Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Another Year in the Books {2015 Reflection}

I cannot believe 2015 is almost over. So many exciting things happened to me this year, and I am going to countdown my most exciting parts of my year and share some goals I have for 2016!

1. Beginning my Journey
In 2015, I began this crazy journey of mine, just a few short months ago with Teachers Pay Teachers and my blog. I had contemplated starting a "teacher blog" for a while, but after talking with some amazing teacher bloggers, I took the plunge. I was scared and constantly thinking, "Who would want to read what I have to say? I haven't even been teaching for that long." So, I shoved those thoughts to the back and before I knew it, I had posted my first blog post and uploaded my first product to TPT. 
I have enjoyed every second of it, and I cannot wait to see where it takes me in 2016. 

2. Connecting with Teachers
Just since the last half of 2015, I have been able to connect with so many different teachers through all of the social media platforms. I have been able to bounce ideas and ask questions to expert bloggers who have helped me immensely begin my journey.

Visiting RCA was up there in the best things about 2015. I was lucky enough to go to Atlanta, Georgia to visit the most amazing school I've ever been to. My teaching has completely changed since that visit. I am constantly thinking of ways to take my teaching to the next level, and I often do that by asking, "What would they do at RCA?"  I am beyond grateful for that experience. Read more about it here.

There were a lot of exciting things that happened in my life over this past year, but the highlights of my teaching life were definitely those three above.

I hope you had a wonderful 2015 and have an even better 2016!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Frankenstein Mystery

So the end of the semester craziness got the best of me, but here I am sitting getting my car's oil changed at 8AM. On my break. What was I thinking? It's all okay because I am coming to share a really fun math activity I did the Friday before Halloween. I got some inspiration from Pinterest and made it happen. What is beautiful about this activity is it can be used any time of the year, just have to tweak it a little bit. 

Here is the quick back story to this activity. It was the Wednesday before Halloween and I told my roommate, Brooke, that I wanted to do something fun in math, but I just couldn't think of anything. Earlier that week I had turned my room into a Haunted House (check that out here), so I was stumped. Brooke started looking things up on Pinterest and she came across a picture of balloons attached to crate paper. Then an idea was born.

The most important thing was the content. It was the Friday before Halloween, ya'll, I had to think of something engaging to keep the crazy under control. I was going to use this activity as a math review. because in the fifth grade you live, eat, and breathe decimals and fractions. We needed some time practicing and working with the skills we had already learned. 

I only needed 3 things for this activity to come to life. 
-crate paper
-the problems

So simple. Well, my lungs didn't think so on Friday morning blowing up 54 balloons, but it was all worth it. My roommate and I stuff the deflated balloons with the problem and the secret letters, so all I had to do at school was to blow them up! 

Now the fun, why not blow up 54 balloons and put math problems and secret letters inside? Well, let me tell you the premise of the activity. Frankenstein had a chance to be turned back into a boy if the class helped his figure out the time and place he needed to be. I mixed my class up into groups and they had 9 balloons with problems they had to solve. With each problem, they received a letter that would help the class figure out the mystery. We needed every group's letters to help Frankenstein have the opportunity to get turned back into a boy. 

The best thing about this activity from a teacher's perspective is the academic math talk that was happening between my students because they couldn't get another balloon until everyone had solved the problem! 

This activity was such a hit. BEST PART-was watching the balloons being popped. I bought my balloons at Target and they must have been some heavy-duty balloons because some of them were impossible to pop! 

Disclaimer, I did go and warn my principal that there might be some loud popping sounds coming out of my room, and that she should't worry. 

This could be used for any content area, you can decide what you want to put in the balloons. I know it is passed Halloween, but if you want to see this activity to possibly use it for your class send me an email at and I can get you the materials.

I hope you are having a relaxing break and enjoying the unseasonably warm weather!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

TPT #Cybersmile Sale!

I hope all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends. I have taken a little break from blogging to enjoy time home with my family. Can you believe it is going to be December this week? I keep thinking to myself, where has this semester gone? 

Starting tomorrow there will be a site-wide sale on TeachersPayTeachers. Go fill up your cart with resources for your classroom! I have added new holiday math centers! Take advantage of this sale! I'll be back later this week! I hope you enjoy your last day of break!

Check out my store here: TPT Store
On TPT Search - Meredith Schaar

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Operating Room

Calling all surgeons. After keeping my brain turning with different ways to engage my students, I went back to my notes from RCA, and remembered the wonderful Kim Bearden and the ideas she gave us. So with the help of my wonderful resource teacher, we turned my room into an operating room. We were working on adding and subtracting fractions and mixed numbers, and that is what the doctors needed to do! 

Set up wasn't too hard. I got the aluminum casserole dishes for the bodies, and that is where we put the body parts. The bags of blood (water & red food coloring) I hung from my ceiling with yarn. Each student doctor was prepared with gloves, mask, and head lamp, name tag, and operating tools (tweezers). 

Every doctor had a patient folder with Patient Notes (aka workspace) and a picture of a body where they would record their answers. Sammy and I created differentiated "bodies" to meet that needs of the kids in my classroom. The student's job was to put the body back together by solving the missing addend problems on each body part. As soon as the students were explained their cases, they were off to work to save their patient's life. With a little bit of background sound of a heart rate monitor, the doctors were busy helping their patient. 

Problems were differentiated for my different math groups, and to make that much easier for set-up, I made each table group their math group's color operating room to spice things up! 

It was also perfect that it was Career Day for Red Ribbon Week, so Sammy and I borrowed some of my mom's scrubs and were nurses for the day! (I proposed to my principal that we wear them everyday because they were so comfortable!!)

The students had a great time and loved being a doctor for the day. Most of them didn't take off their name tags all day! 

This activity was such a hit with my kids! If you have any questions, please email me at

If this would work for your class, you can get it here or click the picture below!

Happy Operating! 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Haunted House Math

We had quiet the crazy week at school last week. Red Ribbon Week, full moon, Halloween, please tell me I wasn't alone. I knew I was going to have to do something special for my kids. Sammy (my awesome resource teacher) and I decided to make my room into a haunted house! It was quite simple, and the kids loved it!

Let's start with set-up. Sammy got cobwebs online and caution tape from the Dollar Spot at Target. Target for the win! She put it all over my room, and that was it! We didn't just want them to just to task cards, so I bought the plastic orange pumpkins from Target and decided to fill them with "eye balls" and "brains" (aka, water beads for eyes, and cake mix, marshmallows, and water for the brains). I mixed those up and dropped in the laminated task cards. 

Students came in we told them that the only way out of the haunted house was to solve all of the math problems. So off they went. The students were given a glove to fish out the task cards. 

Easy as that. With a little spooky background music, my kids were working hard to escape the  haunted house. With the red velvet cake mix, it began to look like a crime scene, oops! I differentiated my task cards to meet the wide abilities of my students. 

Once the students finished all of the task cards, they had a secret message to decode. If they solved it, they got what it message said... NO HOMEWORK :) Needless to say, my kids were super excited about this! 

I know Halloween is over, but below is activity I used. Check out my TPT store to get it for next year :) If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Calling all Secret Agents!

Are you ready to help us find the nation's missing laptops with top secret government information on them? My kids were, and this led to probably the best lesson to date in my teaching career. After my visit to the Ron Clark Academy (post on that below or here), I have been filled with ideas and inspiration on ways to engage my students. In math we have to give our students time to practice the skill we are teaching them, and I could've given them a worksheet to practice, but that wasn't going to fly. I saw Hope King's Set the Stage to Engage series this summer, and she did a spy lab for non-fiction texts, so after looking at her pictures, I made it my own for my kids. We were working on adding and subtracting fractions, and their skills were tested during this unit.

I'll start with the set-up, and it was easy. The hardest thing for me was figuring out how I wanted to set up my desks! Oops! I made my desks into three groups (math groups) because my activity was differentiated and I wanted them to be able to talk to their math groups throughout. I made a spy area in the back of my room using string and black lights. This is where the clues were housed. I had all of my lights off and my window blacked out with black butcher paper from our art teacher. They saw by using push lights from Walmart. I got all of the set up idea from Hope King! 

I had my art teacher bring my students to me from specials, and I was standing outside my door, in my black sunglasses and black blazer with my iPad ready to let my fellow agents in. They were asked to sit on the carpet when they entered the room.

I filled my students in on the issue the government had called for our help on. After that we were on the clock to figure out who stole the iPads from our school that the government was housing top-secret information. 

Every student had a file folder with a letter about the situation, their first clue, and a clue tracking sheet. Once all the expectations were given, the agents were off to work. I put on a little background music to set the stage, and intensify the situation! They had to solve each problem using their yellow notepad and when they finished with a clue, they went on to another with my approval. 

My favorite part of the room was the clue area. I have a wide range of abilities in my classroom, so I differentiated for my three groups. 

Most students ended around the same time, and they had to work with their group to make a final decision about who they thought stole the laptops. I had an idea during the lesson to have my dad call at the end and say he was with the White House. I told my kids they had to come up with a final decision because someone would be calling us from the White House. "THE WHITE HOUSE?? Like where Obama lives??" So I texted him and never heard back so I didn't think he could but left my ringer on loud just in case. At the end of my lesson, my ringer went off, and it was madness in my room. "Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh!!" Once they got quiet, I picked up and my dad asked who they thought the culprit was, and my students told him the clues led them to believe it was our principal. He said,"Agents, thank you for your hard work, I'll share this information with the president. Hopefully we can work again soon." Their reactions were great, "Did we seriously just talk to someone from the White House?" "I cannot wait to tell my mom!"

As a result of my RCA experience, I am trying my hardest to find ways to engage my students in different and unique ways, and I learned its importance through this activity when every single student is working hard and independently. I hate to admit this, but I was fighting back tears because of how hard they were working! 

I am working on getting this made into a product for my TPT store. So check back soon!

If you have any questions on anything I did for this lesson, feel free to email me at