Monday, August 10, 2015

Why I Love Lapbooks {a Video!}


Hello Friends! Many of you know that I love lapbooks, but you may not know WHY I love them so much or how I use them in my own classroom. I stepped outside my comfort zone this week in order to tell the world about lapbooks through my very first YouTube video! You can watch it below! Enjoy!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Go Back to School in Style Giveaway!

Hey Teach! I know you want to go back to school in style. Of course you do! I am joining up with my friend Melissa from Mrs. Dailey's Classroom, plus many other teacher bloggers to bring you two awesome prizes!


Do you know about Better Life Bags?  If you have seven extra minutes to spare, you should seriously take the time to watch this video. It is such a beautiful story of community outreach.


If I don't personally win this giveaway, I am putting one of these bags on my Christmas list. For real. These bags are custom made to order with fabrics that you select. Better than that, these bags are helping others in need. They are much more than just a fancy {mass produced} department store bag.

Click image to design your bag in case you win! :-)

As a part of this giveaway you could also win a gift certificate to LOFT. What teacher doesn't love LOFT? Clothing that is stylish, comfortable {key word}, and quality. I would surely love to pick myself out a new back to school outfit from LOFT!

So, now is your chance! Go ahead and enter the Rafflecopter below so you can go back to school in style. Good luck! My fingers are crossed. :-)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Place Value Model Organization: Thrift Store Shabby to Chic [SHeek]!

Oh, place value models. I love you so dearly, but despise the chaos you create. Place value models are such an awesome teaching tool. Right? If only the models could magically count themselves out and appear on each student desk right on cue. If only they could magically sort themselves back out and return to their containers at the snap of my fingers.  


I seriously love place value models. I use them to teach, well, place value. I also use them to teach addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. 

Place value models are not for babies. Yes, every year I will have at least one third grade student who attempts to make this claim. That student will quickly change his mind just as soon as I ask him to come up to the projector and model for the class how to divide 867 by 5 using the models. This is not an easy task, yet having the ability to model division in this way opens up a whole new level of understanding of the concept. Honestly, I did not truly understand how to perform basic mathematical operations myself until I learned how to do so with place value models. Sure, I memorized algorithms just like everyone else, but did I really have a solid foundation for understanding? Nope. Not until place value models.

That being said, here is the problem I have always faced with place value models. Distribution and clean up is such a colossal waste of instructional time! Even with well-trained students and strategic routines, I have always found that it takes nearly ten minutes at both ends of a math lesson to properly manage the place value materials. That is twenty minutes of instructional time! Ahhhh, the trade offs.

Maybe you can now understand my delight at seeing this piece of solid wood perfection at the thrift store this week.


Sure, it was a little very stinky and not all that pleasing to the eye, but my teacher vision could see through all of that. Even without a ruler in hand, I instinctively knew that the place value storage containers I had been eyeing up at the dollar store would stack perfectly in this cabinet. The stars aligned at the Goodwill Store that day.

So, with a fourteen dollar cabinet in the back of my minivan, I headed right on over to the Dollar Tree! Luckily, they still had plenty of these divided food storage containers.


I went right home and enlisted the services of my two children to help paint the cabinet with my favorite Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. The thing I like best about this paint is that it is so forgiving. If you have any drips or odd brush marks that you don't like once it has dried, just sand them off for a beautiful finish every time. Also, other than cleaning the piece, there is no prep work involved. I just gave the cabinet a good wash down with some water and bleach before painting.

This paint dries so quickly. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that my cabinet was painted, waxed, and ready for the classroom in about four hours. Furniture wax helps to seal and protect the paint. I also spray painted the cabinet handles for a little extra detail and lined the bottom of the cabinet with some contact paper.


Sad to say, I sometimes have thirty students in my math class. I always have my students work with a partner when using the place value models. Each student will get his or her own container, but will combine materials with a partner when it is time to work. Each container has 20 ones models, 15 tens models, and 5 hundreds models. When the students partner up, each pair will have double those amounts (40 ones, 30 tens, 10 hundreds), which should be sufficient for most of the lessons I teach in third grade. I do also have a set of laminated paper thousands models that I will eventually need as well. They should fit easily in the center section when the time comes.


Now here is my favorite part of the plan! I made labels for each container to use for student pairing. These containers can be paired up in three ways. Students can work with a number partner, letter partner, or shape partner. When the students grab containers, they will not yet know my secret plan for partnerships. That, of course, will be announced after the containers are claimed. ;-)


If you would like to use my labels to make some partnering containers for your own classroom, click here for a free download. One thing that you should know before using these labels is that this pairing system only works if you use 30 containers. You can easily adapt the system if you have fewer students, but you will still need all of the containers to start. Here is an example of how I will adapt for fewer students. Let's say I have 24 students and plan to group by shapes, I will strategically remove 6 of the containers (2 hearts, 2 circles, 2 squares). 

Here is one final picture that shows how my cabinet opens. The bottom, left section opens with a hinged door that lays flat on the floor. The hinges on both doors are sturdy and operate nicely. :-)


Now I am so excited to use one of my favorite teaching tools with much less fuss and hopefully faster transition times. It felt so good to get rid of the old place value tubs.

Off I go to prep the materials for my first math lapbook of the school year~ place value! If you are looking for an interactive tool that builds number sense, this is the lapbook for you! Each of my students will build this lapbook during my unit on place value. It sure is a fun way to kick off the school year!

Click image to view product
Keep your eyes open for an old storage cabinet for your place value models! They don't always look very pretty when sitting in the thrift shop (or in a trash pile at the end of a driveway if you're lucky). Just use a little imagination to bring an old cabinet to life and make it your own! 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

First Day Tried & True Linky Party!


If you are getting ready to kick off a new school year and are looking for some fresh new teacher-tested activities for the first day of school, then you have come to the right place! Grab your plan book, pull up a chair and join us for some back to school inspiration!

Teacher bloggers both near and far are linking up with us today to share their favorite lessons and activities for the first day of school. All of these ideas are tried and true! After reading about one of my favorite first day of school activities, be sure to click on the links at the bottom of my post to gather some more fun ideas on other blogs.


There are some first day of school activities that come and go. I am always looking for new ideas, especially to keep things fun and fresh for the first week of school. Over the years, there is one back to school lesson that has always been my staple. I won't ever let this one go because it is a lesson that captivates my students and really leaves a lasting impression. I currently use this lesson with my third grade students, but I also used it when I taught first grade and second grade too! Let me now tell you about Wiggle, Didgi & Pop!


Many years ago, this story was shared with me through word of mouth during an undergraduate college class on story telling. I enjoyed the tale so much that later I decided to write it down and give it my own spin by creating three original characters that would appeal to my young students. That is how Wiggle, Didgi & Pop were born.

The gist of the story is that Wiggle, Didgi & Pop live in a land where they are controlled by a king who dishes out unfair rules. The king makes rules about all sorts of things such as haircuts, laughing, and even brooms. The king does not even follow his own rules.

Wiggle, Didgi & Pop have a meeting and decide that it would be better to move away to a land that does not have any rules at all. The three friends set off on this adventure and work hard to build houses so they can live the way they wish to live.

They can now do the things that they love to do. Wiggle can dance as much as he wants. Didgi can play his video games whenever he wants. Pop can chew gum and blow big bubbles wherever he wants. There are no rules to follow! Yippee!

Unfortunately, the happiness is short-lived. Wiggle, Didgi & Pop soon begin to argue and fight about all the things they once enjoyed. They come to realize that rules may be necessary after all, especially fair rules that everyone obeys, even the leader.

I use story props when telling this story. I put magnetic tape on the back of each piece so that the props will easily stick to my board. This makes the story telling experience run smoothly. The kids always hang on the edge of their seats to see the next character and find out what will happen next. I just love a lesson that makes them behave in this manner. ;-)

The absolute best part about the Wiggle, Didgi & Pop lesson is the discussion that it ignites. I love to listen to my students think deeply about leadership, rules, fairness and equality on the first day of school. We often refer back to this discussion throughout the school year.

After discussing the importance of fair rules, I quickly relate this discussion to our own classroom community. Then, I have the students think about the most important rules that will be necessary to maintain harmony within our class. We all agree that the rules should be meaningful and fair. 

I usually keep my story props on display for a good part of the school year. The kids remember that story. When they move on to the upper grades, many of them enjoy coming back to retell me the story. That is how I know it is a valuable lesson.

In case you would like to start a new tradition in your own classroom, the Wiggle, Didgi & Pop lesson is now available in my TPT store. The full, five page story is included along with the story props, discussion questions, a response sheet, and a home-school connection paper. I have even included an envelope label for storing all the parts so you can use it for many years to come. :-)

Click image to view the product
Now, I hope you will head on over to these blogs to read about some other fabulous first day of school activities. Enjoy!

If you have a favorite first day of school activity and would like to link up your own blog post, please join us!  Use the First Day Tried & True graphic from the top of this post in your own blog post and link up below! The collection will remain open for new links through August 21st.