Scratch Art

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As a final math/art project this school year, we made our own scratch art! Inspired by a project I had done in high school, we recycled cereal boxes and painted the brown cardboard side white. Then we added a simple design in Sharpie marker and colored the white spaces with crayons. Next, we painted blank ink over the whole surface, let it dry, and finally we were ready to start scratching the ink off!

Art Teacher’s Note: Buy the ”Black Cat” Ink from a Dick Blick art supply store. It covers the crayon much more thoroughly (and quickly!) than another knock-off brand we tried.


D.A.R.E. Graduation

L2R: Valeria, Ariana, Miss S., Marcelo, Coqui, and Tamara

My 5th graders officially graduated from the D.A.R.E. program today. Here we are after the graduation. Marcelo (center) was not happy because I made him wait until after the photo to get a cupcake. Oh, the injustices of childhood, haha.

A Good Kind of Pride

LtoR Tamara, Ariana, and Valeria

I just need a soapbox for a second to brag be proud of how hard my students have worked this school year!

We had our last round of Reading and Math state tests last week, and the average growth for my students was 150% of their goal!!!! Average growth is 7 points, and most scored at least 9 points higher than they did in the fall. (Round of applause, please!)

This week, I am giving “Fountas and Pinnell” reading tests, which I realized has a humorous acronym (F and P… say it five times fast and you are sure to understand why my non-teacher friends were laughing at me). Average growth on the Fountas and Pinnell reading levels are about 3 per year. My students (oh yes, another bragging proud moment) have improved at least 4 levels this school year… and some even up to 6!!!

Very proud : ) (and relieved that my efforts have not been in vain!)

Hand Motions Gone Bad

CENSORED FOR YOUR COMFORT LEVEL (because I don’t know if you would be comfortable with this, lol)

I have recently incorporated a wide variety of hand motions into our math learning. Formulas instantly become more entertaining (and much easier to recall the next day) when we act them out…

So we’re learning the formula for finding the volume for a cone or a pyramid, and basically, you find the volume as if the objects were a cylinder or rectangular prism (respectively), and then you need to multiply by one-third to have the volume for only the cone/pyramid. I did not have any brilliant ideas for how to act out one-third, so I polled the crowd, a.k.a, the eighteen 5th graders who are oh-so-privileged to get math instruction from yours truly.

From the back of the room, Ricardo makes these hand motions:

I didn’t see it the first time, so he quieted his friends down around him and showed them. His friend, Jorge, says, ”Miss, you have to see this!”

So I look. Ricardo does his hand motions again and nearly shouts, “One-third!” as he makes the first and second motion.

My jaw dropped to the floor. My eyes bugged out of my face. My eyebrows hit a new height complete with forehead wrinkles.

Ricardo looked back at me quizzically concerning my reaction… Then it hit. A look of recognition of what he had just done came over his face and he now mirrored my reaction.

He put his hands behind him (as if that undoes the fact that he just flicked off his teacher, not once, but twice). His face, neck, and arms turned red. Seriously, I have never seen such a blush from a 11-year-old boy.

”I– I’m sorry!!” he managed to stammer.

Now recovered from my initial shock, I am laughing my head off. Seriously laughing my head off (which my students just learned today does not mean someone’s head actually falls off #iloveidiomeducation). Students that didn’t see what had happened are now pleading Ricardo to show his idea again. He politely refuses, still beet red.

I am still laughing my head off as I write this. The art of making mistakes is to laugh… right? Any mistakes you’ve made lately that you couldn’t help but laugh about?

This Week’s LOL Moments

I am grading spelling tests, and students wrote sentences for each word. I always explain that their sentences must show that they clearly understand what the word means (i.e. If the spelling word is spoon, they can’t write ”What is a spoon?” They have to write something like ”I eat my cereal with a spoon” to explain the meaning.) So the spelling word was ”believe” and my student writes for his sentence, ”I believe I can fly.” I instantly heard background music (okay, so it was just in my head) from R. Kelly belting out on the Space Jam soundtrack (I confess, that was my childhood favorite soundtrack : )) ”I believe I can fly… I believe I can touch the sky…” LOL


I teach 5th grade math, so my 6th graders go to other math classes, and another teacher’s 5th graders change to my classroom for our daily 60 minutes of math. I have enjoyed math class this year, especially since it’s been one big experiment while I adjust to the Everyday Math curriculum. The other day, as students are entering and settling into their seats, one of the girls says, ”Miss, I like your shirt!” (It’s a bright purple shirt with ”wing” sleeves. Not sure what else to call them.) I make chicken wings and say, ”Thanks, this shirt helps me to fly!” Another student says in a mock serious voice with his eyebrows at just the right furrow, ”I don’t suggest you jump off a building with that shirt.” I LOLed right then and there! I wish I had a photo of his facial expression to share with you!


We are working on synonyms for ”feeling” words to help students express themselves confidently (and to grow our vocabularies : )). So the word of the day was ”tired” and I introduced two synonyms during our Morning Meeting — lethargic and exhausted. Tomas and Luis were immediately hooked by the word  lethargic and began repeating it over and over. I described how sloths are lethargic because they move so slowly that it takes them 24 hours to climb up and down just one tree. Just then over the loudspeaker, the daily Pledge of Allegiance began, and all students stood, except Marcelo. About three phrases into the Pledge, Marcelo was still in his chair but his arms were slowly lifting up to the ceiling. In my best quiet teacher voice, I command Marcelo to join us in standing, and he whispers back, ”Miss, but I’m practicing being a lethargic sloth.” Right, so it’s going to take you 24 hours to stand up. LOL.


I was hosting a study hall of sorts with my 6th graders and another teacher’s 4th graders while our 5th graders were in D.A.R.E. class. The secretaria called over the loudspeaker, and we had a short conversation in Spanish about daily school details. The buzz of busy students stopped, and when I turned to face the class, the latino 4th graders’ jaws were dropped (I humbly confess I love these moments of surprising kids : )). All in that same moment, two latinas literally got out of their desks, hugged me with a huge tackle, and exclaimed, ”Eres puertorriqueña?” (Are you Puerto Rican?) LOL. Apparently my Spanish accent of the moment made them think I share their heritage. ”No, chicas,” I told them, ”I am gringa.” I glanced over at my beaming 6th graders. Oh yes, they are still proud that their gringa maestra speaks the español. : )

Lions and Gladiators

Some (not all : )) of my best teaching moments are those spur-of-the-moment ideas like this one:

We went outside for recess, and there’s this random new white plastic huge circle thing in the middle of our playground field. My students of course ask, “Teacher, what is this for?” and I replied, “I have no idea.”

Then Yessenia has the ingenuity to say, “Miss, it reminds me of the Colosseum!!” If I were a cartoon character, you would have seen a lightbulb appear above my head at that moment when I thought of this game:

1. Take the classic “Sharks and Minnows” game where one person is a shark and has to tag the minnows. Once the minnows are tagged, they become sharks as well and start tagging others. Eventually everyone is tagged.

2. Adapt “Sharks and Minnows” to be “Lions and Gladiators”. Wa-lah! You have yourself a review game of sorts!

We even made a demonstration video for you below. Notice how our “lion” prowls a bit before pouncing on all the gladiators (one boy pointed out that the gladiators should be wearing armor and carrying shields and swords… I told him he was absolutely correct however I didn’t think the principal would approve our recess swords. He said, “But it’s self-defense!” Lol.). Then when the lion decides to pounce, the crowd creates a “whirlpool” effect as they all run in a circle. I love how Mario is just chilling on the side for a while, and then how Luis is holding an injury and groaning as he theatrically runs in front of the camera. : )

(Sidenote: Please excuse the poor video quality… I’m new to posting videos on WordPress!)

Yes, those are boys still screaming like girls, haha. Glad you asked. : )

This game is easily adapted to other historical contexts and even to science concepts. We recently switched from studying Ancient Rome to studying the American Revolution (humongous jump in content, I know : )). A student suggested that we play “Boston Massacre” where we have one “redcoat” (a British soldier) chase all the colonists… It’s a bit morbid, but I guess I’ll do whatever it takes for students to retain information. If you’re looking for a science game, you could have the white blood cells chase germs.

And if you’ll humor me for just thirty more seconds, I just had to share how cute my students are. Seriously, it is such a privilege to be part of students’ lives and be able to enjoy getting to know their silly side (even if silly means pretend boogers, lol). This is our “practice” video and it truly brings out a couple of our classroom personalities. Enjoy : )