Week One is Done

What an interesting first week we had! I felt like I'm beginning to understand my group's strengths and weaknesses, though of course I still have a lot to learn about them. You will all understand when I say that I already know who's in serious trouble academically! What I love is that most of them are expressing a strong desire to learn, with one even asking me if I am going to spend time working with him so he will understand the math.
On the first day I included the "Saving Fred" activity that gave me a way to introduce the engineering design process. Kids in both my classes loved it! We spent some time afterward talking about the importance of teamwork and putting up a poster of what group work looks like.


The next day we did our first science experiment to begin learning the steps of the scientific method. Our question: Will soapy water or taco sauce clean a dirty penny? The majority were surprised to find that taco sauce is a better cleaner, and they came up with some very thoughtful explanations for the results.
I wrote last week about our pancake adventure - also on day two - so it was a busy beginning to the week. I found that those two days set a tone for the students that had them saying how much they love my classroom, that this must be a fun class, etc. They seemed to end the week with a lot of anticipation about what will come next. I can hardly wait to see them build towers for STEM on Wednesday!
If you are back in school, how is the beginning of your year going? Here in central Florida we are hoping not to have the second week disrupted by Tropical Storm Ericka!


Math Lit: The Pancake Menu

Bringing back my Math Lit series this week! It is our first week of school, and I have been waiting anxiously to get to use this book with my students.

(click the picture to go to Amazon)

The author of The Pancake Menu, Lucy Ravitch, contacted me awhile ago to see if I'd be interested in reviewing her new book. Of course I would! When I received it and read it I had no problem posting a positive review on Amazon. However, I also knew that before I reviewed it here on my blog I wanted to use it with students. That meant I had to wait until school started - which it did this week - so on day 2 we made pancakes in math class!
There are many kinds of pancakes in the book, with beautiful fold out pages that give detailed directions. Each pancake has a math correlation with money concepts. Lucy has online materials to supplement the book. In class we used the order form to practice addition with money. I kept things simple - second day of school, and lots to do - and my kids just flipped over our activity.

I started by mixing up a container of pancake mix (this made it really easy to do at school) by just adding water and shaking. Then the batter goes into these squeeze bottles which I picked up at Walmart for about $1.00 for a set of two. This is where I made a big mistake - I put too much batter in the containers and then had them sitting until class time. They overflowed as the batter rose!! In fact, one kind of exploded all over the sink and wall, which was good for a laugh. I apologized to my custodian when he came in, but he is just so awesome he takes stuff like that in stride!

This is after I tried to clean up some of my mess!

In our math meeting I shared the book, showing students all the different kinds of pancakes and how the fold-out pages work. They thought it was amazing and of course want to try all the different kinds. I then introduced them to the name pancakes. In this activity they used their order forms to calculate the cost of their first name. Each letter was valued at $0.30, so this was a great way to informally assess some skills on just the second day. As you would expect, I have third graders who can already use multiplication to solve this and others who could not add up a column of two-digit numbers. After a couple tries they could look for someone to help them so everyone was able to have some success.

As they started to come show me their order forms I began making the pancakes for their first initial. After doing a few I got pretty good at the letters and started getting some compliments about how good the letters were looking! My principal loaned me her griddle which made it easy to do 3 or 4 letters at a time. I squirted a little syrup on the plate and they had finger food - just dip the letter.

I heard one student tell another during this activity that my class must be the most fun class ever! (Along with this in math we also did our first science experiment which was another big hit.)

So, what I loved about using The Pancake Menu in my classroom:
  • My students - all 36 between my two classes - were completely engaged in what we were doing
  • They were having fun doing the math, and no one got upset about it being hard since it was such an easy environment to do this
  • Kids said they were the best tasting pancakes ever!!
  • They want to make Tarantula pancakes at Halloween and Heart pancakes for Valentine's Day; they want to do more math!
  • The insight I got about students' math understanding. A couple kids asked if I was going to grade them and I said no, it was a fun way to practice, and asked them to take their forms home and tell their parents what we did. They have no idea that it was a type of assessment.
This book is a great addition to the classroom and also for home for fun activities with your own children. I also want to point you toward Lucy's blog Kids Math Teacher and her TPT store, where you can find more of her products. Check it out!


Monday Made It: August 24th (First Day of School!)

 I made it through Pre-Planning! There was a lot to do, but fortunately we had a little more time than usual to work in our rooms. It all culminated on Friday with Open House from 3 - 6. For the first half, I had one (ONE) of my students come in! Fortunately my partner's students were coming in steadily so at least I met most of them. I ended up with only nine of 18. I think that's the lowest attendance ever from my classroom, so I was a little disappointed. However, I'm going to just expect them all to come Monday morning and be prepared to send lots of stuff home!


After being in my classroom all week I decided that I really was not happy with my engineering process and scientific method displays, so on Saturday I decided to make new ones. I will try to get in early enough Monday morning to take down the other sets and get this up on the board. I like them so much more. If you like them, watch my blog for a chance to download (as soon as I'm a little more settled!).

The first math literature book I'll be using is All The King's Tens, so I printed and laminated my work mats. Over the summer I had changed the clip art on them, and Friday I realized that I did not have them ready to go. Our first math unit includes place value and I love this book as a springboard.

Monday Made-It: August 17th

Back to work today! We have five days of pre-planning, culminating in Open House on Friday from 3 - 6 PM. Summer sure went fast! At least I still had some made-it time last week - that's in short supply from now on :)

Very happy to be linking up with Tara one more time before the madness hits! I have, of course, been focusing on classroom things the last couple of weeks.

 First up is my log-in cards, which I got from Tara's blog! I have the names of all my students, so have that part done. I'll be working hard this week to get all the student names entered into the various programs I use and hopefully will be ready to begin introducing them the first week of school. Once I have that done I can put their usernames and passwords on the other cards.

 I'm posting several quotes around the room. I made the first two, and the other three I got from Shannon over at Technology Rocks.Seriously. She has a growing collection of wonderful quotes in pdf and jpg format - I love them!



This is my new Box Tops container - an upcycled tissue box. It is actually not quite done, because all my washi tape is in my classroom! I'll be taking it to school and finishing it up there. I saw the blue chevron wrapping paper in Michael's the other day and grabbed it for whatever.

Box Top Printable available here.

This may be it for awhile -- I never know just how crazy the first few weeks will be. Thank you, Tara, for hosting again this summer.

Fiction Friday: August 14th

This is my last Friday of vacation - Monday I am back for five days of pre-planning and Open House. I am still trying to finish up a few more books. I reset my 2015 reading challenge since I met it on June 30th - changed it from 200 to 300 - and I now have 242 books done this year. So many books on my to-be-read list that I think I should just stay home awhile longer and read!

If like me you read and LOVED El Deafo by CeCe Bell, this is nothing like it! That said, I loved this picture book about grammar. As you can see from the cover, the donkey makes his statement in front of a Yam. The Yam, of course, is the grammar police. They have quite the conversation, and the story has a twist -- or should I say twisted - ending. This would be so much fun as a read aloud, and I'm taking it with me today when I have lunch with my teaching partner (who teaches reading) - I think she will love it too.

I wanted to get in another Sunshine State book and this turned out to be a very quick read and a wonderful story. Frankie Joe has to go live with the father he doesn't know because his mother got sent to jail. He also did not know he has four younger brothers! Between dealing with all the family issues, being so behind in school that he gets moved back a grade, and wanting to go home to his mother Frankie Joe has a rough time while waiting for her release from jail. I found him a wonderful character and was rooting for his life to become better throughout the story.

I'm not going to recap this one, since Amanda already wrote about it here. I'll just tell you that I thought I had read all Lisa Graff's books until she reminded me in her blog post that I had never read Graff's debut novel. Read it, loved it, and then found out I still have one more Graff to go - The Life and Crimes of Bernetta Wallflower. Oh well, one more title for the TBR list!

Here is what I'm currently reading - another Sunshine State book. Couldn't quite get it finished for this week, but hoping to add it next week. Happy reading!


Monday Made It: August 10th

 It's here! The last Monday of my summer vacation. Many of my colleagues went back today for "pre-preplanning" but I was not willing to give up a week of my vacation to do curriculum planning. I'm going to enjoy this final week, and get myself ready to hit the ground running next Monday. For maybe the first time this summer I have a totally school made-its post; nothing like a deadline!

I finished up my VIP baskets. This year I'll be choosing two students to sit at the special VIP desks. They get to use the special materials in the baskets. I'm looking forward to trying this out this year.


Each month I celebrate my students' birthdays at the end of the month, usually the last Friday. Last year I baked a sheet cake each time, but I decided to try doing cupcakes this year. My first week will be busy, so I made my cupcakes and put them in the freezer this week. All I do is take them out the day before, frost them, and take them to school.


I went to school last week and put up my STEM and Science process displays that I made. I'm deliberately leaving these white boards plain so that I can put up more things with students.

I made lots of progress on my Growth Mindset board! Getting those stair step strips done was quite a bit of work and I'm looking forward to using this as a discussion starter.

For a couple years now I've wanted to have a picture frame to use on the first day of school. Students hold it up to frame themselves, and the pictures are so great. I finally went to Goodwill and spent $5 on a frame, threw away the lovely picture inside, and created the parts to glue on. I took it to school to glue, because I was sure I'd ruin it otherwise! Now I just have to make sure I make time on the first day for this project.

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