2.21.2015

You Oughta Know About Winning The Pencil War



When I was a kid, I loved school supplies. I mean really LOVED them. Crisp white sheets of paper, bright markers, a brand new pink eraser, binders, notebooks, index cards. What could be better? It's secretly why I became a teacher. (You too? We should start a club!)

I still love school supplies. Well, most of them. I seem to have developed a love/hate relationship with the King of all school supplies. That's right... the Number 2 Pencil. My classroom is perpetually littered with them. It's not just yellow number 2s that I hate... blue ones, plain wood ones, and especially the ones with pictures all over them that peel off and clog up your pencil sharpener. I hate that my students regularly stick in a nub and sharpen it until it's jammed inside of the machine. Most of all, I hate that they spread their pencil love all over my classroom floor on a daily basis...



So what's a teacher to do? There's actually a solution. Something I used a few years ago when I had the worst class on Earth (the ones who purposefully stuffed things down the toilet to make it overflow on a daily basis). I don't know why I forgot about this. Maybe because I've had such lovely students since then. But the pencils are starting to make me crazy, so it might be time to pull out the big guns...



So what is this little miracle? A wonderful teacher named Mrs. Hazelton created a FREE resource called "Winning The Pencil War" to help us all stay on top of the pencil problem. Here's the gist...
  • Give each kid their own pencil pouch with 8 sharpened pencils.
  • They keep track of their pencils all week.
  • Collect the pouches on Friday.
  • Reward the ones who kept all 8 pencils in good condition.
There's a bit more to it than that, but not much. It's very simple to implement and she includes complete instructions and the little coupons you'll be using. If you're smart, you'll assign a student to collect the pouches on Friday and pass them out again Monday morning. I found that having two baskets made it even easier. Students who knew they didn't keep all 8 pencils put their pouches into one basket. The ones who thought they did a good job put theirs in the other basket. Checking them was a breeze! As an extra motivation, I occasionally left a little treat in the good bags.

Once I started using this system, my pencil woes were over. It really worked! Like I said, my classes since then have been quite lovely and I haven't had much of a pencil war going on. But with spring fever setting in and my room looking like the pictures above on a pretty regular basis, this might be the perfect time to pull out my pencil pouches once more.

(Here's a little tip: If pencil bags aren't in your budget right now, quart size freezer bags work quite well.)

So now that you know about this little sanity-saver, what about your pencil sharpener? Does it sound like a dentist's drill gone awry? Do your pencils come out looking like they were gnawed by a beaver? Then you will want to know about the The Quietest Classroom Sharpener. It's super fast and sharpens better than any electric sharpener I've ever seen. It even takes care of those cheap-o pencils from China with the lead that just falls out all the time. Take a look...



Looks pretty good, huh? You can buy one from Classroom Friendly Supplies or you can win your own super awesome sharpener right here:


Good luck! Now head on over to the blog hop to see what else "you oughta know about"!

2.06.2015

KEY WORDS... A Bad Math Strategy: Part I

I remember back in college taking a course called Mathematics For Elementary School. One of our group assignments was to create posters (now called anchor charts) of problem solving strategies. I don't recall what my group came up with but at least half of the class made posters showing "key words" for solving word problems. Apparently this was A-ok with our professor because they were hung all around the room. You know the kind of posters I'm talking about. 


Teachers still have charts like this and still teach kids to use key words. I'm here to tell you to stop it, stop it right now! Okay, that was a little harsh but really, don't do it. Here's why... When you teach kids to look for key words, you're teaching them not to think. Looking for key words is way a to opt-out of thinking through the problem. Children who have been taught the key word strategy don't study a problem. They don't think about what it means or what is happening or how they could figure it out in real life. Instead, they scan through the problem, searching for those all-important key words, until they strike gold. Then they use whatever operation "goes with" that key word... even if it doesn't make sense. 

Don't believe me? Let's test out some of the magical key words...

IN ALL: This means you should add, right?
  • Mary had 12 candies. She bought 7 more. How many did she have in all? Easy! 12+7=19 candies. Maybe it does work...
  • How about this one... John bought 7 cartons of eggs. Each carton contains 12 eggs. How many eggs did he buy in all? Umm, 7+12=19 eggs?
  • 75 people visited the museum on Sunday. Twice as many visited on Saturday. How many people visited the museum in all? Oh no, what do I add? There's only one number!

HOW MANY MORE? Time to subtract!
  • The third grade is going on a field trip. 44 students fit on the first bus. How many more buses are needed for the other 70 students? Hmm... 70-44=26 buses. That seems like an awful lot of buses!
  • Sam went to a movie that started at 2:45 and ends at 4:10. It is now 3:30. How many more minutes are left before the movie is over? Uhhhhh....

These are just a few examples of why key words just don't work. It gets even messier when students are asked to explain their thinking or to draw a model, as they so often are on today's assessments. Not only do they get the wrong answer, but the only explanation they can come up with is, "Because the problem said 'in all' and that means you add."

So what's a kid to do when faced with the dreaded word problem? I'll talk about that in Key Words: Part II. Stay tuned...

2.04.2015

A Few of My Favorite... School Day Snacks


You know how it is... it's snack time, you're passing out the cookies or goldfish or pretzels and somehow half of them end up in your mouth. Or maybe it's someone's birthday and that big plate of cupcakes is just calling your name, right? It's tough being a teacher! I mean how are we supposed to keep our girlish (or guyish) figures with all of that going on right under our noses?

Well for this month's Favorite Things Linky, I'm going to share my three favorite teacher snacks. Now only one of these is particularly healthy, but they are all a whole lot better than a big, sugary store-bought cupcake. So, on with the list...


I know a clementine isn't breaking news, but they are in season right now and fit easily in your purse or desk drawer. You don't have to refrigerate them or use a fork, spoon, or knife. Heck, you can even eat three or four of them and not put much of a dent in your calorie count for the day (They're only about 35 calories each). Plus they're sweet which shoots them right to the top of the awesome snack list!

Everyone has had Ghirardelli chocolate, right? But what about the dark sea salt variety? I'm not one of those salty snackers. I rarely crave salt and I looooooooove chocolate. So what's with the salt here? Well these little squares are pretty intense and the touch of salt balances it out perfectly. I can normally stuff my face with chocolate and I would NEVER suggest eating only one piece of candy, but these are so chocolately that one is just enough.

Now for my numero uno school day snack... this is absolutely shocking.... Snapea Crisps. What the heck?!! Okay, this is going to sound slightly crazy but imagine a puffy little green thing with the texture of a cheese doodle. These are actually made out of peas. Yeah, I said it... peas! They are salty and crispy and puffy and addicting! (They don't really taste like peas.) I like the plain salty ones but my favorite flavor is the Wasabi Ranch. Oooooooh, they are good! A little bit salty, a little bit hot, yum! I know what you're thinking... hot, salty, crunchy peas? YES! I even let one of my reading groups try them the other day because they were so fascinated by the little green pods and they loved them too. So far I've only found this flavor at Target or on Amazon but I'm sure they must be available in other stores. Go find some!

So those are my top three favorite snacks for school days. Now hop on over to The Teaching Trio for more Favorite Things!

2.01.2015

Test Scores Are In!

Oh how close to real life this is! I wish I could take credit for this video. So funny! Whoever created it should win an Oscar.



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