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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!

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

May your day  be filled with blessings from God. Take time to celebrate the greatest gift of all – Christ’s birth!

Introduction to Living Things: Classification

My 7th grade science class is beginning our life science unit. During this unit we will study characteristics of living things, cells, the human body and much more! One of the first concepts that we covered was classification.

My curriculum instructed me to cover the history of classification, from Aristotle to Carl Linneaus to more recent 6 or more kingdom philosophies. Although I find this information interesting, starting off a lesson with a lecture about dead people does not fascinate my students. But why not make them the scientists first?

Materials

Anything you can find in the classroom! Just make sure you have the same items for each group.

The goal for this activity was for students to begin thinking about how we can organize different objects. I gathered a bunch of random materials from my classroom: pipe cleaners, clothespins, toothpicks and anything else I could find! Each group received a basket with the same materials as the other groups.

   

Procedure

 I told the class to work with their group and organize the materials given. The groups got right to work. Some students asked me questions, like “What is this 

made of?” I decided NOT to give answers right away. I wanted students to look and use reasoning skills. There were debates about where to put the straw, a

nd disagreements about the clothespin. Surprisingly, the students took this task very seriously. What I thought would take them 3 minutes, took closer to 10!

Once groups were satisfied with their groupings, we discussed as a class what the main factors were when deciding which group to put the items in. The material that makes up the object was picked several times. Others classified items by their shape. One group finally decided that they should organize their items according to the object’s purpose. We discussed how all the groups had slightly different methods of classifying, but they all worked… mostly.

Next, I challenged the students to make DIFFERENT groupings – something that had not been used yet. Some split the items by comparing “high mass” and “low mass”. Another group chose color as a separating factor. As I glanced around the room, other items tempted me to see what the groups would do! However, time, as always, stopped me. 

Doing this activity was a perfect lead into discussing some of the scientists that did just that! Students were now intrigued by these men, because they had just experienced similar confusion, frustration, and thrill of trying to “organize” many different items.

This was another one of my favorite kinds of activities – seemingly simple, but becomes a great springboard for students’ ideas and connects them to the lesson!

Pumpkin Party

   A couple of weeks ago, my little baby girl turned one year old. How did that happen so fast? I feel like I was just snuggling her in the hospital, and all of a sudden I had a birthday party to plan!

Baby girl’s birthday is at the end of October, so I decided a pumpkin theme would be perfect (and easy)! Apparently many others think so too because there were so many ideas online that it was hard to narrow down what I wanted for our party. We don’t have a huge budget for party planning, so my goal is to keep things simple and fun and do as much as I can on my own.

Invitations

One of the first things needed is the invitation. I’m usually all about making cards or creating a digital version by myself. This year, I knew if I wanted anybody to actually get an invitation, I had to buy them! Fortunately, there were so many online options that I just had to pick one! I ordered these from SugarPink Designs on Etsy. They personalized it and I just had to print. I loved how they turned out! My order even came with little personalized toppers for the cupcakes. Super cute!

Decorations

Decorations turned out to be pretty easy as well. I bought a few large pumpkins that I planned to carve with the kids after the party, as well as several small ones to place at tables. My  parents had grown a few in their garden and graciously brought those as well. Pink and orange seemed to jump out as appropriate color for a girl’s pumpkin party. I also included white and green for accents and contrast.

Activities

I like to have at least one activity for the kids to participate in. When my son turned one, he had a ball themed party with a mini ball pit! We decided to include this again since it was a hit with the extra little ones. For the slightly older kids, I included a pumpkin painting table. I bought many small pumpkins and a guest could pick one and choose to paint it and take it home! Even adults participated in this, which was fun to see! For the biggest kids (adults) we used a pumpkin trivia that I found here.  I probably should have checked out the answers before handing it out though, because we found a few incorrect answers! Be careful for those fact-checkers that will get you!

Food

The most important part of hosting a good party (in my opinion) is making sure there is food available! We did a little chili bar with two types of chili – beef chili and Grand Rapids White Bean Chicken Chili and had all the fixins to put on top.

We also served the following:

For dessert, we had a smash cake that I had decorated (I was a little rushed for time with this one, so the icing did not turn out as I had planned. My daughter did not seem to mind though!)

I also made:

Overall, the party was a success. As I was cleaning up afterwards, I thought, “This is truly a lot of work for a one year old that won’t remember anything about it!” But honestly, they party is not just celebrating her life. It is celebrating the family and friends who have helped raise our little girl and will continue to stand by us in the years to come!

DIY Costume for Teachers

  Looking for a last minute Halloween costume? I’ve got a great one that came to me last minute that is perfect for any teacher.

Every year at our school, we do a “spirit week”.  Students dress according to a different theme everyday. The class that goes all out and has the most participation and “spirit” wins the “Spirit Sword” (which is a little plastic sword with some ribbon on it. For some reason the kids fight like crazy for it!) Anyway, this year some of the themes included Crazy Hair Day, Patriotic Day and Character Day. For Character Day, students (and teachers) were encouraged to dress up like a character from their favorite movie, tv show or book.

My first thought was to dress up as Belle from Beauty and the Beast. I’ve always wanted to dress up like her, and it is one of my favorite movies. However, finding a big fluffy yellow dress last minute is not an easy thing. I thought about it a little more, and then went to Pinterest.

There were lots of ideas – storybook characters like Grouchy Ladybug, the Rainbow Fish and the Hungry Caterpillar were adorable. All cute, but not for me. There were ideas for being crayons, rock, paper, scissors, or even emojis. And then I saw it: Ms Frizzle! Not only did I grow up watching, The Magic School Bus, I happened to have a stuffed Lizz in my classroom. It was meant to be!

The dress is the most important part of being Ms Frizzle. I happened to have a blue dress that would work perfectly for a costume. I didn’t have a collared shirt to go underneath, so I wore a white, loose-sleeved one that worked well.  So if you want to be Ms. Frizzle, your dress MUST show whatever science subject you are studying! My 6th grade class is studying the planets so obviously I choose to wear Ms. Frizzle’s classic solar system outfit!

I used felt to cut out several stars, some suns, planets and crescent moons. Then I taped them all over my dress, making sure to add little stars to my earrings and planets to the tips of my shoes. I even braided my hair the night before so when I woke up it would have the “frizz” I needed! The finishing touch was

my sidekick Lizz!

Materials I used:

  • Knee length or tea-length dress
  • Tape
  • Felt cut into the shapes you need! The Solar System theme is easy, but you could customize your dress to whatever science subject you are studying! If you need inspiration, check out Monsters and Molecules blog where all “Dresses of the Frizz” are displayed! Amazing!
  • Toy Lizz!

I put this costume together in less than an hour (and that includes the many interruptions from my children!). Even though Magic School Bus is no longer on tv, the kids still knew who I was! Apparently it’s on Netflix… The costume was a big hit! Now if only I had a magic bus that could transport my students to cool places…

 

Homemade Applesauce

  I feel like the apple craze hit me a little later than usual this year. Maybe because the weather has been pretty warm and it hasn’t felt like fall. Anyway, this past week the need for apples and apple treats hit hard. This week also happened to be the week our school transforms the gym into an apple pie factory. We make over 7,000 pies in 2 days and then sell them to raise money for the school. It’s our biggest and best smelling fundraiser, with the sweet smell of apples, cinnamon and sugar filling the halls.

Enter homemade applesauce. I cook it in the Crockpot, and it makes the whole house smell like heaven.

Ingredients:

  • 10 apples  (I typically use a variety of kinds including Empire, Gala, McIntosh, and Fuji)
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ sugar  (If you like sweet applesauce, or are using tart apples, you can add up to a cup)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Splash of lemon juice
  • Other optional ingredients include: honey, nutmeg, allspice

Directions:

  1. Core and peel the apples. The nice thing about this sauce is that you don’t have to peel everything perfectly. If a little bit of the peel is left on an apple here and there, it’s fine!
  2. Chop the apples into smaller pieces and dump them into the crockpot.
  3. Add the water, sugar, and any other ingredients to taste.
  4. Cook on low for about 4 hours, stirring and mashing the apples occasionally.
  5. I like my sauce on the chunky side, so once the apples are soft, I mash as much as I can with a wooden spoon, but leave some chunks. If you like your applesauce smoother, you can use a blender to puree it further.

This applesauce is awesome warm, however it can be stored in the refrigerator for several days, or put into the freezer and last a few months. Mine never lasts that long, especially now that my son has a new found love 

of this special He wanted to eat the entire batch!

So grab some apples, let the sweet apple aromas fill your kitchen and enjoy!