Organization 101 - The Rotary Classroom

Great tips from the 2 Peas and a Dog blog on how to keep a rotary classroom organized.

As a middle school teacher trying to keep three classes of 30-35 students per class organized can be a challenge. 

Below are some of my top tips for helping everyone stay organized.

1. Have students create a Table of Contents in the first page of their notebook, binder or duo-tang.  I photocopy a template that they can fill in with the page number, lesson/hand out title and date.

Great tips from 2 Peas and a Dog on how to keep a rotary classroom organized.
Grade 8 Personal Safety Table of Contents
2. Have a class table of contents on chart paper posted visibly in the room. Ask a pair of students who finish early or need some leadership experience to create this. Have them create as many columns as rotary classes you teach. As you teach each lesson check off or write the date in class column. This is student created and may include some of their ideas. (Good Relationships was the title - the students decided to clarified boyfriend/girlfriend)

3. Need to sort students into pairs quickly? Cut a deck of cards in half, hand out 1 half as they walk into the classroom or have the half already waiting on their desk. Explain that yes they could potentially switch cards, and think you won't notice, but that you have magical powers that allow you to change any grouping you think it is not idea. This stops the card trading immediately as they know my goal is to have them work with as many different people as possible, not just their immediate friendship group. 

Great tips from 2 Peas and a Dog on how to keep a rotary classroom organized.

4. Post assignment sheets in the middle of anchor charts, therefore students will likely look/read the assignment sheets plus the helping anchor charts around them. In the photo, I have my October Monthly Reading Assignment posted in a high traffic area, with supporting posters surround it. 

5. Assign each student a number according to their position on the class list. Tell them this number the first day of school. Tell your students to write this number down every time anything is handed in. Now you can sort the pile very quickly to see who handed assignments in and what is missing. This number system also makes lining up for fire drill very easy. 

Great tips from 2 Peas and a Dog on how to keep a rotary classroom organized.

6. Using electrical tape I created a 7 box daily organizer on my board for my homeroom. Now they are organized for the day, and know what to expect from each period. Usually a student takes it upon themselves to update my date and the subjects for each period. The 7th box is usually for reminders i.e. extra math help 1st break. 

What are some of your time saving tips for teaching on rotary?

Recommended Student Reading

This blog post by the 2 Peas and a Dog blog is a resource for Canadian educators to help youth find well written and age appropriate reading material by utilizing book lists created by the Ontario Library Association.

Students and parents often want to know what are some good books to read that have good content and are age appropriate. The debate continues about what age is the Hunger Games really appropriate for? When I was a teacher-librarian I did not sign out the Hunger Games to anyone younger than Grade 7 unless they brought me a note from a parent. Teachers are always looking for good and unique read alouds that have not been done by a previous teacher.

In Ontario, we are lucky that our Ontario Library Association runs reading contests from ages JK-Grade 12. Every year a team of library and education professionals read the submissions for the various categories and select ten titles to be featured and read in schools across the province. Students have a set time period to read the novels (usually January - April) and then they vote online about which book they felt was the best read for them.

Look for the Forest of Reading section on this website for the book lists separated by grade level. 

I direct students and parents to previous reading lists for these contests in order to help them select good literature. Some contests include high interest non-fiction titles as well.

Teachers can help different book choices for their students by having them select texts to read at their appropriate reading level. i.e. with parent permission a Grade 8 student needing a challenge could read a White Pine novel. 

I have also used the Blue Spruce picture books in my intermediate classroom if I want to model a reading strategy or skill. Some of the books have amazing illustrations and can also be used as Art lessons. 

Print off the applicable lists for your grade level and keep them close by when a student says "I don't know what to read?" They can Google titles that sound interesting to them, and hopefully find something that meets their wants and your needs. 


Free Math Resources

A list of interesting and free math resources to support upper grades and middle school math classrooms.

Some of my favourite math resources come from the University of Waterloo Centre for Education in Mathematics and Computing - CEMC for short. 

They run many math contests, which for a nominal fee you can enter your students in. One of my favourite math enrichment activities is to have my Grade 7 and 8 students work through previous GAUSS math tests individually, in pairs or groups. Students learn from each other when trying to solve these higher level math problems. Download Previous GAUSS math contests The previous years tests can be downloaded from their website in PDF format for free! I print these off and keep them in my Math Challenge Bin. You could also make the tests part of your math stations or centers program. I also upload these PDFs to my class website so students can practice at home if they wish. 

Another math resource that CEMC creates is The Problem of the Week. Each week they send via email a math problem to your inbox that you can share with your class. The problems are sorted by curriculum strand and grade level. A new addition this year is the removal of grade levels from the problems. Problems are now classified by Level B-E. This makes differentiation so much easier. Level B is Grade 5/6 and Level C is Grade 7/8. You can differentiate math groupings or individual needs by creating math groups that align with the Problem of the Week levels. Problem of the Week 

Math Frog for Grades 4-6: Grades 4-6 Online Math Games

Wired Math for Grades 7-10: Grades 7-10 Online Math Practice

Don't forget to download our FREE Math Test Prep Strategy.

I hope you enjoy using these resources as much as I do. 


The Next Generation of Privacy Folders ...

Helping students stay on task can be a bit challenging. Read this quick blog post to see some quick ideas to assist students in their quiet work journey.

When I was a student we used our pocket writing folders as privacy folders. These were used during test time or when we needed a break from our group to focus on our independent work. 

Recently I was in a colleagues Grade 4 classroom and saw the coolest idea Office A and Office B work spaces in her classroom. She told me our administrator gave her the idea. 

Using plain white science display boards this teacher has created a private no distractions work space for kids to work. Her future plan is to use the panels to display key anchor charts. 

Helping students stay on task can be a bit challenging. Read this quick blog post to see some quick ideas to assist students in their quiet work journey.

This teacher is full of great ideas. Here is another one:

Helping students stay on task can be a bit challenging. Read this quick blog post to see some quick ideas to assist students in their quiet work journey.

Now that her students have the option to type up their Writer's Workshop work (if time permits) they are writing up a storm. I just might make one of these myself this weekend. 

Kristy @ 2 Peas and a Dog

Creating a Dynamic Intermediate Classroom Library

It can be a challenge to create a dynamic and useful middle school classroom library from scratch.  Read to find out lots of great organization and book acquiring tips from 2 Peas and a Dog.

Student accessible classroom libraries are an important part of any classrom K-12. Since I started teaching my classroom library has evolved from complete chaos to student/teacher friendly organization. 

Many believe that it is sufficient to have a few books on a shelf or to just use the school library. This is not the ideal situation. Students in all grades need to have interesting texts available to them at all times. If students do not have access to interesting texts that are organized in a visually appealing manner, they have no incentive to practice their reading skills. 

I was inspired by this blog post I found one day while searching the internet many years ago. FINALLY I found a great example to model my own classroom library after. I hope that this blog post can inspire others to renovate their own classroom library. 


I keep all fiction books in red Ikea bins and all my non-fiction books are kept in blue Ikea bins. This helps reinforce the differences between these two text types. Books that are too big or heavy to fit into bins get stored upright spine label out in metal dividers .

It can be a challenge to create a dynamic and useful classroom library from scratch. Lots of great organization and book acquiring tips in this blog post.

It can be a challenge to create a dynamic and useful classroom library from scratch. Lots of great organization and book acquiring tips in this blog post.

Every book has a sticker label reminder of where it is kept. Fiction books are sorted by genre (e.g. Fantasy, Science Fiction, Realistic Fiction) and non-fiction books are sorted by curriculum subject (Science, History, Geography). 

It can be a challenge to create a dynamic and useful classroom library from scratch. Lots of great organization and book acquiring tips in this blog post.


For years I have tried different sign in and sign out systems. This year I got rid of my sign in and out system and just use the honour system. This works because I only allow my homeroom class to sign out fiction books only. 
Non-fiction stays in the classroom unless is signed out on a nightly basis on the class whiteboard. My goal is to have a book pocket in the back of each novel and coordinate that with 1 book pocket sign out chart per student. My classroom library is always under renovation. 

What do I put into a Grade 7 and 8 class library?

  1. Fiction books at various below grade, on grade and above grade reading levels
  2. Non-fiction books that relate to the curriculum
  3. High interest non-fiction books (spies, people, facts)
  4. Graphic novels
  5. Magazines and Newspapers
  6. Luxury car brochures (Lexus, BMX, Audi, Jaguar) I aquired these brochures one Saturday afternoon by driving to the car dealerships and "shopping" for a new car! 
  7. Weekly Flyers or Advertising Magazines - last year I was shopping for a cellphone and brought the Best Buy comparison magazine into my classroom. It was the most popular text for months.
  8. Survey the students and ask them what they want to read (repair manuals, newspapers, computer code, maps)
It can be a challenge to create a dynamic and useful classroom library from scratch. Lots of great organization and book acquiring tips in this blog post.

How do I acquire all of these different resources?

  1. Before you buy anything new inventory your current library collection to see what the students are reading and recycle any books that smell, are yellowing or are in disrepair. 
  2. Ask your school librarian and principal/administrator if they can help support your goal of a dynamic classroom library by purchasing new materials for your classroom. Some schools use credits from their Scholastic Book Fairs to help teachers create a class library. 
  3. Ask your friends and family members if they have any books their kids do not read anymore.
  4. Order the $1.99 and $2.99 specials from Scholastic every month.
  5. Check your local library's discard shelf - most books are under a dollar.
  6. Check your local dollar store, thrift or used book stores.
  7. Visit your local bookstore and browse the children and teen fiction discount shelves. I have purchased many books from Chapters and Indigo for under $5 a book. 
  8. Ask if your school hosted a book fair - many book fair companies have teacher only discount sales. I purchased the bulk of my library through the semi-annual Scholastic Teacher Warehouse Sale. 
Once your library is complete make sure you use engaging reading assignments to keep your students using the library frequently. 



Deals from the Dollar Store

Teacher often spend their own money on school supplies and classroom resources. It is important that teachers seek out cheaper alternatives so they can save their money.

Hello Readers and Welcome Back!

As teachers we often spend a lot of our own money on school supplies and classroom resources. I love dollar stores. Every time I find a new one, or go to a new city I often stop in to see what treasures I can find. 

Teachers need to save their money, and check the dollar store first when they need something for their classroom. 

Ok, so maybe this is not the best kept secret, but it is a great store.  I would like to introduce you to Dollarama

Every time I go into this store I find something great for my classroom. I have purchased classroom library bins, books for my classroom library, stationary or prizes for activities. 

The thing that sets this store apart from others is how clean and organized it is.

What was your most recent purchase at a dollar store for your classroom? 

I would love to hear about where you like to shop for classroom items. 

Take a photo and tag me on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook @2peasandadog  

Have a great day,


Welcome to the 2012-2013 School Year!

Welcome to 2peasandadog teaching blog!

I am so very excited to start blogging in the 2012-2013 school year. I am currently in my 6th year of teaching. During my career I have taught Special Education, Library, and Grades 7 and 8.  

My personal teaching goals for this year are:

1- integrate more technology into my daily teaching program (software, hardware, web 2.0)

2- get organized! I am a very organized person, but I need to coordinate all the storage areas where I store all my lessons, resources etc.

3- have fun with my students by creating engaging lessons and follow up activities

4- share my teaching ideas with others - I have created a teacherspayteachers account to help facilitate this goal. 

My Teachers Pay Teachers Store

Thanks for stopping in and checking out my blog.
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