Friday, April 22, 2016

Art Kits

My kids have been seriously into artwork recently. I love that they want to create and explore artistically but I hated the mess that was always left out (and the fights over materials!) I searched for a long few months to find the perfect solution to corral their basic supplies and I finally put together an art kit for each of the big kids.

I got the bins on amazon (here). They are actually sewing bins but I wanted something with inner dividers that could be customizable but also had a larger section for scissors and pencils. I love the bins for the most part - regular sized pencils don't fit in vertically but they can fit diagonally.

Here's what we used inside:
1) Two pairs of scissors. Each kid has a regular pair of safety scissors and a pair of Fiskars pre-school training scissors.
2) A glue stick.
3) Mechanical pencils. I love these Paper Mate pencils because they use 1.3mm lead which makes them harder to break through normal preschool use. They also come in Avenger, Disney Princess and Frozen variety if you are so inclined (we were when we found them on sale!) I also ordered some extra lead and erasers which I keep in my supplies. Each pencil only comes with one lead.
4) Crayola Twistable Mini Crayons - My kindergartener came home during the first weeks of school and showed the twins how to snap crayons in half. We no longer have regular crayons to tempt them.
5) Crayola Write Start Colored Pencils - I've been pretty happy with these colored pencils. They're fatter than usual pencils, though, so go ahead and pick up a shapener for thicker pencils. My only complaint is that I wish they had more colors (specifically a lighter flesh color).
6) Crayola Pip Squeak Skinnies - Most of these have come from Crayola Mini Coloring Pages. My kids refuse to leave the coloring pages in the box because the want to find the perfect page to color. The pages usually get rubberbanded together and the markers put into the art kit. I also ordered a larger pack of the Pip Squeak Skinnies and divided them up among the kids. The kit will hold about 16 markers comfortably.
7) A good eraser - I will always be a math teacher at heart. A good eraser is a must.
8) The writing claw - I bought these a year or so ago when my little lefty with low muscle tone and occupational therapy needs was learning to write. We honestly haven't used them much but still occasionally bread them out for some practice in correcting grip (one twin writes very well, one is still not using a tripod grip and I want him to develop at his own pace). Still, I leave these in their kits for a lack of another storage space.

The kids are surprisingly good at cleaning up their art kits and stacking them up on the bookshelf. Sometimes it takes a bit of prompting but I'm always surprised at how well they do. All in all the kids and I have been very pleased with them. I guess the baby wil need his own kit soon enough!

Monday, August 20, 2012

A Quick Tip

I just tried out a cool trick and I thought I'd share...

If you get Sharpie on your white board and can't get it off, try coloring over it with a dry-erase marker. Once it's all coated, wipe it off with a tissue, paper towel or rag and watch it disappear! This also works for clear plastic covers :)

Perhaps I'm behind the times and everyone else already knew this, but since it just saved my skin I thought someone else might like to know as well.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A little late...

So I probably should have posted this earlier, but TeachersPayTeachers had a Back To School last weekend. My store was offering 20% off all products, and then the site offered another 10% (totaling 28%). I didn't think to post because I was sitting by my phone waiting for updates as my sister-in-law was in labor with my niece. A very beautiful and chubby (9 lb, 12 oz) baby Scarlett joined our family Sunday afternoon!

Anyways, I worked hard to finish my 21st Century Skills Logic Puzzles and had them posted before the sale ended. My description is as follows:
This is a set of 40 number-based logic puzzles designed to encourage critical thinking in any subject area. This document contains three key components:
1) 40 printable puzzles ideal for printing for individual use or overhead teaching
2) Printable answer key for each puzzle
3) A teacher's guide explaining the logic behind each puzzle to aid in instruction

These puzzles are perfect for individualized or partner work during warm-ups, lengthened class periods, Fun Friday activities, or as an engaging filler activity if your lesson runs too short!

If you'd like to download a free sample of 5 puzzles, head over to the link above and check them out! 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Ways To Help Your Child Succeed In Middle School

A few years back I wrote a letter to my 6th grade parents titled Ways To Help Your Child Succeed In Middle School. It really was a great piece of work and so I decided to add it here for all of you to give to your own students/parents on the first day(s) of school. Then I remembered that my hard drive crashed a while back and that I no longer have said document. I have a few more years under my belt now, an international teaching experience, and have gained the "mom" perspective as well. Perhaps I can write an even better list this year for my faithful blog readers!

1. Color Code your child's supplies. Typically teachers tell students to color code by subject area (all math is blue, all English is red, etc.) Consider color coding by locker breaks. For example, if a student has: Math, English, *LOCKER BREAK*, PE, Art, *LOCKER BREAK*, Science, History, make Math and English supplies one color, PE and Art another, and Science and History a 3rd color. This way a student just needs to remember the daily color order to ensure he/she has all necessary supplies.
2. Write your child's schedule down on an index card and tape to the inside of the locker door. Middle Schoolers are sometimes so busy thinking about other things that they forget which class comes next.
3. If your school allows it, buy a lock for the locker and have your child practice at home PRIOR to placing it on his/her locker. Time your child to make sure the lock can be opened within 10 seconds. They will likely be rushed for time and will need to be able to open it quickly under pressure.
4. Buy a folder for loose papers. In an ideal world your child would get out the correct 3-ring binder, choose the best location for a paper handed out by the teacher, snap it neatly in place and return the binder to their bookbag. But in all honesty, not many students will follow through with this well-thought-out plan. The papers will be crammed in the bookbag, under binders, folded in their pockets and put through the wash, or left on the classroom floor. Have one folder where your child can slide all of these loose papers.
5. Each afternoon when your child gets home, have him/her go through the "loose paper folder" and decide what should be done with each piece. Then have them carry out their decision.
6. Unless a class requires otherwise, empty out all 3-ring binders at the end of each quarter or semester. Students should keep these papers somewhere safe at home in order to review for exams, but there is no reason to carry them back and forth from school.
7. Have your child pack his/her backpack at night before going to bed. Homework, projects, notebooks and supplies often get left behind in the morning rush.
8. Try to make sure your child gets an adequate amount of sleep. Most middle school aged children require 9-10 hours of sleep but are probably only getting 7-8 hours. With busy schedules, extra-curricular activities and homework sometimes this is impossible, but try to set "bedtime" and stick with it when possible.
9. Talk to your child about school. Ask what they are doing in class. Middle Schoolers won't often volunteer information about their day so pry when necessary. Drag it out of them, question by question. Not only is it important to know about their social life, talking about their school lessons will help reinforce what they learned and remember more details.
10. Help your child manage homework time. When they come home from school, make sure they have a good snack and a short break, then have them begin their homework. Students are not at their best right before bedtime and no one wants to work after dinner. If your child works well on his own in a quiet environment, working in their room might be a good option. If your child needs more supervision and help to stay focused, perhaps the kitchen table would be a better choice. As a hint, make sure all at-home school supplies are organized and easy to retrieve to avoid the wandering child!
11. Never, ever tell your child that you hated a subject when you were younger (even if it's true, keep that sentiment to yourself and just tell them you found it challenging). When you do so, many children believe they are doomed to fail at the subject, or that it's ok to hate it as well. And while you might think the antagonism is well placed, it won't help your child succeed. Also, do not tear apart a teacher in front of your child. If you disagree with a teacher, contact him/her directly. Do not involve your child. Your child has to sit in his/her classroom daily and has to show respect. If they feel you do not respect the teacher it will be difficult for them to do so. A child will not learn from someone they disrespect and your child only has one opportunity to learn the material presented.
12. Contact your child's teachers periodically to check on their progress. A quick email asking for an update is a great way to stay in touch with the school.
13. Make sure your child comes to school on time, stays the entire day, and misses only when necessary. If you MUST schedule appointments during school hours, try to schedule them during lunch or vary the times so they don't miss the same classes often. Also, if class time is missed make sure your child ASKS for missed work as soon as possible.
14. Attend all parent meetings to keep abreast of school happenings.
15. Encourage your children to fight their own battles. If they have a problem with a teacher, classmate, or staff member, help them come up with a plan of action but let them work it out without your interference. It helps them build confidence and learn that they can stand up against injustices. That being said, step in and take over for them if the fight is just too big.

I might think of some more later, but here's a good list to get you started. Anyone want to add something to the list?

Saturday, August 4, 2012

13+ Things Your Child's Teacher Won't Tell You

I just read an article on Readers Digest with this title. I thought almost all of them were right on target. Thought some of you might appreciate it as well!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Treasure Chest

Just a quick post today...

While you're out shopping this summer start stocking up for your treasure chest. If you don't already have one, get a medium sized box, bowl, tupperware, or bag to keep little "treasures" you can give away when students do something worth rewarding. I try to keep things like pens, pencils and erasers, candy, little games, notepads, etc. Usually anything I can find at the Dollar Store or at Target's Dollar Spot. I also fill in with some items that don't cost me anything like Day Late Passes, Emergency Hall Passes, or an Untuck Your Shirt pass for schools with uniforms.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Decluttering: Desk and Files

Yesterday I talked about decluttering my computer, today I'm going to talk about the Teacher Desk area. My first year of teaching I had a horrible mess of a desk. There were papers everywhere! Graded assignments were binder clipped and stacked on the floor. Papers that needed to be graded were paper clipped and strewn (is that a word?) on my desk. Old transparencies and notes were falling on the floor. I even spilled a gallon of tea all over some notebooks that were precariously stacked on my filing cabinet. Looking back on my first year I wonder how much time, energy and headache I could have saved myself if I had been organized.

Enter Year 2 and two AMAZING math teachers with more experience than me. They whipped me into shape when it came to organization. What they started with me I have improved upon over the years and now will share my ideas with you. Just a quick should always customize your organization for the type of person you are. Some of the ideas may not help you at all. Don't force yourself to do something you hate.

1) Transparency Rolls - If you use these in your class you can write on them with Sharpie for things you want to be permanent and Vis-A-Vis for things you want to be erasable. I would often write problems on the overhead roll in Sharpie and solve them in Vis-A-Vis. Saves SO much time by not having to rewrite the problems. This can also work with transparency paper if you want to keep it for future years.
2) Student Table - On this table I keep all of the supplies students should need. Extra pencils (I don't like to supply these but any I find on the floor are fair game!), stapler, tape, scissors, etc. Under the table I have my Project Boxes.
3) Also on top of my table I keep my "trays." I have a set of plastic letter trays like the ones below, one for each class. The top tray is for 1st period, the next for 2nd period, etc. ALL papers get turned in to me here. No exceptions. I hate when a student says "I handed that to you but you must have misplaced it." The blame is fully on the students when they are supposed to put it in the correct tray. When I'm ready to grade a set of papers I can pick up a stack and know that they are all from the same class (well, at least most of them are). I can easily narrow down a nameless paper. I can clip and take home to grade without fuss. I love my trays.
4) Behind the student trays is an identical set of trays facing my desk. These are my trays for graded work. As soon as I grade papers and record the scores in my grade book I place them in the corresponding class tray on my side. When I am ready to pass back papers I know that everything in the class tray needs to be handed out. I can tell who was absent based on which papers are remaining. I also will often place quizzes that still need to be taken here so I don't lose them.
6) Also on my desk is a small hanging file box. I keep some hanging folders in there for things like my attendance book and my paper grade book (yes, I still use a hard copy). These are my day-to-day items I like to keep on my desk but want picked up as well.
7) My file cabinet - my file cabinet is kept much like my computer files are kept. Each topic is given a hanging folder and I keep one copy of everything in there (theoretically). I have notes, quizzes, classwork, homework, games, activities, projects, centers and just about everything else you can think of. They're arranged chronologically based on how I teach the topic. Some are thin. Some, like fractions, span two or three folders. I also have a drawer for my personal files and folders like "beginning of the year" or "coupons" or "holiday extras."

I suggest choosing an area of your room that you always feel is cluttered and coming up with a solution for that space this year. You will feel so much more at peace when your classroom is neat and tidy and you can walk around without the fear of tripping over something :)