Friday, August 31, 2018

#MyFavFriday - Ready for a Long Weekend!



This month, I'm participating in a blog challenge called Blaugust.  To see the list of participating blogs, click on the logo above. I would encourage to you please cheer on our participants with either a tweet or a comment on their blog during this month. It can be hard to blog on a daily (or even regular) schedule! :)  If you would like to join the blogging challenge, you can still sign-up anytime!


Today wraps up the 2018 edition of MTBoS Blaugust!  I ended up blogging 18 times this month, which is more than the previous 5 months combined! :)  Thank you to everyone that participated in Blaugust, either as a blogger, a reader, a commenter, or supporter!

Not only is it the last day of August, it is also Friday, so it's time for another round of Friday Favorites!  Today was kind of a chill day as we had our district kick-off this morning followed by PD this afternoon.  I had a bit of time to work in my room on a few things between PD sessions, but I still brought home more than I really wanted to this weekend, so I foresee a lot of couch time as I grade papers and plan lessons! :)  So far this year is going *so* well!  YAY!



My Favorite Warmup
In Geometry last week, we were working on Points, Lines, and Planes.  This is traditionally a subject that can be a real struggle for students to see as the diagrams are almost always 3D pictures drawn in 2D space.  So last weekend as I was browsing the internet for some short activities to toss in the mix, I ran across this activity with some assembly required.  I decided it would be perfect for a warmup this week, added a few points to the plane and modified a few of the questions and off we went!  The discussions were fabulous, the student reflections showed some holes and gaps that I was able to fill in, and the ability to pick up the plane and manipulate it was probably one of the BEST parts about it!  Definitely an activity to do again in the future...



My Favorite Surprise of the Week

Tuesdays are my rough days.  We have block scheduling on Tuesday and Wednesday and for me, Tuesday is the non-plan day, which means my only break is lunchtime and actually eating lunch is fairly rare on Tuesdays as I shift gears from Geo to Stat.  So imagine my surprise when I check my mailbox Tuesday morning and find this lovely little card!  Inside was a super-sweet and encouraging note from a MTBoS friend.  I'm horrible about writing notes, but I really love the idea and think I might just steal it :)  It really helped me get through the day knowing that my MTBoS family always has my back! :)




My Favorite Lesson of the Week
Yesterday was our last classroom day of the week and I had two options - work a bit more on the Segment Addition Postulate or move on to the next section in Geometry.  I also knew that my students had a 4 day weekend and it would be a while before I saw them again, so I opted for the Segment Addition and I'm so glad I did!  This also gave me the opportunity to introduce our Red/Yellow/Green cups and all in all, it was such a fabulous day of engagement and discussion.  One of my Geo kiddos made a comment at the end of class about how fast the day had gone and that we should do this with every lesson because that was "way more fun than a worksheet!"  Another student at that table said "Yeah! And I think I learned more algebra in the past 30 minutes than I ever knew!"  Once again, I am reminded that the best teaching days are the days when I just sit back and let the kids do their thing. :)



My Favorite Use of Desmos

In Stat, we just wrapped up sampling and are moving on to Experimental Design.  Yesterday in class, we took a quiz and after their quiz, I tried something new.  Our lesson for next Tuesday involves the vocabulary of experiments, so instead of taking class time for taking notes, I decided to do it as a Desmos activity for after their quiz.  In general, I had notes screens with the vocabulary, then a few MC questions sprinkled in for them to "test themselves".  I had never done this type of activity before, but I really liked it!




Happy Friday, y'all! :)

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Evolutions in Teaching



This month, I'm participating in a blog challenge called Blaugust.  To see the list of participating blogs, click on the logo above. I would encourage to you please cheer on our participants with either a tweet or a comment on their blog during this month. It can be hard to blog on a daily (or even regular) schedule! :)  If you would like to join the blogging challenge, you can still sign-up anytime!


August is almost over and yet again, I have not made my Blaugust goal - BUT - ultimately, the point of Blaugust is to get me back into the habit of sharing about my classroom and I *have* achieved that, so go me!  Thank you ALL for reading, responding, sharing, and commenting on my posts and the other Blaugust participants.  It's such a great resource of ideas and inspirations for back to school and I appreciate you!.

I've now been back to school for 2.5 weeks and I'm making good progress on my goals!  I have so many blog posts floating in my head, but by the time I get home and get things ready for the next day, I'm utterly exhausted!

But tonight I want to reflect on one of my goals and how things have evolved in my classroom over the past few years. :)


Multiple Choice Mondays - Version 1
Each Monday, my AP students do a MC Monday consisting of 5 questions over material we've learned (or previous content, like ACT style questions).

However, I didn't want them just to do the MC questions and be done - I wanted my students to reflect on their learning.  This is a common theme in my classroom and I often ask students to write / reflect / summarize to help them solidify the material.  So on Mondays they do their MC and put it back into their table folder.  The next day, the reflection part on the back is their warmup.  For the first 1 (or maybe 2... I don't remember), this was the back of the MC Monday.  The Analysis at the top had a place for the correct answers, whether they got it right or wrong, the type of error, and whether they needed to study that concept.  The bottom was a reflection grid (inspired by the assessment grid that @pamjwilson has blogged about before), with various prompts.  Overall, I liked this, but kids would often write the same thing week to week and weren't really using the grid the way I had envisioned it, so back to the drawing board...


Multiple Choice Mondays - Version 2
So the following year (Year 3 I think?), I changed it...  I had discussed some of my frustrations with the grid with my neighbor teacher and she was having some of the same issues.  Both of us really liked having a place to ask questions and have a dialogue with our students, but decided that maybe we needed to be a bit more specific with the other prompts.

As a result, Version 2 was born, with the prompts asking about which questions they felt most confident about (and why), and least confident about (and why).  We tried to impress on the students that most / least confident is NOT about getting the answer right, it's about how you felt regarding the material.  However, that was an uphill battle as even at the end of the year, I was still having to make the speech about "Remember - confidence is NOT about the answer - it's about the question!"  I did have some great comments and questions from my students on the "I have the following questions..." prompt, but I was disappointed in the most / least confident prompts, so back to the drawing board - AGAIN...


Multiple Choice Mondays - Version 3
I'm really hoping that the third time really is a charm...

During the teacher work-days, I *still* hadn't figured out how I wanted to change the MC Monday Reflections, but I knew that it needed to happen.  I popped by neighbor teacher's room to see if she had any brainstorms and she was as stuck as I am.  Both of us wanted to keep an area for students to ask questions, but that was about all we knew.  I mentioned to neighbor teacher that I really wanted to incorporate more vocab review into the class with "Terms Tuesday / Words Wednesday" and wondered about using the MC Monday to help drive that.  Thankfully, she loved the idea and our latest version was born.  The Analysis box got simplified a bit with the last columns being combined into a spot for students to write themselves notes, then the general reflection area that combines multiple prompts into one, and finally the Terms Tuesday / Words Wednesday box.

So this week was our first MC Monday and I *LOVED* it!  It was so much fun to do the vocab and I think they really enjoyed practicing their retrieval skills to see if they could recall the words we had learned so far.  I'm super excited to see how this plays out over the year, but we might have a winner - plus, it helps me meet my vocabulary goal!  YAY!


If you have suggestions on how to improve this further, please let me know :)

Friday, August 24, 2018

#MyFavFriday - First Full Week Done!


This month, I'm participating in a blog challenge called Blaugust.  To see the list of participating blogs, click on the logo above. I would encourage to you please cheer on our participants with either a tweet or a comment on their blog during this month. It can be hard to blog on a daily (or even regular) schedule! :)  If you would like to join the blogging challenge, you can still sign-up anytime!


What a week!!!  This was our first full week with students and I definitely had a few days where I needed multiple cups of coffee to get my through, but I'm super excited about this year! 

While I definitely love the new start (and the new school supplies)  that comes with teaching, I definitely forget how tiring it is to teach procedures.  How to start class, how to end class, how to end the day, how to ask to use the restroom, how to clean up your area, how to check your homework, how to, how to, how to!  But I also know that patiently teaching those procedures will pay off in the end :)

But now, on to the favorites of the week!

My Favorite Start to School
I posted last weekend a bit about the start of school and my usage of the YouCubed Week of Inspirational Math Videos.  On Day 1 (last Friday), we did the first video, a reflection, and then started working on the 4 4s problem.  This week, on Monday, I shared a summary of their 4 4s and challenged them to keep going.  I also showed them the area where I keep track of their thinking each week.  The 4 4s is the first time in the year that I've done this challenge that the week ended with some still being blank.  However, I was pleased to see kiddos working on it in their spare time!  Also on Monday, we watched video #3 and then on Tuesday/Wednesday (our block day), we watched video #5.  I had *so many* students reflect on Monday about how powerful it was to be told that it's okay not to be fast in math!  I shared some of my own struggles with being slow with math, specifically arithmetic and the anxiety of timed tests.  Many of them nodded their heads as they remembered their own history with math anxiety... 


My Favorite Number Talk
One of my goals this year is to work on number sense.  In the YouCubed materials, one of the lesson plans refers to a Number Talk.  Earlier in the summer, there had been talk of a book chat over Making Number Talks Matter, so with the support of a group of MTBoS teachers, I jumped in.  In the picture, you can see our day to day progression from our first Number Talk on Monday through the last one on Thursday.  Today, I had hoped to get one in with numbers but I needed to teach homework procedures, so the Number Talk got postponed.  I love that by Thursday, they were VERY open to different ways of seeing things!  One of the questions that a student last on their Video #1 reflection last week was about why they didn't always understand when the teacher explained something.  I was able to use the Number Talks this week to share that each of us see things differently, so sometimes communication breaks down because people can only see things one way.  Overall, Number Talks have already enriched my classroom and I can't wait to keep going!


My Favorite Forensics Lab
I haven't posted much about Forensics so far this year, mainly because I keep forgetting to take pictures! :)  My co-teacher and I have really worked hard to develop some changes that will hopefully make this year run smoothly.  This week, the students worked on their first "lab" where we teach them how to organize their data and how we want them to write their lab conclusions.  Today we worked on making big poster-sized versions of their conclusions to walk them step by step through what we want, then on Monday, we'll do a Gallery Walk of their Claims - Evidence - Reasoning process.  I'm really excited to see their finished products next week because so far, they are *rocking* it!  Next week, we'll start working on observation skills and how to process a crime scene.  :)



My Favorite Pretties
I know this is super silly, but for some reason, last week I got the hankering to make new labels for my binders. (You know - because I didn't have anything better to do - like, oh say, lesson plans!)  Then, as we were setting up our INBs this week, I was really bummed by how blah the default composition notebook label was and decided my notebooks needed pretty labels too.  :) 

Maybe I'm finally at the school supply overload and have regressed back to finding happiness in the little things.  I got a new lanyard with snap charms to switch out and that has made me crazy happy too. :)  Hopefully I'm not the only one that goes through these phases!


And now, the weekend is here.  I have a very lengthy to-do list that will be ambitious to get it all done, but for now I'm feeling really optimistic! 

Happy Friday, all! :)

Sunday, August 19, 2018

First Days of WIM



This month, I'm participating in a blog challenge called Blaugust.  To see the list of participating blogs, click on the logo above. I would encourage to you please cheer on our participants with either a tweet or a comment on their blog during this month. It can be hard to blog on a daily (or even regular) schedule! :)  If you would like to join the blogging challenge, you can still sign-up anytime!


In Geometry this year, I am trying something new to me.  In the past, I've done something math-y on Day 1, then set up Notebooks and start teaching on Day 2.

But this year, inspired by my state's "Unit 0", which ties into Jo Boaler's Week of Inspirational Math, I am using some of the YouCubed Videos in my first few days.  (Note:  There are 3 "weeks" - I am using Week 1 for Grades 5-9+ because the Week 2 and 3 videos are just a bit too cheesy for me)

For Day 1 of Geometry, we pretty much did the WIM Day 1 lesson plan as written, other than starting out with Name Tents as a getting to know you activity.  We watched the first video and students filled in the paper at the left with 5 things they learned from the video and a question they had.  Then, we followed up with what good group work looks like and the 4 4s problem.

I did not know what to expect and how the kids would respond to a 4 minute research based video to start the year.  But to be honest, the thing that blew me away and what truly sold me on doing this in the future were the take-aways and questions the kids asked.  Here are some of my favorites:

Things they learned:

  • The more you work your brain the more the brain grows.
  • Stop practicing = your brain shrinks
  • If you are not so good at Math but your friends are, you can catch them up by practicing more than they do.
  • Nobody is born good at math, your attitude towards it is based on experience.
  • If you review, stuff in your brain grows and stays
  • The more you think and the harder you think, the bigger and faster your brain grows
  • Synapses fire with every conversation, lesson, and experience
  • Being a taxi driver in London makes you smarter for the time you're a taxi driver
  • Your brain can rewire and grow from working on something for 6 minutes every day for a couple of weeks.


Questions they had:

  • How strong can the rewire be, since we forget most things during the summer?
  • Does age make a difference?
  • How much can your brain grow?
  • If our brain can grown, then does our head also grow as our brain grows?
  • It is easy to be a math person if you put your mind set to it, however why is it hard to [put] your mind to it?
  • I wonder what would happen to my brain if I started on math earlier in life.  Would I be more advanced?
  • How many methods will we be given to accomplish this?  Will we work, therefore, in smaller increments , since the mind can, normally, really only access only so much at once?
  • How do you make an experience stick for a long period of time?
  • Why are certain people more determined in certain tasks?
  • How do I become a math person?  
  • Can your knowledge be limited depending on your brain size?
  • How much does your brain change over the course of your life?
  • If our brain grows and shrinks, how does your skill compensate for its flexibility?
  • Why do some people brain work faster than others when it comes to math?
  • Why do the taxi drivers brains shrink, shouldn't they have retained the knowledge?

I love that some of these questions will be things we are able to tackle tomorrow! :)

Friday, August 17, 2018

#MyFavFriday - New Year!



This month, I'm participating in a blog challenge called Blaugust.  To see the list of participating blogs, click on the logo above. I would encourage to you please cheer on our participants with either a tweet or a comment on their blog during this month. It can be hard to blog on a daily (or even regular) schedule! :)  If you would like to join the blogging challenge, you can still sign-up anytime!


Whew... first week is done!!  Today was our first day with students and to say that I'm *exhausted* is an understatement.  But it was a GREAT day and I'm super excited about this year.

I'm also excited for the return of #MyFavFriday, which is my attempt to reflect on the week in a positive manner that helps me really remember my "why" - as the One Good Thing blog points not, not every day is a good day, but there's something good in every day.  MyFavFriday is similar, but it's a weekly reflection about my favorite moments of the week.  If you would like to join in, feel free - it's probably my favorite blog post of the week as it helps me go into the weekend with a positive attitude. :)

So on to this week's favorites!

My Favorite #Made4Math:

These DIY pencil pouches (made from a zipper bag and duct tape) wasn't my actual #Made4Math post this week, but they are my favorite new thing I made for my classroom! :)

It took me about an hour to make 8 of them, but I just love how they turned out.  Next week will be our first table bucket time, so we'll see how they hold up to teenagers.  But, it can't be any worse than the snack size baggies I had before, right? :)



My Favorite Surprise of the Week:
Yesterday was a challenging day.  Around 2:30pm, a rainstorm came in and by 4pm, it was a massive storm that caused the power to go out in the entire town I teach in.  Thankfully our building has emergency lights and my laptop battery was charged, so I was able to stay and work and wait out the storm before venturing out for my 25 mile commute and to run some errands.

When I finally got home, hubby told me that I had received some mail and I found this lovely card and ladybug bookmarks from a dear friend.  It was so thoughtful of her to send me a quick note of encouragement to start the year and it really meant a lot to me.  Maybe someday I'll be with it enough to be more like her :)   #adultinggoals


My Favorite First Day Activity:
For many years, I have done the Kristen Gilbert activity that @approx_normal (Hedge) and I came up with years ago based on the book Numbers behind Numb3rs.  Every year, I contemplate doing a different activity and every year, I end up falling back on Gilbert because it's one of those activities that the students remember all year long and refer back to in the end of year survey. 

Some groups really got into it this year with some great noticings and wonderings and even some good questions on their exit tickets! :) 


My Favorite Exit Ticket Comment:

However, my absolute favorite exit ticket comment of the day came from this one...

Their exit ticket today was to answer 2 of 3 prompts (Something you learned, something you are looking forward to, A question you have) and I truly loved this student's answer to prompt #2

This kiddo might just be a kindred spirit - pretty notebooks do make a lot of things better, right? :)  Add in some cool fonts and some Flair pens and I'm in! :)



What were your favorite moments of the week? :)

Thursday, August 16, 2018

A Personal Realization



This month, I'm participating in a blog challenge called Blaugust.  To see the list of participating blogs, click on the logo above. I would encourage to you please cheer on our participants with either a tweet or a comment on their blog during this month. It can be hard to blog on a daily (or even regular) schedule! :)  If you would like to join the blogging challenge, you can still sign-up anytime!


Have you ever had one of those days where you literally have an a-ha moment?  Mine came this morning on my way to work and of course ended up in an embarrassing situation later on, but that's a different story :)

We reported back to school on Monday and thankfully we've had minimal meetings and a lot of time to work in our rooms over the past 4 days.  This work time has been a blessing since one of our campus buildings was under construction this summer and the math department adopted new textbooks, which means a LOT of unboxing and numbering of materials.  In general, I've stayed to myself in my room and tried to tackle my never-ending to-do list and I think I'm *almost* ready to see kids tomorrow! :)  I was in the middle of finalizing tomorrow's lesson plans when the power went out due to a massive storm that was causing all sorts of havoc.  Thankfully my laptop was fully charged so I was still able to work for a while, even without internet or printing ability.

But anyway, back to the point of the post...

Throughout the past few days, I've had several people make comments about "Are you okay?" or "You don't seem like yourself" and to be honest, I know I was being a little grumpy but I didn't know what was going on other than just the normal back to school tiredness.

And then I had my a-ha moment this morning.

I am an introvert.  Like a really huge introvert.  My students would NEVER guess this because when they are around, I do a great job of faking it.  As a result, I usually spend my summer in "hermit mode" and the only people I see is my husband and my elderly neighbor (my daily walking buddy), plus the people at church for one hour on Sundays.  So for the past 8 weeks, I've seen very few people, then I come back to work and I'm surrounded by 200+ colleagues.  Now don't get me wrong, I *LOVE* my colleagues but I was on pure overload and as a result came across as a real grinch.

I don't know why it took me so long to figure out that it was too "people-y" out there and that manifested as grumpiness.  :)  Major apologies to anyone that I might have snipped at or been ugly to - it was not my intention at all!

But tomorrow is Friday, the kids come tomorrow, my elderly neighbor made me potato soup to celebrate back to school, and I figured out tomorrow's lesson plans before my laptop battery died, so life is looking up! :)


Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Accomplishments (and Lack Thereof)



This month, I'm participating in a blog challenge called Blaugust.  To see the list of participating blogs, click on the logo above. I would encourage to you please cheer on our participants with either a tweet or a comment on their blog during this month. It can be hard to blog on a daily (or even regular) schedule! :)  If you would like to join the blogging challenge, you can still sign-up anytime!


I'm exhausted.  Today was Day 3 of prep-time and I have so much left to do!

But instead of working on my lessons and the really important to-do stuff, I worked on other, more enjoyable projects...

Teacher Treat Bags:
Yesterday, I had a major craving for chocolate around 2pm, so I decided to stop on the way home and pick up some to share with my colleagues.  I happened to remember that I had some small zipper bags at home, then whipped up a quick Welcome Back slip and off to the mailboxes I went.  :)  It took me way longer to assemble than I expected but it made me happy, so it was worth it!

Duct Tape Pencil Pouches:
Inside my table buckets, my kiddos have pencil bags with markers, highlighters, and dry erase markers.  But I really hated having the dry erase markers mixed in because kids will use them on paper (GRR).  So last week I saw this idea on Pinterest to use zipper quart bags, cut off the bottom 2.5" and use duct tape to strengthen the bags.  I tried it today and I'm pretty impressed with how they turned out!  One caution though - don't use the Dollar Tree duct tape, it's much stickier than the others and didn't tear well.  I had good luck with the real brand and the Art brand from Dollar General.

Bulletin Board:
I decided to keep my Mental Math Monday bulletin board, but change the name to "Weekly Challenge" since the 24 game isn't on my plan for every Monday this year.


What's left to be done tomorrow:
1)  LESSON PLANS!!!
2)  Student Info Sheet - In the past, I have used a variation of Dan Meyer's info sheet, but I want something more simple this year I think
3)  Number and stamp textbooks - Hopefully I have some helpers coming tomorrow!
4)  Set up my Canvas courses
5)  Final clean-up, take out recycling, load back up my car with stuff (shredder, etc)

Monday, August 13, 2018

#Made4Math - Cover Sheet



This month, I'm participating in a blog challenge called Blaugust.  To see the list of participating blogs, click on the logo above. I would encourage to you please cheer on our participants with either a tweet or a comment on their blog during this month. It can be hard to blog on a daily (or even regular) schedule! :)  If you would like to join the blogging challenge, you can still sign-up anytime!


Back to School!!!  Where, oh where, did summer go???

Anyway, I don't know about you, but when I get an idea, I often fixate on it until I get it done.  So this weekend, I'm working on my to-do list, getting my syllabus done, working on pages for my notebook, etc, when I open up last year's Geometry notebook and here's the inside...

Last year, I saw a pin on Pinterest with these little Protractor Pockets.  I have always given my students their very own protractor printed on transparency film but a lot of students would lose them, etc.  So when I saw the pocket idea, I thought it was *brilliant*

However, the inside cover isn't quite as pretty as the pocket, but I dealt with it.  Until today, when I tweeted out a question about reference materials that people had posted in their room.  My original thought was something like a Perfect Squares Poster or something and I had this 8am brainstorm that I would re-decorate my room - which is such an awesome idea with just a few days to go, right?  /sarcasm

But, then I had an even BIGGER brainstorm... What if I made a reference sheet for the inside of the cover with important stuff that they should know already from previous classes and/or things that they would need to reference over and over and over again??

And this was born:

As with all of my brainstorms, I don't know how well it will work, but if you want to try it out with me, here's the pdf :)

Happy Monday, y'all! :)

Sunday, August 12, 2018

My Goals for the 2018-1019 School Year



This month, I'm participating in a blog challenge called Blaugust.  To see the list of participating blogs, click on the logo above. I would encourage to you please cheer on our participants with either a tweet or a comment on their blog during this month. It can be hard to blog on a daily (or even regular) schedule! :)  If you would like to join the blogging challenge, you can still sign-up anytime!


I know that theoretically, time moves at a steady pace.  I also know that in real life, it doesn't.  Each year goes by faster and faster and the time from August 1 until the first bell rings to start the school year has to be the fastest time period of the year.

After a busy weekend filled with last minute purchases and document creations, I have just a few hours of summer vacation left.  I still have SO MUCH left to do but I needed to pause and think about this year's goals.

(Note:  The 5 goals listed are my *big* goals of the year, and does not include the normal on-going goals like better connections with my students, etc)

Goal #1 - Thinking
Earlier this summer, one of my EduReads was Daniel Willingham's "Why Don't Students Like School?"  Two take-aways from this book was that "Memory is the residue of thought" and "Whatever kids think about is what they will remember".

My plan:  I have already started gathering rich problems for Geometry and plan to use them often.  I want to get past the surface structures and really make sure my kids are thinking.  I have my "Making Thinking Visible" resources handy as well.  A huge part of this is going to be mindset as well, so I plan to use Jo Boaler's Week of Inspirational Math to help me out!



Goal #2 - Vocabulary
Both Geometry and Statistics are very vocabulary heavy courses and as a result, some students do not do as well as they could because of the language barrier of unfamiliar terms holds them back.

My plan:  I am working on a warmup structure for both courses to do short vocabulary based exercises and quizzes.  In addition, I've already shared the Vocabulary Knowledge Rating Charts for both courses and the Glossary for Geometry, so this plan is already underway. :)



Goal #3 - Number Sense
This goal is primarily for my Geometry students, but like many secondary math teachers, I have long lamented the lack of numeracy skills by my students.  However, I'm done griping about it and ready to DO something about it!  My main book chat this summer was on Tracy Zagar's "Becoming the Math Teacher You Wish You'd Had" and she talked about the importance of Estimation and Sense-Making - traits that are sorely lacking in my classroom!

My plan:  I will implement Number Talks, mostly through Math Monday warmups after we get through the introduction phase.  I started reading Making Number Talks Matter and I'm about halfway through.  As my own arithmetic skills aren't the best, I'm really excited to work with my students on this one!  In addition, we will "Estimate, then Calculate" on many things because it drives me batty when a kiddo tells me an angle is obtuse, then tells me its measure is 34 degrees... ummm....



Goal #4 - Parent Communication
This is a weakness of mine.  I really, really, REALLY hate talking on the phone.  What should be a 2-3 minute conversation almost always ends up as 30+ minutes and then I have lost valuable planning time.  However, I recognize the importance of parent communication, so I am vowing to be better at it!

My plan:  Our attendance system has an "email class" option, so I want to use this feature at least once a month to email out a newsletter to my parents to let them know who I am and what we are learning in class.  I haven't really fleshed this one out completely and my newsletters may be totally lame at first, but I am way better with email than I am with the phone! :)



Goal #5 - Feedback and Intervention
This goal really needs its own blog post and maybe it will eventually! :)  One of my frustrations last year was that I had a few kids slip through the cracks, which led me to re-read Robyn Jackson's "How to Support Struggling Students" this summer.  In addition, Tracy Zager's book talked about that feedback is useless if kiddos don't have time to process and DO something with that feedback.

My plan:  When I give students feedback, I need to be intentional about giving them time to process and apply that feedback.  I want to have an idea of where they are PRIOR to an assessment by utilizing some of Jackson's strategies throughout instruction, but also having "red flags" in place to trigger interventions as needed to veer us back onto the right course.


What are your goals for the new year?

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Working on Organization..



This month, I'm participating in a blog challenge called Blaugust.  To see the list of participating blogs, click on the logo above. I would encourage to you please cheer on our participants with either a tweet or a comment on their blog during this month. It can be hard to blog on a daily (or even regular) schedule! :)  If you would like to join the blogging challenge, you can still sign-up anytime!


School starts MONDAY!  EEKKK... And I have SO much left to do, my office is a wreck, papers are scattered everywhere and I'm freaking out because in general, I'm a fairly organized person!

But this summer, I have been a bit off my game.  I have at least 5 notebooks, all with random starts and stops and to-do lists.

And with school starting on Monday - the madness had to stop!!  I need all of my stuff in a limited number of places so that I can find what I need to find. :)

To add to the craziness, we adopted new textbooks this year.  I'm not much of a textbook teacher, but there's a certain amount that I am expected to use them and to pace with the other teachers.  So far, I have been using a spiral bound notebook to record my planning thoughts, but I wanted something more tailored to my needs, so I created a Course Planning Guide...

Note... both Geometry and AP Stat have the same format :)

As I'm planning each section, I needed a place to record the Learning Targets, the Vocabulary, and my Notes.  The back page is also just a lined page for additional notes.  The notes section will kind of act as my "paper brain" to jot down ideas, resources, fav tweet references, website references, to-do lists, reminders, reflections for next year, etc.

If you would like the file - click here

How do you go about planning when given a new course or new book?

Thursday, August 9, 2018

To Call or Not To Call?



This month, I'm participating in a blog challenge called Blaugust.  To see the list of participating blogs, click on the logo above. I would encourage to you please cheer on our participants with either a tweet or a comment on their blog during this month. It can be hard to blog on a daily (or even regular) schedule! :)  If you would like to join the blogging challenge, you can still sign-up anytime!


One of the Blaugust prompts is:
  • Something I struggle with as a teacher/in the classroom. 

And to be honest, there are a lot of things that I struggle with in the classroom - things that my students and my admin would never notice, but things that bother me personally because they don't flow quite as well as I would like them to.  One of these topics came up today as I reading "Making Number Talks Matter" because it presents a conflicting set of messages to me and I don't know which way to go!

So, my teacher dilemma of the day is:  Cold Call or Not?

I don't know when I first learned of Cold Calling, but I know most recently, it's a technique that I heard about via podcasts and a book by Doug Lemov (Teach Like a Champion) and also used by many other edu-gurus.  Some teachers suggest using popsicle sticks or index cards to decide who to call on, others just call on students haphazardly.  When I hear the reasons for Cold Calling, I agree and I want to use it in my classroom, but then I read something like this quote from Number Talks:
"...researchers in psychology have found that stress interferes with performance in mathematics problem-solving tasks by reducing the working memory capacity (Beilock 2011). Knowing that they must be ready to speak at any time, whether they want to or not, can interfere with students' learning."
And all of a sudden, I'm at an impasse.

Why is this an issue for me right now?

Well, because last year, one of my Geometry classes was silent.  Like painfully, awkwardly silent.  And they were okay with that.  And I wasn't.  In their groups, they would talk quietly.  Before and after class, they would be social with me.  But once that bell rang and class began, crickets.  One student even wrote on an exit ticket that "I wish my teacher knew that I often know the answer but don't want to speak out loud because our class is so quiet."  :( :( :(

I tried Cold-Calling, but it felt more like a "gotcha" than a way to build accountability and engagement, so instead I let it fall to the wayside and did nothing.  I was at a total loss.  So, I was determined to do some research this summer on various techniques to address this lack of participation and I thought I had a plan.  But then Making Number Talks Matter had to come in with that quoted research....

And I get it.  In fact, that's part of the reason I had never used Cold Calling up to this point in my career.  I had not read that specific research, but as a very introverted person, I know it to be true for me personally.  When I know I might have to share out, especially to a large group, the anxiety builds and builds until I'm literally frozen.  When I'm at a workshop, I am willing to share out within my group, but if you ask me to share out to the entire group, that's a big nope!  (Note: this isn't limited to a workshop... I'm the same way when I sing at church - I shake for probably 10 minutes after I finish singing and cannot focus on the sermon... but I can speak to hundreds of teenagers in a large group setting with no issues.)

So anyway... how do I balance this in my classroom?  How do I create the safe space necessarily to implement something like Cold Calling while keeping down the anxiety levels in my students?

From the end of that paragraph in Number Talks:  "Our job is to make Number Talks [our classrooms?] a safe place for students to try out new ideas and to share their thinking when they are ready to do so."

How do you get them ready?  How do you build that safe space?

I would greatly appreciate any ideas :)


Wednesday, August 8, 2018

My 5 Favorite Formative Assessment Strategies



This month, I'm participating in a blog challenge called Blaugust.  To see the list of participating blogs, click on the logo above. I would encourage to you please cheer on our participants with either a tweet or a comment on their blog during this month. It can be hard to blog on a daily (or even regular) schedule! :)  If you would like to join the blogging challenge, you can still sign-up anytime!


Toward the end of the 2017-18 school year, I received an email from one of our secondary curriculum coordinators asking if I would be willing to lead a breakout session in August for our new teachers.  When I received that email in May, I readily agreed because I'm often in my room working in August anyway.  Of course, as the date drew closer, I had a few moments of regret of giving up morning patio time, but it worked out in the end! :)

As I was finalizing my presentation, I sent out the following tweet:

And I got a TON of great responses!  (Thank you!)

I had a few people ask if I would share my presentation, so you will find it below.  Best part is that I could feel the power of the MTBoS as I presented (plus I was able to put in a plug for Twitter as a PLN as I shared @kklaster's tweet and bonus pictures from Julie and Pam's classrooms! :) 


Monday, August 6, 2018

How Things Change...



This month, I'm participating in a blog challenge called Blaugust.  To see the list of participating blogs, click on the logo above. I would encourage to you please cheer on our participants with either a tweet or a comment on their blog during this month. It can be hard to blog on a daily (or even regular) schedule! :)  If you would like to join the blogging challenge, you can still sign-up anytime!


I've been working the past few days on a PD session that I am giving tomorrow to our district's new teachers on Formative Assessment and I finally have it done and handouts printed... which of course means that I will find 20 new ideas between now and midnight that I should have used instead :)

While I was working this morning, I was also involved in a Twitter discussion with @katherine_ruse about various activities for our AP Stat classes and it made me think about how things in my classroom have changed over the years.

One example that immediately came to mind is an activity I blogged about in 2014 - using Quiz Quiz Trade for Sampling Methods:
The original file was meant to be printed 2-sided and used as a flashcard style activity where students would be roaming about the classroom and "quizzing" each other.

But once I used it, I wasn't crazy about it, so Iteration #2 was a Card Sort...
The card sort used the same cards as QQT, but did not have the answers on the back.  Groups were given a mat of sampling methods and they were to read each card and sort the problem based on the method.  Overall, I liked this better and I have used this the past couple of years, but I did have two frustrations... 1) It was hard for me to gauge student understanding in the moment and 2) every student reads and processes at slightly different speeds, so some kids were zooming along and leaving others in the dust...

So this year, to try to fix the issues with the Card Sort, I'm going to try Hold Ups...
Hold Ups is an idea that I learned about from Total Participation Techniques by Himmele and Himmele.  I have used them in Geometry quite a bit, but for Iteration #3 of the Sampling Methods activity, each group will get a set of 7 cards with the 7 sampling methods listed.  As a class, I will present a problem and give think time.  Then as a group, they will discuss which method they think it is and on my cue, they will hold up the card they think it might be - AND - be prepared to defend their answer.

I'm hopeful that Iteration #3 will be *the one* but if not, that's okay, there's always more learning and growing to be done! :)




Sunday, August 5, 2018

Classroom Procedures and Other Stuff



This month, I'm participating in a blog challenge called Blaugust.  To see the list of participating blogs, click on the logo above. I would encourage to you please cheer on our participants with either a tweet or a comment on their blog during this month. It can be hard to blog on a daily (or even regular) schedule! :)  If you would like to join the blogging challenge, you can still sign-up anytime!


While browsing Twitter this morning, I ran across this tweet:


Dear Erikka,

I don't know you, but instead of replying to you in 20 tweets or more, I figured it would be easier to write a blog post! :) 

Procedures:
If you have read any of the first year teacher books such as Wong, Fred Jones, etc, you know that procedures top the list of things to do.  I am definitely one that likes order vs chaos, so I try to train my students early in how I like my classroom. :)  I am not one that likes surprises in general, so there is an element of predictability in how I organize my classroom.  One of my favorites is my warm-up procedure.  I really like there to be a consistency in warmups, so we have things like Multiple Choice Monday, Throwback Thursday, FRAPPY Friday, etc.  This year, I'll be adding on some procedures to warm-up time that relate to homework, but those plans aren't finalized yet :)  Pretty much everything in my classroom has a procedure related to it in some way. 

Grades:
Our school expects that teachers of the same course will use the same grading breakdown, so each course I teach is slightly different, but in general, it comes out to assessments (quizzes / tests) are 75%, assignments (classwork, etc) is 10%, and semester exam is 15%.  In general, I don't have a lot of grades in the assignments category, typically just review assignments like Throwback Thursday or notebook checks.  I don't grade everything, but I am expected to have at least one grade per week, so I kind of balance my paperwork. With that said, I do believe a lot more in feedback than I do in grading, so it's pretty common for me to write feedback on warm-ups or exit tickets as time allows.

Rules:
I don't really have a ton of rules in my classroom, other than Respect - for yourself, for your classmates, for the teacher, for our school.  Whenever we introduce a new routine, we do talk about how to behave, etc, but most everything comes down to respect.

Paperwork:
So.Many.Papers! :)  I use INBs, so I use a LOT of paper with foldables, etc.  Years ago, I would pass out papers a table at a time during the class period and it took so much time!  Then, I read an idea from Sam Shah about Table Folders...


Other than the first week of school, my students stay in table groups for at least 2-3 weeks before switching.  The table folders allow me to organize handouts for the day, collect papers, and pass back papers easily.  In the example above, this was during the first few weeks of school when they were still using their name tents to help me learn names.  On the left are the notes for the day as well as an exit ticket / quick check from the day before.  On the right is a problem set.  This does take a bit of time to get used to, but there are now 4 different teachers in my hallway using this method and they all love it.  My students love it too because everything is in their folder.  When a student is absent, I just paperclip their papers together and leave it in the folder, so I rarely have to answer "What did we do yesterday??" :)

One added benefit to the folders is the grading.  There is just something daunting about a stack of 30+ papers but a few papers at a time in a folder seems to go so much quicker!  There are some things I grade or comment on immediately and put back into the folders, such as Multiple Choice Mondays or Quick Checks and a stack of 8 folders is a lot less intimidating to me and it helps me see the progress a lot more than with a stack of papers.  Of course, quizzes and tests aren't in the folders, but most daily work is handled that way. :)  If it's something I can't get to right away, I just pull the papers and paperclip them in folder order so that I can put them back quickly. :)

One other note with the folders - I color code my classes, so 1st hour is Red all the way down to 6th hour is Purple (following ROY G BiV of course!).  I buy the paper pocket folders each year when they are on the 10 cent sale and at the end of the year, I recycle them because they are pretty beat up from daily use.  I've thought about going to the poly folders so I can reuse them, but I haven't tried it yet because the poly folders seem more flimsy overall and I have a tendency to toss the folders on the tables as I quickly go across the room to the doorway for passing periods. :)


Whew - that got a bit longer than I expected! :)   Sorry about that! :)


Saturday, August 4, 2018

Organizing Rich Tasks



This month, I'm participating in a blog challenge called Blaugust.  To see the list of participating blogs, click on the logo above. I would encourage to you please cheer on our participants with either a tweet or a comment on their blog during this month. It can be hard to blog on a daily (or even regular) schedule! :)  If you would like to join the blogging challenge, you can still sign-up anytime!


Confession time...

For years, I have had a goal of integrating rich tasks into my classroom and this year is no exception.

But... (here's the confession)... I didn't.  Or at least I didn't do it well.  There are a lot of excuses as to why, but that's not what this post is about. :)

For the first time in at least 5 years, I have the same preps as I did last year (YAY!), so I am determined that this is the year that I am going to meet my "Rich Tasks" goal.

But it's hard.  It is difficult to find good problems, to find time to sit down and sort through problems, to play with the 5 practices on how to integrate those problems.  So I had to find a way to get through some of those excuses.  I needed a way to organize the problems I did find so that when it came time to USE the problems, I could do so without additional stress.

Here's my plan:

I created a powerpoint for my Geometry book and started by making a screen for each chapter with a list of the individual lessons within each chapter.  Then, as I had time, I have populated it with problems that I've found on Open Middle, Exeter Math, Park School Math, NCTM Calendar, etc.  (I should note that I've put the source credit / link / page / number in the slide notes so that I will have access to the info but I can easily copy/paste the slides over to my working lesson PPT.)

One of the struggles I've had is what constitutes a rich task?  Mainly I've been looking for a couple of criteria:

  • Accessibility - We hear about this a lot with "low floor" tasks and "multiple entry points", but I am looking for problems that all students should be able to start somewhere
  • Multiple Methods - Learning is messy and part of what I love about math is that different strategies can all work well.  I want something that can create some rich dialogue on "how did you think through this problem?"
  • Interesting - Now granted, I chose problems that were interesting to me.. questions that made me think, ponder, wonder, and puzzle.  And just because I found it rich doesn't mean that others would and that's okay.  
One thing I've learned about myself over the years is that if I want something to change (and be a LASTING change), I need to figure out a way to make it sustainable when the craziness of the year happens and to make it user-friendly for me so that I have fewer excuses to ignore it.

Would love to hear how you organize tasks and/or your favorite places to find tasks! :)

Friday, August 3, 2018

#GradeSmarter - Unit Plans



This month, I'm participating in a blog challenge called Blaugust.  To see the list of participating blogs, click on the logo above. I would encourage to you please cheer on our participants with either a tweet or a comment on their blog during this month. It can be hard to blog on a daily (or even regular) schedule! :)  If you would like to join the blogging challenge, you can still sign-up anytime!


Happy Friday and welcome to Day 3 of Blaugust!

I've already written a couple of posts based on this book, specifically geared toward homework, but Ch 3 was another one that hit me pretty hard.

In the introductory paragraph of Ch 3 comes this gem:
"Maybe it's just human nature - we crave some element of predictability and find comfort in knowing a little about the future."

As I pondered this quote, I realized how true it is.  I *hate* surprises and I like having a plan in place, so why shouldn't kids be the same?  I have kids that are very busy - jobs, athletics, multiple AP classes, etc, so why shouldn't I do all that I can do to help them know where we are going so they can maximize their schedule?

Years ago, I provided my students a monthly calendar that listed everything - lessons, homework, assessments, etc.  Over the years, I got away from that and started posting the weekly calendar in the classroom as well as on Canvas, our Learning Management System, but in general, kids still seemed shocked when assessment time came around... "Wait - what??? We have a Quiz today??" 

So this chapter on Unit Plans seemed like perfect timing.  We are switching to new books and as a result, I have spent part of my summer looking at the various structures I had in place and how to make them better and one that I definitely wanted to work on was the Chapter Info Sheet.

Here's the old info sheet:


The info sheet was the chapter divider for each chapter and it listed the learning targets, the vocabulary, and was supposed to act as a reading guide for the chapter.  Except that my students really didn't read the book that much and I can't really blame them - even though our textbook was extremely readable, there wasn't much of a need to read given our in-class activities and the INB.  As a result, this info sheet ended up as something we put in every chapter, but it wasn't really used to help move learning forward.

And then I read "Grading Smarter"...

I already knew I wanted to change the Info Sheet, but now I wanted it to be useful, I wanted it to have a roadmap of where we were going.  So, here's the result:

The new info sheet template:


This new info sheet will have the daily calendar on the front, which is somewhat tentative, but I try to stick pretty close to my pacing guide.  Assessment dates will be provided as will daily assignments. That way, if a student is absent, they know where to find out what we did and hopefully if they are going to be absent on an assessment, can make plans to take care of that early!  On the inside will be the learning targets for each section and a vocabulary rating chart.  One thing I think I will like is that this info sheet will literally be a guide to us throughout the chapter.  As we finish a section, they will flip here to do their self-assessment of the learning targets, a quick reflection question (like maybe 3 new things you learned, etc), and a vocab rating.  At the end of the chapter, we will do the same thing with the Chapter Summary on the front (like a 3-2-1 or some other summarization strategy).

I'm really excited that I finally have this template in place because it's been bugging me for weeks that I wanted something else but just didn't know what to do!

So what do you think?  Poke holes in my plan... Can you break it and help me make it better?


Thursday, August 2, 2018

#BecomingMath - Thoughts on Collaboration



This month, I'm participating in a blog challenge called Blaugust.  To see the list of participating blogs, click on the logo above. I would encourage to you please cheer on our participants with either a tweet or a comment on their blog during this month. It can be hard to blog on a daily (or even regular) schedule! :)  If you would like to join the blogging challenge, you can still sign-up anytime!


Tonight is our final book chat on Tracy Zager's Becoming the Math Teacher You Wish You'd Had.

When I first picked up this book, I'll admit that I was a bit overwhelmed by its size.  My typical edu-reads are not 350+ pages long, so its taken me a bit longer than normal to read this one.  In general, the book is focused toward elementary teachers, but there are a lot of take-aways for secondary teachers as well.  I've had a couple of chapters really blow me away and a few others that I skimmed more than read because it just wasn't as engaging to me.  But, overall, this book will be on my recommendation list and will be one that I revisit over the years to try another strategy in my quest to be a better teacher.

We intentionally set the reading schedule so that we would finish the book around the time that most people are returning to school and I'm so glad we did because in the last chapters, I found some really great takeaways that have caused me to do quite a bit of pondering.

Chapter 12 is titled "Mathematicians Work Together and Alone".  This was an important chapter for me because my classroom is set up in tables but I don't always leverage it well.  The physical layout is due to a couple of reasons - I believe in the power of collaboration and tables allows for easier movement around the classroom, especially when its packed with 30+ adult bodies and backpacks.

However, there are some limitations to this layout and one that has frustrated me over the years - students start to rely too much on the power of the group and end up with an inaccurate reading of how well they have personally grasped the content.

My biggest take-aways from the chapter are:

  • "Teach students how, why, and whether to interact."
    Wow... So simple, yet so difficult.  Because I teach high school, I often assume that students have some knowledge of how to work with their peers, but if that were true, my frustrations would be taken care of, right?  I really like the addition of "whether" here, because there's a time and a place for groups vs independent work.  In my classroom, I need to work on better defining my expectations for individual work and to help my students develop a better sense of when collaboration is valuable versus over-reliance on others.
  • "Students need to learn how to ask for what they need from one another and to be what they need for each other."
    I've never really thought about this, but it makes so much sense.  As an adult, I am comfortable saying to my spouse or to a coworker, "Hey, can I talk this through with you to get some feedback?"  Or even online, we do this all the time via our Twitter PLN, but I need to explicitly teach my students how to monitor and do "self-care" for themselves academically.  Some suggestions given in the book are to teach your students that it's okay to say things like "Hang on a minute - I need to wrap my head around this on my own first." or "I'm stuck... are you at a place where we can discuss this problem?"  I really love this, but do need to work on how to develop this culture in my classroom.
  • "Students should spend most of their math time gathered around rich problems, flowing naturally among thoughtful dialogue, periods of quiet thinking, and bursts of active chatter as they make sense of mathematics."
    If someone were to ask me to describe my ideal dream classroom environment, I could not have phrased it any better than Zager did in the quote above.  However, while it may be my ideal, it's not where my classroom actually is and I'm not quite sure how to get it there - YET.  I have some ideas to implement this year to move me closer to that ideal, which I'll be blogging about this month.  I have some of the elements in place - whiteboarding, groups, etc, but I need to work on implementing rich problems and developing guidelines for productive discussions (thankfully, I have a plan for both, just need to implement!)
  • "New ideas only influence students' work if students resume working after being exposed to the new idea.  Otherwise, those fleeting thoughts won't penetrate."
    Honestly, this is probably one of the most profound statements I've read in a very long time.  It applies to everything - discussions, feedback, practice - everything!  I even notice it in my own professional life - I often read something or engage in a twitter conversation about a great idea, but if I don't stop to process it and intentionally *implement* the idea, then no matter how great of an idea, it will be lost in the netherworld forever.  I need to be very intentional about this - I have to give students time to ACT on feedback, to use and internalize and apply what they have learned.