Sunday, August 27, 2023

Updated Puzzle Corner

 To say I'm ready for the upcoming 3-day weekend is an understatement!  We've been in school now for 3 weeks and while I'm doing better at getting ahead school-wise, other areas of my life have fallen behind.  I need a day just to catch up, work in my yard, and not feel like I'm a hamster on a wheel.

For many years, I've had a puzzle corner in my room.  With the exception of the pandemic in 2020 - 2021, this space has been a fun place for my students to play with math in a non-threatening way.

However, this year, I knew I needed a change because I would be having some kids that I had in class a couple of years ago, so over the summer, I started thinking about how I could change it.  For the past two years, it's had a math fun fact, a mathematician of the week, and a math quote.  This year, I wanted to incorporate some vertical / magnetic puzzles based as inspired by Sarah Carter (@mathequalslove) and to add some math-y toys to the mix.

My students haven't really engaged much with the vertical puzzles (yet) but they have really loved the basket of toys that I picked up at Target Dollar Spot!

One of my Labor Day goals is to work on my files for the Brain Teaser spot so I have a binder full of papers to swap out those each week.  This may be a work in progress over the year, but for now, it's on my to-do list.  Also on that list is to get my binder of Vertical Puzzles updated, cut out, and compiled.  

Saturday, August 19, 2023

First Days of School

 There are just not enough hours per day in August to get everything done!  I either need longer days or the ability to go with less sleep :)  

There are a lot of things I like about my school and a few things that I don't, and the Back to School week falls under both of those categories!  We report to school on Monday / Tuesday, off on Wednesday, and kids come on Thursday.  I love that day off to get things done (like a pedi with my mom), but with all of the required meetings, it feels like there is so much to do in a very condensed amount of time.

But Thursday came and so did the kids, whether I was ready or not...

On the first day, we do...

  • Posters around the room
  • Name Tents
  • And Math of course!
You can see some of the posters in the photo and on each table is a small container with some post-its.  They answer the 6 prompts and go around the room putting their answers on the board.  The 6 prompts are:
  • A goal I have this year is...
  • Our classroom should be ____ every day
  • I learn best when...
  • Mrs. __ can help me best by...
  • Math is important because...
  • To be successful in math this year, I need...
This activity infuses a bit of color as well as gets the kids up and moving around from day 1.  

After that, we work on their Name Tents, which has been written about quite a bit in the MTBoS, so my only change is that I don't print the form on the inside - I just have the kids draw a line down the crease and then two perpendicular to that to create 6 spaces for writing.  This was the first year (ever?) that everyone folded their name tent correctly!!!  (YAY!)

Finally, it's time to do Math!  This year, I tried a new-to-me activity using pentominos because I wanted to do something Geometric.  While I liked the activity, I found that it more challenging than I expected.  

The original task asked the students to use all of the pentominos to build a 10x6 rectangle, then to try again to build a 12x5, then again for a 15x4.  Next year, I think I'm going to work on some better scaffolding for this as the 10x6 was tricker than expected!

Thankfully, it did allow us to talk about Productive Struggle,  the importance of persevering, and why I like to use manipulatives a lot to test out theories.

So for next year, I think I would modify it using one of these two resources:

That pretty much ended Day 1, and I was happy to celebrate the day with a mini-bundtlet from Nothing Bundt Cakes that was delivered by our Student Leadership group!

Then, on to Day 2.  My goal with Day 2 was to introduce students to some of the structures we would be using this year...
  • Open Middle - Using the digits 1 to 9, find the sum of 3 digit numbers that comes closest to 1000.
  • Whiteboards - Using "The Answers Are" task from Building Thinking Classrooms
  • Setting our Group Norms (see previous post)
All in all, it was a GREAT couple of days of non-curricular tasks, but then it was on to an insanely busy weekend to prepare for Week 2. 

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Setting Class Norms

 Week 1 is done and oh my goodness, I have so much that I need to blog about!

During the first two days, I do a lot of non-curricular tasks where we focus on group work and setting our class norms.

I ask the students before each task to keep these two questions in mind while they are working:

- Think about what good Group Work looks like / sounds like...

- How do you know if you are being a good Group Member.

Toward the end of the day on Friday, after we had been working on the big whiteboards, I asked the students again to reflect on those two questions.  I told them that we needed to come up with a set of norms that we could all abide by in order to make sure our class works smoothly this year.  I asked them to think about the activities we had done (the Pentomino task above, an Open Middle problem, and a whiteboard problem for "The Answers Are").  I asked them to work with their tables to brainstorm ideas to fill in this chart, then to go back and decide the one or two most important things on each side and put a star by it.

As a class, we had a discussion about the things they had starred and came to a class consensus on the most important ideas.  Every class pretty much had the same big ideas listed and starred, but I brought all of the papers home to compile them.  (Note: I was really surprised how many mentioned that they didn't want arguing in our class) 

In the past, I've hand-written a poster board with their responses, but this time I decided to try something different!

After compiling the responses from all of the classes, I had a pretty hefty list, so I decided to type it up in Word.  I then saved it as a PDF and printed it as a poster that I can piece together to paste onto my poster board.  

I'm so pleased with how this idea turned out that I had to share! Hopefully I'll update this post tomorrow with the poster on my wall. :)

Thursday, August 3, 2023

Classroom Progress, maybe?

I just spent most of the day working in my classroom - thankfully the a/c was working today because this afternoon's high was 105!  

I honestly couldn't tell you what all I accomplished today - it feels like nothing major but I spent 6 hours up there.  I got a few organizational things done - new labels, etc.

One thing on my to-do list was to put up our Welcome board in the hallway.  For the past couple of years, we've had red bulletin board paper and I made the executive decision to change it out to red fabric.  If you've never used fabric on your bulletin boards, I encourage you to fix that now!  This is just a generic broadcloth, but fabric doesn't fade, stores easily for reuse, and doesn't show wear and tear.

Look at how bold the red fabric looks compared to the paper!  I also purchased some cute reversible border at Hobby Lobby with their 40% off classroom sale and you just can't go wrong with buffalo check.  I know the Cardinals part is crooked and normally that would bother me, but this board is at the end of the hallway and I probably won't see it again until it's time to change it in September!

Back in my classroom, I piddled with several small things that needed to be done and then tackled 2 bigger projects...

The first project I worked on was assembling this organizer from Amazon.  Last week, when I was working in my room, I started thinking about how I could better use some of my space to organize random supplies for students.  My previous use was a mishmash of boxes and locations and it just wasn't very cohesive.  I played around with some letter trays but nothing quite fit what I wanted.  

(Note:  I totally forgot to take a photo of this in my classroom - sorry about that!)  Once I had it assembled, I started to organize student supplies.  The bottom drawer is where students can get rolls of tape and glue sticks for their table buckets, the bottom shelf will be a place for scratch paper and the top shelf will hold my patty paper box.  The vertical storage space behind fits my graphing whiteboards perfectly since we don't use those very often.  For now, I have left off the pencil cup but it's magnetic and might end up on the whiteboard eventually.  

The other goal today was to change out my Puzzle Place area but that didn't quite work out the way I was expecting.  

The little woven bowl I found while cleaning at home did end up working perfectly for the fidget toys (fake Rubik type stuff from Target Dollar Spot), but then I had a whiteboard dilemma!  

Last week, I had decided I wanted to change out the Puzzle Place to something to encourage more interaction with the board.  I had used the same 4 quadrants for the past couple of years and the only one the kids really enjoyed was the Math Joke.  As a result, I decided to look for an inexpensive magnetic solution in order to do some vertical puzzles (inspired by Sarah at MathEqualsLove) and found this whiteboard at Hobby Lobby for $7.99.  (Note:  I was so impressed with the Hobby Lobby whiteboard that I went by there on my way home to get another one for the hallway (inspired by Sara Vanderwerf) but they were sold out.)

Once I go to school, I realized that I wasn't super sure which side of the board I wanted to put the whiteboard on!  

I plan to keep the Math Joke and the other one will probably end up either being the Math Fun Fact or will get changed to another brain teaser (like Set, 24, solvemoji, etc - something that is less manipulative than the typical puzzle table problem)

When I look around my classroom, I can't say that I can account very well for the 5 hours I worked, but at least it's done enough until I officially report on Monday!  

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

My Teacher Binder - 2023/24 Edition

Hey folks!  It's August 1 and that means that school is just around the corner.  I officially report next Monday and kids come next Thursday, but I am definitely not ready for summer to end this year!  I mean, if I'm being honest, I'm never really ready for summer to end.  I like the structure of school, but I don't like wearing shoes and having to people :)

This summer has been a summer of cleaning, organizing, and purging, which my house sorely needed!  We have one more load of stuff to take to the donation center and then my attention can fully shift to the new school year.  I did go up to my classroom last Thursday to get it mostly put together and to start working on my to-do list.  

One of the things on my to-do list was to put together this year's Teacher Binder and I realized last night that I never shared last year's binder - oops!  I have this year's made and printed, but I still need to assemble it.

Cover and Binding:

A few years ago, I ran across these pocket folders at Dollar Tree that were fairly heavy weight and with a customizable cover.  I haven't seen them in the stores this year, so it's possible they aren't carrying them this season, but I've only been to my Dollar Tree, which isn't in my favorite Top 10 stores if that tells you anything!  

For binding, I have been a huge fan of the DiscBound systems for many years - starting with the Arc system at Staples, but you can also find them with Happy Planner at various craft stores, TUL at Office Depot, etc.  I have found the 1 inch disc work the best for me, but the discs come in a variety of sizes. 

My cover and the dividers inside are all normal 3-hole systems, so I just cut the folder in half, then punch all of them (one at a time of course) using my disc bound punch.  I've used a variety of things for my dividers over the years, but this year, it's just a plain set of plastic pocket dividers that were on Prime Day sale :)  

Inside the Binder:
I typically have 6 or so dividers in use - The first 3 are for my calendars:

Monthly Calendar - this is a typical Monthly spread with a place to jot down reminders and notes under each Month.  This is where I tend to put long-term appointments and due dates.

Quarterly Calendar - This view only shows the first semester of Geometry, but these are just pacing type calendars for me to plan out the quarter.  I also put down holidays and breaks if they are known.

Weekly Calendar - This is my page with all of the day to day details.  On the left side is a place for me to put things for before / during / after the day, such as Lunch Duty, IEP Meetings, covering a class, etc.  Below each day is a checklist for daily habits like posting to Google Classroom, exercising, etc.  In the big empty space is a place for general notes and to-do lists and this space usually has a post-it note or two adhered :)

After the 3 sections of calendars come the sections for my gradebook and things like that, but since I don't have my class lists yet, those aren't ready for the binder!

What does your teacher binder look like?