It's time again to talk about our collaborative book study--for the last time!  This week's post (on chapter 8) is being hosted by Jamie at Miss Math Dork.  Click here to check out her post!  

This week's post talks about all the goodies found at the end of this book!  Please stop by and join in the fun--and leave your comments and ideas!  I hope those of you who purchased and read the book got some new ideas and new motivation to kick up the problem solving in your classroom this year!

Other news...I've uploaded a few new products in case you are interested!  I have a similar set of posters hanging in my room that I made last year--but I love these chevrons so much I may switch them out!

I love to have little quick math exit/entrance slips and homework options on hand to review concepts and check mastery.  Here's my latest set of these!

As I have been starting to dig in to some of the nitty gritty details of going back to school (job charts, rolling carts, and so on), I started to reflect on our daily schedule at school.

If your school is anything like my school, you will relate to the feeling that there are simply not enough minutes in the day to teach the content we are being asked to teach.  It can become overwhelming, can't it?  I feel I do a pretty good job of keeping that pressure in balance.  I do the best I can and work very hard to NOT let the students feel that pressure!

The one time of the day that DOES cause me a little stress is the first ten minutes of the day.  We have our "specials" block (phy ed, music, art, and so on) right when the students arrive.  We have ten minutes from the bell until we are supposed to be downstairs and in our special class.  All the things I used to do to start the day have pretty much gone out the window!  Now I always feel rushed in the morning . . . to get their assignment books checked, to collect any notes, to deal with any playground crises--and most importantly--to try to connect and greet each and every student.  You know those mornings when someone comes in and you can just tell that something isn't right?  Maybe there was a rough morning at home or they aren't feeling well or a best friend said something hurtful.  I feel so bad sending students off to another class without having the time to touch base with them and "check in". . .  but it's hard to do everything in the first ten minutes!  I try to stand at the door and greet each child so I can get a quick "read" on their mood--but sometimes there are fires to put out!

How do YOU start the day?  Do you feel pressured to get your day started right away?  How do you transition students from their "home" world to their "school" world?  I'd love to hear your thoughts!

I can't believe it's already Monday and time to link up again with 4th Grade Frolics "Monday Made it"!  Click HERE to check out the party!  This week I kept it pretty simple, but I wanted to share with you how I do my job chart.  I have seen several million different versions of job charts, but I have totally changed my approach with jobs over the last few years.  I firmly believe that students need to have classroom jobs to help take care of their community space.  What I dislike is the time needed to organize weekly job changes, to make sure that jobs are being finished, and so on.

Several years ago, I moved to "team" jobs and I absolutely love it!  I form my class into 5 teams.  I rotate team jobs about every two weeks and the team is responsible for getting the job done each day.  Because students often have things come up at the end of the day (leaving early, needing last minute help, being pulled by a specialist teacher, etc), having TEAM jobs still ensures that jobs get finished.  It helps students work together and learn to communicate, work out their own schedule, and problem solve when team members aren't pulling their weight!

Here is my job board from last year:

Beautiful?  No.  But it DID get the job done.  Here's how I used it.  I had FOUR jobs (that's it--only 4).  The fifth "job" was "vacation".  Those students were in charge of tidying up their own desks but otherwise were "off" for that 2 week period.  During their "vacation", these students also get to use the reading pillows and sit in the green chairs.  

To kick of the year, I form the students into their 5 groups (totally randomly) and they work to come up with a team name.  This is one of our first experiences with the concept of "consensus", and it is NOT easy for all of them.  We talk about how important it is to be willing to compromise and that it isn't possible for a team of 5 to each get their top choice.  Students need to learn the difference between "I really don't like it", "I want MY pick" and "I can live with that."

We always end up with some pretty classic names.  

Dangerous Dirt Dogs

The Candy Colored Iguanas


Clean Up Crushers

Trust me.  I had no part in any of the naming!  It is a fun way for the job team to bond, and I then make a laminated tag with the team name and all the student names underneath.  I then hung the job names on a cupboard door with hooks underneath so I could easily move the groups from hook to hook to switch jobs.  We work together as a class to clearly define what the different jobs involve and what they will look like when done well.

This year I decided to "tidy up" the job names to make them look a little better.  I kept with my turquoise and lime colored theme and just printed off some new labels.

I'll hang these up on the cupboard doors to replace the old ugly ones and will make my new "job team" lists as soon as my new students come up with their team names!  I know it wouldn't work for everyone--but it works for us!

Just a reminder . . . today is the day that I am celebrating my 800 900 followers on TpT with a special sale running on 9 products for 9 hours in honor of my 900 fans!  Here is the link from yesterday explaining the deal!  CLICK HERE!  What started as 8 products has changed to 9--and the added bargain is ...

So . . . check back from 8 AM Central TODAY until 5 PM Central to get these 9 resources at 50% off!  Thanks for stopping by!

I cannot believe this journey started for me only eight months ago! In that 8 months I have learned so much about myself… About technology… And about the world of business! I have made new friends and reenergized myself as an educator.

8 months ago I didn't know what Instagram was. I didn't understand why Twitter was a valuable professional development tool. I knew nothing about blogging. I really didn't believe anybody was interested in what I had to say!  I certainly didn't think anybody would pay money for the ideas I had or the products I created. Boy, was I wrong!

Yesterday I passed the 800 follower point on my TpT store. 800!  I am just so humbled by your support--and want to do something special for you!

That's right!  I have picked 8 of my products . . . some best sellers.  Some lesser knows.  Some new.  Each one is being reduced by 50% for 8 hours tomorrow!  So...enjoy your weekend and stop by my store on Monday to check out these special deals--for 8 hours only!

Here are the links if you are interested!

Again, thank you so much for your support and I hope you find something above to make your life a little easier! 

Well, as usual, I accidentally found myself in the teaching supplies store the other day when I had a few spare minutes.  I wasn't looking for anything in particular… I was hoping to be inspired by something.  I had thrown a few new notepads into the cart and really hadn't seen much else but on the way to the front of the store I found . . .

I thought "hmmmmm . . . I'll bet I can find a use for this!" and I launched it into the cart. I loved the idea of maybe using it for some word work . . . for tying it into math somehow  . . . for creating a game to use with it--maybe something like "Words With Friends" or something.  So--I am challenging you to help me come up with some great ideas!  Maybe you'll be inspired to get yourself a set of these bad boys today.  I think my students will absolutely 

it! (7 points)

What do you think?  Do you have any ideas for me? Have YOU come across any cool stuff that has inspired you--but maybe you aren't quite sure how it's all going to unfold?  Share your ideas here and maybe we can help!

As you may have read, I have been gradually building a huge pile of stuff that needs to find its way back to my classroom over the next month.  I thought maybe I'd take a little run up there (I work about 20 miles away, so trips require a little thought), drop the supplies off, and take inventory.  I promised myself no more than a two hour visit--which wasn't hard to do because the air conditioning wasn't on and I dropped a bookshelf on my toe.  Two hours was plenty, thank you very much.  I thought I'd give you a little "scrapbook" of my two hours.

So . . . I forgot how much stuff I stashed up here before leaving that last day.  UGH.

View from the door.  I left so much stuff up on the walls.  Lots of it needs to come down.  UGH.

I walked over to my reading area and see that I wasn't clear enough on the map I left for the custodians about which book shelf goes where.  I needed to move all of the brown ones.  Remember the part above about dropping the bookshelf on my toe?  This is about the time when this happened.

How does that saying go?  Necessity is the mother of invention or something like that?  Well--it was necessary for me to move fully loaded bookshelves.  I made a track using 2 meter sticks and slid them.  It worked well 96% of the time.

As I was moving bookshelves I looked up and realized that they had to take EVERYTHING down from the ceiling and my windows.  I needed to rehang my little curtains.  SIGH.

OK...bookshelves moved.  Now I need to muster the energy to move all the book bins onto the remaining shelves.  Remember the first photo with all the stuff up above my cabinets?  Yeah--that's where the bins are.  Remember the photo above about 96% success?  The 4% of failure helped me decide to wait on this.

I did find enough energy to head into the storage room and grab my pillow tubs.  I love just using regular cheap bed pillows and pillowcases. I can wash those covers any time I want!
I went and grabbed my chairs and little table out of storage . . .
My final task was to rehang the curtains.  Sigh.  

Isn't it frustrating to realize how much there is to do?  Every job I got finished generated eleven more jobs!  I will be back again in the next week or so and will give  you another update.  Maybe I can finish my reading area (by the way . . . moving my book bins made me want to make new labels for all my bins.  Talk me out of it.  Please.) and start to tackle some space planning.

Other odds and ends . . . Charity Preston over at The Organized Classroom selected one of my blog posts to include in her back to school magazine!  I was particularly pleased to see it linked on the cover--I've been published! :)  If you are interested in checking it out, here is the link you can use to purchases Charity's magazine.  Charity's Magazine

New products . . . I will blog about this over the next few days, but I have added two new versions of my academic learning behaviors posters.  Someone really wanted a customized set of turquoise and lime so I made those, and a friend of mine suggested that I make a lower ink version as well.  Those are both in my store if you are interested.  Again, I'll blog about these in a day or two, but here are the links if you want to check them out.

Hope all of you are having a great week!  I can't believe July is almost over!

It's my turn again!

For those of you following along with our collaborative book study, it's my turn to share an overview of a chapter.  Chapter 7 is focused on assessment strategies for problems solving.  As you know, assessment really needs to be the center of our instructional model--if we don't know what students know and can do, it makes it hard for us to know what to teach them!

I think what I liked most about the chapter was the attention given to addressing assessment as more than a chapter test.  In fact, one of my favorite quotes from the chapter is "Putting a grade on a paper should be the last of your assessment goals."

The chapter focuses a great deal of energy on formative assessment and how we can "crawl into their minds" to work with our students so that we can help coach them to better levels of understanding.  Formative assessment needs to happen at all stages of the teaching/learning cycle--we need to be assessment as we launch new instruction.  It makes perfect sense to me . . . if students are confused at the beginning, the rest of the process is going to be pretty futile!  The chapter is an easy read and just continues to stress that our job is to be so engaged with the students that we can react and adjust our instruction as needed to ensure solid understanding.  

I really like the "coach" analogy . . . if a coach tells an athlete what to do ("Wait back on the ball, keep your hands loose, and swing level") and then just gives a score based on how far the player hits the ball on one attempt, that coach won't be around very long.  S/he needs to be in the batter's box adjusting the players hands, asking the player to try it again, watching video and analyzing it together, studying results, and making changes.  Teaching is no different.  Of course the end results are important--but if we don't do a better job on the process, we probably won't like what we see at the end of the game!  
We need to get better at looking at student thinking, at identifying "trouble spots" or stumbling blocks, how to handle student frustrations (they WILL have them when we provide them with rigorous math!), and having students assess themselves.  The chapter does have some ideas for rubrics, and I have a freebie below that I know some of you have downloaded and found useful.  Try it out if you like!  

So . . . let's hear your thoughts on assessing problem solving, on getting students involved in their own assessment, and on increasing the amount and types of formative assessment we do.  Chime in!  Share your thoughts! 

By the way . . . just wanted to give you a heads-up about a math link up that will begin on August 7th.  We're hoping to make it a monthly occurrence.  All you have to do is write a post about how you are teaching math using "real world" examples.  It will be awesome to see how everyone is using math in authentic ways!  Be thinking about what you can do to link up!  Watch for more details coming soon. 

I know washi tape is all the rage, but to be honest--I haven't really jumped on board.  I kept telling myself that if I saw a project I REALLY wanted to do, I'd jump in.  That hasn't happened yet, but on one of my little shopping expeditions last week, I accidentally sort of bought a roll.  Just one.  It matched my classroom.  Don't judge.

So it sat on my counter looking cute for a few days until I went to ANOTHER store and bought my new desk calendar.  Now, if you knew me, you would know there is NO room on my desk for a calendar--so there must be another use.  Indeed you are correct.  I had a cute calendar set up every year for about 18 years.  Every month I would walk in on the first day and think "Shoot!  I have to change over the stupid calendar!"  I dreaded it.  I tried having students do it.  It just never worked.  So--call me lazy--a few years ago I took down all the thumbtacks, number cut outs, and decorations and slapped a desk calendar in the same spot.

It was brilliant.  I could write important dates on it.  I could cross off mistakes easily.  I could simply tear off a page on the first day of the new month.  I loved it.

So . . . last year I started writing students' birthdays on the calendar in fun colors with little designs on them.  It was kind of a fun way to celebrate their birthdays.  This year I thought I'd try a little something different--washi tape birthdays!  I simply cut a piece of fun washi tape to fit inside the box, wrote the students' names, and put them on the calendar.  It brightens it up while still allowing room in the box to write . . . like this

You'll notice that I also branched out and bought some highlighter tape to use for other key school events.  It brightens up the calendar but looks nice and tidy.  When I first got started, I realized how tedious it was to cut the equal pieces of tape so they were the same size (yes, things like that bug me).  I wanted them all cut at once instead of cutting a piece, labeling it, sticking it on the calendar, and repeating 24 times.  Check out what I figured out!

By taking a piece of washi tape and sticking it to waxed paper, you can cut a bunch of pieces at once, label them, and use them when you want!  It peels right off the waxed paper.  LOVE!

So . . . my calendar isn't cute.  It isn't beautiful.  But it IS easy and useful and FINISHED!  Thanks for stopping by!

It's another link up with "Monday Made It" over at Fourth Grade Frolics!

It's getting to be that time in the summer whets I avoid digging into the heavy content things I need to address and, instead, tackle easy and fun "no-brainer" projects.

Today I addressed a few of those things and I thought I'd share them with you!

First of all, I went through my digital paper collection and picked a design from Sassy that I really like and matches my classroom perfectly.  I then set to work creating the "headers" for my different projects and selected some coordinating solids.

Now the fun part!  My first little project was an experiment.   I absolutely love these super strong magnet clips that I find at certain discount stores. I love them for holding up anchor charts and direction signs and so on because they don't budge even if the paper gets heavy. When I bought some this year I couldn't help but notice the little recessed circle inside and thought that it might be fun to decorate.

I tried cutting a circle to fit . . . got out the Mod Podge and

Kind of fun!  After that, I addressed three other "organizational" things that I use each year.  The first?  LINE ORDER and LOCKERS.

Several years ago I moved from having a line leader and "caboose" to having a set "line order".  Students line up in this same order every time we leave the classroom and it has created such a smooth process.  There are no pushes, bumps, rushes to be at the front, sneaking around to be by friends, and so on.  I teach the students about being the first person through a door (we are upstairs so we have several doors to pass through) and how they hold the door and then the door holder simply joins the back of the line when the job is complete.  The next week, the person who was first in line moves to the back and the next person takes over the line leader position.  It really has taken away a lot of stress and wasted time!  I hang a sign in front of the class by the door so even subs know what order the students should be in.  I do NOT change it each week when the first person moves to the back--the students are fully able to keep track of this!

My students have lockers that we use and each teacher is given a bank of lockers to use--and fortunately we are given more lockers than we have students (for now!). The teachers in younger grades put cute name tags on the outside of their lockers, but the fourth grade teachers try to help transition our students to the intermediate school so we don't use name tags, we simply hang a sign up with first names.  You'll notice on mine that I skip a few lockers in the middle.  I always think about what it must feel like to be a student moving into my class in the middle of the year and getting plunked WAY down at the end of my locker line.  Instead, I build in a few empty spots in the middle so new students can be right in the middle of the action!  

NOTE:  These are not my students' names...I made them up for display purposes! I will remake the list for my classroom once my class list is finalized!
After that, I kept going with a few items I use for lunchtime.  First of all, we need to take our lunch cards to the lunchroom split into milk only and hot lunch.  I love using these cheap pencil supply bags for this purpose, and I just simply put an insert in the small pouch reminding students to put milk cards in the small pocket and lunch cards in the big pocket.  Here's how it turned out!

I also print off a copy of our monthly lunch menu to hang up by our calendar area, so I made a "background" for it.  Students refer to it every day, so I like to have it look nicer than a plain old copy stuck to the wall!  Once I hang this up, the lunch menu really "pops"!

So, I have another few items checked off the "These don't really impact student learning but they make me happy" list!  Hope everyone had a great weekend!

Many of you might have noticed that I love doing things with dice. I posted several months ago about some really nifty dice that my students absolutely love, so the other day I went back to the teacher store to buy some more.  Not only did they have the one that my students love, but they even had some new ones! Check out some of my new purchases . . .

How fun are these!!!  I actually am writing up some of the games I use with my students, because I think I'm going to add those as part of my independent math time.  I want the students to have an easy to read set of directions instead of me having to explain each day!

One thing I found out is that I will be needing fraction dice for our new math resource, so I priced those at the store as well. They were super expensive, so I thought I could make my own.

(Besides...I had that moment where I realized that I could use my new label maker!)

Check it out!

I found in the "symbols" menu option common fractions and also the ability to make any fraction using raised and lowered numbers.  Here is my first attempt!  I need to look deeper to see exactly what the fraction dice need to have on them and then I'll make the rest.  I'm sure there are all sorts of other "dice" I may be making!

Just thought I'd share!  Tomorrow I am off to school to take a load of my goodies up and out of my house...and to take a few "before" photos!  Hope everyone is having a good weekend...