Saturday, July 19, 2014

Bright Ideas Blog Hop: Help Students Keep Desks Organized

I'm linking up with the super fun Bright Ideas Blog Hop again, and here's my bright idea-- Desk Maps!

"Um, teacher? There's something growing in my desk. It's... squishy. It's hairy, too."
"I can't find my math book behind these papers."
"I had 60 pencils in here in September. Now I can't find one."
"Ow!!! My books keep falling out on my feet!"
"My desk won't... [jumps on desk] close!"
"Oh! Here's my homework from last month! [rip] Well, half of it!"

Sound like your students? Mine, too. That's why I started using Desk Maps! These are placed in students desks to show them exactly where all of their belongings should be stored. If it's not on the map, it stays in the backpack.

I made one for all of my students that I photocopied and laminated, but students could easily make their own if they have different desk setups.

To save ink, I made set student supplies on top of a sheet of paper and traced.

For my more concrete-thinking and younger students, I took a picture of the items on the desk map and made a color copy enlarged to 8 x 11.

Our desks have shelves, but for the desks that have opening lids, you could simply place the map on the underside of the lid, or on the bottom of the desk.

You could use small plastic bins from the dollar store to hold desk items. I've seen plastic drawer organizers used, too.

photo from

At the end of the day, I ring a bell, and all the students have to arrange their desks to match their desk maps. I have a student check desks for me. They make sure a sharpened pencil awaits them in the morning.

Big time saver!

If you enjoyed this bright idea, please consider joining me on Facebook, InstagramTwitter, and Teachers Pay Teachers for more ideas.

For more bright ideas more than 80 different bloggers, please browse through the link-up below, and choose a topic/grade level that interests you. Thanks for visiting!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Trade the flip outs for flip flops

Font courtesy Graphics from the Pond

If your summer is a little less flip flops and a little more "flip outs," summer might not be all it's cracked up to be. Here are five tips for curbing the behavioral summer slide.

1. Structure, Routine, and Balance

Unstructured downtime is one of the most common antecedents to negative behavior. Routine and structure are key to reducing and preventing behavioral episodes. When you climb into a little one's brain, you'll find that summer is a natural upset of routines; all school year, we woke up at a specific time, got dressed, ate breakfast, brushed our teeth, and got on the bus, and then we would get to school, have homeroom, math, music, break, lunch, reading, recess, writing, phys ed, science, snack, social studies, go home, do homework, watch TV, play, take a bath, and go to bed. There was structure, routine, and predictability. We could make a list or a picture schedule to fill up an entire day.

It's hard to give our kids structure and routine during the summer, but it can be done without us having to be on top of them 24/7. Set up routines that are rehearsed and practiced until you no longer even need to be present for them to happen. Let your child know that today we are going to start something new. This can be an informal, unwritten schedule orchestrated by you or a sitter, or it could be written on a dry erase board that the child can cross out or wipe off when finished, or with removable pieces of Velcro (with pictures of clocks or the activity) that the child can pull off when finished. If your child can't tell time, the dollar store handheld timer or even the timer on the stove or microwave could help.

A summer routine schedule might look something like this

Wake up
Eat breakfast
Brush teeth
Get dressed
Chore or responsibility #1 (e.g., a basic chore, cleaning, making his/her lunch, summer reading, handwriting practice, school work, anything paper/pencil, etc.)
Play time (alone or with friends)
Wash hands
Play time
Fun activity, or TV time
Story time

Often, kids have a tough time in school, because they are used to unstructured periods and lots of freedom, but when they get to school they are expected to follow schedules and carry out specific, structured responsibilities. Schedules teach kids to manage their time, end a preferred activity to begin a less preferred activity, and establish a sense of personal responsibility.

Conversely, don't over-schedule. Sometimes a schedule that is too jam-packed or overbooked is stressful. It's all about the balance. Summer should be a fun time to take it easy, have fun, and grow through play.

2. Quality Time

They say the keys to battling depression are having something to do, something or someone to love, and something to look forward to. Schedule time once a week to spend some quality time together with your children. This gives everybody something to look forward to doing together. These can be fun and inexpensive, like game night, an ice cream trip, bike riding, playing kickball, making s'mores, or going for a walk. This will give kids a time for positive attention and bonding.

3. Fun

I'm willing to bet that we've all heard our kids say, "I'm bored" during the summer. With your child, make a list of fun summer projects, and have them choose which one they want to try each day. You can make homemade play dough, build igloos out of sugar cubes, roll toilet paper rolls in glue and sand to make a giant sand castle, make a fort with sheets and old boxes, carve funny faces into apples with googly eyes and uncooked rice as teeth, dye and string noodle necklaces or art pieces, make smoothies or milkshakes, bake or cook something new (we love biscuits turned into pizzas), homemade board games, a rope tied to a tree for two-person double dutch, homemade books or CDs, etc. Check out Pinterest and for more ideas.

4. Check In

For some kids, sensory needs and the stress of the big change of summer can really take a toll. For kids who are constantly on the go, some time to check in is nice and settling. Take time to check in with your kids. Maybe it's eating breakfast or dinner together, or taking a drive. Just take time to talk with them and listen to them. You can troubleshoot problems and praise and reinforce specific positive behavior during this time. Plan a special day one-on-one with each of your kids. It's tough when you're so busy, but when you look back, these are the times you'll both remember.

5. "You" Time

Don't feel guilty when you take a little time for yourself. We typically feel like we have to give our kids 110%, and we can't do that if we're only feeling 50% there in our own minds. Take your own time to relax, regroup, and enjoy your time alone. This will help you get back to feeling your best, so you can give your best to your kids. It's healthy, and it's okay! Have a date night with your spouse, go to lunch with your girlfriends, or check out the spa solo. Whatever it is, do it, and enjoy it. You earned it!

What are some things that work well for you over the summer? Please share in the comments!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Special Educator's Blog Hop

I'm linking up with Tales of a Carolina Girl for the Special Educator's blog hop. She's another behavior support teacher! It's so tough to find other bloggers who do what we do, so I'm SO excited!

We fill out this adorable little questionnaire and link to an old post. I'm linking to my old post, Behavior Bank, which includes links to some of my behavior support posts.

Hop on over to the Special Educator Blog Hop, and check out the other awesome blogs!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Product Review: Sit Spots

I don't get any money for this post; I just had to let you know about my favorite new product! Apparently, I've been living under a rock for the past five years of my teaching career. Who knew?

Because my classroom is multi-age, I have the same students for many years. We get a few new additions, and many of our students no longer need resource room-- but for the most part, we have the same kiddos for a long time (just a little taller each year). If any student is retained, I could have a student for up to seven years. I have to keep it fresh and different, not only for my students, but also for myself and our instructional assistants. This year, I'm giving our classroom a makeover. I'm going from primary colors to a black-and-bright look. I ripped everything down, so there's no turning back now. I'll be crying when I start this project, but oh well!

I've been having problems with my carpet situation. I want my students to have designated spots on the carpet for whole group lessons and read-alouds. I also want my carpet to be pretty. Problem is, I only earn a teacher's salary (i.e., "diddly squat"), and pretty classroom carpets are $100-$500. Pffffft, can I get a big fat NO?! I settled for one of those interlocking puzzle piece carpets, but they always seem to end up dirty (even after weatherproofing), with scuff marks, scratch marks, pencil holes, and I have a couple of kiddos who live to pull them apart. It's one of those choose-your-battles classroom management kinds of things that's just not worth the effort in our emotional support program with kids who love the sensory input of pulling those squares apart, you know? I think that, to my class, my interlocking carpet was like lining the floor with donuts. Too much temptation.

But then... [cue "Hallelujah Chorus"] I came across Sit Spots. Have you heard of these things? If not, you might want to sit down.

I bought my carpet at Walmart for $19, and my Sit Spots were $1.99 each. I bought fifteen, so they only cost $29 and change. My classroom carpet this year was only $50. That's $150 less expensive than the one I wanted! Granted, I have a small group of kids, so I didn't need many. Still, though, for a class of 30 kids, it's still way less expensive than its counterparts.

They don't stick to some carpets, so if you buy a throw rug, try to get one that feels the most like a standard carpet rug. I touched a couple until one felt like what I remembered sitting upon as a child.

These are the cat's pajamas, the bee's knees, the coolest thing since (cinnamon raisin) sliced bread (with icing)! They are basically tiny-but-mighty pieces of Velcro that attach to the carpet. I vacuumed over them, and they stay put. I mean it, they. don't. move. But if you stick them in the wrong spot and need to pull them up, it's easy. They come in a bunch of different colors and shapes. The kids won't pull them off, because they will be sitting on them. Sit Spots are pretty, cheap, temporary, and temptation-free? Is this real life?! I still have to get my yard stick out to measure them, but I just wanted to see if they worked.

Now I have a pretty teacher carpet! I gleefully rolled all over it in my living room, and the Sit Spots didn't budge. My husband looked at me funny for about a second, but then he remembered who he married and continued looking in the fridge (unfortunately, he wasn't looking for butter to add to my cinnamon raisin bread).

Check them out! You can buy them at

Have you used them in your classroom? What are your thoughts? Share in the comments below.