How I Sold #Plickers To My Admin

I realized recently that I didn’t have a post dedicated to how I use Plickers in my class. I had how I make sure each student has a card. I also have how they are used in my warm ups. Then, I mentioned that I plan out my Plickers questions when I’m unit planning. But I recently had a conversation with my admin about it and they were completely sold. This was basically what I talked about in the conversation:

So I have about a little over 100 students this semester, last semester I had 120. I know that to some of you that’s not a lot, but to me that was a lot a lot. I had been used to no more than 70 students because I had been teaching in a small school and/or on block scheduling. So I had been trying exit slips at the beginning of the year, like I had done in my previous schools, but it just wasn’t working. They became a chore, and plus with only 50 minutes I kept not being able to fit them in. So now I use Plickers as an exit slip. I also use it before practicing, and in the middle of practicing. So there are many days where I’ll use Plickers 3 or 4 times in a period.

The great thing about Plickers (besides that it’s 100% free), is that it’s immediate feedback, for me and the students. So when I put up a problem, sometimes I’m feeling pretty confident about how it was learned and I expect something like this:

Screen Shot 2017-04-17 at 7.01.17 PM.png

And instead I get this:

Screen Shot 2017-04-17 at 7.05.11 PM.png


What happened?

So now I can know that everything I thought was wrong, and I can go over it with the class! Or, I can now group up students and talk to them about what they did and how we could get the right answer. I actually do the second option a lot. I make sure I meet up with every single student, so sometimes I’m talking to a few of them at a time about how they worked out a problem and what they could do differently. I’ll also meet with the ones who got it correct and see if I can extend their knowledge in some way. It’s really cool that I get little meetings with every single student because of their Plickers response and it’s a regular part of the routine now.

Another thing I’ve started to do this quarter is add the “I don’t know” option to all my questions. I never use Plickers for a grade, so the “I don’t know” keeps some the students from lucky guessing. I really stress that I’d rather them be honest about not knowing than guessing for the problems I put up. I still have a couple that insist on guessing, anyway.

Also sometimes it’s important (to me) to have questions like this to gauge how the class is feeling.

Screen Shot 2017-04-17 at 6.55.25 PM.png

Sometimes my district’s pacing calendar doesn’t let me, but I try to do what my students need/want in terms of practice vs moving on.

And there you have it! #Plickersforever

Je peux parler de Plickers pour toujours.

My Unit Planning Process

This semester I’ve refined a unit planning process that has worked pretty well for me. I’m not particularly proud of it or anything. It’s not some monumental thing, but it’s helped me stay ahead enough that I don’t feel like I have to be working on planning 24/7. It also helps me see the whole unit and how the different sections relate (or don’t) so that I can teach the sections better.

A few things first: I am new to my school this year and I am not really in a place where I can make waves, like suggest making a change to the assessments or curriculum or even suggest analyzing assessment results. I was pretty down in the dumps about it at the beginning of the year but I’ve learned to deal with it. I’m kind of on my own little island (like I was last year when I was one of two math teachers in the school), but I get weekly rations of food that I don’t like but have to eat to survive. Anyway, I’m given the one quiz and test for each unit from the department chair and the assessments are all taken on Mastery Manager. The computer grades these assessments and there is no partial credit given. I am also given the tentative dates of these assessments and the sections in the textbook that go along with them. I didn’t even hand out the textbooks this semester, though.

So with this in mind, here’s what my unit planning looks like for my Math II class (my other class is pretty cookie cutter because it’s from the community college but the process is similar):

  1. Create my unit notes packet. This semester, 99% of what I am teaching are topics I’ve taught before! This meant I already had notes pages made and just had to refine them and put them together. These are really minimalist and have only a few examples for each topic. And say what you want about notes packets but it works for me. Maybe I’ll write more about them one day.
  2. Make an extra practice worksheet for each section that has answers included and scrambled (à la Meg’s NTMs). This is usually adapted from the textbook’s extra practice materials. They don’t always get used, but are nice to have. 
  3. Make Plickers questions for the unit. I take the questions usually from the ExamView Test Generator that comes with the textbook because they’re easier to find multiple choice questions. I make 2-4 questions per topic. I use these usually as exit slips and also as checks at the beginning of class and I try to spiral the content through the unit, too. A little more about how I use Plickers here. (Just now realizing I don’t have more about Plickers on my blog and that boggles my mind…will have to get on that…)
  4. Create a review Quizizz. My students have gotten used to the review Quizizz and I know that some go back to it for extra practice. A couple others in my department have also tried it and love it, too! More about how I use Quizizz here and here and here.
  5. Write worked out solutions and type an answer document for the review packet that comes with the test so that I can post them on my website.
  6. Search my saved Evernote links and the MTBoS Search Engine for great activities that I can do during the unit. Also find/make one or two review games I can do before the assessments. Revise packet if necessary (and if I haven’t made copies yet). More on the MTBoS Search Engine here.

I like the consistency of this semester. However, I have noticed that this semester has been so jam packed with topics to teach that I sometimes don’t get time to do enough of step 6, or use what I find in step 6. As I’m planning my last unit of the year (Probability), I’ll be making sure I incorporate more than just what I have from steps 1-5.

Je suis heureuse que j’ai un système maintenant qui fonctionne pour moi.

“Why do you have us do things that aren’t for a grade?”

This question was recently asked of me by a student when I was collecting warm up sheets for the week. I do not grade their warm up sheets, but I do respond to every Free-Write Friday and usually comment on another day’s warm up. I would never stop doing this because it has been amazing how much I have learned about my students through the warm up sheets. 

I don’t know if my response was a good one. All I could think of in the moment was, “These help you think more mathematically, and I collect them to know more about you and so you can get feedback from me.” I also could have talked about how their grade, in my opinion, should be a reflection of their math knowledge, so grading things like warm ups and practice for completion wouldn’t be good feedback in their grade.  

Sometimes I have a hard time motivating my students, especially the new ones, to do classwork when it’s not for a grade. Some of them say that I’m the only teacher they have that doesn’t put a grade on everything they do. I know that at least some of the other math teachers don’t grade everything because I’ve asked them, though. I think students sometimes feel that they need some sort of reward for their efforts. I say that their efforts will show when they take their assessment. I think some of them need some time to adjust to that. 

Do you grade everything? What would you have said to my student?

Une question difficile. 

Similar Triangle Building (Not a Good Activity)

I’m posting about this activity that wasn’t really a good activity (some may even say it was bad) because maybe someone can use it and make it better.

I’m teaching a similarity unit that is very boring. Ratios/Proportions, Similar Polygons, Proving Triangles Similar, and Proportions in Triangles. No mention of transformations, no scale factor, no area/volume…and on top of that my students have never seen anything about congruent polygons. So I was looking back at my old geometry files (yay for finally teaching something I’ve taught before!) and I adjusted my notes packet and printed that for the kids. They love that their notes are all in a packet. But every day was just notes and practice, notes and practice, notes and practice. I was so bored. Kids were bored (truth: some were probably thinking this is normal). So I remembered my old activity where students discovered the triangle congruence theorems and thought I could possibly make that activity work for similarity.

It didn’t really work…Here were the problems:

  • Building the triangles takes sooooooo long. I wish I had read my old post more carefully and believed that it would take so long. I cut it down to 4 triangles and had groups of 3-4 and it still took about 35 min just to build all the triangles. Why does it take so long?
  • I didn’t have a lot of color paper to use so it was hard to see the cutouts on the board.
  • I had two different groups so there should have been proportional sides. I only told that to my last period for some reason, so the other periods didn’t really get why triangles were similar
  • It’s a lot easier to see that triangles are the same than see they are similar – you just kind of have to guess and a lot of them didn’t trust their intuition that we could rotate and dilate (probably because it wasn’t ever discussed)
  • Once one triangle was put up for my SSA example, the other groups would just make the same one that they saw so some classes ended up thinking SSA made similar triangles

IF I was to do this again (which I don’t think I will), I would:

  • Not have students put up their triangles until the very end
  • Demo building the triangle (only thought of this in my last class)
  • Use color paper
  • (Maybe) ask kids to specifically check for similarity – congruent corresponding angles and proportional corresponding sides. This takes some away from the discovery but would make it less of a guessing game. It would also take more time.
  • Plan for it to take a lot of time

Here’s the files just in case they’re useful to someone:

Similar Triangles Discovery.docx      Similar Triangles Discovery.pdf

N’enseigne pas cette leçon sauf si vous le modifiez.

Barbie Bungee

This was in my drafts since Decemberish 2015. I am posting it so I can go back to it if I’m ever teaching linear regression again:

I did Barbie Bungee this year [Fall 2015] with two of my classes – Algebra II and College Algebra. I got the activity from all the other people who have posted about it. Seriously, just go to the MTBoS Search Engine and search for “Barbie Bungee” and there are multiple pages. At this point, I don’t remember who I took most of the activity from. I think it was either Fawn or Matt.

I gave students 2 90-min blocks to work. They were grouped randomly in my Algebra II classes and I let them chose groups in my College Algebra class.

This was the worksheet that students used: Barbie-Bungee

Barbie Bungee Quotes (all from students):

  • Did you mark 0? No – 0 is her initial height
  • What’s the height it needs to be at? 2.92? That’s like 292 cm!
  • You guys can use our rulers on the wall – just subtract 20 from your number
  • Wow you guys were really precise! We need to do ours over.
  • I thought I just broke Ken’s nose
  • Ken is way heavier, so it makes sense we need less than them (group with Barbie)
  • Wait but she goes lower than where she ends up at the end – we have to do it again!
  • We can’t just guess! This is Ken’s life we’re talking about!
  • I don’t know she just like had a seizure or something and fell!
  • It keeps hitting my arm – hold it a little bit away from the stick so it doesn’t hit.
  • I’m at 85 now, so whatever that is plus a meter. No! A meter minus 85 plus a meter.
  • Should we redo these two? I feel like they’re way off and will throw off our data.
  • Come on get low so you can really see where he goes!
  • Wait if we plug in 2.92 that’s not in cm.

Pictures of the work process:

The activity also came up in a few of the students’ end-of-semester reflections for their portfolios! I love some of the comments that the students had about collaboration and responsibility.

Videos – were played at a very slow speed to break ties in a couple classes and also to determine if one hit the ground or not. These are the ones that don’t have a student’s face in it. Taken by a student with my iPad:



Mes étudiants précédents me manquent.

I’m An Expert At Making Mistakes #MTBoSBlogsplosion

When I saw the prompt for this week’s #MTBoSBlogsplosion, I was so excited because this is something I feel like an expert in a lot of the time. Especially if you go to my first period class. But I feel like I’m pretty honest about being terrible at times, and that makes me feel more ok. Here are some examples:

–I was teaching summer geometry (I did a whole 180-type blog about it) and I wanted to do this 3-act task called Meatballs. I actually blogged about it. Except the memory of this lesson doesn’t resemble what I said in the blog. What I remember is we watched the 1st and 2nd acts, and then the students did a bunch of math. I walked around the room facilitating as they were doing this. All the groups did do some math. And they were like all wrong. All were different. But there was one group, the most unsuspecting group, that got the answer exactly right! So I was super excited that I was going to be able to share the 3rd act and they would be able to share the correct way to look at this problem. So when the time came for them to share, they were equally excited because all they did was guess! I prodded so much – “Well share the formula you used.” “We didn’t use one.” “What numbers did you use?” “We just picked a random number.” “But like what did you put in your calculator???” “Oh we were just messing around so you thought we were working.” Yeah. So all that time for absolutely no progress. In fact it probably was more harm than good. That memory to this day haunts me whenever I’m thinking about 3-ask tasks.

–I apologize to my first period almost every week for something. My planning is just really bad. I will plan way too much and get lost in the time and forget to give my first period something really important. Or I will think an activity will take a lot longer and then it goes in the wrong direction and I have to stop it and it makes things awkward. My evaluator commented that I could improve my flow in the classroom, and she observed my 6th period, after I’d taught the same class twice that day. I can only imagine what she would have said if she saw my first period. Even though I hate it, I’m pretty lucky to have my 2 plan periods right after 1st period so I can redo my whole lesson if I have to, and I have multiple times. Also, I’ve had to send Remind messages like this multiple times:


This was before their final exam where the other math teachers had just informed me they were allowing a notecard for the test. Those kids probably just go home and laugh at me, but that’s fine because I laugh at them all the time, too. (Side questions: How is it only read by 3/12? Like doesn’t it go to all their phones? And how do I get more students to sign up for Remind?!)

–Behind my desk I have this oversized pencil and eraser. I had been having a rough day already and walked into my classroom from being in the hall during passing period to find a student at her desk drawing with my oversized pencil and a bunch of other kids crowded around it. This is a student who frequently makes rude comments to me and others, usually followed up by her asking me why I would want to teach in a school with “bad kids like her”. I shouted, “Put down my pencil! You cannot just go behind my desk and grab my things!” She proceeded to yell back at me something slightly offensive and I just pointed for her to go out the door. I immediately knew I overreacted. She didn’t come to school the next day. I wrote her an apology note and gave it to her 1st period teacher to give to her. The note went something like “I’m sorry that I sent you out of the room last time we saw each other. I could have dealt with the situation in a much better way. I really care about you and how you grow as a student in my class, so I hope we can talk about what happened one day without raising our voices.” She came into class after that and didn’t mention the note, but wasn’t acting any different than she did before the pencil incident so I figured we’d address it when she wanted to address it. A week or so later, someone made a reference to my big eraser, and then I heard that student say, “well you better not try to use her pencil or else she’ll send you out and write some note saying she cares about you and give it to Mrs. G to give to you.” I was honestly pretty hurt, but I know I was the one who made the mistake in the first place. She’s improved her attitude a bit since last semester when that happened, though. I wish I had a better way to deal with rude behaviors.

Je suis la meilleure à commettre des erreurs.

MMC Thinking Mathematically in Daily Warm Ups Presentation

Here are my slides and documents from my presentation for the MMC Conference of Workshops on 1/28/17. Please reach out to me if you have any questions or want to bounce ideas off me!

Thinking Mathematically in Daily Warm Ups Google Slides

Handout: .docx     .pdf
Warm Up Sheet: .docx (editable)    .pdf



Please share with me if you end up using any of the resources that were shared in this presentation. I love to hear how you make these things work in your classroom!