Monday, September 2, 2019

Daily Routines

Last summer at TMC, I started brainstorming ways to incorporate all the cool ideas I was collecting: WODB, stand & talks, debate math... I wanted to make it a daily routine, having one of them per day to keep me accountable and my students to form a habit.  But I never finalized things and it was forgotten...

Until I saw this post from @mrsvibbermath :
Over 32 people started chiming in and offering ideas.  And it reignited by desire to have a "daily routine".  I typed up everyone's suggestions.  I thought of the activities I wanted to incorporate and the skills I wanted to help my students learn.  I highlighted by final selection:
I went into this cautiously, just in case something wasn't working out as well as I planned.  I just finished the first two full weeks of school and can honestly say that I plan on keeping this up!  For me, it was two things that help make it stick:

  1. I made a poster with each of the daily routines listed (below).  I hang this on the front board.  And you know what?  Students actually pay attention!  I've already heard them say "oh yeah, today is Stand & Talk Tuesday!"  
  2. I put the daily routine at the top of my slides for class.  I have a template for each day of the week that I make a copy of and it is always on the top.  Keeps me accountable.

Poster on board:
Example of slide when students walk in:

My current plan:
MATHEMATICIAN MONDAY:  Using anonymize in Desmos truly inspired this.  Last year, my students would often start researching their mathematician and find such unique things about them.  One of my students found out she shared a birthday with her mathematician!  So cool.  

The first time I implement this, I will choose one mathematician for everyone to research together.  The following week, I will give each group their own mathematician to research and share out.  Once they have done this for a couple weeks, then my plan is to give each group four mathematicians (one per person).  They will research for 2 minutes and then share out with their group.  My current plan is for students to find out where their mathematician is from, their birthdate, what they're known for, and an interesting fact/something unique.      

**Side note: I'm currently doing Mensa Mondays because we haven't gotten into Desmos enough yet.  I want students to be excited about mathematicians, and not view it as "research".  Once they start to see the mathematician names more regularly, I'm hoping to start then.

STAND & TALK TUESDAY:  This is going to vary from week to week.  I am a huge fan of "debate math" and plan on incorporating that.  Currently, I've been showing pictures/images and having students stand and talk with a partner about what they notice and wonder.  I have a folder that I can add pictures to as I see things in real life, on the internet, etc.  I love that it's open-ended in terms of what they will stand and talk about!

WHICH ONE DOESN'T BELONG (WODB) WEDNESDAY:  I wanted to do this more last year, so I am purposely making the effort this year.  There is an entire website to "Which One Doesn't Belong" and I plan to use that often.  But I can also make my own, so that's super sweet.

THANKFUL THURSDAY:  This is non-math related.  I did "Two Minutes of Gratitude" every day for a month with my students last year, inspired by this GMA segment.  The goal is that students reflect on the good in their life, from family and friends to donuts and video games.  According to the video, "Gratitude at any age can reduce stress and depression".  I created a spreadsheet that I shared in classroom and students just add to that every Thursday.  Students have taken this very seriously and are eager to share what they are thankful for. (see picture below)

FIX-IT FRIDAY:  Using common mistakes from class or actual student work, I show a completed math problem and have students describe how to fix-it or what the mistake was and then complete the problem correctly.  I find this to be a safe way to address student misconceptions and students tend to be the harshest critics!

Interested in incorporating daily routines in your classroom?  Try it out!  It's never too late in the year!  And let me know what you decide to do each day!

Monday, November 26, 2018

Five Minute Fluency

A few years ago, my coworker Kyrstin (@k_scaliatine) and I noticed that our students were having trouble with their math facts.  I know, math facts aren't everything.  However, many of our assessments in 7th grade are "no calculator" and math facts were impacting their performance.  We brainstormed ways to incorporate fluency into our class.  We knew that giving timed tests was not an option because it can cause a great deal of anxiety for students.  We also wanted to do something more than just rote memorization using flashcards.  This was something so important to us that we decided to devote the first 5 minutes of every class period to fluency. 

We started simple:  decks of cards, flashcards, and dice.  We searched online for games and activities that our students would find engaging and involved strategy.  Playing a game became a consistent way we started class.  Students came in every day, looked at the board to see what materials they needed, and started playing.  And yes, we set the timer every day for 5 minutes! 

We discovered early on that we needed a convenient way for students to access their supplies.  We purchased these from Ikea and labeled bins with student group numbers.  Most of the games are for pairs, so there are two of everything in each bin.

As the year went on, we continued to add to the bins.  We found ways to incorporate fractions, integers, exponents, and rounding into our fluency.  We never talk about speed or getting "faster".  We want this time to be fun for students and to help them strengthen their skills.  Many of the games are actually about strategy and we remind students to focus on that. 

What I currently have in my bins (most games are for two people)

  • Two of every game board (see ideas below)
  • Integer Game cards (1 deck for four students)--from Eureka
  • Two decks of playing cards (for playing integer war, etc.)
  • Two decks of multiplication flashcards (perfect for days with a sub)
  • One bag of dice including 4 six-sided dice and 4 twelve-sided dice
  • One bag of integer chips (yellow/red)
  • One bag of transparent counters (great for playing BUMP!)

Suggestions and ideas
  • No prep math games:  2014 and 2015 editions
  • Integer Football
  • BUZZ--sometimes, we even play good 'ole BUZZ!  We can even take that outside!  (see picture below!)
  • Integer Game--it is part of our curriculum (Eureka), but we still love playing it with ALL our students!  There are variations of the game to make it more challenging for higher levels, too!
  • War--red is negative, black is positive.  Start with simple War (higher card is the winner), flip over two cards to play "addition integer war" or "multiplication integer war", flip over two cards for fractions.... the possibilities are endless!
  • BUMP--there are SO many for free on Teachers Pay Teachers!  My 7th graders love them!
  • Count to 100--roll two 6-sided dice and find the sum.  Continue to add to your total until you roll doubles.  That is the end of your turn but remember your score!  Your partner keeps going until they get doubles.  If you get "snake eyes" (two ones), your score is reset to zero.  First person to reach 100 is the winner!  (plenty of variations!  Try subtracting from 100, etc.)

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Desmos Coloring Pages

I recently Tweeted about my 7th grade students making coloring pages on Desmos.  I originally saw the idea from Sarah Plain and instantly fell in love with the idea!  Here is a little more information, for anyone interested!

If you're anything like me, you find every possible way to get students engaged in math.  Our district is fortunate to have 30 minutes every day for students to take mini-courses that they choose.  This block of time, called "acceleration", is 4 weeks long and courses range from STEM to poetry to sign language.  Teachers create the courses and come up with an outline to get approved.  Every round, students rank the courses and are placed into (usually) one of their top three choices.  I designed a course called "Drawing with Desmos" and my students love it!

Getting Started
Obviously, there is going to be a wide range of background knowledge with seventh graders.  My Algebra 1 students have been graphing linear functions for a solid year at this point, but students on grade level and accelerated (in Pre-Algebra) have not gotten to graphing yet.  I wanted all students to get interested and excited about what they were going to learn, so I started with everyone's favorite:  Polygraph (twelve functions).  I then created a choice board that had different "levels" for students to choose from:  beginner, middle, and expert.  For the students in the "beginner" category, I gave them codes for things that involved plotting points (mini golf, etc.).  For the middle category, I created an Activity Builder that included several different functions, starting out with sliders and ending with marbleslides for each.  And then there was the expert level where students could explore and create pictures.

This went really well for several days.  However, I noticed that students were not wanting to push themselves outside their comfort zone.  Students would create a pumpkin, but only used lines.  I really wanted them to try new functions.  Therefore, once a week, we did an Activity Builder as a whole class and I pushed students to graph using parabolas, exponential functions, and even circles.  And what I started seeing was magical!  Algebra students really stepped up and helped out students that were new to graphing.  Students shared ideas, helped get curves "just right", and were cheerleaders for each other.  Definitely some proud teacher moments here!

Coloring Pages
I was still full of excitement and JOY for my students when I stumbled upon Sarah Plain's (@mrs_plain_LCPS) Tweet.  I came back to school the next day with a new task for my Drawing with Desmos students:  create a coloring page to send to elementary students.  The concept is brilliant:  students choose a picture of their choice to create on Desmos and then they are sent to our feeder schools to show students the awesome things you can do with math!  This helped give students a purpose for creating a picture.  I had a student create the Chicago Bears logo and now there was a reason  That really helped encourage them!  They emailed me their creations, told me the name of a teacher to send them to, and some even created a second picture.  A-MAZ-ING!!!

On Twitter, I was asked if there were guidelines for this project.  Since this course is not graded, it is difficult to have guidelines.  I encouraged creativity, but also realized that some students were still beginners.  I had one student create a Z that took him a week and I was SO PROUD of his perseverance!

*Side note: every Friday of this course, we had a "gallery walk" where students open their Chromebook to something they've been working on lately.  Some students showed a half-finished coloring book page, some showed Marbleslides, and some showed a slide from Activity Builder.  Again, I LOVED that students celebrated everyone, no matter what they were working on!  If you haven't done a gallery walk with Desmos, I highly recommend it!

In the end, I sent over about a dozen pictures.  All students hid the grid and axes, as shown in the pictures below.  I included a cover page for the teachers I sent them to, explaining what the project was and how students created them.  I love the connection it created between our school and the elementary schools.  We are a unit district, but do not connect nearly enough.  I am so proud of all my students and hope their former teachers are, too!

Questions?  Comments?  Just ask!

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Classroom Reveal

I have been lucky enough to still be teaching in the same room I started in.  That's right--I've been in the same classroom at the same school since I started teaching!  It truly is a blessing and one I am thankful for every day.

Over the years, former students come back and visit and comment that not much has changed.  However, *I* know that a lot has.  Take a peek inside my classroom as I explain the changes!

The first thing most of my students notice that haven't visited in a while is that my desks are in groups of four now.  Everything I do involves cooperative grouping, so it just makes sense.  There are group numbers hanging from the ceiling (not pictured).  And I also taped Kagan numbers on their desks.  I added another spin on the numbers by putting them on colored paper.  That way I can even group students based on their color.  I like to shake up groups a lot!  We had six color options in the copy room, so I used all six!

My absolute favorite part of my room is my "wall of fame" behind my desk.  I have so many pictures that now I need to rotate students out, but if I have their sibling in class, I always make sure it's up.  My current and former students love looking at the pictures, pointing out students they know.  I have pictures from student council, class, and 8th grade graduation (which I attend every year).

Over the years, I have gotten away from having posters with math "rules" and formulas on them.  Instead, I want students to be reminded how to work in groups, to focus on vocab, and I have positive messages all around (I'll try to update with a better pic, haha!)  I actually have students create the word wall.  They write the word, definition, and picture/example on it.  I want them to be involved in the process--it helps the words "stick" a little more!  I'll try to blog about that soon!

This year I was lucky enough to win a grant and get Wobble stools!  They are a huge hit with students!  The table I got last year, since our amazing custodian was able to find an unused one in the district.

My classroom library is something I am extremely proud of and have blogged about it here.

Exit tickets are turned in by students at the end of the block inside these folders.  Students put their exit ticket inside the folder that best describes their understanding of the day's lesson.

I decorated clipboards I found at Goodwill using scrapbook paper and Mod Podge.  I hang them in the unused space under the board.  Students love choosing a clipboard of their choice!  I used a variety of colorful patterns, including hearts, baseballs, and paw prints!

Every teacher in my building is required to display the day's learning target and homework.  The custodian cleans the board every Friday after school and had already gotten to it by the time I took this picture ;)

All student materials, extra handouts, the pencil sharpener, assessment calendar, bell schedules, etc. are located in one place.  I choose to put it in the front of the room every year because I want students to feel comfortable accessing it, but also easy for me to grab supplies when I need them for demonstrations, too.

Two years ago, my coworker and I started doing "5 minute daily fluency".  Maybe this is something typical for an elementary school teacher, but we are super proud of this.  We got these bins at Ikea and have all their materials in one drawer per group: dice, integer chips, flashcards, decks of cards, and game boards.  Even in 7th grade, students benefit from (and enjoy!) playing a quick fluency game at the start of class.  We do a lot of multiplication and division practice at the start of the year, but add in games involving multiples, fractions, and integers as the year goes on.  It's something consistent I do the first 5 minutes of class, it's fun, and it gives me time to check in with students, if needed.  I'll blog about it soon :)

And lastly, I was inspired by everyone's math tables I keep seeing on Twitter!  Unfortunately, large class sizes (and a gigantic Chromebook cart) have meant that I just don't have space for another table.  I had a couple empty shelves and decided to start with that (sorry for the blurry pic!).  In the blue bin are some math toys for students, such as a Rubik's Cube, wooden puzzle cube, and the game "Insanity" (shown below).  I also have old pages from a Mensa calendar that students can come and grab.  I already have students running over to the shelf if they have a few minutes.  Love it!

Would love to get your feedback!  Any suggestions?  Anything you like or want to try?

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Their Favorites

One of the things I wanted to incorporate into my blog was sharing out what my students truly enjoy about my class.  I love when former students visit and mention activities, projects, or something funny that happened in class.  I shared a Google Form with several former students a few weeks ago and I have already gotten several responses!  Tonight, I received this one:

I love Sarah Carter's blog and back in January, I put up her 2018 challenge (blog post here).  It was a hit with my students!  We had already done "four 9's" in September, and my students became very competitive, very quickly.  I used Sarah's template to make "four 4's" in April and "four 5's" in May.  It was incredible to see my students figure out patterns, learn about factorial (and double and triple factorial!), and collaborate.  And they never got bored with it--every day, they'd race over to the chart and see what numbers were still needed.  So when Luke posted that it was his favorite part of class last year??  It is clear that this is an activity I will be continuing this year!  I strongly recommend it to anyone and everyone!  And thank you, Sarah Carter, for the awesome activity!!

Monday, August 13, 2018

My Classroom Library

Growing up, I never liked reading.  I remember my mom signing me up for the summer reading program and hating it.  Reading was a chore.  About 8 years ago, that all changed.  My school rearranged our homeroom time so that we had 20 minutes twice a week for "sustained silent reading", or SSR.  Teachers were also required to read during this time.  I asked my sister for a suggestion and she recommended The Hunger Games.  I finished it quickly, never wanting to put it down.  The good news was that the next two books in the series were already out, so I was able to keep reading.  I finished all 3 books in three weeks.  Prior to that, I probably didn't read 3 books in an entire year.  Filled will joy and excitement, my sister recommended Divergent.  I have been hooked on dystopian books ever since!

All teachers were asked to have a small classroom library for students needing a book during SSR.  I started going to Goodwill, Half Price Books, and local book sales to get books I had already read.  I also paid attention to what students were reading and bought those.  Students started giving me book recommendations, so I would get the book, read it, and then put it in my library (very important to screen books first!).   

Here is what my classroom library looks like today:

My books are sorted into "books in a series" and "non series", then alphabetized.  If they are in a series, I also add the number to the label.  I have a checkout clipboard, book return, and bucket of bookmarks for students to take.  I also put pictures of my favorite book covers on the bulletin board, because a student once told me she chooses books based on the cover.  I spend time every summer searching for new books and purging books students no longer are interested in (I take them to Scarce).

But the part I think is most important is that I have read almost every single book in my library.  Students come to me for book recommendations all the time.  As their math teacher, I am not telling them what they should  read.  Rather, I ask them what they're interested in or what they've read recently and make a recommendation (or two).  Last year, a former student was going on spring break and emailed me for a book recommendation--3 years after I had her in class!  Students have even told me I have the best classroom library in 7th grade :)  Their interest and happiness keep me going!

I keep a few Algebra 2 textbooks, math books (such as G is for Googol), and "Choose Your Own Adventure" on the bottom shelf.  I love having a variety of books available to my students at all times!

Sunday, August 5, 2018

9 Things to Quit

Maybe you can relate... I used to be a super confident educator and leader.  But the past couple years, it seems like we are constantly presented with new initiatives and expectations to be more rigorous/engaging/innovative/etc.  There is pressure to "try this" and "try that".  While some jump on board right away, I'm a little more cautious and am perceived as being "not flexible" and "not innovative".  My confidence has definitely been tested recently.

Thanks to TMC, I learned about Evernote--the BEST way to save websites, tweets, and anything else you want to search for later!  I was going through my Twitter "likes" yesterday to save some ideas and stumbled upon this:

As I prepare for a new school year, I am going to try to quit these.  The two in particular that I will focus on quitting this year are #1 (trying to please everyone) and #8 (thinking you're not good enough).  I have an amazing support system at my school and I know that they will continue to help lift me up.  And as Julie Reulbach reminds us all, "you are enough".

Daily Routines

Last summer at TMC, I started brainstorming ways to incorporate all the cool ideas I was collecting: WODB, stand & talks, debate math......