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My Favorite Part of My Math Classroom: Word Walls

Thinking about back to school, I start to reflect on what I want to change for the coming year and what I love so much I would never change. Is there a certain area in your classroom that you think about and just smile? I think all of us teachers have that place where we find joy. For me, it is my word wall.

Not only do I love all of the bright colors, but I also love that my word wall gives my students a visual representation of all the vocabulary we learn throughout the year. I love that these cards are not just the words themselves but visual reminders of what each word means. Every time I ask a question and see a student glance at it for reference I cannot help but feel all the warm and fuzzies. I strongly believe all students especially secondary students need visual cues to aid their learning particularly in a mathematics classroom. For more, see this NCTE article on math vocabulary.

These word cards also improve my students' mathematical literacy, encourage deeper thinking, etc. and are used all year including review games, students create their own, and so on. Now that you know how much I love my word wall, I hope you will share in this passion of mine and put up one in your classroom this year.

How do I go about making or buying my own word wall? A couple of summers ago I had this idea and decided to put myself to work making my dream become a part of my classroom. It took me ALL summer to make these cards for each course I taught at the time (maybe not the best use of my summer?). So to save you that kind of time, if you teach Algebra 2, PreCalculus, Calculus, or Statistics, check out my Word Walls on TPT.
If you are inspired to create your own:

  1. Make a list of all the vocabulary words for the course
  2. Think about how each word can be written in a way that illustrates its definition
  3. Make those ideas come to life in PowerPoint, Word, etc.
  4. Print, laminate, and post as you teach during the year
Welcome to the amazing world of word walls! I hope you love yours and find a way to make it your own this school year.

Writing Your Best College Essay

The dreaded college essay.  A right of passage for all students seeking to enter into higher institutions of learning.  And one that seems like an even playing field.  But is it?   For my low-income students, this piece of the college process feels like space where they have all the same chances and opportunities as their more affluent peers.   I thought the same.  Until my sister and my cousin were both applying to college. And one of them was paying $1500 for college essay editing/writing services. And it wasn’t my sister.  

There is a whole world out there of college acceptance services and companies to help navigate the college process successfully and with great results.  But this world is only accessible to a select few. And it is a sound business plan.  Everyone who wants to go to college needs to write an essay, this essay needs to be super specific, and writing is intimidating. So, why not hire someone to help you?  Especially someone who has seen and written essays that earned ivy league acceptance?

As an English teacher, I like to think that I am a pretty good writing.  I might even be an expert in some areas. ( I’m looking at you MLA citation!)  I thought I knew what a great caliber college essay was.  And I did have a pretty good idea, but I was absolutely blown away when I saw the essays my cousin was writing with her $1500 help.  Then, I was blown away again when my sister sent me her friends ( fellow Ivy Leaguers) essays her freshman year.

So, why am I writing all this?  Well, I want to make the college essay process transparent, simplistic, and accessible to all students.

For the past 6 years, I have been helping my first-generation students write and perfect their college essays.  Some people have told me that this is an ethical dilemma, and I point these people to the websites of the $1500 essay writing services.

What is my method?  One, I love writing.  Two, I have spent hours of my life reading hundreds of successful college essays.  Three, I’ve worked at a college prep school the past two years with a college counseling team with over 15 years of inside admission experience.  I’ve listened, I’ve lived it, and I’ve learned. Now, I am ready to share it all!

Below, are my top tips for helping students to start the college essay writing process!

Each week, I am going to feature a longer post delving into the hows and whys of each tip, and provide examples from college essays that worked :)

If you're looking for some great real life examples of exemplary essays, feel free to buy my essay example bundle here On sale this week for half-price!

Let’s get our students into some amazing colleges and set them up to achieve their dreams!

Dream Teacher Closet

I like expensive things.  And yet, I chose a career path that one decidedly does not choose for the income ( I'm here for the outcome baby!)  

                                                                (Life mantra TBH)

But like all teachers, I want the best for my students.  Which means digging into my pockets to buy the decorations at target, and the extra pencils, and the grading pens, and the cute supplies to get kids excited about the lesson, and yes the needed snacks for those kiddos who you know just need an extra snack snuck to them under their desk.

But in my ideal world, I would also have my quintessential teacher wardrobe.  So come along with me on my fantasy, where I show you my teacher dream closet, where prices don't exist, and there is no spending limit.   I give you Ms. Mueller's Ultimate Teacher Looks

Step one: Shoes
All teachers know that you need some great kicks, especially for #teacherfeetupfriday :)  And these keds do the trick.  Plus, these also happen to be on sale for $29!  So maybe they don't have to be distant dream and can enter my real life closet asap.

Next up: The Teacher Sweater

I love a good sweater.  And I love an even better graphic sweater.  Plus, I also love science. So what better way to combine these loves, than with a DINO sweater! Find it here. 


Continuing on with some Teacher Bling
Everyone has Kendra Scott jewelry and I just want some too!

Best Bottoms

Can't ever go wrong with a little Lilly!  I need these pants in my life.  They brighten my mood just by looking at them!

Final Piece: The Teacher Tote ( One of many bags lugged in by teachers across the nation each day)
I am loving this leather work of art that looks like it can hold my two planners, independent reading book, stack of essays, and random assortment of markers and highlighters.

                                        (Yeah, you can hold my life essentials and then some)

Here are a smattering of my other ultimate closet wishes to help make me the most stylish teacher in the school #lifegoals

(Not school appropriate but still cute!)           (Looks so comfy!)        ( Lilly Love!) 

What on in your teacher closet wish list?! I'd love to add to my collections of outfit ideas!

On Trend Book Recommendations ( and what to read when you finish binging 13 Reasons Why)

My favorite thing in the world is when a quality book is made into a teen TV show and then that TV show is a major hit.  Case in point: 13 Reasons Why.  This book by Jay Asher has always been a top pick with my students.  In fact, if I have a reluctant reader, this novel has always been one of the books that I put in their hands. And more often than not, they read the whole entire thing and come back asking for more.   So I am pretty much in English teacher heaven with the popularity not only among teens, but among all age groups for this new mini series.  Because that means I can place this book out on my desk, and I know I will not only get 15 million questions and comments about it through out the day, but I will also get at least 10 request to borrow my only copy.  ( Obviously I give it away and real quick whip up a sign up sheet for it!).  So, what do I do for my readers who come back begging for more, or who are at the bottom of my wait list?  I point them in the direction of some other quality reads that I know are either written in the same style, deal with the same types of characters and issues, or speak to the same themes that readers are loving.

And so I give you my list of quick reads for your students who are loving 13 Reasons Why! Hang this in your classroom for some instant book recs!   You can download it as a PDF on my TPT store here

Hook Your Readers With Book Trailers!

Independent reading is something I wholeheartedly believe in.  Students need space to explore topics, ideas, and concepts, and they need to be able to see reading as something that is enjoyable and not just required by their pesky English teacher.  I like to hype up my students on library check out day by presenting them with a wide option of books to choose from.  One of my favorite tools to make them super hype about checking out a book is to use book trailers.  The recent popularity of YA novels being turned into movies has made my life much easier when searching for trailers to show my students.  Below are a few of my favorite ones to share with my classes and get my students excited to try out some new books.  The best part of this, is that it exposes students to books they might not have picked off the shelf.  It also encourages discussion among students who have already read the book and can now be the expert on if it was good or not.  However, as always,  in my classroom everyone knows the book is WAY better than the movie!

13 Reasons Why

The Maze Runner

The Book Thief

The Zoo Keepers Wife

Everything Everything

Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children

Harry Potter

Hunger Games


The Handmaidens Tale

The Circle

Jurassic Park
( This is the trailer for Jurassic World, but that is mostly because I like to give myself an excuse to ogle Chris Pratt in class... So basically this is a gift to myself)

The Duff

The Fault in Our Stars
( Again,  this is a gift to myself because I just really adore this book and these characters and this cast)


Pretty Little Liars

Paper Towns


The Great Gatsby
(Double win with this one.  Classic novel, and some Leo screen time)

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

I am Number Four

The Perks of Being A Wallflower

If I Stay

Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist

A Walk to Remember
( ugh Shane West...)

The Host

It's Kind of A Funny Story

My Sisters Keeper

Freaky Friday

Warm Bodies

World War Z

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
(I happen to have strong feelings about Zombie books.  They are the best)

The Walking Dead

I Love You Beth Cooper

The 5th Wave

The Spectacular Now

There are so many more, and I am always adding to my collection of trailers.  This is also a great activity to do when you have those pesky 2-4 minutes of down time at the end of class period.  I love to pull up a trailer, ask if anyone has read the book, and end the class talking about reading!

Spring Break Craft Goals

One more week until this teacher is on spring break!
After I spend at least two days lounging around doing absolutely nothing, I have a hankering to get crafty!  Katy and I love when there are free classes offered at our local Paper Source in Coolidge Corner, but sadly there were not offered during  my break week.  However there is a super cool stationary class that I think I'm going to attend!  Paper Source always has cute ideas and kits for sale, so I know that I'll be able to find something cute to make with my week off.

There is also this cute planner event at Michaels to end my week off with! And its FREE! Just have to bring a planner and a friend :)

Finally, I'm obsessed with these paper flowers by @thebleudahlia 
I love the huge wall ones, and am dying to make the book page ones for my ELA classroom.  I'm envisioning a nice long banner of them for the top of my book shelf! 
I have to learn how to make them.  I found some DIY directions on pinterest here so I will check back once I get crafting! 

I'm slowly adding more to my craft to-do list on my pinterest page here 

Feel free to request to collaborate and give me some more craft ideas! 

What crafts are everyone's to-do list?! I would love to add to my spring break extravaganza!

Teacher Swag

Every teacher on my instagram feed has the cutest, sassiest, most adorable teacher shirts ever.  And I want them all. And I want them reasonably priced. So I sent myself on an internet hunt for a retailer that had decent sales, offered discounts, and sent promo codes.   I found myself clicking for an entire hour and adding at least 30 shirt options to my shopping cart...  This post is not filled with any affiliate links, I got no compensation for clicks, I just want to share where frugal teachers like myself can buy some adorable, school appropriate, teacher swag!

My new favorite brand is Look Human, specifically their teacher collection !

Check out these teeshirt gems below!

Classic Mean Girls reference, always a must have (duh)

Maybe pushing the boundaries, but it's what all the cool kids are saying! :) 

I told myself I would never say this, and I lied. 

Just for my own entertainment as I drink my coffee and listen to excuses on why the essay isn't done...  (but yes, you can have an extension) 

Let me know what your favorite teacher tee looks are in the comments below! I always love a good excuse for some online shopping ;)

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