March 27, 2013

Love for my new Math Bulletin Board

When I moved into my classroom at the beginning of this year, I had big plans for the giant bulletin board that stretched along one of my (small) walls above my counter.  It was going to be my fabulous MATH BOARD, and it was going to be colorful, interactive, and just plain wonderful.  Then the school year started, testing happened, and the board ended up totally covered with a random hodgepodge (technical term) of signs displaying math terms and definitions.  There was no rhyme or reason other than, "CRAP!  Here's ANOTHER concept that will be on THE TEST that I didn't have time to teach!  Better put up a sign and hope my darlings look at this board!!!!!"  I know, I know, good teachers everywhere are cringing and shaking their heads at me with disdain.
After 2 nearly solid weeks of testing (I KNOW!), the last thing I wanted to do was look at those awful signs anymore.  Last week, instead of using my precious plan time to actually grade the gigantic stack of expository essays or poetry books that I've been carrying around in my teacher bag for far too long, I pulled out my trusty staple remover and demolished the entire board.  Suddenly, I had a PROJECT on my hands.  Before I knew what was happening, I was typing labels for the different areas of the board, mounting them on hot pink paper, and even laminating them.  (Don't ask why--I realize there is NO good reason other than that I turn on that laminator every chance I get.)  I am IN LOVE with the result!
On the left: current anchor charts with content we are working on, models, and any relevant sentence frames.  I have these hanging with clothes pins with tacks hot glued to the back--one of my favorite things to use around the classroom this year.  SO much easier to add new charts throughout the week.  I try to make them with the kids as much as possible, and if I do make them in advance, I always use them in a lesson before hanging them on the board.
Next up is our Wonderful Math Words section.  After being so annoyed about stapling and unstapling (another technical term) my old vocab signs, it dawned on me to just hang a pocket chart.  DUH.  I know any primary teachers are confused about why i didn't think of this idea in the first place, and my only possible reasoning is that I like to make my life difficult sometimes.  Love this so much more.  I wrote my vocab on large index cards rather than sentence strips so I could include brief definitions or examples on some cards.
Possibly my favorite part is the game section.  I've never used the Everyday Math games as much as I have this year, mostly because I am doing a guided math block and have less co-teacher support for groups than I have had in the past.  This means that students are independent more frequently, and I needed something more than journal pages for that time but don't like dealing with centers.  Some games are from EDM and others I made up to reinforce the skills we are working on.  I am trying to find or create two games to "feature" on the board per unit that closely relate to the skills we are working on.  These are our "Featured Games."  I included instructions and examples/photographs of the games on the board in page protectors so I can easily slide them in and out.  (Sorry for the glare in the picture!)
Below that are the "Old Favorites"--games we've worked with earlier in the year that are also available.  I wrote all of the games on dry-erase sentence strips so I can easily change them without taking the strips down.
I've been going crazy all year, though, managing the handouts and supplies that go with each game.  I've had a mess of papers and file folders in a bin on the counter since Fall!  I knew something had to change, so I laminated file folders and stapled them along the sides before stapling them to the bottom of the board.  I wrote the name of a different game on each in wet-erase marker, along with the materials needed to play.  Any other materials needed for the available games are in small boxes/baskets at the base of the board (calculators, dice, cards, etc.) Now, the kids can go up and find what they need to play a game.  Finally everything is running smoothly, and more importantly, no one is interrupting my guided math groups to ask questions about games!!

One other new feature is a Challenge section.  Meeting the needs of my brightest math students is something I've been slacking on this year.  It can just be so hard to leave a guided group of your most needy students to work with your advanced kiddos--even though they need you just as much!  I'm comitting to finding more ways to challenge my students inside and outside of guided groups throughout the rest of this year and into next year.  While this means meeting with their groups more frequently, it also means independent and group activities that will exercise their math minds when they are not meeting with me.
I posted two Challenge Problems on the board (also in page protectors) for them to try last week, and they LOVED them.  I also found some supplemental challenge activities from EDM that I copied and put in the folder below the challenge problems.  I practiced with the kids how they could go to the pocket and take any of the challenge activities any time they finished their "Must Do" math activity for the day, and checked in on what they were working on when we met during our group.  All of my kids are assigned a "Brain Buddy" who they work with when they are not meeting in a group, and the challenge activities are something they can work on together.

1 week in, the kids told me they really like the new board.  One even said, "Everything is so organized!" Be still my teacher heart.  The most important thing, though, is that everything displayed is for a PURPOSE--enhancing the learning of my students.  Isn't that what it's all about? :-)

Do you use interactive bulletin boards?  This is my first venture into them, and obviously this board isn't really interactive, but it's still a step in the right direction!  I'd love to hear more about how you make your bulletin boards a meaningful part of your teaching!


  1. Oh, I love this idea!! I might have to try it for next year...too much on my plate right now, but it's awesome!

  2. Hi Amy!
    I love that you post the charts of the what you're currently working on. I hang them on clotheslines, but this might be a bit better! I'm off to think about how I can rearrange my math board :)

    Thanks for the great idea!

  3. O.M.G. This is awesome! I totally want to make one of these for reading!! Seriously, this is a GREAT visual for kids to really see how the whole unit works together! Props Lady!

  4. KUDOS! It's awesome that everything on the board is so functional. ~Stacy @

  5. This looks amazing! I ought to have come to see it in real life - I bet I could learn a tonne from you.

  6. Love, love, love it!! I may be teaching all subjects next year in 6th grade and math will be brand new for me. Keep those posts coming!! :)



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