I don't know about you, but I have my students work with partners constantly.

Sometimes partners are assigned strategically, based on data for intentional instruction.

Sometimes, however, I just need my students to find a partner or at least someone to turn and talk to during think-pair-share.

I was tired of my students taking forever to find a partner.
I was tired of my kids working with the same people over and over.
I was tired of saying "make a better choice" or "you aren't allowed to work together."

I have equity sticks and use them often, but the partnerships aren't planned and therefore often aren't great.

Here's a management trick to partner your students successfully - the first time, every time. 

Thus, I introduce to you...

The Partner Wheel!

I originally heard this idea from Amie Dean, The Behavior Queen. (Side note: SHE'S AMAZING!)

It's perfect for partnering your students. Put students that you don't want working together on the same circle… They will never figure out why they never end up as partners.  LOL! #teacherwin

I've been implementing more whole-brain teaching into my daily routines, so I've been using this partner wheel to determine weekly reading carpet partners. It may not be the prettiest thing, but it serves its purpose!

If you want to make one yourself: Search "circle segmented into __ parts" on Google images to find a circle that fits your needs. If you have 24 students, you'll need a circle partitioned into 12 parts. Print one smaller than the other, attach with a brad, and there you have it!

Want to save some time? Download my editable template for FREE!

Join my VIP list by entering your email address below, and the partner wheel template will immediately be delivered straight to your email inbox. 

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    Give it a try! If you make your own, please send a picture my way on Instagram either @schoolandthecity so I can praise your hard work!

    Love this idea? I'd super appreciate it if you shared this post with your teacher friends.

    Note: This blog post was originally published on The Primary Peach blog on February 9, 2017. 

    Last weekend, I had the privilege of attending the Teach Your Heart Out conference onboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, Navigator of the Seas!

    Quality time with other teachers, who just GET me...

    PD at sea...

    What could be better?!

    Let me tell you all about it.


    We boarded the ship on Friday in Miami. Having arrived early, we were able to spend the afternoon at the pool meeting and hanging out with teachers from all over the country! 

    On Friday night, TYHO threw a luau-themed welcome party. We had a great time on the dance floor!


    Saturday was reserved for the conference. 

    Sessions were divided up by grade level, but not mandated, so that each teacher could choose relevant sessions!

    I started the morning with a joint session by Juan Gonzalez and Brittany Root, "Turning Content into an Adventure." They talked about engagement strategies for introducing new topics as well as fun - but rigorous - ways to practice skills in context, like simple "escape" activities.

    Next was "Wild About Writing" with Ashlyn Ellsworth from The Creative Classroom. Teaching writing is definitely a weakness of mine, so I appreciated all of her insight! 

    After the (all-you-can-eat buffet) lunch break, I got to see Brooke Brown in action talking about integrating STEM with reading and writing. 

    Brooke's session gave me tons of ideas about how I can incorporate play into my classroom - even in the midst of test prep emphasis coming down from the top. 

    Lastly, I hung out with Eric Crouch and Jed Dearybury - who are hilarious - in their session, "Destroying Writers Block." 

    What I loved about each session is that all of the information was innovative, but completely realistic and applicable for my own classroom. I certainly walked away with some great ideas and renewed motivation!


    After the sessions on Saturday, we grabbed some chairs by the pool to enjoy some sun before dinner and a show. 

    Oh, Sunday. On Sunday, the magic happened. 

    We debarked as soon as the gangway opened in Nassau, Bahamas. Hundreds of educators in matching T-shirt carried bags, boxes, and SUITCASES full of school supplies to donate to local students and teachers. 

    Once we made it through the port, we hopped on buses - which were VERY well air-conditioned, might I add! - that took us through Nassau to Sandilands Primary School.

    First, we spent some time wandering around and exploring the school. I was able to see inside a third grade classroom and the administrative office. Other teachers visited the library and the computer lab.

    After some time exploring, we all gathered at the front of the school to donate the school supplies we brought with us.

    Casey Bethel's aunt is actually the principal of the school! 

    Casey told us that our donations would "leave ripples for generations and generations." Many kids in the neighborhood can't attend school because they can't afford uniforms. He told us that there are parents who do not send their students to school because they don't have the materials they need to learn. 

    "For us to be able to do this for this school shows that all of us, all educators, all around the world, are fighting the same fight. We're pouring into lives of the next generation of kids who are going to help make the world a better place." 
    - Casey Bethel 


    Although school was not currently in session, many teachers came to meet with us. Students were invited to come say hello and pick out some brand new supplies.

    The principal, Esther Cartwright, noted that the teachers were wearing matching teal shirts, just like us! Their shirts said, "It takes a big heart to shape little minds." Ms. Cartwright went on to say,

    "That's for our little darlings that come to school every day. We try to steer them in the right direction for them to succeed at their schoolwork. We're going to do it one child at a time." 


    The conference concluded with a night with Gerry Brooks. He is hysterical and so uplifting. (Gerry, are you hiring?!)

    All that being said, if you get the chance to attend a TYHO conference - especially on a cruise ship - DO IT! It was the perfect mix of work and play, and was exactly what my teacher heart needed this summer. I can't wait to do it all over again in 2021! What are you waiting for? 

    I've already written all about HOW and WHY you should use choice boards in your classroom. Are you convinced yet? (If not, revisit that blog post here.)

    I've made tons of choice boards for my own classroom (13, to be exact!) and many others for YOUR classroom based on requests. View all of my choice boards here

    So are you ready to try choice boards, and maybe even wanting to make one personalized to your own classroom? THIS is the blog post for you! 

    Recently, I was featured on the Edverything Podcast reiterating why I love choice boards and telling teachers step by step how to make their own. (Listen here). 

    Want a quick recap of the design segment of the podcast?

    Here are the basic steps I go through when making my choice boards:

    1. Choose your topic and zoom in.

    2. Review your standards BEFORE designing tasks... I learned this the hard way! 

    3. If needed, pull up a visual aid for Bloom's Taxonomy to get your creative juices flowing.

    4. Strategically place tasks on your choice board based on depth of knowledge / level of thinking required. If you choose to ask students to complete a tic-tac-toe, you'll want them to complete three different types and levels of tasks.

    5. Use QR codes for tasks that require technology. 

    6. Appeal to various learning styles. Think: multiple intelligences. 

    To help you achieve this, I've created a resource to guide you through the creation of an awesome choice board. This checklist includes types of tasks you should try to include on your choice board in order to appeal to various learning preferences and to create opportunities that are engaging, rigorous, and relevant. At the bottom of the checklist, I've linked my favorite resources that I use to help me as I create my own choice boards. 

    I'd love to send you this resource for FREE to help you make intentional choice boards! 

    Are you ready for this?

    Join my newsletter, and this choice board will be delievered right to your inbox! 

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      In order for students to be successful, you'll need to set expectations. The higher your expectations are, the more your students will achieve!

      One problem I've had with choice boards is students rushing through tasks to try and get them all done. We had to have a class meeting to discuss that getting all 9 things done is not the goal. Creating something to enrich your knowledge and to demonstrate your understanding of the content is the goal! At the beginning of the year, I created exemplars to show students the quality of work that I expected from them. 

      At the end of each unit, students love to present their work to the class! They are so proud to show off their hard work, and they get to work on those speaking/listening skills. 

      Lastly, choice board products make a great and super easy hallway display! Students can hang up their work as they finish something they are truly proud of. Your hallway display will be cohesive yet differentiated - win win! 

      Have I convinced you yet? What are you waiting for?! Get started on your own choice boards, or save yourself some time by looking at all of the options I have for you here.


      Year six is DONE, y’all!
      I spent a lot of time during the last week working on my “back to school box,” which I’ll pack in my closet LAST so it’s easily accessible when preplanning rolls around much too soon.

      I learned this trick from some other teacher friends of mine, and it truly makes returning from summer break SO MUCH EASIER and so much less stressful!

      I’ve been doing this for the past few years and it’s a TOTAL game changer - seriously.

      𝐇𝐞𝐫𝐞’𝐬 𝐰𝐡𝐚𝐭’𝐬 𝐢𝐧𝐬𝐢𝐝𝐞:

      • Sneak Peek supplies (tablecloths, signs, forms, etc)⁣⁣
      • Supplies I’ll need immediately (scissors, Sharpies, stapler, staple remover) ⁣⁣
      • Blank nametags for desks and for students ⁣⁣
      • Back to school bulletin board decor⁣⁣
      • Birthday treats for the year⁣⁣
      • A note I wrote to myself when I started my first year of teaching: My former principal made the whole staff do this, and I still have it!

      Do you make a back to school box?

      If not, try it this year and thank me in the fall!

      Each year, 3rd graders participate in a "living wax museum" project during the last month of school. It's truly one of my favorite days of the year! We spend a few weeks reviewing nonfiction by studying biographies, then students get to bring biographies to life! 

      If you haven't tried a wax museum yet, you totally should. It is SO much fun - You will be so impressed by your students!

      We all have research standards, writing standards, and speaking/listening standards that can be taken care of with this project. Having students write speeches and present in front of an audience is not only meeting standards but it also an important life skill. 

      My team chooses for students to complete the project almost entirely at school. We spend a few days researching, a few days writing, and a few days making posters. At home, students practice their speeches (aiming to memorize) and put together a costume. 

      We also encourage artifacts to make our wax museum like a real museum. You will notice that Jackie Robinson brought a baseball bat and glove, while Maria Tallchief brought her pointe shoes! 

      I like to show my students pictures and videos of real wax museums to help them understand the concept. Otherwise, they have no idea why it's called a wax museum!

      We also spend some time watching videos on YouTube of other schools' wax museum exhibits, that way students have a model of exactly what is expected of them. 

      On the day of our wax museum, students show up in costume and we all trek to the cafeteria to set up the exhibits. Students must choose a statue-like pose for their wax figure and remain still and silent until a visitor presses the "button" to make the figure come to life! 

      We invite the second graders to our wax museum for a little bit of practice before the parents arrive. 

      You can grab the "button" for free right here. If you need to edit it to fit your needs, click "File," then "Make a Copy" to duplicate the document to your own google Drive. 

      Are you looking for a resource to give you a head start on your wax museum project preparation? I've got you covered with this teacher-tested, parent-approved, completely editable resource.

      This product includes a fully editable parent letter explaining the living wax museum project, a suggested timeline for project completion, a rubric, and an optional outline/organizer to help students write their speeches. Read more here

      It is specifically designed to be used for book characters or famous Americans, but really the possibilities are endless. You could tweak it to make it work for historical figures, public figures, people important to your state, or anything else that helps you meet your standards!

      HAVE FUN! 


      Once upon a time, when I first started teaching, I started building my classroom library. 

      I gathered books from retiring teachers and Goodwill. Throughout my career, I've grown my library by using Scholastic Book Club points, visiting Scholastic Warehouse sales, and shopping for specific series lots on eBay. The bins are from Dollar Tree, and they've held up well! 

      I must say - I'm super proud of my library! 

      My first school required me to have my library sorted by guided reading level. I get that! Students, in order to improve reading skills, should be reading books on or slightly above their instructional reading levels. 

      My library looked like this for six years... until now. 

      I noticed this year especially that my students rarely visited my classroom library unless I forced them to "book shop." They LOVE reading on Epic! where they can easily search and sort by categories. 

      Plus, as a grow as a teacher, I've learned that the most important thing about a child reading is that they are learning to LOVE to read. What if they can't find a book they love in their reading level basket? I don't want to be the adult in a child's life that turns them off of reading. 

      So, I decided to take on the hefty task of reorganizing my library by categories and genres. The kids helped me brainstorm, and it actually only took a few days to do! 

      Here's what we ended up with:

      • Short Fictional Stories (aka 5 baskets of picture books)
      • Early Chapter Books
      • Fiction Favorites
      • Magic Tree House (the only series that could fill a basket on its own)
      • Fantasy
      • Sports
      • Silly Series
      • Mystery
      • Historical Fiction
      • Realistic Fiction
      • Adventure
      • Math
      • Fables, Folktales, and Fairytales
      • Animal Fiction
      • Animals: Nonfiction
      • Nonfiction

      I added examples to some of the labels to help students out. For instance, Junie B. Jones and Horrible Harry fall under silly series. If you want to see more - or use my labels for your classroom - you can find my classroom library labels HERE. (It's a Google Doc, so you'll need to make a copy to your own Google Drive in order to edit it. Click File, Make a Copy!) 

      The labels are the perfect size to fit inside the clear pocket labels from the Target dollar spot. That makes it super easy for you to change out if needed, too! 

      The biggest issue I face now is the book return, because I've willingly made the system more complicated. Honestly, kids put books back wherever they want - even when they literally had to match the letter on the book to the letter on the basket - and I'm sick of it! 

      Until I can come up with a better system, like labeling my books again (which I know will take forever), I've decided to create a book return basket. 

      For now, this will be my job to replace the returned books. I know it's another thing to add to my plate, but it's a task I'm willing to take on in order to save my sanity. Plus, I'm thinking that if kids are finding books they actually love, they won't be trading out books as often since they'll be enjoying them from start to finish! (Wishful thinking?)

      Eventually, I'd like to train students to be in charge of the book returns. I may train my after school program students, who are the last to leave during dismissal and already file all my papers for me - ha! Or, I'm thinking that I could add the task to my team jobs. We'll see! 

      The pink label bothers me a little as it doesn't match my color scheme, but I hope it stands out enough for kids to actually use it! 

      Any questions? Leave them in a comment below!


      It's that time of year, y'all! *finally*

      Time for students to reflect on their year of experiences while you start packing up your classroom. Whew! Exciting, but hectic! 

      One of my favorite projects for the last week or two of school is this newspaper creative writing task

      It's a meaningful, creative writing activity for the end of the year! Students use all those writing skills they learned throughout the year to write about how they feel about the end of the year, their favorite memories, and advice for next year's students.

      We all have standards that state something about "using standard conventions of English" and "with the support of an adult, publish a writing piece." This is a great end-of-year assessment tool to see how much your students have grown in their writing abilities. Copy one of the pages as a work sample, if you need one! Most importantly, it's also a fun way for our students to "publish" their writing by creating their own newspaper; They love it! 

      It's up to you if you use just one page or all four! I personally like to use all four pages and have students glue them on a 9x18 piece of construction paper so that the end result looks like a real newspaper. However, you could also do one page front and back so that it ends up looking more like a newsletter or pamphlet. Your classroom, your decisions!

      The comic section is - of course - the favorite of many students. They will likely need a reminder that the comic strip should portray an event from the school year, not sometime completely random AKA related to Fortnite. 

      Prepare to be shocked by how excited students get about the newspaper project and how engaged they are while working on it. This is a great task for students to work on while you wrap up end-of-year testing, makeup work, or other tasks! 

      The newspaper ends up being a great keepsake for the students, too. Bonus points!

      I know what you are thinking. Do I have this for your grade level?

      OF COURSE! You can find all of my newspaper products right here to locate that one that best suits your classroom. 

      Best of luck to you as we wrap up yet another school year! We've got this!