Back to School eBooks at Teachers Pay Teachers

This post originally appeared at Mrs. Brosseau’s Binder.  Reprinted with permission.

Have you seen the new Back-to-School eBooks from TpT?  You’ve got to check them out! Each one is full of tips for teachers to get off to a good start with your classes.

Even better – every single contributor has made a freebie available to you! That’s a lot of freebies!

Here are the links to the secondary eBooks based on subject:

English Language Arts & Humanities






Social Studies



Mrs. Brosseau's Binder Michelle is a secondary Science and Physics teacher from Ontario, Canada.  She blogs at Mrs. Brosseau’s Binder and shares her materials through her Teachers Pay Teachers Store.
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Sunday Panel: Biggest Start of the Year Challenge in Your School

In YOUR school environment, what is the biggest start-of-the-year challenge? And what do you do to cope with it?Sunday Panel Sticky

profile pic2Tara, Science in the City:I think the biggest challenge at my school is getting kids adjusted to the culture of school, and of our particular school. I teach in a very low-achieving, urban district. As such, students’ lives in the summer are DRASTICALLY different. Also, if they have come from other schools in the district (especially new 9th graders) the expectations may be different. I try to deal with this by really spending time early in the year establishing classroom rituals and routines, relationships, and, maybe most importantly, their own sense of confidence and success in ‘doing school.’ For many, that may not be an area in which they have a lot of success in the past.

OC_BEACH_TEACHER_revised_finalKimberly, OC Beach Teacher:I feel pretty good about how our school year begins, but I do get frustrated that our students are called to several assemblies during the first weeks of school. These interrupt the routines and instructional activities that I am establishing at the beginning. Unfortunately, the administration often interferes with the same class period repeatedly. This makes it difficult to keep all of my classes on schedule and at a similar pace. Over the years I’ve developed some generic lessons and activities that help me coordinate my class schedules. For instance, I will have some classes complete a textbook “scavenger hunt.” It’s not an essential lesson but makes good use of extra time!

black T logoJackie, Room 213: Other than dealing with the heat (we have no air conditioning), the biggest absentchallenge for me is dealing with the revolving door as students change schedules.  We can never really count on an accurate class list until about the third week of school, so we have to find ways to help latecomers get up to speed.  I use baskets that I bought at the dollar store, one for each class, and put daily handouts in the appropriate one.  When a newcomer shows up, I can quickly access the handouts s/he may have missed. I also use a class website, so they can check there as well to find out what we have been up to.  The picture on the right shows another idea from Pinterest that could help you manage this problem.

EllenBrain7 (1)Ellen Weber: Students love to earn 2 participation points in each class for meting key tone requirements, and this serves as my attendance taker too. If absent for any reason, I can also see who met standards such as disagreeing with peers while building goodwill even with those who differ. Students are required to state evidence of at least one tone skill used in class – such as affirming others’ ideas before offering their own, and asking two footed questions, such as What if…? as an exit ticket to leave. This participation folder is easy to use once created – since it has rubrics and incomplete chart in one side pocket and the completed evidence forms filed on the other. This method ensures good tone and as a bonus – it records your attendance, without much effort on your part.

Those handles that students bring to our classes – can become key learning opportunities they take away. How might you start with your students, even before you dip into your content in that first week?

TPT ProfileSara, Ms. Fuller’s Teaching Adventures:Currently, at the varying colleges I teach at, the biggest challenge is getting students to understand how my class is set up. Every professor is so different I try very hard to make sure students understand my specific policies. I suppose the same was true when I taught middle and high school. Teaching my procedures was always important yet difficult.


AlgebraSimplifiedIconDawn, Algebra Simplified:Overall teaching through the dog days of August in a school almost devoid of air conditioning is my area’s biggest challenge. Sure breaking in new students to classroom routines, making sure all the technology is up and running again, and getting the classroom back into operational mode are difficult tasks. However, if we could just have a little air, all else would seem easy.

Mrs. Brosseau's Binder

Michelle Brosseau, Mrs. Brosseau’s Binder : One of the biggest challenges I face at the start of the school year is making sure my students are in the correct stream of the course. Here in Ontario, we offer Science courses at the Academic, Applied and Essential level. Students (and often their parents) get to decide which stream they will enroll in and it is not always the best choice for them. It is difficult to ensure that the students are in the right stream, but I do my best by including lots of diagnostic and formative assessment in the first few weeks in the form of quizzes, assignments, binder and homework checks, etc. I’m sure to make the success criteria clear for each expectation and conference with students and parents early. My department also uses a shared document to track our stream recommendations for students from year-to-year.

Missing My Goal

I won’t make my TpT goal this year – and that’s okay.

In January, like a large portion of Americans, I made a goal for myself. A TpT store resolution. At the time I realized that yes, this was a big undertaking. I gave myself all sorts of pep talks, spoke in clichés (go big or go home!), and told my husband I could do it when he politely told me that I was setting myself up for failure.

I marched along, checking numbers off a crumpled note card. Up until May, I was on track! I created/ fixed/ tweaked 8 products per month. Then my kids got out of school, the weather got nice, and I couldn’t sit on the computer all day. (Actually, I just went to TpT as I typed this and looked at the statistics and saw that since May, I have posted 8 products – my goal for each month, not one summer).

Reflecting on the end of my summer, I was bummed. I beat myself up and wondered how I let this happen when I had been doing so well. Like any person with an English degree, I wrote out my feelings, and I thank you very much in advance for reading my top five list of why I am at peace with not meeting my TpT goal for the year.

1. I am not publishing junk. I refuse. Could I have published 8 new products? Probably. I wouldn’t be proud of them though. I prefer not meeting a goal as opposed to meeting it with fluffy products.

2. Meaningful lessons take time. I want to test materials on students. I want to tweak my notes. I want to rearrange my worksheets or add another for further clarification. I don’t want to scrap material that doesn’t work – but I will take the time to do so if it is in the best interest of students.

3. My goal maybe, a bit, was lofty. I know 8 products would be stretching it, but I have so many ideas! Fun ideas! Ideas to help others! Ideas begging to be turned into lessons! Still, 8 products per month while I work and mother three kids? It was a big order.

4. I am taking lots of time for thinking. When I taught full-time, exhaustion followed me. That guy was everywhere.

Now that I work part-time, I am still busy, but I do have those moments where I can think. I can reflect on lessons. I can brainstorm. I can type an idea, scrap it, and come back to it later. My best lessons – the ones that students enjoyed and I treasure – came from lots of thinking. If I don’t meet my goal because I am thinking, well, I’ll miss my goal for that.

5. I spent lots of time with my kids this summer. We went on vacation, rode bikes, visited parks, climbed trees, had picnics, bowled, hosted sleepovers, attended sleepovers, played with cousins, ate too much ice-cream, picked homegrown tomatoes, chased the dog, read for the library’s summer reading program, and stayed up late.

And you know what? I sat at kindergarten registration on Thursday and looked at my middle child, beaming with confidence in her tiny seat in her new kindergarten classroom. I stood in the hall, bouncing my one-year old, realizing that I would be back in this classroom in four short years, placing her in a tiny seat. Later, I looked at my second grader, nonchalantly assessing his new classroom, asking the teacher about science projects for the year.

And I am glad that I did not hold myself to my goal for the year. I love making products, but I cannot envision coming home from a college dorm room in seventeen years and wishing I could trade these summer memories for more products, more money.

Honestly – of course I want more products in my store. I want all the ideas from my head typed – all those half sheets of paper, scribbled in the night made into fruition. I want to save money for that college dorm room!

As I reflect on missing my goal for TpT, I am at peace. I take the teaching profession (which includes TpT) and my parenting job too seriously to goof them up. If that means missing my goal for the year, not getting those products out there, that is what it means.

We teachers work on a different schedule than others. August brings a time of closure, a time of new beginnings. It can also bring a new meaning to the goals we have for ourselves.


LanguageArtsClassroomLauralee Moss, a secondary language arts instructor, has taught for over a decade. She has a B.S. in English Education and a M.A. in Teaching and Leadership; visit her blog for more ideas or store for great products.
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Surviving the First Two Weeks

CCC Surviving First Two WeeksIn my college of ed days, the old adage of “Don’t smile until Christmas” was already fading from use.  But the idea of setting up the tone– and expectations– of a classroom right from the start is still an important one.  Amongst the potential and/ or likely chaos of the first weeks, this can prove a challenge.  Survival might even be questioned.

It doesn’t have to be that way.  Here’s some coping strategies that I honed in my years at the alternative ed program (you know, the place where the troublemakers go after the left the traditional classroom down the road.  Except instead of the normal one or two challenging students in a classroom– or maybe a handful if you have a rough bunch– I had 20+ of them.  Maybe one or two non-troublemakers there for health or personal issues.)

I figure if they work with this delightful bunch, then maybe they’ll work in a classroom where the students show up, more or less ready to learn and succeed–rather than test the fences like  raptor, looking for weakness.

1. Be Flexible.  Be able to adjust your plan and, ideally, have one or more backup plans.  Maybe you can’t pull off that sort of smooth “It’s in the lesson plan” response, but being able to laugh about it or even just admit that you’re shifting gears can work too.  Being able to adapt to changes is crucial– as is the ability to do so calmly without being flustered or upset.

2.  Have a Couple Back Up Plans or Activities: Some of my classes were chatty and could be drawn into topical discussions.  Others would give me that “I dare you to teach me” look.  So , the first days of class, as they’re seeing what they can pull with Ms. Dickson, I have a couple varieties of activity and a couple back ups.  Yes, I totally over-prepare with activities that are topical, important, and timeless (things like grammar review or practice writing effective thesis).  If the planned “fun” activity goes over like a lead balloon because one of my dears has more “sway” with his classmates than I do (one of us is wearing a bracelet or ankle tether from the local jail, which lends a certain “street cred” amongst fellow suburban troublemakers), then I can shift gears to a group activity or even an individual project, which may allow me to meet the students without outright challenging the Tough Guy.  Survive the First Two Weeks

BONUS: Those timeless activities that I over-prepared?  They work great for substitute teachers or other fillers throughout the term.  Things I can pull out if technology goes awry, snow flakes prove too great a distraction, or another activity finished quickly and I don’t want to move onto the next Unit.

3. Be organized: Being organized really helps with being flexible.  Having a couple back up activities in folders and binders allows you to pull out something prepared if needed, right now.  Even though we use a computer system for attendance, I take that first roster and make a printed file with room for additional names– I could make sure I had attendance for every student in my room.  No question about records during the chaos.  Plus, if you can maintain an organized-ish desk, it does make for a positive appearance to the students.

4. Meet the Students, somehow: Maybe you do ice breaker activities and students response positively.  Or maybe they stare at you and report, “I’ll take a zero.”  Or even if the ice break goes well, take time to mingle with the students those first weeks.  Beyond what they’ll share in front of the class!  I really like to move around the room the first weeks of class as they are working on projects or assignments, finding ways to touch base with them, to catch them working well right at the start.  I believe building the personal connection along with catching them working well can help build a positive classroom dynamic, which helps not only the first two weeks, but well beyond.


CDickson Profile PicClair Dickson, high school English teacher, likes free eTexts and Project Based Learning to stretch her meager budget.  Visit her store High School English on a Shoestring Budget to stretch your budget.
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Sunday Panel: Advice for New Teachers for the First Week

Sunday Panel StickyWhat is your best tip for the first week of school for new teachers?

profile pic2Tara, Science in the City:The first week of school is always fair game for anything. Kids coming in late, or upset, or missing buses, assemblies without advanced warnings, late start, etc. BE FLEXIBLE! To best allow yourself to be flexible I think it is important to plan and be prepared ahead of time, and to plans chunks of activities, with some backup so that you have a set of tools to pull from. Other than that, relax, try to be rested, and be patient. 🙂

OC_BEACH_TEACHER_revised_finalKimberly, OC Beach Teacher:I would recommend that new teachers spend some time establishing routines and procedures during the first week. For instance, the teacher can designate a place for students to obtain absent work. I use stackable letter trays and include pocket folders for each day of the week. In each folder, I put any handouts students will need and write the absent students’ names on the appropriate papers. I post instructions above the trays and expect secondary students to take responsibility for getting their missed work.

EllenBrain7 (1)Ellen Weber:Whenever I see new teachers make it less about rules, routines and even rigor at first, and more about valuing student names to build goodwill across differences I see foundations for a great term. That might be creating name tags, displaying the meaning of names or designing avatars for online list serves.
While I’d been aware that student names hold huge value added to a new term, I knew less about how to transform names into learning tools. It was my teaching stint in China that showed me the deep and genuine value of names. (
Those handles that students bring to our classes – can become key learning opportunities they take away. How might you start with your students, even before you dip into your content in that first week?

TPT ProfileSara, Ms. Fuller’s Teaching Adventures:I try very hard to learn all my students’ names within the first five days of school. It makes everything easier. I also try to send home a positive note or make a positive phone call to the students I can already tell might be a challenge. It’s also really important to implement clear procedures. I have a free editable syllabus that helps put it all out there for students.

LanguageArtsClassroomLauralee,The Language Arts Classroom:Take notes! I am so busy and tired the first week of school that I struggle to remember what needs done. If I make a list, I feel more confident in my preparation, and I also am less likely to forget those copies or new textbook.


SPbuttonSpanish Plans:Around the second or third day, go over classroom rules and your syllabus. Have students come up with class rules that they believe are appropriate. List them all on the board. Then condense them to 3-5 that are general enough and incorporate their ideas. Print out the rules and have students sign or initial the sheet of rules that they came up with and agree to.


Mrs. Brosseau's BinderMichelle Brosseau, Mrs. Brosseau’s Binder : It is really important to set the right tone in the first week of school. I would recommend having a seating plan from day one and being very firm with the classroom rules and expectations. Don’t give an inch! Also, that first week, make sure that you plan on taking extra time to get your forms and binders organized. Print off and review your IEPs right away, make phone calls home ASAP – invest the time to be organized from day one. You may want to prepare meals for the week in advance so you can utilize your time well throughout that first week. Good luck!

The Power of Habit Book Review

This post originally appeared at The Language Arts Classroom blog.  Reprinted with permission.  

I reviewed The Power of Habit in regards to my life, but I enjoyed the book so much I am writing about it in regards to teaching. I know teachers are swamped, but this book is powerful and since it is realistic and simple, I feel that many ideas will help in the classroom.

The Power of Habit Review– as related to teachers.


This is an overall take – and quick how-to for teachers looking for easy starts to implement ideas in a classroom. Reading The Power of Habit will give you a clearer idea of my examples, and you will enjoy the book too.

So, what ideas will work in a secondary classroom? I took three main points from The Power of Habit.

1. Small changes can make a big difference. Time and time again, Charles Duhigg explains how corporations changed employee behavior by focusing on one positive action, something everyone could support, like safety.

I did this behavior once, but didn’t realize I could repeat the action! I am kicking myself now. What I did was simple – I had every student walk into the classroom, grab an assignment, and start on it.

This is what tons of teachers do – bell ringers. After my students were finished, I asked them to take responsibility for their assignments. They put them neatly in the ‘to grade’ stacker, neatly returned the books to the shelf, and started the next task that I had put on the board. It was an action every student supported – they knew where their papers were, they knew what to expect every day in class.

It was a habit, they were good at it, and I praised them because they were so neat and orderly with their assignments and books.

2. They need a reward. Duhigg explains the habit loop: cue, routine, reward.

Students would walk in the room and pick up an assignment. The bell rang (cue) and they started. We reviewed and they finished the assignment. I praised them and would admire how great they were handling the task of organization.

The reward was simple. I was happy and would often verbally praise them. Their work was neat too. When I would return work, they would open the binder prongs and place the graded assignment. Reviewing before a test, students would flip to the correct place in their binder, and viola! No confusion or embarrassment.

The reward was simple. And inexpensive. And meaningful.

3. One good habit flowed into other aspects of the class. This was the best behaved class I have ever had. They worked together and I never caught anyone bullying another. The abilities were diverse, though. I had honors students and repeats (from not passing the class the prior semester). The class had a clique that could have been problematic.

BUT, this is the class that when I see a student from, I smile. Those students smile at me. I figured it was a magical teaching experience. (Teachers know what I mean – this class was great and years later, I remember all of their names).

There were twelve students, and I also attributed the cohesiveness to the small class size. I figured the personalities never rubbed wrong. After reading The Power of Habit, I think there was a bit more.

Once students had a positive behavior loop going, they were positive in other aspects of the class. They would help their peers who needed clarification and in return, would understand the material better. They understood they would have more freedom like sitting on the floor to read, or larger groups for group work if they got along. The class behaved, learned more than typical sophomore classes, and had more freedom.

After reading The Power of Habit, I realize that this “magic” from my sophomore English class years ago was based on the habit loop – students had a cue, they worked (the habit), and got a reward – good grades, positive verbal feedback from a teacher, new knowledge, freedom, and a peaceful class.

Like I said, I am kicking myself now. I attributed all of the greatness in the class to the small class size and luck. I could recreate that experience with work, and knowledge about habits.

The Power of Habit is not a “how to” book. It presents research from a variety of fields, and teachers would be remiss not to read it. The information is applicable to classrooms and students.


LanguageArtsClassroomLauralee Moss, a secondary language arts instructor, has taught for over a decade. She has a B.S. in English Education and a M.A. in Teaching and Leadership; visit her blog for more ideas or store for great products.
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