Showing posts with label Organization. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Organization. Show all posts

Friday, March 28, 2014


Here's how I set out stuffing for smaller sewing projects, like the monkeys:

This was one of those mega-containers of "Cheezy Balls" you can get at places like Sam's. This year my husband was one of the adults in charge of the kids' Sunday School Christmas pageant, and they chose to have the Wise Men bear three "modern" gifts - among them an XBox, a bicycle pump, and a large container of Cheezy Balls - it was pretty awesome :).

Anyway, I washed out the container, removed the label, and stuffed it full of stuffing. It eliminates the hassle of boxes or bags, especially since stuffing is a supply FACS teachers like to purchase in bulk. It's large and conveniently clear, so that kids can find it easily (you know how you can point directly at something and they still can't see it?), and I can easily notice when it needs to be refilled.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Traveling to the Computer Lab

Here's an incredibly obvious idea that took me nearly eight years to come up with:

Whenever I want my classes to meet me in the computer lab, I've always scrawled a note and taped it to the door. This is inconvenient and takes 2-3 minutes every time, which is incredibly wasteful. It finally dawned on me to create a permanent solution.

We have two labs in our school: the "Main Lab" and the "Keyboarding Lab." I made double-sided signs for each class (one side for each lab), and printed them on paper in the color I have assigned to that particular class. Then I slid them into sheet protectors, and attached them with a book ring:

I placed a command hook behind my door to hold them when not in use, so that they are always exactly where I need them:

I hung two more command hooks (I LOVE command hooks, by the way - they rock!) on the outside* of the door itself, so I never again have to bother with tape.

Again, kind of a "duh" idea, but one worth sharing - I can't be the only one tired of slapping handwritten notes on the door.

Anyone else have something obvious yet helpful to share?

*If you happen to work in a building where there's a healthy chance anything you attach to the outside of your door will disappear, you'll want to hang your hooks on the inside so that the sign shows through the window. Just saying.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Common Core Grids: AKA, Don't Reinvent the Wheel

This will be short and sweet! Are you currently working on aligning your curriculum with the Common Core? Yup, thought so. Check out this site:

It doesn't get any better than that! Thank you, Utah!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Ingredient Table

So we all know that a key component of a successful cooking lab is to get kids to and from the center ingredient table quickly - hence the egg carton trick, opening containers rule, etc, that I have posted about previously. Another organizational maneuver I utilize to make the ingredient table less chaotic is arranging the ingredients by lab plan "job." Here's a look at how I do it:


When we bake chocolate chip cookies, we divide the recipes into three main jobs: creaming the butter and sugars (note that the sugars and butter are at one end of the table), mixing the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, and salt are at the opposite side of the table), and whisking an egg and vanilla in a prep cup (egg and vanilla are together). Chocolate chips are added last, and are measured out by whoever finishes their job first.


We have one person prepping the eggs (crack into a prep bowl one at a time, then place into the batter bowl), one person prepping the rest of the batter (milk, salt, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla are grouped together), and one person gathering the bread and a l'il chunk o' butter (in the prep cups) for greasing the pan. Note that in addition to the milk jug I also have a large cup of milk set out, so that more than one person can measure at a time; also more than one egg and vanilla container are available.


One person picks up the English muffins and the toaster, one person grabs the sausage and cheese, one person grabs the eggs. For this one I was easily able to create a mirror set up where I had a set of each ingredient on both sides of the table; easier to reach and to share. You'll also see my wonderful copy paper box lids being employed again - we very rarely use toasters, so I keep them together. That way they're not cluttering the kitchens, and I can do a quick inspection of them during clean-up to make sure they don't get shoved into a cabinet with random ingredients splattered on them.

*Click on the starred links to watch my cooking demonstrations on YouTube.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Nasco... Live and in Color!

I'm frequently asked where I find all of my color-coded kitchen equipment, and the simple answer is this: EVERYWHERE! WalMart, Target, Dollar Stores, random kitchen stores, Amazon (of course) and everywhere in between. Once you start looking for/noticing these things, you find them all over!

I've just discovered that companies are also beginning to wisen up and sell colored bundles of kitchen supplies - check out this page from Nasco's 2014 FACS catalog:

Sorry for the terrible lighting, but you get the idea. Whether you're looking for bundles or just individual pieces, this is a great place. And no, sadly Nasco has offered me nothing to tote their wares, I just thought that this might be helpful. At the very least, if you don't already receive this catalog follow the link above and getcha one, they have a lot to offer!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Folders Again

Over the summer I was trying to decide between student folders or binders; I went with folders this past semester and really liked it. I also made some modifications on how I managed the folders, so here is a summary of what I've set up for this semester starting Tuesday (school has already been canceled for Tuesday!) Wednesday:

WARNING: This is a long one...

I provide a folder for each student. The folders are color-coded by class. The front of each folder has the student's name, the class name, and a pawprint (for our mascot).

Inside the folder on the first day of class is:
1) Bell work sheet for the week
2) The copy of the syllabus they take home to have signed
3) Grade labels - every week when I return their graded folders, I write their current percentage in the class in the space for that week. Not only do they know exactly what their grade is, but they can tell if they're going up/down and at what pace. Takes care of the kids/parents who tell me "But it was an A- last week - how can it be an F now?" This was the first semester I tried this - the kids LOVED it.
4) A copy of the syllabus to be kept permanently in the prongs of the folder for future reference

Attached to the take-home syllabus is the form for the parent/guardian to sign, and instructions for how to sign up for remind101

Back page of syllabus, plus Folder procedures and expectations. Instead of passing out papers, I tuck them into the folders. Sometimes I put in everything for the week, sometimes just the day - depends on what makes the most sense for that particular lesson.

Students keep work to be graded in the front of their folders, notes/handouts go in the prongs. The day they are due I take about 5 minutes out of class to make sure they know what order their papers in the front pocket should be in, what papers should be placed in the prongs, and allow them to prepare their folders for grading. If they just sit there, ignore me, and turn in a great big mess, I do not treasure hunt; I will not grade it. Now obviously not everything we do is paper-based; a lot of what I return are project rubrics, feedback forms, etc. I grade the folders every week, staple all of the work along with a copy of the itemized grade report together, and place it in the back of the folders. I also write their current percentage on the grade labels.

On Mondays, I take the first few minutes of class to have them look over their grades and their work. If they have any questions or see any errors I may have made, they have that week only to question it (that way they still have the work in question; eliminates the accusations right before report cards that I "messed up" their grade).

The last "first day" page is a summary of the procedures/expectations for when a sub is in the class. These have helped tremendously over the years. This is the last piece of paper that I place in their prongs myself; the rest of the semester they are in charge of placing their notes/handouts in them. High schoolers are much better at operating these prongs that junior high students, but the first few times it's a REALLY good idea to explain how they work AND walk around and make sure they do it right. Seriously. And again, I designate time for them to do this the day the folders are due, so no excuses.

The last thing I set up in their folders are their hall passes. Every student is given two hall passes per quarter to leave the room for any reason (bathroom, water fountain, locker) - that's it. Unused passes can be redeemed at the end of the term, the "rewards" vary. I'd say about 95% of my students this past semester didn't use any of their four passes, so this is very reasonable, at least at my school. 

Folders are kept in a labeled file crate in the classroom. Before class I spread them out on this table which is directly in front of the door as they come in. I write a number at the top left of each folder, so that students can easily find their own without knocking everyone else's on the floor.

When they leave, the kids drop their folders in the crate. I pick up the stack on my way out to hall duty, and put them in numerical order as I rule the halls with the iron fist of justice. I keep the crates below the table, so they're easy to switch out.

If I have a smaller class or two, I combine crates to save space.

This may seem like a lot of work, but here a few things to consider:

1) The first time you assemble the folders, it will take a long time. It will go significantly faster subsequent times, especially since you will obviously recruit students to help you : ).

2) The whole grading/printing grade report/stapling/writing grade percentage routine probably sounds time consuming. I've found it actually saves me a TON of time, and extra hassles.
-I never have to take time out of class to pass out/collect things.
-I never have to worry about keeping track of papers for absent students, because I've already put them in the folders.
-Since all student work is kept in the folders, it has completely eliminated the student claim of "I turned it in! You lost it!"
-Giving the weekly printout eliminates "I didn't know..."; also, it's easy to catch if I make a silly data entry mistake (like when you accidentally input a 20 point assignment as 200 points...).
-I never have kids pestering me to see their grades because they know they will see them the first day of every week. I do have the occasional kid who wants to argue during the last week of the quarter, but they don't have a leg to stand on.
-Filling in the percentage on a weekly basis forces me to stay on top of my grading so I don't get behind.
-More than that, I am ready at a moment's notice for a surprise parent meeting or a last minute invitation to an IEP meeting, because I can just grab the student's folder and show numerical progress over the quarter (since I teach home ec, that's all the parents want to know from me - the grade percentage, nothing about their actual learning). Sad, but true.

Some Random Details
-So far I've only used paper folders, which really only last a semester. Since they only cost 10 cents a piece in August, I don't mind this - I just make sure I buy enough in July/August for both terms, because the price goes up to almost 50 cents a piece the rest of the year.
-There will be kids who somehow manage to completely tear theirs up, even though they never leave the classroom. I make sure the kids know at the beginning of the semester that should such disaster strike, it will be their responsibility to fix the folder or replace it. In the correct color.
-Be prepared for artwork to appear. Perhaps stress that any added decor needs to be school appropriate.

So, that's my folder system. I love it - hopefully there was something in all of this that can help you out!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Copy Paper Box Lids

One common workplace item that I frequent scavenge are the box lids to the copy paper. They truly come in handy for SO many things! Here is one way I use them in foods:

When I refrigerate overnight ingredients (like sugar cookie dough/above left, or chocolate chip cookie dough/above right), I group the containers by class and nestle them in the box lids. That way when it's time to set up, I only have to pull out one box rather than four or five bowls. The dimensions of the lid fit the depth of a typical refrigerator perfectly, and the sides keep what I'm carrying from sliding off.

I have a kid in my third hour who writes about poop a lot. You've probably had a kid like this yourself, so don't judge : ).

The lids are also good for supplies that you only use on occasion. For example, this year I've decided to store the hand mixers together outside of the student kitchens. Outside of the baking unit they really don't get used much, they take up room, the cords get tangled, and so on. I also always do a quick check of all the mixers before a lab when we haven't used them in a while (make sure the beaters still fit well, the motors are running, etc). This is much easier and quicker to do when they are all together, rather than having to go kitchen to kitchen.

When we do need them, I just set the box lid out on the table with the ingredients and the kids grab one. It's also handy that it's easy to inspect the mixers for cleanliness when they turn them back in, rather than when they surreptitiously stuff them in a drawer.

More on copy paper box lids - and the boxes themselves! - later...

Saturday, December 21, 2013

My Agenda


I left work yesterday fifteen minutes after the final bell. All of my grades have been posted, my classrooms are sparkling clean and organized (thank you, extended final exam class periods), and my agenda for the January 6th Institute Day is taped to my computer monitor. Am I bragging? Nah..... well, yeah! I am walking away!

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Egg Cartons & Table Space

I don't know about you, but I think this semester just flashed by! Finals are next week already!

 Egg cartons can take up a lot of space on an ingredient table, so I have two cartons that I've cut down to a smaller size:

If my kitchens need a total of six or less eggs, I use the little guy; seven to twelve, I use the bigger one. I just take eggs out of the newest carton, place them in the appropriately-sized one that has been trimmed down, and set out for the kids to use. Then I store it for the next time I'll need it.

Extra hint: I usually place one extra egg in the modified carton, so that the kids don't throw it away by mistake.

Sunday, November 24, 2013


Sometimes keeping track of keys is a real pain. I wish I had taken a picture of the keys I had last year. Not kidding, they must have given me about 23 different keys. By the end of the year I knew what about six of them were for. 

Anyway, you need to have them close at hand, but you don't want them in the way or weighing you down, nor do you want a kid walking off with them (luckily this year I have little worries of the latter). So, I'm trying something new with my classroom keys this year:

At last year's school I was required to wear a lanyard around my neck with my ID, so the two keys I used regularly were on there - hated it. Always got in the way during cooking and sewing, of course. The six years before I always kept them on a lanyard that I kept in my pocket, but that only worked when I wore something with pockets - otherwise I just had the lanyard out somewhere, and it could be difficult to locate if I set it down in an odd place. Plus it was kind of bulky and annoying. And, honestly, with the lanyard dangling down it got caught on things fairly regularly, which was kind of embarrassing.

So this year I split the keys up into a few different places. The only key I need to have handy on a regular basis throughout the day is the master room key, so I decided to try it out on my water bottle. By the way, these Brita bottles are fantastic! Our school water is pretty disgusting, but you can't tell at all when drinking out of these babies. After fourteen weeks I can say for sure that I LOVE using this as my "key ring" - it's super easy to locate from anywhere in the room, and has the added bonus of reminding me to stay hydrated since I always have it in hand when on hall duty or traveling elsewhere in the building. Also, since my classroom door is never locked due to the fire escape, I just keep it hidden in a classroom cabinet at night so I never forget this key at home.

My "occasional" keys - cabinets/sliding doors/etc I keep in a safe place in the classroom, since I don't need them readily on hand at all times. My key to the outside door I keep on my car key ring, so again it's never forgotten at home and I never accidentally lock myself out when running out to my car for something.

So there you have an entire post on keys. And you read the whole thing. Haha! Time you'll never get back!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Job Wheel the Sequel

A year and a half ago or so I posted about a job wheel I created to assign miscellaneous tasks that need to be completed after each cooking lab. This year I've switched to displaying it on the projector during labs; it's easy to rotate the wheel in PowerPoint, and the different images accommodate classes with different numbers of cooking groups.

The morning Foods class only has four groups, so they are responsible for:

TABLE - clean off the ingredient table (close lids/boxes/containers, wipe off table)
FLOORS - sweep ALL of the kitchens and common area in between
TOWELS - make sure all towels are in the washing machine
POWER - check all kitchens to make sure all appliances are turned off

The afternoon Foods class has five groups, so one kitchen from that class is responsible for washing the ingredient containers. Meaning, if there was an ingredient I had poured out into a bowl or set out on a plate, I would take that item from the assigned kitchen and they would be in charge of washing and putting it away.

Below you can see a green bowl set out under the salt (the idea being that they lean over that bowl when measuring, rather than their mixing bowls or the table); on this day the "green" kitchen was assigned to Ingredient Containers, so it was their extra job to wash and put that bowl away.

I have to say, I'm impressed with how well this works. They always remember to check the board for their "extra" job, and I don't have to nag them to sweep or whatever. I'll also add that they're much more careful about brushing stuff onto the floor, knowing that someone else will have to sweep it - or that the other group may get revenge on them later on when it's their turn to do the sweeping :).

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Pie Bags in Action!

Over the summer I posted about trying out pie bags, and today was my first opportunity to see them in action in the classroom. Epic success! They made rolling out the dough SOOOO much easier for the kids, and almost entirely eliminated the insane flour mess that usually accompanies such labs. Check 'em out!

Very little flour required! Nice clean rolling pin, too!

Check out the clean countertops!

The bag easily peels off after rolling.

See how little sticks to the bag, even with minimal flour usage.

There's still always one group that completely overdoes the flour, but look how contained it is!
(I concede it drives me crazy that they chose to line their cookie sheet AFTER getting a bunch of flour on it, but oh well...)

This simple, wonderful invention took an enormous amount of stress out of this lab, both for me and for my students. Highly, highly recommended!

Available at and miscellaneous kitchen stores (like Kitchen Collection at the mall), in two different sizes. Let me know what you think if you try one!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

OCD Much?

Okay, I get that this is becoming borderline psychotic, but here's my latest classroom kitchen upgrade:

And now for the close-ups:

Lest there be any confusion whatsoever as to where I want these items to be stored after they are washed, rinsed, and thoroughly dried, there is now a visual guide in each of the upper cabinets. Drawers are next. Watch out, world.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Plan B...

Yep, this is how you want to start your day:

Plan B it is!

But I'll tell you what - my IT gal took care of the issue in record-breaking time. Something like this would have taken WEEKS at my last school. Soooo great to be back here!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Grocery Bagging

I LOVE getting to bag my own groceries! This is primarily due to the fact that about 98.4% of all baggers out there don't seem to know what they're doing.

Disclaimer: This is a rant. Brace yourself.

1. I always bring my own bags. One of the beautiful things about the reusable bags is that you can fit 3-4 times as many items into them. For whatever reason most baggers only fill these bags maybe one-third of the way. This drives me crazy.

2. Despite the fact that I want them to use my bags, I think it's only common sense to wrap meats in plastic before placing them in the fabric bags, in case they leak. I'd say the odds of a bagger offering to do this or automatically doing it is somewhere around 50/50.

3. I place my items on the grocery belt in logical groupings so that like items will be bagged together. For example, I put all of my frozen items together so that they will be bagged together. Likewise refrigerated and pantry items. Yet when I arrive home I will have one bag (2/3 empty) with ice cream, a cucumber, Juicy Juice and toilet paper all mixed in together. The rest of the bags will follow suit in containing a jumbled up mess.

I realize this is an over-controlling impulse, but seriously, there are sensible reasons! Keeping the cold items together keeps them cold; also, the ice cream won't melt while I'm sifting through the rice/ground beef/toothpaste/one bag of frozen vegetables bag looking for it. Not to mention that it takes significantly less time to put the groceries away if they are grouped by location!

In my life I have had maybe half a dozen baggers who have had their acts together, and one of them was a former student of mine whom I taught about grouping groceries on the conveyor belt.

Is it just me? Does anyone else have this issue?

Sunday, August 4, 2013

TPT & YouTube

Apologies for double-posting in one day...

I have after long delay decided to jump on the Teachers Pay Teachers bandwagon: 1) I've received many, many requests for my foods lab task cards, and 2) Who can't use a little side money for their classroom? Prices for task card label sets are only $1 each (and in MS Word, so completely open for customization), accompanying recipes are free (as they should be, I didn't write 'em!). Please note that only the .doc file for the labels is for sale - you still have to do the printing, the sticking, the assembling, etc.

Click the TPT button on the side of this blog, or click here to check them out if you're interested. Right now there are three sets available: Cheddar Bay Biscuits (just like Red Lobster!), Sugar Cookies, and Pancakes. All recipes are sized to an appropriate amount for one cooking group, and all task card sets are prepared for a three-person kitchen (because you just know that somebody's going to be absent on cooking day!).

Also, I am beginning to upload my lab demonstration videos to YouTube, under the channel "facsclassroomideas." They all have close-up shots that focus on what I'm actually doing, so while you'll hear my melodic voice you won't see me, just a pair of disembodied hands :). Feel free to use in class or as inspiration for creating your own lab demo videos. Or if you're extremely bored one night, fill up a bowl of popcorn, kick back and... call someone! Watching my demo videos is no way to spend a free evening! : )))))

Saturday, August 3, 2013

No Names

Why I stopped accepting no-name papers during fourth quarter last year. This was from one week. One week.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Foods Lab Prep: Unopened Containers

A little advice for people teaching Foods for the first time. Whenever you have a new package, carton, box, bag, jar, etc that you will be using in a lab, always, always, always, ALWAYS open the container yourself before the lab. Always. Why? Because when you set out unopened containers for the first time, you're probably expecting a result something like this:

What you are actually going to get is something like this:

I am so not kidding. And this is the best case scenario, wherein the food inside the container didn't go flying all over the place (chocolate chips? bread crumbs? etc...)

p.s. These were demonstration items assembled in my home. And yes, it was painful to do this to the peanut butter. We all have to sacrifice for our art.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Painting Plastic File Crates

We all know how much I love color-coding, so it really bugs me that I don't have crates in all of the colors I need. Take these binder crates that I used up until this past semester:

No orange! No yellow! Hmpf! So I set out to change that; I am turning a spare red crate into an orange one!

First, I had to remove all the dust from the red crate. I used a barely damp cloth, then swabbed the little parts with a q-tip.

Then I put on my paint pants (everybody has pants stained by paint, right?).

Next, my paint sunglasses (note the crack on the right).

At this point I should have also found gloves, but not realizing how difficult it is to wash spray paint off of your hands I did not break those bad boys out until the second coat. Don't let this happen to you!

Outside we go. Here I am waving to you!

First coat complete! Oh no, lookout!

Ha ha!

It's a bit mottled after the first coat, but that's okay - second coat's a'comin'!

And TADA!!! An orange crate!

Until next time...