Making Beautiful Plans on Planbook.com (Part 1)

Tips for color-coding a beautiful and easy-to-read online plan book.
I've been using Planbook.com for a couple of years now and I just love everything about it. From attaching the printables I use every year, to linking websites we'll need in a lesson, to setting up templateseverything about this site is convenient and saves me a great deal of time when lesson-planning.

And it's beautiful.
(Which is important to many of us, isn't it?)
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Keeping Track of Everything with Checklists

As teachers, we often joke about the "things they didn't teach us in college". From classroom management systems to organizational techniques, teaching can get pretty overwhelming.

There is just so much more to do than "teaching" the class. We must keep track of EVERYTHING going on in our classrooms.

And I've always found this to be one of my greatest challenges. Keeping track of everything—keeping my finger on the pulse of my classroom. 
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Halloween Table Settings for Busy Teachers

It seems like we are busier and busier each year, doesn't it? More tests to score, data to track, work to differentiate...the list just never ends.

And that busy schedule can make it hard for me to plan special events for my class. Yet I want to make those holidays memorable for my students, like the holidays I remember from when I was in elementary school.

Do you feel the same way? 

If so, I'd like to share a few time-saving printables that will dress up a festive and fun Halloween table in no time!
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Organizing with Color: Extra Supplies

 
Hello dear friends! These beginning weeks have just flown by and today I realized I haven't stopped to share any classroom pictures! I hope to post a classroom tour very soon but, in the meantime, I wanted to share a quick idea that has been working very well for our class.

You know that beautiful moment that happens so often in our classrooms? The one where all of your students are happily immersed in a project and you can just feel all the creative energy flowing? It's the best, isn't it? But sometimes that creativity can be interrupted by searching for supplies...
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Saving Time on Classroom Setup


Over the years, I have always flown into school as early as I possibly could, the moment those floors were waxed (sometimes even having to test the floor's stickiness with a toe...shhh!!!). And so would begin days and days of classroom setup.

I would work feverishly, obsess over all the little design details, and keep coming back to do more. I just LOVE setting up my classroom each year. But I found I was doing more and more each summer because I had given myself the time to do so...I was starting way too early. Then, last summer, my sister and I had quite the challenge. We had to move everything out of her old classroom at a different school, set up a classroom in her new school, then set up my entire classroom (to my picky, type-A specifications). It was a LOT of work for us last summer...and I really regretted not taking the time to prep things more in advance so I didn't have to spend quite so many days in school.
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Get Everything in Order...Before They Even Arrive

I am beyond excited to write this today! I am joining an inspiring group of upper-elementary friends to share a Back to School Survival Guide. And it is chock-full of tips and resources to help you prepare for a brand new year!

I'm hoping to provide some helpful hints you can use, well before your students arrive. I'm also hoping you will be able to share your tips at the end of this post as well, so we can compile a huge list of ideas together!

One of the most important ways I get ready for each new school year is to have everything in order before my students arrive. I realize that sounds fairly obvious...but the fact of the matter is, I don't always have a finalized class list until that first day of school.



And more times than not, a new student or two shows up unexpectedly. How can I set up a well-organized classroom with all this unknown?
Not always having a class list can put things on hold. And I hate to be flapping around the room grabbing materials for the new students who arrive two days into the school year. I want to be as ready for them as I possibly can so I can welcome them warmly. So I prep everything I possibly can in advance...here are my tried-and-true tips for doing so...

Student Name Plates
I am just a little Type-A with how things should look. Have you noticed this? ;) But I've learned to let a few things go for the sake of preparation. For my student name plates, I would really love to have them printed out with a great font. To be ready for a new school year as soon as possible, I print and laminate them ahead of time, during the summer break. Then, once I have my class list, I write the students' names with Sharpies. In order to keep the names from getting erased over time, I use a piece of clear packing tape over the name.
(click here to download this name plate)

Student Materials

Since my students sit together at tables, I like to have materials ready to go for each group, right from day one. One of the best tools for this has been my Student Toolboxes. These toolboxes house all of our community supplies in an organized fashion and are perfect in case students are unable to bring some of these supplies to school.

The toolboxes are also great places to store a folder on back. These are called backpack folders and are top-loading. I attach them with Velcro and they are the PERFECT place to hold papers for the morning, or even different parts of the day. Nothing makes me feel more prepared than having all of my student papers for the morning already passed out into these folders, ready to go. I use this method from day one so I can hit the ground running, even if I have extra students arriving:

(click here to download these table signs)

Numbering the Classroom
This is one of the most important ways I get my ENTIRE classroom in order, well in advance. Numbering students and tables is something I have done for many years now...and I find that I incorporate it more and more into all areas of my room over time because it is so helpful in managing all materials.

Numbers for Group Materials
As you read above, my students sit at tables and are numbered accordingly. We have seven tables and I use numbers to keep all group supplies organized. I number any supply caddies (we use these for art materials):

as well as textbooks for each group. I store them in bins like these (they are the new black ones from Really Good Stuff...squee!). This makes it easy for a student to grab three at a time for the classmates at their table:

I also use group numbers for other supplies, such as science experiments. This summer, I have been compiling many of the basic materials we use in all experiments in those large Ziploc bags (this one is a work in progress). I use labels with corresponding clipart to make things clear, as half my class is comprised of newcomer English Language Learners...plus it's helpful for mainstream students as well:

Numbers for Reading Materials
Using student numbers also helps me get things in order for all of my reading materials, ahead of a new school year. Just as in the science supplies, I like to set up reading bags. I use coordinating stickers for these because they are fast...just slap a  sticker on  (ok, place it carefully so it looks perfect!) and cover with a bit of packing tape for longevity:

I like to use the same stickers to number my sets of class novels, for our read alouds:

Numbers for Individual Materials
If you've read my blog in the past, you'll know I am a huge fan of those Sterilite drawers. We use the extra-wide ones meant for scrapbook materials. Each of my students has two drawers to store their supplies:

One drawer is for math, science, and social studies materials. The second drawer is for reading and writing. I have used a variety of designs for labels over the years, but ALWAYS the same size and layout because it works. The numbers are easy to read from across the room and help my students keep things exactly where they should be.

Everything stored in these drawers has the student's number as well. Math notebooks have a number sticker:

 All reading and writing materials are stickered as well:

I fill all of my student drawers with these materials, ready to go, well in advance of a new school year. This is one major thing that is already done, even before I have a class list. I also stock enough drawers to be planned ahead for any new arrivals...since I have students enter throughout the school year (as I know many of you do as well!).


Numbers for Student Checklists
I am a big fan of checklists. I like to keep track of everything, from taking turns on alternative seating, to which students have passed in a permission slip, to homework checks, and so on. 
I get these checklists ready ahead of time, with the numbers already in place. As soon as I get my class list, I enter the names of my students and I am ready for a year of organization!

I hope these tips will help you with your preparations for a new year, so everything can be put into the right place, as soon as  your students arrive....

If you'd like to try these methods to get your entire classroom numbered and organized, I have all of the number labels above (and a lot more) available in this resource. It has over 1,900 pages of labels in different shapes, sizes, colors, as well as editable checklists. And the best part? Student Number Labels has a  TON of techy shortcuts to help you navigate right to the exact labels you need to print. Please click the image below to learn more:
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Number-Labels-1981129
 
And there's more...a TON more! Please be sure to stop by these incredible blogs to read their Back to School Survival Tips...just navigate the icons to get you on your way. You can also enter their giveaways for more chances to win those TpT gift cards:
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Getting labels ready BEFORE the next school year...

As many of you know, I have worked with the black, white, and brights scheme for several years now (since 2012!). Even after all this time, I still love how the colors pop and they have remained trendy enough to appeal to my 5th grade classes over the years.

I do like to evolve my room scheme a bit each year and add a few new elements into the mix...different posters and labels to change things up slightly. But I always try to do this in a small-scale way, so I'm not spending the entire summer redecorating my classroom.

Which is why I love getting my organizational labels ready BEFORE the next school year. It's actually a very easy process, as I find myself madly spring cleaning around this time each school year!

I start with the toolboxes. I have two for myself and six others for student supplies at their tables. 

I usually don't need to change much with my toolboxes...unless I find I didn't use a particular drawer that year and want to add in a new supply.
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Editable-LabelsTeacher-Toolbox-Consistent-Colors-1733628
 click the photo to see these Editable Teacher Toolbox Labels

The student toolboxes I do keep pretty consistent because they have worked so well for us over the years. The only thing I will be changing out next year is the dry erase marker drawers...I have a different idea for that storage I'd like to use instead. So I will be adding a different supply, to have more options right at my students' fingertips:

click the photo to see these Student Toolbox Labels

Library labels...well I've had SO many over the years that I have loved. I usually change them out at the end of the school year as I weed through and re-sort my library. 

I will not be changing my labels from this year however, as I absolutely love them and they were so easy for my students to read from far away. They kept everything in order and really helped the traffic-flow in our library.

So I will just be adding a couple of new genres from my library resource based on my numerous book purchases this year (Dystopian for one!):
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Editable-LabelsClassroom-Library-Simply-Iconic-1367784

These old labels are in still in great shape. I have found if I print them on cardstock, laminate them, and hot glue them to the bins, they can last for years. And that helps a major part of my classroom to be sorted and ready to go for next year BEFORE next year...always a relief!
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Editable-LabelsClassroom-Library-Simply-Iconic-1367784
 click the photo to see these Editable Library Labels

I might have a lot of library labels in store, but I also have a ton of alphabet lines. I keep my various sets for a couple of years, again printing them on cardstock and laminating them for longevity. We are not allowed to keep things on our walls over the summer, so I always pack them up in order, so they are ready to display as soon as I can get back in my classroom:
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Black-With-Brights-ZB-Cursive-Alphabet-Line-Consistent-Colors-782605

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Black-With-Brights-ZB-Cursive-Alphabet-Line-Consistent-Colors-782605
 click the photos to see this Alphabet Line

It may not seem like a lot, but by organizing and prepping these labels and posters in May and June, I save myself so much time over the summer...some major parts of my room are already decorated, organized, and ready to go!

If you'd like to get a jump start on your decorating and organizing, now would be the perfect time to stop by my store! All of my decor items are on sale right now. If you are looking for an easy-to-use and customizable resource, my Classroom Organization Bundle features toolbox labels, schedule signs, and library labels (with many editable options to make the exact signs you need for your classroom):
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Classroom-Organization-1606855
Don't forget to use the promo code ThankYou when checking out for maximum saving! Thanks so much for stopping by...Happy Teachers Appreciation Week!!!

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Making it Stick (Adhesives that Last in Class)

Have you spent countless minutes carefully hanging your classroom signs, only to find them slowly slipping from your walls?

They're tricky, aren't they? 

Sometimes they seem like they are perfectly attached and then, three months later, you walk into your room to find this:
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What To Do When They Are New

Tips to help your newcomer English Language Learners.
I feel so fortunate to teach newcomer English Language Learners. They work so hard and absolutely love coming to school each and every day! And there is nothing more rewarding than seeing them acquire English as they learn grade level content.

It can be challenging work though…especially when new students come midyear and are not speaking English yet. Luckily, there are many things you can do to help your newcomer English Language Learners. My dear friend Elizabeth and I would like to share what works for our newcomers…and to learn what works well in your class too!

Here are some of my tried-and-true tips for newcomer English Language Learners:

Use Hand Signals to Encourage Participation
My newcomer ELL students often feel hesitant to participate in class discussions, so I am always on the lookout for ways to get them to participate non-verbally as well. This year, I've been using more hand signals to get my newcomers comfortable in sharing their knowledge…and it has worked like a charm!
When we review a math paper, we show a one for the same response and a two for a "slightly different answer" (as we politely phrase it in my 5th grade class!). I've noticed that my newcomers are the first to remember and use these signals in our daily routine. It is wonderful to see them participate along with the rest of the class!


Label Everything with Visuals
The more labels you use, the more organized your students can keep the room, right? But labels can also serve another important purpose. They can help your newest ELLs gain basic vocabulary.



With pictures on these labels, newcomers are also able to access materials with ease, even if they are just beginning to speak English. Visual labels also allow them to help keep the room organized, along with their mainstream classmates:



Every single sign I use in my classroom has a visual to help my ELL newcomers (in a bright and fun colors, of course!). This resource features a large collection of labels my newcomers and I use all throughout our classroom this year:





You can also see my other visual labels here: Classroom Organization

Use a Document Camera for Clear Instruction
I cannot imagine teaching without my document camera. It's been said again and again, but a picture really is worth a thousand words, especially for students with limited English. 


We use our document camera for note-taking, science experiments, math activities…anything that requires a visual so my newcomers can follow along with ease. 

Of course document cameras can be costly...but there are some options if you don't have this kind of technology. One of my favorite alternatives that I have used over the years is the iPevo camera:

This little camera is less than $70! And the all of the visual instruction you can provide your newcomer ELL students…well that is simply priceless! You can read more about this document camera in this post: Cheap Document Camera

Scaffold Instruction
My newcomer English Language Learners experience the greatest success when my instruction is carefully scaffolded. Each time we learn new content, I activate prior knowledge, teach vocabulary before the lesson, model how to complete a task, provide practice in groups, and so on:

I gradually release until my ELLs are comfortable in working on a task independently:

In addition to breaking up my instruction in order to scaffold, I have also found it helpful to break up math concepts. For instance, before teaching powers of ten this year, I really needed to teach my newcomers about exponents. This led to my newest series:

This resource features two tiers of notebook pages with built-in scaffolding, all ready for you to just print and instruct. 

Make Meaning with Morphology
Once my newcomers have started speaking more English (especially that academic language!) I know it is time to break out my morphology resources. The study of affixes and roots helps all of my students acquire challenging vocabulary.

Our class uses Spelling with Morphology for both spelling and vocabulary instruction. It features an entire year of tiered lists, all related under similar categories:

These categorized lists really help my ELLs make connections between the affix/root and its morphological meaning, helping them acquire some advanced, grade-appropriate vocabulary.


I also love to decorate our classroom with morphological posters, to provide meaningful visuals. My latest resource features three sets of ELA posters my class constantly refers to throughout the school year:


What are your favorite strategies for working with English Language Learners? Elizabeth and I would love to hear your tips!
Fun in Room 4B and Beyond

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Design with the Best Resolution (in PowerPoint)

Resolution Tips for PowerPoint Printables
Are you looking for some professional-quality, high-resolution images in your designs? It may be easier than you think, thanks to some great options available in PowerPoint!

To backtrack just a bit...  

PowerPoint (among it's other wonderful features!) has an option to save slides as pictures:
(does the mini-80s homage give away my age a bit??)

So after you have designed a presentation, each slide can be saved as an image:

This is ideal for creating previews images of your products or for embedding images into the background of slides, to create editable resources (would you like to learn more about that? Please leave a comment below if so!). There are so many possibilities with this feature!

The only problem? The image resolution. 

The default setting for "Save as Pictures" in PowerPoint is a lower-quality JPG...which means the images can come out a bit grainy. And all of those beautiful clipart images you have so carefully chosen for your printable can start to look a bit pixelated.

But there's a solution!

Your slide images can be saved as a PNG (a higher-quality format). AND you can choose the picture resolution! 

Which means you can go from this grainier-looking slide:

to this clean, crisp, and more professional-looking image:
(click on this image and toggle back to the previous one to see the difference)

And it's very easy to do!

When choosing "Save as Pictures", click on the Format drop down menu and select PNG:

 then click the Options button:

This will bring you to a menu of different choices:

For a higher image resolution, change the dpi (dots per inch) to a higher number. I usually go with 600:

You can also adjust the image quality in a drop down menu at the bottom of this box:

Once you have made the adjustments of your choice, click OK and PowerPoint will automatically set up a folder of pictures for each slide...and you are on your way to designing with high-quality images.

Please Note: If you are uploading preview slides to TpT, you will want to adjust these settings back to a lower-quality JPG (and 72 dpi)...otherwise your preview images will be too large to upload.

Have you used the "Save as Pictures" feature in PowerPoint yet?
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