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. 🙂

Class Decor


1. New classroom – I moved down the hall to a room with a better layout. I worked hard all last week getting it ready for school on Monday! It’s not *quite* finished (is it ever?) but I’m quite pleased with how it’s looking:

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Desks in pairs – 3 double rows and one single row against the walls. My biggest class is 32.
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Hot glue clothespins to the wall to hold posters. It’s super easy to put up new posters, switch them out, and take them down. I also love how I can just adjust them if I don’t get them straight the first time!
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I found a pack of 44 clothes pins at dollar general for $1. They are stuck HARD as soon as they touch the wall, so make sure to get them where you want them! I put up one badly but was able to pry it off after blasting it with a blow-dryer for a few seconds. I think I’m going to use this wall for anchor charts, and the pins will make it so easy to switch them out!
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Last May we re-located our supply closet from Timbuktu to the foreign language hall and found all sorts of treasures. Found this calendar in a giant stack of posters – love the color and it looks so much nicer than the five-year-old homemade one I was using!
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Weather decals on my window make my new classroom feel like home! These are just die-cut letters and shapes taped to the glass.
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Gotta have my maps!
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This is how I left my desk Friday afternoon. Wonder if it will still be this neat next Friday?? Ha!
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Found this cute whiteboard in the supply closet as well. I covered the bulletin board side with wrapping paper and then added border. I plan to use this table for student supplies, so the board will be great for writing instructions! I think this will also make a great spot for a station.
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Last year I was able to purchase books for a classroom library with a grant. Planning on implementing free reading time this year with Spanish 2!
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Reading quotes next to my bookcase. Bryce Hedstrom shared these posters.
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Front of the room. My old room had the white board and projector on different walls, limiting the amount of usable wall space and the area available for student desks. This set up works much better with the amount of student desks I need!

2. New schedule: My school has changed to a block schedule this year – four 80 minute blocks and a 30 minute enrichment/remediation/advisement block. I have never taught on the block before but I am looking forward to learning how! I have one section of Spanish 1 and two sections of Spanish 2 each semester.

3. Interactive notebooks, FVR, name cards….I have lots of new-to-me instructional ideas I am excited about implementing! One change I am most looking forward to experimenting with is interactive notebooks (here’s my pinterest board). My department’s curriculum requires a LOT of grammar and vocabulary, and I think ISNs will be a good way to organize notes and support all that memorization. I am also looking forward to implementing some Free Voluntary Reading time in Spanish 2, and possibly in Spanish 1 as well. And lastly, I’m going to give Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell’s name card rotating seat assignment idea a try. One of the things I love most about teaching is how every day, week, month, and year is new, and an opportunity to perfect, refine, and experiment with methods, and I’m excited about trying out these new ideas!

4. Grad school. Eeek! I’m going back to school this year! I begin coursework for my master’s degree through Auburn University in two weeks! I’m excited about the learning and nervous about the extra work and cost, but mostly excited. The program is an MA in Spanish Education, and looks really sound on research and methodologies I’m passionate about (hint – NOT teaching tons of grammar and vocab for memorization) – there is a CI demo scheduled for our first seminar! Anyway, if you can’t tell by the number of exclamation points in this paragraph…I’m super excited about taking on the student role again.

Class Decor, Teaching Reflections

Reflective Teacher 30 Day Challenge Day 5: My classroom

Day 5: Post a picture of your classroom, and describe what you see–and what you don’t see that you’d like to.

I’ve already shared some of these, but here they are again:

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I love this classroom. I love the door to the outside, the natural light coming in through the window. I love my big desk, my Promethean board, and having separate computers for my desk and for the board up front. Also, see that little box in the front of the room, between the white board and the color posters? I LOVE that I can control the temperature!


I love this whole wall of white board, and the proficiency descriptors above it.

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This bulletin board needs work. I’m working on numbers right now so students reference the posters a lot, but it’s not very pretty, and I could use the space better. I love Amy Lenord’s rejoinders word ladder bulletin board (she even sent me the word files for it!), but I haven’t gotten around to putting it up. I’ve also seen some great ideas for “Why Study a Foreign Language” bulletin boards – I want to put up something along those lines as well. Maybe in the hallway? There’s a bulletin board just outside my room I could probably use.


Lastly: student desks. The maroon ones in the pictures above are fantastic – there’s no bar on the side, so students can get in and out from either side. It makes it super easy to try different grouping arrangements (I’m always rearranging the furniture). Also, at my old school the student desks were in terrible condition – lots of broken seats, and many of them entirely too small for teenage sized bodies. I also spent a whole year at the old job with 28 desks, and classes of 30-35. The remaining students sat in chairs (with no writing surface). I know that chairs and no desks would be some teachers’ dream, but it wasn’t mine, so I am very glad to have adequate seating for my students this year – desks sized for adult bodies, enough seating, safe for students to sit in without sharp edges poking into their legs.

That being said…there are 33 student desks in my room. Why are classes of 30+ the norm? I really have fantastic students, but wouldn’t it be wonderful to have classes of 24, or even 28? I want to hear each of my students SPEAK, every day, to give them individual feedback, to write comments on their writing, to adapt my curriculum to their diverse needs. I do my best on all this – to differentiate, to interact with all students out loud, to adapt my lesson plans to give them more work on the topics they struggle with – but with 160 students, my ability to do that is limited. In my dream classroom, I would have less students, so that I could teach them better.


More pictures of my classroom here: Class Decor.

Details on the Reflective Teacher 30-Day Blogging Challenge here.


Class Decor

Class Decor

I moved to a new school this year, and I got really excited about decorating a new room! I spent quite a few hours on Pinterest looking for inspiration, and even more time executing those ideas!  Here are a few shots of my room, one week into school. Now, let me be honest and tell you that I have ZERO artistic talent (my big sister got all the artistic genes!), so while I might dream big Pinterest dreams, I also realize that I have time, budget, and skill limitations. Here are a few shots of my classroom, one week in. It’s a work in progress but I’m quite pleased with it!


20140807_090023 If I post Señorita in enough places maybe they won’t call me Miss this year!20140807_090003


I saw a picture of a teacher’s classroom with a narrow white board next to the door of her classroom where she wrote reminders for her students – homework, tests, please bring _____, etc. I was so JEALOUS, until I realized I could do the same with the window beside my door! I put up a few pieces of white paper on the outside, so on the inside I can write on the glass with a dry erase marker. One of these days I’ll throw up some border, too, and then it will truly be Pinterest worthy!

My white board:


Standards, plus a giant proficiency rubric above (thank you Kara and Megan!).

20140807_08151920140807_081531I made this calendar during pre-planning my first year teaching. It is laminated, so I just erase and renumber each month (or better yet…get a student to!). PowerSchool gives me a handy notification icon when my students have birthdays coming up, so I went ahead and wrote them on there. Later in the year I’ll ask my classes about birthdays (in the TL) as the month turns.



My desk, with maps above. Some students helped me make these maps a few years ago. I projected a map onto the SMART board, turned off the touch features, and had a student trace the map onto a piece of chart paper with a pencil.  Then, we outlined in black, colored in the countries, and laminated them.  I write the names of the countries in dry erase marker, and erase if I want to quiz students.

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This isn’t decor, but it’s a Pinterest idea that’s really working for me so far! When I moved schools, I packed up my curriculum in these file boxes from Fred’s. Now, I’ve converted one into my make-up work box.  I’ve got tabs for every day of the month, labeled 1-31 (or I will, when I get another box of hanging folders). Each day, I put left over handouts in the box, along with a list of any vocabulary words or assignments we did. I had a lot of trouble managing make up work in the past, so this is way for me to stay organized (today I had a student go straight to the box when I directed students to get out a handout he was missing – success!!!).

Seat assignments:


This is another organization strategy that worked well for me this year. I sat down with my rosters before school started, and typed up labels for each desk indicating who sat there each period. I’ve tried other strategies in the past, where students are randomly assigned a seat at the door (such as Martina Bex’s fantastical creatures), but I found it was confusing for students. Especially on the first day, I want to be very clear with what I want from students. Having their names on the desk has other benefits as well – first, when they come back the next day, it helps them remember where to sit, and secondly, it makes taking roll a breeze.  I just look to see which desks are empty, check the label, and move on.  I will note that even with name labels, a couple of students STILL sat in the wrong desk, but we got it straightened out quickly.


To wrap things up, a final decoration picture:


Straight from Pinterest – Adiós on the floor in duct tape!  It’s not quite so pristine now, but holding up better than I expected.

My next project – a boggle bulletin board like this!