Category: Organizational Ideas

Quick and Easy to Make Pocket Chart

Ideas for Using the Pocket Charts

Quick and Easy Pocket Chart - Read how to make this simple pocket chart from materials you have around the house.

Quick and Easy Pocket Chart - Read how to make this simple pocket chart from materials you have around the house.Creating pocket charts from wrapping paper and cardboard is quick and easy. Make individual pocket charts for students, a series of matching charts for a bulletin board, or even a large one to hang on the wall. Be sure to check out the bottom of this post to see some ideas for using these pocket charts.  Continue reading

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Organizing Your Book Units


After creating a large number of book units, I have discovered a few organizational “tricks.” I hope this post will help you organize your units for quick and easy access.

Organizing your Book Units

Organizing Book Units Step 1

As you can tell from the photo above, I use different sizes of three-ringed binders based on the size of the units. Many units will fit into a one-inch binder; others need 1 1/2″ or larger binders. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz required a 2 1/2″ binder. The best way to figure the size you need is by the number of pages in the unit. Each inch will hold approximately 200 sheets of paper, so a two-inch binder will hold 400 sheets.

When I first started organizing my units, I didn’t pay any attention to the color of the binders. Using binders of the same color looks neat when they are placed in an open shelf.

Another tip is to place one binder inside a plastic storage bin along with the set of books. Below is a photo from my classroom. Here again, it is best to plan ahead and select the color of your storage bins. In the photo, you can see the lids to my boxes range from gray to bright blue.

Showoffs Large Clear Latched Storage Box

Book Unit Organization

Organizing Your Book Units

Organizing Book Units Step 2

I label book unit dividers as follows:

  • vocabulary
  • comprehension
  • individual skills such as prefixes and suffixes, root words, and so onOrganizing Your Book UnitsOrganizing Your Book Units

Organizing Book Units Step 4

After creating a sample interactive notebook, only to have to create one again the next year because I found different materials I liked better or because I wanted to teach skills in a different order, I discovered placing organizers into page protectors was the perfect solution. The organizers can easily be pulled out of the page protector and placed under a document camera for students to see how to create them. Students aren’t confused because the page numbers from the teacher’s interactive notebook are different or the organizer on the adjacent page doesn’t match.

Another Tip

Pocket Chart

The word cards from all my more recent units are the same size (5″ by 2 1/2″). They fit perfectly into the “Scheduling Pocket Chart” by Carson Dellosa. This chart will hold 28 words, so you  may need a larger pocket chart for some units.

If you print the vocabulary words for each book onto a different color of card stock, the cards can be mixed together for games and review. The cards are easily sorted by color once the activity ends to store back away.


Next week, I will cover some “tricks” for organizing students’ binders.

Gay Miller


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Organizing Student Binders

Organizing Student BindersAs an inclusion teacher, I have worked with many teachers. This experience helped me learn many organizational tips from my team teachers. I often feel like a sponge soaking up ideas and trying them out. Over time, I have begun to use one idea from one teacher, another idea for a different teacher, mixed the ideas together, then tweak the methods to make them work better. This notebook is a combination of some of those ideas.

Why Use Binders

Providing students with an entire unit at once in place of handing out single pages saves a huge amount of class time. In the past, I have worked with teachers who bound units with plastic combs or placed units in 3 pronged folders. Both of these become expensive as teachers often must purchase the plastic combs or folders out of their own pockets. One great solution is for students to have three ringed binders that can be used for different units all year long.

Parent Notification

During the summer, as soon as class roles are made, teachers in our school send letters home to each student. The letters include the following

  • a welcome message
  • an invitation to Open House
  • list of items to buy for the classroom such as tissues, hand sanitizer, and so on.

In this letter, parents are also told that in place of each individual student purchasing his/her own binder and notebooks, teachers will purchase class sets. Teachers provide a price list of items they will be purchasing for each student. Parents are asked to provide money for the materials at the beginning of school. Since our school has followed this procedure for several years, most parents accept this as the routine for the upper elementary grades.


#1 ~ Durable binders are worth the extra expense. After trying the economy binders one year (They fell apart by midyear.) teachers discovered it was actually cheaper to begin with binders that would last the entire year.

#2 ~ Binders covered with clear plastic work best. Here’s why: The names of the students can be typed in large font, printed onto card stock, cut into strips, and placed down the outside spine of the binder. 

#3 ~ The binders are organized with plastic pocket tab dividers. After trying out three binders for different subjects (science/social studies, math, and language arts), teachers in my team agreed that one larger two-inch binder for all subjects works best. [Note: The photos I am using as illustrations are with a one-inch binder as this is what I had at home when I was writing this post.]

#4 ~ Color coding binders by different periods is a good idea. Our school is departmentalized, so students are moving binders from classroom to classroom. By having all binders from the same class in the same color, missing notebooks are easier to find. This also helps with adding new material to the notebooks.

Organizing Student Binders

Setting Up the Binders

Having a parent volunteer write on the small tab dividers works best. Many students have trouble writing neatly on the small tabs. We use the following categories:

  • Organization 
  • Review 
  • Book Units
  • Language Arts
  • Math
  • Science
  • Social Studies
  • F.I.S.H

Section 1 ~ Organization

The pocket for the first section is used for student response cards. You can download these free response cards here.

Free Printable Response Cards

Following the tabbed divider, the first section contains syllabi, schedules, student goals, instructions for projects, policies, etc.

Section 2 ~ Review

This section in the binder takes the place of having student portfolios in individual file folders. For more information on a simple method for creating portfolios, you may wish to read this blog post titled “Student Portfolios ~ Teacher Evaluations Part 5” which goes into detail.

Section 3 ~ Book Unit

Having a pocket on the tab is a wonderful place to store vocabulary books. Many of my book units have these small books filled with practice. Section 3 is also where comprehension quizzes are stored.


Sections 4-7 ~ Individual Subjects

Students have a section devoted to each subject. Teachers usually add one unit of study at a time to these sections. At this link you can find the incredible subject cover pages pictured here.

Subject Covers

Section 8 ~ F.I.S.H.

F.I.S.H. [Family Involvement Starts Here] is a schoolwide practice. All students have a F.I.S.H. binder for school and class notes, calendars, newsletters, permission slips, basically all types of teacher/parent communication are placed here. Parents know this is where they need to look each night, and teachers check this section daily for any notes parents might send to school. During morning review, students open their binders to this section. The teacher can make a quick sweep through the classroom and collect any correspondence.

See Parent Connection Newsletters for a monthly correspondence with parents. 

Parent Newsletters

More information

Binders are routinely kept at school on Wednesdays. Parents know the binders will not come home this night because old material is removed from the binders and new material is added.

Most teachers move completed work to the F.I.S.H. section for parents to go through. A parent signature page is added to the divider pocket for parents to sign and date showing they have seen the work. 


Get students organized with these helpful tips and free printables.

Gay Miller


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Tracking Student Fluency Rates


Read three fluency tips. Then grab a free printable booklet that helps students set fluency goals and track their daily rates for the entire school year.

The Reading Crew is a group of primary through middle school reading specialists. About three to four times a year, we share materials and ideas through a blog hop or link up. This time we are sharing organizational tips for literacy. Enjoy collecting checklists, guided reading tool lists, organizational tools, and printables that you will use daily. Before you leave, be sure to enter the rafflecopter at end of this post. We are giving away a TPT gift card. Have a great time exploring our blog posts, and I hope you have the best school year ever!

Tracking Student Fluency Rates Tip #1

Most school districts assign “Fluency Standards Tables” for teachers to use as guides. I’ve included links to four popular choices. Print them out for the students to see. 

Tracking Student Fluency Rates Tip #2

One of the best ways to improve speed and accuracy is by having students perform daily fluency checks. This can become monotonous for students and time consuming for teachers. I like to change the routine between one-on-one checks with the teacher, students read silently for one minute (I only use this method when class time is slipping away.), and small group checks.Fun classroom timers are a great tool for one-minute fluency checks.

Here’s how small group fluency checks work in my classroom. I divide students into small groups of four students; partners will also work when you are really crunched for time. Each student in the group has a job. The job roles rotate when different students read. I place a timer stopwatch on the SmartBoard. [Here’s a link to some fun timers.] Have students read the assigned passage to the group. Assigning group roles, really helps keep students on track and honest. The person sitting to the left of the reader is the word counter. The person sitting to the left of the word counter is the mistake counter. The person sitting to the left of the mistake counter is the time keeper. The jobs and the reader rotate clockwise after each reader finishes the passage. This way each student gets a turn doing all four roles. Students catch onto this routine very quickly. 

Small Group Fluency Checks

Tracking Student Fluency Rates Tip #3

Praise, praise, and more praise. Students want to compare themselves to their peers. I spend a lot of time encouraging students to beat personal fluency records, not those of their friends. One way to do this is with a fluency calendar. Some years I’ve simply printed calendar pages and glued them into interactive notebooks. This year, I’ve created a fluency booklet.

In this fluency booklet, each month has a calendar on the left side of the page for students to record fluency scores. The calendar boxes are large enough to make a subtraction problem. (Words read in one minute minus the number of mistakes.) On the right side of the page, a chart for setting goals and a bar graph for tracking goals are provided. Students write a goal at the beginning of the month. After each timed test, students complete one column of the bar graph using red for “hot” reads and blue for “cold” reads. At the end of the month, scores are averaged to determine just how much progress the student made. The page provides a clear “easy-to-read” running record of the student’s progress.

This free printable booklet helps students set fluency goals and track their daily rates for the entire school year.

You can download the Fluency Book here. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Gay Miller

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Teaching Students to Write a Narrative ~ Study Carrel

 Activities for Teaching Students How to Write a Story HookThis post will provide links to all the organizers needed to make this study carrel loaded with resources students will need as they write narratives.

The Inside ~ Writing

Add foldable graphic organizers to your study carrels for students to reference while writing.
  1. The Hook
  2. Wow Words Thesaurus
  3. Types of Figurative Language
  4. Sound Devices
  5. Rules for Writing Quotations
  6. Plot Development Roller Coaster Diagram
  7. Show, Don’t Tell Imagery Chart

The Outside ~ Proofreading

The outside of the study carrel contains information for proofreading narratives.
  1. Correcting Sentence Problems [Three Flap Organizers]
  2. Horizontal Writing a Narrative Checklist   ~   Vertical Checklist
  3. Highlight First Word Proofreading [This post is scheduled for November 12, 2015. The link will begin working on this date.]


Narrative Writing Foldable Graphic Organizers ~~ These make a great study carrel for students.


Gay Miller

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Student Portfolios ~ Teacher Evaluations Part 5

Student Portfolios

When teachers read this statement, “Portfolio-based with clear illustrations of student progress toward state content standards,” from the list of requirements on the teacher evaluation rubric, I repeatedly heard teachers say they would just take a mark down in this area. There was no way they could create individual portfolios for their students.

While inwardly I cringed, I knew I couldn’t purposely skip over a required component. Instead, I thought, “What is the easiest most effective way to create portfolios for my students?”

Here was my plan:

#1 ❤◦.¸¸. ◦✿ I created a folder for each of my students by simply using colored folders and writing their names on the top tabs.

#2 ❤◦.¸¸. ◦✿ As I recorded assignments in my electronic grade book [We used Grade Keeper.], I included one teaching standard number in the assignment description.

 #3 ❤◦.¸¸. ◦✿ Every three weeks, I printed individual student scores similar to the image below. I stapled these pages into the front of the students’ folders. Next I highlighted approximately two standards in which a student showed areas of weakness. For example, for Student #3 on the image below, I would definitely highlight CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.5.3.

Student Grades

#4 ❤◦.¸¸. ◦✿ Next, I created a folder for each standard. Inside the folders, I placed extra worksheets, task cards, game activities, books, and so forth that practiced the standard.

#5 ❤◦.¸¸. ◦✿ Students would keep their portfolios with them. During any down time, especially morning review time, students would work on weaknesses. They simply looked at the skills that were highlighted in their portfolios, then went to the folders and selected an activity. This activity stayed in the student’s portfolio until it was completed.

 #6 ❤◦.¸¸. ◦✿ I  placed the answer key to each folder activity in a different location from the folders for each standard. Students would move to the grading center, where only ink pens were provided to grade their work.

#7 ❤◦.¸¸. ◦✿ Students next recorded the assignment and grade on a chart that was stapled to the back of their portfolio folders.  You may click on the image below to download this chart.

Portfolio Assignment Chart

 Once the system was set up, students were responsible for the ongoing record keeping. I felt the process was extremely successful. Students showed improvement, and I met the requirements of the evaluation.

Gay Miller


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Questioning Students ~ Teacher Evaluations Part 4

Calling on Students
Method for Calling on Students

Questioning Students

Questioning students is an important part of the evaluation lesson. Not only must teachers ask questions from all levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy, but they must also call on both volunteers and non-volunteers. On top of this, the non-volunteers must represent a random mix of students. BOY! What a lot to remember when you are nervous with two evaluators writing down everything you do and say! I devised this simple, yet effective, way for randomly calling on non-volunteers.

The Method

Here’s how it works:

I divided my students into three groups based on how they normally answer questions in class.

Group 1 

The first group represents students I think would do well answering the knowledge and understanding level Bloom questions. For example, I have one very bright, extremely shy student. When I ask her a short, quick response question, she can reply with great answers. If I ask her a question that requires a more detailed answer, she gets the “deer in the headlights” look on her face and completely freezes up.

Group 2 

These are the students that respond well to nonverbal tasks. OK, I know we are answering questions, but there are many question-type activities that can be incorporated into a lesson. “Go to the SmartBoard and drag the definitions next to the vocabulary words.” or “On this website, I want you to select the correct answer to this multiple choice question.” or even “Draw a diagram or sketch an illustration of . . . on the board.” One student I have that fits this group is a young man who wants to tell the class everything he knows. After a few seconds, he is completely off-topic.

Group 3

This is simply the rest of the class.

Making Name Calling Sticks

I write each student’s name on one of three different wooden shapes based which group I have placed them in. I like using the wooden shapes because they are easy to select from a box, but many other materials will work equally as well. You could use three different colors of cubes or even strips of colored paper.

Next place the wooden shapes into a box. Every other question or so, “randomly” select a non-volunteer from your box to answer the question. The different shapes are easy to distinguish making the selection planned.

In the photo, you will notice that I have used a highlighter to mark different colors at the ends of the wooden shapes. These colors are based on my small learning groups. [You may wish to read this post explaining an easy method for dividing students into groups.] I used this set of names when my class was completing a game activity, and I needed to rotate between each group with my questions.

I hope this simple method will help alleviate a little stress from a highly stressful situation.

Gay Miller


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