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Teachers have limited time to plan and prep during the school day. Yet, in order to teach all day, they must spend time planning and prepping. So, how do you do both? In my thirteen years experience, I found my prep times hard to manage. Until, I made a weekly planning checklist!

When you have been teaching for hours and *finally* get a prep, the last thing you want to do is figure out what needs to get done.

You want to eat.

You want to get coffee.

You want to go to the bathroom.

You want to say hi to your teacher bestie.

You want to turn off the lights in your room and enjoy the silence. 

And then, before you know it, your planning period is done and you have finished nothing.

Sound familiar?

This was my life.

It was fine before I had kids and had more time to come early and stay late. 

That lifestyle gets old quickly though. And something I'm not willing to do now that I have two boys.

My solution?

Plan out my planning periods.

We are teachers, right? We are expert planners! Why not plan out your planning periods too?

That sounds like a lot of work - it isn't.

At the beginning of the school year (you can start whenever though!) I create a weekly planning checklist.

I have been in first grade for eight years, so I have a good idea of what needs to get done each week.  I combine that knowledge with my new planning period schedule, and create my plan.

Map out what needs to be done weekly and the planning periods that you have.
  • Each week I need to grade homework, email out my newsletter, put my newsletter on my blog, plan for the week, prep for the week, and write a newsletter for the following week.
  • Grading homework, emailing the newsletter, and putting it on my blog does not take long - and needs to be done on Mondays. So, I do that then.
  • I do not have very much time on Tuesdays, so I just fill in basic plans for the following week.
  • I have more time on Wednesdays, so I finish all the details of my plans.
  • I start my prep on Thursdays so that I do not leave it all for Friday.
  • On Fridays, I finish my prep and write my newsletter. I like to leave short tasks for Friday because I know my motivation will be low.
Think about all of the little tasks that need to be done each week.
  • In addition to my weekly planning checklist, I also create a smaller, more detailed, checklist to help me as I am going through my lesson planning.
  • I write down all of the areas that need to be done each week and get very specific. For example, within reader's workshop I need to write my actual reader's workshop plans, then I get out my teacher's book to read, highlight, and make notes of the lesson that I am teaching, and last I need to gather supplies and make copies. So, I write in my check list, Reader's Workshop Plans, Reader's Workshop Highlight, and Reader's Workshop Copy. When I'm done with each area, I cross it off.
  • I leave blank lines in my checklist on purpose. I write down the little things that come up each week in there so I make sure I get those done too.
  • This sounds like a lot - but I create this document ONE time and then print out several copies. Then, I'm done for the year!

Put it in an organizer and print it out.
  • After you have your times planned out, you create an organizer. Almost like a weekly calendar.
  • I bind mine into a book so that I have it ready to go week to week. Plus, I love crossing the items off when I finish them and looking back knowing that I can get it all done - because I've done it before.

And that's it! 

Remember above where I wrote what you want to do during your planning periods? Well, I still do those things. 

But, the difference is that I know what I need to get done. So, I choose to grab a coffee and plug in my lesson plans on Tuesday knowing it wont take me long. Or, I get everything done and know on Friday I can chat with my teacher bestie. 

Planning out your plan periods helps you get stuff done - but also create a balance.

I promise it works.

And coming early/staying late/coming in on weekends? I really truly don't need to do that anymore. I'm more productive with my day. There are times - like report card season - that it must happen. But, during the regular weeks - I'm good!

Ready to get started? I've already done a lot of prep for you. You just need to plug in your information! 

Click the picture below to check out my exact planning checklist!

Good luck! I would love to know how this changes your days!

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As a one to one iPad teacher, I am always looking for great apps and sites for my students to learn while using them. Especially ones that are free! When I came across Lalilo I knew that it would be perfect for my young learners. It is an innovative, visually engaging, standards-aligned literacy software program for K-2 students and teachers. They support literacy learning and instruction through interactive exercises with extensive data tracking and planning tools for teachers. Sounds amazing, right?! Read on to learn more!

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. However, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

In my first grade classroom, literacy instruction is one of the most important areas we focus on. My young students are developing critical reading skills. It is my job as their teacher to deliver the best instruction that I can.

That is why I love using Lalilo!

With Lalilo, you have the ability to tailor reading instruction for each student.

  • Immersive, engaging individualized digital exercise
  • Ability to print individualized exercises
  • Create reports to summarize progress
  • Sort students and groups by common obstacles
Students are so engaged using Lalilo, that they do not realize how much learning they are doing.

That's always the goal, #amiright?! 

Students progress as they travel through four beautifully designed worlds: woods, mountain, beach and desert.

They engage in exercises that adapt in real time to each student's level and immediate progress.

Collaboration is triggered if students get stuck. This part is huge in my book. So much better than an app that the teacher is not able to connect to.

During every session, Lalilo collects data to generate individualized worksheets for every student. They are generated in just one click!

This is perfect for homework or following up on what was taught.

You can access your dashboard to see which students are working and see what they have mastered/ need to practice.

You can also generate reports to determine the skills your students need to master.

One last piece that is HUGE for me is the ability to sort groups

I spend so much time compiling data to create small groups based off of needs. Including creating pairs of students according to strengths or weaknesses.

Lalilo literally now does that for me.

I'm sure you've heard enough and you're reading to get started...

Just go to lalilo.com.
Sign up.
Add your first class!

If you still have questions, click here to learn more. The site offers so much more in addition to what I talked about. Including meeting Common Core Standards!

I would love to hear how Lalilo works for your class!

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As a first grade teacher, one of my most important jobs is to foster a love for books. Opinions on how my students enjoy reading, and how they see themselves as a reader are formed so early. It is my obligation to start them out on the right foot with school. That is why I love "hooking" my students onto a chapter book series!

My students have at least fifteen minutes to read every day.

Every single day.

It's a non-negotiable in my book.

They book shop for books. I help them pick out books. But they get to a point in the year where they want more.

Around December, I start reading the Mercy Watson series.

They eat.it.up.

  • That begins a wonderful discussion on book characters. Following book characters. 
  • Better understanding them. Noticing their relationships.
  • Retelling their adventures. Rereading to understand the details better.
  • Learning important lessons. Predicting and wondering what each story will teach them. Then, comparing and contrasting the books.
  • Examining their character traits. Changing their voices to show the character's feelings.
  • Reflecting on stories they have read. Learning lessons from books by comparing.

We both win. They develop a love for reading. I know that they are learning important skills.

Starting this love doesn't always happen right after I finish a chapter book series.

I just need one student. One student to hook on and take off. One student to make a goal of reading an entire book series.

Then..everyone wants in.

I make my students lists so that they can follow along with their goal.

They put the list in a page protector. They tell me a summary of the book when they are finished, and then cross it off with a Mr. Sketch marker.

If the book series is picked correctly, they can easily finish one a day. Which means that finishing an entire list is absolutely doable.

My students are always asking for new lists, and I am also always seeking out new book series.

So, I decided to compile it all into one resource.

At this moment, I have over forty book series lists with levels from E-S. I'm excited to keep adding more and more.

Sound like something you would like to start with your kids? Just click here, or the picture below, to learn more!

Do you have any other great ways of teaching a love for reading to your students? I would love to hear them!

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As a reading workshop teacher, my kids are independently and partner reading for at least 30 minutes during our day. I confer with them weekly and conduct small groups when needed. My kids do a great job of tracking their reading with our tracking sheets. Sometimes they need something else though. Something to keep them accountable and for them to process their thinking. That is where I came up with our reading response journals!
I follow Teachers College framework for reader's workshop. For my first graders, our daily reading schedule usually looks like this:

  • 15 minute Mini Lesson
  • 30 minute Independent and Partner Reading (I conduct conferences and small groups)
  • 5 - 10 minute Closing

    As you can see, the majority of this block has kids on their own.

    That can be tough if a student doesn't have a conference or group that day.

    This can cause them to lack focus while reading. Which causes them to not work on the strategy taught in the mini lesson, or other strategies. Which makes the independent reading time much less effective.

    Insert the reading response journal!

    I thought about how I could make this time more meaningful, while still being able to do what I needed to do during the time.

    My solution was to create a reading response journal.

    I wanted it to be simple enough that they could complete it independently.
    I wanted it to be easily adaptable to fiction / nonfiction and various types of books.
    I wanted it to be easily differentiated among young students - where some are still drawing pictures and others are writing paragraphs.

    I created two versions. One for my lower students and one for my higher ones. I printed out the journals, used the comb binder, and handed them out.

    You would have thought it was Christmas!

    The kids were so excited to have a journal of their own. Some, obviously, more than others.

    I decided to make it optional.

    I told my kids that when they had five pages completed they could come to me to get it checked at the end of writer's workshop time.

    I simply put stars at the top and let them pick one thing from the treasure box.

    My kids started completing page after page after page. And - completing it well! Not just doing it to be done.

    I had several kids finish the journal quickly - and wanted a new one!

    So, from here on out, my reader's workshop will always include reading response journals. If you would like to add them to yours - click the picture below to check out more about them!

    Do you have something similar in your classroom? I would love to hear about it!

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    Transitions are tough. Transitions in the classroom can be tough. Transitions at home can be tough. Something that I have found that helps with this are social stories. Creating social stories can be extremely simple - and can have a big benefit. Read on to learn how I create social stories for both my kids at school and my kids at home.

    Have you ever read a picture book to a child? Are they engaged? Do they connect to the pictures? Do they talk about what is going on?

    Imagine if they had something like that to help them better understand something. How to react in a situation. What exactly is going to happen and what order it is going to happen in.

    This is where social stories come to play in a perfect way.

    In my classroom I have created social stories for a number of things. From what to do in a fire drill or how to unpack when coming into school to how to make a friend or what to do when you get upset. I have created super simple ones revolving around not picking your nose or not sucking your thumb. Basically, you could create a social story for everything.
    Social stories are combination of language, routines, and expectations that provide personal perspective on social situations. They guide children through a situation and help them to be prepared and less anxious about it.

    I have had great success with social stories at school. That is why when something came up with my own child, I knew a social story would be the perfect answer.

    When our son Dean was born, our other son Leo's sleeping was totally disrupted. He stopped sleeping through the night, wouldn't go to bed without being rocked (which basically took an hour each night) and was so scared for us to leave him. Combine that with a newborn, and my husband and I were burnt out.

    We needed to make a change - but I wanted Leo to feel more comfortable. I didn't want the change to just - bam - happen one night and he had to get over it and roll with the punches.

    So, I made him a social story.

    I called it Leo's Night Night Book. I took pictures of his bedtime routine (the one we were hoping to achieve) and wrote very simple sentence to accompany them. I tried to keep it very simple. Something his two year old self would understand. I wanted him to connect with it, understand what was happening, and actually visually see himself doing it.

    Here is just a *peak* into it -
    A few days before we wanted to implement the change, we started reading his book. He was genuinely SO excited about it. We read it during the day. I left it out for him to see. We also read it at night as I was trying to go through his routine.
    The big day finally came and I felt much better about it. I know that Leo did too. I'm not going to lie and say there weren't any tears. There were. But they lasted about two minutes. And then he went to bed. By himself. And my husband were in awe and so proud of him for being brave.

    I'm happy to say that he is back to his great sleeping habits despite our setback with Dean being born. I do know that I can easily pull his Night Night book back out (we keep it with the rest of his books) and go through it should that change.

    Ready to try your own social story?

    Think about a transition, behavior, routine, social situation, etc that one (or all) of your students (or children) need help with.

    You can do what I did and create a book - or you can simply right it out on a list (see my picture above.)  There is a huge variety of ways you could create one.

    After you create your story, read it with the child. Take a moment to be fully invested in what you are doing with them and show them that you care and you are there to help them.

    Keep it out while you are going through the situation. Use it for as long as you need.

    Need some help getting started with one? Click below to download a template.
    Good luck! I would love to know what social story you wrote and how it went!
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    Calling all busy moms (and dads! and adults without kids!) Working or not, we have very little time to ourselves and the household we are trying to run. The only way to survive is to be organized. Read on to learn my top five tips that have helped me to stay on top (and dare I say ahead?) of my game!

    *This post may contain affiliate shopping links for your convenience. 

    "A Sunday well spent brings a week of content." #TrueStory, right? I have a Sunday routine of planning my week out that helps me to be my most successful self. 

    First, I fill out my dry erase board. I used my silhouette to create three rows for each day of the week. In the first set of rows I write if we have any obligations other than work. In the second set of rows, I write my workout plan. In the third set of rows I write our dinner plans. 

    The best part? Crossing each day off as I accomplish it.

    It is so much easier for me to workout when I know there is only a certain time to fit it in. Also, we avoid the usual 8:00 pm "I'm starving" argument when we know what we are eating for dinner.
    My "command center" in my kitchen.

    I deleted my Silhouette file, I so can't share that with you. I found this great dry erase board at Amazon though.
    Just click the picture!
    As a working mom who formerly spent a great deal of time on my fitness, it is important for me to semi keep it up. I add in my workout plan to my board, but I have also made myself a weekly checklist.

    Have you ever used a reward chart with kids? Well, why not use one with yourself?

    I put a star on the days that I accomplish what I set out to do. I use this for my fitness, but you could use this for anything that matters in your life! Click the picture below to download one (and four other ones with different quotes!)
    As a teacher mama, staying organized at school is key to me being able to work within my 40 hour work week. Let's be real, teachers usually put in WAY more hours beyond their contract. I am doing my best to stick to mine so I spend as much time as possible home with my little man.

    The one tool that truly helps with this is my checklist notebook. I have to use my planning periods wisely (and not spend the 30 minutes gossiping...) so I have figured out what I need to do each day in order to get everything done for the week.

    It is possible to get your work done during the week and still be a great teacher.

    You just need to be organized.

    (I'm not claiming I don't always work a 40 hour week and get all of my work done at school. #LetsBeReal)

    The book that I write in is below. I created it with a mix of checklists from Schroeders Shenanigans in 2nd TpT store. I LOVE crossing things off my list.
    If you want to make more of a checklist for your home life, I found this great magnetic chart on Amazon that you can fill in.

    I am always looking for shortcuts that could save me minutes. Minutes can add up to hours, right?! 

    One small thing I did at school was buy another charger cord. That way I could leave my cord at school each night and not have to pack/repack it. I also pack all of my lunches on Sundays and leave my coffee cup with sugar and my K-Cup out each night when I'm doing the dishes. 

    Another area that I have learned to take a shortcut from has to do with my hair! 

    Leaving Leo at home to go work is hard. I have to remind myself of the things I get to do while working that I do not do while at home. Sounds silly, but one of those things is actually blow drying my hair! It is nice to wear it down and not get pulled...

    Having a great hairdryer is key to this. I did my research and I saw SO many people loving the BayBliss Pro and talking about how it not only dries your hair quickly, but takes good care of it. I am happy to say that they were right. It is speedy and my hair looks great. 
    Best hairdryer ever! Click the picture to learn more.

    While we are talking hair - this stuff works like a charm too! 
    Who has watched the minutes tick by as you stand in front of your closet trying to figure out what to wear? Or, tried on an outfit only to rip it off and create a huge mess? I've solved that with a simple clothes organizer!
    Every Sunday I plan out my outfits for the week. It is usually when I am putting away my laundry. I look at the weather and think about what activities I have each day. There are days where I change the outfit, but honestly that doesn't happen often. I love knowing what I am wearing each day and it makes my morning routine go by even faster.

    I suggest a clothing hanger like the one below. Six shelves works well! I either plan outfits for the weekend, or use the sixth shelf to put my socks and everything else I need for the week. You can click the picture to be taken to it.
    Want to add the pretty labels like I did? Just click the picture below to print them! I laminated mine and then just used fun tape to hang them.
    Click to download!
    I hope you gained some helpful hints! What organization tips work for you?
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    I received this product for free to provide an honest review.  All opinions expressed within this post are genuine and impartial. 

    Have you heard of LulaRoe before? I had, but did not quite understand how I could get my hands on these clothes. I heard that they had the best "buttery soft" leggings in tons of different prints. I had also heard that teachers LOVED teaching in them. When my college roommate Ali decided to become a LuLaRoe Consultant I was so excited to give the clothes a try!
    You can find Ali's Facebook Group at http://www.facebook.com/groups/lularoewithalivu!

    In my opinion, teachers should get to wear comfy clothes that are easy to move around in to school. We rarely sit down, work with students on the floor, and bend down to pick things up while managing a class of 20+ students. This is best done in workout clothes, but those would not be acceptable. The next best thing? LuLaRoe!

    Ali sent me leggings and a Classic T to try out. The leggings were just as soft and comfortable as I had heard. Even though they were "one size fits all" they fit me perfectly. I LOVED the print. In fact, they are called Disney's Small World! How perfect for a Disney lover?! I could see them being perfect in both the summer and winter and easily dressed up for wearing to school. The best part was how well they flattered my "post baby" legs. No dimples showed through! ;)
    Just like the awesome leggings, I loved the Classic T. They have a large variety of tops to pick from, and even some dresses, skirts and kids clothes. The Classic T is perfect for a teacher. Easy to dress up for school, but also easy to throw on for the weekend. I am wearing an XXS here - and trust me I am not currently an XXS. The clothes traditionally run big...and I can't help but love what the tag says!
    Want to try out LuLaRoe for yourself? You do not have to go through and search for a local consultant in your area. Ali has a Facebook group where she posts all of her inventory. You can join her group and shop from there. She gets new inventory every week for you to shop from. You look at her albums, decide what you want, and she ships it to you. How easy is that?!

    Now for the fun part, I am hosting a giveaway where you can win your own pair of leggings! Want to enter? Just join Ali's Facebook page. The giveaway will end next Saturday, September 3rd at Midnight EST! 
    Are you a LulaRoe fan? Never heard of it, or totally obsessed? Let me know!
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