First Week Back to School Survival Guide

This is just a survival guide for me to read next year, so I will know what to do, and how to best survive, the first weeks back to school.

Week 0 – Preservice

Waking up early and putting on real clothes is the worst.  But it’s SUPER fun being back and seeing everyone!  It is a busy, busy week.  Do not expect to get too much school work done (or any work at all done) this week.

Week 1 – STUDENTS!

Even though I’ve been teaching forever, I still freak out the night before school officially starts.  I don’t know why, maybe it is the fear of the unknown?  Maybe it is just the death of my summer schedule – getting plenty of sleep, working out whenever I want, shopping, vacations, TV, and reading books?  Most likely I’ve just forgotten how much I love what I do.

Day 1 – It just takes ONE class period for me to be in love (ok, obsessed) with teaching again.  The drama of the night before is forgotten and I look back at myself and laugh (shake my head).  But I’m glad it happened this way, because hopefully I can console my friends who feel this same way and will go back later this month.  Feeling this way before the first day is REAL and TERRIFYING.  But it is also ok, and will hopefully dissolve instantly on Day 1.

The word for this week is SURVIVAL, and maybe DON’T FEEL GUILTY.  No, you will not have time to plan a lesson at school so you will have to do it at night.  Yes, you will have to meet with someone every planning period.  NO, don’t you DARE try to make dinner (I did, it was a disaster).  Take out is your best friend forever.  Don’t feel guilty if you can’t exercise, AT ALL.  It will come later, but not this week.  YES, it is OK to go to bed at 7PM.  As much as you love it, you can’t go from Netflix to 100% people contact without some casualties.  You WILL be crying on Thursday night.  Your family will not understand.  That is ok, because it is normal.  The priority this week is SELF-CARE, or rather, self-preservation. You can’t do ALL of the things this week.

Weekend Interlude – SLEEP, exercise, and be nice to your family so they don’t worry too much about you after your Thursday night breakdown.  Take Saturday off so you will feel human again.  Take Saturday off. Take Saturday off. Take Saturday off.  Sunday, plan like crazy and pick out your clothes for the week (thanks Meg).  Go to bed early.

You’ve got this. You LOVE this, and that will get you through. ❤️


New Year, New Blog!

Yes! It is that time of year again! It is time to dust off the old blog, or even be brave and make the jump to start your very own blog!

Please join us during the Explore the MTBoS for the 2017 Blogging Initiative! It is for old and new bloggers alike! Don’t be afraid – it’s just FOUR posts, one a week, to get you started (or jump-started).

Exploring the MathTwitterBlogosphere

Welcome to the Explore the MTBoS 2017 Blogging Initiative!

With the start of a new year, there is no better time to start a new blog!  For those of you who have blogs, it is also the perfect time to get inspired to write again!

Please join us to participate in this years blogging initiative!  To join, all you need to do is write just one post a week for the next four weeks.  To make it easier for you, we will post a new prompt every Sunday!  Once you have blogged, please fill out the form below.  Each week, your blogs will be posted on this site for all to enjoy!

This Week’s Theme:  My Favorites

This week, the blogging theme will be “My Favorites”, where you can post about one (or many) of your favorite things!  Called a “My Favorite,” it can be something that makes teaching a specific math…

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My Room

Friday was our open house. It was so great to see all of my students! I cannot wait until Monday. My room is pretty much the same as last year. The only things left that I need to do are put the days of the week on the homework board and make a backboard for trasketball on the front wall. Enjoy!

Classroom Management – MS Sunday Funday


This week’s theme is Classroom Management.  Next week, the theme will be “Favorite Ways to Practice”.  I’ve been so busy with school this week that I forgot to send out the “theme email” so this week may be light.  Spread the word!  🙂

Click here to submit your MS Sunday Funday post!

Everything Organization – MS Sunday Funday


This week’s theme is Organization.  Next week, the theme will be “Classroom Management”.

Click here to submit your MS Sunday Funday post!

Hanging Wall Organizers for Absent Work

Seriously, I cannot tell you how much this one idea has simplified my life.  The past two weeks, our school has been hit by a nasty cold bug AND strep throat.  I’ve have so many absent students!  But, with my hanging wall organizer for absent work I have been taken COMPLETELY out of the mix.

My dear friend Megan took me to the Container Store in St. Louis during TMC and showed me these fabric wall mount magazine holders.

I bought one for each subject I teach (6th and 7th grade), then I labeled each pocket for one day of the week.  The remaining bottom two pockets are make-up quizzes and returned papers for absent students.

So, when a student isn’t in class, I label their paper with their name on it and then put it in the appropriate day.  When they come back, THEY DON’T HAVE TO ASK ME FOR THE MAKE-UP WORK! 

I don’t to shuffle through my files (or my desk if I haven’t yet filed it) to find their work!  They don’t even ask me, they just go and get it!  Also, this way students can make-up quizzes during work times when other teachers are covering because they always know where  their blank quiz is.  AND, if I hand back graded papers when a student is absent, I just fold it over (so the grade doesn’t show) and put their name on the back of the paper, then put it in the holder.  They can get it when they come back to school.  If they are excited about their grade, they can even come in early morning and get it without having to ask me.  This has so greatly simplified my life.  I need more great ideas like this!  Thanks so much Megan!  🙂

Update:  The letters are from Target.  They are a pack of giant post-it letters for about $3.  To label the pockets, I used the Martha Stewart fabric labels that I got at Staples.

My Favorite Mega White Boards

I have taught translating verbal models into algebraic expressions for many year.  However, with all of the new idea garnered at TMC and through Twitter, I really wanted to do something new this year.  I loop with 6th and 7th, and my 7th have had this lesson before.  I was sure they forgot some things, but didn’t want a vocab/lecture lesson.  I decided to use my Mega White Boards that I made after reading Frank’s post and ended the lesson with Cheesemonkey’s block game.  The entire day was a fabulous success, and I really can’t say enough good things about these giant boards.  They are large enough for students to work in individually AND together on them.

I had each group separate their board into 6 parts.  They put math symbols in each part.  I used addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, grouping symbols, and “turn around words”.  For each section, the had to come up with a word that expressed the symbol, a verbal model (word problem) and an algebraic expression.  Since it would be an algebraic expression, it had to have a variable in it. 

At first students picked which one they would do.  I heard, “I’ll do addition, you do subtraction.”  But almost immediately they were brainstorming to create the phrases together, especially on the harder ones.

The groups had a pretty easy time with the first four, but got stuck on the last two (grouping and turn around words).  I’m not sure who thought of it first, but soon all of the groups were in the “Student Center” searching for their Math Reference Notebooks that they made last year (win!).   I did not tell them what to look for, so I was very happy that they knew not only where to look but WHAT they were looking for.  Some students even found the Math Into Words poster on my wall!  Win!

After they were finished I had the groups come up and fill in the grid on the board (one group per grid).  We discussed their expressions and brainstormed more words.  Then, I gave them a new “Words to Math” graphic organizer to glue into their interactive graph books.

Finally, they were ready to play Algebraic Expression Blocking game from Cheesemonkey.  We didn’t have much time left at the end of class so I plan on breaking this game out again!

Homework Policies – MS Sunday Funday


This week’s theme is Homework Policy.  Next week, the theme will be “Favorite Math Class Games”.

Read the High School Sunday Funday Posts!

Also, grab the MS Sunday Funday logo at the top to link back to this page.

Table Motivation Labels – My Favorite Friday

I almost didn’t make this Favorite Friday. This was the first week of school (for teachers only) AND the first week all three boys had soccer. And, two of them had an extra day – EACH. I had at least one breakdown this week. My poor husband. 🙂

BUT, I finally got my room (mostly) organized. And, I am so ready for a new year in my most amazing room. After seeing my students today, I cannot WAIT to get started. I love those kids.

All I’m doing today is showing off my AMAZING new labels. I labeled the tables and the supply caddies (all color coordinated, btw). I even labeled the cups INSIDE the caddies! Thanks so much to Julie Ruble for taking me to the dollar store. I found brightly colored Microfiber clothes that color coordinate with my table labels. It inspired me and easy excellent.  (And yes, Julie Ruble is THE super famous food blogger).  🙂

I used Shelli’s super cool sign clips that I found on I found the “Smart Questions” on Pinterest then again on Lisa Henry’s blog. And, I used most of the sayings from last weeks post. The table labels are in the air thanks to sign clips. They have the table number and a motivational saying on one side, and smart questions on the other. I love them and they make me happy! I also love the adhesive number lines that I got from eNasco last year.  I just stuck them to the tables.


Crochet Flower Pencil Toppers & Pencil Check Out Sheet – Made4Math

I have been wanting to make pencil toppers forever, but I’m not the crafty type anymore.  I don’t really have enough time (three kids), and I always glue my fingers together.  However, I really want to differentiate my “borrowed” pencils because they are always walking off.  I do not mind giving out pencils, and I do so freely.  But, I hate when I run out.  So, after reading @reminoodle’s Made4Math last week I knew I had to try to make the crochet flower pencil toppers.  And, after tweeting about missing pencils all week I also decided to make a “Pencil Check Out” sheet (included below).

I followed the pattern she linked to, but my flower only had three petals.  I frantically tweeted @reminoodle (several times) but she was off having a life that day and didn’t get back to me right away.  Since I’m not the patient sort, I just kept crocheting and crocheting until I had what looked more like a flower.  When the wonderful @reminoodle came back to Twitter she explained that she had trouble with the pattern as well and also had three petal flowers.  This made me feel MUCH better!

When @reminoodle asked me if I wanted her to write up her pattern, of course I said, “YES, please!”  However, that also got me thinking.  My flowers were going pretty well by now, maybe I should write a pattern too.  @reminoodle said that I could write it, but I told her that we BOTH needed to write it up.  I have never written a pattern before so mine may be confusing.   AND they will both be different because her’s have four petals and mine have five.  Plus, I just love “jinx” tweets and blogs!

I used brightly colored, variegated yarn because that is just who I am.  The flowers actually look better if you do them each in a different solid color, but I can never resist multi-colored yarn.  I used mechanical pencils because that is what I have my students use in class.  And, there is nothing worse than a student that borrows a pencil AFTER class begins and THEN has to sharpen it because of course only the broken pencils are left in the pencil bin.  Mechanical pencils also have the clip on the side that helps hold the flower in place.  I did put a dab of tacky glue on them too just to make them more permanent.

I also made a Pencil Check Out sheet.  It will hopefully encourage students to check out a pencil BEFORE class (note smiley face), instead of AFTER class begins (note sad face).  If I have a frequent borrower, I will now have a record and can start a conversation with the student and their advisor, or maybe even contact the parents in extreme cases.

Below is my pattern of the five petal flower and here is @reminoodles four petal flower.

Crochet Flower Pencil Topper


  • Ch 7
  • 6 sc in 2nd chain from hook.
  • [Turn, ch1, 6 sc], repeat 3 times, making 3 rows.
  • Turn, ch 1, 2 sc in each sc.


  • Turn, ch 3, 2 dc in next stitch, ch 3, sl st in same st,
  • [Sl st in next st, ch 3, 2 dc in next stitch, ch 3, sl st in same st] repeat 4 times until you have 5 petals total.
  • Cut off, leaving about 5” of  thread to stitch it together.

 Finishing – 

  • Using a crochet needle or darning needle, stitch the two side together and tie off to finish.
  • Attach to pencil and secure using Tacky glue or hot glue.