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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Prepping & Organizing Math Centers

Hi friends!
This is my first full week back to school and it is already the L-O-N-G-E-S-T week ever!!  I wanted to pop over tonight and share some ideas for how to easily prep and organize math centers.

Often times teachers get so overwhelmed by prepping math centers and they just decide to not do them at all.  Now, I will preface this with I do not use all the cute Target Dollar Spot buckets and erasers for my math centers - my kids would ruin them and it saves me some money!  My 2nd graders are just as happy with task cards and some black & white clipart they can color when they have finished all their math!

So, I am on year 3 of using math math center cards - so once I got those prepped the first year - it makes it super easy for me to pull them out of the closet and they are ready.  How can you easily get task cards prepped?  Print them and laminate - and then - have a parent volunteer cut them out!!  I think I had parents cut out almost all of my math center cards for the first year - and they were more than happy to help.  So, if you have parents who want to help and can cut straight lines - let them help make your life easier!

I prep my math center copies a month at a time.  If you caught My Plan Box post from a couple weeks ago, I use file folders to sort my copies by weeks for the quarter.  I keep all of my original copies and my answer keys in a 3-ring binder.  Each month's answer keys and copies have their own sheet protector, so I can easily pull out what I need to copy.

So this week when I went to make my weekly copies, I found my February set of centers I had filed earlier in the quarter.  I prep my centers the week prior to the new month, paperclip them, and store in a box in my classroom closet.

By the way, I LOVE these clear paper baskets from The Container Store!  I set them out with papers for my kiddos to pick up each morning to take home and they are perfect for hauling back my weekly copies from the copier!

I store my math centers in plastic ziplock bags - gallon sized and freezer size.

Each set of task cards is stored in a quart-sized and I use address labels to label the bag with the title of the center and I've also included the CCSS standard on the label, just for reference.  All of the quart-sized bags go in a gallon bag and I store the gallon bag in my monthly storage boxes.

Each Friday as I am prepping my Mon-Fri boxes for the next week, I pull out math centers - both activity sheets and task card bags for the next week and file in the box.  Then, when it's math time, my centers are ready to give directions and let them at 'em!

Now, we all have kiddos who don't use their time wisely, or take a little longer to get their work done.  I have a metal wall organizer that hangs right next to our "math center table".  When the kiddos clean up from math centers, they put the task cards in the bottom bucket.  That way, when my friends have time to go back and finish their math center(s), they know where to go to find the task cards.  Every couple weeks, I'll clean this bucket out so there is room for more bags of cards.

So, my quick and easy steps for prepping and organizing math centers:

1.  Print and laminate center cards.  Have a super helpful parent cut out the task cards for you.

2.  Copy activity sheets once a month (or once a week if that works for you) so they are ready when it's time for math.

3.  Store your math centers cards in ziplock bags (clear and easy to see).

4.  Find a place to store task cards after math centers for friends to easily grab and finish at a later date.

Want easy to prep math centers that are meaningful and fun?!?!
Check out my math centers in my TPT store!

You can grab my math centers individually by month or bundled together August-December and January-May. Please note - these are not aligned to Engage NY.  I have used these for the past 2 school years with different curriculums.

Hang in there friends!  It's almost Friday - and the camel is out of the way now!!


Sunday, January 8, 2017

A Prepped Teacher = Happy Teacher

Happy new year friends!
It's been a while since I posted...but the holidays happened!  Today, I stuck in the it snowed yesterday and it's about 10 degrees outside - brrrrr cold!!  We started back to school Thursday and I'm already expecting our first snow day of the year tomorrow...if only we wouldn't have to make it up!
Any who, I'm not too stressed about going back to school, whatever day it may be this week, because of this system to help me stay prepped and ready for this week and coming weeks.  It is not a fancy system, but I'm sure there are others who don't want to spend their weekends planning and then running to the copier Monday morning to be ready for when the kiddos walk through the door.
If you followed me last year, I had a couple blog posts about staying organized and making copies in advance.  I myself stopped using that system this year and started this, more weekly, system that doesn't require me to spend big chunks of time at the copier making copies in bulk.

Now, I have to preface this with, I am not a procrastinator - I do like to plan in advance.  With some of our different curriculums and programs we use, it does make it kind of easy to plan in advance because I am following the lesson order.
So - let me introduce you to my "plan box".  I got this file box from The Container Store (I have several of them actually) and it's perfect because hanging file folders will hang inside.

Inside my plan box are hanging file folders and then a regular file folder for each week of the quarter. That way I can pull the file folder out when my team is planning or I am off to make copies and it has a spot to go back to when I'm done.

It's hard to take pictures and let you see things when it's full already!  BUT, each week's folder is labeled "Week 1", "Week 4" etc through "Week 10" as we have some quarters where we have 10 weeks, even if one week is only 2 days (like at Thanksgiving).

As I am making plans, whether the week before, or WEEKS before, I keep this nearby so I can plop things into the correct week.  For example, I know that Week 5 will be when I need my February math centers since the calendar will be flipping over to February, so back in December, I already plopped my February math centers into the Week 5 folder.  Then, when I pull that folder to make copies, those centers are already in there and I'll copy them when I make my copies for Week 5.

I also throw all my other copies for each week - like math problem sets, spelling lists, Rooted in Reading copies, etc.  Because we complete one unit a week with our spelling/phonics program, Letterland, I already have those originals filed for the entire quarter.  It maybe took me 2 minutes to do this one morning while my kiddos were getting unpacked - but saved me many minutes this nine weeks pulling what I need!

Here is Week 3's folder "unpacked":

Most everything I'll need for Week 3 was filed in this folder when I came back from winter break.  We will be celebrating 102nd Day in Week 4, but we'll send this reminder home the week prior - so into the Week 3 folder it went!

Rooted in Reading copies, Engage NY problem sets, and reading comprehension passages for Reading Workshop - ready to be copied!

Our Letterland copies.  I keep each unit's printables in one sheet protector together - then I just pull the sheet protector from the binder and file it in the correct week's folder.
Week Spelling Menu - we have 10 of these so this one for Week 3, will stay in this folder ALL YEAR!  Whether it's Week 3 of Quarter 1 or Quarter 4, I'll have it ready to copy in our HW packets.

Now, after I make my copies (usually on Tuesday or Wednesday) after my team has planned, I come back to my room and take 5 minutes to paper clip my copies and file them in my Next Week file box. In this box, I have a file folder for each day of the week, Mon-Fri.  And I don't think much about it again until Friday afternoon.

Friday afternoons I'm cleaning up the classroom for the weekend and getting prepped for Monday.  I pull my Next Week box off and then sort my papers into the Monday-Friday boxes pictured above.  All of my weekly copies are quickly filed and ready for the next week.

Since there are a couple things I make copies for a month at a time, like math centers, I store those in a bigger filing box in my closet.  A quick trip over to my closet to pull out how many math centers I need, get those filed, and I'm ready for the next week!

With this system, I'm not running around at the end of the week trying to make copies for the next week, and I'm hardly ever running to the copier the morning of to make copies for that day.  I used to do that, but it stressed me out!  And with our temperamental copier - I NEED to not rely on having it on a particular day!

So I hope you picked up an idea or a trick to help you stay a little ahead of the game for the rest of the school year.  If you can get yourself in a system, it'll become a habit and a good habit that helps you be a happy teacher is always a good thing!

Happy Sunday friends and if you are heading back to school this week - have a great first week back!