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

Monday, July 17, 2017

Anxiety Sets In... and a #Made4Math

For me, the month of July seems to zoom by and before I know it, the back-to-school nerves start setting in.  This weekend was a time of school supply shopping, blog reading, pinterest searching, and saving tons of ideas for next year.  

I officially report 4 weeks from today, although my building is the only one on campus that isn't under construction, so that's a bit nerve-wracking for my colleagues in other buildings!  At least I can go up and work in my room if I choose to.  

Today was a day of little projects and organization.  I didn't get anything officially finished, but here's what I worked on:

In no particular order...

- Printed off 80 protractors on transparency sheets (10 per page)
- Printed off my new GEOMETRY agenda board header 
- Printed off my new Geometry binder spine labels
- Printed off my new table folder labels 
- Cut out all the Contact Paper to go over said folder labels
- Created, printed, and laminated new table bucket labels

Still to do from these projects...

- Cut apart those protractors
- Laminate the GEOMETRY header
- Adhere the table folder labels with the contact paper
- Adhere the table bucket labels
- Switch over from the old table buckets
- Test out the "whiteboard" paper that I'm trying to straighten

There are so many things left to do that I haven't started on!  I am a fairly organized person by nature, but with 160+ students, I have to figure out some new strategies for keeping up with the paper trail, staying on top of INB handouts, etc.  

Part of today was just sitting in my classroom, staring at the wall and trying to wrap my head around all that needed to get done in the next four weeks.  (OMG - ***4*** weeks!!!  EEKKKK).  I don't know about you, but I love to-do lists, so when I'm overwhelmed, I often have a tendency to create a new cute to-do list to help me stay organized. :)  (I know.. what a great use of my time today, right???)  I forgot to take a photo of it, but I printed it on bright yellow paper, laminated it, and dug into my stash of fine tip dry erase markers to help me make a list. :)

It's nothing fancy, but if you want a copy, feel free to download it here :)

Friday, July 14, 2017

Formative Assessment from a Student Perspective

Yesterday, I posted the first part of a book review on Transformative Assessment by Popham.  As I said then, I'm only halfway through the book, but Chapter 4 really deserved its own post.

Popham believes in 4 levels of Formative Assessment:
   - Level 1: Teachers' Instructional Adjustments
   - Level 2: Students' Instructional Adjustments
   - Level 3: Classroom Climate Shift
   - Level 4: Schoolwide Implementation

So far, I've only read about Level 1 and Level 2 assessments.  Level 1 assessment is what we are probably most familiar with - how formative assessment techniques can help teachers change or alter their instructional methodologies in order to improve student learning.  Level 2, though, is pretty powerful as well.  In fact, I originally planned to post about Level 2 assessment on yesterday's post, but then decided it was so powerful that it deserved a post all of its own. :)

According to Popham:
"Formative Assessment exists for exactly one reason:  to enhance students' learning"
Throughout this book, I keep thinking, "Wow! I've never thought of it like that!" and the quote above is just another example.  If my goal is to enhance student learning then obviously I'm going to do what I can do from a teacher / instruction standpoint, but I also need to make sure that I am doing all I can do to empower my students to take control of their learning.  To do this, Popham argues that students need to be taught how to use formative assessment data to make their own personal instructional adjustments in their learning tactics in order to maximize the effectiveness of those tactics.

Again, a few quotes from Chapter 4 of the book followed by my own thoughts:

  • On student adjustments:  (Paraphrased) If one of the goals of FA is for students to play an active role in making sound decisions on how / if / when to adjust their learning techniques in order to be more successful, then students must know the end goal *and* the standards by which they will be judged. 
    • Prior to this book, I've never really thought about how students can use FA data to help themselves as learners.  Like most teachers, I've always heard FA described more from the perspective of "informing instruction", as in letting teachers know the level of mastery of their students.  However, based on this book, I am in the process of redefining my thoughts on FA.  For some reason, when I read this part of the book, I kept envisioning a student behind the wheel of a boat headed to shore.  In order for the student to be able to plot a course correction, they have to know: 1) where they are going / headed (aka the end goal) and 2) they have to know how far off the mark they are.  This illustration helps me visualize what Popham is referring to, but it's also rather convicting to me.  I can't say that I'm very good about always letting students know explicitly either one of these items. This really gives me a lot to ponder, both figuring out how to be better at sharing the end goal with students and by providing them clear guidelines for mastery.  

  • On orientation of students:  "Teachers who choose to install Level 2 formative assessment in their classrooms must make a major commitment to readying their students to get the most out of this approach."
    • As a student, I don't recall many teachers really talking about how to learn and definitely not about how to determine which learning techniques were best for me and how to adjust those techniques.  As a teacher, I know I have not had that discussion with my students, so I need to be more explicit this year in explaining to my students the WHY behind formative assessment activities, not just from a teacher standpoint, but from a student standpoint as well.  For example, one activity that I do early on in the year is a card sort where each group is given a set of 20 or so scenarios and asked to read the problem and determine the type of sampling method that is described.  Due to the nature of the activity, I probably will not know whether the group is "right or wrong" on every single card, BUT, a student can use that activity to help them decide personally if they know the sampling methods or whether they need to adjust their study techniques to better differentiate between the various methods, which is the very definition of Level 2 formative assessment.

  • On turnaround time:  "Having promised to get such building-block assessment information to students, a Level 2 formative assessment teacher must deliver this information to students as soon as possible after assessing those students."
    • Whew... talk about something easier said than done! :)  Turn-around time is the bane of my existence.  With class sizes of 30+, it can be very difficult to provide quality feedback on a regular basis and I'll be honest that I am not a huge fan of MC items for formative assessment.  Some activities I use, like the cards described above, are fairly easy in terms of turn-around time because students know immediately how they are doing.  This is something I need to work on this year.  In the book, they also talk about ways to provide optional items for students to use to self-monitor, such as answer keys available, practice quizzes / tests, etc.

  • On student choice: "The role of the teacher here is to set forth suggestions so students will be able to arrive at better choices.  As always, if students choose not to adopt the teacher's suggestions regarding learning tactics, then the teacher simply swallows hard and moves forward."
    • I think this will be the hardest part of implementing Level 2 formative assessment, but the most necessary.  The key thing is that students will need to buy into the benefits of FA and to assume responsibility for learning how they learn best.  The author emphasizes that it has to be student choice in adjusting their learning tactics and we have to allow them the autonomy to make that choice (or not).  In order for our students to become independent, effective learners, we have to allow them that freedom.

I really enjoyed this chapter... only 3 more to go! :)

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Partial Book Review: Transformative Assessment

This has been a very people-y week, so today was a quiet day at home with a book. :)

(Am I the only one that totally becomes a hermit in the summer months?  I really value my quiet time!)

Anyway, so earlier, I tweeted out this photo:

Around the time I was finishing up Math Tools, @pamjwilson texted me a picture of a book she had found in her stash called Transformative Assessment by Popham.  I happened to have it in my stack as well, so it became my next #EduRead of the summer.  When I'm actually reading, I take very messy notes in a small notebook, which this summer is being transcribed into a more permanent (and neater) notebook using the forms I shared a few weeks ago.

I'm about halfway done with this book and while it's not been an easy read, there have been some really valid points made that I wanted to share.  Below are some quotes and thoughts that I have had while reading this book:

  • From the preface:  "Don't let the pursuit of the instructionally perfect prevent you from reaping the rewards of the instructionally possible."
    • Wow!  Talk about hitting me in the forehead!  How many of us wait and wait and wait because we want perfection?  This reminds of the 51% effort in "5 Habits of a Woman that Doesn't Quit".  You can't always give 100%, sometimes you need to just give 51%.  I am guilty of perfectionism and it often stands in my way of getting anything done because I struggle with turning out a less than perfect product.

  • On the differences of Formative vs Summative Assessment:  "We see FA as a way to improve the caliber of still-underway instructional activities and SA as a way to determine the effectiveness of already completed instruction."
    • This book has really opened my eyes on Formative Assessment and what it really means.  I think FA has been an educational buzz word for many years and I'm just as guilty of using it as the next person.  I have tons of books with FA strategies, but until now, I've never really appreciated the nuances of FA, I've never really been as intentional with FA as the author describes.  The definition given in this book keeps talking about a *planned process* and I'm pretty guilty of a more "spur of the moment" style of FA.  Now that I know better, I must do better!

  • On the the usage of FA:  "Any teacher made modifications in instruction activities must focus on CURRENT curricular goals.  It's NOT a matter of looking at test data and deciding to try something new next time - it's a matter of doing something different NOW." (emphasis mine)
    • Have you ever had a text just "step on your toes"?  That's what happened to me here.  I've definitely been guilty of calling things (such as quizzes) formative assessment, when they truly aren't.  Formative Assessment is something that modifies what I am currently teaching.  It's not about next time I teach it, it's about what is happening in my classroom NOW (as in today / tomorrow).  To make matters worse, I often use some FA strategy but then I don't use it to actually change my instructional methods.  But again... now I know!

  • On the FA process:  (paraphrased) As a teacher, you must: 1) assess the *CRITICAL* skills / knowledge needed for students to master the big target; 2) do this *BEFORE* proceeding to the next building block in the progression; 3) *USE* the resulting evidence to make the necessary adjustments in your instruction (pacing, methodology, etc)
    • Earlier I said that FA is an intentional and planned process.  Here's the recipe for that process.  Decide what are the necessary skills and check for mastery, but do it BEFORE moving on so you will know if you need to reteach or change your pace.  This is hard for me.  I often don't get a chance to check their progress on those critical skills before moving on, so it's something I need to work on this year.

  • On whether FA is necessary: "Instruction, if properly conceptualized and skillfully implemented can be effective without any FA whatsoever, BUT, it is less likely to be and here's why:  the function of FA is to help teachers and students decide whether they need to make any adjustments in what they are doing."
    • Good teaching can (and does) take place without any formative assessment at all.  But the overall goal of FA is to improve student learning.  With it, teachers can make decisions about the most effective instructional techniques and students can make decisions about the most effective learning techniques.  It allows us to make "data-based decisions" for lack of a better buzz word. :)

  • On "trigger points": "...the teacher, in advance of the actual assessment, [must] arrive at a decision regarding the levels of student performance that would lead the teacher to make an instructional adjustment."
    • This reminded me of an #eduread of many years ago from "How to Support Struggling Students" by Robyn Jackson.  We need to know what level causes a red flag to go up and therefore causes a change in our instruction.  Popham mentions that we need to know the minimum per-student performance level and the minimum per-class performance level.  Those triggers are not set in stone, but they do need to be in place prior to gathering the results.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on Formative Assessment!  

Monday, July 10, 2017

#Made4Math: Binder 2017-18 Version

On Twitter, there have been several discussions about Teacher Planners and how each of us organize our lives. I really liked last year's planner, which pretty much looked like this:

I did not make many major changes this year, so I decided to upload a generic / blank copy in PDF for anyone that wants a copy.

Download it here :)

If you have suggestions for changes, I'd love to hear from you!   :)

Also, if you find any typos, please let me know.  I've double checked all of the dates, but typos do happen! :)

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Keeping Track of Ideas

Holy moly - three posts in three days!  To be honest, I'm afraid that if I stop now, it will be many months before I pick it up again!  I can't say for certain that this will be a constant habit, but a few days ago, Pam blogged about an upcoming webinar from Angela Watson on teacher self-care and referenced this podcast from Cult of Pedagogy.  One quote from the podcast has really stuck with me regarding habits:

So I'm going to try to form a habit of blogging.  I'm not saying that my posts will be profound or deep or high quality, but I'm going to at least try to blog regularly, to form a habit of a habit :)

Now on to the real reason for tonight's post - my reading list.  Or more accurately, keeping track of my reading list!

Seriously people, I am addicted to books.  I love books of all kinds and I love used book stores.  A few times a year, hubby and I will venture off just to visit the Half Price Book stores that are within driving distance, including going down to the Dallas area over Spring Break just to hit as many of the HPBs as possible in 2 days :)  Anytime I travel to an area that has an HPB, I am like a kid in a candy store.  To try to illustrate this point, the photo below shows the stack of professional books in my living room that I've purchased at HPB since Memorial Day, with most of them coming from the Kansas City area after the AP Reading was finished :)

I know... I have a problem :)

But they were on clearance!!!

And the teacher discount!!!  (plus they stacked the Memorial Day coupon for the ones I purchased during that weekend)

But anyway...

The *real* point to this post is how to keep track of all of the wonderful ideas from the books I love to read.

I'm a fast reader in general and over the years, I've tried various methods.  I've used post-it notes to annotate my books.  I've tried writing in the margins.  I've tried blogging about various ideas.  If it's a way to keep track, I think I've probably tried it at some point.  But none of these methods have truly worked for me because I will get an idea from a book and get really excited about using it, then school starts and I quickly forget about the great idea.  Then summer comes again and the cycle repeats itself.

So how do I stop it?  How do I keep track of the ideas I gather from these books and actually put them into practice?

This year, I am trying something new.... a book journal.

I started the summer with this idea of keeping a small notebook next to me whenever I am reading.  and scribbling quick notes and references to myself.  However, as I've already read several books this summer, I quickly realized that this small notebook will not help me achieve the original goal, which is to keep track of ideas that I want to implement.  This realization led me to revamp and create an official book journal, so please feel free to critique and give suggestions!

Here's the idea:

First, a notes page modeled after the Cornell Note style will be where I jot all of my notes throughout the book:

You'll notice the typical "summary" section is missing from the above page.  That's because...

I decided that I wanted a Book Summary page to have as an "index" of sorts, where I pull out the big take-away ideas from the notes and put it in an easy-to-find reference page.

I've just started using these pages today, so I don't know how it will work or what tweaks I might end up with, but my current thought is to have a binder with tab divider pages for each book I've read.  Behind each divider page will be the Summary page, then all of the note pages for each book.  Hopefully this creates an easy to use reference to organize the ideas I've gathered and to ideally help with the actual implementation of said ideas!

What do you use to help you keep track of ideas?  What strategies do you use to take notes while reading?  And most importantly, how do you not forget those ideas that you want to implement?

Thanks for reading! :)

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Convergence Mastery Pondering

Don't you just love it when the first strategy of the first chapter of a book just stops you cold and you need to go ponder it, tweet about it, research it, blog it, or a combination of all of those? :)

As I've already said, I have WAY too many books in my to-be-read pile and today is an absolutely GORGEOUS day with a light breeze, sunlight, and temps around 80 degrees, so of course, I'm choosing to be outside enjoying the weather!  Today I decided to pick up a more math-y book, so I found this gem in my pile:

I'm pretty sure it was supposed to be an #EduRead book once upon a time as my Amazon account shows that I purchased it back in the Summer of 2014, but I've never read it :)  (Let's just say I'm *really* addicted to buying books!)

Even today, it took me a bit to get past the Introduction, etc and I was tempted to put it down, but I persevered and I'm glad I did!  This book promises to have 60+ strategies, but I'm stuck on Strategy #1 - Convergence Mastery.  As soon as I read the strategy, I sat down the book, started writing in my journal, researching via Google, and decided that I had to blog!

From my research, here's a definition based on a previous book by Mr. Thomas:

Basically, if there is a skill you wish all of your students to have, you build in these short mini-quizzes.  The teacher writes multiple short (2-4 question) quizzes, similar to what I would call a "Quick Check" in my classroom, with each quiz being the same skill / difficulty, but with different problems.  Students take the first quiz individually, then you grade it (or have them peer grade) as either a "100" or an "Incomplete".  Students review their errors and try again repeatedly until all students have earned "100".  The author has the students that earn a "100" become teacher assistants, helping the other students (which reminds me of Amy Gruen's Green Pen idea).

So after reading about this strategy, I immediately starting pondering its use in my classroom, especially with the logistics.  I love the idea, but it would need to be quick / fast and not use a ton of classtime overall.  The author had the students peer grade, but I'm rather gun-shy about that practice to be honest.  

One thing I loved immediately about this strategy is its potential for formative assessment use.  I really dislike giving a formal quiz that I haven't already informally assessed via a Quick Check or Exit Ticket and provided student feedback.  Granted, this means a lot of grading on my part but quarter sized sheets go SO much faster than a full blown assessment! :)  This strategy has the potential benefit of allowing me to assess basic skills in a very low-stakes kind of way.

What topics could this be used with?  Pretty much anything that is skill based.  Overall, I think the quizzes could be pretty easily made using a worksheet generator (like Kuta)

For my classes:
  • Forensic Science - Reading calipers
  • Pre-Calc - Unit circle values; Graphing w/ transformations; so many skills!
  • AP Stat - Reading computer output & interpreting for LSRL; Identification of sampling methods; Minimum sample size; Normal probabilities; Again - so many ideas!!!
  • Geometry - Compass / straightedge constructions; Circle theorems; Surface Area / Volume

How would you use this strategy?  What are potential pitfalls that I've missed?  How would you handle the logistics?

Friday, June 23, 2017

Summer Book Review: 101 Strategies

Anyone that knows me well knows that I often have my nose stuck in a book.  It is definitely one of my favorite past times and during the summer, I can frequently be found on the back patio with a book.  (Of course, that often leads to my mom teasing me about having a great tan on the front of my legs and the back of my legs being a bright white!)  Thanks to the #MTBoS and some great clearance sales at Half Price books last week, I have at least 25 edu-books in my to-be-read pile plus an uncountable number of fiction books waiting on my Kindle.

A few days ago, a tweet from Kathryn Freed caught my eye:

Kathryn's tweet started me thinking about some of the vocabulary books that I had in my "Summer Reads" pile.  This upcoming year, I will be teaching AP Statistics and Geometry, both which are heavy on the vocabulary.  In Geometry, I anticipate several ELL students as well, so I wanted to work on strategies to help all students be more successful academically.

One of the books in my pile happened to be "101 Strategies to Make Academic Vocabulary Stick", which I received as part of my ASCD membership:

Note:  If you love to read edu-literature, I highly recommend joining ASCD.  For $69 a year (or less if there happens to be a coupon), I am a "Select Online" member, which gives me access to the awesome Educational Leadership magazine plus 5 free e-books per year

Overall, this book had a very nice organizational structure.  Chapter 1 dealt with the various types of memory structures in our brains before diving into the actual strategies, which the author had split into 3 chapters.  Chapter 2 included strategies for introducing and encoding new vocabulary, then Chapter 3 worked with rehearsal strategies, and Chapter 4 dealt mainly with review and retrieval strategies.  Many of the strategies were interchangeable throughout the "make it stick" process.  Finally, Chapter 5 wrapped it up with how to assess vocabulary retention and how to plan for successful vocabulary instruction.

The book had some really good take-aways, which I'll get to in a minute, but my biggest disappointment was that "academic vocabulary" was rarely used to mean "content area vocabulary", rather it was more in line with what I would consider "SAT type words".  This is definitely a book I would recommend to my AVID colleagues as well as my ELA friends because I know that in our AVID classes, we really work hard on academic reading & writing and "owning" those words so that kids are comfortable using what the author calls "Tier 2" and "Tier 3" words while speaking and writing.  The strategies in this book would be extremely useful  for any teacher that wants to develop a vocabulary-rich classroom.

With that said, here are some of the strategies and ideas that I will definitely use:

Open with a Cloze - 
I've done this before, especially in AP Stat.  In this strategy, you create sentences that leave out a key word and try to have students complete each sentence.  I often use this during AP Review to remind them of all of the vocabulary we have learned throughout the year.  I typically provide a word bank to help students out.

This is a modification of the typical KWL chart, but with the extra "W" for Word at the beginning.  I've never been a fan of KWLs to be honest, mainly because of the "Want to know" heading, so I will probably modify this as a pre/post idea of WKL - Word, What we Know about the Word, What we Learned about the Word.  I think this could be a great strategy in Geometry because often we have words that kids have some familiarity with from previous courses.

Vocabnotation -
I'll admit, this is a strategy that makes me wish I was teaching AVID again!  Vocabnotation is basically Annotation for Vocabulary.  While reading a test (AVID Weekly, anyone?), have students circle the words they don't know, underline and draw a line from a word to a student created definition written in the margins, note (with a musical note) any important words, and draw arrows to words that connect in the text.

Dump & Clump - 
I'm pretty sure I've used this strategy at some point, although I don't recall using this name.  It may be related to one of the strategies from the AVID Critical Reading strand.  Give each small group a piece of chart paper, markers, and a topic.  Have the students brain dump words, ideas, etc onto the chart paper individually, then as a group, clump the words and ideas into subtopics.  Finally have the group write a summary sentence for each subtopic.  I think this could be a useful strategy when preparing for a test to activate their prior learning.

Out of Sorts - 
If you ever take a peek into my cabinets, there's no doubt that I'm a huge fan of card sorts.  However, the author talks about using card sorts with more of a word / definition / picture / example matching activity.  One thing I've never done though, is have the students glue or tape their card sort to their notebook, so I will probably try doing that in Geometry.  I think this could be easily adapted to a Desmos card sort as well.

Affix Organizer - 
This graphic organizer is somewhat similar to a Frayer model.  The author intended it as a way to think about prefix / suffix with words that have the same prefix / suffix and to compare those words. In my head, I started thinking about how I could use it more as a graphic organizer such as:

Enriching the Vocab Experience - 
This strategy was a fun little memory test.  Each student gets a blank piece of paper.  The teacher says the first vocabulary word and the students write down related words / ideas, but NOT the actual word.  This allows students to make deeper connections.  After 10 or so words, ask students to flip over their paper and see how many of the original words they can regenerate.  This reminded me of "Taboo" in reverse :)

Frayer Model for Self Reflection - 
This was probably one of my favorite take-away ideas from the entire book and it had nothing to do with the students!  When thinking of vocabulary instruction, most of us are familiar with the traditional Frayer model of Word, Definition, Characteristics, Examples, and Non-Examples.  In Chapter 5, the author challenged teachers to use this model as a structure for self-reflection.  As an example, the author had used the term "Vocabulary Instruction" in the middle spot where we typically would put the word.  Then for the four corners, she asked teachers to self reflect with "Current Habits - When do I teach this? How do I teach this? How often do I teach this?"; "Facts & Characteristics - What strategies do I use to teach this?"; "Examples - Best lessons"; and "Non-Examples - Worst lessons"

Overall impressions:
I'm glad I picked up this book.  It was a quick and easy read, but still provided a lot of food for thought.  I will definitely recommend it to my ELA / AVID colleagues and if I ever have the chance to teach AVID again, I know I will be re-visiting this book! :)

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! :)