Friday, September 18, 2015

Favorites for Friday: Improper Fractions and Mixed Numbers Video

Do you teach fractions at your grade level?  Do you need a quick fraction vocabulary review before you start working with fractions?  This video was a great help! It's relatively entertaining, but also provides great explanations for improper fractions and mixed numbers.  My students enjoy the subtle humor interspersed with thorough descriptions.  (Just beware -- many of my students started drawing mustaches for the fraction bar if it was a proper fraction.  Fun, but may begin to get confusing when others start seeing weird symbols on students' math papers.)

Do you have any other great videos for fractions?  I'd love to add them to my collection.  Feel free to post in the comments to share with others.  Or email me at  I'm always looking for new resources for my students!

Hope you enjoyed this week's Favorites for Friday! Thanks for visiting!  And HAPPY FRIDAY!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Favorites For Friday: Fair is not always Equal

We hear it from kids all the time... "That's not FAIR!!"  At school, some kids will get different resources, experiences, or materials because they need something extra to help them be successful. At the beginning of the school year, I try to help students understand how I will work to be fair to everyone, but that doesn't always mean everything is equal. 

This week's Favorites For Friday post is a collection of ideas for teaching the "Fair is not Equal" lesson.  I teach many of these over the first month of school as students get used to differentiation, groupings, special education or ESL services, interventions, leveled library books, etc.  I hope that some of these might be helpful in your classroom, too.  I'd love to hear about other ideas you have!  Feel free to post in the comments any other suggestions or links to other ideas related to "Fair is not Equal."

Bandages or Sandwiches
 I start with a role play.  I choose two students in class who are willing to ham it up a bit.  We pretend two students have just arrived at school and are rushing because they are almost late to class.  The first student pretends that he trips and falls as he is rushing to get inside. In our make believe story, he has skinned his knee and is bleeding. The 2nd student is rushing because he woke up late and is very upset that he did not get to school in time for the breakfast program.  He's hungry and didn't have time to grab any food at home, either.  Both students come to class with a problem = one is hurt and one is hungry.  We talk about if I was going to be equal, I would have to give them each the same thing.  Does each student need a bandage?  Will that solve the 2nd student's problem?  Would it help the 2nd student at all or just be an unnecessary waste of resources?  What about the 1st student?  I'm sure that student would love an extra sandwich, but that's not really what he needs.  Just because he likes it doesn't mean he needs it.  If resources (and/or money) are limited, he may be taking away a resource from someone who really needs it. 

Equal          or           Fair?


 I display the left picture first.  I ask students if this is equal (yes - everyone got exactly the same thing). Then I ask if it is fair (no -- the shortest person can't see at all). I tell the students that there aren't any more crates, then ask if they can think of a way to use the resources in a way that would allow all 3 people to see over the fence. Then I show them the second picture. I ask them to think about whether the tallest person should use the crate he didn't need if there is someone who did need it.  We share some other examples of ways kids might need a resource that others don't need -- glasses, allergy-free snack alternative, leveled reading books, etc.

Do you have other ideas for this topic?  I'd love to hear about them!!

Thanks for visiting!  Happy Friday!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Motivation? Who's got time for that???

Some of you are already back at school.  I know, I know!  I'm one of the lucky ones who has until after Labor Day to prepare for the first day of school.

But those of you who are still setting up classrooms, are you getting tired?  Have you lost focus? interest? motivation?

Let's take a moment to remember some of those reasons we do this job.

I was scrolling through photos on my phone.  Yes, trying to delete move to more permanent storage the pics from last year's class so I have room for this year's class. This one stopped me:

It doesn't look like a huge "stop-you-in-your-tracks" type photo.  It's just a single rose in a little glass vase.  But, in this case it is definitely the thought that made all the difference.

You see, I was given this flower on the last day of school.  Not from one of my fifth graders.  Not even from one of last year's students.  Three years ago, I worked with a little girl in Kindergarten as her ESL teacher.  She spent the first half of the year in the (ESL term) silent period.  She's a shy girl to begin with, and not being able to speak English with students and teachers meant she didn't say much at all.  She and I worked together daily in a small group.  I slowly coaxed her into speaking if I set her up with support.  A very bright young lady, she was a joy to work with.  That was my last year as an ESL teacher as I moved back to a 5th grade classroom position.  I still see her sometimes in the hallway and make a point to wave or say hello, but I don't get to work with her regularly anymore.

Anyway, on the last day of school, this young lady and her mother came to my classroom door with this flower.  Mom had taken her to the store to purchase a flower for her classroom teacher.  She asked if she could get an extra one to bring to me.  How floored was I to receive a gift from a student I hadn't worked with in 2 years!

That flower was my bright spot for many days after school got out.  Now the photo I snapped is my reminder that you never know what "little thing" you do might actually affect a student in a big way and for a long time.  It's my little reminder that my efforts are appreciated and remembered.

So as I'm looking at the piles of pencils to sharpen and the feet of laminating to cut and the stack of copies to make and my still bare bulletin boards (ok, I'd better stop here 'cuz I'm freaking myself out again), I am reminded about the reasons I do this job.  I'm going to keep working a little bit more today.  I'm going to drink another cup of coffee and push on.  I'm going to stop thinking about "all the things I HAVE to do" and start thinking about all the ways I can prepare myself to be awesome this year.  I'm going to make a difference.

:) Heather

Friday, August 14, 2015

Favorites for Friday: Xyron Sticker Machine

Making labels for your classroom?  Goodie bags?  Group supplies?  Personalized magnets with your classroom theme to put on your board or filing cabinet? Crafts?  

This week's Favorite for Friday is the Xyron.  Do you have one of these yet?  If not, don't walk, RUN!!! to your nearest craft store.

I'm a crafter in my spare time, so I have lots of sizes of Xyron machines.  I like this 5 inch Creative Station for my classroom the best.  It doesn't take up much space in my cabinet and it's great for the little things I realize I need in the middle of the day.

I also have the Xyron 900 at home and I use this a lot for classroom items as well. This one is great because a standard 8 1/2 by 11 inch paper slides through it easily.  

These machines are great for putting adhesive on the back of any thin, flat, item (photos, posters, labels) and the adhesive comes in either permanent or repositionable (no more sticky putty!). Want to get really crafty in your classroom?  This machine can also laminate AND make magnets!

Here's a list of some of the things I have done with this machine in my classroom:

*classroom library books labeled with levels
*organizational bins labeled
*Desk name tags laminated
*Folder/Notebook labels
*Treat bag toppers/labels
*Nametags (first day, field trips, etc)
*Winning the Pencil War pouch labels
*Personalized magnets for my board and file cabinets (use your student's photos!)
*Personalized magnets for parents at Back to School night/Conferences with contact info
*Class Schedule items on magnets for the board (easily adjustable!)
*Stickers for teams during activities (kids can easily see who is on each team when they're wearing that sticker!)
*Prizes!  (For incentives, I let students draw pictures on an index card and then turn the drawings into stickers they can keep)
*Independent Centers/Games labels (stick the cover sheet from TPT right onto the folder/envelope!)
*Stickers that say "Ask me about..." for students to show off a great day

Remember, Joann's and Michael's stores have a teacher discount program.  At Joann's you need to sign up for their card, but both places will give you the discount as long as you can prove you're a teacher (bring your school ID).  

There are tons of sizes and versions of these machines.  Choose what works for you and your budget, but truly, I LOVE these machines!  I can't imagine not owning one.  (Even my husband uses them -- he uses the adhesive cartridge to make labels and laminates his fishing license every year so it doesn't get wet on the lake.)

Friday, August 7, 2015

Favorites for Friday: School Supplies

Are you a school supply hoarder, too?  
Do you have piles of notebooks, 
boxes full of glue, 
or more pencil top erasers than you know what to do with?  

This week's Favorite for Friday is a link to the most awesome school supply price guide ever: 

School Supplies Price List
For several years now I have used this resource to decide whether or not to purchase mass quantities of school supplies.  (I still have crayons from years ago when they were on sale for 5 cents!)  As office supply stores buy each other up or close, it's so important to have a guide to what's really a good deal. I forget how inexpensive some of these things will go.  "Notebooks for a quarter?  That's great!" But then I go look at this list and realize I should hold out for the 10 cent sale.  It may not ever get down to 10 cents in my area, but if I wait, I'll probably manage to find them cheaper than a quarter. If not, they'll probably still be available somewhere for a quarter in a week anyway.

Now, if I was only buying items for kids in my own family, it wouldn't matter so much. I'd pay the few extra cents to avoid driving all over the city. I mean, gas is expensive, too! But when I purchase supplies to be used by a classroom of 30 kids, it's worth it to shop around and get the good deals.

I love school supplies.  My husband thinks its an addiction.  I'm pretty sure it's more of a justifiable hobby. He sure doesn't complain when he needs a pencil or a pack of index cards.  :)

Friday, July 17, 2015

Favorites for Friday: Rounding Numbers

Ever try to teach a student with poor number sense skills to round numbers?  This week's favorite for Friday is a view of the video and anchor chart that made it all possible this year.  Even my most struggling students were rounding with ease after this!

First, we used this poem:

Then we watched this video: 
(pointing out the slight differences in the poem we use and the video's poem)

We made an anchor chart like this one:
(My anchor charts never look good enough for a photo!) 

This poem works with any place value, whether using very large numbers or decimal numbers. 
(We did another example on an anchor chart with a 9 in the selected place that needed to round up. That can be tricky, too!)

 For those of you that use the Common Core State Standards, I've included the 4th and 5th grade standards that relate to this particular skill:  

Use place value understanding to round multi-digit whole numbers to any place.

Use place value understanding to round decimals to any place.
© Copyright 2010 National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and Council of Chief State School Officers. All rights reserved.

Thanks for visiting!  Happy Friday!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Favorites for Friday: Winning the Pencil War

This week's Favorite for Friday is a Teachers Pay Teachers freebie:  Winning the Pencil War.

I LOVED this idea this year.  Oh. my. goodness!  I have been teaching since 1998 and this year was the first year that pencils didn't drive me crazy!  I have tried all kinds of systems for pencils and nothing worked - until this!!!

It takes a bit of up-front planning/cost, but in the end, I spent less on pencils this year and it removed so many headaches!  No more whining, no more pencil sharpener noise in the middle of class, no more broken pencil sharpener because a student wasn't careful!

Winning the Pencil War
Created By Ms. Hazelton © 2012
Winning the Pencil War - An Effective Management System

Ms. Hazelton does an excellent job of explaining how to set up the process.  I only made a couple of adjustments for my 5th graders -- I gave them 5 #2 pencils and 2 mechanical pencils, plus the big pink eraser, all in a zippered pouch (I numbered the pouches to help keep track of which pouch belonged to which student).  We also did not do the switching of pencils on Fridays -- We often collected them at the end of Monday afternoon because I had volunteers that came in on Tuesday mornings to help.

Prize ideas -- trying to give prizes to each responsible student each week could easily get out of hand, but I got very creative sometimes!  Check out this list of ideas that worked very well for my 5th graders:
*coupon to choose a "brain break" or "Go Noodle" activity
*coupon for extra time on the Chromebook for educational games
*bookmarks (sometimes I printed out color-your-own freebies!)
*binder clip to help them organize their planner
*one item to eat -- One pretzel rod, one skittle, I even did one fresh raspberry the week they were on sale at the grocery store! The kids LOVED that one and those who didn't earn one were so disappointed.  They all had their pencils the following week!
*of course, little erasers, stickers, a pen, a decorated pencil, or the prize box were also great incentives.

One other great tip -- Keep a stash of extra sharpened pencils so you can quickly trade at the end of the week.  Then you have a whole week to get volunteers to sharpen the dull pencils.  I had a few volunteers that came in before or after school to spend 10 minutes sharpening pencils for me.  My pencils sharpener didn't need to run during the school day ALL YEAR LONG!

Thanks for visiting!  Happy Friday!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Amazing Friends

I've got 2 amazing friends I'd like to write about today.  They agreed to come to Las Vegas with me during the heat of summer so I could go to the Teachers Pay Teachers conference.  They don't sell on TPT (but they do BUY from TPT) so they're not attending the conference.  They're just going to hang out at the pool while I'm at my sessions and then we'll tour the strip in the evenings.  I'm so excited to have their company!

So, to thank them, I made some cute little goody bags.  I just had to share these.  They're in my suitcase right now.  I'm giving you all the sneak peek.  Perhaps you are going to the conference with a friend and want to make a goody bag. Perhaps you've got a girlfriend's getaway planned and want to put together a little something.  Maybe you just really like shiny gift wrap. If any of those apply to you, enjoy the following!

Full gift bag with magnetic name tag for the Meet Up party and a pin with my logo.

Inside the bag:  Snacks, Tylenol and Rolaids just in case,
Chapstick with SPF for their time at the pool,
eye mask, and ear plugs (I've been known to snore)

Spray bottle with fan - it's going to be HOT in Vegas!
(Ice cubes from the hotel make for a lovely mist in these)

Water bottle with my logo and their initials on printable vinyl
Filled with little individual packs of lemonade mix (and white gift fluff)
Kirsten and Amy - you are awesome!  I can't begin to thank you enough!!

If you're reading this and going to the TPT conference in Vegas, I'd love to meet you!  Please introduce yourself if you see my logo! Feel free to leave a comment here, too, and we can try to find each other.

Thanks for visiting!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Favorites for Friday: Grammaropolis

This week’s Favorite for Friday is videos from Grammaropolis.

I love these videos.  They have a whole series – Verbs, Adjectives, Adverbs, etc.  The tunes are catchy and fun.  They even color coordinate all the words they use in the videos – Nouns are blue, verbs are yellow (outlined in red), adjectives are orange and so on. 

The videos do a great job of explaining what the grammar concept is, and then they take it to more complicated grammar concepts.  For example, this noun song explains proper/common nouns, concrete/abstract nouns, compound nouns, and collective nouns.  By the time kids get to my 5th grade class, they know what a basic noun is, but they struggle with the more complicated concepts, like abstract or collective nouns.  This video is great for supporting the higher grade level grammar we need in the upper grades.

So, now I’ll be singing this song all week.  J  Sorry if it gets stuck in your head, but think about how much we WANT that to happen to our students! 

Here are a few others:

Thanks for visiting today! 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Getting back to blogging

So, it's been a while since I blogged. Wait - who am I kidding? It's been a while since I even thought about blogging!  This spring was packed full!

See, I decided to officially learn Spanish. Over the years, I've dabbled with Rosetta Stone and Duolingo. I've bought flash cards and workbooks. I've got audio programs on CDs in the car. Nothing worked well for me though, until I started a college course. Since Spanish 101 adds a grade on my transcript, it gave me the motivation to work hard and get a good grade. Those transcript things are forever and anyone who looks at my records from now on will see my scores. Now THAT was motivation!  (I got an A in the class because I wouldn't settle for less for myself.)

But learning a language takes time and effort. In addition to 5 hours of seat time each week, there was all the studying and homework to do. Suddenly, I just couldn't keep up with the extras like blogs (or laundry!).

Now, summer vacation has started, and I've got a ton of things to share. I can't wait to show you! Stay tuned!