Sunday, July 28, 2013

Homework & Rewards

It was a dark and stormy night...oh wait, it wasn't, I just couldn't sleep and it was 3am and I figured why not check out Pinterest to see what's going on. And there it was...a fun solution to a homework predicament that I've been having.

Back Story: getting 6th graders to complete homework is sometimes the most challenging thing in the world. They think they know how to play the system (i.e. my computer didn't work last night, I didn't understand, I think my mom threw it away...yep). Unfortunately they don't realize that they were placed with a teacher who doesn't buy any of those excuses, especially when I give them multiple resources for continuing to work THROUGH the problem, not give up on it.

Anyway, for those students who need a little more motivation I don't mind giving positive rewards. Yes, I believe that students shouldn't expect a  physical reward as a motivator to do what's expected, but some students really do need them in order to build good habits. This year I am going to do this:

The idea came from this pin from The Nest Effect and she has some wonderful ideas. is a site that I've used before but never like this. It took me 10 minutes to create my cute owl cards. You will get 250 for free (assuming you don't mind the website promo on the back, I don't and the kids won't notice). You just pay the $6 for shipping. I want to spend some time looking at her behavior cards too, with a bit of rewording they could easily work for 6th graders.

A few initial thoughts: I'll need to spend time explaining the process and procedures for using/losing/turning in. I also want the students to brainstorm rewards options WITH me so that I know what will help encourage good routines for them. And finally, I need to order more scratch and sniff stickers..yep, that's right, love them!

I hope that your back to school planning is going well. Don't stress, it all falls into place. But I wouldn't hold off until the week before school (especially if you want to order these, it does take about 2 weeks to get them in). Happy planning everyone, and if you need some encouragement or specific ideas I'm happy to help. You can also check out my Classroom Pins from Pinterest if you'd like.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Setting Up - Something Different Every Year

Hello lovelies! Where I live we are experiencing some amazing weather, it is 52 degrees here this late July. I could not be happier. Okay I probably could if there was football on :) I hope that this finds you well and eagerly looking towards the coming school year.
Yea football season!
I've been thinking a lot about my classroom set up for this year. I tend to have a difficult time sticking with one arrangement. I like change and I think it provides some excitement for the students too. One teacher I work with would have her students create a floor design that they wanted to see. The class would vote and the winning submission would be the classroom set up for the month. It worked so well for her! I tend to be a little more type-A with  my classroom arrangements because I need to know that all of the students can see the board, I can see them, and everyone is on task (as much as they are able to be).

This year I am starting with 25 students, that number is flexible at this point and will probably go up a little. I currently have hexagon tables in my classroom. They come apart in half but at the beginning of the year I keep them together to help build community. Fortunately I have 5 of those tables so I truly have enough seating for 30 students (God help me if my homeroom gets that big!). This is also good because I teach the advanced math class and that can range from 28-34 students.

Another consideration this year is my intern. He'll be needing his own teacher desk so I am considering the best place to accommodate his needs (computer plug, etc) as well as making him feel independent but keeping him close enough that we can chat as needed. Here is what I'm thinking so far:

I'll post pictures once I get into the room and really arrange furniture so stay tuned! When thinking about your classroom don't forget to think about the space they will need to move around (6th graders tend to need more space than 1st graders), what they can see from their seat (keep that easily distracted child away from windows!), and how you can best interact and monitor them. Pinterest has some great pins for teachers using standard desks. I am looking forward to updating you on this! Happy planning everyone, and don't forget to take some time to enjoy your break! We still have a few weeks to go :)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Frugal Teaching

Hi everyone! I hope that you are relaxing and have gotten a 'brain break' from the classroom. Sometimes we just need to unwind. I personally have been on a break and loving it. I didn't blog (sorry about that), think about the new year, think about my new students, think about my classroom...for a month! That's very unusual for me but I felt that I needed to really recharge after this last year. If you felt the same I hope that you were able to wind down.

Now that I'm back and eagerly anticipating the new school year I have been looking at my bills and going...ack! Where did all of that come from! I admit, like most of you I spend personal money on my students. Sometimes there just isn't enough in the classroom budget (or any at all) to go around, and by May and June it seems that the money is just gone.

My goal this year is to do things as frugally as possible, but in a nice way. Trust me, I've been on the receiving end of frugal gifts from people that look, well, cheap. I am trying to plan my classroom to utilize what already exists and incorporate a few homemade touches to keep it going.

A few ways that I have already considered:

1. I wanted white bulletin board borders (weird to say that aloud!) but didn't want to spend the money on white. I do however have a lovely collection of...well...less desirable patterns. I honestly have no idea what they were thinking when they designed them with creepy little cartoon kids on them. Anyway! Guess what color they are on the other side...I know, brilliant right? They are white! Saving money there.

2. I'm making a tree bulletin board inspired by this pin from
I ordered an inexpensive tree from that can be adjusted to different sizes:
I made the LEARN letters on my own with construction paper, ribbon I had on hand, and printed out letters. I'm excited for the final product. You should check out her site, lots of great ideas!

3. I have an owl theme going (I love owls, but only the cute ones) and I found this wonderful site with inexpensive templates that you can download. has many themes, the prices range from $3.00 to more expensive full kits. Look around, it's certainly worth it!

Those are just a few ideas to get started. I'll be back with more updates soon (like my tardis door and other exciting events). Be well, take care of yourself, and take some time to read a good book!