Saturday, July 30, 2016

Setting up your Secondary Classroom

Be sure to visit my store for the back to school sale on 8/20! All of my doodle notes (even already reduced ones) are on sale for 25% off!  The code is BTSBONUS19

Name Tags

Yes, you need them and no they aren't "so elementary school." I have around 130 kids to get to know so  I create bookmarks that double as name tags. Kids use them to mark the page they are on in their science journal and them prop them up on their desk during class so that I can see their name during the first weeks of school.   Click my post here for more details. 

Objective Board

I'm a firm believer that my students benefit from seeing the learning goal displayed Every. Single. Day.  This is backed by some solid research, so it's worth taking the time and making a dedicated space in your classroom.  When students know what the goal of class is, they are more likely to focus on achieving the it.

I post the homework right in the same area.  Kids then have one place to look for information when they walk in the room!  There are many creative ways to do this, but I ordered these large magnets online at Vista Print (using a Groupon) a few years ago and I LOVE how well they have held up!

Exit Ticket Board

Post-it exit tickets require zero prep and can provide you with meaningful information.  In my class, each student gets a number and then sticks their post-it on the numbered square as they leave the room.  (I picked a huge blackboard in my classroom that was otherwise wasted space.) and drew the squares using chalk markers.

A System for Returning and Collecting Papers

There are lots of ways to do this, but I like to keep this process as easy to maintain as possible.  I keep a laminated folder for each class of papers that need to be returned.  I assign a few students in each class to be in charge of checking the folder daily and returning any items inside.  If students are absent their work stays in the folder and they can check for it when they return.

Classroom Motto

Doesn't this apply to pretty much everything?  I found myself saying it so often with my students that I created a giant bulletin board that I could refer to regularly!  We have specific school rules which are included in each student planner, so instead of adding a list of classroom rules I stick with this simple phrase...

An Organized Teacher Work Station

The first week of school is chaotic and there are lots of items to remember.  Have a plan for making your "Notes to Self" and keeping them organized! If my desk is a mess I feel scatter-brained and less efficient during my planning time.  I use sticky notes and then place them all on one page for easy reference. Here are some free printable calendar sheets that I made to store my reminders and notes each month.  Click the image to download for free.  (There is one for each month of the year.)

Student Resource Center

An organized location for extra copies, options for extra support and a class sign out for music lessons or lavatory use is a must!  Here is what it looks like in my classroom:
- Extra classwork copies
- Extra homework copies
- Lav sign out binder
- Options for extra help (Learning center hours, my extra help times, Schoology info, Remind alert info...etc)

Long Term Bulletin Boards

I have had good intentions of changing my displays with every unit, but I've come to the conclusion that my planning time is best spent doing just that...planning.  Now I try to create displays that work ALL year and can relate to all the topics that we are studying!

This display emphasizes thinking with a positive science mindset! (more details here)

Here is another LONG TERM bulletin board.  This display is a great way to house student questions relating to the unit you are studying! (more details here).

Student Reminders

I've used similar icons on my objective board for a few years now so that kids know what to have out when class starts.  This year, I created a set to post in the hall on my door frame so that kids can see from the hallway what supplies are needed for class.  Click for more info about my reminder icons.

Sub Folder

I'm pretty sure that if my sub folder isn't ready to go from day one, I'm bound to get the flu the first week! This is a simple task that will be helpful when you are feeling at your worst, so be sure to get this done before the year starts.


Daily Teaching Schedule
Class lists 
(Note emergency medical information about students)
(Consider including the names of a few student leaders who can assist the sub.)
Fire Evacuation and other Emergency Procedures (Simplify as much as possible for easy reading.)
Seating Charts
Note sheet for sub (see below).  
Thank you note to the sub for working with your students in your absence

Here is a sheet that you can leave in your sub folder so that you can get details about how things went while you were out!  Click the image to grab a free copy to use in your sub folder.

Classroom set-up is a lot of work, but I just love the optimism and excitement I have when I get things ready for a new group of students!  I hope these 10 tips are helpful as you enter a new year of successful teaching and learning.  Be sure to sign up below to get more freebies and tips for teaching in the upper grades.

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Monday, July 18, 2016

Back to School Activities for Upper Grades

Set the stage for a year of ENGAGEMENT.  Here are some ways that I like to get my students moving, talking and thinking from the moment they step into my classroom!

Get to Know You T/F Activity (Free printable)

Community-building activities can make for a positive back to school experience for our students.    Here is a fun TRUE / FALSE quiz activity that you can download for free.  It includes directions and ideas for having kids interact with each other.  Students create T/F quizzes about themselves and then quiz each other to get to know one another.  (I created one about me as well, which was a hit with my students!)

Post It Survey

I saw this one on Pinterest a few years back and changed the sentence stems to relate to science.  Students each get 3 post it notes and are asked to complete the sentence on each chart paper.  Students stick their post-its on the posters as they finish.  I love reading the responses and I kept these up for parent night because they look great too!

This is SO easy to prepare and it gets kids thinking about your content area, up and moving!  (I'm really big on building in brain breaks that get kids up and moving but also keep them on task.)

Team-building Activities (Free printables for each subject)

Cooperation is SO important in my science class. Set the expectations for positive teamwork and cooperation by engaging students in this science teamwork activity PLUS 3 other subject-area team-building activities!  

Students work in small learning teams to float, sink and suspend a single piece of foil BEFORE the other groups in the class! Emphasis is on discussion, planning and of course TEAM-building!

Where can I get the other (free) subject area lessons to go with this?
FREE ELA Teamwork Activity
FREE Social Studies Teamwork Activity
FREE Math Teamwork Activity

Back to School "Quiz Quiz Swap" (Free printable)

QQS is one of my go to test review strategies, but I used it on the first day of school last year and it was awesome! Here is how it works:  Each student gets a question card.  Students walk around and meet up with each other face to face (only 2 kids per meet up).  They take turns reading their questions to quiz the other student.  When both questions have been asked/answered the students SWAP cards and walk away to meet up with another student.  Every single kid is involved!  

Locker Liner GET ORGANIZED (Free Printable)

This B2S activity works well as an organizational tool for new middle school kids or students who need organizational support.  Students write out their schedule and then make a PLAN for stopping at their locker between classes.  Many 6th graders need help with the process of changing classes and organizing the supplies they need at each locker break.  After completing the printable sheet, students can post it in the back of their locker for reference and if time permits can organize their locker into "pit stop" sections to easily grab what they need each time they switch classes. This works especially well in a structured study period or homeroom. 

Other Back to School Activities from Kate's Classroom Cafe...

Back to School Newspaper:
There are a lot of classroom procedures to go over during the first days back.  These fun printable activities focus on THE STUDENT!  While kids work, I am able to go around and talk with EACH student personally, which is so important as I get to know each child.  In addition, this provides time for me to call students in small groups to explain lab rules and groupings.  The finished product makes a great open house display too.

I hope that you find some of these materials helpful in planning your awesome first days back to school this year.   Happy Teaching!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Middle School Supply Reminders

What do we need for class today?

This is one classroom routine that I find middle school students respond well to. 

  • Easy and effective classroom routine
  • Works great for the Upper Grades
  • Supports Student Responsibility

What do we need for class today? These large visual reminders can be posted on the front board near your learning goal OR on your door/door frame so that kids can see them from the hallway.

Preparation: Print, laminate and attach magnets to each icon. (Pick and choose icons that relate to your class.)

NOTE: I made these using commercial use clipart and fonts from You can easily make your own, but if you are short on time, they are available here.

Unused icons can be stored in a folder on the door for easy access.  Many teachers greet students at the door so it is easy to switch out the icons for each new lesson/day or class.

Predictable routines and structures give students the opportunity to be responsible for their own progress and success. 

If you teach the upper grades and your kids switch classes, these reminders are an easy and effective tool for helping students come prepared to class!


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