Sunday, November 5, 2017

MTBoS Sunday Funday - Self Care Tips

Just a reminder that the #MTBoS Sunday Funday challenge is back!  This is a weekly blogging prompt that is hosted over at Julie's blog and this week's theme is "Self Care"

Every week, Julie will push out a new topic, you blog about it and submit your blog post using this Google Form.  On Sunday, there will be a huge list of awesome blogs to go read! :) YAY!

As always, this is a no pressure blogging challenge, so feel free to join in anytime, but if the week gets away from you, that's okay too!

This Week's Topic:  Self Care

I'll admit that I almost didn't blog today.  Self Care is definitely one of the topics where I fail miserably.  I am pretty bad about putting my classroom ahead of myself and my family, but here's some things I try to do on a regular basis:

Self Care Tip #1 - Exercise regularly
This is a tricky one for me and I'll admit there are some years I do better than others!  Meg Craig (@mathymeg) does a FitBos challenge each year with an easy to use spreadsheet that does help with tracking your goals.  This year, I have done really well, meeting my 120 hour goal by the end of October!  (YAY me!)  I'll admit though, that I've had some motivation to keep walking, even as the cooler weather has set in.  In the summer, I'm really good about getting up and walking 2+ miles per day before hubby goes to work.  This past summer, there was an elderly gentleman in my neighborhood that would walk his dog right at the same time, so we struck up a small friendship.  As we got to know each other, I found out that his wife of 59 years has dementia and he had just moved her to a nursing facility in the early summer.  It's now part of my daily walk to visit with him and hear the stories of his life, which is definitely a huge highlight of my day!

Self Care Tip #2 - Pamper yourself
At least once a month, I take the time for a girls day.  Sometimes this is with family, sometimes with friends, but it almost always includes a pedicure, dinner, and some shopping.  If you've never had a pedicure, it's a must!  There's nothing better than sitting in a massage chair while your feet are in the warm, swirling water.  Sometimes I go with a good friend and we sit and visit, other times I go by myself with a good book - either way, it's a wonderful way to relax!

Self Care Tip #3 - Relax with a Good Book
There's very little in this life that relaxes me as much as curling up with a good book, a fuzzy blanket, and a purring kitty.  If you ever come to my house, don't be shocked to see books everywhere.  There's a huge bookcase of novels in the bedroom, even more bookcases of professional books in our offices, even stacks of 'to-be-read' books in the living room.  And of course, that doesn't even include the thousands of books that I have in my Kindle library!  As a kid, my happy place was our public library and I even volunteered for many years there.  As an adult, my happy place is still when I am surrounded by books and I try to "read for fun" on a daily basis, even if it's only for 10 minutes.

Self Care Tip #4 - Find your People
Teaching is a stressful job.  I know I'm preaching to the choir, but it's a never-ending string of lessons, grading, management, answering questions, more lessons, more grading, etc.  It's so easy to get burned out, to find yourself isolated, to feel like you are drowning and not sure how to surface from all of the demands.  To combat this, it's important to reach out and find your people - the teachers that have a similar philosophy of teaching, that can ease some of the burden, the people that you can text at a moment's notice to ask if they have a worksheet over topic XYZ and know that it will fit your style with minimal change.  For me, I am blessed to have a few of those people in my real life, but my main source is the MTBoS (Math Twitter Blog o Sphere).  If you find someone online that resonates with you, reach out - tweet to them, comment on their blog - and I promise you won't regret it!

Self Care Tip #5 - Push Send
Sometimes, we can't see how far we've come because we are too close to the situation.  It's easy to get discouraged and frustrated when we are in the middle of the year, feeling like we are treading water and going nowhere.  Often, if we were able to look back, we'd see the progress we've made, the victories that have been won, and the successes of our students.  Because of this, I highly encourage all teachers - new or veteran - to journal their year.  This could be a private paper journal or a public blog / Instagram account.  This year, I'm trying Instagram for my #teach180 posts and I have to admit that I love it!  I've tried to blog more this year as well because I know that I grow professionally from blogging, from the active reflection and sharing, even though I've not done it as much as I should. 

If you have additional self-care tips to share, feel free to comment or even blog your thoughts and submit them to the #MTBoSSundayFunday post!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

#MTBoSSundayFunday - Photo of the Week

Just a reminder that the #MTBoS Sunday Funday challenge is back!  This is a weekly blogging prompt that is hosted over at Julie's blog and this week's theme is "Photo of the Week"

Every week, Julie will push out a new topic, you blog about it and submit your blog post using this Google Form.  On Sunday, there will be a huge list of awesome blogs to go read! :) YAY!

As always, this is a no pressure blogging challenge, so if you don't feel like blogging, that's okay!  I've had many weeks already where I've failed at blogging, so I'm right there with you!  However, this week is one I just couldn't pass up :)

This week's theme is is "Photo of the Week", but this was a tough one for me.  I couldn't narrow it down to just one, so instead, I took a screenshot of this week's Instagram #teach180 posts! :)  (Can I just say that I LOVE using Instagram for my #teach180 posts... it's super simple to use and it's been a great tool for me to easily look back at my progress over the year!  Plus I shared it with my students, their parents, and my admin so they could follow us virtually!)

This week was great!  Last week was our Fall Break, so coming back on Monday was bit rough, but as you can see in the photos above, there were so many good moments this week!

To go chronologically, we'll start from the bottom right :)

Bottom right:  This was Monday in AP Stat.  After a break, we needed to do some mixed review over the chapter topics.  There were 3 problems, each one in a dry erase sleeve.  Students were up on the whiteboards working through the problems... so many good discussions!

Bottom center:  Tuesday in Geometry... You'll notice the little white box in the corner - we had a really active day!  This was a block day and we had color coded notes, some dry erase sleeve practice, and then a "Question Stack" set of cards on angle relationships.  So much awesomeness!

Bottom left:  Tuesday in Forensic Science... We had just finished a lab on the Bertillion Measurement System and read a great (yet lengthy) article on Bertillion, so we followed up with some summarization strategies.  This photo shows "Give One Get One", which is one of my favorite strategies!

Top right:  Wednesday in AP Stat... We had just finished z-scores and normality and were preparing for a quiz.  However, practice problems often get dull in worksheet format, so instead we did the same problems in card format.  Groups could choose to work on the vertical whiteboards or get one of the portable boards for their table.  So many good discussions and many of them scored perfect scores on the quiz!  yay!

** There isn't a photo for Thursday because my sophomores were taking the Pre-ACT and my Stat kids took their quiz... not a photo worthy day!

Top center:  Friday in Geometry... Thanks to the MTBoS, Friday's lesson plan was super simple... Katrina Newell (@MrsNewellsMath) had already blogged an Angle Addition / Angle Bisector foldable that all I had to do was print and use!  (Thanks Katrina!).  I do love foldables and add it to some color coded notes and you have a happy teacher on your hands!

Top left:  Friday in AP Stat... We've finished our unit in Stat, so next week we will be taking Test #2.  There were 10 stations posted around the room with 2 MC questions per station.  The students went from station to station working problems, checking with me, and going to the next station.  The hour flew by and on their exit ticket, several students even asked if we could do it again. :)

I know I didn't do quite what the prompt asked me to do, but it was such a good teaching week that I wanted to share! :)  Now to work on next week's lessons... hopefully it will be just as awesome as this past week! :)

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Reflection on my Professional Goals

Hope you don't mind, but I need to "talk" through something and well, that's what this blog is for, right?  A place for me to think, to reflect, and to get the random thoughts out of my head so I can figure out where to go from here. Plus, if someone out there reads it and has some feedback for me, then even better! :)

(Note:  This is one of those posts that is mostly just for me... but heck, why not #pushsend?) :)

For the past 17 years, my yearly evaluation has required us to set a professional goal and complete the PDSA (Plan / Do / Study / Act) paperwork that went along with our goal setting.  I've done a variety of things over the years, aligned them to my site and district goals, and tried to follow through with them.

This year, I've been chosen to be part of a pilot program, called a Professional Learning Focus (PLF).  Apparently, our state is moving from the traditional goal setting program to one that is more individualized with a focus on professional learning.  This year is a pilot year, with full implementation in the 2018-2019 school year.  I'm super excited about this overall, because anyone that knows me knows that I love professional learning and reading educationally focused books and journals.  In addition, I am the PD coordinator for my site, so I will have the chance to develop some great learning opportunities for our staff that align to their PLF.

The overall idea is that each teacher will choose one of the 20 indicators from our teacher evaluation system that they want to work on, then write a goal focused on that indicator, identifying the professional learning / research that they would need for their goal.  This might be a book study, webinars, traditional PD sessions, PLC, peer observations, etc.  

Here's my dilemma... I don't know which of the 20 indicators to choose!  I've narrowed it down to 3:

Indicator #9 - Involves All Learners
This indicator seems right up my alley.  It's about active learning, student engagement, high quality questioning techniques, wait time, etc

Indicator #13 - Monitors
This indicator really gets into some of the Formative Assessment techniques that I've been working on for the past few years which leads to Indicator #14 with adjusting the instructional program as needed.

Indicator #15 - Establishes Closure
Closure has always been a weakness for me, but it is something that I've slowly improved on throughout the years.  

All three of these indicators tug at me... I love researching active learning techniques as well as better ways to make thinking visible through formative assessment and summarization skills.  I know that I have room to grow with each one of these indicators, so it's really just a situation of "decision paralysis" :)  

If you have any ideas or suggestions, including any good books, articles, etc that relate to these indicators, please let me know in the comments on catch me ton Twitter :)

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Favorite Education Books - #MTBoSSunFun

Just a reminder that the #MTBoS Sunday Funday challenge is back!  This is a weekly blogging prompt that is hosted over at Julie's blog and this week's theme is "Favorite Education Books"

Every week, Julie will push out a new topic, you blog about it and submit your blog post using this Google Form.  On Sunday, there will be a huge list of awesome blogs to go read! :) YAY!

As always, this is a no pressure blogging challenge, so if you don't feel like blogging, that's okay!  I've had many weeks already where I've failed at blogging, so I'm right there with you!  However, this week is one I just couldn't pass up :)

When I first saw this week's prompt, I was like "YAY!!  I've got this one!!!", but as the week went on, I stressed more and more.  I struggle so much with figuring out my "favorite" anything - be it song, movie, book, TV show, etc.  I have so many favorites!  So here goes... my top 5 must-read books for teachers.

Must Read #1 - Make It Stick

This book was an #EduRead several summers ago.  I first learned about it from Daren Starnes at the AP Statistics Reading when he spoke about it at Best Practices night.  I immediately downloaded it to my Kindle and started reading.  Oh my goodness - game changer!  This book transformed my classroom like no other.  It combined assessment strategies with cognitive psychology with statistical research.  We did a Twitter EduRead on it that summer and this book has been the focus of several talks at various TMCs.  If you want to help your students be active and successful learners, this is the book for you.   Just writing about this book makes me want to read it again! :)  

See the storified Book Chats here

Must Read #2 - Embedded Formative Assessment

Dylan Wiliam is one of the educational gurus on formative assessment.  This was one of my first Kindle edu-reads and I still refer to my highlights many years later.  Formative assessment has been one of my ongoing professional learning goals and this book is one of the best books out there for formative assessment.  There is a newer version called Embedding Formative Assessment while I own, but haven't fully read - maybe that's a book to tackle soon!  The original EFA (pictured) was one of those books that I recommended over and over and over again to colleagues and administrators.  Man, I wish it were summer so I could have all day to read again! :)

See the storified Book Chats here

Must Read #3 - Mathematical Mindsets

I doubt there is a math teacher out there that is unaware of Jo Boaler and her work with YouCubed, mindset shifts in mathematics, and innovative teaching methods.  This book was one of our EduReads last year - See the Storify on Beth's blog - and once I got into it, there were so many provoking thoughts that I sent a recommendation to our district curriculum director to read this book immediately. Dr. Boaler definitely pushed my thinking on several topics, but she also opened my eyes to some of the damaging methods that are commonplace in k-12 education, specifically in tracking and middle school advancement.  I'm definitely not in the norm at my school with my beliefs on open enrollment and Dr. Boaler's work really pushes the fixed vs growth mindset as it comes to learning mathematics.  

Must Read #4 - Literacy Strategies for Improving Mathematics Instruction

This book was one of our very first Twitter EduReads, back in the summer of 2012, even before we had the #EduRead hashtag and we used different hashtags for each book (this one was the ultra creative #lit4math).  You can read my book reviews here (Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4) and the book chat was Storified over at Pam's blog.  This book is a small one, but it really packs a wallop.  In fact, I can see it sitting under my coffee table right now, ready for me to read it again!  (So.Many.Books!!)  

Must Read #5 - Every Minute Counts

This tiny book (and its sequels - Making Minutes Count Even More and Motivation Counts) were some of the first educational books I owned.  At the time I purchased them (back in the late 90s), I picked them up for about $5 each at my local teacher supply store.  That store has been closed for many years and these books now cost a bit more, but they are still some of my favorites.  For at least the first 10 years of my career, I read and re-read this book series every summer and every time I picked up new nuggets of wisdom.  Each of these booklets contains only about 70 pages, but so many ideas.  Some of ideas are now dated, but practical advice never goes out of style!  The author's down-to-earth writing style and ready-to-use suggestions are what originally drew me to this book and continues to draw me in 20 years later.

What are your must-read books?  Blog about them, tweet about them, share them with us on the #eduread hashtag - I have at least 3 stacks of books to be read, but after writing this post, I just want to go surround myself with some old favorites :)  

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Warmups and Closures

I totally fail at this blogging thing.  Every week, I want to blog, I know I should blog, but time gets away from me...

But, better late than never, right? :)

This past week's theme was Warm-ups and Closures - you can go read the rest of the submissions over on Julie's blog, just click HERE

Next week's theme is classroom tour - I hope to get that one done BEFORE the deadline! :)

The first few and last few minutes are the most important time of class, in my opinion.  I do a pretty good job of warm-up activities and I am trying desperately to get better at closure!

In Stat, each day has a theme:
Monday - Multiple Choice Monday - quick 5 question MC reviews over any previous material
Tuesday/Wednesday - Analysis & Reflection of MC Monday
Thursday - Throwback Thursday - short answer review questions over previous material
Friday - FRAPPY Friday - a released AP Free Response question

In Geometry, I'm not quite as organized, but they do have:
Monday - Mental Math Monday
Tuesday/Wednesday - Throwback Tuesday or Wayback Wednesday over previous material
Thursday - Think About It Thursday with a problem solving / critical thinking question
Friday - No theme yet :)

Closure is one of those areas where I feel I can always improve.  Over the years, I've tried various things, now I tend to do a combination of exit ticket prompts:

The first one on the left is a summary prompt with an area for questions and teacher response.  This template came about after a discussion on Twitter years ago!  The middle one is the one I use most often, which is a generic Exit Ticket quarter sheet.  The one on the right is based on an AVID Reflection page.

Summary Page
Generic Exit Ticket
Reflecting on Today
Weekly Exit Tickets

For my actual prompts, I tend to use my "Ring of Prompts"  or other prompts that I've blogged about before.

I'm always looking for new strategies for closure, so please blog yours and share them! :)

#Made4Math - Conditional Statements

I know... it's not Monday... :)

This year is kicking me in the tush, BUT, I'm having a *blast* teaching Geometry.  I have some really awesome kids and I love the hands-on aspect of Geometry.  Last time I taught Geometry was about 10 years ago, which was well before I found the MTBoS and started using Interactive Notebooks :)

Anyway, on Sunday, I spent 5 hours on lesson plans for Monday only.... oh my goodness! :)  I tweeted out a comment that I could get a LOT more done if I didn't care how things looked or if I was willing to have a boring lesson. :)  Of course, having a new prep means lots of new foldables and creations and they have to look just right with a fun font! :)

Each Monday, my Geometry kids have a Mental Math Monday where I project a game card from the game 24 and instead of just coming up an expression to equal 24, they try to come up with all of the values from 1 to 24.  I decided to have them start doing it on their whiteboard sleeves and one group even made all of the values within the warm-up time (~5-7 minutes)

If you would like the Mental Math Monday file for your dry erase sleeves, click HERE

After we were done with our warmup time, it was on to conditional statements in Geometry!  I had scoured pinterest and the MTBoS Search Engine looking for some fun stuff to help my kids practice, but nothing was really catching my eye for their notes.  I ended up making a super simple foldable in a Word table that created a "flashcard" like foldable that was blank inside to allow us to take notes and write down the definitions.

If you would like the Word Document, click HERE

To follow it up, we practiced with the statement sort that I found on MissCalcul8's blog - See her post HERE

Then, we practiced some more using a free speed dating file from TPT, but I did it more as a Quiz Quiz Trade activity - See the activity HERE

And finally wrapped it up with a Kahoot!

All it all, it was a good day :)

Saturday, September 16, 2017

#MyFavFriday - One Month!

Oh my goodness - we've now been in school for a *month*!!  I swear, every year, time goes by faster and faster!

It's been a long week, full of very tired moments, but overall, I am having a great year.  I have another group of fabulous kids, I'm teaching subjects I love, and I just feel at peace with a heart of joy this year.  That doesn't mean that every day is sunshine and roses, but I am so excited to see what this year brings!  My only regret so far is that I've been really bad at blogging.  :( :(  Maybe as the year progresses, I'll get better! :)

This morning, while browsing Instagram, I ran across a post from @bybmg that referenced her "High Five Friday" of the week, where she celebrates 5 favorite moments.  I'm totally stealing that idea this week! :)

I also love that this ties in to the "High Five Friday" theme of my classroom.  I even had a kid yesterday say "This is my favorite part of the week!" as they walked by and received their High Five! :)

(P.S. - Yes, I know that I have yet to post a "My Favorite Friday" post on an actual Friday... But by Friday night, I'm totally worn out! :) )

High Five Friday #1 - Back to School Night
Tuesday night, after a VERY long block day with no planning period, we had our Back to School night.  When I say it was a long day - it was a day that I made it to 10K steps and I didn't even exercise that day!  But the best part was visiting with some amazing parents - one parent came up to me with tears in her eyes and said "I just want to thank you.  You were our child's math teacher last year and I'm so glad our child has you again this year.  Our child actually *likes* math again!  Thank you for all you do!"  Then, between "classes", the young lady that last year came by every Friday to get a High Five comes by with her parents and says, "Mom!  This is the teacher that gives High Fives every Friday!!"  Remember, I've never even had this student in class, I don't know her name at all, but every Friday, like clockwork, she is there for her High Five and it was important enough that she had even told her parents about it.  As teachers, we often don't know the impact we make on our students and parents.  Every day, I am grateful that I am blessed to love what I do and to be able to share that love with my students.  What an uplifting night, even though I was *exhausted* the next day! :)

High Five Friday #2 - Dry Erase Sleeves
I purchased my dry erase sleeves several years ago when I found them at the Target Dollar Spot for $1 each.  Since then, many people in the MTBoS have posted about them.  I have used them pretty much every day in Geometry and even have kids that ask for them if I forget.  In Geometry this week, we were working on the distance and midpoint formulas.  I had found this template on Pinterest and quickly made one for my students.  I have some students that definitely struggle with integer operations, so the template was very useful for keeping everything in order.  In fact, this student found it so useful that they borrowed one to take home to finish up their homework problems.  Even better - when I glanced at this student's quiz on Friday, they had everyone of the distance formula problems correct!  WIN!! :)

High Five Friday #3 - First Lab is Done!
In Forensic Science, we've got our hands full with 48 students and 2 teachers.  This is the largest class we've ever had and my co-teacher has been fabulous, even though she had to hit the ground running with only 2 days notice that her entire schedule had changed.  We tackled our first lab this week with kids going out with a clean, new sock and exploring Locard's Exchange Principle, which leads us into the analysis of trace evidence, both macro and microscopically.

High Five Friday #4 - Coffee?  #YesPlease
Friday morning, one of my students comes up to me in the hallway with a cup carrier and says "I didn't know what kind of coffee you liked, but here's a coffee and a chocolate doughnut to start your day!"  Oh child, you are a true blessing!  After a long week, I knew I would need some extra caffeine to get through the day and some added sugar didn't hurt either! :)

(For anyone that isn't local - QT is QuikTrip, which is a convenience store / gas station chain that is simply amazing.  This was a French Vanilla Cappucino, but their hot cocoa is quite yummy as well! :)

High Five Friday #5 - #teach180
This year, I'm trying to do a better job with #Teach180 and I've finally found the platform that works for me!  I tried several years ago to do a #180blog, then I tried Twitter, but I really struggled to keep up with it and the character limitation on Twitter was difficult plus it was hard to monitor my own progress over the year.  This year, I am trying out Instagram and I *LOVE* it.  I shared it with my principal earlier in the week as a way he could virtually visit our classroom and I shared it with the parents at Back to School night, encouraging them to follow as well.  I've received some really positive comments from the parents and administration team.

What were the highlights of your week? :)

Monday, September 4, 2017

Made4Math - Geometry Fun!!

It's been a while since I've written a Made4Math post, but I have a feeling this year will be a year FULL of new files and fun stuff :)

I am having a BLAST teaching Geometry this year.  The last time I taught it was about 10 years ago - before the #MTBoS entered my life and before I knew Interactive Notebooks even existed!!

This weekend has been kind of crazy.  I left school on Friday thinking I would get *so much* accomplished... HA! :)  By the time Sunday afternoon rolled around, I thought I might get an hour of work in while waiting on my mom to come down to go shopping.... I tinkered with it before she came down, then again after she left.  Before I knew it, I had spent close to 3 hours making a single flipping foldable!!! :)

Of course, I had to tweet it out last night... I am pretty darn proud of this thing! :)

I swear I printed it about 20 times before I got it to line up correctly and figure out how to "flip" it correctly on my printer!  Here's what the actual file looks like:

Once I had it figured out, I had to make a blank template for next time.  Here it is in Word format. :)

Today, I got on another kick of creativity and started working on this week's lesson plans.  We have a modified block schedule that has a traditional 6 period day on Monday, Thursday, and Friday and a block schedule that meets on Tuesday and Wednesday.  That means that tomorrow we head back to a block day with 100 minute periods.  

On block days, I try to do a lot of activities and I like to have the kids up and out of their seats at least once during the period to restart their brains.

For Geometry, one of the activities we will be doing tomorrow is a "Find Someone Who".  This is an activity that is often used as an ice-breaker, but I like to throw in a concept-twist.  The idea is to help my students remember all of the symbols and vocabulary we've worked on for the past week :)

Here is the PDF file if you want it! :)

Hope you've all had a wonderful and productive weekend!  

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Organizing the Classroom

Just a reminder that the #MTBoS Sunday Funday challenge is back!  This is a weekly blogging prompt that is hosted over at Julie's blog and this week's theme is "Classroom Organization"

Every week, Julie will push out a new topic, you blog about it and submit your blog post using this Google Form.  On Sunday, there will be a huge list of awesome blogs to go read! :) YAY!

As always, this is a no pressure blogging challenge, so if you don't feel like blogging, that's okay!  But since one of my yearly goals is to blog more, this is a great way to get myself back into the groove!

Organization tends to be one of my strengths.  I'm excited to share some of my favorite organizational tools and strategies and then go read about yours! :)

Hanging File next to my Desk:
I picked up this hanging file YEARS ago at Big Lots in their Back to College section.  This photo is really old - mainly because I forgot to take a picture of it when I was at school tonight. :)

This Hanging File holds my Attendance / Seating Chart folder (bottom pocket), my notebook for each course (the middle pockets), and our Advisory Sign-Out sheets (up at the top).

This is one *must-have* item for my classroom!

Storage and more Storage:
Some of this has changed slightly, but not much.  Along the bottom are file crates that I picked up at Target and these hold student files.  I am horrible about passing papers back to students or sometimes they will have a paper that isn't going in their notebook, so all of those papers go in these crates.

On the top shelf, you will see baskets from Dollar Tree for Extra Handouts.  I typically make 2-3 extra copies just in case a student misplaces their copy, and all of those get stored here.  You'll also see the Table Buckets on the right top cubby, but those have now changed... (see below!)

Table Buckets:
Here's the new version of Table Buckets and the contents.  Each group has a set of Red/Yellow/Green cups, a tape dispenser, glue sticks, scissors, dry erase erasers, Response Cards (Always/Sometimes/Never and MC), and a baggie of markers (Regular, Dry erase, and Highlighters).  Having all supplies handy on their desk at all times is a HUGE timesaver for me!

Table Folders:
This is an idea that I stole from Sam Shah and I *love* it.  Each of my classes has a color, each table has a folder.  This folder is how I pass out papers for their notebook, collect and return assignments, and organize missing / absentee work.  This is an old photo, but because it's purple, I know it's a 6th hour folder.  On the left you can see student work that is being passed back, plus 3 papers that we will be using in that day's lesson for their notebook. During the beginning of the year, their name tents are in these folders as well, because I'm still learning names. :)  If a student is absent, their papers are gathered up and paper-clipped and left in their folder for them to pick up the next day.

My Planner:
I've blogged before about my planner, but I definitely couldn't get through the day without it!  I combine my lesson plans with my personal planner to keep everything in one place.  This is always open on my desk and helps me keep track of meetings, to-do lists, blog ideas, and my lesson plans!  The monthly pages also have a habit tracker that I love.  I think the only thing I really should add is an hydration tracker, but to be honest, I rarely have time to drink water during the day! :)

Storing Activities:
This isn't the best photo in the world because I haven't really had time to straighten up my cabinets yet after pulling out all of the stuff that I stored over the summer.  In the mini file crates, there are about 10 of the index card boxes. Each box contains the cards for an activity, such as a card sort.  On the far right is vertical storage for the task mats.  Inside the 3 drawer container are things that don't store easily, such as inflatable globes. :)  You'll also see tons of dice both on the left and in the drawer because we use a lot of dice in AP Stat! I decided to snap this photo as I was pulling out the Types of Bias card sort for Monday in AP Stat, so that's why there's a set just sitting out. :)

I can't wait to read about the organization hacks from your classroom!

Saturday, August 26, 2017

#MyFavFriday - Week 1 is Done!

Remember me saying a couple weeks ago that I was going to blog every Friday about my favorite moments of the week?

Yeah, well, I've already failed.... twice.

But, according to the pictures I keep seeing around the MTBoS, "mistakes are proof that you are trying"

So I'm admitting it... I failed :)

Seriously though - last Friday (8/18) was our first day with students, and I had already blogged about my first day plans for the SundayFunday challenge, so no biggie, I figured I would start with this week - easy enough!


I didn't figure in how utterly exhausted I would be after a full week of students.  I mean, this isn't my first rodeo... this is year 20... I should have known better, right?


This year, we have a new schedule.  We have always gone from 7:50 am to 2:30 pm.  This year, we have changed to 9:15 am to 3:55 pm and I totally underestimated the difference.  I'm a morning person, so I'm still getting to school at 7am, working on prepping for the day, etc.  I've been bee-bopping along all week, thinking, "Hey! This schedule might not be too bad!", until I literally hit the wall on Friday afternoon.  I tried... really, I did.  We had a staff cookout scheduled for 6pm and I thought I could make it.  However, around 5:30, I realized that if I didn't leave ASAP, I would not be safe to drive home (~25 minutes).  So I didn't make it to the cookout, but I did make it home safely! :)

Anyway... enough of my sob story... let's get back to the point, which is #MyFavFriday

So many fun things happened this week!  You can follow my #teach180 over at Instagram.

My favorite learning moment of the week happened in Geometry on Friday.

We started the day with a quick warm-up on identifying parallel lines, skew lines, and intersecting lines, which I came up with on the drive to school Friday morning.  :)  I quickly made 8 sets of cards and laminated them before kids ever arrived.  I displayed a diagram on the board, then orally asked students to look at line ___ and line ___ and determine the type.

After the warm-up, we started working on naming things.  Earlier in the week, we had discussed points, lines, planes, naming them, etc.  On Thursday, I had given a Quick Check, which is a quarter sheet, ungraded, feedback only problem and I realized they were having issues with naming things, especially planes.  This summer, several of the formative assessment books I read mentioned that if you are going to do FA, you need to be prepared to do something with the data collected.  So, on Thursday night, I changed Friday's lesson plan to be more interactive and give more practice on naming.

I used 4 diagrams, each with 5-6 questions about naming planes, collinear points, intersections, skew lines, etc.  I printed 8 copies of each paper and used 4 colors of dry erase sheets to help me keep it organized.  Problem 1 was in the Red dry erase pocket, Problem 2 in the Yellow, Problem 3 in Blue, and Problem 4 in Black.  I was ready for kids to arrive!

After our warm-up and a quick reminder on how to name things, symbols to use, etc, I instructed each group to open their table bucket, get out dry erase markers / erasers, and the Red/Yellow/Green cups.  I used the cups a bit differently this time in that Green meant they were working just fine, Yellow meant they had a question for me, and Red meant they were ready for me to check their work.  Each group received Problem 1 and we were ready to go.  I loved the discussions that were going on, I loved being able to give individualized feedback to each group, and at the end, I really felt that they had a better grasp on how to name geometric figures and shapes.

But the BEST part of the lesson?

They did math for an entire hour and not a single complaint was heard! :)

Now *that* is a win! :)

Friday, August 11, 2017

Using #MyFavFriday for Accountability

Last week, I blogged about my goals for the 2017-18 school year, which includes (in no particular order):

 - The use of VNPS
 - Asking better questions
 - Utilizing Formative Assessment techniques more effectively
 - Blogging more

A few weeks ago, at the end of #TMC17, I randomly came across 3 references to the #MyFavFriday blogging challenge, all in one day!  When I mentioned it on Twitter, Lynn responded:

Since then, I've been pondering.  Originally, #MyFavFriday started as an extension to the "My Favorites" portion of Twitter Math Camp (TMC), where people would share their favorite resource, activity, lesson, recipe, pretty much anything!

But, I'll be honest... I struggled.  It was hard to come up with a new "favorite thing" every week!  So when Lynn suggested bringing it back, I wasn't sure.

Until I wrote my goals post for the MTBoS Sunday Funday blogging challenge.  And that's when it hit me.  I can use #MyFavFriday as a weekly reflection tool as an accountability tool for my goals!!

So, starting next Friday, which happens to be my first day with students learners, I'm going to try to blog about:

  • My favorite learning moment of the week
  • My favorite use of VNPS that week
  • My favorite exit ticket prompt (and response)
  • My favorite Formative Assessment technique and how I used it
  • My favorite (or least favorite) question that I asked the students
  • My favorite engagement strategy
  • My favorite #teach180 photo of the week (I'm trying out Instagram this year!)
I'm really excited about a way to really help myself reflect on the week and hopefully to see my progress with my goals.  

Feel free to join me in sharing your favorite moments of the week! 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

First Day Plans 2017-18

Just a reminder that the #MTBoS Sunday Funday challenge is back!  This is a weekly blogging prompt that is hosted over at Julie's blog and this week's theme is "First Day / First Week Plans"

Every week, Julie will push out a new topic, you blog about it and submit your blog post using this Google Form.  On Sunday, there will be a huge list of awesome blogs to go read! :) YAY!

As always, this is a no pressure blogging challenge, so if you don't feel like blogging, that's okay!  But since one of my yearly goals is to blog more, this is a great way to get myself back into the groove!

Next week starts my 20th year of teaching.  OMG! Where did time go??  There's no way that I'm in year 20, I'm still just a young whipper-snapper, right?  (Said as my knees start to creak and I grumble like an old curmudgeon.)  I officially start on Monday, but I've been up there off and on for the past few weeks working on my classroom.  Our kiddos report next Friday... eekkk!  I have *so* much lesson planning to do!

This year, I will have 3 preps:  AP Statistics (Year 18);  Forensic Science (Year 6); and Geometry (Year ?? but really year 1 again.. last time I taught it was 2008 or so!)

All Classes:
On Day 1, I'm definitely a fan of getting my students to work right away on math and critical thinking.  Since we start school on a Friday, it's a great way to get them started with our first High Five Friday of the year!!!

I tend to have big classes and I'm horrible with names, so I have my kids make name tents.  I originally stole this idea from attending (many) AVID summer institutes and workshops over the years.  Each student has a piece of cardstock that they fold "hot dog" style and the following instructions are on the board:

While they are working on their name tents, I go around and greet each student individually to help me take attendance and learn to pronounce their name.  This also gives me an opportunity to look at what information they have chosen to share.

With AVID, the inside of the name tent is printed, but I just have my students draw lines, mainly so I can save on my copy count :)  These name tents serve as my exit tickets each day as well as my Visible Random Grouping for the first week of school.  Each day, I respond to the students, then shuffle the name tents and toss 4 on each table.  Super simple! :)

AP Statistics:
After the name tents are made, it's time to dive into some statistics.  For the past 8 years or so, I've started the same way - the story of Kristen Gilbert.  Many years ago (2008 maybe?), I was shopping along in Borders (which hasn't even been in existence since like 2011), I ran across a book titled "The Numbers behind Numb3rs".

Like many math teachers, I enjoyed the Numb3rs TV show, so I quickly purchased the book and started reading.  Low and behold, the 2nd chapter was entitled "Fighting Crime with Statistics 101".  This chapter quickly grabbed my attention and I knew I had to build a lesson out of this story.

I immediately contacted Hedge, who was also teaching AP Statistics at the time, and we collaborated on a first day lesson, you know that whole 'hook em with a story' idea. :)

Over the years, I've contemplated doing a different activity, but I always end up coming back to Ms. Gilbert... :)

With Geometry, my plans are a bit more fluid.  I haven't taught Geometry in many years and I'm not quite sure what to expect.  Right now, I have a lot of mini activities, all stolen from the MTBoS planned for them:
  1. My classroom is always set up in groups and we change those groups often.  After their name tents are done, I plan to start with Sara Vanderwerf's 100 numbers activity in order to start that discussion on what makes effective group work.
  2. Then, each group will get a deck of cards to do Sarah Rubin's 31-derful activity.  I've used this activity as a first day activity in Intermediate Algebra as well as a time filler in Pre-Calculus and it's always a hit.  This encourages critical thinking, communication, and some low-floor math.
  3. If there is time remaining, Julie (@fractionfanatic) posted some awesome puzzles this week from @1to9puzzle, so I quickly started following that twitter account.  Each day, they post a new challenge and I definitely plan to use these as time fillers over the year!

Sadly, this is about as far as I've gotten on my lesson plans! :)  Now I'm off to figure out day 2! :)

Thursday, August 3, 2017

All the Feels!!! A love letter to the #MTBoS

Dear People of the MTBoS,

Last night, the @ExploreMTBoS group tweeted out a few challenges, including this one:

There are so many people that I want to thank, but I'm so afraid I'm going to forget someone!  Every single teacher that I've interacted with over the past 9 years via the MTBoS (Math Twitter Blog-o-Sphere) has made an impact on me.  There are some that have become my closest and dearest friends and I can't imagine my life without them.  There are some people that I've only talked to once or twice, but they've impacted me as well.  When people talk about the awesomeness that is the MTBoS and that TMC is a 'family reunion', they really aren't kidding.

The group of math professionals (teachers and non-teachers, coaches, administrators, etc) that make up the MTBoS are the most amazing Professional Learning Network that anyone could ever hope for.  These people *get* me and I love them for it.

If you have ever been on the fence about tweeting or blogging or jumping into a conversation, please let me encourage you to #pushsend.  This group of people are just amazing.  I know for someone new, this PLN might seem difficult to navigate, but Beth (@algebrasfriend) said it best...

The people of the MTBoS are my friends.  Those friendships started out in the virtual world, yes, but that doesn't make our friendship any less real.  For example, Beth is an amazing friend, always supporting me, whether that's meeting up for dinner when I pass through town, sending me books for my classroom, even volunteering to go to Half Price Books to search for a book I was looking for.  

The people of the #MTBoS were there when I lost my sister to cancer, they've been there when I have struggled with issues personally and professionally, they moved from "virtual" friends to "real life" friends when TMC12 was born.  They (and if you are reading this, you are part of 'they') are more than friends, the people of the MTBoS are my family.

Sometimes Often I struggle to #pushsend.  But then a reminder comes about why I do what I do.  Why I'm a part of this amazing group of educators.  This morning, I opened up my blog and saw this:

I'll be honest - I have no idea who left this comment.  I clicked on the name but the "About Me" page was blank.  But I want them to know how much their comment impacted me, about the tears that came to my eyes.  (It also reminded me that I really need to update my Blog Roll!)  When I open my blog to write, it's hard.  I blank out.  My goal this year is to blog more, but it can be tough.  The insecurities, the 'imposter syndrome', they just boil up and make it challenging to #pushsend.  My contributions to this amazing community pale in comparison to what I've received over the years.  The friendships, the confidants, the laughter, the joy, the tears, the learning - it's so hard to put into words what this community means to me.

But I have to agree with the last statement of the comment the most.  I am forever thankful to the #MTBoS.  I truly am a better teacher because of each and every one of you.  

Love forever,
Me :)

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Goals for 2017-18

For the past several years, I have done an August blogging challenge, but this year, I just didn't have it in me.  However, I'm super excited that the #MTBoS Sunday Funday challenge is back!  This is a weekly blogging prompt that is hosted over at Julie's blog and this week's theme is "Goals"

Every week, Julie will push out a new topic, you blog about it and submit your blog post using this Google Form.  On Sunday, there will be a huge list of awesome blogs to go read! :) YAY!

Traditionally I don't make make New Year Resolutions in January because my new year comes in August as the start of a new school year.  I don't know if other teachers feel the same, but that's what works for me :)

Here's my Start - Stop - Continue for my 2017-18 goals :)

I want to START:

  • Using Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces (VNPS) in my classroom.  I have read the research and really feel convicted on this one.  That's not to say that I don't feel scared as all get out, but I want to set a goal to try this at least once per unit.
  • Asking better questions.  Pam presented on this during TMC and it was part of several of the Formative Assessment books I read this summer.  I have printed off several question stem pages based on recommendations from my Twitter pals.  My goal is to use these question stems while I am lesson planning to help me develop my questioning skills.
  • Being more involved in the Math Twitter Blog-o-Sphere (MTBoS).  This online teacher community has been my family for 8 years now.  However, for the past few years, I've pretty much kept to myself due to a variety of reasons and this just needs to stop.  I am a better teacher when I'm involved in the MTBoS, so my goal is to blog at least once a week with Sunday Funday and to be involved in the #geomchat and #statschat on Twitter.

I want to STOP:

  • Trying to "rescue" my students.  There's a lot to be said about productive struggle and if I am trying to use rich tasks and VNPS, I need to let students have that struggle, to really own the math.  I am hoping the better questioning will help with this as well.  
  • Eating lunch in my room.  I used to eat with other teachers and we had a great time.  However, last year, the environment in the lunch room was too politically charged, so I just stopped going.  I miss the fun, light-hearted conversations that we used to have, so I need to focus on "being the change."  My goal is to eat lunch with my colleagues at least 3 days a week to give myself a break from my classroom.

I want to CONTINUE:

  • Learning more about effective Formative Assessment techniques.  This was the focus of most of my summer reading, which I've blogged about a few other times.  My goal is to integrate at least one FA technique per day to inform my teaching and to teach my students how to use it for their learning.
  • Working on my personal health.  Over the past few years, I've gotten busy and combined with stress, did not prioritize my mental, emotional, and physical health.  This summer, with the help of #fitbos17 and some encouraging quotes that continually run through my head, I've been able to lose about 15 pounds.  My goal is to lose about 10 more pounds and I know I can do it!
  • Using Interactive Notebooks (INBs) and the Make It Stick strategies in my class.  I have noticed so much more content retention since utilizing these strategies!
  • High Five Fridays!  This simple technique is really a game changer when it comes to your classroom culture.  If you haven't tried it, I highly encourage you to just give it a shot.  I resisted for the first year because I am an *extremely* introverted person, but I promise you that it's worth it!

What are your goals for 2017-18?

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Why Blog?

Prior to #TMC17, there was an interesting discussion on Twitter about the future of blogging as it relates to the #MTBoS.  Then, during TMC, there was quite the debate on the #MTBoS hashtag.  As part of that debate, several people mentioned that they weren't quite sure where they fit into the MTBoS because aren't bloggers.

The timing of these two discussions was interesting to me.  Blogging is a struggle for me.  I will have 20 ideas floating in my head, I'll even write them down, but when I click "New Post", all of those thoughts just disappear.  Or worse, I'll type up a post and quickly delete it because it just sounds lame in my head.  

At TMC17, one of the keynote speakers, Carl Oliver challenged the attendees to just #pushsend.  

That's scary for me.  Maybe it's scary for you too.  And that's okay... but still, #pushsend

I didn't attend TMC17.  In fact, I went to my mom's for a few days to try to get away from #TMCjealousycamp and FOMO. :)  But even then, the #MTBoS was with me.  I listened to the Mathed Out podcast on my travels and one of the episodes was Julie and "Why Blog".    (If you've not listened to the Mathed Out podcast - go listen... it's a good one!)

It's after my bedtime, so maybe this post won't make sense, but all of these things - the podcast, the keynote, the Twitter discussion / debate - all of them have twisted into my head and I just had to write it down....  

Because I do think that blogging has a fundamental role in the MTBoS and its future growth.

From a historical standpoint, blogging is ultimately how I figured out that I wasn't crazy.  There were other teachers out there that were passionate about teaching and learning and math and how to best teach math.  I wasn't crazy for spending all of my time thinking of activities and reading educational books and literally having teaching as a profession AND as a hobby.  I read Dan and Kate and Jackie and others well before I started on Twitter.  Then, through Twitter, I could have real time conversations to hash out the ideas they presented in their posts.  That rocked my world.

But from a current place, the medium of Twitter is too fluid.  I love Twitter, don't get me wrong (and I think 50K+ tweets would agree with me.  But, Twitter is limited by 140 characters.  Often a great idea will get tweeted and this amazingly rich conversation will follow.  I will often favorite the tweets, might even email some of them to myself, but most often, I follow up to ask if the author has blogged about it in more detail.  Why?  Because Twitter is like drinking from a fire hose.  In the space of hours (or even minutes), great ideas are gone, washed down the river by other ideas.  You reach out, you try to grasp it, and sometimes you can.  But not always.  Blog posts however, are longer, more detailed, more permanent in the vast space we call the MTBoS.  Blog posts serve as a record of where you are, where you've been, and where you're going.  You can reflect on your professional growth, you can remind yourself of that great idea you had 5 years ago, it's your own personal yearbook of your journey.

So why do I blog?  I blog for me mostly.  Or at least I like to think I do.  But I blog for you too.  Because to be honest, we all like to know that we aren't just yelling into the black void.  But it's mostly for me.  Mostly to remind myself of where I've been, what ideas I've had, what worked well and what didn't.  Maybe an idea helps you out too, maybe it sparks an idea, maybe it doesn't.  But that's okay.

Maybe you're a blogger that posts every day like my hubby.  Maybe you're a blogger that hardly ever posts like me.  Maybe you're not a blogger at all, but want to try it.  Maybe you just want to read blogs, maybe you don't.  Maybe you tweet a lot, maybe you've never tweeted at all.  Maybe you're trying to figure out where you fit into this crazy place we call the #MTBoS.  

Whatever your story, please, just #pushsend