Self Starts, Lunch Choice and Attendance Management and a Glass Magnet Tutorial

Wow, what a blur this last two weeks has been!  My fifth graders are a blast, but I must admit that I am pulling every classroom management trick out of my pocket to keep this super talkative bunch focused!
Today I’m going to share with you two things that I do every morning to get the kids working right away, and to keep us on schedule!

1. Self Starts: When the students come in every morning, they know to expect some kind of worksheet on their desk.  This Self Start activity is usually one of three things:

  • a review of a skill from earlier in the week that they need more practice on
  • a new quick skill that I need to introduce but don’t have time for somewhere else in the day
  • some type of brain teaser or puzzle.

Most of the time, I’ll also put some type of enrichment on the back of the page for early finishers.  While they are getting to work on their Self Start, I am quickly doing lunch count and attendance via my new file cabinet/magnet system!

2. Lunch Count and Attendance System: Do you remember the before pic of my desk/closet corner?

I know, not pretty.  I knew I had to use the big blank side of that file cabinet for something, and it happens to be right next to where the kids come out of their “cubby” area.  I remembered seeing a blog several weeks ago where a teacher used the front of her desk, and magnets, to do lunch count.  ( I did not bookmark the page, so if you think this is YOUR desk/blog I’m talking about, please let me know and I’d love to give you credit!)

Here is the NEW side of my filing cabinet:

Every student has a class number which is on their name plates, in their books, and on any paper they turn in.  I created a magnet for each student {TUTORIAL below!} with their student number.  Then I used black electrical tape to make the sections on the side of the cabinet.
*Tip*- I’ve seen some awesome file cabinet makeovers on Pinterest, but unfortunately I’m not allowed to paint this one!  But the electrical tape comes off nice and easy without leaving a mark, so I use it on my whiteboards and anywhere else that I need borders or lines that will come off easily!
Now, when the students come in in the mornings, they go through the cubby, drop off their backpack, and stop by the Lunch Choice board to make their choice.  I have the monthly menu posted so they can easily see each day’s choices.
How does this work for attendance? Once all students are seated, and lunch choices have been made, I can then see who is absent by just looking at whose magnets are still in the absent area.  At the end of the day, one of my classroom jobs is a student who has to move all of the magnets back to the ‘Absent’ area so its ready for students to make their new choices the next day. Badabing, badaboom!
I’ve had this in place for a week, and I have to say, it’s working out perfectly! Phew! You should have seen the chaos I had in the morning during the first week of school before I had this system going!

What if I don’t have a filing cabinet space to use?  You can use the front or side of your desk, get a magnetic board from the craft store and hang it on your wall, or even use a big cookie sheet.. . as long as you can figure out how to attach it to a wall or a table!

{Glass Magnet DIY Tutorial}

These magnets are so cute, and so easy to make.  But I did go through some trial and ERROR.  I will share with you those mistakes so that you don’t make them!
1. Gather all of your materials.  You will need:glass-magnet-materials
  • Clear round stones with flat backs (I found these for $4.00 at the craft store; an online option here for $7.00)
  • Clear Drying Craft Clue- I used Quick Grip by Beacon (also $7.00)
  • Cute Paper
  • Scissors
  • Number Stickers OR Computer to print Numbers on Paper
  • Round Magnets ( 8 pack for around $3 or $4 dollars at Hobby Lobby; hereis a great online option- a 50 pack for $5.00 )

2. Print your numbers onto your cute paper, or stick the number stickers onto the cute paper.  Space them out evenly so you have enough room to trace your circles around each number.
TIP: Do NOT attempt to write the numbers on the paper yourself.  If you do, they will bleed once you add the glue, even if you use permanent marker and let it dry.  It will still bleed, and you will be pulling your hair out.

Update: After making these again, I have found I much prefer the look of using sticker numbers! There are lots of cute colors, and no risk of ink or marker bleeding when you add glue!


I couldn’t decide which color of paper I wanted to use for my signs, so I printed them on all of the colors so I’d have options!  If you’re not sure how big to print your numbers, you can grab the template I made by clicking {HERE}! 
I also included a page which says “Choice 1” and “Choice 2” in case you use that lingo instead. 😉

3. Use a pencil to trace your stones onto the pretty side of the paper around each number, and then cut them out.

Tip: It’s best to cut slightly inside the line you drew, because otherwise the paper circle will end up being too big.  Also, this is by far the most time consuming part!

4.Glue the paper, number side up to the flat side of the stone.  Use as little glue as possible, and be sure to press it a couple of times really well to push out any air bubbles.  Then let dry.
You may be wondering, “Why can’t I glue the magnet onto the back at the same time?  Well, here’s why:  If you do, for some reason, all of the glue starts to almost soak through the paper and make the pretty paper start to look black and smudgy.  Trust me.  It happened multiple times before I finally figured out that I needed to wait a bit between gluing the paper onto the glass and gluing the magnet to the back of the paper.
Sorry. I forgot to take a pic of this part!

5. After some drying time, use the same glue to attach the magnets to the back/paper covered side of each stone.  Once again, you really don’t need that much glue.  Less is more!


6. Tada! You are finished! Wait at least overnight before you put them to use.


I hope you enjoyed this super easy tutorial! Making all 35 magnets took me about 2 hours, so it’s definitely a Saturday or Sunday project.  But because you are using numbers and not names, you’ll be able to reuse them each year.  Well, … until you change your classroom color scheme that is. 😉

What strategies or activities do you use to manage your morning classroom routine?


  1. What a great use for your file cabinet! Does your school offer 2 hot lunch choices? I found you from your link at Erica Bohrer’s blog and I’m your newest follower.


    • Hi Maria! Thanks for stopping by! Yes, my school offers two hot lunch choices so I definitely had to come up with a system to manage all those choices in the morning! 😉 Thanks for being my newest follower~ I appreciate each and every one! I’m loving this new supportive teaching blog community that I’ve found!

  2. I absolutely love your magnets!!! They look so easy to make. Thank you SO much for sharing!!!

    I’m glad to have found your blog through TBTS.

    One Class, One Sound

  3. Karen Kohlman says

    I want to do this for my calendar magnet board , I can use colors that match my kitchen or colors for what ever room I choose to put the board in. Thanks for the idea

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