Monday, December 31, 2012

Currently January

I cannot believe that a new year is just around the corner.  I am joining  the linky party over at Farley's blog Oh Boy 4th Grade.  I am wishing all my followers a very blessed and hopeful 2013.  May peace, love, and joy be yours in the new year.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

First 12 in the Last of 12 Linky Party

I am joining this fun linky party that looks back at my first twelve posts of 2012:  First 12 in the Last of 12 Linky Party.  Please feel free to create a post of your own and join in.

1)  2012 New Year Resolutions  1/2/12  

2)  After School Routine Checklist  1/5/12  This is my most viewed post having been viewed over 75,000 times!  It was repinned over 1300 times from one pinterest user that pinned it.  I have no idea how that happened, but I get visitors to my blog every day looking at that post.

3)  Finally Posting my Vista Print Order  1/7/12  This post was all about the goodies I created over Christmas break last year.  I spent hours creating everything seen there including the first five minutes and last two minutes of class posters.

4)  Currently January  1/9/12  

5)  A Day in My Life School Edition  1/17/12  This was a fun link party to look at what a day in the life entailed.  It was so fun to read everyone's posts and see how different things were run in different schools.

6)  Teacher Workday  1/21/12

8)  Help!  1/30/12  This post was about was soliciting advice for opening a teacher store and maybe now a year later I will finally get around to it.  YIKES!  I did get a new MacBook Air for Christmas so I have absolutely no more excuses (other than lack of time).

9)  February Goal Setting  2/1/12

10)  Homework Linky Party  2/5/12

11)  Currently February  2/6/12

12)  Tag I'm It  2/9/12

Friday, December 28, 2012

Math Focus Wall Photos-Updated

I wanted to share some recent photos I took of my Math Focus Wall.  I apologize for not posting these photos sooner as I feel I have been promising to post them since school started, but it really has been a busy year thus far.  Thank goodness for break and some time for me to blog!

The evolution of my Math Focus Wall has been a work in progress from my creative thought process and planning last school year to the background design seen in this post:  The First Sneak Peek  and the original design seen here: Take 1.

TA DA!  I think I am finally happy with it

After a few months of school and actually using the wall with my students I realized that I needed to have two separate sides to reflect the two different courses I teach.  On the left is the board for my accelerated math 7 class and the right side is for the three sections of math 7 I teach.  

Accelerated Math 7

Math 7
I also changed up some things to make the board work for our class needs.  It specifies the CC 
standards, lesson, topic, and student objectives for each day, as well as, the Mathia pacing expectation for that week (that is what unit students should be on in our computer program).  The poster on the top left of the board is the Mathematical Practice Standards and as you can see I still need to get my Problem Solving Strategies Posters on the top right.

You can see Math Vocabulary to the left of the Focus Wall

Creating a Math Focus Wall was a major goal of mine for the 2012-2013 school year and I am very happy with and proud of how it turned out.  It was a lot of working putting the wall up this summer.  I am also finding it very time consuming to have to create all the posters that go up and can change daily.  I use sentence strips for the goals and lesson topics, but it is easier to print out the common core standards and lesson information.  

Of course this will all be done for next year, but this year it is a ton of work.  I try to create everything in advance for the chapter so it is all ready to go.  I like to make sure the focus wall is done for the next day so I don't have to worry about it in the morning when I get to school.  I did not realize how labor intensive this all would be because we can do three to five different lessons per week and when the lesson changes so does the focus wall.  I do feel it is worth the effort to have this information prominently displayed for students around the SMARTBoard which we use daily.

What it looked like on a different day

I would be happy to answer any questions you may have about the math focus wall.  #made4math

Thursday, December 27, 2012

We had a very Merry Christmas and hope you did too!

We were in school through last Friday and being that we are close to Milwaukee, we did not see the snowfall that other communities did on Thursday/Friday that caused a wave of school cancellations in SE WI.  I did not mind though, I always hate to have a snow day right before break, and I had students finishing up tests and quiz corrections, so being in school was easier for me than not being in school.

Sunday night was our family of five Christmas celebration.  We had reservations at PF Chang's for dinner and then a couple last minute gift purchases at the mall before heading home to open presents.  I went with a color scheme of red, white, and silver for gift wrapping and loved how it turned out!  I also made sure to put ribbon or a bow on every gift I wrapped.  I really enjoyed wrapping things up and Cooper (my 7 yo) commented more than once how pretty I wrapped everything.  Thankfully my boys appreciate these extra touches.
The boys could not wait to open their presents
The boys were spoiled as always.  I got a new Citizen watch with a pink face that I absolutely love!  I also got some mercury glass trays and containers from Pottery Barn that will hopefully help me organize some things in the master bath.  I was completed blown away by the surprise gift my awesome husband got me.
This baby is light as a feather 
A MacBook Air!  I was so stunned that I think my first words were, "You did not get me a MacBook" when I opened the box it was in.  I have really been wanting my own because I am tired of lugging my school MacBook Pro home every night (and it is getting soooo slow).  I also now will not have to reinstall fonts every summer after they reconfigure my computer at school.  I can also now finally hook up my Silhouette that I got LAST YEAR and have never used because I was not able to download the software on my school computer and I just loathe using our Dell desktop.  So as you can see, a new laptop was something I was definitely desiring, but completely shocked to receive.  I now definitely plan on getting my butt in gear and opening a TN or TPT store.  So many ideas of lessons to create and now no excuse to not create them.

Christmas Eve we met my parents for church for the 5 PM service.  The boys and I had been out to lunch and the burger and bloody mary I had were delicious, but did not set well with me at all.  I was not feeling good about an hour before church so we ended up being a bit late for the service, but I toughed it out and felt OK the rest of the night.  We had a nice supper of tenderloin or turkey sandwiches.  It was just my oldest brother, my parents and us for the evening as my other two brothers were celebrating with their inlaws.

Christmas Day the boys slept in until 6:30 AM, very surprising because Cooper was up at 4AM the night St Nick came.  The boys got the WiiU and some games for it (our Wii has been out of commission for a few months) among some other gifts.  They were not expecting it at all (not sure they really had even heard much about it).

Family photo
We had a wonderful Christmas Day with my side of the family.  My niece turned two in November and  it is so fun to have a little one again (Cooper is the next youngest).  Also it's lots of fun for me to have a little girl around.  As you all know boys rule my life!

The boys with Nana and Papa
My mom made a delicious ham dinner and we all overindulged.  She also is a master baker and makes dozens and dozens of delicious and cute cookies.  The woman is talented!  The grandkids opened their gifts after lunch and then the adults opened theirs.  I got lots of wonderful presents, but spending time as a family is of course the greatest gift of all.

We headed home around 8 PM and Greg got the Wii U set up for the boys.  Since then we have all been chilling out and relaxing.  We all watched Marley and Me (love that movie) this morning and I watched The Family Stone last night.  Got both those DVDs from St Nick.  They are two movies I can watch over and over.  I also read a Fern Michaels Christmas book.  

This afternoon Greg and I ran to Target to do some Christmas clearance shopping for next year.  We got some new lights and gift wrapping supplies.  I have to say there was not too much left, unlike last year where I really loaded up on gift wrap.  Tonight Greg and I are doing a little early NYE adult only celebration at my favorite restaurant Bacchus.

I hope you are all enjoying your break, spending time with loved ones and relaxing, as well as recharging, because lord knows we teachers need to!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Easy classroom decor for Christmas

Despite Thanksgiving being so early this year, Christmas really came quickly.  I guess implementing a new curriculum has the effect of making it seem like all my days run together.  I did manage to do a few very simple, but cute touches in my classroom to make it feel a little more festive, while believe it or not, keeping within my color scheme.  

My windows all decked out.  See the green and blue snowflakes hanging off the light?

I will replace these with snowmen after break.

I have some other snowmen window clings for after break.

These will be up until Feb.  

Snowflake border that will stay up until Feb.  Don't I have the best view?!

Pink snowflake.  LOVE!

My favorite decor item.  I was sad to take it down on Friday.  :(
I really like to keep the holiday decor simple and as "wintery" themed as possible so it can go up after Thanksgiving and stay up until Valentine's Day.  Everything was bought after Christmas last year, with the exception of the snowflakes.

Teacher gifts for my boys.
I hope you are all having fun with any last minute holiday preparations.  We are doing our family of five Christmas celebration tonight after dinner at PF Chang's.  I wrapped all the boys' presents last weekend and I swear every single day my 7yo asks when we are opening our "family" presents.  Gosh I wish I could keep that boy little forever.  To see Christmas through the eyes of a child who still believes is just about the best thing ever.  Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.  I am hoping to get myself back on track with blogging during my Christmas break.  I have lots of ideas to share with all of you!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

We teach in schools, not fortresses

As the mother of three and a teacher for over two decades I am deeply saddened and disturbed by the devastating acts that occurred yesterday morning at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, CT.  I know if you are a reader of my blog you are equally disturbed because the people that follow my blog value education and more importantly they value children.

As a mother I must put my faith in the schools I send my boys to.  I have to believe and trust that their teachers and school administrators are doing everything they possibly can to keep my boys safe while in their care.  To the very core of my heart I believe this.  If I did not trust for their safety I would not be able to kiss them goodbye every morning before heading off to school myself.

As teachers we are trained to remain calm and cool in the case of a crisis.  The students will always take their cues from us, so if there is a crisis we must remain calm so they also remain calm.  We go through the motions during our emergency drills and we take those drills very seriously.  We also expect and teach our students to take those drills seriously, because God forbid if there ever comes a time when it is not a drill, we need to be prepared and so do they.

The problem is that all the emergency plans and lock down drills in the world can just never prepare you for an event like what happened yesterday.

How could you ever prepare yourself to interrupt your teaching at a moment's notice, knowing that it wasn't a drill, but the real deal (because you know you teach in the safest place in the world and nothing bad would ever happen in <insert the name of your community here> and try to fathom what is going on outside your classroom as you lock the door and attempt to take cover with nearly 30 students, where no cover really exists?

How would you ever prepare yourself for the possibility that the last people you might ever see or speak to are the students that a minute ago may have been driving you crazy with their incessant talking, or maybe you were sharing an inside joke, that only that class would understand, or maybe you were just doing what you do every single day, trying to educate your students to the best of your ability? How would you prepare yourself for that?

How would you ever prepare yourself to know the right words to whisper to comfort and assure those students that you spend every weekday with, that things will be Ok and they will survive this when in fact you have no idea what you are even trying to survive?

I don't think you could ever adequately prepare yourself for an event like what happened yesterday.  We all hope and pray and believe this could never happen to us.  Because if we didn't believe we were safe, how would we get in our cars and drive ourselves to school every day?  How could we send our children off to the bus stop every morning if we didn't believe they were going to a safe place where the people caring for them would protect them?

We try do everything humanly possible to minimize the risk and assure the safety of our students, but the bottom line is that we teach in schools, not fortresses.  Secure entrances and even armed security guards are no match for an intruder armed with assault rifles and a death wish.

This senseless tragedy will now cause every school district in our nation to examine their school safety and crisis response plans.  We will wonder if we are doing enough.  Are our entrances secure? (They were at Sandy Hook and it did not matter).  We never address the real issue of how broken our world is.  We are no longer assured safety anywhere; not at the movie theatre, not shopping for Christmas presents at the mall, not at school.

We unfortunately are not able to prevent these events from happening.  We need to make sure we are trained to respond in the best way to minimize the risks and lives lost.  The staff at Sandy Hook obviously were trained well and did everything possible to try and protect their students, some even giving their lives in the process.

As educators we make a choice to spend our days with children because we have a passion and love for teaching.  We do everything in our power to make school a safe place for our students.

We will go back to school this coming Monday with heavy hearts and thoughts and prayers for the lost lives and the stolen potential in those lives, for the loss of innocence in the children that survived, and the sense of security that was taken from the Newton community and from our own selves.

We will ask ourselves many questions that even if we had the answers to them, we still would not feel satisfied.  We will do whatever we can to assure our own students that school is in fact a safe place, well as safe as any place in our broken world can be.

As with any tragedy like this, stories will emerge in the coming days of heroism, acts of kindness, of people coming together as a community to heal their broken hearts.  That's what gives us hope.  That's why we teach, because we have to believe that we are educating the very beings that will fix this broken world.  We go to school every single day knowing that we can make a difference in the lives of the students we work with, and we hope and pray every single day that we can keep them safe.  And like the teachers at Sandy Hook, most of us would give our very lives to protect the lives of the students we teach.  We are educators, it's just what we do.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Decimal Operations Foldable

Tomorrow's lesson is on multiplying and dividing rational numbers.  What we find in 7th grade is that many students still struggle with decimal and fraction operations.  We just finished learning how to multiply and divide integers the other day.  Love the way Carnegie teaches integer operations.  That really deserves its own post someday.

Anyway, today was a half day and it was the perfect amount of time to correct homework and then finish a foldable they started last week (when we were doing addition and subtraction of rational numbers).  We also did a separate foldable on multiplying and dividing fractions and mixed numbers (again another post for another time).

The material we covered today is expected to be mastered when they come to my class, but with many students that is just not the case.  The foldable I used can be found here.  I would like to make the multiplication example a bit more challenging, but beggars cannot be choosers and this foldable was already made and good enough for me to use for the purpose intended.  Someday I will make some original foldables, but with a new curriculum implementation that is a very low priority at this moment.

Front of the foldable

Foldable inside

Addition example projected on SMARTBoard



I really like projecting what the students fill in on their foldable.  We go through each example step by step and it goes MUCH more quickly if they are able to follow along with the SMARTBoard.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Currently December

It's hard to believe it's December 1st.  I still never even posted photos from Thanksgiving!  I am having a wonderful Christmas prep filled weekend.  I made some chocolate dipped pretzels and pretzel, rolo, m&m candies this morning.  They have all been eaten already!  I cannot keep up with these boys.  :)

Greg and the boys got our Christmas tree last night and it is in the living room waiting to be decorated.  The lights are up outside (I think that's the earliest he has ever gotten them up).  I plan on decorating the fireplace mantel and the foyer tomorrow.

In between all the Christmas prep I need to grade quizzes this weekend.  All four of my classes took a quiz on Friday and now I need to grade them all so I can hand them back Monday?

Hope you are all having a fun and enjoyable weekend!  I am linking up with Farley for her December Currently.  Join in one of my favorite monthly linky parties.

Monday, November 26, 2012

#Made4Math A few random things

This will be a quick post to share a few things I made today.  I realized that I have had a to do list of things I have been wanting to make on the computer since school started.  As is always the case, once school starts the things I want to do/make get replaced by the day to day minutiae of keeping a classroom running:  the planning, teaching, grading, reteaching, retaking, lather, rinse, repeat.

Seating charts/class lists binder

Vocabulary for word wall and CCSS posters

Math Focus Wall Labels

I finally was able to print out some new labels for my math focus wall.  I will be posting photos of the new and improved focus wall soon.  I have changed up what it looks like from what I had at the beginning of the year as I have seen what works and what could be improved.

After school I finished up my CC standards posters for The Number System domain (we are currently working on).  I also finished writing up the vocabulary words and will laminate them and the posters tomorrow.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Currently November

**OOPS  somehow I inadvertently linked to my November currently instead of December.  Please click this link for December currently.

Hello to my faithful followers.  I must admit that this school year is off to an awesome start with great students, but I am stretched to the limit!  I honestly thought I had cut back on committee work this year (and I swear I have), but I am still on the Grading for Learning committee that meets once a month 3:30-6:30 (that is a LONG meeting!), and I am a lesson study facilitator so that involves some additional time out of school for training.  I am also mentoring a friend of mine who happens to be our new math interventionist.  She is part-time so we barely ever see each other at school because she is pretty much with students the entire time she's at school.  Fortunately we are both going to the same Halloween party Saturday so we can catch up.

Our Carnegie implementation is going really well.  There have been a few bumps in the road (as expected with a new curriculum), but I LOVE it!  I can see a huge difference between how the kids are learning this year vs. how they learned with our previous curriculum, Mathematics.  The best news is Carnegie is Common Core aligned so we are in a much better position than other districts that are filling the gaping holes created by CC.

So many new and exciting things are going on in my classroom this year, I am just having trouble finding the time and energy to blog about everything.  Hopefully things will settle down a bit for me now that football is dunzo!  Well they will settle down after next week when 1st quarter grades are done.  Hope you are all having a wonderful school year so far!

Please join the fun and link up with Farley.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Filetastics-cute and functional!

Keeping important papers organized and easily accessible at a moment's notice can be quite a challenge.  I have specific places I keep important papers, so I can always find them when needed.  One thing I found this summer that I am completely in love with are my Filetastics and file folders that match my classroom color scheme of pink, lime, blue, and zebra.  They are not only pretty, but functional.  Everything pictured was purchased at Mardel this summer.

Filetastics and file folders I purchased this summer from

Filetastic on the side of my file cabinet.

Side of teacher bookcase.  I keep all my Focus Wall items in these files.
  • Vocabulary Terms
  • Common Core Standards posters
  • Topic/Lesson/Objective Sentence Strips
  • Any other Focus Wall items

Other side of teacher bookcase.
  • Parent/Teacher Conference Notes/Schedule
  • Working lunch forms/tickets
  • Reflect & Fix Forms
  • Teacher copies of Lesson
  • Answer Keys
  • Assessment Data

This is where I pin important notes or reminders.
  • Meeting Dates
  • Monthly Calendar
  • Schedule Changes
  • Bell Schedule

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Establishing routines and procedures #1- Papers

One thing I have learned over the years is the importance of establishing routines and procedures with your students the first several weeks of school.  If you take the time and have the patience to train your students well, you will benefit greatly from this investment for the rest of the school year.  I think it is said, that it takes 21 days to establish a habit, and the same goes in your classroom.  Today's post is going to focus on routines to establish in your classroom regarding paperwork.  I have established these routines so we do not waste precious class time and also to preserve my sanity.

I do not collect daily assignments.  Students self correct their papers and I walk around and stamp them with my initial stamp "SN", for some reason many students think it is so cool that I have a stamp with my initials on it.  I found it at a store many years ago and just lucked out than they had my initials.  I also have separate stamps for late or absent work.  If a student is absent or does not have the assignment finished I will give them the answer key to check their paper, once it is completed, I answer any questions they have and they keep the paper.  I NEVER collect or keep absent or late work.  I figured out several years ago, that if the paper always stays in the student's hand and I just stamp it, then they cannot claim I have their missing work.

Of course I have to have a pink stamp pad.

Absent work stamp.

My initials stamp.

Late work stamp.

When I hand out papers to students that will be passed back in to me, I always remind students to put their first and last name on the paper, along with their class hour, and the date if needed.  I remind them of this over and over.  Three of my math classes had a quiz the other day and numerous students only put their first name, or first name and last initial.  When I handed the quizzes back the second day to finish up I reminded students that they needed a first and last name on the quiz and that if they turned it in not labeled properly, I would consider that not following directions.  I always think at the beginning of the year the kids must think I am the most anal retentive person, but I explain to them that I teach them routines that make my life easier and our class time more productive.  I have to say, that throughout the years I do not get papers turned in with no name because of the obsessive harping constant reminders I give students about labeling their papers properly.

I have one turn in basket for papers that sits on my desks and students always know where they are to turn in papers because it's always the same place.  If I collect papers that will need to be returned to students the next day, I will collect them in table groups instead of them handing them in individually.  That way the next day I just pass out each set of papers to the table, instead of needing to pass out each paper individually.  This saves time and gets us started much more quickly.  Every class uses the same turn in basket so I make sure that I paper clip the papers together after each class hour and remove them from the turn in basket so the basket is empty for the next class.  I grade the papers and then put them in the daily file for the next day so I don't forget to hand them back.

Where students place papers that get turned in.

Class Hour Files on the left and Daily Files on the right.

If students do not finish the assessment during class, they need to come in during Core Plus or Homebase and finish.  I have students who are not finished hand me their papers (anything in the turn in basket is finished and ready to be graded).  I then clip the unfinished papers together and put them back in today's day file, so when they return later in the day I know right where the unfinished papers are.  After they finish the paper gets clipped with the other completed papers from that same class hour.

Papers stay clipped here until they are entered on the computer.
When I hand back assessments that have been graded, I call students up to me to get their papers.  I tend to call about five students at a time and hand the papers as they get to me.  This goes much more quickly than me walking around the room and finding each individual student.  After we discuss the assessment I collect them back in alphabetical order (again students bring them to me).  That way, when I go to enter grades in my online grade book, I can enter the scores in probably less than two minutes.  I like to use the desktop computer for entering grades because it goes much more quickly with the keypad.  I hang on to assessments and keep them clipped by class hour.  The papers are filed together so if I need to find a paper I know right where to go.
Graded papers that have been entered on the computer get placed here.

I have done previous posts about how I handle paperwork for absent students and hand outs for the day.  If you want to read more about that check out this post Daily Files and Class Files.  I will do a separate post in the future about how our school handles missing assignments through a program called Working Lunch.  It creates a bit of a paper shuffle for me, but more importantly it hold the students accountable for completing EVERY assignment.

Just for fun my new label for my scrap paper basket.

ETA 7/1/14:  I get lots of emails asking where I got the black plastic five slot organizers where I put my daily and class files.  I got them several years ago at Office Max and I believe they are made by Rubbermaid.  I have searched high and low online to find a link to something similar and unfortunately I haven't seen anything like that.  Sorry I don't have better news for those of you wishing to purchase the file holders.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Classroom Photos-Part II

I finally got around to taking some photos of my classroom a week ago (and it was a dark rainy night at 7 PM so the photos are a bit dark).  I posted my Classroom Photos-Part I.  Those photos really just gave a 360 view of my classroom.

Today I am posting some more close-up photos for you to see.  The focal point of my classroom this year is definitely my Math Focus Wall surrounding my SMARTBoard.  I have to say I love it and promise that I will dedicate an entire post just to that once I get it completely finished.  It continues to be a work in progress.

My favorite addition to my classroom.

Another area that I love is the corner where I keep my Learning Stations/Math Manipulatives.  I moved my Desktop computer over there and the "Be a Star" bulletin board which is still under construction.

Do you love the zebra border?  It's magnetic!

Still under construction

These are a couple posters I have on the back of my classroom door, so when the door is closed students can see them.  I designed them on Vista Print and you may have seen them before on Pinterest.    I have seen others that have used my idea to make their own version.  Now that we are doing Carnegie Learning I would like to make some new posters that fit our delivery model a bit better, but these definitely work for now.

First Five Minutes Poster

Two Minute Countdown Poster

One of my favorite areas is my teacher corner.  I have a pentagonal shaped room that has a very small back corner area that is pretty useless, but it ends up being perfect for my desk and file cabinets.  Several years ago the custodians put up the shelves on the back wall which made the space much more useful.  This year I really pushed things back because of creating the focus wall and to give as much space for student desks as possible.  It is very crowded cozy in my classroom!  I love how my back corner is organized and this year it's even better than ever with the filetastics I purchased this summer.

One of my favorite purchases of the summer!

My desk.  You can see my hour files on the right.

The full view.

My no sew banner.  Those strips are where I pin all important information so it's right at my fingertips.

Back shelves.  Need to make labels for everything.

My paper sorters.  Don't you LOVE the zebra file folders?  And my fave the wall of artwork from my sons.

This still needs to be organized, but it is neat for the most part.

Love my lanterns.  I spy another filetastic.  I have four total.

I hope you enjoyed the tour of my classroom.  I am hoping to get back to posting more regularly on my blog.  The first couple weeks really kicked my butt with all the technology integration (well that part was easy, it was when the technology didn't work that was tough).  It has been a huge learning curve this year with a new curriculum (Carnegie and I LOVE it!) and the technology shift (not used to PCs at all).  The good news is that other 7th grade math teachers and I are all muddling through it together.  We have PLC time three days a week for content so it has been a blessing to be able to work together and troubleshoot together.

My students have been great and my class sizes are 26, 27, 28, and 28.  The poor 8th grade teachers have classes of 30+.  Fortunately for them they have much bigger rooms than ours.  I do not know where I would put too many more bodies in our tiny rooms.  I actually have 29 desks in my room so I am waiting for a little bit to make sure none of my classes go above 28 before I get rid of the extra desk.  That will give a little more space for walking between those two groups of desks.