5 Tips for Success with a Sub

1. Write on your Students' Desks
Seriously, use an expo marker or vis a vis marker and write a positive note for each student, reassuring them you know they will have a great day, make terrific choices, and rock it for the substitute. This idea has been around a while but it is still effective!

2. MYSTERY Reward
Here is how it works (and to be honest, I have no idea where I heard this, but it is not my idea):  You need to leave written instructions for your sub.  Tell the sub to (at random or preplanned times, like every thirty min. but at least twice an hour) to do a quick check if the class is, as a whole, showing respect, on task, and following directions. If so, she /he or a student can write a letter of the word mystery on the board. If they get all the letters of the word before the day is over, you will see it when you return and the next day you will choose a reward for the class (like extra recess, game day, a Magic Tree House video, etc.)

3. My Teacher Would be Proud of Me Poster
This was the most effective strategy for my class last year! Simply, take a piece of chart paper or poster board (I laminated mine for durability) and write "____ would be proud of me" at the top (insert your name). Leave sticky notes for the substitute. During the day if students did something kind or helpful or followed the rules, etc.  they can write it on the note, with or without their name and stick it on the poster. They were so excited about it last year, I had to limit them to one note each. I then would read some or all out loud to everyone the next day and praise, praise, praise everyone (not just the ones who wrote it down).

Here's the poster waiting for notes to be added: 
And here is a peek at it after I got back from being out!

4. Sub Binder
If you don't have a sub binder, now is the time! Include a class list, schedule, emergency info and procedures for your school, information on modifications and accommodations for special education students and those on 504s,  , and lesson plans for math and language arts at least. I bought several sub resources from teachers pay teachers at different times and put them in the binder. This does NOT have to be fancy! Seriously. Check out my binder, with the handwritten cover/label! The contents are the important part.

5. Just Let it Be
As the Beatles sang, let it be. Even with the best-laid plans and the greatest students, it will not go exactly the way you might hope! And some years, you will have a group that has a very hard time no matter what plans you have in place when you leave. In those cases, I have let the guidance counselor, principal and school psychologist know if I am going to be out (if I know in advance) and ask them to do a check in with the sub during the day to see how things are going. You should not feel guilty about being out, and try not to take it personally if students misbehave. Take care of what you need to take care of on your day off, and come back and start fresh the next day!

Do you have a tip I should have included? Comment below and let me know!

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Also,  are you about to implement flexible seating or would you like to tweak what you are doing? Grab my FREE ebook! Click here or on the image below to get it!

Fitting in Science

 Let's talk about how hard it is to squeeze in science! Poor science gets the short end of the stick doesn't it?

I do not have the solution for how to fit in 40-60 minute science blocks (yet) but I can tell you how I grabbed 2-5 minutes here and there during the day when I could review science information or pre-check for knowledge with my second grade class. Here is when I found those 2-5 minute blocks:

  • Morning meeting
  • Transition times
  • The end of the day
  • Snack Time
  • Fun homework - my students liked reviewing liquids and solids with an at home scavenger hunt I sent home last year
  • I use science related texts or reading prompts during language arts

Science Quick Questions might help! I have sets of 16 color and 16 black and white science "Quick Question" cards for the following topics (click on each to learn more) as well as in one bundle.
Plants and Animals
Solids and Liquids
Solar System
Light and Sound

Here's a tip - keep these or similar science cards handy - I used to keep mine in the bin under my easel and grab them when I was going to a special in case the previous class was running late and I'd have to wait in the hall with them.

Check out this freebie! It includes 6 quick questions on a major NGSS topic - Plants. I like to laminate the cards on bright paper, keep them on an O ring or in a plastic case (The Iris/Recollection ones from Michaels or Amazon are my #1 fave) and put them under the easel so I have them right at my fingertips.

Let me know if you have a suggestion for fitting in science in the busy school work!  How do you do it?

Finally, I know a lot of you have some flexible seating options! Would you like a free ebook about Flexible Seating too? Click here or on the image below to grab it!


Halloween Ideas for the Classroom


Eek! It's that time of year again! Halloween will be here before we know it and I have some ideas on how you can bring a little Halloween fun into your classroom! Whether you are having a party or not, these are things I have come across in the past, tried and enjoyed with my second graders, or look very promising and fun!

1. Estimation Game
Easy and fun! Fill a clear container with candy corn, plastic spider rings (like these at Amazon), fake eyeball erasers (seriously - check them out here - I laughed when I found them), or other small items. Put out blank paper, pencils and a small basket for kids to write their names and guess! The winner gets the glory and you can split the items in the jar among the whole class.


2. Coloring Pages
Halloween Coloring Pages are simple and kids always love having the chance to color! You can find them for free in tons of places.I like these from Learning with the Owl on Teachers Pay Teachers. These from Art with Jenny K cost $, but I have used them and they are pop art inspired and very engaging and beautiful!

3. Halloween Lego Games 
Pretty much like it sounds! You need LEGO bricks and the directions which you can find here at teachMama!

4. Magic Pumpkin Science
 I love squeezing Science in whenever I can and Steve Spangler is a great resources. Check out his Magic Pumpkin Science at his blog here!

5.  Party Science Station
There are some cool and engaging experiment ideas which include ghostly goo, magic pumpkin potion and more. Check out some  ideas here at Preschool Powol  and here at Growing a Jeweled Rose! 

I have three resources for you at my own TpT store with a Halloween theme!
Halloween Place Value Pack

What is your favorite way to incorporate Halloween fun into your classroom? Let me know!

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    How to Talk to Parents about Flexible Seating

    Clearly, if you have been to my blog before, you know I love flexible seating! Sometimes, when you have a new class, questions from parents start arriving via email before the first day of school or on meet the teacher day (if you have one before school starts) ! If you are concerned about answering them, take a look through this post and see if the info would support you!

    Let's take a look at some common questions and how you might respond...

    1. What is flexible seating?
    If folks ask this, I explain by saying that flexible seating is giving students alternatives to traditional classroom desks and chairs. Students are allowed to choose where they seat ( to varying extents based on the teacher and students). I always share the Starbucks analogy. When you go to Starbucks, there is more than one type of seat. There might be hard chairs and tables, but also sometimes bar stools, tall tables, leather chairs and low tables. You choose the best seat for yourself - where you feel comfortable, and if you came to work, you choose what is ideal for getting work done. This usually does the trick to help folks understand!

    2. Does it mean students just sit on the floor all the time?
    In my humble opinion, having no chairs and seats at all and having students all sit on the floor is not flexible seating. That does not give students the option to choose what works best for them. Therefore, my answer is no. Sometimes students sit on the floor at a low table, or sit on the rug with a clipboard or lap desk. Just as many students are in chairs, at tables, desks, or standing and working at tall tables.

    3. What if my child doesn't do well with it?
    Usually I reassure parents that students can always use a desk and chair if they need. In almost every case though, after their child has been in the classroom for a few weeks, coming home with excitement about options, parents feel better!

    4. What if my child has special needs?
    One reason that flexible seating is so beneficial is that there always always options to meet the needs of students. For example, students that have poor core strength can sit on a traditional chair or in a beach chair, camp chair, etc. Actually, a few minutes a day of sitting on a stability ball or wobble stool will help students develop their core strength. Also some of the seating options can be found on IEP and 504 plan recommendations, such as air filled seat cushions and stadium type seats that can be used on the floor or rug but provide back support!

    5. My child needs a desk.
    I always keep a few desks in the classroom (3-4) for students who might need one. I would always let a student sit at one if they want; however, I might engage the parent in a conversation about why they feel that way, share what I see in the classroom, and encourage the parent to talk to their child and ask the child what they like and do not like about the seat options in the classroom. I would also talk to the student myself. Honestly, even many parents who feel their child needs a desk at the beginning of the year tend to become more open to the idea of things like wobble chairs, ball chairs etc. as time goes on and their child shares their enthusiasm. Again, however, don't deny a child the option of a desk if that is what they are comfortable with.

    6. Can I help you obtain what you need for flexible seating?
     There are so many options! If you have a class wish list, make sure you put your flexible seating items on there. You can also have an Amazon School List for items like these. Many teachers get funding thanks to Donor's Choose (what I used) and Go Fund Me. Coming soon at Teachers Pay Teachers will be, TPT ClassFund (A Donor's Choose type approach for things like flexible seating guidelines posters and classroom management tools)

    Finally, if you want my free Flexible Seating Ebook, click here to grab it!

    What is a question I haven's answered here? Comment and let me know!

    A Teacher without a Child

    My Story
    When I was growing up, I wanted to be a secretary, architect or teacher, and I always thought I'd be a mom. I often played family with friends and dolls (when I wasn't reading). My guess was that I'd have a few children (when I was pretty young, I wanted four). 

    As I went through my teen years and into college, I didn't date or have a boyfriend until my sophomore year of college. After college, I became a teacher's aide, then a second grade teacher and I quickly found out it was tough to meet guys as an elementary school teacher.  In the very early days of online dating, I gave it a try (before Match.com!) I met someone in my mid-twenties and we dated for a year; however, it did not work out. I was busy with teaching, but still hoped to find the right guy and was still pretty positive I would and I'd be a mom. 

    In my mid-thirties, I dated someone for four years but things ended unexpectedly.
    At that point,  I was about to turn 39 and determined to meet someone great. I tried online dating again. After that, I was frustrated and started to realize I might not meet someone right for me anytime soon.
    The Decision
    After I turned 40,  I spent a long time thinking it over, and decided to start looking into becoming a mom on my own. I didn't tell anyone until I had more information, and went through many medical tests and procedures. In my state, insurance does not cover the first six months of treatments unless you are married. Therefore, I  spent most of my saved money and some more.  After almost two years, the realization came that it was not going to happen.

    Meanwhile, my cousin had been a foster parent in Massachusetts and I talked with her about it a lot. I decided to look into foster parenting in my state. I took and completed all the required classes,  and was almost done with the process. Before I proceeded I decided to take a serious look at finances. The state provided foster parents with a $16 a day stipend.  When I looked reality in the face, I realized there was no way, having drained my savings and being on a tight budget as a teacher (still paying off student loans), that I could not afford to host a foster child who needed all day daycare while I was at work or before and after school care for a school age child. If I was in  another state, I would be getting a much larger stipend and perhaps be able to take a child in; however, the small stipend in my state meant it would maybe cover formula or food, but not diapers and certainly not daycare. I had to resign myself that I could not continue the process.
    Being a Teacher without a Child
    How does it feel to be a teacher without a child? So many different feelings! I still feel sadness that I won't get to experience the joy of a child growing and learning in my family. I have children's books I collected at home that are still sitting on the shelves. I collected a few stuffed animals and a baby hat but I donated the stuffed animals to Toys for Tots. With that being said, I have made some peace with this. 

    Sometimes to be honest, I have feelings of relief when I get to leave to head to a quiet home after a challenging day at school. I appreciate my independence and the flexibility that comes with being able to make my own choices. I am so glad I have time to write posts blog and create curriculum that helps and supports so many teachers and students. It's a little funny to me when parents ask me for advice about their child's behavior at home or homework routines. I wonder if they assume I am a parent too, because most elementary teachers have children. I can only advise them based on what works at school and I let them know that.

    My life has led me in a different direction then I thought in some ways. Overall, I feel like I am okay with it not but sometimes I am still in disbelief that I am single and childless. It's a road less traveled perhaps, but one in which I am finding contentment.

    My Saint Bernard "baby", Archie, who I got in 2017!

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      Flexible Seating: Do THIS, Not THAT

      Looking for some tips for flexible seating? I sure was when I started implementing it a few years ago. I couldn't find any quick lists, so after using it for three years, I thought I'd tell you my top tips! Also, if you want my free Flexible Seating Ebook, click here to grab it!

      First: DO Try it! If you want to know why, check out some of my other blog posts about Flexible Seating, at the end of the post!

      Don't put seats out without modeling and going over the expectations. Post them with visuals. This might mean you need to put out one type of seat at a time, or if you are doing them all at the beginning of the year, introduce just a few each day. If you end up having a student who can't follow the guidelines, and you have to tell a student they aren't allowed to use a certain seat for a day or tow, do it!
      (Heidi Songs, Make my own, link to Alyssa Hacker)

      Don't expect it to work for everyone and don't expect it to solve all problems. A few students will do best with traditional chairs, a desk, or both. Keep a few in your room in case, or try a half and half mix. Students with limited core strength, for example, will have trouble sitting on stability ball chairs and IKEA stools/wobble stools (though the balls and wobble stools, if used for a few minutes a day by students, will help strength the core). Students with trouble focusing may need a separate seating area, like their own desk. Make sure you read all IEPs and 504s thoroughly so you know your students' needs when it comes to seating. Flexible seating will be beneficial to so many students, though!

      Listen, let's get real, students fall off EVERY type of chair. I have had students fall of traditional chairs, fall off IKEA stools, wobble stools, and fall backwards off scoop rockers. The only things    kids have never "fallen off" were cushions of the floor and camp chairs, though I am sure someone      could fall off one!

      This is how I started! I first got 4 wobble stools from the Scholastic teacher store using my points. The students loved them and after that year, i decide to go full flexible seating. Start slow if you think that's best for you,, maybe introduce one or two types first before going full flexible seating -especially if it's the middle of the school year! If you want to go full force right away, and you know that works for you, go for it! Just again, make sure you follow my first tip, and model and go over expectations for every seat before students use it!

      Do stay flexible based on the needs of your specific students and situation. For example, when something doesn't work you may need to take it away. Last year, I did have to remove stability balls from the classroom for a few reasons. Also, you can add more of a seat type that works well for your students, or if the excitement is wearing off for one type of seat, try something news and switch things up. Keep in mind, you need to stay flexible based on your specific students' needs. Don't go into it assuming something won't work or that something will work!

      Expect questions, comments, and positive feedback from parents! I have an upcoming post with tips on how to talk to parents about Flexible Seating! It will be posted on August 4, 2019 .

      Here are some other Flexible Seating posts that may help you, especially if you're getting starting, or evaluating what you have!

      Adorable Flexible Seating clip art is from Educlips!

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        Flexible Seating Round Up

        Hey teachers! Are you looking for flexible seating ideas?! I have compiled all of my flexible seating posts here to make it convenient for you so you can choose what the best one is for you right now! Enjoy and let me know which one your favorite is!

        Would you like a flexible seating ebook to help you on your flexible seating journey? Click here or on the image below to download it!

        Grab a Flexible Seating Freebie!

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