Friday, August 27, 2010

What Bugs You?

I don't have pets.

Unless dust bunnies count.

But, I do have pet peeves.

Here's the thing. I've LOVED being home with my kids this summer. Like, LOVE, LOVED it! My son is freaking hilarious and the twinkies are just so much fun. I like lazy days. I like being a shut-in. I do seriously believe that I could be a hermit as long as hermits are aloud high-speed internet access. I also believe the world would be a better place if everyone wore their pajamas all day every day.

Yesterday was "one of those days" though. It was my own fault. I put too much on my plate. We're rocking project "paint and move four rooms around in two weeks or less." But, it's been a ton of work. Operation "First Birthday" is culminating tomorrow which means lots of crafty projects. The straw that broke the camel's back was the large group playdate that I had scheduled at my house.

Let me complete that statement.

The straw that broke the camel's back was the large group playdate that I had scheduled at my house...2 days before we host a huge party and as we are undergoing house renovations. It was a crazy day around the homestead and the part that would have been filmed in s-l-o-w motion with enhanced sound had my life been a movie was when I stepped on yet another Cheerio on my freshly swept floor.

It was at that point that I, for the first time all summer, thought to myself, "It's time for me to go back to school."

What I was thinking was..."it's time for me to go back to school so I can finish my lunch in peace, go more than 63 minutes without having to change a diaper or flush the toilet for another human being and not need to crush Cheerios under my bare feet.

Then I remembered.

The Goldfish! Those damn Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Crackers. I hate how they lie there all belly up on the classroom rug just waiting for a foot to come crashing down upon them.

I actually think snack time in general is my pet peeve. I like things neat. I don't like sticky. I don't like crumbs. And I think the creators of Gogurt and Crush Cups should be shot. I get the fact that it's a long day and kids need to replenish their supply of feed their brains and energize their hard-working little bodies in order to complete their day of learning at their maximum level of potential. I do get that.

Which is why I find it all the more annoying when they break out the Doritos and brownies at 9:15 a.m. It counteracts the purpose.

So there you have it. My number one pet peeve as a classroom teacher.

What drives you absolutely insane?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year...

In many ways, this time of year is the most wonderful to me.

It's filled with excitement, fresh starts, newness and flawless school supplies (which you know I adore). There's the promise of apple crisp and football and pumpkins looming. It almost makes the passing of my beloved summer seem bearable.

But, today I am here to talk to you about the time of year the song was actually written about.


You know...that most wonderful time of year when you are stressed over money and to do lists? Our conferences and report cards also fall in December. Let's not forget the crowds. Aren't crowded malls fun? Don't they add to the wonderfulness of the most wonderful time of the year?

In case you didn't make note on your calendar today, we are exactly 4 months away from Christmas. Four months is nothing.

Here's the thing. I started to loathe the month of December. I was overwhelmed by the chaos and the waste and the bills and the wrapping and the chaos of it all.

And that made me sad.

I wanted to enjoy the holiday season and make memories with my son. I wanted it to be an experience and not a burden.

So I took charge.

A few years ago I started to give myself official deadlines for the holiday "to dos." People make fun of me and call me names (much like poor Rudolph), but I think it is because they are jealous. My deadlines are as follows:

Columbus Day weekend: all gifts must be bought
Halloween: all gifts must be wrapped
Thanksgiving Weekend: all cards ready to mail

I know you are flat out crazed with school stuff right about now, but trust me on this. It is one of the best things I have ever done.

I started by dwindling my gift list. I LOVE buying gifts for people when I find the perfect gift. I hate buying gifts for someone just to fulfill an obligation and "trading gift cards" seemed silly. So hubby and I had some heart to heart talks with some of the people on our lists and we agreed to stop swapping gifts and instead make a plan to spend quality time together.

As you know, I hate clutter. This comes in handy when the holidays roll around because I've worked hard to not add clutter to other people's lives. I try to give "experience" gifts whenever possible. If buying a gift card, I avoid cards that will be used to buy more clutter and instead aim for an experience:

tickets to a show
a gift certificate to a class, amusement park, museum, spa, etc.

Start by making a list of all the people you need to buy a gift for. Brainstorm some ideas for gifts. Acquire said gifts. Then wrap and deliver. Done! I made you a printable to help with the process.

Instead of running around stressed and bitter during the holiday season (which is where I was at), I enjoy the season and take it all in with the simple things. We bake cookies. We get together with friends. I host a ginderbread party for the kids. We watch holiday specials. I read by the light of the tree in my festive jammies while sipping hot cocoa. You get the idea.

So, it's August 25th. Hop on my bandwagon which is doubling as a sleigh, print my cute little organizer and get started. Stagger your purchases and I'll check in on you around Columbus Day.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


This summer has been amazing.  I've loved spending so much time with my 3 little people.  I've managed to tackle a whole bunch of home projects. Writing this blog and connecting with so many teachers has been an absolute blast.

Littlest Learners has been more successful than I could have ever hoped and I am grateful to so many of you for that.  I am excited about taking it in a new direction and am doing a little experimenting as I prepare for a big announcement next week.

Below are a few links to some of my best selling products.  You can still purchase them through my store, but they are now also available for instant download.  These links will also allow those of you outside of the United States to purchase them. (My store only allows for US purchases because it is set up to also ship actual items and the default is set to US only).  

Feel free to try it out.  I experimented with it last night and used my hubby's email and credit card to try it out and I am giddy with excitement.  You'll be able to instantly access my files via an immediate download link. Good for you.  Good for me.  

As always, the price is staying at $3.00 each.  My goal is to supply teachers with quality products for a very reasonable price. 






Monday, August 23, 2010


Raise your hand if you LOVE playing ice breaker games.

I thought so.

I personally loathe them.  Finding out what kind of animal someone is like and why is kind of like when people try to tell you all about a dream they had.  It's boring and silly.  It makes me feel awkward.  

Not a fan.

I try not to subject my kids to too many of these types of activities on the first day of school and strive to find activities that will "break the ice" in more interesting ways.  Hence the playdough idea. Today I bring you another fun activity for the start of school. 

I also plan on using it for movement breaks and as a reward.

It is Bop It!

It's a bit addictive.  My son received one for his birthday.  I'm proud to say I am the high score holder in our house.

When you start it it plays a funky little rhythm and instructs you to bop it (hit the center button), pull it (pull a handle on one end) or twist it (turn a knob at the other end).

You can play as an individual or as a group.  When playing as a group you need to "pass it."  

They sell them at Target and Walmart and the like.  They are under $20.00.

Good times people, good times!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Way Life Should Be

That's the slogan for the Great State of Maine.

Except I'm pretty sure that 5 hours in a minivan is NOT the way "life should be."
But, boat rides and quality family time and marshmallows toasted on a campfire on a freakishly bug-free August summer night kind of is the way life should be.  The trip from MA to ME is usually well under 2 hours, but we didn't time our departure very well and it took us quite awhile to get home.  And to think I poo-pooed the DVD player that came with the minivan.  I was very glad to have it today and would like to thank Buzz Lightyear and Lightning McQueen for their role in making my time on 95 South bearable this afternoon.

We would have stayed until the morning, but my little man has to be at school for Kindergarten Orientation tomorrow.

Please excuse me while I turn into a sobbing mess.

This Kindergarten thing is hitting me really hard.  I think it's because I've seen kids come into Kindergarten and then one blink later they are off to middle school.

Sniffle. Sniffle.

Have I mentioned that he will be coming to school with me?  We live in the neighborhood that feeds into the school I teach at.  I'm really excited about the fact that I have a very special and somewhat rare opportunity to experience this.  He's a good boy who is kind to others and not at all clingy to me so I think it will be fine.  I'm sure there will be some cons along with all the pros.

You know, things like exhibiting self-control and not wiping the remainders of lunch off his face with that lick-the-thumb-and-wipe-the-cheek thing that moms like to do when I pass him in the hall.

So tomorrow I will go to school.

Not to work in my classroom, but as a mom.  And I am so THAT mom.  You know the one.  You have at least one every year.  I will bring my camera and I will make him pose for pictures next to his name tag.  Yes, THAT mom.  

That reminds me.  I need to go charge the batteries in my camera.  Later Gators!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Prepping for a Sub: The Grand Finale

My apologies.  I really wanted to finish up the sub plans video and post it as the completion to the project, but technology is not on my side.

Nor is the cleaning crew who is holding my classroom hostage with floor wax and barricades created with heaps of furniture.  So some poorly shot pictures will have to do since I couldn't get in my room to dazzle you with my cinematic skills.

We left off having completed the following:

a binder with a cover
tabbed sections for: classroom info, school info and masters of the activities for each subject

Let's wrap this puppy up.


When it comes to writing sub plans my advice is to prepare for a sub as if he/she has never subbed before...or been around children...or lacks ALL common sense.  Chances are your sub will be a professional who will do a stellar job, but preparing for the opposite end of the spectrum will help to ensure that things will run well in your absence.

The bad news is that we are going to write very detailed plans for each day of the week.  

The good news is that it isn't nearly as hard as it seems.

Start with your longest day.  Yes, school starts and ends at the same time each day, but you know those days without prep certainly feel longer than others.  By writing out the plans for this day first, you can make some quick changes on the computer and have your other days banged out pretty quickly.

In the lesson section I include specific instructions as well as a "script" for the sub to say to the students.  This is not to micromanage the sub, but rather to make sure the little cherubs know that I have communicated the expectations to the sub and that he/she knows the drill.

It is very effective.

I try to think of the typical things a 3rd grader would do in my absence and include it in the "script."  For example: "As a reminder, if your pencil breaks you will need to raise your hand.  No student should be using the electric pencil sharpener."

The fourth column is for notes.  I include page numbers that the sub could find more info on as well as notes about students who leave for services and teachers who come in for services.  I also include any other info that pertains specifically to that time of day.

After you have created a very detailed plan for your longest day, save it to your hard drive with the name of that day of the week.

Next, edit the document to make the changes needed to reflect every other day of the week.

Print each set.


After you have planned out an entire week, make any copies that are needed for each day.  

I like to use Post-its as tabs to divide the piles of work.

Place each day's worth of materials into one of the plastic drawers with the lesson plans on top. Let the sub know that she can write on this copy.
Label the drawers with the days of the week.

If you bought the kind like I have you will have a total of 6 drawers.  I fill the top one with general activities that can be used in a pinch (word searches, crossword puzzles, math drills) and a couple of picture books the sub could read.


Include a copy of each day's plans in the binder.  

As an extra I print out a couple of sheets of large labels with the students' names that the sub can use as name tags.

Include a note so that the sub knows where to find the materials for the day.

Show everything to several colleagues.  They will be great resources in the event of your absence.  They should know where to locate the binder and the materials.

By following all of these steps, you could miss an entire week without worry.  A sub would simply need to start with the first day's plans and work through the days in the drawers.  By keeping the masters in your binder, anyone could make additional copies as needed.

Be sure to replenish the drawer as soon as you return.  By doing so you will always be ready.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

How Dedicated Are You?

When I was hired at my current school (just shy of a (gasp) decade ago), I was in good company with several other spring chickens who were part of that year's new recruits.  We went through the new teacher training week and became friendly.

We vowed to stay young and fun and pledged to hold an intervention should one of us start to morph into the wooden jewelry paired with a seasonal sweater type.
We have since been displaced from our roles by a crop of younger, hipper teachers.  However, we have held true to our word and have not yet ventured into the world of track suits on casual Fridays.

I consider myself to be very lucky because one of my closest friends is also my partner teacher.  We only have 2 teachers at each grade level at my school and we make up the "third grade team."  She proven to be an above and beyond friend and is a great ally as a teacher.

She initiated the jungle theme and I was fine with that.

But, give me a theme and I'm going to go all out.

Which is why I suggested we both wear animal print outfits for the first day.
Calm down folks.  I wasn't suggesting leopard print unmentionables or a loincloth.  I was thinking of pairing a subtle animal print skirt with a solid black shirt.  

I called dibs on the zebra print.

She claims I'm bordering on thematic sweaters and wooden jewelry.  

Your thoughts?

How dedicated are you to YOUR theme?

Will you be sporting a feather boa and sunglasses to enhance your Hollywood theme?

How about making the folks at the coffee shop question if you are going to school or a Jimmy Buffett concert to go with your beach theme?

Are you going to show up in khakis and a hiking vest to prove you really love your camping theme?

Perhaps denim and a bandana for those of you who are having a boot stomping good time with the western theme?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Back to School / First Week Activities

Cheat Cheat Never Beat...

or so they say.

But, I am beat.  Exhausted really. 

Armed with my Cricut, I'm channeling my inner craft goddess and going all Martha Stewart on this 1st Birthday Party.

And because we are shifting around rooms in the house, I am currently displaced from my little studio and working in the kitchen.

You know...because it is safe to work with paper on top of the stove.  Luckily for me, I haven't cooked since half past forever so I had no worries that said stove would be on.
There is nothing wrong with child labor.  I'm a big fan of it at home and at school.

So today I'm going to cheat.

And by cheat I mean republish last year's back to school post(s).  In my defense, the playdough is SO worth mentioning again.  Plus, last summer I think I had about 2 readers and so I'm sure some of you missed it.  ;)  

I always start the year by making playdough the day before school starts.  It's really easy and cheap to make  and kids LOVE it regardless of how old they are.  I leave it white when I make it.  

I roll it into balls (one for each student), poke a small hole in each with my finger, add a few drops of food color and then cover the hole. I then place each ball into a ziploc bag and put a bag at each child's seat for their arrival.  

After they arrive I instruct them to squish up the bag to see what happens.  They oooh and ahhh over the "magic" (even in 3rd grade).  Having them mush it in the bag prevents them from getting the food coloring all over their hands.  After the color is well-blended I have them take it out of the bag.  I give them about 5 minutes of "free play" with it and then instruct them to make certain things:
  • their initials
  • their favorite animal
  • their favorite food
  • something to represent their favorite subject in school
After they create each we share them.  It's a great get to know you activity, but also gives them something to do to release any nervous energy they have.  Also if something unexpected occurs (student added to roster, parent that stops by, crying child who won't come in) it gives the class something quiet to do at their seats until you can focus your attention on them.  This is key since you will not have any guidelines, rules or expectations in place at that point.

You could also have large sheets of paper and crayons available to have the children illustrate a self-portrait.  Not only do these make an easy, colorful and appropriate display, but I love having them repeat this activity at the end of the year.  They always grow so much as artists.

Another favorite activity of mine is to create a "Who's in Our Class" word search.  There are some great free online sources for generating them.  All you need to do is type in the first names, print and copy.  Just be sure to check the word search and make sure everyone is included.

I've also done crossword puzzles with their names, but find that some children need help.  The goal is to have some fun, independent activities available so that you are free to tend to unexpected first day issues that may arise.
I've compiled some of my favorite activities for the 1st week of school to create a collection of "Back To School Printables" for grades 2-5.  There are elements that could be used for grades K-1 as well (illustrating, self-portraits, handwriting samples, handprints) and you could scribe for the little ones if you wanted, but these are designed for 2-5 to do independently.  

The unit includes:

1. Teacher Guide

2. All About Me 
This is a 2 page set. It includes a lined paper titled, “All About Me” and a drawing page titled, “This is Me.” Students use these pages to write about themselves and/or illustrate a self-portrait. These activities are great to do at the beginning, middle and end of each school year as they really show the progress the child has made as a writer and artist. They also make a quick and easy bulletin board display.

3. Bio Poem 
The students complete the cloze activity to create a bio poem about themselves. The pages can be kept as is or they can be used as a rough draft. These are beautiful keepsakes when they are typed and illustrated by the children.

4. Classmate Bingo
Each student begins by completing the sentences at the bottom to tell about themself. The student then cuts that part of the page off and gives it to the teacher. The teacher provides the class with a list of student names (either reproduced individually or written on the board to be copied) and the children write one name in each box. If there are more boxes than names you may consider asking specialists, the nurse, the custodian, or the principal to fill out a paper as well. To play: pick one info page from the collection and read the sentences out loud. See if anyone can guess who it is before reading the name at the end. Students then mark that space on their bingo board (pasta makes a cheap and easy marker if you do not have bingo markers). 

5. Getting to Know Me Gazette
Students use words and/or pictures to complete this personal newspaper about themselves. You can use the completed pages to make a bulletin board display or bind them into a class book that is sure to be a favorite throughout the year.

6. How I Spent My Summer Vacation
This is a 2 page set. It includes a lined paper and a drawing page that are both titled, “How I Spent My Summer Vacation.” Students use these pages to write about and/or illustrate the highlights of their summer. ou can use the completed pages to make a bulletin board display or bind them into a class book that is sure to be a favorite throughout the year.

7. I Am Poem 
This is a 2 page set. It includes a graphic organizer for branstorming ideas and a cloze activity to create the poem. The cloze activity can be the finished product or it can be edited for spelling and then published as a final draft. These look beautiful when you add a photo of the child and create a display. They are also cherished keepsakes and make wonderful holiday gifts for the families.

8. K-W-L About My New Grade
This is a 2 page set. It includes two KWL charts. The first is formatted in narrow columns and the second has been created with wider columns. This is a great way to introduce or review what a K-W-L chart is. Start by having the students brainstorm a list of things they already know about their new grade level (or classroom or teachers). Then have them generate a list of questions about their new grade level. Bring the class together to share their lists. You may want to compile them into a master list on poster paper or using an overhead projector. At the end of the 1st week of school have the sudents complete the last column by recording some things they have learned about their new grade. 

9. Math About Me
The students begin by completing the sentences using the numbers that apply to them personally. Next, they create a collage of those numbers. To create the collage you can either have them write the numbers using markers, crayons or colored pencils or you could have them cut those numbers out of magazines and newspapers and glue them to the page.

10 My Picture is Worth Many Words
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. To complete this activity attach a photo of each child to the center of the page (or have each student draw a 
self-portrait). Next, have each child brainstorm a list of words that tell about themself. This is a nice opportunity to discuss nouns and adjectives or even introduce a thesaurus. Have the children count the number of words they wrote and write that number on the line in the title. Cut out the box, mount onto colored paper and either display the finished products individually or create a class book.

11. New Classroom Scavenger Hunt
This activity can be done individually or in pairs. The students explore their new classroom and record something that fits into each category onto the chart. They can either use words, pictures or labeled illustrations to document their findings.

12. Squiggle Art
This activity shows that everyone is unique and that people often see things differently. The black squiggle is the start of a picture. Encourage the children to use their imaginations and incorporate that black squiggle into their own drawing. There are lines below the drawing box to write about what they drew. This makes a fun display or a class book. It is also a nice activity to do at the start and end of a school year to show personal growth in each student.

13. Time Capsule
This is a 5 page set. You may elect to do any or all of the activities. The idea is for the students to complete the activities at the start of the year and then revisit them at the end of the year. This set includes:
-a self-portrait
-a handprint (either painted and stamped or simply t
-a handwriting sample (perhaps the alphabet or a 
dictated sentence)
-a list of things the student hopes to learn about that 
-a collection of favorite things

After the students complete the pages you may want to seal them all into one box or else create individual time capsules using Pringles can. If you keep portfolios for your students then you could also use these as the first pages.

14. Who Am I?
Have the students complete each sentence starter to tell about themselves. Staple the top of the finished paper to construction paper so that the page can be lifted from the bottom. Attach a photo of the student underneath so that people can guess who it is and lift the page to check. These are especially fun for open house nights as parents love “finding” their litle darling.

Monday, August 16, 2010


I know a lot of you are starting back to school today.  I hope you all have a great first day and a fabulous school year.

I still have 3 weeks (and one day and 1 hour and 56 minutes) until I need to trade in my flip flops for sensible shoes and apply make-up instead of sunscreen.

I'll probably need to do something more than pull my hair into a ponytail and call it done as well.

Note to self: appreciate the next few weeks

I thought that today would be a great day to share a 1st day activity and super cute bulletin board idea with you.  For those of you who are about to carry that big ole teacher bag into school for the first of 180 days in a few hours, don't fret.  It's best to file this idea away for next year anyhow.

It's a Happy New Year Celebration!

A few years ago, I had a Happy New Year gift bag waiting for each child.  It included some cute school supplies, a homework pass and a New Years hat or tiara.  I also had some Happy New Year balloons in the classroom.

It made for a fun, festive and exciting start to our year together.

I then took a picture of each child wearing the hat/tiara with the balloons as the background.  I used the pictures to make a really cute bulletin board that included a writing sample from each child titled, "My New Year Resolutions."  

The reason I say it is best to file the idea away is because you can buy packs of hats, balloons, etc dirt cheap in January/February because there is little market for a Happy New Year 2010 hat in 2011, but it is perfect for the 2010 school year.

You can also make your own super cheap.

Just buy regular party hats at the Dollar Store, print your message on the computer and attach with a little hot glue.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Sky is Falling...The Sky is Falling

I feel like a slacker because I've yet to complete the video I've been working on to wrap up "sub binder week."

Except I haven't been slacking.  

In fact the opposite is true.

I've been running around like a chicken with my head cut off.  Which is why the irony was not lost on me this morning when not one...not two...but three acorns fell onto my head while I was out for my morning walk with the twins.  

Acorns build up speed as they fall and they kind of hurt.

In case you were wondering.

So, "why so crazed" you ask?

I'll tell you.

I spontaneously decided on Friday that we needed a dining room.  We live in a Cape style house which means small rooms.  For the 4 years we've lived here we have used the 3 season room as a "dining room" and the eat-in kitchen at other times.

In MA "three seasons" really means you can use it from mid-May through Mid October so technically you touch upon both fall and spring, but in reality we aren't getting 9 months a year out of the place.

Since we now have two more mouths to feed it requires two more seats at the table which makes for some cozy meals.  So on a whim I announced to hubby on Friday (via a midday email at work...he loves those) that I had a plan.

We are painting the walls and floors of the garage and moving the "Home Depotey items" (translations tools and other crap that bores me) into the garage and out of the basement.  We are moving my home studio/office from the office into the basement (which means MORE painting and floor work).  We are moving the guest room/playroom into the space that is the office and the current playroom is becoming a dining room.  Which also needs to be painted.

And if this was not ambitious enough with three Littles underfoot, I have set a two week deadline.

Because in two weeks we are hosting the twins first birthday party.

Which is quickly becoming a little less "birthday partyish" and a little more like a "function."

I have involved a florist.  I am debating a caterer. And since I am now going all out I am thinking I might need a photographer because when you are hosting a party and balancing a twin on each hip there is little time to snap pictures.  And let's be honest people.  This event is ALL about the pictures.

I stumbled upon this site:

It's killing me.  I'm now finding myself making cloth banners, food labels, favors and a bunch of other stuff that is making my head spin.

Oh also starts in a few weeks.

And we are going to Maine next weekend.

And don't forget that I gave up coffee.  Oh, how I miss my beloved Starbucks.

So long story short: The sub binder will wrap up asap.  And watch out when you walk under trees because acorns hurt.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


Who wants some freebies?

Come on now all of your hands should be waving high in the air.  Because I love you all so very very much, I've made you a few gifts.

Included in your from me to you with hugs and kisses package is:
an adorable cover for your sub binder
an even cuter template for your sub to fill out at the end of the day
an "at a glance" page for your sub that highlights the key things they need to know and serves as a directory

Plus, they match the 24 pages of EMERGENCY SUB PLANS that I designed.

You have purchased the emergency sub plans kit, haven't you?

Because for only $3.00 you can save yourself tons of time and energy and free yourself up for more poolside time.

Click here to buy the sub plans.

Click here to print the FREEBIES for your sub binder.

We've been rocking our binder this week.  

Today you need to:
make a cover (or use mine)
make a template for the sub to fill out (or use mine)
gather a bunch of generic sub plans for science and social studies

My advice on the last part of your assignment would be:
Access the free trial at reading a to z dot com and print off some age appropriate non-fiction texts for both science and social studies.  Either use their extension activities or create your own to go with them

Leave Time for Kids or Scholastic News for the sub to use during Social Studies

Find a few educational videos with science and social studies content...Magic School Bus is great for this.

Have the children write a list of questions they may have on a science or social studies topic.

OK folks, Do your homework and tune in tomorrow because we are going to wrap this puppy up!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


If you are just joining us, we’ve been working on planning for a substitute teacher.

Start by reading here.

And check out my emergency sub plans here.

Today we are going to add the CLASSROOM INFO section to the binder.  This part may be a bit trickier because a good portion of the information needed won’t come into play until school starts.

But, it’s a catch 22 because when school initially starts you’ll be so crazy busy that it’ll be hard to find the time to do this.  So we are going to get as much as we can into it.  And for those items you don’t have access to right now, simply add a page protector and include a Post-it Note marked with a reminder of what you need to add.

Here’s what I include:

  • a photo directory: head shots with their names
  • a seating chart
  • class schedule
  • pull-out / in-class support schedule
  • classroom rules and behavior management plan
  • signals you use to get their attention
  • procedures for: attendance, lunch, recess, lining up, bathroom, dismissal and what to do when they finish their work
  • a list of 2-3 reliable students 
  • a list of any medical issues that they would need to know about
  • any additional student info that would be helpful (who will require extra help, who may try to act silly and how to deal with it, etc)

I also a include a brief list of things that I know kids will try to get away with (using the electric pencil sharpener, asking to go to the nurse 80 million times).

Create a tab that reads, "CLASS INFO," add it to the binder, put these items in that section and call it a day.

Is there anything else you include?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Creating a Sub Binder Day 2

Sub Binder Day 2

Let’s start with a true story.

Because I swear I could not make this up.

This past school year we had a very nice man who would occasionally sub at our school. One of the first grade teachers was absent and he filled in for her. She had quickly written down sub plans for the day and next to 11:45 wrote, “Eat my lunch.”

You know, because 11:45 was her scheduled time to go to the teacher’s room and eat her lunch.

Well, this gentleman (who was apparently channeling his inner Amelia Bedelia) took it literally. He went to the classroom fridge, opened the door and found a lunch inside (which incidentally belonged to the classroom aide who was out of the room at the time covering lunch duty and scheduled to eat her delicious home-cooked meal a bit later).

He ate the lunch and wrote a note thanking the teacher for making him a lunch.


Today we are going to work on the “SCHOOL INFO” section of your substitute teacher binder. You want your binder to be thorough and complete, yet simple to use so that a busy sub can find things easily.

Check with your school to see if there are any specific requirements.

Some schools actually put together this information for you so that it can be passed out to any sub that comes in. If that’s the case, your job today is quite simple.

If not, then here is what I suggest you include:

  • a map of the school (mark: your classroom, the office, the bathroom that they may use, and the teacher’s room). The kids can show the sub where music, gym, etc is. You just want to mark off anything that she may need to find on her own. I also mark where the sub will need to meet the class in the morning.

  • a directory of the staff members that she may need to contact (nurse, principal, secretary, social worker) along with where they are located and their phone extensions

  • a copy of any school-wide rules

  • instructions for emergency lock downs, fire and tornado emergencies and crisis evacuation plans

Create the SCHOOL INFO TAB for your binder and add the above info into that section.

You should be able to complete this section before school starts. If at any time you find there is information that you are unable to include until school starts, simply write down what is missing on a post-it note and place it in the spot the info will eventually go in the binder.

If there is anything else that you feel should be included in the SCHOOL INFO section, leave a comment.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Check out this Handy Dandy Chart

One of my reader (waving at Debbie!) sent me a link to this chart.  It compares all of the deals on school supplies for the week. Love it! 

How to Make Sub Plans Day 1

There are days when you have conferences, workshops or scheduled doctor appointments planned and you know you will be out of the classroom. There are days when you are feeling under the weather and suspect you will be out the next day. Then there are days when you are unable to attend school with little or no warning at all.

Once upon a time I was sitting in my living room feeling fine. Within minutes I was in the worst pain of my life thinking I was in labor and wanting to die. (In my defense, I was 8.5 months pregnant so labor was a possibility). Turns out it was a kidney stone and I was completely useless for about 7 hours.

In case you were wondering, they do not give epidurals for kidney stones...though I think the should.

Food poisoning, car accidents, family emergencies and toddlers who decide to projectile vomit their breakfast as you are set to drop them off at daycare are just a few other examples of times when you have every intention of being in class and have no notice or ability to prepare for your sudden absence.

This week we are going to put together a sub binder and resource center that will make it easy for you to be out of the classroom without the added stress of worrying about what will happen to your class for that day.

We will be able to put the majority of this project together right now. It will be a work in progress because some of the items that need to be included will come into play once school starts.

We are going to start today by “gathering” activities that can be used on any day of the year for each subject area. Today you need to gather at least 5 activities for reading, writing, word study/spelling and math. I have spent the past few days creating some activities for each of those subjects using the guidelines below. You can purchase the ones I made through my store, gather them from other resources or create your own.

Create a folder on your computer titled SUB PLANS. Be sure to save all of the files to this folder and back it up. If you purchase my emergency sub plans then save them to this folder once I email them to you.

After you gather them, you’ll need to slide them into plastic sheet protectors (back to back) and create a tab for your binder labeled Master Copies. Put them into the binder and you’re all set until tomorrow.

5 Writing Activities that can be used over and over throughout the year

Here are the guidelines:

You do not want these activities to be a complete waste of time or busy work, but in my experiences it has been best to not have a sub introduce a new concept. Review is important and this is a great chance to review key concepts.

The activities should be open-ended whenever possible. By this I mean that the students could continue to work on them for a substantial length of time without a specific completion point. You want to avoid having the students rush through an assignment that is designed to take 30 minutes in 5 and tell the sub, “I’m done.” Open-ended assignments will allow the sub to instruct them to “add to the list” or “find more __.”

Try to minimize the need for additional materials. You want both the children and the sub to have an enjoyable, stress-free day. Asking a sub to have children cut and glue could hinder this objective.

Find activities that can be repeated so that you may use them on multiple days. This is especially beneficial because the students become accustomed to the “sub routine” which makes future absences even easier.

9 reading activities to use with ANY book

If you are going to do a reading extension activity, be sure that each child has a copy of the text. Having a sub read aloud a book and then asking the class to complete a story map is setting the sub up for chaos. EVERYONE (rather they need it or not) will be asking to get out of their seat to see the book. It is also setting children up for failure and frustration if they are not able to recall details from the read aloud and do not have access to the book. My suggestion is to access reading A to Z and print a copy of the book for each student or use a story that you have already covered from your reading basal that each child will have a copy of. By selecting activities that go with EVERY book as opposed to a specific title, you can also differentiate instruction for the class but providing varied levels of text for each student. If you do not have a basal or class set of books then today would also be a good day to access the free trial membership to reading A to Z and print a copy of a few good fiction books to use.

See you tomorrow...get your homework done!

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