Teaching Tips To Help Keep It Simple In September

13 September 2015 / 2 comments
Stacks of papers.

Long "to-do" lists.

Bulging shopping bags.

Miles of files to read and paperwork to complete.

These are the harsh realities of our teacher lives.....especially during the month of September when the school year takes off at warp speed and you come home some days feeling like this....

I hope that this simple and practical list of time-saving tips will help you slow things down a bit, set a pace that will sustain you, help manage those marathon-like days, and hopefully infuse you with a little more creative energy!

These two plastic circles have saved my sanity since I purchased them two summers ago!  Instead of popping out of their seats to come and follow me, poke me, or encircle me to ask questions all at once, my second graders know that they need to come to the blue "Helping Spot" and wait until I have a minute to assist them.  The red "Waiting Spot" is where the line to the games/puzzles cupboard and/or their lockers starts so that there is not a stampede every morning or at indoor recess.

I found mine at my local Meijer grocery store!  The possibilities for these smiling faces are endless. They could be "Sharing Spots" when it is time to publish student writing, They could be "Star Student Spots" during carpet-time read alouds.  They could be "Wait Nicely for Your Teacher to Sharpen Your Pencil Spots" before the weekly Spelling Test.  You name it, they are up for any purpose you can think of!  I've seen felt placemats in seasonal shapes at my local Dollar Tree store that would work in a pinch too!

They say that "imitation is the highest form of flattery" and credit for this life-changing idea goes to the blogger that I idolize the most and whose posts I read religiously!  Kristin over at
The Teeny Tiny Teacher is an absolute ROCK STAR when it comes to sharing what works in her primary classroom!  She is also an absolute HOOT and writes honestly and hilariously about her most candid personal and professional moments!  This POST is a favorite and includes a free copy of the parent letter she sends home at the beginning of each school year.

 Teeny Tiny Teacher Blog

One Friday when I was feeling sorry for myself and completely overwhelmed by my 28 students who never stopped talking when I was talking ALL WEEK LONG, I found this POST about how she managed to quiet her 30 first graders.  I am telling you my friends......two garden gloves, a bottle of craft glue, and a package of google eyes later, the solution to a noisy zoo in Room #2 was found!  

Meet Quinn and Quincy, twin cousins of Kristin's Quiet Creature!  One lives on my hand, and the other lives on my aide's hand as needed.  They only whisper to grown-ups or each other.  They sometimes kiss the quiet creature that a model student has made out of their fingers and get all "mushy-gushy" in their appreciation. This idea is another one of Kristen's genius moments, especially with some of my "toughest customers."  

Quinn and Quincy sometimes travel to the Computer Lab with my class.  Sometimes they even come to restroom break or to the school library.  

Do they get "Mrs. R. is a "looney tune!" looks from other staff members?  

Do they get "Mrs. R. is acting like a "whack-a-doodle again!" looks from former students?  
Indeed they do.  

Do they get results from the little ones in my line and during my lessons?  Y-E-S spells YES!  

Do I care if there are skeptics out there?  N-O spells NO!  

You shouldn't either!  Have fun and get results with your own Quiet Creature who is "proud but not loud!"

I recently discovered DoodleLoops'  TpT store and cannot wait to introduce her creative thinking pages to my students!  I plan to use them on Fridays (and include them in my sub plans), and look forward to the variety of stories my young authors and illustrators imagine, draw, and compose!

My personal "Sub Tub" is currently a "work in progress" this weekend, but I always include a set of our Scholastic News magazines, as well as a variety of read alouds related to the issue's topic.  You can't beat the scripted lessons provided in the teacher guide, and the supplemental worksheets for each issue make great homework activities.

The interactive website also provides a vocabulary slideshow, short video, and review games!  Our grade level team includes a $6.00 fee on our supply list every year that covers the cost of both Scholastic News and Science Spin, which are both full of great non-fiction text features and quality Social Studies and Science content.

A few years ago, I volunteered to be the literacy initiative coordinator at my school and began scheduling grade level visits from "Celebrity Readers."  The "tradition" has continued, with our district superintendent, our principal, or parent volunteers reading aloud either in individual classrooms or at weekly group Library times at least once every month.  International Dot Day on September 15th and Dr. Seuss' birthday during Read Across America were two special events last year.  One father even dressed up as "The Cat in the Hat" to read Green Eggs and Ham to grades K-5!  This year, I rounded up the collection of favorite picture books featured above for our new district superintendent to share as part of our READ TO SUCCEED kick-off campaign. He had a grand time when he visited on Friday, and can't wait to come back!

I look forward to planning more events for the coming months.  It gives me great personal and professional satisfaction to share my passion for reading with others.  I may even invite the family members of children in my class (and my own family members) to come read aloud in Room #2. What better way to model reading as a worthy and life-long practice, right?  Pernille Ripp  from Blogging Through the Fourth Dimension expresses the importance of promoting a "reading culture" ever-so-eloquently {HERE}.  What she advocates for administrators is also great advice for parents.  Simply put, we must continue to make time for read alouds for children of all ages.

Let's face it folks, the children in our care stare at T.V. and tablet screens more than we'd like. Therefore, the "taking turns" aspect of partner work and group learning activities is often difficult for them.  Incorporating brand name games like Scrabble, Chutes and Ladders, Trouble, and Battleship are a great way to "kill two birds with one stone"--as the old adage says.

Building word power, counting, and following direction skills is as easy as browsing the shelves of your favorite discount store!  My colleague found the fun Scrabble Alphabet Scoop game at T.J. Maxx two years ago.  It is not only a favorite choice during our Daily 5 rotation, but it is also very popular during indoor recess!  It warms my heart to hear and see my little ones stirring up some Spelling practice that did not require any printing, cutting, or laminating!

I hope that you found at least a few of the tips from this list valuable!  May they help your busy "teacher brain" be less scrambled and more time-savvy this month!  Know that all of the work you do is important and appreciated.  Continue to keep calm, carry on, and make a difference in the lives of the children you serve!

 Stories and Songs in Second


  1. Thank you, Jennifer. Love this! The Queen of Quiet is so cute.

    1. Quinn and Quincy are the King and Queen of Quiet in Room #2 at present, Sandy! They saved my life when a cold/sore throat caused me to almost lose my voice a week ago!


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