Sunday, August 18, 2019

#MTBoSBlaugust - My Classroom 2019-20

This month, I am participating in a blogging challenge called #MTBoSBlaugust.  To read posts from other participants, click on the logo above.

School starts this week and I *think* my classroom is mostly ready! :)  I still have some work to do on lesson plans, but that's what tomorrow is for, right??? :)

Here's a sneak peek at my classroom:

The Doorway area...

Moving clockwise from the door...
  • You can see the Puzzle Place again :)
  • On the cabinet doors / wall, I absolutely love, love, love the Women in STEM posters I printed from online.
  • On the podium, you'll see the "How to be a Math Person" poster from Scaffolded Math and a Ladybug welcome sign from my mom. :)  (I'm not sure the Ladybug will stay there though... we'll see!)
  • And of course stacks and stacks of textbooks!

Continuing clockwise...
  • You can see the right edge of the Promethean board, but what I didn't get a photo of was the Levels of Questions posters underneath. :(
  • My desk area... it's the messiest part of my room, but I promise it's organized chaos!  I've sectioned off part of the whiteboard to use as a bulletin board.
  • It's hard to see, but I use the window sills as additional shelving.  On the window sill at the right, there are various books, including Patterns of the Universe and a curve-ahedra from @gelada :)

The back corner...
  • You can see the books on the windowsill a bit better here. :)
  • In the corner, you can see the student supply area, although those table buckets and group whiteboards are typically on the student tables.
  • On the shelves below, you can see the file crates where I pass back papers and some various storage areas.  
  • On the bulletin board, you can see the Mental Math Challenge, which is one of my favorite boards ever!  Using 4 numbers, they try to find all of the values from 1 to 24. :)

The view from my desk of the back wall...

Most of what you see here has already been discussed, other than the big set of double doors.

On those doors is the peel and stick whiteboard roll that I got several years ago from Hobby Lobby.  I did not peel / stick it though - I left the back on it and used sticky tack to put them up.  The left panel on each door is for the weekly agenda.  The right panel on each door is for annoucements.

Through those doors is my partner teacher for Forensic Science.  We team-teach that class and have 47 students enrolled this year.  During class, those doors are usually open and kids are moving back and forth betwee the two classrooms.  

Thanks for visiting my classroom!  Hope you have a fabulous day and a great start to the new year! :)

Friday, August 16, 2019

#MTBoSBlaugust - It's Friday!

This month, I am participating in a blogging challenge called #MTBoSBlaugust.  To read posts from other participants, click on the logo above.

It's Friday and the first (partial) week of school is done!!! :)  We reported Wednesday and it's been a super busy week of meetings, visiting with colleagues, and cleaning / organizing my classroom.

For the past few years, I've done a "My Favorite Friday" post as a way to reflect on the week and to focus on the positive reasons that create our "why".  Last year, I fell off the blogging wagon around mid-October and as a result, there was much of the year that I didn't spend time in reflection and celebrating victories.  I definitely want to bring back #MyFavFriday this year though!

So here we go...

My Favorite Classroom Decoration
To be honest, it's *really* difficult for me to choose a favorite part of my classroom.  From the Puzzle Table to the walls, to my desk area, I'm constantly reminded of my #MTBoS family.  But if I had to choose a favorite new addition, it woud have to be this corner :)

Three things I love in this corner...
1)  The Women in STEM posters are just absolutely gorgeous!
2)  The Puzzle Place got a make-over with new wall puzzles to encourage more problem solving
3)  The "How to be a Math Person" poster finally got printed and put on my podium.

My Favorite Gifts
I received two lovely gifts this week that really shows how well the givers know me! :)

This afternoon, a colleague down the hall brought me this amazing mug and said she saw it and thought of me.  If you don't know me very well, I can easily get stressed and I do love my cats.  In fact, one of my cats came from this colleague and that very cat woke me up this morning at 3:30am and wouldn't let me go back to sleep! :)

This morning, I had a parent stop by with a gift from her son who is now in college.  I was so extremely touched that he took the time to write me a note and send a gift during the back to school craziness when he is getting ready to start classes himself.

My Favorite Hack of a  Hack
My last blog post was about a Rocketbook Hack that I figured out and how I plan to use it in my classroom.

But wait - there's more! :)

That night, I was laying in bed, almost asleep, when I had a "moment".  I literally sat up in bed to share my moment with hubby (who was NOT as impressed as he should have been).

I realized that I could use my Rocketbook frame and assign one of the icons at the bottom to go to a Google folder for Student Work.  Then, as students are working, I could put the frame on their whiteboard, on their notebook, on their notes, whatever and easily send it to my computer / projector and share with the class!  I can't wait to try it with students!!!

Oh - just to note, the laminated page worked fine at home, but had a glare issue at school.  I ended up printing the RB page on white cardstock, cutting out the inside and putting the frame into a non-glare sheet protector - problem solved!!!

And a statue...
The statue at the left is Hector.  I have the pleasure of hosting Hector in my room for the next month as the teacher equivalent of the Spirit Stick. :)  I was awarded Hector on Wednesday as a sign of a "True Trojan" by a dear friend and colleague.

While I don't get to keep Hector, I did want to be able to remember him, so he's now a #MyFavFriday :)

Now it's time for the weekend and some rest before the kids come next week!  Happy Friday y'all!!!

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

#MTBoSBlaugust - Rocketbook Hack

This month, I am participating in a blogging challenge called #MTBoSBlaugust.  To read posts from other participants, click on the logo above.

I LOVE a-ha moments!!! :)

This post might not make a ton of sense, but I wanted to share it with everyone since it's back to school time and this might be a hack that helps you out!

If you've not heard of Rocketbooks, it's a text to digital notebook where you can write on the notebook, color in a little circle at the bottom to choose a destination, snap a photo with the RB App and your notebook page gets sent to the folder automatically!

Hubby had actually purchased a RB notebook several years ago from the Kickstarter campaign, but I hadn't used it and honestly didn't see a ton of use for it until I read Julie's blog post about Rocketbook hacks.

Then my mind was racing! :)

This year, I had already planned to upload solutions to the daily practice problems but to be honest, taking photos (or scans), uploading them, etc was really more work than I wanted to deal with.

So here's my hack... :)

I took a printable Rocketbook page, cut out the inside part and laminated the frame.  I put it on top of a green piece of paper so you could see the frame since my table is white :)

Since it's laminated, I can use a whiteboard marker to color in the correct circle based on which course I'm working with.  That circle tells the app which Google Folder to save the scan to, then automatically uploads whatever is inside the black frame to that folder.  I just have to color the circle and scan using the app - it's that simple!

Now why in the word would I go to all this trouble??

Here's why...

And this is the BRILLANT part!!!

I just put my little laminated frame right ON TOP OF my INB and it will scan it!

OMG - is that not the coolest thing ever?????


Now I'm on a hunt to find out all of the RB hacks I can figure out!  What ideas do you have for this hack? :)

Monday, August 12, 2019

#Made4Math - Last Monday of Summer!

This month, I am participating in a blogging challenge called #MTBoSBlaugust.  To read posts from other participants, click on the logo above.

It's Monday again!!

Today is my last Monday of Summer 2019.  We officially report back on Wednesday and kids come next week.  As a result, I've been back and forth on trying to get things done versus trying to shut down and enjoy the last few days of break.  I am teaching the same preps this year, so I've not been extremely motivated on the lesson plan front, but I guess I probably should get on that soon! :)

But first, let's take a look at the pretties for this week! :)

Made4Math #1 - Sum It Up Puzzle

I've been trying to find some new puzzles for my puzzle table this summer.  While digging around in my stack of books, I found this series called Solve It that I had picked up years ago at Mardel.

While flipping through the book, I ran across this number puzzle that reminded me a lot of an Open Middle problem :)  Since I already have sets of 1 to 9 tiles, it was pretty simple just to make a page for the puzzle frame and a new puzzle is done! :)

If you want to download the file, click here

Made4Math #2 - Notes from the Teacher

Last spring, I ran across this tweet from Emily DeLuca about writing 4 notes per day to her students.  I loved the idea, but just didn't follow through with it.

So I'm going to *try* to do better this year!  I made a couple of pages of small notes on PPT - the first page just says "A Note from Mrs. ____", while the second page can be seen at the left.  I printed them on colored paper, cut them out, and now I have some notes to slip to students daily!

I would love some ideas for growth mindset / positive affirmations that wouldn't sound weird coming from your 40-something year old math teacher... any ideas? :)

If you want this file, click here.  You will need the Sunberry font

Made4Math #3 - Teaching Binder and Meeting Binder

I've already posted about my binders this week, but here they are all finished!

On the left is the meetings binder all bound with the small discs and a nifty little pocket that I made from a letter size page of cardstock.  Just fold it in half, cut at a diagonal, hole punch, and tape the bottom!

On the right is my teaching binder - isn't that cover just lovely?? :)  I added a nameplate and a couple of dividers and it's ready for the new year!

I know many of you are heading back to school this week, so best wishes on a new year!  :)

Sunday, August 11, 2019

#MTBoSBlaugust - Teaching Binder

This month, I am participating in a blogging challenge called #MTBoSBlaugust.  To read posts from other participants, click on the logo above.

It's time to go back to school, which meant it was time to get my act together and get my teaching binder finished up for the 2019-2020 school year!  For many years, I have designed and printed my own personal planner.  (You can see last year's here).  I know it would be much easier and probably cheaper to buy a pre-made planner, but I am picky. :)

This year's planner has 3 sections - a Monthly Calendar section, a Lesson Plans section, and a Gradebook section.  As always, I bound it with the wonderful Arc System :)

The Monthly calendar got a bit of a facelift with the left side staying the same, but changing the right side to include a few things like "Start / Stop / Continue", a small look at the next month, and some notes and to-dos:

In the Lesson Plans section, there are two layouts - a long range quarterly look to help with flow and planning and a weekly layout with a more detailed view:

The long-range outlook has a 2-page spread for each semester.  I've included holidays and important dates to help with planning as well.

The weekly spread got a huge update this year.  I decided to put the lesson plans on a single page so I didn't have to have my binder open to the whole 2-page spread.  I also decided to only use this for school, so I took out the weekend areas.  On the left, I put in more of a weekly reflection place so that I could keep more of a teaching journal with some reflection questions inspired from Fairy Dust Teaching.  I also trimmed down my habit tracker and added in some other checklists (To Do, To Buy, Strategies Used).

Finally, it was ready to print!  I took it to Staples as they have a bit heavier pound paper than I have at home and had them print it grayscale.  While at Staples, I browsed through their Studio C 2 pocket folders as they are my favorite DIY Arc Binder covers!  Cut them in half, punch some holes and you have a sturdy cover with pockets!  The photo at the right shows the pattern I picked out for this year:  Doesn't that just bring you happiness and joy?? :)

As always, I've uploaded a generic version in PPT for you if you want a copy of the planner for yourself! :)

Friday, August 9, 2019

#MTBoSBlaugust - Meetings Binder

This month, I am participating in a blogging challenge called #MTBoSBlaugust.  To read posts from other participants, click on the logo above.

Summer is rapidly coming to a close.  This week, our new teachers have been in meettings, schedules have been picked up, and yesterday morning, I was on a panel discussion for our new teachers regarding classroom culture and back to school.  As a result, I ended up working in my classroom for the rest of the day, trying to clean and organize for back to school.

When I was cleaning, I found a stack of small notebooks that I have collected over the years that I had grabbed on my way to a meeting to take notes.  I decided I needed something a bit more organized. :)

I opened up my trusty PPT and found my current favorite font (Sunberry - download it here) and started to work on creating a template for all the various meetings I attend over the year.

Since I had a tendency to grab small notebooks for meetings, I thought I might give half sheets a try.  Then I started thinking about binding and vaugely recalled that last year I had purchased a couple of "junior sized" Arc notebook covers from Staples on clearance for $1 each.  If you've never used Arc (or a disc-bound system), they are amazing!  You have the flexibility of a 3-ring binder for adding and removing pages, but the usability of a spiral notebook for turning the notebook back on itself.  I highly recommend it! :)

By the time it was all said and done, I had 7 types of meetings that I reguarly attend :)  On my morning walk, I figured out how to make somd dividers and it was time to turn this mess into a notebook..

You can see my sample divider on the upper left.  After I verified it would work, I printed them onto blue cardstock instead :)  I thought about laminating them, but for now, cardstock will do.  Some cutting and hole-punching took place and then I was ready to "bind" it with the discs.  However, the only Arc discs I had at home were 1" and they are honestly too big, so when I get to the store later, I'll pick up some 1/2" discs.  :)

At the right, you can see the mostly completed notebook.  It's hole-punched and ready for those 1/2" discs. :)  On the picture, I moved the cover to the left so you could see the tabbed dividers, but when it's all done, you won't be able to see those :)

Here are the files if you want them:

Meeting Notes - will need the Sunberry font
(Print 2 sided / flip on short edge)

Tabbed Dividers - will need the KG Second Chances font

Hope this helps someone else! :)

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

#MTBoSBlaugust - Do No Harm

This month, I am participating in a blogging challenge called #MTBoSBlaugust.  To read posts from other participants, click on the logo above.

Last week, my school hosted a math conference.  Over the course of the day, I had many people comment about how nice it was to have math specific PD and the need for it.  It took me back to earlier this summer when I finally had time to dig into one of the books high on my "to-be-read" list - Necessary Conditions by Geoff Krall.

You can preview (or purchase) the book on the Stenhouse website by clicking here

In Chapter 1 of Necessary Conditions, Geoff tells the story of Damien, a high school senior with big plans.  From the story, you get the sense Damien is a great kid with a passion to help his community, a kid not unlike many of the kids we see each day in our classrooms.  As Geoff shares the conversation he had with Damien, you get a feel that Damien's math education was fine, although not very cohesive, and then you get to this quote...
"For an education environment that strives to standardize instruction and student outcomes, there is remarkably little consensus about what a quality secondary math classroom looks like."

Whoa... did that just hit you in the gut like it did me?  As I was reading, I quickly scribbled this quote down in my reading notebook and put a mark by it to discuss with my Secondary Math coordinator.  What *does* a quality math class look like?  sound like?  feel like?

I teach at a large suburban high school and have been there for 20 years.  I know that at the district level, there have been those discussions about quality instruction, but not as much on the site / department level.  As I read this book, I kept coming back to this question and Damien's story.

Further in Chapter 1, you see these statements:
"What's particularly troubling is that none of Damien's high school teachers were derelicit in their duty. ... But with no common understanding of what high-quality math instruction looks like or what students are experiencing in their classrooms, gaps in learning and in attitudes toward math will continue to widen."
"Adding urgency and magnifying the issue is that math is often the biggest - sometimes the only - hurdle to an otherwise prosperous educational career.  The lack of a sufficient math background can be the death knell for students once they reach university."

Honestly, this is frightening.  Last week, I was at a Career Readiness workshop and Damien again came back to my mind.  Our courses aren't just a ticket punch on the way to adult life.   Our courses can be significant barriers to our students as they approach their post-secondary careers.  What have I done to contribute to that barrier?  What have I done to actively attempt to break down that barrier?  What can I do going forward to advocate for students like Damien?

I think about the Hippocratic Oath that doctors take - the idea to ethically treat patients and do no harm.  I think about Damien and his teachers; I think about my own past students.  There was no intention to harm, but has harm happened anyway?  By not having a cohesive definition of a quality math classroom, how many students have hit the barrier to future success?  How many students could have made powerful mathematical connections instead of seeing the courses, units, and chapters as these disconnected requirements that they just have to get through.  How many students (or even teachers) have been deprived of discovering the joy and beauty of mathematics?

Two weeks from today, I will meet my students.  I will again have an opportunity to shape their thoughts on math.  I have the power to help or to hinder.

And that scares me.

Monday, August 5, 2019

#Made4Math - New Year, New Door

This month, I am participating in a blogging challenge called #MTBoSBlaugust.  To read posts from other participants, click on the logo above.

It's Monday... again????

Serious, where is August going?  Slow down already! :)

Back to school is creeping closer.  This week is schedule pick-up, the teachers officially report next week, and I feel so behind in getting things ready!  But either way, kids will be coming soon and I still have tons to do! :)

Made4Math #1 - New Door!!!
Each year, I try to put up a new door to welcome my students.  Last year, it was the "Be" words.  This year's door was inspired by a poster I saw on Pinterest with the acronym of MATH. 

I knew I wanted something that illustrated my philosophy of quality instruction and emphasized some of the lessons we will learn during the learn of making mistakes and asking questions. 

On Twitter, one poster asked me about the Have Fun part, and that person is correct in that fun is very subjective.  However, I fully believe that I can make it a goal to have fun every day, even if I don't always achieve that goal. :)

To make the door, I just printed on different colors, laminated, and cut.  I did forget to trim the right hand side of "NEW"... oops! :)  I'm not crazy happy with the spacing yet, but that's just a matter of time. :)

If you want the files, click here!!

Made4Math #2 - Index Card Tabs
A discussion on Twitter this past week was about reassessments and I shared the top photo of my Reassessment Box.  Then, I realized I had never shared the index card tabs! :) 

When I made reassessments, I format them to fit on a 3x5 notecard and organize them into a little file box.  But index card guides are really expensive on Amazon, so I figured I could make them myself much cheaper.  Using my trusty tables on Word, I made 1/4 size tabbed cards, laminated them, and cut them apart.  I use a fine point sharpie to write the objective on them.

If you would like the file, click here!!

Here's to a productive week full of projects! :)  Have a great Monday!

Saturday, August 3, 2019

#MTBoSBlaugust - Puzzle Place

This month, I am participating in a blogging challenge called #MTBoSBlaugust.  To read posts from other participants, click on the logo above.

In the 2017-2018 school year, I read this blog post by Sara Vanderwerf about having a Play Table in the classroom.  I loved the idea of mathematical play and encouraging students to experience math as a puzzle and something fun.

About this same time, Sarah Carter started posting about puzzles in her classroom and honestly, if Sarah Carter tells me to do it, I'd better figure out a way to do it :)

So the "Puzzle Place" was born.  I spent the first part of the 17-18 year trying to figure out the logistics and by mid-year, I was ready to unveil the Puzzle Place.  It wasn't much, just a filing cabinet and a chalkboard from the Target Dollar Spot.  It took a while for students to even notice the puzzles and I didn't do a great job of advertising it. :)

Throughout the 2018-19 school year, I continued to gather more puzzles and from the first week of school, students did a better job of noticing the Puzzle Place.  It's kind of tucked away in a weird little corner by the door that was originally meant to house laptop carts when our building was first built.  As the year progressed, more and more students visited the Puzzle Place, often making that their first stop at the start of class.

Each week, I would put out a new puzzle - some were definitely more challenging than others.  My only requirement when looking for puzzles was that I wanted them to be fairly manipulative.  I compiled a binder of puzzles with instructions that got placed in a sheet protector on the wall and puzzle pieces that were on the file cabinet.

As the year progressed, I recognized that I wanted to expand the puzzle place for a couple of reasons:

  1. While I would have mostly new students this year, I have about 20 that have already seen the puzzles I used last year.
  2. I wanted more variety to the puzzles, maybe post some brain teasers or mental math type activities
  3. Some of the puzzles were quickly solved and then there wasn't a reason to visit the Puzzle Place throughout the week
At the right, you can see my revamped Puzzle Place.  It still has the manipulative puzzle on the cabinet, but now there are 3 more puzzles on the wall that are more mental.  Now, it's on my to-do list to find more of these puzzles.  Here are the resources I have so far:

What other resources would you suggest?

Friday, August 2, 2019

#MTBoSBlaugust - Start with Why

This month, I am participating in a blogging challenge called #MTBoSBlaugust.  To read posts from other participants, click on the logo above.

To say this was a busy week might be an understatement :)  I've already posted about the Math Teacher Gathering hosted by my school, but for the rest of the week, I participated in a Summer Symposium on Career Readiness hosted by my Associate Principal.

In the spirit of transparency, I honestly didn't know what to expect out of this workshop.  I had a vague idea of what I believed career readiness was, but I really didn't know what pathway the workshop would take.  I'm still trying to process my take-aways plus I had to miss a day of the workshop due to the Math Gathering, so I know I have some gaps to fill in too. :)

The Symposium was over 3 days - Day 1 focused on the "The Why".  One of our first activities was a Give One Get One on "Why are you here?".  My answer at that point was actually pretty simple - I was there because I was invited.  By the end of the symposium, my why had changed - I want to make better connections with kids and help them figure out their why.

The first morning, we watched a TED Talk by Simon Sinek about the Why, How, and What:

One statement he kept making was "People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it."  From a math perspective, this reminds me of Dan Meyer's "If ___ is the aspirin, what is the headache?"  But am I clearly communicating my why to my students, parents, and colleagues?

Me being me, I had to do some more research and found this article from Educational Leadership.  In the article, this quote jumped out at me:

As teachers, when asked about our end goal, most of us would mention that we want our students to be prepared for the real world, to be successful adults.  The problem is, we often don't know how to get there.  We (I) moan and groan about the lack of "soft skills", without taking ownership of the problem and realizing it is part of our job to teach those skills, even at the senior level.  I am just as guilty.  There always seems to be more content to teach and less time to teach it and it's easy to pass the blame rather than take on the challenge.

Last year, I spent the first week of school focusing on problem solving, grit, teamwork, and perserverance thanks to Jo Boaler and the Week of Inspirational Math.  This year, I commit to building more of that into the classroom, more focus on soft skills, and doing my best to focus on helping my students develop as capable and successful young adults.

When we talk about Career Readiness, it truly is about those soft skills.  Don't get me wrong - our students do need content-level knowledge too, but the ability to stick with a problem, work with a team, utilize their resources, communicate effectively - those skills are just as (if not more) valuable than the content.  By helping students develop those skills, we enable them to be successful adults, no matter what career path they choose and no matter what coursework they complete.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

#MTBoSBlaugust - Making New Friends

As a kid, one of the songs I remember singing in music class was... "Make new friends, but keep the old.  One is silver, and the other gold."

And I have to tell you that today, I feel so rich, so blessed, so downright amazed at the friendships and connections that have been forged recently.

Yesterday, my school had the pleasure of hosting over 100 math teachers from 5 different states (that I know of) at the Northeast Oklahoma Math Teachers Gathering.

I had the opportunity to meet and work with teachers from PK-12 and my life is richly blessed because of it.

I heard conversations going on about playing with math, about classroom management, about technology, about hands-on learning.  I visited with people from my district, from people in my metro area, from people that teach in the rural area I grew up, from people that drove several hours to get here, from people that I previously only knew via social media.  I learned new strategies that I can immediate implement - from formative assessment to lesson plans to student documentation and more.

The energy throughout the day was just so positive and uplifting that it really helped me get into the school mindset.  I hope to keep that energy flowing throughout the year by continuing the conversations that were started.

Huge shout-out to my principal for agreeing to this crazy idea of hosting, to the amazing team that helped me organize it, to the presenters and participants for actually making this happen.  You all rock!!