6 Back to School Supplies Every Teacher Needs in Their Classroom

When it comes to back to school shopping for teachers many typical school supplies make the top of the list: markers, chart paper, bulletin board paper, and colorful pens. While those items are always on my shopping list, too, there are a few items that I just cannot live without in my home away from home…my classroom! 

Here are my favorite must-haves* for any classroom teacher!

The Perfect Water Bottle

All that talking, especially during the first two weeks, makes me thirsty!

I love having water on my desk all day long. I need my water cold and fresh which is why I LOVE swell water bottles! No mini-fridge, no problem! These literally keep my ice cubes in tact all day long and are a great investment to use all year long.  See all the pretty colors and designs HERE. Also check out these S'ip water bottles that are made by Swell. These also work well to keep your drinks cold all day! Not a cold drink lover? These bottles will keep your tea or coffee hot, as well! Everybody wins!

I literally use this every day! 

If you have not heard of these, you are missing out! It is a simple hot water kettle that you fill up, plug in, turn on, and in about three minutes, you have boiling water! If you are an avid tea drinker like me, it is just perfect to have in your classroom. I keep a box of my favorite teas and honey in a small Tupperware container right next to my kettle. I love to offer tea to my colleagues if we are meeting in my classroom and to parents during parent-teacher conferences. It works wonders to set the mood and make your classroom feel like home. These are so easy to use and clean that you will want one for your actual home, too! THIS is the one that I have had for years and it is still going strong!

When I first started teaching, many moons ago, I did not have to wear an ID badge. Today they are a must! I also like to keep my classroom key on my lanyard. If I take off my ID cards, I can pretty much guarantee that I will lose it, which means I am locked out of the school and classroom and will then need to buy another one.  That is why I need a lanyard that I LOVE to wear. These lanyards from Scarlett of Eden are too adorable and calming to even think about taking off! They are hand made with clay beads that I love to hold in my hands and turn throughout the day. You will instantly become addicted to twirling those hand-crafted beads, too! #teacherfidgetspinner 

Real talk: my first few years of teaching I literally said, "Where is the pen?" about one hundred times a day at every sign out spot in the classroom. Then I found the teacher's dream school supply: the pen on the chain. I am not even sure the official name, but that is what I call it! I keep these bad boys all over my classroom: on the bathroom sign out clipboard, the classroom library check out clipboard, the morning meeting book talk sign up clipboard, are you seeing a pattern? I love that my kids cannot walk away with my pen, saving the next student that needs to sign up, in, or out, the trouble of finding a writing tool.  Worried what will happen when the ink runs out? Don't be! Just grab the replacement pen and you are good to go! You're welcome! See these teacher life saving pens HERE.

There's an alphabet for that! 

I taught third graders for 16 glorious years. I loved teaching cursive and I loved having a beautiful cursive alphabet above my board for student reference. It made my classroom feel classic, timeless, and just plain complete. Can you relate? So needless to say, the year I was moved to a fifth grade math and science position, my first thought was, "Can I have a cursive alphabet still?" That is why I created a standards aligned cursive math alphabet to hang above my board. I loved having an alphabet with such valuable meaning and intention so much, that I also created an NGSS aligned science alphabet to hang along the back wall.  These unique cursive alphabets allowed me to have both a cursive alphabet AND a vocabulary resource for my students. The moment it was hung up, my classroom felt classic and timeless once again, problem solved!

If Growth Mindset is more your thing, there is an alphabet for that, too! Grab the cursive Growth Mindset Alphabet HERE.

 Teach language arts? There's an alphabet for that, too!  See them HERE.

The latest cursive alphabet is all about kindness! You will love it, check it out here.

Turn up the Volume: Microphone

Fun + purpose = instant engagement! Having a microphone in the classroom not only ups the fun factor of students reading aloud and sharing their own writing, but it also helps students' voices be heard; literally!  We all have that student who speaks and reads quietly. By amplifying their voice, all students can hear and understand what they are saying, allowing that student to build confidence each time they share! Using a microphone also increases student participation. Students who rarely, or never participate will love to use the microphone to share! Get a closer look at all of its awesomeness HERE.

These unique back-to-school items will surely up the comfort level in your classroom and once you have them all, you will wonder how you got by without them! Read my Meet the Teacher Checklist and scoop up FREE back to school welcome tags HERE.

Looking for more back to school items, check out these resources to help kick off your year in style!

Don't forget to pin this list for later!

Looking for timeless classroom decor? Click HERE.

*affiliate links: “Think Grow Giggle is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.” (source: Section 5)



Highly Effective Strategies for Launching Reading Workshop

reading workshop kick off upper elementary

There is nothing more exciting than the first few days of school! I love the smell of fresh pencils, the bright colors on the bulletin boards that have yet to be faded, and the eager faces of the students scanning the shelves of their new classroom library looking for their first read of the year. Preparing to launch reading workshop is by far, my favorite part of those first few days and weeks of school. I love reading aloud to my students, teaching reading strategies, talking about books, and of course helping them understand how to grow as readers during our workshop time.

If you are getting ready to launch your first reading workshop, or if you are looking for more ideas to enhance your already crafted workshop launching lessons and reading conferences, these tried and true tips and strategies will make your planning and running your reading workshop time stress free!

readers workshop kick off upper elementaryDon’t let the planning portion of running reading workshop stress you out! Since the workshop model follows a consistent routine, once you get the hang of the system, it is easy to duplicate, day after day. Click HERE to read how I plan for the 3 important parts of each reading workshop lesson and grab FREE workshop planning templates, too!

readers workshop kick off upper elementary
Reading workshop is highly effective for growing readers! The most important part of launching the reading workshop model is the mini-lesson. But sticking to an only ten minute mini lesson can be a challenge!  Click HERE to read my best 6 tips for keeping those all important mini lessons mini and scoop up some FREE reading workshop goodies, too!

reading workshop kick off upper elementary
One important focus of reading workshop is to build student stamina. One way to increase students’ stamina is to use the mid-workshop break. This strategy needs to be taught to your students, but once they understand how to use their break time, it will truly help them grow as readers! Click HERE to read my 3 favorite ways to effectively use the mid workshop break to engage readers of all levels and grab a FREE partnership discussion guide to keep students engaged in meaningful discourse!

reading workshop model in upper elementary classroomReading conferences are the highlight of my reading workshop block! I love to get right next to students in their working area, discuss the book that they are reading, and offer them their own personalized mini-lesson to help them grow as readers! Click HERE to find out my 3 best and easy to implement tips for reading conference success. You won’t want to miss these ideas to keep your conferences on track to help your students succeed as readers! Scoop up some reading workshop freebies, too! 

When it comes to holding effective reading conferences with your students during
reading conference toolbox
reading workshop time, organization is key! During reading conferences, I love to carry around my reading conference toolkit filled with everything that I need to confer with my readers. Using a conference toolkit allows me to maximize the little time that I have with each student since everything is right at my fingertips! Click HERE to find out what is in my reading conference toolbox, grab ideas, and a FREE printable to help you make your own toolbox, too!

Kick off the year celebrating reading with these ideas and free activities that will have you and your new bunch of students building a community of readers one day at a time! 

I truly believe in the workshop model to help students not only grow as readers but to love reading, too. By using this model, you not only grow students as individual readers, but you create a classroom culture and climate that truly loves reading and all things books! 

Pin now to save these ideas for your reference later!



End of Year Must Do: Teacher, Student, and Parent Reflections

end of year activities

There are many things on our teacher end of year to-do list, from cleaning our classrooms to completing the final assessments and report cards, our to-do list grows longer each day.  Even though we work hard to check everything off of our to do lists, adding this one more thing to your list will be the best thing you do all year! 

One non-negotiable that should be on every teacher's end of year to do list is reflecting on the school year.  

Reflecting is such an important part of being a teacher. By being reflective thinkers we are able to hone our teaching skills, perfect our strengths, and set goals for the upcoming year to further improve ourselves as educators. I use a three step reflection process to help me truly understand how the year went. I begin by reflecting on myself, I ask my students to reflect on their year, and I ask their parents to reflect on the year as well. By gathering invaluable information from my students and their families in the form of reflections, I can gain invaluable perspectives about the classroom community I am building, the lessons that I teach, and the projects that I assign. 

Quick Teacher Tips:

  1. Have parent and students complete reflection pages anonymously.
  2. Stay positive about all reflections, they are meant to help us refine our skills. Do not get upset with suggestions from students or parents. Use their feedback in preparing for your upcoming year to make improvements.
  3. After reading the submitted reflections from parents and students, make 
    a checklist of  3 things to focus on changing or modifying for the next school year. 

We can not work on everything, so select the top three that you want to focus on improving.

Try this: Reflect monthly on your teaching practices. Then at the end of the year reflect on your monthly reflections. This will make reflecting on your teaching practices at the end of the year much easier.

end of year activities

Reflecting is a simple way to set goals and improve your teaching practices. It also sets a focus for upcoming PD you may wish to attend. Be sure to add reflecting on your end-of-year to do list. Make your own reflection forms that reflect how you ran your classroom, or grab the set that I use for FREE at the bottom of this post. You will love reading the reflections from your students and their families. 

Enjoy the end of the year with your students! 

Click the picture to see high interest end of year activities you and your students will love!

end of school year activities

Check out these other FREE and EASY  to implement ideas to end your school year with a bang!

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