Tag Archives: School

January Rearrangement: Resetting Your Classroom for the 2nd Half of the School Year

By Zemen Marrugi, M.Ed.


January is a great time of the year for teachers, school administrators and parents. It is a time to go back to the drawing board and reevaluate what has worked and what needs to be revised to move the students closer to proficiency.   For starters, the teachers have just come out of a two week holiday break, a much needed vacation that rejuvenated our faith in making a difference in our students’ lives. Let’s be honest. By mid November, our exhaustion made us question why we chose such a tiring profession.  However, the holiday break does a great job reminding us that we love being in the classroom.  Here are my top five tips on how to rearrange your classroom for the second half of the school year.

#1 Time to reorganize

Although we are in the middle of the winter season and the idea of spring cleaning seems like a lifetime away (especially for my fellow Michiganders), but it is time to clean the classroom. Let us rearrange the glue bins, take down old posters, and get rid of all of the extra scrap paper that we know our students are not going to use by June.  Allocate classroom jobs that give the students the opportunity to help keep the place spick and span from organizing the bookshelves to throwing out broken crayons.  Also, this might be a good time to rearrange the students’ teams based on updated test scores and putting down new name tags since the ones you used to label desks and cubbies back in August are probably all torn. You would be amazed on how excited students get by seeing their names on new nametags. Remember, a dirty classroom is not a kid problem-it is an adult problem so teach the students to keep their learning environment clean.

#2 Update classroom supply list

Send out an updated supply list to all the parents and guardians in your classroom. This is a great time to send out a classroom newsletter, notifying all of the parents and guardians on what type of supplies their child will need for the remainder of the school year. Encourage students to save their old notebooks and to use them as their personal reference material when completing homework and studying.

#3 Reevaluate parent communication outlets

While you are sending the updated classroom supply list, you need to also think about what method of communication has worked with this year’s parents.  Every classroom is different so the same communication that worked last year might not necessarily be the best way to send out important notices to parents this year.  Whether it is by email, notes home, voicemail, or newsletter, keep track of what has worked and what has not so that you are being efficient and effective. Also, if you have not already done so, make sure you keep track of all the communication you have with the parents in your parent communication log.

#4 Update class data

By now, you have a great idea of where each student is performing and chances are, your school is probably going to participate in some type of a midyear assessment. Use the updated data to drive your instruction.  Dig deep in the scores and figure out exactly where most of your students are struggling academically.  For example, look at your math data. If your students scored low in measurement, then figure out exactly what part of measurement do most of them not understand. Are they having a hard time telling time? Or possibly, they are struggling with converting units from ounces to gallons or feet to inches?  The more you understand their deficiencies, the more you will be able to help them grow because you will teach them what they have yet to master.

#5 Time to have those serious conversations

Reviewing the data will give you the opportunity to differentiate instruction so that everything you teach is intentional. However, if you have a couple of students that continue to struggle despite all interventions, then you need to have some serious conversations with the parents and perhaps the RTI team. Sometimes, a pair of eye glasses is the missing key to solving a student’s academic needs since they are not able to see the board clearly. Perhaps, they are staying up late watching too much television without their parents’ permission and that is why they keep falling asleep in class. Or maybe, they are having a hard time staying focused and regardless of who is sitting next to them, they continue to be distracting and repeatedly blurt out during instruction. Whatever the case may be, you need to have these important conversations with their parents especially if it retaining to retention. It is never too early to have these important conversations with parents and the more updated they are about their child’s education, the more supportive they will be in the long run.

In August, we get so excited about putting up new bulletin boards, sending the first supply list and contacting our students for the first time. However, by November, teachers, like everyone else, become overwhelmed with their personal lives preparing for the holiday season that we get burned out. Take this time to reenergize your spirits about closing the achievement gap and remember that regardless of how stressful it may be at times, your work in the classroom is appreciated.

About Zemen Marrugi

Zemen Marrugi is the Founder/President of Those Who Can, Teach! and an experienced teacher and national presenter.  Marrugi has worked as a classroom teacher and has presented workshops on topics like differentiated instruction and the writing process.  In addition to working with elementary/middle school teachers, Marrugi has also presented workshops for college activities personnel at the Council for Advancement and Support of Education’s Association for Student Advancement and the National Association for Campus Activities.  Click here for more information on Zemen Marrugi.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bulletin Board, Classroom Curriculum, Classroom Resources, Classroom Teachers, Curriculum, Education, Elementary, Heart of a Teacher, Middle School, New Teachers, Parental Partnership, Parents, Teacher, Teaching, Uncategorized

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Lesson Plans and Bulletin Board

This is the Martin Luther King, Jr. Quiz Bulletin Board I created in front of my class. Students were encouraged to text their knowledge of the content we had learned all week.

This is the Martin Luther King, Jr. Quiz Bulletin Board I created in front of my class. Students were encouraged to text their knowledge of the content we had learned all week.

By Zemen Marrugi, M.Ed.

This week, we will celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As a classroom teacher, I am always passionate to speak about Dr. King’s past and of his contribution to the Civil Rights Movment because he not only paved way for African Americans, but stood as a wonderful example of peace and brotherhood amongst all American.  I put together this lesson plan for my sixth graders and I think the rest of you might enjoy. Feel free to use the information below and my bulletin board design to teach our young people of the significant role Dr. King played to making our great nation what it is today.

Approximate Length of Time: 50-70 minutes

Students will be able to understand the important role Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had on the Civil Rights Movement and why he is still celebrated as one of the most influential people in American history.

1. Students will be able to reflect on the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
2. Students will be able to identify why Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life mission for peace and equality is celebrated today.

MLK Lesson Plans by Zemen Marrugi martin luther king jr
Book: Martin’s Big Words, The life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. By Doreen Rappaport
Movie: The Witness from the Balcony of Room 306
The Witness Quiz
Construction paper
Bulletin Board Boarder
Colored envelopes
Favorite MLK Photos
Favorite MLK Quote
Glue Sticks

Anticipatory Set/Hook:
A great way to start this lesson would be to dress up as MLK and begin reciting the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. Ask questions like who was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? What role did he play in the Civil Rights movement? Why was the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech so significant?

1) Hook the students’ attention by performing the ‘I have a dream’ speech to them.
2) Read the book Martin’s Big Words, the Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport.
3) Watch the movie, The Witness from the Balcony of Room 306 and discuss the role MLK played in the Civil Rights Movement.
4) Give the students an opportunity to complete The Witness quiz.
5) Set up the MLK Quiz Bulletin Board and encourage students to quiz their knowledge.

Why is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. remembered today as an important figure of the Civil Rights Movement? What can we do to commemorate the life of MLK?

1) Encourage the students to take the MLK quiz on the bulletin board.
2) Assign the students to complete the Witness worksheet after watching movie, The Witness.

Want the Latest? Follow Zemen Marrugi on Twitter and Facebook


Filed under Bulletin Board, Classroom Teachers, Education, Politics, Social Studies, Teaching, Uncategorized

Mothers’ Day Projects for Students

By Zemen Marrugi, M.Ed.

Here’s a great Mothers’ Day project to do with your students. You probably have most of these items already in your classroom.

The students are going to love giving these paper flowers to their moms on Mothers’ Day.

Step #1- Get your supplies: coffee filters, ribbon, pipe cleaners and markers.

Step # 2- Have the students draw colorful pictures on the coffee filters.

Step #3- Flatten the coffee filter using your hands.

Step #4- Gather the coffee filter towards its center and tie it using a colorful ribbon.

Step #5- Attach the coffee filter to a pipe cleaner.

Step #6- Voilà! Look at the beautiful paper flowers! Now, they are ready to give to mom on Mother’s Day!

Leave a comment

Filed under Classroom Teachers, Education, Teaching

The Power Of Positivity

This is the apple container that currently houses all of the Nerds candy in my classroom.

By Zemen Marrugi, M.Ed.

A few months ago, my fourth graders were involved in another highly engaged discussion when I threw at them a very challenging question. As I waited for my students to think about the problem, I began to contemplate if the assignment was too challenging.   As educators, we have all heard it many times before; a rigorous classroom will produce higher performing students, but had I gone too far this time? Had I finally delivered a lesson far beyond their capabilities?

I remained patient for a few seconds as the class pondered in silence and then a shaky hand went up a few desks back. The two-pigtailed little girl made me smile as she recited the answer I was waiting to hear. I was so proud of her for answering such a challenging question and it was at that very moment that I realized that my students’ capabilities are only limited by my expectation. Benjamin Bloom, himself, would have given her answer a standing ovation. My smile soon faded as I heard a voice in the class say, “What a nerd.” The little girl’s smile also vanished as her intelligence was discouraged by a fellow classmate.

As an adult, nothing bothers me more than when a person is discouraged by their peers for going above and beyond the call of duty. Being an “over achiever” is sometimes seen as a negative thing by some people, when it should be encouraged.  This behavior is evident in a lot of people’s reactions towards other people’s success and as a society, we are so quick to bash the person who stands out in a positive way, than provide words of praise for their continuous effort to grow.

This reminds me on how excited I used to get about my Science fair projects, but nothing used to dishearten me more than when my own peers made fun of such activities. Making comments like how stupid it was to participate in such time-consuming school rituals was so unnecessary. They did not know that I was so excited about being involved in the fair that I used to start my projects at least a year in advance.  Yup, total nerd alert right here.

Anyhow, I came home that night and wondered for hours on how I can change the culture in the classroom where a little girl can never get dispirited for knowing more than her peers.  My frustration reached its peak when I thought of how unfair it was for that little girl in my classroom to feel the way she had and it seriously brought me to tears when I realized that since she is a regular Honor Roll student, that she had probably experienced a lot of similar situations and will continue to do so for many years to come.

So, I sat down and started to think of how I can make being called a nerd a cool thing in my classroom? How can I make it where a fourth grade student that is being challenge with seventh grade content material be proud of the fact that she got the answer right? What can I do, as an educator, to create an environment so positive that you would want to be called a nerd?

Later that evening, while grocery shopping with my Mother, I still could not help but feel frustrated at the thought of a child being teased for being smart. Going through the aisles, I came across the Valentine candy and my eye caught a bag of mini sized Nerds candy packets and it hit me! I figured out a way to make being called a nerd in my classroom a cool thing.

The next morning, when the first child answers a tough question, I looked at him and said, “Wow, I just love it when a person is a nerd and knows such a hard answer. You, my dear, deserve a Nerd.” I tossed a mini packet of Nerds candy his way.

Yes, incentives work, but my goal was not just to give out candy with this project. My goal was to turn an insult into a positive phrase. Today, I am very happy to announce that being called a nerd in my classroom is not only a cool thing, but a titled more sought after than any other award. My students are proud of being able to answer tough questions.

As educators, we will come across a lot of misbehavior over the years, but what we need to always do is get creative with how we react to certain actions.  Our tone and our comeback need to be in a less authoritative voice and more of a kid friendly message that makes them understand that certain things are not appropriate.   The power of turning such dissenting phrases into a positive title makes it one of the best incentive I have ever incorporated into my class.  I will always have a high expectation on my students’ academic and social skills, but the expectation I have on myself for creating an environment that is safe for all of the students will remain higher.

Leave a comment

Filed under Classroom Teachers, Education, Teaching