Monthly Archives: July 2016

Even More Whiteboards!

I know that I just cut up a bunch of big 2′ x 4′ whiteboards the other day (or rather, had Lowes cut them up for me), but I had a few extra and thought that maybe I’d like some of the hand-held variety.

I had looked into these before, but was discouraged when I saw this:



So even at $7.81 per board (it’s on “sale” at $21 for three),  for 30 whiteboards, that would be more than $200!!

The large whiteboards at Lowes are <$15, even with having them cut it into quarters (my 2′ x 4′ rectangles). So you could buy a saw (mine was $30 at Lowes) and still not even get close to the price of buying these things online.

I cut mine into 8″ x 12″ because it went nicely into the three 2′ x 4′ boards.  Now I’ve got 34 small whiteboards[1]!  Here are pictures.


Looks jagged, but is fairly smooth.


Made lines in pencil first.


Halfway through this board. It’s good to hold it for the second half so it doesn’t twist off and give a bad rip in the middle. Or put it on two tables of equal height.


Some are cut; you see the clamps I used, as well as the jigsaw.


Done cutting!


The entire set of 36! You see the large whiteboards in the background. And yes that bench says “math”–it’s my father-in-law’s. He was a MS math teacher for 26 years.


[1] I have 36, but I got drill-happy before, so two of the boards have large 2″ holes near the middle of the board.


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Vertical Paper Holder

New classroom, so I need somewhere to keep my papers. These things can be expensive!


So my new (mini) hobby is wood-working. And I just changed our license plates (don’t have to hand back NC or NM plates!), and my wife’s parents had a ton of old ones, so I thought I could make this for cheaper.


No glue, only two screws!


Hopefully they’re not spaced too far apart. May have some paper-curve issues.


My favorite is the last plate which reminds me of Toy Story 🙂


Alaska: not actually my plate, just found in Alaska when I was in HS.


So you can see how it was put together. Just one cut in the wood at an angle!

I put this all together in about an hour. Let me know if you want more of an explanation of how it was put together. If I had to re-do it, I might leave less space between the plates, but I can always use folders to make sure the papers don’t curve at the bottom.

It was entirely made from stuff I had lying around, so cost: $0.00. Saved $42.11.  🙂


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More Whiteboards!

Last year I went out and bought 2′ x 3′ whiteboards and drilled holes in them so I could hang them around the walls.  It was an old school and so the principal gave me the go ahead to do whatever I wanted to the room’s walls. However, I shared the room and the tables weren’t moving anywhere (because of the other teacher(s) who liked it how it was), so I didn’t use the “vertical non-permanent surfaces” as much as I would have liked. Though I still used them plenty. But students got tired of hanging them on the wall, so they just worked on the whiteboards in groups around the room.

This year I have my own room. And I’m going to go crazy on the vertical whiteboard front. The 3 lb. command strips that I got last year didn’t last the entire year–several broke early on. This time, I’m going with the 5 lb. command strips (2 per board). But my boards are all in NM for the next teacher at my old school, so I went to Lowes to buy more.

They came in 4′ x 8′ sections, and I wanted 2′ x 3′ sections. However, you do the math–that would leave extra space, so I just asked the Lowes people to cut it down to 2′ x 4′ sections for me. Each board at about $15, and I have 26 students max (much lower than I anticipated!!), so I’m planning for 28 at most, so I wanted at least 14 boards. That meant four 4′ x 8′ boards, or about $60. But this investment will last years. I hope.

Oh, and 2′ x 4′ hopefully will be nicer in one way: I don’t have to worry about finding the exact height for all the tall vs short students. If the boards are hung vertically, then there’s lots of up and down “wiggle room”. I just hope the 5 lb. strips will hold!

Did the hole drilling thing again (it worked well last year, until the command strips came down).


The setup. Clamps + drill + “doorknob” drillbit.


Whew, got a lot to drill! (14 of these!)


Brown = dust from after the drilling.


Measure them carefully so that the boards aren’t crooked when hung.


All done!


The leftover cutouts. Trying to think of a good way to use them. Statue-stands?

But if you do the math, I have 2 extra 2′ x 4′, so I think I’m going to use my new Jigsaw (Jig Saw?) to cut these down into personal whiteboards, in case there’s a day I’d like to do that kind of review. Might as well, right?

The nice thing about the command strips + whiteboards with holes is that I can have bulletin boards AND whiteboards on all the walls. Of course, all my bulletin boards are bare right now, so time to work on that!



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Getting ready for a new Job

After five years of teaching in Gallup, we just moved from New Mexico to Maryland to get closer to family. That means I’ve, fortunately, got a new job teaching 8th graders. Four classes of 8th grade math (2 “merit” and 2 “honors”[1]) and 1 class of Algebra 1.

I’m just trying to wrap my mind around the job because I’ve had trouble getting started on anything. Maybe it’s because we just moved to a new house, living with my wife’s parents, who are great. Maybe it’s because we’ve had 3 family vacations (4 if you count the move!) in the past month and a half. Or maybe it’s because there’s a baby that could decide it wants to come as I’m typing this, in which case I’ll finish this post after my wife has our second child.

So yeah, I’m scatterbrained.

Here’s a list of things that I need to do soon, in no order:

  • Set up my classroom:
    • Get posters
    • Think about seating (it’s been 5 years since I’ve had my own classroom!!)
    • Purchase things like manipulatives, whiteboards, trays & folders for papers, extra writing utensils, stamps, etc. (What am I forgetting?)
  • Plan the first day of class
    • Get to know you surveys
    • Jump right into problem solving/math task
  • Plan second day of class
    • Go over routines & expectations
  • Plan warm-ups and routines
    • Study Math Talks more
  • Look into available technology and make tasks using those when it’s productive
  • Create assessments (this should come before planning tasks/lessons)
  • Consider “early year” things I want to accomplish
    • Growth Mindset
    • Grades talk (go hand in hand with above), SBG
    • Problem Solving Strategies (Devil’s Bridge Crossing Problem)
    • Get-to-know-you sheets
    • Get routines established
      • Warm ups
        • Visual Patterns
        • Estimation180
        • WODB
        • Math Talks
      • Quote of the week (?)
      • How to take a quiz (self-grading!)
      • How to re-assess
      • Explain Lagging HW
      • Explain old standards showing up again on new quizzes/assessments
      • Plickers
      • Recognizing Birthdays
    • Ninja Wall
  • Learn what I need to stay up to date on accreditation of my teaching license
  • Learn about the PBIS system at my school (Positive Behavior Incentive School)
  • Learn about other discipline policies at my school
  • Learn all this little things (printer, laminator, etc.) at my school!
  • Figure out how the pacing guide for the county works
  • Read all the MS blogs compiled by Julie (ha…)

I’ve dropped by my new classroom and here are some pictures of the new room (no work done yet!).

I should post this and get to work!


[1] Though I’m trying not to put too much stock into the prior categorization of students.

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New Teaching Job in MD!

Our family moved to Maryland this summer to be closer to our family and I applied to a new school system: the Frederick County Public Schools. I just got a job and will be teaching math to 8th graders at Monocacy Middle School. I’ll have five classes: one Algebra I and four 8th Grade Math Classes. Even though I’ve loved teaching juniors and seniors the past five years, I’m excited about this teaching job for several reasons.

  • Middle schoolers are more excitable and can “get into” a fun lesson better the high schoolers.
  • There’s much less re-teaching because students forgot everything from the previous class. In Precalculus I would have to teach Algebra I & II all over again: now I’m just teaching it for the first time!
  • Eighth graders are like the seniors of middle school: they’re the most mature (or so I hear).
  • I was always annoyed by how many lessons online were for Algebra I and middle school math because I taught Precalculus. Now I can use all that cool stuff! (I’m looking at you, Barbie Bungee.)

So yeah, I’m excited about teaching. I get my own classroom, so I’m already brainstorming for how to put whiteboards everywhere on the walls, rearrange the desk for collaboration and de-centralization of the classroom, and looking at creating a “ninja-wall”. Of course, the school is a PBIS (Positive Behavior Incentive School) and has 101 other things that I need to learn about. I’m a little anxious about classroom management again (Jr’s and Sr’s are a breeze), but hopefully I’ll “catch my stride” in that sooner rather than later.

Time to start reading MTBoS posts on middle school math!

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