Saturday, October 24, 2015

Math Activities for the Holidays!

When the holidays roll around, my inner child starts to make an appearance.  And while I can't always completely step away from the math "standards", I want the kids to experience the joys of the holiday season in the classroom without realizing that I'm boring them with math!  Math is much better with some holiday spirit!

So, I decided to share some of my favorite fall activities that your kids will love...
* because they are fun

... and that you will love because 

* they require NO PREP WORK (except that you need crayon, scissors, and glue/tape)
* the kids will do their work with no fussing!
* you can sneak in some math standards without them even realizing it!
* you can decorate your classroom with some of them!

Halloween Math Craftivity

My blogger friend at Cupcakes and Curriculum used this activity in her classroom and shared her pictures with me!  Here's the activity in action!

You can get this product in the link/picture below!

You can find more fall activities (and even winter, if you're that prepared!) at my TpT store!  Here are some of them!

Halloween Math Activities

Thanksgiving Math Activities

And a Thanksgiving Freebie!

Happy fall y'all!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015


Just three years ago, we knew that our second child would be our last.  My husband is a funeral director and I, at the time, was a teacher, and day care is not cheap, y'all!  So, even though we wanted more, we just knew it wasn't in our cards.

We have many friends and family members who have fertility issues or have had miscarriages.  We even know some who have lost a child.  So, we have always felt incredibly blessed that we have two beautiful and healthy children and were satisfied with that.  But, we always said that if we magically tripped over a bag of money one day, we would have just one more.

Well, in 2013, I started my journey into Teachers Pay Teachers hoping that I would make enough money to buy a pair of shoes or a cute shirt each month!  Little did I know that this "side job" would give us the opportunity to add another child to our family!  So........

We are PREGNANT with baby #3!!

My family and I are super thankful for all the wonderful people who follow my store and buy my resources and leave me wonderfully motivating feedback.  I also cannot show enough love for the people at TpT who work so hard to help teachers around the world be successful at the thing they are most passionate about!

And just in case you are curious... this is my current craving.  I'm not a fan of pickles, but holy moly, these are good!

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Do's and Don'ts of IEP Meetings (for Teachers)

When I was a teacher, an IEP meeting meant one thing:  No conference period.  

For me, it was just one thing added to my never-ending list of to-do's.  I didn't plan for them.  In fact, sometimes I forgot about them.  There was no class or manual that taught what was to be expected of me.  And to be honest, anyone who knew me during my teacher years knows I've broken every rule in the book.  Let's just say, I'm glad there are no video tapes in IEP meetings!  So, if this is you, just know that you are not alone!

I have spent many hours in IEP meetings since becoming a diagnostician, so here's a list of things I would like to have known as a teacher (and things that just drive me crazy!).  :)

The Do's & Don'ts of IEP Meetings (for Teachers)

1.  Attend the meeting on time:  I cannot tell you how many minutes I have spent waiting on teachers (or... ahem... administrators) to actually show up to the meeting.  I even give day-before reminders on most cases and still have some not show up.  So, please don't make someone have to find you, especially if you work in a humongous school where the possibilities are endless as to where we might find you!

2.  Recognize that it is a formal, legal, and confidential meeting:  Legal and confidential are the words you should take from this.  You could be in court one day defending what you said in an IEP meeting, so make sure to choose your words wisely.  And remember that the meeting is confidential and the only people who you should speak with about it are those who have educational interest (meaning, if you are a 4th grade teacher, you don't discuss it with a 1st grade teacher over lunch).

One more thing... what you decide in a meeting has to be implemented!

3.  Tell the parent how the child is doing, but DON'T withhold information because of fear:  I once had a teacher come into a meeting before the parent got there and told me about all the problems she was having in her class with this particular student.  During the meeting, when it was the teacher's turn to speak, she said, "Oh, he's doing pretty well" and then proceeded to tell about all the (minimal) progress he had made.  Please don't do this!  If you end up having very serious problems with a child in the future, there is nothing to back up that this has been a consistent problem.  In fact, you are basically saying that there were no problems at this time and thus the current problem is a fluke.  Be honest (and kind), and don't sugar coat the important information that parents need to know.

4.  Bring data and work samples:  Nothing says you know what you're talking about like data and work samples!  Bring the stuff to back up what you are seeing in the classroom.

5.  Share ideas that might work in the classroom (or at home):  You are the expert not only of your content area, but of that child.  So, don't feel intimidated by all those specialists sitting at the table.  Share what is working and what is not working in the classroom, and bring ideas to the table that we can talk about!

6.  Take notes:  Things change.  Maybe it's an accommodation.  Maybe the student now has a new medical issue.  Whatever the case may be, you are likely the only person who knows the information when you walk out of that meeting, and you have to share it with the other teachers.  Don't rely on someone else to send that information everyone else.

And... please... I beg you, please don't play on your phone or fall asleep.  You're asking, "Would anybody actually do that?".  Why yes, yes they would.

7.  Put yourself in the parent's shoes:  I meet parents a lot who are genuinely concerned about their child, but don't know how to help.  Whether it's due to a lack of education, support, or understanding, they are having the same problems you are.  Try to understand how difficult it must be to have a child with a disability, and be cautious in how you speak about that child with the parent.

8.  Speak up:  Nothing makes me more angry than this scenario:

Me (to general education teacher):  "Would you like to share how little Johnny is doing in your classroom?"
General education teacher:  "No, she (special education teacher) pretty much covered it!"

Oh.My.Gosh!  I can't deal with this one.  I hate (and I mean, hate) speaking in a public forum.  I'm terrified.  And I have this really embarrassing issue where my face turns bright red when I'm nervous (or mad... or put on the spot... or for just about any other reason!).  So, I completely understand the fear of speaking to a group of professionals.  But, seriously, you have to suck it up.  By not speaking, you are either telling the parent that you are scared to speak or you just plain don't care, and neither of those are good ways to be viewed.  Also, you know this child more than anyone else at that table, other than the parent.  Share how she did on a specific activity or assignment or share a funny story. But, please don't pass up on an opportunity to speak about the child.

9.  Be a team player:  Don't be that person who gets to the IEP meeting and disagrees with everything the committee says.  And please don't check that you disagree with the IEP Committee on the signature page unless there is just no other option!  You can absolutely disagree, but give your opinions and your concerns during the meeting and work through them with the others.  If you check that disagree box, you will have to redo the meeting at another date, and no one wants that!  Be kind, open minded, and cooperative and all will go well.

10.  Share positives about the student:  This should be common sense, I know, but it still needs to be said.  You can absolutely share concerns and issues that happen in your classroom, but always... and I mean ALWAYS... give some positives.

11.  Listen up and ask questions:  Even though you are an expert, you are not the only expert.  Parents most often have the most valuable information about your students.  Many IEP Committee members also include speech therapists, occupational therapists, school counselors, and school psychologists.  These people are full of wonderful information, but they can sometimes forget they are talking to people who don't have degrees in their area of expertise.  So, ask questions when you don't understand, because if you don't understand, it's likely the parent doesn't either.

12.  Be willing to try new things:  If something isn't working in your classroom, be open to new ideas.  Sometimes a seemingly odd suggestion will actually work, so be willing to try anything that will help the child to be successful in your classroom.

I hope your year (and your next IEP meeting) is a success!

For my math teachers returning to school, here is a free product that I just LOVE!  Find and download it here!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Math Menu Fun and a Back to School FREEBIE!

When I taught in 4th and 5th grades, I used old grocery ads and restaurant menus for math activities.  I kept them in a cabinet all year long and would take them out when I had a fun activity to do.  However, after a year or two, my ads and menus would dwindle down to shreds of paper.  Kids would lose or tear the pages or the ads would be all mixed up or stuck in upside down.  Since I needed a class set, I would have to go sneak back into a grocery store and take another stack, assuming no one was guarding them!  Haha!

After a couple of years of doing this, I decided that it would be easier to just create my own menus that I could print off whenever I wanted, use as a homework assignment, or laminate and wrap with a rubber band.  I just wanted an easier way for my kids to enjoy the menus without the hassle of keeping up with them all!  On top of that, I could create them for all sorts of things that kids would experience in real life, like going to a ski shop, or planting a garden!

So, I created my own.  All the kids need is a menu and a worksheet.  They use the menu to answer the questions.  Easy for the teacher, rigorous (I made differentiated versions for different levels), and the kids love them!

With that being said, I wanted to share one of my favorite activities from my little TpT store - Math Menus! Because it's back to school time, I wanted to share this freebie with you so that your kids can have some fun in the first weeks of school!

Here are some more of my favorites, but I have plenty of different kinds!  Your kids will love them!

Halloween Math Menus

The Burger Joint Math Menu

Pizza Pies Math Menu

You can find more menus here and here at my store!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Stop Saying "You're So Smart" - Growth Mindset

Last year, my school invited Eduardo Briceño to talk to us about the importance of having a growth mindset, a concept from "The Power of Belief - Mindset and Success" and this book by Carol Dweck (affiliate link)!

He basically asserts that there are two types of people: those who think intelligence and skills are fixed/unchanging and others who believe they are able to be developed/honed.

In his speech and his book, he discusses one thing that we all (likely) have done:  tell a student how smart he/she is or tell a student how good he/she is at a specific skill.  Now, I have heard that telling your kids they are "smart" is not the way to go, but I guess I had filed that info away in a section of my brain that doesn't get much use.  Well, according to Briceño, doing this puts kids into a fixed mindset where they think they are either good or bad at something and nothing can change that.  He says that children who live in a fixed mindset are less likely to engage in challenging or difficult work because they think it's just too hard and they can't do it.

Since I am no longer in the classroom, I decided to use this concept on my 6-year-old to see what kind of affect it had on her.  There are tons of examples that I could give that I have done on my own, but I'll just mention one of them that happened recently with my daughter's swim teacher.

My daughter takes swimming lessons all year long.  She is the type of kid who could care less about sports and would rather just play at home.  It bothers me because I grew up in sports (I played competitive and college soccer and high school tennis) and have a very competitive spirit.  So, going to swimming is kind of a drag sometimes because she doesn't always want to go.

On her first day of swimming this summer, her teacher told us that she would be working mainly on endurance, so that whole practice, they swam laps back and forth in the pool.  My daughter cried on the way home because she was so tired and her body hurt so bad. On the second day of swimming, I basically had to drag her out of the house.

After a grueling practice, I met with her teacher to discuss how my daughter was doing.  During that discussion, the teacher stated to me and my daughter that she was so proud of her because she never complains, even when the work is hard, and even when she's tired, she never quits.

You should have seen my daughter's face when she said that.  You should have seen MY face!  Not only did she mention specific things that she was doing well in, but she cemented in her head that the path to success in swimming is not just being "good" at it.  It's from working hard, not complaining, and never giving up.  From that day on, I have not heard one complaint out of that child.  She starts off every morning with, "When is swimming?  I just can't wait to go to swimming!".

In the spirit of this, I've decided to come up with a list of words you can use to motivate your students and encourage a growth mindset this coming school year.  

Say them, write them on stickies, leave them in journals or on homework assignments, and tell your kids' parents!

To print this out, click here.

Find my Growth Mindset resource here!  It includes a guide for parents and their children so that growth mindset doesn't stop when the kids walk out your door!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Making Up For Lost Time

Every summer, I give my best shot homeschooling my kids.  And when I say "homeschooling", I mean that I spend a little time teaching them something, and then we go out to play!  I mean, if I didn't teach them something, I would feel a little guilty when I told my student's parents that they need to make time to work with their kids at home, right?

Well, since I have an almost-3-year-old, I feel it's most important to just learn the basics:  letters, numbers, and shapes.  When my oldest daughter was 3, I used to have time to purposefully teach all this through the year, but now that I have two, it's just not that easy, so we cram over the summer.

So, I decided to go the flash card route just to get some baseline data.  I created flash cards for all the letters (upper and lowercase), number (through 20), and shapes.

I went through all the flashcards.  It took me several times to get this data because I have one silly and squirrely 2-year-old!  But, we did it, and when we were finished, I hung my head really low when I discovered that my child knows about none of her lowercase letters and not even all of her capital letters. I also noticed that there are some shapes that are just not developmentally appropriate for my daughter (like octagon and hexagon, because they look too similar, and I'm pretty sure she doesn't understand when I say, "Let's count the sides").

I collected the data on this simple little chart to see where she began, and we will continue to do this each week throughout the summer.

I do not plan on drilling and killing this stuff all summer.  We'll do some cute activities, draw some letters and numbers in shaving cream, do some puzzles, play some games, and as always, we will make meaningful discussions of our everyday activities.  But, I will use these data collection sheets all summer to see where we end up.  If you have littles and want to use them, click here.

Hope you all have a wonderfully relaxing summer!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Graphing with Stickies

This is a great and super easy way to introduce bar graphs and dot plots!  For these graphs, I got the dot stickers and little 2 by 2 sticky notes from Target.  :)  That's all you need!

Bar Graph

Materials needed:
*  White board
*  White board marker
*  Small 2 by 2 sticky notes

First thing you want to do is determine a topic.  I chose "Favorite Summer Activity".  Get the kids to help create some categories and write those down.  Then, take a vote to determine how far your graph needs to extend.  Talk to them about why you do this.

Start drawing (and labeling) your graph!  Drawing it with your kids helps them to learn the parts of each graph and helps them to understand how they are generated.  Also, talking about the process as you're going provides a great learning experience.

I drew my scale using the sticky notes (shown above) since that is what the kids were using.  When you are finished, have each student come up and place a sticky note on their favorite activity.  Make sure you mention that their sticky note must line up with the scale.  Some kids will stick them partially on top of another which makes the data appear incorrect.

Voila!  I did different colors for the cute factor, but using the same colors might make the graph easier to read.

Dot Plot

Materials needed:
* White board
* Expo marker
* Circle sticky dots

Just like the bar graph, you want to create your dot plot with the kids.  Show them how to create the scale.  I used index cards to separate the numbers, but you could be good and use a ruler!  It really doesn't matter as long as the spaces are even.  :)

I drew my dot plot on the white board and put the stickers on there, but if you don't feel comfortable putting sticky dots on your white board, you can always laminate a piece of poster board and tape it to the white board.  The dots are not hard to remove; however, I would remove them before the end of the day just in case.

Now you want to determine the topic.  I chose "Number of Siblings" for mine.  Take a vote to determine where your numbers (# of siblings) will begin and end.  On this one, most likely, your smallest number will be 0 for kids who have no siblings.  But for the largest, it might be 2 or it might be 18 (if you have a Duggar kid in your class), so you don't want to assume and write down any random number as your last one.

I wrote number of siblings as the title, but you can also write it underneath the numbers to show what those numbers mean.  I really don't think it matters as long as your kids know what those numbers represent.

Draw your scale (I used an index card)

Then, give each of your students a dot sticker and have them come to the board to place their sticker in the right spot.

**It is important to show them what happens if you don't align the stickers up correctly.  You can do this beforehand if you want to avoid calling anyone out (unless they do it AFTER you tell them!)

That's it!

You can download these two worksheets so the kids can draw their graphs with you!  And if you feel like being extra fun, you can give the kids these teeny tiny dot sticks so they can use them on their plots!  I bought the 1/4 inch Avery Color Coding Labels for this activity.   Here's a pic!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Going Out With a Bang!

It's the final day of our follower appreciation week and we are going out with a bang! Not only will we be announcing our four giveaway winners, but we will also be having an out of this world deal you won't want to miss! Are you ready for the big surprise? Hold on to your hats because this one is going to be super fast! Tonight at 7pm (EST) sharp we will be having a $5 FLASH SALE FOR 5 MINUTES ONLY!!!! We are marking down some of our biggest bundles priced between $20-$26 to only $5 but only for 5 minutes so you'll have to hurry! That's 75-80% off!!! You may want to get your shopping carts ready ahead of time! Below are the five bundles that will be marked down to $5 tonight.

Thank you again to all of our followers! We hope you have enjoyed our follower appreciation week!