You Guys Are Great #MTBoSBlogsplosion

This post is really really hard. I started reading blogs during winter break of the 2013-2014 school year and immediately my Feedly was filled with almost 100 blogs to follow. Right now I’m at 194 that I follow. I haven’t read every single post, but I do save them all for later so I can read many of them eventually. As I’m reading I tag them in Evernote if they’re about something content-specific. That way when I’m lesson planning I can search the MTBoS Search Engine and my Evernote.

But this post is hard because there are so many posts out there that made my life better/easier. Here is a compilation of some, and I’m sure I’ll be thinking of others after I post this:

For lesson planning:

  • Meg Craig’s Files – Meg didn’t know it at the time, but she saved me so much stress last year when I was the only teacher in a school teaching four different preps. I used so much from her that I can’t thank her enough. I love that she not only puts her files up as Word documents so you can edit them to fit your class but also that she usually shares her teacher keys so you can see how she goes through everything with her classes. My favorite by far was her advice on Graphing Polynomials, which I taught in College Algebra and then later in Algebra II. My classes ended up dancing like John Travolta and playing R. Kelly’s Remix to Ignition (for the bounces) all the time after that. It was so fun and it just clicked for the students.
  • All the Virtual Filing Cabinets. Here are some to name a few: Sam’s at Continuous Everywhere but Differentiable Nowhere, Beth’s at Algebra’s Friend, Elissa’s at Misscalcul8, and Julie’s at Sad Armadillo
  • MTBoS Search Engine – duh, just do it

For engagement and just straight up awesome teaching:

  • Everything from Sara VanDerWerf. I go to her blog so frequently that it’s one of the suggested sites from Google when I open a new tab.
    Screen Shot 2017-01-21 at 7.24.50 PM.pngThe post I go to the most is The Pursuit of 100%. Practical Ideas for Engaging Students. I learn more every time I go to it. I’ve used so much of it this year and I’m impressed every time at how my students are really engaged more than I ever had seen before. And this post is long, but every word is important. Sara is so intentional in what she does and makes sure that when she shares something, she shares why she does it. If you haven’t read anything from Sara yet, stop reading this and go spend the rest of your time on her site because it will blow your mind.

And I always have blog posts to catch up on. I think I do it wrong – since I save everything before I read, I still have posts from people’s beginning of the school year at the bottom of my saved posts. So on the days where I read blogs, I usually try to read a few from the top and then also a few from the bottom, and sometimes a few in the middle. I used to just read the bottom of the list but then I started to miss things from people like Dan Meyer’s [Pseudocontext Saturdays] and would feel left out when I saw references to it on Twitter. It’s also kind of fun to read old posts and see how things have progressed throughout the year. So here are some posts I read recently that I learned from and/or they improved my life in some way:

Vous êtes supers!


Soft Skills: Encouraging Perseverance #MTBoSBlogsplosion

I kinda got really busy over winter break and didn’t read or write anything, even though I had every intention to. I missed Week 1 from, but I’ll start up again with Week 2:

So after reading through the list of soft skills prompts, I’ve confirmed to myself that I still have to work on soft skills. I fully believe that once I have my own children I will get better at this, but I still wish I was better right now. But there is one thing I am doing much better at this year: encouraging perseverance. And it’s all because of Alex and Sara.

So I’ve always talked about in the beginning of the year how everyone has the ability to do math and all the growth mindset stuff and then I would just never talk about it again. I’d have kids give up and then say something like “Don’t give up! Keep trying!” and they’d roll their eyes and pretend to keep working for a few minutes. And I still have my Mindset Moment List, but that’s just one day every so often. But this year has been different.

The first thing that was different was that I started using Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces and Horizontal Non-Permanent Surfaces. Alex did a great TMC16 presentation about Flow and using VNPS, so I built my own white boards to use with the few in my classroom and my students have been using them. I wrote about it here. Dry erase is such a great tool for encouraging making mistakes and perseverance. I used to think pencils and erasers were the best, but now I think dry erase is the best. My students typically pick up some markers (or bring their own) at the beginning of class so they can write everything they practice on their desks.


The other things that’ve helped for perseverance are two videos. Sara posted about a Week of Persistence where she showed a video about people stuck on an escalator and a beagle going after a chicken nugget. I showed these right at the start of second quarter before we were going to start factoring. I tweeted about the effects:

Just like Sara, I have these posters up in my room at each end of my Promethean Board and reference them often. I love hearing other students encourage their peers to “get off the escalator!”

File: Scale Of Persistence.pptx    Scale Of Persistence.pdf

I just started my new semester and get some new students and keep some of the same. I’m hoping I’ll have the same results as last semester.

J’espère m’améliorer mon enseignement des qualités personnelles.

First Day Plans for 2nd Semester

My school have classes go by semesters so all the students’ schedules switch after winter break. I will have some of my same students but many, if not most, will be different. Maybe it’s stupid to spend a week again on beginning of the year stuff, but I want to build the same kinds of relationships that I did first semester, and I attribute those to how I spent my first week. However, I have to change things up a bit since some of my students will have already had me.

This semester will be pretty much all geometry in Math 2. We will start with parallel/perpendicular lines and angle properties, then similarity, surface area/volume, right triangle trig, and end with circles. I need to figure out a way to get $125 to buy the Kuta Geometry software…who knows of a good grant?!

My goals for this week are to invoke curiosity and create a classroom culture that includes working together and making mistakes

Every day I will:

  1. Have all students make/use Name Tents (last semester these were amazing, you should really do this if you haven’t yet)
  2. Show a video from Jo Boaler’s Week of Inspirational Math

Day 1: Main theme – Work Together

  1. Find Someone Who… .docx File Here
  2. Personality Coordinates Ice Breaker, then whole class like the last featured comment here
  3. HW – All About Me worksheet .doc File Here that I modified from my old math coach Kelly @andsoonandsoon

Day 2: Main Theme – Make mistakes (and also work together)

  1. Give them syllabus and have students that had me last semester talk about procedures
  2. Advice from first semester
  3. Sara’s How Grand Is Your Total?
  4. HW – Signed syllabus, Mathematics is… and Mathematicians do… (did this first semester, pretty informally, and liked being able to talk about the results)

Day 3: Main Theme – Curiosity, but honestly also getting some administrative stuff out of the way

  1. Website quest w/student survey and Desmos Activity, probably Central Park, because of the solving equations, or Penny Circle, because of the proportions.
  2. HW – Signed syllabus, Solving Linear Equations Algebra by Example (reviewing because they’ll need to do this in the first unit)

Day 4: Main Theme – Curiosity, working together, making mistakes

  1. Get to Know Ms. Walczak w/Plickers – gotta change up my questions from first semester, but probably will still keep some just to keep my students who already had me on their toes
  2. Talk about Mathematics HW answers – discuss what I received and come to a class consensus about what mathematics is and what mathematics do
  3. Beagle and Escalator videos from Sara, because the new kids will be super confused about why my previous students and I keep talking about them
  4. Week of Inspirational Math Paper Folding OR some other puzzle I’m not sure of yet
  5. HW – Signed syllabus, More Solving Linear Equations Algebra by Example

Day 5: Main Theme – Cry

  1. Pre-Course Test blegh

If any class ends early I’ll tempt them with Petals Around the Rose. I feel like I’ve overplanned each day, though, so I doubt that will happen. I am least happy with my Day 4 Plans. I’ll probably change my mind about everything before school starts back up again, but this is the most planned I’ve ever felt for first days.

Edit 12/27: I’m not going to do any of the homework assignments for homework anymore. I have decided to try no homework this semester. I’ll leave those HW assignments in the post, but now I’ll only do the signed syllabus for HW and the rest will be done in class, like during their survey or exit slip name tents. 

J’aime bien soyait organisée à l’avance!

Google Certified Educator Level 1

I passed the Google Certified Educator Level 1 exam yesterday!

The test took me a little over 2 hours. I had looked over the lesson material very very briefly and took all of the unit reviews before taking the exam. Most of the content I knew, but there were definitely some things that I had to read up on. I think I only got 2 of the unit reviews 100% correct the first time. While I was taking the exam, I had my school computer that was taking the test, because it’s the only one I have with a working webcam, and then my old old personal computer that I got in college and is only used a few times a year was next to it with my Chrome open and all the different lessons bookmarked. I did have to look up a handful of things, so I’m glad I had it there. If you’re going to take it, I suggest you have some other way to access Google to answer some questions during the test.

If you’re wondering about whether it’s worth it, I’m not sure. I have a badge now, and I guess I can put this on my resume. But I more have a sense of accomplishment because I was pretty nervous. I also honestly got some ideas from the scenario questions that I’m excited to use as soon as (or if) my district lets students all have access to email through their accounts. Next step is Level 2, some day.


Les insignes numériques: insignifiants mais aussi demandés.

Visible Random Grouping – #VRG

Visible Random Grouping was another thing I’d been intrigued about since a little before I went to a PCMI-TLP Weekend session last year. I really like the idea of visible random grouping – you show the students that you’re giving them random seating, they see that nobody has a label in the classroom and everyone can work with everyone.

My first week of school I tried this. It did not go well. Not because of the random grouping part – that’s actually great. It was more the method. I was using the Super Teacher Tools Group Maker and it was just so hard for students to know which seat is actually theirs. But then my biggest issue is the kids that need to be up close because they can’t see or different requirements from 504 plans. So then I tried the notecards with the names and tried to keep the ones on the bottom that had to be in certain spots. But then it just took too long if I did it in front of them, and if I did it before they walked in they would just change the cards to sit wherever they want. I also just couldn’t really get the special seating stuff to work right.

Then I had a conversation with Joel about a Random Seating Chart with Excel and it changed my world.

I basically do the same as him, except I made a few students have the formula =rand()+randbetween(1,4) so that it kinda keeps them from being too far away (it’s not perfect, but it’s helpful). I showed the students at the beginning how it worked and told them that I take the first one that comes up as long as people who need to be in certain desks are in them. The kids were satisfied with that. 

screen-shot-2016-12-19-at-6-39-07-pm(I hide the columns that have the random numbers before I print them out)

seating-arrangementThis was my very rough draft of where the numbers had to go to make the numbers work for all my class numbers and my classroom, and ended up being used all semester by the other teacher that is in my room to get the desks in the right spot after his class. Next semester my numbers will be different, so I might be able to switch things up based on how many students need to be in certain seats. Joel and also helped me with my desk arrangement so that the desks are pinwheeled.

I just have to print out the seat numbers every Monday morning and the kids find their seat for the week. It’s pretty nice. Students (mostly) all knew each other’s names by the end of the quarter because they’d sat with almost everyone. Kids actually worked together. There really weren’t ever moments where the students felt like they were part of the “smart group” or “slow group”- the whole breaking down barriers actually happened! Some kids did indicate on their end-of-semester survey that they thought it was annoying to have to move every week and to maybe make it less often, but this seemed to be more of a laziness issue. It was nice that when some students griped about their seat on Monday, I (or another student) could say, “Well it’s only for five days.” Overall, Visible Random Grouping is a big plus for my class.

But of course I just can’t be fully satisfied. Here are things I still need to figure out:

  • Is there a better way to get kids to be in certain seats to be in those seats? I’d love to not feel like I was cheating when I have to redo it. I was also thinking that I’d also like to show them the process on Fridays, maybe. I might have to do some Google Sheet extension searching.
  • How do I get it so that kids don’t just move to where they want in the middle of the week? I think this is an issue with me more than anything – I need to be more diligent about noting where students are supposed to sit for the week. I never really wrote it down, and I never really fully memorized where everyone should have been. I really don’t want to have to come up with consequences for not sitting in their seats, especially because it was only a few frequent flyers that did this. The worst were the kids that removed the stickers from the desks that had the numbers while I was giving high fives in the hallway.
  • How do I get students to not mess with the stickers (meaning post-its with tape over them)??? I actually only replaces the stickers twice over the semester but I had to do a few more touch ups to numbers.
  • Is weekly the way to go? I don’t have a real reason for weekly other than the fact that 5 days seems pretty manageable if you’re in a seat that is not ideal for you.
  • How do I get it so that students actually know who they’re sitting with before Wednesday or even Thursday? With the amount of absences I have, there are usually one or two kids that even are coming in Wednesday for the first time and finding their seat. And that could sometime kind of kill the whole group vibe. It also pretty much makes it so that I have to do my absent student sheets, and next semester I’m going to try to actually get the students to do them again.

I feel like my posts are seeming more and more needy and ask-for-help-y, but your comments have been gold, so I’m not gonna stop. Sorry not sorry.

Le groupement aléatoire vraiment améliore ma classe.

I Have A Real Hard Time With Number Talks And I Need Help

I Have A Real Hard Time With Number Talks And I Need Help

That’s it.

Well it could be, but I’ll elaborate 🙂

So I really do like the concept of number talks. Using things like Fawn’s and Using Sara’s Visual Pattern strategy. Doing dot talks and having the kids use a thumbs up and then additional fingers to indicate how many ways they can visualize or find the solution. I think it’s great and I want to do it all in my classes. But I just haven’t been able to get it to work. It’s always just like 10% of the class that is actually into it, others just putting a thumbs up so I can move on and then saying “I don’t know” when I ask them to share. These number talk days also take the longest out of all my warm ups, probably because I want to go farther into them than most students want to. And it kills me because we’d get great work done on the patterns or number talks, but really it would be me and a few other students and the others would just be checked out, waiting for me to finish so they could copy it down.

As I’m writing this, I am realizing Dylan just basically posted about the same thing, and he actually put out a possible solution. Thank you Dylan. The issue I see in my classes for Dylan’s method is that it just takes a lot of time. I no longer have the luxury of the 90 minute block. I have 50 minutes, and that’s not a lot of time. But it might be a good idea to try this with partner work for a little bit next semester. Maybe I can shave it to 1-2 minutes on your own, 1 minute partner share, 1-2 minutes full class discussion? Maybe I just stay satisfied with not getting to the formula in the warm up unless we fly through it.

I will say this, though: I have way more students engaged in the visual patterns than in the number talks, like which is greater out of 88 x 36 or 86 x 38. I think numbers just freak some kids out.

I really really really want to keep doing visual patterns at least in my warm ups, but I just don’t know if I can make it actually happen for all of my students. Any other helpful hints? Does anyone else have this experience?

Une note incohérente, mais j’ai besoin d’aide.

Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces #VNPS

So my #1TMCThing after this summer was to use Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces (#VNPS) more in class. I had gone to Alex ‘s @AlexOverwijk session and was really looking forward to using the white boards I had made, which I don’t think I ever blogged about.

This summer I was trying to make white boards since my room at my old school only had one wall with white board on it. No hardware store around me had any idea what shower board was. So I spent a little more money and bought some plywood and dry erase paint, had Home Depot cut the wood for us, and we got to work. My boyfriend and I were in the middle of doing this when my landlord started mowing the lawn, so there are some spots where grass clippings got on it. There were also a lot of bug carcasses. If you ever do this yourself, maybe in a garage or somewhere you can keep things off of it for a while would be better. Also, paint the boards plain white first, then put the dry erase paint on it.


At the beginning of the year, when I was not into the content yet and still doing beginning of the year activities, I used these a lot.

First I used them at the groups as a big dry erase surface that was just a tad better than their desks because it’s hard to hold all the cards for 31-derful on the desks that are slightly slanted and only kinda fit together. I did have students that wrote on the boards but I guess I only got the one pic on the top left.


Then for a while I was having groups up at the boards, usually just for routine practice. (Man this was back when my desks were still in rows on 8/11. Those were dark days.)2016-08-11 12.11.48.jpg

Then I kind of fell off the VNPS train…until last week! In my Math Lit class (a prerequisite class to the first math class at the community college), the students were wrapping up learning about solving equations and had a lesson that was all about modeling a situation with equations. The students are used to a word problem or two in each lesson, but this was all word problems from start to finish. As you might expect, the students were pretty uneasy about this. But I had them go with their groups to the white boards and they worked up to the bell on trying to solve all the problems. Group one took my directions a little to seriously about not erasing.


This also happened to be a day where I was being observed. My assistant principal echoed my thoughts:

  • It was great to see that every student contributed to the group’s effort at least once throughout the period
  • It was so easy to see what the groups were doing the entire time
  • It was great that you could see the group that was struggling and send over a helper from a group that was excelling without really losing any flow in the class
  • Groups wanted to keep going – nobody was sitting back and letting the others do the work, and no group gave up
  • It was great to hear groups say things like “This is making my head hurt,” or “Why didn’t you tell us that?!” but they kept going.

I love this class because they are a perfect example of 19 students who will persevere 100% of the time. They also confirm why VNPS is a great practice for the classroom. I can’t wait to use it more. I just need to find the right problems.

Quand les étudiants utilisent les tableaux blancs, le cours est meilleur.