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My Experience at an ECET2 Conference

ECET, Middle School, Teaching

Hey, y’all!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted but I’m so excited about this that I had to make time to share!

Last weekend I attended an ECET2 conference, specifically #ECET2LOU (Louisville). ECET stands for Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teaching and Teachers and was born “out of a desire to provide a forum for exceptional teachers to learn from one another and to celebrate the teaching profession”.  It is connected with Teacher2Teacher on a national level and was organized in Louisville by JCPSForward, a group that is leading a “strategic, intentional effort to identify and connect the educators in JCPS that are deeply impacting learning and teaching”. 

I left the conference feeling inspired, energized and fired up to return to my classroom. Being around other teachers who are life long learners that want to continuously increase their effectiveness and share was a breath of fresh air during this trying time in the year. Leaving the conference, it was so apparent how many amazing, mission-oriented educators are in my district and it was awesome meeting them face-to-face.

If you have the opportunity to attend one in your area, or even go to the national ECET2 (which I’d like to do), I’m highly recommending you take advantage of it and GO!

The Format/Style
Going to the conference, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. What would the vibe be like? Would it be “sit and get” and a waste of a Saturday? Since it is FOR TEACHERS BY TEACHERS (#praise!), it wasn’t “sit and get” at all! Friday night was the “optional” night and it opened with a keynote speaker (@drvickip) who was phenomenal. She spoke about how #ItsTime teachers are given voice, space and time to do their best work.

After the keynote, there were breakout sessions. Attendees could go watch a screening of “Most Likely to Succeed” or participate in BreakoutEDU games before heading to a more social gathering to end the night.

Bright and early the next morning, the conference started off with breakfast where attendees could register for the day as well as mingle with others. The rest of the day was divided up by breakout sessions (3), a “working lunch” with a speaker, and colleague circles. One of the best parts about the day was the variety of sessions you could choose from. Just how we, educators, talk about giving kids choice in the classroom and with assignments, it is the same with adults! I was able to make meaning of things and takeaway much more because I was in sessions that I chose that were relevant to me.

#WhyITeach: To Close Achievement Gaps

My Takeaways
The first session I chose was the ESSA/Ed Policy session. I was originally a political science major and have a passion for politics, especially ed policy. Because of the state of Kentucky politics at the moment, many education bills are being discussed this session. I wanted to hear what the presenters had to say, and learn from presenters who were committed to sharing information about the bills, without partisan spin and editorializing. My takeaway from this session was that a lot more educators are plugged in to these topics than I originally thought. Some awesome discussion came out of the session as we broke to talk about specific bills that are on the docket in the Kentucky legislature now. The conversations pushed my thinking, as well as confirmed some of my viewpoints. I also learned a lot more about the history of testing in Kentucky, as I was in elementary school with the CATS test started and wasn’t privy to anything that happened outside of the playground. 🙂

The second session I chose was the Strengths and Girls of Color session presented by  Dr. Mathies, Dr. Carmichael and Dr. Young. This was the most powerful session. Not only were the presenters engaging, their statistics about discipline and suspension rates for girls of color were extremely relevant as they spoke about national trends, as well as within JCPS. Their session led participants to recognize and name some of their own privilege and bias in order to put some of their presentation into better context. They left the presenters with actionable steps and resources they can take back to their campuses. My takeaway from this session is that I’m not doing enough in order to push the thinking of my colleagues in terms of how we interact with girls of color at my campus. It is great if I am aware of myself, adjust my practice in order to better support students of color, but the work must not stop there.

My Next Steps
After reflecting this week on my takeaways and what “stuck with me”, I wanted to create some next steps for myself because the exciting work and dialogue doesn’t need to stop just because the conference is over!

Because of my passion for education policy, I’m going to be more plugged in in terms of monitoring education bills in my state and I’m going to provide feedback on bills through the KYEdPolicy website. The site allows visitors to read the bills as they are (with no partisan spin), leave feedback on a simple Google form, that then gets shared with electeds and other stakeholders. Conversations are going to be had about the legislation anyway, and I believe it is important to have as much feedback from educators as possible in the conversation.

Additionally, my next step is to to get more plugged in with the #ColorBraveJCPS work and to take steps to spread the word and challenge thinking on my campus in terms of how we support girls of color. I’m going to do this by (1) seeing if we can do the color arc activity with staff at my campus, as well as (2) have conversations about some of our school level data. I’m going to continue to dialogue with the presenters of the session (Dr. Mathies, Dr. Carmichael and Dr. Young) as well.

Have you attended an ECET2 conference? What was your experience like?

Until next time,

How to Create a Google Form to Help Streamline Behavior Documentation (a Step-By-Step Guide)

Behavior Management, Documentation, Google Forms, Middle School, QR Codes, Step By Step, Teaching
Step by Step process for how to create a Google Form and connect it with a QR code for behavior documentation streamlining!
Hello! I’m so excited to share that my previous post “How to Streamline Behavior Documentation” has been bouncing around a lot on Pinterest! Through this post, I have been able to connect with a lot of teachers I otherwise would not have been able to and for that I am excited!

Since that post has been bouncing around, I’ve gotten a lot of emails and comments on the post asking more specific questions about Google Forms. In this post, I’m going to give step-by-step instructions on how I set up the Google Forms that connect with my QR codes. If you haven’t read my previous post on this topic, check it out here.

Part 1: Create the Google Form

1. Go to and log-in.
2. In the top right corner, click the little square of 9 boxes and see a drop-down menu.
3. Click Google Drive.

4. In the left hand column, click “New”.
5. There will be a drop down menu. Click “More” for the option to see Google Forms.
6. Click Google Form and an Untitled Form will open.

7. Where it says “Untitled Form”, put the name of whatever you want the form to be. For example, if you want this form to only track one specific behavior like “Tardy to Class”, then name it that. If you think you’d like to create a form to track many types of behaviors for one student, name it the student’s name. I will show you how to set up both types of forms.
8. After you’ve named your form, write a brief description of what the form is for all who are shared to use it.
If you want to track one type of behavior for many students with your form (Example: a tardy log of all students):
9. Where it says “Untitled Question”, write Name.
10. On the right, you can either:
  •  make it a multiple choice question and list the names of the students in your class so you just have to select the student
    • If you choose this, select “multiple choice” on the right, then begin writing the names of the students where it says “add option”. You can do that as many times as you need to.


  • or make it a short answer question and you can type the name of the student in. This is the path I chose to keep the form simple.


11. Now, continue to add on to the form to include all information you’d like to track (class period, reason tardy, pass, any other notes, etc.) To add another section, click the + sign on the right. Then, follow the same steps you previously completed (select the question type, write what you want that section to be titled, etc.)
**Next year, I think I am going to make one Google Form per student and make a drop down menu of all of the behaviors I’d like to track. That way, “Molly’s” behavior can be tracked across classes all in one place. If you’re interested in doing this, just name the form the student’s name, and you can check “Dropdown” as the question type. At that point you can create all of the drop down choices of student behavior you’d like to be able to track.

12. Once you have added all of the sections to your Google Form, click “SEND” in the top right corner.

14. Now, click the link that is at the top of that window to get a link that corresponds with this code. COPY THAT LINK!


Your form is FINISHED! Now, on to Part 2. 

Part 2: Create the QR Code

2. Select URL and paste the URL you saved from the Google Form. Then, if you want, click “Shorten URL”.
3. Your QR Code should now be live!  Do NOT exit this screen yet!

Part 3: Test It 

1. If you haven’t already, download a QR code reader on your phone or tablet. There are many free apps. I have the QR Reader for iPhone which was just the first option that came up when I searched for one.
2. Open the Reader and allow it to access your camera. Now, point the QR reader at the QR code that is on the computer screen to test it (this saves you time from printing and then figuring out you made a mistake somewhere!).
3. If your code works, it should immediately scan the QR code and direct you to your Google Form. You may be prompted to log in to Google first before you see the form. Don’t worry, you won’t have to do that each time you scan.
4. Input test information on your form and click submit…just like you would do during class when you’re tracking information.

Part 4: Checking the Results

1. You can check the results on the original Google Form interface first, then you can create a spreadsheet. Go back to the Google Form (if it isn’t open anymore, go back to your Google Drive and select it.)
2. Once you’re back to the form, click responses. You will see your test responses, and data. Then, click the little green box to create a spreadsheet that will collect responses.
3. The screen that comes up should look like the picture below. Click create. It will take you to the spreadsheet that will track the responses for your QR code. The columns should be populated with the information you put in as a test.
**If your spreadsheet collected the test information, then everything is good to go! Now, as another note: anytime you log in to your Google Drive you should be able to see the original form and the form response spreadsheet. It will stay in there and continually populate as you and your team scan in information! 

Part 5: Save and Print

1. Now that you’ve checked to make sure everything is good to go, go back to your QR code on the QR Code generator screen. You need to save the code image (on a PC, right click the QR code and Save As; on a Mac take a screenshot by holding Shift+Command+4).
2. Go to a word document and insert the image of the code.
3. Label the QR code so you know what it is and save and print!  I laminated mine and put them on a key ring so I didn’t have to re-print throughout the year if I lost one or got it dirty.

You’re Finished!

I promise that after going through the process once, you will know what to do again and it will go much faster the next time you make one. 
Tell me what you think! Was this helpful? Do you think you’ll try this in your classroom, or have you done this already? Let me know in the comments or by emailing me! 

Check out: How to Differentiate Using Google Forms

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p.s. Want to start a teacher blog just like this one? My friend, Suzi, wrote an ebook that can help you get started and grow your blog!

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How to Be Better Than You Were Last Year: Teacher Edition

end of year, Featured, Middle School, reflection, Teaching

Hi, y’all!

I hope everyone is off to a great start to the summer! While I know that each of you deserve a much needed break, I also know that all teachers at some point over the summer, reflect back over the previous year to guide how they approach the next year. In the spirit of reflection, I wanted to write a post  that can hopefully help us all be more intentional with our reflection.

Something that is extremely important to me as far as teaching goes, is to always try to continuously improve my effectiveness.  Reflecting honestly on my teaching practice is a key in being able to do that. The day that I get complacent, and think that the way I’ve always done things is the way I’ll always do things, is a day I am not putting forth my best self for kids.

When I reflect, it all mainly boils down to how my teacher actions affected student actions. The following list is not exhaustive, but questions that I have asked myself that help me re-focus over the summer to start to prepare for the next year:

Classroom Goals

  • Did we reach the classroom goals?
  • Of those we reached, why did we reach those? What can we do next year to build on that success?
  • Of those we didn’t reach, why didn’t we reach those?
  • Were my classroom goals big, measurable, and easily articulated to kids?
  • Did I do a good job of investing the kids in the big goal? What can I continue to do, or improve upon for next year to improve investment with students?

Classroom Culture

  • Did I really get to know all of my students this year?
  • If so, what do I need to ensure I continue to do next year to get to know the new group? If not, what do I need to do differently?
  • Did my attitude toward my work contribute to student learning or stifle it?
  • Are my relationships with students helping the students learn, or hindering me from effectively behavior managing?
  • Would I want to be in the class? Would I want my child to be in this class?

Student Behavior

  • What teacher actions led to student misbehavior this year?
  • What about my classroom layout/set-up allowed for student misbehavior?
  • Was I consistent with my classroom behavior management plan? If not, why not? What should be changed?
  • Do I need to teach the behavior expectations differently next year, or outline them more explicitly?
  • What worked and what didn’t work with my classroom management plan overall?
  • Did I follow through when giving consequences/communicating with parents? If not, why?
  • Was I consistent in rewarding/incentivizing positive student behavior?
  • Is what I did this year to reward positive student behavior sustainable for next year’s group of kids?
  • What can I do to improve next year to encourage positive behavior/buy-in of class goals?
  • What can I do to improve re-directiing and tracking negative behavior?
  • Who can I speak with or go observe to get ideas regarding behavior management?

Collaboration & Team Function

  • In what areas can I improve in order to help the team?
  • Did my actions prohibit my team from growing, working more efficiently, or trying new things?
  • What “worked” on our team?
  • What can we do to become more consistent?
  • How can we support each other better in the next year?
  • What is at least one thing that we should try as a team next year?
  • Does our team exhibit to kids that we believe all of them can meet expectations and can succeed at a high level? If not, what must we change so that is the case?


  • What can I do next year to further prioritize my family instead of taking so much work home with me?
  • What can I change for next year that will make me a more efficient teacher?
  • How can I structure my classroom, planning period, short down periods during the day to maximize my effectiveness at school?
  • What do I need to prioritize next year so I can live a balanced life?
  • What can I do next year to help me stay excited about teaching?

Instruction/Teaching Practices

  • What lessons “worked” this year?
  • For lessons that didn’t work, was it because of lack of preparation, they weren’t interesting to kids, they should be taught in a  different order?
  • Did I give enough feedback to kids? If so, was my feedback meaningful?
  • Did my grade book reflect student learning and progress?
  • Did my assessments assess learning effectively?
  • Did I backwards plan effectively?
  • What can I do to better assist those who don’t “get it”?
  • What can I do to better assist those who work more quickly and need meaningful extension?
  • How do I know that my students are learning?

So, what do you think? What am I leaving out? I’d love to hear your own reflections and question in the comments! More to come on this topic later in the summer 🙂


Erin Condren Teacher Planner vs. Life Planner with Pictures

Erin Condren, Lesson Planning, Life Planner, Middle School, Teaching

Last Friday was the last day of school for me which means (1) IT’s SUMMER! and (2) now I have so much more time I can devote to the blog (so exciting!).  I can’t wait to roll out some things I’ve been working on!

Anyway, while summer means a break from grading/lesson planning/organizing/decorating/copying/counseling/calling parents and the million other things teachers do during the school year, it also means it is time to reflect on the past year, and to begin prepping for next year. Whether you are a TYPE-A teacher who plans very meticulously, way in advance, or a TYPE-B teacher who approaches things in a more laid back way, I know that every teacher plans for the next year in some way…so this post is for you!

In this post I will show you the Erin Condren Teacher Lesson Planner, detail how I used it, and explain why I just purchased the Erin Condren LifePlanner. This post isn’t sponsored (if you’re wondering why I’m plugging EC!), I just want to share a product I am passionate about and help out if you’re trying to decide if you want one, or which one you should choose…keep reading!

Erin Condren Teacher Lesson Planner

Last year about this time I was trying to decide if I wanted to get an Erin Condren planner or not. They are somewhat expensive compared to the regular ‘ol planners I’d get at Target, or wherever,  but I’d heard so much hype about them that I was intrigued. I always start the school year with grand plans on how I’m going to organize my school “stuff” but had yet to find a way that really worked for me that I kept up with, so I did my research to figure out if I wanted the Teacher Planner or the LifePlanner. I ended up buying an Erin Condren Teacher Planner. (Note: Sub-Par iPhone pictures ahead! 🙂 )

Below is the cover I chose of my Teacher Lesson Planner. When you visit the site, you will notice the MANY options you have to choose from. If you don’t really care about the personalization, they also have some cheaper “Grab and Go” options where you get the generic version (the only difference is there is no name added). The cover is laminated with a very, very thick laminate, so it is heavy duty (mine even endured a few spills!).

When you open the Lesson Planner there are a few introductory pages. Then it is divided into tabs: Dates, Absent, Graph, Year Plan, Monthly Tabs, Lessons, Check list. Each tab’s page has a cute motivational/inspiring quote on it…see the picture below. 

Dates tab: 

Under the dates tab there is a section for “Holidays and Dates to Remember” and class birthdays.
Absent Tab:
Under the Absent Tab there were 6 full pages of absentee logs. 
Graph tab:
There are 8 full pages of graph paper under the Graph tab. As you can see, I doodled out a seating chart on one page!

Year Plan tab:
This is the “Year at a Glance” spread, where you can note/plan out things in advance for you classroom. Behind this page, there is also a notes page. 
Monthly tabs:
The planner includes a monthly view for each month, and I’ve included 2 pictures below. The standard planner comes with regular open circles where the dates go, but I added date stickers 🙂
Lessons tab:
Now, the best part, and the reason you’re buying this thing in the first place…the lesson planner part! The picture below shows the wide view. The top left has a “Week #” box. The top row has “Grade/Subject” and “Date”. The left side has boxes for Monday-Friday. 
I used mine this year by putting my class periods across the top (since I teach all 8th grade English), and the last 2 columns were reserved for “PLC stuff” and “Team Stuff”. In those 2 columns I would bullet out things I needed to do/remember. In the open space below the date labels, I would put things I needed to remember generally for that day like, “Pep Rally @ 1”, “Call Katie’s Mom”, etc. On the lines listed, for each day and period I would list Bellwork, Lesson Focus, Exit Ticket, and Homework.  
Below is the zoomed in view of the lesson planner pages. 
Check list tab:
Part of the hype surrounding the Lesson Planner was that it is an “all-in-one” planner. This is one reason why that is the case…it includes checklist pages! I’ve seen this used as a grade book, portfolio checklist, essential form checklist, etc. There are 7 spreads, like in the picture below, of checklist pages. 
The Teacher Lesson Planner comes with a lot of stickers. There are teaching specific ones, and also an entire page of blank ones you can personalize for yourself!
In the back of the planner there is a 2-sided folder, a large plastic cover to keep things in, and a plastic pouch (perfect for keeping extra stickers and pens in!). I really appreciated the pen pouch because I am particular about color coding and I always lose my nice pens!

See below for a size comparison. The EC Teacher Lesson Planner is on the left and the Life Planner is on the right. I’m loving the smaller size of the Life Planner!

Erin Condren LifePlanner
Just like the Teacher Lesson Planner, you can choose to get a personalized cover, or a “grab and go” cover. I chose one of the metallic covers and had my initials added. 
Each life planner has a monthly view calendar, like in the picture below. 

A cool feature of the LifePlanner is that you get to choose if you want a horizontal or vertical layout on the daily pages. I chose horizontal because I like to make bulleted lists.

LifePlanner Extras: Stickers, stickers, and more stickers! Again, just like the Teacher Lesson Planner, the LifePlanner comes with pre-made stickers, and a page of blank stickers for you to fill out for however works for you!

In the back right before the last cover the LifePlanner also has a pocket folder and plastic pouch to hold your stuff (hello, awesome pens!). To my surprise, when I ordered, they also threw in a recurring  dates calendar (the little pink booklet) that I can fill out and move from planner to planner each year!

Why I Switched From the Erin Condren Teacher Lesson Planner to the LifePlanner

Both products are great, but this year I chose to switch from the EC Teacher Planner to the Life Planner and digital lesson plans.

I switched because I found that I didn’t use all of the fabulous inserts simply because of the number of students I have as a Middle School teacher. If I taught elementary aged students, and had 30ish in a class, the checklists and other pages would be plenty sufficient, however, I don’t, and was using the check lists for only some things  because of space, thus, defeating the purpose of having an “all-in-one” book for me.

I also switched because I began to run out of room on the lesson planning pages. I absolutely loved to look at the week in the format that the EC Teacher Lesson Planner has, but I wasn’t able to be as detailed as I wanted so I was inserting other pages (the longer lesson plan, or slides, etc) and then I just had a bunch of extra materials stuffed in there.

The Life Planner has allowed me to plan my personal stuff, as well as create “To Do” bulleted lists for school things on each day. I have been using Planboard (a free site…I wrote about it here) to store my digital plans/worksheets/slideshows/resources all in one place and have really liked the flexibility of having everything together digitally to “remember” for next year, and also to keep resources attached with certain lessons (I am NOT a file cabinet girl!).

Hopefully this information has been helpful if you’re in the market for an Erin Condren planner. Which ever route you go, you will get a fabulous product! (This is not sponsored, I just really like the planners 🙂 )

If you want $10 off, you can use my referral code here.

So what do you think? Are you getting an Erin Condren planner or do you have one and use yours differently? Let me know!

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Why I Teach

Middle School, Teaching

Some say, “it takes a village to raise a child”. I’m not a parent, but I agree with that statement because it took a village to raise me. My parents, grandparents, teachers, aunts, coaches, friends’ and teammates’ parents, church leaders, neighbors, and those that saw me grow up in gyms going to basketball games. I’ve become the person that I am today because I’ve had great role models,  and others (along with myself) have set high expectations for me. I’ve done okay for myself because I knew that others believed in me, even if I didn’t believe in myself in any circumstance. I knew that if I messed up, I’d be afforded a level of grace and that everything would end up okay.  This is one reason (of many) of why I am a middle school teacher. I am apart of “the village” now, even if it’s in just some small way, for 120 13/14 year olds this year. And there will be 120 more next year. And the next year. . .

I get up to go do my job every day because it matters. I care about all of my kids as if they were my own because many others have done that for me. I believe every kid deserves access to a quality teacher, and a fair shot, so I do my best by kids every day to try to give them just that. This work is urgent because these are the lives of children and because this is the future of my community. I teach because it matters. 

While I cannot control things that happen for my kids outside of my classroom walls, I can control what happens inside of my classroom–my attitude, my effort, general consistency, the classroom environment, classroom morale, helping kids approach all things with a growth mindset, the lessons and materials kids have access to, and generally the notion that these kids know above all that they have an adult who cares about them and loves them (if they didn’t know that already). No matter what is going on at home, or what backgrounds my students come from, I believe that they deserve the best everyday from me no matter whatI teach because it’s challenging. 

At my previous school, I saw my students simply accept the reality around them. Many were simply attending school (some were barely even doing that), and just going through the motions. Most of my students had a hard time realizing that there were a lot of little steps along the path to get them to their long-term goals. The problems around them, from things happening at home, in their neighborhood, and just regular teenager problems, were distracting them from a bigger picture. Many students had bigger goals, but no idea how (or little access to others who knew how) to go about reaching them, and were growing immune to their surroundings and the fact that others deemed them to have limited life prospects. I teach to help students see the bigger picture
I want my students to know that I have bigger dreams for them, and will do whatever it takes to help them succeed. I want their achievements to continue throughout high school and college, and for them to have an instilled sense of ambition, drive, and purpose, so that they will continue on a path that allows them options, no matter what expectations are put upon them, or circumstances they face. I want them to be advocates for themselves, and I want to inspire them in a way that they will continue to advocate for their education in the future. I teach to inspire students to dream big.
This year I’ve been trying to  bring the world to my students in small ways. Not only do I want them to be better readers, writers and thinkers, but I want to open their eyes to the world beyond their neighborhood and their “time”. I feel that by opening their eyes to new things, they will see themselves in a larger world, in which they can do anything/be anything/go anywhere. I teach to lift up kids and give them access to a larger world
I want my students to not only learn content in my class, but how to be better critical thinkers, and a better version of themselves overall. My hope is that this vision of themselves, and a new world outlook, will transcend eighth grade and guide them on their path through high school and a successful college career. I want my students to have academic goals, as well as personal goals (short term and long term) that they can connect to their educational goals. I hope that my students take their successes and experiences from my class to realize they have infinite potential. I teach because many taught me

Data Tracking in a Middle School Classroom

assessments, data tracking, Documentation, Middle School, Teaching, tracking book
Hey y’all!

One of favorite things to do in my classroom with my kids is data tracking. I know how nerdy that sounds, but I truly believe that connecting students with their own learning data is a game changer for investing students in your classroom vision and goals. Putting accountability on the students, instead of them thinking school is just something they “get” helps keeps students focused, as well as helps them feel successful. I wanted to share how I facilitate data tracking in my 8th grade language arts classroom because I feel like the majority of examples found on Pinterest and elsewhere are for elementary classrooms.

Figuring out how to “do data”, has been a learning process for me. I’ve always kept up with learning data for students myself, but it took me a while to figure out a system that worked for me, was manageable with 120 students, and was also meaningful for kids that they could also participate in.  

1. Classroom Data Wall  

I searched and searched Pinterest for middle school data wall examples that I thought would be useful, interactive, and meaningful enough to take up precious wall space for and I found this example on Pinterest for inspiration. I adapted that to become what is pictured below.

I use post-it page markers (purple/blue=1st period, yellow=2nd period, Pink=3rd period, Orange=4th period) that the kids or I place in the correct box to show where they are (1=novice, 2=apprentice, 3=proficient, 4=distinguished) at any given time for each standard (bottom grid) and for their SRI scores (top grid).. This is great to visually show students where everyone is, as well as to help them set goals.

Of course, I don’t have the students put their names on them! I would never want a student to feel badly or embarrassed, especially if they are in the 1 category for a few standards starting out. The students choose a number for themselves that only I know, and they can track themselves from there. See the picture below for a close up. For example, for standard 8.5, blue #6 is distinguished (Student who chose #6 from my 1st period class).
Close up of data wall in my classroom. The 4 colors represent 4 class period and student pick the numbers to represent them, instead of me putting their names on their tab. 
I love displaying data like this because it also helps students recognize their successes. Some of my students who are typically not the best test-takers can break down their numbers to see that although they have to recover some standards and aren’t quite there yet, they have also mastered certain standards. For example, a student who has traditionally been an apprentice student (~60%) connects more intentionally with seeing that they have maybe mastered 2 standards completely, and are approaching mastery with 2 standards. . . that sounds a LOT better than a 60%! 
Another part of the data wall is the Lexile level tracker. My students take the SRI (Scholastic Reading Index) tests 3 times a year to get their reading level score and for us to measure growth. The students chart their Lexile data on a line as they track their progress to our class big goal.

2. Posting Standards Posters

Next to the data wall, I post all of the reading standards, and some of the writing standards. Next year, I will probably put them in key rings to hang for students to flip through, or will only post our focus standards per 6 weeks with their rubrics and have the others available to see (just for the sake of space). Although it takes up a LOT of space, I love having them posted for myself, as well as for the kids to familiarize themselves with them. Having the students not only be able to talk about their data in a real way, but understand what goes into each standard is a huge key in getting novices out of novice and helping others key into what they need to do to move up.

I post the Reading: Informational and Reading: Literature standards on different colored paper because again, I want students to really understand the skills they are being asked to master. I want my classroom to be able to move beyond the “I got 8 out of 10 so I’m proficient” talk. This is definitely a huge work in progress, but having the standards posted, visible, and where students can access them has been a HUGE help!

(I have standards posters like these for 6th, 7th, 8th grade ELA and Math in my store, and will be adding more soon!)

3. Student Tracking Books

Outside of having student learning data posted, I have students keep a detailed student tracking book. After each assessment they need to track, they record how they did in detail, down to the specific questions they got correct, and incorrect. Students figure out what questions those standards correlated to, and which standards they showed mastery of, or need to work on. They then put their test performance on a bar graph so they can track their progress (by standard) from pre-tests and post-tests. Students also keep track of their reading level growth, and on-demand writing/extended response/short answer scores. It sounds like a lot, but once it is routine for the kids after the first few times, it is easy! 

I’m working on a tracking book for middle/high school students that can be adapted for different subjects–I will share as soon as it is finished!Again, I really like data tracking with my students. I think it is important for them to buy into their progress, and really understand why they are doing what they are doing in class each day.

I’m always checking blogs and Pinterest posts to see how others are tracking data to see if this process can be refined or if there is something that could work better, so of course, I’d love to hear from you in the comments section! How do you track data in your classroom? Any new ideas to share? Let me hear them!


p.s. Want to start a teacher blog just like this one? My friend, Suzi, wrote an ebook that can help you get started!

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Classroom Olympics to Remediate and Prepare for “The Test”

Behavior Management, ela, english language arts, Featured, Middle School, olympics, Teaching, test prep

Update: I originally wrote this post about how I utilize Olympics in the classroom in the spring, but you could totally adapt and do the same thing to celebrate the actual Olympics as they happen in Rio this summer! 

So, it’s about that time…state testing time! Whatever your thoughts are on state testing, it happens, and teachers have to make sure their students are prepared. Obviously, teachers prepare their students all year and teach them the standards, but when it comes close to testing time, every teacher I know does some sort of targeted standards remediation work. This is where the most genius and fun of test prep ideas comes in…Olympics!

Disclaimer: I did not come up with test prep Olympics, but I have facilitated it successfully in my classroom and will be doing it again this year. In my opinion, it is a game changer, and a great way to get the most out of your students, in a short period of time, while having some fun!

What It Is

  • Classroom Olympics is an academic based competition that you can set up in order to track and motivate your students towards a common goal. In the instance of standards remediation, it can help you target instruction while investing the kids in their own “data” and outcomes. How they perform can earn them incentives, and their “country” incentives. If you’ve done an awesome job of investing your kids the entire year in their own data, then the competition of the Olympic events is just an added bonus! 
  • Monday-Thursday the students complete 3 stations each day. On Fridays, the kids participate in “Events” for medals for their country.


  • I’ve seen teachers group their students in many ways. Each time I have done classroom Olympics I have divided my classes into 6 countries (so 4-5 students in each country). I usually homogeneously group those students (2 high groups, 2 medium groups and 2 “lower” groups). The students have never figured this out, but it helps me be able to differentiate instruction in the stations better.
  • Obviously, any countries can be chosen, but I always use Spain, Italy, Portugal, France, Brazil and Australia 🙂 
  • For each country, you will want to assign a leader, or “President”/”Prime Minister” or whatever you want to call it! –more on this later!

The Stations

  • There are 3 stations in classroom Olympics, usually. Depending on how your class is set up, you can change this, but I’ve always just stuck with the 3. 
    • Coach’s Corner--teacher-led, small group instruction with 2 countries (8-10kids)
    • Personal Training–partner work with 2 countries (I choose the partners but occasionally let them choose)–8-10 kids
    • Workout–silent, independent work (8-19 kids)
  • When I set the classroom up, I turn the desks for each station to face different directions
    • Coach’s Corner faces the front of the room (desks together in a small cluster for small group)
    • Personal Training faces the right wall of the room (desks in pairs)
    • Workout faces the left wall of the room (desks in rows)
View from the front of the room (Coach’s Corner) looking towards the Workout rotation–desks facing left wall
Student view from Workout station (desks in rows, facing expectations posters)

To teach my students the expectations for each station, I take an entire day to introduce the concept and to practice meeting the expectations (rotating, getting materials, coming into the classroom and sitting at the correct station, etc). When I first decided on this, I thought that it was a good idea, but was nervous it would be one of those lessons that are over really quickly–but it wasn’t! Practicing entering the classroom, students checking the board for their stations, sitting in their assigned seats and Presidents getting the correct materials proved invaluable. The next day when the students came in, we could get started immediately and I could remind them as the period went on of expectations if needed.

Personal Training Station Expectations Posters Example
Coach’s Corner Station Expectations Posters Example
Workout Station Expectations Poster
(Sorry for the blurry iPhone pic!–will update :))


  1. Students walk into classroom and look at the board to see what station their country is starting at for the day. 
  2. All students immediately go to their stations and sit down in their assigned seat. 
  3. The country “President” gets the team supply bag (pencils and a sharpener) and goes to their station’s materials bin and gets the materials for their teammates. 
  4. Once the Presidents hand out all of the materials and are seated, the timer for rotation 1 begins. 
  5. After rotation 1 ends, the students have 1 minute to rotate to the next station, be seated, and get their materials from the President. 
  6. Rotation 2 begins and lasts as long as rotation 1. 
  7. After rotation 2 ends, the students have 1 minute to rotate to the next station, be seated, and get their materials from the President.
  8. Rotation 3 begins and lasts as long as rotation 1 and 2. 
  9. At the end of the class, I sometimes show answers for the students’ to check some of their assignments (depending on what they were doing). 
  10. When ready to clean up, all students hand their folders to their President. The Presidents drop their supply bag at the door and stack their folders by the door as they file out. 

As I mentioned above, on Fridays the kids participate in their academic “event”. Based off their scores on the event, they will receive gold or silver medals (not real medals, just the idea of the medal 🙂 ). The medal count will be posted on a medal board for the kids to keep up with and see which country is ahead. Also, the following week after their event, they will receive an incentive (chips, lunch in the classroom with a movie, a jeans pass, etc.–whatever you come up with that motivates them will be great and obviously doesn’t have to cost money!). You can give incentives in a variety of ways: anyone with a gold medal, anyone who got any medal, the countries with the most medals, etc. The possibilities are endless!

At the end of our Olympic Games, we are going to have an awards ceremony for the entire grade to give certificates and overall awards for the Olympics. I’ve never done this part before on a large scale but the kids’ seem really excited about the idea!

Here is our unfinished medal count board. Since the whole 8th grade is competing this year, we have 17 countries across our teams.

Part of our Leaderboard. The top line is number of gold medals and bottom line is number of silver medals. 

Tips to Remember

  • Don’t fall into the “I didn’t get finished” trap. I always give more than students will most likely be able to do at a station (but have a “fast finished assignment ready just in case!), so don’t let kids not being finished let you begin to extend time at the stations. For this version of Olympics to work, each kid needs to get to each station each day!
  • TEACH EVERYTHING! And by everything I mean: how to push in the chair, how to walk to a new station, how to get supplies, how to ask for help if needed, etc. Even the BEST behaved classrooms can become chaotic when you switch it up.  This is definitely the case for (a) middle school classrooms and (b) classrooms that may not be used to working in stations/rotation style frequently. If you don’t teach everything, you will spend your entire time at Coach’s Corner behavior managing kids and fielding questions from confused kids.
Have you and your students ever done an Olympic style competition? What questions do you still have? I’d love to hear from you in the comments, or reach out to me via email! 

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p.s. Want to start a teacher blog just like this one? My friend, Suzi, wrote an ebook that can help you get started!

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How to Streamline Behavior Documentation in a Middle School Classroom

Behavior Management, Documentation, Featured, Middle School, Teaching, Time Saver
This process has SAVED my team's sanity! How to Streamline Behavior Documentation in a Middle School Classroom
I can’t believe it has been about 2 months since my last post! I came running back to the blog tonight because I have to share something I found on Pinterest (of course) that is streamlining some behavior documentation in my classroom and on my team: Using QR Codes with Google Forms. 
If you’re not tech savvy and the terms “QR Codes” and “Google Forms” scare you…just hear me out! 
How to Streamline Behavior Documentation in a Middle School Classroom

What It Is

On the original post I saw (shoutout to! Check her out!), the teacher who has a 1:1 iPad classroom uses QR codes to help her document missing homework assignments from students. The students come in, and those who don’t have their homework scan a QR code that is on a poster on her wall, fill out the Google Form and boom! She has everything documented in one spreadsheet! This got my mind rolling. Now, I definitely don’t have a 1:1 iPad classroom (I have 3 desktops and no tablets) but I knew I could somehow use this to make life easier for me and my team. It hit me: team behavior documentation!
Let me backtrack a minute. . . as an 8th grade teacher, my school works in teams. One ELA teacher, one math teacher, one social studies teacher and one science teacher all share the same students. Previously, we were spending a good chunk of time documenting and tracking behaviors that we needed to follow up on like who was tardy to class, who was out of dress code, who needed to take a break in another classroom, who has lunch detentions, etc. Now, this is NO MORE!

What I Did

I made a Google Form to correspond with anything I wanted to track, and then linked that to a QR code. I then printed it on a half sheet of colored paper, laminated, and put it on a key ring to keep it together. Now, if someone is tardy to class (or whatever else happens that I scan for) I can quickly fill in the information I want and done! The best thing about this is that when any of my teammates do this as well, it all goes to a shared spreadsheet I can access in my Google Drive! 
Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 10.02.31 PM
  How to Set It Up
  1. Download a QR Code reader on your smartphone. I have an iPhone and have “QR Reader for iPhone”.
  2. Go to your Google account and make a new Google Form for whatever you’re wanting to track and be able to scan.
  3. When you’re finished building the Google Form, copy the link that Google gives you that is attached to the form (the link you’d use to share it with someone else).
  4. Google a QR Code generator. I used this one:
  5. Select URL on the QR Code Generator and copy the link to the Google Form you made into the “Enter URL Here” box. From here, a custom QR Code should be made.
  6. Save the QR code that you just made.
  7. Insert the picture of the QR code you made onto a word document, label what the code is for and print.
  8. Use the QR Code reader on your phone and scan the QR code to test it. The Google Form you filled out should pull up on your phone or device.
  9. Fill out test information in the fields and then visit your Google Form response spreadsheet in your Google Drive to make sure everything shows up. If it does, you’re FINISHED!
So what do you think? Will this make anything easier for you in your classroom? I’d love to hear how you use Google Forms or QR codes in your classroom!

Again, shoutout to Amber at for the original post! 

Peppy Zesty Teacherista

*UPDATE: I’ve received many in-depth questions about how to do this, so I created a more in-depth Step-By-Step Guide! Check it out here.

Also, check out How to Differentiate Using Google Forms here



p.s. Want to start a teacher blog just like this one? My friend, Suzi, wrote an ebook that can help you get started!

How to Lesson Plan: The Easy Way

Lesson Planning, Middle School, Teaching, Time Saver
Each year, like most everything else in my classroom, I adjust my lesson plans and create newer materials for all of my lessons (powerpoints, bell ringers, exit ticket activities, worksheets, rubrics, etc.). Each class each year is different, and what kids struggle with from one class or one year to another changes. You have to differentiate differently. You figure out what works and what doesn’t work.
When I first started teaching, like most first year teachers, a lot of times I found myself working “harder, not smarter” and re-creating the wheel for every little thing. Even after my first year, I never had a great way to organize  my lesson materials.
I’ve tried many systems. I made folders on my computer and labeled items by topic, but at the end of each year I’d look back at my documents folder and have a bunch of videos, powepoints, and worksheets labeled with just a date. “9.17.15”, for example. What the heck did I do on September 17th? That would lead me to have to click each folder, or document, and figure it out. Out of frustration, when I couldn’t find things, I would end up just re-doing something I knew I had somewhere.
I’ve also tried to keep a “Master Copy” binder. That doesn’t work for me either. I will start off the year strong and then stop following through with including everything in there. I had struggled to find a system that is efficient, and that works for me, until this year. 
Now, I’ve found a system that is efficient, easy to use, and keeps everything all together in a calendar style (by date), and also by units and now I couldn’t lesson plan without it so I’m excited to share it with you: PLANBOARD.
Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 4.11.52 PM
Planboard is an “online, free lesson planning tool designed to help educators simplify their planning. The site allows teachers to save and share calendars and schedules, making it easy to re-use these plans in the future”. So far, this has been a lifesaver for me.
Planboard has cut down my prep time, and organized my lessons in a way that I could never do effectively before. If you’re an educator looking to try another system of organization and prefer a paperless model, you should try Planboard.
Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 8.07.57 PM
image found here
  1. It’s free. Enough said. There are a few other similar tools out there, but many have a monthly subscription. No thanks.
  2. You can make your own schedule. Have a weird bell schedule, or a rotating system? No problem. When you set up the classes, you can put in the times of the classes each day and it automatically situates it on a calendar for you.
  3. You can create your units. This feature has hands down fixed the date naming epidemic that my documents folder was plagued by and organizes anything I do (or throw in last minute) by unit, and chronologically–so I can look back when I plan for next year and see the progression I followed the year before!
  4. There is a sticky note feature. Automatically on the side of each lesson plan page there is a “sticky note”. Need to remember to tell 3 students to go to the band room at 10:45am? Have a faculty meeting after school? Whatever you write on the note will show up on the  calendar at the top of the day to help keep you organized!
  5. You can make a lesson plan template to use each day. I am a stickler for following a specific format each day, thus, I use a specific lesson planning template. You can start off with a blank slate each day, or create a template you may have to use for your school to fill in. If you’re a middle school or high school teacher like me where you teach multiple periods of one subject, you can copy your lesson onto other days/periods for convenience.
  6. You can stay organized  from year to year and plan for future years more easily without having to re-create the wheel.  As I’ve touched on above, this is the best system for me to pull up the calendar and see the progression of what I did the year before, keep all of the powerpoints/activities/rubrics, etc. together by how they were presented, and to see how many lessons went into each unit. I am so excited to start planning for next year just because I already know all of this will make it so much easier!
Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 8.08.12 PM
Image found Here
7. You can attach the standards to your lessons and track progression. You can attach a set of Common Core Standards to your account, then just search the standards and attach! Done! This has saved me so much time! No more checklists of when standards were taught and re-taught!
Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 8.08.30 PM
Image Found Here
8. Collaboration and sharing is made easy. You can easily export your lessons into a PDF format, or email them to a group of people. You can also import documents from Google Drive, or from other resources shared with you from other members of Planboard.
9. Color-coding! I color code everything, as many teachers do, from classes, to groups, and everything in between. You can color-code your class periods and documents within your schedule, which may sound like a small thing, but ultimately, makes looking at the calendar format more user-friendly.
10. The system is intuitive. If you spend a lot of time on your computer and are a technology guru, or just want to move to a paperless system but aren’t an expert with technology–no worries, the Planboard system is easy to use, has a clean, simple design, and can be navigated around with ease!
That’s it! I just had to share a secret that has helped me so much stay organized. Do you use Planboard or any of the other products? Or do you use another online system? I’d love to hear from you!
p.s. Want to start a blog just like this one? My friend, Suzi, wrote an ebook that can help you get started!

Why I’m Writing

Middle School
So here it goes…! I’m starting a blog. I think I know what you’re thinking, because I know what I thought when I first entertained the idea of starting a blog: “Um, why? There are like a million blogs. What do I have to share that is so world-changing that everyone must read?”
Well, nothing really. I’m definitely not starting this blog in an effort to change anyone’s worldview, but I am starting it to hopefully inspire people to continuously improve, and potentially even make others’ lives a little bit easier. 
You see, I’m a sharer. I’m an outgoing, but private person, so this won’t really be a platform where I’m talking about my daily life, but more sharing things along the way that I’ve found that are helpful to me, especially when it comes to all things related to teaching middle school kids. This blog will also be about saving money. Being  a 20-something with student loans, on a teacher’s salary (big bucks!) means that I’m consistently counting pennies with Taylor (my boyfriend) in an effort to save money so we can reach our financial goals more quickly.
I want this blog to be a platform where I share any tips, tricks, secrets (and even awesome Pinterest links!) that  I’ve picked up along the way in terms of making and saving money, as well as things that are helping me, and can maybe help others, continuously increase our effectiveness in the classroom.And since I’m a sharer, I want to hear from you too! Please follow and subscribe to my blog, and share with me anything you’d like. I encourage comments, or your own tips, tricks and suggestions that can potentially help me and others!
You can also email me at, or connect with me on Twitter or Instagram!
Until next time,

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