Monday, July 8, 2019

5 Teacher Things to Do in July

We have celebrated the 4th of July so I know you have ALL gone to your schoolhouses begging for the key to your classroom so you can start bringing all your June ideas to life! I love that our brains have the down time for ideas to swirl with a fresh new school year ahead. I have put together 5 Teacher Things to Do In July that will get you back into the swing of things as you begin to plan for your new students. And that have probably been on your to do list for a while!


Our team created a postcard to send to our new students that would get them excited about the first day. It also let them know who we were and that we were ready to have fun! Another example is a favorites postcard. This one let the students know a little about each of us. It also gave us something to talk about the first day when we met everyone. I did two to a page and printed front/back on card stock so it was inexpensive. The color photo one I took to Staples to have printed because INK! It was still less than $20 and that is money well spent to start building those relationships!


I add to my summer reading list all school year and make big plans to read all the books! Most summers that list does not checked off but I love to read all the inspiring teacher books I can get my hands on! I also like to throw in a trashy mystery while I soak up the sun. So if you haven't gotten all your summer books read, get out there and read while you still have time!


Tidy up your space! I know those piles of papers do not bring you joy! Thank them and file them!


A couple of years ago, I transferred all my files into binders. I organized everything by unit and in the order of my interactive notebook pages. I did it all through the year instead of in one big swoop and I think it really helped me get rid of things I had not used in years. We teachers really like to keep things that we {may} use someday!

I need to clean up my binders and make new spines and covers after using them for two years. I also want to F I N A L L Y get my task cards, games, paper anything out of the waffle box from the cafeteria! 

I have had my eye on these photo and craft boxes for a while. I caught them on sale so I bought TWO! I can't wait to get all these zippy bags organized into the little plastic boxes and then I can label everything!


The teacher toolkit has by far been one of the best things I added to my classroom. I love how students can get what they need all in one place. It perfectly holds all the most common things they ask for. With the toolkit, they can just get what they need!

Now that I am in an office instead of a classroom, I Rae Dunned my toolkit to be a little more adulty! I changed some of the labels to things I frequently use. If you don't have a teacher toolkit, you really need to get one! 

I hope your summer is amazing and that these 5 Teacher Things to do in July get you organized so you can get to the fun decorating and making 47 gagillion back to school copies!

Friday, June 21, 2019

Combining Like Terms UNO Card Game

Combining Like Terms is taught before they get to me, but it is always good to have a quick review before we start equations. This is one of my favorite additions to the review! You can grab the cards here. I printed on red, green, yellow, and blue paper and then cut. I wasn't sure if I would love it, so I did not laminate. I also made copies of the directions for each group because I tweaked the game play just a little. 

Students shuffled the deck and dealt five cards to each player. I did groups of 4-5 and that worked out well. The deck was placed face down and the game started. 

Once play began, you could lay down a LIKE TERM or LIKE COLOR on your turn. If you did not have a play, you drew one card. If that card didn't play, your turn was over. This differs from real UNO, so make sure you go over the rules or you may have an uprising! 

Skip, Reverse, and Draw Two only worked for their color. The WILD card worked whenever! When a player had one card left, they had to yell UNO...which was hilarious to hear all across the classroom! The player to get rid of all their cards was the winner.

I love friendly competition and my kids got really into this game of UNO. So much so, this group started getting their JRICH Dollars out to bet! Don't worry! I shut it down before any actual bets were placed! They groaned because they wanted to win extra money to use at our Auction. You can read about why money for the Auction is so important here!

Things I would change...put a card stock back to the cards and laminate. It took away some of the strategy and surprise because you could see what colors each player had in their hand. On the set I linked, I added some patterned pages to use for the back of the cards. Other than that, my kids LOVED this! It was amazing to hear them check each other when they played a card that was not like terms. I love when my students speak math! Let me know how it goes if you play with your students, and what we can do to make it better.

Download the UNO Cards Here!

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Fish In A Tree Stop Motion Mind Movies

My new role as a Curriculum Leader has taken me out of my math world and into all of the other content areas. I have wondered what to do with my math blog, keep it mathy or branch out? While I decide, this is one of my fave activities from this year and I just had to share it with you! 


This job has been perfect for my scatter brain as I search and think about multiple content areas at once! I will be searching for something to use in social studies and find something for science. Squirrel! This culminating activity to a "Fish In A Tree" novel study with sixth graders came about from seeing the Red Ball Challenge on Twitter, #redballchallenge. I wanted to know more about the magic of "connecting" Chromebooks and making a ball bounce across ALL of the screens! Hello stop motion in this mind blowing video that was the inspiration for this activity. Go watch and come back!


Day 1: We showed students the awesome video to inspire them, then had them create the illusion of the red ball transitioning from computer to computer using Google Slides. I followed this video, which gives the best detailed directions on how to create the magic. The hardest part was getting students to understand the timing and adding slides to make transitions from computer to computer work. This visual really helped and everyone rose to the Red Ball Challenge!

In the book, the main character, Ally, struggles to "fit in." To cope, she draws in her Sketchbook of Impossible Things and watches "mind movies," which help her escape from reality. Animating with Google Slides plus the Red Ball Challenge made Ally's mind movies come to life. The mind movies can be found on the pages below, curated from Mrs. Milstead, the teacher who let me try this craziness with her classes.


Day 2: Students discussed with their group what mind movie they wanted to create. Once they had their mind movie chosen, they created a Google Slides to share. We found it was best for them to create one slide together with all the backgrounds and images and then share it with the group to do the stop motion animation. 


Day 3 and forever 4, if we had let them! Students worked super hard on their stop motion mind movies. It was a great collaborative activity because the transitions on the Chromebooks depended on the person before and after you.  

Students became good at making the animation with tiny movements of their images, stop motion pros! They took a lot of time with the details of their mind movies, really capturing the author's descriptions.

Here are just a few of the awesome mind movies students created. Thank you to the fantastic 6th grade English Language Arts teacher, Mrs. Milstead, for always opening your classroom up to me! I loved this activity and this book and that my favorite quote is in it! "Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid." - Albert Einstein


Instruction Slides for Students - View Only but can Make a Copy

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Storky Bivariate Data

Bivariate data is one of my fave things to teach because of the real data we can collect as a class. I am always trying to find new ways we can collect data. While looking for ideas, I came across this post written about data collection from Don Steward's blog. I saw "blind stork test" and was immediately curious. Google found for me that athletes use the blind stork test to assess their balance. The premise is simple, you time how long you can stand on one foot with your eyes closed. The timer stops when your foot touches or you open your eyes. 

I emailed Don Steward to make sure I understood his intentions on how to use this data. After clarifying, my class collected data to see if there is a relationship between standing on your right or left foot. Which foot are you more "STORKY" on?! 

I created a Storky Scatter Plot for students to record their data. It was hilarious watching them balance and compare their times. I love that the whole class had to work together to get all the data collected. 

A couple of things I would change. First, I would have each student do it three times and take the best one. I would also be more uncompromising on your foot having to touch your knee. I think this skewed some of the data. You can see the difference in the two pictures above.

The Blind Stork Test is definitely a keeper for data collection! Try it out with your students and you will have them bragging about how "storky" they are for days!

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Student-Led Conferences with Digital Portfolios

Student-led anything makes my teacher heart happy! When I interviewed for my new gig as Curriculum Leader, one of the questions was how I would implement Student-Led Conferences. I was excited that my new principal had a vision of school-wide conferences and got busy right away digging to find out all the ways they had been done. 

The first thing to decide was what our students would show their families at the conference. I wanted a portfolio of their work that they could add to. My vision, especially for our baby 6th graders, was their portfolio would contain all three years of their middle school days. Being a 1:1 Chromebook district made digital portfolios the obvious choice, but how? After trying several platforms, I went with a Google Site. It is super user friendly and all of our students were already comfortable with their drive and other Google apps. 


Next was to figure out how to get 1,007 students to create a Google Site! My teachers are the best and let me come into their classes to get students started. We went over their benchmark Scantron scores and added them to their portfolios as their first page. Students were impressed that they created their own website! I created a sample website that had all the criteria that was expected for theirs.


The portfolios were slow to start as students figured out how to add things and transfer photos from phones to their drive and how to NOT make something a footer. We had a lot of footers, which put that section on every page of their website! But it was fun to watch them create pages with work they were proud of! The requirements for the first semester were two activities or projects with an explanation for each class. We included PE and Electives but only required one thing for those. They could use photos, videos, slide decks, anything they wanted to show the work.

The first Student-Led Conferences were held in December and we had a good turn out for it to be the first one ever! Our amazing PTA had a hot chocolate bar that was very merry! Students had practiced their portfolio presentations in their Language Arts classes and were ready to share with their families. 




After the mid-year benchmarks, we had enough data to set goals for our state testing. We looked at their scores, quartiles, and their growth target. They really took ownership of their data and set goals for the big spring testing. Students were getting really good at Google Sites so we added in some fun things like drop down menus for their electives and slide decks they could use to present within their website. I also updated my example portfolio to make it easy to know the expectations of each page of their websites. You can see it here

The Spring Student-Led Conferences, with a lemonade social provided by our PTA, went better than our first but we still have lots to do to build them up. One comment from the family survey was, "He said we could see the presentation at home but he really enjoyed showing us around his portfolio." I think with the portfolios being digital, it is harder to get families to come since they can view them anywhere. I have been reflecting about how to get them to come! Especially since one family stated, "We talk all the time but this was more purposeful." All of the feedback was positive and they all thanked us for having it so they could see what their students do all day!

I am super proud of the portfolios and I can't wait to add to them next year! I love that our students have the tools to create amazing things. Now that students are comfortable with building the website pages, we will be able to do so much more. But the very best part is that it was all student-led!