One Thing You Can Do Today To Instill Independence In Your Students

There is one thing, as a fourth grade teacher, that frustrates me more than most things.

I’m sure I’m not the only one…please tell me I’m not the only one….

I try to be patient… I really do….

The one thing that frustrates me the most is students’ inability to read & then follow directions.

It’s not the challenge of actually reading/comprehending the directions… although I do know that sometimes that’s what the issue is… as well as language barriers…. but in general… when the directions are right there…. and they still ask those silly questions….  you know the ones…

Anyway… reading deficiencies and language barriers aside, here is something I implement in my classroom to help instill and reinforce both students’ direction reading and independence.

My Morning Routine:

  • Before students arrive I put on music, turn on the SMARTboard, open up my morning SMARTboard, and turn my lamps on…
  • Students walk in and I greet them (I greet every single student – sometimes I take grading with me to the door, but for the first few months I am always standing at the door ready to greet each student)
  • They unpack & check the SMARTboard (you could use an easel/whiteboard)
    • On the SMARTboard I put a welcome message, directions for everything they need to do during breakfast, and any important announcements for the day
    • I use student friendly vocabulary, for primary grades or ELL students, you could include pictures
    • I try not to include too many steps – to ensure the type is large enough for students to see & read
  • They follow the directions until announcements begin
  • I reinforce the behavior with class dojo points
  • If students ask me what to do – I refer them to the board… if a student is not following the directions, I remind them to check the board

I have an expectation that this routine is done in silence… of course I allow quiet greetings, but overall – students know that they are to come in calmly and get ready for the day. I’ve found that if I allow talking, it very quickly gets out of control and that calm environment is lost.

As I mentioned in my dismissal routine post, many of my students live in chaotic situations, neighborhoods, or homes – I want them to know that our classroom is a calm and orderly place where they know what to expect (most of the time…).

After the first couple of months, it is like a well oiled machine. I leave the SMARTboard for substitutes to use too and have received comments about how smoothly the morning routine has gone, because the students know exactly what to do. I’ve also noticed that students who struggle with focusing and organization, and anxious students really benefit and appreciate the list.

Here is an example of what I might have posted on my SMARTboard:

Morning routine learning wholeheartedly

If you teach primary grades, you could use pictures, just be sure to explicitly teach what each picture represents and what students should do when they see that picture.

It would be pretty easy to print off your morning list for students who would benefit from a physical check list on their desks too.

We are a Title I school – so we have breakfast available to all students in the classroom… so we have 20 minutes. If you get your day started as soon as all students are seated… you could still use something similar if you have seat work waiting for them, a warm up, or even if students come in and sit to get ready for a morning meeting. I’m sure most of us have at least 5 – 10 minutes where we are waiting for all our students to arrive and be ready to begin the day.

Bonus: Sometimes I sneak in something completely random, to see which students are actually reading every single step. Those students receive some sort of reward.

What do you do to ensure the morning starts off calmly? 

Have you noticed that your students also struggle with following written (or verbal) directions? How do you strengthen this skill throughout the day?

MrsB_Final Signature


My Best Back to School Tip Linky Party

back to school blog post

I’m linking up with Christina at Hanging Around in Primary and Katie at Pop Into Primary for this linky party!

Teachers report back to work on August 17th – so we have 15 days of summer break left! *Cue sad soppy music…*

No…not really. I’m excited to go back and try some new things in my classroom. I’m also really excited to get a new class of students and to build new relationships. Anyway – on to my tips.

I haven’t had much time for planning this summer, after attending the ASCD Teaching Excellence Conference, working summer school, and then being a bridesmaid in my best friend (and teammate’s) wedding, I am only now getting started on school prep. There are 3 things that I have done that have made me feel so much more prepared than I was a week ago.


I planned my first day with the following considerations:

  • Supply Collection
  • Student Interest Surveys (something for the students to work on while you collect supplies)
  • Team Building Activities
  • Class Expectation Activity (include the students in the rule making)
  • Embed Routines Throughout the First Day/Week (which requires that you plan your routines ahead of time and purposefully plan your activities and transitions around these routines, so that the students can learn them in context and can practice them. For intermediate grades, consider creating a document that outlines your classroom routines. This will be especially useful for new students who join your class during the school year).


I created a list of each subject that I teach and considered my teaching style and the procedures I plan to use for each subject. Using this, I decided what supplies the students will need for each subject area. I also planned out where we would store each of these notebooks/folders/etc.

I really like to stay organized and want to teach my students to be organized too. Messy student desks are one of my biggest pet peeves, and one of the most inevitable situations in elementary school. I want to be proactive when it comes to helping my students keep organized. “A place for everything, and everything in it’s place” is a mantra I hope to teach my kids this year! 😛 I might be setting us up for failure, but you never know until you try. So I’m going to try.


Homework can be so frustrating – students lose things they forget things…. it can be so painful. So this year, I wanted to be ready and prepared to help eliminate all excuses!

I am going to set up homework binders/folders (enough for each student, at least 5 new students, and a few extra for those students who are going to misplace theirs). Last year students had a take home folder and a spelling notebook, they would do spelling homework in their notebook and they would take math homework home in their take home folder. I wanted to have students do reading homework, but I didn’t have a good system and wanted to make sure it was meaningful.

So, I create some binder inserts to organize these homework binders with. The inserts are as follows:

  • A cover
  • Slide2A page outlining homework expectations
  • Spelling homework menu (students will choose an appetizer on Monday, entree on Tuesday, and dessert on Wednesday. On Thursday they will take a practice test). There will be some lined paper after this insert for students to complete their spelling homework on.
  • Reading homework questions, 12 for fiction and 12 for non-fiction. Students will choose 1 question a week. These questions are based on the third grade common core standards. Although I teach fourth grade, I want to make sure students can complete their homework independently, so it is more of a review and practice. Again, there will be lined paper after this insert for students to answer questions on.
  • Reading Log. Students will be expected to read for 20 minutes every night and record their reading on a log. I will include 2-3 copies of this log in each binder.
  • The last insert is just a Math Homework cover. My intention is to have this insert in a sheet protector – so that students can place their math homework in the sleeve for safe transportation to and from home.
  • I am considering adding (updating/revising) the inserts to include a “keep at home” and “please return” inserts, also to go in sheet protectors. I may also include exemplar examples of each activity – to really eliminate any question of expectations and to help parents be clear on my expectations for homework. Let me know what you think?

Slide1Don’t forget – the Teachers Pay Teacher’s Back to School Sale is August 3-4. Up to 28% off select products!

Use the code BTS15

What do you do to get ready for a new school year?


Third Year’s a Charm

Why hello world!!

I’ve been blogging for about 9 years, but when I started teaching full time…my blog fell off my radar. I had much bigger fish to fry (don’t worry, they weren’t any of the #littlefishteacherbloggers). But, now that I’m going into my third year of teaching, and my second year of teaching fourth grade – I feel a little more balanced and prepared. So I’m jumping back into the blogging boat! My previous blog is a more personal blog with years of personal history – so I hope you can understand why I’ve started fresh with this “teacher blog”. I probably won’t blog on my older blog anymore – which means you should get a good mix of teacher and life blog posts (but mostly teacher, since teaching takes up most of my time and is my passion).

In case you’ve been living under a rock (aka – not being obsessed with social media) there has been a serious teacher-take over… teachers have taken over periscope (if you haven’t heard of it, and love collaborating and learning new things – do yourself a favor- get the app and sign up. If you find me (@bonbrad) you can check out my following list to find hundreds of other teachers).

After the periscope-teacher-takeover (of 2015) teachers, like me, were encouraged and inspired to start their own teachers pay teachers stores. Now periscope and the worldwide teaching community has empowered and motivated many teachers to try their hands at blogging; hence my new “teacher blog”.

I can’t wait to share my classroom and my passion for teaching with each of you!!

Stay tuned for my back to school tips!!