Developing a healthy parent-teacher relationship

As teachers there are several hats we have to wear and several things we have to deal with on a day-to-day basis. Our students may be the number one priority in our classrooms, but keeping the parents of the children happy is a close second. It is important to keep your parents involved with the learning that is taking place in your classroom. Parents play a tremendous role as a stakeholder in education. The way we communicate to them is an important part of who we are as educators.

Let’s be honest, the relationship we have with our parents will impact your school year with their child. Winning the hearts of the parents in your classroom is vital when it comes to your health and stress level.  Dealing with kids on a daily basis can be stressful enough. Dealing with their parents can also become a stressors depending on the teacher-parent relationship established. It is important to develop healthy relationships with the students and their parents. Here are some things you can do to ensure you have a great year full of healthy parent communication:

downloadStart Early

The best way to develop a healthy relationship with the parents is to start early, like day one. Some teachers send flyers to their students prior to the beginning of the school year to introduce themselves. This is a great way to have your parents get to know you before they have even met you.

Typically, school districts have an open house before school starts or within the first weeks of school. The open house is an opportunity for parents to come to their child’s classroom and meet their teacher. During this time the teacher is walking the room and answering parent questions. There are some things that you can do to prepare for your open house:

  • Create a Presentation 

    When your parents walk through your classroom door you want to begin with a formal introduction. You can create a google slide or PowerPoint presentation that describes your classroom, what their child will be learning and the expectations for the year. The presentation will get parents excited about the school year. They will certainly be impressed with your professionalism and communication early on.

  • Prepare a brochure/flyer

    Creating something tangible for your parents to take with them is key. They will be bombarded with information about your classroom routines, procedures and expectations. Writing it all out for them in a colorful and cute brochure with the most important bullet points will not only put a smile on your parents face, but it will ensure they are informed of how your classroom is ran.

  • Classroom design

    Your classroom should be an inviting place full of color, adventure and comfort. Children are going to be coming to it for the majority of their life for the next 9 months of the school year. Make sure you put thought and time in your classroom set up. You want to make sure parents are comfortable with their child’s second home.

  • Provide refreshments

    If the school doesn’t provide refreshments for parents during this time you want to make sure you have some. Teachers do not have to spend tons of money on refreshments. Shopping at stores like Costco and Sam’s can ensure you buy everything in bulk and it is much cheaper. I do not suggest breaking the bank, but I do suggest having something for parents and students to snack on as they tour your room. Providing water bottles and cookies can be cost efficient. The point is to have something that will add to your parents comfort, having snacks will make them more comfortable and your room more inviting.

Create a Communication tool

Once you have met your parents and laid out the expectations of your classroom, you need to establish an ongoing communication system with them. There are a zillion parent-teacher communication tools available to choose from. I would suggest you check out my parent communication tools blog post to learn more. With the endless options out there it is important to choose one that is more effective and fits the needs of your classroom. Some of these tools are geared towards older students while others are perfect for elementary school.

Choosing the right tool to use for the school year will impact how often you stay in contact with your parents. You want to establish the tool and have it already set up for parents before you meet them. There are some amazing tools out there and they can work in your favor as a teacher to help cut down on making daily phone calls.

downloadStay consistent

Once you have set up the communication tool you will be using to stay in contact with your parents throughout the school year, stick with it. Whatever you choose at the beginning of the year you have to use it for the whole year. The worst thing you can do is change in the middle of the school year and introduce something else to your parents. Consistency is the key when it comes to using these modern tools for communication. If you find that you don’t like the program then you can explore options for the next school year.

You also want to make sure you are consistently using the communication tool to reach out to parents. Several tools make it easy to post homework, announcements or even assignments given in class. Using the tool daily or a few times a week will keep your parents informed and happy with what is happening in their child’s classroom.

As teachers we have a lot to deal with, administration, students, peers, and most importantly the parents. Establishing a healthy relationship with each and every one of your parents is key when it comes to a successful school year. What are some things you have done to ensure a successful parent-teacher relationship in your classroom? share your ideas below. We would love to hear from you!



The Importance of a Good Parent-Teacher Relationship

downloadTeacher have an endless list of responsibilities throughout the school year. The number one being the students, but the students are a packaged deal and head of them are the parents. Developing a relationships with the parents first is vital when it comes to teaching their children. As teachers we have to leave a good first impression when we meet the parents in our classroom. We will not only be working with their children for a whole school year but with them as well. They come as a packaged deal. So, it’s important to have a good parent-teacher relationship for various reasons:

  • Behavior issues: 

    If a you are having trouble with a student in the classroom room and the discipline rules in your room aren’t working then the next step would be to contact the parents. Your relationship with each parent in the classroom will determine the response you receive from the parent. Let’s be honest, no parent wants to hear about their child being a behavior issue. But, if the teacher and parent have a great relationship, then the parent will trust the teacher and hopefully take care of the situation with their child at home. This will then make the teachers job with dealing with that child less challenging if the parent is involved and in the teachers corner.

  • Classroom volunteers: images

    Some elementary schools offer parent volunteers to come into the school to help in the classrooms, office and lunchroom. Having a good parent-teacher relationship could potentially bring some parent volunteers to your classroom. If the relationship is strong then the teacher could have consistent help from those parents throughout the school year.

  • Field Trips:

    Field trips can be a great time away from the school building or could be a terrible time away. Depending on your group of students and their behavior having a parent volunteer would be a great addition to your team. Having parents that are familiar with the other children in your class and have the skills to discipline could help your field trips run much smoother.

  • Advocate:

    One of the most important reasons to have a great parent communication relationship would be that they are an advocate. Each parent in your classroom has a voice and along with that voice there is an opinion. Parents talk to each other outside of the school building, more often then a teacher may think. It is important to develop relationships with parents so that they can advocate for you later on.

    Parents are a great resource when it comes to your teaching style and what their children think about you as a teacher. You want parents to have good things to say about your to administration and other parents. Of course, we all have those difficult parents to deal with that will never have anything nice to say. The truth is we can’t please everyone and some people are just the way they are. Focusing on building strong relationships with the parents in your classroom can benefit your later on in your career.

From the beginning

Building relationships from the very beginning would be key to start the relationship with parents on the right foot. The start of the school year is a time to get to know your students but we can’t forget about the parents. We have them for the whole school year as well and having another adult in your corner will only make your school year run smoothly.

imagesHow do you approach your parent-teacher relationships in your classroom? Share your ideas below. We would love to hear from you!


Keeping a positive mindset in the workplace

If you begin your day in a positive vibe then it will be easier to tackle negativity throughout the day. One of the main negative sources you may encounter as a teacher are your students! As much as we love them, at times they are the main source of energy zapping at work. We have to be prepared to keep our positive energy guarded so that it doesn’t decrease throughout the day. Oh boy is this challenging at times!

There are a few things you can do to keep a positive vibe at work:

downloadDrink water throughout the day

 Keep a glass water bottle on your desk throughout the day. I find myself drinking water during the day to keep me not only hydrated, but cleansed. Water is life and the more you drink, the better you feel. Water always puts me in a good mood and always creates high vibes. The pureness of water is a constant reminder that life can be so clear at times that you can see right through it. Water is positive energy. The more of it you consume throughout the day the higher chance you will have to hold onto that feeling.

imagesPick a motivational quote of the day

I love reading and receiving inspirational quotes! Write down the quotes that resonate with you the most and post them around your house and classroom. If I am feeling a little down and I feel my positive mindset is fading I love to read the quotes that I have posted to help bring my mood back up. You can also sign up to receive motivational quotes to your phone on a daily basis. It is powerful to receive an unexpected message during the day, to read it and have it speaks to you. I often find that it is exactly what I need at the time. You can sign up for quotes on sites such as BrainyQuote, Daily Shine text, or Keep inspiring.

The best part is that you can tailor the quotes to fit your needs, if you like to be amused then you can have funny quotes sent to you or you can even have bible verses sent to you. The point is that you are receiving messages that are going to keep your vibrations high during the day. The quote I received today was, “The best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today.” -H.Jackson Brown Jr.

images.jpgSend myself reminders

 Aside from the quotes I believe it is important to remind ourselves of the work we put in at the beginning of the day. If we don’t do this then it will all be in vain. I have to remember that I left my house in a high vibe mood and I deserve to continue to feel that way regardless of who or what I encounter. There will always be tests throughout the day; big ones and little ones that will try to steal your joy. Set reminders on your phone every few hours as messages to yourself about your WHY, your affirmations or life purpose. This will keep you grounded and on your toes when it comes to recognizing challenging situations. These reminders will prepare your to respond to them positively.


downloadSmile anyway

I like to use this technique often in my classroom and outside of my classroom when I encounter negative vibes. It can also be used in any setting that involves interaction with others and in any work environment. Smile! No matter what the person may say to you that is insulting, hurtful or disrespectful-you just smile. You will find that the small act of smiling can change the whole dynamic of the conversation. It is hard to be insulting or angry at another person if they are smiling at you. This will let the other person know that you are not being affected, nothing they say to you will steal your joy because you will keep smiling anyway.

What are some things you like to do to keep a positive mindset at work and throughout the day? Comment below. We would love to hear from you.


How to overcome feeling stuck in your career

downloadHave you ever felt stuck? I bet you have. We all have and for some reason it is a part of life. Sadly, it shouldn’t be just that simple to say or even accept. Being stuck should not be a part of life and being stuck is not acceptable.

At the start of a New year several people find themselves in this predicament each year. They find themselves questioning what they are doing with their lives, their families and careers. They question whether or not they are moving in the right direction and making the right choices. How can we know for sure?

Something is seriously wrong with this picture, we should not be confused and asking ourselves more and more questions that make us even more confused. Do we have too many choices? Or are there so many choices that we don’t believe we can really achieve them? For example, someone may feel stuck in their career and would like to start a new one. Well, that’s not as simple as it sounds. These days you need credentials and experience to jump to a new career.

The average person is unmotivated to make such drastic changes and will choose to stay where they are instead of taking a huge leap of faith. Or someone may want to lose weight but there are too many diets to choose from or changes they would have to make in their everyday food choices;  these decisions can make a person lose motivation and make it difficult to make these changes.

The problem is that there are way too many steps, rules and procedures that need to be taken to get to where we want to go and we don’t have enough time.

Here are a few things that you can do to help make these decisions easier:

Write everything down

We go through our days on auto pilot with thoughts running in and out of our heads. Ideas are popping in it all day long but we don’t stop to observe or analyze these thoughts. Sometimes these ideas can be road maps to where we want to go or answer the questions we have been asking ourselves. Get a small notebook or notepad and keep it with you throughout the day. Next time you get an idea or something interesting pops in your head, write it down. Write down everything that you are thinking.

Once you start this process of writing things down you will realize it will be a part of your auto pilot and you will have more ideas flowing from your mind than you can ever imagine. After about a week look back at your notebook and read through all your ideas; look for connections and trends in your thinking. Once you have done this for a while I promise you, you will start to find your answers.

Stop and listen

Like I said before we are on auto pilot all day long and we don’t even realize it; especially in the classroom with our students. Everything we do has already been planned and laid out for us, we just have to execute them. The only way to stop your vehicle that is going 100 miles and hour is to hit the brakes, park and breathe. Stopping to listen each day for only a few minutes has so many benefits, such as reducing stress levels, increasing happiness and improving concentration.

Maybe you don’t have time to meditate for thirty minutes each day but finding the time to stop and take a breath is crucial in our fast pace world. During your plan take time to stop and breathe for five minutes, stopping all thought. When you find yourself doing this a couple of times a day for five minutes you will begin to get more answers and clarity to your questions.

Make one small step each day

 Once you have completed step 1 and 2 then you will have a little more clarity on which direction to take or choices to make. Once this is established it should only take one small step towards that goal each day in order to accomplish it. We often think that we have to do everything at once in order to make something happen. The truth is we get burned out this way and then the goal is typically abandoned. All it takes is a plan and one small step towards that plan each day.

So, if you want to lose weight make a small accomplishment each day towards that goal; such as drink more water or exercise for ten minutes. Maybe you want to start a new hobby or build a business; each day do something to make that happen. You could start off doing some research by gathering facts about the hobby or business you want. Maybe you need a certification or a degree to move into a new position. Make small steps each day towards reaching this goal. After about a week you will start to feel better about yourself because you see progress.

We all have been there. We all have had these same experiences and we all have persevered through at some point or you wouldn’t be reading this post. Feeling this way is a normal part of life. Its easy to get to this place but getting out of it is often the hard part. Try these three steps for a few days this week and see what changes start to take place in your life. Remember there is no limit in the sky. Comment down below; e would love to hear about it!



How to Write Higher Order Thinking Questions

The curriculum your district is using to teach literature will depend on the resources beyond the textbooks you have to gather. Too often you hear of districts that use curriculum that doesn’t align with the standards of with their students. Some may have textbooks that are too rigorous and others might use a textbook series that doesn’t challenge their student body. Despite these circumstances I believe it is imperative that teachers learn how to write their own questions. Develop questions that will promote higher order thinking. Higher order thinking questions will ensure students are meeting the standard and that they are being challenged.

imagesBegin with the Standard

First, you want to look at the standard that you are teaching for that particular week. The standards are the beginning point to all instruction because it gives the teacher a focus. Common Core state standards are designed to map out the progress of students throughout the year. If they are executed properly in the classroom then they can push students to the next level.

Increase the Rigor

What is the next level you might be wondering? The right questions asked will get students there. When developing questions for whole group discussion, small group or an assessment; it is vital that the rigor is there to push students to dive deeper. Using sources such as  Blooms Taxonomy and DOK (Depth of Knowledge) can help when developing questions.

It is imperative to create questions that force students to look back in the text. Students have to depend on the text they are reading in order to answer the question correctly. They shouldn’t grab the answer from thin air. If the type of question is a level 1, 2 or 3 question then they are referring back to the text and looking for the evidence that will support their answer. Higher level questions will require students to use evidence from the text to support the inferences that they make. Use these tools to increase rigor and force students to dive deeper into the text.


imagesText Dependent Questions

Now that the standard has been established, the questions have to be developed. These questions are used in whole group, small group instruction and on assessments. Here are some questions you can ask yourself:

  • What skills do I want my students to use? (outcome)
  • What evidence will need to be presented (details) in order to answer this question successfully?

When you are developing your question, look back at the standard and use the language in the standard to form a question. The questions that are created are used throughout the week so that students become exposed to the language. Use the DOK stems to help formulate questions that will promote higher order thinking. When students are answering the question they should use evidence from the text to analyze, develop claims and to synthesize their thinking. We have to teach our students how to do this through a process called modeling. When we model for our students we are literally showing them exactly what we want them to do. Students should take notes during this time so that the information sticks or they can refer back to it later.

Graphic Organizers

Using a graphic organizer to introduce “how to answer questions” to your students is a great place to start. There are several types of organizers available to use on the internet. Although the graphic organizers are a great place to start they should not be the end result. The purpose of graphic organizers is to organize the answer.  It is simply a tool. Eventually students should be able to answer questions without the tool and can formulate their thoughts on their own. This may not happen at the primary level but should be happening at the intermediate level on up. We do not want to cripple our students. We want to give them tools to be successful and continue to expand their thinking.

The questions should build from the bottom up. Students are able to build on their knowledge of the text through questioning. For example, standard R.L.1 is a level one standard that focuses on recall from the text by using details. This standard is an easy standard to begin a discussion with or answer questions about a text. Building questions from the bottom up also benefits students that struggle with the content being taught. The level one questions should always be a recall question; something that a struggling student is able to answer on their own with little teacher support. This will build up their confidence level as they make their way through the next set of questions.

Color Coding

An easy way to teach students to respond to text is to teach them how to color code their responses. This system consists of three colors of their choice or assigned by the teacher. There are three things students need to do for every question to make sure they have answered it completely. Each part of the response is highlighted in a different color.

  • Restate (yellow)
  • Answer (blue)
  • Evidence (green)

After students answer the question they will reread their response and color where it is appropriate. If there are only two colors highlighted than students know that they have not answer are not answered the question completely. They will have to go back to find the missing part of the response. This strategy provides students with a clear visual.  The rigor has increased tremendously in my classroom using this simple strategy alone.

What strategies or tools do you use to create questions? How do you increase the rigor in your classroom? Share you ideas below. We would love to hear from you!





Bringing rigor and promoting higher order thinking into the classroom through questioning.

Rigor is a buzz word in the education world. If you attend professional development then you have heard this word a million times. In your team or administration meetings you may have discussed ways to bring more rigor into your classroom. One of the easiest ways to expose your students to rigorous task and discussion is through questioning. The questions you are asking will create an understanding of what you are teaching. If we are not asking the right questions then our students may not be thinking the right thoughts. Questions are everything, they guide our lessons, promote discussion and wondering within our students. We have to be their guide, their pathway into knowledge and where we want them to go next.

downloadBackward mapping

When we sit down to plan our lessons we need to start with backward mapping. First look at the standard that is being taught and then ask yourself these two simple questions:

  • What do I want my students to know?
  • What questions will guide them to mastering this standard?

The lesson and assessments that are developed should focus on answering these questions. Throughout the week the teacher will provide instruction tailored to student success. Begin with the end in mind, the final exam that student will take at the end of the unit. On the exam create questions that will expand their knowledge and promote higher order thinking. Use Blooms Taxonomy to help develop questions that will align with the standard being taught. Start here, then it will be easier to create the lessons that will lead up to the exam. Using this strategy will help eliminate any gaps in instruction and will create a clear pathway to success for the teacher and students.


Now think about how you are going to model the skill to your students. What questions are you going to ask them to get their minds thinking? Begin with a simple graphic organizer such as a KWL chart. Students will think about what they already know (K) and what they want to know about the topic (W). By the end of the lessons your students will be able to fill out the last column (L) to write down what they learned.

Remember the mini-lesson is the introduction to everything they will learn throughout the week. You are simply exposing them to a new concept or even a spiral concept at the beginning of the mini-lesson. Take note of what they already know and what you need to teach them. Your exit slip will provide you with the data you need to answer these questions.

downloadSmall group instruction

The goal is to meet with your individual groups and teach the skill in a smaller setting. At this point you will be able to dive deeper into the skill and student comprehension. Begin to expose students to the type of questions they will see later. Start breaking down what they will need to know for the final exam. We want them to be successful so this is the time to teach them everything in between. Small group instruction is the meat of the burger. This is where students are going to grasp the most from what is being taught. This smaller setting is more engaging and requires their full attention. Now is the time to bring in the rigor and ask the right questions.

Just as a lesson plans and a final assessment was created to drive the mini-lesson instruction, you need a small group lesson plan as well. This separate lesson plan will be tailored to each group the teacher meets with throughout the week. The lesson plan should consist of a little bit of modeling and a whole lot of questioning. If the lesson is on character traits, use this time to ask higher order thinking questions about the characters in the story they are reading. Dive deep into the text with your students and have students create visualization to expand their understanding. This is only one example of what you can do in a small group setting. Use this time to teach them everything they need to know to be successful.

Now what?

If we want our students to begin to analyze and think deeper about the topics that are being presented to them, then we have to lead them in that direction. The work we do leading up to our instruction has to be rigorous. If we take the time to use the strategy of backward mapping to create the final assessment, mini-lessons and small group instruction then the material will be executed properly. As the teacher we have to teach our students how to think, we have to create the pathway for them.

What do you do to bring rigor into your classroom? How does the idea of questioning relate to your every day instruction? Comment below and share your thoughts. We would love to hear from you!



Teacher Self-Care: Creating a Night Routine

In this article, I am going to discuss the benefits of creating a night routine. I have talked about the importance of creating a healthy and productive morning routine. These type or routines will set you up for the rest of the day. The way you start your day is typically an indication of the way it will end up. This inspiration for a successful start of your day is actually motivated from what you did the night before.

Therefore, it is vital that you set yourself up for a successful morning routine and day by focusing on what you do before you turn the lights off and lay your head on your pillow. Simply because the energy that you end the day with, will transfer into the next day. Hence, why people often say, “Don’t go to bed arguing” or “Don’t go to bed worrying.” This is true because that energy you felt before going to sleep will flow over into the next day because it is still on your mind. To prevent negative energy flowing into the next day here are some things I like to do to set myself up for success the next day:

Take a hot bath/shower

downloadHave you ever felt drained or didn’t have a good day? A hot bath or shower will typically wash those feelings away. When you dip your body into water you may realize it makes you feel better almost instantly. This is because water not only represents purity but cohesiveness as well. It brings a sense of balance back to your life. According to the website, “What’s your sign,” it states: “Water takes on a form in which it is held and moves in the path of least resistance.” Not only is it the perfect treat to the end of your day but, it is relaxing and cleanses any negative energy from your day.

downloadEat two hours before bed

Eating right before you go to sleep will often leave you feeling sluggish as you lay down with a full stomach. During the night your body goes through a restorative process as muscles and tissues are repaired. If your stomach is full, not only will you be at risk of gaining weight but the body will have to work two times harder because it has to digest your food. In order to avoid these feelings and possible health risk you should eat a couple of hours before you go to sleep. This will give your body time to digest your food and you will go to sleep feeling much lighter.


Drinking herbal tea before bed time has become a new found habit of mine. The smell and warm feeling of tea flowing through the body can put you into a relaxing state of mind. I do not suggest loading your tea with refined sugars, milk and other ingredients before bed, you can save those type of teas for the morning or during the day. A natural cup of tea with a splash of honey or lemon will help calm the body and mind.


After I drink my tea I am usually in a relaxed state which makes it easy to go into a short meditation or just to sit still for a few minutes. I don’t typically meditate right before bed because I find that my awareness shuts down and my eyelids go straight into sleep mode. I’ve found that if I make it one of the second to last things I do before bed it is usually more effective.


I don’t do both of these steps before bed but choose one to do each night. If I write I will typically use my five minute journal or do a free flow in my personal journal. Either way, I find that it is helpful to get my thoughts out onto paper before bed. I like to read a few pages before bed, without restrictions. Some people do require themselves to read one or two chapters a day. I find that this makes it less fun. As long as I’m reading until I want to stop, it is enjoyable.

These are my nightly tips to set yourself up for a successful morning and day. What are some things you like to do before bed? Comment below. We would love to hear from you!


The Benefits of Creating a Routine

We live in a world that is moving all the time and often we are moving right along with it. Without any time to slow down because everything and everyday is go go go we can easily lose ourselves in the daily hustle and bustle of life. In order to slow down and be mindful of what we are doing and to take control we have to slow it down. If we don’t then we are on auto-pilot which can end up being on someone else’s time and not our own. In order to slow things down and create awareness we have to create a mindful routine for ourselves.

Of course some say that creating a routine is like being on autopilot. But if you customize your own routine to fit your needs then you are running your own show. Daily routines should be tailored to fit your lifestyle by providing you with the things that make you happy. As teachers, it is easy to fall into the depths of autopilot if we do not stop and take a breath. Establishing a routine for your students is imperative if you want to be able to manage the class effectively. The same is true for your own life if you want to manage it effectively. There are many benefits to creating a routine that will make your life much happier and less stressful.

imagesDecrease stress levels

Having a set routine or things that you look forward to doing can decrease the stress in your life. Create a routine that compliments you and makes you feel good. It is important to include the things you love to do. The things you look forward to doing on a daily basis. The best part of having a routine is that you can do the things you love as often as you want. For example, if you love to read you can create a night routine that has built in time for you to sit down and enjoy that book you can’t finish. Maybe you love to draw and create with art. Find the time to fit it into your night routine in place of watching TV or the nightly news. Build these things into your schedule for at least 15 to 20 minutes a day. Watch how much calmer you will become. See how much you open up to the possibilities of life and doing the things that make you happy.

Minimize decision making in that moment

We have to constantly make decisions throughout the day. The more decisions you have to make, the more energy you are using. Instead, plan ahead and channel that energy to another place. As teachers we have to plan lessons and make decisions about what to teach our students. We wake up in the morning and have to decide what to wear to work or school. We make decisions about what to eat throughout the day. Believe it or not these decisions can become draining. The fact that your mind is in constant motion and in an endless game of tug of war can weigh on your stress levels and overall health.

Instead, minimize the decisions you have to make each day by planning ahead. Make it routine to plan all the things that you have to do that day the prior day. For example, sit out your clothes for work the night before or even plan your outfits for the week on a Sunday. That way you will just pull each one out on the day you will wear them. Create a Sunday routine that requires you to meal prep for the week. Maybe you can make all the lunches for yourself or your family and even plan out your dinners each night. When you have a routine in place that requires you to plan ahead then you are setting yourself up for success and minimizing the decisions you will have to make later on.

Something to look forward to each day

When you have created a routine; whether it be a morning, after work or night routine that fits your lifestyle you will finally see how much things change. A routine can become redundant. The fact that you created it only means that you can change it up whenever you get ready to. This is similar to having to reteach a lesson in a different way because our students didn’t grasp it fully the first time. We have to do the same in our personal lives.

Tailor a routine that will fit all the needs of your family and your schedule. Add some things into the schedule that are necessary along with a little bit of play. Create a routine that invites more play and time for yourself. Once you do, you will find that your routine becomes something to look forward to each day. If we can only function on autopilot or in repeat mode then make it enjoyable, make it worth doing each and every day.

Do you currently have a daily routine? What are some things you enjoy doing in your routines? Share your ideas below. We would love to hear from you!



Productivity Tips for the Classroom

Being productive has been a recent buzz word in our society. We are told that in order to be successful, we have to be productive on a daily basis. This can look and feel different for everyone, depending on your responsibilities. We may want to get things done in order to meet a deadline or to end the day feeling as though we achieved something. Teachers are often swamped with a zillion things to do and may often become overwhelmed. Here are some productivity tips that can keep you feeling successful and accomplished on a day-to-day basis in your classroom.

Create a weekly schedule

downloadYou probably have a teacher planner that you use on a daily basis to keep yourself on task. Or you may have bought a planner with the intention to use it everyday at the beginning of the year and have recently abandoned it. Either way, we go into our classrooms with the intent to get things done but sometimes find that we have so much to do that it is difficult to complete one task. When you find yourself at this point in the year my suggestion is to ditch the planner. Yes I said it! You can still use it to plan out your lessons, but to plan out what I call your “star task” all you need is a notebook or sheet of paper.

Create a weekly schedule. Here are some common tasks that all teachers need to do on a weekly basis; grade papers, lesson plan, make copies, prepare homework, attend meetings and communicate with parents. Make one of these tasks your “star task” (main focus) for each day out of the week. If Mondays are the best days for you to prepare homework for the week then make that your star task for that day. Thursdays may be a good day to grade papers and update your electronic grade book, while Fridays may be used to make copies for the following week. Put yourself on a schedule and stick to it. Once the star task for the day has been completed then you have been productive. You may be so productive that you have time to check off some more items on your weekly to do list.

downloadSet timers

Setting timers has been a lifesaver in my classroom. After the star task for the day has been completed, begin tackling your smaller tasks. Go straight for your timer for these items because you probably have a limited amount of time left in your plan. Using a timer will keep you on task with what needs to be done. Just as we expect our students to complete task in a specific time frame, we have to do the same for ourselves. You may dedicate 15 minutes of your plan time a day to grading papers. Or you might use 20 minutes to plan for the next week. Spend the whole time being productive during this task. Once the timer goes off let it go and move on to the next one.

Turn off social media

Administration typically has the “no cell phone” rule during instruction. Lunch and planning time are a different story. Teachers often have flexibility when it comes to managing their time outside of instruction. Therefore, it is vital that this small amount of time is used wisely. After you have checked your messages or important phone calls, put the phone away.

You don’t want to fall down the social media rabbit hole during your precious plan time. It is so easy to get caught up scrolling through your social media sites and looking up to find that 20 minutes have gone by. Those 20 minutes could have been used to complete your star task. If you HAVE to check your social media then set a timer for 5 minutes. Once the timer goes off so do you. You want to work smarter, not harder. Use your planning time effectively by staying off the phone and on your “to do” list.

downloadLearn to say “No”

Planning time is one of the most important parts of the day for a teacher. This is the time to get things done and be productive because it will fly by. You may often find that some teachers use their planning time to walk around the school, socialize or browse the internet. If you want to be a productive teacher, you have to learn how to say “no” to these things.

Do not leave your classroom unless you have to go to the copier or stop by the office. Instead, stay in your room and tackle your star task for the day. If a teacher is constantly coming to your room to talk about things that aren’t related to your job, learn how to say “no” to the conversation. Stating something along the lines of, “I need to get back to my lesson plans!” or “Can we chat about this later?” will politely let them know that you mean business.

Turn off the lights

Most days are filled with noise, movement and constant management of behavior. Sometimes the best way to be productive is to turn off the lights and de-stress for a moment. Turning off the lights is not only beneficial to our environment but it can help build your immune system because of the hormone melatonin. When the lights go off your brain is telling your body that it is time to rest. Don’t go to sleep, but take your planning time slowly. Slow down the body so that you can release some stress from your day.

These productivity tips have worked miracles in my teacher life. I hope that you have found them helpful and plan to adopt some of them. What do you do in your classroom to stay productive? What item on the list do you think you will start using today? Comment below. We would love to hear from you!


The difference between heterogeneous and homogeneous groups

Grouping in the classroom can be a daunting task for some teachers. They may not be comfortable with classifying their students or managing the time during group activities. Creating groups in the classroom is not an easy task, it takes time, planning and effort to create effective groups. Before a teacher starts planning the groups they have to understand the two types of groups that can be used in the classroom; Heterogeneous and Homogeneous grouping.

imagesHeterogeneous grouping

These  groups are made up of  students at different learning levels. Heterogeneous groups are formed for a number of reasons; to push certain students, promote leaders or to simply have students learn from each other. Either way, there are some benefits to creating mixed groups in the classroom:

  • Struggling students can learn from students who understand the concepts.
  • Students who are working at a proficient or master level have the opportunity to build autonomy.
  • Groups can be engaging as students learn from each other.
  • Proficient or master level students often take on a leadership role.

Here are some disadvantages:

  • Struggling students may not have the opportunity to speak up.
  • Mastery students may begin to feel some resentment towards being in the group.
  • Struggling students may shy away from participating with the group.
  • Struggling students may expect the other students in the group to do all the work.

Homogeneous grouping

Homogeneous groups are the opposite of heterogeneous groups, instead they are made up of students working at the same comprehension level. Everyone in the group is capable of doing the task and mastering the skill at the same level. Some of the benefits for creating homogeneous groups are:

  • It is easier for the teacher to differentiate instruction among groups.
  • Students are collaborating and learning at the same level.
  • Promotes healthy discussion.
  • It is easier for the teacher to plan small group instructions for these type of groups.

Here are some disadvantages:

  • In the higher groups there may be too many chiefs and not enough Indians.
  • Struggling students may need more support from the teacher in order to complete the task.

imagesWhat grouping should you use?

Now that you understand the difference between heterogeneous and homogeneous groups you may be wondering what grouping to use. The answer will depend on the demographics of your classroom, student behaviors and the purpose of the groups.

  • Demographics: An effective teacher knows her students and their capabilities. You would need to look at the ability level of all of your students. You might have a classroom made of the majority of students working at a grade above what you are teaching. In this case you can use homogeneous groups to extend instruction and build autonomy among all your students. On the other hand, you might have a struggling classroom where students aren’t moving as fast as the curriculum suggests. This type of classroom can benefit from more support from the teacher. In this case you can use heterogeneous groups to balance out the ability levels in the classroom. As I stated before, you have to know your classroom and what would work best for your students.
  • Student behaviors: Some of the questions you can ask yourself are: Do my students work well with their peers? Do my students get along? Asking yourself questions such as these will help you determine the type of groups you will form in your classroom. At an early age we have to teach our students how to get along, how to work with others despite how we feel about them. It is important to teach them the importance of working together and treating each other with respect. During group activities student behavior needs to be on task in order for the group to run successfully.  If you are having a difficult time forming some of the groups because of behaviors it might be a good idea to restructure. They could have two groups running independently while the other students are receiving a mini-lesson. Maybe the reality of your classroom is that five groups can’t run at the same time- and that’s ok! Knowing your students and their behaviors will help you determine the best results.
  • Purpose of the groups: The overall goal of the group activities will determine the type of groups you form. If you want students to achieve a level of proficiency in a particular skill then you can form homogeneous groups. Having students working at the same level will help determine what they mastered and may have struggled with. On the other hand the goal may be to promote healthy discussion among students. The teacher might want to have students at different levels share their expertise in a particular area. This will require heterogeneous grouping because the groups will be mixed. Having a clear focus for your groups and the outcome you hope to achieve will make the process of forming groups easier.

Although there are many benefits to heterogeneous and homogeneous groups we have found that both styles have their disadvantages as well. Keep in mind that most of this information is subjective and will depend on your students. No one knows your students best, except for YOU. Therefore, it is important for teachers to make decisions based on what they know about their students, not solely on what someone else suggests.

What type of groups do you use most often in your classroom? Comment below and share your ideas. We would love to hear from you!