What Turning 40 Has Taught Me (and How it Relates to Teaching)

So, I recently turned 4 tens.  That's teacher speak for "the big 4-0."  Now that I'm older, I'm feeling wiser.  So, I thought I'd impart some of my old wisdom on you.

I'll be the first to admit that turning 40 doesn't automatically make you wiser.  I still have the sense of humor of a 12 year old and I love Hello Kitty. I hate balancing my checkbook, and I'd much rather watch TV than hold a philosophical conversation about anything philosophical.

But, turning 40 has helped me realize that in my lifetime I have evolved and grown over time to become the person that I am today.  I've learned to have the confidence to say what I have to say, to keep it real, and trust my gut.  I've come to embrace the fact that I am different and I do things differently.  I know when to shake things off and just get stuff done.  I've come to terms with the notion that there is no shame in admitting when I'm wrong, asking for help when I need it, and generally just being a real person with real emotions.  And, if you think about it, these are all qualities that relate to our daily life in the classroom.  That is, these qualities go hand in hand with teaching. This post addresses a few of these qualities, and I hope that my thoughts resonate with you.

The following is purely a reflection of my thoughts and opinions, and yep, I can be a bit sarcastic and witty at times.  OK, sassy.  But, I hope you'll read anyway as my goal here is to remind you of how awesome you are and motivate you to continue to be the amazing teacher that you are.  

Say What You Gotta Say
I once had a principal who told the staff that I was a quiet person (he didn't know me on a personal level, so he didn't realize just how inaccurate this statement was).  But, he went on to say that if you asked me a question, you'd get an honest answer.  He wasn't wrong about that.  If you have something to say, say it.  You are a professional, don't undervalue your opinions, views, or intelligence.  Doing so doesn't make you a rogue teacher who refuses to be a part of the team. It means you're a teacher who is brave enough to speak his/her mind.  As Todd Parr's book says, it's OK to be different.  Don't be afraid to share your thoughts and ideas.

I'd be remiss if I didn't remind you to make sure the timing is right of course.  Please don't go running through the halls like a mad person spewing off your thoughts to random people as you encounter them.  This scares people.

But, when you're at meetings, having conversations, etc. say what you feel needs to be said.  Back it up with evidence, experiences, and so on.  And, don't apologize for how you feel because someone makes you feel silly for sharing your thoughts.  When other people devalue your opinion, that is a reflection of them, not you.

It's OK to be Negative Sometimes
Yep, you heard me.  It's called keeping it real.  No, I won't smile when you add one more duty or assignment to my plate.  I'll do it, but I won't smile and thank you for it.  And, I won't pretend that I'm over the moon when I find yet another new student slip in my box (thirty minutes before the bell rings) and I'm literally running out of floor space in my ridiculously undersized classroom. In a nutshell, I won't pretend everything is hunky dory when it isn't.  That's just weird, and unnatural.

My point is, you can't be positive all the time. In fact, I don't trust anyone who is.  Keep it real, friends.

It's OK to have a bad day, to be tired, or to be upset about something.  You are human, own it.  Just because you're having an off day doesn't mean you are any less of a teacher.  It doesn't mean that you will be an awful teacher that day. Nor does it mean that you will treat other people poorly that day. It just means that you're owning your feelings at that moment.  We're human.  It's OK (and natural) to have feelings. 

Just remember to be the professional that you are. Put on your big girl (or boy) pants and do what you do best: teach like a boss, support your students, and make their time at school as positive as you can.  Place those emotions where they need to go and be the teacher that your kids need you to be.  You know you already do.  You're awesome like that.

Teach Like a Boss
Let's take a moment to expand upon that comment above.  Let's just make one thing clear.  You ARE a teacher boss.  Don't believe me?  Check out this list.

You might be a teacher boss if:
  • You work your tail off to make sure that your students have the best learning experiences possible, given whatever situation/environment you are in.
  • You don't always stick to the plan.  When you see a teachable moment, you seize the opportunity.
  • You do your job despite all the odds and naysayers (and in your heart of hearts you truly believe that what you do matters -  and it totally does, by the way).
  • You hustle all day long and you're darn good at it.
  • You deal with constant interruptions, snafus, and other untimely annoyances, but you still get the job done (done well, I might add).
  • You shake it off and get it done.  Whatever "it" is, you push on knowing that you don't have time to let "it" bring you down.  You have a class of kids depending on you!

We have an important job.  There is too much at stake to allow everyone and everything else to get in the way of our main objective.  So, close that classroom door and teach on.  Give your students what you know they need. Get creative and use the system to your advantage. Do whatever it takes to teach those kids. Because, that's what a teacher boss does.

It's OK
Don't use flexible seating?  Don't have one to one iPads?  Don't use interactive notebooks or implement regular STEM experiences?  I could go on here.  Well, take a deep breath.  It's OK!

I (literally) don't have room for large tables, stools, or balls in my classroom, so my students have to deal with sitting in actual chairs.  I don't have iPads.  As in, I do not have any at all. And while STEM intrigues me, and I really, really want to learn more about it, I don't technically know what it is or how it is intended to be implemented in the classroom since I've never received any formal training on the topic. And, guess what?  It doesn't make me any less of a teacher knowing that some of the things I see in other classrooms aren't taking place in my own.  Nor do I feel bad that they aren't taking place in my classroom.

Please know that I don't judge those who use these things in their classrooms, nor do I devalue them.  They are merely examples to prove a point.  And, STEM is totally on my "Things to Research" list for the summer.

What I'm saying is, it's OK if you don't jump on every bandwagon or trend that you see.  It's OK that you don't have the same resources that others might have.  It's OK if your teaching style is different than the teacher next door.  And, it's OK if you don't always know about the latest and greatest because most likely you are giving your students a myriad of meaningful learning experiences every single day.  In your students' eyes you are an amazing teacher who makes learning fun and memorable. So, keep it up!

Final Note
The bottom line is, teaching is hard.  It's multifaceted, messy, and complicated.  So, remember that it's OK to experience less than pleasant emotions, and it's OK to speak your mind.  Keep it real, but be the boss that you are and teach your heart out.

I hope my old person wisdom resonated with you today.  ;)  Now, go be awesome.


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April Round Up

April is just around the corner.  Can you believe it?  How is time flying by so quickly? 

Well, if you are in the market for some fun activities for the month of April, you've come to the right place!

When I think of April, I think of spring and all things earthy.  Did you know that Arbor Day takes place in April?  Celebrating the importance of trees ties in perfectly with Earth Day, which also takes place in April!

This quick and easy bulletin board idea would be a great extension activity when learning about Arbor Day (or Earth Day).

This craft can be assembled using only two pieces and the students write directly on the craft, talk about easy peasy!  You could have your students write a cinquain, list poem (that's what the sample shows), or an acrostic poem.  Don't forget, April is also poetry month!    

You can grab the templates for this quick and easy craft HERE.

I love directed drawings.  A lot.  I try to do at least one or two a month. It's a great way to help students develop confidence in their drawing skills, and it's also a great way to work on those listening and reasoning skills. And even though everyone is following the same directions, the drawings always come out different and unique.

This month, we'll be drawing some butterflies.  It just wouldn't be spring without butterflies!  This drawing would be a great way to incorporate some art into a butterfly life cycle unit too.

When the drawing part is done, you can let your students dress up their drawings with watercolors, oil pastels, crayons, or whatever!  The example shown above was done using watercolor.  You could encourage your students to paint a scenic background, or let them choose one solid color.  They are the artists, let them decide!

You can grab the directions for this drawing HERE.

I don't know that I could go through the month of April without covering Earth Day.  It's a great way to remind the students of ways that they can help take care of our planet.  I've used this mini book the past few years to introduce Earth Day.  I love that it's interactive and tasks the students with responding in a variety of ways.

After reading various books about Earth Day and learning about ways to take care of our our planet, I love playing a game of I Spy where the students evaluate the sentences printed on each card.  This version gives the students practice with critical thinking as they determine whether a sentence is fact or opinion.  I love that I Spy engages students and gets them moving around while they learn. You can read more about I Spy here.

One of my favorite things to do with Earth Day is to take my students on a nature walk.  What better way to gain an appreciation of nature than to spend some time out in nature.  It's like a mini field trip.  Hehe.  Seriously though, the kids always love this. Any time they get to head outdoors, they are happy campers.  This little journal is fun way to keep them focused as we explore the outdoors.

You can find these, and other activities in my Earth Day unit on TPT.  

I'm a huge fan of class books.  We make them all.the.time. in my classroom.  My class recently made a class book with a twist. What's that you ask?  It's a super cute class coloring book!

Each student created a page to be included. 

I made each student a copy of the coloring book and sent it home for them to color over Spring Break (but, you could send it home any time you want, of course).

We made these back in November too and they were a hit!  You can read all about it HERE.

You can grab the templates to make your very own class coloring book HERE (you can also use these templates to make a traditional class book).

I truly hope you were able to use an idea or two today.  Thanks for stopping by! 


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Addition & Subtraction with Regrouping {Ideas & Activities}

Looking for some ideas and activities to practice addition and subtraction with regrouping?  Well, you have come to the right place!  

Let's be honest, worksheets filled with two or three-digit addition and subtraction problems are boring.  Yes, there is a time and a place for these resources, but why not spice up your classroom practice with some hands-on fun?

But first, a word about strategies.  When working with two or three-digit addition or subtraction, I believe that students should be exposed to a variety of problem solving strategies. What works best for one learner might not work best for another, and I tell my students this. 

Once I introduce a new strategy, I like my kids to practice it independently so that they can decide whether that method works best for them.  So, after teaching and modeling a strategy, I let my students give it a go.  One easy way to do this is with the use of task cards.

I recently introduced the open number line strategy,  After modeling this strategy, my students used task cards to practice it at their own pace.  I simply took the task cards off their rings and set them at each table group where the students shared the stack of cards.

This easy idea will work for use with any strategy you might teach.  Here's an example of this using some Scoot cards (which are basically a type of task card) to practice the partial sums strategy.

Ahead of time, I folded some copy paper into thirds and the students used their crayons to draw lines along the folds. This helps them to see the designated space for each problem more easily.  I typically have them practice six problems using the introduced skill.  This gives them some good practice and experience to help them decide whether it's a strategy they want to rely on.

Once I have introduced all of the strategies, it's time for some hands-on fun!  When participating in these activities, the students know that they can use whichever strategy they want.  So, keep reading, grab the freebie, and feel free to pin your favorite ideas!

Make Some Stuff
Crafty projects are always a hit when practicing addition and subtraction with regrouping.  Brag tags are big in my classroom. Last year, I had the idea of letting the kids make their own tags where they could brag about their multi-digit addition and subtraction skills.  Well, let me tell you, the kids thought it was super duper, crazy cool to make their own addition/subtraction brag tags

Another crafty idea is to make a hat.  I used this idea on Valentine's Day one year.  That particular year, candy was off limits which meant no conversation heart math.  Womp womp.  No fear, die cut shapes came to the rescue.

The great thing is, this idea can be used with any holiday theme, or none at all.  Plus, it can also be used when practicing two OR three-digit addition and/or subtraction. Here is a spring version I plan to have my students make soon.   

Solve, Cut, and Glue
Sorts are a great way to give students some hands-on practice.  There are so many ways to sort multi-digit problems: regrouping/no regrouping, even or odd answers, by sums or differences, and so on.  Here are a few flap book sorts we've done this year.

Play Games
Pick a card is a class favorite.  We use it when practicing two and three-digit addition and subtraction.  Students pick two cards, add (or subtract), and then color the boxes on their page after comparing answers with their partner.

Spinner math is always a huge hit with students. The kids treat it like a game.  I often hear them sharing their answers with each other, because they think it's pretty cool when they spin problems with really large sums.  Spinner math is hands-on, engaging, and pretty.darn.exciting.  Honestly, I don't know what it is about using a paperclip that is so darn appealing.  But, I don't question it. I embrace it.  

I also love to bring out whole group games/activities that encourage individual engagement within a whole group setting.  I Spy is a great way to do this!  The kids are up and moving about, all the while practicing their math skills. You can read more about I Spy here.

Scoot is another fun whole group game to practice regrouping skills.  The kids love it, and it's also a great way to encourage individual engagement within a whole group setting.  Sometimes, I use my Scoot cards to facilitate a game of I Spy.  You can read more about Scoot here.

These games and activities can be found here and here.

Go Shopping
Don't worry, I'm not suggesting a trip to your local super store.  Let your students shop those weekly grocery ads that fill up your mailbox week after week.

You could have your students choose two items to buy and add up their prices.  Or, you could have them practice their subtraction skills by tasking them with comparing the prices of selected items.  This activity would work with two or three-digit numbers. You can grab the free recording forms here.

Tip#1: Be sure to remove (cut out) any pictures of alcohol or other items you don't want your students exposed to.
Tip #2: When working with three-digit numbers, you could have your students use dollar signs and decimal points, or you could have them write these amounts as three digit numbers.  It's totally up to you!

I hope you've been able to take away an idea or two today!


Many of the activities shown in this post can be found in the resources posted below.  You can check them out in my TPT store.  Simply click the image of the product(s) you'd like to see.



Here are a few more related products for your convenience.  Click on an image for more details.

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