Get organized in 5 Simple Steps!

What time of year is it?  Beginning of the year?  Great!  Then you're probably motivated to get organized for the upcoming school year.  Middle of the year?  Then your room is probably a mess from the previous 5 months of not having time to clean it!  So you NEED to organize!  Is it the end of the year?  Then times what I just said by 2 because you know you didn't organize it in the middle of the year ;)   The lesson learned here is that there's no one time to get organized.  Now is the time.  I'm not going to sit here and tell you to get bins and put things in them, I want to share with you some tangible things you can do right now that will impact your organization now and hopefully in the future!

  #1   So one of the best things is to get yourself into a routine of being an organized person.  Routine is your friend.  Say that again:  Routine is your friend. Here are 5 things to do before you leave each day: 

     • Clean off your desk!
     • Get papers/materials out for the next day 
     • Grade at least ONE stack of papers
     • File away the papers you copied today
     • Check one item off of your to do list 

Write them down right now so you don't forget them and start doing them everyday before you leave school.  You'll be amazed in the matter of a week how much more organized you feel!  

#2      Organization doesn't always mean visual distress.  (Sorry, I just laughed out loud when writing that.  You walk into those rooms that give you visual distress, so you know what I'm laughing about).  Organization can also mean behind the scenes.  We're so immersed in technology these days, why not let it do the organization for you!  Here are 4 apps to save your organizational sanity! 

     • Classroom Organizer (Apple, Android) - This is a great one to use to help organize your classroom library!  And it's FREE!

     • iDoceo ($$) - (Apple only) - This is an amazing app, and SO worth the money!  Anything from gradebook, class seating charts, organizing notes and forms - this is it!

     • Wonderlist - (Apple, Android) - Post it notes to go is basically what this app does for you!  Have you ever had a list and left it at school?  Or had a list that had school AND home items?  Wonderlist can help organize all of your list needs!

     • Confer ($$) - (Apple, Android) - Do you do running records and have a hard time staying organized with all of your notes?  Then this is the app for you!  Yes, it does cost money - but think of how much time you will save and how much more information you'll be able to track about your students!

#3      Sometimes, all it takes is a visual to help stay organized.  Monkey see monkey do!  Here are 3 visuals for both you and students! 

     • Dry Erase Reminder Board - Keep a dry erase board by your door with the word 'Reminders' written at the top.  Write EVERYTHING on it that you need to be reminded of - maybe even if it doesn't involve the students!  Let them help you stay organized and then think of what kind of model you're setting for your students!

     • Absent Work Bin - If you don't have one, GET one!  There are TONS of ideas on Pinterest on how to start them!  

     • Label EVERYTHING - This isn't good for just you - it helps your classroom turn into a self functioning space.  The classroom is for the students.  By labeling everything it helps keep the students just as organized as yourself!

#4    Sometimes being organized does cost a little money.  So get out your pocketbook!  (Do we even call it that anymore?)  Here are 2 products you NEED to buy! 

     • Weekly checklists - You make them anyways, why not make something PERMANENT that you can keep all year long!  Here's are some great ones from Ashley Schroeder!  

     • Trash Bags - Yes, I said it.  Binge and purge people!  Get rid of it if you haven't used it if you haven't used it in 2-3 years.  If you need it later, you have my permission to buy it!  

#5 - LAST TIP!  Organize your post it notes.  I can't tell you how much better my desk looks and how much I get done because my post it notes are organized.  Here's what I'm talking about:  

<--------  This way I'm not just looking at 4-5 different notes scattered all over my desk!  Grab if for free here!  Thank you Brooke!

So I hope you found SOMETHING today to help you get a little more organized, because face it - we can ALL use help in that area!  If you <3 these tips - you can grab them on this printable handout!  Feel free to print and share them with a friend :)  Grab it HERE!

Ok, so I'm not going to lie.  The BEST way to get organized in when you have adorable post its, papers, and calendars to make everything look pretty - am I right?  Blair Turner Papers can help you with that!  She has just the most crisp, clean, and beautiful papers for every possible classroom and at home need!  She is letting me give TWO of my amazing followers a $50 GIFT CARD to use at her website!  If you haven't been there, definitely check it out now!  Are you drooling yet?

Use the RaffleCopter below to enter!  The winner will be announced on Sunday, April 17th!  Stay tuned!  Enter below and good luck! a Rafflecopter giveaway

Helping Students Understand Theme!

You know every teacher has his/her list..  The list of concepts and skills that we LOVE to teach and those that we LOATH to teach.  Some that I LOATH are measurement in math like capacity..  Ugh!  One that I LOVE to teach is Theme in reading :)  I think its something that I can connect to so easily in so many ways which is why I have fun and enjoy breaking it down for my students.  But, if you're one who teaches theme, you know that that is definitely not the case for all of your students.  This can be an extremely challenging concept.  Why?  Because it is an abstract one.  The theme isn't something they can go back to the text and point to.  It's a type of inference per say.  Students need to be able to truly understand the entire plot of the story as well as the depth of the character to be able to identify a strong theme in a story.

So I did a lot of reflecting from these past few weeks, as I've been teaching theme (yay!) to my 3rd graders on what I did to really help them understand it.  I've come up with 5 tips that I think might help you too.  :)

1.    Vocabulary needs to be taught first.  It won't matter how much of the plot or how well they know the characters, if they don't have the vocabulary of the theme 'words', then they won't have a chance to identify the theme.  Some of the main themes we teach in our building are:  perseverance, cooperation, honesty, responsibility, acceptance, kindness, friendship, greed, and contentment.  There are many more to be added to that list.  But look at those words!  Those are some pretty hefty words even for third graders!  The first thing I do when beginning a unit on theme is teach the students the individual vocabulary words we will be using throughout our unit.  You'll be surprised at how much foundation and understand they actually have of the words, they just need a word added to their meanings.  So get out the crayons.  One of the best ways I introduce these words is by having them not only write and define them, but also sketch them out.  Click on the photo below to download for FREE!

2.     The next piece that is crucial in being able to identify the theme of a fictional text is a clear understanding of the plot.  They have to know the ins and outs of the story, the beginning, the middle and dare I say it - the end! :P  I love having the students use a variety of graphic organizers or flow charts to help with this process.  We do a lot of sketches as well.  For example:  I'll be doing the first read of the text and then I'll stop where I think the beginning of the story has 'ended'.  On their paper, the students will visualize and sketch what they truly think is the most important event so far in the story and then write 2-3 sentences about it underneath.  Then the students will pair-share and discuss similarities and differences.  We continue this throughout the entire story.  Then when we get to the discussion about theme, the students have a solid understand and even some 'notes' they have taken to refer back to if needed.

3.  It's all about the characters.  They need to understands the characters completely.  The who's, what's, when's, where's, and why's.  More so too they need to look for the change in the character.  A lot of times we'll use a character trait wall to do this.  Basically I divide my front board into two sections and write beginning and ending above each section.  As we read the students think of character traits to describe the main (or other) characters and add their words to the wall - same for the ending.  Then we analyze what changes we see in the character(s) - which helps us identify the theme!

4.    Another big tip with theme is making sure to connect it to texts and media that they already know.  I use a lot of movie references in my theme unit.  We watch a lot of clips of old fairytales and fables/folktales, etc.  I have a really fun movie Tic-Tac-Toe game that the kids just LOVE playing!  

This packet has the tic-tac-toe game plus three other amazing and hands on games that will just make your kids go crazy for theme!  Make it fun, make it engaging, and make it about texts or media they already know - they'll soak it up!  

5.    My final tip for teaching theme is talk about it with EVERY text you read.  The students can't just have these few lessons in a week or two and then not hear about it again.  It's like skills like genre, setting, and problem/solution - you talk about it with every story you read, short or long.  Have fun with it by keeping track of all of your stories and their themes.  Here's a great example from Beth Newingham!  (Click to see more)  

Hopefully I've given you some tips that maybe you hadn't thought of before.  If you have any questions, please let me know!  I'd love to hear what you do when teaching theme!  Make sure to comment so we can all learn from each other :)  

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