Saturday, August 31, 2013

Where did August go?

It's official. Labor Day is almost here...which means we've finished our first month of school with success! So many great things have happened that I'm not quite sure where to begin. Hum....let's talk math first.

We finished the Whole Numbers Place Value unit in only 7 days (including a Review day and a Test day). My Place Value QR codes were a huge hit with my kiddos; many thanks to my TPT followers who have also provided some great feedback on these. If you haven't checked them out, go ahead & put them on your wish list for next year (or even state test review).

Another great FREEBIE resource that I used was the Ordering Numbers Through Millions set from Allison Harig. Comparing & ordering whole numbers (along with decimals) is still in my TN state standards, but I sometimes have trouble finding activities for this skill because most are on a lower level. The larger numbers are perfect for 5th grade, plus students must carefully read each number (lots of similar numbers) & notice the difference between place values before just placing them in order according to the first digit (many of my kiddos tried to order 899,876 before 7,908,994 because they didn't notice that it was only in the hundred thousands place). I even let my students work together so they could share the cards (I try to limit myself to printing/laminating only 5 sets of cards per game). If you haven't already downloaded this set, check it out by clicking the icon below!
My second unit was entitled "Introduction to Algebra" and focused on understanding & applying the Order of Operations. This one served as a double whammy for both my CCSS and TN state standards, however for the TN standards, students will have to apply PEMDAS for expressions with decimals & fractions....go figure! The introduction of brackets & braces wasn't a huge deal as I expected but those darn exponents just got some of my lovelies really hung up. I started only with squared & cubed exponents (think SMALL products) because we haven't "officially" worked on multi-digit multiplication. I'll definitely need to hit this again before throwing in higher powers.

Next Up, Multiplication

After the Labor Day break, I'll start our Multiplying Whole Numbers unit that will include using the Powers of 10 to multiply whole numbers (decimals will come later). It seems like I've used the phrase "Powers of 10" constantly - when referring to those place value patterns and our exponents mini-lesson. However I'll only have two days to with my kiddos in regular classes before we take our traditional overnight trip to 4H camp. I seriously LOVE this field trip. I can't wait to share stories & pictures of our adventures!

- Mrs. Wiggin -


Friday, August 16, 2013

Room Reveal in Pictures

WOW! I hope your first week of school has been fabulous like mine! I can honestly say that this week has been the BEST first week ever. My team & I are totally in love with our kiddos! This is the sweetest bunch of kids I have ever had the privilege of meeting....let's knock on wood that this trend lasts all year.

I'm terribly behind in my blogging, so I'll begin with a photo tour of my classroom. Enjoy!

This is the main entrance to my classroom. The locker space was the perfect size for my motivational display & you can easily spot it when you're walking down the hallway. I like to keep a cute display above my student mailboxes & a large laundry basket below for "Lost & Found" items (just 5th grade items, not the entire school).

This is the view from the back of my classroom. I do a lot with interactive journals so I use a "teaching station" near my Promethean Board. Here I have the dock for my laptop and a document camera (trust me, you NEED one of these).
This is taken from the center of the room, facing the door/hallway. My actual desk is near the door, with a trapezoid table in the front. I've found this table to be extremely handy for papers & random items that I seem to collect throughout the day.
Here is one of my computer tables that I've raised up so that students can sit on medium bar stools. The stools take up much less room than chairs & the tables are the perfect height for students to stand at also.

Now for the Close Ups

If teaching doesn't kill me first, Pinterest will take care of it. Sometimes I feel like Pinterest has exploded in my room. Speaking of Pinterest, there are several ideas below that are not of my own & I am in no way claiming them as originals.
 My team has agreed to try the "Homework Club" challenge. We've decided that any students who have turned in all of their assignments on time will get to join us for lunch at the end of the month (no biggie here - they simply get to bring their lunches to our rooms & eat with us....they LOVE this).
Got to have those Mathematical Practices handy!

  My "I'm Done - Now What?" display is another favorite Pinterest idea. I'm hoping my kiddos will enjoy sudoku & picture graphing as I've added them as fun activities for early finishers.
 This is where I post my "I Can" statements that we are currently working on. We also use an "I Can" assessment sheet, but having the skills posted helps me quickly point out our objectives.
- Mrs. Wiggin -

Saturday, August 3, 2013

My First Award

Oh boy! Debbie over at Flip Flop Hop nominated me for my first award.
Thanks Debbie!
What is a Liebster Award?

It is an award given to "up and coming" bloggers who have less than 200 followers.

What does Liebster stand for?

Liebster is a German word that means sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, and welcome. Wow---I feel special!

My Turn...

Random Facts:

1.  During college I was an assistant manager at my local Zaxby's restaurant. I ate chicken almost every day....AND still love a good salad from there!

2. I did the pageant thing. Yep, I competed at the state-level for the Miss America Organization for three year. Scholarships baby!

3.  I did not see myself as an "intermediate teacher" until I was moved to 5th grade math. In fact, I dreamed about teaching kindergarten for years. What was I thinking?!?!?

4. I'm a musician. I studied piano for 12 years, and continue to play as the worship leader at my church. I love singing too!

5.  My husband & I are both extreme couponers. No joke! We have a special binder that we take out shopping & an entire garage stocked with stuff that we've bought for pennies or, even better, FREE. Maybe I'll publish a post on this hobby soon...

6.  I could live on chicken nuggets from Wendy's.

7.  After nearly 5 years of owning (well kind of, she's my husband's dog) a Husky, I'm just now training her to walk on a leash. Let's just say she's a bit hyper - not aggressive, just excited!

8.  I can't cook. My husband is the chef in the house & I can't complain because he's a good one too!

9.  I stopped drinking sodas (cold turkey) about 5 years ago and now ice water is my drink of choice.

10.  I didn't know all of my multiplication facts until I started teaching 5th grade math. I was a straight A student, but just never fluently memorized those darn 7s, 8s, & 12s.

11.  My husband & I tailgate at almost every TN football home game. GO VOLS!

Questions for me:

1. Are you teaching in the state that you grew up in?
Yes, I've always lived in the same city.

2. If you were to change occupations, what would your next choice be?
Wow, I can't even imagine myself doing anything other than teaching. If I had to choose, I'd probably choose to be a neonatal nurse - one that gets to hold the *itty bitty* babies.

3. How many states have you visited?
Not many - GA, FL, VT, NC, SC, KY...I think that's all?

4. Are you a healthy eater or do you lean toward the junk food side?
Ugh...I really strive to eat healthy, especially after I lost the pageant size that I used to maintain. However I have a REALLY bad weakness for sweets.

5. How long have you been teaching?
This will be my fourth year. I've taught 1 year in 2nd grade and the last two in 5th grade math.

6. What will you miss most about summer ending?
Lounging in the pool!

7. What piece of technology is your favorite?
My classroom Ipad - I wasn't into the Apple products until my tech guru gave me one to use with the kiddos.

8. How long have you been blogging?
Less than a month...newbie here!

 9. How many hours a week do you commit to school work? (Above the normal 40)
Waaaayyyyy too many! I spend 4-5 hours each weeknight...can't even begin to count up the weekend time!

10. Do you have a favorite quote?
"Do not worry about your problems with mathematics. I assure you mine are far greater." - Albert Einstein

11. What is your favorite read-aloud book?
Oh, the Place's You'll Go! by Dr. Seuss

Questions for my nominees:

1. What's the scariest thing that you've ever done?
2. What's your "go-to" lunch for school (you know, the one that will help you make it through the rest of the day)?
3. If you had to teach a grade/subject other than your own, what/where would you move to?
4. Do you have any fur-babies (pets)?
5. Where would you go for a dream vacation?
6. What do you like to do at home (when you're not working on school stuff)?
7. What are you currently reading?
8. Any hidden talents that your students wouldn't know about?
9. If you had to coach a school sport, which would you choose?
10. How did you get started in the blogging world?
11. What's your favorite song?

*Now for the Nominees*

The Sally Classroom by Rachel
Making It As a Middle School Teacher by Michelle
To the Square Inch by Kate
 Flip Flops, Polka Dots, & Pre K by Jeannie
To accept this nomination, all you have to do is:
1. Link back to the blog that nominated you.
2. Nominate 5-11 blogs with fewer than 200 followers.
3. Answer the questions posed by the nominator.
4. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
5. Create 11 questions for your nominees.
6. Contact your nominees to let them know that you've nominated them.

- Mrs. Wiggin -

Monday, July 29, 2013

Adventures in QR Land

If you're a tech-savy teacher, you've probably already tried using QR codes in your classroom and had wild success. If you're like me, you've probably just read about these cool "code-things" that other awesome teachers are using and made a mental note to "someday" look into them. Well today is the day to venture into the land of QR codes, where students magically scan a code to monitor their progress on a  specific task or question.

In all seriousness, the QR thing was *MUCH* easier than I had anticipated. Basically it's a bar code that stores data, usually in the form of a link. By now you've probably seen them popping up everywhere from fast food containers to print media. When you generate a QR code, you can input any type of data that you want the smart device to display - a website (in the form of a link), photos, or even text! I choose the text method. After I made my task cards, I simply typed each answer into the text box & generated a QR code. Then I right-clicked on the QR image in my web browser, & copied/pasted it to its matching task card. I even re-sized the QR codes to better fit my cards & *fingers crossed* they all worked.

Since this was my first experience with creating QR codes, I'm not even going to try to pretend that my work is perfect. Seriously. I usually don't like to post goodies until AFTER I've tested them out with my kiddos, but I really feel that this item is something most teachers would want to use in during first unit (which for me is less than a full week into school - have to hit the ground running). Therefore I'm releasing this set of task cards a bit early. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated & I will definitely give an update after I've actually used them in class.

Still interested? Click on either picture above & head over to my TPT store. Enjoy!

- Mrs. Wiggin -

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Number Labels

The label madness has continued! In my last post I shared how I was going through a stage where I wanted to make labels for EVERYTHING. Hence I'm ready to reveal the number labels I've created for my student desks, calculators, and lockers. Why numbers instead of names you ask? Since we're departmentalized I don't really want to put name labels on the desks. Instead, I label each desk with a number. I have three pods/clusters with *hopefully 6* desks in each pod (last year I had 8 desks per pod). The first pod has #1-6, the second #7-12, and the third #13-18. I start the numbering at the same location in each pod and number the desks clockwise. This helps me look at a desk and quickly know what number it is. The desks never move - I simply move the kiddos when I need to rearrange my seating chart.

Numbering the student desks spawned the idea of also numbering my calculators. I've only taught math for 2 years, but I can proudly say that I've the students have NEVER lost a calculator. On days when I know that we will need the calculators (mainly when we're practicing for state assessments) my technology guru (student helper) distributes the calculators during our morning homeroom period. He simply places the calculator on the top left-hand corner of its matching desk. Before each class period ends, I check to ensure that each calculator is still placed on its assigned desk. At the end of the day my tech guru collects the calculators and returns them to the caddy (another favorite DIY). When I moved from teaching second grad to teaching 5th grade math, I really wanted to order one of those nice *expensive* calculator caddies from EAI. Instead I stumbled upon a cheap shoe caddy at Big Lots and hot glued it to the back of a book case. I also laminated/hot glued the matching number cards to each slot and *tada* instant calculator caddy. I'm not completely happy with the edges of the cabinet...I'm contemplating adding the scrunchy border to it!

Here's the best part! I've uploaded these labels to my TPT store as a FREEBIE! Simply click on the picture below to head on over & snag a set for yourself!

- Mrs. Wiggin -



Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Labels, Labels Everywhere

This year I strategically made a plan for my classroom set-up & prep. Our faculty retreat is August 2 with our PD days beginning on August 5. Even though students don't return to the 13th, those PD days are booked up with team meetings, learning activities, & collaboration. Therefore my approach is to get ALL of my set-up completed PRIOR to our PD Days; any extra time I have during those days can be spent on the mental stuff (LESSON PLANNING). First, I focused on the cutesy stuff - curtains, pennats, bows, inspirational signs, etc. - basically all my favorite Pinterest ideas that I've been saving up since last school year. Now I'm working on the physical set-up: rearranging the desks, setting up computers, attaching labels, etc. Once I'm satisfied with the physical appearance I can *hopefully* have some quiet time to work on lesson planning, assembling data binders, & getting all of my back to school documents ready.


This year I accidently stumbled upon the idea of creating matching labels for almost EVERYTHING in the room ( I say "almost" because I just realized that my desk & calculator numbers are a different design). It began when I created some labels for my school supply bins. Once I attached them to the bins I started thinking about how cute they were & how they would look in different sizes (for other items in the room). Before I knew it, I extended my label theme to almost everything I could possibly put a label on.
These are our library baskets. We have library as a Related Arts class once a week, & our librarian asks that all books be returned first thing in the morning. Last year I just couldn't remember to send the books up to the library - perhaps it was because I didn't have a specific place designated for book collection. This year I spruced up some baskets from the Dollar Tree with ribbon & a larger version of my labels. Fingers crossed that these baskets do the trick!

Last year I picked up these 3 trays in the clearance section at Wal-Mart for practically nothing. I use them to help keep my papers organized during each class period. I typically chunk my lesson into multiple activities & used to have a hard time keeping all of the papers sorted. Now I just seperate them in the numbered trays.

I FINALLY got these saved & uploaded to TPT as a FREEBIE! Just click on either picture below to hop on over to my TPT store & download your free copy!



- Mrs. Wiggin -

Teaching Heart Blog

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Classroom Decor

Despite the fact that I've already published a post for today, I just have to take a moment to share the beginnings of my 2013-2014 classroom decor. I arrived at my classroom a little before noon with the mission of modge podging (is that a word?) the front of my filing cabinets. However I quickly discovered that I purchased the smaller size of scrapbook paper (8.5" x 11") when I should have just purchased the larger squares. Darn it. I didn't want to leave without some type of accomplishment, so I decided to work on my inspirational door signs. I have to claim that I am NOT the original creator of this idea. I found it on Pinterest & just typed the wording myself. Perhaps I'll add this to TPT soon as a FREEBIE? Keep your eyes peeled!
Sorry for the huge size - just wanted to make sure that you could read the actual words.

Next up I created my cork board display on the inside of my classroom door. This is something that took all of last year to dream up so along with being cute, I hope it's actually functional. Last year I started using the "pink slips" approach for students who didn't complete their homework. Basically they fill out a slip stating why they didn't complete the assignment & sign/date it. Last year I would tell students to just pile them on my desk. While I could easily keep all of the slips together, I couldn't always remember to check them the next day to see whether those students remembered to bring the assignment. Basically, I wanted somewhere to store the slips where I could see them & quickly track how late (number of days) the assignments were. My vision is for students to fill out the slip & pin it to the cork board using a ladybug pushpin (yes, I seriously have these). When they bring the assignment in (hopefully the next day) they can remove the slip & staple it to the assignment. 
Lastly, I finally hung the party lanterns that I snagged at Hobby Lobby. I knew that I had to be very cautious in hanging anything. I learned this the hard way during my first year of teaching after I tried to hang a windsock from the ceiling; that evening the AC kicked on & just as my windsock started swaying the motion-sensor security system went into panic mode. Luckily I was a newbie & they simply took down the windsock instead of calling me to come do it myself. I hung these beauties close enough to the wall so that they are actually brushing the wall. There isn't an AC vent nearby so hopefully this will keep them from swaying. If needed, I suppose I could easily place a piece of tape on the back of each lantern & stick it to the wall. So far they've been up for 6 hours & no phone call :) I hung them using skinny ribbon & attached a somewhat decent bow to each lantern for embellishment.

- Mrs. Wiggin -



Vacation....all I ever wanted!

Long time, no post...

My husband and I just returned from our summer travels. We spent a few days vacationing with my family at Isle of Palms in Charleston before embarking on our 1-year anniversary cruise (YAY). We spent 7 days cruising with Carnival to the Grand Turk, Half Moon Cay, & Nassau. This was my second cruise & I highly recommend those ports - both Grand Turk & Half Moon Cay revolved around the beach. Seriously, where else can you walk off the boat & step directly onto the beach for FREE? We had a blast but as always, it's good to finally be home. Here's a quick glance into our adventures.
P.S. My husband had too much fun with the towel folding classes & left the family of swans as a surprise for our steward on the last day!


I did leave out one tiny detail about our vacation...we accepted an offer on our house the day before leaving port. We've had our home on & off the market for the last few years & had just relisted it when we got the call. The only problem is that we're not exactly sure of our future plans. My husband is a contractor, so we've got several options as far as building or flipping a foreclosure. Fingers crossed that our plans include something with Internet access BEFORE school starts in August :)

Whole Brain Teaching Posters

Now that you've read through all my rambling, here's a FREEBIE for your classrooms. Can you believe that our local Wal-Mart already has the school supplies stocked? With that in mind here is a set of posters to go along with the Whole Brain Teaching approach.
These adorable posters feature a polka dot background/trim and fun font! The original set was designed for my red/black/white (ladybug) classroom, but I've also included the following color variations to match the theme of your classroom:

Lime green/white
Still interested? Click on the image above to hop on over to my TPT store. Enjoy!

- Mrs. Wiggin -


Monday, June 24, 2013

Area of Parallelogram Task Cards

Another week of our precious summer vacation has flown by....ouch! Just reading that makes my heart ache. I'm  a summer junkie - all I need is a pool with a good float that I can rest on while reading my Nicholas Sparks novels. However,as much as I love the summer break, I must confess that I have a hard time staying out of "school mode." Speaking of school, I just wanted to take a moment to share my top TPT resource (it's a FREEBIE).

Area of Parallelogram Task Cards

I made these cards last year to address one of my TN SPIs  - 0506.4.1 Solve contextual problems that require the area of triangles and parallelograms. Imagine my disappointment when I found out that TNCORE dropped this SPI from our standards for the 2013-2014 school year....just my luck! Hopefully some of you other teachers out there will still have a use for this product - it's one of my favorites!

I spent most of last year "experimenting" with the way I structured my small-group math activities. I found that using task cards was an easy way to keep each group focused & working together. Plus, I could use the same set of cards to differentiate for all of my groups; instead of working on all 12 cards with each group, I just selected the most appropriate ones for each group.

My favorite thing about these cards is that they are sized to print each card on a full sheet of printer paper (so every student can easily see the information - no more yelling "I can't see!"). Once I started laminating the cards, I could even write directly on the card & erase it for the next group.

One last thing! How cute is this recording sheet? I also like to incorporate Gallery Walks into my lessons - the kiddos LOVE this activity! In this case, I like to use a recording sheet to help keep their work organized (and easier to assess).

Ready to grab this FREEBIE? Just click on any of the pictures above to hop on over to my TPT Store.

- Mrs. Wiggin -

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Multiplying Multiples of 10 SCOOT Game

Ever heard of SCOOT? I've been playing this game with my kiddos ever since I discovered it 3 years ago. It quickly became a class favorite for both my 2nd graders & 5th graders. I begin by placing a task card on each student's desk. You want to keep these rather simple (think multiplication facts, fluency skills, etc.) so the game doesn't drag on. I prefer to create pre-made recording sheets for the students to use, but you can also have them just number a piece of paper if you're in a pinch. They begin by answering the task card placed in front of them. After a few minutes (or when everyone is finished with the first card) I usually say "1, 2, 3, SCOOT" and start the music. Students then walk around the room (think musical chairs) and when the music stops (I usually allow 15-20 seconds), they must sit down at a new desk and answer a new task card. You can repeat this process as few times as you wish or until the kiddos have answered every card. I've also played variations where students are not allowed to "wander" freely around the room; in this case I give specific directions as to where they must "scoot" next ("Scoot to the desk on your right each time..."). This works best when your desks are arranged in clusters or tables and you only want them to answer a small number of cards; this method is also great for differentiating the difficulty of the cards.

Now that you know how to play the game...

Here's a great resource that I just released on TPT! It's a set of 24 cards designed to provide practice in using basic facts and place value patterns to multiply whole numbers that are multiples of 10.

Think 120 x 30....Since you know that 12 x 3 = 36, you can simply count the number of zeros on both factors and place as many zeros on the product. Since 120 and 30 both have 1 zero, I need to place 2 zeros at the end of 36. The product of 120 x 30 must be 3,600.

Even though my CCSS 5th grade fluency standard is for students to "fluently multiply multi-digit numbers using the standard algorithm," I emphasize the use of basic facts and place value patterns so that mental math is more accessible.

To provide extra practice with the Properties of Multiplication, I've created cards 1-12 to include 2 factors and cards 13-24 to include 3 factors. Answers may range from 0 to products in the millions.

Click on any of the pictures above to hop on over to my TPT Store!

- Mrs. Wiggin -

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

You Created a Blog?

Time to jump right in! Over the past year I've become increasingly obsessed with following several teaching blogs. Between the creative ideas and real-life pictures, how could I resist? Besides, those super cute backgrounds are like candy for my eyes! After months of stalking several of my favorite bloggers I started to think "How hard could it be?" and "...if they can do it, surely I can too." Subsequently, I am proud to announce my first blog - Dots and Decimals.

What's in a name?

I had the hardest time thinking of a catchy blog name. When you see pictures of my classroom (COMING SOON) you'll quickly agree that ladybugs and polka dots rock my world. I wanted something to reflect that, but also something to convey my love for teaching mathematics. Fingers crossed that I don't feel the urge to change the name every week.

Just a Taste

My school district is *thankfully* on summer vacation...this means that my daily schedule currently consists of laying by the pool, reading, & planning for next year. I can't help it! I hate to use the word obsessed, but I truly love teaching math and don't mind to spend hours looking for new ideas or tweaking the strategies that I already use. With that being said, it is quite difficult for me to stay away from my classroom during the summer months. Hopefully I can stop by the school tomorrow to take some pictures, but until then here is a sneak peak of the outside of my classroom. P.S. - I totally made this by hand, thus it has some imperfections :)
- Mrs. Wiggin -