Sunday, February 10, 2013

It's been awhile...

Hey remember me?  Yeah I used to blog here but then I got a bit busy, tired, and lazy.  I've had a bunch of fun stuff going this past month and have really just been too busy enjoying it all to sit down and write about it.  If I haven't answered your e-mail or comment, please don't take it personally.  So here's a super long post with all sorts of random stuff to make up for it..

Some of the highlights of the past month:

Linear Equations.  I taught what was probably my favorite algebra unit thus far.  It has been my favorite largely because I've actually been putting in the time and effort to make it good.  In December I was getting lazy and slipping into the rut of giving more typical notes which I wasn't crazy about.  For this chapter I've been just trying to focus on simplifying the information and presenting it in the clearest way possible.

In the past I had used this graphic organizer for my linear equation notes.  That had been with my honors kids.  I had given typical notes for each topic and then summed it all up with that organizer.  Instead this time, I broke them all apart and filled them out as we went.  Each form got its own ISN page.

On each right side we put in the notes and on each left side I had them fill out the web with different types of problems related to the form.  They actually liked the web for some reason.  Like I actually got cheers when I handed them out for homework.  Who knows, but I'm not complaining.  Also- I totally stole the web from someone online but I can't find who.  If it's you or you know, pleaseeee let me know so I can give credit.

Then after all of that I gave this for parallel & perpendicular lines.  The first two pages I put on the right side (printed double sided and folded) and the last two pages I put on the left side (printed double sided and folded).

So yeah...really nothing all that creative, but in my opinion it was a better alternative to just writing pages upon pages of notes.

SBG. I tried out standards based grading for this unit and really loved it.  I felt that it really helped improve retention because the kids were quizzing and re-quizzing on the same topics throughout the entire unit.  It also helped me to really pinpoint their areas of weaknesses.  I honestly feel like I have a very good understanding of exactly what each kid does and does not know.

Some kids really got into the idea and wanted to get their 5's (I used a 0-5 scale where two 4's in a row equals a 5) and it made them request help and ask more questions.  On the other hand, some kids did not rise to the occasion.  They did not request help and continued to get low scores.  When I asked them if they needed help, they said no.  They did not do well on the final unit test.  I didn't want to be super insistent on making them come for help because I really wanted them to want it, but some of them  just didn't get there.

For the next unit I plan to be more on top of them and make the help less optional.  Maybe create mandatory help sessions for anyone that has a 0-2 in a particular topic.

My kids.  I've said it here plenty before, but my kids are so awesome that I just can't stand it.  I like them this year so ridiculously much.  They make my days so enjoyable and really make me look forward to going to school.  I see them during their class period (of course) but I also feel like I see them all day.  At any given time one of them will pop into another class of mine or stop by during my prep periods.  When they have substitutes in other classes they ask to come spend the period with me instead.  Sure I like time to myself and time with other adults, but I really enjoy their company so much that I'll never say no.

A lot of kids get to school early because they come from all over the county so some of them have a good amount of time to spend at school before homeroom starts.  A group of my kids have started to spend their mornings in my room talking with me instead of hanging out in the hallways like everyone else.  Homeroom starts at 8:48 and these kids are in my room by like 8:10 so it means that I need to get all my prep work done about a half hour earlier, but I love it.  Everyday they come in with something different to talk about and it's great.

I have another kid that HATES math yet spends his lunch period every single day sitting in on my math class.  Some days he'll sit at my desk and work on his own homework and ask me for help, other days he'll listen in on my lesson and answer questions.  If it's a topic that he's comfortable with, he'll move around the room and help other kids. Some days he'll help me out with stuff I need done, like fixing something or some craft project I'm working on.  And other days he doesn't really do anything, but I think he just likes having a place to sit.

Another one is a girl of mine that is in the culinary program.  Every single time I come into the kitchen she has me try what she's making (and it's always great!).  Last week she had a free day in there so she showed up to my room with a to-go container of the lemon shrimp she had just make.  Uhh...amazing!

Another couple of my boys are in the carpentry program and when they need a new project idea they come to me and we look through my Pinterest boards for what they should make next.

Last week semester 1 ended and with that I lost the kids from my half year course.  They are a class that I absolutely love. They told me all week that they weren't going to leave me and that they just wanted to stay with me all year.  On the day that they were supposed to switch, one by one every single one of them walked into my room and it was kind of adorable.  I ended up having to walk them down to their new class to see them off.  Every couple days or so one of them will come to me instead of going to their new class and tell me that I need to walk them to class.  I don't mind.

Another period of mine lost a couple kids so it has gotten very small.  And all of them want my attention so instead of sitting at their desks they all want to sit with me.  They all pull their chairs up to my desk to be close.  Although I love that they wanted me to work with them, things were getting a bit cramped.  So one day for their period I did this:

When I did it, it reminded me of a big dining room table.  The kids loved it.  One kid walked in and said, "I don't know what this is, but I like it already."  They too, likened it to a dining room table and two boys in my class that have a strong bromance going on took the two heads of the table.  Somehow it later switched over to a boardroom metaphor with those two becoming the CEO's.  They all sit wherever they want and they get their work done and it's just awesome.

Also in that picture you can see my back chalkboard that has stopped being used for anything educational.  Instead it is a big graffiti drawing type board with all sorts of random stuff.  It seems like every so often a kid will just pick up a piece of chalk and go draw something back there or sign their name when the mood strikes them.  I think they just like to make their mark.  There isn't anything offensive up there so it's fine with me.  Also I'm fairly certain that if I erased it they would yell at me.

So did anyone actually make it to the end of all that??  Haha, my guess is no.  It turns out that I've had quite a bit to say after all.  Coming up next is a unit on systems of equations that I'm going to try to write about more as it goes to avoid this once a month super long recap.  If you did actually read all of this, I also think you should totally leave me a comment to say hi so I know people are actually still here reading :)


  1. Still reading---I was hoping you would post again!

  2. Hi! I loved the equations downloads and I'm planning to use a few of them with my Algebra I class as we're just starting equations this week. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Hi! I am an avid reader of your blog. In fact, I look forward to opening my email during my planning period each day and seeing what you have been doing with your students. Although I teach special needs middle school students (many of who are below grade level), I can always get a good idea from what you have done with your kids. Your enthusiasm is wonderful - especially since a teaching career often leads to burnout. Your students are really lucky to have you;)

    1. Aw thanks so much. This makes me so happy to hear :)

  4. Still reading.. thanks for being you...

  5. Thanks for sharing! I started parallel and perpendicular lines today and I used this for a left page assignment. I'm curious to see what the students make of filling it out. Meanwhile, could you email a pic or two of what yours looked like once completed? When I borrow an idea I like to make sure I used it the way it was intended. Thanks a bunch! My email address is

    P.S. If that's too much trouble, I totally understand. :)

    1. Sure, I will certainly make my best effort to remember to grab a kid's notebook soon and take a picture. I would love to see how you used it too though, I love seeing different interpretations of ideas that I've come up always gives me tons of great new ideas.

  6. I just discovered your blog and wanted you to know how amazing and helpful I think it is! I've been wanting to start ISNs (2nd year teacher) but wasn't sure where to start. Your blog has me convinced it's the right thing to do next year! Keep up the great work. Your kids are lucky to have you.

  7. Found this through pinterest and I'm so happy. This is a great worksheet for my resource room students to use for when taking notes, Thanks!

  8. You are just wonderful, Sarah! I found your blog through another (can't remember which one), and I have been reading all of your entries. Thank you for sharing. I am about to teach algebra honors to eight graders for the first time, and I have never used INB (no one at my school does), but I am so in after reading and seeing your work. Thank you for taking time from an already busy life to help other teachers and kids out.

  9. Thanks for sharing your webs! My students loved them!

  10. Sarah, I seriously feel like you are my best teacher friend and I wish I knew you for real! I "steal" your stuff all the time. I was just getting ready to use the Point-Slope web in my class, but realized that the equation on the web matches the Standard Form web. Was that on purpose? Is there any way to edit it on my end? I didn't think so since it's a PDF, but thought I'd ask anyway. Thanks for sharing all that you do and for keeping us inspired! :)

  11. I am so excited to try these out with my students as a test review study guide! Thank you so much for sharing!

  12. I enjoy reading your blog! I have a question on your word problem organizer. What do you have the students write in the top box when asked...use slope-intercept form when?

  13. I have just found your blog and LOVE IT! This is my first year to teach alg 1 after several years of upper high school classes. Your ideas are fresh, fun, and keep the students engage. WIN!

  14. Love this idea but for some reason I cannot see the blank pages, do you know why this might be?


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