Differentiation and Classroom Management

When was the last time you did something you were really bad at? I recently attended a Zumba class (dance cardio) for the first time. If I had to describe the experience in 3 words: exhausting, confusing, and most of all humiliating.

Blaring music signaled the start of class as the instructor skipped to the front of the room. She jumped right into complex dance moves. Arms were flying, legs were tapping out complicated rhythms. I watched intently and tried to copy her smooth movements with my awkward body.

As class proceeded, without fail, the very moment I’d begin to feel like I might have this move figured out, the instructor would switch it up and start something new. Everyone was going left in perfect synchronicity. I was going right.

To make matters worse, the teacher did next to nothing to help out a lost soul like me. There were no counts or cues as to what might be coming next. In a way, I felt abandoned. My shame started to fade slightly towards anger, and I wondered if there was any way out of this without looking even more stupid than I already felt.

Needless to say, the experience opened my eyes. How often are we that instructor, happily jiving with the kids that “get it?” How often do we brush off the kids who can’t keep up? Shrugging them off with comments like “Well if he’d do his homework he’d probably know what’s going on in class.”

What is Differentiation?

Differentiation is defined as the process of assessing students’ readiness, grouping them based on that readiness, and then delivering content within each group’s zone of proximal development. In other words, as teachers we should be giving each student something that challenges them a little bit, but not so much that they become frustrated and quit. (I was way out of my zone of proximal development in Zumba class.)

I think it’s fair enough to go ahead and admit that this is a huge ask for an exhausted teacher in an overfilled classroom. I’m not writing this to demand that you become Superman and create 5 lessons in one for every topic you teach.

What I am going to ask, though, is that you start thinking of simple ways that you can move in this direction. As you read on, I’m going to try to convince you that differentiation can change your life when it comes to classroom management. Maybe differentiation isn’t something you stress out about as a first year teacher or someone who is teaching brand new content, but as you grow and become more comfortable, you can play with some new ideas.

If you’re starting to differentiate from scratch, one really great place to start is with Blooms Taxonomy. Look for ways you can level your content and expectations based on these categories and you’ll be well on your way to at least some success.

Something I’ve Tried

One differentiation strategy I’ve tried is transforming one of my units into a self paced “flipped classroom” situation. This unit contains 5 topics of gradually increasing difficulty, each building on the last. I taught the first topic to the entire class (monohybrid crosses), and then gave a quiz. If a student passed the quiz with 80% or higher, they were allowed moved on to the next module. For each of the remaining 4 modules, I had an instructional video, a practice worksheet, and a quiz. The 80% rule remained true throughout the remaining modules.

If a student scored below 80% on the first quiz, they were required to stayed on that topic. Conveniently, I had several resources prepared to support them. For the first time in some of these children’s lives, they were not left behind. They were given all the time they needed to master this content, and they were not shamed for their needs. I cannot describe to you the joy of the moment, sometimes 5-6 days later, when some of these kids finally got it. Seeing their faces light up paid me more than my salary ever could.

As the unit progressed, the speedier students naturally grouped themselves into “teams” of similar ability levels. They worked together through the steps, teaching one another as they went along so that everyone in the group would successfully pass the quiz.

As I was completely freed up from “whole group” instruction, I was able to spend my time helping anyone with anything. In the end, and this is the kicker, I only assessed students up to the level that they achieved within the modules. Yes, some of my students never made it past the first topic, but they did master that topic.

I am extremely aware that high stakes testing can make it feel almost “wrong” to let a student get by without mastering the complete standard, but isn’t partial mastery better than none at all? Maybe just getting a few of the vocabulary terms down pat is good enough today for a child who usually checks out completely.

Download the Ultimate Guide to Classroom Management in Middle School in PDF format here.

Differentiation and Classroom Management

Now this isn’t necessarily a blog about instructional strategies. If I had differentiation all figured out, I’d probably be a millionaire. Instead, I’m here to convince you that even the tiniest sprinkling of differentiation might be able to seriously alleviate some of your classroom management woes.

It’s an age old tenet of classroom management theory that kids would rather be BAD than STUPID. As busy teachers, we forget how important this fact is, and more importantly how much it’s affecting the management of our class. Thinking back to my Zumba fiasco, I can certainly relate. Phrases like “This instructor sucks.” or “I really don’t like dancing anyway.” sprang into my mind as ways to take the focus off my own lack of proficiency.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and take a guess. Is the behavior problem kid in your class good at school? Is he an A student? Or does he struggle with reading? Is she slower than everyone else?

Just like me in Zumba, this child is most likely faced every day with the choice to try and be embarrassed, or to not try and to find other ways to earn the acceptance of their peers. Even if this child is acting very tough, I can almost guarantee that they are ashamed. They want to experience the feelings of success and proficiency. They want the adults in their life to be proud of them. But so far, that has been inaccessible to them.

If you’re having a really tough time with an entire class, try to take a day and only give work that’s accessible to ALL students. Find an assignment that everyone can do without help, and praise them when they complete it. Here’s some tips based on what’s worked for me.

Things Not to Do:

  • Group work
  • Assignments requiring multiple steps
  • Projects requiring fine motor skills
  • Anything involving reading comprehension

All of the above force students into situations where they may not be able to succeed. If you’ve got a student or a class that constantly feels like a failure, they’re likely going to respond by turning the class into a game. A game is more fun than a feeling of failure. 

Things To Do:

  • Coloring
  • Copying definitions
  • Worksheets leveled a few grades down

All of this might sound a little babyish and really lacking in rigor, but boy does it work. I’ve never seen a group of kids working so intently as the day I gave a terrible class a list of words to define. To up the ante, I promised to email parents of students who completed the work. For the first time in a long time, some of my worst behavior problems had a clear path to earning my and their parents’ praises.

As promised, I sent the emails. I spoke highly of the student and asked the parents to pass on my praise for their diligent work. Some of my baddest kids came in the next day beaming as they told me how proud their parents were. “My mom and dad wouldn’t stop kissing me all over!” one said, barely faking his annoyance.

Another benefit to this day of doable work will give you a chance to step out of the role of Answer Giver. I use opportunities like these to spend time sitting down with my students and building relationships. Not having to spend the entire time talking about content gives me a chance to learn more about the child. 

And if it’s just one kid and not the whole class that’s struggling, feel free to give just that child a separate assignment. Make it sound important. Say, “I found this worksheet I’m thinking of using some of the questions on a quiz. Could you solve it for me first and tell me if you think it’s hard enough?” If it’s easy they’re going to be so impressed with themselves. Show them that you’re impressed too.

Conclusion

“No. Not this kid.” you may say. “No matter what I give him he’s going to act a fool. “ I implore you. Just try it.  If you can’t take a whole day for the class, try giving just that student or group of students some work that’s leveled a few grade levels below. Meet them in their zone of proximal development.

Sometimes, behavior gets out of hand simply because our students can’t find any other way to enjoy the class. And everyone enjoys feeling smart. If you make a clear path for your students to success, they’re guaranteed to at least try it. Throw in some differentiation and see if your classroom management improves!


I am compiling all the blog posts in this series in an E-Book. If you feel that PDF format will be easier to read, or you’d like to donate to my efforts in supporting new and struggling teachers, please:

Download the Ultimate Guide to Classroom Management in Middle School E-Book

or

Read more blog posts on classroom management.

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One Pager Science

I love to use one pager science activities to help my students review key takeaways from lots of different topics! In this activity, students are tasked with the problem of fitting all the essential information related to a topic onto the front of one page, ideally in an aesthetically pleasing way. It’s a great way to incorporate design, creativity, and color into your classroom.

Tips for Incorporating One Pager Science into Your Next Lesson

Although it would be fun to eventually build students up to the point that they can design and create their own one pager from scratch, I’d recommend beginning with some templates available on TPT. This way, students can begin to catch on to the main idea behind the activity: creating a well organized summary sheet within the confined space.

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After your students have caught on to the purpose behind the one pager, challenge your most artistically inclined students to design their own for topics you’ve discussed as a form of differentiation. This is also a great assignment for early finishers.

Students who work more slowly or need more scaffolding can still be given templates.

For a fun infusion of technology, consider allowing students to use online design programs like Canva. I’m not at this level in my own class yet, but I think it would be amazing to play around with iPads and apple pens to create one pagers in Adobe Illustrator or other great drawing apps.

Take a look at a couple examples to get inspired!

Sample One Pagers

science tools one pager science

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Classroom Management Strategies: Setting Expectations for Students

Setting expectations is one of the first and most important steps to a successful classroom management regime. If you’re consistently not getting you what you want from your students, ask yourself: Did I clearly communicate what I expected? A lot of time, you’ll find the answer is no. Even though most teachers have already mastered the art of setting expectations early in the year, many of us forget that students need constant, friendly reminders for how to do each and every one of the variety of tasks that you’ve set out for them.

Safe to assume students know they need a pencil for class? Ha! Think your students will automatically know how much glue to use in an interactive notebook? Nope! Been there. One student managed to glue the entire stack of notebooks together! Assume your students know that realize that they should start writing immediately when taking note? A chorus of “wait!” as you change the slide will force you to accept that they didn’t know that one.

How to Set Expectations for Students

In order to remind myself and my students what’s expected in my room, I keep a running document with several “how to” slides which cover every conceivable activity that we could do in the class and what my expectations are for the students during that activity. With a difficult class, I’ll review the expectations for whatever tasks we’ll be doing that day at the beginning of the class, and then again as we transition. If things start to get a bit rowdy, I’ll review expectations in the middle of the task too.

Additionally, there is a reason I call this a live document. Students seem to be infinitely inventive when it comes to finding loopholes in my very carefully crafted list of expectations. For that reason, a student who manages to slip between the cracks will generally earn a grave “touché” from me as I add the latest unacceptable behavior to the appropriate slide. We have a deal. If it wasn’t on the slide yet (and as long as it wasn’t flagrantly offensive) you don’t get in trouble for the first offense. After a new behavior is added to the slide, consequences can be expected without warning if the behavior is repeated.

Here’s a couple slides from my Expectations for Students presentation:

setting expectations for students entering the classroom

I project this slide on the board as students enter the room. Normally, I’ve already begun to create order by keeping them lined up in the hall until the energy feels calm enough for learning to take place. One by one, students who are behaving appropriately are allowed to enter the room. As they walk past me, I gently remind them to take a look at the board as they go to their seats. With proper diligence, I generally have a solid start to my class.

Note: The main downside to this is that you can’t have your bellwork up. I don’t do one. I’m not sure if this makes me a bad teacher, but I always hated them when I used to do them!

setting expectations for students for listening

Once I’ve had a private chat in the hallway with any potential behavior issues and all my students have been allowed to enter the room, I join the students in the classroom. Immediately I jump into positive narration, pointing out students who have their pencils out and have generally followed the “How to Enter the Classroom” procedures correctly. As I praise students, I am also reiterating the expectations for any students who aren’t yet ready to begin.

When everyone has their pencil and appears relatively ready to begin, I change to the next slide in my Expectations Presentation: How to Listen When Someone is Talking. I review the points here or ask a student to read them aloud (selectively choosing someone who was off task). I always point out that I’m the one talking right now, but soon it will be you.

From there, I usually cover the agenda for the day and expectations related to every planned activity.

setting expectations for students for taking notes

On days that we take notes, this is my slide. If students start getting off task in the middle of my presentation, I’ll silently swipe back to this slide. I stand quietly next to the board with this slide projected and wait. This usually gets things back on track as long as we haven’t been taking notes for more than half an hour. Over 30 minutes and you’re in no man’s land. Good luck!

setting expectations for students for art

For the past two years I’ve really taken to using interactive notebooks. One of the major downsides to them, though, is the mess. My students can barely keep a pencil. Interactive notebooks require glue, scissors, and (*gasp*) fine motor skills. Keeping an orderly classroom with glue and microscopic shreds of paper flying everywhere has been one of the greatest challenges of my career.

When I get to this slide of expectations, I usually show pictures of an appropriate “trash pile” in the corner of a desk. Students who manage to keep their area relatively clean are rewarded with stickers and smiley faces.

Download the Ultimate Guide to Classroom Management in Middle School in PDF format here.

Benefits of Setting Expectations for Students

Constantly reviewing expectations may feel a bit redundant, but I can assure you this is my number one go to when I’m trying to help a struggling teacher. If we don’t communicate what we want to our students, we’ll stay in a state of perpetual frustration. Here’s some of the main benefits to consistently reviewing expectations for your students.

1. It cuts down on arguments.

Letting students know exactly what is expected before they try any funny business minimizes the chance that they’ll try to dispute their consequence when it’s handed down. If the entire class has been hearing every day that you keep your hands to yourself as you enter the room for 6 months, when someone comes through and knocks everyone’s stuff into the floor there’s a good chance the students may actually handle classroom management for you. If not, the offender will be in a terrible position to make any valid case for their behavior.

2. It helps you think on the fly.

Reviewing expectations helps you too. We’ve already got enough decisions to make. Cut down your think time when a kid does something ridiculous. The answer to “was that acceptable?” is always going to be “Did I recently review my expectations for appropriate behavior in this area?” If yes, and what they did wasn’t within those expectations, give a consequence.

If no, review the expectations again. Give a verbal warning by saying something like “I guess I may have forgotten to review my expectations for asking questions in class. Next time, I’d like everyone to raise their hand before they speak.” Or maybe concede that you hadn’t thought of this one and add it in. Focus on yourself and your expectations, not the student and their behavior. Talk about what you do want, not what you don’t want. You’ll quickly be seen as a more consistent and fair teacher.

3. It gives students a way to win.

Even our worst students secretly want to be seen as good and valuable by the adults they respect. Many of these children have not yet learned how to get a positive response from those adults. The only reaction they’ve ever managed to elicit has been a negative one. Teaching expectations gives students a cheat sheet for small things they can do to make you proud. Most likely, they’ll give it a shot. If you respond in turn by praising these borderline bad kids, it’s not unlikely that they’ll beam with pride and learn to enjoy the positive attention. They’ll strive to continue meeting expectations. Your feedback loop will turn around and you’ll quickly find That Kid or That Class much, much more pleasant to teach.


I am also turning all the blog posts in this series together in an E-Book. If you feel that this PDF format will be easier to read, or you’d like to donate to my efforts in supporting new and struggling teachers, please:

Download the Ultimate Guide to Classroom Management in Middle School E-Book

or

Read more blog posts on classroom management.


If this blog post was helpful to you, or if you think anyone else could benefit from these classroom management strategies, please consider pinning the following image to help me expand my reach.

setting expectations for students

Genetic Disorder List

Below you’ll find a list of common genetic disorders. These include both gene and chromosome disorders. Some of these disorders are inherited from parents, while others are a result a mutation within a single individual. Scroll down to read more.

List of Common Genetic Disorders

1. Angelman Syndrome/Prader-Willi Syndrome – An uncommon inherited disorder characterized by mental retardation, decreased muscle tone, and life-threatening obesity. When this genetic mutation is inherited from the mother, Angelman Syndrome arises which causes neurological problems including jerky movements and spontaneous laughter.
2. Canavan Disease – A degenerative disorder that causes progressive damage to nerve cells in the brain.
3. Cancer – Uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the body.
4. Celiac Disease – A disease that triggers an autoimmune response that causes damage to the small intestine when certain types of protein, called gluten, are eaten.
5. Color Blindness – Occurs when you are unable to see colors in a normal way.
6. Cri du chat Syndrome (Cat’s Cry Syndrome) – The syndrome’s name is based on the infant’s cry, which is high pitched and sounds like a cat.
7. Cystic Fibrosis – A recessive genetic disease in which the exocrine glands of afflicted individuals produce abnormally thick mucus that block the intestines and lung passageways. People with the disease have a very hard time breathing and often die from suffocation.
8. DiGeorge Syndrome – While the symptoms can vary, they often include congenital heart problems, specific facial features, frequent infections, developmental delay, learning problems and cleft palate.
9. Down Syndrome –
A chromosome abnormality, usually due to an extra copy of the 21st chromosome. This syndrome usually, although not always, results in mental retardation and other conditions.
10. Duchenne & Becker Muscular Dystrophy – The muscular dystrophies are a group of genetic diseases characterized by progressive weakness and degeneration of the skeletal muscles that control movement.
11. Fragile X – A genetic condition that causes a range of developmental problems including learning disabilities and cognitive impairment.
7. Cystic Fibrosis – A recessive genetic disease in which the exocrine glands of afflicted individuals produce abnormally thick mucus that block the intestines and lung passageways. People with the disease have a very hard time breathing and often die from suffocation.
8. DiGeorge Syndrome – While the symptoms can vary, they often include congenital heart problems, specific facial features, frequent infections, developmental delay, learning problems and cleft palate.
9. Down Syndrome –
A chromosome abnormality, usually due to an extra copy of the 21st chromosome. This syndrome usually, although not always, results in mental retardation and other conditions.
10. Duchenne & Becker Muscular Dystrophy – The muscular dystrophies are a group of genetic diseases characterized by progressive weakness and degeneration of the skeletal muscles that control movement.
11. Fragile X – A genetic condition that causes a range of developmental problems including learning disabilities and cognitive impairment.
12. Familial hypercholesterolemia – Characterized by high cholesterol levels, specifically very high levels of low-density lipoprotein
13. Haemochromatosis – A disorder that causes the body to absorb too much iron from the diet.
14. Hemophilia – A rare disorder in which your blood doesn’t clot normally because it lacks sufficient blood-clotting proteins.
15. Kleinfelters – A genetic condition that results when a boy is born with an extra copy of the X chromosome.
16. Neurofibromatosis – A genetic disorder that causes tumors to form on nerve tissue
17. Huntington Disease – A hereditary, degenerative brain disorder for which there is no effective treatment or cure. HD slowly diminishes the affected individual’s ability to walk, think, talk and reason.
18. Phenylketonuria (PKU) – A hereditary disorder in which the amino acid phenylalanine isn’t properly metabolized. As a result, the amino acid can build up to dangerous levels in the blood and other tissues, causing mental retardation and other serious health problems.
19. Polycystic Kidney Disease – A genetic disorder characterized by the growth of numerous cysts in the kidneys. The cysts can reduce kidney function and lead to kidney failure.
20. Sickle Cell Anemia – An inherited disorder that affects hemoglobin, a protein that enables red blood cells to carry oxygen to all parts of the body, resulting in a low number of red blood cells and periodic pain.
21. Spinal Muscular Atrophy- A disease that robs people of physical strength by affecting the motor nerve cells in the spinal cord, taking away the ability to walk, eat, or breathe
22. Tay-Sachs Disease – A rare inherited disorder that causes progressive destruction of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, found to be more common in people of Ashkenazi Jewish heritage than in those with other backgrounds.
23. Triple-X Syndrome – A rare chromosomal genetic syndrome with one or more extra X chromosomes, leading to XXX (or more rarely XXXX or XXXXX), instead of the usual XX. These people are females and can be unaffected, or may suffer from problems such as infertility and reduced mental acuity.
24. Turner’s Syndrome – A chromosomal condition that exclusively affects girls. It occurs when one of the two X chromosomes normally found in females is missing or incomplete.

Get my Genetic Disorder Project Packet here.

List of Debatable Genetic Disorders

The exact genetic causes of these disorders is still mostly unknown. Some lifestyle factors may play a role.

25. Obesity Obesity is an excess of body fat that frequently results in a significant impairment of health.
26. Alzheimer’s Disease – A progressive brain disorder that gradually destroys a person’s memory and ability to learn, reason, make judgments, and communicate.
27. Autism – A broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication.
28. Diabetes, type 1 (Juvenile Diabetes) and Type 2 – A chronic metabolic disorder that adversely affects the body’s ability to manufacture and use insulin, a hormone necessary for the conversion of food into energy.
29. Parkinson’s Disease – A motor system disorder which is the result of the loss of dopamine-producing brain cells. Parkinson’s can cause tremors, rigidity, slowness of movement and postural instability.

Read more on how I teach my DNA unit.

List of Other Genetic Mutations

These mutations do not cause health problems, so are not considered a disorder.

30. Shar Pei Skin – The wrinkled skin of these dogs defines them, but it was originally caused by a mutation.
31. Double Muscled Cattle – Belgian Blue cows have a mutation that gives them double the muscle.
32. Extra-Toed Cats – Some cats have 7 toes due to a mutation.
33. Curly Hair in Dogs – Some dogs have a trait that allows their hair to grow and not shed.
34. Wrinkled Peas – Pea plants have either smooth or wrinkled peas.
35. Red Hair – Red hair is common in Scotland and Ireland where this mutation originated.
36. Lactose Tolerance – Being able to digest the lactose in milk originated as a mutation.

Get my Genetic Disorder Project Packet here.

genetic disorder list

Classroom Management Strategies: The Feedback Loop

A feedback loop is defined as any system, circuit, or device where the output is in some way returned to the input. In general, feedback loops can be considered any process that leads to producing more of the same.

Feedback loops are all around us. A positive feedback loop builds on positive energy to continuously produce better and better results. On the other hand, a negative feedback loop can be likened to a downward spiral. Bad results contribute to even worse results in the future. Keeping a vigilant eye on the variety of feedback loops in our lives will lead us to getting what we want more of the time. Let’s take a look at some examples.

Negative Feedback Loop

negative feedback loop example

You’ve perhaps noticed that search engines and social media platforms have been designed to give you more of what you show an interest in.

If I start clicking on political ads which align with my current beliefs, it’s almost guaranteed in today’s digital atmosphere that I will be shown another very similar ad. This lack of opposition can lead to me growing a strong, determined opinion that my beliefs are correct.

If my political beliefs are already a bit bigoted, I may inadvertently enter into a negative feedback loop, spiraling lower and lower into the depths of hatred and extremism with every click. Because of the way these algorithms are designed, I am rarely or never confronted with beliefs which challenge my own. In the absence of strong critical thinking skills or self examination, I may never consider an opposing viewpoint.

Positive Feedback Loop

positive feedback loop example

In another example, I join an exercise program at my gym. In class, I make new friends who also value fitness and community, which encourages me to continue attending. After a few weeks, I start to notice improvements in my strength and energy. This further adds to my resolve to continue attending the class.

In this example, my positive experiences continue to build and produce more positive results in my life. It’s very likely in this case that I will continue to attend class due to positive peer pressure and feedback.

In these loops lies a grave danger for teachers, or a fabulous opportunity, depending on how you choose to approach the situation.

The Feedback Loop in Your Classroom

Right now, you’re in an upward or a downward spiral with every child, class, and even coworker that you interact with daily. So which is it? Let’s look at a couple different loops.

Your Loop with One Kid

positive feedback loop example

negative feedback loop example

After getting to know Sally and Katie’s situations, it becomes pretty obvious why Sally loves the class and Katie doesn’t. Likely, we have both of these students on our roster right now.

Sometimes we get caught up in the idea that Katie should be able to change her own situation. We say or think things like, “Well obviously if Katie would just start acting right she wouldn’t get in trouble!” It’s important to remember that children lack the maturity necessary to think critically about their role in a negative relationship. I can assure you that the loop will never change direction unless you, as an adult, are the one to change it. Remember that you are the professional. You are the one with the skills and the self control required to resolve this situation. Children simply react to whatever comes their way, in the ways that they’ve seen or been taught. You alone hold the power to shift the paradigm.

Your Loop with A Whole Class

positive feedback loop example
negative feedback loop example

Which class would you rather be a teacher in? Which class would you rather be a student?

Feedback loops don’t ever need to be negative. With careful attention, we can monitor the kind of loop we’re in with every coworker, class, and child. The importance of this is due to the self perpetuating nature of the loop. If you’re in a downward spiral in any area, it will most likely continue unless strongly decisive action is taken.

Download the Ultimate Guide to Classroom Management in Middle School E-Book

Changing Direction

Now that we’ve established what a feedback loop is, and most likely come to grips with the fact that we have a couple negative ones lingering in our lives, perhaps we’d like to change that fact. If you would like to reverse your negative loop with a student or an entire class, remember that you will most likely have to start the shift by dumping a lot of your own energy into the system. If your current loop is only producing more and more negative energy, it will take a serious effort to inject even a small dose of positive. You will be fighting against inertia. Do not give up. Soon your spiral will reverse. Your kids will start to produce positive energy on their own, which will make it easier to be positive in return.

To help you make the shift, consider trying some of these strategies.

  • Talk about how much you like enjoy that student/class.
  • Write lists of names on the board of people who are on task. Give tally marks every time you catch them doing the right thing. Only take away tally marks in extreme cases and do it quietly without a lot of fanfare.
  • Email/call parents when their students have done well
  • Explicitly state expectations. Praise students who follow them.
  • Smile.
  • Talk to your students about their own interests.
  • Give small rewards like stickers or smiley faces for good behavior.
  • Assign work that students are able to complete. Praise them for their success.

I am compiling all the blog posts in this series in an E-Book. If you feel that PDF format will be easier to read, or you’d like to donate to my efforts in supporting new and struggling teachers, please:

Download the Ultimate Guide to Classroom Management in Middle School E-Book

or

Read more blog posts on classroom management.


If this blog post was helpful to you, or if you think anyone else could benefit from these classroom management strategies, please consider pinning the following image to help me expand my reach.

classroom management strategies feedback loop

Teacher Self Care & Classroom Management

I’m sure you’ve at least heard this at some point in your preparation to become The Best Teacher Ever, but I’m going to say it again. Self care as a teacher is going to be critically important. You cannot be on this self deprecating “I can’t adult today but I’m still cute and relatable!” wave. You must adult. Matter of fact, you’re the ONLY adult. There’s a group of young people who are relying on you to be consistent and reliable and their trust in you absolutely depends on the fact that you are those things. 

The energy you bring to the classroom each day will be palpable. The question is, will it be an attractive and warm energy that draws people in or a negative and chaotic energy that causes stress? You will not be able to hide the energy you show up with. Just like you absorb the moods of the people who live in your home, your students will reflect the energy you bring to the classroom each day. Self care can help make it a good one. 

How Self Care Affects Your Feedback Loop as a Teacher

First of all, and I shouldn’t have to say this, but someone has to. You can’t do this hungover. You cannot do this hungover! I know what it feels like to come home and want nothing more than to forget the day you had. To want to spend your evening thinking about ANYTHING except for the day you’re going to have tomorrow. To want to sleep without dreams about school. But abusing substances isn’t going to help things get better, even if it’s relaxing in the short term. If need be, take a moment or a few days to let that realization sink in. 

By being hungover, you’re creating a Negative Feedback Loop, which I’ll discuss more later. Every day that you come in with a headache and not enough sleep you come mentally unprepared to handle the things that’ll be thrown at you: The 1500 decisions a day that you’re expected to make, a lot of which allow for very little consideration time. You avoid and deflect, but you do not solve anything. By not solving it today, you’ve done nothing but create more work for future you to deal with. If your life is already kind of difficult, you could be well on your way to a breakdown. 

Similarly, you’re not going to be able to handle this if your own personal life is a mess. Children are vulnerable and needy. They haven’t yet figured out how to emotionally regulate themselves or to meet their own needs. They’re going to come to you for guidance, support, and encouragement. They haven’t learned how to ask for those things in functional ways. Sometimes they’re going to ask for a hug by throwing a desk. Other days they’re going to look for acceptance by talking back in class.

If you’re drowning in your own emotional turmoil, you’re going to first of all lack the attentiveness required to decipher these strange messages that kids send us about what they need. If you’re already wallowing in your own messes, how can you show empathy for the generations of abuse that have accumulated in a child that comes to your room with emotional disturbances or oppositional defiance disorder. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to see through the fog to the precious child underneath. With the chaos of your own personal life swirling in your mind, you might snap and fire back with insults or passive aggression of your own unique branding, further confusing the child as to what is normal and acceptable behavior. 

Checkout my Ultimate Guide to Classroom Management to get links to all my other classroom management topic guides.

A Better Alternative

No matter how hard it is at first, come home in the evening and practice self care first. Take a bubble bath. Watch Netflix. Face your problems. Think of a tiny solution. One tiny thing you can change. You don’t have to bulge out your eyes as you demand a solution from your already overtaxed mind. Simply resting in a state of non-avoidance will allow the solutions to come to you. After you thought of something, anything, new to try, allow yourself to be done thinking about work for the day. You’ve made your life a little better for the future. As you grow, you’ll eventually be able to spend less and less energy on these things in your free time! I promise. 

If you’re reading this and thinking to yourself, “I leave work at work! They don’t pay me to work at home. I’m not going to do that!” then you should consider a new career. This job is somewhat all encompassing because it’s everything about you that makes you the person who greets the children at the door each day. They need to know that they matter to you, so that means they can’t be important only during working hours. Your students should be important 24/7, and that means self care is important 24/7 for teachers. But it does get easier. 

Track Your Days

To this day, I still mark in my plan book when I have a Very Bad Day. To be fair, I also mark when I have a good day. I just looked through the last two years of plan books, and there’s a noticeably larger quantity of good days than bad. (I don’t mark every day.) Remember: that’s the goal. Not to have 0 bad days, but to have less 

classroom management strategies: self care
classroom management strategies: self care

You will always have a lesson that flops so bad that you vow to never again do something “interactive” so long as you live. You will always have a kid who comes in like he spent the evening devising plans to ruin your day and he will succeed. No matter how many years you teach or how much time you spend revising your lessons, a perfect storm will still materialize and screw it all up. Keeps us humble I guess. 

The thing that I try to remember about Very Bad Days, as I plan my resignation letter on my drive home, is that there’s never 2 in a row. I believe this as a law of physics. I don’t know why it’s true, but it’s been true throughout my whole career. Just when I reach my breaking point and I log onto Linked In, just as I’m googling “jobs to transition to from education” in my lunch break, the next day turns into some kind of bizarre world of order where the students all come with a pencil and remember to ask 3 before me and use inside voices, ALL AT THE SAME TIME. 

Read more posts on classroom management.

Taking care of yourself inside and out, and looking directly at the problems will lead to less bad days. Eventually you’ll work less and less from home, and the self care will begin to come more naturally. Some of us started in the classroom before we had fully developed frontal lobes for ourselves. Regardless, there’s always room to grow and when you’re happy and healthy, your entire life (work included) is guaranteed to be more pleasant. If you’re not at that place yet, maybe set this book down and work on it for a few months before you try to master the subtler matters of your classroom and career. 


If this blog post was helpful to you, or if you think anyone else could benefit from teacher self care, please consider pinning the following image to help me expand my reach.

classroom management strategies: self care

Classroom Management Strategies: Positive Narration

I first learned about positive behavior narration as a classroom management strategy when my school moved to implement the PBIS system. The school was having some campus wide behavior problems, so a workshop covering the basics of PBIS was arranged. A teacher or two came up to the front to model positive narration, and it was… really odd.

As the “student” moved around the room the “teacher” made comments like: “I notice that Ashley has her pencil out on her desk. She’s ready to begin taking notes.” or “Thank you, Tim, for keeping your eyes on me while I give my instructions.”

After the workshop finished, we were all highly encouraged to give the positive narration thing a spin in our own rooms. I, for one, couldn’t see myself doing it. It just looked so awkward and impersonal to me.

Implementation of Positive Narration

Fast forward about 6 months and I was drowning in classroom management issues of my own. I was trying very hard to get into the mindset where I considered classroom management to be fun. I often repeated mantras to myself when I was awake in the middle of the night, stressing about the next day of school. “I enjoy finding creative solutions to classroom management.” Over and over I’d chant to keep my mind from spiraling into fear and dread.

Eventually, I remembered the positive narration thing, and I decided to give it a spin for myself. What do I have to lose?

I began to dip my toe into the water by using less mechanical phrases than the ones I had heard modeled. I focused on the key idea: bring the class’s focus to kids who are behaving correctly, rather than to those who aren’t. I started using my “teacher voice” to call out students who were following expectations rather than those who weren’t.

I make comments like, “Hey everybody! Check out Hamdi! He’s already got his pencil and his notebook out! Nice job Hamdi!” or “Everyone, try to be like Fatima. I love how she has her chair pushed in and she’s standing behind her desk. That’s how I know she’s ready to leave.” Sometimes I use positive narration in simple one to one dialogue as well. As I pass a kid a sticker, I quietly say, “This is for being on task all day today. Thank you.”

Shockingly, these comments really do turn heads. The rest of the class is often getting whiplash to check out what so-in-so is doing that’s getting them all this attention. That’s exactly what my students used to do when I called down bad kids, by the way.

As a bonus, I like to keep classroom expectations posted throughout the year. I actually have a Google slide presentation that I use to review these on a daily or weekly basis, depending on how often they’re needed. When students are fully aware of expectations, and getting praised for following them, I find that attention-seeking negative behaviors have reduced themselves to a minimum.

Download the Ultimate Guide to Classroom Management in Middle School in PDF Format here.

Conclusion: Why I Love It

Positive narration has become a constant go to for me. I love it two main reasons:

The first is that I get to remind the class of the expectations in a positive and friendly way. Rather than sounding angry, my cues are hidden under a blanket of praise.

Second, Kids who deserve positive attention are finally getting it. How many years did I hopelessly ignore the kids who followed my expectations, while kids who acted out continued to get the attention they so desperately craved? Now, those kids are having to follow the rules to get their reward!

I am compiling all the blog posts in this series in an E-Book. If you feel that PDF format will be easier to read, or you’d like to donate to my efforts in supporting new and struggling teachers, please:

Download the Ultimate Guide to Classroom Management in Middle School E-Book

or

Read more blog posts on classroom management.


If this blog post was helpful to you, or if you think anyone else could benefit from these classroom management strategies, please consider pinning the following image to help me expand my reach.

positive narration

Sexual vs Asexual Reproduction

Image by S. Hermann & F. Richter from Pixabay

All living things must reproduce in order to grow their populations. In order to accomplish that goal, evolution has provided 2 competing methods: sexual and asexual reproduction. Each method produces offspring, but has its own benefits and drawbacks. Let’s take a closer look at sexual vs. asexual reproduction.

Sexual Reproduction

Most of the species that we’re usually in contact with reproduce sexually. This includes everything from humans to fish to flowering plants! Sexual reproduction requires two parents who produce special cells called gametes which combine to form a genetically unique offspring.

In sexual reproduction, an offspring will only receive half of each of its parent’s DNA. This mixing and matching of genetics produces lots of variations in a population. As DNA is mixed and matched over several generations, new traits pop up that may not have been present before.

This variety is considered the primary advantage of sexual reproduction. Because all the individuals in a sexually reproducing population are slightly different from one another, there is a higher chance that some portion of the population will have a genetic resistance to challenges that may arise as environmental conditions inevitably shift. This process of slightly changing over time makes sexual reproduction the primary driving force of evolution.

The drawbacks of sexual reproduction mostly center around the amount of energy it requires. Gametes, produced by the process of meiosis, take time and energy to make. On top of that, it also requires energy to find and select a suitable partner for mating. One has only to think of the plight of the salmon to be convinced that sexual reproduction is often quite the task!

Asexual Reproduction

Asexual reproduction, involving much less energy, is a form of cloning. A parent will produce offspring which shares an identical set of DNA. This can happen in a variety of ways:

Types of Asexual Reproduction

BuddingSome species, like the hydra, are capable of growing an appendage that eventually breaks off and becomes an offspring. This process is called budding.
Binary FissionMost cells reproduce asexually. In eukaryotes that process is called mitosis, in prokaryotes it’s known as binary fission.
RunnersSeveral plants, including strawberries, are able to reproduce asexually by growing a root that shoots away from the parent plant. Eventually this root will sprout a genetically identical clone.

Regardless of the way it’s accomplished, asexual reproduction always produces genetically identical offspring. This can be a bad thing when it comes to changes in the environment. When one individual is susceptible to a danger, so is the entire population. For better or for worse, asexual reproduction produces an army of clones. This lack of genetic variety makes an asexually reproducing population vulnerable to changing conditions.

Asexual reproduction, however, is strong where sexual reproduction is weak. It requires very little energy and can happen very quickly. These benefits make asexual reproduction an excellent reproductive strategy for any species interested in building a very large population quickly. Bacteria are one such example. Their colonies can grow to millions of individuals in just a few hours.

Sexual vs. Asexual Reproduction Resources

sexual vs asexual reproduction worksheet

Guided Practice

2 pages of pre-reading covering sexual vs. asexual reproduction prepares students for a summarizing review. This resource also includes a graphing extension which can be used for differentiation or extension.

Get it here.

sexual vs asexual reproduction quiz

Quiz

15 multiple choice questions requiring students to differentiate between instances of sexual vs. asexual reproduction.

Get it here.

sexual vs asexual reproduction webquest

Webquest

Who doesn’t love a good sub plan? Let students explore reproductive strategies on their own using this interactive webquest. An extension activity requires students to argue which strategy they would choose in an organism of their own design.

Get it here.

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Additional Sexual vs. Asexual Reproduction Resources

  • PDF File containing many descriptions of various organisms and their reproductive strategies from the University of Utah
  • Lab involving population growth of both sexually and asexually reproducing species
  • Textbook style pages describing in detail the two methods of reproduction. Includes a watermark, but could still be useful for reference
  • Web Interactive containing descriptions of reproductive strategies of several species
  • Youtube Video with a short, student friendly description of both strategies
  • Presentation
  • Presentation 2
  • Worksheet
  • Worksheet 2

If you would like your resources to be included in this list please contact me at laneyleeteaches@gmail.com


My teaching resources have already benefitted the learning of over half a million students. Please pin the image below to help me expand my reach.

sexual vs asexual reproduction

Classroom Management Strategies: Entering the Classroom

A lot of teachers have already lost the class before it’s even begun. Entering the classroom is an absolutely critical first step to a productive and calm period. Students arrive at your door with a lot of jitters and excitement. It’s really important that they pass through the door’s frame with only the energy level that you’re going to be able to deal with for the day. Which brings us to our first step:

Steps to Entering the Classroom Peacefully

1. Line up

No matter how long it takes, your students must begin following commands before they enter the classroom. If you let students in who refuse to defer to your requests, you can go ahead and call it a day. On the other hand, though, nothing you ask should ever be a surprise to your students. You will never be accused of being unfair if you are consistent. Students should know what this classroom entrance process looks like and what your expectations are. You will teach this from Day 1, or from the moment you read this blog post. There will never be a day that these exact procedures are not followed.

I have an entire presentation that I use to review expectations as often as possible. Weekly, daily, or even every 10 minutes. Whatever it takes to ensure my students are aware of what I require. This is the slide that I use to teach how to line up outside the classroom.

classroom management strategies

Since there is no projector in the hallway, I often reinforce expectations and praise students who are following them by saying phrases like “Thank you Ahmad for keeping your hands to yourself.” I do not raise my voice. I do not call attention to students who are not following expectations.

2. Let Students Enter the Room

Once most or all of your students are following expectations for lining up in the hallway, you can begin to allow some students to enter. My recommendations for letting students enter the classroom are as follows:

  1. Have in your hand a clipboard with an up to date seating chart on it.
  2. Have projected on the screen in the classroom a slide about expectations for entering the classroom, if you can stand to wait a few minutes on the daily agenda.
  3. Allow students who have been following the “line up” expectations the longest and most consistently to enter the classroom first, in groups of no more than 5. You do not have to allow students in based on the order of the line. Narrate your decisions: “I’d like to allow Talal, Zayed, and Hamad to enter the room now because they have been standing in a straight line the longest.”
  4. Wait until the group you have previously allowed into the room to get completely settled before choosing the next 5.

Here’s the slide I project with classroom procedures for entering the classroom.

classroom management strategies

If the class is having a particularly difficult time, I take phones as students enter the room. That has usually not been necessary for me when I’m implementing the rest of these strategies well.

As you can also see, I don’t do any kind of bellwork. When all the students have successfully entered the room, I enter and jump directly into my lesson. For me, this has always been the best solution. You could change your slide to include a “begin bellwork” expectation, though, if that’s something that means a lot to you.

As I enter the room, I again narrate and praise students who have their supplies ready. “Look at Bob. Bob has a pencil!” “Thank you, Lucy, for going directly to your seat without disturbing anyone!”

Download the Ultimate Guide to Classroom Management in Middle School in PDF format here.

What to Do if a Student Never Complies

If you’re drowning, I know this is your main question right now. What if they refuse!? I’ve taught my classroom management strategies to a new teacher in my building and this was her first and only response to my methods. I said, honestly, “I don’t know.”

The next day, she came to my office with the biggest smile on her face exclaiming, “IT DID WORK!!!!”

I find that the pressure of being somewhat “left out” in the hallway due to the lack of earning their way into the room not only takes the spotlight off your “bad” kids (they tend to straighten up once no one is left to impress), but it also gives you a chance to have a short, private conversation with them. Ask them sincerely, “How can I help you help me have a good day today?” and treat them with dignity no matter what their response is.

If That Kid still insists on being disrespectful to you, at least it will be in a relatively private space, as opposed to your own sacred classroom. Hopefully you can page an administrator to pick them up from the hallway, rather than allowing the energy of your learning environment being disrupted.

You Got This!

It’s never too late to learn something new! Succeeding in classroom management does not mean that nothing ridiculous ever happens in your room. It just means that you’ve learned how to respond with patience, a calm disposition, and consistency. If it’s your first year or your thirty-fifth, I’m with you in this journey of trial and error. Stay in touch if you’d like to learn more with me.

I am compiling all the blog posts in this series in an E-Book. If you feel that PDF format will be easier to read, or you’d like to donate to my efforts in supporting new and struggling teachers, please:

Download the Ultimate Guide to Classroom Management in Middle School E-Book

or

Read more blog posts on classroom management.


If this blog post was helpful to you, or if you think anyone else could benefit from these classroom management strategies, please consider pinning the following image to help me expand my reach.

Set yourself up for success in classroom management with my quick strategies: A few easy steps to get your students entering the classroom respectfully.

How to Start a Teacher Blog: The Ultimate Guide

In the world we live in now, simply doing is not enough. Even robots can do tasks, and they do. To earn a spot in today’s economy, you have to create. Teachers all around the globe are taking to the E-streets to share their wisdom and opinions. Six months ago, I was just like you. I wanted to start a teacher blog, but how? Where do I begin?

I started this blog in June of 2019, and I wanted to take a few minutes to give you ALL my tips from my first year blogging. If someone, anyone can benefit from all my struggle, then my pain has meaning. So, please, enjoy the wealth of my knowledge!

Here’s the 7 most important areas you’ll need to concentrate on if you still want to know how to start a teacher blog:

  1. Hosting Your Blog
  2. Your Domain Name
  3. Blog Design
  4. Your Niche
  5. SEO
  6. Promoting Your Blog
  7. Outcome Expectations

Read on to learn more about each of these!

1. Hosting Your Blog

Are you going to host your blog on Blogger or WordPress? I recommend WordPress. Their platform allows you more freedom to design your blog in any way you want. This will allow you to make your blog look more like a website than the traditional scrolling blog. However, lots of successful bloggers are still on Blogger, so you may want to do your own research for how each of these sites can help you start your teacher blog most effectively.

Much of my following advice will be specific to WordPress for obvious reasons.

2. Your Domain Name

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Next, you will most likely want to spend the relatively tiny amount of money to get your own domain. I bought mine for $18 through the WordPress site, but you can also buy through Godaddy. This allows your blog to function more like a standalone website with its own address, rather than looking like something that’s more of an extension of WordPress. Which is more professional looking to you?

Option 1: https://laney-lee.com/
Option 2: https://laneylee.wordpress.com

I prefer the first option. If you do too, you’ll want to buy your own domain as well. It’s extremely easy to buy and set up the domain within the WordPress dashboard. The sidebar on the left has a main section called Manage, and under that a Domains portion. From there, the process should be relatively self explanatory.

When you’re trying to figure out how to start your teacher blog, choosing a domain is probably one of the easiest but most exciting first steps. It’s really fun to imagine your brand becoming well known and trusted!

Image by 200 Degrees from Pixabay

3. Blog Design

I, for one, refused to write anything until my website was perfect looking. How can I start a blog that isn’t beautiful?! Who will take me seriously if I don’t include loopy fonts and cute color schemes!? I need an About Me page and a newsletter popup. It has to all look sleek and professional so that my readers trust me! I spent a lot of time looking through other teachers’ blogs in jealous rage. I want to be the very best.

In hindsight, perhaps the best route (but not the one I chose) is to pay someone to design your blog for you. At the time, I was already feeling a bit overwhelmed when it came to overhead costs. Therefore, I became quite determined to figure all of this out myself. And, well, you can see my blog. You can decide for yourself how you think I’m doing with it.

Here’s a couple links to some people who honestly know a lot more about how to start a teacher blog than I do:

  • Georgia Lou
  • Blu Chic
  • Etsy also has tons of WordPress designers. You can buy a theme and most likely chat with the seller about your needs.

If you’re a blog designer and you’d like to be added to this list, please reach out! Laneyleeteaches@gmail.com

If you’re going to be stubborn like me, here’s what I would advise: Definitely start with a free WordPress theme. There’s several you’ll gain access to with your business account. I’d highly recommend starting with that purchase as a bear minimum (you’ll see why in a minute). It costs $212 a year.

Next, you’re going to want to create a couple pages. Pages are not like blog posts. These pages will be the main tabs of your blog. When you visit my site the first thing you see is not my blog, it’s a page. The tabs at the top of your screen are links to my other pages. About Me, Blog, etc. I created a few “fake” pages that actually end up linking to a whole other web address (the one that says Store, for example. Also the Subscribe tab.) I believe I had to use a plug in to get that set up. I managed to figure every bit of this out using a lot of Google and Youtube. Yes, it took time.

Finally, you’ll want to get a couple Plugins.

3A. WordPress Plugins

Plug ins are essentially third party developed apps that WordPress can install into your theme to give you new features. This is why you need the business version of WordPress. It’s required in order to download plugins. You can search through thousands of popular plugins through the WordPress site and decide for yourself what strikes your fancy.

The main plugins I use are:

  • Recent Post Widget with Thumbnails: This plugin creates little thumbnails of my related posts at the bottom of every blog. This is a really important plugin because it keeps people who are interested in what I’m saying on my blog for longer. You can configure the way you want the plugin to work. Mine links posts based on what category they’re tagged in. This ensures that readers see other posts that are on a similar topic to whatever they’re reading now. I also chose to use one with thumbnails because I think it’s visually nice.
  • Yoast SEO: This plugin is absolutely critical. There’s a paid version, but I only use the free one. In short, this plugin ranks my SEO strength as I’m writing a blog post. After I identify the key phrase that I’d like to target with my post, Yoast helps me make sure I give Google everything it wants so that I rank on the first page and get lots of views. For this post, my target phrase is “how to start a teacher blog.” That means I’m hoping people who search that phrase, or other similar phrases, will find my blog in the Google results.

After you have your blog set up with a memorable and unique domain, a theme, a few main pages, and a couple plug ins, you’re basically ready to roll! There’s lots more to be said about setting up your pages and your theme to be exactly the way you want them, but again, I’d highly recommend you either research elsewhere on the web or (ideally) pay a much more specialized person to help you.

4. Your Niche

Alright you’ve got a gorgeous blog! Now we have to figure out what to write about. You want to start dreaming about a thing called “topic authority.” This means that Google, using all It’s infinite algorithmic wisdom, has determined that you are THE source for information on this topic. You’ll rank in Google searches just because you’re you!

I’ve only been writing this blog for 6 months. I would like to be vulnerable for a second and admit that I haven’t really found my niche yet. A lot of the great creative and business advice I’ve ever received over the years seems to favor the “just start” model over the “waste a whole bunch of time figuring out what you’re going to do, despite the fact that once you begin you’ll likely change directions several times anyway” approach.

Running a business, or writing a blog, is going to involve a lot of little pivots. You’ll go in one direction for a while and you’ll strike a little gold, so then you’ll follow the gold. I’m still a little too hyperactive and fascinated with everything to stick to a really narrow niche right now, but maybe later on I’ll randomly strike topic authority in something and ride that wave for a while.

When I started this blog, I certainly didn’t expect to be writing about how to start a teacher blog. At the time I knew exactly nothing about that. Now that I’ve learned so much, though, the teacher in me is compelled to share.

how to start a blog
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Here’s some ways you can begin to find your niche:

Find your niche by joining Facebook groups related to your interests. What are people talking about?

Find your niche by searching your own soul. What do you know a lot about? What can you teach people?

Find your niche by writing. What topics end up resonating the most with your readers?

Find your niche by doing key word research. What topics are out there that are yet to be completely saturated? Where can you find your first little sliver of space to shine with less competition?

how to start a blog
Image by janjf93 from Pixabay

5. SEO

When we write blogs, we don’t just randomly write about whatever we are feeling! No ma’am! This isn’t the early 2000’s anymore. Instead, we have to consider the one who giveth clicks and the one who taketh clicks away (Google) and how It will feel about our writing. We are nothing without our beloved clicks, and we bow down to the all powerful Google so that It may determine that we are worthy of receiving them.

Here’s what it SEO is: Google has an algorithm for how they determine what goes on the first page of a search. That algorithm includes things like:

  • The average amount of time people spend on your page. Bounce rate is considered the rate of people who click and back right back out within 5 or so seconds. You don’t want a high bounce rate.
  • The number of backlinks to your page (I’ll talk more on this in a minute)
  • Your “topic authority” – yet another algorithm Google uses to determine your validity on post D if your posts A, B, and C are all performing strongly.

We really want to give Google what They want so that our blog will succeed.

SEO is so complex that I don’t doubt they could create entire college courses on this stuff. Not to mention that it’s constantly changing. Google is free to change Their algorithm whenever They want, and we are at Their mercy. I’m writing simply as an introduction. You’ll want to research this topic a lot more if earning a blogging income is something you strive to achieve.

However, Yoast is here to get you started. As I mentioned in the plugin section, Yoast is my best friend when it comes to SEO. As I’m writing this post, there’s a little box at the bottom of the page for Yoast to tell me how I’m doing SEO wise. Right now it’s telling me I need to say the phrase “how to start a teacher blog” more times so that Google’s algorithms will be absolutely certain that this is the page that people who want to know how to start a teacher blog will want to visit. See what I did there?

5A. Keyword Research

You need to start each blog post by doing keyword research to determine what Google search you’re planning to rank for with that post and how many clicks it could hopefully bring to your blog.

Ubersuggest is the best free tool I’ve found so far for doing keyword research. Using this platform, you can type in keywords that you may want to target with your blogpost. Ubersuggest will tell you how many people are searching those words as well as how difficult they predict it will be for you to rank on Google for that phrase.

Initially at least, you want to start by choosing terms that don’t have a lot of competition so that your blog can start to gain some traffic. Go for the bigger volume words when you’ve got some traction built up.

how to start a blog
Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

5B. Backlinks

Backlinks are defined as any time someone on another site links to your site. That’s considered a good thing for how reliable and accurate your writing is, according to Google. Any links you’ve seen so far on this page are considered back links for the brands that I’m linking. I’m not paid by any of them, but as you can imagine sometimes backlinks are sponsored.

As a beginning blogger, it’s really difficult to get anyone big to link to your fresh and untested blog. I’ve yet to form any real connections with other education bloggers, but I can only imagine that, if I ever manage it, we will mutually backlink to each other to grow traffic to both sites. (Contact me if you’re reading this and interested! laneyleeteaches@gmail.com)

how to start a blog
Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

6. Promoting Your Blog

You don’t ONLY have to rely on Google searches to get traffic to your blog! You can also use social media! To get you started promoting your blog, take a look at the ones I use.

6A. Start an Email List

Most bloggers use Mailchimp to start collecting email addresses of people who are interested in and would like to subscribe to their blogs.

On Mailchimp, you can send targeted email campaigns to groups of subscribers based on different data sets. These emails will contain a lot of links to your blog and other reminders that you exist as a brand and why subscribers should care about what you’re doing.

I’m proud to say that I have a grand total of 22 subscribers at the time of writing this, and I would be honored if you would show your support by becoming number 23!

6B. Get on Pinterest

You can pin images that link back to your blog post and hopefully other users will pin them as well! Pinterest images show up in Google results, so even people without Pinterest accounts can find your blog through your Pins. Like any other marketing, this takes time. I use Canva to create eye catching images that hopefully entice people to read more of what I want to say. Maybe you arrived on this page thanks to one of those images?

6Bi. Tailwind

For a faster way to pin, try Tailwind. Using Tailwind you can schedule weeks or months of pins ahead of time. I think most bloggers and online marketers pretty much consider Tailwind a must at this point. I pay $179 per year for the service which includes a basic membership and a small upgrade for Tribes (groups you can join with people in your niche with an agreement that you’ll pin each others’ content).

If you join with my link, we’ll both earn some credits.

how to start a blog
Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

7. Expectations

We all know there’s people dumber than us who are already out there earning 6 figure lifestyles with just a blog. First of all, I wouldn’t consider it “just” a blog. The time and financial commitments required to produce the kind of content that readers expect is nothing to shake a stick at. Let’s take a look at how long it takes to start a teacher blog that actually earns money and how to do it.

7A. Earning Expectations

There’s a lot of ways that bloggers earn money. None of them happen very fast, and most of them depend on how much traffic you’re receiving. In my first 6 months blogging, I’ve earned a grand total of $1.45 through my blog. (And you better believe I was grateful for it!) Someone clicked a link to one of my TPT products, and then they actually bought it. That’s all my blog has earned me, and I’ve spent a lot more than that.

Here’s some ways I hope to earn through my blog once my traffic becomes more significant:

7Ai. Affiliate Programs

Amazon has probably the most popular affiliate program. You can sign up for free and begin creating your customized links to literally any product. Then you simply embed those links in your blog posts. There’s a million other sites that can teach you more about this than I can, so I won’t go into it any further. I got kicked out of the program because I hadn’t made over $0.00 in a certain amount of time.

There are also lots of other companies and brands which will pay you a small commision if a link you provide on your blog produces income for them. You can look for affiliate programs pretty easily on Google. Here is a list of affiliate ideas for education bloggers.

7Aii. Google Ads

Eventually, when your traffic becomes significant enough, you can easily sign up to host Google ads on your page. Google will pay you directly depending on how many people see or click the add on your site.

7Aiii. Links to Your Own Products

This last one is definitely more in my area of expertise. Thankfully, I already have an entire store full of digital products that I know are useful for people. Most of my blogs focus on promoting my own content. I hope to one day write a book or design a course that I can sell too. I’m sure you’ve seen many other bloggers taking these steps to grow their income.

7B. Time Expectations

This is the worst part so I saved it for last. This is going to take a LOT of time if we hope to become successful. I’m currently 6 months into my blog and I’ve spent countless hours learning about blogging, thinking about what I’m going to write, writing, and marketing. I’m still in the red as my poor like $1.45 isn’t even coming close to covering the startup costs. And I was conservative when it came to buying my way to success.

You’re going to want to produce a high quality blog post once a week. That process involves keyword research, writing high quality content, and SEO optimization. After it’s live, you absolutely must market it. Fortunately, you can schedule posts and get a little ahead so that if you miss a week somewhere your blog will still be automatically updating without you.

I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I’ve considered giving up completely many, many times. Especially since I already have my Teachers Pay Teachers store earning me over $1000 a month, it feels almost stupid to spend so much time writing blog posts that are currently earning me nothing when I could be creating products to sell to my loyal followers.

Maybe I will give up on blogging, but I definitely will not give up yet. I’m fine to spin my wheels for a few years. I know that what I have to say is important and that readers will only find me if I continue creating. So here I stand.

how to start a blog
Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

You Can Do This

To be fair, the ratio of time I’m spending vs. the money I’m making right now is absolutely appalling. But don’t forget: so many of our heroes were nothing for a very long time before they became a name that we now know. Don’t believe me? Try listening to the podcast Imagined Life. It tells the stories of people who are now insanely successful, but the stories are about their lives before they were successful. You’ll won’t find out who the story is about until the very end. This podcast has brought me to tears several times. I never knew the trials that people like J.K. Rowling, Dr. Seuss, and Elon Musk really experienced before they finally had their breakthroughs.

I’m not making money on my blog yet, and neither are you, but lots of people are! If we continue creating high quality content consistently, I know that we can all carve out a little room for ourselves in this new digital economy. Remember overnight success is not a thing! Expect to spend a few years (yes I said years) grinding hard before you reach a point where you can coast and enjoy the financial freedom that blogging can provide to anyone willing to put in the effort.

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If this post was helpful to you, please pin the image below to help me expand my reach. I’m still waiting on that second dollar! Others may benefit from learning how to start their own teacher blog!

how to start a blog