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


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:
Option 2:

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!

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!

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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Reaching the First TPT Milestone

I just wanted to write a quick post to say that as of yesterday (January 15, 2020) I have officially reached the first TPT milestone of $20,000 in earnings. For me, this has been an extremely long and arduous journey.

I’ve had absolutely no overnight success. I currently have 273 products in my store and have received 1,548 ratings.

My mindset grew with my store. I got into TPT when there were a lot less barriers to entry. I threw up a couple products (with no covers) because I thought they could benefit other teachers. I was ecstatic to earn $40 in a month. I never transferred my balance to my bank. Instead, I bought myself a book or two on Amazon. I felt like I was winning.

A few years later, I finally began to take my store more seriously. I designed covers that looked like this:


As I began to level up my store, I set my sights on $550 in a month. That was the cost of my rent at the time, but before I ever reached that goal I switched my life up completely by jumping into international teaching.

Money was a big reason for that move. At my current school I make about $1k more per month, I don’t pay taxes, and I get my housing for free. I couldn’t be happier with my decision.

Now I’m in my 8th year teaching grade 7 science, so fortunately I have my classroom life down pat. This gives me time to really focus on my store. This is the first school year that I’ve made resources that weren’t directly for my own classroom.

Lately, my main goal has been to make my store a lot more comprehensive, covering all middle school science topics. I have been working hard on growing 3 new lines of products:

  1. Guided Readings
  2. Color by Number
  3. One Pagers

Here are my stats:

tpt milestone first

At this time, I’m finally earning a consistent $1,000 per month. I’m hoping to increase that to 2 or 3k and eventually quit my day job (5 year plan). Diversifying into this blog and also working on my first book has been a step of safety in the event that TPT ever fully shuts down.

tpt milestone first

Clearly I’ve maintained a very solid average of $2 per sale considering that I also crossed 10,000 units sold in the same day. And, in all honesty, units sold is the number that really matters. I’m humbled to know that my products have been used in 10,000 classrooms. TEN THOUSAND!?

tpt first milestone

Naturally, it appears that views have increased as sales increase. I think putting links to related products in all of my descriptions has really helped this. I’m honestly on the fence as far as how much I think my Pinterest efforts have really increased my sales. Regardless, though, I continue to truck along.

But first, we celebrate!

A rising tide raises all ships.

If you’re reading this and you’d like to collaborate or request advice from the little of what I do know, please feel free contact me at

Read more about my journey to the first TPT milestone here.

Classroom Management Strategies: Assignment Tracking

When I was newer to teaching, assignment tracking was impossible to me. I simply couldn’t figure out how to keep up with who had turned in what, much less hold them accountable. Papers were constantly flying everywhere and flicking through them and marking infinite tick marks felt like an endless if not impossible task.

Then came the actually impossible task of accountability. Most schools don’t allow students to fail simply because they don’t turn in their work. And even if they did, we all know they’re still going to be promoted to the next grade at the end of the year anyway. In fact, my school uses standards based grading, which means that “classwork” shouldn’t really be used in final marks at all!

My Solution to Assignment Tracking

The Assignment Checklist

Presenting: The Assignment Checklist. I create this LIVE spreadsheet using Google Sheets and give my students “view only” access through a link which I post on Google Classroom. You can add the link to this document at the end of every parent email too. Anytime someone clicks the link, they’re seeing the latest info. If I edit it now, you see the changes now.

I add different tabs for different classes which you can see at the bottom of the screen. I also don’t think it would be any issue to use student numbers as opposed to names if you have any issues with privacy. Just make sure to *also* require the students to put their student number on the top papers if you do it that way.

As the unit progresses, I add the name of each assignment to the top of the list. You can see those in the image above in the row of fun colors. I try to be REALLY descriptive with what the title of the assignment is, so that students who miss it will be able to find it again.

In order to level up from there, I’ve even started labeling the assignments #1, #2, #3, etc. before I copy them. As an added measure of thoroughness, I also create another Google Slide document called the “Daily Agenda” which contains notes on what we completed each day in class, AND PICTURES!!!! (Yes, this takes time.) I again give access to students as a view only link just like the one you may have just clicked.

I have a dream of one day uploading every assignment on Google Drive, and actually adding a link to them through the Assignment Checklist. Did you know you can make an entire cell in Google Sheets link to an address? Regardless, I haven’t managed to organize myself this well yet.

Maybe you already keep a paper version of this. I would encourage you to go digital for 2 reasons

  1. Access from any device.
  2. Able to give students “view only” access. Students can see but not edit.
  3. Live documents remove any lag of communication between teacher and student/parent.

As a bonus tip, I also keep a link to my assignment tracking spreadsheet in my main bookmark bar. Because I use it so much, it helps to be able to reach it in one click. See below.

assignment tracking
Save the link to your spreadsheet in your easiest to reach bookmarks!

What to Do When Things Get Turned In

Generally, I have two piles: (which I keep in folders because I don’t have my own classroom, but that’s neither here nor there) marked and unmarked. The marked folder is full of assignments I have flicked through and given checks on the Assignment Checklist. The unmarked is the ones which I still need to do. As a personal preference, I also don’t enforce any due dates except that everything must be submitted before the end of the unit. Obviously, projects have due dates, but classwork and homework I take anytime. Doing anything else has only exhausted me.

I hold all assignments until the end of the unit in a small rallying cry against cheating. Generally, my smarter students still take photos of their assignments and send to friends before relinquishing them to me. I have yet to find a solution to this, but I will write another blog post when I do.

Conveniently, the Google Sheet also allows you to type any other notes that need to be remembered in the cell. I make a separate denotation for when a student simply tells me they have completed an assignment and when I see it with my eyes. Typing the word “done” or “gave me” satisfies the student who is generally attempting to convince me that I have somehow lost their paper in an act of pure carelessness. I, on the other hand, am secretly noting to myself that I have not seen this assignment. I never lose anything.

How to Motivate Work Submission while Simultaneously Assignment Tracking

Now get ready for my only moment of true genius. I call it: The Blue Line of Excellence. I use this term often and with reverence. You’ll notice in the image above that students who have submitted all their assignments have their row highlighted in a fun blue color. That, folks, is the Blue Line of Excellence.

Students who earn the Blue Line of Excellence get their name printed out in a cute font and posted on the wall. And yes, that’s all they get for work submission. It works, though!

Don’t get me wrong. If the students ask if homework will affect their final score, I ABSOLUTELY lie and say yes. I’m sorry.

Teaching is a hard job! It’s even harder when you feel like you don’t have anyone in your corner. I’d love to connect and chat with you about all things classroom management related! Email me at or add me on Instagram @laney.leee

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How I Got into International Teaching in the First Place

It’s hard to really date my very first interest in international teaching. I’ve read back in some of my older journals and the idea gets thrown around a little bit here and there. In this post I’ll explain the three major factors that pushed me to finally take the leap: my breakup, I got into yoga, and (especially) I hated my job.

Step 1: Lose the Deadweight

I graduated from university the same way a lot of Southern girls do. I was ready to get married! My boyfriend of about 3 years was the only problem. When would he propose? Not to be bothered by technicalities, I moved to his city and managed to secure my very first teaching job.

I was ecstatic! My life was finally shaping up to be everything I had dreamed it would be. I couldn’t wait to get a ring on my finger and start having babies!

The best laid plans, eh? The boyfriend felt overly pressured by my zealousness (or something like that) and we broke up. I still look back on this tragedy as the first fork in an impossibly complex road that led to me living what I now consider my “best life.”

Fine, I thought. I’ll just get some new hobbies.

*cue several female empowerment anthems*

Like so many bada** women before me, the end of my relationship began the first chapter of the elevated me.

Step 2: Start Exploring

Unhindered by the responsibility of caring for an overgrown toddler, I started to explore my own interests for the first time possibly ever. I was determined to not only heal, but to grow. I studied all the major religions, including reading the Quran.

I began to do yoga and meditate and focus on my mental health.

My interest in religion quickly transformed into an interest in religious history and then history in general. I was beginning to realize how very little I knew of the world.

The next phase of this journey was obviously travel. I started to visit everyone I knew in any city of the United States. I ordered my passport. Travel became an important part of my budget.

If you’re like I was, and you’re in the market for some new dreams, the best thing to do is just to get curious about everything! Read and go to classes! Talk to strangers online!

Step 3: Get Uncomfortable

Lastly, I’d be lying to you if I didn’t admit that the state of the public school system in America was a big part why I eventually moved on. I didn’t feel quite as pulled towards the Middle East as I simply felt pushed out of public education.

At the time that I finally called it quits, I definitely felt like I was drowning. I had no more than 1 hour of plan time per day, and it was extremely common for even that hour to be eaten up by IEP meetings or parent conferences.

If you’re a teacher in America, I know you know what I’m talking about. Being overworked and underpaid simply wasn’t sustainable for me. My fourth year in my first job saw me turn to anti depressants to curb the feeling of utter dread that I experienced every morning when I woke up.

Don’t get me wrong, I definitely still believe that every child deserves a free and quality education. I just don’t think that I should have to sacrifice my mental health in order for them to get it. Until the government starts paying us what we’re worth, I don’t think I’ll be able to teach there again.

Though I do believe my personal experiences did pave a path that opened my eyes to the possibility of an international life, it wasn’t wanderlust as much as it was a desire (rather, need) for a sustainable wage and work load that eventually pushed me over the edge.

Final Thoughts

Me on my last day in America in 2015!

In conclusion, I know they always say that heartbreaks and losses often make room for more good to grow, but I’ve never found that sentiment very comforting in times of darkness. However, with the benefit of hindsight, I am now forced to admit that many of the uncomfortable phases of my life truly were pushing me towards something greater.

I’m in my 4th year at my school now, and I’ve traveled from UAE to the following countries: Morocco, Egypt, Belgium, Portugal, Japan, Italy, Spain, Thailand, and Australia. AND I’m booked for Nepal in the spring and Greece in the summer! Plus visits home every year for at least a month. I’m semi fluent in Arabic and I now save more money per month than I used to earn.

If international teaching is something that interests you, I’d love to chat. My email is and I’m on Instagram as laney.leee. Since many teachers work 2 year contracts and move on, I now have friends all over the globe. If I can’t help you, I’ll connect you with someone who can!

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.

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How to Open Any PDF in Your Books App

This tutorial is going to require that you have access to digital files on your phone. Yes, you can email them to yourself if you have an email app on your phone, and open them that way. I use the Google Drive app that allows me to access to all the same files that are on my computer from my phone all the time.

If you’re not already using a cloud service for storage, like Google Drive or Dropbox, I highly recommend that start as soon as possible. I pay about $20 a year for Google drive, and for that price I never have to worry about losing my files due to a hard drive crash. I can also access my files through any device that connects to the internet by simply going to the Google Drive website. I also have the app on my phone. I use it to pull up files and email them to students, parents, or colleagues all the time without having to get on my computer.

1. Open the File

Begin by opening the file from whatever app you have access to it through. I’ll show you first how to do it with a cloud app and then from an email.

Search for the file you need within your cloud app. Click on the three dots or any other icon that would usually give you options for what you’ll do with this file (share it, download it, copy it, etc.)

2. Choose to Open the File in Another Program

After I click the options button, I’m given the choice to open this PDF with another program on my phone.

3. Choose the App You’d Like to Open the PDF In

For whatever reason, books was not one of my “main” options. I simply scroll to the right and select “more.”

When my “more” options pop up, I can easily choose the app I’d like to use. Now I select to open this PDF in Books or even Kindle.

4. Enjoy!

My PDF is now available in my Books app with other PDFs I’ve stored there for easy access!

Reading is a breeze!


If you haven’t yet switched over to a cloud app, you could always open a PDF that you’ve emailed to yourself using these steps.

1. Download the PDF

Download the PDF from the email it’s attached to by clicking on it.

2. Click on your options button

3. Choose That You’d Like to “Open With” Another Application

These are the first options that pop up for me. I had to again scroll to the right, select “More” and then choose “Books.”

There you have it! You can use this tutorial to turn upload any PDF in your favorite books app for easy reading and access! If you noticed above, I even have my school’s academic calendar in my Books app for quick access.

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The Ultimate Guide to Classroom Management in Middle School

If you’re like me, perhaps you never received any formal training in classroom management strategies. I’ve met a lot of teachers living the way I did for the first several years of my career: grinding their teeth, counting down minutes, making idle threats, and generally living for the moment that the bell rings. If any of these sound familiar to you, read on.

Why Classroom Management Matters to Me

For the first 4-5 years of my career, I struggled a LOT. I walked into my first classroom in 2012 as a 5’2”, twenty one year old southern belle. I had no idea how to command a room. “Be nice to them and they’ll be nice to you” was my entire classroom management philosophy. I’m older now, but I’m still 5’2”. I’ve experienced everything there is when it comes to classroom management, including, but not limited to:

  • Fights in my classroom
  • Inclusion fiascos of every imaginable kind
  • Blame from administrators for sending “too many” kids to the office
  • Class sizes of over 30 (bonus point if your schools splits classes when someone is absent!)
  • All boys and all girls classrooms
  • Laptops/cell phones
Me as a first year teacher. Not very scary looking am I?

For me, not succeeding in classroom management was not an option. I had to find my strategies and my style or I wasn’t going to make it. By my fourth year of teaching, I felt sick every morning when I woke up, just thinking of the day ahead. I took antidepressants. I broke down in my principal’s office. There had to be another way.

Fortunately, there is. I’m beginning this series of posts for anyone out there who is like I was. Desperate and having no idea where to begin. You can and you WILL succeed in classroom management with some new strategies and practice! Without further ado, let’s jump into the step by step guide we all needed when we started out!

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

17 Classroom Management Strategies You Can Implement Tomorrow:

1. Entering the Classroom

Classroom management for me begins before class even begins! I teach expectations for lining up outside the classroom, and monitor student behavior in the hallway as students prepare for entry. Using positive narration helps by providing cues to appropriate behavior. Students who are upholding expectations are allowed to enter the room first. When the hallway group dwindles to the last few troublemakers, I take the opportunity to have a private chat about my hopes for the day’s classroom behaviors.

2. Positive Narration

When I finally began to take the spotlight off the troublemakers and shine it on my best students, my classroom environment changed overnight. Positive narration allows me to not only praise my best students, but it also provides an opportunity to cue the rest of the class without drawing attention to students who are off task. Now, students have to behave to get my attention, rather than misbehave.

3. Rewards

One of the most common classroom management strategies is the reward. You don’t have to fill your classroom with candy to reward students. A phone call home, sticker, or tally mark on the board will suffice. However you choose to structure it, though, giving students something to work for will definitely provide a motivation for their behavior!

4. Parent Contact

In particular, positive parent contact. At the end of every week, I pick a couple “borderline” kids (the ones that are sometimes good, but usually bad) who had a decent week and email their parents about what a great job they’e done in class lately. Nine times out of ten, that child comes back after the weekend absolutely beaming. A lot of times our kids seem like they don’t care if the attention they get is negative, but that may simply be because they’ve never had positive attention before. Once they get a taste, they’ll be hooked.

5. Get A Head Start

I always chat with the teachers in the grade below me. I ask them to point out the behavior problems that I’ll be inheriting. Instead of scowling at these children or counting down the days until they become mine, I jump start my relationship with them. It’s easy to bond with a kid when you’re not the one they’re getting in trouble with. Take advantage of your chance to be a “friendly adult” before you become a teacher to boost your relationship with That Kid.

6. Choice

Adolescents naturally look for chances to take more control in their lives as they begin the transition to adulthood. Empower your students by giving them options. The trick, though, is that both choices are things you are fine with. For example, “Would you like to continue working with your group, or can you concentrate better if you move somewhere more quiet?” is a great alternative to “Sarah! If you can’t be quiet you won’t be allowed to work with your group anymore!”

7. Clear Expectations

I should really move this one to the top. Setting and communicating clear expectations is the most important thing for getting your students to perform in the way you want them to. If they’re not giving you what you want, ask yourself first: Did I clearly communicate what I expected? A lot of time, you’ll find the answer is no. I review expectations every day for every task I’m planning to do using this presentation. Sometimes more than once a day! This cuts down on 80% of my classroom management issues.

8. One Liners

Arguing with students is by far one of the worst classroom management strategies you could possibly employ. Instead, frustrate them by refusing to engage. Try to keep a few argument ending one liners in your back pocket for conflict diffusion.

“I know you want to sit with your friends, but being in assigned seats is part of my classroom expectations.”

“I am happy to hear your side of things when your voice sounds like mine.”

9. Be Healthy

If you’re drowning in a toxic classroom environment, it’s likely that all you want to do when the day finishes is to block out any thought of your students from your mind. If your role in the classroom is leading you to drink or avoid thoughts of problems in other ways, you are merely setting yourself up for further issues. Managing 30 kids isn’t easy for a healthy person, and you will not succeed if you aren’t taking care of your body and mind.

10. Positive Framing

This strategy made a huge change for me. I use it in several areas of my life. When classroom management is getting you way down, try to reframe your thoughts. At 3am when you’re up with anxiety about what That Kid is going to do tomorrow, instead of constantly replaying dreadful scenarios in your mind, try a slightly more positive mantra. Instead of “I don’t know how I’m going to get through tomorrow,” try “Tomorrow I’m going to implement one new strategy and just see how it goes.” Instead of “I suck at classroom management,” try “I enjoy finding new solutions to classroom management situations.”

11. Build Relationships

Take time to chill with your students. Talk to them. Ask them about their day. Sometimes, it’s important to take a small break from curriculum to make time for relationships.

Read more on how I use coloring time to relax with my students.

12. Cherish the Child

By nature, children are

  • Valuable 
  • Vulnerable 
  • Imperfect
  • Dependent (needing and wanting)
  • Immature 

Our role is to guide our students towards becoming a functional adult. Punishing or blaming a child for acting their developmental age results in later dysfunction. 

13. Setting Boundaries

Set boundaries with our students. Be clear with them how close you’re willing to stand to them, how much of your nights and weekends you’re willing to give up, and (especially) how you’re willing to to be spoken to.

When a student crosses a boundary, DO

  • (first time)Calmly describe the expectation that was broken
  • Consider apologizing if that expectation wasn’t clearly described
  • (second time) take them down. Quietly, firmly inform them of their consequence
  • Follow through


  • Entertain the class by teaching them a new way to get a reaction out of you. Show no emotion! 
  • Expect students to know expectations you haven’t taught
  • Launch a passive aggressive campaign insisting that the child figure out what they did to upset you and fix it 

14. Provide Consequences

In general, the only real consequences are the ones that take away something that a child wants very badly. If you’ve been teaching in schools as long as I have, you know we don’t really have the legal right to take away any of those things… Or do we? There’s one consequence you can always administer that hurts the most: taking away your approval. But first, you must be the kind of person whose approval the child desperately wants to earn. You can do it!

16. Feedback Loops

A feedback loop develops when the outcome of an event begins to inform the beginnings of the same event next time. Pay very close attention to what kind of feedback loop you are in with your class and with individual students.

A negative feedback loop looks like:

I hate this class; they always misbehave > Yep they did it again, just like I knew they would. > Dreading the class for tomorrow already.

A positive feedback loop looks like:

I love Ms. Hill; I want to make her proud of me > I did well today. Ms. Hill gave me a sticker! > I’m can’t wait for science class tomorrow!

Students will never be the ones to shift your loop from negative to positive. This is your responsibility, as the adult. The sooner you start, the better the rest of the year will go!

15. How to Win Over the Bad Kid

Sometimes, I feel stuck in a negative feedback loop with a kid. There’s just nothing they do that gives me any reason to smile! How can I turn these situations around?

3 suggestions:

  1. Ask that child for a favor. For some psychological reason, we like people who need our help. Make it seem like an important favor that only that child can accomplish. When they do it, you have your first foothold towards a positive loop.
  2. Turn a slightly blind eye to their misbehaviors, just for a little bit. See if you can catch them doing something (anything) good. Lavish them with praise. Begin the positive loop.
  3. Give an inch. In private, strike a deal with this child. I once changed a formative mark for a child from a minus to a plus. He knew I did it, and it saved him the shame of having ALL minuses for the quarter. Crucially, I later used this favor as a bargaining chip. You can too.

17. Praise Publicly, Criticize Privately

A very important closing note is the reminder to praise publicly, criticize privately. When we embarrass a child, we not only crumble their fragile self esteem, but we also can create an enemy. Be mindful of how you correct behaviors. Try to get on eye level with the child, and speak to them away from any friends they may want to impress. These techniques will be the stepping stones to a more positive relationship with That Kid, rather than a constant battle for control.

This is an ongoing series of blog posts covering a variety of classroom management strategies. The posts which are complete are linked here. Those that are incomplete are summarized. If you’d like to stay up to date with newly added content, please consider subscribing below.

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.

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

Read more posts about classroom management here.

Protein Synthesis Worksheets

The following protein synthesis worksheets are intended for use with these NGSS standard:

HS-LS1- 1 Construct an explanation based on evidence for how the structure of DNA determines the structure of proteins, which carry out the essential functions of life through systems of specialized cells.

I was once like you, searching all over the web for a decent protein synthesis worksheet! I eventually gave in and decided to create my own. I’d like to share those with you now.

First, I have a very basic protein synthesis practice. It can easily be copied front and back. It includes several challenges. Students begin with the DNA given, and they subsequently determine the mRNA, tRNA, and amino acids. As they move through the worksheet, though, students will be challenged to figure out the missing pieces when they begin with different parts of the problem.

Learn more about how I plan and teach my DNA Unit here.

One teacher said, “This is great! It is extremely clear and to the point!”

Basic Protein Synthesis Worksheet

Give your students more experience with transcription and translation with this challenge. Each set of questions starts students with a different step in the protein synthesis process, and students will show their understanding of these processes by finding the missing pieces in each situation.

Get it here.

Next, I also offer a more slow paced guided practice. This resource includes short paragraphs describing transcription and translation. It also walks students through the protein synthesis process in a step by step fashion. I usually start with this one in my class. I set timers and check each students’ work before we move on to the next step.

protein synthesis worksheet

One teacher said, “My 7th grade students LOVED this activity. Great review of protein synthesis.”

Protein Synthesis Guided Practice

If your students need a little more guidance, try this guided practice.
Students will move through protein synthesis one step at a time covering first DNA to mRNA, then mRNA to tRNA. They will practice using the codon chart alone to decipher codons, and then finally students will put it all together to complete full diagrams.

Get it here.

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Additional Protein Synthesis Resources

If you would like your resources to be included in this list please contact me at

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.

protein synthesis worksheet

Punnett Square Practice Worksheet with Answers

Just like you, I was once scouring the web for a basic Punnett Square practice worksheet with answers. The the end of this article you’ll find links to all of the best FREE resources, but I ended up being much happier after I made my own. I’d like to share those with you now! All included resources come with an answer key too.

Learn more about how I plan and teach my Inheritance unit.

Punnett square practice worksheet with answers

This 4 page practice comes with a short descriptive passage explaining the key vocabulary required in monohybrid crosses.

Monohybrid Crosses


  • Vocabulary Matching
  • Practice Identifying Alleles (Dominant, Recessive, Heterozygous, Homozygous)
  • Practice Determining Genotypes and Phenotypes
  • Punnett Square Practice worksheet with answers

Get it here.

Punnett square practice worksheet with answers

3 whole pages of this product cover blood types alone, and can be split into two separate worksheets if desired.

Codominance and Incomplete Dominance

5 page genetics practice covering co and incomplete dominance. Includes a short reading passage describing what co- and incomplete dominance are and questions of varying levels.

Get it here.

Punnett square practice worksheet with answers

Sex Linked Traits

A 3 page worksheet to practice sex linked Punnett squares with answers. Includes a short reading passage describing how sex linked traits are inherited.

Get it here.

dihybrid practice with answers

Dihybrid Crosses

3 page practice worksheet which includes one page describing what a dihybrid cross is and how to find the parental gametes.

Get it here.

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Additional FREE Punnett Squares Practice Worksheets with Answers

Monohybrid Crosses:

Co and Incomplete Dominance:

Sex Linked Traits:

Dihybrid Crosses


These resources represent the best of what I could find for free. If you would like your resources to be included in this list please contact me at

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.

Punnett square practice worksheet with answers

A Personal Milestone

As teachers, I know we already know the importance of setting goals. I do this all the time. My goals are SMART too! But I have one special goal that I’ve been keeping close to my heart for years: the chance to mentor. 

Like many people, constantly battle imposter syndrome. For that reason I’ve been rather hesitant to step into any kind of leadership or coaching role. But when admin recently sent out an email calling for volunteers to help build a new internal coaching program at our school, I took it as a sign from God. I responded and found myself in a 5 hour training on a Saturday. I didn’t mind, though, because it means so much to me to have even the opportunity to help a fellow educator. 

To my surprise, though, my moment came earlier than planned! I’m friends with a first year teacher in my school. She’s a great person and I genuinely cherish the friendship. Like any first year teacher, classroom management has presented some interesting challenges for her. I’m honored that she is willing to share these struggles with me. 

One evening as we sat together over a table of chicken wings and a game of trivia, my friend shared again about how the boys in a certain class were giving her trouble. I don’t know why, but right then and there I launched into a detailed description of exactly what I’d do:

I’d line those boys up outside, and I wouldn’t let a single one into the classroom until their behavior aligned with expectations. I’d stand outside with the noncompliers, calling out names of students with appropriate behavior and allow them to enter. As they pass by me, I’ll tell them to read the board and follow the instructions there. On the board should be a detailed list of steps called “How to Enter the Classroom.”

Once I’ve allowed most of the students into the room I’ll have a little chat with whoever’s left. “I need you to do this for me,” I’ll say as I kindly and calmly request their appropriate behavior for the day.

When I finally enter the room, I’ll launch into another slide in my Expectations Presentation called “How to Listen when Someone is Talking.” I’ll go over a slide with expectations for each task of the day, and the moment expectations are apparently forgotten, I’ll go right back over it AGAIN. AND AGAIN AND AGAIN. We’re no longer teaching [insert subject here], we’re teaching how to act!

“Maybe I’m talking too much…” I begin to realize. I look at my friend, her fingers covered in BBQ sauce, and wait for some feedback. “What if that doesn’t work?” she asks. “I don’t know,” I admit.

I drop the subject, and spend the rest of the evening laughing and enjoying the company of our friends. I forget about my diatribe until the next morning when I’m sitting at my desk and my friend busts through the door. “I LOVE YOU RIGHT NOW!!!” she exclaims.

“What did I do????”

“Everything you told me last night, I did it. And it worked!”

She goes on to tell me how she’s never had a better day in that class, and shows me lots of pictures on her phone of certain impossible students working and on task. She’s so proud, but I’m prouder. I never want to forget this feeling, and I hope that God will continue to give me opportunities to help.

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