August 2017 - The Classroom Nook


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Dealing With Overwhelm in Teaching (3 Actionable Strategies)

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What happens to you when you get overwhelmed?  For me - my head goes into a tail-spin as I think about everything that has to get done before a specific date or before a specific project can get complete.  For teachers, you might feel overwhelmed most at the beginning of the school year (setting up your classroom, prepping for the first day of school, open house) or during state testing time, trying to cram in any extra information you want your students to get before they're asked it on the test.  Chances are you go through several cycles of overwhelm throughout the course of the year.

It's just the nature of the job, right?

Today I want to share with you 3 actionable solutions to help stop overwhelm in its tracks before it takes over your life.  Let's get to it.

Using a Personal Pie Chart to Visualize Fractions {FREEBIE}

visualizing fractions with a pie chart

Today's post is provided by, an educational website that provides teachers and parents with tools and resources to support their child's learning growth.


Make a Personal Pie Chart

For many kids, the best way to learn about fractions is to represent them visually. Visual learners in particular can get bogged down by multi-step word problems. This activity will help your students tackle those tricky fraction word problems by way of a hands-on method.

What You Need:

  • Construction paper
  • Piece of cardboard
  • Scissors
  • Compass or large tin can for tracing
  • Several Index cards
  • Pencil or pen

What You Do:

Prep for this game by making the playing cards. On each index card, write out a fraction word problem. These are pretty easy to write once you get the hang of it. Here are four to start with:

(Note: Start playing this game with eight as the constant denominator. You can change this up as your students gets the hang of it.)

  1. Theresa baked an apple pie and cut it into eight pieces. She ate one, and gave one to John. What is the fraction of the remaining pie?
  2. Peter has eight pieces of candy. He gave Julie three, Tracy three and Dan one. What is the fraction of the candy that he gave away?
  3. Natasha bought eight cookies. She gave two to her brother, two to her dad, and two to her mom. What is the fraction for the number of cookies she has left?
  4. Rose has eight baseball cards. She gave two to Tom and two to Michael. How many cards did she give away?

Now, have your students make his/her own personal pie chart. Use a compass or trace a large coffee can (or similar size object) on a piece of colored construction paper. Cut it out. This will be your base.

Repeat this step with a piece of white paper.  Evenly divide the circle into eight pieces, or wedges. You might have students fold the circle in half 4 times to help them create even sections.  Now, have your students color each of the eight pieces and cut them out.  Alternatively, you can download these FREE pie chart templates that have pie charts and wedges up to eighths!

Review fractions with your students using the pie chart base and wedge pieces. Be sure students have the basic understanding of numerators and denominators.   Have students manipulate the pie wedges to create different fractions of the whole pie.  This will help students visualize the fraction.

Give your students a couple of practice runs using their personal pie charts.  As a whole class, with a partner, or as individuals, ask them to use their charts to show 1/2, 2/8, 3/8, 7/8.  Students will place the appropriate number of pie wedges on their pie chart base to represent the fractions.  For example, if you give your students the fraction 1/2, they will need to place 4 wedges on their pie chart to cover up half of the chart.  Make sure that they understand that it takes 4/8 to cover up half of the pie chart.

Once students have the basic understanding of using a pie chart to visually represent fractions, extend their learning by play a game with their personal pie chart!  You can do this together as a whole class, or have students work in partners.  

To play:  Draw from the pile of playing cards (the index cards with the word problems), challenge the students to solve the word problem and show their answer on their personal pie charts using the pie wedges. You may need to do the first few together. Take turns drawing cards, and, as your students gets more comfortable, set up a point system for every correct answer.

After your students have mastered denominators of eight, create new wedges for the personal pie chart as well as new playing cards using other denominators. This will help students to see that one whole can be broken up into 6 even pieces, 4 even pieces, 3 even pieces...etc...

You might even begin to have your students use their personal pie chart to show equivalent fractions.  For example, if you want to show your students that 4/8 = 2/4, you can place 2 pie charts side by side, one chart using a set of eighth wedges and one chart using a set of fourth wedges. Students will see that it takes 4 of the 8 wedges to cover half of their pie chart and 2 of the 4 wedges to cover the half of the other pie chart.  (see left)

This activity can even lend itself into a discussion on comparing fractions.  Students will easily be able to see that 1/8 is smaller than 1/4.  Use this pie chart throughout your entire fraction unit to help students keep a solid visual in their mind whenever you discuss a new fraction concept.  The possibilities for using these pie charts during instruction and as a game resource are endless!



Making your Bulletin Boards Work for YOU: 3 Ways to Get More Out of Your Bulletin Boards

You don't have to convince me - pretty bulletin boards are my JAM!

I would spend HOURS on just one bulletin board.   I obsessed over every detail - I would even get almost all the way done - have a new inspiration and pull it all down and start all over again.  When I was done I'd sit back and pat myself on the back for a job well done.  Then, I would wait for the "ooos and the ahhhs" that would follow from fellow teachers as they passed by my classroom.

::::insert mic drop here::::

But - all that fame went to my head -  And I eventually fell from cloud nine.

I remember one year, I had made a particularly beautiful display (ps - I'm not really this big-headed in real life - I'm just doing it for the effect😁) - and I made a reference to something on a bulletin board that had been up in our classroom for weeks - when a student then responded with "what bulletin board?"

::::picks mic back up::::

It hurt.


But - I had an eye-opening moment about the purpose of my bulletin boards.  Up until then - I was really doing the bulletin boards for me - and not for the benefit of my students.  (Ok- be honest - what have YOU done in your classroom for the purpose of impressing yourself or other adults in your building, and not for the purpose of student learning?  We all have SOMETHING!)
using bulletin boards in the classroom

Does this all sound familiar?  If so, I want to give you some suggestions for how to get MORE out of your bulletin boards so that they aren't just some pretty display in the back corner of your classroom.

Check these out!


Tips and Tools for Successful Co-Teaching

The year I taught in an integrated classroom was, to say the least, eye-opening.  It was both my worst year teaching, AND the year I learned the most about myself as a teacher.

I was the general education teacher in a classroom of 23 students along side one special education teacher...and together we were damage control.  Academically our students were low - but behaviorally, they were lower.  On the very first day of school when one of our students caused a fight in the bus loop - I knew we were in for a very, very long year.

I paint a pretty picture, don't I?

Well, in efforts to be completely transparent about my experiences, I wanted to give you the full story.  You can read even more about this year in my teaching career, and how I survived it, HERE.

But, despite the challenges that that year in an integrated classroom brought me, I learned a lot.  I learned to be more patient with the students (sometimes), I learned to be more compassionate toward the students that were the hardest to love, and I learned that I had a LOT to learn. 

I also learned how to share my classroom with another teacher.

Whether you job-share, work along-side another teacher in your classroom, or even work closely with your grade-level team members, successful co-teaching requires you to be intentional and specific.

Here are some tips that I'd like to pass on to you:

Creating a Student Reader's Notebook (VIDEO)

I'm not sure if you know this about me - but - I love all things organization.

That's not a unique quality for teachers, I know.  We love our organizational bins and folders!

I'm always looking for ways that I can systematize just about everything in my life.  I like processes, systems, and checklists to help me stay on top of my life.  (Just check out this post on how I use google calendar to organize my life, and you'll see what I mean!)

Does my life always run smoothly - of course not (I have a three-year old daughter, after all!).  However, I know that my day will run smoother if I have an order and structure to it.

Our students need structure and systems, too.  Each year I that I taught, I was always tweaking my organization systems, looking for better ways to create better order in my classroom.  One organizational tool that I really loved was my students' reader's notebook.

Before using reader's notebooks, I was swimming in a sea of student reading logs, reading responses, post-it notes, and other reading-related activities from my students.  Once I implemented, the reader's notebook system, I had ONE place to keep all of my students' reading materials.  It was a sanity saver.

The reader's notebook put my organization-lovin' heart at peace - and it just might do the same for you!

In this post you'll learn:

  • what a reader's notebook is
  • what goes in to a reader's notebook (VIDEO TUTORIAL ALERT!)
  • how to use reader's notebooks effectively in your classroom
  • how my students benefited from having a reader's notebook
Let's get started!

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