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Two Easy Tips to Prepare Your Class for a Sub


Do you dread writing sub plans?  I know Ido! Do you dread coming back from a day out of your classroom and reading the note from the sub about your students' behavior?  Yup, I did.  I can't help you with sub plans today but I can help you with ways to help your students behave better for a guest teacher in your classroom.

Tip 1: Teach Expectations

At the start of a new school year, you take the time to explicitly teach students your expectations for their behavior in the classroom.  I used to believe that teaching those expectations would be enough for no matter who was teaching in your classroom.  However, after years of experience as a classroom teacher and some experience as a substitute teacher, I know this is rarely true. To resolve this issue, I began teaching specific expectations for behavior BEFORE a substitute would be in my classroom.  When I know that I am going to be absent in the early part of the year, I incorporate "Substitute Expectations" in my lesson plans but you can start implementing this at any time of the school year.

I came up with 3 simple expectations for behavior when a substitute is in our classroom:  Be Respectful, Be Helpful, and, Be Flexible.  



I asked my students a question, "what do you do at home to prepare for when guests come to visit?".  We discussed how we usually clean the house and prepare to make our guest feel welcome.  Then I asked, "how do you behave at home when a guest is visiting?".  My students discussed how their family expects them to be on their best behavior when people are visiting their home.  This discussion leads to the point that we should do similar things when we have a substitute teacher since they are an important guest in our classroom.
Next, I have students work in groups to write down what it looks like and sounds like to be respectful, be helpful and be flexible.  Each group uses a T-chart to record all of their ideas for each expectation. I've included "Be flexible" as an expectation so that my students understand that a guest in our classroom might not do things the same way we usually do.  Students need to know that although detailed instructions are provided to the substitute teacher, each teacher has their own style and things might be a little bit different than our normal way of doing things!


We decide as a class which behaviors are the most important and create a class anchor chart for our substitute expectations.  Having students come up with the behaviors themselves is always a great way to get them to buy in the behaviors and hold them accountable to the expectations.

Tip 2: Incentive and Reward

My second tip for helping your students behave their best for a substitute is to offer an incentive and reward.  I know that we love for our students to have intrinsic motivation to do the right thing, but sometimes, and especially when we can't be in the classroom, a little extrinsic motivation may help.  I want my students to have a successful and productive day when I can't be in the classroom and offering up a reward is an easy way to motivate my students.

I've come up with two different types of incentive boards: Substitute Puzzle Prize and Substitute Bingo.

The Substitute Puzzle Prize is a 9 piece puzzle board that I hang on my board in the front of the classroom and next to the board, I hang a cup containing the 9 puzzle pieces.  My sub is given instructions to pull a puzzle piece out of the cup and hang on the board whenever the class is on task and making good choices.  My students know if they complete the puzzle in one day, I will reward them when I return.  I usually give them lunch in the classroom, doughnuts for the class, extra recess, or free time.

Substitute Bingo is a board that I hang up front that has 25 bingo squares. I print and cut the squares and hang them in a cup on the board as well.  When the class is on task and making good choices, the sub can pull a Bingo number and either tape it to the corresponding square on the board or cross out the number on the laminated board with a dry erase marker.  I use the Substitute Bingo board when I know that I'm going to absent from the classroom for more than one day OR when it's later in the year and my students need more of a challenge than the 9 piece puzzle board. The rewards are the same, lunch bunch, doughnuts, extra recess, or free time.



I post our Substitute Expectations anchor chart and the puzzle or bingo board the afternoon before a planned absence.  I store these items in my "Emergency Sub Tub" for a sub to use if I'm out unexpectedly.  We review these expectations every time I have a planned absence.  It's been such a relief knowing that my students KNOW what the expectations are and are motivated to meet or exceed them.

I hope these tips are helpful to you!  You can use these tips as is but I've also put together a resource of the materials that I use with my students and it's available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. Just click on the image below!



What tips do you have to help your students manage their behavior with a substitute teacher? I'd love to hear what works for you!


A SIMPLE Way to Effectively Manage Your Workstations!


I use workstations (or centers, stations - whatever YOU call them) daily in my Language Arts and Math blocks and several times a week in my Science block.  I've tried MANY ways to manage my rotations and I will probably continue to try different ways.  Every year is different and every group of students is different.  Couple that with the changing demands of your curriculum or administration whatever worked last year, may not work this year!  It always takes me a few weeks at the beginning of the year to set up my groups, my stations, and my plans for stations.  I am 8 weeks into the school year and I finally found a rotation schedule that works for my class this year.

I'm lucky to have a 2 hour Language Arts block (and I have an additional 45-minute writing block earlier in the day).  I start with a read aloud, a 5-minute reading skill of the day and then a 20 minute (or so) mini-lesson. We then break out for three 20 minute station rotations.  I have 5 workstations:  Vocabulary, Grammar/Writing, Computer, Independent Reading, and Teacher Table.  Most groups get to each station twice in a week, including my Teacher Table, except for my lowest group - I meet with them every day. We do 5 days of rotations one week, then 4 days of rotations the following week since we are on a biweekly testing schedule.  Usually, my Friday workstations are for catching up on unfinished activities and doing some extension activities based on the skills we are working on or reviewing.

Here's what my Monday rotation looks like:

I project my rotations on my board so that we all know where everyone is supposed to be and I've embedded a timer so that we stay on schedule.  I created my slides in Google Slides by inserting a table with the number of columns I need for my workstation plus one and the number of rows with the number of rotations plus one - in my case 6 columns by 4 rows.  I create my groups on the first slide then I just copy and paste to add them to the correct rotations on the following days.  It's easy to edit the groups (and I change them frequently based on student needs and the skill we are working on).  I have inserted a timer on my slide by clicking on "Insert" and then "Video" and searching for a timer on YouTube.  Just type  "20-minute timer" (or whatever time increment you would like to use) in the YouTube search bar and several options will come up for you. The one I use has a 5-second countdown timer before it starts and then has an annoying buzzer at the end that my students love!  Since it is YouTube, I recommend that you try the timer (fast forward through several points) to make sure there are no surprises! I size the timer to fit, then copy and paste it onto all of the slides.

And today is your lucky day!  You can make your own Weekly Reading Rotations by grabbing this link!  This link will force you to make a copy of my file so that you can edit the slides for your own needs! If you do choose to use it, I'd love for you to come back and share in the comments how it worked for you! Enjoy.

Woo Hoo Wheel Behavior Management



I have just started year twelve of my teaching career.  I can tell you that managing behaviors never really gets easier but it does help to have a good plan in place.  It is also ok and even advised, to change your original plan if you find it isn't working for your group of students.

At my school, we are required to use a behavior clip chart.  I can be honest with you and tell you that I'm not a fan of the clip chart and I'll tell you why.  Many of my students with behavior issues are seeking attention.  They do not care if you give them negative attention (clip down) or positive attention (clip up) and they often realize that it's easier, and faster, to clip down then to clip up!  If they clip down and continue to clip down, they are getting a lot of attention from you!  It's just what they want.

How can you work that attention seeking behavior to your advantage?  The goal is to help all of your students behave so that they are actively engaged in the lesson or activity and that no students are distracting others from learning.

This year, I'm using Behavior Punch Cards along with a digital prize wheel to reward positive behaviors.  I have this tied to my required clip chart, however, my system focuses on the positive aspects of the clip chart.  My students get a "punch" on their card every time they end the day on "green" and get extra punches when they clip up.  I have created this fun set of Behavior Punch Cards in my Teachers Pay Teachers store but you can use any form you like!


During the first week of school, my students brainstormed rewards they would love to work for and we created a list. From that list, I took the most reasonable ones (I eliminated rewards such as field trips and extra recess, that I cannot fit into our schedule.  I also did not include expensive rewards such as a pizza party).  Our wheel includes: Lunch Bunch (they can bring two classmates with them for a movie and lunch in the classroom), the Teacher's Chair (a favorite), Move Your Seat for the Day, and Lead a Class Game (great for our Morning Meeting activity).

I used this rewards list to create a prize wheel. I found this website:  https://wheeldecide.com/  where you can modify a digital wheel to add any choices you like!  You can also name your wheel.  I bookmarked the link to the wheel I created to my projector computer and pull it up any time a student wants to cash in their completed punch card.  On our classroom BrightLink, the wheel is HUGE and I turn up the volume to get the full sound effect experience.  My students LOVE to spin our "Woo Hoo Wheel".  It puts students in front of the entire class to celebrate their good behavior!


We have started the year with a "10 punch" punch card and all of my great students have had a chance to spin the prize wheel multiple times during our first 6 weeks of school and ALL of my students have spun the wheel at least once.  EVERY one wants to earn a punch on their punch card.  My most challenging friends count up how many more they need to spin the wheel and do work hard to make sure that they end up on green or above by the end of the day.  I may increase the number of punches needed later on in the year, but I love how it's working now - good behavior is being rewarded frequently.  It's not costing me much to load up my treasure box with goodies and all of the other options are FREE!

I love this system because it motivates students to change bad behavior so that they end the day well.  It doesn't matter how far down the clip chart they go throughout the day,  but they can make a comeback and get themselves clipped up to end the day on green.  I make it a point to clip them up the chart if they are making any effort to improve.  My goal is for my challenging students to learn that it is actually easier to do what is right and for them to feel the personal pride that goes along with making good choices.


Leave Work at Work (Most of the Time..)



Hi There!  REAL TALK here. Last year was the year I thought I was going to leave teaching. It was rough.  My school was a deemed a low-performing school and we were required to have an extra hour of reading instruction.  We did get paid for that extra hour HOWEVER, let me tell you it was hard.  We only had 30 minutes of planning time four times per week and with the extra hour, the school day ended at 2:45.  Tack on bus duty and I wasn't done until 3:30.  Contractually, we could leave at 3:45.  15 minutes at the end of the day for planning. 15 minutes is not enough time to get much done.  I ended up staying and working at school until about 5:00 every day.  I was stressed, tired, and bringing work home with me was causing resentment after such a long day. I had to find a way to streamline my workload.  I developed a system to make every spare minute count.

Here's the thing, if you want to leave your work at work you have to commit to making the most of your time at work and find a routine that works for you.

1. When are you most productive?
I'm a morning person.  I like to get moving early and get to work while the building is still quiet.  I turn on my computers, get a peppy playlist playing, brew my coffee and tackle a stack.  I'll spend 30 minutes grading or getting copies and lessons ready before the bell rings.  There are NO distractions early in the morning - the phone doesn't ring, colleagues don't stop by, there are fewer emails, and no social media notifications.  Those 30 minutes in the morning are usually my most productive!  Maybe you are not a morning person - you might carve out your 30 minutes after school but my suggestion is to close your door to minimize interruptions.

2. What do your REALLY need to grade?
Don't collect everything!  Think about what you really need to look at closely to see how your students are doing and collect just that.   For additional grades, I keep a clipboard with a a blank student spreadsheet that I use throughout the week.  As students are working independently, I'll write notes or do a scan for a quick grade (check +, check, or check -).  I can easily input this as a classwork grade or use it to decide on my small group reteach activities.  I will collect classwork after students have had a chance to practice a skill and do a more thorough grade for my grade book.  I usually do one quick scan per day for each subject and collect at least 1 classwork assignment each week for each subject area.  This helps to tame my paper stacks!



3. How do you like to plan?
I don't like planning on the weekends!  We give so much of ourselves to our students and our school community during the week that our weekends should be ours!

There are so many different ways to plan and it's also very dependent on what your administration wants.  I set aside 1 hour each month for each subject and plan a rough outline for the month.  My outline will include the standards, essential questions, and a sequential list.  I do not include dates so I can easily make adjustments as I teach. I use my curriculum resources, my own created resources, and search Pinterest or TeachersPayTeachers to fill in any gaps.  (Our curriculum for EVERY subject has many gaps and I need to look for outside resources to supplement).  Each week, I'll firm up my monthly outline and make adjustments as needed.  I put my outline on a Google doc so that I can access it from anywhere (and share with my colleagues) but my day to day plans are still paper and pencil in my beloved planner.  I like to start this process at the beginning of each month and have it done by the end of the month.  Some times I get this done early, some times I'm not able to carve out enough time during the month and barely make it but I rarely spend time at home doing this anymore.






4. What is your end of the day routine?
What do you do for the last 10-15 minutes before you leave school? Come up with a simple routine that will make your life easier the next day. I like to straighten out my desk and have my curriculum resources and copies organized by subject. I file papers I'll need later in the week or month in a giant file tub with folders for future activities, interactive notebook pages, mini-assessments, and assessments organized by subject.  I pull from this tub for the next days resources. I just stack what I need for the next day on my teaching table (where my document camera and teaching computer sit).  You might like to keep a folder with materials for each subject or for each day of the week - just find the system that works for you so that you have materials where you can find them!  Spending a few minutes before you leave will allow you to come in and just get to business!

Leaving work at work  gives my life more balance than I've had before.  I have more energy when I get home.  I'm in a better mood for my family.  I'm able to plan and cook healthy meals.  I have more time for me - a nice walk, working in my garden, and more.  Are there times where I need to work extra or stay late?  Of course, but it's not every, single day.

I hope some of my tips are helpful to you.  What are some things you do to make the most of your busy work day?  I'd love to hear how you make the most of each precious minute!

Multiply Fractions Using Area Models with a Freebie for YOU!


Confession.  Math was my worst subject in school.  Calculus?  I honestly don't know how I survived college level calc with Dr. K.  I think he just took pity on me.  

Looking back now, I had some not so great math teachers.  I don't want to be that teacher - I mean, who aims for "not so great"?   I want to be the teacher that I wish I had when I was young.  Now, I LOVE math and LOVE teaching math.  I want my students to LOVE math too.  That's a lot of love.   To become the math teacher I wish I had, I seek and create ways to make math meaningful, hands-on and fun!  

When it came time to start multiplying fractions with my 5th graders, I remembered how difficult it was to use area models with my 5th graders last year.  It was so difficult because our district-provided math text has students creating fraction models in tiny boxes and then shading them in.  Ironically, the lesson is titled "Hands-On Multiply Fractions".  Drawing models is not hands-on enough for me!
I had an idea to use clear fraction models that they could overlap to see the area models multiply. I immediately thought of overhead transparency film and that YES I could print models on this!  I created fraction models, printed them, cut them out and viola! Perfect.  

I allowed my students a chance to play with the models first.



Next,  I modeled how to multiply fractions using the area model using this terrific online interactive, http://www.geogebra.org/m/40578.  I also modeled how to use the fraction transparency models using my document camera.

I let my students "play" with the models on their individual white boards.  They created and solved their own problems.  They LOVED this activity.



I created area model problem pages for students to use the models to create and solve the problem and then draw the models and the product.

I've created a freebie of the fraction models just for you!  Click on the image below to download the fraction models!


This freebie is just one page of my 30 page resource  Multiply Fractions with Area Models that is available in my TeachersPayTeachers store!  This resource includes a set of expressions and product models for students to sort - great in workstations for extra practice.  

Use task cards with the fraction models.....
for students to practice multiplying fractions with the area models.

This also helps students practice drawing the area models.

This resource also includes expression cards to match with the product model for even more practice.
Check out my resource by clicking here.




Start the New Year Off Right in Your Classroom!



Happy New Year!  I always like to start the new year with renewed energy and a positive outlook.  I am excited to get back into the classroom with my sweet students - I've missed them!  The school year is nearly half-way over (already??!) and I want to continue pushing my students to learn and grow to be their best!  I want to maintain a positive and safe classroom environment - the new year is a perfect time for a review of procedures and to introduce some new ideas!

Here are 5 things I plan to do to start the year off right:

1. It's the FIRST Day!  You've been on break for a bit now, right?  So guess what? Your students (and YOU) are a bit out of the school routine.  While it's not actually the first day of school, try incorporating some fun activities to review procedures and expectations.  At the beginning of the year, I show a meme slideshow to go over procedures in my classroom.  My students love it! And the best part?  They remember the procedures! Search the internet for a couple of silly memes that will help you review your procedures.
2. Check IN! Now that I've had a nice relaxing break away from the classroom, I realize that I miss my students.  The first week back, I will make a point to have a personal conversation with each of student to check in with them about their break and get a feel for how they are doing. Unfortunately, some of my students likely did not have a fun and relaxing break.  I want to welcome them back into the safe and structured classroom environment. I want to work to rebuild and maintain a connection with each student for the rest of the year.  I keep an actual checklist so that I can write down the date we chatted and what we talked about.  Showing that you really care about someone takes just a little bit of time but has huge and lasting benefits.

3. Be POSITIVE!  I plan on starting the new year with a fresh, positive attitude.  I will reward good behavior A LOT the first weeks back.  I will embrace getting my students to "clip up" the behavior chart, writing positive notes to parents, and giving out tickets to our weekly raffle. Negative behaviors will be addressed quietly and privately with students with gentle reminders in the classroom and a conversation at recess.





4. Build COMMUNITY!  Make it a fresh start and incorporate community and class-building activities. If you expect students to work together collaboratively you MUST teach them and show them how in fun ways. I do this by incorporating a morning meeting with each of my groups.  We get to know each other by sharing and learn to work together by playing  games. The games can be quick and simple like "Telephone" or "Two Truths and a Lie". We also discuss classroom issues and brainstorm ways to resolve them.  I dedicate at most ten minutes every day for our morning meeting and usually add a longer fifteen minute session once a week or as needed. If the weather is nice, take it outside for a breath of fresh air! 


5. REFLECT!  Make the new year a great one by incorporating student reflections and goals.  I have my students reflect on their learning every Friday by writing about 3 things they learned during the week.  They then write about whether it was easy or challenging for them and why. My students keep a Digital Learning Reflections Journal with their data and goal-setting slides.  Teaching and modeling to students how to reflect on what and how they are learning is such a powerful way for students to really think about their thinking.  It also gives them opportunities to look back and set meaningful goals for themselves as they move forward in their learning.  You can easily do this by having students writing each week in a new or existing journal.  To make it even easier, you can check out my Digital Weekly Learning Reflection Forms in my Teachers Pay Teachers store here or click on the image below!  I have a PDF version in my store on Teachers Pay Teachers store as well! 

I hope you can use some of these ideas in your classroom in the upcoming weeks!  
What will you do to start the New Year off right?
Happy New Year!


Celebrate Christmas with a FUN Math Project!

{This is an updated post from last year!}  
The week before winter break is always an exciting time in the classroom and it can be a challenge to keep students on task and learning!  Students seem even more energetic than usual and less focused on learning.  I'm always looking for fun and meaningful ways to integrate the holidays into my classroom to keep my 5th graders focused on academics.   My 12 Days of Christmas Math Project is challenging, yet fun, and allows students to practice problem-solving skills by calculating the cost of the 12 Days of Christmas.



I start by having my students read the lyrics to the "12 Days of Christmas"(I like to play the song as they read along). I have my students highlight the gifts for each of the 12 days of Christmas as they read. Next, I give them the 12 Days of Christmas Task Page and review the three tasks they are required to complete. 

Task 1: Calculate the cost of each gift
Task 2: Calculate the total cost of all gifts given on each day
Task 3: Use the calculations to answer questions 



After we review the tasks, I give my students the 12 Days of Christmas price list.  There are two price lists options to choose from - whole numbers or decimals to the tenths place.  The two different price lists make this activity perfect for third, fourth, or fifth graders! You can also differentiate this activity in your classroom by giving each student the price list that suits their needs best.  Students can work independently, in partners, or in cooperative groups to complete the project.

Students use the recording pages to calculate all of the costs.  You can choose to let your students calculate the costs on paper or give them a calculator - I switch it up depending on my students. While they are working, I like to project a Yule Log video on the board and play holiday music in the background.

Answer keys are also included.  If you would like to share this activity with your students, you can find it  HERE!

Happy Holidays!
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