#MyFavFriday: How Are We Learning?

MFFOne of my favorite organizational things is Pinterest. I feel bad for those that follow any of my boards because I’ve been pinning things like crazy! Obviously it’s summer and I have time to spend hunting things down to pin to my boards; never mind the things I should ACTUALLY be doing…like those listed on my Summer To Do List.  (Note to self: add Pinning cool things on Pinterest to Summer To Do List so I can cross it off).

Earlier this week a teacher from my school pinned a neat anchor chart/poster titled How Are We Learning?  I thought it was a great way to clearly communicate classroom expectations, especially with CCSS and the push for inquiry and collaborative grouping students.  They really don’t always know what the expectations are for each situation or my 8th grade students pretend not to know.  The pin was only a picture, so I tried to hunt down the original author & even commented on the pin to try and find out more.  This is the problem with Pinterest, awesome ideas that aren’t properly linked to provide author credit or to provide answers to questions about whatever the activity, project, etc. is. If you know who created this or where it is on the web, please let me know so I can provide credit where credit is due!

I like using cute computer fonts and colors and I like having printed posters for my room.  So I decided to make an electronic version of the How are we learning chart.  AIH is believed to stand for Academic Intervention Hour, which we do not have, so I removed it and created just 4 sections.  I used the wording from the original chart, even though the teacher from my school who pinned it and I use different methods for students to get our attention.  I am not sure this is exactly what I will print poster size for my room, but I wanted to share anyways!

What would you keep, change or add to the poster to make it more meaningful for your classroom?


My Kryptonite – the *perfect* teacher plan book

MFFNo, I haven’t seen the new Superman yet. I’ve heard conflicting reviews, but I do want to see parts of the local town Plano, IL which is in the movie, so I might venture out to see it soon.  Anyways, one of my first posts was about technology as a time saver and how I used technology to create helpful teacher organizational documents.  I have found that I like when things are pretty and organized, it makes me happy and excited to use them.  In order to help me get excited for the new year, I updated my teacher plan book to create something organized and useful. I have to say I am pretty excited about the result!

My Plan Book Parts
*I have scoured the internet for what I wanted, therefore my parts are made up of self-created items and free items on the internet. Links to where I found things on the internet are provided, with permission from the author.

  • 3-ring binder – this year I scored a bright green binder (you can see the edge of it below) with the clear view pockets on the outside when a student put it in the trash in my room at the end of the year.  It was BRAND NEW!
  • Cute Fonts – Wish I Were Taller by Kevin & Amanda and Cinnamon Cake – I have hundreds of fonts on my computer (& I tend to add new ones daily), but I use these two a lot.
  • Custom Cover – I came across this AMAZING website by Miss Tiina, where she has tons of free printables.  I used one of her journal pages as my cover when I got tired of trying to create my own.  Amazingly enough it matched the bright green binder I scored at the end of the year!
  • Color theme – I fell in love with the stuff that Miss Tiina has created and spent HOURS looking through her freebies and printables.  Once I determined what I wanted to use, I couldn’t figure out how to match the colors she used exactly.  My attention to detail in this regard caused me to email her and ask if she would provide the colors used so I could create my own cover (which I didn’t end up doing out of lack of creative genius), but it did allow me to color match everything else! WOO HOO! With her permission, here are the colors to match! I am amazed every day at the things available online when you take the time to search and the willingness to freely share that other bloggers, teachers and designers have. Thank you Miss Tiina!!
  • Printable Divider pagesWHAT? WHAT? – Yes, you heard me correctly. Avery makes 3-ring binder tabbed dividers that you can print on using their template. I think I was skipping through Staples when I went to purchase mine. 🙂 I color coded the tabs using the same colors, and even decorated the divider page with some color and the same words that I put on the tabs. I probably could have made the dividers even more cute and colorful, but my impatience to print on them won out and I left them fairly plain. 🙂
  • 2013-2014 At a Glance Calendar – Used excel to create this on one page and used the same fonts and colors as other parts of the plan book
  • Dated Monthly Calendar pages – Again, Miss Tiina came through with exactly what I wanted, cute fonts, and color matched (by sheer luck) to everything else I was putting together. The calendars are one page per month with an area at the bottom for notes, which is great for us teachers because gosh knows things get added all of the time and we write notes everywhere! I uploaded her calendar graphics into powerpoint, moved them around so the 3-hole punch didn’t go through a bunch of dates when I printed them back to back and then used text boxes and Cinnamon Cake font to type in the District Calendar events on the calendars before I printed them.  Cute fonts are better than my ugly handwriting.
    Here is the link to her 2013 Calendar and Here is the link to her 2014 Calendar
  • Dated Plan Book pages – Earlier I posted about my plan book for this past school year, but (funny ha ha) I didn’t end up using it much and in fact didn’t print out anything other than the 1st quarter pages. This is largely due to  another way I organize my Algebra and Pre-Algebra files. But this year I really need to use it and keep myself organized in planning Geometry and History and I have nothing else to fall back on.  So I jazzed it up a bit, made curved edges and color matched it.  The best part is that I created it in Excel, so it is dated and the dates self populate for the entire year when I change the very first date! It is a 2 page spread per week.
  • Meeting Notes pages – I haven’t quite finalized exactly what I want to use for these pages. I have a few options, but I don’t exactly know where I got them, so I don’t want to post them here. I want these pages because I need to keep better track of discussions at team meetings, grade level meetings, PLC Meetings, etc.  I can print the agendas and put them in that section or write notes on a cute form.  To be decided I guess!
  • Dated Gradebook pages – I also jazzed up my gradebook pages a bit and used the same fonts. It is also dated with a two page spread for each quarter.  I have to wait until I get my rosters to print them…but I already love them! I have explained before that I have gotten burned once too many by our online gradebook program, so I record everything on paper and then transfer it to the online gradebook. A mix of old school and new school, but it has been quite a benefit, especially using SBG.

PHEW! I think that is it (for now at least). 🙂  A few teachers at school heard about and saw me creating this at the end of the year and I have made a few custom plan books and gradebooks for them using my Excel self-created documents above.  Isn’t it funny how cute fonts and colors gets us teachers all jazzed up? Oh that and really nice pens!

What is in your teacher plan book/binder? What have you found invaluable to keep in your plan book/binder? Do you use something that you think I need to add? 🙂

#MyFavFriday: Loving the Internet & Seating Chart Heaven

MFFIn the past when we needed help, or needed a fresh idea…what did we do without the internet? without Twitter Tweeps to ask? without blogs to search?  I am continuously amazed at the resources that the MathTwitterBlogosphere puts out there for all to use.

My current example of how awesome you all are:
Due to the implementation of the Common Core in my school this year, we are also working on cooperative learning and putting more of the ownership of learning on the students.  I love all of this, but my 8th grade students DO NOT know how to effectively work together.  It’s been a long first half of the year teaching them how to work together and I hope it gets easier. (Anyone with helpful ideas, please share!)  My favorite comment from a student earlier in the year when I moved the desks from groups of 4 to rows for the quarter final…”can we just stay in rows, I like that so much better.” It made me laugh because all of last year the students didn’t like sitting in pairs and would have loved to sit in groups…they were such a social group.

At the start of the year, with my desks in groups of four for the first time in my teaching career, I never created a seating chart on paper that I liked.  Our gradebook program, while it does have a seating chart option, does not and will not fit all of the desks I need in the right spots, so all it does is confuse a sub (& sometimes myself).  So I have to create it on my own.  A teacher at my school shared the seating chart word document he created and I was just using that the first two quarters.  The problem was it just had boxes for names, nothing for attendance or assignments or behavior.  I would use a different color pen each day and create a key at the bottom of the chart to keep track of it all.  It didn’t work so well, or at least as well as I had hoped.

Enter my desire to find the perfect seating chart (or at least the perfect one for now). I searched online and in an images search came across this beautiful picture of joyous desks with boxes for all that I needed.  Low and behold, the image comes from another math blogger and it was from 2008!!! How did I not find this before? Thank you Ms. J at Sines of Learning for your awesome creation! You can find her blog post here: http://sinesoflearning.blogspot.com/2008/10/seating-charts.html

Sadly I needed a different layout and many more desks because I have 9 groups.  Enter my evening messing with Ms. J’s graphics and creating my seating chart in powerpoint. Check it out below:

I added numbers to my groups because that’s how I have them labeled in class and I added grouping numbers and letters to the desks as well.  I do also have those taped to the desks for the students, but I thought I might like it on my seating charts.  I used some of my fun fonts and love the way it turned out.

Similar to @gwaddellnvhs and his #MyFavFriday post about Pens (http://blog.mrwaddell.net/archives/673), I created new groups for the new quarter and used my favorite pen to write in the names for easy copying so I can have enough sheets for the 6 weeks we will be in groups. What is it with teachers and pens? 🙂

I am looking forward to the new quarter, new groups and a fun start with my shiny new seating charts! Yeah!


#MyFavFriday: Technology as a time saver

I am obvious about my love of technology; I am one of the go to people at my school with tech questions & issues; I have a Master’s in Technology in Education because I can’t get enough of it; I have more than enough gadgets and my mom ALWAYS asks me questions (if that’s not proof, I don’t know what is). 🙂 This isn’t a post about how to correctly imbed technology into the curriculum, but instead it is a post about the tech tools that make my job just a little easier & more fun.

#1 – Excel – Years back I use to purchase the teacher gradebook from the $1 section at Target and type up my student’s names and tape them in.  One day I realized that I could probably recreate the gradebook in excel, so I could customize it as I wanted & type in names and self populate dates. Yes, I do keep a paper gradebook in addition to the district’s online gradebook. I have had my fair share of grades disappearing and issues, so now it’s a habit to do it both ways.  Here is my excel gradebook: (hopefully formatting will hold). I use the same one and change the dates per quarter.

#2 – Excel (again) – Of course I couldn’t just leave well enough alone and decided that I wanted to create my own planbook as well. I like color coding and fun fonts.The planbook is set up for my schedule, but can easily be adapted.  I think across, so my days go across.  It’s amazing how many teachers think down when they plan. I tried a planbook like that once and felt disorganized the whole year.  Must be my math brain?
Here is my excel planbook: (again I hope the formatting holds). I also use the same one and change the dates per quarter. The dates should self populate the entire document when you enter the date of the very first Monday of week 1.

#3 – External Portable Hard Drive – I just purchased a Western Digital My Passport last weekend for $60 that has 465GB of space. Funny for all of my technology love, I was so use to using all my different 4GB & 8GB flash drives and wasn’t in a place where I wanted it all in one spot.  With the implementation of CCSS this year, I had files everywhere.  I lost it last week when I had three drives plugged in and still couldn’t find where I put whatever file I was looking for.  I have placed ALL of my files included textbook files, videos, grade level files and this thing still doesn’t look like a bite has been taken out.  I LOVE it! Plus organizing it has been fun…ha.  Not quite, it’s a bit of a disaster right now, but it’s a good reason to go through and toss files I haven’t touched in a while. Having all of my files and any other necessary/helpful files in one spot is such a time saver.

#4 – Fonts – My love for fun & free fonts is a small addiction.  I scrapbook, so I use that as my excuse to have so many different fonts. I have almost 600 different fonts (that includes the ones the computer came with).  Fonts make my life and my files more fun! It’s not quite a time saver (more like time waster), but it allows me the ability to create my own posters, signs, etc. (this will be another post) and items I want/need with fun and unique fonts.  My favorite font sites are:


#5 – Remind101 – I love this site/app! My district does not allow texting to individual students, but this is awesome in that it is completely anonymous.  You DO NOT need a smart phone to use it.  You can send messages through their website. You can only send messages, students/parents can not respond (best feature!). There is no limit to the number of students/parents that can join each class.  I set up separate classes for each of my periods, rather than by course.  I sent an email to the students/parents and shared sign-up info at the start of the year.  I included that students/parents can sign up to receive my messages via email instead of (or in addition to) text.  This way it doesn’t leave out the few students I have who don’t have phones or don’t have texting. I do not use it to send the homework assignment out; I’ve used it as general reminders (bring such and such tomorrow), kudos about a great class that day, note that I will be out the next day, something interesting on news or tv to check out, etc. I also have a class set up for the sport I coach, so I can send them reminders about changes or things as well.  I  Kids love it and will ask, “Can you send a reminder via text tonight?”.  LOVE IT!

That’s enough for this post. My goal is to do some blogging catch up this weekend. It was a long October and I just lost the time and energy somewhere along the way.

#MyFavFriday: Food Fridays

Fridays are food days in my office.  There are 11 teachers in the office and we created a signup sheet with each Friday listed and post it where all can see. We share the sign up and it is so much fun to see what treats will be brought in each Friday, some are homemade (#pinterest), some are store bought, but it doesn’t matter, we have a great time sharing and enjoying the treats.

I had treats this Friday and I scoured my recipe board on #pinterest and my recipe box at home for some good ones to bring in. I wanted to do a dip theme.  I made three different dips and they turned out great!  Here are the recipes for your enjoyment!

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Dip (WARNING – very addictive! Came from my recipe box)
1 8oz. cream cheese (softened, but not melted)
1/2 cup unsalted butter (softened, but not melted)
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup semi-sweet mini chocolate chips (these were hard to find, you want the itty bitty ones, I used Nestle Mini Morsels)

Mix together the cream cheese and butter.  Then add in the powdered sugar and mix. Add in the brown sugar and vanilla next and mix.  Then add in the chips.  I mixed it all by hand and it came out great.  It will be a little runny looking, but put it in the fridge and it will harden up a bit.  When served it has the consistency of the inside of a cheesecake.

Serve with graham crackers.

*This dip was a HUGE hit! It tastes exactly like cheesecake, maybe even better and is SO easy to eat.  I recommend not making this recipe anywhere near “that time of the month” or you may find that you have eaten it all by yourself. 🙂

Pickle Dip (similar to the wrap my mom use to make, came from my mom)

1 Package Buddig Beef – chopped (I could NOT find it at my Wal-mart, so I purchased the Wal-mart smoked ham slices in a bin with a blue top and just cut it up and added to taste)
1 8oz. cream cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup chopped dill pickles (I prefer Claussen brand)
1/8 garlic powder (didn’t have it, but had a garlic dip mix, so I used that to taste)

Mix together and refrigerate. Serve with Townhouse Flip pretzel crackers.

Cheddar Bacon Dip (a.k.a Crack) (Came from #pinterest)

16 oz sour cream
1 packet Ranch dressing mix (I thought it was too ranchy, I would use less next time)
3 oz bacon bits (in the bag not jar)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Mix together and refrigerate 24 hours. Serve with chips and/or veggies.

Have a great Friday & weekend!

#MyFavFriday: Count Off

I love the #MsSunFun, #Made4Math & #MyFavFriday because they keep me blogging and looking for something worthwhile to contribute.  I had some extra time during Advisory today and we played this game, it’s not really math related but it’s a great filler.  Our 8th grade students do a huge team building unit during Advisory through October, but we also continue it throughout the year.  This is part of our Team Building Activity Binder that I put together for the grade level teachers many many years ago. As we were playing I thought “This would be a great #MyFavFriday post!”.  I almost couldn’t wait for the day to be over so I could blog about it. 🙂  Enjoy!

Activity Type:
Communication and Trust

Benchmark: Communicates clearly; Working in groups: Utilizes interpersonal skills to work cooperatively in diverse groups to accomplish common goals.

Group Size: Any

Materials: None

Time: 5-15 minutes; it is a great filler activity.  You will find that the kids will want to play it for as long as possible.


  1. Have the students sit in desks with their heads down & eyes closed. (It helps to keep the communication levels down, which is necessary.)
  2. Explain that you are going to test their counting skills.  They will need to count as a group as high as they can, hopefully through all students in the class.
  3. The rules are each student must have a chance to say ONE number, and once a student has said a number, they can not say another number.
  4. If two people say the same number simultaneously, the group must start back at one.  (This is the key to the game. This is also where they will get the loudest, when they have to start over.)
  5. It works best if the teacher is the one who says “One”.
  6. IMPORTANT: Students cannot pre-plan who is going to say each number…don’t tell them they can’t, but try not to allow it either.

If they can count through all the students in class, have them count backwards, by two’s, etc.


  1. Discuss the challenges the group went through.
  2. How were the challenges finally solved?
  3. How did you feel when you had to start all over again?
  4. What was it like not starting out with a plan of action?