Designing a Math Focus Wall for Your Classroom: The Planning Stage


Part 1: 12 Essential Components of a Math Focus Wall

In Part 1 of this series, I explained how I wanted to create a math focus wall for my classroom.  I came up with 12 items that I think are necessary components of a math focus wall.  Since I teach intermediate students, the math focus wall I am designing would look different than many of the primary math focus walls I have seen.

To set the scene, I have five bulletin boards at the back of my classroom.  The SMART Board covers the bottom half of the middle bulletin board.  I decided to spread out my math focus wall over the three centre bulletin boards.  Since I want to incorporate several items into my math focus wall, I really needed the space to do it justice.

So after quite a bit of copying, cropping, and pasting, here’s my plan:


I’ve managed to include all the 12 items I had mentioned previously. These are the items that are ready to go:

  • my SMART Board is at the centre and is ready to be incorporated into my math lessons
  • on the left hand side, I have my math talk sentence starters…there are 52 sentence starters and I will be changing them on a regular basis.  They will be used to help guide students during their math discussions (I will post a link to this new product of ours soon!)
  • at the top left hand corner, the four posters help student decipher math word problems and determine which operation to use (I will post a link to this new product of ours soon!)
  • on the right hand side, our GRASS posters help students to break down word problems.  The white boxes along the poster set will show student solutions to problems we are working on…these will be changed on a regular basis as well
  • along the top of the board you’ll find our posters “What does a good mathematician do?” to help students become mathematical thinkers and apply various skills when solving problems

The items shown in white on my plan will be co-created with or created by students:

  • learning goals and success criteria will be co-created with students for each new lesson
  • the white tiles next to the GRASS posters will contain student problem solving steps

I still need to work on the following items (the items shown in blue on my plan):

  • make a sign for my math talk prompts
  • find examples of math in everyday life
  • find funny math comics
  • an eye catching border and title
  • work on key terms for each section (term: definition, diagram, examples)
  • math reflection questions for their math journals
  • challenge question of the week (University of Waterloo’s Problem of the Week and Math Circles are great resources for this)
  • and math strategy posters (e.g. work backwards, draw a picture, solve a simpler problem)

Any other suggestions? Any areas for improvement?

Tune in for more updates on my math focus wall!

52 Science Journals…Now in a PowerPoint Version!

Have you seen our 52 Science Journals Prompts? They’re an excellent and engaging way to incorporate English Language Arts in your Science classes!

Now, we’ve created a PowerPoint presentation for our science journals! Still the same great content, but in an easy to display presentation.  Depending on your preference, you may either want to print out our original science journal prompts to create booklets for your students or you may want to display the PowerPoint presentation and have students write their journals in their notebooks or type them out.  Either way it’s a great way to get your students writing, reflecting, researching, and communicating during your science classes!

Get the original 52 Science Journal Prompts as an easy to print PDF!

Get the 52 Science Journal Prompts as an easy to display PowerPoint Presentation!

The Tuesday 12: 12 Essential Components of a Math Focus Wall

Welcome to another edition of The Tuesday 12! I recently had a SMART Board installed in my classroom and I’d like to incorporate it in my math lessons.  Then I began to think of creating a math focus wall on the bulletin boards that surround my SMART Board.  I looked through Pinterest and couldn’t really find the perfect plan (which is odd because Pinterest has everything!), but I did find one picture to use as inspiration:

Lots of great ideas for an interactive math bulletin board

(Aside: I tried linking the picture to the original source, but I can never get that page to load properly)

Based on previous experiences teaching grade 7 and 8 math, some research, and some creative thinking, I’ve come up with 12 items I’d like to include on my math focus wall.  Some things will be static, while other things will be dynamic.  This list isn’t carved in stone…until I get into my classroom at the end of August and begin to put everything together, it will be hard to imagine.

I’ve decided to turn this into a series of posts from the initial ideas to the final creation!  So join me in creating a math focus wall for my classroom and then adapt the ideas for your own grade levels!For my next post, I’ll draw some pictures to help me visualize my ideas.

math focus wall thumb

12 essential (for now…lol) components of a math focus wall:

1. A number line…really a no-brainer for a math focus wall, but it will probably be from around –45 to + 45, since integers are used throughout the grade 7 and 8 math program

2. A spot for our learning goal and success criteria which we will be co-creating with each new lesson.

3. A section with math accountable talk sentence starters (I’m working on a set now!)

4. Challenge question of the week

5. Steps to problem solving…like our lovely GRASS posters!

6. Help in decoding math word problems (e.g. multiplication-of, product, twice, times, multiple)

7. Key terms and definitions for the unit we’re working on

8. Our posters—what does a good mathematician do?

9. Different problem solving strategies (e.g. work backwards, draw a diagram)

10. Examples of math in everyday life

11. Bright and colourful parts—I’m thinking a blue or green background, a patterned border, and something really cool for the title (maybe just the word MATH done in an interesting way)

12. The SMART Board…I just need to start incorporating it into lessons regularly!

Do you have any suggestions?  Let me know! As I said before, until I can go into my classroom and begin arranging all the different sections, this list can—and most likely—will change!

Tune in next week for another edition of The Tuesday 12 and more on my math focus wall!

52 Science Journal Prompts to Integrate Writing in the Science Classroom! Updated for 2013-2014!!

Sometimes it feels that no matter how well I try to organize lessons, units, and long range plans, there never appears to be enough hours in the school day to cover all the curriculum expectations!  One of the best strategies that I have learned as a teacher is to take a cross-curricular approach when planning activities, lessons, and units.  A great way to cover many English Language Arts expectations is by integrating writing into the content areas; in this case, journal writing can be integrated into the science classroom.

We’ve created a student science journal with 52 prompts to help you integrate writing in your science classes.  The journal prompts are organized by week, so the entire 2013-2014 academic year is already planned out for you!  Each journal is labeled with the corresponding week of the year, provides a prompt and space for student responses.  You can either photocopy the entire bundle for your students at the beginning of the year and work through it each week or photocopy individual weeks as you progress through the year!

The writing prompts alternate between historical events, creative responses, opinion pieces, persuasive arguments, national awareness themes, and science process skills. A blank journal page is included for you to add your own ideas as needed.

We have updated the dates on the journal pages to correspond with the 2013-2014 academic year.  We also changed the order of a couple of journal topics to correspond with changes in dates (e.g. the full moon in October is earlier this year).

If you have purchased this product already, then simply log into your Teachers Pay Teaches account and download the updated version!

If you haven’t purchased this product already, then what are you waiting for?! Just click on the link below!

science journals

Dot Art: An easy and inexpensive art activity

As I returned to work after an extended leave, I found my students were working on an art project that was quite amazing.  My students were exceptionally engaged and they exhibited pride in creating their own masterpieces.  I thank Mr. Anthony Natalino (a fantastic co-worker) for implementing this activity.

Dot art entails creating a design with hole punched paper confetti.  Students are required to hole punch the paper, then apply it carefully to a sketched out design.   Student use a popsicle stick or a blunt pencil to apply the hole punched confetti onto their design.  Some students completed more than one piece of art as they enjoyed it so much.  I will definitely be utilizing Dot Art in the upcoming year!  The only material required is a variety of colored construction paper, a hole puncher, popsicle sticks or blunt pencils, a sheet of paper to sketch and apply the art to, and glue.  Super inexpensive with great results!

Find below pictures of completed projects and I am looking forward to seeing your projects as well!

IMG_20130627_113726 IMG_20130627_113655 IMG_20130627_113636


Don’t be upset by the results you didn’t get with the work you didn’t do {FREE POSTER!}

Hello and welcome to another edition of Words to Live by Wednesdays! This week’s {FREE} poster is a all about accountability. Often, students complain about the outcome of tests, feedback from projects, and marks received on report cards.  Sometimes, the … Continue reading →