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How to Make an Easy, Reusable, No-Sew, Table Skirt

So last year I was going to make this beautiful table skirt with long strips of fabric tied around a piece of ribbon. I’m sure you have seen pictures on Pinterest. I stood in Jo-Anne’s fabric store for hours over the course of a couple of days debating over the best coordinating patterns and colors. I picked out some patterns with blues and greens in them to match my neon green door–seriously my door is painted neon green. Then time went by, and I found other things more important as I moved into my room. Hence, I never made the skirt. Feeling overwhelmed by cutting that many pieces of fabric strips in a straight line and hearing from another teacher how much work these skirts took…I decided to try something else.

Easy, no-sew, reusable fabric table skirt enters! I had noticed a teacher last year tack fabric to her desk with push pins and it stayed with no trouble. This teacher’s fabric just hung straight with not pleats, ruffles, etc. This gave me an idea! I measured the fabric to make sure I had enough to go around the front and sides of the table I wanted to cover. Instead of sewing a hem in the bottom, I folded it over and taped it with masking tape. It looks just like the hem had been sewn. No one will ever know the difference. Next, I started at one end of the table and put a thumbtack in the fabric and through the table. Most school type tables are made with particle wood and so a tack will push right through this.

If you double the fabric over itself about an inch then this makes nice pleats.  I did this about every five inches.  I wasn’t super precise with my measuring, but if you lay a yard stick down beside the edge of the table to measure, it works out pretty evenly.

As you can see, the finished skirt is below.  This fabric helps to really brighten up the room and gave me a ton of extra storage, which I really needed.  This project took me probably less than two hours.  The most time is spent measuring.

What’s great about this project is that I did no damage to the fabric.  I didn’t sew the hem.  I didn’t hot glue the hem.  I didn’t even hot glue the fabric to the table.  What does this mean?  I can use this fabric over for another project like a bulletin board, a table cloth etc. if I ever want to.

So here’s the step by step process you need if you plan on adding a skirt to one of your tables.

  1. Measure the fabric to make sure you have enough to go around the sides of the table.  If you want a pleat every 5 inches, then divide the total inches of the sides of the table you are covering by 5.  This is your number of pleats.  Then multiply this pleats number by 2.  This gives you extra fabric to overlap when making your pleats.  Add this number to the sides of the table you are covering.  This should give you the length of fabric you will need to cover the table.
  2. I made the height of the fabric about 26 or 27 inches to hang enough to cover my junk.  I made the official height 25 inches hanging from the edge of the table.  The extra 1 or 2 inches gave me enough to make my masking tape hem.  You could make your hem longer, but I really didn’t want to have it dragging on the floor for foot traffic.
  3. Start at the end of the table and tack in your fabric.
  4. Measure 5 inches (or however many inches distance you want your pleats).
  5. Overlap your fabric about an inch and place another tack on top of the overlapped fabric.
  6. Continue repeating this pattern until you make it to the end of the area you are wanting covered.

What Is It? {Giveaway Time}

So the story goes like this.  I, of course, like most dutiful teachers went back to school before my contract began to get my classroom set up.  I currently have a trailer classroom.  We affectionately refer to all of us in trailers as the “trailer park”.  Well the first time I went into my trailer and walked out I noticed a little friend waiting for me on the wood railing outside my door–pictured above.

What do you think it could be?

Suddenly I smiled and realized what this was.  I hate to spoil the fun, but I’ll go ahead and tell you.  Last school year towards the end you may remember I spent a lot of time doing electricity experiments with lemons, limes, potatoes, fruit, you name it.  I had given some of the potatoes to a classroom teacher so that she could use them in her plant unit.  She was allowing the students to sprout seeds.  Well the last day of school, I had one little potato left that had sprouted a bit and I planned on taking it home to see what would happen.  And, you guessed it!  I forgot and left it on the railing outside my trailer.  Little did I know two months later it would still be there untouched.

As if my whole house and yard haven’t become little science projects.  Think with me.  How would you turn this into a lesson? 🙂


Giveaway time!!!

Prize: $100 Amazon Gift Card

Giveaway organized by: Kelly Malloy (An Apple for the Teacher)
Rules: Use the Rafflecopter form to enter.  Giveaway ends 8/11/17 and is open worldwide.
Are you a blogger who wants to participate in giveaways like these to grow your blog?  Click here to find out how you can join a totally awesome group of bloggers!


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Have You Been Using Flashcards Wrong?

I sat in on a parent conference this past year with a student and her teacher.  The child was having difficulty learning multiplication facts.  The teacher told the parent several things one of which was to use flashcards and put the ones she knew in one stack and the ones she didn’t in another stack.  In other words she was prompting the child to memorize the facts.

Of course you know I interjected how the child might learn better with the flashcards by layering the ones she knew with the ones she didn’t know.  For example, if she had learned all of her 2s, she could then place all of the corresponding 4s facts behind the 2s facts.  Then she could learn how to double her 2s facts to get her 4s facts.

When studying multiplication, it lends itself so well to student led discussion about patterns they notice among the facts.  For students to see these patterns it is essential for us to line the facts up in such a way that they can see the patterns. Normally, we hand students a HUGE multiplication chart and children see this and feel overwhelmed.


Why not break this chart down so that students can see the patterns more readily.

If students only see part of the chart, then the patterns are more readily recognized and students are less overwhelmed.  Students may also benefit from seeing patterns on a table like the following in which the patterns are more explicitly explained at the top.  Could this be the reason students struggle with learning their facts?  They don’t see the patterns.  Doing something this simple could allow students to make sense of multiplication and find patterns in the numbers…especially those students who need extra support.

I have put together a packet that can help teachers (and possibly parents) use flashcards more efficiently with their students.  In this packet, patterns in multiplication are unveiled and explicitly explained so that teachers can teach their students with patterns–not just by memorization.

Ways to use patterns for all multiplication facts are explained in this packet.  There are teacher notes, flashcards, charts, and tables all organized by helping strategy.  One could even use the teacher notes as a guide to plan lessons when beginning to teach multiplication.  This pack would also be great for intervention with those students who just aren’t picking up the strategies to learn multiplication facts.

Take a moment to check out this product and consider teaching multiplication with patterns! 🙂

Back to School Sale at TPT!

Make sure you snatch up your favorite TPT items at the back to school sale 2017!  All items in my store will be 25% off August 1st-2nd!  Happy shopping!

Happy Independence Day!

You Can Use an American Flag to Teach Math! {Giveaway}

I am reposting this in honor of Independence Day tomorrow.  This is one of my favorite door decorations that really made the students think about the American flag.  They were trying to figure out the amount of stars and stripes due to the questions that I had printed on the door.  These printables are a free download available when you click here to view the original post.
Prize: $25 Teachers Pay Teachers Gift Card
Giveaway Organized by: Kelly Malloy (An Apple for the Teacher)
Rules: Use the Rafflecopter to enter.  Giveaway ends 7/10/17 and is open worldwide.
Are you a Teacher Blogger or Teachers pay Teachers seller who wants to participate in giveaways like these to grow your store and social media? Click here to find out how you can join our totally awesome group of bloggers! 

Can a Human Circuit Light an LED bulb?

This past year when we were building lemon batteries, students had many of their own investigative questions.  For one, students wondered if lemon juice would light an LED bulb.  As a result, we tested lemon juice, apple juice, salt water, and many other liquids.  Acting on their own questions fueled even more curiosity.

One student wondered if we could build a human circuit.  I didn’t think it would be possible to light an LED bulb with a human circuit.  I researched it on Google before I tried this activity with the students, and I found NOTHING about being able to light an LED with a human circuit.  I had the students predict whether they thought that we could accomplish the lighting of an LED.  Only about three out of ten students thought we could light the bulb.

Here is what we did:

  1. I had each student get one alligator clip wire to connect a pre-1982 penny and a zinc nail.  (Doing this will give you about two more wires than you need, but at least everyone is busy.)
  2. I had about 10 students stand in a circle.
  3. Then each student in the circle held one pre-1982 penny in one hand between two fingers and with the other hand held one zinc nail between two fingers.
  4. Between each of the sets of students in the circle, I had the students hold the wire of an LED bulb.  One student held one wire (positive) coming out of the bulb while another student held the other wire (negative).
  5. I made sure everyone was making a complete circuit for the electricity to pass through.

Then I heard the unthinkable.  “I saw it light up!”  one child exclaimed.

Now, I thought the students just saw a reflection, and it really wasn’t lighting up. Speaking to myself here—“Oh, ye of little faith.”  Children are so optimistic, and I was blatantly reminded of my pessimism at this moment.

I turned off the lights because I wanted to be sure they weren’t imagining this. Sure enough, the electrical current flowed through all of the kids to create a human battery and light up an LED!!!

Side note:  In case you aren’t having success with your human circuit.  Make sure each child is actually making connection with a penny and a nail.  There must be a penny, nail pattern in the circle.  Flip the LED bulb the opposite direction if it doesn’t work the first time since each of the wires/prongs coming out of the LED are either positive or negative.

This could be an amazing team building experience with your students at the beginning of the year!

Cheap Mystery Experiments with Solids {Giveaway}

Originally I had planned for students to do the mystery liquids and mystery solids lessons together, but once students were doing their experiments, I realized we needed another class period to do the solids. This allows time for at least 15 minutes of rich discussion at the end. During the discussion time students tell what they think each solid is by defending it with their experiment data. Now, for each group of four students I made cups like the ones you see pictured. I collected seven substances that were white and powdery. Numbered cups help children determine which substance they are using and also help if they use the numbered plates I mentioned in the previous post. The substances can come from your kitchen cabinet or bathroom. These are the seven I used.

  1. Table salt
  2. Baking powder
  3. Baking soda
  4. Borax
  5. Powdered sugar
  6. Granulated sugar
  7. White Flour

Before allowing them to experiment, I asked them to discuss some of the ways that we could test these substances to see what they were. They mentioned the senses. At this point I tell them that we will absolutely NOT be tasting them, even though it would work in some cases, I let them know that these are NOT all edible. Further, I demonstrate how to use your hand to fan the scent of an item to smell it. Before I mentioned this, some students had sucked some of the substance up their nose by accident, and I didn’t want to repeat this problem. 🙂 Other ways to test that were mentioned were pH indicators, comparisons to other substances, and chemical reactions. Students had gathered significant data about these substances with pH indicators and chemical reactions in previous lessons.

Concerning materials management, I will be honest. I wasn’t brave enough to allow free access to  substances for them to freely gather to do chemical tests. I dispensed these as needed.

All in all, the kids enjoyed being scientists, mixing substances to see the reactions, and creating new substances. This lesson needs at least an hour and maybe longer for students who take longer. Some of my classes took more than one  class period, but most students needed just one.

Further, chemical reaction experiments are great to do before summer break because students will be inspired to do something besides sit in front of a  screen during the summer.  They might turn into real chemical engineers one day just by exploring their kitchen cabinets. (I always remind them to ask parental permission before exploring substances at home.) Now for a giveaway!

Prize: $25 Teachers Pay Teachers Gift Card
Giveaway Organized by: Kelly Malloy (An Apple for the Teacher)
Rules: Use the Rafflecopter to enter.  Giveaway ends 6/12/17 and is open worldwide.
Are you a Teacher Blogger or Teachers pay Teachers seller who wants to participate in giveaways like these to grow your store and social media?  Click here to find out how you can join our totally awesome group of bloggers! 

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Mystery Liquids

If you have already allowed children to experience chemical reactions, they will be sure to enjoy figuring out which liquids these are.  Now this experiment would go nicely with a CSI unit, if you tell children that these substances were found at a crime scene.  Then tell them that they have to figure out which substances were left at the crime scene.

Now, for the practical matters of this experiment.  First, I gathered five clear containers for each group and picked five mostly clear liquids.  You can use whichever liquids you would like, but I chose



*very watered down dish soap,

*Sprite, and

*rubbing alcohol.  

I colored every substance with food coloring except for the Sprite to make everything more mysterious.  Also, just an FYI:  I watered down the dish soap to the point where bubbles were almost undetectable, so it would be harder to figure out.  I gave students small plastic spoons like the taste test spoons at an ice cream store to dip out the liquids.  I also gave them wax paper because the surface tension of the water on wax paper is so evident compared to other liquids.  Further, if they have a sheet of wax paper as opposed to a plate they waste less. Just have paper towels readily available.

Before I let the students have the materials, I made them tell what they could do to each substance to test it before they received the liquids.  These are some of the things they told me.

  1. We can smell them.
  2. We can look at them.
  3. We can touch them.
  4. We can taste them.  (at which point, I say absolutely not :))
  5. We can look at our old notes and test them with pH strips to see if the results match.
  6. We can do chemical reaction experiments.
  7. We can compare them to the substances that are available ( I had some liquids available).

During experimentation, I had several things available in extra supply for experimentation:

  • extra solids available in small cups
  • extra liquids available in small cups
  • pH strips (I dispensed as needed)
  • cabbage juice (I dispensed as needed)

(these were set up similar to the chemical reactions lesson I already shared)

I left time at the end of our class for the students to discuss which liquids they were and to support their conclusions.  Most students were able to figure out all of the liquids except the water.  Some students asked me if I had duplicated any of the liquids, and I did not.  However, mwah ha ha, mwah ha ha (evil laughter), I did think about having two jars filled with water of different colors and having them figure this out.


Student Led Science with Chemical Reactions

As a precursor to chemical reactions, allow students some time to experiment with pH indicators, discuss the periodic table and chemical formulas, and take some time to do at least one teacher led chemical reaction such as a baking soda and vinegar explosion in a ziplock bag.  Also, discuss the differences between a chemical and physical reaction.

Now this is how I allowed students to do their own chemical reactions…

*Students were able to choose what substances they wanted to mix.

*They were able to choose five reactions to perform.

*Students worked in groups of two.  If they couldn’t settle on what to mix, I told them that they could choose two and their partner could choose two reactions.  The last reaction they could do all alone.

*Students predicted what would happen in each reaction, and then recorded the results.

*I posed this question to the students before they began, “Will acids and bases always create a chemical reaction when mixed?”

Students were able to choose from the following substances to do their reactions:

  1. cream of tarter
  2. borax
  3. baking soda
  4. vinegar
  5. Sprite
  6. dishwashing liquid (watered down a bit)
  7. lemon juice

I used these little artist’s palettes with circular indentations in them for students to mix substances. These palettes were numbered so that substances could be numbered.  I also had these little medicine cups that came with a science kit.  The cups hold about one ounce.  I had the different substances already poured out for students to use.  Students could only get one cup of each substance, and if they were using the same substance for more than one experiment, they had to use that one cup for both experiments.  The little spoons you see worked out very well.  A colleague was getting rid of them, and I gladly took them off her hands.

This is further how I organized the materials at the supply table below.  Again, this is not a beautiful blog picture, but it is real life after several classes had experienced this activity.  I had different pieces of paper to organize the substances with the name on them.  I told students they had to manage how to organize them at their own desk.  In the picture above you can see that these students were very organized when they got to their table.  They labeled their cups on notebook paper.


After students experimented many of them wanted to further mix what was already on their experimenting plate.  I allowed this, but required them to write down what they had mixed.

In closing discussion, we talked about what happened when different students mixed different substances.  We talked about whether these substances created chemical reactions, and students had to give evidence for a reaction being a chemical reaction.  For example, did the substances produce gas, change temperature, or did they turn into completely different substances?

The students really enjoyed this learning experience, and this spurred them on to experiment at home on their own.  I encouraged them to experiment over the summer especially because most of these substances can be found in the kitchen cabinet.

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