Classroom Pictures #msSunFun


If you follow my blog, you know that I have had a pretty busy summer, welcoming twins into our family along with our 2 year old.  So my room hasn’t changed much from last year.  But thanks to my mom, things are almost all set up and ready to go!  Thanks Mom 🙂  Here are some of my favorite things from my room…

Room Pic 4

I use these pages for whole class management.  Each class starts off with 5 points at the beginning of the hour.  When the majority of the class isn’t on task or at an appropriate noise level, I erase one point.  I color in that many squares at the end of the hour on the 100’s chart.  When the class reaches 100 points, they  are able to play games in class for part of the hour.  I am excited to use Class DoJo this year and I’m not sure how those two things will work together.  I will update you 🙂

Room Pic 3

This is my vocab board.  I am focusing much more on vocab this year.  I used the vocab from the Georgia Department of Ed Content Area Frameworks which I really recommend and, no, I am not from Georgia.  I created these signs as well as a vocab packet for the students to work on.

Vocab Signs

Vocab Packet

Room Pic 2

I covered (my mom covered) my bookshelves with cool contact paper this year.  Brightens things up a bit!




Room Pic 1

This board is pretty much the same as last year.  I love my volume scale.  The flower is on a clothespin so I can move it to the noise level I want.  I did add the descriptions of our scoring scales (SBG).

Room Pic 5

This is something I have done for years that I am changing a bit based on something on pinterest that I saw.  I put all papers from past lessons in this bin so students can always get extra copies.  I have hanging file folders with page protectors stapled to the front.  I put a master copy in the page protector and the rest of the pages in the folder.  If there are no more copies, all students have to do is bring me the master.  This year, I am going to add tabs for all of the days of the month so that students can look in the folder of the day they need and find what they are looking for.

I think that’s it for now!


Whiteboarding on Desks

I read about using desks as a whiteboard over at my new favorite blog, School of Fisher.  Erika writes her instructions right on her desk with a whiteboard marker.  I decided to have my kids use whiteboard markers on their own desks today to do more equation practice.  I will not have the kids do this every day, so hopefully it will retain a bit of the magic becasuse we are breaking the rules. 

Tomorrow we begin inequalities and I am so excited for what I have planned thanks to the blogs I am reading!

#msSunFun- Sub Plans

Sub plans for math teachers are always so hard because you never know if the sub you get will be someone who is comfortable with teaching math or not.  I feel like more often than not, I have gotten people who aren’t, so I never leave plans assuming the sub will teach something new.  In the past, I have left some sort of practice that has to do with the unit we are doing at the time.  My school requires us to have emergency plans in place, but I haven’t ever use those because I have never had anything that would truly be an emergency (thank goodness!) that I wouldn’t be able to plan a specific practice activity for. 

Right now, my emergency plans are mostly puzzles from the Super Teacher Worksheet site.  Unfortunately, it won’t let me link right now, so that is a pain! Nothing super exciting that I use on there, just the logic puzzles they have.  Also, if you click on the word problems link, there are math stories that are pretty cool, even though they are for 4th and 5th graders, they will work pretty well for a sub day.

I don’t have anything earth shattering for sub plans, I can’t wait to see what everyone else shares for #msSunFun!

#myFavFriday- Estimation180

I was out in the hall greeting students this morning.  When I came into class, were they all sitting silently in their seats prepared for the wisdom I was about to impart?  No. 

They were up at the board, rulers in hand, measuring fingers out, moving the rulers from man to lamppost to shadows and back again.  Then there would be a heated discussion about why the answer was 19′ 6″ and not 19′ 3″.  Then they would rush back to their desks and do some calculations, then back up to the board again.  I just sat back to watch.

After things appeared to die down, I said, “… Are we ready?”  NO! shouted several students, and they ran back to the board to do more measurements.

This, along with the reasons below, are why Mr. Stadel’s Estimation180 site is my #myFavFriday today.  After reading Fawn’s post about this site, I did a new estimation in my class each day this week.  The students are loving Fawn’s idea of using Instant Classroom to randomly choose someone who can put their estimate online.  This has quickly become one of the best things we do each day!

Reasons why I love Estimation180:

1. I began doing these estimations on Tuesday in class, then when I told the kids on Wednesday that we were doing another one, one student yelled, “YES!”

2. One student has been stopping by after lunch before going to her locker and coming to my class just to see the new estimation on the board.

3. One of my students came late to class the other day and was incredibly upset that we had already done the estimation.

4. They all love guessing what the next day’s estimation will be.

If you haven’t done this yet, start tomorrow!  (or maybe wait until Monday)

Why I love blogging AKA Groups Part 2

I just love this new blogging experience and my love was once again renewed last night when I posted about my problem with the kids being in groups.  Within a few hours, I had 3 detailed, helpful, and thought provoking responses.  Amazing.  Thanks for the help, guys!

I have thought about it a lot throughout my day and I finally get it!  It just took strangers across the internet to make me see what I wasn’t understanding before.  Here is what I am taking away and working with from here:

1. Biggest and most important- if they are given engaging material at the appropriate level with clear directions and support- they will be on task a lot more than if those things aren’t met!  I knew this, of course, but I do think I was trying to squeeze way too much into a shorter amount of time and not explaining to the kids how to do these kind of activities.  I was asking how to get the kids to come to my level when I should have been going to their level first and then building them up to where I want them to be.  I was looking at my problem from the wrong side!  I am going to shorten the activities for the future, make sure they are engaging, and walk them through what they should be doing a lot more until they are ready for me to back off a big.

2. I want to come up with some sort of a reward for the learning they are doing.  Maybe if they all are able to pass the assessment so they can keep each other accountable.  The first time I will be working on this is tomorrow in class when they are doing a review activity for the unit test on Wednesday.  I will let you know what I come up with and how it goes.

3. It is harder this year because it is better teaching.  And doing your best teaching is hard work.  And I will always have students who aren’t where I want them to be academically and behaviorally, but I have to keep working on this since they are doing something that isn’t familiar to them and forcing someone to think who has never had to before is hard work for them too. 

Thank you thank you thank you for reading and supporting me.  You amaze me!

Groups- Help Please!

I have made some major changes in the way that I teach this year.  I had previously been a students-in-rows, me-doing-notes-on-the-board, students-copying-them-down, then-you-practice-on-your-own type of girl.  It worked for me.  I don’t think I was a horrible teacher doing this.  We did group work once or twice a week, and it always felt a little chaotic, and I’m not a fan of chaos.  Last year, I was ready for a change.  In my 6th year of teaching, I had planning down, management down, assessment down… things were in no way perfect, I was always looking to improve and tweek and make things the best they could be.  I learned about foldables and started spicing up my notes.  I slowly moved to a notebook system.  It was a great change and I knew I was on the right track.  Then came the summer that I think will shape the entire rest of my teaching career.  I found the math twitterblogosphere and joined the new blogger initative.  I will never go back.  I have learned and grown professionally more in the past few months than the entire 6 years before that.  I do think I needed the first 6 years though in order to be ready to accept and embrace all of this.

So to get to the point, I think this year is going so well because I am doing the best teaching that I have ever done.  I have moved the kids to groups.  I was terrified, but there are so many great things about this.  I now incorporate collaboration and working together into everything that I do.  I encourage talking and interacting with the material.  I am obsessed with sorting activities where the kids have to move the pieces around and figure out how things fit together and actually WORK instead of mindlessly copying things down and spitting them back out. But I have a problem and I am hoping the people out there in the blog world can help me with it.

How can I get the kids to stay on task and work at a reasonable pace??

Everything is taking FOREVER to do.  The cutting of pieces, the gluing in, the off-task talking and then every so often putting a piece down.

Week 1: I gave the kids the expectations for group work, talked about why I want them in groups, talked about the alternative, everyone agreed that groups are awesome.  Then group activity #1- they get started immediately, I am walking around, listening to the amazing things they are saying.  When the activity is over, I give them a whole class point (blogged about here) on our hundreds chart.  I point out the awesome things, we are feeling great!

Week 2: Continue to feel great, point out those great things, continue to give points to the whole group, and now start table points as well as giving out red tickets to individuals doing awesome.  (These tickets are turned in to a bucket and I draw names for prizes at the end of the week.) 

Week 3:  WHAT HAPPENED?????  Kids came in Monday and they are different kids.  This is my 7th year, I understand that this is normal for the honeymoon to be over and the behavior to change.  I get that.  So I continue to remind them about how great groups are, why we love them, what the alternative is, continue to give team points.  Except now I have one or two teams that have ridiculous amounts of points and the rest of the teams are still there ho-humming along.  The problem is that they aren’t doing anything that is necessarily wrong or anything I could give a consequence for.  When I say, “I need you to stay on task”, the response is always, “But I’m working, see!”  And they are… mostly.  They just aren’t seeing the importance of getting things done at a faster pace with a little more focus.  So I tell them they have to get it done at home then.  Some do, some don’t.  So I say, but if you finish early, then you can start on your homework, (and this is what I really want to happen, because I WANT them to talk about their homework and practice together), this motivates some, but doesn’t really make a huge impact.

If you have managed to stick with my problem so far, I thank you!

So anyone out there with awesome ideas for motivation?  I have thought about a prize for the first group who has all correct answers, but understand that some kids work slower but they are really on task and working hard and I don’t want to punish them.  I have thought about putting 3 mini post its on each desk, and I would take away an individual’s post it each time they are off task, then giving a reward to those students who can keep all 3, but I can’t perfect this idea the right way.  I was thinking about offering a string of my red ticket rewards to the whole group and however many they have left at the end of the hour, they can keep… but again, I can’t seem to make this into a realistic workable idea.  So what do YOU do to keep things moving and focused and can you please share it with me tonight so I can start it tomorrow morning, please?

These are a few of my favorite things…

Today I randomly pulled out one of my favorite things, and it worked so well that I had to blog about it!  I have a box full of various fidget balls that I have gathered throughout the years. 


When I got it out this morning, one of my students who has a lot of trouble staying focused asked what they were, so I gave him one and he had a fantastic day!  He was in my room for two periods and did everything he was supposed to do and wasn’t disruptive at all.  I also used one for another student in a different hour and it worked like magic!  I am fully aware that tomorrow they might be a huge distraction and have the opposite effect, but I am happy that they worked today!

Next is a very random favorite thing.  I had a student ask me about my white board today.  He wanted to know what I wrote with when I made my lines.  You can see a small part of it here (he was talking about the thin orange line):


So I told him that I wrote with sharpie.  Cue the collective gasp from my students.  They were all very concerned that I would get in trouble for ruining the white board.  So to prove my point, I asked someone to throw me a sharpie and drew a huge line throught the middle of the board… and then drew over with with white board marker and erased it with the white board eraser.  So if you aren’t aware of this- it is pretty useful.  I always draw dividing lines for the sides of my board for my schedule, homework, and objectives.  They look much nicer than thick white board lines.  I also have used sharpie to draw a coordinate plane on the white board so we can use it over and over to graph multiple points or to write problems that I do not want erased for a while.  Try it if you haven’t!

So really, it is only two of my favorite things today.  Sorry if you were really hoping for more than two 🙂


Before I get into the main point of the post, I wanted to post a picture of how my properties sort looked like when the kids did it.  It went so well!  The page I uploaded with scribd did not show up well with the formatting.


So now, on to the integers.  Adding and subtractint positive and negative numbers is always so difficult for kids but so important to learn so that they can do all of the algebra they will see in the next few years.  So I try to show them several different ways to solve the problems and hope that on way works for them.


I started with this Flip Flap Fringe activity from the AIMS book Positive vs Negative.  Can’t stress how much I love these books!  The kids can fold the positive and negative signs in to come up with the answers to the problems.  I think this also helps to see how a positve and negative number match up and cancel out.

We then created a foldable about integers.  I have the kids circle the number plus the sign before it.  Then they can better see if they have numbers with the same signs or different signs, then know whether they add or subtract.


Then @jreulbach posted this video on twitter.  We did this activity today and it went really well!


The students use stickers to represent positive and negative numbers.  They can easily see if both numbers are the same sign or opposite signs.  It also forced them to really think about the signs first because I hammered them hard about wasting the stickers.  Also, the third sticker that focused on the sign of the answers added an extra bonus discussion about whether the answer to one of the problems- 13 + (-13) would result in a positive or negative number.  Then a discussion of whether neither or both were the same thing- as i n “0 is both negative and positive or 0 is neither negative nor positive.”

Also, another awesome change this year has been moving my kids into groups.  Before, I had the kids in rows, then I would move them into groups once or twice a week for group activities.  This was not my favorite time.  The kids were always much louder and off topic.  But being in groups all of the time has accomplished a few things:

1. It has forced me to have the kids talking in groups multiple times during one class period.

2. The groups are not as loud and not as off topic because it isn’t something new to them.  I also set forth very specific expectations for noise level and tasks to accomplish.  Then when the kids meet them, I immediately praise and specifically talk about what went well- “Awesome!  You guys are getting a point for several reasons- your noise level was perfect, I didn’t hear anyone off topic, but the best part was as soon as I said go, you guys immediately got started.  I heard group 7 talking about _____, group 3 brought up ______, and group 1 had this question _______. ”

3. This has also changed the way I check homework.  I have the kids take out their homework when they get into class and discuss the answers with their groups.  They circle the answers that were different and they couldn’t agree on.

First Week

Be prepared, I am going to get dramatic here.  After the end of day 3, so far this year is the best. year. ever.  And I am trying to figure out why.  I really think I can attribute the success of this year in part to starting an interactive notebook.  I also think a lot of it has to do with the amazing group of bloggers I have met who have been kind enough to share their ideas with me (and the rest of the world).  While my to-do list is just as long as every other year, the plans and activities that I prepared for these first days all turned out to work much better than I could ever have imagined.  So here are some of the things I did (I think I already blogged about all of them already, but I am going to tell how they went now!)

Day 1: Mrs. S by the Numbers (found here).  I had the kids match the numbers, then I decided to use my new white boards and markers and had the kids hold up their answers.  I loved this because I would dramatically pause before announcing my answer, then after the annoucement the kids would either cheer or let out loud groans.  I had no idea it would be so intense.  Also, as far as the whiteboards and markers went, both projects were successful, minus the one puff ball that a student ripped off.  The red markers did leave behind a red tint on the page protectors, but I can live with that.

I also assigned my Million Words or Less assignment to the kids.  I don’t know where I found it, but when I googled it, I found many many similar assignments except they were directed to the parents to write about their students.  I had my students write to me.  I assigned it on the first day (Tuesday) and it is due Friday.  Day 1, several students turned in fine assignments, they all wrote me a few sentences telling me some interesting things.  I thought, “cool, this was fun, I would do it again.”  Then Wednesday, more turned them in but I didn’t get to them until tonight.  Wow.  Several letters had me laughing out loud, and one specifically went from laughing to tears streaming down my face as I read the paragraph to my husband.  Many of the letters from this day were absolutely amazing and touching and I will for sure be reading them over and over.  I can’t wait to read the rest tomorrow.  Oh, and my toughest student, the one who hasn’t made it to class on time so far and hasn’t brought a single thing to class… Turned it in!  Yay!

Day 2: Glue in all pages into the notebook.  We only did the first 4 on that page on day 2, and did the others today on day 3.  Gluing all went great, and then came my activity. 

Since my first year teaching, I had this idea in my head and finally did it this year.  I had no idea if it would bomb or not.  But it went great!  Almost every single group came up with the answer to the problem and were so excited and happy that they could do it on their own without any help.  Success!  It also gave me a great opportunity to talk to the kids about working in groups with a fairly low stress situation. 

Day 3: Scoring Scales Match AKA The highlight of my week so far.  So while I like scoring scales, I think the kids don’t know enough or understand enough so that they understand the grade they have in class and if it is “good” or “bad”.  Students (and parents!) have a problem with a D, but a 1.0?  What the heck is that?  It is close to a 3.0, so that’s good, right?  So I had the kids cut out descriptions today and line them up in order.  Then we went through each score and talked about what it would mean.  Now this is in their notebooks so we can refer back to it.  This went great!  This also gave the kids another opportunity to work in groups with pretty low stress.

I also introduced my class to the blog I started just for my room, students, and parents.  I want to use this to post pictures and info about what we do in class each day so it can be accessed at home in case students forget their notebooks or are absent.  2 hours after school ended and 3 of the students had already started following the blog and had commented… 31 had viewed it… and I had an email from a student with a link to her own blog that she had started today to document her journey in 7th grade!!  I am in shock.  I can’t believe something that had never even been on my radar before this summer is now such an important part of my life.  So thanks to everyone out there in the math twitterblogosphere

Now that I have written this blog post, and posted something about my amazing week on facebook, I have for sure jinxed myself for a horrible day tomorrow.  But the success of my first 3 days may have been worth it!

#made4math- Page Protector Whiteboards

I’ve seen this idea floating around and I love it!  I think there are so many possibilities for thing you can put in the page protector and I think the kids will be so engaged when they can use white board markers instead of pencil and paper.  I also think it will change a lot of what I do as far as assessment.  Instead of turning in papers, I will be able to walk around and see what students are working on and change my teaching accordingly.  I also plan to use graph paper for graphing equations and slope. 

So here’s what I did:

Step 1: Take page protector and put a piece of white card stock inside.  I did this because I wanted students to be able to hold their answers up when needed and it gives the whiteboards a little more stability.

Step 2: Cut off the 3 hole punch edge.

Step 3: Cut a length of fun duck tape (Yes, I know the old school silver stuff is Duct Tape, but the fun colored kind is actually Duck Tape).  I went with pink zebra stripes, blue jeans, and mustaches.  I folded the tape around the bottom edge first, then did the same for the sides.  I left the top open so I can slide different papers in there.

This was the point when I realized that it might take a lot longer than I thought…  But it really wasn’t too bad once I got a system.

The finished product:

All 3 designs: