Archive | September, 2013

Integer Practice with Dice and Spinners

13 Sep

When I gave my PreAlgebra pretest this year several of my students said “We never learned negatives!” My heart sank. I replied “You didn’t do integers last year,” and of course I got the response “What’s an integer??” Dismay! Despair! Dread! We all know kids struggle with integers and here I was learning they’d not even been exposed to them. I decided this is where I had to start. I spent a few days going over the rules and giving notes and doing problems as a class. I feel like I worksheeted the kids to death. For a review of all the operations before a quiz I wanted to do something different than just giving the students a worksheet full of problems. So I came up with a fill-in the blank worksheet. Students worked in pairs and I gave each pair a die, spinner, and a paperclip. Each student received a worksheet. Then I gave them time to work through the sheet. It worked really well, and I was able to check students’ work as they went. They all got a variety of problems, and several students said they enjoyed creating problems this way.

Supplies for the Activity

Supplies for the Activity


I plan on using the spinners and dice again. This could work with fill in the blank fraction sheets, or fill in the blank equations. It’s nice because it doesn’t give the students too big of numbers to deal with. If you wanted them to have larger numbers you could have them roll two dice at once to create a two-digit number. You could also use this activity as a center.


How the spinner works…

I hate making my own spinners. They never work quite right, and sometimes those brass fasteners are hard to find! So now I just use paperclips. I give the kids one and have them set the paperclip in the middle, then put their pencil down in the center and spin the paperclip. Works brilliantly, and it’s sooo much easier.20130912_142007

Feeling generous… Integer worksheet and spinner template for FREE on TpT:



Introduction Centers

7 Sep

Before I start explaining my centers I want to share a little background about my teaching situation this year. In my previous 6 years of teaching I’ve been at a large public school where there were many other math teachers to collaborate with. I also was able to talk with the teachers that taught my students the previous year. This had tremendous advantages. I also knew what the teacher did with the students in terms of curriculum or group work. This year I am the ONLY middle school math teacher in my building. I’m teaching 6th, 7th, PreAl, and Algebra. The teacher that taught math previous years was not asked to return. I feel so lost about my students! I don’t know what their previous math experience has been like, and I don’t know where their strengths and weaknesses lie. It’s definitely a learning experience for me.

Because I do feel so lost about what my students know and have done before I first wanted to see how well they worked in groups. I also want to start training my students how to do centers early, because I feel like I’m going to need to do a lot of differentiating with so many different levels of ability. Also centers take a lot of work to set up so I wanted to use one that would work in all of my classes. I decided to just do basic skills review. I thought this would be good for the students and also help me to see where there may be some gaps. Since it is the first time we’re doing centers I created three centers and we rotated about every 7-8 minutes.

For My Basic Center Set-up check out this post:

I will tell you I got new tubs this year so my pictures might look a little different. 🙂 (The dollar section at Target can’t be beat!!)

Here’s my Introductory Centers!!

Center 1: Go FishDSCF8772

I use Go Fish cards in centers a lot. You can create them in Excel and then print multiple copies (just like regular playing cards have four 2’s, your cards can have four 0.5’s). I also like to take out some aggression using the giant paper cutter in the teachers’ workroom.

This center I did Fraction/Decimal Go Fish. Students have to get a pair containing one decimal and one fraction. I used very common/basic equivalent fractions and decimals. I printed the cards on cardstock and then cut them out. I also typed up an instruction page on cardstock and put that in a page protector.


Center 2: Amazin’ Activity –

DSCF8777This center has a gameboard, gamepieces, dice, cards, and an answer key. I used this game for the cards. I cut off the celebrations at the bottom. I love this because it comes with an answer key. Thanks Big Ideas!! Oh yeah, did I mention it was free and I didn’t have to create it?? Awesome.

In the tub I put the gameboard I created on Word, some random game pieces, one die, the game cards, answer key, instructions, and a whiteboard and marker. This is for the player who’s turn it is to work out the problems.

For the word gameboard you’ll need to print both pages and then line up the blue lines, cut one so you can match them up to create one large rectangular board.

A note about the gameboard: By now you might be thinking, I don’t have time to do all this for centers!!! Well I will not lie, it does take some time to set up. However, I plan on using the gameboard and instructions for the game many times throughout the year. The only thing I’m going to change are the question cards. You can easily make question cards by cutting up a worksheet full of problems, or if you have exam view use that! The kids really do appreciate it.


Center 3 – Puzzle Time

DSCF8779This center I did a very simple Tarsia puzzle. (Again see my post on Centers for a free download of this awesome software!!) Students had to fill in the blank to find the correct answer and solve the puzzle. This is a great intro to solving equations as well.

Since I’m feeling generous I’m going to post all of this on Teachers Pay Teachers for free!!! As soon as this happens I’ll post the link in the comments section below.

I think the kids did a great job with their first center day. They really enjoyed the games and also asked some really great questions. I’m hoping to build their confidence in math and show them that it can be fun!


I hope you’ll try to incorporate centers into your classroom as well. It does take a lot of work, but all great things do. 🙂

Classroom Organization

3 Sep

Today I want to share some of the ways I’ve set up my classroom. This year I started at a new school and got the chance to set-up my classroom from scratch. The only problem was that my new classroom is the former computer lab. It’s a very narrow room, and is not really meant for large group instruction. So I had to set it up in a way that allows for maximum efficiency. Here are some of the things I setup.

Supply Pouches


Supply Pouches hanging on a bulletin board.

The first thing that I did was setup a bulletin board for supplies. One of the things I hate is taking up class time to pass out supplies. I also hate having to collect them, and make sure I get all the supplies back. So I spent some money to setup my supply-pouch system. Overall it’s not super expensive per pouch, and you might be able to use things you already have. I got 24 pencil pouches in assorted colors. Then I painted the numbers 1-24 on each pouch. You would need a pencil pouch for each student in your largest class. Then I filled the pouches with a ruler, dry-erase marker, dry-erase eraser, scissors, protractor, compass, and glue stick. I also wrote a number on each of these to match the bag that the supply is in. That way if you or a student finds one on the floor, they know where it goes. Then at the beginning of the year I assign each student a number. Usually I go by alphabetical order. Then if we need supplies I will have students get their own pouch when they come into the room, or call them up 8 at a time to get their pouches. I like this system because you know who’s not gotten their pouch, or who hasn’t turned theirs’ in yet. You also know who breaks something or accidentally takes something. I’ve found this system to be really efficient, and it’s a nice way to use a bulletin board as storage. I just put up push pins and hang the pouches on the push pins. The kids seem to really enjoy using the pouches too. It’s like a special treat for them.


Pouch 16 with all the numbered supplies that are inside.

Student Selection

This year I’m trying something new with number cards. I know several teachers use popsicle sticks to select students for various things. Being that I do teach math I use number cards. I started by making two sets of number cards with the numbers 1-20. (I used 1-20 because 20 is the size of my largest class. I know I’m very lucky). I made the odd numbers blue and the even numbers red. This was for two reasons. First of all this allows me to easily tell 6 and 9 apart. Also this helps with my littler ones learning their odds and evens. I drew the numbers on graph paper and then laminated them since I’ll be using them frequently.


Laminated number cards.

Since I’ve already assigned students a number for their pouch, I use that same number. Then if I need to randomly select a student I will shuffle the cards and draw one. I also use it for randomly choosing groups, and seating charts.

This year I also used the numbers on the first day of school. Instead of the students coming in and just sitting at a random seat, or me putting their names on the desks, I taped a number to the desk and then handed each student a number card as they walked in. That way the knew where to sit and it was a nice way to a make sure I greeted every student. Also the numbers on the desk helped me to quickly put students in alphabetical order in a seating chart.


Number cards taped on the corners of the desks.

Lost and Found


Lost and Found bucket and Absent Work Folder

Since I teach middle school, I have students coming in and out of my room all day. And of course they are constantly leaving things. I’m really not a fan of students always saying “I found this book, what should I do with it?” Or when they interrupt my lesson to ask if they left their binder. So I always make sure I have somewhere for a lost and found. Again I have limited space this year so here’s my lost and found bucket.

Absent Work Folder

This is one of my favorite organizational things in my room. The absent folder. You’ll see it on the wall above my lost and found bucket. I got a vertical accordion file folder. I cut off the lid/flap and then mounted it on the wall. I labeled the folders with the days of the week. If a student misses Monday, I write their name on any handouts or worksheets from Monday and put it in the Monday slot. Then they know to check it when they return. It’s also great if a parent shows up asking for work. I know exactly where to look. I try to make a habit of putting absent work in the folder when I’m passing out papers to the students that are in class. I’ve tried a few different systems, but I find this one to be really great for middle school.

Bellwork Board

A lot of teachers always put bellwork up when students enter. Or maybe a Daily Warm Up or something similar. I like to put up directions. Students know that when they first enter my room they are to look at the whiteboard under their class name to find out what they should be doing. You’ll see some examples of the directions in the picture below, but here are some examples of the directions I’ve put up during the year.

  • Clear off your desk except for a pencil and a calculator (Test or Quiz Day instructions)
  • Get your supply pouch and a white board.
  • Turn your homework into the tray.
  • Get started on the problems shown on the board.
  • Get out your homework for a check.

Generally I will have several instructions written. Students are expected to follow the directions and have them all done by the time I start class by saying “Good Morning” or “Good afternoon” I’ve found this to be a great system, and it’s easy to train the students to always follow directions on the board.

ImageI hope you find these helpful. It’s never too late to organize your classroom!