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3rd Grade Thoughts by Stephanie @ 3rd Grade Thoughts - 2M ago
Our school has used quite a few Character Education programs throughout the years, but sometimes I find myself looking for more practical, concrete ways to help students deal with conflicts.

These are not the larger, bullying-type conflicts that we discuss often in the Character Ed programs, these are the daily recess squabbles, the bickering/arguing, and the tattling that can occur throughout the week.

With these types of conflict, I don't want to be the constant referee, negotiating both sides in every disagreement. I want to empower my students to choose between a variety of strategies and develop these necessary skills themselves.


While looking for some of these online, I was contacted by Kelso's Choice and couldn't believe my luck. This program seemed to be addressing the skills I was looking for in a very kid-friendly, concrete method.

I am excited to share this product review in case you are looking for a similar program.
Disclaimer: Although Kelso's Choice sent me these items, all opinions are 100% honest and my own, and I never recommend something I wouldn't or haven't used in my own class.

Kelso's Nine Choices
The main character in this Character Ed program is a cartoon frog named Kelso. He is present in every K-3 lesson, but not in the lessons for grades 4-5, which I appreciate.

He demonstrates all of the strategies that students can choose to solve a small (not big) problem. In grades 2-3, there is a wheel with all of the available choices and I absolutely love that visual.

There are nine choices and lessons to introduce each one, along with a story from Willow Pond to help students role-play and solve these small problems for the animal characters.


While there are nine choices, the program is very explicit that a student should try two and then get an adult if the conflict persists.

There is an entire lesson at the beginning about small and big problems to help students differentiate what needs immediate adult intervention versus something they can work together to solve. The program also emphasizes that students are strong enough and smart enough to solve these small problems-- I love how much it is repeated throughout the teacher guide.

Large posters accompany the product and I appreciated the ongoing visual. They cover each of the nine choices:

  1. Go to another game
  2. Talk it out
  3. Share and take turns
  4. Ignore it
  5. Walk away
  6. Tell them to (please) stop
  7. Apologize
  8. Make a deal
  9. Wait and cool off

As you can see, these are common strategies that many of the students have used before, often in combination with each other. What I was grateful for was the common, explicit instruction around all nine of these to create a system in the classroom, on the playground, in the lunchroom, and beyond.

Plus, the explicit instruction can do a world of good for our students who struggle with these choices and social skills. Working together as a class on each of these in a systematic way can let every single student be "in it together" and have a common language and framework to use as a group.

Program Materials

Included in the Conflict Management set was everything you could ever need to launch this with your classroom. There is a very comprehensive Leader Guide filled with grade-specific lessons, extensions, reproducibles, parent and staff letters, and stories.

Lessons are in-depth, but quick, and encourage you to engage in some meaningful conversations with your students. Take a peek at the Table of Contents HERE. A CD helps with making copies for your classroom.


Two frog puppets are also included: Kelso and Lily. Since I teach third grade, I offer these up as an option, but not as a requirement. My daughter is in second grade, and she is still loving any and all activities with a puppet, so I'm glad they were included for the K-3 group.

Additional cut-out characters can help bring the stories and role-plays to life. There are also some great lessons provided to help use the puppets with your class.

Inside the Leader's Guide are the Willow Pond stories, but they are also compiled in a full-color book that would be perfect for your classroom library. The font is large and these stories could even be used as a shared reading opportunity.


The provided DVD has an animated Kelso reviewing all of the choices and how they can be used in students' lives.

And, most importantly, there are huge posters to display in your classroom, hallway, lunchroom, etc. You can see the difference between the K-3 version and the 4-5 version above. There are five of each and they are BIG at 24x36"!


If you are teaching grades 4-5, the authors knew that Kelso the frog would not be as big of a hit with the older grades, and the lessons are adjusted accordingly. There are photos of real kids and much more in-depth scenarios and questions. Even "Share and take turns" has been removed and choices are divided up into verbal and nonverbal. It's a nice jump and will keep kids engaged even if they've been learning these choices since Kindergarten.

One of the components to this program that I really love is the inclusion of every staff member and family member in the program. They realize that a lot of these small conflicts arise outside of a structured classroom environment, and this program is designed to work for just those scenarios.


Included are reproducibles that the on-duty adult can use to support and/or congratulate those students who used the choices to solve a conflict. There are letters and activities for students to take home to help educate the parents and certificates of achievement for every student as they complete the program. There's even a song they can learn and maybe even sing schoolwide?

The authors, Barbara Clark, PhD and Diane Hipp, CPS not only knew what they were doing when it came to conflict resolution, they knew how to implement it into a schoolwide system and make it doable for teachers and staff. There is no extra fluff to dig through, nor are there scripted lessons that kill meaningful learning. The lessons are packed with goodness and could easily give students new experiences with these choices for their entire elementary experience.

Overall ThoughtsI really like Kelso's Choice Conflict Management program and could see it becoming a part of a successful school's character education collection. It is practical, simple in its use but effective in its strategies, and is a one-stop-shop for an entire elementary school.

I can imagine School Counselors loving this program as a way to help give all kids common language and skills about solving small problems in an empowering way.

There are plenty of activities to keep this a yearlong and elementary career-long program for students. Especially with its extensions into 4th and 5th grade, I can see how kids of all ages can use these simple, but powerful choices to solve their ever-changing conflicts.

With every adult in their daily sphere reiterating these choices, it gives students a solid framework to address small conflicts and feel empowered instead of frustrated.

Find more information at: https://kelsoschoice.com.

There are free downloads and loads of extra information for you to peruse.

There is also information about a 30-day Free Trial, if you think you would like to experiment before you make the schoolwide decision.

Have you used Kelso's Choice in your school? I would love to hear about your experiences with it in a schoolwide system!


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3rd Grade Thoughts by Stephanie @ 3rd Grade Thoughts - 2M ago
I am fortunate to work in a school were turnover among students (and staff) is very low. We typically have entire families come through and we even have some students of former students in the building.

However, life happens, and on average, one student moves during the school year. This is usually due to parent(s) getting a job in another state, so it's a tough time for both the student moving and the friends they are leaving behind.


One of the ways that we help students get the chance to say goodbye is with a Goodbye Circle.

This is a similar structure to my Morning Meeting and Birthday Circles. All students sit in an oval on the rug and this time, the student leaving sits in the meeting leader chair.


We make a chart together earlier in the week about some of the ways we can say goodbye. This is more than just a chance to reminisce about the student, it can become a hopeful time with well wishes and good luck for their new school.

We keep this chart up so students can see it as we go around the room. I like to challenge the kids to say two things: one about the student (a fun memory, a compliment on their character, etc.) and one about their future.

I am always blown away by the kindness and sincerity of each of these comments. It takes longer than the Birthday Circle, so be sure to plan accordingly.


When everyone has had the chance to give their message, I let the departing student choose their favorite song and I will play it aloud from Spotify.

While the song plays, students are invited up to sign a goodbye poster. This is just a simple print-out on 8.5x11" paper with the message of "We'll miss you!" on the front (grab it for free HERE). I put out my favorite gel pens and, just like our Birthday Cards, kids can sign their names.
What is different about this sign is that it is much larger and students can write several sentences if they choose to. Messages can also go onto the back.

This also gives students time to give hugs and hang out together in a more relaxed atmosphere.

In the past, some students have chosen to bring in a small treat like a pencil or party favor to hand out to everyone, but this is only if they choose.

I typically like to hold our Goodbye Circle at the very end of the day or bumped up against a recess. I have found that being able to move our bodies after such a sad time is very helpful for processing their emotions.

If your schedule doesn't allow for that timing, I recommend a movement-filled Brain Break to give the kids this opportunity.

The sign goes with them at the end of the day and can hopefully be a reminder of the love and friendship they will always find at our school.

How do you say goodbye to students who move?


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3rd Grade Thoughts by Stephanie @ 3rd Grade Thoughts - 2M ago
I love Halloween and Valentine's Day and always want to include holiday-themed work in our math class that day.

One of the most popular activities I've done over the years is my Candy Bar Graphing activity.


Not that you need a holiday to use this product! Any time you need a quick, interactive, and yummy activity, this definitely fits the bill!

All that is needed are individual packets of multi-colored candy and my print-and-go packet (found on TpT HERE). 

Some of the candy I have loved using is Skittles or the conversation hearts found around Valentine's Day.

Simply pass out a packet of candy and graphing sheets to each student and you're ready to review bar graphs!


The first page has students sort by color. The color choices are left blank, so you can use this with any candy you would like.

After they have sorted, it's time to graph! There are two choices: vertical and horizontal bar graphs. I prefer students to practice making both. They will need to label the axes, the color choices, and the quantity. 

The last step is an observation sheet that has several sentence starters to get them thinking about their data. By this time, I let them eat the candy as they write, but you can also have them finish the packet before they dive in!


Note: In my initial use of this activity, I had heart-shaped font and students made observations on lined paper. I adjusted the product to include an observation sheet and changed the hearts to circles so it can be used for any holiday or general lesson.

If you'd like to try this product with your class, you can pick up this activity on TpT HERE.

Happy graphing!

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Welcome to the third month of my Classroom Organizing Challenge!

This is a yearlong organizing challenge with weekly tasks to get you to your most tidy classroom yet.

Below is the list of topics and months, so you can join in and/or catch up anytime.

If you haven't read the Getting Started post, I recommend reading that first for some simple tips, a fun playlist, and a big-picture view of 2019.

You can always catch up on the Classroom Organizing Challenge Page HERE. Here's our yearlong overview:


Getting Started
January: Student Desks
February: Teacher Desk
March: Visible Storage
April: Hidden Storage
May: Technology/Digital
June: Classroom Library
July: Student Life
August: Class Routines
September: Teacher Life
October: Home-School Link
November: Mom Life
December: Maintenance
. . .Visible Storage: Student StuffOne of the ways I think our classrooms can look their tidiest is when our visual storage is clean, uniform, and intentional.

When items get thrown into random corners, piles, or bins with no system, it not only becomes stressful to look at, it adds additional time and energy to our schedule when we go hunting for an item we need!

I want to tackle visual student clutter first because I think this is the easiest to identify.

How are the student supplies and storage spaces in your room organized? Are their clear labels? Do you use bins, baskets, tubs, or a combo of all of those?

When students know where things belong, you automatically have 25+ additional helpers to keep your class clean and tidy.

I have three main student storage spaces in my classroom: classroom supplies, rainbow drawers, and the white bench.

These areas are also in three different areas in my classroom, almost a triangle, so that one small wall isn't holding each and every piece of extra supplies the students might need during the day.

Classroom Supplies

Students have their table supplies, but when glue sticks dry out, when they need additional red markers, or an extra sharpener, they come to our classroom supplies area.

Here, I have markers separated by color (I used Creekside Teacher Tales' freebie HERE) and write more about the whole process HERE.

I also have clear drawers that hold a variety of other school supplies. I like being able to peek in and see what needs a refill and it's easy for the students to find homes for these items as well.


Rainbow Drawers

As you know, I am in love with rainbow drawers. I have taller ones for my things and use these lower ones for student supplies.

Note: These lower ones are getting harder and harder to find. The only ones I could find easily are available at Joann's HERE.

I purchased three of these and adjusted the bins so that each column is its own color.

Then, each column can be grouped to fit a specific item. For example, red holds our headphones, orange, green, and blue hold Word Work (more info on that HERE), and purple, and black hold games for Friday Free Choice and Indoor Recess.

The labels for these drawers are available on TpT HERE.

White Bench

The last student-centered supplies area is what I call the White Bench, although we don't use it for sitting. I got this from Ikea years ago (the "bench" is available HERE and the bins HERE)

I have adored this piece of furniture: Inside the white bins are all of the building supplies kids use during Friday Free Choice and Indoor Recess. They are out of the way and the bins hold a lot!

On top of the bins, I have a lot of the areas kids need to access. This shelf is right in front of our meeting area, so it's a quick trip to get a clipboard or grab a Toobaloo.

Start thinking about your students' supplies and how creating distinct, well-labeled areas around your room can help create a cleaner, tidier, and more efficient workspace for you and your class.
. . .This Week's Think Abouts:
  • Where are extra student supplies stored?
  • What extra supplies do I need to have available for students? What can be put away in a hidden storage spot?
  • Are extra supplies clearly labeled and easily accessible during work time?
  • How are games organized?
  • Is there a way to make centers easy to access and clean up? 
  • How can a student be sure they are returning materials to the correct space?
  • How can color-coding, labels, pictures, and/or placement help organize these supplies?
  • What is the travel time between supplies and student work areas? How much opportunity for distraction is in between where they work and what they need?
  • Think about the heights of available materials and the available shelving and counters in your classroom. Can adding in additional, lower furniture help make items more accessible?

* Would you like these Think Abouts in a handy PDF? Click HERE


    Be sure to follow along with me on Instagram @3rdgrthoughts on both my feed and my IG Stories throughout the year.

    Tag any of your before & afters, progress, or projects using #ClassroomOrganizingChallenge. Together we can finally tackle the visual clutter and stressful spaces!

    Join me in two weeks when we switch directions and start tackling visible storage for teachers for the remainder of March!

    Happy organizing,


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    3rd Grade Thoughts by Stephanie @ 3rd Grade Thoughts - 3M ago

    We are wrapping up our Spring Parent-Teacher Conferences and I wanted to take a minute to share what I put inside of the folders I give to parents each conference.


    At our grade level, we do not do student-led conferences and we have only twenty minutes to meet, so I want to stay organized and give as much information as I can in the short amount of time.

    Plus, I want parents to go home with the information and be able to have it available if they have any follow-up questions.

    I like having several student sheets to balance out the data sheets they will be receiving. Those reading reports, while informative, can seem impersonal. I want to bring in the goals, hopes, and favorites of their child's experience in third grade wherever I can.

    The main information I include is:



    These are collected, sorted, and placed into student-decorated folders. These are just 8 1/2x11" pages I've copied onto 11x17" sheets and folded over. I update the info each conference and pass them out to the students to decorate.

    I organize each of these folders in conference-order, so I can grab-and-go and not waste any time getting information organized.

    I use student numbers (more info on that HERE) and put those on the top right corner to make it easier when I am filing all of the paperwork.

    These folders also come in very handy for general paperwork I want to make sure everyone sees. Especially at our first set of conferences in October, I want to be able to walk them through a few key topics.

    One handout I always like to include is one on Growth Mindset (I am in *love* with Sarah Gardner's found HERE). Because this is such a huge focus all year long, I want parents to hear about it from me instead of hoping they see it in a folder or backpack at the end of the week.

    I can also put in some review sheets and extra practice packets for those kiddos who may be struggling. I can review it with the parents at the conference and they have a convenient way to keep the information together so it can all make it home in one piece.


    If you're interested in the folder covers, there are ten different versions available for free HERE. Simply open the file in PowerPoint and switch the text to your grade, school, name and year.

    The font I used is KG She Persisted, found HERE.

    Happy conferencing!


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    Welcome to the second month of my Classroom Organizing Challenge!

    Each month this year to a specific part of our classroom to get rid of clutter, organize, streamline, and make our classrooms more stress-free!

    Below are the list of topics and months, so you can join in and/or catch up anytime.

    If you haven't read the Getting Started post, I recommend reading that first for some simple tips, a fun playlist, and a big-picture view of 2019.

    You can always catch up on the Classroom Organizing Challenge Page HERE. Here's our yearlong overview:


    Getting Started
    January: Student Desks
    February: Teacher Desk
    March: Visible Storage
    April: Hidden Storage
    May: Technology/Digital
    June: Classroom Library
    July: Student Life
    August: Class Routines
    September: Teacher Life
    October: Home-School Link
    November: Mom Life
    December: Maintenance
    . . .Before You Leave: Daily ResetBesides the larger projects we're undertaking, I want us to be able to establish simple, but effective habits that can ensure my organized teacher area is an ongoing reality every day, each year.

    One of the most important habits I want to emphasize is what you do every day in the time after the students leave and before you go home for the day.

    There tend to be two moods I fall into: very productive or running away. For me, I am looking to establish a habit that falls in a happy medium between the two.

    I want to leave my teacher area neat, tidy, organized, and ready to go for the next day. I don't want to stay in my classroom doing a deep clean, but I also want to walk in the next morning feeling ready to go.

    I think of this Daily Reset like Clean Mama's Kitchen Reset each night. Check out her 10-minute daily kitchen clean HERE (and the rest of her site if you haven't had the chance yet!).

    Her site encouraged me to have a clean sink each night and I love that ritual. In the morning, when I'm barely awake and bleary-eyed, heading to my coffee machine, seeing a clean and tidy sink is such a better feeling than last night's dishes and cups stacked inside.

    I want to extend this feeling to our Teacher Areas each and every day.

    Teacher Area ResetSo, how do you reset your Teacher Area each afternoon?

    I think the first step is to create a simple checklist. This can be the same (or similar to) the Zone Checklist from Week 1, or you can create something even more simple.

    For me, I call it the Daily 5 (since it's so common in our daily vernacular, why not?)

    My Daily 5 consists of:

    1. New date & schedule change
    2. Piles sorted and put away
    3. Planner out and ready to go
    4. Copies made and lessons in place for the next day
    5. Random tidying (pens, paper clips, post-its, etc.)


    This isn't much and takes less than ten minutes, but to walk into a clean Teacher Area the next morning is priceless. Plus, I remember this feeling on days when I just want to leave as soon as possible and get home into my yoga pants, and it motivates me to get it done!

    1. NEW DATE & SCHEDULE CHANGEThe first thing I always do is change the date on our front board and switch the schedule on the back board. Read more about the schedule cards I use HERE.

    2. PILES SORTED & PUT AWAYFrom there, I attack any additional piles and files from the day. If something needs attention tomorrow, I make a sticky note and leave it on the keyboard of my laptop so I'm sure to see it first thing.... because I will never remember otherwise! Read more tips on piles and files HERE.

    3. PLANNER OUT & READY TO GOMy wonderful Erin Condren Teacher Planner is next. I check off lessons that were complete, move and adjust lessons that we didn't get to or need reteaching, and make sure all of today's to do's are finished up. If they aren't, I will either get them done quickly or move them over to tomorrow's to do's. Read more about my Teacher Planner HERE.

    4. COPIES & LESSONS IN PLACE FOR TOMORROWI try to make most of my copies during my planning time when I have access to the copier, so by now, I have piles of things we'll do tomorrow. I organize them near my projector so they will be ready to go.
    5. RANDOM TIDYINGRandom tidying is something that has the biggest bang for its buck. This is the time when I put away all of my random pens, pencils, Sharpies, markers, and other various writing tools I've been using and leaving on my teacher desk all day long. I put away my binder clips, paperclips and white out, and toss any Post-It notes that I'm finished with. If I still need them, I try to compile them to just one and toss the rest.
    . . .At the end of my Daily 5, only ten minutes have passed, but my Teacher Area is clean, tidy, and ready for the next day already. Best of all, it's ready to go in case of emergency sub day. This has definitely come in handy when my daughter has woken up sick!

    Because I organize the rest of my Teacher Area in Zones, I don't worry about rearranging my drawers or any of the other areas at this point. They all have their day and my goal is just to get my small area and the daily schedule ready for me the next day.

    While the schedule and date are nice, it's a true stress-reliever to walk in and see a nice desk each morning. Believe me, there are still tons of to do's and things to get graded, sorted, and filed, but the visual calm of a cleaned off workspace helps get my day started off on the right foot.

    Good luck creating your own small checklist for your Daily Teacher Area Reset! I hope you'll find these strategies increase your productivity as well as your morning zen each day!
    . . .This Week's Think Abouts:
    • What is the area that could use a Daily Reset each day after the last bell?
    • What 3-5 small checklist items can I do each day to get this area tidy and ready for the next day? Time yourself going through it-- make sure it takes less than ten minutes.
    • Do I have an area for leaving notes to myself for the next day?
    • Do I have an area where office supplies are clearly stored and easily accessed?
    • How does my Teacher Planner fit into this Daily Reset?
    • Where do I put copies for the next day's lessons so they will be ready to go?
    • How have I organized my systems for piles and files?

    * Would you like these Think Abouts in a handy PDF? Click HERE


      Be sure to follow along with me on Instagram @3rdgrthoughts on both my feed and my IG Stories throughout the year.

      Tag any of your before & afters, progress, or projects using #ClassroomOrganizingChallenge. Together we can finally tackle the visual clutter and stressful spaces!

      Join me next week when we switch directions and start tackling Visible Storage for our March challenge!

      Happy organizing,


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      3rd Grade Thoughts by Stephanie @ 3rd Grade Thoughts - 3M ago

      What in the world is a dodecahedron? I have to admit, these twelve-sided shapes have become one of the highlights of my curriculum! A dodecahedron is a twelve-sided, 3-D shape that displays all of the the learning we have done with our huge research project in third grade: Colorado Animals. We have done all sorts of other things in the past (see a few ideas HERE), but this has become the
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      Welcome to the second month of my Classroom Organizing Challenge!

      Each month this year to a specific part of our classroom to get rid of clutter, organize, streamline, and make our classrooms more stress-free!

      Below are the list of topics and months, so you can join in and/or catch up anytime.

      If you haven't read the Getting Started post, I recommend reading that first for some simple tips, a fun playlist, and a big-picture view of 2019.

      You can always catch up on the Classroom Organizing Challenge Page HERE. Here's our yearlong overview:


      Getting Started
      January: Student Desks
      February: Teacher Desk
      March: Visible Storage
      April: Hidden Storage
      May: Technology/Digital
      June: Classroom Library
      July: Student Life
      August: Class Routines
      September: Teacher Life
      October: Home-School Link
      November: Mom Life
      December: Maintenance
      . . .Before You Leave: Daily ResetBesides the larger projects we're undertaking, I want us to be able to establish simple, but effective habits that can ensure my organized teacher area is an ongoing reality every day, each year.

      One of the most important habits I want to emphasize is what you do every day in the time after the students leave and before you go home for the day.

      There tend to be two moods I fall into: very productive or running away. For me, I am looking to establish a habit that falls in a happy medium between the two.

      I want to leave my teacher area neat, tidy, organized, and ready to go for the next day. I don't want to stay in my classroom doing a deep clean, but I also want to walk in the next morning feeling ready to go.

      I think of this Daily Reset like Clean Mama's Kitchen Reset each night. Check out her 10-minute daily kitchen clean HERE (and the rest of her site if you haven't had the chance yet!).

      Her site encouraged me to have a clean sink each night and I love that ritual. In the morning, when I'm barely awake and bleary-eyed, heading to my coffee machine, seeing a clean and tidy sink is such a better feeling than last night's dishes and cups stacked inside.

      I want to extend this feeling to our Teacher Areas each and every day.
      Teacher Area ResetSo, how do you reset your Teacher Area each afternoon?

      I think the first step is to create a simple checklist. This can be the same (or similar to) the Zone Checklist from Week 1, or you can create something even more simple.

      For me, I call it the Daily 5 (since it's so common in our daily vernacular, why not?)

      My Daily 5 consists of:

      1. New date & schedule change
      2. Piles sorted and put away
      3. Planner out and ready to go
      4. Copies made and lessons in place for the next day
      5. Random tidying (pens, paper clips, post-its, etc.)


      This isn't much and takes less than ten minutes, but to walk into a clean Teacher Area the next morning is priceless. Plus, I remember this feeling on days when I just want to leave as soon as possible and get home into my yoga pants, and it motivates me to get it done!

      The first thing I always do is change the date on our front board and switch the schedule on the back board. Read more about the schedule cards I use HERE.

      From there, I attack any additional piles and files from the day. If something needs attention tomorrow, I make a sticky note and leave it on the keyboard of my laptop so I'm sure to see it first thing.... because I will never remember otherwise! Read more tips on piles and files HERE.

      My wonderful Erin Condren Teacher Planner is next. I check off lessons that were complete, move and adjust lessons that we didn't get to or need reteaching, and make sure all of today's to do's are finished up. If they aren't, I will either get them done quickly or move them over to tomorrow's to do's. Read more about my Teacher Planner HERE.

      I try to make most of my copies during my planning time when I have access to the copier, so by now, I have piles of things we'll do tomorrow. I organize them near my projector so they will be ready to go.

      Random tidying is something that has the biggest bang for its buck. This is the time when I put away all of my random pens, pencils, Sharpies, markers, and other various writing tools I've been using and leaving on my teacher desk all day long. I put away my binder clips, paperclips and white out, and toss any Post-It notes that I'm finished with. If I still need them, I try to compile them to just one and toss the rest.

      At the end of my Daily 5, only ten minutes have passed, but my Teacher Area is clean, tidy, and ready for the next day already. Best of all, it's ready to go in case of emergency sub day. This has definitely come in handy when my daughter has woken up sick!

      Because I organize the rest of my Teacher Area in Zones, I don't worry about rearranging my drawers or any of the other areas at this point. They all have their day and my goal is just to get my small area and the daily schedule ready for me the next day.

      While the schedule and date are nice, it's a true stress-reliever to walk in and see a nice desk each morning. Believe me, there are still tons of to do's and things to get graded, sorted, and filed, but the visual calm of a cleaned off workspace helps get my day started off on the right foot.

      Good luck creating your own small checklist for your Daily Teacher Area Reset! I hope you'll find these strategies increase your productivity as well as your morning zen each day!
      . . .This Week's Think Abouts:
      • What is the area that could use a Daily Reset each day after the last bell?
      • What 3-5 small checklist items can I do each day to get this area tidy and ready for the next day? Time yourself going through it-- make sure it takes less than ten minutes.
      • Do I have an area for leaving notes to myself for the next day?
      • Do I have an area where office supplies are clearly stored and easily accessed?
      • How does my Teacher Planner fit into this Daily Reset?
      • Where do I put copies for the next day's lessons so they will be ready to go?
      • How have I organized my systems for piles and files?


      * Would you like these Think Abouts in a handy PDF? Click HERE. 


        Be sure to follow along with me on Instagram @3rdgrthoughts on both my feed and my IG Stories throughout the year.

        Tag any of your before & afters, progress, or projects using #ClassroomOrganizingChallenge. Together we can finally tackle the visual clutter and stressful spaces!

        Join me next week when I dive into more of February's challenge!

        Happy organizing,


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        Welcome to the second month of my Classroom Organizing Challenge!

        Each month this year to a specific part of our classroom to get rid of clutter, organize, streamline, and make our classrooms more stress-free!

        Below are the list of topics and months, so you can join in and/or catch up anytime.

        If you haven't read the Getting Started post, I recommend reading that first for some simple tips, a fun playlist, and a big-picture view of 2019.

        You can always catch up on the Classroom Organizing Challenge Page HERE. Here's our yearlong overview:


        Getting Started
        January: Student Desks
        February: Teacher Desk
        March: Visible Storage
        April: Hidden Storage
        May: Technology/Digital
        June: Classroom Library
        July: Student Life
        August: Class Routines
        September: Teacher Life
        October: Home-School Link
        November: Mom Life
        December: Maintenance
        . . .Piles & FilesThis is a big one: How do you keep paperwork organized in your classroom?

        Specifically, I'm talking about the papers that ends up making a small mountain on your desk by the end of the day. With the amount of paper we come across, having some solid systems in place is imperative.

        I think the first question to ask yourself is, "Do I organize in piles or files?" And maybe you're a mix of both!

        I Organize in Piles
        I am a piles person, hands-down, so my systems are in place to help keep me as organized as possible in the way I naturally arrange papers-- in piles. Lots of them.

        In the past, I have tried to work with a filing system, but that was like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, so I had to let that one go, along with some lovely filing cabinets that had remained empty.

        When I finally acknowledged that I function best with piles, I had to look for organizational furniture and systems to support that. While it wasn't as easy as finding filing supplies, I was able to discover some great items.

        One of the first things I invested in were multi-colored binder clips. I organize every subject by color (read more about that system HERE), so buying color-coordinated binder clips helped me set up simple systems quickly.

        I also use a small class list for each and every assignment (find more info and a free template HERE). These are printed three to a page, so they are small, handy, and used daily for pretty much everything.


        These lists are placed on the top of the files and I check off students as papers are turned in. Then, I attach all of these together with a binder clip and, using a Sharpie, write an abbreviation of the assignment on the top and/or front of the clip.

        Teacher Tip: When I am done with that assignment, I cover the Sharpie with a dry-erase marker and wipe off to be able to reuse these over and over again.

        These piles can then hang out in one of my drawers behind my desk or accordion file (which really is just a fancy pile-holder) to be taken home to grade.

        I'll be diving deeper into my drawer system next month when we work on visible storage solutions, but these rainbow drawers are my lifeline as a "piles" organizer. I use these labels to help me keep them organized. There are some for grading, filing, upcoming assignments, sub plans, and more.

        Another option I have been loving recently are these color plastic envelopes with velcro closure. They are color-coordinated as well and allow me to keep several piles, masters, activities, etc. all in one space that is easy to find and carry.


        Something I have to stay disciplined about is making these stacks as soon as they come in. I go so far as to tell my students that if they hand in something randomly and I don't have a checklist, it will disappear and be lost forever. I wish I were kidding, but that's what it feels like if I don't stay organized.

        I also use these clips with permission slips, notes to the office, or things to be copied. For copies, I will attach a copy slip or sometimes just a sticky note, but the clip and system remains the same.

        I Organize in Files
        I love this system only because there are so many amazing tools to help you succeed!

        The ease of filing, the availability of color-coded products, the pre-made labels, and the multitude of storage options allow you to have a lot of flexibility in your classroom when it comes to staying organized.

        One of the important questions to always ask yourself, though, is whether or not you need to file that paperwork?

        For example, if it is a unit on TpT that you really enjoy and use year after year, do you need to keep the entire product printed out? Or can you recycle the credits page, the versions you don't use, and really narrow it down to your main set of master copies?

        Better yet, if it can be stored digitally, why not keep it in Dropbox or another cloud-based storage site? That way, you don't have to take time to file it and it can be available anytime you need it.

        The other consideration for filing, like piling, is how to keep things organized. Will you sort by month, unit, standard? Keeping a consistent system will not only make it easier to find later on, but it will take the guesswork out of filing today.


        Having a place with files ready-to-go can help streamline your organizational system and I am loving this hanging unit with colored folders. You can extend this color-coding system to hanging files and/or file folders, too.

        A new product I am currently loving when it comes to filing are the multicolored Post-It tabs. These are adhesive enough that they work well for filing, but are completely removable and repositionable. You can write on the colored tabs, or just leave them blank as a visual cue.

        One of my favorite filing systems I use is for our weekly Friday Folders. This is a schoolwide system that sends all assignments and school notes home every Friday in a folder, to be returned Monday.

        To keep this organized throughout the week, I use a portable hanging folder box with each student having a folder. I like how this can be moved around the room and doesn't take up extra space.

        On Monday, they will return their Friday Folder to their hanging folder. Throughout the week, I will return the piles to the front folder of "To Be Filed" or file them right away into their spot.

        On Friday, I can collect the papers in their hanging file and put them into their Friday Folder to be passed out at the end of the day.


        When Do I Have the Time?
        Great question. The answer is, we have very little time, so we'll need to maximize what we have.

        For me, daily maintenance is key, so I recommend you check out my Week 1 Zones post HERE if you haven't already.

        Dedicating 5-10 minutes each day to sorting, organizing, clipping, recycling, and filing these papers that come our way makes all the difference.

        I also have students take the lead and assist in these systems. If you don't have a centralized location for students to drop off papers, I recommend a Turn-In Bin (read more about that HERE). This can be for assignments, forms from homes, late classwork, and more.

        As you can tell, color-coordinating is a system that I have found works for me and makes it so much more efficient to organize piles and files with the quick visual. Matching up all of the yellows, greens, and blues not only keeps me organized, but cuts down on the time dramatically.

        If color-coordinating doesn't work for your subjects, think about how it could work to streamline your systems. Could colors represent different groups of students? Standards? Months of the year? Units? However you choose to organize, don't forget this important visual element.

        With these supplies, a daily maintenance checklist, and a visual system in place, your piles and files won't need to remain unorganized and the mountains won't get the chance to start forming at your desk.

        How do you keep your piles and files organized?

        Share below in the comments, as I know we can all benefit from each others' experiences!
        . . .
        This Week's Think Abouts:
        • Do I organize best in files? piles? a mix or both?
        • What materials will I need to maximize the style of organization I'm drawn to?
        • How do I address the visual element of organizing?
        • How could I color-code? By subject? Class? Another way?
        • Is there a clear "drop off" space in my classroom for student work? parent forms/letters? things to go home to all students? things to pass out to students? etc.
        • What is my weekly system to get paperwork home to students?
        • Where are the storage areas in my classroom for papers? Drawers? Files?
        • Are these areas clearly labeled to assist in organizing?
        • How are papers organized that need to be graded? filed? passed back? recycled? copied?
        • Do I have a student checklist system in place?
        • How do I label each stack?
        • Is there a daily chunk of 5-10 minutes I can dedicate to pile/file management?
        • How can students help to take ownership of some of the paperwork? 

        * Would you like these Think Abouts in a handy PDF? Click HERE


          Be sure to follow along with me on Instagram @3rdgrthoughts on both my feed and my IG Stories throughout the year.

          Tag any of your before & afters, progress, or projects using #ClassroomOrganizingChallenge. Together we can finally tackle the visual clutter and stressful spaces!

          Join me next week when I dive into more of February's challenge!

          Happy organizing,


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          3rd Grade Thoughts by Stephanie @ 3rd Grade Thoughts - 3M ago

          I have posted about my love of student numbers in the past HERE, and mentioned these class list slips there, but wanted to offer up my template today to anyone who may be looking for it. I have received a few requests over time and finally made it into a user-friendly PowerPoint file.

          These little class list slips are invaluable. They are simple, temporary, and more of a placeholder before I insert the final grades or check marks into my Teacher Planner.

          I love that they are so disposable because I go through several in a week. My memory is sketchy at best, especially when we're in the middle of several projects, and details are not my strength, so I always forget who turned in what and who still needs to finish an assignment.

          With these little slips, I am able to keep track of these small, but important, record-keeping notes and have the information at my fingertips when I need it.

          I begin by making a ton of copies and cutting them into thirds. I leave these in stacks near my desk and where I collect work.

          Sometimes our Turn-In Bin works, but for math homework and in-class projects, I want to know who has completed the work or not as soon as I can.

          I have 26 students in class this year, so the bottom space of my checklist is where I will write the assignment and the date. I then call several students up at a time and check off who turns in their work.

          If they don't have it, I put a circle and can add a checkmark later when it comes in. If it hasn't come in my Friday, they will need to complete it in Friday's Ketchup & Pickle Time.

          The nice part about these slips is that I can keep them paper-clipped along with the assignments so I can make sure everything is in the same stack.

          I am much more of a "pile" person than a "file" person, so this system works well within my comfort zone. When all of the assignments have been turned in by Friday or earlier, I can grade the assignments, record the information in my Teacher Planner, toss the slip, and send the work home.


          As an added bonus, I send a slip home at the beginning of the year so students have their classmates' names. Another copy will also go home in early February to make sure that every student can make a Valentine's Day card for each person in the class.

          Multiple copies are also left out for substitutes and we'll use them in class when students need to create Smile Files, visit each person's project to give feedback, when the Clean-Up Crew checks for clean bins, etc.

          I have this template available as a freebie in Dropbox HERE. Simply download it to PowerPoint and fill in the spaces with your own class list and you'll be good to go!

          I have copied these in different colors to coordinate with different subjects, too (read more about my color-coding HERE), but even having these on plain white paper is good enough to help keep me organized and accountable with all of the student works that comes my way in a week.

          I hope this can help in your system, too! Happy teaching!


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