Do Reading Logs and What I Do Instead


Quite a long time ago, I quit sending home reading logs and asking parents/students to time their reading. I've never regretted that decision. Reading at home is expected but runs on an honor system. I don't need parents or students stressing over reading time or hating reading because of having to keep track. Reading should be a joy, not a chore.

3 Tips for Memorable Word Work

I know we all do word work with our students in elementary grades. Whether that looks like spelling words, phonemic awareness or something else may differ from classroom to classroom. I also know not a single teacher out there that plans activities not caring if students remember the learning long-term. So how do we increase the odds of our students remembering? 

Tried and True Picture Books for Teaching

How do you choose the books you teach with and what deserves shelf space in your teaching library?

There are so many wonderful picture books coming out every year. It can be a bit overwhelming. However, we need to remember there are older books that are just as wonderful. Perhaps it's time to walk away from the next shiny thing for a minute and inventory/repurpose what we currently have.