Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Cost of School Supplies!

I don't know about you, but my kids ask for stuff all the time.  American Girl dolls, clothes, little Disney figurines, movies... They think about what they want for Christmas in March and what they want for their next birthday a month after their birthday already occurred.

And my husband and I have conversations with them all the time about how money doesn't grow on trees and we have to work for what we have and yada yada yada.

But, one of my favorite things in the world is teaching my kids through learning about how expensive life really is.

So, I decided that I would teach my 3rd grader a little thing called, "How much do mommy and daddy spend on my school supplies?". You could do this with anything honestly, but I thought this was a good place to start since it's the beginning of the school year and school supplies cost two arms and three legs.

Our school supply list is posted on our school website, so I just printed it off.  Here is what it looks like.

Once your have your school supply list, go to Walmart's online grocery. This website is a math teacher's DREAM y'all!  Just type in your zip code and you should be able to find just about all the items on this list!  Except for that annoying 12 by 18 construction paper. I went to Amazon for that one!

Go to the website:  https://grocery.walmart.com

Have your kids type in each item and write the cost out to the side. Depending on their math skills, you can either have them add up the amounts by hand or they can use a calculator.

Then, watch as they stare bug eyed at their paper when the figure out that their school supplies really cost that much!!!  ;)

Friday, August 12, 2016

You Need to Know Math for That?

During my most recent baking session with my daughters (making lemon sprinkle cookies... yum!), I had my teacher-mom hat on.  I purposefully gave my oldest daughter a 1/4 cup and asked her to show me how many she needed in order to produce 1 1/2 cups of sugar.

She proceeded to tell me that she was going to get a job that didn't require this type of math.

I immediately had flashbacks of my days in the classroom, as I began my rant about how all jobs require math!

So, I began a list just to show her how many jobs really do require the use of math skills, and wow!  Obviously, all of the jobs are not listed here, but I chose the jobs that most young kids are attracted to in order to make a point with my own child!

Here's my cutesy design showcasing all (okay... a lot of) those careers!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Math Fact Motivation and Success

I think the biggest challenges when trying to get students to learn their multiplication facts are...

A.  There isn't enough time to teach them during the school day
B.  Students don't study them at home
C.  There is a lack of motivation and/or high anxiety when it comes to taking timed fact tests

I don't know about you, but when I taught 5th grade, the majority of my students didn't know their facts, which makes it difficult to teach just about everything in math.  To fix that, I tried combining timed tests with this data notebook.

I know, I know... some people are against giving timed tests.  But, this is so much more than the timed test part.  It's about accountability.  It's about motivating them to learn their facts!  How can you teach math without fact knowledge people??!!

Here are some things that surprised me in implementing the data notebooks!

1.  My students studied at home (yes, HOME!).
2.  They competed against themselves, not each other.
3.  They actually enjoyed taking the multiplication fact tests (WHAT??!!)!  No anxiety.  No complaining.
4.  I was able to indirectly teach several other concepts (like interpreting data, multiplying 2-digit by 1-digit numbers, subtracting, and mean, median, and mode)!
5.  Many of my students had a much easier time learning other concepts (e.g. simplifying fractions) as a byproduct of learning their facts!
6.  Oh my goodness, parent/teacher conferences were so much easier!

Here is a rundown of what is included in my Multiplication Data Notebook and how I used it effectively in my own classroom.

First, here were my rules (you can change these based on your own student's needs):

* Students have 1 minute to complete the test.
* When finished, they graph their own scores, and occasionally they will graph the class average.
* I remind them that they are competing against themselves, not each other.  I reiterate this throughout the year and make sure that I praise those who increase their scores, even minimally.  Students will shut down if they feel like they are competing against that one student in your class that knows all his/her facts before you begin using the notebooks.

Here is what you need (and it's included in the resource):

1.  27 multiplication fact assessments

You can give these assessments in several different ways, but this is how I did it.

1.  -- I started by giving a pretest (Facts 2-12's).  Students graph their pretest score (which is the baseline score) and the class average.

-- Every Tuesday, we took our multiplication test.  I started with the 2's.  If the students did well as a class, I increased one fact each week.  So, they would do 2's and 3's the next Tuesday, and 2's, 3's, and 4's the next.

If the students did poorly as a class, we would take another test on Thursday over the same number.  Then, we moved on to 2's and 3's the following Tuesday.

There are many different ways you can do this:
* One fact each week
* Adding in a fact each week
* All facts each week

-- When finished, the students graphed their own data.  If they had to take a test on Tuesday and Thursday, they had to graph both of those, so make sure the kids draw their bars fairly thin.

2.  Graph the Data

Each student should have a plain folder with brads.  In each folder, there was:

1.  Whole Class Pre, Mid, and Post Test
2.  Individual Pre, Mid, and Post Test
3.  Individual Graph for specific facts
4.  ALL graded assessments!  This way, the students can go back to analyze what problems they had difficulty with AND it can be used during parent/teacher conferences as a way to show parents how far their child has come.
5.  Goal sheets

You can also make a large class graph to show students their class progress on a bulletin board!

3.  Goal Setting

* After the Pre-test and Mid-test, I gave my students goal sheets.  You can give these at any time and for any and all facts.  I just did it for the pre and mid tests because I felt like it would lose it's luster if I made them do it every time.  We also talk about setting reasonable and realistic goals so that I didn't see kids giving up when they didn't master their goals.

Throughout the testing, they can track the numbers they know with this bookmark!

One of the best things about these notebooks is that when I had parent/teacher conferences, I had the students get their notebooks and explain them to their parents.  This was easy and the kids were often really excited to share that with their parents.

How to use these assessments to teach other concepts!
**2-digit by 1-digit Multiplication**
Have students grade their tests.  Since there are 50 problems, they have to multiply the number correct by 2 to find their total score.

Obviously, they have to graph their scores.  :)

**Mean, Median, Mode**
Collect all the students scores.  I used to have my students call their's out, but you MUST set clear expectations to do this.  Students must be respectful and understand that there is no competition between each other, and that we are encouraging one another to increase their own fact knowledge!  If this groundwork is not laid and the kids are not reminded before doing this each time, they will make fun of the ones with low scores.  Another way to do it is to take the scores yourself, write them all on the board, and have the students figure out the mean, median, and mode each time.  I didn't even have to take the time to teach this concept because the kids knew it back and forth by the end of our data collection.

This was the single most successful thing I did in my class in the six years I taught.  It is a must try in every math classroom!

If you want to purchase the notebook, here's a link!  You will not regret it!

Monday, August 1, 2016

How is a Teacher Like an Olympic Athlete?

The Summer Olympics is my all-time favorite event ever!  Starting Saturday, I will be glued to the TV watching swimming, diving, and gymnastics!  Go USA!

So, in honor of the Summer Games and the impending school year...

1.  Teachers are experts in their area.
Just like an Olympic gymnast knows her routine, teachers are experts of their craft.  They know their standards like the back of their hand.  They can teach any topic in their content area off the cuff.  And they know everything about each and every one of their students.

2.  They are competitive.  To be a teacher is to be a competitor.  They compete to win:
* The most cans collected in the canned food drive
* The most ribbons at field day
* The best costume on Dress Like a Book Character Day
* The quietest class in the hallway
* The best holiday door design
* The most Box Tops tops collected
* The cutest bulletin boards

This list could go on and on...

3.  They are fearless!
Teachers willingly walk into their classrooms knowing they will be faced with bad attitudes, snotty noses, tattle telling, parents, talking back, and incredibly high expectations.  And they continue to come back year after year.

4.  They are held to extremely high standards.
Despite limited resources, a lack of parental and administrative support, students in poverty, etc., teachers are expected to achieve standards that often seem completely unreasonable.

5.  They are passionate!
Teachers seriously love what they do and the students they serve.  They wouldn't do it if they didn't.

6.  They make no money.
Sure, Olympic athletes get bonuses for winning medals.  And big time athletes get some pretty sweet endorsement deals.  But, the vast majority of Olympic athletes make nothing.  They do what they do out of sheer passion, just like teachers.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

What Teachers With Kids Really Do in the Summer!

That moment when someone says "Man, I wish I had a job where I got summers off"...


1.  We schedule appointments
Need a dental cleaning?  Too bad!  You have to wait until summer.
Doctor visit?  No way Jose.
Well check ups?  Not until summer.
Oh, you have an ingrown toenail?  You better hop on one foot for a few months!
No one has time for appointments during the school year, and even if we did, who wants to write sub plans?


2.  We schedule our kid's appointments
Multiply a teacher's summer appointments by the number of kids they have.  It's not pretty.

3.  We have babies
You know those late May, early June babies... yeah, those are probably teacher's kids.  Having a baby during the school year is dang near impossible if you want your students to learn anything.

4.  We do arts, crafts, and teaching
Then, when you have those babies, you have to actually TEACH them!  We do this partly because we have mom-teacher guilt if we don't, but also because we don't want the side eye from our children's teachers when they find out that WE are teachers!

5.  We go to workshops
Yes, we work... for FREE!


Okay, okay... we don't really work for free.  We get paid in credits that go toward renewing our teacher certification every few years.  It's pretty much the same thing.

6.  We go on vacation
Because who wants to plan a trip during the fall or spring when it's nice outside and plane tickets are cheap? Definitely not us!

7.  We go on pinning binges and write lessons
In case you haven't heard, teachers don't actually get time to PLAN their lessons at school.  That doesn't make any sense, I know.  But, teachers do their planning at home... on nights, weekends, and SUMMERS!  So, while you are watching your Netflix shows, we are pinning and planning ideas to start our year off on the right foot.


8.  We set up our classroom
This is another one of those things that doesn't make sense.  Teachers don't get time to set up their rooms either!  What???  Yeah... I know, I don't get this one either.  We come in during our summers to do this... and most likely, we are doing it with our kids in tow.

9.  We spring clean
Who has time to clean your whole house from top to bottom during Spring Break?  Not this lady!  So, any household chores that have been piling up will be done in the summer.  And by the time summer gets here, it has gotten pretty bad!


10.  Sleep and relax
Hahaha!  Just kidding.  Who has time for that?


Sunday, February 28, 2016

Meet Baby Oliver

I have been slacking for the past few months, but for a very good reason!  Meet the newest member of my family, Oliver!  I forgot how much I love having a newborn around the house.  And... don't you just love that new baby smell??!!

And here was my attempt to document my baby belly until we found out the sex.  With two little girls and a full time job, this is what I accomplished... lol!  It's the thought that counts, right?

Sunday, January 3, 2016

10 Ways to Make Your Parents Happy

Despite working in education for 8 years, I identify as a parent, first and foremost.  I didn't have children when I began teaching and didn't understand anything about a parent's anxiety about sending their child off to school with a virtual stranger.  Now that I am a parent of at least one school-aged child, my mind has been opened to all the ways a teacher can make parents feel that their child is in good hands.

Here are 10 ways to make parents feel that they are involved in your classroom and that you truly care about their child!  If you haven't done these all year long, no big deal!  This is a new year!

** I have listed them in order of most important to least important (in my opinion, of course)!  :)

#10:  Set up a private social media account for your class

This is a great way to allow your parents to connect with other parents, share pictures or birthday party invites, and remind each other about things that you might forget about!

Try these:

* Facebook:  This will allow parents to interact with each other and share pictures with other parents, specifically those who aren't able to participate in activities that take place during the school day.

* Instagram:  This is super quick and easy!  Post pictures of what you and the kids are doing in real time to give parents a glimpse inside your classroom!

It also gives you a great excuse for being on your phone when your principal walks into the room!  :)

#9:  Help our kids stay organized

Easier said than done, I know.  But, there are simple ways to help kids to get their work and materials from point A to point B without getting lost.

Some ideas include:

1.  Use a specific colored folder for certain content areas
2.  Put guided reading books, library books, or even graded homework in gallon-sized baggies to take to and from home.
3.  Label certain parts of the folder for homework, graded work, etc.
4.  Set time aside each week to clean out folders, desks, or lockers.
5.  Use checklists!  For example, at the end of the day, use a checklist to help kids remember all the things they need to take home.

* Routine is super important!  If you have a great classroom routine, your kids are more likely to know that they need each day!

#8:  Send a weekly newsletter

This is so easy.  Set up a one-page template.  There are tons of free ones out there!  Just Google "Teacher Newsletter Templates" and download one.  Each week, give a brief update about what you did during the week, what you have been working on, and what parents could be working on at home.  Include any upcoming important dates, and you're done!

#7:  Explain the data
When you tell a parent that their child is reading on a Level J, they likely have no idea what you are talking about (and they probably won't ask you either).  As teachers, we have our students work on so many different software programs that produce information that makes no sense to the average parent. Don't just send these home and hope your parents won't ask!  Discuss results at your next parent/teacher meeting, or simply send out an email if you don't have time to meet with everyone individually.  

#6:  Tell us about our child...

And I'm not talking about the check boxes on the report card that tell us that our child talks too much.  Tell us a funny story or something unique that you like about our child.  We want to know that you have invested your time in getting to know our child and that you aren't just there for the (meager) paycheck!

#5:  ...but be honest, even if it's bad!

Don't be afraid to share things that may not be rainbows and butterflies.  Parents don't need to be bombarded with every tidbit of information, and you don't need to spend all your time calling and emailing parents either.  However, things that may need to be discussed (or disciplined) at home should be shared.  If my child had an unusually bad day and cried in class, or if she bullied someone on the playground, I would like to know so I can handle it at home.  It will help you out in the long run!

#4:  Send reminders!

Either through Remind 101, emails, or some other platform, remind your parents about important dates, assignments, and classroom activities!  We want to be informed of what is going on in the classroom!  And sorry, but our kids don't remind us of anything.  We're lucky if they tell us what they ate for lunch, so don't expect them to share the information with us when they get home.  :)

#3:  Take pictures!

My daughter's kindergarten teacher took pictures of every single event they had in their classroom and put them into a quick little video each week.  I will never be able to thank that woman enough for capturing moments in my child's life that I was not able to be involved in.  But it's not just for elementary kiddos.  Middle and high schoolers do some pretty cool stuff at school. There are tons of ways to make collages that take just minutes to do.  You can use things like Smilebox slideshows to create memories for your kids and their parents!

#2  Limit homework.

... or give homework well in advance.  Here are just a couple of reasons:

A.  Kids have after school activities, like sports or music/art classes, that are just as important as school.

B.  Some parents actually like to spend quality time with their family.
C.  No parent wants to get off work just to argue with their child about the proper way to multiply two-digit numbers.
D.  Believe it or not, some parents actually can't help their children with homework.  Either their jobs don't allow it, there is a language barrier, or they simply don't know how to do the work.  So, if you do send home work, make sure it is at the student's level so that they don't have to seek out help from their parents.

One idea is to give weekly or monthly homework so that parents can plan homework time around other activities and have ample time to ask you if there is something they don't understand.

#1  Write something nice in their folders or on their work!

My daughter has had this "behavior" folder all year, for 5 months now.  If there is something written in the box for that day, it means she got her clip moved for bad behavior.  If there is nothing in the folder, well... I'm guessing that she did okay.  I'm honestly not really sure.  She has not once brought home a folder with anything written in it. Nothing positive or negative.  It's just a bunch of empty boxes.  PLEASE, I beg you, take the time to write positive notes on classwork, sticky notes, behavior folders, whatever!  It takes 10 seconds, and your kids and parents will love you for it!  You don't have to do it with every child every day.  Pick three kids a day to write notes to, and pick three the next day, and so forth so on.  Keep track of it by using the chart below to make sure you don't miss a child.