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Showing posts with label Thursday Tips for Teachers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Thursday Tips for Teachers. Show all posts

Thursday Tips for Teachers: How to organize TPT units

Happy Thursday! 
I hope you are having a fantastic week and that this nugget of goodness will make it even better.

This is how I have been organizing the creation process for my last 3 projects and it has worked so well for me, that I had to share it. 
As a result of these changes, I have DRASTICALLY reduced my creation time from 3 weeks to 1 week from initial idea to final product, using this system. 


I work for a guided reading after-school program. We work across 7 school sites and with over 350 kids, and 45 staff. I evaluate the program and develop units/projects/ideas/whateverisneeded to best support students and staff. As there are a lot of stakeholders, I have to work quickly and efficiently. This is the system that I have found (thus far) that has worked the best for me. I hope this helps you and that you will share any additional strategies in the comments below. :)

Tip 1: Work from a template and enter information by hand

My first Fry Word Unit was crafted entirely on the computer and it took me MONTHS to complete. I literally felt like my brain was melting as I crafted 1,000 sentences for the unit. My progress was slow and I really didn't enjoy the process. As I have been working more and more on new units, the key to my productivity, success, and frankly, preservation of my brain cells, is creating a template for each page and enter the data on each sheet by hand. 

Below is an example from a sight word unit I am currently working on. I write all of the information that I am planning to type and it LITERALLY takes me about 3 minutes to complete a section versus 20 minutes of dithering around, trying to tear myself away from my pin boards.

I typically fill these pages out while watching tv or in between playing with the baby. I love that I can see how it will look when it is finished and I can make notes about things that I will have to trouble shoot later.

Tip 2: Get a Binder

I love binders, so beware, I am biased. You may prefer another way of organizing and I would love to hear it. I found that working strictly on the computer severely hampers my productivity. I get distracted by Facebook, Instagram, and the ultimate time suck, Pinterest. I  I prefer to use a binder to organize my materials because I can easily add new sections and take papers in and out as I am creating.

 All of my pre-planning usually takes place in one of my many notebooks. The current binder is a white 1 inch binder. I found that any bigger than this makes it difficult to transport and honestly too heavy to cart around.

Below is my typical organization of my binder. I use the simple yellow tabs and I have a different unit in each tab. I hole punch each set of pages and hand write the information that I will type in later.  I will be honest. After I complete a unit, I typically throw all of these planning sheets away for the next project.

I have been working on a series of vocabulary worksheets/activities for K-8. In the left hand pocket, I have some of the words I will use for a future unit and post it notes for to dos for the projects that are currently in progress (and dinner plans for the next week lol)

Here is an example of the note cards I take after working on a unit. I give the completed unit to students or fellow teachers and write down their feedback to include. I also jot down notes for future units to be planned out later. 

Tip 3: Printing

I print my sample document with my binder in mind. I want to optimize the amount of paper I'm using while still leaving room to make everything legible and provide space so that I can write notes. I first select fit to page option and print double sided.

I found it is easier for me to select the flip on short edge option. I honestly I had to try this multiple times because I would forget which one printed the way that I liked it. 

When you select this option, your pages come out like this ....
I like it because I can keep the notebook in my lap facing me, and complete an entire unit, versus turning and flipping the binder around to work on the different pieces.

Tip 4: Color Coding

An drum roll please for my favorite tip! Colorful paper!!!!

When I would print out my materials in the past, the glaring white of the paper would actually hamper my progress. When working on a 100 page unit, the endless sea of white paper felt like it would never end. It was also easy to get confused as which sheets belonged to which unit.


I found that breaking the unit up into chunks and printing on different colors dramatically increased my effectiveness. I could see visually how many more sections I had to fill in, which then helped me to set small goals until I was finished. This honestly my favorite tip because I love all things colorful anyway lol. But seriously, this has been a game changer for me. I only use these colors for my planning sheets, so my brain just feels triggered to be more creative.

I hope you founds these tips helpful! Next week, I will focus on the electronic component of building your units! Please leave a comment below if you have another way that you organize your TPT units.


Thursday Tips for Teachers: Test Prep - Check the Copyright

Gearing up for test prep? This edition of Thursday Tips for teachers is devoted to the selecting of texts for test prep. Since it is my first Thursday Tips for Teachers, I wanted to share the gleaming golden nugget of knowledge that I recently found out and have been sharing with my mentee teachers.

When I was reviewing the state test for item samplers, I noticed that several of the passages came from Highlights, Click, and Cricket Magazines. 

All of these magazines are focused on children and feature fiction and non-fiction passages. I was not as familiar with the Click and Cricket Magazines, but a quick Google showed them to be similar to Highlights.

Why Not Use Only ReadWorks?

As much as I love ReadWorks, I really want to be strategic when selecting my texts for test prep. Many of the teachers use the ReadWorks passages during the year in class, and they can be overused when it comes time for test prep. They also come with questions that may not align with the learning objectives that my kids need the most. Using these magazine texts, helps to prep my kids with content that may be used on the test and the freedom to design and align my objectives.

Well What About Using the Practice Tests?

 Like Readworks, it can also be difficult to use the item samplers, as they are few in number. I like to save those questions/test for the diagnostic and summative assessments and use highlights to develop my formative assessments. These suggestions are only one way of prepping for the standardized tests. I like this system because it minimizes burn out on both the teacher and the students.

I would suggest looking closely at your test to find where your passages are coming from to further help your students prep. If there is no copyright, I would suggest  googling the author's name to find out more about where they have published in the past or find some of their other works.

Below are links to the highlights passages. I would suggest possibly purchasing a copy of these magazines to use in your classroom.

Next Thursday's Tip for Teachers is the break down of how to incorporate practice without becoming overwhelmed or overloading your students. One of the teachers I work with has incorporated this system and has seen a lot of growth with her students.

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