Chalking it up

My Algebra I kids are learning to graph inequalities on a number line. To teach them effectively, I needed a tool that would allow them to graph several problems in rapid succession, with answers big enough that I could see them from halfway across the room. After some thought, I came up with a number line written on a yardstick that had been coated on one side with chalkboard paint. I used the inch markings — which were stamped into the wood — as guides to keep the spacing even. They were cheap (less than $30 worth of materials for the whole project) and worked really well.

The picture above shows one of the number lines and another little tool I made for the classroom: I took cardboard cutouts of robots (available from Michael’s for $1.99 a dozen) and sprayed them with the chalkboard paint. The kids will use them to show me their answers to problems they work in class.

Here are some closeups of my handiwork:

I like the robots. They’re kind of like those dry-erase paddles you get at teachers’ stores, except they’re a lot cheaper ($5 for a class set instead of $105) and a lot cuter. I’m hoping they’ll overcome some of the kids’ shyness about sharing answers in class. Calling out an answer is scary, but holding up a cardboard robot with the answer written on it is just funny.

The other cool thing about using homemade items in class is that they make the kids feel loved. My kids always get really excited when they find out I made something for them myself: “You made that? Really? How long did that take? I can’t believe you spent all that time making that just for us!”

Handmade means something to them. My mentor/saboteur at my first teaching job understood that. She had her faults, but her classroom was a very warm, inviting space, with handmade valances at the windows and little craft-show decorations everywhere. It felt more like a friend’s kitchen than a gritty urban classroom, and that really resonated with the kids.

It occurs to me that I have spent 12 years hoarding my bad experiences with this woman and dismissing the good. Until this minute, I don’t think it ever occurred to me to acknowledge what she was doing right or to consider that she might have loved her kids as much as I love mine. There’s another blog entry in that, but I’ll save it for tomorrow, as it’s getting late tonight.

For now, I’ll just bask in the knowledge that I am healing, be it ever so slowly.


Busy weekend

Wow. What a weekend. Since Thursday night, I have recorded myself reading seven children’s books for the munchkins in my family; made two batches of truffles; taken photographs all over Tulsa; gone to the Blue Whale twice (once so Ron could photograph Santa’s arrival for his blog, and once to deliver some Blue Whale Christmas cards for the volunteers to sell as a fundraiser); glued a miniature plastic sushi playset to my dashboard; built a shelf to hold a planter on my kitchen windowsill so I can grow culinary herbs above the sink; painted a lawn gnome in psychedelic colors; gone shopping at Grumpy’s Garden; designed a set of erasable number lines for my Algebra I kids to use for graphing inequalities; and designed a set of robot-shaped mini-chalkboards for the kids to use for showing me the answers to in-class problems.

Here’s my awesome dashboard:

If I hadn’t stuck that rose rock to the dashboard, it probably would have become part of an assemblage involving a sheela-na-gig.

Shiny objects — yay! The stars glow in the dark, in case you were wondering.

The usual suspects. Please note the tiny plastic chopsticks in the Pizza Planet alien’s left hand.

Wider shot of the usual suspects.

The left side of the dashboard. The Care Bear and shiny stone came from geocaches. The roadrunner is from Tee Pee Curios in Tucumcari, and the gecko is from Kix on 66 in Tucumcari.

The lizard came from a geocache. The roadrunner came from Seaba Station. The frog came from the dollar store.

The little Lego robot was lying on the ground on the patio at Coach’s — the restaurant that overlooks the field where the Redhawks play in OKC — while Ron and I were watching Ryne Sandberg throw batting practice for the I-Cubs last summer. He gets more sushi than the rattlesnake because he has sentimental value.

TravelOK is selling charms to promote Oklahoma tourist attractions — including the Blue Whale, which of course I had to have.

How awesome is it that the miniature sushi playset came with both a set of miniature plastic chopsticks and a miniature spork?

Hope your weekend was as fun and productive as mine.