Using Your Inbox as a Task List

#A2TInboxClick the STAR to like this post! Comment below and tell me if you are an email collector or prefer to keep your inbox cleared out.

September 30, 2021

I don’t know about you, but I get a ton of emails, both at work and at home. And for work, I have 2 different email systems I use for communicating with coworkers, the organization, parents, schools I work with, and students. At home, I am juggling emails for my kids, our extracurriculars and commitments, family and friends, bills, travel and entertainment. They can really add up. If you are interested on when to find time to work that in, check out a prior blog post about setting a weekly date with yourself HERE. But that isn’t the focus of this post. I want to share how you can use it as a task list.

Let those inboxes work to your advantage and be used to guide your progress each week.

SEPARATE EMAIL FOR WORK AND PERSONAL It may seem like a good idea to have one account, but it can get overwhelming, especially if you run your own business. A best practice is to have one for personal and one for work to focus on during those times. If you have more than one job or run a business or side gigs, like so many do these days, consolidate! This will also allow you to have a professional address to give out for interviews, work connections, etc. But make sure your personal one isn’t too tacky either, especially if you have kids. It’s awkward to email a parent about their child and send it to juicybooty@randomemailaddress.com.

FLAGS, REMINDERS AND CALENDARS These tools are already built into most email domains, or you can set it up to go through Microsoft Outlook on your computer, regardless of what domain you are using. Flags can allow you to mark something important that you will need to do, but may not be able to tackle now due to time or needing information. Reminders are great for things that have deadlines to meet and can even set up alerts. For appointments, tasks and meetings with times designated, dragging these items to your calendar will let you block time off to complete it. I have even done this with emails that are about projects so that I have all the details right there in the email and time set aside to complete it. (I do still keep it flagged and in my inbox until complete)

CREATE FILE FOLDERS WITHIN THE INBOX Some emails we don’t want to delete, even when we finish them. Creating a file folder within your inbox gives you a place to save it and find it later. I get all my receipts sent electronically and file them away for that year. I have one for school and each of our extracurricular activities, and entertainment files. I do not want to lose that recipe, but it doesn’t need to stay in my inbox. Do set up a time the first week of the year (or quarter) to go through each folder and clear it out, and be sure to clear deleted items and sent items on a monthly basis to save on storage.

UNSUBSCRIBE OR BLOCK JUNK We all end up on mailing lists from time to time, but we don’t have to stay on them. If it isn’t useful, look for that unsubscribe link in the message or login to it and manage your preferences. If that isn’t an option or it doesn’t cut them out, you can block the email address or domain from sending you anything at all. Then just delete the message. Don’t give up valuable mental space or digital storage to things you don’t need.

EMAIL YOURSELF It never fails, I have a flash of a brilliant idea for a lesson on the weekend or I think of a chore or call I need to make while at work but can’t do then. Other times I will have a conversation and commit to doing something and don’t want to forget. I just send myself an email! This allows me to keep it in my inbox until I have a chance to complete the task, then I can delete it and move on. When committing to something after an important conversation, this can also act as a summary follow up to send to you and the other person to make sure you have the details right. I also CC myself on important emails so I get a copy to file away for future reference.

I’ve been doing this since I started using email, but until my supervisor shared it in a weekly update last week, I never thought about sharing the idea with others. I should have.

Some of my friends and coworkers are email collectors, with an inbox with hundreds of messages, many of them unread messages. Some of you reading this right now know it’s you.

Some of us are borderline obsessive about keeping it cleared out. That notification and unread message number makes us ache.

Whichever camp you fit into, start putting that inbox to work and let it help you become more productive.

Be sure to click the STAR to like this post and comment below and tell me if you are an email collector or prefer to keep your inbox cleared out. Also, be sure to share this blog with other teachers, and subscribe so future blogs come straight to your inbox! I blog about teaching, but also food, family, travel and other inspirations! You can also find me on Twitter (@addictedtoteac1), Facebook (Addicted2Teaching) or even on YouTube to check out some videos before I just focused on blogging (Sonya Barnes – Addicted to Teaching) and join the conversation, get more ideas, share your story or just interact with me.

Turning a Worksheet into an Activity

Sonya Barnes August 8, 2019

It doesn’t take much to go from worksheet to an activity that kids will enjoy and reach their learning objectives!

Teachers are a resourceful being.  To make a pop reference, we become as good at reinventing our repertoire as Prince did at reinventing himself throughout his career.  We have many things we have continued to use without really thinking about changing them up.  One of those go-to items could be a stash or worksheets you rely on to make copies and grade because you know it is a skillset your kids need.  But have you ever given thought to reinventing them?

In my previous article about beginning of year activities, I mentioned turning some of your ice breakers into activities to do with the kids, but you can use this premise for any worksheet that you have.  Converting it into an activity may take you a little time on prep, but, if done right, it can be laminated and reused throughout your school year as a rotation or a “done” activity to keep them proficient, as well as using it year after year.  So, let me walk you through the process of converting that worksheet.

Step 1: choose your worksheet This could be something new from a search online or a book you just purchased, or something you have had for ages that is falling apart or has been copied one too many times and needs to be revived. Maybe it’s an identify the part of speech, a scientific classification, an internet suffix identification, or a math symbol meaning, capitals and states/countries, or tools for the art or shop class.  Be sure it is one that will have a clear answer for each question.

Step 2: convert it to a new document The easiest and quickest way I have found to do this is to use a program like Word or Pages and insert tables. Excel is great for creating boxes in columns or rows, but isn’t as user friendly for inserting pictures or graphics and alternating text fonts like Word or Pages will be.  Put the text into the boxes for each question, answer, or part they will match.  I like to align my correct answers all next to each other to make it easier when I use my key.  You can enlarge and change the font to make it easy to read and visually appealing.  If you are tech savvy or have the time, adding graphics can be a nice touch, but it is not a necessity.  I also dedicate a box to a directions for use card and an inventory list, if needed, so it explains what to do and the parts needed for my students that do better with written instructions.  To help myself keep track, I will also try to label it with the standard or skill so that I can find it quickly.

Step 3: print/copy/laminate Decide how many sets you need to create based on whether this will be independent, collaborative or a station/center activity and print/copy that many sets PLUS 2—a fully assembled set for you as a key and a cut up set for you as a demo.  Then get these laminated so that they will last you for many years and uses.  Be sure you do this well in advance to allow time for your laminating person to complete them as many schools have only one person responsible for this task and it can be time consuming.

a paper cutter and some paper clips turns these into a student friendly manipulative

Step 4: cutting and prepping as sets If you have volunteers, this is a great thing to enlist them for, especially since this task doesn’t have to be done in the classroom.  Don’t forget to keep one set whole to use as your key (you can use a dry erase marker to make notes or match answers, if need be. Cut your items into sets and bundle them.  This could be done in a variety of ways, but I prefer clasped envelopes or Ziplock bags so that I can label them, and they are easiest to keep everything together in.  I also suggest taking a permanent marker and numbering the sets and pieces.  Finally, I will tape the directions card and inventory list to the front of the envelope or inside the Ziplock bag (facing out, of course).  Several of my older sets, I just put the directions and inventory in with the cards, but it gets mixed in with the others at clean up and the next user may not find it right away.

An envelope makes an easy storage device and gives a place to attach instructions if it will be an independent activity

Step 5: using the sets  Now that you have them, they can be used as a hook, an assessment, a practice activity, a review activity, or anything in between.  If you use stations or centers, this can be an activity they complete together or independently.  Once we have used them in our main lesson and moved on from a standard, I have a drawer I keep them in and my students that finish early know that this is a place they can go and find something to do while others work.  These also make great activities for early release days or days when you may have a test or lesson that doesn’t take the entire block and you need a small filler activity.

Worksheets can be a valuable resource in checking a student’s mastery level of skill and there is nothing wrong with using them.  But, in my experience, I don’t always need a 30 minute long task that I need to then grade to see if they are ready to move on and converting it to an activity allows me to do this in 10 minutes before going on to a next level or a real world project or task that allows them to apply the skill for true mastery.  If you aren’t sure where to get started, there are many of these available online that you could download (skip steps 1-2) and jump straight to steps 3-5 to get started.  You also don’t always have to laminate them if you are short on time.  If you have older kids, you could hand them out whole and allow them to cut them, but, in my experience, cutting and assembling the sets will burn an entire class period that I would rather they spent working on the skill.

I’d love to hear which activities you have turned from a worksheet into an activity, as well as what subject area and grade level you used it at.

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Have You Been to Eduporium Yet?

Guest Post July 18, 2019

Finding new and affordable educational technology tools that align with the concepts you’re trying to teach and the standards you’re required to follow can be tough. Especially as new technologies are released seemingly by the day with slight or significant variations from previous models, it can certainly be challenging for teachers and tech directors to keep up with what’s worth their while. Keeping this in mind, the experts at Eduporium stock all of today’s latest EdTech in one place – an easy-to-access online store where educators can learn about and purchase all of the STEM tools they need. Oh, and they also offer a discount on most of those items exclusively for educators!

What makes Eduporium unique is that they don’t simply scour other stores and place every single EdTech tool they find on their own store. Their experts are actually doing the research, searching for the most useful tech tools, testing them out themselves, and corresponding directly with those vendors to make sure it’s a worthwhile product for enhancing 21st century education. Once that determination has been made, they then negotiate the lowest price possible and get it on their store for educators to easily find it and save when they make their purchase. [

Eduporium is a reseller, but they specialize in offering those EdTech tools with the greatest potential and add to their own value in the education community by offering free consultation, personalized technology bundles, and an Educator Discount of as much as 20 percent on technology items that’s available to all classroom teachers, principals, librarians, tech specialists, and makerspace facilitators. Knowing the importance of hands-on learning, they work directly with educators from some of the country’s largest districts and recommend only the STEM tools they need.

The Eduporium store includes the classic EdTech tools for engaging students in deeper learning as well as those that have been just released. Having established working partnerships with many of today’s top EdTech vendors, like littleBits, Wonder Workshop, Ozobot, Sphero, and more, they’re able to get new products onto their store and into classrooms quickly. Among the kinds of STEM tools you can find on the Eduporium store are robotics, coding kits, 3D printers, drones, virtual reality systems, circuitry sets, engineering tools, and more!

Take the Ozobot robot, for example. It’s one of the most widely used STEM tools in elementary and middle school classrooms. This tiny robot can be used to teach students how to code using color codes that they can draw with markers on paper. It can also be paired with a computer or tablet and students can build their own programs on Ozobot’s online learning environment, OzoBlockly. As new updates and releases are announced for the Ozobot, such as Ozobot Classroom, Eduporium is always on top of informing their customers about the latest information.

If you’re looking for any other options from today’s top brands in STEM education, Eduporium is a great place to look. They sell the Dash and Dot robots from Wonder Workshop, for example, which are great for introducing elementary students to coding. Eduporium also has the Cue Robot from Wonder Workshop, which middle school students can use to learn text coding! In addition to the robotics tools, Eduporium also supplies coding and electronics kits, including all of the top kits from littleBits. These electronic LEGOs are great for teaching circuitry, perseverance, programming, and inventiveness! 

Not only does Eduporium offer educators an easy solution for all of their EdTech shopping, their advice and consultation help ensure that teachers don’t waste their time or money. To learn more about this company and to check out their extensive store with all different kinds of EdTech, click here!

This is a guest post. Andy Larmund at Eduporium reached out to see if I would share information about their company, products and services offered. After communicating back and forth and browsing their website, I was excited to share his information and I look forward to finding ways to work their products into my classroom this year, though! Note: This is not a paid promotion.