Tuesday, January 31, 2023

What I read this month - January 2023

The end of January 2023 has arrived!

One of my goals this year was to join a couple of the reading challenges my friends were doing, so I want to start documenting my monthly reads and sharing them.  Over Winter Break, hubby and I finally got library cards so my Kindle and I have become great friends with the Libby app!

The book challenges we are doing are from the Book Girls Guide (https://bookgirlsguide.com/reading-challenges/) - feel free to join us!

Decades - Books set in the 1880s / 1890s
- The Address
I had never read any of Fiona Davis's books and this book was on the list. My friend Pam read it and highly recommended it, so I grabbed it on Libby and set down to read. It was such an enjoyable book, flipping back and forth from 1885 to 1985 with a hint of mystery in the middle. Highly recommend!

- The Children's Blizzard
This book caught my eye because it was based on a true story and the main characters were teachers in one-room school houses on the prairie. I was completely drawn in the storyline and felt a lot of empathy for these homesteaders trying to beat the elements.

- Destiny of the Republic
This book was a non-fiction read about the assassination of President Garfield. I'm honestly not much of a history buff, so I didn't know much about this topic but it was well written and I learned a lot!

Read Around the World - Books set in the Arctic / Antarctica
- The Arctic Fury
I liked the idea of this book better than the book itself. An arctic expedition of only women set in the 1850s plus some legal drama sounded really interesting. However, things quickly degraded from there. The last 25% of the book was really good, so I'm glad I finished it, but the middle 50% could have definitely been trimmed IMO.
- Northern Lights
After reading The Arctic Fury, I wanted something lighter and this book by Nora Roberts fit the bill. Part romance, part mystery, part drama, it was a quick read and I enjoyed getting to know the characters that live in Lunacy, Alaska.

Books Recommended by Students
- One of Us is Lying
As I was walking around my room a few weeks ago, I saw this YA book sitting on a student's desk. The cover was interesting and the summary sounded like Breakfast Club meets Christopher Pike (a YA author I enjoyed as a teen). I enjoyed the mystery aspect of the book and I look forward to chatting with my student about it.

- Outcast in Another Word Book 4
RPG-lit / fantasy is definitely NOT my genre, but a student last year highly recommended this book series, so I gave it a shot. It's not going on my must-read lists, but it is interesting enough that I've read all of the sequels just to find out what happens next...

Other Books I Read this Month
- Killers of the Flower Moon
As a native Oklahoman, this book has had a lot of press recently as the movie was being produced, so when I got my library card, I immediately added it to my TBR list. Parts of the book read more like a novel, while other parts were very detailed. There were times that I struggled to keep all of the characters straight in my head, so I will be really interested to see how the movie brings this story to life.

- The Silent Patient
To be honest, I expected more out of this book. It was interesting enough that I finished it, but I wasn't as enthralled as I wanted to be based on the hype.

Monday, January 2, 2023

#Made4Math - Daily Habit Tracker


Happy Monday, y'all!!

It's a new year and like many people, I'm wanting to work on better habits in 2023.  I was talking to hubby last night about keeping track of habits and having a better way to monitor how I'm doing.  I know there are a ton of habit tracker apps, but I wanted something simple.

Then, on my way to work this morning (yes - I had to report to work today!), I remembered that I had incorporated a Habit Tracker into my Teacher Planner several years ago, but then as the Teacher Planner evolved, the Habit Tracker went away for some reason.

Obviously, I didn't want to recreate the wheel and I certainly don't want to remake my Teacher Planner halfway through the year, so I decided on a half-sheet bookmark style habit tracker for my planner.  Since my planner is always open on my desk, I could easily see the month and since I use a disc-bound planner, I could move it from week to week easily.  

I gave myself 10 columns for tracking habits - everything from Exercise to Blogging to updating Google Classroom.  

What habits do you track?  What method works best for you?

If you want a copy of the PDF - click here!

Saturday, December 31, 2022

Preparing for 2023


It's still Winter Break for another day, so even though I've completed my 12 posts, I'm still considering this a Yule Blog post!

We've made it through another year.  In my head, 2020 was just a few days ago, so I don't know how we are already at the doorstep of 2023, but here we are!

I report back to school on Monday for meetings and collaboration time, then kids come on Tuesday.  Like most teachers over the break, I've been thinking about what to do on the first day of the semester.  I like this time as a reset and definitely plan to do some non-curricular tasks and to revisit our classroom norms.

But I also want to do something to recognize the fresh start of a new semester.  The past few years, I've not done a great job of really reflecting on the old year and preparing for the new, so that's one of the things on the list for Tuesday.

In 2020, I played off the 20/20 vision and posted them on the board.  In 2021, we were still very restricted in classroom movement and shared supplies, so I didn't do much other than the Word of the Year.  In 2022, I had switched schools and was still trying to figure out life, so again, I let it slide.  

The New Year has come around again and I really want to do something again, so I had already been thinking about what to do for 2023 and since there isn't a pun with 2023, I decided to go with more of a 3-2-1 idea.  

  • 2 good things that happened in 2022
  • 0 - something to stop in 2023
  • 2 things I look forward to in 2023
  • 3 goals for 2023
As I was thinking through this, I saw other people posting similar ideas on social media, so I know I'm not the only one planning to do this, but I wanted to share it anyway!  Like I did in 2020, I will print these on quarter sized colorful paper and have them as my warmup on Tuesday before we get involved in our math tasks.

If you want the 2023 paper, click here for a PDF!

Friday, December 30, 2022

#MyFavFriday - Favorites of 2022


I've made it to the last post of the #MTBoSYuleBlog Challenge!  My goal was to blog 12 times over Winter Break and today is Post 12!  I still have a few more posts to write and I'm hoping to get back into the habit, but today I'm bringing back another old series from 2012... #MyFavFriday!  

This blog series was started as an answer to "My Favorites" at TMC, where people could share some of their favorite things on Fridays.  Over the years, it morphed into a Friday reflection post, so in honor of the last Friday of 2022, here's some of my Favorites from throughout the year!

My Favorite New Home Addition
Meet Gracie!

Gracie joined our family in late June and is our 2nd cat that we've adopted from Animal Welfare, with Josie, our ringtail tabby, being the first.  Gracie was estimated to be about 6 weeks old and I'm guessing she was found in a park as her name at the shelter was Fruit Salad (her siblings were Potato Salad and Pork Chop - I'm not even kidding!)

I don't know that I've ever had a cat so human oriented though.  For the first several weeks, she would wake us up around 3am screaming her head off because she needed to go to the bathroom, so we would have to take her upstairs to the litter box.  While she thankfully sleeps through the night now, she's still into everything, loves to climb, and loves to be held.  Her favorite place to snuggle is right next to your face and often drapes herself across my neck to take a nap.

My Favorite New Classroom Addition
In February, our state used some of the federal pandemic money to give classroom grants through Donors Choose.  Teachers could apply for up to $800 of materials, so I asked for magnetic whiteboards (4' x 3') plus some markers / erasers.  These whiteboards have been a game changer for me!  We tend to get up on the boards a couple times per week, plus they allow me to easily hang things around the room, such as posters seen here for Back to School.  With these 7 boards plus my large whiteboard, I have room for up to 10 groups of students.  Earlier this fall, I also applied for a grant to get magnetic graphs, so hopefully that will be added soon!

My Favorite Classroom Hack
Since the whiteboards are magnetic, I am often hanging things up around the room, whether it's a scavenger hunt or some other resource.  Originally, I was carrying around the magnets by hand, but it was too much to juggle, so I had the idea of putting them on a cheap cookie sheet and it's been an awesome hack!

Now I just walk around my room with the cookie sheet and whatever resource I'm putting up (or taking down) and the magnets stay nice and organized.  

My Favorite Math in Nature
Last week, we had a cold front sweep through and we ended up with about 1" of snow and a bitter cold wind.  I kept watching outside my front door for our outdoor stray cats to make sure they were okay and I noticed this bizarre circle just off my front porch.  I couldn't figure out what could have made the imprint as it looked like the bottom of a plastic pail, but there were no pails in sight!  Just then, a burst of wind happened and I noticed the leaf that was stuck at the center rotating.  As a Geometry teacher, I had to snap a photo to show my students about nature's compass!  

What have been some of your favorites from 2022?

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Books on my #EduRead list for 2023

 I broke my streak.... shocking, I know!  I looked a few days ago at previous #MTBoSYuleBlog challenges and I think I've only made my goal of 12 posts one time.  This is Post 11 for this year, so I'm *almost* there (and I still have 3 more days to go until Winter Break is over!)  Yesterday was just a rough day and while I wanted to blog, I was at a total standstill.  After I had stared at my screen for about 5 hours, I gave up and ran some errands, then came back to settle in with my Kindle.

Then, in response to my whiny tweet about breaking my streak, my dear friend Meg responded with:

Oh man - that's a toughie!  So here we go....  (in no particular order)

The Imperfect and Unfinished Math Teacher by Chase Orton

On Tuesday, we went to my Mom's for Christmas and to set up her new phone.  When I got home, this book was in the mailbox as a gift from a dear friend and I'm so excited to dig in!  I had heard of this book from Twitter, but other than liking the title, I really didn't know much about it.  From the sample on Amazon, it's about a journey of professional development on a more personal level.  I know many teachers have already had that realization that our professional growth is truly our own responsibility versus the "sit and get" PD that many schools and districts provide.

Most of my #EduReads are on my Kindle:

This is not all of the books I have ready to read, but it's definitely the most recent ones! :)  

A few weeks ago, @pamjwilson mentioned she would like to read the Teaching Math in the Visible Learning Classroom this semester and try to implement some of the strategies, so it's at the top of my list!

The other books seen here were all books that were on sale on Kindle recently.  In fact, Math Games with Bad Drawings is currently on sale for $2.99.  I read his book on calculus (Change is the Only Constant) and LOVED it, so when I saw Math with Bad Drawings and Math Games with Bad Drawings on sale this fall, I snapped them up, but haven't read them yet.

I check the Kindle Book Deals about once a week just to see if there's anything new on sale or on Kindle Unlimited.  I like having the ability to read / highlight passages and then I purchase physical copies of the books I liked for my classroom.  

If you are interested in reading any of these books and chatting about them, please let me know!  If there's another book on your to-be-read pile, let me know that too - I'm always looking for new books! :)

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Exploring Open Middle Math


I have always loved books and loved to read.  As a kid, I loved spending time in our town library and as an adult, used book stores are some of my favorite places.  In my home office, I have multiple bookcases of math / math-ed books and even have a healthy dose of "to-be-read" books on my Kindle regarding math (but that's another post for another day....)

Over the summer, one of the books I picked up was Open Middle Math by Robert Kaplinsky.  I was already familiar with the idea of Open Middle and had used some of the problems from the website in my classroom in the past, but I was interested in learning more about how they could be used.  Here's a quote from early on in the book:

To be sure, using Open Middle problems does not eliminate student misconceptions entirely. However, since using them, I now see student misconceptions more clearly and can use them as talking points to strengthen mathematical understandings during the lesson instead of simply lamenting missed opportunities afterward.

I should say that prior to reading the book, I had watched the webinar and had looked at the DOK Matrix for Open Middle Problems, so I was very familiar with the idea, but I thought of Open Middle problems more as a warmup or a formative assessment piece rather than to explore misconceptions.  I was intrigued by this concept and decided I wanted to try more of these in my classroom....

Again, early in the book, Mr. Kaplinsky has this suggestion to introduce the process of Open Middle:

Using the digits 1 to 9 at most one time each, place a digit in each box to create a sum that is as close to 1,000 as possible. What’s great about this problem is that very few children or adults get it right the first time, yet very few give up either because it doesn’t feel unreasonable.

Okay - I can do that!  I made a quick template for Sum of 1000, printed off one per table, put them into dry erase sleeves with a small envelope of numbers and set it aside to use as one of my first days of school non-curricular tasks. 

But, as often happens, life got in the way and this task didn't get used until a few weeks later when I was doing another activity and needed something for the groups that finished first.  This task was a great one for that purpose as it was challenging, yet do-able, but it didn't quite meet the goal of introducing all students to the idea of an Open Middle Problem.  

Still, I really liked this idea.  I dug through the website, looking for all of the Geometry problems that I thought would apply to my classes and made 8.5x11 sized printouts for each of them.  

A few weeks later, we were looking at the midpoint of a line segment, so I decided to give my students this problem to see how they would tackle it.  This group started with the points that gave a negative slope, then drew in the horizontal and vertical lines to show those values could NOT be used for the positive slope points.  As was noted above, one misconception that I noticed while my students were working was the tendency to want to make all of the line segments have a slope of 1 or -1.

In the book, Mr. Kaplinsky really ties in a lot with the idea of the 5 practices, including the element of how to have students share their work with others.  To be honest, I haven't made it to that point yet and I need to re-read the book on a better way to do that, but right now, I'm just trying to figure out how to make them better fit into my classroom.

Our last chapter before Winter Break was an Intro to Triangles, so I think this Pythagorean Task might be one that I try next week before we continue into our next unit on Congruent Triangles.  As recommended by the book, I need to sit down and try it myself first so I can anticipate issues!

I really like the idea of using Open Middle tasks more, but honestly, I run into the problem of want.to.try.all.the.things. I hear of these wonderful and great ideas and I want to try them, but there's just not enough time in the day / school year to do all that I want to do! 

But I really do see the value in Open Middle, so here are other tasks I am looking at for next week....  Now to sit down, give it a shot and see which one I really want to do!
- Area of a Triangle (Coordinate Plane)

If you have experience using Open Middle Tasks in Geometry (or Statistics) or want to collaborate, please let me know!  

Monday, December 26, 2022

#Made4Math - Creating a Scavenger Hunt


Happy Monday!  

Over 10 years ago, in June 2012, @pamjwilson and I started a blog series called #Made4Math Mondays.  Since then, so many wonderful ideas have been shared from the MTBoS.  I kept up with my weekly Monday posts for a long time before it ended up being just a summer thing and then trickled into a very sporadic posting.  But I do miss those Mondays - it was a great way to push myself creatively and to come up with new ideas for my classroom.

This year has been a lot about creativity for me.  For the past few years, students have been pretty passive participants in the classroom, either due to being online or due to COVID restrictions that kept us from doing more active learning.  One of my subgoals this year was to have kids up and around the classroom at least once a week, so an Around the Room Scavenger Hunt is a go-to activity for me!

If you've never used a scavenger hunt, you can see an example at the right.  There are 13 problems on this one, which is just about right for the size of my classroom.  Each page has a problem at the bottom and a "Previous Answer" spot at the top.  Kids start at any problem, record the letter from the top corner, work the problem and go find its answer.  If they work through the problems correctly, they should end up back where they started.  This scavenger hunt is one I made about a month ago for Triangle Sum Theorem and Exterior Angle Theorem.  The problems are from a Kuta worksheet.

Why I love Scavenger Hunts:
  • Gets kids up and moving
  • Only takes about 15-20 minutes, so it's a good post-lesson practice
  • Kids are more willing to do 13 problems here than a 5-6 question worksheet - go figure!
  • Low stakes - the answers are somewhere in the room!
  • Kids can work with a different partner
  • Promotes mathematical discussion
  • I love hearing the "productive noise" that occurs during these!
Okay - are you ready to make your own?  All you need is a copy of the template and 13 problems, each with a unique answer!  Here we go...

When you open the template, it looks a lot like a blank Powerpoint file.  I like to start out with the file in Slide Sorter Mode, so it looks very similar to the image on the left.

The first screen is a place for you to record your answer key / order.  The rest of the screens are currently in alphabetical order, but I find it easiest to go ahead and scramble them at this point so I can just add my problems in order from screen to screen.  After I'm done with all of my problems, I will put it back into alphabetical order so I can print the file to post in my classroom or print to PDF to post on my LMS for absent students.  

To add the problems, I just use the Snipping Tool function to copy and paste into the blank section at the bottom of each page, adding any textboxes that I need, then type its answer at the top of the next page in the Previous Answer box.  You'll notice that the Previous Answer uses a colon instead of a dash to hopefully reduce confusion with negative answers!  You can use any problems you have on hand, but you do need to make sure that each problem has a unique answer and no duplicates!

I often use scavenger hunts to practice a couple of concepts together, as a way to break up our test review days, or as practice after lecture to get them up and moving.  

When we do a scavenger hunt, I give students a  half-page recording sheet seen at the right.  They record the order of stations at the top, then they have boxes below to show any work.  I also put any formulas or tips / hints that I feel might be helpful.  One thing I like about the recording sheet is that I can easily check their work with my answer sheet since I just need to shift the paper to see if the letters line up!  

In case you missed them above, here are the files: