Saturday, August 30, 2014

Classroom #6

My classroom is finally done! I moved rooms this summer which was quite a task. Moving rooms is something I've gotten quite used to, I just counted and over the past 8 years I have had 6 different classrooms. I have also accumulated a ridiculous amount of stuff. I tried really hard this time to actually clean stuff out instead of just finding a place to stash it. I finally parted with a bunch of papers, lesson plans, transparencies, old handbooks and just so much.

It's kinda hard to take good pictures with all the windows so ignore the not wonderful lighting. This is the view when you walk in the door. 









It took a good amount of time and effort but I'm happy with it.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Estimation 180: The Game

Last year after seeing (what seemed like) everyone raving about Estimation180.com, I jumped on the bandwagon. The first couple ones we did randomly, just when we had a couple extra minutes at the end of the period here or there. Well the kids absolutely loved it. They would ask me fairly often if we could play "that game" and when I didn't know what that meant, it was "that game with how tall that guy is"

Somewhere around the same time I picked up the game Wits and Wages thinking it would be a great game to play in class. So one day I had the intentions to play the game in class but then of course I forgot it at home.

Thus, the Estimation180 Game was born. It occurred to me that I didn't actually need the game, I just needed some facts for them to estimate. And instead of looking up a list of facts to estimate, why not just pull up Estimation180.com?

It turned into a fan favorite in my room. In case you are unfamiliar with the rules of Wits and Wagers, I'll explain how we play. If you do know how to play then you probably already have the idea.

I take my desks and turn them into long rows. I teach small classes (like 10 kids) so they all fit at 1 table but you could just as easily make numerous groups.

Each kid gets some number of betting chips (I use foam counters that I have). Depending on the day I'll give them like 10-15 or so to start, each kid gets the same number. I also put out a couple buckets of extra chips along the table. Each kid also gets their own whiteboard.

To play I put up an Estimation180.com day and each kid makes their own estimate. They'll usually talk out their reasoning out loud as they think. Sometimes they disagree with each other and they'll argue about it for a bit (good arguing though!). Sometimes they run up to the board and try to measure something, or count how many candy corn are in the measuring cup or whatever. Eventually each kid settles in on their own estimate and writes it on their own board.

Once they're done, the line up the boards in the middle of the table (I don't have them put the boards in numerical order, but maybe I should). Now the betting the starts. They really like the gambling part! I tell them that they can wager anywhere from 1-3 chips. (I'm considering letting them bet up to 5..I don't know though.) They need to do at least 1, but can't do more than 3. They are betting on which answer they think is closest. They can split their chips or not. At first they'll usually put 3 on their own and say they all think theirs is the best answer. Soon they start to get some better strategy going on. Sometimes they'll write their initials next to their chips so that they know which chips are their own. If I had different color chips that would be ideal.

Once they are all done betting I show them the answer. Whichever estimate was the closest is the winning board. I don't use the rule that says they can't go over. It's just the closest. Occasionally we'll have two different answers that are both the winner, like if one was 3 under and another was 3 over. If two kids happened to estimate the same number they are both winning boards.

So for the returns, I do:

  • 3 chips if you wrote an estimate that was exact
  • 2 chips if you wrote the closest estimate
  • 2 to 1 return on anyone that put one of their chips on a winning board
Whoever has the most chips at the end is the winner. They have such a great time. Every time we play it's different how many rounds we get through. I love it because there's always great conversations going on. It sometimes makes me laugh when they get into heated debates with each other because everyone gets their own guess, so there's no real reason for them to have a problem with someone else's answer. I let them go though because it's good conversation.

Anyone else do this? Or play Wits and Wages in the classroom? I did never actually end up playing it since this has been such a hit. Maybe I will eventually when we run out of days.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

SBG Mastery

Numerous people have asked lately why there isn't an arrow directly from quizzing to mastery on my SBG bulletin board. The reason for this is just because of how I'm using SBG in my classroom with reassessing. The way I worked it for the past year and a half has been that a student needs to score a 4 twice to get to a 5. This is the only way they can move to a 5- I describe it that they need to prove they know it and then they need to prove that they remember it after some time. The part that has kind of been bothering me though is the "after some time" part. There's no set amount of time that they need to remember it for. Depending on when the kid gets their first 4, the next reassessment could be in a few days or in a couple weeks. And then what if they forget it after then?

I'll usually give a reassessment at the end of the marking period on everything we've worked on. It's a fairly long reassessment that everyone takes to give them one last chance to bring up anything they've been working on. Since scores can't move down a kid down, a kid that got a 5 weeks ago doesn't need to do the topics they've already mastered. 

So something I'm thinking about is changing up the 5 policy a bit. I'm thinking that two 4's will still raise them to a 5, but the only skill quiz eligible for 5's will be the last one. This way, it gets rid of the "after some time" part. Any kid that ends up with a 5 demonstrated that they learned the skill and remembered it until the end of the marking period, not just a week or so. I think it might encourage kids to brush up on all their skills at the end of each marking period, hopefully increasing their retention a bit.

I worry though that it might be a bit overwhelming to have to review every single topic instead of letting them just focus in on their areas of weakness, but I feel like if they're already scored a 4 then the review process should be much shorter- maybe just a problem or two to refresh their memory.

So I'm curious to know if anyone has tried anything like this or has any thoughts that maybe haven't crossed my mind?

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Little Things

I get stressed out sometimes when there's too much going on. Like if there are 3 different kids calling my name or asking me questions all while I'm trying to do two other things it's not going to end well for anyone. 

I need things that work well because there is far too much going to for me to deal with how all the little things are working. So I wanted to share some of the little things I have around the room that make my life easier because they work.

If you use ISNs and you cover them in packing tape, you NEED this thing: 


I'm sure you've seen in. The first time I was taping up books I started with one of the big ones that are used to close boxes and that didn't work well. So then I was cutting the tape piece by piece. About halfway through the day my friend recommended the one above and it just makes the job SO much easier. It's just a little thing, but I use it so much that it was worth writing about.

Another thing that has been driving me crazy is the pencil sharpener. I found a big electric one in the room when I moved in but it was never wonderful. And last year it went from eh to straight up bad. It wasn't jammed but it just wasn't sharpening. Kids would try to empty it to solve the problem and then it was a mess. And then they'd come tell me that it wasn't working which at the moment I couldn't do anything to fix. And my little hand sharpeners all jam in about 2 seconds. Oh and by that point in the year I'd already ordered my school supplies for the next year so it was too late- I'd have to buy it myself which is not what I'm looking to do at the end of the year. It ended up in June where kids were leaving the room to sharpen pencils. So irritating.

So the whole sharpener fiasco gave me the chance to get my hands on one of the sharpeners that I've seen everywhere online for the past year. I looked no further than Classroom Friendly Supplies. If everyone was going crazy over a pencil sharpener I figured it had to be worth it.

So here is my pretty new sharpener:


Um please excuse my bar cart in the background- I swear I don't have a bar in my classroom! I don't go back to school for another two weeks so this guy is still at home with me being put to good use on all my pencils around the house. And it's actually funny because I've never used pencils so much as I have been lately because they are just so awesomely sharp.

Check out their video on how it works:


There's a bit of a learning curve the first time but it's super easy once you know what to do. I like the little bar too that holds it securely to the table- it's very sturdy. I also really love that they sell replacement parts. All the sharpeners that break in my past rooms have been trash once they stop working because I have no clue how to repair them. With this I can easily order replacement blades so I can be sure it's always in great shape.

I can't wait to have this be in action when school starts! I'll try to post how it works out with kids once school starts but I didn't want to wait to write about it because Classroom Friendly Supplies has been kind enough to offer my readers a 5% discount if you use the code VCR67. So if you don't already have one I would strongly suggest heading over there and checking it out!!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

How to Learn

Last week I posted some ideas for a bulletin board I was working on and want to thank everyone who gave me their opinion. I was really deciding between the last two and overwhelmingly most people liked the last one, which was what I was leaning towards. It had been titled "What is Standards Based Grading?" but I loved Sarah Hagan's title of "How to Learn Math." In my class making the switch to SBG has felt more of a change in the way we learn instead of just a change in how I grade. 

So up on the bulletin board I had this:


And I didn't love it. I liked the colors and the scribbled kind of look on the poster but didn't love it up on the wall. It's not horrible but I wasn't in love.

So I reprinted- bigger and got rid of the colors. So this is where I ended up:


I liked that the different colors showed different parts of the reassessment/practice cycle but the layout does a good enough job at doing that. So that's it!

Downloads:


for the arrows I just grabbed a couple pieces of black card stock and freehanded those with a pair of scissors and the title letters are these

Monday, August 18, 2014

ISN Reflections

Something I really like about ISN's is being able to use them myself to look back on everything from the year. It's a great starting point in thinking about the upcoming year because I'm not starting from scratch. Instead I can just pick through it and improve on things so that each year gets better than the last.

Next week I'm doing a presentation on ISN's for our new teachers so knowing that I'm going to be passing it around as an example I wanted to make sure it was in good shape. Even as I flipped through it quickly I was able to fill in some empty left sides with good prompts that I hadn't thought of during the year. Even though the year is over, I still wrote them in there so that this year I have the ideas ready to go. This is the only year too where I'll be teaching the same course (two of them actually) as I did last year so I'm especially looking forward to being able to really use last year's notebook as a guide for the first time ever.

One thing that I filled in that I like better was on the page with my course guide. Last year I switched my syllabus to a shorter one that is more to the point. In the past, I've used this high five activity with my syllabus but since this page has less info now I don't know if it could be more of a challenge to find five different things. Not that a challenge is a bad thing, but this year I think I'm going to switch things up and do a 3-2-1 summary on this page (apparently last year I left it blank so I filled this in just now).


In case you can't quite read the picture below, the prompts will be:
  • 3 most important things to know about this class (same idea as the high five, but only 3). This will also be based off of both the course guide + whatever we talked about during class.
  • 2 questions you still have about this class
  • 1 good thing that happened in school today


This could change by the time I go back to school in a couple weeks, but I think I like it. What do you think?

Oh and something else fun. Have you seen this pin yet? I fell in love with that syllabus and decided to modify it for myself. If you find him on twitter he shared a link to download the Photoshop template he used. I'd share a link to it but I can't find it again. (Update: Katie found the link and posted it in the comments below!) So after remaking mine, I thought about it and how it's not really practical to print them in color so instead I put it up on my website as the first thing you see.



Isn't it pretty? I of course don't take credit for the idea and I used some of his wording as well because it was better than what I had written. I would share a link or something to the template but I really don't have anything that would be useable to anyone. Maybe the idea will spark something though!


Thursday, August 14, 2014

SBG Bulletin Board

So this whole post is probably rather ridiculous but it's really just something I'm trying to make a decision on.

So last month I modified Kelly O'Shea's flowchart to make my own:


Then yesterday, Sarah Hagan tweeted this:

And although I already printed and laminated my poster, I happen to have an empty bulletin board you can see here:


So instead of getting ready to go teach summer school this morning, I started to cut arrows and make my poster bigger.


Printed it on cardstock and ended up here:


And this is where the ridiculous sets in because any normal person would have probably called it a day there and been done. Nope. Decided I didn't like the rectangles so I cut.


And once all the pieces were on the floor I started playing. The layout is perfectly fine as is, but since I wasn't trying to fit it onto a piece of paper I started moving things around. 

While a bulletin board is not going to be the center of attention or anything and it's probably not that big of a deal, I'm a perfectionist and I once I get an idea I have to run with it or it drives me nuts. Also, it would be handy to put up a large scale graphic idea of SBG in my room because it would save me a lot of explaining. Not to my kids because they get it, but to everyone else. People seemed to be very curious about what was going on in my room last year. Even my kids told me that other adults would ask them what exactly it was.

So I keep playing around with the cards on my living room floor and these are some of the options. 






I have two favorites that I'm deciding between, but I'm curious to hear anyone else's thoughts.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

More Quote Posters

The last thing I need is more posters in my classroom but I keep finding sayings I like and I can't help it. These two are designed to match the last set I made.

I think I keep making posters because it's that time of summer where I have classroom decorating on my mind. Especially so since I'm in the process of moving my classroom.

It is currently a disaster and looks like this: 


Fun fact..this will be my 9th year of teaching and between moving schools and just having being moved around, I have never spent more than 2 years in the same classroom. You'd think I'd have a way to make this process easier but no. Thankfully this room is right around the corner from my old room. The summer I had to move everything downstairs and across the building was not a good time. Between teaching and this project it'll be a very busy last month of summer.