Showing posts with label organize me. Show all posts
Showing posts with label organize me. Show all posts

Last week, I blogged about why I said goodbye to guided reading.  

But that doesn't mean I gave up on small groups altogether.  

This teacher LOVES her some small group intervention time.

So, if not guided reading for literacy intervention, then what?  Data driven groups.  That's what.

But what does that look like?  Is it a complete 180 from guided reading?  How much relearning am I really gonna have to do here? (Pssst: not much.  It's really much easier than you'd think!)

Let's chat about data-driven reading groups.  I'll walk you through a sample class data set.  We'll talk about how I assess, set up groups, plan for them, and what my schedule for meeting with kiddos looks like!

Assess the Standards

In traditional guided reading, the first thing we did was test our kids' reading level, right?  In data driven reading groups, we also assess first!

But the evidence from the science of reading tells us that levelized readers aren't the best way to grow readers.  Levels can be subjective, and word difficulty doesn't consistently increase with the level.  The criteria for leveling books is multi-faceted and so none of the components fully consider word recognition.  

In data driven reading groups, I assess the standards.  To make it simple, I started with the assessments the school I was at already required: Acadience (formally, DIBELS) and PAST.  There was no need in adding additional stress with additional assessments--UNLESS I needed more information.

K-1 Acadience (DIBELS) takes care of letter naming, segmenting sounds, decoding CVC words and Oral reading.  

PAST takes care of phonemic awareness.  Beginning in 2nd grade, the MAZE (part of Acadience) addresses some comprehension portions of reading.

As a kinder teacher (at the time I started data driven groups), those were all of the assessments I needed.  And I was already doing them. 

What assessments is your school already requiring?  Can you use those to find skills to target with your students?  If you are in a school that still requires you to assess reading levels, are you also asked to use Acadience/DIBELS with your kids?  If not, the full Acadience and PAST assessments are available online for free and are surprisingly quick and easy!

Record the Data

Once I'm finished assessing my kids, I record the data.  Well, actually, I record the data as I go, but who's counting?? :)

I use this digital data wall literally assess a kid and then type it in on my laptop.  This digital template is already set up for first grade with the DIBELS and PAST benchmarks already listed.  But it is easy to edit for the grade and assessments you are using.

Then, after I'm finished assessing, I go back and color code my data for at risk (very below), low risk (bubble kids), on grade level and above. 

Group By Data Points

Now, I'm ready to group my kids.  

I print out the grouping pages that I need from my Data Driven Groups resource.  These three pages shown below are the ones I'll be walking through in this post.  You can find tons of different grouping pages here.

For my phonemic awareness groups, I printed out a blank page because all of the skills I need to address were on multiple I'm just saving paper!  In the top category boxes, I wrote in each skill from PAST that I need to address with at least one of my kids in my sample class.  Then, I wrote the names of the kids for each category.  Notice that for the PAST, kids are only in one category...the stage they are currently working on becoming automatic at.  Also, notice I combined D1 & D2 and E2 & E3 because they are very similar and both skill groups were very small.  When I do this, I just note which subskill each kid needs to focus on so I can do that individually in the group.

For my phonics groups, I had some pre-alphabetic readers and early alphabetic readers.  Not all of the skills need to be addressed with my kids, so I'll only use the columns I need.  Again, I wrote down the kids' names under EACH category they need help with.  Notice that for phonics, they may be in multiple categories.  I will not put kids in two of the same type of subcategories though.  For example, I will not have a kid in boy the read VC and read CVC columns even if they can't do both of those, because they need to first focus on VC, then I can move them to CVC.  But I could have a kid in read VC and spell beginning sounds, because those are different types of sub skills--decoding and spelling.

I also have oral language and comprehension group pages as well that I can add kids to.  Often times, my oral language kids are my ELL kids or low language kids.  I can add those kids based on their ELL level or anecdotally as I notice oral language skills that need more work.

I want to make sure every kid is in a group.  If not, I need to consider what extension groups I could offer for those kids.  This is often where my comprehension groups come in. And for those kids with great comprehension, we work on writing their comprehension skills, like writing a retelling of a story, etc.

Now that I have my kids listed in groups, I'm ready to plan!

Plan the Lessons

Once I sort out my groups, the planning starts.  This is where data driven reading groups become much, much simpler than guided reading.  I look at each skill group and ask myself...

What content should I plan for this skill?  I preplan my list of words or letters we will work on for the week.  I typically only work a week at a time because I like to adjust as my kids grow or struggle.   

What supplies do I need to work on this skill?  For many groups, I will want some manipulatives like colored blocks or felt squares for my phonemic awareness groups.  Dry erase markers, marker boards....anything that I would need for those groups.  Then I get it all together and make sure those things are organized and easily available near my small group table.

I can add all of this information to my lesson planning pages and add them to my small group binder.  Now all I'll need to do is open up to our lesson plan and get started!

As a side note....the lesson planning page is basically the longer version of the groups page.  You do you. :)  If you like one better than the other, use it.  If you like both, go for it!  For me personally, I like to do just the groups page and I keep a separate list of words by sound or feature to reference!

Meet With Kids 

Remember stressing over your schedule with guided reading?   In my head, I was like, "Ok, 2 groups a day, but I have 5 reading groups.  2 of my groups need to see me every day, but that won't work.  Can I manage to just meet with my highest group once or twice a week.  Wait, what about my bubble kids?"  Am I right??

This is the main thing I LOVE about switching my small group mindset to data driven groups.  There is no schedule.  No really.

For those of you who know me in real life, I know you are shocked.  Because I LOVE me a schedule.  I LIVE by a schedule.  But this was the most freeing part for me with data driven groups.  Remember those group pages I filled out?

Those became my "schedule."  Or, more accurately, my checklist.  

So, how does that work? Well, because I am a Type A teacher, I just simply go in order and use those columns like a checklist. 

In this sample class, I would start with my Phonemic Awareness Groups and meet with that PAST level D group.  Then, I would add the date we met (and minutes if needed for RTI) and any notes I had.  

As soon as I finished that group, I would call the next group, and so on.  

For these skill groups I'm showcasing in this post, they are short.  Sometimes just 5 or 10 minutes.  Maybe 15 minutes.  So I can fit way more groups in than the old school guided reading groups. (Yes, I continued to do reading groups with decodable texts.  That blog post is coming next....hang tight!)

My main focus for small group time when I was in kinder was during their center time.  The teacher I was long term subbing for used traditional kinder centers.  I pulled during that time and I didn't just pull one group per center.  I just called a group back and moved on through the groups, switching centers with my timer, not based on when I finished a group.  

Other kinder teachers had the kids on a class set of Chromebooks doing independent interventions while they pulled.  

The other **fabulous** thing about data driven groups is because they were so short, I was able to meet with them throughout the day, not just during centers.  If I had it together one morning and finished attendance early, I could pull a skill group or oral language group during morning work.  I pulled a group or two during snack time.  Or while kids were finishing up their writing work.  Any part of my literacy block where I had a "free" minute where I didn't need to walk around and monitor kids, I could pull groups.

So, in this sample class, I have a total of 14 skill groups.  Like I mentioned before, these are not all of the skills or intervention groups I would have.  This is just a sample!  Once I make it through all 14 groups, I start back over and do it over again.  

On average, I would say I had about 20 or so literacy skill groups in my kinder class and was able to get through all groups at least once a week.  But that doesn't mean I only met with each kid once a week.  In my sample class we've been using, that would mean that my highest kid, "William" would be met with twice a rotation for just these skills and my lowest kid, "Cooper" would be met with 7 times per rotation for just these skills.

Want to use all the Data Driven Binder Organizational Things??  You can find them here!

Okay.  Whoah.  That was a TON of info.  Maybe more than I initially intended to share.  Have I convinced you to make the switch yet?  What questions do you still have?  Drop your questions in the comments and let's keep the conversation going!

And next up on the blog, we'll be talking about using decodable texts as a reading group!

One of my most popular resources in my store is especially popular right now during distance learning:   Digital lesson plan templates.  I often get asked lots of the same questions about these templates and how I use them.  So, today, I'm going to give you the answers to my most frequently asked questions about using these digital lesson plan templates!

What are Digital Lesson Plan Templates?

Digital lesson plan templates are the templates I used in the classroom to plan out my week and what I currently use for homeschooling my 2nd grader.  They are hosted on Google Drive so I could access them easily at home or anywhere with internet!  Because they are hosted on Google, it's also super easy to add in links to articles, games, digital resources, or whatever right there in my plans.  That way, when I'm teaching, and we are ready to do our digital phonics lessons, I can just click from my lesson plans and go straight there.

Can the fields inside of the boxes be edited?

Yes!  Every single part of this template is editable, including the contents inside of the boxes.  I have put those there because that is the format that I use, and if that works for you great!  But if it doesn't, feel free to edit as you need to!

Can I Share The Lesson Plans With My Teammates?

Yes... BUT!  In order to follow the DMCA laws and copyright laws, you must purchase an additional license for each teacher that will be using the document.  You do NOT have to purchase a license for your admin who you turn your plans in to for viewing/record keeping.

You can purchase additional licenses for 10% off the original price here!

If you are an administrator and looking to buy a license for all of the teachers in your school, you can email me at for heavily discounted pricing options!

I Need Bigger Boxes.  Can I Make the Boxes Bigger?

Yes!  Just like in Word, the boxes will grow as big as you need them to.  That means, you may end up with more than one page of plans.  I like to keep my plans to one page just because that works best for me... that's why the boxes are sized the way they are.  BUT, if you need more details in those boxes or information on your plans so you remember what you are teaching, you can type a novel in the box with no problems!

How Do I Make a New Template Each Week?

With Google docs, you can make a copy of the template and use it for each week.  At the end of the year, I have 36 files of lesson plan templates on my drive!  And then the next year, I can start with the same templates for each week and just change what I want to from the previous year.  Yay!

To make a new template, you simply choose File > Make A Copy.  You will name the new copy of plans and then make sure it will save into the correct folder and then click ok.  That's it!  Now your own template is saved and ready to edit for the next week!

Since This is a Google File, Will This Work With Word?

Yes... Mostly!  You can download the Google file to Word by choosing File > Download > Microsoft Word.

WARNING: It will not save all of the fonts... it will most likely change the fonts to Times New Roman.  But the formatting will stay basically the same.   

Also, by downloading to Word, you will lose the benefit of being able to view your plans from home, but it is definitely an option if you need it!

I Prefer the Days at the Top and the Subject Areas on the Side.  Is that Possible?

Yes!  Just simply type over the headers and rename them however you choose!

Can I Add More Columns and Rows?

Yes!  Just click where you would like to add another column or row.  Then right click and choose Insert Row above/below or Insert column above/below.  

You can also delete a column or row if you need to!

I Need to See More of this In Action First!

I have a youtube video that walks through the plans for you to see up close and personal here.

And several years ago, I did a facebook live on these plans as well!

Where Can I Find These Lesson Plan Templates?

You can get a license for these templates for a single classroom teacher use only HERE!  And if you are interested in more digital Google templates to keep you organized, you can check out the bundle here.

Lesson Plan Templates EDITABLE compatible with Google Drive      Planning And Assessment Tools Compatible With Google Drive BUNDLE

My first year teaching, I was moving 90 miles an hour all day long and my organizational skills suffered those first few weeks of back to school assessing!  I had assessment documents all over the place, I had no time to come up with a good system, and I had to look in 500 places before finding the piece of paper or spreadsheet I was looking for.

Sound familiar?

My OCD self won out after the first few weeks of school and I nailed down a system for keeping the student data organized and easy to find and use. Take a peek at my favorite tips for recording data, and using that student data to guide instruction (since that's the actual point, right???)

Tip #1: Go Digital

Digital data keeping is where it's at in my opinion.  Even when I do pencil/paper data trackers, I always transfer it to my digital student data tracker.

Why?  Because if it's on my Google drive, I can look at it at school, at home, on my phone, on my laptop, in my car, while I'm at PD... anywhere! :)

Most of the time, I keep my laptop right by me while I'm assessing kids.  For example, when I tested my kinders' rote counting, I would call them to my table, have them count with me and then just type in the number the counted to in my student data tracker.  I put their score straight into my spreadsheet and skip the paper copy.  

If I absolutely can't have my laptop with me, I put the student data in a paper sheet and add it in to the computer later.  

Tip #2: Keep the Data In One Place

Not much is more frustrating than having to flip through a bazillion spreadsheet pages to find the student data you need for your administrators during PLC meetings or for your literacy coach when she runs down to your room to get a data point from you.

For years I had roughly a bazillion different sheets for approximately a bazillion different kinds of assessments I needed to give my kids.

Sound familiar?

The year I switched to having my data all in one place was a game changer for me!  

Now all of my student data is in one Google Sheet on my Google Drive.  

So, why not just have several Google Sheets all in the same folder on my Google Drive?  I mean, I've definitely had to do that before when I had someone who needed me to fill out a specific sheet, but I MUCH prefer it all on one sheet.  

Having it all in one sheet means I just have one place to look for the student  data.  When I'm talking to someone about intervention on a kid, I have one line of data to look at instead of flipping through a bunch of spreadsheets.

Also, having it one sheet means I can easily see trends in kids.  I can easily see how lower PAST scores affect the nonsense word fluency scores for the same kid.  And that helps me make better data-driven decisions. 

Note: I do usually have a separate sheet for math and literacy.  I've actually done it both ways (altogether and separate) and both work well since we usually talk about intervention with one or the other.

Tip #3: Keep the Paper Copy

Yes, tips 1 and 2 were all about digital.  

But let's face it:  Many assessments, like the math one below, have pages that must be filled out during the assessment and aren't digital.  This is true for DIBELS, PAST, fact fluency and any student math assessments or writing prompts and rubrics.  

For these types of assessments, I fill out the paper assessment with the kids during the assessment just as I am directed, and then when I have the final score, I put that right into my laptop.  Then, I file that page into that students manilla folder that I keep on them for the entire year.  

Why keep the paper copy?  It's simple.  The paper trail.

Parents want to see the paper trail.  I use the kids assessment folders for parent teacher conferences.  There's nothing "extra" to assemble for conferences, I just pull out their folder and we go through it.  That way, in the spring, if parents forgot how far their kid has (or hasn't) come, I can just pull out both assessments and we can side-by-side compare.

In my early years, I stapled the relevant stuff for conferences together to go over with parents.  And inevitably I would understandably have questions from the parents and then I would have to go digging.

So, filing assessment pages into student folders as I go means I have the most up to date data ready to go for any parent or school person that comes to ask me about a kiddo.

The RTI Team needs to see the paper trail.  Having all of my paper copies all in one place helps me when we have last minute intervention meetings or a administrator comes in wanting to see data evidence on a kid.  It just makes sense to have it all in one spot.

I know it seems obvious, but if you're like me, sometimes it's a simple change that makes a HUGE difference.

Tip #4: Actually USE the Data

Okay, okay, another obvious one.  

But ya'll.  I've totally been guilty of racing to get #allthethings tested and recorded and then never look at it again.

Because, let's be honest, after all that assessing, I don't WANT to look at it again.  At least for a few weeks... :)
But I finally got to the place where I thought, "If I'm gonna have to collect it all, I might as well use it!"

I know you don't have much time.  I feel you.  That's why in my own classroom, I just use my digital data wall and pull groups on the spot.  For example, when I was teaching kinder last year, when I had a quiet moment during morning work, or if I finished a reading group early, or during snack time, I would look at my data wall, and call all of my kids back who couldn't count past 20, or 50, or 100, or wherever I wanted to focus.  

Those counting strugglers would come back to my table, we would spend 5 minutes practicing our rote counting and then they would return to their desk and I would highlight their data points so I knew I had met with them!  Simple as that.

Other times, I called back all the kids on a specific PAST level and we would practice the phonemic skill they needed to move on to their next level.  Again 5-10 minutes max.  I met with all of my kids as I had a spare 5-10 minutes.  Once I had met with them all for that assessment area, I would check it off and move on to another data point.  This helped me keep track of which groups to pull next.

Often times, on Fridays, instead of pulling reading groups, I would pull data groups like I just described to just reinforce or reassess those skills.

This was an EASY, ready to go way to use my student data immediately.  I literally finished assessing and then began pulling data groups during spare moments throughout the day.  It was purposeful, targeted, quick, but most of all, super effective!  Having all of the info in this student data tracker was a HUGE help for this too!

You can find the fully editable, Digital Data Wall I use in my classroom here.
Have you ever spent hours cutting booklets, ordering page numbers, stapling them....times 20 or 25 kids?

And then, if you're like me, at least one kid has a page missing or out of place... #forreal

Last year, I introduced my decodable readers and blogged about why science tells us that decodables are a MUST in the classroom and I blogged about our routines too.

But the downfall to doing decodable readers with the whole class each week is a HUGE prep commitment!  I mean, I did it last year (READ: a copy mom did it for me!), but it sure would've been nice to have a better way.

Now, we do!  I've made all of my decodable booklets print, fold, and staple friendly!  That's it! No cutting and ordering page numbers and making mistakes any more.  If you have my decodables and are like me, you need visuals.  And step by step instructions.  Because, let's face it...I'm spatially challenged! :)  Let's chat about the easiest way to put together decodables!

Printing the Booklet

The first thing you will need to do is get all those settings right on your printer and Adobe Reader.  I'll walk you through it step by step in this video...

A few things to note:  Not all printers are created equally.  That means, not all printer settings are created equally.  Your 2-sided setting may be in a different place, or you may have to click the "advanced settings" button in your print dialog box.  The important part is that you choose double sided printing with it flipping along the short edge!

Chances are you can't print directly to your school copy machine.  If you can... COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS!  I taught for 10+ years at 3 schools and only one of those years I was able to print to the copier and it. was. magical.  No, really!

Where were we?  Oh yeah, you will probably need to print to an actual printer first and then copy the number you need.  So...follow the printing steps in the video and print your booklet.  Then, take it off the printer AS IS!  Do not reorder the pages!

Fold the Readers

It's that simple.  Just fold it.

No, but really.  Take the papers off the printer--as is-- and line up the pages.  If they've printed correctly you will have page 5 on top page in the top right corner, then page 7, then page 9.

You will fold the booklet from left to right.  That is, so that page 4 folds on top of page 5. Once you've folded the booklet, it will look like this...

Staple the Booklet

Yep,'s that easy.  2 staples...3 staples...whatever your preference is!

And that's it, y'all!

Ok, But Can the Kids Do It?

Yes, they can!  If you have taught your kids how to use the stapler, this is super easy for kids to do!

Have your kids put together their booklets first thing in the morning as part of their morning work.  Last year, we did our decodables starting on Wednesday, so this would be my Wednesday morning work.

Leave the stack of decodables by the door or in your "morning work" spot.  Have them grab their booklet stack as they come in.

Then, they fold and staple and put it in their phonics folder so it is ready to go for phonics or reading time!

Don't want your kids doing it?  Don't let your kids use your staplers?  Just have a copy mom do it.  Or have an early finisher you trust do it for you!  Or take the extra 10 minutes and do it yourself.  Seriously 30 seconds TOPS to fold and staple one of these booklets, ya'll!  You can totally do it!

Find an entire year of decodables for kindergarten here and first grade here.
You've got a great hands-on, standards aligned activity that you've planned and prepped for.

Everything's ready to go and you're so confident that it's gonna be that good that you secretly hope your admin walks in during the activity.

And as you are explaining the project to your sweeties, you realize you totally forgot to think about who their partner or group would be...

Sound familiar?  This has been me time and time again. #realtalk  I even once forgot about this during an informal observation and had to come up with partners on the fly like I knew what I was doing the whole time...

I swore I'd never do that again so I came up with a system to group my kids in multiple ways with very little prep!  Let's chat about grouping students today!

At the beginning of the year when I am finished with ALL THOSE ASSESSMENTS, I sit down and make my grouping lists.  I have 3 lists I make:  literacy skills, math skills, and behavior skills.

On each list, I order my students from most support needed to least support needed.

When it's time for an activity, I pull out my lists.  (I have them on a ring hanging on the inside of one of my cabinets.)

I find the topic I need.  When I first started this, I had a separate list for reading and writing.  You can certainly do that, but I found that it really was of no benefit to separate them out.  And it was easier to think of the kids with literacy as a whole in mind!  I added a behavior list later on as well.  I use this one for content projects that aren't necessarily literacy science experiments.

Once I have the list I need, I have a ton of options for grouping right at my fingertips!

Grouping Homogeneously (Similar Ability)

If I want kids in like ability groups, I simply think about how many I want in each group and go down the list.  For example, if we are ordering sentence words and I want to differentiate this, I'll use this grouping.  Let's say I want 3 kids in each group.  Then, numbers 1-3 will be together, 4-6, 7-9, etc....

If I want to meet with a small group of 6 to do the activity with me, then I'll call numbers 1-6 to the back table and then go down the list in groups of 3 after that.

I don't call their numbers, I call names.  In fact, the kids don't every really realize that I have a list like this.  I just simply grab the list when I'm calling groups and tell them who I want where!

Grouping Partners Heterogeneously

If I want kids to be in partners by mixed groups, I will split my list in half.  So, for example, with this list of 20 kids I would split it into 1-10 and 11-20.

Numbers 1 & 11 will be partners, 2 & 12, 3 & 13...

The reason why I do it this way is I want to make sure I'm NOT pairing the lowest kid with my highest kid.  When these kids are grouped together, the high kid does all the work and the low kid does a lot of staring off, right??

I want my lowest kid with an average kid.  That way they are strong enough to help my low kids, but not so strong that they take over.

Also, in this scenario, some of my average kids (numbers 8-10) will be with my highest kids.

Again, if I want to meet with a small group, I just take off the first 6 to meet with me and then split the remaining 14 in half and pair 1 & 8, 2 & 9, 3 & 10....

Grouping Heterogeneously

When grouping kids into mixed ability groups of 3+, I do the same thing I talked about with partners, but I split the list up more.

For example, if I want groups of 4, I would divide my list of 20 kids into fourths (1-5, 6-10, 11-15, and 16-20).  Then, I would put numbers 1, 6, 11, and 16 in a group and so on.

In this grouping, I have a solid balance of low, average and high students.

As I'm putting kids in groups, if I see partners that should be together like numbers 1 & 11 but those kids are like oil and water (you know the ones I'm talking about, right???), then 1 & 12 will be partners and 2 & 11 will be partners.  WHY? Because...ain't nobody got time for that business, LOL!  But seriously, this is a tool, NOT the use your noggin' and make it work for your kids! :)

Why Use This Grouping Strategy?

I have found this strategy to significantly help engagement in group or partner activities.  It's well thought out, it allows for small group intervention if needed, and it is so flexible that they are rarely with the same partners. (Anytime a student is absent, it changes up the grouping enough so that even if I mostly use heterogeneous partners they will be different most of the time because of absences!)

Aside from engagement, it's just plain simple.  Do the work at the beginning of the year when you assess and then you are set for any group activity.  Make new lists after you reassess if you want to keep you lists fresh!  I usually change my lists at the beginning of each quarter!

And last but not least, this strategy is SURE to impress your admins during a formal or informal evaluation.  It's well thought out, but easy to use "on the fly" too!

Want to use this tool?  Find the digital tool for FREE here!

Earlier, I blogged about my routines for Sentence Puzzles in my first grade classroom.

This week, let's talk about my favorite thing: organization.  How do we organize all those puzzles? What's the best way to prep the puzzles so that we can keep track of them (and the kids can too!)?

How Can I Easily Prep My Sentence Puzzles?

Obviously, the first thing I need to do is print the sentence puzzle masters.  I keep the masters organized so I can go back and copy again if we lose any (hello, it's gonna happen!).  I also printed out the cover pages to help organize the master copies in a sentence puzzle binder.  I just keep the answer keys in the front pocket so I can get to it easily.

I printed the resource cover and the spine label to use as my notebook binder cover.

After I got my master copies organized in a binder, I copied the puzzle masters on colored cardstock.  I have the suggested color I use in the top right of each master.  I just simply sorted all of the reds together, oranges together, etc...and then copied each color together.

Once they are copied, then I cut apart each puzzle (what a great job for a parent volunteer!) and put each puzzle in its own snack size ziploc bag.

Why Do I Need To Color Code Sentence Puzzles?

Because, when I first started sentence puzzles years ago, I did all of the puzzles for one level on the same color of cardstock.  You know, so I could say, "Johnny, you and your partner will work on a blue puzzle today."  Make sense, right?

Nope.  Fail.  Major fail.  Because, guess what happened when Johnny and his partner got into the tub of blue sentence puzzles to put them together?  Yep.  They got mixed up.  Big time.  And then it took FOREVER times 300 to get them sorted back correctly.

So these puzzles are set up with the level on each word card so students can easily find their level in their labeled tubs.  But because each puzzle for a level is a different color, kids can easily see if a puzzle piece is in the wrong bag.

How Do I Keep the Puzzles Organized?

Once I'm done copying, laminating, cutting and bagging the puzzles, then I'm ready to go.  And seriously, if you have a good parent volunteer, all of this can be done by the volunteer in about 2-3 hours! #doit #parentvolunteersforthewin

I have two different ways I organize my sentences depending on how I am going to use them.  As we talked about in my routines post, if I'm using them for a carousel group activity or for reading groups, then I keep them all in one shoe box tub.  I use index card dividers in the tub to separate each level of puzzles and then put the puzzle bags behind each level divider.

Then, I'm ready to just pull a puzzle for small groups or pull a few for our carousel activity!

If I'm going to use them for literacy stations and centers, then I get tubs for each level I will need.  (I don't put out every level, only the ones my kids need.)  Then, I just toss the puzzle bags into the appropriate tub!

Find the whole set of sentence puzzles here!

It's not just the students that enjoy getting new school supplies.

We teachers love a good cart full of fresh school supplies!  I love the smell of fresh crayons, the crisp corners of the crayon boxes, the sharp tips of pencils and the bright colors of cardstock and flair pens!  I don't know a single teacher that doesn't enjoy getting new supplies every year.

Here's my list of school supplies that every teacher should be shopping for before school starts!
{This post includes afflilate links}

1. Pre-Sharpened Pencils

I don't know why it took me almost 7 years to buy in to these things, but man was my teacher life better once I discovered pre-sharpened pencils.  There is nothing teachers loathe more than standing at the pencil sharpener for 28 hours a day sharpening pencils. #badmathintended

When I bought school supplies for my entire class instead of kids bringing their own, this was at the top of my list.  And when I moved schools and the kids brought their own supplies, this was STILL at the top of my list.  Those kids that bought the pre-sharpened pencils to add to our stash? Yeah, they were pretty much immediate teacher pets! :)

2. Pencil Sharpener

But, alas, even the pre-sharpened pencils dull up... #wompwomp  And when they are dull, raise your hand if you still use this guy?
Yeah, no one?  That's what I thought.  This ol' guy was one of the first things to get taken down in my room my first year teaching.  Not only was it in the most horrible spot EVER, but I just can't even deal with the squeaks and squawks that go along with this guy. #realtalk

So, when my kids do have to sharpen pencils (I have a helper that does it every afternoon for me during our afternoon stack and pack time!), I love using this battery powered sharpener.  I don't have to worry about where to put it, and if my helper is still sharpening after our stack and pack time when we read aloud our chapter book at the end of the day, she can take the sharpener in the hallway to finish or in a quieter corner of the room!  Word to the wise though: I buy an extra one every year because every now and then one just dies on me.  Doesn't happen every year, but it's good to have an extra just in case!

3. Cardstock

Not much makes me happier than fresh, crisp cardstock arranged by color in my cabinets.  It's pretty much my happy place.  Astrobrights cardstock and colored paper are must haves on my list!  The only complaint I have is that I can never find a packet that has ALL the rainbow colors included!  Why do we always leave out purple?!? I need a complete rainbow, please!

4. Flair pens

My most favorite thing to write with.  Ever.  I love all the colors and I love that the ink doesn't leak and gel up like regular pens. #grossesmeouteverytime

My favorite part is using them for records and color coding.  I use a different color for each quarter on my report cards.  And I use different colors each time I do a running record to keep my records from running together!  See what I did there? :)

5. Colored Sticky Notes

Yes, I could use the banana yellow sticky notes my school keeps in the office for us, but what fun is that?  I'd much rather buy packs of bright color stickies that get the "ooooohs" and "awwwwws" out of my firsties!  We love using them to color code our class graphs, to respond to our books during guided reading, and to spell with color coded sticky notes during phonics!  I usually several packs of these to last me through the year!

Of course, I love writing odds and ends on bright sticky notes, but these are my absolute favorite for organizing guided reading.

They are slick like plastic and last the entire year...even through all of our flexible grouping switches and such.  Plus, I can color code them to match my color reading groups. #winning

6. Dry Erase Markers

I refuse to live in a world where only black, red, blue and green dry erase markers exist.  Since dry erase markers are my main squeeze for anchor chart drawing and writing, I have to have color.

I buy 2 packs of these colored markers every year and they last me all year.  Some years, I luck out and have enough left over that I only have to buy 1 more packet!

Even with my interactive whiteboard becoming my main source for number talks, calendar math, writers' workshop model lessons, and more, I still use dry erase markers enough to make this a must have purchase in my book!

7. Laminator

Am I the only teacher that loves to laminate?  From the smell to the warm film to the crisp edges when I cut it...I love every bit of it!

Having my own small laminator in my classroom was a life saver!  I still laminated things on our large school laminator, but when I didn't feel like booking it all the way to the library or was in a time crunch, this small laminator was PERFECTION!  The laminator is still going strong almost 6 years later and a pack of 100 thermal sheets was enough to make it through an entire school year for me (and sometimes longer!)

8. Paper Cutter

Last but not least is a paper cutter!  I bought mine as soon as I was hired for my first teaching job.  I learned from my mentor when I was interning that it's just not worth the walk down the hall to use a paper cutter you may have to wait in line for...and that is probably going to be dull and add those fuzzy edges to your cut.  You know what I'm talking about!  That's a major sad face situation for this girl.  I had my own and it stayed sharp and crisp enough all 10 years for me...and my teacher buddies loved coming to borrow my paper cutter too! :)

What's on your must have list of teacher school supplies?

Back to Top