I posted an image on Instagram recently and got a huge response that I wasn't expecting. 

We're all having the same problem, right? I'm glad it's not just me! 

If your students are anything like mine, they can tell you what makes a great sentence. They can tell you that it starts with a capital letter, ends with some type of punctuation, has correct spelling and neat handwriting... but they're not doing that in their own writing. 

So they have the knowledge, and they also have the application skills. If I ask them how their sentence is looking, they can quickly notice and correct their mistakes. 

Apparently, writing with correct conventions hasn't become a habit. I'm not sure if that's related to effort... or what. 

So my thought was that if it's related to effort and motivation, what can I do to make my students care more?

We talked about what it means to be an author and when we will need to use writing in real life (aka ALL THE TIME).

We also talked briefly about work ethic and how their work reflects back on them. I said something along the lines of, "You can tell me that a sentence needs to start with a capital letter. So if I'm hanging your work in the hallway and your sentences don't start with capital letters, what does that say about you and your work ethic?"

Lastly, we talked about the word oath, then we wrote our Author's Oath. 

After students signed the oath, I hung it up on my wall in plain sight. So now when we are working on writing, I constantly remind my students to remember their oath. If students are forgetting aspects of correct writing, I'll just ask them, "Are you following your author's oath?"

I've had a few teachers ask me if the oath is in my store or available anywhere for download. The answer to that is no, and it's not going to be, because you need to write the oath with your students. Kids aren't going to take the oath seriously - or take any responsibility or ownership - if it's someone else's words. They need to come up with it themselves.

Use my picture as a reference if you want, but don't show it to your students! It's only going to be meaningful to them if they create it themselves and feel that sense of ownership and responsibility. 

Hopefully it'll pay off for us!

If you're looking for some resources to help your students become better writers involving grammar, conventions, etc...

  • I use mentor sentences by Jivey and they're amazing! Mentor sentences make such a huge difference in my students' understanding of grammar and writing conventions. See them all here
  • Also, Kim Bearden does a great, interactive punctuation lesson about teaching students to be "Grammar Police." Such a fun way to practice punctuation with your students! See it here
  • I do have a resource of my own that has worked pretty well with my students. My "Missing Punctuation Paragraphs" are paragraphs that are missing punctuation. There are four different levels - involving various types of punctuation - and students have to figure out where to place punctuation and capital letters. You can read more about it on this blog post

Good luck - We've got this! 

Hey teacher.

You're incredible.

Do you have a variety of flexible seating options for students to choose from?

You're a great teacher.

Do you [still] have desks?

You're a great teacher, too.

The seating options we provide our students certainly impact students' learning environments, but they do not define you as a teacher.

Flexible seating is amazing. Search #flexibleseatingclassroom on Instagram, and you'll find more than 5,000 images of gorgeous, modern classrooms. Students are working in spaces that are comfortable for them: couches, bean bags, picnic tables, and so on.

Is it for me? No. 

It's just not. As a teacher, I like order, and clean lines, and structure. As a student, I like having a spot to call "mine" that I can return to at any time for a feeling of comfort and security.

The closest I ever got to flexible seating was when I swapped to tables for a few years. This gave students the ability to choose their own places, and I lowered about half of the tables for students to sit on the floor if they wanted to. They loved it and I loved it, but then I moved to third grade.

In third grade, we do standardized testing. In the classroom. This is why I had to switch back to desks.

Sad, I know.

It's okay if you still have desks.

I know this, because I still have desks. 

I still have desks, and I know my students are learning.

I still have desks, and I know my students are happy.

I still have desks, and I know I'm being the best teacher I can be right now.

In my opinion, the idea behind the educational buzzwords "flexible seating" is empowering students by providing them with CHOICES and opportunities to create their own path for effective learning.

Empowering students through choice increases intrinsic motivation, engagement, and sense of ownership, all of which in turn increase achievement.

I still have desks, but do I force students to sit at their desks all day? Of course not!

If I'm teaching whole group, students can sit at their desks or on the carpet.

For partner work, group work, or independent work, they can sit anywhere. I always encourage them to choose a "smart spot" where they are able to do their best learning. Rugs, pillows, and tables/desks are all we need!

My students are comfortable in my classroom because of the way I treat them.
The relationships we have and the way I manage my classrooms allows students to feel comfortable, safe, and secure in their learning environment.

Have you enjoyed creating a classroom environment with flexible seating trends?

You're an amazing teacher.

Do you [still] have desks?

You're an amazing teacher, too. 

Whether you are looking to #treatyoself, add items to your wish list, or shop for the amazing teacher in your life, this is the list for you!

Here are 5 items I truly CANNOT imagine my classroom without:


This is one of those items that I didn't know what I was missing until I had this in my life. I use this ALL. THE. TIME. Seriously, at least once a day. I use it to pre-cut interactive notebook pages and cut out lamination (all the task cards)... It is truly a major #timesaver.

Mine is a hand-me-down gift from a retired teacher, but it's by Swingline. You can find a similar Swingline paper cutter HERE. It's 15", self-sharpening, and has a safety lock... win, win, win!


Yes, this is a thing. It actually exists. It works great, and it's so handy. It's so much more convenient than your regular glue gun that you'll actually use this one more often!

Surebonder doesn't make my model anymore - It's 5 years old and still going strong - but you can find a newer version HERE.


Okay, this may be a *little* less exciting than the other gadgets, but I truly LOVE these books. I use The Reading Strategies Book DAILY. I don't use the writing one as much, but I aspire to! It's great for writing conferences.

Honestly, I try not to spend a ton of personal money on my classroom, so these books were on my Christmas list last year, and Santa delivered. I am oh so thankful, because they are a literacy gamechanger!!

Click to check out The Reading Strategies Book and The Writing Strategies Book

4. A CAMELBAK. Or maybe 5. 

Recently, a student asked me if I have a different color water bottle for each day of the week, and I totally said yes. I literally have 7 of these in my house. I've been a Camelbak user for about 10 years now (!!!) and if that doesn't prove my love for them, I don't know what does.

For our health, it's important to stay hydrated. For some reason, the Camelback straw helps me drink water faster than I would out of a normal water bottle or cup. Don't ask why, because I don't know, but my first Camelbak truly turned me into a fish and taught me how to love drinking water!

Here's why I love Camelbaks in the classroom:
- The insulated bottles don't sweat. Put it on your papers, on your planner, whatever.
- They don't spill. I held my water bottle upside down the other day to amaze my students. (I was looking for the capacity label on the bottle, and they all gasped, not yet knowing how magical the Camelbak is.) That means you can throw it in your teacher tote at the end of the day and not worry about spillage. Whoohoo!
- Save the environment, duh!

You can find the style I like here. Add a monogram sticker for more fun!


For teachers, comfy (but stylish) shoes are a MUST-HAVE. We're on our feet all day long, which can get painful!

I have 3 pairs of these Dr. Scholl's Madisons that I plan to wear all winter long.

For warmer months, I love sandals by Vionic

What are your 5 things? Any must-haves I'm missing, besides a big stash of Advil and candy? Let me know in a comment below!

**This post contains Amazon affiliate links. By purchasing an item from Amazon using these links,  I will receive a small commission on your purchase, although your price stays the same! I use that commission to keep my blog up and running. Thank you!**

I receive a lot of questions about how I run my literacy block. At my school, our schedule is blocked out, but I have freedom to arrange my own blocks (if that makes sense). So my literacy block is 9:40 - 11:15, and this is what I've decided to do with it:

We start right away with our minilesson. Students are fresh from recess and eat their snacks while I read and model strategies.

From there, students move into their Daily 5 rotations. (Our school using CAFE & Daily 5, but I don't have time to rotate students through 5 stations daily, so I make sure some aspects of Daily 5 are integrated throughout the day!)

I keep this as simple as possible. I occasionally change it up, but rarely!

I have a chart in my room so students know exactly what their options are for each rotation.

During this time, I pull small groups. You may notice I do not include myself as a rotation. I do this in order to provide flexibility for myself. Sometimes, I don't need to work with all students in one group, depending on the skill I'm teaching. Sometimes I pull students from multiple groups. I probably end up doing strategy groups more often than guided reading groups, so it just makes sense to me to leave myself out of the rotations. (I use The Reading Strategies Book (affiliate) to hold my strategy groups... more on this later!) I try to pull students when they are working on buddy reading, since I know they'll be buddy reading at my table with me!

After our rotations, we take a quick brain break (thanks GoNoodle) before transitioning into writing. I do a quick (10 minutes or less) grammar lesson at the beginning of our writing time. It's definitely hard to find time to fit it all in!

Writing looks a little bit different every day due to lack of time. On a typical day, I teach a minilesson and then students have the opportunity to try it with a partner or on their own.

Any further questions about how I run my literacy block? Leave a comment below, and I'll get back to you!

I am SO thankful for you, so I thought I'd share a freebie with you that I hope will be useful in your classroom!

My text features products are some of my absolute favorites.

I originally created them my own classroom. I needed a way to assess my students’ understanding of text features other than by observation, and I wanted the assessment to tie in curriculum and relevant content. Thus, this product line was born. The kids have fun using different colors to identify the different text features, and it provides great work samples for me. I first made them about science and social studies topics, then biographies, then holidays!

I'd love for you to download the Thanksgiving text features passage for FREE! 

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    At the end of the first quarter, teachers at my school are expected to hold conferences with each child's parents. This is the third year that I have chosen to do student-led conferences, and I don't plan on ever turning back! Let me tell you why:

    • It takes a LOT of pressure off of me. Students do a lot of the preparation and the spotlight is on them. 
    • Students take responsibility for their own learning, behavior, and progress. 
    • Students get to practice their speaking and presenting skills. 
    • Parents see their child in an environment and situation that they do not typically get to observe. 
    • Teachers can see how students interact with their parents, and parents can see how their children interact with the teacher. 
    • Students, parents, and the teacher work together as a team to set goals and determine next steps. 
    It is truly amazing. It's an excellent learning experience for the students - and for the adults - and the sense of pride they walk away with is priceless!

    When I first started researching student-led conferences, I read two super helpful blog posts: this one by Brooke Brown and this one by Alisha from Missing Tooth Grins.

    I actually use most of Brooke's student-led conference product combined with some of my own handouts that I create for the students and parents.

    In the weeks leading up to conferences, we prepare a little bit at a time by completing about one page a day. (This includes self-evaluation checklists and work samples.) Students keep everything in their data folders. Once all the papers and work samples are ready to go, we start practicing! We make two lines in the hallway: one for students and one for "parents." Students buddy up and take turns presenting their conference materials.

    They begin by welcoming their parent to the classroom, saying hello to me, and telling their parent where they can sit down. Then, they just follow their checklist!

    Yes, this takes some class time - maybe 20 minutes a day for a few days - but I believe that the time is valued by building those speaking and presentation skills.

    Conferences last for about 15 minutes, but I keep a buffer of 5 minutes between conferences just in case one runs over! Any behavioral or academic concerns that need to be addressed with the parent should come as no surprise to both the parents and the student. I think it's a great chance for all three parties to talk together to hold students accountable for making improvements.

    If parents don't bring their students, I simply use the materials that they prepared to hold the conference. It goes just fine.

    Are you thinking about trying student-led conferences? Let me know in a comment below!

    I'm really trying to be better about holding writing conferences this year.

    These simple questions have completely changed the quality of my writing conferences:
    🔹What did you write about? Why?
    🔹What was the easiest part of your writing process?
    🔹What was the most challenging part?

    I've found students to be very open and honest. It's helped me build relationships and obtain valuable insight. It makes note-taking easy!

    As for feedback, I'm just using sticky notes. It's easy, fast, and they stick right in students' notebooks! For now, I'm making a "Glow" sticky note and a "Grow" sticky note. This keeps conferences short and sweet, just like this blog post. ;)

    If you're looking for a conference log, I have one that you can download for free in my TPT store! 

    Happy conferring! 

    My Curriculum Night was just a few weeks ago, and I wanted to find something to keep parents busy while they waited in the hallway. I decided to bring my students' writing to LIFE by recording themselves reading it! Here's a detailed tutorial to show you just how EASY it is! 

    I used the Voice Memos app on my iPhone to record students reading aloud. It was very easy to trim and alter if needed, and the quality is good! Best of all, it's an app that's already on your iPhone so it's totally FREE!

    Students were called one at a time to enter the "recording studio," AKA my closet, where they read aloud their writing nice and clear. 

    After recording, I used the share button to upload my recordings to Google Drive. 

    I love Google Drive and use it for just about everything! 

    In order to get the QR codes for my students to scan, I just used the shareable link from the Google Drive file and copied it into GOQR.me.

    I use GOQR.ME, but there are plenty of free QR code generators that you can use instead. 

    That's it! Just download or copy the QR code and place it on a poster or wherever you wish.

    I pasted them into little squares that I ended up printing on white paper then gluing directly to their writing. 

    (Side note: I added the smileys to make the QR codes unreadable in order to protect my students' privacy. However, if you use the camera app on your phone to scan the code in step 8, you'll hear me reading aloud a social studies book that I detailed in this blog post - LOL!)

    You can do this with any writing that students produce as well as any books or book sets that you have on hand in your classroom. The possibilities are endless!

    Will you be trying this? Let me know in a comment below! 

    On a recent Instagram story, I mentioned that we earned a new unit for our 3rd grade team. I'm not sure how common this is, but you all had lots of questions for me!

    I had 25 students in my class, which is the state maximum for first, second, and third grades. However, we had to wait for the ten day attendance count and allotment funding to come through before hiring a new teacher. We were so lucky to find someone amazing, but at this point, we were 4+ weeks into the school year, so the transition was tough for everyone!

    How many students did you lose?

    Five. Five sweet, clever children that I had spent 5 weeks bonding with.

    How were students selected to move?

    There were so many details that went into this decision, which was made by the administration team:

    • reading levels and math levels - We have leveled classes, so this is important!
    • demographics - The new class needed to be just as balanced as ours, as far as ethnicity and gender. 
    • exceptionalities - The new class needed to have a fair amount of students receiving gifted and/or special education services. 
    • supports - Students served by EIP and/or ESOL were not moved as it would not be in their best interest. 
    • special circumstances - Last year, one of the 2nd grade classes was collapsed. To be as conscientious as possible, students who had to move last year due to the class collapse were not moved this year. Students brand new to the school were not moved either. 

    How was this handled with parents?

    At Sneak Peek, before school even started, all parents received a letter from administration stating that our numbers were high and we would likely earn an additional third grade unit. During Curriculum Night, we stressed to parents why this is a good thing and how smaller classes sizes benefit our students. 

    Parents were kept in the loop as a hire was made, and all parents received a timeline. Phone calls were made to parents of students that were moving. 

    Parents were invited for a coffee and meet-and-greet with the teacher on the students' first day in the new classroom. 

    How was this handled with students?

    Parents communicated the information after the phone call. 

    On the week that students moved, Tuesday afternoon there was an ice cream party in their new classroom with their new teacher. Students participated in some about me activities to get to know each other while they enjoyed ice cream. Students came back to my class SO excited about their new class! 

    On Wednesday, we helped our students move their materials and supplies to their new classroom. 

    On Thursday, they started with the new teacher! 

    How did you help students make the transition?

    While 5 of my students were at the ice cream party with their new teacher, I had a meeting with the rest of my class. We talked about how they might be feeling and how we could support them. We decided to make "binder covers" for them, which was essentially a white piece of paper that students could slide into the clear pocket on the front of their binders. 

    Students were excited to hear that we would still go to specials together and see each other at recess every day! 

    Of course, some students were still emotional about leaving. I was honest with them and told them that I cried, too. I made sure they knew that they didn't do anything wrong and that I love them and that I am so sad to see them go. We talked about how and why they will be a great addition to the new class. We talked about the positives and how this can and will benefit them. 

    How did you support the new teacher?

    Again, my grade level knew this was happening, so we made efforts to keep everything as consistent as possible. 
    • All of our gradebooks were the same, students' notebooks and folders were labeled the same, etc. 
    • Our amazing data clerk set up her grade book and transferred all of the grades for her. 
    • We graded papers for her. 
    • We made sure that her students' diagnostic tests and reading levels were completed. 
    • We gave her plenty of community supplies, like tissues, soap, hand sanitizer, etc. 
    • For her first week, we provided her copies and gave her the lesson plans a week in advance. 

    Luckily, she fits right in with us! 

    *          *          *          *          *

    This transition was truly difficult on all of us. Ultimately, it's a good thing. We had to remind ourselves that everything happens for a reason, and we decided as a team to trust that those students were placed in that new classroom with purpose. It's going to be a great year! 

    So you have a ton of dust jackets from all the amazing new books you picked up over the summer. Now what?

    Every new classroom I've moved into has provided me with new dust jackets to inherit. I don't know why teachers leave them behind... maybe they are a lot like me and just can't bear to trash them! of course I ended up with a bunch of dust jackets of my own, too, and had to ask my Instagram friends for suggestions on what to do with them.

    The most sane suggestion was "Don't be a hoarder; Trash them."

    OKAY, OKAY. I hear you loud and clear.

    But... is it hoarding if you make something out of the dust jackets instead of just shoving them in a cabinet?


    Here are the rest of the *brilliant* ideas I collected:

    • Laminate them and tape to books like library books.
    • Cut them into bookmarks. 
    • String them to make a pennant
    • Frame them for a gallery wall. 
    • Mod Podge letters, or wallpaper a whole wall! 
    • Make a bulletin board background.
    • Use them for your classroom's alphabet. 
    • Turn them into a writing center option. Students write a story to match the cover.
    • Use them to identify and sort genres. 

    from @sarahlarnett on Instagram

    from @theteachernextdoor on Instagram

    from @theeverydaylibrary on Instagram

    from @effiekaradimitri on Instagram

    from @itsthep2peepsoftce on Instagram

    Seasonal (time-sensitive) ideas:

    • Make a March Madness book bracket.
    • Make a cape and wear it on Halloween or Storybook Parade, etc. 
    • Make Christmas ornaments for student gifts. 

    So, what's your plan? Are dust jackets trash or treasure?

    I love to read, and chances are that you do too.

    As educators, we often read children's literature to stay in-the-know and professional books to improve our practices. But how often do we read fictional novels that can teach us just as much as a teacher textbook?

    Years ago, when I was in college, my mom (Hi, mom!) handed me a book and said, "If you're going to be a teacher, you need to read this."

    That book was Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult. She told me it was about a school shooting. I refused for a long time, because I felt the content was too “heavy.” But, mama knows best, and she kept insisting. Now, I'm hoping you will read it too. 

    Nineteen Minutes tells the story of a school shooting, including multiple perspectives leading up to, during, and after the nineteen-minute event. It’s eye-opening, thought-provoking, and absolutely heartbreaking. It’s changed me as a person, and it’s my favorite book of all time. I fell in love with Jodi Picoult's craft and research-based fictional style, so I asked my mom for more. 

    Next she handed me House Rules, also by Picoult. House Rules is about the family of a boy who has Asperger’s Syndrome. When a murder happens nearby, he is assumed guilty by law enforcement due to his knowledge of historical murders, fixation on crime scenes, and lack of “normal” social habits. It’s insightful, informative, and tugs a little too hard on your heart strings. 

    Those two books by Picoult, recommended by the amazing educator that is my mother, absolutely changed my mindset and helped me grow as a person and as a teacher. 

    I realize that there are areas in which I need to continue to grow, and with all that is going on in our country right now, I started seeking out novels to help me do it. 

    I borrowed the ebook version of The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas from my public library and read the entire thing on my phone in just a few short days. 

    Here's the synopsis from GoodReads: "Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed."

    I don’t think I have the words to review this book well enough to do it justice. I cried, I giggled, and I couldn’t put it down. I learned a lot. The author says it well in her acknowledgment: “Your voices matter, your dreams matter, your lives matter. Be roses that grow in the concrete.”

    Image result for far from the tree
    image from http://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2017/12/12/robin-benway-far-from-the-tree 
    Far From the Tree was recommended to me by a friend, and I certainly didn't expect to learn as much from it as I did. GoodReads describes this YA novel as "a contemporary novel about three adopted siblings who find each other at just the right moment." It was so interesting - and eye-opening, and thought-provoking - to go through the story from the perspective of three siblings with different life experiences. As teachers, we often have students in our classroom who are either adopted or fostered. Even if students are happy in an amazing adoptive or foster family, they still have experiences and emotions that we could never imagine. That insight was gained through reading this book, making me a better and more empathetic educator.

    Buy them. Read them. Educate yourself. Have empathy. 

    All of the books mentioned in this blog post are linked on my Amazon page. (Look for the list titled "Novels for Educators.") Know that when you buy something through my Amazon influencer page, I receive a small portion as commission. It doesn't cost you anything extra, but the extra funds help me keep this blog up and running! 

    Do you have any titles to add to this list? Let me know in a comment below.