6 Winning Items That New Teachers Need For The New Year


     No one can empathize with a new teacher better than a veteran teacher. We know what it feels like, both good and bad, to begin a teaching career. Our "If only I'd known then what I know now" conversations are rich with wisdom and experience.
     To help out any newer teachers that are cracking open their first, second, or third year of teaching, I've put together a list of 6 things that I wish I'd known about during my first years. Actually, a couple of them might not have been invented then, but they're winning tools, just the same!
     This list has a theme: Organization! This one concept can make or break any teacher. It's actually not about how cute or color-coordinated your stuff looks, but whether you can find it when you need it. Here's the list:

1) Organizational Storage

You can almost never have too many. As you shop for the new year, buy whatever your budget will allow. You'll need larger types like Sterilite drawers on wheels, smaller plastic drawers, buckets, bins, containers that close with a top that's either attached or unattached, square containers like crates, smaller things like pencil cases...if you can, overbuy. You'll almost certainly find a need for them.

2) 3-Ring Binders

Binders have been a life-saver to me. When I finally realized that laying papers down in piles spelled certain disaster, I learned to store things standing up. When binders started to have the clear plastic covers, it was even better! Acquire binders for every topic that works for you. Make a cover for each one and don't forget the spine! It'll save you so much time pulling out binders looking for titles.

3) Sticky Notes

When your head is whirling with things to remember, slapping a sticky note on your to-do list, on a pile of papers, or on your purse can save you time and energy. In addition, they are a marvelous teaching tool. Kids can use them to answer survey questions, to quickly share opinions or answers, giving (kind) feedback to classmates, and personal organization.

4) File folders and labels

This amazing duo is another super organizational tool. With a master class list, you can print off multiple sets and have them ready when you suddenly need a new set of student folders. You can create folder games, organize center materials and directions, and keep yourself organized.

5) A great electric pencil sharpener

Yes, they can be pricey, but my life changed for the better when I could finally shell out for one. Sharpening pencils each day went faster and quieter. My kids did fine with it, but consider making off-limits to students until they can prove they'll be careful with it.

6) A Go-To Book

There are so many times during the year when you have just a few minutes before the next task and you want to spend it wisely. I remember times like just before lunch or a class change, having to hold students in class for a few minutes for an unexpected reason, or when you need revitalize the class with a brain break. The books I always depended on included joke books (especially math jokes), critical thinking books with short problems to solve, a book with trivia-type facts on different subjects, and great poetry books by authors such as Shel Silverstein. Having books like this improve the quality of your instructional time and can improve you classroom management.

Growing Grade By Grade
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Generate Great Conversations With Math Graffiti

I love to hear what children think! Some years ago, I combined my love of comics and math with a need to give kids a platform for math conversations. Enter: Math Graffiti! It was as simple as could be (if you subtract the difficulty of finding and downloading specific math comics from the Internet...15 years ago!)

I hunted down some great math comics, focusing on "Calvin and Hobbes" because I love Calvin's attitude on almost everything! You shouldn't have any TOU issues if you use one copy in your classroom for educational purposes.

I made a simple display on the inside of my classroom by taping the current comic onto a sheet of laminated construction paper and adding a pen. I asked a specific question each time, but students were allowed to make other comments, as long as they were appropriate. In reviewing the ones included here, I noticed the word "stupid" a time or two. Guess they missed the memo.

I left each comic up for a week and tried to find time by Friday to have a whole-group conversation, sharing some of the comments.

My kids loved Math Graffiti! They loved "writing on the wall", getting a chance to share their thoughts, and the comics! I highly recommend Math Graffiti as a regular, or even an occasional, part of your math program.

How do you solicit students' thoughts in math conversations? I'd love to hear your ideas!

We're all in this together!


Growing Grade By Grade
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Hair Scrunchies: A Fun Data Collection Idea

Data in general: collection, display, and analysis, has always been one of my favorite math topics. It opens up so many different ways to have fun in math and the knowledge transfers to so many other subjects. I was heartbroken when Common Core took the majority of data from 5th grade and moved it to 6th. I mean, it's still there, but the fraction focus seemed to take most of our time.

A really fun challenge was to find different ways to collect our data. I learned so much from PD connected to the TIMSS Study (remember that?) and it was a great springboard to other strategies. Here's one that is easy, inexpensive, and very visual.

Take a paper towel tube or several bath paper tubes. I covered them in white paper to make them move attractive. If you use a paper towel tube, cut it in 2-3 pieces as needed.


Make the appropriate signs for the data you're collecting. My 3x5 index cards are life savers to me and it's easy to decorate them a bit.
I bought a package of 36 small hair scrunchies for $1 at the Dollar Tree and laid them in front of the display.
My students knew what the question was: Do you prefer lemonade, sweet tea, or cola? If you're training students at the beginning of the year, you can write out the question and directions on the board or a sheet of paper.
Students take turns entering their answer by putting a scrunchie on the appropriate tube. Ta-da! You're done! Now, you can talk about the data: compare, contrast, make analysis statements, transfer the data into a table, and/or transfer the data onto a paper copy with different graphs. So fun!

How do you collect data? I'd love to hear from you!
Growing Grade By Grade
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