Sunday, August 16, 2015

A Lesson Plan Nightmare!

How many times have you finally gotten the chance to enjoy your weekend? You spent time with family or friends or even better both! You got a few workouts in. You slept a little. All was wonderful... until you realized you still had to do LESSON PLANS!

Lesson plans for teachers who teach multiple subjects can be a nightmare. I'm thinking even if you only teach one subject, they still might not be your favorite thing to do. It seems to me that they have gotten out of control. I know that for me, even after 18 years of teaching, I still need a plan. I still refer to my plans daily. However, the elaborate lengths I take to give the perfect highly effective lesson plan to somebody else who glances at it during a walk-through seems a bit extreme. I never subscribed to the if I die someone should be able to come in and teach off my plans theory. I mean if I die, they need to find a new teacher who will make the class his or her own. Plus, aren't there more pressing issues with a death like the funeral and what to wear to the funeral! Anyway, I make clear easy to follow plans for my sub. In fact, I have a whole week's worth of plans done each year for those just-in-case moments. I even offer those in my store. But back to the point... I really think we have gone overboard with our expectations. Here are the expectations at my school:

Each teacher must have lesson plans posted on current for each day of the week and posted by 8:30 am the first day of each academic week.  All teachers need to have their electronic plans in the classroom, available for viewing at all times (e-copy or hard copy).  As required by the K-12 Reading Plan, lesson plans are reviewed quarterly. Teachers are responsible for writing substitute plans. Team leaders should know where the emergency substitute plans are located.

Teacher lesson plans are meant to be highly useful for the teacher to personally use and follow. To align with ______School’s Vision, all electronic plans should include the following:

§  Daily Schedule (times for each subject/specials/lunch/recess)

§  Specific lesson standard(s) posted for each subject area daily using Curriculum Road Maps aligned with expected outcomes

§  Formative and Summative Assessments

§  90 minutes ELA Block for Reading
§  30 minutes ELA Block for Writing  

§  Evidence of i-Ready labeled tier 1,2, or 3 students (See IREADY Requirements/ Instructional Expectations)

§  Daily Math Instruction (Go Math/Think Central)

§  Daily Lesson Essential Questions / I Can Statements

§  Evidence of Gradual Release of Responsibility (I do. We do. You do.)

§  Writing for all content areas with evidence of ELA standard(s) at least once per week

§  Links and Attachments where applicable

§  ESE/ELL/504/Gifted student first names and their schedules (These items can be repeated items in plans.)

§  ESE/ELL/504/Gifted accommodations (These items can be repeated items in plans.)

§  Evidence of differentiation
                        -small group instruction
                        -remediation/enrichment plans
                        -30 minutes of required reading remediation for applicable students

§  Evidence of technology integration

§  Evidence of Kagan Structures
                        -Structures embedded
-Classbuilders- 1 per week
                        -Teambuilders- 2 per week

§  30 minutes of Physical Activity to meet PE Requirement
                  Other resources:
                  VMES Instruction Expectations located in Dropbox, Teacher Evaluation System-Danielson Model, Blooms/ Webb’s Depth of Knowledge

                  EDU Lesson Plan has built in drop-down tools for Kagan, ESE Strategies, ELL Strategies, Gifted Strategies, and Marzano High-Yield strategies.

Now each of these points makes sense. Some points are vital and cover a law. However, when you look at this document as a whole it might cause you to want to jump off the highest bridge or at least run screaming from your own school! I know some schools require even more. I had a teacher write me recently about having to show how they differentiate in each area, what they do, how they do it, and why they do it. For every subject! 

I think when lesson plans take hours upon hours to create, we lose the effectiveness. We lose the time to create quality engaging materials to actually cover all these requirements. Yes, I understand that there are some teachers who do a better job than others at writing plans and in the actual instruction. But I am not sure having the best plans makes you the best teacher. Even if I had a detailed plan on how to perform brain surgery, I would NOT be able to do it. Plan or no plan. 

I do think plans are important, but I also think we need to look at the effectiveness of a teacher in a multitude of ways. {That's a whole other can of worms! One I chose not to open at this point.} I do think that exposing teachers to best practices and holding people accountable for these practices makes sense. But teachers spending 5 hours a weekend on plans seems excessive. 

So to make life a little easier I started writing units of study with complete lesson plans. This was massive work in the beginning. However, now I have plans I can count on. Of course, I have to make tweaks and adjustments according to the needs of my students, but for the most part they are done. If this is something you are in need of, be sure to visit me at

Here are a few tools to help you get back your FULL weekend! Hope this helps. 

Emergency Sub Plans for 1 week!
Reading Plans Across the Year All Done!
Year Long Reading Plans
1 Week Lesson on Character Traits
Character Study Plans
Free Sample!
Free First Day Lesson Plans for Character Study
Free Lesson Plans for Character Study
Free Resources:

I would love to hear about your lesson plan horror stories and how you deal with them. Here's to a long full weekend!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Time for Back to School

Is it really that time already?! Well, let's get ready to go! Whether you need a little inspiration or you are ready to jump back in, Sir Ken Robinson can really remind you of your purpose and motivate you to jump back in.

Sir Ken Robinson Bring on the Learning Revolution
Sir Ken Robinson on TED

One of the things I love about back to school is the fresh start we get every year. I also love that my school takes on a new theme each year. The theme is always centered around a learning adventure, but the decor changes. For example, sometimes we are Swinging Into a New Adventure with a rainforest twist. Sometimes we are Taking off Into a Learning Adventure with space or superheroes. The best part is the whole school is decked out in the theme. Each hallway is decorated and even the rotunda is in full theme decor! The atmosphere feels alive and electric. It makes coming through the doors a magical experience. Here are some examples below. 

To go with the multiple themes, I have created some resources that allow you to prepare for the beginning of the year. Each pack comes with the following resources: 

Get Ready (Room Decor and Theme Ideas)          
Ideas for classroom decor 
Themed choices
Bulletin board ideas and templates
Name tags and team tags with different themes to choose from
Themed Numbers for behavior chart
Desk Nameplates
Name Tags or Multipurpose Labels                           
Multipurpose Labels                    
Book Bins  Labels                         
Welcome Back Theme Post Cards
Behavior Management System - Themed
Behavior Certificates
Changing Choices Contract
Weekly Folders
Super Hero Behavior Plan
Back to School Super Hero Pack 
Western Themed Samples and Behavior Charts Below
Back to School Western Theme

Get Set (Back to School Open House)
Open House “Giving Tree” Leaves
Open House Ideas and Directions
Open House Sign In Sheet #1
Open House Sign In Sheet #2                                                                                                      
Open House Scavenger Hunt
First Day Note (Parents write a note to students for the first day of school)
Something I Want You to Know
Parent Communication Record

First Week of School
Parent Letter 
Parent Packet Cover Sheet
Sample Classroom Schedule
Homework Contract
Classroom Contract
Parent Survey #1
Parent Survey # 2
All About Me 
Star Student
Beginning of the Year Survey
Create a Character - You Can Not Erase Words Activity
Classroom Compact (Goes With Create a Character)
Find A Classmate Who
Classmate Bingo
Venn Diagram Activity - Look Who Has “Venn” Working Together
School Year Goal Setting
Classroom Routines and Procedures
Behavior Graph
Team Signs
Binder Cover Sheets for Subjects
Back to School Packs and More!
Back to School Resources
I also have collected some really great ideas from teachers all over on my Pinterest Boards. I have boards for all different themes. There are tons of Free ideas for each type of classroom. 
Trina's Theme-based Pinterest Boards
Trina's Boards

Also, as an I hope you have a great year gift, I would like to also provide you a Free Preview of my Back to School Exit Slips.
Free Preview of Exit Slips
Free Exit Slip Preview

Have a great year. Happy Teaching!


Monday, July 27, 2015

Is Summer Over?!

I don't know about you, but I am still in the need for MORE SUMMER! I love the chance that we get to recharge before the hustle and bustle of a new year begins.

This summer I had the opportunity to spend time with family in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina as well as travel to see my family in the California. I feel truly blessed to have had the chance to disconnect from reality and remind myself of what is really important.

I even had the chance to spend time talking to other teachers about best practices in teaching. It seems we never get the time to really talk to each other once the busy year begins. All of these women teach different grade levels than I do. Although there were many similar stories, it was eye-opening to hear about specific grade level issues and concerns. What a valuable conversation this was!

So as the summer winds down, I am left with feeling like I need just a little bit more...
How about you? How did you recharge? Do you give yourself a break or have you already begun to jump into the next year? A little advice, give yourself a break every now and then. The importance of this career is huge. We can only be our best when we have given ourselves the best. Here's to the last few days of summer before we start to really dig in!


Monday, March 23, 2015

Teacher Evaluations!

This year the teacher evaluation our county chose to use was created by Charlotte Danielson. (This was only the 4th time they changed it in 4 years!) However, due to funding (and possibly insanity) our county chose to use the 76 indicator model. SEVENTY-SIX INDICATORS!

It was complete madness. Some of what you had to prove were how the students placed the furniture. I mean really??!! Through the piles of pages on 4 domains, I did happen to learn a few things about my teaching practice. I also discovered two areas that I thought were valuable. One of those areas were the students generating higher-level questioning. At first I thought there was no way my second graders could do that, but I was WRONG. My seven and eight-year-olds amazed me with their thinking and their ability to ask questions that really made us all think. A colleague provided us with some great stem questions and it was relatively easy to show the kids how to use these to help themselves really think about text. I think the reason it went so smoothly is that we have been asking and answering higher-level questions for some time. It was exciting to see the students so passionate about thinking and directing their own learning.

The second part of the evaluation that I felt helped me was the area where students help determine their own criteria for evaluations. (I wish they had let us do this!) For several weeks, all the criteria for all assessments, such as exit tickets or graphic organizers, were set up by the students and myself. I have always told the kids what they needed to get to a certain point (whether is is a grade or a performance based grade). However, actually writing it down together really empowered the kids and allowed them to feel as if they are a part of their own success. We came up with several specific expectation charts. I could tell a huge difference in effort and performance based on this work. We had always gone by our general guidelines, but this allowed for student input and was more specific to the given assessment.
So even though I didn't LOVE being evaluated on 76 indicators, I did learn a thing or two. It just goes to show you, we are always learning!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Kids Playing Teacher

One of our favorite things to do is to play teacher! As far back as I can remember, my friends and I played teacher. I even made my poor younger brother be the student who made bad choices. Sometimes, if he was really nice to me, I let him be the principal! I probably should have been nicer to him. Now he makes six times my salary! You live and you learn.

Most kids are no exception to the appeal of playing teacher. In my class, all kids get the chance to be the teacher in two ways. Students get to read to the class (a big favorite) and or go over the morning bell work (another favorite). Both of these roles are a huge hit with all kids. This role is optional and never mandatory nor without support if they need it. For some reason, kids really love doing this. I think it empowers them and makes them feel like they are in control of something. Even children who struggle rise to the occassion and walk away feeling good about their abilities.

The classroom environment makes a difference as well. We work hard to create a safe, family-like environment so that all children feel as if they can take risks. This especially helps when kids are up in front of the room. Allowing my class to play this role helps for future presentations. It also helps kids feel in charge, and have a sense of purpose. It can be quite funny to watch kids mimic things you have said, as well.

My favorite thing about allowing kids to be the teacher is to see what they come up with. Now groups of kids have taken it upon themselves to perform plays. The engagement, fluency work, and excitement are priceless.

Sometimes we need to give kids the opportunity to be in charge it shows them that we trust and value them. Plus, it is a time to sit back and observe just what kids can really do!

Monday, January 26, 2015

A Heart of Gratitude

Gratitude is a practice. It results in positive thinking. In a difficult time and world, the one true factor that can make the most impact is exercising gratitude. It is complex, yet very simple. The cause of resentment and poor behavior is a direct result of feeling undervalued, not worthy, not heard, and not cared about. When we focus on the things in which we do value and are the most grateful for, we can change resentment into gratitude and love. Recognizing and expressing gratitude towards children can change everything. Expressing gratitude is a simple answer for a complex problem. We need to stop thinking about gratitude as an emotion, and begin to live it as an action. Living your life as an expression of gratitude is the greatest give you can give a child and yourself. 
Gratitude Journal

When children thank while they think, they think better and deeper. Thankfulness teaches children to be in the present, and they want to give back. This journal is meant to help children begin to walk in gratitude. Remember that gratitude practices are not about smiling more and being positive, it is about recognizing the hard part and focusing on the things for which we are grateful. 
How can we start? We can live by example. We need to thank our students more. We need to share specifically what we are thankful for about them on a daily basis. If not, we are missing the daily practices that can change EVERYTHING.

I’ll start. Thank you for your interest in this blog. Thank you for the job you do each day. Thank you for making it your life’s work to change the world one student at a time. I am grateful for your support. I am grateful to work among you.

Trina Deboree (Dralus)

Meaningful Mama has a great list of books that help teach generosity and giving.
Meaningful Mama Blog

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Goals for the New Year!

So I went back to school today for a new year in 2015! The kids were pretty mild, as they all were still pretty sleepy. It was great to see all of their smiling faces. 

One of my favorite things to do as a class is to make goals for the New Year. (Much like resolutions, I hope they stick!) So this year I used a Scoot game I created last year. Scoot is so fun! It is such a great way for kids who need to move while they learn to get up and get moving. Each student had a recording sheet, like the sheet below. I placed task cards on each desk. Students move around the room answering the questions/prompts on the card. They record it in the correct number that aligns with the question/prompt. They can move at their own pace. I usually have 3-4 extra cards at various seats in the room so that there is always an open spot. 

There were four different categories that the children answered questions or were prompted to write about. The categories included:
 Smarter You!
 Braver You!
 Active You!
Better You!

This was such a fun way to reflect on things from last year, make goals for this year, and really think about how to better ourselves in 2015!
The kids and I had a blast. Make this a part of your New Year's traditions. It is available in my store for FREE! Happy New Year!
New Year's Goals (Task Cards) FREEBIE