Tag Archives: Teaching

Best Teacher Organization Ideas, Part III

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed. 

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box gift card. Just for sharing a lil’ ol’ comment. 

In this series, we’ve compiled our favorite classroom organization ideas to share with you. We shared a great idea for teacher toolboxes in the first post here. And a great idea for over-the-door shoe organizers here.

And now here’s another winner: a teacher organizational binder that will be your new BFF.

This idea is from Jenn Rivera, a third grade bilingual teacher and blogger at Beyond the Grades. Thanks, Jenn! LOVE this!

Inside pocket: a small monthly calendar book. 


Important Information: schedules, class list, transportation. All very handy stuff for a sub.

Student Data: This section is extra handy. I keep contact information, conference times, assessment scores (important ones not all).

I use this student information sheet in my student data section. It’s from Busy Teachers Cafe. Click the link or the picture; it’ll take you directly to a downloadable pdf.

 Calendars: Curriculum calendar and testing calendar.

Grades: I keep the district’s grading requirements as well as a spreadsheet with my grades for the 9 weeks. No more grading book!

Lesson Plan Ideas: A place to keep those great lesson ideas that you hear/print/pin but haven’t incorporated, yet!

The next three sections are where I keep documentation and notes from various meetings: 

Back Pocket: I keep an EZ Grader for grading at home. {Find one here.} 

Click here for the font used on cover sheets. 

Substitute Teacher Binder

Jenn’s teacher binder is so great, we thought it would be a good idea to create a substitute teacher section or binder to accompany it. The sub binder could be kept in a separate binder or it could simply be a section all to itself within your teacher binder. And, of course, since cute is always better, we particularly favored this adorable FREE printables pack from Think-Share-Teach.

Click the picture to access a downloadable file of these cutie pages:

She also offers a pink version and a purple version. (Yes, she’s that cute.)

Have you picked up some good organizational ideas from our series? Sure hope so. If you have great ideas of your own, consider writing a post for A Learning Experience. You can learn how to submit your idea here. If we publish your idea, you score fame, publicity and a $35 School Box gift card. Woot!



Filed under Classroom Organization, Free Stuff!, Organization

Best Teacher Organization Ideas, Part II

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed. 

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box gift card. Just for sharing a lil’ ol’ comment. 

Every teacher knows that trying to manage a classroom without organizational systems in place is just plain foolishness. So, we’ve been compiling our favorite classroom organization ideas to share with you during this series. {To see the ingenius idea from the first post, click here.}

In our quest for the best ideas, we found creative uses for over-the-door shoe holders. Now these magical pocketed do-alls can be used to organize just about anything, but we loved how Miss Kindergarten (adorable blog, btw) used a shoe organizer to categorize the mountains of stickers that were taking over her classroom.

“As a Kindergarten teacher I have a ton, and I mean a TON of stickers! More and more keep popping out of random places in my room,” she says. “It was driving me absolutely nuts finding adorable stickers that I didn’t even know I had after said holiday. So I decided to face those stickers and show them who’s boss!”

Here’s her shoe organizer-turned-sticker file:

Here’s how she did it:

Step one: Tackle Those Stickers

Pile all of your stickers into one huge mountain. :)

Step two: Categorize

Organize the stickers into broad but relevant categories like encouragement, sports, Christmas, fall, culture, letters, stars, hearts, reading, and science. Once you have your piles organized, label each pile with a sticky note.

Step three: Make Cute Labels

Create labels on the computer in a cute font (one for each sticky note), mount them on construction or scrapbook paper, and laminate them.

Step four: Attach Labels

Attach labels to your shoe organizer with cute ribbon and a hole punch.

Step five: Fill the Pockets

Put stickers in correct pocket and never forget about cute stickers again!

Miss Kindergarten found her shoe organizer in the Target dollar section, but we found some pretty inexpensive versions online here and here.




Filed under Classroom Decor, Classroom Organization

teacher self-care {take a minute for you}

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box gift card! Winners are drawn regularly. 

The hardest thing for me about back-to-school time is transitioning from summer relaxation to high-energy fall schedules. As teachers, we look forward to meeting our new classes, and there’s a certain unmatched energy about starting a new year with a new group. It’s fun! (Okay, most of it :).

But I find that if I don’t take a little time for self-care, I feel burned out come October. (Or September. Or August 30. :) Am I alone here, or can I get an Amen?

Here are some ideas for us educators who need a little R & R– even after our swimsuits have long ago dried and the sand is long gone from our flip-flops. These ideas don’t take long, but they provide a bit of happy in the midst of all the busy.

1. Get Social!

Fill the “off-hours” time in your calendar (evenings, weekends, Friday nights) with activities you authentically look forward to. Plan fun outings, girl’s nights out, date nights, or just solo trips to the coffee shop. Having these fun times planned and scheduled on the calendar gives you something to look forward to even on your longest days. At least you’ll know that a break is coming!

2. Just Say No.

In order to have space in your calendar (and mind) for things you enjoy doing, you may have to say “no” to invitations and activities that come your way…and that’s okay. Learning to say no is crucial to self-care. If you’re bad at it, here’s an article on how to do it well.

3. Play Music.

When you’re in your classroom during breaks or after school, put on some favorite music. It really is an endorphin booster! Here’s a play list of relaxing tunes. How pretty is Bella’s Lullaby??

4. Leave Work on Time. 

Sometimes you have to stay late at school (parent meetings, faculty meetings, PTA meetings, meetings meetings meetings). But, let’s be honest– sometimes it’s just a bad habit or a choice. Make a pact with yourself to leave on time at least three afternoons a week. It’s much more relaxing to grade papers at home with your fuzzy slippers kicked up in a recliner than with your aching feet still stuck underneath your metal teacher desk.

5. Get Physical. 

Exercise is a great stress reducer– this is no secret. But with newly packed schedules, it may be hard to find time to hit the gym or treadmill this fall. If so, try to at least get outside and take a walk, look up at the sky, notice the world around you. Even if it’s just a quick walk after dinner, getting out and moving is grounding and re-centering. 

6. Stay Inspired.

And finally, remember why you became a teacher to begin with. It wasn’t for the glory. And it sho wasn’t for the salary. It was to make a difference in the lives of children. Here’s an inspiring website that shares the stories of famous celebs and their favorite teachers. And here’s a video to remind us why we wipe down our boards, plan our lessons, grade those papers, put on a smile, and reach out and care.

Happy August! Let’s remember to invest in ourselves as we invest in our students. We’ll all be happier this month…and beyond. ♥


Filed under Motivation, Teacher Appreciation, Teacher Inspiration, Teaching

Four Timely Reminders for all Educators

 by Mary Jane Downs

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box gift card! {winners drawn at the end of the month}

Are you creating a teaching legacy for future generations? What wisdom can you pass down from your experiences?

My daughter graduated as an education major from Converse College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, this past spring. As she is hunting for a teaching position and awaiting her first solo flight, I want to give her some sage advice to ponder as she anticipates the future. Here are four tips from my teaching experience that I will be sharing with my daughter, which are, perhaps, a good reminder for all of us teachers…both young and not-so-young. 

Healthy Fear

A little ‘healthy fear’ at the beginning of each year can be a good thing. You do not have all the answers yet because every class has a different make up. This keeps you willing to seek for the answers…and it can also foster a mutual respect from your students. Don’t fear the fear; embrace it as an opportunity to learn.

The Truth Behind Discipline

Discipline has a lot to do with who you are and how you present yourself. It also has to do with honesty, fairness, your example and what you expect of each student. Bad attitudes and criticism will only aggravate the challenges. Finding the good in each student and telling them so can begin to change even the most hardcore children.

Each New Day is a New Day

Let everyone have a new start each day. Don’t hold grudges against students. It will only bring more friction to a classroom. We all have bad moments, days and periods of time when our behavior reeks. Forgive and move on. Try to find out if there is a reason for a student’s behavior. Then, work to help your student learn to overcome their problems in a more positive way.

Teachable Spirit

The best teachers keep a teachable spirit throughout their career. They never think they have arrived at fully knowing everything. They continually search for the best ways to enhance their students’ learning environment. Then, when all is said and done, your students will honor and respect you for helping them learn to succeed under your watch.

Teaching is a challenge no matter how you look at it. However, starting out with the right kind of wisdom will help you build a rewarding career…and a living legacy.

Mary Jane Downs is an author, speaker and teacher who lives in the foothills of the Asheville Mountains. She loves long walks with her camera in hand, reading, hand quilting, and cooking for friends. Mary Jane has been published in Awe Magazine, Inspiredmoms.com, as well as a guest blogger. Mary Jane has found her writing and love of quilting to work well together. Quilting gives her time to think and gain insight for story ideas, and writing helps her to express those ideas and thoughts to others. Read more by Mary Jane at www.maryjanewrites.com.


Filed under Academic Success, Behavior Management, Motivation, School Readiness, Teacher Inspiration, Teaching

favorite {free} downloadable fonts

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

Write a little comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box gift card! We’ll draw a winner shortly. 

Looking for a way to spruce up your classroom reproducibles? Here are some of our favorite free downloadable fonts that would look just dandy on your next parent letter or student activity sheet (or party invitation!). Happy Holidays from A Learning Experience!


This one looks just like good ol’ Barnum and Bailey’s. Super cute!




Looks like, well, you know.


Pea Lovey Dovey

Adorable curlie-q font with a whimsical vibe.



Appropriately named, this font is elegant but not frufru.



Fun, whimsy, feminine.


Earwig Factory

Gross name. Cute font.


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Filed under Activities, Art, Classroom Decor, Holidays, Organization, Teacher Inspiration, Teaching, technology

Creating a “Where Are You?” Board

by Rachel Stepp, M. Ed. 

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box gift card! 

Do you ever have multiple students leave your classroom at once for various reasons (clinic, library, restroom, pull-out programs, etc.), and you have trouble remembering who went where? Has the fire drill ever buzzed, and you were missing children once you were outside because they were in the library? It’s time to set up an area (or wall) in your classroom where your students can display their location. This area might look different depending on the age of your students and the places they can go on their own in your school.

Magnet Board

In grades pre-k through second, it would be appropriate to have an area that displayed each child’s picture and name on a magnet. This could be a place on the magnetic white board or on a magnetic cookie sheet hung on the wall. On this area, you will create a place for each student’s picture to be displayed under the home section. At the end of the day, every student’s picture should be moved to the home area to show that they are no longer at school. In the morning, when a child first walks in the door, he or she should move their picture from “Home” to “Classroom” to show that they are present at school on the current day. When a child’s picture is shown as in the classroom, they are to be participating in classroom activities and within sight of the teacher. This is also a visual way to take attendance, without wasting time calling roll.

Other sections that you might want to include on your board are: boys’ restroom, girls’ restroom, office, clinic, library, other. Each section besides home and classroom should only have enough room for several students at a time, depending on your classroom guidelines. For example, you might only want to allow two boys to go to the restroom at the same time. If those two positions are in use on the board, then no one else should leave the classroom to use the restroom.

Students will need to learn the routine of automatically checking the board when they walk into the classroom to make sure their magnets are in the correct location. It’s important to make sure that students know that they do not need to move their picture every time the class goes somewhere as a whole group. You can also use the same picture magnets for other activities, such as to show which center students are in during center time.

Popsicle Jars

In third through fifth grades, students might find that moving their picture around feels “elementary” to them.  When students are transitioning grades and learning a new routine for leaving the classroom, you can write each child’s name on a popsicle stick and place them in different cans/jars to show their location. The jars can sit beside the classroom door so that students can access them easily when they enter or exit the room. You can also create a simple sign-in and sign-out sheet for your students. On this sheet, they would have to record their name, the time they leave, their desired location, and the time they return. This will help you keep track of your students when they are out of the classroom and in the case of an emergency.

Hopefully these ideas will give your students some responsibility when it comes to keeping track of where they are. You are one teacher in charge of many students, and anything to make the process run smoothly is worth considering!


Filed under Behavior Management, Centers, Classroom Community, Classroom Decor, Organization

The “Write” Way in Middle School

by S. Parbhoo

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box gift card!

Kids– even middle schoolers– love to write about themselves. Not convinced? Simply look at social media. Young teens spend hours “writing” about themselves through texts, Facebook, Twitter and the myriad of other technologies they interact with daily.

But, when faced with writing in the classroom, many of these same students shut down. Why? They anticipate boredom and don’t see the skills as relevant to their lives. The antidote? Creative writing. Here are some great ideas for middle school creative writing activities that are guaranteed to get them writing with a smile (or at least without as much eye-rolling).


A journal is the first tool for fostering a love for writing. Kids can use the journal to explore writing in an informal way without all the pressure of a formal writing assignment. Set aside 10 to 15 minutes for journal writing before any other activities. Routine journaling gets those words on the paper which is so important. You may choose to provide or prompt, or students can free write. Journals are a fun place for even the most insecure writers to learn to love writing–especially when no “grades” are attached to the writing.

Becoming a TV star

Another fun way to get kids writing is to have them write a new, original episode for their favorite TV show, starring themselves. Kids choose how they can fit into the existing cast of characters and write about how they would all interact. Once finished, the script can be read aloud or the students can work in groups to act out the episode. This activity is so fun, it won’t even register as writing!

Discovering my Name

Middle school kids are at an age where they are discovering who they are. A great way to do that and stimulate writing skills at the same time is to have them write a story about their name. The story could be based on their family history of their name. Who in your family named you and why? What are some memories they have associated with their name? Do they share their name with a celebrity? Once the ball gets rolling with this assignment, there will be no stopping it.

Becoming a Character

Writing in context with literature is an excellent way for kids to increase reading comprehension and jog their creativity. Using a book that the student is already reading, have them become a character from that book. There are several options for this activity:

  1. First, with a partner, write an interview with the character. One person is the interviewer and the other person uses what they know about the book character to answer the questions.
  2. Second, write a journal entry as the character.
  3. Third, write a letter to someone as the character.

All of these activities are opportunities for kids to use their creative writing skills in an entertaining way. It may be hard to compete with Facebook, but we can at least get close!

For great journaling ideas and prompts, click here.



Filed under Academic Success, creative writing, grammar, Language Arts, Writing

40% off cool stuff

As parents and/or educators, most of us are familiar with (read: practically live at) The School Box (aka Teacher Mecca). And, as parents and/or educators, most of us are on tight budgets (read: we’re always game for a good bargain). And so, we found it grand that these two truths are colliding this weekend: In honor of July 4th, The School Box is offering a 40% off in-store coupon for any one regular-priced item June 30-July 3!

Here are the details (click to print the coupon):

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Filed under Classroom Decor, Teaching

somethin’ fun…famous learners

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In honor of summer, we thought we’d celebrate some of the famous brains of our time…since our brains are officially on vacation!

Below is a fun summer read: an inspiring array of pivotal personas who prove that learning is a lifelong endeavor.

For some, learning is primarily focused on formal schooling, beginning and ending with the classroom. But for others, education happens everywhere and exists as a lifelong pursuit. Whether they are learning through experience, books or other means, these lifelong enthusiasts inspire us with their tenacity for education.

  1. Arthur Ernest Morgan: A pioneer for flood control and dam construction methods, Arthur E. Morgan was a self-taught engineer. Although his education did not come from formal schooling, he went on to become president of Antioch College.
  2. Malcolm X: As an advocate for the rights of African-Americans, Malcolm X is admired by many. He dropped out of school, and after converting to Islam in prison, spent his time self-learning, eventually becoming an intellectual public figure.
  3. The Wright Brothers: Orville and Wilbur Wright conducted the first controlled human flight, and the first to invent controls for fixed-wing aircraft. These two were self-taught inventors and continued to study the field of aviation.
  4. Ansel Adams: Ansel Adams is one of the most famous and celebrated photographers in the world. He left school at an early age, but made continuous learning and innovation a priority in his life and work, allowing him to create the fine art we know him for today.
  5. Quentin Tarantino: Beloved for his films, including Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill, Quentin Tarantino is an incredibly popular and influential director. He dropped out of high school, instead preferring to learn filmmaking from his job in a video store.
  6. George Washington: The first President of the United States, George Washington had little formal education. He loved studying, particularly mathematics, and even worked as a surveyor after going on a relevant trip with his cousin.
  7. Florence Nightingale: A celebrated nurse and pioneer in nursing education, Nightingale herself was self-taught with some help from her father.
  8. Colonel Harland Sanders: Colonel Sanders, founder of the KFC empire, dropped out of school in the 6th grade. Upon reaching retirement age without much in the way of funds, Colonel Sanders decided to better himself with self-education and the founding of KFC.
  9. Nikola Tesla: Nikola Tesla is well known as an extraordinary inventor. He attended college, but preferred to study on his own.
  10. Michael Faraday: Michael Faraday’s work led to the development of electrotechnology. One of the greatest scientists in the world, he was almost completely self-taught.
  11. Stanley Kubrick: Stanley Kubrick was a celebrated director. He was a poor student and disdained school. Instead of formal education, Kubrick sat in on classes and pursued self-learning.
  12. George Bernard Shaw: George Bernard Shaw had irregular education, but went on to be awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1925. With intensive reading, debating and lecturing, Shaw was able to educate himself throughout his life.
  13. Bill Gates: Bill Gates recognizes that continuous learning and self-improvement is essential to success. He often picks up a copy of Time to read cover to cover, not just browsing, but soaking up everything to ensure that he learns something he didn’t know before.
  14. Martin Van Buren: Although his formal education ended at 13, Martin Van Buren, the eighth president of the United States, went on to study law as an apprentice at a firm.
  15. Walt Whitman: Walt Whitman is one of America’s most important poets. He was a reading lover, teaching himself to write, and even self published.
  16. Abraham Lincoln: Before becoming the sixteenth President of the United States, Lincoln was a self-educated lawyer, even though he had less than a year of formal schooling. He didn’t read excessively, but carefully studied each book he did read to be sure he completely understood them.
  17. Alexander Graham Bell: The man we know as the inventor of the telephone and telegraph was self-taught. He only attended a few lectures in college, but continued to learn and experiment throughout his life.
  18. Benjamin Franklin: Benjamin Franklin is a celebrated American statesman, and an autodidact as well. Franklin took to learning on his own, working with those with experience to understand topics like gulf streams, Italian and meteorology.
  19. Elizabeth Barrett Browning: A widely celebrated English poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning educated herself with Shakespearean plays and classic literature. She remained a ravenous reader, learning through books for her entire life.
  20. James Baldwin: James Baldwin was born into poverty and achieved only a high school education. Upon graduation, he pursued passionate self-education, using his learning to become a celebrated writer and Civil Rights activist.
  21. Abigail Adams: The First Lady to the second President of the United States, and mother of the sixth, Abigail Adams was well-educated without ever attending school. She was tutored and loved to read, simply for the desire to bolster her generous intellect.
  22. Walt Disney: The namesake and co-founder of Walt Disney, this cartoonist taught himself to draw through correspondence school and continued to learn throughout his life.
  23. John Harrison: John Harrison was the inventor of the marine chronometer and a self-educated clockmaker. He lacked the credentials of some of his peers because of this, and got assistance from the king to get credit for his accomplished education.
  24. Frank Lloyd Wright: Frank Lloyd Wright is easily America’s most famous architect. He learned and developed his own style of architecture, drawing from methods of his own creation.
  25. Ray Bradbury: Ray Bradbury was a prolific science fiction writer, with more than 30 books and over 500 works. He graduated from high school, but his impressive education is largely due to independent reading.

For more fun lists of learners, check out www.onlinecollege.org.


Filed under Academic Success, Teacher Inspiration, Teaching

How to Use Twitter

by Connie Wiley, Ed.S.

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box Gift Card! Comment winners are drawn every month!

Summertime is a great time to brush up on new skills–particularly new technology. Last summer, I signed up for Twitter and have really enjoyed this social networking site throughout this past school year. I discovered that there are so many resources teachers can access from Twitter! Here’s my no-nonsense guide to using Twitter, both for yourself and for your classroom.

Signing up

It’s easy to get started. Before signing up, you will need to decide on a Twitter name and profile information to use. You can also add an uploaded picture. Think about whether or not you would like to be public or private. If you choose public, other Twitter users will be able to read your tweets and follow you. You always have the option to block a follower. By choosing private, only those who have requested to follow you will see your tweets. Now go to www.Twitter.com and click sign up. Voila! You’re officially a part of the Twitter world!

Who to Follow

You can use Twitter’s list of who to follow, or you can search by name or subject. Be sure to read their profile to see if this is someone you would enjoy following. Then click follow.

If later you decide their Tweets are not for you, then click unfollow on their profile page.

I enjoy following educational blogs such as #nytimes, #writingproject, #readingtoday, and #teachingwithsoul.

Fellow educators and media specialists include #mentortexts, #mrshureads, #peter_price, #linkstoliteracy and #kathyfs24.

Authors, illustrators and editors I follow are #thebookmaven, #donalynbooks, #judyblume, #megcabot and #deborahwiles.

There are also newsletters that have great ideas for teachers. I follow #pwkidsbookshelf, #teachingbooks, #edweekteacher, #readingrockets and #web20classroom.

Start Tweeting

Click in the box under What’s Happening? The first rule of Twitter is that you have to say what you want to say in 140 characters or less. Don’t worry, there is a counter to let you know how many characters you have used. To post click the tweet button.

Read Daily

I usually check my account twice a day. There are three useful features included at the end of each tweet. Just move your mouse over the tweet and you will see favorite, retweet, and reply. Click favorite to save in your favorites list so that you can go back and read more when you have time. Retweet will repost the tweet to all of your followers. Click reply to send a message back to the tweeter.

Why not add some fun to your professional career? Start Tweeting today!

 Connie Wiley, Ed.S., is a third-grade teacher in Gwinnett County with 28 years of experience. She holds a masters in ECE and a specialists in Educational Leadership.


Filed under Summer Learning, Teaching, technology