Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Lock Code Tags

Don't get locked out of your locks! Use these lock code tags to keep your locks organized in between lockbox challenges.
Using Lockbox Challenges in my classroom has been a serious game changer. I absolutely love what these challenges offer to my students, but I must admit that the locks threw me a learning curve. I have cursed at my locks a time or two. Trust me, it's not all rainbows and unicorns over here. :-)

Actually, I have been locked out of my locks a few times. It's a pretty bad feeling, especially when it happens late at night on the evening before the big day. My lock-setting skills have definitely improved over time. It really does take concentration and practice. One thing I have learned is that locks need undivided attention. When setting a code, one false move could cost you.

One problem that I faced at first with my locks was an overall lack of organization. In between challenges, I would toss the locks in a box and then forget all the codes. Needless to say, this made it difficult to set the locks for the next challenge.

Well, I rarely make the same mistake twice. That's why I came up with a better system. :-) Now, when I'm finished with a challenge, I spend a few minutes putting a lock code tag on each lock.

Don't get locked out of your locks! Use these lock code tags to keep your locks organized in between lockbox challenges.


These lock code tags are really simple to make and use. Just print them on card stock and punch a hole at the top. I like to keep my tags on a book ring. I just record each lock code on a tag, and then slip the tag onto the shackle before closing. Problem solved!

In case you are wondering about my lock storage box. . .


It's an old, wooden silverware box that I found at a thrift store. I tore out some dividers on the inside and lined it with fabric. Then, I gave the outside a facelift with some spray paint and letter stickers.

Turn an old, wooden silverware box into a box for your locks.

That box makes me smile whenever I see it in my classroom. My students also think it is pretty special. :-)

So, now my locks are nice and organized. The good news is that I haven't been locked out of a lock since I started using this new system!

Would you like some lock code tags to keep your locks organized? You can grab them below!

Get the Lock Code Tags

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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Lockbox Tour

Take a tour of a lockbox setup. Learn about the locks and other supplies you will need to implement a Lockbox Challenge in your classroom.
It's fair to say that I have become kind of totally obsessed with lockboxes lately. Where have these things been my whole teaching life? After my very first lockbox experience with students, I literally started dreaming of new challenges. It was something about the level of enthusiasm and cooperative problem solving that had me at hello.

If you are new to the world of Lockbox Challenges, the basic idea is that students are motivated to solve a variety of complex puzzles in order to open locks and get into a box. There is usually a story that hooks the students, and the tasks are all related to a central theme. When students get into the box, they find certificates of completion and sometimes other small rewards related to the theme.

Setting up your first lockbox is a bit of a cost and time investment. I know some teachers have enlisted the help of PTOs, written grants, or raised funds through DonorsChoose. Many teachers have asked about the boxes and locks I use, so here is a tour of my setup!

Please note that Amazon affiliate links are used in this post which means that I will receive compensation if you make a purchase using one of these links. All of the lockbox materials described below are the ones I use in my own classroom.
Take a tour of a lockbox setup. Learn about the locks and other supplies you will need to implement a Lockbox Challenge in your classroom.

1. The AWESOME Master Lock Box:This thing is seriously the king of all lockboxes. I love it so much because it has twelve large holes built right into the lid of the box that easily fit all of the locks, without using a hasp. Being made of steel, it is well-constructed and heavy duty.

2. Small Lockbox with Built in 3 Digit Lock:Again, I can't say enough good things about this little black box. The built-in lock is very convenient and easy to operate. For most of the challenges, this box holds a UV flashlight, or another clue to assist in opening one of the locks on the main box.

3. 4-Letter Word Lock: I really like this 4-letter word lock. The letters are not removable, so there are some limits to the words you can make, but it is easy to set by turning the bottom of the lock with a coin.

4. 4 Digit Number Lock: When it comes to 4 digit number locks, there are many to choose from. I have been very pleased with my 4 digit Master Lock. The dials are easy to turn and the combination numbers line up nicely on the side of the lock.

5. 5-Letter Word Lock: The 5-letter lock I use is pretty common and fairly easy to find. Just a heads up that you will need to purchase two of these locks in order to have enough of the letter dials. It actually only comes with 4 letter dials, plus some number dials. Having the extra dials from a second lock will allow you to spell more words.

6. Directional Lock: The directional lock is my favorite. It is a unique type of lock. My students really enjoy moving the knob in various directions to get it open. This lock requires a small amount of training to operate because the top part must be squeezed twice before entering the combination. I taught my students how to use this lock before our first challenge.

7. Key Lock: Key locks are quite easy to find. I am very happy with my key lock by Brinks. I like that it has a long shackle, which makes it easy to connect to the box. The key also turns easily, causing the lock to pop right open.

In addition to the boxes and locks, most Lockbox Challenges require an invisible ink penand UV Flashlight. The invisible ink pen is used by the teacher during set up to write a secret message. The UV flashlight is usually locked inside the small box and is used by students to read the secret message.

Take a tour of a lockbox setup. Learn about the locks and other supplies you will need to implement a Lockbox Challenge in your classroom.

With all of the above materials, you will be ready to get started. :-) The best advice I can give you is to save the directions for every lock. The locks will need to be reprogrammed for each challenge, with unique codes for the students to find.

As an alternative to the Master Lock box (above), I have also used (#8 below) this Craftsman toolbox.This particular toolbox works well since there is an oval slot to secure the lid, using a (#9 below) hasp.Many toolboxes I find have a small, circular hole to insert one lock, but the hasp won't fit through. The hasp is necessary since you will most likely want to attach several locks to your box.

Take a tour of a lockbox setup. Learn about the locks and other supplies you will need to implement a Lockbox Challenge in your classroom.

I also have a separate 3 digit number lock (#10 above) to use with the hasp, in case I'm not using my small black box with the built in number lock.

When I bought all the supplies for my own lockbox setup, I spent A LOT of time shopping around, reading reviews, and comparing prices and lock options. I did end up purchasing all of my original supplies through Amazon, but you may also want to check your local Walmart or Home Depot. I have since found some (but not all) of the locks in these stores.

Best wishes in your lockbox journey! In my opinion, the cost and time are totally worth it. Have fun!

Saturday, October 21, 2017

DIY Number Function Box

Turn an empty juice carton into a number function box that will introduce your students to algebraic thinking. Here's a tutorial that will teach you how to make a chute that "magically" flips your number cards over inside an in and out machine.
Function boxes, or "in and out machines", are a great way to introduce basic algebraic thinking to young learners. Students analyze the input and output numbers to determine the rule, or function, of the box. In and out tables can be found on worksheets, but the actual boxes are much more fascinating! They have a special chute that transforms a number card by flipping it over on the way out. My students quickly discover the "secret" flip, but the process is still fun and extremely engaging.

The complexity of the task can easily be adapted to many levels by simply changing the input and output numbers on the cards. I usually start with basic operations and then work my way up to very challenging, multi-step rules.

You can easily make a number function box out of a recycled juice carton. The trick is in the way you tape the chute. Here's how!


First, gather your materials. You will need an empty juice carton, such as the orange juice container shown. You will also need some duct tape, scissors, a razor blade, and a few sheets of flexible cardboard. I used the back of a few notepads.



Open the top of the juice carton. Then use scissors to cut down, along the edge of each corner of the top part, as shown.


My carton had a pour spout, so I cut that out to make the top fold down flat. Just fold everything in and secure it with a piece of tape.


Use your razor blade to carefully cut slots for your in and out chute. Cut a slot at the top and bottom, approximately the same size and location as shown. My slots are about 2.5 inches wide and a half inch tall. Make sure that the two slots are lined up from top to bottom.

Once you have your slots, cover the whole carton with duct tape. Then use the razor blade again to remove the duct tape that covers each slot.


Now it's time to make the chute. Cut a piece of cardboard that is the width of your slot (2.5 inches) and about 8 inches long.


Feed the chute down through the juice container. Use a piece of duct tape to secure the TOP of the chute to the TOP of the TOP slot.


Flex the chute so that it comes back out through the bottom slot. I used a ruler to help pull it through. It will be curved inside the box. Use another piece of duct tape to secure the BOTTOM of the chute to the BOTTOM of the BOTTOM slot.


Add some "in" and "out" labels. You could write these with a permanent marker, or type and print them like I did. I used some clear packaging tape to secure my labels. Now your box is ready to go!

Turn an empty juice carton into a number function box that will introduce your students to algebraic thinking. Here's a tutorial that will teach you how to make a chute that "magically" flips your number cards over inside an in and out machine.

Cut up the rest of your cardboard to make some number cards. I make mine in sets of five that use the same rule. Draw an "up" arrow above the "in" number. Then flip the card over from bottom to top and write the "out" number on the back. It should be upside down, when compared to the front number. The arrow indicates which way to insert the card into the box. Try it out to make sure your number card flips over when it goes down the chute.


Here's an example of a card set that uses the "subtract 9" rule.

Turn an empty juice carton into a number function box that will introduce your students to algebraic thinking. Here's a tutorial that will teach you how to make a chute that "magically" flips your number cards over inside an in and out machine.

Here's another card set. Can you guess the rule? *The answer is at the bottom of post.* :-)

Turn an empty juice carton into a number function box that will introduce your students to algebraic thinking. Here's a tutorial that will teach you how to make a chute that "magically" flips your number cards over inside an in and out machine.

I like to use my in and out machine as a warm up at the beginning of a math lesson. They also work well for early finishers and centers. Once your students get the hang of it, you can increase the difficulty. Just use larger numbers, different operations, or multiple operations.

Turn an empty juice carton into a number function box that will introduce your students to algebraic thinking. Here's a tutorial that will teach you how to make a chute that "magically" flips your number cards over inside an in and out machine.

Here's one last piece of advice. Clip your number sets together or code them in some way so that cards using the same function stay together.

Turn an empty juice carton into a number function box that will introduce your students to algebraic thinking. Here's a tutorial that will teach you how to make a chute that "magically" flips your number cards over inside an in and out machine.

I hope that you will try out a number function box in your classroom! It is totally worth the time investment to make just one box and use it whole group. You can always add more to your collection over the years, like I did. Enjoy!

*Answer= "divide by 3"

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Greater Than Less Than Chompers

Transform some Hubba Bubba bubble tape containers into Pac Man number chompers! Use these as greater than, less than symbols to teach comparing numbers through place value.
Try not to judge. My kids eat a lot of Hubba Bubba bubble tape. Like, a lot. Trust me when I tell you that I said many prayers in the car on the way to the dentist office this summer. Luckily, either the prayers or the tooth paste worked (possibly both).

I was starting to feel bad about throwing away those plastic containers, so I started a collection on the window sill in my kitchen. Honestly, I had no idea what to do with them, but I just knew they could serve another purpose besides holding gum and sitting in a landfill. Then, it suddenly hit me over a sink of sudsy dishes. These things have the same shape as Pac Man! They can chomp numbers just like alligators or greater than, less than symbols!

To make my Pac Man number chompers, I just used Hubba Bubba bubble tape dispensers, Goo Gone adhesive remover, yellow Rustoleum spray paint, and some black art tape that I found at the dollar store.

(Please note that the above links are Amazon affiliate links which means that I will receive compensation if you make a purchase using the links.)



First, I did a trial run. I started by peeling off the top layer of paper from the gum label. After the paper was removed, I sprayed some Goo Gone on the sticky adhesive. I let that sit for a couple of minutes and then gently used a non-serrated butter knife to remove the rest of the adhesive from the label.


This system worked well, so I did the same for the rest of the gum containers. I peeled off the paper.


Then, I sprayed the Goo Gone and removed the labels on both sides of the gum containers with the butter knife. After removing the labels, I thoroughly washed the containers with dish detergent to remove all of the oils.


Once the containers were completely dried (and free of oils), I closed them up and took them outside on a piece of cardboard. I sprayed the first side with yellow spray paint.


I let them dry for a few hours and then flipped them over to spray the other side.


Once both sides were sprayed, I let them sit and dry for a day.


I had an image in my mind of a black outline to emphasize the greater than, less than symbols, so I searched for some thin, black tape. I was happy to stumble upon this black "Art Tape" at Dollar Tree.


It seemed like that tape was actually made for the job. It fit perfectly!

Transform some Hubba Bubba bubble tape containers into Pac Man number chompers! Use these as greater than, less than symbols to teach comparing numbers through place value.

All finished! Yay!

Transform some Hubba Bubba bubble tape containers into Pac Man number chompers! Use these as greater than, less than symbols to teach comparing numbers through place value.

Now these chompers are all set for my next place value lesson on comparing numbers! Those numbers are a part of my place value lapbook kit. It is a great tool for building number sense.


Happy teaching! :-)

Friday, August 4, 2017

Accordion Envelope Books


Happy August my teacher friends! School is just around the corner in my neck of the woods. Today marks the end of the Undercover Classroom Summer Fold-a-thon. Thanks so much for following along! I have really enjoyed showing you my favorite foldable teaching tools. I hope that you have learned something new along the way.

Learn how to make an accordion book out of envelopes that you can use in your classroom. Accordion envelope books are a handy tool you can use for many topics. Just fill up the pockets with content!
In this post, I would like to show you how to make an accordion envelope book. If you are still recovering from the stretch book (haha), have no fear because this one is super easy. :-)

Accordion envelope books are full of pockets, which makes them perfect for holding flash cards or pieces of folded paper. One nice thing about this book is that you can easily adjust the size by adding more (or fewer) envelopes. If you are studying a topic that can be divided into five parts, use five envelopes. If you have ten sets of leveled flashcards, use ten envelopes.

I get my envelopes at the dollar store. Depending on the project, I use either the small or large (business-sized) letter envelopes. For really special projects, I sometimes splurge on colored envelopes.(Please note that this is an Amazon affiliate link which means that I will receive compensation if you make a purchase using this link.)



To make an accordion envelope book, you will need to glue the envelopes together by the flaps. Open up the first envelope and give the flap a good coat of glue.


Place the next envelope on top as shown and press to seal. Try your best to line it up right on the fold line. That way it will bend easily in the last step.


Continue to glue the flaps and attach the envelopes.


Add as many envelopes as you need for your project. I used six for this envelope book.


This is what it looks like from the back.


Now, just bend back and forth to make an accordion.

Learn how to make an accordion book out of envelopes that you can use in your classroom. Accordion envelope books are a handy tool you can use for many topics. Just fill up the pockets with content!

Here is another view.


And one more look from up above.

Learn how to make an accordion book out of envelopes that you can use in your classroom. Accordion envelope books are a handy tool you can use for many topics. Just fill up the pockets with content!

Write a title on the front of your accordion envelope book as shown. Now you are ready to fill up the pockets with all kinds of valuable content! Get those creative juices flowing! The sky is the limit!


I made a few accordion envelope kits that you might like to check out. Here's the one I use during the first week of school. Everything is ready to print and go!

Click image to view the Back to School Accordion Envelope
I also had some fun making this accordion envelope kit that teaches students how to write seven different forms of poetry.

Click image to view the Pockets of Poetry Accordion Envelope

Even though the Fold-a-thon is over, be sure to stay tuned in the coming weeks. I have some more projects in the works and can't wait to share them with you! :-)