Math = Love: Even More Classroom Inspiration

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Even More Classroom Inspiration

So, I'm pretty sure if I hadn't learned anything new from #edcampTULSA, it would have still been worth it to attend just for the opportunity to snoop around other teachers' classrooms to see what they are up to.  I've posted about the math and science specific ideas I plan on stealing.  Today, I'm posting pictures of more general ideas I'm thinking about incorporating in my own classroom.

My first experience with a parking lot in the classroom was at an OGAP conference last summer.  Every table was given pads of sticky notes.  And, we were told that we could post any questions, comments, or concerns that we had on the parking lot.  And, the coordinators would make sure that they were covered or taken care of.  I don't think anybody used it at all.  That doesn't make it a good idea at all.

Parking Lot Poster

One of my main goals for this summer is to work on my classroom management strategies.  I'm going to be really honest.  Classroom management is probably my weakest area in the classroom.  I need to make some major changes.  I went into teaching assuming that high school students were capable of knowing when it was appropriate and inappropriate to do certain things.  For example, when I'm working a problem out on the SMART Board, it is inappropriate to have a conversation with your neighbor.  But, you wouldn't know that by looking at my students.  I'm getting sick and tired of hearing myself say "You should not be talking right now.  You should not be talking right now."  After two years, I've learned that going in without a plan does not lend to a well-managed classroom.  So, next year is going to be different.  I'm finally seeing the importance of procedures and everything else that I read about before I started teaching.

I'm thinking that if I can train my students to use the parking lot from the very beginning of the school year, it could be very beneficial.  It's going to take training and practice, though.

If I am going to have more procedures, I am going to need to find a way to communicate those procedures to my students.  I liked this procedure sign that I found in one classroom.

Classroom Procedure Poster Reminder
I liked these Book / Brain / Beyond posters that I saw posted in several classrooms.  I know I need to ask my students to do a lot more tasks involving #2 and #3.  

Book / Brain / Beyond Posters

I have a box of these clear plastic dry erase pockets in my cabinet.  I used them a lot last year, but this year I've been using double sided dry erase boards that my school purchased for me.  I liked the idea of storing papers in these pockets for student access.  This teacher used the pocket to hold talent show applications.  But, I could store anything in them.  Since they are see-through, students could easily see what they were accessing.
Using Dry Erase Pockets for Organization

Outside one classroom, the teacher had a frame that invited students to ask them about their college experiences at Oklahoma State University and The University of Tulsa.  As a Tulsa grad myself, I was excited to see someone else repping the Golden Hurricanes.  It made me realize, though, that I'm not quite sure I've ever asked my students to ask me about my college experience.  I've got a couple of TU flags hanging my classroom, and I'll gladly answer questions.  But, I've never really sought out their questions.  I teach in a community where the majority of our students do not go on to higher education.  Some do, and hopefully more will in the future.  In the mean time, I need to make sure that my students know that I am more than willing to sit down with them and talk about what college is like.

College Display

In one classroom, I saw a teacher use baseball card holder pages to display senior pictures.  I thought this was a brilliant idea!  Of course, it's not quite feasible for my classroom and situation.  In two years of teaching, I've been given one senior picture.  ONE.  Maybe I'll be able to collect this many senior pictures by the time I retire...

Senior Picture Display
For the past two years, I've had all of my students turn their papers into the same tray.  Next year, I think I'm finally going to make trays for each class.  This should save me time and frustration in grading.  Now, I just have to find a place in my classroom to put six different trays.  This should be interesting...
Turn In Trays by Hour
I'm going to be honest.  I'm not sure what this teacher used this pocket chart for.  But, it definitely caught my eye.  I'm posting this more as a reminder to myself to use the pocket charts I bought last summer at Target.  Actually, I need to figure out what I even did with the pocket charts.  I haven't used them at all.  If anyone has any great ideas for using pocket charts, please share!

Pocket Chart
I'm also starting to think about how I want to grid my dry erase board next year.  I've taught for two years and done it two different ways so far.  I kind of like the idea of showing a whole week at once.  But, I've never done it this way.  And, I'm not sure if it would make it harder or easier to maintain.
Assignment Grid Board
I think I posted a similar version of this bulletin board yesterday.  This one features a day of the week on each folder, though.  I can see myself using this for either absent work or extra handouts.

File Folders on Bulletin Board
Isn't this bulletin board adorable?  The teacher took a picture of each class period that she teaches.  Every week, she selects a student from each class to fill out a survey about themselves.  Their answers are displayed next to the picture of that class inside a picture frame.  The board is labeled as Gents and Ladies.  I'm thinking of doing this next year to replace my Star Students Board.
Gents and Ladies Bulletin Board
I'm also in love with this turn in tray.  It's just a cardboard cover for a stacking paper tray.  But, it prevents students from retrieving papers after turning them in or looking at other people's papers.  Plus, I love that the make-up papers have to go in a separate tray.  I'm thinking about changing my policy on late work for next year, so having a dedicated tray for that would be especially useful!

Paper Turn In Tray

Outside of each classroom, each teacher posts what book they are reading, what book they just read, and what book they want to read.  I would love to see this happen at my school.  What would happen if I just made these signs and hung them up outside each classroom?  Do you think teachers would just start using them?  It couldn't hurt, right???

Classroom Reading Poster
I saw these "Time to be Kind" clocks in several classrooms.  One of these clocks was distributed to every teacher to post in their classroom.  I'm thinking that this could be a student council initiative next year.  We could have a week that focused on random acts of kindness.  And, these could be posted around the school as a reminder.
Time to be Kind Clock


  1. I love these ideas you've collected! I'm a third year teacher in Stillwater. I just moved out to OK this year, and I had tons of friends who were new to teaching in my old state/school. Reading your blog has been a comfort the past few weeks to know I'm not the only new math teacher constantly trying (and not always succeeding) with new ideas! I'm right there with you needing to ramp up procedures. This year has been a lot better, but I still have a lot of work to do.

    A few comments about some ideas that perked my attention…
    1) What a great idea to invite students to ask you about college! I've always taught 10th and 11th in the past, and this year I moved to 8th and 9th in a separate junior high building. It has been weird for me to not have the constant talk of college and plans after high school, but it would great to invite to my students to talk about it. Even though decisions don't have to be made at 13, it's a great time to start thinking about it!
    2) We may not get senior pictures, but I love to post newspaper articles and pictures I get from school activities. This has been hard for me this year because I'm newly married and don't go to nearly as much stuff, and because the paper doesn't hardly print anything about junior high. The kids really enjoy seeing their pictures up though!
    3) Turn in trays by hour with a separate makeup tray have saved me at least 5-10 minutes a day this year. Get the trays that stack on top of each other to save room. I have a make-up work tray, a 9th grade stack (3 separate trays), and an 8th grade stack (2 trays). If you have room, separate trays for graded papers help me to keep up with passing stuff back. My turn-in trays sometimes turn into storage for unfinished assignments, so as much I love the idea of students not being able to see the other papers in the box, I feel like I would forget that papers were in there...
    4) Absent work folders - great to have them in a visible place on the bulletin board! I tried this with a file system on a shelf next to the door, but…out of sight, out of mind.
    5) And finally…because I know this is long…why didn't I ever think about "I'm reading" signs for math teachers, too!

    1. Hi Kaitlin!

      It's great to connect with a teacher who is so close to me!

      I agree with the idea of posting newspaper clippings. Our special education teacher does this, and I'm always drawn to that bulletin board when I'm in her classroom. Why can't I do the same thing?

      I'm definitely going to do the separate trays for each hour next year. I can't tell you how many hours I've wasted these past two years going through the entire stack checking to see if a student turned in an assignment before I have had a chance to grade them. I can't figure out why I haven't done this before. I guess I just like to learn things the hard way! :)

      Thanks for the comment!

  2. These pictures have given me so many ideas.I love them. I never get a chance to see classrooms other than the ones in my building. I think I think i may have a post showing the classrooms in my building. Thanks for the idea.

    1. I would LOVE to read that post! (Basically, I want to be able to steal as many ideas as possible!) :)

  3. I second Kaitlin's recommendation for stacking trays. Or better yet...wall pockets would completely eliminate the need for space on a flat surface.

    1. I'm leaning towards the idea of wall pockets. But, that's going to require getting rid of a table that's in the back of my classroom so I can have the wall behind it. I'm still not sure how I feel about that. Is it worth it to lose a flat surface in order to gain a wall surface??? So many things to think about. Good thing I have until August to figure this out!

      Thanks for sharing!

  4. I use the pocket organizer to house individual dollar store scientific calculators for my forgetful students. I also place a golf pencil in each pocket. My classroom desks are synced with the pocket numbers. I LOVE your blog - read it all the time! Please don't ever stop :)

    1. Thanks! I like the idea of the golf pencils available for each student. My students are TERRIBLE at remembering pencils. Maybe this would help curb that problem...

  5. What fun ideas. I know our school has been talking about putting "Ms So and So, BA in Math from Somewhere University" on each teacher's door, which might help students feel more open to asking about where the teachers have gone to college.

    Also, this is what I use for absent students. Each period gets a folder. I write the names of absent students on the top of any worksheet, then stick it in the folder. We used to have quite the absenteeism issue at our school, so this was a big help. I also have a paper calendar for each subject posted next to it to write down the assignments for each day. This is secretly for me, because it really helps when planning the next year to be able to glance at it and see, "Oh, I ended up needing two days for this activity" or "it took me 5 weeks to get through trig last year my goodness how am I going to get it done in 10 days??!?" :)

    PS-Looking forward to meeting you at TMC! :)

    1. I like the idea of putting the teacher's college on their sign! I take for granted sometimes that my students know that I even have a college degree. I am always shocked when a student looks at me and goes, "You went to college?!?" Yes, yes I did.

      I love that hanging organizer that you linked to! I bought a filetastic the other day on clearance at Mardel for 3.99. So, I'm going to try to find a way to use that to help me get organized.

      And, I love the idea of the paper calendar. I get so tired of hearing the question, "Did we do anything yesterday?" If I could point them to the calendar on the wall, that would be awesome!

      Thanks for sharing your ideas! I look forward to meeting you at TMC as well!

  6. First off, I LOVE your blog! It's been both an encouragement to me and an amazing resource. You mentioned having classroom management struggles, particularly with students talking during lecture. One thing I found really helpful is to remind them once (if that) and otherwise I have a stack of "tickets" printed bright pink that I just check a box for whatever classroom rule they're breaking (talking, eating, no homework, cell phone out, ect). Without interrupting my lecture I can check the box, walk over and drop it on their desk. If they get three tickets in one month they get either a phone call home or an office referral. It has worked great for me this year and they take it more seriously than an offhand verbal chide, which they likely hear 50 times a day.

    1. Hi Michael! Thanks for your kind words about my blog.

      I like the idea of having preprinted tickets ready to hand out. And, I like that there are set consequences for receiving a set number of tickets. I think my main problem is that I don't have consequences. Instead, I end up overlooking problem behaviors. Then, I get fed up with them and I come down harshly on the entire class. As I start to think about creating a classroom management plan for next year, I'm going to seriously consider this ticket idea. I think it's genius!

      Thanks for sharing!

    2. Michael, How do you keep track of who has gotten 3 or more behavior tickets in a month. Can you share a copy of your ticket form?

  7. I have seen pocket folders for calculators. The calculators have the number on them. Another option would be a kid's cell phone if there's a continuous problem.

    I love the hanging frames on the bullentin board. I think this would be cute for a math student of the month in a hallway too.

    Throughout my years of teaching, my organization changes to fit problems that come up. One of the early on was when students had to turn in papers on my desk. I have stacked folders for other things. However, I had a student create for me a "Turn in Here" folder. This answers the students' question of where do I turn this in. This folder has been with me for over a decade & is now laminated. It's the same exact one. I love it.

  8. It's so interesting. As a teacher who doesn't have "her own" classroom, I never thought of having a "turn-in" box/tray. I just collect all my students' work and keep each class's papers in a different folder. Or I color-code worksheets so my first class is green, second class blue, third pink, etc. I find that figuring out which papers belong to which students is a no-brainer this way. Could someone enlighten me on the benefits of a turn-in tray for assignments? ;)

    1. For me, it's an attempt to keep students from just laying assignments random places on my desk!

  9. Promoting college piece -- at my school we have something called "First Friday - Focus on the Future." On the first Friday of each month staff get to wear college gear (and they get to wear jeans if they participate; this is a huge treat for our staff so many do participate). We encourage staff and students to talk about colleges on these days. It's been fun to see not just students, but staff get excited when they find someone who went to (or is thinking about going) to their school. Later in the year, we invite the seniors to wear their college gear if they have been accepted and are attending a college. I also create a google spreadsheet where we informally track who wore what (school).