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Building Back to School: A Teacher Tool _ Keep it Simple!

Welcome to Week 1 of our Building Back to School Linky party! I am so excited to be hosting my very first Linky party and completely pumped about the awesome bloggers that have linked up to be a part of it! Make sure you check back every week because we'll have FIVE weeks of awesome Tips, giveaways and deals to help prepare and encourage you for a fabulous school year! Interested in Linking Up with us? It's not too late! Just head on over to [this post] for all of the info you need.

For now, let's get to this week's goodies! :)

One of my favorite tips to give to new teachers is to KEEP IT SIMPLE! I'm all about the cuteness, especially now in the age of Pinterest, but I am officially here to give you permission (and maybe even beg a little) to make the choice this year not to over-complicate your life! Teachers have enough truly important challenges to deal with without feeling like your room needs to look like one of these epic classrooms. I mean, WHO PAID FOR THIS?

Now don't get me wrong! Special treats and projects for your classroom and kiddos are so much fun and a great occasional idea, but just remember that you CAN create engaging and meaningful experiences for your students without spending all of your free time AND paycheck on projects & planning!

During the course of this Linky, my goal is to bring you some simple ways to work smarter, not harder! ;) This week, as we talk about Tools for Teachers, I wanted to share THREE tips for KEEPING IT SIMPLE!!

There are A. TON. of really great resources out there! Other teachers are full of ideas and willing to share! Jump on some blog hops (like this one), follow some teacher bloggers, and have a stream of ideas and information sent straight to your email! 

Also, Spend some time perusing Teachers Pay Teachers. Many teachers have spent many many hours creating incredible materials that are meaningful, useful, and FUN!

I tend to be the type that wants to take on the entire world at once. I see all of these amazing ideas on Pinterest & blogs I follow, or even in Hobby lobby and suddenly I'm renovating 6 rooms at once, changing how I menu plan, planning a new at home curriculum for my toddler, *pretending* a new work out routine (ha!), and decided I'm going to start an event planning business all at once. You probably already know this but it doesn't work.  If I try to do too many things at once, I tend to feel like I'm not mastering any of them.

My recommendation? Stick with what's working for the majority of your workload and take on ONE new idea or project at a time! Want to start Writers Workshops? Awesome! Go full force and figure that situation out, but leave everything else alone for now!

This one's my favorite, and we're going to talk about your Arsenal for the next few weeks. When I first became a teacher, I often found myself staring at my standards every week and wondering how on earth I was going to teach these in a way that the students would be engaged, motivated, and successful. Every week I would flip through resource books (this was pre-Pinterest), scour the Internet, dig through my random boxes filled sticky balls and jump ropes and try to invent games and activities that I could be proud of. EVERY WEEK, YA'LL. Are you kidding me?! No wonder I was at school until late every night. That's EXHAUSTING!

My recommendation? Find some things that work, keep a list or a box or a file or however you organize, and STICK WITH THEM! Use this handful of ideas for MOST of your lessons. Create a skeletal structure for your planning and STICK WITH IT.

Here's an example: I taught a 25 minute phonics block every day in my ELL classroom. At first it was a hot mess, but when I created a structure, it became SO SIMPLE. Every lesson looked like this:

1. Review
2. Play
3. Practice

At the beginning of each lesson, we reviewed our skill and words. I had a couple of go to ways that I chose to do this with my kiddos. Then we played one of a handful of games. I had about 5-7 games that I rotated between. The great part of using the same games over and over is that your students don't have to spend time learning new procedures! After our game, we did some sort of independent practice. Again, I had go to tools I used for this and just rotated! 

Every week my phonics skill changed, but my structure stayed the very same.

Another great MUST HAVE tool for your Aresenal is a set of amazing graphic organizers. Graphic organizers are incredibly flexible in their use, and an effective way to help your students visualize the structure of what they read and write. You could easily use one or more with everything your class reads or writes.

I created this set of graphic organizers specifically to support the Common Core standards & the need to cite evidence. If you're using the G.O. to review a reading passage, the evidence boxes provide a concrete way for students to support where they are finding their answers. As a teacher, this help you to understand your students' thought processes.

If you're using the G.O. to prepare for writing, this helps students organize and elaborate on their ideas. It gives them a visual reminder of the need to support their thoughts and ideas with examples and evidence.

If you use the same set of graphic organizers all year long, or similar graphic organizers that gradually increase in difficulty, you're students are going to know what to expect as soon as you hand them out.

Another HUGE BONUS to having a Go To set of graphic organizers and using the same set all year is that you're saving yourself time and KEEPING IT SIMPLE! :)

I'm so excited to be including this Main Idea & Details set in this week's Building Back to School giveaway!! This is my most popular product in my store!! If you don't want to wait for the giveaway announcement on Thursday, then head on over and scoop it up now! My entire store is on MEGA SALE (28% OFF!), Monday & Tuesday only!! Use the promo code: BTS15. While you're there, make sure to check my similar Problem & Solution, Compare & Contrast, and KWL Graphic Organizers!

Now for the BEST part!! :) We've had some really awesome Teacher Authors contribute to our Building Back to School celebration. You'll be able to see EACH of the incredible prizes as you enter below. You'll also get to see several of them highlighted and in action as you jump on over to some of the other blogs in this Linky!
Now head on over to visit some of these other fabulous bloggers and see what Teacher Tool tips and treats they have in store for you!

5 comments on "Building Back to School: A Teacher Tool _ Keep it Simple!"
  1. I am so glad that I am not alone in trying to take on too many things. And that you think you should create an at home curriculum. I am working on keeping it simple. Thanks so much for the tips! I'll definitely use these.

    Notes From the Portable

  2. Thank you so much for this post. It is so good to be reminded to keep it simple! Things can get overwhelming quickly this time of year!

  3. Thank you for hosting this linky & for the great teacher tools!

  4. Thanks for hosting and giving me some inspiring topics to blog about this month! :-)

  5. Love that your brain jumps around almost as much as mine! Love your graphic organizers.

    My Bright Blue House