Wednesday, August 16, 2023

7 Tips to Save Teachers Time in the Classroom

Aloha, my teacher bestie! 🍎

Let's dive right into the topic of something we all wish we had more of : TIME! If only we could trade every minute lost to classroom chaos, the relentless stream of announcements, surprise assemblies, phone calls galore, mandatory faculty meetings, and the ever-mounting admin tasks for a beachside retreat with a fancy coffee (or perhaps a tropical cocktail, depending on your mood).

I totally get it – time is like a magician's disappearing act for teachers. Your to-do list? It’s a never-ending saga that rivals even the longest-running soap opera. But guess what? I'm here to champion the cause of drawing those oh-so-vital boundaries, reclaiming your hours, and letting you head home at a decent time. You deserve those cozy evenings and quality family moments.

Now, hold onto your educator hats because I've got 7 swift and splendid tricks up my sleeve to rescue your time and make your classroom life a whole lot smoother. Ready? Let’s dive in!

1. Focus the First 2 Weeks of School on Classroom Expectations

Explicitly teaching your students exactly what every single procedure should look and sound like in your classroom will make a huge impact on the rest of your school year. Yes- this can be a daunting task that'll take lots of practicing, stopping, and debriefing but trust me, it'll be worth it!

Spending time in the beginning of the year will save you time throughout the year. You will teach and model your students to do thing so that your classroom will run smoothly and efficiently on a daily basis. There will be less chaos, less time needed for transitions and reminders and the teaching will be able to happen since students will know what you expect of them.

Not sure where to begin? Here's a list of ALL the things I made prcoedures for in my own classroom. You can grab the Google Doc here. I'd type it out and use it as a check sheet for teaching students, marking if they've got it down and then also placed a copy in my Substitute Binder.

2. Eliminate or Simplify Homework

Really think through and prioritize what is important when assigning homework. Are students completing the assignments on their own or are parents guiding them through? Are you truly getting a "snapshot" of if the student got it during your lesson? What about the students who don't complete their homework?

What I found over the years were this. The students who needed the most practice were the ones not completing their homework. They were the ones that didn't have the support at home. Plus- when I was assigning homework - it made so much more work for me. I had to sort, grade, file and/or return the papers. Let's not even talk about keeping up with which students were missing what assignment. It just became too much.

Once I simplified what I did for homework - my life was so much easier. You can read more about my weekly homework routine here. I could go on and on about homework but truly, kids work hard all day during school. I think it's important to allow them to go home to be a kid and spend time with family.

3. Use Student Groupings to Simplify Your Life

Divide your students up into 5 different groups. This needs to be posted and known to students which group they are in. You can use these groups for book shopping, 1-1 assessments, grading journals or papers, writing report card comments, etc.

I used these groups to allow students to book shop, that way you only have a few students shopping in your Class Library each day. They'll hold on to those books until the following week.

Reading and writing in student journals can be a time consuming task if you do this daily - especially if you have a large class! Only doing this for 4-6 students a day doesn't take too much time and it'll help you to stay on top of things!

I also use this system for report card comments! It has helped me to always get my comments done early and quickly. I just do a few each day and I'm done in a week's time. Since it's not as daunting - I'm able to stay focused on the task easily knowing I'll be done soon.

4. Use Self Grading Assignments/Assessments

With many publishing companies - they now have online assessments that students can take for their weekly reading and/or math test. By doing this- it'll help to save YOU time on grading. You could also use digital task cards and/or Goole Form quick checks as exit passes for students to complete for you to check for understanding.

Creating your assessments and assignments will take time on the front end, but if you're lucky enough to stay in the same grade, it can save you time year after year. I have a bunch of Math Quick Checks available for 3rd grade that you can find here.

In my class - I did a lot of work in class on white boards and I'd monitor how students solved and ask questions along the way. Then - I'd use some type of exit pass so I could quickly check for understanding. Read more about that here.

5. Make use of Parent Helpers!

Parents are always willing and wanting to help their child's teacher out. There are so many tasks that parents can do to help you get ahead with your to do list. Some of those tasks are:

  • cutting paper towels
  • making xerox copies
  • laminating and cutting (or just laminating if you're OCD about cutting) lol
  • prepping centers
  • labeling class library books
  • reading with kids
  • helping with holiday activities
  • picking up supplies and food for class parties!

6. Empower Your Students with Class Jobs

Not only can class jobs empower students to take initiative and have responsibilities but it can also really help to cut down small tasks for you. Here are some class jobs that can save you time from "busy work"

  • Mail Delivery - this student will be the one to return student work. I had mail boxes so students simply needed to file papers back into each mail box. I had a bin where I'd place papers to be returned. At any time throughout the day when the Mail Deliverer had extra time (sometimes they'd even come in a few minutes early in the morning) they'd pass papers out. If they didn't finish - they'd place it back into the bin.
  • Pencil Sharpener - I've done community pencils AND individual pencils and this job worked for both. Students were never allowed to sharpen pencils during the day (because we all know they'd constantly be needing to sharpen if that was allowed). Instead - I had a pencil sharpener that would sharpen all the pencils.
  • Librarian - I had a simple system where each book was labeled so students knew exactly which bin books would need to be returned to. At the end of the day, the librarian would just do a quick scan of the library to make sure all books were placed back neatly into bins and if any books were NOT in their bin, they'd return it to the correct place. 
  • Teacher's Assistant - I utilized turn in bins called the "Assignment Drop Box". Students placed their work into their folder and would move their clip to the right to signal they've turn in the assignment. My teacher's assistant would go and collect each assignment (check that it's actually there) and move the clip back to starting point. They would then paper clip the assignments (along with the check sheet). The assistant would make a checkmark next to every child that turned in the assignment and would highlight the name of the ones that had missing assignments. This way I could easily follow up. 

7. Find a Grading System that Works for You

First and foremost - keep up with your grading. The longer you let it go - the harder it will be to catch up. I used to like grading multi-page assessments page by page. I felt it went quicker. I'd grade the whole class page 1 and make a note at the bottom corner how many were correct out of the total number of points for that page. I'd continue this way through all the pages.

Teacher bestie, you're not just a timekeeper; you're a time liberator! It's so important to make every moment in your classroom count so that you can spend more time taking care of yourself and your loved ones at home. Let’s embark on a journey to save time, embrace balance, and rock your teacher-life like the superstar you are. 🌟📘

Want to save this post for later? Just click the image below and save to Pinterest!!

With Aloha,

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Setting the Foundation for Success with Beginning of Year Math Assessments

As educators, we know that a strong foundation is the key to success in any subject. When it comes to math, building upon the essential concepts from the previous grade level is crucial for students to thrive in their current grade level standards. That's why I'm so excited to present to you these Beginning of Year Math Assessments for Grades 2, 3, and 4.

These assessments not only provide teachers with an immediate baseline of their students' abilities but also serve as a valuable tool to reinforce essential skills while establishing rules, routines.

In this blog post, we will explore the benefits of using these assessments and shed light on the importance of focusing on foundational concepts and classroom dynamics at the start of the year.

Baseline Assessment:

Understanding where your students stand at the beginning of the year is vital for effective planning and instruction. These Beginning of Year Math Assessments serve as a comprehensive tool to evaluate your students' grasp of the previous grade level's Common Core Math Standards. By identifying areas of strength and weakness, you gain valuable insights into your students' needs, allowing you to tailor your teaching strategies accordingly.

Strengthening Foundational Concepts:

These Beginning of Year Assessments for Grades 2, 3, and 4 specifically target the essential skills and knowledge from the previous grade level. By revisiting and reinforcing the concepts that students struggle with, you can solidify your students' foundation in mathematics and make learning current grade level standards go quickly and smoothly. In my classroom, I like to use the first few weeks to review previous grade level content I know students need extra support with, build strong number sense, and strengthen classroom procedures and routines.

After administering the assessment, you're provided with Small Group Planning sheets that specifically target what extra support your students need based off the questions answered incorrectly. This is a great way to begin small group instruction in your classroom and building those routines and expectations.

Establishing Rules, Routines, and Procedures:

The beginning of the school year is an opportune time to establish a positive classroom environment and set clear expectations for your students. Focusing on rules, routines, and procedures lays the groundwork for a productive learning atmosphere for the rest of the year. Our Beginning of Year Math Assessments can be seamlessly integrated into your classroom routines, allowing you to incorporate essential review activities while emphasizing the importance of structure and discipline. By dedicating time to these foundational elements, you create a solid framework that will support your students' progress throughout the year.

Want to read more about routines and procedures? Check out this blog post.

Parent Collaboration:

Effective communication with parents is vital for student success. With our Beginning of Year Math Assessments, you can engage in proactive discussions with parents, providing insights into their child's strengths and areas that may require additional support. By sharing assessment results and highlighting specific skill areas, you enable parents to be active partners in their child's education. This collaborative approach fosters a strong home-school connection, setting the stage for continued support and growth throughout the academic year.

These Beginning of Year Math Assessments offer teachers a valuable resource to assess student abilities, reinforce foundational concepts, and establish a positive classroom environment. By utilizing these assessments, you can gain valuable insights into your students' needs, develop targeted instruction plans, and collaborate effectively with parents. Remember, a strong foundation sets the stage for success in mathematics and beyond. Start the year right with our comprehensive assessments and unlock your students' full potential.

If you'd like to start your school year off on the right foot, you can purchase your Beginning of Year Assessments here OR save this post to come back later.


Saturday, November 12, 2022

Teaching Multiplication to 3rd Graders

If you're here reading this post - it's probably because you are a 3rd-grade teacher. #bestgradeever

Although I love the grade level, I must admit that 3rd-grade teachers are bridging the academic gap from the lower grades to the upper grades. You have SO MUCH new content to teach your kiddos through the course of the year and it can be A LOT.

Over the years, I've really taken a look at my own teaching to learn how to make math, make sense for my students. I found that "following the book" aka our school curriculum didn't work for me and my students. I found myself getting confused at times and most of all, my students weren't getting it how they were supposed to. 

I took a deep dive into the standards and am here to share some tips and tricks that I've learned along the way to help my kiddos learn these math standards. If you're interested, you can sign up for my email list geared specifically to helping 3rd-grade teachers. 

So today- let's chat about Introducing Multiplication

The way in which you go about introducing multiplication and getting your students thinking about it is critical for their later understanding and application of the concept. 

Make it Concrete

When you first introduce multiplication, you want to be sure to emphasize that multiplication is all about equal groups.
Before even jumping into the concept, talk to your students about things that most always come in groups. A fun way to do this is to allow them to brainstorm these items on chart paper and organize them by the number in each group. For example, eggs usually come in a dozen, juice or soda usually come in 6 packs, etc.
Once they understand that objects come in a group, you’ll want to ask them how they would figure out the total number of juices if someone had bought 4 juice packs from the store. 
For this, I like to give my students unifix cubes and allow them to actually represent the scenario. This is powerful because students can SEE the representation in a concrete way. 

To find out the total number of juice, students will most likely figure this out by using repeated addition or skip counting.
This is where you will make the connection that multiplication is all about equal groups of items. You cannot multiply if you do not have equal groups (groups with the same amount of objects in each group). 

The reason it’s important to emphasize this is for when it comes to word problems. If you teach your students to draw out the information they know in word problems- they can easily identify when it’s multiplication and you won’t need to rely on keywords.

 Share the PURPOSE

Being a good mathematician is all about being efficient. Ask your students how they might solve a problem if you bought 85 packs of juice. Would it be smart to use repeated addition? Obviously not- which is why we have multiplication! 

Practicing Multiplication

When your students see expressions such as 4 x 3, you want to train them to read it and think of it as 4 groups of 3. 
Training your students to read expressions in this way gives meaning behind the abstract representations. They can easily visualize how to represent this expression. 
When working on this standard, I like to throw out expressions and have my students represent it in a variety of ways: equal groups, repeated addition, an equation, array, and bar model drawing. 

This gets students to really visualize and understand the meaning behind each expression. 

You can find this organizer here 
As I'm introducing 3.OA.1, I train my kiddos to see/visualize and represent multiplication in all these ways. Having them think of the expressions as 'groups of', helps them to understand the meaning of each expression. 

I found that focusing on building understanding of what multiplication truly is, having students practice representing multiplication, and teaching them strategies to learn their multiplication facts all lead to students being able to solve word problems with ease. 

If you're interested, all of the worksheets I use to teach multiplication can be found here. 
As you begin to wind down teaching 3.OA.1, don't forget to grab these Quick Checks to use as formative assessments. They can be used as quick exit passes to assess student learning and guide instruction for the following day!
There are half-sheet quick checks along with self-grading Google Forms! 
Until next time,

Monday, September 26, 2022

5 Ways to Get Your Students Reading to Boost Achievement!

Are your students reading 15 minutes a day? If not they should be! Research shows that 

reading for 15 minutes a day makes all the difference between a successful student and a struggling student. But why 15 minutes?


Importance of Reading

A study comparing the engaged reading time and reading scores of more than 2.2 million students found that students who were reading 15 minutes a day or more got a higher reading score than the national average. Growth in a student's reading skills only happens when that student reads for at least 15 minutes a day. 

In this same study it was found that students who read less than 5 minutes a day saw the lowest level of growth in their reading scores. Their scores were also well below the national reading average. Students who read between 5 and 14 minutes per day did a little better, but their scores were also below the national average. “15 minutes seems to be the ‘magic number’ at which students start seeing substantial positive gains in reading achievement.” Renaissance


Reading Linked to Student Success in School 

According to a study of the Programme of International Student Assessment (PISA) scores of over 174,000 students around the world, there is a connection between a student’s reading practice and performance. Talentnook

So what is the difference between a student who reads for less than 15 minutes a day and a student who reads for more than 30 minutes a day? It can’t be that big of a difference, right? Wrong. There is actually a huge difference. The difference is 12 million.

By the time a student graduates high school, a student reading for 30 minutes or more a day will encounter 13.7 million words. And the number of words their classmates who aren’t reading 15 minutes a day will encounter? 1.5 million words. It is so important that our students are reading 15 minutes per day because it will greatly impact their success and achievement in school. 


1. Encourage Reading in Your Classroom, in any way or form.  

It is so important that we encourage our students to read. Some of the ways we can do this is to invite them to reread, or read it again and again. Rereading builds speed and accuracy and helps students gain confidence in their reading skills.

For our youngest readers, teaching them that reading the pictures is also a form of reading. This will help them to feel capable of reading and begin a love for reading at an early age.

2. Teach Students to Find Just Right Books

Teaching students to find books that are a good fit is also extremely important. If students are reading books that are too difficult for them and/or not of interest, that is surely a way to discourage them from wanting to read more. By teaching them how to properly shop for books, we can help to build that love of reading.

When teaching students to book shop, have them open up a book and read through a few paragraphs. Can they read and understand most of the words? Is it too easy? Does what they are reading interest them? Is the type of book interesting to them?

If so- this is a good fit. If not, they can return it and find a new one. I also like to let students know that it's totally okay to start a book and decide that you don't like it.

 3. Organize Your Class Library to Make Book Shopping Easy

 Let's be honest- finding books in a library are rather difficult if you are just browsing and don't have a specific author or title in mind. I believe it's important to organize your own classroom library so that it's easy for students to find books they love reading. We don't wan't students to get discouraged from reading because it's too difficult to find a book!

Book bins are a great way to keep books organized and the best thing about it is that students can pull a bin out and easily look through to find a book they like. Students often check out books by looking at their covers. They are much more likely to pull out a book if they can see the cover versus just the spine.

The other great thing I love about the bins is that you can choose different ways to organize your books to make book shopping easier for students. In my own classroom library, I had my books sorted out by popular chapter series, favorite authors, and genre. This way, students could stick to the books they love, discover new books by their favorite author or even explore new books in their favorite genres. You can grab my library book bin labels here.



4. Host a Book Drive 

Another great way to make books accessible to students is to host a book drive at your school!

If you have never heard of a book drive, it is where students bring in gently used books and swap them out for a new one. The great thing about a book drive is that it provides new books to students and also makes reading more accessible to those who may not have books at home. It also helps to encourage reading at home. I held one at my school a few years ago and it was a total hit!


To ensure book swap inventory stayed up, I required children to swap for the same type of book they brought in (chapter book for chapter book and picture book for picture book). To keep track, when kids came to give their books, they would get a colored ticket (indicating picture or chapter book). They could then choose however many books for the number of tickets they had. 

If you have any questions for me about hosting your own book swap, feel free to DM me over on Instagram @teachinginparadise

5. Make Time for Read Alouds, Daily

I know that as teachers, you are always strapped for time. However, research shows how important it is for students to be reading daily. By Incorporating read alouds into your school day you are modeling fluent reading for students, introducing them to new books and authors, and most importantly, helping them to find the joy in reading!

I love to use Read Alouds to introduce new concepts that we are learning about. It's a great way to throw in a fun picture book. 

In addition, during the month of December, we read 1 Christmas/Winter story a day. The kids are so excited and look forward to these daily holiday read alouds. You'd be surprised how many students are not read to at home on a daily basis. 

So, no matter how old your students are, they all love to be read to! I've seen 6th graders in our school library so excited to sit on the ground for our librarian to read to them!

If you're a 3rd grade teacher, get my list of favorite Gr.3 Read Alouds here.

As educators, we want to do all we can to ensure that our students are successful in school and later on in life. One of the best ways we can do this is to make books accessible and ensure that they are reading the magic number of 15 minutes a day.


Until next time.