Friday, February 16, 2018

#MyFavFriday - Valentine's Week

The weeks keep zooming by... we're halfway through February, which means March (and spring break) is just around the corner.  We've had some gorgeous weather here and I'm so ready for spring to arrive so I can sit out on the patio and enjoy the warm breeze.

This week went by way too fast though, starting from a home emergency on Monday (no hot water... eek!) to Valentine's Day to now and I have so much more on my to-do list than I have time.  I'm supposed to give a presentation on Monday at our PD Day and while I have most of it planned out, I need to actually get it down on paper and practice it.

When I first envisioned this blog series, I didn't know how well it would go over or if I would even follow through with it, but I have to say that one of my favorite things about the #MyFavFriday posts is that it forces me to sit down and reflect on the week and to focus on the positives and the joy that happens each week.  It can be so easy in this profession to get dragged down by the unimportant junk and it's vital for us to remember our WHY.  With that said, on to this week's post...

My Favorite Lesson of the Week:
This week actually had some lessons that turned out fairly well, even though 2 of the days this week were taken up by tests/quizzes.  :)

In Forensic Science, we've been working on Blood Spatter and calculating angle of impact and point of origin.  I wanted them to see what it was like to string a crime scene on a small scale, so I gave them a scale drawing of a blood spatter pattern, some blood droplets, yarn, tape, and a protractor.  It was so much fun to watch them work together and to see how their calculations came to life!  As you can see in the photo, it created a bit of a tangle as they laid out their yarn to create their lines of convergence to find where the victim was standing, then from the blood droplets, they used the angle of impact to find out where the blood originated from.  Using some trig, we were able to confirm that the "stringing" and the "math" agreed! :)  I had never done this lesson in quite this way before, but I loved how it turned out!

My Favorite Discussion of the Week:
In Geometry, we've been working on Special Right Triangles.  I sadly didn't get any pictures of these lessons but so far, we've been investigating patterns using the properties of squares / equilateral triangles and the Pythagorean Theorem.  Today, while investigating the 30-60-90 triangle, the discussion turned to what "real mathematicians" do and I explained to my class that they were "real mathematicians" - that mathematics is truly the study of patterns and testing to see if those patterns hold and that they've always been mathematicians, just that the construct of formal school has a tendency to beat that joy of discovery out of them.  I really wish I could have captured the atmosphere in a bottle during that discussion.... :)

My Favorite use of VNPS:
On Monday, we were reviewing for a quiz in Geometry and a test in AP Stat, so last weekend I worked on creating some engaging review activities for my students.  As I said above, I ended up having to leave halfway through the day, but I was so proud of how well my Geometry kids did on their review.  My original plan was to give them 4 stations and having them up on the big whiteboards, but the group pictured asked instead if they could work on the floor.  Ummm.. sure!  I mean, an hour of talking and doing math AND you're comfy on the floor?  That's a total win, right??? :)

My Favorite Valentine Display (Plus an Addition):
I blogged earlier this week about the Valentine's Display board I did this year and today, a couple of my 5th hour boys were over reading the hearts and asked why I haven't posted any more this week.  I told them that the board was the equivalent to my Valentine's Card for them and Valentine's Day was on Wednesday, so Wednesday was the last heart I added.  They truly seemed sad that I had stopped adding hearts, so they decided to add their own hearts to the display.  :)

The one I shared at the left says "I love how Mrs. T buys us our own tape, Cheerios, globes and [table] boxes."  This cracked me up (as well as most of the class) as he wrote it while thinking out loud and originally had "... globes and love" and one of the other students teased him about buying love.  I should mention here that his note refers to the supplies I provide for them and various lab activities, including today's "globe toss" lab to introduce hypothesis testing. :)  My kiddos can drive me crazy at times, but underneath it all, they are a good-natured group of kids and I'm blessed to play a small part in their lives!

My Favorite Surprise:
Any teacher can tell you that January and February are the hardest months of the school year.  It's typically a stretch with dreary gray days and no breaks, unless you have a snow day.  This year, one of our new assistant principals has really tried to foster a positive staff culture at our school and as a result, a Secret Val Pal exchange was born.  Those of us that chose to participate were asked to fill out a questionnaire, then the organizer paired us up anonymously and sent us our match.  Our school is quite large with approximately 200 teachers spread out over multiple buildings, so many of us did not know our Val Pal at all, which was the case with the person that had my name.  However, my Val Pal knocked it out of the ballpark with her final "reveal" gift!  One of our new art teachers had my name and she gifted me with this gorgeous piece of artwork that is absolutely PERFECT for me :)  Now I need to get it framed and find a place to hang it in my room :)

My Favorite Compliment of the Week:
My last favorite of the week is kind of a shallow one, but it still made my day. :)  On Wednesday morning, I was waiting on a meeting to start when one of our ELA teachers called my name.  She said that she just had to tell me something, even though it was superficial.  She went on to say that the previous week, when I had spoken at our faculty meeting, she had noticed that I looked really stylish and put together.  Then, the next day as she was digging through her closet saw that she had the same elements as my previous day's outfit, so she mimicked me and felt very fashionable and cute all day!  This conversation isn't the type of thing I would normally share in a public forum, but her comment reminded me how I am often hesitant to say something because it seems superficial yet that comment might have a much deeper impact to the other person.

What were your favorite moments from this week?  Feel free to share them in the comments or to tweet with hastag #MyFavFriday.  Happy Friday, y'all!! :)

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Happy Valentine's Day!!

Happy Valentine's Day!  I hope each of you had an amazing day filled with treats and lots of love.

This was probably my favorite Valentine's Day in years and it all comes back to mindset!

Back in January, I saw a link on Facebook to this picture / blog post / pin:
14 Fun Ideas for Valentine's Day with Kids | Healthy Ideas for Kids 
Source:  Pinterest

The idea was that each day, starting on February 1, you should put a heart on your child's door with a reason why you love them.  I loved this idea, but I don't have children of my own.

But I do have 130 students every day that walk through my doors and every one of them is a blessing to me.  So I decided to do this with my students instead!  I shared the idea on Facebook and several other #MTBoS friends joined in.... so much fun!! :)

Here's the completed board (and shout-out to hubby for the header!):

Here are the reasons I put up each day:

  1.  I love that you aren't afraid to try new things
  2.  I love our High Five Fridays!
  3.  I love how talented you are! (Music, Art, Drama, Academics, Attitude, and so much more)
  4.  I love that you help each other!
  5.  I love that you don't give up, even when things are challenging.
  6.  I love that you are willing to make mistakes and "be wrong" because that's when learning happens!
  7. I love that you are willing to take risks!
  8. I love that you are kind-hearted toward your classmates!
  9. I love to watch you grow and learn over the year, both in math and in confidence
  10. I love that you show respect for yourselves and each other!
  11. I love that you are comfortable enough to tell me when you aren't sure about math.
  12. I love that you can make me smile / laugh everyday!
  13. I love that you have a positive attitude, even when I ask you to step out of your comfort zone!
  14. I love that I get a chance to play a small role in your lives.
This was one of the best things I've ever done in my classroom because it really made me focus on the positive qualities and  remembering my why.  Mindset matters!  When you focus on the positives, when you remember to find the joy in what you do each day, the rest of the junk just kind of fades away.

I had so much fun doing this in my classroom that I ended up doing this for my husband as well!  Each day I snuck around the house to put a heart-shaped post-it note on his computer monitor with a reason why I loved him.

I'd definitely recommend trying this next year, or if you don't want to wait, then do it for March and Saint Patrick's Day.... "Why I'm LUCKY to be your teacher!" :)

Friday, February 9, 2018

#MyFavFriday - Virtual High Fives

Another week has zoomed by!

While I'm super glad that February is going much quicker than January, part of me wants to yell, "Slow Down!!"  I have so much more to teach and the days just continue to fly!  I am going to really miss this group of kids and it's hard to believe that we only have a few short months left together. 

On a different note, I am so glad I decided to start documenting these weekly moments.  It's so much fun to look back at previous weeks and really celebrate the favorite moments of the week.  Feel free to join in the fun yourself, just use the hashtag #MyFavFriday on Twitter or post your link in the comments. 

Now on to this week's favorites...

My Favorite Student Response:
Each Monday, my AP Stat kids do their Multiple Choice Monday, which consists of 5 MC questions from throughout the year.  I go through them on Monday evening, score them and write feedback.  Then, on Tuesday, the students do an analysis / reflection over the questions.  This week, one of the questions was a probability question over disjoint / independent events.  At this point, most of the questions on the MC Monday still from 1st semester concepts and the students started a new notebook this semester, so the only 1st semester reference they have is their "yellow sheet", which is the cheat sheet they created for their fall final.  This student's response just made me smile - especially the part of "this error has been fixed".  :)

My Favorite Lesson that Flopped:
In Geometry, one of my lessons this week was about similar right triangles and geometric mean.  I was so excited about this lesson because it is one that I definitely struggled with as a student.  I had this grand idea of making triangles, cutting them apart, color-coding them, then taping them together as an overlap to make a manipulative....

And we did all that and I thought it was going beautifully...

Until it wasn't.

Wow - this lesson was definitely one that worked better in my head than it did on paper.  After Tuesday's lesson, I took to the Twitters, asking the wonderful #MTBoS for advice before teaching this lesson again on Wednesday.  I received multiple responses, including an awesome idea from @DamionBeth about a table of Short Leg / Long Leg / Hypotenuse, which did help some kids, but overall, this lesson still was a beast to teach.  Definitely back to the grindstone for next year! :)

My Favorite Formative Assessment of the Week:
I hate grading.  Like, I *REALLY* hate grading.  I will procrastinate for longer than I should on grading because I'd rather devote my time to creating lessons and activities for tomorrow's lesson.  However, I have decided that it's not so much the grading I hate, it's the actual assigning of a grade that I hate.

Let me clarify... We just finished up Sampling Distributions in AP Stat and we have a cumulative test scheduled next week.  I really didn't want to give a quiz over Sampling Distributions because I didn't want the grading burden right before a big test.  However, I also didn't want the first time I had actually seen their individual work for this topic to be on the test.  We had spent time on block day doing the question stack you see above, but in that situation, they have an "answer bank" available to them and it was purely about practicing the proportions / means identification and formulas, not a complete problem.  So on my way to work on Thursday, I decided that I would give a "Quick Check" that day in class.  A "Quick Check" is like a mini-quiz, just one or two problems that allow me to give feedback without the pressure of an actual grade, which uses the strategy called "Comments Only Marking".  I love using this strategy because the kids actually focus on the comments and not on the grade.  I was able to write quality feedback on every kid's paper and return them today without stressing about grades or make-up work! :)

My Favorite Moment of Kindness this Week:
My kids know that Fridays are "High Five Fridays" and I stand at the door to greet each and every one of them with a High Five.  However, yesterday I started feeling a bit under the weather with a runny nose, so today on the Promethean, I had a "Virtual High Five" for my students because I didn't want to pass on my cold to anyone.  Apparently a virtual high five wasn't good enough for one of my Geometry classes, as two of my students decided to be my proxy and went around the room to give every student a high five since I couldn't.  I can't tell you how much this warmed my heart - those two students were determined that it just couldn't be a Friday in my class without a High Five! :) 

Until next time.... Happy Friday and Happy Weekend to you!  *High Five*

Monday, February 5, 2018

#Made4Math - Pythagorean Theorem

In Geometry, we have started our study of Right Triangles, so for the past week, I've been searching for activities for the Pythagorean Theorem, Geometric Mean, Right Triangle Trig, and more...

Of course, the one place I didn't look was in my OWN FILES!


In my defense, the last time I taught Geometry was 2008 and out of a totally different textbook.  This was before I found the MTBoS, before I knew about Interactive Notebooks, etc.  To make it more difficult, I gave away all of my paper "master" copies a few years ago and my electronic files are labeled in the oh-so-helpful naming system such as "0708 L5.4 Activity".  At the time, I was pretty textbook driven, so that naming convention worked.... Now, now so much :)

So last week, I tweeted out to the MTBoS to see if anyone had a Pythagorean Theorem Question Stack.  If you don't know what a Question Stack is, it's kind of like an "around the room scavenger hunt" or "loop" activity, except it is at the student desks. 

I wanted to do some PT word problem practice and had resigned myself to having to make a set this weekend and laminate them for today.  But in a last ditch effort, I decided to look through my archives and low and behold, I found a set of cards in my own files!!

I do not claim ownership of these problems and honestly, I couldn't tell you where they even came from because I typed this back in 2007-08 school year! But, I thought it might come in handy for someone else :)

Click HERE to download the cards.  Print them 2 sided and cut apart! :)

Friday, February 2, 2018

#MyFavFriday - Hello February!

It's Friday - again!!

This week went SO fast for me, which is awesome because last week was definitely the opposite.  I didn't even blog last week because it took all of my energy just to make it through the week!

We also had to say good-bye to January and hello to February this week.  This was a change that I am a-ok with!  February is a crazy fast month, not only due to the reduced number of days, but we are gearing up for enrollment, professional development, and full-steam ahead to Spring Break! :)

So here's a look back at my favorites from this week!

My Favorite Lab:
In Forensic Science, we are deep into our blood spatter unit.  We have explored blood typing, dropping blood from various heights, and the mathematical relationship between the height and the diameter of the blood drops.

So this week, we tried something new - how does the blood spatter change based on the surface?  Each lab group had 11 surfaces, from carpet to wood to tile to various fabrics and were given a specific height to drop from.  I was so surprised at the output!  I can't wait to do this again next year and explore even more surfaces!

My Favorite Eavesdropping Moment:
We started a new unit in Geometry on Right Triangles.  Of course, I turned to the MTBoS Search Engine to help me out, which lead me to blog posts by @lisabej_manitou and @KLBoles based on an activity that was originally posted by Dan Meyer back when he taught Geometry.  The idea was to use squares to explore the Pythagorean Theorem and Pythagorean Inequalities.  This was truly one of the best hands-on learning activities I've done all year!

Sometimes, I happen to walk by at just the right time to hear a great conversation formed... The group shown at the left had just put together the 3, 4, 5 triangle and were in a discussion about what type of triangle was formed.  Two of the students immediately said, "I think it's acute!".  The third student quietly spoke up and said, "Are you sure it's not right?  I think it's a right triangle."  I don't always get a chance to hear such great discussion, where students are truly listening to each other and re-evaluating their own thoughts.  Students that often struggle with engagement were fully engaged and after forming their triangles, the patterns of =, <, and > quickly emerged.  Teacher Win!

My Favorite Student Request:
On block day this week, my Geometry class took a quiz over similarity during the first half of the hour.  One of my students came to me before class started with an unusual request - he wanted to use a whiteboard while working on his quiz.  Over the past few weeks, with the whiteboards always available on each table, I had noticed this young man reach for a whiteboard almost daily to do his work, so I was happy to grant his request and even happier to see him working along successfully on his assessment!  It's been fascinating to watch the transformation in my classes with access to the individual whiteboards every day!

My Favorite Exit Ticket Question of the Week:
I know I've blogged or tweeted about this one before, but today's reflection question was "I wish my teacher knew...."  I love, love, love this question!  I get a variety of responses, including some really serious ones that truly give me insight into what is going on in a student's life.  Here are some of today's favorite responses:
I wish my teacher knew...
- this is the first math class in years that I haven't dreaded going to. :)
- that I really appreciate how hard she works to make sure we understand.  Thank you!!
- how to take a day to not to do math and watch a movie or something.
- that I know the answer sometimes but it's so quiet in the room I don't like to speak.
- that I really like math even though I suck at it.
- that I have never liked math until this year.  You have made it fun!

My Favorite New Classroom Display:
Back in January, I saw a post on Facebook that was aimed at parents, with the idea to put a heart on your child's door each day of February with a reason why you loved them.  Since I'm not a parent, I decided to modify this to reasons why I love being your teacher! :)

I cut out hearts from construction paper, then wrote notes like:
- I love how you help each other.
- I love your positive attitude even when I ask you to step out of your comfort zone.
- I love how willing you are to try new things.
- I love that you are respectful to yourself and others.

January was a rough month, but February is off to a wonderful start!  What were your favorite things from this week?

Happy Friday, y'all! :)

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Good Riddance!


January is over...  (almost... )


This was a tough month.  Hubs was sick for 2 weeks with Influenza B, we had some crazy roller coaster weather, and of course, let's add in some sick pets and family drama to top it all off!  I didn't even have a My Favorite Friday last week because the only "favorite" part of the week was that it was OVER! :)  (seriously... I had 11 - yes ELEVEN - meetings last week plus teaching!  OMG!)

Then, to make matters worse, last week, I just felt so inadequate.  My lessons were weak and I felt stagnant.  I tried so hard not to let my students be affected by my January doldrums, but I was apparently more successful than I thought because a student mentioned today that "Mrs. T, you are the most positive person I have ever known!"  (oh child... if you only knew... lol)

But I also know that attitude is a state of mind.  I can choose to be joyful or I can choose to let the piddly stuff get me down.  I have the power to make the choice to go into each day (or week or month) with a positive mindset.

So today, my choice is to rejoice in the positive.

To bid adieu to January, here are 5 good things that happened this month:

  1. I met my Fitbos18 goal for January!  While we had some pretty chilly days, I still was able to meet (and exceed) my goal of 10 hours of exercise!
  2. I blogged 9 times in January!  Considering that I only blogged ~30 times total in 2017, blogging 9 times in one month is HUGE! :)
  3. I didn't sick! Even though hubs was ill for 2 weeks and schools are notoriously bad about germs, I've stayed healthy so far... knock on wood :) 
  4. I got my "Puzzle Place" up and running!  Kids haven't flocked to it (yet), but my student aide and my Advisory kids have started looking for the weekly puzzle, so that's a win!
  5. We did a brand new lab in Forensic Science that turned out REALLY well!  It was so much fun!!!

And 5 things I'm looking forward to in February:
  1. On President's Day, our district has its final PD day of the year.  One of the science teachers and I are presenting on Formative Assessment Strategies. I'm really excited about this and need to start finalizing my thoughts soon!
  2. This month, I want to let my students know how much I love being their teacher.  I saw the idea on Facebook about putting hearts on your child's bedroom door with reasons why you love them.  I decided to do this in my classroom with my students!  Tomorrow is day 1... :)
  3. Getting my mojo back!  I'm already excited about tomorrow's lessons.... back to more interesting and creative teaching! :)
  4. Warmer weather and longer days!  I know that February is still winter and storms can still happen, BUT each day in February brings us closer to spring and once it's spring, I can be outside on my patio with a good book :) :) :)
  5. Finding out who my "Val Pal" is!  We did a secret pal exchange at my school this year and it's been so much fun giving (and getting) little gifts and treats.  It's definitely a "pick-me-up" that we need during this time of year!

Goodbye January... Hello February! :)

Friday, January 19, 2018

#MyFavFriday - Time is Fleeting

How in the world is it Friday again??

Do you ever find that time is just really weird?  I mean, this week *flew* by - which makes sense due to the "short week" status from the holiday weekend, but it seems like Winter Break was AGES ago, when we've really only been in school for 2.5 weeks.

Why is time so crazy and inconsistent?  Or does it have something to do with my age and that every year goes by faster and faster?  These are the things I think about on a Friday night... :)

Anyway, now that Friday is here, it's time to reflect back on this week's favorites!

My Favorite MTBoS Resource of the Week:
If you are a Geometry/Algebra teacher and don't read Katrina Newell's blog, you are missing out!  I have stolen so many ideas from her this year and this week was no exception.

On Tuesday/Wednesday, we had a jam packed day in Geometry with a short quiz over Proofs (Yeah, I'm that teacher that gives a quiz on the day back from a long weekend!), then jumped into proportions and the idea of similar polygons.  So on Wednesday during my planning block, I started looking for resources for similar triangles and found Katrina's foldable and card sort, which were PERFECT for my lesson!  I did modify her card sort slightly, making it into a worksheet where my students colored the AA~ in yellow, SAS~ in blue, SSS~ in pink, and Not Similar in green.  I love that simple modification for those days when I just don't have it in me to deal with cutting a ton of cards :)

My Favorite Classroom Change of the Semester:
With a new semester means some changes had to occur as I reflected on what worked and what didn't work for the Fall.  Some suggestions came from the students, such as minimizing activities like scavenger hunts with lengthy problems, but the suggestion that has made a huge impact already came from @pamjwilson - which really should not be a surprise since many of the ideas I implement come from her :)

During Winter Break, Pam and I were chatting one day about Embedding Formative Assessment and the discussion came up about individual whiteboards.  I have had a classroom set of whiteboards for many years and would pull them out occasionally for review days or for graphing as the flip side of the board is a coordinate plane.  On those occasional days, I would pull out my crate of whiteboards, pass them out at the beginning of the activity, then put them back at the end of the hour / day.  Pam's suggestion was so simple, yet so brilliant - why not leave them out on the tables full time?  OMG - why didn't I think of that?  For the past two weeks, the whiteboards have been stacked under their table bucket, ready at a moment's notice for students to use and let me tell you, it has worked!  This simple little change has made such a difference to my classroom!

My New Favorite Corner of the Room:
During Winter Break, I posted about wanting to try a puzzle table in my classroom.  I still haven't found the perfect spot and the place that I'm currently using is on a file cabinet in a little-used alcove, but at least I did get it pulled together!

The puzzle that you see is one that I bought years ago at a teacher garage sale and the goal is to match numbers on each puzzle piece.  I finally got the "Puzzle Place" set up last week and I had a few people notice it this week.  The mini-chalkboard came from Target's Dollar Spot and thankfully I have an Advisory student that was willing to make the sign.  As she was working on the sign, it did spark some conversation about the Puzzle Place and I told them I planned to put out a new puzzle every week.  Today, my student aide finally solved the puzzle, which was perfect timing!  Interesting tidbit was that I found myself gravitating toward the Puzzle Place during down times, so now I'm even more excited about this addition to my classroom!

Until next time - Happy Friday to YOU! :) *High Five*

P.S. - Feel free to join in with your own #MyFavFriday post - I've really enjoyed looking back over my week and thinking about the bright spots!  Post the link in the comments or on Twitter with the hashtag!