Thursday, December 31, 2015

#MTBoS12days - Looking Forward to in 2016...

I can't believe that today is the last day of 2015!!  My break went way too fast and Monday will be here before I know it! :(

Here's a brief list of things I'm looking forward to in 2016!
  • My students in the Rose Parade!  Our HS band is one of the band's performing tomorrow.  My kids have been working on this for months and I'm so happy for them!
  • Spring Break!  We are getting another dumpster delivered over spring break with the idea of cleaning out our garage and finishing up the back yard... yay!
  • #EduRead - I'm eager to jump back into the EduRead crowd.  They push me to be better and I appreciate that!  Our first book is Embedding Formative Assessment with the T3Learns Slow Chat!
  • TMC16 - I'm not 100% sure if I'll be able to attend this year, but it's on my list!
  • Balance - I have 3 preps this spring, so it's going to be more and more important that I find time to rejuvenate with my PLC.  Please hold me accountable to this one and call me out on Twitter if I'm absent! :)
What are you looking forward to?

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

#MTBoS12days - Something I want to Improve

This is probably the hardest prompt so far, mainly because it's hard to narrow down my list to just one thing that I want to improve.  I'm a person that is never satisfied with my progress, but that can lead to my downfall as well because I I am constantly looking for ways to improve rather than being happy with the improvement I've made.  This can cause a spiral effect of depression and giving up because I'm never going to reach my goal.  That's crazy, right?  I mean, we should constantly strive to better ourselves, but at what point is it okay to accept where we are without the constant push to be better?

Sorry, that got deep for a minute...

Anyway, back to the original point of this post... one thing I want to improve.

Oh my... so many things on the list!  MUST-NOT-GET-OVERWHELMED-BY-THE-LIST!  Deep breath... In and Out... In and Out... Whew... okay, better now!

If you follow me on Twitter, you might have noticed a discussion yesterday morning on something I want to try this semester... Plickers!  Here's my plan:

First, I need to print out Plicker sets for my AP Stat classes.  Next Tuesday, when we set up our notebooks, I plan to give each student one to go into the front pocket of their notebook.  Due to data privacy issues, I don't plan to keep track of student names with the Plickers.  We'll do some testing that day too just to see how it goes.

My hope is to use the Plickers as a very quick check for understanding that requires no tech log-in, no downtime while everyone gets out a device, etc.  I know I am limited in only having 4 answer choices, but I think this will be an easy way to integrate MC questions into my lessons as well as a check for understanding at the end of a class period by taking a quick poll.  I'm thinking I could ask them to rate themselves as Red/Yellow/Green or something similar.  I'm really excited about the possibility and would love to hear your thoughts on how you use Plickers!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

#MTBoS12days - Tell me about the "Tried & True"

Every teacher has them... those "tried & true" strategies that are on your go-to list. My top 3 strategies are:

Red/Yellow/Green cups - I love my colored cups and I really didn't use them as much this past semester as I should have.  The idea is that each group has a set of cups and the color showing lets me know if they need me. Green represents that everything is going along just fine.  Yellow indicates that trouble is brewing so please come by if I'm free.  Red tells me to drop everything and high-tail it over to that group, they need my help right away!  The thing I like most about this strategy is that it is a great way for the kids to self-monitor their needs and it requires no prep!

Musical Chairs - This is one of my favorite strategies to use when I need the kids to do some practice but I don't want to just give them a worksheet to work on.  To be honest, for my students, if I give them a worksheet and tell them they have 20 minutes to work, about 1/5 of the class will actually use their time well, the rest will get distracted by chatting.  However, if I use the Musical Chairs strategy, they ALL get their work done!  The idea is to give them a worksheet and play some music.  They get up and mingle and when the music stops, they sit down.  They have a set amount of time to work a certain number of problems.  When the timer goes off, the music starts and they mingle again.  By the time it's all done, the practice is done and the time has vanished quickly!

Stations - Similar to Musical Chairs, this is another good way to do some practice problems.  I love my plastic picture frames for Station work.  I use this one a lot for quiz review because my quizzes usually have 4 objectives on them and each station will review one of the objectives.  The bonus is that I don't have to print up worksheets for the kids, I just have to print one copy for the station and it saves on my copy count. :)

What are your top strategies?

Sunday, December 27, 2015

#MTBoS12Days - Start... Stop... Continue

I have already failed the Yule Blog challenge, which given my posting record, should come as no surprise! :)  We've had a busy busy week filled with deep cleaning the house, hosting my in-laws, and two days of Star Wars movie marathons.  This year, my Christmas gift to hubby was to marathon episodes 4, 5, and 6, then an evening show of episode 7.  A good friend of mine also came over to join us and it was an enjoyable and low-key day of pj's, chocolate, and movies.  I hadn't seen the original trilogy since they were re-released in the late 90s and had never seen the prequels, so the next day we watched episodes 1, 2, and 3.  As a result of all this, I haven't even been at my computer for several days, so I'm a bit behind in posting!

Start... Stop... Continue... is one of my favorite blogging prompts, so I'm so glad that it made it onto the #MTBoS12days list!  It's such a good way to reflect on the previous semester!

What will I START doing in the new semester:
Honestly, this is more of what will I "re-start" list... :)
  • Eating better and back to exercising!  This fall has been rough for me personally and I've fallen off the exercise/food wagon.  I need to get back to taking care of myself.
  • Reaching out to my MTBoS PLN!  The #EduRead crowd and others push me to be a better, more creative teacher.  I've not been good this year about chatting, blogging, and reading professional literature... I need to change that!
  • Making Thinking Visible!  This is something that I haven't done as much this year and I miss having things around my room showing student thinking.  I need to get back to it.

What will I STOP doing in the new semester:
 This is the hardest one for me... there are so many bad habits I need to stop!
  • Stop taking things personally!  This is true in both my personal and professional life.  I need to focus on the things that are really important.
  • Stop saying "Yes!"  I am working on finding better balance in my life... setting priorities where they should be.  I take things on that I shouldn't... I need to let go and let others step up to the plate.

What will I CONTINUE doing in the new semester:
This is the easiest one for me... this semester was pretty good!
  • Continue utilizing the "Make It Stick" strategies!  I had good success with MC Mondays, Flashback Fridays, FRAPPYs, and "Brain Dumps" and I want to expand on that this semester.
  • Drinking water!  I've tried to really up my water intake and while I can't say that I'm always successful, I do drink way more water than I used to.
  • High Five Fridays!  If you've read any of the TMC15 blog posts, you've probably heard about Glenn's High Fives and how they helped build rapport with his students.  I knew it would be tough to do this daily, so I modified it to High Five Fridays and it worked really well!  Thanks Glenn!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

#MTBoS12days - Books and More Books!

Merry Christmas Eve!  

Today's prompt is definitely one that I've been looking forward to! :)  I love books!  Like with big puffy heart loves.  As a child, the library was one of my favorite places and I was never without a book.  I remember many times packing my suitcase to spend the weekend with my dad and taking clothes out just to fit more books in!  My office has 5 large bookcases of professional/math books and my bedroom has a large bookcase of "fun" books.  (Note:  There's only 1 "fun" bookcase because I mostly read on my iPad/Kindle app... there are thousands and thousands of books in my eLibrary!)

So back to the prompt... sorry, I get easily distracted!

A book that I've recently read:
This is a toughie for me.  I read so fast that there are a lot of books I've recently read for fun!  However, I will say that when I read for fun, it's not anything deep or profound, it's more of what would be termed a "beach read" - lightweight and easily forgettable.

A book that I'm currently reading:
I'll be very honest... I'm currently between books!  I know that sounds crazy but on a good day I can read a novel or two, because once I start a book, I really struggle to put it down!  That means that I end up in these long stretches of collecting more books to read but not actually starting one because I don't have time to finish it! :) 

A book that I want to read:
This list could be REALLY large, so I'm going to try to narrow it down to the two books that I received in the mail this week!
  • Embedding Formative Assessment by Dylan Wiliam.  I'm really excited about this one.  I loved the original EFA and this one looks even more practical for daily use!  
  • Unshakeable by Angela Watson.  This was a gift from a very dear friend and I'm really eager to read it and use the strategies in the book to rejuvenate for the new semester!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

#MTBoS12days - Rejuvenation

During the school year, I am pretty swamped with teaching, grading, and all of the other duties that I have.  That means that a lot of things get put off until break time, so I really try to maximize my breaks with non-school related activities!

If I had to give a "Top 5" list of how I rest and rejuvenate, it would include:
  • Pedicure - hands down, this is one of those must-have relaxation activities for me!  I am not really a high maintenance person, but there's something to be said for being pampered with a good leg/foot massage and a pretty color on your toes! :)
  • Good books - I have always been a reader and often accused of having my nose stuck in a book!  A few years ago, I finally got sucked into the e-book craze and I love the ease of having thousands of books at my fingertips... literally!  I check "" every day and have found a lot of new authors that way.  
  • Crafts - This has to be one of my favorite ways to pass time on a break.  Over the years, I've learned about candle making, soap making, knitting, and currently I'm on a beading/bracelet kick.  :)
  • Organizing - I know this sounds a bit like work, but there's a sense of satisfaction that you can only get when an area goes from complete disarray to neat and organized.  I really hate clutter in general, so when I get into that mood, clutter goes!  I am not a neat freak by any stretch of the imagination... my house is very "lived-in" and would never grace the cover of a magazine, but there's nothing better to me than organizing a closet or some other hidden area! :)
  • Exercise - In the warmer months, my favorite morning activity is rolling out of bed and going for a walk.  This is my quiet time and I really enjoy the time to reflect, brainstorm, and come up with new ideas. 
How do you rest and rejuvenate? 

Monday, December 21, 2015

#MTBoS12days - Success Story

This semester has been insane.  I have wonderful students, wonderful colleagues, and really could not ask for a better life.  However, as great as this semester has been, it has also been one of the busiest semesters in recent memory, which means not a lot of time to blog about the good, the bad, and the ugly of the semester!

Today's #MTBoS12days prompt is all about the good... a success story from the semester. :)

The biggest success story I have about this semester relates to our summer #EduRead - Make it Stick.  If you haven't read this book, I highly recommend it! 

One of the suggestions from the book was to spiral homework and quiz often.  I combined these ideas and decided to do two main warmup routines... Multiple Choice Mondays and Flashback Fridays.

Multiple Choice Monday consists of 5 MC questions each week over anything we've learned so far.  The kids get them back on Tuesday to analyze and reflect on their answers. 

Flashback Fridays are half sheet quick answer questions over things I don't want them to forget. 

So last week was finals week.  The kids had time to study in class on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, then finals were on Thursday and Friday.  To be honest, the kids weren't using their study time quite as much as I would like and I was worried they weren't taking their final seriously.  I voiced my concern to a couple of students and here were some of the response:

      "I'm not too worried about this one.  We've prepared for it all semester."

      "This is the final I feel best about!"

      "We are always reviewing old stuff.  This final won't be too bad."

Then Thursday came and by golly, they were right!  The kids did a GREAT job on the final and I'm very pleased with the scores.  I don't have the usual angst over submitting grades and only ended up with a couple of students that were on the "rounding bubble".

I consider that a success! :)

Sunday, December 20, 2015

#MTBoS12days - My Holiday Favorite Treats & Recipes

I will admit that I'm the worst cook in the world.  My family would agree as well. :)  In fact, hubby does 99.9% of the cooking in our house because I'm pretty dangerous in the kitchen. :)

So, in order for me to cook, it has to follow a few ground rules:
1)  No more than 5 ingredients
2)  Microwave or oven can be done, but stove-tops, not so much
3)  No "fancy" prep (saute? nope... mince? not a chance!)
4)  If possible, be a "1 pot" dish... I hate the clean-up! :)

So here are some tried and true easy recipes from my kitchen to yours.  Most of these have been gathered over the years and  I have no idea who the original author is... :)

Easiest fudge in the world - 2 ingredients
 - 1 container of frosting (your choice on flavor)
 - 1 bag of chocolate chips (other flavors are also good)

Spray an 8x8 foil pan with non-stick spray.  Scoop out the frosting into a glass microwavable bowl.  Dump in the chocolate chips.  Microwave in short bursts (15-30 seconds) to melt together, stirring each time.  When it's all mixed up, pour into foil pan and put in the fridge overnight to set up.

Combinations I like:  Chocolate frosting & peanut butter chips;  Chocolate frosting & mint chocolate chips
(This is my go-to recipe for easy treat boxes for family members!)

Easiest dip in the world - 2 ingredients
 - 1 block cream cheese softened
 - 1 jar salsa

Mix.  Refrigerate to set up.  Serve with Fritos. :)

Sweet & Salty Treat - 2 ingredients
 - White almond bark
 - Pretzels

Melt almond bar in a double boiler (or small crock pot or microwave).  Dip pretzels into the almond bark.  Lay on wax paper to set up.

Dump cake - 3 ingredients
 - 2 cans of pie filling (my favorite is cherry)
 - 1 box cake mix (my favorite is devils food)
 - 1 stick of butter

Dump the 2 cans of pie filling in the bottom of a cake pan. (I use a foil pan for easy clean up!)  Sprinkle the cake mix on top.  Put pats of butter all over the cake.  Bake at 350 for 45-60 minutes.  Every combination I've tried is good, but I love the cherry chocolate the best.  This is a great pot-luck recipe and it is my go-to funeral dinner recipe as well. :)

Cake Mix Cookies - 5 ingredients
 - 2 boxes cake mix with pudding in the mix (your choice on flavor)
 - 2/3 cup melted butter
 - 2 eggs
 - 1 bag of chips (your choice on flavor)
 - 1/4 cup water

My sister taught me to make these and they are the BEST cookies!  It pushes my limits of ingredients, but oh so easy to make!  Just mix together. Drop on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes at 375 degrees.

Cake Mix Snickerdoodles - 5 ingredients
(This one also pushes my limit on ingredients, but they are one of hubby's favorites, so I can't leave them out!
 - 3 tablespoons sugar
 - 1 teaspoon cinnamon
 - 1 box yellow cake mix
 - 2 eggs
 - 1/4 cup vegetable oil

Combine sugar and cinnamon in small bowl.  Mix cake mix, eggs, and oil in large bowl.  Shape dough into 1 inch balls and roll in cinnamon/sugar mixture.  Place balls on a cookie sheet and flatten. (I use the bottom of a glass tumbler). Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Introducing the #MTBoS12days "Yule Blog" Challenge!

Holiday break is finally here, so @pamjwilson and I have teamed up to bring you a holiday blogging challenge!  I'm really excited about it given that I haven't blogged since August!!  Where, oh where does time go? :)

Your challenge... if you choose to accept it... is to blog 12 times over the holiday break.  The prompts are listed below and please share your post on Twitter with the hashtag #MTBoS12days.  Thanks for joining in!

Yule Blog Challenge

  • “My Holiday favorites” (you choose)
    • treats & recipes to share
    • inexpensive gifts to give
    • holiday memories
  • A success story from this semester
  • How I relax and rejuvenate over the break
  • A book I’ve read… a book I’m reading… a book I want to read...
  • Reflection on last semester… What will I start, stop and continue in the new semester?
  • A tried and true task/strategy that I can always count on
  • A moment / a-ha that challenged me as a teacher & how I handled it
  • 1 thing I want to improve next semester
  • Classroom wishlist
  • Looking forward to in 2016...
  • New Year Resolutions - Personal and/or professional
  • Something that makes me proud to be a - Laker, Trojan, Knight, Wildcat, Eagle… etc.