Monday, September 30, 2013

Flagged Pencils Update

Three or four weeks ago, I wrote a post about the flagged pencils that always appear on Pinterest.  You know...the pencils with duct tape banners at the top.  The idea is that when students borrows pencils, if the pencil has a colorful flag attached, the students will remember to put the pencil back before leaving the classroom.  I teach four math classes each day with approximately 100 students so, I was excited to see if this simple idea worked. 

I placed 5 flagged pencils in a container on a shelf.  I instructed my kiddos what I expected and left the poor pencils defenseless against a flurry of 9 year olds coming in and out of my classroom all day.  

Result:  After 3 weeks, I still have all 5 pencils.  No, I am not kidding.  They are still intact.  I have had a couple of the pencils leave my room, only to be brought back by an apologetic student.  

The pencils three weeks ago...before students were let loose on them.  They looked so pretty. :)

As you can see from the picture below, the pencils, (and flags), have seen better days.  
Actually, I think these pencils are in really good shape, considering what they go through daily.

I am convinced this is something I will continue to do each year.  The days of missing pencils seem to have have disappeared!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Multiplication Facts Organization

I just had to share this idea with everyone.  It actually  came to me from a parent who was working with her son at home on his multiplication facts.  It is simply a coupon holder made into a math multiplication card holder.  

A picture is worth a thousand words!  
Take a look!

The facts are written on index cards.  The answers are written on the back of each card.

I use paper clips to hold the cards together just in case they fall out.

The coupon holders had sticker labels to label the facts through 12's.  (My fourth grade class begins with the 2's multiplication facts.  If you begin with 0's and 1's, you may have to combine them.  This coupon holder only had 1 tab left).

When I saw the holder that the mom of my student had made, I was so excited, she drove down to the dollar store and bought ALL the rest of the coupon holders for me!  She got them at the Dollar General Store.  I don't know how much they were originally.  However, they were on sale for $0.75, then marked down to $0.30 a piece.  I am in multiplication fact heaven!  I can't wait to use these next week!

I am feeling extremely organized now!  If a student gets finished early with an assignment, or if a someone needs extra help, the multiplication facts are at their fingertips.

When closed, the coupon holders do not take up much room at all.  I am storing mine in a large plastic container.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Algebra - Patterns

I generally begin my year teaching place value.  This year I decided to mix it up a bit and begin the year with an algebra unit using patterns.  In fourth grade, this includes patterns with shapes, symbols, and numbers, and input / output function tables.  I wanted to begin the school year with something that would hook my students and allow every child an opportunity to feel confident about math.  Since they have been creating and finding patterns since pre-k or before, I figured this unit was a winner! 

 We have completed patterns about any way you can think of.  I created a algebra pattern unit this last summer that I am using.  It has made my life a bit easier.  

I created and included an input / output machine named Mumsford with this unit.  I am excited that my kids will finally get to meet him next week!  I placed magnets on the back so he can be placed on my white board and velcro on his hands and the coordinating pattern cards. 
I have included a color and black/white version of Mumsford in my unit.

If you are interested in viewing this algebra unit, click on any of the links below.

There are 93 pages, including vocabulary/word wall cards, the standard and essential questions, 4 daily review 5 Minute checks with assessment, an assessment used for pre and post assessments, activities, recording sheets, and answer keys where applicable.

The mini-posters give you an instant focus-walk bulletin board!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

School Lunch Idea!

I love to eat salads for lunch.  The school salads at my school are decent but, there is only lettuce, an occasional tomato, and on a good day some type of soggy croutons...all placed in a small styrofoam cup with a lid.  In addition, I love Thousand Island salad dressing and the few packets that the cafeteria supplies disappear very quickly. 

 I teach fourth grade and the upper grades in my elementary school are the last to eat.  So, never will I blame the sweet, wonderful cafeteria ladies at my school for a soggy salad with a dressing I would not choose for myself.  I blame the system. :)  Not really.  It's just a fact of life.

When I eat a salad, my personal preference is a salad with no white stalky part in it, lots of cheese, and nuts, such as cashews, sunflower seeds, almond slices.  Oh, but I'm not finished yet.  No salad is complete for me without chow mein noodles, an overload of croutons, and a heaping helping of Thousand Island salad dressing.  In other words, if there is not a crunch in every bite, it's not my type of salad. :)

I have tried to take my own salads to take to school for lunch over the years.  I have gone through several types of containers trying to find a container that makes it easy to take a salad while keeping my many favorite salad items fresh and crunchy.  There is nothing appetizing about eating a salad with your favorite items if the chow mein noodles are soggy, and the salad dressing has been absorbed by the lettuce.

This past summer while I was hanging out in Wal-mart way more than I'd like to have been, trying to prepare my 3 college-aged students with supplies and necessities of life, I made yet another grand find!  I found, at least for me, the perfect salad container.  It is called a Cool Gear item and is found in the same isle that you will find Rubbermaid food containers.  It is reasonably priced and is just a really neat container.

The Cool Gear comes in a sturdy, easy to handle bundle.  There are 3 parts, including the lid, and a small salad dressing bottle.

Once the lid is removed the first part of the container is a place to put all the toppings that you will add to your salad when you are ready to eat.  There is also a small bottle for the salad dressing of your choice. 

 Okay...that bottle could be 3 times larger and I still wouldn't have enough room for the amount of salad dressing I use on my salads.  However, I use way too much dressing.  I am going to be positive and convince myself I am practicing portion control. :)

The top part of the salad container is easily removed to display the bottom part. 

 The bottom section is where the salad is actually stored.  It pops out several times to reveal a decent size salad bowl.

Since all salad items are stored separately, there is never a need to eat a soggy, limp salad again!  Simple pour the items from the top section into the salad, squeeze out the dressing and you are ready to eat!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Open House Success

The open house for the school I work was last Monday evening.  I don't know about anyone else, but, after 20 years of teaching, I still get butterflies in my stomach an hour or two before open house begins.  Every year I create a letter to parents to inform them what time lunch starts, the homework routine, and other items such as what school supplies their child needs for the year.  At the end of the letter, I always list optional supplies that would be appreciated.  You know the items:  hand sanitizer, extra wide-ruled notebook paper, #2 pencils, tissues...  In addition, I always have the supply list listed at least one other place in the room.  Sometimes the list is in the form of a cute sign-up list, and/or listed on my whiteboard.  

I really can't complain about parent participation in bringing in these items.  I am always grateful for any extras that come into my classroom since I teach at a Title 1 school. I'm even more appreciative of the supplies coming into my elementary classroom since I taught at a middle school for 7 years.  Except for the few, for some reason, parents do not believe middle school teachers need very many supplies. Of course, that is myth!

Another issue with supply donation lists going home with parents or students is that I end up with 32 packs of pencils or numerous bottles of hand sanitizer and no tissues or notebook paper.  (It varies each year).

This year, while searching for a new idea, I came across a blog,, and fell in love with the idea she had for supplies.  She had a table set up with apples scattered around.  On these apples, she had written the names of the supplies.  She  also included a mini-poster explaining what to do.  She even has a link to her store so you can purchase the apples and mini-poster.  hmmm...this sounded like a good idea to me!  

I decided to make my own supply list table.  I already had an abundance of  apple clip art and frames, and what teacher doesn't have a table or desk.  I got busy and created my own apple cards and mini-poster detailing what the apples were for.    

I am quite proud of the supply mini-poster and apple supply cards!  Here is what mine looked like when I finished. 
 With this idea, the teacher is in control of what items he or she really needs.  I made multiple apples of items my class really needed and less apples of items that my class did not use as often.  The whole idea makes so much sense!

I  placed the apple cards and  instruction mini-poster
 right beside the open house sign-in list. (Hey, I wasn't born yesterday).  :)  When I asked parents to sign-in I didn't even mention the supply list.  That in itself took the stress off of me not having to beg for supplies.

I was so excited to see all the apples that parents were carrying around with them that evening.  By the end of the hour, all the cards were gone except for 4.  I don't what it was about the apples but, I have been receiving donations all week.  It's been fantastic!  None of the items were expensive, so I don't believe I scared anyone away.  Some of these are items, such as small individually wrapped candy, that parents just don't ever seem to send in, even when it's on a list!  

I will use this idea for years to come!  It is simple and it least for me.