Saturday, December 1, 2012

One Second Wiggle Butt

When my pup gets super excited his butt wiggles.  He seems to have a sixth sense for when he is getting a treat or going outside to play.  This week I noticed this behavior in a couple of my students.  At the mere mention of a game or movement activity their whole body starts to wiggle.  Honestly they have me wrapped around their little fingers.  I have actually had students say "Ms. Elkins, I may get more out of this activity if we can activate my Bodily Kinesthetic learning personality." Who can argue with that? So that is when I invented "Mayhem".  I call it my Get Up and Go game that allows the students to practice their skills as they move and participate in healthy competition.  Long story short I spread problems around the room and the students race to solve as many as they can.  They LOVE IT! I give a prize to the student that accurately solves the most problems and a secondary prize to anyone that accomplishes my benchmark.  Some of my students know no matter how hard they work they will not get the most problems done. So by adding a secondary prize I meet their needs as well. For example I may say "Anyone that can accurately solves at least 10 problems gets a smelly sticker".  Smelly stickers are GOLD in my Middle School classroom.

I have posted printer ready game sets in my store for decimals and integers.  Pick up one skill game set or get a bundle for a real steal.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Overwhelmingly Thankful

For three days I have been trying to put into words what I am thankful for. I am most thankful for my health and my family.  Both of which have been reliable and mostly unwavering.  Most recently I am thankful for my career.  Teaching has been my life for 10 years.  "We" have had our obvious ups and downs but this year I feel recharged.  With the starting of my TpT store, this new blog and my first successful student teacher I feel challenged again.  I find that I am exhilarated again to try new things in my classroom and truly look forward to seeing my students every day.

To show my appreciation for all of the support of my new followers I am participating in the TpT Cyber Monday sale.  All of my items will be 20% off on Monday and Tuesday.  Enter the promo code: CMT12 and get an additional 8% off.

Thank you all for reading and encouraging me to be the best version of myself each and every day.

Monday, November 19, 2012


One of my favorite things about Teachers Pay Teachers is the number of free lessons and activities right at my fingertips.  I have started posting some of my favorites in the teachers rooms at my school.  I wanted to share with my co-workers and maybe inspire them to check out Teacher Pay Teachers.  This week I have posted these four awesome items:

 “Hunger Games” Would You Rather? ~Rachel Lynette on TpT

 Story Telling – Cootie Catcher ~ A Teacher's Treasure on TpT

Minute To Win It ~ Reagan Tunstall


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Every Once In Awhile

Every once in awhile you get a really great group of students.  Not to say I haven't had some favorites over the years; Yes teachers have favorites. However it has been a long time since I have had a class/multiple classes that gets me truly excited to get to school in the morning.

There have been many moments already this year; This was yesterdays moment:
In four short weeks my students raised $117.15 for a dog that they have never met. I adopted Bishop, my English Mastiff, from the Salem Animal Rescue League three years ago. My students recently asked me if I ever thought about getting another dog. I said if I did I would adopt one from SARL again. During advisory we opened the site and who would have believed there was another Mastiff needing some love. I learned a little more about him, Nemo, and found out that he needs ACL surgery making him very difficult to adopt. My students, thinking that I am made of money, insisted that I adopt him and literally come to his rescue. I told them that I regrettably just couldn't take on such a huge financial responsibility at this time.  They did not heckle me and quickly shifted gears. "Let's raise money to help decrease the cost of the surgery." I told them that it was sweet but I still could not take on this responsibility. "Oh Ms. Elkins we didn't mean that. Anyone looking to adopt him is going to struggle with his medical bills. If we can help raise some money it might make him more adoptable." Who can argue with that? So in that moment we started the Nemo fund.  To sweeten the pot I went into my closet of treasures and dug out my large stash of  reward pencils and set up a container on my desk; Pencils for a quarter.

During the weeks that followed some students bought more pencils then they needed and others simply made large donations and took nothing. Watching Matthew, a normal 13 year old boy, put $20 in the container and just smile made me shutter. Amazing. My students are amazing. I am so proud and excited to spend the year with them.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Lesson Learned

It's ok... I'll just make lemonade from this healthy dose of lemons!

I needed to stay home today so the terminators can work on removing my home of wood eating dwellers.  That's ok... I have a great student teacher and plenty of work I can do to better establish my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

So I let the kind hard working man into my basement and I settled in to work at my computer. Enter... pets. I love love love my pets but they do not understand working from home.  Bishop, my amazing English Mastiff, is convinced I stayed home to play with him.  His new thing is resting his head on my typing hands as he gives me the big love me eyes.

 Nevertheless... I will push through and get some work done.

First up NEW FREEBIE!! 
I have posted the homework pass I use for my middle school math classes.  There is no better prize than a homework pass.
Just in case my students stumble across this don't get any funny ideas.  I mark ALL of the passes I hand out before giving out.

Friday, November 9, 2012

"You are strict, but with a smile"

I went to cover another class today and was welcomed graciously with "You're our sub? YES!” I laughed a little because it is always nice to have a group excited to see me.  Although I was then admittedly nervous that they then thought they were going to goof off and it was going to be an easy day.  I said good morning and started in on the lesson.  I was at an advantage because the class belonged to my neighbor who also teaches 7th grade math.  I took attendance, explained the directions for the activity, identified common errors and started passing out papers. During attendance I asked a gentleman to sit down and take out the appropriate materials without losing my place in attendance.  I had a tough tone but did not threaten or berate him.  As I passed out papers I corrected student’s behavior as I went making it clear that my expectations were high and we were going to have a productive class. As I was making my way around the room I noticed a young man looking at me with a grin. As I approached him I asked him if the thought making him grin was worth sharing.  He then said “You are strict, but with a smile.” I nodded my headed reflecting his grin and then he added “I kinda like it!”

This moment stuck with me and generated a question I felt worth exploring.  Students, children in general really, thrive in environments where there is structure.  How do we capitalize on this desired outcome and still give them the freedom to ask questions, make mistakes and explore on their own with self-driven curiosity?  As I visited classrooms this month it seemed to be one or the other.  Some classes were very rigid and the student work production was high and of good quality. Other classes were freer and measuring progress was not as easy or quantitative. However these students were driven to figure out the answer to the problem they had been presented.  Is there a right way? Has anyone found the balance?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Took Me 10 Years to Get Here

It took me ten years to get here... and I am ready to share my travels!

I have been teaching for ten years. Looking back it seems like an unbelievable span of time until I start recounting the stories.  It wasn't until now that I realized/accepted that it is ok and normal to laugh.  Laugh at myself, my experiences and the things that I have been exposed to.  I also want to tap into the vast minds of my fellow teachers, online and off.  TOGETHER we WILL change the world.

So why "Life In The Middle"
When strangers or new acquaintances ask me what I teach, I proudly state that I am middle school math teacher. Typical the responses is... "Ohhhhh" or "Ugh, I hate math" or my personal favorite "Did you have a choice?"  Honestly as a green teacher I would have accepted anything as long as it came with a paycheck.  Two years in I knew I was hooked.  Middle school is a fabulous mix of hormones, fears, excitement, curiosity and laughter.  When I introduce myself to other teachers I often joke that I teach "Social Skills and Organization".  I then laugh at my own joke and add "Oh, you might know it as Middle School Math".  

Ok... but why "Life In The Middle"?
When deciding what to write about and who my audience was I realized it could be anyone that has ever felt stuck/trapped/placed "In The Middle".  Yes, most of my posts will be about teaching middle school and the hilarity that takes place daily.  But I also wanted to write about balance in all aspects of life and how I am still trying to find it.

Need more? 
Check out my Teachers Pay Teachers store at
Check out my Pinterest at
Coming Soon... my Elkins Math Lab facebook. That't the next step.

I would love some on any of my posts or social media outlets.  Even if it is just a "wave" letting me know that I have reached people and I am not just talking to myself.  My goal this year is to become the excited teacher I was ten years ago with the knowledge and experience that I have today.