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! :-)

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Super Sleuth Challenge

Super Sleuth is an enrichment program that you can easily set up and use in your classroom. Here are the details about how it operates.
Are you looking for an easy way to offer enrichment to your students? Super Sleuth is one way to provide daily challenge for students. I have used (and perfected) this system in my classroom for years. My favorite thing about Super Sleuth is that after the initial setup, it practically runs itself! It is really easy to implement and requires minimal class time.

Super Sleuth has added a bit of mystery and excitement to my classroom. I originally used it as an option for my higher-level students who needed a little something beyond the regular curriculum. I quickly discovered that it worked well to spark interest and develop intellectual curiosity among students of all levels. Students are eager to read and research the new clues. Plus, as an added bonus, families get involved in talking about the challenge at home. That's a win-win in my opinion! Now, here's the details on how I set up and manage Super Sleuth in my classroom.

As part of the Super Sleuth Challenge, students receive a new clue each day about a mystery person, place or thing. They research the clues and then submit an answer by the end of the week. The answer is then displayed on the following Monday. In order for Super Sleuth to operate smoothly, you will need to set up an interactive display in your classroom.

I select a place in my classroom that is very visible when students first walk in the room and is also easy for students to reach. My bulletin board space is limited, so I usually use cabinet doors or the side of a filing cabinet. 

Super Sleuth is an enrichment program that you can easily set up and use in your classroom. Here are the details about how it operates.

Over the years, I have experimented with various ways to hang the clue cards. Thumb tacks and staples work fine on a bulletin board, but I really prefer hooks or clips that students can safely operate. I used these Command Spring Clipslast year and they were great! Please note that this is an Amazon affiliate link for a product that I use and love which means that I will receive compensation if you make a purchase using this link.

My goal has always been to run the Super Sleuth program with very little effort on my part. Here is how I delegate the daily operation to students.


Each week, at the beginning of a new challenge, I put a student in charge of the daily clues. This student earns the title "Sleuthinator" and has the special privilege of hanging a new clue for the class to read each day of that week. I place the clue cards inside a special container that fits right inside the Sleuthinator's desk. This system works well because, without fail, students always remind the Sleuthinator to hang the clue if he or she forgets.


Then, I set up a station for students to submit their Super Sleuth answers. At this station, I have placed a container that is filled with blank answer slips. I cut a slit in the top of a small oatmeal canister for the final answers.


I allow (and encourage) my students to ask for help at home, research on the computer, find a book in the library, etc. My only rule is that they may not share the answers with each other. A class meeting works well for setting up the expectations. Sometimes we revisit the ground rules if necessary.

Super Sleuth is an optional activity in my classroom, but most students choose to get caught up in the excitement. I have built in an incentive system that seals the deal for students who need some extra encouragement to get involved. After the answer is displayed on Monday, I go through the canister and announce winners from the previous week. Each student with a correct answer receives one "Sleuth Buck". They save up the Sleuth Bucks and later cash them in for classroom incentives that are worth different values.


Here's a sneak peek at how I organize my clue sets. These organizational portfolios from the dollar store are each divided into seven sections that group and store the cards perfectly. They are the longer, 10" x 6" portfolios. I have six of them to store my cards for the whole year.


If you would like to get started with Super Sleuth in your own classroom, I have packaged the whole kit and caboodle into one resource that contains 40 weeks of clue sets for an entire school year. Each clue set includes 5 clue cards, plus an answer card with a picture and a card with an informational paragraph about the mystery person, place, or thing. The topics represent a variety of people, places, and things from history and modern times that have been thoroughly researched and summarized. The full resource also includes all of the signs and labels you will need for your display, plus editable incentive coupons and name display. You will just need to print it out, set it up, and say, "Go!"

Super Sleuth is an enrichment program that you can easily set up and use in your classroom. Here are the details about how it operates.
Click image to view the Super Sleuth resource
You can even try a free Super Sleuth sample here! Enjoy!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Stretch Books



Welcome to Week # 5 of the Undercover Classroom Summer Fold-a-thon! I'm here to fill up your bag of teaching tricks with all things foldable and this week we are going to take a closer look at stretch books. If you missed the first four posts, no worries! You can easily get caught up by clicking on the links below. :-)

Click image to view mini book tutorial

Click image to view envelope book tutorial

Click image to view lapbook modifications tutorial

Click image to view paper bag book tutorial
And now for our feature presentation. . . s t r e t c h books!

Learn how to make a stretch book from three pieces of square paper. Stretch books are highly engaging for students and can be used for a variety of classroom activities. 
Stretch books are an all time student favorite in my classroom. They have a "wow" factor. That's for sure! Every time I make a stretch book for the very first time with a group of students, the oohs and aahs can be heard down the hallway. 

These books may seem a bit complicated at first, but once you understand the folds, they are actually quite simple to make. The book is able to stretch because of one simple origami fold. I highly recommend folding a few for yourself before you attempt this with your students. It is much easier to model and explain the folds when you have experience with them yourself. The learning curve will definitely be worth it in the end. 

Stretch books lend themselves nicely to a variety of activities. I have used them for publishing, story retelling, vocabulary words, note-taking, math facts, and research. Really, there are so many possibilities!



For this stretch book, I used three sheets of paper. You can always add more for a longer stretch book. Cut the paper into squares. Any size square will work. My squares are 8.5 inches x 8.5 inches.


Before you watch me fold, take a look at the basic fold lines. For each of the three pieces of paper, you will make a diagonal, horizontal, and vertical fold. The direction of the folds is critical, so keep reading. :-)


Take your first piece of paper and make a diagonal fold from point to point. 


Now here is the important part. Since you folded back to make that diagonal fold, the next two folds will both be in the opposite direction. The horizontal and vertical folds will be forward folds. Open up the paper again.


Then fold forward this time to make a "plus" sign. Make a (forward) horizontal fold.


Open it up again and then make a (forward) vertical fold.


When opened flat, the folds should look like this.


Turn the paper and gently pinch the sides as shown.


Pull the sides in and press down from the top.


It will collapse like this. Press it flat and reinforce the folds. Now, the rest is easy.


Just repeat those steps until you have three folded squares.


Now it is time to glue them into one piece. Play around with the pieces and you will see how they fit together. Match up the first two pieces like his.


Add some glue.


Carefully overlap the two pieces for an accurate match.


Press them together to seal.


Then flip your third square over and see how it fits together with the second piece.


Add some glue.


Match it up, and you are ready to go!


Here's the final book. Give it a stretch and then marvel at your creation. :-) 

Learn how to make a stretch book from three pieces of square paper. Stretch books are highly engaging for students and can be used for a variety of classroom activities.

Once you have it down pat, it's time to teach your students. I have made these books successfully with third graders. The first time through, it is best to work in small groups. If a parent volunteer is available, that helps too. :-) Most of my students are able to make them independently after the first time. They even make them for fun on their own. That's how much they love them.

Would you like a free stretch book template? This blank template has pre-printed fold lines and "page" numbers on each small square. Just click the image below. 


You may also want to take a peek at my other pre-made stretch books.  The Story Map Stretch Book can be used with any fiction story. Also, I love to use the Preamble Stretch Book on U.S. Constitution Day.

The Undercover Classroom Summer Fold-a-thon will wrap up with one final post next Friday, August 4th. Bring along some regular white envelopes (business or small) next time and be prepared to transform them into something awesome. See you then!