Latest from the Blog

I meet with students on our carpet by the front door for reading conferences and word work activities.

3 Ways to Make Small Group Reading Instruction More Productive

Originally posted: February 28, 2016 | Updated: February 20, 2020 About 60% of our second grade day is spent in small group instruction, and our reading block is one of the longest stretches of time when small group instruction is used. Although this teaching approach is highly targeted and differentiated, it is also intense to plan and deliver. Over the past few years, I have evolved from a teacher who dreaded small group instruction to one who fully embraces its undeniable benefits.  The driving force behind this change is organization and the development of unique small group instruction management routines. Rather than dreading every small group transition and feeling exhausted with all the reminders about supplies and groupings I had to give during our reading block, I feel like this time of day is efficient and productive. The three tips below have helped make the management aspect of small group

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Core Inspiration Homework Drop Dox

Homework Drop Box : A Routine To Organize Homework Collection

One of the most exciting parts of being a teacher is having the creative freedom to experiment with routines and procedures that work best for you and your students. The little tweaks we make in our classroom throughout the year create an environment that is more functional and exciting for students. The Evolution of Homework Collection One of the classroom routines you may find yourself tweaking frequently is homework collection. Those first few minutes when students walk into the classroom are filled with a lot of hustle and bustle…and an occasional unexpected surprise. Homework collection should be quick and seamless, but finding an approach that works best for you may take some time. Here are a few approaches I’ve tried in the past: Turn In Bin Students place their homework in a turn in bin. The pros? Homework submission is quick for students. The cons? You may find nameless papers

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Core Inspiration's R.E.S.E.P.E.C.T. mini posters with definitions of each word that is part of the R.E.S.P.E.C.T. acronym next to large R.E.S.P.E.C.T. display poster to be hung in the classroom.

How To Spend Less Time Reteaching Routines After A School Break

After a long school break, it is always important to revisit your classroom routines and expectations with students much like you did during the first weeks of school. Students benefit from reminders about the consistent focus you have on expectations for respect in your classroom. With the use of theR.E.S.P.E.C.T. Classroom Management System, I spend less time reteaching routines after a break. Instead, we spend a quick one-hour session reviewing our guiding principle of respect, and get right back to learning. Here’s a peek at exactly how we make this happen after our long December break when we return to the classroom in January.  Classroom Environment Hopes and Dreams In the morning after students have completed their bellwork and we’ve had a morning meeting, we spend a hour revisiting R.E.S.P.E.C.T. We begin by meeting on the carpet where I ask my students the exact same question they were asked on

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Low cost flexible seating option: lap desks from Michael's allows students to sit anywhere in the room and have a hard surface to work on.

Did You Know Flexible Seating Doesn't Need to be Fancy?

There’s not always a need for fancy chairs or furniture to create flexible seating options in your classroom. In fact, you can arrange your existing classroom furniture and weave in a couple tools that help create more natural flexible seating choices. The options discussed below leave room for students who are interested in working away from their desk, but still create an environment where every student has their own desk – their own home base. Keeping All Learners In Mind When Designing Classroom Seating Something that is often forgotten in today’s focus on flexible seating is the wide variety of learners sitting in our classroom each day. Every year, we have students in our class who find a great deal of comfort in knowing they have a desk with their name on it – a place where they can sit consistently day-to-day. Yes, we should have these students practice flexibility,

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Core Inspiration PowerPoint slide displays on board during tidy up with the detailed tidy up classroom routine written out so students can follow it.

Do You Wish Your Classroom Was More Tidy?

A tidy classroom makes for more a productive learning space, but how do you maintain a tidy classroom? This post is filled with tips for getting your students genuinely involved in maintaining a tidy classroom environment each day so you as a teacher aren’t the only one working hard to maintain organization and tidiness throughout the school year.

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Core Inspiration problem solving challenge task sign next to challenging math problem solving task for third grade and sample recording sheet with model and math reasoning written in complete sentences.

3 Ways To Challenge Your Advanced Students During Math Workshop

Your math block is likely a time of day when your advanced learners stand out like a sore thumb if you don’t have the resources to keep their brains stimulated. Often times, these learners become disinterested or disengaged because they are bogged down with busy work when they meet expectations and demonstrate mastery early on in a unit. At times this can result in a subject where they demonstrate great talent and ability becoming a student’s least favorite time of the school day.  Keeping advanced math minds genuinely engaged requires us as teachers to create an environment where being “done” is not a focal point. Instead, structure your learning block in a way that the entire spectrum of learners has more options than they can possibly complete, and a deep variety of learning activities to demonstrate their understanding each day.  After you’ve built a strong collection of learning activities, create

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These monthly unit bins are perfect for keeping art projects and seasonal projects in good condition without the need for a filing cabinet.

Teacher Organization Ideas To Help You Declutter Your Classroom

Many teachers reach out to me with questions about how to minimize paper clutter in the classroom and keep their unit resources organized. When it comes to organizing your teaching resources, it’s helpful to find an organization system that will help you store the essentials and force you to tidy up routinely so paper clutter doesn’t build up in the first place. Here are my favorite organization tips for four categories in your classroom.  Organizing Your Teacher Reference Books Begin by looking through all your teacher reference books. Get a little Marie Kondo status by picking up each book and thinking about whether or not you have referenced it during the past year or two. If you haven’t used it, place it in a pile to donate. There are other teachers who may need that resource and it’s not doing anybody any good sitting on your shelf for years without

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Core Inspiration Respect Poster up close shot. A perfect tool for helping teachers build a respectful community while focusing on social emotional learning.

What Happens When You Focus on Building Respect In Your Classroom

Strong classroom management is one of the critical components to making your life as a teacher more smooth and enjoyable. No matter where you fall on the classroom management spectrum – from “My classroom is a zen, well-oiled machine” to, “I never feel my classroom is in control…maybe I’m not cut out for this teaching thing”, it is possible for you to transform your classroom into a space where respect is the core focus, and students are more intrinsically motivated.  This post contains affiliate links for which I may make a small commission at no extra cost to you should you make a purchase. Over the past ten years in the classroom, my classroom management has evolved, and will continue to do so. I have had the opportunity to learn from many students who require very heavy behavior supports, and from those who easily adapt in any learning environment.  What

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Khan Academy open on Chromebook next to math workshop rotation schedule for the week. Khan Academy tracker is laying on the keyboard of the Chromebook. Core Inspiration Math Workshop transition desk on display on whiteboard in background.

How To Make the Third Week of Math Workshop A Success

This is part three in a series of posts about how I introduce the routines of Math Workshop over the course of three weeks. If you would like to start by reading about the first two weeks of Math Workshop, visit the links below.   Math Workshop Week 1 Math Workshop Week 2 BACKGROUND ABOUT THE THIRD WEEK OF MATH WORKSHOP My goals for the third week of Math Workshop are focused around further solidifying the routines and expectations that we’ve established during the first two weeks, and to introduce a final few routines and tools that boost students’ ability to be self-directed learners so workshop can run at full efficiency. These goals include: Review and solidify expectations for warm-up, mini lessons, at your seat rotation, and hands on rotation. Introduce the technology rotation. Introduce our digital Math Workshop rotation board. Emphasize the thoughtful equity built into our weekly Math

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A Design Challenge Your Students Will Absolutely Love

The end of the school year is such a special time as testing winds down, and you finish teaching those last few standards. You may even find you have little pockets of time throughout your days when you and your students can work to strengthen that special classroom community bond that’s been building throughout the year. One of my favorite ways to savor that last few weeks with my family-away-from-home before they head off for summer break is through design challenges and game play. During my first year of teaching, my teammate introduced me to a simple game. Onto the table she plopped this box of heavily-used index cards that had been folded in every which-way. The crease on each card was grimy grey from all the little hands that had handled them over the years. She grabbed a handful, started folding several cards in half, and then stacked them

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These two versions of the "My Summer Reading Plan" sheet makes goal setting for summer reading easy to differentiate.

The Perfect Activity to End Your Year With Reading

As the school year winds down, some of the most absolutely memorable days of the year are upon us. In most cases, that final week of school is a time when all the standards have been taught, you’ve finished most of your report cards, and you’re starting to organize your room for the summer break. It’s also a time when our young learners are starting to get antsy for the year to end and need more time engaged in flexible, social activities. All these factors make one of those final school days a perfect time to transform a school day into a special learning event called a Reading Summit. This themed school day is dedicated to sharing love for reading, and setting the stage for summer reading. Activity Inspiration For Your Reading Summit Over the years, I have tweaked the schedule for our Reading Summit in third grade, and finally

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I love setting up a different deck for each day of the week so I can easily open the file that matches that day of the week and jump right into efficient classroom transitions during math workshop. I use the rotation planning grid to make setting up slide super easy at the beginning of the year.

This Is How To Make Your Workshop Transitions More Efficient

Workshop teaching is one of the most effective ways to differentiate instruction for the wide variety of learners in your classroom. But with so many moving parts, a workshop classroom can sometimes feel a bit overwhelming for students and teachers. Students need to know what activity they are assigned to work on at any given time, the details of their assignment, and when to move on to the next activity. Without clear directions and smooth transitions, a lot of time can be wasted during your workshop block, leaving you exhausted, and the students with important work left unfinished. Trouble With Transitions During Math Workshop When I first started using Math Workshop in my classroom years ago, transitions were my biggest headache. I would keep a timer on my desk. When it went off, I’d project the groupings for the next assigned activity on the board and signal for students to

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Low cost flexible seating option: lap desks from Michael's allows students to sit anywhere in the room and have a hard surface to work on.

Did You Know Flexible Seating Doesn't Need to be Fancy?

There’s not always a need for fancy chairs or furniture to create flexible seating options in your classroom. In fact, you can arrange your existing classroom furniture and weave in a couple tools that help create more natural flexible seating choices. The options discussed below leave room for students who

Read More »
Core Inspiration PowerPoint slide displays on board during tidy up with the detailed tidy up classroom routine written out so students can follow it.

Do You Wish Your Classroom Was More Tidy?

A tidy classroom makes for more a productive learning space, but how do you maintain a tidy classroom? This post is filled with tips for getting your students genuinely involved in maintaining a tidy classroom environment each day so you as a teacher aren’t the only one working hard to maintain organization and tidiness throughout the school year.

Read More »

A Design Challenge Your Students Will Absolutely Love

The end of the school year is such a special time as testing winds down, and you finish teaching those last few standards. You may even find you have little pockets of time throughout your days when you and your students can work to strengthen that special classroom community bond

Read More »
These two versions of the "My Summer Reading Plan" sheet makes goal setting for summer reading easy to differentiate.

The Perfect Activity to End Your Year With Reading

As the school year winds down, some of the most absolutely memorable days of the year are upon us. In most cases, that final week of school is a time when all the standards have been taught, you’ve finished most of your report cards, and you’re starting to organize your

Read More »