Clearing Teacher Clutter- Managing Your Computer Desktop

Are you constantly downloading and saving new things but don't know where they all are much less what they are named? Come grab some tricks to get you started in clearing your desktop and saving your sanity!

So you downloaded some files last week and you know you saved them on your computer (flash drive, Dropbox, etc.) but now you totally can’t find them? This is the case off a many people and just like you I am MEGA guilty!

Desktop Clutter
Does your computer desktop look like a hodge podge of icons that you can’t even remember what half of them are? While I personally rarely save things to my desktop I have gotten into the habit of putting things I am currently working with on there. Well when you are working on multiple projects at at time this can get a little it crazy.

First thing I did was sit down and rename things that were on my desktop to be exactly what they were so I could identify them. It is perfectly okay to rename something after you have downloaded it! In fact, I command you to do this as only you know how you plan to use it and while I might name a file I upload as FREEBIE_EditableMatchbookTemplate_4mulaFun you may only care to know that it is the Matchbook Template. All that other junk is so it sorts better in my personal files and gives me ownership when it is downloaded by you.

After you have renamed the Organized Desktopfiles that are sitting on your desktop to through with a fine tooth comb and determine which of those files are necessary to be on your desktop, which ones can be filed away and which an be purged all together. Fill the recycle bin first but don’t delete it yet! Move files that you aren’t using, or shortcuts that you don’t need often, to your files section. This could be on your hard drive, external drive or any cloud based software (Dropbox, Carbonite, etc.). The files you have left now are ready to be further organized.

I have always used a method of lumping like things on my desktop but it wasn’t until recently that’s started using an actual desktop organizer. There are a lot of FREE ones out there but they aren’t all customizable so I grabbed one from xyz that I not only got to choose my colors for but also the headings for each section.

File Storage Organization

When it comes to storing your files it’s best to start big and go small. I have what I think of as a set of roots in my file organization.

On my classroom flash drive I had main files for each unit I taught. So it would be U1-Integers, U2-Decimal Operations, U3-Fraction Operations, etc. I did it this way so that they would stay in unit order and not be mixed up by the different titles. I need EASY!

Underneath each of these I had more folders. The folders that I had included INB Files, Practice, Activities, Exit Tickets, Assessments. This allowed me to keep all of my files for my units organized to where I can find them. I went completely digital in my files and this is where they all stayed! My filing cabinet had 1 drawer for paper files of things that I hadn’t scanned in to create a digital copy of. The rest was for colored paper reams, benchmark tests, etc.

Make it functional for how you work. Think about what you would search to find something and make it happen! It may take you a few hours to get this started and you may want to do it a few pieces at a time but you CAN do this!

Do you want to have a pretty Customized Desktop Designcustomized desktop for your newly organized files? Well just for you I have secured one from the fabulous Christa Barlow of Christa Barlow Designs on Etsy. I have this very desktop in my blog colors on my main desktop in my office and I love it! I did add my Melonheadz to it to give it a little more ME but it looks just so cute! You get to pick 4 colors and tell Christa the headings that you want and she will send you the full size file perfect for your desktop! Don’t forget to enter below by Monday, January 26th at 11:59pm Central.

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And for those of you who have made it this far, I have to say THANK YOU for the concern as I have been away recovering from surgery on the 13th. I took some time to rest and recover afterwards that was much needed. I am still not full speed but it has been what I needed to get better for all of us. Sitting for long periods is the hardest thing and sadly it is what I must do to be able to work on my computer.

Math in Art

4mula Fun Math In Art

In our teaching programs, we all learned about the different sides of the brain and different learning types. But with the recession, many schools lost the programs that helped reach all learning types – especially art. Art is more than just creating beautiful pieces, many of the great master painters used math concepts to make their pieces even more appealing. Art helps other subjects come alive!

So how can we integrate math into art for our students? Here’s over 15 resources for covering both math and art concepts in a lesson! You can find even more on my Math in Art pinterest board.

How to make an orderly tangle of triangles – great for a geometry class!

How to make an orderly tangle of triangles – great for a geometry class!

Teach bar graphing skills (and even pi!) with this city skyline activity.

Teach bar graphing skills (and even pi!) with this city skyline activity.

Paint with compasses! Great for introducing this tool to younger students.

Paint with compasses! Great for introducing this tool to younger students.

Teach symmetry with this self-portrait activity.

Teach symmetry with this self-portrait activity.

Tessellations have always been popular STEAM activities – here’s one for fish, there’s plenty more online for all grade levels!

Tessellations have always been popular STEAM activities – here’s one for fish, there’s plenty more online for all grade levels!

This activity can help students struggling with the Pythagorean Theorem grasp the concept while making this piece of art!

This activity can help students struggling with the Pythagorean Theorem grasp the concept while making this piece of art!

These geometric stars can also be used for tracking New Year’s Resolutions!

These geometric stars can also be used for tracking New Year’s Resolutions!

Kids are always impressed with mobius strips!

Kids are always impressed with mobius strips!

Help students with learn their multiplication table with this art activity!

Help students with learn their multiplication table with this art activity!

These kaleidoscope blocks are fun to make, and teach many different concepts while the students create them!

These kaleidoscope blocks are fun to make, and teach many different concepts while the students create them!

Your students will be impressed with themselves when they make these optical illusions!

Your students will be impressed with themselves when they make these optical illusions!

For students new to geometry, a protractor can be a bit daunting. Help them learn to use the tool while creating fun pieces of artwork!

For students new to geometry, a protractor can be a bit daunting. Help them learn to use the tool while creating fun pieces of artwork!

These colorful polyhedrons teach important problem solving skills during their construction, and they make great classroom decorations!

These colorful polyhedrons teach important problem solving skills during their construction, and they make great classroom decorations!

The golden ratio is one of those amazing concepts that covers almost all the areas of STEAM! The mathematical concept can be found in many famous pieces of artwork. This page has several resources for teaching it.

The golden ratio is one of those amazing concepts that covers almost all the areas of STEAM! The mathematical concept can be found in many famous pieces of artwork. This page has several resources for teaching it.

Teach the concept of seamless patterns and your students won’t want to stop coming up with new creations!

Teach the concept of seamless patterns and your students won’t want to stop coming up with new creations!

Follow 4mulaFun’s board Math In Art on Pinterest.

There’s even more Math in Art projects on my Pinterest board! What Math in Art projects have you used in the classroom? Did it help you reach more struggling students? I want to know!

Pin for later:

4mula Fun Math In Art STEAM Resources

Clearing Teacher Clutter- Managing Supplies for Classes

Are managing materials for multiple class periods getting you down? Check out this blog post to helps set some structure and get you back on track!Every year I think that I am going to be the best at managing the supplies in my classroom over the course of 7 class periods (or even one class when I taught Elementary) and one thing leads to another and life happens. It could be that we get too busy to keep up with things or I’m out for a day and chaos occurs but it always happens.

Working In Groups
In my classroom my students were in groups of four MAX. I read in a journal a few years back that for maximum efficiency in a group we should never do larger than 4 people and I took it to heart. I wish I could remember the journal article where someone did the research behind this but I simply haven’t been able to find it. Having these groups allows for four class jobs within ach table and that helps matters more than you will ever know.

My students only had an assigned table to sit at and could therefore have a new job each and every day. The jobs that I used were: Table Manager, Scribe, Materials Manager and Clean Up Crew. I simply labeled each of my desks to show these jobs and went over the purpose of these jobs during the year and had some posters to hang in my classroom (grab them FREE).

TablesThe Table Manager was my right hand. They were the one that was in charge of making sure their group stayed on task and in check. If the class got loud I could simply say “Managers” and they knew to check their group.

The Scribe (the least appealing job in my classes) was simply the one that was in charge of taking down notes for the group when doing any group work. This did not mean that they had a job every day as we didn’t always have group work to do.

The Materials Manager will be the one to rely on heavily when you are making sure your supplies are in order each day. This job entailed making sure our table tubs had all of the necessary supplies each day at the beginning and the end of the class period. They were the only one who could replace supplies as needed and therefore I didn’t have 24 kiddos getting up throughout the class period to replace things. They will be your saving grace and hold them accountable. They will need reminders of what supplies are in the table tubs and if that means taking a picture or placing a label inside then do it! They also gathered manipulatives/papers as needed for me because 6 bodies moving is so much easier!

And last, but certainly not least is my Clean Up Crew. This person took care of the Tidy Trash Tub at their table at the end of the class period.Again, only 6 bodies getting up to take care of trash at one time rather then all period having students get up and go waste time at the trash can.

Supplies for Tables
Every time I am doing a workshop I am asked what supplies I kept in my table tubs. This was really something I worked hard with and changed a lot over the course of the years. I finally reasoned it down to the following:
There are so many other things (like rulers, etc.) that I can add to the table tubs but I have come to the conclusion less is more. The one thing I do recommend for glue bottles is to grab enough of the Tap And Glue caps for each of your glue bottles and always have a refill gallon on hand. You can’t believe oh much sanity this will save you.
Extra Supplies

Manipulative and Supply ShelvesWhere do you keep them? I was thankful to have a second bookshelf in my classroom (yes, a whopping 2) and I kept it full of the shoe box size plastic tubs. I loved these tubs and still have them today over the past 10 years because they are so sturdy. As students brought in supplies, or they were saved from the prior year or sales I found, I put these supplies in their individual tubs. Since they were labeled clearly (there are so many labels available on Teachers Pay Teachers) the Materials Managers could easily go and grab the supplies they needed to replace quickly.

I did also keep a smaller tub that contained lead for mechanical pencils in it in multiple sizes. This was the only tub that I let any student get into because I wanted them to get it for their own pencil. This saved the student from having to beg and borrow from a neighbor or just not have a pencil for class. I also always had pencils for purchase for quarter in my class. The money simply went back into replenishing supplies as needed.

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Clearing Teacher Clutter- Being Prepared for a Substitute

Remember that day when you woke up at 3 am sick as a dog (or maybe it was your child) and you knew that today just wasn’t your day already?Are you ready for an unexpected substitute? Come follow these steps to make sure that you aren't leaving your teammates scrambling when you are sick! Not only were you sick but you had left your classroom in complete dissaray the day before and were planning on heading in a bit early to get your copies for the day made? Yea, we have all been there! Today I want you to take an hour and plan out your Emergency Sub Plans because we all know the one that we threw together at the beginning of the school year isn’t necessarily the best.

Sub Folder

The first step to havin a smooth transition into a day with a substitute, where planned or not, is to have a complete Eight Pocket FolderSubstitute Folder. I’ve used many different “folders” in my time but I’ve found those that have multiple pockets to be the best for my classes. This way I can have each class information and work in their own pocket and things are just together. When you have multiple class periods, go through and label each pocket with the class period (I suggest using labels and not permanent markers for ease of changing next year when your schedule changes). Because I only had 7 class periods, I used the first pocket to keep a copy of my personal daily schedule, my rules, my discipline policy, and some paper for the sub to leave me notes.

In each of the pockets for the class periods I keep a copy of my roster, seating chart, notes about helpful students and those to keep an extra eye on, and then any other important notes for that class period (allergies, pull-outs, modifications/accommodations, etc.). After those items (easy to do on one sheet of paper and printed double-sided), I then kept copies of an assignment they could easily complete without much help from a substitute. This was because I never knew what I would get for a substitute since we weren’t able to request a sub and our pool seemed to continue to dwindle over the years.

I would update this over the course of the year about 4 times because what I would have for my students in the beginning of the year woudn’t be what I wanted them to work on later in the year in case of an emergency. I would simply file away the other items until the following year. You could also have four different folders prepped and then just have them accessible throughout the year as long as you keep your roster and seating chart updated.

I have also used a singleSub Folder folder before when I taught all of the same class. When I did this I kept my rosters, seating charts and procedures in one pocket and then copies of the days work in the other pocket. Most of the time when I had a substitute I only left a class set of materials and told her to make sure the students didn’t write on it but rather in their notebooks on a certain page or on notebook paper to turn in (for ability to check to see what they did or didn’t do).

Quality Resources

Over the course of time I have not only created numerous resources that are perfect to leave with a substitute but I’ve also used several from friends of mine. Depending on what you are working on in class you may want to make sure you have several of these on hand for those days when you are out, or maybe you just need a break from constant talking.

Pirate GeometryPirate Geometry is a perfect project to review Geometry skills for 4th-7th grade students. In this project based lesson students will have the task to create a pirate map that includes a point, four line segments, a perpendicular dock, an obtuse, acute and right angle along their path, parallel palm trees, intersection perpendicular lines, and four rays within given parameters.

Left, Right, Answer is an easy activity that Left Right Answeryou canhave prepared ahead of time for students to use with ANY set of Task Cards to review skills that you are learning. It is a spin-off of Left, Right, Center and makes answering questions a little more fun because it adds in a bit of chance of not having to answer the question. The things students don’t know if because they are working with their group and communicating, they are still doing the work!

Brainy Day RelayAnother great and engaging activity that you could easily incorporate into any class (because she has awesome templates as well) is the Brainy Day Relay by MissMathDork. Students are in groups and working together as a group to solve a problem and then based on answering correctly (checked by the substitute), one student then adds something to their collective drawing. These turn out so cute and sometimes HILARIOUS and are a great addition to your classroom decor.

And if using Math in Real LifeIn My Dreams wasn’t important, this bundle of In My Dreams Math Stories by Teaching Math by Hart are perfect for making students think about how to use math naturally in daiy life. The different activities in this bundle include Calculating Sales & Discounts, Calculating Deposits & Loans, Calculating Mortgages & Commission, Designing a Room on a Budget and Surviving on a Salary which are all defintiely things that students in middle school and high school need to get a grasp of before being thrown out into the real world.

I hope that these tips will help you as you prepare for the upcoming semester. We all know that being out of the classroom is not always planned or wanted but it happens. Heck, that is why they give us those days to use each year! So whether you are taking a Mental Health Holiday, a sick day or a Professional Development Day.. make sure you are prepared!

And who wouldn’t want some Starbucks to help prepare them! Enter to win a $10 Gift Card below!

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Clearing Teacher Clutter- Class Schedules and Calendar

Welcome to the first of a series of posts this month about Clearing Teacher Clutter. I was inspired to write this post after I was reading the most recent Real Simple magazine and it was talking about how so many of us vow to organize and clear out the clutter in our homes this time of year. Who says we can’t do this at school as well?

Many of us start the new school year with high and lofty goals of being better organized but we all know by October we are done for. This is the time to put some action in place and get on the ball. Over the course of the month I am going to hit on 6 different topics and get you started in the right direction for the second half fo the school year.

Spring SemesterAre you totally overwhelmed with class schedules and your teacher calendar? Check out these tips to help you begin fresh. for many of us not only brings new student schedules (for secondary teachers) but also a whole new calendar to get used to. Deadlines are getting closer and we must re-evaluate where we currently are and how much time we have to get there.

First thing I want you to do is look at your class schedule. How long are EACH of your class periods? If your were anything like mine were I had one period that was 42 minutes, some were 45, another was 48 and then that dreaded lunch period was 94 minutes. Yes, this means that I must adjust my scheduling for each period so that I make sure and fill that time FULL so we have no idle hands.

Class Schedule and Flow

So remember how I just said to look at your class schedule and look at how many minutes each class period were? Think about those class periods last semester and how they flowed. Did you use the most of your entire class period? Were you left with extra time in some of them because the class just seemed to finish quicker? Was that class longer maybe?

How can you tweak things in your classes to make things flow best? The best thing I can suggest for you to is to plan your week out and plan for the SHORTEST class. Yes, the shortest. I planned my 42 minutes class to the minute! I wanted to pack that class because it was also my rowdiest class of 28 kids with 17 of them being boys and right before the first lunch period.

Taking Time for Interactive Notebooks FREEBIEThat was when I first created a post on how to use the most of your time with an Interactive Notebook. I knew that I had to plan them to the minute to stay on top of them and get all the necessary items in. As you can see I did have some flexibility in this schedule with timing but it was something I had posted in my room and I adjusted it for each class. So when 3rd period started at 10:13am, I had the schedule go 10:13-10:17 for Prep Time, 10:17-10:23 for Intro/Vocabulary, 10:23-10:43 for Mini Lesson in INB, 10:43-10:53 Practice/Apply and then 10:53-10:58 Exit Ticket. Yes, this honestly helped me keep my sanity to have it up for every class. It also helped if I was out of the classroom for some reason because then someone who was filling in for me knew my guidelines.

Once you have this done in your classroom and you know how to fill your shortest class, you can either add time in for further investigation in the mini lesson, more time to practice/apply what has been taught or even time to evaluate prior materials. Other fun things that I included during my longer classes were a few task cards under the projector together or Order Ups or Math Libs independently.


Every year I print out a blank calendar. Yes, it has to be cute so it keeps me interested. I use that calendar for my long-range planning. While some districts may do this for you I always found it invaluable to have one for myself.

First thing, print NIxie Knox Designs Calendar for 2015out the pages for the rest of the school year. I happen to likebig open calendars like this that have plenty of space to write in. Make sure to have a pencil ready and some fine line markers (or my favorite Flair Pens). Once you have your supplies ready, pull up your school calendar. Mark off testing dates, any known field trips, days off of school, etc. These are the non-teaching days and you will need to account for those when you are planning.

Now that you have your actual teaching days open, look at your curriculum that you have left to teach. This is where I get out my pencil and start marking down concepts to teach in certain weeks/groups of days. This helps me get a plan for where I need to be before state testing and end of the year. I add in my time for review as well and it allows me to see if I can add in some projectts, do some extra days for practice for concepts I know will be difficult, etc.

If you have never long-ranged planned before this will be your BEST FRIEND! It will help you when you are doing your weekly lesson plans as well because you already have a road map.

Class ProceduresBy now you are probably wondering how can class procedures help affect scheduling in my classroom? Remember when we talked about time management earlier and how it was important to plan for your shortest class? Well, when you have procedures in place for your students to just follow through there will be no reason for wasting time in class.

We all set those procedures in the beginning of the year but as we are now back in the swing after holiday break it is time to start reviewing those even with our upper elementary and secondary kiddos. I promise they need it just as much, if not more, than the younger ones.

Pick Up Area

If you didn’t have procedures set up with your students, now is the time to start! My students knew to come into class and pick up the papers for the day (flippables for their notebooks, exit tickets, homework, etc.) from the table by the door. They also knew the SMART Board had all the information they needed to know to get ready for the day. You can do this on your white board, the projector, etc. just DO IT! Students need structure and you will save your sanity from having to say it umpteen times and wasting class time!

And if you have stuck with me through all those tips then you deserve to jump in on the giveaway I have for you below! Jump on down to the RaffleCopter and enter to win some goodies from NixieKnox Designs to help you get started in organizing your schedule and To Do List for 2015!

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Currently in a NEW YEAR!

Currently January 2015Another year has begun and with the beginning of a new month means a new Currently with Oh Boy 4th Grade. Seriously this blog linky that Farley has been doing for ages now is one I look forward to each month even if I forget to actually do it. :)

Listening to the DVR first episode of this season of Little Women LA. I have this infatuation with watching shows that include Little People but being 6’2″ and seeing them in real life is a bit daunting.

Loving my fuzzy socks! They are seriously the best thing in winter.

Thinking I have some planning to do. I have a workshop in South San Antonio and in North San Antonio next week and I need to do some planning. They are make and take workshops so they should be a LOT of fun.

Wanting someone to magically put away all of the decorations for me. I seriously hate putting them up and hate taking them down even more. Need to go get some bigger storage tubs to hold the larger stuff we have now.

Needing to do some serious laundry from our trip to Nebraska over Christmas and to be prepared for the upcoming trips that I have. Anyone want to help? I will let you do yours as well.

Yes, I am having weight loss surgery this month, January 13th to be exact. I will be having a vertical sleeve gastrectomy and be in the hospital probably just for the day (maybe overnight). I’ve been on my pre-op diet since December 23rd and I have my ups and downs. I will be on liquids through January and then soft foods for awhile after that. I am hoping that by my birthday (February 24th) I will have met my first goal of being down 10% of my starting weight. This gets me started on the path and I can’t wait. I did grab some new portion plates and serving pieces to help have the right tools to get me going. Since hubby had the surgery almost two years ago it wil be good for both of us.

So while all of this is starting the new year on a new foot, I am excited about what it means.