The Student-Sufficient Classroom

Lately I've been toying around with the idea of a "student-sufficient classroom". I feel like my goal in the classroom is for students to feel ownership over the room, their work, their relationships, etc. We want our students to feel invested in their learning, and I don't think that is possible when students feel like visitors in the teacher's classroom.

Has anyone else thought about this? I always made a point to say "our room" instead of "my room", because even though my name was on the door, it was "our room" for that year. In my ideal classroom, students feel at home enough to do what they need to do without having to ask the teacher first. Obviously this means spending a lot of time at the beginning of the year setting expectations. In my perfect world, students would be able to perform and thrive in an atmosphere where they feel in control. A little bonus to having this type of classroom is that the teacher does not have to deal with getting asked five million questions each day. He or she might only be asked two million questions each day. :)

Here are a few things I did that made my classroom more "student-sufficient".

1) The students knew where all the supplies were in the room, and they were instructed to go get more whenever their group needed them. Yes, our supplies depleted faster this way, but I didn't have 10 children coming up to me each day saying,"We are out of glue sticks again!"

2) When students were tardy or had an excuse, they came in the room and silently placed their slip of paper into a tray at the back of the room. No longer did students have to come up while I was teaching to hand me their tardy slip. Also, I didn't end up with random pieces of paper on my desk!

3) I had student "managers" every week who were responsible for the lunch count, washing tables at lunch, passing back papers, etc. Their names were written on spiral bound notecards (one for boys and one for girls) and a student just flipped the cards over every Friday, so that we knew who the next week's managers were. I never had to think about who was supposed to be doing what all year!

4) Each student had a mailbox in the back of the room. Whenever I had graded papers, I would just put them in a tray in front of the mailboxes. The managers would stuff the graded papers into mailboxes and students would pick up their papers before they left for the day. No stuffing folders or passing back papers!

5) The students were responsible for the lunch count system. I got the pans and magnets from Dollar Tree. When students entered the room, they would move their magnets to their lunch choice. If a student's magnet was left on "absent", I would know they weren't there that day. The managers moved all the magnets back to "absent" at the end of the day. I think this idea was floating around Pinterest at one point, and if anyone knows who came up with this idea, let me know because I'd love to give them credit!

I know these are not revolutionary ideas, but they helped me tremendously in my classroom. What are some things that you do to make your classroom more "student-sufficient"?


I won and other first world problems

It is so strange to not be frantically preparing for school to start right now. I am thrilled about my decision to stay home with baby boy, but it is definitely bittersweet when I think about no longer having a classroom. How can I complain when I get to look at this sweet face all day?

gratuitous cuteness

In other news, I won a giveaway over at Nerdy, Nerdy, Nerdy! Head on over there for some wonderful teaching ideas. I won a $25 gift certificate to Erin Condren. Her stuff is so amazing - how will I ever decide what to get? Ahh, first world problems. Sometimes I feel like this girl.

Happy Thursday everyone!


Hey Girl.

I know I am probably the last person on Earth to see the "hey girl teacher" meme, but just in case I'm not...
These just have to make you smile, don't they? If you have a moment and you would like a good laugh, click here to read a blog post from Hyperbole and a Half. I think you will find that you like it "alot" better than this post! :)



I hope everyone is enjoying their summer! I know I am. Motherhood has been an amazing journey so far. I feel so blessed to be able to stay home with my little man. I have actually decided to take the year off from teaching so that I can be a full time mom. It was a very tough decision, because I love teaching. However, it was going to be tough managing everything here in Alabama where we have no family close by. For those of you who don't have kids yet, here is a glimpse of what you have to look forward to.

Yesterday, after the baby cried the better part of the day, my sweet husband came home and told me that he would watch the baby for awhile if I wanted to go somewhere. I was completely out of my summer bisque (Bare Minerals, anyone?) so I headed to the mall. I looked a hot mess, to say the least. I raced around the mall with my glasses on talking on the phone to my husband really loudly about the baby's burps and poots (or lack thereof). Hopefully I looked like a new mom and not just some insane person.

 Even though I'm not going to be in the classroom this next year, I get to keep being a "teacher", right? My hope is to keep blogging so that I can keep the creative juices flowing for when I do get back in the classroom. Finally, you may have noticed the little ad box on the sidebar of the blog. I hope this does not offend anyone. I figured I can use anything I can get now that I'm income-less! If this is terribly tacky I'll take it down. Let me know your thoughts!


"Where Did the Water Go?" Science Lab

Hello blog readers! It has been awhile! A lot has happened since I last posted in February. I have an excuse for not posting in so long, and here he is! Our precious baby boy will be 6 weeks old tomorrow.

I have received so many comments requesting the "Where did the water go?" lesson from this post, that I decided to go ahead and publish it. I have to give credit to my fabulous coworker, Jennifer Crumpton, who shared this lesson with me. We do this lesson every year on the first day of school, and it does a fantastic job of getting students excited about science. I thought it would be nice to post it now because you have to get together some materials that most of us probably don't have on hand.

Where Did the Water Go? 

This lesson is more of a demonstration than an actual science lab that students participate in. You will put 3 small paper cups in front of the students. You will pour water into one of the cups and then mix the cups up (like they do at sporting events where you have to guess which cup has the ball under it). The students will guess which cup has the water in it. You will "test" the cup by turning it over on a student's head. Your kiddos will be amazed when no water comes out of any of the cups!

Ahead of time you need to order some sodium polyacrylate (the stuff they put in disposable diapers to absorb liquid). You can order it here. You will want to practice this demo once or twice before you do it in front of your students.

Get three small paper cups (make sure you can't see through them). Before the students arrive, put a heaping teaspoon of the sodium polyacrylate into one of the cups.


What You Do:
1) At the beginning of the lesson, use a graduated cylinder to pour 50ml of water into the cup that you already put the sodium polyacrylate in. (If you don't have a graduated cylinder, you can just pour the water until a gel forms in the bottom of the cup. Using the graduated cylinder is a good way to show students how important it is to be exact when measuring during science labs).

2) Tell the students to keep their eye on the cup you poured the water in while you mix up the three cups. Keep moving the cups around until you think the students have gotten the cups confused.

3) Next, ask the students to guess which cup has the water in it.

4) Once they have chosen a cup, ask them how you can test whether the cup has water in it. Tell them you're going to test the cup by turning it over on a student's head! Randomly choose a student (you don't want your little friends thinking you have favorites!)

5) Walk up to a student and turn the cup over on their head. The kids will go crazy!

6) Do the same thing with the next two cups.

7) Once students realize that no water came out of any of the cups, have them write up a lab report. This is a great way to introduce the scientific method on the first day. Here's what I have them write in their science notebooks:

Question: Where did the water go?

Hypothesis: (They write what they think happened and why they think it happened). They can also share their hypotheses with their groups and with the class.

Observations: (They write down everything they saw me do.)

(Have students discuss what they think happened again. Then tell them your secret and write the conclusion together as a class.)

Conclusion: The water was absorbed by a polymer called sodium polyacrylate. The polyacrylate used in this activity is found in disposable diapers. 

If you have the funds, you can purchase enough sodium polyacrylate to send some home in a baggie for each of your students. Make sure they know not to try and sniff or taste it!! They will enjoy performing this trick for their families, and it will answer the question of "What did you do at school today?" If you try this lesson, let me know how it goes!

Here is a blog post from Educational Innovations that has a variation of this lesson as well as some other lesson ideas for using sodium polyacrylate. Have fun!