November 17, 2015

Hind Sight is 20/20

This isn't easy to admit. But I messed up. Royally. 
HOW many times had I thought to myself: "Self. You really need to back up your files on the server before something happens." And how many times had I ignored this wise advice? Too many to count.
Make sure you're backing up your projects. If you've ever experienced a computer crash or hard drive malfunction like I have, you know how awful it can be to lose pictures, files, and months or years of work. This article shares tips on organizing computer files and backing them up in case of hard drive failure.
Let's face it. As teachers we have MORE than enough to do every day. And the last thing I feel like doing at the end of the day is backing up my files again. So I let it slide.

For 2 years...

So, today I share a cautionary tale.
I thought was doing what I needed to.
I saved my files onto an external hard drive.
I organized them into folders and routinely eliminated files I didn't need.

But life happens.

I bought a new laptop and never got around to transferring my files over to it. I ended up using my external hard drive as my primary storage device. All of my newest files were stored there. Easily accessible and very portable.

Then a nightmare event occurred.
Something went wrong.
And nobody can figure out what happened.
All I know is that I can no longer retrieve any files from the device.
It completely crashed.
All of my most current files are gone!

I know I'm a STEM teacher, so I'm supposed to be a technology guru, but it's just not true. I know a few tricks and use some pretty cool apps, but mostly I just freak out when something isn't going right.
Make sure you're backing up your projects. If you've ever experienced a computer crash or hard drive malfunction like I have, you know how awful it can be to lose pictures, files, and months or years of work. This article shares tips on organizing computer files and backing them up in case of hard drive failure.
Fast forward 2 incredibly stressful and emotionally draining weeks.

I've learned my lesson.
I did some research.
I asked several "experts".
I compared prices and features.
I bit the bullet and invested.
I paid for cloud storage.
And because I know that there must be others out there who have been putting off investing in online file storage, I thought I would share what I learned.

Lesson #1:
Back up your files.
Then back up your back up files.
Then maybe just once more, back that up too.
Make sure you're backing up your projects. If you've ever experienced a computer crash or hard drive malfunction like I have, you know how awful it can be to lose pictures, files, and months or years of work. This article shares tips on organizing computer files and backing them up in case of hard drive failure.
The big questions I had was this:
HOW do I back up my files that I am currently editing on a semi regular basis?
The answer I found was this: CLOUD STORAGE

Lesson #2:
Invest in an online cloud storage account.
There are many services that allow a certain amount of free storage, but since I have so many files and they are often very large, I decided to go ahead and pay for 1TB of storage.
And thank goodness for Google and YouTube!
What did we ever do without them?
Here are a couple articles I found especially useful.

Which cloud storage service is right for you?

Which Cloud Storage Service is Right for Your Small Business?

Top 5 Cloud Storage Services 2015

Dropbox vs Google Drive 2015 Edition

To tell you the truth, I can't say that ONE provider is better than another. It really depends on what you are wanting to use your storage for. I found the comparisons on each of these websites especially helpful.

Here are some of the things I considered when making my decision:
1. PRICE
Let's face it. We are teachers and there isn't usually a lot of extra money at the end of the month. Or at the end of the first week after pay day, for that matter. I wanted the most "bang for my buck". (Dropbox offered a full year of storage for $99.99 if I paid all at once.)

2. EASE OF USE
Again, I teach STEM but that doesn't mean I'm an amazing tech person. So I wanted a service that was pretty user friendly. I wanted it to be easy to navigate through my files and access them anywhere. (Dropbox looks so much like my regular file storage system of file folders inside of file folders.)

3. AVAILABILITY ACROSS DEVICES
I wanted to be able to access my files anywhere from any device. I admit that I haven't fully converted to iOS - I still LOVE my DELL at home. So I wanted something that would work for all of my many devices whether I was at home or at school or even at another person's house. (Dropbox allows me to access my files from any operating system!)

Note: I am not being paid to promote Dropbox. In fact, GoogleDrive is an excellent option as well. I just finally ended up making a choice. I suggest really looking into the options before purchasing a plan. Maybe even try out the free services offered before making a final decision.

Lesson #3:
Always have a hard copy.
I'm a bit of a paper hoarder anyway, so this doesn't bother me too much.
Make sure you're backing up your projects. If you've ever experienced a computer crash or hard drive malfunction like I have, you know how awful it can be to lose pictures, files, and months or years of work. This article shares tips on organizing computer files and backing them up in case of hard drive failure.
But for those of you that HATE saving a hard copy of everything, let me tell you that it has been my salvation over the past couple weeks.
For those newer files that I created just for a single lesson and hadn't posted anywhere online yet, I was able to recreate them.
Yes, it took time.
Yes, it was irritating.
But, it got me through a couple of weeks of teaching when I thought all was lost.

So, how often do YOU back up your files?
Where do you keep those back ups?
Do you have back ups of your back ups?

(Note to self: Back up my files again today!)

November 1, 2015

Monday Made It - The Pencil Sharpener is CLOSED & Charlotte's Web

It's really hard for me to blog during the school year. I tend to do a lot of "insta-gramming" instead. Just little blurbs about what's happening each day in my classroom. Follow me HERE if you want to see what I'm up to. Anyway, I've decided to set a goal to blog at least once each month. I figure if I set this goal now, I won't have to make it one of my New Year's resolutions, right?
So, I've decided to join in for 4th Grade Frolics for Monday Made It. 
{NOTE: I actually made this a couple weeks ago, but haven't really shared it.}
It all started with the beginning of the school year. I teach fifth grade, but we departmentalize so I have four classes throughout the day. I have a standing rule that no one is allowed to sharpen their pencils after the 8:00 bell rings. Students are trained from day one to be prepared by sharpening MANY (at least 5) pencils in the morning. This way there are less interruptions during instruction. In the past, this has been a rule most students were able to comply with.
This year? Not so much.
I have a couple students who feel their pencils need to be sharp enough to draw blood in order to write. I tried modifying the rule a bit to allow students to sharpen pencils ONLY if it is during independent work time. For some reason this was next to impossible for them to follow. 

Out of desperation, I took a plastic Walmart bag and tied it over the pencil sharpener one day. Students thought the pencil sharpener was broken, so they borrowed a pencil, used their not-sharp-as-a-needle pencil, or suddenly "found" another sharp pencil in their pencil pouch. Hmmmm.
After about a week, students started asking if I was going to get the pencil sharpener fixed. I had to come clean. I told them that it wasn't broken, it was just closed. So I started uncovering it at the end of each day so students could get prepared for the next day. One of my sweet girls took it upon herself to tie the ugly Walmart bag (no offense, Walmart) back over the sharpener when the 8:00 bell rang. 

Miraculously, the world did not end. Students still had pencils to write with. They still completed their work. They even started THINKING AHEAD (shock, faint) and sharpening several pencils "just in case". Lalalalalala! I was singing songs of joy. No more classroom interruptions, because students knew not to ask me because the pencil sharpener was "closed" during class time.

But that plastic bag started driving me nuts. It was so UGLY! (again, sorry Walmart)
Which brings me to the "made it" portion of this blog post.
I started by making this super cute tag to hang by the pencil sharpener. 
 
Click HERE to download a free copy.

I figured that when it was there, it would stop students from using the sharpener since it was a visual reminder. Then I decided that I wanted to make a little slip cover for the sharpener. A much cuter version of the Walmart bag solution. And here it is!
All I did was make a small cover and add elastic to the inside of it. That way it can easily be slipped on and off of the pencil sharpener. I'm super happy with the results. And my favorite part is that my homeroom students have started asking me "Is the pencil sharpener open yet?" at the end of the day. Too funny!
Halloween was Saturday, and I didn't dress up. It was cold and rainy out and I just didn't feel like it. BUT, the week before I was in FULL HALLOWEEN SPIRIT MODE so we attended the Boo Dance at my school with the kiddos. It was really loud, really dark, and really long. But it was also really FUN! Especially since my awesome hubby likes to dress up too.

This year I struggled to come up with an idea for our costumes. Actually, that's not really accurate. I struggled to decide which of my many ideas I was willing to make. I finally ended up settling on a Charlotte's Web theme. I was Fern and my silly husband was Wilbur.

Yes, a six-foot tall pig. I had to make his piggy costume out of A LOT of pink fleece. It turned out so funny! The curly pink tail made me laugh every time I saw it! If only I had remembered to grab a fake spider to be our Charlotte...

Thanks for visiting.
Hopefully it won't be another full month before I write again.

October 16, 2015

5 for Friday Linky - How I Spent Fall Break 2015

Friday afternoon I sat down during my planning time and made a list. I wrote down all the things I HOPED to get accomplished over Fall Break.

Today I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for Five for Friday to share what I've been up to this week.

I know most people try to spend their breaks on vacation somewhere exotic or even visiting family. Well, as much as I might enjoy laying around on the beach soaking up rays, I spent my week getting things done that I've been wanting to do for a while. I never have the time between teaching, children, dogs, sleeping...

So here goes.
My youngest daughter was baptized last Saturday. She turned 8 on October 1 and we planned her baptism so that my dad could attend.
It was a pretty low-key event. Just family and a few friends. Abbie wore the same baptism dress that I wore when I was 8. My mom had sewn it for me, so it has a vintage feel to it (since I'm pretty old now...). Her dad baptized and confirmed her.

Oh my goodness! I've been busy with pottery. My sweet friend, Brenda, owns The Pottery Room and decided to sponsor a booth at the annual craft fair again this year. She asked me if I would be interested in putting my monster mugs and jars in the booth. Of course I said yes. I have tons of monsters that I've been hoping to sell. This is a big event and is for local artists. Brenda said there will only be one other ceramic artist there, so I'm excited to see how well my monsters do. Since the event is in less than a month, I spent A LOT of my week creating more monsters. Now I just have to paint them all.



I'm sure I'm not alone when I say I have a hard time balancing my school/work and home life. Often my own kiddos get put on the back burner while I grade papers, write lesson plans, take a nap, etc. So I made it a point to spend some time with each of them this week.

MONDAY:
Jonathan is currently attending APSU (local university) and had a two day fall break. So he came over Monday and we spent the afternoon and evening together. He came to the pottery room with me and we made mugs together. He had more fun getting me messy than throwing pottery, but I had a great time with him. We hung out at home doing puzzles for a bit. He's such a nut! We even tried to go see the Back to the Future movies at the theater (except we were 10 days early - lol) so we ended up eating ice cream and talking for a while.
TUESDAY:
Sammy and I took a trip to Nashville to search for the supplies for Halloween costumes. Unfortunately, Clarksville does not have a Joann's Fabrics store. We ended up with lots of material and even scored at Goodwill - finding these hideous, yet perfect, clothes for a mad hatter costume! All that shopping made us hungry, so we grabbed some lunch before heading back home.
THURSDAY:
Derek's favorite thing to do - EVER - is read. So we went to the library. he was in heaven. He took as long as he wanted to search for new books by authors he hasn't read before. He only ended up checking out two books, but he's been telling me all about them since. He started reading the first on as soon as we got back in the car! Of course, we had to get something to eat, so we went to Fazoli's for lunch. He ate more than I did! Definitely a growing boy.
FRIDAY:
That's today. After I write this blog post, Abbie and I will be going to The Pottery Room. She is my little shadow when it comes to pottery. She has been asking me (repeatedly) to teach her how to make something on the wheel, so I've decided today will be the day!


 
You know how when you look at an older TpT product that you thought was SO AMAZING at the time and you cringe because it looks so outdated? Well, I started looking through a bunch of my older products this week. One of my favorites is the Scientific Process Skills Posters. I have them hanging in my classroom above the cabinets.
They are bright and colorful, but pretty simplistic. The clip art is decent, the fonts are basic, and the overall design is outdated. So this week I got to work updating these posters. I changed the fonts, purchased a new set of hilarious science clip art from Ron Leishman Digital Toonage, and adjusted the layout a bit. I even designed several different color schemes so that buyers have more choices. I have to admit that I am over the moon with how they turned out! I hope other people will like them as much as I do.
I've already printed them out and have them ready to laminate so I can hang them up on the wall. I'm super excited about how they turned out! I'm thinking I might mount them onto colored paper so they "POP" a bit more on my white walls. If you like them, check them out in my TpT store and grab yourself a set. They're great for decorating a science wall or even reinforcing these important science process skills during a lesson.
Just writing this post has me a bit overwhelmed. I sure did accomplish a lot this week. And I still have the weekend! Believe it or not, I actually made time for several other miscellaneous projects this week...

Project #1: New table group signs. My original ones were a bit too large and kept getting knocked off the tables, so I made them smaller. I also created matching signs for the bucket of supplies I have at each table.
Project #2: It's kind of a "cheat" since it's a spin-off of the last one, but I have been meaning to create a couple signs for my classroom. I wanted one to hang with my lesson plans so administrators can find my plans when they come around to check them each week. I also made a little sign for my pencil sharpener. (I don't allow pencils to be sharpened during class.)
Project #3: My daughter is in love with cats and had pretty much worn out her old "blankie" so I put used some adorable flannel material to make her a new blanket. It's nothing fancy, but I KNOW she will get some use out of it. Plus, this is officially the FIRST thing I have sewn using my awesome new-ish sewing machine that my wonderful husband bought me LAST YEAR for Christmas. (yikes)
Project #4: Girls on the Run para cord bracelets. I wanted to make something for the girls on my team to wear as a constant reminder to keep "plugged in" to their positive GOTR power cords. We talk about positive self-talk and self-esteem a lot during our practices. I thought these bright bracelets would be a great way to remember the things we have learned this season.
Project #5: BooKoo. Ever heard of it? I hadn't. I was considering trying to put together a garage sale this week, but every time I thought about it I decided it was too much work. One of my friends suggested I post items for sale on BooKoo. It's basically an online yard sale. Similar to Craigslist. So I created an account and posted several bundles of trade books for sale. Since I no longer teach reading, I've decided to part with my classroom library.
Project #6: Bulldog jars. One of my friends form another school asked me to make bulldog jars for her. The mascot for her school is a bulldog and she wanted to give these as gifts to a couple people at her school. I made them from raw clay a few weeks ago, but finally got around to painting and firing them. I think they turned out super cute!!!

So, that's my week!
What did YOU accomplish this week?
Head over to the Doodle Bugs Teaching Linky to read more or add your own link!

September 22, 2015

Managing Multiple Classes

I teach fifth grade.
But at my school, fifth grade is departmentalized.
So I teach fifth grade STEM.
Every day I have 4 class periods.
Students rotate every 70 minutes, taking their supplies with them.
I stay in the room and teach the same content 4 times.

There are definitely some positives of this set-up.
1. I can really focus on planning engaging lessons for my content area.
2. I only have to write lesson plans for one subject.
3. I know ALL the fifth graders.
4. I work closely with the other teachers since we share students.
5. I use the line "repeat for each class" when writing sub plans.
6. I know exactly what to say and what questions are likely to arise by fourth period!

There are some challenges too.
1. Seating charts. I hate making them and now I need 4 seating charts.
2. Notes. I use a teacher notebook to record class notes and model activities during lessons.
3. Assignments. I have 4X the papers when I give an assignment and just as many when I return them.
4. Journals. I have to collect them on occasion. That's A LOT of journals.
5. Supplies. There are supplies that I provide and managing them is a pain.
6. Projects. I need 4X the supplies as well as the space to store the projects during the unit.

I love teaching science to multiple elementary classes (sort of like a middle school teacher) but there are some classroom management challenges too! Here are 6 teacher tips for managing multiple classes. #2 might be the best one!

I've come up with a few solutions.
But if you have any ideas, PLEASE comment below.
I'm always up for new or better ways of doing things!

CHALLENGE #1: Seating Charts
I don't really have a good solution for creating seating charts. I still have to consider a lot. Who bothers who. Who talks to who. Who needs additional assistance. Who has a 504 or IEP requiring preferential seating. Who needs (but does not have) glasses. Who is struggling. Who needs a challenge. Who is boy crazy. Who is girl crazy. Who drives ME crazy. Just kidding. (sort of)

I did come up with a strategy that seems to be helping a bit.
I created my seating charts by using the Popsicle sticks I use for calling on students. This way I can group, arrange, and rearrange the students over and over before writing the final decision down. I have a container for each class with all the students' names written on a Popsicle stick, so it's just a matter of figuring out everything I listed above. Yikes!
 I love teaching science to multiple elementary classes (sort of like a middle school teacher) but there are some classroom management challenges too! Here are 6 teacher tips for managing multiple classes. #2 might be the best one!


I love teaching science to multiple elementary classes (sort of like a middle school teacher) but there are some classroom management challenges too! Here are 6 teacher tips for managing multiple classes. #2 might be the best one!
When I'm done, I staple the seating charts together and keep them laying beside my computer. Most of the time I don't need them now that I know everyone's names. But there are those days when I can't seem to remember my OWN name that I really rely on those charts. Plus, when I have a substitute in my room, they can simply flip through the charts for each class period.
I love teaching science to multiple elementary classes (sort of like a middle school teacher) but there are some classroom management challenges too! Here are 6 teacher tips for managing multiple classes. #2 might be the best one!
I actually started recording other important information right on the seating chart. Students who are pulled for RTI (intervention classes) are marked and the time is written. Students with IEPs that allow for read-aloud testing are marked - this reminds me OR a sub. Students who are pulled for reading or math special services are marked and a time is recorded. Students who have speech or ELL services are marked with times. Sound like a lot? It is!!! That's why I started recording it right on my seating charts. That way I only have to look in one place for all of those times. So far so good.

CHALLENGE #2: Notes
Students in fifth grade don't know how to take notes completely independently. Well, some might, but MOST do not. They need guidance. They need me to model for them. When it comes to vocabulary definitions, I have them copy what I write. Some students need this support until the end of the year. Some students begin to learn how to write important information down without being shown what to write. It's a process. For this reason (and more) I keep a "teacher notebook" with all class notes, activities, and interactive folded papers in it.

Here's the thing.
I need FOUR NOTEBOOKS since I have 4 classes.
I realize that I could just uncover the notes that I write during my first class, but I've tried that. The students were less likely to be engaged in what was going on. Also, I spent a lot of time feeling like I was just "waiting" for them to copy what I wrote. I often have students develop the meanings of vocabulary terms in their own words. Each class is different, so I might have different versions for each one. When we collect data from an investigation, the data is always different so I found myself rewriting things a lot anyway.
I love teaching science to multiple elementary classes (sort of like a middle school teacher) but there are some classroom management challenges too! Here are 6 teacher tips for managing multiple classes. #2 might be the best one!
So my solution is to have a separate interactive notebook for each homeroom class. This has been beneficial since I am creating an interactive notebook right along with my students. It helps me to keep track of how far I have gotten with each class. I try to stay at the same pace, but that isn't always realistic. Also, when a student is absent or pulled out of the room for some reason or another, I have a ready-made notebook for them to access so they can copy any notes or data that they missed.

CHALLENGE #3: Assignments
I'm not complaining about having papers to grade. That's not the issue. My struggle is with the returning of the papers. And even more so, when a student is absent. Keeping track of who missed what assignment and who hasn't turned in work is tricky. Especially when I factor in the number of students who miss only a part of my class. I remember seeing them, but sometimes forget that they were out of the room when I pass out the homework. Sheesh! It's a lot to manage.

My solution to this organizational problem is two-fold.
First, I have four file folders that I keep on the flat file behind my teaching station. One for each homeroom class. If I grade a test, quiz, exit slip, or homework assignment, I place the papers in the folder based on the students' homeroom. That way I can simply open the folder and return any papers at the beginning of class. I also use these folders to store papers that I have passed out (assignments, foldables, etc.) when a student is out of the room. So for example, if Johnny is at speech when I pass out the homework, I leave a copy with his name on it in the folder for his homeroom. That way if he is responsible (some are) and asks what he missed I can give it to him. It also helps me to be sure to set aside the papers for any students who have missed school. Even if it is for more than a day.
I love teaching science to multiple elementary classes (sort of like a middle school teacher) but there are some classroom management challenges too! Here are 6 teacher tips for managing multiple classes. #2 might be the best one!
Second, when collecting assignments, I mark who has NOT turned it in. These are 10-11 year-olds. I would love to be really strict and say "If it isn't complete the moment I collect it, I won't accept it." However, that's not really practical. So, I keep a spiral notebook next to my computer that I note the names of students who still owe me something. It's nothing elaborate. Just a notebook with my chicken scratchings. But it works. I give a reminder the next day. Then it is up to students to turn work in before the week is over. At that point, it is too late.

CHALLENGE #4: Journals
We use our interactive notebooks EVERY SINGLE DAY so collecting them for a grade is my way of showing the students that I value the time and effort they put into their notes. It's a pretty "easy" grade to earn because all they have to do is keep up with notes and be sure their notebook is organized correctly. But the days that I choose to collect the journals are tough.

With four classes and almost 100 students, I have a lot of notebooks to collect. And taking them home is pretty much a nightmare. I drive a VW Beetle, after all. So I make sure to collect the journals on a day I am giving a test. The plan is that while students are taking their test I will give their journals a quick look and record their grades. That way students can get their journals back the same day.
I love teaching science to multiple elementary classes (sort of like a middle school teacher) but there are some classroom management challenges too! Here are 6 teacher tips for managing multiple classes. #2 might be the best one!
How can I score 25 journals in about 30 minutes?
While still monitoring students taking a test?
I can't.
That's the truth.
I usually get about half of them done.
Then I work through lunch and planning that day to complete the rest.

I do have a few tricks for making it go faster.

The notebook is basically a completion grade.
For this reason, I am looking for certain things to be included.
I pre-print address labels with these requirements listed - one for each student.
I love teaching science to multiple elementary classes (sort of like a middle school teacher) but there are some classroom management challenges too! Here are 6 teacher tips for managing multiple classes. #2 might be the best one!
As I look through each journal, I circle anything that is missing and place the label on the inside of their journals. I write the final score on the label too. That way students get immediate feedback AND know why they may have missed some points.
I love teaching science to multiple elementary classes (sort of like a middle school teacher) but there are some classroom management challenges too! Here are 6 teacher tips for managing multiple classes. #2 might be the best one!

Since I need to keep track of the journals for four classes while I grade them, I have students turn them in to the bin labeled with their homeroom teacher's name. That way I can work on them one class at a time and bring the whole bin to their homeroom by the end of the day. AND avoid having to bring home 100 interactive notebooks.

CHALLENGE #5: Supplies
For the most part, students are expected to come to class prepared with the supplies they will need each day. Pencils, paper, notebooks, colored pencils, glue, scissors, ruler, binder, etc. But there are a few supplies that I provide for student use. Dry erase boards, cloths (to use as erasers), old CDs (for drawing circles, calculators. Having to pass these out at the beginning of class and then collect them again at the end of class was ridiculous. Time consuming and frustrating for me.
I love teaching science to multiple elementary classes (sort of like a middle school teacher) but there are some classroom management challenges too! Here are 6 teacher tips for managing multiple classes. #2 might be the best one!
So I ended up purchasing some cheap bins at the dollar store. In this bin I have placed enough dry erase boards, cloths, CDs and calculators for each table group. This bin is NOT a trash can. Students know this - since I had to get on to them about it the first week. Having the supplies right at hand is great because sometimes I make a split decision to use a supply I hadn't planned on and it's right there for the students.

CHALLENGE #6: Projects
Oh my goodness. I really LOVE doing STEM challenges. And so do my students. Especially when the challenge involves actually building something. Sometimes I do a challenge and give students only a day (class period) to complete the challenge. But that isn't really feasible for some of the projects I plan. There are times when students need 2-3 days or even a week to build, test, improve and retest their models. With four classes, that's A LOT of supplies to distribute, manage, and store during the duration of the unit.

So far I have utilized plastic bins and gallon size Ziploc bags for the distribution part of the project. I spend about an hour "filling orders" by placing supplies onto the bags or bins for each group. Students can then use the bins to keep track of their group plans, building materials, and data collection logs. This allows me to be prepared ahead of time with all the supplies students need. It's not a fun time trying to organize supplies with 25+ students breathing down your neck!
I love teaching science to multiple elementary classes (sort of like a middle school teacher) but there are some classroom management challenges too! Here are 6 teacher tips for managing multiple classes. #2 might be the best one!
As far as storage of the projects while students are working on them? I have no good solution. I've tried a lot of things, but really I need some help. I need some creative storage ideas. How do YOU store student projects (especially 3D ones) for several days at a time?

If you found these ideas helpful, you might like to follow my Classroom Management board on Pinterest! This is where I pin all sorts of ideas that I find helpful in the classroom.


 

September 9, 2015

Tech Thursday - SignUp Genius

I'm excited to be linking up with Teaching Trio for Technology Thursday this month!
I've been trying to think of which of the many great resources I wanted to share, and it has been hard to narrow it down. I finally decided to focus on something that I think would be helpful to every teacher - regardless of grade level or subject area.

It's almost fall and with that time of year comes Parent Teacher Conferences.
I actually look forward to meeting with each parent - despite the long hours. Some parents don't ask for meetings through the year and I feel like I've missed the opportunity to connect if I don't catch them for a beginning of the year conference.

BUT
Every year I struggle.
I create a sign up list and ask parents to list their top three choices.
Some of these papers get returned and some don't.
I keep sending notes and eventually most parents give me a selection of times.

THEN
I have to figure out who fits into what time slot. I have to rearrange things multiple times because everyone seems to want the same times. It's a headache and I just didn't want to face it again.

SO
Last year I tried SignUp Genius for my parent teacher conference scheduling.
It. Was. A-MAZ-ING.

Tech Tip: Use this free online tool to create sign-ups for everything from parent-teacher conferences to food donations for classroom parties to field trip volunteers. Read about how simple it can be for teachers to create an online sign-up.
Step 1:
Create a free account.
I used my school email - I get notifications when a person signs up.

Step 2:
Click "Create a Sign Up" following the directions provided on the website. It really is user friendly. Each step is explained and you can navigate between screens if you choose to make changes.

Step 3:
Invite/Publish your sign up. You have the option of inviting people immediately, or you can wait until you are ready to take your sign up live.

Step 4:
Wait to get emails notifying you of the sign ups. I got 14/24 conferences scheduled the very first day.

Okay, so maybe you aren't sold on this yet.
Here are the main reasons I see this as a major benefit:

EASE OF COMMUNICATION
First, all parents are invited via email so there is not a worry that the students will forget the paper or lose it or simply not give it to their parents.
Second, any parents without an email can be given a link to access the sign up online.
Third, any parents without access to the internet (or who don't sign up on their own) can be contacted by phone and YOU can add them into a slot.

LESS ORGANIZATION
You determine the dates, times, and length of each meeting when you create the sign up. It is first come, first serve. Parents sign up for the exact time slot they want and know they have that time without worrying that someone else will be given their choice. Once a person signs up for a time slot, the slot is no longer available and others will know what times remain available. No more sending home additional notes with certain times/dates blocked out. And, if a parent needs to change times, they can do so online without you having to do anything!

REMINDERS ARE AUTOMATIC
I still send a Remind notification and include a reminder in my newsletter that tells parents that conferences are coming up, but I no longer have to send specific reminder notes to parents home with students. SignUp Genius has an option of sending a reminder email to parents 2 days before their conference with the specific time and location of the conference.

After I used this for my sign ups last year, I got the rest of my team on board. They loved it too!

And the best part is that SignUp Genius is great for any type of sign ups.
I have used it to collect party foods and supplies for our holiday celebrations.
I have used it to ask for donations of supplies for a STEM challenge.
I have used it to encourage parents to volunteer for field trips or other school events.
Seriously.
It's amazing and I don't know how I ever lived without it.

Try it out this year.
I guarantee it will save you so much time!
Has anyone else ever used SignUp Genius?
Do you have any other ideas for using this site?