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!

First Week (after two weeks)

Whoa. It’s hard to blog when struggling to survive. I am totally kicking myself for not getting anything done for planning during the summer. I can make a bunch of excuses, but it wouldn’t have been that hard to start planning more than a few days before the year started. Oh well..

After two weeks of school, I have mixed feelings about how things are going. I have started at a new school this year. I’m teaching two sections of Algebra II, and one section of College Algebra, Calculus, and remedial Algebra I. I am on an A-B block schedule, so I see each class every other day for 81 minutes at a time, except my Alg I class I see every day. I also have a 30 minute SRT (Student Resource Time) with a group of 12 freshmen every day. I am one of two math teachers in a school of 185 kids. I have a class sizes of 14, 24, 11, 9, and 18. In my remedial Algebra I class, I have some special education students , so I have a special education co-teacher. Every one of these things is new and exciting and scary.

We actually only had a four day week for the first week, so I saw each class twice. I planned the same things for all of my classes in the first week, and then in the second week we started content. I’m just gonna talk about the first week here, though.

When I started planning, I wanted to do Youcubed’s Week of Inspirational Math as well as show a video or two from Jo Boaler’s How to Learn Math for Students. I also had a bunch of other activities that I bookmarked/Evernote tagged and wanted to try. I got through about a third of all the stuff I planned. I even had pacing minutes that I wrote for myself, but I was nowhere close to correct in knowing how long it would take my students to do some of these activities. My pacing was off on every single one. And also, as I suspected, these activities took about twice as long in my Algebra I class and half as long in my calculus class. I also saw my Algebra I class twice as much this week

First, I gotta say that I started Day 1 super nervous because I wanted to try to do Glen Waddell’s High Fives. Some kids were confused when they saw me there the first day. But it was amazing! I loved the kids that didn’t notice at first, and then I gave an audible sigh or made a sad face to the next person and those kids came back to give me a high five. It really does create smiles for many more students than I believe I would have had. And it changes my attitude – I can’t help but smile! Even now, two weeks later, I have students that make sure to shift books into their other hand so they can give me a solid high five. Or I have kids that will have their hands full and go in first but then come out so they don’t miss a high five. I have a girl who always comes from the room right across the hall and usually makes it inside before I am able to get outside after my last class, so I usually give her a high five in my class before going to the door – she said on the first day that this happened “Man I was scared I was gonna miss my high five!” I love love love high fives. I will admit that I have one student that I haven’t gotten a high five from yet. He always comes to my door and puts his hand into his sleeve and says that he lost his hand. I usually say something like, “Well I hope you find it soon!” but I’m not sure exactly why he won’t high five. Maybe he’s just trying to be funny, maybe he’s against it for some reason, but I’m ready for the day he gives me that first high five. It will be epic.

I started each class with a name tent competition that I stole from Andrew Stadel. In my small school, anyone that is not a freshman already knows every name and most teachers know every students’ name besides freshmen. I only have one class with freshmen (Alg I – and only 2/3 are freshmen), but I started each class saying that I knew I was the newbie and had to try to learn everyone’s names. I had directions on the board for when the students walked in that said to pick up a piece of blank paper and sit anywhere, as long as it is next to someone. Most students in each class did not do this, so I gave them another minute after the bell to make sure they were following every single direction on the board. In most of my classes, I had to give another minute to get all the students ready. I was trying to establish the procedure that they should always read the board as they come in to know what to be ready for. I then had them start to make a name tent but after about ten seconds I said, “ugh…this is so booooooooring…can we make this more exciting? I want to have a contest. How about I give a prize to the person that makes the best name tent in the class!” I mostly received blank stares or faces like I was a crazy person. But after about 15 minutes, we had rules for the contest, had measured in groups, and had come up with a winner. I discovered that in each of my classes, except calculus, I had multiple students that did not know how to properly read a ruler, which was interesting…

I then went to Four Fours. I used the procedure from Youcubed’s Week of Inspirational Math. I had the class work in pairs and started to have them write solutions as they got them after everyone had found at least three solutions. I then made sure that the class knew that I was not checking to see that these groups were putting up correct solutions and that the class had to be monitoring the work that went on the board. The pictures are from all of my classes. My calculus class was the only one that finished within 30 minutes. In the other classes, I had a lull after about 45 minutes and decided to switch gears. I then was able to have a discussion about what makes good group work and what we are going to be experiencing in class. I wanted to convey the message that we will be working in groups every day and that the class is a group of its own. We are all in this learning process together. I also wanted to make sure the students knew that mistakes were ok and my classes were all pretty good about respectfully correcting each other.

In my calculus class, I was also able to do the Noah’s Ark task from Julie and Fawn. I had them in pairs and it was really interesting to see the problem solving strategies. They eventually all got it after about 15 minutes. I was able to have multiple students explain their reasoning (some used a system of equations and some used balancing methods, and there were other strategies).

In every class, I showed the first two videos from Jo Boaler’s How to Learn Math for Students at the end of class. I then had an exit slip that asked them about their previous experiences in math – good and bad. I received some pretty interesting feedback on how my students felt about math.

In all of my classes, I received a lot of push back from students as soon as I started Four Fours. I was not ready for that. They were not ready to do math on their first day. It was kind of disheartening. My freshmen actually were ok about it, probably because they have never experienced high school before, but my sophomores through seniors were very vocal about not being happy to do Four Fours. I also had mixed feelings about How to Learn Math because, while my younger students took it well, my older students just did not take it seriously.

So Day 1 – mixed emotions. Some great things, some not so great things.

On Day 2, each class still did the same thing. I started with a Webquest. I got the idea from Julie again. I expected it to take about 20 minutes, but in all classes but calculus it took about 45.  My school just went 1-1 Chromebooks and all have a Google account from the school. It has students bookmark and explore my website, send me an email so that it creates a contact, take a pre-class survey, and send an email to their parent that contained a survey similar to what I saw Sarah do for her parents. Some students were not able to email their parents and that was ok. After they were done, I had them play some math games that I had linked on my website, including to oh-so-addicting Game About Squares, until every student was done. My favorite responses in my survey were from the questions, “What is one thing that your previous teachers would tell me about you?” and “What is one thing that your friends would tell me about you?”

I then started going through the Week of Inspirational Math’s Visualizing Numbers tasks. Doing a dot number talk was awesome. Students were really great about listening to everyone’s thoughts and were more willing to do math on this day. I wish I would have started with this activity on Day 1 because it feels less like math and more like a conversation.

Here are pictures from my Calculus and then one of my Algebra II classes.

In my calculus class, I was able to do Dan’s Personality Coordinates. It was tough but it was fun! I wish I was able to do it with my other classes.


In Day 2, the students were more receptive to the next video from How to Learn Math.

I did have some extra time in my Algebra I class since I saw them more, so I was able to do a few more activities. One was Spaced Out from Kathryn at Restructuring Algebra – did not go great. Students were very content with just being close to the same length apart. It was difficult to get them to try to get them exactly right. Only one group made it to Level 3 in 45 minutes, and it was really just one student with the partner not too interested. Also, after seeing how the students measured and said measurements in the Name Tent Competition, I showed the Italian Job scene that Dan Meyer posted and had a good discussion. We also did Tile Pile from Desmos, and I loved it. I had never used Desmos before in class and I loved being able to show the class what everyone did on the first question of making the tiles fit, and also being able to share random student responses. Another activity was 31-derful from Sarah at Everybody is a Genius and only one group finished in the 45 minutes I gave them, but they all were still trying. I praised the class for persevering and they wanted more time, but the bell rang.

J’espère que mes activités prépareront mes étudiants pour une bonne année!

Day 15: Area and the Pythagorean Theorem

So we are now on second semester! The final exams were pretty good. Second semester actually has no proofs, but I don’t mention that to the kids.

As it is second semester, I lose a few kids that were only taking the first semester to replace 1st semester’s grade and I gain some new students who are replacing second semester’s grade. Because of this, I wanted a good group activity to get the new students acclimated. I saw Sarah’s post on the game “31-derful” and decided to try this out. I loved it and was amazed at how the kids were actually all engaged in solving it with their group for the entire time. It took most groups around 30 minutes to complete and the last group finished in 45 after listening to some strategies that were shared. About 20 minutes in, I had one student from each group come into a huddle with me and we shot off some ideas for getting the rows and columns to work. This definitely gave some groups a push. A few were still doing guess-and-check, but this gave them an idea of how they could work a little more efficiently. I loved that at the end, we had all different sets of 31 and we had groups that used wildly different strategies. Here are some pictures:


Next, we got into our first unit of the new semester – Area. This starts with the formulas for the area of a rectangle, triangle, parallelogram, trapezoid, and rhombus/kite. We talk about where these formulas come from and do a lot of examples. We then get into the Pythagorean Theorem and its converse and some special right triangles. I showed the best video about how knowledge of the Pythagorean Theorem and isosceles triangles makes you sound really smart, even if you have no idea what you’re talking about: Wizard of Oz. I then gave the class the last hour to do the Wheel of Theodorus. I have never done it before, but I saw a coworker’s results when she did it and I just couldn’t pass up the chance. I told them to finish for homework. I’m excited to see how they turn out.

L’annee est au mi-chemin!

Planes, Lines, and Points

In Geometry today my students were already starting to come around in terms of participation and collaboration.  There’s still a long way to go, but it was nicer than yesterday.  I did have a new student added today, but he’ll get along fine it seems.  I’m always nervous about late arrivals since each day they miss is like missing an entire week in the regular school year.

We finished up some algebra review and took the district’s algebra proficiency quiz.  All students passed so that’s great news!

We then got into the very basics of Geometry, starting with just some definitions.  What is a line vs a segment vs a ray?  What are parallel vs skew lines?  Do planes intersect in a point or a line?  Things like that.  I’m still trying to find a better way to have them learn these definitions and basics without just telling them and doing a few examples.  I’d love to hear better ways if they’re out there.  I always have a few students who get it intuitively (or they’ve the class already so they at least remember the basics) and they just zone out.

I did find an activity from Elissa Miller’s blog that was a great way to get kids moving and reviewing these definitions.  I’m not as on top of things as her so I don’t have pretty foam circles, but I just wrote the letters on a half sheet of paper and taped them up.  Luckily a taller student came early to help me get the ones at the ceiling.  Only issue was that the room they have me in does not really have parallel and perpendicular walls…I told the kids to imagine we were in a rectangular prism but it was hard for some of the students to get that. In the activity, I also took out the figure so that kids had to move around the room.  Next time I’ll put it on color (or maybe get those cool foam circles) so the points are easier to see. Here’s what one wall looked like (it has three points on it – top, middle, and bottom – notice the need for color):

Hope whoever it is whose room I’m borrowing doesn’t mind the pic.

It was great to see the groups moving together and a bunch of kids said to me at the end that they really liked the activity because they now get more of how planes and lines work. 🙂 I also definitely annoyed some kids who tried to finish it really quickly and get me to check their answers.  I just plainly said they have to work with their group to figure out if they have all the right answers.  That’s just how things are gonna work in my class.

We also did one more round of Dan Meyer’s Personality Coordinates Ice Breaker with a new group.  For my one group of five today I put a point right in the middle of the graph to make it look like a 5 dice.  That group had a good time figuring out who could be “in the middle” for two different traits.

I also had one student laugh at my parallel lines are “never ever ever gonna be together” joke. I’ll take that as a win on a summer morning!

J’aime bien écrire les activités que je fais en classe.  Peut-être je devrais faire un blog « 180 » pour l’été.

Summer Geometry Overview and First Day

Today was the first day of Summer Geometry.  This is the third year I’ve taught it for this high school district.  This is kind of how this course works and some other tidbits about it:

  • Four hours, five days a week, six weeks long
  • Covers an entire year of Geometry
  • Mix of students who failed during the year/got a bad grade that they want to replace and other students who want to get ahead and go into Algebra II early so they can get to AP Calculus or AP Stats senior year
  • Mix of incoming freshmen through seniors
  • Mix of multiple schools (two in district, but also allow students from other schools – I have two of those this year)

So there are definitely some challenges with this and I remember the first time I heard about it three years ago I was super scared. Now, I am excited about it. I know that the first week will be a little rough – kids won’t understand that participation, collaboration, and movement make the class go faster. But I am confident that the kids will come around and learn to have some fun in the four hours that they pay to be with me. It’s happened two years in a row already. Why would this year be different?

And even though I have taught it before, I am still constantly searching the #MTBoS for better ideas.  A lot of it in the past has been good, but it can always be better.  Summer is also the best time to test some ideas that have been cooking in the back of my mind all year.  I’m looking forward to posting about some of them!

So today for the first time I did Dan Meyer’s Personality Coordinates Ice Breaker.  It was so so so fun!  I randomly grouped the students (how else would you do it on the first day – but I made sure kids weren’t with the person they were already sitting next to) into groups of four.  I handed out the sheet and said to come up with some way that all four of your names could be on a dot.  The kids struggled a lot with it.  It was awesome.  They pretty much all tried to start with age or grade or height, but eventually got more creative.  I plan on doing it again tomorrow with different groups.

I also did Numbers About Me and used Sarah Hagen’s Worksheet.  Students each shared one.  The first few were all about age or number of siblings, but about halfway through one student got creative and that sparked some more interesting ones.

I also introduced Plickers by doing their first quiz – How Well Do You Know Your Teacher?  They obviously didn’t know me at all, but it was fun seeing their guesses and asking the students why they would think certain things about me.  I’m sure some kids just think I’m extra crazy but some were really into it and Plickers always gets their attention.

We spent most of the time reviewing algebra concepts today and will get into the real Geometry goodness tomorrow.

L’été – mes étudiants veulent faire la grasse matinée et jouer dehors, mais ils m’ont à la place. 🙂