Sunday, January 20, 2019

Tried & True Bookmaking: Step Book

What's the best way to teach notetaking or paragraph writing? There are so many methods, but one of my favorite is a step book!
They are simple to make and SO useful! 

Step books can be made using any size paper or any amount of paper, depending on your needs. Teaching math facts or coming up with many ways to solve a problem is a great way to use step books! I like to always have my students connect story problems with the math problems. The space above the step can also be used to illustrate students' math strategy!
Step books are a simple way to teach notetaking, with all notes in one place. Decide on the categories you want students to research, then label each step. This leads directly into paragraph writing with a main idea or topic sentence already labeled on the step!
If you want to make it more "book-like", attach a larger construction paper cover. Step books turned sideways are GREAT for timelines. If you teach how to tell time, step books are so much fun to make like The Grouchy Ladybug by Eric Carle, but a day in the life of a student. What other ways have you used step books? I'd love to know!

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Tried & True Bookmaking: Slit Book

"Books are a uniquely portable magic." -Stephen King
This "slit book" is one of my favorite books to make with students! (I told you not to expect super creative and fancy book names. . .) It takes 3 sheets of paper (or more, if you want more pages). It is a book made without using staples or tape! After learning how to fold this book, many of my parents begin to send me messages, "I don't know what you're doing in class, but my child is using up all the paper in our house to make books and write!" I can't help but smile gleefully!

These slit books are perfect for writing math story problems (glue the rubric to the back.)
Students love writing stories in slit books, or use them to storyboard or write rough drafts. They make wonderful books for notetaking. There are endless possibilities! What are your favorite books to make with your students?

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Tried & True Bookmaking: Poof Book

There's nothing like making a book to get students excited! They oooh and aaah, as if it is magic! This blog post is the first in a series: Tried and True Bookmaking. Each book is low-prep and simple for students to make. Today's book is called a Poof Book. (You're going to be awed by the catchy titles of the books in this series; lol)
A Poof Book requires only one sheet of paper. For some reason, kids LOVE mini books. Once you have taught them how to make this book, you'll have parents start to comment that their kids are using all their printer paper to make books at home! Watch the short video below to learn how to make this simple book.
How to use a poof book? Pretty much everything! Students love making these as mini-vocabulary books with the word, definition and a small illustration. They are non-intimidating as "How to" books. Poof books are great to use for note taking or writing short poems or writing riddles. Kids love slipping these mini books into their pocket (or into their lunchbox). Sometimes I have students use them as a quick write or mini gratitude journal. So many uses! And if it's in an astrobright color, then they're even better! Give it a try & let me know how you used them in your classroom! Check back next Sunday for the next book in the Tried & True Bookmaking series!
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Thursday, January 3, 2019

Mathematicians Inspire Wonder & Curiosity

Year after year, I have students or parents who state, "I'm not a math person" or "I'm bad at math"  or worse yet,  when a parent says to the child, "You must take after me; I'm terrible at math." As if it's a genetic disposition! 
I want to eliminate this attitude and misconception! It's become my mission to expose my students to real life mathematicians, beyond "dead white guys". I want them to read about and learn about those who have overcome the odds to succeed and to realize there is not a "math person". To do this, I've been collecting picture books about mathematical heroes, otherwise known as mathematicians.

Here are the books I have so far:
Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to
To better represent my students, I specifically tried to find books about women and mathematicians of color. However, it was hard! Then I discovered this website, Not Just White Dude Mathematicians.  This website is set up as a table; mathematicians can be searched by gender and ethnicity and it is constantly being updated. Note: some of the website links for certain mathematicians take students to a Wikipedia page, which I warn my students not to trust (or to at least cross-reference their information). This is best used as teacher information. At some point, I want to curate a student-friendly list or table using the links on Not Just White Dude Mathematicians.

So. . . other than a great read aloud, what to do with learning facts about all these cool people? I wanted my kids to feel inspired by the same wonder and curiosity that these mathematicians exhibited. After reading just a few of these books, students began to observe a common theme emerging: all of these mathematicians had a growth mindset! My kids started noticing common attributes such as curiosity, determination, self-motivation, and thinking outside the box. They loved learning about real "characters" who weren't afraid to go against society during their time. In comes The Mathematicians Project!

Friday, December 28, 2018

So Much to Teach, So Little Time

I'm blogging over at The Walking Classroom today! I don't know about you, but there never seems to be enough time for all that needs to be taught! 
I share about how I use The Walking Classroom with long term planning and to enrich the curriculum.  Walk on over (or click HERE)  to read about a solution to the age old problem of how to fit everything in.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Holiday Progressive Dinner

Not that I need the holidays as a reason to gather, but there's nothing I love more than spending time with good friends, eating good food, and talking about good books! That's where this idea of a virtual progressive dinner comes in!
As I was chatting with my We Teach So Hard podcast partners, we were bemoaning the fact that we are spread out around the country. We all love dinner parties and talking good books,  so although we are in different time zones, we can pretend to be together, as we enjoy the following drinks, meals, and books! Welcome to our virtual progressive dinner party!

Who doesn't love a cheery party drink? This poinsettia cocktail is a simple, yet pretty cranberry punch with a hint of orange that’s fun and festive for the holidays! (It can be made for adults or  it can also be made individually in a cocktail shaker and served straight up; chilled with no ice. Garnishing with fresh cranberries and orange slices or an orange twist also makes for a fancy drink.  Freezing cranberries or cranberry juice into ice cube trays keeps this cocktail cold, yet they won't dilute the drink.  Click HERE to download the recipe card!

If fruity is not your thing, then nothing says the holidays like candy canes. . . candy cane-infused vodka, that is! Super simple: pour vodka or vanilla vodka into a quart size mason jar. Crush 5-7 red and white candy canes in a ziploc bag (crush with a rolling pin) or use a food processor. Add the candy cane crumbles to the mason jar and seal with the lid. Place mason jar in a dark pantry for 2-3 days. The candy canes will have dissolved, but if there are any pieces still left, strain through a cheesecloth. Now what to do with this jar of tastiness? Click HERE for a peppermint vodka martini recipe from Delicious Table; it sounds amazing! Or if you want to serve a warm drink, add the candy cane-infused vodka to hot cocoa!

Sunday, December 9, 2018

From a Wanna Be Organizer

Okay, I admit it. . . I'm a wanna-be organizer. I'm envious of those classrooms (and homes!) that never have piles. (I'm mystified: where is their STUFF?!)  I have every good intention of being tidy and organized. I even read Marie Condo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up for my book club...
My days start off like this:

But somehow by the end of the day, I can barely see my table! I'm embarrassed to have even shared this picture but unfortunately it's a daily occurrence. . . (and that's not even the worst of it!)
A couple of years ago, I got rid of my traditional teacher desk. It was just another piece of furniture in my room that took up space (and became a place for piles).  A round table took its place, perfect for small groups and student conferences. However, where to keep all the office supplies? In came this teacher toolbox; the cute labels are from La Senorita Creativa. Now all my supplies are easy to find!
I do love labeling things! (Even at home, which is why I'm bewildered when my family does not put things away in the right places; sorry. . . I digress) Because my student desks are turned toward the inside (so students do not have access to the insides to put all their junk, but they do make GREAT storage for unused or extra textbooks),  they needed containers to keep their composition books and folders. I bought the perfect size cardboard Ikea Flyt magazine file boxes. With typically 30-35 students, these file boxes do not take up too much space; I have them stored in various small bookcases (like the ones below) around the classroom so there is not a student stampede to get materials. The file boxes are labeled with student numbers. The middle shelf is purposely tilted to store clipboards; this way they slant downward so clipboards are not falling out and onto the floor.  The binders on the bottom shelf are student portfolios.