Monday, July 6, 2015

Back to School Supply Swap

Reposted from sch00lstuff:

I was scrolling through Instagram last night and noticed the #SisterhoodoftheTravellingGift hashtag on many of my virtual friends' posts.  As I followed the links, I came upon a post by Zoe at A Quirky Bird explaining the details behind the short, it looked fun!  So, I immediately contacted my #Made4Math buddies, Pam and Shelli who agreed, if fashionistas can gift clothing and accessories, teachers can gift school supplies:)

Fun, right?
My favorite part of going back to school has always been shopping for supplies.  I remember telling my grandmother when I was 8, how much I loved shopping for school.  Bless her heart, she thought I meant for clothes and told me a story about a pair of new shoes she got as a little girl.  I didn't have the heart to tell her that I meant that I liked the binders, the old cardboard school boxes, and the paste. But still to this day, I get a bit giddy as I see the colored paperclips, new planners, and fancy pencils being carefully arranged down the aisles of my local big box store.

So, if you are like me and love this stuff too,

Join the Back to School Supply Swap
What is it? 
The School Supply Swap is a fun gift exchange between July 27 and Aug 7.
A gift exchange?  Let me explain...
Imagine...your favorite parcel carrier pulls into the drive and knocks on your door to deliver a brightly colored package addressed to YOU.  You carry it inside...eager to open it.  What could it be???  Most assuredly that whatever is in the package was carefully selected just for you and will be the perfect addition to your classroom this fall, because this School Supply Swap was planned by teachers for teachers.

How does it work?
You will be matched up with another teacher and will be provided results from his/her online questionnaire, so that you can find out a bit more about this new friend. You will select a few school related items based upon the responses on the survey...something that you think that they would enjoy and would fit into their room's decor.  There is a prize for cutest wrapping, so box up your goodies, snap an image of your package and post to Twitter with the hashtag #SupplySwap.

The cost of the gift should be around $15 (excluding shipping) and should be shipped between July 27 and August 7.  It will be like a little Back to School surprise!!!

Ready to join the fun?
If you would like to participate to connect with other teachers from across the country, complete this Google form by July 15 and we will match you up.

Note: To keep shipping costs down, only teachers from the same country will be matched.

REAL mail filled with lots of goodies just in time for the new school year! We can't wait to see what the parcel carrier brings to you!!!

Lots of love! Cindy, Pam, and Shelli xoxoxo

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Brain Dump - Thinking about Assessment...

Warning:  This post may ramble a bit.. I needed to do a brain dump to organize my thoughts :)

For the past five years, I've been concerned about assessment in my classroom.  In the summer of 2010, the MTBoS really helped me with transitioning to Standards Based Grading and in general, I haven't tweaked that process much over the years since because I've been pretty happy with my system.  However, I still have concerns about student retention, so in more recent years, I've been focused on formative assessment and making thinking visible, but I'm really excited to see how the changes that I'm mulling over for this year will impact student learning.

The Background

At the AP Reading a few weeks back, Daren Starnes (one of the authors of The Practice of Statistics), gave a Best Practices talk on student learning and referenced the book Make It Stick by Peter Brown, calling it one of the most influential books of his career.  Two other Best Practices talks referenced assessment - one was about Multiple Choice Mondays and the other, by Adam Yankay and Jared Derksen, referenced Standards Based Grading.  

When I Got Home:
After spending over a week with 800 of my closest statistics friends, I was really interested in doing more research on the assessment practices shared during the week.  During my research, I ran across a Global Math Department (GMD) talk by Adam Yankay that also referenced Make It Stick, so I knew that book had to join my library ASAP.  I quickly downloaded the Kindle version and set up a plan with my Twitter Book Club pals to keep me accountable.  (If you would like to join us, check out #EduRead on twitter)  

My Tentative Plan:
I think the major shift for me will be restructuring my first and last 5 minutes of class.  In Make It Stick, one of the key items is about retrieval and how that ties in to retention.  The use of quizzes to practice retrieval has been shown in several research studies, which is part of Adam's discussion above.  Also, in the book Accessible Mathematics, Steve Leinwand encourages daily skills check/quizzes in the first 5 minutes, with the argument that 5 minutes x 180 days of instruction = 900 minutes or 15 hours of gained instruction of basic skills.  With all of that said, here's my thought:
  • Multiple Choice Mondays - I really like the idea of an organized structure that my students can expect.  With MC Mondays, they would have 5 questions that spiral through the curriculum, which would be part of the "interleaving" mentioned in Make It Stick.  I'm not sure yet if I want these to be individual, pairs, or groups.  I like group MC because of the good conversations that occur.  In the Best Practices talk, the speaker mentioned that she usually puts one of these questions on the weekly quiz as well.
  • Weekly Skills Check - This idea is mainly from Adam's talk and would consist of right vs wrong, "Level 1" retention questions.  The goal would be to automate some of the basic skills so that students have a stronger knowledge base on which to build.  These would be questions like identifying the sampling method, which confidence interval to use, interpretation of r^2, writing a regression line from computer output, etc.  This would also spiral throughout the curriculum, which again promotes retention.
  • Exit Tickets - I've used exit tickets (and other formative assessments) on a regular basis, but usually my exit tickets were more reflective in nature.  I'm thinking that these need to be more skills-check-type assessments over that day's lesson just to see how well students grasped the big ideas of the day. 
These aren't huge ideas nor are they major instructional shifts, but I'm really thinking that they could pack a big bang over the course of the year.  

What are strategies you use to promote retention in your classes?  What would you add to the above thoughts?

Monday, June 8, 2015

Chart Paper is my friend

The end of another year has come and gone, bringing with it both joy and sadness.  I love the anticipation of a new year and starting over with a blank slate, but I'm sad to say goodbye to my students and especially to wipe my classroom clean of all of the learning that has taken place in the past 180 days!  One of my goals this year was to "Make Thinking Visible", so my room was filled with posters that we referred back to often, so it was a day of sadness when I took them down and sent them out to the recycling bin.

If you know me at all, you know I LOVE school supplies (with big puffy heart loves!).  Two of my must-have school supplies are chart paper and sticky dots.  The best type of chart paper are the big post-it note pads with grid lines, but those are really expensive, so I try to be conservative with those.  We can get cheaper chart paper for just a few dollars from our district warehouse, so I tend to use that for activities like Chalk Talk, etc.  I stock up on sticky dots in the Target dollar section at back to school time.  I used to have the students draw dots, but it really annoyed me when the dots were various sizes, so now I just buy the little smiley face stickers and be done with it. :)

Anyway, a few weeks ago, I asked a group of stat teachers on Facebook about their favorite activities that they use to illustrate statistical content and I shared two of my favorites.  One of the respondents asked me to share more details, so here ya go...

Sampling Distribution of Means

I did this activity with a copy of Random Rectangles, but next year, I may use my well-loved JellyBlubbers.  For this activity, my students used a random number table to select 3 rectangles at random, find the average area and graph it.  They repeated this 3 times per person to gather a lot of data.  Then they repeated with 10 random rectangles.  The groups then discussed how the graphs were similar and how they were different.  Over the years, I had done a similar activity with proportions (flipping a coin), but the rectangles made an impact, as evidenced by one student's work below:

I don't know about you, but when an activity sticks out in a student's mind, then it's a keeper for me!

Confidence Intervals

Over the years, I have often asked my students to create a confidence interval and graph it to illustrate the meaning of "95% confidence".  However, this year, I decided to use some of my sticky dots to help nail down a few other items.  Here, students tossed a Hershey's Kiss and recorded whether it landed on its base or not.  This was our first introduction to confidence intervals, so instead of using the CI formula, students used their sample data to find the standard error and draw the sampling distribution model based on their p-hat.  Then they used +/- 2 standard errors to create their first confidence interval.  The part that I did differently this was having them graph their point estimate (p-hat) first, then draw left and right to create the interval.  The idea that I was trying to push home was that the point estimate is in the exact center of the interval, so given any interval, they can find the point estimate and the margin of error.  For some reason, this is a difficulty of many students.  They can calculate 0.4 +/- 0.12, but if you give them (0.28, 0.52), they are stuck on how to find the p-hat and the MoE.  For the rest of the semester, this graph often came up in conversation when students were trying to figure out the relationship between the point estimate, margin of error, and the interval estimate.

Now it's your turn...
How do you use chart paper in your classroom?
What are your go-to school supplies that you can't live without?
What are your favorite activities to teach/illustrate a concept?

Wednesday, May 27, 2015


The longer I go without blogging, the harder it is to start... :)

Summer is one of the best perks of being a teacher. I sleep in a bit, go for a walk, then tackle my to-do list at my own pace. I use the summer time to really think through activities I want to add to my curriculum, changes I want to make, books to read, etc. For accountability, I've decided to blog my list here rather than write it down in my handy, dandy, little notebook. :)

Books I plan to Read (or Re-Read):
I'm sure there are others, so I'll update this list as I read them :)

Things I want to explore
  • Better integration of the Chromebooks (1:1)
    • Exploring Google Forms for Quick Formative Assessment
    • Learn to use/integrate various online tools such as, Desmos, and StatKey in my classroom
    • Create some Kahoot games to use for review activities
    • Spend some time playing with Chrome apps that might be useful, such as a flashcard app, etc.
  • Work on more Free Response writing - this is a weakness due to my class sizes... grading 100+ of these is a killer!
    • Integrate whiteboarding activities
    • Use mistakes and error analysis
    • Expose students to the rubrics more

To be honest, I was pretty pleased with how things went in my classes this year, but I always have room for improvement. A lot of the things I've scribbled on my list are minor tweaks, but tweaks that I feel can make a huge impact in my classroom.

What's on your #SummerList?

Sunday, December 7, 2014

#MTBoSChallenge - Weekly Challenge - Week 17

Welcome to the #MTBoSChallenge! 

Each week there are two options:
  • On Saturdays, you can choose to blog on a weekly prompt.  Go check out the awesome and amazing posts submitted this week at Middle School Math Rules.  No worries if you didn't blog yesterday, you can still submit your post using the linky at the bottom of her post.
  • On Sundays, you can choose to blog a Sunday Summary of your week.  The idea for the Summary is to provide you a way to reflect on the past week and share what you are looking forward to this coming week.
Feel free to choose either option (or BOTH!), add it to the linky on the host page and don't forget to tweet it with the hashtag #MTBoSChallenge as well!

Now on to my post for the day...

My Sunday 3-2-1 Summary

3 recent purchases I've loved:
  • Tights!  My wardrobe currently consists of way more dresses/skirts than pants.  I haven't worn "hose" since I was a kid with my church dresses, but I have to say that I am loving tights this year!  (Bonus.. there's a 30% off coupon on Cartwheel this week!)
  • Ramen Noodle Cooker!  I honestly thought my dad was crazy when he told me about this invention.  Pretty much it's a rectangular pan that you put a brick of ramen noodles in, fill it up to the water line, cook for 4 minutes in the microwave, and you're done.  Yay for easy school lunches!
  • Camis!  We've had a pretty chilly fall and I stocked up on cotton camis from Walmart for $2.97 each.  It's crazy how much warmth can come from a thin little tanktop thing!  I now wear them under every outfit! :)

2 things I accomplished this week:
  • Lots of grading!  Grading is the bane of any teacher's existence, but I was able to whittle down my pile to where I just have a few projects left to go.  yay!
  • My yearly observation!  My principal came in this week to observe me.  It wasn't my favorite lesson of all time, but it was okay.  :)   

1 goodbye:

Yesterday we had to say goodbye to our baby girl.  We got "Sasha" when she was 5 weeks old and hubby and I were newlyweds.  I was teaching 7th grade at the time and as every teacher knows, there are some names that you never want to name a child because of the memories it brings.  Sasha is one of those names for me, so the only people that knew her as Sasha were the people in the vet's office.  Her real name was ******** (Censored because this a family-friendly blog *grin*).  She was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism 2 years ago, so we knew her time would be limited, but when we took her to the vet yesterday, we were not prepared for the vet to tell us she had a huge mass in her abdomen.  As a result, we had to make a decision about what to do.  My baby girl wasn't a pretty kitty, but she was an amazing snuggler.  I'll miss her sleeping on my pillow with her deep purr that could put me to sleep within minutes. 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

#MTBoSChallenge - Weekly Summary - Week 16

Welcome to the #MTBoSChallenge! 

Each week there are two options:
  • On Saturdays, you can choose to blog on a weekly prompt.  Go check out the awesome and amazing posts submitted this week at Middle School Math Rules.  No worries if you didn't blog yesterday, you can still submit your post using the linky at the bottom of her post.
  • On Sundays, you can choose to blog a Sunday Summary of your week.  The idea for the Summary is to provide you a way to reflect on the past week and share what you are looking forward to this coming week.
Feel free to choose either option (or BOTH!), add it to the linky on the host page and don't forget to tweet it with the hashtag #MTBoSChallenge as well!

Now on to my post for the day...

My Sunday 3-2-1 Summary

3 goals for December:
  • Exercise more!  I've figured out a few ways to get more steps in my day, so my goal is to get back to hitting 10K steps on a regular basis.  It will help me lose the couple of pounds gained this week, too! :)
  • Wrap up the semester!  There are only 3 weeks left in the semester and I have a ton to get done before final exams.  
  • Get my shopping done early! I'm a slight procrastinator when it comes to holiday shopping, so this year, I would really like to get it done well in advance. We'll see if it happens! :)

2 things I accomplished this week:
  • Cleaned out my closet!  One of the things I really wanted to get done this week was to clean out my closet and take out the things that no longer fit.  While I was at it, I decided to inventory the clothes I have.  I have too many clothes... :(
  • New cut and color!  After a family gathering this weekend, I saw the pictures and realized I really needed a haircut!  I went to my hairdresser and thankfully she had time for a cut and a color.  She chopped off about 3 inches (maybe more?) and gave me a new color job that I love! 

1 thing I'm thankful for today:
  • My family!  This week was a time of fun, food, fellowship, and family.  I ate too much, laughed a lot, and in general, truly enjoyed my Thanksgiving break.  I hope all of you had a very restful break!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

NaBloPoMo - Day 19 - High Praise from a Kiddo

You know those days when you just want to take a moment at the end of the day and yell, "NAILED IT!" at the top of your lungs?

In #EduRead, we've been reading The Highly Engaged Classroom, so I've been thinking even more than usual about student engagement and how I can design lessons that incorporate movement and other engagement strategies.  Yesterday afternoon, as I was putting today's lesson together, I was trying to figure out a way to use the first 20 minutes of the block period to review for a quiz that we were having today.  In the past, I've given the students time to study on their own, but this time, I decided to do something a bit more structured.

Enter in the awesomeness that is Kate Nowak.
(Someday, when I grow up, I want to be like Kate... and Sam... and Pam... and Hedge... and Julie...and Beth.. and Elizabeth... and Glenn...  and all my other amazeball MTBoS friends!)
(P.S. I did not mean to leave anyone out... but I would totally run out of room if I listed all 400 or so of you!  Please realize that I love and cherish all of you!)

See, Kate wrote this little blog post over at her blog back in 2009 called Speed Dating.  Little did I know that 5 years later, I would be finally figuring out how to use it in my classroom!

Kids came in the room today and the desks were not arranged like they were yesterday.  It cracks me up to see how much kids freak out when the desks are moved!  Instead of 8 groups of 4 desks, there were 2 long rows of 8 pairs of desks facing each other.  Since they knew they had a quiz today, the immediate question that I answered (over and over and over again) was, "Are we having a partner quiz?!?!"  ummmm, nope!

On each desk, I had a laminated card that dealt with this chapter's material.  Mostly stuff like interpreting slope, y-intercept, r-squared, using their calculator, finding residuals, etc.  (Note, if you're an AP Stat teacher and want the file, just leave me your email in the comments and I'll get it to you!).  Last year, I used the cards to do Quiz Quiz Trade, but this year, I wanted to do something different.  I gave the students 3 minutes to work the problem on their desk, check the answer on the back, and become the "expert" on that problem.  Then they exchanged cards with their partner, worked that problem, got feedback and help from the "expert", etc.  All in all, I allowed time for them to work their original problem, plus 5 more from the partners.

During 3rd hour block, I had an even number of students, so I simply observed.  At first, I was worried that maybe it wasn't working, but no biggie, it's a learning curve.  After we were done, we rearranged the room to take the quiz, and low and behold, the kids were all done with plenty of time to spare and no grumbling afterwards!  At the end of the hour, one of my students said, "Mrs. Teacher, can we do that before every quiz?  That really helped me!"  I was happy to hear the praise, but honestly I wasn't sure how much it helped.  Then 6th hour rolled around and I only had an odd number of students, so I had to join in to be a partner.  My original card was about calculating a residual, then my other 5 problems were about interpreting slope (twice), interpreting r-squared, calculating y-intercept from the formula and interpreting it, and using my calculator to find the regression equation.  I was shocked at how many things I reviewed (and reviewed well!) in that 20 minute time span!  Again, I had kiddos praising the activity as a great way to review for the quiz.  In my 17 years of teaching, I have learned that if the kids give kudos to an activity, then it's something that I want to use again!

If you haven't tried Speed Dating, I definitely encourage you to give it a shot!  This will definitely be a keeper in my play book.

Thanks Kate!

Today I'm Thankful For:
The amazeball teachers of the MTBoS.  I'm so happy that I'm part of a community that really cares about me as a person and as a professional.  We have a little (or not so little anymore) family that really wants to help everyone become a better teacher.  There is genuine concern in helping others grow as professionals, as seen through the constant sharing of resources and lesson plans on the blogs and twitter accounts of the MTBoS members.  The best part is having a network of people around the globe that truly GET me.  I struggle to "turn off" my teacher side and it's awesome to have people around me that understand that struggle.  Thank you for opening up your classroom virtually so that I can share in your joys and frustrations.  But most importantly, thank you for being you!! :)