Classroom Management & Organization, Teaching in Quarantine

Organization Strategies for Hybrid Teaching

This year has been a lot. In many ways, I feel like a first year teacher all over again, creating new materials and trying new teaching strategies. I’ve also found that the systems I previously used to keep myself organized with attendance, grades, and other administrative tasks are inadequate, and again, I’ve had to find new solutions. Here are a few strategies that I’m using to keep organized in COVID times.

The setting: Concurrently teaching students in the classroom and online via Teams, students submit work through Schoology

Attendance: I’ve never bothered to keep paper copies of attendance, but this year, I do. I print off rosters from Powerschool every two weeks. If a student is on Teams, I mark DL, and for classroom learners, I write down their seat numbers. I draw a box around missing students in case they show up tardy (the box is also great because it is easier for me to see when I enter attendance in Powerschool). By keeping it on paper, I have a record of who is actually showing up on Teams, and I also have documentation of who sat where on what date for contact tracing.

Agenda and Learning Targets: I post this as an assignment on Schoology, in a special folder called “Daily Agenda”. This is my default screen share for the beginning of Teams meetings. Sometimes I’ll attach handouts or link activities in the agenda. This helps keep my unit folders less cluttered.

Grading: I’m spending a lot of time chasing down student work. Here again, I use the roster print out from Powerschool. Schoology assignments are easy to sync to the gradebook, but often I am checking for work on many different websites, such as Flipgrid, Quizlet, and Señor Wooly. I use the roster to check off submissions or write down grades, and around once a week I send students individual Schoology messages with a list of missing assignments, which has been effective in getting students to complete assignments.

How have you adapted your organization strategies for teaching in COVID times?

Classroom Management & Organization, Teaching in Quarantine

The Beauty of the Grade Change Form

Ms. Brown, I redid that assignment, will you change my grade?

Ms. Brown, I still have a zero in Powerschool for the quiz I made up last week.

Ms. Brown, I finally submitted the assignment that was due two weeks ago, can you grade it please?

Late work, make up work, re-done work: I may get a notification in Schoology, but that doesn’t mean I will remember to update it in PowerSchool. And I certainly can’t stop in the middle of class to update a grade, nor can I be counted on to remember by the time my planning period rolls around.

Would you please fill out the grade change form?”

The grade change form puts the responsibility on the student to notify me of the issue, and sends me an email I can deal with on my planning period. It lives at the top of my Schoology page, so it is easily accessible to students. Between distance learners, classroom learners, and quarantined learners, I have a lot to keep up with, but the grade change form gives me an easy way to keep up with make up work, and makes one less thing to keep track of in my overworked brain.

Gracias to Elsie Ratcliff for sharing this idea in her fabulous webinar with Jamie Vega. You can find the link to their presentation “Tips for Easy Unit Planning during Digital Learning​” on the Georgia World Languages Professional Development page.

Classroom Management & Organization, EdTech

Curation: Sort, Share, & Steal

Recently I read some posts on curation over at Cult of Pedagogy. I think curation is useful not only for ourselves, but can save other teachers a lot time when those curated collections are shared. Today I want to share some of the tools I use to curate, some of my curated lists, and some lists that have been curated (or collaborated on) by other language teachers. Many of these were mentioned in my SCOLT presentation, so these ideas may not be new if you were at my session.

On Twitter – Lists

Do you use lists on Twitter? I made a few lists several years ago and as I’ve recently followed a few political accounts, I find it useful to use my lists when I’m looking for teaching ideas. You can click here to see my lists; I’ve chosen to keep some private, but my teachery lists are public. You can add an account to a list by clicking on the three dots next to the follow button on their profile, and you can also view other people’s lists on their profile page. If you want to sort all the accounts you follow into lists in one fell swoop, TwitListManager may help to speed up that process.

On YouTube – Playlists

Have you ever tried searching for playlists on Youtube, rather than just a song? If, for example, you search for “spanish commercials,” and then refine your search to playlists only, this is what you will get:

youtube playlists

In the top three results, you’ve got a list of 28, 13, and 37 videos that someone else has helpfully curated for you. I also like Youtube playlists for music. I use playlists to collect the songs we listen to in class (I post it on our LMS, and will play it sometimes while we work or play Kahoot), and I use other teachers’ playlists to discover new songs that are likely to work with my students – comprehensible, clean, and catchy.

To see another user’s playlists, click on their profile. Sharon Birch’s playlists are a musical goldmine!

On Pinterest – search for boards, not pins

Y’all, I hate Pinterest. I find it to be a timesuck and the links are always broken (sidenote: to exclude pinterest from your google image searches, just add -pinterest to your search). However, when I do venture into Pinterest, I search for boards, rather than individual pins. I found this strategy especially useful when I was looking for ideas for teaching a novel – I could check out one or two Brandon Brown Quiere un Perro boards, and have  a lot of ideas at my fingertips. Or, similarly to Youtube, you can check out the boards of other teachers, rather than going down the search bar rabbithole.


Blog recommendations from other language teachers helped me out hugely when I was a baby teacher looking for ideas & mentors. I use feedly to manage my blog subscriptions, with sections for politics, friends, recipes, and teaching. I haven’t been able to find a way to share my complete education reading list from feedly with you, but you can see the WordPress blogs I follow in the right hand sidebar. Again, I find other teachers to be the best resource as to what blogs to follow, so I love checking out other teachers’ blogrolls.

This post was written in March 2018 – I’m cleaning out my drafts folder this week 🙂

Classroom Management & Organization

5 Ways to Stay Productive during Post Planning

One more year done!

It is 8:30 on day one of four of post planning, and I am DONE with grades. What do with my time for the next four days? It has always been hard for me to get any actual lesson planning done without an imminent class to inspire me, and it is terribly hard to concentrate on serious tasks after the marathon of finishing those last six weeks after spring break! While it may be tempting to wile away the hours with social media and gossip over long lunches, I have a few ideas for how I can stay productive this week even with diminished capacity to concentrate:

  1. Organize my digital files. I got a new laptop from my school last fall, which meant moving all my files off my old one. Then we got a notice in December that our old desktop computers were being retired, and to back up all our files. After these two transitions, I have copies of my files on Google Drive, One Drive, my laptop, an external hard drive, and a flash drive or two. I need to go through my files and save them all in one place (particularly the files I’ve created on my laptop but not saved on the cloud). I also need to do a culling – it makes it very difficult to find things when my unit folders are cluttered with activities I haven’t used in five years.
  2. Clean out my file cabinet. I have tried, at various points, to make organized binders for each unit I teach. It is so, so hard to maintain these! Goal number two is at least organize the file folders in my filing cabinet and to toss resources I’ve stopped using. If I get really ambitious perhaps I can get one or two more units transitioned over to a binder, rather than the hodgepodge file folder.
  3. Make bulletin board resources at the TRC. My district has a wonderful wonderful resource called the teacher resource center: a downtown building with a die cut machine, construction paper in every color imaginable, unlimited laminating (with volunteers to run the machines!) and both color and black and white printers (with daily limits on copies, but still – free color printing!). I want to spend one afternoon next week at the TRC letting the creative juices flow. I want to print and laminate this music fast-finisher station from TPT to use as a bulletin board next year, and perhaps print some other games and resources best seen in color.
  4. Read professional learning books and blogs.

    IMG_20161225_101920 (1)
    Christmas morning with my brand new copy of “The Language Teacher Toolkit”

    I actually read quite a bit of The Language Teacher Toolkit while proctoring standardized tests in  April, but I still haven’t finished it. I also would like to spend some time going through my backlog of unread blog posts, my saved posts on Twitter and Facebook, and combing through Pinterest to find some ideas for next year, and get those sorted and organized so I remember to use them next year.

    5. Collaborate My district has set aside one day for professional learning, and my department is using our time to meet with the language teachers from the other two schools in our district. We did this last year as well and it was such a positive atmosphere of sharing and collaborating. I’m looking forward to sharing my presentation from FLAG as well as my student notebooks, and to learning some new tricks from my colleagues.

How do you stay productive during post-planning?

Classroom Management & Organization

Routines for April


I mentioned in my post-conference reflection on FLAG an idea of implementing a long-running class competition. I am officially doing it! I have long resisted giving extra credit, but gosh it is just so effective for getting kids to act right! Here is my procedure: group kids randomly (draw a number from a cup) or purposefully (Melanie Stilson has some good ideas) into groups. I do 4-5 students per group, which translates to 5-6 groups per class. Students are in these groups for the duration of the unit. Throughout the unit, students get points for speaking answering questions, participating in class, helping, being supportive of their group/class, winning games, and generally acting positively (I track these with tickets and take them up and record them at the end of each class. It is much easier to record for the group than for individuals). The day before our unit test, we do review games such as Quizlet Live, Kahoot, or Quizizz, with winning students earning points for their teams. The team with the most points at the end of the unit gets five bonus points on their test.

First Period’s Scoreboard


I regularly get the urge to rearrange my room – it just makes everything feel different and fresh. So, here is my latest arrangement, with desks arranged into “tables” of 4-5 seats:

My classroom: desks in groups of 5

Here is the awesome part – with inspiration from Melanie, we are rotating tables! So students sit with their groups, but they rotate to a different part of the room each day. I really like that I’ve got my kids grouped with people they don’t normally talk to, and the fact that I’ve got different faces up front each day. I use the same number tents for all of my classes and rearrange them on my planning period, and if problem kids end up next to each other in a class I just swap them on the spot.  I have never been able to keep up with Sara-Elizabeth’s daily random seating assignments (I just have to get to the bathroom between classes!), but setting out six tents once a day is manageable for me.

Index card to mark where group 6 is sitting  today

Inhala, Exhala

I am working on increasing my use of the TL…to be honest, it’s a struggle. One thing that has helped me (and my students) is implementing a routine to establish when I expect TL. I tell them Inhala…Exhala…we take a couple of deep breaths, and then I tell them No hablen inglés – vamos a hablar el español. (Side note: I totally lost it today when we were in the middle of a big inhala and a poor allergy sufferer burst out but I can’t breathe!) I think I saw a version of this on Kara Jacob‘s blog, and it always makes me giggle on the inside thinking of Rogelio de la Vega:

After our breathing routine, I tell a (short) story and ask questions, and give tickets (group points) to students as they answer.

That’s what’s working for me these days! Let’s see if it can get us through these last few weeks until summer. 🙂

Classroom Management & Organization

Interactive Student Notebooks Set Up


The first time I tried doing interactive student notebooks, I wasn’t very successful. We used them a lot at the beginning of the semester, and then kind of petered out. The second time around, I went down the hall to ask some notebook advice from some math colleagues, and got a couple of simple suggestions that really helped me with consistency the second time around. I use notebooks for warm ups, notes, vocabulary, and handouts. I do fancy foldables sometimes, but my primary goal is organized note-keeping. With that in mind, I want to share a few tips for keeping you and your students organized with ISNs.

  1. The first time you do it, you might want  to only do it with one class.
  2. Post the table of contents on the wall.
  3. Have a consistent schedule for checking notebooks. I check notebooks each time students take a test. That way, I can grade while students test, and if I need to keep some notebooks to finish up  on m planning period, it’s a night where they won’t need them at home to study.
  4. Set up notebooks together a few days into the semester. I used this slideshow, copied from my friend in the math department:

To make your own editable copy, click here. Click file, make a copy, and then you can edit and download to your heart’s delight! If, like me, you are on a block schedule and are starting new classes, the dates for the warm up pages might be helpful to you. I have students reserve a warm up page for each week of class at the beginning of the semester, and date those on our notebook set up day. After that, we have a consistent beginning of class routine that allows me to catch my breath and get my mind focused while students complete their warm up on the designated page without asking me a million questions.


Online account list on the left, pocket for in-progress papers on  the right.
Online account list on the left, pocket for in-progress papers on the right.

This semester, I added a user name list at the back of the notebook. My students made accounts for Quizlet, Padlet, and Conjuguemos last semester, and I plan to also use Duolingo and Señor Wooly this semester, plus whatever other gems I come across that require student log in. I get so tired of having to look up student log ins, so I thought it would be helpful if they at least write down each website they register for along with their username and a password hint.

What are your favorite ISN tips?

Classroom Management & Organization, Sp 1 Unit 1: Greetings/goodbyes/ numbers/calendar, Teaching Reflections

First Week of School: I love everything!

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Reviewing our basic phrases with Bob and Squishy. I LOVE Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell’s “First Unit of Spanish 1” unit plans! I have to follow our department’s curriculum but her lesson plans let me start off the year with a comprehensible input BANG while still satisfying the department requirements.

  • Also, I love those speech bubbles. Spent waaaaay too much time getting them, the textboxes, and the animation perfect! Here’s the presentation, the template is on page 7.
  • I love stations! I repeated these station lesson plans from last year…so much easier this time around! Also easier with my new classroom and having space to organize materials!

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Basic “to-do” list on board, asterisks for what requires something to be written down, and a note on where to find instructions for each task.

  • I love having clothespins hot glued all over my walls:

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Grab a bag & take it back to your desks.

  • I love seeing my kiddos playing with the blocks AND following the instructions!

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I set a time limit on the blocks station… it worked well this year. Had issues last year with kids complaining about not getting the blocks because one group hogged them.

  • I love that I saved my example paragraph from last year, and COULD FIND IT when I needed it! Also, I love that I had all the instructions typed up and could actually find them on my computer! Hooray organization!
    2015-08-07 10.05.22
  • I love the enthusiasm of brand new Spanish 1 students! And I LOVE hearing them practice with each other!

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I love how organized I am the first week of school…even had a box with extra handouts for the week on the shelf below.

  • I love my Spanish books. And I LOVE seeing my students look through them!

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Switched gears after 1st period and bagged up books in gallon zip locks for Spanish 2 to use in a cognate lesson.

  • I don’t love reviewing grammar in Spanish 2…but I loved doing conjugation practice in a walk-about with these prompts posted on the walls!

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Rules: 1. Write a verb in the correct form that makes sense in the sentence. 2. Don’t repeat any verb another student has already written. 3. Be creative! Be wordy! Be FUNNY!

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And I love that my department head bought me all this beautiful construction paper!

  • And last of all…I love the honeymoon phase. Happy back-to-school, y’all.
Classroom Management & Organization

Keeping organized: Put it in the box!

Just a quick post to share a cheap & cute organizing trick of mine:

The Box

2014-08-21 14.30.53

Last year I had a couple of stackable trays for students to turn their work in to. This year, I didn’t have enough trays, so I grabbed some file folder boxes (lids too!), covered the edges with colored duck tape, and labeled them with the class period. Voilà! I have a designated spot for students to turn their work into, the papers stay off my desk, the boxes are pretty to look at, and the only money I spent was on the tape. Success!