LIBRARY BASKET LABELS - BLACKLINE DESIGN

This has been one of my favorite products to create because it was such a collaborative effort.

I LOVED reading your sweet comments that accompanied your label requests. I ended up including all of them which resulted in a collection of over 250 labels.

{Click here to access and print the library basket labels}

Anyhow, this is a super quickie post just to let you know that, as promised, it's currently available as a FLASH freebie for a limited time. I'm planning to write a more detailed post about it tomorrow when it becomes a paid product, but right now this tired mama needs to get to bed.

We skipped the girls naps today which means they were cranky and exhausted.
Which means we are cranky and exhausted. :)

I hope you all are enjoying the weekend so far. Sweet dreams.


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STREAMLINE YOUR CLASSROOM LIBRARY {Teacher Tip #15}


I’m not talking about it being different now from the way it was my first year, but rather that it has literally changed dramatically over and over and over again.
My gosh.
Actually, when I think back to my first “library” I have to laugh. It was nothing more than a milk crate with some books the teacher I took over for left behind. I was young. It was my first job. I had just relocated from Boston to sunny Florida and could barely afford Ramen Noodles for dinner, much less books to stock a classroom library. Instead I checked out TONS of books from the public library each and every week. I have such vivid images of driving around every Saturday morning with a stack of books several feet high on the passenger seat of my 2 seater Miata convertible. 
But you know what?
My kids devoured those books. Mondays were super exciting because they knew there would be new books available and that they would need to take advantage of them quickly because they would soon be returned to and re-shelved at the Winter Park Public Library.
Over the years my library grew and grew and GREW.


It grew to thousands of titles. There were books for all levels and books for all seasons.
Which meant I had thousands of books to organize and manage.
And as much as I love me a good organizational project, it became daunting.
I spent many a summer day sorting, leveling, categorizing, labeling, etc.
Then school would start and I would need to teach my elaborate system to my new friends as part of our procedures and routines. But, I noticed that while I had a very full, well-organized library, it wasn’t being used to it’s full potential.
It’s kind of like that saying, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”
I had some friends who would spend FOR.EV.ER browsing through my library. They were spending more time “shopping” for books than reading books. 
And then I thought back to my first year of teaching and my sad little library and realized that the ironic thing was that those students were actually more excited about reading and read more books than my more recent students because they had less to choose from and new books were spotlighted often.
So while I didn’t purge my library back to a single milk crate, I did make some changes that I’ve been thrilled with.
  • I scaled back the number of books available at any one time. 
  • I broke my library up into different sections (picture books, non-fiction, chapter books, and temporary books). This made it possible for several students to look for new books without feeling crammed in too tight.
  • I use the games and activities in my Genre Kit to teach the class about genres and have them help me sort books. This provides real world practice of the skills and helps them navigate the library easier throughout the year.



  • I stopped leveling the books. The real world does not group book by reading levels so it was important to me that I create an environment that would prepare them for selecting books at the library and book stores.

  • I developed ways to showcase new books so that my students had a list of desired books they knew they wanted to read and weren’t wasting time sifting through my collection.

  • I rotate books out throughout the year. Books are constantly changed out to reflect seasonal interests and topics of study. Keeping things new and fresh makes my friends want to get their hands on the literature before it’s gone. 

I love these changes because they not only increase the students' interest in books and decreases time wasted looking through bin after bin, but also because it helps keep my classroom Clutter-Free.
I’m not saying that books are clutter...but, I think you’ll find that it is best to have books that are enjoyed by your students and not just there because they are books.
It’s a collection of Blackline Design Book Basket Labels that can be copied onto colored card stock or scrapbook paper.


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CUTE, COLORFUL, EASY, & FREE NAMEPLATES


Last week we hosted a party in honor of my son’s 7th birthday.
He picked an “art theme.” Be still my heart.
We passed out gift bag invitations that included a few things they would need for the party.  The nametags were created using paint samples. I just folded them in half and stapled on each child’s name.
This got me thinking.
Folded paint samples would make super easy and yet colorful, kid-friendly nametags for the first day of school.  



I love that they create a “tent” so you could put the name on both sides so it would be seen from either direction.
As a general rule I am not a fan of having anything on the desks that invite distraction so I wouldn’t use these all the time, but for those first few days they are perfect.
Here’s why.
I like to sit my students near a known friend on the first day. It really helps them to feel more comfortable when anxiety may be high.  
But...
I know better than to sit them together permanently. We always start school on a Wednesday. So on each of those mornings (Wed, Thurs, Fri), I play around with some seating arrangements. I try kids out next to each other and tweak the arrangement as I get to know them. By Monday I have selected their permanent seats and we hit the ground running. 
These tags will be great for that purpose and after Monday I will put them in with my emergency sub plans...because it is important to do everything you can to make a sub’s day run smoothly.
Are you looking for cute deskplates that are more permanent? I have them available in each of my classroom theme kits to match your theme as well as all of my color scheme packs and my quickly-growing-in-popularity, versatile, money-saving, ink-saving Blackline Design Classroom Decor Bundle. I have been adding so many of the components from this packet into my own classroom. I really like how the black anchors all of the bright colors in my room this year.

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LOG PARENT COMMUNICATION {Teacher Tip #14}









TODAY'S TEACHER TIP & FLASH FREEBIE...


Seven years ago this week I became a mom for the first time.
And it gave me a whole new perspective in the classroom. I think any teacher who has had children will agree. 
Build time into your daily routines to communicate with parents. If you establish a positive relationship with a child’s family by keeping them up to date on his progress and sharing examples of things that have gone well in the classroom, they will be much more receptive to a note addressing a potential issue that has arisen. Parents do not want to only hear from their child’s teacher when something is wrong.
While you can certainly write spontaneous notes home when something awesome happens, positive communication can be organized and systematic.  You just need to develop a system that works well for you.
First, decide which methods of communication are going to be best for you. If you use a daily communication folder then writing a note in there may be best. Emails are also a nice option because you’ll automatically have a copy in your sent mail. 
Plan to write 2-3 notes home per day for positive reasons. It need not be elaborate. Examples:
  • “I can tell Jane has been practicing her math facts at home. Thanks for your continued support.” 
  • “Stephen went out of his way to include a child who was sitting alone today. We’re so proud of him.” 

These are short, sweet, and to the point, but will mean the world to the people on the receiving end. It will communicate that you appreciate their child and recognize the positive choices made. 
If you don’t feel that you have time during the day, an alternative is to write your notes on adhesive mailing labels after school and then stick them into the communication folder in the morning. This method also works well because you can write notes onto the labels throughout the day as they happen or when you reflect on the day in the evening so you don’t need to jog your memory as you check the morning folders.
There are plenty of families who will reach out to you with questions or concerns, but others won’t. Take the time to call home at least once a month to “check in.” Be prepared to share a recent success and then ask if they have any questions or information that would be helpful for you to know. 
I suggest you establish a simple method for tracking your communication so that you are able to provide consistent feedback in an equitable manner. 

I have created a resource that includes 20 templates for documenting communication between school and home. This product was designed as part of my versatile, ink-saving Blackline Design Collection.  It can certainly be used on it's own, but is a great companion to these products:


For more tips and ideas on organizing and managing your classroom please check out my Clutter-Free Guide. This post is part of:
This item debuted as a Flash Freebie on 7.20.12 & was available from 11:04 a.m.-10:28 p.m. {Eastern Standard Time}
Be sure to follow my blog and store so you never miss the Freebie of the Day




Follow my Teacher Store so you don't miss
Flash Freebies or Discounted Debut Items and view my easy-to-navigate online catalog.

Check out CFC's Helpful Series for Teachers: 


ASK PARENTS TO TELL YOU ABOUT THEIR CHILD {Teacher Tip #13}

Nobody knows a child as well as the folks that live with them. They understand their likes and dislikes. They realize what motivates them. They are aware of their strengths and weaknesses. They know their quirks. They have spent the child’s entire life monitoring developmental milestones. Simply put, they are your best resource when it comes to knowing who a child really is.
It’s amazing how well you’ll get to know each child as an individual over the course of a school year. Soon you’ll be able to share insight with the families about a side of the child that they do not typically have the priviledge of seeing first hand. As the teacher, you’ll be able to speak about their learning styles, their academic strengths and weaknesses and their ability to work cooperatively with peers.
Ultimately, you want to form a team with each family working toward the common goal of best meeting each individual child’s needs. 
And you will.
But for now, it is the parent who is the expert and you will benefit from learning from them.
I find it is best to go about that in two ways.
First send home a Parent Survey. I personally think it is best to mail it to the house prior to school starting with a request for them to either mail it back to you at school or to send it in with the child on the first day. The reason for this is that once school starts they will be bombarded with tons of forms to fill out in addition to the usual hustle and bustle that comes with getting back into a “school routine.”  Having them fill it out ahead of time increased the likelihood that it will be thorough.
Next, set up brief “getting to know you” conferences. Do this ASAP. I know you are busy during those first few weeks of school, but that truly is the best time to do this. The purpose of this meeting should be to spend a few minutes face to face getting to know each other. It is NOT a conference about your observations in the classroom as it is far too early for that. Instead, it is a chance to put faces and names together and to build confidence and trust and the foundation of a team. It is perfectly natural for parents to be concerned at the start of the school year. Providing them with a few minutes of your time to hear their hopes and concerns will go a very long way in easing their minds and thus make your relationship a positive one from the get go.

I have put together a packet of “Tell Me About Your Child” forms to send home. They are part of the Blackline Design Collection, but can certainly be used on their own. Click here to download them for free as today's Flash Freebie.



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DOCUMENT PARENT TEACHER COMMUNICATION {Teacher Tip #12}



TODAY'S TEACHER TIP & FLASH FREEBIE...

It's sort of amazing how many options there are for communicating with parents these days.

You can email, text, blog, tweet, call, Skype, write notes and of course conference face to face.  While the latter is certainly the best, it is important to establish a system for organizing and documenting your interactions with each of the families with which you work.

I find the best way to do this is to designate a space for making notes summarizing your varied communications. You don't need to take notes as you are talking with them, but it is helpful to have a written record that you can reference if needed. You want to be able to cross your Ts and dot your Is.  In the event that you are called into question regarding an issue, it will be helpful to be able to say, "On November 3rd we discussed ___ during a phone conversation" or "As mentioned in my note home on December 5th, Johnny had missed 5 homework assignments which has resulted in..." 

It's also handy dandy to help manage the "to do lists" that result from your interactions with parents. If Suzy's mom calls to say she is having a hard time with the recent math homework and you say you will put together some additional activities to help her, you can use Suzy's documentation page to note your plan and then document when you fulfilled your promise.

  • Essentially you want a designated page for each students. Some teachers like to keep a folder for each student to collect work and will document in there. I prefer to keep a class set of pages together in my teacher binder
  • I put them in order using my number system. This allows me to access them easily (especially if I am making several calls after school or writing notes in daily folders during prep) while at the same time makes it possible to remove them from the binder for conferences and meetings on specific students.
  • After you have communicated with a family: record the date, note who you corresponded with and what form of communication you used, and write a quick summary of your communication.
  • If a "follow-up" is needed, make note of what you will do.
  • Once you've completed the follow-up simply date it or write about specifics if it is warranted.
  • When you complete a page for a student staple a new page to the original.
  • If there is further documentation (printed emails, hand-written notes from parents, photocopies of feedback written on student work, etc) you may want to store those behind your communication log.
  • It may be helpful to have this document on hand when you plan for your parent teacher conferences.



I have created a resource that includes over 30 templates for documenting communication between school and home. It was designed as part of my Blackline Design Collection.  You can access and download it here: {ORGANIZING PARENT TEACHER COMMUNICATION NOTES}


For more tips and ideas on organizing and managing your classroom please check out my Clutter-Free Guide. This post is part of:
This item debuted as a Flash Freebie on 7.20.12 & was available from 11:04 a.m.-10:28 p.m. {Eastern Standard Time}
Be sure to follow my blog and store so you never miss the Freebie of the Day





Follow my Teacher Store so you don't miss
Flash Freebies or Discounted Debut Items and view my easy-to-navigate online catalog.

Check out CFC's Helpful Series for Teachers: 


ORGANIZE YOUR MEETING NOTES {Teacher Tip #12}

Teachers teach.
Teachers inspire.
Teachers touch the future.

And teachers go to meetings.

Lots and lots and lots of meetings.

These meetings all have different purposes. Sometimes you listen. Sometimes you contribute. Sometimes you leave with a list of things to do. Sometimes important information is shared.

Sometimes some not so important information is shared, but you may still need to follow-up or reference those tidbits of info at a later time.

So it is important that you create a system for documenting the meetings and their outcomes.  There are a few ways to do this:


  • You may wish to use a multi-subject notebook and designate each section to a different type of meeting.
  • Some teachers get a journal and write everything sequentially into that one little book and flip back by date to find what they need.
  • Another option is to take your notes on the back of the paper agenda that is passed out, hole punch it, and keep them all in a binder.
Like all methods of organization, it really comes down to what works best for you and your style.

{Click to access and download my Organizing Meeting Notes packet}

Here's what works well for me:
  • I've created printable templates for each of the types of meetings that I need to attend each year. 
  • I made several back to back copies of each and slid those copies into plastic page protectors (with each type of meeting having one designated page protector)...this means I have one page protector labeled "faculty meeting" with 5 two-sided copies inside, I have one page protector labeled "grade-level meeting" with 8 two-sided copies inside, etc. I place these in my teacher binder.
  • During any given meeting I take out the corresponding template, write in the date and any important info (location, special presenters, etc) and use that page to take notes.
  • If there is a "call to action" that must be addressed after the meeting I make note of it in the follow-up column.
  • I keep the most recent page on top and store the others underneath in order.  The reason for doing it this way is that it keeps all related meeting notes together without adding extra pages to flip through in my teacher binder.


{Click to access and download my Organizing Meeting Notes packet}




I have created a resource that includes over 20 templates for organizing meeting notes. It was designed as part of my Blackline Design Collection.  You can access and download it here: {ORGANIZING MEETING NOTES}


What types of meetings do you need to attend at your school? 

For more tips and ideas on organizing and managing your classroom please check out my Clutter-Free Guide. This post is part of:
This item debuted as a Flash Freebie on 7.18.12 & was available from 7:34 a.m.-5:50 a.m.on 7.19 {Eastern Standard Time}
Be sure to follow my blog and store so you never miss the Freebie of the Day




Follow my Teacher Store so you don't miss
Flash Freebies or Discounted Debut Items and view my easy-to-navigate online catalog.

Check out CFC's Helpful Series for Teachers: 


MAY I HAVE YOUR ATTENTION PLEASE {Teacher Tip#11}

Last week I published my updated Teaching Procedures and Routines Packet (which btw, was the #1 selling product on all of Teachers Pay Teachers last week...consider me proud). 
It lists all of those nitty gritty things that need to be taken into account in order to be effective in the classroom. High on that list, in terms of importance, is “getting the students’ attention.” You’re going to be in charge of getting an entire room of little people to stop what they are doing and turn their focus to you so that you may share your pearls of wisdom. 
That’s not always easy.
But, if you plan ahead, you’ll have a collection of ways to magically get a room to go from noisy and chaotic to attentive.
In my classroom I always use the catchphrase, “ready to learn.”
We talk a lot about what “ready to learn means.” It means they are looking at you. It means they are listening to you. They are focused. Their hands are not fidgeting with found objects. Their bodies are still.
This needs to be defined. It needs to be modeled. It needs to be expected. Once you have established what it means to be “ready to learn,” you can add in different ways in which you will signal to the class that you need their attention and they need to be ready to learn.
The secret is to find a balance. You need to keep things fresh so that the children don’t get bored and zone out when you are clapping patterns and calling for a response in song, but at the same time you don’t want to mix it up so much that they aren’t clear on the expectation. I recommend introducing 1-2 new methods a week, keeping a few standbys and changing up the others.


To make this task easier, I suggest you have a list of attention getters at the ready. I keep mine in my teacher organizer binder, but you may prefer to hang it on the wall near the door or your group area.

And definitely be sure to place a copy in your Emergency Sub Plans - your sub will love you for it and the day will run much smoother in your absence.
I have created a resource that includes a list of attention getting ideas. It was designed as part of my Blackline Design Collection.  You can access and download it here: {Attention Getting Strategies List}

What do you do to get your class’s attention? 



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