Saturday, December 30, 2017

Feedback and Formative Assessment #MTBoS12Days

Yesterday's post about effective feedback definitely started my wheels going...

Feedback & Exit Tickets

After reading the Educational Leadership article yesterday regarding effective feedback, I started Googling various things to see what I could find that might help me solidify my thinking and I found a couple of articles that really made me pause...

One of the first links I found was this article on Deep vs Impression Feedback and a few things really hit me in the first few paragraphs... learners rarely take the time to read comments, teachers rarely give time to read the comments (or act on them), and the same comments tend to show up time after time, indicating that the feedback isn't doing a good job of moving learning forward. These are not earth-shattering and most teachers can attest to the truth in these statements, but for some reason it hit me pretty hard, especially my role in giving time to read and act on the feedback.  I obviously feel that the feedback is worthwhile or I wouldn't spend time writing on each student paper, but do I demonstrate to the students that I feel that feedback is worth *THEIR* time as well?

One of my goals with effective feedback needs to be developing *descriptive and actionable* feedback for students.  In order for increased learning to take place, time should be provided for students to take action.  In my classroom, my students do quick checks several times a week, which I have regarded as a positive thing because I can get a snapshot of how well the students understand the concept.  However, once I write feedback on their QC, I don't ask them to *do* anything with it.  What if I asked them to turn over the QC and do something actionable on the back?  Either reflect on their errors or rework the problem or make up a similar problem and solve it?  This has the potential to be really annoying on my part, handling the same papers over and over, but it's still a thought worth pondering.  How could I develop an actionable process that isn't time consuming?  I've worked really hard this year to find a good balance, so I don't want to disrupt that too much, and I know from experience that if something is too unwieldy, I won't follow through, so how can I manage this process well?

Further in the article are some specific strategies for Deep Feedback vs Impression Feedback.  I really liked the "Met / Not Yet / I noticed" strategy and the "Traffic Lights" strategy for feedback.  I've used Traffic Lights for students to self-assess, but I've never given feedback or assessed students using this strategy.  With Traffic Lights, I like that the suggestion was for students to work together to determine why something was rated as Red, Yellow, Green, which brings up the "detective work" that Wiliam mentioned in the EL article.  I need to dig into these strategies a bit more and see how it might work in my classroom.

Continuing on my Google search led me to Mathy McMatherson's blog post on Why I Switched to Exit Tickets.  This blog post is probably the thing that made me ponder and reflect the most over the past 24 hours.  I haven't been really pleased with how homework (or lack thereof) is working in Geometry.  I try to give a lot of practice throughout the class period, but one struggle there is that a lot of practice time in class is collaborative and not individual.  I need to figure out a better way to really dig into what my students know after a lesson individually.  I have gotten away from exit tickets this year and I'm not happy with that either, but it seems like I often run out of time to do all that I want to do. 

From Mathy's post:
I realized that these few homework problems were really the only thing I valued about the day-to-day implementation of homework in my classroom – so why wasn’t I doing it every day and why was I letting it be optional? This was one of my motivations for switching to exit tickets – take those first few problems from a homework assignment, make it an exit ticket, and make every student do it in class in front of me. Then, if students struggle with it, put problems like this on the bellwork tomorrow. Either way, I’m forcing every student to try these problems and learn how to do them.
I definitely agree with this!  Why not pick out a couple of problems for students to work RIGHT AWAY for quick feedback?  It would help inform my teaching on a regular basis, allow for student feedback, and utilize that time at the end of class in a better manner.  This is similar to how my quick checks currently work, but QCs are normally the following day and that's a whole other frustration because absent students don't have a clue what to do.   The key element to this plan is that it is actionable.  When I respond to the exit ticket, then students can immediately use that feedback on the next day's warmup, which also ties in to the 'Curve of Forgetting'.

I'm not quite where I want to be yet, but I am starting to formulate a plan for this upcoming semester :)

What are your thoughts?
 

Friday, December 29, 2017

Giving Students Effective Feedback - #MTBoS12Days

I honestly had no idea what to write today, but I'm so close to my 12 post goal that I couldn't just give up!  Originally I was going to write about my plan for teaching proofs, but that plan isn't fully fleshed out yet, so it will be later in the break, so I decided to look at ASCD Educational Leadership for some ideas and here I am... :)

Feedback - Friend or Foe?

If you know me at all, you know that Formative Assessment is a reoccurring theme in my reading and in my blog posts.  The educational guru for formative assessment is Dylan Wiliam and when I ran across his article on The Secret to Effective Feedback a while back, I filed it away in my "to be pondered" folder and then, as is often the case, other priorities took over and I am just now getting back to the article, 20 months later :)

In my classroom, I try to give quite a bit of feedback.  I really don't want the first time a student receives feedback from me to be on an assessment, nor do I want the assessment to be the first time I see the student's individual work.  As a result, I often use "quick checks" as a warmup or exit ticket with just a couple short problems on it that I can see how a student is progressing with the skill/concept.  However, this definitely takes time and ultimately the real question is this...

Source: The Secret to Effective Feedback by Dylan Wiliam

We've probably all read articles about the researcher who decided to see how students would react to various forms of feedback.  Some papers received a score or grade, some papers received written comments only, and some papers received both a score and comments.  Due to some of these articles, I've tried to move toward more comment based feedback, especially when grading AP Free Response problems or Quick Checks.  In general, these formative assessments are purely for students to know how they are doing and for me to know how they are doing.

BUT...

The key to the quote I pasted above is what the students are doing with that feedback.

Earlier this week, I posted a reflection on my yearly goals and how they were progressing.  I am using SBG for the 7th or 8th year, but as I continue down the SBG path, I am struggling more with the details.  The grade-grubbing that originally led me to SBG is back in full force and the remediation process, the student self-assessment and metacognitive successes I had in the early years seems to be waning.

So, how do I improve?

I want the feedback to be used by students.  I want it to be *useful* to students.  I want the feedback not only to improve the current student work by letting them see the concepts they still need to work on, but also to help them get to the point of realizing what study methods work for them and what methods don't.  I want to help them grow as learners, both today and in the future.  I spend a lot of time writing comments, giving feedback, and I really don't want that time to be wasted for me or for my students.

In the article, Wiliam talks about assigning tasks that illuminate student thinking.  I need to work on this.  One of the things I got away from this fall was exit tickets and it's a goal for me this spring to bring them back.  I struggle with exit tickets a lot because how do you move past the surface and really illuminate their thinking?  How do you get to the point of really having students articulate their thinking in a way that helps you process the deeper thoughts?  

One of my struggles with exit tickets is how they often feel less than useful.  You ask a question and students, in their rush to pack up their belongings, just write down things without a second thought.  How do you build that metacognitive process?  How do you help students understand that you really want them to dig deep and give a serious answer so that you can be a better teacher for them?

Source: The Secret to Effective Feedback by Dylan Wiliam




Thursday, December 28, 2017

Mid-Year Reflection on my Goals #MTBoS12Days

Back in August, I blogged about my Goals for 2017-18 as part of the MTBoS Sunday Funday challenge.  Now that the year is halfway over, it's time to check in on my progress!

Checking In on Goal Progress 2017-18

In my original post, I said I wanted to start 3 things..

  • Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces - This goal is well on its way!  For my birthday, hubby bought me white showerboard cut into 2 ft by 4 ft boards and my Father-in-Law sanded it down and put in handholds to hang them.  I have used whiteboards more in Geometry overall, but I love that my Geometry students will often ask if they can get a whiteboard to work on.  I haven't gotten quite to where I want with VNPS, but I'm closer than I was in August! :)
  • Asking Better Questions - This goal is pretty much where it was back in August.  I printed off the question stems, but I haven't done a good job of implementing these questions.  I need to go back and rethink how to integrate more intentional, richer questions into my lesson plans.  If you have any resources, I'd love to see them! :)  One of my summer list items is to go through the Exeter Math curriculum to find good Geometry problems to use with this goal.  
  • More MTBoS Involvement - I'm happy to say that I've done so much better with this goal over the past few months!  To put some numbers to it, let's look at my blogging record for the Fall Semester for the past few years.  In 2017, I have blogged 16 times from September - December.  For that same time period in 2016, there was 1 (yes, only 1) blog post and in 2015, there were 9 posts in that time period.  I would like to get back to #EduRead at some point, maybe there will be time this spring!


I also said I wanted to stop 2 things...

  • Rescuing my students - As happy as I am about the successes above, this goal hasn't really worked out very well.  I wanted to "be less helpful" but it's easier said than done.  I want to get to the productive struggle and it's still one of my goals, but I'm just not there yet.  I'm really hopeful for this goal this semester in Geometry as we delve into some deeper concepts.
  • Eating lunch in my room - This one has been a fail.  My original goal was to get out of my room and go eat lunch in our lounge with the other teachers, but that hasn't really worked out.  My lunch time and planning period are together, so I have tried to be more intentional about using that time effectively so that I can have a better balance in my life.  This is a trade-off I'm okay with :)


And I wanted to continue with these 4 things...

  • Effective Formative Assessment - This past summer, I read a lot on FA strategies and while I've used some of them, I need to go back and re-read my notes on how to use this data effectively.  I think this is a goal that others would say I use well but I personally don't think I do.  It's going to be one of those topics that is always just out of reach because the bar keeps moving slightly higher the closer I get to it.  (I hope that makes sense!).  
  • Personal Health - This is another win!  I met my #fitbos17 goal of 120 hours of exercise in October and am currently around 135 hours for 2017.  Since the end of May, I've lost approximately 35 pounds and I'm at a good place in terms of physical, emotional, and mental health.  I've done well at finding balance this semester and finding time to read for fun and "choosing joy" on a regular basis.
  • Instructional Strategies - I have enjoyed creating INB pages for Geometry and am ever grateful for the MTBoS in sharing ideas and Pinterest photos to spark my creativity!  I've continued with many Make It Stick strategies, like the spiraled Multiple Choice each Monday and kids have commented on how useful it was to always be reviewing older material.  I need to re-read Make It Stick this summer with an eye on how to implement it more in Geometry as well.  (Assuming I get to teach Geometry again!)  I have continued to use SBG, but I am at the place where I really need to refine it some more, specifically with remediation and reassessment.
  • High Five Fridays - I love, love, love HFF and yesterday I found a stamp at Target that says #HighFive!  I can't wait to use it :) :)  I love when former students come by my room just for a High Five!

Overall, there were some definite "wins" and some definite "not yets", but I'm fairly pleased with my progress!  How did you do with your goals this year?

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Struggle is Real #MTBoS12Days

Today is cold... the high today is forecast to be 30 dF and I'm sitting here thinking about school, trying to decide if I have the motivation to work on lesson plans for next week. 

Blogging & Imposter Syndrome

Earlier this break, I was in a conversation with Sarah (@mathequalslove) and Megan (@mgolding) about the blogging struggle:


Blogging does not come easily to me.  Some people can churn out content on a regular basis and it just seems effortless.  My husband is this way - he's blogged daily for years and can whip out a post in about 30 minutes without a struggle.  I, on the other hand, can take hours to compose a single blog post, then often times I erase it.  This summer, Carl Oliver (@carloliwitter) challenged the people at TMC17 to #pushsend, that our thoughts WERE worth sharing, to not let Imposter Syndrome win.

Yesterday, I shared Angela Watson's Truth for Teachers podcast and one of her recent episodes was on Imposter Syndrome for Teachers.  From the episode:


With blogging, it's easy to say that "oh, it doesn't matter - I blog for myself anyway", but is that really true?  I mean, yes, I do blog for myself in many ways... I use this as a place to create a permanent record of thoughts, especially in terms of what worked (or didn't), goals and accountability, or to remember an idea I had while reading that I don't want to be lost in the mounds of papers on my desk.  But in all honesty, I think most of us blog for other people... we like the validation that comes when people read our words, comment on our posts, or retweet the link.  The MTBoS is fabulous about sharing ideas and resources and being a sounding board for lesson plans.

I struggle with Imposter Syndrome outside of blogging as well.  I think Social Media can be a powerful tool overall, but it's also very easy to compare yourself to others with Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, etc at our fingertips.  Like other teachers, I drool over the beautiful classrooms, the awesome activities, and find myself lacking in so many ways.


In my classroom, I work hard to create an active learning environment.  I believe that the best classroom management plan is an engaging instructional plan.  I have shared many photos of my classroom on my Instagram #teach180 page but the comment above that says "I just love how active you keep your kiddos" really hit me hard.  The statement is semi-true.  I do try to keep my kids active.  I do try to get them up on the boards, moving around, doing math.  

BUT

If you were to look at my Instagram page, you would think we did nothing but activities.  However, for every picture on that page, there is time where we are just doing practice problems or taking notes or some other non-photo worthy moment.  And that's okay!  It's okay to have days where your kids are working on a worksheet.  It's okay to have days when your lesson plan is "unsexy"

I think the #Teach180 initiative is similar to the "One Good Thing" blog.  (Not every day is a good day, but there's one good thing in every day).  Every day, I try to find something that I can take a picture of and that forces me to be a bit more creative with my lesson plans than I would be otherwise.  For me, I've found that when I participate in #teach180 (or #Made4Math or the #MTBoS in general), I am less likely to fall into a teaching rut. 

Maybe you are like me, fighting the urge to erase your blog post, not wanting to share a photo because you are fighting the ugly beast of "who am I to think I'm worthy to share this", but...

(Image source: Pinterest)


Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Read3 (or More) #MTBoS12Days

Today marks one week of Winter Break and I'll be honest that all I've really done is veg on the couch and read :)  Reading is my happy place and as a kid, I always had a book at my side.  As an adult, I am never too far away from my iPad and its Kindle app.

Read3 (or More) - Reads that Make an Impact


Twitter Reads:
Most of my new Twitter Finds are due to Sarah (@mathequalslove) and her Monday Must-Reads.
  • Jae Ess at Jae Gets Real - I found Jae's twitter feed and blog after Sarah gave her a shout out for the Pythagorean Maze.  Once I started reading her blog, I was hooked!  Jae does a ton of sharing of ideas, printables, and one of the first things I found was a retweet that led me to
  • Christie Bradshaw at Radical4Math - When I first saw the retweet from Jae about Card Sorts, I immediately dug in.  In fact, I've had that tab open now for a week, waiting on me to get off the Chromebook and go upstairs to actually print / laminate some of them!  I love how Christie freely shares her dry erase templates and activities.   
  • Puzzlium - Again, Sarah has mentioned this company several times in her posts about her Puzzle Table, but on Twitter, they often tweet out puzzles that would be perfect for the classroom.  Since I posted the other day about wanting to try the Puzzle Table in my own room, I've started searching their twitter feed for ideas!
  • #12DaysTwitter - This hashtag was one of my most enjoyable reads throughout December.  The prompts were great reflection tools and I loved getting new suggestion for must-reads, goals, quotes, and more.

In my Professional To-Be-Read pile:
There are WAY more than 3 books in my TBR pile, but these are the 3 at the top of the list :)

Podcasts for those times I can't read:
When I'm driving or out for a walk, I often use that time for personal and professional reflection, but one of my favorite ways to use that time is for professional learning via podcasts.  Here are some of my favorites:
  • Angela Watson's Truth for Teachers - This weekly inspirational podcast is definitely my favorite.  Full of small nuggets of wisdom and encouragement for all teachers, this is a weekly pick-me-up that helps me remember my "why"
  • Mr Barton Maths Podcast - This podcast is more math-ed specific, but there are some gems in here.  I'll admit that I often have to listen to these episodes multiple times while driving because I zone out and miss some really good ideas!
  • Bedley Brothers - I randomly found this podcast one day through Google, but I've really enjoyed it.  The two brothers have a fun relationship that comes across in their interview and the educational ideas are adaptable k-12.
  • Global Math Department Podcast - I'm horrible about actually attending GMD presentations on Tuesday nights because I'm busy planning the next day or I get distracted and lose track of time.  Thankfully the recordings have now been turned into Podcasts, so I can listen on the go! :)
  • Cult of Pedagogy Podcast - This general education podcast has some great episodes, but since it's more general, not all of them are equally applicable for my classroom.  This is still one of my go-to's though when I'm looking for something to listen to!

My favorite places to find books:
  • DailyFreeBooks.com - This is a website that I hit daily.  I'm a fast reader and can easily read a novel (or three) in a day when I have time.  However, I learned early on that my salary could not keep up with my love of books, so I really enjoy reading indy authors when I can.
  • Amazon Kindle Store - Several times a week, I try to hit the "Top 100" lists on Amazon to see what deals I might find.  I've thought about trying out Kindle Unlimited, but haven't done so yet.
  • Half Price Books - HPB is my favorite used book store and while the closest one is about 2 hours away, we intentionally go to visit several times a year.  If we are anywhere in the vicinity of an HPB, we will definitely make that a must-stop!  My favorite has to be the "flagship" store near downtown Dallas and we have been known to spend a few days in the DFW area just going from store to store! :)  My favorite part is that HPB usually has a fabulous education section, which has filled my professional bookcase too!
  • Thrift Stores - From the time I was a little girl, I knew that thrift stores were magical places, filled with random goodies for great prices.  I have purchased more than my share of paperbacks for 50 cents at Goodwill, Salvation Army, and other thrift stores.  Prior to Kindle, this was my #1 place to buy books!


Sunday, December 24, 2017

Classroom Must Haves #MTBoS12Days

Since it's Christmas Eve, I suppose I should have named this post the "Classroom Teacher Gift Guide" :)  I've had some generous students over the years and have received my fair share of candles, candy, and Starbucks gift cards, but the kids that really know me well tend to get me school supplies :)

My Must Have Items for my Classroom

Must Have #1 - Personal Laminator
Confession Time - I actually have 3 laminators, but my Amazon Basics one is the one in my classroom and probably my favorite one.  It's compact and fits perfectly in a little cubbyhole for storage.  My other two laminators are larger (12" width), but this little one definitely gets the most use.

The Amazon Basics pouches are pretty good quality as well.  I've tried other, less expensive brands, but prefer the Amazon Basics.



Must Have #2 - Paper Trimmer
With INBs, it is important to have a way to easily cut paper.  A lot of people like the paper guillotine cutters but to be honest, those scare me to death!  Instead, I found a scrapbooking paper trimmer to be perfect for me.  I can easily cut several pieces of paper for INBs without being afraid to lose a finger, but more importantly, I can have my aide use it without worrying about he/she losing a finger!  Probably my favorite part of the paper trimmer though, is how easily I can cut laminated activities without having to use scissors or stressing about straight lines.  (Yeah, I'm one of those that would redo an activity if my student aide didn't cut it straight...)

You can even order replacement blades!



Must Have #3 - Good Pens for Grading
I don't know a teacher out there that doesn't love a good pen.  For me, I have 3 that I absolutely adore...

  • Flair Papermate Pens - These are amazing for grading because they come in bright, bold colors and don't bleed through the paper.  I tend to buy the big pack at Sams when they are on sale :)
  • Papermate InkJoy Gel Pens - These pens are a new find for me.  I like the thicker barrel because it's more comfortable to hold while grading, but the ink isn't quite as bold as the Flair Pen.  
  • Zebra Sarasa Gel Pen - These pens are my favorite daily writing pen.  They remind me a lot of the Pilot G2, but a smoother ink glide.  I've never really cared for G2s because they always end up either skipping or clumping on me and I've never had that happen with the Sarasa.


Must Have #4 - Dry Erase Sleeves
I'll admit, that I had these for years before I knew the magic of them!  I had picked up a class set at the Target Dollar Spot back when things really were $1. :)  They sat in my cabinet for a few years until I started reading blog posts about the awesomeness that is the dry erase sleeve.

Now, these things are used in my classroom on a daily basis and I'm hoping to buy some of the larger ones that fit an 11x17 page.  I use them for stations, warmups, graphing, etc.  Pretty much if they aren't putting it into their notebook, but I want to have them practice, we use these sleeves.  I don't know how I managed so many years with them in the cabinet! :)



Must Have #5 - Plastic Picture Frames
I might have about 30 of these frames - some vertical, some horizontal, in various sizes - but they are so useful!  I use these frames for Station activities, for Sub Instructions (I'll blog more about that sometime), for Lab Procedures, for Kahoot Activities, for just about anything that I need the students to reference while working.

The best part is that they are available at Dollar Tree, so whenever I see them, I definitely stock up! :)  



What are your classroom must-haves??

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Something to Try #MTBoS12Days

As a kid, I loved puzzles.  As an adult, I don't have as much time for these things, but I still love Sudoku and other logical games.  My Geometry students have really shown interest in puzzles that challenge their thinking, and I really want to capitalize on this to help their logical thinking.

Something You Want to Try in Your Classroom

Last summer, I read a post on Sara Vanderwref's blog entitled "You need a Play Table in Your Math Classroom".  I thought the idea was fascinating.  Then, Sarah Carter started posting about putting out a weekly puzzle on her play table.  And again, I was fascinated with the idea!

Over the past few weeks, I've been pondering how I could incorporate these into my classroom.  I have various puzzles that I've collected over the years plus all of the printable resources that Sarah C has provided and other ones I've found online (such as this one), but I'm really stuck on the logistics.

The biggest issue I'm running into is where to even put a play table.  Here's a picture of my classroom from last year from my desk area.  I have a couple of options, none of which are appealing to me...


Option 1:  On the right side of the picture, around where you can see the sun glare, is an alcove that houses a file cabinet and my student aide desk.  The file cabinet is the right size / height, but the alcove can only hold a couple of people, which really limits the idea of play.  I'm also semi-worried about pieces falling behind the file cabinet and being lost forever or being vacuumed up by the cleaning crew.  However, this option is the easiest to implement as it doesn't require any additional furniture acquisition. :)

Option 2:  On the wall behind me is a bank of windows with a countertop running the span of the classroom.  This allows for more people, but I use the countertop a LOT while prepping table folders each morning, etc.  I don't want to constantly move things and I'm afraid it would annoy me to have a mess on the countertop every day.

Option 3:  Along the front of the room is the Promethean board and two large whiteboards.  I could put a table or desk along the front but that does reduce the space available to move around as well as restricting access to the whiteboards which is counterproductive to my goal of VNPS.

Option 4:  Right outside my classroom door is an alcove from the hallway.  I could put a desk out there as the play table.  This has some benefit of getting students other than my own involved, but runs the risk of pieces going missing.  I've been thinking about putting something outside my classroom since I read Sara Vanderwref's post about her hallway experiment

Option 5:  Going vertical is a possibility since the whiteboards in my room are magnetic or I could put up something in the hallway alcove (large baking pan?).  This would work well for the printable puzzles, but I don't know how it would work if you needed to flip a piece over. Would you have to put a magnet on each side?  (Plus, putting magnets on the pieces increases their bulk so they are more difficult to store).  If I went vertical, I would probably put it in the hallway to reduce the distraction factor during class, however, it would be a better way to draw attention to the weekly puzzle. 

UGH - So many options... so many things to think about it!

If you have a play table, how do you manage it?  What are the logistics I'm missing?

Friday, December 22, 2017

#MyFavFriday - Moments from Fall 2017 #MTBoS12Days


Good morning and Happy Friday!  After yesterday's post, I decided to deviate a bit from the "Yule Blog" Challenge prompts and share some of my favorite moments from the fall semester.  If you would like to participate in the "Yule Blog" Challenge, just jump right in and share your post either in the comments or via the hashtag #MTBoS12days.


My Favorite Moments from Fall 2017

My Favorite Use of Technology
I'll be honest that I really didn't use technology as much as I could have or should have this year.  I did a few Kahoots and the like, but overall, I was too busy preparing for a new prep to really dig into technology much.  

But during one block day, I was prepared to teach a LOT of material for Geometry.  I usually try to limit that, but the semester was winding down and there were still quite a few topics left to teach, one of them being the Triangle Inequality Theorem.  I last taught Geometry 10 years ago and at that point, I often used toothpicks or other manipulatives, but this year I decided to look for a virtual option and of course, it was Desmos to the rescue!  The kids had a great time recording their data and discovering patterns.  



My Favorite New Formative Assessment Technique
I try to implement a lot of Formative Assessment Strategies in my classroom, but a new one to me this year was "Hold Ups".  I thought I had taken a photo of these, but apparently I didn't, so hopefully the explanation will work well.  A huge part of Geometry is vocabulary, so I wanted a way to check on how well students could identify various vocabulary terms.  For example, when we learned about angle relationships, I gave each group a set of laminated cards that had Supplementary, Complementary, Vertical, Linear Pair, Adjacent, None of these.  I would project a geometric diagram and ask them to identify the relationship between specific angles.  As a group, they had to discuss and hold up the appropriate cards.  I loved how easy it was for me to see how well they were grasping the differences in the terminology.  



My Favorite Warmup
Not to pick on Geometry again, but this year, I really wanted to work on thinking skills.  To be honest, I really wanted to work on numeracy, but I haven't had a chance to fully read about Number Talks, so instead, I decided to use the card game 24 for "Mental Math Monday".  However, instead of only trying to get to 24,the students are trying to get ALL of the numbers from 1-24.  What I didn't expect was how much they would really get into it - including my other classes!  I post student solutions on my board, including any that we couldn't figure out and throughout the week, students often come up with a solution for those missing values.  The engagement is one of the main reasons I want to try a puzzle table in my room if I can figure out the logistics!



I really regret not using #MyFavFriday this semester as a positive reflection tool.  Sometimes, I can be too hard on myself about how I failed to reach this kid or how that was a dud of a lesson, but there are positive things every year that we need to celebrate!  I am going to try to do a better job in the spring... :)  Someone hold me accountable please! :)




Thursday, December 21, 2017

Reflecting on Fall 2017 #MTBoS12Days

Wow!  I can't believe the Fall Semester has come and gone.  This is my 20th year of teaching and I swear that every year goes by just a little bit faster.

Over this Winter Break, I am participating in the Yule Blog #MTBoS12Days Challenge.  You can find the prompts here.

What worked (and what didn't) in 2017

What Worked....

  • Instagram for #teach180 - For several years, I've tried to keep up with a 180 blog or twitter post.  For several years, I've failed.  Until this year!  I decided last summer to try using Instagram for my 180 posts and while I've definitely forgotten to take a photo every single day, I've managed to post several times a week.  The IG platform allows me more of a photo diary with minimal text, which is ideal for my visual nature.
  • General classroom organization - I still use the table folders and table buckets and those have continued to work really well.  
  • Whiteboarding / VNPS - I haven't used this strategy as much as I had hoped, but I have used it more than in the past.  My kids, especially geometry, love to use the whiteboards and often will ask to go get one for their table even on a non-whiteboarding day.  
  • Keeping a better balance - For the first time in my teaching career, I have done a pretty decent job of creating a balance in my professional vs personal life.  Our school start time changed from 7:50 to 9:15, so I am still getting up and arriving at 7 am.  This allows me to get a ton of stuff done before kids arrive and while I'm fresh.  Unless I have a meeting, I try to leave by 4:15 so I can get home and go for a walk before sundown.  Because I do have a new prep (Geometry), I am still spending evenings working on the next day's lesson plans, but in general, I've done a pretty good job with keeping up with grading / planning, and even finding time each evening to read for fun! :)


What Didn't... (Or Still in Progress)

  • Co-teaching Adjustments - This past summer, my former forensics co-teacher decided to pursue other opportunities.  She and I taught together for several years, so it is taking time to figure out how to adjust the class and curriculum with a new co-teacher.  This is a "still in progress" item as the new co-teacher came in 2 days before kids arrived and hit the ground running.  As the experienced one, I took the lead and I'm still trying to figure out that role and how to better organize the class.  I'm not extremely happy with some of the decisions I made this past semester, so part of my Winter Break plans is to really spend some time reflecting on this class and changes to make for the Spring.
  • Using #MyFavFriday - Back in August, I posted that I wanted to use #MyFavFriday for Accountability.  Ummm, yeah, that didn't happen.  It was a great thought and I do love the idea, but so far, it's not been a priority.  I have blogged more this semester than I have in years past, so that's a win, right?  Fridays are hard for me - I come home pretty darn tired from the week and it's all I can do to stay awake past 6pm!  Maybe the Spring semester will be better for that... :)

Overall:
There were a lot more positives in my life this semester than negatives and for that I am eternally grateful.  Even the negatives weren't really bad, just different.  I am extremely happy to be back teaching Geometry and I've really had a blast with those kiddos.  :)  I know I have things to work on, specifically richer tasks and better questions, but I'm getting there!  I already have items on my summer to-do list and have already asked my principal to keep me in Geometry next year as well, so I can really build on what I've done this year.  

What worked for you this year?


Wednesday, December 20, 2017

2017 "Yule Blog" Challenge #MTBoS12Days

Winter Break has finally arrived!  In years past, @pamjwilson and I have hosted a "Yule Blog" challenge to help us with blogging over the break.  I've done a better job at blogging this year, thanks to Julie and the #MTBoSSundayFunday challenge, but I definitely need to do some reflective blogging over the next few weeks as I prepare for the new semester!

Your challenge... if you choose to accept it... is to blog 12 times over your Winter Break.  The prompts are listed below.  Don't feel like you have to blog in this order or even use the prompts at all!  They are only there as a suggestion when you don't know what else to blog about! :)

Please share your post with us in the comments or via Twitter using the hashtag #MTBoS12Days

"Yule Blog" Challenge Prompts:

  • Share a "#teach180" picture / post
  • What are your strategies to reach "that kid"
  • Share a lesson from the Fall semester
  • Time capsule - Revisit an old blog post and update it
  • What are you looking forward to in 2018?
  • What worked (and what didn't) in 2017?
  • Read3 - Three blogs (or posts or tweets or podcasts or books) that made an impact on you
  • Share your holiday favorites (treats, gifts, memories, traditions etc)
  • Share a "One Good Thing" from 2017
  • What are your favorite First Day Back Activities for January?
  • Share something new you tried (or still want to try) this year in your classroom.
  • What are your classroom must-haves?

Share using #MTBoS12Days

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!

Warm-ups:
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 :)

Closures:
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.

Files:
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! :)