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Classroom Library Organization Ideas

This post explains how a veteran teacher finally figured our how to organize her classroom in a way that made it easy for her students to use and manage.

The classroom library plays an important role. This page will explain how to organize a classroom library. As a veteran teacher, I have experimented with setting up and organizing my books in many ways before finding the best way to organize them. Read on to see how I set up my classroom library in a way that truly works!

First Day of School Plans, Activities, Printables and Icebreakers

Do you need to make first day of school plans? This detailed post explains how an experienced teacher started each year in her classroom. It includes activities, management tips, icebreakers and printables.

The first day of school is such fun. There is so much excitement and energy. 

It is also one of the most challenging days of the school year for a teacher because there are no procedures and routines in place and your new students are not yet familiar with your expectations.  Unexpected things can and will pop up. 

There may be a new student added to your roster 10 minutes into the school day. You could have a crier...or an "need-to-pry-the-kid-off-mom's-leg" situation.  Also, you do not yet know the students and their ability levels. What seems like a simple and appropriate task could be challenging for some friends and the goal for day one is to send everyone home happy and excited to come back for day two.

Therefore, it is very important to avoid academic tasks that could be challenging on the first day. Instead focus on starting to build a community and establishing norms and routines. 


Do you need to make first day of school plans? This detailed post explains how an experienced teacher started each year in her classroom. It includes activities, management tips, icebreakers and printables.
The key is to have lots of activities that can be completed by ALL students.

I have always greeted the students on the first day with Play Dough on their desk waiting for them. It is a great stress-free activity. After they get settled I would ask them to make things that represented their favorite food or sport.

Throughout the morning I would slowly introduce important things that help the classroom run smoothly. I think it is important to first establish an “attention getter” so you can get the children to look and listen to you. Start of with a simple and effective one such as shutting off the lights and then add in others. The one I found most effective was to quietly say, "if you can hear me clap once" followed by "if you can hear me clap twice." As students responded others would join in. 

I also introduce our hand signal system early on day one. They are hands-down (pun intended) the very best classroom management strategy you can use. Having a nonverbal system for communication enables you to get through lessons, work in small groups and conference with students. They also keeps children more focused because they eliminate distraction.

Throughout the day I would gather the students to the group area for several read alouds. They included First Day Jitters and How I Spent My Summer Vacation. As a third grade teacher I always read Judy Moody was in a Mood Not a Good Mood, But a Bad Mood as our first chapter book. The story starts out on Judy’s first day of third grade so there were great connections. I followed up each chapter with an activity based on the book.



It is important to plan short and simple activities on the first day. I had a variety of different printable pages and activities available and would select which ones to use based on how the day was going and how much time needed to be filled. These were a good way to start building community and learning about students as individuals.  As the students worked on these I would take first day of school photos. The parents LOVED them. I printed two copies of those photos. One went on a bulletin board and the other was glued onto a card and sent home to the families with a hand-written note at the end of the first week. This is a nice way to start to build a positive relationship with each family.

Knowing there would be lots of odd minutes throughout the first week of school and times when I would need to meet with individual and small groups, I prepared a booklet for each student titled “I’m a Third Grader.” The booklet was perfect because it included some great get to know you activities and areas for coloring. The children could work on these independently throughout the first day and the booklet was a great time filler during the entire first week when I would need to conference with students for running records or just when we had a few minutes to fill since our schedule was not yet automated. (By request these are now available for Kindergarten, First Grade, Second Grade, Third Grade, Fourth Grade and Fifth Grade).

Do you need to make first day of school plans? This detailed post explains how an experienced teacher started each year in her classroom. It includes activities, management tips, icebreakers and printables.

The other reason I loved these books was because they paired perfectly with our End of the Year Memory Books. I would save both and put them into a folder as a keepsake for each student.


During the time that would become our Math Workshop with Guided Math Instruction Block on the regular daily schedule, the students would explore some of the math manipulatives. This was one of my favorite times of the day because it set the foundation for our math workshop (the students were in groups and moved through a rotation - you can read about how to start and manage Math Workshop and get the printables here). It was a time when the students could reconnect with old friends and make new ones in a casual setting. It gave me a chance to circulate and chat with the students and make notes on how they interacted with each other. This information allowed me to create seating plans, form a “line order” for walking down the hall, and put together initial guided math groups.

I highly encourage you to use a math workshop with a guided math approach in your classroom. Everything you need to get it up and running, introduce it to the students, plan, take progress notes, organize, manage and maintain math workshop can be found in the Clutter-Free Classroom Guide to Math Workshop with Guided Math Made Easy resource.

At some point during the day I would introduce their writer’s notebooks. I explained that they would be using them each day, but for now we were just going to start gathering ideas. I passed out my Writer’s Idea Collection Bank. It’s a series of grids with topics such as toys, restaurants, foods, friends, etc. I would let a student pick any one of the topics. I would then play about a minute of a popular song. While it played the students would fill in that category with all the things they could think of. When the music stopped they stopped. I asked the students to share some things they listed and other children could add them to their banks. We repeated this throughout the first week of school and kept them in their writer’s notebooks. Between this list and our fun monthly writing prompt task cards they ALWAYS had something to inspire their craft and I never once heard, “I don’t know what to write about.”


When the students went home they took their first assignment with them. It was an “All About Me Bag.” They decorated the outside and put something of meaning to them inside. We shared these in class on the first Friday to get to know each other better. It was so fun to see kids connect and friendships form when students realized through the sharing they had things in common with their classmates. The parents were given homework too…a parent survey. At the end of the day I was exhausted, but felt like we accomplished a lot, the year was off to a great start and I couldn’t wait for days 2 through 180.

If you don't want to spend the last precious days of your summer vacation making resources but still want to be ready for the first day of school I encourage you to grab my collection of printables to save time and get the year off to a great start. I have bundled them all together into one easy download for you, but each is also available individually.
Do you need to make first day of school plans? This detailed post explains how an experienced teacher started each year in her classroom. It includes activities, management tips, icebreakers and printables.


Do you need to make first day of school plans? This detailed post explains how an experienced teacher started each year in her classroom. It includes activities, management tips, icebreakers and printables.

Do you need to make first day of school plans? This detailed post explains how an experienced teacher started each year in her classroom. It includes activities, management tips, icebreakers and printables.


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By the way, if you are not already subscribed to The Clutter-Free Classroom newsletter I encourage you sign up. Subscribers receive weekly tips for organizing and managing a classroom as well as exclusive free printables. You can sign up here.


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Teacher Meal Prep Made Easy - Fast, Quick, and Healthy Food Ideas for Busy Teachers

Teacher meal prep does NOT need to be a challenge. Here are some great ideas to make meal prepping easy, help you save some money, and eat a bit healthier in the process. You'll be less stressed and you can maintain a healthy weight. Teachers at all grade levels will love the tips and ideas shared here!

Juicy watermelon, hot dogs on the grill, fresh bbq corn on the cob, oh how sweet summer meals can be! If you’re like me, you eat some amazing and delicious meals during the summer because you finally have the time to enjoy it! We can be more aware of what we’re eating because we have time to plan out meals, go to the grocery store whenever we want, and have the energy to cook a meal that requires more than just a microwave.

When the back-to-school season starts, I dread thinking about how on earth I’ll be able to come home from work and cook for my family every night on top of running to the grocery store because I forgot some main ingredient in the dinner that I planned. I either deal with that stress, or I just give in and we have take-out (which turns into extra money spent, extra calories, and extra pounds that I don’t want or need).


One solution to this is meal prep! There are many ways to meal prep for your work week including creating a menu, freezer meals, or portioning out larger meals across many days. Pinterest is a great resource for finding ideas on how to meal prep so it fits your lifestyle, but since you’re here, let me share with you a few tips that will help you plan food ahead of time to make your school year less stressful:  


  • Many people spend one entire day a month preparing meals to freeze. This is beneficial because you only need to make one big grocery trip (that alone will save you time and money) and spend one day prepping foods, cooking, and washing dishes. This plan works best if you have large freezer space to fill.
  • Some find it nice to team up with friends and each take responsibility for a few meals. Coordinate who will make what so you have variety. Each person prepares enough freezer meals for everyone in the group. For example, you may be responsible for preparing six lasagnas to distribute to five friends, but in return you get five different meals to put in your freezer. For added fun, you can plan a potluck where everyone brings a cooked version of their meal to sample as well as the frozen version for friends to take home. This would be great to do with a group of teachers from your school. Not only do you get to socialize, but you get to eat a delicious meal and take one home for later!
  • What I find works very well for me is to make a triple batch of a dinner. We eat one for dinner and freeze two for future nights. This works fantastic because over time I build up a nice collection in the freezer. The inventory rotates frequently and we have meals available for most weeknights. Pull out and heat in the oven while you rest your feet from a tiring day.
  • As a family, create a menu of what you’ll eat for dinner each night (do this a week ahead of time). List out how much of each ingredient you’ll need and head to the grocery store. When you get home, have the menu posted and organize your groceries by meal so it’s easy to grab and cook. If you have a plan for what you’re going to make, it will take away some of the stress as you drive home thinking about what your family will want for dinner.
  • Packing your lunch in the morning before work can be stressful as you’re trying to get out the door, so lunches can be a part of your meal prep too! On Sunday, use tupperware containers to pack your five lunches for the week. Include the healthy items that you know and love, so you’re less likely to grab sugary cookies midweek because you “just need it”. Healthy lunches, no extra stress in the morning, no wondering what you’ll be eating the next day.
The trick to meal prep is to be organized and prepared. You do all the work ahead of time, so during the workweek, you don’t have to think about food and can focus your energy on other important areas of your life. We all have other things we need to worry about, so don’t allow the stress of meals to be one of those!
Teacher meal prep does NOT need to be a challenge. Here are some great ideas to make meal prepping easy, help you save some money, and eat a bit healthier in the process. You'll be less stressed and you can maintain a healthy weight. Teachers at all grade levels will love the tips and ideas shared here!


Grocery Shopping on a Budget for Teachers While Saving Time Too

Teachers, The tips will save you a lot of time at the grocery store. They will make it easy for you to grocery shop on a budget. Best of all they will put an end to the habit of getting dinner at a drive-thru after staying too late at school. Click through for ideas!
If you are a teacher, you are a busy person. All too often, a late day in the classroom results in takeout on the way home. Not only does this make it hard to stay healthy, but it also ends up costing you a lot of money. I’ve compiled my tried and true strategies for grocery shopping on a budget by making the process of getting groceries so much easier!


In addition to not needing to schedule pee breaks at specific times, one of the nicest benefits to summer vacation is having the luxury of grocery shopping when it is less crowded. Hello Grocery Store at 9am on a weekday with no lines! This blog post will provide you with tips for saving time at the grocery store that will not only save you time, but also make it easy to stick to grocery shopping on a budget.


Here are a few tips for saving time and money when grocery shopping as a teacher:


  • Make a Checklist: Make a list of foods you buy regularly. Keep it handy and check off items as you run out. It’s always smart to have a pen and paper close to the refrigerator to keep an ongoing list of things you have run out of. I know that if I tell myself “I need to pick up salsa at the grocery store” and I don’t write it down immediately, I will not remember to pick it up the next time I go to the store.
  • Map Out Your Grocery Store: I did this about five years ago and it has been an invaluable time saver for me. I grabbed a notebook and went to the store we always shop at. I started at the beginning of the store and made a list of what items were found in which aisle. I obviously didn’t write down each and every item, but I did make sure to include any category I may (at some point) purchase. When I got home, I typed up the list in a word document and printed a bunch of copies. I use this as my grocery list by simply highlighting the items that we need to buy. This prevents me from needing to go back and forth for items on the list that I forgot to grab. This is beneficial if your grocery store keeps things consistent, but always try to update your map at least once every few months.
  • Organize the list and divvy it up: I took it a step further and reformatted the list so that the first half of the store is on the top of the page and the second half of the store is on the bottom of the page. This is helpful when my husband and I go to the store together. We grab two carts, rip the list in half, start on opposite sides of the store and meet in the middle. Making your grocery list organized by where you’ll find it in the store will save you precious time and prevent you from having to suffer from “road rage” when you’re trying to read the signs on the aisle, but someone has stopped randomly in the walkway.
  • Stock Up: Making a menu and knowing which items you use often or need for specific recipes will allow you to buy nonperishable products in larger amounts. I noticed we were buying some items (oatmeal, cereals, pasta, etc.) often. This meant that I was adding it to my list weekly, finding it in the store, checking out with it, and making room in the pantry for it regularly. By buying enough for the month once, I didn’t need to think about it weekly. This tip will also help you with your meal prep!

  • Use a Grocery Delivery Service: Some stores offer services that allow you to order and pay online and either have the groceries delivered to your door or brought out to your car. Some services are free and others have a small fee. Do the math because while it may seem like an unnecessary luxury, the cost is probably far less than what you will spend on impulse buys when in the store. This option is also helpful in keeping you on track with healthy eating. A side note with this one though, I would recommend picking out your own fresh produce to ensure you get the freshest and most appetizing looking produce you want. You can’t assume that the employee picking out your groceries cares that you like firm peaches because they’re just going to grab what’s quick and easy. If you’re interested in trying this out, but don’t want to pay for a delivery service like Amazon Fresh or from a regular grocery store, look into the free grocery pick up offered by Walmart. I tried it myself and found it to be very quick and easy. I opted to get meats and produce elsewhere, but it was perfect for getting the boxed items, cleaning products, and canned goods I needed without the hassle of fighting the crowds that come with a typical Walmart trip.
Teachers, The tips will save you a lot of time at the grocery store. They will make it easy for you to grocery shop on a budget. Best of all they will put an end to the habit of getting dinner at a drive-thru after staying too late at school. Click through for ideas!


By the way, if you are not already subscribed to The Clutter-Free Classroom newsletter I encourage you sign up. Subscribers receive weekly tips for organizing and managing a classroom as well as exclusive free printables. You can sign up here.


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