Amazon Must Haves for the Classroom

It's time to share some more Amazon must-haves for the classroom. Amazon is one of the most convenient places for teachers to get what they need. I find the majority of my classroom items on Amazon. Their pricing is great and you can't beat Prime shipping.

This post contains affiliate links for your shopping convenience.  I earn a small commission each time someone makes a purchase through one of my links.  For more information about my Disclosure Policy, please visit this link.

This is not the first time I've shared some Amazon must-haves. You can check out other must-have items for your classroom by clicking here. 

With that said, here are some MORE amazing Amazon must-haves for your classroom. :)

This past year, I invested in an easel. Those fancy ones from Lakeshore and Really Good Stuff are too pricey for me. But this office style easel has proven to be very useful and effective. You can adjust the height, it's magnetic, and it has a whiteboard surface. I expect to get several years out of it. Click here to check out all the details.

Heavy Duty Paper
I used to print all my task cards, write the room cards, and reward tags on card stock. Which I would then laminate for added durability. But, using all that card stock eventually wore out my printer.

Now, I prefer to use 28 or 32 lb. printer paper. It's a higher quality, thick printer paper (thicker than your standard printer paper). And, the color always looks more vibrant. Once laminated, it's nice and durable and everything holds up really well. These two are my favorite:

HP 28 lb. paper
HP 32 lb. paper

Charging Stations
As my collection of classroom tech grew, I realized I needed a way to keep my devices organized while they charged. Beyond that, I needed something to contain the nightmarish collection of cords that was taking over that corner of the room. Cords are like the visual equivalent to nails being dragged on a chalkboard.

These bamboo charging stations are perfection. There is a power strip inside the base where each device is plugged in. Any cords that hang out of the charging station are wrapped together and now the cords stay out of sight and the kids know where to put the devices when they're finished with them.

Amazon sometimes runs out of the bamboo color, but they also offer a version in black. Click here for the item I purchased to check out the available color options.

Hole Punch
Yes, a hole punch made the list. Hehe. Over the years, my hands have become weak and prone to inflammation. Hole punching can be a more difficult and uncomfortable task than it needs to be. Enter this hole puncher.

It fits in the palm of your hand and has an ergonomic design. Best of all, it punches really easily. You don't have to squeeze too hard at all. This reduced effort hole punch is from Paper Pro (Bostitch). I ordered several so I have a backup, and one at home. Check it out here.

Oil Timer
This oil timer is a great tool for keeping kids focused during independent work time. I choose a time keeper (aka time manager) who comes to the front of the room during independent work time. They hold the timer while keeping an eye on the rest of the class. When the timer runs out, they place it on another student's desk (a student who was working the whole time and not talking). You can read more about this classroom management idea here. 

Click here to see this oil timer on Amazon.

Keyboard Covers
I know most people use these to cover their keyboards and make them look more fun and colorful. I use them as a word work center. Simply place a set of words out with these keyboard skins and you have yourself an instant center.

No, there is no accountability with this center. But, it does expose kids to a keyboard as they practice typing words they need to know. If this idea appeals to you, click here to see the keyboard covers I purchased.

LCD Boards
Another fun word work tool I've found on Amazon are these LCD writing boards. The kids love them! I mostly use them in our small groups when we practice sight words or specific phonics skills. These boards are a bit different than a mini whiteboard which is why the kids love them. It's different and being able to use them creates immediate buy in. Click here to see the boards I purchased on Amazon.

Harry Potter Style Glasses
If you like adding a bit of novelty to your day, then consider purchasing these glasses. My kids love wearing them during small groups, independent reading, or when working on their sight words. Kids who already wear glasses have been known to put them on over their regular glasses. If something as little as a pair of fun glasses motivates my students to read, I'm here for it. Click here to check these out.

Cap Erasers
I don't know about you, but my students always go through pencil erasers faster than they go through actual pencils. One day, I looked at our pencil bucket and noticed that most of the pencils still had a lot of life in them, they were just missing erasers. The solution was simple, get some cap erasers! These Paper Mate ones are my favorite because they erase and hold up really well.

For around $4-5 you get 144 erasers, which lasts for quite some time. Click here.

For more useful finds click HERE.
For tools every teacher needs click HERE.


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Easy & Effective Classroom Management Ideas

One of my favorite things to do is see what other teachers are up to in their classrooms. When teacher's share their ideas, I eat it up! I'm always on the lookout for new ideas, new tricks, and new tips.

If this sounds like you, then keep reading. This post will peek inside my classroom as I share more of my favorite classroom management tips and ideas. Click here for my other classroom management ideas post.

This post contains affiliate links for your shopping convenience. I earn a small commission each time someone makes a purchase through one of my links. For more information about my Disclosure Policy, please visit this link.

Like I mentioned, I love learning new things from other teachers. Welp, guess how I learned about this handy classroom management tip? Another teacher! My teammate shared this genius idea with me.

Basically, the time keeper holds this oil timer and watches the rest of the class during independent work time to make sure they are doing what they are supposed to. It is a way to encourage kids to stay focused (and quiet) during their independent work time. It works because everyone wants to be the time keeper!

Once the kids have started working, I choose a student to come to the front of the room. I do this by casually placing the timer on their desk. That's their signal that they have been chosen as the first time keeper. This student gets to hold the oil timer at the front of the room (where they can see the whole class). As the timer runs its course, the time keeper is looking for their replacement (someone who is working, not talking, not messing around, etc). When the oil timer runs out, the time keeper simply places the timer on the next student's desk. This continues until your independent work time is over. You can find these oil timers on Amazon. 

I know checking the cleanliness of student desks is nothing new, but one day I found a fun and exciting way to do this. The kids loved it so much, that I do use this method of checking desks often.

I took this flashy wand (as I call it) and went desk to desk. If the inside of their desk was meeting the expectations I made perfectly clear to them the first week of school (and all the days after that), I tapped the wand on their desk and they got a reward tag. They take great thrill in seeing the wand light up. It's the little things, friends. Since it was such a hit, I've continued to use this method.

Note: Sometimes I give a reward tag that is specifically for having a clean desk, but other times, it's just a reward tag reminding them that they are awesome (see above).

This is something I'll often do if we have an extra 5-7 minutes because it doesn't take long to peek inside a desk and see who knows how to keep their materials organized and who doesn't. You can find these flashy wands in the Target Dollar Spot (or whatever it's called these days).

Oh goodness, there is sooo much I could say about reward tags. They are such an effective tool to use in your classroom. So effective, that I've written several posts about them. Click here for allllll the details.

Basically, reward tags are little tags that students earn for making good choices, working hard, meeting goals, working toward goals, accomplishments, and whatever else you want to recognize a student for. Over the course of the year, they collect tags and place them on a ball chain necklace (a ring clip works too!). In my classroom, students wear their necklace any time they earn a new tag, and everyone wears their necklace on Fridays. Again, click here to read the many blog posts I have detailing all things reward tags, including useful tips and tricks and the ins and outs of using them. 

This trick may just make an appearance in any classroom management blog post I write. That's how much I love it!

A movement code word is exactly what it implies. You move when you hear the word. I started using this several years ago when my class thought they should follow the directions as I was giving them. Sigh. It was driving me bonkers. I started using the code word and told them they could not move until I was done talking and I said the code word. It turned things into a game of sorts (and no, no one loses and you don't get in trouble for forgetting).

I change my word weekly because changing it daily would never work for me. Like never. I like to use silly words. Some people like using academic words. Our day is so regimented that I prefer using a fun, silly word. It's a simple way to add more fun to the day.

I have an entire blog post about using a movement code word. Click here for all the specifics.

Sticks with students names. I don't know what genius came up with this idea years and years ago, but it's a management trick that's still going strong.

You can use name sticks for so many things: calling on students, pairing students, choosing a mystery walker, attendance, and MORE! Click here to read (in detail) the many ways that name sticks can be used in the classroom.

You need to have a plan for students who finish their work early. Otherwise, chaos will ensue. Okay, maybe not chaos, but you'll have a handful of kids just doing what they want and most likely distracting their classmates.

In my classroom, if you finish an assignment early, you can either:

  • Work on unfinished work (must do, if you have any)
  • Read silently
  • Choose a fast finisher activity

Giving students a choice is important, and this is one way I can do so when there are so many restrictions in place that dictate how our day looks.

My fast finisher activities are kept in drawers. The students can choose any activity from any drawer. I have 9 drawers total so I don't have to swap out the content very often. I typically stock the drawers with various sight word activities, grammar puzzles, and/or math puzzles. Here are a few examples of what I have put out in the past.

Sight word drills:

Sight word flash cards:

Miscellaneous puzzles and activities from Oriental Trading:

I'll admit, this little trick is definitely fluff. But, I won't apologize for it because the kids love it. I found this light up bubble wand when we went to Disneyland last year. I had to have it. I

I use the wand to shower partners/small groups of students with bubbles when they are working with an appropriate voice level. When kids work together they have a harder time with voice levels. When one group sees another being showered with mini bubbles, they work harder to control their voice levels because, I mean, who doesn't want a 15 second bubble party?

You can find light up bubble wands on Amazon. I haven't used them, but if you like this idea, and don't plan on visiting Disneyland any time soon, maybe there is one here that would work for you. :)

I have five table groups in my classroom. Sometimes, I need one person at that group to get materials for the table, or get privacy offices for the group, collect papers from the group, etc. I've found that designating one student as the team captain is the easiest way to do this. I don't have to spend time picking a student. The captain just does it.

Every Monday, I choose a new team captain. When the students see a little dino like this one on their desk, they know it's their turn to be team captain. I only have one NOT touch the dino. If they do, they lose it. They don't lose their position as team captain, they just don't get to sit with their dino pal for the week. Basically, they get to practice some self-control with this position. ;)

The dino is a bath toy. I got this set on Amazon.

That's it, friends! I hope you found an idea or two to try in your classroom. Don't forget to click here for more classroom management ideas like picking a mystery walker, using sticker books, and more. 


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Classroom Organization Ideas

I love being organized. And, I love talking all things organization. So, let's do it. Let's talk organization!

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Once again, I'm here today to share my love of organization. I'll be sharing a few (more) examples of how I organize specific materials in my classroom. (Click here for more specific examples of how to organize classroom items such as crayons, tech, clipboards, and more.)

I say this in most of my organization posts, but it is worth repeating: organization varies from person to person. It looks different to different people. What works for me might not work for you. But, hopefully it will at least inspire you and give you an idea.

Read Alouds
After I read a book to my class, I set it on the ledge of our whiteboard.

I let the books fill up that space, and when it is full, I move them to my filing cabinet. Yep, that's right, I organize and store my read alouds in my filing cabinets. I learned this gem of an idea from my teaching bestie years and years ago. I use legal sized file folders to create dividers and organize my books by topic or theme.

Fast Finisher Drawers
When I moved to my current classroom, my fast finisher organization system got an update. My room has two sets of short racks. They really aren't as functional as you might think because they are so short, so I decided to use them for my fast finisher materials. I purchased some oversized Sterlite drawers and simply put the fast finisher options in the different drawers. I made labels and attached them with Velcro dots.

The drawers I purchased are approximately 14 x 14 inches. The exact item I purchased does not appear to be available any longer (unless you want to pay twice what I did). But, Amazon does have a smaller set of drawers available (11 x 13.5 inches). You can find the smaller set of drawers here.

Within the drawers, you'll find more organizational goodness. Some of the activities I put out are stored in dry erase pouches, or sleeves, so that the resource can be used over and over. The ones shown below are from Oriental Trading, but you can click here for a comparable set on Amazon (with high ratings). 

You can find these sight word drills in my TPT store.

Finally, some of my fast finisher options are placed in zipper pouches like these. I get these at Walmart. They are less than one dollar a piece and every year I buy at least 10 more to add to my collection because I use them for centers and other things too.

Morning Tubs
Morning tubs are a great way to start your day with students. They provide a soft start and are perfect for easing kids into learning each day. With morning tubs, you basically set out some hands-on materials for students to play, build, and create with during the first 5-10 minutes of the day. You can read about what to put in morning tubs and how to manage them here.

I store my morning tub materials in drawers like these. I purchased mine from Michaels, but you can find a similar set, like the one linked here, on Amazon.

I love stickers. A lot. I have a lot of stickers. A lot.

I give out table points in my classroom. Each day, the winning table group gets a sticker. They add the sticker to their sticker books. You can read about how I use table points and stickers here. 

When I award stickers each day, I need quick and easy access. This magnetic holder has been a life saver! It sticks to the whiteboard, just below the space where I record the table points. I found this at The Container Store. Click here for a holder with similar dimensions. 

Reward Tags
Another classroom management tool I use daily in my classroom is reward tags.

In short, reward tags are a quick and easy way to recognize student effort on the spot. Students are awarded a tag and it is added to a special necklace. I have written many posts about reward tags. Click here for ALL things reward tags.

Just like the stickers mentioned above, I need to be able to quickly access the tags since I award them throughout the day.

I've found that storing my tags in an open container as seen below is the way to go. These are DMC floss organizer trays. DMC floss is what people use when they cross stitch, or make friendship bracelets. I've found that the trays are the perfect place to store my tags. I cut the lid off and glue some ribbon/bow on the outside. The trays sit on a bookcase at the front of my room so I can easily find what I need.

You can find these containers on Amazon, or at your local craft store (they are usually cheaper there).

Magnetic Marker Container
I realize this is not a revolutionary idea, but honestly, having a cup or container of some kind to organize and store your markers is great. Instead of having markers strewn about the ledge of your whiteboard, you can store them all in one handy spot. Store your markers cap side down so the color becomes more vibrant.

You can find these containers almost anywhere. The teal one shown above is from Home Goods. This link will take you to a similar sized option on Amazon. This link will take you to a smaller sized option on Amazon.

Student Work Folders
Classroom organization extends beyond the teacher and his/her resources and materials. Students need to be organized too!

One way that I teach my students some organizational skills is by giving them folders to store their work in. I tend to use the two shown below most often. I also make a technology folder where they store all their passwords and/or materials they might need to bring to the computer lab.

I purchase my folders at Target. You can find these labels in my TPT store (the set currently includes 120 labels).

Click here for more specific examples of how to organize your classroom. 
Click here for more posts on how to get organized, the truths about getting organized, and more.


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Classroom Management: Name Sticks

Name sticks are a useful, yet effective, classroom management tool. They're also extremely versatile.

Before I really get started here, I want to point out that name sticks are nothing new. Teachers have used them for years. I think that's a testament to how useful they can be.

I recently shared my name sticks on Instagram where I also shared how I use them, and a few friends over there shared how they use them. That's what this post is all about, all the ways you can use name sticks in your classroom.

What is a name stick?
Name sticks are exactly what the name implies, sticks with (student) names written on them. Most often, you'll see teachers using craft sticks like the ones shown below. In my opinion, "jumbo" size is the way to go. That size is just easier when you're trying to write names.

You can use them straight out the package. Grab a stick, write a name (I like to use Sharpie), repeat. Put all of your sticks into a little pail/can.

Sometimes, you might see teachers get kind of crafty with their sticks. I tend to get crafty. This is not necessary. Some teachers like to craft and enjoy making things for their classroom.

Some years, I paint my sticks. And, every year, I glue a bow on them. I like bows. Not sorry.

I'm often asked where I get my bows. I make them! I use 3/8" wide ribbon, tie a bunch of mini bows, and then hot glue them to the top of the sticks.

When I don't feel like painting the sticks, I just add the bow.

The stick shown above has a unique shape. They look like mini paint stirrers. I found this particular stick style at Hobby Lobby, alongside the "regular" shaped craft stick.

The colors of the bows (or sticks, when I paint them) bears no meaning to me. I simply choose colors that match my classroom because that makes me happy. I grab and label the sticks at random. But, if you choose to decorate your sticks, the colors could mean something if you wanted them to.

How can I use them?
There are so many ways you can use name sticks. Let's take a look at all the ways you can use name sticks in the classroom.

Calling on Students
This is probably the most common way teachers use name sticks: calling on students at random. When you notice that the same 3-4 kids are raising their hands for every single question, pull a name stick. This reminds students to really pay attention.

You can even rely on the name sticks. That is, instead of asking for volunteers to answer questions, share ideas, etc, you simply pull name sticks one a time. Again, this will remind students to stay focused, and you can be sure not to call on the same student more than once.

Note: Some people prefer to write numbers on their sticks so they can reuse the same set of sticks every year. If this idea works for you, that's awesome! I personally prefer writing student names because I don't want I call out numbers (too impersonal). Also, I like to know whose stick I'm pulling because my brain can't match names to numbers that quickly on the spot. So, writing names is probably a time saver for me. Hehe.

Grouping Students
Need to make groups quickly? Then, get that little pail of name sticks because you'll be able to group your 27 students in no time at all.  Decide the size of each group. Grab that many sticks and BOOM, you have a group. Repeat until all of your students are grouped.

Pairing Students
I know, I know, pairing up students isn't all that different than grouping students. But, the sticks will still be a super quick way to quickly pair up students.

Tip: A sweet friend on Instagram, Marna, shared a great tip for what to do when you have an odd number of students. She lets that person choose which group they join, I absolutely love this idea.

Mystery Walker
When my kids start getting a little too comfortable in the hallways, I choose one or two mystery walkers. I simply pull a stick, or two, before we leave the room. I do not announce whose names were pulled. I keep an eye on those students and if they do a stellar job in the hallway, I let them know when we get to wherever it is we are going and I give them a Mystery Walker reward tag. Learn more about reward tags here.

On the Spot Helper
If you have a quick task that you'd like a student to do, pull a stick! You could have that student help you with a specific task like passing out papers or materials, erasing the board, helping you with part of a lesson, and so on. You could also have them deliver things like notes to other teachers/office, retrieve a book from the library for you, or take the lunch cards to the lunchroom.

Seating Arrangements
Another sweet Instagram friend, Candace, shared that she uses her name sticks for seating arrangements. The students draw a stick (which she numbers) and then they sit at the desk with that number. Of course she reserves the right to move kids as needed once they choose their seats, but she tries to give them the benefit of the doubt. Love that!

Sub Helper
Substitutes are often overwhelmed when they guest teach in your classroom. They usually have the goal of following your plans, adhering to schedules, and figuring out procedures which can make learning names quickly more challenging. Sharing the name sticks with your sub means they can use them to call on students, choose helpers, and so on without saying, "Yes, you, with the red shirt."

As a Library Marker
Another fellow teacher on Instagram explained that she's used name sticks as library markers. When students remove a book from the shelf, they place their name stick in that space so they remember where their book goes when it's time to put it away. I've seen this done with paint sticks as well. It's a great way to teach kids to be responsible with shared classroom materials.

Taking Attendance
Once upon a time, my students would walk through the door, take their stick and place it in on one side of a pocket chart to indicate whether they brought their lunch from home, or if they were getting school lunch that day.  I placed the pocket chart and stick at the doorway so students remembered to do this as they walked in each morning. I loved this system. I could quickly see who was absent and who needed their lunch card that day. Sadly, this set up just didn't work with our pod situation at school. Since we entered the school all at once from the playground, my class was always backing things up out into the hallway and I didn't have any other place to put this chart. So, I stopped using the sticks in this manner. However, many people on Instagram reported that one of the things they use the sticks for is taking attendance and I still think it's a fabulous use of name sticks.

I'm sure there are other useful ways to use name sticks. If you have one that wasn't mentioned here, please share it in the comments below. :)


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10 Reading Week Ideas

Once a year we get the opportunity to dedicate a full week to all things related to reading. Reading Week, or Read Across America, is such a great way to instill a love of learning in students.

This post contains affiliate links for your shopping convenience. I earn a small commission each time someone makes a purchase through one of my links. For more information about my Disclosure Policy, please visit this link.

My school does a lot of school wide events to make Reading Week special, but I always like to do a few things of my own. If you're looking for some simple ways to make this week extra special for your students, then keep on reading.

Book Snack
During a read aloud, let your students enjoy a special snack. This can be as cutesy and themed as you want it to be (or not at all). Trust me when I tell you that your kids will love snacking on Goldfish as you read Mercy Watson to them. But, if you want to amp it up a bit, here are a few suggestions to work with:

Random Themed D.E.A.R. Times
Rather than offer silent reading at the same time each day during Reading Week, switch up the times each day. Better yet, make that D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything and Read) time themed! This is such a simple way to make silent reading more fun. Invite your students to participate in daily themes such as reading to a stuffed animal, laying on a pillow, or reading in the dark with a flashlight. Send home the note below home the Friday before Reading Week so students can prepare over the weekend for day one.

You can grab this D.E.A.R. note by signing up for my newsletter. Click here to sign up. :)

Schedule some D.E.A.R time for Read Alouds
D.E.A.R. time isn't just for silent reading. It can be for read alouds too! So, drop everything and read to your students. They'll love it.

Flashlight Read
If you don't like the idea of themed D.E.A.R. time, then opt for a day or two of flashlight reading. Finger flashlights are always popular with students. Turn down the lights, give each student a finger flashlight, and let them read. Easy peasy.

Find a New Place to Read
Weather permitting, maybe you can take your kids outside to read one day. Is there anything more fun than sitting on the play structure and reading?

If the weather isn't cooperating, then find other places in your building to read. Maybe you could let them read:
  • on the school stage
  • in the hallway
  • in your computer lab
  • in your school library (if it's available for use)

Buddy Read
Partner up with a different grade level for some buddy reading. I remember having Big Buddies in elementary school (and then one day becoming a Big Buddy myself). It was always so fun to read with kids in a different grade.

Have a Read-In
Let your students participate in a read-in. This could be a full day event, or a half day. Let students bring a blanket and pillow so they can cozy up as they read. And, if you're feeling bold, let them build reading forts.

Set Out Baskets of Special Books
Put out some special baskets filled with books. These books can come from your own classroom library, or even the school library. Choose some fun themes, new titles, or Caldecott winners and invite your students to read these featured books during D.E.A.R. time.

Book Share
Throughout the week, let the students take turns sharing a favorite book. This is an easy way to incorporate some speaking and listening into your week. Once students choose a book, they can explain why they like it. It would also be a great way to get students excited about reading new books.

Make a Bookmark
Let your students make a bookmark. They could make one from scratch (give them a plain white template and let them have at it), or let them color a bookmark like the one shown below. You can grab this fun bookmark by signing up for my newsletter. Click here to sign up. :)

Extra, Extra
A few fun extras you might want to consider are sending home Reading Bingo to encourage more reading at home. Or, a fun reading themed graphing activity that allows you to get in a little extra math practice. You can grab both of these fun extras by signing up for my newsletter. Click here to sign up. :)

I hope you are able to use an idea or two from this post! Happy reading, my friends. And, don't forget, you can grab all of the fun resources featured in this post for FREE by signing up for my newsletter. Click here to sign up.


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