One Thing To Improve On #MTBoS12days

If I had to choose one thing to improve on for next semester, and only one thing, it would be my planning. This was what caused me the most stress last semester and that stress impacted everything else in the classroom. I always felt like I was just going day by day in my planning, even though sometimes I was planning about a week at a time but then everything would change after the first day of the week. It led to really jumbled units and assessments that weren’t the greatest. I’d say each day by itself was fine, but when you put them together it was kind of a jumble.

This semester I’ve already improved on it, actually. I now have an extremely tentative plan of what I will be teaching in each class for the whole semester. Like very bare-bones plan. I got my calendar and mapped out how long I thought it would take to cover certain lessons and where the assessments would go and what units come next. I left “Review/Catch Up” days before every assessment (another thing I’m thinking about is abandoning all review days but we’ll see) and am potentially able to cover way more than I did last semester. Even if I want to, I know I can’t spend 3 days doing amazing activities on one topic, for instance, because I know what is coming up and the importance of other topics. I put a star next to topics that are kind of the extra ones that don’t absolutely need to be covered this semester.

Now, what comes next is planning the actual lessons and assessments. I think that if I go a unit at a time (but don’t make copies of things until a few days before since things can always change), I will be much less stressed. I will know more of the connections I have to make, too. This is probably something I should have known to do, but in the past I was always kind of just given the pacing from the teachers that had taught it before. Ahhh I’m excited just thinking about how much better this semester will be now.

Moins de stress entraîne une prof heureuse!

Challenging Moment #MTBoS12days

Ok this is a tough one. I’ve been challenged plenty in my 2.5 years teaching. I think a moment that sticks out to me is in my first year teaching. I had big big big problems with classroom management and had one class in particular that was pretty bad. It really just consisted of two boys that pretty much ran the class. They’d shout out or at each other, make fun of other kids, end up rolling on the floor, throw things. The school disciplinary procedure (referrals, detentions, suspensions) did nothing and I had had some parent complaints. My first out of three observations happened in that class in December. During that lesson, with the assistant principal in the room, the behavior was still crazy. My AP pretty much told me that I had to get it under control or I’d be in trouble (or at least that’s what I saw it as – she said later that I was always in good shape to be hired the next year). It was after that meeting, right before winter break, that I went to my first blog looking for classroom management techniques. I had also asked for help from my mentor and other teachers and was assured by my team that I could send the two boys to other classrooms every day if I needed to, but I always resisted that and I had tried a few things my mentor suggested but it wasn’t working. So my first real venture into the #MTBoS was because of this moment. I can’t for the life of me find what I read first, but it spiraled into me getting Feedly and subscribing to a bunch of math blogs.

After winter break, I told my class we were “starting over” and told them to do a bunch of crazy things for one minute like stand on the tables, scream, run, etc. After the minute was up they got into their seats quietly and we agreed that we should never see any of these behaviors again, otherwise we would have these specific consequences (that they came up with/agreed on). I also started a “Secret Student” class competition, where I would choose a student to secretly observe for behavior throughout the class. If that student had acceptable behavior the entire time (sometimes I’d announce at the beginning that I was specifically looking at good group work today or something like that), I would say at the end of class “Our secret student Johnny did this and this and this to get you a secret student point today!” However, if the student did not have acceptable behavior, I’d say “Our secret student was not able to behave acceptably today. We will have to try again tomorrow.” I allowed students to see me outside of class, alone, if they wanted to know if they were the one that caused the class to not get their point. When we reached a certain number of points, we’d get a party.

The behavior was pretty good after that. I’m not gonna say that everything instantly turned around, but I was able to usually go a few days without having something thrown or shouted and that was good. It also helped me know how to start off my next year better.

La mauvaise conduite des étudiants ne me conviennent jamais, mais maintenant j’ai quelques stratégies.

Tried and True Strategy #MTBoS12days

I’m not sure if this counts as a “strategy”, but what has always been working for me is my warm up routine. No matter which class, my warm ups consistently get students ready for the day and engaged in the mathematics. In the past, my warm up routine looked like this. I’ve tweaked it this year and I will be tweaking it a little for next semester, as well, but it really still is working.

Monday: Mindset Moment – video where we reflect about mindset

Tuesday: Which One Doesn’t Belong

  • Poll first with Plickers
  • After seeing results, have students from each choice share their reasoning
Screen Shot 2015-12-27 at 11.05.56 PM
This was from one of my Algebra II classes earlier in the year

Wednesday: Questions – every student in the class is called on to come up with a mathematical question about whatever has come up

  • Funny story about this one as an aside (skip this bullet if you just want the tried and true warm ups): I teach a remedial Algebra I class that meets every day and some of my students sometimes say inappropriate things in class because they just have no filter and care very little about the consequences of what they say. Well one Wednesday, I had a couple of other adults in my room (social worker, history teacher, substitute teacher for another teacher) and the random image that comes up is this one. I was so so so so worried about what this could turn into but my students know (and make sure I know) that we work with what comes up first at random. So I let it stay there and was ready to be fired the next day, but my students really blew me away. Every one came up with an awesome and appropriate question that had nothing to do with the fact that six women were in their underwear. Questions like “What is the average height?”, “What is the difference between the height of Diane and Solveig?”, and even, “How many more hairs does Liz have than Nikki?” (from a student who said their question was stolen). The social worker came up to me after we were done and said she was very worried with how I would proceed with this one but she was impressed at how well these students handled it – she didn’t know if it would have been the same with these students even in a health class. 🙂


Thursday: Would You Rather

  • Also done with Plickers, but give students 2 min to individually think/research on their Chromebooks.
  • After seeing results, have students from both sides share their arguments and then poll the class again!
Screen Shot 2015-12-27 at 11.25.05 PM
From my Calculus class around Halloween

Friday: Estimation

  • Give students 15 sec to think, ask for an under- and overestimate, very quick discussion about those
  • Then, ask every student for their estimate and list them on the board
  • See if anyone wants to change theirs at the end before showing the answer
  • Do another one if there’s time (sequels are awesome)

These warm ups have still been great and I’m seeing engagement from students ranging from remedial Algebra I to Calculus!

I do want to tweak it a little bit, though. Since I’m on an A-B block, my students usually will see a full week’s worth of these in two weeks. I started with going through doing it where my A classes had the same warm up as my B classes, but I found it hard to make sure I was getting everything into the rotation (because of my lack of organization). However, I don’t like this day-of-the week thing because if there’s ever a day off of school, they’ll have the same days twice in a row. So I think that this semester I’m going to stay more organized and just go day by day with the warm ups and then try to add a few more in. I want to actually get rid of the Mindset Moment as a warm up and put it on days when I hand back assessments (which is still about every other week so the students won’t freak out – this is the one that has the least clear engagement and I know students are starting to not take these seriously as warm ups). I’m going to add in Visual Patterns, Set, Number/Dot Talks, anything else I see. I’m excited to see where this goes.

Man this could have been a whole (long) Start, Stop, Continue post, too!

Le changement vient, mes étudiants sont prêts.

Semester Reflection #MTBoS12days

I felt like a recent post I made was a little negative but I really learned a lot from this semester and I think most of my students did, too. I have a lot that I envisioned that just didn’t happen or didn’t happen the same way and I attribute that to just being a little overwhelmed at the beginning of the year. I had really been spoiled the last two years. I had only one prep with three other teachers that also taught only that one prep, and was living with my parents who did all the cooking and grocery shopping for me. Now, I’m the only one at my school teaching the four preps I have, plus National Honor Society, plus being a percussion tech for my boyfriend’s band, plus living on our own – it was a lot all at once. It was definitely a challenge, but I did a lot of great things with my classes that they learned from and enjoyed and I showed the faculty some stuff, too! Now that I am more accustomed to this school, I think I can do even more to help my students.

What Will I Start:

  • Spiraling homework
  • Planning my assessments along with my planning of the unit – I was fortunate to receive the files from the previous teacher when I got to the school so I have been adjusting his assessments so far. I figured that if I was good enough for him after two years, it was probably good for me. I think his assessments provided me with a great starting point, but now I’m ready to make my own (which is something I DREADED going into this school year).
  • Talking with the other math teacher in my school more about what we’re teaching. Even though we don’t teach any of the same classes, we’re both new at this (she’s in her second year teaching) and I want to be more collaborative within my school.

What Will I Stop:

  • Worrying that my students don’t like math/my class/me. Like a few people on Twitter said, students don’t like change. We all resist change. But as long as I know I’m trying all I can for them, I need to stop worrying about what the naysayers think all the time. 🙂

What Will I Continue:

  • Checking blogs, Twitter, and the MTBoS Search Engine for all of your amazing activities
  • Trying new things
  • Keeping my head up 😀

Quand je repense au semestre dernier, je connais le bon et le mauvais. Ce semestre sera meilleur.

Books #MTBoS12days

I used to read a ton. Back in middle school. Once I got to high school and we were forced to read certain books and I started spending more time on assignments and practicing and friends, my reading really dropped off. The last book I think I read for pleasure was Harry Potter 7. Through high school and college, I actually did (most of) the reading that was required for my education and French classes, but that was really it.

Book I’ve read since college: Embedded Formative Assessment by Dylan Wiliam (required by my old school’s math department)

Books I’m currently reading: All of my textbooks to try to figure out what should come next

Books I want to read: All of the good ones when I have time. I keep hearing about Teach Like a Pirate and Make It Stick so I would probably start with those.

I do still feel like I read a lot, but it is all in the form of tweets and blogs. That’s good enough for me right now.

Un jour, je vais lire pour le plaisir encore.

Semester Success #MTBoS12days

It is unfortunately kind of difficult for me to think of this semester having any element of success sometimes. This has probably been the hardest I have ever worked. I have four new preps in a new school. I did not connect very well with the kids in the first week and I blame that on the fact that I tried to do math games on the first day. The students were not ready for that and many immediately rebelled. I have taught high school summer school geometry before, so I thought I was prepared for high school teaching but many students did not appreciate my teaching style. And I don’t think my teaching style is radical in any way – I just don’t lecture very often and I don’t give them homework in the traditional way (meaning I give them up to 10 problems per night and only check it sometimes where they are used to being assigned 40 problems and having time to complete it in class). I was really beaten down in the first few weeks and it was hard to see the positives.

I did some activities that really backfired but I also did some activities that were great (and hopefully will blog about them soon). I was able to do Barbie Bungee in two classes and I believe those were successful even though I feel like they took longer than they should have. I was able to do an Absolute Value project in one class that many students cited as being helpful to their learning, even though when I assigned it less than half turned it in on time after 2 hours of class time on it. I was able to do some fun review activities, and even showed the staff one of them (I will blog about Quizizz soon) but still felt like those could have all gone better.

But, I guess it’s all worth it in the end. I gave my finals and the averages were fine. So that was one success that I was worried about. I also gave a semester reflection survey to the students. One question was “What can I do to help you learn better next semester?” My main responses were to let them do homework in class, less group work, and check all the homework/give more points, but I did get one response that really made me feel like I actually had a successful semester:

Honestly, to me, you shouldn’t change anything. I know some people don’t like your teaching style, but I love it and it has helped me so much. I’ve struggled with math my whole life and I never truly understood it until I got you as a teacher. So thank you so much for doing what you do and know I appreciate you so much!

This is a student who got a D on her first quiz, but in the end earned a 95% on her final exam and a 92% in the class. I feel like her comment really sums up how I’ve felt and also what I wanted to do. I knew I would be a different teacher than what they’ve experienced before, but I hoped to help my students see that they can all be successful in math. And, according to one of them anyway, I did.

Merci, étudiante, pour me montrer que j’ai réussi un peu ce semestre.

First Blogging Challenge! Holiday Favorites

I saw that @pamjwilson and @druinok put together a blogging challenge called #MTBoS12days “Yule Blog” challenge and I’m hoping this will kick start more blogging from me. So the first is a “My Holiday Favorite”. I’ve seen a bunch of awesome recipes come out of this but I’m the worst cook and actually have 0 recipes to share. I’m usually the “helper” for all family cooking functions – cut vegetables, measure out ingredients, etc. all while being supervised. I live off of pasta and frozen vegetables…

In fact, one of my favorite holiday memories is when I was making a cheesecake with my dad and he asked me to crack the eggs into the bowl. Well, that didn’t go too well and lots of egg shells ended up in the bowl. My dad and I did our best getting all of them out and thought we got them all and he went on to finish the cheesecake. We served the cheesecake to the family the next day and everyone was pretty impressed. I was starting to feel pretty proud of myself for helping with this and then my uncle takes his first bite. It seemed like the loudest crunch ever and everyone just bursted out laughing.

So writing that out makes it seem pretty silly, so I’ll also share a favorite inexpensive gift to give.

My friends never really got or gave gifts for the holidays, but we would usually go out to a fun or nice restaurant together. One year, I decided to change things up and brought a gift for everyone. I got a dollar scratch off lottery ticket for everyone and wrapped it with a piece of candy/chocolate. I’ve been doing that since then. It’s definitely cheap and is a little more exciting than the nothing we would usually give. And occasionally you’ll get some winners! It’s not the most original idea, either (I actually got the idea from my assistant principal, who did this for everyone she evaluated), but it’s still fun.

J’espère que je peux suivre ce défi!

Goals for Winter Break

What I want to do before the end of Winter Break (I know it’s two weeks away):

  • Post all the posts that are in my drafts as just pictures
  • Plan at least the first unit of each of my classes and maybe even more
    • Find some cool projects/tasks
  • Get challenge problems (maybe)
  • Clean up my Feedly saved blog posts
  • Try to get learning targets for Algebra II and Algebra I
  • Put together a parent email for each class
  • Re-look at my assessments
  • Spend time with family and boyfriend
  • Clean the house
  • Work out at least once 🙂
  • Catch up on some Global Math Departments that I’ve missed
  • Learn to cook something
  • Pretend I’m on a vacation
  • See some old friends
  • Have some fun

Some of these things will be easier than others. We’ll see how much I’ll get done.

Je suis complètement sérieuse.