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My 7 Must-Have Teacher Tools For Teaching Off a Cart

My 7 Must-Have Teacher Tools For Teaching Off a Cart

For those of you that don’t know me: Hi, there!

My name is Stephanie and I am a full-time elementary teacher living and working in the outskirts of Montreal, Quebec. Last year I received permanency at my school as their Visual Arts teacher. However, because I only teach Art 63% of the time, I teach other subjects too.

To be more specific: I teach English Language Arts 1 hour/day to a Grade 3 French Immersion group. I also teach Science to Grades 3 and 4, 2 hours/week.

Wanna hear the kicker, though? I teach all of these subjects, 100% of the time, off a cart.

Yes, you read right, off a cart!

My school is bursting at the seams, but isn’t that the case in almost every school in Quebec? Anyhow, as you can imagine, teaching off a cart isn’t ideal and it definitely comes with its set of challenges.

As such, I have developed a series of efficient systems and tools over the years to help me stay on top of nearly everything… specifically though, I’ve developed systems and tools which help me stay organized and more efficient with my valuable time.

Do you know how much time it takes for me to transition from room to room? Way too much time! So yes, my time is very valuable, trust me.

I’m not perfect, I tend to forget a lot, but thanks to some tried-and-true tools I am now the most efficient and productive I can be as I wheel my things to a different classroom every 60 mins, Monday through Friday.

With that said, here are my 7 “Must-Have” Teacher Tools for Teaching Off A Cart:

7. Classroom Library Checkout System

Is my classroom library unconventional? Yes, but it’s mostly pretty darn awesome!

Because I am essentially “classroom-less”, the biggest challenge I faced earlier this school year was finding the perfect system for all my chapter books.

I can’t exactly leave them in a class, even if my colleague is willing to empty off a portion of his bookshelves to accommodate my personal library.

Admittedly, I did my books in a large basket in the classroom back in September so that students could take a book whenever they had an opportunity. However, this proved to be a bad idea in a matter of days when I realized not only were my students just throwing books back into the basket, they were damaging them as well.

I knew there had to be a better way. I wanted my students to be able to borrow one book at a time for classroom use, but also hoped I could trust them enough to borrow my books to read at home. I love fostering a love for literacy, what can I say?!

Side note: because I live in a majority French-speaking community, borrowing English books from the public library just isn’t possible for my students. Shocking, I know!

But now, thanks to my Class Library Checkout System, my students can now choose a book off my Book Trolley every day!

They simply fill out their (numbered) highlighter with the title of their chosen book and place it back on the trolley. That way, I know who took the book last when it suddenly vanishes.

And, if a student has earned my trust, I allow them to sign out their book on my clipboard so they may take it home!

Take a closer look at my smART Classroom Library System here.

6. Need To See Me? Sign

Last December, whilst conferencing with my students for ELA I looked up to see a long line of students waiting to ask me questions. Not only was this line ridiculously long, but it was also noisy, disrupting the other students who were actually working!

I clearly remember I had a very bad headache that day, no thanks to the mask I wear religiously, and it was starting to build up and turn into a migraine.

Needless to say, I felt a wave of nausea come over me suddenly. I abruptly instructed my students to sit down and no longer get up to see me. Not my finest moment but my colleague quickly saw I wasn’t feeling well and opened some windows. The children could see on my face, though, that I wasn’t feeling good at all.

All that to say, by the following week I had designed a classroom management tool to emulate an emergency waiting room sign at triage. My “Need To See Me?” sign was an instant success and my students LOVED it!

It was a total game-changer when it came to 1-on-1 conferencing with my ELA students. This Need To See Me? Sign made students’ independent work-time quieter, and more efficient!

In addition to integrating hand signals for unnecessary interruptions (Miss, can I go to the washroom? Miss, can I get more water? Etc.), my students were finally only coming up to see me when it was their turn, and when it was purposeful or necessary.

Click here to see my smART Need To See Me? Sign.

5. Rolling Cart with Labeled Drawers

I’m so lucky to have an awesome and bright office space this school year! But unfortunately, it lacks adequate storage space.

I had seen on several occasions in the past this really cute rolling cart from Michaels but never thought I’d have much use for it.

It wasn’t until a new colleague and office mate, Miss Madeleine, came into our shared office space one morning with her new rolling cart that I was won over. The best part of this cart was: the drawers slide off and can easily be placed on any cart and wheeled around room-to-room!

Evidently, it didn’t take me long to design custom labels for my new cart. After a few days of use, I was convinced other teachers would benefit from these labels as well, and thus added them to my shop!

Check out my smART Cart Drawer Labels here.

This particular rainbow 10 Drawer Rolling Cart by Simply Tidy™ (featured below) comes from Michaels 👉 CANADA / 👉 USA

4. Hanging Folders and Class Checklists

One system I’ve been using for years is the milk crate and hanging folder storage system.

Because I only teach art to 13 groups and most of our artworks are 2-dimensional, this simple system for storing student artwork between classes (or in the meantime while I grade them) is not only compact, it really works!

Not only that, with the help of the Poppin Fin File Sorter, I can easily place 2-3 art group class folders on my trolley for the morning or the day. It’s great for when I plan on having a sub for the next day, the folders are already on my trolley to go!

Click here to download my FREE Class Checklist!

Class checklists are a newer system that I started using just this year. It’s a great way to keep track of who has handed in which projects and of course student absences.

Even more, when crosschecking my checklists with my Excel file (where I keep all my marks), I quickly notice student “trends”. As in who tends to (1) not complete their artwork, (2) forget to hand things in, or, worse, (3) be frequently absent for art class, and thus there’s not sufficient evidence to evaluate them come report card season.

If my class checklist interests you, you can grab a FREE customizable copy by filling out the form below. 👇

3. Directions Cards

Do you already use picture direction cards with your students? If not, you seriously should reconsider!

Young children, who still can’t read or sound out words yet, need visuals to remember spoken instructions and evidently to stay on task.

Moreover, don’t you want to avoid unnecessary interruptions (as I mentioned earlier with my Need To See Me Sign?)? Repeating the same instructions over and over and over again to the same group of children, it’s all so exhausting!

These picture direction cards are the perfect visual support tool you need for teaching art. They’ll help lay out each step and procedure more clearly for your students. That’s because your students will be able to see exactly what to do next and will be more on task, thanks to you and these visual cues!

I am certain that if you start using these direction cards on a daily basis, they’ll aid you in achieving your classroom and time management goals. They’ll allow your students to answer their own questions, problem-solve without relying on you so often, and ultimately gain independence as artists.

How does it work?

  1. Put the picture direction cards up as you are explaining instructions on a whiteboard or bulletin board.
  2.  Number each direction with a “step” card.
  3. Repeat art project instruction verbally as you point to the direction cards one last time before they begin creating!

You’ll quickly see: it won’t just be the little ones benefiting from these direction cards, students with ASD, learning difficulties, and older students will too!

Check out my smART Picture Direction Cards for Elementary Art here.

2. Teacher Example(s) Folder

My next teacher must-have has to be the most important tool! To make sure my teacher examples are accessible for any substitute teachers: an up-to-date Teacher Example(s) folder is a necessity if I want my sub to teach any art project effectively!

Not only is it jam-packed with several teacher examples of the same project, but it also includes lesson plans and drawing guides for more complex art projects.

This folder is nothing fancy, but it’s compact and fits perfectly on my cart! In addition to my class folders that also sit upright and neatly in my file holder (Poppin Fin File Sorter), this tool follows me everywhere I go even when I’m not teaching art!

At the end of the day, I’m sure to place it on the corner of my desk so that any teacher who comes in to replace me can easily leaf through all my examples and find the ones I am currently teaching.

1. Digital Agenda aka Morning Slides

And, of course, I saved the best tool for last! My Digital Agenda slides, also known as Morning Slides to most elementary teachers.

These templates literally only take 5 minutes of my time to prepare each and every day. I always like to add a “Joke of the Day” in there too.

I mostly use this tool with my grade 3 class, because I see them the most often (7 hours/week). We have a rotating iPad privilege for students every day too, so this is a great way to keep track of whose turn it is that particular weekday.

These slides are obviously not just for aesthetics, they help keep me organized. Meanwhile, they also keep my students on task! And honestly, I think my students love them as much as I do.

And because I see my grade 3s literally eight times a week, I KNOW that if it weren’t for these Google Slides I’d be a lost chicken.

Please, though, let’s not speak about the many times that ancient classroom SMARTboard has conked out on me this year…

Check out my selection of Morning Slides here.

Click here to download a FREE copy of my Simple School Supply Morning Slides with a 15-minute timer!

Like these cute templates? You can snag your copy of my Simple School Supply Morning Slides (with timer) for FREE by filling out the form below. 👇

Download this freebie!
Thank you!

Alright teacher-friends, there are my favourite “must-have” tools that I use when teaching off a cart! And I’d love to know: What is your favourite “teacher tool”? Message me on Instagram (@hope.smartstudios) and let me know!

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