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Now that classrooms are organized and ready, well just about, and the professional development meetings are over, for now; all that seems to be left is to fill the classroom with eager, energetic students ready to take on a new school year.  Just remember, these new students are coming to you fresh off of summer camp fun, late night sleepovers, and erratic schedules.  In other words, your new students are in dire need of structure and a regimented set of classroom rules.


Many educators develop their classroom norms or rules before students even step foot into the classroom.  These are usually simple rules that students should follow to create an “ideal” learning environment.  Though at times this may be successful, students do not have any say or ownership in the environment they will be learning and socializing in for the next 10 months.  This can lead to frequent problems and behavioral issues.


Try instead asking your students for suggestions the first day or two of school.  For instance, brainstorm a list of the students ideas on large chart paper or the front board. Once the list is compiled ask students, if old enough, to vote on the top 6-8 rules to respectfully follow for the school year.

For younger students, pick the top 5 and create a classroom poster with all the classroom norms and have each child sign the poster to display.  For older students you can do the same or create a more complex personal contract for each student to sign.  You can give the students a copy and keep one for yourself to refer back to if needed.


abcteach offers some helpful classroom rule posters that can go along with your individualized set of classroom norms.  Using them as a visual example to start students on the right path to brainstorming appropriate classroom norms would be ideal.  Check out these posters and other ideas for classroom rule displays by typing in “rules” in the search box of abcteach website.  Classroom Rules 



Don’t forget…Having the classroom norms visible for students of all ages creates a set of boundaries and rules that students feel connected to and are able to reference easily.


Happy rulemaking not rule breaking!


Emily Barnett Pomish -abcteach

Whether you have begun your first few weeks of school or are anticipating the ceremonial hand off of your class list, school is in the forefront of your mind. With Professional development days ahead of you and classroom organization needed, time and efficiency is of the essence.   Don’t stress! abcteach is here to help!

These next few weeks can go by in a flash so be prepared with these five simple and helpful tips when you head into your classroom.


1). Less is more!

Pick a few colors, one common classroom theme, bold, readable print, etc.  Remember, you are trying to gain the students attention not distract them during lessons.  abcteach has a number of different ideas to help spark a new theme for your classroom in the back to school section.

2). Leave Space!

I promise.. it is ok.

Let the students have ample space to display their own work and thinking in the classroom.  Not every wall needs to be filled with cutesy teacher-made displays.  It is acceptable to have areas not covered the first few days or even weeks of school.  Put up cute “Under Construction” signs or “Students thinking coming soon” on blank bulletin boards. Parents and students alike will appreciate the opportunity to help shape the learning environment.


3). Do it Now! Don’t wait!



If you have a few extra moments, which I know can be hard to imagine with professional development, meetings, and classroom readiness for students; try to declutter now.  Organize your books, label the manipulative bins, and clean out that classroom junk drawer you have been meaning to do for years;  once school gets going you won’t have the time.  Check those items off your mental checklist and ease your mind even before your new students walk in the door.

4). Make THREE extras of everything and leave them blank!


You never know when you are going to get that “new” student added to your class list.  Instead of trying to remember every detail you need to copy and label, have it ready to go.  Laminate what needs to be done along with your class set and put all the blank extras in a safe place.  You will save yourself from a lot of stress and time in advanced.  Even if you don’t get any late joining students, you now have a head start for next year or this year when that student spills milk over everything in a two mile radius. Don’t forget you can create your own custom Desk Tags for your new class too! Its easy with our Desk Tag Generator, part of abctools® and every abcteach membership.


5). Do something new!



Take a risk, step out of your comfort zone.  Even veteran teachers need to spice things up! Whether it is changing your classroom theme after 15 years or starting the first day of school with a new “getting to know each other” activity; try something new and have fun.

Happy Classroom Organizing!

Emily Barnett Pomish – abcteach



Draw, Write, Color & Create Shapes using abcWorkshop !

abcWorkshop is a new online editor, enabling members to draw, write, color, create, save, print, and share using abcteach pdf documents as their template for creativity.  Now, for the first time all of our pdf documents can be edited through abcWorkshop on your tablet or computer.  Save your creation for another day, print and share with a friend or family member,  teachers can send any document to their students, as long as the link to the document is provided.  Your students will be able to receive a given assignment, edit with the abcWorkshop tools, and send back to you once the assignment is complete.  This is a member feature only, however, free users can demo the abcWorkshop.

Watch the abcWorkshop tutorial video below:


Make a Bunny: Craft Project

March 31st, 2015


Make a Bunny:  Crafts



Here are instructions on how to craft your own bunny.  Click on the link below for printouts.  

Link to document:  Make a Bunny Craft Project



1.  Download the document and print out the patterns to create your bunny.

2.  Cut out the patterns.

3.  Paste the face and ear patterns together.

4.  Add the cheeks, then the nose and mouth of the bunny.

5.  Finish by adding the whiskers.  Optional:  Pipe cleaners can be used for whiskers.  

6.  Be creative !  Color, paint and glitter the bunny to customize your project.  

Have fun and enjoy ! 


March 2nd, 2015

Use the daisy pattern shown below:

Create your own daisy by tracing a CD,  then draw in the petals and stem of the flower.  The daisy pattern can be used for many activities throughout the school year.



Here are some ideas:

• Glue or draw a picture in the center (for example, a picture of a

person), or write words that describe the picture in the petals, or

glue or draw other pictures on the petals that relate to the

center picture (for example, a person’s interests)

• Write a name (your own, or the person for whom you are making the

daisy, or a hero of yours, etc.) and then write information about the

person on the petals

• Write the word “goals” in the center and then decorate the petals with

goals — these could include: schoolwork, sports, behavior, etc.

• Write “Books I Have Read” in the center of the daisy. Write titles and

authors on the petals.

• Write a word (a theme you’re studying) and write facts on the petals

• Write a suffix or prefix in the middle and write words using them in the

petals (PREfix, PREtend, PREvent…)

• Put a multiplication fact in the center and numbers on the outer ring.

Multiply and put the answer in the center of the petal.


Crafts – Woven Valentine

January 26th, 2015


You will need…


Heart pattern

–  White or color of your choice card stock.

–  Colored paper or card stock.

–  Scissors

–  Paste/ glue



1. Cut out a heart pattern.

2. Fold heart in half.

3. Cut across the fold to about ½ to 1 inch from the edge of the heart

4. Weave strips in over/under pattern.  Trim around edges and glue.  













Our abctools section is very popular among our members.  Some of the tools have a very specific purpose: make a word wall, create a shapebook, customize a handwriting worksheet, etc.

But they can have other uses as well.  Throughout the coming year I will be posting ideas for you to try.


This time of the year, our shapebook and border tools make great invitations for holiday celebrations.  Look at a few invitations I made in a couple of minutes. They can be sent by regular mail, but are also in pdf format and can be emailed or texted to those you want to invite.

Some ideas to try:

Go to the Holiday Borders section and pick a border that fits your needs. In minutes you will have a finished invitation, custom to your needs.

Another idea is to go the School Borders section.  These borders are perfect for sending notes home to parents, announcing a school open house, or creating sign-up sheets for conferences.

You aren’t limited to the borders. The shapes make cute invitations for birthday parties.  For example: add the invite information inside a football shape.

Students can make their own invitations; it is a good learning activity.

Check out the abctools section on the free account and member site.

Do you have an idea for using our abctools that you would like to share?  We would love to hear from you. Share your idea in the comment section.


Posted by Sandy Kemsley

Reading Log Activity

November 5th, 2014

Fun Reading Log on a Metal Ring

reading ring


* When I taught 3rd grade I was always trying to come up with a fun way for my students to keep track of what they read.  I also encouraged them to read a variety of genres.  I came up with this idea of making genre strips that they would fill out and put on a metal ring. They loved them.  The directions below are how I used them, but you can adjust the directions to fit your needs.



1.  Cut strips in a variety of colors on card stock.


2.  Members can print pre-made strips


3.  Each color strip represents a genre.   Group the strips by genre and place them in a container. (Included are Fiction and Non-Fiction/Informational dividers.)


4.  When students finish reading a book, they may pick the appropriate reading log strip and fill in the information on the front side of the strip.


5.  Students then turn the strip over and write a sentence or two about their favorite part of the book. (Younger students could draw a picture)


6.  When completed,  students can punch the hole and add their strip to their metal ring.


7.  Periodically, have a student share session.  Students share one of their books from their ring.  Each student can ask one question about the book.


Enjoy!   Sandy Kemsley,





Halloween Fun!

October 27th, 2014


* This week’s fun activity is great for Halloween parties, craft day or for a learning center.  

* Follow the easy instructions and create a Halloween or Autumn lantern.














Step by Step Instructions: 

1.  Leaving a one-inch margin on all sides, cut straight lines from the fold to the opposite side.  The lines should be about a half-inch apart.


2. Open the paper. Make a tall cylinder out of the paper so that the cuts are vertical.


3.  Take a strip of orange or black construction paper. Attach both ends to the top to make a handle.  Add eyes, nose and mouth.


4.  Staple or glue the cylinder together. Make colorful construction paper strips to hang from the bottom of the lantern for additional  decoration.


Fun Ideas and Links:

– For more Halloween craft ideas from abcteach, click on these links:  Halloween Crafts.  Halloween.

– Halloween Ideas: Make a bat, witch, jack o’ lantern, a ghost.

– Autumn Ideas:  Falling leaves, scarecrow, pumpkin with vines









September 18th, 2014

SurveyBill Gates gave a Ted Talk in May 2013 about feedback, and the lack thereof, directed at teachers. Gates cited a study that claims 98% of teachers only get one word of feedback, and that feedback is most often “satisfactory.” While it’s (barely) better than nothing, a single thumbs-up is about as useful for honing one’s craft as a lollipop.

Gates goes on to explain that 11 of the 15 top-ranked countries in reading comprehension have a formal system of teacher feedback– and the U.S. is not one of them.

In the meantime, we have to cobble together some sense of whether we’re doing a good job through test scores, student morale, administrator observations, parental input, and whether we keep getting asked to come back the next year.

There is one contingent of society that’s usually (quite) willing to provide copious feedback–your students. While student feedback must be kept firmly in context, it can be instructive.

One problem with feedback is that it’s typically given at the conclusion of a task or performance. There’s a surprising amount to be gleaned from preemptive feedback. While initial impressions, aspirations, and conjecture aren’t the most solid of foundations, they are psychological factors that impact performance. Giving your students the chance to provide feedback (or “intel”) at the outset of the school year allows you to judge the trajectory of your students’ experience when there’s still time to make adjustments.

In the same spirit as the premortem, traditionally after-the-fact phenomena–marshaled into service early in the year–can have a dramatic impact on goal-setting, expectations, mindset, and performance.

So how does one feed forward? By asking the right questions, early and often. Let’s use a basketball feedback scenario as an example.

Imagine I’m a poor defender. My coach watches my opponent, an adept ball handler, juke by me time after time. After some observation, my coach tells me, “You’re watching the ball. You should watch your opponent’s hips instead. Then he won’t surprise you, and the ball will follow his body.” I do this, and my defense improves. The only “cost” here is that the points scored against me cannot be unscored. (And I may feel silly in front of my teammates.)

If I am a mediocre athlete, but know how to acquire some preemptive feedback, I may ask my coach something like, “Coach, I’m not a very good defender. Do you have any tips for preventing nimble gentlemen from getting past me so readily?” Provided my coach knows a thing or two about b-ball, he can give me the same tip about watching the hips without ever seeing me play. This saves our team a loss at the buzzer, and me some humiliation.

Many teachers distribute a survey at the end of the year, but I suggest doing one toward the beginning. Many teachers also pre-test their students to establish a baseline of academic understanding. Applying this sound logic to a broad range of topics can earn us some much-needed credit and wisdom early in the year. Depending on your comfort level, you may want to ask some bold questions.

Questions like these may not be appropriate for everyone, but you may be glad you asked them later on:

“Is there anyone with whom you absolutely do not want to work?”

“What’s your biggest fear related to this class?”

“What have you heard about me as a teacher, good or bad?”

“Rate your fear of presenting in front of the class on a scale of 1-10. “

What are you hoping to learn from this class specifically?”

You may even want to have a two-part survey, in which the top is personalized, and the bottom anonymous. Anonymous feedback may seem of dubious value, but it can be some of the most potent. There will, of course, be comments that are unhelpful or worse. But knowing that you or your class has a reputation (especially unfounded) may be invaluable early in the year. Are you known as a harsh grader? Is the word on the street that you’re a pushover? Having your ear to the pulse of the student body allows you to leverage information in whatever way may prove helpful. It also lets you address student concerns directly, creating a relaxed, focused environment conducive to learning.

If you’re a new or recently-arrived teacher, knowing about pre-existing tensions between students doesn’t come with your employee handbook. Being tuned into these social problem areas may help you cut off an Incident at the pass. (I can speak to this particular point, as I unwittingly paired up two bitter-but-quiet arch enemies in the 7th grade during the first week of school. Moments later, there was bloodshed and a full-on Incident. It would have been nice to know about their history beforehand.)

Perhaps there is a project or a unit for which your class is infamous. If a student is feeling some trepidation about this, some preemptive feedback gives you a great platform to discuss how to properly prepare. Addressing this early with concerned students demonstrates your genuine concern for their success and helps them pace their learning. Such an approach can replace useless anxiety with pacing and preparation.

It’s likely there are troves of useful information in the heads of your students that will never see the light of day. They’ll be glad to share it with you, free of charge. All you have to do is find the right way to ask.

Post by Greg Teachout, abcteach staff

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