Saturday, September 29, 2012

Angled Desks

I made a quick seating chart change yesterday that I'm really liking.  This is what my groups have looked like:

I had the same issue that I always have with tables, which is the red seats.  The problem with those desks is that their backs face the board.  For group work it doesn't really matter, but when I'm up at the front kids in these desk have to actually turn around to look which isn't ideal.  Usually I've just tried to avoid putting kids in these seats if possible, but I don't really like that.  I want to be able to use all my desks.  

The other smaller issue was the orange seats.  I use the back board to post the ISN table of contents and WWK so these kids would have to turn around for a couple minutes in the beginning of the period to look at the board.

I made a small change yesterday that I'm not sure why I didn't think of earlier.

Now no one really has their back to me and the only slight issue is those two orange desks that need to turn around to see the back board.  Still not completely perfect, but much much better.

Here's some other table related posts: why I use groups, last year's layout

Thursday, September 27, 2012


I said yesterday that when I collected ISNs this week that many of them had no name on them.  I said that I wanted them to put their names on the cover somewhere but I guess I didn't stress it enough.  The good news is onces the covers are set up, the kids know which ones are theirs so it's not like they can get mixed up.  Last year I also had the kids write their name and class period on the first page and then put on there whatever they wanted to.  I didn't have them do that this year for a couple reasons.

One was time- I wanted to get started.  The other reason was that I really didn't what to put there.  I could have done the same thing as last year, which is honestly what I had planned on doing eventually. Instead I decided to do something different.

I had seen the idea before of creating "fakebook" pages as a way of getting student information and gotten a couple different copies from people.  I also remembered hearing of people having kids make math autobiographies which I liked.  I had already collected student info using an google docs survey and I really didn't want to turn this into something major so I took a couple of the ideas and created a timeline version that I think is cute.

The one that I used is slightly different because I included some information that only really pertains to my school.  This copy is editable so you can make it what you want.  I thought this gave me some good insight into a couple things and didn't take too long to do.

To put it into their notebooks, I printed it at 80% so it pretty much fills up the whole first page.  They can draw a picture up in the banner if they want to.

I also created three different versions: one with room to draw/add a profile picture, one with a boy silhouette, and one with a girl silhouette so there are some options.

I uploaded all these as word documents so that they are completely editable so that you can add whatever questions you would like.  If anyone uses this as is, or changes it around so it works better for you I'd love to hear about it.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Just a few things

No school today for me this week so here's some random things from this week that are on my mind...

1. Curse Jar Update
Granted it's only been two days on this one, but I'm already noticing it starting to work. Currently, I think that we are at 11 marbles in there. As for why I chose 50, it was arbitrary. If I chose a lower number though I worried that they would be getting punished too often which isn't the point. The point is more to make them aware of their language.

Yesterday a boy (that is probably the worst offender) came into my room during a period I had off to get something he had left in there.  He was having a conversation with a friend and was really only in my room for like 20 seconds, but on his way out he says to me, "See what I did there Miss? I was gonna curse but I stopped myself" and then as they walk down the hall I hear him telling is friend, "yo in her room, if you curse...." and then they trailed off.  But I thought it was awesome that he was telling his friend.  I also loved that he has already gotten the point that whether or not class is in session, that language is not ok in my room.  Does it mean that he's never going to curse again in my room? Of course not.  But he is starting to at least become aware and that's my goal.  If yesterday he stopped one curse, then maybe tomorrow he'll stop two and eventually we'll be in better shape.

Also yesterday I was working with a kid and some other kid yells, "You don't even have to say it, I'm going!" and gets up to put down his name and toss in a marble.  The truth is that I was focused on the kid that I was helping and I didn't even catch whatever he had said.  But he realized it himself.  Love it.

2. ISNs
At least half of my kids are getting into the ISN habit of recording the TOC and setting up page headings on their own.  I collected them yesterday to grade them so I got to look through them for the first time.

Some things that I have noticed:

  • A handful of kids are not setting up their page headings correctly so tomorrow I need to just go back over that and have them fix their headings before adding anything new.
  • About half of the ISNs I collected have no names on them whatsoever.  This needs to be fixed asap.  I told them that they needed to put it on the cover, but I honestly didn't check before taping them up because I was in a hurry when I was laminating them.  I created something today that will go on the first page to identify them which I had left blank because I was waiting to come up with something good.  I'll post soon about what that thing is.
  • I'm grading using stamps this year.  I have these stamps and I'm using the blue one for things that are done correctly and the red stamp for things where the kid tried but didn't do the assignment correctly and/or completely.  Any pages that are empty or with a red stamp need to be fixed before I collect them again.
The most frustrating thing so far is a tape issue and is completely my own fault.  I ran out of packing tape to laminate their covers and kept forgetting to get more.  Last Friday I promised kids that I would remember to buy tape over the weekend so I could finish their books.  I told them I would make a note of it so I wouldn't forget.  I made the note and left it in school.  Ugh.  So Monday when they asked if I remembered to get tape I had to admit to them that I forgot again.  So instead I made a reminder in my phone.  I bought the tape Monday and brought it to school Tuesday.  I then collected their notebooks, took them home to grade and laminate on my day off and of course left the tape in school.  Double ugh.    So tomorrow morning I'll be heading to school extra early to finally get these covered because I can't tell them that I forgot again.

3. Keepsakes
I pretty much keep everything.  This is especially true when it comes to things that kids have made or given me.  In my room I have binders, yearbooks, and photo albums full of things from past years.  This week I ran into a kid in school that I taught two years ago that I didn't even know went to the school I'm at now.  It was a nice surprise.  I pulled out the binder from his year and showed him that I still have a thank you letter he had written me (from an activity I did with the kids) and we opened up my yearbook to find where he had signed it.  I keep that stuff because it's important to me, but it was really cool to see the smile on his face when he saw that I still had it.

4. Technology

I needed to show a video on Monday that was crucial for what we were doing but ran into a little bit of an issue.  My classroom doesn't get wifi, so I couldn't pull the video up on my iPad.  My phone is an android so the iPad cord wouldn't connect (and I don't want to buy a new one that will).  The computer was too far away from the projector so my cord wouldn't reach.  This was my solution:

It was a little bit of a gamble since the video was essential for the lesson, but I wasn't willing to compromise and cancel a lesson that I thought was awesome (and it was, it turned out amazing).  So each period I just explained to the kids that I wanted to show a video and asked if anyone had an iPhone and would be willing to attach it to the projector to watch a short 30 second video.  Honestly like a third of each period had iPhones.  In one period, a kid actually turned on wifi on his phone and created a hotspot in the room so that my iPad would work. I had a phone charger with me so I even let him plug in his phone so it wouldn't kill the battery. Installing technology in schools is really expensive, so it may not be available everywhere but I think we should remember that the smartphones that so many people have are really some very powerful devices that can be used for awesome things.  Instead of fighting the phones, let's try to put them to good use.

I actually got this idea two weeks ago from a kid.  I was talking about slope and randomly remembered a video that went along great with what we were doing.  I hadn't planned on showing it, so I hadn't tried it out.  I told the kids about it but then quickly realized that I couldn't show it for the same reasons listed above.  A kid raised his hand and said that he had an iPhone that we could just use with my iPad projector cord.  So he pulled up the video, we plugged in speakers and now my kids won't fotget what an undefined slope is. Some teamwork and an open mind can really have some great results.

Sidenote: I ended up figuring out how to download the videos to watch offline so that I don't run into this issue again. I feel a little silly for not figuring it out earlier, but I'm glad that I didn't let the tech issues stop me.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Starting Routines & Breaking a Habit

Tomorrow is day 12 of school and I am trying to slowly start to get into some routines.  One routine is using the ISN.  Since the fourth day of school I have been making them set up their page headings and TOC themselves.  I keep reminding them where to find the information, but they have to do it themselves.  Each day there are more kids that remember what to do so hopefully one day soon they will all remember.  For only being up to page 8 in their ISN I think things are going well.

Another routine is classroom management.  I have posted about my classroom expectations before, but what I haven't talked about is how I get to making these work.

Now let me start this by saying there may be tons of people that disagree with me on this.  I think the general consensus is that you should be firm in the beginning of the year and ease up as the year goes on.  I generally don't really do this.  I definitely start out the year letting them know what the expectations are, but I'm pretty lenient with them for a little while.

The reason for this is that I like to see what the kids will do before I start coming down on them for things.  It all comes down to picking my battles.  Before I can do that, I need to see what I'm working with.  I don't want to start out the year picking every single battle just to prove that I'm in charge.

In no way does this mean my room is chaos for the first couple weeks.  I certainly don't ignore bad behavior, I just don't make a huge deal out of it.  I make sure to say something to the kid and then make a mental note of it for myself.  What this has done for me, is let me know which are the big things I need to focus on.  So as I start the third week now, I know which battles I am choosing.

One of them is cell phones.  I don't know if it is because my experience is with younger kids, but I have never seen kids that are on their phones SO much.  Now for the first week or so I have been very lenient with it.  I certainly don't allow them to be on their phones, but I have just been giving out verbal warnings.  At this point, however, the phones are going to start to be taken away.  I will start Monday by letting them all know this.  I don't like arguments so I am just very clear that it will be happening.  I will tell them that I'm not doing it just because it's a rule, but because it is a specific issue that we are having in our class.

The other battle I'm choosing is cursing.  This is one that I don't have all that much experience with since I'm used to younger kids.  Sure my middle school kids cursed every now and then, but it was rare and almost always an unintentional.

My classroom is very informal and there is a lot of group work and collaboration going on so there is a lot of conversation going on, which I'm ok with for the most part.   But what I have been noticing over the past week is that a few kids have a particularly bad habit of cursing.  They do it without thinking though, and when I say something (or just give them "the look") they immediately apologize. They aren't cursing at anyone or even using it an angry way, it's just unfortunately the way they are used to speaking.  They are really nice kids, but they also need to understand that's not an acceptable way to speak in a classroom.  They talk like that with their friends and some may even be used to talking like that at home. This makes it even harder to stop because it's not an issue like just taking away a phone, it's an issue of actually breaking a habit which is really tough.

On Friday, I put my new plan into effect.  On this shelf I have a little glass jar with my little x-face picture on it, a jar with 50 marbles, and a little notepad.

Every time someone curses, they put their name on the list and put a marble into the glass jar.  Each time they curse, they must repeat the process (if their name is already on the list, they will just add a tally mark).  When all 50 marbles are  in the jar, everyone that has their name on the list will earn a detention.  The masking tape is showing roughly where all 50 marbles come up to just to give them an idea as it's filling up.

Everyone's first question was, "What if I just curse a whole bunch of times just to get detention for everyone on the list?" and I told them that any cursing that is on purpose or directed at someone else will be written up individually.  So of course if a kid curses me or another kid out I'm going to do more than have them put a marble in a jar.  This is designed for those times where it's not quite on purpose. I'm pretty sure they knew this, but they are kids and always need to ask the "what if" question.

Here's why I chose to do it:

  • It address the real issue, which is breaking a habit.  Every time a kid curses they have to get up out of their seat and go do something.  Having them get up will make them more aware of what they are doing, break up what they were doing, and allow them to refocus.  I've been reading things on how to break habits and I've seen this suggestion often.  In all honestly, the point of this system is not the punishment, it's to make the kids more aware of what they are doing.
  • Other kids will begin to hold each other accountable.  Once a kid's name is on the list they are at risk of getting in trouble so they are going to have a problem if there's another kid that keeps cursing.  It creates an environment where everyone is vested in the rules, not just me.
  • It doesn't punish everyone, just the kids that curse.  I'm not ok with punishing the whole class for something that only a few kids did, and this addresses that.  The only kids in danger are the ones that acted inappropriately.
Now this system is brand new and I have absolutely know idea if it's going to work.  I can say, however, that we had very little cursing on Friday.  Only one kid did, and as soon as I told him he had to go start off the jar he begged to let it not count and promised to not curse anymore and so on.  Of course I stood by the new system so he had to go but a marble in, but I can say a few days ago it would have been an "ah I'm sorry" from him and then he would have forgotten all about what had just happened. My hopes are that from now on he'll be much more aware.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Translating Math

I did this one last week, but didn't get around to blogging about it yet.  This is an idea that I stole from @jreulbach in this post.  Translating words into math is a skill that is so important in math at any level. So I took her graphic organizer and just moved some things around a little bit so that I could fold it up in our ISNs.  I also added words that will indicate variables since the kids will be using it for algebra.  I ended up with this: (printed double sided: flip on short edge)

And put it into our ISNs like so:

As far as actually putting the words in, if I tried to just tell kids what to write I know they wouldn't have really listened all that much.  Instead I just took a sheet of paper and wrote out all the words.  Then I gave the kids the word page in a clear dry erase sleeve.

They had to read each word, decide where to put it and then write it inside the appropriate symbol.  Did they do them all correctly? Of course not, but that's ok.  I put it in the dry erase sleeves so that they could cross out words as they went along.  Some kids opted to do their work in dry erase marker and have me check it over before writing their answers on the foldable because they wanted theirs to be neat.  No problem.

We went over it at the end (in addition to me helping them as I walked around) and they just fixed any of the ones they had in the wrong spot.  Often I am actually able to give the kids a significant amount of one on one attention during activities like this (especially with small classes) so I don't even need to read the answers aloud at the end because I have worked individually and checked each kid's paper.

What I also enjoy about this is that I have seen some kids using their key words over the past couple days.  Also, as we have been working on problems and activities the kids have been coming across words that were not part of the list originally.  When this happens, I'll stop class for a second, discuss the word and have kids add it to their foldable.  I could add these words to the list for next time, but I actually really like doing it this because it shows the kids that our notes are ongoing works in progress.  We don't just create a foldable and then forget about it; it changes, gets updated, and gets used as we learn new things.

This is one of the ways to create an ISN that is valuable to kids.  I don't just have them stick papers in so that they are there, I try to really spend time on them and teach the kids how to use them as a tool.

A good idea to differentiate this would be to create different sheets of key words and do a jigsaw type activity.  Kids could move into homogeneous groups and work with a list of words that is at a good level for them and when they return to their original groups they could share all their answers so that in the end everyone ends up with all the words.  I think that I'll definitely do this next time.  I'll might even try to create the word lists now so that things are all ready to go when I need it next.


Random short post.  I enjoy it when I teach/review something that kids have been taught in past years and they tell me that it FINALLY makes sense to them.  That is all. :)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Foldable Planning

I have gotten a lot of e-mails lately from people that are just starting to use ISNs and trying to create foldables and things to go into it.  This is a random post, just to show my thought process when making pages and how easy it is.  I'm not super creative with this stuff or anything special at all.  Most of these foldables are so simple and really nothing crazy, they just help to break up information.

At the end of the day today I sat down to make something for tomorrow.  Initially I had not planned on making a foldable, but after jotting down some notes I saw that it fit nicely into one.

Before even thinking about what I wanted to do, I sketched out what I want kids to be able to do.  In this case, I want them to be able to define a variable and write an equation from a verbal scenario. After doing the problem myself, I looked at the process and chunked it into three main parts (the circles I drew): interpreting the word problem, defining the variables, and then writing the equation.  So I figured a foldable with three parts would be best.

 Then I just made a really rough draft of the foldable.  Pretty isn't it?

 For this, I put the directions on the left side of the flaps and the work on the right side.

Next I made it in the computer using PowerPoint.  I also decided when I made it that I wanted the directions to be in a different font from the problem so that it is easy to see that they are different.  (random fact: the font on the left side is actually my own handwriting that I turned into a font using the iPad iFontMaker app)

Then I print it out and make sure everything works out.  For this one, I wasn't happy with the spacing on the problem because it was so close that it was difficult to really circle the words.  So for the final copy I fixed that.

In addition, I set up my page headings tonight.  Usually I would complete my copy of the foldable and tape it in, but I'll be printing these on colored paper tomorrow and I want to make sure that mine matches what the kids will have.  So instead I'll create my own copy tomorrow morning and make sure that I have it all done before I teach it tomorrow.

When teaching this tomorrow, I will use a projector and put up the inside of the foldable.  I will have kids box things in and highlight EXACTLY like I do and make sure to model exactly what I want them to do.  I want to make sure that their foldables are useful so I'm very careful to make sure they get things down correctly here.

And here's the foldable:

This is the left side page I'll be doing with it.  Nothing fancy, just practice.

Sunday, September 16, 2012


#msSunFunSo I wasn't going to post these pictures, but then I saw the e-mail yesterday that today's Sunday Funday theme is organization and I couldn't help it.  I have said before that I like things to be organized because it makes me happy and less stressed.  My thought on organizing is that every single little thing needs to have a spot so that at all times I know where to find everything.
The main reason for this is that I'm naturally quite a messy person.  I have a tendency to pile things and put things down somewhere random and then forget where I put it.  Then begins the searching and trying to remember where I saw it last which is so frustrating to me.  So to combat that, I focus on putting things down where they belong.  Last year I started getting into the habit of a quick clean up at the end of the day to return all the small items I used to their homes and it worked well to keep everything neat and easy to find.

So what I have to share today is my desk.  My desk is home to tons of items and like everything else, they all need to have a spot.  Each drawer holds similar types of items that I feel belong together.

This is the top left drawer.  It is the home for small office type supplies (paper clips, rubber bands, push pins) and pens/pencils that I have a lot of.

This is the next drawer down.  It is all of my art supplies (markers, crayons, colored pencils, window crayons, sharpies) and my favorite pens.  I keep them in the trays they came in so that I don't lose any.  If I see that I've taken out like three of the black pens it means I need to put some away because they might get lost soon.
This is the bottom drawer.  This drawer is adhesive type stuff (glue gun, tape, glue).  Since taking this picture I moved all the stamp stuff to somewhere else and in it's spot is a shoebox that holds tape (packing tape, double sided tape, masking tape, scotch tape, extra rolls, etc) because I didn't really have a good spot for all that.

Now for the other side.  This is the top drawer on the right.  This is notepads, post-its and some particular sharpies and highlighters.

And last is the middle drawer.  The front middle section is all of the pens and markers I use regularly. If I leave them out in my pencil holders they tend to get lost.  Everything else in here is just small stuff. In the drawer itself I just put in a bunch of those little drawer organizers (I got them at HomeGoods) to make sure that there was enough spots for things.  If you look carefully here- you may notice that there is even spot where Lego Harry Potter lives, which a student last year made for me. :)

So there you have it.  My organized desk- no messy junk drawers for me!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Math Scavenger Hunt

One of the things I spend a lot of time thinking about is how to give kids practice without it seeming like practice.  I feel like I'm not "supposed to" just give kids a practice worksheet to do for the whole period because it's not interactive and creative and engaging and all that.  And what if someone came in to observe and my plan for the day was just to hand out a worksheet?  That certainly wouldn't look good.  And then of course there's the fact that many of the kids I have just can't focus for that long.  They'll end up either bored or frustrated within 10-15 minutes and will be done working.

But the problem is, what do I do when all they need is practice??  In order to really master math skills, they need to practice.  I can do great discovery activities and hands-on learning, but eventually they NEED to practice.  I guess homework is designed to do that, but it just doesn't work well enough.  Kids need the scaffolding.  They need to practice with a safety net (me) in the room with them.

So what to do?

Try to trick them into thinking they're doing something more fun than a practice worksheet.

I've already talked about one way that I do this.  Cut up a worksheet, call it stations and all of a sudden it's more interesting.

On Friday I found another trick.  I read about this activity at Math-N-Spire at some point and then remembered it Friday and decided to give it a try.  Sidenote: I do this all the time.  I do plans for the week, but as the week goes on I pretty much always come up with something that I like better.  So that often leaves me creating something that I'm going to do the same day.

On Thursday we had gone over some key words used in math so on Friday, they needed to practice translating verbal expressions into math.  I found some problems that I really liked, but handing it out and telling them they had the period to finish wasn't going to work.

Instead, I cut this worksheet (which I found) in half and gave the kids about 10/15 minutes to do the first 10.  This page went in their ISN. 

For the rest, I took 8 of the more challengeing problems and wrote them on index cards.  I lettered each one and then shuffled them all up.  Then I went through and put the answer to the first problem on the second card.  Then put the answer to that problem on the next card, and so on.  When I got to the last card, that answer went on the first card- creating a loop.

This sounds way more complicated than it is, but I'll admit I screwed it up the first time and had to start over.  When I had them all done, I taped the problems randomly all over the room answer side facing out.

Then each kid started at a different card (one period worked in pairs) and looked at the problem on the back.  They had to get the answer, then find it on another card in the room.  Then they solved that problem and so on.  They recoreded the answers and the letters as they went along.  They were complete when they reached the problem they started at and then I checked their letters to make sure they were in the correct order.

My classes are pretty small, but I can honestly say that all of the kids were actively working.  If they were stuck and got an answer wrong, they knew it was wrong becasuse there was no matching answer so they would come find me and ask for help. 

I enjoyed this one a lot and after doing it I have some ideas for some variations I could add in next time. 
One is to differentiate.  The cards all create a loop, so in period where kids are at different levels, I could create two (or maybe even three) different loops of problems that are at varied levels of difficulty.  By telling kids where to start, I could choose the level that is most appropriate for them.  I thought about doing the loops different colors, but if they were actually all the same color cards then kids wouldn't even need to know that there's any difference.

Or (and this could take a little more planning) on a nice day, this could be interesting to take outside.  Looking for the answer to the next problem could be more fun and challenging for them if they're searching around a courtyard instead of just inside the classroom.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

It's been a week...

Today was the first day that I started really doing math stuff with my classes and we started with a couple pages in their ISNs.  I'm trying to focus on getting them into a system so that things can run easily.  I modeled things heavily the first day, but for the past two days I am trying to get them into the habit of understandaing that seeing "5-6 Translating Math" written on the board means that they need to copy this into their table of contents and set up the corresponding page headings.  Today we also had two Words Worth Knowing so they entered those in too.  I would say that at this point maybe like 1/4 of each period (I have really small classes so this equates to about 3 kids) have it down so far.  For today being our third day putting in pages I guess that's not bad.  A few kids today saw the words written under the WWK sign on the board and just went ahead and entered them- nice!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

First Couple ISN Days

My focus for this week is to get the ISN's all set up and start to get down the routine so that cutting and taping things in doesn't end up being the focus on my class.  We put a couple things in already and I stressed to students that I'm walking them through the process now, but that soon they'll need to be able to do it on their own.

I handed out the supply list on the first day (last Thursday) and had supplies due Monday, so yesterday we started working on their ISNs.  I counted bringing the notebook as their first homework grade.  For anyone that did not bring one, I just gave them a notebook and recorded it as a missing homework assignment.  I did tell them that if they end up getting one they can just replace one I gave them and I'll take away the zero.

I like to start setting up the ISN with the pages inside.  So yesterday I walked them through setting up the table of contents (4 pages), words worth knowing (6 pages), the folder in the back, and the HSPA reference sheet.  We then added the course guide on page 2 and their homework assignment was to read the rules and complete the high-five activity on the left side.  This is what these pages look like:

On the right side, I put three things.  One is the course guide (grading policy, textbook info, and all that type stuff).

The second is my classroom expectations.

The third is a letter about all of the ways they can stay informed about what's going on in class.  I have six things listed on here that I plan to use this year (class website, e-mail, online gradebook, twitter, remind101, and an e-mail blast program).

I was pretty impressed because we got through all of this in the 42 minute period and even ended up with some time left over. 

I've said before how much I like this high-five activity to go with the rules, but I will say it again.  As checking them today, it was clear that the majority of the kids didn't understand what I wanted them to do.  If they tried I gave them credit, but I re-explained that they needed to read the rules (many didn't) to complete the activity.  I'm going to reassign it again later in the week.  The ones that didn't read the rules was very obvious so I knew quick that there was a lot of confusion.

Today was cover decorating day.  I gave kids a few guidelines, but let them be as creative as they want with their decorating.  This is one of the things that while it doesn't seem necessary, helps kids to start to feel a sense of ownership of their book that will be useful in getting them to take it serisouly. 

Some kids got really into it, while others just met the bare requirements.  Both of which were ok because I wanted them to do whatever they wanted with it.  To make sure that this arts and crafts time didn't turn my room into a complete disaster, I set things up very purposefully into three areas.

All of the plain colored paper was in one area.  Kids were free to take what they wanted from here.  We also kept a container for scraps, so as not to waste my colored paper.  Kids were even really good about looking through the scrap container if they only needed a small piece of a color.

On another table was all of the "Numbers About Me" labels.  These are just little slips of paper that say "Numbers About Me" in different fonts.  I spread them all out and they actually stayed really neat.  I was really happy with my kids on that one.

In the back of the room, I had rolls of random wrapping papers that I picked up at the dollar store for any kids that wanted to use patterened paper.  I stayed at this table and I cut the amount of paper they needed to keep things from getting out of control here.

Besides that, all work was done at their tables where they had everything they needed.

More pictures to come tomorrow: I'm giving them a little bit more time to finish up.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Easy Station Activity

This activity is one that I use often and can be used with literally anything and set up in minutes.  It's a version of stations that usually goes over really well.  I used this one on Friday with my 9th graders to get an idea of their problem solving skills and how they approach problem solving.  I wanted them to work together so for the first half of the period we played the Scavenger Hunt Bingo game as an icebreaker since they don't really know each other at all.  It got them talking and they seemed to enjoy it.  It was cute to hear them yelling things like, "Who has a pet fish??"

For this class I used some problems from Fawn at Finding Ways to Nguyen Students Over.  I used the first three of her Algebraic Thinking problems.

I printed them on some colored paper and put one on each table.  Each kid had a sheet of paper that they kept with them as they moved that I collected at the end of the period.  The problems stayed on the tables and the students moved like this:

I like this better than just giving kids the three problems because it is more interesting for them.  Instead of a long assignment, I find that the kids are more engaged when they are up and moving every few minutes.  Every time they get up and move to a new table it's like a fresh start and a new challenge.  Since we did the Bingo game first, this was done in the last half of the period so the stations were kept pretty short.  I used my Sand Timer app projected on the board to keep track of time, giving them 7 minutes at each problem.  I had started with 5 but it wasn't quite enough so I adjusted.

I also did stations with my 10th graders but instead used some equation scale problems and had three at each table so this is really something that can be switched up so easily.  For them, I talked for the first half of the period about ISNs and went over the Prezi so I needed something to break up the rest of the period and get them active and this worked.

I like setting a lesson up into stations because of how versatile it is.  I have tried different numbers of stations and just found that I personally like three best.  If stations are my plan for the entire period, I create activities that are a little more involved and give kids ten minutes at each table.  They are actively engaged for the entire period, but are always amazed at how quickly the period feels.  With a longer period, doing more than three stations would also be great.

Here are some other ways that you could easily use station activities:

  • Before an assessment, use stations to review the different topics.  Each station could be problems on a different topic that has been covered.
  • Take one topic and create three different activities that relate to it.  One station could be a game, one could be an ISN left side page and one could be some problems to work on as a group.
  • Have different stations use different types of media.  One station could be some type of pencil & paper type activity, one could be computer based (an especially good idea if you only have a few computers/iPads), one could be a teacher led mini-lesson.
  • Differentiate using stations.  Make one circuit easier problems and one more challenging and group students accordingly.  
These are just a few ideas, and you could really mix and match any of these ideas to create something that works for you.

So if you'd like to set something up with stations, here's some ideas you could pick from.
These are some mini-activities that you can put at a station:
  • Some cut up worksheet problems
  • A card sort
  • Teacher mini-lesson
  • A game
  • A puzzle
  • A computer/iPad activity
  • A word problem
  • A foldable
What else? Give me more ideas in the comments to add to the list!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Something New

I've been seeing people on twitter talking about blog180 but until tonight wasn't quite sure what it was all about.  It's a project to take a picture of what's going on at school for each of the 180 days.  I love taking pictures and this sounds like and interesting project/challenge so I'm going to give it a try and see how it goes.  Luckily I had already taken pictures of stuff going on for the first two days of school so I'm not behind.  My plan is to keep it simple and not a ton of writing; a picture and a few words.  If I stick with it, it'll be cool to look back and see a year's worth of pictures. 

To take a look I added a tab up at the top. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

First Day

I've been pretty busy this week and just haven't been able to find any time to write anything new. Today was the first day with kids and it was fantastic.  I had posted awhile ago about a couple first day activities that I planned on doing so I thought I'd give a quick update on how things went.  Everything here has already been mentioned, so instead of rewriting about it I'll just link over to what I'm talking about in case you missed it.

I started out all of my periods by handing these cards out and they went over really well.  In one period a kid at the first table started to sing the song out loud and a couple kids across the room (that hadn't yet received cards) thought he was crazy until they got their cards and were in on the joke too.

I got many kids that got the card, read it, and then told me "Ok, now this is good.  I like this."  I consider this a high compliment coming from teenagers.  I also had a handful of boys who are not Carly Rae fans that told me that they did not like the card.  They didn't say it in a rude way at all though and it was funny.

In my 10th grade classes I played my 31 card game.  This also went fantastic.  The kids were grateful to be working on something instead of going over rules and such.  I always figure that a lot of people are doing rules the first day so I just save it for a different day to break things up a bit for the kids.  So out of my three classes, there was really only one kid that wasn't into it and that was during the last period of the day.

During one period I overhead two kids discussing whether or not there was a prize for the game (I had forgot to mention that there was!) and between the two of them they figured they were probably too old for prizes.  When I came over and told them that of course there's a prize, the girl told me that I am officially her favorite teacher which made me laugh.  I guess that's pretty good for the first day, huh?

My one 9th grade class is also my homeroom so after doing homeroom stuff there wasn't enough time to play the game.  When I passed out the supply list I got many strange looks about the six rolls of tape so I took the extra time to go through my ISN Prezi.  This wasn't my plan at all, but they were interested so I figured it was a good time.  They were very impressed by the Prezi and thought it looked cool.  I really enjoyed doing it on my iPad because I could use the arrows to go through the presentation, but I could also pan and zoom in on anything that I wanted to really easily.

I only went into depth on the ISN in one period, but I did hand out the supply list to all my classes and do like a 5 minute overview of the ISN just to justify the need for so much tape.  I was actually very impressed with how many kids of mine have done ISNs before so I think that's going to make it easy to get started which is great.

Some other random highlights:

  • I had a kid offer to build me a podium and another one say she can teach me how to use fondant..excellent.
  • I ran into six kids that I taught as 8th graders last year and it seemed like they were grateful to see a familiar face that they could ask for help.
  • The kids I had last year told me that they still have their ISNs at home and didn't throw them out. I was thrilled to hear this.
  • I'm teaching a lot of kids that live in my town and went to the same elementary and middle school as I did.  We even shared some of the same teachers which I think is pretty cool.
So overall I think that I'd say today was a success.  Hoping for another great day tomorrow and maybe even finding some more time to blog!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

I guess Staples is back on my good side...for now

Kinda short post today on some fun things I picked up from Staples yesterday.  Now I've been avoiding Staples because I don't like their new policy of not raising the limit for teachers so I was only going there for something very specific.

These pens are my favorite-
and they're one thing that I buy and consider a splurge because it's like $17 for 8 pens.  I really do use them until they completely run out of ink though so I consider them worth it.  I will give in and buy the colored ones once all my old ones run out, but for the black ones I've started buying Staples brand because they are a little cheaper and work almost as well (I can totally tell the difference, but I can deal with it).

So I'm in the aisle with the Staples brand black pens that I came for and a lady next to me tells her kid that he needs to get Uniball pens because that's what she has a 50% off coupon for.  Whatttt?!  I couldn't help it and had to ask her where she got that awesome coupon.  She said it was on the Staples website so I found it on my phone and was so excited to get the pens I really wanted for half off.  I also hit up another Staples later in the day and got the colored ones too.  

Twelve new pens for half off is a really exciting day for me.

The rest of these items were also picked up during my Staples trips yesterday and are also exciting for me.

Half size notepads that will fit perfectly on my half size clipboards.  One that is for planning projects and ones that is for making to do lists.  Each one was $1.  Love it.

I have a weakness for post it notes.  Maybe this week I'll show off my desk drawer that contains my post-it collection that are all organized according to size.  These are post it notes that are also a sandwich.  One ham & cheese (four separate and different stacks of post-its- bread, ham, cheese, bread) and one grilled cheese (bread, cheese, bread).  Each $1.  You should be impressed that I didn't buy more.  I mean there's even grill marks on the bread.  I can't even stand it.

Next to the grilled cheese is a pack of three baby legal pads that are adorable.  Also $1.

I guess I'm not that angry with Staples anymore.  They may have won me back a little bit with today's purchase...maybe.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

My Favorite Math iPad Apps

This app is great for integer practice.  I have the free version which is only adding and it's ok for me so far because adding/subtracting integers is where they need the most practice.  I've used it with kids and they really enjoy it.  

I only had one iPad so I used it as an activity during study hall for times when I needed to give a kid something to do.  I set it up with a timer and the goal was to get as many right during that time as possible.  To start it out I played and then the kids' goal was to try to beat my score or see who could get the closest.  If you are in a class with a set of iPads it would be a great thing to do as a do now every now and then or to fill some extra time when needed.  It's quick and gives the kids instant feedback which they respond really well to.

This one is fairly self explanatory, it's a geoboard.  There are two pegboards in the app, one that is 5x5 and one that is 15x10.  There are 8 different colored rubber bands and you can choose to color in the shapes once you draw them.  I feel like there's a little more you could do with this than you could with an actual geoboard which is cool.

This is an interesting one that would be great as either a projection or on student iPads.  It lets you open files that were created with Geometer's Sketchpad.  It isn't the actual program though so you can't create sketches.  If you go on Sketch Exchange though there are tons of things available for download that would be great to use as an investigation type activity. 

This app is where I go to look at the new standards.  It has math & language arts and presents them in a easy to read way and lets you just look at the parts that you want to see.


This one is like a graphing calculator in that it graphs functions, but it does each one in a different color which I like.  It makes it easy to tell which is which.  There is also an option to graph in 2D or 3D coordinate planes.

These next apps are all games.  My disclaimer with game apps is that I'm very picky in choosing ones to actually use.  There are tons of apps that claim to be math games.  I'm not crazy about the types that have you answer a math question and then play if you get it right.  I look for games that actually involve math in the game play.  
Last year I only had one iPad in my classroom so it was difficult to have kids play games really because it was only one at a time and I didn't want fighting.  The way that I ended up doing it was during the study hall period that they had.  I would choose a "Game of the Day" and post it on the board and then they would sign up to play when they came in.  Each kid got to play a level or until they lost and we kept track of the high scores on the board.  They enjoyed playing to try to beat each other scores.  An added bonus was that they came into the period early so that they could sign up to play and they behaved because I would erase their name if they didn't.

If you had a class set of iPads then you clearly have more options or even if you have a couple you could set up stations and have one of them be a "game station" or something like that.

I just came across this one and I'm in love with it.  It's created by NCTM and unlike many of the games, it's amazing for older kids.  This one is easier to explain with a screenshot:
The goal is to choose a path that goes from the top to the bottom and accomplishes the goal in the top right corner.  Your score changes according to the path you take.  So in the one on the left the goal is to start with 0 and just get the highest number possible.  This one only has addition, but other include all operations.  The one on the right starts with one and the goal is to actually create a specific number.  There are so many different variations that you really need to download this one and try it out yourself. There are 7 levels and they get seriously challenging.
  • Level 1: Adding, subtracting, multiplying & dividing to get the highest number possible
  • Level 2: Adding, subtracting, multiplying & dividing to get a target number
  • Level 3: Adding, subtracting, multiplying & dividing 10's
  • Level 4: Fractions
  • Level 5: Measurement (with all mixed units)
  • Level 6: Fractions & Decimals mixed together
  • Level 7: Exponents

Even if you don't have an iPad I think that these are all fantastic puzzles to even print out and have kids work on.  They will be more difficult without the instant feedback, but would still be great.  I'm hoping that NCTM comes out with more because this is fantastic.

This game another one made by NCTM and this is one that has you play against a computer character Okta the octupus.  There are many settings that change the difficulty of the game so you can differentiate easily.  It looks like this:
The goal here is to choose three card that have a sum of 15.  Players choose cards one at a time, so I picked 5 then Okta picked 1 and so on.  We keep going until one player has three cards in their possession that add up to 15 or all the cards are gone.  There is a lot of strategy needed for this one.  

What is also cool though, is that you could totally play this game without an iPad and just using playing cards and have two kids play against each other. 

My kids LOVED this one.  It's like fruit ninja but with numbers.  They need to chop the composite numbers and not the prime numbers.  If you miss a number that is factorable, it is deducted from your score.  What's also cool is let's say 27 comes chop it and get 9 and 3.  Since 9 is still factorable you would need to chop that one as well.  Awesome game to practice prime/composite numbers.  I tried to get a screenshot of this game but it moves too fast to really tell what's going on.

Of the ones on this list, this one is probably the most easiest but I feel like it could still be useful.  It has a Sushi Monster in the middle with a table all around it. 
The monster gives a target number and you have to choose the sushi pieces that have a product of that number.  The monster eats it and then goes on to the next number.  There is are levels for addition and multiplication and they get increasingly more difficult.  Good to practice facts.

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