Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Sharing a Math Game

I'm not sure this is my favorite math game, but it's one I don't think I've seen online before (though I could be wrong about that).  I made it about three years ago and I've used it once or twice a year since then.  The theme today on The Teacher's Chair is to share our best games, so here you go! 

  • One game board per pair of students
  • One game token per student
  • One deck of question cards per pair
  • Scrap paper or whiteboards with markers
  • Optional: laminate the game boards or place them in page protectors/Smart Pal Sleeves
Shark  Clip Art
Put students in pairs and give them some question cards.  Divide the answers into two easy-to-discern categories.  Try to have close to equal amounts of each of the types of answers.  Some ideas:
  • Positive and negative
  • Greater than a given number and less than that number (make sure the number itself isn't an answer)
  • Congruent or not (geometry SAS, SSS, etc)
  • Increasing or decreasing on a given interval
  • Function or not
The students take turns doing a problem and explaining their reasoning to their partner.  When both partners agree with the answer, the player who drew the card moves his marker up or down based on the key you established with the class.   The key here is that there is collaboration and mathematical discourse which is what makes this game work for me.  It is also adaptable to almost any content and certainly any grade level.  It's also pretty quick, so it would work well even if you have a short class period. 

Here's the game board. 

Mathematically yours,
Miss B

Makeover- Quadratic Bridge

Mr. Stadel posted a challenge on his blog today asking us to remake a quadratic bridge problem. Sure, I thought, how hard can this be?  I've never done a makeover, but I teach this stuff!

That was about two hours ago.  That's right, I spent about two hours tinkering with ideas, doing Google image searches, revising ideas, scouring Google again, putting the document together, choosing a video clip, and having all those internal dialogues I have when I'm planning.  For one problem.

My thought process went somewhat like this.  Please excuse the disorder of my thoughts!
1.  I need a problem with multiple solutions.  Not something where anyone can say, "Yes, 8 feet 3 inches is correct."  Let's make this an open-ended question. 
2. I need a problem that makes students feel like the answer is important.  I live close to a very large bridge that is frequently the subject of controversy because of tolls, heavy traffic, accidents, and the like.  The students I teach often have parents who commute across this bridge daily.  My community is also very fortunate to have abundant water access, so lots of kids spend time with their families out on the water.  Therefore, my students would be at least somewhat invested in the idea of having a safe bridge and safe boating practices.  I also expect they'll have a good bit of background knowledge to bring to this scenario. 
3. Time to find images.  Lots of Google searching until I found pictures I liked.
4. I wanted the bridge picture to be straight on so the kids could do measurements with it (and maybe superimpose a graph on it with our TI-Nspires if I'm feeling super tech-savvy and manage to be free from crazy glitches).  I ended up choosing the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy because the picture was workable and I've been there so I can add a few fun anecdotes in, possibly even a personal picture if I have one. 
5. Tides?  Yikes, I do not really know much about them other than that locally we have two high and low tides each day.  But...I'm pretty sure that they learn at least a bit about them in science class.   Something we can explore together and a good place for data collection.  This is the bit that will give us some variations in our answers.
6. What's an appropriate clearance?  The video shows that ship coming closer than I could imagine. 

All that thinking, and here's what I ended up with.  Like I said, this is my first "makeover," so I'd love to know what you think!

Mathematically yours,
Miss B

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

And with that, I'm closing up shop!

Let me preface this whole post by saying that I have nothing against the teachers who sell their work on Teachers Pay Teachers.   I've just come to realize it's not for me.

In what might be the quickest 180 of my recent life, I "opened" a TPT shop last night and within 10 hours decided to close it.  Here's why:

1. I want to be a better teacher.  I don't know any teachers who wouldn't agree with this statement.  One of the best ways to get better is to receive honest, unbiased feedback from knowledgeable people and use it to make changes.  I have a better opportunity to get feedback and engage in dialogue through this blog and Twitter than I do an online store. 
2. I want ALL students to have a great math experience.  If I make something awesome, I should share it so that other students (and teachers) can benefit.  There's no joy in keeping the "secrets of success" sequestered in my four classroom walls.  I share freely with my colleagues in my building and district, so why not my colleagues in other buildings?  We're all in this together, friends.  I wouldn't let the math teacher next door buy a worksheet I made, so why should I let any other math teacher buy it? 
3. Generosity begets generosity. You know, "pay it forward" and all that jazz!  If I give something useful, it might encourage another teacher to share their good stuff.  I'm also indebted to the scores of teachers whose blogs I've read over the past several years and I need to share now that I feel I might have something worthy.
4. It's not (and never was) about the money.  I really just want feedback (see #1) so I can improve my teaching.  Save your dollar, buy yourself a drink from the vending machine, and leave me a comment when you download something.  Cheers!  :)

Special thanks to @druinok for sending me a tweet that got me started on my 180.

And, without further ado, here's the Families of Functions file that I mentioned yesterday. The first one is a Word doc but the font changed (from Noteworthy to ?), so it's formatted strangely.  Still, if you want to edit it, that would be the best one to use.  The pdf is second and it seems perfect, so use that one if you don't want to make any changes.  Download, share, and don't forget to comment! 

Mathematically yours,
Miss B

Monday, July 29, 2013

Starting in with TPT and a Freebie!

This is somewhat unconventional for a Made 4 Math Monday post, but I'm going to go with it since I've been working on it for over two hours and it's now Tuesday, not Monday!  

I've been lurking around Teachers Pay Teachers for the past few months, thanks mainly to Pinterest.  It's an interesting concept, and in the age of Common Core, I think it will gain even more followers as we're all in the transition to new curriculum and are looking for new lessons.

I decided to take the plunge and post something there in my "store."  EDIT (7/30/13): TPT really isn't for me.  You can read my reasons here and also download the file I describe below.  I'm going to continue posting files for free here on my blog for the foreseeable future. I'm not hoping to get rich off of it (ha!), but I'm just trying it out as an experiment of sorts.  There are already lots of files I've posted here for free and my account says they've all had hundreds of downloads.  Perhaps for something that's a little more lengthy, I can make a dollar or two to put towards classroom supplies! My dream- earning enough to purchase an iPad (in 2020 when they're obsolete, probably)!

So, you can visit my store here!

My first item is a family of functions scrapbook I created for my students this year so they could keep track of all of the parent functions we learned in Common Core Algebra I.  Since I teach 8th grade, I talked it up as a great resource for high school courses and I stressed how important it was for them to keep it up to date so that they could be used in high school.  My students enjoyed completing the books and always asked if they could fill in a page as soon as we learned a new kind of function.  It's a bit of copying, but in my classroom, it made a difference because my students were able to find their notes on functions and compare two or more parent functions quickly.  The facing pages held examples of transformations on parent functions, so they could see how a number in the function would influence the graph.  I noticed throughout the year that my students were becoming more independent at completing the pages and that they would think about domain, range, end behavior, intervals of increase, minima, and the like before I asked about them because they knew that those questions would come up in the scrapbook.     

There's also a freebie in my store, so be sure to head over and download it!

Thanks for stopping by! 

Do you have any suggestions regarding TPT?

Mathematically yours,
Miss B

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Envelopes for Interactive Notebooks that hold index cards

This week, I've been working on Common Core implementation with my school's transition team.  I'm our STEM representative, so I've been working on the STEM standards and looking at how we can integrate these across the disciplines.  It's an exciting idea for me because I remember most of my schooling was project-based and I'm glad we're heading back in that general direction, but with a bigger focus on student-led inquiry.  It's an amazing time to be in education!

Changing gears somewhat, I wanted to share a template with you that I'll be using this year in my students' interactive notebooks.  I love card sorting activities.  One of the best I've done I blogged about here back in May.  I won't asking my students to store stacks upon stacks of cards in their notebooks because it will grow way too quickly, however, I know there will be at least a few that they'll want to keep.  This envelope is large enough to store 3"x5" index cards.  Shrink it down to fit two to a page (somewhere around 65% worked for me) and you can make two small envelopes that will hold mini cards. 

So, how can you use this?  I've got three ideas for you!

1. Store cards for a card sort, vocab cards, and the like.  Simple storage.  Have students write a reflection, analysis, etc. on the other half of the page to extend a card sort beyond simple matching. 
2. Shrinking notecard!  If you've never heard of the shrinking notecard, check it out!  It's an activity to help kids get to the most important information they're learning and is an awesome left side assignment for kids to synthesize information and reflect on what elements are the most critical to remember. 
3. Two envelopes= card sorting location.  Put two envelopes on one page and write categories on the envelopes so the students can sort a pile of cards into the two envelopes.  Choosing whether a graph, table, or equation is a function would be an easy way to apply this activity.  If the students make an answer key, they can practice again and again.

Next time I do this, I'll color code everything to do with a function one color (probably green) and everything that's not a function another color (probably red).  This was the result of picking up nearby writing materials after midnight! 

I really, really wish I could direct you to the cards.  I have the worksheet as a pdf and there's no clue to who the author is in the file.  Unfortunately, several Google queries turned up nothing either.  If you happen to recognize the sheet, please leave me a comment so I can give credit where it's due!  It's a great little card sort. 

I love asking kids to justify a particular card they've sorted.  Here, it would make sense to ask them to choose one from each set to analyze specifically. 

One of my left side assignments is to make a set of cards for a card sort and I'm about to add the shrinking notecard to the list, so I know I'll use this envelope frequently.

Now, I like an envelope that seals.  A bit of masking tape made less sticky by adhering it to cloth and removing it a few times will make a good resealable closure.  If you're crafty or follow trends, washi tape would be even better for this, though more expensive. 

Lots of people are having trouble viewing the document to download it.  Please try this link if you can't use the embedded file.  

What will you have students put in this envelope? 

Mathematically yours,
Miss B

Friday, July 19, 2013

Foldable for 8 Standards of Mathematical Practice

Happy Friday, everyone! My parents were just here for a short visit, so I took a few days off from thinking about the next year too much. We spent yesterday at the beach and had crabs for lunch today before they went home. It's always good to see them!

Last week, I spotted a blog post about journaling on the math standards. Unfortunately, I can no longer recall where I read it, so please let me know if it was yours or if you also read it and remember because I want to link back to that post! I knew immediately that I wanted this to be an assignment for my left pages in my Interactive Notebook.  That list of assignments now numbers 22 and you can get it here

In order for my kids to journal about the standards, they would need to understand them. Enter Sarah's awesome posters she shared yesterday.  I've put these into a foldable that my students will have in the beginning "reference" section of their notebooks.  Here are some photos.  Please excuse the quality; I need to build a larger light box if I'm going to be taking pictures of open notebooks. 

The outside of the 8-door foldable lists the 8 Standards of Mathematical Practice as they are written.  I cannot begin to count how many inservices and team meetings have been dedicated to these 8 sentences!   
"8 Standards of Mathematical Practice AKA What Good Mathematicians do."
Foldable on the right side of the page, writing prompt on the left.  
I know the kids will appreciate having the standards translated into "kid speak."  I put Sarah's simplified sentences inside the flaps and will have the kids illustrate what the standards mean to them.  Then, on the left side of the page, they will answer two brief writing prompts that will serve as a baseline for the year: 
1. "The standard that I demonstrate most consistently is #___ because..." 
2. "Standard #___ is difficult for me because..."

If the foldable would be helpful in your classroom, you can download it here.

How do you make your students aware of and accountable for the 8 Standards of Mathematical Practice?  

Mathematically yours,
Miss B

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Solving Equations Pinch Cards

First of all, thanks to @druinok who blogs at for motivating me to write this post (and being such a good encouragement on Twitter as well).  Follow me if you like; there's a button to the right now. -->

There was some discussion on Twitter tonight about response cards.  I can't stand fumbling and missing pieces, so individual cards are not for me!  I prefer a pinch card.  If you're not familiar with them, they are long thin strips of paper (like cutting an 8.5x11" into three vertical strips).  Answers are located along the strip.  These are general usually, such as A-D for multiple choice, True and False, etc. 

Last school year, one of my favorite uses for pinch cards was solving equations.  My kids were Struggling (yes, with a capital "s") with understanding which operation to do when.  I made simple pinch cards with the four basic operations, combining like terms (now "collecting" like terms for CCSS), and distributive property.  We would look at equations and decide which step to do first.  One or more students would explain their answers and we would reach a consensus.  Then we would work together to solve that step and use the pinch cards again for subsequent steps.  I kept it to the four basic operations at first and it worked well.  Then we added in the CLT and distributive property.  We had 100% engagement (and even if at first they were copying their response from a friend, at least they were putting effort into getting the right answer)!

Here's the file.  I recommend printing it double sided so you and the kids can both see what was selected.  Laminated cardstock would be your best choice for durability. I kept them in table bins but you could also punch holes and keep them in students' binders if you'll be using them frequently.

How have you used pinch cards or response cards in your lessons?

Mathematically yours,
Miss B

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Interactive Notebook Rubric

I've never graded notebooks.  At first, I thought 8th graders could handle their papers.  Some can.  Others have a paperwork vortex trailing after them like Pigpen's dirt cloud.  To make this interactive notebook work, kids have to buy in to making a good notebook AND keeping it up all year.  After all, there are no replacements to your unique work.

As such, I decided I needed a rubric to use.  While I was writing it, I got super excited that my criteria all started with C and sounded awesome together.  Here are the 3 Cs of a good notebook!  A good notebook is Complete, Correct, and Considered.  :)

Complete- Students aren't going to find their notebooks useful if they're missing pages or if pages are only partially filled out.  Just like your favorite story wouldn't be the same with a few paragraphs or pages missing, a notebook won't tell the whole story if it's not finished.

Correct- We're talking about math here, people.  Math is easy to get wrong; just ask anyone who has forgotten to borrow when subtracting or misplaced a decimal.  Math is also easy to fix.  Check your work, find your errors, and correct them.  Mission accomplished.

Considered- A big part of the Interactive Notebook is the left side where students interact with the material in their own way.  They must consider the lessons and offer their interpretation of the lesson through problem sets, journaling, study aids, illustrations, and the like.  See my post here for an updated list of 22 such assignments. 

I'd love some feedback on this rubric.  Am I missing anything that you would consider vital?  My goal is to be able to check a notebook in just a couple of minutes, so I wanted something quick.  I'll spot-check pages we did together and read through the left sides.  There's one large rubric that explains everything and a dozen mini rubrics that only list point values. 

Do you grade notebooks?  If so, what's your favorite method?  If not, why not?

Mathematically yours,
Miss B

Monday, July 15, 2013

I counted today...

For months (maybe even years), my supervisors have been saying that what's so great about the Common Core is that it delves deep into math to develop understanding instead of glossing over a bunch of topics at an introductory level.  OK, that sounds good.  When asked how we're going to accomplish this deep mathematical thinking, the answer has always been that Common Core will address "less standards" than our previous state curriculum. 

Yesterday and today, I spent several hours some time typing up each of the standards on a separate sheet so I can display them as we cover them.  This is something I always intended to do with my old curriculum, but never got around to.  We're only required to post our "know and show" in kid-friendly language.

So, I decided to count the standards to see how they really stack up.

8th grade math:
33 CC Standards
61 State Standards of which 49 are assessed.  

OK, I can see what they are talking about with this.  Depending on how you look at it, we've eliminated either 1/2 or 1/3 of the standards.  We've eliminated probability entirely and measurement has been condensed down to just dealing with volume, so the time we would have used on those lessons can be reallocated to other topics.   I'm still a bit worried about some standards like, "Explain a proof of the Pythagorean Theorem and its converse" and what that might look like as an assessment, but we'll do our best!  Let's see how they did with Algebra. 

Algebra I:
60 CC Standards (not counting the standards that appear in two units twice)
15 State Standards, all of which are assessed

What on Earth?  Did we seriously just quadruple the number of standards?  I can already envision the bottleneck that is going to happen as kids reach Algebra in 9th grade.  My school has 90 minute blocks all year for math.  The high school has 90 minute semester-long courses.  On average, you're going to have to help students master one standard per day when you account for the normal interruptions to a semester like testing, assemblies, unusual schedules, and the like.  Uh-huh. 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Leibster Award

I had a comment posted on my blog today from S Hills.  He nominated me for the Leibster Award and I'm sorry to say I'd never come across his blog before!  That's remedied now that I'm following him! 

The "Rules" to Accept the Award: 
•    Link back to the blog that nominated me 
•    Nominate 5-11 blogs with fewer than 200 followers 
•    Answer the questions posted for you by your nominator 
•    Share 11 random facts about yourself  
•    Create 11 questions for your nominees   
•    Contact your nominees and let them know you nominated them 

Here are some blogs of note that you should check out.  I'm nominating them for the Leibster Award. 

Everybody is a Genius I've already lost count of how many of Sarah's awesome ideas I've used.  Just today, I worked on Interactive Notebook covers based on her Numbers About Me idea!
Hodges Herald Another Interactive Notebook master!  
Easing the Hurry Syndrome There's a great post on having students journal about how they have exemplified the SOMP. 
Ms Math Madness Hello, foldables! 
Mrs. W's Math Connection What an interesting raft project idea! 

My 11 questions from S Hills:  
1.  Is there anything you wish you could teach, but don't get the chance to?
 I would love, love, love to teach French.  I'm certified and keep asking, but for now my school deems math more important.  
2.  Did any teachers when you were in school particularly challenge you, and how did they do it?
I remember my 9th grade honors English teacher, Mr. Nelson, would go to great lengths to ask probing questions and encourage discussion.  We had a midyear exam in that class (a first, as we were just in 9th grade) and I was one of two kids who earned an A.  Why?  I had taken notes all year throughout our discussions.  Most everyone else hadn't.  They didn't think we were "learning" because we weren't doing worksheets.  
My French professor in college also set impossibly high standards but provided so much encouragement and professed great confidence in our ability to succeed that we had no choice but to make her proud.  I read four classic French novels my first semester of college.  In high school, I'd never read more than 5 pages at a time.  
3.  Do you worry about continued employment from year to year?
No.  Our enrollment is steady and I'm tenured.  
4.  What do you think is the greatest impediment to people becoming or staying teachers?
You're always "on" and the demands on your time don't stop at 2:30.  I'm sometimes envious of friends who get home from work and are done until the next morning.  
5.  If you could have your own child in one of the bloggers who you follow's class next year, who would it be?
My theoretical child would be in Fawn Nguyen's class.  Barbie Bungee!  
6.  If you could take your class next year on a field trip, where would you take them and why?
If you'd asked me this a week ago, I would have answered differently.  I spoke with a couple of parents this weekend and I was amazed to hear that their 7th and 8th grade students are already seriously looking at college.  I would love to take kids to a college to sit in on classes and learn about scholarships/financial aid.  I live in a rural area where many of my students are going to be first generation college graduates, so giving them this opportunity early enough to influence their planning is vital. 
7.  If you're in the middle of a lesson which is bombing, what do you do?
Take a deep breath, regroup, and try something else.  Usually, this involves me drawing a picture/diagram, or passing out manipulatives.  There's always tomorrow to make it right!  
8.  In the past year, approximately how many hours of (real life) professional development have you done?  approx. how many hours of virtual PD?
I couldn't begin to count.  We're rewriting our curriculum to implement Common Core, starting a new Teacher Evaluation, incorporating PBL, etc.  I'm part of my school's Common Core transition team, so I've been attending summer sessions for the past three years that we incorporate into our inservice days throughout the year.  If you add in my hours on Pinterest and reading the linked blogs, it would more than double what I did at school.  
9.  Are you a member of the national association relating to your subject matter (ie, NCTM)? If so, why. It not, why not?
No, and I don't know why I'm not!  I went to the NCTM conference a few years ago and it was phenomenal!  
10.  What is the opinion of your co-workers (about you and what you do) in your department at school?
They call me the "little math nerd."  For a while, I was the youngest on the team, though I no longer hold that honor!  I am still nerdy.  My school is staffed by a majority of former elementary school teachers, so for a while I was the only teacher in the school with a degree in math (many had math education degrees or additional classes to be certified).  So, I have a more "mathy" perspective on things than some of my colleagues.  I go to them for pedagogy advice because of their elementary backgrounds.  It's a great balance for us as a team.
11.  If you were made superintendent of your district for a day what would you change about how things are currently done?
I feel like I don't know enough about the "big picture" to answer this question fairly.  There are repercussions to any decision and I'm sure any decision I listed here would have consequences I couldn't even imagine!  

Facts about me:
1. I'm pursuing NBCT status this year.
2. My kids know I'm obsessed with white out tape rollers.  It's a running joke every single year.  If I happen to have laid down my tape runner far away from my projector, they throw a fit if I cross out a mistake.  It's cute.  I even had a former student write me a "thank you" letter and include white out.  :)
3. For my first two years of teaching, the kids nicknamed me "Dr. Bell" because I'd taught at a college in France (as a teaching assistant) and they thought that made me super smart.  Bell is a shortening of my last name.
4. I love color-coding things.  Each of my class periods is color coded and it makes me so happy!
5. I am having fun once again this year with my vegetable garden.  New this summer: eggplant!
6. Starting Interactive Notebooks in the fall has me simultaneously excited and fearful.  I'm excited because of all their benefits and fearful that they won't pan out as well as what's in my head right now.
7. I convinced my roommate to become a teacher when we were sophomores in college.  She was just selected as her school's teacher of the year this spring.  I knew I was on to something!
8. I don't drink coffee.  No caffeine here, thanks!  My kids can't believe I'm so peppy at 7:30am naturally, and some days I agree with them! 
9. I started blogging as a way to reflect on my teaching practice, share stuff others might want, and one day get some suggestions from other teachers.  As much as I love my coworkers and admire the results they get from their students, we don't plan as a group because we have very different styles and classroom environments.  I wanted to seek out some more like-minded individuals here.  
10.  I gave a project at the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year on probability and area.  It required kids to design a pizza based on a list of criteria from a "picky" customer.  This project was frustrating for kids and they let me know about it!  This spring, a mother from that class let me know that her son and another student had been discussing it the previous weekend (a full year and a half after they had done it) and she wanted to let me know it was the best project her son had ever done in school.  He didn't agree, but she loved that it made him think!  
11. I get to see a lot of my kids outside of school at youth group.  I love the opportunity to bond with them on this level. 

My questions:
1. What subjects have you taught?
2. If you could change something about the physical environment of your classroom, what would it be and why?
3. Where are you in Common Core implementation (if it effects you)?
4. What's something that you will never do in your classroom that other teachers do?  Or something you did and you vow you'll never do again?

5. What is the best piece of advice you've ever given or received regarding teaching?
6. What are your favorite classroom supplies?
7.  How would your students describe you?

8. If you weren't a teacher, what job would you like to have?
9. Why do you blog?
10. What lesson/topic do you look forward to every year?
11. What lesson/topic do you dread every year?

Mathematically yours, 
Miss B

Interactive Notebook Covers

My classes will do Interactive Notebooks this year.  I got the great idea to do "Numbers About Me" from Sarah's post.  I made a direction sheet and rubric along with my first sample cover today.  I'll do a couple more in other styles for my model books.  This book is the book I've been working on as a trial run.

How do you ask students to cover their notebooks?

Mathematically yours,
Miss B

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Interactive Notebook Storage

I'm taking the plunge into interactive notebooks next year and I'm really pumped.  Bring on those composition books, kiddos!

I have decided to ask my students to keep a binder and a notebook.  That might sound repetitive, but I want to save the notebook for the cream-of-the-crop work and the essential ideas.  I teach a full block all year (yes, 85ish minutes a day all year), so I knew one composition books wouldn't be sufficient if we did everything there and frankly, not everything is important.  This is my biggest gripe when I look back at an interactive notebook I did in high school for AP U.S.- my teacher didn't help me make clear the distinctions between the important players and events from the minor ones.  I want the notebook to help my kids differentiate between the big concepts and the ancillary skills. 

I am still wrestling with the idea, but I'm pretty settled on the following: I'll give each student a gallon-size bag to keep their notebook and related supplies in.  There will be a set of 4 bins per class in which they'll always store that bag (so 7 kids on average will share the bin).  The notebooks can be taken home as required, but I'll encourage students to leave them in the room if they won't use them that night so as to minimize loss and we won't take them home for the first few weeks until we've established how useful they can be!  Once they do take them home, they'll have a little card (below) to place in their bag whenever they take it home.  That will help me if I need to check anything in the notebooks after school and it will serve as a reminder to them the next day of where their notebooks are.  I always tell my kids to use their resources, so I can't justify making them keep their notebooks in the room forever.  I also know I have students each year who take home the bare minimum.  In that case, I'd rather the notebook live in my room than get smashed in a locker!  

To be placed in the bag each time the notebook leaves the classroom.

Labels for the bags. Each child will be asked to provide the materials listed (just one or two colored pencils or highlighters, not entire packs).

The gallon-sized bags are perfect for composition books and a few accessories. 

Four bins per period.  At the beginning of the year, they'll seem empty, but I wanted to make sure the bins would still work after our notebooks grew throughout the year. 

The bins are honestly one of the sturdiest plastic purchases I've made in a while.  If you have a Big Lots, get yourself there ASAP if you need any baskets.  The size I bought is the "mini" size and was $3.50 (minus my 20% discount = $2.80!).  The toy box size with wheels was only $10 if I remember correctly.  The plastic is thick and rigid, clearly of a quality that will stand up to a lot of use.  They have the three colors shown and a dark blue, but I practically cleaned out my store of this size, so be quick if you want them.  They're with the dorm stuff in the seasonal area.  I bought a plastic shelving unit from Walmart that will hold all the bins nicely.  The bins and shelf cost me $80.  That's pricey for me, but I think both are of good quality and will last me many years; even if I decide to move away from notebooking they'll be useful. Another way to look at it is that I spent less than $1 per student to help them be successful this year. 

What are your thoughts on keeping notebooks in the classroom or sending them home?

Mathematically yours,
Miss B

Weekly files! And a freebie!

You've seen the colorful file system that Really Good Stuff sells, right?  I try to keep classroom expenditures that the kids don't use down super low.  I'd rather spend my money on stuff they'll touch.

So, I decided to make my own!  I spent $7 on mine instead of nearly $49, for a savings of 80%. 

Here's what you need:
5 - 7 Magazine files
My magazine files are from Target's $1 bin.  They have these polka dots, a lime green chevron, and an aqua print.  You might only want 5 files if you just want one for each day of the week.  I chose to add one for "next week" so that I can prep things as I plan ahead.  I also wanted one for "last week" so that I can take my time filing if needed and be prepared to pass out extra copies of papers my students lost (not that this ever happens, haha!).    

free printable (below)
paper trimmer/scissors, 
adhesive of choice

1. Assemble magazine files.
2. Choose a printable and print it on cardstock for durability.
3. Cut labels from printable into 3x3 squares.  Mat with coordinating cardstock if desired. Laminate these squares for durability.
4. Attach the labels to the short side of the magazine files.  I used Glue Dots however tape or hot glue should be just fine, too! 

Note: for now at least, I'm not attaching them to each other.  If I choose to adhere them to each other, I'll cut a piece of scrap cardboard for a base and glue them to each other as well as the base. 

Here's the printable of the labels in several colors.  You may use it yourself, but please do not redistribute it.  Send people here so they may download it themselves.  Thanks! 

Mathematically yours,
Miss B