What do your students need? Back to School Management Tip



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I adore pinterest for classroom arrangements and decorations.  One year, I diligently searched and figured out how to make an enormous Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Tree.  Another year I decorated in Truffula trees and Dr. Suess themes.  My fellow teachers and parents raved about the room but I eventually began to ask the question of what the students actually thought of their classroom.  Their answers surprised me and changed the way I both set up my classroom and ran it for the rest of the year.

If I just asked, “Do you like this room?” They answered, ” Yes” until one brave soul said, “It is really pretty but we didn’t make it so it doesn’t feel like our classroom.”  That is a huge statement.  I realized that even though I had strived to have a student centered classroom, I had made a beautiful-to-the-adult-eye classroom and not necessarily what my students needed.

To change the classroom, I started asking lots of questions.  “Do you like it when the walls have lots of colors?  How do you like the lights in the classroom; should we use the light from the windows only or the overhead lights? What kind of areas should we have in our classroom?”  This opened up a whole new world of information to me.  My students didn’t all have the same opinions so we would survey them and then talk about the results.  How can we make these preferences work for everyone?

Getting to know me learning edition (2)

Examples of questions to survey your students on.

What ended up happening was that the class as a whole began to develop empathy and understanding for the different preferences or needs that were in the classroom.  We also began to mix up our day, using the light from the windows for writer’s workshop and listening to background music while we did math.  It also made the discussion of how to make our classroom community the best that it could be a regular part of our classroom culture.  Kids felt free to talk about things that bothered them and then the other students would work on solutions for them.

My room may not look as pinterest ready now, though sometimes the students hit on an idea that we can go all out for, but I’ve gained a caring, peaceful class culture that I would never change.  Parents often tell me that their students feel safe and cared for by both me and their peers.  I couldn’t ask for a better learning environment than that.

You can ask your students a question a day or you can take some class sessions and let them survey their peers.  This is a freebie that lets kids tell you about their learning preferences.  It also includes some follow up activities to let them tally the results of the class as a whole and then form class agreements based on that information.  Just click on the picture below.

Back to School

Little Vikings

Follow the blog hop to get more beginning of the year classroom management and organization ideas.  Keep following through all the blogs – there are lots of brillant ideas being shared!



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Back to School


Meaning: You are about to leave the summer holidays. This is typical of a European road sign that lets drivers know they are leaving a city.

Summer is officially winding down and teachers are starting to slowly turn their minds to the next school year.  I’m scheduled to have  a baby on the first official day back to school, but I can’t stop the ritual of trying to figure out what would work best in my classroom this year.  I’ve been tasked by my colleagues to use my baby’s sleeping times as possible times to create resources for them.  🙂   I’ve got a list of about 30 roleplays, activities, units, etc.  Somehow, I think I won’t accomplish them all.

I did spend some sleepless nights creating an Early Years Classroom Decor Pack that has word wall headers, number posters, 6 months of calendar tiles, visuals for color words, days of the week, months of the year and more.  It is all of the basics I’ve always needed in a lower elementary classroom.  You can pick it up at 50% off for another week.

BTS cover early years

Plus, I’m posting a teacher link up with lots of great Back to School resources at great prices.  Get them now or wishlist them so you are ready for tpt’s inevitable back to school sale.

Adventures in Elementary

Finally, I want to give a shout- out to the amazing Anya.  She not only created the graphics for this blog but she drew my store logo.  She deciced that since we’re having a baby, the graphic needs to be redesigned to show all three kids.  Not only did she do that, but she added a custom onesie.  Such a nice gesture, my heart is full.


I hope your enjoying the last bits of your summer and are happily gearing up for the great year we have ahead of us!

Little Vikings


Who Goes First?

Every year I have at least one student who is obsessed with being first (in games, in line, first to be done with assignments, etc.) and this always seems to trickle down to the rest of the class.  8

My literacy and math times rely on stations or centers so I need students to be independent.  Every year I slowly introduce the behaviors expected while working in the centers and we roleplay both what appropriate and inappropriate behavior might look like.  This year, there were a lot of very tense discussions between students about who would go first in centers that involved a game.  Eventually, based on my students’ suggestions, I made a “Who Goes First?” box.  At the beginning of the day I drew out a card and whoever in the group met the details of the card, they would go first.

Those tense discussions?  They became non-existent.  It worked so well that it spread to other classrooms.  I even had my co-teacher steal my box so she could use it when I wasn’t teaching.  The key was that there were so many possibilities that it was always up for grabs who would be first that day.  (Examples include: the person with the longest thumb, the person with the shortest first name, the person who has a cat at home, the youngest, etc.)

who goes first

You can pick it up as a flash freebie  for the next few days in my tpt store and see your students’ tense discussions drop dramatically.  🙂

Little Vikings



Recess the school nemesis

Kids love recess… well at least most of them do.  Recess is an inherently tricky time for anyone who struggles with making friends or has social issues.  All kids have break times that are less than ideal and it can be a taxing part of the teacher’s job to help them navigate these important social issues.  As a parent, I know that at the end of the day I hear about what happened on the playground and not the amazing math lesson that the teacher planned.  (How unfair right?  Why can’t kids go home and explain in detail how awesome their teacher is? ) break time book

At our school we wanted kids to start developing the social problem skills to navigate the ups and downs and break times.  We also wanted documentation over time about how breaks were going for kids so we could pick up negative trends early. Also, it helps to have lots of documentation of positive breaks for parents that are worried about their child’s transition, friends, etc.  We created a recess book, a reflection journal truly, to help kids think about who they played with, where they were, how it went, how it could be better next time, or to make a plan for a great break.  recess reflection

I have to report that it works.  It does take some class time to do on a fairly regular basis, but it cuts down on teacher documentation.  It also lets the kids’ own words speak for themselves which is probably much more powerful than a teacher’s interpretation of events.  Try it – we highly recommend it.  you can get it in my tpt store and it is 50% off for a week.

Little Vikings


Finding a way in the Chaos- Learning Station Organization

I love teaching through games and student centers for almost every subject.  This means I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time making games, laminating (or not – that plastic stays around a long time) and cutting.  Oh, there has been so much cutting.   I now have a huge cabinet of resources that multiple teachers come and borrow from.  I’m often asked the same question.  How do you keep it all organized?

At first my activities looked like this.IMG_3762

Each game was intact and the kids could see it, but it was a bit of a nightmare to go through.  It just ended up being a messy pile contained in small boxes.

Then I switched to folders and my stuff was contained but I still had trouble finding what I needed quickly.

Eventually, I had a brilliant plan.  I could still use the folders, but I would either have the handy cover so many teacher stations come with or a copy of the activity on the outside.  The real genius was when I started writing in the right corner what specific skills the game/activity/station was targeting.  I could then put my folders in boxes that had a basic description and simply flip through the games only looking at the right corner to find something based on what I wanted to to teach or reinforce.  This changed my life.  Seriously.  It now takes seconds to find exactly what I want.

blog 1

I still recommend the folder as kids can basically throw things into it and close it.  Tidying up is a skill that has to be taught and I want to make the task as easy for them and me as possible.IMG_3780

Once I have a lot of games, I often let kids “check them out” of our class library and use for homework.  This is used most often by the EAL kids because the repetition of playing the game at school makes them feel successful and they want to show it to their parents.  This has been one of the most natural home and school links in my classrooms and one of the most successful.

You may spend a small fortune in folders, but in five years I have only remade one game.  I count that as a success.Jenny (banner)