Management Monday: Genius Awards

Hello everyone! Natalie here and I'm bringing you today's Management Monday idea. As a review, We are bringing back our Management Monday series! It was something Rachelle started about 4 years ago and it ran for about a year. We loved sharing our ideas on classroom management, organization tips, behavior management, time management, and more!

After 10 years of teaching, I've found that positive reinforcement is key to motivating a lot of students. I am personally really motived by positive reinforcement as well. I love getting a little thank you every once in a while and I like to feel appreciated for the things that I do. And guess what?! A lot of our students are the exact same way!

Today I wanted to share with you an idea I've used in the past to help motivate my students to work hard and use higher levels of thinking. It's something I call a "Genius Award" or in the past I've also called it an "Einstein Award" or a "MVP Award."

{Click the picture to download this for FREE!}

What is Genius Award?

It's a classroom incentive idea to encourage students to use higher levels of thinking in your classroom. Any time a student has a bright idea, you can recognize, encourage, and celebrate their accomplishment with a Genius Award!

Students will love these because they will feel special and encouraged to come up with more bright ideas. Parents will love this because they always love to hear about positive experiences their children have in class! As a parent myself, I know that I would be thrilled if my son came home with a Genius Award to show me! 

How can this help with classroom management? Having any type of positive reinforcement system in your classroom will encourage those good behaviors you want to see in your classroom. You can print off a class list and keep track of who wins an award and when. It will give you opportunities to look for greatness even from ALL of your students - even especially from your struggling students. Every child deserves to feel smart and valued. These coupons will give them that opportunity to shine!

Check out our past Management Monday posts here:

Like this idea? Pin this image on Pinterest to find it later.


Management Monday: iPad and Tablet Management

I thought I'd share a little song I teach my students when we first get the ipads out at the beginning of the year!  Maybe you can use it.  I also use Heidisongs great rules poster that you can find {here}. 

Click {here} to download 

If you have a student who is really struggling with following the expectations and NOTHING seems to work? What about a Technology Treat (aka... iPad time!)?
This behavior contract allows the student to earn stickers and once the chart is filled out, they can play the learning game on the ipad for 5-10 minutes.  It WORKS!  

Click {here} to download 

My favorite app for them to play during this time is the Teach Me app. It is a paid app but it's SO worth it!  I bought the 1st grade version and it's a bit too easy for my kiddos, but is great for my kiddos that need a great deal of intervention.  Look into buying a grade above what you teach.

Also, don't forget...

We are excited to announce that our stores will both be on sale TODAY ONLY as part of the big TPT Bonus Sale! You can save 28% when using code ONEDAY at check out! Find us at and - Let us help you plan for literacy, math, classroom management, and more!

Why Is Teaching History So Important?

As a 5th grade teacher I have always felt a tremendous responsibility to teach the American history curriculum to my students. In Utah, we cover all of American history from early Native Americans all the way to present day America! That is a lot of curriculum to cover in just one year - especially in schools where high stakes testing place such an emphasis in teaching literacy, math, and science. 

The sad thing I've noticed is that teachers just don't have time for social studies. With no accountability to teach it, limited resources, and lack of support, history can be a hard subject for a lot of elementary teachers. 

So why should we teach American History? Why is it so important? 

I'd like to offer 3 reasons why teaching social studies (especially American history) is so important in today's classrooms.

1. The future of America is in your classrooms! If they don't understand and appreciate America from a young age, how will they grow up to be participating citizens in our country? 

2. Patriotism is important! If you don't teach students to respect our flag, stand and put their hand over their heart when they say the Pledge of Allegiance  and about our Founding Fathers who sacrificed to make our country free... who will? (Parents hopefully, but what about those sweet kids who don't have great role models at home? How will they learn?)

3. We can learn a great deal about character, hard work, and sacrifice by studying the various events and famous people in history. Studying people like George Washington and Martin Luther King, Jr. will help give our students role models that they can look up to. Studying events like the Civil War or World War II can teach them about sacrifice and how hate can make the world a sad place. Our students need these lessons to teach them important life-long skills that will make them stronger and kinder American citizens. 

As a 5th grade teacher, I used to joke that my main goal in teaching my students was to make sure they never ended up on a TV game show looking like a complete fool for not knowing basic US history facts. Knowing who discovered America, what day the Declaration of Independence was signed, which country we fought in the Revolution, and the name of our recent past presidents (among other things) were goals I made sure my students could know and remember. 

As elementary teachers, we owe it to the Jr. High and High School teachers to take a bigger responsibility in ensuring our students are ready to enter the real world upon graduation.  I believe that instilling a great love for our country needs to begin at a young age so students grow up loving our wonderful country, respecting the land we live on, and turn out to be productive and caring citizens in the community.

For those of you who are lacking in resources to teach American History, I wanted to show you something I've made that I think could be a great help to you! Over the course of six years, and while finding successful ways to teach American history to my students, I developed this set of American History Graphic Organizers. It contains 40 graphic organizers that will help you teach all of the important events in history including Native Americans, Early Explorers, the Revolutionary War, Westward Expansion, Civil War, World War I and II, Civil Rights, and everything else in between, including U.S. Government and elections. 

Here is a little peek at the 40 organizers I have available. 
(For a complete list of topics click here:


I tried to include everything you would need, so I have added the following resources to help make this product easy to use and implement in your classroom.

A Note to the Teacher
Teacher Instructions
Teaching Tips
Teaching Ideas
A pacing guide sample
4 student book cover page options
-2 color choices
-2 black and white choices (to save ink!)
Table of Contents
40 graphic organizers

People have asked me in the past what I like to use to teach American History. Here is a little peek into what I use and how I use these graphic organizers with my students:

Picture books or chapter books on the topic.
Primary source documents. (For example, let students read a copy of the actual Declaration of Independence or use real maps from the time period.)
Fun and interesting websites (either whole class on a projector, in a computer lab, or using iPads).
Videos or short documentaries on the topic.
Find free PowerPoint presentations in a google search or look on TeachersPayTeachers. (If needed, you could make your own.)
Learning groups - Divide up the topics for a day, have each group become an expert on that topic, then have them present their research to the class.
Guest speaker – If you can, invite someone in to teach about a topic. (For example, a grandparent who served in the Vietnam or Korean War would add a lot to a lesson!)
Hands-on projects. For some lessons you can have a fun activity prepared. (For example, when I teach about slavery, I try to bring in raw cotton and have my students experience what it’s like to pull out all the burrs.)

Love these ideas? I'd love for you to pin one of these images to your Pinterest boards!

Management Monday: Take-Home Reading Folders

I want to share with you how I organize my take-home reading folders.  I've heard teachers who feel overwhelmed with the thought of managing this without parent volunteers. I'm here to tell is possible and it can run smoothly without taking a lot of extra time!

1. Buy books
I bought a lot of my books when Scholastic did their 50 books for $50 (they do it a few times a year) in their teacher-store (different than their book clubs). They separate them by grade-level too, so I bought a few variety of those boxes over the years. If you're purchasing from Scholastic's Teacher Store, you can search by LEVEL! If you need more level "G", you can use the search feature and filter only letter "G".  I also buy books from their Book Clubs with my bonus points. I recommend thrift stores and garage sales, as well.

2. Level and label:
We use guided reading levels at my school. This leveled library works double duty. I use it for my take-home library AND for my student library. They pick their books for Daily 5 from here.

Favorite Leveling Apps:

3. Manilla Folder and Cover Page
Glue the cover page on the folder and laminate with the flap OPEN. Cut around the folder, but make sure to leave a slight edge to keep the lamination from pulling apart on the edges.  Use an razor blade cut open the envelope and attach adhesive velcro to the flap and the envelope! I find these folders hold up really well, especially if you follow my directions. If they do tear, just add some book tape to the bottom. I only had to do that with one folder last year. This pack below is a pack of 100.

4. Take Home Reading Log {for parents}
When you send home reading books with your students, send home their independent level- which is a level below what I work with them at school. This helps so the students do not get frustrated reading at home. Inside of their folder is a log for the parent to quickly fill out as they read with their child. This just lets me know the child has read their books. I ask the students to keep the books for at least 2 days to practice comprehension and fluency.

When I switch out books (or you can have a parent volunteer do it), I write down which books I give them so I don't give that book to them again and so I can keep track in case they lose their books. 

My students and parents LOVE that I send home take-home reading books. It doesn't take but 5-10 minutes a day to switch out books. If you have a parent volunteer, that's even better!
In this pack, I explain EVERYTHING you need to know about how to set up a take-home reading system in your classroom! PLUS all the forms you see here AND MORE are included.

This pack gives you everything you need to learn how to set up a take-home reading system in your class!  Just add books!

Included in this pack:
  • Folder Front Covers (5 options and customizable)
  • Reading at Home Folder Back Cover Letter (4 options)
  • Parent Reading Log Form
  • Teacher Reading Log Form
  • We Need Your Books Back (letter)
  • Pictures of folders and examples
  • Tips and Tricks
  • How to Build up Take-Home Library

Animal Word Helpers {Reading Decoding Strategies}

I know there are a lot of variations of tricky-word word helpers and these are the ones that I like the most!  They work great especially if you can find a stuffed animal (or Beanie Baby) that goes with each one.  I hang them right next to my guided reading table.

Using decoding strategies while helping your students become independent readers is very important! I like to link the decoding strategies with an animal to help my students remember them.

Animal Decoding Strategies:-Fly Eye (use the picture for clues)
-Lips Fish (get your lips ready for the word)
-Stretchy Snake (stretch the word and put it back together)
-Chunky Monkey (find a chunk you know in the word)
-Flippy Dolphin (flip the vowel sound)
-Skippy Kangaroo (skip the word, finish the sentence and come back to the word)
-Asking Alligator (ask someone for help)

Posters {color and B/W}


Reading Sticks

Pennant Banner (see below)

"Word Helper" letters for bulletin board

I also made the posters into pennant banners! It turned out cute and I hope you like it! 


If you want the posters ONLY, but also want lots of mini-lesson ideas. These packs are just it! 

(please note that only the posters are included with these- the bookmarks, sticks, banner, and bulletin board words are only exclusive to the pack that is posted above (Animal Word Helpers)

Management Monday: Grouping Students

We are bringing back our Management Monday Series! It was something I started about 4 years ago and it ran for a year. I loved sharing my ideas on how I manage my classroom and the posts contained organization, behavior management, time management, etc. Honestly, I ran out of ideas! LOL. Now...we will be featuring other great ideas from bloggers out there.  I'm telling you... teachers ARE SMART!

Hair Tie Grouping
Today's post is all about grouping students into small groups or partners.  This is when you want random partners or groups and it's one of my favorites from Denise and Sunny Days in Second Grade. Check out her's amazing! And this idea came from her Instagram which is one of my favorites to follow.

I just quickly pass out a hair tie to everyone (or have them out on the table and they have to close their eyes and grab one) and I turn on some music. They must find one person that has their same color and get together! It's quick, fun, cheap and effective. I've even used this to group my students in our field trip groups. 

In a Zoo Grouping
Another way I like to group students is a little noisy, but it's hilarious and it's called "In a Zoo"!  (Print out the cards, laminate them and cut them out). Decide how many of each animal you want. For instance, if you want your students in groups of 3- pull out 3 dolphins, 3 birds, 3 fish, etc.  So you have 3 of each card until you have a class set. 

Pass out the cards {click here for that download}. When the student knows what animal they are, they must MAKE THE NOISE of that animal and DO THE ACTION of that animal in order to find their partner. It is so funny to watch them try to find their group in all the chaos and mess. So... the lion is growling and crawling and trying to find the other lions that are growling and crawling. :)

How do you group your students? 
Comment below and let us know!

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