Oh, this little blog of mine has been woefully neglected lately. I think it's partly because I tend to put off writing a post until I have some grand idea with a billion artfully staged pictures. And then that never happens and then way too much time passes between blog posts. So a great idea that someone might like never even gets posted at all. Well, I'm hoping to change that a bit. I don't teach in a Pinterest-perfect classroom, so to hold off posting until it looks like I do is a little crazy, right?

I've actually been giving myself a lot of slack lately. In the past if something bubbled during lamination, was cut crooked, or wasn't "just so", I'd find myself re-doing it. I would laminate everything. Like EVERY. THING. It's like I was protecting all my classroom materials from some infectious disease. Ok, I know I work with little walking germ factories, but was the lamination going to save us from doom? Nope. Maybe everything didn't need a shrink wrap haz-mat suit after all. So if it's something I'm using once, like a scoot game, scavenger hunt, pocket chart activity, or bulletin board title, it gets a lamination pass. It feels a little naughty at first. A little wrong. You know what else it feels like?  It feels like freedom, people! It feels like time saved. It feels smart.  And I can definitely use my materials again next year, even without the lamination. But the way things change in this profession, I keep finding that I what I use from year to year changes anyway! {But that's a whole 'nother post}

I'm hoping from this point on to post a little more frequently. Maybe a little more imperfectly. Which may turn out to be a little more honestly. So, who wants to join me in celebration of imperfection? Let's just be real, right? <end rant/step off soapbox>

Moving on...

In the "just in the nick of time" category, I updated my free jack o'lantern glyph with a little writing extension and it came out so cute! We are paired up with a 5th grade class for book buddies. Once a month we meet, read a little, and usually complete some type of activity together. This month we used the glyph and it was perfect. The fifth graders helped my kids make the glyph and then guided them through writing a little Halloween autobiography.

At the time, we just wrote on index cards, which was fine. But then we ended up leaving our projects with our buddies to hang in their hallway, which bummed out my kids a little. Honestly, it bummed me out too because it had a naked bulletin board that was the perfect spot to hang them!

So, the next day, I had my kids make the glyph again. It was a much faster experience this time because they had a little practice. Just to change it up a little, I tweaked the objects on the glyph a bit and I added a writing extension page.  This time I had the kids switch glyphs and write about each other using the glyph as a guide. Then we mounted it on black paper. Super cute!

I know it's getting down to the wire for Halloween projects, but this is something that can easily be done in one day. Or in my case, once a day for two days! lol! Get the glyph with the writing extension for free here!

We also finished up our storybook pumpkin character based on Crazy Hair Day. I think he came out awesome! My room moms painted the pumpkin head and then each kid got a popsicle stick and some pipe cleaners, feathers, markers, and other random craft objects. Then the moms helped give the pumpkin some hair implants. One talented mom made the body for us. I love him!

We're almost at the end of Halloween week. Hang tight my friends and say a prayer of thankfulness that Halloween is on a FRIDAY! Yahoo!

If you follow me on Instagram, you've seen my orange board messages and I've promised a blog post about it forever - so here it is! A while ago I saw this little table top easel at Hobby Lobby and had to have it. I had no idea what I was going to do with it at the time, but I knew I had to have it. Needless to say, it sat unused for a few months until I had the "Bright Idea" to use it as a quick and easy way to welcome my kids to school!

Our kids line up in the hallway before school. We have books for them to read and they can chit chat while they're waiting to come in and now the orange board gives them something meaningful to discuss! They really look forward to it every day. I have forgotten to change the message twice so far this year, and man did I hear about it! I also have teachers and other kids stopping in to ask the answer, too! It's been a fun conversation starter.

Ok - here are the questions I get asked most often about the board:

Where/How do I display the board?
I tuck the legs into a plastic pocket that is mounted outside my classroom door. {We used to use it for attendance, but now there's no real use for it. Perfect for my Orange Board!}

What do I use to write on the board?
I use Bistro Liquid Chalk markers. You can see them here. I spray the board with Expo spray and wipe it down with paper towels and it's ready for the next day!

Where do I get the messages?
I usually Google "kids trivia", "fun facts for kids", "jokes for kids" and see what pops up. Now that I've been doing it for a while, I try to make the question relate to something we've learned about or discussed recently. 

When do I discuss the answer?
Well, I used to do it as they were walking in, but those first few minutes of the day are SO crazy. Now I keep them in suspense for a while! On the way back from lunch, we pause for a minute in front of the door and discuss the question. This also gives them some time to look it up if they want to before we talk about it as a class. It only takes a minute or two and they really look forward to it!

What do I call it?
Um, honestly, we call it "The Orange Board" lol! I intended to call it something really cute and fun, but I started calling it Orange Board and it just kind of stuck. Even now that I'm using the cute little owl board for October, we still call it The Orange Board!

It's brought a lot of fun discussion to our class. If you give it a try, let me know how it goes!

Check out all of the other bright ideas in the links below!
I was trying to create some math task cards for the month and I kept thinking about how I was going to have to  laminate and cut all of them before I could use them. Then I thought - well,  maybe I won't cut them apart. Then I took it a step further and and decided to make all of the questions on that card relate in some way... soon after that my Math Task Mats were born!

Each card has four tasks on it and all four tasks focus on the number or numbers in the circle. I also wanted these cards to reflect what I'm currently teaching or have already taught. We're just finishing number sense, place value, forms of number, and basic operations. In looking for centers for October, so many included skills I'm just not ready for them to work on independently yet, like time, money, and measurement. I was also very careful not to include any graphics that might make it questionable for you to use in your classroom, like ghosts or witches. The colors are definitely Halloweeny though, so they bring a touch of holiday fun to your room.

To introduce the activity, I showed the cards on Smartboard and we did a few together.

Then I set them free to explore the cards. I put two cards on each table and they roamed the room and worked on the various tasks while I circulated to assist as necessary. I overheard lots of great math talk and I loved hearing them try to explain the tasks to each other when someone needed a little clarification.
I also made very specific recording sheets, so if they had to write a set of related facts, the spaces were already there for them. Short answers had small boxes, longer answers had bigger spaces. I also included a full answer key. It makes it easier for you of course, but you can also use it to let the kids check their own work because it's in the same format as their recording sheets.

These cards have so many uses - they're great for a write the room type activity, but would be great in a small math group, as morning work, for your fast finishers, or even a formative assessment. You can use them as enrichment or remediation too, depending on the needs and level of your kids. For me, they were a great formative assessment. From this one activity, I was able to see that we totally know forms of numbers, fact families, and place value. Surprisingly, we need some review on tally marks (really??) and questions like "what is the sum of the digits in the circle."

The best part is that I printed them and had them in my kids' hands immediately. You can even skip the laminating and just slip them in a page protector. Honestly you can even leave them naked since the kids won't really be handling them all that much.

I've also completed a first grade version for October and I'm already working on next month's set and also standard specific versions, like money and time. I just fell in love with the concept and ease of implementation. I hope you will too!

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