Sunday, August 23, 2015

Back to School 2015 - The Classroom Tour

This year, our 3rd Grade theme is "Originality." We want to encourage our students to discover, create, and collaborate throughout the year, valuing what makes each student unique.  So to celebrate my originality and uniqueness, I wanted to share the beginnings of my classroom for the year (as always, still in progress).

For bulletin boards, we created a word cloud describing originality along with some quotes from some other original thinkers. Outside my classroom is where we will share all of our original work.

For my door, I hung a poster to show my love of all things Doctor Who - something that makes me unique (at least where I live).

Now in the classroom, I went with a black, blue, and teal scheme that I think really works. Here is my small group area that will double as my STEM station/mini-Makerspace:

The Reading Corner with my comfy pillows and milk-crate benches that I made last year:

My little corner of the room. I had to take a picture of my new pen cup. I went a little crazy buying multicolored pens. Maybe I'll share with the kids! :)

Here's my best NAEIR find - one of my laminators that I bought for $14. Put that baby to good use!

My laminator thinks it's a Dalek  
Finally, ready for Meet the Teacher! Welcome packs (Open House Flipbook by Ashley Reed) on desks and sign-in sheets ready for my awesome new 3rd graders:

Class starts Monday, and we have so many adventures to share! It's going to be a FANTASTIC year! Hope you'll join us along the way!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Saving Some Cents on Supplies

Must have coffee when shopping!
Hi, my name is Amanda, and I am addicted to Sharpies... and composition books... and Post Its. I get giddy around Mr. Sketch scented markers.  You want to really make me happy, find me a bunch of pre-sharpened pencils!

My addiction to school supplies is currently being enabled by Target and Starbucks coffee, and I don't think I want to be completely cured.  However, my husband would prefer that I did not spend ALL of my paycheck supporting my little habit, so I've had to find ways to stretch those pennies as far as I can.  So here are a few teacher tips to help you get through Back to School season, and still have some money left for Christmas shopping.

Tip #1: Just Ask
Last year when I was making my Milk Crate Benches, and I needed crates (the good kind, not the $3 kind) I went to the grocery store and asked the manager. I got 6 milk crates for free! They were a little dirty and I had to paint them, but it was totally worth it! Don't forget to start of with, "Hi! I'm a teacher..." and bring your ID just in case they ask. This can also work at home improvement stores.

Tip #2: ALWAYS see if there is a Teacher Discount
Now if you can't get it for free, don't pay full price either! Most stores nowadays have some form of teacher discount (or at least teacher appreciation days.) Check out their website or ask at customer service. And don't forget your ID - Some places are stricter than others about the ID thing, and you don't want to pay more if you don't have to.

Here's a pretty comprehensive list of Teacher Discounts, but always ask to be sure.

Tip #3: Use Cartwheel at Target
Target, I just can't stay away from you! But when I go, I Cartwheel! It's an app that has extra discounts you can use at checkout right from your phone. If you coupon too, these can be used in conjunction with your other coupons which can really help you save money. I got 12-packs of Mr. Sketch markers for about $4 after coupons and Cartwheel combined.

Tip #4: Join Facebook Groups
Sometimes it's hard to find the great deals on your own. But with Facebook (and Pinterest too) you have a whole world of teachers looking out for each other. My favorite group is the WeAreTeachers HELPLINE. It's a Closed Group, so it won't post on your regular feed.  It's a great place for advice and encouragement, as well as learning about good deals.
I also encourage you to find a local buy/sell/trade group - great for finding books for your classroom cheap or even free.

Tip #5: Sign up for a FREE Teacher Account at
What is NAEIR you may ask? It's this amazing site I found through my previously mentioned awesome Facebook group!
NAEIR is an organization that takes donations of excess inventory from businesses and allows you, as part of a non-profit organization, to get it for FREE! Ok, not quite free, you do have to pay a handling charge, but it is minuscule in comparison to what you would have to pay retail. For example, the school supply junkie in me loved getting 16 pads of Post It notes for $1 and 25 Sharpies for $2. I even ordered TWO personal laminators and hundreds of pouches for $28 (the laminators themselves sell for at least $50 each)! This is not used stuff - it's brand new merchandise, just what businesses had left in the warehouse.

Well, I have a couple more weeks before I start setting up my room and getting ready for my 3rd Graders! Going to enjoy my last few days of sleeping past 6 AM and getting to enjoy my coffee while I watch the Today Show.


Monday, June 22, 2015

Mrs. T's Top Techy Teacher Tools

It's summer, so you know what that means - PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT!!! (Don't all cheer at once...)

Now I'll admit, some of the PD I'm required to complete is torture isn't the most stimulating, but most of the time I can get some pretty awesome ideas from some pretty amazing presenters and fellow teachers.  I also had the added excitement of Tropical Storm Bill (OH NO Mr. BILL!) thwarting my schedule into a bit of disarray as classes got rescheduled and TCEA Tots & Technology got cut a bit short.

So, without further ado, here are my top tech tips and tools that I picked up over the last two weeks of PD.

iMovie Trailers
I've had the iMovie app on my devices for at least a year, but never really knew how to use them.  I finally found out how easy it is to make trailers.  Seriously, I was able to make one on my iPad in about 10 minutes once I opened the app up and found all of the built-in trailer templates! I can't wait for my kids to use this to create summaries of the books they read this year.  Learning in Hand also has some great planning templates for the students to use.  I also found a site with some great Book Trailer examples here.

Just for funsies, here's the trailer I made in class just using iMovie and the pics already on my iPad.

Google Docs + Autocrat = Instant Certificate Generator
At TCEA Tots & Tech, I went to this AWESOME session by Amy Mayer (@friEdTechnology) where she taught us how to use Google Docs (Forms, Sheets, and Docs) and an add-on called Autocrat to create an easy form that will generate a certificate and/or email for all of those certificates we have to do at the end of the year (think the old mail-merge we used to use) You can create a generic template for a certificate, end the form to your teachers, they fill it out and, VOILA!, they receive an email with the completed certificate ready to print. Click for a link to her presentation.

I'd heard of Nearpod, but never really got the chance to see it in action until last week.  Boy have I been missing out!  If you have iPads or Chromebooks in your classroom, or access to a computer lab, you need to use this.  You create a presentation (or download one from Nearpod), the kids open up the app and type in a code and YOU are now in control of what they see on the screen. The presentations also include polls, quizzes, and other interactive activities that you can use to check for understanding and for formative assessment.  It is free, but if you end up using it alot, you can upgrade for more storage.  There are school and district subscriptions available too.

Edmodo and Gamification
Another program I just never had the time to really learn to use until now is Edmodo.  If you don't already know, it is basically a closed social network for the classroom.  I can make groups, assign activities, create quizzes, or even just ask questions for feedback.  Students can even upload and turn in assignments. Pretty easy to use once you get in and play with it for a while.

My plan is to use Edmodo's badge system to "Gamify" my classroom.  Gamifying basically means to apply the framework of a video game to the classroom setting. I haven't worked everything out yet, but I'll have the students earn XP (experience points) for various tasks and they will move up levels based on their XP.  The higher the level, the more XP they will have to earn to move up and earn badges.  If you've played any game like CandyCrush you can understand the concept.
Here is an excellent infographic that explains the concept of Gamification.
Last year, I did have my students participate in Hour of Code, and they LOVED it.  I want to expand this year and have students use some of their math/computer time to actually learn coding. has some excellent programs to teach kids how to learn basic coding concepts and practice critical thinking skills.  At TCEA, Karen North (her site is took us through some fun introductory coding activities. What's great is that they don't all have to be on a computer-unplugged activities!  We had a great time making Binary Bracelets to learn that ones and zeros can represent letters in a computer.  My bracelet, of course, is binary for the letter T!

The Techy Makeup Bag
Picture via Twitter by 
Twitter and Pinterest count as professional development, right? I saw this on my Twitter feed today from @mrhooker and shared by @daisyray215 and knew I just had to share too! I'm always misplacing my cords, chargers, headphones, Lightning to VGA adapters, etc. Never thought to use one of those folding makeup bags!

I really did have a great time at some of my PD classes (at least the ones I got to pick!).  So go out there and learn (and yes, I do think Twitter and Pinterest should count!).  I can't wait to start using some of my new knowledge with my new crop of 3rd graders!

For more Tech Teacher Tips, follow my Pinterest Board.

Follow Amanda's board Tech Teacher Tools on Pinterest.

Have a FANTASTIC day!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

A Year to Remember

What an Adventure...

I started my blog planning on doing a post at least every other week.  Well, between actually teaching, STAAR testing, RTI paperwork, and just trying to have a semblance of a life, that just didn't quite happen! :)

So instead, here's a short video I put together with some highlights from my first year back in public education.  I really am going to miss these kids!

And now, I solemnly promise to do my best to post more often in year two!  I'll be self-contained next year, so I have even more adventures planned for my new batch of sweeties!

Have a FANTASTIC summer!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Because I'm Appy! - My Favorite Teaching Apps

With everything we teachers have to do nowadays, it's nice to have something that makes you're life a little easier.  Here are some of my favorite apps and websites that I'm using this year:

Kahoot! (Website - compatible for use on most devices)

Having fun and leaning with Kahoot!
Kahoot! is an awesome way to engage my kids.  I create multiple choice quizzes on the website and then my students use their iPads to answer the questions as they come up on the screen.  The students earn points as they answer the questions - the faster they answer, the more points they get.  I usually give a little prize to the winners.  I can also download the data from each session to use as an assessment.

GoNoodle Brain Breaks (Website)

This is one of my kids' favorites!  I use GoNoodle to give my students a brain break between lessons.  There's lots of choices from yoga to Zumba to track and field.  I also love to use the Indoor Recess mixes on those cold, rainy days that we've been having.  It also becomes a game because as you earn minutes, your class avatar changes and becomes stronger.  This one is a keeper!

ZipGrade (App, website for downloading answer sheets)

I can't say enough about how much this app has changed my life as a teacher!  ZipGrade is an app that allows you to grade multiple choice quizzes by taking a picture with your iOS or Android device. You scan the key then scan the answer sheets.  It's so easy!  It also gives you automatic Item Analysis as well as the option of downloading the data to your Google Drive or Dropbox.  I use this for nearly all of my tests as well as for exit tickets or quick quizzes.  There's a free version for the first 100 scans, but the full version is only $9.99 in App Store.  Believe me, it is totally worth it!

Google Apps - (Web and Apps)

I've been addicted to Google for years, and now that Docs, Sheets, and Slides are available as Apps, I've gotten even more use out of them.  My campus hasn't quite gotten all Googly yet (I'm working on it!), but I still love using Google Drive to share documents with my coworkers and parents on my website. I create exit tickets and classroom sign-ups with Google Forms. It really just makes my life a little easier and more paperless.

Reflex Math (Website and iPad app)

One of my goals this year is for my students to become fluent with their math facts, especially those multiplication facts!  Reflex Math helps me to do that while my kids have fun at the same time.  They beg to practice their facts and are really showing growth with the games and fast action quizzing.  I'm able to track my students' growth with my teacher account and see which facts we need to focus on.

There is so much more I could share, but I need to go prepare for our Science Fair experiment.  We're doing a little something with forces and motion...can't wait to show you next time!

Have a FANTASTIC day!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

We Wish You a Mathy Christmas (New Year's Edition!)

Technically it's still Christmas since my tree is still up, but since I finally get to return to work tomorrow, I thought it was time to update the blog.  I wanted to share what my kids were up to before we left for break so we can get ready to rock 'n roll into the new year.

We spent the majority of our time working on multiplication concepts and practicing different strategies for recognizing solving multiplication problems.  Then the students practiced by creating their own story problems and representations.

Multiplication Strategies Anchor Chart

We also learned about multiplication and division fact families by creating some lovely mistletoe (saw this on Pinterest of course!) I randomly assigned multiplication facts, and the students created the fact family on the leaves.  The berries in the middle show the numbers in the family.

The students really enjoyed playing Multiplication War to help with their math facts.  I know this game is going to be a regular part of my Math Workshop rotation!

We also spent one day participating in the Hour if Code.  This program is used to expose students to computer coding in a fun way.  The students spent time in the computer lab solving coding puzzles based on Angry Birds or Frozen.  It was amazing seeing the students completely engaged and helping each other.  Many of the kids continued to work on the iPads during workstations and found an activity where they could program their own version of Flappy Bird.  Here's some pics from that day:

One of the things I really love to do with my students around the holidays is origami.  We made these fun origami picture frames and used them to decorate our class tree.  I used the pattern and directions from the book Origami Math by Karen Baicker.  

Although I'm not looking forward to my alarm going off early tomorrow morning, I am excited to get back!  We'll be making some goals for the year, working more on fact fluency and problem solving, and begin division concepts.  It will be an adventure!

Even Santa showed up in my class! :)

Have a FANTASTIC year!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Getting a Grip on Graphing

It's the week before Thanksgiving, and we've been thankful for the cooler weather, especially during recess!

Last week we learned about representing data using dot plots by surveying the number of people in our families, creating a frequency chart, and then graphing on the number line.  We used a bingo blotter to create the dots (the kids LOVED that part!).  The students then practiced with a partner by rolling dice 20 times, collecting the data and creating their own dot plots. (Find the activity from Math Adventures on TpT here.)

Our completed dot plot
Rolling the dice to create dot plots

We're also wrapping up our weather unit and practicing our graphing skills at the same time. The students have been collecting weather data on a selected city for three weeks using
As a class, we created a pictograph, bar graph, and dot plot for our hometown data:

 Then the students created graphs for the cities they researched.  Here are some of our examples:

We used our data to make conclusions about how geography affects weather and looked for trends over time. The students have worked hard and learned a lot during this unit, and are ready to continue our adventures after Thanksgiving break.

I am so thankful for my sweet and fabulous students!  Can't wait to see what other amazing things they do this year.

Have a FANTASTIC day!