Pre-Class Survey 2020 #MTBoSBlaugust


Every year I give a survey in the first few days to get some info from my new learners. Every year I edit the one from before. This year’s got kind of long because some of the things I just ask one on one or on some other sheet of paper or notecard won’t be happening with us starting remote. Some things are entirely new for me (pronunciation, pic of smile, walk up song). I also use the math preference questions again mid-year and at the end of the year to see if things are changing. The reason I ask for their name so many times is because I use this with ForMule to send out a somewhat personalized email to parents/guardians after they submit it.

Here’s what I believe I will be giving this year. I have a couple days to change my mind. Clicking this link will ask you to make a copy once you verify your Google account.

On ne peut jamais connaître trop de sur étudiants.

Pre-School Email to Guardians #MTBoSBlaugust


One of the things I had saved from 2018 was a post from Tina @TPalmer207 about sending an intro email out to parents and guardians before the year started ( Obviously, this year is especially crazy with us starting remotely, so I felt this was especially important to do. I made a Google Slides presentation about me and also typed up an email that hopefully got some of them thinking about school.

Here’s the slideshow:

Here’s the email:

I only got 3 responses to the email and I’ve gotten 6 responses to the survey that I had in it. But no response doesn’t necessarily mean it didn’t get through to them.

J’espère que je peux avoir les bonnes relations avec les parents cette année.

New Student Checklist

My class rosters change very frequently all year.

(This lasted 4 days)

Because of this, I realized I needed a list of things I need to do every time I get a new learner ASAP. When I lose a student, the getting-rid-of process can really be done whenever it comes up so I don’t worry about it as much. The faster I can make a new learner feel welcome, though, the better.

I used to have a sticky note of all the things I’d have to add a new student to that I taped behind my desk and it was fine, but I decided to make it a bit more official.

New Student ChecklistFeel free to make a copy for yourself here:

Google Doc:

PDF: New Student Checklist

J’espère que mes nouveaux étudiants sentent qu’ils sont les bienvenus.

Recognizing Birthdays!

I love celebrating my birthday (June 4, in case you wanted to know). My family was always great at celebrating birthdays. My husband thinks birthdays aren’t a big deal. He’s wrong. Every person deserved their day to be recognized.

I’ve always wanted to be a teacher that celebrates birthdays in my class, but just never thought it through enough before the beginning of the year. This year, I had a goal to do better.

I still didn’t do it perfectly. I finally remembered to ask my learners for their birthdays on the Day 3 of school. I gave everyone a notecard and asked for three things.

  1. Name
  2. Birthday
  3. Something that makes them smile

On Day 4, I organized all the notecards in order by date. On Day 5, I had my first birthday and realized that I had missed a birthday that was on Day 2. So it was on Day 4 that I realized I didn’t really have a full-fledged plan for this whole birthday thing, and I had a little bit of a night left to figure it out. Here’s what I came up with:

  • Have a “Happy Birthday” section on the board that I keep for the week. I had only done the two daily birthdays on their own this week, but after doing some research and asking about it on Twitter, I think weekly or monthly is better because it will help recognize the weekend birthdays better. I’ll play catchup on the four that I am missing this weekend and I already talked to the one learner that had her birthday on Day 2 and we’re going to do it on her half-birthday.
  • Give a Birthday Bracelet that I printed on gold paper and attached a piece of tape to. This Birthday Bracelet was found on misscalculate here. I’d love to do Elissa’s other brag bracelets, but don’t think I’m at that point yet.

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  • Give a birthday math trick that I found on Eat Play Math here. Lisa gives it with a piece of candy and a sticker, but I just fold it into its own envelope like Sarah does here (this is my favorite and only origami I know) and write a note on the envelope that ties to what they said makes them smile from the notecard. My first one said, “Happy Birthday! I hope you get to spend extra time with your brother and friends.” She had said that her brother and friends made her smile.

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Bon Anniversaire!

Helping Freshmen Transition: Advocating Forms and Grade Tracker


I teach mostly freshmen. The junior highs have this program where anyone with certain low grades is mandated to this after school study program. Last year, I had the lowest grades overall that I ever had first semester and when I talked to the rest of my teaching team, they were dealing with the same things. There were many teachers starting to play the blame game (including myself), but one thing I’ve learned from the #MTBoS is that we need to teach our learners the behaviors and procedures we want them to use. So second semester I started to add Sara’s Advocating Forms to my Algebra I class. My thought was that I had to teach these freshmen that they need to advocate for themselves in high school. The ones that really needed it had been told when and where to get help up until now.

The way I introduced it was that I was giving my classes a super easy way to not only get points but also to help them help themselves. I told them that there were many of them who didn’t need this assignment because they already did everything they needed to do to get help for themselves. So the only thing they needed to change about what they did was to bring the form and get it signed. Other learners needed to make an extra effort to come in to me or another teacher for help outside of class. I really stressed the outside of class, and that they could only do one in each time frame (like they could do one in Pride Time and one after school that same day, but couldn’t do two in Pride Time in the same day). But I also added a little bit to it that Sara didn’t mention. My Algebra I classes are so mixed in ability levels that I know there are also students that needed challenges that I just wasn’t reaching enough. So I also added that I knew there were learners that didn’t need help at all outside of class, so it was time for them to advocate for themselves that they needed challenges. Those challenges could only come from me, and it was the only advocating form they could work on during class (if it was an acceptable time to do so). Sometimes I had a challenge made up on a printout, sometimes I just asked them a verbal extension question that they would then write down.

I am so happy to say that this Advocating Form assignment helped so much for every single one of my students. I am for sure introducing this again very soon for my Algebra I learners this year. (I didn’t see the need to do this in my Honors Geometry class last year, but will re-evaluate if I need to do it for them after the first unit.)

Here are the files I modified for my use from Sara:

Advocating Form Assignment and Forms (docx)

Advocating Forms (pdf)     Advocating Form Assignment (pdf)

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I was so pleased that my learners did not just come to me for help. I had the football players asking the two math teachers that were football coaches because they already hung out in their rooms. I had learners asking their science and social studies teachers because that was who stayed after school that day (and those teachers came to me later saying they enjoyed realizing that they still knew some high school math!). But mostly, I had students coming to me during Pride Time or after school. We have a 25-minute Advisory period in the middle of the day where 3 days a week the learners can choose what teacher they want to meet with using a website called FlexiShed. Every teacher offers help, but the sessions fill up quickly because only 20 seats are available unless teachers raise the limits. First semester, this time in my class was maybe 50% productive. Second semester, it was 110%. I would have some Pride Times where I’d barely get to everyone for help, and I started to sign off on when I saw them ask other students in my Pride Time while they were waiting for me. Also, in my school all teachers are required to stay until 3:30, but the last bell rings at 3:18. First semester, I spent those twelve minutes monitoring the hallway for a few minutes while learners packed up, and then just went into my room and got work done/packed up. Second semester, I’d still spend those first few minutes in the hallways, but then I had usually 2-5 students come to my room. And they’d rarely be there past 3:30. My learners started to understand that asking a question doesn’t take more than a few minutes! And sure, I had some learners that waited until the last minute to get help and some that didn’t complete the assignment in the end, but overall it made a noticeable difference in attitude and (perhaps more importantly) grades. I had comments from my learners and parents that they really appreciated the little push to get in the habit of asking questions. Their other teachers saw a difference, too!

Another thing that my team did to help motivate learners was to have them track grades. I chose to do this every Friday (or end of the week). I made this Grade Tracker for my team:

Grade Tracker (docx) and  Grade Tracker (pdf)

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I would say that the grade tracker really helped my freshmen who were coming from Standards Based Grading and not being able to fail a class to a traditional grading system really understand their grades more. There were no surprises anymore.

When I first joined the Freshman Academy at my school, I’ll admit that I didn’t quite buy into the belief that the transition from junior high to high school was important to acknowledge. I understand more now that there’s way more to teaching freshmen than just algebra.

Quelquefois, je pense que ces jeunes étudiants sont extraterrestres.



Intro Webquest and Survey


So I’m just gonna keep using the 2017-2018 Sunday Funday prompts because it’s fun. I pretty much have done the same thing at the beginning of the year for the last two years because it’s gone really well. One important day is when I have learners get acquainted with my class website and Google Classroom. They also use this time to answer questions for me about themselves. It’s not the first day, but definitely in the first five.

I’m pretty sure I got this webquest idea from I Speak Math but now I can’t find it but it was from at least four years ago…Anyway I’ve set up all my Google Classroom classes to look like this:

Learners will be instructed to find their Chromebook number and I will give them the class code. The rest of the period will be for them to complete assignments #001 and #002. Most will get it done in that period, but I will have some that take longer for various reasons and also absent/not-yet enrolled learners so I made the due date at the end of the second full week of school.

The Pre-Class Survey is compiled of questions I’ve gathered from the #MTBoS over time and things I’ve realized I wanted to know right away. I make it a point to look at this survey right away and again for the next few days and again after a week and again after another week. I don’t want to miss anything. It also really helps me learn my learners’ names because I can start associating them with their thoughts.

The things I look for immediately (after the medical question) are the answers to “I want to get a good grade” and “I will enjoy coming to math class”. If there are any No’s to that one, those are my immediate contacts. I also share with the class the next week what they think the purpose of homework is and what they think their grade should show so we can have a conversation about making that a reality. The question with the character count goes into some of my first class tweets. The language questions also help me plan for if when I need translators for when I send home emails and when I’m making my welcome phone calls. All the questions with the agreement scales will be compared with later results when they get those questions again. I tried not to include questions that were superfluous (one of my new favorite words). Feedback is welcome.

You can copy the survey with this link: Pre-Class Survey

Then, there is the Webquest. I want them to figure out that the class website should be their go-to place for questions if I’m not around (or honestly if I am around but they can answer themselves).

This forces them to go to almost every page on the website. #4 is where I will make sure they have the Share to Classroom extension installed. And the Desmos activity at the end is the Pool Border Problem. In the past, I’ve done Central Park, but I think this one may be better for the first Desmos task because I get to see pretty much the same content, but it explains a little more about using Desmos and has the sketch tool and leads into what we’re going to do when we use Visual Patterns in our warm ups. And it’s more summer-themed!

You can copy the webquest with this link: Intro Webquest

Feedback is very welcome. What should be added/changed/deleted?

C’est beaucoup mais c’est nécessaire.

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.

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!

Beginning of Year (Very Rough) Plans

#MTBoS Blaugust, because I said I like a blogging challenge…


School starts Wednesday for students. I have some ideas about how the first three days are going to go but no finalized plans yet because I just can’t get myself to do it. :

  • I am standing outside of door and high-fiving students as they walk in
  • On my board are directions, possibly start using music cues
  • Dan Meyer Who Am I worksheet

I really like Sara VenDerWerf’s ideas she lists here, too.

Any thoughts?

Je ne suis pas prête.

My Room

Well I’m a few weeks late (lol that’s funny – I almost posted this just a few weeks late) in doing this, but better late than never. I’ll admit, the desks were in rows for the first few weeks. I had struggled in finding a way to fit 24 in groups with the types of desks that I have and had resorted to rows, but then my principal came along and mentioned some ideas and now we have this. These pictures were taken a few weeks into the school year.

**Disclaimer: At the current time many posters have fallen off the wall and I haven’t found the time to put them back up. I also have a huge pile of stuff (styrofoam cups, Barbie dolls, extra supplies, a calendar poster) that is behind my desk and have put some stuff up on that bulletin board but I have a lot more to put up. I keep saying it will happen this week and then all of a sudden it’s Friday and I’m leaving…

 As you can see, many posters from Math = Love. That is an LCD monitor on the wall. There used to be a projector but I guess they replaced them all recently with the monitors. Some days I hate it, some days I love it. Almost every day I am missing my interactive white board, though.
  I am incapable of writing in a straight line. And the bottom clock has been replaced by a digital clock. Neither clock worked, and they tried to give me multiple analog clocks but they wouldn’t stay in time or work for more than a day. My room was cursed. So now I have a digital clock that you can’t see unless you’re at a certain angle, but at least it tells time.

   Each desk has its own white board and one desk out of four has a box of markers and rags/erasers. I don’t really know if this is the best way – they get kicked out of those holders all the time and put back in the wrong desk (as you can see from the empty one at the bottom). Still trying to figure that out, but we use them fairly often and I thought this was better than handing them out each time. I may just make a pile somewhere on the side of the room if I get too annoyed.

Outside windows

My room looks out to the only entrance into the school parking lot and is also one of two rooms you can see when you’re coming down the street from the north. So I had to add my flair of school spirit. I also thought that they were blue lights when I found them in my parent’s basement, which would go well with the school colors, but they’re actually teal, which just looks green. But that’s ok.

Je survis maintenant, mais j’espère que, un jour, je vais avoir un peu de temps libre.