Sunday, August 28, 2016

Let's Get It Going!

Welcome Back to School!! 
As many of my teacher friends are starting their first day with kiddos tomorrow...I'm rolling into Week 3 with mine and I couldn't be more excited!

I'm excited to also share our new school and my new classroom with you! Throughout the summer there were many people hard at work getting our new building together and ready for us to roll into three weeks ago. There are still a few kinks to be worked out...but isn't that at every building, every year? We absolutely LOVE our new building, our new rooms, and the overall school. Teachers love it, students love it, parents love it...It's basically wonderful! Take a look for yourself...

New desks organize great into small groups!
The entire room taken from the classroom door! 
To the right of the classroom door, classroom library, iPad charging cube, and storage area.
Classroom library, Test data tracking, and "The Fridge" were student work will be displayed!

Front board with Classroom Memes, Two White Boards, and new Touch Screen Boards

Back of the Room showing Lots of Classroom Storage!

Laptop Station and Teacher Area. Not to Mention Views of my Softball Field!

My Space & Proud Coach Pictures Displayed
Along with being super proud of how our school and my classroom has come together for the first week of school...I am really excited for how my students are performing and thinking already this early into the school year!

We spent several of the first days of the first week of school doing YouCubed activities that students absolutely loved! YouCubed has fabulous activities to get students thinking about Math, working collaboratively, making mistakes, and learning from those mistakes. My kiddos' favorite activity for this year came from Day 2 of YouCube's Inspirational Math. Each day there are videos to introduce both the activity idea of the day, but also to give a little background on how the activity relates to mathematical thinking.

After watching the day's video, students (working in small groups of three to four) were given this picture:
Students were asked to look at the picture and answer the following questions in their small groups: What do you notice? What do you wonder? What questions do you have? What information does this graph provide? Students were given approximately five to seven minutes to discuss in their groups before we can together as a whole class and discussed their thoughts. Hearing some of the discussions really surprised me! Students were thinking a lot deeper into this graph than I originally thought they would. They immediately noticed that it looked like a coordinate plane and that the emojis were organized based on how much Jo uses them and how cute he think they are. Students also began to wonder why only those emojis were used, how old was Jo, why did Jo pick those categories, among many other questions. It was awesome to hear students thinking so deeply and mathematically about a bunch of emojis but they totally ate it up and LOVED it!

Following our discussion (which almost every student wanted to participate in!), students were instructed that they were going to create their own graph similar to Jo's but not with emojis. Students could pick anything they liked, but had to compile a graph similar to Jo's. Check out what a few of the topics they picked and student ratings...



It was a great activity and definitely one that I will use in future years! Thanks YouCubed :)

It's been a wonderful two weeks so far at Clover Middle School and I am super pumped to get back in the classroom tomorrow morning with my kiddos and start a wonderful week three. Bring it on!

Until next time ... :)

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Closing Out The Year...STEM Style!

It's Summer Time and we've only been out of school for 18 "school" days (week days) and it would be an understatement to say that I'm going a little stir crazy already. My husband (Zack) has been busy with basketball ... he's the JV and one of the Assistant Coaches for Clover High. They've had practices, little kids camp, scrimmages, and even team camp at Presbyterian College this month. So needless to say...we haven't gotten this vacation train started yet and this girl is about to lose it being home all the time!

If it were any other school year...I would totally use this free time to get some major things completed in my classroom. I would be all about the re-do class library, bulletin boards, filing, decorating...the whole shebang! However...before "leaving" for the summer, all teachers at Clover Middle had to be packed up and ready to move to our fabulous new school which is currently still being built! So this girl is hung-out-to-dry..with nothing to work on! Moved out of the old room...not quite ready to be moved into the new room. This is torture!

My room all packed up and ready for the move! 
With all of that being said...I figured why not share how my kiddos and I closed out the school year?! Our 8th grade state assessments were the last week of April so we had about a month of school left in PreAlgebra to explore some pretty fun and cool activities! One of the hits of the month was our week of STEM Activities. Students absolutely loved this week! They were excited coming to class everyday, they wanted to be in Math class, and they worked really well together. On Monday students came into class and were given the instructions to sit in groups of three. Students were forewarned that the group they picked would be their group for the week and that the "winning" group at the end of the week would receive a prize (always a good time for ice cream sandwiches!). **Giving students these two pieces of information really helped guide their picks and students made really good choices as to who they wanted to work with for the week! It was great!**

Monday: Smartie Catapult. 
This activity came from this Pinterest post and I fell in love while reading it! I did slightly change the materials for my students...I don't always trust 8th graders with a hot glue gun :) I kept the same number of Popsicle sticks, rubber bands, and water-bottle lids, but I did switch from a hot glue gun to a roll of Scotch tape and instead of conversation hearts, I gave groups a pack of Smarties.

All students were given were the materials, directions saying they needed to create a catapult that would launch a Smartie the farthest distance, and a forty-minute time limit. Students were then on their own!


The farthest Smartie flew a little less than the entire width of the classroom. It was pretty impressive!

Tuesday: Pipe Cleaner Towers.
As Monday's activity...This one also came from a Pinterest post. Our class schedules were a little crunched this day because of a school-wide performance in the afternoon, so this STEM activity was great for a quick lesson. Materials only included 15 Pipe Cleaners for each group. Directions told students they could only use the Pipe Cleaners and wanted the tallest free-standing tower given the twenty minute time limit. Again, students were left alone until the timer rang!

Our tallest tower ended up 19.5 inches tall! Students really enjoyed this quick activity!

Wednesday: Save Freddie!
I have to say...this activity was by-far my favorite! And not just because it involved gummy lifesavers and worms! This activity I feel really got students thinking the most, communicating with each other, and really brainstorming various strategies. You know it...this came from a Pinterest post!

This activity gave students two paper clips, a plastic cup, one gummy lifesaver, and one gummy worm. Mrs. Blocker (my co-teacher) and I set up the challenge with the lifesaver under the upside-down cup and the worm on top. Directions told students to save gummy worm Freddie by putting his gummy life vest around his middle using only the two paper clips and not allowing Freddie to touch the "water" (desk). Most challenging aspect...Students weren't allowed to use their hands! The only thing they could use to touch the worm, lifesaver, and cup were the two paper clips.

 This activity had a wide range of finishers! Not only were students racing against each other...but they needed to keep Freddie nice and healthy. They couldn't save Freddie if they were also stabbing him! There was a race for the quickest to save Freddie, along with preserving both Freddie and the lifesaver! Our quickest finishing group was finished within 3 minutes! Unbelievable! Most groups took about 12 minutes, with our last group finishing around 18 minutes.

Thursday: Toilet Paper Math!
This activity didn't come from Pinterest (surprise, surprise!) but it did come from Google. Check out the instructions, worksheets, score sheet, etc. here! Students were given a roll of toilet paper, a tape measure, and tape. Directions were to make a shape that had the largest perimeter and area within the thirty-minute time limit. Along with the perimeter and area directions, students were told that they had to have the shape closed in, meaning all sides had to be touching another side. There were no gaps to be found in their shapes!

This was the end of our STEM week challenges since we were out of school on Friday. Students absolutely loved this week and all the daily activities. They even wanted to continue to challenges into the next week! It was a great experience not only for the kiddos..but for me too! This will definitely be in a bag-of-tricks throughout the school years to come!

As another end-of-the-year fun activity, our 8th graders got to participate in their first Field Day! Normally our kiddos have had a cookout towards the last week of school, but this year our Exploratory teachers (P.E., Art, Dance, Band, etc.) had the great idea to incorporate the cookout to a Field Day! It was awesome! There were athletic events like sprints, relays, and tug-of-war, but there were also Minute-To-Win-It events for students to participate in. The three 8th grade teams competed against each other earning various points for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place in each of the many events. Needless to say.....

You know we came in first!! 

This has been a fabulous year and I can not wait to get back in the swing of things and back at it in August. We do have some little vacations planned in July (visiting the in-laws in Charleston, the parents in D.C., and an anniversary trip to Gatlinburg, TN) that we are looking forward to! So we will get a little rest and relaxation before our awesome jobs get started back up. I'll be sure to share some other fun things we did as the school year closed throughout the summer. You know I can't share it all in one post ;)

Until next time ... :)

Thursday, May 12, 2016

My 1st DonorsChoose!

Hey Blog Friends,
I'm working on getting a set of Scholastic Math Magazines for my students and all Math students in the 8th grade. It is also awesome because we can share these Math Magazines with 6th and 7th graders because the magazines (and online resources) come with several math concepts and topics covered through each edition! It is a wonderful way for middle school students to see how current math lessons relate to their interests and future dreams!
Can you help us out? My project was just approved and posted on Here’s my classroom request:
Check out the Project Here!!
To have your donation matched dollar for dollar, enter the promo code LIFTOFF on the payment screen. This awesome match offer lasts through May 19th. Your gift will help me, my current students, and future students tremendously. I would be very grateful if you would pass on this message to anyone else who could help.
Thanks so much!!
Sarah :)

Sunday, May 8, 2016

1 Week...6 Review Games!

It is now May and we are down to 16 days left of school before Summer Break! We have already taken our end-of-the-year standardized test (SCReady this year in Clover School District) back on April 28th. We prepared for it a little differently this year. Each year we spend one-to-two weeks (depending on how fast we get through the material and curriculum) doing review work, worksheets, practice tests, etc. This year I decided to add a little more competition and spice to the review!

Everything is a little more fun with games and competition right? I have 4 classes (2 Pre-Algebra and 2 Algebra). Since all students in the 8th grade have to take the SCReady, I decided that all students needed to compete against each other with review games. Therefore, I created a ScoreBoard for all of my classes to see how they were competing and comparing to groups in other classes. I allowed my Algebra students to pick their groups, but we (my co-teacher and I) decided to assign groups in our PreAlgebra classes. Once students picked their groups on Day 1 they had to stay with that group throughout all the review games.

On the first day of competition review students created their own group name that they would be known by throughout the review games and on the ScoreBoard. Also on Day 1, I explained to students that if they came in 1st place for the day (in their class) they would earn 5 points, 4 points for 2nd, 3 for 3rd, 2 for 4th, and 1 for 5th place. To make the overall excitement go even higher...I told students that at the end of the review games the 1st place team in each class would earn 10points added to any assignment of their choice during the 4th 9 weeks!! 2nd place would earn 8 points, etc. Needless to say, students got super excited over that one!

This is our Team ScoreBoard! Group names across the top and games down the side!

Groups earned 5 points for 1st place in their class, 4 points for 2nd, and so on.

 Our first game of the week was Kahoot! To see how Kahoot works..Check out my previous blog "It's a Kahoot!" that explains it! Kahoot is always a hit with my students, not to mention there is a great new addition of Team Mode! The trick I have found when using Kahoot is to give students the worksheet, review page, practice test, etc. that we are working on for the day first. I give students the assignment and twenty minutes to get a "head start" on answering the questions. After twenty minutes we begin our Kahoot game since most students/groups have answered a majority of the questions.

Our second game of review was Survivor. I first heard of Survivor from this Pinterest post a couple years ago. I changed the title of the game to "Survivor"...not exactly sure why I did though?! Again, I give students a "head start" on working on the review before starting the game. In order to remove X's from another group, a group must first get the review question correct as we work through the material. The kids really like this game too because several groups tend to target one group to take out first. It's funny to see students not really interested in winning...but more interested in keeping another group from winning.

This is the board I display on my Promethean Board during our game.

After Survivor, the next day we played ZAP! ZAP is a fun game that I also got from Pinterest! I created a small board of only 12 cards (but if we ever run out...we just refill the cards and keep going!). Students liked this game for the most part...except for when they pulled a ZAP! card and lost all of their points! Like Survivor...students do not get to pull a card until their group correctly answers a review problem we were focusing on for the day. The picture on the left (below) is what students see as they play the game. The picture on the right is what the cards say as they pull them out!

Plickers was next on the list of review games! I've also written a blog on Plickers and how I used this last year within my class, check it out here! This year we haven't used Plickers as frequently just because we've jumped on the Canvas wagon and they have some fabulous one-question methods to serve as Exit Tickets. Students liked Plickers this week as a review game just because they earned a point for every question they got correct. They liked that there were no other groups that could take their points away or target them for any reason. 

Our last two games (that covered review material) had to be done without iPads and within super short classes. The last two games: Unfair & Trasketball were done in classes that only lasted 30-35 minutes because they were done the days of SCReady English and Writing tests. Therefore, we were on modified schedules because of the early morning standardized testing. 

The Unfair can guess it...came from Pinterest!!! I have to say...the kids "said" they didn't like this game...but I think they didn't like what happened to their group in this game! It was funny because there was absolutely no skill involved in this game (outside of getting the review question correct). Once students got the question correct, they had to pick (before drawing a card) wether they wanted to take the card for their group, or give it to another group. Students had no idea what they would end up picking because cards ranged from -2 points, switch scores with another team, +2 points, and return to zero among several others! 

Our last review game was the good-go-to Trashketball. As the 7th grade girls basketball coach, I couldn't help but through in some Trashketball review. Once groups got the correct answer for the review question, students picked one group member to shoot trash into the trashcan from the 1, 2, or 3 point line. 

To give students a break the day of our SCReady Math test, we played one last Kahoot game...but it was surrounding Popular Culture! I figured my students didn't need more review after taking a 72 question test! Yes!! 72 questions...50 something with a calculator and almost 20 without a calculator. I hate to say it...but I think this was the highlight of the week for most of my students! It is surprising how many questions my students got correct about pop culture! They literally know everything! There were loving this game!! Questions included everything from singers, types of dances, actors, and movies. I think this game was a good relaxing day for students...They weren't to thrilled coming into class realizing they were playing another game, but after they logged into Kahoot and saw the questions...they didn't want to stop playing!!

After 7 games, I think my kiddos were review-gamed out. They enjoyed playing the games, but I think it was the amount of math questions I was able to squeeze out of them in a six day period! I don't know if my kids would admit it...but they completed 87 questions during that six day period of review games! And, I didn't really have to "fight" them to complete them. Students were so motivated at beating each other...maybe even more than earning the extra points...that the games kind of ran themselves! Check out our ScoreBoard at the end. Congratulations is due to: Panda (the overall team leader who also won ice cream on top of their 10 extra points), :) :), Fineapples, and Trump Nation #2!

As much as I hate to admit it....I know there will be questions about the blanks (---) on a couple rows. These blanks represent classes who couldn't quite get it together during that 20 minute "working" period. Needless to say..they lost their privilege to play the game for the day and took the review work as a classwork grade because they couldn't use their time wisely and get their work done as expected. As much as it stung to make them not play the game...I think overall (from a teaching standpoint) those two days also served as reminders for the other days (and classes) that these games were "rewards" and supposed to be "fun breaks" in the review that we would be doing regardless. I would say for a six day period...with four classes each day...only have 2 class periods that missed a game was a win for this teacher! 

With the end of the school year coming and end-of-the year testing, it also means our softball season has come to an end. We finished strong this season with an 8-3 record. I'm looking forward to next year since we will be bringing back 11 of our 14 girls!! We will miss our three 8th graders...but I know my eleven 7th graders will be ready to bring home a championship
Our 2nd Place Finish at the Northwestern Middle School Tournament 

Until next time... :)

Sunday, February 28, 2016

It's a Job Shadowing Kinda Day!

Friday was an exciting day in the 8th grade world... It was Job Shadowing Day! Students get to take the day and job shadow an adult of their choice. Students bring in signed paperwork and contact information for an adult and place of business and then they are good to go for the day. Students pick all sorts of awesome careers to job shadow. I know there were students on our team who shadowed Pre-K teachers, personal trainers, arborists, waitresses, accountants, and more! Sounds like an awesome day to me! After students job shadow for the day, they return this next week with a packet of information they gathered as they job shadowed.

With lots of our students gone for the day, we spend the entire day back at school focused on career choices of those who stay with us. We begin the day by having students complete a couple questionnaires about what they are interested in, what they want when they get older, what they want different from their parents' lives, etc. Check out the questionnaire here!

As students get finished with their questionnaire, they are thinking about their future and their career decisions. At this point we have students complete the Career Webquest where they can find out, based on their interests, what careers most closely match up to their personality. Many students are surprised to see what careers are suggested for them.

Through this webquest, students are also able to research a little more into their choice of careers and find out important information like education and experience requirements, starting salary, and job duties. Students really start to enjoy this when they are researching their own career choice and are interested in what they are finding because it directly relates to them and their future.

Finally, once students completed the questionnaire and the webquest it was time for students to make a Wanted Poster for their career choice. Students picked an APP on their iPads to create a 1-Slide/Page wanted poster for their career that included job duties, selling points for their job, starting salary, and more! Students really got into this one and here are some of their fabulous creations!

Overall I think students really enjoyed the day both outside and inside the classroom. I think students were able to really think about their career choice, what they want in the future, and how they can go about reaching that goal. It was a great learning day for everyone!

My last note for this post is a little insight into my life outside of school! This weekend my parents were in town visiting from Stafford, VA and I couldn't have been happier! My sister, my mom, and I tried out Painting With a Twist and our talents in the painting world. Needless to say, it was a blast! We had a great time, enjoyed the 2 hour class, and would totally go back!