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Isn’t it wonderful how much help you get running your classroom and juggling it all? We bet you thank your lucky stars every day for that 24-7 personal assistant that your school district provides you! We know we do! It is just amazing how much they are able to take off of our plates so that we can focus on doing the important things like teaching, spending time with our families, and watching Netflix, of course!
Not sounding familiar? Wait, your district doesn’t do that? Hmmm…. wait… now that we think about it, we don’t have that either! Must have been a dream we were having. Man… now that we know we don’t have that what we have to do everyday sounds, well, overwhelming! But don’t you worry your pretty little head about it, we’ve got a nifty little program that will help you out. If This Then That (IFTTT) is an amazing site that can act as your personal assistant helping you complete both little and big tasks. Here is a list of just a few of our favorite ways that IFTTT can help!

These tips are amazing! Can't wait to start using IFTTT in my classroom and at home!

IFTTT can help you…

Never forget another birthday of a student, coworker, family member, or friend again!

Get notifications for birthdays in your calendar! You can even have it remind you when it’s your mail carrier’s birthday and be the best neighbor on your block [we know, we know, it’s not a competition… but it sort of is :)]! Click here to learn more!

Get healthier!

IFTTT can help send you reminders to drink more water. A common problem for teachers… and, you know, humans! Click here to learn more!

Get dressed for the day!

Okay, so it can’t actually pick out the perfect IG worthy outfit or dress you but it can check tomorrow’s weather and let you know every day at 6 PM so you’ll always be in the know! And that’s kind of the same thing, right? Click here to learn more!

Back up your photos!

How many times have you freaked out thinking that your phone has just died or may not survive its latest kamikaze jump off the table? It’s happened to us on more than one occasion. IFTTT can help back up your photos from your cellphone automatically to either Dropbox or Google Drive so that you never have to worry about losing any of those precious memories! Click here to learn more about backing up to Dropbox if you have an iPhone or here if you have an Android! Click here to learn more about backing up your photos to Google Drive if you have an iPhone or here if you have an Android!

Move your school pics from your cell phone to a specific folder online!

IFTTT can use your location when you took the photo to determine if it is a school photo and save it to a pre-specified folder in Google Drive all without you having to lift a finger… you know after you use all of your digits to get it set up in the first place :). Note: you may have an issue with these ITTT’s working correctly if you happen to live really close to your school and take pictures at home too. Click here or here to learn more!

Keep an eye on a certain app and let you know when it drops in price!

You can tell IFTTT to email you when the app you would love to use in your classroom drops in price. Click here to learn more!

These tips are amazing! Can't wait to start using IFTTT in my classroom and at home!

Text to remind you of that meeting or afterschool duty you always forget:

With all of the other things you need to keep track of during a day, we’re betting you could use a little extra help remembering those meetings or duties that only happen once in a blue moon. Click here to learn more!

Text you when a form is submitted!

Google Forms are amazing and can be used for so many different things! Parent volunteer sign-ups. Student sign-up for writing conferences. And so much more! Now, you don’t have to keep checking back constantly to see if you’ve gotten another response, your IFTTT assistant is on the job! Click here to learn more!

Adjust your cell phone’s ringer volume when you’re at work!

You can set IFTTT up to automatically mute your Android ringtone when you get to school and un-mute it when you get home. Click here and here to learn more!
You can also have your phone text your husband or kids when you leave work – or better yet you can set your kid’s phone up to text you when they leave school and are on their way home! Click here to learn more!
You can even set it up to turn your volume up when you lose your phone. Click here to learn more!

Close and open your garage door!

IFTTT can control your garage door for you so that you never have to wonder if you remembered to close it when you’re just about to school! Or on vacation! Click here and here to learn more!

Remind you of what’s on your To Do list!

You can schedule IFTTT to show you your To Do list when you leave your house, helping make sure that you look at it at least once every day. Click here to learn more!

Remind you what you need to buy at the store!

IFTTT will help remind you what you need to purchase when you arrive at store X. No more wondering… hmmm, I know there is something that I needed from here. IFTTT will use the GPS on your phone to know when you’ve arrived at store X and pull up your list for you. Pretty crazy, right!?! Click here to learn more! 
Want to know what’s even crazier??? IFTTT can also text your husband, kids, parents, whoever you choose to see if they need something at that store too when you arrive! Hearing “Oh I wish I had known you were going to X, I really need …” when you get home later. Now it’s on them to let you know if they need something. Ah, one less thing to have to tackle! Click here to learn more!
Here’s to the best personal assistant (no)money can buy you! IFTTT has so many amazing features it was really hard to stop. So, check them out and see how they can help to simplify your life both in and out of the classroom! Cheers!
These tips are amazing! Can't wait to start using IFTTT in my classroom and at home!
These tips are amazing! Can't wait to start using IFTTT in my classroom and at home!

The holidays are so much fun but, let’s face it, they can be a bit rough on the bank account! With all of the parties, family gatherings, and good cheer to spread it can really add up. Here are a few cheap holiday student gifts that you and your kids will love!

Scholastic Books ($34 for 32 coupons)

Use Birthday Coupons to let your students choose a book for up to $5. Or, if you have a lot of Scholastic Points saved up, you can use them to purchase the books. I did this with my students last year and they loved it! The students got to look through the December catalogs to see what they would like to choose. I then placed all of the orders and the books were there for them when we returned to school. It is so fun for the kids to get to go “shopping” and for a few of them it is one of the only times that they have ever gotten to order books so it meant a lot to them!

Homework Passes

These have to be one of the easiest and cheapest gifts to give your students. They cost you almost nothing and the kids love them! Who doesn’t love a night of no homework?!?! Just print, cut, personalize and you’re ready to go! Here are a few that we love:

Activity Book or Journal & Crayons

For some of our little guys, winter break means a lot of time entertaining themselves. Why not provide them with a fun, safe activity that they will love? Winter Activity Books, like this one (free!), are great for challenging your kiddos and keeping their minds engaged! Here is another one with an emphasis on journaling ($1.50)! You can grab a bulk supply of crayons (24 packs) on Amazon for about $30! Put them together and you have a really nice gift that your kiddos and parents will love!

The best student gift ideas for the holidays! I can't wait! I love Holiday Student Gift shopping and these are so cheap!

The best student gift ideas for the holidays! I can't wait! I love Holiday Student Gift shopping and these are so cheap!

End of year countdowns begin. The countdown to summer makes us smile! The countdown to end of year testing – not so much! Use these strategies to cover it all, and keep it organized and fresh when reviewing for end of year testing.

 

Cover it all and keep it organized:

  • Jot down a list of the topics you want to review with your students before end of the year testing begins.
  • Keep that list in Google or somewhere else online so that you can keep adding to it each year and throughout the year
  • Be sure to include academic and content vocabulary in your review. Sometimes kids can get hung up on one word and not be able to truly show what they know.
  • Once you have your list, print it out and cross items off as you review the concept with your kiddos. We love crossing things off our “to do” lists so paper and pencil work for us. If you prefer tech, keep track of the concepts you’ve covered by highlighting them.

 The countdown to summer makes us smile! The countdown to end of year testing - not so much! Tips for reviewing for end of year testing that keep it fresh.

Keep it fresh and fun:

  • Play games! Reviewing while playing games makes the work motivating and fun. Which also increases the likelihood that the concepts will stick. Add the nicer weather into the mix when everyone gets spring fever and playing games can become a game changer for test review.
  • Quizlet or Kahoot or Quizizz all have pre-made games in several areas so hopefully, they have what your kids need. Another option is to have your kids make the games – that helps kids cement the concepts as they make the game and also as they play the game.
  • Have your kids prepare short review lessons. Let them work in small groups, keep their focus narrow and their prep time to about an hour so they stay focused. Encourage them to include short videos or make presentations to explain a concept. If they make a video, be sure to save it for next year. The younger kids will get a kick out of seeing the “big” kids’ creations. Voila – teachers in the making!
  • Sing! We love songs to learn and to review concepts. Check out the selection on The Bazillions, Numberocks, and Schoolhouse Rock.

Reviewing for end of year testing doesn’t have to be drudgery!

End of year testing may be a fact of life but it can be meaningful and fun. Got more tips to share? Please do! Together, we can do this!

Come with a plan Stan! Start with a plan to maximize what you can get done.

So many things to do… sometimes makes our heads spin! What to do first? Start with a plan and you’ll have more to show for it. Not all that different from the idea behind learning targets for our kiddos. You can aim for a goal if you have a clear target – in our case, the tasks that will most help us do our jobs. Plan. Organize. Instruct. Facilitate. Assess. You get the idea – the list goes on so come to your plan time with a plan and get the important stuff done!

Teacher's plan time goes so quickly! Poof! It seems to disappear. Come with a plan Stan! Start with a plan to maximize what you can get done.

Ready. Set. Go!

  • Short plan time – one of those, I drop kids off then, blink. It’s time to pick them up again!
    These plan times are stinkers because they’re gone so fast. But the time can still be helpful if you’re ready with a plan to accomplish short jobs.

    • Like copying. Bring the masters with you when you’re walking the kids to music. That way, you’re spending your time doing a task that gets you ahead instead of doubling back to the classroom to grab what you need.
    • Email
  • See it all at your finger tips – Our Icon Lesson Planner has spaces to organize teacher’s plan time.

 

icon lesson planner – refer to plan time, have scheduled to work on 2-3 or more 🙂 days when we’ll be doing it

Teacher’s plan time goes so quickly!

Poof! It seems to disappear. What tips do you have for maximizing yours? Please share. Together, we can do this!

There are so many ways to start and to end each school day and we thought we’d share ours.

Each day begins with a question

We love starting each day with a question for the class. They seem to get into answering them too since there’s such a variety. Some that:

  • set the tone for learning, like, “Why is it important to do your best?”
  • focus on friendships, like, “What makes a really good friend?”
  • build self-confidence, like, “What is a unique talent you have?”
  • are just for fun, like, “If you had to eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?”

Some of the questions we thought would be a breeze for kiddos have been stumpers. Funny thing, though, they hurry over to see what the question will be, then, some know immediately what they’d like to say whereas others seem perplexed. Marti posts the question on a paper on the board and keeps a small container with little sticky notes underneath so kids can easily jot their response and add it to the paper. So far, she’s been keeping a growing pile of each day’s mini question poster – still deciding if she’ll make them into a class book. It could be fun to read through kids’ ideas! Like when they were asked what they’d like to be when they grow up. One girl wrote that she’d like to be a nurse while a boy in the class wrote that he’d like to be his older brother! And that totally fits him! We’ve noticed our kids’ responses getting more specific and moving past “fun” and “nice” – at least on occasion. Yep, they’re still the go-to responses but overall they’re getting more creative and reflective of themselves.

There are so many ways to start and end each day and we thought we'd share ours. Each day begins with a question. Each day ends with a launch.

Each day ends with a launch

Anna’s been ending each day with a launch – a final thought that makes a positive send off to each day. Anna’s comes from Aibileen, a wise woman, in The Help: “We are smart. We are kind. We are important.” It’s a close version to what Aibileen knew Mae Mobley needed to hear. Again and again! Us too!

What ideas do you have for ways to start and to end each school day? Please share your ideas. Together, we can do this!

Being a classroom helper can be pretty exciting for kids but it can also be an organizational hassle for teachers. Looking for a simple fix? Try having one student helper of the day!

Student helper of the day is a simple solution that works for everyone!

Here’s what Anna noticed after she recycled her classroom helper job chart and assigned a student helper of the day:

  • Instead of a chart with several jobs listed, there’s one student who takes care of it all – paper sorter and passer, line leader… And, if there’s a unique job that day, the solution is simple – it goes to the student helper of the day!
  • Kids are happy. Yep, they were happy before too but this way they have an entire day as the helper and get to do all of the jobs. Think a full day of glory with all the extra responsibilities a student helper has in one day.
  • The student helper of the day can encourage quiet walking in the halls. Anna lets the helper choose the student who did the best job walking in the hall and that person wins a point for their table team. Love it when kids help each other follow the directions in a positive way!
  • Anna’s happier too. Yep, one less classroom management piece! Opting out of a classroom management task without sacrificing anything from anyone’s perspectives is a win for sustainability!
  • One more point for Anna: it’s so easy to make sure she’s getting around to everyone fairly.

Have you opted out of the classroom helper job chart and tried hiring a student helper of the day? Please let us know how it works in your classroom. Got other ideas for streamlining or cutting out classroom management tasks? Please share! Together, we can make this sustainable!

Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one.

Who’s more fun than Thing 1 and Thing 2? Who’s more true than the Lorax? The wisdom of Dr. Seuss is cloaked in fun, crazy full-out Cat in Hat fun! This time of year, we can use some fun! So, let’s celebrate Dr. Seuss!

Dr. Seuss Birthday Celebration


Read, Read, Read.

The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.

Kids love reading Dr. Seuss books and won’t even realize you’re promoting reading this week. Anna suggests making a super simple Dr. Seuss bingo card filled with his book titles. As kids finish a book, they stamp another bingo spot and work towards filling up their card.

Write about it!

Because when you stop and look around, this life is pretty amazing.

Dr. Seuss’s books make us laugh and wonder. In his world, there are few worries about coloring within the lines. So give your kiddos writing prompts that let kids create their own versions of a Dr. Seuss world.

Writing Prompts
  • What if the Cat in the Hat visited your home? Describe your own rainy day adventure. If you have a pet, what would he say? How would he try to get things back in order? Tell us.
  • Work with a partner to invent your visit to a zoo on a wacky Wednesday. Be sure to include the literary element of rhyme. Have fun!
  • Work with a partner. What if you were Horton and no one believed that there were lives in that speck? What would you do to convince them that it was true?

Check out Rachel Lynette’s blog for 20 fun writing prompts.

Wacky Wednesday

Think and wonder, wonder and think.

A shoe on the wall? Desks turned around? Bring some of the wackiness in the book alive in your classroom then have the kids write to describe their versions of a wacky Wednesday in their own wacky worlds. Tip – a shoe on the wall is easily up, then down without a trace, with the help of a Command strip.

“A person’s a person, no matter how small”

 Today I shall behave, as if this is the day I will be remembered.
Dr. Seuss used his stories to teach and inspire equality and kindness. Horton Hears a Who is dedicated to a Japanese friend and inspired by a post-World War II visit Seuss made to research an article he was writing about a shift in Japanese culture to recognizing the importance of individuals in society.
The Lorax teaches us to take care of our world.  Have your kiddos make bookmarks that inspire kindness and treating our world with respect.
How do you celebrate Dr. Seuss? Please share! We’d love to hear from you!

A little prep and a bag of tricks can make indoor recess what you and the kiddos need. And, face it, on different days, it can mean different things – sometimes up and moving is definitely it! Other times, calm and quiet will give kiddos a chance to catch their breath and be ready for learning later. Then, there are times in the middle where a chance to get creative or play a game with a friend will help everyone reenergize. We’ve got ideas for you!

Indoor recess: a little prep and a bag of tricks can make indoor recess what you and the kiddos need.We've got ideas for you!
Up and Moving Indoor Recess

We love these fitness apps – almost as much as our kids do!

G0Noodle is the hands-down fav in Marti’s class. Kids take turns choosing a fitness activity. Sometimes it’s yoga but most times it’s dancing – yes, we have kids who love to dance. The moves are fun! Everyone first finds their “bubble space” then we’re set to go. We’ve built several champs as we’ve jumped and done pop see ko. It’s hard to pick our favs but Flappy Tuckler and Tangy Bodangy might be it! If you haven’t tried GoNoodle, we say go for it! It’s mostly free, so much fun and great for getting everyone up and moving!

Yoga gives kids a great movement break with stretches and focused movements. Anna’s class loves Cosmic Kids Yoga on YouTube. The kids love the story lines including Star Wars and Harry Potter that go along with the exercises.

Adventure to Fitness is a great option when you want some fast-paced movement and a story too! And, unbelievably, even science facts, history trivia, and vocabulary. Kids get all this as they scale mountains, dodge stampeding buffalo and face pirates. Ahoy! Mr. Marc leads adventures that have kids running, jumping and swerving for about 30 minutes. Want to go on an adventure but don’t have a half hour? No worries. Adventure to Fitness has mini-adventures too. It’s available on a subscription basis: $19 a month (you can cancel anytime) or $99 for the year.

Indoor recess: a little prep and a bag of tricks can make indoor recess what you and the kiddos need.We've got ideas for you!

Quiet Indoor Recess

The Traveling Trio – that’s armchair traveling for classrooms. And really fun too as we go on adventures with Olivia and her twin brothers Ingram and Everett. Learning about the cultures and history of places like the Czech Republic, Krakow and San Antonio, Texas is fun with kids who are 10 to 12 years old leading the journey. Each adventure is about 3o minutes. Anna’s class loves the episode on Krakow whose history began with a fire-breathing dragon! After an adventure, kids feel refreshed and excited to have been part of the siblings’ adventures traveling and making new friends. Episodes are expensive – $1,000 but for sure check out the free episode on their website.

Discovery Education – one stop shopping for episodes of Magic School Bus and Animated Hero Classics

Animated Hero Classics – a series of animated videos that tell the lives of artists, inventors, and leaders. After watching the video on Helen Keller, Anna’s kids understood her story so much better.

Magic School Bus – We’re going on record here. We love Ms. Frizzle and have for a long time! She’s got to be the ultimate teacher – always with a preposterous new adventure at the ready and a bag of tricks to get everyone safely out of impossible messes. Follow along to adventure in the rainforest, in space, even in the human body!

Indoor recess: a little prep and a bag of tricks can make indoor recess what you and the kiddos need.We've got ideas for you!

Indoor Recess for the Creative in All of Us!

Creative – Kids love Zentagle type coloring pages. Many of us never outgrow coloring – it’s so relaxing and Doodle pages fit the bill. The ultimate in creative freedom has to be a box full of creative junk – the castaways that kids can use to make their latest, greatest invention or fashion creation. Kids in Marti’s class make sushi rolls with colored paper. Anna’s kids have been on a card making kick, distributing their cards to everyone at the school. That makes for a lot of smiles all around!

 

Indoor Recess that Builds Community Too!

Games – Yes, we love coming together to play games. And we’re here to share some of our favs. Check out the card games by Gamewright  – you’ll love playing Sushi Go! Think strategizing combinations of sushi to gain the most points. Then, to totally change things up, there’s Loot, a plundering pirate card game. Shiver me timbers! It’s fast paced and fun! Tried and true games are still some of our favorites. Silent Ball, Heads Up 7up, and Who’s Missing? are fun with little or no props needed.

 

Indoor recess? Embrace it with several different options. Choose the one that fits what you and your kids need at the moment. With lots of options, you’ve got this! What’s your go-to for indoor recess? Please share.

Indoor recess: a little prep and a bag of tricks can make indoor recess what you and the kiddos need.We've got ideas for you!

Coming back from lunch? It’s hard for all of us – my kiddos and me too! For them, leaving the rowdy lunchroom in straight lines to quietly (cough! cough!) make their way down the hall towards our classroom is not a stellar moment to launch right into close reading with complex texts. No, we need a moment. Or two! We take two by writing silently in our notebooks. At this point in the year, I have one student who is in the middle of writing a 12 chapter novel about dolphins. She’s gotten so engrossed in her story that she’s been working on it at home as well! And, she’s in 2nd grade! That makes a great story but really what’s makes this quiet writing break such a big deal is that it helps everyone calm, reorient and write! For me, those 10ish minutes (sometimes less, sometimes more) give me time to deal with a lunchroom crisis, shoot off a parent email or even just put the pile of stuff in my arms down – in a more or less organized way!

Quiet transition breaks work well for returning from P.E. too. My kiddos are sweet, naturally rambunctious and learning how to stop a super high-paced activity and change gears to the more structured routines of our classroom is hard. Giving them time to process that change helps everyone. They know that when they return from P.E., they get a book from their book bins then read silently. And again, that’s a bonus for me – because there’s always one more thing to do and no time to do it! Like those one-minute timed reading assessments – just the right amount of time to squeeze a few in! Like reteaching a math concept taught earlier in the day to a few kids who were pulled for an intervention. Yes, this is like making something valuable out of nothing! I get to take care of something important while everyone else is still working. Making that time work may look different for you – it might be the perfect time to for some kiddos to get a reading or math boost on a computer or app-based intervention.

Got some tips for transitions? Got some for sneaking minutes into your day? Please share!
Now do your own magic and add minutes to your day! You got this!

 

How’d my day go? Well…. Emmaline glued up her iPad, Ben dismantled my chair (while I was sitting on it!), PARCC starts next week and there’s a rubric giving all the finer points on rigor sitting on the pile on my desk! Help! How can we turn this crazy schedule into something we can do, do it well and have time for us? Yup, that’s what we’ve been kicking around because sometimes at the end of the day we’ve felt kicked around. So we’re going to do this! We’re going to turn it around and regain some of the energy we’ve lost in to do lists with teacher tasks that seem endless.

Sustainable is a word we’ve heard connected to farming and food. We think it works for teaching too. Some articles about sustainability use the verbs save and protect to call to action. We’re there! We’re looking for ways to save and protect our teacher friends – and ourselves! According to NPR, 8% of teachers leave teaching every year and less than a third of them are retiring. It’s a real problem! So, because it’s a matter of keeping our sanity or finding it again, we’re going to slice it, dice it and turn it inside out to find ways to make work easier. Ways that include using technology to help us organize the mountain of work that keeps us up at night. Ways that streamline procedures. And ways to relax and feel healthy. Yup, that can include wine! Most definitely!

We know that when we’re looking for help, we want strategies we can put into practice. We want a plan that works! So we’re searching, researching and trying ways to make this work! And we promise to share all the ideas that make a difference for us. And, we’d love your thoughts on any you’ve tried. Together, we can do this!