Day 2 …Paper Airplanes and Card Games

Day 2 always brings one of my favorite activities…paper airplane making!  I always challenge the kids to build a paper airplane that they think will travel the farthest distance.  After giving them a few minutes to work independently they test their airplanes within their group to test them and select the best on to enter in the class contest.

47F19AC8-00F4-48EB-B71F-69EFD769BCBAD37021DD-AF39-4B80-916B-ECE14208241EOnce the best planes have been chosen we head out to the hall to fly the planes and determine a winner.  (The winning group gets our team reward money!)  It is always so fun to watch the kids personalities emerge on Day 2 as they get excited about their groups plane.  After the contest I always show the kids this Simple Truths video  about thinking outside the box and it is great watching their reactions as they see the plane in the video that wont the contest!


We followed that up with more highlights of Rio 2016 and completing our medal tally for the day.  To finish out the class we carried on with our Olympic theme by planning this great card game from Nrich.  The kids loved comparing the different stats and trying to be strategic with their cards!  Tomorrow is our first team building day.  Stay tuned for that activity!


Day 1

There is no tired like the first day of school tired!  We had a great but tiring day today.  I am going to try and blog a picture from class each day to share more ideas from mine….feedback is always appreciated!

A good chunk of our class time dealing with all the first day fun but we did have time to begin our Olympics Medal tracking activity. We kicked off by watching the highlight reel from yesterday before picking the country that students wanted to track and getting started on the medal count!


You can find that activity here Rio 2016!

More Olympic themed activities to come tomorrow!

When You’re a Mom and a Teacher

There may be nothing I am worse at than balancing being a mom and a teacher.  Sometimes I do a great job at home and sometimes I do a great job at school but there’s rarely a day when I think I am doing a great job at both.  However like all moms working outside the home or not or I try every day.  The start of school brings about even more of those feelings.  Twelve hour days trying to get a classroom ready while also trying to prepare my own sweet kids for a new school year is more often than not a daunting task.

This year though feels different.  I have a son that’s eight and when he started Kindergarten I was sad that he was growing up but I was comforted in knowing somehow that he would be “okay”.  This year though, is a little harder…this year my princess starts Kindergarten.  Embry is my fireball, my best friend, and my constant comedic relief.  She is smart, friendly, funny, and well-adjusted so why could I be so worried about this shining star spreading her sweet little wings?


Embry was born with a couple different issues with her eye but the one that left the most lasting mark was congenital ptosis.  This left one eyelid muscle paralyzed and partially held open by a piece of silicon.  By the age of 9 months she had spent more time in doctors offices and hospitals than I have in 32 years.  Now at age four she knows the difference in an optometrist, ophthalmologist, and an optician and affectionately refers to her eyes as her big eye and little eye.  She has handled all of that with more determination that I could have probably mustered up…but none of that is why I am worried.

I have more faith in teachers than I can even describe in words but it is so hard to trust your baby to be loved and taken care of in a class of 20+ when they have a condition that makes them different.  I see kids every day…great kids…that are left out, made fun of, or even just asked uncomfortable questions about why they look the way they do.  It is hard to be a teacher and see the student side of things and then go home and know your child will face many of the same issues.  I don’t think I am unrealistic.  I don’t expect Em to be invited to every birthday party, make every team or win every award but what I do expect is for her to be allowed to feel safe, loved, and welcome at school and I pray that will be the case this year in Kindergarten.


Whether you are a teacher welcoming new students into your classroom environment or a parent sending your baby to spread their wings may we all teach the children we come in contact with to be a little kinder and gentler this year to those who are different than them.  From one mom to another trust those kind hearted teachers who you are sending your babies off too and from one teacher to another love those sweethearts like your own…it’s hard to be a mom and a teacher.

Rio 2016 in Math Class

We start school on Wednesday (ahhhh) and with the Olympics in full swing I wanted to make sure I got my new students in the Olympic spirit by following along with the medal count of a country of their choosing.  Each day we are going to watch a few Olympic highlights and then I will pull up the medal counts here.  You can see on the hand out there is a place for them just to list the tally of each medal type but also a chance for them to calculate percentages by finding the percentage of gold, silver, bronze, and total medals won (I will provide them with the total number of each medal possible each day).  Students will also create a line graph for each category as well so we can compare our countries visually at the end!

I hope this will be a great way to start our school year and support the 2016 Olympics.  I will be doing all Olympic themed math the first week of school…more to come on that later!

You can find the work along here for free!

Rio 2016


Teachers Aren’t Superheroes

With one week to go until school starts I am realizing more and more that I am not a Superhero.  Don’t get me wrong, I would like to be and somedays I think I might even get pretty close to superhuman status but more often than not I fall very short.

The point of this post isn’t to whine about the fact that after multiple 12 hour days my room still isn’t ready for students or about me being tired before school even starts but instead comes out of concern that society expects all of our teachers to be Superheroes today.  In a world where parents and kids can make their concerns, complaints, and comments viral in  a matter of moments on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc it seems teachers must be near perfect to avoid being criticized publicly.  Don’t get me wrong I believe parents and students have every right to have a voice in their education, but my question is why does it have to be on social media?

Here is what I know…today there are teachers across the country working to decorate classrooms, make lesson plans and improve their practice to prepare for the faces that will greet them on the first day of school.  These teachers want to have the perfect classroom, the best lesson plans, and absolutely be the best teachers they can be but they won’t be every day.

There will be days that I will teach lessons that your kids will remember for years to come and there will be other days when what I thought was a good idea will fall flat  and be forgotten before they walk out the door.  That doesn’t mean I didn’t work hard planning both of those lessons.

There will be days when your child needs love and encouragement and I will make sure I spend a few extra minutes with them talking to them and letting them know I care and there will be other days when my words come across too sharp or I accidentally let my frustration show through too much.   That doesn’t mean that I don’t care for every child that comes through my door in ways people who don’t teach have a hard time understanding.

There will be days when my classroom is a magical place for your children to learn and there will be days when I won’t be able to see what use to be my desk for the mounds of papers to be graded, paperwork to be completed, and information to go home.  That doesn’t mean that I don’t take pride in the classroom that I am blessed to teach in.

My challenge to parents this year is to pause before you make the social media post complaining or commenting on your child’s teacher.  I can assure you that they are trying.  We all try hard even though it may show in different ways.  If you have a concern share it with your child’s teacher.  I can guarantee that almost all issues that occur between parents, teachers, and students are usually misunderstandings that can be addressed in five minutes in person.  I can’t honestly think of one educational issue that will be improved with a social media post.

Teachers aren’t Superheroes but some days they get awfully close.

When There Are No Words

“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” ~Aristotle


With a month to go before school begins (wow) I have busied myself this week beginning preparations for another school year.  I have planned those first few lessons to try and show reluctant learners that math can be magical, I have bought the first of many discount school supplies, and have flooded my Pinterest board with ways to make my classroom more warm and inviting for the 120 students that will spend a year with me.  What I have not been able to do is come up with the words to say to make life any easier, the world any less scary, or things make any more sense for those sweet faces this fall.

As many of you know, I teach 7th grade students.  If you remember yourself in 7th grade or have survived a 7th grader recently you know that it is  a HARD time for all kids.  They don’t know who they are yet, they are hormonal, they want to be both adults and children at the same time.  It is a year of internal growth, struggle and self-discovery and we love them through it.  We tell the parents every year at open house that they will survive their 7th grader just like their own parents did when they went through it.

This fall feels different though.  When I think of this fall at school I feel more lost for words than usual.

I don’t have the words to comfort the students that have seen the events on the news and worried that their fathers or family members or even themselves will be racially profiled and may not make it home.

I’m speechless and sad about looking into the faces of students whose families are terrified they will be deported after the Presidential election.

I’m at a loss for how to provide security and safety to the students whose parents protect our country as police officers, serve in our armed forces, and are first responders who worry that their mom or dad may not make it home after a day at work.

I’m worried that I don’t have the expertise or skills to help any of these children navigate their thoughts and feelings and the world they live in.  I pray I can help them learn to see the beauty in their differences and teach them that we all bring our own insecurities, fears, and doubts into room 406 every day and that we must learn to build each other up rather than tear each other down.

If you’ve ever heard one of my presentations or spent much time with me you’ve heard me say that I am an entertainer first and educator second.  This fall seems different.  This fall I think I will need to be so much more than I ever have.  I don’t even know what I’m going to have to be first this year… mentor, mediator, care giver, or healer I honestly don’t know the word yet.  I do know it will involve a lot of loving on kids that desperately need it after a very hard summer for our nation.

I challenge you to think about how you will support the kids in your classroom this year.  It’s about more than teaching content.

“Education breedsconfidence.  Confidence breeds hope.  Hope breeds peace.” ~ Confucius










There is No “New Math”

I’ll go ahead and estimate that on average my blood pressure rises about 10 times a week discussing the topic of “new math” with someone.  Be it on social media, in line at the grocery store, or even on a date my days are riddled debating the merit of Common Core and “new math” in education.  I thought’d I’d just write about it here, print out 42 million cards with the web link on it, and then hand out as needed to save time in the future.

Not long ago, I had a spirited discussion about the merits of this “new math” we are teaching.  His thought was valid in his mind that if he could perform skills using a standard algorithm then why was it necessary to understand and explain the process behind it.  I asked him to subtract 59 from 87 to which he stacked the numbers on top of each other, borrowed, and regrouped to find the correct answer.  I asked him curiously what borrowing from the 8 to make it a 7 and then changing the 7 to a 17 really meant to which he contested it didn’t matter as long as the answer was correct.

Here’s how I explained it to him… imagine that I know every historical date associated with World War II.  I know the dates of every battle and every minute detail of the War but I have no understanding of why the war happened, who was involved and why, or what the short and long term repercussions of the war were.  Does memorizing the dates have any meaning without understanding the why?

That is exactly how many of us (myself included) learned math.  We memorized facts, procedures and algorithms and “did” math with no meaning.  As a result I meet people almost daily who say, oh I am terrible at math, I hate math, or I was never a math person.  The math being taught today isn’t “new math” at all.  It is instead a focus on teaching meaning before teaching skills and algorithms.  I promise you your child will be shown the standard algorithm for subtraction just like you learned it, the difference is your child is being taught the meaning of that algorithm before memorizing steps of borrowing and regrouping.

My son is in 3rd grade now and can subtract with ease in spite of not being taught the standard algorithm.  How?  Well instead of doing 87 minus 59 the traditional way he counts up from 59.  He says to himself, I need 1 to get to 60, then 20 to get to 80, and then 7 more to get to 87 so the answer is 28.  I can’t argue with his theory and justification there.  He will be taught the standard algorithm soon enough and I am sure he will see the merit there as well but the beauty is then he can decide which way he prefers to do the problem rather than the way we were taught which was the standard algorithm or nothing.

He also knows his multiplication facts up to 12.  No one has taught him multiplication, we don’t do drills, and he’s never seen a flash card.  However he does know that if one dozen is 12 then to get two dozen you add another 12, and three dozen another, and four another.  It thrills me to know end to think how much more easily those 12 times tables will come to him than me.  He developed the number sense associated with multiplication before memorizing the routine facts and in my mind that’s way more important then memorizing numbers on a flash card.  (On a side note my 12 multiplication tables nearly killed me in school)

My point here is isn’t to say that anyone was taught wrong the “old way”.  My point is that there is no “new math”.  Your child will see that standard algorithm that you are dying to teach them, that way isn’t “old” and the teacher’s way isn’t “new”.  Instead the processes you are seeing are all apart of teaching your child not to be afraid of math and instead to be a problem solver and use math as a spectrum to view the world.  I challenge you to embrace their way of thinking and maybe even flip your own perspective on “doing math”.