How to Study a Foreign Language

studying foreign language

I love your post about taking notes from a textbook, however I’m currently taking Spanish and the book isn’t set up in paragraphs.  Any tips on how to study a foreign language?

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It can be frustrating to study a class/subject that isn’t set up the “traditional” way. For example, we get used to textbooks being set up like a hierarchy with heading and subheadings. On the other hand, foreign languages are more about acquisition and proficiency of the language than they are about learning information.

Foreign Language textbooks tend to focus on grammar rules, conjugating verbs, etc. BUT they don’t always teach you HOW to speak the language.

Another thing that’s weird about  language is the vocabulary terms. For example, the vocabulary terms are usually pretty random and not necessarily what you would need in day-to-day life. I’ll never forget a Spanish class I had my freshman year when my teacher had us saying sentences from the textbook, like “Necesito  mochila” (I need a backpack). We were in tears laughing because they were so random!

Language acquisition happens for us in other languages the same way that it happens in our primary language. How did you learn the language you speak now? You listened to others speak it, you read short children’s books, you played games where you matched 3-letter words to pictures. Learning a foreign language is very similar to teaching yourself Kindergarten!

High Frequency Verbs

In Kindergarten, we teach High Frequency Words. These are words that appear most frequently in the Engligh language: words like a, to, the, are, you, is, etc. Similarly, Terry Waltz came up with the idea of teaching the seven most common verbs first, so that you can create more sentences that you might actually use. Here are the “Super 7” for Spanish:

1. está (is at a place / is feeling)

2. hay (there is / there are)

3. tiene (has)

4. es (is)

5. le gusta (likes / is pleasing to) 2

6. va (goes / is going)

7. quiere (wants)

Read: Study Tips for High School Students

Keep a Notebook

First, track what you’re learning in a notebook, and be sure to use a pencil! Color-coded notes may not work as well for foreign language like they would for science. Next, dedicate different sections of your notebook to what you learn about grammar rules and vocabulary. Finally, give yourself the challenge of writing 10 sentences for every new vocabulary word you learn.

Related: 4 Rules for Effective Studying

Give Yourself Homework

I’m sure your professor gives you homework but is it effective? In college, I always found it easier to teach myself than to try to learn from a professor (no offense, professors!). For example, ordering a simple workbook that’s designed for elementary Spanish-speaking students would be a great (and kind of fun) way to apply and practice what you’re learning!

You might also like: Crash Course in Visual Note-Taking

Use Google Translate

Throughout your day, what sentences do you find yourself saying over and over again in your primary language? Things like, “Do you want to go to…” “Would you please hand me a…” “What time do you want to…” As you start to recognize your recurring sentences, just Google the translation and practice saying that. Likewise, you can also record it on your Voice Memos app to help you remember in the future.

Read: How I Color Code My Notes

Practice!

Foreign languages are all about growing your vocabulary, practicing fluency, learning to read, and practicing correct grammar rules. These are all the things you did in Kindergarten! Don’t just do something once then move on to the next chapter. Keep practicing and applying what you’ve learned! I even used to have the “Siri” voice on my navigation app turned on in Spanish so that I would have to actively listen and comprehend basic instructions (and I only got lost a few times). As a result, my listening comprehension improved and I was able to differentiate between words more easily!

Related: How to Take Better Class Notes

In short, the more you practice, the better you will be! And don’t forget to keep practicing even after you finish this class. Foreign languages are a real “adult” skill that will benefit you for the rest of your life!

How to Organize Your Life in College

“We continue the way we start.” -Gretchen Rubin

Let’s create a time map for your first semester of college!

If you’re starting college next semester, chances are you are feeling INCREDIBLY nervous about this time.

Partly a good, I’m-so-excited, everything-is-going-to-be-so-much-fun, kind of nervous.

And partly an, oh-my-gosh-I-am-going-to-be-Responsible-for-feeding-myself-and-keeping-my-living-space-clean-and- waking-up-on-time-and-getting-things- done-all-by-myself kind of nervous.

Both are normal.

Both are fine.

You SHOULD be feeling this way!

But how DO you make sure that you get up on time every day, have reasonably healthy meals, get all of your work done, do your laundry, and everything else that comes along with being independent and on your own?

Two things: Time management and habits.

Those two concepts are basically married. You can’t have good time management without good habits, and you can’t form good habits without good time management.

So, where do you start? This is kind of a chicken and egg debate, but personally, I would start with the time management.

STEP 1: SCHEDULED TIME COMMITMENTS

Create a Time Map

Start by creating a weekly “time map.” Open Word or Excel and create a table or spreadsheet. If you’re creating a table, you’ll want it to be 8 columns x 33 rows for 30-minute increments or (if you’re a SUPER detailed person like *ahem* me) 8 columns by 65 rows for 15-minute increments. SIDE NOTE: Please check the math on that 🙂 You are just creating 2-4 rows per hour.

Limit Your Active Hours

However, you are purposefully going to leave eight hours out of your day. Try NOT to schedule anything outside of those rows. Of course, there will be events here and there that you don’t want to miss… that’s not what I’m talking about. Don’t schedule SCHOOLWORK for yourself outside of those hours. College is an easy time to work past midnight, but there is a time management rule that “work will expand to fit the amount of time.”

Tell your brain those sleeping hours are not even an option! If it thinks they are, you will get distracted more easily and procrastinate more. I PROMISE this is true. If you need to get it done, you can do it in the 16 hours of your waking day. I’ll show you how!

Add in Your Class Schedule

If you already have your class schedule, or if you have a job and you already know the hours you will need to work, or if you cheer or play softball or are on the golf team, and you know you will practice at a consistent time every day/week, go ahead and add in those times.

Add in Travel Time

Go ahead and block out some time for getting ready and travel time to get to your location. One of my biggest mistakes during my early years of college was scheduling my activities where they bumped right up against each other. Add in time to change clothes, find a parking space, will hit a bunch of red lights on your way there, be REALISTIC about the time it takes to get to each place!

Read: Tips for Balancing Grad School and Real Life

STEP 2: HEALTH TIME

Ok, so now that you have your commitments + get ready/travel time scheduled in, let’s look at what you truly need to live a healthy life. Physical needs come first. It’s hard to train your brain to think this way because there is little accountability for physical needs. No one else really knows if you ate Oreos for dinner, didn’t drink enough water, or only slept four hours last night.

YOU are usually the only one who knows and, a lot of times, the only one who cares. You have GOT to take care of your body. Buy your groceries intentionally. Find a few things that are the perfect balance of cost-effective and healthy, and stick to buying those items consistently.

Eating consistently in college was a HUGE challenge for me and, as a result, I fainted in not one, but two public places. YOU DO NOT WANT TO FAINT IN PUBLIC. I once fainted at the airport from not eating, but before I actually passed out, I was literally crawling on the floor because my body was too weak to do anything else. Talk about embarrassing.

Don’t put your body last. Take the time to eat and drink consistently. Take the time to get outside and walk/run every day, even if it’s just across campus. The more you take care of your body, the more focused your brain will be and the better your grades will be 🙂

Related: What to Carry in Your Backpack for College

STEP 3: “ADULTING” TIME

First of all, let me say that I kind of hate the term “adulting.” BUT I can’t find a better way to describe this stuff, so… “adulting” it is! OK, on your time map, you should now have times blocked out for your concretely-scheduled commitments and anything pertaining to your health. Next up, think about what you need to do to keep your home and life running. These are all the things that fall under the term “adulting.”

For example, paying your electricity bill, vacuuming your carpet, scheduling doctor appointments, taking out the trash, putting gasoline in your car, etc. Schedule these things in so that you can keep your life up and running. They are usually things that don’t take long but are kind of boring tasks.

I love the idea that Gretchen Rubin presents in Better Than Before of having a “Power Hour” once a week. On your least busy day of the week, schedule in one hour to power through your to-do list. This hour should NOT include studying, working, or exercise. It is 100% dedicated to errands, to-dos, tasks, phone calls, and other things that you tend to procrastinate.

Make a list to power through and set a timer for one hour. When the timer goes off, stop and resume with your normal life. During next week’s Power Hour, pick up where you left off 🙂

Read: Best College Habits

STEP 4: SOCIAL TIME

Your time map should have your scheduled commitments, health, and adult life things all scheduled in. Next up, make sure that you have about three social activities scheduled in. You are your own judge of this. If you are someone who tends to blow off studying to hang out with friends, then limit your social engagements so you have more time for studying.

If you are someone who naturally tends to spend more time alone, try to schedule at least three social times for the week, even if it’s just grabbing a cup of coffee and chatting for a few minutes with a classmate after class. It’s obviously not going to happen at the same time each week, but try to make sure you get out with friends 3 times each week!

Social relationships are SO important and you need them in college! Use your own judgment for this because everyone is different, but ensure that you have enough time to study, too! You need to balance both.

Related: How to Stay Organized in Online Classes (Tips from an Expert)

STEP 5: STUDY TIME

Get a “Study Planner”

I bought a cheap planner from Target so that I could completely designate it to study time. I called it my “study planner.” In that planner, I wrote all of my due dates for assignments. This way, you can scribble in all of your reading assignments without feeling like it’s too cluttered!

Plan Backward

Then, I planned backward… two days before an assignment was due, I would write something like “reread and final edit of ___ paper.” Three days before that, I would write “add citations to ___ paper.” I would keep planning backward and adding small, bite-sized tasks for big projects. About two weeks ahead, I would just write something (very low priority) like, “think about a topic for ___ paper” or “jot down ideas for ___ paper.”

By planning backward, I was able to think of the steps that I would need to complete for this assignment and then give myself a deadline to have each individual step complete. This kept me from just writing something broad like, “Write ___ paper” and procrastinating until the night before it was due. This also gave me control over the amount of time I needed to not feel rushed or stressed about assignments.

Plus, this allows you to just open your study planner and see a color-coded prioritized study list in front of you; no thinking about where to start. Set a timer and power through it! Schedule “study time” on your time map, then work from your prioritized list.

Read: How to Get Better Grades in College

STEP 6: HOBBY TIME

Now that you have your health, adulting, school/work, and social things in place, you can include fun on your time map 🙂 This includes any hobbies/interests that you have. Keep in mind that this will probably receive the smallest amount of scheduled time, and will most likely be the first thing that you cut out on busy weeks… but THAT IS OKAY. This is your lowest priority for now.

Include downtime things like reading for fun, painting, social media, volunteering, etc. In my life right now, this would include Junior League, this blog, or Instagram. Those are things that I love, but they’re also just for fun. They aren’t paying my bills, helping my health, or the health of my family.

When there is time to do these things, that’s great… but I’m also not going to freak out if I have to go a week without social media or if I have to pass on a couple of Junior League events. When my life calms back down, I’ll get back to those things. You can’t treat everything like a top priority. Decide now what can be the first to go and follow through on that decision when your time gets limited (which it will)!

Related: How to Prepare for a New Semester

STEP 7: ASSESS & ADJUST

Now that you’ve got everything in place, go back to your time map and look at how much blank space you’ve got in your week! Fill in the white boxes accordingly. I will really, REALLY encourage you to block out boxes for “social media” under “hobby time.”

Did you know the average American spends over 2 hours a day on social media?! That’s a full block of study time! Of course, you can learn so much from Instagram and YouTube… it’s not all mindless scrolling. But try to set boundaries so you don’t feel stressed later!

Read: How to Set and Follow Study Goals

I would love to see your time map once you’ve got it completed! You can share it on Instagram with the hashtag #organizedcharm, or describe it below! 🙂

What time management strategies do you use? What are your priorities 1-5?

Forming Good Habits is Easier Than You Think. Start with These 3!

“Keeping up is easier than catching up.” -Gretchen Rubin
productivity tips, how to start good habits, organization blogs, time management

I love this quote. In her book, Better Than Before, Gretchen Rubin talks about habit formation. In this quote specifically, she discusses how it is easier to form good habits by doing small tasks each day to “keep up,” rather than setting aside all of the tasks for the end of the week and then “catching up.”

Here are some examples:

1. Cleaning out your Purse/Backpack/Car

This is sometimes one of the hardest things to do. Sometimes I let a little receipt or paper go here or there. Then another, and before I know it when I pull out my wallet at the grocery store, a dozen tiny papers come fluttering out all over the floor. This is called the Broken Windows Theory- when we start letting little things go, they lead to bigger things.

To form the good habit of keeping your purse/backpack clean, designate a day week to clean it out. Make it a point to not let anything that would be considered trash or clutter build up in these places! Remind yourself that it is easier to take a few seconds to throw that receipt in the trash, or bring that empty water bottle to the recycling now than it is to set aside time to clean out your purse, backpack, or car.

2. Clothes

A few weeks ago, I wrote about developing a system for keeping your closets organized long-term. It can be hard to form good habits when it comes to our closets! Short-term organization requires a setting aside a day to make everything look neat and orderly, only to have it end up sloppy and cluttered again two months from now.

Long-term organization requires setting up a system and using self-control/habits to maintain it. People often get frustrated with short-term organization, because they can’t maintain the beautiful environment they’ve created. I said all that to say this, put your clothes away (closet, dresser, or laundry) every time you change 🙂

3. Clear to Neutral

Form the good habit of Clear to Neutral and your life will be SO MUCH MORE ORGANIZED!! This is another topic I’ve written an entire post about. “Clear to Neutral” is one of my favorite systems. Basically, it means to leave each space the way that you want to find it next time. When you finish working on your laptop, make sure it’s charged for the next time you use it, close any documents/websites you have open, and put it away (either on the charger or wherever it lives).

This way, the next time you need to work on it, you can get straight to work without needing to rummage around for the charger or getting distracted by the windows you left open on it last time.

productivity tip, good habits, Gretchen Rubin, Gretchen Rubin quotes, productivity

Forming good habits can be hard and it takes time. People used to think it took 21-28 days to form a new habit, but recent research is showing it’s closer to 66!

Baby steps lead to progress. Just starting these three habits TODAY, you can make sure that your life is more orderly and organized. My favorite app for habit formation/tracking is called Productive. It allows you to create a habit, specifying how often and what time of day you want to do it. Then it gives you a recurring to-do list of your habits every day. It shows you data on each habit, and how many “perfect” days you have 🙂

What are some baby step habits that make you feel more efficient and put-together? Share them in the comments below! Be sure to follow @organizedcharm on Instagram for more productivity tips! And if you’re interested in reading Better Than Before, check it out below!

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13 Surprising Statistics About Teaching

Hi Kirsten! I am a freshman in college and am an elementary education major. I am trying to decide which grade I want to teach, and I want to learn more about the whole process! 


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What a great question and super exciting time of life!

I knew from the beginning that I wanted to teach Kindergarten. I had the advantage of working at a tutoring center during high school and getting to interact with elementary students of all grade levels. The Kindergarteners were always my favorite! They were sweet, funny, and happy to be there. I just always knew that, if I became a teacher, that would be my grade.

But it’s not always that easy for teachers. Many teachers take a job teaching a grade they don’t necessarily want to teach, just to get their foot in the door with a school. Lots of teachers soon find out that they love that grade more than the one they thought they wanted to teach! And many other teachers shuffle around to different grades throughout their careers. You just never know how it will work out 🙂

If you’re someone who is interested in becoming a teacher, here are some “real talk” statistics that your professors may not mention.

1 | Teachers spend an average of $500 of their own money on classroom supplies

Source: National Center for Education Statistics

This is so true. When I worked in public school, we were given a stipend of $100 for our classrooms. ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS. Some of the teachers at our school literally spent thousands of dollars over the course of the year. Why? You love your kids. You want them to have an inviting classroom to learn in, adequate supplies, and engaging learning activities. For most teachers, this money is spent with an attitude of love, not resentment. The good news? Almost anything you buy for school is tax deductible, so create a system to help you SAVE THOSE RECEIPTS!

2 | Teachers work an average of 50 hours per week

Source: National Education Association

Teacher hours are usually coveted by people in the “regular” workforce. The breaks, holidays, and early dismissal. I’ve got to admit, especially now that I’m a mom, those breaks are invaluable! The lines between working and not working are usually pretty blurred for teachers. Even when you’re not in the building, you’re emailing parents, looking up ideas, prepping materials, lesson planning, etc. The great thing about this job is that it is SO personal and SO creative. Because no two teachers are the same, it is easy to feel passionate about what you’re doing! For that reason, work doesn’t always feel like work. It’s always new and exciting and different!

3 | About 30% of teachers have a second job

Source: Brookings

It’s no secret that the pay for teachers is not great. Public school systems typically pay more than independent schools, so if money is a priority for you, you probably want to go public. Not all teachers who have second jobs do it just for the money, though. You have to take into account that selling on Teachers Pay Teachers or Etsy would be considered a “second job,” too. Also, keep in mind that teachers sometimes get bored over summer or on breaks. It’s nice to have a side hustle or something productive to do with your time! Personally, I tutor outside of school hours and host a couple of summer camps. The flexibility teaching provides is great!

4 | More than 91% of teachers report purchasing basic necessities for students

Source: Huffington Post

Depending on where you teach, your students may need financial assistance from time to time. This is 100% NOT expected or obligatory. As you get to know your kids and their families, you may want to step in and cover a field trip admission or buy food for a student to take home over the weekend. Your students become YOUR kids and you never want to see them left out or in need. It’s always a case-by-case basis when you decide to help out a student in need. This sounds so cheesy, but your heart will guide you if you run into this kind of situation.

5 | 88% of people say a teacher had a positive impact on their lives

Source: ING Foundation Survey

Most people you know could easily tell you the name of their favorite teacher growing up. I can’t even tell you how many “I love yous” and “You’re the bests” I hear from my students throughout the day. Your kids will LOVE you and look up to you. They will draw you pictures and value your opinion and pretend to be you on the playground ( well, maybe not the teenagers 😉 ). You’ll talk about your students to anyone who will listen. Your spouse/roommate/mom will know your students by name, even if they’ve never met them! When you send your kids off to the next grade, you’ll tell the new teacher “You better take care of ___, he/she’s my baby!”

6 | Teachers work an average of 400+ hours of overtime each year

Source: EdTech

Every teacher has their own individual work style when it comes to this. Personally, I like to show up 45 minutes early each morning. That gives me time to set up my room, think about the flow of the day, prep, lesson plan, email, and just do anything that needs to be done. At the end of the day, I usually try not to stay any longer than 30 minutes. There’s always more to do, but I set a timer and leave when it goes off. In addition to the school day, there are sometimes nighttime events, like open houses, parent-teacher conferences, and other special events. Weeks with these events can be exhausting, but they can also be fun because they bring you and your team a lot closer!

7 | 75% of first-year teachers say they were well-prepared for their instructional duties

Source: National Institute of Educational Statistics

The Professional Developments can be SO overwhelming your first year! Your district will have you attending so many different seminars, workshops, lectures, orientations, in-services, and classes that you won’t know what to do with yourself. And EVERYTHING has an acronym. I once attended an entire seminar on some new initiative called CLIP, and when I left, I still didn’t even know what CLIP stood for! The good news is, the things that you learned will start to make sense once you have an opportunity to apply them. The bad news is, you will feel like you are drowning in PDs your first year. Just stick with it… it will get better!

The average student-teacher ratio in America is 16:1

8 | The average student-teacher ratio is 16:1

Public School Review

This is actually a great ratio! Where I live, in Tennessee, the maximum class size for Kindergarten is supposed to be 25. However, my roster hovered around 28-30. Be prepared, if you teach in a lower-income area, that several of your students may drop from your roster without warning. This is caused by unstable living environments, where families may move from one relative’s house to another throughout the school year. The size of my class varied from week-to-week. Now that I’m teaching in an independent school, my school’s student-teacher ratio is 9:1. This is one reason many parents choose independent schools when they can.

56% of teachers have a Master's Degree or higher

9 | 56% of teachers have a Master’s Degree or higher

Source: National Center for Education Statistics

I am represented by this statistic, as well as most of the teachers I know. In my job search process, it seemed like the #1 thing administrators cared about you having was a certification. Even with a Master’s Degree, it was virtually impossible for me to get hired until they knew I had taken all of my certification exams. BUT if it comes down to two certified teachers, having a higher education degree will likely put you ahead. A lot of teachers choose to attend grad school WHILE they are teaching. It’s important to remember that teachers are lifelong learners who are always looking to improve and grow!

43% of teachers sleep less than six hours a night

10 | 43% of teachers sleep 6 or fewer hours per night

Source: Ball State University

If you follow a lot of teacher accounts on Instagram, you’ll see that there is a LOT of talk about being tired and a lot of love for coffee! Why don’t teachers get enough sleep? According to a recent Gallup poll, the average American gets 6.8 hours of sleep… so none of us are doing a great job of sleeping. For teachers, there is work that comes home with you. Factor in commutes to work, and the responsibilities of home and kids, and it’s easy to see how it can be hard to get enough sleep. In fact, only 48% of moms sleep 7+ hours per night (regardless of their career). We’ve just all got to learn to prioritize our health, regardless of our circumstances.

the average public school teacher salary is $58,000

11 | The average public school teacher salary is $58,353

Source: National Education Association

In Tennessee, it’s about $10,000 less than that. But you can make more depending on your test scores, seniority, and observation scores. According to Chron.com, the average for private school teachers is $36,250. The decision between public and private is one of time vs. money. Private schools aren’t held to the intense state-testing standards that public schools are. As a private school teacher, you can usually leave work earlier, have more control over your content, and there is far less paperwork. Personally, the work-life balance and positive relationships with admin that private school provides are worth the pay difference for me.

83% of teachers teach for 10 years or longer

12 | 83% of teachers stay in the profession for 10 years or longer

Source: Washington Post

It’s very rare that you run across an educator who hates his/her job. If this job is not for you, will find out in the first five years. Teaching is too demanding for someone who is not passionate about it. Most teachers are happy to spend their own money, work the long hours, sit through the PDs, and all the other things that come along with teaching. It’s hard to explain because it sounds crazy! But when you love your job, you love all the hard things that come along with it. You embrace it, make light of it, and find teammates to encourage and be encouraged by. It’s kind of like how college life is exhausting but fun at the same time. There is so much joy in teaching. Just make sure to keep a positive attitude!

98% of Americans believe a good teacher can change a student's life

13 | 98% of Americans believe that a good teacher can change a student’s life

Source: ING Survey

This is something that keeps a lot of teachers running. There is so much appreciation felt by Americans toward teachers. When I tell people what I do, the first thing most of them say is, “It takes a special person to be a teacher. I could never do that!” Guess what? They are right! It is a difficult job that requires a lot of patience, perseverance, and passion. If you are called to be a teacher, YOU ARE A SPECIAL PERSON. You are willing to care for other people’s children like they are your own. You think about them on the weekends, over breaks, and even years later. You will maintain relationships with some students and their families for a lifetime.

75% of job success depends on your optimism levels and your ability to see stress as a challenge instead of a threat

As you think about your future career as a teacher, know that it is one that requires a lot of heart. BUT most teachers couldn’t imagine doing anything else. It is not a career driven by money or status, but it is a career driven by passion. Most educators feel that teaching is truly a calling, and that is why it’s so hard to “turn it off” at home. Teaching is personal. Your kids are YOURS for a whole year, and you do whatever it takes to help them succeed 🙂

No matter what grade you end up teaching, you find the perfect grade, school, teaching team that works for you. And once you do, you will know why people say that teaching is the greatest job on the planet!

What advice do you have for education majors/first-year teachers? Or, if you are an education major/first-year teacher, what questions/concerns/worries do you have?!


Follow Organized Charm on Facebook and Instagram for classroom inspiration! 

5 Steps to Keep Your Closets Organized

Everything in my house is organized. Totally and completely organized. The bookcase in the office? Organized. The shelves in the laundry room? Organized. The kitchen cabinets? Yep, you can look there. They’re organized (for now). 

But then there are *dun dun dun* the closets. 

Closets are a blessing and a curse at the same time. On one hand, they give us a place to store our stuff. On the other hand, they give us a place to store tons of stuff that we don’t need and a place to hide it away so we never have to deal with it. 

My house is about a century old, and it only has four closets. One in each bedroom, and one in the laundry room. Out of those four, I only feel like one of them is functional. The other three? Traps for junk, like things I’m planning to donate or things that just don’t have another home. 

Is this a problem for you, too? 


This post can show you how to organize your closets and keep them organized over time! Say hello to the CHARM system! 

The CHARM System:


C– Start with a Clear Goal
H– Adjust your Habits to align with your goal
A– Take Action
R– String your habits together into Routines
M– Have a Positive Mindset

Step #1: Envision a Clear Goal for Each Closet


On a piece of paper, write a heading for each closet in your house, even if you feel like it’s already being used efficiently. Next, set a timer for a minute and write down how you envision each closet being used. If you need some help, just close your eyes and visualize your perfect life, where everything is clean and everyone is happy. You are totally efficient, look completely fabulous, and everyone in your life is happy. 

In that scenario, how do you envision yourself coming into your home? Where do you put your things? What do you see when you open each of those closets? Include any containers, shelving systems, etc. that you envision. Remember to include how often you see yourself cleaning out each closet in your perfect world 🙂 

Here are my goals for each closet:

Master Closet: Categorized by clothing type and category. Organized with a chronologically rotating system. Aligns with Stylebook App. 

Laundry Closet: Holds all cleaning supplies. Also holds unusual items- Halloween costumes, etc. in neat containers. Bin for items to be donated quarterly. 

Office Closet: Holds outdoorsy stuff, like the stroller, workout equipment. Everything is organized and in its place. Cleaned out every 6 months. 

My Son’s Closet: Out of season clothes kept on the top rack. Shoes on the top rack. Blankets and toys stored on side shelves. Large toys at the bottom. 

(Want to create a minimalist wardrobe that reflects your personal style? This post will help you!)

Step #2: Form Good Habits


Now that you have that down on paper, think about what daily habits you would need to create to keep your goal a reality. I’m not talking about “Go to Home Depot and buy a shelving system.” I’m talking about consistent things like putting your clothes away at the same time of day. Here are the habits I’ll need to get into to keep my closets looking the way I want them.

Set your timer for one minute and write down how you see yourself “interacting” with each closet (it sounds crazy, but I promise it works!). 

Here are the habits I need to form to achieve the goal:

Master Closet: 
-Document everything in Stylebook every day. 
-When I come home each day, put clothes away immediately- behind other clothes in that category. 
-Every 3 months, re-evaluate items not worn. 

Laundry Closet:
-Put items to donate in “Donate” Bin as notice them. 
-Donate to Junior League every three months. 

Office Closet:
-Keep free of office clutter. This is not a home for old notebooks. 
-Identify the things you want to keep and create a new home for them. 

Cash’s Closet: 
-Put big toys (activity table/balance bike) in here nightly. 
-Organize his smaller toys by type and in bins on shelves. 
-Switch out bins weekly. 

Step #3: Take Action


Now that you’ve identified your Clear Goal and Target Habits, it’s time to take action. This is where you get to run to Home Depot and buy that shelving system! Think about what kinds of containers you want. Don’t settle for the first containers you find either, look around and find EXACTLY what you want! The size, the color. What you want exists somewhere, and you won’t feel happy with your closet if you use ill-fitting containers. 

Once you have everything you need, it’s time to actually organize the closet! I am a big fan of this and I kind of look forward to doing it. Turn on all the lights in the room where you are working, get some water, play some music, and take every. single. thing. out of your closet. Everything.

Also Read: 5 Rules for Simplified Style: Get Your Closet Under Control!

We dread cleaning out closets because it’s work. However, once we’ve taken everything out, putting things back into the closet becomes the work. You are far less likely to expend energy putting things you don’t love back into the closet. You may even find that you only loved about 20% of the things in your closet, and you were just keeping the rest because you didn’t want to go through the work of cleaning it out! 


So start with the things you love the most. If you were packing to leave town for a hurricane, and you knew there was a chance you might never see some of these things again, what would you choose to take with you? Think with that mentality. No excess. 

(Related: Creative Storage Solutions for Closets)

Once you’ve gotten those things hung back up in your closet, set a limit of some sort. It could be 20 hangers or everything you can fit in one bin. Be ruthless as you slowly decide which things to add back in. And once you’ve hit your limit, donate the excess that was hiding in your closet! This works for clothes, toys, books, blankets, whatever you’re storing in your closets. 

Most closet organization posts would stop there. You’ve done the hard work. You’ve got a nice, clean closet. You’re done, right? 

Well… organizing your closet and keeping your closet organized is kind of like losing weight and keeping it off. It’s great if you do it all at once and it looks great afterward. But if you don’t change your daily routines, it won’t last. This is where Step # 4 comes in…

Step #4 comes in: Develop Consistent Routines


Look back at your habits. This is the time that you need to use a little discipline and set those habit into motion. One of my habits was to hang up my clothes as soon as I get home. When I get home from work, it’s so easy to leave clothes on the floor for “just a few minutes” while I get water, or pick up my son. But when I do that, I’m not respecting the goal that I set for myself. 

If you tell yourself that you’re going to do something, do it. If you let yourself slack off a little here and there, eventually, you’ll find yourself right back where you started, being stressed about all the excess junk lurking in your closets. Focus on creating one habit for a month, then another one. Eventually, you’ll be able to string your habits together into routines. The routines will keep you from having to have a “closet cleaning” day every year. 

It may seem silly to consciously think about closets, and create habits and routines for them. BUT every little thing we do throughout the day is made up of habits and routines. When we don’t put a lot of thought into them, we fall into bad habits or unproductive routines. However, if you DO put thought and purpose into them, you are one step closer to living the dream life that you envisioned! 

Related: Closet Cleanout Checklist

Step #5: Keep a Positive Mindset


Get into the mindset that you are an organized person, your closets are organized, and you don’t bring in clutter. One of the biggest ways we sabotage ourselves is by saying “I’m the most disorganized person ever,” or “my house is always a mess.” DON’T SAY THAT! When you get down on yourself and your messy house, guess how your house will stay? Messy! Find a relevant quote or two that you really like and think it to yourself when you’re looking through your closets. 

Here are a few of my favorites:

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” -William Morris


“The space in which we live should be for the person we are becoming now, not for the person we were in the past.” -Marie Kondo


“Life is too complicated not to be orderly.” -Martha Stewart


Take the time to put everything back where it’s supposed to go. Do it for your future self. Think about how much easier it will be to get ready for work in the morning if you don’t have to dig through a dresser drawer for something that wasn’t hung up correctly! According to Gresham’s Law of Planning, every minute spent planning saves you about 10 minutes in the future. 


So, even though it may be difficult for me to let my son cry for a minute while I hang up my clothes correctly, that helps me have a more efficient morning (which will lead to me having about 10 minutes to play with him before work)! 

Keep things like this in mind throughout your day! It may be a tiny decision now, but it will help you have a smooth getting ready time in the morning. And isn’t that totally worth it?! 

What systems have you tried to keep your closets clean and organized? How did they work? Share your experiences below! 


PS- This post was requested by a reader! You can request your own post here! 🙂 

Student Cubby Organization in My Classroom

Student cubbies can be a scary place.
I always feel like my students’ stuff is slowly creeping out of the cubbies to clutter up the rest of the room. 

 

A couple of years ago, I was cleaning out my kids’ cubbies and found a moldy orange that had clearly been hidden under papers for months

MONTHS, Y’ALL!
“If there’s one thing I get together next year,” I told myself “it will be the cubbies!”. 
And I have tried. I have really tried. I’ve come up with some systems that are making a difference. And luckily, I didn’t find any mold in last year’s cubbies, so I say that’s progress! Something that I think is so funny is that my former students will come by the room and say, “Who has my old cubby?” The cubbies are their own little personal spaces. I want them to feel as much ownership and responsibility over their cubbies as possible!  


Here’s how the student cubbies are organized in my current classroom:

 
Names
Of course, each child’s name is in the cubby. I found this cute little panda face clipart through the magic of Google. Then I copy and pasted it to a Word document and typed each child’s name. The font is Hello Firstie Big Gulp, and I LOVE it! 
I cut out the panda faces with the name and then glued them to black construction paper. Then I cut that into a circle and laminated. Voila! Cute little pandas looking at us all day 🙂 
 
Item Labels
Inside the cubbies, each one is labeled to remind the children where each item should go. I copied clipart and typed the labels in a Word document. Then printed them and laminated them, and used hot glue to glue them into the cubbies. This shows where each item goes. We keep lunch boxes, backpacks, raincoats, and a towel in each cubby.
Work Baskets
In the bottom of each cubby, the children have these colorful baskets. I originally purchased them from Really Good Stuff to use in the cubbies of my teacher shelf, but they were 1/4” too big. 1/4″! I was SO SAD, but I refused to return them. I knew I could use them for something! Finally, it hit me… they fit in the student cubbies and they could replace our current filing system. Now the kids put their work straight into their cubby basket.
Filing System
Speaking of our Filing System, here’s how it works: Each child puts his or her work into the basket in their cubbies all week. On Thursdays, we send home a “Thursday Folder” with all of the work. I call “Pink Baskets” and the kids with pink baskets put their work into their folders, and their folders into their backpacks and sit back down. Then I call another color. The parents empty the folder and return it on Friday. Then we start the process over again.
 
Baskets vs. Hanging Files
Last year, we used one of those metal hanging file cubes, and each child had a hanging file. It was a good system with two flaws: 
 
1. The amount of time wasted as the children stood in line and waited for their turn to file their work.

2. The amount of time it took for a teacher to transfer the work from the files to the folder.
If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s wasting time! This system also freed up prime real estate on a classroom shelf!
 
Where to Find Baskets:
  • These baskets are super durable (and pretty!), but they can be pricy.
  • Dollar Tree has some more affordable options (24 for $24, if you order in bulk from the website).
  • ELFA also has a container that would work well for this system on The Container Store’s website.
The colors aren’t as pretty as the ones from Really Good Stuff (all neutrals), but you could easily liven them up with cute tags or labels! I also wrote a post on the best places to find containers for your classroom… because I LOVE containers!
Cubby Inspector
Even with all of these labels/systems, the cubbies still manage to get messy. So I came up with the Most Organized Cubby award. The Cubby Inspector changes each week (I just rotate through the class list, so everyone has a fair turn). They inspect each cubby for 
  1. Lunch items to be inside a lunchbox
  2. Backpack to be zipped up
  3. All items to be in their designated locations with nothing hanging out of the cubby
Then they announce the Most Organized Cubby and give a Dojo point to the winner! Having them evaluate each other’s cubbies is also a sneaky way of helping them learn how to keep their own cubbies clean 🙂

And that’s how we keep our classroom cubbies somewhat organized!

This is what they look like at the end of a real school day. They still aren’t perfect (after all, it is Kindergarten), but everything is in its place, and that’s what matters most!

My parents visited my classroom for Grandparents’ Day last year. When they walked in they asked, “What have y’all been doing today?”. One of my little boys replied (in an exhausted-sounding voice) “Organizing!” He gets it 🙂

How do you keep your students’ cubbies organized (and prevent things from growing in them)? Any secret tips you would like to share? Post below so we can all benefit! 

Follow Organized Charm on Instagram

Classroom Tour

Some of you have expressed interest in seeing a tour of the classroom as a whole and how all of the systems and routines work together. Here we go…

Welcome to the Peppy Panda classroom! Let me show you around!

When each child arrives in the morning, they switch their attendance magnet in the hallway. 

Then they enter the room, greet the teacher, and begin their Sight Word Path. This is a sneaky way to monitor them as they review their Sight Words each day! After the Sight Word Path, they put their items in their cubbies (labeled to help them remember where to put everything!). 


Then they grab a journal page and sit down. (The writing checklists above are from One Sharp Bunch) After they finish their journal page, they clip it into their journals and sit down with a Library Book. 

When it’s time for Morning Meeting, we put the library books away and get started! If we do Morning Message (usually second semester), I simply tear off the giant sheet and post it to the bottom of the board using magnets. This still gives the children a chance to write on it, but it can be easily removed so we can use the board for other things, too!

During the first last Morning Meeting of the month, they “apply” for their new classroom job. They used to switch jobs each week, but it was difficult for them to remember who was the new Door Holder, or who needed to be turning out the lights? So they voted to keep the same job for a whole month. Now they fill out a monthly “job application” and get “paychecks” (Class Dojo Points) every Friday. 

On Friday mornings, they bring their Class Dojo hundreds charts to the carpet. I pull down the projector screen and display their Class Dojo points, and they fill them in. Then we talk about who earned what special privileges for the upcoming week!

Every day is a little different, but we usually do Morning Meeting, Calendar Math, and Everyday Math during this time. Then it’s time for snack and recess!

After recess, we start with a quick Open Court reading lesson and then jump into workshops. We post all of our current sight words and other skills on the whiteboard. At the end of the week, we move the sight word to our word wall on the cabinet doors. At the end of the month, we move our writing skill to our Writing Checklist near the student tables (where they write their journals every morning). 

When it’s time to explain workshops, the teacher helper and supply monitor take turns bringing the workshop buckets to the middle of the carpet. 

On the white board, we also have a turquoise pocket chart from Target where children can “sign up” to spend extra time working with the teacher. Believe it or not, they actually watch this board like hawks so they can add their names when a spot opens up!


The children then split up into their different workshop rotations, one of which is individualized instruction at my teacher table. You can read about that here. 

As each child finished his or her work, they either place it on the drying rack in the hallway, or in their “take home” basket in their cubbies. If they don’t finish, they put in the Ketchup Basket. When a child adds something to the basket, he/she puts a name clip on the edge so it’s easy to see who has catch up work!

On Thursdays, I hand out our weekly Parent Communication Folders to the children, and they go file their own work into the folders. Then they put it in their backpacks so it’s ready to go at dismissal! After workshops, we clean up our classroom and prepare for lunch, specials, rest, and second recess. 


Afternoon is usually the time we get last minute emails from parents about changes in transportation. We make sure that each child’s clothes pin is clipped onto the correct method of transportation. We also keep a schedule of our after school “enrichments” by the door, so we can keep up with who stays after school for what. 

That’s basically a tour of the Peppy Panda classroom and how everything is used! 

Let me know if you have any questions! 

How I Organize My Teacher Lesson Planner

This is our in-service week, which means planning for all the things!! In my post about My Lesson Planning Process, I explained how I plan each week. Today, I wanted to show you how I keep it all together! 

My lesson planners from last year and the year before

Every school is different. When I taught in public school, my daily schedule was extremely consistent (same thing at the same time everyday). All that changed was the “special” of the day). The Erin Condren lesson planner worked perfectly for me in this setting! 

When I switched over to private school, I bought another ECLP, only to abandon it halfway through September. 

I tried and tried to make it work. I really did. But our schedule was so different, it just wasn’t happening. 

I kind of floundered around for a few months when it came to planning, trying several different methods. Until finally (in January), it hit me! Just create your own! 

So that’s what I did. 

First I asked myself, what do I like so much about my EC Lesson Planner? Then I made a list of the sections that I absolutely cannot do without. They are:
  • Yearly Curriculum Map/Pacing Guide
  • Usernames/Passwords
  • Monthly Planning
  • Weekly Planning
  • PD Hours
  • Grading

Then I set out to make a sheet for each section that accomplishes the same purpose, but fits my needs: 

Yearly Curriculum Map + Yearly Checklist
There are a lot of great ones online, or you can create your own using Word or Pages (or Excel or Numbers, if you’re really talented). I just wanted a place where I could quickly look at a certain month and know what we’ll be doing.



Usernames/Passwords
You think you have a lot of usernames and passwords. And then you become a teacher. I can’t even tell you how many websites I have to log into (or log my students into) every day! It’s really helpful to be able to have all of that information in one place! Nothing really fancy about this 🙂 

Monthly Planning
Pretty straightforward. I downloaded these editable monthly calendars from Learning in Wonderland (one of my favorite teaching blogs!) so that I could type out and color code my monthly schedule. There are also tons of free monthly calendars available on Pinterest! And of course, you could always make your own! 





Weekly Planning Sheets + Weekly Checklist
This is the main part of my lesson planner! The weekly planning! I have talked before about how every day looks different at my school. We get to do a lot of exciting stuff (on top of whatever lessons are planned), and this helps me keep up with it all! Since teaching is a pretty cyclical profession, I print out this weekly checklist to help me stay on track!

PD Hours
Something that’s really unique about my school is that we’re responsible for keeping up with our own PD hours (versus public school, where they take attendance and report it). It’s great that they trust us enough to register our own hours, but I learned the hard way that if you don’t report all of your hours correctly, you’ll have to do them twice :/ I’m determined to never let it happen again! 
Grading
This is definitely my favorite part of my planner! Instead of giving weekly assessments to the whole class, I just test them on certain skills as they’re ready. At the top, I included every skill from their report cards (we have three a year). I leave the boxes under each skill blank until they’ve mastered it! Once a child masters a skill, I fill box with green. This is an easy visual that helps me see what skills we still need to work on as a class, and which skills individual students need extra support! 

*Lots of White = Reteaching skill to class/small group

*Lots of Green w/ a Couple of White Boxes = Working one-on-one with that specific child on that specific skill

These editable binder covers are a free download from Maria Gavin

And that’s my lesson planner! It may not be the world’s fanciest or most beautiful planner, but it helps me get my job done! 🙂 

What kind of lesson planner do you use? What do you like about it? What would you change about it?

To see my classroom in action, follow @organizedcharm on Instagram! 🙂

Flexible Long-Term Lesson Planning Solutions

I like to see things long term. 

I’m always asking pesky questions, like How does this fit into the big picture? What’s the end goal? and What color-coding scheme should I use? 

Lesson planning and I have a love/hate relationship. One one hand, I love planning August-May in a day! On the other hand, I hate having to mark things out and scribble the new plan next to them in my planner. 

Why can’t every day just go as I perfectly planned it in August? said every teacher ever. 

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over my years of teaching, it’s that a flexible planning process is key to keeping your sanity during the school year. Even if (especially if) it doesn’t come naturally. 

So today, I’m sharing my flexible planning process! 

Curriculum Map
One of the first things I did was create an overview for the year. I typed out a table with every month and what we covered in art, discovery, handwriting, math, reading, and writing. This is super helpful and easy to reference when planning longterm!

Workshop Ideas
Planning Workshops was probably the thing that took the longest time last year… so I wanted to get a head start on it over the summer! I created a table with our workshop dates going vertically (we do them every Monday-Wednesday), and the different workshops going horizontally (Daily 5). 

I cannot even tell you how helpful this was! I just typed out some ideas/activities in each box, and it was good to go! Of course, if I run across a better idea between now and then, I can just update it with the new activity! But I’m no longer building workshops from scratch anymore. There is something documented as a backup!


Lesson Plan Book
For the past two years, I have spent $60 on a new Erin Condren Lesson Planner, only to ditch it around fall break. I don’t know why, but I just struggle with using them for school! School planning is messy. Things get scribbled in, crossed out, moved, changed… I think it’s just stressful for me to see such a beautiful planner get destroyed by the fluidity of planning for an actual school year! 

SO, this year, I just bought a cheap one from Target ($3). I think I’m more comfortable using it because it’s not as pretty. (I know. I don’t even know who I am.) And get this… I do the planning with a mechanical pencil! It’s not even color coded! But it can be erased… and teaching Kindergarten (or any grade, for that matter) is all about being FLEXIBLE

Planning
For the actual planning, here’s the process: 

-I look at the Curriculum Map and plug in the concepts/topics we’re covering for each topic. 
-I look at the Workshop Ideas sheet and plug in the workshop activities

By using pencil, I can plan WAY ahead (like I like to do), but I can also erase and edit things if something comes up (which it always does). Each week, my Kindergarten team meets to plan for the next week. This meeting is where we discuss any upcoming school events, parties, crafts, etc. 

We try to stay aligned in our pacing, so we talk about which reading, math, and handwriting lessons we’ll teach and make sure we’re all on the same page. We also share ideas that we found on Pinterest came up with. Once this meeting of the minds is finished, I “lock in” my plans. Next, it’s time to type them up and make them look pretty! 


Typing Plans
After our meeting, our kids come back from P.E. for quiet reading/resting time. I use this to type the plans that are scribbled all over my cheap Target planner into a neat 1 page format. I print it out, hand a copy to my assistant, and we’re good to go for the next week!



And that’s how this non-spontaneous girl has forced herself encouraged herself to plan flexibly 🙂 

What strategies/tricks have you come up with to be a flexible planner? Have you found a way to keep your ECLP looking pretty until spring (or is it just a lost cause)? Share your planning process below! 

Follow @organizedcharm on Instagram for a ridiculous amount of planning updates 🙂

Ordering a Plum Paper Planner

I recently ordered my second Plum Paper Planner, which I am SO excited about!! For the past two years, I’ve been using Passion Planner (which I loved), but I was just ready for a change (and some color)!
The thing that originally drew me to Plum Planner was a glowing review from a good friend (who knows a lot about planners). She said she switched from the Erin Condren to the Plum Planner, and couldn’t be happier!
I finally decided I was ready to make the switch, too! So I went to the website, just to check it out. 

Buuuut I ended up ordering one! 

Here’s how the process went:

Designing the Cover

I LOVE it that you can choose your own cover design! I spent hours quite a while playing the game of “this one or this one” between the beautiful designs! After that, I added a monogram (yay!) and the year (school year, because #teacherlife).
Having a pretty cover was something I missed after two years of black Passion Planners. I so love the sleekness of PP, but I NEED ALL THE COLOR, PLEASE!

Choosing the Weekly Layout

This was, by far, my favorite feature! I LOVE all of the different layouts that are available for Plum Planner! I’m a vertical layout girl, but they also have horizontal layouts. Most planners stop at asking horizontal or vertical, but not Plum Planner!
Next, I needed to choose just how I wanted the days laid out: Did I want Morning, Afternoon, Evening? Did I want Hourly? Did I want Blank Columns? And then, I saw it… the most wonderful of all things planner-y: The ME Layout!
This layout allows you to add up to seven category of your very own to your planner! Perfect for keeping up with separate college classes or moms who have kids with busy schedules!
This is my favorite thing to see on a planner because it means it will work for anyone! I made it flexible for my upcoming work/maternity leave/work school year! I also used this feature to create a hybrid of all of my favorite planners!

Here are the seven categories I chose:

-Daily Focus: Like Passion Planner, a place for a step towards my goal.
-Cash: Our SON, who will be here in October! A place to track his progress and eventually schedule “Cash Care” when I go back to work.
-Morning: Appointments, deadlines, holidays, meetings, & school-related things.
-Afternoon: Checklists, cleaning schedule, errands, faculty meetings, & workouts.
-Evening: Baby to do’s, dinner, & Junior League events/meetings/obligations.
-Night: Baby stuff (feeding/sleeping patterns), Friend stuff (celebrations/dates)
(My husband made fun of including both “evening” and “night”, but I think they’ll be useful! We’ll see J)
-Best Things: Best things that happened each day!

UPDATE: I’m now on my second Plum Planner, and for this one I chose the hourly layout. It’s awesome, and I like it even more than the categories! 

Choose any add-ons

I just went with 10 note pages in the back of the planner (because I love lists!).
And that’s it! It was super easy (aside from making the decisions) and quick! I love how many times they let you re-check/preview your order before you place it! And I love the options for add-ons at the end (SO. MANY. CHOICES.)!
I started using it last August and I couldn’t be happier!! 🙂 

Have you tried Plum Paper Planner before? What did you love/not love about it? Also, and this is important, what kind of pens work best in it?! 

Follow Organized Charm on Instagram for planner pics and productivity tips!