4 Resources for the First Week Back at School

Anyone heading back to school soon? Although I still have 6 weeks until I’m back, I have a hard time really resting each summer until I’ve squared away the first week back.  Once I have a rough outline of what I’m going to do and teach those first few days.  I’m hopping on today to share a handful of the resources I’ve created in the past that were designed especially for the first week of school. I’ve used them all in my classroom and plan to start the year with them again!

Back to school resources for the first week back in third grade - Poet Prints Teaching

Back to School Workbook (with a twist!)

This little booklet is my absolute favorite resource for the beginning of school.  Although it’s filled with puzzles, games, quizzes and writing activities… they are all designed to help teachers assess basic student skills, learning styles and preferences.  I use the information gathered to plan out my next few weeks of lessons, review, and our yearly group projects!

The best resources to make the first week back to school a breeze - Poet Prints Teaching

All About Me Spinning Craftivity (FREE)

Learn a little bit more about your students with a cute craftivity.  (Grab it here!) We brainstorm together on the planning pages and then create cute spinners that let students share about themselves.  Best of all, this one is totally free!

4 resources that are perfect for the first week back at school in elementary! - Poet prints Teaching

Back to School Flipbooks

4 resources that are perfect for the first week back at school in elementary! - Poet Prints Teaching

After the All About Me Craftivity, my students transition into more writing-based work.  I have used these flipbooks in First-Fourth grade. They help students to reflect on their summer and transition into the year ahead.  I like to use them as a quick gauge of students’ ability to work independently and see what their writing abilities and needs are.

‘We Fit Together’ Bulletin Board

Once my class is settled (there’s always a few days of shuffling students in my district) I start on lessons and activities that build classroom community.  The whole year runs better when the students in my class learn to respect each other’s differences and work together as a big family.  One of my favorite bulletin boards is this one!  Students each create a puzzle piece and then we fit them together to make one diverse puzzle bulletin board!

4 resources that are perfect for the first week back at school in elementary! - Poet Prints Teaching
4 resources that you need to make back to school in third grade so much easier!  - poet prints teaching
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Organizing Student Work

Keeping track of student work can be a headache in most classrooms.  In the schools I’ve worked at, I’ve seen a lot of different ways to organize work.  Some teachers let the students keep all of their work, some store it all on shelves in the classroom, others do a hybrid of both.  I don’t think there’s any “right” way to do this, but I do know what has worked best for my students and me.

How to keep student work organized all year long! - Poet Prints Teaching

I have always chosen to keep most student work in labeled ‘buckets’ on the shelf.  It’s not that I don’t trust my students to keep their own work organized, it’s that many of them simply haven’t learned that skill yet.  

Technically, these are laundry buckets and I get them from the local dollar store.  I keep them in the same place and use dollar store labels to create one for every subject/topic we are covering.  Before we start something, 3-4 kids grab the bucket and hand out the work to their peers. After the work is finished, each student is responsible for putting their work back in the correct bucket.  I find that this step helps to build a bit of independence. Students learn that their work needs to be put in the proper place or else it won’t be marked.

This isn’t a fix-all to student work organization.  Some students will still put their work in their desks or backpacks, but eventually, they learn how to pause and check for where it should actually be.  I’m trying to build independence and responsibility at an age-appropriate level.

When it comes time to hand-in work, I place a mini-checklist beside each bucket.  As a student hands in their work, they also check off their name. It’s a quick way to see who has forgotten to hand in their work.  

My favorite part of the system - I can just grab a bucket and take it home to mark!

How to keep student work organized all year long! - Poet Prints Teaching
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Third Grade Math Manipulative Must Haves

One of my favorite parts of my classroom is the math manipulative shelf.  I try to keep it stocked with a variety of materials that can help students build concrete models of all sorts of math problems.  

Bingo Dots - a must have math manipulative in third grade - Poet Prints Teaching

We have a rule in my class: if you can’t solve a math problem on your own you must build it before asking for help.  So much of third-grade math is abstract: the perimeter of imaginary places, the area of imaginary floors and walls, fractions of abstract objects, imaginary money being exchanged between two people, etc.  These can all be tricky concepts to visualize mentally.

Our school has never provided any math manipulatives, but I have slowly gathered a set of must-have manipulatives for third grade.  Check them out!


My students love counting bears.  They are easy to grasp and can help to model addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. These come in especially handy as students are learning to multiply and divide.  

Must-have math manipulatives in third grade - Poet Prints Teaching

Bingo Dots

These are a particularly inexpensive manipulative.  Along with our bears we use bingo dots to make physical representations of most addition, subtraction, multiplication and division problems.  One of my favorite ways to use bingo dots is during our first multiplication lesson of the year. We build arrays with bingo dots.  It's a quick and easy lesson that is super hands-on!  


Fraction Pieces and Magnets

I always introduce fractions with manipulatives.  Having students build fractions really helps them to develop a concrete understanding of how you can have a fraction of an item. Although there are many cut-and-glue fraction sets, I prefer to use store-bought ones. I just find that when students cut them out their pieces are not always exact, and this leads to confusion when trying to compare fractions.

Must-have math manipulatives in third grade - Poet Prints Teaching
Must-have math manipulatives in third grade - Poet Prints Teaching


Play money is a great manipulative to add.  In third grade, we spend a lot of time counting counts and subtracting money.  I have a handful of students who prefer to count physical money and this is great for them!  When doing word problems about ‘buying something at a store’ my students know how to role-play this in pairs and use play money to find their answer.


Teaching time (especially quarter-to, quarter-past, and half-past) is such a tricky part of third-grade math.  I always teach the first time lessons with each student holding a clock.  Then, as they get to these questions in their homework and independent practice they are able to return to those clocks to physically create each time (or elapsed time) that is needed.  I love how using a clock really helps to cement this concept for most students!

Must-have math manipulatives in third grade - Poet Prints Teaching

Drawing Paper

This is the least expensive of all my manipulatives!  I keep a stack of scrap paper in my math manipulative area. I find that it is super helpful when students are able to draw out a problem - particularly when it involves distance (i.e. “A car travels 250 miles…”) or area/perimeter.  Some of my students are super successful when they are able to make a quick sketch and add in dimensions to visualize the ‘whole picture’.

I’m always looking to add to my math manipulative collection.  What works best in your class? Send me an e-mail or sound off in the comments below!


Must-have math manipulatives in third grade - Poet Prints Teaching
My 4 Favorite Activities in a Pinch

We’ve all had ‘those days’ in the classroom.  You know what I mean, the days where it seems like nothing can go right.  The math lesson flopped, the social studies’ guest speaker canceled at the last minute, a child is in tears because their paper is” too wrinkled”… and you are about to lose it.  This is #teacherlife, am I right?

4 quick elementary classroom activities for when you're having 'one of those days'.

I am currently spending a year substitute teaching, and I can’t tell you how many days I have walked into a classroom to a plan that says “Find something to do for reading, writing, math, and PE” or, better yet, walked into no plan at all.  

These days are inevitable, and they happen to everyone.  This year, more than any, I’ve learned to have a handful of on-the-go games ready at any time.  These games can fill a few minutes and allow you to gather your thoughts before you proceed with the day.  Sometimes I use them as a ‘re-set’ after a tough lesson. Hopefully, they can help you as well!

Activity 1: Silent Ball

I always keep a small dollar store ball in my teaching bag for this very game.  In Silent Ball, students sit (gasp!) on top of their desks. Then, a ball is passed to the first student.  The goal of the game is to keep the ball moving around the classroom without dropping it or making a peep. If the ball is dropped or someone speaks the round is over.  You can keep ‘score’ by counting how many passes are done, or timing how long the students can keep the ball going without dropping it. I love this game because it is cooperative and forces students to work together to achieve their goal.  

Activity 2: Charades

Charades for Elementary School - from Poet Prints teaching

I almost always have a deck of charades cards in my teaching bag.  This game is great for almost all levels, and meets some important Speaking and Listening outcomes at the same time. I play charades in a few ways.  First, we play the classic version where students have to act out the card pulled. I also play an alternate version where they have 30 seconds to describe as many cards as they can.  Then, after all cards have been described, students have another 30 seconds to describe the cards using only one word. That one is a lot of fun, and usually draws on students’ memory from the previous round.  I haven’t yet met a class that doesn’t like a charades break!

Activity 3: Go Noodle

Wiggly group? Energy coming out of everywhere?  Go Noodle is my best friend in these occasions. Accounts are free for teachers, and there is plenty of free content to get your students up, sweating, and moving around.  My younger students love “Koo Koo Kangaroo” while my older students prefer “Fresh Start Fitness”. So far, all kids from K-5 have loved the track-and-field style channel “Go With the Pro”.

No internet connection or projector?  Keep a few high-energy, kid-friendly songs, ready to go on your smartphone.  A quick game of freeze dance will have almost the same effect on K-3 students!

Activity 4: Four Corners

This is a classic in-school game and for a good reason.  Students love being able to get out of their desk and try to win in a game of Four Corners.  To play this game, label each ‘corner’ of the classroom 1, 2, 3 and 4. Then designate a student to be “it”.  This students sits in the middle of the room with a blindfold (or very covered eyes) and slowly counts down from 10.  During this time, students must sneak to one of the designated corners. The ‘it’ students then yells out a corner number, and all of the students in that corner are out.  The game continues until only one student is left. To keep things moving, I tend to ‘close’ a corner as fewer students remain in the game. By the end, the final few students are only allowed to choose from two of the corners.

What are your go-to activities for a tough day?  Do you have any favorite classroom games or activities? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.

4 quick classroom activities that you need to know - Poet Prints Teaching
Rachel PoetkerComment
Walking in a Paraprofessional's Shoes

I think we’ve all heard the expression about walking in someone else’s shoes for the day. However, we don’t get the opportunity to do this very often. One of my dear friends had an interesting opportunity a couple weeks ago that she was telling me about. She says this was the hardest job she has ever had to do. Here’s her story of walking in someone else’s shoes.

4 Lessons from my day as a paraprofessional - Poet Prints Teaching

Hi everyone! I’m a primary teacher in Canada. In my class, I have a little girl who has severe learning needs. I will call her Joanne for anonymity. In Canada, kids with severe special needs get 1:1 support from an Educational Assistant or Paraprofessional (Para) within the regular classroom. The Para might occasionally pull the student out of class for breaks and assist the child in the washroom. However, the goal is to stay in the classroom for as long as possible.

I was able to work with Joanne for two days straight when the regular Para was unable to be at school. My school called in a substitute teacher to cover my class. Since Joanne has such extreme learning needs with a specific schedule, it was easier to call a substitute teacher to teach my class than to arrange for a substitute for Joanne’s Para. The school figured having a familiar person would be comforting to Joanne.

Over the course of the two days, I learned a lot. For starters, people who work with kids who have special needs are champions. They are working to give all kids dignity and strategies for success.  Every day, they have to make split-second decisions to help calm temper meltdowns, adapt work, and help the child interact with their peers in successful ways.

Since I was not Joanne’s regular Para, Joanne had countless meltdowns throughout the day. I ended up sitting on the floor with Joanne more times than I could count, just waiting for Joanne to finish her meltdown and stand up.

At the end of my two days, I came away with some epiphanies:

  1. Tracing Worksheets are not enough. Prior to this experience, I would simply create worksheets that allowed Joanne to trace letters and words. I thought I was so clever! At the beginning of the year, Joanne loved these exercises, but like every kid, Joanne progressed. She quickly mastered tracing and was bored of these worksheets. I saw first hand how upset Joanne would get when she saw another tracing activity. I have now committed to making interactive activities for Joanne, such as velcro activities or hands-on manipulative activities.

  2. Other students should be involved. I saw that Joanne wanted to be with her peers, but didn’t yet have the skills to know how to interact with them. I’m now asking others students to approach Joanne and initiate activities.

  3. Communication is more than words. Even though Joanne is non-verbal, communication has so many other forms. After being with Joanne for two days, I started to pick up on things Joanne did for communication. For one, Joanne would grab my hand and direct it to an object that she wants. Joanne communicated that she wanted to paint during free time by guiding me to the paint supplies.

  4. First _________, then ________”. I learned the beauty of the phrase, “First _______, then ________”. I think we’ve all used this phrase at one time or another: “First Math, then snack”, “First clean up, then home time”, etc. As teachers, we use this for big-ticket items. However, I learned that for some kids with special needs, this phrase needs to be used in much smaller increments. I found myself saying things like, “First stand up, then walk” or “First apples, then water”.

This was the hardest job I have done in a long time. However, I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything because it has helped me reflect on my own teaching practices and I am already making the necessary changes.”

There you have it! A tale from one of my fellow teachers. Have any of you had an opportunity to walk is someone else’s shoes? Or have you had the chance to work for an extended period of time with a student who has special needs? I would love to hear about your experiences! And I can pass along any tidbits to my teacher-friend!

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Conflict in the Classroom

How often have you just wanted to pull your hair out because the students won’t get along? No classroom is immune from conflict. And conflict comes in all varieties: fights, misbehavior, kids being rude, you name it. How many times have you heard some of these in your classroom:

“He started it!”
“It wasn’t me!”
** eye roll **
“I don’t need to listen to you!”
** budging in line**
“Teacher! He pushed me!”

Conflict in the Classroom by Poet Prints Teaching

How many times have you witnessed something like this in your classroom? How often have you just wanted to pull your hair out because the kids won’t get along? No classroom is immune from conflict. And conflict comes in all varieties: fights, misbehavior, kids being rude, you name it. What can we do when our students do something wrong? I’ve had to privilege of working alongside some gifted teachers who have taught me a lot about dealing with conflict and I’ve learned some helpful things along the way as well.

Talk It Out

When given the opportunity, most students are quite articulate. Try to get to the root of the problem and give the student a chance to speak. All too often, the teacher does most of the talking; sometimes it’s important to do most of the listening. Often times, problem behavior comes from something else. Chances are, the students are not acting up because they want to misbehave. Rather, they might be tired, hungry, sad, or a plethora of other reasons. By giving students an opportunity to talk, you feed a positive student-teacher relationship. Through talking and listening, you show your students that you care about their thoughts and feelings.

Give Space

Give your students space to cool down, if necessary. The immediate moment following an incident may not be the best time to debrief. Let the student go for a walk down the hall, or sit outside the door. Some classrooms use a cool down space to give students a safe place to regulate their emotions before they are ready to talk things through. You can find more information about this in my post about anxiety. 

Give Perspective

After a student does something wrong, it’s important to help the student see how his or her actions affected others. Young children, especially, are quite self-interested. They do not readily think about cause and effect. Thus, we have a responsibility to teach them how their actions involve others and affect them. Some may come to this realization on their own, others may need help. Perspective can be taught through role-playing, drawing the situation, social stories or a graphic organizer. I use these behavior reflections to help students to reflect on what happened and reach conclusions about how their actions affected others.

Teach Restoration

Students need lessons on how to ‘make it right’ after an incident occurs. In my classroom, after I have talked through an incident with a student, it always ends with an apology and a way to ‘make it right’ with the person that was hurt. A Kindergarten teacher friend teaches her kiddos to say “I’m sorry. What can I do to make it better?” This gives the student who was hurt an opportunity to feel cared for. I’ve also seen teachers encourage students to draw a picture, ask the person to play at lunch, or share a snack with the person (although some schools have strict policies against sharing food). I’ve found that apology letters also work quite well. Plus, this integrates literacy into character building! 

Conflict is present in every classroom and in every grade. No classroom is immune. But there are many things that we, as teachers, can do that will help our students build character. If you’ve discovered any tips and tricks that have helped you, feel free to share!


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Conflict in the Classroom - a blog post by Poet Prints Teaching
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