Add Color to your Desk With These 8 Cute Organizers and Accessories for $10 or Less

Hello, educator friends!


October is almost over but the clutter in our desks has just begun.  A former boss used to tell me that a teacher’s desk reflects both the quantity of work one has to do and the attitude a teacher has towards that bulk of work.  The truth is, the million things that are on our desk are the ones that are considered “extremely important.”  And they are the ones that are usually part of the “clutter.”  

I just think that the way I arrange my desk is perfectly typical.  To my left side  is a binder of my lesson plans, curriculum frameworks and class schedule. and beside it are piles of books that I currently use as sources or references.  To my right side are a rack with folders, 3 pencil/pen containers, two tiny boxes of other stuff such as staple wires, push pins, paper clips, etc., a tape dispenser, a big stapler, a note pad, my phone and tablet, and a hand sanitizer.  The center space is of course for my laptop.  In other words, my desk  can barely breathe at all.  And wait, papers that need to be graded are also in front of me in full view.  This is a teacher’s space.  My private space.  And here, I breathe and live my work,  Sure, we can find inspiration in clutter.  My daughter tells me that every time I nag about her room.  But in order to keep our sanity intact until the end of the school year, we do need to organize some of that clutter on our desk.  The solution:  Organize it and accessorize it with little things that add color and fun to our desk.  So here is a list of my top eight cute organizers that can keep the clutter away for $10 or less:


s0466769_sc7  1.  Post-it Pop-Up Green Apple Dispenser – available at Staples for only $5.67, it holds 3″ x 3″ Pop-Up Notes and already includes one pad (50 sheets) of Post-it® Pop-Up Notes.  Having this on our desk makes writing notes or reminders to ourselves (which I often have to do), our colleagues, or students so convenient.  This dispenser just looks perfect on a teacher’s desk!

Smart Stand-2T2.  SmartStand – currently on sale at Staples for $5.00, it is also available at Amazon for $9.99 in several fun colors and at Officemax for $7.00.  I can use it either as a phone stand or a mobile stand, which I find very useful especially at times when I need to let a student use my school-issued iPad at my iPad Center.  I do not have to worry about it being dropped or mishandled because the stand, with its silicone body provides just the right support.  The design is stylish without being too girly, which means that it can appeal to just about anyone.

0136469_PE293897_S33.  DOKUMENT Letter Tray – available exclusively at Ikea for $8.99, this letter tray has removable compartments and protective pads underneath and come in two colors, pink or silver.  I love the fact that Ikea just seems to have everything I need even when it comes to school and office supplies.  This trendy-looking letter tray would look really nice on anybody’s desk.


0136470_PE293898_S34.  DOKUMENT Magazine File – another Ikea-exclusive that comes in set of 2 for $6.99, this magazine file is available in pink or silver color.  As teachers, we have stacks of folders that we keep to organize our various documents.  Having them on a magazine file placed on the side of our desk just makes it handy and keep these folders within our reach.

UrbanGirl-SemiKolon-Pink_Desktop_Pencil_Box-SK35700065.  Semikolon Desktop Pencil Box– This four-compartment pencil box that comes in several colors is available at for $8.99.  The dividers let you organize your writing utensils in one compartment for each kind.

10235561786.  Scotch Magic Tape Shoe Dispenser – If you want a desk that reflects your personal, sassy style, then this two-tone stiletto shoe tape dispenser is for you.  Available for $8.99 at urban, this elegant-looking dispenser already includes a 3/4″ x 350″ Scotch Magic Tape.

132444457.  up&up Paperclip Organizer – Target offers this paperclip organizer in clear color with 266 clips for $10.00.  With different compartments, you can place all your small stuff here within reach, like small binder clips and push pins.

k2-_c43bcfe2-c998-48be-9ef5-8b901089e836.v18.  deflect-o DEsk Cube – available at Walmart for $9.99, this desk cube has X dividers to place your highlighters or your markers in one place.


How you want your personal space in the classroom to look like is up to you.  So go ahead, check out these organizers and accessories and decide which ones will be useful and perfect for your own teacher’s desk.

Happy long weekend, dear teachers!

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 8.28.02 PM



Yes, Kids Can Blog, Too!

Hello, fellow educators!

I have been working on fully integrating technology in my ESOL classes this year.  I must admit it isn’t easy as it looks like because it entails a lot of careful planning of lessons and activities.  I want to make sure that students  also achieve a comfort level in using the technology.  After a few weeks though, of talking about digital citizenship, the features of the tablet and some basic keyboarding practice, I finally am able to launch our class blog.  You bet,  my 3rd and 5th grade ESOL students are on the roll to being kid bloggers!  And if anybody asks how kids can blog, my kids will beg to differ.   They will tell you:  Yes, we kids can blog, too!

After narrowing down my top sites to Edmodo and, I decided to use for our class blogs.  All my students have to do is to go to our class website, and click “Our Class Blog” on the navigation bar.

 A Screen Shot of my Class Website

 Then, it will take them to our class blog page.  All they have to do is click on their grade level to access the blog site, select their name from the list, and log in with their password, which I have provided to them.

 Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 8.56.53 AM

 Their dashboard on looks like this:

A Screen Shot of my 5th Grade ESOL Class Blog Site

Last week in 5th grade ESOL class, we focused on character study.  I posted a question on character study that they are required to answer.  They are also required to at least post one response or comment to a classmate’s post.  Of course, as a teacher, I deemed it necessary to comment on each of my students’ posts.  I want my students to know that I am reading their posts.

Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 11.37.05 AM

Blogging can be a very  fun and engaging way to let students write.  They are able to read their classmates’ posts and comment on them.  At the same time, they are able to correct their own spelling mistakes through the computer’s or tablet’s spell check feature.  So go ahead and try with your students!

By the way, a big thank you to Blogaholic Designs for the free Blogger template!

Happy blogging!

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 8.28.02 PM


Five Must-Have Educational Resources for Teachers

Hello, educator friends!

Finding the right teaching resources in the internet can be very challenging and time-consuming just because there are usually hundreds of them to choose from.  The time spent searching for the most reliable websites is now added to the time we already spend planning our lessons, grading papers and entering grades online.  But when we do find the right ones, we go back to them over and over again.  They become like our trusted friends who are there when we need them.  This is what I feel about my most favorite educational resources.  They are my go-to sites whenever I need something – say an activity, a video, a worksheet, a Powerpoint lesson, or an interactive game for a particular lesson. So, if you have found your favorite sites, bookmark them.  It can make your teaching life much easier.

Here is a list of what I consider as must-have educational resources for teachers:

readwritethink.org1. – provides a great resource which you can filter by grade level, lesson, or resource type (student interactives or lesson plans).  What I like most are the interactive games which you can use for your computer center or as a fun activity in a whole group setting.

readworks.org2. – has a plethora of lesson plans arranged by skills and strategy units, comprehension units, novel study units, and reading passages. All you have to do is register and you will be able to access these materials for free!  I like that they have short, leveled passages with question set, and suggested texts for specific reading skills.  It saves me a lot of time thinking about what text to use for a reading skill or strategy I need to focus on my lesson.

havefunteaching.com3.– provides an interesting set of worksheets, flashcards, games, songs, and videos that you can add to your list of teaching materials.  They offer materials that you can purchase, but they also have a lot of really useful ones that you can download for free.  Most of the phonics and vocabulary games that I use in my classroom are from this site.  

weareteachers.com4.– is a site for almost everything a teacher needs:  classroom resources in different formats (printables, infographics, posters, etc.) classroom management tips,  blogs and articles about education and technology.  They have interesting posts that are worth your time, and they even include discounts and deals for teachers!

learnzillion.com5. – offers a free collection of Math and Language Arts resources that are standards-aligned.  Resources are carefully organized by core lessons, task, assessment, practice exercises, and video lesson.  It has a Common Core navigator that is arranged by grade level.

Go ahead, update your resources with these really useful educational websites!

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 8.28.02 PM

Retelling Using Sequence Words

Hello, friends!

I have just finished teaching two lessons that focused on one of the Common Core standards, which is retelling stories.

To illustrate the process of retelling in my 1st Grade ESOL class, I first focused on the use of sequence words FIRST, NEXT, THEN, and LAST.  I made sure they used these words when they retold the story.  We practiced using these keywords with the aid of my retelling anchor chart during a whole-group activity by reading “There was an Old Lady who Swallowed Some Leaves.

There are several “There was an Old Lady” books but I thought this is perfect for the beginning of the Fall Season.

There was an Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Leaves

“There was an Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Leaves”

My retelling anchor chart is a modification of the chart found in to include the story I’m using with a space for practicing the use of sequence words.  I am thankful to Christie of first-grade-fever. for her Old Lady booklet freebie.

1st Grade Retelling Anchor Chart

1st Grade Retelling Anchor Chart

For their writing activity, I used the free printable by to make an old lady template.  What I did was glue a lined paper on the blank space in the old lady pattern so that I could have a writing template for my kids.  They just love this writing task!  Click on this link for the old lady pattern, which you can just modify to suit your activity.

Old Lady writing activity

Old Lady writing activity

There was an Old Lady writing activity

There was an Old Lady writing activity

My drawing of the old lady on the bulletin board was inspired by Carries’ Speech Corner.   My kids’ work is displayed just in time for the start of the Fall season.

1st Grade ESOL "There was an Old Lady" Bulletin Board

1st Grade ESOL “There was an Old Lady” Bulletin Board

I hope you like my First grade retelling lesson!

Enjoy the cool breeze of September!

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 8.28.02 PM

5 Fun Collaborative Phonics and Sight Word Activities for the ESL Classroom

Hello, fellow educators!

Aren’t we all excited that it is almost the Fall season?  Temperatures have dropped to the 50s and 60s in the early morning, and in the afternoon, it is no longer as hot, which for me is just perfect.  I know that we teachers have so many other things to be excited about.   By now, we know all the names of our kids, we see them getting more and more familiar with the everyday routine, and we’re seeing all these interesting personalities come out.  Most importantly, we now know what activities seem to keep them engaged and on task.

These past few weeks, I did a lot of phonics and sight word activities with my 1st grade ESOL kids.  My goal was for them to become familiar with the short vowel sounds plus the sight words that are included in our district-mandated curriculum framework.  Since I have a number of beginning ELLs, I have to make sure they do these tasks either with a partner or in a group.  I am excited to share with you these collaborative phonics and sight word activities that we have been doing so far:

1.  “Pick a stick and read it.”  I used multi-colored popsicle sticks with the sight words and short vowel sounds labeled on the edges and placed them in tiny buckets.  Each student picks a stick and reads the word that’s written on it.  Then he shows the word to his classmates and everybody reads the word.  If   he/she is unable to read it, the student chooses a classmate to help him or her read the word.  This seems like a very simple activity  which we usually do on the carpet, but it is fun for them.  I have seen many variations of collaborative activities made by teachers using popsicle sticks.  Just search Pinterest!

Popsicle sticks with sight words in a tiny bucket

Popsicle sticks with sight words in a tiny bucket

2.  “Teacher of the Day.”  I usually assign a student-teacher to lead the class in reading our set of words for the week.  Everybody is just excited for their turn to be the teacher of the day.  They love to use my pink pointer!

1st Grade ESOL kids with the "teacher of the day."

1st Grade ESOL kids with the “teacher of the day.”

3.  Phonics and sight word game cards.  I have a few that I created myself and some that are available as free downloads on my favorite site:  This is always a fun collaborative activity for them.  Just make sure you are assigning a leader who can facilitate the game and check their answers.  Click on the following links to download these freebies:

CVC Girls Word Cards

CVC Girls Word Card set

CVC Girls Word Card set

Vowel Activities

Short vowel activity courtesy of

Short vowel activity courtesy of

My 1st Grade ESOL kids during a phonics game

My 1st Grade ESOL kids during a phonics game

4.  Sight Word Bingo Cards.  The internet abounds with free bingo card generators where you can create and print bingo cards for use in your classroom.  Not only it is fun for the students, but allows consistent exposure to the sight words.  Here are a few of them that you can use:

1st Grade Sight Words Bingo Cards

1st Grade Sight Words Bingo Cards

5.  Phonics and Vocabulary Center for Writing Practice.  Of course, a center in your classroom where students can use the words to complete a writing task will enable you to informally assess how much of the words they have learned thus far.

1st Grade ESOL kids at the Vocabulary and Phonics Center

1st Grade ESOL kids at the Vocabulary and Phonics Center

Please feel free to share what phonics and sight word activities work best for your own class.  Happy fall!

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 8.28.02 PM

Five Ways to Help Beginning English Language Learners in the Classroom

Hi there, teacher friends!

I just want to share with you the infographic I created that lists suggestions on how we, as teachers, can help our ESOL newcomers or beginning English Language Learners (ELL’s) in the U.S. classroom environment. It is undeniable that the number of ESOL population is growing each year across the country, and as an ESOL teacher who advocates for our immigrant students or ELL’s, I am excited to share with you what I find are time-tested ways by which we can help them survive the first few months of school:

As always, the most important thing is to teach from the heart.  Our kids know if the people around them genuinely care.  When they have spoken their first English words and say thank you to you in the future, it will be their best gifts ever.  Not even a teacher’s award can beat that.

BTW, if you want to create an infographic, try this free infographic tool called Venngage.

Happy teaching!

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 8.28.02 PM


Five Practical Tips in Making Classroom Organization Easy

Hello, teacher-friends!

How was your back-to-school week?  I bet it was as interesting as you thought it would be.  And although school has begun,  I’m sure you still do a lot of finishing touches in your classroom.

If you are an elementary teacher just like me, I know you spend a lot of time and money in getting your classroom ready for back to school.  On the first day that you report back to work, you walk into your classroom – whether it be a new one or the same room assigned to you last year – that sure needs a lot of TLC and with furnitures to move here and there.  But isn’t this what we all do once we get back to school?  You take a quick scan of the room, and all ideas come flooding in about what new stuff is needed to design it, how the student desks will be arranged, where to put your most precious teacher’s desk, which will define the kind of workspace and privacy you will set as a teacher, and most especially, how you want your classroom to look like.  Then an overwhelming feeling sets in.  You look at your agenda for the first week, and you realize that with all the scheduled workshops and training on Common Core,  new initiatives and what-not, there will never be enough time to just organize your classroom.

If that is the case, do not fret.  Just like you, I tend to get overwhelmed by the daunting task of having to organize my classroom because I usually have very specific tastes in terms of what colors to use and how the learning space will look like.  Over the years of teaching, however, I have learned some ways to make classroom organization less tedious, less daunting, and a bit more fun instead.  So, I’m sharing with you some practical tips on how to make classroom organization easy.:

1.  Make advanced preparations by doing some research on the web about classroom themes and designs.  You will find tons of creative ideas on Word Wall and Bulletin Board designs, classroom set-up, learning centers and just about anything on Pinterest and on various teachers’ blogs.  If possible, decide on your theme and colors before the back to work week so that you’ll know what things to buy for your room.  For the month of August, I decided to use the “Minions” theme to go along with my back-to-school set of picture books.  This theme was inspired by We Are Teachers’ post on  Click this link for more back-to-school bulletin board ideas.  I will change my bulletin board’s theme depending on the season and on my focus lessons.

My "Minions" Bulletin Board with Back-to-School Theme

My “Minions” Bulletin Board with Back-to-School Theme

2.  Check out the various stores’ online sites for good deals on the classroom materials you think you might need and that you know your school does not provide such as dry-erase markers, mini-whiteboards, storage bins for your classroom library and students’ supplies, sticky notes, etc., and make a list of what to buy and where to buy them.  Then, embark on a one-day shopping at these stores with a set budget. I found my green and red storage bins for my classroom library and red tiny buckets to store pencils and crayons and colored markers at the Dollar Tree store.  You will also find a lot of  good deals at Ikea, Five Below, Staples, and Target.

One-Dollar Storage Bins at Dollar Tree

One-Dollar Storage Bins at Dollar Tree

Back-to-School Deals at Ikea

Back-to-School Deals at Ikea

3.  Once you know what your room assignment is, decide where to place your desk and your shelves (if you have movable ones), and where your different centers will be.  Then, decide on the order by which you will organize them.  I find it easy to design all my boards first, followed by the classroom library and the Reading corner before anything else.  As I do this, I do a lot of moving around the desks and chairs just so I could reach the top of the classroom walls, which is why it doesn’t make sense for me to set up my students’ working space just yet.  When I am done cleaning my shelf, I start unpacking the boxes that contain all the books for my library. and that were already previously grouped by genres and lexiles.  Believe me, when all your boards are ready and your classroom library is set, everything else comes easy.

My Word Wall

My Word Wall

My Classroom Library

My Classroom Library

4.  Arrange your working space, the rest of your centers, e.g. Vocabulary and Phonics Center, Computer Center, Writing Center, etc., and the students’ working space.  Envision how your students will move around the classroom at different centers, and how you will also move around when you are teaching.  You will find that as you do this, you get a feeling of a sense of accomplishment that the hardest part was already done and you are now making sure that there is adequate space for teacher-student interaction.

My ESOL students' Reading Nook and Working Space

My ESOL students’ Reading Nook and Working Space

5.  Last but not least, treat the maintenance personnel and the office secretaries nicely and respectfully.  They will be your best friends, and in fact, your most needed friends just before school starts, and when school ends and whenever you need something.  Anything.  And I do not have to explain why.

Happy First Week of September!

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 8.28.02 PM

Gearing Up for August with Back to School Activities

It’s almost back to school again.  I know that the first few days involves a lot of classroom organization, and since I am meeting my kids for the first time, I will have to make sure that they will start to get acquainted with me as their teacher, as well as with the classroom routines and procedures.  Creating a positive atmosphere in the classroom and keeping everyone engaged on Day 1 are incredibly important.  Making a good first impression also wouldn’t hurt.  So, I thought it would be nice to create a “Back to School” packet that my students will complete during the first few days of school.

Back To School Activity Packet for Grades 3 to 5

This packet includes a “Positive Behavior Four-Square Template” that will encourage kids to think about how they can be respectful, responsible, and ready to learn.

Positive Behavior Four-Square Template

It also has a “This Me” page where students can write something about what they like to do in school.  It will be nice to post this on the bulletin board during the first week of school.  My kids always love to see their work displayed in the room, and this is one way to acknowledge their hard work.

     This is Me Template

Finally, I created a template where students can contribute to making the classroom rules.  You can turn this into a fun game by letting students convince their classmates that their  rule should be included and get as many signatures as they can for 3 minutes.  The first three students whose papers have the most signatures win the game.

We Make the Rules Activity Sheet

It will also be helpful to provide a word bank on the board or on a chart paper to help struggling students and beginning to low-intermediate ESOL kids write their sentences.

Here is the link to the entire Back To School packet.  Please do not forget to like or share this post.  Advanced happy first week of school!

 Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 8.28.02 PM

Eight Favorite Read-aloud Books for Back to School

Hello, teacher-friends!

I know we’re all having the back-to-school fever now that August has come. This entire week, I spent a lot of time looking for cheap but cute and colorful teaching stuff I could use to do a make-over of my classroom and that would match my red, green and yellow theme this year.  I couldn’t wait for my classroom to be ready for the new school year!  Right now, I’m trying to organize my Reading nook so that it will have a back-to-school theme.  I have chosen eight k-2 books that I will feature this month in my classroom library. I think these books would be a good set to choose from for  your read-aloud sessions with your kids this back-to-school week. I know how important it is to set the right tone on the first day, and reading these books will reinforce a positive feeling about being in school.

My favorite read-aloud books for back to school

Books with “First Day” Theme:

Schoolies: My First Day of School

1.  Schoolies: My First Day of School by Ellen Crimi-Trent –    Spencer does not know what to expect on his first day at school, so he feels awful just thinking about it. Soon he meets his teacher and other “schoolies” like him, and he feels a lot better!

This book is great for Pre-k or K kids who are just entering school for the first time.  It includes stickers as an added bonus.

First Day Jitters

2.  First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg – I love how, at first, it seems like something nearly every child with be able to relate to as Sarah does everything possible and gives all sorts of excuses to avoid going to school. This story is hilarious with a quirky ending and a great story if you want to make a laugh during the first lesson.  This book is one of my all-time favorites.

Fancy Nancy: Jojo's First Day Jitters3.  Fancy Nancy: JoJo’s First Day Jitters by Jane O’Connor and Robin Preiss Glasser – Again, another “First Day” Story in which the added lift-the-flaps pique interest. Nancy tries to cure her sister, JoJo’s, jitters with all sorts of “fancy” ideas. They try all sorts of things until finally, big sister, Nancy helps JoJo realize that it’s going to be all right.

Books with “How to Deal with Changes” theme:

Pinkalicious and the New Teacher

4.  Pinkalicious and the New Teacher by Victoria Kann – Pinkalicious can’t wait for a perfectly pinkariffic school year until she realizes she has a new teacher. Her day is topped off with many things like arranged seats, an erased chalk drawing, and no shaggy story-time rug. But afterwards, she realizes a new teacher might not be that bad.

I love that this book has bookmarks and stickers that I can give away to my kids, plus a fold-out poster that I can display in my room.  It was also just recently published!

The Night Before First Grade

5.  The Night Before first Grade by Natasha Wing – Penny’s excitement on the first day of school is shattered when she realizes that her best friend, Jenny, is in another class. This story, with words that rhyme, is sure to make  your first graders share their feelings during your read-aloud session.

Books with “Being Good in School” Theme:

Pinkalicious: School Rules!

6.  Pinkalicious: School Rules! by Victoria Kann – Pinkalicious wants her imaginary friend,, Goldie the unicorn to come with her to school.  The teacher says yes but with one condition: Goldie must follow the school rules.

This book shows kids the importance of following rules in school.

My Teacher is the Tooth Fairy

7.  My Teacher is the Tooth Fairy! by Mary Smith –  Harold is often caught by his teacher daydreaming in school.  Then he dreams that his teacher is the tooth fairy who makes a deal with him.  And because he wants a new bike so badly,  he starts wishing for all his teeth to fall out.

This book will teach your kids that it is okay to wish for something they like, but make sure they don’t take school for granted.

David Goes to School

8.  David Goes to School by David Shannon – David is one type of student who couldn’t keep still and who would surely keep a teacher busy.  However, at the end of the day he is just like any other kid in class who deserves to be loved.

This book, which is my most favorite book to read aloud to my little kids, reminds me of why teaching is such an important calling.

I’m sure we all have our favorite read-aloud books with back-to-school themes.  Please feel free to share what those books are.  I would love to hear from you!

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 8.28.02 PM

Book images source:

CVC Word Cards Phonics Activity for the Primary Classroom

Hello, fellow educators!

I’m back with another set of phonics and vocabulary center activities.  For this week’s activities, I chose four different ones each day, all of which were from the activity packets that I created..  The latest activity is a card game, called “CVC Girls Word Cards.”  The goal is for them to practice forming and reading words with CVC pattern.

This packet consists of the following:

  • activity directions
  • 42 word cards
  • 4 sets of vowel letters
  • answer key

CVC Girls Word Cards

The sample set of word cards is shown below:

CVC Girls Word Cards-set 1

CVC Girls Word Cards- Set 2

The packet includes an Answer Key, which the teacher can give to the leader of each group.  This is to make sure that students will know if the words they formed make sense or not.

CVC Girls Word Cards Answer Key

This is how I arranged my phonics and vocabulary center for this game:

CVC Girls Word Cards at the Phonics and Vocabulary Center

1st Graders playing the CVC Girls Word Card Game

 I realized that the letter cards were too small when I printed them, so I had to make some modifications.  I did not have a chance to laminate them (This is summer school, remember…), but I sure will when the new school year starts.

Here’s the link to my CVC Word Cards.  Please try this game in your class.  I’m sure your kids will love this, as mine did!

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 8.28.02 PM