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Day 71: Teaching Station

One of the most important areas for me in the classroom is my teaching station.  Although I am not there for any length of time, it is important to have everything in its place and “staged” so that I can “do my thang” during class without trying to find things last minute.


  • I use colored folders to organize for each class.  These folders have a clear front pocket in which I place the seating chart; then I can use a dry erase to quickly take attendance.  Inside the folders, I keep make-up quizzes with my students’ names on them, copies of notes and any other pertinent info for that particular class.
  • On the first shelf, I have my remote control and TI Nspire handy along with storing the attendance folders.
  • On the larger shelf, I  keep a bin of extra pencils and stacks of papers that I might use that day.  This is also where my classroom speakers and TI-Navigator access point reside.
  • There is also a mini shelf that holds paper when I use the doc camera and a second mini shelf that holds the docking station for my computer.
  • I also have a roller wire basket shelf where I keep essentials like tape, postits, etc., a bin of red and green pens for Frappys, scratch paper, and a bin of paint pens for students to mark their personal Nspires.  On top of the wire basket shelf I placed an extra wood panel so I can place the document camera and a bin of needed writing tools: colored pens, highlighters and pencils along with scissors  There are paper clips and styluses too.  Next to it I have a bin of plastic mini-white boards with dry erase markers when I need them on the spur of the moment.
  • Although it is hard to see, I have zip-tied an outlet strip to the side of the cart so I can readily plug in electronic devices that I might need.


Behind the cart I have a bookshelf I found at a garage sale (did I say how much I love to garage sale in the summer to outfit my classroom?!).  It holds extra copies of the textbooks, make-up test forms, my Barron’s AP Stats MC flash cards, VCR/DVD player, hand sanitizer and jar of “Brain Breaks.”  The purple shelf next to it holds electronic gadgets and cords, band-aids, etc. along with my DVDs for AP Stats.


As the year progresses, other things get added as needed.  This organizational method helps me stay sane and not waste time during the class period.  What do you do to keep yourself organized for class?


Day 68: Wall Pops! in My Classroom

I found this idea on Pinterest, posted by Keri Lewis an elementary teacher on her blog KinderKeri, but I thought I could use it in the high school setting. Basically, you use colorful Wall Pops!, a peel-stick+move dry erase dots on a table. I usually have a cup with lots of different colored dry erase markers (a little low in the photo).


Then when my kiddos come in for extra help, we pull out the colored markers and we work out problems together.  The dots make for a non-threatening “third point” for discussion.  A third point in a space off to the side of a conversation between a teacher and student provides a psychologically safe place for information, concerns and problems to land that students might bring to a help session.  The big dot offers a subtle but critical distancing of the information that may be causing students to feel anxious about not understanding.  The dots are colorful, so it initially feels “fun” and the students love to write on them.  The act of writing larger than on a piece of paper also helps students slow down a bit while also making their thinking visible to me as I’m trying to help.

What are some strategies you use to help students feel comfortable confronting their misunderstandings and build better grasp of the ideas?

Day 20: Setting up for Activities

I “heart” activities in my classes.  I truly believe activities give students the opportunity to make their thinking visible, engage in meaningful discussions and provide for making interpersonal connections.  But they do take time to find, set up and create.  I like to try to laminate the activities so I can use them from year to year.

Here I’m prepping for a matching activity from DfES. (2005). Improving Learning in Mathematics. London: Standards Unit, Teaching and Learning Division.

Frequency Prep Lesson


Day 17: Back to School Night

Although I don’t get too nervous any more (after all this is my 36th one!) I still want the experience o thave a big impact on the parents attending.  We only have 10 minutes, so how to “wow” the parents without overwhelming them?

In the past, I have used power points to help organize my presentation, but I was hearing teachers who are also parents attending their own open houses that they weren’t sure they could sit through another power point.  Got me thinking that maybe I needed to KISS my plan good-bye…keep it simple stupid by just talking to the parents and keep it a little free-flowing.


I had handouts ready and just had 3 main points to cover: Student struggles at the beginning of the year, how their young adult can get help and how they can see what’s going on in class.  Seemed to work well and I had lots of parents share that their students were initially overwhelmed but have already figured out how to manage their time and are finding the class engaging, interesting and invigorating.  I was “wow”ed.  A few parents of kids from last year stopped by to share that their son or daughter had already used their AP Statistics this year at college and were thrilled they had taken AP Statistics in high school.  I immediately asked them to share with their parent-friends to talk up APS.

One thing I really want to do now that Open House is over is to look for some other fun, engaging yet informative presentation modes.  What have you done in the past that really “wow”ed your parents? Love to hear about them!!

Day 15: Takin’ Our Time

One of the things I struggle with is how to give  students enough time to be thoughtful while they complete activities but simultaneously not waste time on idle chatter or off-task behavior.  In comes “Online Stopwatch,” a free service with a big display.


Today, my precalculus “mathletes” had a check-in on the last two sections.  Usually I give about 10 minutes to complete 3 homework questions.  Since there is no clock in the front of the room, this time I introduced “the clock” to help them realize they can complete the skill-based formative assessment in the allotted time…in fact, they were all able to finish in less than the required time.

Day 182: Movin’ Movin’ Movin’

Because our school is adding on 10 new rooms (we are busting our seams!), and our department was given two of them, our department is doing the big shuffle of rooms.  I am getting a general purpose science room since the science department is getting 4 new rooms, including a robotics room.  Lucky me!  The room is bigger and actually has windows! Lots more room to store project equipment and to set up areas to collect data. And it may actually be a little closer to the office, but farther from the parking lot.  That just means I get to my 10000 steps much quicker on my phone’s daily step tracker.


Since my current room lost its windows because that wall is where two rooms were added, it is dark, stuffy and somewhat dreary since there are not windows (you can compare the difference in the two photos).  Same wall, same angle, same time of year, very different feel.  I’ve never thought of myself as being affected by having sunlight, but day after day of not knowing if its sunny, rainy or if a tornado is coming is more depressing than I thought.

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So I’m moving.  Lots of work packing – using my awesome students to help although things are just getting stuffed into moving boxes without rhyme or reason.  So much more fun to unpack the surprises later!!  We will be allowed back in the building in August (hopefully) because I fear it will take me forever to unpack, organize and make the science room feel warm and inviting.  I’ll be sharing more about my moving progress probably in August!  So stay tuned for my new room make-over.


What are some of your favorite room organization ideas you’ve found over the years?  I’m all ears and eyes!!!

Day 105: Construction Disaster Area

Well, over break, the next phase in the school construction is to remove the windows and put in a door in my classroom. At least there will be a second way to get out of the classroom!  I feel like the beginning of the year without the jolt of summer rejuvenation.

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I’m getting a skylight, but not windows to outside.  I will really miss those windows for daydreaming in the spring!  Looking for the silver lining, the kids won’t be so distracted by the nice spring weather.



Day 102: Binding Together

I love my garage sale find for $20.  It is a GBC ComboBind machine with the combs included!  The lady I inherited this wonderful apparatus used it occasionally for college, but not as much as she thought she would, so she wanted to get rid of it.  Her loss, my gain!!  Score!20150211_142047

I bind my notes for a chapter/unit and then pull out the comb at the end and reuse for the next chapter.

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It is so convenient for writing notes with students under the document camera and keeping the papers together in one place.  One of the best $20 purchases I’ve ever made.  What is/are the best garage sale finds you’ve had for your classroom?


Day 101: Messy Desk Day

Do you ever have one of these days?  My weekend was crazy busy and today was equally so…filled with meetings and obligations during my “off” time.  So my desk paid the price!  The creative process is so taxing on organization!



Day 87: Getting Ready for the End

Today is the day before final exams.  I give my students self-directed time to work on the review and to ask questions.  It seems that any other activity might be distracting and counter-productive, while also instilling angst and stress.  I used to do review games, etc., but not enough seemed to get covered and we’d get bogged down in minutia, or narrow questions that only a few students had rather than focusing on individual needs. I also didn’t find that Review Stations worked with such a large body of content…again, focused on too many insignificant details rather than the big picture and essential long-term skills and procedures.  Students shared that having time in class to work in their own way was the best use of class time.

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