Category Archives: Teaching Tips

That substitute life…

subA few years ago, my family relocated for my husband’s job and I left my job of 8 years in Minneapolis Public Schools.  It was one of the hardest decisions for me because I loved my job, my coworkers, my school- all of it.  But I hated the commute.  I was driving about an hour and a half both ways, daily, with my kindergartener.  So much of my day was wasted, and I felt pulled in two directions- my old life in the city and my new life in the country.

So I left my job and took a substitute position in my new town. I have enjoyed it a lot- learning a new school, new grades, a new way of teaching.  I spent the first year in my new city subbing in three different grades- 3rd, 4th, and Pre-K.  Because of the change, I was inspired to create several new teaching products, including a bunch of substitute resources.  I hope some of these can help some of my fellow substitute teachers!

First, you need to get yourself a sub job.

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Substitute Bundle: Everything you need to be a successful substitute! 

Included in this bundle:
1. Sub Report- A quick report that you can fill out in less than 5 minutes at the end of your day to leave notes and comments for the teacher!

2. Record of Substitute Jobs- Because we know you can’t remember which schools and teachers you do and don’t want to sub for again!

3. Editable Teacher Resume

4. Editable Teacher Cover Letter

5. Substitute Flyer to hand in workrooms/ teachers lounges.

Hopefully this can help you get your name out there in a few districts, so you can get to subbing right away!  Next, you’re going to have to introduce yourself:

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Meet The Substitute Introduction Handout

You will just fill in your info (introduction, education, contact, favorites) and you’re good to go!  I used it for the first day of school and I have it hanging outside my classroom for curious eyes. 😉

Then, you need to have a plan.  Ideally, the classroom teacher that you’re subbing for will have plans nicely laid out for you.  However, every substitute has their own horror stories about walking into a class with no plans at all, no idea when things happen, etc.  I have a few stories of my own that I’ll save for another day.  But I have learned now that substitutes need to come in with a few things they can pull out a moment’s notice.

Here are some fun suggestions:

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100 Chart Mystery Puzzles (appropriate for grades K-4) 

Kids love these puzzles where you have to search out a certain number on a 100 Chart, color it the right color, and figure out what the picture is. I’ve done it as a race- who can finish it first?- or as a filler when kids finish early.  Even older kids (3-4th grade) enjoy this!

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HUGE Writing Prompt Bundle

Writing is a great way to fill out a literacy block.  Sometimes teachers don’t leave quite enough plans, and writing is a great way to do something useful and productive.  First, teach a quick mini-lesson on an appropriate writing skill- maybe sound spelling in kindergarten or using different types of sentences for 3rd grade.  Then give the kids a prompt page from this bundle, or let them choose their own prompt!  Let the kids write, then let them share their stories on the document camera!  Done and done!  You could even compile their pages into a class book to show the classroom teacher, if you have time!

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Fiction/Non-Fiction Scavenger Hunt

This is a fun (FREE!) activity that any grade can do.  Students search the room for 10 titles that are non-fiction and ten that are fiction.  Before the hunt begins, do a quick review of “clues” that students should look for that would tell if it is fiction or non-fiction.  You can do the scavenger hunt in partners or you could do it as a race.  Easy, worthwhile activity!

 

I hope these ideas will give you something to keep in your “bag of teacher tricks.”  Good luck, substitutes!

-Laura

 

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Vacation Journal- a must-have!

It’s almost spring break!  Every year around this time, I have families emailing me saying that they are heading out of town for vacation!  It’s very exciting for them, but can be stressful for me as the teacher to prepare homework in advance or collect classwork while they are gone.

Instead of assigning homework ahead of time, I decided to start sending a trip journal as “optional homework” instead, and families have loved it!  It keeps the kids writing and thinking through their trip, and becomes a fun keepsake for the child afterwards!  It also is fun for the child to share with their classmates when they return.  It’s a win-win!

We used it this last year for our own kids when we went on a family road trip from MN to CO for a family wedding.  I recommend it to anyone who has kids.  It can be appropriate for any age- from preschool to upper elementary.  Preschool will require support with writing, but would still enjoy drawing the pictures.

You can find it here at my TeachersPayTeachers store, Miz Riz Elementary Resources!

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It is a 17-page download, with a printable packet! The packet has a fun cover and a note to parents, explaining the purpose of the journal.

 

 

The rest of the pages are interactive pages for students to complete!  There is a page for students to record how they traveled!  Here is an example, thanks to my daughter Kayla, who used this for our Colorado vacation last year.

 

 

 

Also, students can record who they travelled with, what the weather was like, and where they went on a map (both USA and world map included!).

 

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The rest of the pages are simple journal pages for students to record what they did each day, with a blank spot for pictures and lines for writing.  I have included 7 days worth of journal pages.  If you need more, you could always add a couple before copying the packet.

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I hope you find this useful for your classroom and your family!  Enjoy!

Check out my TPT store, Miz Riz Elementary Resources, for more downloads to support teachers and parents!

-Laura

 

 

 

Pumpkin Math!

Hello teachers!  Happy fall!  It’s the time of year for apple orchards, boots, falling leaves, and PUMPKINS!  And why not incorporate such a fun season into the curriculum?

cimg8097This is a fun math unit my team came up with over several years.  It uses a REAL pumpkin to teach math measuring concepts!  We edited this unit and tweaked it over many years.  We created it for kindergarten, but it could be used for grades Pre-K through 3rd.  Here are the details!

This is a 3-page printable math lesson using REAL pumpkins! Pick up a huge pumpkin and a tiny pumpkin and you’re set! I have done all four parts to this in one long lesson, or I have split it up over 4 days. Use as you’d like! It covers:
• Weighing the pumpkin- We visit the school nurse with our pumpkin and have her weigh the pumpkins on the large scale. I also have each student predict the weight.
• Measuring the circumference. I hold out a length of yarn and each student cuts it to the length they think will go around the pumpkin. Then we measure the actual length and each student finds out if their guess was “shorter,” “longer,” or “just right!”
• Count the lines on the pumpkin. We have found the easiest way to count the lines is to designate a front and back to the pumpkin, and then count each side. Then they have to add the two numbers.
• Count the seeds. This is so FUN and MESSY! Give yourself plenty of time for this! It took my K class about 45 minutes. I have the kids sit at tables, then scoop (or let the kids grab!) a scoop of pumpkin guts. They separate the seeds into piles of ten, then we count by tens as a class. Large pumpkins generally have around 600 seeds!

It is also aligned to Common Core Math.  Here is one of the standards it covers, for kindergarten specifically.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.K.MD.A.1
Describe measurable attributes of objects, such as length or weight. Describe several measurable attributes of a single object.

If you’re looking for a break from the normal math curriculum for a few days, this is a perfect fit!  It also would be fun to do on the day of the Halloween party, because we all know that not much actual learning happens that day!  This would be one day to redeem the day!

I hope you enjoy this!

Download the unit here:  Pumpkin Math Lessons!

Also, check out a freebie for your Halloween party here: Fall/Halloween Party Signs!

And, here is a link to some great writing prompts for this, and other, holidays! Holiday Writing Prompts!

Laura

 

Vocabulary Cards! Easy to use template!

Hey teacher friends!

Teaching vocabulary is built into most curricula, and we know it’s an important part of reading.  But I have always struggled with how to teach it in a fun way.   So I just created these easy to use vocabulary cards.  They are meant to be used as flashcards that the kids create.

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All you have to do is download, copy onto heavy paper, cut, and show the kids how to use them.  The kids write the word, part of speech, a sentence with the word, and draw a picture.  Then, you can use them however you’d like- as flashcards, test practice, games, etc.

I hope you find this useful and fun!

-Miz Riz

(: Emoji Bulletin Board/Door Decorations! :)

I love door decorations and bulletin boards.  I especially love them if they are easy to create and I don’t have to run to the teacher store to buy them!

Here’s one you’ll love!  Everyone loves emojis!

Download this document and follow the simple directions to make a fun, memorable door or board!

Enjoy!

-Laura

*Must Have* Class Roster!

Yes, every teacher has to have a handy roster.  We use them constantly- for attendance, for keeping track of forms, for assessment and grading, for email addresses, whatever!  I seriously go through dozens of these each year.  One handy download, and you’re set.  And better yet, you’ll look like you actually put some time and thought into making a cute roster, rather than the basic, computer generated ones given to you by the office.  Enjoy this quick download to make your back-to-school week easier!  🙂

 

-Laura

Meet the Teacher Introduction Note!

“Who’s your teacher?”

“Have you found out who your kid has for a teacher?”

“What class is she in?”

 

It’s that time of year!  Kids are getting their letters, revealing who their teachers are for the upcoming year.  They want to know as much as they can about their teacher before the first day of school. Who is this mysterious person who will be in charge of my life at school for the next nine months?

Here is a simple printable for teachers and subs alike to introduce themselves to students and their families.  You can send it with their letter telling who their teacher will be, or you can give it at Meet the Teacher night.

I made it in a simple word doc so you can edit the pictures and info.  Enjoy!  Pass it on to your teacher friends!

-Laura

 

 

Back to School: Curriculum Overload!

It’s back to school time!

Bulletin boards!  Meet the Teacher Night!  Class Lists!  Labelling!  Laminating!

And on top of it all, they throw a few new curricula at you!  Yikes!

I have been there.  I have been teaching for eight years and not a single year has gone by without at least one new curriculum or program added.  That is a lot to handle, especially when you oftentimes get handed the books just days before you’re supposed to teach them.

To help us handle the overload of different curricula that we needed to teach, my team developed this Scope and Sequence Planning Chart.  It’s a basic excel document, but it will save you so much trouble!

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Why you need it:

-With big teams of teachers (mine was five teachers per grade!), it is imperative that we all stay on the same page, teaching the same units at the same time.

-With several curriculum per unit of study (two language arts, two math, one social studies, etc), it can get very easy to get behind.

-Starting with a laid out plan will save you from getting to May and realizing you haven’t taught a unit yet!  Yikes!

-With a plan in mind, you can work the units around the quarters (or trimesters), school breaks, testing windows, and school events.

-It will make you look super organized to both administrators and parents of students.

 

Here’s what you do:

-Download this planning chart for your team.

-Set a planning meeting with your whole team.  This will take at least an hour.

-Set the basic parameters of the planning chart, editing in Excel.  Add in your notes, trimesters or quarter breaks, and your curriculum titles at the top.

-With your team, physically collect and lay out all the curriculum you will be expected to teach this year.

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-Decide as a team what units you will aim to complete each week, month, and quarter.

-Print and save!  Stay on track all year!

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Check out this and many other useful resources at my Teachers Pay Teachers store, Miz Riz Kindergarten Resources! 

-Laura

 

First Day Folders!

Hello, teacher friends!

It’s that time, when teachers  get antsy  for school to begin.  Don’t get me wrong- we LOVE summer.  But we love teaching too.  And it is the natural rhythm to begin thinking of our back to school to-do list at this point in the year!

So I am sharing a must-have for back to school:  The First Day Folder Packet.  This is a packet filled with information about your school and classroom. I have revised, developed, and edited every year since I started teaching.  I feel like I have a solid product to offer now!  Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 10.07.23 AM

This is a packet that is meant to send home on the first day of school, to answer as many questions that parents may have at one time.  You could also send it at open house or “Meet the Teacher” too.

It WILL need to be edited, of course, for your information.  You may need to delete or add sections.  But I hope having this template to use will make the process easier for you.

It covers these topics:
-Communication: Email, folders, directory, website
-Drop off/Pick Up routines
-Lunch/Snack options
-Birthday routines
-Volunteering
-Specialist schedule
-Homework
-School forms
-Rest/Nap time (specific to Kindergarten, may need to be deleted for other grades!)

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The format is easy to read, with bold headings and short paragraphs.  At the end, I also include a daily schedule and a form for parents to fill out so they can receive my emails and photo sharing posts.

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I hope you enjoy this product and find it easy to use!  Now, get back to your summer and enjoy those last few weeks!

 

-Laura