Monday, August 26, 2013

First day!

I had a GREAT first day! I'll post more about this week later, but I wanted to share with you this activity I did with my kids today. We were with our first period class for two hours this morning while 6th graders got situated in the new building and we went over first day procedures. Teaching 8th grade, that went by pretty fast and I am glad I had this activity on the back burner!

I printed off 6 different statements and had the kids respond in groups on sticky notes. I was unsure of whether they would take it seriously, but they totally did. And, they had some answers that I didn't even think of! 

Some of the questions were: 
What do you want to learn in math this year?
What do you need to do to be successful?
What do you want your teacher to be like?
School is important because...
And a few more that I can't think of because I am so gosh darn tired!

I was fully prepared for the sarcastic "we hate school and we wish it was still summer" answers...but I never saw them! I think this helped them to take ownership of what they need to do to be successful this year. 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Pre Back to School Traditions

Every year since I started teaching in 2006, I have spent the day before relaxing and getting a pedicure! Since my husband is a teacher, too, he started joining in the festivities! So, I love being able to wind down after a crazy week of meetings and feverishly setting up my classroom (which, by the way, is not quite ready for a reveal just yet). 

Can I also say that I love being able to blog from my phone? How fantastic to not have to wait to get home and sit at a computer! 

I am pretty excited about my first day back tomorrow. It's my first year teaching 8th grade and I am at a new school. I absolutely adore everyone in my department. Everyone is so supportive of one another and is so willing to help with anything you need. I love that. 

I'm also super excited that the second week of school I will be getting a student teacher! I can't wait to work with her.

So, what are your back to school traditions? And, if any of you have experience with student teachers, any advice you can give me would be awesome. I hope you all have a GREAT YEAR!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

P&G Teams Up with Dollar General for a Product Giveaway!

It has been brought to my attention over the past few weeks that more than just a few people read this blog. Boy is it stressful to keep things interesting! I have been MIA for a week or so since this past Monday was my first official day back at work...the kids come on Monday and I am excited/nervous/stressed/anxious all at the same time. I am sure there are a handful of people who can relate! I am going to try to do a much better job at keeping up with this during the year. I seriously don't know how some of you seasoned bloggers do it!

Anyhow, the main reason for this post is that I was contacted by P&G (Procter and Gamble) and was asked to giveaway this awesome prize pack to one lucky reader. I LOVE LOVE LOVE febreze and can't get enough of this was amazing to receive in the mail. Dollar General and P&G have teamed up to put together this prize pack. Did you know you can use P&G coupons at Dollar General to save $$$? I honestly haven't ever been to a Dollar General since there isn't one that is totally local to me, but I just may have to check one out!
If you win this pack, you will receive:

A $10 Dollar General Gift Card
CoverGirl Black Ink Eye Pencil
Tide PODS Spring Meadow (sample size)
Febreze Fabric Refresher Gain Scent Spray
Febreze Air Effects with Gain Fresh Scent
A Dollar General reusable shopping bag

I have used the Tide PODS before, and they are super awesome for when you don't feel like measuring things out! Just pop one in and you are done! Perfect for HE washers and washers of all varieties. Like I said, Febreze is one of THE most awesome products on the market and you will get 2 of them! 

What are you waiting for?? Enter now!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, August 17, 2013

While you are shopping...

I am so excited about the Back to School Sale, I just can't stand it! I have so many great products that I can't wait to get to shopping!

Anyhow, here is a little promotion that I am running the days of the sale (Sunday and Monday)...I will be giving away a winner's choice item ($5 or less) to a lucky shopper in my store! Here is what you have to do to enter:

  1. Purchase at least 1 item from my store
  2. Leave feedback!
  3. After the sale, I will use a random number generator to pick a "winner" based on the feedback. 
  4. Be sure to check my Facebook page to see if you are the winner on Tuesday!
Any questions? Enjoy shopping the sale :)

Friday, August 16, 2013

Ready, Set, SHOP!

I have been waiting for this announcement for weeks since my wishlist is SO full! I'm sure many of you have heard from other blogs/facebook posts, but here is the news again:

Teachers pay Teachers is having their annual Back to School sale this Sunday & Monday, August 19-20. Everything in my store will be 20% (except the buy my store option!) + you can get an additional 10% by entering the promo code BTS13 at checkout.

Don't forget, the promo code is good on EVERYTHING, so you can use that to get a discount on the buy my store option if you would like :)

What are you waiting for? Go fill up those carts!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Throwback Thursday - Homework

A lot of people have contacted me about how I do homework, so I am bringing back this post from a few months ago when I think I had about 10 people following my blog! I'll be sure to answer any questions you have :)

Originally posted on May 5, 2013:

Every year, my teaching team and I wrack our brains discussing what we will give for homework and how it will be graded. I do believe that students need practice outside of the classroom, but I don't like giving textbook homework--it's extremely monotonous. Besides, with textbook homework, the kids have a myriad of excuses: I left it in my locker, I was at my Dad's house last night and my book was at my Mom's house, I forgot the page number, etc. We have an online textbook that works *sometimes*, so I tell them not to rely on that. Also, we have about 60 more 6th graders this year than we have had since I started at my not every student has one! Then, there is the other issue of who is really doing the homework??

Enter the solution: last summer we went to CAMT, the Conference for the Advancement of Mathematics Teaching, since it was in Houston and it was close. We signed up for it in March...and it seemed like a great idea at the time...until the day came. We had to be at the convention center (a good 35-40 minutes away) by 8 AM for our first session! What were we thinking!? Well, I am glad we went! We sat in a session led by Brad Fulton who is an excellent speaker! He suggested we do this:

Homework is given on Monday and is due Friday. It can either be one assignment that will cover the material for the time period, or it can be shorter assignments for each night.
  1. Students must show all work to receive credit, and if they turn it in Friday, no weekend homework. (Let me clarify, no extra homework is given to those that don't, they just have the weekend to complete it for a late grade).
  2. On Thursday night, before it is due, I post just the answers to the homework so that they can check their answers and know if they need to make corrections.
  3. On Tuesday of the following week, we give the students a homework quiz. We modified this a little bit from Brad's class.
    1. We "grade" the homework ahead of time for a total of 40 points if work is completed and effort is there. No credit for just answers without any justification. 
    2. The quiz itself is worth 60 points and here is how it is broken down:
      1. 5 questions are questions from the homework
      2. 5 questions are questions from the previous week's material (that if they completed the homework should not have a problem completing).
    3. The rationale is, that if a kid is trying and does the homework, they will get a minimum of a 70, where if I actually took homework up each day for a grade, the grade would be much lower. Whereas, a kid who doesn't do homework at all, still has some way to get some points. (Hey, a 30 is better than a 0!)
Let me clarify a few things...I am a middle school teacher. I am not saying that this will work for everyone. And, 99% of the time, 99% of their kids do very well and turn in their homework. And, for those that never turned in homework before, now do. I do this with my 6th and 7th grade classes and will do it next year with 8th grade. Some of my 7th graders who I had last year were hit or miss with homework and it hurt their grades...this year, I don't have that problem. 

It also provides stability for parents. They know that each week homework is assigned and they know the expectation of when their child needs to turn it in. It eliminates the excuse of, "Well, Johnny told me he didn't have any homework..."

How do you handle homework in your class? Let me know what you think of this process and if you are willing to try it and want more information, I can help you get started!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Monday Made It - No Name Board

I wish I had blogged about this last year after I made my no name board...but I needed to make a new one since the old one didn't totally go with my classroom decor. And, we ALL know how important it is to have things coordinate!

I found this pin last summer and thought it was a genius idea. How many times do kids leave your room and there are either papers on the floor that should be in binders OR a test was turned in without a name!? Too many to count I bet! This puts the accountability on the student. I don't grade something unless it has a name, so, if a student wants a grade and didn't get his/her paper back, they check the no name board.

Here is how I made mine:

Start with a wooden plaque (or you could use a piece of foam board that you have laying around) and some acrylic paint. I knew I wanted to paint mine a teal-ish color, but couldn't find the right color. I mixed mine to get the perfect combination. Paint the top and sides completely and let dry. I did 2 1/2 coats or so. You don't want any wood showing through.

While the paint was drying, I made my letters using my cricut and some adhesive backed vinyl. Don't fret if you don't have a way to do this. You can use any sticker letter that is available at Hobby Lobby, Michaels, JoAnn's or any craft store. You could also use cut paper, etc. So many possibilities.

Mark the center of your plaque so that your letters end up being centered. Ideally this is what should happen. Pay no attention to the fact that mine are completely of center because I measured incorrectly. It's going to be fine. In case you are wondering, I used washi tape to mark the center so that it was easily removable and wouldn't leave residue. 

Ok, they aren't SO badly off-center, right? 

Once, they are where you want them to be, apply a layer of mod podge on top. Let it dry completely!

Remember these from the other day? I made 7 of them by taking regular clothespins from Walmart and covering with washi tape. They look designer!

When the mod podge is dry, glue the clothespins to the wood by using either hot glue or wood glue. I used hot glue because I didn't want to wait for it to totally dry... and I kind of wished I had. 

I'll be sure to post a picture of it in my classroom when I finish setting it up!

Can't wait to see what everyone else who linked up with Tara at 4th grade frolics made!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

No work = No credit!

I have never met a math teacher that didn't require students to show some sort of work to justify their reasoning on every problem. If your students are anything like mine, they constantly whine about showing their work, especially if it is something they think they can do in their heads. If I had a nickel for every time a student asked me if they had to show work, I could have retired 3-4 years ago!

I am constantly telling them that No work = No credit. Most of them comply, but there are always a handful that will test the waters to see if I am serious. No matter how many times I say it, they are always shocked to see me follow through.

This year...this poster will be up at the very front of my room--so there won't be ANY question as to what will happen if a student refuses to show their work:

Clip art and Graphics used with permission from Lovin' Lit, Sonya Dehart, and Glitter Meets Glue

This poster is available for purchase in my TPT store and can be purchased here. Don't worry...the word "preview" isn't on the actual poster...just here on the preview. If you have any questions, be sure to let me know! Have a great Sunday!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Giveaway at Wonder Bugs Blog!

Katina at Wonder Bugs Blog is having a Back to School Giveaway! Head on over to her blog to see how to enter! Just click the image below :)

If you win, you would be the proud new owner of a set of my Using a Protractor Task Cards!

Good Luck!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Free (or ALMOST Free) Posters!


I am so over posters from the teacher supply store. Maybe that was a little harsh. I like some of the ones geared toward middle/high school because there is just a *hint* of sarcasm in there and frankly, if I am going to have to look at a poster for 9+ better represent my personality!

I have received plenty of e-mails and FB messages lately from people who want to know about the posters I have and if I am making more...I wanted to share with you some of the great ones that I have found through different blogs and just plain old google/pinterest searching. Some of these have been in my classroom this year, and some will be this coming year. Some are specifically for math, and some are really appropriate for all classrooms...a little something for everyone, like a poster buffet!

First up, I LOVE this poster from 4MulaFun! I made mine into a hanging decoration, but it prints beautifully on it's own as well. You can download it from her TPT store here and you can see my blog post that lists out the details of creating this beauty here!

Next, I just adore these...I printed these last year and framed them, but this year, I mounted them on wooden plaques as well to hang in my classroom. This is exactly something that would come out of my mouth and has the perfect hint of sarcasm--just like I like it. You can find out how to purchase these from Farley at Oh Boy, 4th Grade!

This is one that I made and blogged about recently. You can download it for free from my TPT store here.

Mr. Magician has some posters for free in his TPT shop as well. Here is one of my favorites:

I'm sure I will have more to add to this :) Do you have some fun posters you would like to share? Leave links to them in the comments!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Three Acts - Dan Meyer

Today I am linking up with 4MulaFun and friends for their Math is Real Life Linkup!

So often, we hear, "when is this EVER going to be useful??" and without missing a beat, a math teacher can respond with 10 different ways. Some things, I will admit, are not necessarily are going to be seen again outside of a middle school math class, but that's a rant for another day. What I like to present in my classroom are real-world math problems, every day. I really feel like if students are able to relate to the information being presented to them, they are much more likely to apply it as if it was them in the problem. 

My very favorite thing to teach is percents (calculating tax, tip, discount, mark-up, etc.) for the sheer value of the unit in everyday life. You have to know how to calculate your total before you pay for something to know if you are being charged appropriately, even if you just estimate. And yes, technology is GREAT and I don't want my students to take out a pencil and paper the next time they are at Macy's, BUT technology is only as good as the person who inputs the information. The person operating the calculator must have an understanding of percents in order to best estimate the price.

Ok, so this was my roundabout way of introducing Dan Meyer to you all. I am sure many of you have heard of him, many may have even heard him speak! I had the privilege of listening to him give the keynote address at CAMT in San Antonio this summer. He is awesome. He discussed perplexing problems in the math classroom. Not giving all of the information. Making the kids work for it. I loved his way of thinking and knew we needed to do more of this. 

At another training this summer, I was introduced to a section of his website called Three Acts. I know, I am probably super late to the party. BUT, if there is anyone who hasn't heard of this, you need to go check it out. right. now.

The one that we had to do in my PD was the "leaky faucet" and can be accessed here. It's ok, go watch it...I'll wait :)

Perplexing, isn't it? Anyhow, it is like a choose your own adventure for math since you can solve this several different ways. Also interesting to point out is the conversion between systems that students aren't going to know the rate for right off the bat. This is where having technology would be helpful, because, isn't that exactly what we as teachers would do?! Yes. Yes, it is. 

I can't wait to look through some of the rest of these. A full list can be accessed here, and he even has which standards it covers! Enjoy :)

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Worst Part of August...

The worst part of having to go back to work in August is having to lug all of the things I "had to create" or "had to buy" over the summer when it is super hot outside. This weekend, I had a light bulb moment...normally I am bringing up shopping bag after shopping bag upstairs (I've always had a classroom upstairs) and I'm usually sweaty and gross by the time I get there. And, if you are like me, you won't want to work at all in your room once you are sweaty.

So, I decided to pack all of my stuff (posters and all!) in this:

That's right...I packed a suitcase. It is a genius idea! I'm sure I'm not the first person to think of it, and if I have seen it  before I have no idea where that was. However, I brought it home and am packing it again to bring back to school today. 

I seriously cannot believe that I didn't think I this in any of the past seven years! What is your trick to getting all of your stuff up to school?

Monday, August 5, 2013

Monday Made It!

I have a few things I whipped up on Sunday afternoon to share with you today! I am linking up with Tara from 4th Grade Frolics for her Monday Made It linkup.

Before I could start making anything, I had to run a *few* errands! Knowing Monday would be my first day to get into my classroom to start setting up, I needed to get some of these...15 to be exact!

I know I could have found them cheaper somewhere else, but in the grand scheme of things, how much would I have really saved? Probably not enough to warrant me going shopping in this disgusting heat wave we seem to be having! Anyhow, I bought 15 so that each pair of students would have one. I plan to use these as my INB supply boxes. I am going to work on labeling this this week and be back with a post of what goes in them later!

Next up was Target. A friend of mine told me how inexpensive Five-Star Notebooks were at Target and I had to scoop some up. I bought 6, one for each class period so that each class has their own "model notebook." I had trouble keeping up with 3 last year, so I certainly hope I do a better job of keeping up with 6! If you are using these instead of composition books, run--do not walk--to Target. These babies are $1.89!

Also, at Walmart I picked up these deals. The index cards are neon (my fave!) for under $1 per pack. I know the white ones are on sale everywhere...but I love the colored ones! I also found post-it notes cheaper than the dollar store (not much...$0.97) but hey! Every cent counts! Plus, the colors were way brighter...and that makes me want to use more of them.

 I was going to get some plain magnet tape, because I am always putting it on the back of posters that I want to stay on the board, but I hate how it always curls. I found these packs of magnet strips that are pre-cut, and they come 18 in a pack for less than $1! $0.97 seemed to be the magic price at Walmart! I got 3 packs. I have no idea what I will use it for, but I like to be ready :)

Last but not clothespins. I went looking in my craft room for my bag of clothespins the other night and couldn't find them ANYWHERE. Seriously, I know it is a mess in there...but it's like they had runaway from home. Had to buy a new bag. Why? Keep reading :)


I made this lotion in March and it went over so well with my mom and some friends that I had to make more! I love to use lotion, but hate when it is greasy...and this is perfect! It is light, but thick at the same time and feels so luxurious when you use it. And, it makes 24 ounces of lotion! I did not come up with this recipe on my own...I adapted it from this pin. I swapped the Vaseline for Coconut Oil because I thought it might be greasy...I never tried it, so it may work for you!

Here's what you need:
15 oz of baby lotion (any scent...any brand--mine is from the Dollar Tree)
Twin pack of Vitamin E skin care cream (only found at Walmart on the bottom shelf of the lotion aisle)
2/3 cup of coconut oil (any brand will do...mine is from Sprouts, but I have used from Whole Foods, too)

Pour all ingredients into a bowl and whip with a hand mixer for 2-3 minutes making sure that all is incorporated and evenly blended. I periodically stop and scrape down the sides to be sure that there aren't any chunks of coconut oil floating around.

Then, I store it in airtight containers and pass it out to family and friends! I filled 3 of these today, and my mom was most appreciative of her lotion! In case you are wondering, I get these precious glass jars from Hobby Lobby in the glass section. They are normally $4, so just make sure you go when glass is 50% off, which is every other week!


I did make these supply labels to put on my storage containers at school. Well, I actually made them two weeks ago...but, I finally got around to printing and laminating! Like them? You can actually find them in my TPT store here

Also, I decorated my clothespins with some washi tape to go along with another project that will have to wait for next week's Monday Made It!

Aaaaaaand, I just realized how very long this post was! Sorry about that--if you made it to the end, you rock!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Exit Tickets

I love using exit tickets in my classroom. It is a great way to formatively assess what a student knows or may not know after a lesson or two. They can either put their name on it, or it can be anonymous.

After attending CAMT this summer and sitting in 4mulafun's session about Interactive Notebooks, I wanted to change they way I did exit tickets a bit. She uses the method, "Post It, Prove It" where students answer a question on a post it note and post it on the piece of chart paper where she has posted the question. Students write their names on the back of the post-it so that others cannot see whose it belongs to. Here is her original blog post that goes much more in depth.

I made this poster to post on the wall where I am going to do this:
Clip art from Sonya Dehart and Ashley Hughes

Anyhow, I think I may assign numbers to students instead...I am not sure why, yet. I think I need to think this through a little more before I implement :) It's a good thing that I have a few weeks!

How do you handle exit tickets? Since I have 6 classes, the big challenge for me will be clearing them off between classes!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Back to School Goals!

I am a huge list maker. It literally won't get done if it isn't written down on 12 different sheets of paper. Also, confession time: when making a list of things that need to get done, I will sometimes always write down a task that I have recently created JUST so that I can cross it off the list! Is that horrible?? Sometimes I feel like this was written JUST FOR ME!

Funny Workplace Ecard: Sometimes I write down tasks after I've done them, just to get the satisfaction of crossing them off my list.
Gets me every time!

Anyhow...this list is REALLY a set of goals for this school year. I always start off the year with high hopes of things that I want to do, and then December rolls around as the first time I really get to reflect on the year so far. By then, my mental list is so far in the past I don't even remember what was on it. 

So, I am linking up with I Heart Recess for her Back to School Goals! This should help keep me accountable:

Personal: I want to be able to leave school by 4:30 each day. School ends for us at 3:55, and my contract time is up at 4:10 PM. However, that is usually the time I get back to my room after having hall duty. So, I feel like 20 minutes is enough time to get set up for the next morning and clean up any supplies that need to be cleaned up. We don't start school until 8:55 AM, and I usually get to school between 7 and 7:30 AM. That won't happen this year since I will live so close and won't have to beat traffic, but I will get grading done in the morning--fingers crossed!

Organization: I am going to a new school, and purged so much junk at the end of the year that I have no excuse to not be organized. I need to not let piles of papers and other things pile up on my desk. I need to file daily, etc. I can do it!

Planning: I had three preps last year, and a lot of my planning was done at home since there wasn't enough time to effectively plan during my planning period. I usually spent that time calling parents and grading. Or just venting to my teaching partner :-) THIS YEAR...I have one prep...and although it is brand new to me, it should be easy to plan at school during my planning period. I may have high hopes, and I don't mind bringing things home every once in a while, but I don't want it to become a regular thing.

Professional: Don't get me wrong, I am not one of those "the only things that matters is the state test and I only teach to the test" teachers. HOWEVER, in Texas, the only way kids can move on from 8th grade to high school is by passing. I am not changing the way I teach, but I do have a goal that 100% of my kiddos will pass. I will have as many tutorial sessions as I need to help them be as successful as possible.

Students: By the time students reach 8th grade, they usually either love or hate math. This can pose a challenge, because math is not a subject that you can master by just watching. You have to DO it. So, my goal is to get the students who "hate" it, to give it a chance, and to get the kids who "love" it, to keep on loving it!

Motto: Believe you can achieve--if students do that, they will be successful!

What are your goals for this year?!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Currently -- August!

Is anyone else wondering where July went so fast?! Sweet lord, school will be here before I know it! Today, I am linking up with Farley at Oh Boy, 4th Grade for her monthly linkup! Yes, I know I have had multiple posts today, and that it is slightly taboo...but you will just have to deal with it :)

For those of you who don't know...I am on vacation with the hubs in New Braunfels, TX...if you haven't been, you need to! HOWEVER...the heat is beyond oppressive! We are talking 103-105 degree temperatures for the bulk of the day. We got terribly sunburnt at Schlitterbahn on Wednesday and are in so much pain! Anyhow, back to our regularly scheduled blog post:

Listening: I am listening to the nightly news in the background...not totally paying attention, but hubs like to catch up with what is going on around the world. I mostly get my news through him.

Loving: Like I said, we are in centralish Texas where the heat is STRONG, and after spending the day floating the river and shopping in Greune, we are DONE with the heat for today! So, we will be enjoying the AC in the hotel for the evening.

Thinking: about all the wine we are going to taste tomorrow! There are so many delicious wineries in the hill country that it is hard to keep track of. Our two favorites in Driftwood, where we will be tomorrow, are Wimberley Valley Winery and Driftwood Estate Winery. Mmmmm...delicious. Our supply has run out since we were last here in January, so we definitely need to stock up. There are also some great shops in Wimberley where we are going to be for lunch that I can't wait to revisit.

Needing: to really get motivated to get my act together before school starts! I have a blank canvas of a room to decorate, so I need to go up there this week and do that. It's one of those "once I am in there, I will know what I want to do" things. I think I just want it to be done...and not have to do it myself!

B2S Must Haves: I need to get some Five-Star Notebooks as I make the transition from composition notebooks to Five-Star for my interactive notebooks this year. They are on sale at Target this I need to stock up! Also, I always get a new pair of shoes for the first day/week of school and a back to school pedicure. Last year, hubby went with me since he is a teacher, too, and insisted on getting a pedicure. Just the other day, he said to me, "are we still getting B2S pedicures this year?!"

Starting Monday, I have 2 weeks before I have to be back to inservice. Hope I can get everything done by then!

Throwdown Thursday - Making learning interactive with CLICKERS!

I am linking up with Erin over at Lovin' Lit for her monthly Throwdown Thursday!

I know that this is not a new concept...many schools have used a version of the "clicker" or some sort of student response system long before my campus got them 5 years ago. I don't use them all the time, but boy are the students engaged when we do!

The ones that we have look like this:

I am sure there are newer versions. You can use these several ways: it's easiest to begin using these where the the students sign in anonymously (no student login required) to assess and see what students know about a particular topic. Simply set up your lesson for the day in SMART notebook or whatever software comes with yours and insert slides to "ask a question." A professor of mine did this in college and we never knew when the questions were coming. This forced us to stay awake in an 8AM Oceanography class...yawn. BUT, there was something fantastic about the immediate feedback that he received from us as well as immediate feedback from him when we found out the correct answers.

There are several ways that you can ask questions, true/false, multiple choice, short answer, and many more. Mostly, I have used these whenever we give a pre-assessment that is multiple choice because the students log in and there is not any grading required. This year, however, I want to incorporate these into my daily lessons for more interaction!

Don't have the funds for these? There are several FREE options for you if you have access to iPads or if you are a school in which kids bring their own devices. The app is called Socrative and you can find out more information about it here!