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Changes are Happening!

There has not been a post in a while on this site! That is because my family is going through some changes right now – all good things! School started up again in August and during this time, I also began my application for graduate school. I’m now in the process of taking classes (in addition to teaching full time) in order to get my master’s degree which keeps me busy! We also are now expecting our 3rd child, due in February!

Needless to say, I haven’t thought about updating the blog much the last few months. I may add things here or there, but I don’t expect to post consistently for awhile!

Summer Time = Get Organized

I completed a huge task this week. My classroom closet is finally organized! I began this project the last day of school and worked diligently on it for several hours the first day of summer break. And then that was it. The gusto of summer time = get organized left and the pleasure of “relaxing” with the kids at home began.

Until this week. My husband was able to stay home with the kids for a few hours one morning and I reluctantly needed to go to school to get a few other odds and ends done. I did those odds and ends, and then tackled the last shelves of the closet. The closet looks great and will hopefully stay that way for awhile! At least until the second day of school…

Here are some before and after pictures:

Before:

All of this came out of the closet. The trick was putting it back in!

 

After:
I can actually see what is inside! Yay!

Now, school is not the only place I have been trying to get organized. This is always an ongoing summer project at home. The problem at home though is as soon as a slave for hours getting one room of the house organized, another is totally destroyed. With two small ones nothing stays organized for long either!

I used the following guidelines to stay organized as much as I can!

  1. Do a little at a time – I work on a nap time schedule when it comes to organizing. Sometimes I only have 20 minutes! However, that is the perfect amount of time for cleaning out a drawer or organizing a shelf. Usually if I just have the goal of clearing just one part, I get into the swing of things and do more than I intended!
  2. Get rid of things you don’t use! – This can be difficult at times. I tend to save things “just in case”. However, when I organize, I try to have the mindset that if I haven’t used it in several months or more, it probably needs to be moved to a new place or trashed.
  3. Take a few extra minutes here and there to maintain the work! – Another one I have trouble with doing consistently! Spending a little time here and there to keep up the organization would save much more time! Easier said than done though…
  4. Don’t be too hard on yourself – You know what? We all do what we can when we can. Sometimes keeping your giant science supply closet organized is NOT top priority. That’s ok. And sometimes snuggling and reading a few books with your toddler needs to happen more an organized sock drawer.

Happy Birthday, America!

Hope you all are enjoying your summer! Make sure to take some time to celebrate our country this week! I’ve been taking some time off writing posts, but hope to be back soon. Happy 4th!

 

 

3 New Tech Tools

Another week of summer has started! Is it just me, or is it going by super fast? Between swimming lessons, birthday parties, weddings, and open houses, we are squeezing in a lot of relaxing time! I haven’t completely disregarded school work though. Does any teacher? Last week, I actually attended a fabulous two day conference focused on integrating technology into the classroom. I love this conference – it is in town, run by one of the nearby school districts, and many of the sessions are run by other teachers. In my opinion, those are the best kind of conferences – other teachers being real with what works and what doesn’t!

Here are some of the tech tools that were brought up in some of the sessions that are worth taking a look at!

  1. EdulasticBy far the best of the tech tools I discovered for the session. Edulastic is an interactive online assessment program containing prewritten, standard-aligned questions.  The site describes edulastic as: Technology-enhanced assessments instantly show who’s on track and who needs help so you can take action and see growth.You can select questions or make your own. Students can go online to take it. Results are immediate and you can track and keep record of different areas that your class and individual students need work on, all with a few clicks of a button! I definitely plan to use this in my math classes this fall.
  2. Pear Deck – Want a more interactive slide presentation for your students? Look into Pear Deck. This Google slides add-on allows students to enter information from their devices along with your slides presentation. Rather than stopping to ask a few students their opinions on various topics, all students have a voice! Although I have experienced the “student” side in a presentation, I have yet to check out the teacher’s end of this extension. The basic version of Pear Deck is free to use, but like many tech tools, you can gain more features by paying.

    Pear Deck
    Check out Peardeck.com
  3. Quizizz This is another tool that I will immediately be using in all my classes. My best description of this site is a calmer version of Kahoot. Yes, students love Kahoot! But sometimes it is almost a little too wild. Sometimes students got so excited, they clicked the buttons without looking at the answers. Quizizz actually lets students go at their own pace on their individual device. The classroom may actually  be quiet since students are still awarded more points for faster answering, but don’t have to wait for time to run to go on. You can choose already created assessments or create your own. And best of all… it’s free!

    From Quizizz.com

So try these three out – I’m sure at least one will be a hit. I have a few more that I’ve found, so stay tuned!

The Summer Packet

Do any teachers out there give out “summer homework?”

You know, the packet you give to students before the break. The one they need to do to “keep up” the skills they learned? This packet that most won’t complete until two days before school starts? Teachers typically give it to students to prepare them or to keep their skills “fresh” over the summer months. Maybe it is a book to read, or workbook pages to complete? I have not done the “packet” in my years of teaching, but I have thought about some simple project like collecting a few leaf samples or rocks from places you’ve been.

However, I had to share something that I found online a few days ago and I’m sad I did not find it before school got out. I think this is a great idea to give to students INSTEAD of that “packet” or assignments. Now, I don’t think it is a bad idea to keep up with the basic skills students have learned. Yet, summer is so much more than just a “break” from school. It is a time to learn more than what can be taught in the classroom, explore further than the recess field and spend extra time with your family.

The Summer Packet

This article from ABCNews.com emphasizes those things! It is a summer “homework” list, more for the parents than the students. Although it is directed more towards younger grade levels, I think it rings true for parents of any kids. As parents, we need to remember that some things are not and cannot be taught in the classroom! Kids get tired of being pushed and pushed and pushed in academics. And even if they succeed in those academic skills, social and emotional aspects are just as important!

The article ends with a quote that I love the quote from Betsy Eggart:

“I just wanted to remind my parents to slow down, look at their children and live some life together this summer,” she said. “I can’t put life on a worksheet.”

May-hem

We’re here – in the middle of the last few weeks of school. We are in the May-hem month. Does anyone else feel like May is just insane? Not only is everybody anxious (and bonkers) for the end of the school year, there are like 5 billion different activities going on!

School May-hem

Between the last days of April throughout the month of May, our school holds Grandparents Day, multiple concerts and programs, end of year state testing, finals, field days, plus all the rest of the stuff you are supposed to be doing like teaching the children every day.

And that is just what is happening inside the school walls. My husband has final youth group events, high school graduation celebrations, and other random end of year events. My kids, even though they are still small, have a church program, need daycare teacher gifts, and all the sign ups for swimming lessons, camps, and any other activity happening in the summer are going on right now! No wonder my house looks like it does.

Watch This!

When I saw this video by the Holderness Family, I knew I’m not alone in the May-hem of this final month of the school year. And I still love NSYNC. Watch and see!

(If you like this, you should see the other parodies they put together. Awesome!) But we continue to push through because we see the light! In just a few weeks, we will have the freedom of summer time!   So how do we survive the May-hem?

Get to June!

Scatter Plots and Best Fit Lines

This week, my math class studied scatter plots and best fit lines. This definitely is not the most exciting concept to teach, so I looked for other ways for students to become more engaged. Lucky me, I found several activities that were a big hit!

Scatter Plots

The first concept that students needed to learn was how to create a scatter plot. As eighth graders, students were familiar with creating a scatter plot from given information. However, I wanted to challenge them to look at the association of the graph. Is it linear or nonlinear? Positive, negative or no association?

Once the class felt pretty confident in identifying these types of associations, I gave them an activity that really peaked their interests: favorite foods! This activity is a word document created by Erica Chauvet from Trinity High School. 

First, students individually rank their favorite foods from 1 to 10. Next, students pair up and create coordinates based on what their favorite foods are in order to compare them. They plot their coordinates and look at the graph to see what type of association they have! Strongly linear graphs would demonstrate more similar tastes in food!

Best Fit Lines

The next step meant teaching students about the best fit lines. I knew this concept would challenge a few of my students, so I wanted to show them the concept of WHY this was important. I believe this game was one of my best finds yet! XP Math has several games for students in all grade levels, and Naruto: Line of Best Fit had students learning math without even knowing it! In fact, I had several kids go home and play that night on their own!

The idea of the game is to help Naruto capture as many scrolls as possible by moving the line. Students are then introduced to the concept of creating a line that will be in the middle of the most points possible-the same idea of a best fit line! When I introduced best fit lines the next class period, I actually continually referred to making their lines “like Naruto” and capturing as many “scroll” points as possible!

Taking It Further

I wanted to stretch some students even further in their thinking of these concepts, and I found one more activity that would help with this on Desmos.com. If you have never used this website for math activities, try it now! Teachers can give students a login code and once each individual logs in, the teacher can monitor the progress on their own screen! When I have students do an activity here, I know exactly which question each student is on AND can see their answers. There are options to “freeze” all students’ screens when you need to explain something or “pace” students so they can not go through the questions too quickly!

Anyway, there was an activity that related to best fit lines on Desmos as well. The activity got students thinking about residuals as well, which was above our 8th grade standards, but a great introduction to future math concepts!

If you teach a middle school math class, I encourage you to check out some of theses resources! Even if you do not need to teach scatter plots, these have great options for other math concepts as well!

 

 

Last Minute Non-Candy Valentine’s

How is it already Valentine’s Day again? If you are like me, you probably have not done anything to prepare for this holiday inside or outside your classroom. And this year, I’m not too excited about getting my students all sugared up on candy hearts and chocolate and other typically Valentine’s Day treats. I don’t want my own kids to have those either. Plus, I have a few students in my class that have nut and/or dairy allergies which eliminates a lot of options for candy!

This go me thinking about some other possibilities to give to my students this year and for my own kids to hand out. (Yes, my 3 year old and 1 year old will give little Valentine’s treats at their day care!) I started my search for a few possibilities and came up with this list of last minute non-candy Valentine’s that are perfect for the classroom (and not too expensive!)

1. Bag of Chips Valentines from MeetPenny.com

Grab a box of the variety chips pack and staple the cute tag on top. MeetPenny.com shares several other ideas on how to create quick, inexpensive Valentine’s that kids will still love! These are a great idea for any classroom since you can avoid allergies with the different types of chips. Check out the site for more ideas and you can request to download the chips tags too!

Free printable Valentine's Day cards to attach to a bag of chips. Very cute and super simple!
From MeetPenny.com

2. Dollar Store Finds

Cars, glowsticks, dinosaurs… my son would love to get any of these Valentine’s! I especially like the idea of a glow stick. Even my middle school students would love to get one! Life As A Mama shares some good Valentine’s day finds on the cheap.

3. A Bouncy Ball!

Picture from LessOrdinaryDesigns.blogspot.com

Another brilliant non-candy idea. Although, I’m not sure I would allow them to be taken out of their bags in my classroom. I have images of bouncy balls flying all over the place and children running around trying to catch them. I think these are better left to be taken home! Still, it’s a simple, yet awesome Valentine! If you go to the site, you can download the cute tag for free!

4. Like crazy straws? Who doesn’t!

crazy straw valentines
From Gingersnapcrafts.com

This idea is so easy! Kids can have fun sipping their milk at lunch with these little guys. If you head on over to Gingersnapcrafts.com, you can even get a free printable download. Even easier!

5. Bear Hugs

IMG_1126
Picture from Ladyslittleloves.com

I actually did this idea a few years ago when my son needed something to bring to daycare, but I like the idea of “Bear Hugs”  from Ladyslittleloves even more. Teddy Grahams will definitely be a hit with any age. Head on over to the cite to download a free printable!

My version from a few years ago!

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Year Cleaning Spree

I don’t think I’m the only one that gets a fierce urge to clean like crazy in the days after Christmas. It seems like once the holidays are over and we are getting ready to start a new year, I want to start fresh, clean and organized. However, even though I have the urge, I can’t/don’t actually act on it. Or that urge only lasts for a few hours, and then it is gone. After all, Christmas break is for relaxing too. Most of the time, those cleaning days get pushed back until the last day or two before school starts again. Everything I meant to do in small amounts over the two weeks gets crammed into a few 2 hour periods when the kids are napping or in bed for the night. Of course, I hardly make a dent into my ever increasing task list. But that’s ok! Because having an impromptu dance party with my kids is way more fun and memorable than having an organized pantry.

I did manage to complete a few things done that didn’t take up much time and made a big difference. Here are 5 organization and cleaning projects that will take you 20 minutes or less and leave you feeling accomplished!

1. Clean the washing machine

After several months and who knows how many loads of laundry, my washing machine seems to start smelling like… well… not clean laundry. Having hard water doesn’t help either. I stumbled upon found this advice from Practically Functional on how to make sure my washer is clean, fresh and can keep doing its job! Although the project takes several hours, it only takes a few minutes of actual work to clean. It was easy to do on a day we were all at home inside (and we had a few of those this break because of the super freezing cold temps!) Just look at the difference!

 

 

2. Do a quick toy sort

My kids accumulated a lot of toys this fall. Between two birthdays and a few Christmas celebrations, all of a sudden our living room is overflowing with toys! We needed to organize and  gather some toys to store in closets to rotate out later. I also wanted to give away some things. My 3 year old briefly helped sort through a few bins of toys. I wasn’t sure how this would go, but I asked him “What can we give away to kids that don’t have anything to play with?” He willingly put several things in the bag! It took 10 minutes and I could easily do this a few times a year with the kids.

3. Organize the pantry

This is the project I meant to do all break but didn’t end up starting until the last day of vacation! I was dreading it because I thought it would take forever. However, I wanted to start a meal plan for the next week and desperately needed to go through what we had in the depths of the pantry. I started with one “easy” shelf of cereal and soup. It took less than 2 minutes to organize, so I felt motivated to do the next shelf! 20 minutes later, all the shelves were done. I surprised myself on how quick it went! Items were thrown away, organized by expiration date, and I actually had a good idea of what was in the pantry (which is always helpful!)

4. Make a meal plan

As mentioned, this goal was what started the pantry organization. I try to make a meal plan for most weeks, but hadn’t been doing much planning in the past month! After quickly assessing what freezer and pantry food we had, I easily came up with a meal plan for the next 2 weeks. This plan tends to be very flexible since schedules can quickly change. However, sitting down for 10 minutes of planning saves a lot of frustration and time later in the week!

5. Sort through papers, files and documents

Special shout out to my husband for this one! I can’t take any credit for this task being done… We have a big file where we keep many of our important documents and receipts. My hubby spent some time one evening organizing, sorting and shredding a whole stack of these papers! This is hugely helpful and now we are prepared for tax season. To be fair, I’m not sure how much time this took, but even 20 minutes at a time will help with this process!