Teachers Change Lives

As most of you already know, I used to be a teacher. I taught in an urban school district and I could have spent my entire (fairly meager) paycheck on supplies for my classroom and stuff for my students. As it was, I spent more than I should have. On necessities like paper and on enriching things like books. Heck, even Hot Guy spent money on my classroom; he built a model rocket with my students when we were dating. Plus, I had to buy stuff every time we had a class party, because many of my students' parents couldn't afford to send in treats. My former students are teenagers now and I don't know how many of them remember their first or second grade teacher, but I like to think that teaching them to read changed their lives for their better.

Office Depot's Teachers Change Lives program recognizes how many teachers spend their own money and most of their free time helping students succeed. They've partnered with Adopt-A-Classroom to recognize and help all the amazing teachers across the country.

I teared up (just a little) watching this video. #TeachersChangeLives, and these students are proof. Watch as students express how much their teachers mean to them.

  • How to Donate to the Teachers Change Lives Program
    1. Go to Teachers Change Lives
    2. Click on the teal "Donate to a Teacher" box on the Teachers Change Lives website, which will take you to the Adopt-A-Classroom website.
    3. Follow their directions. 
  • How to Register Your Classroom as a Teacher
    1. Go to Teachers Change Lives.
    2. Click on the red box that says "Register Your Classroom," which will take you to the Adopt-A-Classroom website.
    3. Follow the directions provided. 

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.


Piet Mondrian for Kids (Crafts for Lazy Parents)

One of the first artists' styles I remember recognizing is Piet Mondrian's. Even though Mondrian started off as an impressionist in late 19th century Amsterdam, years in Paris and his own spiritual quest led him to develop Neoplasticism. I don't remember that word, nor do I remember another description of Mondrian's later paintings: geometric abstraction.

But the black lines, rectangles and primary colors?

Those I've remembered for more than 30 years.

How could primary colors and simple black lines NOT appeal to a kid who liked art but felt she had no artistic ability?


Spring Is Coming

I love Game of Thrones. The TV show and the book series upon which it is based, A Song of Ice and Fire, are pop culture obsessions of mine. Some days this winter made me feel so dark and gloomy that I consoled myself by thinking, "At least I'm not at Winterfell." 

For those of you who don't watch/read (YOU SHOULD), Winterfell is the castle where it is always cold and windy. It is the home of the Stark family, most of whom have been killed by their enemies. Currently it's a burned out hull. 

That's how much I hated this winter. 

When we got our first taste of warmth and sun this year - on April 10th, I might add - I remembered that even though "Winter is coming," so is spring. And summer. 

Last year at the Easter Egg hunt, we wore winter coats. But not this year. Only Hugmonkey was really interested in meeting the Easter bunny. 

Lovebug had his first baseball game. Then we went to the park for a picnic. 

I want to call this a "chelfie", for self and child. 

There was climbing. 

More chelfie. I think I'm getting better at them. Except for lighting. 

There was exploring. 

 And swinging. 

Lots of swinging. 


Math Magic: Cheap and Easy Math Games

I've talked about the importance of helping kids develop number sense.   Part of that includes memorizing math facts for addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. And the easiest way to get kids on board with doing extra math is through games.

I am a HUGE fan of cheap and easy games. Nothing depresses me more than spending lots of time and money on what I think is some great activity, only to have my kids get bored with it after two seconds. So, to play these games (many of which I've borrowed from other games or stolen from the math curriculum I used to teach), you'll need index cards, a marker and some dice.

You're going to make math cards with your index cards. 
  • For younger kids (first grade and under), you'll want to write the numbers 0 - 10, 1 per card (see above). Make 2 or 3 sets, depending on how many people will be playing the games with you. Imagine one set per player. 
  • You'll also want to make dot card sets. Instead of writing the numerals, you'll make dots of the numbers from 0 - 10. Like this:

  • For older kids, you'll want your sets to go from 0 - 20, again making one set per player. You won't need dot cards for them. 
  • You should also make money cards, showing at least $.25, $.50, $.75 and $1. Other amounts are up to you and your child; whole dollar amounts might be best for some kids, while odd amounts like $.37 might be most important for others. 
  • Save time by having the kids make their own. 
Math Go Fish

In Go Fish, 7 cards are dealt. Then each player lays out any matched pairs in his or her hand. Instead of matching pictures or colors, have kids match numerals with dot cards. So if you have a card with 5 dots, the match would be the card with the number 5 on it. Next, the youngest player asks the other play for a card s/he wants, like "Do you have a card with 3 dots?" The other player must share it. If s/he doesn't have it, s/he says, "Go Fish". Then the player takes a card from the pile in the middle. Whoever pairs off all of his/her cards first is the winner. 

Make 10

This game can be played exactly like Go Fish, except instead of matching the goal is to have the two cards add up to 10. So if you had a 4, you would want a 6, because 4 + 6 = 10. You can alter this game for any number, really. Make 20, Make 12 and Make 15 are good alternatives. When your kiddo is ready to work on subtraction, then you can try Make 1 or Make 2. You can even play this game with smaller multiplication facts. 

High Low

Place value, also known as understanding that the "1" in "17" really stands for a 10, is an important part of number sense. In this game, each player is dealt 2 (or 3, or 4, or 7, depending on ability level) 

cards. Each card will represent a place in the final number. Whoever has the highest number wins. So, if you were dealt a 3 and a 6, you would make the number 63 because that's higher than 36. For the next hand, you would try to make the lowest number.

Money Race

You'll need to dip into your change purse for this game. Pile a large bunch of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters onto the table. One player flips over money card and each player uses the change to create that amount. Whoever makes the correct amount first is the winner. You can make this game more challenging by removing the pennies from the money pile.


In this game, players compare their cards against the other player's. Basically, you split the deck in half and each player pulls the top 2 cards from his/her deck. For kids working on addition, the idea would be to add the 2 cards; for kids working on subtraction, the idea would be to subtract the smaller from the larger; for kids working on multiplication, the idea would be to multiply the two cards. Then whoever has the bigger amount would collect all the cards and put them to the side. Whoever has the must cards at the end (when the original decks run out) is the winner. This game can be extended all sorts of ways. For very little ones, players could just pull 1 card and determine which number is bigger. For older kids working on division, you can make cards with higher numerals to add into the pile so kids can divide and compare.

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