Learning Names at the Beginning of the New School Year

I am a slow but persistent learner when it comes to names. This year I asked my students to use a sticky note and put it on their desk with their name. When I’m walking around I use their names as often as I can. Then at the end of the lesson, I asked them to put their sticky note on the wall near the door.

Then the next lesson they take down their name to use again on their desk.

wall of names

In between lessons, I’ve been using the wall of names as a self-test. I ask myself which class someone is from, or interrogate myself to say something about them. So far, so good.

I teach one pair of siblings and the older sister found her brother’s name and decided to put it really high up the wall where she thought he couldn’t reach it. Ha!

Do you find learning names easy? Do you have some tricks to share?


How I Organise My Lesson Ideas

My favourite discussion with other teachers is to share lesson ideas. But remembering them at the right time is hard work. I think, “I’m sure someone told me a good idea recently about quadratic equations…!” I have probably forgotten more good ideas than I have remembered.

A few years ago I started a document to save good ideas. Below is a screenshot from the document, and you can see my whole Resources Listing document here.

resources listing screenshot 2

Every time someone tells me a good idea or I see one on the web, I write it down here. Then later I can look back through the doc to find it again.

how to get stuff done as a teacher

You can make a document like this, too. Recently I made a blank copy of this document so I could share it with others. Here it is – download a copy and enjoy! Please let me know if it’s useful to you.

Email Workflow for Teachers

Our lives are so busy. Teachers are working to a deadline every hour of every working day. Keeping on top of emails is important, but I find that I only have time to read and write emails a few times a day – in the morning, in between lessons, and in the afternoon.


I keep my email inbox empty. Every time I open the inbox, I open each message and read it. A lot of messages just need to be read and filed away. I decide if anything in the message needs further attention. If a message has action that I can do in under two minutes, I try to do it immediately. (That’s a Getting Things Done [GTD] mantra.)

I have three main labels for things that require further action: @reply, @review, and @to-do. I use @ signs in front of these labels because it ensures they always stay at the top of the labels list.

I tag @reply messages and make sure to reply to them before I go home that day. Our school has a policy that we must reply to parents within 24 hours.

The @review label is for information that I know I need to spend some time digesting but I can’t do it in under two minutes. Things like an article I want to read or a link to a blog post. I use the @review items for those times when I have a few odd moments waiting for something or at the end of the day in my reading and thinking moods.

The @to-do label goes on things I have to get done. I go through the messages every morning and afternoon and try to attack the biggest thing that I have time for each time. Or if I’m just between lessons or meetings I try to attack three little things. Usually I keep the list manageable so there is no need for excessive prioritizing. When the list gets too long, I dedicate some evening or weekend time – but this is rare.

After all the label tagging, I archive everything in the inbox. An empty inbox keeps my stress down. And knowing that I have seen all my “open loops” and categorized them allows me to focus on jobs at hand instead of worrying about what else I will need to do later.

What is your email workflow?

A Peek Inside My Resource Cupboard: How I Organise My Card Activities

My students use a lot of manipulatives, sorting cards, and activities. I store them all in the tall cupboard at the back of my classroom.

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Each of the boxes contains a class set of cards. I like to have seventeen sets so that there are enough for the students to work in pairs plus a few extras (because I always lose a few random cards). Each set of cards is packed into a little snack-sized zipper bag. (I import these from Canada in bulk when I visit.)

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The seventeen sets of cards are then packed into a plastic box. They are just Chinese food takeaway boxes. (My husband and I have eaten a lot of takeaway food over the years!)

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I’ve been using sticky notes on the shelves to divide the boxes into number, algebra, calculus, shape/measurement, and data/probability activities. This helps my colleagues, because they sometimes pop their heads into the cupboard to borrow something.


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I’m always interested in organising strategies. How are your hands-on activities organised?