Monday, April 24, 2017

Formative Assessment & Quizster

As I referenced in my Personalized PD post, I've been trying to make more of an effort to be on Twitter and connect with the amazing teachers of the Math Twitter Blog-o-Sphere (#MTBoS).  Last weekend, while grading papers, I tweeted out this question:

The question was born partly out of frustration of my limitations due to time, etc.  I believe strongly in the power of formative assessment but I quickly get overwhelmed by all of the paper that comes with exit tickets, warmup slips, etc.  I also believe in the power of feedback and I don't want my students to get their first feedback on a topic from a quiz/test, so I fight through all of those paper slips, write comments and individualized feedback on each one, and pass them back.  (Thankfully via their table folders!!)

Many people chimed in with responses to my question - Thank you #MTBoS!! - But the one that stood out to me was this tweet from Kate

Quizster is a new app by a long-time math blogger and her husband.  After checking it out and securing permission from our district director to try it out, I decided to test out Quizster with my AP Stat kiddos and a FRAPPY (aka an AP Free Response problem)

Set up was a breeze.  Quizster walks you through the set-up, plus encourages you to create a student account so that you can see what the kids see.  I tested it with both my cell phone and the webcam of my computer and it worked well with both.  Finally it was time to test it out with my kiddos!

On block day, my kids are used to starting the day with a FRAPPY, but often I have them turn it in via their table folder and hopefully they will get it back within the next few days, depending on how behind I am on grading.  With the Quizster app, the students did their work in their notebook, then snapped a photo to upload via the app's webpage on their cell phone browser / Chromebook.  (They are working on a mobile app right now).  Within minutes, I started getting notifications that I had papers to grade!

On the left, you can see my list of "to be graded" as denoted by the red circle.  When I click on a student's name, their work appears (middle photo) and I choose 'Annotate'.  On the right, you can see me writing the student feedback directly on their paper, just like I would traditionally.  After clicking the "X" at the top right, my annotations are saved and there's a button to send my feedback to the student, then back to the "to be graded" list I go! :)

Some features I really like...
  • Flexibility on grading - I can easily grade on the patio without papers flying everywhere!
  • Flexibility in the classroom - After students submitted their photos, we were able to go over the AP rubric right away as a class, yet I was still able to later give personalized feedback to each student.
  • Responsiveness - I really didn't know how easy the app would be to use or how well it would read my writing... it's extremely user friendly!
One drawback is that you do need to be connected to the internet and for students, that may mean use of their data plan if your school doesn't have accessible wifi for student devices.  I had one student that chose to use the Chromebook camera and it worked just fine, but most kids just used their cell phones.  

I'm really excited to use Quizster as we go into AP review.  So far, my students have had very positive feedback as well! :)

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Making a difference - One Good Thing

Shoutout to Glenn Waddell (@gwaddellnvhs) - a friend of mine from Nevada.  Glenn and I struck up a friendship over our mutual love of teaching AP Statistics.  Thank you, Glenn for encouraging me to try this strategy!

There are only 4 more Fridays in this school year.  Part of me is happy and excited for Summer Break, but a huge part of me is sad because that means there are only 4 more 'High Five Fridays' left in the school year! :(

If you've been around the #MTBoS for a while, you've probably heard about Glenn and his High Fives.  If not, go read his post here or watch the Global Math Departmet webinar.

Glenn first shared his idea at #TMC15 and I quickly heard about it through all of the live-tweeting.  I mulled it over and dismissed the thought almost immediately.  I am a VERY introverted person and putting myself out there in the hallway to high five my students was extremely intimidating.  My kids would never guess how introverted I really am because I can fake it pretty well in the classroom.  However, the hallway was a totally different matter!  Through a ton of encouraging tweets, Glenn talked me down from my fears and I agreed to try it out on Fridays during the 2015-16 school year.


My kids loved it too!

It's hard to be in a bad mood or frown when you are getting a high five... just sayin' :)

But this year (2016-17) is where I've really seen the power of the High Five.

There's a young lady that I've seen walking down the hall this year.  I don't know her, I don't have her in class.  In early March, as she walked by my room, she shyly asked "Can I have a High Five too?".  This has continued each week until last Friday, and I did not see her.  On this past Monday, she was back and as she walked by, she again asked very shyly for a High Five.  I said, "Of course!  I missed getting my High Five from you on Friday!".  Her eyes brightened and she went on down the hallway to her class.  Yesterday, I wasn't in the hallway yet, I was standing just inside my door with a student and as this young lady walked by, she reached into my room with her hand held up and said "Happy Friday, Mrs. T!"

It's amazing how one little thing can make such a huge impact on a person's attitude as well as classroom culture.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Personalized PD - A Renewed Committment

I might just be on a blogging streak.. 2 posts in one day! :)

Years ago, I was extremely active in the #MTBoS. I blogged regularly and was an active contributor on Twitter. I spear-headed the #Made4Math challenge and actively participated and coordinated many Twitter chats and book clubs.

But then, life happened.

Three of the past 4 years, I've had a new prep - and all of them have had their own challenges and struggles. This year, it's pre-calculus and while I am so blessed to have amazing students that I adore, I will be the first to admit that I'm not enjoying the curriculum due to its disjointed nature. The daily struggles and challenges have created a situation where I have pushed away from the MTBoS world and broke ties with people I used to converse with daily. Sometimes change is good - sometimes it bites you in the rear.

For me, it was the latter. As a result of my self-isolation, I have lost a richness in my life that I miss. I miss having people to reach out to to share ideas, triumphs, and frustrations. The #MTBoS has moved well beyond me and I am standing still, just watching their plume of dust in the distance. I'm not sad that I was left behind, but I am sad that I chose to stand still instead of continuing forward, even if I was moving at a snail's pace.

So I am making a public commitment to move forward - to stop standing still. I don't like being stagnant. I don't like the lack of personal growth that I have experienced.

My goals:

  • Engage in Twitter at least once per week.  This may be an organized chat or just informal, but I need the mental stimulation that comes with working with other #MTBoS teachers
  • Read more blog posts.  I miss the excitement that I get from reading about a really cool idea from a follow teacher.  I need to update my blog roll and blog reader and find new bloggers that are sharing the awesome and not-so-awesome days in their classroom.  
  • Blog.  I need to be vulnerable and allow myself to share those same days.  
  • Read professionally.  I love summer and the opportunity to read books that challenge my thinking.  This year, after struggling so much, I think my focus needs to turn back to formative assessment and pedagogy because those are things I definitely let slide this year
I know this is ambitious and I need your help.  I need an accountability partner (or 2 or 10) to make sure I stay on this path.  If you are willing, please leave a comment or tweet me :)

Crunch Time

(Note:  I know I should probably make some sort of statement about being gone for so long, but every time I try, it just sounds awkward and weird and I erase the screen and shut down my blogging screen for another several weeks, so we're going to just skip past all that, k?  We're just going to pretend like blogging is a regular occurrence around here and that it hasn't been 7 months since I last wrote...:)  )

It's crunch time.  The AP exam is in just under 3 weeks and I'm not ready.  My kids are mostly ready, but what I wouldn't give for another week of teaching time to really solidify some concepts!  I've taught AP Stat for 17 years and one would think that I would get better and more efficient at it, but one would be wrong.  I like hands-on activities and that takes time.  With each new released AP exam, I find things that I could tweak or should emphasize more and that takes time.  Curriculum changes in the courses leading up to mine have forced intro stat/probability out the window, so filling in the gaps takes time. Classroom management of 32-33 kiddos, even when they are great kiddos, takes time.  As a result, I have to play triage and decide which topics to teach deeply, which topics to skim over to hit the high points, and which topics to move to the very end of the course and hope I get there before Exam Day comes.

This week was crazy in terms of time.  After school review sessions have started and I'm trying to figure out every little possible thing that I can do to help my students be more successful.  I love teaching seniors, but seniors after spring break can be tiring.  I'm so blessed that my students this year are a fabulous group of kids, but they are tired and I understand that completely.

Skills Check
Last week, on Pinterest, I ran across Bowman's post on Skill Drills in AP Calculus.  While AP Calc and AP Stat are both considered AP math classes, they are vastly different in terms of subject matter and needed skills, but I really liked this idea, so last Sunday, I started typing up my own version of 5 minute quick checks for AP Stat in nice little quarter-sized pieces of paper :)

I've been using them this week as exit tickets and my students have responded very well!  I don't claim ownership of these problems - in fact most of them are based on AP released exams, but you are welcome to them if you want them.

Review Flipper
Last year, I had my students make an AP Review Flipper, but this year, I just ran out of time.  The idea is that each day my students would write an index card "cliffs notes" version of a chapter of material that we could assemble into a review tool.  I got through the first 6 chapters when time just got away from me and it didn't happen this year.  I know that last year's students felt it was very useful, so I felt guilty for not getting it done this year.  With no time left and AP review about to start, I spent many hours this week transcribing my cards to send to the copy shop for each of my students.  This week, we will take a day to highlight each "card" and assemble our flippers and pray that it works okay.  I know it's not ideal - I would rather have them write the cards themselves, but.... :)

My hand was cramping for a good while after this... :)

Now I need to figure out the best way to maximize the next few weeks... In an ideal world, I could give my students some free time to work on old questions, but I've found that in general, that doesn't work well with seniors in May :)  What strategies do you use to help your students?

Saturday, September 24, 2016


You know that point where you really don't know what to do anymore?

I'm there.

So much about this year has just straight up been overwhelming.  I'm grateful for friends and family that support me, because without them, I don't know where I'd be right now.

But, then something happens to make you realize why we do what we do.

After school, yesterday, a friend convinced me to leave school for a bit and go relax, chat, and share a plate of fried pickles (YUM).  While there, I received a phone call asking when I'd be back at school because a former student was looking for me.

Long story short, a student that graduated 7 years ago came to track me down at the restaurant to personally deliver a wedding invitation.  I felt so honored that this young lady, whom I've only kept up with via social media, wanted me to share in her special day so many years after the fact.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why it is all worth it.


Saturday, August 27, 2016

Ups and Downs

This August, I'm participating in a monthly blog challenge called Blaugust. To see the list of participating blogs, click on the logo below. Please cheer on our participants with either a tweet or a comment on their blog. It can be hard to blog on a daily (or even regular) schedule! :)

Ups and Downs

This was the first full week of school with kids and it was definitely full of ups and downs.  I knew throughout the week that I needed to blog but I'm already falling into a habit of typing and erasing because I don't want to be a downer.  Then as I was scrolling on Facebook, I ran across Rebecka Peterson's "One Good Thing" posts and it just made me smile.

It was a challenging week.  I have almost 200 students this year, the most I've ever had in my career.  I'm no where close to knowing names.  I have 3 preps, with 1.5 being new this year.  We have a new gradebook program that is creating a lot of chaos.  Our campus is undergoing some massive construction and other technology changes.  And to top it off, the a/c in my building is dead.  As in 83 degree air temperature plus 35 sweaty bodies equals 90 degree heat index type of dead.

But through it all, we are persevering.  Through it all, there were positive moments to be had.  Lots of laughter with my colleagues as we enjoyed being together again.  Ice cream from our admin team to end a hot and sweaty Friday.  Light bulb moments with my students as we built the unit circle in Pre-Calc, talked about eyewitness reports in Forensics, or talked about sampling methods in Stat.  Kids that made my day with positive comments, thoughtful questions, and overall great attitudes.  Opportunities to connect with students as we visited between classes.  Correspondence from previous students that said "My brother/sister has you this year and loves you already!".  The first "High Five Friday" of the year.  Kids from last year coming by and saying they miss my class.  Those moments are the ones that make it all worth it.

Thank you to Sam, and Rachel, and Elissa, and Rebecka, and all of the others that post on the One Good Thing blog.  Thank you for reminding us that "Not every day is a good day, but there is one good thing in every day!"  Thank you for being willing to share those tidbits of positivity with all of us.  Thank you for putting yourselves out there, being honest and raw and emotional, and truly showing how awesome this job can be.  

In the words of our morning announcements... Make it a great day or not, the choice is yours!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

A Week in Review

This August, I'm participating in a monthly blog challenge called Blaugust. To see the list of participating blogs, click on the logo below. Please cheer on our participants with either a tweet or a comment on their blog. It can be hard to blog on a daily (or even regular) schedule! :)

A Week In Review - Sunday Summary

Oh my, what a whirlwind week!!!  We had "Teacher Days" on Monday-Thursday and kids came on Friday.  We had a lot of time in our rooms, which was great, especially since about 40 teachers were coming back to brand new renovated rooms with brand new technology! :)

My goal this year is to blog at least my Sunday Summary with a look back over the week.  :)

Where I Was:
This past week was a bit crazy.  We have a new principal, lots of new technology, and construction on campus.  Change is one of those things that most people struggle with and I'm no exception!  However, we made it through.  We were all grateful for 2 days (Wed / Thurs) with no meetings and time to just work in our rooms.  Friday was the first day with kids and to be honest, when I originally saw that on the calendar, I had my doubts about starting on a Friday, but it turns out that I loved it!  We all wore our spirit wear, including our new THRIVE theme t-shirts and it was a great day to meet the kids, tell them what school supplies to purchase, and start out our year with some learning!

In Pre-Calc, we start with trig, so we decided to see what they remembered about SOHCAHTOA.  I had found this activity earlier in the summer and adapted it for the INB.  It really was awesome to hear the conversations about "Now which one is the opposite side?" 

In Stat, we started with my favorite Kristen Gilbert story, but this time when we got to the graph of deaths, I had them complete a poster about their Noticings and Wonderings.  I meant to snap a photo of them, but forgot! :(  Again, great conversations were had all around!  My favorite comment was "This is like a Serial podcast!"

Where I Am:
I left on Friday night around 7pm totally exhausted.  Three preps plus new shoes that rubbed a blister made for a rough day.  I had a to-do list with 22 items on it, so I decided to go up this weekend to work on it.  I was there from 10am - 6pm and knocked out most of the items!  Go me!  I have the next week mostly mapped out with copies already made.  Today's goal is to run to the store to pick up a few items, but spend most of the day on the patio enjoying the beautiful weather and hopefully get in some fun reading time.  All in all, I'm feeling pretty good about where I am!

Where I'm Going:
This next week will be a challenge.  Five whole days of kids will zap the energy! :)  On block day, we'll see our Advisory classes and I will get to meet about 12 new Advisory kiddos.  One of those days will be our Welcome Back Assembly, but I'm not sure which one yet.  In Pre-Calc, we'll be building the Unit Circle.  That class is the toughest for me because I have to practice my lessons the night before since it's the first time I've taught it.  I've not had a trig class since 1992-93, so I'm a bit rusty! :)  In Stat, we'll jump on into sample surveys and sampling methods.  Thankfully, this is year 17 for teaching that, so little prep is required!  In Forensics, we'll be working on observation skills and I do need to spend some time working on my lesson plans in there.  I want to remember to take a photo each day to re-start my 180 blog, so we'll see how that goes! :)

Have a great week, y'all!