Sunday, July 31, 2016

Strong Routines

Building strong routines is essential in any classroom.  From routines for turning in papers to establishing the restroom procedure, it is important that students know what is expected of them.  Whenever considering any new routine, follow the 4 Ps.

Building strong routines is essential in any classroom.  From routines for turning in papers to establishing the restroom procedure, it is important that students know what is expected of them.  Whenever considering any new routine, follow the 4 Ps.

1 Plan
Sit down and write out how you would like the routine to run.  Consider the order of events, any materials needed, problems that could arise, etc.  Make sure you 100% understand what you want to happen in your classroom.  Then organize the plan in a bulleted list so you are prepared to share with your classes without forgetting any details.

Building strong routines is essential in any classroom.  From routines for turning in papers to establishing the restroom procedure, it is important that students know what is expected of them.  Whenever considering any new routine, follow the 4 Ps.2 Present
Take a few minutes to thoroughly explain and demonstrate the plan to your students.  I recommend explaining the new plan with visual cues projected on the front board.  And actually show students what you would like to have happen.

3 Practice
Students need time to practice the routine.  More than once.  In fact, practice it many, many times.  As long as it takes.  It can feel like wasted time in the beginning, but you will thank yourself later on when the rest of the year moves along so smoothly.

4 Praise
Praise your students when they correct complete the routine without prompting.  And on the other hand, immediately make corrections when the routine is not effectively working.  Your students need consistency, so continue to monitor the class to ensure the routine is being utilized correctly.

Examples of Routines
Here are some specific routines that have worked really well in my classroom.  And, of course, I used the 4 Ps!

Beginning of Class
-Students enter classroom, pick up the handouts they will need throughout the class, and find their assigned seat.
-Write down homework in agenda book.
Building strong routines is essential in any classroom.  From routines for turning in papers to establishing the restroom procedure, it is important that students know what is expected of them.  Whenever considering any new routine, follow the 4 Ps.-Read front board to see Objective/Agenda for the day.
-Take homework out and place it on desk.
-Begin the Problem of the Day, which is projected on the front board.  (Get your free POD template here.)

This routine has worked fabulously in my classes.  I love saving time by having students pick up the handouts on the way in, instead of taking a minute here or there to pass out materials.  Having a Problem of the Day is awesome because my students are reviewing material, while I get a chance to circulate and look briefly at everyone’s homework assignment.  I scan for completion, but I also typically choose 1-2 problems to look for answers so I get a sense of whether most students got it or not.

Turning in Assignments
-I have a file sorter that has each section labeled with a different class.
-Students turn assignments into their “class bin.”
-When students finish with their assessments, they also turn these into the class bin and then can take out a longterm assignment to work on quietly at their desk.

This has been such a great way for me to organize work from my students.  No more being handed papers and shuffling through everything later on to find them again.  I know many teachers like students to stay seated until everyone is done with the assessment because it can be distracting, but I have found that once the routine is established, everything is so fluid that this has not been an issue for us.

Using the Restroom
-Students do not need to ask for permission.
-Passes hang by the door. 
-Place pass on the desk to indicate someone is out.
-Only two students out at a time.
-Sign-out sheet by the door.
-Get these bathroom passes, sign-out sheet and more here.

Building strong routines is essential in any classroom.  From routines for turning in papers to establishing the restroom procedure, it is important that students know what is expected of them.  Whenever considering any new routine, follow the 4 Ps.Building strong routines is essential in any classroom.  From routines for turning in papers to establishing the restroom procedure, it is important that students know what is expected of them.  Whenever considering any new routine, follow the 4 Ps.



Building strong routines is essential in any classroom.  From routines for turning in papers to establishing the restroom procedure, it is important that students know what is expected of them.  Whenever considering any new routine, follow the 4 Ps.We tried many different bathroom routines on our middle school team.  I have been very happy with our most recent routine.  The most important part of all of this is to talk with students about time on learning and appropriate and inappropriate times to leave the room.  Set the expectation very clearly.  Students should leave at the beginning of class, end of class, and during transitions in activities, if needed.  If students begin to take advantage of the free sign out policy, talk to them about it.  Of course, take away privileges if any ongoing issues occur.  I love this policy because I never have anyone raise their hand amid a conversation to ask to go to the bathroom anymore.

Switching Desk Configurations
-I often switch between pairs and groups of 4-5.
-Train students exactly how the desks should look so you don’t end up with a big mess.
-Model & (yes) Practice!

Desks can become a mess and the flow of the classroom can be disrupted if you are someone who moves your desks around a lot.  Take time to model what you’d like the desks to look like for students.  Provide reminders every time your students move desks for the first few months and sporadically throughout the year as needed.  Also, consider using tape on the floor to mark where desks should go.


Absent work
-For an extensive post about how I handle student absences, click here.
-Ideas include clearly setting expectations at the beginning of the year, using my free absent slips, and keeping organized records.

What else do you want to know about?
I love organizing routines and would be happy to provide suggestions for any of your other needs.  J







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Saturday, July 16, 2016

Positive Leadership

Learn how to be a positive leader in your school!

I just came back from the TpT conference in Orlando.  The conference was an incredible opportunity to meet with tons of other teacher-authors who I have been collaborating with through social media and plenty of teacher-authors that I hadn’t met yet.  I loved meeting up with my STEM buddies Jean, Joan, Sandy, Anne, and Tiffany, as well as my newbie friends Sarah, Kelly, and Allison.
I also truly enjoyed learning more about social media, finances, homeschooling, and creating quality videos, as well as learning from and receiving tips from veterans of TpT. 

TpT Newbies meet in Orlando!  #inspired to lead!My trip was even more fun because I brought the whole family along, and we took my 15-month-old son to Disney World for a couple of days.  We visited Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom.  I loved experiencing it all through my son’s eyes.  It’s a Small World becomes much more magical again once you enjoy the ride with a little one.  Somehow my little guy grew up quickly on this trip as he learned to use a straw, started mimicking us big time, dances to music, and attempts to run.  My favorite thing that he mimics is the “I don’t know” shrug.  What an experience!

Although my biggest take-away from the conference is less about what I learned and more about how I felt.  The phenomenal leadership demonstrated by our TpT team from headquarters amazes me.  Through welcome procedures and answers to difficult questions, Team TpT always sends out positive vibes.  They created and modeled a positive environment in which we could feel safe and learn from other teacher-authors from all around the globe.

Upon reflecting on my experience at the conference, I would like to share with you some reminders about how you can become a positive leader this year in your own school.  Regardless of whether you’re an administrator, curriculum coordinator, team leader or classroom teacher, you can be a leader among your peers with these simple reminders. 

1 Share your smile.
A smile can go a long way.  Think about how you feel when someone looks irritated compared to someone who exudes genuinely pleasant feelings.  I truly believe that smiles are contagious.  Smiles represent putting yourself out there in a welcoming manner.

2 Compliment someone every day.
This one’s my favorite.  Think about how you feel when someone notices a new outfit or hairstyle or they just say something nice about how you look or something you did.  It feels great!  Share the love by actively remembering to compliment at least one person per day.  It could be a student, coworker, or administrator.  I had a math teacher in high school that used to compliment my shoes (we wore uniforms so that was one of my few ways to dress uniquely).  I still feel great when I think about the relationship I had with this teacher. 


3 Be a professional.
Have you ever heard the expression “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have”?  Maybe not every day, but every once in a while throw on a nice dress or professional suit.  Beyond just how you dress, be professional in the language you use in front of coworkers and students.  Make good decisions and be sure that even if your social media accounts are private that you are portraying yourself in a professional light.

Learn how to be a positive leader in your school! 4 Don’t engage in gossip.
When I was in the schools, there was always something to gossip about or complain about.  It is so easy to get sucked in.  I have been sucked in many times.  Try not to!  Definitely don’t be that person who is “stirring the pot” and getting everyone all riled up about something small.  Instead try to take a neutral stance or mediate issues that arise.

5 Be a good listener.
There’s a difference between gossiping and being a good listener.  Be there for your coworkers as a sounding board.  Many people will just want someone to listen to what they’re going through, but you can also jump into action if appropriate.

6 Find the confidence to participate.
I am truly an introvert through and through, but that doesn’t mean that I wasn’t able to demonstrate leadership in staff meetings and group settings.  Push yourself to offer your own ideas and opinions, especially when you don’t agree with what’s being said.  Work hard to share your talents – even if that means running a professional development session on something you’re passionate about.  (I did it!)

I hope you’re able to see the common thread of positivity throughout these ideas.  I honestly believe that by sharing your smile, love, listening ear, acceptance, etc. and by modeling professionalism for others, that you will be a leader within your own community. 


Thanks for reading!  There will be plenty more ideas shared this year.  Subscribe to get email updates along the way.  When you sign-up you will also receive the link to a free middle school math classroom resource by email.

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