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Crayons in short supply? Need more and different books for your classroom library? And feeling short on personal funds? No worries! There are organizations ready to help teachers with donated and reusable supplies. In fact, they have a two-fold mission – to supply reusable resources for classrooms and to help the earth with less stuff added to landfills. It’s a win for everyone!

Reusable resources for classrooms

We’re fortunate to have SCARCE closeby in the Chicago area to help with an amazing variety of classroom supplies. Marti’s found:

  • the ordinary – markers, rulers, scissors
  • organization – bins for books, 3-ring binders
  • the unusual – a wooden set of simple machines including a working pulley
  • amazing books – all kinds of picture books!! Love finding Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey and Mouse Match by Ed Young
  • stuff she never knew she needed – elevated land forms to help kids learn what a delta, a plateau and other land forms are
  • stuff for differentiation – science books leveled for lower readers
  • math stuff – place value blocks, Tangram sets, a fraction game

Find a source close to you

The Reusable Resources Association provides contact information for sites in several states. Hopefully you’ll find one near you. All organizations are committed to reducing stuff ending up in landfills but they vary in terms of who they’re open to – some are open to public school teachers, others are open to the public at large. Please check to find the details.

Continuing the cycle

Many of these centers can work for you when you’re spring cleaning your classroom. Marti has taken 20+ boxes of books and other supplies to SCARCE. That means other teachers can find treasures for their kids and the cycle continues. It’s been so much easier for us to move things along when we know they’re going to a good home. Need help moving things along? Check out Marie Kondo’s books.

Got tips?

Got tips for finding reusable resources for classrooms? Please share – it’s great for the Earth and for keeping teachers’ costs down. Together, we can do this!

Feel like you should be checking your email during the day but don’t have time to respond with the kids in the room and worry that you’ll forget? We’ve been there! Here’s our plan to make it work:

Flag em!

  • Flag emails that need action or that need replies.
  • Those important emails that you’ll need quick access to again soon are good ones to flag too.
  • Flagging emails is just a quick way to ensure they don’t get buried. For us, that has helped avoid those woulda-coulda-shoulda moments!

Then, Unflag em!

  • We set our goal is to try and keep “flagged emails” at 0. Great goal which we somewhat do by checking, responding and unflagging them often.
  • It’s like wash, rinse, repeat – except with emails it’s respond, unflag and undo. There’ll be another email coming in shortly – never fails!

Feel like you should be checking your email but don't have time to respond and worry that you'll forget? Here's our plan for managing emails:

Delete emails? Nah!

Do you delete your emails?  We don’t so our numbers are high but really they take up very little space so we’re not worried that we’ll run out of storage space. Spending time clearing out the inbox doesn’t compete with… well, so many other daily and weekly mini-jobs that keep our classrooms and lives running. Plus, having past emails has been a bonus a few times when we’ve searched back through them and found information we needed. That wouldn’t have been possible if we’d been email neat freaks. What we are neat freaks about is keeping the flagged emails to a minimum so we know what needs attention.

Managing emails

Got tips to share on managing emails? Please share, because some days it can feel like the mountain of letters to Santa on Miracle on 34th Street – although that was a sweet moment that makes us smile every time and seeing a growing list of emails in our inbox does not!

Together, we can do this!

 

You do so many things each school year – plan, organize, implement, reflect (!?) When it’s time to fill out your end of year evaluation, be sure to capture it all, without starting from scratch. Use Google Docs to organize and adjust your notes.

You do so many things each school year - When it's time to fill out your end of year evaluation, use Google Docs to organize and adjust your notes.

Use Google Docs to organize and adjust your end of year evaluation

  • Keep it simple
    So many of the things you do are repeats. They’ve become part of your teaching practice. Be sure to highlight them. Then, when you’ve saved a copy of your evaluation in your Google Drive, those best practices are already part of next year’s form.
  • Look back at the beginning of the year
    When you’re back after a long, luxurious summer break…. (off topic!) and you’re ready to make your official goals for the new year, check last year’s end of year evaluation. The one you saved on Google Drive. You’ll be able to quickly scan and see goal areas you might focus on in order to move over categories when it comes to the end of year eval.
  • Naming it so you can find it is key
    Think about what you’re likely to search for next year when, surprise, surprise, you have 50 more things to do. The name you decide on may be long – try this one on for size. Amelia Mignonette Grimaldi Thermopolis Renaldi. No matter which of those names you include when you search, this file will appear. Obviously you won’t be naming your eval after Princess Mia but you get the idea, right?!? Totally different focus, but a smiliarly long name.

No more searching for that file folder. Find it in Google Drive. Got other tips to share when faced with those annual chores that always seem to come at the craziest moments? We’d love to hear them! Keep calm and reflect on. Together, we can do this!

Sub plans – the nature of the beast is that many times you need them when you have little or no time to make them. Aargh! Got an organizational trick that can help!

Once more, it was really a kick in the pants that made us change our ways. One too many times needing sub plans pronto without the time or energy to deal with it. So here goes:

Sub plans - the nature of the beast is that many times you need them when you have no time to make them. Aargh! Got an organizational trick that can help!

We’ve used Google drive to organize our sub plans. Here’s the deets:

  • First, we made a folder, labeled it sub plans.
  • Then, as we’ve needed and made plans for each day of the week, we’ve saved a copy in that folder.
  • We’ve also saved plans for morning or afternoon only, again for each day of the week.
  • Basically, we started out with one plan then, when we needed a new set of plans, we copied, renamed and revised it to better fit each day’s schedule. Each time we use one, we pull up the latest copy that fits best, depending on the day of the week and full day or half day.

Sub plans - the nature of the beast is that many times you need them when you have no time to make them. Aargh! Got an organizational trick that can help!

No more repeat, repeat, repeat!

When we’ve written out plans specific to each day and also for morning or afternoon, so much of the explainations and the specific details that are helpful for subs to follow, are already there. Thankfully! Many times, we’ve noticed that it’s just specific lessons that need to be changed. The intro and class management pieces stay the same. All those procedural pieces that help the day stay familiar for the kids are already in the notes.

Kind of like one and done

Well, not quite, but it’s really a timesaver. And a great sustainability boost when we need it most – during the times when we can’t think straight and just want to crawl back under the covers. Or the times when a last minute meeting means plans on the fly. We’ve got most of the info at our fingertips already. Got your own tips for organizing sub plans? Please share. Together, we can do this!

Want to get recess game centers organized so that they’re quick to get out, put away and don’t take up much space? Read on!

Want to get recess game centers organized so that they're quick to get out, put away and don't take up much space? Read on!

A clear suitcase with small containers inside

That’s pretty much it! Sound simple? Yup, it is. And since simplicity feels like sustainability to us, we’re up for it. Especially since it also gives us peace of mind that it’s easily picked up and doesn’t add clutter.

Want to get recess game centers organized so that they're quick to get out, put away and don't take up much space? Read on!

A dozen games ready to go and easily stored

Anna keeps a collection of math games, each in its own container. Think sandwich sized containers, just shaped slightly differently and see through so they’re quick to find. The containers fit into slots in the “suitcase” so they line up in two rows. Knowing that we have a lot in common with Tacky, the goofy one in a world of penguin perfection, we love that with this one small chunk of our classroom lives, we have mastered Neatly and Perfect. 12 games, neatly line up. Okay, so we’re going a little (a lot) overboard with this but organization, especially when it’s so simple and straightforward, feels good!

Want to get recess game centers organized so that they're quick to get out, put away and don't take up much space? Read on!

Recess game centers organized and ready to go with colorful, strategizing fun

Check out the games! We love…

We love Sushi Go – it’s a fast-paced, fun game that has players thinking strategically as they determine the probability they can get card combos that score the most points. Takes about 15 minutes to play so it’s perfect for indoor recess. Two to five kids can play this game so it’s a great option for a small group. Sushi seems to be an adventure in itself when we hear our kiddos talk and when you add that intriguing topic to the super cute sushi characters, we fell in love with it too.

Collecting Dweebies – Fix-it Dweebie, Dr. Dweebie, Super Dweebie and their buds are dressed to show their passion but they’re can be hard to catch. Kids place them down in a grid of rows and capture them by bookending two of the same Dweebie and scooping up all the Dweebies in between. Strategy comes into play when kids take into account the dots on the corner of each card which tell how many of that Dweebie there are in the deck. Two to six kids can play and games last about 15 minutes. Collecting toothy, blobby Dweebies makes a great recess break!

Slapping together a Slamwichbe ready to recognize patterns and to slap a growing stack of Slamwich cards if two identical cards end up together, or if you spot a thief on your bread. Muncher cards make it even trickier! Two to six kids can play and games last about 20 minutes so it’s another great recess option.

Want to get recess game centers organized so that they're quick to get out, put away and don't take up much space? Read on!

Informational presentation starring… your kids!

Kids become experts at these games quickly and who doesn’t love sharing their expertise? They can help each other by making how-to-play videos.  Then, add a QR code inside the game to share the info. Great way to sneak in some meaningful ELA work and for kids to take ownership of their classroom community.

 

Whether you fit into the Tacky or Neatly-Perfect camp when it comes to organization, this is one small area neatly and easily mastered. Having recess game centers organized and ready to set up then clean up after play can be a bright spot in a dreary indoor recess day. Have ideas to share? Please do! Together, we’ve got this!

Want to get recess game centers organized so that they're quick to get out, put away and don't take up much space? Read on!

Looking for a way kids can share their work with parents? Thinking ahead to curriculum night or parent-teacher conferences? Seesaw is a great solution. It’s paperless! It’s organized! And so easy to use!

It’s a digital portfolio and it’s so kid-friendly that they can upload their own work. That’s huge for the kids and you too! For the kids, it’s exciting to upload, organize and embellish their work. For you, it’s sharing the work! No more collecting and saving projects for 20+ kids. Each person’s is kept in one place and, the best part is… they’re taking charge of it. That’s a win for sustainability!

Looking for a way kids can share their work with parents? Thinking ahead to curriculum night or parent-teacher conferences? Seesaw is a great solution. It's paperless! It's organized! And so easy to use!

How we use it

Anna uses it in her classroom. She uses it to record her students’ presentations so that they and their parents can see what an amazing job they did! She, also, uses it to keep digital copies of the students’ creations throughout the year – including those hard to keep pieces of artwork like salt dough maps of the continents!

Marti hasn’t used it yet but after seeing what it can do, she’s all in.

Looking for a way kids can share their work with parents? Thinking ahead to curriculum night or parent-teacher conferences? Seesaw is a great solution. It's paperless! It's organized! And so easy to use!

Here’s what we like:

  • It’ so kid-friendly! The app even recognizes when the camera is still enough to get a clear shot so kids can be their own photographers and organizers. It’s quick and simple for you to create a class and folders so that kids organize their own work. So they’re getting practice with functional organization skills and you’re not getting the repeated practice of organizing 20+ students’ work!
  • It’s got great features – the ability for kids to do their own voiceovers easily and add drawings. Those extras will make kids even more excited about showcasing their work!
  • Easy for you to give kids feedback. Yup, you can still review students’ work with feet up at home but you won’t have to lug the projects home. That’s one for sustainability!
  • It’s great for parent communication and for sharing students’ work. Which also means it can be great evidence for evals – think Danielson Framework.
  • You can set the restrictions so that you approve anything students upload, all comments they make and approve work so that parents can access it. You can decide just how open or restrictive you want access to be – from students viewing and sharing comments with each other to access being restricted to just you.
  • Teachers can upload and assign work through Seesaw. We haven’t done that yet but since annotating looks easy and straightforward for kids, we think it could be a good option.
  • The app is versatile. It’s accessible online, on Chromebook, Android, and iOS. And even in several languages. If your students have their own Google account, they can use it so set up is even easier.
  • Seesaw has a parent invite printable with a QR code that tells how to register and download the app so no homework for you there! An important thing to make sure they know is that while parent access is free, it’s limited to the most work uploaded within the last 30 days unless they pay a yearly fee (about $10).

Creative, dynamic, organized student portfolios? SeeSaw could be your ticket! You’ve got this! Make it happen!

 

Looking for a way kids can share their work with parents? Thinking ahead to curriculum night or parent-teacher conferences? Seesaw is a great solution. It's paperless! It's organized! And so easy to use!

Lost that one and only copy of the science test? Hmmm… AND you need it with three more things ready to discuss at the team meeting? Been there. Fingers crossed – with the 43 Folder System it won’t happen again. The 43 Folder System is pretty popular but new to us this year.

Home sick with a pounding headache, emailed sub plans… whew! Done… but wait! How do you explain to your sub exactly where the 24 copies of the science test are? Bam! The headache just grew. Note to self – find a better way!
Got it! Mailbox organizer for teachers. Not a new idea but a way of organizing stuff that may be different and cut down on the time you spend finding what you need. We’ve adapted it for the classroom teacher who needs to store, not just one but dozens of copies of multiple sheets. It’s not quite the same system but we’ve taken the basic idea and tweaked it to work with what we have.

I’m lucky to have a mailbox that’s 3 slots wide by 10 high. This is what I’ve done to organize it and cut down the number of freak-out moments finding copies. Really, how is it possible to lose 24 of something?! Not sure, but not a worry when all papers are organized for the next 4 weeks. Here’s how it looks:

Because my mailbox is 3 columns wide and 10 rows high, it makes sense to dedicate a space for each day of weeks 1 & 2 in the first column. The second column is the same thing for weeks 3 & 4. That leaves the third column for all those crazy extras like extra homework logs (because my kids are constantly losing them), extra copies of papers that have been passed out and a spot for copies that haven’t been assigned to a day yet.

By now, I know the system but I’ve labeled each section on the bottom and also on the side so that it’s easy for a sub or someone from my team to find stuff. Check out the labels – tada!

Have a system that works well for you? Share your ideas. We’d love to hear from you!
Organization?! – You’ve got this!

 

Everything you need in one place? Too good to be true? Nah! It’s Google Keep and a great way to organize all that info so it’s ready when you need it. Ready for parent-teacher conferences. Check! Ready for report card comments. Check again! You can keep students’ MAP or other assessment scores and academic or behavioral notes in Google Keep. Then, whether you need to refer to info for a team meeting or before contacting a parent, it’s easily accessible. Create a label called students to collect all your student cards.

Quick trick though: think backwards when you organize it. Work through your class list backwards, making a note for your student furthest in the alphabet then working your way through the alphabet backwards. With Google Keep, notes are organized with the newest ones on top. When your done making a card for each student, they’ll all be in alpha order. Ta da!

Once you get started, you may find all kinds of uses for Google Keep. Here are a few of our faves:

Organize guided reading groups. Be sure to add labels for guided reading. Then, keep all your guided reading notes and info in one spot.

Organize progress monitoring.  Use different colored cards to tell you how often kids need to be progress monitored.

Take notes in meetings. Add labels for each type of meeting – staff meetings, team meetings … that way, you can find them quickly and you’ll have all your stuff organized even when a meeting is called at the last minute. And they’ll be easily searchable so you’ll have answers at your fingertips… fast! Winner! Winner! Chicken dinner!

One more handy tip – color code your labels so you can easily find your data and keep those extra minutes for you!

If you have more tips for organizing student info, please share! We’d love to hear from you!

This is the last week of the Linky Party before the Diggin’ Giveaway! This giveaway is going to be GINORMOUS!

Make sure you enter!

As this is the last week of the Linky Party, we get to chose our own topics! We decided to post on our latest Pinterest inspired classroom hack. Instead of doing another frame wall, we created a Game Wall! This way our board games can help decorate our classroom, we can have easy access to them, and they take up less of that precious space in our classroom closets.

 

Start with some fun boardgames for your classroom. They can be educational or just plain fun! Keep the essentials and recycle the rest. The frames we used are the Nyttja 19.75″ x 19.75″ black frames from IKEA. They cost only $7.99 each! We chose them because they are light weight, have a nice design, we liked that they are square, they’re make with plastic and not glass, and they’re cheap! We chose a frame with a plastic inside and not glass just in case it gets dropped. Don’t want broken glass everywhere! We wanted the students to be able to take the games off of the wall themselves. The frames were hung with Command Medium Picture Hanging Strips. Easy to hang and won’t mess up our walls. Just place the game board inside the frame as you would a picture and attach a zippered pencil case on the back with either more Command Picture Hanging Strips or velcro, we decided to go with velcro as it is much cheaper. Place your boardgames pieces and cards inside the zippered pencil case, hang, and you’re ready to start playing! We also placed an “I Can” statement in the frame with each board game.