How To Put Tennis Balls on your Classroom Chairs

Let's talk about noise level. I'm all for students talking with each other and having a "loud" classroom. What I found I couldn't deal with was the unnecessary noise my chairs were making. This is new to me because I came from a middle school classroom where we had traditional desks where the desk tops were connected to the chair. There was no movement of desks or chairs only of students. The concept of tennis balls on the bottoms of chairs is not new. I just had to figure out where to get them and quick and how to easily (and safely) cut them to put on my chairs.

Do the math, I have 24 desks with chairs in my classroom. Yikes! For the chairs alone, that is 24 chairs with four legs each. That equates to 96 tennis balls I needed! I'd love to also put them on the bottoms of the desks but I figured I'd start with the chairs first.

This post contains affiliate links. 

What you need--lots and lots of used tennis balls. Key word here is used. Do not go and purchase brand new tennis balls. You will need to cut the tennis balls so there is no need for them to be perfect and clean.

There are many ways to acquire used and flat tennis balls. Here are a couple ideas:
  • Your county middle/high school tennis teams
  • Local recreation department
  • College/University nearby
  • Dog training business or Doggie Daycare
Offer to bring them a box for them to put them in and to come pick them up when it is full. Ask your school if you can get a donation receipt to give them for tax purposes. 
I didn't want to wait for enough to be collected so I decided to go online and search my options. You can find bulk used tennis balls here on Amazon(Affiliate link) or sometimes on Ebay.

Now, how to cut those tennis balls. I researched how to cut tennis balls and asked coworkers how they did it. There are lots of methods out there. The biggest thing to remember is safety! Be careful! I read that the method that works best is to cut one slit. This makes it harder to put on the chairs but will mean it is is harder to get them off. You don't want the tennis balls coming off of your chairs. 
I used a very sharp meat cutting knife. You can also use a new utility knife.(Affiliate link) Be sure to wear heavy duty work gloves so you don't slip and cut yourself. I borrowed one from my husband to hold the tennis balls in place. I sat down outside in my driveway and went to town. I held the tennis ball in one hand on the ground and then poked the knife into the ball and cut the slit.

Tennis balls have a design from the seams and I found that starting in the center of that circular area and cutting straight down to the center of the opposite area was a large enough slit. You don't want to cut too long of a slit or it will come off your chairs too easily. Keep cutting until you are finished! It took me about an hour to cut all 110 tennis balls I had. My dog was very confused at all these "broken" tennis balls!
Take your tennis balls to school and flip all your chairs upside down. Work the tennis ball onto the bottoms and then marvel at the quietness of your chairs!

Here is a quick demonstration of the noise difference of my chairs. Be amazed!

I plan on getting more for the bottom of my desks so when kids bump into them or we move seating arrangements the noise level is low. I didn't realize how much the noise from the chairs were bothering me until I had all the tennis balls on. I can now hear kids instead of chairs.
Good luck with your tennis balls and let me know if you have any questions!

Sudoku Interactive Bulletin Board Tutorial

Do you have students who need some movement after they have finished working or just need a brain break activity? Sudoku is your answer! I have always loved Sudoku because it deals with numbers but it doesn't involve math. According to Merriam Webster Dictionary, Sudoku is defined as "a puzzle in which missing numbers are to be filled into a 9 by 9 grid of squares which are subdivided into 3 by 3 boxes so that every row, every column, and every box contains the numbers 1 through 9". I tell my students they are using deductive reasoning to complete the puzzle. When I tell them there is no math involved they are game to play!
This post contains affiliate links. 
Here is how you can make your own giant Interactive Sudoku Bulletin Board for your classroom. Click here to purchase the kit.

Step 1:
Print numbers one through nine on white paper. These will serve as your "original puzzle". These are the numbers the students will not move. Then, print numbers one through nine on colored paper. I like to print mine on nine different colors! You will then print the playing board which is a nine by nine grid. I highly recommend laminating so your board will last for years!

Step 2:
You'll need a way to store your extra numbers for students to grab to put on the board. I love these mini file folders to organize them on the board. Click here to get your own.(Affiliate link) I write the numbers on the tab and use double sided tape to place a number on the outside. I also laminate these folders so they will hold up to wear. I use the folders for the "original puzzle" pieces (the white numbers) and store in a quart sized baggie in my desk. 

Step 3:
Next you'll need a way for the numbers to stick to your board. In the past I used thumb tacks on the side of the board. That board lasted four years and could have been more but this year I used Velcro Dots on the back of the numbers. I think this will last longer than the thumb tacks. Click here for the Velcro dots I used.(Affiliate link) I suggest putting the soft side on the back of the numbers and the tough side of the Velcro on the board. 

Step 4:
Staple up your title, game instructions, and number folders. Put up the original puzzle(the white numbers) and let your students start thinking! 

Tips for using the board:
I usually allow for this during homeroom, warm-up time, coming into or leaving the class, or other down-time. I do not allow them to get up during instruction or while working on an assignment. You can use this as a reward too! Be sure to explain and model how to place numbers on the board. Remind students that they do not move the white pieces. I do not let students hover over the board. I tell them since they can view it from their seats to get up when the time is appropriate. I do not allow more than three students at a time to be at the board. 
In the beginning when students are just learning I usually check that the number is correct before allowing them to place on the board. I also love having them explain how they figured out the number to put up. 

Click here to get the Sudoku Bulletin Board Kit for your classroom!

I hope you enjoy and have fun! I'd love to see your completed board! Tag me on Instagram @activityaftermath Let me know if you have any questions! 

Secondary Math Dollar Deals Summer 2018

HAPPY SUMMER Teacher Friends!
I hope you have been enjoying some time off and relaxing. I only have 18 days until we go back for pre-planning. 

Some math friends and I are going to be starting the fun tomorrow 7/3/18 with some awesome savings on some of our favorite resources for only $1!! Each Tuesday in July you can find resources from each of these sellers that will be on sale for $1 for that day only. The resources will change each week!

→3 ways to find the $1 Resources
1. Mrs E Teaches Math's Blog Post each Tuesday in July(3rd, 10th, 17th, 24th, and 31st) 

Be sure to leave me a comment if there is a certain resources you would like to see included! 
Happy Shopping!

Six Tips for First Year Teachers

This post contains affiliate links.

That first year of teaching. The joys of getting your first "real job" offer! I can remember that phone call-my stomach twisted into knots! I got my first teaching job 5 days before school started. I was fresh out of college and desperate for a job. I had no clue what to expect as I had gotten my Bachelors degree in Early Childhood Education and my first teaching job would be teaching remedial math to sixth, seventh, and eighth graders.

I truly believe that with each passing year you get better if you continue to stay current with new teaching methods and adapt to your current classroom's needs. I am no superstar teacher that knows it all but I DO know what has worked for me. My hope is maybe some of these tips will help you be successful with your first year changing lives! 

1. Do NOT take work home.
I had a veteran teacher give me this advice my first year with a stern voice. She said, "It will all be there when you get here in the morning". I could count the number of times I have taken papers home to grade on both hands. I have coworkers that love taking home papers and grading in front of their favorite Netflix series, but that doesn't bring me joy. I truly believe that you cannot pour from an empty cup. I have watched teachers get so tired because they never "leave work at work". They are constantly stressed feeling as though they are never caught up. This can lead to teacher burn out and this is NOT what you or your students need. Sometimes it is necessary to bring home something and I get this. I'm only suggesting you do not make this a habit and do it every single night. Please don't think I'm bashing anyone who does take work home each night-remember this is what worked for me!

Stay organized with your time management. Utilize your planning periods to the full extent! Do not go to your team teachers and gossip and waste precious minutes you could be using to grade that giant stack of papers. For me, I had to be honest with my coworkers that come planning time I meant business and to not bother me unless it was an emergency. You can always email me and I'll respond! Even five minutes here and there means another 10 papers graded. Remember that stack will be in the exact same spot when you open your classroom door. You could even stay after school and work for a little bit to get caught up. I find I am exhausted by the end of the day and I'm not as efficient. I would rather get to school early and hit the ground running because I've had a large cup or two of coffee! Try this instead of taking it home!

2. Use a Planner.
Your life is going to get busy really quick with so many deadlines and dates to remember! I love a paper planner! Have you seen "The Happy Planner"? Amazon has Box Kits that includes the 12 month planner and coordinating stickers, sticky notes, pen, and a pocket folder!  There are some really good ones at your big box retailers as well. First thing I do is sit down with our district calendar and write every single date for the entire year. Every time you get an email with a deadline write it immediately in your planner. Open your planner first thing in the morning while waiting for the computer to start. Refer to it throughout the day and always look ahead to the next day before leaving school.

I have recently been moving towards strictly using Google Calendar. I'll admit I'm becoming slightly obsessed. My district uses Google as their email platform so I can sync multiple calendars. I can easily color-code my events. I can set reminders to repeat as needed. I never miss a deadline. I can access this calendar from anywhere without having to carry a paper planner around. Whatever method you use just remember to actually use it. In order for it to work you must use it!

Plum Paper Planner

3. Don't worry if your classroom isn't "Pinterest-worthy".
This should not be your main concern your first year(or ever!). You need to be sure you have some type of decorations that make you happy to be there as well as your students but you don't have to have it all your first year. Work on having designated areas for multiple trash cans, pencil sharpeners, and where students will turn in their work. Your classroom will evolve over time as will your style. I'll share this picture from my first classroom. I took anything I could that other teachers were getting rid of. I was so proud of that room and each year something changes with my decor that I thought I loved the previous year but am passing it on for next year.

4. Establish your Rules and Procedures on Day One.
Ever heard of "Fake It 'till You Make It"? Try not to let your students see that you are nervous and/or have no clue what to expect your first year teaching. Students will feel it the moment you let that show. I never liked being told "don't smile until Christmas". I don't agree with this but I do feel that you must let students know how you will run your classroom with high expectations each day. You absolutely MUST have a classroom management strategy in place before school starts. You are going to have a classroom full of multiple children with all various parenting styles at home. How you set the tone with your expectations for your classroom each day is so important. This is important for your own sanity. You can walk up and down the hallways and see the teachers that do not have control over their classroom. It is pure chaos day in and out. This also can lead to teacher burn out. Remember we do not want to get burned out on what we love to do!

My biggest tip for the new teachers at our school is to go through your Rules and Procedures on Day One. I have used this PowerPoint presentation since my first year. I do not read every single thing on each slide. This is to help guide me in what I show the students. I quickly scan through this presentation and remind students we will work on these as the specific situations arise.
Remember to be consistent and follow through with your expectations and consequences.

5. Build Relationships.
You are going to feel like you are alone in that everyone else knows what they are doing. They don't. Do not be afraid to ask questions! You have to reach out to those teachers around you. Get their cell phone number and add them on Facebook. If you are feeling lost or confused about something-ASK! Teachers are busy and you may have to be the one to go to them. Make friends with your coworkers! They are one of your greatest resources!

You also need to work on building relationships with students(appropriately). This was one of my professional goals for the previous couple of years. I will be the first to admit I was terrible at this. I felt that I showed my students that I cared, but I wasn't doing my best. I vowed to stand at my door every single morning the entire time during homeroom, as well as every single class change and greet every single student by their name. My first couple of years I was nervous to hug my students. I was so young(22 years old when I started teaching) and it felt weird. I wanted my students to take me seriously as a teacher(some of my students were 16 years old), so I didn't want to get too personal. I think this changed after having two kids of my own. Remember, even your worst student is someone's baby. Stand at your door and say "Good Morning!" with a smile on your face. Do this even if you are having a stressful day. You are modeling so many things to your students and I want to model positivity!

6. Call Parents.
Calling parents can be a frightening thing! Parents will be concerned that you are a new teacher and are not going to teach their child what they need to know. You have no credibility. Yet! Get on the phone and call parents. You will probably meet a lot at Open House which a great time to introduce yourself. The older the students get, the less phone calls that happen. You will recognize the students on day one that might be the unruly ones. Call those parents first. Get them on your team. Explain to them that you are so excited about the opportunity to teach their child and that you can't wait to see what the year holds. This initial contact is SO important! It needs to be very positive! Parents talk to other parents. You want a positive message to be attached with your name. Talking on the phone is the way to go! Be sure that parents know you are there for them and can be reached when needed. This will be a game-changer for your classroom management. If you wait until that unruly student has driven you off the edge to make the first contact you will have more difficulty with getting their parents to be on your side. Trust me-you want parents on your side.

What is your best tip? Leave a comment below with your favorite tip for First Year Teachers!

I hope you have a FABULOUS first year! I promise you will survive and you will get better every year! I cannot wait to hear all about it and remember that you are changing the world one student at a time! If you have any questions or need help with something please don't hesitate to ask!

DIY Classroom Labels


I love having my classroom organized and being able to quickly know where something is located which also helps my students stay organized. I am lucky to have a science classroom with drawers around the perimeter instead of bookshelves for storage. 
I saw a short video of this method on Facebook labeling jars in the pantry. I thought there is NO way that works. Well, first day of pre-planning while staring at a sea of drawers with no labels got me thinking. These labels have held up for two solid years already and aren’t going anywhere. These labels work on any smooth surface! This could be done on plastic tubs, windows, dry erase boards, desk tops, etc. 

Printer, Clear packing tape, Scissors, Craft Stick, Water, Bucket or Sink
Step 1:
Create your design in Word or PowerPoint. You can insert clip art and use any style of font you want. I kept the same style of font and set up for each label. Print out your document on regular white copy paper. *Tip: Create a table in PowerPoint or Word to keep your designs around the same size and layout. Eliminate the table borders before you print.

Step 2:
Get your clear packing tape and carefully tape over the words on the paper. If your design is larger than one width of the packing tape you can overlap the tape just a little. Be careful not to have any bubbles or creases in the tape.

Step 3:
Use a craft stick or the handles of scissors to rub over the words. This is super important! You will see the ink “sink” into the tape’s adhesive. The ink goes from cloudy to super black.

Step 4:
Cut out your label. I like the label to be rectangular.

Step 5:
Put all your labels in a bucket, sink, or cup of water. They will curl up all together. Let the labels sit in the water for about 3 minutes. This step is important because the longer you let the label sit the easier it is to get the paper off.

Step 6:
Start rubbing the back side of the label (the side with paper) with your thumbs. The paper will start peeling off. Keep rubbing at the paper until it is all off and in the water and you are left with a clear label with all your design transferred! The label will not feel sticky from the tape while wet, but it will after it dries. 


Step 7:
I go ahead and place the label on the drawer and smooth out any bubbles or creases before it dries. I like to wipe off the label with a paper towel.

-->Here are some awesome things about these DIY labels:

  • They look like vinyl labels but without having to use vinyl.
  • They are able to be moved. Easily pull them off without leaving any gross residue on your cabinets, walls, desks.
  • I can use any font and clip art I want in any size I want!
  • It looks professional on your things instead of handwritten labels.
  • Students know exactly which drawer something is located in.
  • Kids do not mess with them. (Maybe I should knock on wood…!)
  • You only have to buy clear packing tape which you probably have sitting in a drawer somewhere so they are super cheap.
Here is another quote sign I made using A Perfect Blend's Font for the corner of my dry erase board!

I hope you have fun creating and labeling all the things this super easy DIY way! I’d love to see any labels you make for your classroom. Tag me on Instagram @activityaftermath
Let me know if you have any questions! Happy Teaching!