The Costliest Mistake Teachers Can Make

With the implementation of Common Core standards and performance-based pay, teachers are under more pressure to perform than ever. Every minute must be devoted to instruction, causing teachers to cut any activity not directly aligned to standards.

This intense pressure starts at the beginning of the year, a vital time to set expectations and establish procedures and routines, or tight transitions. The costliest mistake teachers make is to introduce academics too early without laying the foundation for tight transitions. Many think they are saving time or getting a jump-start on the year; but in reality, this is costing them their most valuable resource—time. Sounds contradictory doesn’t it? Time wasted in poor transitions equates to a great loss of instructional time. It’s the difference between finishing a lesson effectively and running out of time without recapping or closing the lesson, a critical component of effective lessons. Furthermore, messy transitions often invite misbehavior and other disruptions that require teacher redirection, a loss of time. Tightening transitions saves up to 10 minutes daily, which equates to hours of instructional time throughout the year.

It took me years to perfect the art of teaching tight transitions. At first, I couldn’t understand how students didn’t know how to line up—it’s such a simple concept. Why couldn’t they quietly put their materials away or quickly meet at the carpet? After a great deal of professional reading and help from fellow teachers, I realized that I need to explicitly model and teach these transitions starting from day one.

I’ve created the Back to School Teacher Toolbox: Routines, Procedures and Transitions to help all teachers with the critical process. This Toolbox contains engaging, colorful resources and activities that explain how to teach, model, practice, and reinforce important systems and routines throughout the year.

Check out our next week’s Back to School blog: The Do’s & Don’ts of Classroom Management.


Start Back to School Right – Avoid These Top 5 Missteps

Back to School Night can seem so scary, even for veteran teachers. Possible scenarios might be running through your mind…parent heckles you, no one shows up, toddler screams during presentation, etc. Make Back to School Night your first step in building a positive culture with your parents.  Avoid these 5 teacher behaviors to ensure a successful Back to School Night.

1. The Long Lecture: Each year as I prepare my Back to School Night presentation, I always want to add as much information as possible to make sure parents understand policies, procedures and expectations. The reality is less is more. Parents simply want to meet you, get a feel for the room and take home quality handouts that they can refer back to in their leisure.  Keep your presentation short and simple (less than 10 minutes).

2. The Condescending Tone: Although I want to explain everything clearly for parents, I always make sure to be mindful of my tone. Education is a partnership and you want to make parents feel that they are valuable members of the team.

3. The Teacher Jargon: If I had a dollar for every teacher acronym, I could retire. Stay away from these terms with parents, they are confusing and overwhelming. It leaves parents with more questions than answers and they will tune you out.

4. The Frigid Welcome: Nerves can come off as coldness or arrogance. Remember to smile and greet each parent and student with genuine interest. Take time to listen to and respond to questions. This is your chance to make a good first impression and it will set the stage for the rest of the year. Even after 10 years, I get nervous. I find it helpful to take deep breaths and think positive thoughts.

5. The Unprepared Classroom: Parents can easily tell which teachers took the time and effort to prepare for Back to School Night and which ones just showed up. Welcome parents with refreshments, handouts and an activity for students to complete.

Need help getting ready for Back to School and Curriculum Night? Our  Welcome Back to School Customizable Parent Packet & Curriculum Night Guide covers it all!  These forms and letters include everything needed for the beginning of the year from curriculum and grading to student information card and parent directory.  All are customizable, allowing you to make quick and easy changes to make appropriate for your classroom.



Top Ten Tools for Back to School!

The new school year means endless meetings, countless hours of preparation and the dreaded Curriculum Night…all resulting in major stress! Let Astute Hoot: Tools for the Wise Teacher alleviate your pressure with our FREE Top 10 Tools for Back to School. As veteran teachers, we understand the tension that Back to School time brings and are here to help. Our FREE unit includes:

  • Essential Back to School checklist
  • Golden Keys to Success classroom behavior management plan with parent brochure
  • Interactive lesson plans
  • Effective routines, procedures and transitions

Download our FREE back to school unit here.

Checklist Preview


Science Journal Promotes Inquiry-Based Learning

Check out to purchase our new Science Journal that promotes inquiry-based learning, teaches crucial scientific skills and procedures and motivates even the most reluctant learners!  This journal includes:

–Forms to complete the Scientific Process
–12 observation boxes, complete with space to diagram and record date and time
–Graph paper for data collection
–A blank calendar to record changes or growth
–A vocabulary bank
–Optional Science Center activity: a graphic organizer used to record bulleted notes/observations during center time. These notes will help guide the completion of a full journal entry.

Check out pictures of completed observations and a sample of a Science Center.

NEW! Hazel’s Reading Roost Visits the Black Lagoon

Are you looking for an engaging literature study aligned to Common Core Standards? Do your students need motivation to read and write? If so, Hazel’s Reading Roost Visits the Black Lagoon is the unit for you!

In this 80 page unit, students use Hazel’s Woodland Strategy Animals (Sharon, Summarizing Squirrel, Quinn, Questioning Quail, Chloe, Connecting Coyote and many more) to analyze Black Lagoon structure along with key literary elements. This unit includes specific lessons/activities aligned to Common Core Standards including:
–Comparing and contrasting
–Making text connections
–Analyzing character traits
–Reading twin texts (nonfiction lagoon texts)
–Reading functional text (two Black Lagoon recipes)
–Planning, drafting, editing and revising new Black Lagoon story (detailed rubric included)
–Sorting words into parts of speech lagoons

This unit also includes a parent letter introducing the unit, homework and center activities and two Black Lagoon comprehension tests. Check it out on our Teachers Pay Teachers page !

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