Friday, September 13, 2013

#myfavfriday Data, Data on the Wall, Whoo's the Wisest of them All?

SBG is going just swimmingly! I love it and the kids are really doing an excellent job at looking at their scores, seeing exactly what they need help with, and getting the extra help they need.

I wanted some way to show who is showing proficiency/mastery. I thought about charts and graphs, but that's just too difficult when you teach 4 classes of kids. My solution?

First off, how funny is it that my first two blocks just slapped them up there and my third and fourth blocks put them up very orderly?

Every time  a student scores at a proficient level (2.5-3.5), they will receive a sticky note. They put their name on the sticky then put it in the box that is for their class on the wall. When a student receives a 4 for a topic (mastery), they receive an owl (I had these lying around and needed a use for them. Unfortunately, I did not have nearly enough and there should be more in the Green and Purple boxes). I'm thinking at the end of the marking period we will have a pizza or ice cream party for the class with the highest percentage of topics proficient/mastered (not sure how I'm going to calculate that yet, but I have time). I still need to put the title up, but it will say "Data on the wall, Whoo's the Wisest of them All?"

I want to do something more if you gain proficiency or mastery for all topics on a unit test. Since we are using Star Wars on our rubric, I'm thinking "Master all Units you will" and I'll give them Yoda outlines or something. Not sure. Anyone have an idea?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Moments of Encouragement

I'm going to be honest. A lot of days, I go home feeling exhausted and defeated not knowing what to do. I teach in a rough neighborhood stricken with gang involvement that is often brought into school. I have 17-year-olds sitting right next to 13-year-olds in my 8th grade classes. The majority of my kids perform 2+ years below grade level. Every day is a challenge. If I had it my way, I'd drop the curriculum and start from the beginning with basic concepts. How can I teach systems of equations when my students can't even add fractions with common denominators?

Every so often, I find a moment that reminds me why I'm here and that even though it seems like I'm running full speed at a brick wall over and over again, my kids are learning.

My fourth block is comprised entirely of students who are overaged. This class also houses all of my EC students. Challenge accepted. Today, while I was helping another student, I heard one of my lower-achieving students teaching one of his peers. He wasn't just telling her "do this, do this, then do that." He was legitimately teaching her. The words coming out of his mouth were the same ones that come out of mine:

"Ok, what do you have to do first? Think about PEMDAS."
"You have a subtraction sign and a negative number. Can you do that? No? Then what do you have to do?"
"Good. Now what do you do when you have a positive and a negative added together? Do you add or subtract?"
"Can you tell me why you think your number is positive? What if we were talking about money? If I still owe you money, shouldn't it be negative?"

I don't know if he knew I was listening so intently, but I was so proud, impressed, etc by him. So much so, that I think I will let that count as his retest for that skill. If you can teach it, you can do it.

Math workshop for the win!!!
Monday, September 9, 2013

Made 4 Math Monday: Hey Miss A! I need to retest!

Just a quick post. Since I gave my first quiz on Friday, there are a lot of kids who want to/need to retest. iPads haven't been distributed for the year yet, and I don't know when they will be, so I made this in the meantime. It is based off of the Google Form I put together here.

I tried to put some humor in it, making light of the frequent "well, you see, what happened was..." that we seem to get from kids all. the. time at my school. Students have to tell me what went wrong, what they did to get more practice, and request a date and time. Only two learning targets can be re tested at a time.

I think re-tests will be short, 3 questions max. 

You can download a generic "Hey Teacher!" form in my TpT store for free here.

Happy #made4math Monday!


Sunday, September 8, 2013

One Week of Notebooking

We started our notebooks on Monday. I notebooked last year, but I never fully committed to it. We didn't start until about October, and my students were not able to maintain self control when they were in groups, so we stopped soon after Christmas and only did it occasionally from then on. This year, we are going full force!

Starting from the beginning...

I think I posted about this in my first post. I got it from Mrs. Hester and it is how we are doing SBG this year. We glued it into the front cover so it is there for easy reference.

Last year, I had the kids count 10 pages at the beginning and start numbering 1-200. That was stupid time consuming. This year, I put this together and I love it. It only takes up one page, I love that it folds open, and I love even more that the right hand pages are in the right hand column and left pages in the left hand column. Win!

We jumped right in to Integer Operations. I thought about putting our syllabus and some multiple intelligence/personality things in, but the LA teacher did the intelligences and we are low on paper, so straight to business. You can download it in my TpT store for free. The notes were fill in the blank and there is space for you to use your own foldable. I drew my number line, but I had the kids glue one in that folds up and goes from -40 to 40. 

LH pages are always hard for me. Last year I had them do a KWL type thing on each page where they wrote the objective and what they already knew before the lesson then afterwards they did a 321 type thing. 3 things they learned, 2 questions they still have, and instead of 1 they had to do a prove it. I would usually give them about 1-3 problems to solve. 

This year, I am going to just have them glue their homework on the left, or at least for now. Anybody out there have some good LH page ideas?

Rational operations were next. I made this foldable too, and you can download it in my TpT store for free!! All of the steps are typed out and there is space for you to put in your own examples.

I like to just write the problems without solving them out so that if kids are absent and using my notebook they have to do the work instead of just copying. I think they get more out of it. I also need to do better at adding color. Last year's notebook was much more attractive looking!

I've seen this PEMDAS organizer floating around a few places. I'll do an update with it color coded and solved out because right now, from your perspective, it doesn't look like it is a useful page. I like that the MD and AS are next to each other to remind kids they go left to right...even though they still try do do M and A before D and S every single time.

We are starting a glossary in the back. I have the unit 1 vocab up HERE in my TpT store. We will put the page number for the ISN in the upper corner. The Frayer model template came from Mrs. Hester.

Last but not least, on the back cover we glued in an iPad login sheet that Christine at The Math Nerdette put together. She works in the same county as I do and knows the pain of kids who cannot remember their logins and passwords to save their lives. Hopefully this will save me from resetting Edmodo passwords one million times this year.

Switching Gears...

I had my first SBG experience this weekend since I gave my first quiz on Friday. I'll post about it more tomorrow, because I'm just a little concerned that I'm not quite on track and hopefully someone can lend some advice!


Thursday, September 5, 2013


We have spent the last two weeks reviewing 7th grade skills, and boy did we need it! As I expected, the kids cannot remember integer rules and think that multiplication and addition are always before division and subtraction. Sigh. I'm torn right now because they need A LOT more review with this, but I think we will have to spiral it in with everything else or I won't be getting into 8th grade curriculum until October.

In trying to use Math Workshop this year and pull away from worksheets and do more activities and games, I developed...

32 cards with all operations for integers and rational numbers. Some are easy mental math, and others are pretty challenging. I also made sure to include a lot of 4(-8) notation to get them used to it. 

The Rules:

Deal the cards between partners. Both partners flip a card at the same time. Students solve both problems correctly as quickly as possible. Whoever slaps the card with the higher value first wins both cards. The person with the most cards at the end wins.

This game can be downloaded from my TpT store for free here.
Sunday, September 1, 2013

Made 4 Math Monday: SBG Tracking Sheet

I know it's only Sunday and I'm a day ahead, but my first Made 4 Math Monday! Hooray!!!

I decided this year that I will be switching to Standards Based/Mastery Grading. I think this will really help my students be more successful, and hopefully I will see a lot less "D's" and a lot more "C's" and "B's."

Homework: I am only checking homework for completion this year. Last year I kind of went back and forth between collecting, checking off on a checklist, checking for accuracy, and just checking completion. This year, I am just walking around with a clip board, stamping with my cool "completed on time" stamp I ordered from Vista Print, and calling it a day. I can't get around giving a homework grade, so it will just be the percentage of homework they completed. Since I'm using math workshop, I am not going to spit out the answers to them. Already this last week they got into the habit of checking their answers with their neighbor's answers and discussing them to determine which is correct and which is incorrect. Any big disputes we do on the board.

Warm-Ups: Again, I'm not collecting these. Warm-ups I believe are more for their benefit. I may change my mind and start collecting again mid-year, but for now, it is just on the board, they complete, discuss with their table, and we go over any that have major disputes.

Classwork: I will pick and choose what I collect here. Since we are 1:1 with iPads, my kids are going to be developing Pod/Vodcasts and Educreations videos that I am going to compile and post on my site (possibly make an iBook out of them too, I haven't decided). Those will be graded. With math workshop being so group-oriented, I think that it is better to focus on the how and why, the thought processes, and working as a team.

Quizzes: I sat down a few weeks ago and broke down everything I'm teaching this year into an original 120 sub-tasks. When I put these into units, it was too much, so I combined some and got down to 95.  I then made this awesome spread sheet for each unit that you can download in my brand new TpT store! WOO! They will keep them in those folders with the metal prongs on their bookshelves with their ISN's.

Each unit has one page with the corresponding task. They will rate it date it when we begin the unit and graph it at that time. We will take a quiz every 3-5 tasks on average (some units are only 4-5 tasks). They will then rate and date again. I will let them retake the quiz ONE TIME and ONLY if they have 80% homework completion. They will have to fill out a Google Form to do this. I'll link that when I have it up and running. They have to prove that they have done something to improve their learning to retake. I like that the graph is evolving, so it is showing "this is what I can do now." The last column with a date and score is for when we test, just to be sure they are at the same level.

Tests: As usual, we will have a unit test. They will rate and date each one after the test.

I'm thinking that as far as my grade book goes, a 4=100%, 3.5=95%, 3=92%, 2.5=89%, 2=84% , 1.5=80%, 1=76% , 0.5=70%, and a 0 is a 69% (we are on a 7 point grading scale). 

I like that they will get a grade per task rather than one grade per quiz. I really hope that I'm right and this will help them. As far as the rubric, I am using Miss Calculate's holistic Star Wars grading rubric.

That's all for now! 

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Week 1

We made it through week 1, and what a chaotic week it was! Between schedules being messed up school-wide (for the first two days I only had two classes and the other two were empty), switching to 60 minute blocks from 80 minute blocks to kids not knowing where they are supposed to be, the first half of the week was a little crazy, but we survived!

Day 1: We did the usual boring first day of school activities: went over the class description, rules, procedures, etc. etc. I am requiring parents to come conference with me after the holiday so I can try to establish those relationships now. I got almost every sheet back, so that is a good sign! Then we did a post-it activity where kids wrote their goal for the year, why they think math is important, qualities of a good leader, how I can help them, and what they want our class to be like every day on stickies and put them up on posters. I'll add pictures later. I totally forgot to do that.

Day 2: Die Hard with a Vengeance problem: You have two buckets, one is 3 gal and the other is 5 gal. A bomb is about to go off and needs exactly 4 gallons of water to keep it from going off. You may only pour the water back and forth between the two buckets, pour the water on the ground, or fill it back up. If you place the wrong amount of water on the bomb, it will explode. No marking the buckets, and estimating is too risky! How can you get exactly 4 gallons of water in the 5 gallon bucket?

This got us right into working as a team. They did really well with accepting each other's ideas and finding a solution. I was really impressed!!

Day 3: Saxon placement test just to make sure the 8th graders who should be in algebra are and the 7th graders who should be in 8th grade accelerated are. As I expected, we are really going to have to focus on word problems and how to translate them into equations. Fractions and decimals don't seem to be high on the list of skills we are fluent in either. For example, there was a question that asked how many quarter pound hamburgers could be made from 100lbs of beef. Almost every student saw "quarter" and thought "25," so they made 4 hamburgers. When I told them the next day that a 25lb hamburger would weigh as much as my friend's two-year-old, they realized they didn't check to make sure their answer made sense.

Day 4: Thursday was a little....chaotic. When I got to school, I was told that the 7th grade class I had taken on would be moving back to 7th grade because they were going on a schedule different from the rest of the building to lower class sizes after the weekend. I didn't want to do anything too intensive, so we did some personality and multiple intelligence tests. It was nice getting to know the kids in that way. Almost every student in that class is kinesthetic and an "orange" personality, meaning they need things to be upbeat and exciting. My second period, which is all 8th graders, we tried a PEMDAS sudoku, which turned out to be more challenging than I thought. For the second half of the day, we played Integer Insanity from Live Love Math. That went MUCH better. I guess that's the nice thing about having planning halfway through the day. If something isn't working, I can always regroup and do something more appropriate 3rd and 4th block.

Day 5: Friday went really well :) FINALLY! We played order of operations bingo. They are really struggling with integers, but I expected that since my 8th graders were still trying to wrap their heads around it when the EOG came along last year. They also think that Multiplication always comes before Division and Addition always before Subtraction because of PEMDAS. We will have to work on that next week.

My homeroom is all AVID kids, so we went outside and did a team building activity: radioactive swamp. I split my class into two teams of 9. One team ended up being all girls and one boy, and the other was mixed. Oops! I gave each team some newspaper, and they had to go approximately 30 yards without stepping in the grass. Their whole team had to get across. One person on their team couldn't use their legs, and if anyone touched the grass, that body part was unusable. That was some GREAT Friday entertainment! The 50/50 team did not work well together by any means. The boys took almost all of the newspaper, wrapped their shoes in it, and shuffled across the grass to the finish line. Once they were there, they thought they were done and didn't help the rest of their team across. The team that was mostly girls ripped the paper into strips and made a path with the last person picking up the last piece of paper then handing it to the front of the line (you can't throw the paper) to make it longer.

All-in-all, it was a good week and I think it will be MUCH better than last year for many, many reasons. Onward to week two!
Thursday, August 22, 2013

Classroom Tour

Alright, world! I'm going to take a shot at this blog thing! New school year, lots of new life changes, great time to start, no? I keep looking at how things were going this time last year (a year ago today I interviewed for my job), and can't figure out how I was able to get myself together for the school year. I was hired THE DAY BEFORE school started and only had about 3 hours tops in my classroom. I spent every day this week at school from at least 8-5, plus a full day last Thursday with my mom. I finally finished up without a moment to spare today as I inhaled a double cheeseburger as parents started walking in for open house, but I need to try to get a plan together for next week. My anxiety is a little high just because the schedules for the kids are pretty screwed up school-wide. I don't want to start teaching because things are going to get switched around, but I don't want to hold off either. Such a conundrum! My precious precious teaching time can't be wasted! 

Here are some photos of my classroom for this year. I am SO excited about it :D

From the door with the lights off--my room used to be a science room, and to me it feels like a hospital. I'm trying to do some alternative lighting, and I think with a few more lamps it will be doable.

Same view, but with one set of lights on. Still too harsh for me. I made some adjustments to the desks and turned the front two groups into 5's and got rid of the back middle group to create some more space. I was too lazy to take new pictures though. I also wasn't thinking when I ordered the binder holders and only ordered 3 sets. Waiting for the other 2 to come from Really Good Stuff so all of my bookcases will be uniform. I will do a closeup of the bookshelf and a description of how I manage materials once I know that it works the year is up and running.

From the other side of the room. The back whiteboard is a WhiteyBoard and I LOVE it. It was way too hard to peel and stick, so I used duct tape then put a border around it. My word wall is on the cabinets.

Homework board at the front of the room. I wanted to write the homework on each day so I the kids can keep track of what was assigned when, but the squares are smaller than I thought they would be when I ordered the calendar online.

Front of the room

This, I *think* I borrowed from Mrs. Hester, but I can't find the post again, so I may be wrong. We are focusing on collaborative groups with math workshop, so these are some questions I am going to train my kids to ask each other to guide their own discussions.

Classroom rules--took these from the Minds on Mathematics book I read this summer because I thought they were pretty all-encompassing. The M&M's of iPads is something that one of the 6th grade teachers came up with, I just made the poster with my wonderful Cricut.

Cabinets at the front of the room. I will put work in the absent folders as we do it. There are two folders per day of the week--one for this week and one for last. I have a binder that will keep track of who is absent when and exactly what was missed. They will have to get the binder then get the papers out of the folder. 

The skills side is for math workshop. Folders are labeled 1-12, and I will tell the kids on Monday what folder they need to pull skill practice from that week. I'm hoping this lets me differentiate better. My kids really struggle with basic skills like fractions, so this is my way of working that in.

I like to use Fist to 5 for quick formative assessments. Last year we did it, but I didn't have the meanings posted. I think this will help make it more clear.

My cozy corner. The two students who I think worked hardest each week will be allowed to sit back here on Fridays. That yellow eye-sore is an old decontamination shower, and my mom snuck the Flamingo in there. I can't come up with a good enough reason to get rid of it, so it will stay for now.

My math workshop board. It isn't going to be able to work exactly how I had planned because our schedule changed from 3 90min core blocks to 4 1hr core blocks, so I will post about this again when it is up and running. This design was slightly borrowed from Clutter Free Classroom, but I made it myself. I can't remember where I got the frames from in the designs, but I know it was somewhere on TpT for FREE!!

This is attached to my Whitey Board. I have the standards laminated and will post them and update the I can daily. I will also post the vocab here first before putting it on the word wall.

I'm burned out from this week, so I will blog again this weekend. I've just been dying to get these up as my first post, so I wanted to get it done! Until next time!