Storage Cube Seating: My Experience

In the summer of 2011, I frequently roamed around Target. Not only did I enjoy their free air conditioning, but I also spent the time coveting the storage cubes that line the center aisle waiting to be snagged by college students. Since I get a lot of emails asking about them I figured it would be a good idea to write a review.

I NEEDED them for my small group area. But, at $17.00 a pop, it was hard to justify buying six of them for my small group teaching area when I had a surplus of chairs in my classroom. As I started to set up my classroom that year my desire to add the cubes increased. Ultimately I talked myself into buying them based on the fact that I hadn't spent much on my classroom that summer and instead had repurposed things I already owned.

Well, it's now 18 months later and they are starting to bite the dust. In the past month or so three of them have met their demise. There are two things to note: I teach 3rd grade so my students range in size from itty bitty to small adult.  Kids can't seem to sit in them and instead rock.

With that being said, I think 18 months is a pretty good lifespan. They've been used all day every day for 1 and 2/3 school years. I still prefer them to chairs because they allow me to fit 6 friends comfortably at my teaching table. Adults have sat in them for 2 years worth of parent teacher conferences. They provide a good amount of hidden storage (I love hidden storage). They are lightweight and very easy for a kid to move around the classroom. 

I bought these in the middle of the Milkcrate Seating Craze of 2011...which lingered into the summer of 2012. I debated making those. However, when I had my (then kindergarten) son sit on them they seemed too low to the ground. I imagined they would be way too short for 8/9 year olds. I also wasn't feeling all the crafty and didn't love the idea of constructing something. The milkcrates offer storage, but depending on what is inside they can looked cluttered. Finally, when I calculated the cost of materials and factored in time these were a no brainer for me.

Am I thrilled that they are creaking, caving in and meeting the dumpster one by one? Obviously not. Will I replace them next year with another pricey trip to Target? Most likely.

I would love to hear from anyone else who has bought these and/or used the milkcrate seating.  Leave a comment and share your experience.

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What If You Had Animal Teeth: A Book Recommendation

One of my little sweeties bought What If You Had Animal Teeth? by Sandra Markle at the school book fair for our classroom. And the kids go NUTS for it. It is currently the most popular book in our class library. It's a really neat book that combines photos, illustrations and facts about animals. I like that you can pick it up and read just a page or the entire book. It's a great option when you have a few random minutes to fill.

The book would also be good for teaching the trait of Organization. The left page features an animal and includes full color photos and facts about the animals teeth. The right page has an illustration of a child with the teeth of that animal and additional facts.

I will be making this book available when we work on our animal research projects. It's currently available from Amazon at a really great price with free Prime shipping.  It's a new book, but since it is from Scholastic you may be able to get it with bonus points (click here to see how to increase your Scholastic orders).

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Easy Way to Create a Bulletin Board Title

This week I've been sharing all of the games, projects and activities that I did with my third graders during Math Workshop while we were learning about 2D Geometry. Today I want to focus on how I displayed the cover of The Greedy Triangle to create a colorful bulletin board title in no time without damaging the book.

I simple took the book jacket off and slid paperclips over each of the four corners. Next, I used pushpins to secure the jacket to the board by putting them into the board through the paperclip. 

Because I love to have my students complete writing projects that are inspired by books, this is a great way to let passersby know what the display is all about without needing to cut and hang a bunch of letters to form a title.

Check out some of my book-inspired writing projects and bulletin boards:

A Bad Case of the Stripes
It's OK To Be Different
Owl Moon
The Thankful Book
Diary of a _____ (Worm, Spider, Fly)
Charlotte's Web

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2D Geometry Hands-On Polygons {Common Core Math Activities}

This week I've been detailing the lessons and activities from my 2D Geometry Bundle that I recently did with my class. Today I want to show you some of the hands-on activities I created to keep them engaged. These activities are available as a 3 Product Packet or as part of the 100+ page cost-saving Bundle.

{Click to access and download my 2D Geometry Bundle 

I had my students work with a partner to complete the Polygon Collage activity. I provided each of my friends with a blank frame to create their collage (the packet includes 3 different styles to select from) and a single die to share. One child would roll the number cube, look at the guide and pick up the corresponding pattern block. The partners then needed to discuss the attributes of the block and then trace it onto their mat using a pencil. 
If you are concerned your students will rush through the discussion to get to the drawing, you may opt to challenge them to “have the last word.” To do so tell them that the person who rolls makes the first statement about the block (i.e. It is a trapezoid). Next the partner makes a single statement (i.e It has four sides). Then the original student makes another statement (i.e. There are 4 vertices). They should go back and forth like this until there is nothing left to discuss. Make their goal be to be the last one to think of something to say about it’s attribute. This added bit of “competition” can often motivate them to really get their minds going.

When they were tracing the figures, they were encouraged to overlap the shapes. This provides a really nice look to the collage. Afterwards each student traced their pencil outlines in black marker and colored in the sections in bold colors to create a collage. I later had them “show what they know” about polygons using words.  I was able to get a good sense of their understanding of polygons through their writing. 

I paired their writing with their collage and mounted them onto varied colors of construction paper. I used the writing paper from my packet (the packet includes 5 different versions of the writing paper) and had them color the polygons around the edge to give it some extra flair.  I’m so proud of their finished products and have stashed them away to display at our Spring Open House in a few months.

I used popsicle sticks for the Build a Polygon center in my classroom, but any of the following would work as well: unsharpened pencils, pipe cleaners, toothpicks, etc. I copied the building guide onto colored paper and folded it over to form a table tent at the center. Students used the hands-on manipulatives to construct various polygons.  They then drew them onto paper and labeled the diagram with details about the shape. 
We used the Polygon Sort activity to provide an opportunity for students to demonstrate their understanding of the attributes of a polygon. I had my friends make notes about the figures on each of the cards before cutting them out. Some chose to color the shapes in.  Next I had them prepare their sorting foldables and place the cards into the correct pocket. To differentiate you could have them simply sort the cards into the two pockets or have them write full explanations of why the shape is or is not a polygon.

{Click to access and download my 2D Geometry Bundle 

or the 3 Product Hands-On Packet Featured in this post}

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2D Geometry Games {Common Core Math Activities}

 My school is very focused on improving our students' math vocabulary. When I created my 2D Geometry Unit I strived to create activities that would provide ample opportunities for the students to practice and use the related vocabulary words throughout our daily Math Workshop

During my small group instruction time I introduced the a game called, "Pick a Polygon." I printed out 2 sets of figure cards (you could use one, but I doubled it because I was using it with a small group instead of the usual 2-4 players). I then decorated a bag label and placed the cards inside. 

Pick a Polygon is a great game for increasing the use of math vocabulary. I had small groups of students join me to play. I placed all of the cards into a paper bag (you can also use a bowl, Pringles can, or box). The students took turns drawing a card and showing it to the group. 

If the card was a polygon they kept  it. I asked them questions about the number of sides, vertices, and angles. Before moving on, I engaged the group in discussions about the figure on the card.  I had some students determine if there were parallel or perpendicular lines. I had others talk about right, acute and obtuse angles. Sometimes I asked them to prove it was a polygon.

If the card was not a polygon they explained why, kept that card out of the bag and returned all of their previous;y drawn cards to the bag. This was a fun activity that provided me with a chance to informally assess their knowledge and allowed the students to learn from each other while they played. I was thrilled with the language they were using to talk about the figures. The repeated exposure to the cards really provided a fun way for them to reinforce both the vocabulary and the criteria for polygons.

After that Math Workshop I added it to future workshops as a game for them to play without my direct supervision.  As I listened in I noted that they continued to use lots of vocabulary when playing on their own.

{Click to access and download the 2D Geometry 13 Product Bundle

I also created a Geometry Trivia Game called, "The Polygon Trail." The Polygon Trail is a game designed to get kids thinking and talking about polygons. I had an adult stay at this station during Math Workshop and facilitate the game. We broke the math group into two teams and had them place a marker (we used unifix cubes) onto the starting square and select one of the cards. The teachers shuffled the cards and placed them face down on the table. The two teams took turns drawing a card. Each card contains “trivia” quaestions about polygons and informs the players how many spaces to move. The cards include images of polygons that the students are asked to name as well as questions such as, “How many sides are on an octagon?” and “What do we call a polygon with 5 sides?”  This was a fun way to reinforce the skills we had been focused on and also provided a wonderful opportunity to informally assess student knowledge.

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Polygons With Personality {A Common Core Math Project}

This ended up being one of those lessons that I’ll be giddy about doing every year.  It was the perfect blend of academics and craftiness. It rolled math vocabulary and concepts, character traits, writing skills and cutting and pasting all into one.

We’ve been working with polygons during Math Workshop using all of the games, activities and printables in my 13 Product 2D Geometry Bundle throughout the week so the students were familiar with the language and attributes. However, this activity would also be a great introduction to the unit as it has them looking at the attributes of various polygons.

{click to access and download Polygons with Personality}

I began by reviewing what character traits are. We discussed how they are based on what someone says or does and not on appearance. I revealed a chart that included columns headed with the letters T, S, P, H, O, R and together we listed one character trait that began with each of those letters. I told them that I picked those letters for a reason, but wouldn’t tell them why until later in the day. Their excitement and interest level grew with curiosity.  

I gave them each a copy of the printable and challenged them to list 25 character traits that began with those letters in 15 minutes. I was amazed by their word choices (punctual, reluctant, rambunctious, sophisticated, etc). We came together as a class and compiled the individual ideas into an anchor chart. We talked about the words and their meanings as I added them to the list.  

I printed the polygon printables from my geometry packet onto plain paper and used the photocopier to make 3 of each in an assortment of colors using construction paper. I passed them out to my students along with a graphic organizer.  They used the graphic organizer to list their shapes attributes along with places the shape can be found (i.e. a triangle can be a sail on a boat, a slice of pizza, etc). I opted to do this prior to reading the story because I wanted them to generate their own ideas and not just record the ones from the book.  Using the graphic organizer and the story frame each of my friends composed two paragraphs.

After lunch I read, The Greedy Triangle by Marilyn Burns. I had cut 10 strips of paper and attached them to each other using metal brads. At the start of the story I held 3 of them with the others folded in the back to form a triangle. As the story progressed and the triangle turned into a quadrilateral and then a pentagon and then a hexagon, etc I revealed another side to form the new shape. 
 Afterwards we discussed why he was greedy and used details from the text to support that character trait. I then began gluing the polygon images from my packet onto our chart of words directly over the letters that were originally heading the columns. After a quick minilesson on alliteration (score another point for embedding state test review), each of my friends selected a character trait that began with the same letter as the polygon they had been writing about. They composed the final part of their writing piece by citing fictional actions to support the trait they selected.

The final (and crowd favorite) part of the project was bringing their shapes to life by adding eyes, mouths and other components.
{Click here to access & download the 2D Geometry Bundle}

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Peek into Other Classrooms: How Teachers Are Storing Their Math Materials

Here are a few pictures to go with this week's Clutter-Free Classroom Project Challenge: Organizing Your Math Manipulatives.  I always love seeing what other teachers are doing in their classrooms.

Math Centers and Games

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2D Geometry: Activities & Resources Aligned with the Common Core {1.G.1, 1.G.2, 2.G.1, 3.G.1}

I had an absolute blast teaching 2D Geometry to my third graders recently. It's a concept that lends itself to lots of hands on and creative projects. I was really impressed with how quickly they demonstrated proficiency in the Common Core standards, but also a bit bummed because I would have happily continued on with this for a lot longer. Alas, we are on to fractions (which is equally fun...corny pun intended).

To spice up the usual routines, I created a collection of materials, games, writing projects and craftivities. I'll be writing separate blog posts to showcase them throughout the week, but they are all listed in the table of contents below. 

This product includes games and activities that are quick and easy to prepare.

geometry 1.G.1 1.G.2 2.G.1 3.G.1 Common Core Math Polygons Shapes hands-on games activities crafts lessons resources materials printables

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