Sunday, August 20, 2017

4 Tips for Surviving the Beginning of the Year (or all year)

Hey there! Our school year has started already and we have been busy building our classroom and school community. Here are a few tips that I use with my kiddos each year that I think always help our year go smoothly.
1. Introduce the staff. We have a VERY large Elementary school. (I am talking over 1200 kiddos.) We always have a ton of people who visit the school. These people have to go through a DL scanning process in order to receive a badge stating that they are allowed to be on campus.  Also, all school employees have badges that we are required to wear, but they don't all look the same. Not all schools may have this service (or badges), so my advice to you is to teach the kiddos who the adults are that may be all around them and what their job is.  For example, when you tour your school to show the students how to walk through the lunch line and pick their food, make it a point to introduce the cafeteria staff. As you walk by the clinic, ask the nurses to come out and meet your students. As you walk by the custodial office, pull those awesome people out and have them say hello.  After you have met everyone (don't forget the lovely front office staff) your kiddos will feel much more comfortable saying hello to those staff members that work so hard behind closed doors. The students will also know who to look for when delivering messages to some of those staff members.

2. Teach students to be courteous and respectful.  Our school strives through several lifelong guidelines that we teach every grade level from Pre-K to 5th.  This consistent policy of being trustworthy, being truthful, no put downs, being an active listener, and always doing your personal best helps our school wide community and the classroom community. The students know that all of those things are expected from them in ANY classroom, lunchroom, or playground that they step foot in.  One of the ways that I set up these expectations in my classroom is using this What Are Manners book and poster set.  (Just click the links below the pictures to download.)


3. Don't sweat the small stuff.  I have a tendency to get worked up over things that I want to be perfect. For example, my printer ran out of ink and the school doesn't let us do color copies, so my awesome, colorful labels for all the reading, math, science, and communication folders won't print. (It happens EVERY.YEAR!) But sometimes I need to think do those sweet faces really care if their journals all match or is it just my type A, OCD mind??? You got it, it's me!  In the great words of Princess Elsa, "Let it go, let it go!" Those precious little humans just want a loving, kind, fun teacher!!!

4.  Watch for sales!! I don't know about you, but I am constantly buying things for my classroom. In fact it is so bad that when my family is out shopping, I ask my children to tell me (force me really) to put it back.  I have also begun this habit of picking up extra snacks, or folders, or supplies (or whatever really) if it is BOGO. As teachers we put our hearts and souls in to our classrooms and our students but it should not be breaking the bank.

I hope these few little tips can help you start out and continue to have a great year!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

3 Reasons to Build Classroom Community & 4 Free Resources


Room preparation, planning, goals, objectives, data collection, and the list goes on and on. There is so much to think about and do, at the beginning of a new term. It makes me tired just thinking about all there is to do. So why take the time to build classroom community in your classroom? Let’s start with three simple reasons.

1. When problems or disagreements arise, classrooms with a strong sense of community respond better.

2. Bullying and other types of negative interactions are less likely to happen within a strong classroom community.

3. Students feel safe in an environment where teachers model trust and respect.


So, How does this class with a solid community look and feel? First, there is an overall sense of trust. Yes, this takes time, and happens in small steps, but well worth the effort. There is also a sense of predictability within the classroom. Students know and are comfortable with the materials and routines. Students are familiar with their teacher and with each other. They know what to expect. Students support and encourage one another. All of this develops over time and starts the very first day of school.

There is a multitude of ideas and materials available that are useful for community building. Today, I’ll share a few that are free and easy to use.

1. About Me Banner - Each student completes and decorates a banner flag with information about themselves. Combine the flags into a banner and display in the hall or room.



2. Star Student Forms - Students will enjoy completing these forms with background information. Pair students and have them interview each other asking questions from their sheets. Each student then introduces their partner to the class.
3. Find Someone Who - Students move around the room, and form pairs. They exchange papers and look to see if they can complete one of the sections of their partner's paper. After thanking their partner, they continue to another partner. Students can only complete one section per paper until they have met with each student in the class.



4. Free Printable Community, Classroom, or Team Building Quotations
- I love the power of inspirational quotes. Here are five freebies that can be printed and displayed for your class. They can be used as discussion points or simply as something to consider. Another idea is to display one of the quotes, and after discussion, ask students to paraphrase or elaborate on the statements.





I am thinking a lot about community these days. This summer, I experienced in a very personal way, the positive power of community. Following a brief fight with a very aggressive cancer, my husband passed away. In the depths of darkness, I was, and continue to find myself surrounded by the kindness and love of family, friends, and neighbors. From across miles and years, people have shared in a powerful way their time, wisdom, and concern. For this caring community of friends, I am eternally grateful. This is the type of community I wish for you and your students.

Monday, July 31, 2017

5 Tips For Feeling Good While Preparing for Back to School


As you probably noticed, we took a little “siesta” from our blog. A busy spring filled with many changes (both unexpected and expected) and events led to an even busier summer. We needed a break, so we took it. Many of us moved classrooms, moved houses, switched jobs, added to our current jobs, and many other life events. We also took trips with our families and friends, swished sand between our toes, celebrated milestones, supported through great sadnesses, and took some much needed time.

So we are recharged. The time has come to get back to work, but after summer the struggle is real! 


5 Tips For Feeling Good While Preparing for Back to School

1. Prioritize Your “To Do” List and Break It Into Manageable Tasks

It is tempting to want to get your classroom Pinterest perfect, have all student supplies organized, and do lesson plans until Christmas your first day back to work. I am here to tell you I have been teaching since the 90s and this NEVER works, you just end up overwhelmed! Break up what needs to be done into small manageable task with the most important things getting finished first.

2. Ask for help if you need it.

If you have moved classrooms (maybe multiple times) and you are overwhelmed with boxes appeal to family and friends to HELP! When your principal hands out the new lesson plan requirements and they are 2 pages long and you sort of want to breathe into a paper bag, reach out to your team or a like minded teacher. Work with other teachers to lighten the load. Generally people are more than willing to help out if you ask!

3. Help others if you can.

We rise by lifting others. That first year teacher who was crying in her car and the teachers’ lounge might need you to help him or her navigate open house or the first day (we’ve all be there)! The new mom down the hall would probably appreciate a hug, some words of encouragement, or better yet a hand with a bulletin board or a copy of the super cute name tags template you made for your students. Whatever it is, a kind and helpful gesture goes a long way. It might even put your dilemma of finding the perfect chevron border to match your student cubbies into perspective.

4. Plan ahead for your first days back.

The days are long and hard. Have snacks, water, and other necessities (like your favorite after work bottle of wine chilling in the fridge). 

5. Get Started!

It sounds obvious, but starting out is sometimes the hardest part. When your room is full of boxes, the walls are bare, and all your computer wires are a jumbled mess it is easy to feel so overwhelmed you can't get started. It is tempting to want to curl up behind your desk and eat M&Ms, but the only way to complete a task is to start! Put one foot in front of the other and start on the most important thing first.



At Planning In Paradise we want to help you get set for a great new school year! We are giving away 2 $10 Teacher Pay Teachers gift cards that you can use in the Back to School SALE! See the details below!
CONGRATULATIONS TO THE WINNERS Paige and Qween Bat!





Please share your favorite back to school tip in the comments! Have a terrific school year!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Teacher Appreciation


Here in paradise we appreciate teachers and TpT. In honor of the TpT Teacher Appreciation Sale May 9 - 10, we are giving away a $10.00 TpT gift card to 2 lucky winners. Just enter to win on the Raffle copter below. After entering, make sure you stop by our stores (links are below) and enter the promo code: THANKYOU17 at check out to receive some AWESOME deals!
Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Congratulations to Mia and Caroline who are the big winners! Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!







Sunday, February 26, 2017

Motivational Testing Notes: Let’s Change the Conversation



A few years ago when my daughter took her first “high stakes test”, I wrote “A Letter to My Daughter About Testing” and blogged about it here. Many of my ideas and feelings about testing shifted when I was the parent of the child testing and not the teacher. 

It made me realize that we need to change the conversation we are having about testing, at least on the day of the test. It made me even more aware of the need to uplift students before the test. 

I created a motivational craftivity called “I-Cans”. It is great to ease classroom testing stress and I blogged about it here.

Then I thought about all the teachers who might not have time to do the “I-Can” craftivity. I know somedays, I get so tired that the thought of scissors, glue, and a cute craftivity makes me want to hide under my desk and eat M&Ms. So I created a series of testing notes for students on the day of the big test. These are perfect for teachers (or parents) for that extra push right before testing!

The story of these testing notes is kind of like “If You Give A Moose a Muffin”. I started out making 1 cute note to go with gum, then I realized kids with braces can’t have gum. So I created a note to go with candy, then I realized that some schools might have a no candy rule. Then I created a note with fruit, but then I thought that fruit is pricey and can get messy. So I created a note to go with a cheese stick, then I worried about food in the classroom. So I created a note with a glow stick theme. It went on from there! What resulted was a a whole lot of options for testing notes. I wanted to offer these to as many people as possible so it is a FOREVER FREEBIE in my TPT store found here.


Here is a fun sampling of the testing notes:






Click on the cover to link to this FREEBIE in my TPT store!

Happy testing!








Monday, February 6, 2017

TpT Love Giveaway


Here in paradise we love teaching, teachers, and TpT. In honor of the TpT Be Mine Sale February 7th and 8th, we are giving away $10.00 TpT gift cards to 2 lucky winners. Just enter to win on the raffle copter below. After entering, make sure you stop by our stores and enter the promo code: Lovetpt at check out to receive some AWESOME deals!
Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, January 16, 2017

Easy Ways to Use Higher Order Thinking in the Classroom

Lately, it seems like everyone in the world of education is talking about higher order thinking. Bloom’s Taxonomy, Revised Blooms Taxonomy, Webb’s Depth of Knowledge, the Hess Matrix, the Cognitive Rigor Matrix, and many others are suggested and required reading. I think we all can agree that thinking deeply is important. 

Here are a few simple examples of how I would like to encourage higher order thinking in my classroom.




Expect the unexpected and use it as an opportunity for higher order thinking.


There are times when it is absolutely necessary to veer off the teaching roadmap. When that happens, the probability that an administrator will pop into the classroom increases exponentially. So, be prepared with HOT stems or questions. For instance, a messy project is over and a full out desk and room cleaning is taking place. In walks your principal. Pause and pose a HOT question for students to discuss.


HOT is also for teachers! Here are a couple of examples to share with your teaching friends.


The above also works for:
•The last period of the last day before Spring Break
•Immediately following a tornado drill, fire drill, lock down 
•while recovering from laryngitis


Imagine you stay up too late:
•watching the Super Bowl
•binge watching a favorite series
•caring for a sick child
•grading and planning

Think about this:


Seriously, I really do understand and agree with the importance of higher order thinking in the classroom. In fact, HOT stems are posted in my classroom for students and me to refer to. This display is also a visual reminder for us to ask HOT questions throughout the day.


HOT question card packs are a class favorite. These are perfect for students working in pairs or small groups. The question stems help students take ownership of asking and answering HOT questions. The cards are color coded:

Knowledge = red
Comprehension = orange
Application = yellow
Analysis = green
Synthesis = blue
Evaluation = purple


Download this file FREE during the week of 1/16/17 – 1/23/17!



Enjoy!