WIU Thinking Mathematically From Minute One Presentation 4/13/18

I miss blogging a lot. I am looking forward to being done with my Masters in 4.5 weeks and done with wedding planning in 2.5 months so that I have some free time back. I have a lot of drafts and pictures to share – hope I can remember what they’re all about when I am ready to blog!

I am giving a presentation at Western Illinois University for the Western Illinois University Mathematics Teachers Conference about Warm Ups. I thought I might get bored of presenting about warm ups, but every time I do it I am just so excited to share!

The Google Slides presentation is below. There have been a few updates that I’ve made to my warm ups. I plan to share them on my blog soon!



Un jour, je vais publier les brouillons qui m’attendent et ma temps libre.


Family Communication – Let The Students Contribute To The Process! (NCTM Regional Presentation 11/30/17)

On 11/30/17, I presented a Burst session about Family Communication. The goal of this session is to set up procedures to have students contribute to the process.

Here is the Google Slides presentation I used:


Here is the handout that I gave with the links: NCTM Family Comm Handout (pdf)
Weekly Summary Explanationhttp://bit.ly/WeekSum
Class Twitter Feed Explanationhttp://bit.ly/ClassTwitter
Parent Survey Explanationhttp://bit.ly/PSurv
Parent Contact Log Explanationhttp://bit.ly/ContLog

Please let me know if you have any questions!

Je peux parler de la communication avec les familles pendent des heures.


Parent Survey

At the beginning of the year, I attached the link to a Parent Survey at the end of my syllabus. That got me a handful of responses. I also sent it out in my first few mass email newsletters. I’ve gotten 14 responses, so a very small portion of my students’ parents. But hey, something is better than nothing, right?

Here is a copy of what I sent: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/16C-N9Y9rcCkCYd4O4xlhO_52QFt3HbW8VYxGTtX5eJw/copy?usp=sharing

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I decided to ask for information about when their learner was successful and not successful, and I’ve gotten some really great insight from that. It helped me see into some of the past experiences that my learners had faced. I was happy to see that all of them could share a time when the learner had academic success. There was also a lot of wincing on my part when I read what some of them went through to give academic difficulty. All of the responses were helpful.

I also made sure to put a note about when to contact home in my class roster spreadsheet that I keep. Most of the time it was if the learner was failing, but there have been a few times this semester where I’ve had to contact about a different thing that the parents asked for.

Also, the best thing I changed about this survey from last year is that I set it so that I get an email notification every time the survey is completed. That’s helped me keep up with the responses way better.

Is there anything I should change about my survey?

Je veux communiquer avec tous des parents de mes étudiants. Un jour.

Class Twitter Page (Updated 11/27/17)


One way that I communicate with parents is by my Class Twitter (an idea I stole from Annie Forest). At the end of every week, I have students do a Weekly Summary. One of the prompts they have for that is to answer the “Tweet Question”. Guardians do not see these answers when they get the emails. That’s because I curate the tweets to put on our class Twitter. I usually use one tweet per period. I have the Twitter feed on my class website and currently have 5 followers…but some students have said that they just look on my website. I also post pictures from class on the class Twitter. I haven’t gotten any parent comments about it yet. Honestly I don’t know if any look at it. I just keep putting reminders that it’s there when I send my unit emails and, if nothing else, it’s nice for me to chronicle the year.

The Tweet Questions I ask can be something about the current topic, or can be more general. Some examples:

  • What is the most difficult part about ____?
  • What is one piece of advice you’d give about ___?
  • How can you use ____ in a real-life situation?
  • What do you wish your teacher knew about you?
  • What is one good thing that happened this week?
  • What is your goal for next week?
  • What is your favorite ____ and why?

I try to get one per class to post but sometimes I do more.

J’espère que les parents apprécient les mises à jour.

Weekly Summaries (Updated 11/27/17)

Parent communication is hard. At the start of last year, my principal mentioned something his old school did where students texted their parents during the day with kind of a status update on how they’re doing in classes and what they’ve been doing. I took this idea and tried to do it daily but that was a little much, so I made it into a Weekly Summary. Students do these at the end of the week (mostly Fridays but sometimes Thursday if we have Friday off or something like that).

I made a Google Form for each class and used a few Add-ons to make it so that when the students submitted it, a copy of their responses would be sent home to their guardian email and cc’d to me. The link to the Google Form is posted on the home page of my class website. Here is what I ask them to answer:

  1. What they did in class this week
  2. What they learned in class this week
  3. A rating of how they’re feeling about class
  4. The response to the day’s Tweet Question
  5. Anything else they want to say.

Also, the form will automatically pull the student’s grade to put in there (I have to copy it from my gradebook into my Class Roster spreadsheet that’s referenced in the directions below). Students were surprised the first time that it actually went to their parents (I guess my disclaimer at the top wasn’t convincing enough). Since I receive an email, I am able to check this and send additional notes to guardians if necessary. I use the responses, especially the ratings of how they’re feeling in class, to help me know who I need to talk to most and what I need to address.

These are what students see:

This is what I see, either in the spreadsheet (which I really only look at to get the Tweets) and the emails that get sent home:

My favorite student comments about this process were along the lines of: “Ugh I wish we didn’t have to do this. It makes my parents want to talk to me about class!” I did have students that told me they liked the process, though. Some of them write notes to their parents, like what they hope to have for dinner, in the “Anything

I do not get too many parent responses (I set up the email so that they would reply to me). It did keep guardians updated and I hear from them that they appreciated the updates. I did get one response that stood out. It is an email from a board member that teaches in another district. She said:
Screen Shot 2016-05-23 at 8.28.04 AMTeacher sharing for the win! So since this was a pretty important person that was requesting it, I spent some time making sure my directions were good. I will admit, they are pretty long and it will probably take at least 30 minutes to set up your first class, but after the setup it just always works. I’ve never had an issue.

Here are the directions: Class Update Directions (docx)    Class Update Directions (pdf)

Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions. I want to be in touch with families more. The Weekly Summaries helped, but I know it doesn’t reach everyone. The ones that don’t have an email unfortunately do not get a weekly update, so I try to call those families.

Il faut communiquer avec les parents, mais c’est très difficile.

My First Few Days Fall 2017

I am teaching all freshmen this year! I have four sections of Integrated Math I and one section of Honors Integrated Math II. Because they’re all freshmen, they haven’t seen me do the activities I did before for the first days (unless their middle school teachers did them, but I’m gonna just assume not)! School started on Thursday for students. Also, many of the students’ schedules will change in the first five days of school for whatever reason, so I need to be more cautious than before about using things that I’ll reference later in the year and making sure I catch new students up better than before. I will also keep in mind that my first unit is on solving equations with the absolute first thing being distributive property. And, I’m gonna do the same activities in my Math I and Honors Math II class because I think the norms should be the same and they need to learn some of the same things about the class.

I will be doing a lot of the same stuff from last year (semester 1 semester 2) because it actually went well!

And by the time I’m posting this I’ve already had my first two days, so I included what actually happened after those days.

Every day I will:

  • Greet students at the door with high fives (if you haven’t been doing this yet, just try it on Fridays or something – it’s really a game changer)
  • Have a welcome message and directions up on the board to set the tone to look there at the beginning of each class
  • Have students use Sara’s Name Tents

Day 1 (Thursday 8/3): BOY_0a Slides

  • Students can sit anywhere they want.
  • Introduce myself to the class “Hi! I’m so excited to be teaching you math this semester! I’m so impressed at how well many of you have followed the directions I left for you. If you didn’t get a chance yet, please follow the directions on the board.”
  • Demonstrate how to make the Name Tent with pictures on the board and I make my own with them.
  • Take attendance and mispronounce names but apologize profusely. Write down phonetic spellings on the roster.
  • Give homework – Dan Meyer Who Am I worksheet due next week
  • Show Jo Boaler’s Week of Inspirational (2) Math Video 1 about brains growing and changing, discuss for a few minutes after
  • Noah’s Ark from Fawn at Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces
  • Fill out name tent to hand in

Reflection: This went really well! I actually planned out the timing pretty well (for like the first time ever). My honors class was the only one that had multiple groups actually try to work out solutions to show on the boards, but the beauty of VNPS is that if there’s one group that is doing it, eventually there’s 3 and then 5 and then all. We only had about 15-20 minutes to work through it, and many groups were convinced it was 2 or 4 seals, but that was also awesome because then I could alert them to a group that had a different opinion and they could debate it out. It also allowed me to see how students were 1) willing to try to do something and 2) using anything more than intuition to prove their answer. We will revisit this problem later in the year in both classes.

Day 2 (Friday 8/4): BOY_0b Slides

  • As students walk in, they read the board and hopefully follow the directions to sit anywhere and have a writing utensil.
  • Hand out the syllabus and go over it. In the middle of that we come up with classroom rules that I’ll put together from all my classes that night. They need to fill out an information sheet to turn in by the end of next week.
  • For the class rules, what I did was I said “You guys have been in plenty of classes so far in your life, and you probably can think of some class rules that helped EVERY student be more successful. I want you to think for 30 seconds of at least one rule that you think should be in our class. After 30 seconds, you’ll have 2 minutes to talk with your table group to come up with 2 rules. Every group will then share one rule and we’ll see at the end if we need to go around again for more. (Then when they were ready to share) When each table shares, 1) I reserve the right to say no to any rule that’s unreasonable, or goes against school rules, and 2) we will open it up to the whole class to object to or adjust the rule. If a group said something like “Be respectful”, I’d ask them to clarify by telling us what that would look like. 

Reflection: So I had thought that going over the syllabus would take like 10 minutes and then maybe 5 minutes to make the class rules. But then…

So we didn’t get to do Sara’s 1-100 Group activity that I had thought we would do. It’s ok, though, because I think this collaboration was really important. I was really impressed with the quality of their rules. You can see that one class tried to get a little more out of their rules, but I applaud them for knowing what they want.

Day 3 (NOT Monday 8/7 because I have to give MAP Testing now on this day, so probably Wednesday): BOY_0c Slides

  • Refresh our memories on our class rules that we made last week
  • Sara VanDerWerf’s 1-100 Group Task
  • 1-100 debrief
  • Get to Know Ms. Walczak w/Plickers (I may save this for the first time we have a Plickers question to do but we’ll see if we have time)

Day 4 (NOT Tuesday 8/8 because I will still be giving MAP Testing, so probably Thursday): BOY_0d Slides

Friday I’ll have to give my school’s Pre-Test for the classes.

If any class ends early any day I’ll tempt them with Petals Around the Rose.

You might be thinking “whoa Marissa, you are taking a lot of time before getting to start instruction! Aren’t you worried you’ll run out of time to teach?” Yes, I’m always worried I’ll run out of time to teach, but I also know from 4 years of experience that if you do good relationship-building activities in the beginning of the year/semester, it can end up saving you time in the end. For example, I started teaching the first lesson 3 days after my colleagues did last year when I taught Math II, and I ended up being able to spend more time on certain concepts in the end. Trust me, it works. So I’m not that worried. Also, I’m teaching all freshmen and I think they definitely need more transition time. A lot of them are visibly scared right now – we need to establish a safe learning space.

Le départ de l’année est très important pour les étudiants et moi.

Teacher Report Card Results 2017 (Part 1)

I gave a Teacher Report Card survey to my classes about a month before school ended this year. The reason for that was 1) I was gone that day to be at the Western ICTM Conference, 2) I also wanted to give a survey to get some data for my upcoming probability unit and put those questions first, and 3) I have realized over the years that giving it on the last day does not always give me genuine results. I don’t know if a month before is better, but I think it worked. I had distributed it on Google Classroom so I knew which students finished it, but kept the responses anonymous. So over the last month of school I had some trickle in, too.

It was almost the same as mine from 2016. Part 1 Results and reflections follow.

Screen Shot 2017-07-04 at 4.38.06 PM

Averages for the Likert Scale-type questions (first number is score from 2016 and second number is score from 2017):

I think that Ms. Walczak…

  1. Respects each student: 4.77 –> 4.78
  2. Uses language that we can all understand: 4.31 –> 4.48
  3. Tries to see the student’s point of view: 4.26 –> 4.36
  4. Does a good job of treating all students the same: 4.66 –> 4.69
  5. Explains topics clearly: 4.06 –> 4.12
  6. Seems to enjoy teaching: 4.48 –> 4.71
  7. Shows interest in students’ lives: 4.15 –> 4.25
  8. Makes me feel important: 4.32 –> 4.27
  9. Keeps the class under control without being too tough: 4.49 –> 4.52
  10. Has a good pace (not too fast or too slow): 3.98 –> 4.09
  11. Answers questions completely: 4 –> 4.34
  12. Praises good work: 4.58 –> 4.51
  13. Grades fairly: 4.77 –> 4.66
  14. Encourages me to be responsible: 4.57 –> 4.47
  15. Cares about her students: (didn’t ask) –> 4.62
  16. Loves math: (didn’t ask) –> 4.87

So I am actually kind of surprised by these results but then not that surprised. The population I taught in 2016-2017 was very very different than from 2015-2016, in number of students, racial and socioeconomic diversity of students, type of classes, age range, motivation level, outside influences, etc. So I was expecting the results to be pretty different, as well. But then when I think about it I realize that I tried to treat the kids with respect in both schools and did my best in both schools to teach the required content in the best way. I definitely missed the mark sometimes on those things in both years.

This year I also looked closely at every response that had given me a 2 or 1 in a category to find what that student specifically said in the other parts. It was interesting that some of those were my highest praises. I guess students understand that there’s always something to work on. (Or they didn’t understand the scale, but there were probably ones that didn’t understand that went in my favor, too, so it probably doesn’t matter.) Also, two students who gave me lowest scores answered everything exactly the same but substituted the other students’ name into answers (I’m assuming – I guess it could be other random students). I’m not sure if I should still include their responses since they weren’t really answering, but I did anyway.

A lot of categories improved! The only ones that didn’t were “Makes me feel important”, “Praises good work”, “Grades fairly”, and “Encourages me to be responsible”. Those do make me kind of sad. I don’t really know what I did differently that made them decrease, besides “Grades fairly”. The other ones I felt like I specifically made more of an effort on this year, but I guess it didn’t come through.

I was expecting a lower score on the “Grades fairly” because I didn’t have much choice in grading this year. I had to give quizzes and tests using Mastery Manager, which grades multiple choice and numerical answer questions for you and had to take those scores. There was no partial credit on any assessment I gave this year. I didn’t like it but didn’t have any way to fight it. That accounted for 80% of their semester grade and their final exam grade, which is 10% of their final semester grade. The other portion of their grade came mostly from my Reflections in Google Classroom and I don’t think anyone was really arguing about those, but maybe they were. Most got a 100% and if they didn’t they could always go back and fix them. Maybe I’ll write a post on those at some point.

My lowest score, for the second year in a row, was about pacing. To be honest, though, I didn’t have much of a choice on that either. I had to give my assessments on the same days as the other teachers of the courses (or within a day, really). The math department is working on better pacing because we all recognized it was bad with the new curriculum. And once again, “Explains topics clearly” was the next lowest. I am confident that I will improve on this as I continue teaching. Next year I will be teaching one of the same courses, although it will change from regular to honors level. I hope my score improves in this category, especially in the honors course.

My highest were “Loves math”, “Respects each student”, and “Seems to enjoy teaching”. Yay! I would hate to have those at the bottom. I think it’s really important for students to see people enjoying what they do in their professions. I also think that no student will learn if they feel disrespected. In fact, only 4 students gave me my lowest score of 3 in that one! Kind of weird that some of the ones I feel are related to those didn’t get as high of scores.

Overall I am pleased with these results. I feel like it was a bumpy year but I tried pretty hard. I can still improve in everything but I’ve come a long way since my first year.

C’est intéressant de voir ces résultats et les comparer a l’année précédente.