Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Teacher Binder 2015

Each year, one of the highlights of my summer is printing off my Teacher Binder for the new year!  I love the crisp new, blank pages and filling in the dates of meetings, etc.

My Teacher Binder is my everything... it is my calendar for both my school and personal life, meetings, my lesson plan book, my gradebook, my to-do lists, and my notes for everything!  If I lose this planner, I am totally sunk!  I know a lot of people like to use digital resources for planning out their lives, but I get too scattered for that.  I need the tactile-ness of writing it into my agenda, having it on my desk at all times and seeing what all I have going on that day/week/month.

(For previous posts about my Teacher Binder:  2012-13, 2013-14, 2014-15)

To be honest, I was so pleased with the 2014-15 binder, that I just updated the dates and the subjects I'll be teaching, so if you are interested in the details or downloading my binder, please see the 2014-15 post above!

I did add a pacing calendar to the front of the binder, before my lesson plans.  I haven't starting using this year, but I really like the way it turned out:

But the BEST change this year was the binding!  In the past, I've tried several things, with varying degrees of success.  I love the look of the spiral binding that you can have done at Staples, but since I use my Teacher Binder for my gradebook, that wasn't an option since I wanted to be able to add pages easily.  I've tried 3-ring binders, but those don't allow you to fold them back for easy note-taking or for a smaller foot-print on your desk.  I've used the Mead Flex Binder, which is supposedly a mix between spiral and 3-ring, but pages did not turn easily and it was annoying to add gradebook pages, one ring at a time.  So, what to do?!?!?

This year, while having my Teacher Binder printed at Staples (I wanted thicker paper than I had at home), I was browsing around and found the ARC system.  The ARC system is a disc-bound system that I think I will really like!  Staples had a cute poly black & white cover for $2.49 and I got a set of 1" disc for $1.99.  The most expensive part of the system is the hole punch and my Staples was out (and I didn't want to drive across town to the other ones), so I ordered a hole punch on Amazon.  So far, I really love it! The pages turn smoothly on the discs and it is a breeze to add, remove, and move around pages in the binder.  I'm curious to see how well this system wears over the year, especially in terms of taking my binder back and forth from home to school.

Have you used the ARC system?  What are your thoughts?

#SummerList Update

Almost two months ago, at the end of May, I blogged about my #SummerList.  Sadly, with less than one month still to go, I can't say that I've accomplished much from the list, other than most of the books have been read. :)  I find it very interesting to see how my #SummerList actually changes once Summer is officially here.

  • What's Math Got to Do with It by Jo Boaler - I bought this book over Memorial Day weekend and read it at the beginning of summer.  This is also going to be our next #EduRead book, so feel free to join in!  My big take-aways from this book include:
    • Making mistakes helps our brains to grow.  I need to incorporate more error analysis in my classroom and use those mistakes to provide feedback and growth.  I would like to learn how to use "My Favorite No" with AP Stat as well as more student grading using the AP Rubrics.
    • Students can grasp high-level concepts, but not if they are given low-level work.  I think I often suffer from the "Curse of Knowledge" and try to rescue my students before they really have the chance to grapple with the concepts.  After 15 years, I know where struggles will happen and I have structured some lessons to help students over those hurdles.  However, in trying to help, I think I have coddled too much and created a learned helplessness situation.
    • Talking and discussing mathematics with your peers is vital.  I totally agree with this and my students are often asked to discuss their methods.  However, I need to also add in more written explanations and reflections.
    • Self assessment and Peer assessment are tools that need to be used more.  I am going to try more self-assessment this year (see previous blog post) and would like to use the AP rubrics more this year for peer assessment. I want to use strategies like "Two Stars & a Wish" to provide students with peer feedback. (By the way, if you have a great method to organize all the paperwork that comes with AP Rubrics, please let me know! :)
  • Never Work Harder than Your Students by Robyn Jackson - We read this book in our Twitter Book Club several years ago, but I felt the need to read it again this summer.  It is a great book with lots of practical advice, although it can be very overwhelming.  
  • How to give Effective Feedback by Susan Brookhart - I have not re-read this one yet
  • Accessible Mathematics by Steve Leinwand - This was a very quick read and gives you 10 practical instructional methods that you can use in your classroom right away.  For me, the biggest take-away from this book was about the daily skills quiz.  This is something I plan to implement this year.
  • Make it Stick by Peter Brown, et all - This book was recommended at Best Practices Night by Daren Starnes and I'm very grateful that he did a brief talk on it!  This book started out strong, but did lag quite a bit for me in the middle.  However, Chapter 8 makes the laggy parts worth it!  The main idea is the science behind learning and what strategies have been proven effective and what has not.  Make It Stick was our #EduRead book this month and I really enjoyed these chats.  I've already blogged about my big take-away's but here are the big ones:
    • Retrieval Practice is necessary!  I plan to create retrieval opportunities through short 10-minute quizzes that spiral through the curriculum, exit tickets on one learning target to help students be more successful on chapter/unit assessments, and opportunities through class to stop what they are doing and answer a question without looking at their notes. It's important to note that retrieval practice can occur without a formal quiz structure... flashcards, Chalk Talk, writing down a list of things you learned (without looking at the text/notes), etc are all forms of retrieval.
    • Mix it up!  When we do massed practice of one skill, it feels effective, however, as any teacher can tell you, when it comes to the final exam and everything is mixed together, kids really struggle!  I need to develop activities that have that mixed practice throughout my course.
    • Reflection is powerful!  I already knew this because I spend a lot of time in reflection.  However, I don't think I ask my students to reflect as much as I should.  I need to explore the use of Learning Logs in my class.
    • Practice like you play and play like you practice!  This is something I did not do well this year.  My students spent a lot of time discussing and justifying their answers verbally, but since the AP exam is written, their practice did not reflect in their "game play".  This year, I want to do more written explanations.
    • You must practice!  One of the things that I really need to stress to my students this year is the importance of practice.  I think too many students look at a review worksheet or practice assessment and think, "Yup! I know that one!", but never actually sit down to practice answering the question.  Then when assessment day (or AP Exam) comes, they struggle to write a complete and concise response.  
  • Rethinking Grading by Cathy Vatterott - This book was the ASCD book of the month and I highly recommend it if you are looking at Standards Based Grading.  The book starts out with some history behind grades and grading, but then in Chapters 3 & 4, she really delves into the nitty-gritty details about how to change your classroom practice to incorporate SBG.  The book doesn't go into all of the theory like Marzano's work, but is a practical guide for teachers to dip their toe into the SBG waters.  
  • Rethinking Homework by Cathy Vatterott - Similar to the book above by the same author, this book also starts out with the history of homework, then gets into more practical strategies.  My favorite chapter was Chapter 4 about effective homework practices.  Homework has been a struggle for my entire teaching career and I don't think I've ever been completely happy with how I've handled it. 

Other Things on my List:
  • Better integration of the Chromebooks (1:1) - Yeah, so this hasn't happened yet.  I still want to explore the Chromebooks for formative assessment (Google Forms, Kahoot, etc), but after seeing my AP scores this year, my main focus will be "back to basics" as listed above.  I like technology but I don't want to integrate tech for the sake of tech.
  • Work on more Free Response writing - Still working out in my head how this is going to look this year :)

Stuff NOT on my List:
  • This was the first summer in many years where I did not travel or attend any conferences in July.  Don't get me wrong, I spent most of June traveling, but July has been pretty low-key.  However, even without traveling, I was able to get a lot done:
    • At the beginning of July, we rented a dumpster in order to do some major deep cleaning of our house.  After 10 days, the dumpster was full, several loads had been taken to Goodwill, and we again had an upstairs that we enjoyed spending time in!
    • Spent time with family and friends, including several days with my sister, who lives on the east coast.
    • House repairs... I really don't like being a home owner most days and this week is one where lots of repair people will be in and out of my house.  Today, the plumber is coming to run a water line to my fridge... so excited about having an ice maker! :)

How is your #SummerList progressing?

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Some Thoughts from Make It Stick

Subtitled... Because Julie Said So :)

On Twitter, we've been reading the book Make It Stick (You can read the archived chat under the Book Chat tab above).  For the past 5 years or so, I've been very focused on assessment and grading and this summer is no exception.  What I really find interesting is how one book will lead to another book (or 3 or 4 books) and they all seem to tie together.

While reading Make It Stick, I've also read Rethinking Homework and Rethinking Grading, both by Cathy Vatterott.  While reading all of these books, I've been trying to think about how to create retrieval practice opportunities that aren't tied to a quiz or quiz-like structure.  I am more certain than ever that I want to use the Multiple Choice Mondays and the weekly skills check, but I've also been thinking about exit tickets and reflection tools as mentioned in Make It Stick.

As a reflection tool at the end of a chapter, I plan to hand out a self-assessment tool with the chapter objectives listed on it and ask students to tape it into their notebook:

Students will self assess for the objectives for that quiz, then do some sort of "brain dump" activity on the rest of the page.  Some ideas for a "brain dump" would be a One-Minute Paper, a Concept Map, etc just to see what they recall about the chapter.

What are some ways that you practice retrieval in your classroom?

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 idea...in 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