Monday, July 30, 2012

Made 4 Math - Digi-Organization

I finally found out my schedule for this coming school year.  It is more special educationish and less mathish than my schedule has been the last few years.  But with that information in hand, I was able start getting my stuff organized for the upcoming year.

Each year the school provides a planner/gradebook like this:

I attempted to use it years ago, but it did not work for me. I've made paper templates for a planner and used them with limited success.  I thought about developing a database in Access to manage these things, but it was too much and I gave up. I tried out Planbook software, but it was just too much stuff and not quite what I wanted.  I have been using an excel spreadsheet for my gradebook and I've mostly liked it.

For this week's Made 4 Math Monday I decided that what I really want is for my planner and gradebook and all my notes and organizational thinking to be put together in one place and the only way to make that happen was to make it myself.  Enter Bento.  Bento is a super simple database program. It is not a relational database, so it is limited in what is can do.  I like that it is simple and that it has iPhone and iPad versions. I'm thinking if this works successfully I will probably buy those and work out how to have the data sync/share appropriately.  I downloaded the free trial of Bento, but will have to pony up the purchase price should I actually implement this as my trial period expires before school starts.  So far I like and dislike the simplicity of the program, but think I might find it useful.

I have done some preliminary work and here are some screenshots of what I have so far.


My launch-off point is the view of all the tables I created and put in the 2012-2013 School Year folder.  

Daily Planner

We have an 8 period day (plus a period for lunch).  My planner form has space for all my classes (some periods I teach two different courses) and room to jot down plans/meetings/to dos for my preparation periods.  Sizes were adjusted for the typical amount of space I figure I'll need to jot down the overview of what I plan on doing.  Preparation periods are slimmer, content classes beefier.  I've created records for each day of the year and included important calendar information in the notes section.

Quarter Long Range Planner

My school requires us to complete a long-range plan for each quarter to submit to the principal so that she knows generally what each class should be doing should a parent or LEA (Local Education Agency) call to enquire about what a particular kiddo is working on.  This form provides a space to generally describe what will happen each week in the first quarter in a class. I've already created a record for each class I'll be teaching.

Daily Notes

I'm not sure how useful this particular form will be, but I wanted a place to record random tidbits, things to remember, and notes to myself.  I have a feeling this will go by the wayside once I get overwhelmed, but I'm going to give it a try.

Objective Data

As a special educator, I need to keep data on student progress on their IEP goals and objectives.  This form gives me a space to record objectives and data each quarter.  I have a feeling that I'll need to enlarge the data boxes as time progresses, but for now the arrangement felt pleasing to my eye.


I am least satisfied with my Gradebook template.  This is where some of the limitations of Bento are annoying me.  It limits in the spacing of the cells and limits in the types of calculations it performs. Also, since it is not a relational database I can't have it automatically take values from one table to be used in another.  For each assignment, a student receives an initial grade.  It is my school's policy that students fix or error repair grades that show poor understanding or poor quality work (less than 80 percent generally).  During the first quarter I average their initial score with their improved score.  This average is the grade that counts.  On a positive, I can export the data to excel, so if I hate it and it is unmanageable, I can always revert to the excel gradebook I have used in the past.  I'm giving this a go because I really want one central place to keep all my data.

I don't know if any of this is helpful to anyone else as one of the major reasons I've created it is that the many unique quirks of my particular school make using others' stuff unwieldy.  We have an eight period day, my largest class is 9 students this year, I teach two classes some periods, and I have job responsibilities outside of my teaching that I need to keep track of.  All of this compelled me to customize.  I'm hoping it will work for me!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Binder Clips and Drawer Organizers

Made for Math Monday #made4math

Project 1: Scrapbook Covered Binder Clips.

The first project I did this week was to make scrapbook paper covered binder clips.  I'm a sucker for binder clips and pretty things. This was a natural combination.  The first time I saw this was when my principal gave me a giant one as a gift a few years ago.  I also pinned a few on Pinterest this week (here and here).

So the first thing I did was raid the desk downstairs to find that I am a hoarder when it comes to office supplies.  I had a ridiculous number of binder clips!  I had two sizes, I think they are medium and small.

Then I raided my scrapbook supplies. Again, I have a ridiculous amount of stuff given that I transitioned from paper scrapping to digital scrapping somewhere before I had my second child.

Supplies: Binder Clips, Paper, Scissors, Mod Podge & a paint brush

I cut the scrap paper into rectangles of 1.25" by about 2" for the medium size and .75" by about 1.25" for the small size.

Then using a small paint brush I coated the binder clip with Mod Podge.  I carefully applied the paper, tucking it into one end and then the other.  I smoothed the middle part last.

I now have a bunch of pretty binder clips!  The container is a reused medium apothecary jar from Kringle Candle.

Project 2: Drawer Organizers for my Desk.

So, this is a picture of my top left desk drawer before.  I was going to only do this drawer, but then I decided that the center drawer must be done as well. I forgot to take a picture of the center drawer, but believe me it was WORSE! (I found a keyboard for my Palm m500 which came out in 2001ish)  

Supplies: Cardboard boxes (cereal boxes, copy paper box, K-cup boxes, etc), Packing tape, Scissors, Wrapping Paper, Mod Podge, & Scissors

I started by measuring the dimensions of the two drawers.  Using those dimensions I created the outside box.  The deep drawer was made from the lid of a copy paper box and the shallow drawer was from an Ikea box that held a slipcover.  

Then I laid out my stuff in the boxes. Onces I liked the arrangement I made compartments from the assortment of boxes.  I used the packing tape to attach them to each other and to the larger box.

The last step was to cover it up and make it pretty.  I used a roll of wrapping paper from the dollar store and Mod Podge.

Organizers Covered

Organizers Filled
I must say that I enjoy opening the drawers to see how tidily arranged all my things are.  I don't know that I'd do this project again; it took way longer than I had anticipated.

Still in the works for next week is some digital organization.  I don't know what I'm teaching yet, but I'm hoping I'll know by then so I can tweak my organizers.

Monday, July 16, 2012

File folders, duct tape, and scissors. Oh my!

It's another Made 4 Math Monday!

For this week, I played with file folders and duct tape to make a hanging pocket folder.  This was inspired by this Monday Made It post.  I originally started with regular file folders and then had issues with how far to spread them out and measurements and other OCD-it-won't-be-perfect issues.  My intended use for the hanging file was for half sheet forms that we access daily and I just couldn't get the spread to work and look aesthetically pleasing.  Instead of scrapping the idea, I decided instead to use the slash pocket file folder separators that we use in the kids' three-ring binders at school because we have bunches and then I used the holes to help align how far they were separated.

I used 3 slash pocket folders.  I aligned the holes and then carefully flipped them over and used clear packing tape to tape them together.

I measured the diagonals.

Then I cut lengths of duct tape the size of the diagonal.  After, I cut the tape down the center to make two thinner strips.

I made marks a centimeter to the side of the pocket opening and then drew a line connecting the marks.

I lined the duct tape up along the line and then folded it over and tucked it behind the pocket opening.

I then covered the top, bottom, left, and right with the duct tape. I measured an inch around, drew lines and used it to line up the duct tape before pressing and folding it behind. I'm thinking that I will hang this one horizontally.

I made another intending to use it for full length sheets, but was not as excited about how the full length sheets fit. (Left and right side were only taped with 1/4 inch duct tape exposed to accommodate the width of a full sheet of paper) I was also not too excited about the way it looked with multiple colors. I tried to fix that by add the additional duct tape stripes, but it wasn't doing it for me.

So I repeated the process, but spread the folders out more.  This time I aligned the top of one folder to the bottom of the folder opening.  I liked the result much better.  (The folder color choice was made to coordinate to the three forms we use.)
I'm not sure how I'm going to hang them, as I don't know what I'm teaching or what rooms I'll be in yet.  So who knows if they'll be going up on cinder block or bulletin board? I think I may punch holes and use Command Hangers.  I'll post pictures when they finally find a home.

I also made pretty pens like @druinok did for the first Made 4 Math Monday.  I followed these directions along with druinok's measurements of .75" by 3.5".  Like @misscalcul8 I am matchy-matchy and had to use paper that coordinated with the pen color. I LOVE THESE.  What's awesome is that these pens will easily be identified as MINE!

I've got a couple other projects in the works, but they aren't complete enough to share yet.  I downloaded a trial copy of Bento and have been working on some digital goodness to keep me organized this coming year.  I've also been plotting some desk drawer organization, too.  I guess they'll have to wait until next Monday!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Starting a Blog & Made 4 Math Monday

So, I've been inspired to finally start a blog.  A great group of math tweeps have been posting ideas for their classrooms and I felt compelled to offer some ideas in return for all the awesomeness I have been stealing!

1.  Flash Cards

This past year I used Two Plus Two Is Not Equal To Five by Susan Greenwald to work on improving math fact fluency with my elementary leveled remedial math class (we were working on approximately 3rd grade level math skills).  This particular group could not even add on 1 to another number with any kind of automaticity.

What I really liked about this book was the way that it introduced a strategy (they called it a trick) with a name like number +1, or doubles, or in the middle.  The trick or strategy pointed out relationships in groups of facts and also gave them a label to attach to that strategy.

For my class, I made flash cards using index cards and a variety of colored sharpies.  I sent the card packs home with the kids to keep practicing over the summer.  The idea of making them again for next year seemed like a ridiculous amount of work.  Inspired by Made 4 Math Monday, I investigated and discovered that our color laser printer will print onto 3" by 5" index cards.  For the back I printed labels that include the answer and the name of the strategy.  I think they came out brilliantly and now I can print a set any time I want!

A copy of the file I made is here.

2.  An organizing folio

After viewing lots of the organizational ideas, I also thought I'd share something I made a few years ago. I made a folio to keep those papers I need to access often (school calendar, meeting lists, advisor lists, etc).  The holder is a Vera Bradley that I bought at Barnes & Noble. (From a quick search, it doesn't seem to be available anymore.)

 I pulled the notepad out of its backing and stapled in page protectors with the opening down.  I take this with me to everything like most of the teachers in the building take their planbook.  On the left hand side I keep a stash of small index cards and use them to write to dos and then put them into the slots at the top.