Sunday, August 27, 2017

Organizing the Classroom

Just a reminder that the #MTBoS Sunday Funday challenge is back!  This is a weekly blogging prompt that is hosted over at Julie's blog and this week's theme is "Classroom Organization"

Every week, Julie will push out a new topic, you blog about it and submit your blog post using this Google Form.  On Sunday, there will be a huge list of awesome blogs to go read! :) YAY!

As always, this is a no pressure blogging challenge, so if you don't feel like blogging, that's okay!  But since one of my yearly goals is to blog more, this is a great way to get myself back into the groove!

Organization tends to be one of my strengths.  I'm excited to share some of my favorite organizational tools and strategies and then go read about yours! :)

Hanging File next to my Desk:
I picked up this hanging file YEARS ago at Big Lots in their Back to College section.  This photo is really old - mainly because I forgot to take a picture of it when I was at school tonight. :)

This Hanging File holds my Attendance / Seating Chart folder (bottom pocket), my notebook for each course (the middle pockets), and our Advisory Sign-Out sheets (up at the top).

This is one *must-have* item for my classroom!

Storage and more Storage:
Some of this has changed slightly, but not much.  Along the bottom are file crates that I picked up at Target and these hold student files.  I am horrible about passing papers back to students or sometimes they will have a paper that isn't going in their notebook, so all of those papers go in these crates.

On the top shelf, you will see baskets from Dollar Tree for Extra Handouts.  I typically make 2-3 extra copies just in case a student misplaces their copy, and all of those get stored here.  You'll also see the Table Buckets on the right top cubby, but those have now changed... (see below!)

Table Buckets:
Here's the new version of Table Buckets and the contents.  Each group has a set of Red/Yellow/Green cups, a tape dispenser, glue sticks, scissors, dry erase erasers, Response Cards (Always/Sometimes/Never and MC), and a baggie of markers (Regular, Dry erase, and Highlighters).  Having all supplies handy on their desk at all times is a HUGE timesaver for me!

Table Folders:
This is an idea that I stole from Sam Shah and I *love* it.  Each of my classes has a color, each table has a folder.  This folder is how I pass out papers for their notebook, collect and return assignments, and organize missing / absentee work.  This is an old photo, but because it's purple, I know it's a 6th hour folder.  On the left you can see student work that is being passed back, plus 3 papers that we will be using in that day's lesson for their notebook. During the beginning of the year, their name tents are in these folders as well, because I'm still learning names. :)  If a student is absent, their papers are gathered up and paper-clipped and left in their folder for them to pick up the next day.

My Planner:
I've blogged before about my planner, but I definitely couldn't get through the day without it!  I combine my lesson plans with my personal planner to keep everything in one place.  This is always open on my desk and helps me keep track of meetings, to-do lists, blog ideas, and my lesson plans!  The monthly pages also have a habit tracker that I love.  I think the only thing I really should add is an hydration tracker, but to be honest, I rarely have time to drink water during the day! :)

Storing Activities:
This isn't the best photo in the world because I haven't really had time to straighten up my cabinets yet after pulling out all of the stuff that I stored over the summer.  In the mini file crates, there are about 10 of the index card boxes. Each box contains the cards for an activity, such as a card sort.  On the far right is vertical storage for the task mats.  Inside the 3 drawer container are things that don't store easily, such as inflatable globes. :)  You'll also see tons of dice both on the left and in the drawer because we use a lot of dice in AP Stat! I decided to snap this photo as I was pulling out the Types of Bias card sort for Monday in AP Stat, so that's why there's a set just sitting out. :)

I can't wait to read about the organization hacks from your classroom!

Saturday, August 26, 2017

#MyFavFriday - Week 1 is Done!

Remember me saying a couple weeks ago that I was going to blog every Friday about my favorite moments of the week?

Yeah, well, I've already failed.... twice.

But, according to the pictures I keep seeing around the MTBoS, "mistakes are proof that you are trying"

So I'm admitting it... I failed :)

Seriously though - last Friday (8/18) was our first day with students, and I had already blogged about my first day plans for the SundayFunday challenge, so no biggie, I figured I would start with this week - easy enough!


I didn't figure in how utterly exhausted I would be after a full week of students.  I mean, this isn't my first rodeo... this is year 20... I should have known better, right?


This year, we have a new schedule.  We have always gone from 7:50 am to 2:30 pm.  This year, we have changed to 9:15 am to 3:55 pm and I totally underestimated the difference.  I'm a morning person, so I'm still getting to school at 7am, working on prepping for the day, etc.  I've been bee-bopping along all week, thinking, "Hey! This schedule might not be too bad!", until I literally hit the wall on Friday afternoon.  I tried... really, I did.  We had a staff cookout scheduled for 6pm and I thought I could make it.  However, around 5:30, I realized that if I didn't leave ASAP, I would not be safe to drive home (~25 minutes).  So I didn't make it to the cookout, but I did make it home safely! :)

Anyway... enough of my sob story... let's get back to the point, which is #MyFavFriday

So many fun things happened this week!  You can follow my #teach180 over at Instagram.

My favorite learning moment of the week happened in Geometry on Friday.

We started the day with a quick warm-up on identifying parallel lines, skew lines, and intersecting lines, which I came up with on the drive to school Friday morning.  :)  I quickly made 8 sets of cards and laminated them before kids ever arrived.  I displayed a diagram on the board, then orally asked students to look at line ___ and line ___ and determine the type.

After the warm-up, we started working on naming things.  Earlier in the week, we had discussed points, lines, planes, naming them, etc.  On Thursday, I had given a Quick Check, which is a quarter sheet, ungraded, feedback only problem and I realized they were having issues with naming things, especially planes.  This summer, several of the formative assessment books I read mentioned that if you are going to do FA, you need to be prepared to do something with the data collected.  So, on Thursday night, I changed Friday's lesson plan to be more interactive and give more practice on naming.

I used 4 diagrams, each with 5-6 questions about naming planes, collinear points, intersections, skew lines, etc.  I printed 8 copies of each paper and used 4 colors of dry erase sheets to help me keep it organized.  Problem 1 was in the Red dry erase pocket, Problem 2 in the Yellow, Problem 3 in Blue, and Problem 4 in Black.  I was ready for kids to arrive!

After our warm-up and a quick reminder on how to name things, symbols to use, etc, I instructed each group to open their table bucket, get out dry erase markers / erasers, and the Red/Yellow/Green cups.  I used the cups a bit differently this time in that Green meant they were working just fine, Yellow meant they had a question for me, and Red meant they were ready for me to check their work.  Each group received Problem 1 and we were ready to go.  I loved the discussions that were going on, I loved being able to give individualized feedback to each group, and at the end, I really felt that they had a better grasp on how to name geometric figures and shapes.

But the BEST part of the lesson?

They did math for an entire hour and not a single complaint was heard! :)

Now *that* is a win! :)

Friday, August 11, 2017

Using #MyFavFriday for Accountability

Last week, I blogged about my goals for the 2017-18 school year, which includes (in no particular order):

 - The use of VNPS
 - Asking better questions
 - Utilizing Formative Assessment techniques more effectively
 - Blogging more

A few weeks ago, at the end of #TMC17, I randomly came across 3 references to the #MyFavFriday blogging challenge, all in one day!  When I mentioned it on Twitter, Lynn responded:

Since then, I've been pondering.  Originally, #MyFavFriday started as an extension to the "My Favorites" portion of Twitter Math Camp (TMC), where people would share their favorite resource, activity, lesson, recipe, pretty much anything!

But, I'll be honest... I struggled.  It was hard to come up with a new "favorite thing" every week!  So when Lynn suggested bringing it back, I wasn't sure.

Until I wrote my goals post for the MTBoS Sunday Funday blogging challenge.  And that's when it hit me.  I can use #MyFavFriday as a weekly reflection tool as an accountability tool for my goals!!

So, starting next Friday, which happens to be my first day with students learners, I'm going to try to blog about:

  • My favorite learning moment of the week
  • My favorite use of VNPS that week
  • My favorite exit ticket prompt (and response)
  • My favorite Formative Assessment technique and how I used it
  • My favorite (or least favorite) question that I asked the students
  • My favorite engagement strategy
  • My favorite #teach180 photo of the week (I'm trying out Instagram this year!)
I'm really excited about a way to really help myself reflect on the week and hopefully to see my progress with my goals.  

Feel free to join me in sharing your favorite moments of the week! 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

First Day Plans 2017-18

Just a reminder that the #MTBoS Sunday Funday challenge is back!  This is a weekly blogging prompt that is hosted over at Julie's blog and this week's theme is "First Day / First Week Plans"

Every week, Julie will push out a new topic, you blog about it and submit your blog post using this Google Form.  On Sunday, there will be a huge list of awesome blogs to go read! :) YAY!

As always, this is a no pressure blogging challenge, so if you don't feel like blogging, that's okay!  But since one of my yearly goals is to blog more, this is a great way to get myself back into the groove!

Next week starts my 20th year of teaching.  OMG! Where did time go??  There's no way that I'm in year 20, I'm still just a young whipper-snapper, right?  (Said as my knees start to creak and I grumble like an old curmudgeon.)  I officially start on Monday, but I've been up there off and on for the past few weeks working on my classroom.  Our kiddos report next Friday... eekkk!  I have *so* much lesson planning to do!

This year, I will have 3 preps:  AP Statistics (Year 18);  Forensic Science (Year 6); and Geometry (Year ?? but really year 1 again.. last time I taught it was 2008 or so!)

All Classes:
On Day 1, I'm definitely a fan of getting my students to work right away on math and critical thinking.  Since we start school on a Friday, it's a great way to get them started with our first High Five Friday of the year!!!

I tend to have big classes and I'm horrible with names, so I have my kids make name tents.  I originally stole this idea from attending (many) AVID summer institutes and workshops over the years.  Each student has a piece of cardstock that they fold "hot dog" style and the following instructions are on the board:

While they are working on their name tents, I go around and greet each student individually to help me take attendance and learn to pronounce their name.  This also gives me an opportunity to look at what information they have chosen to share.

With AVID, the inside of the name tent is printed, but I just have my students draw lines, mainly so I can save on my copy count :)  These name tents serve as my exit tickets each day as well as my Visible Random Grouping for the first week of school.  Each day, I respond to the students, then shuffle the name tents and toss 4 on each table.  Super simple! :)

AP Statistics:
After the name tents are made, it's time to dive into some statistics.  For the past 8 years or so, I've started the same way - the story of Kristen Gilbert.  Many years ago (2008 maybe?), I was shopping along in Borders (which hasn't even been in existence since like 2011), I ran across a book titled "The Numbers behind Numb3rs".

Like many math teachers, I enjoyed the Numb3rs TV show, so I quickly purchased the book and started reading.  Low and behold, the 2nd chapter was entitled "Fighting Crime with Statistics 101".  This chapter quickly grabbed my attention and I knew I had to build a lesson out of this story.

I immediately contacted Hedge, who was also teaching AP Statistics at the time, and we collaborated on a first day lesson, you know that whole 'hook em with a story' idea. :)

Over the years, I've contemplated doing a different activity, but I always end up coming back to Ms. Gilbert... :)

With Geometry, my plans are a bit more fluid.  I haven't taught Geometry in many years and I'm not quite sure what to expect.  Right now, I have a lot of mini activities, all stolen from the MTBoS planned for them:
  1. My classroom is always set up in groups and we change those groups often.  After their name tents are done, I plan to start with Sara Vanderwerf's 100 numbers activity in order to start that discussion on what makes effective group work.
  2. Then, each group will get a deck of cards to do Sarah Rubin's 31-derful activity.  I've used this activity as a first day activity in Intermediate Algebra as well as a time filler in Pre-Calculus and it's always a hit.  This encourages critical thinking, communication, and some low-floor math.
  3. If there is time remaining, Julie (@fractionfanatic) posted some awesome puzzles this week from @1to9puzzle, so I quickly started following that twitter account.  Each day, they post a new challenge and I definitely plan to use these as time fillers over the year!

Sadly, this is about as far as I've gotten on my lesson plans! :)  Now I'm off to figure out day 2! :)

Thursday, August 3, 2017

All the Feels!!! A love letter to the #MTBoS

Dear People of the MTBoS,

Last night, the @ExploreMTBoS group tweeted out a few challenges, including this one:

There are so many people that I want to thank, but I'm so afraid I'm going to forget someone!  Every single teacher that I've interacted with over the past 9 years via the MTBoS (Math Twitter Blog-o-Sphere) has made an impact on me.  There are some that have become my closest and dearest friends and I can't imagine my life without them.  There are some people that I've only talked to once or twice, but they've impacted me as well.  When people talk about the awesomeness that is the MTBoS and that TMC is a 'family reunion', they really aren't kidding.

The group of math professionals (teachers and non-teachers, coaches, administrators, etc) that make up the MTBoS are the most amazing Professional Learning Network that anyone could ever hope for.  These people *get* me and I love them for it.

If you have ever been on the fence about tweeting or blogging or jumping into a conversation, please let me encourage you to #pushsend.  This group of people are just amazing.  I know for someone new, this PLN might seem difficult to navigate, but Beth (@algebrasfriend) said it best...

The people of the MTBoS are my friends.  Those friendships started out in the virtual world, yes, but that doesn't make our friendship any less real.  For example, Beth is an amazing friend, always supporting me, whether that's meeting up for dinner when I pass through town, sending me books for my classroom, even volunteering to go to Half Price Books to search for a book I was looking for.  

The people of the #MTBoS were there when I lost my sister to cancer, they've been there when I have struggled with issues personally and professionally, they moved from "virtual" friends to "real life" friends when TMC12 was born.  They (and if you are reading this, you are part of 'they') are more than friends, the people of the MTBoS are my family.

Sometimes Often I struggle to #pushsend.  But then a reminder comes about why I do what I do.  Why I'm a part of this amazing group of educators.  This morning, I opened up my blog and saw this:

I'll be honest - I have no idea who left this comment.  I clicked on the name but the "About Me" page was blank.  But I want them to know how much their comment impacted me, about the tears that came to my eyes.  (It also reminded me that I really need to update my Blog Roll!)  When I open my blog to write, it's hard.  I blank out.  My goal this year is to blog more, but it can be tough.  The insecurities, the 'imposter syndrome', they just boil up and make it challenging to #pushsend.  My contributions to this amazing community pale in comparison to what I've received over the years.  The friendships, the confidants, the laughter, the joy, the tears, the learning - it's so hard to put into words what this community means to me.

But I have to agree with the last statement of the comment the most.  I am forever thankful to the #MTBoS.  I truly am a better teacher because of each and every one of you.  

Love forever,
Me :)

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Goals for 2017-18

For the past several years, I have done an August blogging challenge, but this year, I just didn't have it in me.  However, I'm super excited that the #MTBoS Sunday Funday challenge is back!  This is a weekly blogging prompt that is hosted over at Julie's blog and this week's theme is "Goals"

Every week, Julie will push out a new topic, you blog about it and submit your blog post using this Google Form.  On Sunday, there will be a huge list of awesome blogs to go read! :) YAY!

Traditionally I don't make make New Year Resolutions in January because my new year comes in August as the start of a new school year.  I don't know if other teachers feel the same, but that's what works for me :)

Here's my Start - Stop - Continue for my 2017-18 goals :)

I want to START:

  • Using Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces (VNPS) in my classroom.  I have read the research and really feel convicted on this one.  That's not to say that I don't feel scared as all get out, but I want to set a goal to try this at least once per unit.
  • Asking better questions.  Pam presented on this during TMC and it was part of several of the Formative Assessment books I read this summer.  I have printed off several question stem pages based on recommendations from my Twitter pals.  My goal is to use these question stems while I am lesson planning to help me develop my questioning skills.
  • Being more involved in the Math Twitter Blog-o-Sphere (MTBoS).  This online teacher community has been my family for 8 years now.  However, for the past few years, I've pretty much kept to myself due to a variety of reasons and this just needs to stop.  I am a better teacher when I'm involved in the MTBoS, so my goal is to blog at least once a week with Sunday Funday and to be involved in the #geomchat and #statschat on Twitter.

I want to STOP:

  • Trying to "rescue" my students.  There's a lot to be said about productive struggle and if I am trying to use rich tasks and VNPS, I need to let students have that struggle, to really own the math.  I am hoping the better questioning will help with this as well.  
  • Eating lunch in my room.  I used to eat with other teachers and we had a great time.  However, last year, the environment in the lunch room was too politically charged, so I just stopped going.  I miss the fun, light-hearted conversations that we used to have, so I need to focus on "being the change."  My goal is to eat lunch with my colleagues at least 3 days a week to give myself a break from my classroom.

I want to CONTINUE:

  • Learning more about effective Formative Assessment techniques.  This was the focus of most of my summer reading, which I've blogged about a few other times.  My goal is to integrate at least one FA technique per day to inform my teaching and to teach my students how to use it for their learning.
  • Working on my personal health.  Over the past few years, I've gotten busy and combined with stress, did not prioritize my mental, emotional, and physical health.  This summer, with the help of #fitbos17 and some encouraging quotes that continually run through my head, I've been able to lose about 15 pounds.  My goal is to lose about 10 more pounds and I know I can do it!
  • Using Interactive Notebooks (INBs) and the Make It Stick strategies in my class.  I have noticed so much more content retention since utilizing these strategies!
  • High Five Fridays!  This simple technique is really a game changer when it comes to your classroom culture.  If you haven't tried it, I highly encourage you to just give it a shot.  I resisted for the first year because I am an *extremely* introverted person, but I promise you that it's worth it!

What are your goals for 2017-18?