Three Fantastic Classroom Routines to Save Your Year

Over the course of my teaching, I have developed 3 routines that truly improve the quality of life in my classroom. I always find myself so thankful that I don't have to stress about passing out papers/materials, checking/grading practice work, or cleaning up. The beginning of the year is full of teaching, practicing and perfecting routines, so throw these routines in the mix to make this the best year ever.

 Passing Out Materials/Papers

 I simplify a lot of passing out materials by having students keep many materials at their seat. This way I'm not passing out scissors, glue sticks, etc every time we need them.

 I use this strategy mostly with papers, but their are other times it comes in handy. It's called the "Take One and Pass It On" strategy. 

In my class, we spend a lot of learning time on the carpet. Students are either seated in rows or in a circle. When I pass out materials, I hand a stack to one person at either side of the row. They take the paper, place one on their lap and hand the rest of the stack to the next person. This works in a circle too. I pick 2 students who are beside each other and they each pass in the opposite direction.

 At the beginning of the year, I teach this strategy explicitly. I hand the stack of papers to the students on one end of the row but ask them to hold them until I give directions. I then guide each movement- "Take the paper off the top and place it in your lap. Hand the rest of the papers to the person beside you. Now that you have your paper, go to your seat and get started." I repeat for each student and we move down the rows. It doesn't take long for them to master it.

By October, I'm already circulating the room or calling students to my table for help by the time the last paper gets to the end of the row.

Trade and Grade

 In order to make grading meaningful and manageable, I decided long ago that I didn't need to grade everyone's practice work.  I adopted Trade and Grade and never looked back.

Before using Trade and Grade as a strategy, we have several classroom discussions about being honest, being kind and how some things are easy for some people but difficult for others. Since students will be seeing others practice work, we talk about not yelling out how someone did.

I usually wait until October before I introduce it. When using Traded and Grade, I have students change papers 3 times. This way, students do not know who has their paper and will stay focused on their own paper. Several years ago, a mom donated 2 entire boxes of purple crayons. I'm not sure where she got 2 64 packs of purple crayons, but that is what we use to Trade and Grade. I usually post the answers on my active board for students to check. After students check the paper they have, I collect them all and look at them. I pull out papers of students who need additional help and send the rest home.

In the beginning, this routine is very guided. I post the answers on my active board and cover up all of them except the first one. Then we go step by step. I'll say things like "Look at the answer on number one. The answer is Cat (or dog or 4 or blue). Look at number one on your paper. Does that paper say cat beside number one? If it does, leave it alone. If it says anything else or you can't read it, circle the number 1."

I train students not to use checkmarks because I do look at every paper, even if I'm not checking it.  When students use checkmarks on everything, it's hard to see where the actual mistakes are.  By circling the number of the missed problem, I can quickly check to see if they made a simple mistake or need reteaching on the concept.  I keep the papers of students who need reteaching and send the rest home.

A Clean Up Routine

I am a firm believer in students keeping the room clean.  Many kids, however, are never taught HOW to clean.  At the beginning off the year, I teach students to go through a series of steps.
1.  Create a clean desk.  This is done with a clean desk anchor chart.  Students should have nothing on top of their desk and items are stacked neatly inside.
2.  Pick up the trash around their desk and throw it away.
3.  Move to the common areas of the room and pick up the trash and put away other items.

In the beginning, these steps are very guided.  I give verbal directions like "look under your desk.  Do you see any trash? Pick it up and throw it away?  Any pencils or crayons? Pick them up and put them away?"

After a few days of guided practice cleaning, we put the whole thing to music.  I have found that Rockin' Robin is a perfect amount of time.  There is also an easy to recognize set of words at the end that signals students to return to their seats.

These are 3 of my favorite classroom routines!  What is your favorite routine?  Drop me a message and let me know!


5 Positive & Powerful Affirmations for School Librarians at Work

What are positive affirmations?

According to, positive affirmations are "positive statements that can help you to challenge and overcome self-sabotaging and negative thoughts".  If you repeatedly think and believe positively, you can improve your actions.  

Think of it this way. If you want to have a healthy body, you have to exercise repeatedly.  I can't go to an exercise class or the gym and expect that one action to have a repeated effect on my body. I have to work out over and over for the exercise to have an impact.

The same is true for positive affirmations.  The more we repeat them, the more we believe them until the positive affirmations come through in our actions.  

I have a personal story about positive affirmations.  I am a single mom of a teenager.  When puberty first started to rear it's ugly head, I was also having a really rough year at work.  I was constantly on edge, yelled more than I liked and felt like I wasn't actually doing anything to make my life any better. I was just bouncing around from one dumpster fire to another.  

I taped the positive affirmation "I will respond calmly and patiently to everything that happens today." on my bathroom mirror and read it each and every time I went in the bathroom.  After a week or so of reading it and repeating it to myself, the phrase started appearing in my mind on it's own- right when I needed it!  As time went on, I noticed that I WAS handling everything that came my way calmly and patiently.  

You can find this image and others in my blog post on positive affirmations for teachers.

Why should I use positive affirmations at work?

Using positive affirmations at work can have long lasting impact.  If there is an area that you would like to change, adopt an affirmation that addresses that area.  You might choose to work on creativity, productivity, confidence or negative self-talk or when setting goals.  

For example, if you set a goal to increase circulation of graphic novels, you may choose to adopt a affirmation like "Graphic novels are an important part of the collection, children love to read them and they have powerful benefits." Purposefully affirming graphic novels will keep them in the forefront of your mind.  This will lead to actions that may include recommending graphic novels to readers, creating displays that highlight graphic novels or advocating for the purchase of more graphic novels.  

How can positive affirmations help during a global pandemic?

The world is a crazy place right now.  School plans for the fall change regularly and some librarians aren't even sure they will have jobs in the fall. 

Navigating these changing times will require librarians to think flexibly, collaborate in new ways, add value in ways that we have not previous, and maybe even advocate to keep our jobs.

Pre-Corona Virus Pandemic, I operated on a fixed schedule where I saw 8 classes a day and rotated through the whole school within a week.  Post-Corona Virus Pandemic, I don't actually know yet.  I know that my district is starting back virtually and I will have virtual classes, it will not be on the same schedule as face to face.  When we do go back to face to face learning, I will most likely operate on a cart.

What are some positive affirmations I can use in the library?

#1 I am a valuable and important member of this school.

With all the focus on classroom teachers & students right now, it's easy to feel overlooked. This is a great affirmation for you if you are feeling unimportant and left out. 

#2 I make a difference in the lives of my patrons in both virtual and face to face learning.

This affirmation is for you if you are worried about continuing to make a difference. 

#3 I have valuable insight and play an important role in collaborating with teachers.

Collaboration with teachers is a huge part of our job as Library Media Specialists.  Personally, I am on a fixed schedule so it was difficult to collaborate with others as much as I would like. I am choosing to look forward to using my time in a different way so I can collaborate with other teachers.  This affirmation is for you if you are worried about being able to collaborate with others with blended or virtual learning.

#4 I can help patrons find resources in a virtual or blended learning design.

It's hard, for me, to think about being a librarian while I'm not in the library with patrons.  This positive affirmation is for you if you are also struggling with this issue as well.

#5 I will think flexibly and creatively when challenged with new problems.

This affirmation is for you if you need to remember that you ARE a problem solver and you DO have the ability to be a successful School Library Media Specialist.  

What positive affirmation am I adopting for the library this year?

This year, I am adopting "I will think flexibly when challenged with new problems." as my positive affirmation.  

I moved from the classroom into the Library Media Center a year ago.  I had previously taught for 17 years in grades K-2.  I was burnt out and looking for a change. I have been extremely happy with my decision.  However, this year was not at all what I thought it would be!  I feel like I barely got my "library legs" when we closed down.  This year will give me the ability to grow as long as I remember that I am a problem solver and that I am capable of being a great librarian in an uncertain world.

Next stop on the blog hop is Mrs. J in the Library with some advice about teaching library lessons from a cart!



Cookie Arrays

Arrays aren't always an exciting topic to teach, but cookie arrays will hook your kids for sure!

In this array lesson,  kids were engaged, the practice was differentiated and it was a great way to end a week of learning about arrays.

For this lesson, I used:
  • aluminum foil to use as baking trays
  • cookie clipart- )These aren't the ones I used but you can find black and white chocolate chip cookies here)
  • scissors
  • glue sticks
  • index card

Array Lesson Prep

  • tearing off aluminum foil sheets
  • cut out blocks of cookies in different array numbers (I used 4, 6, 8, 9, 12, 15, 20, 25 and 30)

How To Teach the Cookie Array Lesson

  • Review array vocabulary- row, column, equation, repeated addition
  • Each student got a cookie tray and sheet of cookies to cut out (This is how I differentiated!  Each student got a different amount of cookies to form into an array based on need.)
  • Students cut the cookies out and arranged them on a tray.
  • After students got their cookie arrangement approved, they glued the cookies and colored them.
  • After gluing the cookies, students wrote a repeated addition equation to show how many cookies they had.
Other Thoughts
  • I used Christmas cookies, but you could use regular cookies or cookies for any holiday!
  • How fun would it be to actually bake cookies?  That sounds like a great homeschool lesson!
I loved this lesson for a couple of reasons!

For one thing, the differentiation was so easy.  Students who were struggling received a small number of cookies (4, 6, 8, 9).  Students who had a fair grasp received a middle amount (12, 15, 20) and my students ready for a challenge received a large number of cookies (25 or 30).

I also loved this lesson because the kids LOVED this activity!  They were happy and engaged while they worked!  (Also, admin did a walk through and THEY loved this lesson!)

What is your favorite activity when teaching arrays? Drop me a note a let me know!


Circus Classroom Ideas and Supplies

Welcome to the Big Top of Classroom Decoration!  These fun and whimsical circus decoration ideas will make your circus themed classroom pop.

This resource will make it easy to theme your classroom circus!  It includes name plates, calendar pieces, word wall headers/alphabet cards, classroom job cards, and labels.

I think this door display would bring the WOW to you Open House and/or First Day of School!

This is another eye-catching door decoration!

This bulletin board border will work for any theme but I think it would be great in a circus!

It looks like this is in a Media Center, but it could be anywhere in the school!

What a fun way to display sight words your students need to know!

Let your classroom clock be the Ringmaster!

These seats were actually created for a movie theme, but I think they would work well with a circus theme too!

Not really a DIY kinda person?  You can find these things already made or amazon!  (The links that follow are Amazon affiliate links.  This means, I may receive a small commission, from Amazon-not you, if you purchase any of these materials. I cross my teacher heart that I ONLY recommend products I know, love and use!)

Your classroom would be the main event if you passed these red noses out!
I think this would make an AMAZING Book Nook or Reading Corner!
You could use these to make a photo booth!

Pin this for later here!
Do you have any ideas for a Circus Themed Classroom?  I would love to hear about them!
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