How to Prepare Your Classroom for an Emergency

Our Education Blogger is a public school teacher with over a decade of experience. She’s an active NEA member and enjoys writing about her experiences in the classroom.


Emergency situations can happen any place and at any time.  Be sure your classroom is prepared for a variety of emergencies.


School Emergency Procedures

Be aware of your building’s emergency procedures, how often drills are practiced, and the expectations of teachers and students during such drills.  Your building should have protocols in place in the event of fire, tornado (in certain regions), earthquake (in certain regions), intruder, and medical emergencies.  Take time each month to review procedures with students.


Does your building have an AED (Automated External Defibrillator)?  All fifty states have laws or regulations requiring that AEDs be available in public gathering places, and in some states this means schools must keep and maintain AEDs.  Find out where the AED is located in your building.  If you haven’t been trained on how to use it, ask your administrator to arrange a time when staff can be shown how to use it.  If your building doesn’t have one, contact your administrator or school board.


Check your class lists to identify students with medical conditions.  If necessary, talk with your school nurse about what to do for these students in emergencies.  For more serious conditions, have a plan in place with the office and nurse if a serious medical event occurs.  In most situations, students with serious medical issues will have some sort of individual health plan (IHP) on file for your reference.  If a student who has an ongoing medical condition does not have an IHP, contact your building nurse who can get the process going if the family requests it.


If you haven’t been trained in first aid or CPR recently, ask your administrator or nurse to arrange training for staff.


Classroom Emergency Supplies

These classroom emergency supplies should be stored in the classroom in the event of a shelter-in-place situation due to an emergency or lockdown.  If your school does not furnish emergency supplies, ask your building’s parent teacher organization, a local Boy or Girl Scout troop, or even an area church, for assistance obtaining supplies.

  • bucket (can be used to store items, can also be used an emergency restroom)
  • tissues and toilet paper
  • baby wipes
  • disinfecting wipes
  • blankets or large towels
  • flashlight and batteries
  • hard candies
  • first aid kit with medical gloves and instruction manual
  • folder marked “confidential” with:
    • class list with student pictures
    • student emergency contact information
    • list of students with special needs and description of needs (i.e. medical issues, prescription medicines, dietary needs)
  • list of school emergency procedures
  • plastic bags or sheeting
  • work gloves
  • duct tape
  • masks
  • whistle
  • can opener
  • food
  • water (pouches or small bottles)
  • activities for students (cards, inflatable ball, travel games)

“Go Bag”

If your school doesn’t provide one, create a classroom “Go Bag” with necessities.  An old backpack works well.  Place or hang it near your classroom emergency exit.  The bag is meant as a portable supply kit if a building evacuation is necessary.  Recommended items include:

  • water pouches or small water bottles
  • first aid kit
  • whistle
  • baby wipes
  • disinfecting wipes
  • tissues or toilet paper
  • paper, maker, pencil
  • flashlight and batteries
  • list of school emergency procedures
  • activities for students (cards, inflatable ball, travel games)
  • folder marked “confidential” with:
    • class list with student pictures
    • student emergency contact information
    • list of students with special needs and description of needs (i.e. medical issues, prescription medicines, dietary needs)

Be sure to update your supply kits and bags yearly.  Replace any expired items and be sure each kit is properly stocked and stored.

Are you prepared for an emergency at school?  What emergency preparedness advice would you give fellow educators?  Leave your thoughts in the comment section!

Why Teachers Should Take Mental Health Days

Our Education Blogger is a public school teacher with over a decade of experience. She’s an active NEA member and enjoys writing about her experiences in the classroom.


Teachers are some of the sickest people I know.  And I don’t mean the modern slang definition of “sick” as in “super cool” (although teachers are really cool).  Because of the nature of our jobs, we are prone to illness, both physically and mentally.


When we have a physical illness, like bronchitis or the stomach flu, we take sick days to recover.  Mental health issues are no different.  If we don’t take time to address our mental well-being, work performance suffers, and the unaddressed illness can worsen.  Treat your mental well-being as you would your physical health.


When Should I Take A Mental Health Day?

According to Amy Morin, a psychotherapist and author of “How to Know When to Take a Mental Health Day” (Psychology Today, July 2017), there are a few instances when you should seriously consider taking a mental day:

  1. When you’re distracted by something you need to address
  2. When you’ve been neglecting yourself
  3. When you need to attend appointments to care for your mental health


What Do I Say To My Administrator?

Simple: “I don’t feel well enough to come to school.”  No need to lie or make up an excuse.  Just be honest.


What Do I Do On My Day Off?

Don’t sleep all day or spend hours watching TV, these can exacerbate any mental issues that may be going on.  Instead, connect with friends or family, go for a walk, read a book, or take a short nap.  If needed, take care of any pressing financial matters or accomplish important tasks you’ve been putting off.


Are Mental Health Days Considered Personal or Sick Time?

It depends on your employer.  Ideally, mental health should be considered a health issue, just as a physical illness.  However, many employers still don’t see it that way.  Ask your administrator what your district or building policy is regarding taking mental health days as part of your sick leave.  If you can’t take a sick day, consider taking personal time.


I am lucky to have an administrator who is empathetic and allows, and even encourages, teachers to use sick time to take mental health days.  He understands his teachers need to be in their best health in order to do their best job.


Taking a day off for mental for you mental well-being is essential to your overall health.  So, allow yourself to take day to recharge and regroup.



Morin, Amy. “How to Know When to Take a Mental Health Day.” July 12, 2017.  Psychology Today,




Teaching Financial Literacy: The Breakdown

Our Education Blogger is a public school teacher with over a decade of experience. She’s an active NEA member and enjoys writing about her experiences in the classroom.


Teaching financial literacy doesn’t have to be complicated!  We’ve got you covered with a breakdown of teaching financial literacy and helpful resources to get you started.


What is Financial Literacy?

Financial Literacy is the knowledge and skills needed to make informed decisions regarding financial resources.  It includes long-term planning skills and everyday use of personal financial literacy knowledge.


Why Should We Teach It?

Many young people lack the most basic of personal finance skills.  Students are entering “the real world” with little or no personal finance skills.  It is the job of educators to teach students to manage their money effectively.  In many states, personal financial literacy is a required standard.  However, it should be taught to all students, regardless of state requirements.  Students who are taught financial literacy skills are more likely to become financially responsible.


What Should I Teach?

Here are some topics to get you started: budgeting, saving, investing, credit cards, loans, interest, identity theft and safety.  You can find basic lessons for even the youngest of students.



Secret Millionaires Club – Warren Buffett’s Secret Millionaires Club is an animated series that features Warren Buffett as a mentor to a group of entrepreneurial kids whose adventures lead them to encounter financial and business problems to solve. The program teaches the basics of good financial decision making and some of the basic lessons of starting a business.

I Rule Money – I Rule Money gives teens the answers to questions about money in a voice they understand: their own. I Rule Money digs into important financial topics without lectures, boring scripts or complicated explanations. Just real teens explaining money matters to other teens in terms they can all understand.


Lesson Plans

Money As You Learn – Money as You Learn provides teachers with Common Core aligned texts, lessons, and tasks that connect the Common Core to real life applications while also equipping students with the knowledge needed to make smart financial decisions.

Scholastic – Adventures in Math: Real-world math and money activities for grades K-8. – CEE’s standards-aligned, active learning lessons provide step-by-step instructions and make your classes educational, engaging and fun.

Hands On Banking –  The Hands on Banking courses include free instructor guides with classroom lessons and activities that will help you guide students through real-life scenarios and group discussions to teach valuable financial skills.

Money As You Grow – A resource for parents and teachers with activities and tips.

My Classroom Economy – My Classroom Economy is a program that enables any educator to teach children financial responsibility through fun, experiential learning.  It’s a simple classroom economic system based on the idea that students need to earn school “dollars” so that they can rent their own desks. By bringing real-world scenarios into the classroom, students see the impact of their decisions to save, spend, and budget.  Everything you need to build a classroom economy is available on this site—for free.



Whats Up In Finance? – Games for grades 6-12. – Simulations, games, videos and other interactive resources make education fun and engaging for the 21st century learner.

Finance in the Classroom – Interactive games and activities for all grade levels.

Consumer Jungle – Learning about personal finance isn’t always a good time. Fear no more. With all of these games, learning about personal finance will be like taking a vacation to Disneyland. Alright, maybe not that exciting but they might be better than those lengthy lectures from Mom and Dad. The best part — you can search by topic or recently posted. Kinda cool, huh?

Practical Money Skills – Ready to get your game on? Test your money skills and give your brain a workout with these fun and educational games.

The Great Piggy Bank Adventure – The Great Piggy Bank Adventure® online is a virtual board game that educates kids and adults on the importance of wise financial planning. Kids will learn about important financial concepts and use these lessons to complete the game and achieve their dream goals. While The Great Piggy Bank Adventure® is designed for kids from ages 8 to 14, fun-loving adults are encouraged to play with their kids and get involved in their financial education.

Sand Dollar City – Sand Dollar City is an underwater adventure that teaches children ages 8 and up to sink or swim in this virtual world.  The story unfolds with your child being given the family‘s candy store.  The challenge?  Get the store out of debt while turning a profit and beating the competition.  It’s real life lessons of business while having fun learning!

The Fun Vault – Find educational money games that are fun and free to play.  The Fun Vault introduces kids ages 5 and up to money basics.


We want to hear from you!  In the comment section, let us know how you teach financial literacy in your classroom.

Our Favorite Winter Holiday Teaching Resources

Our Education Blogger is a public school teacher with over a decade of experience. She’s an active NEA member and enjoys writing about her experiences in the classroom.


It’s time to get your classroom into the winter holiday spirit!  Check out our favorite, educational, winter holiday videos, lesson plans, and games.



Kwanzaa (

Hanukkah (

Diwali – Festival of Lights (National Geographic via

Christmas Traditions Worldwide (

History of Christmas (

History of Christmas Trees (

Santa Claus (

New Year’s (


Lesson Plans

Celebrating Winter Holidays in the Classroom (

Holidays are a topic occupying the thoughts of children — and teachers — during much of the year, but especially during November and December. This theme can provide a wonderful opportunity to introduce students to customs and cultures that may be unfamiliar to them and to help them recognize festivals as communal celebrations of culture.


Winter Holiday Lesson Ideas (BrainPop Educators)

Lesson ideas for using BrainPOP to teach about holidays, winter holiday activities for kids, and winter holidays background information for parents and teachers.


Celebrate! Holidays and Festivals Around the World (

How are special days celebrated throughout the world? Every culture has its own special
traditions and reasons for celebrating and, in this project, students will learn how holidays and
festivals are celebrated all over the globe. Students will explore celebrations, traditions and
symbols related to a holiday or festival from their home countries and then investigate those from other parts of the world. In a culminating activity, students will share their information and create symbolic representations of their researched holiday from across the globe. This project is designed so that it can be done as a single classroom project with students collaborating in pairs or small groups and using various sources such as books, the internet and the ePals student forums for research, or, as a collaborative email-based project.


December Holiday Lesson Plans and Activities – Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah and More (

December is a month full of special days. Education World offers resources to help educators teach about all those special days. The resources include holiday lesson plans, holiday art and gift projects, and additional holiday resources.


December Holidays Lessons & Resources, Grades K-5 (

December Holidays Lessons & Resources, Grades 6-12 (

Celebrate the holiday season and learn how others celebrate with these lessons and resources for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Ashura, Pongal, and New Years.


Educational Games

Christmas Lights Math (
It’s time to put up the Christmas lights! But wait! Before you can put up the Christmas lights, you must correctly answer as many math problems as you can in one minute. You can practice addition, subtraction, multiplication or division facts. The more math problems you solve correctly, the more lights you will be given to decorate your house!


A Blocky Christmas (

A Blocky Christmas is a challenging holiday puzzle for kids grades four and up. Players must use the keyboard arrows to move the puzzle pieces into place.  There are sixteen levels of play!


Christmas Word Search (

Christmas Word Search is a fun holiday activity for children of all ages. Puzzles can be created two ways: a small grid with shorter words or a larger grid with longer words. This feature will allow younger children to enjoy the puzzles too! You can print or play online.


Sugar, Sugar Christmas (

The Christmas edition of Sugar, Sugar is a challenging logic puzzle with a physics twist and a holiday theme. Each level of the game is a puzzle that requires planning and strategy.


Factory Ball Christmas (

Factory Balls is a logic puzzle game that will challenge kids and adults. The object of Factory Balls is to create balls with designs that match the Christmas ball in each level.


Civiballs Christmas (

Civiballs Christmas is a challenging physics puzzle for kids of all ages! The object of the puzzle is to cut the chains and get the colored balls into vases of the same color. Trial and error will lead to solutions!


Holiday Fun (

Celebrate the holidays with PrimaryGames! Check out the large collection of holiday games, crafts, coloring pages, postcards and stationery.


Winter Holiday Games (

Free online Christmas and holiday Cool Math games.



7 Fresh, Meaningful Cooperative Learning Strategies

Our Education Blogger is a public school teacher with over a decade of experience. She’s an active NEA member and enjoys writing about her experiences in the classroom.


Tired of using the same cooperative learning strategies over and over again? Ditch think-pair-share and jigsaw and try some of these fresh, meaningful group learning methods.


Four Corners (

  1. Students are given four choices. 2. Students record their answers. 3. The teacher designates one corner for each choice. 4. Students travel to the appropriate corner. 5. Students pair up and discuss answers.  Check out these examples:

Just for Fun: What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?
Science: Provide students with four animals. They choose which one to represent then give 2 to 3 examples of the animal that they chose.
Math: Provide students with four angles: Straight, obtuse, acute, or right. They think of a real world object that includes the angle.
Language Arts: Students decide what season of the year they think is the best. Then support their opinion with details.
Reading: Decide on four genres you want students to focus on. After students pick their genre, they are to write the title of 2-3 examples they think fit the genre. Discuss in corner.
Social Studies: Give the name of four Native American Indian tribes. Students share what they wore, used as weapons, lived in, etc.


Cooperative Graffiti (
Another great brainstorming technique to try is cooperative graffiti. This strategy requires students to think about a topic and write down as many ideas as possible using different-colored pens. To start, divide students into small groups and give each group a large, butcher block piece of paper and a variety of colorful pens. Write down a broad topic on the front board, and on your command “Go!”, instruct students to write down as many ideas as they can that correlate with the topic you wrote on the board. Once the time is up (about 5-10 minutes), then have students try and organize their colorful ideas into categories.


Round Table or Rally Table (Oregon Department of Education)

These are simple cooperative learning structures that cover much content, build team spirit, and incorporate writing. The roundtable has three steps to it. In the first step, the teacher poses a question that has multiple answers. Step two, the first student in each group writes one response on a paper and passes the paper counterclockwise to the next student. Finally, in step three, teams with the greatest number of correct responses gain some type of recognition. This type of cooperative learning can easily be used in the science classroom. For example, the students may be asked to write as many reptile names as they can. At the end the group
with the most reptiles written down is rewarded.
(Example: A teacher displays a picture and asks what are various food chains found within the ecosystem of the picture. One student writes a food chain on a piece of paper then passes the paper to other members of the team for them to write a food chain that they see in the picture. Students continue to pass around the paper until the teacher stops the activity or until a group runs out of answers.)


Carousel (University of Albany)

In this activity, students are broken into groups of 3-4 and the teacher places chart paper around the room with different questions on them, related to a certain topic. This lesson can be done before starting a new unit to activate prior knowledge, during the unit, or at the end of review. Each group starts at a different poster and is given a different color marker to write with. The marker travels with the groups around the rooms, and each group has 1-2 minutes to answer the question on the chart paper. They then rotate around the room to the next poster and repeat the process. You may want to try to get each group member to write their ideas down on the paper so that each student’s ideas are evident on the paper. When every group has written on each piece of paper, the class comes together for a whole class discussion and shares what is written on the posters.


Writearound (
For creative writing or summarization, give a sentence starter (for example: If you give an elephant a cookie, he’s going to ask for…). Ask all students in each team to finish that sentence. Then, they pass their paper to the right, read the one they received, and add a sentence to that one. After a few rounds, four great stories or summaries emerge. Give children time to add a conclusion and/or edit their favorite one to share with the class.


Forced Debate (
This strategy requires students to use their communication skills to work within a group. Here’s how it works: The teacher writes a proposition on the front board, such as “Should there be a vending machine in the school cafeteria?” then the students who agree move to one side of the classroom and the students who disagree move to other side. Once students are on one side of the classroom, that is now their group. The teacher then forces them to debate the opposing side that they have chosen. This strategy really utilizes students’ critical thinking skills and forces them to really think about the question as a whole in order to argue for the opposing side rather than what they really feel about the question.


Snowball (

Flip chart papers are posted around the room.  Each page has a different question to respond to, sentence to complete or other prompt for input.  Learners are divided into pairs or small groups (up to 6).  Each pair or small group is given a marker.  Each group is situated at a different flip chart page and asked to write their responses on the sheet in front of them.  The facilitator calls “snowball” and each group rotates clockwise.  They read what the previous group has written and add new ideas or different views.  The process continues until each group has rotated to all pages.  The facilitator leads a debriefing session.  You may have each group summarize the page that they finish at and suggest possible implications, applications etc.

At the end of each cooperative learning activity, conduct discussions with students.  You might ask students to name one thing they learned, how they felt working in a group, or how they might improve their group work.


Cooperative Learning is beneficial to students.  Students have a responsibility to the group and to themselves.  It encourages positive student interactions.  Students also gain practice using social and collaborative skills.


We’d love to hear from you!  Tell us your favorite Cooperative Learning Strategies in the comment section below!



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