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Using Programs to Save You Time

Using Programs to Save You Time


I remember the day I got hired to teach fourth grade. I was so excited! I spent about two days celebrating, and then I realized I had no idea what I was supposed to do next. I had all summer to prepare, but what was I going to do?

Luckily, one of the current fourth-grade teachers was willing to meet with me. We met at a coffee shop, and I had literally two pages of typed questions. He did his best to answer them, but he didn't have a lot of specifics.

Our district did not have a curriculum for any subject. So, when I asked him, how do we teach math? He said the teachers gathered resources to teach the standards. I asked him about the order we teach the standards, and he said I could choose.


Maybe this kind of freedom is welcome to an experienced teacher, but to a brand new teacher, it was terrifying. I felt stuck because I was so overwhelmed.

That overwhelmed feeling stayed with me the entire time I taught elementary school. I wanted to do everything right, but I felt like I was always making things up as I went.

Now that I have a little more experience and more time, I have created a resource that will help teachers focus their planning for the year. I call it a Program Planning Page.


To maximize your efficiency in the classroom, you should start the school year with a program in place for every subject you teach. Having a program will give you a solid foundation to plan your lessons. It will save you time and stress because you won't always have to think about what you will teach next and how you will teach it.

Your school district may provide curriculum for some or all subjects. If so, list this curriculum as your program. If your school district does not provide curriculum, you are going to have to find a program that works for your teaching style. Summer is the best time to find these programs because you aren't under the same time crunch to find resources and teach at the same time.

Realizing how valuable programs are for saving time planning, I have created several options for upper elementary classrooms. Of course, there are many other programs available as well. Take time to find the program that works best for you, so you won’t be tempted to abandon the program during the year.


Spelling tests don't help students spell better in their writing. This program is designed to improve student spelling skills and writing skills at the same time. Students spend the week working on a spelling rule with interactive activities for each day of the week. On Fridays, students create a piece of writing that shows they have mastered the spelling rule.

I love this resource because it is easy to differentiate. There are 45 spelling rules so that you will have resources for each of your students. I also love that it combines writing and spelling. Your students will understand that we learn spelling to improve our writing. You can also use their weekly writing pieces to assess all aspects of their writing abilities.


I have created interactive resources for every grammar topic taught in elementary school and middle school. Each resource set is designed as either a one-week or two-week unit. You can choose the order of the topics that makes the most sense for your class, and your grammar planning is done!


Greek and Latin roots are the most effective way to teach vocabulary because each root unlocks multiple vocabulary words for students. This program introduces four roots a week to students and includes activities for every day of the week and multiple versions of an assessment for the end of the week.

I also have a simpler version for younger students that covers prefixes, suffixes, and roots.

Social/Emotional Skills

Social and emotional skills are the most important skills we can teach our students. No matter which career they choose, they will need to be able to interact with others and manage their internal environments. As a science teacher, I was interested in these soft skills from a biological perspective. After lots of research, I created an 18-week program that teaches students about how their brains work and how they can change their brains. This program gives students and teachers a common vocabulary to discuss behavior and choices without judgement.


If your school does not provide a math curriculum, I highly recommend using Engage New York. It is free and well done. I'll be honest, when I first started teaching using Engage New York, I didn't like it. There are long scripts for each day, and it felt like we were moving too fast at times and not fast enough at others.

After studying the entire curriculum from kindergarten to fifth grade, I have to say it is brilliant. The ideas introduced each year build on what was taught before and provide a foundation for what will be taught next. However, it can be very overwhelming.

When I was teaching third grade, I started creating interactive notebooks to help my students review the big ideas of each lesson. Over time, these interactive notebooks have evolved into the version available in my store today. I have interactive notebooks for 1st through 5th grade.

The notebooks have a half-page aligned to each lesson in Engage New York, so when you are teaching lesson 2, you use the lesson 2 half-page. Students cut out the pieces and use them to do an activity that reinforces the primary purpose of the lesson. The half-sheets are also helpful for teachers new to teaching with Engage New York because they distill the lesson into its most basic form.

Want to share your favorite programs for the year? Join our Facebook group! You can get ideas from other teachers and share your own. It is the perfect place to ask questions and get help so that you will spend less time planning and more time teaching!

Teacher as Collaborator

Teacher as Collaborator

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Reflecting in May to Plan for August