Names with Numbers

Student numbers…it may sound rather strange, but as many times as it has come in handy. I shall share the idea.

Student lists enter the class alphabetically. Ever after, the teacher is putting their information in alphabetical form.

Once the year has begun, and most late comers have arrived, I assign a number to each child.

Using the alphabetical list of names, I assign beginning with ‘1’ – or ‘001’ for fun.


Whenever the child does a worksheet or an assignment, they put their number under their name. That lets me alphabetize them quickly and record their grades on the computer.  If there is a reason I don’t want the name of the children on the paper, I ask them to use their number at the bottom. This helps if I am hanging their papers in the hallway and want a bit of privacy. The number can even be put on the back.

I keep a small jar with circle tags with their numbers. At the beginning of the week, I pull tags out to give turns for answering questions. If asked, I put it back and pull another number. (Sometimes, the child is allowed to go and ask someone for the answer. They then return to their seat and give the answer. They do think that is fun!)

I have a set of ‘mailboxes’ in the room to put papers in that are going home that night. By putting the papers in number order, I can quickly put them in the alphabetized boxes.


Numbers are helpful, but I do not forget that using their names is loving.

One Minute to a Clean Classroom

With a little time and planning, your classroom will sparkle at the end of each day.

The process begins with the students. Asked the open-needed question, “What are the many ways we can clean up our classroom at the end of the day?” Their hands waved. I listed the ideas on the board.

We then determined whether it would take one person or two to do the job. Some jobs were marked with a ‘2’.

My students had already been assigned numbers alphabetically. (A small jar held the numbers written on those little cardboard circles). On Monday, I pulled out a number. That person had the first turn in identifying the job they wanted for the week. Using clothespins with numbers and the list of jobs on large cardboard, let me quickly show who had that job. Each week, we drew another number to go first.


At the end of each day, everyone was asked to get ready – to think about their job and how they would do it in one minute.  I counted down…five, four, three, two, one Begin!

Watching the clock, I called out the last ten seconds – 10..9..8..7..6..5..4..3..2..1! Students tore back to their seats. Students who had finished early had called out, ‘Who needs me?” and another child answered.


They sat and basked in the praise. Shiny black/whiteboards were noted. Clean floors were admired. Empty pencil sharpeners were appreciated. Yes, we were ready for tomorrow and new day and a clean classroom.


I especially praised the children when parents were coming in for conferences. “They will be so proud of you.”

A lovely benefit. The custodian loved that our classroom was so clean. He spent more time on cleaning the floor and other items.






The ABCDs of Kindness

This activity began with a pure serendipity moment. A student had gone out of their way to help another. As a class, we were talking about it.   Suddenly, I recalled a military term – Above and Beyond the Call of Duty.

I wrote it on the board only to see blank faces across the room. Taking time to explain it, I noticed the first letters of the words were ABCD.  Using this, I asked if they would like to pay attention to ABCD moments. They bought the concept, and we were off and running. These were fourth graders.

First, they talked about ways to be kind and help others. I kept a list.

Next, someone suggested that we make something to hand out. They decided circles with numbers or points written on them would show the level of the kindness. As the teacher, I would determine how many points the child got for being kind. (Their list gave me direction.)

One computer literate student offered to create circles at home and put numbers on them. The class told her what numbers.  (They were about 5 or 6 inches across.) When she brought them in, I ran off copies on heavier paper. The students then took them home to decorate and color. After they brought them back, I laminated them. Then they cut them out.

Wow. It was a fabulous undertaking!


Once we had our stack of circles – and they were beautiful! – paying attention to kindnesses began…and the kindnesses increased. Picking up a dropped pencil, opening a door, letting someone else go first. For many, it was an art. Baggies were brought in to keep their ABCDs in. Students began giving them to each other.  Parents who dropped by mentioned them.

Then, the end of the year neared. What would be done with them?  An auction was decided. I cleaned out closets and checked Good Will.  Some student brought in items.

The day came, and everyone had their bag of ABCD circles.  The rule was only three bids per item. It was explained that we might run out of items, but fun held on.

Then, the surprise. One boy had no ABCD circles. I paused. I asked. The children told me. Every time he earned an ABCD circle, he gave it to someone.   The next step was a student suggestion and agreed upon by all – he would get first choice of the auction items. He was amazed. I was grateful.


The auction went on, they traded items and changed their minds. We had a good time.

This happened in the second half of the school year, so it hadn’t gone on for a long time.  But, I share this. It might work for you and your students. Or, something like it.

Options for Different Writing Abilities

My basic thought: Capture each child at a personalized writing level, and they stay involved and move forward.   Students at the easier levels will improve as they see how other students succeed.


To cover the range from totally dependent to totally independent writers, consider these ideas. I have used them.


  1. Two children of the same ability [Any ability!] work together. Having the same ability actually works because neither child can lean on or dominate the other. As they learn the writing process and how to enrich sentences with a partner, they gain confidence to develop their own work.  Thinking together, they develop the skills to later work alone. (See the related blog ‘Young Writers: Enriching Sentences’ at


  1. Purposefully seat children who want to copy from the board where it’s easy to see. This shows them that copying is allowed. Yes, some children may copy everything with no rhyme or reason. They are happy just to be writing! Over time, as they hear other children share, they will also ‘catch’ the writing process. Trust.


  1. Encourage enriching their sentences. Teach them about adding a descriptive word or a phrase. At the end of writing time, ask if anyone has enriched one of their sentences and will share.


  1. Be available to copy a sentence for the child laboring to write. For instance, write the introductory sentence for them, and let them choose, along with the teacher, which sentence they will copy next. This takes a lot of pressure off.


  1. Spelling. As they call out a word, write it on the board. (See blog, ‘Improve That Spelling’)


VIGNETTE.   A fifth grade class was learning techniques to help others improve their writing. The students practiced giving suggestions with a piece the teacher had written.  As time went on, they contributed their own writing. One girl held back. Her success in writing was low.  After watching other children have their work improved by their classmates, she reached that day when her hand waved, and she said, “I want my story on the overhead. I want to hear what I can do to make it better.”  Listening to her classmates’ ideas, finding out how the improvement process worked, she became willing to join in. (See blog Improve Writing with Student Critiquing )


Trust the learning process.

Expand a Lesson from 15 to 45 minutes!

Have you ever faced a lesson too short for the time allotted?  This technique involves the students from the beginning and to the end of the lesson.

Begin by challenging the students to contribute to the overview. Next, present the topic/show the film/read from the book, or have the students read the assignment. At the end of the class time, the students share the ideas that relate to the overview. Summarize what is learned. The following is an example of how this process works.


VIGNETTE A substitute for the music class found there was only a 15-minute video on Bach for a forty-five-minute class. “What do I do for the rest of the time?” she pleaded. I knew next to nothing about Bach. This teaching process was shared.

I suggested that she put the words ‘Bach’s Life’ in the middle of the board. Then put a key question at the top: “What can be learned about Bach’s life?” *

Next, I told her to ask the students to contribute key ideas – write them evenly spaced around ‘Bach’s Life.’ The ideas included – where born; when born; parents; marriage; famous for; problems; when died. The open-ended question kept them focused. About ten minutes was enough time to so this.

While watching the video, she asked the students to record keys words/facts.

At the end of the video, she asked for their answers and recorded the keywords on the board. As time ran out, the students just said their answers.

With three minutes left of the class, the substitute teacher asked a summary open-ended question, “Why do we remember Bach today?” and that was the end of the lesson. When the class was over, they still had ideas to contribute.

Success was in the process, and by using this process the teacher succeeded.



  • This diagram has many names. ‘Concept map’ and ‘mind map’ are two.