Sunday, April 22, 2012


Appetizing title, eh? Here's how we deal with draining grease in my cooking classes (I actually learned this from my husband, who of course does it this way because his mother did it this way) - turkey basters! Way easier than dealing with the muss and fuss of a strainer.

Suck up the grease, squirt it into the "grease can," move on. No need to remove the meat from the pan, get itty bitty pieces stuck in the holes of the strainer (which never seems to get completely clean), or splatter everywhere while trying to get a wide skillet to empty into a narrow sieve. 

Since it's also in the picture, here's my plug for a Pampered Chef product. While for the most part I have not partaken of the Pampered Chef kool-aid (since you can usually get something of similar quality much cheaper elsewhere), there are a few key products offered by P.C. that I absolutely love. Above on the left you see the "Mix 'n Chop" - this thing is terrific for breaking up ground meat while browning. I saw a friend using one once and purchased one for my home kitchen, then after a bit purchased four more for my school kitchens. So much more efficient than a spatula, a spoon, or even a potato masher. So the next time one of your "friends" drafts you into attending one of their parties, pick up one of these guys - you'll love it!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Sewing Project - Monkeys!

February 2, 2016 Update: Over 100 new FACS resources are now available in exchange for a small donation to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society - see details here!

For hand sewing practice, my classes have always really enjoyed creating monkeys - particularly the boys, go figure. They are simple little felt creatures with button eyes and stitched noses and mouths.

If you're wondering what happened to the one on the bottom left, the creator of that particular monkey told me that "He was in 'Nam." Fair enough.


Clipboards are great tools to keep on hand for various activities... unfortunately they can be difficult to keep on hand. Either they wander off, or are borrowed by other teachers and somehow lost, or are "borrowed" by other teachers and never heard from again. I've found that overt personalization not only helps cut down on dwindling numbers, but certainly makes them more fun.

As always, I'm a fan of Snoopification as well. A Sharpie and a projector are all you need!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Survey Monkey!

I like to continually get feedback from my classes. One of the ways I do this is through the use of Survey Monkey. This is a free service that allows you to create 10 question online surveys and have people take them anonymously (there are much fancier options if you upgrade to a paid account, but that's not something I've found to be necessary). I ask for their feedback on the class rules, on my teaching, on activities we've completed, on what they would still like to learn, and then a place for comments in general.

The first time we do this is typically the last day of the first full week of school. The double bonus is that by taking them to the computer lab this early in the term I can quickly find out if there are any login/password issues and get those taken care of right away. Here's an example of the 1st week survey taken in Foods:

My apologies for the insanely small type - gotta love Ctrl +.

Note - I realize that #2 is kind of vague, but I actually get quite a bit of useful information from it. This helps me figure out their first impressions of me, if I've done a good job of introducing and explaining class procedures, and also gives me an idea of the subjects they would like to learn about in class - I try to work in their suggestions whenever possible.

They take surveys at the midterm and end of every quarter as well, which ask more specific questions about the goings-on of the classes. I've found it to be of enormous benefit.

While the online surveys are anonymous, I also require a signed form of feedback at the end of every quarter as well. The instructions are as follows:

Write a full one-page letter including the following:


Dear Mrs. C,

-Describe one thing you learned in this class during ___ quarter
-Describe your favorite thing we did in this class during ___ quarter
-Describe your least favorite thing we did in this class during ___ quarter
-Tell me one thing you want to learn about next quarter
-Finish the page: you may write about anything you wish as long as it is school


I used to just have them write this letter on their own paper, but since I like to keep them it became difficult to control the different sizes and torn pages. So, I now copy lined paper with the intructions on the back and hole-punch them so I can keep them all together in a binder to refer to in the future.

I get some really interesting feedback from these letters - not only do they tell me what they liked/didn't like, but they always include their reasons as well (even though it's not part of the requirements). My favorite is when they tell me they didn't like something, but then admit it's because they just don't like to work - at least they're honest.

One thing I would like to try next year is a feedback bulletin board. I saw it on a teacher's blog and it looks like a great idea - perhaps I'll post on it next September.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Textbook Scavenger Hunt

One thing that tends to drive me batty is when kids act like they don't know how to use a textbook (i.e. "I can't find the definition!" "What page does Chapter 12 start on?!" "What section is that in?!" etc, etc). On the day that I hand out textbooks I also give out a "Book Scavenger Hunt":

I work some kind of "challenge" into it so that the kids race to finish with the correct answers, thereby tricking them into proving that they know how to find everything they would ever need to know how to find in their books on their own. Muahahahahhaaaa....

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Sewing Project - Zippered Pouches

Here's a terrific project you can use scrap fabric for: zippered pouches (click for tutorial found on Pinterest). A parent donated a whole box of zippers for my classes (yay for free stuff!), so we used the leftover fabric stash to stitch together these cuties.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Substitute Teachers

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We all know that preparing for a substitute is more work than actually BEING at work, but there are times when you just can't avoid it. Then you cross your fingers and hope that today isn't the day that your normally well-behaved children decide to act like little monsters. Also you have to hope that your sub isn't one who delights in bringing out the worst in high school kids - you know what I'm talking about. Here's my process for subs.

In the front of each student's binder I have a few pages specifically spelling out procedures for special situations, one of which being a substitute teacher in the classroom. The first time I go over sub expectations is well before I have a sub in the classroom. Here they are:

The biggest help here is point #5: if there's something the sub says or does that makes you unhappy, deal with it. It is 45 minutes of your life. Put in perspective, the kids realize that it's pretty dumb to get in trouble over such a small part of their day.


When I know I'm going to have a sub, we review these expectations as a class the day before. After a time or two the kids begin to grumble  "we know, we know," but that leaves no room for excuses.


For the sub I leave rosters, seating charts, and detailed plans - all the usual stuff. I make sure to include my class schedule including the times for each class - apparently a lot of teachers don't think to do this, because subs always thank me for giving them this info. I also leave a note for each class to be read aloud by the sub - that way the first instructions they get are directly from me. I usually end with some kind of mock threat, such as "I expect to receive a good report from the sub as usual. If not, I will feed you to the seniors. Think it over." The kids get a kick out of that.
One thing I really hate is when the sub either leaves no information about what went on during the day or very vague notes. Hence, I have created a feedback form that I ask them to fill out for each class.

Since I began using these forms, I have received dramatically better feedback and notes on the day, the students' behavior, and other useful info. I read the comments left to the kids to show them I'm serious about checking up on them when I'm gone.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Sewing Project - Pillowcases

One of the first machine projects I attempt with my classes is the three-fabric pillowcase. It involves measuring, aligning, layering, right side/wrong side recognition, pivot stitching, French seams... all the basics. They turn out really well!

I love seeing all the fabrics the kids pick out - pizza, yum!

Cookie Jar of Righteousness

Detentions are a pain - you've got to fill out the paperwork, schedule a date, be in your classroom the entire time... it creates a lot of work. Not to mention the students never bring anything with them to do, making the whole situation unnervingly awkward. A few years ago I came up with a solution: behold, the Cookie Jar of Righteousness!

Inside this righteous cookie jar are scraps of paper with classroom chores written on them. I tell my students at the beginning of the year that if they are fortunate enough to earn a detention with me, they must draw a task from the Cookie Jar of Righteousness and must complete the task satisfactorily in order to receive credit for the detention. It's amazing - they are more than eager to fold towels, wipe down desks, clean white boards, sharpen pencils, or anything else they draw from the jar. It makes the time go by much more quickly for them, I get a little extra help, and at the end I get to thank them for their assistance, which helps "heal" the relationship and we can forget the incident and move on. I highly recommend!

Student Folders

Here's how I keep track of student behavior and performance as well as parent contact:

On the left side, I have sheets attached to fill in with dates, times, and details for any student or parent contact (calls home, holding a kid after class, grade reports, etc). I tuck copies of all notes sent home, email printouts, grade reports, carbons from referrals, accident reports... any and all relevant paperwork. If called for a last minute meeting, I just grab the folder and go! (And yes, the folders are color-coded to match the class they're in).

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Paper Management

Papers, papers, everywhere! Any teacher of any subject has to tame the wild paper beast. Here's my method...

 Sterilite Corp. ClearView 3-Drawer Organizer 

These drawer sets are the perfect size for holding papers. I designate a drawer for each class, then one for papers that need to be filed, papers related to coaching, and all the papers we receive during meetings/in mailboxes/etc so that they're easily accessible (and easily located!). I used to use stacking trays, but these look sooooo much nicer. Throughout the week I throw my papers in which ever drawer they belong. Then I go through them once a week, file what needs to be filed, toss what needs to be tossed, sign what needs to be signed, and put all graded student work back in the student binders. I absolutely love them! They're also perfect for sorting colored paper:

Again, looks much nicer than trays, and very easy to manage!