What to Do Instead of Summer Homework and My End-of-Year Readiness Guide

This is the time of year where we're not only prepping for the end of school but thinking of what we'll do the same and differently next year. It's funny how those things are intricately tied together. 

I've got a few things for you for end-of-year, summer boosts and gathering all those thoughts and ideas for next year as well. Wow! That's a lot of stuff, right?! No worries, I'll make it as simple and easy as I can.

End of the School Year Organization

As we near the end of the year, it can be difficult to keep track of all the moving parts to get things wrapped up, packed up and ready for summer. Here's my [free] End-of-Year Checklist to help you with that. 

Summer Boosts

While you probably know I'm NOT a fan of summer homework, you might not know this bit. I'm a HUGE fan of sneaky ways to get kids learning and reading without even knowing it's the dreaded "practice" they want to avoid. So here's two items to help you support parents in this quest.

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How to Plan Class Parties Even When Parent Help is Scarce

organization Feb 09, 2019

Class parties are an important and fun part of school. Why do I say important? Well, they build community, help us connect with each other, give us (hopefully) fun, shared memories and create opportunities to take a short break and celebrate. You and your students work hard. Sometimes we need a bit of a break to reenergize us and give us perspective.

With Valentine’s Day coming up, I thought I’d share a few tips for managing not only the party details, but the parents (and their) expectations that come with class parties. Let’s face it. Running your classroom is one thing, but add a roomful of parents into the mix and it’s a whole other ballgame. An organized, well-run party is not only more fun, but it’s a chance for parents to see and feel confident in your ability to manage the class. Don’t pass up this opportunity to build some good will and to shine.

Now, if you have fabulous room parent planning and running your class parties, this post is ...

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3 Simple Tricks to Make Your Teacher Life Easier

Sometimes the day to day in the classroom can get frustrating when we feel like we can’t get ahead or are repeating directions constantly. You know me, I’m all about organization and systems. So…here’s 3 tricks to make your teacher life a little bit easier.

Eliminate No Name Papers

Have highlighters (and pencils) next to you turn in bin. Train your students to highlight their name before they put their paper in the bin. this will eliminate 95% of no name papers. Sure a few will get through the cracks, but it will be the rare exception.

Help students learn to self-monitor their out of class time (bathroom trips).

Strategy: Allow student 1 free bathroom trip in the morning and one in the afternoon. In addition, students can go at recess and lunch as usual. Emergencies will happen, but there needs to be time made up for more trips unless there is a medical reason.

Tracking: Draw a line down horizontally across the middle of a sheet of paper. Write AM on the top...

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

organization scheduling Jan 10, 2019

The Scheduling Nightmare

Got a crazy 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.

Decide on Your Non-Negotiables

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 on those days, 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 and difficult to get students back into the flow. Talk about stressed out! Once we made a solid Language Arts block non-negotiable, life got a lot calmer.


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How to Go From Classroom Setup to Maintaining Order

organization Aug 15, 2018

Once the school year gets going, some years I start to feel off kilter, out of sync.

Do you ever feel like everyone else seems to have it all together and you are playing catchup all the time? Yeah. That's the feeling. It's so easy to get there after the hustle and excitement of prepping for and starting a new school year. The hard part is getting back on track. 

As you head into your school year, it's easy to get derailed by the details and lose your way.

We spend tons of time getting our classrooms ready for students. By the time the first actual week of school ends, we often feel ready for a break. I know that sounds crazy, but you know what I mean. Think about how you feel after that first week - physically and emotionally drained. Right?! As the first month goes by, we can start to feel a bit scattered and overwhelmed (honeymoon is over). While it seems so early in the year to feel that way, the truth is reality and the details of classroom life have a habit of...

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How to Plan a Successful "Meet the Teacher" Event

organization teaching Aug 01, 2018

Meet the Teacher is such an important event for our students and their families. It's so easy to get busy and miss someone or have a family monopolize our time. As teachers, we want everyone to have a good experience.

How do we make Meet the Teacher an event that makes all of our students and their families feel welcome, seen and comfortable in their new classroom?

Some of the things I have ready for families and students at Meet the Teacher are:

A Plan for Everything

  1. Greet everyone at the door with a class list [check them off as they come in]. Hand each student a Meet the Teacher flyer and printed steps to complete in the room [a scavenger hunt, checklist or a map to follow]. Have a quick greeting ready that you'll say to everyone. This lets them know you are excited they came, get them on track and move them along.

  2. Have an exit line. You have to prepare for excusing yourself quickly from long, personal conversations and monopolizers. I like: "I don't want to take any more of...

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Making Summer Guilt-Free with a Quick Plan for Back-to-School

organization scheduling May 30, 2018

My summer has begun! That's why I'm sitting here making a plan and setting goals for back-to-school prep and planning.

I can just hear you... "Planning for Back-to-School? Lisa, wait. We're just heading into June! Goals for back-to-school? I just got done with this year! What are you talking about? I'm going to soak up some rays and chill. I got it covered. No plan needed. Right?"

You Deserve a Break

YES! I'm all for a break - 100%. Actually, I insist that the teachers I work with commit to taking a long break over the summer. But at some point, prep for back-to-school has to begin. Start your summer with a quick plan for Back-to-School, so you can relax. Knowing where you are going to begin at the end of the summer will help make you less stressed and be super productive later.

You'll be the together teacher come fall if you do a plan now for what needs to get done at the end of your summer. Plus, you'll be able to relax, put school out of your mind for...

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Planning for Planning Time

organization planning Apr 25, 2018

One of the hardest things to get done within the bounds of a busy school week is lesson planning. We all know it is so essential to have well-planned lessons. But, making time for all of this can sometimes seem overwhelming. 

Do you wind up planning late on Friday or over your weekends? Been there. There is a better way!

So how do you plan for weekly lesson planning?

  • Decide. What kind of planner are you? All at once or manageable chunks?

  • Schedule it. Block out time on your calendar for planning time.

  • Break your planning up by subject.

  • Plan one subject each day or plan the whole week in one sitting.

  • Schedule time on Friday to gather supplies for the next week.

  • Guard your time. Shut your door and post a sign- Do not Disturb... planning in progress.

Are you a marathoner or a sprinter?

Think. How do I get the most done? What will I stick with? Do I get in a zone and just go get it done? Or am I a do a bit each day and on a regular basis person?  Find...

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How Multi-tasking Killed My Productivity

organization Mar 28, 2018

This week I have been so exhausted [already], and I couldn't figure out why. I went to bed last night wondering what I was doing wrong. Then, it dawned on me. I was trying to do way too many things and accomplishing very little. Do you ever do that or is it just me?

The Fractured Focus Trap [aka. multi-tasking]

When I get overwhelmed with how much I have to get done, it's usually because I have lost my focused approach. If we are honest with ourselves, multi-tasking is a myth. I once heard it called switch tasking, an appropriate name. That what I was doing the last few days, switch tasking. I hadn't taken the time to lay out all of my "to dos" and make conscious decisions about each task or project. Instead I was trying to do a bit of everything. What was I thinking?!

Getting Focused

There are lots of ways we can get focused. Here's mine. I set a timer for 5 minutes and list everything I need to do, no matter how small it is. Then, I highlight the items that are...

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8 Easy Ways to Stay on Top of Grading

organization Feb 28, 2018

Hello My Teacher Friends,

Do you feel like you work all the time?!

When I first started teaching, I worked at a school where staying late was not an option. It simply wasn't safe. So, I used to lug home a bag or grading and planning every night. Most of the time I got to all of it and then rolled not bed. I wasn't married, had no kids and so my time was my own. Fast forward a few years.. add in a husband and a couple of kids and rarely did I complete all that I dragged home. Sound familiar?

Taking care of you...

Here's the gig. Teaching is exhausting- emotionally and physically. We have to take care of ourselves too. I see teacher parents grading at their kids baseball games, posting about how late they stayed up to finish everything, etc. Our families and our health are much too important for us to continue in that vein. 

Try this instead...

  1. Get your calendar and schedule regular grading time.

  2. Add in extra grading time to your schedule as soon as you assign a project.

  3. ...

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