Monday, January 30, 2012


I really want to open a store at TPT or Teacher's Notebook.  I understand the process of opening the store.  I am just wondering what the benefits are for choosing one over the other.  I know some people sell at both, but I would probably just start off selling on one.

I also need someone to steer me to some sort of tutorial where I can see how people make all these cool and fun, but educational activities with amazing graphics.  I am a fast learner, I just don't know how people put it all together with all the graphics they use.  Anyone have any tips or advice?  Pretty please!  Help a newbie out.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Formative Assessment- In Class √ups

In my classroom I use a formative assessment technique that I call "In Class √ups".  I typically use this technique on a day we are reviewing material before a quiz.  The day before the quiz the assignment is often a practice and application review worksheet that goes over the concepts that will be assessed on the quiz the following day.

I will give students 5 or 6 review problems that match up to what they will be doing on the review worksheet as well as the quiz.  A key to making this manageable for me, is that students MUST write their answers on the left side of their notebook in order.  I always put a sample on the SMARTBoard of how their notebook page should look.   They show the work off to the side of the paper.  This makes it easy for me to scan their paper in a matter of seconds to see if they answers are correct (this is imperative as I can have close to 10 students in line at a time sometimes).  I also make sure that they actually did the work and not just copied from someone else.

As students finish the In Class √ problems they come to me to my desk (or often I sit at the front table because there is more open space) and I will circle the number of the problem if it is wrong.  If all problems are correct I will put a star or a smiley face on their paper and then hand them the worksheet for homework.  You would be surprised (well maybe not if you teach middle school) how motivated they get by a smiley face or star!

I recently purchased a package of Mr. Sketch markers (the smelly ones) and cannot believe how excited they are to see what color/scent we are using that day.

It is a lot more work for me to do the In Class √s because I have to correct 27-29 students papers, answer questions, recorrect the ones they get wrong, and try to keep everyone on task while doing all of this.  The nice thing is that if I have a line of students waiting to correct students who have been OKd will often volunteer to help others or answer questions.  I give them a WW slip (our school incentive) for helping others.

The days we do In Class √ ups end up being pretty chaotic, but that way I know before every student  leaves for the day, whether or not they have a grasp on what I will be assessing the following day.  This is a great method of formative assessment for me to get a pulse on what every child in my class knows or still struggles with.  If a student is really having problems I will work through a sample problem with them or actually do the √up problem with them.

I have to be careful to keep track of who still does not have their worksheet because some students would try to fly under the radar and never come to my desk and just expect to get a worksheet as the bell rings.  I have solved this by calling up my reluctant or slow workers for progress checks throughout the class so they do not get lost in the shuffle.

They do not get their worksheet for homework until their √up problems are all OKd.  I find this technique to be so helpful for me to differentiate and know who needs to come during CP or HB for additional help.

Students are held accountable to be using their class time wisely and asking either myself or someone at their table for help if they don't understand something.  I always make them check their note sheet before I answer a question if they act like they have no clue what they are doing.  Note sheets have sample problems and break things down step by step for them.  I am trying to encourage them to take responsibility for their learning.  This personal responsibility is such a huge thing I try and instill in them as middle school is the bridge for them from elementary to high school.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Teacher Workday

Yesterday was an extra paid workday for me.  We get paid our per diem rate and get the entire eight hour day to do whatever we need in our classrooms.  It is one of my favorite days of the years where I set unrealistically high expectations of what I can possible accomplish in a finite amount of time.  I actually was at school 7:30 AM- 6:30 PM, so it was an eleven hour workday with an hour off for lunch and quick Target run.

I was supposed to be taking a grad class on coteaching with the special ed teacher who is in my classroom during 5th hour everyday.  The class is for three weekends Friday 4:30-8:30 and Saturday 8:30-4:30.  Unfortunately one of the instructors, who happens to be a friend of mine had a family emergency so class was cancelled for this weekend.  I was bummed because it's a cold/snowy weekend in WI, one you wouldn't mind being cooped up in class.  Honestly though, I am not complaining because now I have all day today (other than my son's BB game and our staff party tonight).  To do whatever I please.  I also did not have to rush out of my classroom yesterday afternoon to get to class and was able to get 2.5 more hours of work done.

The first thing I did upon arriving to my classroom was clear everything off my desk and computer table to get both of those organized.  I have several little piles of paper that need to be organized, but of course that is always the last thing to get done.  I took a short break for Friday treats in the lounge which was my breakfast.  I was bound a determined to not get caught up chatting with others  (like I had done during my prep and after school time the day before, thus not finishing my grades and comments as planned).  People kept coming into my room and chatting with me, what's a girl to do?

I worked on organizing everything on the computer table and my desk.  That takes longer than you would think.  I also finished entering homework grades for this past week.  I vow to do a better job of entering grades EVERY SINGLE DAY like I used to!  I spent a few minutes chatting with my teacher bff Linda and then my dear sweet former work husband Rob who retired last year, called to chat for a bit.  He is coming to our staff party tonight (never ever came when he was teaching) and I cannot wait to see him!  I miss so many things about him.

I ended up spending lots of time on middle school math liaison tasks (something I had not planned).  I had to rewrite the course descriptions for our math classes to reflect the changes due to the CCSS.  I also had to make chat with our K-12 coordinator, but we made that quick as we were both swamped.  If you follow my blog you already know that we are in a K-12 math review this year which means lots of extra work and meetings for me, because I am the middle school math liaison.  I love being the liaison, it just adds a lot to my plate.

I did meet my husband for lunch at a local restaurant that has the best salmon caesar salad.  Yum!   I had to stop at Target on my way back to school to pick up some GCs for Target and Starbucks for the staff party (so lucky to have Starbucks in our Target).  I treated myself to a peppermint soy mocha, my drink of choice.  They still had to red cups (only talls left) which made me happy.  I know it's silly, but I love the red cups so much more than the plain white ones!  Greg and I met up for lunch because I thought I would be in class until 8:30 and we would not have dinner together.   My parents are watching the boys this weekend because of the workday, our staff party tonight, and because I was supposed to be in class all day today and Cooper and Drew have BB games at the same time.

When I returned to school I continued organizing as much paperwork as I could, finished up grades and started comments.  I got through A, A-, and B+.  I still need to do the Bs and Cs.  We had a brief team meeting at 1:30 with the principal and VP regarding some student issues.  I then spent some time lesson planning for next week, as well, as revising a quiz I am giving my regular kids on Monday. The special ed teacher and I spent forever trying to make a new seating chart for our 5th hour class (have I ever mentioned how challenging it is to make a seating chart for that class?!)  I still need to make seating charts for my other three classes. I swear making seating charts is one of my LEAST favorite teacher tasks ever!

I found out early afternoon that my class was cancelled which meant I did not have to rush out of school before being able to make copies I needed.  I made all the copies I need just for Mon and Tues.  I also spent some time printing out some math lessons I had found via Pinterest.  I made my To Do List for Monday and this weekend (things I thought I would get to yesterday, but didn't).  I also completely organized my two paper sorters.

Sounds like a busy jam packed day right?  Well the sad thing is that I have piles of papers taking up a group of five desktops.  I did not get too far on going through the papers that pile up.  I did contain them to one table and I will have time before school Mon to figure out where to put everything.

I did not even touch the disaster that is my teacher bookshelf and the floor space and shelves behind my teacher desk.  My goal to to tackle one of those areas each day next week.  I am giving a quiz in every math class Monday so hopefully I will get the teacher bookshelf organized then.  I have never posted pictures of that area and was so hopeful to get that all organized yesterday and show you all what it looks like.

I am excited to start Monday fresh.  I love the beginning of a new quarter because it means I start fresh with grading and paperwork.  I also hope to have more time to blog regularly.  I have all sorts of ideas for posts to share, I just need to spend the time on them.  Also look for some upcoming info on my Learning Stations that are finally starting the quarter!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Day in My Life-School Edition

Joining the linky party over at The Adventures of a Sixth Grade Teacher.  Head on over and see how many teacher spend their day at school.  It is enlightening!

My alarm is set to go off every morning at 5:00 AM.  Depending on the morning, I might jump out of bed and get directly into the shower or I may head downstairs and spend some time blog hopping.  My oldest rides to school with me (he is in 7th grade) so he varies his wake up call from me, depending on what time we leave in the morning.

6:00-7:15  Shower, make-up, hair, get dressed, pack my lunch and pack up my computer.    I am extremely lucky as my husband is around to feed my younger two boys and get them off to elem school.  I only have to get myself ready in the morning (it wasn't that easy and stress free for me when the boys were younger).

7:15   This is the latest I will leave my house.  I have a 7 min commute, praise God!  If we have morning meetings (which is fairly often, they are on Thurs and start at 7:20 0r 7:25.  Ben rides to school with me every morning and I enjoy having that daily one on one time with him.  If we leave by 7:10 we have time to pick up Starbucks before school.  It is a bit out of the way and maybe that's good or I would get a peppermint soy mocha every single day.  On Wed mornings Ben has Jazz Band so we leave the house by 6:50.  If I have a meeting I try to leave by 7:00. 

I use the morning time until the kids come in at 7:56 to get myself set for the day.  I have to make sure my computer and SMARTBoard are up and running (and sometimes there are technical difficulties so I prefer to iron them out BEFORE students arrive).  Sometimes I have meetings.  I do try and make sure everything is in place the night before I leave school so I can walk in every morning knowing I am good to go.  Monday nights my boards get washed so I have to put my Assign Board back together in the morning.  I enjoy this time to get myself mentally prepared for the day ahead.  I look over my To Do list and accomplish anything I can.   I also drink my breakfast during this time, which is a chocolate rice protein shake.  It is healthier than anything I would eat for breakfast and easy peasy.  If I treat myself to Starbucks (which is rare), I consider that my breakfast.

7:56-8:50 1st hour Accelerated Math 7:  I teach one section of Accel Math this year.  Last year I had two and it was basically Utopia for me!  This year I have 29 students.  The pacing of this class is faster than regular math.  Now with the CCSS we have 15 8th grade standards we need to teach these students.  YIKES!

8:52-9:43  2nd hour Regular Math 7:  I have 27 students in this class.  They are a well behaved class.  My first two morning classes fly by.

9:46-10:31  3rd hour Prep:  While my students are in Encore classes I have prep.  Core classes are 51 min long and Encore at 45 min so I feel like my prep flies by quickly.  I never feel like I get much accomplished during this period, by the time I walk to my mailbox on the other end of the building I have usually burned 15 min.  I usually have a snack during this time.  Trader Joe's Edamame Crackers and Kalamata Hummus is my snack of choice.

10:34-11:19  4th hour Core Plus:  I have a different group of students on A and B days, but I basically do the same things both days because for Q1 and Q2 I had two Intervention groups.  I love this "class".  Students get a U or S for this class.  There is no grading or homework.  We work on activities in class and it is basically whatever I plan to supplement was we are doing in my regular math class.  I have a smaller class size due to it being an intervention group, 14 one day and 15 the other.  I have a Title 1 Math Ed Asst with me every day and she is AWESOME.  Next quarter I will have Intervention one day and Enrichment the other.  My class size will be higher with the enrichment group.  I LOVE Core Plus because it is an extra opportunity to work with the kids who need it every other day and I can be as creative as I want with the activities we do.  Some students have CP every day and some have it either A or B day.  If students are not in CP they are in an encore class.

11:21-11:51   LUNCH  I almost always bring my lunch with me because 30 min does not give enough time to run out and get something and still have time left to eat it.  We do have a  super nice teacher on another team who has prep right before lunch so she often is our fast food runner.  I tend to eat a lot of leftovers for lunch or soup or salad.  T J's roasted red pepper tomato soup is one of my faves.

11:55-1:05  5th hour Regular Math 7:  We have IRT (silent reading) for the first 19 minutes of class (gotta love a school schedule, we could only eek out 19 min) and then the class is the same as my 2nd hour.  This is my team taught special ed hour.  It really is not team taught, but hopefully it soon will be as the special ed teacher and I are taking a co-teaching class together over the next few weeks.  This class has 29 students.

1:08-1:59  6th hour Regular Math 7:  I follow the same lesson plan for 2nd and 5th hour.  This class has 28 students.  They are my loudest and most obnoxious class, but also the class I have the most fun with.  I love 6th hour even though they can drive me crazy.  :)

2:02-2:47  Team Planning:  We meet on Mon/Wed with our 7 Blue team and Tue/Thurs with the 7th grade math teachers for PLC.  Fridays alternate between team or content.  We are so lucky to have this time built into our day.  It really is an integral part of keeping a true middle school concept.  Students are in Encore classes during this period.

2:50-3:15  Home Base:  This is a study period at the end of the day where students can see any teacher to get help.  Every single student has HB at the end of the day.  I love this because it is a chance for students to get help from me or to finish up a quiz or test if they need to.

My work day officially ends at 3:30, but I am usually at school until 5 or 6 or even later most night.  I am on several committees so there are some weeks that I have after school meetings Mon-Thurs.  That is why my word for this year is BALANCE.  My life is definitely out of balance right now because of all my school related commitments.  I love being involved in everything I am, but I do not want to short change my family.  I know this year is unique because we are in a Math Review and because of my role as the Middle School Math Liaison, there is much to do.  It won't be like that every year, but it will for at least the rest of this year and next as we navigate through a new curriculum that has not even been chosen yet.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Finally posting my Vista Print order

Last summer I remember seeing many teacher bloggers posting all of the classroom goodies they have purchased from Vista Print.  It seemed too good to be true, the quality of items they were able to purchase at such a low price.  I am here to tell you that it is true and free does mean free.  I got ten free items with my order and then my shipping was a bit over $40, so I ended up purchasing over $40 of product (in addition to my free items) and paying the same amount because shipping was free on orders over $40.

I placed my order on Dec 29th and it arrived on Jan 5th.  It finally showed up at the end of the day yesterday from the district office where it was dropped off the day before.  For some reason it was actually sent in three separate shipments.  I only paid $40.95 for all of this.  Talk about a steal of a deal!

Vinyl sign


My top ten list

First five minutes of class

Last two minutes of class

Labels to give the kids when they do something good.

My free assignment pass front

Free assignment pass back

Free choice math class certificate

Jumbo postcard

Just desserts invitation


Post its

Rack cards 

Thank You card front

Thank you card inside
I unpacked my order and took photos of my creations to share with all of you.  It was the last five minutes of Home Base at the end of the day and my students were checking out everything I bought.  They LOVED the posters and were so impressed that I designed them.  Who says middle schoolers don't show appreciation for the little things?

After school several teachers saw my goodies were oohing and aahing over everything.  If you are interested in anything from Vista Print feel free to click my referral below.  LMK if you have any questions.  I have seen some super creative things that other teachers have made.  The possibilities are limitless.   I cannot wait to do another order!

Save up to 80% on custom printed products at Vistaprint. Order today!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

After School Routine Checklist

I think it is really important to keep yourself and your classroom organized.  I was not a born organized person, but had to work hard to develop routines and systems to keep myself organized.  As a teacher nothing makes me happier than coming into a clean classroom with everything in its place.  It can be very difficult some days to leave your classroom as organized as you would like (at least it can be for me).

I came up with this end of the day routine a few years ago when I had a student teacher.  The list I gave her was a bit different than this one.  It really helped because I told her that once everything was completed on the list she was free to go home.  I felt it was really important to model good organizational skills for her as she was about to have her own classroom she was in charge of, and unless you let a student teacher realize that it's all the little things that consume so much of our time, your student teacher will not have a realistic view of how much there is involved in managing and maintaining a well organized classroom.

I do try and follow the routine myself every evening because it gives me peace of mind knowing that I can walk right into my classroom in the morning and be ready to go.  I do not like searching frantically for something or standing in line with the last minutes Charlies fighting for the copy machine.  Entering a well prepared classroom that is ready to go gets my day started off on the right foot.

End of the Day routine:

Write out assignment board for tomorrow.

Clear off desk and straighten top drawer.

Organize computer table.

Straighten daily files and file today’s papers.

Start a TO DO list for tomorrow including list of calls/emails to do.

Pack up laptop and cord.
I always take home my laptop, my Lilly Pulitzer notebook, and my pink file for any paperwork 

Pack up stuff to go home:  coat, lunch bag, computer, and purse.

Check files and put projects in order of priority for the morning.

Turn off lights.
      *Unplug lights under window

Leave desktop in wonderful shape to welcome the morning.
   Next day’s file
   Seating chart/class list binder
   Lesson plan book
   Teacher Text

I actually took some of the photos above back in October.  In the spirit of transparency I will show you how things really looked when I walked into my classroom on Tuesday, my first day back after Christmas break.

I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for you to leave your room all organized for the next morning.  That way if you have an emergency and are running late that morning, you know you are ready to go when you walk in the door.  Even more important is that if you end up having an unplanned sick day (and with three boys that happens here from time to time) at least you know you don't have to head into school at 6:30 AM to get things sub ready.

What is on your after school routine checklist?

Monday, January 2, 2012

2012 New Year Resolutions

Better late than never!  I am joining the linky party over at one of my favorite blogs, A Teacher's Treasure.  I did some resolutions last summer before the school year started.  I am going to stick with those for the remainder of the school year.

Goals for 2012:


Here are the New School Year Resolutions for 2011-2012 I made for myself back in July, a month prior to starting the school year, when idealism and free time were running high.  Unfortunately I tend to set lofty and sometimes unrealistic goals for myself considering that I am married and have three active young boys involved in numerous sports and extra curricular activities.  If I completely neglected my family (and some days it feels like I do) I might have a chance to achieve all my goals, but that just would not be fair to anyone involved.

There are a finite number of hours in the day and try as I might, I have yet to discover how to freeze time so I can accomplish everything I would like to in a 24 hour period, also known as a day.  My main goal in 2012 will be to achieve a better balance between my professional and personal life.  I feel like this school year my professional responsibilities are taking a toll on my family time.  I have so many meetings and commitments outside of the school day that there are many days that I do not get home until after my family has already eaten dinner.  I know that this is unavoidable under certain circumstances, but it just seems that certain weeks are really bad with meetings.

In my classroom:

1)  WORK STATIONS:  I am going to implement work stations into my math class this year.  I have been doing lots of research this summer and unfortunately I am not finding many resources out there for math stations at the middle school level.  This is a definite work in progress for me.  I will have a corner set up in my classroom with materials organized for student use.  This has been a fail so far, but I aim to change that the remainder of the year.  I have an area set up and have gotten some materials together, but I have not gotten this underway yet.  This will be my MAIN focus for January.  To get these up and running.

2)  DIFFERENTIATION:  I will enhance what I do to differentiate in my classroom.  This would be for intervention and enrichment.  I already do several things, but there is always room for improvement.  I am happy with my progress on this goal.  I have used pre-assessments and exit slips to plan differentiated activities.  I have also been able to differentiate when using the round robin strategy, by offering a challenge group.  I have an ultimate goal of doing tiered assignments and activities for intervention/practice/enrichment.  

3)  LITERACY:  I will incorporate more literacy into my math class.  I started off the year doing a great job with vocabulary and word walls and I hope to maintain that all year for this coming school year.  I want to get the students to do more writing in my math class.  It is difficult because we are under so much pressure with the adoption of the CCSS.  I started off the year strong with my word wall and have sort of fizzled.  I would like to incorporate more literacy strategies into my classroom.

4)  COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS:  I will work to align what I am doing with the CCSS. We are using the majority of our PLC time (we meet 2-3x/week) to look at alignment with the CCSS.  We have spent the past month looking at what we can take out of our current curriculum and what needs to be added in.  I would like to start producing some units aligned to the CCSS.
5)  ORGANIZATION:  I will do a better job of keeping my binders and materials organized as I use them.  I will also declutter the boxes of materials I have been holding onto for too long.  I will organize my math manipulatives in my blue cabinet.  Organization is always the first thing to fall by the wayside when time is limited.  In the past I have used a teacher convention day in October to work in my classroom for eight hours getting "caught up".  Unfortunately due to the sad sad state of affairs in Wisconsin Education at the moment, and our teacher convention day became a full day of district inservice.  Enough said. :P  I am currently teaching out of Modules 3 (Regular) and 4 (Accelerated) and all the papers from Modules 1 and 2 are stacked in neat piles waiting to be put back in their respective binders.  It's strange because everything next year will be completely different.    I do make an effort to keep my desk neat and organized.  I try to do that at least once a week.  If my desk gets cluttered I start to go a bit crazy.

As a middle school math liaison:

1)  SMARTBOARD:  I will work with the other 7th grade math teachers to help them with their new SMARTBoards.  I will also share all of my SB files and lessons with them.  I will create some new files that can be used to support the CCSS and our math curriculum.  I have shared all my SMARTBoard files with the other 7th grade math teachers.  I have not really had to time to develop much new for the CCSS.  It's a work in progress.

2)  COLLABORATION:  I will structure our math PLC time to work on meaningful tasks to improve the math education of all 7th grade students.  I will share best practices and curriculum materials I create.  We have been swamped this year during PLC with math review committee tasks.  We have also spent tons of time making sure that our common assessments are actually the same among the three of us.  I think we have collaborated more than ever this year.

3)  MATH REVIEW COMMITTEE:  I will help to lead the K-12 math review (as the middle school liaison).  This will be a challenging year long process and I will stay positive and focused on the task.  I think this has been a success and I am doing everything possible to do my part on this committee.

4)  BE A POSITIVE FORCE:  This would go under both my teacher and liaison roles.  I want to use my various leadership positions to continue to move our school forward in a positive manner.  I will continue to serve on the School Effectiveness Committee, the Positive Climate Committee and as a Building Rep.  I have also been chosen to be on the interview committee for our new AP.  We just found out last week that our AP (who I really liked) is leaving to take a HS AP/Athletic Director job at the district he came to us from.  :(   Good for him sad for us. This is always a work in progress for me.  Our new AP is beyond fabulous and has been such a positive force for our school.  What a blessing he has been.  I continue to try and stay positive (although believe me I have my moments where I slip).  It has been an adjustment to have two new members on my teaching team.  The dynamics of our team have changed and things don't seem to be as fun as they used to.    The new teachers are both very nice and are good teachers.  Everything is just so serious and intense. Hopefully everyone (including me) will lighten up in the new year.  It's hard to start over after teaching with the same people for 8 yrs .  Fortunately I have my Teacher BFF Linda to keep me sane through it all.

As far as personal goals I want to:

Live healthy
Love generously
Be happy and content with all God has blessed me with

I will no doubt be making a more specific list of personal goals, but for now that really encapsulates what is most important to me.  I need to live those beliefs.